FTPL – Word Online

In this episode of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning, I walk through the layout of Word Online and give you two examples of how it can be used as a collaboration tool in your classroom.

Click here for the full list of FTPL videos.

The Darkest Term: Teacher Stress and Depression

Stumbled on this just now. It’s depressing because of the reality of the scenarios written about.

Scenes From The Battleground

It’s been a bit of a tough term for me. Nothing new, pretty much the sort of thing I was writing about years ago (for instance here and here), although that in itself is a sign there has been no Govian revolution in schools. I’ve pretty much extracted myself from my difficulties now, but I noticed that some of the people I was discussing those difficulties with were in even worse situations and, where they were discussing them on Twitter, they were finding lots of people in similar situations. It seemed like many teachers I knew simply weren’t coping. This led to me make the following Tweet:

Screenshot 2013-12-16 at 19.18.37

As you can see, it immediately got a large number of retweets, causing me to reflect some more on the extent to which people end up being made ill by teaching in the system as it currently is. I asked for…

View original post 3,766 more words

End of Year Reflections

“Years end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on with all the wisdom that experience can instill in in us.”
Attributed to Hal Borland

I am mentally drained and physically exhausted. It has been a monumental year, both personally and professionally, with wins and losses on both counts. Last year was my first full year as a teacher and I wrote at the end of the year that I did not feel that I had had a first year such as I was expecting due to being employed in an RFF or non-contact position teaching fundamental digital technology and research skills. I perhaps spoke (wrote?) too soon and received my comeuppance this year in what was perhaps the most challenging year, both personally and professionally, that I have ever faced. To celebrate surviving my first year teaching a class of my own here is a list of lists reflecting on the year that was.

Teachers at start and end of year meme
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/jk7rbzy on 24 June 2015

The Professional Wins

  1. I had some students this year who endured some quite difficult challenges. See them rise up and meet those challenges head on and also achieve above (class) average growth (as measured from start of year versus end of year diagnostic testing in literacy and numeracy) was exciting and made me proud to be a teacher. To sit down with their parents and share in detail their growth and to have the parents be excited with me and to thank me is exciting and humbling and as an early-career teacher= helps fight off imposter syndrome.
  2. I enjoy the writing process and the idea that others not only read my writing but find value from it still boggles my mind a bit. To have been asked to attend and review Education Nation earlier this year on the back of my previous conference reviews was exciting and validated the time I spend on these articles. To then be accepted to do the same for EduTech 2017 and potentially for FutureSchools 2017 is hugely exciting.
  3. At FutureSchools in March this year (review articles here), I spent some time chatting with Paul Hamilton (@PaulHamilton8) who asked if I was presenting. I scoffed at the suggestion, remarking that I am only in my second year of teaching and cannot compare to those I was listening to. Paul commented to me that “it’s not how long you’ve been teaching, it’s what you’re doing that matters.” I took that to heart and dipped my toe in the water by presenting at a Teachmeet, to which I received positive feedback. I was also then asked to present at FlipLearnCon with Jeremy LeCornu and Heather Davis which went well and have had my proposal to speak at FlipCon Sydney in October of next year accepted.
  4. Some of my Year Six boys have very strong personalities and as is expected in the second half of the year they begin to really push boundaries as they try to find themselves and come to grips with everything that is going on. One of my students in particular and I have butted heads a number of times and so for him to come to me privately and thank me for teaching him this year was really appreciated.
  5. Yesterday I sat down with my students and we went around the circle sharing something from the year. I asked them to share either something they learned, something that challenged them, something that surprised them or to thank someone in the room who had helped them with something. It was a nice way to tie off the year positively and there were some thoughtful reflections from the class. I then handed out some small presents I had purchased, each student randomly selected to choose a gift, blindly, from the gift bag. They did not get to keep that gift, however, as I read them The Night Before Christmas gift exchange story, an activity they thought was hilarious.

