Friday, 23 September 2011

Term I being to creative?

As I sit here on school holidays, I am reflecting on a fantastic brainwave that I had at the end of next term and wanted to get your feedback on my thought processes. As we enter Term 4 here in Australia, it always a challenge to keep my year seven students focused on learning. They are pumped up about entering high school next year and usually loose focus as the term progresses. I wanted to share two learning experiences that my kids will be undertaking throughout the term and get your thoughts on both of them.

We are doing a unit of work on Deforestation and everything that goes along with it. We have been looking at the Deforestaction project and been investigating some of the issues regarding Palm oil and various other things that go along with it. Obviously we are looking at the concept of sustainability and the kids have been really excited. One of our design tasks for this is to work in groups and make a chair out of cardboard. The students are very excited about this and are really looking forward to it. The only criteria is that the chair has to be able to hold a weight of 60kg for a substantial period of time. Below is a video of the type of things that we are looking for. They obviously have to demonstrate their thoughts during the design process and students have already come up with creative ways in which they are going to do that.

Another learning task that we are going to be doing is titled 'Robot Disco'. I have never been a big robotics man but an idea struck me in the craziest of places. In the last week of term three, I got a text message from my wife asking if I would work with a teacher from her school on her ICT Certificate. Being the exceptional husband that I am, I agreed and work with this teacher. When my wife told me that she would be in the computer lab after school, I got excited. When I walked in, I was more than excited! She was working with a team of 10 students after 3pm on Robotics Club. To be honest, I had never paid much attention to robotics. I knew that you could program stuff and make it happen but then a brainwave hit me: Holy crappoo.....this is curriculum! Why haven't I jumped on board this before? I was inspired by this teachers idea and decided that I was going to do something about it.

I went back to school the next day and talked to our fantastic libarian Nicola Flannagan who is a bit of a robotics expert. When I told her of my plan, she was as equally excited as me. At our school, we have never had anybody who has used it within the classroom as a curriculum task. It has always been a fun add on thing. Collaboratively, we decided that the task is going to be this simple:

Working in a teams of 3 (with one group of four) you are required to program a robot to perform a series of movements to a piece of music of your choice. Your robot must ‘dance’ and be able to perform commands to achieve a desired outcome of motion

I realise that that some of you may be thinking "Big deal!" but I truly think that this is. When I started to do some research into the mathematical concepts that the kids will be exposed to within this task, I think that they engagement level is going to be off the charts. If they can come up with anything like the video below, I will be a happy chappy!

I would love your feedback - feel free to leave me a comment.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

What is a MOOC? Am I crazy? #change11

Since I have moved my blog across to blogger, I must state that I am really happy with its functionality and ease of use. I love how it has just integrated everything so easily and as we speak I am laying on my grass at 11:46am using the Blogger app for my iPhone to create this post.

I am not sure if I am crazy or not but I have signed up to undertake a MOOC in the #change11 project. From what I can gather I can make this project basically be whatever I want it to be. I have been reading my daily emails and I must attempt to spend some quality time with my laptop and not my phone. I think this will allow me to grasp onto the concepts that underpin this course easily.

Would love to hear your thoughts - who will be the first to comment on my new site.

This is the view from my lawn today!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Authentic Learning / Authentic Audiences....what a crazy notion!

One of the biggest challenges that we all face is the way to make learning as authentic as we can. I am a big believer in authentic learning and to be honest, do not have much time for anything that does not relate to my kids world. The kids can even pick it now. One of the first things they ask me when we are investigating something new is ‘How does this relate to my world?’ Sometimes I find it hard to find an answer. The other day we were looking at classifying triangles (which I see is still part of the new national year seven mathematics curriculum….but we wont go there) and one of my kids said ‘Mr Proud, when am I going to use this?’ To be honest, I struggled to come up with an answer. I am also a big fan of the work that Alan November does and his whole notion about kids with authentic audiences and real world purpose, will be more engaged in the process of learning.

So where am I going with all of this mind dump? Over the past four weeks, my students have been playing the Australian Stock Exchange student game. For those who are not aware of what the game consists of, students are given $50 000 to invest into a list of 100 companies from the ASX over a ten week period. The object of the game is to make as much money as possible and there are actual prizes. The ASX does a great job providing a whole bunch of educational resources to help develop student understanding of these deep concepts.

Whilst I thought that the kids would get into this investigation, I have been blown away by the level of enthusiasm that they have demonstrated for the task. I have parents telling me that their children are going home and watching the final financial forecasts on the news and getting up early to watch Kochie on Sunrise to get any finance tips. They have been blogging about their experiences on the Learning Place and are currently writing their half way summary reports to be presented to the McDowall Millionares board to be assessed over the September break.
How does this relate to authentic learning? The amount of understanding that these kids are grasping onto through this investigation is unbelievable. Whilst I realise that I am in a perfect situation with 1-1 laptops, I have done something similar in a non 1-1 environment before. The kids basically beg me at 10am to let them work on it (as the market opens at 10am) and it is not unusual for kids to be sneaking a look at their portfolio during other learning times (of course I don’t encourage this…) and lunch times. We have one particular student who sees himself as a bit of a wheeler and dealer and he has made contact with a stock broker. He organised for our class to receive a daily email newsletter (worth about $500 / 4 months) for free outlining trading strategies. They are seeking out avenues and justifying their decisions along the way. It is authentic because they are learning about decision making, wealth creation and other various forms of things.

