"We don't even know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward. In times of tragedy, of war, of necessity, people do amazing things. The human capacity for survival and renewal is awesome."
- Attributed to Isabel Allende
It is currently the start of week ten, the last week of the school term for NSW schools and the beginning of the downhill run to a two week break from the trials and triumphs of the classroom. There is something about term three. I personally found over the last few years in the classroom that term three felt like the accelerator had been jammed wide open and all you could do was to try and hang on.
I asked a teacher last week how she felt about this, the breakneck pace that pervaded the term, and she indicated that she had been teaching for about twenty years and that term three used to be the quiet term. There used to be very few events that would occur in term three other than the trial HSC exams but that over the last ten years, this empty nature of the term had resulted in everything being dumped into term three leaving it, in many ways, far busier than the rest of the year.
This year, that feeling of just hang on has been compounded by an unusually sever flu season. I have had a number of schools postpone scheduled visits because the person I was meeting with was off sick, I myself have had some days off sick (and those who know will know how rare that is), Youngling picked up bronchiolitis and was sick for a while, and teacher-friends have told me how they've had incredible numbers of absences, beyond anything they've seen in the past.
So take this impending break to rest, recuperate, and be ready for the final term. Get your health sorted and catch up on your sleep. See you next term.
In this FTPL video I show you how simple it can be to insert images into a Google Slide deck, particularly using the inbuilt search function that highlights images labelled with permission to reuse with modification.
For more FTPL videos click here.
After one of the breakout sessions I presented on flipped learning at EduTECH last term, I had a number of people coming up to ask questions, one of whom was a young lady named Ella. Ella is in year six and wanted to know how she could convince her teacher to use flipped learning in the classroom. Knowing her mother through meeting at FutureSchools, we arranged a time to chat further over Skype so that I could find out more about why Ella wanted to have flipped learning happening in her classroom. The two videos below represent the two parts of that interview. Part one focused on Ella and her views with some contribution from Mel, her mother; whilst the second part focused on Mel's thoughts on flipped learning and how she flips in her roles as an IT Integrator.
"ipsa scientia potestas est" ('knowledge itself is power')
-Sir Francis Bacon's Meditationes Sacrae (1597)
This is an article that I wanted to write back in March but did not have the time to do so, so it is rather out of context now in August. There had been a series of tweets as part of a lengthy discussion amongst several people about knowlegde vs the four Cs and domains of knowledge and the tone that came across was completely derisive of knowing stuff with comments giving the impression that if an activity did not require one of the four Cs or an upper level activity from domains of knowledge, then it was useless in the classroom.
This attitude is coming through in the media as well such as in this article from The Sydney Morning Herald. This article does acknowledge that the league tables and accountability pressures that stem from NAPLAN and similar tests are detrimental to teachers as well as students and have changed the face and perception of education in Australia. I remember taking the Basic Skills Test in Year Five and there was no hullabaloo whatsoever. It was a short test that we just did and then got back to our normal routines in class. Not so with NAPLAN nowadays.
But I digress.
The impression I was getting from this conversation was that unless my students were engaging in upper levels of domains of knowledge, I was a poor teacher and doing my students a disservice. I agree that we need to have our students engaging with those upper levels, however, if they do not know anythign, how can they do so?
My question is this: when did we devalue knowledge and focus on the need to be able to do somethign with it? It does not matter how good your lesson is, or if it is on the top level of domains of knowledge / Bloom's Taxonomy, if the students know nothing about that topic they will not be able to engage with it. We need to find a balance and stop denegrating knowledge for the sake of appearing that we are doing something with knowledge. I think that this comes back to cognitive load theory, which I have written about in the past, and remember that if a student is too busy trying to remember what something is or means then they will not be able to apply, analyse, synthesise, or create, let alone collaborate, communicate or think critically with that knowledge due to the load on their working memory.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this issue. Have you come across this sentiment yourself? Do you think I have the wrong end of the stick entirely? Let me know in the comments.
"I'm realizing for the first time, your life goes on while you're trying to pursue this career. I saw my career as everything. But you have this life, too. Living your life fully, you come to know yourself better. You'll find the place for it."
- Attributed to Nicholas D'Agosto
Whilst this is rather late, given that term two ended nearly a month ago, I have been struggling with time and juggling a new direction in my career along with my family responsibilities and have not had time to write. Term two was, for me, incredibly hectic with trips for work visiting schools in Wagga, Wollongong, Tamworth, Coffs Harbour (twice), Port Macquarie and Nambucca Heads, and Dubbo, attendance at FutureSchools in Melbourne, the Association of Independent Schools IT conference in Canberra, EduTECH, FlipCon New Zealand, two deaths in the family which resulted in a funeral in Tamworth on one day followed by the second in Western Sydney the following day, as well as continuing to wrap my head around being a father to an increasingly independent and cheeky daughter.
One thing that I learned in term two was that I am often too focused on the details and forget to look at the bigger picture. I was away from home far too often in term two because I would look at a week and see that I had no bookings and so could get in a trip to a regional area to visit schools without looking how often that would have me away overall. A rookie error and one that I've corrected by blocking out the weeks when I will and will not be travelling regionally throughout term three and four to ensure no more than five regional trips of two to three nights each. Mrs C21 is much happier about that arrangement than she was with term two's travel arrangements.
I know that I have commented on this before, but I have noticed how there is a common threa running through every school that I have visited thus far, irrespective of socio-economic status, sector base (i.e. Public, Denominational, Independent etc.) and that is that students are all trying to deal with being teenagers and teachers are trying to do the best they can with what they have. As someone from w wholly public school background, as a student and a teacher, it is easy to fall into the trap of just assuming that non-public school teachers are in rich schools and therefore have it easy. I am coming to realise that that is certainly not the case. Whilst the school may be better funded and thus have access to better or more resources, the expectations and demands placed upon teachers are commensurately greater. The obvious example of this is the expectation in many non-public school that every teacher is involved in coaching a weekend sporting team and thus required to spend Saturday morning at a sporting ground with that team.
This realisation has reinforced the need for us as a profession to band together and protect our professionalism and use our expertise as educators to know how to teach to build and maintain networks to share knowledge, resources and practice across schools as we support the influx of new teachers to the profession. A quote from someone at FutureSchools has stuck with me; there is not a dearth of excellence i teaching, but the distribution of excellence is uneven.
Get involved in your local TeachMeet group and help promote professional unity and collegial sharing. Find an early career teacher with whom you can work and mentor to help support their growth as a teacher; but be mindful that they can also possibly teach you something. Brian Host said something to me a few years ago that has stayed with me and gave me the courage to be more active in sharing. He asked if I was presenting at FutureSchools (which is where we were when we were chatting) and I laughed at the apparent absurdity of the notion, remarkign that as an early career teacher I had nothing to offer on par with what others at FutureSchools could offer. Brian said (paraphrasing) that it is not about how long you have been teaching but about how you have been teaching.
I think that my mentality at that point in time is typical of many early career teachers as there seems to be an undercurrent of bias towards more experienced teachers, especially when it comes to trying to find a permanent job. We all come to teaching with out own backgrounds and we need to find a way of sharing that appropriately. Put your hand up to share at a TeachMeet, ask your Principal if you can share a pedagogical approach that has been working for you in the next staff meeting, apply to present at a conference...get involved and share your knowledge and expertise. Early Career Teacher is non synonomous with has no idea what they are doing. There will be somethign they are an expert in and as more experienced teachers we need to find and nurture those things whilst supporting them in the areas where they are strggling.
There is a great chance to get involved coming up. Steph Salazar is organising a TeachMeet event focusing on support and encouraging Pre-Service and Early Career Teachers which is taking place on Tuesday 22 August at Woolpack Hotel Parramatta.
"Have something cool to share as a PST or early career teacher? Perhaps you have golden advice for PSTs! Indicate below that you are interested in doing a presentation and we will be in contact. Any questions? Email email@example.com or tweet me @stephygsalazar."
The above snippet is what this particular TeachMeet is focusing on. Not in Sydney? There is likely a TeachMeet group in your area and if not, then why not start one? TeachMeet events in my area started quite small several years ago and were organised by one person once a year. Now TMCoast runs an event each semester and has a consistent showing of between forty and fifty educators.
I will end this article there as it is will and truly well away from where I thought it would go. I would encourage you to register for TMWooly though as it will be a great event with lots of knowledge for and from pre-service and early career teachers.
"Key points from #FlipConNZ: 5. #flippedlearning allows more powerful relationship-building with students"
- Stephen McConnachie
Last term I had the opportunity to travel to Wellington to attend the very first FlipCon event in New Zealand. It was fantatic to meet so many people who were interested in developing flipped learning in their school or in finding out about it for the first time. The host venue, Samuel Marsden Collegiate School provided an excellent venue, though they were unable to bring the weather to the party and as an Australiam it provided a moment of hang on....what? when we were given the emergency notices which consisted of in case of en earthquake.... but which of course is part and parcel of living in New Zealand these days.
There were lots of interesting conversations around flipped learning and a lot of educators just taking the first steps on their pathway towards becoming flipping teachers. It was also great to meet a few New Zealanders whom I have known via Twitter for a long time as well as to catch up with Jon and his team again. There is a lot of interest in flipped learning and I hope that those people were supported and encouraged as they returned to their schools and endeavour to develop their flipped practice. There is always lots of online support for flipped educators via Twitter of course, and Jeremy Cumming has set up a New Zealand Flipped Learning Network facebook page.
If you are interested in engaging with Jon's Flipped Learning Level I Certification, you can find the it here. If you are interested in connecting with other educators, you can find my list of flipping educators on twitter here, as well as reviews of previous FlipCon sessions.
"Why have a computer lab? You wouldn't put the pencils and paper in their own room."
- A teaching colleague
Greg Whitby was next on my dance card, speaking about schooling in a 1:1 world in what promised to be an interesting presentation. As someone who follows Greg on Twitter and has interacted with him on occasion, I have found him to be honest and forthright vis-a-vis his opinions. Never in my experience to the point of being rude or disrespectful, but you know exactly where he stands. 1:1 as an approach to education is a topic of much interest and in which many schools have invested significant financial resources into rolling out, however, sometimes forgetting to put appropriate investment into infrastructure, teacher professional development, or into the students around ensuring they understand how to get the most out of the technology.
1:1 schooling is still a contentious issue as was seen in March 2016 when then Headmaster of Sydney Grammar School, Dr. John Vallance, was quoted in this article that technology in the classroom is nothing but a distraction. Whilst I disagree with that sentiment, I completely agree with him that I personally would invest in staff before technology, however, I believe that to discount technology as a legitimate pedagogical tool en masse is a mistake. What I can agree with is that it can be a distraction and a money pit; if the appropriate investments in staff pedagogy are not made. However, I digress.
