"It doesn't have to be an 'at home' thing. Flipped class means you change the way you use in class time."
As a primary teacher, I had been using the in-class flip model to flip my classroom. If you are not sure what the in-class flip model is, essentially, the students engage with the pre-learning in class rather than at home. This is particularly useful for classes where lots of students do not have reliable internet access, or where they are younger students.
Having been in-flipping for a few years, I felt that I was pretty comfortable with the in-flip and how to use it, however, after attending a workshop by Alfina Jackson at FlipConAus 2017 recently, as well as completing the unit on in-flipping contained within the Flipped Learning Certification Level II course, I realised that I had been dabbling with in-flip rather than using it completely effectively.
I had not utilised flipped this year as I was on a class of year one and two students and in a team-teach/co-teach context. I had not had a year one and two class before other than the occasional casual day and so I had an incredible amount of learning to do about the pedagogy needed to work with this age group, the stratgies for classroom management, and the different relational needs of the students as compared to year five and six which is the age group I had been working with.
Not only was I learning about working with this age group, I was learning about teaching in an open learning space with two classes of students (total of forty) and in a co-teach/team-teach environment, contexts that I had no experience with. I had some ideas for how I felt we could in-flip, however, felt that I still needed to wrap my head around working in this incredibly new (for me) context, and learn from my highly experienced co-teacher before I started to push for inclusion of in-flipping.
Listening to Alfina was interesting. A lot of the ideas that I had for in-flipping with this year's class were in line with what Alfina was saying and she had some good ideas about rolling it out in the class as well as keeping this nice and simple. One of the biggest things that I drew from Alfina's workshop was that the videos need to be super short and simple to access. The short aspect I was not surprised at, I prefer to try and keep my videos short anyway. However keeping them simple to acces was also important.
With older students, they will be quite okay to go to a learning management system, locate the pre-learning and engage with it, or to visit a set website to access it, both optinos requiring students to log in to the computer or device and then to the platform that contains the learning objects. This structure will not work in the kindergarten to year two context, where students are often still finding it a battle to log in to a computer and open an internet browser (my experience this year, anyway).
Alfina's suggestion was to have computers logged in and open with the videos sitting on the desktop making them nice and easy to access. Alternatively, have them loaded onto a device that requires no logging in to access.
I recently sat down and began to work through the Flipped Learning Certification Level II course which contains a unit on the in-flip presented by Carolina Buitrago & Martha Ramirez from Columbia. I was not really expecting to learn too much from this component of the course, not having really stopped to reflect on Alfina's workshop at this point, and was challenged almost immediately. I had assumed that everyone else who was in-flipping was doing things the same, that there was only one way to in-flip and I was wrong. Carolina and Martha through their work have identified several ways to in-flip and a few of them were structures that had not occurred to me.
Of the seven structures (I will let you register for the course and explore them for yourself), I had been using a mixed structure, where some students were working through the learning objects and the associated activities themselves at their own pace, while I moved between guide on the side and pulling together small groups of students to revisit concepts they were challenged by. This approach worked for me with the class that I had last year, though I can certainly see the benefits of some of the other structures.
I found some of their advice challenging, as they are areas that I know I need to work on. One of these areas is keeping instructions clear. I have spent a lot of time having to clarify instructions and processses because I was not clear on the sequence of events that needed to happen, particularly when it comes to transitioning between activities (another part of the most recent TER Podcast that I found helpful to listen to). I am guilty of giving instructions too far in advance. I.e. Giving instructions for this activitiy and the next activity as well.
That was one reason I had found having a much younger age group this year to be helpful for my own practice as it forced me to keep my instructions simple and I had improved this year with that.
Are you using in-flipping? I would love to hear how you implement it and structure your in-flip to ensure that you can be where you need to be - working with students, rather than being caught up in busy work in class.
"Why do we accept what other industries would consider malpractice?"
- Jon Bergmann
Day one of FlipCon Australia 2017 has come and gone, with lots of rain and wind, along with the learning, the inspiration, the challenging conversations, the thought provoking ideas, and above all, the fun and sharing.
The first session for me today was Jon Bergmann's keynote (you can read through the storify here) and it was, as always, thought provoking and challenging. One of the key standouts for me, and it provoked a chain of tangential questions, was Jon asking how it is that countries which are so dissimiliar vis-a-vis geography, culture, socio-economic contexts, etc. can be so similar when it comes to education.
