The C21 Teaching Review Week 9

This has been a tumultuous week with a lot of just started a new job cognitive dissonance going on but also being away from my family for a week while in Melbourne for FutureSchools 2017. I am in the process of writing further review articles on the back of sessions that I attended and they will be added to this list if they are published today, or to next week’s list if they are published tomorrow (or later). Ideally, however, I will get them all done today so that I can spend tomorrow with my family and then be free to focus on work as of Monday.

End of Year Reflections

“Years end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on with all the wisdom that experience can instill in in us.”
Attributed to Hal Borland

I am mentally drained and physically exhausted. It has been a monumental year, both personally and professionally, with wins and losses on both counts. Last year was my first full year as a teacher and I wrote at the end of the year that I did not feel that I had had a first year such as I was expecting due to being employed in an RFF or non-contact position teaching fundamental digital technology and research skills. I perhaps spoke (wrote?) too soon and received my comeuppance this year in what was perhaps the most challenging year, both personally and professionally, that I have ever faced. To celebrate surviving my first year teaching a class of my own here is a list of lists reflecting on the year that was.

Teachers at start and end of year meme
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/jk7rbzy on 24 June 2015

The Professional Wins

  1. I had some students this year who endured some quite difficult challenges. See them rise up and meet those challenges head on and also achieve above (class) average growth (as measured from start of year versus end of year diagnostic testing in literacy and numeracy) was exciting and made me proud to be a teacher. To sit down with their parents and share in detail their growth and to have the parents be excited with me and to thank me is exciting and humbling and as an early-career teacher= helps fight off imposter syndrome.
  2. I enjoy the writing process and the idea that others not only read my writing but find value from it still boggles my mind a bit. To have been asked to attend and review Education Nation earlier this year on the back of my previous conference reviews was exciting and validated the time I spend on these articles. To then be accepted to do the same for EduTech 2017 and potentially for FutureSchools 2017 is hugely exciting.
  3. At FutureSchools in March this year (review articles here), I spent some time chatting with Paul Hamilton (@PaulHamilton8) who asked if I was presenting. I scoffed at the suggestion, remarking that I am only in my second year of teaching and cannot compare to those I was listening to. Paul commented to me that “it’s not how long you’ve been teaching, it’s what you’re doing that matters.” I took that to heart and dipped my toe in the water by presenting at a Teachmeet, to which I received positive feedback. I was also then asked to present at FlipLearnCon with Jeremy LeCornu and Heather Davis which went well and have had my proposal to speak at FlipCon Sydney in October of next year accepted.
  4. Some of my Year Six boys have very strong personalities and as is expected in the second half of the year they begin to really push boundaries as they try to find themselves and come to grips with everything that is going on. One of my students in particular and I have butted heads a number of times and so for him to come to me privately and thank me for teaching him this year was really appreciated.
  5. Yesterday I sat down with my students and we went around the circle sharing something from the year. I asked them to share either something they learned, something that challenged them, something that surprised them or to thank someone in the room who had helped them with something. It was a nice way to tie off the year positively and there were some thoughtful reflections from the class. I then handed out some small presents I had purchased, each student randomly selected to choose a gift, blindly, from the gift bag. They did not get to keep that gift, however, as I read them The Night Before Christmas gift exchange story, an activity they thought was hilarious.

The Professional Challenges

  1. Our school is having a physical rebuild this year to enable the removal of the dozen demountable buildings and the reclamation of the playground taken by those buildings. This has meant that a significant portion of our school site, which is small anyway, has been taken up by the construction site and lost to student use. The total playspace for our approximately five hundred students is equivalent to approximately three basketball courts and accordingly we have separate breaks for our Kindergarten to year Two students and our Year Three to year Six students.
  2. Developing my teaching practice has been a challenge this year. With everything going on at the school, including a new Principal, multiple retirements, missing out on a number of permanent positions I applied for, as well as managing having a new baby at home and the uncertainty of next year in a new context after having been in a job-share arrangement this year, it has been a challenge to focus on developing my craft and ensuring that my pedagogies, classroom management, and parent relationship skills develop and improve.
  3. Managing my workload is an ongoing struggle that I am grappling with. It has been amplified since the birth of Youngling as I want to be at home when I can in order to spend time with her in these early stages. I do also miss seeing my wife. After four and a half years, we are still in the honeymoon phase, or so it feels. I am in my room between 6:00 and 6:15 each morning and though I try to leave by 4:00, this term it has been a struggle with the pressure of reports, finalising assessment data, preparing for transition to 2017 vis-a-vis packing and culling as well as the incredible amount of work that goes into Stage Three at this end of the year.
  4. There have been some significant challenges that some of my students have faced this year, really difficult emotional and mental challenges that have left me feeling like I am floundering. I am grateful for my classroom neighbour who has been a huge help this year in giving me advice for working through some of those challenges to support my students.

Looking Forward

  1. Next year I am working in a different context, in an open learning space, in a team teach context and in a job-share situation. I am nervous about that as I have not worked in a team teaching situation before, however, I am hopeful that my skills as a teacher will continue to develop as I will be in the same space as a new Assistant Principal, who I am told I will connect with very well. I have note yet met him and so planning and programming for next year has not begun, which is stressing me more than a little as I am going to be teaching an age group I have not taught on a long term basis before.
  2. It is going to be a busy year personally as I will be attending a number of conferences which will involve a lot of work pre- and post- event. I am excited and a little nervous about it all, but it will develop a different area of my career which I am excited about.
  3. Classroom management is a big area that I need to work on as I do not feel that I have many strategies in place to deal with problem behaviour. Continuing to work on my own pedagogy and the clarity of my explanations will assist, but that is not everything.

Personal Realisations

  1. I still am not sure of who I am as a teacher, nor do I have the vision of the kind of teacher I want to be locked down. I have some ideas about the type of teacher I want to be like, but not a single coherent goal. I was shoutier this term than
  2. When things get stressful I resort to bad old habits…junk food, and grain-based beverages and when there is a lot of work to do and things get busy, the physical health goes by the wayside and I stop training, my sleep patterns are destroyed and this all has some fairly obvious impacts. I need to work on strategies to mitigate the stress and make sure that I continue to train and continue to eat healthily and continue to get enough sleep.
  3. I can actually teach. I do feel sometimes like I have no idea what I am doing and that I am failing my students, however, looking at data and having conversations with students, as well as the hand-written notes that I am receiving from some students this week show me that I am a fairly decent teacher.
  4. I need a solid mentor. I have two people in the school whom I go to to get advice and feedback, to ask questions, to vent to and bounce ideas off, and those two people are hugely important to me. Those two, along with my wife, got me through this year.

I have a lot to learn and I am realising just how much I have to learn and wondering how much I do not know that I need to learn. It is a rather scary and terrifying thing, to feel like you are fumbling in the dark all year, realise you survived and actually did a decent job and then recognise just how much there still is to discover and develop in your teaching.

Thank you to my readers for supporting me this year. I look at the hit numbers and it is nice to know that people are reading, and being told by a few people that they have found my writing useful and valuable is a humbling (and mind-boggling) thing. I began writing for my own reflection and published only as a way of being held accountable in my own mind for continuing to reflect and to share my experiences. I will continue to publish FTPL videos over the break, but I do not expect that I will publish anything else.

