Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Watch What's Working: Carol Dweck Talks Growth Mindset

Watch What's Working: Carol Dweck Talks Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck is an educator whom I greatly admire.  Can't get enough of her work!

This is why I love education - it's the challenge of finding what works for every individual student, and teacher.  That's the real buzz of what we do.  Our students are always at the heart of everything we do - if we remember that, even with the pressures of daily learning and teaching, we can't go wrong.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What does connected education mean to me?

Thoughtful Thursdays at the Te@chThought Community

We've just completed our first month-long blogging challenge as part of the Te@chThought community and it was one of the most inspirational experiences ever!  One of the top bonuses was that I made a new friend in my colleague Beth Leidolf, an inspirational educator from the US.  Together we ran the challenge and are now working on developing the community further during Connected Educator Month and beyond!

Our first post for Thoughtful Thursdays at TeachThought is all about what Connected Education means to us. The Popplet below shares my thinking about how important being a Connected Educator is to me and how powerful all these connections are.  Each and every connection plays a powerful and important role in my continuing development as a teacher.

#ce14 #cenz14 #ceoz

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What's Stopping You? On taking risks, leaping in and not being afraid...

Day 30 of the +TeachThought 30D Reflective Teacher Blog Challenge.

Where has the time gone??  I can't believe it's the end of this challenge - there are more to come though!

I've just finished listening to a powerful hour which focused on Connected Professional Learning which was part of the first day of Connected Educator Month.  (I will post a link to the recording as soon as it is available - very worth listening to).

There was a great deal of discussion around Online Communities of Practice which was music to my ears as it's also my research area and something I've become quite hooked on over the past few years, not only in terms of what it can do for teachers' learning and connections but also how it can be adapted for our students.  The ultimate for me would be to develop my classroom into an online community of practice which was something I was beginning in 2013.

This lead me to suddenly have an 'aha' moment around my research and MTchg which I will finish this year. What is my next learning step??  I expect my students to be able to articulate what their next learning is, so why shouldn't I.

If I'm not afraid, I would begin my Doctoral studies and research all the amazing initiatives that are happening in New Zealand / Aotearoa to showcase our model of learning and teaching which is so powerful.  I expect my students and colleagues to take responsible risks and challenge themselves so what am I afraid of?  What an awesome (in the true meaning of the word) opportunity and privilege it would be to explore the practices of our current online communities and then showcase that to the world.


How have you changed as an educator?

Day 29 of the +TeachThought blogging challenge

"Teaching is about making some kind of dent in the world so that the world is different than it was before you practiced your craft."  Brookfield

A few years ago I read this quote and it sums up for me, what I hope I have done and will continue to do for many years.

I'm not sure that I have changed greatly as an educator but much more as a leader. I have always viewed learning and teaching as a shared partnership and have never shied away from learning from and with my students and colleagues.  I hope that is even more obvious now.  I know that my ability to question to encourage deeper thinking and further questioning has greatly improved over the years - and will sometimes drive the students crazy, (but they love it and ask even more questions!)

I know the workload has changed but I've become more efficient for the sake of my students' learning, and my own.  Yes, at times, I've wondered if there is another career out there that would be 'easier' and yes, there probably are but when you are forced to take time out from what you know so well and love so much, it makes you doubly determined to return to it.  That will never change!

I have always loved technology and the opportunities it offers for learning but I am now more discerning in the tools the students and I use.  We all must be able to articulate the impact a particular tool has on learning before we can justify using it.  I hope that's a skill I'm continuing to pass on to my students.

I think the biggest area in which I've changed as a teacher is as a leader.  I've made mistakes along the way, tried to do everything myself but that is the biggest mistake, and is often unintentional as you believe you are helping others, or that it's your responsibility because you are in a particular role and being paid to fill that role, when you're actually doing anything but.  You need to look for the learning and leadership opportunities in and for your colleagues, just as you do with your students.  Collaboration is key and it makes you a better teacher, leader and learner.  The biggest joy I get now is when I hand over control of a project - just as I would with my students - to a colleague and see them shine in their role and teach me so much.  Loosening the grip of perfectionism has so many powerful benefits.  My work on communities of practice has taught me this and I'm grateful for the lesson and the change.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Start with the 'WHY?' - Should Technology drive the curriculum or vice versa?

Day 28 of the 30 Day +TeachThought blogging challenge

Which should drive our learning and teaching - the curriculum or all the amazing new technology we now have within our grasp?  I have very strong views on this...

Technology is there to support and enhance learning and teaching and our curriculum.  If we are using tools merely because they are the latest 'cool tool' but they do little to enhance and improve learning and teaching then, in my opinion, they are not an effective addition and will have little impact.


Be clear about why you are using a particular tool and why it will change the teaching and learning.  Your students should also be clear about this when they are choosing tools for their learning.  If they or we are not able to clearly articulate our thinking and state the WHY, then it's not the tool to be using.  If it doesn't improve achievement and learning, choose something that will.  Sometimes it can be that 'simple' - and that complicated!

