Favourite Lessons

We all have those lessons we love to teach, the moments we know are coming and smile greatly when they arrive. This week has been filled with the lessons. We have introduced blogging into the classroom once more.

Miss, I know how to do this… but I would like to test your knowledge…

Working with Edublogs is dead easy with the kids and they love it – I am smiling right now as they are busily teaching each other things they have learned over the week. Embedding video, uploading content and working out what widgets they want on their sidebars. They are enjoying the “real internet”, rather than the walled garden they generally have.

These are the lessons I love.

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Getting back on the educational horse

Horse

The end of term 4 seems like an age ago now, but heading back to work this week for the professional development, for the first time in about six years not studying, researching or doing anything extra, has taken something of a mind shift.

This is shaping up to be an interesting year as we work towards the MYP and PYP programmes, as well as change the structure of the school from a “middle school” approach to a more traditional faculty based structure. Change can be a challenge (at times), but this is proving to be a fascinating journey.

So I am slowly getting back on the educational horse, tweeting will recommence shortly… and I assume that by the end of week 2 it won’t feel like I have had a break at all…

And with that I am done

Last week I participated in the last of the assessment for my MEd. Now while I haven’t received back the results as yet, I am reasonably confident that I have passed and it will be awarded.

It has been an extremely long road – two universities, three different thesis supervisors and I have no idea how many words all up. And I am really pleased that it is over.

For the moment… that is all. 🙂

Future learning and student voice – a ramble

I am coming to the end of my learning journey – well this particular formal learning journey. In the next few weeks I will complete my masters and then have a whole lot of time on my hands… or perhaps I will have time for that novel I have been meaning to write…

This week I am reading a lot about student voice in not only learning, but in learning environments (I am also writing about it a lot as well), and a question is really sticking with me…

Are we giving students an “authentic” voice in their learning?

The paper I was reading was talking about allowing students to have a real say in their learning environments, it wasn’t talking about Student Representative Councils or other representative bodies (which it viewed as “tokenistic” in many of the decisions they allow students to make).

I would like to think that I give students the opportunity to have a say in their learning (at a classroom teacher level I have managed to get some pretty cool things happening in partnership with my students), but at a whole school level, I don’t think I have been as successful as I would like.

A problem that I have with getting student input into whole school happenings within ICT, is that the students who have been identified as “student leaders” are not really those who are interested in what is happening, or could be happening with technology in the school.

I need to find a better way.

The Note

This semester my Digital Media classes (Digital Projects and Digital Storytelling) are taking a different approach (for us). Now I know that across the world there are classes which have been using blogging and other online tools as an approach in the classroom for quite some time, but for us this is new.

Right at this moment they are working with Popcorn Maker – importing video and editing it in browser – today is their playtime with it and then next lesson they will be given more structured requirements and the final product will go into their digital portfolios, which are their blogs.

It has been a really interesting experiment for them. Traditionally the students are wonderful at consuming content and are not so good at creating it (unless you count endless PowerPoint presentations as creating content). This has been a challenge for them, but they are learning real skills and many of them are showing a great deal of skill in maintaining online content as well as creating it. It has been an interesting experiment, one which I will continue to develop and work on.

The Hours?

Teachers work long hours… “holidays” are some of my most productive times, there are days I don’t get to my email until late at night and there are weeks where the only daylight I see during the week is on playground duty. But does all of this work make me an effective teacher?

Earlier this week the headlines screamed about the NSW Government’s proposal to introduce performance pay based on (what I assume is) the Australian Professional Standards for Teaching (if it is the AiTSL standards, this hasn’t been made clear). Now while the headlines were predominately about the ability of principals to be able to “sack” nonperforming teachers, or those who were seen to be “not meeting performance standards”, the reaction has been to something quite different.

And then the twitter lit up.

Teachers from across not only NSW, but other parts of the country began to tweet about their days work. How many hours they were there for, what they needed to do at home, the challenges, the victories and a whole lot of other things were aired.

Now I have been teaching for a while now – I made it through my first five years and so statistically speaking I am now going to be teaching for years to come. I know that there are some things which take me forever to do, and other things which I manage to get done relatively quickly. I am not the first at work in the morning, and sometimes I am the last to leave, but not all the time. I work at work. I also work at home, but that is my choice.

The hours I work don’t make me an effective teacher – my actions do.

Listing the hours worked isn’t as powerful as listing actions achieved during those hours.

</rant>

And for the record I am against performance pay.

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater

What seems like an age ago now I was involved as a senior research assistant on a project at one of the big universities in another state. The intention was that I use this research to complete a masters thesis, write a couple of papers, present at a couple of conferences and build the academic side of my life – something I have come to truly enjoy. But as so often happens with these things, life intervened and plans didn’t come off – well not completely.

Tonight I have been re-reading much of my work, trying to selvedge some of the ideas and concepts which I was writing about. Primarily it was looking at change management from the perspective of students and if there was any student voice included in this. There had been some pretty major structural change at the school and we, my supervisor and I, were specifically looking at this site (there were six or seven involved in the larger scale project), to see what the overall effects of the changes had been. At the time I had something of a bee in my bonnet about student voice (still do, but it is a bit more refined now – mostly because I think it needs to be authentic, not just ticking a box).

A lot of what I was looking at was based on the Middle School thinking about student engagement through building relationships, but expanding many of those lessons to all of the year levels – not just the ones in the middle. At the time my supervisor was intrigued, I was working at a Middle School, one of the first ones in Australia, but there was very little of the “middle school ethos” present in what I described as my working environment. And yet there was.

Building relationships with our students is core to what we do as teachers. We know that our students learn better when they are connected to what they are doing and who it is they are learning from. I know that there are some of my students who refuse to learn from teachers they don’t like, or perceive that don’t like them. During my research I looked at different models of school organisation, how it is that schools figure out who looks after the kids; who it is that they turn to when they need assistance.

When we are considering school organisations and changing from one structure to another, there is a temptation to consign the old way of doing things to the past in favor of the bright shiny and new. But we need to find a way to not be throwing the baby out with the bath water and build on the past rather than dismiss it.