In this episode of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning, I demonstrate how to use DocHub to fill out, sign and send forms back to their recipient without needing to print them out, complete them, and scan them in.
For more FTPL videos, please click here.
“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”
― Attributed to Groucho Marx
This week's Friday Freebie continues the literacy theme. Last week's Friday Freebie was a template for marking and tracking students' writing and using it as assessment for learning and assessment of learning. In this article, I am sharing with you a template for tracking your Guided Reading Groups. As with last week's template, this one can be used with students of any age, but will require modification to suit your needs. You can find the Guided Reading Group template by clicking here or the link below.
To use this form, you need to fill in each section with the relevant details. I include the level of the book being read in the section with the students names. In the text title section for my more advanced students, where we are not reading a whole book, I also include what page we read from and read to. The orientation to text section is where you would record the phrasing you use, words or phrases you need to remember to include because they are high-frequency or challenging. The key words/phrases section is where you might record the focus word/phrase that you are focusing on. The observation section is fairly straight forward.
The bottom section is where you might make the most modification depending on the age. The word work section is where I record the phoneme that I am focusing on from the book and what I will be doing with that phoneme. For example we might be working with the /tʃ/ phoneme (as at the start of chair or the end of catch) and I might record that we are focusing just on the (ch) variation and so would record some words there to use with the group of students I am working with. The questions after reading section allows you to plan ahead for what you will be asking to check for comprehension. This allows you to plan for your differentiation ahead of time as you can plan the questions based around the needs of the group of students. For example, with students who are struggling, you might ask more literal style questions, with an inferential question at the end. However, with more advanced students, there might be none or one literal question and the rest are inferential or connection questions.
The response to text activity allows you to tie your reading to your writing by asking students to write something based upon the the story and can be adjusted to suit the focus in the class at the time. This could be as simple as describing the images in the story, or to write a recount of what happened, to write about a time the student did something from the story. With more capable students, you could ask them to retell the story from a different characters perspective, or as a different text type.
The response to text could also be adjusted vis-a-vis what the mode of response takes. It could be to create an artwork or sculpture if that fits with a unit of learning you are completing with students, to engage with a science experiment if that is appropriate, to research something from the story, to transform the story into a dramatic play or to compose some music to fit the story. These options would be used with older students.
I do also include, in each section, an indication in the margin as to what day my notes correspond to, regardless of whether it is a different book each day, or the same book being read over a few days.
Please feel free to share with your network and to adapt to suit your needs.
"A growing number of business leaders, politicians, and educators are united around the idea that students need twenty-first century skills to be successful today. It's exciting to believe we live in times that are so revolutionary that they demand new and different abilities. But in fact, the skills students need in the twenty-first century are not new."
- Rotherham, A. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2010). “21st-Century” Skills. American Educator, 17. Retrieved from tinyurl.com/RotherWill
I entered my initial teacher education (ITE) during the transition from the old curriculum to the National Curriculum (which is not at all national, but that is a different conversation) and actually had to buy the new curriculum for Mathematics and English and the old curriculum for the other Key Learning Areas (KLAs). Throughout the new documents, as well as throughout the discussions in media, rhetoric used by politicians and language used in discussions online, I consistently see references to things such as twenty-first century learning, the new skills or the twenty-first century skills as if these particular skill sets were only discovered post-1999.
Why do we refer to these supposedly new skills as new or as twenty-first century, imbuing them with some sort of mystical innovative and revolutionary qualities? One issue I have with them is that it is hard to pin down exactly what people mean when they refer to these twenty-first century skills. The Four Cs are one example I often hear people refer to as being twenty-first century skills.
"The Four Cs of 21st century learning, also known as the Four Cs or 4 Cs, are four skills that have been identified by the United States-based Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) as the most important skills required for 21st century education: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity."
I really struggle with thinking of these as being twenty-first century skills. Or rather, I struggle to think about twenty-first century skills as being anything other than a temporal indicator; as indicating in which time period the skill is being used by the person learning it. Do we really think that Plato and Aristotle did not think critically? Do we think that the Indigenous peoples around the world did not communicate? Do we think that the famous Chinese General and philosopher, Sun Tzu did not collaborate with his peers when developing strategy and tactics? Do we really think that Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Picasso or Van Gogh were not creative?
Why then, do these skills, highly useful and versatile to be sure; valuable for a successful life most certainly, continue to be referred to as twenty-first century skills in such a way that it implies a newness, a revolutionary nature to them that they most certainly do not possess. Or have I simply completely misunderstood what people are saying when they talk about twenty-first century skills? Let me know your thoughts.
"Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something."
- Attributed to Plato
As you read this article, I ask that you reflect honestly on your use of Twitter, your own interactions with other educators, and interactions that you have observed between other educators.
I am a strong believer that Twitter serves a valuable role in the ongoing professional learning and professional networking of educators around the world. It provides opportunities for international collaboration and sharing, for learning from varied teaching contexts. It allows us to share our mistakes, and our failures; but also to celebrate our successes. It allows us to network with educators we would not normally have access to for any number of reasons.
Twitter can be a toxic cesspit of bitter one up-manship, of misunderstandings that lead to bruised egos and self-justified crusades against opponents, and a series of echo chambers.
Just after 2017 began, the dark side became too much to deal with for one person, Lindy West and she deactivated her Twitter account. She wrote about it here, however, I include below a few particular sections from her article that I hope adequately highlight what see as a growing issue.
One moment I was brains-deep in the usual way, half-heartedly arguing with strangers about whether or not it’s “OK” to suggest to Steve Martin that calling Carrie Fisher a “beautiful creature”who “turned out” to be “witty and bright as well” veered just a hair beyond Fisher’s stated boundaries regarding objectification...and the next moment the US president-elect was using the selfsame platform to taunt North Korea about the size and tumescence of its nuclear program. And I realised: eh, I’m done. I could be swimming right now. Or flossing. Or digging a big, pointless pit. Anything else.
Twitter, for the past five years, has been a machine where I put in unpaid work and tension headaches come out. I write jokes there for free. I post political commentary for free. I answer questions for free. I teach feminism 101 for free. Off Twitter, these are all things by which I make my living...[b]ut on Twitter, I do them pro bono and, in return, I am micromanaged in real time by strangers; neo-Nazis mine my personal life for vulnerabilities to exploit; and men enjoy unfettered, direct access to my brain so they can inform me, for the thousandth time, that they would gladly rape me if I weren’t so fat.
I’m pretty sure “ushered in kleptocracy” would be a deal-breaker for any other company that wanted my business. If my gynaecologist regularly hosted neo-Nazi rallies in the exam room, I would find someone else to swab my cervix. If I found out my favourite coffee shop was even remotely complicit in the third world war, I would – bare minimum – switch coffee shops; I might give up coffee altogether.
