In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I show you a great website that will provide you with free access to digital books for your students across a range of subjects, including fiction and non-fiction, that your students can also access at home.
For more FTPL videos, click here.
“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”
― Haim G. Ginot
What do you think will reduce the churn rate of teachers?
Being a teacher is an incredibly tough, tiring, frustrating profession that also brings great joy, excitement, and a sense of fulfillment. Yet we continue to hear about the numbers of teachers leaving the profession in the first five years, and more recently the lack of people applying for leadership roles, particularly at the Principal level (though the recent Principal Wellbeing survey results I think are indicative of one reason why that may be).
If this is the case, how can we improve the process by which we educate our teachers through their initial training? How can we strengthen it to ensure they have not just the knowledge of content, curriculum, pedagogy, educational philosophy and history, but also how to empathise with students, de-escalate situations, recognise student well-being issues and not only know what to do procedurally, but what to do in the classroom or the playground in the moment? How can we screen those who are entering initial teacher education programs to look for best fit without the feeble increase the entry ATAR requirements?
I have seen over the last few years a number of articles that are pointing towards the use of avatars and virtual reality training such as is outlined in this 2010 Inside Higher Ed article, and this article from VR ROOM in 2016, and finally, this Market Watch article from 2017.
One problem with this scenario is that in all of the articles that I have seen where this is addressed, the classroom is very traditional with the teacher at the front and some very stereotypical student mis-behaviours. It does not allow for the teacher to get alongside the students, to deploy some basic classroom management skills such as the simple use of presence or nearness. Additionally, where the students are performed by actors who are in a building nearby, they are trying to work against the teacher and may push well past where an actual student would.
These systems also seem to presume that the classroom in which all teachers practice are simply those with the teacher at the front of the room giving a lecture. While this does happen, I have never met a teacher who only stays at the front. There may be a lecture component, but then the teacher is moving around the room, working one-to-one wit students, answering questions and providing assistance. This system of training teachers could potentially, therefore, embed poor practices before those teachers have even entered a classroom.
I do not know what the solution to reducing the churn rates within teaching is, but I do not think that using avatar and virtual reality simulations is it. More support in the early years, job security, mentoring, better respect from the broader community and less blaming of teachers and education for the ills of society would all go a long way.
What are your thoughts on reducing the churn rate in teaching?
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I show you how to ensure that comments are included when you force a copy to be made people click on a Google Doc link.
If you missed the video on how to force the copy of a GDoc, you can view it here.
For more FTPL videos, click here.
"The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team."
- Attributed to Phil Jackson
Group work is often either enjoyed or reviled by students and this can come down to a a range of factors, including previous experiences with group work, the individuals in the team, the task, the culture of the classroom, and how the groups are set up - assigned or self-chosen by the students. I enjoyed some group tasks; typically those where I had a team around me with everyone doing their part towards the whole, and I have also strongly disliked other group tasks; often those where there was a perception that one or more people in the group was not pulling their weight. Setting groups can be important.
You want students to mix with others, especially those with whom they might not associate with (reasons for which are perhaps self-evident, but also laid out nicely in this TED talk) and so it is often necessary to assign groups. This leads to the question of how do you do that? You can, of course, always manually assign the groups looking for the optimal mix of students who work well together, will encourage each other etc. or you can use various tools to randomly assign groups. This post is going to look at some of those.
1. Class Dojo (free)
Class Dojo cops a lot of flack for a lot of reasons, but it does include the ability to create groups within Dojo very easily. These groups are manually set up but it allows you to then use those for a variety of activities, or even just table groups.
2. Team Shake (paid)
Team Shake is an app ovailable on iOs and Android that allows you to create up to sixty-four groups that can either be random or balanced. You also have a few other nifty features such as always enabling that people are on the same or different teams, exporting the teams to another device, and the ability to assign user strength levels which can then factor into the balancing of the teams.
3. Random Group Creator (free)
This free tool is very simple and allows you to enter all of the names and then randomise those names into groups, either by keeping them evenly sized or by filling a group to its maximum capacity (set by you) before creating the next group.
4. Setting up Rotating Groups (free)
You may want to have your groups change on a regular basis. This system provides a relatively quick and easy way to set that up knowing that you are getting the students rotated through to work with each other.
5. Random Group Maker (free)
This website is quite straightforward, allowing you to enter in the names, set the number of groups, the number of people per group, and then randomise the names across the groups.
They are just five quick and easy tools to set up your groups in class. If you have a favoured tool that is not listed here, let me know what it is and I can update the list, with credit to you for sharing the tool.
As always, thank you for reading.
"What if, instead of avoiding social media in school altogether or focusing solely on the negative aspects, we teach students how to leverage it to connect in positive ways and build a digital footprint that reflects their best selves..."
- Susan M. Bearden
Digital Citizenship and how to teach our students to be careful, critical, and safe users of the internet is a hot topic at the moment, particularly in the wake of the tragic suicide of Dolly Everett here in Australia. How do we tackle this challenge to make children realise the impact that they can have on others in this age of internet anonymity?
There are a number of resources and tools that are available and I want to outline three of those in this article.
Office of the eSafety Commissioner
The website of this Government Office has a range of resources, both for classroom teachers, for parents and grandparents, and for a range of online activities for children to work through. There are also links for those who are struggling with cyberbullying through social media, a link to Kids Helpline, and a link to report offensive/illegal content. If you are a parent or educator, I would recommend having a look here. The eSafety Commissioner also has active Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube pages for you to engage with.
