Monday, 31 October 2011

How does sound affect our kids learning?

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Yutaka Tsutano

I am a bit of a rebel.  I let kids in my class listen to music when they are working sometimes (actually it is more often than sometimes) and they really enjoy it.  In my opinion, it gives the kids an opportunity to focus and stay on task easier.  It also eliminates distractions provided by the noise of a general classroom.  Whilst I wouldn't let them listen to music of their choice (Justin Beiber is finally being phased out) all of the time, in my professional opinion it has increased productivity within my classroom environment.

Last night, the fantastic Steve Lang put out his latest edition of his email newsletter Idea A Day.   He goes through phases where he looks at different areas and this week he is looking at TED Talks.  Like everybody, I always enjoy a good TED Talk and have been inspired and motivated by them.  There are some amazing  people out there trying to change the world and it is great to hear from them in a short sharp 5 - 10 minute segment.

Julian Treasure is the chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises worldwide businesses on how to use sound.  He asks us to pay attention to the sounds that surround us.  How do they make us feel?  I have been thinking about this concept for a while and was so glad when this video came across my stream.  I think that some of the messages that he talks about can apply to education.  Watch the video below and then see my thoughts below on how it applies to education.

In this TED Talk (that I really enjoyed) he outlines the four ways that sound affects us.  The 4 ways were: physiological, psychological, cognitive and behavioral.  I found that whilst I was watching this and he was talking about business, I was thinking 'Um....Education!'  If we can use sound to create an environment that kids are comfortable and familiar with, surely their productivity / learning / engagement must increase.  I am no researcher and have nothing to back up my thoughts but I would think that this would be the case.

I loved the graphic where he talks about that work productivity in open plan offices decreases by 66%.  Whilst I realize that there will be studies out there to dispute this, I thought it was interesting in regards to modern education.  A lot of the models out there show classrooms / work spaces that are big open planned spaces with lots of activity and of course on task noise.  I personally believe that kids still need opportunities to 'focus in' within these environments and if we are smart, educators will grasp onto the power of sound to increase the learning of their students.

As per normal, I would love to hear your thoughts.  

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Google+....will it help me?

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Abdulsalam Haykal
For those who have been living under a rock lately, you would have not heard of Google+ and the fantastic opportunities it provides for you to network with other people, I hope that this link helps you.  I am not going to make this a blog post about Google+, but I am going to talk about one of the tools that educators could you to collaborate professionally in an interactive way. 

When I heard about Google+, I wasn’t (and I still aren’t) sure where it was going to fit into my scheme I things.  I use Facebook to keep up with the latest gossip with my friends, I use Twitter to interact with educators on a professional basis (and a bit of Darth Vader and Lord Voldermont for light humour) and I use the Learning Place to keep up with my Education Queensland stream.  Like a sheep, I joined and created an account.  I started to ‘circle’ people and it was going ok.  I think that whilst this tool will never replace Twitter, it is a place that you can network with like minded professional people.
So everything was going fine and then I heard about this thing could a Google Hangout.  My definition of this experience was is that it is like Skype on steroids.  During the September holidays, I was lucky enough to participate in one.  I didn’t even think about recording the conversation but upon further reflection I should have.  How awesome would it be to interact with a group of people and record it for future reference or share your conversation / thoughts with others around the world on a particular topic?  The possibilities are almost endless. 

Below is a video explaining / demonstrating how the tool works and here is a link from Mashable on some tools that you could use to record your Hangouts (or any other screen capturing)  I truly feel that this could revolutionise the way people interact with their PD and each other.  How awesome would it to have a group of educators debating / sharing ideas with each other, have that video recorded and share with the wider world?

In regards to #change11, I would love to use this with a group of educators to keep me 'on track'.  I am really struggling keeping up with the workflow and would love to hear if people are already using this to interact and reflect.  It would be great if they already were and I could just 'join in' but I would be willing to start one if others were keen.  If you are keen, please let me know by leaving me a comment.  I would also be interested to hear your thoughts about this tool.  

Blog 7 of 33 DONE!


10 Things To Do To Improve As An Educator...should we bother?

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by John Morton

My good friend and colleague Jodie Reik is an avid user of digital technology and is constantly looking for ways to shake up people’s thoughts about education and the general systems that we live in.  Yesterday her latest blog post came across my stream and it was titled 10 Things You Can Do To Improve Yourself As An Educator.  Since she is such an inspiration to me, I thought I would give her the justice of responding to her blog with a blog. 