The EduTwitter community, in my experience over the last few years, has not been like this. However, I question what role we as educators should be playing in this. We are in a unique position within our communities where we can affect change on a significant scale and change attitudes. Is this something that we should find an appropriate way to bring to bear on these rampant and disgusting issues?
I have seen Twitter conversations escalate very quickly from civil lowercase a argument to seemingly verbal nuclear-war capital a Arguments. very quickly. It feels like EduTwitter is becoming, in some ways a series of echo chambers, where within each chamber, an idea is mutually agreed upon and everyone in that idea is rushing to show that they agree. Dissenting and alternative opinions, it seems, are increasingly being shouted down, a tendency which I find rather disturbing. Is it not the case that diversity breeds change and that needing to be able to effectively argue (note the lower case a argue) our viewpoint can be a significant tool in strengthening our understanding of the problem while also opening us to alternative opinions?
I certainly do not think that this attitude is rampant, however, I do believe that the incidence of Arguments that lose civility and descend into name-calling has grown. The number and intensity of of the echo chambers also appear to be growing and they are difficult to avoid. I do not excuse myself from falling into them, as I have done so on occasion, which is partly why I have reduced my engagement with organised chats. Whilst I understand that the point of organised EduTwitter chats is for educators to come together around a common interest or subject and share ideas. I have benefited greatly from a number of them over the last few years.
My concern stems from the way I have observed those who question the status quo or share dissenting opinion being shouted down or spoken to with derision, almost as if to say "oh, you think that? Wow, get with the times, we all know that's wrong."
I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on this. Am I off the mark? Close? Do we need to rethink how we engage with Twitter, both our EduTwitter community, and Twitter writ large or is it ok? Let me know in the comments below.
Today's Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video is by request and is a demonstration of how to log into the Mathletics website.
“10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer
Write even more.
Write even more than that.
Write when you don’t want to.
Write when you do.
Write when you have something to say.
Write when you don’t.
Write every day.
― Attributed to Brian Clark
Teaching students to write can be both incredibly painful and incredibly rewarding (and rather amusing!). The process of knowing where to next can be somewhat daunting, and determining how to manage each student's progress so that everyone is having their individual needs addressed, but that everyone is moving forwards can be quite challenging.
One method that works quite effectively is to use the writing sample that a student has created today as the basis for what you ask them to work on tomorrow. For example, if Jill is in Year Two, then when marking her sample at the end of the day, you would look for a pattern of things that need to be addressed and have her focus, in the next writing session, on rectifying the issue that is the most important. Professional judgement is required to determine whether it is letter formation, capital letters, full stops, spelling, grammatical issues or for older students, structural or thematic issues.
Across the class, however, there will be some clear groupings of issues. You would have students sit in groups during the next writing session, and let each group know what it is that they need to focus on. The issue will vary depending on the age and the context and a range of other factors, however, there will typically be four to five groupings around common writing areas.
This week's Friday Freebie is a template that I have been using this year for this purpose. In the topic/focus column, you record what the topic and focus for the writing samples you are marking was. Then, in the other columns, you create groups based upon trends you see in a student's writing. In the partially completed example I have included below, you can see that I identified five common issues. These are based upon your professional judgement as to what the most important area that needs development was. For some students it was using capital letters and full stops. For others, it was purely about length, that they need to write more in order to allow a judgement to be made on what they need to work on.
You do not have to have five groups, however, you need to allocate each student to a group based upon what you identify in their writing as being important. The next day, when you send students to do their writing task, you have group one sit together and tell them that they need to focus on capital letters and full stops and you have an explicit teaching moment. Then you move to group two and give them their explicit teaching moment and so on until you have spoken with each group. At the end of the day, you go through the process again, and your groupings, both the students in the groups and the area that group needs to focus on might be the same or it might be different.
The table on the second part of the page allows you to record, from the writing sample, a word that they need to practice spelling. This could be anything from a sight word to a theme word and it will vary depending on the age and needs of the student.
I have uploaded the blank template as a PDF to my Public Resources folder on Google Drive for you to download and edit. Alternatively, you can download it below.
"Friends and colleagues are very sustaining. They're the people who get you through it... It's no good to be on your own."
- Attributed to Dame Judi Dench
When has a lesson you've planned out not worked? Did you scrap it midway through or persevere? How did you move past that moment of failure in practice? What was your learning?
My regular readers would be aware that this year I am working in a team teaching context. Four weeks in and I have to say that it is working out fantastically well. On a daily basis I am learning new strategies for different needs; negotiating with challenging students, getting alongside students with low self-efficacy to build them to undertake the learning task without doing the task for them, different strategies for whole-class reading, strategies for managing assessment of learning and using it as data for the next phase of learning and am very slowly building my own self-efficacy as a Stage One teacher.
It is a completely different world to Stage Three. The strategies are different, the questions you ask and the questions you answer are different. The learning tasks are different.
Yesterday I was leading a whole class maths lesson focusing on place value. It seemed to go well to start with, but when we got to the guided learning part, it fell apart a little. I think where I went wrong was that I brought in the the number zero and started including that in our discussion (it had been our focus in the previous) and I think that it confused students as from their perspective it seemed like I had changed topic. I had been asking questions such as if i have 421 sheep, how do I write that number? We were talking about the need to write 421 rather than 400201 or 40021 etc. When I brought in zero it was on the back of if I have 100 sheep why do I write 100 and not just 1? which generated some very productive discussion about why zero is important as a digit.
The next task was where I got things wrong. I split the class into three groups and asked them to use their bodies to represent the three place values we were working with for various numbers (hundreds, tens, unit). I.e. I gave them 342 as a starting number, modelling this with one group, and asked for three people to stand together to represent the hundreds, four to represent the tens and two to represent the units. They struggled to get past the hundreds as they each wanted to form that group, then they each wanted to form the tens group. We got through one number successfully, eventually, and then tried it as a class. It did not work. I pulled them all back in as a single group and we moved on to a different activity.
I asked my colleague afterwards if it made sense what I was trying to achieve, and he said he could see exactly what I was trying to do but that it was perhaps a little too abstract for this particular age group. It may have worked with Stage Two students, or if it was just a group of Year Two students, but not with this particular cohort.
It was a valuable lesson in reminding me that I need to spend more time thinking activities all the way from through from start to finish and consider ways to bring it back to the focus if things start to go off the rails to ensure that the students are achieving the lesson focus. It was also a reminder of how valuable having a colleague in the room can be to not only remind you that are a capable teacher after failed lessons, but to pick up on questions or ideas that you have missed or forgotten or to help manage a small group of students who need additional support.
"Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do."
- Attributed to Pele
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is through a media pass provided by the organisers.
In the previous article in this series, I provided a preview of the various conference streams as well as the central focus of each stream and who would benefit from them. In this article, I will be providing an overview of each of the six Masterclasses and why you should consider them.
