#FlipConAdl – Reflections from Conversations

“….relationships take time, getting to know folks requires patience, and people are generally cautious – if not fearful – of Johnny come lately that is asking, rather than giving.”
– Attributed to Jeremiah Owyang, Senior Analyst at Forrester

Conferences can be a huge source of professional development, however, they can also be a great source of unofficial professional learning via the networking conversations outside the lecture theatre or the breakout room.I was fortunate to have a number of conversations with some high-caliber educators that opened my mind to some new ideas, re-excited me about some passions that had faded due to time constraints, and have caused me to rethink some ideals about education.

One of the biggest changes in my thinking is the result of a conversation I had with a few people that come from different contexts, but whose opinions I respect. I attended (six!) public schools from Kindergarten through to Year Twelve and have always maintained that I would teach in public schools as I firmly believe that every child deserves a free, high-quality education. The conversation with these two people has caused me to rethink that. I have never said that I would not teach in non-Goverment schools, just that I could not see it happening.

I was asked if it is hard to gain a permanent teaching position in NSW. I explained that of the several positions I have applied for, that there have been over one hundred applicants; that as someone in my second year of teaching I cannot compete on the experience front with teachers of ten years or more experience; that an article by Bruce McDougall of The Daily Telegraph on 12 July, 2016 stated that there are now just under fifty-thousand qualified teachers who are unable to secure permanent teaching positions; that earning Honours Class I as well as the School of Education and the Arts Faculty Medal seems to count for nothing and that the current staffing policy for NSW Department of Education (DoE) schools dictates a system whereby schools must accept a central appointment despite having qualified and able teachers on temporary contracts.

I was asked directly if I had been applying for non-Government schools, to which I replied no, and explained my desire to support public education. I was reminded of the conditions I had just listed that were making it challenging to find a permanent teaching position and that it was all well and good to want to support public education but that it would not help me get a permanent job in and of itself. He is right, of course, and although applying for teaching positions with non-Government schools does not do anything to guarantee a permanent position or some of the aforementioned challenges, it does at least open the pool of potential options.

Fair enough. I have started applying for positions at non-Government schools. Mrs. C21 remarked that she had been biting her tongue on the issue, hoping that I would recognise that a permanent position was more important at the moment, especially with a three-month-old.

Sitting in on Peter Whiting’s session and getting really excited and interested in the methodologies and the results (statistics!) of Peter’s research demonstrated for me that there is still a passion and interest for research in me. With everything that has happened this year, I have not thought about research too much other than what I read about and links to discussions of research as I peruse my Twitter timeline.

There were some other things that I wanted to include in this article, however, my brain has switched off and I think that too much time has passed since the conference; I have been far slower than normal getting these articles out.

I will likely only do one more new article for the year, a reflection piece, before signing off for the summer break. Thank you for reading this rather disjointed article and for persevering with this conference review series. If you have missed any of the articles from FlipCon Adelaide, you can find them here.

#FlipConAdl 2016 Day Two Part Three

“I have words, not sure how wise they are”
-Ken Bauer

After our visit to Glenunga International High School (GIHS) (which you can read about here and here) was completed, we returned to Brighton Secondary School (BSS) for lunch, after which we engaged in a debrief session. We were given the dates for upcoming events, including FlipCon New Zealand in June and FlipCon Sydney in October. Following that, Jon Bergmann and Ken Bauer took to the stage with microphones each to start the school tour debrief by sharing some of their own observations and reflections about their tour of BSS. There were some microphones spread around the room for delegates to share their observations and reflections on their of either GIHS or BSS.

Jon spoke about how he saw students who owned their learning, but not learning to pass a test, although that is part of the process, but to own their learning for learning’s sake.Ken spoke about how he could see that teachers are sharing resources, ideas, and skills, which I personally think is a great thing. I absolutely believe in the dissemination of ideas, resources, and knowledge in order to contribute and help the teaching profession grow.

The value and potential power of flipped feedback was a recurring theme across a number of the delegates who shared their thoughts and ideas.Danny Avalos (@danny_avalos66) spoke about the fact that the concrete skills and knowledge we teach are all available on YouTube which means we need to redefine what our purpose as teachers is. Danny indicated that he felt that it was what we do in our classrooms to engage and take our students deeper that makes the difference to them.

Delegates were also reminded of the Flipped Learning Certification course which is now being offered over at FLGlobal.org and for which delegates were offered a discount code. I have taken advantage of that and signed up to complete the course and will be doing so during the summer break. We were also challenged to create some action items to take away and actually put what we had learned into practise, which for me, was about engaging with my colleagues for next year around implementing flipped learning strategies. I would also, after getting excited about research from hearing Peter Whiting’s presentation, like to engage with some action research on flipped learning and its impacts on literacy development in infants students, but I need to sit down and have a conversation about that with my supervisor and job-share partner for next year about their interest and thoughts on engaging with that.