I hope that the summer break is relaxing, enjoyable and safe for you and yours and I will see you again in the new year.

Merry Christmas.

Brendan.

#FlipConAdl Day Two Part Five

“Our kids have digital thumbs, we shouldn’t cut them off when they enter the door.”
-Stephanie Kriewaldt

FlipCon Adelaide had thus far been a success for me on a personal and professional level. I was feeling reinvigorated for the remainder of the year with new ideas, new contacts and friends, and a revitalised drive for flipped learning and research, which I hope has come through in my previous articles from the conference. My final session at FlipCon Adelaide was with Stephanie Kriewaldt (@stephkrie) who was presenting under the title Flipping the Primary Classroom. I spoke briefly with Stephanie during the Primary discussion panel and was happy to have met another Kindergarten-Year Two (Infants) teacher who was also a flipper as I only know one other Infants flipped educators; Alfina Jackson (@GeekyAusTeacher).

I feel bad for anyone presenting in the last timeslot at any conference or event, many people will have left the event already or will leave partway through in order to catch their plane/train. Stephanie’s session in the last timeslot of the day was similarly impacted with only three delegates in total in attendance, despite their having been eight registered to attend. Stephanie introduced herself and spoke about her background, including that she has only ever worked in 1:1 contexts, which seems rather amazing to me and is currently working as an innovation and learning leader.

Stephanie showed us a short video of a Year Two classroom where flipped pedagogies were utilised as part of the rotational groupings during literacy sessions. Given that I am going to be teaching in a Stage One context next year, this gives me some hope that what I was thinking might work, does work in practice. Utilising either computers or tablets with pre-loaded videos to play a short (sixty to ninety seconds long maximum) video modeling how to form letters and numbers, how to spell words and a range of other simple yet foundational skills that need to be repeated multiple times was what I was thinking of doing next year.

video2band2bsamr
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/h3m54kx on 11 December 2016

Stephanie spoke next about the SAMR model and its application in flipped learning. It would be very easy to stay with substitution and augmentation, however, we need to strive to also reach the modification and redefinition levels. Stephanie spoke about how she utilised QR code posters on the wall that linked to short videos that explained basics such as what a noun is or how to construct a paragraph as that was something that could be done once and made available via video when students needed the refresher. This process frees the teacher up to continue to be available for students who have more complex questions or needs that need her immediate focus and also gives the student some ownership of their learning. Whilst they are still using the teacher as the source of the information, they are able to access the information whenever they need without disrupting anyone else’s learning.

Stephanie also spoke about how to utilise flipped learning to engage with Parents. Sometimes a student will go home and ask the caregiver (you cannot assume it is a parent anymore) for help with some task for school and the caregiver will do their best to help. Sometimes this help is actually hindering the student because the caregiver does not have the knowledge needed or uses incorrect terminology. This happens for various reasons and Stephanie said that a simple way to combat this is to create videos that are ostensibly for the student but also show the caregiver how the concept or skill is being taught. It is not about diminishing the knowledge or skill of the caregiver, but about ensuring that they are aware of how the particular concept is taught now as it is likely to have changed since the caregiver was at school.

Stephanie spoke about using a short hook-video to capture student interest in a new topic or unit of learning. The idea of a hook to capture student interest is not a new one, however, being reminded of old ideas that work is often useful as it is easy to forget about them with the ongoing plethora of new ideas and practices that are thrown en masse at teachers. Knowing how to create and use QR codes and link shorteners is a very useful skill to have as it opens up a range of possibilities, such as the use of QR codes for refresher videos as mentioned earlier in this article. If you are not sure about either, you can find a video showing how to create QR codes here and a video for URL shorteners here.

Stephanie spoke about how she uses Explain Everything to make short videos on the fly and how it is also simple enough to use that Infants students are able to create videos using it. A flipped worksheet is still a worksheet we were told and accordingly, the homework that Stephanie sets is designed to be something that is likely going to occur anyway to reduce the stress around homework; do a chore, read a story, do something to help a friend or a family member etc. This kind of homework I could feel comfortable issuing to students, rather than the traditional style of homework, which I have written about recently. Homework needs to be achievable for the student and for us, the teacher.

Given that we were such a small group, we spent some time sharing about our specific teaching and learning contexts and sharing some ideas about moving forward with flipped learning. It was a useful time, though short, however, I think everyone in the room was happy to move on to the end of conference drinks as it had been a cognitively-draining (and refreshing at the same time) two days. Stephanie’s session was interesting and I did gain some ideas and a fresh perspective for moving into 2017 in a new context.

As always, thank you for reading. I think there will be one more article to come from FlipCon Adelaide, which will be a more general reflection on some issues as a result of various conversations I had with people outside of workshops which have significantly impacted my

#FlipConAdl Day Two Part Four

What does professional development look like? Is sitting here professional development?”
-Ken Bauer

After hearing the dates for FlipConNZ in June 2017 and FlipConAus in Sydney during October 2017, Professor Ken Bauer (@Ken_Bauer) took the stage to deliver his keynote.

Ken began by asking what professional development (PD) normally looks like and why it looks the way it does, questioning whether sitting in the theatre listening to him talk was really PD. Ken spoke about Personalised PD as written about by Jason Bretzmann (@jbretzmann) and Dave Burgess (@burgessdave), the basic premise of which is that teachers, like their students, are learners and therefore are all at different places with different needs. Jason and Dave began Patio PD, which was described to us as being teachers who get together on a patio to share practice. This sounded very similar to something that I heard about from Craig Kemp (@MrKempNZ), which is Pub PD.

The above question was posted by Ken, which is a challenging question. PD is a requirement in education. We need to ensure that we remain up to date with emerging pedagogies and technologies, however, we need to revisit the way in which PD is run. There are some good examples of useful, relevant and practical PD, however, anecdotally, I know that there are also still a large number of schools delivering PD via lecture or PD that is fun and engaging, but that will not actually change practice. As Greg Ashman (@Greg_Ashman) often comments, engagement is a poor proxy for learning

I have of course attended a large number of PD sessions at schools and there have been very few occasions where I have actively thought to myself that it was a waste of time. or completely irrelevant There have been a significant number of occasions where I have thought to myself that the PD was fun/interesting/engaging. There have, however, been few instances of PD that I can point to and say that that PD changed my practice. Ken Bauer asks whose fault is it if we (teachers) do not like PD the way that it currently is. I believe that it has to be, at least, partially our own fault.

We are required to engage with PD, especially with the implementation of the NSW Department of Education (DoE) Performance and Development Framework which requires that all teachers (amongst other staff) are required to have in place a Professional Development Plan (PDP); and with the accreditation processes required under the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).

Ken contends that school leaders, which is not just the designated Principal and other Executive staff, need to create a bold culture that encourages personalised PD as standardised PD often results on the disengagement of everyone they were trying to engage. This process should include a continual questioning of where you are now, where you want to be next year and how we are going to get [you] there. Anecdotally, this does not happen. It seems to be that teachers are expected to drive their own PD from within a specified set of options, whether it be set programs a school is running in literacy or numeracy or from a range of set options available through the NSW DoE (or the local equivalent).

