Almost a month ago my PLG was fortunate enough to have a Skype call with Sam McNeill the Director of ICT at St Andrews College here in Christchurch. Sam talked about their story so far implementing 1:1 devices with this years Year 9 intake and the ways teachers at StAC are using technology in the classroom to enhance learning outcomes.
Sam recorded the Skype call using Screenflow and posted an edited version on his StAC e-Learning in action blog about the session. It's fantastic that Sam is so willing to share and I hope that those who take the time to check it out from this post also share with those who might be interested.
I've often thought, life is about timing and switches. It's about knowing when to switch on, take advantage of and make the most the opportunities that come along. Good teachers do this all the time. They are in tune with when that lightbulb moment happens for both the class and individuals in their lessons.
Three 30 min sessions is not a lot of time. From my previous post you'll know we are using Design Thinking as a process for our own personalized learning inquiry into how we can use ICT at Catholic Cathedral College to improve literacy. The first stage of the process is Discovery. It's where you start to understand the problem you are looking to solve, start to plan the research you need to do and gather inspiration.
When I was planning the first session an email came through from our school office about a free talk by Abdul Chohan from Essa Academy outside of Manchester in the United Kingdom. There was a link in the body of the email and I just happened to click and watch. The journey this school went on resonated with me and I couldn't help but think of the parallels between Essa and CCC. I played it to the PLG as the hook for our first session and the discussion around it hijacked the rest of our time. A member of the PLG and a colleague from another school went to the talk and their feedback confirmed the value of their story to us. At our last session the group member reported back and shared the extensive notes they took at the talk. The outcome of this conversations is that is that we can't get away from hardware and infrastructure being symbiotically connected with how we can use ICT to improve literacy at CCC.
For the second session I created a shared google doc to brain storm elements of ICT breaking them into hardware, software and web based. This way people could add links to further information about a product to better inform the group of the product they had added. In time for our last session Tim Thatcher from Napier Girls High shared a resource through Visarts he had created, called The Digital Artroom. This is a wonderful site that shares the pros and cons of using different types of technology in the artroom. Are there similar sites out there for other curriculum areas to help us in our research.
Two such blogs that I'm finding really useful is Edutopia and StAC e-Learning Stories by Sam McNeill the Director of ICT at St Andrews College in Christchurch. Edutopia is a blog of the best blog posts out there in education and Sam's documents the e-Learning journey underway at St Andrews College. Interesting stories from both find me via Twitter. Sam's story is the other end of the spectrum to Essa Academy as STAC a private school in Christchruch, but both are heading towards the same learning outcomes for their students.
We have our project board made and are ready to get stuck into our education problem and the journey it will take us on. The last opportunity thats revealed itself, is that all members of the PLG at the last session are able to run over time. So I look forward to sharing more discoveries, sidetrack conversations and mistakes along the way.
A special thanks to the members of the PLG for your contributions so far!
ICT & personalised learning to improve literacy; is the PLG's official title that I'm facilitating. Thats a lot to digest, as it is probably two PLG's in one. Recently I've gone down more of a Personalised Learning Path in my senior classes as a teacher of Art. This is in response to my students asking "why should I do this?". ICT and Technology is just something I've always been interested in since myself and a friend worked out how to bug a telephone with a Dick Smith Funway into Electronics; FM radio transmitter.
Over the last few weeks Edutopia have shared some very interesting blog posts on Literacy and it's symbiotic relationship with ICT. Reading 2.0 talks about the different types of reading we do in todays world and finishes with a wonderful sentence important to personalised learning "Inquiry leads to research and research leads to reading." I grumpily did reading recovery when I was 8 and was a very slow reader. I read the bare minimum to get me through High School and only read what interested me. Relevance is an important word to remember as a teacher.
A Guidebook for Social Media in the Classroom is a wonderful post about the power of using Social Media in the classroom. It's about understanding our students, how they do things and how to personalise their learning through social media. After sending it to colleagues, I had a wonderful reflective conversation about a "letter to the editor" piece a colleague had wanted to do with his students. I understand the concept but it was very much foreign to his students. He discovered through a class conversation that had he reword it as an "Open letter on Facebook" and his students would have been off.
This post will hopefully start conversations flowing in my PLG session. Something I'd like to do with them is to sign up to twitter, it is the wind that fans the spark of my professional inquiry. I want them to experience Personalised Learning first hand using a little Design Thinking to structure their own inquiry of what interests them about ICT and how it might improve Literacy in our school. With a bit of luck the learning they do will flow into their classroom practice as my inquiry has with me.
Special thanks to Edutopia contributors Mary Beth Hurtz and Vicki Davis plus IDEO Riverdale and the Design Thinking for Educators team.
I'm pretty new to Twitter as my previous post tells you and I'm just starting to realize the potential power of it as a professional development tool. For most educationalists using twitter, this will be old news but I feel the need to share it anyway.
