Monthly Archives: September 2014

Reflective Practice

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Too often in schools we have very little time to reflect on what we have just done. Whether it’s as a student learning, as a teacher teaching, or as the principal managing the school, we rarely take the time to look at what we have just done and take the time to do some self-analysis.

Whenever we attempt something at school, we always have plenty of people trying to give us their feedback on the attempt. We get our work marked and graded, someone observes our teaching and gives feedback, and so on. School is constantly filled with people being judged by others, graded and moved on to the next level.

When we do have some time for self-reflection, it is rarely the deeper, critical reflection of self-analysis. The problem is that “We have little time to reflect – when we do it’s often just a concrete narration of what happened…” (Pappas, 2014)

Pappas follows a version of Bloom’s taxonomy that he has adapted to show the progress of reflective thinking in individuals.
This is a little different from other reflective thinking practitioners, such as Schon. in his 1983 paper, he suggests that there are only two types of reflection – reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action. He describes the former as being more of a subconscious reflection and adaptation of previously learnt skills whilst the latter is similar to final papers on design, where complex skills and results analysis is the focus.

How do we apply this to our learning spaces? By encouraging our children, our students, to attempt new things and to make mistakes. The courses I am studying this semester are doing just that for me. But where do I fit? Do I follow Pappas’ version of Bloom’s taxonomy, moving from step to step? Or do I fit within the framework suggested by Schon?

Personally, I feel that I work through the reflection-in-action model. I constantly change and modify things as I go along. Just look at any one of my assignments I have done for my university courses. The final copy handed in bears little resemblance to anything that was there at the beginning. As I work I see pathways opening up ahead of me, some with potential, some with dead-ends. As I progress, I make choices. I modify. I adapt my previous learning to what I need to accomplish now. I work out ways to do what needs to be done. By experimentation. Not trial and error, that’s too simple. I predict outcomes before they occur by applying prior knowledge.

Where do our students fit in this? We must provide greater space for reflection and analysis of tasks after completion to enable our students to become better learners.

It seems as though this is quite a life lesson as well.

References:

Pappas, P. (2010) A Taxonomy of Reflection: Critical Thinking For Students, Teachers, and Principals., Source: http://www.peterpappas.com/2010/01/taxonomy-reflection-critical-thinking-students-teachers-principals-.html

Schön, D. A. (1987). Teaching artistry through reflection-in-action. In Educating the reflective practitioner (pp. 22-40). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

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Group Learning Spaces

team_work

One thing about group learning spaces that we, as teachers must remember, is that they are not set in stone. A teacher’s learning space is the curriculum, and this is something we manipulate and change to suit the needs of our students. When we see the curriculum as such, we can focus more on the importance of such things as co-operation and collaboration. My understanding of the distinction is that co-operation assumes that there is already a pre-determined goal, while collaborative there seems to less of a fixed goal, with more emphasis on the process and the direction that the learning takes. Correct me if I’m wrong, its just my interpretation.
With the vast array of technology available to us, group learning has fewer borders than ever before. We can co-operate and collaborate on projects with people who may be far from where we are today. Learning has exponentially more potential than ever before. Our classrooms may therefore become far more self-motivated and purposeful than ever before.

Image retrieved from: jademoule.blogspot.com

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My Self-Directed Learning Journey

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Being self-directed is something I don’t think I have ever consciously thought about. I think I have usually tended to be a ‘go with the flow’ kind of personality, until I started doing this 4th year upgrade course.

Previously I had always been ‘directed’ or ‘guided’ into appropriate subjects at school. The one time I ever remember objecting and wanting to do my own choice I was told quite matter-of-factly that “Boys don’t do Home Economics in Queensland schools”. So much for my idea of becoming a chef!

Even the courses in this online platform don’t allow for choice. We have to do 8 units and there are 8 units available online. Hmmmmm!

Of course, I’m a little bolder now than I was in 1980. I’m trying to break the 8 unit mould and do 2 units on campus in Summer School in Brisbane after completing this unit. It’s a bit of a waiting game at the moment, but if I do get in, it means no Summer holiday break between semesters, but I will be finished by June. I don’t know how Pam can do 4 subjects at once, which I though about attempting. I’m struggling to keep up with 2 subjects.

