The Teacher Education Review podcast is a one that I listen to when it comes out because of the well thought out discussions and research-driven conversations it contains. As Cameron Malcher says, it bridges the gap between research, policy, and practice. A recent episode, TER #096, featured an interview that Dan Haesler conducted with Katharine Birbalsingh, the Principal/Head Teacher of the controversial Michaela Community School in the UK.
I have to admit that I know very little about the Michael Community School, other than it is regarded as controversial due to its no excuses approach to education and so I was intrigued to hear about the school from the Principal herself.
The interview with Katharine begins at the 45:11 mark in the episode and I would very much encourage you to listen to it. It is a reasonably lenghty interview and addresses some of the most common critiques that are apparently levelled the school. I found it very interesting. From what I have heard in the media and through social media outlet, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a school run by the wicked witch of the west. Katharine, however, came across as very articulate, passionate, and knowledgable about education. Granted, that does not equate to a good educator, but it is a good base from which to have a conversation with someone.
I found it intriguing that at various points I found myself nodding in agreement with what Katharine was saying. Her thoughts on engagement, that it should be about the subject being engaging in and of itself through the authentic pedagogy rather than engaging because there is a singing and dancing teacher (obviously hyperbole, but the message comes through I believe) is something I think many teachers would agree with. Her comments around behaviour, and I am paraphrasing here, that students behave because they buy into the school and realise they are getting something back (an education) when they behave and that misbehaviour is the result of a disconnect between the teacher and the student through the pedagogy, was intriguing.
This is a perspective on behaviour that I have not heard before and I would be interested in your opinion on this area. Personally, I feel that I can see where Katharine is coming from with this, but that it is only part of the equation. I am a big believer in physics (hard not to be) and that there is a strong connection between physics and the classroom. Newton's third law of motion states:
that for every action (force) in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction.
The connection may seem woolly, but my interpreation of this into the classroom is that everything happens for a reason. A student is acting out, misbehaving, for a reason, and often there is some sort of deficiency, either in the classroom or at home, that is causing this. Maslow's Hierarchy of needs should be at the front and centre here, and we should be asking ourselves, when a student is acting out, what has happened that caused this reaction? I do not buy, for one moment, the notion that some kids are just naughty (hat seems as accurate as saying that some people are just racist) and so the notion that misbehaviour is a lack of buy-in into the school is an interesting one.
I think the only real area where I was in outright disagreement was the no excuses policy itself. I can see where Katharine is coming from with this, but I disagree. There are going to be factors outside of a child or parent's control that causes an event or incident that is at odds with school policy or rules. Punishing the child for that seems unjust in my opinion.
I would very much encourage you to listen to the interview and share your thoughts, either here through the comments, or on twitter.
"It's not actually about the technology"
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
My original plan for the opening session of day two at FutureSchools was to attend presentations by Leanne Edwards - Steve Allen - Melinda Cashen - Peter Tompkins - Sally Wood and Simone Segat. However, staying to listen to Sarah Asome's excellent presentation meant that I had missed around half of Steve Allen's time slot. I made the decision that rather than entering with less than half of his presentation to go, and then moving again to a different conference stream straight after, that I would be better served by going straight to the FutureLeaders conference stream so that I would be ready for Melinda Cashen's presentation.
I entered the Future Leaders stream from the rear doors and found a seat in time to hear Chris McNamara talking about how students shape their day through managing their calendar. It turns out that Chris is Deputy Principal of Learning and Development at Melbourne Girls Grammar School (MGGS), so there was a certain amount of crossover and expansion of some of Mary Louise O'Briens presentation. This seems like such an obvious thing to do, to use a calendar to manage your time and commitments, yet it is something that is not only not taught explicitly in schools but is a significantly useful skills in everyday life, as a student and as a working adult. It allows for accountability to others and to yourself for time-based goals like assignments (whether school or work), for appointments, birthdays and other events.
It also plays a role in the structure of student-life at MGGS, where mastery learning and trust are key to the school. Mary commented in her session that students are only timetabled to classes for 70% of their time at school and that it is up to them to self-manage and regulate the use of their time for learning. As part of this, students are empowered to move the due dates of assignments around to suit their mastery; they can bring a date forward if they feel they are going to be ready early and accordingly push another one back that they need more time for. I can see that this system has the potential to be heavily abused, and I would like to hear more about how they rolled out this structure and how they provided learning opportunities to students (and staff) about how to manage their time and track their assignments and other responsibilities.
Things are not completely out of the hands of students as staff do have visibility of where students are up to in their coursework through a mastery report which students are required to complete on their end. This allows teachers to keep an eye on how students are tracking and to address any potential issues that appear such as a lack of progress before it becomes a significant issue.
To track the well-being, MGGS utilise a program called VisualCoaching Pro to track and monitor student well-being, however, an intrinsic part of it is that students have access to their own data and are expected to self-monitor as well. I am intrigued as to how strong the uptake with this program was in the early days, as well as how honest students were then and are now. Are students taught what to look for in regards to red flags or triggers that indicate to them that something is amiss? I am also very curious as to the impact that it has had since its introduction on student wellbeing; has it generated a general trend upwards towards improved student wellbeing or has there been no significant macro-level change? I wonder if MGGS has considered introducing the wellbeing platform for their staff to allow them to self-monitor their own wellbeign and what ramifications such a move would have on stress, workload, wellbeing, and productiveness.
Changing topic, Chris spoke about the analytics behind the school's learning management system (LMS), which allowed staff to identify not only the level of mastery that students were currently at, but also how students were engaging with the learning content that had been provided, often a reasonable indicator of the academic success in a topic.
As you would expect when a school is planning on significant change, the parents were nervous. Fortunately, the school’s relationship with the community was such that the parents by and large trusted the school to do what was right by their children. This attitude may be an unusual one for many teachers who are used to parents complaining quite vociferously about anything and everything, without ever coming to the teacher in the first instance or the school in general in the second instance.
The culture of the school is vastly different to any in my personal experience, and I cannot fathom what working or learning in that sort of environment must be like. If you are a current or former student (or teacher) and happen to (rather randomly) be reading this, I would love for you to comment and share your thoughts on what it was like from your perspective.
Following Chris was Melinda Cashen whose abstract indicated she would be talking about cultural thinking required to embrace ICT across the curriculum. Melinda opened by remarking that the Digital Technologies curriculum is more than just coding. It is a breath of fresh air to hear someone say that in public, as the default setting for many schools when they say they are going to engage more with the digital technologies curriculum is either coding or robotics. This focus on coding seems to create a panic and a stress among a great many teachers who feel woefully ill-equipped to teach in these areas which has resulted in private enterprise filling the void. There are, however, many resources available out there for teachers to upskill themselves in this area, as demonstrated in the below tweet.
This session reminds me of one of the pitfalls of Storify, that it does not necessarily capture all of the tweets under a hashtag. I know that I tweeted more than what I have captured in the Storify from this session, but they did not get picked up for some reason. I may need to look at going back to handwriting my notes, whether by hand or using my wacom tablet and OneNote (more on that in a later article), I do not know.
If you missed any articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them all here.
"Having a student-centered space is not the same as having student-centered learning, nor does it equal a change in pedagogy."
-Prakash Nair (paraphrased). 22 March 2017.
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools is under a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
If you have missed any articles in this series, please click here to find the full list.
FutureSchools 2017 began, for me, with a nice walk in miserable weather from my hotel to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) for the Masterclass Day. I planned to sit in on Prakash Nair's masterclass examining "Practical Strategies to Maximize Teacher Effectiveness in New Student-Centered Learning Spaces" which, for me, was something of personal and professional interest when the arrangement for me to attend FutureSchools was initially made. As my regular readers would be aware, my school has been undergoing a capital building project, and I was intriguied as to what I would be able to take back to my school about using learning spaces and designing them for students benefit and to change pedagogical practices. However, as I sit here now, my context has changed significantly and school design is not on my radar personally or professionally. I therefore struggled, significantly, to engage with what Prakash was saying and asking us to do as I struggled to see where I could connect with it.
Prakash opened by commenting that in his experience, Australia is often one of the key innovators in learning spaces, which I found a genuine surprise. Moving forward, he indicated that his view is there are three types of learning (as seen in the above tweet) and that these take place in a range of contexts, at a variety of times and that they can occur side by side with each other in the same learning space. He then showed us some examples of what these look through a series of photographs of learning spaces around the world.
Changing tack, he then noted that they believe in sharing and that everything they do, they share, that they hold no intellectual capital. I find this an interesting stance to take from a corporation, however, some of his comments over the course of the morning indicated that the contextual approach to school planning that they take means that a design may be transferable in the physical sense to another location, but that they are highly personalised to suit each individual context and thus may not fit in the community they have been transferred to.
Prakash spoke to this for a lengthy period of time, showing some examples of school change they had worked on in poor areas of the world as well as in affluent areas. It came across quite clearly that he believes that change can occur anywhere and on any budget but the key is changing the learning space to suit what is needed pedagogically. He commented that buildings often negatively impact on what teachers want to achieve which is not how it should be, that they should facilitate the achievement of learning for students and that when a cohort of pre-service teachers were challenged to come up with what they would do if they had no resources whatsoever, they came up with a list of things that we often spruik; collaboration, creativity, critical thinking etc. When they had produced this list and went into a classroom and asked to list of what they could achieve now, he said the list actually shrunk.
