Finding Motivation

A (long) while ago I wrote a blog post about conference keynotes. You can read it here. Basically, it was somewhat of a whinge-fest about how fed up I was about going to conferences only to be left disheartened and uninspired by the speakers and, on reflection, the education system as a whole.

I was yearning for someone to make me stop and listen, to make me stop ‘multitasking’, to make me stop and just take it all in. To be in the moment. I wanted someone to shake me out of my seat and make me feel excited about our profession again, to speak to me like they knew me, like they could read my mind and give me that little push I was so desperately seeking. I attended conference after conference and while I saw so many amazing speakers none of them were able to give me the kind of buzz I was after. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe I was looking in the wrong place.

I can’t tell you why I wanted this. I’ve often wondered. At the time of writing that post I was bored, I was wanting more from our profession. I was wanting more from my job. It wasn’t enough. More learning, more engagement, more excitement about learning and education. Maybe it is because I am so enthralled by education, I wanted to find someone who ferociously felt the same…so I kept looking to the stage. Maybe it is because I was in somewhat of an ‘education rut’ and needed some enthusiasm to spur me on, to keep on keeping on. Maybe I just wanted to learn more. Whatever it was…I know now that what I was after, wasn’t to be found on a conference stage. Read more

Dear Kathy…

I wrote this blog entry in response to a Facebook post by former teacher, Kathy Margolis, that was later featured on news.com.au and the Courier Mail.

It was originally posted in February 2016 and shared over 36, 000 times. Here I am more than six months later and while I may only be one voice out of 36, 000, I am a voice. This post is always coming up in my feeds online and I wanted to share my thoughts.

This is an open letter to Kathy and to educators everywhere.

Dear Kathy,

Congratulations on a 30-year career in education. What an amazing achievement. I am sure that there are hundreds of children you have touched and who have been positively impacted on from you being their teacher. What a special job we have to be able to do just that. Read more

The ‘Why’ of Conference Keynotes

A few months ago I was discussing a conference with a staff member at my school, she had recently been to her first ‘edtech’ conference and I was asking her for some feedback. The topic of Keynotes came up and she quite innocently asked me what the point was of a Keynote, it was an interesting question and one I found I could not answer her fully but just give my opinion. The fact that she felt compelled to ask the question made me think that the Keynote must not have been successful.

Now think for a minute. Remember the last Keynote you listened to. Did it do this? I have sat through many a conference Keynote and some have been more successful than others. I have left feeling inspired by new ideas, had my thinking challenged and for me, most importantly have been left with more questions than before. On the other hand, I have been left feeling bored, uninspired, grappling at the choice and relevance and disappointed. I have sat through Keynotes where some ‘big names’- even celebrities have stood on stage and delivered speeches that I could have found on Google and YouTube. Even worse, they have spoken about so called ‘new ideas’ that my peers and I had been doing for years. Given my somewhat bias opinion I took to Twitter and asked the same question. Read more

Leading Change is Hard

Leading change is hard. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you it isn’t. If it was, I doubt there would be so many expensive books, people and programs out there that claim to revolutionise your working environment in ‘just a few easy steps’. The books on my coffee table currently include ‘Start with Why’, ‘Leaders Eat Last’ and ‘Think Like a Freak’…I have watched countless YouTube videos on leadership and educational change and I have listened to some amazing people share their stories about leading change. I think it is safe to say I’m always looking, reading and researching ideas to help me be better at my job.

I have been in my current position for a little over a year now. I have learnt a lot, a lot about leadership and I have learnt a lot about people. Some days I get so frustrated- a big part of my learning has been about patience and learning to understand that not everybody thinks the same way as I do…and may not be quick to take on new ideas and challenges like I do. I remind myself all the time to slow down- but it is so much easier said than done! I don’t recall having these kind of challenges with students I have taught- those challenges are different. But working with adults- well that is a whole other ball game. Don’t get me wrong- I absolutely love what I do- to be able to work so closely with teams of teachers and individuals…to challenge their thinking, to support them to take risks and try new things, it is amazing and incredibly rewarding…but it is hard!

In the past few weeks I have felt stilted by what I viewed as a lack of change and movement. I have constantly had to remind myself to take a step back and look at how far we have come- as a school, how learning is being transformed on a daily basis and how teachers are now challenging each other’s thoughts, ideas and reasoning. Instead of focusing on what is not happening, or that massive list of ideas I have…I have had to reign myself in and just relax and go with the flow…something that I am not comfortable in doing. Read more

Postach.io & Evernote

I love school holidays. I love the time I get to spend with my younger brother, he is only eight and a whirlwind of entertainment. In January this year, I set him up an Evernote account so we could share things- photos, little notes in the times that I don’t see him, they live in a different state. He has an iPad and uses it at home but his school hasn’t really embraced the world of technology as yet so I worry that he is not developing the necessary skills to participate fully in an ever-evolving digital world. I also wanted him to see that his iPad is a device that can be used for so much more than just games and consumption. I wanted to open his eyes to how technology can be used to create and collaborate. I suppose I want to instill in him the same philosophy and vision I have for the use of technology by students and teachers at my school.

I started by setting him up an Evernote account connected to my Gmail address so I could monitor it and created a shared notebook. I created this from my Business account so we could both edit and modify the notebook, Declan just has a free Evernote account. The notebook, simply titled ‘Declan & Bec’ now holds some photos of recent holidays and some interesting little treasures I find in there occasionally.

