C21 Teaching Mid-Semester Two Review

It has been some time since I posted a review of C21Teaching.com.au, so there are quite a few articles in this list. I hope the last two terms have been productive and successful for you and your students.

Don’t forget to visit C21Teaching to get the most up to date content.

#TMCoast Semester One 2016

On Friday of last week, I was fortunate enough to attend another TeachMeet, this time at Ourimbah on the Central Coast. After some conversations and encouragement from Paul Hamilton and Alfina Jackson at FutureSchools earlier in the month, I decided to put my hand up to present this time, having sat quietly in the background at previous TeachMeets I had attended. For those who were unable to attend, and we had a good turnout on the night, I have storified the event, which is available here.

There was a broad range of speakers, from the inspiring Liesl Tesch (@LieslTesch), to TAFE teachers, Secondary English and Mathematics Teachers, an Actuary, Teachers Federation employees and Primary School Teachers, and a broad range of topics were covered as well. I nominated to speak about Flipped Learning, which is something I have been looking into for a while now and recently have been able to start putting into practice. I decided, rather late in the week, that I would like to flip my session and so put together a short video, which fit within my seven-minute timeslot going through the basics of what flipped learning was with the aim to turn my actual timeslot into a Q&A session so that we could go deeper.

Unfortunately, I left it rather late and in the end, the video did not get out in time for people to watch it, so I did end up presenting at the event. Despite my nerves (my heart rate kicked up to 115 beats per minute) the feedback was positive, and a colleague of mine who was there said I hid my nervousness well. I felt like I was speaking at the proverbial million miles an hour, but I had some good discussions with a few attendees after the event and was able to answer a few questions.

I tweeted out the link to the slide deck I used, which included links to some of the articles I have written on the topic, as well as links to other teachers who are flipping their practice. I include the link to that slide deck here for the benefit of those who are curious.

If you have the opportunity to share something at a TeachMeet in your own area, I would encourage you to bite the bullet, put aside your nerves and present. I am glad that I did, and hope to be to contribute again in the future.

List of FutureSchools 2016 Articles

Hello everyone, here is a bonus article for the weekend, a consolidated list of all of my review articles from FutureScchools 2016.

Day One: Masterclass with Jennie Magiera

  1. Day One Session One – Questioning and CBL
  2. Day One Session Two – Badges, Gamification and a Problem Based Activity
  3. Day One Session Three – Teacher IEPs
  4. Day One Session Three Part Two – App Speed Dating

Days Two and Three: The ClassTech Conference Stream.

  1. Day Two Session One Part One – Think U Know and Edventures
  2. Day Two Session One Part Two – Storytelling and Data
  3. Day Two Session Two – Drones and Augmented Reality
  4. Day Two Session Three Part One – PBL and STEM
  5. Day Two Session Three Part Two – Perception, Imagination and Creativity
  6. Day Two Session Four – Film Making and Makerspace.
  7. Day Three Session One Part One – Gamification.
  8. Day Three Session One Part Two – STEM and the Roundtable Sessions.
  9. Day Three Session Three – 3D Design and Printing, Robotics.
  10. Day Three Session Four – Virtual Reality, Creativity.

TeachMeet: Teaching for Thinking

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
– Attributed to Aristotle

Earlier in the year I attended a TeachMeet about Teaching for Thinking, or Teaching Philosophy in Schools at St Leo’s Catholic College, Wahroonga. The event was a very interesting one, with lots of challenging ideas about education and how we teach children to think. As always, I wrote a series of review articles, which you can find linked to below:

  1. Part One
  2. Part Two
  3. Part Three
  4. Part Four

Another Teaching for Thinking TeachMeet has been organised, to be held on Sunday, 29th November from 1300 to 1600 at Wyvern House Preparatory School in Stanmore.

From the invitational flyer:

The teachmeet will be an introductory platform for passionate and interested educators and leaders from a range of schools across Sydney to share their experiences, expertise, vision and learn from one another. Topics for discussion will include: Critical and Creative Thinking; Philosophy in the classroom; and Tools of inquiry The afternoon will include five presenters, a Q&A session, followed by an open forum/panel discussion. The teachmeet will also be a great opportunity to start a broader dialogue about teaching for thinking and build professional networks.

Speakers include Emeritus Professor Phil Cam,  President of Philosophy in Schools NSW from the University of New South Wales speaking under the title Because and Therefore;  Dr Britta Jensen an English and French teacher from Marist College North Shore speaking under the title Fostering a thinking disposition in our students; Mr Dan Smith Deputy Principal at Leichhardt Public School speaking under the title Bringing philosophy into school – 10 years of experience; Ms Sally Parker, a Science Teacher from Moriah College speaking under the title Stimulus material, Concept games and Questioning tools for the Science classroom; and Ms Ksenia Filatov, English and Philosophy Teacher at St Leo’s Catholic College speaking under Teaching and Applied Philosophy elective course for years 9-10.

