FutureSchools Review – Day 1 Session 3 – Masterclass with Jennie Magiera

Welcome back for my review of session three of Jennie Magiera’s master class at FutureSchools 2016. If you have missed the previous two articles, you can read about session one here and session two here. The day to this point had been full of energy and excitement, had been engaging and for me, personally, very much worthwhile attending. I feel that the badging concept discussed in session two was something that I could potentially implement in my classroom whereas when I have heard about badging in the past, such as here, I have been left feeling that it falls into the too hard basket. This session, however, was full of activities that I feel confident that I could take back to my school and implement in either the staffroom or the classroom, within the appropriate context.

Jennie spoke about IEP’s, or Individual Education Plans, a document utilised to help with planning for and making adjustments for students with additional needs (whether that be below or above the grade standard) and how they are a document often perceived negatively and that we need to change that perception by using them positively, for ourselves as teachers, as a method of focusing on a single problem, what Jennie termed a problem of practice.

Retrieved from tinyurl.com/hnshoze 5th March 2016

When Jennie first entered the role of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) within her school district in the United States, she said that she found she would enter a school and that teachers there would literally turn and run in the opposite direction; “she’s the tech lady who’s here to make us use tech!” Jennie wanted, and needed, a way of changing the perception of technology in education0, this ethereal and magical thing that Jennie heard teachers downplay their self-efficacy with “I’m no good at technology.” It is a refrain that I have heard far too often.

The Teacher Individual Exploration Plan (TIEP) that Jennie formulates is a different approach to thinking about technology in the hands of teachers. The object is to shift the focus from getting better with technology to getting better as educators. The second goal is one that we should all be striving for, one which teachers the world over invest time and money out of their own account, investing in their ability to be a better teacher.  Jennie came up with what she called gripe jam.

Retrieved from tinyurl.com/z3k2k775 March 2016

Gripe jam is a process which consists of every teacher in the room having a stack of post-it notes (side-story: Jennie found that having too many post-it notes in your luggage registers as bomb-components with customs! Apparently it has something to do with the adhesive used on them), and when presented with various daily scenarios, the teachers write down all the problems they encounter in that scenario with one problem per post-it note, and generally only one to two minutes per scenario. We all complain about something in our lives, but when was the last time you were not only given permission, but encouraged to do so?

The scenarios were daily situations that she refers to as problem catalysts, linking this process to the wonder catalyst from session one, and were typical situations that any teacher would be able to relate to; arriving first ting in the morning, the middle of the first teaching block, planning / marking time, professional development sessions run by the school, preparing for the start of a new school year etc. The key here, as with the wonder catalyst process, is not to audit the problems. It does not matter what anyone else at your table, in your school or in your district office thinks of that issue, if you perceive it as a problem, than for the purposes of this exercise, it is a problem.

Step two involves arranging all of your problems into a continuum from most frustrating to least frustration, in a single line. For this, participants need to spread out so they have approximately an arm-span worth of free space to allow them to order their post-it notes into one continuous line. Jennie indicated that there can be no ties, that you must have a single line of problems, ranking every problem as more or less frustrating as the others. It is also critical here that you rank them based on how frustrating you find the problem. Not your colleagues / students/parents / administrators etc., just your frustration level.

The next step turns this ranked list into a scatterplot and is aimed at reflecting on how many people are frustrated by the same thing. If you are the only person who finds something frustrating, then you would move it down the y-axis, if everyone is frustrated by it, then you would move it up the y-axis.  This process allows you to reflect on then audit for the purposes of creating the scatterplot, how widespread the impact of this problem is felt within your context, and can end up looking something like this:

A photo of my post-it note scatterplot.


At this point I was wondering what the point of the exercise was. Despite being intrigued and finding it personally useful to categorise the problems and their relative levels of importance to each other, I could not yet see the overall purpose. The next step was brief; leaving your scatterplot in place, draw a star on those problems that you think you may be able to address or fix with the right resources. This was about looking at a problem and thinking “if I had x then I could probably do y about it, which might resolve part of the issue.” Additionally, we were to place a circle on those problems that we were passionate about, that thing in your school that you see as catastrophic and that you want to engage with and solve where no-one else is interested or sees a problem.

