Friday, August 30, 2013

VLN discussions

I was recently asked by a BeL facilitator to join the NE group on the VLN and to run a discussion, as the aim is to try and get some teachers to see what sort of things one can do with e-learning with juniors.

I have decided to start a discussion on 'Blogging with juniors', as this is something that is close to my heart due to the benefits this have for students.
I was amazed that we got our first reply almost immediately after posing a couple of questions!

The other discussion I am running is about 'e-Learning tools for 5 year olds'

What a privilege to be part of this excellent discussions where other teachers are able to share their thoughts.

A huge thank you to all the contributors.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Are teachers trusted?

One of my goals at the start of this year was to engage in a developmental process of improving my practice by taking risks. And I was prepared for a 'FAIL' (First Attempt In Learning).

John Hattie says "A teacher's job is not to make work easy.  It is to make it difficult.  If you are not challenged, you do not make mistakes. If you do not make mistakes, feedback is useless."

Therefore, I've given my students a 'choice' in the learning activities they can choose to be involved in during my time working with students in a guided reading lesson. 
By knowing what the needs of the students in my classroom are, learning activities they were able to choose from were ones that  encouraged quality learning and which were of specific purpose to them. In this case our focus were on 'Word Work'.

I believe that overall this concept of 'giving students choice' in my classroom was working well, although I had recently found some 'flaws', as not all students were making the right choices and I will have to step in with a more Teacher Directed approach for now. 
It is obvious that my students enjoy their learning, because they are able to make choices. They love coming to school (as I've been told by many parents), which to me is an important part of my teaching philosophy.  If my students don't love coming to school they will, in my opinion, not learn effectively.

Through my teaching career, I have however also experience the fact that what is believed to be best for students might not be what some observers want to see.  Well, in this case, I almost feel like saying: "Tough luck".  Fact is, I refuse to be a teacher who performs a 'window dressing' in front of any observer to let them see a polished product or a rehearsed lesson. I rather want them to embrace with me the 'highs and the lows' before the breakthrough.

I think teachers need to be given more freedom to take risks, embrace failure and, of course, try hard and ideally our students will try hard and will be enjoying learning too.
I quote the following from David Didau: The Learning Spy
"If we don't challenge students to meet our outrageously high expectations, they won't make mistakes. This results in a desultory lack of progress. Vygotsky told us that success should always be just beyond where we currently are so that we have to strive and reach for it.  This applies to teachers as much as our students.  The vast gap in the feedback given to teachers judged as 'good with outstanding features' is an appalling travesty. It is simply not acceptable to fob off these teachers with meaningless guff about gut feelings or the observation that student x was off task despite producing a fantastic outcome. If, as an observer, you cannot give kind, helpful and specific feedback on how to get to outstanding you really shouldn't be allowed to make judgments on others' teaching."

With this in mind, I 'm wondering how many people in leadership positions still trust their teachers to do what they know is best for their students.

I do hope that all teachers out there can continue to strive to enjoy their teaching and that they will be trusted to do what's best for students.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Technology a tool and not an end

I have recently found an interesting graphic under the title" 7 C's for Effective Teaching ".

One of the things I have notice in this graphic is the absence of a digital component.  This reinforce my idea that a great learning experience does not have to involve my NE/Yr 1 students glued to a Notebook/iPod/iPad.  These are awesome tools, but just tolls none-the-less.  Students only use them when needed and when they have a purpose to do so and not just for the sake of using technology.

Please don't get me wrong, I strongly encourage and embrace technology as an important part of a future-focused education, as well as how I can prepare students for living in the 21st century.  I also have to mention here that technology tools are a seamless part of my classroom.  I endorse that computer technology has become more important in the classroom than ever before to cater for the demands of good teaching and learning.

It is just my perception that the 7 C's mentioned here, could provide me with a starting point in embracing student voice.

And in case you wonder...  technology can be used to gather information on this.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

e-Member of the week

In March 2013, I've decided to sign up for the (VLN) Virtual Learning Network. I became a member of a number of groups which is of interest to me, with my main focus to share and learn from other amazing people.
By being part of the VLN, I have access to free PD over many weeks/months on topics that is of interest to me and of which are being catered for my needs.  Best of all, they are not bound to place or time!
I really enjoy being part of this collaborative virtual professional learning and development, which takes place outside of school and in my own time and most importantly, I have the ability to bring what I am learning back into my school, to the  benefit of students and colleagues.
Therefore, when reading the e-Learning Round-Up | 31 July 2013, I felt very honoured and privileged to be named as e-member of the week.

Thank you to all the wonderful people on the VLN who have made this possible for me!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Teaching and Learning above and beyond

Today's students are moving beyond the basics and embrace the 4C's which are some "super skills" for the 21st Century. These skills will enable students to solve problems in our fast-changing world and will last them for a lifetime.  Learning goals in reading, writing and maths are still important and won't be replaced by the 4C's.  The goal is to integrate 21st Century skills into all learning areas to enable students to master the 4C's.

The 4C's include the following:
Critical Thinking: Look at problems in a new way, linking learning across learning areas
Creativity: Trying new approaches to get things done
Communication: Sharing questions, thoughts, ideas and solutions
Collaboration: Working together to reach a goal

I love this video which highlights the importance of collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity.

Now the challenge is to build this 4Cs into my classroom and to help my students embrace this.