Greg began by reminding us that the pace of change in technology is so rapid that as a society we cannot possibly keep up with everything, especially when we take into account that there are self-learning algorithms in play and that Microsoft recently shut down Tay, its AI driven supercomputer. Referring to the current trend of getting coding into as many schools as possible, Greg asked why we need our students to learn to code when the algorithm can do its own coding. There are a lot of obvious responses to the literal question, however, I suspect that Greg was driving at something deeper, questioning the wide-sweeping move towards embedding coding into the curriculum, however authentically that is or is not being done. It is a critique I can understand and share, I am not sold on the need for coding to be embedded into the curriculum. What is being taught that cannot be taught in a different way that does not result in more being added to the workload of teachers?
Greg moved on remark that he would be happy with glacial movement in the design and development of curriculum in NSW. This would mean there is at least some movement as opposed to no movement. I found this interesting. I have no experience with the process of writing a curriculum document, either now or at any point in the past, however, from what I have gleaned from staffroom stories across different schools is that the process is the same but the focus in the new curriculum is simply a little bit different according to the flavour of the decade.
This frustration seems to come back to the supposedly new skills often referred to as twenty-firsty century skills, in particular, (critical) thinking. SInce when, Greg argued, has thinking been a soft skill? I have written about the oddity of twenty-first century skills. With regards to thinking skills, the argument was made across social media that many students (and adults, for that matter) detest actually needing to think for themselves, at least if you ask teachers; whilst they are also used to the game of school wherein they are often drip-fed the information and answers they need to pass the test or exam at the end of the unit.
Greg's fire and passion for the topic was coming through loud and clear as he exhorted the audience to let go and be learners ourselves. Part of this continual learning is about being flexible to each day as we school pedagogical and timetabling structures change to meet the needs of society. There are now many teachers who do not know what their timetable looks like each day until they arrive as it is dependent uopn what their students want or need to learn. THis was exemplified in a video of Rusty from High Tech High. Rusty said that his focus is on asking students what they need to learn in order to achieve the big objective and to act as their guide and mentor as much as their teacher.
Good learning, Greg continued, has always involved STEM subjects integrated together. STEM is another area that I find puzzling. I do not deny that STEM, as individual subject areas are important, by howver, I do question why those subject areas? Why not The Arts, oratory/rhetoric, or philosophy? One of the lessons of my own education that stands out to me was from Year Six with Mr Hawkins (long since retired I suspect). We read The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch by Ronda Armitage and one of the tasks that we needed to complete was to devise a way to get the Lighthouse Keeper's lunch to him without the seagulls getting into it.
This would be considered a STEM project, however, it was just a way of combining a range of subject areas into one unit for effective teaching. We learned about angles, the hypotenuse, design principles, how to use hot glue guns and balsa wood, addition and subtraction with decimals, some basics of thermodynamics (what if it was a hot lunch and what about his coffee?), some introductory physics relating to gravity, mass, and momentum and that is simply off the top of my head (I think there was also some sort of creative writing task as well, however, cannot recall details about that part). That single unit stands out in my memory as fun, challenging, rewarding, and a highly effective use of teaching time from a single stimulus. It highlights Greg's point that an experiential learning framework can be part of the larger picture, especially when driven by an inquiry cycle.
Greg changed tack now, remarking that he no longer talks about improving schools. That conversation has been going on for over a hundred years and arguably has made no impact; they look the same, the pedagogy is often the same, much of the content is the same. The issue around schools is not that we need to improve them but that we need to transform them; and to this end STEM is merely a lens to look through, not the sole thing that we should be doing as STEM is driven by the business model, they are skills that business need. However, the business-driven model has not worked thus far for education and I trust that we all know the saying relating insanity and repetition.
There is no silver bullet or panacea in education as it is far to complex and varied and so we need, as teachers, to be able to adapt to what the demand is. There is change happening in many schools, however, as Lisa Rodgers remarked at FutureSchools this year there are pockets of excellence but the distribution is uneven.
This need to grow and adapt should be driven by the lead learner, which I saw from another congress should always be the Principal. As part of their leadership they should be modelling what Greg refers to as the three Rs, however, rather than reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic, it should be radical, relentless, and resilient. This should be Principals empowering teachers to truly transform their classrooms. Simply putting new technology into old classrooms merely results in old classes with expensive technology and no transformation unless there has been pedagogicla development. This need for transformation is the radial urgency of the now according to Greg.
Thank you for reading this article. If you have missed any articles in my EduTECH 2017 series, you can find them all on this page.
"…if people had maybe a little bit more training in the creative arts, you’d probably see it a bit more."
- Research participant during our interview
When I look at this final chapter now, I am stunned at how short it is and how under developed it is. I can only presume that when I began the proof-reading and editing process that I was unable to find sufficient sections of text to remove in the previous chapters that would allow me to add significantly to the Conclusion to make it worthwhile losing that prior text. I was, quite fairly , given constructive feedback around that specific point. This is clearly the weakest chapter in my mind because I touch on a few areas but do not sufficiently unpack and discuss them and their ramifications within the context of a conclusion chapter.
If you have managed to read through the three preceding chapters in full, you will find this one, comparatively, over in the blink of an eye.
"I wanted to stay away from body-image, I hated body-image, it was so cliché, it was overkill and I wanted to do something completely different and the idea that I came up with, they said it was too shallow, like it wasn’t in depth enough and they made me do body-image, and it really made me unhappy."
- Research Participant during our interview.
On reflection, I feel like this chapter is the second weakest. There were some avenues that I did not fully explore (largely due to word limit), but largely, I was frustrated as in working through this chapter, I found myself wishing that I had asked a particular follow up question to draw further insight from my research participants, to get to the heart of what they were saying. Both of these issues were noted within the examiners feedback, as was the fact that I missed, apparently, some significant articles in my research which would have made for strong additions to my writing. I found this a frustrating piece of feedback, not because I disagreed with it but because the articles and researchers that had been suggested had not come up at all in my literature review.
This means that either their importance is over-stated (unlikely) or that I did not hit on the right combination of keywords to find those particular researchers. As well, it was noted that I did not address some issues at all, such as the impact of perceptions within schools observed during practicum and the impact that had on relationships with the arts. In some instances, I had not the clarity of mind at the time, nor the experience to follow up responses with exploratory questions. In others, it simply did not seem like something that I needed to follow up until I started to write this chapter.
If you missed either of the previous chapters, you can find them here.
As always, thank you for reading, and I welcome any constructive feedback you care to offer.
A few weeks ago I was approached about delivering a presentation on flipped learning through a webinar to a school in Spain. Intrigued, I chatted over Skype with the school's Principal and agreed to provide a roughly thirty minute presentation outlining what flipped learning is, the research behind it, what it looks like in class and some ways of using it. There are a lot of areas I did not have time to go into during the presentation, and this has prompted me to put together some further resources covering those areas.
For now, this week's Friday Freebie is the recording of the webinar. For the full list of Friday Freebies, click here.
"To me the arts, was just like a, a filler. Something just for the kids to do that is fun for them, that wouldn’t really tie into anything else cause [pause] my experience with the arts never tied into anything else."
-Research participant during our interview
The examiners found some problems within this chapter and when I read back through this chapter after reading their feedback, they were rather obvious problems as well. There were also a few rather silly typographical errors which somehow neither I nor Mrs C21 managed to pickup in our proof-reading.
If you missed Chapter One, you can find it here.
Chapter II – Methodology
The underlying purpose of this research project is to examine and understand the discourses that constitute the taken-up positions of pre-service teachers at the end of their ITE programs in relation to art education, and to then identify and understand the perceived barriers limiting the implementation of the arts in pedagogical practice. Focusing on the subject positions of three final (fourth) year pre-service teachers who had all completed their ITE program coursework, and had only to undertake their final ten-week long practicum prior to completing their ITE program, this research was conducted utilising a post-structuralist lens to deconstruct and understand the discourses underlying the positions taken-up by the participants in relation to art education, and the resulting barriers as perceived by the participants, impacting on their implementation of the arts in their pedagogical practice.
The use of qualitative research techniques allows for engagement with the multi-layered lived experiences of the pre-service teachers’ ITE in order to clarify the experiences and the participant’s understandings (Polkinghorne, 2005). A post-structuralist perspective assisted in ascertaining the underlying discourses of the participants subject positioning about art education and deconstructing the barriers limiting the implementation of art education.
The use of qualitative research techniques allows for fluidity of direction in the data collection process, as participants’ responses may yield unexpected data that can drive new or different research directions, whilst also providing the opportunity to scrutinise the subject understandings of those discourses experienced by participants throughout the ITE program, and the specific contexts involved (Miles & Huberman 1984 as cited in Ramey-Gassert, Shroyer, & Staver, 1996). Participants were sourced through purposive sampling and engaged in semi-structured interviews, with the resulting data analysed through discourse analysis, assisted by positioning theory.
The research focus was on a particular set of relationships; the relationship between ITE programs and pre-service teachers’ subjectivities relating to art education, and the pre-service teachers’ subjectivities relating to art education and the implementation of the arts in their pedagogical practice. For this reason, research participants were recruited through purposive sampling of the 2014 fourth year Bachelor of Education (Primary) / Bachelor of Arts cohort form the University of Newcastle’s Central Coast campus. This cohort was selected due to ease of access by the student researcher.
Purposive sampling allowed for the selection of information rich cases on the basis of their possessing a particular characteristic typical of the population being studied (Punch, 2009), namely those pre-service teachers who have completed their coursework but have not joined the ranks of graduate teachers. The purpose of this study is not, however, to generalise the findings across the current cohort of final year pre-service teachers, but to ascertain and understand the subject positions of the participants and the barriers they perceive around implementing art education in order to gain a clearer understanding for the potential reasons for the divergence between understanding of the benefits of art education and the implementation of the arts in pedagogical practice.
The utilisation of in-depth semi-structured interviews allowed the participants to express their narratives about their subject positions (Punch, 2009; Tanggaard, 2009). The interviews were constructed through a pre-determined open-ended interview schedule to allow for a basic framework of the understanding of the experiences which shape the positions held by the participant to emerge. Those experiences were reinforced and the understandings deepened through the use of follow-up questions, which allowed for the pursuit of those experiences and narrative truths and understandings which appeared outside the scope of the original pre-devised schedule, or prompt questions (Punch, 2009). The use of open-ended questions is preferable to closed questions as it affords the participants the choice of how they answer (Marton, 1986 as cited in Huntly, 2008). The use of ‘’what’ as a question opener was utilised as this has been cited as facilitating a rich description by the participant of the core subject being studied Marton (1986 as cited by Huntly, 2008). The recorded interviews were transcribed solely by the student researcher, and transcriptions were sent to the participants, to provide an opportunity to conduct a member check.