The discussion then changed to talking about types of learning theory, based upon a free course that Harvard University run online (see tweet below for the link).
He posited that there are four main theories of learning that traverse a spectrum from students having no choice and teachers deciding what they will learn to completely student centered learning. He showed us a few videos from a free online course promoting an understanding of your own theories of learning that defined each of these and asked to talk in our table groups about how we felt about each type. Hierarchical Individual is effectively the completely teacher-driven model and is very common in schools in Australia now due to the pressures around NAPLAN and the final Year Twelve exams (HSC, VCE etc) that are what entry to university is based upon. IT was also noted in the discussions on my table that even when schools do move to open learning spaces, that teachers often put up their own walls, even if they are invisible ones to maintain the facade of their classroom and their students because that is what they know.
The second model that Prakash spoke about was the hierarchical collective, which someone on my observed seemed like a good compromise for schools wanting to be progressive whilst maintaining some traditional aspects. Schools using this model often have close connections with their community based upon the belief that education is not necessarily for yourself, but for the community as a whole. It is an interesting concept. It was noted that primary schools typically find this an easier model to use than secondary schools do, once again, noting the pressure around high stakes exams at the end of students' schooling.
"If a teacher teaches a lot that does not mean that students learn a lot"
The distributed individual theory of learning is underpinned by the belief that students are natural learners and want to learn with the ability to direct their learning to their interests. This can be seen in a lot of areas in students lives, but more commonly, their lives outside of school. The number of conversations I have had with students about something they went to YouTube to learn, or have seen students join a lunchtime club to learn and engage with something they are interested in is phenomenal. However, I cannot recall seeing this model in classrooms. This model, it seems, comes down to having the strong relationships with students and knowing their and understanding their interests and being able to meet them at that place with the learning task when it is appropriate to do so. However, once again, the elephant in the room called Mandated Testing raises its ugly head and trumpets loudly through parents, administrators and the media (among others) about the need to do better and improve our results because our ranking in PISA and TIMMS is declining; and other similar arguments.
The final theory of learning is identified as the distributed collective and is groups of learners coming together around a common interest with varying levels of expertise for varying lengths of time and in different self-organised contexts to learn from and guide each other. There are lots of examples of this in the lunchtime and after school programs, however, this is limited in the classroom and comes back to a question that I have seen popping up time and time again in various contexts over the last eighteen months; which is what is the purpose of schooling and education?
The first two theories of learning were based around the way the teacher teaches while the second two models are about how the student learns. There seems to be a common view, Prakash noted, that students are lazy. You only have to see a student devouring player guides for games, or manuals for a model, or coaching sessions for sport or musical instruments to know that students are not lazy when they can see that the hard work will lead them towards the thing they want to learn. Intrinsic motivation is key and we need to stop motivating students to do things they do not want to do. This raises further questions.
Prakash said that as someone who hires employees that he is more interested in what prospects can do than in what a piece of paper says and that he often finds that those without a formal architecture degree are better at designing than those who are formally qualified. The key to the distributed collective is that any one student can be simultaneously involved in multiple collectives, at different expertise levels for different lengths of time.
The above image from Prakash's slide deck shows the spectrum of learning opportunities and that the black vertical line shows the point where students are typically limited to due to the design of buildings and the educational paradigms used where the left hand side is completely isolated content and the right hand side is where students are learning things by doing those things that interest them. Prakash said that if you walk into a learning space and there are twenty-five students facing one teacher than the paradigm chosen is pretty clear. I am not entirely sure that I agree with this as there are going to be times when it is authentic and necessary to address everyone at once, however, I can see his point.
It was at this point that we were given a series of school buildings that Prakash's company had worked on and redesigned, and asked to select one and have our turn at redesigning it, keeping in mind everything that we had heard about thus far. I made the decision, that mentally I was struggling to engage and that in my new context this conversation was not one that was particularly relevant to me and so I made the decision to step out, which was effectively the end of my involvement in this masterclass. I did come back in for a short period after lunch to hear how people had gone about their design changes, and there were some interesting concepts, with some tables here in school groups and choosing to work with an existing school building. I have some photos below of those designs, and some of them were fairly close to what was actually achieved in reality.
I personally found Prakash to be an engaging speaker, and I apologised to him for popping in and out and then effectively leaving the session. I think that if I was still in my previous school that it would have been a session I would have engaged with wholeheartedly. As I am in that awkward phase of having just started a new role, I was mentally distracted and struggled to to focus and engage properly. If you were in the room, please comment and share your thoughts and reflections on the session. There were also other masterclasses running parallel to Prakash's, tweets from which can be seen in the Storify here (which I need to redo as it is missing a significant number of tweets).
As always, thank you for reading. I hope to get the first article from Day One of the FutureSchools later on today. Keep your eyes peeled for it.
Day one of FlipCon Adelaide was fantastic and you can find the articles for day one by clicking here. You can also find the Storify of the tweets from day one here. Additionally, Peter Whiting (@Mr_van_w) and his colleague Bill Tink (@BillTink) recorded their own reflections as a podcast which is available here and is a great reflection on the day overall from some different perspectives.
Day two promised to be a great day. Part of FlipCon Adelaide was a school tour. Delegates were offered a choice, a few weeks out, of touring the host school, Brighton Secondary School (BSS) or of touring Glenunga International High School (GIHS). Having heard Jeremy LeCornu (@MrLeCornu) speak on multiple occasions (for example, here and here) as well as Olivia O’Neill speak (here) I felt that I would be better served by and would learn more from touring a school of which I knew nothing and therefore had no preconceptions about what I would see or hear.
The initial statistics we were provided were impressive in my mind. Years Eight to Twelve and just fewer than two thousand students representing seventy-four nationalities on the one campus blew my mind, in addition to running the International Baccalaureate Diploma program as well as the South Australian Certificate of Education as parallel courses. Upon arrival at GIHS, we were greeted by the incoming Prefects as well as some of the school Executive staff. In their Performing Arts Centre, we heard a welcome address from Harry Postema, who also introduced the other speakers who would be following him, including Principal Wendy Johnson, Deputy Principal Jeremy Cogan, Innovative Pedagogies Leader Cindy Bunder and incoming Prefects Indigo and Layla.
Part of the tour would be about viewing flipped classes in action, both a technical or academic class, and a hands-on or practical class. We were advised that delegates were arbitrarily divided up into the four groups for the school tours, with each group viewing different classes. There was no consideration of our own teaching contexts or faculty background as it was about seeing the flipped pedagogy in action rather than the content.
Wendy Johnson, GIHS Principal and Flipped Learning International Ambassador, was introduced next, and she spoke about the importance of pedagogy for flipped learning. The role of Innovative Pedagogies Leader at GIHS was focused on helping teachers change their pedagogy to make the best use of the reclaimed class time as a result of flipping their classes. This was facilitated by making a decision to start classes later on Wednesday mornings and make the morning a time for staff professional development and collaboration on developing pedagogies that would assist in taking the school from good to great.
As a primary teacher, we are continually reminded that the first two hours of our school day are the critical learning times when students are at their freshest cognitively and therefore this is where literacy and numeracy teaching is to take place (which makes me question the value assigned to the other key learning areas by policy makers). It is for this same reason that the decision was made to move staff professional development to the morning. Teachers typically feel the same as students in the afternoon; tired and worn out and so the retention of learning and the cognitive engagement is lowered and therefore the value of that time is reduced.
I was curious about the late start and what impact it had on the students and the opportunity to ask came during the morning tea break. The Prefects remained with us and quite confidently and willingly engaged the delegates in conversation and so I asked them about what they used that time for and whether those two hours were added back into the timetable somewhere else with late classes. We were told that they were not added back in and that what they were used for varied, as would be expected student to student. The two Prefects we were speaking with said that typically they would use it to either catch up on sleep or would get up at their normal time and use it to complete individual space tasks or study for exams.
Returning to Wendy’s address, she advised that they made a conscious decision to invest time and money in professional development on technology use and on pedagogical practice. The then-current model of professional development and learning was not working as teachers would draw on their own experience to form their pedagogical framework or paradigm and then listen to what was being said and take they already know or what they wanted to know. Changing that mentality was a significant challenge.
As you would perhaps expect there was some strong resistance to this change in focus on professional development but that traction won over the period of a few years and that they now have a pedagogical framework that all staff members are committed to. They utilised the mandated Teaching for Effective Learning framework as a starting point and the final GIHS Pedagogical Framework evolved from there. The clear focus from each speaker was on pedagogical improvement for students’ benefit and it was coming through not just in the words that were being said, but in how they were being said and the way that the Prefects held themselves and spoke.
We were told that the capture of learning cycle documentation (lesson plans, programs, assessment schedules etc.) was revamped to make it more a more valuable process rather than merely the satisfying of policy. I do not have notes on what that revamp looked like which leads me to believe we were not told the specifics of that. Given my current career status as an early career teacher, any guidance on making the development of learning cycle documentation more beneficial and useful is welcome.
The above statement is an interesting one and requires some unpacking. The first inference is that if you only have pockets of excellence than by deductive reasoning you must have large amounts of stagnant and / or stale teachers and pedagogies; a sad indictment on a beleaguered teaching profession. It would seem intuitive that teaching, as with any other profession or sector contains a continuum of practitioners of varying qualities and abilities. I do not know if I agree with the surface implications of the statement, however, I can understand the position that the statement is made from.