He also started a wish list of toys and games he wanted using the checkbox feature which he discovered himself. Evernote is so intuitive, I love that this feature was simple enough for him to find and use with a purpose. I taught him how to share the notebook, which he then shared with myself and my mum- in a hope that he could soon be checking off those items. Smart boy. Read more

Twitter for Digital Citizenship

On Friday I read this article, published in the local Leader Newspaper. The article was based on a complaint made by an older sibling of a student at Roxburgh Homestead PS about Twitter being used in a year two classroom…which to any reader probably sounds like an irresponsible thing for a school to allow. These views were backed up by “cybersaftey expert”, Susan McLean.

I have been a longtime advocate for using Twitter in education, in fact, it was more than three years ago now when I started using Twitter to model and teach authentic global digital citizenship. It has been almost two years since this article was published in The Age, celebrating the positives use of such a tool in a variety of educational contexts.

What worries me the most is that this conversation still needs to be had. Educators who understand the importance of modelling and using social media with students in a positive way, and at the same time as teaching them the required skills to allow them to be safe online are constantly fighting an uphill battle when negative articles like this one are published. Read more

Teachers: Modern Knowledge Workers for the 21st Century

This essay was completed for the subject- INF530 Concepts and Practices for the Digital Age, as part of my Masters of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) studies.

It is the 21st Century. Traditional teaching and learning is changing to keep up with the rapid developments and changes with digital technologies and ever expanding online learning environments. Students today are faced with a differentiated set of skills, attitudes and actions that they will need in order for them to be prepared for, be successful in and meet the challenges of a digital economy (21st Century Learning, 2009). The following video from AITSL (2012) outlines the changing educational paradigms in light of the 21st century.

To be an effective teacher in the 21st century, teachers need to be able to engage and interact with a wide variety of information from an ever increasing range of sources. Wesch (2009) suggests that the media environment educators are currently faced with can become vastly disruptive to traditional teaching methods. Teachers today need to become lifelong learners in an information society where information flows freely, is instant and infinite (Wesch, 2009). For this to occur, teachers and students alike need to develop strategies for engaging with, working with and constructing new knowledge, or as Wesch (2009) describes, moving from being just knowledgeable to knowledge-able. Read more

Dinosaur Adventures with Prep C

Prep C has another iBook on the way, coming to an iPad near you- Dinosaur Adventures!

After the success of the ‘In the School’ series by three prep classes I have been working with, I decided to hand over the decisions to students. They all agreed on writing another book, creating it in Book Creator and publishing it to the iBooks store.

We brainstormed story ideas and topics and dinosaurs was a clear winner. We then brainstormed what they knew about dinosaurs which prompted some great discussion.

Students decided that they wanted their book to be funny, that we should write about ‘silly’ dinosaurs. I showed the the AR Dinopark app and that was it. Students came up with different things dinosaurs can ‘do’ at our school.

Students also created Popplets to show what they can ‘do’. In this activity, students were encouraged to use the supports around the room to write the words correctly as well as writing all of the sounds they could hear.

It was their first time using Popplet so we created an anchor chart for them to refer to. The colours also matched the colours of the buttons in the app.

Working with Prep students and introducing them to iPads in the classroom has been such a rewarding (and sometimes crazy) experience. I am constantly blown away by their abilities to show their learning and create meaningful products for an authentic audience!

The New Social Learning- A Scholarly Book Review

I completed this review as part of my studies for INF530- Concepts and Practices for the Digital Age, the fifth subject in my Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation).

While the book is not specifically written for the education field, it is as relevant for teachers as it is for businesses. I would recommend having a read!

Bingham, T., & Conner, M. L. (2010). The new social learning: A guide to transforming organizations through social media. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press. Read more

Using Evernote for Professional Learning and Development

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Being a passionate and inquisitive teacher in a digital, globally connected environment opens up so many opportunities for professional development. Like many teachers, I thrive on extending my knowledge in multiple areas, I want to know everything I can in order to make me better at my job and life in general. I am constantly seeking ways to inspire and better myself, other teachers at my school or in my wider PLN and importantly, students I engage with and teach. In an age of ‘infowhelm’ it can be hard to manage, truly engage in and learn from so much information.

That is unless you have the right tools.

I have said many times that I truly believe that using Evernote makes me a better teacher. Sometimes I receive funny looks, rolled eyes and “here she goes again” comments, especially when many don’t understand how powerful Evernote can be to manage all of this information. Other times, there are people who also thrive on learning and education in the same way as I do and want to know all they can about how and why Evernote is so amazing. For me, Evernote is more than just a file storage tool, it is exactly as Evernote describes it, my ‘external brain’ the place where I ‘remember everything’, store any of my thoughts, ideas or wonderings, a place where I can save information in a variety of formats from anywhere and have access to it in a matter of seconds on multiple devices. Wherever, whenever, however, I want.

Last year at the Evernote Conference in San Francisco, Evernote’s CEO Phil Libin spoke about ‘knowledge workers’, describing them as people who think for a living. These types of workers are driving economies, driving technology, making decisions, solving problems and driving innovation. Knowledge workers are people who, in their daily lives and work environments make decisions, communicate and collaborate with others and understand and meet the needs of their customers. Any modern, digitally connected, passionate teacher I know would have resonated with those comments. Our customers, however are our students. In order for me or any other teacher to meet the needs of our students, to prepare them for such a socially connected digital world and prepare them for jobs that don’t even exist yet- we need to take advantage of as much learning as possible. Read more