This research examines the positions taken-up by the pre-service teacher participants about the arts in education. Through discourse analysis of the interview transcripts, I attempt to identify discourses which construct the subjectivities of pre-service teachers’ vis-à-vis art education and future use of the arts in their pedagogical practice. The reasons behind the participants’ subjectivities are examined through a post-structuralist lens.
Discourse analysis has been used within this research study as it is a research method understood to be multimodal, combining an array of analysis techniques including, in this context, theoretical, interpretive and critical (Krug & Cohen-Evron, 2000). I take the view that discourses are a productive force created through the amalgamation of ideology, linguistic practices and social relationships which constitute the taken-up position, and the means by which we make sense of the world around us (Davies, 2004; Ma, 2013). There are a multitude of discourses encountered daily, and it is not possible to take up all available discourses (Davies, 1990). Understanding that there are multiple discourses which are not all able to be taken-up allows for an understanding of our existence at the nexus of multiple discursive practices, which can be conceptualised as subject positioning (Davies, 2004). Our subject positioning is constituted through internally owned, or taken-up, discourses (Atkinson, 2004), which are, and do, change over time (Atkinson, 2004; Davies, 2004). This post-structuralist conceptualisation of subject positioning then allows for an ongoing cycle of making sense of, and continually updating, the competing and often contradictory discourses to which we are exposed (Atkinson, 2004; Beijaard et al., 2004; Davies, 1990, 1997).
My understanding of a post-structuralist lens is that it will facilitate and encourage the questioning of those understandings and beliefs which are treated as ‘taken-for-granted’ as it is understood that knowledge is understood subjectively, produced culturally and constructed contextually (Woolfolk & Margetts, 2010). A post-structuralist framework posits that there is no single truth or meaning, and thus will allow me to examine the different narratives (Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Posner, 2011), about how positions held, about the arts in education came to be taken-up, as expressed subjectively by the research participants.
Validity, in the context of a qualitative research project such as this one, is as has been broadly stated as being “…the isomorphism of findings with reality” (Denzin and Lincoln (Eds), 1994, p. 114 as cited in Punch, 2009, p. 315). In essence, qualitative validity is looking to ensure that the findings are commensurate with the data from which they were derived. To this end, a feature of qualitative research is the use of a technique known as ‘member checking’, which refers to the practice of checking with the subjects from whence the data came that they are in agreeance that; the initial data (in this research study the interview transcripts) are an accurate representation of the reality (in this research study, the interview), and that the final representation of themselves within the analysis and findings is consistent in relation to their subjective understanding of themselves (Punch, 2009).
Due to the qualitative, and human-based nature of this research project, that is the nature of the participants’ personal beliefs and experiences being examined, due consideration was given to the ethical factors that arose, including consent and confidentiality. Participants were informed in writing about the nature of the study, and participation was on a voluntary basis, with written, informed consent being sought prior to inclusion. Participants were advised, in writing on the consent form, and verbally prior to the commencement of their interview, that they were free to refuse to answer any question, or to terminate the interview at any time, without any reason and without fear of repercussion. To protect their privacy, research participants were asked to select pseudonyms for use during the interviews, with any identifying data being either omitted or altered. Audio recorded interviews and the transcripts thereof have, and will continue to be, held securely in accordance with the University of Newcastle’s Research Data and Materials Management Policy (University of Newcastle, 2008).
Participants were provided with an opportunity to conduct a member check, and accordingly were provided with a copy of the transcription of their interview for this purpose. This was done to afford participants an initial opportunity to review the interview and ensure that they are satisfied with how they and their views have been represented through the interview process (Punch, 2009). This process also provides an initial opportunity for participants to indicate that they wish for data from their interview, either in part or in whole, not to be used for the research project. Participants were also afforded an opportunity to conduct a final member check prior to the submission of this thesis, and were provided with a copy of the final dissertation for this purpose. This was done in order to provide a final chance for participants to ensure they were satisfied with how they have been represented and interpreted as part of the analysis process, and that they have been represented authentically.
It was not expected that research participants would experience stress, mental or emotional discomfort during the interview. Participants were be reminded at the commencement of the interview that they had the right to refuse to answer any question, or terminate the interview, at any time, without reason or negative consequences for their relationship with the researchers or the University of Newcastle.
Chapter Two outlined the methodology used within this research project, and the literature that supports the methodology’s use in relation to the research question. Chapter Three will communicate the subjectively understood answers to the research questions described within Chapters One and Two.
“I’m not going to be an art teacher that teaches art”
- Research Participant, during our interview for my Dissertation
When I was in the process of completing my initial teacher education (ITE), I considered whether or not it would be worth undertaking the Honours process as part of that. There were a lot of factors that fed into the eventual decision to apply for a place, and ultimately, though it helped not one whit with acquiring a full-time position as a teacher, I am glad that I went through the process. It was long, mentally and intellectually challenging, and it pushed me to think more critically, to be more aware of research processes and biases as well of various research methodologies. I actually enjoyed the process of researching, and writing and it has had a significant influence on my writing style.
I had considered working towards having it published, however, have neither the time nor the mindset at this point to sit down and re-edit it sufficiently so that it fits within the word limits of a journal article. More importantly, I have no disconnected with the data and with that piece of research and would need to invest significant time and effort into reconnecting. I do wish to pursue a Research Higher Degree at some point (after Youngling has started school at the earliest is what I have been told) and so offer up over the next few articles, my Honours dissertation for feedback.
I have not made any edits whatsoever to this version. It is a straight copy and paste from my original 2014 file. I am rather proud of it, despite its now (to me) glaring flaws. If you wish to dive straight into the whole dissertation, you can find it here as a PDF. I have also made available the examiners reports and rubrics (after redacting their identifiable information). I found it interesting that one examiner marked it as an eighty-eight whilst the other marked it as an eighty-two. A fairly significant variation in marks, however, the average of eighty-five was sufficient to earn a High Distinction and thus, with the other requirements met regarding my Grade Point Average etc., the award of Honours Class I.
I welcome any constructive feedback you care to offer.
"Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you."
- Attributed to H. Jackson Brown Jr.
The first few weeks and months in a new role, regardless of the industry are a time of stress, cognitive dissonance, worry, imposter syndrome and overwork in an effort to prove yourself. My first few weeks with ClickView have been no different. The various individuals with whom I have interacted with, whether on a regular or one-off basis, have been helpful and there are those who are working extra hard to carry some of my responsibility while I transition into the fold.
So far, I have had the opportunity a significant range of schools as part of my role. All in Sydney at this point (though I am planning a number of regional visits for Term Two), and across a range of sectors. K-12 and Secondary only schools; Government schools, faith-based schools, independent schools, schools from affluent areas, schools from low socio-economic areas and one thing has become clear and made me proud to be a teacher.
Irrespective of the the schools socio-economic status, the geographic location, the internal politics, the resources, the physical structure of the school or the number of students. It has been clear from teacher, librarians, IT Managers, Assistant or Deputy Principals that the over-riding factor behind their motivations has been a desire to help their students.
This may sound rather trite and obvious, however, as someone who has taught in one particular region and whose interactions with educators outside that region are solely through conferences (where you are with like-minded and focused educators) or through Twitter (where the amount of you that comes through varies greatly), I found this an exciting and uplifting realisation.
I believe I belong to one of the luckiest professions in the world. We as teachers get to see a student develop and progress across six formative years of their life. For me, this has been seeing students enter in Kindergarten, unable to tie their own shoelaces or read, count, or add, through to them finishing Year Six and getting ready to move to Year Seven with a personality going through a new stage of development and change, but who can hold a conversation, who can challenge you with their own valid ideas and viewpoints.
As someone who is in the early stages of a new role in a different sector of the profession to what I trained for, it was exciting and actually rather empowering and uplifting to find that what I feel and believe about teaching plays true across a larger slice of the teaching profession than I have been exposed to thus far.
A slightly random and perhaps obvious realisation, but one I felt worth sharing.
"The current education system is like batter hen farming. We're too focused on the output."
- Peter Ellis
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 was under a media pass provided by the organisers.
I entered the auditorium within which the Future Leaders stream was taking place to hear about the last five to ten minutes of Shane Spence's talk about video self-modelling. It sounded very intriguing. From the small snippet that I heard, the use of recorded videos modelling behaviour expectations for things like packing up, putting something away was having a significant amount of success in reducing negative behaviour and lost learning time, particularly for students who are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The key point for me in the small segment that I heard was that showing a two minute video six times to a student struggling with some sort of behaviour yielded a far greater return than twelve minutes of any regular intervention.
It was also useful in those schools that had adopted the Positive Behaviour for Learning program as rather than simply showing or reading students a statement about what is expected, they can be shown a video, which can be much more explicit as students can see exactly what is expected in the particular scenario. A specific example he gave was a student struggling to put his tote tray away. The student was shown a video modelling how the tote tray should be put away and after watching it a several times, the student was able to put it away without any issues. I wish that I had caught all of Shane's presentation.
Peter was announced as the final speaker for the afternoon, which indicated that the final speaker per the agenda was not presenting for an unknown reason. Peter was speaking about disrupting the model of education by moving beyond student voice towards student empowerment and he began by telling the audience that "we are one of the most innovative schools in the world...self-labelled of course." Peter indicated that there is always a case for change but that engaging the community in the change process is critical. The current model of school has worked well for the last one hundred years because the career model over the last one hundred years needed the model. However, the career model for students no longer matches the school model which has created the current dissonance between school and careers that our students and industries are currently experiencing.
Peter told the audience that due to declining enrolment numbers and a poor reputation in the local community that his school had been to close. Twice. A new Principal and a new team (Peter did not actually specify which part of the staff he meant by this, but I imagine a combination of formal and informal leadership staff) created a new opportunity for change. Now, an unspecified period of time later, the school has restored its reputation, is growing with a current population of just over 1100 students and is maintaining good results in the Victorian Certificate of Excellence (VCE - the final set of exams in the Victorian K-12 education system). Additionally, there are now students running businesses alongside their studies, and doing well in both.
One of the key changes in the school that has lead to the turn around has been the desire to make school relevant again. This is one of the reasons for the change in decision making processes within the school. Now, the default setting for requests is yes. Unless there is a significant time, monetary cost or potential for a negative impact on others, the answer to requests is, and should be, yes. This is something that I find rather challenging to contemplate. My experience with schools' decision making is heavily typified with bureaucracy; the need for hoops to be jumped through, certain forms filled out in certain ways with particular types of additional information supplied. I can on the one hand see why this needs to be done, in an age where you need to cover your backside from a legal standpoint, however, how many great ideas never even see the light of day because whomever has had the idea knows that the hoop-jumping required to see the idea to fruition is too hard and to confusing to deal with?
