"Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you."
- Attributed to H. Jackson Brown Jr.
The first few weeks and months in a new role, regardless of the industry are a time of stress, cognitive dissonance, worry, imposter syndrome and overwork in an effort to prove yourself. My first few weeks with ClickView have been no different. The various individuals with whom I have interacted with, whether on a regular or one-off basis, have been helpful and there are those who are working extra hard to carry some of my responsibility while I transition into the fold.
So far, I have had the opportunity a significant range of schools as part of my role. All in Sydney at this point (though I am planning a number of regional visits for Term Two), and across a range of sectors. K-12 and Secondary only schools; Government schools, faith-based schools, independent schools, schools from affluent areas, schools from low socio-economic areas and one thing has become clear and made me proud to be a teacher.
Irrespective of the the schools socio-economic status, the geographic location, the internal politics, the resources, the physical structure of the school or the number of students. It has been clear from teacher, librarians, IT Managers, Assistant or Deputy Principals that the over-riding factor behind their motivations has been a desire to help their students.
This may sound rather trite and obvious, however, as someone who has taught in one particular region and whose interactions with educators outside that region are solely through conferences (where you are with like-minded and focused educators) or through Twitter (where the amount of you that comes through varies greatly), I found this an exciting and uplifting realisation.
I believe I belong to one of the luckiest professions in the world. We as teachers get to see a student develop and progress across six formative years of their life. For me, this has been seeing students enter in Kindergarten, unable to tie their own shoelaces or read, count, or add, through to them finishing Year Six and getting ready to move to Year Seven with a personality going through a new stage of development and change, but who can hold a conversation, who can challenge you with their own valid ideas and viewpoints.
As someone who is in the early stages of a new role in a different sector of the profession to what I trained for, it was exciting and actually rather empowering and uplifting to find that what I feel and believe about teaching plays true across a larger slice of the teaching profession than I have been exposed to thus far.
A slightly random and perhaps obvious realisation, but one I felt worth sharing.
"There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them."
-Attributed to Denis Waitley
If you do not feel like reading a long-ish article, there is a tl;dr summary at the end.
In 2014 I completed my initial teaching education, having been awarded both Honours Class I and the Faculty Medal. I was then asked to write and deliver the Graduate Address at our graduation ceremony in July 2015.
I still feel about teaching the way that I did then. My Teaching Philosophy still accurately sums up why I believe in the public education system and why I want to teach. I still find great joy in seeing my students' faces light up when they get it after grappling with some new concept or skill. I thoroughly enjoyed working with my Stage Three students last year and enjoy that they still put their hands up for a high-five whenever I pass them in the corridor or the playground. This year, I am enjoying Stage One more than I thought that I would and am learning an incredible amount from my team-teaching colleague.
So why then, am I leaving classroom teaching?
I was aware, going into teaching, that it was not the nine-to-five profession that appears to be the belief in society; that there was paperwork, marking, planning, excursions, parent-teacher interviews and politics. What I did not realise, and what I do not think anybody is capable of realising until you are waist-deep in teaching is just how pervasive and all-consuming teaching is and can be. It is hard enough to feel the need to be in my room at six in the morning in order to get things set up for the day, to work out what writing groups my students need to be in today based on their writing from yesterday, to decide which students need to move up a reading level, what strategy am I going to use to engage a challenging student, and and at the end of Wednesday, to get the room tidied, the marking done and the notes up to date for my job-share partner to take over on Thursday.
To then be feeling guilty on the weekend for not getting the things I could be doing, or getting a head start on, when I should simply be enjoying time with my wife and daughter during these beautiful moments of infant joy (she is so close to crawling, and her belly laugh is the sound of pure joy) while they are there, is not how life should be lived.
In 2012 I completed my first professional experience placement. It was in a Year Six class and was actually at my current school. It was a steep learning curve, but for the first time in my adult life, I felt like I was in the right place professionally.