As a temporary teacher, I feel that I have an advantage in this area. I can pick and choose what PD opportunities I wish to engage with. Last year and again this year, when we were told that the Executive were beginning the process of looking at staffing numbers for the following year, I have advised my supervisor of some specific PD opportunities and dates that I am committed to in various ways. I do so as I feel that it is only fair to let them know in advance what days I will be taking off to attend these opportunities and that if they choose to offer me another temporary contract, they do so with eyes wide open vis-a-vis my plans.

Ken continued by commenting that we need to give credit to and support those who share and that we should create more than we consume. Not only that, it is also important that we model saying thank you to others for resources and ideas so that we create a culture of positive shared and creative commons in our classroom. This is one of the things I love about the EduTweetOz twitter account (@EduTweetOz) and the associated blog, that each week an Australian educator takes the reins to share ideas, experiences & questions about education across Australia. Hosts come from all areas of education and it is a thoroughly worthwhile week. The underlying concept behind EduTweetOz, however, is to share ideas and experiences. Through interacting with various hosts of the account and hosting it myself for a week, I have been able to connect with a number of educators via EduTweetOz and have been exposed to ideas and viewpoints that I otherwise may not have been without that account.

This also goes to another point that Ken made, which is that what we do has value, even we do not see it ourselves, that we need to share and put ourselves out there with what we have to offer. There are a number of ways of doing that, through sharing resources (check my website for mine), through writing blog articles containing reflections, ideas, outlining puzzles of practice you are struggling with and through engaging with online professional learning networks such as Twitter and other social media platforms. Ken reiterated the point that PD is about relationships and active learning, which by extrapolation, is also what education is about.

In 2001, Marc Prensky (@MarcPrensky) published an article titled Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants in which he wrote the following:

Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach…Today’s students – K through college – represent the first generations to grow up with this new technology. They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age. Today’s average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV). Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives. Some refer to them as the N-[for Net]-gen or D-[for digital]-gen. But the most useful designation I have found for them is Digital Natives. Our students today are all “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games, and the Internet. 

-Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5). Emphasis mine.

I remember the first time I came across the notion of digital natives and digital immigrants that I was nodding my head and agreeing that yes, my generation and onwards have grown up with technology around us, but now, a bit older and perhaps a bit less naive, I think that while that may be true from a certain perspective, that in many ways, the concept of digital natives does not hold true. While my generation and those after may have grown up with technology all around, that does not equate to an ability to use the technology. I know a great number of people my age and younger who are not comfortable with technology in some contexts, who profess to not being able to use a computer beyond the basics, who do not understand how to use a search engine properly, who do not understand what Twitter/Facebook/Instagram etc is or why people use them.

Ken spoke about the work that David White (@daveowhite) has done around reframing the discussions of digital natives and immigrants that have occurred since Marc Prensky’s seminal article. David contends that individuals engage with the internet and other technologies across a continuum of modes of engagement, visitor or resident, rather than two distinct categories. For a more complete explanation, please watch the short video below.

I think that this conception of digital use is a more appropriate fit for the way in which people engage with digital technologies than the native/immigrants language or even the more recent language around the technology adoption life-cycle and the associated Rogers’ Bell Curve and removes the potential stigma of being a digital immigrant or laggard. I think that this is particularly important in the education space given that anecdotally there appears to be a negative attitude and some sense of disdain for educators not utilising technology in the same way that some teachers do. As previously noted, we should be sharing and helping, not using and showing contempt for non-users.

Ken reminded us of the quote by Will Daggett; “school is a place where students often come to watch their teachers work,” and reminded us that learning should be an active process. We need to make sure that our students are not watching us work, and that they are in fact active participants in their learning. In our current society, this does involve teaching technology skills as part of the Technologies curriculum. Ken contends that it is ok to fail but that we need to persevere and learn from our mistakes. There are a vast array of options and Ken contends that we should choose an option to manage our tools and resources appropriate for our context within the requirements of our school.

Ken’s next point was one I had heard before, but he added an interesting twist to it. He posited that student-riven blogging creates a community of learning and sharing, especially when combined with openly published assignments. I was intrigued by this and fortunately, Ken expanded the thought. He encourages students to publish their answers to questions as part of creating an open sharing culture where students then learn from each other’s answers and can expand on them. The concept is interesting and sounds akin to what I observed whilst at Glenunga International High School that morning in the French lesson, where students were required to add to or correct a translation in a GDoc.

Part of Ken’s process is having students, at the end of the year, create a video for his students in the next year with their tips for being in Ken’s class. This includes understanding Ken himself, but also working in the classroom with the pedagogies that Ken utilises, which is a great idea. It gives students a chance to give feedback about Ken and the way he teaches and gives them the mantle of an expert for a while. Ken also spoke about how he has removed grading and deadlines from his class, which some students struggled with due to the difference to what they are used to in the game of school. Ken said that he encouraged students to learn the content rather than memorise for the test. This would necessitate a change in pedagogy and increased support as students adjust how they are able to demonstrate their understanding (one potential way may be using this form of non-questioning).

Ken was a passionate speaker and strong on the belief that knowledge should be shared, but also credited where borrowed, reminding the audience that learning is often messy, particularly in flipped learning. I was fortunate enough to have a chance to speak with Ken in more depth over dinner that evening, however, given the length of this article already, I will hold off on that. There is one more article to come, covering the final session which was led by Stephanie Kriewaldt (@stephkrie).

As always, thank you for reading. If you have missed any articles in this series from FlipCon Adelaide, please click here to view the full list.

#FlipConAdl Review Day Two Part Two

“Students shouldn’t come to school to watch the teachers work”
-John Hattie. Interview with BBC4’s The Educators

Day Two of FlipCon Adelaide was all about the school tour and lesson observations. Visiting Glenunga International High School (GIHS) was something I was looking forward to and the opening addresses, which I wrote about here,  were very interesting and gave a clear message of pedagogy and relationships as the key to flipped learning and improved student learning outcomes. After those addresses, however, was the all-important morning tea (the strawberries were spectacularly good) where we would have an opportunity to speak to the various staff members present as well as the Prefects before being taken to observe some lessons.

It was interesting watching the way in which the Prefects engaged the groups of delegates with such confidence and poise. The two Prefects whom I and some others were speaking to were very comfortable speaking about the way the school had changed and were comfortable sharing their lessons. One of the Prefects myself and a few others were speaking with was completing the International Baccalaureate Diploma program whilst the other was completing the South Australian Certificate of Education. Additionally, one of the students had only been at GIHS for about eighteen months and so was able to speak to the differences between his prior, more traditional school and GIHS.

As I have written about previously, when questioned, both students acknowledged that in terms of homework as opposed to how much studying and revision they do, that there is less homework than there used to be, prior to flipped learning. When asked about the late start no Wednesdays, their faces lit up and you could see that they liked the idea. Both of them said they tend to use it sometimes for extra study and revision in preparation for exams or for some extra sleep depending on what they have going on.

It became apparent very early in our tour of GIHS that there is a strong and vibrant student interest group community. The sign in Kendall Wong’s photo above is only one example of the many that we saw during our tour. The number and diversity of student clubs that we saw signs or posters for was phenomenal, especially for me where we had Interact, school band and a chess club in high school, as well as sporting teams, and that was all. It is a testament to the diversity of the student body and the school’s own culture that a number of them were based on social justice issues or charitable causes.