One thing I have found with the subjects I have done as part of the 4th year upgrade, they tend to assume that you are teaching in a class and that you have access to technology. There seems to be a universal assumption that we are all starting from ‘the same square’. But it is good to see that some lecturers actively work to see us as individuals on our own learning continuums! Also, I have spent an extraordinary amount of money on technology (apps from iTunes and various programmes for my Mac, and now a new iPad) that I really can’t afford, but I need them to complete my work.

But, for the first time, I feel that I am doing something that I want to do because I want to do it.

It has meant sacrifice. It has meant losing a lot. But it also means that I will be able to teach again while at present I cannot (except in NSW – where no-one will employ you because you are over 40 anyway)

This course is a means to an end. I have become much more calendar conscious and much more aware of deadlines. I know my body can’t pull all-nighters and keep going the next day. I’m more conscious of study techniques and funnily enough, after all these years, I know what I’m like!

I avoid triggers of procrastination (impossible to avoid them all though). I set mini goals. I reward myself for accomplishments. I post things on Facebook when I achieve them (so I can get a like or two!). I take pride in my work and no longer see it as a chore. I now feel as if I really am learning something. I get excited about assignments (yes, I dread them) and look forward to applying what I have learnt to them. I have self-discipline. I never had that before when it came to study, ever!

I don’t fear failing, as I know I’m giving my work everything I can to succeed.

Like Justine, I do feel that “life can get in the way” at times, and that has been amply demonstrated this week with assignment work piling up and a pet family dog on the operating table for a freak leg injury. I’m at home alone, having to take care of everything and still keep up my work. I’ll get there. I might cut a few corners, but I will manage everything.

What I think I’m saying is that with age comes not just experience and knowledge, but also resilience. We know how to roll with things, we pick ourselves up to shake the dust off, and we get right back in there. How much more self-directed can we be than that?

 

Image source:

http://ictconnection.edumail.sg

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Public School Classroom iPads. Who pays?

ipadClassroom

I had a great afternoon with cousins yesterday. A nice family BBQ. Inevitably, the conversation turned to school, and as I’m doing 2 IT based study units, to computers. One cousin has 3 children. They’re not high income, but they’re not on welfare or any other government support. The 3 children attend a Queensland government school.

Enough background. The issue is that this year they were told that each child must have their own iPad to continue their education at that school. That’s around $3000 AUD altogether. A lot of money for most families, let alone those with low incomes.
What’s your story? Have you or anyone you know been ‘forced’ to buy technology for their child’s education? How is this a fair requirement in a public school?

Image retrieved from: http://www.njea.org

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5 Reasons Technology in the Classroom Engages Students

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I was browsing around something today, looking for information and came across this interesting article. Have a read. I think it fits beautifully with where I want to be as a teacher.

http://www.securedgenetworks.com/secure-edge-networks-blog/bid/51752/5-Reasons-Technology-in-the-Classroom-Engages-Students

Image by Randy Glasbergen, 2007. http://www.glasbergen.com

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Technology in the Classroom

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I think we need to ask the question, “When is enough, enough?”

As teachers, we all want to move with the rapid advances in technology that we see around us, and want to stay just that one iota ahead of our students, as if that could happen! We strive and struggle and work to integrate the newest techniques and technology into our lessons. But when does the ipad take over the lesson and become more of a teacher than the teacher?

Are we just jumping on a technological rollercoaster where the ride will suddenly come to an end when the technology is superceded? What happens to our iPads when something new comes along? The iFilm, a roll-up sheet that replaces the whole iPad? The iSpecs, a pair of glasses where the inside of the lenses are used as a screen, or better yet, where a projector uses the viewers own retinas as the projection screen? Or do we just plug in a jack directly linking our brains to the net? Technology marches on relentlessly.

We have leaps in technological devices, but are the apps being developed keeping pace, on a level with the capabilities of the devices.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as keen as the next teacher to get more technology into lessons. (I’m currently studying two IT courses, aren’t I?) However, it doesn’t seem that the iPad has measured up to the hopes and dreams we had for it. So few of the apps, according to Murray and Olcese (2011) are actually apps that will be interactive enough to teach a child. Yes, they can supply information, but the interactivity of providing a real lesson is lacking, when it seems that the technology is not.

