While I was teaching, I loved using ThingLink in the classroom. I also found it to be a great way to create a snapshot of who I am with links that showcase some of the varied things I have done over the years :)
In July this year the Liberal Party candidate for the seat of Wentworth, Dave Sharma, said he believed that 'school employees and teachers are similarly underemployed, working hours closer to three-quarters of a regular full-time job'. Although he has apologised for these comments after receiving strong criticism, it raises the question 'do teachers have a PD problem?'.
In our last Sunday evening Twitter chat of Term 3, the #aussieED team decided to explore this question and find out what our PLN think about the way that teachers and the education system as a whole are portrayed by both politicians and the media. The chat revolved around 7 questions ranging from 'Why do teachers & teaching seem to have a PD problem?' through to 'How might we change public opinion about teachers and teaching?'.
The general consensus from everyone involved in the chat was that there is definitely a lot of negative press around education at the moment. Teachers from different settings from all around Australia and the world were chiming in to have their say on why they believe there is a problem. A few of the responses explored the following:
One resounding similarity between tweets that I was reading was that, as educators, we sometimes don't share the amazing things that we do because it can be looked at as 'bragging'. This is a mentality that we need to try to get out of. I know that I used to think twice about writing that blog or uploading another photo to Twitter that showcased something that I was proud of in my classroom - but why? Why should we stop sharing the amazing things that are happening in our classrooms? Why aren't schools doing more to share the successes of their teachers as much as they do their students? Why don't local papers have an 'Educator of the Month' award just like they do 'Sports Person of the Month'??
There are lots of opportunities for teachers to have their achievements showcased, but at the moment these seem to be very 'in house' - teachers awards that are not mentioned in mainstream media, Twitter chats that are only attended by educators, etc. How might we work together to try to change things in the future?!
In the words of my edu-hero, Dave Burgess, be your own PR department and start sharing the magic that is created in your classroom!
The article by Matthew Lynch, ‘7 Roles of Artificial Intelligence in Education’, suggests that artificial intelligence is making its way in to our everyday lives more and is no longer reserved for science fiction movies. Our mobile phones alone provide us with intelligent resources such as Siri and the opportunities that these kinds of resources provide educators are able to change the way that teachers differentiate their classrooms in the future. Education Perfect is one such teaching tool that brings in elements of artificial intelligence to assist educators in the way that they run their classrooms.
If you were to ask a group of teachers what the number one thing that they would love more of in their classrooms, you would find that majority of them would give you the answer, ‘time’. The role of the teacher has evolved beyond simply creating and delivering lesson plans to now include a gamut of administration jobs while ensuring that all students within their care are catered for at all times.
One of the main roles of artificial intelligence in education is the automation of marking - something that is going to save teachers precious time. Education Perfect allows teachers to assign their students activities that will be automatically marked with detailed feedback provided to both the teacher and student at the push of a button. Teachers are able to see the strengths and weakness of the cohort at once and dive deeper, right down to the individual child. Pre and post test results are able to be compared easily to provide the teacher with growth data to ensure that their teaching and learning strategies have helped to improve student outcomes.
Through the use of the ‘Targeted Remediation’ function within the Assessments feature of the platform, teachers are able to see exactly which students need help with which areas of the content assessed - another role of artificial intelligence explored in Lynch’s article, identifying weaknesses in the classroom. The platform then recommends resources to the teacher that can be used for these individual students to help fill these gaps in their understanding. This remediation can be automated or the teacher can choose to differentiate their classroom by assigning appropriate remedial work to those students who require it while also assigning extension work to those students who require a bit of a push. Being able to easily assign different resources to different students within the same class matches the roles ‘meet a variety of student’s needs’ and ‘provide personalised help’ perfectly.
