Sunday, December 30, 2012

Looking back in order to step forward

One of the things I like about the southern hemisphere is that the school year ends at the end of the year. This I think makes it easier (in my mind!) to look back, reflect on the year and put in place some personal/professional goals for the next year.

A few things I have learnt:

  • At the start of the year I wanted to 'flip' the classroom. As I hunted through the internet for ways to do this in the English classroom, I quickly found that the examples given were not necessarily going to work in my subject area - I couldn't upload a ppt and then go through an experiment the next day. I soon understood that the idea of 'flipping' the classroom is about handing the learning and power over to the students. This was something I could do and did do. I have to say it felt a little strange and despite putting in a lot of work at the start I suddenly felt a little redundant as I observed my students learning, exploring, creating and solving - it was AWESOME. I now think that we should not be labeling the models we use in the classroom - I no longer refer to it as 'flipping' the classroom, it is just teaching and learning taking place within a community of learners that extends beyond our 4 walls.
  • That it is always worth taking the risk and asking students to complete a survey on your teaching at the end of the unit or year. Like all teachers I would my students to achieve their potential but also enjoy the class. Giving them a survey I always find is a bit like putting your heart on a platter and hoping no-one picks at it or worse. My Year 10s wrote great stuff, yes there were a couple of negatives ( in case you are wondering the negatives were about getting work marked and back the next day!) but it is what you do with feedback that is important. My two favorite comments were "We were doing stuff no-one in the other classes were doing and it was cool, like conspiracy theories and augmented reality." and " You made us think." So take the risk and get feedback from your students 
  • Professional Development should not be a one time event but a continual process and it can be and should be inspiring, fun and of value. That the professional development should be inline with your own teacher goals and classroom practice.
This is just a few things I have learnt.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Knowledge Building

Earlier this month I went down to Wanaka to attend and present my initial findings from my first year trialing Knowledge Forum and Knowledge Building at the Knowledge Building Symposium. There are a number of us from across various curriculum levels that are part of the TRLI project. It was brilliant to be with like minded people and to hear their experiences.

This is a link to a Prezi on my findings.

My Reflection

The Knowledge Building ideas and principles I found very easy to integrate into my teaching, I think for the most parts elements were already there. I did focus on the: 'community of learners' and 'knowledge belong to the community', 'all ideas are improvable'. These areas were easy for the students to grasp and gave us a platform to launch from.

Using the Basic Mode in Knowledge Forum was more complicated, not as pretty and students did struggle at times to engage initially. However as we jumped into the use of it, students managed to understand and get to grips with what was happening. They did like the fact they could go into clusters based on their interest and deepen their understanding of their chosen topic. 

Student essays I found managed to reach a high level based on the understanding and discussion they had. It enabled them more readily to reach a more abstract (SOLO) level of understanding and link more clearly to the directors intention.

Overall I have enjoyed the process and am looking forward to next year.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The NZ E teachers - A sense of community

As I sit (eating spicy wedges) at Queenstown Airport I am reflecting on what an amazing community I am a part of and how they inspire me to improve as a teacher and try new ways. I have just spent the past 4 days (including my weekend!) learning, sharing and refocusing.

So what is it all about. 

After about 3 years of teaching (a few years ago now) I was lucky enough to be given a VC (Video Conferencing) class. I had 3 F2F students and the rest were at the other end of the country. I taught one lesson a week on the VC and then helped the students through their work via Google Sites and what ever web 2.0 tools fitted the situation. This was through Otagonet. The Otagonet community of E-teachers  were and are a brilliant group of teachers: supportive, challenging and yet all focused on the same goal. Through Otagonet I met other teachers from throughout the VLN who are just as great as the Otagonet people

This experience led me to become involved in further study my MA in Teaching which then connected me to a TLRI trial on Knowledge Building and using Knowledge Forum. We have just had our first symposium this week and what a great learning experience. Reporting and hearing about how teachers are using Knowledge Building Principles and  their experiences with Knowledge Forum. 

What I really appreciated at the end of the day was not just the learning and developing of ideas but the laughter and fun we have all had over the past 4 days. I got to meet my VPLD online mentor  for the first time f2f, which was just great. This sense of community that for most of the year is online, but for a couple of days here and there when we get to meet up, I really value. I always feel rejuvenated and have the knowledge that what I am doing in the classroom with technology is on the right track. 