It is an intriguing question, actually pondering how it came to be; and it led me to ask the twitter-sphere would classrooms and education have evolved differently without colonial expansion? Would the look as similar? If you consider the vast territory that the various colonial powers occupied through the eighteenth to twentieth centuries and the impact that those colonial powers had on the native cultures and practices, you have to wonder what it would look like without that influence. I particularly wonder about indigenous practices of education here in Australia that were forcibly changed and how different education would have been, even if only the settlement by the Europeans was more peaceful.
Following that was the Primary Panel where I joined Matt Burns and Jon Bergmann to answer questions from the primary educators int he group. There were some interesting questions and some interesting contexts that were mentioned and discussed and I hope that delegates left with their questions answered satisfactorily.
I presented a session then on Starting with Flipped Learning, providing a foundational conversation around flipped learni. We spent time specifically addressing the challenges and the reasons that we are often told show flipped learning does not work and brainstormed as a group ideas and conversation pointers to refute those. We also spent time specifically discussing abuot strategies to gain buy-in from the key stakeholders; students, parents, administrators/management, and colleagues. If you wish to access the resources from that you can find them at the below links.
I had a session in between that workshop and my second workshop and so I spent some time reflecting on the first workshop and actually found that I needed and wanted to make a few changes to improve the flow of the next in order to strenthen the learning experience for the delegates.
That next session was titled Flipping the Unit and was a very hands on workshop where we actually worked through the planning process for flipping a lesson using a backward mapping lesson plan template that I have developed with the goal being that it could then be taken back to school and put into practice. The session, I feel, went well and the delegates certainly indicated, both by the various notes and ideas they had on their templates, as well the questions they were asking nad their body language that they found it useful (always a relief!). If you wanted to access the resources from that session, you can find them below.
For each of the sessions, I encouraged delegates to create some accountability for themselves by setting actions points; what are y ou going to do in the next three days, three weeks, and three months, to develop your flipped practice? I also provided the below links for further learning for those who are interested:
If you attended one of my sessions today (or do so tomorrow), let me know your feedback. What do you think I can do better? Get in touch via twitter or using the Contact page on this website, leave a comment below the line.
"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."
-Attributed to Colin Powell
Given that it is Wednesday afternoon it is the end of the week for me, and what a week it has been! I have learned so much already and there is obviously still a fair distance to go. We have begun completing the Schedule for Early Number Assessment (SENA) Test with our Year Two students and I am finding it a real eye opening system of assessing a student's mathematical thinking as it is very structured and provides a thorough indication of not just what a student can do but provides insight into how a student completes certain mathematical tasks.
We have also administered the ReST Test, which I have not been able to find links or references to online, but is essentially a spelling test that is testing students' ability to phonographological choices at age appropriate levels. It begins with Early Stage One questions (what letter makes a particular sound) and then steps it up through Stage One with digraphs (students are asked to spell the word shin for example, but are only marked on the /sh/ sound, consonant blends, vowel sounds, split vowels, y as a vowel (as in fly for example). We have a Stage One class so we also completed the first part of the Stage Two test portion which asks students to be able to spell triple blends (which are not triple blends at all, but are actually digraphs blending with a graph) such as /nch/ as in bench. There is a Stage Three component, but overall, the process was fairly quick to do, but it will provide rich useful data that will feed into our programming.
I have more I want to write, but I need to drive to Newcastle and I thought I might go home and see my lovely wife and daughter for a while before I left. How has your week been so far?
“Years end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on with all the wisdom that experience can instill in in us.”
–Attributed to Hal Borland
I am mentally drained and physically exhausted. It has been a monumental year, both personally and professionally, with wins and losses on both counts. Last year was my first full year as a teacher and I wrote at the end of the year that I did not feel that I had had a first year such as I was expecting due to being employed in an RFF or non-contact position teaching fundamental digital technology and research skills. I perhaps spoke (wrote?) too soon and received my comeuppance this year in what was perhaps the most challenging year, both personally and professionally, that I have ever faced. To celebrate surviving my first year teaching a class of my own here is a list of lists reflecting on the year that was.
The Professional Wins
The Professional Challenges
I have a lot to learn and I am realising just how much I have to learn and wondering how much I do not know that I need to learn. It is a rather scary and terrifying thing, to feel like you are fumbling in the dark all year, realise you survived and actually did a decent job and then recognise just how much there still is to discover and develop in your teaching.
