Sunday, 29 November 2015

Building Community, Building Capacity

A strong leader understands that at the heart of any community or organization lies the relationships it is built upon. Nurturing these positive relationships are essential to moving forward. Without people who feel comfortable and confident in a leader's ability, the battle to move forward likely will be short-lived. Building a community where people want to come together and support each other will help not only the students but teachers grow and learn together. As a leader, one of the challenging tasks is remaining positive and optimistic through every incident that occurs. However, positivity breeds more positivity and creating a community where these feelings thrive is essential.

The reason schools exist is the learning for students. A good educational leader must be enthusiastic and share a love of learning themselves. A leader support others in creating a welcoming and safe environment for the students to take risks in their learning and inquire. But the learning must not stop with the students. Every member of the community must see the value in up-skilling themselves and trying new things. Students need to see their teachers as role models who continue to learn as well. Further to this, learning needs to radiate farther to every member of the community as building capacity always for knowledge and growth. A good leader understands that by building capacity in all members of the school community whether parents, teachers, teaching assistant or administration, it promotes life-long learners and a community that values each member and their contributions.

In education, often leaders become restricted to an office, tied down with paperwork and 'putting out fires'. It is important for the educational leaders of our schools to stay true to the reasons they got into education and lead by example in the classroom and around the school. I love seeing administration in the classroom with the students leading learning and learning together. This view is so optimistic for the whole school community, especially our students. It shows our students that everyone is still learning and growing, that students and their learning is the number one priority in the school and that inspiring students through education is the responsibility of every member of the community.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Digital Native Or Immigrant? Focus on Growth Mindset Instead

Evolution involves adapting to a surrounding to survive over time. In the education profession, it is similar as a teacher in a digital age. According to Marc Prensky (2001), digital immigrants are individuals who have not grown up in a digital age and have needed to adapt and adopt the new 'language' of technology'. Digital Natives are individuals who have grown up using technology. We can't expect the educational world to regress back to times without technology so it is up to both the 'digital immigrant' and 'digital native' to continue to evolve with their environment by embracing education with technology integration.

For me, I believe those labels don't belong. Rather I believe the focus should be more on growth mindset and the willingness to learn. No student or educator will ever know all there is when it comes to technology. It is important to have a growth mindset rather than a fixed mixed as an approach to learning.I felt like the labels are less relevant if we think more about a willingness to be a risk taker to learn and use technology when appropriate.

Image from: http://carriekepple.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Growth-v-Fixed.jpg

A growth mindset as an educator allows you to be open-minded to new ideas and concepts. Educators with a growth mindset enjoy trying to challenge their thinking and push boundaries beyond their current knowledge. An educator with a growth mindset continues to problem solve with resiliency until they are able to come to a suitable solution. 'Not possible' is not the answer, rather an opportunity to try something new.

I believe it is more important to have a willingness to use and explore technology rather than whether or not you grew up using technology as a 'digital native'. When we stop worrying about failing or looking silly for trying, we can allow ourselves the ability to explore a technology to understand it and find deeper and more meaningful uses of it within our classrooms.
Image from: https://chrishildrew.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/fixedgrowth-copy.jpg


Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants part 1. On the Horizon, 9(5), p. 1-6. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/10748120110424816

When To Use Technology in the Classroom

Some days as a teacher you may use technology in almost all components of your classes, then other days not even touch it. When is too much? When is not enough? In my mind, why are we even asking these questions? If we focus on what is important, then those questions become irrelevant.

In my role as an education technology coach, my role is to support teachers in integrating technology into the classroom. Many would think I would advocate for getting more technology into the classroom but more doesn't mean better.

I always chuckle when I have a teacher that comes to asking for an opinion on an activity that they want to use technology with and I suggest a non-technology approach. To me, using technology should only be done when it makes sense, when it enhances the learning experience for our students and is authentic. We shouldn't force the use of technology in our classes just because we have it.

There are definitely many benefits of being able to use technology in the classroom - access to information, connecting with others, supporting individual needs, motivation, etc. But the most important aspect of teaching should always remain the teaching and learning for student growth.