Masterclass A is one I am interested in as it addresses Learning Spaces and will provide strategies for educators to take back to their teaching and learning context and implement that will maximise the effectiveness of student-centred learning spaces. With Prakash Nair, as one of the two main speakers, it is sure to be an interesting day of learning. This masterclass contends that the vast majority of classrooms are organised on the basis that most of a student's school day will be spent in the classroom surrounded by same-age peers, whether in small groups of larger whole class contexts and that curriculum areas are being addressed in discrete silos, typically through explicit instruction and without much collaboration.
Prakash Nair and Annalise Gehling are setting out to show you practical strategies that you can use to turn "...classroom-based schools into learning, community-based schools."
Masterclass B is all about BYOD and together, Matthew Robinson, Cameron Nicholls and Blake Seufert are going to work with you to provide the knowledge and strategies to ensure that the move to BYOD is worthwhile for your students' learning, for your parents' peace of mind and for your teachers' pedagogical practice. They will explore various implementation strategies and policy trends that schools need to be aware, examine the technical infrastructure that is required to have reliable wi-fi connections across the school, even during peak-load times without compromising internet speed. Strategies for managing ICT teams; and guiding staff and students through the transition as well as managing parent expectations. If your school is in a BYOD context but you feel it could be implemented more effectively, or you are considering implementing BYOD, than this is the masterclass for you.
Masterclass C is being presented by Kellie Britnell from the Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner and will be focused on e-safety and cyber security. The masterclass will focus on providing delegates with an increased awareness of and strategies for dealing with new and emerging trends affecting school communities vis-a-vis e-safety and cyber security. Resources and strategies for designing school policies and processes relating to e-safety and cyber security will be discussed as part of this masterclass.
This masterclass is focusing on an area that I believe all educators should be conversant in as there is an ongoing need for knowledge and awareness of the issue. It is not acceptable, in my opinion, for teachers to say something along the lines of "I don't need to worry about that, I don't don't use social media." Believe it or not, I have heard that from a teacher. Whether we like it or not, social media and internet connectivity is now pervading the lives of our children of all ages. I know students in primary school who are active on social media yet who do not have the skills, knowledge or maturity to deal with some of the banter they come across. I would encourage anyone with even a passing interest in how to keep their child or students safe online to register for this masterclass.
Masterclass D is focused on a topic that has increasingly come to the fore in education as an apparently urgent issue for the future success of our children. Teaching Kids to Code, led by Beck Spink and Will Egan is focused on examining the new Australian Curriculum Digital Technologies curriculum in depth while showcasing how Victorian schools are successfully implementing this curriculum by exploring the school culture, vision and philosophy that has fostered the successful implementation of this curriculum, including industry partnerships, real world opportunities, a staged approach that takes in physical computing as well as information systems and computational thinking.
Delegates will engage in a discussion of some pedagogical strategies that have worked for primary and middle school teachers in successfully teaching students to code, but also to help spark creativity in thinking by having students write for design, showcase and end-user requirements as part of the design life cycle. This will be a hands on workshop that will allow delegates to develop confidence, knowledge, strategies, resources and pedagogical practices for implementing the digital technologies syllabus.
Masterclass E is one that intrigues me a great deal. Linda Ray will be facilitating this masterclass, entitled Mindfulness, Neuroscience and Wellbeing. The current world is full of distractions and ways of immediate gratification such as games, shopping advertisements etc and this provides an ongoing mental battle between distraction and attention, which Linda has indicated in the abstract for the masterclass leads to increasing levels of cognitive loads results in increased stress and fatigue. Cognitive load is a highly significant factor in our ability to solve problems, make decisions, to be creative and many other facets. If this is stressed, then the learning potential for our students is impaired as they are not able to focus adequately. This masterclass would, I believe, pair nicely with Masterclass C.
Masterclass F is titled Computational Thinking and Coding with Swift Playgrounds and will be facilitated by Daniel Budd. It will be focusing on the cross-curricular approaches that are successfully being used to implement the new Digital Technologies curriculum. Daniel will provide a hands-on workshop where delegates will explore the curriculum and hear case studies demonstrating successful integration of computational thinking that falls within mathematics and Digital Technologies curriculum areas.
These masterclasses, along with the various conference streams (read my preview of those here) provides some excellent reasons to attend FutureSchools. I would encourage you to register soon to secure your place at what is sure to be an excellent event.
To read all articles in this series, please click here.
In today's Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I show you how you can utilise Google Forms to create a check in/out system. This could be used for tracking who is borrowing classroom resources from you, sports or science equipment, hall or toilet passes for students, who has the iPads or laptops etc.
For more helpful videos like this one, please click here.
"I like to approach every day like it's the only day I will ever have."
- Attributed to Gene Simmons
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
FutureSchools is shifting to a new home for the 2017 iteration. The Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) will be hosting educators from across Australia in a setting vastly different to that of Australian Technology Park where previous FutureSchools events have been held. I am looking forward to attending, not least because I genuinely enjoy being in Melbourne, but it will be a chance to see FutureSchools from another perspective.
Time is running out to register your place in one of the six masterclasses or the five conference streams. If you are not sure which conference stream is right for you, then keep reading. if you have not yet booked your place, include a Gala Dinner ticket in your registration and use code BTS150 by 11:59pm on Friday 10th February to receive $150 off which effectively makes the Gala Dinner ticket is free.
The Future Leaders conference is focused on looking at the future of teaching and learning through examination of current global trends and developments in school education, including changes to the: schooling system; society; behaviour; pedagogy; curriculum; technology; professional learning; and learning spaces. This conference will include the plenary keynotes from Dr. Milton Chen, Jan Owen AM and Prakash Nair as well as case-studies and presentations from current education leaders and teachers. To read more about the Future Leaders conference, click here. I am hoping to hear Michael Ha's session which will focus on taking the professional and student learning opportunities that arise from technology.
The Teaching Kids to Code conference is focused on teaching students to code through professional development for teachers around the Australian Digital Technologies curriculum. This conference stream will explore the challenges of teaching students to code and why we should be teaching students to code as well as provide a forum for collaboration in driving STEM, computational thinking and coding beyond the classroom. This conference will include the plenary keynotes from Dr. Milton Chen, Jan Owen AM and Prakash Nair as well as case-studies and presentations from educators currently utilising coding as part of their pedagogical practice. To read more about the Teaching Kids to Code stream, please click here. I would particularly like to hear the panel session focusing on the national digital technologies rollout and the opportunities and trouble areas that have arisen thus far for integrating the curriculum.
My usual FutureSchools home, the ClassTech conference has a broad agenda which focuses on how to use various technologies and technology-based pedagogical practices in the classroom. I've written extensively over the last two years from the ClassTech conference stream and this year looks to be as good as ever. This conference will include the plenary keynotes from Dr. Milton Chen, Jan Owen AM and Prakash Nair as well as case-studies and presentations from educators currently utilising coding as part of their pedagogical practice. As I am currently working in a team-teaching context, I a particularly looking forward to hearing Sally Wood and Simone Segat speak about how team teaching can enhance digital technology learning. I have heard Joel Speranza speak about using videographic feedback previously and can also recommend his session with cnofidence. To read more about the ClassTech conference, please click here.
