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Showing posts from 2014

Three Things Learnt from a Finnish Lesson

There are so many ideas and arguments that seem to get bandied around online and at conferences that sometimes feel as if they lack any evidence and elaboration to explain them. These are the things that are thrown around during keynotes and chats as support for whatever is being argued. The two most common for me seem to be John Hattie's effect size and the phenomenal success of the Finnish education system. Some of the things commonly attributed to Finland are that teachers are allocated a lot of timhe to prepare and that they do not do a lot of explicit testing. The problem with these ideas is that they lack perspective and speak of Finland as if it were some sort of ahistorical commodity, rather than an organic system continuing to grow and evolve. Continuing with my recent love of audio books, I therefore decided to listen to Pasi Salsberg's Finnish Lesson. For I knew that there had to be more to Finnish education than a few titbits. As I have worked my way through the bo…

It's Been That Way and It Always Will Be

We got talking the other day at school about our NAPLAN reading results. Again, the reading results were below the state average. It was therefore raised that maybe this needed to be a focus and that maybe we should investigate bringing in a coach from outside of the school. So even though we have several great coaches already working within in the area of literacy and we had a focus on reading a couple of years ago, it was believed that the answer was to get a new perspective on the problem. As long as you are seen doing something then that's alright.
Having been a part of the push across the region a few years ago in regards to literacy I posed the question as to whether anyone had carried out any sort of audit of the current practises to identify any areas of improvement. For I was told that to bring about deep and meaningful change takes between three to five years. The comment that I got in response really startled me. I was told that it wasn't anything that we were doing …

Should Big Brother Always Be Watching?

Obviously I am just too nice, because Derrick rang back on Friday. I brushed him off last week, telling him I was too busy, but clearly he wasn't going to accept the same excuse twice. So today I decided to listen. Basically, he was trying to sell me an audio visual set-up where two cameras and a microphone would be installed in a classroom. The premise behind this was that it would take out the requirement for another teacher to sit in and interrupt the learning experience by physically recording the lesson. This would also transfer the ownership of the experience to the teacher, rather than the responsibility of a coach, to support the improvement of teaching and instruction. We all have ideals, but in my opinion they are always something different in reality.
My first concern is with the notion that installing cameras gives some sort of objectivity. Here I am reminded of Clifford Geertz' work in regards to anthropology and the notion of 'thick description'. His premi…

Crowded Curriculum or a Wrong Mindset - The Challenge of Incorperating Interdisciplinary Strands

The big announcement that came out of the recent review into the Australian Curriculum was that it was crowded. There is nothing new about this perspective. People have been making noise for a long time, particularly in regards to the primary curriculum, since the introduction of subjects such as science and history in the Early Years. However, is this really the case or is there something else at play?
One of the areas that people often get caught up with is the interdisciplinary learning. These strands span the areas of:  CommunicationDesign, Creativity and TechnologyInformation and Communication Technology Thinking Processes
I have been in many different settings and I have yet to see these strands implemented effectively. I remember sitting in a session nearly ten years ago where the presenter explained that the purpose of the strands is not about adding to the curriculum, but about intermingling them through all area of learning. Coming from an inquiry pedagogical point of view, she…

#whyiteach and the answer is not technology

This is my belated response to the Connected Courses question: Why do you teach? What gets you up in the morning? What’s your core reason for doing what you do? It may not necessarily be a direct answer, but it at least addresses one thing, I don't teach to the technology.
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Yesterday in the midst of my battle with Compass and reports, I received a call from the office that someone wanted to speak to me. I took the call only to discover that it was from a technology company making a cold call. The guy on the other end, lets call him Derrick, was ringing to spruik a product that his company was developing around feedback. Sadly, he got the wrong guy. After telling him that I didn't have time, I then explained to him that +Steve Brophy and I had actually presented at the recent DLTV Conference on dearth of options available surrounding listening to voices in and out of the classroom. We therefore already have all the tools that we needed to make a difference. 
The problem though …

Things Are Not Always As They Seem

This year, I have taken to audiobooks. Unsatisfied by my consumption of podcasts and frustrated with all the books that I just don't have time to read, I have taken to listening while I'm walking, driving, working, gardening - basically, whenever allows. During this time I have gone through quite a few books:

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell At the heart of Gladwell's book is the myth of power and strength. What he sets out to uncover is that so often strengths are at same time weakness and with that supposed weaknesses can often be our greatest strengths. His archetypal example is David and Goliath. So often it is a story told of an underdog getting lucky, but really when you break the story down David was meant to win. For so often success comes through subverting the expectations of others, going against all expectations. In the case of David, his refusal to fight hand to hand, as well as his speed and agility, were …

Imaging and Imagining the Past

Everyone has a book that epitomizes their upbringing. For me it was My Place by Sally Morgan. Not only did it provide an insight into the way people lived over time, but also how places change. I was reminded of this recently as my wife and I strolled around Circular Quay in Sydney. Littered on the pavement are a series of markers indicating where the shore line was in the past and how people have progressively extended this overtime. Looking at the markers and boardwalk, it was hard to imagine the shore as it was when the first fleet landed and how different things must have been different. This attempt to empathise with the past got me wondering whether there will ever come a day when augmented reality could provide us with such an insight or if this was beyond the realm of possibility.
Last year, I remember stumbling on a virtual tour made with Google Earth Tour by +Lee Burns looking at the different places in Raimond Gaita's autobiography, Romulas, My Father. Although this loca…

