Category Archives: RTC 5 – Leadership
I’ve called this presentation bringing our classrooms and in that vein I hope that you’ll join the conversation via twitter. My username is @traintheteacher and I’ll be putting out links I’ve talked about on twitter using the hashtag #soccon13. I’m happy to answer
questions here or online.
Last weekend I had one of those meltdowns into misery we all have when we are in the middle of a creative project and it’s not going so well. Rather than write my speech, I found myself trawling around looking around at classrooms of the future and found some really interesting images.
The first was from a set of postcards by a French artist called Villemard. He produced a whole set of postcards, which you can find on Flickr by the way, and these postcards look at what Paris might look like in the year 2000 from way back in 1911.
What do you notice about the image?
So what I thought was really interesting was that Villemard was actually on the money as far as technology goes right. You’ve got the teacher feeding books into a machine which kids can listen to – that’s in essence podcasting right? And you know its fantastic except if you happen to be the kid in the corner having to make the machine work.
Lets move forward 50 years.
This is next image is from a comic strip from the 1950s called ‘closer
than we think.’ What do you notice?
Yep you’ve got the teacher up on the big screen disseminating
knowledge. It’s that flipped learning we’ve heard so much about right.
But I think is interesting is that there is also that culture of
surveillance. Through the little cameras you can see poking through
the desks, which are there for the teacher to keep an eye on their
What is really amazing in these images is that they imagine these
amazing technological changes without stopping to think about the
changes that technology brings to culture.
Those social inequities from Villemard’s turn of the 20th century are still there – the child in the corner cranking the machine. Learning isn’t so much for him. Where are the girls?
Our all powerful-teacher from the 1950s – the era of mass production this art work was seen as way to staff the schools of the baby boomers during a time of teacher shortage.
These scenes get the technology right but don’t stop to ponder what changes technology might bring to classroom culture. Our teachers are still all powerful and all knowing. Our students are still passive recipients of knowledge.
I’m going to argue to that using technology in the classroom isn’t just about “oh hey we used to do it this way and now we do it on but rather that technology is fundamentally changing how we understand ourselves, who we are, how we function in this culture.
It’s scary right – We have seen the enemy and it is us.
When we talk about wanting our students to be more engaged and learn more that in fact it might be teachers sometimes are in the ones standing in the way.
Because that might mean we need to change, how we learn, how we engage how we get along in this culture.
Or are we content for a few people to get ahead as long as our little patch is protected?
I don’t think that’s case.
I don’t think there are teachers going ‘hey that globalization unit I taught 5 years ago still has some good stuff in it…’ and then foist yesterday’s learning off on today’s students.
But nevertheless are we really has the culture of learning changed that much in our schools?
Are teachers using the connections both real and online to create learning opportunities for students that were unimaginable even five years ago?
I taught English in the Republic of Korea for a number of years. Being a good daughter I would send home emails and photos and found that the task was a lot easier on a blog.
I initially used the internet as way to keep connected with the people I loved back home. But slowly but surely I started to build up a following of people and over the last 10 years I probably have more friends that I’ve only met online than I do in real life these days.
Truly a friend is really just someone you haven’t followed on twitter yet.
I think that brings up an interesting point – in a globalized society many classrooms have students with family members overseas. I’ve been astounded out how many family member’s we’ve had checking in our blog to keep those connections going across borders.
At that very basic level technology can change that classic question –what did you do at school into something very different. For the kids whose first Facebook appearance may very well been in utero technology is already changing the way they communicate.
I love this photo my nephew Max, he was 18 months when he took this picture on my iPad. He might have only just learned how to walk and a few one-word utterances, but he’s already learned how to unlock phone
and take a selfie.
What kind of disruption are kids like Max going to make?
Do we just give each kid and iPad and stand back and watch? Well no. I think perhaps one of the biggest mistakes in technology in the classrooms is that we don’t stop to ponder who do we change our learning culture?
At one of the spectrum you’ve got substitution. Where technology is used to do the same things we’ve always done just on a computer. We see this in primary schools where instead of kids writing their finished stories on refill they now get to type them up on word processor.
Modification is where the tool is being used but there have been some improvements. For a lot of kids this might mean a spell check or
perhaps having the teacher add comments via a google doc. But again
the task is still the same.