So if I could only make everything (including my triangle classification) authentic to my kids…..all of my battles would be won!

Do we have a professional obligation to share?

Ok people, I have a confession to make – My name is Ashley and I love sharing knowledge with others and having people share my knowledge with me. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, I was reflecting on this notion today.

People who know me know that I love to hear stories.  I love it when somebody shares something that they are doing in their classroom.  Even if I don’t think it ‘adds value’ to my life, it is still fun to hear.  I am also an ‘idea manipulator’.  I will see or hear about an idea that somebody else is implementing with their kids and modify it to suit my needs.

But my question is do we have a moral and professional obligation to share? I know that some people find this very difficult.  I feel that as educators we do.  We should be sharing out wealth of knowledge and resources to aid the wider educational community to have kids do great things.

I would be interested to hear people’s thoughts on this.

Ideas hit me in the craziest of places....

This is a blog that I posted on my employers internal blogging service.  I thought that I would share it with my wider PLN community to get your thoughts on my idea as well.  This could work people - how awesome would it to be to have a kid sitting in a class in China using a resource that a kid in Australia has created to help them with their learning.  I know I mention some specific tools that my employer provides but it should be easy enough to get going outside of my walled garden.  Kind of like a Kahn Academy but student driven.  Anyway, here it is.....

As I was being a diligent husband and hanging out the washing this morning, a thought came into my head.  As this thought took up a lot of brainpower, I didn’t have a lot of space left to think about much else and it kind of consumed my thought processes.  It was a beautiful day outside and I was totally consumed by this notion.

So what was it you asked? I was thinking about the new Learning Place and virtual spaces and how I could use them.  As you all know I am a huge fan of Alan November and his work around student created learning experiences and my man Eric Marcos from Mathtraintv.  My big catch phrase that I have been spouting out lately is ‘It’s all about the community of we, not the community of me!’  For some reason that got stuck in my head and an idea popped it.  It doesn’t happen very often and it was an exciting experience.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if kids could make videos on a range of educational topics that they were interested in?  Staff could add their ideas up to a common sharing place from around Queensland and kids (I know mine would) could create / research resources that could be used in classrooms to help other kids understand stuff? I know my kids would be keen to do this and it should be pretty easy in the new version of Learning Place to make this happen.

So does anybody else see value in this or is it just me dreaming up crazy stuff that will never work?

Home and Away: is it setting a good example for 21st century learning?

As those who follow me on Twitter are aware, one of my many addictive devices that I have is my love of reality television and old episodes of Home and Away and Sons and Daughters.  Some may love chocolate, others alcohol.  My weakness is 80's TV.  I am really a sad sad man.

The other day, my favourite Summer Bay High Principal (Donald Fisher) was delivering a lesson to his class.  All of his students were sitting in rows and facing the front.  He was reading directly out of a text book and the kids were not engaged or interacting with him at all.  As I was watching this occur, my first thought was "Geez these kids look bored," and my second thought was "Shane Roberts would have a nervous breakdown if he had to teach in these conditions!"  On Friday, one of my students came to me and said “You would have hated teaching at Summer Bay High Mr Proud.”  When I asked Jack why, he simply said to me “Because everything is so unlike what we do here in 7D1”

Like many others, I also enjoyed the show Summer Heights High, which aired on the ABC a couple of years ago.  For those who haven't seen this comedy, Summer Heights High is a Logie Award-winning[1] Australian television mockumentary series written by and starring Chris Lilley. It is a parody of high school life epitomised by its three protagonists: effeminate and megalomaniacal "Director of Performing Arts" Mr G; self-absorbed, privileged teenager Ja'mie King; and disobedient, vulgar Tongan student Jonah Takalua. All played by Lilley, the characters never interact. It lampoons Australian high school life and many aspects of the human condition and is filmed in a documentary style, with non-actors playing supporting characters.  One of the main characters in this show was Jonah.  Jonah unfortunately had learning difficulties and special needs.  He was regularly shown working in group situations which enabled his learning to successfully take place due to the fact that his learning style was catered for.  Jonah’s culture heritage was acknowledged and things were put in place to enable him to learn if he wanted to.

But I digress.  Everything about Summer Bay High from Home and Away, smacks of traditional schooling.  Even now, in 2011, their classrooms are still the same in design and feel as it was back in the mid 80’s.  The characters have changed but the rooms have not.

When will the producers of Home and Away get aboard the transformationallearning bandwagon and start demonstrating the good practice that 21st century teachers deliver?  I have never seen a piece of technology in a Summer Bay High School classroom, not even the trusty old overhead projector!  They really ar

How much longer can we deny kids opportunities?

So to those people who know me or have read some of my blog entries, you are aware that I am a very student centred type of a teacher.  I want my kids to be active participants in their learning journey, not just passive receipents.  I also do not want my skills or lack of understanding of certain concepts or ways of learning to influence the 25 young minds that I am responsible for throughout 2011. 

