Archive | February, 2015

Discussion Rooms

28 Feb

Dialogue is a hallmark of human interaction; the sharing of enlightening ideas, emblematic of academia. In this blog on teaching learning and learning teaching, teachers and learners alike are encouraged to enter into an open, dynamic dialogue on these, and related, topics – e.g., what are your thoughts teaching, from the perspective of teacher or student; likewise, what are your thoughts on learning, from the perspective of teacher or student?

My discussion rooms in my online classroom is an exciting place. It gives students a chance t express themselves in manner that they are comfortable and that will help them in the future. The “Discussions” space serves as a forum for teachers and students to bring up and constructively discuss areas of interest related to teaching and learning not otherwise covered in this blog.

In an era that many writers have referred to as “The Digital Age,” secondary learners are truly a new breed. They do their work and entertain themselves while communicating in a manner that was unimagined just 20 years ago.

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Rethinking my Pedagogy

27 Feb

The fundamentals of our education system in NZ is corroding. Technology has forced educators to reconsider their expertise or pedagogy or method. I know I have. At the same time, the school system is under persistent attack from the political left and right. We educators are scrambling to patch these foundations together. However, now seems the right time to ask, what would education look like if all partisanship, prejudices, and training was forgotten? What would we create if all we had was a comprehensive understanding of education’s history and a well-reasoned view of the purpose of education?

Others have proposed reinventions of classroom instruction for economic reasons; we need to produce innovators, they say. How many time have you heard people outside our education system say this.But what of moral justifications? What of the edification of the students themselves? Is there really a serious student voice? With these nobler aims in mind, we can rebuild an institution that has been our nation’s pride, and will be again.

So, how would you design a classroom, a curriculum, a school if all you knew was what has and has not worked in the past and the only opinion you held was a notion of the ultimate purpose of education? National Standards, NCEA and such out the window. I know our schools would look a great deal different.

I leave you with this to get you thinking.

 

Classroom Observations

26 Feb

Even though when are all competent and experienced teachers I am sure many of us feared being observed. Even though I have completely embraced Marzano, I feared being evaluated on my implementation. Even though I spend hours creating interactively dynamic multimedia presentations that my students LOVE, I feared having evaluators see them unfold for the class.

I don’t want to come across as big headed students really enjoy my class. Even though I love the feeling I get when I am “on stage” with my students, and they are completely engrossed in the lessons we are learning, where there is no world outside of my room anymore, and it’s just them and me on the most amazing journey towards enlightenment and growth and I know we are going places we have never been, I feared the thought of that intimate moment being observed and recorded.

I once feared the observation but in the last two years I have changed. Observations have changed. It is no longer about being ticked off. It is about popping in. Looking for various teaching techniques or management skills.

Learning from Mistakes

25 Feb

So how do we deal with disappointment in our children and our students? Indulge me for a moment as I reflect also as a parent., I know how much I want my child to succeed in whatever she puts her mind too but at the same time I know there will be disappointment. Often I will want to carry my daughter’s bag from the car to school because I want to be Dad. But it must not be habit.

I know there will be times when I cannot understand why she didn’t make it, why she didn’t get it, why she didn’t win, but at the same time I don’t want her to feel she always should. I want her to realize that it doesn’t come down to life being unfair, but rather that we cannot get everything we put our minds and hearts to.

Some parents think that everybody should win a prize. That it is not healthy for us to “do” this to children and I would agree with them if the students were forced to participate, but they are not. In school there is such a fear of disappointment and having our students fail. We shield them from sadness and anything where they might not succeed, but at what cost? We cannot shield them forever, we cannot control life and other people. I think this build resilience. So why not help them through disappointing situations instead? Why not have mini situations where we can help them process their feelings and give our students our children tools they can use later in life as well. Why not be role models rather than bubble creators? Why not let them fail and then learn from that?

Apologies for the haphazardness today. Promise to be on the wagon tomorrow.

Building on What we Know

24 Feb

Over the past five weeks I’ve been reading about school leadership about where we’re heading and how they’re travelling in relation to their individual school goals. It’s important for schools to have measurable goals but these are simply a means to an end. This is important because at the moment we are discussing this very issue at school.

I have been reflecting on the educational theory about building on what people know. I do this all the time with teaching. Be it my students at school or adult classes. For school leaders, it’s about good learning and teaching. We know our conversations are enriched by good theory into practice and a solid framework on which to develop our goals.

Everybody wants to get to the end using existing paradigms but we need to first remind ourselves what is good learning and teaching in today’s world. These ‘informed’ goals become the touchstones for delivering our strategic intent: improved learning outcomes for all students and a rewarding working life for teachers.

Good leaders know the value of building their professional skills and knowledge through reflective dialogue with peers and participating in ongoing professional development that benefits student learning. As a system, our goal is to ensure our students are at the centre.

No Need to Tweet

23 Feb

 

Do you tweet? I know my Grandma used to tell me to stop twittering and be specific. This was well before the era of social media though. Twitter is more than people philosophising about what they had for dinner. I believe if you teach, then you should tweet. I was once cynical but I have changed. You might be thinking, do I really need another ‘online place’ to look at? Well, you don’t have to tweet, but you will love it once you give it a chance. Read a variety of posts and you will realize that sometimes 140 characters delivers a great resource, classroom idea, colleague collaboration, or even instant feedback. I have noticed that I usually read about the most current research on Twitter first.