#GTASYD 2014 - Feet on the Ground, Head in the Clouds

Over last few days I attended Google Teachers Academy in Sydney. There has been a change to proceedings this year with +No Tosh taking control, bringing a Design Thinking approach to the table. The focus has moved away from creating a group Google ninjas to supporting change and reform in education. 
At the heart of it all is the notion of moonshots. Heralding from John F. Kennedy's declaration that 'we will land on the moon', a moonshot is an idea both with its feet on the ground, but its heads in the clouds. That is both practical and ideal. One of those dreams that people say are too hard, which we however choose to be bothered by.


Inspired by +Daniel Donahoo's keynote at ICTEV13, the challenge I arrived with was how do we engage the school community in meaningful dialogue in order to transform our practises to build a better tomorrow. However, I was also mindful of holding onto my idea lightly. Our first activity was to workshop our ideas in our group. My group was m…

What the Twitter Are You On About?

I have been asked by many teachers about how to go about getting connected and how to make the most out of Twitter. However, this overlooks one of the most important steps, actually joining a medium like Twitter in the first place. So I created this basic document as a guide:



Whose Idea is it Anyway?

In today's day and age it seems strange to be talking about the ownership of ideas. That's not yours, that's mine. Really, can one person hold an idea and what is actually achieved by that?
For example, if someone comes up with a similar idea, aren't we benefited by having a conversation with that person or group about how we could make both ideas awesome, rather than deciding which idea is more valid?
Although some love the glitz and glory that comes with being the one behind the great idea, to give an idea life sometimes we need to relinquish some of that control, we need to hold it lightly, allow for different perspectives and provide others a meaningful voice in the discussion.
A lone nut who keeps an idea to themselves is oddly enough still a lone nut. For in the end, it takes a village and sometimes the most important thing we can do is let it go.

A low down model, used by a little old lady just once a week to blogabout ...

I'm not exactly sure how it happened or whether it matters, but somehow I've found myself in the middle of another online course. I must admit that I've had a few failures of late in regards to participation, so it will be interesting to see how I go.
Organised by Alan Levine, Howard Rheingold and Jim Groom, Connected Courses is a course revolving around facilitating online learning. I am really interested in this being a part of the TL21C program currently being offered by DEECD, which not only supports teachers in grappling with some of the challenges associated with 21st century learning and teaching, but also what it means to be a connected educator. 
One of the challenges that I am really interested in exploring is how to syndicate all of the different posts and activities relating to the program. Although applications like Tagboard or Paper.li allow you to curate hashtags and feeds, they have their limitations, whether it be when they are published or what they show. W…

Ask and You Shall Receive - A Reflection on Personalised Professional Development

I was left challenged recently by a post from +Dean Shareski who questioned the focus of conferences on ideas and instead argued that we should be looking for connections. He made the statement that “if you leave with one or two people you can continue to learn with you’ve done well.” This has been my goal of late, to create a space where people can connect, rather than provide a list of links and ideas.
At Melbourne Google Summit, I felt I did this by creating an activity where participants collaboratively curated a guide of how to introduce Google Apps in order to make learning and teaching more doable. A point that +Bill Ferritersuggests when he states, "technology lowers barriers, making the kinds of higher order learning experiences that matter infinitely more doable." 
To me change isn't just about bringing in Google Apps and enforcing it on everyone from above, it is just as much about the small ideas that help others buy-in to the benefits in going Google. I there…

Celebrating Innovation, Both Big and Small

I was challenged today with the question: where will innovation be in five years time? With schools creating strategic plans, it was something being considered. What should be the goal, the aim and drive for the coming years. My thoughts jumped to ideas such as: Utilising 1:1 devices create, communicate and collaborate, not just PowerPoint and publish.Developing flexible and creative learning spaces envisioned by +stephen heppell and the like.Empowering students through the development of digital student leaders as modelled by people like +Steve Brophy, +Nick Jackson and the Digital Leaders Australia group.Going global by connecting with other voices via video and blogs, something championed by +Anne Mirtschin.Converting traditional libraries into imaginative makerspaces as demonstrated by +Eric Sheninger and +Laura Fleming through their work at New Milford High School.Flipping instruction in order to focus on learning in the classroom.Going paperless with Google Apps for Education. I c…

Learning to Learn by Learning - a Reflection on a Collaborative Project

In a post a few months ago I mused on the idea of providing time for teachers to tinker and explore. My feelings were that like the students we teach, we too all have areas of interests that we never quite get a chance to unpack. I was reminded of this again recently by +Edna Sackson who spoke about enlivening a professional development day by empowering the voices of the staff at her school and giving them a chance to present, rather than simply bringing in outside providers. Although I have experienced this to some degree in regards to ICT at my school, where we ran a session where various staff provided different sessions, I have never really heard of it been offered as a whole school initiative. I was therefore left wondering, why don't more staff share and collaborate, whether online or off?
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A point of collaboration that I have been involved in this year was the development of a conference presentation with +Steve Brophy. As teachers we often talk about collaboration, yet e…