The first that our group visited was a Year Eight French class. The teacher was just getting things started when we arrived and to his credit, he did not miss a beat, merely welcomed us and continued on. It was a small class of approximately twenty students and their task was well constructed and demonstrated some quality pedagogy. The students had been tasked with watching their flipped content and were applying that new learning. In groups of four, students were tasked with reading a short comic strip which was written in French and translating it into English. Rather than being a worksheet, however, the teacher had shared a link via GClass to the students and they were all working within a GDoc to translate.

They were given a few minutes to translate their initially assigned panel from the comic and then they had to move on to the next panel in the rotation and either add to or correct the translation that had been provided by the previous student. Watching the task occur in real time on the main screen at the front of the room was both funny, with the various coloured cursors flashing madly everywhere as students worked to translate their comic strip panel, and exciting, seeing this sort of pedagogy applied in a subject I would not normally teach.I appreciated, at this point, not observing a primary class or a subject or content which I would teach as it freed me to really focus on what was happening within the classroom rather than on the content and skills which were being covered. This was, of course, the point of being arbitrarily assigned to groups.

There was a group of three boys sitting just in front of me that I could see switching back and forth between the GDoc and Google Translate. I wanted to find out more about how they used GClass as an LMS and about how the were completing the task. They were quite happy to answer some questions and show me their GClass stream. Typically, it seems like it was used to push out content or links to content, set questions and facilitate the delivery and collection of assignments. As they were explaining things in response to my questions, the message came through once again, unprompted, pedagogy and relationships are key and that was something which I feel spoke strongly about the buy-in from the school community to the philosophy and approach that GIHS was taking.

I did observe during that lesson one student who was sitting in the front row on the other side of the room to myself and was slouching in his seat, with his feet up on the chair next to him using his phone below the desk. The teacher could clearly see that the student was using it, there was no deliberate act of trying to hide that the phone was being used. I queried our Prefect on the school’s mobile phone policy and there was a wry grin in response. The school has a strong policy of student ownership of their learning and student responsibility for their choices and owning their own distractions. Students are mostly free to use their phones as long as they are completing the required tasks in a timely fashion. Our

Students are mostly free to use their phones as long as they are completing the required tasks in a timely fashion. Our Prefect related that when she was in the process of applying for jobs earlier that year, that her phone had rung (silently) in class with the phone number of one of where she had applied recently on the caller ID. With a very brief explanation of the situation, she was allowed to take the call outside and then return to class. This works without negatively impacting hers or her peers learning due to flipped learning. In a traditional classroom context, there is a likelihood that to step outside would have meant that she would miss some explicit instruction about the concept being covered and would thus be behind the proverbial eight ball when she returned. In a flipped class, however, she was not listening to explicit teaching instruction as that had been completed via the flipped content prior to entering the classroom and therefore was able to stop what she was doing and resume it when she re-entered the classroom.

Placing responsibility for the learning back onto the student is a great move which, when properly supported by teaching students how to manage their time, take high-quality notes, how to study and revise efficiently. As we moved through the school for the next lesson observation, we were taken through one of the school’s media arts workshops where we saw an Apple Macintosh computer! My grandfather taught me how to use a computer on one of those and I remember being blown away by how cool it was and some of the games that it could support.

When we arrived at GIHS and entered their Performing Arts Centre (PAC), the room contained a stage and chair that reminded me of the fold down chairs you see at many cinemas which were stepped to create a minor theatre effect. When we returned to the space to observe a drama lesson in action, the room had completely changed. You can see in the photo above that the whole chairs had retracted back into a single block which was a very efficient use of the space. Outside the PAC, there were a number of posters from shows that had, presumably, been run by drama students at GIHS. When I asked one of our Prefects about it, she confirmed that tickets to the shows are sold to the community and that all proceeds are donated to charity. Having the students perform their shows in front of paying audiences and then donating the proceeds to charities is a great way of building community relationships, contributing to worthy causes and also providing the students some genuine theatre experience.

Observing the drama lesson was intriguing. The dozen or so students arrived and went straight into practice. The teacher spoke to use very briefly to explain the context of what was happening and indicated that the students had been asked to read a short script and learn some associated movements and that they were running an exercise on group space and interactions in a group space where they needed to use the space in such a way as to complete particular movements at certain times in specified ways. I enjoy theatre, but have only been in school productions as a student and one production of Oliver with the Tamworth Musical Society when I was in Year Seven, and so I was not entirely sure what I was seeing, even with the brief explanation from the teacher.

Each of the groups convened back together at this point and we were back onto the mini-buses to go back to Brighton Secondary School. The trip to GIHS was very interesting and demonstrated how flipped learning can occur in a range of contexts. I am excited about continuing my flipped learning journey into 2017 in a new context. I was very impressed with the fact that the driving message from everyone at GIHS that I spoke to, both staff and students, was focused on pedagogy and relationships. Even the students that I spoke to in the French class, were talking about pedagogy and relationships, even if they were not using the specific language thereof. It was a fascinating insight into the way in which a change in culture can permeate a school community in a short period of time. I want to thank the GIHS staff and students for opening up their school to us and providing us with the opportunity to hear and observe the way they have embraced flipped culture.

#FlipConAdl Review Day One Part Five

“We put finished works up, but how often do we put up work / learning in progress to model that learning is an ongoing process?”
Ryan Gill

After listening to Peter Whiting (@Mr_van_W) speak about his action research (which I wrote about here), I settled in to hear Ryan Gill (@ryanagill) speak about Delving Deeper – developing critical and creative thinking in flipped classrooms. I was curious about what I would here in this for two reasons. Firstly, I had not been in the room for part one, but the twitter conversations I had seen looked very interesting

The other reason I was interested was that critical and creative thinking are two characteristics which are firmly embedded in the Australian Curriculum and are spoken about by some as being twenty-first century skills, which gives me the impression these people are being either facetious and acknowledging that there is in fact nothing new about them whatsoever, or they are utilising them as buzzwords (click here for buzzword bingo…great for your next staff meeting) and are ignoring, again, the fact that these characteristics or skills have in fact been around for millennia.

Ryan began by discussing his journey through Visible Thinking and Cultures of Thinking and providing an overview as to what they are and how they are related to his flipped class journey, which has been ongoing with Year Eleven and Year Twelve courses for the last four years at Masada College. What Ryan was telling us about Cultures of Thinking and the handouts he provided us with looked and sounded very similar to what I heard from some presenters during the Teaching for Thinking forum I attended last year (read those articles here) and that

Cultures of Thinking originates from Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education and makes explicit a range of thinking routines that fit into different contexts and have a different thinking move appropriate for that routine. The routine chosen is contextual, with pedagogy being the driving tool behind the routine chosen. Ryan made it clear that many of the thinking routines are already being used by teachers, however, they do not necessarily think of them as routines but as a strategy for student engagement. Cultures of thinking makes explicit the thinking that teachers are asking students to do, enabling teachers to explicitly teach students’ strategies to think more deeply about their learning. An example that Ryan provided was to use a thinking strategy such Zoom In rather than asking the class a few questions. As he reminded the group, no thinking means no learning is going on…are your students actually thinking or are they getting through the stuff?