We also heard about how it was critical for the success of the change in focus that parents understood the goals and to that end, the school hosted an information night showing a unit taught using traditional pedagogies and then using contemporary pedagogies, including flipped learning. They were expecting around fifty parents, however, ended up with two hundred and fifty. Part of the education process for the parents and the students alike was that the change to flipped learning, improved pedagogies, and improved learning outcomes would not be instantaneous.
For a change of pace, we heard from two of the incoming school Prefects, Indigo and Layla. One of the key messages that came through in their address was that the change to contemporary pedagogies was not about teachers providing all of the answers to students, but that it was about the teachers guiding students to understand what questions to ask.
The message in here is one of trust and strong relationships. Students are used to playing the game of school and of being given the answers when they are unable to work it out themselves. This focus on relationships between teachers and peers is also building trust that the teachers want to work with the students for the students’ benefit.
The vision for the pedagogical framework moving forward into 2017 is that any teacher can walk into any lesson and see the required characteristics and that if that is not the case, then a conversation about why not needs to occur. It is a tough stance; however, given the process that the school has gone through to reach this point, it seems fair. The impact of this framework is especially critical given that teachers need to plan for effective use of the group space with flipped learning to ensure that students are engaging more deeply and using higher level cognitive skills and processes than in traditional classrooms.
We next heard about the flipped content or learning objects (LOs) and the delegates heard, once again, that getting hung up on the quality of the LO is not useful. The LO prepared by the students’ own teacher is the best option, and having high-level production values does not make or break the quality of the instruction imparted in the video. This assertion, which I have heard from numerous flipped educators as do you want it perfect or on Tuesday? is supported by research, such as that conducted by Peter Whiting which I wrote about here.
A key factor in this is knowing the content and the learning goal for the LO that is being developed to enable it to be created quickly, with minimum fuss and with no post-production, a practice that Joel Speranza (@JoelBSperanza) promotes and which can be seen in the below video.
Flipping does not happen every lesson, however, deep thinking and deep learning can [happen every lesson] was the message we heard next, as Cindy Bunder took the podium. Flipped classes should be more active, both mentally and physically with a focus on the Four Cs. She posited that the individual learning space should take no longer than ten minutes maximum, and should not be meaningless homework.
I asked two prefects during the morning tea break about this and was told that on average they were both completing roughly three hours of homework most nights. This was across all of their courses and they included their general revision and studying load in this time. On further probing, they both indicated that they felt that the actual homework component of their nightly workload was less than prior to flipped learning, however, that the time spent on a specific course varied depending on the context of what was being covered and how much time was spent engaging by pausing, re-watching, and taking notes from the LO.
It was interesting to hear that with flipped learning in place teachers now feel that they have time to teach key skills that are not part of the explicit curriculum such as note taking, time management, critical thinking and how to use individual time and group time to gain the maximum benefit for their learning. Direct instruction is still important within flipped learning; however, it needs to be appropriate and minimal.
At that, the opening addresses concluded and it was time for morning tea, pockets of delegates peppering GIHS Prefects with questions formed. I will leave off here and discuss the conversations I had with the Prefects and some other students as we completed the tour and our lesson observations. Thank you for reading, as always, and I would appreciate any feedback on this article. The clear message that came through from all of the speakers was that flipped learning is about and has resulted in improved pedagogies and relationships.
“Minecraft is not a game, it’s a toy.”
– Bron Stuckey
My alarm went off at 5.30am Tuesday morning, and I rolled out of bed, ready for the ninety minute train ride back down to the Australian Technology Park in Sydney. The structure of day two was slightly different. Session one was the same, with two presentations followed by a morning tea break. The session between morning tea and lunch, however, would consist of all the conference streams coming out from their conferences and taking part in a series of roundtables. Delegates had seventeen different roundtables to choose from, across three different thirty minutes slots. The round tables were followed by the lunch break, which led into session three consisting of two more presentations, the afternoon tea break, and then the final presentation of the conference.
After a welcome back for day from chairperson Sue Waters, the day began with the keynote presentation by Bron Stuckey titled Game Inspired Learning – how it offers us a chance to change the paradigm. Game inspired learning is a concept that I have heard discussed, under the banner of ‘gamification’ and I was curious to hear what it was all about, in more depth and from someone who has put the concept into practice.
Bron was very quick to break Game Infusions Learning down into three areas; game design, game-based and game inspired learning and to discuss the subtle difference between the three areas. Bron listed two distinct points for each of the types of game infusion learning.
Game design is about engagement through design, wherein students are involved in designing games as part of the curriculum. Game based learning is about engagement through game play, where games are brought into the curriculum. Game inspired learning, often termed gamification is about engagement that is guided by elements of, or as Bron termed them, ‘atoms’ of gaming being brought into the learning structures, where a gameful approach to the curriculum is mapped out.
Bron provided some examples of applying ‘game atoms’ (game-inspired learning) to non-game situations, which you can see below.
Bron also provided some examples of Game based learning, where game attributes are brought into the curriculum. Two of the examples Bron mentioned were Murder Under the Microscope and Atlantis Remixed, both of which feature a variety of game attributes (including narratives, avatars, levelling, economy, cascading information, feedback, prizes/badges/points, virtual goods, friending) and are game inspired ways of learning curriculum concepts and skills.
There were a number of other game inspired platforms mentioned, including Duolingo, Race to the White House, Undergrad Life run by the Rochester Institute of Technology, and a degree that has been structured using game-inspired principles run by Concordia university, as well as a game-inspired professional development platform and 3D GameLab. Bron also stressed that being game-inspired is not necessarily synonymous with being digital. If game attributes are applied to a learning context, then it does not matter whether it is being done in the digital environment, or in the real environment.
Bron then moved onto the question that I suspect most people were wanting the answer, or at least some insight, to; how to get started. Bron listed four signals types that may indicate a benefit from utilising a game infusion approach, which you can see below.
If any of those four signals are present, then utilising game-design, game-inspired or game-based learning may be a viable and productive option. There are, of course, some potential pitfalls to be aware of. At the end of the day, you arenot building an actual game, you are creating a learning environment with some atoms or attributes of gaming, so it does not need to look and feel like a game necessarily. A few strategies that Bron has noticed increase the chances of successfully implementing game-inspired learning being a gamer yourself (I have that box ticked), leveraging your students current knowledge as to what they like in a game, and utilising platforms such as 3D GameLab to help build the learning structure.
My key learning from hearing Bron speak was that game inspired learning as not as daunting is it sounded or felt, and that in many ways, many of us are likely already utilising some elements of gaming in much of our pedagogical techniques.
“You don’t start the creation of a new amazing building with a tool. You start with a design. So why on earth would you start the creation of an amazing learning experience with an app?”
Following on from Bron, was Paul Hamilton, with a presentation titled Augmented Reality in Education. I had had no experience at all with AR prior to hearing Paul talk, but what he showed me left me somewhat curious. I think that AR holds some potential, but that you would need a significant amount of professional development to effectively implement it.
Paul was quick to differentiate AR and VR from each other. Where VR is immersion in a different, a virtual world, AR is augmenting what we see, by adding an additional layer over the top. Paul showed us an example of what this can look like, via a video, which I have found on youtube and you can see below.
Afterwards, Paul discussed his first efforts to utilise AR, and that it was a complete flop. It had no impact because the lesson had been designed around the tool – the iPad and AR, rather than around the learning goal, and that Paul indicated that was something of a Eureka moment for him. Paul believes that we, as teachers, are creators and designers of learning and that when we design a learning experience around an app, that we negate all of our training.
Paul indicated that he also utilises QR codes as part of the AR process as these are easier for students to utilise than hyperlinks written on a board, but that anecdotal evidence indicates greater learning retention and application from utilising the AR as opposed to the QR codes. Paul also listed some of the apps that he recommends using for AR planning and programming, including Aurasma, Daqri, Layar and Blippar, as well as plugged his book, Augmented Reality in Education, which is available, free, in the iBookstore.
The biggest key to success, according to Paul, was having a strong and genuine connection between the object of learning and the trigger. Paul believes that this is critical to a successful implementation of AR in education, and it does make sense. We say that learning must be genuine and authentic and significant to learners, and it is logical to apply this same thinking to the utilisation of any technologies in an educational setting.
The next article will cover the Breakout and Round table sessions, which went until lunch, and maybe some observations from the expo itself. Thank you for reading, and as always, please leave a comment. I’d particularly love to hear if anyone has any experience with AR and/or Minecraft in the classroom.
See here for the list of articles in this series.
“The smart phones and tablets that our students have now are the most primitive technology they will ever use.”
– Ian Jukes
The fourth and final session of the day began after the mid-afternoon break and saw Ian Jukes speaking under the title Strategies for teaching digital learners in today’s classrooms. I was looking forward to this, as based on the title, I was expecting strategies for engaging students who were otherwise disengaged. I found Ian’s talk to be like a whirlwind; fast and furious with lots to be aware of and take in.
