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 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 Two

“If you are the expert on flipped learning, be generous and be polite”
– The Primary School Discussion Panel

Following the opening address by Rupert Denton (@rupertdenton) and the Keynote by Jon Bergmann (@jonbergmann), both of which I reviewed in the previous article, the conference delegates split off into their first session. I attended a Primary School Discussion panel consisting of Jon Bergmann, Matthew Burns (@burnsmatthew) and Kirsty Tonks. It was an intimate group, with around twenty delegates in the room to ask questions.

One of the questions was about strategies to check that students have watched the video. A useful strategy that was offered up was to have students submit an entry ticket as a summary of what they have learned, or that an interesting question related to the flipped content needs to be offered to the class for exploration during the subsequent lesson or unit.

The question was asked about what do students prefer vis-a-vis flipped learning compared to traditional pedagogical approaches. Matt Burns spoke to this and indicated that he actually asked his students for their thoughts on this and that it was typically  a mix between some preferring straight flipped, some preferring straight lecture and some preferring a mixture of flipping and lecture and which was typically around 70% / 10% / 20%. Looking back at that conversation, I wonder if the results are influenced by how much which teacher-made videos are used in comparison to teacher-curated as the research by Peter Whiting which I referred to in the previous article and will write about in more depth in a later article indicated that that can have a significant impact on student academic outcomes. This also fed into a question about how to manage the forest of hands in the air requesting assistance during the group learning time and understanding who wants to be rescued from thinking and who is unable to continue without assistance because they do not understand a concept. A very simple solution was offered up, and it was also pointed out that squeaky wheels sometimes are the ones which do not need the attention.

A criticism that is often leveled at flipped learning is dealing with students not completing the homework, now referred to as the individual learning. The response really is quite simple. Students often do not do assigned homework in the traditional context because it is either too difficult, takes too long, is too boring, so this problem is not new at all. However, flipped learning can encourage students to complete the homework. One of the keys to a successful flipped classroom is that the flipped content is succinct, therefore the individual learning space for a single class should not be longer than perhaps ten to twenty minutes allowing time to watch, rewatch, make notes, and answer and also ask some questions based on the flipped content.

Someone asked a question about whether there has been a noticeable age where the shift from in-flip to out-flip is a good choice. Jon responded that from what he has seen, the tipping point appears to be in Year Three. Prior to that, in-flipping definitely appears to be a better choice for implementing flipped learning, while from Year Four onwards, out-flipping appears to be the best way to utilise flipped learning. Within Year Three, it appears that it will depend on the particular cohort of students as to which option will work best, or perhaps even use the year to transition from in-flip to out-flip.

There were a range of other issues discussed to varying degrees. Recording the marking and feedback of student work was posited as being a worthwhile way of providing higher quality and quanitity of feedback, particularly in writing, and projects within the applied sciences and the creative arts. We were reminded that how we think we sound is not how we actually sound. The way our voice sounds on a recording is our actual voice and irrespective of whether we like the sound of our voice on a video, it is what our students hear everyday anyway. Essentially, tough luck and get over it!

The panel were asked about differentiation in a flipped classroom and whether multiple videos are recorded to suit each level of learning needed in the classroom. One suggestion was that you record your video as normal and then when you reach the point where the content is going to step up to a higher level simply say in the video that the next level of content is for Group X and then give the next level of the concept or skill in that section of the video.

The next interesting discussion point was around the benefits to utilising flipped learning. We are often told that it is a good thing when students ask questions, and in many cases that is most certianly true. However, there are times when it is not a good thing for students to ask questions. One of the benefits of flipped learning is that you can give the full explanation of the concept or skill being addressed without being asked a question that you were going to answer in your next sentence, or any other of a dozen types of interruptions that make a five minute explanation take fifteen minutes.

