January is a time for most teachers to re-coup, invigorate, reflect, rest and prepare both physically and emotionally for the next school year. Whilst my blogging has reduced in frequency in the past few years, I am still extremely grateful for the record I created over the years and sometimes it highlights patterns in my thinking over time – like today when I read my post from January 2011
As mentioned in my post last week, Australian schools are gearing up for their new school year. We have celebrated Christmas, New Year, been to the beach, rested etc. and finally we start to think about school which is fast approaching. In previous years, at this time, my school email inbox would start to wake up – staff starting to share news and ideas for the upcoming year.
2010 was the dawn of different communication for many of us and this year, the obvious signs of the impending new year are different, I am seeing Tweets from my colleagues, new blogs, new blog posts – all indicating the process of preparation for the new year. I like it! I like it because it feels like we have all found these tools to have value, and I am convinced that 2011 will be a year where we continue to evaluate their worth, plan for meaningful connections and continue as teachers to be the ‘expert learners’.
I still like ‘it’ – at the core, what I like is the the ability to be a connected educator, using whatever means is relevant at the time. I draw so much from my Twitter friends, Google+ connections and of course from the people I work with day to day. So here’s to another year learning alongside each other.
After a diverse week working with teachers in a variety of contexts I feel like I need to de-brief, to take stock of the work and the experiences and what better way than to blog about it !
Arriving on King Island on Sunday afternoon to meet my colleague Peter Lelong (Tasmanian CSER Project Officer) was a rare opportunity for me to work with teachers in quite a different context to my usual experiences as Victorian Project Officer. It was wonderful to try and understand the workings, blessings and challenges of this isolated rural community. While the weather was not particularly warm, the welcome was. On Monday, we had a great day discussing the relevance of the new Digital Technologies curriculum, working through classroom examples and exploring some tech tools. Before leaving on Tuesday, we explored Makey Makey kits with some students as they were going to continue working with the CSER Lending Library Kit for the remainder of the term.
One activity on Monday for the teachers was a ‘data’ activity – Monster Glyphs. It was lovely to see the immediate use of that idea on Tuesday morning adapted by the Year 3/4 class teacher and very much enjoyed by the creative monsters !
Wednesday saw another wonderful collaboration between CSER and Museum Victoria Education Team – a session hosted by Scienceworks. Toni Falusi, our ACT Project Officer led secondary teachers through unplugged activities, Ozobot challenges and Microbits workshops. Great stories were shared when the day began with a rich discussion, led by Mei Liu on our personal history with technology. We visited CSIRAC – the fourth computer in the world which was designed and built in Australia in the late 1940’s. This was a wonderful start to our day really highlighting the changes over the decades. Participants were so encouraging and seemed to enjoy being in the role of learners – happily working through challenges and hands on activities.
Thursday morning saw Toni and I fronting up to my favourite conference Digicon, DLTV’s annual event. This is always more than a series of learning sessions for me, it is a lovely opportunity to meet many teachers who form my Professional Learning Network face to face. Rafranz Davis in her keynote mentioned the power of being a connected educator and every visit to this conference reminds me of that ! The CSER team expanded again, joined by Sue Carter the NT Project Officer.
Toni and I ran a session each day and were once again joined by groups of teachers who were happy to have a go and play with whatever challenge we set. From dice games on flowcharts to creating digital dice with Microbits they were eager to discuss their ideas and contribute.
A highlight for our CSER team was to meet and hear from Linda Liukas author of the Hello Ruby series of books.
I was also thrilled to be at Digicon when two long time members of my Professional learning Network John and Bec were recognised for their contributions to the community. John received the ISTE Making IT Happen Award and Bec was awarded Outstanding Leader. Steve Allen and Natalie Heath were other well deserved award recipients.
Both Bec and John mentioned that as teachers they are constantly learning from those they work with. From King Island to Scienceworks to Digicon, the common element was teachers who were not afraid to be learners and who were also happy to share their skills, challenges and experiences. What a week !
The CSER Adelaide Project supports teachers with the Digital Technologies curriculum. A range of online resources (MOOC’s) , Lending library of equipment and face to face opportunities with Project officers in each state. For more information see https://csermoocs.adelaide.edu.au/
I have had some interesting conversations recently about school’s use of social media. Opinions range from the very hesitant and quite wary to very positive and amazingly enthusiastic. I have read articles about the downturn in interest in Twitter, the swaying audience of other tools. They are good conversations and ones I hope to extend by sharing here.
My conversations with teachers usually steer towards the particular tools; Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc and then a discussion around the purpose behind the activity. The intended consequences are varied but quite easy to define, but it seems that the unintended ones, or the fear of them, are what become the roadblocks to what I have experienced as a wonderful gateway to connections.