In 2015 and 2016, I was employed on a temporary basis, for four days a week as an RFF teacher in 2015 and three days a week in a job-share arrangement on Stage Three. We got by financially as Mrs. C21 was employed full-time. As my regular readers would be aware, however, our amazingly bright and bubbly baby girl was born in August last year, and thus we are now relying solely on my 0.6 FTE wage. It is not working.
The last few years have been challenging at my school as well. I was offered the temporary contract in 2015 as the Librarian was on long-term sick leave and ended up passing away during the Semester One holidays. I got to be that guy who took over her space and her role. No-one ever said, nor gave even a hint of negativity about me being in that role in the library. Everyone was welcoming and helpful. Despite that, I personally felt awkward and struggled with being in the Librarian's shadow and did not feel that I could really make the space my own, leaving everything up on the walls that was already there and not even going into the Librarian's office except to add library specific items to a pile.
I was offered another temporary contract for 2016, and though I was thankful to have a set class rather than be working in an RFF capacity, being employed for only three days a week was frustrating. It tightened up the options for casual work, and made it difficult to get really thoroughly and deeply stuck into anything. I did, however, learn a lot about my practice and formed some strong relationships with my students and I am proud of what I achieved last year with them, especially when I see the growth in the start of year vs end of year testing data
Additionally, the school has been undergoing a significant building project in order to remove the twelve demountable buildings and return the playground to the students to...you know, play on over the last two years. It has been a cause of significant stress, frustration, worry, and excitement across the staff. The building is now complete with only the final touches of the new playground spaces left. The teachers in those spaces are excited about the potential for what they can achieve and the new library has a new librarian who is doing an amazing job setting up after the school has been without an active library for a few years. Oh, we also had a new Principal start at the beginning of last year and multiple staff retirements which has generated a lot of change as well.
This year I was offered another three-days-per-week job-share arrangement, in a team -teaching context....in the old library. To be fair, it has been structurally changed insofar as the walls dividing the building into library/office/computer lab were removed, making it one big open space. I was apprehensive about being back in their again, however, I am confident, and have been told by some of the staff, that the previous Librarian would be proud as punch to see the space as it is now and to see the students busily working, learning and enjoying the space.
In addition to the work involved in teaching, there is also the time spent writing these articles, making the FTPL videos, and attending conferences to consider, which although separate to my teaching, I consider integral to my teaching persona. All of that wrapped up together is the context from which Mrs. C21 and I made the decision that it was time to leave classroom teaching.
A few weeks ago, I received a message from a HR Manager who said they wanted to chat to me about a position they were advertising and for which they felt I might be a good fit. It seemed to be completely out of the blue and gave enough information to have me curious and so we e-mailed back and forth over the weekend discussing some basic details of the company and the role. Things continued to move along and after some more phone-calls, Skype video-calls, a face-to-face meeting, and further e-mails and phone calls, I was formally offered a full-time, permanent position with the company.
Full time. Permanent.
Those words are like gold to a casual or temporary teacher. Mrs. C21 and I spent many hours during the whole process discussing the role, the potential, the status quo, the challenges that this role would present to me personally and us as a family and how to negotiate those challenges, and whether it was going to be good for us as a family and what the ramifications for me professionally might be. Ultimately, however, I accepted the offer to join ClickView as their NSW/ACT Education Account Advisor. In essence, I will be working with teachers to provide training, support and professional learning in schools using ClickView across NSW and the ACT.
I was asked if I would miss the classroom and I absolutely will. Over the course of the e-mails, phone and Skype calls, and face-to-face meetings, however, I gained the belief that from a certain point of view, I am not leaving the classroom per se. I may not be standing in front of a room of students, but I will still be present through the teachers with whom I work. One of my personal goals as a teacher is to be able to look back and know that I have had a positive impact on the lives of my students, to be remembered with the fondness that Ms. Flexer was remembered by her students. I can certainly achieve that in my current role in the classroom. This new role gives me scope to scale that impact, and though I may not have the connections with students that I currently do, I will be able to positively influence their lives through my work with teachers.