Thank you to my readers for supporting me this year. I look at the hit numbers and it is nice to know that people are reading, and being told by a few people that they have found my writing useful and valuable is a humbling (and mind-boggling) thing. I began writing for my own reflection and published only as a way of being held accountable in my own mind for continuing to reflect and to share my experiences. I will (aim to) continue to publish FTPL videos over the break, but I do not expect that I will publish anything else.
I hope that the summer break is relaxing, enjoyable and safe for you and yours and I will see you again in the new year.
“….relationships take time, getting to know folks requires patience, and people are generally cautious – if not fearful – of Johnny come lately that is asking, rather than giving.”
– Attributed to Jeremiah Owyang, Senior Analyst at Forrester
Conferences can be a huge source of professional development, however, they can also be a great source of unofficial professional learning via the networking conversations outside the lecture theatre or the breakout room.I was fortunate to have a number of conversations with some high-caliber educators that opened my mind to some new ideas, re-excited me about some passions that had faded due to time constraints, and have caused me to rethink some ideals about education.
One of the biggest changes in my thinking is the result of a conversation I had with a few people that come from different contexts, but whose opinions I respect. I attended (six!) public schools from Kindergarten through to Year Twelve and have always maintained that I would teach in public schools as I firmly believe that every child deserves a free, high-quality education. The conversation with these two people has caused me to rethink that. I have never said that I would not teach in non-Goverment schools, just that I could not see it happening.
I was asked if it is hard to gain a permanent teaching position in NSW. I explained that of the several positions I have applied for, that there have been over one hundred applicants; that as someone in my second year of teaching I cannot compete on the experience front with teachers of ten years or more experience; that an article by Bruce McDougall of The Daily Telegraph on 12 July, 2016 stated that there are now just under fifty-thousand qualified teachers who are unable to secure permanent teaching positions; that earning Honours Class I as well as the School of Education and the Arts Faculty Medal seems to count for nothing and that the current staffing policy for NSW Department of Education (DoE) schools dictates a system whereby schools must accept a central appointment despite having qualified and able teachers on temporary contracts.
I was asked directly if I had been applying for non-Government schools, to which I replied no, and explained my desire to support public education. I was reminded of the conditions I had just listed that were making it challenging to find a permanent teaching position and that it was all well and good to want to support public education but that it would not help me get a permanent job in and of itself. He is right, of course, and although applying for teaching positions with non-Government schools does not do anything to guarantee a permanent position or some of the aforementioned challenges, it does at least open the pool of potential options.
Fair enough. I have started applying for positions at non-Government schools. Mrs. C21 remarked that she had been biting her tongue on the issue, hoping that I would recognise that a permanent position was more important at the moment, especially with a three-month-old.
Sitting in on Peter Whiting’s session and getting really excited and interested in the methodologies and the results (statistics!) of Peter’s research demonstrated for me that there is still a passion and interest for research in me. With everything that has happened this year, I have not thought about research too much other than what I read about and links to discussions of research as I peruse my Twitter timeline.
There were some other things that I wanted to include in this article, however, my brain has switched off and I think that too much time has passed since the conference; I have been far slower than normal getting these articles out.
I will likely only do one more new article for the year, a reflection piece, before signing off for the summer break. Thank you for reading this rather disjointed article and for persevering with this conference review series. If you have missed any of the articles from FlipCon Adelaide, you can find them here.
“I want to be the best version of myself for anyone who is going to someday walk into my life and need someone to love them beyond reason.”
― Jennifer Elisabeth, Born Ready: Unleash Your Inner Dream Girl
Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
I first heard of Education Nation sometime back in late February or perhaps early March when it received a mention during a Twitter chat. I had a look at the website and although it looked interesting, my professional development days and my (self-funded) budget had both been allocated for the year. Fast forward to FutureSchools (review articles here) and I received a response to a photo I put up on Twitter.
I thought, at first, that it was a cheeky plug for the Education Nation conference, but decided to send through an e-mail to follow it up. Imagine my shock when I was told that, yes it was a genuine offer to attend and review the event. I am very glad that I did accept the offer. Learnings from the conference aside (and there were many), the opportunity to meet people face-to-face that I had been speaking to and knew from Twitter conversations for the first time was an exciting opportunity. Overall, however, the Education Nation was, in my view, a success.
I do not think I can have a general wrap up from Education Nation without including the location. It was stunning. Day two provided better weather and a slightly warmer temperature than day one did. It made it very easy to go outside and enjoy the sunshine and the fresh air, to debrief from the sessions and recharge ready for the next one. The venue itself was interesting. The rooms utilised for the Rethinking Reform and Digital Dimensions streams were generally excellent.
