"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."

~Neale Donald Walsch~

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Stuck Getting Started

This week I have noticed that my students have had some trouble just starting.


When there are a number of students in the room that struggle to start it can be quite difficult to race around and speak to everyone. After all there is only 1 of you. However you may be able to try a few strategies.
Image from bigstockphotos.com

What do you already know?
Often students don't think they know anything on a topic when in fact they really do. A set of general questions might help the grey matter get moving and be a prompt to have a place to start.

What don't you know?
Similarly sometimes when students are overwhlmed they just say, " I don't know anything." This always needs to be followed by a series of questions. Exactly what is it that you don't know? How can we go about finding out about it? Who else might know something about it? Supporting students using higher thinking questions can also assist in prompting them to begin to think about their topic.

Give an example
More often than not I always give an example. Students need a place to start or at the very least some idea of what is expected. The difficulty sometimes is getting the less able students to not copy word for word the example that is given but to ask them to use the structure and their own words to respond to the topic or instruction.


Pair up with someone
Pair the student up with a more able student who does now how to start. It's hard to get around to everyone so use your able students to encourage and assist others. However make sure that even though they might be helping someone they don't feel as though you are neglecting to speak to them about their work because they have been busy helping others.

Provide some prompting questions
Asking good questions will always lead to further thinking of ideas and strategies. Even though who, how, what, why, when and where are a good place to start the 5 whys can be a way of digging a little deeper. If you have a problem you are trying to work out then ask at least 5 why questions to get the student thinking.

Provide a very structured outline
Providing a rubric they can complete is a great way to start thinking. There are many ways to record your initial ideas and thoughts however with many different learning styles in one class it can be tricky. Some learners like to use mind maps and others like to make lists. It's important not to constantly force learning tools on students that they don't like to use. Having options for initial thinking gives the learner choice and gives them confidence in their own learning style and ability.

These are a few strategies I used this week to help students begin to research a topic for an oral presentation.

Here is the template I gave to my students as they began to think about their topic and where they could start their research.

Please let me know if you use some other strategies.

Until next week,
Kathryn

Friday, 30 January 2015

Are you digitally enhanced?




Image @ bigstockphotos.com
Have you ever used Photoshop or photo editing software to digitally enhance a selfie or photo of yourself? It almost seems like we are part of the generation of 'fake'. It's hard to know whether or not images, videos and information is real and genuine. However in an information obsessed world there is no denying that information technology in schools is now part of everyday life. It is embedded in the curriculum and there is an underlying assumption by the consumer (the students) that technology will be part of any course that is taught from 2 years to 99 years. Technology is part of everyday life and if teachers are not digitally enhanced or skilled in using technology then the quality and teaching standards will by and large be affected.





Innovating Pedagogy

If you are going to innovate using technology then there has to be an understanding as to why you are going to to do it. Pedagogy has changed and developed over many years and will continue to do so. As it should. There will be those elements of pedagogy that remain the same however it is the developing research and discussion that most excites education junkies as we seek to push new boundaries of learning, student engagement and success. The 3rd Open University Report into Innovative Pedagogy highlights these trends in technology and student learning and lays out a strong basis for the change in classroom practice to meet the demand of the current generation but also to consider the future needs of students and skills required for a technology skilled workforce of the future.

As an education junkie myself the challenge for me often lies in considering what is going on in
Image @ bigstockphotos.com
schools and can some of these elements be moved to andragogy practices when I am teaching adults. Often they can but my greatest challenge with mature aged learners is their experience using technology. There is a huge range of experiences with technology in my classes and trying to find the balance of using technology to enhance learning rather than causing a stumbling block is one I spend much time trying to get the balance right. In one of my classes they can range in age from 16 - 70. In fact in the last two years I have had classes with this exact scenario. Younger students by and large can't get enough of the opportunity to use technology however in the same class you have more mature aged students who find the whole process frustrating and a waste of time.

It is through providing opportunities, much support and encouragement that will win at the end of the day. There is less fear these days that you can't break technology just be clicking then there was 20 or even 10 years ago. The use of technology has to be phrased in an adult learning environment as conducive and meaningful to not only the learning experience but also the outcome and is shown to be of further use when applied to a variety of situations and circumstances. An example of this would be Google Docs. Having shown my students how to use them they can use the same skill in other subjects and also continue to use them outside of study and for life. The practical use and relevance is important to adult learners and they don't want to learn technology if it is going to never be used or is a waste of time.

