Saturday, August 3, 2013

Exploring Digital Citizenship

I've been thinking a great deal about who a digital citizen actually is and am about to begin exploring this concept with my students.

The following graphic is an interesting one but I'm wondering if it is a generalisation and whether the reality for the students in my class is different to what is presented here.  I've already argued that we are making assumptions that our students are Digital Natives... but that's a post for another time...

Part of my research for my final Masters paper is around building a Community of Practice for my students so there is a lot of reading, planning, thinking and questioning going on for me at the moment. In developing a strong CoP for my students I want to be able to challenge my own assumptions as a teacher and learner and start from scratch to build this community alongside my students.

Stay tuned for many posts and self-reflections on this.....  In the meantime, check out the infographic below and the links and I'd love to read your thoughts on this.

The Use of Social Media in Schools
by obizmedia.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

ROOM 14 LEARNING JOURNEYS: Last Weekend's Learning

Sharing the learning with my students whom I always view as fellow students and teachers because we learn so much together.  I'm looking forward to getting their thoughts on the SAMR model of tech integration. 

We have a motto that is very important to us:

"We are all teachers and we are all learners in our learning environment."  This underpins everything we do and we are constantly learning from and with each other.

ROOM 14 LEARNING JOURNEYS: Last Weekend's Learning: Last weekend I went to EducampChCh to share MyChatPak and also to push my own learning further.  Everyone loved what all of you have been do...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

ROOM 14 LEARNING JOURNEYS: My Learning Day at Educamptt

ROOM 14 LEARNING JOURNEYS: My Learning Day at Educamptt:   I had a fantastic time at Educamptt in Whangarei.  Have a look at the Google Presentation below and see what tools you could u...

I've shared this with my class too.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Had a fantastic day in Whangarei yesterday at Educamptt2013!  So many resources and ideas and it was great to share MyChatPak with everyone so that they could see why we're so passionate about this teaching and learning tool and the ways in which it can help students develop confidence and share their learning with their families and the wider world.

Check out the Google Presentation from yesterday.  Would love to read your thoughts.  Most of the slides have live links so all you need to do is click on the images and it will take you to a whole lot more fantastic information.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Ken Robinson: How to escape education's death valley

Sir Ken is always an inspiration.  This TED Talk does not need a great deal of comment.  The power of it will be in the discussion it provokes.

If only those in power would listen to what he says.  We know it's commonsense.

No Child Left Behind in the US is not working.  The drop-out rate is terrifying and creativity is being stymied.

Too narrow a curriculum that stifles creativity, imagination and innovation will lead to a much higher drop-out rate no matter what country.

Commonsense needs to prevail.   It is imperative that we retain curiosity and creativity.  We have a fantastic education system and curriculum in New Zealand.  Let's keep it that way and not travel too far down the track of the US.  Testing is important - as long as it impacts the teaching and learning and helps to identify the individual learning needs of our fantastic students and ensure they make the progress they deserve.

Let's keep them engaged and if they're not engaged, let's get involved, get to know them and find out what we can do as teachers - and learners - to re-engage them.

Finding - and Keeping - Fantastic Teachers

A while ago I was contacted by Erika Phyall from USC Rossier Online to see whether I would be interested in using the infographic below on my blog, given my interest in, and passion for, all things education.

The issue of teacher retention - and particularly of retaining teachers who are passionate, caring and knowledgable in teaching and learning - has been one I've been thinking about for many years.

How DO we keep the best while making sure that they also have a life outside of school, do not burn out through their passionate commitment to what they do and the learners they interact with, ensure that they develop professionally and, most importantly in my mind, retain their passion for this career they have chosen?

The infographic is an interesting one and possibly raises more questions that it answers.  The first line is scary - '30% of our teachers quit within the first 2 years."  I can remember being really concerned with how few of my graduating year were still teaching after 5 years.  I wonder if the retention rates are the same in other countries, or is this figure unique to the US?  My gut, and conversations I've had with teachers around the world tells me that this is not a situation unique to the US.

The first years of teaching are indeed the hardest, but do they really ever get any easier?  Does the 'difficulty' just shift to other areas?  Why are we losing teachers at such an alarming rate?  I remember a discussion earlier this year around the fact that there are many 'older' teachers staying in the profession longer but we are losing our younger teachers soon after graduation.  Why?  Is it that our support systems aren't as strong as we believe for our Beginning Teachers.  Is it that they are suddenly left on their own when the support ends after the first 2 years - in New Zealand at least?

Are the issues more complex and it is something that is fundamentally wrong with where our system is heading and we are losing our creative, passionate teachers as they become stifled by constant testing and assessment.  I think this issues goes far deeper than we think.  There is a great deal of discussion around this particular issue world-wide at present - what are your thoughts?  Has this always been an issue and is only now being addressed by the more vocal among us?

The infographic, while being US-based, is still relevant to the situation around the world in my opinion.  I would love to read your thoughts on this.