In my teaching with Education Perfect, I moved away from using the ‘Tasks & Homework’ function to the ‘Assessment’ function to give my students small quizzes to enable me to be able to differentiate my classroom better. I was able to see what areas of the content we were covering that the students already had a solid grasp on so that we could explore these in other ways such as project based learning and inquiry learning, versus those areas where students were not as strong and therefore needed a bit more teacher input. This shows how Education Perfect meets the role, ‘allow teachers to act as learning motivators’ as teachers are able to drive the learning in directions that will engage and inspire the students.
Along with the ability to gather quick and detailed data about my students strengths and weaknesses, Education Perfect allowed me to provide my students with syllabus aligned content wherever they needed it. If students were absent for any reason, they were able to maintain their studies by logging in to the Education Perfect platform. This meant that learning did not stop for students. The way that the platform is designed also allows students to explore the content library at their own discretion. This allows students to delve into areas of the syllabus that interest them as well as exploring areas that they feel they need more help with, without having to rely on the teacher to assign the work.
Although artificial intelligence and programs like Education Perfect will never replace a teacher in a classroom, they provide educators with the tools needed to be able to accelerate the potential for differentiation and develop personalised learning experiences for their students.
Saturday saw a number of Google Certified Innovators get together at the Sydney Google offices for a full-on day of networking, brainstorming and fun. The morning started off with a quick breakfast before checking out our 'swag'. Side note: I didn't know that the term 'swag' is actually an acronym for 'stuff we all get'! It wasn't even 9am and I had already learnt something life changing!
The morning continued with a great ice breaking game followed by a great session by the O'Briant Group who were sharing the Google EDU Project Culture Shift. The idea behind this program is to work with schools to explore the ideas behind innovation including the 4 main pillars - risk-taking, agency, collaboration and curiosity.
My biggest take away from this session was the idea of 'psychological safety'. Amy Edmonson states that 'psychological safety is a belief that no one will be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes'. In order for teams to be effective in creating change, this is a non-negotiable. Every member of every team needs to feel safe in the fact that they can share their thoughts and ideas without judgement. When this safety is built in to meetings, collaborative spaces, etc ideas and thoughts can be freely shared and teams can move forward with their plans for innovation.
We were also invited to explore our 'superpowers'. I felt that my strongest superpower was being a 'transformer', whereby I am able to take other people's ideas and help to make them grow. The reason why I chose this was that sometimes I struggle to come up with the initial idea (or alternatively come up with a stack of ideas and can't decide on which one to follow up without input!) but I can quite happily work with people to help them to take their ideas forward and make them the best they can be!
As a group, we gave ourselves the name 'Forward Motion' - each of us agreed that we are all wanting to help others move forward with momentum by being able to listen to ideas, collaborate and help to work magic. We also had to come up with a group 'action' - we chose the 'train horn' as it symbolised a few things - power of the train, the horn to let people know we are coming and a fist pump to show strength!
The rest of the day was spent exploring some more ideas with the Project Culture Shift team before breaking in to our breakout groups after an amazing Googley lunch. During the three breakout sessions I spent some time with Aaron exploring ways to think about moving forward in education, a session with Chris Betcher on using Adobe Spark tools to create a range of outcomes and lastly, a session on 'Sheets Superpowers' with Jay Attwood. It was a shame that each session went for less than 30 minutes as they were great opportunities to connect with people and to share ideas.
The final part of the day was a networking evening aboard the 'Southern Swan', a tall ship that took us out under the Harbour Bridge and into the harbour for the evening. It was great for those who had travelled from far off places to see our Harbour in this way - but also for those of us Sydney-siders, there's nothing like spending time viewing the City from that vantage point. We were fed some amazing food, had opportunities to climb the mast and were pitched against each other in a laser clay shooting competition.
All in all the day was nothing short of amazing! It helped me reconnect with the amazing educators I've met along my Google journey and sparked a few embers deep within that had been burning slowly over the last 12 months. I feel inspired again to explore the Googley goodness that is available to everyone but not just the tools, but the ideology behind what Google stands for - so watch this space :)
For my final unit of my Masters, we had to work in a group to create a website that helped to explore the concept of digital citizenships in schools. My group decided to take the direction of empowering teachers. This was hosted on Wikispaces, but now that it is in the process of closing down we needed to move our resources somewhere else.