This was something that I could understand in terms of its purpose relative to the task and my career as a teacher, and there were a few problems or issues in my scatter plot that, with the right resources and support, I believe I could potentially influence and accordingly added a star to those issues. It was the subsequent step, however, that I found to be the most powerful and useful.

With scatterplots in place, indicating how frustrating the issue was to you personally as well as how many people also felt the frustration, with some indication on the post-it notes of your passion or belief about your ability to influence the problem positively, Jennie instructed us to go on a gallery walk. This involved us leaving our scatterplot in place and moving about the room, looking at other people’s scatterplots, looking for two things and leaving a mark on their post-it note, or a post-it note of our own per the image below.

Gallery walk
Jennie’s instructions for leaving marks on others’ posit-notes during the gallery walk.

Looking at other teachers’ scatterplots and seeing problems that I was facing as well was reassuring; as it meant that I was not alone in facing x, that it was encountered by others, and from conversations with others in the room, I was not the only person who felt relieved in making those observationsThe second aspect of the gallery walk was to leave either an idea or our contact details whenever we came across a problem that we felt we could positively contribute to. Personally, I returned to some advice on one of my post-it notes, which I will be able to follow-up on later, and I noticed a number of other scatterplots also had ideas and contact details, hopefully which the owner of the scatterplot found useful.

At this point, we returned to the TIEP form, which Jennie has kindly given permission for me to share via the blog, asking that I note that it will be included in her upcoming book, Corageous Edventures. So I include a blank template of the TIEP here for you to access, in MS Word format.

After selecting one problem to focus on, and ignoring the rest for the moment, you need to get to know the problem, detailing as much as you can about what the problem is, factors impacting on the cause or the lack of a solution, what has been tried in the past as a solution to the problem, and what parts of that solution did and did not work as well as why, which looks like this on the TIEP form:

Problem of Practice
The Problem of Practice section of Jennie Magiera’s TIEP Form

Jennie related problems to the radio waves by reminding us that at any given moment there are dozens of radio station signals in the air in a big city, but that it is only by focusing your tuner on one radio band that you can listen to a station clearly. We need to select one problem of practice to focus on, otherwise our attention and effort is diluted across many issues, and each will suffer because of that. Jennie indicated that it is the same with attending conferences, that we should go with one problem of practice to which we want to obtain some ideas, help, tips or solutions for in order to focus our attention, our note-taking, and before all of that, our choice of conference stream and workshop enrolment, a tip that I have heard previously from Kirsty Nash (@NasherK), via Dr Inger Mewburn’s blog The Thesis Whisperer (@thesiswhisperer).

This led to a discussion about teacher-led models of professional development. EdCamps are a crowd-sourced model with no presenters’ per-se , which does not need to be done face-to-face as they are now often offered via Google Hangouts. EdCampHome (@edcamphome) offers kits that lay out how to organise and run an EdCamp if that is a route you wish to go down. Further to that, Google Hangouts on the air (GHOTAs) allows you to have up to fifteen actively engaged participants who all have @education.gov accounts. This of course does not take into account the ability for an unlimited number of others to participate via simply watching the GHO and participating via a backchannel such as Twitter (GHOTA FAQ page)

A virtual Professional Learning Network (VPLN) is also an important tool to continuously access professional learning on a topic or area that is of interest to you, outside of the professional development that is being offered in your school community. The added bonus here is that you can access a VPLN anywhere and anytime you are connected, which, with the ubiquitous nature of smart phones in society, is essentially anywhere, bring us around to a current buzzphrase:

Retrieved from tinyurl.com/h9qswfe on 5 March 2016

There is one more activity which Jennie took us through, another hands-on process which can be implemented easily in the school, which I will leave for the next article. For now, thank you for reading this, another lengthy article, and as always, I would appreciate any feedback whether here or via Twitter.

