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!

And they said I was too adventurous?

The 2014 school year has been in swing now for eight weeks and what a whirlwind ride it has been. In such a short time I have seen some fantastic and inspiring learning taking place at my school, from both students and teachers. One little project I have been working on is creating some iBooks with Prep students. Little? Maybe not. I am teaching three different Prep classes for one hour each a week. Part of my role this year is to model and build exemplary classrooms that use technology effectively, that showcase how digital tools can be used in the classroom to benefit student learning. So I figured I would start by trying to build some excitement around this, I started with sixty 4 and 5-year-olds and one iPad. Fun! I suppose I wanted to prove to teachers at my school, others who may not be convinced by how digital tools can positively impact student learning and maybe prove to myself a little that I could accomplish something pretty amazing with Prep students…after teaching years five and six for the last two years, I was a little nervous and not sure where to start. I suppose my challenge here was to do something teachers were already familiar with doing in the classroom but transform and redefine how this could look using digital technologies. And so it began… Read more

Twitter In My Classroom

In November 2011 I blogged about how I used Twitter in a mathematics lesson on chance and probability with a group of year two students. Since then, just over a year ago, Twitter has become an integral part of my classroom program. So much so that last week I was contacted by Jewel Topsfield, the education editor at The Age Newspaper who wrote an article about how Twitter is being used in the education field – T is for Teaching. After receiving so much attention from the article, I realised that using Twitter with my year five and six students had become such a normal part of the daily activities in my classroom that I had forgotten that what my students and I are doing is still something that many educational professionals perceive as ‘taboo’, that there are still so many people out there that believe social media plays no part in the education of these ‘digital native’ students we teach everyday.

Photo: Jason South
http://www.theage.com.au/national/t-is-for-teaching-20121130-2amd9.html

Read more