Discussion returned to homework, and I asked Jon, via e-mail after the conference if he could elucidate vis-a-vis his thoughts on homework as it related to flipped learning and the research around homework and what education thinkers such as Alfie Kohn (@alfiekohn) have said about homework and he advised that he has written a book outlining in detail his thoughts around homework and how to adress it as part of flipped learning, Solving the homework problem by flipping the learning, which will be released in April 2017. Jon also reminded the audience that the evidence around homework is not as conclusive as Alfie Kohn has made it out to be.

The panel was asked whether flipped learning works with disadvantaged or those students who might be considered academically challenging or disengaged. Some of the best results are being seen with students who are disengaged, such as Clintondale High School who saw a significant reduction in negative and anti-social behaviour and a rise in student engagement and academic outcomes for their students.Part of this success comes with using a single system for managing student access to the flipped content, a learning management system or LMS. The audience was told that it typically takes two to three to really become comfortable and au fait with a learning management system and then another year or two after that to really decide whether or not it is suitable and works within the specific context.

The panel was once again a very informative and interesting session. It was great to hear from other primary educators and get a feel for what challenges and concerns they are dealing with. As always, thank you for reading, and if you missed the previous article in this series, you can find it by clicking here. It will likely be early next week before I am able to get the next article out, however, look to my coming, at first light, on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East I will aim to have it up on Tuesday afternoon.

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.

Planning ahead for 2016

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”
– Attributed to Neil Gaiman

Welcome back to a new year! I hope that the Christmas and New Year break was relaxing and you have returned refreshed and ready to start with your new class. Personally, I am looking forward to an exciting and eventful year, and will be achieving some goals and going a long way towards achieving others. What are your goals for the year? Have you set any?

As my regular readers may recall, I have been offered a year-long temporary contract for three days per week on a Year Five class with a more experienced teacher which I am excited for. I am hoping to utilise this year to complete my accreditation to move into the proficient bracket, as well as to expand my skills and abilities.

I am attending FutureSchools again this year and am also hoping to attend FlipConAus in Adelaide in November. I will once again write up a series of review articles based on my notes from the conferences. I am also attending a THRASS Foundation Course in the April holidays, which I am looking forward to.

I plan to continue with this blog, posting an article each day, Monday to Thursday, however, that may scale back to only Monday to Wednesday, depending on time management needs as I have a lot going on, as we all do, outside of education.

I am in the process of an upgrade certification as a Football (soccer) Referee, which when completed will see me refereeing in the third tier of football in Australia, National Premier League Division Two, and this goal will require a considerable amount of time and energy for training and matches.

My biggest goal for the year, however, is to manage my time more effectively. I have decided that in regards to working outside of school hours, I will, where possible and practical, only work while Mrs. C21st is at work, and I will not be working outside of school hours on Thursdays or Fridays unless absolutely necessary (such as during report season and the beginning few weeks of the school year where there is still a significant amount of planning and programming going on). I feel like this is going to be crucial to not burning out this year, given the time, physical and mental demands that I will be under with everything that is happening. I will also allow me time to complete any marking, planning, blog writing, Tweeting etc, but also provides me with time off (Thursday and Friday, though I will be looking to undertake some casual work on these days).

Thank you for reading, and I would love to hear, either in the comments or over on Twitter, what your goals are for the year.

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.

FTPL – How to set up GDrive on an iPad

“There can be infinite uses of the computer and of new age technology, but if teachers themselves are not able to bring it into the classroom and make it work, then it fails.”
– Attributed to Nancy Kassebaum

The next few videos in the FTPL series will cover some skills that we have already looked at on the computer from the point of view of using them on the iPad. We begin with setting up Google Drive on your iPad.

#FlipConAus – Review Day One Part Two

I don’t want my videos to be videos; I want them to be lessons”
-Joel Speranza

In part one of my FlipConAus Review, I began exploring the learning from the FlipConAus Pre-Conference workshop I attended, which was led by Joel Speranza (@JoelBSperanza). This article will finish that,and set the stage for Day Two of FlipConAus. I closed out Part One with Joel’s video cheat sheet and a brief look at some video analytics. After Joel finished talking to us about tips for video creation, we moved on to a general discussion around the various tools that can be utilised for the purpose of flipping a classroom.