Augmentation enables a significant redesign in the task itself. Audio as well as static and moving images are used as legitimate forms of communication alongside the written word. And this communication
Technology enables a redefinition of the task themselves. Thinking of my own class where one of our quadblogging classes made a lovely quiz about my school. My students quickly picked up some factual errors. Then came questions, how do we tell our buddies about this? Why would our buddies think our school has a pool when we don’t? It’s that unintended learning that happens when two classes from other cities come together that redefines tasks.
When we stop and think about the tools that our students carry around with them even fairly rudimentary technology it’s mind blowing.
Our students have access to the kind of production facilities that were only available to professions just a generation ago.
Our students carry around with them recording studios that have access to ears around the planet.
Our students carry around with them movie production facilities that can reach more screens than ever before than in the history of humanity.
Our students carry around with them printing presses that allow them to communicate with people across the world.
So that’s what they do.
Let me give you an example.
Let’s talk photographs. This information I’m going to feed you is really old, it’s from 2 two years ago so it’s completely wrong.
The Alexandar Turnbull library has New Zealand’s richest collection of photograph images.
If this square represents the 140,000 images held by the Alexander Turnbill library
This square is its relationship to that to all the photos on Instagram.
And if this square represents all the photos on Instagram this its relationship to all the photos on Flickr.
And if this square represents all the photos on Flickr this square represents its relationship to all the photos on Facebook.
As of 2 years ago there 140,000,000 photos on Facebook. We upload more pictures to Facebook in 2 two minutes that the whole of humanity did in the 1800s.
Our students do this with technology that fits in their hands.
Except for one place.
How many New Zealand kids are told to put their phones away because they disrupt classroom learning?
How many schools routinely block social media?
How many teachers think that this is internet thing is yet another education fad and it will be business as usual?
Our students carry with them more information than we’ve ever had in the history of humanity and we tell them to leave it in their bags.
We’ve met the enemy and it is us.
Anyone heard of this girl up on screen? She could probably be a kid in any school in New Zealand right?
Martha set up a blog last year called Never Seconds that reviewed the school dinners. There was a photo of the dish, how many mouthfuls each dinner had and a quick review of the taste of the meal. Nothing
earth-shattering and the tone was respectful.
The blog hit the media and then the local authority in charge of this particular school did the worst thing you can possibly do to a 10 year-old blogging about school lunches.
They asked her to shut it down.
Can anyone guess what the result was?
Yep by calling Martha into the heads office and asking her to stop taking pictures of her school lunch the blog quickly went viral.
All of a sudden a 10 year old was trending on twitter. People were quite rightly outraged at the thought of censorship. Eventually the school relented. Martha’s published a book and has used her new-found
fame to raise funds for a charity supplying lunches in Malawai.
Really important thing now that popular culture isn’t just this one way street anymore people. Kids can publish, photograph and video the worlds to the world.
Are we going to like what they say?
Does it even matter?
After all aren’t like 60% of the pictures on Facebook just of people’s cats.
Case in point.
Gangnam style. The song has been viewed 1.734 billion times on you tube making it more popular than Justin Beiber. But the thing is that we didn’t just listen to the music we participated.
Who could have written this script during the Cold War – hundreds of people in Moscow would be dancing to song made famous by South Korean and then publish their work to an American company.
Of course behind the goofiness of millions of people doing the horse dance can be a serious message.
This video was put up by a group of Shirley high boys protesting their school’s proposed merger with Christchurch boys high. The students were using this remix culture as vehicle for social expression.
I’ll give you another example of this two-way participation.
This year my syndicate went to see the documentary I am Eleven. What was fantastic was that the reason I had heard of the movie was actually through a teacher blog. By chance I looked up the video and it was
showing in Wellington. So off we went.
At the screening the film festival the director found out we were coming via twitter and asked for a photo of the kids enjoying the screening.
Which led to a Skype interview with the students before they went out and filmed their own documentaries.
See what I’ve been trying to illustrate is that the internet isn’t that. But the true power of the internet is really about bringing our classrooms into the world.
Last year the education and Science select committee held an inquiry into e-learning and modern learning environments. Since the school-wide topic was citizenship I asked my class if they would be interested in making a submission on learning
There were questions. What’s a submission, what’s a select committee, Can kids do this? Will we get arrested?