I teach at a low decile school and you have to be smart about how you do things. I recently caught up with an ex-colleague who is now working in a school at the opposite end of the spectrum. In our conversation, twitter and it's merits were discussed. In parting conversation our plans for the following day were discussed and he took delight in telling of the eLearning conference he was attending the next day.
The next morning I got a text with the #tag address for the conference, "follow us, there are some interesting discussions going on". I just happened to have a free and was able to give a good 10 mins to get a handle on following the conference. For the rest of the day I dropped in and out following the odd post, digging a little deeper when curiosity and time allowed.
It was a bit of a revelation for me. It was like being there for the really important bits. Of course you can't beat actually being there and interacting with like minded people, but it's a pretty close second best.
A recent Twitter post on "What is the problem with professional development" by Courtney Hanes. Here is a little snippet of what she has to say.
"Good professional development, or what I like to refer to as professional growth, is like good teaching, or what I refer to as educating the student. To me, it’s the same as good curriculum — planning without a plan, structured, yet flexible, applicable, relevant, and engaging. I have been inspired by a few examples in my 14 years of teaching. Most of the good examples occur when I seek them out myself. I learn more when I want to, when I am curious, when I have a mentor guiding and supporting me, and when the passion and questions posed inspire true change in my heart. Being educated and growing must be ongoing, and must aim to achieve excellence rather than mediocrity. Just like our students, we do not want our time wasted, and we do not want impersonal, standardized material."
For me, Twitter and crashing conferences on Twitter allows me to that.
In the song that is the title of this post there is a line that says "Do one thing everyday that scares you". It was a one hit wonder(you may remember the song) and that line has stuck with me. Over the next little while posting on the this blog is going to be that"one thing" that scares me.
At the beginning of the year I was lucky enough to go to the International Conference on Thinking in Wellington, New Zealand. I'm coming up 7 years teaching at my current school and the conference was the breath of fresh air that I needed. Over the year ahead I'll share some of my ideas and understanding from my teaching practice.
As an Art teacher I felt very empowered at ICOT2013. A lot of the philosophies on thinking/teaching/learning were connected to the creative processes used in the Arts. I was taken by how many primary schools were there. We, High School teachers, had better get our acts together! We have a wonderful assessment tool in NCEA that can be used to create unique and relevant learning experiences for the young people of New Zealand. We need to shake off the shackles of last centuries education system and get creative. Here are a couple of tools I'm starting to use.
Evernote: I discovered Evernote at the beginning of last year and quickly saw it as a way to document my students artworks as they progress through the year levels in my Art room. The ease at which I can photograph and upload to a students notebook and then share with parents and other staff is fast making it an invaluable tool in my teaching practice. At ICOT2013 Ewan McIntosh ran a workshop on using Evernote as a formative assessment tool. He used a free Evernote account that the whole class used. Students had a notebook each and made reflection notes on what they had learned that day. I'm doing something similar in my classes this year and basing my reflection questions from a blog post by Hadley Ferguson on "Ungrading Students"
Twitter: I must confess that I spent a good chunk of my first workshop at ICOT signing up to twitter. Before the conference I saw twitter as a waste of time, a place where you stalked your favourite celebrity. How wrong I was! The ideas that educators are sharing and discussing on twitter is amence. One post talked about Formal and Informal PD. Most of us yawn at the thought of formal PD. "If I can just get one little thing to use I'll be happy" we say. For me informal PD is where the real learning for my teaching practice takes place. I find out and learn about what is relevant to me and my teaching. Hhmmm that sounds familiar! Sounds like what the students want. If your still reading check out this blog post by Luke Dyer on "How twitter made me a new teacher".
When you come back from a conference like ICOT2013 you have so many things buzzing around in your head. How do I give back to my school for such an investment? I'm still working on that, seeing what sticks in my head and practice, waiting for the dust to settle. I share most of my favourite tweets with staff. I don't want to do one of those boring Powerpoints that formal PD can be full of. Maybe this blog is the start of something.
Speaking of all that. My class first class has just turned up and I promised I would post this today as it has been sitting in my drafts for a week already. Time to jump off the end of
A couple of years ago I read a book by Daniel Pink called "A Whole New Mind; Why right brainers will rule the world" It was a great read and backed up what us Arts teachers have known for a long time. The Arts are actually pretty useful in the big scheme of a well rounded education.
There were several initiatives from the book that I use in my teaching practice today. The one I value the most is the FEDEX(Atlassian;the company who started this has been asked to change the nam Day. Once every month or couple of months I take a day and work on my own artwork in the classroom along side my students. I get all my teaching done early in the week and have them prepped so that all they have to do is come in, sit down and get on with their work. Corporates such as Google and their 80/20 policy have been doing this for a while and some schools are starting to take note.