Ian started off by commenting that student expectations about learning are fundamentally changing the way in which we teach. There was little elucidation as to what, exactly, he meant by this, but it seems, intuitively, to be reasonably accurate when you take a cursory look at the way in which teachers are adopting, piecemeal, various technologies and new pedagogical techniques. Ian went on to comment that children are currently maturing, physically, at an earlier age, but that neurologically, they are maturing differently to how we, or any previous generation matured due to the constant digital bombardment to which children are now subjected, and that occurs mainly outside the school context.
My generation (according to the image above which is from this article, as a 1983 baby, I’m the tail end of Generation X, or The Baby Bust generation) and those that came before me, were textual learners, wherein we learnt from the text,whether it be on the blackboard, the textbook or our own writing. Any images used in the text, were used to compliment and provide some additional information or context to the information in the text.
Those born since 2000 have grown up in an age where they are constantly bombarded by digital and visual stimuli, whether it be advertisements on TV, the internet, electronic signboards at sporting events or in the cities. These advertisements, being designed by marketers to capture attention and deliver a short and sharp message, are highly visual, with limited text. Ian posits, and I’ve read articles elsewhere to support the claim, that this has resulted in the brains of today’s students being wired differently; where they seek the bulk of the information or learning from the visual communication, and only then look to the text to get some complementary information.
This has an impact on teaching practices, wherein teachers now need to ‘rewire’ their pedagogical techniques to account for this. A Google search using the terms Literacy crisis yields over sixty-nine million hits, with some of the excerpts seeming to echo the shift from textual to visual, but without the realisation of what has occurred. Some of these excerpts include:
What the search results tell us is that as a society, we are yet to recognise the shift in our children’s communication preference, or understand why it has occurred. Ian talked about how the digital generation find it natural to communicate visually through images, as seen with the explosion of image-driven social media such as Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, and Snapchat, amongst others, and that this change is what is driving the shift to visual expression, away from textual expression. From this, and I must point out that this is my inference, not what Ian said, the shift to preferencing visual communication over textual may be a partial explanation for the apparent ‘literacy crisis.’
This shift is also seen in the way in which the generations read. Mine, and those before me, traditionally read, and learned to read, in what is termed a z-pattern whilst the digital generation it seems are reading in what is termed an f-pattern. This has significant connotations for teachers when they are creating lesson plans and setting texts for reading etc, as the f-pattern appears to be more conducive to skimming, which Ian commented is fast “…becoming the new normal.”
Ian provided us with some strategies for leveraging this knowledge. To get students to read the full text, he said, get a real image (a real photo, not a clip art or a stock photo) and put it in the bottom right-hand corner, and rotate it so that it ‘slingshots’ the reader back to the top of the information. This is a strategy commonly utilised in advertisements, particularly for tobacco or alcohol, where they are required to put disclaimers in the advertising. These disclaimers often appear in the bottom left or right-hand corner, above or next to which is an image that ‘slingshots’ you back to the top of the ad, wherein you’ll again be exposed to the brand name, brand logo, or brand slogan.
This can be seen in the advertisement below, where the brand name is in the middle of the image with the disclaimer, consisting of two words (live responsibly) is in small font in the bottom left-hand corner. A much larger block of text, in a large-size font sits in the right hand corner, to which the western-eye, (being that we read left to right) eye is naturally drawn, above which the rippling water catches and draws the eye in, taking you back to the image in the centre. I suspect that in those countries where reading is done right to left, that the contents of the bottom corners would be switched.
was a bit surprised by his casual dismissal of this, however, when he explained what he meant, it made perfect sense, as I have felt the same way when playing computer games.
Ian stated that gamers’ are required to make a decision every half to one second and are punished or rewarded for those choices every seven to ten seconds. Anecdotally, as a gamer on various platforms and of a range of different genres, this sounds about right. This is the immediacy of reward and punishment – the instant gratification/punishment system. But note that there is also a significant amount of choice involved.The drop in gaming platform prices has resulted in many children owning their own gaming platform, whether it be console, PC, or mobile device. Many of these games offer instant gratification or rewards for doing certain things, and you gain trophies/points/upgrades and feedback about the achievement along the way. Gaming is certainly a vehicle for instant gratification. I currently own an Xbox 360 and love seeing the little icon pop up when I hit an ‘achievement’ in a game. Additionally, as someone who plays Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic, I love the instant nature of, again, seeing the icon pop up that I’ve hit an achievement, or leveled up – instant gratification.
Gaming also encourages delayed gratification and effort. One of the games I engage with is EA Sports' FIFA, a football/soccer game. To win the various trophies and competitions within a football/soccer season takes a significant investment of time and effort, to not only play the individual matches, but to make choices about manage the team. It also requires constant decisions-making, for which I am instantly punished or rewarded (do I pass the ball this way or that, shoot or not shoot at goal, passes intercepted, or completed, shots made or saved etc). Playing Star Wars: The Old Republic also requires a massive investment in time and effort to work my way around the various worlds, complete individual missions, solve puzzles, find objects, and collaborate with other players to take on large-scale missions and high-level enemies.
All of this results in, over time, me gaining access to the highest level abilities, armour, weapons and missions. It provides delayed gratification, and finally getting to the highest level, or defeating a certain enemy that you’ve been struggling against over a period of time, and have attempted to defeat multiple times as you increase your abilities provides a huge sense of satisfaction, at finally after all this time and the choices made around tactics/weapons/abilities etc finally pay off.
So whilst yes, gaming does provide instant gratification, it also encourages effort and delayed gratification (amongst a range of other benefits, a topic which itself has been the source of much discussion. You can read one paper for gaming here) and as such digital learners are capable of, and display, delayed reward acceptance. The other aspect of gaming that is vastly different to current education systems is the feedback. Feedback in gaming is an ongoing affair, with continual feedback coming from the game as a result of choices that you make as a player. Currently, in education systems, feedback might consist of a tick, a stamp and/or a sticker in the student’s workbook, maybe a comment, maybe even a few sentences, and then the half-yearly and end of year school reports. It has been my experience, both as a student, and yes, I’ll own up to being guilty of this, as a teacher, that feedback is not often ongoing in a genuine and constructive manner, unless it is negative. A two-way dialogue is rarely engaged in, it seems.
Ian closed his presentation with a few final thoughts that tied everything together. He pointed out that students, outside of the school environment, are largely engaged and in charge of their own learning. Students then have to come to school where they have no control of influence over their learning, and that often when they ask, quite genuinely, “why do I need to know this?” and when the answer is “because it’s on the test” it only serves to further disengage them. Ian pointed out that “…digital learners are highly developed critical thinking, social people and are driven learners, it is just that they are these things in ways different to that which is currently recognised and accepted,” which alludes back to his point about the need to ‘rewire’ our pedagogical techniques and teaching practices..
Ian’s final thought was a question, which struck me as being quite a meaningful, insightful challenge to the conference delegates: “If we keep trying to force students to do what we want them to do do, when it does not work, who has the learning problem?”
I’ll stop here, as this has been a much longer article than I anticipated. My next article will be around the first session of Day Two of the FutureSchools ClassTech conference.
As always, thank you for reading, and please, leave a comment with your thoughts on the article.
See here for the list of articles in this series.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
– George Bernard Shaw
My key takeaway from Richard Byrne’s talk was that EduTech is not as scary as it seems, but that you need to dive in and test it out for yourself, and this sentiment flowed nicely into the next speakers presentation. Michael Beilharz, of Knox Grammar School, spoke under the presentation title Games for a creative curriculum, which was a presentation about how he has utilised Minecraft effectively in classrooms and the outcomes from this in regards to learning and engagement as well as the change in the organisation structures of group assignment tasks. This was a talk that I was excited about, having utilised Minecraft whilst on my internship, admittedly in a rather superficial way, to test out the impacts it would have on student engagement.
Michael related how he utilised Minecraft to teach his students about the Australian gold rush as part of a history course. Through the creation of an epoch-accurate replica of Bendigo within the Minecraft world, students were challenged to explore the world and build a goldmine. This required research about the tools available, and incorporated mathematics, geography, science and literacy skills.
Michael showed us two videos. The first video (above) as the teaser video that was shown to the students prior to the learning to whet their appetite and generate some interest, and is available on Michael’s YouTube channel here. The second video that we were shown was a video of some of the student’s products, also available on Michael’s YouTube channel, Whilst showing us a video of what the Minecraft goldrush world looked like, Michael pointed out that we need to be willing to take risks, as teachers. We need to be able to ground our risks in pedagogical value, to justify their value to the learning process, and to the supervisory personnel that invariably want to know why we are trying that crazy new tech stuff.
Michael made reference to the above quote, as noted that it is a sentiment which often seems to be forgotten when teachers lay down methods of completing presentations – speeches, written compositions, posters etc. We need to encourage our students to be creative and take risks when they present the evidence of their learning; just because speeches, written compositions etc. work as methods of evidence of learning, does not mean that they are the best options, or are providing students with a skill that they will need. Encourage them to make a video as part of their evidence of learning, it could be a news report, a documentary-style video, or a skit, but it utilises other skill sets and will challenge them to create something that puts their understanding of the concept into a new application, which will help deepen their understanding and apply it to other disciplines.
Michael went on to talk about a range of functions available to create a safe environment within Minecraft, including the use of Bucket Servers which allow you to set up white lists of approved users within a server to monitor conversations and deal with griefing more effectively, and how to set up zones within a world that allow students to view other and interact with other group’s zones, but not to be destructive. This allows groups to collaborate and share ideas, but forces groups to do their own work to put ideas into action, and prevents sabotaging of other groups efforts.
