Stepping up and Stepping Out – Comfort Zones are not Learning Zones

I am responding to a challenge by Simon McKenzie (@connectedtchr) to blog more in 2015. I want to blog more because I find it requires me to stop and think, reflect and/or celebrate. So, thank you Simon for putting out the challenge.
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In reflecting on 2014 I have one thing I’d like to share.
1. Stepping out of your comfort zone is worth it.
Ok, so stepping out of your comfort zone is scary! Really scary! But in a weird kind of way it gets to be a little addictive because like the quotes say, it is where magic, life, adventure and new experiences start.
One experience that got my heart racing this year was applying for an amazing job in the city that meant I had to up skill big time but was too good an opportunity to miss. Although I was shortlisted I wasn’t successful but I learned so much just going through the process. I think the most important thing I learned was that I didn’t have to do it on my own. I asked colleagues and friends to help me get there and they did. I was fortunate to start in a new position around the same time at a high school. This year stepping out of my comfort zone is going to be a way of life as I work with the staff to integrate IT into the curriculum but I won’t try to do it on my own. I will be asking for help.
So maybe you can step a little out of your comfort zone too, knowing you don’t have to be alone when you do. Good luck, it will be worth it.

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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.

Where will Twitter take you? It took me to Slide2Learn!

My 9 Steps to becoming a workshop facilitator at the Slide2Learn Conference in Perth.
June 2012 – April 2013.

Previously, I had written about taking a leap of faith and doing something that scared me. I submitted a proposal to facilitate a workshop at the Slide 2Learn Conference. I was accepted and this blog outlines how it happened.

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1. Join Twitter through recommendation of Louise Cimetta @LouCimetta – Coordinator of Digital Learning, Catholic Education Office, Perth

2. Have a positive social experience at Catholic Primary Curriculum Conference with fellow tweeps.

3. Receive feedback from a tweet that results in attending a brilliant social media workshop run by MYSA and featuring amazing educators, Prof. Alec Couros @corousa and George Couros @gcouros
a. Start my own blog – Reflection is good for the soul
b. Own digital footprint – About.me/KerryMuste
c. Find out about Hootsuite to organise my hashtags and Flipboard for magazine like reading.
d. Make further connections, plus meet people that already knew on Twitter. Made the day very relaxed.

4. Make further positive social experiences through tweet up lunch thanks to EduBlogger Extraordinaire Sue Waters @suewaters and meet Couros Brothers, and three lovely Librarians;The Daring Librarian @gwynethjones, Dr. Joyce Valenza @joycevalenza and Audrey Nay @audrey_nay. I also met Phil and Jo Hart, Ms D and Sue Hickton. Great day!

5. Join great Global Classroom project run by Karen Stadler @ICT_Integrator called Crazy Crazes.
a. Learn new ways to share information – flipsnack, voicethread and Skype

6. Create Year 7 class blog to display students Digital Photography Competition and invite Twitter friends to view – they comment and provide audience.

7. Find resources and links to amazing ideas and people
a. Read and follow blogs – favourite George Couros
b. Joined another Global Classroom Project run by Karen called Save Our Rhinos
i. Create YouTube channel to display work

8. Be invited to submit workshop idea to National Slide2Learn Conference being held in Perth. Thanks Slide2Learn team!

9. Facilitate a workshop on Developing a PLN using Twitter at the Conference and meet fellow Tweeps like: Michael Graffin @mgraffin, Global Classrooms Project Co-founder; Amie Meyer @AmieMeyer4; Sam Boswell @sboswellhyde. I was also able to make new wonderful connections from around Australia. It was also amazing to meet and attend workshops run by Tony Vincent @tonyvincent. His keynote address was lots of fun and the Web Keynote by Lisa Johnson @Techchef4u introduced me to another fabulous educator.

What an amazing journey and I owe it all to the power of Twitter. I hope that it will continue to provide me with inspiration, enthusiasm, new ideas and life changing experiences.

Has Twitter made a difference to you?