Twitter has allowed me to meet other educators and collaborate with them. Be it through a weekly chat or once a month we are able to discuss current topics. People from all around the world are sharing ideas. This is awesome. Some of my best staff meetings have come from this.

If you are not a believer try the following to give it go. And I mean a fair go:

* Give it two weeks. Two weeks is the rule with most things.

* You have to “follow” people to read great stuff. Get alongside a peer and take some suggestions.

* Look for hashtags like #edchatnz or #SLTchat or scichatnz. Hashtags will connect you with educators like you. Cool eh.

* And remember social media get bad press. It’s not all about mindless photos and cyber bullying. It is a great educational tool.

Still not convinced? Just try it. Or maybe I have the wrong audience. I am sure you all are already ankle deep in it.

Reflection

23 Feb

To me student success means simply making myself unnecessary as a teacher by empowering my students become autonomous learners, who can work independently and who know where to find the information and guidance they need. This requires handing over the tools for learning to students, and trusting in their motivation and drive to get their learning done, but having robust interactions with students to be able to help if needed.

Many schools aspire to empower their students to become life-long learners, and that is great! This is the true paradigm shift we need in education! But, it is not enough if we say this aloud (or write it on the visions and missions of school, or publish it on the school website), this goal must be integrated into everyday teaching practices as well as to the assessments. Students’ perception matters. We need open and honest communication to remain believable so that our students understand and feel their success and learning being important for us. Well-being in schools as defined above is an essential measure of providing students with successful learning experiences.

My iPhone and My Teaching

22 Feb

While many technological innovations have undoubtedly transformed the position in a relatively short period of time, perhaps there is none greater than the advent of the Smartphone. In my case the iPhone. Some of these are for good and some not so good.

Email:

I am still blown away by the number of school leaders who shut their desktop computer off on a Friday afternoon and come back to over a hundred emails when they return on Monday morning. By accessing emails in this fashion, I can give immediate attention to an issue, concern, or complaint instead of letting it sit. The negatives can be that you never leave work.

Twitter: I love it. Connecting, collaborating and great PD. Those who use it know. Those that ignore it are missing out.

Facebook: The iPhone allows users to fully maintain and update a school’s Facebook page while tracking usage and views through a user friendly “Facebook Pages Manager” app. I regularly use the camera feature to post pictures of various school events and also provide community members with “live” Facebook updates at different sporting events.

Google Drive: This powerful “cloud-based” platform has single-handedly changed the way that we think about word processing and collaboration. I regularly access the Google Drive app on my phone to take notes during classroom observations, to “collaborate” with colleagues throughout the day. Office 365 follows closely behind.

Changing Pedagogy

21 Feb

If education like a faith journey is a search for meaning, then should our goal as teachers be to ask good questions even when there are no clear answers?

We are ako. We are lifelong learners. It does not matter if even as teacher we do not have the answers.

For decades, our education systems have been built around the transmission of knowledge from teacher to student. The prescribed curriculum provided one path through the maze and gave students few opportunities to learn through experimentation – to connect their own dots.

I found this quote from New York Times, which I have been doing a great deal of reflecting on this week. My love for this paper was generated during my time studying in Syracuse.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/opinion/sunday/the-elusive-big-idea.html?_r=0

We live in the much vaunted Age of Information. Courtesy of the Internet, we seem to have immediate access to anything that anyone could ever want to know. We are certainly the most informed generation in history, at least quantitatively. There are trillions upon trillions of bytes out there in the ether — so much to gather and to think about.

And that’s just the point. In the past, we collected information not simply to know things. That was only the beginning. We also collected information to convert it into something larger than facts and ultimately more useful — into ideas that made sense of the information. We sought not just to apprehend the world but to truly comprehend it, which is the primary function of ideas. Great ideas explain the world and one another to us.

Our system has become a little lost. We have become focused on results rather than process. We have become absorbed on content to knowledge, teaching to curriculum delivery and we have allowed the answer to shape the question.

We need to go back and ask how we are asking these questions.

Be the best you can be…

20 Feb

At present I am preparing our annual excellence assembly which recognises outstanding achievement by our students in the 2014 academic year.

It is a moving experience as I reflect on these students and consider their journey and achievements. It is a celebration of students, staff and whenau. For their stories are ones of personal courage, relentless commitment to demonstrate their talents and a refusal to take the easy option at any stage. These students have achieved, taken up the challenge and taking the path less travelled.

These students’ acknowledge the support and love of family, friends and staff. What always strikes me the most is the deep appreciation for their teachers. These students’ always tell me how staff made a difference. They each believe that teachers made the difference and admit they couldn’t have done what they did without their good teachers who challenged them, stretched them, supported them and were always there when they needed them. On most occasions they tell staff this and these are moments I enjoy.

I have written much about improving student achievement and providing a relevant and engaging learning experience for every student. Excellence Assembly reinforces the significance of good teachers in the learning process. Teachers we are lucky to have you because you make a difference.

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