I also feel that over the last six to twelve months that I have been at a cross roads in my teaching career. I enjoy being in the class and working with my students. I have also found that I thoroughly enjoy being able to work with colleagues to deliver professional learning opportunities and I feel that I am more comfortable and confident in that scope. I also thoroughly enjoy engaging with research and data, and miss being absorbed in reading and writing. This role, along with giving me stability and security of employment, allows me to continue to engage with education in those same three areas, whilst being encouraged to grow and develop in particular areas that interest me professionally and with scope to be creative. I said during the face-to-face meeting, and I genuinely believe it, that although this role would see me leaving the classroom, I do not feel that I am leaving teaching. I am still working with students and teachers, it is just a different context.
I will be sad to leave my current school. I had my first professional experience there, my first excursion, my first class and I feel that I am leaving positively. I am grateful to the support and encouragement of my job-share partners of this year and last year, to my team-teacher who has been a fount of professional learning so far this term, to my mentor who allowed me to blather on about whatever it was that had me excited/frustrated/tired/annoyed/cynical/worried and offered her advice and guidance, humbly and patiently.
I am looking forward to not having the will I be offered another contract for next year stress, which normally begins to set in around the start of Term Three. I am relieved that we won't be continuing to go backwards financially and the incumbent stress of being in that position. I look forward to not feeling guilty for not working on the weekends or at night. I am excited for this new journey. But most importantly, I am excited that when I am home, that I will be able to be more present with my family, that I will not miss important milestones because I am too busy programming / planning / marking / writing reports / writing rubrics / spending money on resources for the science lesson. My wife is certainly incredibly happy about me being more present than I am at the moment.
Ultimately, I had to make a decision based on what was best for my family. It just so happens that it also provides an incredible opportunity professionally. My final day in my classroom will be tomorrow, Wednesday 8 March.
As always, thank you for reading.
The tl;dr version is that I was offered a permanent, full-time position with ClickView and it is in the best interests of my family and I to take it, so I have.
“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.
“Moving to BYOD as a financial choice, is a financial choice for the school, not the parents.”
At the end of session one, I was genuinely excited to go back home and test out some of the ideas that had been discussed, so knowing that Simon Crook was the first speaker for session two, with the presentation title BYOD, mobile devices and apps in K-12 schools had me champing at the bit to get back into the venue.
Simon started out by saying something that I have observed, that many implementations of BYOD are in actual fact, implementations of BYODD, or bring your own designated device. Schools either give a list of acceptable devices, sometimes with one device listed, sometimes with multiple devices listed, or they give a list of minimum specifications that need to be met for the device to be acceptable. This came about due to the end of funding for the DER (Digital Education Revolution) program, and saw schools wanting to continue with the use of devices, but without the funds to do so. The choice to move to a BYO program is therefore a financial choice. Simon strongly believes that it is a financial choice for the schools and not the parents. Simon also discussed that the move to a BYO program as a drive for pedagogical change is a contentious factor for some people.
Simon posed the question to the audience is BYOD for everyone? Of course the answer is not quite as simple or straightforward as a yes or a no, but is a combination thereof. BYO programs are not for everyone if the teachers within a school are not ready for it. Teachers need significant professional development and support to move to a BYO program to facilitate high quality teaching in a different pedagogical framework and utilising a different infrastructure. It is not enough to simply move everyone to devices, they need to be used appropriately and teachers need the professional development to understand how to best achieve this. I’ve written previously about the SAMR model and its application for BYO programs and believe that it plays a significant factor in genuine use of devices in classrooms.
At the very least, Simon pointed out, teachers need to have devices of their own to utilise. I have known a school who rolled out a device to each teacher for twelve months to use as they were able to, with support, in the classroom before opening up the door to BYO programs. Only one class went ahead with a BYO program, and that teacher was highly engaged with using the provided device and worked to learn how to gain best results from the BYO program.