The Professional Challenges

  1. Our school is having a physical rebuild this year to enable the removal of the dozen demountable buildings and the reclamation of the playground taken by those buildings. This has meant that a significant portion of our school site, which is small anyway, has been taken up by the construction site and lost to student use. The total playspace for our approximately five hundred students is equivalent to approximately three basketball courts and accordingly we have separate breaks for our Kindergarten to year Two students and our Year Three to year Six students.
  2. Developing my teaching practice has been a challenge this year. With everything going on at the school, including a new Principal, multiple retirements, missing out on a number of permanent positions I applied for, as well as managing having a new baby at home and the uncertainty of next year in a new context after having been in a job-share arrangement this year, it has been a challenge to focus on developing my craft and ensuring that my pedagogies, classroom management, and parent relationship skills develop and improve.
  3. Managing my workload is an ongoing struggle that I am grappling with. It has been amplified since the birth of Youngling as I want to be at home when I can in order to spend time with her in these early stages. I do also miss seeing my wife. After four and a half years, we are still in the honeymoon phase, or so it feels. I am in my room between 6:00 and 6:15 each morning and though I try to leave by 4:00, this term it has been a struggle with the pressure of reports, finalising assessment data, preparing for transition to 2017 vis-a-vis packing and culling as well as the incredible amount of work that goes into Stage Three at this end of the year.
  4. There have been some significant challenges that some of my students have faced this year, really difficult emotional and mental challenges that have left me feeling like I am floundering. I am grateful for my classroom neighbour who has been a huge help this year in giving me advice for working through some of those challenges to support my students.

Looking Forward

  1. Next year I am working in a different context, in an open learning space, in a team teach context and in a job-share situation. I am nervous about that as I have not worked in a team teaching situation before, however, I am hopeful that my skills as a teacher will continue to develop as I will be in the same space as a new Assistant Principal, who I am told I will connect with very well. I have note yet met him and so planning and programming for next year has not begun, which is stressing me more than a little as I am going to be teaching an age group I have not taught on a long term basis before.
  2. It is going to be a busy year personally as I will be attending a number of conferences which will involve a lot of work pre- and post- event. I am excited and a little nervous about it all, but it will develop a different area of my career which I am excited about.
  3. Classroom management is a big area that I need to work on as I do not feel that I have many strategies in place to deal with problem behaviour. Continuing to work on my own pedagogy and the clarity of my explanations will assist, but that is not everything.

Personal Realisations

  1. I still am not sure of who I am as a teacher, nor do I have the vision of the kind of teacher I want to be locked down. I have some ideas about the type of teacher I want to be like, but not a single coherent goal. I was shoutier this term than
  2. When things get stressful I resort to bad old habits…junk food, and grain-based beverages and when there is a lot of work to do and things get busy, the physical health goes by the wayside and I stop training, my sleep patterns are destroyed and this all has some fairly obvious impacts. I need to work on strategies to mitigate the stress and make sure that I continue to train and continue to eat healthily and continue to get enough sleep.
  3. I can actually teach. I do feel sometimes like I have no idea what I am doing and that I am failing my students, however, looking at data and having conversations with students, as well as the hand-written notes that I am receiving from some students this week show me that I am a fairly decent teacher.
  4. I need a solid mentor. I have two people in the school whom I go to to get advice and feedback, to ask questions, to vent to and bounce ideas off, and those two people are hugely important to me. Those two, along with my wife, got me through this year.

I have a lot to learn and I am realising just how much I have to learn and wondering how much I do not know that I need to learn. It is a rather scary and terrifying thing, to feel like you are fumbling in the dark all year, realise you survived and actually did a decent job and then recognise just how much there still is to discover and develop in your teaching.

Thank you to my readers for supporting me this year. I look at the hit numbers and it is nice to know that people are reading, and being told by a few people that they have found my writing useful and valuable is a humbling (and mind-boggling) thing. I began writing for my own reflection and published only as a way of being held accountable in my own mind for continuing to reflect and to share my experiences. I will continue to publish FTPL videos over the break, but I do not expect that I will publish anything else.

