It’s a program designed to allow quick and easy publishing of online books. The session was just under an hour long, which isn’t very much time to get an overview of a new program, especially one with lots of functions and possibilities. If I’d done this session a few years ago I would probably have been quite overwhelmed and ditched the whole thing as soon as I’d left, but this time I didn’t.
You see, the thing that’s really come to me lately is how technology is a giant ocean of skills and knowledge and it seems so vast and diverse that getting to know every creature living in it, to learn all their languages, is a herculean task. But it only *seems* that way when you’re yet to dive in.
One of my co-workers made an excellent point that has stuck with me for months. Technology and learning new apps and programs can be daunting at first, but there’s a certain pattern to the way things are put together. Once you’ve opened and played with five or ten apps or programs, you realise that, just like all fish have fins and scales, apps and programs have lots of similar attributes. This isn’t accidental, either. There are thousands of people at work all over the globe trying to make sure their app is the easiest, most intuitive to use because they know they have about one minute before customers decide that another app would be quicker and easier.
We live in an age where you don’t need to be a computer scientist anymore to program and create. I used to avoid programming my bedside alarm clock because it involved pushing so many buttons and scrolling through options. Now my iPad contains almost everything I need to support my entire daily schedule and it is so easy to use that it doesn’t come with any instructions.
The session I did was a bit daunting but now I have so much more confidence in myself to solve these problems because I’ve learned this:
This comic, by XKCD (possibly the most famous, most beautiful, and most clever comic to only exist online) is the truth.
So I came home and had a go at making my first iBook. It was fun! I worked out the basics, inserted a video, pictures, pop-overs and text and completed it within a couple of hours. The theme was a series of lessons based on a current exhibition of Australian Illustrators at a local gallery. Our teacher in the PD had encouraged us not to do more than 3 pages but I made mine 6, mostly because I’m pretty comfortable with rambling on for pages and pages – as anyone who has read my travel blog will attest.
So, having sailed through the actual book, I hit my stumbling block when trying to upload it onto the iTunes Producer site. I actually made my boyfriend (who is far more IT savvy than me – he’s a video editor) try to solve the problem but he couldn’t help (mostly because I asked him at 10pm on a weeknight), so I came back again and again and read the error messages, resubmitted the document half a dozen times and tonight, while I wrote this….
Success! Although there’s still two warning messages at the bottom of the page, so we’ll see tomorrow (apparently it takes 24 hours for books to appear) but still… my first published book!
So extremely cool, even if it’s only six pages and aimed at an audience of maybe three people ;-).
As our teacher said, it means having books out there that you can refer back to, pass on, and share easily. I really like that iBooks can have a video introduction , so if I create an information product for students I can talk about it at the start and this will be useful for flipped learning. I can also now show students how to use this and they can create iBooks about their own interests. I’m thinking that I’d like to use the iBook format to get students to teach teachers about Minecraft – how it works and what the educational benefits could be. So many of my students are nuts about the game, I think it would make for a really rich task.
As always, learning about one new technology opens up ideas for so many more possibilities in the classroom. I’ll post a link to the book – if that’s even a thing I can do… something else on the ‘to learn’ list.
I don’t think anyone would argue that if you want to improve your performance at anything you need to reflect on what you’re doing. Blogs are a perfect vehicle for that. Teachers also know that the best way to consolidate knowledge is to try to teach it to someone else. Blogs are perfect for that too. And how many times have you heard that having a meaningful audience means that learners set the bar much higher for themselves and care more about their products? Every time, that’s when.
Which is why I love blogging.
Of course, it helps to love writing, communicating, feel comfortable with technology, and be at peace with one’s flaws. The last one most of all, since blogging is putting your thoughts out into the world in non-erasable format, for anyone to criticise. It’s *scary*. Super scary sometimes, to think that peers could read your words and judge you harshly. But look at it the other way – they might read your words and think you’re amazing – or at least daring enough to have a go… *smiles winningly*.