But eventually the kids pulled together a submission. Each group wrote and then filmed a section of the report. Which we filmed on iPod touches. However it was important that the kids had a broad audience
as possible. so the video got uploaded to youtube.
The question then was, well how do we make sure the committee sees the movie so we used the class twitter account and got in touch with the MPs via twitter. The response was amazing, 2 hours later the chairwoman of the committee Nikki Kaye had responded. This two way communication was almost instantaneous.
But really our story didn’t end there. Being based in Wellington, parliament was only a train trip away, the class decided to send along their representatives to parliament to give a submission.
It was equally exhilarating and terrifying as a teacher to have your 12 year old students sitting in front of dozen MPs, the media and packed select committee room telling their stories.
The kids were amazing but they had a lot of help along the way. They Skyped a class at Point England school in Auckland talk about their 1:1 programme, they visited Amesbury school,the first new build in Wellington in a generation to look at modern learning environments. I also put out a call for help on twitter I managed to get Mark Unsworth, one of Wellingtons most prominent lobbyists, to sit with the kids for as session.
For the kids to make a success, they needed to learn from people. What is like in 1:1 classroom? What is a modern learning environment? What is like spending time in front of select committee. I couldn’t tell them answer but I could put them in front of people. In the process they, tweaked their ideas, learned about project such a success.
What I’m getting at is technology is a mindset. The idea for the submission this came from a sign in Wellington. If it looks like a child designed the sign, you would be correct. A class of Year 1/2 kids
went on a trip around their local community and noticed their sign didn’t look very nice. They designed a new one and lobbied Wellington’s City Council for change.
So what’s at the centre of this culture?
Is it students, teachers, money, technology, the economy. Hekia Parata would say it is NCEA level 2.
Because what we put at the centre changes the shape of those concentric circles.
What makes technology in Social Science so fantastic is that enablesconnections to become a whole lot easier. That whole gap between the real world and school becomes a whole lot smaller. Our kids don’t need to study dumbed down problems, they can get their teeth into meaty problem and make change whether it be a city sign or getting lunches into schools.
So my challenge to you today is this:
What problems are there in your community that students can solve?
What issues can they speak up on?
The internet gives our students not just the ability to listen to others but also to speak up.
Because let them use crayons is the 21st century version of children should be seen but not heard.
This year I volunteered to be the teacher in charge of Student Council which also means I’m the teacher in charge of organising the school discos. Officially the student council run disco but there are limitations to 11 and 12 year olds organisational skills.
Organising permission slips, tickets, posters, food sales, lighting, music, prizes, decorations not to mention cleaning up afterwards is a big job. I must admit that I was expecting the weeks leading up to disco to be frantic.
Ticketing has always been a logistical nightmare. 18 classes to keep tabs on and each kid needs to be issued with an individual ticket so we know how many kids we’ve got inside in case of an emergency.
So I set up a google spreadsheet. Each classroom teacher filled out their student names on separate tab. I filled in the ticket number and then mail merged the information into a ticket. The result was that each child was issued a ticket with their name on it.
When the night came, the teachers in charge of ticketing could easily cross off kids on the master list so we knew how many kids were at the event very quickly.
I also had a google doc going for the student councillors. Music is the most important thing for disco so each student had to go back to their class and get the top five songs. From there I could share that doc with the teacher coordinating the playlist. The kids designed posters which they then shared across the network.
The week of the disco I circulated a google doc with some of the jobs I needed teachers for. The teacher put their names next to the duties and added other jobs I had forgotten about to the doc. In short I was able to tap into the collective knowledge of the teachers in the school without having a giant meeting.
While having nice weather and some awesome staff does help to keep events running smoothly, I’ve found technology helps so much in helping to keep big school events manageable.
I was recently asked by a reader if I could give my tips for surviving teaching placement, practicum, teaching experience. Having gone through the experience myself and having watched two sets of student teachers come into our school, I’m not too far removed but I also get the benefit of seeing part of the other side of the fence. However I’m not at the point where I have enough experience to mentor a student teacher so I can’t give the Associate Teacher’s point of view.