The section that I chose to work on was 'Making Connections' and empowering teachers to use social media to increase their own (as well as their student's) understanding of digital citizenship. Here is my work from our group website.
Developing an effective digital learning environment (DLE) requires just as much planning and forward thinking as any other piece of infrastructure that is created for a school. Through the use of technology in classrooms, teachers will enable student’s learning to move beyond the four walls of the classroom and encompass a wide range of outside influences, such as their parents, experts and even future employers (Digital Education Advisory Group). The effective integration of technology into schools is a process that evolves over time and involves a change in the educational system (Kemker, 2005), however, if the change is to be successful teachers need be provided with the tools and capacity to design and implement innovative teaching practices that are underpinned by digital technology (Barry, 2018) while modelling good learning for their students.
It is interesting to note that more than half of the population on Earth is under the age of 30 and out of this, approximately 96% of them are connected to a social networking site in some capacity. As a result of this, it is imperative that the young people in our care have an understanding of what it means to be a good digital citizen and it is our responsibility, as educators, to model appropriate behaviour on social networking sites. Digital citizenship is not only important while using social networking sites, especially as education changing so rapidly with the integration of technology into classrooms.
Digital Learning Environments (DLEs) involve the total sum of digital resources that will assist educators to support, enable or manage learning. The incorporation of a digital learning environment means that students no longer have to depend on their teacher being present to be able to learn. As a result, learning can become accessible 24/7 and for some the the differentiation between learning and socialisation may become difficult and vice versa.
A range of digital tools such as blogs, digital portfolio creation tools and tools that allow students the ability to connect with those beyond the walls of the classroom will appear in the most effective of digital learning environments, allowing students to take their learning to places once deemed impossible. Each of these tools allow some level of collaboration and communication and can lead to negative behaviours and the creation of a negative digital footprint if not introduced to students in an appropriate way. It is imperative that educations model good behaviour to their students and one way that they can do this is through their own personal use of social networking tools. Twitter is a social networking tool that allows educators to connect, collaborate and share with an online PLN while developing the digital citizenship behaviours they need to model for their students.
Throughout this minimodule you will explore how Twitter will help develop a greater understanding of digital citizenship before exploring a range of Twitter users and hashtags to learn more about digital citizenship. A collaborative Padlet will allow you to share your initial thoughts on Twitter and digital citizenship. Alongside this you will explore a range of tools that are safe to use with students to help them develop their skills as digital citizens in environments that are controlled and monitored. Lastly, you will share your reflection via a blog post of what you have learnt about digital citizenship and how you are going to use your new found skills to empower your students.
To begin, simply click on the icon under 'Start here'! Good luck!
Digital Citizenship and PLNs by Kelly Hollis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
With CONASTA67 kicking off, I thought I'd have a look back at my CONASTA66 journey that took place in Hobart. I am looking forward to connecting and networking with the teachers I have met over the years at CONASTA as well as developing new networks and learning new things :)
At the moment, we are hearing so much about the game 'Fortnite' and what parents and teachers should be doing to stop children from playing it. This is not the first game to create a craze and it definitely won't be the last. What teachers and parents need to do, however, is rather than simply banning children from playing these kinds of games is to help to use the games that children play to help enhance their 21st century skills without them even realising they are doing it! This great YouTube video explores how students can develop these skills while exploring how games can prepare our students for 'life'.
At the moment, education is focused on the standardised test. How can we ensure that students get the highest mark possible at the end of the year? How can we increase the number of ‘Band 6s’ that our cohort receives for the HSC? While these things are important, they are not necessarily the be all and the end all of education, especially with the changing climate of our world.
21st century skills include those things such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity – all skills that students will be needing to move into the fast-paced work environment that will be vastly different from what we see now. It’s amazing to actually realise, when you look at it, that these skills can be learnt and practiced by playing a range of games. Online games such as 'Fortnite' and ‘World of Warcraft’ allow players to collaborate with others from around the world in order to complete their quest, a game like ‘Risk’ can build critical thinking skills and even the popular game, ‘Minecraft’ can help to spark creativity amongst the young and old.