The above tweet captured some of the beliefs about educations that Peter not only views as outdated, but that he questions as to why they are still considered normal in any way. The first dot point I can agree with. Teaching is about relationships and I have never understood why not smiling until some arbitrary point in the school year is remotely helpful to your practice. Personally, I do not have a poker face. I was that kid who would smile at inappropriate times out of nervousness, even when being told off for doing something wrong, and would therefore end up in more trouble because I apparently thought it was funny. Actually, I am still that kid, even as an adult. As an early career teacher, I have been given that piece of advice on numerous occasions. I cannot do it, it is not my personality to not smile.
I have to confess to not quite understanding the issue with the fifth dot point. I do not see that comment as an ownership statement, but as a relational statement. In 2016, I was offered a twelve-month contract to teach a Year Five and Six class for three days per week job-share arrangement. In term four, that became full-time as my job-share partner went on maternity leave. I already had a strong relationship with my class but that switch to full-time developed it further. It was the first class that I had taught for a full year, having been employed casually, or in an RFF / non-contact arrangement previously. At the end of the year we had a reflection conversation as a cohort, all of us, myself included, sitting in a circle on the floor.
I told them then that they would always be my students. Not because I owned them, but because they were the first class I had taught for a whole year, that we had developed a relationship with each other. I believe it was mutual, when I gathered them together (the now Year Six students anyway) and told them that I would be finishing up at the school that week they were gutted and there were tears. On my final day at school they all came to my room as soon as the bell went and wanted to say good bye, give me one last high five, a card they had made and some of them wanted hugs. Those were my students. Not because I own them, but because we have a relationship built on mutual trust and respect.
I disagree somewhat with some of the other dot points, however, that is the one I passionately disagreed with. Peter posted a list of current rules at his school; the student is in control, yes is the default, a strengths rather than deficit model, a one person policy (respect, first names, access to areas and facilities). Many of these I found myself nodding to, in particular the first name policy. I still do not quite understand why it is seen as respectful for the students to have to refer to Mr Teacher or Mrs Teacher, when we can refer to them Jane and John and I have written about this in the past.
Additionally, all students have access to to a kitchen. What message does it give, began Peter, when you have to wait until Year Twelve to be treated like a human? I do not have a problem with this. I remember wanting to take leftover dinner for lunch the next day at school but was unable to do so as there was nowhere to heat it up. Actually, even in Year Twelve I did not have access to a microwave or hot water. I do know schools who have a Year Twelve room with kitchen facilities, but my alma mater did not.
We were shown some more rules at the school:
Peter pointed out that students will keep learning past their schooling and we as teachers are just a small part of their education. The school therefore has students manage their own individual learning plans. Peter did not go into it, however, I hope that there is some education provided to students around how to develop and manage a learning plan on an ongoing basis. As a further extension to this, they have removed year levels which means that no-one necessarily knows what year another student is in, resulting in there being no stigma over needing or taking longer than the normal six years to complete your secondary education.
He then spoke about something that I am not familiar with, that they used a vertical system to eradicate bullying. I am not familiar with the vertical system and have not been able to find anything on Google, so if anyone could shed light on that, I would appreciate hearing from you.
The above is quite a drastic change for most teachers. One person responded to the photo by saying that if they turned up to an interview and there was a student on the panel that they would turn around and leave as they did not see what a student could have to offer or contribute to the panel and therefore having them there would be tokenistic. I can certainly understand that point of view, however, personally, I am not sure how I feel about it. It does make sense that students have an input into staffing in the school as the students are the ones who deal with the staff on a day to day basis, however, do they have to undergo the same training that staff and community members do in order to be on staff selection panels? Peter did not elucidate on that or in what capacity students are asked to be on the panels, how they choose which staff, or what role they are expected to play.
Peter began to wind down his presentation by talking about the businesses that students are running alongside their studies. He showed a list of some of the businesses they have seen come and go, but I did not manage to get a photo of it. Many of them seemed fairly straightforward, newspapers, journals, radio, coffee stands, however, they did have a snake breeding business in operation at one point, which was apparently quite profitable. Peter also said that where possible, they employ students into various roles such as Grounds keepers, administration, cleaners because they would rather employ a student internally than someone they do not know. He did add that they are demanding as employers and that they have fired students.
I can see the logic in this, giving students real-world experience, however, I cannot wrap my head around how it would work. Is there not a conflict of interest in being paid to do work in a school where you are currently enrolled and being taught? Or is that just my own imagination? I wonder what processes they would have had to go through to gain approval from the Victorian Department of Education for those arrangements.
Peter closed with two points. Firstly, that although they believe the education model is broken, it is not just them doing things similarly to this, there are other schools in the area doing things with their own students and with refugee students that are providing them with not just an education but an indication of what adult life is like. He also commented that we need to get out of students' way and remove barriers to learning, to "...stop saying "you have to do x before you can do y" in order to develop."
His presentation was a fantastically engaging and challenging way to finish FutureSchools 2017 and I am glad that I did come to the session. Jenny Luca, the chairperson for the Future Leaders stream closed the conference by thanking the speakers for their ideas, the delegates for sticking around for the final session and by confirming that FutureSchools will be in Melbourne again in 2018.
Thank you for reading, and if you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them here.
FutureSchools Review: Darren Mallett on Differentiation for Gifted Students and Dr. Janelle Wilson on Metacognition
"We have an overly crowded curriculum."
- Darren Mallett
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools was under a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
Following Blake Seufert's presentation, I switched across to the Special Needs and Inclusion conference stream to hear Darren Mallett speak under the title inclusion strategies for highly gifted students. Darren began by commenting that the current national testing regime and the associated pressures and demands for continuously improving results dictates that we teach somewhat to the test. This does not work for highly gifted students, Darren continued, as they become bored much quicker, retain information for longer and are often able to solve problems quicker. Highly (academically) gifted are often not sport-inclined and are regularly, according to Darren, the last students to be chosen in sporting teams.
Darren's research has been around the adapted mastery model and through that research he has found that for all the pre-assessment teachers conduct, ostensibly to determine students' current understanding prior to a topic, it is typically not acted upon, with no changes being made to pedagogy, content, or teaching focus.
Darren spoke about the need to engage with cross-curricula learning, as it is the only way to 'cover' content but that far too often, especially in secondary, the various key learning areas are taught in highly discrete ways, separate from other areas. The testing that is typically utilised in schools, whether it be end of unit, or more formal testing such as NAPLAN and HSC, often results in students freezing, especially when they a question worth big marks. They can, in an ordinary classroom context, answer the question very well demonstrating a solid conceptual understanding, however, the testing context does not work for these students.
That is all the tweets that have been captured by Storify yet I feel that there was more said by Darren. I would have liked to have heard more practical suggestions for strategies around including these students from Darren, or more information about the adapted mastery model and what it looks like when it is implemented well.
Following Darren's presentation, I moved back to the FutureLeaders stream to hear Dr. Janelle Wills, Director of The Marzano Institute speak about metacognition for leading and learning. She began with a story about her Aunty and how when she was growing up, all the gifts that her Aunty gave her were for her glory box. At the time, Janelle spoke about how said thank you for the gifts, but that she did not know or have a genuine understanding of the purpose and context; she was unable to consider the underlying purpose of the gift as the concept of a glory box either had not been explained to her or at the age she was when it was explained, it was too abstract.
Metacognition is the gift that keeps on giving, once we explicitly teach and model it. Janelle made this a very clear and important point in her presentation that was seeded throughout. It is also something that Janelle believes suffers from definitional issues and that carries a range of preconceptions for different people in different contexts. It is also suffers from not being contextualised for students, whom are often told it is thinking about thinking without going deeper into what that may look in various contexts and how it may be used beyond simply thinking about thinking.
Janelle defined metacognition as being about the self; a system of inter-related beliefs and judgements which influence our motivations and therefore our actions. Humans, according to Janelle, are driven by goals and a purpose, with metacognition being no different. Expanding on this point, we were reminded that there are many schools which mandate an explicit learning goal for each lesson. This is a seemingly strong position to take, rather intuitive, however, a learning intention needs to be linked to a purpose, to a why. Further to that, an individual needs to be aware of their own place in relation to the learning goal and to have strategies in place or available to them to assist them in reaching or achieving the learning.
This seems to be the heart, in my understanding, of what metacognition is really about. An awareness of self, of a goal and purpose for the goal, and awareness of available strategies to achieve the goal. This applies not only to explicit learning tasks such as learning a new skill or piece of knowledge, but also, I believe, to reflection on completed tasks and reflection on the self. Without an understood purpose, what is the purpose in the task?
Janelle related that our notion of 'self' is typically based upon three things; our hopes, our fears and our fantasies and that the relationship between how we embody and realise these three characteristics of self can point towards why things like makerfaire appeal to some people but chess, knitting, sport, or yoga appeal to others.
The challenge in life is in managing the difference between the tension and anxiety that can stem from the variation between the actual self and the desired self and this is where providing explicit teaching around how to engage with and use metacognition can help as it facilitate an awareness of the variation between real self and the desired self as well as potentially identifying strategies to bridge the gap. This flows onto engaging with appropriate learning tasks (or professional development opportunities for teachers) to bridge the gap between the desired self and the real self, increasing self-efficacy as success and growth is observed. This is important as Marzano identified an effect size of 0.82 relative to student performance (uncited).
Janelle spoke next about inspiration and that it is important yet often undervalued facet of education. Great teachers can inspire students and colleagues through their ability and willingness to look outside their own context and see what is possible. This includes within change management contexts, and she quoted Dr Jane Kise by saying that "there are no resistant teachers, just teachers whose needs in the change process have not been met." This sounds, on the surface, like something of a throwaway line, however, when considering it more carefully and various changes that have taken place in schools I have taught in thus far, I can see how the resistance, sometimes quite vocal and sometimes more passive, has been a case of the concerns and needs of those teachers not having been addressed to a degree that has alleviated their concerns and met their needs to understand how the change will impact them.
Janelle closed her session out by challenging the audience to consider their legacy. Who are we inspiring by our practice? What messages are we sending to our students and colleagues? I was very glad that I made it to Janelle's session. It was mentally stimulating and challenging with some very good points raised and judging by the buzz in the room and the activity on Twitter (it was one of the busier sessions in regards to the back channel) I was not the only one who thought so.
If you have missed any articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them here.
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
After the lunch break, it was into the ClassTech conference stream to hear Blake Seuferten.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Education_Revolution talk about managing a large network and rolling out a school-wide Chromebook program. The number of schools that have implemented various laptop or tablet programs in a school-supplied, BYOD or BYOT context has increased significantly over the last decade as it has become more fashionable to do so, pushed in part by the drive for laptops through the Digital Education Revolution program.
