My principal, Ann, and I will often throw challenging statements into the conversation mix in the staffroom every now and then and wait for a bite.
"I can see a future where handwriting is an irrelevant skill." (This is guaranteed a rapid response with junior primary teachers who see that sentence as an attack on the skills of literacy and the development of fine motor skills.)
Ann also threw this gem out to our Assistant Principal and teacher-librarian: "Won't things be great when we change over to our paper-less, digital library?" They both knew that she is only half-joking.
I've also contemplated out loud about the demise of tree-based newspapers or the day our school our school has 1:1 laptops. It's not as if they don't know that these things already exist but I certainly detect an unwillingness to acknowledge that their school and their established way of work could be affected and move in these directions.
I've been told as much by my colleagues that paper will always prevail in classrooms, that our system will always need face-to-face teaching and libraries stacked full of books. A few have learned to try and bait me back with references to Susan Greenfield or similar. I just wonder what many of them thought when they heard Mark Treadwell talk about us being in the initial stages of the Internet Based Paradigm.
Schools have been the way they are for quite a while. There are plenty of teachers who believe that the slow change we've been used to in the education sector is just the way things are, that we are somehow immune to the rapid changes in society and all kids need to make their way into the future are the same tried and true basics.
So I'd like to keep my colleagues on their toes, keep niggling away at their certainties and get them to consider the bigger picture beyond their own classroom and help shape the changes that will inevitably crop up a lot sooner than anticipated. But I'm running short of provocations - do you have any to help me out? Or am I the one who needs to be challenged?
Just so you know, any resemblance to any edublogger, highly or lowly Technorati ranked, is purely coincidental. This is just the urge I get after reading so many comic strips lately.
Ahhh, I feel so much better now ... I mean, I hope that this (ahem) helps some other edubloggers feel at peace with themselves and their place in the learning universe.
If I had the time, talent and inclination, I reckon I'd love to be a comic strip artist. We've been looking at written humour in the classroom and analysing how much context and prior knowledge is needed in order for the humour in a comic strip to become obvious and theoretically, funny. In my searching on the web, I stumbled onto "Pearls Before Swine" which I think it is one of the best comic strips I have ever read. I don't believe that it has ever been syndicated in any Australian newspapers, so it is new to me.
I reckon my readers will have enough context to enjoy these...
Hey, this cartoonist has even got his own blog.
Back in March, Doug Noon wrote about his free and voluntary classroom reading program. After trying to get my own literature circle program up and running late last year and still unsure of the best approach with this current bunch of students, his post painted a picture that I want for my classroom.
This year, everyone in the class reads what they want to read, and they read without interruption for 30-40 minutes each day. They tell me about their books when I go around the room asking how it’s going. I write down what we talk about. They read short passages quietly to me. They write in journals about their books. They meet with partners or in small groups, and they give oral “book reports” written on sticky notes. They make book recommendations to each other. They read at home and before school without being told to, and they tell me they love to read. I even saw one of my students reading a book walking down the hall the other day. It’s going viral.
I emailed the link to our teacher-librarian and she agreed that this had all the qualities of a switched on reading program. This week, Doug put the icing on the cake with feedback from his kids about their reading and writing program. Being able to reflect on one's own learning is the mark of a successful learner who values what they are doing and the kids' comments certainly do that well. It's a skill that my teaching partners and I want our own students to have as well.
But what I struggled with was the connection with Doug's switched on atmosphere and the much touted literature circles approach. I'm certainly not the only edublogger out there trying to get it right. So, a whole stack of teachers at my school headed off to an after school workshop on "Literature Circles" to get our heads around this concept. The facilitators talked a bit about lit circles but soon switched focus, talking about their modified approach which stripped some of the formalities away but kept the basic premise of a group of kids reading a common text and coming together to discuss the text through making connections and exploring questions. They called this approach "Book Clubs" and it had many of the things that Doug identified as being desirable outcomes for students when reading - engagement, increased appetite for more books, improved comprehension. This approach is one I think I can handle and while I wouldn't adopt everything mentioned by the facilitators (snacking and guzzling while book clubbing is another time for feeding some of our kids don't need, and carrot and celery treats are not that appealing to many kids), I reckon that I can see this being a successful way of re-engaging middle school readers. Perhaps the major problem will be having enough quality texts in bundles of five or six to form the groups. I really liked the suggested way to form groups - you pass the book bundles around the classroom and everyone views them and then ranks the choices from first until last, then the groups form around who has chosen what book. When a group fills, students then drop to their second choice and so on. I'm feeling enthusiastic about getting the Book Club approach which combines the goals and shared experiences of the literature circle approach with Doug's less formal and peer-enthusing approach.
I reckon a skillfully constructed cartoon can say more than any blog post ever could. So, as Australian schools gear up for the annual NAPLAN tests, I couldn't resist posting this gem from Savage Chickens.
Good luck to all involved in this process. Let's hope that standardised testing doesn't mutate any further than its current configuration - what I read about other countries' testing expectations does make me nervous about the future.
My interest was captured by this reference from Stephen Downes to a Christoper Sessums' post where Christopher related a fascinating tale about an intriguing twitter exchange with Don Tapscott. I'm not so much interested in the controversy of this 140 character word swap as the simple statement Don gave to Chris in one of his tweets - "... Google me. Don Tapscott..."
I'm still not sure who or where I first heard the idea of offering a Google search of one's name as a form of presence and credibility - it was either Leigh Blackall or Alexander Hayes who suggested that their perfect business card would simply have their online blended lowercase name (google:leighblackall OR google:alexanderhayes) on it. The free ranger vs the DIY domain guru - where does Christopher's nemesis fit?
Or is just a good example of Will Richardson's clickability?
I really enjoyed our class camp last week to Hindmarsh Island, near Goolwa on the Fleurieu Peninsula. It was good to get to know my students some more in a different environment away from the classroom but I enjoyed the opportunity to step away from the lead teacher role and become an active learner for several days. I really enjoyed listening to, noticing and observing things from the camp instructors.
So for this blog post, I just want to share a few images from the three days from my perspective as a learner who has not really taken the time to find out about this interesting and vital area of South Australia.
This is the controversial Hindmarsh Island Bridge. I took the photo from the middle of the Murray River and the effects of the driest spell in recorded history are pretty obvious. Nathan, our guide for the “Murray River Walk” told us that the water level was two metres below normal levels and the salinity levels had given rise to a new issue - the bristleworm. There was castings growth from these creatures attached to the lower pylons of the bridge for the first time and what looked like rocks on the sandflats of the river were actually also castings growth on a variety of objects ranging from turtle shells to beer bottles to rusty metal pins and mussel shells.
You can see the castings growth on the metal pin held here by one of the students.
We also visited the Murray Mouth where the most important river in Australia finally connects with the sea. This is also a place in a state of flux. When the river isn’t flowing freely into the Southern Ocean (as is the case currently) sand builds up in the mouth, threatening to seal it off completely. From our viewpoint, we could see several dredges, giant vaccum cleaners sucking sand from the floor of the mouth and dumping it all back in another area nearby via lengthy black plastic piping.
Nathan, our instructor, told us that the Mouth is normally much wider - from the left peak to at least the white fluffy cloud is normally flow into the ocean. From the left is the world famous Coorong (think Storm Boy if you know your classic Australian films).
This photo sums up the Murray’s plight in my opinion. Here we have a paddle steamer, similar to the type that cruised all the way down from the sheep stations up on the Darling River system, onto the Murray and down to the port of Goolwa, beached on the shores of the Murray because the water just isn’t deep enough any more. So, it is time to ask the students “Why is this happening?”