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 Review Day Two Part Two

“Students shouldn’t come to school to watch the teachers work”
-John Hattie. Interview with BBC4’s The Educators

Day Two of FlipCon Adelaide was all about the school tour and lesson observations. Visiting Glenunga International High School (GIHS) was something I was looking forward to and the opening addresses, which I wrote about here,  were very interesting and gave a clear message of pedagogy and relationships as the key to flipped learning and improved student learning outcomes. After those addresses, however, was the all-important morning tea (the strawberries were spectacularly good) where we would have an opportunity to speak to the various staff members present as well as the Prefects before being taken to observe some lessons.

It was interesting watching the way in which the Prefects engaged the groups of delegates with such confidence and poise. The two Prefects whom I and some others were speaking to were very comfortable speaking about the way the school had changed and were comfortable sharing their lessons. One of the Prefects myself and a few others were speaking with was completing the International Baccalaureate Diploma program whilst the other was completing the South Australian Certificate of Education. Additionally, one of the students had only been at GIHS for about eighteen months and so was able to speak to the differences between his prior, more traditional school and GIHS.

As I have written about previously, when questioned, both students acknowledged that in terms of homework as opposed to how much studying and revision they do, that there is less homework than there used to be, prior to flipped learning. When asked about the late start no Wednesdays, their faces lit up and you could see that they liked the idea. Both of them said they tend to use it sometimes for extra study and revision in preparation for exams or for some extra sleep depending on what they have going on.

It became apparent very early in our tour of GIHS that there is a strong and vibrant student interest group community. The sign in Kendall Wong’s photo above is only one example of the many that we saw during our tour. The number and diversity of student clubs that we saw signs or posters for was phenomenal, especially for me where we had Interact, school band and a chess club in high school, as well as sporting teams, and that was all. It is a testament to the diversity of the student body and the school’s own culture that a number of them were based on social justice issues or charitable causes.

The first that our group visited was a Year Eight French class. The teacher was just getting things started when we arrived and to his credit, he did not miss a beat, merely welcomed us and continued on. It was a small class of approximately twenty students and their task was well constructed and demonstrated some quality pedagogy. The students had been tasked with watching their flipped content and were applying that new learning. In groups of four, students were tasked with reading a short comic strip which was written in French and translating it into English. Rather than being a worksheet, however, the teacher had shared a link via GClass to the students and they were all working within a GDoc to translate.

They were given a few minutes to translate their initially assigned panel from the comic and then they had to move on to the next panel in the rotation and either add to or correct the translation that had been provided by the previous student. Watching the task occur in real time on the main screen at the front of the room was both funny, with the various coloured cursors flashing madly everywhere as students worked to translate their comic strip panel, and exciting, seeing this sort of pedagogy applied in a subject I would not normally teach.I appreciated, at this point, not observing a primary class or a subject or content which I would teach as it freed me to really focus on what was happening within the classroom rather than on the content and skills which were being covered. This was, of course, the point of being arbitrarily assigned to groups.

There was a group of three boys sitting just in front of me that I could see switching back and forth between the GDoc and Google Translate. I wanted to find out more about how they used GClass as an LMS and about how the were completing the task. They were quite happy to answer some questions and show me their GClass stream. Typically, it seems like it was used to push out content or links to content, set questions and facilitate the delivery and collection of assignments. As they were explaining things in response to my questions, the message came through once again, unprompted, pedagogy and relationships are key and that was something which I feel spoke strongly about the buy-in from the school community to the philosophy and approach that GIHS was taking.

I did observe during that lesson one student who was sitting in the front row on the other side of the room to myself and was slouching in his seat, with his feet up on the chair next to him using his phone below the desk. The teacher could clearly see that the student was using it, there was no deliberate act of trying to hide that the phone was being used. I queried our Prefect on the school’s mobile phone policy and there was a wry grin in response. The school has a strong policy of student ownership of their learning and student responsibility for their choices and owning their own distractions. Students are mostly free to use their phones as long as they are completing the required tasks in a timely fashion. Our

Students are mostly free to use their phones as long as they are completing the required tasks in a timely fashion. Our Prefect related that when she was in the process of applying for jobs earlier that year, that her phone had rung (silently) in class with the phone number of one of where she had applied recently on the caller ID. With a very brief explanation of the situation, she was allowed to take the call outside and then return to class. This works without negatively impacting hers or her peers learning due to flipped learning. In a traditional classroom context, there is a likelihood that to step outside would have meant that she would miss some explicit instruction about the concept being covered and would thus be behind the proverbial eight ball when she returned. In a flipped class, however, she was not listening to explicit teaching instruction as that had been completed via the flipped content prior to entering the classroom and therefore was able to stop what she was doing and resume it when she re-entered the classroom.

