Sunday, September 8, 2013

Student Engagement 101 - no hands up!

Recently I read an article about a 'no hands up'  approach to questioning in classrooms - I have instigated the method of not asking for volunteers to answer a question but to call upon students randomly - and it is working really well!

I thought I would share it with you - and it is so low tech it works well! You can also see this approach in action if you look at some of t he videos from Dylan Wiliams (UK educator) of how he engages students.
I also attended a PD session with Dr Lorraine Hammond, (ECU, WA)  who explained how she used a simple form of pop sticks for primary aged students - each pop stick has a students name in it and the teacher just selects one pop stick and directs the question to them - simple - low tech. However, with 5 secondary classes that makes about at least 150 pop sticks minimum - way too many I can't even store that many easily! So I used the random name selector app on my smart phone - or I sometimes follow Wiliams' approach for a more secondary style method of name selection! The strategy helps make all students accountable for their own learning and engagement in the lesson - and so far it is working!  

The basic premise is  - DON'T ask for volunteers - the teacher names students individually by calling on the randomly selected class participant to answer a question or demonstrate their learning or understanding about the topic being taught or discussed.

I have to say it is going well so far. My kids are much more 'evenly' engaged - they know that they may be called upon to answer a question at anytime within the lesson. This practice also seems to have lessened the usual or 'expected' students from always answering questions (you know the ones that have their hands up first and are onto it straight away - the ones we don't have to engage because they are already engaged!). It seems to help keep the more disengaged students alert and aware that at any moment their name could come up and they are expected to respond!

Trial it in your classroom (or staff meeting) and let me know how it goes!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Re-connecting and 'e-connecting' in the classroom

Reconnecting to my teaching practice after a few years in the realm of part-time work and study has challenged me in 2013!

Earlier this year I was awarded the John Lake Medal for my Masters in Education study and research in at Curtin University  Thanks especially to my inspiring lecturers and patient family and encouraging friends who really added to the journey and experience!
I must start on my Doctorate now ... said no Masters in Ed student ever...hmmm

The re-connection to the classroom and increased hours at work has resulted in very little post activity here, however, on the social media Twitter site I have been enjoying learning some new ways to access many articles and discussions around education, ICT (information and communication technologies) and e-learning. Widening my networks and interest in education and helping me to reconnect to my much neglected blog.

I have rekindled my interest in cooperative learning theory and strategies and applied through my school and was selected to participate in the quality CMS  (classroom management & instructional strategies) professional development (PD) in WA.

 My classroom has a Smartboard and very little working ICT (two computers) there is a mini lab and a tower of power (mobile laptop stand) and I am slowly using what I can and incorporating into the assessment and learning tasks for the students. However, I do feel the access is still tricky with the shared areas and equipment. The mini lab is just designed out of view and only holds 12 students so it is really hard to monitor while the 20 other students are in the classroom using the mobile laptops or working on other tasks. I wish the school allowed students to use their phones as bring your own device (BYOD) policies and practices seem to be gaining traction in many educational settings.

I have let a few kids use phones when we are doing dictionary and thesaurus based spelling and word derivation research  - as they love looking up word sites etc. The students can usually find and access the sites more effectively and efficiently time wise form their phones.

Much damage is taken out on the ICT computer mini lab and laptops as there is little ownership over the school equipment. another reason that careful and explicit uses for student owned smart phones at school would work well...sigh just too early for now.
we have made some changes to the ownership of the computers in the mini lab and the laptops recently and hopefully we will see a change to the issues we are currently experiencing at school.
I remain at the early stages of operating the smartboard and working out what it can do! The students are a great help - most of the time!

If any readers have any links or tips for ICT and Smartboards it is much appreciated - send it to me!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Teaching 101 - return to the classroom

After some time out of a school classroom context (three years) but still working in schools at the senior school level with a special project across three large secondary schools, I have been reappointed to a small K-10 school in the metropolitan area of my city in Australia. The school has high numbers of  EALD (English as an Additional Language and/or Dialect) students and the low levels of literacy are proving really problematic in the secondary classes I teach at the school.

Thinking, talking, writing and reading are all far down the list of my student's preferred ways to interact and communicate. They much prefer online gaming, and Facebook style gossiping, with verbal taunting including fast comedic retorts and high levels of sarcasm, such as those seen on web based social media sites such as and various online memes. The notions of essays and the written style of communication as used almost exclusively in schools for educational assessment  purposes and for the ranking and testing of students is something they see as so far away from the world of what communication is according to what they know and experience it. The tools of language seem to be something they don't really see as useful or important  nor do they seem to know how to use language to express ideas, thoughts or opinions effectively.
They do not inhabit the world of books, films, TV, documentaries or libraries as did their teachers and the test setters. my students are as far away from the expected school forms of writing and reading as I am from understanding the writing and texts that are being created and shared on-line such as the Harlem Shake phenomenon.  