Reflection on the term so far – Part 2

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Image courtesy of M-Pics/Freedigitalphotos.net

 

Last year, I started a Surfing history unit for the upper school and am now reteaching it to the current year 6 class. I like to add local content to my lessons wherever I can and our school is in an international surfing destination and many of the students surf. This term there was also an International Surfing Contenst run here. I find that many students are surprised to find out how recently international surfing came to our town.

We are learning note-taking skills using digital, online (websites and class blog) and paper sources. We have written a biography on Duke Kahanamoku. We are also creating a timeline using Excel and soon they will be taking on an individual research project. Choices include women in surfing, surfing offshoots like kite-surfing, the dangers of surfing and the future of surfing.

We created Movie Maker presentations last year but this year the class have access to 7 iPads and I am thinking about how we can use them to create the presentations. I am on a steep learning curve but am relying on the skills the students already have to teach me.

The Year 6’s have a class blog which their teacher uses on a daily basis to put up reminders, notes and links to information and websites that will help the students during the week. I have also included links to my lessons and have found that if I take the time to add content the students are more prepared for my lessons.

Next term the classroom teacher is considering using Edmodo as well and as this class were one of two classes I used Edmodo with last year, she need only do a basic run through and the students will be up and running with it. There are many benefits to using Edmodo including the ability to submit assignments.
Great Wall of China</a Image Courtesy of Cescassawin/freedigitalphotos.net
We are one of a few Catholic schools left in Western Australia who have Year 7’s. This year I thought I would tackle an Ancient History unit linked to the Australian Curriculum. I chose Ancient China. So far we have watched a segment of the Disney movie, Mulan and compared it to the story of Mulan and considered what features of Ancient Chinese Culture had Disney kept. We did a geography lesson and learnt about the natural barriers in Ancient China that were instrumental in developing Chinese culture. We have been learning about the various dynasties, some of the main characters and now they are involved in a Silk Road Board Game group project. It would be amazing if I had the ability to get the students to create an online game but it is beyond me at the moment. However, it is certainly something to strive for next year.

Here is a slideshow of today’s lesson.

Although we don’t have middle and upper primary “library lessons” here at school, our dedicated IT time is about 100 minutes which gives me plenty of time to develop the skills that would normally be classified as library lessons.

Next semester I will be focussing more on literature and am hoping to explore QR codes to deepen the engagement with the books in our library. I would like to try book trailers and will probably hold another event in the library like last year.

How do you switch off?


I recently attended a seminar which confronted, challenged and inspired me. I am still processing the information I received and will write a post about it soon but what I didn’t expect was how hard I would find it to disconnect from it. The seminar is the latest installment in an amazing year of professional learning for me. I watched the Tour de France this year and my learning journey feels like I have scaled the Pyranees and The Alps as well as travelling at a pace that leaves me breathless and a little apprehensive.

For those in the Northern Hemisphere, September heralds the beginning of a new school year. Whereas, for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, September can be quite a difficult time. It’s the end of winter, term three and rapidly approaching the end of the school year. Deadlines are approaching and thoughts about how much hasn’t been accomplished yet begin to float into our conciousness.

These disjointed thoughts are basically identifying that I am tired and need to spend time nurturing myself. This was a difficult concept for me to accept when I was younger but now I understand its importance.

I recently read the latest blog post by Stef who was reflecting on how her change in exercise routine made it a priority and I agree wholeheartedly. Now the sun is coming up earlier, I am planning on getting back to walking before breakfast. This activity will help but the activity that really calms my mind is playing the fiddle. I am not a good fiddle player and only took it up a couple of years ago. Learning a musical instrument as an adult is such a good lesson for any teacher. It immediately places you in a place that gives you such empathy for the students you teach and in awe because they are such quick learners. I have felt such frustration at the slowness of my progress but have perservered and realised that the journey is what is important to me, not the speed. I am immensely thankful to my friend, Karien, our fabulous school Administrative Officer and a fantastic fiddler who spends time with me ever Monday afternoon.

So I am off to practise and in the morning I will at least get outside before I go to work.
What will you do to nurture yourself?