Interland is a website put together by Google that gamifies four aspects of using the internet: Reality River is about awareness of the credibility of news and information, Mindful Mountain is focused on responsible sharing, Tower of Treasure targets having appropriate password and being aware of privacy settings, while Kind Kingdom is about treating others as you want to be treated. It is aimed, quite clearly at younger students, up to around eleven or Twelve years of age, perhaps a young thirteen year old. The games themselves can be a bit clunky, but it is a reasonable resource to utilise for primary-aged students to encourage awareness of these concepts. There are teacher resources to go with the games (available here) and it is worth checking out to help you get started with considering how to teach these concepts.
Jacqui Murray wrote an article for TeachHub outlining the specific topics that she sees as being included in the broad category of digital citizenship (nineteen topics in all!), but then also breaks down an easy to follow suggestion for when and how to introduce these different concepts to our students, starting with Kindergarten and moving forwards from there. Links to different resources used with different ages students are included throughout.
The subject of digital citizenship is not going to go away, and simply banning phones and other devices from our children is a strategy akin to sticking our heads in the sand - the world is not going away and doing that sets our students up for failure when they do leave us as adults. Realistically, whatever we are trying to shield them from, they are likely seeing or hearing with their friends.
We should be proactive and work with our children from the beginning to understand how to be responsible online just as we do to teach them to be responsible off-line. We also need to stop referring to off-line as the real world. Online is as real world as off-line, the impacts are just as real, the friendships and social networks are just as real as those in the offline world.
"It may be that there is as much variation within the digital native generation as between the generations."
- Bennett, Maton & Kervin’s (2008) The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence
Recently, i was listening to an episode of Jon Bergmann's podcast, Flipped Learning Worldwide that was titled What Old-School Teachers Know that New-School Teachers Need to Know. Jon indicated that there had been a twitter conversation recently talking about how #oldschoolteachers are perceived, but that we need to remember they still have valuable knowledge and expertise.
My experience with the term old school teachers is around the way experienced teachers do or do not engage with technology. Old school teachers are apparently incapable of learning, or do no want to learn how to use technology, while newer or younger teachers are often automatically tapped on the shoulder to be the IT person. I have heard "you're young - you can be the tech person" said.
I find this discourse troubling in its in accuracy, and it harks back to the digital natives vs digital immigrants conversation. Marc Prensky first coined the term in 2001 in an article titled Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants and it is worth noting that the magazine in which that article was published, On the Horizon, was not a peer-reviewed magazine. The discourse around this topic since then has become about older people are not good at or with technology and younger people are.
There are a number of problems inherently wrong with this discourse - what does it mean to be good at or with technology? The inventors of the various technologies typically referred to in this discourse, computers, smartphones, tablets, etc., are all in the age group to be considered digital immigrants, yet they are, if anything, the original natives. The basic assumption in this discourse, if you are old then you are not very good with technology; and if you are young then you are good with technology, is also quite clearly false.
I am thinking of three particular teachers at the moment, all of whom would be considered late-career teachers. One of these teachers is neither comfortable with using technology, nor open to learning about it and how to use it. This teacher has learned just enough to get by in terms of writing reports, emails etc. That teacher retired at the end of last year. A brilliant teacher in his preferred subject area, but not interested in technology.
The next was someone who did not feel particularly comfortable with technology but was open to learning how to use it; but only after you had convinced them that the technology had a solid pedagogical application. This teacher was highly skeptical, but open to being convinced. I spent some time with that person helping her to understand they why behind using various pieces of technology, some of which they took on board, and others were left by the wayside.
The final teacher that I am thinking of was quite comfortable with technology. Would be quite happy to be shown something new, whether by colleagues or students, to learn about it and to incorporate it into their practice if appropriate. This teacher did use some pedagogical strategies that might be considered old school, but was very good at her role.
Three old school teachers, each of whom had different feelings towards technology in the classroom and different levels of self-efficacy.
I am now thinking of three teachers who could be considered early or mid-career teachers. The first is in their early thirties. Does not use social media in any form, has a fairly basic non-smart phone, needed some help to work out how to use the interactive whiteboard, and how to use Google Suite to to write his teaching program. This person is an age where it would be assumed you are good with technology. The next is someone in their mid-twenties. Uses social media, email, Google Suite, but will not go beyond that. They are comfortable with what they use and do not want to move beyond that. The final person is someone who was tapped on the shoulder and told that they were going to be the tech person because they were young (mid-thirties). This person is young and is quite happy to explore new technology, how it fits pedagogically, share it with others, runs training sessions with colleagues who want to learn more.
Some of those who have taught me the most about using technology would be considered digital immigrants. Many I know who are my age or younger can use social media comfortably but would not know how to set up a Google Doc for their students to do some collaborative writing in.
This divide between older and younger teachers and the assumptions about technology-efficacy levels needs to stop. It is not helpful and it is not accurate. Being young and using a smartphone along with some social media apps does not equate to being able to use technology as an effective pedagogical tool.
The first of the older teachers that I mentioned was an amazing teacher and could very effectively communicate the essential points of what was being addressed in a lesson to students, irrespective of whether they were in Kindergarten or in Year Six. I learned a lot about communication in an outdoors environment from this teacher. I also learned a lot about teaching oracy to students from the third of the older teachers. Old school teaches are also experienced teachers, with a wealth of knowledge and practical experience built over years of teaching.