Either way they’ll know what you’re doing, and that’s a bonus when we’re all too busy to get into each others classrooms during working hours. But don’t you find that it’s those times when you talk to coworkers and see what they’re doing, that you get most inspired to try new things?
Blogging is a great way to get your ideas out into the world and get ideas in return.
If you’re reading this and want to shout at the screen ‘I don’t have TIME for this nonsense, you idiot!’ I want you to think about this graphic, which shows the attitudes of teenagers in the UK to various media.
So what it’s saying is twofold.
1. That teens today (and I doubt teens in the UK would be much different to Australia) feel that tv is far less important to them than television was to us when you and I were kids. And I don’t care when you were a kid – even if it was ten years ago – or thirty years ago, like me. For both boys and girls interactive devices are far, far more valuable than passive television. Which means that:
2. Teens and kids today have a completely different mindset to older generations and we need to see their view of the world if education is going to stay relevant. Apart from the fact that less than a quarter of passive media is viewed on televisions anyway, young people today usually don’t look at a screen and think ‘I’ll watch that’.
They think ‘I’ll use that’.
To communicate, to share, to ask, to learn. So if you want to relate to the world students are living in (that we are living in), then it’s time to get with the C in ICT. Throw out that passive television and start engaging with the inspiring, challenging and interesting information that people who share your interests are talking about online.
If you use Facebook then that’s something. Facebook lets us communicate and share (and watch videos of sloths and kittens and animals wearing clothes). But I kind of hate it as much as I love it because it caused my blogosphere to slip into a coma.
I started my first blog in the year 2000. I wrote in it every day and I still write in it about once a week. Nearly everyone I knew between 2000-2010 had a blog that was linked to mine. People used their blogs to think out loud, to celebrate and mourn, to record and review. We’d write about parties, movies, break ups, anything. Then Facebook happened. It was so easy to use, so many non-bloggers were there. So people moved across and stopped posting in detail and instead posted sound bites. I lost depth in exchange for breadth in my online communications and it was a poor deal. Since then I’ve started a travel blog and vlog (at ‘Here Comes The Planet‘) with my partner, Luke. We use it to communicate with family and friends while we travel, as well as share our stories with a surprisingly large audience of like-minded people.
Starting an education blog is my way of trying to regain the deeper communication but with a different sphere. Hopefully I can create a network, ideally with a substantial local component, who can help me learn and inspire me.
The final reason for this project is to have a record of my professional progress, my trials and errors, and to look back on where I’ve come from. Hopefully it’ll even assist when I’m thinking about ‘where to now?’. Right now my next personal challenge is to utilise the power of my DSLR for self-improvement. I want to video my teaching and analyse it in order to improve my practice and share the results. It was inspired by this TED talk by Bill Gates.
Hopefully I’ll be blogging about my trial soon. Thanks for reading, and if you have something to say do leave a comment. Bloggers *always* love polite feedback, even if people disagree with them ;-).
I asked to attend this ICT education conference after the advertising material landed in my inbox a while back. The promotional material made it sound like a big deal, but my natural skepticism ensured that my expectations remained low. I mean, for goodness’ sake, they had a magician on the program and were offering cash prizes on the day. I wasn’t sure how seriously to take the whole event.
Very seriously, it turned out.
The event was held at Kingswood Primary School in the south east of Melbourne. As soon as I arrived I found my coworker, Tim, and picked up my lanyard. The day was organised into a keynote speech, two workshops that we chose from a selection on offer, and then three more speakers, one of whom was ‘COSENTINO! WORLD FAMOUS MAGICIAN!’, of whom I knew nothing.
We all filed into the well-appointed school hall and the first of the cash prizes was given to a random attendee. Most of the prizes were linked to giving feedback immediately after sessions via QR codes and it only occurred to me halfway through that trying to bribe people in giving feedback was probably a good idea. Teachers, after all, are busy people who rarely do anything they don’t have a very good reason to do, and filling out feedback after a long day’s PD is just not going to happen without a carrot on offer. Some of the prizes were up to $250 – pretty impressive.