How can you become digitally enhanced? 

Be open to experiment and fail. Using twitter and reading blog posts are some of the easiest ways to get ideas on what you can use in your classroom. (Judy O'Connell's blog is excellent!) Many academic journals (for example;English Teachers Association) are great places to find the latest research on the use of Innovative Technology but also you will find many practical tips from other teachers on what has worked in their classrooms. The joy of experimenting is not only for students and I know I have enjoyed experimenting on my students using technology over the years.

Time to share your selfie

Sharing in your success or failures is something we expect of our students but don't necessarily practice ourselves. Join a Twitter chat and listen to what others are doing in their classrooms and join the conversation around your own classroom practices.

Until next week's musing....

K

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Moving beyond hurt

I admit not only have a I been totally overwhelmed by life in the last 6 weeks but I have had a bit of writer's block. There have been moments when I have started a new post only to sit there and stare at a blank page. Mentally exhausted and emotionally spent.  The last semester has been the most rewarding and most challenging I think of my career. There has been truly powerful moments and realisations with students that has deeply moved me. The ability to truly teach in a creative capacity allowed me to push myself harder than ever before, to see what I was capable of. I was truly chuffed to receive a nomination for an Excellence in Teaching Award for Hunter TAFE and whilst I didn't win the acknowledgement has provided some reflection on my part.

What is it that drove me to drive my students harder than ever to succeed? 

There has been many times in my life when others have told me that I would never amount to
Image from  Bigstockphotos.com
anything. I was average and mediocre at best as a teacher. Never was this more difficult than in the last school I taught at and so profoundly did one Head Teacher's negative long term harassment and bullying impact on me that I never want to teach in schools again. TAFE provided a safe place to heal and my amazing head teacher gave me the opportunity to really teach in a creative and innovative way, very different from others in my section and as a result the students have achieved outstanding results and will get into the university courses of their choice.  There have been volumes and volumes of people who have written on this topic and I join the chorus. Really negative experiences in life produced a drive in me to not only prove them wrong but also prove to myself that I could do it too.

Some students that come to TAFE have the same story. Broken people who are wanting to put the pieces back together. The outcome of success comes not in being given everything on a silver spoon but through genuine achievement found in hard work, perseverance and a desire to improve oneself. Being connected with others is profoundly important to success. Having a team or friendship group that not only values you as a person but is also happy to conjole, push and stretch you can produce a more significant result than if you are going it alone.
Henry Ward Beecher a 19th Century American Congressmen who fought for human rights and the continued abolition of slavery sums it up nicely. “We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have travelled from the point where they started.” 
 Moving beyond hurt

Working and interacting with people day in day out puts teachers in line for criticism and analysis of their work. Maintaining professionalism when that criticism has no founding is hard. It's hard to not to be really affected but it can't define you as a professional. Some criticism can be warranted and helpful for growth however truly negative and truly personal criticism can be soul destroying.

There will always be bullies. These behaviours are passed down from one generation to the next or are reinforced by social groups and peers who wish to have power over others. I can't be defined by this any longer.


Not all students will pass all the time. I am not oblivious to that fact. Learning is never wasted. My journey is by no means over but I draw in the strength of past hurts to move on and as a result have more confidence in my abilities to teach and assist students than ever before.

Getting over life's hurdles can produce real growth and success.



Many of the struggles that adults have come from their early childhood, primary and teen years.

Anti-bullying songs and campaigns need to continue in work places as much as schools to continue to discuss the importance of respect and tolerance in our society. With high rates of domestic violence in our society it is imperative that we continue as a society to speak for what is right and then of course to act and model the right behaviour to our kids and our peers.

  1. Image from  Bigstockphotos.com
    The Report estimated that workplace bullying costs the Australian economy between $6 billion and $36 billion every year and that a workplace bullying cases costs employers an average of $17,000 to $24,000 per claim. Fair Work Act 2009

The social and financial cost to our community is great. I have struggled this year with over coming past hurts but at no time did I ever register a claim or take time off. How many others are part of an unknown statistic?

Anyway it's time to move on and I have some very exciting changes for next year. I have enrolled in my Masters of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) with Charles Sturt University and am also hoping to finish my Diploma in Adult Language, Literacy and Numeracy Practices.  I am continuing to work at TAFE but have cut right back in the hope of pursuing my business in a more significant way. I'm also going to do some work for my local community college and who knows what else I'll pick up. The future is bright and I'm excited for what lies ahead.