Ryan next spoke about cultural forces which impact and define our classroom and which are important for our students’ growth as thinkers and learners. Ryan said that rich and deep thinking often requires slowing right down and allowing time for the thinking to occur at deeper than surface levels, which is something we do not often do as educators. I have tried to encourage my students this year to not make a guess straight away or to call out when they think they know an answer to a question but to take at least five seconds to stop and think about it and I have to admit that I have not been particularly successful in breaking some of the thinking habits of my students; they still throw their hands straight in the air, even when explicitly told that it is thinking time or brainstorming time. Ryan showed us a video of Debbie O’Hara speaking about using the explanation game as a way of teaching students to think more deeply and more critically.

820cultural20forces202015
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/grskxln on 4 December 2016.

As a follow on from the video, Ryan asked us to think about the cultural forces that we observed in the video and to consider how they impacted upon the students’ learning. It was a rich discussion with a range of ideas and thoughts. Ryan acknowledged that we all operate within our own context and that every context has constraints handed down and enforced from those hierarchically above us. Within those constraints, however, we should work to create the culture that we want in our class.

The level to which we should allow our students to muddle or struggle with concepts as part of their learning was raised. Ryan spoke about it being an important part of the learning process and that the discovery or Eureka moment is a powerful factor for further learning, engagement and retention of learning. Furthermore, allowing kids to remain in the muddle can foster curiosity, resilience, and creativity. Helping students to remain in a safe muddle, a place of cognitive dissonance (links) can depend largely on the questions and the language that is used within class discussions, a concept which Jennie Magiera (@MsMagiera) raised during her Masterclass at the FutureSchools Conference this year (read part one here).

Ryan spoke to us about The Putin Principle, though I do not remember the context and asked us to consider the above image, and explain who we thought was correct using a thinking routine called claim, support, question. It was an interesting process and the range of ideas about the veracity of any one position espoused in the Slugville Election was intriguing, and Ryan played the devil’s advocate will a significant amount of delight, challenging the ideas presented by various delegates. The process reminded me of The Obi-Wan Principle:

lknmh

Ryan used this exercise to point out that our own biases and points of view can unconsciously influence our students’ ideas and points of view. Additionally, he added, our language can either encourage or discourage our students and that we need to be aware of our words and our meaning.

Ryan closed by using a zoom out exercise, showing us a small part of an image to start with and asking us to consider what we can observe and what impressions that gives us of what and where the image is. As he showed us each level of the image, we spent a few minutes discussing as a group our observations and ideas on what we could see and what factors influenced our assumptions about our observations. It was a very interesting process and a clever way of closing out, using one of the thinking routines we had been discussing.

I thoroughly enjoyed Ryan’s session and would have liked to have been able to be in two places at once so that I could listen to Part One whilst I was also in listening to Peter Whiting. If you are interested in learning more about cultures of thinking, I have included links to various resources throughout this article. Additionally, you can get involved with the cultures of thinking chat on twitter using #cotchat or looking up Project Zero. Thank you for reading and I would appreciate any feedback you may have on this article. If you have missed the previous articles in the series, you can find the first article here.

#FlipConAdl Review Day One Part Four

“This is going to be really stats heavy and so I won’t be offended if you want to leave.”
– Peter Whiting

Welcome back for part four in my review of FlipCon Adelaide. If you missed the previous article, you can find it by clicking here. For whatever reason, I had not registered for a session after Amiee Shattock’s and I decided to drop in on Peter Whiting’s (@mr_van_w) session where would be exploring the results from an action research project which was recently peer reviewed and published (you can find it here). Statistics and research is not a flavour that everyone enjoys and it was a small group in the room, however, it was, for me, an incredibly interesting session and I got a real kick out of hearing about the methodologies and the statistical results; it reignited a desire to engage in education research. It was a good session even before Peter spoke, however, as I saw this on the wall, encouraging a growth mindset and a persistent attitude to learning

Peter spoke about his background, that he was a scientist before entering the teaching profession and so his research was driven by a science mindset, looking at the story told by the data. He also indicated that his working environment is hostile in many ways to flipped learning as a pedagogical strategy, but that the school has moved to action research as a basis for professional development, which sounds strategically sensible, depending on what guidelines are provided for topics of research and the structure. I had some conversations around this topic during the social event which I was intrigued by and will discuss further in a later article.

The action research was driven by two focus questions, what was the impact on student engagement and student learning outcomes when flipped content is made either by their own teacher, a team teacher or an external provider. It is an interesting question as the general feedback that highly experienced flipped educators give is that creation is better than curation for flipped content. Peter spoke about the relationship that he and his team teacher have which other as being very productive and safe vis-a-vis their ability to provide open and frank feedback to each other and that this was essential to the quality of their flipped content and also to the action research project.

This also provided the first departure point from standard flipped learning discourse as Peter noted that they do not necessarily have students engaging with video content in the individual learning space and therefore refer to the flipped content as learning objects or LOs.This allows for a discussion about the flipped content without limiting the discussion to video content.

The research was structured to allow for a number of data points. Peter explained that in a typical action research project, for each query, three data points are required. To this end, the research was structured to allow for a number of data collection points, with two sets of two parallel classes being utilised (an A and B class in each of Stage Four and Stage Five science) to allow for comparisons in different learning contexts. This enabled a comparison of the effect on engagement and outcome as a result of teacher-created, team-teach created or externally created LOs. The overall sample size was fifty-five students and Peter said that he would have liked to have had a larger sample size, however, that was what he had to work with. If you are not familiar with what team teaching is and why that is a topic of potential interest for research, you can find a good overview here.

Peter then did what he promised and went into statistics-mode. The first results that we were shown were the overall results around the engagement levels in the individual space (what would traditionally be referred to as homework). These showed markedly different results between teacher-created LOs and team teacher-created LOs; 91% completion in comparison to 85%. This trend continued when examined in the same way with the data clustered by the unit of study or topic.

The above photo is not the greatest, however, the darker column is Class A and the lighter column is Class B. The results demonstrated that students engaged with the LOs much more frequently and with greater interest when they were created by the class teacher, irrespective of the topic of study. The Class A teacher developed the LOs for the second unit, whilst the Class B teacher prepared the LOs for the first and third units and you can see the interaction patterns quite clearly in the results. It is interesting to note that the subject or topic of the unit (appears) not to have had any impact on the average results and I would be curious to hear about any inferences or conclusions that were made around that.

Following on from that, bookwork results were examined, and student effort was recorded using predetermined success criteria, with the results being clustered together by alternate and classroom teacher. It was reported that there was a significant different between the two sets of results; when students’ book-work marks were clustered together according to the book-work marks from their own and the alternate teacher. Peter reported that this indicated to them that students were taking detailed notes beyond the bare minimum when the learning object being used was created by their own teacher rather than the alternate teacher. Interestingly, it was also reported that as the end of the year drew closer the disparity between the two columns (book work marks for own vs alternate teacher) lessened. I am not sure what results you could infer from this other than potentially an impact of studying for impending exams or major in-class assessment tasks/tests. I do not recall what Peter said, if anything, about this, but he noted it as interesting.