To attend, please RSVP through this google form by Thursday 26th November.

#TMSpaces Review Part Three

“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”
– Attributed to Jiddu Krishnamurti

This, the third part of my review of #TMSpaces from Thursday 15th October picks up with Re-imagining Oakhill College Library, presented by Lyn Revai. Lyn echoed much of what had been said previously, emphasising that rushing in to change, particularly large-scale change, was not a helpful move, and that the desire to shift pedagogy was a helpful driver. Lyn also made the point that it was necessary to provide support for both teachers and students in learning how to use and conceptualise new or changed learning spaces, particularly when the conceptualiation of the learning space by those at the centre of the change involve a new way of thinking about the use of the space.

Kim Kofod (@kim_kofod) spoke next from the perspective of thinking about the intersection between education and industry. As a teacher involved in in secondary teaching of subjects with a strong basis in professional industry, a need was observed to match the learning space and the equipment to what is commonly used and expected in the specific industry. The space was effectively turned into a Makerspace, with industry-standard equipment including woodworking, CAD, textiles and graphic design equipment in the same space. Kim noted that a trend is appearing whereby learning spaces are being designed  skin to tertiary or professional industrial spaces more and more, which is an interesting observation given this tweet from earlier in the evening.

It was interesting to hear that the space doubled as theory and practical use, however I suspect that without the intersection between learning and industry that has occurred with the equipment available for use in the space, this would be much more difficult than it is.

John Goh (@johnqgoh), the energetic principal of Merrylands East PS (@merrylandseast) spoke next under the title Less is best. John spoke about being in a community with significant change occurring, with a number of students living in apartment buildings, with more apartment buildings being constructed. John made some very interesting comments. When they were looking for new furniture for the new space they looked to industry. They wanted more intimacy and more comfort in their small groups so they looked to the casinos. There were some quiet gasps of shock at that statement, but the reasoning makes sense. Casinos utilise the horseshoe shape for their gaming tables to create a sense of intimacy with the operator of that game, and the chairs are designed to be able to be sat in, comfortably, for long periods of time. They wanted to demarcate different spaces without using furniture, so they ended up utilising carpet to do this.

John also stressed that we need to use our space far better than we do at the moment, and showed images of students around a table coffee-shop style. He pointed out that when we go to a coffee shop with friends, that three or four people will gather around very small tables, each with our coffee and often a plate with food on it with no issues. Yet the same  table in a classroom would be used for only one or maybe two students as it would be too small for any more than that. John’s view is that tables are full of redundant space; storage for our students’ pencil case, drink bottle or other things which are not needed moment to moment and thus can be stored elsewhere for access as needed, such as under the chair. I came across this great example (top left image in panel below) while in conversation with someone at FlipConAus last week.

John made the point, as had others, that we need to change how we conceptualise the purpose of learning spaces, and that when re-furnishing after a change, that it is easier and better to start with less and add more in as it is directly needed. He also mentioned that this is significantly cheaper as you are not paying for furniture that you end up not using and putting into storage. He reminded us that it is important to allow our students the opportunity to work outside when practicable as well. They utilise vertical gardens in the school and also local outside spaces, such as parks.

John’s final point, which I think is critical, was that the pedagogy should drive the learning, which should in turn drive the space.

I will leave you with some more PicCollage’s that I put together from the school tour I was given at St. Stephen’s College, Coomera, last week. St Stephen’s was the host venue for the very first FlipConAus, and is a remarkable premises. The first is a collection of images from around the school, including the library. The second is the staffroom and attached office annexes for staff.

Thank you for reading, and I would love to hear from anyone who has changed their learning space, and see some before and after photos.

#TMSpaces Review Part Two

“Girls have a lot of stuff.”
– Henrietta Miller

Henrietta Miller (@henriettam) speaking under the heading How sixteen chairs and twenty-eight students work. Henrietta opened by indicating that her first steps with changing learning spaces began with the opening of the bi-fold doors that separated her classroom from the next. This transformed two separate rooms into a single large room with two teachers, and was a small step. Take small steps, initially was a key theme throughout the night from the majority of speakers, as this will allow staff and students alike to adjust and get used to the idea of change and how it will impact their learning. Following on from this, Henrietta indicated that at the beginning of 2015, any walls in the two (now one) rooms that could be knocked out, were knocked out, which had this reaction from one attendee:

The remaining walls were transformed into functional walls through the use of whiteboard paint. The other key decision that was made was that no new furniture was purchased. This idea was echoed by a number of presenters on the night and the back channel indicated some agreement, in general, to the idea.