Jodie outlined ten simple things that you could do as an educator to improve.  Those ten things were: reflect, review, re-boot, read, respond, recall, respect, receive, reconnect and reach.  On a first glance, I thought “Yep I do a lot of those” but upon further thought, I could do much better. I am not going to analyise each and every one of her ten tips but I am going to touch upon a few of them. 

I am constantly looking for ways to reflect on my practice.  I internalise a lot of my reflections and attempt to share them with the wider community through various mediums such as this blog and Twitter.  We ask our kids to ‘reflect’ a lot upon what they do but my question is Do we actually do this enough as educators?  I agree with Jodie’s statement when she said that reflection is the key to personal and professional growth.  How can we change and improve when we don’t even think about what we are doing?  It is easy to always do what you have always done.  But it is difficult to try and change and improve. 

One of the most difficult aspects of living in a Web 2.0 world is responding and building upon the work of others.  As Jodie said “Educators need to have their say and they need to be heard. We also need to hear from other educators”  I wrote a blog post about the difficulties of blog commenting in the modern world.  If every blog had a ‘like’ button, I could provide the author with feedback automatically.  Sometimes that would just be enough to let the blogger know that I agree with their opinion. I truly think that responding to peoples ideas and work helps you reflect as an educator on your practice.  Many a time I have read a blog post and went ‘That person is 100% right and I am 100% wrong’ and there have been other times where my thought process has gone ‘That person has no clue about what they are talking about because of……’  This justification process assists me and challenges me to be a better ‘chalkie’ for my kids. 

My core business is relationships.  When I was a kid, you walked into your classroom and automatically gave your teacher respect.  This was just the ‘done’ thing.  Your teacher said ‘Jump!’ and your response was ‘How High?’  Those days have now past.  I am not going to debate if it is a good thing or a bad thing that those days have gone but I will say that by earning the students respect, it actually means a lot more.  On day one of each year, my learners are saying to themselves ‘Does this fool know what he is talking about?  Does he understand me?  Does he want to know me?’  I feel that if I have a productive and fruitful relationship with my students, they are more likely to take risks, ask questions, think creatively and solve complex problems.  They are willing to ‘fall on their faces’ and know that I will be there to pick them up.  This then allows my core business to shift from relationships to learning.  If you have a good relationship with your students based on a culture of respect and trust, your students can achieve some extraordinary things. 

So there is my quick response to Jodie’s thoughts.  I would love to hear if you agree with me.  This has been a bit of incoherent rubble of a post but I thought it was important to get my thoughts down on paper.  I must say that it was a pretty good effort over a lunchtime! 

Blog 5 of 33 DONE! 

Thursday, 27 October 2011

PD shouldn't be an event.....or should it?

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by AdamSelwood

Last night an interesting article came across my tweet stream titled PD shouldn't be an event.  I must admit that this intrigued me and I took a look.  I had a brief read last night at about 10:30pm but I wasn't exactly thinking clearly.  I added it to my bookmarks and thought that I would take a better look in the morning.  I am glad that I took a look because it certainly stimulated my thoughts.  I really liked some of the things that the author of the article (and I can't seem to find their name) has to say but not sure about some of the others.

One statement that I certainly agree with is:

Professional development is a frame of mind.  As a professional, I don't decide when I' going to "DO" PD because it happens in many different ways and different times.

The part about professional development being a state of mind really resonated with me.  I am constantly looking to grow as a professional and interact with others.  These interactions helps shape me and grow me professionally.  I find it hilarious that at the end of every PD I receive a certificate.  Whilst I appreciate the acknowledgement of my attendance and I need it for my QCOT registration purposes, I am not in it for the piece of paper.  I am in it for the learning and for the benefits that my kids.  Some of my most stimulating PD has come from a professional discussion with a colleague or a debate on Twitter.

The methodology on how PD is delivered has certainly changed throughout my 11 years of teaching.  When I first started teaching, the only PD model that was 'doable' was face to face.  Off we trudged to a venue, sat in a large group, got lectured to, broke off for 'little lunch', come back into smaller groups and repeated the cycle again after 'big lunch'.  It worked and in my opinion is still the best method of delivery.  As much as I enjoy interacting with experts and people from around the world, being able to look the person imparting their wisdom onto you in the eye will always outweigh sitting in front of a screen.

