Friday, December 21, 2012

Reflecting on 2012

What an incredible year 2012 has been for me personally. 

Due to my 'Inquire, Learn, Grow, Inspire' approach this year, I have gained in some valuable insight into my teaching capabilities and leadership skills, which in the end contributed to myself growing in confidence even further. 

I value all of the learning opportunities I have had the privilege to be involved in, both personally and professionally.  The satisfaction of sharing my skills and knowledge with other staff and the support I was able to give where and when required was almost incomparable.  Learning from other professionals was rewarding and motivated me to get even better and to continue my quest into learning new skills and approaches to make learning enjoyable and worthwhile for myself and all students involved. 

In my classroom I have had the privilege of seeing and experiencing how my five and six year old students developed into confident learners, supported by our inquiry model and by using excellent questioning skills, which we have worked so hard on as a class.  The progress each and everyone have made was gratifying.

Reflecting on my teaching practise of this year, I am already thinking about and looking at how I can enhance deliberate learning opportunities for students even further in 2013.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Facilitating Blogging - What? Me?!

Without any pre-warning or subtle hints, I have been asked to facilitate a Blogging session for staff on our Teacher Only Day in 2013. 

What? Me? No, can't be!  What about our ICT lead teacher?  She knows a lot more that I do! I am just me - I am not an expert! I just didn't feel it was my place to do so, was my reaction and words - spoken out loud!

I however, couldn't get the principal to change his mind on this.  I felt bewildered and not very confident about presenting. 

On my way home that day, I was contemplating this 'sword above my head' - as I saw it.  I sat down to reflect on what was said at EduIgnite.  Mark mentioned that the most timid become leaders of learning at an unconference.  The power of me added to the power of we. 

I then think back to a conversation I had with Annemarie shortly after our EduIgnite evening about PLN's and why we connect. I mentioned collaboration, growing together, support, new perspectives and learning. We discussed encouraging others and end with another lesson from EduIgnite - keep engaging others.

Well that was it! How could I not do what I preach?  I had come to terms with the fact that I will have to do a presentation on blogging, and... I know I will do it well!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Class Twitter

One of the tings that was introduce at EduCamp TheTron was #kidsedchatnz which I, at that time, have decided to explore further.

It turned out to be a great concept, as students are 'chatting' to other students in NZ and can share their learning.  They can also experience what other schools and students are involved in.

I set up a Twitter account for my class and on Wednesday, 28 November they participated in their first Twitter chat:

To the students' surpsrise they found one of our senior classes 'chatting' as well.  This was excitement galore!

Room 4 was even quoted in a storify story: and felt very famous!

At the Annual End of Year Prize Giving, the Board of Trustees Chair mentioned how she "waisted" a lot of time one day, following Room 4's chats on Twitter!  That made me feel good and very proud of what are being accomplished in my class.

It is so lovely to see how my students have confidence and feel good about themselves, which in the end leads to them being actively engaged in their learning. I regard myself very fortunate to be part of all the fantastic opportunities I can offer to my students. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

The last day of November - Already?!

How this year has gone by!  It's been another hectic one and I have worked almost non-stop. 

November, in particular, has been extremely busy for myself. To name just a few things: reports that had to be written (which I am not fond of), research I had to do regarding why I had put iPads on our tech wishlist at school, excitement about attending my first EduIgnite evening at The Tron and a Twitter account for my class.

As a NE/Year 1 teacher, it didn't help either, getting new students.  No, no, no... not now, not at this time of year.  The task of getting some of them used to a class routine was a daunting aspect and everyone was getting a bit tired and restless.

To overcome this, we did a lot of fun activities towards the end and took it real slow.  Everyone was happy and needles to say, I 'survived' November! 

I have enjoyed writing reports (not to much, though), got great answers and suggestions from an amazing PLN on Twitter regarding iPads and had an enjoyable and very productive evening at EduIgnite!

I think I can breath again...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

EduCamp The Tron

I first read about EduCamp the Tron on Twitter and decided to sign up for it, as I wanted to grow my personal learning.

I have never been at an EduCamp before and did not actually know what this entitles, but I was looking forward to it.

I met Melanie in Hamilton. After parking our cars, we walked back to the gate to take a photo of the EduCamp Tron sign.

The first person I've met at my first EduCamp, was Simon who entered, just as Melanie and I was about to take our photo.

After initial introductions and an informal chat with other people inside, it was time for Smackdown.  This was my first experience of a Smackdown where attendees had two minutes to introduce and share various technologies that will/can enhance your teaching - these can even assist in the children’s learning.