While there is a difference, as Jon phrased it, between having been teaching for thirty years, and having been teaching for one year thirty times, we can and should sit alongside them to share our collective knowledge.
What are your areas of opportunity that you may be able to tap into an experienced teacher for help with? What can you offer to a colleague to help develop their knowledge and practice?
"We carry with us habits of thought and taste fostered in some nearly forgotten classroom by a certain teacher."
- Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 24
I have written on occasion in the past, including last week, about the importance of relationships in the classroom. After hearing it mentioned a few times on the Teachers Talking Teaching podcast, I have dived into listening to the EduChange podcast. Each episode has been an interview with someone involved in the education space in some way, usually as an educator, talking about what they have changed in their context and the impact that it has had. There have been some striking consistencies across the episodes that I have listened to thus far.
Initially, each guest is asked to outline a brief synopsis of their life in education and how they have ended up where they are, and at the end are asked to share a takeaway message with the listeners. In between is the really interesting conversation.Strikingly, relationships have been coming up a lot in the episodes that I have listened to. I do not know if that is a specific focus or if it is just how the interviews have played out, however, so far relationships with students has been a strong component of the change being affected in the interviews with Shane Hancock, Brett Wood, Peter Hutton, Matt Noffs, and Ashanti Branch.
The five educators whom I have listened to thus far are from very disparate ares, the UK, North America, and various parts of Australia. But for all of them, relationships with students came through. One of the educators made a remark that for some students, they are confused when a teacher shows them care outside of where a teacher should care because they are not used to being cared for.
“If you care more about the subject you are teaching than the subjects WHO you are teaching, there will probably be a disconnect.”
- Ashanti Branch
We do not necessarily know what is going on at home, students, just as much a teachers, wear masks to hide things from those around them. Ashanti Branch is working in his community, through the Ever Forward Club, to break down those masks, to help students see that students' challenges are not there's alone, but are being borne by others as well.
Brett Wood, co-founder of Music Industry College, has used embedded relationships into the school. The size of the school has deliberately been kept small so that all staff know all students. The power behind that is incredible. To be able to know the names of all the students in a school has the power to change your relationship with them immensely, and their relationship with you, and with their learning.
There are a range of available resources to help you learn how to build and strengthen the relationships with your students, from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) (here), to the National Education Association (NEA - North America) (here), and the Victorian Education Department (here), and the American Psychological Association (APA) (here).
Hattie's work in Visible Learning indicated that student-teacher relationships had an effect size of 0.72 on learning outcomes in both his 2009 and 2011 reports, which is quite a significant impact. Relationships play such an important role in the classroom.
What are you going to do to help strengthen yours?
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I show you a tool called Tour Builder that can be used to build routes or tours to highlight journeys from history, from book studies, or from impending school excursions.
This could easily be adapted for use in English, History, Geography, and even Science or CAPA.
For more helpful FTPL videos, please click here.
“What is a teacher? I'll tell you: it isn't someone who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Witch of Portobello
The final unit in the Flipped Learning Level II certification course is titled The most important things. I am not going to talk about the unit in this article, however, other than to say that it is a largely an interesting conversation between Jon Bergmann and Pedro Noguera on the topic of student-teacher relationships
I agree wholeheartedly that our relationships with students will be one of the most important factors in determining whether you will have a fruitful year with that student. Relationships can start poorly and recover, start well and sour, or as in most relationships, be up and down throughout the year. But good relationships will bear fruit in the form of learning.
What do you do at the start of each year to build strong relationships with your students? What do you do at the start of term/week/day/lesson to reconnect and check in with your students? It is something that you do not receive any training or advice on during your initial teacher education other than learn their names and their dis/likes. That is pretty basic and, unless you are a robot, should happen naturally. How do you take it another step so that students look forward to your lesson, knowing that your class is a safe and supportive space where they can fail with confidence, learn without fear, and be challenged with a foundation of trust and respect underpinning their perception of the classroom?
There are some fairly straightforward things that can be done that I have seen and/or used in my own classes, such as simple celebrations of every students birthday as class, sharing (appropriately) about yourself, having one-on-one conversations with your students each day, recognising celebrating their successes and failures, trusting them, showing them the respect that you expect....the list goes on.
I will end this short article with a video from Kid President. My regular readers will have seen this before, as I referenced it when I delivered the Graduate Address at my graduation ceremony. I would love to be remembered the way that Mrs Flexer was and is remembered by her students. I think that we should all be striving to be remembered this way. I have been asking teachers in professional learning sessions that I have been running lately who can point to a teacher that you had a student, who you can look back on and point to as, if not influencing your decision to enter teaching, then as having a significant and positive impact on your life. I am yet to ask this question in a session and have no responses.
As teachers, our words and ideas can change the world. Be awesome and build amazing relationships with your students so that they can be awesome.
Thank you, as always, for reading.
"Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought."
- Attributed to Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
The penultimate unit in the Flipped Learning Level II Certification program was focused on understanding how to find and engage with research, and was with Dr. Robert Talbert of Grand Valley State University (MI). This unit I think was one that was extremely accessible for everyone and that all teachers should work through.
Given the rhetoric that is often present in the media and from politicians around the need for research-based teaching practice, this segment provided some very practical strategies for engaging with research. Robert acknowledged the challenge that paywalls present in preventing easy access to research, however, Google Scholar is a very good tool to utilise to help with that. It may be worth approaching a nearby university campus to see if you can arrange access to their library and therefore their databases and access research that way.