The first speaker of the day was a man named Will Richardson, whose very readable blog can be found here. He is an American writer who is a proponent of education change to cater to the needs of modern learners. His speech was outstanding. This video covers some of the key points:
From my own notes, for those who can’t be bothered watching the video (although it’s only 14 minutes and you’ll love it, I promise!), here’s my key impressions from his talk.
Students have access to the sum of human knowledge on their phones and people who want to learn can do so anywhere, anytime, therefore this is the best time, in the history of the world, to be a learner. It’s also a very complex time to be an educator.
Schools’ responses to the wealth of technology and information have not been relevant. We limit and schedule student access to the global pool of knowledge. This does not reflect how their lives will be beyond school – and how their lives are currently outside of school.
teaching children information ‘just in case’ they might need it one day is a mistake because students (and adults) today learn information ‘just in time’ – right when they need it and for a purpose. I know that I do this in my own life. I want to change a fuse? YouTube. I wanted to learn how to crochet so I went straight to YouTube. We need to let students access the knowledge they seek.
the internet allows students access to millions of potential teachers and we all need a network of people who share our passions. How do we help students moderate those who will influence them, and connect with people who can help them?
what is an education? What will be most useful to students in the future, when it is predicted that a large proportion of jobs our students will have, haven’t been invented yet?
we have access to such a vast resource and wealth of knowledge, how do we decide what to spend our time on? Allowing students to studying a few things of personal interest deeply is more valuable than skimming many things because it allows students to experience what it is to become an expert, and they can apply that level of persistence to any new area that they wish to master.
Every keynote speaker on the day referenced Seymour Papert whom, after 5 minutes research, I cannot believe I had not heard of already.
I enjoyed both the workshops I attended. The first was on the subject of iBook Author, an app that allows easy creation of iBooks. The teacher was quite dry in his humour and raced through his presentation but it was a good overview of the program. The second was on robotic Lego. It was fun and I could see lots of great educational applications but the cost of Lego is just crazy. Perhaps a task for the Parent Committee, who do amazing fundraising at my school.
The next speaker was the AMAZING MAGICIAN COSENTINO! who, it turned out, was the son of the principal and was also actually pretty famous, having won Dancing With The Stars and quite a huge range of awards across the globe. Plus he actually was really good. Most of his speech was about how he educated himself to become a magician and how school didn’t work for him or help him in his life goals. He told us about his journey and it was really interesting, as were the magic tricks he did throughout.
The next two speakers, Chris Betcher from NSW and Lee Watanabe Crockett from Canada, were as informative and inspiring as Will Richardson. They followed the same themes of reinventing education to suit the digital age, and encouraged the audience to consider the purpose of education and their use of technology.
I took more notes throughout the day than I’ve ever taken at a PD previously and it’s very difficult to condense three hours of wisdom into one digestible blog entry. Alongside the points I mentioned under Will Richardson’s talk, Chris Betcher made a number of excellent points and I particularly liked his quote from Douglas Adams. While I don’t think it necessarily applies to everyone, it certainly does help explain why teachers can lack an understanding of the way students view and use technology.
He also made the excellent point that yes, there’s so much stuff out there that learning about new technology can seem like the labour of Sisyphus, but it’s not like that at all, because teachers don’t need to know how to use all the apps in existence, because students teach themselves – and they’ll teach you too, if you let them. Really, the role of teachers is to help students discern what is good quality, how to extend themselves, how to communicate clearly through whatever platform they choose, how to present information effectively, how to do all those things that are the reasons why we use technology. He said to think about the verbs in the curriculum – create, consider, describe, explain, elaborate. We still need to teach students how to do this. He made an excellent point with an example about making movies. He asked a group of adults, after a quick introduction to iMovie, how difficult they’d rate the process. They said that it was easy – maybe a 3 out of 10. But then he asked how difficult it was to make a good movie? Well, that would be more like a 9 or of 10. Teachers are needed to help students understand and create quality work and make good decisions based on common sense.
Lee Watanabe Crocket was the final speaker. I had not heard of him, but a small amount of googling revealed his great devotion to creating digitally literate students. He has a foundation that promotes what he calls ‘digital fluencies’ that he believes should be at the core of all curricula.