It is highly important, when looking to implement Minecraft as a teaching tool, to provide professional development opportunities to staff members, to allow them to explore the Minecraft world for themselves so that they are able to help their students, and this can be rather amusing to watch and listen to, as is demonstrated in the below video where a group of teachers are let loose inside the goldrush Minecraft world for the first time, with many of them never having used the software at all. If we were not told that it was a group of teachers, I would have assumed it was some students sharing the world with some friends.
Minecraft as a learning tool also provides opportunities for interscholastic collaboration. A group of students within Michael’s class were actually completing a learning task within Minecraft, collaborating with students based in the US, which then brought about a different learning curve, including dealing with time differences, cultural differences such as language (e.g. Year Five as opposed to Fifth Grade), and units of measurement. As a learning tool, Michael found that Minecraft promoted a lot of core life skills, including communication, conflict resolution, critical thinking, problem solving processes and collaborative skills. All of these are skill sets that will assist students across a multitude of disciplines as they grow.
Returning to professional development for a moment, Michael snuck in a Star Trek reference (whether it was deliberate or not, I don’t know), when he said that designing learning experiences through Minecraft should based on the PRIME Directive: Problem, Research, Investigate, Make, Evaluate. The problem that students are to approach needs to be genuine and real, it should encourage research skills to determine what is known, what isn’t known etc, encourage investigation of the phenomenon to fill in knowledge and skill set gaps, provide an opportunity to make something that provides an authentic opportunity to demonstrate their new knowledge and understanding in a creative way, and then an opportunity to evaluate their production.
Minecraft as a learning tool is not just about building or making objects. Students should be required to justify decisions and this can be done through a portfolio approach instead of the traditional written report. There is nothing stopping students from screen-casting a tour of their production, as the students in the below video have done, affording them the opportunity to explain the thinking and reasoning behind their design decisions.
As I mentioned earlier, I have attempted to use Minecraft as a learning tool in the past, once. It was excellent as far as the engagement side of things went, but it was done rather superficially, as a homework task, where students had to build a rocket ship. I feel much more confident, from a pedagogical perspective, in being able to utilise Minecraft in a learning situation after having heard from Michael. My own ability to actually build the environment in which my students would be learning, however, would require a lot of practice to improve.
That is all for session one, on day one of the ClassTech stream of the FutureSchools expo. Session two will be covered in the next post, and I will be endeavouring to make it a little shorter.
See here for the list of articles in this series.
I was fortunate to be able to attend the Future Schools Expo at the Australian Technology Park, Sydney, this week, on Wednesday 11th and Thursday 12th March with five different two-day conference streams on offer. Additionally, there was a pre-conference master class on offer, which ran on Tuesday 10th, and then six different masterclass options which ran on Friday 13th.
The conference streams were targeted to different areas of education: Leadership (FutureSchools stream), ‘coalface educators’ (ClassTech stream), educators who are interested in coding for their students (Teaching Kids to Code stream), educators wanting more information on how to utilise inclusive and assistive technologies in their classrooms ( S.E.T.N (Special Education Technology Needs) stream), and those involved in early childhood and infants education (Young Learners stream). As a classroom teacher in my first year out, I felt I would get the most value out of the ClassTech conference, and nominated to attend that.
In regard to the masterclass options, there were five. The pre-conference masterclass was Agile Leadership and was run with Simon Breakspear on the Tuesday. The remaining four masterclasses were run on the Friday. Charles Leadbeater ran Innovation in Education, Ian Jukes headed up the Aligning technology initiatives for measurable student results, Gary Stager ran a masterclass titled after his newly released book (written with Sylvia Libow Martinez), namely Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. Richard Byrne led the Making Media with Mobile Apps masterclass, whilst I attended Jon Bergmann’s masterclass, The Flipped Classroom: What’s Next?
My blog articles over the next week or so will be a wrap up of my thoughts and my learning from the various sessions of the ClassTech conference Stream, the Masterclass with Jon Bergmann and also the expo itself.
I’m aiming to get a blog post up, each day over the next week to get my thoughts out as quickly as I am able to. In the meantime, I would like to point you towards Matt Scadding’s blog posts from his time at FutureSchools this year. Matt attended the Teaching Kids to Codeconference stream, and so his reflection will come from a different place to mine.
Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out over the next few days.
See here for the list of articles in this series.
When planning for a year, plant corn. When planning for a decade, plant trees. When planning for life, train and educate people.
– Chinese proverb.
This was supposed to be (and I suppose it technically still will be) the final post in this series on Planning for Learning, examining the make-up of the Teacher’s Program, that elusive document that I did not see or hear any hint of during my four year degree, up until my internship, when I asked my cooperating teacher about his, which launched a series of conversations that I felt were quite fruitful, challenging and educational.
Part one of this series was about the first component of the Teacher’s Program, namely, the Vision, and examined the Teaching Philosophy, Class Analysis and the Explanation of Special Programs therein. Part two examined the Planning component, and different methods of curriculum planning, particularly thematic planning. This final part was supposed to examine the Monitoring component, including Tracking across the Literacy and Numeracy Continua, keeping assessment records, creating learning plans and class groupings.
In sitting down to write this post, I have realised that I do not know enough to expound upon what is or is not good or even best practice when it comes to the Monitoring portion of the Teacher’s Program. So this post will instead simply identify some of those methods that I have come across, and I will ask you, my readers, to provide feedback on the tools and methods that you utilise to complete this section
From what little I have seen in practice in regards to tracking on the Literacy and Numeracy Continua, one effective method appears to the use of sticky notes, or post-it notes. For example, when designing a rubric for, let’s say, an English assignment, you may assign a particular cluster for different components for the ‘pass grade’ (whether you use A-E, or another variation of grading) of that assignment. This then allows you to scale up or down for the actual output of each student, making note of where that student is on a particular stream through use of a sticky-note, which simply has the students name, and which is then placed in the relevant cluster on the Continuum chart. If you decide, for example, that Cluster 9 is the ‘pass’ mark for Aspects of Writing for a particular assignment, you can then adjust a student’s placement on the continuum for that skill set based on their output in that assignment and in consideration of previous demonstrations of ability. You can also make a note elsewhere, whether it’s in a spreadsheet or on a tracking class role in order to keep a consolidated record of ‘marked’ clusters across the school year. I’ve seen that done quite effectively as it allows you to move students around at any point, for each of the skill sets, and is quick and easy to do so.
That leads, then, into keeping Assessment Records. The vast majority of teachers with whom I’ve had discussions about this keep a class role with students’ names down the left, the name of the assignment/learning output/test across the top and the mark, of whatever variety in the appropriate matrix square. This can be particularly effective when done such that it allows the side-by-side placement and therefore comparison of marks for similar tasks (whether by KLA, skill or concept) across the year. I would love to hear from anyone who is doing things differently in this regard, as to how you do it.
Learning Plans, from my limited experience, appear to be done via a pro-forma which seems to vary from school to school, though, again, I would love to hear from anyone who is creating custom Learning Plans for their students. Class Groupings is something that very much differs from school to school, and even teacher to teacher. There are a number of teachers that I’ve seen who still utilise rows of desks, those who use table-groups of four or six students, those who allow students to sit wherever they wish to, set groups for reading/mathematics/spelling (whether leveled or mixed ability) in their day to day teaching. I’ve seen a lot of teachers who utilise a variety of grouping strategies without realising they are using a particular strategy, such as DeBono’s Hats, think-pair-share etc., and with varied levels of success. My understanding, from conversations with my cooperating teacher about this component of the Teacher’s Program is that it should contain a list of those strategies you envision using, when (as a general indicator), and why it is an appropriate strategy. But again, I’m open to hearing other thoughts on this structure.
The Teacher’s Program can be a huge working folder containing the complete set of resources a teacher possesses. However this seems unwieldy, unlikely to be reflected upon with any sort of regularity, and unlikely to be usable as a true program, wherein a casual teacher can open it up and get a general idea of the content that is being covered in the classroom at that point. These last three posts have been my attempt to solidify my own understanding of what the Teacher’s Program can be based upon a series of conversations with my internship cooperating teacher, and my observations of a few examples since then.
It will most likely be 2015 before my next post, so have a safe and happy Christmas break, and as always, thank you for reading.
See here for the list of articles in this series.
de Bono Thinking Systems. (n.d.). Six Thinking Hats. Retrieved April 8, 2014, fromhttp://www.debonothinkingsystems.com/tools/6hats.htm
Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.
-Attributed to Alan Lakein
One of the core tasks of a teacher, one that must be completed before any teaching can happen is the completion of the Teaching Program. The contents of the program often varies from school to school, and even from stage to stage and year to year in its requirements, but in its simplest form, and the form I have come to prefer, it should simply be a plan for learning for that year or term. Whatever your school’s requirements for the program, it should contain some basic elements and ideally have a simple structure, such as below, which is how mine is laid out (taken from my internship supervising teacher):
Within most schools, some variation of the above, with more or less information/detail will be required, but this, I think is a fairly sensible and succinct program format and will be the basis for the next few posts, forming a mini-series on Planning for Learning.
The first thing to consider when setting out to create your program is what is its purpose? What are you trying to achieve, other than to conform to any required policies? It should of course be noted that a teacher’s program is a legal document, and can be (and I have been told, at various times has been) entered into court as evidence in legal cases but it is not, nor should it be, why you write your Program.