These skills are things that cannot be taught by reading a textbook or memorising a set of facts. They need to be modelled and then practiced in a range of situations. The video talks about ‘transference’ – where we transfer the skills we use in one situation into a variety of other situations within our lives. One of the biggest issues facing game based learning at the moment is the lack of understanding of this transference of skills. Some educators are struggling to understand that the skills that are learnt whilst playing these ‘games’ can be used in a wide range of educational settings across all subject areas. Through the use of games in the classroom, these 21st century skills can be honed while covering subject specific content at the same time.
Games not only help to build these skills, but also help to boost student engagement. By incorporating subject specific content into games, teachers can get students excited and interested to learn about fundamental concepts that can often be difficult to grasp. Obviously there needs to be input from the teacher to go with the integration of games with the role of the teacher to help reinforce and structure the ideas and concepts being explored. By integrating games into classrooms, teachers can also spend time focusing on those students who need some more assistance as the other students are actively engaged in their learning through gaming.
The ‘Digital Australia 2014’ report states that 83% of gamers surveyed find games educational. Parents surveyed identified learning about technology (94%) and maths (90%) as the leading benefits of their children playing games. As seen in the graph, 89% of parents believe their children are able to ‘learn about science’ through playing games (Brand, J.E, Lorentz, P. and Mathew, T., 2014). As this is my subject area, this statistic is quite important to me. Realising that parents see an opportunity for the use of games in their child’s education means that I need to make a conscious effort to bring game-based learning into my teaching.
As a secondary Science teacher, I can see the use of games being overlooked by some of my colleagues. I have noticed that they are widely viewed as a ‘primary school initiative’ as many associate games with ‘playing’ and as Trundle states in the Digital Games 2014 report many still see games as ‘naughty things that naughty boys play in the dark… and breed anti-social behaviour’ (Jennings, 2014).
There needs to be a culture amongst teachers and parents that changes their attitudes, understanding and beliefs about games (Rowan, 2014) and this starts with the ability of those ‘early adopters’ to share the impact on ‘how, when and why games are incorporated and the extent to which they have are able to live up to their potential’ (Rowan, 2014).
For as long as I can remember I have always felt that I was never quite good enough for particular roles or could never do things as good as others. This is why it took me so long to eventually apply for a leadership position at school, even though I had been asked numerous times to 'fill in' for roles that were well above my current position. I really can't think why or where this has come from, but in doing some reading it is so comforting to know that this is 'a thing'.
A post I saw on Twitter today had the hashtag #impostersyndrome and it brought up these feelings again, especially now I am graduating with my Masters soon. So I decided to go to good ol' Google and have a look around at what exists. I found an 'Impostor Syndrome Test' - one of those psych tests that asks you a series of questions. It felt a bit like a 'Cosmo quiz', but the questions were much deeper than 'Do you like the colour pink?'. I tried to be as honest as possible, without being 'over dramatic' and my results from the test were as follows:
These results hit home... so hard! As mentioned, I have just finished my Masters and I am still questioning whether I can actually do anything meaningful with it. I worked for 4 years through 8 Masters level subjects and achieved a distinction for 3 and just missed a distinction with 2 others. So, obviously something is there... but what if it was just luck!? What if I do get a role in my chosen field and then don't meet my employers expectations?!
The great thing about the Internet though, is that you can also find strategies to deal with these feelings! Following the #impostersyndrome hashtag has shed some light on the sheer number of people who are in the same situation, but there is also an amazing number of people who are sharing what they are doing to overcome the shitty, sinking feeling that it brings along!