So what am I up on my soapbox about?  Like every teacher, I have my strengths and weaknesses and I am very open about my weaknesses.  I am the least creative person in the world and anybody that has any creativity inspires me.  I try and provide my kids with different types of creative experiences and make the 'boring stuff' fun.  For example, one of our tasks last week was to use Toondoo to create cartoons of the definitions of our spelling words.  These were then placed into a wiki within our Virtual Classroom. This week we are going to use the same logic but create movies.  I am realy looking forward to seeing what they come up with.  


But what about the kids in the other classes around me?  Are they getting the same learning experiences? When I talk to people about my classroom and my style of teaching, I use the saying 'hook to capture' often.  Using technology is not always the best solution to get kids to understand concepts but if it works, am I not doing an injustice to the students under my direction?

Last year I worked collobratively on a poetry unit of work with Arlene Smerherst.  I openly admit that I am not great at teaching poetry and was able to have Arlene work virtually with my children and use her expertise and skill set to increase my students understanding.  This process really excites me and things like the Kahn Academy (video blow) floats my boat. 

So my question is: why can't we have a community of learning where kids are responsible for accessing 'experts' (eg teachers) to help them along there learning journey and how can we encourage teachers and students to be a part of this?

Enjoy the video

My students are trying to make a difference to the world that they live in....

Quick note: I have been very neglectful of this blog and will get back into it.  I appreciate all the feedback that I have been given.  I am now looking for your help.

If you have read any of my previous blogs or follow me on Twitter, I am all about kids and learning and making connections to the world that they live in.  My kids have inspired me and motivated me already this year and my group in my 1-1 laptop class were awesome. 

Like every man and his dog who teaches years 3,5,7 or 9 we are madly trying to get the kids ready for the NAPLAN test.  If you have been living under a rock for the past year, you would not be aware that the writing genre for this year is a persuasive text.  I must admit that I am a bit uncomfortable with this genre.  I had built up my skillset in teaching the narrative genre (of course I don't teach for the test - insert snigger here) and was very confident in teaching its elements and getting the job done.  Persuasion on the other hand has been a different matter. 

We have been exposing the kids to as many different forms of persuasive texts and getting them to do the usual deconstruct / reconstruct / improve / analyse / create / panic / have a go type of things.  We have been texts about various things such as school uniforms, homework and the interesting topic of 'Should Australia have capital punishment?' There work has been fantastic so far.

We are doing a unit of work on government.  The other day I had one of those 'light bulb' moments when I said "This is getting boring - how can we link it to the kids world?"  After pondering that question for about 5 minutes (it takes me that long to process things) I came up with the idea that the kids could write about a relevant government issue that they are passionate about and email a member of parliament about their concerns trying to persuade them to see their point of view.  We created a wiki within our virtual classroom and the kids created new pages and wrote out their persuasive text.  Other students from within our learning environment then read each others work and provided feedback on areas in which they could be improved upon.  It worked brilliantly!

Whilst this was a fantastic opportunity, I still thought it was a little bland.  Then yesterday as we were walking around Parliament House, one of my darlings said "Mr Proud, we could create an online petition about our issue and get people to sign it.  Our arguement would have more strength if more people agreeded with us?"  I thought it was an awesome idea and set the wheels in motion to make it work.

We learnt yesterday at Parliament House that anybody can create a petition within the government website and have it published there.  I thought that this was the solution but upon further investigation, I realised that it was a complicated and hard process.  I told the kids and they were a bit down.  They were all pumped up and really looking forward to creating a significant difference to the world that they live in.

Then another brainwave hit me - I remembered the awesome presentation that Kristine Kolpekine presented at last years eLearning conference and I signed a petition to get her grandfather recognised as a significant person.  I simply 'stole' her idea and manipulated and made it my own.  My kids used a free online petition creation tool and we used it in a safe and ethical manner. 

Then we started to brainstorm ways of increasing our 'value' to our petition eg how can we get more people to see it.  Various ideas such as signing each others, asking teachers to sign them.  One kid then said "I am going to email this to my dad and get everybody at his work to sign it!"  Others thought that this was a brilliant idea and I even heard the dreaded Facebook word being mentioned by some kids under their breath. 

Below is links to my kids petitions.  If it is not to much to ask, could you please take 5 - 10 minutes and add your signatures / leave a comment at the end of as many as you can.  They really are trying to make a difference!

Please note: obviously everybody has not finished this yet and I will edit the list as it is updated.  I really appreciate the fact that you are taking some time to read them and add 'value' to their idea.  They have loved this tasked and worked really well. 

Nothing like trying to make a difference to the world that we live in! If you could leave me a comment below, that would be appreciated as well. it really evil?

imagesSo I like so many of us out there have just about had enough of being presented with something on a screen and having it read word for word to me.  It is really an insult on my intelligence as I am:
  1. 34 years old and can read
  2. Quite well educated (I went to university)
  3. Easily bored and distracted.
There have been so many occasions when I have been to a seminar or presentation, and the person at the front flashes up a slide full of text and then proceeds to read it word for word off the screen.  What are they thinking?  Do they think that I can not read?  I may be not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I am capable of reading.  One of the first things that I said to my kids this year was 'PowerPoint is evil - use it wisely'.  We thought that we had found a solution in Prezi but my employer decided to block it (and rightfully so if the terms and conditions state it is for use by over 18 years) and we were stuck.  The reliance of the 'right click generation' on Powerpoint is huge and I am constantly trying to steer kids away from using it.