Technology should enhance and improve what we do.  It should never be an add on or addition.


We read and hear a great deal about our students being 'Digital Natives' and that we are the 'Digital Immigrants, terms developed by Marc Prensky.  We need to be very careful about these assumptions. During my research, I wrote a literature review on this subject.  If we make assumptions that all our students are confident users of technology and therefore know much more than us then we are, in my opinion, treading on very shaky ground.  Yes, our students are skilled in the use of tools, but try getting them to explain their choice of tool for learning and this is where it becomes interesting.  Many can't, unless we give them the skills to be able to relate the tools to their learning.  We can also then let then teach us the technical skills we may be lacking.  Shared and reciprocal learning is powerful learning.


The SAMR model gives us a way to change our thinking and use of technology in a purposeful way.  If we are just swapping writing in a book for using a Word document to publish then we, and our students, are missing out.  However, everyone needs to start somewhere and many teachers are not confident with using technology in their teaching and learning.  These are the teachers who need our support and encouragement.  Sometimes being told that they 'must use' technology without being shown the 'how' and 'why' are where we get it very wrong.  This is where professional learning and communities of practice are so important if we want to make sustainable changes.  We all have to start somewhere.  Don't be afraid to let the students do the teaching too!

Technology integration is incredibly important in order for our students to participate in the world.  Maybe it's also time to stop talking about preparing our students for 21st Century learning and life - we've been in this century now for 14 years.  Maybe it's time to move from these phrases and focus on the teaching and learning.  Tools on their own may not necessarily change learning and achievement but tools used to enhance learning and teaching can, if the WHY is clear.  We are doing our students a disservice if we don't do this.
How to use the SAMR model for classroom tasks.

Check out the SAMR model explained by students!


Who Needs Weekends and Holidays?

Day 27 of the +TeachThought blogging challenge

My first year teaching was 1999 and my weeks looked something like this...

Monday - Friday:  Arrive at school by 8am, work all day, including through lunchtime, leave school around 5pm or earlier if my son had sport, have dinner, start working again, finish at about midnight, bed, then up again at 6am to start all over.

Weekends - sport with my son but I could multi-task if his games were at the school grounds and then mostly preparation for the following week with breaks to spend time with my son.

I took this career so seriously and wanted to give the best I could to my students - I still do -  but I was missing out on time for me and also for my son.  I was a single parent so I should have been more aware of this.  I'm very lucky he's turned out to be such an amazing young man whom I'm incredibly proud of but...

This 'routine' which was exhausting, went on for many years.  I started to question it, however.  The more I reflected on what I was doing and the more aware I became of the lack of balance I began to realise that if I kept going at this pace then everyone would miss out...my family, my students and school and also myself. There's nothing like a reality check for you to realise that by leading a more balanced life and taking breaks and holidays, you actually become a far better teacher - and learner.  A colleague taught me this when I moved from a large college back to a primary school.  She is a teacher whom I admire immensely and she was managing to be a 'super teacher' in my eyes, had a fantastic family and is also a very talented artist - who was still managing to create beautiful works of art and be an amazing teacher.  I paid attention and had many discussions with her.  I learned so much about balance and how to get there.  Not always easy when you are a perfectionist.

So how am I doing 15 years down the track from that first year?  Well... I reflect on this a lot and know that I probably have a way to go on the balance aspect of my practice but I'm a work in progress and I try to participate in as many activities as I can because I know that a more balanced life makes me a better person, and a far better teacher / co-learner and leader for my staff and students.

I'll keep reflecting and working on that...


Saturday, September 27, 2014

My 3 Favourite go-to sites for help/tips/resources in my Teaching

Day 26 of the +TeachThought Reflective Teacher Blogging Challenge!

This was a really hard post to write because we had to choose 3 of our 'go to sites - only THREE!!!!  What a challenge in itself.  I've cheated a little with Twitter and Facebook pages but I firmly believe in being creative.  (You're possibly not buying that...)

TeachThought / Edutopia
I have been a fan of TeachThought long before my involvement with curating the Facebook page and my role in developing a community of practice, both voluntary roles.  I love that both TeachThought and Edutopia provide me with resources to challenge my practice and give the bext possible learning experiences for my students - and also for me.

Kathy Schrock
I first stumbled across this amazing educator when I was at University studying to become a teacher.  I think it was around 1997.  She has been one of my consistent 'go to' resources for all things education and I couldn't even begin to count the times I've gone back to her site for resources, etc.  Highly recommend that you take a look.

Twitter / Facebook Pages

This is my 3rd choice- even though there is more than one on here.  I'll stretch it even further and call it my social media resoure... ;-)

The Innovative E - Everything eLearning in Education
This is my own page on Facebook but it's where I keep track with the resources from all the different sites so that I can share them with others.  It's a curation tool for me.  I also use ScoopIt to curate resources on a range of topics including Digital Storytelling and Google Tools.