Joel posits that there are five categories of tools critical for flipped learning:

  1. Presentation surface
  2. Capture device / software
  3. Video hosting
  4. Interactive video tools and lastly, a
  5. Learning Management System (LMS)

Joel indicated that having a formative diagnostic and feedback system within the flipped system (differentiated from your normal processes) and / or subject specific websites and programs are optional, but will enhance your flipping. Joel also indicated that if you want to compare tools in a particular category against others in the same category, then Googling X vs  (where X represents the name of one of the tool options you want to compare) will bring up a comparison of that tool with its direct competitors.

Presentation Surface
This can be anything from your current tools including whiteboard/blackboard, butcher’s paper, workbooks etc, as long as you can capture what is being done in some way.

Capture device / software
There is such a huge range of options here, from a webcam, your smart phone or tablet, a DSLR camera, camcorder etc in regards to the device, and software also sees a plethora of options from my personal tool of choice (Camtasia), to screen-cast-o-matic and a number of others. Guido Gautsch (@gheedough) has put together a useful article that covers some of the various options (both hardware and software) in more depth than I can include here.

Video Hosting
This , typically, is either YouTube, TeacherTube or Vimeo. Unfortunately, those three sites are all blocked for State schools in NSW and in many other regions both domestically and internationally, making video hosting and then access problematic. Some options to get around the blocks include MyEdApp with their proxy, iTunesU where you can upload the video file directly into the course for students to download onto their device (which has other inherent issues), and the trusty USB or DVD. Some schools utilise the internal server for hosting which is fine for accessing at school, but problematic for access otherwise. If you have come across another video hosting option, particularly one that bypasses general blocks, please let me know in the comments section.

Interactive Video Tools
Again, this is an area that has a vast array of options, and I would encourage you to explore them for yourself and determine which ones you like. Some of the tools that we discussed included EduCannon, Zaption and EdPuzzle.

LMS
Another area with an array of options, including super low-tech (using a workbook) to high tech using tools such as GClass, Edmodo, MyEdApp, or Moodle. This is another area in which you will need to do some exploration and testing to decide what your preference is.

This discussion of the various tools available to use with flipping led to a discussion around workflow, or the process by which you flip a lesson and Joel showed us a rough sketch of his own workflow:

This is screen-capped from Joel's presentation and is his rough sketch of his own workflow when flipping his mathematics classes.
This is screen-capped from Joel’s presentation and is his rough sketch of his own workflow when flipping his mathematics classes.

This takes each of the categories of tools, and arranges them in order of use for the workflow and is designed to help you crystallised exactly what you need to use for your specific context. He then asked us to consider this image:

Image screen-capped from Joel's presentation.
Image screen-capped from Joel’s presentation.

Joel’s contention was that when deciding what tools you planned to use in your flipping, that you limit the number of tools that the students were expected to have the ability to use to the school standard plus two additional tools. For example, if your school is a Google Apps for Education school, then your students would already have the expertise to utilise those apps, and you only be adding, at most, two further websites requiring expertise. Joel’s theory here is that by keeping the technical skills needed to manageable limits that we increase the ability of our students to master using the tools that we require them to use, resulting in a higher probability of engagement with the tools and the learning. You will notice in Joel’s image that the list of tools requiring teacher expertise is substantial relative to the other two columns. This is deliberate, and reflective of the processes involved in presenting, recording, hosting and delivering the flipped learning lesson.

Joel also indicated that he has on occasion allowed students to demonstrate their learning using the tools in the workflow. For example, allowing students to create a ‘bulb’ within EduCannon as the process of creating the bulb requires students to have the conceptual understanding of the topic, in order to create not only their video, but also the interactive elements, with conceptual accuracy.