They had a good view without being distracting, the rooms had reasonable acoustics and the audio levels were set well to make the speaker easy to hear. The afternoon sessions were a little frustrating as the sun would reflect off the water through the windows at the back of the room, flooding it with light, which made taking photos during presentations difficult due to over-exposure. The hinges on the door into Digital Dimensions also sounded like the Tin Man anytime someone entered or left, which was rather frustrating mid-session.
The Leader, The Educator, and The Learner all had their own challenges. The Leader was in a terrible room if I am being honest. In comparison to the other locations, it was a dungeon. The run of windows in the room were situated at head-height, if you were standing up, but were at the level of the footpath outside, meaning all that could be seen was active wear in various guises running past, which meant it was a more distracting room than the others. The light levels were also horrible for taking photographs, and the room had odd lighting, making it feel dim. The physical structure of the room also created a very closed-in feeling.
The Learner was in an echo chamber, or so it sounded. Additionally, the room seemingly had no climate control as I had heard people complaining about the temperature over the course of the event. The Educator was the last session of the conference and so the sun was quite low when during that session and so was in the delegates’ eyes, depending on where they were sitting, during that session. The view, however, was fantastic.
The signage could have been better. Each room did have a sign out the front indicating which one it was, however there needed to be a directional side immediately outside of the main rooms pointing to each of the other rooms, especially given that they were at opposite ends of the venue.
I did feel bad for the vendors, to a degree. The Playground was an awkward layout, with the mezzanine level taking up a fair chunk the floorspace, the main floor not being overly large, and with such a beautiful view on the deck outside. I had heard discussion from various quarters about the seemingly low attendee numbers, however, if there had been many more people in attendance, The Playground and food areas would have been very cramped and difficult to move around, and we would have seen more issues. I will not write further on The Playground here, as I have already written an article on it specifically.
For me, the speakers were generally very good. There were, of course, some whose sessions I enjoyed more than others, and there were a few speakers whose sessions I felt did not hit the mark, but on the whole. If you have read the previous articles reviewing those sessions I was able to attend. The feedback I had from the other streams was generally positive. The exception, however, was The Leader stream. From what I have heard, from multiple sources, other than two or three sessions the speakers in that stream generally missed the mark, were not speaking on the topic the abstract indicated they would be speaking on, were not engaging or delivered a lecture rather than a workshop.
One delegate in that stream that I was speaking with told me how that stream had been selected specifically as the one to attend as it fit right in with this delegates Professional Development Plan and the delegate had hoped to learn more about the mechanics of leading a school. The comment that I was given was that this delegate felt that overall it was a waste of time and the two professional development days he was allotted for the year were now spent and for no benefit. I encouraged this delegate to seek out one of the event organisers to give some specific feedback, more so than would be able to be provided on the feedback forms.
Other than that, however, I heard generally positive feedback on the speakers. Particularly enjoyed and seen as beneficial from what I heard were Brett Salakas, Corinne Campbell, Prue Gill and Ed Cuthbertson, The Hewes Family, and Leanne Steed and Elizabeth Amvrazis.
There is some expectation that the last session at a conference is typically poorly attended. I personally do not understand this. If you are investing significant money in an event, then you should be staying until the end to get maximum benefit from it. I know far too many people who have left conferences early to make a flight or train home. It is akin to leaving a concert before the house lights have come back on, or a movie before the end of the credits. That said, it was embarrassing to hear that no-one stayed for the final session of The Educator stream. I cannot imagine how Elizabeth Amvrazis and Leeanne Steed must have felt. I know how I would have felt.
The Great Debate and other Themes
The Great Debate was one of the drawcard events, I feel, for Education Nation. Looking back, however, I do not feel that it achieved much. Noone’s mind was going to be changed on the issue. Many would have taken Dr. Zyngier’s side, irrespective of what he said, just to be opposed to Dr. Donnelly, it was and will always remain a divisive issue and as many people commented on twitter, and as both Dr Donnelly and Dr. Zyngier commented during the event, we need to move past this.
There were some interesting themes that came through over the course of Education Nation. If you have read any of the review articles, then you might have noticed some as well. The most significant theme, in my opinion, was the call for a genuine national conversation about the purpose and goals of education in Australia. It came through in most of the sessions I attended and in most of the conversations that I had outside the sessions. It was pointed out to me on Twitter that we have had a national conversation, which is where The Melbourne Declaration comes from. I disagree that it was a national conversation, however. It was a meeting of Education Ministers to develop a document that says some pretty things which sound nice. A national conversation, however? No.