Students were asked directly about whether they had a preference for the LOs that their teacher created in comparison to an alternate teacher and it is telling that although 70% of students thought the LOs were equivalent vis-a-vis quality, that 47% preferred the LOs developed by their own teacher. Peter did acknowledge that 49% of students were neutral on that question; that they did not mind either way. I found it very interesting that such a large proportion of students indicated they did not mind either way. A question along these lines was asked during the primary discussion panel (read the article here) and Matthew Burns (@burnsmatthew) responded that he asks his students about whether they prefer flipped pedagogies or traditional pedagogies. It is a slightly different question with a different focus, however, as far as I am aware, Matt creates the vast majority of his content and he indicated a roughly 70% / 10% / 20% split between preference of flipped/blended/traditional pedagogies. I do not know if Matt has done any similar research into the impacts of third-party created flipped content/LOs.

The above graph was shown to us next and it is a very intriguing set of results. It demonstrates that although there is a preference for teacher-created LOs, that the measured summative metrics revealed no statistically significant variance in the achievement of learning outcomes. This has significance for teachers interested in flipped learning as a pedagogical strategy. Engagement in the classroom or group learning time is an important factor in classroom management and the perception of whether you are a good teacher. John Hattie (@john_hattie)has written extensively around effect sizes, and engagement has an effect size of 0.45 which is not insignificant.

One potential reason for the preference for teacher-created LOs is that students are used to you; your vocal rhythms, patterns, tonal quality, and lilts, however, it is key that we remember that the LOs are not everything. Flipped learning is about videos, primarily, but that is not the goal of flipped learning. The goal of flipped learning to reclaim time for deeper learning and engagement with higher level thinking as envisioned on the reimagined Bloom’s Taxonomy.

screen2bshot2b2015-07-132bat2b19-59-06
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/zh44r2v on 30 November 2016

Peter related that Derek Muller (@Veritasium) completed a study for a PhD, which he (Peter) summarised as can we learn stuff from videos – the short answer from Derek is no. The learning happens in the class.” He pointed out that a video provides background and foundational information, but that it does not necessarily provide a context, an application or a synthesis of the skill or concept; that is what the classroom time needs to be used and as Jon Bergmann pointed out in his keynote address earlier that morning, the biggest mistake in implementing flipped pedagogies is not using the reclaimed group space time well.

The video does not teach students how to think critically around a topic or provide them with strategies for synthesising new information or evaluating the impacts of something, that is our role as teachers, to provide the opportunity for students to take that information and apply, analyse, evaluate and create with it. It provides the opportunity for teachers to build and strengthen the relationships with students which has a sizable effect size (0.52) on student learning outcomes according to Hattie.

We moved onto discussions around the human research ethics approval (HRECs), requirements around which varies depending on the jurisdiction. Essentially though, if the research is in-house for reflection and improvement of practice, ethical approval is not strictly necessary (unless otherwise indicated in your State or Territory), though it is still a good idea. If you intend to publish or share the results externally, then it becomes necessary. Even if it was not necessary, the process of completing a HRECs application is very useful. I found that it helped me to crystallise exactly what my guiding question was and how  was going to go about researching that and understanding the results. Peter also said that there is money available via grants for research assistants and that we simply need to go through the processes. This was not something I was aware of, however, it would be very useful to have someone who can collect, collate and assist in data analysis.

We were told that the most basic interpretation of action research methodology is to ask a question, enact a plan to gather data, reflect and reiterate. The complication or the challenge comes from the need to continually ask so what and where to from here when the data is collected and conclusions have been drawn at each iterative step.

The question was asked how far away from your own institution do you go before content becomes external? Is it external content if it by anyone outside of your own Stage or Faculty? Your own school? your Local Learning Community or Dioecese? That, Peter indicated, is the next step for the research.

I personally found the session with Peter to be exciting and reinvigorating. My current long-term career goal is to end up in the education research space. I feel like this will be ongoing or multiple over a period of time, action research projects where specific questions are researched and iterations made to pedagogical practice and strategy with the end goal being to share results at each step for feedback and peer review (whether this is formalised for publication or merely social peer review through trusted colleagues I do not know). I am a teacher first and a researcher second, however, I genuinely enjoyed the process of reviewing the literature, synthesising it, researching, analysing the data and then writing the thesis. I would like to take it to the next step and be able to make iterative changes to my practice and to be able to share those results with peers. That is largely why I maintain this blog and also try to maintain the formal-ish academic style of writing, so that I do not lose the ability to write in that style when ( am determined it will be when not if) I get the opportunity to dig into some research again.

Thank you as always for reading this rather long article. I know that research and statistics is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally really enjoyed Peter’s session. We enjoyed a long conversation around it later on over dinner and drinks, and I daresay that when I read his article that I will have further questions for him. I would like to hear your thoughts on the research described and what direction you think it could go in next and what questions you feel would be valuable for research.

 

Reflections on The Homework Myth with Alfie Kohn

Education is like a tapestry. Wiggle one thread and many others will move as well.
Alfie Kohn

Following on from his lecture on The Case Against Competition, which I reflected upon here, and a break for dinner, Alfie Kohn delivered a lecture on The Homework Myth, As much as I struggled to reconcile some of what Alfie said during his Competition lecture, much of what was said during this lecture mirrored a lot of my own thoughts on homework.

The lecture was introduced using the above quote and then Alfie spoke about what would happen if we abolished grades. Students, we were told, would question the point of why they attend school and completed the tasks they are assigned. This means that we, the teachers, need to reconsider what and how we teach; to reexamine the curriculum and the pedagogy. This is an interesting challenge and one that seems to fail on the curriculum front. The Australian curriculum is not remotely national, with NSW, Victoria and Western Australia implementing their own curriculum, which encompasses the Australian Curriculum. We also, connecting it to the lecture topic, need to consider the purpose of homework and what it is connected to.

funny-quote-about-late-homework
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/hulsdex on 20 November 2016

Alfie’s next point was interesting. He pointed out that we as adults have all been on the receiving end of homework and typically the vast majority of us as students neither liked nor wanted (and often did not complete) the assigned homework. Why, therefore, does homework persist? We do it because of rather than in spite of that history. I do wonder why so many parents continue to want their children to have homework. I had a few parents asking me about homework this term as I had not sent any home in the first two weeks and I responded with a message to all my parents via Class Dojo that I wouldn’t be assigning any homework other than some reading of interest and perhaps some SumDog, which they love. The students were relieved and I had a few messages from parents who were relieved as well.

So why does homework persist?

Homework has the capability to cause stress and frustration in students, frustration in parents; it can cause conflict between parents and their children, loss of time to other activities that a child would rather be doing and is passionate about.

So why does homework persist?

For those students who are interested and passionate about a topic,  homework or a unit around that topic has the potential to cast a pall over it and kill the passion and desire for learning (there is still mixed evidence for this either way from what I could see of a very quick search). When even those students who consider themselves academically inclined are pleased to have completed their homework and would rather be doing any one of a number of other things, often involving friends we need to ask ourselves why homework still exists. Alfie singled out reading logs as being particularly harmful. There is no better way, stated Alfie,  of killing a passion for reading than the enforced use of a reading log to monitor how much a child is reading. It becomes a thing  that must be done to get a reward from their teacher of a sticker or a stamp. If you are not sure about rewards and why they are potentially bad, read the previous article in this series.

homework-thumb-480x480-390662
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/nytp98d on 21 November 2016

One of the alleged reasons that support homework is that it supposedly improves achievement. Before going into what Alfie had to say on the matter, the definition of achievement here is very important to this statement. In conversations that I have had, the achievement that is typically being referred to is testing scores. Testing scores are useful in many ways, but they are an indicator only of how well a student answered a specific set of questions at a particular moment in time. The familiar adage that goes something like what is tested is not important and what is important is not tested comes to mind here, though I do not doubt that there are those who would argue that testing is a valuable source of data.