There are a number of reasons for writing a program.
Programs can be daunting. I have seen programs that are lever-arch folders, full to the brim, with every lesson, every resource or idea seen, permission slips, multiple scope and sequences; out of date, useless and irrelevant information, and have been told that it is a “working folder.” My view at the moment is that if it is a working folder, it should be up to date, and concise, and should reflect why you are writing it.
My view of a program is a single folder for a year, broken into four terms with dividers. Each of the three sections (Vision, Planning, and Monitoring) should be present within each divider, reflective of that term. If you want to keep a resource folder, by all means do so (and I do), but do not keep it in your program folder, or your program becomes a massive paperweight that is difficult to navigate and use. Your program folder should contain your program, and your resource folder should contain your resources.
Of course, once you know why you are writing your teaching program, it can be rather daunting to sit down to a blank screen for the first time as the cursor winks mockingly at you on an empty page. I personally keep each specific document within my program as a separate word document to make editing and updating quicker and easier. The first, and arguably the most important section, particularly for a beginning teacher, is the Vision segment.
The first component within your vision is the most important aspect of the entire Program: your Teaching Philosophy. This is a very personal document, as it should be an explicit accounting of why you are a teacher. It does no’t matter necessarily what the reason is, as I said, it is a personal document in as far as why you teach is a personal reason, but you need to be honest with yourself about why you turn up every day. I’ve written previously about why I teach, and when I first wrote it out, I took it to my Supervisor and said to him, this is why I teach, but it doesn’t sound ‘right.’
I was used, at that point, to thinking in an academic, or more specifically, a university assignment frame of mind, which tends to frown upon personal opinion and ideas. It does need to be edited to sound professional after you have made your first draft, but it is not about having the right reason for teaching, it is about having your reason for teaching. That said, you can certainly make a personal vision of why you teach sound academic, and being able to speak and write in fluent Academic-ese is a great skill to have, particularly if you are of the progressive research-based and practice-driven frame of mind.
You will likely take more than one attempt to distill why you teach down to an honest reason. My first draft Teaching Philosophy contained clichés and platitudes such as wanting to make a difference for the future, wanting to give back to society, loving working with children, and enjoying teaching children. These are all reasons why I have chosen to pursue a career of pedagogical practice, however, in and of themselves, they are not the reason why I turn up every day with a smile on my face. Accordingly, they don’t appear in my Teaching Philosophy.
You may be stuck wondering now how to write your Philosophy. You may very well never have seen one (as a fun and interesting exercise, ask your colleagues when the last time they updated their Teaching Philosophy was, or, do they have a formalised Teaching Philosophy). There are many different formats that can be used, but none of those that I have seen are conducive to honest articulations of why you teach.
My Philosophy is structured around three simple premises, and indeed, these are the specific headings that I use to organise my Philosophy:
This format, if done honestly and rigorously, will naturally cover the majority of the AITSL standards that we are now required to conform to, and will do so in an authentic and easy to read manner.
Once you have articulated your Teaching Philosophy, it is important that it remains a living document, and changes as you and your circumstances change. Why I teach at the moment, married with no children, is different to some of my colleagues who may be single with or without children, married with multiple kids, on the verge of retirement, or in the prime of their practice, and how I teach and how they teach will therefore be different. When it comes time for my wife and I to start a family, the why I teach, I would expect, will change, and how I teach may change accordingly. Your Teaching Philosophy should therefore not be written and filed, never to be looked at again. It should be the subject of reflection on a yearly basis or as circumstances make appropriate. It may not change each year, but it forces you to re-examine and stay engaged with your personal vision for the role and purpose of education and how and why you engage with it.
The class analysis is the second component to the Vision segment of the Program, and is one that does need to be completed yearly, and also needs to be updated on a term by term basis. The class analysis should contain a basic overview of the class; the gender split, the year split, the gender per year split (if a composite class), any general diagnoses and any other general information relevant to your class as a whole, and then delve into more specific information about your individual students.
This section should reflect your understanding of your students and how they learn and may contain information such as their preference for learning styles (Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences), ESL information, specific topics or areas of interest that can be leveraged to increase engagement, or areas of particular disinterest. It should be an analysis of your students and thus will change from term to term, as your knowledge of them grows. At the beginning of term one, you may be working from what you know of them from conversations with their previous teachers, but your knowledge will rapidly grow, and I this should be updated fairly early within the year, and then each term.
The Explanation of Special Programs is an area that you write nothing, little, or a lot about. This section has to do with programs that are specific to your class and not the whole school. For example, my classroom at the moment is running a 1:1 BYOD trial, which is not present in any other class in the school, and accordingly, this program is detailed in my ESP. Some examples include BYOD programs, thematic classrooms (i.e. a classroom is driven by a theme such as performing arts, sports, science and technology around which literacy and numeracy are based), specific literacy or numeracy programs that are in place such as L3, Focus on Reading, Mathletics or anything else that is appropriate. If you have a Special Program in your class, you will know what it is.
That is a brief overview of the first segment of the Teacher’s Program, looking at the Teaching Philosophy, the Class Analysis and the Explanation of Special Programs. The next post will focus on the Planning segment of the Teacher’s Program, and will look at how I program, why I think it works and how to cover the incredible amount of content we are required to, succinctly.
See here for the list of articles in this series.
“He who fails to plan, is planning to fail”
– Attributed to Winston Churchill
First of all, I would like to apologise for such a large gap between posts. This last few months has been very hectic with the conclusion of my Honours research project, and the process of conducting the data analysis and writing my dissertation. It has now been submitted, and I am now awaiting the results to come back from the examiners, which I am hopeful of receiving prior to Christmas. I am feeling quietly confident about getting a strong result, and have plans for further research in mind already.
In my previous blog, Planning for Learning Part 1, I wrote about the first aspect of the Teaching Program, which is the Vision, encompassing the Teaching Philosophy, the Situation Analysis and the Explanation of Special Programs that are running in the class. This post will be focusing on the second component of the Teaching Program, which is the Planning segment, made up of the following sections:
This post will work through what each of these consists of, how to create them, and why they are a vital part of the Teaching Program.
1. Overview of Curriculum
The Overview of Curriculum provides an opportunity to plan holistically, mapping out when outcomes will be covered within each KLA across the two years and linking the KLAs together conceptually, creating integrated units. When complete, you have a visual planning map, that enables anyone can pick up and utilise, either in its original form, or modified to suit the specific context.
What this looks like will depend on how you plan, and how you think, in as far as linking the concepts together. Below is an example of what one might look like, showing a portion of a Stage Three Overview of Curriculum.
The timetable is simply your time-to-teach, or when you plan to teach what, but will include Release from Face to Face (RFF), scripture, assemblies, sport etc. What your timetable looks like will vary according to your school’s timetabling processes, priorities and the allocation of time to Sport, Physical Education, RFF, Library times etc.
This is an example of what it might look like:
The timetable will vary from school to school, according to how time is allocated to stage or whole-school sport, assemblies, scripture and other school specific programs, such as the fitness program you can see in this example. This is also where the utilisation of integrated units allows for multiple concepts/skills to be examined in the classroom, covering the required syllabus content in a significant way, allowing for transferal of skills and conceptual knowledge across learning and life domains.
3. Scope and Sequence
The scope and sequence for any KLA or unit of work will be utilised, usually, in one of two ways. The first will map out when skills, concepts and knowledge will be covered in the learning across a period of time, usually a term, as can be seen in the below example.
You can see the specific outcomes that are being drawn upon from the NSW Science and Technology syllabus (Board of Studies NSW, 2012), as well as the English outcomes that are being focused on each week for this unit. There is a key idea that drives the learning for the week, and then some suggested activities to provide a starting point. The numbers at the start of suggested activities are a reference to which piece of content that activity conforms to from the Science and Technology syllabus. This method of implementing a scope and sequence provides a Launchpad for the week, with the central focus and a suggested activity, leaving it to the teacher to make a professional judgement as to how they provide the learning for their class, based on their specific context.
The other form that is commonly used looks something like the below sample from a Stage Three Program. It utilises Bloom’s Taxonomy (Krathwohl, 2002;) to guide the framing of tasks across the KLAs or an integrated unit. You can see in this example that for the English KLA, based on a unit around social interactions and communication, the specific syllabus outcomes that will be targeted through the learning, the literacy concepts that are being incorporated, and the tasks that will be used to help facilitate learning across the different levels of thinking.
I have also seen this form of scope and sequence combined with Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences to form a learning matrix. Anecdotally, I have seen this labelled as a Pirozzo Unit, named after Ralph Pirozzo from Promoting Learning International, however I must note that it is not a structure I have much familiarity with, though I can see how it has some potential to be useful.
4. Daybook / Weekly Plan
The details of how a Teachers’ Daybook or Weekly Plan is implemented vary almost as much as the weather and with similar levels of vigorous discussion as to the benefits and disadvantages of various formats and structures. There are advocates and critics for every form of this process that I have come across in my short time in the profession. I am going to work with the assumption that most teachers are familiar with the standard diary format (which in itself contains significant variation depending on who you talk to). Personally, I believe a combination of different methods is the better way to go, as this allows you to cover the macro (school or stage wide events, professional development events etc.) with the micro (specific session objectives, materials required etc.).