We have a lull in time between genres.  At the start of this term, we were working on poetry and it was an outstanding success.  Later on this term we will be working on Argumentative Essay writing (which the kids seem to enjoy) and have a period of time at our school where we come up with different genres to explore.

I really wanted to get the kids writing 'Choose Your Own Adventures' stories that I used to love as a kid.  When I asked the kids if they have ever wrote one, the blank faces staring back at me from my digital natives were concerning.  We explored some examples of these stories and the kids started to get into it.  Of course they wanted to produce it digitally and I had a brain wave at the exact time as one of my kids.

"Mr Proud - you are always telling us that Powerpoint is evil but couldn't we use it to create hyperlinks between slides and produce our stories using it?" one of them asked.  I thought about it for a minute and stated "Yes that sounds good."  As quick as a flash one of my bright sparks pipped up with "Didn't you tell us that PowerPoint was evil?  You must have been wrong.  It can't be evil if we can use it in this way!"  I quickly climbed back into my hole and mumbled something under my breath about being a content creator and get on with your work.

So there you go - my personal journey into this evil land is happening as we speak.  I will share some of the examples with you when they are finished.  Their planning looks fantastic and they are taking great joy in proving me wrong.

Is PowerPoint evil?  Not in this circumstance........I guess!

PLN - Is it a personal learning network or a professional one?

personal_social_networkOver the past week I attended the outstanding eLearning expo at the Gold Coast Convention Centre. I was lucky enough to be presenting a session with Arlene Smertherst on some work we did on our poetry unit within my classroom which was an outstanding success. The conference ran over two days and due to my family situation it was not possible for me to go down on the Sunday night. I drove from Brisbane to the Gold Coast on Monday morning and left on Tuesday afternoon (before the outstanding closing key note address from Jess Oram and Adrian Greig) and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.

As stated in an earlier blog post, I journeyed into the world of Twitter just over 12 months ago and first heard about this term PLN. It really excited me that I could colloborate with educators from all around the world. Last year I was relatively new to the world of PLN and walked around the conference like a deer in the headlights. Over lunch I didn't network with anybody but tweeted a whole bunch. As I entered my final session with Shane Roberts and Jonathon Nalder I sheepishly introduced myself and was pleased to find out that they knew who I was and were warm and welcoming. My next experience with 'face to face' colloboration was with Joseph Perkins, when I had the oppportunity to go up and visit his 1-1 laptop program.  I was also pleased to find that he was a 'real person' and not just a figment of my imagination. 

I was really jealous that some of my PLN got together on the Sunday night before this years expo and was hoping to meet most of my PLN and made sure that I registered for sessions that some of them were running.  Shane came strolling past me early on Monday morning with Kathleen MACCOLL , Tanya SUTTON and Jodie Reik.  After the inital introductions, I felt very comfortable and we started talking like old friends.  It was actually a really weird experience and one that I enjoyed.

But as the two days progressed a key question entered my mind: was I have a professional learning network experiene or was it a personal learning one?  Or was it a combination of them both?  I problary am learning towards the second one.  I 'hung out' with my PLN over breakfeast, lunch and dinner but our converstaions over lunch about learning and pedagogy and it was stimulating and thought provoking.  I personally wouldn't have changed it for the world.  Actually I would have.  I would have made a firm commitment with my PLN about on ongoing commitment to each other (it sounds like a wedding proposal) and our professional learning journey together.  As Tanya put so elequently in her latest blog post, networking allows for so many more fantastic learning and professional experiences to occur. 

Just remember people - a colloborative marathon people will go quicker than an isolated 100m sprint!

The Creativity Of Some People

People being creative really amazes me, as I believe that I am the least creative person in the world.  Those who follow this blog are aware that I am a podcast tragic and one that I regularly look forward to is The EdTech Crew.  Last week they were lucky enough to have Eric Rosenbaum who works on some exciting projects at MIT.  I was truly amazed at his work.  If you haven't already listened to the latest podcast, make sure that you do.  Here is a YouTube clip of one of his latest ideas:

Virtually Attending Conferences Via Twitter - Is It Effective?

Recently (as in the past 6 months or so) I have become more aware of the power of Twitter in regards to back channeling at conferences.  For those people who aren't aware of what back chaneling is, my basic definition is people who are 'live' at an event providing countless tweets to us poor souls who are unable to attend.  These tweets provide non attenders with a feeling of actually being at the events and having an understanding of what is going on.  When used in conjuction with tools such as UStream, non attenders can virtually be experiencing the same learning opportunities as the people at the conferences.  But the key question is - Is it the same?

old-woman-using-laptopThe reason that I thought that I would write this blog post is due to the fact that over the past couple of days, my Tweetdeck (which I love using and it is painful that it isn't running well at the moment) has been straining under the number of # tag columns that I have been putting in it.  #Slide2Learn, #QSITE2010, #ISTE10 have joined my usual #eqelearn and #masterchef columns in providing me with so much content that it isn't fun.  The #ISTE10 stream was actually out of control.  So many links were passing by me at a rapid rate.  I think that I added around 10 new blogs to my iGoogle (see my previous entry about my excitement) and activated my Diigo account and put it to work to bookmark some great content that I will use with my class this term.  I also joined the Slide2Learn Ning, QSITE Ning and ISTE Ning.  It really has been a busy couple of days!