Anyone who has been required to read research will know that journal articles are often dense, long, heavy on statistics, and use overly-complicated language. One strategy, as obvious as it is, to help determine whether it is going to be worth reading an article or not, is to read through the abstract, which provides a summary of the article. I discarded a number of articles in my research after reading the abstract, however, I still found myself reading articles that I would decide partway through were not actually going to be useful for me.
Robert's advice was to skip straight to end and read the sections labelled discussion and conclusion. Robert pointed out that if these two sections, typically only a few paragraphs each in length, end up not yielding useful information then diving into the remainder of the article is not going to be worth the investment of time. It is such an obvious thing to do that I am disappointed in myself for not realising it while doing my own research.
Robert also spoke about some strategies to help determine if the research was quality, well-conducted research or not. Initially, this revolved around the clarity of the questions that the research was investigating. If the question being asked is not clearly defined or not explicitly stated that should raise some potential alarm bells. As part of this, any variables, or restrictions that relate to the research need to be stated, including any survey instruments such as questionnaires. Critically, the methodology needs to be laid out clearly in order to allow for replication. Good research should be able to be replicated and achieve the same or very similar results.
There does often seem to be a disconnect between research and the classroom, however, there does not need to be. Google Scholar allows you to set alerts so that you receive an email with the titles of a number of articles that meet search criteria that you set. This allows you to simply scan through and perhaps identify one or two articles each week that you want to invest the time into reading.
Another way of engaging with the research is to listen to podcasts where they explore research. Two very good podcasts that I listen to and recommend you listen to are The Education Review by Cameron Malcher, and Teachers Talking Teaching by John Catterson and Pete Whiting. Teachers talking Teaching is the less reverent podcast, however, both podcasts tackle education research and policy, and its implications for classroom and are worth listening to.
As always, thank you for reading.
"Do things with passion or not at all."
Unit eleven in the Flipped Learning Certification Level II course was with Kate Lanier, a Physics teacher in Texas. I have come across genius hour in the past, I think you would have to be living under a rock to have not heard of it. My understanding is that it originated with Google or one of the other big tech companies who gave employees twenty percent of their time at work to work on passion projects with some stunning results, a concept has been taken by education and tweaked to be the genius hour.
There were a few key points that Kate outlined as being critical to genius hour. One of the critical aspects in my opinion is that we as teachers do not have to know the skill or have the knowledge that students want to pursue; I suspect it may be better if we do not know. As teachers we often feel that we have to know everything about the topic or subject and this is why many teachers do not dive into new strategies or ideas such as genius hour, project based learning, flipped learning etc. We do not need to know coding, for example, if that is what the student wants to pursue. If we can point the student to some good quality resources, that will be enough in many cases.
Kate also stressed that it has to be new learning for the students, that it cannot be something they already know about. It can be an extension of something they know, if new learning will occur as part of that extension. This could mean that they cannot simply research their personal fandom (Marvel, Star Wars etc.), however, if they wanted to learn to make a stop-motion animation, they could certainly use that fandom as the base.
Reflecting on Kate's explanation of genius hour, there seemed to me to be a lot of similarities with Project-Based Learning, with the key difference being that the student chose their own project or focus rather than being given one to work on. I have come across various criticisms against genius hour; including that it is inappropriate in novice classrooms, which seems to make sense; that it sets a poor standard by indicating we can relegate creativity and passion to an hour a week, and the criticism that expecting employees to do all of their work in only eighty percent of the time in order to free up twenty percent of their time to work on a personal passion project that will benefit the company seems like it is completely inconsistent (I have been unable to find the article where I read this criticism).
My belief is that like anything this can work in some contexts but not in others. I would not be putting this in place in a novice class, however, providing genius hour as some sort of integrated cross-curricular project to help students tie up and bring together their learning from a unit of learning could be a valuable investment in time. The challenge, however, is still being able to complete the required curriculum in only eighty percent of the available time.
I would love to hear from anyone who has tried to implement genius hour, successful or not, and what your leanings were from the experience.
"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
As a teacher, how do you deal with Easter, Christmas, and Halloween in the classroom? What are your thoughts and ideals about those events?
I have seen Neil deGrasse Tyson described as a national treasure and he is someone for whom I have a great deal of respect. He is not highly intelligent, but he has the ability to explain often complex concepts in a way that makes them accessible without talking down to people. He has always come across in interviews that I have seen, as being an incredibly down to Earth and ordinary man.
As some of us do, I have some quite strong beliefs about a number of things as an individual that influence how I would like to raise my daughter, but which I am struggling to reconcile as a professional in my teaching practice. I would like you to think about some of the sensible beliefs and practices we, as teachers and parents both, work to instill in our children.
If you have not already done so, I would encourage you to go back and watch the above interview with Tyson.
"That's what it's all about right? That's what it's always been about! Gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts! Do you know what happens to your gifts? They all come to me...in your garbage. Do you see what I'm saying here? IN YOUR GARBAGE! I could hang myself with all the bad Christmas neckties I found at the dump! And the avarice! The avarice never ends! "I want golf clubs!" "I want diamonds!" "I want a pony so I can ride it twice, get bored, and send it away to make glue!" Look, I don't wanna make waves here, but this WHOLE Christmas season is STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!"