Jump straight to Session Three Part Two.

Gratitude Challenge Day Ten

“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.”
– Attributed to Henry Ward Beecher

Today’s topic for the gratitude challenge is technology, a gadget or a device, and as I sit here at the end of the day, reflecting on the day, I am grateful that I am teaching in an era where technology is prolific, and in many ways, ubiquitous, as opposed to the days of only having blackboards and chalk, an experience that many of my colleagues had. The ability to utilise technology in so many ways in the class makes teaching more interesting on many levels.

I have started teaching my Stage Three students about research skills they will need throughout high school and in their adult life, framing them in terms of how the skills can help them do certain things like plan a holiday, buy a car etc. The first topic is note-taking, and the ability to use technology to bring up a Wikipedia page, and then use the interactive whiteboard to write notes all over the page, as we highlight the key ideas and create our notes together is a huge book and makes the process simpler than it may have been without technology.

EduTech and The Teaching for Thinking Forum

The annual EduTECH conference is on this week in Brisbane, and it promises to be an excellent event, with some great keynote speakers, and of course the large range of exhibitors. I would have liked to have gone, but am unable to do so. If you are interested in following the happenings, keep your eyes open for #EduTECH and if you are at EduTech, then make sure you get along to one of the #TMEduTech sessions. I would particularly like to hear about Monika Kern’s two minute session on The RAT model – an alternative to SAMR.

If you are unable to make it EduTech, consider sending an RSVP to the email on the bottom of the below invitation to attend the Teaching for Thinking Forum at to St Leo’s Catholic College this Thursday at 4.30.

Teaching for Thinking Forum FlyerThe agenda looks interesting, and I will either live tweet (look for #TeachforThink) or write a review the following day.

Have a great week everyone, and as always, thank you for reading.

Delivering Professional Development to Colleagues

“Part of the problem, we argue, has been a tendency to only look at the technology and not how it is used. Merely introducing technology to the educational process is not enough.”
-Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054

Today was the first of a series of professional development sessions that I will be delivering to my colleagues over the course of this term, and potentially further, depending on interest. The purpose of today’s session was to introduce TPCK and SAMR as frameworks for thinking about the use of technology in the classroom.

The first activity that I had my colleagues undertake was a formative assessment task using Google Forms, to gain an understanding of what my colleagues thought and felt in relation to the term twenty-first century learning, in relation to the use of technology both as a consumer and as a teacher, and then in relation to what technologies my colleagues wanted to learn about.

The responses were very interesting. To the question what do you think of when you hear the phrase twenty-first century learning, the responses varied, from simply help, to computers, to concerns about those with additional learning needs being left behind and finally to the increase in the requirement for students to learn and use critical thinking skills as teachers increasingly become facilitators of learning; the guide on the side, not the sage on the stage.

We moved from that to an introduction and explanation of both the TPCK and SAMR frameworks, and discussed some examples of each of the levels of the SAMR model through the use of well known examples and video demonstrations sourced from YouTube. I have attached a copy of the presentation, for anyone who is interested in viewing it, to this article (Rethinking EdTech Presentation), and links to the videos that were used are embedded within that document.

Today was an introduction to these concepts, and next week, we will begin to delve into practical examples of technology utilised at the various levels of the SAMR model. On that note, I would be very appreciative to anyone who can offer examples of how they have used technology in the classroom at the four levels of the SAMR model.

As always, thank you for reading.


“To paraphrase Oedipus, Hamlet, Lear, and all those guys, “I wish I had known this some time ago.
-Roger Zelazny, Sign of the Unicorn

Today is my Friday, and those classes who have their library on Friday are split amongst the various RFF teachers. Today, I sat down today with one of my colleagues, who is in fact filling in as relief for a teacher on long service leave to go through what she would be doing with my program in her class tomorrow.

