Affirmation

I have been lucky enough to speak to a number of teachers over the past few years to share my passion for blogging – professional, class and student.

This week I was preparing for another presentation, but this time, I am taking along some students with me.  The process of preparing our combined presentation was quite simple.  I shared a Google presentation with the students, we had a short discussion about what they would like to share and they divided roles.  They prepared their own sections and we came back together.

After I heard them talk through their ideas, the main messages they wanted to share, I realised that they had covered almost all the important points I do in my presentation.

What this means to me, is that our blogging program is successful, the students value it, enjoy it and can articulate how it impacts their learning.

Yeah!

Learning shared … in different ways

Neetz 365   A year in the mind of AnitaI am proud to say that I have a decent relationship with my daughters aged 19 and 22.  We chat, share laughs, discuss issues and disagree like any fairly normal mother-daughter relationship.  I accept that my children as they mature pick the pieces of their lives and thoughts that they want to share with their parents, just as I did with mine.

My 22 year old has been a writer all her life – words have been her friend: spoken, read, written and sung.  She has, in fact recently, begun a career using these skills in a Marketing Communications role.  A rich blessing I will say has been passed on from her grand-mother who in her later years shared many musings in the written form.  She has dabbled in blogging for a number of years and I always enjoy the conversations that often lead to a post as well as the end result. 

When someone writes, they often expose themselves in different ways than they would in spoken language and this is never more true than in the recent days when my 19 year old has begun a blog – challenging herself to post each day. When I read her posts feels like I am getting to know her in a different way.  I am seeing a side of her that I admit I had not acknowledged or recognised earlier.  Perhaps it is a result of maturity and a bit of life experience but it is definitely providing an interesting read : enlightening in many ways.

It makes me think about our classrooms and the importance of providing our students with a variety of outlets for expressing themselves, sharing their learning and expressing themselves.  Sometimes, they may not be ready to use a tool in way they may later in their lives but they will learn along the way nevertheless. Our students should be invited to write on paper, in a journal, sketch, write a blog post, draw, paint, record a podcast, prepare a speech, compose a song, write an essay and any other format you can think of.

Our students, like my daughter, may surprise you if given the chance.  The teacher role in this is exposing them to a variety of media, digital and non-digital : many of these ideas will not be in their toolkit unless they are introduced to them. Many will suit them at some times and for some purposes but not for all.

In the meantime, I will keep enjoying the glimpse into the other side of my girl !

 

 

Technology bashing

I am getting a bit tired of the fear mongering and rhetoric going on around the use of technology both in schools and in the wider community.

I, for one, have never said that technology use should replace ALL other activities, that pen and paper have been superceded by a superior force.  I have actually never heard anyone even tech evangelists suggest such a thing.

Nevertheless, I find myself constantly hearing and reading Warnings about the potential harm of too much screen time.   Listening to teachers who seem to glow with relief when someone says “It’s not all about technology” and almost outwardly heaving a sigh of relief that the role of tech is challenged.   Current affair television thrive on articles about research showing how family lives are being harmed by over use of technology and communication tools.   I almost shout at the TV to say “Where are the parents, the teachers who should be setting BOUNDARIES, producing opportunities for BALANCE and supporting their students or children in PURPOSEFUL use?”

I am left wondering why people have this resistance and I assume it is a fear or a definite discomfort with change.  The media certainly thrive on any opportunity to spout the ‘Technology is evil’ campaign. A friend brought this brilliant blog post to my attention :

Capture

Crowley debunks the fear mongering and explains the situation as part of evolution.  Mark Crowley concludes:

There can be no question but that technology can provide the potential for isolation, for synthetic relationships, for a sedentary lifestyle, an anxiety-ridden social existence, a failure to focus, concentrate, and engage. But surely this is a worst-case scenario conception of technology without balance, without thoughtful schools, informed, engaged parents? An education system that emphasises the need to be cultured as well as educated, well-read as well as literate, articulate as well as able to skim, physically healthy as well as mentally engaged … surely an individual in this context will only benefit from the interactive tools of contemporary technology to allow them to create, design, persuade and engage? Yes, perhaps our brains will be rewired in the process, but isn’t that what the brain has always done throughout history? Perhaps Feifer sums it up best: “Our brains changed to meet the challenge of driving cars. They changed so we could dance to recorded music. Now we are witnessing more change, and our brains will change again. Yes, change can be scary. But it’s what we’re built for.”

Perhaps, I take it too personally as my job involves trying to get technology used in thoughtful, purposeful ways and I am affronted by people who cling to the negativity, inferring I might not be making judicious decisions.  I rarely, if ever see teachers using technology because they are mandated, they always make wise, considered choices about where it will enhance the learning.  Is the negativity a band-wagon that will have its’ day?  I hope so.  

