TeachMeet 2 – A Montessori Experience

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Our second TeachMeet in Margaret River was hosted magnificently by Margaret River Montessori School. We were treated to presentations by two of staff members, Jan and Lee-Anne. These presentations introduced us to some core principles in Montessori education but were not exclusive. I know we all learned something we could use in our own classes. Helen from Margaret River Primary school entertained us with the app, AutoRap and suggested we give class instructions in a novel new way. Nicole from St Thomas More CPS, gave us a brief look into Genius Projects. I know for a fact how fabulous they have been in her Year 7 class. Our principal, Marty, outlined how the peer forum we call the Breakfast Club is helping support staff with curriculum and classroom management ideas and I gave a quick pitch for Twitter as a PLN tool.
All in all it was a fun afternoon get together with some new faces and new ideas. If you haven’t been to a TeachMeet yet, see if there is one near you. Western Australian educators can look here
Next, the TeachMeet at Cape Naturaliste College in Vasse on the 25th November. Our first Middle school event.

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Believe you are making a difference.

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Looking for inspiration I plugged ‘inspiration’ into Pixabay and saw this image. I resonated with me as I started the year feeling a little jaded. I have been on a remarkable journey over the last two years and have tried to share my enthusiasm with others through blog posts, Twitter and presenting at conferences. Have you ever felt like your message wasn’t being heard? Yeh, me too.

Now on the first term holidays, my brain has time to reflect and I realise I’m feeling energised again. I have to believe that it makes a difference even if I don’t hear about it. I read recently that you get back the energy you put out so I’m putting it out there and hoping for the best.

This last term I had a fantastic experience collaborating with a classroom teacher and art teacher on a narrative + manga + anime project. I tweeted about it. The kids seemed to really enjoy it and I know we did.  Their pride in their achievements at the Sevensation Film Festival held on the last day of term was wonderful to witness. Their parents were pretty impressed too.

I went to a great ICT PD day run by Adrian Torrese (@Adriant_Torrese) and re-connected with my tribe (thanks Amie @AmieMeyer4 ) and to really top things off I’ve made connections with other teachers for #globalclassroom projects next term. My thanks to Kathleen Corley (@KathleenCorley) and Nicole Burrows (@Nicburrows) for their enthusiasm and collaboration. I love Twitter for making connections and gobal classrooms are my passion.

I believe I can make a difference or I wouldn’t be a teacher. I will spend my time showing others I believe they are making a difference.

 

A Week as @EduTweetOz – A Reflection

@EduTweetOz is a Twitter account for “Australian Educators from all sectors to share their ideas, experiences, questions and passions” Each week there is a guest host and I was fortunate to be host from October 6-13, 2013. The following is a copy of the reflection I wrote for the EduTweetOz blog.

I am a huge fan of Edward de Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats (Did you see them being used in “Redesign my Brain”?)and I use them in many classes for students to reflect on work they have done. I find it encourages them to consider their work in a holistic way. So to reflect on my experience as @EduTweetOz host I am going to use them. (Primary teacher remember )

Blue hat – Thinking
• Having the opportunity to connect with educators from around Australia was a very satisfying experience and I am thankful to @EduTweetOz for giving me this opportunity.
• It was a very interesting experience being the representative instead of the individual and at times I felt I had to go back to my own avatar to continue the conversation so as not to speak as the representative.
• I had selected to talk about a few topics so I was prepared but I did find that various conversations did just spontaneously happen such as using images in my professional blog.

White hat – Facts
• I am a relative newbie to twitter but thought I might be able to add to the discussion as a rural Catholic educator who was also a Teacher Librarian. I am also a passionate advocate for #globalclassrooms and I thought this would be a great venue to talk about it.
• October is also Connected Educator month and Twitter is an amazing tool for connecting educators. I wanted to show my support and promote connections that would lead to better learning opportunities for our students.
• I volunteered to host as I thought it would challenge me as an educator and broaden my PLN as I would be exposed to educators that I might not already follow. I did find many educators to follow and learn from in my week.
• The admin of @EduTweetOz were very supportive and supported me during the week.