USC Rossier Presents New Infographic- How To Save Our Educators

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Importance of Liking the Students We Teach and Learn With or "Kids don't learn from people they don't like." - Rita Pierson

How important is it that we like the students we interact with and teach and learn with each day?  For me, it's an essential part of what leads me in everything I do on a day-by-day, minute-by-minute basis.
Teaching is not just about 'facilitating learning'.  It's so much more than that.

It's about connecting with our students and showing them that we care about them as human beings.  We care about, and are interested in, their hopes, dreams and aspirations, the sports they play, the hobbies they are interested in.

I watched this presentation, (another fantastic TED Talk), by Rita Pierson, a teacher of 40 years' experience and would love to read what you think. She raises an interesting question in relation to whether our students' achievements can be at their optimum level if we don't 'like' them and believe in them.  Is this part of the 'x-factor' in teaching - that element of difference between a good teacher who has the pedagogy and content knowledge and a great teacher who also possesses these elements along with being able to connect with their students on a collaborative and friendly level, and who also shows a genuine interest in who these amazing human beings are whom we have the privilege to teach and learn alongside every day.

Some of us live this profession - it's so much more than 'just a job' - we live this life.

Rita also speaks about some of the 'reforms' in education but her main focus is the value of human connection and relationships in learning.  It's a powerful message.

'Kids don't learn from people they don't like'.  True.  Rita is an inspiration and what she says is so true, powerful and valuable.  The power of self-belief cannot be underestimated - for both students and teachers.

We need to make a difference, not just academically, but in the human context.  I believe in my students unconditionally, I like and respect my students - yes, even the ones who dyed my hair red on a school camp many years ago.  (I was secretly proud of their creativity and innovation in completing the task they set themselves!!)

Teaching is connection.  Success for our learners comes through connections.  Taking time to get to know our students is key.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Creating, Innovating and Learning

This is an update on a blog post from last year,  Sharing the Teaching and Learning, where we began to develop a piece of software from another programme - MyVcv - also a fantastic tool.

Since November we've been working on this new development - MyChatPak -  and it's now almost ready for release!!  We're in the trial phase for the next couple of weeks.

I honestly can't begin to describe how exciting this is - to be involved in developing, innovating and creating something new from an existing product is almost beyond words.  It's pushed my own learning, challenged me and, at times, frustrated me!!  I now know EXACTLY how my students feel but isn't it the challenges in life that show us what we're truly made of - that teach us the skills that line up with the Habits of Mind - Persistence, Thinking Flexibly, Building Bridges to new knowledge, etc.  Isn't this what we want for our own students - isn't this what we want for ourselves as teachers and learners?  (I've kept telling myself this anyway when I've become the 'frustrated learner'!) 

MyChatPak really does work if you want to improve students' confidence in speaking publicly and also if you want an easy and simple to use way to share learning with others.
How many tools do we have that we can send as an email and the video opens in the email? You don't have to muck around going to a link for an external site. 

I'm buzzing about this!!  We'll be web-based soon which means that all platforms will be able to use it. The trial at the moment is for a PC version. If you'd love to trial it, just let me know - no cost. We just want quality feedback and ideas for improvements / uses / and where we can go next.

Using MyChatPak has really helped my students gain confidence in being able to speak publicly.  The biggest difference with this teaching and learning tool is that you are able to create a script to support you and this runs along the top - like a teleprompter - when you are recording the video.

One of the main differences with MyChatPak is that you can send videos that are less than a minute straight to email - and it opens in an email!  You don't have to go and visit an external site to see it.  This is such a fantastic way to share quick learning snapshots with parents and classrooms around the country and the world.

It also offers a way to be able to reflect on your learning - and teaching.  We're using it to record learning snapshots for thinking in maths and many other curriculum areas.  We now want to use it to collaborate with learners in other countries to share our teaching and learning.

You can also record longer videos and these are able to be uploaded to Blogger, YouTube and Facebook which is another bonus for sharing learning. 

This is something I really believe in and to be able to be a part of the development process alongside software developers and, in particular, my students has been one of the highlights of my career to date.

Help us continue on our incredible learning journey by becoming part of the trial.  Let me know by commenting here and I will contact you.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Who Inspires You?

Inspiration comes from many places.

Today an email arrived in my Inbox from my Principal - not an unusual event obviously.  In a rush - as usual, I thought I'd better open it up and quickly read it.

When I opened it, it made me really reflect and question why I was rushing around.  Yes, there were assessments to complete, folders to set up, duties to be completed, hockey teams to organise - and the list goes on as it does for all of us, but what I read in that email stopped me in my tracks and made me remember in an instant why I do what I do.

I won't add any more of my thoughts here, but what I can say is that my students have just completed the same activity as in the email today.  I've shed a few tears over the beautiful, funny, caring words they've written about their classmates - whom they're so lucky to be learning with for a second year.

To answer the question of the post - Who inspires me?  My students inspire me - every day in so many ways.  They are the ones who make me want to be the best teacher - and learner I can be.