The macro events should be addressed in a Teacher’s Planning Diary or calendar to allow for an overview of events, however the specific day to day learning activities and goals can be tracked in a fashion similar to the below planner.
This is a fairly simple planner and is quite versatile. Across the top row you can input some basic details including the term, the week number and the core outcome being targeted that week. The next row specifies the key concept/skill/idea being examined and may include both a long and short-form.
The remainder of the planner outlines the specifics of what is being done in such a way that it is succinct, but any teacher could walk into the class and take over from where you have left off. You will note in this screenshot that the columns are labelled not by day, but by the session number. This allows for the unpredictability and fluidity required of teachers due to disruptions. It is designed to be printed out and as each session is delivered, dated and signed to indicate that the specific session has been covered. This allow for disruptions as you are then able to work through the sessions, doubling them up, combining them or making other alterations as required due to interruptions.
This particular screenshot is from an English day-book, and is broken down into three different components; however the specific layout of the planner can be altered to suit the specific context. You can see, however, that the descriptions are quite brief, and that there is a liberal use of abbreviations in order to save space.
I have seen variations of this that include an equipment/materials list of either the week as a whole, or on a session by session basis, as well as an extra row that breaks down the overarching goal for the week into its constituent components, in this case, for reading, writing and spelling. This format lends itself well to Integrated Units of work, due to the nature of the layout.
This is of course only one of many options, and I would be very interested to hear what other formats people are using to help plan their teaching and their students’ learning.
See here for the list of articles in this series.
“There can be infinite uses of the computer and of new age technology, but if teachers themselves are not able to bring it into the classroom and make it work, then it fails.”
- Attributed Nancy Kassebaum
In the previous post, I wrote about the SAMR model, and how I have understood it so far, having only just discovered it myself earlier this year. If it is the first time you’ve heard of it, I hope that it made sense, and that it has inspired you to go and research authentic technology integration.
By way of a brief recap, the SAMR model is a way of thinking about the use of technology in the classroom that breaks technology use into four categories; substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition. Previously, I wrote about the first two categories, and this post will complete the exploration of the SAMR model.
The third category in the SAMR model is modification and it is the first of, continuing the Bloom’s Taxonomy analogy from the previous post, the higher order [technology uses], in the SAMR model. Modification allows for significant task redesign, such as recording a student’s presentation on a student’s iPad, and then using the playback of the recording to assist feedback delivery, providing the ability for the student to see themselves and see specific aspects that you are talking about. This use of technology, the iPad recording, modifies a typical teacher task (providing feedback) transforming the quality of the feedback and the way the students are able to process the feedback.
The use of technology in this way is the first where there is any real benefit to the students. Prior to modification, there has been, essentially, no change in pedagogy. All you have done is made things easier for the students. Modification can change your pedagogy, and can improve the students learning outcomes.
At the pinnacle of the transformation process, is redefinition, which is using technology to redefine the way a task is completed, in a new and previously not achievable method. The example I would offer of redefinition is the way that my CT has been using iPads to redefine his mathematics teaching. A traditional lesson involves some chalk-and-talk, some modelling, some independent work, and sessions of practicing with varying levels of achievement within a topic, followed by a summative assessment. It might be a week before you get a chance to mark it, identify that student x did not fully understand the concept, but you have moved on to the next topic as dictated by the scope and sequence.
The way that he/we are using the iPads redefines the task of maths teaching and learning. We utilise iTunes U to push out content to the students, including an overview of the topic, the learning goals and how the learning goals will be achieved. The content includes a video which contains the explicit teaching, which is made available for the students to watch back as often as they need. We either work through the video as a class, or deliver the explicit teaching through chalk and talk. The students then work through their Mathletics play list, and this is where we reap the real benefits, I believe.
The students complete two to four sets of ten-question activity, generated by Mathletics. As the students complete each set of activities, we are able to see their results populate, live, and then with a simple click, Mathletics provides us with groupings of <50%, 50-74%, 75-84% and 85%+. The expectation is mastery (85%+) and Mathletics provides feedback to the students in terms of their results by way of showing not just the results at the end of the activity, but also allowing students to click on a question which will allow them to see the question, their answer and the correct answer. Students also see a bar next to the activity on the topic screen, which will either be red, blue, gold with “Good Work” or gold with “Perfect” on it, and the students want the Gold bar with perfect.
We use these live groupings to be able to identify those students who are struggling with the skills, and can straight away either work with them individually, or conduct small group sessions as needed to address the skill deficiencies and ensure deep understanding.
Technology is a great tool to have, but that is all that it is, a tool. Without an understanding of how to leverage its potential to change the pedagogy and redefine tasks to maximise student’s learning outcomes, the digital education revolution, whether its funded by governments or parents, will falter and stagnate, as a result of same old same old with more expensive tools.
Thank you for reading, and please leave some feedback and share among your PLN.
See here for the list of articles in this series.
Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event.
– Heidi-Hayes Jacobs
Initial teacher education (ITE) does give you a lot. I certainly feel like it has given me more than some of my peers indicate that it’s given them. But one thing that I don’t feel like it prepared me for was meaningful deployment of technology. Oh, certainly, we were told about SMART Notebooks, and to use ICT meaningfully, but we were not told what this actually meant in different contexts or how to ensure we were doing it.
Then, this year (2014), I walked into my Internship classroom; a Stage Three combined Year Five and Six class with a trial 1:1 iPad Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) system in place. Awesome I thought to myself, iPads! But then I realised that I had no framework for actually enacting pedagogical strategies through an iPad, no point of reference for how it would work in practice, or what could actually be done on iPads other than what I do on my iPhone.
I’ve written previously about why I teach, but why I teach does not prepare or assist me to make technology integration meaningful in and of itself. Fortunately, my classroom teacher (CT) is rather progressive, and very much driven by research-based best practice. He introduced me to the SAMR model, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura and a way of thinking about EdTech that had never occurred to me before.
The SAMR model outlines four ways in which technology can be used in an educational context, with two tiers of use which can be likened to lower and higher order thinking tiers in Bloom’s Taxonomy. The first two ways of utilising technology in the classroom are akin to Bloom’s lower order thinking skills, and are where technology is used only as a substitution to traditional pedagogies, or to augment traditional pedagogy. The second tier of the SAMR model is where technology is used to modify or to redefine the learning activity. This blog post will deal with the first half of the SAMR model, substitution and augmentation, which my CT likened to the lower order thinking components of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
The way that my CT described SAMR to me was in comparison to the recent laptop program Australian high schools, formally known as the Digital Education Revolution which, among other things, saw every Year Nine to Twelve public high school student provided with a laptop. Whether it was a success or failure seems to depend on who you talk to (I know some teachers and administrators who are completely against laptops and tablets on the back of the laptop program).
My CT said to me that if you ask parents buy a tablet/laptop as part of a BYOD program, such as is being trialed in his classroom, and all you do is used it as a substitution for a writing book or a textbook, that you will not necessarily have improved the learning outcomes, but you will have made the learning outcomes more expensive for the parents.
That made perfect sense to me, and I can see that using them substitutionally would annoy parents. I see using interactive whiteboards (IWBs) purely for their projector as being merely a substitution for an overhead projector/tv and VCR or DVD player, and yes, this does happen.
Substitution is an easy trap to fall into. You feel that you are using ICT, so you feel like you are contributing to Twenty-First Century Teaching, however, you are not actually changing anything, other than the medium being utilised. Changing the medium is in itself not necessarily a bad thing, but if that is all you are doing, then it is not enough.
The next stage after Substitution is Augmentation. This is where the deployment of the technology only utilises a small portion of its potential. The technology is acting as a direct substitution with some functional improvement. An example of augmentation, I believe, would be using the often built-in functions of many e-textbooks available on digital devices, such as dictionary definitions, bookmarking, chapter hyperlinks etc. You have gained some functional improvement, but not really any pedagogical or learning outcome improvement.
I have already mentioned that my CT likened substitution and augmentation deployment of technologies as being akin to the Lower Order Thinking phases of Bloom’s Taxonomy because they serve a purpose and are useful, but you will fail to challenge students much by doing so.
Next weekend, I will examine the top half, or to continue the Bloom’s Taxonomy analogy, the ‘higher order thinking’ components of the SAMR model; modification and redefinition. I’d appreciate any feedback on this or my previous blog posts, but thank you for reading.
See here for the list of articles in this series.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
– Attributed to William Arthur Ward
First of all, I apologise for being tardy with getting this blog entry up far, far later than I said I would. I spent the second week of the school holidays at a football (soccer) tournament as a referee coach, mentoring and coaching young referees, and as much fun as it was, I came home on the Saturday before Term started, and was asleep by 8.30 that night, and didn’t wake until 10 the next morning. Then it was headlong into my Internship in a Year Five and Six class. This coming week is my third week, and I absolutely love it so far. I’ve got an excellent CT (classroom teacher), who is incredibly supportive and challenges me to justify what I want to do in a lesson, not to discourage me, but to help me focus on what the specific purpose of that lesson is.
As you read this post, I’d like you to consider why it is you teach. What makes you get up every morning, get to school at seven-am for a nine-am start, and leave the grounds at five-pm, when the students all left at three-pm? For what reason do you do this?