Placing responsibility for the learning back onto the student is a great move which, when properly supported by teaching students how to manage their time, take high-quality notes, how to study and revise efficiently. As we moved through the school for the next lesson observation, we were taken through one of the school’s media arts workshops where we saw an Apple Macintosh computer! My grandfather taught me how to use a computer on one of those and I remember being blown away by how cool it was and some of the games that it could support.

When we arrived at GIHS and entered their Performing Arts Centre (PAC), the room contained a stage and chair that reminded me of the fold down chairs you see at many cinemas which were stepped to create a minor theatre effect. When we returned to the space to observe a drama lesson in action, the room had completely changed. You can see in the photo above that the whole chairs had retracted back into a single block which was a very efficient use of the space. Outside the PAC, there were a number of posters from shows that had, presumably, been run by drama students at GIHS. When I asked one of our Prefects about it, she confirmed that tickets to the shows are sold to the community and that all proceeds are donated to charity. Having the students perform their shows in front of paying audiences and then donating the proceeds to charities is a great way of building community relationships, contributing to worthy causes and also providing the students some genuine theatre experience.

Observing the drama lesson was intriguing. The dozen or so students arrived and went straight into practice. The teacher spoke to use very briefly to explain the context of what was happening and indicated that the students had been asked to read a short script and learn some associated movements and that they were running an exercise on group space and interactions in a group space where they needed to use the space in such a way as to complete particular movements at certain times in specified ways. I enjoy theatre, but have only been in school productions as a student and one production of Oliver with the Tamworth Musical Society when I was in Year Seven, and so I was not entirely sure what I was seeing, even with the brief explanation from the teacher.

Each of the groups convened back together at this point and we were back onto the mini-buses to go back to Brighton Secondary School. The trip to GIHS was very interesting and demonstrated how flipped learning can occur in a range of contexts. I am excited about continuing my flipped learning journey into 2017 in a new context. I was very impressed with the fact that the driving message from everyone at GIHS that I spoke to, both staff and students, was focused on pedagogy and relationships. Even the students that I spoke to in the French class, were talking about pedagogy and relationships, even if they were not using the specific language thereof. It was a fascinating insight into the way in which a change in culture can permeate a school community in a short period of time. I want to thank the GIHS staff and students for opening up their school to us and providing us with the opportunity to hear and observe the way they have embraced flipped culture.

FlipConAdl Review Day One Part Two

“If you are the expert on flipped learning, be generous and be polite”
– The Primary School Discussion Panel

Following the opening address by Rupert Denton (@rupertdenton) and the Keynote by Jon Bergmann (@jonbergmann), both of which I reviewed in the previous article, the conference delegates split off into their first session. I attended a Primary School Discussion panel consisting of Jon Bergmann, Matthew Burns (@burnsmatthew) and Kirsty Tonks. It was an intimate group, with around twenty delegates in the room to ask questions.

One of the questions was about strategies to check that students have watched the video. A useful strategy that was offered up was to have students submit an entry ticket as a summary of what they have learned, or that an interesting question related to the flipped content needs to be offered to the class for exploration during the subsequent lesson or unit.

The question was asked about what do students prefer vis-a-vis flipped learning compared to traditional pedagogical approaches. Matt Burns spoke to this and indicated that he actually asked his students for their thoughts on this and that it was typically  a mix between some preferring straight flipped, some preferring straight lecture and some preferring a mixture of flipping and lecture and which was typically around 70% / 10% / 20%. Looking back at that conversation, I wonder if the results are influenced by how much which teacher-made videos are used in comparison to teacher-curated as the research by Peter Whiting which I referred to in the previous article and will write about in more depth in a later article indicated that that can have a significant impact on student academic outcomes. This also fed into a question about how to manage the forest of hands in the air requesting assistance during the group learning time and understanding who wants to be rescued from thinking and who is unable to continue without assistance because they do not understand a concept. A very simple solution was offered up, and it was also pointed out that squeaky wheels sometimes are the ones which do not need the attention.