Blake spoke about his school's context, with a current enrollment of around 2100 students and 185 staff. Four years ago things at the school were going well with good NAPLAN and HSC results and so the decision was made that while things were great (echoes of Prakash's message) the next big change would be embarked upon, a school-wide roll-out Chromebooks,
Underpinning educational change management, from a teaching and learning perspective, should be pedagogy and the impact on students of the change. The schools had been using a particular model of laptop and had faced numerous reliability issues which resulted in significant downtime, negatively impacting students and after consideration of various options, Chromebooks were the option that was taken up and rolled out.
One of the considerations for the school was the ability for students to collaborate when using the laptop. For Blake, he clarified what he meant by saying "when I say collaborative I mean web ready because that's where most collaboration happens now."
Teacher self-efficacy is critical when it comes to gaining buy in for new learning tools or resources, especially when they are mandated from the school leadership. You can see from the above tweet that self-efficacy is fed in large part by the provision of professional development opportunities which need to include not only how to use the teaching and learning tool, but how to implement it pedagogically as they are two very different skills.
Blake spoke next about investing in something that will have an impact. For them, at that point, investing in the internet infrastructure in their school was, according to Blake, an easy decision to make as it would have a positive impact on the whole school. I have heard a number of schools indicate that part of the process of implementing any sort of school-wide laptop or device program has been investing in their internet infrastructure. It is important when looking at this to understand that coverage and density are two vastly different concepts. You can have fantastic coverage across a school network at any location with a device That is WiFi coverage. WiFi density, however, is the capability for a WiFi network to cope with a large number of users drawing upon its resources without a significant drop in performance. An example of this is the difference in the demands on the network before and after school when there are only staff onsite in comparison to during class time when you will have staff members as well as a large number of students drawing upon the network at the same time.
The Chromebooks are a prescribed item for students along with regular items like the school uniform. This keeps things consistent and reduces the pressures on the staff for managing devices and maintenance. it also reduces the pressure on staff who are still adapting to technology in their pedagogy. The device management license they have also allows them to hold operating system updates from pushing out to the fleet until the subsequent patch comes through that addresses any resultant instabilities or issues that may occur.
Prior to the decision being made to implement a Chromebook roll out, staff were surveyed about the types of teaching and learning activities that were being undertaken in classes. Blake said that when they looked at the data they could see that 99% of the tasks being completed in class either was already being achieved online, or could easily be achieved online. He did not give an indication as to what types of activities fell into the 1%, although I would not be surprised if practical tasks such as those found in PE, Science, TAS subjects, made up the bulk of that 1%.
Another benefit in the school's view was that the Chromebooks were easily used offline. Any documents or emails sent while offline sync or send when the connection is re-established. It is worth nothing that you can change the settings within GDrive to make files available offline. This allows you to edit those files, which then re-sync when you are next connected
Blake brought up the topic of professional development again, speaking about the process they went through to ensure that teachers had the necessary skills to leverage the functionality of the Chromebooks in class. Part of that process entailed developing a list of basic skills that were seen as essential to using the laptops. Training resources were made available to staff and it was incumbent upon staff to access the learning that they needed to ensure they could do those tasks. Once they returned the document, signed off for each skill, the expectation was that they would then be able to complete those tasks and so I don't know how to do that was removed as an acceptable response when being asked to complete tasks.
To change the focus of the PD, the training resources spoke about the why of the skill, why you would need to be able to use it pedagogically, as much as the how of the skill. I believe this is an important issue and we should talk about the why more often when it comes to PD; not just the superficial why of accreditation or it's good for the students' learning, but the why of this is why you would want to use it in class as that in itself can create engagement with the learning task.
Blake's session was interesting and I particularly liked the focus on staff self-efficacy and providing professional development opportunities to improve that self-efficacy. For those who are interested, Blake has kindly made available the slide deck that he used for this presentation, which you can access here.
As always, thank you for reading. If you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them all here.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I explore what a ClassNote book looks like within Office365.
For the full list of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning videos click here.
"We are constantly taking to each other about our students and moderating our grades because we plan together."
-Sally Wood and Simone Segat
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 was under a media pass provided by the organisers.
After attending Melinda Cashen's presentation in the FutureLeaders stream, my original plan was to move to the ClassTech conference stream to hear Peter Tompkins speak about leveraging technology in mathematics and then the duo of Sally Wood and Simone Segat speak about team teaching and using ICT to enhance student learning. That was the plan, at any rate. Unfortunately, the timing on the day of talks between the FutureLeaders and ClassTech streams did not line up and I ended up missing all bar about five minutes of Peter Tompkins presentation. The little snippet that I did see, however, looked very interesting.
Sally and Simone began by talking about their close professional relationship and that although they do operate in a team-teaching context, they do still do a reasonable amount of teaching separately. I found this rather interesting as in my own team-teaching context, the only times we taught separately were when they were timetabled to be separate; firstly for their library session and secondly for the Relief from Face to Face (RFF, though I have heard it referred to as non-contact time in other states). Everything else we did essentially, as a single class group, which in our context with Stage One (Year One and Year Two combined) worked fantastically.
Sally and Simone began by speaking about growing up using Microsoft Word and Excel (I think that was actually anyone born prior to 2000?) and that the shift to cloud based systems, for them Google Suite, was a breath of fresh air because they no longer had to worry about picking up the correct USB, or wondering which version of a needed document they were about to open. I wholeheartedly agree. It was pointed out that there are other online platforms available, such as Office365 and OpenOffice, however, they have chosen to use GSuite.
We next heard about the benefits of a cloud system for the students in terms of the ability for collaboration. There are, again, other platforms that allow this, but I do like the simplicity and ease of use of GDocs. There are a range of other benefits to a cloud-based system such as GSuite; autosave, retention of previous versions in the event of major issues, the ability to add multiple collaborators to a single doc and the fact that a document is always accessible. Sally and Simone said always accessible as long as you have internet access, however, you can access documents offline if you have set the document to be available offline in the settings. If you have never seen what a GDoc looks like when there are multiple people editing at the same time, watch the video below.
The audience were shown some videos that Sally and Simone had prepared demonstrating various aspects of GSuite that they utilise with their students, particularly around GClass. There are a number of ways to utilise GClass and we were told that they use it as a tool for disseminating learning content and tasks, an exit ticket system, and for setting reminders for students. There are so many other ways of using not only GClass but the rest of GSuite that they did not have time to go into. If you have not had much experience with GSuite I would recommend looking through the GSuite series on my FTPL Videos page.
Thank you for reading. If you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find the other articles here.
"The future is here. It's just unevenly distributed."
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools was under a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
The session between the lunch and afternoon tea breaks was designated for the roundtable and breakout sessions which I have been critical of in the past vis-a-vis their structure. I was curious as to what impact the new venue would have on the way that they were structured and whether they were better organised. They unfortunately were not. The issues with the reverberant nature of the previous venue was gone this year as there were carpet tiles down on the floor, however, the issue of the roundtables being vastly over subscribed was still present. Chatting with one delegate, they were on the opposite side of the table to the presenter and struggled to hear them. In the second session, they had to stand due to the number of people present, and were actually butting up against someone sitting at a different roundtable. Once again, many people gave up after the first or second round table session and headed to the expo floor.
This is a real shame as the roundtable sessions have the potential to generate some real peer to peer engagement around a common interest or theme which can foster practical ideas for application in the classroom. it is also odd, because the space being used was the Classtech conference area and there was easily space to spread the tables out far more to reduce the crowding. The people I was chatting with during the afternoon break indicated they would be giving some very honest feedback if there was a feedback form or email offered that would enable them to do so.
I unfortunately missed the start of the final session. I had in my head that Marita Cheng started at 5pm, unfortunately I was wrong and by the time I got my seat in the plenary session, Lisa Rodgers was on stage and telling the audience that when she went to print the Australian Curriculum, she made a very important discovery which she was glad she found before she clicked on print. It is, all told, over 2500 pages long.
Teaching as a profession is a mess, Lisa continued. Why can a teacher who registers in NSW not move to any other state in Australia and immediately begin teaching? Why are our qualifications not more easily transferable across state borders? Damien Taylor asked on Twitter if a genuine national registration could be drive by teachers rather than politics. A friend of mine completed her initial teacher education in Queensland and had to complete a horrendous amount of paperwork to be allowed to teach when she moved to NSW; the paperwork and registration process taking about three months, during which she was unable to teach and therefore earn a living.
Linda extolled the belief that a new curriculum is not needed. That more support for teachers to enable them to better implement it is what is required. She did not specify what the support would look like, however, at the very least, more professional development seems to be a safe assumption. We have more students than ever before entering tertiary education, yet Lisa commented that there is a significant lack of diversification in the courses they are entering. The question was then asked if there should be a national curriculum and if so then what should the measuring stick be of what should be included and how it should be measured.
Lisa observed that we allow students to opt out of subjects that only a few decades ago were mandatory (maths, science) and that the lack of confidence which is often a driver for these choices infiltrates teachers. She commented that, particularly in secondary education, that many maths teachers often shy away from topics they are not confident with and give them only cursory attention in their teaching. I do not know how widespread this is, or on what data that comment was made as we were given no indication.
Linda quickly shifted gears, and began talking about the way in which Maori students represented a small percentage of graduating students for a long time, but that when the Maori culture began to be embedded and valued in education that there was an immediate impact on Maori learning and thus the graduation rates. In contrast to that, Aboriginal culture is often taught as history, or not taught at all. The recent TeachMeet Central Coast event was focused on Aboriginality in education and we were fortunate enough to have a local Elder speak (the recording of the video will be uploaded into the TMCoast archives shortly. I learned more about Aboriginal culture, religion and beliefs in that session than I think I learned in my own schooling.
Maori students felt connected to their first nation according to Lisa, can we say the same of Aboriginal students? I suspect that for some, we possibly could. Like so many areas of education, there are pockets of excellence around the country, the excellence is unevenly distributed.
There was some excellent back and forth of ideas on Twitter during Lisa's presentation, with some counter-ideas and positions taken up which made for great reading and which I believe challenged people to listen critically to what was being said.
I enjoyed Lisa's presentation, it was engaging, interesting and had some interesting insights, however, as with some presentations over the course of FutureSchools, there was no practical takeaway that could be applied or possible solutions, merely a, as Damien Taylor put it, a creative reiteration of the problem. I enjoy a good engaging talk, however, I would like to see more presentations that have a practical takeaway for the audience.
"We need to question the question what do you want to be when you grow up and instead ask ourselves if it is the right question."
-Jan Owen AM. FutureSchools 2017
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
If you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them here.