We then entered a discussion around Flipped Learning experts. Joel reminded us of the research popularised by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers indicating that it takes around ten thousand hours of focused practice to master something indicating that there has not been enough time for anyone to be considered an expert flipper. The point here is to remind us that flipping a new craft, and thus has only limited research behind us, and that as the leaders in flipping, in time as there is a greater weight of research and pedagogical practice behind flipping, that we will be considered poor flippers. This was not meant to be discouraging, and Joel likened it to the advent of the chalkboard.

The chalkboard has been around, as a pedagogical tool for approximately two hundred years, and has a vast amount of research and pedagogical experience behind it to help us know what good use of a blackboard looks like (which I think transfers naturally to a whiteboard). Teachers in the mid-twentieth century were better teachers when it came to utilising the blackboard then the pioneers who first used it as they had the experience of their forebears to learn from, bring this famous quote to mind:

Retrieved from http://www.injoewetrust.com.au/2015/09/14/standing-on-the-shoulders-of-giants/ on 2/11/15

We are making the mistakes in flipping that our descendants will (hopefully) not make, as they will have learnt from our experience; we are setting the stage for them to use flipping as a pedagogical tool in better ways than we are able to currently with our dearth of experience and research to guide us. This is an important point I believe. It seems to be forgotten (or perhaps just not made explicit?) that when you are leading the way in a field, that you only have a limited amount of experience and mistakes from predecessors to guide you, and that it is in fact you who are making the mistakes for others to learn from. As early adopters of flipped learning, we will be the giants upon whose shoulders others will stand.

Joel closed with a critical discussion focused on questioning the norms around why things are done the way they are; why do we do what we do? We began by talking briefly about classroom layouts, and quickly moved on to schooling norms such as two straight lines outside the class before going in, how we move around the school etc, with some discussion around what people do differently, before moving onto the focus question for this segment, which is how do we make learning goals clear in a flipped class? Typically, in a traditional learning session, students are told up front what they will be learning and why, but doing this in a video is not necessarily a normal process yet.

Ideas discussed included having the goal appear on screen, either consistently throughout the video, or at intervals, verbalising it as you traditionally would or some combination thereof. Joel indicated that he asks his students to “write down your goal and do it” or, if not the goal, then the learning focus. This led to a discussion of how we can utilise the what does success look like? as a strong differentiation tool when flipping, and what motivates people. The final comment was that everyone learns differently. This means we need to teach differently. Flipped learning as a pedagogical practice enables us to do this.

The below video is an amusing scene from West Wing and encapsulates common feelings about change quite nicely. Joel showed us this while talking about the fear of change that some people have and the common question of “why do I need to change?”

Thank you for reading. The next article will begin looking at the conference proper, which began with a keynote address from Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams.

End of term reflections

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
– Attributed to Confucius

The EduFunding storm generated as a result of the leaked green paper, which I wrote about in yesterday’s article, continues on unabated. Yet it is also prudent, as pointed out by Corinne Campbell, to consider the now, especially when considering our students. My reading of Corinne’s article is that she was intending it to be taken as a factor in regards to our students; lives overall. My intention in today’s article is to to consider what I can do now, at the end of term, to strengthen my program from this term, in order to make flow smoother, be easier to implement, to be more beneficial for the students, and requires them to be more active in the learning process.

I was asked a few weeks ago how the program was going, and the first reply that came top mind was that there were lots of things I would change if I was to deliver the program again. Things that did not quite work out as I had planned, technical issues that I was required to surmount, lessons that upon attempting to enact, I discovered that I had not thought through as well as I had thought and was left having to think on the fly.

The barriers about which I could do nothing included the lost two weeks at the beginning of the term due to the horrendous storms which battered the region, and left significant damage to my school, the annual NAPLAN testing as well as having significant disruptions to my Stage Three classes due to a Year Five week-long camp midway through the term, and the Year Six Canberra excursion this week. These disruptions led to a loss of a fairly significant amount of learning time in their own right.

