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

~Neale Donald Walsch~

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

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The art of blogging

This term, as in past terms I am one of those horrible teachers who forces their students to use technology. I
make my students create a Google account just so we can all play in Google's Technology Playground. I really think I must do that Google course and get qualified because a lot my time is spent showing others around. I usually don't have too much opposition and if a student really doesn't want to create an account then they just complete their weekly blog in a Word doc.  Anyway one of the assessment tasks this term is to blog each week. The students are given a rubric of questions for the term that they have to address each week. Some really dislike it. Others find it beneficial to help them process what they have learnt. It's no different to writing in a journal like the good old days. So is there a right and a wrong way to blog?

What is really interesting about Gen Y is that they are very confident using certain aspects of technology. They appear to bawk at something that might be a bit different but they take no time at all to pick it up and run with it. I guess for the purpose of the assessment task they are just reflecting their learning online but what I find interesting is the internal thought process about their learning that I don't always hear in the classroom.
Image by bigstockphotos.com
Often they are not bothering with punctuation and there can be large slabs of text. It seems that the usual grammar rules get thrown out the window when they type. I am not really so concerned with these things as part of the exercise because it is the information I want but I do find it interesting and insightful in their thoughts and musings that grammar doesn't seem to rate as an important part of the writing process. The internal dialogue is rich with information for me and helps me pick up on those things I hoped they had learnt and areas where they are struggling and also indicates to me if there were things in the lesson that I haven't explained clearly enough.  Students often struggle with what to write. It seems that the art of thinking and writing ; considering, analysing and synthesising new learning are lost on a generation who are used to regurgitating and memorising information for tests. However all is not lost and I find that as each week that passes there is more writing and thought provoking ideas that come through the more their blogs.

There are those who clearly have the gift of writing. I'm afraid I'm not one of the lucky ones. I wish I could eloquently piece my ideas together and weave my thoughts with beautiful images and analogies however I do my best. I don't necessarily think there is an art to blogging but more over a sense of being able to communicate with others in a different space and time in which I would normally communicate with someone face to face or over the phone.  I have found blogging has been key to my own professional development and have found it has forced me to think about what I do in my classroom and also how I engage with others in the education community.

There can be no art if there is no blogging. So blog away. Delve into your thoughts and reflections and share what's on your mind with others. It's a great way to connect with yourself and others who might share in your struggles and frustrations and it will also help you process what is working in your class or what's not.

I haven't had much time to share some of my favourite websites but I have been diving into Google a little more off late as I'm teaching a Google Apps class at the moment. I guess my two favourite Googly things at the moment are Google Keep and YouTube Creator Studio. Instead of my students doing an oral presentation they are creating a 3-5 min YouTube clip on their topic. Can't wait to see what they come up with. Have a play around in the Creator studio. I love how easy it is to access creative commons videos and audio.

Until next week,
K



Saturday, 2 August 2014

What do you do with a good idea?

Well it has been a few weeks since my last post and I didn't realise until today that I have sadly been neglecting my blog. The last few weeks have been a real blast and I am loving teaching Humanities and History again. My brain is all a buzz with all the wonderful lessons I've had lately and the same buzz I felt when learning about the past is still as exciting as ever.It has really fired me in the belly. By and large I am an ideas person. I generate new ideas every day. I'm constantly thinking and like to look at things outside the box and search for new and innovative ways to do things. So what happens to all these ideas you come up with?

Well this has been a great source of frustration for me over the years and I have learnt (sometimes the hard way through brutal honesty by others) that not all my ideas will come to fruition. I would say very few of my ideas in fact actually come to fruition. However in saying this it is not a bad thing. Often us frontal lobe extroverts are thought and action people. The two are linked. I like to come up with an idea and then like to make it happen however in reality I often neglect to think all the steps through and who it might affect. This in term makes a lot of work for myself or others. So if you are an ideas person how can you not get discouraged when things don't happen and if you live with or have students who are ideas people how can you help them see reality and make reasonable adjustments so as not to burst their bubble all the time?

Be encouraging

Visit this site for more ideas. 
From we are quite young age our parents tell is 'no'. Often it is to keep us safe or to instruct us in what is
social acceptable in a situation. No can be said in a variety of ways. "I don't think now is the right time for that." or "We'll look into that a bit later". I know these phrases because I use them on my children however I do find it much harder when these phrases are directed at me and my ideas at work. However I have a most excellent boss who totally understands my over zealous ideas and he always starts his no answer with an encouragement. "I think that's a great idea however we might have to revisit it in a few months." or "It's a great idea but I don't think we can manage it at the moment." It's good to feel that what you have to contribute is valuable but in reality it just isn't going to happen.

Be realistic


Ideas people often have a lot of energy. There are some people in work places that this really annoys. Particularly people who want to go away and think about things for a bit and get back to you. Yet again ideas people need a good dose of reality and patience from time to time to come around and see things in perceptive like others do. I have learnt over the years that not rushing into things is actually quite a good thing. However sometimes the thinkers also need to come to the party sooner rather than later. (The great thing about a blog is you get the last word.) :)

Take a chance

Image by Bigstockphotos.com
I right this paragraph on behalf of all my other fellow idea personality friends. Sometime we come up with good ideas. Give us a chance occasionally to give us the freedom to fly and you might be surprised. I have a very good friend of mine in business and we share the same personality type. Thankfully he has a job where he is paid to trouble shoot and come up with creative and innovative ideas however not all of his ideas come to fruition either. There is nothing wrong with ideas but there is a great need for perspective and time to allow others to support and come with you as part of change rather that you flying solo and forcing others to change. 