A criticism that is often leveled at flipped learning is dealing with students not completing the homework, now referred to as the individual learning. The response really is quite simple. Students often do not do assigned homework in the traditional context because it is either too difficult, takes too long, is too boring, so this problem is not new at all. However, flipped learning can encourage students to complete the homework. One of the keys to a successful flipped classroom is that the flipped content is succinct, therefore the individual learning space for a single class should not be longer than perhaps ten to twenty minutes allowing time to watch, rewatch, make notes, and answer and also ask some questions based on the flipped content.

Someone asked a question about whether there has been a noticeable age where the shift from in-flip to out-flip is a good choice. Jon responded that from what he has seen, the tipping point appears to be in Year Three. Prior to that, in-flipping definitely appears to be a better choice for implementing flipped learning, while from Year Four onwards, out-flipping appears to be the best way to utilise flipped learning. Within Year Three, it appears that it will depend on the particular cohort of students as to which option will work best, or perhaps even use the year to transition from in-flip to out-flip.

There were a range of other issues discussed to varying degrees. Recording the marking and feedback of student work was posited as being a worthwhile way of providing higher quality and quanitity of feedback, particularly in writing, and projects within the applied sciences and the creative arts. We were reminded that how we think we sound is not how we actually sound. The way our voice sounds on a recording is our actual voice and irrespective of whether we like the sound of our voice on a video, it is what our students hear everyday anyway. Essentially, tough luck and get over it!

The panel were asked about differentiation in a flipped classroom and whether multiple videos are recorded to suit each level of learning needed in the classroom. One suggestion was that you record your video as normal and then when you reach the point where the content is going to step up to a higher level simply say in the video that the next level of content is for Group X and then give the next level of the concept or skill in that section of the video.

The next interesting discussion point was around the benefits to utilising flipped learning. We are often told that it is a good thing when students ask questions, and in many cases that is most certianly true. However, there are times when it is not a good thing for students to ask questions. One of the benefits of flipped learning is that you can give the full explanation of the concept or skill being addressed without being asked a question that you were going to answer in your next sentence, or any other of a dozen types of interruptions that make a five minute explanation take fifteen minutes.

Discussion returned to homework, and I asked Jon, via e-mail after the conference if he could elucidate vis-a-vis his thoughts on homework as it related to flipped learning and the research around homework and what education thinkers such as Alfie Kohn (@alfiekohn) have said about homework and he advised that he has written a book outlining in detail his thoughts around homework and how to adress it as part of flipped learning, Solving the homework problem by flipping the learning, which will be released in April 2017. Jon also reminded the audience that the evidence around homework is not as conclusive as Alfie Kohn has made it out to be.

The panel was asked whether flipped learning works with disadvantaged or those students who might be considered academically challenging or disengaged. Some of the best results are being seen with students who are disengaged, such as Clintondale High School who saw a significant reduction in negative and anti-social behaviour and a rise in student engagement and academic outcomes for their students.Part of this success comes with using a single system for managing student access to the flipped content, a learning management system or LMS. The audience was told that it typically takes two to three to really become comfortable and au fait with a learning management system and then another year or two after that to really decide whether or not it is suitable and works within the specific context.

The panel was once again a very informative and interesting session. It was great to hear from other primary educators and get a feel for what challenges and concerns they are dealing with. As always, thank you for reading, and if you missed the previous article in this series, you can find it by clicking here. It will likely be early next week before I am able to get the next article out, however, look to my coming, at first light, on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East I will aim to have it up on Tuesday afternoon.

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.

david-sipress-there-s-nothing-to-be-scared-of-mrs-miller-it-s-just-another-teaching-cartoon
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.

screenshot2013-05-15at9-20-30am
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:

IMG_1575
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:

mainbox5
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.