An article that was posted by Time just three days ago states that 'one of the first steps to overcoming imposter feelings is to acknowledge the thoughts and put them in perspective' and I guess that's exactly what I am hoping to achieve by putting my thoughts down in this blog! When I sit and think about it now, it really isn't that BIG of a deal. When I feel these thoughts creep in in a 'real world context' from now on, I need to make the conscious effort to really take the time to think harder about why I am feeling that way. There are definitely worse things in the world that could happen that not meeting expectations straight up. That doesn't mean that I won't learn from my experience and get better as time goes on! As long as no one dies, can it really be that bad?!
Some other suggestions put forward in the blog include:
This TED Talk from Valerie Young does a great job of providing you with a few ways to 'reframe your thinking' when you suffer from imposter syndrome and again reaffirms that idea that it's OK to have 'imposter moments', but don't let it turn in to an 'imposter life'!
The flipped classroom model has been identified as a pedagogical pathway for teachers to follow to move toward more powerful learning and teaching strategies by leveraging the technology that is emerging to deliver lessons (Bergmann & Sams, 2014). The flipped classroom is an active, student-centred approach that was formed to increase the quality of face to face time spent in classrooms (Ozdamli & Asiksoy, 2016).
Flipped learning allows teachers to provide their students with the following:
The implementation of a flipped classroom model also allows educators to shift the lower end of Bloom’s taxonomy out of the classroom (Sams & Bergmann, 2013), allowing them to be present with their students while they are facing more difficult activities. By completing a range of easily achievable activities at home, students interact with the ‘remember and understand’ levels of Bloom’s outside the classroom without their teacher, reserving time spent in class for the higher order levels of thinking including creating, evaluating, analysing and applying (See & Conry, 2014). These activities usually take a longer period of time to complete and often require the support and input of the classroom teacher. The ‘traditional’ classroom model sees students often take notes from the board or read information before completing project tasks at home. Flipping this process allows for those higher order activities to be explored where students feel safe and supported. Subjects that consist of educational content that falls within these lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy are those that may benefit the most from a shift towards the flipped classroom model of teaching (Sams & Bergmann, 2013).
With the advances in technology occurring all the time, educators are in possession of a paradigm-shifting toolbox that will help them to change the shape of education and enhance the student learning experience (Albert & Beatty, 2014). The wide range of technology available to educators today enable them to provide students with access to more advanced content, the tools for constructing and sharing created products as well as opportunity to develop critical and creative thinking skills (Siegle, 2013).
For those who are looking to explore flipping their classroom, Education Perfect (www.educationperfect.com) is one tool that provides teachers with an online learning and assessment platform for Languages, English, Maths, Science and Humanities. The platform includes content to suit the Australian Curriculum, as well as the state specific syllabus from NSW and Victoria.
Education Perfect has been designed to focus on mastery and customized learning. It supports learner-centered approaches where each student is able to work at his or her appropriate level and pace based on their actual existing skills and knowledge.
Education Perfect allows teachers to easily assign students work to complete before they arrive to class. This introduces concepts to the students outside of the classroom space, a concept that aligns with the flipped classroom model. The Smart Lessons produced by the Education Perfect Content Team introduce the concepts to students in a variety of ways, including simple text with keywords highlighted, short videos or a combination of both. After students have been introduced to the content, the platform assesses their understanding of this through a range of question types. A cycle of content learning and assessment continues until the lesson is finished, however, students are only able to move forward once they have mastered each section.
The mastery-approach to education has been linked to higher intrinsic motivation and enjoyment, positive affect, engagement, deep learning, and persistence in students (Simon, et. al., 2015).
It has been found that when students realise that it is the process that helps them to build their understanding and expertise in a particular field that they are studying, they are more willing to put the extra effort into their learning (Cushman, 2015). The Education Perfect platform helps to enhance this process by adding an element of gamification by awarding the students points for completing activities, which place them onto a school wide and global scoreboard. By introducing the idea of games and point scoring into these kinds of activities, students may be more willing to share their expertise as it is an area that they are passionate and motivated about. This is evident as when the students become passionate, they will be inspired to play and then go discuss, modify, research and explicate everything about the game that they are playing with others (Gee, 2012).