I do not know how we would go about starting something like a national conversation that would have any sort of actual relevance and use, other than setting up a Change.org petition, however, which does not seem appropriate, or a Royal Commission of Inquiry,which seems like a vast overkill. I would very much like to hear feedback from my reads as to firstly, whether or they agree with the need for a national conversation about education, and secondly, what platform could or should be taken to get it started and get it, the need for it, and the results, taken seriously and listened to.
There were some other themes that came through, I thought. More needs to be done to work with the families and students in our low socioeconomic areas, we need to be more positive about teaching and recognise the successes we have more often, initial teacher education needs to be improved and strengthened to better prepare beginning teachers for their new career and to stem the personnel drain that occurs within the first five years of a teacher’s career and finally, we need to share more with each other about practices which are and are not working.
Would I attend Education Nation again? Yes. Is there room for improvement and streamlining? Of course.
If you have made it this far and have read all of the previous articles in the Education Nation series, well done and thank you for staying the journey. Now, I am off to finish writing my reports.
After having presented my first keynote at FlipLearnCon yesterday (Tuesday 17 May, 2016), I have a profound new respect for speakers who are tasked with presenting in the final session of a conference or professional learning day. It is a very tough gig.
Recently I became involved in a Twitter backchannel that was occurring parallel to the FlipLearnCon event in Melbourne. FlipLearnCon is a two-day conference organised by MyLearning and facilitated by South Australian educator, Jeremy LeCornu (@MrLeCornu) to provide a boot-camp style introduction to flipped learning. I have written extensively about Flipped Learning in the past (such as here and here) and there are a number of educators on Twitter who are also heavily involved in flipped learning, whether through implementing flipped learning (such as Jeremy, Heather Davis, Joel Speranza, Alfina Jackson and Matthew Burns), or as researchers of flipped learning (such as Marijne Slager and others).
In this article, I am going to focus more on my reflections of being involved as a presenter rather than a participant. I was given the opportunity to keynote from a primary education perspective for the Sydney iteration of FlipLearnCon (Heather Davis was the secondary educator presenting in Sydney) by Jeremy and Justine Isard and asked to speak about my EdVenture, how I am implementing flipped learning in my classroom, and what I have learned through trial and error. It was, I felt, a huge opportunity. I had been dabbling with flipped learning for some time, as my regular readers will be aware, and in many ways I still did not feel that I knew enough, or was far enough along with flipped learning as a pedagogical practice, to have credibility as a presenter.
However, I trust Jeremy and was excited to take the plunge. I felt that my first presentation at TeachMeet Coast in Term One went well and this was the next opportunity that popped up.
One of the fantastic takeaways from FlipCon Australia 2015 was that there was the realisation that I was not the only one wanting or trying to flip, and that there was lots of support out through online professional learning networks. Heather commented in her keynote that one of the most important things you can do to help you flip your class is to connect with others, “find your people” and leverage the support and experience of those around you.
The great benefit of being involved in FlipLearnCon was seeing the excitement and eagerness of the participants, hearing the stories of what the teachers involved have been trying and hearing about their contexts and seeing the growth in the confidence and abilities over such a short period of time.
We had a range of primary and secondary educators from Wollongong up to Newcastle, and the secondary teachers were from a range of disciplines, which afforded us a fantastic spread of perspectives and ideas for sharing with others to try in different learning areas. As part of the presentation team, seeing participants not wanting to go to lunch, so that they could continue working on practicing with the tools we had been showing them as they created their own flipped content was incredibly exciting and rejuvenating.
One of the struggles of being the lone nut/leader is that you are always giving. This is not the issue, that is actually part of what we do as educators, is that we give. The issue is that if we are the leader or the person who is driving the practice in our context, or if we are the only person in the school who is interested and trying to implement is that it can be draining and disheartening. The excitement and energy in the room as teachers tried, failed, persisted, tried again, learned from each other, tried something different, experimented with different tools and came back to us excited for what they had managed to create reinvigorates and rejuvenates the soul.