I was intrigued by Jan Owen's abstract. In my experience as a primary school teacher thus far, entrepreneurship is not a common topic of discussion and so I was curious as to what I would hear that could be applied and considered through a primary education lens. Right away, Jan challenged commonly accepted norms by positing that we are asking the wrong question when we ask students what they want to be when they grow up as statistics and research demonstrate that no longer is it true that you leave school, enter a profession and then retire from that profession at the age of sixty-five.
Jan asked the audience to put their hand up if they are doing, now, the job they wanted to do when they were a child and there were only a few hands up in the audience (FYI, I wanted to be a truck driver). Today's youth will have, on average, seventeen different careers across five different industries across their working life, but that it will take them an average of four to five years to find full time work. Personally, at the age of thirty-three I have had eight careers across hospitality, industrial electrical, retail, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), and finally, education. So asking our students and our children what they want to be when they grow up is no longer an appropriate question.
The statistics in the above image are genuinely frightening. As a society, we build up university as the pinnacle of education, the point of getting good grades throughout school. Yet I have it said regularly that a Masters degree is the new Bachelors. The pushing of more and more students to university actually results in the devaluing of a Bachelor degree, meaning that to stand out academically, a Masters degree is becoming the new requirement, with the ripple effect that student debt for graduates is starting at around about AUD$25 000. On top of that, we are staying at home longer because it takes so much longer to buy a house partially because of the increased relative price of housing, but partially because around thirty percent of people are un- or under-employed.
This can be seen in the increasing casualisation of the workforce and the use of short-term contracts. I am sure we are all familiar with the huge number of teachers employed only on a casual or temporary contract basis and the challenge that they face to gain permanent employment. I myself faced that which was partially why I have left the classroom. "Ask a law student who has graduated in the last four years, Jan continued, "if they have had a job and the majority of them will say not in law."
We need to stop asking our children what they want to be when they grow up and ask them what problems they want to solve because this then changes the discussion and changes the focus of their education from getting into a particular job but of solving problems, of learning to be agile learners and thinkers and it also takes the focus from the individual to the community and I am sure we have all heard an elder in our life bemoan the youth of today at some point. This change in focus will also help to disrupt the tertiary sector where sixty percent of students are studying for industries that will see themselves disrupted significantly by automation or movement of jobs to cheaper off-shore markets. Jan spoke of the research that the Foundation for Young Australians (@fya_org) has done which shows that one in three Australians are already in flexible employment arrangements and that one in ten jobs are done remotely.
Carl Scurr observed that the flexible economy is actually one of worry and insecurity rather than being the cool gig flexible work arrangements are often perceived as. Given that there are a significant number of jobs that are able to performed remotely thanks to the modern marvels of information communication and that there are 750 million twelve to twenty-six year old in the South East Asia region, many of which will perform the same job for a fraction of the wage, we need to be teaching our children how to create jobs and to manage their careers as much as how to read and write.
Jan spoke about there being seven clusters of jobs based around what they do for the community: generators, artisans, informers, carers, coordinators, technologists, and designers. The FYA report linked above indicates that careers that fall into the carer, informer and technologist brackets are in growth and will continue to be in growth.
We need to think about a life of learning rather than life-long learning, as that is what our children face and that rather than a piece of paper showing how well you answered a series of questions in a mandated national test, that a portfolio demonstrating what you are capable of and what you have learned is perhaps a better option. This concept received immediate virtual acclaim with a significant number of tweets encompassing this idea from Jan.
On the back of this, Jan put forward a concept which I think many of us were vaguely aware of from our own experience, but which I personally have not heard explicitly put forward, and that is the idea that our skills and knowledge are more transferable than we realise, with training for one job unlocking, on average, thirteen other jobs containing related skills (See Chapter One for a more detailed explanation, including a helpful visual graphic).
We were then given an indicator of the top skills that employers want, or rather the skills that employers want which have seen the most growth over the last three years. Digital Literacy, perhaps unsurprisingly, was the top skill, having grown in demand by 212% over three years. The next one was a surprise to me, but it does also make a lot of sense given our current population and our global region, but the demand for bilingualism has grown 181%. How many students do you know whom are studying a second language? My classroom was used for an after-school Mandarin language group one afternoon a week which consisted of five students. The third was critical thinking which has seen a 158% growth in demand and the final one was creativity which has seen a 65% increase.
Despite these four skill areas being those seeing the biggest growth in demand, the only one which really received any focus, from my perspective, is digital literacy. The foundation skills will never go away or stop being important; they are referred as foundation skills for a reason after all, yet we need to allow an opportunity for students to learn enterprise and career management skills in order for them to be properly prepared for their seventeen careers across five industries. There are particular skills embodied in career management which are needed to move across different careers and industries.
At this point Jan made an observation that I struggled to wrap my head around, which was that the FYA's research showed that if youth could demonstrate certain skills they (the employer) was willing to pay them more. Furthermore, a metric had been generated which attributed a dollar value of what this increase might look like.
The views of youth about higher education was the focus of the next phase of Jan's presentation and they were interesting. FYA research indicates that, and I hope I am remembering Jan's explanation here, 69% felt it was unaffordable, 60% wanted some sort of traineeship or apprenticeship but that it was unavailable for them. Jan commented that this figure is despite the fact that our trades are facing a startling shortage of entrants into them (I am not across this area so I would appreciate hearing from someone who is who might be able to comment on it. The only article I could find with a quick search was from 2013). Half of youth were uninspired by current jobs and 69% wanted to start their own business.
This figures present a challenge. I firmly believe that the common perception that a university degree is the natural progression from completing high school is invalid. Not only can you enter university as a mature-aged student as I did, but you can also enter any one of a vast array of other jobs both in trades (which are often more highly paid than some white-collar jobs) but a range of other areas. The ability of students in the senior years of high school to engage in a combination of academic studies through their school and a VET course through a local TAFE or other organisation is increasing and becoming more accepted.
The audience was asked how can we support and drive our students to want to succeed? Jan then mentioned High Tech High, where they have apparently removed all assessment yet their students are still performing as well as students from other high schools. I find this statement rather misleading. How do they know that their students are performing as well as those from schools around them if they are not assessing? They are clearly measuring something to make that judgement which means they have, in fact, not removed assessment at all and have merely changed the measure and not called it assessment.
The future of the career path is still uncertain in many respects. We know that we will have multiple careers, however, we do not know what they will look like. We know that many careers will be lost to automation, however, we can only guess at which ones. We suspect that by the time the youth of today are the age of their grandparents that life will be vastly different and there is unlikely to be a retirement pension, but we do not know for sure.
The future is not bleak, however. There is a world of opportunity available if you but have the tenacity to seek it out and the persistence and agility to adapt to the ever-changing vagaries of the job market your skill set is suited to. It was pointed out by @Edufolios that assessment allows us to know where the gaps are and where to grow, but that assessment does not have to continue to be the dirty word is currently seems to be, it does not have to be a mandated national test. We need a new mindset as we face a different future the audience was told, as that will allow us to transform our students with meaningful ways to learn and contribute to the future.
Jan's talk was interesting and energetic and she certainly had the crowd engaged. I think the FYA report is definitely something that I will find time to read in the coming days and she followed neatly on from Milton, albeit from a different perspective.
Thank you for reading and please leave your thoughts on Jan's presentation in the comments.
"Twitter is my primary network for learning"
-Jenny Luca, Chair, FutureSchools Conference, 23 March 2017
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
If you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them here. The excitement for FutureSchools fairly exuded from Twitter this morning as people began arriving with numerous photos popping up on Twitter.
I was very curious as to how the change in venue would change the vibe of the expo hall and the event in general. and the plenary was a nice change. It brought everyone together, and no doubt made filling time slots easier with less to worry about! There was also a definite TED Talk vibe going on with the stage setup
Jenny Luca, Chairperson for the FutureLeaders conference welcomed everyone and encouraged the delegates to think differently about education while we were there. She also commented that Twitter has been, for her, the greatest network for professional development. When I retweeted and asked who agreed with the comment, there were a great number of positive responses which was not at all surprising. I have had a few conversations recently with people who have dabbled with Twitter on and off, but a large number of people whom I have spoken with over the yesterday and today are active Twitter users, but I digress.
Milton Chen was the first keynote speaker and his topic was educating the whole child, with a focus on the arts, nature, and place-based learning in education. He began with a topical jab at Donald Trump ("Thank you, Australia, for letting me into your country), but then spoke about the accident of history that formed George Lucas' entry into the film making industry, that it was only a car accident that led him into film making. In Lucas' childhood, a teacher would not have been able to do too much to nurture and utilise a child's interest in film making to help their learning. Now, however, it is relatively easy to do and we need to personalise the learning to the interest of the learner.
I feel like this relates to the discussion in Prakash Nair's masterclass yesterday where he was talking about the concept of four theories of learning, specifically, the Distributed Collective theory wherein groups of learners converge around common interests with different levels of expertise, on an as needed basis and an individual will often be across multiple networks at the same time participating in different ways and levels across each of those groups. Milton's words here are perhaps not quite in the same vein, however, there are certainly shades of similarity.
At this point Milton brought up a topic that intuitively makes sense, yet, has much support in various teaching circles, yet which, as far as I am aware, does not have any empirical evidence supporting it. It intuitively makes sense and like many things which intuitively make sense, teachers run with it because much of teaching, if you ask in casual conversation, is based on gut feeling, on professional judgement honed over years of teaching and trying and failing in various contexts.
Science does not appear to support Multiple Intelligence as a theory of learning.
The concept of educating the whole child, of nurturing their social, emotional, academic, physical (fundamental movement skills, physical health etc), creativity vis-a-vis the arts is one I can agree with. What I do not agree with is modelling that based upon the notion that students have an identifiable preference which has a direct causal relation with their learning outcomes.
We heard, next, about research (un-cited) which shows that students who undertake a structured curriculum focused on social and emotional development see a statistically significant improvement in their overall testing results. I find it interesting that everything comes back to their impact on testing results, however, I feel that that is flogging the metaphorical dead horse.
Milton posits that students can learn more than we think they can. In what regard, and what the key is to unlocking this we were not really given an answer, however, it feels like pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are being extracted from various speakers at various conferences and that eventually, hopefully, maybe, we will get to a point where those who make the macro-level decisions about education will realise that the system needs to change.
It was next noted that the school year in the US is quite short comparative to Australia. As a result of this, there is a plethora of after school programs and clubs, not to mention the summer camps. This emphasises two things in my mind. First of all, the relationship between student's desire to work hard when they see the benefit which Prakash spoke about yesterday and secondly, the fact that this would appear to indicate that schools are not meeting the desires of students learning interests. It was also pointed by Martin Levins that we need to be careful not to over-curricularise students, I would add, especially in areas they do enjoy learning
We next heard about the six edges of innovation and the learning ecosystem, moving from here into place-based learning. Milton commented that in urban areas of US cities, students can easily graduate from secondary school without ever planting something. That in cities along the coast, students who live only an hour or two from the beach can graduate without ever seeing the ocean. The Edible Schoolyard project seeks to rectify that by creating programs where students not only are engaged in planting, growing and harvesting, but then in cooking the produce.