- The Grinch (from the 2000 movie)
I do not like Christmas. The idea that we have to spend so much money people whom we often do not like to show them that we like them and that we can afford to spend money is just ridiculous and the wastefulness during Christmas both materially with packaging and wrapping paper, and with Christmas Cards that go in the bin only a few days later is phenomenal. As parents, we get cranky with our children they demand particular toys, or if they sulk when they get what they want. We do not let them go up to strangers and ask for things. We get cranky when our children lie.
But at Christmas time, we encourage our students to demand things from a fictitious man who we have lied to our children about the existence of by having them write Dear Santa, this year for Christmas I want.... We then take our students for a photo with a complete stranger we know nothing about, often forcing them to be in the photo, often forcing them if the number of photos I have seen with screaming children are anything to go buy. If they get sulky because they did not get what they want at Christmas, it is often called cute. Societally, we then tell people that what they gave us was not good enough by spending, in 2017, $2.4 billion dollars on stuff at the Boxing Day Sales (source).
That said, I love Christmas because it is a guarantee chance to spend a few hours with family. This past Christmas was amusing as we spent Christmas day with my wife's family and both of my brothers-in-law have daughters who were born six and eight weeks respectively after my daughter. Three little girls who are all cheeky in different ways and were all toddling around the house was incredibly cute and you could see the joy on the the faces of the family.
As you may have guessed, I do not plan on doing Santa with my daughter and it is something my wife and have been debating the handling of for a long time. But where I am finding a professional dilemma is in the classroom when it comes to the lead up of Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. As teachers we should not be imposing our beliefs on students. And so I have struggled with those events. It has been made easier the last few years as I have been either job-sharing or team-teaching and simply allowed my partner to do any activities relating to those events.
It is becoming something that I am feeling increasingly uncomfortable with; due, I think, to becoming a parent and feeling the way I do. The way that Neil deGrasse Tyson addresses it seems like a reasonable compromise, challenging the students to think critically for themselves. Is that an approach that could be taken in the classroom without causing too much uproar, do you think?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this, and whether you agree or disagree about the inculcation into the capitalist-fantasy world of the Easter bunny, Santa, and Hallowe'en.
Thank you for reading.
"There is no science in this world like physics. Nothing comes close to the precision with which physics enables you to understand the world around you."
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
I stumbled on a tool recently that is designed for science classes and is an app for both iOS and Android. I am not doing this as an FTPL video as I have only had a brief look at it. It looks like it has a lot of potential for helping students capture data, particularly outdoors, reducing the amount of paraphernalia that is required for going out and gathering data.
The app asks for permission to access your microphone, camera, and camera roll and it also uses the device's inbuilt accelerometer to capture that data as needed. It also has a note-taking feature.
Together, this enables students to collect data for light, sounds, motion, direction, magnetism, barometric pressure, and make observation notes; all of which can be exported as a CSV to be opened in any spreadsheet software for analysis.
Having such an easy ability to record data live can be helpful across a range of science lessons and will also enable students to capture data anywhere.
As I said, I have not explored this in-depth as yet, but an initial look makes it appear quite useful.
You can download the Science Journal app using the links below:
Android version - Google Play Store link
iOS version - iTunes App Store link
In addition to the apps, Google also provides a collection of activities and lessons to use with Science Journal.ons
"An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life."
What is a good teacher? A great teacher? An average teacher? A terrible teacher? Any EduTwitter chat where those questions are asked will see a series of one-liner well-meaning platitudes reeled off. Various teacher accreditation systems have sought to codify what good practice is and judge teachers based on those standards, and everyone you meet will be able to tell you a story about what a good/great/average/terrible teacher is based on their own experience and a teacher their child had, or even, that they had themselves as a student.
I was born in 1983 and my generation (though which generation I am in varies wildly) is the one that has crossed over the most. My parents' and grandparents' generations had watched as life changed around them with various wars, political crises, financial ups and downs impacting their lives. Technology, however, though changing, was doing so relatively slowly. I have recollections of my mother doing a night course at the local Tech sometime around 1986 when we lived, briefly, in Queensland. Technology, or more specifically, computing technology, was not a mainstay of life for previous generations.
I grew up learning how to use an Apple IIe on my Pop's lap, with him showing me how to use some of the basic functions, as well as play games like The Ancient Art of War and Prince of Persia. My first recollection of seeing a computer in the classroom was during 1994, when my Year Five teacher, Mr Davies, had a DOS computer running that classic game, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego which Mr Davies used as a reward for good behaviour, as well as time on the game being awarded when it was a students birthday. We also had Encarta Encyclopaedia on the library computers. I remember using the internet for the first time at (high) school, logging in via Netscape Navigator and using Ask Jeeves to ask some sort of question.
I remember being excited when I was able to buy, on special, a 1Gb thumb drive for the then cheap price of $55 and a host of other technical milestones since. The rate of change, especially in regards to technology, has been increasing and so we are now seeing more and more instances of Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR respectively) in the classroom as technology becomes cheaper to build, the content cheaper to make and easier to access, and teachers more open to trying.
That is just the change we have seen in technology.