Alife stated that no controlled study demonstrates any measure of improvement before a student reaches the age of fifteen and that even then, there is only a correlation not a causative relationship of statistical significance. Furthermore, at the High School level, the correlation between increased levels of homework and increased test scores is only a very modest correlation and explains very little of the growth.

6
An amusing example of how correlations can be meaningless and not explain a phenomenon. Retrieved from tylervigen.com/spurious-correlations on 21 November 2016

Including the above graph is perhaps a tad facetious, but the website provides some laughs at the bizarre correlations that can be made between unrelated data. Alfie continued by commenting that the relationship between homework and improved achievement is only measurable in standardised tests which do not measure anything other than a student’s ability to answer that set of questions. An additional factor that needs to be considered is an interesting one, particularly in the case of internationally administered tests such as The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). These tests are initially developed in the English language and are then translated into the other languages required. What impact does this have on the terms chosen and the clarity of the question vis-a-vis the raw wording? How about the way a question is composed and understood culturally? How are questions transliterated (I hope that is the right term, please let me know if it is not) to ensure the meaning and underlying spirit/vibe/focus of the question are retained across cultures with different understandings and interpretations of different events and contexts?

These tests are initially developed in the English language and are then translated into the other languages required. What impact does this have on the terms chosen and the clarity of the question vis-a-vis the raw wording? How about the way a question is composed and understood culturally? How are questions transliterated (I hope that is the right term, please let me know if it is not) to ensure the meaning and underlying spirit/vibe/focus of the question are retained across cultures with different understandings and interpretations of different events and contexts? Alfie also told the audience that the modest correlation disappeared altogether when multi-variables are taken into account.

Alfie’s next point is an interesting one. He commented that cross-cultural tests, such as PISA and TIMMS show a negative correlation between tests and the amount of homework given. I want to believe this, and it feels instinctively true partly because I want to believe it (confirmation bias?) because a quick Google Scholar search returned a few articles that allege to have found positive relationships between the amount of homework given and general test scores (such as here, here and here), though that is based on reading the abstract only as they are all hidden behind pay-walls. The SmithsonianMag website has one very brief article which indicates that some homework has a positive impact on test scores.

grade2b42breading2bhw2beffects2bpirls2b2011
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/jaohm9m on 21 November 2016

The above image was sourced from a well-written blog by Darren Kuropatwa (@Dkuropatwa) (though it appears to have been sourced from a PIRLS document) examining the value of homework based upon the Assessment Matters! publications by The Council of Ministers of Education Canada examining the data using The Pan-Canadian Assessment Program (PCAP), PISA,  PIRLS and TIMSS. The results, it seems, are still inconclusive when looking at this data.

Another reason that is often touted for the ongoing assignment of homework is that it builds character, self-discipline, organisation and other similar non-academic benefits, which I have recently seen referred to as soft-skills. Alfie remarked that no study has ever validated this belief, and to my mind, it is not even particularly logical, and even if it were, there are far better ways of teaching children those characteristics. I do not see it as logical due to the fact that the student has to do the homework, whether that is enforced at home by the parent/s or at school by the teacher and therefore no learning of such characteristics is going to occur. If it those type of soft-skills (are we really using that term?) that you want to teach your child/student, then look into having them take up a team sport to teach them getting along, collaboration and teamwork. Or a martial art for resilience, organisation and focus. Or have them complete minor age appropriate chores, involve them in conversations about organising the grocery list or the household budget.

The next argument for homework Alfie indicated he hears regularly is that it creates a window into the class which seems completely nonsensical to me. If you genuinely want to develop a relationship or connection between home and school, invite the parents to visit and help out with reading or maths groups, set up a class Twitter account for students to share what they are learning, or a class blog so they can publish their writing, art or audiovisual creations and reflections.

The final argument for assigning homework that Alfie spoke about was what he called the Beguti argument; better get used to it. This is, again, illogical and is used to justify a range of tools such as competitions, marks and group-work and, remarked Alfie, developmentally inappropriate. It seems silly to me, to use that argument. Because you will have to complete this task which is dreary and you will dislike it later in life, to prepare you for that dreariness, it will be inflicted upon you earlier than necessary. Children do not get better at dealing with negative things by having negative things happen to them at a younger age and using the beguti argument is, Alfie noted, akin to giving up the game.

calvinhw
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/gueue8b on 21 November 2016

Parents are often sent home a homework letter that states something along the lines of your child will receive homework on x days or is required to complete the following tasks each week. This sends home the message that the individual needs of the child do not actually matter. Further to this, the audience was told that where schools advertise as teaching the whole child, but then assign homework, that they are paying the whole child lip service by assigning additional academic tasks.

We did hear some of the arguments against homework that Alfie has heard regularly. Parents opposing it on a value basis; that school work is for school and the family home is for family time, not school work. Additionally, homework exists, he has been told, because we do not trust children to occupy themselves without wasting time on Facebook, computer games etc and as an argument, implies that homework is merely busy work anyway. I find that an intriguing statement as I know that I, and every other adult I know, likes and needs to spend some time doing nothing, or, wasting time, to relax and unwind after being at work or to deal with stress.

Alfie qualified his dislike of homework by indicating that he can see some occasions when homework should be assigned, but that there should be some criteria for it:

  1. The homework will help students think more in-depth about the topic;
  2. The homework helps students become more excited about a topic;
  3. The task cannot be completed in school for some genuine reason other than we did not have time.

Assigning homework should be done after a class discussion with all students and the teacher agreeing that the homework is genuinely needed and that the default setting for homework should be no homework. Students who can complete a task and understand the task and how they completed it initially do not need to complete the homework, and those students who need the homework are likely unable to complete it and having to try and complete it will result in frustration, Googling the answer or a parent/guardian completing it for them.

What are your thoughts on homework in general and what I have written about Alfie’s lecture in particular? What are your thoughts on how this relates to cognitive load theory and the completion of basic tasks? I have reached out to Jon Bergmann for his thoughts on how Flipped Learning and the research which Alfie spoke about are related and I have also reached out to Alfie for feedback on both this article and the previous article and to check the accuracy of my interpretation of what he said.

I would very much like to hear your thoughts on this topic and I thank you for reading through both this and the previous article which are both rather lengthy.

 

FutureSchools Review – Day 1 Session 3 – Masterclass with Jennie Magiera

Welcome back for my review of session three of Jennie Magiera’s master class at FutureSchools 2016. If you have missed the previous two articles, you can read about session one here and session two here. The day to this point had been full of energy and excitement, had been engaging and for me, personally, very much worthwhile attending. I feel that the badging concept discussed in session two was something that I could potentially implement in my classroom whereas when I have heard about badging in the past, such as here, I have been left feeling that it falls into the too hard basket. This session, however, was full of activities that I feel confident that I could take back to my school and implement in either the staffroom or the classroom, within the appropriate context.

