Saturday, 27 February 2016

Tomorrow's Classrooms today

Today's guest blog is written by #SATCHAT's own Scott Rocco, Billy Krakower, and Brad Currie, Founding Partners of Evolving Educators LLC.
What does the phrase Tomorrow's Classrooms Today mean to you? To us, along with many educators around the world, it means that school stakeholders exhaust all options to provide and support an innovative learning environment that fosters collaboration, creation, and curation with educational technology. It means identifying the best ways of implementing educational technology in an effort to improve learning and instruction.....

Friday, 26 February 2016

Thursday, 25 February 2016 Are you in the right profession? Hynessight

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Are you in the right profession?

So here is a bit of a miserable post.  A reflection on some challenges that I have faced over the years.

Teaching is a great profession.  Teachers are passionate, committed to their students and their learning, and, they are hard working - in the main.  There are a few exceptions as with every profession.  I do meet them in the context of my work from time to time.  They exhibit signs of

  • not wanting to improve or shift their practice
  • being satisfied with mediocre
  • negative energy towards their leaders
  • negative energy towards their students
  • disruptive behaviour that they would not tolerate from their students
  • lacking in perseverance
  • unprepared to challenge themselves

In their behaviours, I sometimes see myself as the disruptor in earlier years when I was feeling dissatisfied with the status quo.  Sometimes all that is needed is a quiet word in their ears - just saying I have noticed that their behaviour is that of a non-engaged participant.    Sometimes I just to ask them what they do with a student in their class who is disruptive/ apathetic /unengaged when they throw their digital tools out of the cot.   This often brings the change in behaviour that I desire.

As a facilitator, it is my job to engage these people in much the same way as a teacher would strive to engage a reluctant student.  I look at my practice and the language that I use.  I  ask myself how they have got into this state - which is a bit of deficit theorising, but I do also often ask myself - have they asked themselves if they are in the right profession?    

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Thursday, 11 February 2016

SPLAT-Ed: The tedium of new pedagogies (Borrowed and a good read)

I've just spent seven mind-numbing hours doing a task which should be able to be automated in google apps ... but it isn't yet!

One of the big issues with teachers trialling more collaborative systems to 'work smarter' is that there is someone doing the 'grunt work' in the first instance. It is often a member of the team. In this case it is me. I am not complaining - even though it does sound like a whinge - but acknowledging the ridiculous amount of 'set up' a simple idea can require.

The science teachers want the kids to be able to reflect regularly on their learning AND they want themselves and the kids to be able to see what is going on in other Science classes. While we could go with sites, wikis, or blogs, managing that for the 200 kids in this subject becomes problematic - communication systems in schools are not actually designed for transparency. So my quickfix solution - just create a single site where every kid and every teacher can view the reflective posts but (because it involves assessments) only a single kid and the teachers can post. In hindsight, individual page permissions for 200 pages at about 2 minutes work each does seem a little extreme to trial an idea. I just hope the trial tells us something at the end of term.

Nevertheless it made me realise how much changing pedagogies does require a lot of tedious 'background work'. The teachers could have set it up themselves, of course, but I opted to go with the beta-version laid out and they can work through the roll changes (inevitable over the next couple of weeks) with me - so they learn to manage the system at point of need. Besides, the differentiation required for the teacher's skill levels would have probably taken me just as long (and they're not all 100% sold on the idea so they might have baulked at the concept and it may not have 'got off the ground').

I think back to when I was first teaching and there was this idea that 'technology' would make our jobs easier and more efficient. It'd save us time. It has never been my experience that technology is a time saver - I mean I love it that I am not carting mountains of books home, but it still takes time to mark and provide feedback like it always has (and setting the boundaries of when I am able to comment on work while at home was not something I had to worry about when I was carrying those books).

The planning and preparation is no more about kicking the photocopier but searching for apps and setting up all sorts of experiences that enable kids to progress and get feedback about their next steps. Not that I don't prefer it the way it is but I do worry that it is unsustainable without a genuine collaborative effort - which in itself takes a high level of tedium, frustration and time.

Shifting to a new way of doing things - together - is not easy when systems are set up for the opposite. When information is not readily available, it is difficult to make informed decisions. Our school (and especially secondary school) environments have a lot of administrative tasks that support teacher compliance, but they don't support teachers to think of new ways of operating because they become bogged down in the time it takes to demonstrate compliance (even though their actions may demonstrate this the paper trail must be in place). I'm all for process compliance, most especially when student safety is at stake, and I love the sort of data that the compliance admin produces, but surely there is more to it than that? Surely transparent and open systems can provide the schedules and pro-formas as supports but trust that there might be a way that is not 'how we've always done it'.

My gut reaction from my time today is that it takes a lot of work to get new and, perhaps, better options off the ground but the time provided and prioritised for this is minimal. A friend posed a solution I thought was great - secondary schools ditch the bulk of their holidays to have 4 day weeks with the kids (and a full day of really looking at evidence of learning and striving to trial better systems of communication). The days with the kids could be longer. I work through my holidays, as do most teachers I know, so we're not really giving up on much - imagine what might happen if the time is prioritised around deep collaboration and building professional capital to ensure every kid is met at point of need and can progress. Then it'd be time well spent. Of course, I don't actually believe that the time would be prioritised for that or that the creativity would be permitted ... there are just too many agendas competing. Still, I know there are many possibilities out there for working smarter ...