So as teachers, we must be judicious in our usage of technology. Apps and content must be selected carefully prior to lessons, with the app being the best possible match for the lesson being taught.

I was fortunate to teach in Singapore, a highly technologically advanced nation where seemingly everything is computerised, everyone owns at least 1 iPhone and having an iPad is the norm. Imagine my surprise when I started teaching there. The only computers on the premises were in the staff room and in administration. The reasoning? Children came to us to be taught by a person. If parents wanted a computer lesson then they would do it themselves at home. Totally the opposite of what I was expecting. I remember the time I was reprimanded by the executive staff for showing a YouTube clip of a kookaburra laughing. Obviously, not many Singaporean children had heard a kookaburra before. The reason? They can look it up at home after class! I had 4 years of that. Also 2 years of much the same in Jakarta, where technology in the classroom was actively discouraged. I imagine that this caused a stagnation in my own learning about technology as well.

It wasn’t until I moved to Kuala Lumpur that things changed. Lessons were expected to have an internet/technology component. Not just research, but constructing reports and using various programmes according to the MoE syllabus. We also had 2 interactive whiteboards, however, no-one actually knew much about them, so they were used mostly as wide-screen tv’s. But the potential was there.

Suddenly, I was ‘behind the 8 ball’ with so little technological expertise. But funnily, I was far ahead of the majority of staff in my knowledge. Whenever something went ‘wrong’ with a compute I was the one called upon to help!

I read of schools where every child has an iPad to use in class, or a laptop. How do we ensure that the iPad is used effectively as a teaching tool when there are so few truly educational apps? Yes, we can have students researching on them, yes, there are some worthwhile activities, but where is the true learning, with something being taught in a responsive and interactive manner. We must be careful that we don’t allow the iPad to become a babysitter, or a filler in class.

Something to think about at least, especially with UNESCO proposing to use electronic devices as a means of providing access to education for the masses of people who may otherwise not have the chance to access education in the historic sense. The world of information is incredibly mobile, and today so many people have access to information through smart phones and other hand held devices. I brings a sense of egalitarianism to education for all people, everywhere.

Murray, O., & Olcese, N. (2011). Teaching and Learning with iPads, Ready or Not? TechTrends, 55(6), 42-48

UNESCO. (2012). Turning on Mobile Learning: Global Themes. France: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

http://www.securedgenetworks.com/secure-edge-networks-blog/bid/51752/5-Reasons-Technology-in-the-Classroom-Engages-Students (image)

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Collaborative, Cooperative and Group Learning Spaces

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Collaborative Learning

A collaborative learning space is one where specific tasks are completed by children who are working in small groups. Each child typically has few roles to undertake, but learns the significance of their role and its importance to the overall functioning of the group. It is believed that the knowledge gained by the group is generally socially constructed. The task is usually a closed topic with specific answers required to complete the task. The teacher is most usually the centre of authority in this model. Students usually receive the same mark for this model.

 

Co-operative Learning

The children work in small groups but each child will be given multiple roles to carry out. The activities are generally well structured with children learning the roles within group work as well as learning how to work as a team and to help each other.  The students will be working together and will take more responsibility to help in each others’ learning with more opportunity to practice relevant skills and to discuss the information. There is a specific task to be completed, but this task is generally open ended and complex. The children in the group are the centre of authority in this model, with the teacher generally acting as an observer. Students usually receive an individual mark based on participation. There are usually team rewards, but individuals are accountable for their share of the task. Children should be given equal opportunities to succeed at the tasks given.

 

Group Learning Space

A Group Learning Space is the space in which a group learns, which means, by definition, this is the space where both Collaborative and Co-operative learning can take place. Different Learning spaces are suited to different learning tasks and it should be the teacher, in general, who decides upon the learning space. However, children often see beyond and innovate to use spaces in ways that teachers cannot predict.

 

Educational

Each learning space will have its strengths as well as its weaknesses. The appropriateness depends upon the task given as well as on the nature of the children making use of the space. Also to take into account is the fact that some children don’t like and don’t function well in group situations, preferring to work as individuals, and vice versa. It is important that teachers are knowledgeable, if not practiced, in aspects of group work, in order to provide a beneficial learning experience for the children.

 

Slavin, R. (2010). Co-operative learning: what makes group-work work? The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice, OECD Publishing.