I promised last time that I would post my teaching philosophy, which was partly about making myself accountable for actually writing it, and partly about opening up dialogue on this topic. We were told that we had to write a teaching philosophy for our internship portfolio for university, and that it should reflect why we teach and what we believe about teaching, but beyond that, there was no guidance. I have never seen a practicing teacher’s philosophy, and so had no benchmark or starting point and so asked my CT about his. This led to a long conversation about the purpose of a teaching philosophy how to write it, how to structure it, and what it should be about.
From that conversation came the realisation that it is an incredibly personal document, that should be revisited regularly (my CT said he goes back to his at the beginning of each year) as our lives, and therefore our reasons for teaching, change regularly. I have adopted the same structure for my teaching philosophy as that used by my CT as it makes sense, and helps to make it a real document to me, as opposed to a useless of piece of academia, submitted for an assignment and then consigned to the dustbin.
It is based on three questions, which form the document structure. The first section is headed “Why” and is an answer to the question “why do I teach?” The second is informed by the first, and is headed “How” and outlines how I will teach. The third section, “What” is what I will teach, and is mandated by the syllabus documents we are all required to work within.
I thought I knew why I teach. However, when I sat down to write my philosophy, I found myself writing a series of clichés such as I like working with children, all children should have the opportunity to succeed, and I want to make a difference in the world etc. Although I do agree with those statements, they are not what compels me to teach, and makes me excited to be going down this career path and so they felt hollow when I put them on paper. I knew inside myself what the real reason for my desire to teach was, but have always felt that it was not right/rigorous/academic enough, and so have always shied away from using it on those occasions when the question of why I want to teach comes up.
When I made that comment to my CT, he nodded and said that that is the reason why it’s a personal teaching philosophy, and not an academic assignment. It has to be something that we as teachers can look at on those days when we want to headbutt a brick wall and that will make us smile and remember why we do this. It should be personal to each of us, and so will be different for each of us and it will then influence how we teach. S/He who teaches for money teaches differently than s/he who teaches for a desire to create change in the world.
This, then, is my first draft of part one of my teaching philosophy. I am still working on translating the why into the how in such a way that it makes sense on paper.
Why Do I Teach?
I teach for two reasons. I had two amazing male teachers in my own primary education. Both were strong men whom I looked up to, as both had a strong presence, as they were encouraging of my strengths and chiding of my weaknesses, pushing me to work on them. They were men who were able to work with all of my peers, challenging each of us at our own academic level.
My three younger siblings on the other hand, across their combined eighteen years of primary education, had a total of one year with a male teacher, and the difference that that year of a strong male influence every day at school made on my sister and her self-confidence in dealing with her brothers and in talking to other male, non-immediate family members, was tremendous.
My youngest brother needed a strong male role-model as a steadying influence and to provide guidance on interpersonal skills in the day-to-day situations at school that a father does not have access to. I teach because I want to be the positive male role model for those students who otherwise may not have one.
The second reason that I teach is due to a love of learning and discovery, a love that was instilled by my family, but nurtured by my primary school teachers. It is that love of learning, the desire to know more about areas of interest, and the excitement of the moment when the dots are joined between prior knowledge and new understanding that provides the second reason why I teach.
I would love to hear from other teachers as to how you set out your teaching philosophy, how you utilise it, and even just why it is you get out of bed to teach every morning. This is my first draft, and I’m still working on cleaning it up to make it more academic sounding, but at the same time, if it’s a personal document, do I need to?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
See here for the list of articles in this series.
“To infinity…and beyond!”
-Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story.
As I mentioned in my previous entry, I am undertaking the Honours stream as part of my degree. My research, after funnelling it down from is the degree worth doing? has become an investigation into the beliefs of pre-service teachers about the Arts in education and how those beliefs have been shaped by discourse and experiences, both personally and through the initial teacher education program, and the positions taken-up by pre-service teachers as a result. The literature that I’ve read thus far indicates that the benefits of the Arts in education are well-known and acknowledged, however there is a gap in what is understood about the beneficence of the Arts in education, and the take up of the Arts in pedagogical practice.
The broader area of is the degree worth doing is something that I plan to return to/continue examining in the future, though I suspect that the focus area will change, and it seems prudent to stay in touch with what is happening in education research through an online professional learning network combining social media and the longer form of blog articles. I also intend to use the blog as a platform for professional reflection as my practice evolves through the combination of continued pedagogical practice, professional development, educational research – both my own and others - and hopefully I will receive critical feedback from other educators through this medium.
I will be considered a new scheme teacher here in Australia, and accordingly will be required to conform to the AITSL accreditation process, part of which will inherently involve, I believe, remaining up to date with twenty-first century teaching practices, including challenge/problem based learning, ICT integration, KLA curriculum integration, flipped classrooms, self-directed learning and the like.
The school at which I am undertaking my final practicum has a class trialling 1:1 iPads, and the Executive have advised other teachers in the school that they can take part in the trial if they present an action research project that it will be trialled under, as that was one of the parameters for the trial already underway. I am incredibly excited about what I’ve seen so far, as it represents my understanding of what education should be, based on what I’ve been hearing about twenty-first century learning for the last few years over the course of my degree.
The plan is to excel during my internship (I certainly don’t plan to fail or be mediocre…no Ps get degrees for me, thank you very much. (That’s the (unjustified) snob in me coming through)) and sit down with my cooperating teacher and the principal, who I have formed a strong working relationship with, and put forward an action research project indicating how I would utilise and track usage of and the results of 1:1 iPads and the ‘anywhere, anytime learning environment that it would create, so that if there are any full time teaching positions coming up, that my name is at the very least, towards the top of the list of contenders they have in their minds. Ambitious, I realise, likely naively so, given that I will also be in the process of conducting my Honours research, but I’ve found that I do my best work under a bit of pressure. Also, if a career in educational research is part of my future, then from what I understand, it’s quite common to have multiple ‘pans on the stove’ at any one time.
So that is where my focus will be moving to next; the flipped classroom, associated pedagogical practices, and the ‘anytime, anywhere’ teaching mindset and the challenges of changing planning/programming/teaching practices accordingly, and it very much like going down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland, or diving into infinity and beyond, as Buzz Lightyear likes to say, as I suspect that no matter how much reading I do, there will always be more to learn.
Some names that I’ve come across in my own readings, or had recommended to me as being highly relevant, insightful, challenging or futuristic in their thinking, include Sir Ken Robinson, Seymour Papert, Sugata Mitra and Ralph Pirozzo. There are of course many others at the forefront of education research who are helping to pull the education system kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century, but those are the ones that come to mind at the moment. Feel free to recommend others.
I’ll be aiming for weekly blogs during this ‘introductory’ phase, and accordingly my next post will be next weekend, and aim is for it to be an elucidation of my teaching philosophy.
Thank you for reading.
See here for the list of articles in this series.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
– Frodo Baggins, quoting Bilbo Baggins as written by J.R.R Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, ch.3.
As this is my first blog post, it seems prudent to write about who I am, and why I have started this blog. I’m currently in my fourth and final year of a Bachelor of Teaching (Primary) / Bachelor of Arts program at the University of Newcastle, and as part of that, am undertaking the Honours stream. I will be commencing my final fifty day professional experience placement (‘prac’) in during term three of the NSW school year in a stage three classroom.
Teaching for me was a career change, and at times, I have been able to relate to Bilbo when he described stepping out the door as being a dangerous business, except that for me, it was changing careers that was and is dangerous business. Like many people, I did not know what I wanted to do after I graduated from Year Twelve, and over the ensuing ten years worked in a variety of industries including different sectors of the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry, and also within the electrical industry where I worked for a commercial and industrial firm. It was a good friend who was five years younger than myself graduating from university with a degree in Forensic Science, that made me realise that if I didn’t get over my fear of taking that first step into the unknown, that I would be stuck in a job and working environment that I had grown to dislike.
I had considered teaching for some time, but had been afraid to give up my reasonably-paying job for the ‘uni student lifestyle.’ I am something of a (completely unjustified) snob at heart. I took steps to change my situation, and the cards, metaphorically speaking, were exceedingly kind to me, and so began the journey of a lifetime.
In the ten years since high school, I had found myself numerous times, being responsible for either designing, teaching/training or a combination thereof, new systems, processes, skills, methods and structures for various aspects of some of the different occupations I had held and had quite enjoyed the role. I was also fortunate enough that during my own primary and secondary education I had some male teachers who were both excellent teachers and strong role models as men. As the eldest of four children, I had watched my siblings go through their own education, and realised that there was a dearth of strong male teachers in the education system. I put the two together, enjoying teaching roles I had taken on in the past, and the apparent lack of male teachers, and decided to enter the teaching profession.
Having family members and friends who are in the education system already, my eyes are wide open to the trials and tribulations that will come over the next forty-plus years of my teaching career, but it for those moments when you see a child’s eyes light up as they ‘get it’ that I have become a teacher. Out of everything that I’ve ever done, nothing comes close (so far) the feeling of satisfaction that ensues having witnessed that moment all the jigsaw pieces form a coherent picture for a child.
That’s a little bit about who I am. I daresay that more will come out over the course of my teaching journey as it is expressed through this blog, and I did say that I’d write about why I’ve started this blog. This has become somewhat wordy, so I will leave the ‘why’ for tomorrow.
Thanks for reading.
See here for the list of articles in this series.