As to things things that are within my providence, there are many. The most obvious thing is that I overestimated the current skill level and the time that it would take to get through the Fundamental Computer Skills (FCS) unit. My initial plan of working with small groups of students on their FCS quickly fell to the wayside. The videos that I had created were, generally speaking, above what the students was capable of doing on their own in the time frame I had allotted for each question, and I discovered that not all classroom’s had functioning computers. I was able to counter this by utilising the school bank of laptops, however there was only a sufficient number of those to allow one laptop between two students. This allowed me to work through the unit, however I had underestimated the rate of skill uptake. Each session would begin with a brief review of what we had learned the previous week, but I was finding that students were still struggling with some skills, or were going about things the ‘long way’ rather than using the more efficient method that I had explicitly taught.

This realisation leads me to believe that I had only been imparting a surface level of understanding as opposed to a deep embedding of skills, which, as someone who has high self-expectations, is disappointing. Some of the fundamental computer skills that I have been working on include the basics of logging in, which is a genuine challenge for my kindergarten students, how to open and close programs, and practice typing. These are fairly basic skills and I am not sure what else I could have my students do, other than practicing the skills, that would embed these skills in my students.

 Beyond that, I have already written about my dissatisfaction with the lessons I ran discussing copyright and pirating, and I would very much like to hear from anyone with suggestions for rigorous,  relevant and authentic lessons discussing those two concepts. I was happier with the lessons that I ran around digital citizenship that dealt with strong and weak passwords, cyber bullying and online privacy, once I worked out a few issues. I utilised an online game called RU a cyber detective, and  initially, I asked my students in a combined year three and four class to work their way through the game in pairs on laptops.

This brought up a range of issues, including some students not being able to navigate to the game in order to play it,  the game not being particularly clear on what to do in order to begin it, which was fine for my Stage Three students, however my Stage Two students are not particularly adventurous and were worried about breaking it. Ultimately, the biggest issue I found was that I did not have the opportunity to spend the time talking to the students about the concepts, which is what I wanted. I ended up changing the way I used the game after I discovered that my Stage Three students were unable to complete a critical portion of the game on their iPads. I had the Stage Two and Three classews join me on the floor in front of the whiteboard / projector image / interactive whiteboard and  we played through the game as a class. This worked fantastically well. The students were not anxious about the actual operation of the game, and we were able to have some very robust conversations about the different concepts that arose, including passwords and online privacy and cyber bullying, including a lengthy discussion about the hows and whys of dealing with cyber bullying and why protecting your privacy online is so important.

There were other areas of my pedagogy that, upon reflection, need to be improved, within the FCS. It did not occur to me that as someone who regularly uses technology, that I needed to make the distinction clear when having kindergarten student type the old favourite the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs to account for the fact that I had typed it as normal in Microsoft Word, but that the letters on the keyboard were all in capital letters. It was not until near the very end of the lesson that I realised what the issue was. The students were correctly naming the the (lower case) letters on the whiteboard, and they were correctly name the (upper case) letters on the keyboard, but they were not linking the two types of letter as being the same letter in a different format. The next lesson, I was able to get access to alphabet strips, which showed the upper and lower case letters next to each other, and this immediately made a big difference.

I commented to the classroom teacher when she returned from her break what had happened, and she indicated she had the same issue at the start of the year when she attempted to have the students do some typing on the computers. Currently, Year Six are away on the annual Canberra excursion, and I have been able to commandeer one of the Year Six classrooms, which has an interactive whiteboard. I utilised this when I had a kindergarten class this morning, and had each student name and type one of the letters using the on-screen keyboard.

It is, I keep finding, the little things that make the difference. As always, thank you for reading, and I would like to hear from anybody who has realised things that they need to change in their pedagogy when teaching ICT skills, to any age group. Please pass this onto any pre-service teachers or newly graduated teachers that you know. I would rather they learn from my mistakes, than have to make the same mistakes themselves.