I hope that the summer break is relaxing, enjoyable and safe for you and yours and I will see you again in the new year.

Merry Christmas.

Brendan.

#FlipConAdl – Reflections from Conversations

“….relationships take time, getting to know folks requires patience, and people are generally cautious – if not fearful – of Johnny come lately that is asking, rather than giving.”
– Attributed to Jeremiah Owyang, Senior Analyst at Forrester

Conferences can be a huge source of professional development, however, they can also be a great source of unofficial professional learning via the networking conversations outside the lecture theatre or the breakout room.I was fortunate to have a number of conversations with some high-caliber educators that opened my mind to some new ideas, re-excited me about some passions that had faded due to time constraints, and have caused me to rethink some ideals about education.

One of the biggest changes in my thinking is the result of a conversation I had with a few people that come from different contexts, but whose opinions I respect. I attended (six!) public schools from Kindergarten through to Year Twelve and have always maintained that I would teach in public schools as I firmly believe that every child deserves a free, high-quality education. The conversation with these two people has caused me to rethink that. I have never said that I would not teach in non-Goverment schools, just that I could not see it happening.

I was asked if it is hard to gain a permanent teaching position in NSW. I explained that of the several positions I have applied for, that there have been over one hundred applicants; that as someone in my second year of teaching I cannot compete on the experience front with teachers of ten years or more experience; that an article by Bruce McDougall of The Daily Telegraph on 12 July, 2016 stated that there are now just under fifty-thousand qualified teachers who are unable to secure permanent teaching positions; that earning Honours Class I as well as the School of Education and the Arts Faculty Medal seems to count for nothing and that the current staffing policy for NSW Department of Education (DoE) schools dictates a system whereby schools must accept a central appointment despite having qualified and able teachers on temporary contracts.

I was asked directly if I had been applying for non-Government schools, to which I replied no, and explained my desire to support public education. I was reminded of the conditions I had just listed that were making it challenging to find a permanent teaching position and that it was all well and good to want to support public education but that it would not help me get a permanent job in and of itself. He is right, of course, and although applying for teaching positions with non-Government schools does not do anything to guarantee a permanent position or some of the aforementioned challenges, it does at least open the pool of potential options.

Fair enough. I have started applying for positions at non-Government schools. Mrs. C21 remarked that she had been biting her tongue on the issue, hoping that I would recognise that a permanent position was more important at the moment, especially with a three-month-old.

Sitting in on Peter Whiting’s session and getting really excited and interested in the methodologies and the results (statistics!) of Peter’s research demonstrated for me that there is still a passion and interest for research in me. With everything that has happened this year, I have not thought about research too much other than what I read about and links to discussions of research as I peruse my Twitter timeline.

There were some other things that I wanted to include in this article, however, my brain has switched off and I think that too much time has passed since the conference; I have been far slower than normal getting these articles out.

I will likely only do one more new article for the year, a reflection piece, before signing off for the summer break. Thank you for reading this rather disjointed article and for persevering with this conference review series. If you have missed any of the articles from FlipCon Adelaide, you can find them here.

#FlipConAdl Day Two Part Five

“Our kids have digital thumbs, we shouldn’t cut them off when they enter the door.”
-Stephanie Kriewaldt

FlipCon Adelaide had thus far been a success for me on a personal and professional level. I was feeling reinvigorated for the remainder of the year with new ideas, new contacts and friends, and a revitalised drive for flipped learning and research, which I hope has come through in my previous articles from the conference. My final session at FlipCon Adelaide was with Stephanie Kriewaldt (@stephkrie) who was presenting under the title Flipping the Primary Classroom. I spoke briefly with Stephanie during the Primary discussion panel and was happy to have met another Kindergarten-Year Two (Infants) teacher who was also a flipper as I only know one other Infants flipped educators; Alfina Jackson (@GeekyAusTeacher).