1. You are there to learn
Going into placement you have two what might seem like mutually exclusive goals. On one hand, you want to show what an awesome teacher you are to your Associate Teacher/School and get that elusive permanent teaching job post-graduation. But on the other, you are there to learn. Here’s my advice, stick with the former and the latter will take care of itself. Soak in as much as you can, ask questions, make mistakes. Lots of them. The most important quality student teachers need on placement is teachabilty. Nobody expects you to be perfect when you arrive. Being able to show improvement and take on advice is what will impress your associate teacher.
2. No staying out late on a school night
A student teacher from another institution once showed up to my placement school very hungover. While it’s not against the rules to have late nights on the town, it really isn’t a good look on placement and you will be judged negatively on it.
3. Building relationships with your students
There’s a fine line to be trod between being liked and being respected. Often student teachers try to be buddies with the kids and then find classroom management is a challenge once they take full control. By all means be friendly with your students but remember that this different from being their friend. The kids will test the boundaries just by your mere presence. They’ll want to know if the no-nos with their own teacher are a yes with you. Make sure you find out from your associate how behaviour is managed in your school and if you are unsure in any situation, ask your associate teacher.
4. Observe other teachers doing their thing. Ask them lots of questions.
While the bulk of your time will be spent in your Associate Teacher’s placement, do make sure you that you arrange time to see other teachers doing their thing. If you are teaching juniors, ask to see a Year 5/6 class. If you are at an intermediate, be sure to spend some time in the specialist classes. Ask lots of questions. Teachers by their very nature are usually keen to share their knowledge with others.
5. Keep up with your paperwork
Universities love paper. Every week you’ll likely have some sort of form to fill in to keep your university happy. It’s really important that you familiarise yourself with the paperwork requirements of your placement and make sure that you keep yourself up to date.
6. Never say ‘no’ to an opportunity to teach
If a teacher is handing over control of the classroom to you, it means that they trust you. Yes things might go horribly and you will have your share of bad days. Even taking the roll will help you learn and grown into a better teacher. It’s not unheard of for student teachers to be called on to cover a class but strictly speaking you should have a registered teacher in the room with you.
A source of grizzling about student teachers from associates often comes from planning. No teacher will let you in charge of your class without lesson plans. I think some teacher education providers could do a better job of teaching student teachers how to plan a lesson effectively. However to head off uncertainties in planning ask to see your associate teacher’s template early on and adapt that (with permission) for your planning.
8. Be Professional
In essence your placement is an extended job interview. Dress professionally, be on time, attend all staff meetings. Try and schedule a meeting with the principal of your school during placement. Make sure you have questions prepared in advance to make the most of the meeting.
9. You’re going to get sick
There’s no nice way of saying this schools are vectors of disease. At some point you will get heinously ill and most likely at the most inopportune time.
10. Thank you
It goes without saying that you need to thank your school and associate teacher for the placement. A small gift and a heart-felt card for your associate is probably a good idea. Some sort of morning tea or some offering of food wouldn’t go amiss either.
Anymore tips for would-be teachers?
Some schools have snow days.
In Wellington we have wind days.
Wellington is windy at the best of times but there winds recorded in excess of 200km an hour with 15m swells along the south coast.
On Thursday night a lack of buses in the CBD due to a storm had me walking home. As I heard reports of public transport being cancelled I went to bed wondering how on earth I would get to school in the morning if the train lines in the city remained closed.
What I hadn’t realised was how bad the storm had been.
All school buses in Wellington were cancelled and there was warning against non-essential travel due to the state of the roads. The area where my school is located and had been subjected to power outages and sure enough my school had no power until midday. With cold temperatures and high winds, the decision was made to close the school.
It’s amazing that within 45 minutes the conversations turned from how am I getting to school, to should I go to school, to alerting my students and their families not to come to school.
After I sent an email alerting parent to the closure and updating our class blog, I realised that many of my students families would be without power which would mean they wouldn’t be able to check emails. So I went old-fashioned and called or texted my out of zone students’ families to let them know about the closure.
However there are some takeaways from the experience.
The importance of the cloud
If all student information was stored locally on school-based servers there’s no way I would have been able to call my hard to reach and out of zone families to give them a heads-up that school had been cancelled. With no power in the suburb, teachers who were based in other parts of the city had quick and easy access to information despite the school server being offline. It also meant that many schools could update webpages despite power being off.