When I was a homeroom classroom teacher, I always loved assigning a final project with no limit on how it was presented. In doing so, it allowed the students to express themselves using the tools and resources they felt comfortable with. The final products were of higher quality and more diverse. Whether it was a bulletin board, a dramatic presentation, an online presentation of slides, video, art piece, or handwritten essay, the important thing was that the student felt they had ownership in how they chose to demonstrate their learning journey.

If we stop asking when is too much and not enough use of technology and start asking does it make sense to use technology for this learning experience, the technology integration will be more meaningful. In doing so, we are then able to provide our students with just another set of skills to add to their toolkit that they can draw upon when it is most appropriate.

Citizenship in a Digital Age


Digital literacy is about helping our students develop the skills and behaviours to be successful in a digital age. This includes supporting our students in how to find, access, and use information they find online, communicating through various digital medias, collaborating with others and making smart decisions while using technology that demonstrates being a good citizen.

As technology becomes more accessible to the masses, digital tools provide educators and students with an unlimited amount of resources and access to information. Students need to be able to not only access the internet but be critically analyze what they discover, the source of information and its validity.

With Web 2.0, the user experience has gone from just consuming digital content to engaging and interacting with it. The ability to connect and collaborate with someone from across the globe has become easy with the various social media platforms. Through this, students can connect with experts to raise the quality of their work by getting information from the source. In doing so, students need to be aware of how their online communication really should not be that different from their offline communication. Respect, kindness and common sense should continue no matter if you blur the lines of communication to a virtual platform.

Above all, we must continue to educate our students with how to be a good citizen with how to be a good digital citizen simply as an extension of citizenship. Our students should understand that the choices they make online will remain present for all to see in the future. The pictures they post give insight into the type of person they are and their identity that extends offline. As they continue to build their online relationships, they must think about how this impacts their lives on a greater scale.

Perhaps calling referring to as 'digital citizenship' is too narrowing. Being a good person is being a good person. Rather, we are educating our students of how to be a good citizen in an increasingly more digitalized world. As we educate our students for an unknown tomorrow, we must provide them with the appropriate skills and behaviours that allow them to be successful in a digital age - not only online but in every day life as well.

Image from: https://www.iste.org/explore/articledetail?articleid=192

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Using Technology to Enhance What We Want for Our Learners

Paul Saettler (1990, p.539 as cited in Roblyer & Doering, 2014, p.30) suggests that "Computer information systems are not just objective recording devices. They also reflect concepts, hopes, beliefs, attitudes." Computers and technology have seen great development over time, which reflects how they are used within an educational setting. Computers in education has evolved from something explored by few in university settings to becoming mobile devices that are accessible to the masses. The importance of computer literacy skills began to evolve in the microcomputer era, suggesting the importance of developing skills and understanding of the technologies being used (Roblyer & Doering, 2014, p. 7). From there, technology became a means of connecting with others through the internet era, while also having a plethora of technological resources available at your fingertips while investigating online for information. As technology further developed into the world of mobile devices, accessibility became more readily available (Roblyer & Doering, 2014, p. 9). Most adolescents now have devices that they can use for educational or personal enjoyment. Because of this, learning could access more resources for learning in the forms of e-books, distance education and social networking. With all of this information and experts so accessible, the student needs to learn how to filter what they are viewing and critically analyses the information in a digital age.

The way we use technology in our schools now can vary from school to school, from country to country depending on the resources and philosophies of teaching. In my experience, technology is used as part of the teaching and learning process and should not be thought of as a separate component from it. Students now have the opportunity with Web 2.0 to not only read but also write and create what is online. Thus, technology provides students a means to showcase their individual creativity as they differentiate how they express their learning.

I believe technology is used in the classroom as a way to develop transdisciplinary skills that will last beyond the classroom and into the real world. The Internationale Baccalaureate suggests there are six ICT skills that should be included in the written, taught and assessed curriculum (ICT in the PYP, p.2). These include investigating, organizing, creating, communicating, collaborating and becoming a digital citizen. No longer is the focus on specific content but rather, how the content is obtained, used and manipulated to demonstrate, challenge and extend the learning of the students. Through the development of these skills, students develop their creative and critical thinking, allowing them to take their understanding of concepts to greater depth. Technology should be used in a purposeful and meaningful way to help students make connections, see things from different perspectives and be used as a means of reflection in their learning journey.