Red hat – Feelings
• I was excited and nervous to be host. The idea that I had to tweet intelligently for a whole week frightened me but the challenge was exciting.
• The @EduTweetOz PLN was very supportive and I was grateful to those people who responded to my tweets and engaged me in conversation. It would have been a lonely week without them. I hoped that people were able to gain something from the conversations, I know I did.
• I enjoyed connecting people and recommending links that I thought others might enjoy. Retweeting was almost a job in itself as the PLN is more diverse and bigger than my own.

Black hat – difficulties
• Daylight savings had just commenced so I was now 3 hours behind the east coast of Australia. This made it difficult as I missed the morning shift of tweets and I had to make sure I was online around 5pm so as not to miss the evening shift.
• I apologize for not using #EduTweetOz enough.

Yellow hat – positives
• Focussing the light on Teacher Librarians as ICT specialists in schools was one of the positives of the week. It was an opportunity to connect other educators with some fabulous TL’s that I follow and who inspire me. This in turn led to them suggesting other TL’s.
• I was hosting during the second week of the holidays and I was presenting at the ECAWA conference at the end of the week which gave me the opportunity to spend time tweeting and tweet in the conference back channel and promote the #WApln.
• I was challenged in my thinking and about my thinking especially with respect to connecting within Australia and how I was using my blog in particular how I used images. I am resolved to build better Australian connections for my students.
• I encourage others to take on the role as I think they will also benefit from the experience and we would benefit from hearing the voice of different educators around Australia.

Green hat – Creative hat
• As a direct result from being host I am taking on the challenge of learning about Google hangouts so that I can extend the connections and learning of my students with other students within Australia.
• It would be interesting to have a guest educator from another country host especially someone who is recognised globally as a leader in education or has to educate in a vastly different environment than our own.

Celebrating Innovation in our school

Like my previous post, I am celebrating the wonderful opportunities that are being offered at our school for the students by imaginative and innovative teachers.
This week’s profile is on our Year Six and Indonesian teacher, Andrina.
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Andrina was the first teacher at our school to get a class blog and has been using it daily for the last two years. I thought it might be useful to ask Andrina a few questions about her blog in the hope that it might inspire others to do the same.

1. What lead you to creating the blog for the class?
I knew about blogs. I knew that teachers at Margaret River Primary had a class blog. I had briefly looked at it. I really didnt understand what one was or how a blog worked but I wanted to investigate them. So I signed up for a blog for me and my daughter when she was sick one day. We just played around with the look of it and then tried to figure out how to use the dashboard. I just started out with posting my stars of the day and celebrating what we did in class. The more I used the blog the ways I could see that it could be used.
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2. What is the most positive aspect of the class blog?
The most positive thing is the interaction I get with students outside the class. There are a number of students who visit the blog everyday and comment everyday. It has fuelled their enthusiasm for learning and I think it has had a positive effect on their class work They now come to class prepared because they have watched the maths video I have posted. They also do the revision work which prepares them for tests.
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3. How has it changed your teaching practise?
It has changed my teaching practice because
3.1 I can set work for students to do before a class in preparation for a new topic.
3.2 I can revise work on a daily basis by setting a quiz or interactive game.
3.3 If I am away I can still set work for the students to do.
3.4 I have a more organised way to keep my websites in categories and therefore I use them more often.
3.5 I am now developing pages of work which the students will be able to refer to either as an independent learner or as remedial work for children who may need some more work on decimals for example. These pages have information, video and links to interactive games.
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4. How has it changed the student’s learning?
I think that it has made some students more responsible and engaged in their learning. Some realise the benefit of coming to class with some idea of what we are doing and have embraced it.

5. What do you think could be improved?
I won’t know how it can be improved until I find another reason to use it. If you know what I mean. It seems I find out something new that can be done and then I find a way to use it.
One thing I need to do is to come up with more fun activities to draw the students to the blog everyday. I have used rebus puzzles but I need to find some other puzzles and maybe have a different type each term to keep it fresh.