FutureSchools ClassTech Conference Review. Day 2 Session 2 – Stop! It’s roundtable time!

I have to be honest upfront. I have very mixed feelings about this particular session. There were some positives, and I did learn more than a few things, but overall, I have to say that the organisation and planning for this was abysmal and that it needs to be very differently next year. I attended two round tables and a breakout session, and whilst I did make some notes and there was some learning going on, for me, overall, and in conversation with a number of other people, many people are in agreement with me, I felt it was a shambles and close to being a waste of time.

You may be thinking at this point that that sounds a bit harsh, and you would be correct, it does sound harsh. Unfortunately though, it is true. There were seventeen tables spread throughout a portion of the unused space on the expo floor, each clearly signed as to what number round table it was which allowed delegates to check the back of their the name badge in their lanyard and know which round table to go to for each of the three sessions.

The two round tables that I went to, and from conversations with others, most of the other round tables were the same, were heavily oversubscribed. Consequently, when I arrived at my first roundtable (table ten, we have technology, now what? Using iPads for older students struggling with literacy, with Greg O’Connor), even though it was definitely the table I was supposed to be at, I was three rows from the back and struggled to hear anything. The expo hall is a cavernous, concrete floored, steel-beamed shed, and noise bounces around. That, combined with the large number of discussions going on, with all of the presenters trying to speak up so everyone at their table could hear, the susurrations of movements as people moved around the floor all combined to make it hard to hear.

That would have been ok, if there wasn’t approximately thirty people crowded around the table, all trying to see what Greg was doing, meaning those at the back again, either missed out, or missed a lot of what was covered. A few tips I caught were that the ‘reader’ function on iPads/iPhones is also available as an extension on Chrome, produced by Evernote, called Clearly which removes distractions such as advertisements and menus, which for students with poor literacy can help them focus on what they need to be reading without the distractions of advertisements or sidebar menus.

Greg also pointed out that we need to consider the reading age, not just of our students, but of the texts and materials that we are providing or recommending. He listed some tools to help with this including Simple Wikipedia, which takes Wikipedia pages and simplifies the language used. As an example, see the two screenshots below.

This first screenshot is a portion of the regular Wikipedia page on Wormholes.

wiki

This next screenshot is the entire entry for wormholes on the Simple Wikipedia site.

simplewiki

Utilisation of Simple Wikipedia, which I had never heard of before, could be highly beneficial, especially for those students with low literacy levels, or English as a Second language, or even for students with no literacy issues in primary schools to help them with complicated concepts or ideas.

Another app/extension recommend was the TL;DR extension for Chrome, which summarises web pages into more manageable paragraph sized chunks. He also recommended utilising image searches where possible to help with vocabulary instruction, particularly for ESL students, as the research shows (and this theme also came up in Ian Jukes’ Presentation) that comprehension is increased when we pair images with text. There is also a function within Google Search which allows you to search based on the reading age of the content. I’ve included a screenshot of this below.

readinglevel

Clicking on the search tools button brings up the options based on country, time, reading level, or to clear filters. By selecting reading level, as I have, it then displays the percentage of sources against basic, intermediate or advanced reading level, and clicking on those levels then filters the results accordingly (As a side-note, I was surprised there were no entries against the advance option, given that I searched wormholes). Greg also said that leveraging the capabilities of Siri and predictive text in iOs devices can be useful.

After the first round table, it was off to table number two, Minecraft: utilising student interests to empower accessibility to curriculum with Heath Wild. Heath spoke about the incorporation of Minecraft, as a common student interest, to foster engagement in learning and that the logical nature of Minecraft (I’m still trying to work out how to use it, so I can’t the logical nature at the moment) appeals to, and captures the attention of many students on the Autism spectrum. Heath spoke about needing to have obvious, verbal countdowns when it was approaching time to finish up, due to the immersive nature of the application and the flow that it generated. Minecraft can also be utilised to teach numeracy skills, particularly the four basic operations, and place value, due to the constant size of the various blocks that are used, and the range of different coloured blocks that can be used to represent the different place values.

