Tag Archives: Teacher

New year, new apps

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I download so many apps onto my iPad and only use a small percentage of them. I don’t download all of them for my personal use – I like to be able to recommend apps for others to use, that they may find helpful or interesting for them or their students.
By recommending apps to others, many people in return have given me recommendations of their own. Many of them I have used but not really made the most of it, so I’ve decided to write a list of apps that I want to give a red-hot go in 2017.

  1. Smiling Mind
  2. Buncee
  3. Seesaw
  4. Adobe Spark.

Not a huge list, but these are apps that I’ve had other teachers tell me about, or found out about through my fantastic Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter.

Stay tuned for updates on how I’m using these apps in the school setting…not just the classroom, as my 2017 role is going to be broader than a classroom!

But HOW do I make iPads about learning, not games?

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At the start of my career, I was a self-confessed worksheet girl. I photocopied every morning and every afternoon, had folders for each day with all the worksheets I would need, complete with binders of resources that I’d collected from multiple teaching placements. I probably killed a few million trees…sorry trees.

Since I was introduced to iPads in the classroom, or for that matter any digital technology, my printing and photocopying has decreased.

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memegenerator.net

But how do I teach maths now? What do I get my students to do instead of worksheets? If we don’t glue a worksheet in their book, or upload it onto a digital portfolio, how will parents know they’ve learned anything and how will we as teachers, assess them?

It’s simple:

  • teach them how to use the technology using simple instructions.
  • focus on creation apps, rather than consumption apps – make the students think!
  • give them time to explore (not ‘play’, explore) what the app can do.

To get you started, I’ve created 4 different task cards which can be used for whole class or small group work in maths. They are based around students creating and applying their knowledge, with a focus on sharing their work with their class and teacher, through taking screenshots, sharing on the big screen, or adding to a collaborative Google Slide. You can download them for free here.

The power of Classroom Connections

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In my second year of teaching, I began a classroom blog. That was my first adventure into classroom connections using modern technology…penpals had been a less than successful experiment in my first year!

In my fourth year, I was still blogging and came across @misskyritsis on Twitter. I have a feeling that we connected our classrooms using a Mystery Skype format and then a few weeks later, we connected with another Year 4 class to discuss and share our Christian Studies presentations about Religious Festivals. We Skyped @misskyritsis again, plus another class to share our Genius Hour ideas and progress. Kids love talking to other ‘real’ kids!

My Year 4’s began participating in the 100 Word Challenge (#100wc), giving and receiving feedback on other students writing. How powerful!

Last year, I was still blogging, Skyping and sharing comments and blog posts with classrooms all around the world. My Year 2s helped me write draft comments, reply to other blog visitors and broadened their geographical knowledge of country location due to the variety of people visiting our blog!

This year, I teach Preps on a Thursday afternoon. We do a poem and craft related to the sound of the week and then visit the library. Throughout the year, I stumbled across a Prep blog, which I showed the class. They loved seeing other ‘real’ Preps’ work and writing, so we began commenting. We Skyped them and their teacher @kaz_phi and talked about the similarities and differences between our school – their school is near a beach!! During our Bookweek, they Skyped us to share a picturebook that they had reflected in their artwork…so we listened to the story and created our own artwork too!

Yesterday was my birthday and the highlight of classroom connections is receiving a gorgeous audio message of a class of Preps singing Happy Birthday to me- we’ve never met in person, but it was so beautiful to hear it!

Why SHOULD you connect with other classes?

  • geography skills
  • authentic speaking and listening skills
  • to share ANY aspect of your learning
  • to learn from another class
  • to widen your audience for class presentations
  • debating purposes

Why AREN’T you connecting with other classes?

Being ESmart

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Part of my current role is to coordinate our school’s journey to become an ESmart accredited school, through the Alannah & Madeline Foundation.

Today I ran a staff induction to bring them up to speed on what the program is about, what we have already accomplished and where we need to go from here.

I’ve been doing hours and hours of research to find videos and resources for students to view to make them aware of the positives and negatives of digital technology, mainly around the concept of a’digital footprint’. I thought I’d share some of the fabulous videos that I’ve come across – some are suitable to show students, others are probably not…use your discretion and common sense. If you have any other gems to share, I’d love to hear your list!