6. Is it difficult to create and maintain?
It wasn’t difficult to start and it has just developed slowly. And like anything the more that you use it the easier it becomes. I usually spent between 10-30 minutes a day depending on what I am doing. If I am looking for new information it takes longer but I should be getting to the stage that I should be able to reblog posts. I find it enjoyable so I don’t mind the time it takes i also have seen the benefit for some students so I am happy to spend the time providing them with extra work. It is easier than finding activities, photocopying and marking them.

From Garden to Plate – Celebrating Collaboration and Innovation

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Today’s post is to highlight a fantastic event that happened at our school this week and to celebrate the teachers that made it happen.
We have a beautiful school vegetable garden and earlier in the year the year two class had planted seedlings with their teacher, Mrs Warren.
Our year four teacher, Mrs Teague, who is a recent graduate, suggested that her class help the twos and weed the garden then use the produce to cook a shared lunch for the two classes. This idea complemented her health and science program this term. With the support of Mrs T,the students planned the menu, the ingredients required, the amounts needed and the tools that had to be sourced.
They also created two fabulous Tellagami presentations that introduced the menu and concluded the lunch by thanking the students and parents while educating them about the aim of the lunch.
The day was sensationally supported by many parents who spent time with the children and Mrs T, harvesting, cleaning, preparing and cooking the lunch.
The sit down lunch was brilliant and delicious! Special moments included the year fours proudly sharing the cooked food with their year two classmates and quiet discussions around the table. One student was even heard saying they hadn’t realised how much effort it took to prepare a meal.
The year two class delivered beautifully handwritten and illustrated thank you letters before the end of the day to their friends in year four.
What an amazing day! Congratulations and thank you Mrs Teague,for providing our students with such a fun learning experience.

Peace Building Through Global Connections

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During my planning phase for semester two, I came across the Global Education website. This great website has units that focus on global issues and links them to the Australian Curriculum. I found a unit called Peace Building which suited my age level and was a topic I’m passionate about. However, I wanted to connect my students with other students so I began a looking on the web to find a project that we could join that would facilitate this. I found the Peace Crane Project and Pinwheels for Peace.
The Peace Crane Project asks that you create an origami crane using a piece of paper that has a peace poem written on one side and a peace illustration on the other. These cranes are then displayed on International Peace Day or you can exchange them with another school. I clicked on the exchange button and was contacted by a teacher in Smolenskoye, Siberia. This was very exciting and I was able to email my exchange partner and we agreed to try and continue the exchange through snail mail and through Skype. The tyranny of longitudinal distance can play havoc with Western Australian schools as we are often too early or too late to Skype but Siberia is only a few hours difference.

I also Tweeted this information on Twitter and Karen Stadler contacted me and said that her school had also joined this project. I also happen to notice as I was scrolling through the Peace Crane Exchange partners that another Twitter colleague, Melvina Kurashige had also joined. I sent a tweet to Karen and Melvina highlighting this fact and after a tweet storm between us a blog was created where all three schools could share their Peace Crane work. Please take time to visit and add your message for peace on the wall and see our work in progress. You can find us here.
Since it’s creation on August 28th, we have had two other schools join us!
Once again I am in awe of the power of Twitter and global projects to connect educators and lead to real opportunities for our students.
I am so excited to be part of this community and with International Peace Day just around the corner, I hope that you too will reach out the hand of friendship.

Book Week – Engaging families using ICT

Last year we had a Books, Bears and Blanket Family Reading night to celebrate reading in our school during Book Fair. I blogged about it here but Ioved the night and got great feedback from the families who attended.
This year we aren’t having a book fair because I want reading to be more than just purchasing, so I was looking around for an activity that would engage families again. I came across the Get Caught Reading promotion and loved it. What a fabulous concept to promote reading and engage families at our school. With smart phones, iPads and tablets to take the image and email to send it, how easy was it to do?
So this became the promotion for our Book Week and I have received a steady stream of entries. Not an overwhelming response but every entry makes my heart sing. I love the images and the thought that the kids (and dogs and guinea pigs) are reading and it is being documented not just for our competition but for the families too.

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I’ve also added a bit of humour to our library which relied upon the good nature and good humour of our school principal.
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I also received a request for a classic "get dressed up as your favourite book character" parade so I have included this on the Friday morning. A fitting conclusion to Book Week.