I won’t try to elaborate on the diagram above, but I encourage you to watch this video in which he talks about his ideas on the future of education.
He generously offered his book, Digital Literacy Is Not Enough for free from iBooks for a short time for conference attendees and I look forward to reading it.
The entire content of the day was valuable and the overall message was ‘change or fail’, when it comes to traditional education. I do think that Australia is generally on a more dynamic path than the US. All the speakers I’ve heard from the US give the impression that classrooms there still operate on an extremely rigid model – and in the forums I read that have US teachers in them (Class Dojo, primarily), those teachers are only just starting to move away from individual desks in rows to groups of tables – quite mindboggling to me, when I haven’t seen a classroom like that in Australia for decades. But different table arrangements is only one tiny indicator of vast systemic problems. One of the speakers said something along the lines of ‘students today are the best prepared students for the industrial revolution’. We need to think about, and discuss, what we can do for students that will best prepare them for the unknowns of tomorrow.
We were left with the question – what should education actually look like?
Ok, I’m being a tad hyperbolic (and btw, ‘PD’ stands for ‘Professional Development’ and not, as one of my friends suggested on Facebook, ‘Panda Disco’… although that would definitely change your life) but I’ve been to a bunch of great PDs this year and they are changing my professional and personal perspective. Being reminded repeatedly that it’s not just the students who are learners in the classroom – I need to get with the technology program in order to do my job effectively and relate to this generation.
I’ve always enjoyed learning new things, but I’m coming to see that being a teacher in the modern age is about learning with or from the students as much as teaching them. Perhaps more than teaching them, particularly when it comes to technology. My students this year are thrilled to be teaching me how to play Minecraft. We have skyped from home while playing in the evening so that they can give me instructions. Well, I say ‘give’ – really they shout each other down to have the honour of teaching me how to do something new. I have never seen some of my students so excited, so thoughtful, as when they are trying to explain a Minecraft skill or concept to me and I pretend I don’t get it. Well… sometimes I’m pretending.
In this post I’d like to try to cover some of the key concepts of one of the PDs I’ve been to recently, so I’ll start small with the one hour session some coworkers and I attended at Canterbury Primary.
The focus of this PD was to make connections and expand our PLNs (Professional Learning Networks) and look at what Canterbury were doing with ICT in their classrooms. The presenter, Matt Forrest, made an excellent point about the great value of social media connections, but the far greater value of face to face connections, and encouraged everyone there to get into a conversation with another teacher, swap details and talk about common interests. I struck up a conversation with a teacher from Greythorn who happened to be part of a team who had instituted MinecraftEdu at their school. Score! It felt good to have a contact at another school and someone to ask about my new interest – even though I feel as though I only know one percent of one percent of what the game has to offer. I don’t even feel ready to describe Minecraft in a post yet, let alone try to go into the educational advantages. However, if you’re interested this isn’t a bad gateway to some useful sites.
Along with the chance to talk (you don’t need to tell teachers twice) there were also stands set up so we could see what students at Canterbury had been doing with all their ICT equipment and skills. It was pretty impressive, to say the least. They have a radio station, for one thing, and they were using QR codes like they were going out of fashion. I particularly liked the ‘Genius Hour/Passion Projects’ that were on display, as I’ve just started a small scale of this concept in my classroom.
Matt had started a hashtag for the event (#BoroondaraNetworkPD) and it got me thinking about ways to make stronger connections with teachers in my area who would be an invaluable source of ideas. Not just that, but if I knew someone local was doing something I wanted to learn about, I could actually go see their room, their work, and have a much deeper conversation than would be possible online.
After coming home from the PD I decided to create a ‘Boroondara Teachers’ Facebook group. I immediately signed up everyone I could from my school, hoping that would make it look like the group was already popular and cool 😉 and then asked Matt to promote it on Twitter. It’s only been going for two days and I’ve had a couple of requests from new people. Hopefully it grows and can become a useful resource for local teachers – so if you’re reading this and you’re involved in education in Melbourne’s East please join – even if you’re not actually in Boroondara. The more the merrier!