The importance of networks
I cannot understate how awesome the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office was at giving updates on their facebook page. However this got me thinking about how each school in New Zealand is an island. The advice for parents wanting to know about school closures was to check in with their local schools. Schools with no power and/or limited staff onsite were then put into a position of trying to get word out on limited resources. Families with kids at multiple schools were reliant on the media to find out information.
The power of connection
Even without class, a few of my students dropped by the classroom blog and leave a few comments. Technology is changing the way we communicate with each other.
It’s just over a week until applications close for the next Google Teacher Academy in Chicago. For those not in the know, every few months Google puts on a PD session for 50 teachers at a Googleplex.
You can read more about the academy here.
I was very fortunate to be selected for the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney earlier this year and would definitely encourage anyone interested in applying to give it a go. You’ll learn tons, gain an awesome network of educators and make chocolate unicorns Seriously my head is still in meltdown mode a month after the event.
The competition for places is tough but applying is one of the smartest things you’ll do today! The worst that could happen is they say no.
But what about the application you say?
The Google Teacher Academy application consists of two parts. This first is a form consisting of details about your teaching context and a series of written paragraphs. The next part is the video in which you only have 60 seconds to sell your application. I would rate the video application as one of the most challenging assignments I have undertaken since my Honours dissertation. At the beginning of the process I didn’t know how I would fill the time, by the end I was frantically cutting content to keep to the time limit.
Draw on the wisdom of others
Fortunatey the types of teachers drawn to applying for the Google Teacher Academy are also the types to share their experiences online. Watch some application videos, read blog posts, go to any hangouts. Even unsuccessful applications have ideas that will be useful for your application. Make sure you get someone else to look at your application before submitting it. A critical eye can change something from being so-so to awesome.
Be the purple cow
In a sea of black and white cows, you need to be the one people notice. Instead of focusing of buzz words or flashy effects, make sure you tell your story. You’ve only got 60 seconds, make them count. My video application was a decidedly low-tech affair that talked about a student project (although I remain in awe of Matt’s ability to pack a punch in 60 seconds).
It’s not actually about you
Student learning needs to be at the forefront of your application. In fact a lot of the content that I used in my video was stuff that the kids or I had created for other purposes. Treat your application as an oppourtunity to showcase what makes your classroom awesome (my students work is licenced under a Creative Commons licence) .
Ok lets be honest. Google isn’t throwing this hard-core geeking out session for educators for the LOLz (although rest assured there will be plenty of LOLz). The company is interested in how you are using Google the classroom. Your class might have an awesome blog or have created a huge global network but you do need to give Google some snaps in your application.
You don’t need to have a huge number of devices to be awesome.
My class isn’t even close to having 1:1 devices. Officially I have 8 classroom netbooks, 3 iPod touches, an iPad and a teacher Macbook. Nevertheless I like to think that my class and I punch aboce our weight in what we do with the technology. To be sure being a Google Apps school helps in terms of drawing on experience using all things Google but as far as I’m aware it’s not a pre-requisite for getting in. Forget about what you don’t have and focus on the awesome stuff you do.
Treat the application like a job interview
Getting into the Google Teacher Academy is not so much an award as an opportunity to gain knowledge and connections to make yourself a more awesome educator.
Please bear in mind that as a new Google Certified Teacher I have no idea why I was chosen as one of the 50 in Sydney. There are a lot of awesome and far more experienced teachers who missed out.
Which leaves one more thing.
If you don’t get in, try again.
The Google Teacher Academy.
I’m sure I’m not the only person to compare receiving the acceptance email to two days in a Googleplex with 50 other passionate educators to finding a golden ticket in your inbox.
After all, the competition for spots for the 50 spots open in the bi-annual programme is pretty fierce. I know there are many fabulous teachers who missed out on coveted spots and there participants in Sydney who travelled great distances for the event. Moreover besides being an Internet juggernaut, what glimpses I’d had of Google offices looked more like the fantasy of Willy Wonka’s chocolate room than a sterile working environment.
While I didn’t spot any Oompa Loompas during the two days I spent in Google’s Sydney office, I certainly spent time with my mouth open in awe of my surroundings like Charlie however I’d be lying if said there wasn’t some Augustus Gloop gluttony going on during the many meal breaks.
