Why Blog?

I love to share things I come across with colleagues, parents and friends and others interested in matters to do with education. I am particularly interested in inquiry learning, gifted education, fostering independence and growing emotional literacy in our children. You may find posts interesting, you may not. You may agree, you may not but the important thing is you ponder about how it sits with you and your learning journey.

Have a great day!

Friday, 31 July 2015

Preparing Children for their Future

This a provocative and entertaining clip that suggests a future outcome for a student taught in a restrictive learning environment. It might be useful to share with teachers or learners about the kind of future that we are preparing our students for.

  • What can we do differently?
  • How can this be avoided?
  • How are we equipping them for a future?

Learning needs to be...

  • engaging, personalised, real life, collaborative, relevant, responsive and messy
  • connected - subjects don't occur in isolation in real life
  • helpful to our students
  • changing to meet the needs of a changing world, we can't keep doing it the same way
  • flexible

Our students will need to...
  • deal with data
  • work globally
  • self manage
  • organise, collaborate, plan, reflect and assess
  • learn through real life enquiries
  • work with different people; ages, cultures, thinkers
  • be digitally responsible
What are we doing to encourage this kind of thinking and learning?

Challenging Practice

Why do you do what you do?
Would you want to be in your class?
How much of your day is having an impact?
How do you use student voice in your learning design?

Friday, 24 July 2015

Mindsets and Feedback

This is great website to go to for resources and thinking about using Mindset work in your classroom.
This particular item caught my eye as it talks about simple things we can all do to promote growth mindsets in our learning communities.
It talks about:

  • Questioning and thinking about what you publicly reward and value in your class and school.
  • Belonging to an academic community that includes adults.
  • Believing in success.
  • Seeing value in the learning.
  • Belief that intelligence can grow.

Characteristics of a 21st Century Teacher

I have read many of these kid of lists before. In the past there has been the mention of the need for a 21st Century teacher to be technologically literate but this is the first time there are specifics about the ways technology can be used differently.

I think it is certainly worth a read as it is challenging of current practice for many. The list comes from the Edutopia discussion board and was written by Tsisana Palmer.

Obviously, teaching in the 21-century is an altogether different phenomenon; never before could learning be happening the way it is now -- everywhere, all the time, on any possible topic, supporting any possible learning style or preference. But what does being a 21st-century teacher really mean?
Below are 15 characteristics of a 21st-century teacher:
1. Learner-Centered Classroom and Personalized Instructions
As students have access to any information possible, there certainly is no need to "spoon-feed" the knowledge or teach "one-size fits all" content. As students have different personalities, goals, and needs, offering personalized instructions is not just possible but also desirable. When students are allowed to make their own choices, they own their learning, increase intrinsic motivation, and put in more effort -- an ideal recipe for better learning outcomes!
2. Students as Producers
Today's students have the latest and greatest tools, yet, the usage in many cases barely goes beyond communicating with family and friends via chat, text, or calls. Even though students are now viewed as digital natives, many are far from producing any digital content. While they do own expensive devices with capabilities to produce blogs, infographics, books, how-to videos, and tutorials, just to name a few, in many classes, they are still asked to turn those devices off and work with handouts and worksheets. Sadly, often times these papers are simply thrown away once graded. Many students don't even want to do them, let alone keep or return them later. When given a chance, students can produce beautiful and creative blogs, movies, or digital stories that they feel proud of and share with others.
3. Learn New Technologies
In order to be able to offer students choices, having one's own hands-on experience and expertise will be useful. Since technology keeps developing, learning a tool once and for all is not a option. The good news is that new technologies are new for the novice and and experienced teachers alike, so everyone can jump in at any time! I used a short-term subscription to www.lynda.com, which has many resources for learning new technologies.
4. Go Global
Today's tools make it possible to learn about other countries and people first hand. Of course, textbooks are still sufficient, yet, there is nothing like learning languages, cultures, and communication skills from actually talking to people from other parts of the world.
It's a shame that with all the tools available, we still learn about other cultures, people, and events from the media. Teaching students how to use the tools in their hands to "visit" any corner of this planet will hopefully make us more knowledgable and sympathetic.
5. Be Smart and Use Smart Phones
Once again -- when students are encouraged to view their devices as valuable tools that support knowledge (rather than destructions), they start using them as such. I remember my first years of teaching when I would not allow cell phones in class and I'd try to explain every new vocabulary word or answer any question myself -- something I would not even think of doing today!
I have learned that different students have different needs when it comes to help with new vocabulary or questions; therefore, there is no need to waste time and explain something that perhaps only one or two students would benefit from. Instead, teaching students to be independent and know how to find answers they need makes the class a different environment!
I have seen positive changes ever since I started viewing students' devices as useful aid. In fact, sometimes I even respond by saying "I don't know -- use Google and tell us all!" What a difference in their reactions and outcomes!
6. Blog
I have written on the importance of both student and teacher blogging. Even my beginners of English could see the value of writing for real audience and establishing their digital presence. To blog or not to blog should not be a question any more!
7. Go Digital
Another important attribute is to go paperless -- organizing teaching resources and activities on one's own website and integrating technology bring students learning experience to a different level. Sharing links and offering digital discussions as opposed to a constant paper flow allows students to access and share class resources in a more organized fashion.
8. Collaborate
Technology allows collaboration between teachers & students. Creating digital resources, presentations, and projects together with other educators and students will make classroom activities resemble the real world. Collaboration should go beyond sharing documents via e-mail or creating PowerPoint presentations. Many great ideas never go beyond a conversation or paper copy, which is a great loss! Collaboration globally can change our entire experience!
9. Use Twitter Chat
Participating in Twitter chat is the cheapest and most efficient way to organize one's own PD, share research and ideas, and stay current with issues and updates in the field. We can grow professionally and expand our knowledge as there is a great conversation happening every day, and going to conferences is no longer the only way to meet others and build professional learning networks.
10. Connect
Connect with like-minded individuals. Again, today's tools allow us to connect anyone, anywhere, anytime. Have a question for an expert or colleague? Simply connect via social media: follow, join, ask, or tell!
11. Project-Based Learning
As today's students have an access to authentic resources on the web, experts anywhere in the world, and peers learning the same subject somewhere else, teaching with textbooks is very "20th-century" (when the previously listed option were not available). Today's students should develop their own driving questions, conduct their research, contact experts, and create final projects to share all using devices already in their hands. All they need from their teacher is guidance!
12. Build Your Positive Digital Footprint
It might sound obvious, but it is for today's teachers to model how to appropriately use social media, how to produce and publish valuable content, and how to create sharable resources. Even though it's true that teachers are people, and they want to use social media and post their pictures and thoughts, we cannot ask our students not to do inappropriate things online if we ourselves do it. Maintaining professional behavior both in class and online will help build positive digital footprint and model appropriate actions for students.
13. Code
While this one might sound complicated, coding is nothing but today's literacy. As a pencil or pen were "the tools" of the 20th-century, making it impossible to picture a teacher not capable to operate with it, today's teacher must be able to operate with today's pen and pencil, i.e., computers. Coding is very interesting to learn -- the feeling of writing a page with HTML is amazing! Even though I have ways to go, just like in every other field, a step at a time can take go a long way. Again, lynda.com is a great resource to start with!
14. Innovate
I invite you to expand your teaching toolbox and try new ways you have not tried before, such as teaching with social media or replacing textbooks with web resources. Not for the sake of tools but for the sake of students!
Ever since I started using TED talks and my own activities based on those videos, my students have been giving a very different feedback. They love it! They love using Facebook for class discussions and announcements. They appreciate novelty -- not the new tools, but the new, more productive and interesting ways of using them.
15. Keep Learning
As new ways and new technology keep emerging, learning and adapting is essential. The good news is: it's fun, and even 20 min a day will take you a long way!
As always, please share your vision in the comment area! Happy 21st-century teaching!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