This drastic change necessitated that some retraining be done, for the students, as to how they thought about and utilised the learning space, moving towards considering what learning would be taking place in the session, what kind of learning space would be needed for that learning to take place and moving into that learning space, making use of a range of furniture. The need for retraining about how a learning space is conceived and utilised is a valid point, and it was pointed out by Cathy Maguire and Kylie Norburn that an induction into non-traditional learning spaces would be highly beneficial to teachers, both those already on staff, as well as new teachers as they entered the space in order to allow teachers to make full use of the learning space. Greg Longney (@Geelong71) also made the point, echoing that of Mark Liddell’s, that a change in learning spaces requires a change in culture. Monique Dalli (@1moniqued) took this further and commented that change without support can ‘fear out’ our students, causing them to react negatively in a range of ways. As many noted, starting with small changes is key, and this includes not attempting to change too much at any single point in time.

A common point throughout the evening was that there is a need for more usable space in the classroom, and Henrietta’s suggestion was to remove the teacher’s desk from the room. Create a place where belongings can be securely and safely stored, and then dump the desk. The space it takes up and the clutter that they often create, and the perils of storing something deep inside, never to be seen again, outweigh any benefits of having a desk. Additionally, it was noted, they create a barrier between the teacher and the students. Removing the desk creates an entirely new space that can be utilised in a variety of ways in different contexts.

Greg Longney (@Geelong71) followed on from Henrietta, talking to us about  a building named C Block, but known as Cell Block, that was loathed by students. Greg indicated that a new Head of School wanted to reorganise and this is what followed:

After the reorganisation was completed, the new space was promptly over-filled with furniture, much of which was not actually wanted and Greg was quite strong on the point that the accountant should not be the one doing the ordering. The benefits of the change to the learning space however included significantly more natural light (generally a good thing), an increase in the amount of team-teaching that occurred and the ability to transform how the space was used and the learning activities that were able to be undertaken by students.

A very interesting point that Greg made was the review process undertaken by staff at the end of term, in the new space.Greg said that whiteboards were spread around the room, each with a different focus, and staff were asked to give feedback about the new learning space on the appropriate whiteboard, with a board for challenges, one for rewards etc. I feel like this is a part of the change process that often seems to be overlooked, and I like the way in which it was done in this instance at it provides an outlet for all staff. Greg did not indicate that a similar process was provided for students, however, I believe that that would have been a valuable process also. Greg closed by re-making a recurring theme; a changed learning space requires a changed culture.

Cathy Maguire and Kylie Norburn followed on, and they indicated that they began their change by removing the majority of furniture in a room to see how students coped and that changing the student culture around the learning space was, for them, a natural process. Students can, in their experience, see that the school and the staff are working to provide a higher quality learning space and it follows that the students will have a higher level of respect for the learning environment.  I do not necessarily agree that this will be the case in every context, but as a general rule, I can see their point.

The big step that they made was to ensure that all furniture was light and movable to allow a high degree of flexibility and seating options for students. They made a very interesting point, that not all students will always need a hard surface at the same time. I am not entirely sure that I agree with the sentiment, as I can certainly envision situations where you do need all students to have access to a hard surface to lean upon as they write. However, I agree that it does not necessarily need to be a table. The point was made that there are other options.

I have seen classes use a class set of A3 whiteboards as their hard surface to lean upon, clipboards, appropriate sized books as well as the lap desks that are available.

Thank you for reading part two of my review of #TMSpaces. As always, please leave any feedback, questions or ideas in the comments section below.

#TMSpaces Review Part One

“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s we rob them of tomorrow.”
– John Dewey, Schools of Tomorrow, 1915.

Last Thursday (15th October) I attended my very first Teach Meet which was hosted at Bradfield Senior College (@BradfieldSC). Phillip Cooke (@sailpip) organised the event with a focus on learning spaces, which for me is timely given the school rebuild that is ongoing in my current school. Naturally the back-channel was #TMSpaces and Phillip has already posted the link to the Storify of the Teach Meet. My thanks to Lily Young (@lilypilly) for posting a photo of the agenda which included a list of the speakers and their Twitter handles:

The first speaker was was Mark Liddell (@MarkLiddell) under the heading Seventy seats for fifty students and other related stories which he described as being an explanation of a range of train wrecks in changing learning space arrangements, layouts and uses.

Mark related that his experience with learning spaces has demonstrated that the key component for success in changing learning spaces is the culture of the school, beginning with the leadership culture. Mark continued by outlining that in one particular context, they began by working with Year Eleven students in 2011 and were looking to change the way they learned and provide more autonomy. They set out to break the timetable, allowing students the autonomy to choose when they wanted to do their learning. This challenged teachers to think about the best way they could manage the interactions with their students, as they now had to negotiate their teaching both in person and online. Mark said that this particular initiative failed as the culture of the school was not in the right place for such a move to be stable over a lengthy period of time.

