Monthly Archives: April 2009

Final reflections

city-refraction-city-reflection-by-lrargerich-on-flickr

city-refraction-city-reflection-by-lrargerich-on-flickr

I am supposed to be reflecting on my aims for the SUNY technology in education course that’s just coming to an end.  When I look back at my original aims, and what I hoped to learn, here’s what I wrote:

  • How to use blogging/podcasting in the class room
    How to use google docs effectively

    How to be more imaginative in using ICT in the day to day of teaching
    How to include the above in UbD planning

I really didn’t know what to expect, to be honest.  Ignorance is bliss, as they say, and I was bumbling along in my own sweet way, totally unaware of many of the web 2.0 tools out there available for use for free in the classroom.  While I would not consider myself an expert, I have certainly learned a great deal towards achieving those aims, and more, over the past few weeks.  At the start, as you can tell by reading the first few blog posts here, I was reluctant, hesitant and skeptical about the use of the technology in my teaching.  I now feel excited, motivated and enthused about it.  I have even begun to experiment with some of it. 

One issue that I keep coming back to is time – podcasting, blogging, presentations – all very valuable.  The actual substance of the podcast or presentation doesn’t actually take that long to produce.  What takes the time is the editing and searching for the right photo or quote for your powerpoint.  Is this efficient use of a very scarce commodity?  And blogging – well – that takes on a life of it’s own!  Reading more important than writing in blogging.  Very time consuming as the more you read the more links you follow to more and more interesting websites till you realize you have just spent 3 hrs reading blogs with nothing concrete to show for it.

Collaboration is so important but I found working on the individual projects easier – I could do it whenever I had a few moments.  Group tasks required all of us to sit down at the same time, and if someone couldn’t be there, it was a no go.  This is something I should consider when assigning work to my students too.  The last task – designing a flat classroom project – was perhaps for me the most challenging.  Not sure why, exactly – maybe now having got my head around some of the new technology I need time to assimilate before working with others on a project like this.

Incorporating technology is great when it works.  When it doesn’t it leaves you frustrated beyond belief!  Here you are having spent ages coming up with a dynamic new way of learning for your students only to be thwarted 5 mins before the curtain goes up because of some technical hiccup.  I can’t help feeling a little bit of “why bother?” and I should have just done it the “old” way because that would have been easier… Maybe the need for a tech person on call to help in these emergencies, although I’ve no idea how this could be managed really.  I’m sure if an IT support person were to be in my lesson, then there would be no glitches, simply because they are there.   And again I think it comes back to our reasons for using the technology.  As Jose Picardo says on his excellent blog and in this post,  it is not just enough to plan to use ICT in our lessons, but it has to be meaningful to our students.  To them it is not particularly exciting or new – it is normal.  They are, remember, digital natives, and we are not.

open-door-by-cedro-on-flickr

open-door-by-cedro-on-flickr

Ideas for using podcasting in my classroom – put kids into groups of 2 or 3, and have them produce a podcast once per semester by rotation – maybe one produced every 2 weeks.  Something along the lines of “Biology in the news” or the like – short – 5 mins or so is enough.  Homework could be to listen to it and comment on the class blog….

I have always been a strong advocate for the IB DP program – and I still am.  It provides a far better HS experience than I ever had – students receive a great all-round education without specializing too early (a la A levels).  They do community service, EE, metacognition… all good stuff.  But over the past few weeks of this course I have been thinking… I miss teaching lower down.  For the first 10 years of my career I always taught the range from Grade 6 to 12, and enjoyed the diversity.  Yes, lots of prep, but it kept me interested and movitated.  In recent years I have become very “exam heavy” in my schedule.  First taking on Maths Studies along with Biology, meant all IB classes, then a move to the Philippines and all IB classes again.  Some of the enjoyment of teaching gets snuffed out when all you are worried about is getting through the syllabus and checking off the right number of lab hours. 

If I have learnt anything over the past few weeks of this course it is to be open to new ideas.  Read, read and read some more, and then try stuff out, and then form an opinion about whether it can be useful.  I’m historically good at the last part without having done the former. I also learnt that I have to take control of my PD, and not wait for someone to come knocking on my door to tell me about a great idea they have and would like to share.  By developing my own PLN, I am in charge of what I am learning, and who I am learning from, and when I learn it.  That is surely better than the “one size fits all” traditional PD that teachers often receive.  There is no criticism here – my current school is AMAZING at bringing in top notch, and at the forefront in their field, educators for us to work with and learn from, but my PLN is specific and targeted and there and ready to answer my questions….

Well – I guess I had a lot to reflect on!  So, I’ll stop there.

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EARCOS education

It’s been a while since I attended a regional conference, and having recently returned from ETC 09 in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo, I am unsure why.  I was left with a very positive impression and enjoyed the whole experience.  Here are a few of the things I learned, or relearned.

My fellow teachers are an amazing bunch of professionals, with great ideas and powers of motivation.

There are so many different presentation styles, just in the 3 keynotes, yet all are equally engaging.

There is hope for our planet – John Liu’s work on the Loess plateau in China shows what can be done if we set our minds to it.

There are ways to tackle academic honesty head on.  I attended a workshop by Michael Sheehan that outlined the latest research and gave constructive ideas on how to tackle this issue in schools.

Assessment is different to grading.  We need to assess so that our students can learn, but grading is not part of the learning process.  Bill and Ochan Powell gave some great workshops on this issue.  They also linked much of what they were saying to UbD and what can and cannot be differentiated.

The power of Twitter.  It was actual real life face to face conversations with people who use Twitter that convinced me to give it a go, not the responses to my blog posts on this issue.

Good professional development all round!

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Twitter update

So two weeks after signing up for Twitter, here are my thoughts.

  • Fantastic for procrastination from marking.
  • Superb for expanding my PLN.
  • Amazing for links to interesting, relevant, current and thought-provoking blog posts and articles on education.
Communicate by kimberlyfaye on flickr

Communicate by kimberlyfaye on flickr

I read this post about the different types of Twitterer.  I haven’t been using it long enough yet to decide which category I fall into, but I know that I am following mainly #1’s and #2’s.  I have managed to resist facebook and myspace thus far, saying that I don’t want someone I vaguely remember from primary school, or summer camp, to come knocking on my door, and that I am still in touch with the people I still want to be in touch with.  But Twitter is different.  I have connected with other professionals in education, in international schools and in the US, Australia, NZ  (mainly – it seems UK teachers have not caught on yet).  I can see what they are reading, and ask them questions, and enter into dialogue, all with people I would never have discovered otherwise – at least not without a considerable amount of internet searching.  So I have revised my opinion about this phenomenon (I am allowed.  I am female.) and will continue to tap into it as a professional resource.  I will, however, also resist the urge to become and/or follow any of the twitterers that tell me they are about to board a plane to Bali, have just ordered a tall latte in Starbucks, or are turning in for the night.  Perhaps this youtube video says it best 🙂

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