The thing that I love the most about our connected world is that I don't have to wait for these events to occur.  At anytime I can be attending a conference via a backchannel, watching a recording in my own time and I can engage with professional discussions about what I have learnt in a non threatening way.

So where am I going with this? If you are just attending PD for the new shinny toy or the awesome lunch that you may get, you will never grow as a professional and demonstrate the characteristics that we want for our kids - a passion for lifelong development. We owe it to ourselves and our kids to seek out opportunities to interact with each other and grow together.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

BLOG 3 of 33 DONE

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

I have found something to make my attribution of Creative Commons work a lot easier!

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by Velo Steve

I used to feel like smashing my head with one of these whenever I tried to get my head around the whole attribution thing in regards to media with Creative Commons. I really wanted to be ethical and do everything that I could to be a part of the community that does the right thing and gives credence to the original author / publisher of the piece of media.  But figuring out all of the correct attribution codes and how to use them made my mind spin.

But this morning all of my prayers were answered.  I am a Google Chrome Fanboy and love the browser.  Only four months ago was I stuck with Internet Explorer and it was awful.  Then I moved onto using Firefox and that was fantastic but I still was intrigued by the unknown world of Google Chrome.  I installed it and it worked fantastically.  Then I visited the Google Webstrore and found about extensions that were similar to Firefox extensions.  My life was going complete!

For a long time I have been looking for something that would help me add the proper attributions to images / media that I am using.  Today the Flickr CC Attribution Script came across my radar and it was exactly what I was looking for!  It is far enough to say that I was so excited when I found this and it worked!  I almost cried!  Below is a video that @leewin from Twitter passed along to me.  I hope somebody out there finds this as useful as I did.

Blog 3 of 33 done!

It's not about the vehicle....

Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) (CVR(T)) Operating in Afghanistan

Like all kids who come into a technology rich environment, they are overwhelmed about the 'bling bling' and not focussed enough on the 'learning sting'.  I actually say to my kids constantly "It is not about the bling bling, it is about the learning sting!"  Kids love to make all of the 'bells and whistles' shine and it can be annoying for teachers who get caught up in it constantly.

This is my second year of operating in a 1-1 laptop environment and both years a similar thing happened.  For the first three or four weeks of the school  year, the kids were excited and tried to make everything pretty and neat.  If they were doing an audio reflection, the mixed in music, edited it and made it perfect.  Whilst I appreciated the effort that they went to, they were too focused on the vehicle and not about the learning.  At the end of term 1 a light bulb moment seems to occur.  By that time the students are very entrenched in using technology as a tool to aid their learning and they realize that it is about using the best tool for the job.  They move on from seeing PowerPoint as the be all and end all of everything and realize that it is truly evil.  

So how do we move kids quicker away from the shinny new object syndrome to just realizing that they should expect it as a part of their learning, not just as an add on.  My solution is simple: we need to get our educators on board with understanding this notion.  To be honest (and I may ruffle a few feathers here) we (as in teachers) are still caught up in the tool itself rather than the pedagogy behind it.  I am over hearing excuses!  21st century kids expect and more importantly deserve 21st century pedagogy.  I am not saying that we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Just today my kids were handed their maths investigation for the week and the easiest method of undertaking the task is the old trusty pen and paper.  When I said to the kids "How are you going to undertake this task?" they all looked at me stupid.  Then one of my quiet girls put her hand up and said "Just paper and pen Mr Proud.  It is the easiest way to show what I know."  It bought a smile to my face and I thought to myself that I have done a good job preparing my kids to be creative problems solvers for the unknown future that they face.

As per normal I would love to hear your thoughts!  Blog 2 of 33 done!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Flipped Classroom and ACARA......there is an interesting thought

I have been thinking a lot lately about the notion of a flipped classroom and the new ACARA curriculum. For those out there who do not know what ACARA is, it is the new national curriculum that is going to be implemented in all schools across Australia from next year. It is a huge shift.  It is interesting to note that one their website they state:

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is the independent authority responsible for the development of a national curriculum, a national assessment program and a national data collection and reporting program that supports 21st century learning for all Australian students.
I love the way how they directly talk about '21st century learning for all Australian students.'  This notion is extremely important.  The flipped model of learning is revolutionary for some and old hat for others.  For those who have been living under a rock lately Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams do a fantastic job exploring the notion on their blog.  My simple definition is that the flipped classroom provides opportunities for teachers to help students think deeply and solve complex issues.  The 'boring instruction' is done at home using medium such as video and the application of knowledge gained is applied in the classroom setting.