How mobile phones have changed. Mobile phone evolution, respectively, from left to right: Motorola 8900X-2, Nokia 2146 orange 5.1, Nokia 3210, Nokia 3510, Nokia 6210, Ericsson T39, HTC Typhoon, iPhone 3G, Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy S4 mini, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 Plus. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mobile_Phone_Evolution_1992_-_2014.jpg on 13 January 2018
There have also been significant changes in policy surrounding education with The Education Portfolio going from being a relative backwater to being the hot-seat portfolio. I remember many days of strikes by teachers with the work the Teacher Federations did here in Australia through the 1990s, whereas I hear many teachers, particularly long-serving teachers, talk about how toothless the Federation has become and many graduate teachers not joining (for the record, I was a member and am not now only because I am not in a school-based role).
Particularly in the last decade, it feels like we have been inundated with change. The MySchools website, the focus on NAPLAN and PISA, arguments about the place of computers and digital technology in the school with the Digital Education Revolution, the growing administrative tasks that teachers are required to do, the funding battles, the growth of coding, STE(A)M, robotics, and a host of other pedagogical strategies combined with the increase in youth mental health issues and suicide rates, with Dolly Everett being the latest tragic victim.
It feels like, and this is just my personal opinion, that things are coming to a head. A conversation with an experienced teacher will yield at some point a discussion about the changes they have witnessed (some interesting article on this exact topic can be found here, here, here, and here).
There have been so many changes, back flips, side steps, shock announcements, useless polices, poorly thought out programs etc that it feels like we are on the way to a proverbial re-balancing of the scales, I could, and quite possibly, am seeing something that is not there, but it feels incredibly like we are heading for a monumental shift in education. I do not know what it is, but I also do not see how it is feasible for education and our society in general to continue on our current pathway; rising social issues around mental health, gender equality, Indigenous issues (such as education, health etc.), an ageing population, housing, childcare, education, teacher abuse (including murders), and a Government system that seems unable to think beyond the next soundbite, let alone the next election cycle, and issues.
Something [monumental] this way comes. Meanwhile, teachers across the country continue to teach, doing the best they can with the resources they have.
What will be the straw that breaks the camel's back? What will be the issue that causes you as an individual and us as a profession to say no more? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
“He who knows no foreign languages knows nothing of his own.”
- Attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
When was the last time you learned something that was, for you, genuinely new, that you had no prior knowledge to draw upon other than perhaps some random snippets and words? When was the last time you were a student the same way our students are, unable to fully express themselves due to a lack of vocabulary and understanding of how to articulate what you want to communicate?
When I was in Years Seven and Eight, I like many students in Australia had to spend one period of my school week in a language class. My high school had us learning German in Year Seven and French in Year Eight and by far I prefer the sound and feel of German. The only phrase I remember I can remember from that course in Year Seven is nein! meine hamurger! from the textbook (which was half-comic book) and came about as, if I recall correctly, the main character's hamburger got squashed by a football. I can still remember how to count to ten and of course there is a smattering of random phrases from Hogan's Heroes and from listening to Rammstein since wondering what all the fuss was about in the late 1990s.
I have long wanted to go back and resume learning German and over the summer break I finally got around to starting to do just that. I heard a few years ago about an app called Duolingo which was designed to teach a range of languages, including German, and so I downloaded it and have begun plodding away at learning what I am finding is a challenging language. The program seems well-structured and appears to make logical sense, it provides feedback, provides opportunities for reading, writing, speaking and listening throughout, and contains some well-designed bots that are targeted to providing conversation in a range of contexts, practicing words and phrases that are being covered in the lesson set you are working on. If you have ever wanted to learn another language, I would certainly suggest looking at Duolingo. It being free also helps.
It has, however, provided some insight into how my students feel as we work through the English syllabus, grappling with remembering words, phrases, tense, syntax, grammar and of course spelling. Even typing on the keyboard is a challenge as the German keyboard layout is different to cater for the characters that have umlauts. When I was completing my pre-service training, I had a maths lecturer and tutor named Andrew. He was teaching a maths course that was supposed to be a very hands-on course that would provide us with pedagogical strategies for teaching mathematical concepts. However, he went about it using a strategy that frustrated everyone, annoyed and angered some, but which I felt was quite clever and enjoyed despite the frustration. He taught us using Base Four counting which meant that we could not rely on our own unconscious-competence in both knowledge and ability when solving questions and had, instead, to really apply ourselves. His message all the way through was that however hard and frustrating we were finding it, that was how our students would find it as they learned various strategies, mathematical theorems, and basic facts for the first time.
I am finding that learning German is giving me that same "oh wow, no wonder my students get frustrated and give up easily" as I am finding it quite challenging to remember the various tense rules, the gender rules for different nouns and accusatives, and just trying to remember which word means what. It also has me questioning my own unconscious knowledge about English syntax. This article has been floating around on the internet for a while and outlines that native English speakers are not even aware of much of what they know about using English.
This is not a rule I have ever come across before, let alone taught, but it seems to ring true. The article to goes on to talk about some others and it has me questioning how much I reeally know about the English language as I grapple with learning the syntax of German and trying to remember how to conjugate verbs (see this article to get an idea of the complexity).
The point that I am trying to make here is that as teachers we need to be putting ourselves in our students' shoes by learning something new, something that genuinely challenges us cognitively to remind ourselves what our students are going through on a daily basis. If you have ever wanted to learn a language, have a look at Duolingo and remember what it is like to not have the vocabulary and understanding to express yourself fully.
Danke fürs Lesen (Thank you for reading).
"The classroom should be an entrance into the world, not an escape from it."