I broke it down by grade, and went through things with her, and when I explained what I had been doing as a formative assessment task in regards to the computer skills, she said “why don’t you try this….?” and it was one of those moments where you do a Picard (see image below) where I realised how obvious her suggestion was in hindsight.

Jean-Luc Picard facepalm from the Star Trek: Next Generation episode "Deja Q." Image sourced from http://i0.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/original/000/000/554/facepalm.jpg
Jean-Luc Picard facepalm from the Star Trek: Next Generation episode “Deja Q.” Image sourced from http://tinyurl.com/7y5u733

What I had been doing was asking students to write a brief recount, and somewhere within that recount, demonstrate particular skills such as bold, text justification, borders etc. What my colleague suggested was simply having students write their names, and then format their names to demonstrate the particular skills that I wanted students to demonstrate.

I’m feeling nervous about tomorrow. I’m comfortable with the program, and have been making changes on the fly, and going with what works, however tomorrow, three different teachers will be responsible for delivering the program to a handful of classes, not having had exposure to the program other than what information I have given them. The control freak part of me is not happy about handing the reins over, but the rationalist in me knows that this will be a real test of how realistic the program is in terms of actual execution, when others are tasked with its delivery.

As always, thank you for reading, and enjoy your weekends.

Trial and Error

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”
– Attributed to Franklin D. Roosevelt

The last two days have been, I feel, rather successful overall. I have had mainly primary classes and have been able to get stuck into a few parts of the program that I wanted to test, and have learned a lot about how to administer those aspects of the program.

First of all, my initial thoughts conducting formative assessment was to have the class watching one of my book studies videos whilst I spent time with one, two or three students, depending on computer availability within each classroom. I realised that with the state/quality of most computers in classrooms that that would not be particularly feasible. What I spent yesterday and today doing, with four classes, was quite different to what I originally envisioned when I developed the program.

I have fairly free access to the school bank of laptops at the moment, which helps with this. What I have been doing is assigning students in pairs to the laptops, having them log in and open up MS Word. They have been asked to create a recount or narrative, within which they must demonstrate their ability to utilise particular editing and formatting functions, such as changing the font, font size and colour, text justification, lists, bold, italics and underline and a series of other skills.

Students then save this document to my flash drive, and I then open each one, assess which skills they have successfully demonstrated and record the date for each skill within a master spreadsheet against their name. It has worked quite well thus far, and I think that I will continue with this process.

The other option that I have considered is providing students with a sample of dummy text, and asking them to edit it to demonstrate particular skills. This is how I think I will assess their ability to utilise some skills such as the grammar and spell check functions.

It has been interesting noting down which skills students possess, and thus far the skill sets have been fairly consistent, across all students in the primary classes (with the exception of year five students who are away this week on a camp). The majority of students can utilise bold, italics, and underline, as well as change the font, font size and font colour. There have been a handful who have inserted an image, a text box (which was not a skill I asked them to demonstrate) and insert borders, and one student inserted a watermark.

I have also now utilised the myEdapp website with a handful of classes, and the more I use it, the more I like it. Creating the units of work (called quests) is incredibly easy, and provides an inbuilt range of activity options, including videos, multiple choice, open text response, class discussion and others, and once the quest has been built in your library, it is there ready to go for next year, and is only two clicks away from being added to a new class.

Marking is straightforward, and provides the opportunity to give as much or as little feedback as you want, as each activity/question in the quest can be given feedback. You can also set the quest up so that students are required to self-assess against a sample answer, allowing you to give an indication of what you are looking for (particularly useful for reminding students they need to use full sentences), and they can self mark against whichever marking scale you select (numbers, words descriptors etc).

I can also add other teachers to a class. This could be particularly useful for those in a job-share arrangement, or for those teachers in the position I am in, where they are providing relief time for the regular classroom teacher as it allows the regular classroom teacher an opportunity to see what the students are achieving and keep up to date with what you are teaching.