The pace of the two-day programme was nothing short of frantic and subject to rapid change. After we were placed in teams by the sorting hat it was straight down to work. I remember thinking early on in the event it must be close to lunch given the amount of content covered only to find that we had barely made it to morning tea. Unlike many teacher sessions, there was very little sit and listen. Instead most group sessions focused on fast-paced creative challenges which showcased how to use google tools to enhance student learning.
What surprised me event was how much I don’t know about the services google offers. I’ve been using google since 1999 and considered myself a pretty knowledge about the suite of products available. But even I was amazed at the variety of online tools in google’s toolbox: newspaper archive, Google Moderator, Google crisis map, the world wonders project to name just a few.
What I really found fascinating was a deeply unsexy topic, scripts. For me it’s exhilarating watching a google script do its thing. No more do I need to beholden to clunky learning management systems that don’t do what I want them to do. Scripts give me the freedom to manage my online learning environment a lot more effectively. What’s more it is easy for me to collaborate with other teachers as I can share my decisions and students work a lot more easily with my colleagues.
Google indulged any serious internet geek’s request for a tour of the facility. Unfortunately I can’t go into great depths about all the things I saw. However as I walked around the alcoves and colourful breakout spaces, I couldn’t help but feel that our schools need an infusion of some of google’s company principles.
Shouldn’t there be places in schools for kids to eat high-quality food whenever they are hungry?
Why do playgrounds only ever seem to exist outside school buildings?
Why are so many online student learning spaces closed off from the world?
Yes I know finite cash resources, breakages and administration are all cold hard realities to these ideas. That’s impossible and/or irresponsible you say. However in order to make something a reality, you must dream it first.
The true value of the Google Teacher Academy isn’t actually about the technology or the glorious environment, it’s the connections you make with other teachers. There’s nothing quite like being in a room filled with passionate educators, you can almost see waves of energy pulsing as new solutions to old problems are found and exciting possibilities unfurl during the conversations we had over those two days.
One of the most surreal aspects of attending the Google Teacher Academy is meeting people that you admire and respect online in person for the first time. It was really cool to meet people like Jay Attwood and Chris Betcher in person as what they’ve shared online has helped me so much in the classroom. I would remiss in my post if I did not do a huge shout out to the lead learners, Googlers as well as Allison and Danny from CUE for producing such an amazing event.
What was particularly cool was the strong New Zealand presence at this international event. Nine New Zealanders were selected for Sydney and our contingent was bolstered by the awesome Dorothy Burt and Fiona Grant who lead some of the sessions at the academy. There really are fantastic things happening in New Zealand classrooms and I felt incredibly humbled to be accepted into the Google Certified Teacher community alongside these awesome educators.
So for anyone reading this thinking to yourself,” nah there’s plenty of rad educators out there and I’ve got no chance of getting in.”
The worst that could happen is you get a ‘thanks but no thanks’ email and you can try again.
But maybe you’ll get a nod and get to spend an incredible two days at the Google learning with and from an amazing group of educators. But don’t just take my word for it, read reflections from other teachers who attended the event.
Over the last two weeks of school holidays I have watched my twitter feed light up with hashtags from barious conferences and hui happening around the country: #ignition2013, #NAPPNZ13, #byod13 #tfchch13. It’s a sign of the New Zealand teaching workforce learning and sharing together.
That’s just the tip of a rather large iceburg. Up down the country there were teachers toiling away in their schools making resources, catching up on marking, photocopying, designing wall displays.
There’s often a fine line to be tread with holidays. Teachers sometimes have to put up with dark mutterings about how we get 12 weeks of holidays a year. It can easy to cast to take the role of a martyr, listing the hours of holidays spent working on that massive ‘to do’ list.
We all know the spiel.
We know those who start the spiel don’t actually care.
So we shut up because really who wants to listen to a teacher whine about how incredibly difficult the job is.
Nevertheless I can’t help but wonder why it is we seek to minimize the invisible work that teachers do to keep their classrooms afloat.
If I were a cynic, I would say it is because teachers go against accepted wisdom of our modern society that people will only work hard if there are cash incentives involved.
Call back days not withstanding, teachers don’t have to come to school in holidays. There are no billable hours, nor bonuses for doing that little better extra.