Ken Bauer (@ken_bauer) delivered his keynote next, and to give him due credit and to be able to write about it properly, I will review his presentation in the next article. I do not think I will be able to get it out tomorrow (Friday), as this evening is our school musical, a celebration of the school’s sixtieth anniversary. Each Stage was asssigned two decades and asked to prepare a maximum ten-minute performance for the decade and everyone has been working incredibly hard. I am very proud of my students and am excited to see them on stage this evening.

As always, thank you for reading and please leave any comments or feedback you may have. If you have missed any of the other articles in this series you can find them here.

Reflection on a week as @EduTweetOz Host

“I know what I have given you…
I do not know what you have received.”
– Attributed to Antonio Porchia

Some time ago I was contacted by Allison, co-administrator of the @amuseEd Twitter account and asked if I was interested taking a slot as host of the RoCur Twitter account, @EduTweetOz, which I was. I had followed the account with my own Twitter account some time prior and found the concept very interesting. Some hosts appealed to me more than others, and there were some great conversations that I had participated in due to the host of the time sparking my interest with something. Indeed, a conversation one weekend around initial teacher education (ITE) sparked a five-part blog series (Part One can be found here). I have grown my own Professional Learning Network (PLN) immensely as a result of the conversations initiated by various account hosts and been challenged, inspired and motivated to continue to push myself to develop as a teacher.

I was rather fearful, however, of a few things. Firstly, Dr. Inger Mewburn (@thesiswhisperer) published an article in 2011 (though I am sure I recall reading one more recently, but was unable to find it) that made mention of something I felt in relation to hosting the account:

Fear of being ‘found out’ as fraud, not really knowing enough/being smart enough to be Phd student (@orientalhotel)

Otherwise known as ‘the imposter syndrome’ (thanks @boredpostdoc) this is apparently common in PhD students. As well as possibly being related to self-esteem and perfectionism, this emotion could be the by-product of the nature of PhD study itself. As the old cliche goes: “The more you know, the more you know what you don’t know”.

Though the quote above is specifically in relation to being a PhD student, I felt this way about hosting the account. As a teacher in my first year out of university, I did not believe that I had enough knowledge or experience to be qualified to host the account. This was in spite of believing that I would be able to generate some interesting conversations. I was also concerned that I would put something out there that would turn out to be completely wrong. My other concern was time management. I was not entirely sure that I had the time I felt that hosting the account would require to give it ‘a proper go.’

I spent some time chatting with Allison about my concerns and though I was still unsure, I very much felt like an imposter, and we worked out a timing. As I am attending OzFlipCon15 in October, I wanted to try and get in a week prior to that, in order to generate some discussion about Flipped Learning, and potentially network with some other attendees.

Despite my concerns, I genuinely enjoyed the experience of hosting the EduTweetOz account. There were some excellent conversations, and it was interesting hearing about people’s concerns surrounding Flipped Learning. I made a number of new connections through the various conversations that I engaged with and my blog had one of its busiest weeks ever. My concern about time should, perhaps, have been about time management, and not investing too much time, to the potential detriment of other responsibilities and relationships. Mrs. C21st (semi-)jokingly commented to me on the opening Sunday night that my week of hosting began “so, I’ll see you next weekend.” I do have a tendency to get fully invested in projects, and become somewhat oblivious to things going on around me, and I very much did that whilst I hosted.

One thing which I had not anticipated was the speed at which the EduTweetOz feed would move. To read something which had been linked to, and then come back to either favourite or retweet it, I would need to open the specific Tweet; and there were a number of occasions where I went to favourite or retweet something, only to have the feed move and I ended up doing so to a completely different Tweet. I enjoyed being able to engage with a wider range of educators than I otherwise have access to through my own PLN, and the array of ideas that comes with such a large PLN. I was also able to showcase some of the learning that my students had been doing and build the connections with my Classroom Twitter account, @MrEmsClass.

I will admit that I was mentally drained by the end of the week, and achieved very little that weekend that was on my to-do list, That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the week and feel that the benefits of connecting with such a wide array of educators, engaging with a variety of conversations topics, and growing my own PLN far outweigh the minor inconveniences. I did make sure that I cooked an amazing dinner for Mrs. C21stT at the conclusion of my time as host, though, to thank her for her understanding of my need to invest a significant amount of time in the experience. If you are unsure whether or not you want to host, i would definitely recommend it as a worthwhile experience.

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.