Some of the ideas that were shared and which I will explore or am already using:
PinterestA content sharing service that allows members to "pin" images, videos and other objects to their pinboard. (Will have to look at this one!)
Evernote: Use Evernote as an assessment tool through note taking, audio, photos.  You have the ability to tag notes and store in folders. (I started using this recently and am loving it!)
Storybird:  Short, art-inspired stories. Designed for children in mind.
Audioboo:  Use Audioboo to upload recordings to your blog pages.
Youblisher: Makes a PDF into a book. You can embed it easily into a blog.
Kidblog: Students use kidblog to practise writing skills and as an e-portfolio to reflect on and publish their learning. (Already using this with my Year 1's. Students use the Voice Memo app on the iPod touch to record their voice and we then publish it to their blogs.
Digistore: Building your Learning Path and share with your class. 
Software for learning: Snapshots of learning. NZ sharing NZ stories.
Thinglink: for tagging maps to tell stories.
Edchatnz & kidsedchatnz
(More shared ideas can be found on the Google Doc for EduCamp The Tron.)

When we came back we had group discussion on the following topics:
I had a fantastic and productive day and am already in discussion with Annemarie, another great twiducator I've met at The Tron, about organising an EduCampRotovegas early in 2013!
I am also seriously thinking about attending  #EduIgnite #The Tron.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Why I love teaching

During the last few days of the holiday, I was still reflecting on a busy Term 3, 2012 that’s gone by too quickly.

I realised that there were days that I felt totally worn out, as I had again put a lot of pressure on myself with thoughts/ideas on how I could assure that my students would stay interested in learning, with a desire to keep inquiring and thinking and exploring.  I had to ensure that my students would be getting the best individual learning experiences possible and willingly engage in learning by encouraging them to want to learn.
There were lots to celebrate, but a special and uplifting moment came when out of the blue; one of my 5 year old students came into class with a huge guitar case.  He walked up to me and said:  
“Ms van der Spuy, I brought you a flower.” He opened the guitar case and took out this one little flower!  This can be viewed here:

This gesture from a 5 year old is just one of the reasons why I love teaching!

As I am not very fond of paper work, I had to work on remembering to record and note down everything and anything to ensure I gather, interpret and collect enough evidence to support my OTJ from informal assessment opportunities and learning conversations.  Collecting this information was something that I have always had done by remembering what each student accomplished and needed help with.    

Tools that I started using were Evernote and the Voice Memo app on our iPods.  These were lifesavers and students started recording their learning on the iPods.  We then uploaded this evidence onto their individual eportfolios.

I felt proud of my efforts and the students were excited about their learning (illustrated by the following example):

During week 10, one of the students brought a dead morepork to show to the class. We had a discussion, making a KWL chart and thought about questions we would like to ask.  We reinforced why we asked questions and what a ‘rich’ question is.  Someone said; “How old is the morepork?” We discussed that this might be hard to answer and thought of how and if we could change the question to get an answer.  Then suddenly: “We can ask an expert.”  This was amazing and showed me they remembered about our Inquiry from Term 2, when there were differences in evidence collected.  This stemmed from our questions then used: “Do those two ideas agree?” and “How is that different from what was said?” Yay!!! I felt so proud!

At the end we decided to change the question to “How long does a morepork live for?”  Students suggested that they need to use search engines or search for answers on Google. J

They've managed to answer all the questions and we could celebrate the success of their learning as a class together.

This made me feel that I had real superpowers, which is why I love this poster, I came across on Pinterest.

My head's already buzzing with new ideas and I am looking forward to any challenges Term 4 might bring!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A new learning journey

Google Apps for Education New Zealand Summit was held on Auckland's North Shore on Tuesday,
9th October 2012, produced in partnership with the Ulearn12 Conference.

Unable to be there, though very exciting to follow the Twitter stream learning with an awesome PLN of edutweeters! 

Brain overload with new learning!

My Goal is to explore the following further:
* Great Google Doc Templates to use to liven up Docs:

* 20 things I learned about browsers and the web:

* Notes about Google maps sessions:

* How to successfully implement Google in your school:

* Moving From Neutral to Warp Speed with Google Drive:

* Google Hangouts:

* Google Lit Trips:

* for teaching based playlists already created & curated.
* The new IFTTT recipes to import Instagram into Google Drive (ex. Create recipes to tell you what you want it to do...e.g. if I tweet a link then put in my Evernote):
* Awesome Tutorials on how Teachers can Use Google Forms:

 I have also found this great article on 80 Ways to Use Google Forms in Your Classroom:, which I shared during #gafesummit.