I began today’s staff session by showing Jigsaw, by Think You Know (UK).

As part of our curriculum for 2017, certain year levels will be viewing and analysing the short film, #GameOn, from the ESafety Office. Here it is below.

Building Cup Towers

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Last Friday I was responsible for organising some team building activities to promote clear communication and negotiation skills. I had around 15 students to work with, so I decided to do the “Cup Tower Challenge”, as many of you saw on Twitter.

In all of the links on Pinterest about this activity, you provide each group of students with a supply of plastic cups and a rubber band with pieces of string tied to it (one piece of string per group member). As luck (or poor time management) would have it, I didn’t have time to cut and tie the pieces of string to the rubber band, so I just sat the three resources separately, as a bit of an extra challenge.

Students arrived at their table to:

  • 6 plastic cups spread out
  • one rubber band
  • 4 pieces of string.

My instructions were simple:

Build a tower out of plastic cups without any part of your body touching the cups.

I was interested to see that every single group ignored the rubber band, instead looping the string around the cup and tightening the grip to pick the cups up that way. I will admit, for most groups it was successful, but as the outcome was communication and negotiation, I knew I needed to up the ante.

I watched for a further 5 minutes, taking photos and videos, giggling at those teams who were absolutely lost for ideas and had no collaboration skills to fall back on.

My next instructions were just as simple:

Tie each piece of string to the rubber band. Now, build the tallest tower out of plastic cups without any part of your body touching the cups.

Each team still only had 6 cups on their table. However, I had bought a pack of 100 cups…so I spread the remaining 76 cups out on a table around 4 metres away from the groups.

This time there was more urgency – there was more at stake as groups wanted to be creating the tallest tower. Most of the groups quickly worked out how to use their rubber band-string contraption and were ready to start.

Group 1 decided to collect as many of the 76 cups as they could first – and they did so by stacking one cup on top of another, flipping the cup stack upside down to ensure they were secure, before putting it on top of another cup…all using their rubber band and string.

Groups 2 & 3 chose to stack their original 6 cups first before beginning to collect extra cups.

Group 4 took quite a while to establish how to tie the string to the rubber band. Then the pieces of string were too close together. Someone kept pulling too hard and letting go too early, which meant that cups were dropped and knocked over. Needless to say, a lot of this group’s cups ended up on the floor, which meant they needed to pick them up…using only their rubber band and string.

It was an absolutely fabulous social experiment team building activity…and a great reflection task, especially for Group 4.

Smashing apart my comfort zone.

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Photo credit: Donncha O Caoimh

48 weeks ago, I was ready to jump off the nearest educational bridge (metaphorically speaking), never wanting to enter a classroom setting again. I was broken and had no desire to teach another human being as long as I lived. I resigned from my position effective from the last day of the school year.

But money is a necessary evil and I accepted a position 2 days a week at a local independent school providing extra release periods for their staff. Over the course of 2 days, I teach every single child from Prep to Year 6. I also spent time mentoring their first & second year graduate and I’m currently working on writing some curriculum documents.

And you know what? I absolutely love it. I cannot imagine what was going through my head last year.

So what has changed in the last 48 weeks? A lot. My comfort zone has had a major transformation, almost to the point of not being able to be defined as a zone.

Aside from teaching, I started a new direct sales business which involved public speaking. Not just public speaking, but going into other people’s homes and speaking to their friends…who were to me, strangers. For someone who refused to speak, let alone answer, the home phone until I was around 10…this was huge. That being said, I still hate calling people – email is my best friend.

I began tutoring students in their own homes after school. Dealing with a lot of special needs throughout my time I’ve come to appreciate the hard work that goes in to assisting those students who need it (when you don’t have 22 other students in the room crying out for attention too!!). I tutor 5 students per week, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Do I enjoy it all the time? No. It’s hard. But it’s probably harder for them.

I taught some secondary classes! Yes, the students were taller than me and yes, I survived. Phewf.