But getting back to my key question - is it the same.  By the sounds of it, some attendees at ISTE10 actually didn't go into key note addresses (and their has been a lot of thoughts about the opening key note and its lovely PowerPoint presentation) and sat outside and tweeted it up.  I have to question this.  If you could not get into the venue (eg it was sold out) that is one thing but I still would rather be there.  I know last year that I missed out on the first day of eLearning Innovation Expo due to the fact that I had to attend 5 days of compulsory literacy training.  I was only able to attend the second day.  I loved the tweet stream from the first day, but nothing actually beat being there.  I am really looking forward to this years eLearning Innovation Expo and am super excited that I am going to be actually meeting some of my PLN in person.  I love how the tweet stream from these conferences 'adds value' to content being provided by discussing points of view and providing links but I think that I would prefer to actually be there.

In summary, back channeling has revolutionized the way that content is provided at conferences and feedback for presenters.  If it is adding value, I think that it really is fantastic.  But I think that it is an easy decision - if you can be there, nothing would be better.

RSS Feeds.....Oh How I Have Missed You

(Quick note: sorry for the length of time between posts - I know that my fans have missed me.  I have been super slack and won't let it happen again)

rssAround 12 months ago, I found out about a thing that changed the way that I interact with the internet and find resources.  That was just a little thing called Twitter.  Under the advice of an educator that I have never meet (Mr Robbo) I signed up for this thing and jumped aboard the PLN train.  I have a bit of an addictive personality (as outlined in a previous post about my podcasting addiction) and started to become amazed at how easy it was to find out about new things from educators all around the world.

Whilst I still believe in the power of the PLN, recently I have been thinking about revisiting an old friend and its name is iGoogle.  In my BT world (before Twitter) I used to live and die by my iGoogle feeds.  I remember with excitement reading a post from Sue Waters at the Edubloger about this exciting thing called RSS and how it would bring content to your rather than you having to open each website individually and hope to god that you haven't wasted your time.  I was amazed by this and really thought that it was amazing.  I added so many things to my feeds, it was ridicioulus.  I have the usual feeds about sport, school etc but I also added stuff about Harry Potter (which is really sad for a 34 year old grown man)

But then Twitter hit and I started to become amazed by how much information was passing by my finger tips every day.  I thought 'Who cares about RSS when I have Twitter?'  I lost track of my feeds and they just sat there.  I actually deleted a whole bunch because I arrogantly thought that Twitter would do the trick for me and I wouldn't need it anymore.

But recently I have been thinking about my feeds and due to Twitter, I am constantly adding new people to my PLN and they are posting links to their blogs.  I really want to go and revisit some of their old work and it is fantastic.  But what happens if I loose something in the 'Tweet Stream'?  I had a revelation in my head (it doesn't happen often but when it does it is quite profound) and decided that if I liked their thoughts, I would add their feed to my iGoogle.  It has been an empowering decision and I am glad that I have made it.  I actually now have so many blogs from following # tags on Twitter (and a blog will come out about that soon) that I had to 'sub categorise' my 'School Stuff' tab into smaller sections.

I am glad that I have found you again iGoogle - I will never leave you out in the cold again!

Blog Commenting....The Hardest Part About Living In A Web2.0 World

I am the first to admit, that I blog a lot with my kids.  It is a part of our regular day and a vital part of getting feedback from them about what they know and how they are going.  I almost make it compulsary for them to comment on each others blogs and particularly mine.  They generally do a good job at adding comments, but the quality of their feedback is often lacking.

So the other day, I posed the question to them: "Why do we find commenting so hard?"  I got some really interesting feedback from 'Well i think that we find it hard because we have to read it and then think about what we are going to say. Some of us comment really well, but others just do not enjoy it or think that it is to hard,' to 'I agree that people think commenting is hard becuase they don't want to hurt others. I try not to offend anyone because I always finish my comments with something posistive.'  This one was my favourite 'I think I know why people don't want to comment is because they either can't be bothered or maybe they are scared of you because of your deep loud voice.'  Lucky that kids was only joking!

So is it just me or is commenting really hard?  I know that I constantly lurk and read but struggle sometimes to add productive information to the usual outstanding pieces of information that is presented to me.  I stuggle to add value and don't want to sound like an idiot by just saying 'I agree David' or 'Awesome post'.  If I contribute, I really want to add value to the bloggers entry.  If I can't add value, I just don't feel right adding.

So isn't the whole purpose of web 2.0 to contribute and share?  Is it just me or do others feel this way?

Leave me a comment (ha ha) outlining your thoughts on this importa

Transformative Learning and How It Relates To My Context

transformativeAs some of the readers of this blog may be aware, I am currently undertaking the exciting journey which is called the Digital Pedagogy Advanced License which my employer encourages through it's Smart Classrooms Professional Development Framework.  As a part of this journey, we are required to do certain things each week and produce a portfolio of evidence outlining projects which show leadership in the field of ICT within the wider educational community.