Thanks to you all for reading my blog and I wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and safe and happy holiday.

Until next time,
K

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Identify, Analyse and Evaluate

Over the last few weeks my History students have been working on a new essay. They have been considering how continuity and change effects the topic they have chosen. Yesterday I had a discussion with some students about the fact they weren't enjoying this essay and just struggling with the subject in general. I was a little gutted for a few moments and realised this wasn't about me but about the fact that for whatever reason the students were not really understanding what I was asking them to do. So... last night I did some hard thinking about how it is I can really engage them not only in the topic they are researching but really develop their analytic skills. So I have a new strategy now with some fun and engaging activities for next week to get them thinking and build their skills but it has really got me thinking about critical thinking.


So what is critical thinking?

Image c/o B. McCallum
Because we live in a media saturated world students often take what they see and hear for granted. The expression "Curiosity killed the cat" is one that does not apply here. We want students to question what they reading in relation to what they know.

So much of what students see or hear is sensationalised and writers are often paid to persuade us to believe what they write. What is needed is a good dose of skepticism in order to start thinking more objectively about things.






Developing your own views

Image c/o B. McCallum
Often students read information and only consider what they comprehend in what they have just read. They need to connect the information they have read into other aspects of what they know or how it might link in or be in relationship with other information they have at hand or have experienced.










Identify, Analyse and Evaluate

Image c/o B.Mccallum


I find sometimes that students lack logical flow in how they think when they are developing ideas. Some students like structure in order for them to develop their ideas and opinions. Sometimes students just don't seem to know which questions to ask in order to dig a little deeper in a complex problem or issue. 









As students develop their higher order thinking skills they will begin to ask more complex questions on the issue they are considering however for some students they just need a starting point. I need to help my students really understand the importance of analysis and the ability to account for the information they are reading in relation to their topic. The thing I like about this essay is that the students need to consider continuity and change and this in itself is asking them to make connections and see how complex issues form relationships within the historical context. 

So I have a challenge that awaits for me and only 3 weeks until their final exam. 

Until next week,
K








Saturday, 18 October 2014

YouTube's Creator Studio


So I mentioned in my last blog post that my students have been using the latest in You Tube's video application. Many of my student have had no experience with videos and video editing and they have picked it up as though it was child's play. It's not the Rolls Royce like Adobe's Premier Element 11 which is fantastic if you can master it but it's great to put together something if you have little time or experience.

The example I am using below is from one of my students. This term we have been talking about different cultural values we all possess. We have been examining how we are shaped by stereotypes and how we can overcome some of these negative stereotypes and break down some of these barriers we place on people. This student created this video with no knowledge of video editing. I think he did a great job but I'll let you be the judge.


I

YouTube's Creator Studio
One of the best features about this program is that it's really easy to use and the interface is similar to all other Google products.



Students like the freedom to be expressive using technology and this new application really does tick a lot of boxes. Have a play with it and see what you think. Probably 3 of my favorite features are:

1. Creative Commons
I am always banging on to my students the importance of copyright on the internet. The videos in CC are great because the students can use them to get the message across legally without having to worry if they are using someone's work without permission.

2. Audio
There are many different sounds and songs that are free that they can use to make their videos interesting. I was really surprised at the range of music and genres and there are plenty to choose from.

3. Cutting Tool
Once you have dropped in your video you can cut and move it around very easily. Students were able to add in images, video and music and manipulate them into different time frames and places within the video. This gives so much flexibility for students to be creative and publish a really nicely finished video.

So why not have a play around with the new Video Editor in YouTube. You can't break it and you might actually have fun.

Until next week,
K

Favorite Google Docs Tools

Well it has been some time since my last blog and so much has happened. My TPC History class handed in their essays and I was so proud of their efforts. So pleased everyone passed and 3 got full marks. So after a lot of sweat and tears some excellent results. It's a bit stressful to get them all through (50 of them) however it has been very rewarding. So many of them have improved in their skills and really that's all I expect of them.

Loving Google Docs.....

My greatest tool this term has been Google Docs. I have been using Google Docs now for about 4-5 years. I can't really remember when I started using them but I really find this technology extremely useful and they are the best way to work with students on their essays or pieces of writing. I also like to use them for collaborative purposes and they also like to use them this way. Clearly the sharing option in Google docs is so great and one I use all the time.  My favorite function is the comment function followed closely by revision history.