How effective are the teams that you are working in?

This is a predecessor of a recent post about the effectiveness of school teams. It is a quick measure and is worth reading and reflecting on the teams that you are a part of.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Relationships are the Heart of Great Teaching

If I were to sum up teaching in one word it would be relationships. They are at the centre of all learning for both children and adults. This is a heartwarming TED talk by Rita Pierson who shares her passion for teaching and the important role we have as educators.

When thinking about modern, innovative learning we need to consider relationships and how can what we are doing enhance the relationships were are building.

  • Why are we changing groups every three weeks?
  • How can flexible groupings be used to strengthen relationships?
  • Will some children work better with a particular teacher?
  • Does the child need to see things from a different perspective to make the learning clearer?
  • Would the child be best with their 'home room' teacher and not move elsewhere?

Monday, 13 July 2015

Research to Support Modern, Innovative Learning Spaces

When our school started the master planning process over a year ago we were on the hunt for research to support the move to modern, collaborative spaces. This link provides a great synopsis of research published in 2006 and whilst nearly 10 years old is still very relevant. It is well worth a read but in a nutshell discusses;

  • Impact on learning
  • Spaces due for an overhaul
  • Power of active learning
  • Facilitating focus
  • Flexibility
  • Comfort
  • Decenteredness
  • Community

The Key to Effective Teams in Schools: Emotional Intelligence | Edutopia

The Key to Effective Teams in Schools: Emotional Intelligence | Edutopia

I have always had a lot of time for the theories of emotional intelligence and enjoyed reading and reflecting on this article. I love the practical examples and I am sure the emotional intelligence of a group of teachers working in a collaborative way will influence the success of the group. Definitely worth thinking about and following what else Elena Aguilar has to say on this topic.

Early Intervention is the Key

A few years ago I had the absolute pleasure of listening to Nathan Mikaere-Wallis for the Brainwave Trust as he share work and research and findings very similar to what is indicated in this article. Young parents need help and intervention at the earliest time possible will hugely impact the future lives of young people born into low socio-economic, unemployed, drug dependent families.

The following image links to a Telgraph article highlighting this research in the United Kingdom.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Learning was Never Meant to be too Easy

In this Education Review article Karen Tui Boyes reflects differences between Gen X and Gen Y children and their respective attitudes to life and learning. We need to create children that see the thrill in learning something new. It is a short but worthwhile read.