Planning ahead for 2016

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”
– Attributed to Neil Gaiman

Welcome back to a new year! I hope that the Christmas and New Year break was relaxing and you have returned refreshed and ready to start with your new class. Personally, I am looking forward to an exciting and eventful year, and will be achieving some goals and going a long way towards achieving others. What are your goals for the year? Have you set any?

As my regular readers may recall, I have been offered a year-long temporary contract for three days per week on a Year Five class with a more experienced teacher which I am excited for. I am hoping to utilise this year to complete my accreditation to move into the proficient bracket, as well as to expand my skills and abilities.

I am attending FutureSchools again this year and am also hoping to attend FlipConAus in Adelaide in November. I will once again write up a series of review articles based on my notes from the conferences. I am also attending a THRASS Foundation Course in the April holidays, which I am looking forward to.

I plan to continue with this blog, posting an article each day, Monday to Thursday, however, that may scale back to only Monday to Wednesday, depending on time management needs as I have a lot going on, as we all do, outside of education.

I am in the process of an upgrade certification as a Football (soccer) Referee, which when completed will see me refereeing in the third tier of football in Australia, National Premier League Division Two, and this goal will require a considerable amount of time and energy for training and matches.

My biggest goal for the year, however, is to manage my time more effectively. I have decided that in regards to working outside of school hours, I will, where possible and practical, only work while Mrs. C21st is at work, and I will not be working outside of school hours on Thursdays or Fridays unless absolutely necessary (such as during report season and the beginning few weeks of the school year where there is still a significant amount of planning and programming going on). I feel like this is going to be crucial to not burning out this year, given the time, physical and mental demands that I will be under with everything that is happening. I will also allow me time to complete any marking, planning, blog writing, Tweeting etc, but also provides me with time off (Thursday and Friday, though I will be looking to undertake some casual work on these days).

Thank you for reading, and I would love to hear, either in the comments or over on Twitter, what your goals are for the year.

TeachMeet: Teaching for Thinking

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
– Attributed to Aristotle

Earlier in the year I attended a TeachMeet about Teaching for Thinking, or Teaching Philosophy in Schools at St Leo’s Catholic College, Wahroonga. The event was a very interesting one, with lots of challenging ideas about education and how we teach children to think. As always, I wrote a series of review articles, which you can find linked to below:

  1. Part One
  2. Part Two
  3. Part Three
  4. Part Four

Another Teaching for Thinking TeachMeet has been organised, to be held on Sunday, 29th November from 1300 to 1600 at Wyvern House Preparatory School in Stanmore.

From the invitational flyer:

The teachmeet will be an introductory platform for passionate and interested educators and leaders from a range of schools across Sydney to share their experiences, expertise, vision and learn from one another. Topics for discussion will include: Critical and Creative Thinking; Philosophy in the classroom; and Tools of inquiry The afternoon will include five presenters, a Q&A session, followed by an open forum/panel discussion. The teachmeet will also be a great opportunity to start a broader dialogue about teaching for thinking and build professional networks.

Speakers include Emeritus Professor Phil Cam,  President of Philosophy in Schools NSW from the University of New South Wales speaking under the title Because and Therefore;  Dr Britta Jensen an English and French teacher from Marist College North Shore speaking under the title Fostering a thinking disposition in our students; Mr Dan Smith Deputy Principal at Leichhardt Public School speaking under the title Bringing philosophy into school – 10 years of experience; Ms Sally Parker, a Science Teacher from Moriah College speaking under the title Stimulus material, Concept games and Questioning tools for the Science classroom; and Ms Ksenia Filatov, English and Philosophy Teacher at St Leo’s Catholic College speaking under Teaching and Applied Philosophy elective course for years 9-10.

To attend, please RSVP through this google form by Thursday 26th November.

FTPL – How to set up GDrive on an iPad

“There can be infinite uses of the computer and of new age technology, but if teachers themselves are not able to bring it into the classroom and make it work, then it fails.”
– Attributed to Nancy Kassebaum

The next few videos in the FTPL series will cover some skills that we have already looked at on the computer from the point of view of using them on the iPad. We begin with setting up Google Drive on your iPad.