This is a copy of the email:

Too Busy for a Friend.....

One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name.

Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.

It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.

That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.

On Monday she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. 'Really?' she heard whispered. 'I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!' and, 'I didn't know others liked me so much,' were most of the comments.

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. She never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn't matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another. That group of students moved on.

Several years later, one of the students was killed in Vietnam and his teacher attended the funeral of that special student. She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. He looked so handsome, so mature.

The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to bless the coffin.

As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her. 'Were you Mark's math teacher?' he asked. She nodded: 'yes.' Then he said: 'Mark talked about you a lot.'

After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates went together to a luncheon. Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting to speak with his teacher.

'We want to show you something,' his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket 'They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.'

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark's classmates had said about him.

'Thank you so much for doing that,' Mark's mother said. 'As you can see, Mark treasured it.'

All of Mark's former classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, 'I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home.'

Chuck's wife said, 'Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.'

'I have mine too,' Marilyn said. 'It's in my diary'

Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. 'I carry this with me at all times,' Vicki said and without batting an eyelash, she continued: 'I think we all saved our lists'

That's when the teacher finally sat down and cried. She cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again.

The density of people in society is so thick that we forget that life will end one day. And we don't know when that one day will be.
So please, tell the people you love and care for, that they are special and important. Tell them, before it is too late.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Professional Learning - Whose Responsibility Is It?

The eLearning Buzz: Through the Looking Glass - Teacher Self-S...: Over the past few months I've been reading about, and investigating issues around, teacher self-study.  (Another form is Action Research ...

This post was written almost two years ago now.  I'm about to start my final Masters paper and have started to think again about all the learning that has happened over the past few years.  I'm also looking forward to finishing this paper and beginning more study.

My reason for revisiting and reflecting on this post is because I've just finished reading a post by Edna Sackson - Teachers' Action Research.  The full post can be found at and is well worth the reading and reflection.  What are your views on teacher responsibility for professional development and learning?
What percentage is our responsibility and what is that of the schools in which we teach and learn?  How far along the continuum are you as a learner alongside your students?  Do we 'walk the talk'?

Edna asks an important question:  "How can we create new models of professional learning in our school that help build our learning community, while embedding our learning principles in our practice?"

I've taught in schools where teacher responsibility for professional learning is expected and valued and it really does lead to rich conversations and exciting learning - both for the teachers and for the students.

What happens in your schools in terms of Action Research / Professional Learning?  Do you value different forms of Social Media as part of your daily professional learning? e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Scoop.It, LinkedIn.  How do you receive professional development - when and from what sources?  Does it happen because you're part of a contract and it's expected or do you take responsibility for your own learning?  Afterall, it's what we expect of our students...

I really like this quote and have had many discussions over the years around this.  I believe that you can have 'expertise' in an area but, the moment you think you are an expert is the moment you stop learning.  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Are You a Teacher and Learner Alongside Your Students?

20  Free Professional Development Opportunities for 2013 from Shelly Terrell

20 Free Professional Development Opportunities for 2013 - Click the link for fantastic ideas and opportunities!

How do you model to your students that you are a lifelong learner alongside them?  Do you share your professional development with your students, or new learning, or failures which have lead to new learning?  To what extent do you share your learning with your PLC or your colleagues?
Do you Tweet to gain answers to questions or to learn new skills?  Do you use a blog to reflect on your learning? (Something I've let slip in the last wee while - no excuse).

The challenge is on - we learn as much from our students as we could ever teach them.  This was pointed out to me several years ago when we were setting up the class and individual blogs.  We linked all the individual learning blogs to our main class ones and my class wanted to know why my own learning blog wasn't on the blog roll.  What was my answer?

I explained to them - very misguidedly it turns out - that I hadn't linked it because it was my professional learning blog and they probably wouldn't 'get' what I was reflecting on and blogging about.  What was their answer?

"But if you're a learner too then your blog should be on there as well.  We might not understand what's on there but it shows that you're part of our community of learners and you respect us enough to share it with us."

Hmmm.  They had a point and I decided that it was pretty arrogant of me - and a little hypocritical.  If I expected us all to be teachers and learners in our room but I wasn't prepared to put my money where my mouth was, so to speak.  That learning conversation had a profound impact on me.  We should never underestimate the power of modeling ourselves to our students as learners.

How old were these students?  9 and 10 years old.  Another Hmmmm moment in teaching and learning. It was also from this conversation that our class motto came about and it is something I live by to this day:

"We are all teachers and we are all learners in our room."

So... What are you going to do this term to show that you are learning alongside your students?

Shelly Terrell is an educator I would recommend you follow on Twitter, Facebook, and subscribe to her blog.  Her ideas are practical and her passion for teaching and learning inspirational.

The link above will take you to some outstanding opportunities for your professional learning this year.  I'd love to hear what you choose.  I'll also be choosing and reflecting and sharing my learning with my students.