It was great to see those who were in Wanaka these past few days- just AWESOME.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ulearn12 - Jason Ohler

Ulearn 2012 was another fantastic conference despite some technical difficulties. I will over the next few posts write about what I found interesting, and how I am implementing what I have learned. 

Jason Ohler talked about: Opening  a door  for students to follow their passion and achieve their best. Make the students the problem finders.

This struck a cord with me and when I returned to school I showed my class a 'youtube' clip on augmented reality. The task was to come up with all the problems something like'Google Glasses' could cause, then what are the solutions. The students got a real kick out of creating problems and solutions for something that is not yet 'real'. They presented their work either via video or paper based. 

I also appreciate the comment he made: "Dont give an 'A' for something moving on the screen - it has to be the content". We need to move beyond the 'wow' factor to the keeping the focus on content.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Wish list

This term I have joined our school ICT committee, which has just been created by our brilliant ICT director. One of the questions asked was ' what would we like?'. My mind went blank as I thought of what my wish list would be be. What would my English classroom need if I could make a wish. Most my students already bring their own device, the wireless has been fixed...what else. 
Then it came to me I don't want the 'normal' classroom layout. I want something more like the primary school classroom. I want different learning areas, beanbags, I want whiteboard tables, a place for students to watch dvds or short movies. 
I shared this 'wish' and a day later the ICT director sent me this link:
It is great to know someone is listening.
On another note I said I didn't want Ipads/tablets. As an English teacher my students need to type. That is when I was told about the Microsoft Surface and one teacher described it 'like a laptop and a tablet/ipad had a baby' . Check it out:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

VPLD Hui - Virtual Professional Development

I have been very fortunate to spend 2 days with some amazing teachers and people in education who are making teaching interesting and relevant to students.
This Hui had people involved in the VPLD  - and everyone there was interested in the integration of technology, and everyone was doing something pretty cool.
These are a few key points I took away from the Hui, beside the motivation, inspiration and new knowledge that comes with attending brilliant PD.

  • Enabling e-Learning Framework is something that school management and teachers need to look at. Watch Karen's video and take a look at the Framework which can be downloaded as a word or pdf document. This is such a user friendly easy to follow document. There are even examples to look at and think about. The Maori-medium e-Learning Planning Framework is due out soon.
  • If your school needs some advice and guidance there is the National Blended eLearning  PLD Team  who are part of the BeL project (Blended eLearning)
  • If you haven't joined the VLN you should there are groups on everything from e-portfolios to Moodle - take a look, sign up.
  • The Curriculum Integration Project is well worth spending some time looking over. Sam Cunnane is a visual art teacher who has created an amazing program that puts the student first, learning first and then measures the learning against standards from different subjects. Take a look at Passionfruit Magazine and be inspired. 
  • EdTalks always worth a watch and full of inspiring people and invaluable information
Some Web 2.0 tools of particular interest
Storybird a fantastic site for students of any age to write stories and publish them online, use the images provided or upload your own.
MangaHigh Math Games a site one of the participants shared with me, that looks brilliant for maths.
Vuvox Media creation made easy

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Flipping the Classroom

Seems the Year 10 class are running well with the program. We have finished the first part where students had to research poetic terms and then teach the class through games they designed. In Moodle we ended up with 80 or so entries and examples. The games were brilliant and when they sat a post test did very well.
We are now at the point where they are selecting their own poem in groups and working on an analysis of the poem, a visual representation, and research around the poem. At the end of term they will present this to the class, teaching them about the poem selected. I have muddled them up into different groups (on purpose) and we have hit the ground running. I have ask them to think out of the box and 'inspire' - I am looking forward to what happens.
The writing unit went great, we have  a writer in residence who ran 4 periods. She taught them how to write different poems and each student has entered at least 1 local/national poetry competition. 
So far so good

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Trying to 'Flip' My Teaching

I am quite lucky, I have an amazing Year 10 class - top band, enthusiastic learners and they also trust my wacky ideas: where I encourage them to try and take risks with their learning. After a term of getting to know them, encouraging them not to be afraid of mistakes, to question, and take risks and try new language, or styles of writing , or develop their own questions - I feel confident enough to take my own risk, get out of my comfort zone and try something new!
Usually when I teach War Poetry I show them some clips from movies, we look at war songs, propaganda, analyse some poems, write some poems - look at some poetry slam and generally students really enjoy it and so do I. But I was thinking how can I 'flip' this. 