The Special Needs and Inclusion Conference (SNIC) is aimed at presenting practices that are working for educators around the country when it comes to integrating and support students with difficult backgrounds or who have learning disorders and disabilities such as auditory processing, Autism Spectrum Disorders, behavioural issues, dyslexia, as well as those students whom are identified as being gifted or talented. The focus is to provide innovative, proven and practical ideas that can be implemented in your classroom within existing frameworks and taking advantage of special needs technologies. Delegates will also hear the plenary keynotes from Dr. Milton Chen, Jan Owen AM and Prakash Nair. I am particularly looking forward to hearing Karina Barley speak about creating a space in which an autistic student can feel secure and engage with their learning.
I am actually looking forward to a number of the sessions on the Young Learners agenda this year. I have to admit that in previous years I have not looked at the agenda as I have been teaching upper primary, however, this year I have shifted to Stage One and so it has become rather relevant. This conference stream is focused on examining how Early Years through to Stage One teachers can tap into digital technologies to provide new and enhanced learning opportunities, with practical sessions allowing delegates to get hands on and confident with various tools. This session does include the plenary keynotes from Dr. Milton Chen, Jan Owen AM and Prakash Nair. As a new parent, I am particularly interested in hearing from Dr Kristy Goodwin who will be addressing the impact of digital immersion on a child's physical development, health and well-being, and learning and how this can redefine not just the role of educators, but the approach.
There are also six Masterclasses to choose form, however, I will publish a separate overview of those early next week. I look forward to meeting some of my readers at FutureSchools 2017 and remember to register before 11:59pm Friday 9 February to take advantage of the BTS150 giving $150 off the registration price when a Gala Dinner ticket is included.
“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
Some time ago I signed up to be notified when the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) program would be beginning this year and recently received that notification. After reading through the requirements (not onerous) and the process I stopped and did some thinking, ultimately deciding not to go through the process of applying to become an ADE this year.
I stumbled on this article by Stephanie Thompson (@TraintheTeacher) and subsequently read through each of ADE-based articles. It got me to thinking about why I wanted to undertake the program. I am already good with technology in the class and have had lots of positive comments about that aspect of my teaching, so I do not need the help of learning the technology. I do not think it would actually lend any weight to applications for permanent teaching positions (though it would be a nice feather in the cap) and I can think of areas of opportunity that would provide far better benefit to my students as a professional development focus.
I realised that it was a badge that I have seen and respect as it implies a high level of knowledge and in some circles, respect. It was something I wanted to do because I felt that it might serve as proof that I am not a fraud when I talk about teaching and technology and it occurred to me that it would not actually achieve those goals and at this point in time, I was wanting to undertake the program for the wrong reasons.
I need to focus on my pedagogy and classroom management skills, my time and organisation skills. I am also teaching on Stage One, a group I have not previously taught and accordingly have a significant amount of professional learning to do this year simply to do my job to what I feel is an acceptable standard. In that, I am blessed to be job-sharing with someone whom I know has vast experience with this Stage and whom I also know socially. Further to that, we are in a team-teaching context with our Stage Assistant Principal who has been nothing but understanding and helpful thus far.
I will certainly be looking at the ADE program, but not this year.
"Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible."
- Attributed to Tony Robbins
As you read this article, I would encourage you to consider the process by which you arrive at your professional development goals and decide which activities, courses, or conferences you will give your time to in the pursuit of your professional development.
Outside of education, my biggest passion (after my family of course) is (association) football, affectionately referred to as the round ball game, and accurately known as the world game.
I did not come to the game until my mid-twenties, and accordingly I was, if I am being kind, completely rubbish as a player. I also did not really understand the things I kept being penalised for and that frustration, combined with a lack of match time from the coach due to my rubbish-ness meant that it was not really serving its purpose for me, which was to help me lose some weight. So I attended a local referee course and became a referee.
I love it. I have the best position to watch football. It is great fitness (I average around ten kilometres a match as a referee and around seven kilometres as an assistant referee in each match, depending on the level of football), it is outdoors amidst the fresh air and the sun and has provided me with some incredible experiences and many new friends. Recently I attended a Level One Theory course run by the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) designed to give me the skills to be appointed to referee the second tier of football in Australia, the Sony PS4 National Premier League and in theory, would mean I am eligible to officiate on the Hyundai A-League, the top tier of football in Australia should I pass my practical assessment matches. If you are interested in reading about the referee development pathway, you can find the Australian Officiating Development Schedule (AODS) here.
Part of the course touched on a number of elements that many educators would be familiar with, particularly around psychology and goal setting. We are required, as part of the program to develop and track a series of goals at the short, medium and long term, and were told we needed to use SMART Goals. The instructor for our course is a Secondary English teacher and he really pushed us to develop SMART goals that would be useful, as they formed part of the program assessment; the making, tracking and if need be, modification of them.
It occurred to me during my drive home that the goals I had set as part of the course were genuine SMART goals and did meet each of the criteria. My regular readers will be aware that I set some goals for this year. Reflecting further, I realised that those goals, my professional goals, were not all particularly SMART goals and were in fact rather vague in some instances. They are all things that I want to achieve, but they were not necessarily specific or measurable and I need to review them and change them if need be. I also realised that for some reason I was more comfortable codifying my goals for my referee development than I am for my professional development.
I am not entirely sure why, though I feel like it may be because I am aware there is so much development in so many areas needed that it feels rather paralysing and constricting to pin down only three of four goals as is required for my mandatory Professional Development Plan.
How do you determine, whether now or in the past, which of the numerous potential areas for development to concentrate on? I feel, as an early career teacher, that there are so many areas I still need to focus on that I am paralysed for choice. I would appreciate hearing anyone's process for selecting development areas.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I show you how you can use Google Forms as a platform to allow parents to book in for Parent/Teacher Interviews, or for staff booking of breakout sessions during Professional Development sessions etc. There are of course many other uses, however, such as the booking of resources (school hall, playground space before or after school for sport team training for example), so this is not a definitive list.
For more helpful FTPL videos, click here.
"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."
-Attributed to Colin Powell
Given that it is Wednesday afternoon it is the end of the week for me, and what a week it has been! I have learned so much already and there is obviously still a fair distance to go. We have begun completing the Schedule for Early Number Assessment (SENA) Test with our Year Two students and I am finding it a real eye opening system of assessing a student's mathematical thinking as it is very structured and provides a thorough indication of not just what a student can do but provides insight into how a student completes certain mathematical tasks.