Heath said they use Paper, an iOs app to allow students to draw on their iPads and then took those drawings and created them within the Minecraft space as a method of allowing students to demonstrate their comprehension of texts as they could take screenshots of the worlds they created, which could be used for assessment purposes. Heath also uses Brushstroke, an app allowing photos to be manipulated to appear as if they have been painted, and has used this for art studies, including the famous Ned Kelly artwork by Nolan.

nolan ned kelly

Students recreated this artwork in Minecraft, and then discussed how it’s feel and emotion would have been changed if Nolan had painted it as occurring at a different time of the day. Students put their Minecraft screenshot into Brushstrokes, manipulated it, and then imported them into Diptic to create class collages.Epic Zen Garden was leveraged to help students manage their emotions and to have strategies for dealing with stress and change. This concept was then taken into Minecraft, where students were encouraged to create their own Zen gardens, places where they could ‘go’ to feel calm when they are stressed, upset or angry.

I was fortunate to snag a seat next to Heath for this particular round table, however, it, like the first one I was part of, was massively oversubscribed, and so many people were unable to hear Heath, especially those on the fringes, This was a massive negative to the whole experience, and the organisation structure of the round table session needs to be better dealt with for next year.

The final session was labelled as a ‘breakout’ rather than a round table, and was actually in one of the rooms upstairs, and so was far more conducive to hearing the speaker. It was titled 40 students, 40 devices, one classroom, one teacher. How can a School make it work? and was lead by Philip Linscott. Having never been to a conference before, I committed a rookie error when deciding which events to go to during the roundtable session, and didn’t look to see who was presenting or where they were from. If I had, I would have realised that the session would not be, as I thought, a talk on strategies for leveraging devices in larger classrooms, but was in fact a sales pitch. Philip was from Lightspeed Systems, a company providing content-control systems to educational institutions. I have to admit, that a lot of what he said was rather interesting, but that it was not at all what I was expecting. It was, ultimately, a sales pitch, one which I could easily have received if I visited the company’s stall in the expo floor. Again, a lot of what he said was interesting, from the point of view of the level of control and accessibility their systems could provide to teachers, but it was not what I was looking for.

I gained a lot from the roundtable session, not the least of which was to check who was presenting and where they were from so as to avoid the sales pitches, but I was disappointed at the seeming lack of organisation. All the round tables that I could see were oversubscribed, by two or three times the number of spots actually at the table, this combined with the din created by the combination of the number of voices, having to speak loud to be heard, and the echo-y nature of the expo hall made it difficult to hear. And many presenters either started early, or ran late, with the only indicator that time was up for each roundtable, a handheld bell that was rung by one of the organising staff members (in their delightful orange shirts!) as they walked around the expo floor…further adding to the noise levels. Anyone with noise sensitivities would have struggled. There is a large amount of space available in the area that Future Schools was booked. Even holding a series of the round tables in the hall/foyer of Bay eight at the venue would have helped, as the carpeted floor would have reduced the amount of noise being carried. There were other conference rooms that could have been utilised, some of them being capable of holding four or more roundtable sessions inside, spread out, in carpeted environments that would have helped reduce the din and create a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

That session then took us to the lunch break, where I spent some time chatting with teachers from other schools, checking out various exhibitors’ stalls and, of course, having lunch. Tomorrow’s article will cover the presentations from session three of the day, Transmedia storytelling for education and  Robotics across the curriculum.

As always, thank you for reading, and please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from anyone who was either at FutureSchools, and your thoughts and suggestions on the roundtable session and how to improve it, or from anyone who has been to a conference with something similar, how it was organised there and what lessons FutureSchools may be able to learn from that.