So many new things to learn and explore, but it is clear that all teachers should know how to and use Google Docs.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Year 1 inspire Year 5/6

My Year 1 students inspired a Year 5/6 class in our school to start their own blogs.  Their teacher asked me to help with setting up individual blogs for her class - an opportunity I really enjoyed. Looking at their blogs regularly, it is very rewarding to see these senior students so enthusiastic about their blogging.
Although this is in the early stages, I am also pleased that my Year 1's are starting to use their blogs as an e-portfolio by publishing and reflecting on their learning.  They have started using the Voice Memo app on our iPods to record the audio for their blogs.  They are encouraged to  come and get an iPod if there is anything about their learning that they want to share or reflect on. They have become more independent with their blogging and are even sharing, publishing and commenting on other blogs from home now!
Taking 'baby steps' this year by just starting them to publish a piece of their writing on their blogs to now moving slowly ahead to new challenges, is definitely paying off. 
Positive comments on their learning from parents and people all over the world are coming in, which makes this a meaningful experience for all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Students blogging

I have started my Year 1 students in 2011 on their personal blog journey through kidblog. Reflecting back on it this year, I realised that I am not entirely happy with how that went.   So, where to next?
I have decided to start this year by getting them to choose a piece of their writing to publish on their blogs during our ICT time.  What a challenge for some, as they were only new to school and were still learning their alphabet! Everyone persevered however and they are slowly, but surely on their 'blogging way'.
The next step will be to move them away from just publishing their writing on their blogs to getting them to reflect on their learning.
In Techie Brekkie today (week 6), there was a discussion about how well my students are starting to share their learning on their blogs.  A remark was made by a teacher that they don't use blogs due to time limit and students not knowing how to connect on their Notebooks, which lead to them interrupting the guided reading programme.
I was taken aback by this, as I taught those particular students the same skills I am busy teaching my students now.  Adamant to stay positive through this, I decided to make sure that students are independent by knowing how to choose another internet connection, if they are unable to connect via the main connection.
Surely this morning, when working with a guided reading group, it happened to me!  One student said: "I can't connect!"  I choose to ignore that and continued working with my reading group.  After a while I looked up to see the student working away, as another student had fixed the 'problem'.
As a perfectionist, I find this stepping back sometimes very hard, but I do persist and can relish in this EUREKA moments!  This is rewarding personally, as well as professionally to see how this give my students confidence in their own abilities too!

Monday, July 9, 2012

A great opportunity

I was overwhelmed when my Principal and Deputy Principal called me into the office, offering me the position of Acting Deputy Principal while the Principal would be away on a sabbatical and the Deputy Principal stepping up into the role of Acting Principal during Term 2, 2012.
I felt both excited and scared, but embraced this wonderful opportunity given to me.
What a learning curve this was... 
I had to learn not to let staff issues effect me personally and only concentrated on the purpose of me being at school, which was and still is, giving my best to the students whom I teach.
I was impressed by the way the Deputy Principal stepped into her role as Acting Principal and was adamant to give her my utmost support as her Acting DP, but above all as a teacher.
In my Year 1 class we had a wonderful and amazing time with our Inquiry unit, using the SOLO taxonomy inquiry model.  We learned about endangered species and concentrated on the NZ Kiwi.  The students were inspired by this learning journey and literally absorbed the information.  A Year 6 student said she thought the 5 years olds were very intelligent because they knew big words about the kiwi.
This positive feedback and watching my students grow and being excited about their learning, gave me enormous confidence as a teacher.  I knew I was doing a great job, which was affirmed by my Acting Principal.  
I know, however, there are still lots of new thing to be learned.  Bring it on - I can't wait!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Never looking back

One thing that I was sure about was that I will never fall into this online social networking service called Twitter. How wrong I was...

It all started when I heard of Quadblogging (which was created by David Mitchell), where four classes from over the world connect with each other to share and collaborate. As an enthusiastic blogger with my Year 1 class, I was immediately interested in this great concept and amazing opportunity for my students to give them a global audience when sharing our learning.  Proceeding to the 'sign up' form it asked your Twitter id and although you do not have to be a Tweeter to sign up, I thought this is it and signed up for Twitter on 8 January 2012!

I have never looked back ever since, as Twitter enables me to learn, share and collaborate with other professionals.  I also regard it as my personal PD. 

Since being on Twitter, I have learned about Daily 5, through their live chat via Twitter on 28 April.  What a buzz!  I was amazed and overwhelmed and just followed all the tweets for a couple of months, before taking the step to contribute to discussions and asking questions.
The outcome was that I bought the Daily 5 and CAFE books and I am slowly starting to integrate this into my class programme.

I have now even started my personal blog to share my ponderings about my own inquire, learn, grow and inspire journey.

What a great learning journey I'm having with Twitter!