In fact teachers will often end up paying out of their own pockets for classroom supplies, a conference or a pair of shoes for their students.
Teachers do so not for recognition or a cash rewards but because they want to make their classrooms better places for students to learn.
They do so for the joy of it.
Term 1 holidays for me are now synonymous with ignition. For those not in the know ignition is a 2 day un-conference. You throw a 100 or so passionate educators in a room and MAGIC ensues.
When I look over last year’s post, I remember how super-charged I felt after attending the event. I know the learning in my class has changed as a result of ignition. As I mentioned in my ignite talk, so many of my great ideas came out of attending the event. Goodie buckets for the start of the year, the classroom redesign, even the submission came about through conversations and collaboration at ignition.
This year I came away with more questions than answers.
The more control I give over to my students, the more I realize how important integral those key competencies are. Learning what makes an effective learner and making those key competencies more than buzz word is a challenge for my class and I over the coming year.
Moving professional learning into the 21st century.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a terrible student when it comes to the traditional weekly PD. If something doesn’t hold my interest, then I will quickly wander off the task. However ask me to find resources to support teaching contexts or a new idea to implement in the classroom and I’ll jump into action.
With ignition even though I was tired after a busy and long first term, I was well aware I had given up my time and money to be there. There was no slacking off, there was engagement.
I can’t help but wonder how we expect teachers to create an individualized programme for our students when there is often little choice about how, who and what we learn about as teachers.
Should more time and money be freed up for teachers to make their own decisions about their professional learning?
How do we do this?
Secondary schools are a mystery.
The more I talk to secondary teachers, the more I realise I have no idea what goes on in schools after year 8. All I have to go on are my own memories which are well out of date. If I was to identify a weakness in the education sector, it’s that teachers and schools don’t talk to each other enough. This is particularly the case with the primary/secondary divide.
Are we short-changing our students by not communicating?
Do teachers collectively put too many problems in the too hard basket figuring next year’s teacher/s can handle it?
Moving out of the education sector
There’s always a risk when you bring a group of like minded people together that you get people agreeing with each other. As ignition matures, I think a challenge for the unconference is how to engage with people interested in education (which is a lot of people) and the people working in the sector. Again, I see a disconnect between the people charged with making educational policy and the people charged with implementing it. Having creative industries come in would for me be fascinating however there’s always that risk that this dilutes the purpose of the event.
Be the change you wish to see in your school
You might want to change your school or even New Zealand education as a whole. The easiest place to start is in your classroom. Perhaps I’m lucky that I teach at a school that encourages people to try new things. But at the same time it’s really easy to go back home and keep doing what you’ve always done especially when the inevitable obstacles come your way. You don’t have the facilities, cash, your leadership doesn’t get you. Obstacles aren’t there to keep you from doing something, they are there to show you how much you want something.
Lets get to it.
I’m out of adjectives to describe my week at the Apple Distinguished Educator institute in Bali. Seven days of hardcore geeking out with a spectacular group of educators in a breath-taking location is my nirvana. I frequently had to pinch myself wondering if I was *really* there and how on earth my application got accepted given the astounding level of teaching talent amassed at the event.
I didn’t know that much about the Apple Distinguished Educator programme when I applied. As result, this week was really a leap into the unknown. I was (and remain) a bit concerned about a company giving their seal of approval to teachers, when really I think teachers should be the ones giving the nod to good products.
However I liked that idea of learning with and from other educators passionate about using technology in the classroom around the Asia-Pacific region and I like using apple products in the classroom so I was quietly optimistic that I was in for a good week.
I was so wrong.
I was in for the one the most amazing experiences of my professional life.
At the risk of sounding like a cult member, the highlight for me was feeling like I was home. I spent my days and nights surrounded by people who share my passions and had me asking ‘show me how you do that.’
Which is really the point of the Apple Distinguished Educator programme.
Take a couple of hundred people who are already passionate about using technology in the classroom, throw them in a room together by day (and down the water slide at night) and you’ve got the makings of a tight-knit community of teachers dedicated to globally transforming education.
Because it was learning from other teachers which made the event special for me. I can often be found giving advice and helping people with using technology which I enjoy doing (after all I’m a teacher). However it can sometimes get exhausting being a source of information and advice for others.