Makerspace came up as part of Milton's presentation, particularly the way that it addresses the need for practical skills, even in this age of automation and doom and gloom news about the prospects of blue-collar jobs in the future that is prevalent in the media. He commented that you would not have found any Makerspaces in schools five years ago, but that you would ave twenty years ago. I missed any discussion of the why behind this in a short conversation with the person sitting next to me, however, I would posit that the cotton wool movement might have something to do with it, though I could be wrong.
Milton showed us a video of a student who was heavily into makerspace, soldering circuits, 3D printing pieces and building using his hands as well as teaching peers how to solder because "once I teach them, they can teach some of their friends." I wonder how often a student has some sort of heavy interest in something that we as teachers either miss completely, do not understand, or are not able to facilitate learning through that interest, or are not able to due to administrative direction and the elephant in the room: mandated testing. The makerspace / STEAM / HacherSpace movements are, in my perhaps very wrong opinion, still constrained by perceived current purpose and focus of school, which to many stakeholders, including a reasonable proportion of student, is to get a good HSC result for uni.
It was observed by @MrsAngell that "[p]arents are our biggest barrier they say its great as extracurricular but...not for class the purpose of class is get my kid to uni." This led to the Bioblitz citizen-science movement, and its relationship to allowing students to experience their local environment in natural ways that are fun, contextual, exciting and scarily, not necessarily related to learning outcomes.
Milton closed by challenging us to define what makes a great school, in a short but measurable definition. Paul Houston's definition is apparently do the student run in at the same rate they run out. Are they eager to come to school, or are they hanging out out for the bell at the end of the day? It is an interesting question to ponder and twitter flooded with a variety of ideas. Feel free to share yours in the comments.
As always, thank you for reading. I hope to get some more articles out over the next few days while people are still following #FutureSchools on twitter.
In this week's Friday Freebie, I offer a Google Form that you can utilise to allow Parents to request a meeting with their child's teacher. The question asking for the child's class can be modified to input the actual class names or teachers. This can then be utilised to generate e-mails to those teacher's automatically, or to the administration staff to forward on to the relevant teacher/s.
If you are not familiar with using GForms, or setting up e-mail notifications, please check the FTPL playlist dedicated to Google Suite by clicking here. For the full list of Friday Freebies, please click here.
"Education is the key to success in life, and teachers make a lasting impact in the lives of their students."
-Attributed to Solomon Ortiz
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
In this article I will preview the sessions on the timetable for day two of FutureSchools 2017 that I plan to attend. If you have missed the previous articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, please click here to see the full list.
I plan to begin day two of FutureSchools in the Young Learners conference where Conference Chair Sara Asome will introduce the first speaker for the day, Leanne Edwards. Leanne is speaking under the title of Providing a flying start in life through student well-being and effective learning. The rhetoric from politicians around education seems to lay a lot of the problems with students from high socio-economic disadvantage at the feet of the parents as much as at the feet of the teachers and so it will be interesting to hear from someone about turning the tables on that socio-economic disadvantage, particularly given that one of the methods that will be spoken about is on leveraging data, which we seem to endlessly collect. Additionally, I am interested to hear about the impact that Leanne has found as a result of having a close knit community.
Following Leanne's session, I will be moving across to the Teaching Kids to Code conference to hear a session titled Design Thinking in a Primary School Makerspace presented by Steve Allen. I am, to be honest, still not sold on Makerspaces. I do not doubt that they can be a font of great learning, however, what gives way for them to occur? Are they genuine Makerspaces such as Gary Stager and Sylvia Libow Martinez talk about in their book, Invent to learn? Or are they a small group of students given some old computers and robotics parts and told to have fun? I have heard of some schools doing apparently great work (Summit Elementary and Shorecrest Preparatory for example) and I know some students who would really benefit from the type of practical hands on nature that a makerspace provides. I would also hope that it might improve the societal valuing of the trades, inspiring more people to go into those industries as there are not enough tradespeople in many areas.
I look forward to hearing Steve speak to his experience with Makerspaces and the impact that it has had on students learning in a Primary context, especially the transferability of the skills and process used to other key learning areas.
Mel Cashen will be speaking during the Future Leaders conference under the title of Cultural Change in Support of ICT and DigiTECH, which promises to be an interesting sessions. The new Digital Technologies syllabus has been rolled out as part of the National Curriculum and is now part of the curriculum. I wonder, however, how widely it has been adopted and absorbed into schools syllabus documents and teaching practices.
The agenda indicates that Mel will be speaking about the cultural thinking required to engage fully with the digital technologies syllabus and to embrace ICT across the syllabus. Additionally, Mel will be giving an understanding of Design and Systems thinking, which is not a phrase I am familiar with outside of computer software design and development and a movement that is being referred to as CS+X. I had to look up what CS+X was (it turns out that it is a cross between computer science and the humanities), however, it sounds like an interesting concept and I look forward to learning more about it.
The next session, presented by Peter Tompkins within the ClassTech conference, is one that I think will potentially be very interesting. The teaching of mathematics is a fascinating topic for a variety of reasons. One of which is that so many people, including some teachers make statements such as “Oh, I’m no good at maths,” or “maths is too hard for me, I don’t enjoy it.” These kinds of statements are not attitudes we would (should?) accept from our students, yet it is perfectly acceptable socially for us as adults to make them. Recently, a primary/elementary school teacher from the United States, Doug Robertson (@TheWeirdTeacher) posted a twitter thread and then a reflection article dealing with this very issue. It demonstrated something that I do not think we as teachers do enough of, which is admit when we need pedagogical help about something that everyone assumes you know about because you area teacher, and ask for help in a public forum.
Why do we publicly say that everything is fine when privately we are nervous or worried about teaching that maths lesson, or bringing in a maths concept into science or creative arts? Why is there not more of the open vulnerability and humility that Doug demonstrated? I am definitely guilty of confident outside/fumbling in the dark inside and so I am interested in Peter’s presentation because he indicates that the presentation will discuss the characteristics of teachers who are proficiently using technology in their classroom. Note that he specifies that it is about using technology proficiently, not prolifically, which I believe is an important distinction. This will be combined with an examination of the conditions required for deep learning of mathematics. I am particularly curious to hear where on the student-led learning—direct instruction continuum deep learning of mathematics falls as I suspect it will be somewhere in the middle.
I get to stay put after Peter’s presentation, as I will be remaining in the ClassTech conference to listen to the next address. Sally Wood and Simone Segat are presenting on a topic that, up until my recent change in career trajectory, was contextually interesting as it fitted with my teaching and learning context. Sally and Simone are speaking about the benefits of team teaching vis-à-vis student learning and professional learning through and in technology by examining their experiences and the pitfalls and benefits they have uncovered. I still plan to attend this presentation as I hope to be able to share my learning with my former colleagues as team teaching is a significant part of the new pedagogical landscape at my, now former, school. They are also coming from a primary perspective, which increases the relevancy to my previous colleagues. Sally and Simone have the unfortunate just-before-morning-tea time slot which means that by this stage, many people will be getting restless and ready to get up and move. I am hoping that the morning runs on time so that they do not have to cut their presentation short.
After what I presume will be a productive morning tea break, I move back across to the Special Needs and Inclusion Conference to hear about a topic I have always found fascinating and that I do not believe we leverage well enough, at least here in Australia. Lisa Kingman will be speaking about the possibilities that arise from engaging older generations and their wisdom, skills and experience to inspire and motivate the next generation. The abstract indicates that this specifically refers to utilising volunteers to engage with at …risk young people overburdened by the school system.” The abstract refers to the benefits to the community and the young person’s literacy and numeracy skills as well as life skills.
As a child I spent a significant amount of time with maternal Grandparents (Gran and Pop), and my Great-Grandfather (Grandpa) and much of my personality is attributable to them as much as it is to my parents. Grandpa celebrated his 109th birthday in September last year, a monumental effort, and is currently the tenth oldest person in Australia (interestingly, the top nine are all women) and though the body is not in its prime any longer, his mind is still sharp, if a little slower to get going than it was ten years ago. I could wax lyrical for hours about Grandpa, be warned if you ever ask about him in person. Suffice to say that much of my attitude towards education, women, appropriate dress sense (for me at least), religion, punctuality, public behaviour and attitudes, work ethic, social justice, Australian political history, life during The Great Depression as well as each of the World Wars came from them and this in turn shaped much of my own personality and belief.
I do not feel that we value our forebears’ experiences enough. I look forward to hearing Lisa’s perspective on this topic and the difference it has made to those involved and the lessons that can be taken away and utilised. Perhaps this will provide a potential solution to the ageing population, by giving the older generations a sense of purpose after retirement?
I have not scheduled myself to attend any of the sessions in the next time slot as from past experience I will by this stage be suffering from conference-it is and will need a brain break to decompress and enable myself to stay focused for the remaining sessions.
The session following my brain break has me back in the Young Learners conference to hear Catherine Ford speak about the Power of Narratives and the use of iPads for cross-curricula learning through movie making. I opted to attend this one as the abstract gives me the impression that she is coming from an Infants perspective as opposed to a primary one and I am curious to hear how she has gone about employing movie making with that age group given that I was working in a Stage One context up until recently. I have utilised movie making with Stage Three in the past, where we created a re-cut version of a Spongebob Squarepants episode which was a great series of lessons. I have not, however, done movie making per se with infants (though I did do this with a Stage One class a few years ago as an end of term activity).
After the lunch break I re-join the ClassTech conference to hear a case study into a school-wide deployment of Chromebooks, presented by Blake Seufert. I have not had an opportunity to use a Chromebook in any meaningful context and am looking forward to hearing more about how a roll out of this scale went, particularly from a staff self-efficacy and wi-fi perspectives. The abstract indicates that there will be some practical takeaways as part of this session, helping delegates to use the lessons from this session practically.
Daren Mallet will be presenting the next session I hear, back in the Special Needs and Inclusion conference, presenting on strategies for providing gifted and talented students a voice through technologies that empower and enable them to be heard and understood. I have not had much exposure to working with genuine gifted and talented students as though my previous school ran an Opportunity Class for Stages Two and Three, it was not a Gifted and Talented Class per the NSW Department of Education’s definition thereof.