On our last pupil free day, I really started to think about this notion.  I personally think that Mathematics is the easiest curriculum area to 'flip'.  I have had some success with it in the past and have promised Jess Oram that I will write a more detailed blog post about it in the future.  The kids really got into it and we had some success.  With the new curriculum being provided unit by unit, I really think that there is an opportunity for teachers to work together.  Wouldn't it be awesome if little Johnny sitting in my classroom is watching a video created by a teacher on the other side of the classroom?  Then he comes to school the next day and we explore the concept in more detail and apply his understanding about the topic to new and unfamiliar contexts? 

But the key question is - How can we share these videos across education systems?  Obviously here in Education Queensland, we have the fantastic Learning Place and edTube is a great medium.  But how am I going to bring the teacher in from Western Australia?  The obvious answer is YouTube but as we all know, the majority of schools block this resource for kids.  The kids would be watching the videos at home but still some parents have concerns about this tool.  If the videos were licensed under the proper Creative Commons attribution on YouTube, the teacher could use an extension from Firefox or Chrome to download it and provide it to the students.  This seems like a messy way to me but it may the best way to get the job done.

I am not saying that this model of instruciton is the be all and end all of everything.  It certainly has some drawbacks and I know that some parents have some concerns about it.  I just think it is an opportunity to put the students first and provide them with the best possible educational experiences.  I would be really interested to hear your thoughts about this notion. 

Please leave me a comment.  Blog 1 out of 33 DONE!

Monday, 24 October 2011

My goal for the rest of the school year

I blog...

Like everybody I can get caught up in the daily grind of teaching and learning. I always say to myself "Ashley you really need to blog more" Deep down in my heart I know that I should. I feel that I have a professional responsbility to share (and I have wrote a blog post about it before) but I seem to get lost in the bloggersphere. I know that I should be contributing to the community of 'we' rather than the insular community of 'me'. Therefore I have set myself a professional learning goal - I am going to blog everyday fro the rest of the school year. I am going to produce a minimum of 33 blog posts by Friday 9th of December.

So what do I need from you? I need you to continue on inspiring me and providing me with inspiration to write and reflect. I don't know how this is going to go but hopefully it continues to help develop me as a professional and enables the learners that I guide to be better prepared for the unknown future that lies ahead for them. I think that the blog posts will be about random things. I want to keep it fresh!

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Is a magazine an iPad that doesn't work?

Since I was bored the other day, I asked my PLN what I should blog about. I was feeling in a mood to reflect but not really sure what I should share with the world. The fantastic Jess Oram challenged me to think about this video and it certainly got it thinking about my own circumstances. I have two fantastic children under the age of five. They are both digital natives and not immigrants like myself. Technology has played a role in their entire lives. They are risk takers and are not afraid to ‘play’ to discover things. Whenever we visit Chermside Shopping Centre, Mr 5’s first comment is “When can we visit the Apple Store?” It just seems as natural to them as it does to the child shown in this video.

But the question has to be asked – Is this for the best? Where does traditional print media fit into their world? I am the first to admit that I do not have an iPad or any tablet device. I have a Samsung Galaxy SII phone and couldn’t live without this device now. Some of my friends read novels online on tablet devices but I have never really gotten into this world and don’t think I ever will. But magazines are a different kettle of fish altogether. How awesome will it be to be able to have magazines that are interactive and engaging?

So what implications does this have for education? My whole philosophy about student created content can come into play here. My biggest worry is when I hear schools saying “We are putting all of our textbooks onto our laptops digitally?” I cringe when I hear this. My first thought is – textbooks aren’t fun and my second thought is If you are going to just have a pdf version of your text….what a waste! I have this vision of teachers getting together in their subject areas and creating digital rich content that the natives can consume, remix and collaborate with. I always come back to Biology. I did Biology in year 11 and 12 and didn’t really enjoy it. Wouldn’t it be awesome if a student had access to a textbook that had text, videos, hyperlinks, audio, explanations (like a glossary) of tricky terms and other components? All of the different types of learners would be catered to.

So it certainly seems that in some respects, a magazine is an iPad that doesn’t work!

I would love to hear your thoughts - drop me a comment!