There are people much better trained in communication strategies than me but what is clear to me, is that whatever the tool we are using, we are talking about communication and in most cases relationship building. The intended audience will in many ways determine the best tool – who are we trying to connect with and for what purpose? are we intending to broadcast news or promote interaction and feedback?
In today’s world of immediate access to information and news, some older methods of communicating with our communities are becoming defunct or redundant. A weekly printed newsletter is not enough for most of of our parent communications and it will never connect our students to other stakeholders in their learning in the way online communications can.
I maintain and am convinced that if we expose students to the concept and reality of working in a space that is not limited by their physical surroundings, that we are doing them a great service. Our access to information is 24/7 and global and so too should be our learning experiences.
In this short interview, Stephen Heppell is asked for advice to using Social media and my precis is as follows:
Turn on your common sense
Acknowledge that ‘acceptable’ behaviour is the same online as face to face
Research and then trial your own pathway
Listening to Stephen, I heard “Let’s tell a story – Let’s build a story” and it struck me that it is the building part people need to focus on. As a school, we have been using Twitter along side an extensive blogging program for quite some time and I believe we are building our story as a consequence. Different things are happening as a consequence of being connected via social media. Some of the benefits include:
affirmation of teacher practice through feedback from local and global peers
drawing on a much wider field of resources
deepening of experiences by sharing them with other stakeholders
exposing our students other ways to find answers to questions
immediate sharing of school events
we all experience the value of a wider audience for our thinking and the interactions that occur as a consequence
modelling connected learning
I am very aware that the concept of an online Professional Learning network is entrenched in many people’s lives, but it still does not appear to be the norm and all I can say is that I think that those not involved are missing out.
Note: School based Twitter account @slblackburnsth is managed by teachers only as our students are Under 13. The students contribute ideas and text that is published by staff in a modelling process.
This morning, I am feeling a sense of community, curiosity and creativity : combined with a little bit of travel weary, end of term exhaustion. These were the themes of the mentor presentations at the Google Teacher Academy I attended during this whirlwind week, which began with sharing the Google Apps for Education Summit with 10 of my school colleagues and 400 other teachers in Melbourne.
The GTA experience this year was facilitated by Tom Barrett and Hamish Curry from NoTosh, leading us through the Design thinking process. Thankfully we had been slowly immersed in the process and our ideas by connecting to our Teams in the weeks prior – being introduced and starting the conversations that would lead to much discussion, work and deliberation.
If you came to the GTA expecting to come away with a whole heap of Googley technical skills you would have left disappointed. If you came expecting to be a passive learner, you would have been very challenged. If you came along to see how community, curiosity and creativity can be enacted, you would be very happy.
The process was outward looking, in that,we all had been asked in the month or so leading up, to consider a ‘Moonshot thinking’ exercise from our own context. We were guided through many steps that had us thinking, questioning, giving feedback, re-thinking, ideating and then developing an idea through to an action. Many people found connections between their ultimate Moonshot questions – in fact in reading them I found connections everywhere. We are all challenged to continue the process and take actions back in our wider communities.
Hexagonal thinking which I had explored a little beforehand, proved to me to be one of the most powerful ah-ha moments! I witnessed the struggling in others and in my own thinking but the strong links it can provide and yet the flexibility it can enable.
I loved hearing Annie Parker from Muru-D discuss entrepreneurial hacks and then Brett Morgan, a Google Developer Relations engineer discuss the Design process and seeing such strong links in the ideas and the process we were experiencing. All this taking place in such a ‘cool’ environment as the Google Office space.
It was a lot to take in and it is only the beginning and it will be great to see where my moonshot goes and to watch and support and hopefully be involved in a few others as well
Thanks to all those involved. Google’s Suan Yeo as well as Tom and Hamish the energetic facilitators, the team of mentors including the gentle and skilful Abi and of course the new members of my professional learning network – the participants. #gtasyd14
I am presenting at the Melbourne GAFE (Google Apps for Education) Summit this week. I have never felt very confident as a speaker but recent experiences are encouraging me to extend beyond my comfort zone. So here I find myself the afternoon before, adding, taking, tweaking for the millionth time my presentation for tomorrow.
I have chosen a topic that I hope provides a good balance on theory and practice. I know people like to come away with new skills but I also believe any skill / tool should be used with good purpose. The subject is basically using Google tools to create opportunities to have learning conversations – teacher/student, student/student, student/parent, student/other stakeholders etc. The opportunity to provide feedback / feedforward throughout the learning process instead at the end.
It is probably not a coincidence that I modelled this process in the creation of the presentation
I re-vamped the presentation from a similar one I had used previously
I adapted, re-worded, re-ordered according to my new audience
I workshopped the presentation with a group of my peers – lots of wonderful feedback and a great opportunity for me to see the gaps in my preparation and thinking
I added, subtracted, tweaked content again
I sought feedback from another colleague and made more adjustments according to wise feedforward
I am finally prepared to present.
I will probably write more once it is done – phew !