My school is low decile and a lot of my students don't have the cultural capital to feel comfortable to engage with the highly academic art world. Entitlement; could be another way of explaining it and sometimes there are other more important things to worry about for our families. This makes it easy to pitch to high and what I might think should take a week in a higher decile school to do, can take 3 weeks in my class. Throw in my teachers college art tutors 1hr for me 3hrs for them and time can get away.
As you can imagine it doesn't take long for frustration to creep in. Sitting down in the class and making can be the best way to deal with it relieve the stress. In fact the other day I started a lesson with the statement "I started a really cool drawing last lesson and I'm going to sit down and finish it!". I had started an exemplar the previous lesson, it was period 5 Thursday, they weren't particularly thrilled with drawing practice, so what else was I to do. I got the 35-40min of focused drawing out of the class. I'll take it!
On my FEDEX Days I've found that the students feel more comfortable engaging with artworks. They'll tell me what they see, picking up on different elements of my work and wanting to know more. They get me thinking about my work. It's a good way for me to step back and let go so they take charge of their learning(I think we teachers with the pressure of the curriculum and achievement data forget to do this sometimes).
Give one a go and let me know how you get on.
As an art teacher this time of the year is about ideas.
It's about striking the idea flint and seeing if you can get the spark of an idea to take in the tinder. Then through the year, you gently fan it, developing the idea and with a bit of luck by the end of the year it'll turn into a body work that sees the student reach their potential and beyond.
This year I'm letting go more than usual to let the production of artworks take charge and push assessment firmly into the back seat. A new course template used across all levels I teach has my previous paragraph becoming a bigger part of my teaching at the beginning of the year(I'll save the details for a later post.)
Design in the Visual Arts context can seem quite scripted from the point of view that different bodies of design works can have similar brief end products i.e. a poster, a mag cover, a CD cover, a webpage etc. Some bodies of design works in Technology might even feel more controlled by clients and stakeholders. The debate then starts to rage between the two as to how real world one or the other might be.
I remember seeing an interview about Steve Jobs after his death. The interviewee was someone who had worked closely with him for several years and in the interview he commented on how Steve Jobs didn't believe in product research. He believed that it was up to him to give people something they didn't know they wanted. I think it's pretty safe to say that he did that.
I like to bring a little bit of that thinking to the start of the year. I often tell my students that here at school, in our artroom is where you will probably only ever have complete creative control. So don't waste it! There will only be a couple of you who will have complete creative control where a client will trust your artistic judgement completely.
With all this in mind I want to share with you Biolite. A boutique little company in New York that makes this clever little camp stove. They have spent a couple of years developing the product and finally put it on the market under 12 months ago. They have just launched the product in the outdoor chain REI on the west of America and I'm sure will continue to grow. The Camp Stove about the size of a Nalgene bottle. It is a burn chamber where small sticks and twigs(bio mass) are burnt. A small fan powered by a lithium ion battery, that is recharged by a small themo electric generator forces air into the burn chamber improving efficiency and heat output. As a byproduct extra power is produced which can charge electronic devices via a USB port.
I'm a camper and tramper. I grew up lighting my first fires in a Thermette. I wasn't allowed to light the bigger camp fire until I could use the Thermet properly and efficiently. I know the outdoors isn't everyones cup of tea and not everyone will rush out like I did, although anyone who has gone through a natural disaster could see the benefit of one.
With a bit of luck you may have clicked on the link about and if you are a visual arts teacher you might be thinking "So what? The website has some nice diagrams, where are going with this and the idea thing?" The idea I like is the product plus the ethos of the company. Part of the ethos is the Home stove, a scaled up version of the camp stove that is intended for use in 3rd world countries that cook on open fires. It cuts down how much fuel is required, the amount of harmful wood smoke produced and the respiratory issues that brings. Like the camp stove it can charge up to 3 USB devices. Biolite is a company that is giving back to the world! I'm not sure how that idea might translate into a brief or an artwork in my classroom. Maybe if I'm lucky one of my students might just show me.
I'm a camper and tramper. I grew up lighting my first fires in a Thermette. I wasn't allowed to light the bigger camp fire until I could use the Thermette properly and efficiently. I know the outdoors isn't everyones cup of tea and not everyone will rush out like I did, although anyone who has gone through a natural disaster could see the benefit of one.
With a bit of luck you may have clicked on the link about and if you are a visual arts teacher you might be thinking "So what? The website has some nice diagrams, where are going with this?" The idea I like is the product plus the ethos of the company. Part of the ethos is the Homestove, a scaled up version of the Campstove that is intended for use in 3rd world countries that cook on open fires. It cuts down how much fuel is required, the amount of harmful wood smoke produced and the respiratory issues that brings. Like the Campstove it can charge USB devices. Biolite is a company that is giving back to the world! I'm not sure how that idea might translate into a brief or an artwork in my classroom. Maybe if I'm lucky one of my students might just show me.
Some of the best PD discussions are had in the staffroom over a coffee. My posts are intended to be like one of those conversations. Feel free to join the conversation, we just might help each other out. My opinions are my own.