Ferriter : https://www.flickr.com/photos/plugusin/5333410499/
Ferriter : https://www.flickr.com/photos/plugusin/5333410499/

 

 

 

 

“Why our schools are NOT failing your children” – another teacher tells

Reading the newspaper should expose us to divergent thoughts and make us think.  Indeed, this mornings breakfast reading did just that and like Mel Cashen  I felt I needed to respond to Johanna O’Farrell’s article that was printed with the title “Why our schools are failing your children:a teacher tells” but online as “Splashing cash won’t fix Australia’s broken education system”

photo (7)

Amongst other issues with our education system Johanna states:

But I believe ICT is in fact little more than a gimmick – and I know that the novelty of it as a tool for engagement is fast wearing off. In many cases, the study of ICT heightens the potential for distraction, is extremely inefficient, wastes time and quite simply is unnecessary – students do not need the ”world at their fingertips” all the time.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/splashing-cash-wont-fix-australias-broken-education-system-20131220-2zqpl.html#ixzz2o5CHmp1T

This made me reflect on our graduation ceremony for our Year 6 class last week.  A mixed group of students, some academic, some mathematical, some artists, some writers, many sporting stars.   They left our school with an understanding of learning : learning that can be found from each other, from their teachers, and from many other sources.  They have been exposed to the skills that will help them learn, help them present their learning . They also left with strong literacy and mathematical skills.

Encouraged and not distracted as Ms O’Farrell believes by the “open-plan learning, iPads and interactive whiteboards” and multitude of other technology tools, these students explored their place in the global community.  Technology allowed them to connect, collaborate and learn with others, gathering perspectives and information difficult if not impossible without them.  They were taught to question what they read as information, or knowledge, is no longer sourced from one text book or reliable scholar.  Technology was ubiquitous – not a gimmick, but brought out when the purpose suited it.

Having the ‘world at their fingertips ‘ is the way these students live 24/7 and not allowing or expecting teachers to harness the value and seek teachable moments would be making education irrelevant.    Like Ms O’Farrell’s parents I did not have these tools when at I was at school, but education reflected the society that I lived in.  

Do we really want our students to be educated in a system that reflects a society of 10 – 20 – 30 – 40 years ago ? 

 

 

Feeling uncomfortable

Last week, when preparing to attend Meeting of the Minds 2012, I will admit I was feeling decidedly uncomfortable.   I would classify myself as introverted, happy to share but needing time to think , preferring to write than speak,  and much preferring to play ‘behind-the-scenes’ roles.    What was I thinking?  I had registered for an ‘unconference’ which promised things such as ‘squirm debates’, and input from the participants was a required feature.    I totally understood the concept – use the power of the room, determine the needs and interests and then attempt to satisfy them from within.   I thought to myself that what was being asked of the participants of MOTM is exactly what we want of our students everyday.  Active participation in their learning.

I was out of my comfort zone. So, with some trepidation I attended, and immediately the feelings of discomfort dissipated (well mostly).  As with Teachmeets, the participants were all volunteers – they all wanted to be there, giving up precious weekend time to attend.  Everyone had something to offer and the friendliness was tangible.   Many people attending were already part of my on-line Personal Learning Network, and now those relationships are enhanced by face-to-face meet ups.  Others were new to me and they now further enhance my PLN.    People were as happy to talk about ‘Why?’ as ‘How?’ and that made for some great conversation.   The fact that the same amount of time was spent analysing a question as was spent answering it, indicates the nature of the event.

Driving home, I likened it to a ‘perfect classroom’ –  a place where children;

  • can follow personal pathways
  • can be supported by their peers and vice versa as well as by ‘experts’
  • experience information presented in a variety of ways
  • have time to question and reflect
  • can laugh and express their learning in creative ways
  • are extended beyond their comfort zones in a supportive way
  • invisibly use technology to support and extend learning (OK, it was not invisible but it was definitely purposeful)

It became obvious that the amount of planning for an ‘unconference’ was just as rigorous as for a conventional conference.  The behind the scenes work had been well thought out – QR codes linking to Google docs, lunch activities that made us mingle, beautiful and thought provoking musical presentation, keynote (that’s not a keynote but a conversation starter) etc.    These things do not just happen, they occur after clever people put their minds together – and for that I am very thankful.

I am now left with some homework – connections made that will create some fantastic opportunities for both my students as well as my own professional growth.  The ‘unconference’ is over but the effects will linger.   As one participant tweeted “Still have to unpack my brain from MOTM12”.  So, is feeling uncomfortable a good thing?  Yes.

PS. A great summary created by Roland Gesthuizen  who did not attend in person but followed on Ustream and Twitter and created this Storify