We had a number of educators who went returned home/to their hotel rooms at the end of day one night and worked on creating further content, refining what they had developed that day. One of our participants, Will, is a Japanese language teacher and the content that he finished up with was fantastic and looks very refined and ready to utilise in the classroom, and he was not the only one. One of our participants, Phil, arrived on day one unsure about flipped learning and whether he would gain any real learning from the two-days. He stood up during our Content Showcase at the end of day two and proudly showed off what he had been able to develop , and for his first attempt at creating flipped learning content, it worked.
“Do you want it perfect or Tuesday?”
We were also able to convince a number of educators to join Twitter to enable them to stay in touch and connect with other educators as a way of continuing to be able to share and learn, which was also exciting, and the Principal of one school, who brought along six of his teachers for day one of the conference is now seriously considering taking them to FlipConAus16 later this year, which demonstrates a serious commitment to ensuring flipped learning as a pedagogical practice in his school succeeds.
I have to note that I was amazed at some of the contexts within which some of the participants are working. Some, like myself, are in the public education system and are working with slow, often damaged equipment, with systems and processes in place which hinder the advancement of flipped learning and are simply battling through. Others, however, are in private school contexts, with 1:1 MacBooks, Forwardboards/Lightboardspurchased and funded by the school, and Principals willing to send them off to conferences such as this without them having to take leave without pay. I cannot fathom working in that kind of context and the feeling of being supported and encouraged in that way.
That said, everyone involved across the two days was incredibly hardworking, attentive, and invested in learning as much as they could. I am excited to hear from a number of our participants as to how they go implementing flipped learning in their classroom, hopefully at FlipConAus16, which is occurring in two locations this year; the Gold Coast in October, and in Adelaide during November.
As a presenter, a conference is a very different experience. I still took notes, though using Twitter rather than my normal format of handwritten notes, and I still learned a lot, primarily about some additional tools and strategies that are available to support flipped learning. I enjoyed being able to work with participants to help them develop their flipped content and experiment with the tools we had been showing them.
I want to thank Jeremy LeCornu and Justine Isard for providing me with the opportunity to extend myself beyond my comfort zone and present at FlipLearnCon, it was an experience I am glad to have under my belt. I also want to thank Heather Davis, my secondary education counterpart at the event, for her support over the course of the conference. Finally, I want to thank those who attended for being so willing to go out on a limb and invest the time to gain extend their knowledge and capabilities and for engaging so strongly across the two days. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I know that everyone involved left feeling excited about the possibilities.
I have included the links to the Storify of both days of the conference at the top of the article, and when I get a chance to upload them, will provide links to both Heather and my own keynote presentations.
As always, thank you for reading.
For the full list of articles in the FlipLearnCon series, please click here.
“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”
– Attributed to Peter Drucker
Recently, I had the opportunity to take part in a Ph.D. research project being led by Penny Bentley (@penpln). Penny is researching (paraphrasing here) the role that social media plays as a tool for professional development, particularly in STEM contexts. My initial engagement was via an expression of interest survey which was linked to on Twitter which Penny was using to recruit participants.
One of the questions on the subsequent survey, which took about twenty minutes to complete, was if you would be interested in completing an interview with Penny to go deeper into the thinking behind your responses in the survey. Having utilised interviews as a method of data collection for my Honours thesis, I can recall how difficult it can be to obtain enough interview participants for your data to have real credibility, so I volunteered to take part in an interview.
The interview process, conducted using a Skype video call, was a largely reflective one and, for me, an eye-opening experience. I believe there is something different about verbalising your thoughts and reflections to another person as opposed to simply writing them down. The questions were focused on how my practice has changed as a result of the professional learning gained from social media, which for me, is predominantly Twitter.
It was not until engaging in this process with Penny that I realised how significant Twitter has been for my growth and learning as an educator. Without it, I would not have found out about a number of events that I have attended over the last few years, including FutureSchools, FlipConAus, and various TeachMeet events (review articles for all three here), I would not have made connections with and learned from a large number of diverse and experienced educators in a variety of contexts, now would I have sustained my blog writing, which I feel provides a useful outlet to verbalise, in a manner of speaking, my reflections vis-a-vis my professional practice. If you are not using Twitter in a professional capacity and you are an educator, please watch the five-minute video in yesterday’s article to find out why you should be using Twitter as an educator.
I also found the process of contributing to a research project rewarding in its own right. Having conducted interviews as part of my Honours research, I recall how difficult it can be to find a sufficient number of participants to ensure credibility in your data and conclusions.