How does your school library engage with families?

Having a go at global projects.

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It is amazing how a small leap of faith can result in opportunities that were inconceivable before.My Year 4 ICT class is doing a unit on peace and I recently joined the Peace Crane Project to provide the students with an opportunity to celebrate International Peace Day on September 21st. When signing up to the project it asked if you wanted to be part of a classroom exchange. I ticked the box as I’m always happy to make connections. Within 24 hours I had received an email from a teacher in Siberia, asking if we wanted to exchange with them. When I replied that we would love to (Siberia! How exciting!) she asked whether we would be open to extra exchanges like swapping drawings, having a Skype session (we are only 2 and a half hours apart time wise) and generally learn about each other’s environments. What a thrill! Isn’t this what peace is about? To learn and understand each other. These children will never see the world the same again. The students are learning about biomes with their classroom teacher and when I showed them where the school was they were able to identify that the region was tundra.

I am so excited to be part of this experience and it all started by looking for a way to participate in a global project.
If you want to try a global project, you can go to The Global Classroom Project 2013-2014. This is a fabulous community to be part of with great projects.

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Global Classroom Gratitude

I had to write and say how thrilled and honoured I was to be nominated as a Global Classroom Lead Teacher 2012-2013. I think I fall into the category of ‘most improved’ as I haven’t run any projects myself but have been an enthusiastic participator. Previous posts have outlined the fabulous projects I have been lucky enough to participate in.

Where I like to think I have made a bit of a difference is in the promotion area. I am talking about global classrooms and the power of Twitter to transform our classrooms whenever I can. I truly hope that if I keep talking about it and participating, more people will become involved and our children will truly become citizens of the globe.

I would also like to say how nice it is to receive recognition. Teachers often work in environments where recognition doesn’t come along very often. We happily save for posterity any letters of gratitude we receive and I know I have an thank you email pinned up on my board at school. These small reminders keep us going.

Below is the list of this year’s nominations. I hope you celebrate the achievements too and are inspired to join the community and participate in the next wave of projects.
Global Classroom Project Leaders 2012-2013

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Global Classrooms – Join in on the fun!

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On the 26th June, I celebrated my first Twitter birthday. It’s hard to believe that only 12 months ago I was unaware of how significant this social media platform would be to my development as a teacher. I have written before about how Twitter has enabled me to make connections in the world and how these connections have helped not only me but the classes I have been teaching. In my role as a Teacher Librarian who also teaches ICT from K-7 in a rural Western Australian school, global connections have meant that my students have been able to learn from other students in the world, reach out to people and to have an authentic audience for their work.

This semester, I have been very fortunate to be involved in two very different initiatives organised by teachers in two different continents.
Mrs Karen Stadler’s (@ICT_Integrator) Save Our Rhino’s project from Elkanah Primary in South Africa enabled the students to learn about endangered rhinos knowing not just that they were endanagered but how people around the world were passionate about saving them. This connection with people is what makes the global classroom aspect so powerful. It was also a great link for us to learn about our own endangered animals and hopefully educate others in the world about them.

Ms Katy Gartside’s (@KatyGartside) 9-to-9 Skype Marathon run by her Year 5 Class at The School of Columbia University in the USA was brought to my attention by Katy’s twitter feed. I have Skyped with Karen last year and I love the opportunity for the student’s to have the face to face experience with kids from other classrooms, so I expressed an interest in participating. Luckily for us, we were able to connect with times, not always possible in the US due to the time differences betweeen us. We were the 8.45pm session for them and the 8.45am session for us. The Year 6 students in my class were blown away by the articulate students running the session and learnt a lot about community but more about the similarities and differences in their own schools. We reflected on the session and I think every child loved the Skype experience.

I encourage every educator to make connections globally. Twitter has been for me the most effective way to make these connections and I have found the people to be generous, supportive and inspiring. If you would like to join Twitter I would recommend you follow the above two educators and Michael Graffin (@mgraffin) who is the #globalclassroom Project Co-founder, you won’t be disappointed.