Jennie spoke about IEP’s, or Individual Education Plans, a document utilised to help with planning for and making adjustments for students with additional needs (whether that be below or above the grade standard) and how they are a document often perceived negatively and that we need to change that perception by using them positively, for ourselves as teachers, as a method of focusing on a single problem, what Jennie termed a problem of practice.

david-sipress-there-s-nothing-to-be-scared-of-mrs-miller-it-s-just-another-teaching-cartoon
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/hnshoze 5th March 2016

When Jennie first entered the role of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) within her school district in the United States, she said that she found she would enter a school and that teachers there would literally turn and run in the opposite direction; “she’s the tech lady who’s here to make us use tech!” Jennie wanted, and needed, a way of changing the perception of technology in education0, this ethereal and magical thing that Jennie heard teachers downplay their self-efficacy with “I’m no good at technology.” It is a refrain that I have heard far too often.

The Teacher Individual Exploration Plan (TIEP) that Jennie formulates is a different approach to thinking about technology in the hands of teachers. The object is to shift the focus from getting better with technology to getting better as educators. The second goal is one that we should all be striving for, one which teachers the world over invest time and money out of their own account, investing in their ability to be a better teacher.  Jennie came up with what she called gripe jam.

screenshot2013-05-15at9-20-30am
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/z3k2k775 March 2016

Gripe jam is a process which consists of every teacher in the room having a stack of post-it notes (side-story: Jennie found that having too many post-it notes in your luggage registers as bomb-components with customs! Apparently it has something to do with the adhesive used on them), and when presented with various daily scenarios, the teachers write down all the problems they encounter in that scenario with one problem per post-it note, and generally only one to two minutes per scenario. We all complain about something in our lives, but when was the last time you were not only given permission, but encouraged to do so?

The scenarios were daily situations that she refers to as problem catalysts, linking this process to the wonder catalyst from session one, and were typical situations that any teacher would be able to relate to; arriving first ting in the morning, the middle of the first teaching block, planning / marking time, professional development sessions run by the school, preparing for the start of a new school year etc. The key here, as with the wonder catalyst process, is not to audit the problems. It does not matter what anyone else at your table, in your school or in your district office thinks of that issue, if you perceive it as a problem, than for the purposes of this exercise, it is a problem.

Step two involves arranging all of your problems into a continuum from most frustrating to least frustration, in a single line. For this, participants need to spread out so they have approximately an arm-span worth of free space to allow them to order their post-it notes into one continuous line. Jennie indicated that there can be no ties, that you must have a single line of problems, ranking every problem as more or less frustrating as the others. It is also critical here that you rank them based on how frustrating you find the problem. Not your colleagues / students/parents / administrators etc., just your frustration level.

The next step turns this ranked list into a scatterplot and is aimed at reflecting on how many people are frustrated by the same thing. If you are the only person who finds something frustrating, then you would move it down the y-axis, if everyone is frustrated by it, then you would move it up the y-axis.  This process allows you to reflect on then audit for the purposes of creating the scatterplot, how widespread the impact of this problem is felt within your context, and can end up looking something like this:

IMG_1575
A photo of my post-it note scatterplot.

 

At this point I was wondering what the point of the exercise was. Despite being intrigued and finding it personally useful to categorise the problems and their relative levels of importance to each other, I could not yet see the overall purpose. The next step was brief; leaving your scatterplot in place, draw a star on those problems that you think you may be able to address or fix with the right resources. This was about looking at a problem and thinking “if I had x then I could probably do y about it, which might resolve part of the issue.” Additionally, we were to place a circle on those problems that we were passionate about, that thing in your school that you see as catastrophic and that you want to engage with and solve where no-one else is interested or sees a problem.

This was something that I could understand in terms of its purpose relative to the task and my career as a teacher, and there were a few problems or issues in my scatter plot that, with the right resources and support, I believe I could potentially influence and accordingly added a star to those issues. It was the subsequent step, however, that I found to be the most powerful and useful.

With scatterplots in place, indicating how frustrating the issue was to you personally as well as how many people also felt the frustration, with some indication on the post-it notes of your passion or belief about your ability to influence the problem positively, Jennie instructed us to go on a gallery walk. This involved us leaving our scatterplot in place and moving about the room, looking at other people’s scatterplots, looking for two things and leaving a mark on their post-it note, or a post-it note of our own per the image below.

Gallery walk
Jennie’s instructions for leaving marks on others’ posit-notes during the gallery walk.

Looking at other teachers’ scatterplots and seeing problems that I was facing as well was reassuring; as it meant that I was not alone in facing x, that it was encountered by others, and from conversations with others in the room, I was not the only person who felt relieved in making those observationsThe second aspect of the gallery walk was to leave either an idea or our contact details whenever we came across a problem that we felt we could positively contribute to. Personally, I returned to some advice on one of my post-it notes, which I will be able to follow-up on later, and I noticed a number of other scatterplots also had ideas and contact details, hopefully which the owner of the scatterplot found useful.

At this point, we returned to the TIEP form, which Jennie has kindly given permission for me to share via the blog, asking that I note that it will be included in her upcoming book, Corageous Edventures. So I include a blank template of the TIEP here for you to access, in MS Word format.

After selecting one problem to focus on, and ignoring the rest for the moment, you need to get to know the problem, detailing as much as you can about what the problem is, factors impacting on the cause or the lack of a solution, what has been tried in the past as a solution to the problem, and what parts of that solution did and did not work as well as why, which looks like this on the TIEP form:

Problem of Practice
The Problem of Practice section of Jennie Magiera’s TIEP Form

Jennie related problems to the radio waves by reminding us that at any given moment there are dozens of radio station signals in the air in a big city, but that it is only by focusing your tuner on one radio band that you can listen to a station clearly. We need to select one problem of practice to focus on, otherwise our attention and effort is diluted across many issues, and each will suffer because of that. Jennie indicated that it is the same with attending conferences, that we should go with one problem of practice to which we want to obtain some ideas, help, tips or solutions for in order to focus our attention, our note-taking, and before all of that, our choice of conference stream and workshop enrolment, a tip that I have heard previously from Kirsty Nash (@NasherK), via Dr Inger Mewburn’s blog The Thesis Whisperer (@thesiswhisperer).

This led to a discussion about teacher-led models of professional development. EdCamps are a crowd-sourced model with no presenters’ per-se , which does not need to be done face-to-face as they are now often offered via Google Hangouts. EdCampHome (@edcamphome) offers kits that lay out how to organise and run an EdCamp if that is a route you wish to go down. Further to that, Google Hangouts on the air (GHOTAs) allows you to have up to fifteen actively engaged participants who all have @education.gov accounts. This of course does not take into account the ability for an unlimited number of others to participate via simply watching the GHO and participating via a backchannel such as Twitter (GHOTA FAQ page)

A virtual Professional Learning Network (VPLN) is also an important tool to continuously access professional learning on a topic or area that is of interest to you, outside of the professional development that is being offered in your school community. The added bonus here is that you can access a VPLN anywhere and anytime you are connected, which, with the ubiquitous nature of smart phones in society, is essentially anywhere, bring us around to a current buzzphrase:

mainbox5
Retrieved from tinyurl.com/h9qswfe on 5 March 2016

There is one more activity which Jennie took us through, another hands-on process which can be implemented easily in the school, which I will leave for the next article. For now, thank you for reading this, another lengthy article, and as always, I would appreciate any feedback whether here or via Twitter.

Jump straight to Session Three Part Two.

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.