Our task this week was to explore Transformative Learning.  We had a series of readings / videos that we needed to consider and reflect upon them within our particular context.  One of the base readings that we needed to consider was Shane Roberts summary of his understandings of this concept.  Within his synopsis, Shane outlines interpretation of the major aspects of the underpinning concepts behind Transformative Learning.  They are:
  1. Learners learning to think for themselves.
  2. Freedom from unquestioning acceptance (negotiation of learning, practice and assessment).
  3. Teacher as a model learner.
  4. Reflection.
Within my particular context as a year 7 teacher in a 1-1 laptop environment, I can easily identify some of those aspects that I embed into my class on a daily basis easily, whilst others are quite difficult.  The biggest challenge that I have had with my students this year is the concept of reflection.  It just seems as though this important aspect of student learning has not been focused on and questions such as 'Why are we bothering with this Mr Proud?' or 'Are you serious?' were commonly heard in my classroom at the start of the year.  Now, reflective processes are incorporated often and the feedback from the students is that it actually helps them think more about what they did and how they would do it better next time. 

The other concept that my learners are working hard to develop is learners learning to think for themselves.  As I stated in an earlier blog post, I feel that throughout most of my primary educational career (wish I made some money out of it!) I was a passive recipient of content / information and the educator in front of me was the 'Grand Pooba' and his / her word was right.  Once again, I was surprised at the start of the learning journey with my kids this year on the lack of higher order thinking skills my students possessed.  I have always encouraged my kids to explain themselves, ask questions and enquire about concepts covered within our learning environment.  My students are now starting to develop these thinking skills but it has been a very hard slog. 


Jodie Riek left an interesting comment on Shane's blog entry about Transformative Learning.  She stated:

'As an early years teacher, I truly believe that we teach kids out of being self thinking and risk taking learners'. 

She also adds:

'They want to EXPERIENCE the answers. They want to think for themselves, come up with theories, test them out, and discover results. They want to learn by doing. But somewhere early in their journey of learning in the school system we train them out of this innate need to experience the answers and we mould them to understand and perform as required in our system.' 

I found Jodie's comments very insightful.  Learners enter the school system eager to tackle the world and believe that they can solve / figure out anything.  At the beginning of each year, I openly encourage students to take risks and I truly believe that this is the best way that we learn.  Our practical example of this is the use of ICT within my class.  For some tools / software items, I just say to my kids 'Go for it, figure it out and then teach me' is such a powerful learning experience for my kids.  They learn by doing, not just passively watching me demonstrate concepts at the front of the room. 

Having students experience solutions to problems is such a powerful experience for both the student and the teacher.  The teacher feels enriched because the students 'get it' and they are engaged.  The student is feeling like they are on top of the world and eager to learn, which is half of the battle one.

In summary, Transformative Learning has a place in a primary school classroom but traditional expectations of primary school students need to change for it to be effectively implemented.  If we keep have the same expectations of students, a transformation of practice will never take place and we will be failing to prepare the students under our guidance for the journey called life!

Excuse my rambling on with my thoughts.  I really need to nut this out further. is a real addiction!

podcastOkay.  Before we begin, I have a confession to make:

My name is Ashley and I am a podcastholic.  I am addicted to them and my life is so so much different now that they are in it.  How could I live without them? 

Now that is off my chest, lets begin to discuss one of my favourite forms of listening to audio - podcasting.  My journey with podcasting only began a couple of years ago.  Before I knew about them, I thought that the only way you could access podcasts were by downloading them to your iPod or mp3 player.  I had neither, so I didn't worry about this new trend and thought that it would either: a) go away and fade into nothingness or b) I would eventually figure it out and decide to explore it.

Two years ago, I made the big step.  I was over at a friends house and they had iTunes on their laptop.  I was looking at it and they were exploring how they had access to audio content, not just their own music or music they purchased.  I thought that this was pretty cool and decided that I would jump into the iTunes world and downloaded it to my laptop.  I thought I would check out the 'Podcasts' section and hunt around and see what I could get for free.

The very first podcast that I subscribed to was Hamish and Andy.  I thought that this was fantastic because I got to listen to these two guys (who crack me up) without being having advetisements or music interupting my listening pleasure.  This was fantastic and I was well 0n my way to becoming addicted.  Then I decided to venture in and look for some podcasts on another thing that I enjoy - Harry Potter!  hpIt is very sad that a 33 year old man loves Harry Potter so much.  I think that I have read the books over 20 times.  The first podcast that I got into was called Mugglecast.  It was basically a whole bunch of people sitting around talking about Harry Potter.  This was fantastic to me.  I finally realised that I wasn't alone and my addiction to the world of Harry Potter was shared by others.  Then some how I stumbled upon the world of Harry Potter fan fiction.  Fan Fiction is an interesting concept and I was a bit sceptical at first.  I then stumbled upon Spell Cast - the ultimate Harry Potter Fan Fiction Site.  It was awesome.  I didn't even have to read the story, it just came through to my computer.  Finally, I looked into basketball podcasts (another passion of mine) and found out that there was an awesome Australian basketball podcast called 'The OT - with DJ Rod and John Rillie'.  This was heaven to me.  My world was becoming more complete. 