This is what I am thinking:
I will ask the students to come up with the poetic devices and to become experts in 3-4. The they will get into groups with other experts. They can pick their own war poem. The end result will be them delivering a mini lesson/seminar analyzing a poem and students learning from each other not just me. How-ever in between all this I want them to try and find an expert, come up with their own questions then develop their own learning path. They will also create their own visual representation of the poem, e.g movie, slide show, music video etc.  Obviously their will be guidance, modeling etc. So I plan on telling the students what skills they will be developing and the learning intentions for the term - We are not limited with technology and even have a writer in residence - I have organized some poetry workshops between her and the students. I am hoping I am on the right track with the flipping of the classroom, not limiting it to four walls or just my ideas. I am hoping there is enough structure but not to much that I limit the students.
Last term I had some amazing 'Hunger Games' assignments where students had compared the Capitol to North Korea and I was really surprised and impressed with the questions and learning students did when left to pursue a learning path of their choice and interests but with guidance from myself and our community of learners. 
Let me know what ideas or thoughts you have.
I plan on using Moodle, Myportfolio and the ideas behind Knowledge Building to drive this

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A new school year ...

It is hard to believe we are over halfway through the first term, time has really flown!

I set up a Google Sites page, class Twitter and blogs through Wordpress. I do like Wordpress I find it visually more appealing and easier to manage the students. Of course there were the usual problems with getting the kids online however they are all on and most have been posting. The Year 10s have been more into blogging and my Year 13s don't want anything to do with it. I created QR codes for each site and this was a big hit at meet the teacher night where parents got out their phones to get a direct link!

My mission at the moment is to learn about 'myportfolio' which I want to use with the students. I am also learning about making quizzes within Moodle and how to track data on Moodle. Any help in these two areas would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Flipped Classroom

Flipping the classroom, I think is a brilliant idea.
I have a lot of ideas and sometimes it is just a bit tricky on how to get started!

Starting a new job at a new school, I don't know my students, and don't know what they like. Student opinion is very important to me and this changes! So I am planning some grammar stuff where students will be given words and then they will have to create a parody video or game and present to the class to help with end of year externals.

To be honest, I am not too sure where to start, but these are the websites that seem the most useful so far in my quest to flipping the classroom:

I am looking at my plans for this coming year and thinking how I can flip them; I will keep you informed of my journey...
However I would very much love to hear from teachers especially of English that are flipping the classroom.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Phones, Children, how I try to be Smart!

There is always discussion over 'how old should my child be before they get a phone?'.  In my house my children  have to be at least 10.5 and going into Year 7. They also have to show me they are responsible enough to own a phone, by looking after their belongings, listening, following instructions and so forth. 
This Christmas my middle child got a smart phone, not an expensive one, but they have come down in price and she attends a primary school that lets students use them! 
I have several rules in no particular order:
  •  When going to bed they are put in the blue box in the kitchen, turned off (goes for their friends during sleep overs) - I put mine there when not using it to
  •  I can go through their messages when I want and contacts - they can look at mine if they want - no secrets!
  •  I will block people if necessary
  • Nothing should be sent in a text that I can't read
  • If they receive a text that is not nice or they are not sure of, to show me
  • Must ask to access the internet
  • Whilst it is theirs, everything they own belongs to me (This is something I heard on Nigel Latta )- so I can take it at any point if they are miss-using it or as a consequence 
My eldest has had a phone for 2 years and so far no problems. She has received some odd texts from friends but we sorted that and I have taken it the odd time as a consequence.  She is entering high school this year and I hope the habits formed will last - or she just wont have it!

For my middle child I have since discovered this awesome app : Vodafone Guardian it lets you manage how they use a smart phone. I can limit the hours of usage, block sites like Facebook and Twitter as she is under 13. It has a heap of features and even send the guardian a text if the settings get changed! I highly recommend it. I told my child "It is not because I don't trust you. It is because I want you to be as safe as possible whilst learning how to use it, I want to try to minimize text bullying and unwanted calls. I don't want you feeling awkward if another child wants to use your phone for YouTube or Facebook. You can just tell them your mum blocked it from the phone." At the moment she is happy, she can use it as she wants to and it gives me a degree of peace of mind.