Over the course of this year, I have been secretly fretting that my teaching was getting stale and that once other teachers figured out my bag of tricks, they’d also figure out that what I do in class isn’t all that amazing.
I was in need of some inspiration and ideas.
Now my brain is exploding with new possibilities and new passions. Everywhere I turned during the conference it felt like I was getting a glimpse into the future, of what might be mainstream in a few years time.
If I was going to make a prediction, it would be watch out for Multi-Touch literacy. I loved how seamlessly layers of video, audio and images could sit in one document. There’s something almost primeval in the ability to manipulate information using your fingers. Multi-Touch technology books makes work seem so much more real and engaging. Immediately I thought of all the video and images I have of my class and my students and had a go at creating a mock up of a student portfolio.
I was impressed by how simple it was to use and how I could create a really rich learning story for the child encapsulating photos, videos and text to stand alongside the PDFs of standardised test results (though for some reason I can only see the first page). The files could just be dragged and dropped in making it very child friendly to use.
No faffing around with embed codes and trying to make existing work fit into rigid templates that don’t work. The results are just gorgeous to look at and have the potential to be published to global audience.
My post would not be complete without a big shout out to the Apple education team. I tend to be a bit wary of big business influence in education and had a secret fear that the week was going to be an extended sales pitch by some dull conformist corporate types who have no idea the realities of the classroom.
In reality, the Apple education team are a creative, caring, diverse group of individuals dedicated to making the programme a success. I was particularly impressed by how many of the team, some of whom I had never met, asked if I was ok after I had asthma attack during the institute. Before I move on, let me give a quick shout out to the awesomesauce Meredith who looks after New Zealand.
It’s hard to believe the week is over and in a few days I’ll be back to reality. Finding the time to keep my projects going when faced with the demands of regular teaching duties, managing access to devices and being the sole ADE in Wellington city will be challenging.
However what happens during a conference is somewhat meaningless; what really matters is what we do differently afterwards based on what we learned while there. As my roommate at the institute, the fabulous @donnasmithnz, said we need to keep #ade2013 alive.
I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned with other teachers at my school, #ignition2013, an ignite talk and also through educampZQN. To add to the nuttiness of my life, I’ve also got #educampwlg to organize and I have a few ideas to implement inside and outside the classroom in the pipeline.
So yes, I’m sure I’ll get a bit of a ribbing from some some quarters for selling my teaching soul to giant multi-national company and yes I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to work in a 1:1 environment. However I’m committed to using what I’ve learned over the week to improve the experience of students in my classroom.
Because really it isn’t about the technology, it’s what you do with it that matters.
At the end of last year Apple called for applications for the Apple Distinguished Educator programme. The application consisted of a series of essays and a 2 minute video. Despite being heinously busy trying to finish reports, I figured I’d give it a go thinking that the application process itself would be an awesome reflective tool to document my first year in teaching.
Never in a million years did I think that I my application would be successful and that I would get to hang with a couple of hundred awesome educators from around the Asia Pacific region.
But here I am in paradise with an important lesson already learned, never say no to opportunities. You might think there are other, more awesome and better qualified people that will get the nod. But really there’s no harm in putting your hand up, the worst that will happen is that someone might say no. And sometimes, you might get a yes.
And that yes can be life changing.
Already I’ve met so many fabulous educators, so many people to connect with and learn from. I’ve got ideas from improv artist, photographers, doctors, techno geeks and awesome teachers that will make a difference in my class. Which is part of the reason I’m here. While I love geeking out and playing with gadgets I’m here to learn to be a better teacher.
Coming into the Apple institute, I worried that the technology might actually detract from that mission. After all Apple users can be a tad obnoxious about their love of iDevices at times. Several hundred in one room could run the risk of the event being a full on Mac love-in. However far from being a full on meeting of of the cult of mac, the conference thus far hasn’t been about having the latest shiny device or a 1:1 programme. It’s been about making connections, taking risks and asking big questions.Proving my maximum that’s it’s not about having the latest technology that makes a difference, it’s what you do with the technology that counts.
In the words of Bill Frakes, who gave an amazing presentation on creating engaging digital assets, the device doesn’t take the photo. It’s the heart, eye, mind, and soul the black box is just a capture device.
I’m looking forward to learning more in the coming days.