Image: https://nzfvc.org.nz/?q=node/1797

 

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Pens Vs iPads

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This article was emailed to me a few days ago. I respectfully acknowledge the author, Julia Calixto as I do not know the original source of the document.

As computer-based learning in classrooms continues to grow, handwriting is used less and less. The trend has some questioning if the writing’s on the wall for the age old practice.
By Julia Calixto
29 AUG 2014 – 5:11 PM

At St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney, students are learning Shakespeare.

Some, like year 9 student Anthony Segaert, are using tablets and computers as well as pens and paper to study the centuries old text.

“We watch videos in class, we do lots of typing, we use mind maps, it’s really easy for us to interact with our teachers more, like when didn’t have iPads in the classroom,” he said.

Richard Ford has been teaching for 15 years and said in that time he’s witnessed a digital revolution in schools.

“I’ve seen a huge amount of change with technology in classrooms from when I started, when there was very little, to now, where every student’s carrying a device,” Mr Ford said.

Students at St Andrew’s are encouraged to bring and use the technology of their choice. It’s a policy that’s been adopted by many schools across the country.

Dr Phil Lambert from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) believes schools are in a transitional phase.

“I visit schools a lot and some I see virtually all digital work occurring, yet in other schools I see books with pens out, pencils out,” he said.

“I think it varies and overtime once again, I think we’ll see is a transition of far more digital.”

ACARA’s head of assessment and reporting, Dr Stanley Rabinowitz, said handwritten assessments will also be phased out in the future.

“Online assessments research shows, including research we’ve done at ACARA, is more engaging for students,” he said.

“I think once we work out the logistic issues, once we have enough devices, people will get very excited about it to see their students engaged.”

While schools have no plans to drop writing as a fundamental skill, more students are opting to type rather than write.

Some education research suggests there are strong links between writing and broader educational development.

Author and design teacher Zoe Sadokierski said while using computers may be more efficient but hand writing enables people to explore ideas and thoughts.

“On a computer it’s always letter by letter, word by word, sentence by sentence and it’s very linear,” she said.

“We don’t think in a linear way. It’s very rare that an idea comes to you fully formed and sequential.”

“Usually what happens is it comes in fits and bursts and you have to figure out on paper where you’re going.”

Benefits to writing are emphasised at the Sydney School of Languages, where ancient writing systems are still taught.

Japanese Calligraphy teacher, Toshiko Jackson, said students must be focused and calm when writing calligraphy.

“It’s much more meaning than a printed letters. Calligraphy is one of the highest forms in expressing thoughts and sometimes conviction,” Toshiko Jackson said.

But whether it’s elegant script, or tapping on a tablet, teachers have no plans yet to say “pens down” for good.

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Is Curriculum a Learning Space?

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To me, the curriculum is not a learning space in itself. It is a document that all teachers must observe in the course of their teaching.

But, if you ask if the curriculum is used to create a learning space, then the answer is extremely different. The answer is a definitive yes.

The curriculum, by its nature, defines what we as teachers must teach. It is this that creates the learning space and the CoP in that teachers communicate and discuss what they are teaching to address the various aspects of the curriculum. Teachers co-write units. Share programmes and offer up innumerable ideas for various lessons. So the curriculum is core.

Without curriculum, education would be a free-for-all without limits or bounds and no minimum standards set.

However, another point of view might be in the team that creates curriculum, or develops and improves upon curriculum over time. In this instance, there is definitely a learning space in that every teacher with something to say wants to be heard. How big is the team? Is it just the team that work together to produce the document? Or is it every single teacher that gives feedback on the existing curriculum?

Many aspects are available to examine, and a definition is hard to pin down, but I do believe that the curriculum, by itself, is solely a document. It is the people using it, abusing it, working on it, or working with it who create the curriculum learning space.

Of course, there is another group that defines curriculum: the students to whom it will be taught.

Update:

I’ve just re-read my post here and thought to myself, “What a bonehead!” I’ve seen the word ‘curriculum’ and automatically substituted mentally the word ‘syllabus’! Comes from writing the post while being distracted!

Now I see that yes, curriculum is definitely a learning space in that it offers a framework within which teacher, colleagues and learners can function and grow and develop.

 

Image: http://www.pinterest.com/lcccteachered/environment-as-the-third-teacher/

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