-Attributed to John Ciardi
I have heard many times since I entered education, phrases akin to our classrooms should have glass walls, meaning that we should be communicating what is going on in our classroom to parents all the time, that our rooms should be completely transparent. On the surface, that sounds fine, and I agree that our practice should be transparent. We should have nothing to hide as educators.
Enter the apps and websites. Class Dojo, Edmodo, SeeSaw, School Circle, Class blogs, class websites, class social media accounts, the list goes on. I have used a number of them myself and they can be great ways of communicating with parents anything from remember to send in the permission note this week to please call me when you have ten minutes, or of providing students with a voice and a way of communicating with a genuine audience what they are learning about. I have seen and heard, however, of this trend going even further, with hourly updates and photos of what is happening in the classroom. A few years ago, I had about half of my parents engaging with me via Class Dojo in a range of ways, Gertrude will be late tomorrow due to a Doctor's appointment, Bob's drink bottle leaked, can you please tell me what was on the now water-ruined note? etc. and I used to wonder why the other parents were not interested.
There will always be a range of reasons, but I discovered a new one recently. The day care that Ms One goes to is low-tech. No communications through the day that show what the kids are doing etc., and only a summary sheet of when she ate/slept/wet or soiled her nappy etc, along with a two-minute conversation she had an average day today, was sooky and wanted cuddles all day etc. At the end of the year we were provided with a portfolio with some photos, work samples, notes about why they engaged in particular activities etc. and I realised that I was completely happy and satisfied with that.
I realised that I did not want the updates during the day about what was going on. There is an element of trust that the staff know what they are doing and will contact me if they need to. The other aspect is that I did not want the updates because I wanted a mental break and to able to focus on whatever I was doing without getting distracted (or judgemental!) about whatever they were doing. I want them to be focused on the children, not ensuring they are getting the photos and captions sorted (one our of friends has their child in a Centre with hourly updates)
Early Childhood, Primary, and Secondary are all very different in terms of parent expectations about how their child will develop, what they want communicated, even the worry or anxiety levels, and so I am not sure what impact this will have on my own practise if/when I return to a classroom role. I will, however, be more understanding of those parents who choose not to engage. When Ms One moves onto Kindergarten and beyond, I will probably only want the necessary communication and will look forward to the various masterpieces that come home.*
What are your thoughts on the way in which we communicate to parents? Those of you who are parents, do you feel it is too much? Not enough? What do you want?
* I of course reserve the right to change my mind and be a super clingy, anxious, I want to know everything that happens parent, however, I do not think my general attitude to life would tend that way.
In this flipped teacher professional learning video, I demonstrate how to access and use the My Maps tool available in GSuite. There is a resource that has been put together by Alice Keeler which shows many different ideas for using the tool in the classroom available here.
For more FTPL videos, please click here.
"I would argue that the most important infrastructure we have are minds, educated minds."
- Amel Karboul, Oct 2017, TED@BCG, Milan
Podcasts are a great way to keep up with new ideas and thoughts as well as to broaden the mind and challenge yourself. TED Talks Daily is one of the podcasts I listen to, and occasionally I will skip an episode because the subject is too far away from my interest to engage, or the speaker is not at all engaging. Recently, however, I listened to the global learning crisis and what to do about it. It was just merely the next episode in the list.
When the Dr. Amel Karboul opened by commenting that she is "the product of a bold leadership decision," and goes on to say that the first Tunisian President, Habib Bourguiba, made a decision to invest twenty percent of the country's national budget into education to ensure high-quality, free, education for every child, both girls and boys.
Immediately, my ears perked up. I did not know what percentage of our budget was dedicated to education (I have since looked and for 2017-18, it appears to be 7.28% based on this document) but I did not think it would be anywhere near twenty percent. There were protests, cries of what about...with lots of key infrastructure needs pointed to, however, Amel made an interesting point when she commented that she sees educated minds as the most important infrastructure.
Without an educated populace, how do you advance society?
Our national budget for 2017-18 is $464.3 billion dollars, investing twenty percent of that would be $92.86 billion. What could be achieved in education if that amount was invested? What gaps across early childhood, primary, secondary, and tertiary could be filled? Personally, I believe there would need to be a mix between investment in paying educators properly, particularly in early childhood, and investment in infrastructure. How many schools have old and ugly demountable buildings? How much more effective would it be to provide more space for the students to run around and play games during breaks if we built up? My school had thirteen demountables. Removing those and going three stories (at one end, only two stories at the other due to slope) provided so much more space for the students.
Forgetting about politics and the discussion around the funding split, what could be achieved if the government decided to invest in the future and value education so highly?
This point about valuing education and how much is invested is not even the most important point from Amel's talk, but it was one that struck me as significant given the current climate around education funding here in Australia.
"We believe that the industrial age model of purely passive learning is a disservice to students, the profession, and the community.
We believe that students and teachers in every country deserve to teach and learn in flipped schools, flipped school districts, and flipped school systems where active learning is foundational."
Tomorrow afternoon, I will be driving to Cronulla, where I will be staying for the duration of FlipConAus rather than drive the roughly two hours back home each day. This will be my fourth FlipCon (third in Australia and I have attended one in New Zealand), however, this one feels different.
Jon Bergmann, through flipped learning and FLGobal.org, has completely changed how I think about teaching and has shown me how I imagined I wanted my classroom to operate, focusing on doing rather than chalking and talking, with my students applying what we were learning about. There have, however, been some shifts in flipped learning this year as more and more research emerges, which Jon talks abuot below.