I feel bad for anyone presenting in the last timeslot at any conference or event, many people will have left the event already or will leave partway through in order to catch their plane/train. Stephanie’s session in the last timeslot of the day was similarly impacted with only three delegates in total in attendance, despite their having been eight registered to attend. Stephanie introduced herself and spoke about her background, including that she has only ever worked in 1:1 contexts, which seems rather amazing to me and is currently working as an innovation and learning leader.

Stephanie showed us a short video of a Year Two classroom where flipped pedagogies were utilised as part of the rotational groupings during literacy sessions. Given that I am going to be teaching in a Stage One context next year, this gives me some hope that what I was thinking might work, does work in practice. Utilising either computers or tablets with pre-loaded videos to play a short (sixty to ninety seconds long maximum) video modeling how to form letters and numbers, how to spell words and a range of other simple yet foundational skills that need to be repeated multiple times was what I was thinking of doing next year.

video2band2bsamr
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/h3m54kx on 11 December 2016

Stephanie spoke next about the SAMR model and its application in flipped learning. It would be very easy to stay with substitution and augmentation, however, we need to strive to also reach the modification and redefinition levels. Stephanie spoke about how she utilised QR code posters on the wall that linked to short videos that explained basics such as what a noun is or how to construct a paragraph as that was something that could be done once and made available via video when students needed the refresher. This process frees the teacher up to continue to be available for students who have more complex questions or needs that need her immediate focus and also gives the student some ownership of their learning. Whilst they are still using the teacher as the source of the information, they are able to access the information whenever they need without disrupting anyone else’s learning.

Stephanie also spoke about how to utilise flipped learning to engage with Parents. Sometimes a student will go home and ask the caregiver (you cannot assume it is a parent anymore) for help with some task for school and the caregiver will do their best to help. Sometimes this help is actually hindering the student because the caregiver does not have the knowledge needed or uses incorrect terminology. This happens for various reasons and Stephanie said that a simple way to combat this is to create videos that are ostensibly for the student but also show the caregiver how the concept or skill is being taught. It is not about diminishing the knowledge or skill of the caregiver, but about ensuring that they are aware of how the particular concept is taught now as it is likely to have changed since the caregiver was at school.

Stephanie spoke about using a short hook-video to capture student interest in a new topic or unit of learning. The idea of a hook to capture student interest is not a new one, however, being reminded of old ideas that work is often useful as it is easy to forget about them with the ongoing plethora of new ideas and practices that are thrown en masse at teachers. Knowing how to create and use QR codes and link shorteners is a very useful skill to have as it opens up a range of possibilities, such as the use of QR codes for refresher videos as mentioned earlier in this article. If you are not sure about either, you can find a video showing how to create QR codes here and a video for URL shorteners here.

Stephanie spoke about how she uses Explain Everything to make short videos on the fly and how it is also simple enough to use that Infants students are able to create videos using it. A flipped worksheet is still a worksheet we were told and accordingly, the homework that Stephanie sets is designed to be something that is likely going to occur anyway to reduce the stress around homework; do a chore, read a story, do something to help a friend or a family member etc. This kind of homework I could feel comfortable issuing to students, rather than the traditional style of homework, which I have written about recently. Homework needs to be achievable for the student and for us, the teacher.

Given that we were such a small group, we spent some time sharing about our specific teaching and learning contexts and sharing some ideas about moving forward with flipped learning. It was a useful time, though short, however, I think everyone in the room was happy to move on to the end of conference drinks as it had been a cognitively-draining (and refreshing at the same time) two days. Stephanie’s session was interesting and I did gain some ideas and a fresh perspective for moving into 2017 in a new context.

As always, thank you for reading. I think there will be one more article to come from FlipCon Adelaide, which will be a more general reflection on some issues as a result of various conversations I had with people outside of workshops which have significantly impacted my