Tomorrow I take my biggest leap outside my comfort zone – presenting at an Educational Conference – EdTechSA at Immanuel College in Adelaide. There are over 200 people at the conference, but luckily for me the workshop numbers are capped at 25…so 25 will be the maximum number of educators I’ll be talking to. Well talking, but showing and teaching them some hands-on activities that they can try themselves in their classrooms! I’m actually going to be encouraging other teachers to teach – something I never thought I’d be doing 48 weeks ago. (In fact, I resigned the very day after my pre-service teacher finished her final placement, as I didn’t want to put her off teaching by doing it while she was still there!!) I’m going to be public speaking, to a room of people I don’t know, in a city I’m not from, in a state I don’t live in – here I go!

A comfort zone is something that everybody has. But everybody has the chance to leave it…or smash it apart!

 

Gaining insight into your students’ wellbeing

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As many teachers around Australia are gearing up for another year in the classroom, I am sitting on the couch watching tennis, reading books and painting my toenails. This year is all about wellbeing for me. Yes, I am working 2 days a week in a variety of classrooms and will also put my hand up for relief teaching, but ultimately in 2016, I am putting myself first.

In my Year 2 classroom in 2015 I began to think carefully about not only my own wellbeing, but the wellbeing of those in my care. Some of my students had diagnosed learning difficulties including Asperger’s and Oppositional Defiance Disorder, others came from broken families, some had infant siblings and the list goes on.

With a few prompts from our Student Wellbeing Leader, I began to put this concern for my students into action, by creating a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Attendance Roll (using Smart Notebook software) that the students were in control of.  Each morning, their names were clustered together under the ‘House’ icon, meaning they were at home. Once they walked in the door, they dragged their name to the appropriate column on the screen. Those students who were absent were still listed under the ‘House’, meaning they were at home.

Some pages were about feelings – “How are you feeling today?” and featured a variety of visual images to students to work with, to assign their name to one of those feelings. I found that these pages often gave me a chance to do a quick one-on-one chat with a child while they were unpacking their bag, or simply keep an eye on them for any signs of emotional distress throughout the day.

I also created pages for graphing what each student ate for breakfast – we found that cereal was always the most popular – and check-ins for the end of playtime, end of the day, or to see how many stars you would give the weekend you just had?

This Smart Notebook document is available from my TPT store, which you can find here.

I’d love to hear any other feedback about how you cater for Social and Emotional Learning in your classrooms – mindfulness is a huge buzz word at the moment, but it’s no good if we don’t put it into action!

Why I suddenly hate SMART goals.

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I have decided that I hate SMART goals. We all know the ones…

Why do I hate them? Because I don’t know what I don’t know. It’s hard to set goals when you aren’t really sure what is out there.

Speaking to an ex-colleague, but still friend, today on the phone. She told me that her current school have told her that they are ‘not an ICT school’ and they ‘will never be going down that track’. Today as she used iPads in her classroom for her students to complete a short Google form, she was scrutinised, as iPads are ‘only to be used by special needs students’.

In the next breath, she tells me that she is planning on attending DigiCon. Of course, she won’t be asking her school to pay for her attendance, or even asking for the day off so she can attend both days. She’s going to call in sick. I mentioned that even though I have attended this wonderful event for the last 2 years, I won’t be attending this year. This year, any PD we attend must be clearly linked to our SMART goals, which we formulated in Term 1. I was encouraged to think further that ‘IT’ for my SMART goals, as apparently I already know so much about this area.

As we live in a ‘remote’ area (6 hours drive from Melbourne), flying to Melbourne isn’t a budget-friendly option for PD opportunities. Instead, we are trying to bring the PD to our school, so more staff can benefit from a speaker.

I understand all of this, but here’s my problem. After attending DigiCon for the last 2 years, I learnt heaps. I learnt about things that I didn’t know existed. How could I possibly formulate these things into SMART goals if I didn’t even know about them? Sure, PD opportunities always have a ‘focus’ – but instead of just one speaker talking about one foci, I have the chance to listen to 10-15 different people talk about a myriad of things – some more IT focused than others.

I feel that SMART goals aren’t very smart at all.

If they are Specific, they narrow the lens for learning – what about all of the associated learning that may happen along the way and take you along a new, more enjoyable tangent?