If you’ve come across this entry without reading the others on explicit vocabulary instruction, please start here for the first entry on this subject.
It’s week 5 and my class and I are now in a routine with our explicit vocabulary instruction.
Monday: word introduction with a ‘guess the missing word’ cloze on the board, followed by a reveal of the 5 words of the week and a discussion of which goes where. This takes about 20 minutes.
Tuesday: filling in the week’s entries in our vocabulary books and discussing synonyms and examples, and antonyms and non examples. Students write a 7+ word sentence and I mark their vocabulary books overnight so that alterations can be made promptly. This activity takes about 30 minutes and includes discussions of parts of speech, prefixes, suffixes, plurals, etc.
Wednesday: group cloze activity that includes words from previous weeks. Students work in pairs to discuss their answers while they work. This takes about 20 minutes.
Thursday and Friday: word games whenever we can fit them in.
In Word Nerds the authors finish each week with a ‘party’ that has a theme (pirate, Hawaiian, etc that relate to given activities) and involves students walking around and talking to other students or doing particular activities as a given word. They also have students wear lanyards in class with a focus word on each so that the teacher can use the words throughout the day – for example, they might ask for the person with a synonym for ‘flood’ to do a particular task. I don’t feel quite ready for parties and lanyards yet, but I thought I would devote this week’s entry to games we’ve played so far and ideas I’ve had for activities.
Articulate: a game where students are divided into two teams and have to explain a word without using any of the synonyms or antonyms on the word’s anchor chart. Their team have a limited amount of time to guess the word then the listening team also gets a guess.
Pac Man: as discussed in the last entry, a game where everyone spreads out around the room and if students answer a question correctly they get to take a step. If they can touch another student, that student is out, unless they can answer a question that has stumped all the standing players. Questions can be anything to do with vocabulary – giving synonyms, antonyms, spelling, cloze questions, etc.
Memory: I make up pairs of cards using words from our lists and their synonyms then the class play. Sometimes I include synonyms that are new and this raises discussion.
I’ve been very much enjoying the routine of this program and the students seem to be genuinely excited about learning new words. No part of the instruction is laborious – once the students had a little practice drawing up the frames for their vocabulary books it all flowed very smoothly. Last week I chose words from the comprehension text we’d be using in our literacy groups and the students couldn’t wait to tell me when they found some of the words from the current list – they were excited about it!
Aside from Word Nerds I’ve also been studying Bringing Words To Life, by Beck, McKeown and Kucan, which gives a more academic insight into explicit vocabulary instruction.
In their book, Beck, McKeown and Kucan write:
Less than interesting instruction is not a concern of merely wanting students to enjoy classroom activities. Rather, students need to develop an interest in and awareness of words in order to adequately build their vocabulary repertoires. Among what needs to occur is that students keep using new words so that they come to ‘own’ the words. Students need to notice words in their environment whose meanings they do not know. They need to become aware of and explore relationships among words in order to refine and fully develop word meanings. Indeed, being curious about the meaning of an unknown word that one encounters and intrigued by how it relates to other words is a hallmark of those who develop large vocabularies.
I’ve ordered a couple of books that I’ve found on websites about vocabulary instruction and asked for my school’s Literacy Leader to order a number of books that were recommended in Word Nerds (thanks Glenda!). I’m very much looking forward to reading these and I hope they instigate more of the fantastic discussion my class has enjoyed so far this term.
Next week I am going to do a ‘quick write’ with the class using a photo of submerged cars in a flooded street as the stimulus and hopefully the work we’ve done so far will be reflected in the students’ writing. The other Grade 5 classes, who have not been doing the same activities, will be doing the quick write also. Hopefully there’ll be a noticeable difference in the quality of vocabulary. Fingers crossed!
edit: here’s a link to a short and interesting article by Robert Marzano, one of the leading researchers in the field of explicit (sometimes ‘enriched’) vocabulary instruction. Worth a read if you’re thinking of following this process.