The final presentation for this session is in the Future Leaders conference and will be delivered by Dr. Janelle Wills on the importance of metacognition. I look forward to this as I feel that the more I learn about A Culture of Thinking the more it fits with any school genuinely wanting to have students be metacognitive. I have only had a limited exposure to the Culture of Thinking paradigm, mainly with thanks to Ryan Gill and the recent Project Zero Sydney conference, yet it intuitively fits and is all about encouraging genuine metacognition. I am aware that just because it intuitively fits does not mean that it actually fits, after all, as Greg Ashman points out (articles), Learning Styles intuitively fits education, yet the research debunks it. I am not familiar enough with the research behind A Culture of Thinking it, not having had time to dive too deeply, so at this point in time, I can only go by the gut.
That said, I look forward to hearing what Dr. Wills has to say about metacognition as the new Teachers Toolkit from Evidence for Learning (E4L) indicates that metacognition is a worthwhile practice, providing a good return on investment vis-à-vis the cost of implementing against the level of improvement in student learning outcomes.
The first presenter I will be hearing following afternoon tea is Narissa Leung who will be speaking to a topic that was relevant in my classroom teacher context and is still relevant in my new role as ClickView Advisor. The abstract for this session says
Beyond devices and curriculum, what are the essential ingredients for leading a classTECH cultural change in your school? How can school leaders inspire hesitant teachers to take on the ClassTECH, STEM and DigiTECH challenge? Explore important points of focus for a ClassTECH agenda and PL rollout.
Every school will have at least one teacher whom Jennie Magiera would refer to as a Heck Yeah! Person and at least one teacher whom she would refer to as a Heck no! person when it comes to utilising technology in the classroom. I look forward to hearing from a Principal the steps taken and the strategies used to win both those teachers (and everyone in between) over the common vision within the school for the authentic use of technology as a pedagogical tool.
The next presentation I will be seeing is actually double-timeslot. Sally Wood and Simone Segat will be speaking once again, this time within the Teaching Kids to Code conference about the ACER Video Game challenge. This session is a joy session, one that I am attending because I am personally interested rather than professionally interested. Sally and Simone will be presenting a case study about teaching Stage Three the internal operations of a computer, as well as the language of computers, binary; and about hardware, software, input and output devices. They will also be discussing a range of easy to implement, ready to go resources and activities, including a range of apps and websites to excite and engage students.
The final session for FutureSchools 217 will take place, for me, in the Future Leaders conference and is a presentation from Renee Coffey into research and findings from the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF) Compendium into Indigenous education. This is an area in which we are still failing the bulk of students, with Year Twelve completion rates amongst Indigenous students sitting significantly lower than non-Indigenous persons according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures here. This will therefore be an interesting session to hear what is happening that the AIEF has a higher completion rate than the national average for Indigenous students and as a follow on, factors that are allowing for a successful transition from education to career for those students.
After this session, there will no doubt be a mad scramble out the door for the commute home for Melbournites, or to catch flights for those coming from interstate. I am staying in Melbourne that night, flying back on Saturday. I did not want to have to rush out of a session just to catch a flight and this also means that I can get in some writing that night and on Saturday before my flight.
I hope you have found this article helpful and I look forward to meeting some of my readers if you are going to be at FutureSchools. For the full list of articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, please click here.
As always, thank you for reading.
"There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them."
-Attributed to Denis Waitley
If you do not feel like reading a long-ish article, there is a tl;dr summary at the end.
In 2014 I completed my initial teaching education, having been awarded both Honours Class I and the Faculty Medal. I was then asked to write and deliver the Graduate Address at our graduation ceremony in July 2015.
I still feel about teaching the way that I did then. My Teaching Philosophy still accurately sums up why I believe in the public education system and why I want to teach. I still find great joy in seeing my students' faces light up when they get it after grappling with some new concept or skill. I thoroughly enjoyed working with my Stage Three students last year and enjoy that they still put their hands up for a high-five whenever I pass them in the corridor or the playground. This year, I am enjoying Stage One more than I thought that I would and am learning an incredible amount from my team-teaching colleague.
So why then, am I leaving classroom teaching?
I was aware, going into teaching, that it was not the nine-to-five profession that appears to be the belief in society; that there was paperwork, marking, planning, excursions, parent-teacher interviews and politics. What I did not realise, and what I do not think anybody is capable of realising until you are waist-deep in teaching is just how pervasive and all-consuming teaching is and can be. It is hard enough to feel the need to be in my room at six in the morning in order to get things set up for the day, to work out what writing groups my students need to be in today based on their writing from yesterday, to decide which students need to move up a reading level, what strategy am I going to use to engage a challenging student, and and at the end of Wednesday, to get the room tidied, the marking done and the notes up to date for my job-share partner to take over on Thursday.
To then be feeling guilty on the weekend for not getting the things I could be doing, or getting a head start on, when I should simply be enjoying time with my wife and daughter during these beautiful moments of infant joy (she is so close to crawling, and her belly laugh is the sound of pure joy) while they are there, is not how life should be lived.
In 2012 I completed my first professional experience placement. It was in a Year Six class and was actually at my current school. It was a steep learning curve, but for the first time in my adult life, I felt like I was in the right place professionally.
In 2015 and 2016, I was employed on a temporary basis, for four days a week as an RFF teacher in 2015 and three days a week in a job-share arrangement on Stage Three. We got by financially as Mrs. C21 was employed full-time. As my regular readers would be aware, however, our amazingly bright and bubbly baby girl was born in August last year, and thus we are now relying solely on my 0.6 FTE wage. It is not working.
The last few years have been challenging at my school as well. I was offered the temporary contract in 2015 as the Librarian was on long-term sick leave and ended up passing away during the Semester One holidays. I got to be that guy who took over her space and her role. No-one ever said, nor gave even a hint of negativity about me being in that role in the library. Everyone was welcoming and helpful. Despite that, I personally felt awkward and struggled with being in the Librarian's shadow and did not feel that I could really make the space my own, leaving everything up on the walls that was already there and not even going into the Librarian's office except to add library specific items to a pile.
I was offered another temporary contract for 2016, and though I was thankful to have a set class rather than be working in an RFF capacity, being employed for only three days a week was frustrating. It tightened up the options for casual work, and made it difficult to get really thoroughly and deeply stuck into anything. I did, however, learn a lot about my practice and formed some strong relationships with my students and I am proud of what I achieved last year with them, especially when I see the growth in the start of year vs end of year testing data
Additionally, the school has been undergoing a significant building project in order to remove the twelve demountable buildings and return the playground to the students to...you know, play on over the last two years. It has been a cause of significant stress, frustration, worry, and excitement across the staff. The building is now complete with only the final touches of the new playground spaces left. The teachers in those spaces are excited about the potential for what they can achieve and the new library has a new librarian who is doing an amazing job setting up after the school has been without an active library for a few years. Oh, we also had a new Principal start at the beginning of last year and multiple staff retirements which has generated a lot of change as well.
This year I was offered another three-days-per-week job-share arrangement, in a team -teaching context....in the old library. To be fair, it has been structurally changed insofar as the walls dividing the building into library/office/computer lab were removed, making it one big open space. I was apprehensive about being back in their again, however, I am confident, and have been told by some of the staff, that the previous Librarian would be proud as punch to see the space as it is now and to see the students busily working, learning and enjoying the space.
In addition to the work involved in teaching, there is also the time spent writing these articles, making the FTPL videos, and attending conferences to consider, which although separate to my teaching, I consider integral to my teaching persona. All of that wrapped up together is the context from which Mrs. C21 and I made the decision that it was time to leave classroom teaching.
A few weeks ago, I received a message from a HR Manager who said they wanted to chat to me about a position they were advertising and for which they felt I might be a good fit. It seemed to be completely out of the blue and gave enough information to have me curious and so we e-mailed back and forth over the weekend discussing some basic details of the company and the role. Things continued to move along and after some more phone-calls, Skype video-calls, a face-to-face meeting, and further e-mails and phone calls, I was formally offered a full-time, permanent position with the company.
Full time. Permanent.
Those words are like gold to a casual or temporary teacher. Mrs. C21 and I spent many hours during the whole process discussing the role, the potential, the status quo, the challenges that this role would present to me personally and us as a family and how to negotiate those challenges, and whether it was going to be good for us as a family and what the ramifications for me professionally might be. Ultimately, however, I accepted the offer to join ClickView as their NSW/ACT Education Account Advisor. In essence, I will be working with teachers to provide training, support and professional learning in schools using ClickView across NSW and the ACT.
I was asked if I would miss the classroom and I absolutely will. Over the course of the e-mails, phone and Skype calls, and face-to-face meetings, however, I gained the belief that from a certain point of view, I am not leaving the classroom per se. I may not be standing in front of a room of students, but I will still be present through the teachers with whom I work. One of my personal goals as a teacher is to be able to look back and know that I have had a positive impact on the lives of my students, to be remembered with the fondness that Ms. Flexer was remembered by her students. I can certainly achieve that in my current role in the classroom. This new role gives me scope to scale that impact, and though I may not have the connections with students that I currently do, I will be able to positively influence their lives through my work with teachers.
I also feel that over the last six to twelve months that I have been at a cross roads in my teaching career. I enjoy being in the class and working with my students. I have also found that I thoroughly enjoy being able to work with colleagues to deliver professional learning opportunities and I feel that I am more comfortable and confident in that scope. I also thoroughly enjoy engaging with research and data, and miss being absorbed in reading and writing. This role, along with giving me stability and security of employment, allows me to continue to engage with education in those same three areas, whilst being encouraged to grow and develop in particular areas that interest me professionally and with scope to be creative. I said during the face-to-face meeting, and I genuinely believe it, that although this role would see me leaving the classroom, I do not feel that I am leaving teaching. I am still working with students and teachers, it is just a different context.
I will be sad to leave my current school. I had my first professional experience there, my first excursion, my first class and I feel that I am leaving positively. I am grateful to the support and encouragement of my job-share partners of this year and last year, to my team-teacher who has been a fount of professional learning so far this term, to my mentor who allowed me to blather on about whatever it was that had me excited/frustrated/tired/annoyed/cynical/worried and offered her advice and guidance, humbly and patiently.
I am looking forward to not having the will I be offered another contract for next year stress, which normally begins to set in around the start of Term Three. I am relieved that we won't be continuing to go backwards financially and the incumbent stress of being in that position. I look forward to not feeling guilty for not working on the weekends or at night. I am excited for this new journey. But most importantly, I am excited that when I am home, that I will be able to be more present with my family, that I will not miss important milestones because I am too busy programming / planning / marking / writing reports / writing rubrics / spending money on resources for the science lesson. My wife is certainly incredibly happy about me being more present than I am at the moment.
Ultimately, I had to make a decision based on what was best for my family. It just so happens that it also provides an incredible opportunity professionally. My final day in my classroom will be tomorrow, Wednesday 8 March.
As always, thank you for reading.
The tl;dr version is that I was offered a permanent, full-time position with ClickView and it is in the best interests of my family and I to take it, so I have.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I show you how to access and start OneNote through your Office365 account.
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