We have also administered the ReST Test, which I have not been able to find links or references to online, but is essentially a spelling test that is testing students' ability to phonographological choices at age appropriate levels. It begins with Early Stage One questions (what letter makes a particular sound) and then steps it up through Stage One with digraphs (students are asked to spell the word shin for example, but are only marked on the /sh/ sound, consonant blends, vowel sounds, split vowels, y as a vowel (as in fly for example). We have a Stage One class so we also completed the first part of the Stage Two test portion which asks students to be able to spell triple blends (which are not triple blends at all, but are actually digraphs blending with a graph) such as /nch/ as in bench. There is a Stage Three component, but overall, the process was fairly quick to do, but it will provide rich useful data that will feed into our programming.
I have more I want to write, but I need to drive to Newcastle and I thought I might go home and see my lovely wife and daughter for a while before I left. How has your week been so far?
"It's a good feeling to come away from a day's work feeling like you've achieved something. Tired brain is good."
-Attributed to Dominic Cooper
Welcome to the 2017 school year! I hope you are as excited for the year as I am and that whatever your context for this year, that you are hopeful for the year. This year I am teaching in a job share arrangement for three days per week which is also in a team teaching context with a colleague teacher. I spent some time thinking out loud about my goals for the year on the way to school yesterday.
I also rambled some early reflections on the way home yesterday over Periscope (safely mounted in a holder).
The class space, which used to be the library/librarians office/computer lab is starting to feel less like that and more like a class space which is fantastic. It is definitely still a work in progress, but I'm quite happy with it so far.
I hope your first few days back have been exciting and filled you with hope for a great year.
In this episode of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning I show you how to set up a basic MS Form and how to access the results of responses through Office365.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
In this episode of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning, I walk through the layout of Word Online and give you two examples of how it can be used as a collaboration tool in your classroom.
Click here for the full list of FTPL videos.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video I walkthrough the Office365’s OneDrive menus and some of the basic functions.
For the full list of FTPL videos, click here.
“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.
The Professional Wins
The Professional Challenges
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 (aim to) 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.
“….relationships take time, getting to know folks requires patience, and people are generally cautious – if not fearful – of Johnny come lately that is asking, rather than giving.”
– Attributed to Jeremiah Owyang, Senior Analyst at Forrester
Conferences can be a huge source of professional development, however, they can also be a great source of unofficial professional learning via the networking conversations outside the lecture theatre or the breakout room.I was fortunate to have a number of conversations with some high-caliber educators that opened my mind to some new ideas, re-excited me about some passions that had faded due to time constraints, and have caused me to rethink some ideals about education.
One of the biggest changes in my thinking is the result of a conversation I had with a few people that come from different contexts, but whose opinions I respect. I attended (six!) public schools from Kindergarten through to Year Twelve and have always maintained that I would teach in public schools as I firmly believe that every child deserves a free, high-quality education. The conversation with these two people has caused me to rethink that. I have never said that I would not teach in non-Goverment schools, just that I could not see it happening.
I was asked if it is hard to gain a permanent teaching position in NSW. I explained that of the several positions I have applied for, that there have been over one hundred applicants; that as someone in my second year of teaching I cannot compete on the experience front with teachers of ten years or more experience; that an article by Bruce McDougall of The Daily Telegraph on 12 July, 2016 stated that there are now just under fifty-thousand qualified teachers who are unable to secure permanent teaching positions; that earning Honours Class I as well as the School of Education and the Arts Faculty Medal seems to count for nothing and that the current staffing policy for NSW Department of Education (DoE) schools dictates a system whereby schools must accept a central appointment despite having qualified and able teachers on temporary contracts.
I was asked directly if I had been applying for non-Government schools, to which I replied no, and explained my desire to support public education. I was reminded of the conditions I had just listed that were making it challenging to find a permanent teaching position and that it was all well and good to want to support public education but that it would not help me get a permanent job in and of itself. He is right, of course, and although applying for teaching positions with non-Government schools does not do anything to guarantee a permanent position or some of the aforementioned challenges, it does at least open the pool of potential options.
Fair enough. I have started applying for positions at non-Government schools. Mrs. C21 remarked that she had been biting her tongue on the issue, hoping that I would recognise that a permanent position was more important at the moment, especially with a three-month-old.
Sitting in on Peter Whiting’s session and getting really excited and interested in the methodologies and the results (statistics!) of Peter’s research demonstrated for me that there is still a passion and interest for research in me. With everything that has happened this year, I have not thought about research too much other than what I read about and links to discussions of research as I peruse my Twitter timeline.
There were some other things that I wanted to include in this article, however, my brain has switched off and I think that too much time has passed since the conference; I have been far slower than normal getting these articles out.
I will likely only do one more new article for the year, a reflection piece, before signing off for the summer break. Thank you for reading this rather disjointed article and for persevering with this conference review series. If you have missed any of the articles from FlipCon Adelaide, you can find them here.
“Our kids have digital thumbs, we shouldn’t cut them off when they enter the door.”
FlipCon Adelaide had thus far been a success for me on a personal and professional level. I was feeling reinvigorated for the remainder of the year with new ideas, new contacts and friends, and a revitalised drive for flipped learning and research, which I hope has come through in my previous articles from the conference. My final session at FlipCon Adelaide was with Stephanie Kriewaldt (@stephkrie) who was presenting under the title Flipping the Primary Classroom. I spoke briefly with Stephanie during the Primary discussion panel and was happy to have met another Kindergarten-Year Two (Infants) teacher who was also a flipper as I only know one other Infants flipped educators; Alfina Jackson (@GeekyAusTeacher).
I feel bad for anyone presenting in the last timeslot at any conference or event, many people will have left the event already or will leave partway through in order to catch their plane/train. Stephanie’s session in the last timeslot of the day was similarly impacted with only three delegates in total in attendance, despite their having been eight registered to attend. Stephanie introduced herself and spoke about her background, including that she has only ever worked in 1:1 contexts, which seems rather amazing to me and is currently working as an innovation and learning leader.
Stephanie showed us a short video of a Year Two classroom where flipped pedagogies were utilised as part of the rotational groupings during literacy sessions. Given that I am going to be teaching in a Stage One context next year, this gives me some hope that what I was thinking might work, does work in practice. Utilising either computers or tablets with pre-loaded videos to play a short (sixty to ninety seconds long maximum) video modeling how to form letters and numbers, how to spell words and a range of other simple yet foundational skills that need to be repeated multiple times was what I was thinking of doing next year.
Stephanie spoke next about the SAMR model and its application in flipped learning. It would be very easy to stay with substitution and augmentation, however, we need to strive to also reach the modification and redefinition levels. Stephanie spoke about how she utilised QR code posters on the wall that linked to short videos that explained basics such as what a noun is or how to construct a paragraph as that was something that could be done once and made available via video when students needed the refresher. This process frees the teacher up to continue to be available for students who have more complex questions or needs that need her immediate focus and also gives the student some ownership of their learning. Whilst they are still using the teacher as the source of the information, they are able to access the information whenever they need without disrupting anyone else’s learning.