I do not feel like the process of reflecting, either with Penny during our discussion, or in general through this blog, has generated any Eureka! moments, however looking back at older blogs, I can see how my beliefs and practices have changed, and I believe that engaging in reflecting upon my practice through this blog, as well as engaging with other educators via Twitter, has allowed me to grow as an educator and improved my practice.
As always, thank you for reading, and please leave any comments or feedback below or connect with me via Twitter.
“I know what I have given you…
I do not know what you have received.”
– Attributed to Antonio Porchia
Some time ago I was contacted by Allison, co-administrator of the @amuseEd Twitter account and asked if I was interested taking a slot as host of the RoCur Twitter account, @EduTweetOz. I was rather interested. I had followed the account with my own Twitter account some time prior and found the concept very interesting. Some hosts appealed to me more than others, and there were some great conversations that I had participated in due to the host of the time sparking my interest with something. Indeed, a conversation one weekend around initial teacher education (ITE) sparked a five-part blog series (Part One can be found here). I have grown my own Professional Learning Network (PLN) immensely as a result of the conversations initiated by various account hosts, and been challenged, inspired and motivated to continue to push myself to develop as a teacher.
I was rather fearful, however, of a few things. Firstly, Dr Inger Mewburn (@thesiswhisperer) published an article in 2011 (though I am sure I recall reading one more recently, but was unable to find it) that made mention of something I felt in relation to hosting the account:
Fear of being ‘found out’ as fraud, not really knowing enough/being smart enough to be Phd student (@orientalhotel)
Though the quote above is specifically in relation to being a PhD student, I felt this way about hosting the account. As a teacher in my first year out of university, I did not believe that I had enough knowledge or experience to be qualified to host the account. This was in spite of believing that I would be able to generate some interesting conversations. I was also concerned that I would put something out there that would turn out to be completely wrong. My other concern was time management. I was not entirely sure that I had the time I felt that hosting the account would require to give it ‘a proper go.’
I spent some time chatting with Allison about my concerns and though I was still unsure, I very much felt like an imposter, and we worked out a timing. As I am attending OzFlipCon15 in October, I wanted to try and get in a week prior to that, in order to generate some discussion about Flipped Learning, and potentially network with some other attendees.
Despite my concerns, I genuinely enjoyed the experience of hosting the EduTweetOz account. There were some excellent conversations, and it was interesting hearing about peoples concerns surrounding Flipped Learning. I made a number of new connections through the various conversations that I engaged with and my blog had one of its busiest weeks ever. My concern about time should, perhaps, have been about time management, and not investing too much time, to the potential detriment of other responsibilities and relationships. Mrs C21 (semi-jokingly) commented to me on the opening Sunday night that my week of hosting began “so, I’ll see you next weekend.” I do have a tendency to get fully invested in projects, and become somewhat oblivious to things going on around me, and I very much did that whilst I hosted.
One thing which I had not anticipated was the speed at which the EduTweetOz feed would move. To read something which had been linked to, and then come back to either favourite or retweet it, I would need to open the specific Tweet; and there were a number of occasions where I went to favourite or retweet something, only to have the feed move and I ended up doing so to a completely different Tweet. I enjoyed being able to engage with a wider range of educators than I otherwise have access to through my own PLN, and the array of ideas that comes with such a large PLN. I was also able to showcase some of the learning that my students had been doing and build the connections with my Classroom Twitter account, @MrEmsClass.
I will admit that I was mentally drained by the end of the week, and achieved very little that weekend that was on my to do list, That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the week and feel that the benefits of connecting with such a wide array of educators, engaging with a variety of conversations topics, and growing my own PLN far outweigh the minor inconveniences. I did make sure that I cooked an amazing dinner for Mrs C21 at the conclusion of my time as host though, to thank her for her understanding of my need to invest a significant amount of time in the experience. If you are unsure whether or not you want to host, i would definitely recommend it as a worthwhile experience.
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
– Attributed to Confucius
The EduFunding storm generated as a result of the leaked green paper, which I wrote about in yesterday’s article, continues on unabated. Yet it is also prudent, as pointed out by Corinne Campbell,to consider the now, especially when considering our students. My reading of Corinne’s article is that she was intending it to be taken as a factor in regards to our students; lives overall. My intention in today’s article is to to consider what I can do now, at the end of term, to strengthen my program from this term, in order to make flow smoother, be easier to implement, to be more beneficial for the students, and requires them to be more active in the learning process.