References 

Roblyer, M., & Doering, A. (2014). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching: International Edition, 6th Edition, Pearson.

The role of ICT in PYP. (2011). International Baccalaureate. UK: IB. 

Get Excited Over Small Ideas

Today I was sitting at my desk trying to come up with a concept for a video and feeling 'writer's block'. After watching a few videos, reading some past reflections and student work on the topic, the idea hit me. It got me so excited for a video I had no direction in before and I had to tell someone. Even though the other person may have not shared the same level of excitement with me I was re-energized and ready to push forward full steam with enthusiasm once again. 

It doesn't really matter what the idea was, but it's important to take away the fact that our students will have these moments too and we have a choice to make: we either embrace it and let them run with it or we stick to our our plan. If we choose to squash the enthusiasm, you often squash the learning that follows. Small ideas and excitement may not always turn out the way planned but you can guarantee if a student is inspired and empowered to live out the ideas, the results are well worth the time and energy it takes to see them transpire into something great. 

Monday, 16 November 2015

Technology: One of Many Tools

As part of a podcast with Future Tense (Funnell, 2012), Greg Whitby suggests that you can't just focus on the technology when it comes to education. There is an abundance of technology within our reach with new advances and releases, such as the iPad Pro, becoming available to consumers each day. Our students have more access to technology than every before and they can choose to interact with it even outside of school. Therefore, focusing on getting technology into the hands of the students isn't enough any more - the novelty of 'using technology in classrooms' has worn off. Beyond that, just teaching students how to use a particular technology tool doesn't promote the type of learning environments our students deserve to have. Rather, as educators, we need to be more cognisant of creating meaningful uses of technology integration to enhance the learning process. 

image from: http://www.alp100.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/bill-gates-tech-quote.png

As an educator, one aspect of my role is to focus on the providing the best teaching and learning to my students. As Bill Gates once said, "Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important." If they don't have a teacher who is able to use best practice in integrating that tool effectively into the curriculum and teaching then, the tool is not meaningful. Teachers continue to upskill their own technology abilities with the purpose of utilizing it within the curriculum when approach. Teachers need to not only be able to use and integrate technology but decipher when it is best to actually use technology and when another strategy or tool is more effective to achieve a specific learning outcome or experience. Teachers continue to write curriculum, teach content and assess their students choosing the right tools for each learning experience to provide students with a quality education. 

Image from: http://blog.williamferriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/9223386478_20cf5bb693_b.jpg

I would argue, that while technology is a tool, it is a powerful tool. It is a tool that can connect classes from across the globe to contrast and compare lifestyle, schooling and interests. It is a tool that can help students access information from various sources in a click of a button. It is a tool that can enhance the learning experience by allowing for experiences that were not possible in reality such as travelling to the bottom of the ocean to explore wildlife. It is a tool that can help students organize their lives through notes and calendars. It is a tool to communicate in a multitude of ways. It can be a tool to document learning and reflect on their educational experiences. Utilizing technology can help engage students while also developing social, self management, thinking, and communicating skills. Students can create, collaborate, and curate as they develop transdisciplinary skills that can be drawn upon at any time to use. 

In a 21st century classroom, technology still does not replace the teacher, hands-on learning, visual thinking and planning on paper or face-to-face interactions. But what it does achieve is creating an endless supply of learning opportunities for students to engage and experience if integrated in an appropriate manner.  

References

Funnell, A. (2012, Aug 19). 21st century education. Future Tense [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from: www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/futuretense/21st-century-education/4197700#transcript 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Continuous Challenges


This past year  was ... well... there's a lot of words I could use to fill the blank. It was a year of growth and exploration and I was lucky to have the class that I had who were always up for whatever challenge I wanted to tackle next.

As a relatively new teacher, I still have a lot to learn and I'm doing it the only way I know how - trial and error. The good thing about my class this past year is that with every risk I take, they jumped in and took risks too, pushing me beyond my comfort zone. About midway through the year, I found out I was transitioning into a new role which will take me out of the role as classroom teacher. It quickly began to dawn on me that if there were things that I wanted to try, I better do them while I had the chance.

It's been a little like standing at the edge of a cliff this year wondering if I'd finally slip off when things I tried didn't quite work, but luckily I seem to have good balance  (or a class of students holding the rope to keep me from misstepping).