Then a brain wave hit me (they happen about once a year!) Would there be any educational podcasts out there that I could use to aid my teaching or stimulate / give me new ideas?  At first, I was disappointed.  I found lots of things under 'Education' but nothing overly relevant to me and my setting.  A lot of the podcasts that I found were very American and I was just about to give up. 

Then I stumbled upon two podcasts that I follow religiously and do not miss an episode.  The first one was Ed Tech Crew with hosted by Darrel Branson (The ICT Guy) and Tony Richards from They discuss all things digital in education – technologies, issues, great websites, web 2.0 and much, much more!  The thing that I love about it is that they content they cover  is relevant and they have guests who are usually real teachers from out in the field. 

The second one that I found was The Virtual Staffroom hosted by Chris Betcher.  Chris states the purpose of his site is to provide those of us involved in educating young people with the opportunity to engage in conversation and dialogue which explores the impacts that these new technologies will have on our classrooms.  I really enjoy listening to his podcasts as well.

I have used podcasting extensively with my kids in class and I will share my thoughts on that at a later date.  Just remember - next time you suspect somebody is a 'Podcastholic' be sympathetic towards them.  It is a real disease! 

Please leave a comment below.  I am interested on finding out some more educational blogs and would love to add them to my iTunes account!


The Challenge That Lies Ahead

challengeSo as a new term dawns after Easter, I am once again in charge of 24 eages year 7 students who are attempting to make meaning of the world that they live in.  They were are so eager to get back to school (I had students emailing me during the holidays telling me that they had found this blog and it was to 'wordy' for them to read!) and it was great to see that they all are eager and as engaged in their learning after the holidays. 

But a number of significant challenges face the class (and me!) over the next term.  The biggest challenge that we have to face is the hot topic in education at the moment - NAPLAN!  For those who have been out of the loop, please check out this article.  This is not really the forum for to be outling my personal views on this topic, but I will still be preparing my students using various resources such as this one so that they can achieve the best possible results that they are capable of. 

In one of my previous posts, Joseph Perkins left a detailed and thought provoking comment.  He stated:
What are your goals going to be for Term 2? What do you hope to achieve by the end of the year? How do you know when you get there?
He also went on to say:
There is so much you could focus on, perhaps it’s best to really drill down into one aspect of eLearning (in alignment with what your vision is) and get that right.
This detailed comment (and I really thank him for it!) really got me thinking.  I feel that during term 1 we did a lot of things really well but we could have done certain things better. 

For example, in the last two weeks of term 1, we worked really hard to provide students with flexible learning opportunties that put them in charge of when they did things.  They need to engage with various forms of digital content, work offline, work together and work through simple board work 'drill and practice' tasks.  This concept, whilst simple in nature, really blew the kids away.  I told them that it really doesn't matter what order they do things in, as long as they get the job done. 

Another aspect that I want to drill further into is the concept of flexible assessment.  Our major piece of assessment this term requires students to produce an educational resource on their favourite SOSE topic - government.  You should have heard the groans when I told them that we would be doing it.  Last year, some of my students produced some great assessments showing their understanding of concepts covered throughout the unit.  I think the students from this year will take it a step further.  I have already had a number of kids ask me if they could produce a podcast (watch out for my next blog entry on my podcast obsession) or design webpages.  I am looking forward to what they are going to produce.

So I guess that the fun has just begun!

Why do we bother with this technology stuff?


 There is a lot of resistance to change in teaching as I am of the pesonal opinon that we are all control freaks in our own ways.  I know that I certainly am and like things to be done in certain ways.  In my previous blog post, I outlined what I have learnt throughout this term and how the journey in my 1-1 environment has been going so far.  As I am sitting here on a pupil free day, I guess the questions that many of my peers in the staff room is 'Why are we bothering with using technology in our classrooms?  Can't we achieve quality educational outcomes without the bother?  Is there any computer stuff on NAPLAN?  Why bother then?'

My journey with ICT in my class has been ongoing process that is constantly evolving and changing.  My answer to all of these questions come back to this key message: We need to educate 21st century kids using 21st century methods for the 21st century.  If we do not do this, my opinion is that we are failing to give kids the skill set that they need to function as a productive member of society now and in the future.  That certainly is a mouthful but I truly belive that this is to be the case.  Our Digial Natives deserve the best learning experiences that can be delivered and they don't know any different. 

This does not mean that I think we should 'chuck away' all of the old methods.  As a 33 year old man, I was educated in an environment that was not very technology rich.  I remember the first time that I saw an old 'Overhead Projector' and my teacher pulled out an OHT and projected it up onto the big screen.  As a 7 year old, this was the most amazing thing that I had ever seen.  I remember 'ROTE' learning number facts etc and this whilst it was a boring experience, I still learnt.  But was I an active participant in my learning?  The answer to that question is 'sort of'.  I had some fantastic teachers who inspired me but I was a passive recipent of information and reliant upon the person at the front of the room providing me with the 'stuff' I needed to survive and thrive in the world that I lived in.