The potential for flipped learning is still significant and the impact that it can have on student-teacher relationships and learning outcomes is now unquestionable. The research is quite clear now that flipped learning has a positive impact. I had a conversation with a science teacher today who mentioned in passing that he has a forward board and is dabbling with flipped learning. Cue a conversational direction change for the next fifteen minutes. We have worked out a time when we can catch up to chat more specifically about flipped learning and working together and the conversation left both of us excited for the possibilities.
I still visit a lot of schools where they've not heard of flipped learning or do not believe that it works. I do not, at this point, push flipped learning without an invitation from whomever I am speaking with. There needs to be a willingness to engage in the conversation, however, for those whom I do speak with, there is always a sense of excitement for the potential.
If you are not attending FlipConAus this Thursday and Friday, keep your eyes on #FlipConAus on twitter over the next few days. As Jon reminds us in the above video, leadershpi is not about authority or position; it's about commitment to do what you can wherever you are to make change happen.
If you want to connect with other flippers, but you are not a Twitter user, there is an Australian Flipped Learning Network on Facebook as well as a New Zealand Flipped Learning Network. I daresay there are networks for other countries, however, those are the two that I am familiar with and have contacts within.
As always, feel free to reach out to me via the contact page, or over on Twitter or Facebook.
I look forward to hopefully seeing many of you at FlipConAus this weekend.
As I write this, we are just over a week away from FlipCon Australia 2017 and I've just uplaoded the last of the pre-learning videos for my workshops. If you are attending any of my sessions, please find the relevant learning objects included below.
Please note that I have included some instructions for each session in terms of what you will need to bring with you for the workshop.
Workshop One: A Starting Point for Flipped Learning
For this workshop, please watch the three short videos below (total duration is about eleven minutes and bring with you to the workshop any particular concerns you have about obtaining buy-in from stakeholders, or teaching students how to engage with flipped content.
Workshop Two: Flipping the Lesson
Part of successfully flipping is starting small and manageable and then scaling up, which usually means starting with flipping a single lesson. In this workshop we will be working through how to do that, with a focus on planning for success using my flipped lesson planning template.
Please watch the below learning object, download a copy of the planning template from here and start to bring with you at least one lesson that you have coming up in the next month that you wish to flip.
If you are just beginning to engage with flipped learning, you may find the three learning objects set as pre-learning for my Starting Point with Flipped Learning workshop useful.
Workshop Three: Flipping the Unit
In this workshop, we will be working through the process of planning to flip a unit of learning with a focus on the differences to traditional planning. There is a flipped unit planng template available here for download if you wish to utilise that. Please watch the below learning object and bring with you a unit of learning that you wish to flip either this term or next.
Workshop Four: Flipped Resources Made Simply
The final workshop that I am running is all about making learning objects that are video-based, using a tool called Camtasia which allows you to record and edit video in a range of styles. If you are attendign this workshop, please watch the below video which provides a very brief walkthrough of where to access Camtasia, how to download it, and then how to get started with recording a video. Please bring with you to the workshop one video to work on edit, or be prepared to record one during the workshop.
Please note that although Camtasia is available for both Mac and Windows, that I will be demonstrating using the Windows version.
I'm also excited to announce that thanks to Camtasia, there is ONE free license for Camtasia that will be available during the Fun-Money Auction which can be redeemd for either Mac or Windows. You do not have to have attended this workshop to be eligible for this item in the Fun-Money Auction.
In addition to the above workshops, I willbe joining Jon Bergmann and Matthew Burns on the Panel for the Primary Discussion session, talking about different ways to flip in the K-6 space. Additionally, Steve Griffiths and I will be running a drop in session to allow people to record flipped content using a forward board. Check the FlipCon Program for times.
If you are unable to attend FlipCon at all, keep your eyes open for #FlipConAus on Twitter to stay in the loop. It promises to be an exciting time with Jon Bergmann, Joel Speranza, and Errol Smith providing the three keynote sessions, as well as thirty-four educators sharing their knowledge and experience.
I look forward to seeing you there.
"We believe that the industrial age model of purely passive learning is a disservice to students, the profession, and the community"
- Flipped Learning Global Manifesto. Retrieved from http://flglobal.org/the-manifesto/ on 3 October 2017
Anyone who has spoken to me about education in the last few years has likely heard me mention flipped learning. It has become an entrenched part of my pedagogical belief and also my education philosophy. I have written about flipped learning at length, presented at whole-staff and inter-school professional development sessions, presented at EduTech, and late last term I ran the first of (hopefully) many flipped learning boot camps.
On Friday 20 and Saturday 21 October I will be joining thirty-four of my flipped learning colleagues in presenting at FlipConAus 2017, sharing my knowledge, experience, and mistakes with those wanting to learn more.
I will be presenting four sessions; A starting point for flipped learning, Flip the lesson, Flip the unit, and Flipped resources made simply as well as joining Jon Bergmann and Matt Burns on the Primary Discussion Panel (see full FlipConAus program here).
There are some amazing educators who have put their hands up to share their time, knowledge, and experience with delegates, and I still find that I learn something every time I attend FlipCon. If you have any interest in flipped learning, even if you're just curious, register here and join myself and thirty-four other (far more brilliant) educators as we share our knowlegde, experience and passion.
I hope to see you at FlipConAus, hosted by the amazing educators at Inaburra School, Sydney, in a few weeks time.
"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 severe 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.