I was asked a few weeks ago how the program was going, and the first reply that came to mind was that there were lots of things that I would change if I was to deliver the program again. Things that did not quite work out as I had planned, technical issues that I was required to surmount, lessons that upon attempting to enact, I discovered that I had not thought through as well as I had thought and was left having to think on the fly.
The barriers about which I could do nothing included the lost two weeks at the beginning of the term due to the horrendous storms which battered the region, and left significant damage to my school, the annual NAPLAN testing as well as having significant disruptions to my Stage Three classes due to a Year Five week-long camp midway through the term, and the Year Six Canberra excursion this week. These disruptions led to a loss of a fairly significant amount of learning time in their own right.
As to things things that are within my sphere of influence, there are many. The most obvious thing is that I overestimated the current skill level and the time that it would take to get through the Fundamental Computer Skills (FCS) unit. My initial plan of working with small groups of students on their FCS quickly fell to the wayside. The videos that I had created were, generally speaking, above what the students was capable of doing on their own in the time frame I had allotted for each question, and I discovered that not all classroom’s had functioning computers. I was able to counter this by utilising the school bank of laptops, however there was only a sufficient number of those to allow one laptop between two students. This allowed me to work through the unit, however I had underestimated the rate of skill uptake. Each session would begin with a brief review of what we had learned the previous week, but I was finding that students were still struggling with some skills, or were going about things the ‘long way’ rather than using the more efficient method that I had explicitly taught.
This realisation leads me to believe that I had only been imparting a surface level of understanding as opposed to a deep embedding of skills, which, as someone who has high self-expectations, is disappointing. Some of the fundamental computer skills that I have been working on include the basics of logging in, which is a genuine challenge for my kindergarten students, how to open and close programs, and practice typing. These are fairly basic skills and I am not sure what else I could have my students do, other than practicing the skills, that would embed these skills in my students.
Beyond that, I have already written about my dissatisfaction with the lessons I ran discussing copyright and pirating, and I would very much like to hear from anyone with suggestions for rigorous, relevant and authentic lessons discussing those two concepts. I was happier with the lessons that I ran around digital citizenship that dealt with strong and weak passwords, cyber bullying and online privacy, once I worked out a few issues. I utilised an online game called RU a cyber detective, and initially, I asked my students in a combined year three and four class to work their way through the game in pairs on laptops.
This brought up a range of issues, including some students not being able to navigate to the game in order to play it, the game not being particularly clear on what to do in order to begin it, which was fine for my Stage Three students, however my Stage Two students are not particularly adventurous and were worried about breaking it. Ultimately, the biggest issue I found was that I did not have the opportunity to spend the time talking to the students about the concepts, which is what I wanted. I ended up changing the way I used the game after I discovered that my Stage Three students were unable to complete a critical portion of the game on their iPads. I had the Stage Two and Three classews join me on the floor in front of the whiteboard / projector image / interactive whiteboard and we played through the game as a class. This worked fantastically well. The students were not anxious about the actual operation of the game, and we were able to have some very robust conversations about the different concepts that arose, including passwords and online privacy and cyber bullying, including a lengthy discussion about the hows and whys of dealing with cyber bullying and why protecting your privacy online is so important.
There were other areas of my pedagogy that, upon reflection, need to be improved, within the FCS. It did not occur to me that as someone who regularly uses technology, that I needed to make the distinction clear when having kindergarten student type the old favourite the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs to account for the fact that I had typed it as normal in Microsoft Word, but that the letters on the keyboard were all in capital letters. It was not until near the very end of the lesson that I realised what the issue was. The students were correctly naming the the (lower case) letters on the whiteboard, and they were correctly name the (upper case) letters on the keyboard, but they were not linking the two types of letter as being the same letter in a different format. The next lesson, I was able to get access to alphabet strips, which showed the upper and lower case letters next to each other, and this immediately made a big difference.
I commented to the classroom teacher when she returned from her break what had happened, and she indicated she had the same issue at the start of the year when she attempted to have the students do some typing on the computers. Currently, Year Six are away on the annual Canberra excursion, and I have been able to commandeer one of the Year Six classrooms, which has an interactive whiteboard. I utilised this when I had a kindergarten class this morning, and had each student name and type one of the letters using the on-screen keyboard.
It is, I keep finding, the little things that make the difference. As always, thank you for reading, and I would like to hear from anybody who has realised things that they need to change in their pedagogy when teaching ICT skills, to any age group. Please pass this onto any pre-service teachers or newly graduated teachers that you know. I would rather they learn from my mistakes, than have to make the same mistakes themselves.