Stephanie also spoke about how to utilise flipped learning to engage with Parents. Sometimes a student will go home and ask the caregiver (you cannot assume it is a parent anymore) for help with some task for school and the caregiver will do their best to help. Sometimes this help is actually hindering the student because the caregiver does not have the knowledge needed or uses incorrect terminology. This happens for various reasons and Stephanie said that a simple way to combat this is to create videos that are ostensibly for the student but also show the caregiver how the concept or skill is being taught. It is not about diminishing the knowledge or skill of the caregiver, but about ensuring that they are aware of how the particular concept is taught now as it is likely to have changed since the caregiver was at school.
Stephanie spoke about using a short hook-video to capture student interest in a new topic or unit of learning. The idea of a hook to capture student interest is not a new one, however, being reminded of old ideas that work is often useful as it is easy to forget about them with the ongoing plethora of new ideas and practices that are thrown en masse at teachers. Knowing how to create and use QR codes and link shorteners is a very useful skill to have as it opens up a range of possibilities, such as the use of QR codes for refresher videos as mentioned earlier in this article. If you are not sure about either, you can find a video showing how to create QR codes here and a video for URL shorteners here.
Stephanie spoke about how she uses Explain Everything to make short videos on the fly and how it is also simple enough to use that Infants students are able to create videos using it. A flipped worksheet is still a worksheet we were told and accordingly, the homework that Stephanie sets is designed to be something that is likely going to occur anyway to reduce the stress around homework; do a chore, read a story, do something to help a friend or a family member etc. This kind of homework I could feel comfortable issuing to students, rather than the traditional style of homework, which I have written about recently. Homework needs to be achievable for the student and for us, the teacher.
Given that we were such a small group, we spent some time sharing about our specific teaching and learning contexts and sharing some ideas about moving forward with flipped learning. It was a useful time, though short, however, I think everyone in the room was happy to move on to the end of conference drinks as it had been a cognitively-draining (and refreshing at the same time) two days. Stephanie’s session was interesting and I did gain some ideas and a fresh perspective for moving into 2017 in a new context.
As always, thank you for reading. I think there will be one more article to come from FlipCon Adelaide, which will be a more general reflection on some issues as a result of various conversations I had with people outside of workshops which have significantly impacted my thinking and will impact my practice.
“What does professional development look like? Is sitting here professional development?”
After hearing the dates for FlipConNZ in June 2017 and FlipConAus in Sydney during October 2017, Professor Ken Bauer (@Ken_Bauer) took the stage to deliver his keynote.
Ken began by asking what professional development (PD) normally looks like and why it looks the way it does, questioning whether sitting in the theatre listening to him talk was really PD. Ken spoke about Personalised PD as written about by Jason Bretzmann (@jbretzmann) and Dave Burgess (@burgessdave), the basic premise of which is that teachers, like their students, are learners and therefore are all at different places with different needs. Jason and Dave began Patio PD, which was described to us as being teachers who get together on a patio to share practice. This sounded very similar to something that I heard about from Craig Kemp (@MrKempNZ), which is Pub PD.
The above question was posted by Ken, which is a challenging question. PD is a requirement in education. We need to ensure that we remain up to date with emerging pedagogies and technologies, however, we need to revisit the way in which PD is run. There are some good examples of useful, relevant and practical PD, however, anecdotally, I know that there are also still a large number of schools delivering PD via lecture or PD that is fun and engaging, but that will not actually change practice. As Greg Ashman (@Greg_Ashman) often comments, engagement is a poor proxy for learning.
I have of course attended a large number of PD sessions at schools and there have been very few occasions where I have actively thought to myself that it was a waste of time. or completely irrelevant There have been a significant number of occasions where I have thought to myself that the PD was fun/interesting/engaging. There have, however, been few instances of PD that I can point to and say that that PD changed my practice. Ken Bauer asks whose fault is it if we (teachers) do not like PD the way that it currently is. I believe that it has to be, at least, partially our own fault.
We are required to engage with PD, especially with the implementation of the NSW Department of Education (DoE) Performance and Development Framework which requires that all teachers (amongst other staff) are required to have in place a Professional Development Plan (PDP); and with the accreditation processes required under the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).
Ken contends that school leaders, which is not just the designated Principal and other Executive staff, need to create a bold culture that encourages personalised PD as standardised PD often results on the disengagement of everyone they were trying to engage. This process should include a continual questioning of where you are now, where you want to be next year and how we are going to get [you] there. Anecdotally, this does not happen. It seems to be that teachers are expected to drive their own PD from within a specified set of options, whether it be set programs a school is running in literacy or numeracy or from a range of set options available through the NSW DoE (or the local equivalent).
As a temporary teacher, I feel that I have an advantage in this area. I can pick and choose what PD opportunities I wish to engage with. Last year and again this year, when we were told that the Executive were beginning the process of looking at staffing numbers for the following year, I have advised my supervisor of some specific PD opportunities and dates that I am committed to in various ways. I do so as I feel that it is only fair to let them know in advance what days I will be taking off to attend these opportunities and that if they choose to offer me another temporary contract, they do so with eyes wide open vis-a-vis my plans.
Ken continued by commenting that we need to give credit to and support those who share and that we should create more than we consume. Not only that, it is also important that we model saying thank you to others for resources and ideas so that we create a culture of positive shared and creative commons in our classroom. This is one of the things I love about the EduTweetOz twitter account (@EduTweetOz) and the associated blog, that each week an Australian educator takes the reins to share ideas, experiences & questions about education across Australia. Hosts come from all areas of education and it is a thoroughly worthwhile week. The underlying concept behind EduTweetOz, however, is to share ideas and experiences. Through interacting with various hosts of the account and hosting it myself for a week, I have been able to connect with a number of educators via EduTweetOz and have been exposed to ideas and viewpoints that I otherwise may not have been without that account.
This also goes to another point that Ken made, which is that what we do has value, even we do not see it ourselves, that we need to share and put ourselves out there with what we have to offer. There are a number of ways of doing that, through sharing resources (check here for mine), through writing blog articles containing reflections, ideas, outlining puzzles of practice you are struggling with and through engaging with online professional learning networks such as Twitter and other social media platforms. Ken reiterated the point that PD is about relationships and active learning, which by extrapolation, is also what education is about.
In 2001, Marc Prensky (@MarcPrensky) published an article titled Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants in which he wrote the following:
Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach…Today’s students – K through college – represent the first generations to grow up with this new technology. They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age. Today’s average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV). Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives. Some refer to them as the N-[for Net]-gen or D-[for digital]-gen. But the most useful designation I have found for them is Digital Natives. Our students today are all “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games, and the Internet.
