Reflecting and Connecting. My 2013 wishlist.

Image

Wow! What a great year 2012 was. So much learning and so much fun. It makes me extremely excited about this year and what might happen. So, what did I learn last year?

1. Reflection is good for the soul and for professional practice.

The creation of this blog melded two things together. One I love and one I hadn’t really done before. I love writing but never thought I had the time to reflect. I know, what was I thinking?So, now I use this blog to jot down reflections on things I am doing and the people I meet. It’s all good stuff and I’m very grateful.

Goal for 2013: To continue to add to my blog to share and reflect on all the fabulous things that are happening in our school and in the schools of my PLN.

2. Twitter is a PLN catalyst.

How I have loved Twitter in the last 6 months. What a learning curve! What a fantastic bunch of people I have connected with. I no longer feel like an educator in a small, country town but an educator in a global community.

Goal: This global community is changing the way I view the world and the learning opportunities within it. I have joined one global project this semester which I will be posting further updates but you can find it here. Another fantastic project by Karen Stadler!
I also want to bring other educators along for the journey. I will be making some opportunities to develop this further this year.

3. Connect with your students!

As a specialist teacher it can be quite difficult to make the connections that classroom teachers can as there just isn’t the time together. I did find that last year Edmodo helped make connections with my students. We were able to connect during the week and they could clarify things with me before they came to class. We could also connect with other classes in the world. Well worth trying out.

I loved Skype too! Face to face contact with children from around the world. Could we have ever imagined this? 

Goal: I am going to use Edmodo again this year with a couple of my classes. I am also going to Skype again. My goal this year is to encourage other classes in my school to jump onboard.

Good luck everyone and I hope your year is a fun, challenging and rewarding journey. I know I hope mine is!

 

Creating a flexible learning space

I was inspired and wrote about Paul Williams’presentation about learning spaces in a previous post. It was my goal to somehow develop a more flexible learning space for our library. With the development of mobile devices, the library becomes a wonderful alternative to the classroom for lesson delivery and ownership of the library becomes more universal, rather than ‘my room’ as teacher librarian.
I wanted to add some different kinds of seating other than the tables and chairs we have in the library. I wanted to create a space that was colourful, flexible and fun. Fortunately, my principal was behind me and there was some money in the budget. The following photographs outline the start of this transformation. We cannot remove the table and chairs at the moment as our Indonesian Language Classes are held in here once a week and this routine is well established. But changes are afoot!
The new ottomans and rehomed bean bags are well used and I have received positive comments from students and staff alike. The space is now well used during library times and I have heard a teacher comment recently that she is going to use the ottomans as tiered seating with the mat soon.
My next goal is to ask the staff and students what they would like to see next in the library and investigate how the library could be used more effectively in 2013.

Catholic Primary Curriculum Conference 2012

Conferences can be exciting, challenging and tiring. The Catholic Primary Curriculum Conference :Architecture of Learning (Dignity, Diversity, Design) held at the Perth Convention Centre over the last two days was no exception. Networking with colleagues and being challenged by new ideas are why I enjoy them. The difficult part is then taking all the information and making it part of my professional development. So why it is fresh in my mind I am going to identify the key concepts that resonated with me and think of ways I can act on them.

1. Stop then think

Give thinking time/practise, looking at options before choosing answer.

On Monday it was stated by keynote speaker Prof. Martin Westwell that teachers generally wait 0.8 seconds before answering a question themselves or stating a new one. 0.8! By counting to 5 it dramatically increases the responses. I can do that!

2. Schools should not teach more Maths but be more mathematical.

Tuesday’s keynote, Prof. Mike Askew demonstrated how rich mathematical tasks could be if we focused more on creating opportunities for students to engage with other students doing tasks that were harder than they could do on their own.

I will look at my ICT tasks to see if they are challenging and collaborative with a diversity of learners in groups . (What group members have I got working together?)

3. iPads Beyond Substitution: using iPads to transform thinking

Jenny Jongste provided us with apps that would allow for students to share data and create new ways of demonstrating their understanding.

I will make sure to reflect on Edmodo and how it has modified my teaching as I have 1 iPad at present. Our school is in the process of deciding how we will go forward with mobile devices and I will keep in mind the power they have to transform learning.(Future blog post here)

4. The design of the digital classroom by Paul Williams

How can our learning spaces be transformed? As I watched the students from year 6 at St Lawrence’s Balcatta working,using their iPads and shifting the furniture around to create spaces that allowed for individual and paired work, quiet spaces and open spaces, it reinforced the presentation by Paul Williams. Teachers need to be proactive in creating classrooms that allow for these kind of activities to take place. Why do our classrooms still look like factories rather than inviting spaces to learn such as the Skype Office in the image below from The Cool Hunter.

My challenge as a TL will be to try and create in our library the kind of space that is about creativity. That nook could become a movie editing suite or a sound booth. The bean bags shouldn’t be the only soft furnishing. Can teachers come here and relax? I will keep a photo record of small changes that I think have transformed the space and post them on here.

I’m not sure the presenters would be blown away by these small steps but I hope they take consolation from the thought that I did hear and I am changed because of them and hopefully these small changes will benefit my students.

Why do I plan in terms?

20120726-232125.jpg

Primary school teachers in many schools still plan per term and as a specialist teacher I often found this stressful and constraining. Ten weeks to complete a program of work in a crowded curriculum could in many cases end up being eight weeks due to incursions, sporting events and special days at school. At the beginning of this year I decided to act on a thought I’d had for some time, to plan a semester unit of work. I know, hardly earth shattering but it has rocked my world.

My year five class were given the task of playing the Lemonade Game record their data and decisions in Excel, create charts and produce a PowerPoint to reflect their understanding of basic economics. Fairly standard stuff. The aha moment was the reflection that I should now ‘Bring it to the real world’ The students had to form groups and decide on a food stall to run. The kids blew me away with their enthusiasm, their organisational skills (I truly believe a ten year old girl could run the country if only given the chance ) and their creativity. They calculated quantities, checked prices, made order forms, discussed economics with their parents and ran the stalls on their day. With fabulous parent support, the kids got a real taste for business as some groups made a profit whilst others just broke even. One parent told me that their son knew they weren’t going to make much profit but that was ok because it meant he had something to say in the Thinking Hats reflection form. The profit they made was put towards their school camp later this year.

If I had limited myself to just the ten weeks I probably would have stopped at the online version but I am so glad I didn’t as the real learning happened in those last 5 weeks.