Three other questions were listed that need to be asked, to determine if a school is ready for a BYO program:
“Using technology in school should be about using it to complement the already excellent pedagogy going on, not about the ‘keeper of the kingdom’ saying no to ‘protect’ the school systems. The pedagogical needs should inform the IT decisions, not the other way around.”
Buy in from the school leadership is critical, as those schools where the leadership is on board and directs the IT team to find the solution often see more success than those schools where the leadership are ambivalent and simply ask the IT team if it is doable. There are factors to be considered, such as coverage v capacity as previously mentioned, and a genuine need to consider the security and protection of the students from undesirable content on the internet, but it needs to be considered intelligently, rather than simply whitewashing the internet en masse. Additionally, part of the conversation should be about teaching digital citizenship, which may form part of the conversation around Communicating and interacting for health and well being and Contributing to healthy and active communities, both of which are part of the Australian PDHPE curriculum and for which a variety of age targeted resources are available on the Cybersmart website.
Following on from this was the discussion of ‘equity’ which can often be a cause for consternation around BYO programs. Simon made his position clear – equity is not about the lowest common denominator, it is not about making one software suite dominant and that cloud computing is the way to go. Simon indicated that decisions about hardware and software are going to vary from family to family and that where possible, utilising cloud-based storage would facilitate engagement as it would remove the problems of “I forgot my flash drive” or the issues of “I don’t think that’s the right version, there’s a newer one on my computer at home” that teachers often hear, from both students and colleagues.
Ultimately, BYO programs are for everyone. Hardware prices continue to drop and there are an increasing number of options for those families who are price-point sensitive. The critical thing to remember, however, is that a dialogue needs to be opened up, early in the thinking about BYO programs to address concerns from parents, students and teachers, and that the dialogue needs to be ongoing.
If you are curious about implementing BYOD, there are a growing number of schools who have implemented it, and many of these schools are open to visitors to find out more about what it looks like in practice. Some online resources that Simon provided include the NSW DEC website BYOD Sandpit and the Sydney Boys High BYOD page.
We had a few minutes after Simon finished speaking to stand and stretch, while the second speaker for session two, Matt Richards, set himself up to present Makerspaces.
Matt Richards spoke about the phenomenon known as Makerspaces which are student centered spaces where students are able to utilise technology in various forms to create objects. Matt talked about how he took a disused space in his school and transformed it into a student-owned space by allowing groups of students to paint the walls with differing images, and the leveraging of the tech-savvy students, who ordinarily hide away, as mentors for others wanting to learn more about technology. His aim, he said, was “…to create a space where kids learn how stuff works.”
Makerspaces doe not require large amounts of cash to get started, and Matt related how he started simply with a number of old defunct computers, and the students were dismantling them and attempting to repair them and get them to work again. These achievements generated confidence and a buzz of accomplishment in the room which led to an increase in student self-efficacy as they experienced success, even if it was in the creation of ‘useless devices’ such as the one shown below.
Beyond utilising defunct computers, Matt spoke about a range of low-priced resources including Goldieblox,Osmo, Littlebits, Raspberry Pi and Unity amongst a range of small kit computers. Matt said that the Makerspace movement changes teachers roles from content leaders, to relationship facilitators.
Matt’s final point was significant, and I believe ties his, Simon Crook’s and Richard Byrne’s talks together: “We need to evolve learning spaces from teacher-centric to student-centric, and getting there is going to see different paths taken for different schools.” This sentiment can be applied to BYO programs, as well as game inspired learning.
That is the end of day one, session two from my FutureSchools ClassTech wrap up. The next article will include the brief lunchtime session with Richard Byrne and Sue Waters which took place in the expo hall, as well as session three of the ClassTech conference Stream, covering 3D printing and the Connected Classroom
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
“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.
“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.
“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.