I remember the first time I came across the notion of digital natives and digital immigrants that I was nodding my head and agreeing that yes, my generation and onwards have grown up with technology around us, but now, a bit older and perhaps a bit less naive, I think that while that may be true from a certain perspective, that in many ways, the concept of digital natives does not hold true. While my generation and those after may have grown up with technology all around, that does not equate to an ability to use the technology. I know a great number of people my age and younger who are not comfortable with technology in some contexts, who profess to not being able to use a computer beyond the basics, who do not understand how to use a search engine properly, who do not understand what Twitter/Facebook/Instagram etc is or why people use them.
Ken spoke about the work that David White (@daveowhite) has done around reframing the discussions of digital natives and immigrants that have occurred since Marc Prensky’s seminal article. David contends that individuals engage with the internet and other technologies across a continuum of modes of engagement, visitor or resident, rather than two distinct categories. For a more complete explanation, please watch the short video below.
I think that this conception of digital use is a more appropriate fit for the way in which people engage with digital technologies than the native/immigrants language or even the more recent language around the technology adoption life-cycle and the associated Rogers’ Bell Curve and removes the potential stigma of being a digital immigrant or laggard. I think that this is particularly important in the education space given that anecdotally there appears to be a negative attitude and some sense of disdain for educators not utilising technology in the same way that some teachers do. As previously noted, we should be sharing and helping, not using and showing contempt for non-users.
Ken reminded us of the quote by Will Daggett; “school is a place where students often come to watch their teachers work,” and reminded us that learning should be an active process. We need to make sure that our students are not watching us work, and that they are in fact active participants in their learning. In our current society, this does involve teaching technology skills as part of the Technologies curriculum. Ken contends that it is ok to fail but that we need to persevere and learn from our mistakes. There are a vast array of options and Ken contends that we should choose an option to manage our tools and resources appropriate for our context within the requirements of our school.
Ken’s next point was one I had heard before, but he added an interesting twist to it. He posited that student-riven blogging creates a community of learning and sharing, especially when combined with openly published assignments. I was intrigued by this and fortunately, Ken expanded the thought. He encourages students to publish their answers to questions as part of creating an open sharing culture where students then learn from each other’s answers and can expand on them. The concept is interesting and sounds akin to what I observed whilst at Glenunga International High School that morning in the French lesson, where students were required to add to or correct a translation in a GDoc.
Part of Ken’s process is having students, at the end of the year, create a video for his students in the next year with their tips for being in Ken’s class. This includes understanding Ken himself, but also working in the classroom with the pedagogies that Ken utilises, which is a great idea. It gives students a chance to give feedback about Ken and the way he teaches and gives them the mantle of an expert for a while. Ken also spoke about how he has removed grading and deadlines from his class, which some students struggled with due to the difference to what they are used to in the game of school. Ken said that he encouraged students to learn the content rather than memorise for the test. This would necessitate a change in pedagogy and increased support as students adjust how they are able to demonstrate their understanding (one potential way may be using this form of non-questioning).
Ken was a passionate speaker and strong on the belief that knowledge should be shared, but also credited where borrowed, reminding the audience that learning is often messy, particularly in flipped learning. I was fortunate enough to have a chance to speak with Ken in more depth over dinner that evening, however, given the length of this article already, I will hold off on that. There is one more article to come, covering the final session which was led by Stephanie Kriewaldt (@stephkrie).
As always, thank you for reading. If you have missed any articles in this series from FlipCon Adelaide, please click here to view the full list.
“I have words, not sure how wise they are”
After our visit to Glenunga International High School (GIHS) (which you can read about here and here) was completed, we returned to Brighton Secondary School (BSS) for lunch, after which we engaged in a debrief session. We were given the dates for upcoming events, including FlipCon New Zealand in June and FlipCon Sydney in October. Following that, Jon Bergmann and Ken Bauer took to the stage with microphones each to start the school tour debrief by sharing some of their own observations and reflections about their tour of BSS. There were some microphones spread around the room for delegates to share their observations and reflections on their of either GIHS or BSS.
Jon spoke about how he saw students who owned their learning, but not learning to pass a test, although that is part of the process, but to own their learning for learning’s sake.Ken spoke about how he could see that teachers are sharing resources, ideas, and skills, which I personally think is a great thing. I absolutely believe in the dissemination of ideas, resources, and knowledge in order to contribute and help the teaching profession grow.
The value and potential power of flipped feedback was a recurring theme across a number of the delegates who shared their thoughts and ideas.Danny Avalos (@danny_avalos66) spoke about the fact that the concrete skills and knowledge we teach are all available on YouTube which means we need to redefine what our purpose as teachers is. Danny indicated that he felt that it was what we do in our classrooms to engage and take our students deeper that makes the difference to them.
Delegates were also reminded of the Flipped Learning Certification course which is now being offered over at FLGlobal.org and for which delegates were offered a discount code. I have taken advantage of that and signed up to complete the course and will be doing so during the summer break. We were also challenged to create some action items to take away and actually put what we had learned into practise, which for me, was about engaging with my colleagues for next year around implementing flipped learning strategies. I would also, after getting excited about research from hearing Peter Whiting’s presentation, like to engage with some action research on flipped learning and its impacts on literacy development in infants students, but I need to sit down and have a conversation about that with my supervisor and job-share partner for next year about their interest and thoughts on engaging with that.
Ken Bauer (@ken_bauer) delivered his keynote next, and to give him due credit and to be able to write about it properly, I will review his presentation in the next article. I do not think I will be able to get it out tomorrow (Friday), as this evening is our school musical, a celebration of the school’s sixtieth anniversary. Each Stage was asssigned two decades and asked to prepare a maximum ten-minute performance for the decade and everyone has been working incredibly hard. I am very proud of my students and am excited to see them on stage this evening.
As always, thank you for reading and please leave any comments or feedback you may have. If you have missed any of the other articles in this series you can find them here.
“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 previously wrote, 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 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.
Day one of FlipCon Adelaide was fantastic and you can find the articles for day one by clicking here. You can also find the Storify of the tweets from day one here. Additionally, Peter Whiting (@Mr_van_w) and his colleague Bill Tink (@BillTink) recorded their own reflections as a podcast which is available here and is a great reflection on the day overall from some different perspectives.
Day two promised to be a great day. Part of FlipCon Adelaide was a school tour. Delegates were offered a choice, a few weeks out, of touring the host school, Brighton Secondary School (BSS) or of touring Glenunga International High School (GIHS). Having heard Jeremy LeCornu (@MrLeCornu) speak on multiple occasions (for example, here and here) as well as Olivia O’Neill speak (here) I felt that I would be better served by and would learn more from touring a school of which I knew nothing and therefore had no preconceptions about what I would see or hear.