 Mark Twain writes, "Write what you know." I have found that writing my ideas down does help to 'get them out of my head' but also allows others to go and ponder these ideas and this creates an opportunity for richer discussion and sharing. Often the challenge for teachers is time management. Sometimes ideas people can take up much time and create more work however as students grow and become more independent learners there should be opportunities for students to experiment with their ideas and take manageable and realistic risks in their learning and ideas. 

"Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others." Plato

More pondering next week. Thanks for all your comments via social media about this blog. I do find it encouraging and find these exchanges richly rewarding.

Until next week,
K

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Too scared to share

What a wonderful school holidays it has been. It's been great to unwind and take time out to ponder on things. I really do love to ponder. No wonder I like blogging so much. I have spent some of the hols preparing for next term and I am feeling very excited about it. I have longed to have a senior History class for many years and finally I will be teaching History as part of the TPC course (Tertiary Preparation Certificate) at TAFE this semester. This is a wonderful subject with great scope for understanding historiography and applying these skills throughout the semester. It has been pure joy revisiting some of my resources and reliving those moments when I am truly enthralled by interesting insights into the lives of people in our ancient and recent past. I am also teaching a subject called Humanities and it is much like Society and Culture for those who understand that subject. Very interesting to learn about our own culture and that of others around the world. Anyway enough waffle.

As usual I have had some wonderful conversations with colleagues and teaching friends over the holidays on a wide range of topics but one conversation has come up a few times and it interests me greatly. Why bother sharing what you do in your classroom or your thoughts about education on social media? At first I was taken a back because I have come to realise that sharing on social media has become my new normal and so I needed to dig into this question and digest it before I answered. My dear friend who raised this question with me has given me some fresh insights into this concept that I had long forgotten and one I think is important to revisit because I think it is one that many teachers face.

Fear of rejection

Image by bigstockphotos.com
There are many wonderful teachers out there who are fantastic at their job but would not want to be judged
on what they do. In the last twelve months I have 3 instances where I had colleagues evaluate what I teach. I would prefer to speak in front of hundreds of people than get peer reviewed. I was so nervous. I was so worried about failing and appearing stupid in front of my colleagues. Of course it was fine and it went over really well but the bar I set for myself was so high I freaked myself out. The fear of being rejected by peers was overwhelming and staying within the safe walls of my own classroom is a much more comfortable space for me. Sharing on line and putting your thoughts and ideas out there for others to judge could really be daunting for some people. You do make yourself vulnerable for criticism and this can be hard.

Personality differences

There are some teachers who are quiet and private. There are some people who do not have a tendency to want to share and who like to keep to themselves. There are some teachers who feel that their intellectual knowledge has come about through hard work, experience and dedication and they are not about to share that freely with anyone or they might steal it an claim it as their own. Those of you who like to use social media probable have greatly benefited from the experience of others yet not everyone has the desire or the personal drive to want to do this. These teacher types don't like to be pushed into anything like social media and they will not be forced into doing it. I can respect that because social media is not for everyone.


Lack of confidence in writing
I know when I started to blog 3 years ago I wasn't very good at it. I might be an English teacher but writing wasn't necessarily my thing. I was so afraid that I would sound stupid and the things I wrote wouldn't make sense. It is one thing to verbalise and communicate effectively through this mode but writing your thoughts in some cohesive manner is completing different to speaking. I had to write and rewrite what I had written and even then I would delete whole blog posts. It took months and months of diligently writing on my blog to improve the way I communicate through the written word. When I was asked to be a guest blogger on some educational websites over the last few years I nearly fell over. I still don't consider myself to be a writer but I continue to develop the way that I express my thoughts and ideas through the written word. When you use social media you have to learn the language and jargon that goes with it. (e.g Twitter, 140 characters to say what you want) Like learning anything new it is best practice to sit and watch. See how others do it and then jump in and have a go. You can't break it and you might even enjoy it.


I don't have the skills
With an aging population comes an aging work force. Baby Boomers and many Generation X are not digital
Image by bigstockphotos.com
natives. We didn't spend our childhood playing internet games or being entertained by 'tablets' and devices. We actually went outside to play. Imagine that! Anyway there are many teachers who find it difficult to learn how to use technology and it takes them a lot longer to learn how to use it then say a Generation Y teacher. Some teachers are so busy with their full time teaching loads that making the time to regularly learn how to use social media falls into the too hard basket. So with these types of learners I like to go steady and slow. It's great to be in their ear reminding them of what's going on in social media and occasionally you help them 'dip a toe in' and have a go. There is a lot to be said for modelling and encouragement.

Image by bigstockphotos.com
Considering these points has brought back to the forefront of my mind the real and genuine barriers that teachers face when considering using social media.  For some teachers to share is to make themselves vulnerable for scrutiny by their colleagues and those in the education community. However whilst I can see these barriers I see it as my job as an advocate for education to equip and encourage the sharing of knowledge for the benefit of all.


"In vain you have acquired knowledge
if you have not imparted it to others."
Deuteronomy Rabbah
(c.900, commentary on the Book of Deuteronomy)

I do hope that if you do share using social media to help advocate for students and learning that you would encourage others to do so. It takes just one teacher at a time to help change a culture and recreate a technology revolution. 

I wish you all an inspiring and innovative semester!

Until next week,
K