6 Units, 6 Things

1. Podcasting with audio effects

2. Home learning inquiry projects

3. Games Based Learning

4. Online Courses

5. Choose Your Own Adventure

6. Photography and Film

Each unit brought new challenges for both me and the students but it kept the learning fun and exciting. Amongst each unit there were always smaller challenges embedded but the overarching theme of presented consistent interest, motivation and growth. We were always having a lot of conversations about the learning and reflecting on where we had been and where we needed to take our learning.

When  you are out of the classroom, it is sometimes harder to have those ongoing, consistent experiences when you don't see the same students every day. The challenge then becomes finding the challenge that keeps you excited to try something new when you may not be part of the entire process of learning or see how the students are reacting, developing the idea and pushing it further.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Taking Time for Personal Projects as Teachers



Teaching is a busy job. With so many different responsibilities packed into a few short hours everyday, it is hard to imagine squeezing anything else in...especially something you do just for yourself.

In my new role this year as education technology coach, I have the flexibility to make my own schedule. Originally I thought this would mean that perhaps I might just have a few more minutes to slow down and breathe at any point in the day but in fact learnt quickly that the job meant quite the opposite and my calendar was filled. Busier than I had ever expected or in previous years, I also found myself teaching more. Most days a week I was teaching in some capacity a minimum of five out of six classes with at least an activity or meeting or professional development session or two to lead at lunch, before school or after school. In trying to find the balance, I was finding that I was becoming more off tilter. I was finding it more difficult to complete the other portions of my job while still wanting to be in the classroom as much as I could.

After a week or so of trying to find the root cause and a few discussions later, one of the steps forward I decided to make was to take time each week for myself during the work day. It still boggles my mind that I'm actually doing it but the level of productivity that has evolved from it the rest of the week makes it well worth the dedicated time slot in my schedule.

Just to clarify, time for myself doesn't mean kicking back and relaxing. Rather, blocking out a regular amount of time each week to work on the projects or ideas that inspire me. They may be tasks I just have to get done or something else completely differentI want to explore. Think of it as my 20% time like Google, iTime, Personal Projects, or Genius Hour but for teachers. Time to simply focus on things that inspire a passion and drive even when it gets busy.

On my day off (due to public holiday), I sent the better part of my morning designing a e-Portfolio for my Masters of Education that would be long lasting throughout my entire programme. Each class seemed to ask you to set up an e-portfolio/blog to document your learning in the course but having 8 different e-Portfolios in the end didn't make sense to me. Thus, figuring out a way to map out a design and create what I had envisioned had me captivated and channeling my inner nerd without even realizing I was doing work. This was a project that stemmed internally but was rewarding to know I was setting myself up for success for the next few terms of study. In addition, it got me thinking about how we do portfolios at our school and how they transition between years without one central portfolio to house all e-Portfolios each year. Thus, generate even more learning outcomes than I had initially targeted for.

The first two periods coming into work today were scheduled as office work and administrative tasks that needed to be completed. In that time, I felt more accomplished, productive and motivated than I had the last few weeks during the time in the office.  I felt momentum continuing to flow from one day of independent work into other projects and started to make serious headway with them that I got so caught up in doing them, I almost didn't realize it was time to head to class.

This got me thinking. We want our kids to inquire into projects that interest them. We want them to ask questions and find the answers. We give them the time, the tools, the resources, and the support to explore their passions through learning. But how often during the work day do we do this for ourselves? There is always another assessment, report card, meeting, lesson to plan, the list goes on. A teacher's to do list is never complete.  But what if you blocked out time during the work day to do exactly what you wanted to explore. Why is it that what we ask of our students we don't always model ourselves?

To be honest, when I schedule the time from now on during the work day, it will almost always be work related independent projects. But because I reframe the work in my mind as time to work on whatever I wanted, I chose the work I felt I wanted to do, not just because they had to get done. Ownership over work truly promotes internal motivation. When mindset changes, so do the outcomes.

I'm looking forward to seeing how 'my time' evolves but it's not coming off my calendar any time soon. I wonder how many other educators actually dedicate time to individual learning in a schedule of chaos. I wonder what opportunities lie ahead in my time. My time is time for my learning, my exploration and my growth.