The initial statistics we were provided were impressive in my mind. Years Eight to Twelve and just fewer than two thousand students representing seventy-four nationalities on the one campus blew my mind, in addition to running the International Baccalaureate Diploma program as well as the South Australian Certificate of Education as parallel courses. Upon arrival at GIHS, we were greeted by the incoming Prefects as well as some of the school Executive staff. In their Performing Arts Centre, we heard a welcome address from Harry Postema, who also introduced the other speakers who would be following him, including Principal Wendy Johnson, Deputy Principal Jeremy Cogan, Innovative Pedagogies Leader Cindy Bunder and incoming Prefects Indigo and Layla.
Part of the tour would be about viewing flipped classes in action, both a technical or academic class, and a hands-on or practical class. We were advised that delegates were arbitrarily divided up into the four groups for the school tours, with each group viewing different classes. There was no consideration of our own teaching contexts or faculty background as it was about seeing the flipped pedagogy in action rather than the content.
Wendy Johnson, GIHS Principal and Flipped Learning International Ambassador, was introduced next, and she spoke about the importance of pedagogy for flipped learning. The role of Innovative Pedagogies Leader at GIHS was focused on helping teachers change their pedagogy to make the best use of the reclaimed class time as a result of flipping their classes. This was facilitated by making a decision to start classes later on Wednesday mornings and make the morning a time for staff professional development and collaboration on developing pedagogies that would assist in taking the school from good to great.
As a primary teacher, we are continually reminded that the first two hours of our school day are the critical learning times when students are at their freshest cognitively and therefore this is where literacy and numeracy teaching is to take place (which makes me question the value assigned to the other key learning areas by policy makers). It is for this same reason that the decision was made to move staff professional development to the morning. Teachers typically feel the same as students in the afternoon; tired and worn out and so the retention of learning and the cognitive engagement is lowered and therefore the value of that time is reduced.
I was curious about the late start and what impact it had on the students and the opportunity to ask came during the morning tea break. The Prefects remained with us and quite confidently and willingly engaged the delegates in conversation and so I asked them about what they used that time for and whether those two hours were added back into the timetable somewhere else with late classes. We were told that they were not added back in and that what they were used for varied, as would be expected student to student. The two Prefects we were speaking with said that typically they would use it to either catch up on sleep or would get up at their normal time and use it to complete individual space tasks or study for exams.
Returning to Wendy’s address, she advised that they made a conscious decision to invest time and money in professional development on technology use and on pedagogical practice. The then-current model of professional development and learning was not working as teachers would draw on their own experience to form their pedagogical framework or paradigm and then listen to what was being said and take they already know or what they wanted to know. Changing that mentality was a significant challenge.
As you would perhaps expect there was some strong resistance to this change in focus on professional development but that traction won over the period of a few years and that they now have a pedagogical framework that all staff members are committed to. They utilised the mandated Teaching for Effective Learning framework as a starting point and the final GIHS Pedagogical Framework evolved from there. The clear focus from each speaker was on pedagogical improvement for students’ benefit and it was coming through not just in the words that were being said, but in how they were being said and the way that the Prefects held themselves and spoke.
We were told that the capture of learning cycle documentation (lesson plans, programs, assessment schedules etc.) was revamped to make it more a more valuable process rather than merely the satisfying of policy. I do not have notes on what that revamp looked like which leads me to believe we were not told the specifics of that. Given my current career status as an early career teacher, any guidance on making the development of learning cycle documentation more beneficial and useful is welcome.
The above statement is an interesting one and requires some unpacking. The first inference is that if you only have pockets of excellence than by deductive reasoning you must have large amounts of stagnant and / or stale teachers and pedagogies; a sad indictment on a beleaguered teaching profession. It would seem intuitive that teaching, as with any other profession or sector contains a continuum of practitioners of varying qualities and abilities. I do not know if I agree with the surface implications of the statement, however, I can understand the position that the statement is made from.
We also heard about how it was critical for the success of the change in focus that parents understood the goals and to that end, the school hosted an information night showing a unit taught using traditional pedagogies and then using contemporary pedagogies, including flipped learning. They were expecting around fifty parents, however, ended up with two hundred and fifty. Part of the education process for the parents and the students alike was that the change to flipped learning, improved pedagogies, and improved learning outcomes would not be instantaneous.
For a change of pace, we heard from two of the incoming school Prefects, Indigo and Layla. One of the key messages that came through in their address was that the change to contemporary pedagogies was not about teachers providing all of the answers to students, but that it was about the teachers guiding students to understand what questions to ask.
The message in here is one of trust and strong relationships. Students are used to playing the game of school and of being given the answers when they are unable to work it out themselves. This focus on relationships between teachers and peers is also building trust that the teachers want to work with the students for the students’ benefit.
The vision for the pedagogical framework moving forward into 2017 is that any teacher can walk into any lesson and see the required characteristics and that if that is not the case, then a conversation about why not needs to occur. It is a tough stance; however, given the process that the school has gone through to reach this point, it seems fair. The impact of this framework is especially critical given that teachers need to plan for effective use of the group space with flipped learning to ensure that students are engaging more deeply and using higher level cognitive skills and processes than in traditional classrooms.
We next heard about the flipped content or learning objects (LOs) and the delegates heard, once again, that getting hung up on the quality of the LO is not useful. The LO prepared by the students’ own teacher is the best option, and having high-level production values does not make or break the quality of the instruction imparted in the video. This assertion, which I have heard from numerous flipped educators as do you want it perfect or on Tuesday? is supported by research, such as that conducted by Peter Whiting which I wrote about here.
A key factor in this is knowing the content and the learning goal for the LO that is being developed to enable it to be created quickly, with minimum fuss and with no post-production, a practice that Joel Speranza (@JoelBSperanza) promotes and which can be seen in the below video.
Flipping does not happen every lesson, however, deep thinking and deep learning can [happen every lesson] was the message we heard next, as Cindy Bunder took the podium. Flipped classes should be more active, both mentally and physically with a focus on the Four Cs. She posited that the individual learning space should take no longer than ten minutes maximum, and should not be meaningless homework.
I asked two prefects during the morning tea break about this and was told that on average they were both completing roughly three hours of homework most nights. This was across all of their courses and they included their general revision and studying load in this time. On further probing, they both indicated that they felt that the actual homework component of their nightly workload was less than prior to flipped learning, however, that the time spent on a specific course varied depending on the context of what was being covered and how much time was spent engaging by pausing, re-watching, and taking notes from the LO.
It was interesting to hear that with flipped learning in place teachers now feel that they have time to teach key skills that are not part of the explicit curriculum such as note taking, time management, critical thinking and how to use individual time and group time to gain the maximum benefit for their learning. Direct instruction is still important within flipped learning; however, it needs to be appropriate and minimal.
At that, the opening addresses concluded and it was time for morning tea, pockets of delegates peppering GIHS Prefects with questions formed. I will leave off here and discuss the conversations I had with the Prefects and some other students as we completed the tour and our lesson observations. Thank you for reading, as always, and I would appreciate any feedback on this article. The clear message that came through from all of the speakers was that flipped learning is about and has resulted in improved pedagogies and relationships.