Sometimes in class the students and I work on the document together in real time and they find this so helpful. I also work with them outside of class time if need be and Google docs gives you the freedom to do that. It's great that you don't have to print out multiple copies of drafts. One of my other favorite new features in comments if one of the add-on called Kaizena. 


You can voice record your comment rather than typing it out. I like this option when you have a little more to say about a paragraph and I use this option rather than have a really long comment on the side of the page. 

As I mentioned earlier I also love revision history. It's great to see when your students are working and also great if they make a mistake and accidentally delete a paragraph or sentence and they can easily go back and restore it to an earlier time when they were working. The only time I know that you can rewind your life. You can click on any of these time and the document will be restored to this time. If you are working on a doc with multiple students then you can see how much each student has contributed to the assessment or classwork. It's such a great feature. 


In one of my other classes the students have been using the relatively new 'YouTube' Creator Studio. It was launched in July this year and it has been great for them to create some videos about negative stereotypes we have about people and how we can overcome them. I'll blog about that one next week. 

Happy playing in the land of Google. 

Until next week,
K




Sunday, 14 September 2014

What is the new normal in education?

It's been interesting watching the trends in education over the last few years. There have been many predictions from marketers and specialists however I am a casual observer. This year in particular hasn't seen a dramatic change from any previous years but it is very to clear that different regions, schools and colleges have different levels of access to technology and the speed at which they can use this technology.

Internet Speed

Image by bigstockphotos.com
Dial up used to be the bane of our existence. We became used to the click, go get a coffee before settling in to wait for the page to upload. However it's interesting how annoying it is when there is a break in the video you are watching or the page doesn't load or crashes.Our expectation of how fast information needs to come to us has changed greatly over the last few year. I know in my area that people are moving to areas where there is high speed broadband and I myself would love to have it at my house but will have to wait some years for that to happen. I have family members who live in rural areas and can only use the mobile network and so they don't use the internet much because the speed it incredible slow and expensive. So until there is broader access to the internet there will be disparity between those who have access and those who don't. In terms of the new normal there is an expectation that when we want to purchase something, find out about something or just want to watch something that we can do it where we want and when we want either through our laptops, mobiles or tablet devices and that we can always stay 'connected'.

Skill level

We are living in an age where there is currently a generation that are 'digital native'. These children
and young people have never known a time when there wasn't computers. Just a few months ago I had a conversation with a colleague who grew up without a calculator. I just couldn't fathom what this would be like. It's just something I take for granted. Australia's teachers come from several generations and within these generations are teachers with some technology skills and others with very few. Young teachers who are graduating not only tend to have excellent computer skills but seem to navigate social media to help them in their profession and if given the opportunity will be a flag bearer for the positive aspects of using technology for teaching, learning and professional development. There will always be those who are not interested by technology at all and then there will be those that think it is wonderful and embrace it.


Time is a factor

I think one of the areas that teachers struggle with the most is time. Having had a good look at the new National Curriculum there is so much content that teachers need to cover in class but also much added pressure to be transparent about students results and feedback. The administrative side to education is getting worse and there doesn't seem to be any obvious signs this will change in the near future. Perhaps there needs to be a business admin component to the teaching degree.

Social Media

What is becoming more obvious in the last 12 months or so is the influx of educators regularly engaged in social media activity based around their teaching area. Over the last three years there have been many education chats spring up to support teachers and learning. As teachers are under great pressure to make their lessons interesting and engaging they look to the internet and social media to provide ideas and support for their projects and lessons that are quick yet very effective. There is no point re-inventing the wheel and if someone has already done it then you don't have to create something from scratch. It's about being  savvy with your time. I'm not saying go and steal ideas from others and claim them as your own I'm saying that sometimes social media can provide a starting point in your thinking to produce something better than you may have come up with on your own.

Teach Meets

Teaching has for thousands of years has always been about the sharing of knowledge and skills. There will always be those who think that their intellectual knowledge is not to be shared with other professionals and is to be only delivered to students. However there has been a real shift in thinking for many educators over the 10 years that personal knowledge is something that can be shared. Teach Meets provide an opportunity for teachers in a local communities to not only share what is happening in their classrooms but it provides support for teachers in communities for teachers and students and can address real issues that are affecting students in those suburbs or regional areas.

Education has always had to adapt and change to meet the requirements of each age and generation. As with the invention of the biro and the calculator so have interactive smartboards and greater access to the internet allowed education to become more of a global institution for our current student cohort.

I wonder what the next 10 years have install?

Until next week,

K