If they are Measurable, it gives it a ‘limit’ and I don’t like having a ‘limit’ imposed on how much I can or cannot learn.

If they are Attainable, it doesn’t offer much of a challenge. I understand that goals aren’t meant to be completely out of reach, but it is nice to actually have to try.

If they are Relevant, I fear that by the time you actually reach it, it may be out of date – we need to keep up with the latest and move forwards!

If they are Time-Bound, it shows that learning must stop at a certain time – what happened to the concept of life-long learning?

I’ve still had to write my SMART goals. Heck, even my students have to have ‘goals’ to try and improve upon.

But sometimes it’s hard, because we don’t know what we don’t know.

My teacher was a poor speller – so what?

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Two days ago, my sister tagged me in this photo from Sunrise on Facebook:

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Based around a spelling test that no teachers got a perfect score, it raised the question that maybe getting into a teaching course is too easy.

I replied to my sister, on my teaching high-horse, that I disagreed. I was a brilliant speller, spelling words like restaurant and rhinocerous in Prep (proven by the fact that my mother has kept my spelling book all these years!). My Year 3 teacher was a terrible speller. I recall her asking me constantly to help her correct my classmates spelling in their writing. When writing on the board, she would often ask for my input when spelling trickier words.

As I thought about this it got me thinking. Was she really a bad speller? Was she trying to get me to feel important or trying to extend me? Was she differentiating her teaching so that I wasn’t getting bored? I learnt a lot from that teacher – she inspired me to become a teacher. It is purely her influence on me that brought me to the idea of teaching.

English is a really hard language, even for those for whom it is their native tongue. Why are we judging the ability of teachers based on one area of learning? I couldn’t guarantee that I could get all of the words right on that test, nor am I sure that I would pass a test on division and fractions.

Sure, spelling is important. Despite this, there are other factors that influence a teacher’s ability – how about their nurturing disposition? Their passion to make a difference? Their love of children and learning?

So what if a teacher is a poor speller? What is important is that the students are still learning.

What do you value?

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Today our school had a PD day, part of which was focused on “Valuing Safe Communities”. 

At one point, this discussion point was raised:

Students and children will attend their school or site more regularly if…

A colleague commented that we have quite a high number of absences due to families regularly taking days off to have extra long weekends and holidays during the school term. It is this a question of them valuing us, as teachers or as a school?  Often it isn’t because a child feels unsafe or undervalued that they are constantly going on holiday.  I added the point that it is the parents who make the decision and I wondered if we should be asking the parents if they are valuing the school and the effort that educators make?

I was presented with this response by our PD facilitator:

Not one single parent values this school. They only value their children.

He continued to say that parents are only interested in doing what’s best for their children. If there’s something at the school they don’t agree with, they either complain, or switch schools. 

It was hard to sit there and hear that ‘NO’ parent in this school values us. I’m not even a parent, let alone a parent with children at our school, although there were at least half a dozen staff sitting in the room who are.  Thankfully our school receptionist spoke up and said that she disagreed. To which the facilitator resulted in a resounding “No”. In her position as a receptionist, she receives many phone calls from disgruntled parents requesting a meeting with someone or another, but she also deals with prospective families. She went on to say that so many families have such great respect for our school and they don’t always stay just because of their children.  Her comments were met with silence.

I couldn’t help but put my two-cents worth in. I was educated at a Lutheran high school (same denomination as our school) up until Year 11. At the end of each year from Year 7 to Year 11, my parents and I investigated the other schools in the district. They weren’t happy with a lot of things at the school. I was happy to a degree, but also happy to move if I needed. Being a school that was closely associated with a church, my family valued that connection – the focus on the church in conjunction with education. They valued the school and the teachers who helped me. Of course they valued me – I am their daughter. But when you choose a school for your children, surely you have to look at the whole school – the motto, the ethos, the values that underpin a school. Not just the classroom or teacher that your son or daughter will have. Not just the subjects that they will be taught. It’s more than that.

It gutted me to hear that somebody is out their saying that no single parent values our school. It doesn’t make it overly encouraging to get out of bed in the morning and try to make a difference.

Do you feel valued? Do you think families at your school value the school, or just their child?