The next initiative was a move with a Year Seven cohort to implement team teaching which enabled a re-imagining of the physical space. This change of the learning space did work and the following year it was rolled out for the new Year Seven, and the (now) Year Eight cohort. This threw up additional challenges for the school and the teachers. They found they needed more time for planning and negotiating who would teach what, without their being any more time available. The culture of the school and the leadership within the school was such that a rearranging of the timetable was able to be negotiated that allowed for this team teaching arrangement to continue to function.

Mark then talked about the need to re-imagine the way that we see and use learning spaces. Just because you have a single open learning space does not mean that it needs to be utilised as a single open learning space. A large learning space can be divided into multiple smaller spaces through a variety of methods. John Goh (@johnqgoh) echoed this point when he showed some photos of the way that spaces in the library at Merrylands East (@merrylandseast)had been divided up, without furniture, through the use of different coloured carpets and other cues:

Mark spoke about how the use of campfire spaces to disseminate information to students, or for class discussions has begun and that they have also been used as a launchpad for the day quite effectively.

Mark’s final point was that there is a relationship between learning spaces and John Hattie’s Eight Frames of Mind and that we should think about the learning spaces we place our students in by considering how the learning space will allow the mind frames to have an impact.

Retrieved from https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BelDUikCcAEJcbw.jpg on 20 October, 2015

Following Mark, we heard from Lily Young (@lilypilly) who is a Teacher Librarian at Newington College (@library_nc) who spoke under the title The science behind standing and the way in which the amount of sitting (or standing) we do on a day to day basis impacts the health of our students. Lily began by asking us all to stand up, which she reminded us is what we do for the majority of the day, as teachers, but not what our students do. and that having a high level of sedentarism has been repeatedly shown, in both Australian and International literature, to have negative implications for health, including increased risk of high levels of bad cholesterol, obesity and heart disease. Lily indicated that sedentarism has been called the new cancer. A brief search on Google Scholar turned up this article from 2010 which indicates in the abstract that

“The literature review identified 18 articles pertaining to sedentary behavior and cancer risk, or to sedentary behavior and health outcomes in cancer survivors. Ten of these studies found statistically significant, positive associations between sedentary behavior and cancer outcomes. Sedentary behavior was associated with increased colorectal, endometrial, ovarian, and prostate cancer risk; cancer mortality in women; and weight gain in colorectal cancer survivors”

This article seems to back up Lily’s provocative statement. Lily indicated that we need to flip the model and have our students standing more and utilise standing desks or other appropriate methods to achieve this. I am a big fan of standing desks, and have been considering purchasing one for myself at home as between writing these blog articles, recording videos for school, research, and gaming, I spend a significant amount of time at the computer and am conscious of the lack of inactivity and how it makes me feel, given that I am normally a relatively active person, being a teacher notwithstanding. Unfortunately, they do not come cheaply. At least none of the ones I’ve been able to find do, though I would appreciate any links to reasonably priced standing tables.

Lily closed by asking if anyone had spent a day shadowing a student before. She spoke about a teacher who had done just that, for two days, and discovered how utterly draining it was. Fortunately, Mark Liddell posted a link to it.

I commend the article to you, as it is a thought provoking article that will make you re-evaluate how you teach and how much movement occurs in your class. I plan to ask my Stage Three students some questions around this very issue, namely, do I talk too much and expect them to be quiet, and still, too often.

I will halt there for this article, as it is already reasonably lengthy, and there are still a number of presenters to go. I hope that this article has caused you to look with fresh eyes at your learning space and how you utilise it, and to consider alternative ways that it can be set up to benefit the students. I would like to hear any feedback or thoughts on the topic as it is an area where there is still some contention amongst educators.


“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
– Attributed to Charles Dickens

I wrote an article yesterday about the benefits to myself and to my school community that come from investing time in your colleagues professional development and in your own. This afternoon I have the opportunity to attend my first TeachMeet. The TeachMeet[Aus} website describes a TeachMeet as being a meeting or un-conference where teachers come together to share good practice, practical ideas and personal insights into a designated topic. Presentations are short (two or seven minutes) and are delivered, voluntarily by teachers who nominate in advance to present. Additionally, TeachMeets are an opportunity for teachers from a variety of sectors and backgrounds to meet and exchange experience, knowledge and ideas, and to invest in the broader school community.

Today’s Teachmeet is being hosted by Bradfield Senior College with the focus being learning spaces. This is a topic I am particularly interested in at the moment, with the movement of our school to open learning spaces as part of our school rebuild. On the back of the TeachMeet, is a TeachEat, an opportunity for further networking and exchanging of ideas, thoughts, insights and practices.I am very much looking to hearing from those who are speaking, about various uses of learning spaces, both traditional and alternative.

If you are interested in attending, click on this link to check the details and to register. If you are unable to attend, watch for the hashtag for the event on Twitter this afternoon #TMSpaces.