I have been teaching my secondary classes at the sentence and paragraph level with my 13-15 year olds across all classes having completed modelled writing sessions that have focused on the structure of sentences and paragraphs. Also surprising me, my 14 year olds are responding really positively to the use of word prompts in their argumentative essay writing task. I gave them a bank of  connective vocabulary such as; also, considering , firstly, secondly, most importantly etc, - all the ones that real writers commonly use in crafting their opinion based writing -  and asked that they have to go to use them effectively in their own writing. The kids seem excited to try them out, with a few students saying how much they liked trying to craft their writing to make it sound more 'grown up' and educational. 

Anyway...serendipity being ever present...I heard a Radio National interview of Peg Tyre this morning and as a result it prompted me back to my much neglected blog. The interview segment also gave me a sense that I could be onto to something positive for my kids and their need to improve - so I thought I'd share the link to Peg Tyre and her article she wrote in 2011, in The Atlantic. I have also added a link to the podcast to the ABC Radio National segment that aired this morning for you!

I hope you get something positive out of the links!  I did.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Flipped classroom concept and its link to 'flow' learning

I think this concept of 'flow' as described by C.Birk in Connected Principals web, has a lot of potential to work with the increasingly interesting 'flipped classroom' concept - the idea of students doing the content reading and exploration online, at home or in library centres on the www, then turning up to classrooms to engage in the practical content of trying out their hypothesis, inquiry learning, clarifying, testing and collaborating, sharing and engaging with others about what they have learned, found, read or viewed - suits the idea of flipping the learning in the classroom.

Face to face teaching is then reserved as important contact time with the students & teacher in the classroom.The students exploration of theories, philosophies and ideas is more self directed and exploratory over the websites and channels we have available online, including MOOCs, webinars, networks, etc and the work undertaken by students in the classroom, takes on greater imporantance through the shift in focus form content  lecturing to a more dynamic teaching approach.

Flipped learning privileges contact, discussion, experimentation and practical application of what has been in the past often content driven schooling experiences within classrooms. Traditionally students learning from textbooks, whiteboards and curriculum packages.It also encourages the kind of informed and self directed learning that allows the student to get into the state of "flow" as described by Csikszentmihalyi and examined by C.Birk  - Good stuff for educators and those interested in blending delivery using ICT.

from little things big things .....grow! 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Finally I have found some time in between project demands and study to write again, such is the nature of multidisciplinary working from home roles!

DERN again continues to provide interesting research and links about literacy and technology.
Recently a very thorough literature review was completed on the topic of teenagers and texting. It resonated with some of my observations in classrooms and my own control group that I had prepared earlier - my teen  at home  - lol.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Gender and digital reading

I have included an interesting link from DERN. The paper is only brief but contains some relevant research findings on the topic of gender & digital text reading practices.  

I have a long standing interest in how the digital world in which our children and students are currently immersed has impacted on their literacy and learning practices, so thought I would share the research about reading on line - thanks to Gerry White and DERN for always bringing forward such interesting research up for discussion.  



Monday, December 19, 2011

Online participation experiences with MOOC #change11

I had my first opportunity to participate with the MOOC # change 11 on-line, in a live discussion, thanks to a Perth based Murdoch university guest speaker Jan Herrington, the start time was suitable for Australian based participants! The ICT was painless via Blackboard and the quality of the connection was good for the hour long discussion - some lag on audio and video but chatting via the keyboard with other participants was instant. I did find the keyboarding chat very open, broad ranging and encouraging so thanks everyone! It is a bit daunting to give it a go at first! I did find trying to read, type, listen, follow, comment was the most challenging aspect of the participation for me!
Enough about the the ICT  - it worked and was operated by me - unaided ( wee hoo! It must be fool proof)

The theme of the webcast was"Authentic Learning".

I got the gist of the content and got to follow the presentation. I did find the concept of "Authentic Learning" interesting but struggled to see the secondary school based subject application across most areas, without it becoming non-authentic and frankly it seemed a bit of a forced fit. This is mainly because of the premise that school learning is somehow 'authentic' and has 'real world' application.  'Authentic Learning' seemed to be best matched to vocational contexts - simulated situations, reporting, observing, etc. schools often are responsible for the skills prior to these simulated situations the ones surrounding the ability to writ a report, observe and record, report etc... it might have been that I got the wrong end of the story but Jan  Herrington seemed to be equating 'Authentic Learning' to realistic applicable tasks that have application only to the real world and any other type of learning such a 'learning to learn' seemed to not have application as a simulated real experience therefore was seen as a de-contextualised learning experience which rendered it inauthentic.  The definitions were ill defined rather than established and shared from the beginning. School based tasks seemed to be labelled inauthentic if they have little application for students beyond...well just learning it .. i guess for me it was the idea that in secondary schools are somehow not real world and instead offer learning that is not applicable to 'real world' was a strange position to begin from and it felt at odds with what I have understood of tasks assignments and assessment in schools. I  will read more on the topic and reserve my further comments for now but as a reflection this is my first blog on the topic - I'd love to hear from others about their thoughts on the topic.