Before arriving to class, teachers are able to analyse the detailed data provided by the platform to understand how the students have interacted with this material. This will help to guide the teacher on how to start the lesson where the students will be further exploring this content. Through the mastery model, most students should have been able to develop a grasp of the content by completing the Smart Lesson and therefore the class should be able to participate in activities that allow much deeper understanding of the concepts being covered.
After introducing the flipped classroom model, class time is now able to involve more problem solving, creation and investigation - whether it be in practical work or research activities - with the students working with their teacher as a mentor rather than provider. Collaboration and group work become with norm with the whole class working together towards the common goal of improving the outcomes of all students in the class.
All teachers are able to sign up for a free teacher login by visiting www.educationperfect.com.
In 2016 our principal informed the Science, TAS and Maths coordinators that he wanted an integrated STEM project to run for Year 8 in 2017. This began an 8 month long journey through brainstorming, planning and then implementing our project.
Our first step was to determine what kind of project we wanted to run. The coordinators and assistants from the three departments sat together with our scope and sequence documents to brainstorm when and where we could incorporate an integrated project. A number of ideas were slated, however, we decided to go with the Ecosystems topic from Science that could be combined with a selection of Maths outcomes. TAS already has 3 projects that they complete in a year, so they decided to make the project work, time would be taken from each one to allow students to complete a shorter, fourth project.
Next came planning and creating resources for the project. Myself, the assistant Maths coordinator and the TAS coordinator took on this role and it was great working with two other passionate educators who were willing to give anything a go. We didn't get much release time from school, so a lot of work was completed outside of school hours.
We started with the end point in mind - what did we want the students to achieve from doing this project? The students were going to design a new and improved zoo enclosure for an endangered animal that met it's needs in regards to adaptations, feeding relationships and its natural habitat. When we took last year's Year 8 cohort to the zoo, a few of us spent time brainstorming and talking to staff about how we could work towards our project. The day was very productive and helped us to really cement where we wanted the project to go.
The project kicked off on day one of Term 2 with all of Year 8 assembling in the hall. I spoke to the whole cohort about the project and what they would be doing over the term. We spoke about the excursion to the zoo being an opportunity for the students to see what the animals already have and how their work in each of their three subjects would help them towards creating their final zoo enclosures.
In Science, students completed a series of self-paced modules using a range of GSuite tools to learn about ecosystems and how animals interact with these ecosystems. These lessons helped the students to create a Google Site about the particular endangered animal that their group was assigned. The students had to research the animal's habitat and identify abiotic and biotic factors from these habitats that impact on the animals, find out about the feeding relationships the animals are involved in and create a public service campaign to help to convince the public to protect the animals. The quality of the websites the students produced was amazing. The use of Google Sites meant that the students could easily incorporate their creations in Google Drive into the site.
During weeks 5-7, students were given time in all three subjects to physically create their 3D enclosure model. Students were provided with a range of materials and were able to bring their own to help them to make their enclosures as aesthetically pleasing as possible. Students used the 3D printer to print a range of elements for their enclosures from seats for visitors to bird baths and feeding troughs. Students could also use the laser cutter to create other elements. Students used this to make trees or interestingly shaped 'glass' for the surrounding of their enclosures.
On Wednesday of Week 7 we held a STEM Showcase where parents were able to come and see what their students had been creating in these three subjects. Despite the shocking weather, we had approximately 150 parents come through and find out about our project from almost 200 excited Year 8 students. A range of staff members also spent time talking to students and the buzz across the 9 classrooms was palpable.
Feedback from parents and staff was that the students were able to articulate what they had produced and the process they had taken to complete their task. The students were able to take ownership and discuss their enclosures in detail as they had been the facilitators of their learning across all facets of the project. The students were passionate about what they had achieved and the general consensus from the night was that they would love to complete the same kind of project again in the future.
Our next step in our project is to gather feedback from staff and students and to work out where we want to take STEM in the future.
The Global Head of Science for Education Perfect located in Sydney, Australia.