So why do I bother?  I bother because I feel that I have a responsibility to the students to prepare them for the world that they live in.  I feel that technology enhances the learning experiences of students and motivates them to question / reflect / investigate their environment.  The reluctant students in my class seem to engage better in their learning by using technology.  If technology wasn't integrated across all key learning areas, I am positive that they would not attempt to participate in the classroom environment at all.  I am sure that they would disengage and look for avenues to vent their frustrations. 

Technology helps engage and empower all students (even the reluctant ones!) and we need to look after our 21st century learners to the best of our abilities. 

Feel free to add a comment. 






An exciting term through the eyes of of a 1-1!

3922559924_79851c55d9_mAs I sit here on the last Friday night of my school holidays, I reflect thoughtfully (which is a skill in itself) on the term that my class has had in our new learning environment.  At the start of term 2 last year, I began to investigate the possibility of setting up a 1-1 class at my new school.  I was new at the school last year and was not overly sure how well this would go down with my colleagues / administration.  After looking at the fantastic 21 steps document produced by my employer (note: great sucking up!) and talking to a teacher of a year 7 class at a nearby school (Arlene Smertherst) it was decided that our school was going to take the plunge and dive into the world of 1-1 computing in the primary school.  All systems were 'go' and we were going to implement this in 2010.

Various other things came up throughout 2009, and around half way through term 4 (October) it looked as if it wasn't going to go ahead.  An expression of interest was sent home to parents and my principal warned me that he didn't think that it was 'going to get up'.  I began to get disenchanted and prepared myself for the worse.  I then went of paternity leave for 5 days and came back to school to a pleasant surprise.  Out of our 90 odd year 7 students, over 60 had applied to be a part of the program.  Now our principal decides that we are going to have two classes in year 7 involved in 1-1 learning. 

So our year begins and our kids receive their laptops and they are so excited.  My fellow teachers on my year level were very supportive but there was some apprehension from other staff members.  One actually said "I would love to do it but I don't know if I could use it enough to make it worthwhile."  I just smiled at this comment and thought to myself "Got to love teaching in the 21st century!"

2999658229_47fc4ea0c1_mSo what have I learnt throughout this term in 1-1 environment?

So many things that I already believed in were reinforced and it was amazing to see the risks that some of my kids took.  The hardest thing that the students have had to adapt to was the fact that they were more in control of their learning and had flexibility to demonstrate their understanding in lots of different ways.  One example is that we did a science experiment early on in the term and I asked the students to demonstrate their understanding of the experiment however they wanted.  They all were a bit dazed for a moment (it was kind of freaky actually) and then a light bulb switched on.  I received very different pieces of work all getting to the same destination (note to self: a new blog entry - does it matter how we get to the destination?)

I have also had reinforced that technology is a very engaging tool for learners if you can tap into what works for them.  If I use the analogy of a piano player playing the guitar, it is going to be ugly and not a lot of fun.  If learning is not engaging, authentic and meaningful to students, then we are going to struggle to get to them excited to learn.  I realise that engagement is not the 'be all and end all' of 1-1 learning but boy does it help!  My students regularly come into the room before school starts and students emailing me throughout the holidays and uploading items to their blogs. 

So has 1-1 learning lived up to its hype so far?  My definitive answer is yes and much much more!  I can only see the learning experiences of my students improving as we try and implement more flexible learning situations.  If I can be inspired by the great work of educators such as Shane Roberts and Joseph Perkins, my kids will receive the quality educational outcomes they deserve (and hopefully go well on everybody's favourite test: NAPLAN!)

One final thing: thanks to everyone who left a comment on my previous entry.  I am looking for feedback.  I am enjoying using Twitter as a means of spreading the word.  Comments just inspire me to keep on going.

Welcome to the revolution.....

flowerSo I have been wanting to start blogging for a while.  I have been extremely hesitant to get started but I decided that I couldn't wait any longer.  For those who follow me on Twitter, they know that i am extremely active on the 'Tweet Stream' and am a big believer in the power of the PLN and how it can help us achieve what we are employed to do - quality educational outcomes for the students that we educate.  Before I had discoverd the world of Twitter, I used to follow a number of blogs via RSS (which I got the idea from Sue Waters and the Edublogger) and the sheer volume of information that I could access in my own way amazed me.  As my Twitter journey has continued, I have decied to reconnect with my RSS feeds and in turn blog my own journey.  What an exciting journey it has been and will continue to be.                                                           

So how did I come up with the title for my blog?  Over the past three years, all teachers in Education Queensland have undertaken (or will undertake) compulsary literacy training.  One afternoon, I was talking to my neighbour across the road (who is also a teacher) who was doing her literacy training at a different venue.  We were comparing our training and what we had got out of it.  I realised that Jonathon Nalder, a very prolific blogger / tweeter was at the same venue.  I mentioned to her that he was there.  Her response was "Oh, he is one of THOSE people!".  I was a bit stunned by that comment and then realised what she was talking about.  He was a digital immigrant living in the digital natives world trying to engage 21st century kids using 21st century methods.  I then informed her that I was one of THOSE people as well and our conversation came to a polite end.

I am thinking about using this space in many different ways.  I will use it to report on some of the things my kids are doing in class, look at web 2.0 tools and their possible uses in the classroom and reflect on my lifelong learning journey. 

Let the fun begin!