The support has been first class thus far. I spoke with Yohan and Daniel at their stand during my time at the FutureSchools Expo in March this year. I caught the tail-end of a walk through of the system that Yohan was giving to another teacher. I spent time after that presentation talking to Yohan about the aspects that I missed in the presentation, and then had another chat with Daniel later that afternoon for another bite at the cherry and the chance to reabsorb the information. The webapp bypasses the YouTube block that the NSW DEC has in place, allowing you to use your teacher judgement and insert appropriate and meaningful videos for your students to watch about any skill or concept (N.b. – this is the prime opportunity to insert the videos that YOU have created for your flipped class). I was excited by this, as there is a large range of quality content on YouTube that is genuinely useful in the classroom for students. Contacting the team for support is a one click option (once you are logged in). There is a message icon at the bottom of the screen, which then opens up a sidebar chat screen where you type in your message, hit enter and the message is sent. Every question that I have sent through has been answered within a few hours (barring a few messages sent through on a weekend), and the team has been incredibly helpful, offering to input my class lists for me when I was having issues having those input correctly. Issues that I have raised have been taken on board, and work-arounds provided, with permanent solutions being in the works.

Students have found it to be highly engaging as well. I spent time at the end of the two lessons in which I used the site asking the students for feedback on the site, and they all felt that it was easy to navigate, that it was easy to use and that the structure made it easy to follow through what they needed to do. The only thing that I got caught out on, partly because I missed that it was there, was the chat feature. I ended up having students turn it off as it was becoming a distraction and there was some silliness going on. If it is going to be on, as I can see some value in its use as a back channel discussion tool. Overall however, myEd has been, for me, as someone who is attempting to flip all of my classes, an invaluable tool.

I have also just created the first video in what will become a series on fundamental computer skills. My initial thoughts was that I would have two or three skills in each video, but keeping in mind the guidelines for creating flipped videos that Jon Bergmann gave us during the masterclass at the FutureSchools Expo (which you can read in this article), I am trying to keep them nice and short. This first video focuses solely on the difference between shutting down, logging out and restarting the computer, and and is just under five minutes long, which I am quite happy with.

As always, thank you for reading, and if anyone would be interested in attending a TeachMeet on the Central Coast of NSW about the flipped class and BYOD, I would love to hear from you.

Acting on Feedback

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”
-Attributed to Ken Blanchard

Due to the storms that savaged the NSW coastline last week, and the damage that my school incurred, I have not yet begun delivering the program of learning that I have developed for this term. The delays, though generally frustrating, have provided a silver lining. I still had a few classes this week, and though it was not worth beginning the actual program, I had the opportunity to not only explain what we would be covering this term, but also to show some of the videos which I have developed, and seek feedback from the most important people – the students who will be watching them in the flipped learning context.

Much of the feedback concerned areas that I had already identified as being areas of opportunity myself, however students confirming that what I suspected needed to be changed, did need to be changed was useful in and of itself. Friday being my day off (my engagement is only for Monday to Thursday), I have been able to spend today going through, modifying the videos based on the feedback, and re-uploading them to my YouTube channel ready to go for lessons on Monday.

I am also in the process, or will be after I have finished uploading the modified videos (I have one more video to edit), of setting up my classes within the myEd webapp. I discovered this webapp whilst at the FutureSchools conference in March, and am excited to finally be able to put it into practice.

The concept of flipped learning, when I explained the what and the why to the classes I had this past week was one that had mixed responses. The idea of there being extra help available was a plus, as was the concept of using videos to teach.

Oddly enough, both a year two class and a year five and six composite class made similar comments; that they would rather watch a video, even though the video is of me delivering the teaching, than listen to me talk. I confess that I am not sure how to feel about that, but I suspect that the novelty factor is significant in that sentiment.

I would love to hear from anyone who is implementing the flipped class in their own pedagogical practices at the moment. What are the hurdles that you have come across and how did you negotiate your way through them?