Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Relationships are the key

One of the most essential ingredients in having students achieve success in the classroom is the relationship they have with their teacher. The ability to connect, understand each other and have the mutual respect goes a long way to having a good student/teacher relationship. There are times when no matter what you do, you and some students just do not connect, but when you do the results are amazing. This is my reflection on the past 3 years of teaching, and some of the great relationships I have formed.

Over the past 3 years I have had wonderful students in my senior history and business classes. I have had the opportunity to engage in conversations, excursions, camps, and many other opportunities. I'm still in contact with a number of my students that finished school last year, and I love catching up with them and seeing how life after school is going. One of the ex-students came on a trip with the current Ancient History class this year, and even came and helped me out at school earlier this year. She is now studying to be a teacher, and I might just end up working with her at some point. She worked tremendously hard in the 2 years I taught her, and we had some great exchanges in class and through emails. there are many others that I have also had many interactions and helped along the way. Many have asked for reference letters after they have left the school and they know my door is always open to them. One of the letters I received from a student I have stuck on my wall and it motivates me and provides immense inspiration to me:

This past year I have seen relationships grow stronger with my current group of students. Some have shared personal stories with, had really tough periods to work through, asked advice, and generally been absolutely brilliant in my classes. They have achieved exceptional marks through diligence, dedication and proactive in their studies. We have had good laughs, (they love making fun at me, especially some of the words I say with my accent and my obsession with Evernote). We also had a 4 day trip to Sydney, where I saw different sides of them, and marvel at how they have all developed since meeting them at the start of 2011. Last week I launched my 1st Annual BBQ for my graduating students. It was a great evening of relaxing, laughter and inviting them into my home. I'm looking forward to this tradition continuing.

This week marks the end of their formal lessons, before their final week of school. On Wednesday night is our School Awards night, and I'm looking forward to seeing them with all the different awards they will receive. Next week they finish with a Valedictory assembly and their Formal (Prom) that night. I have been deeply honoured and humbled by the fact that 4 students have asked me to deliver their Valedictory address. I'm busy working on the speeches, and hopefully I can do them justice. I have forged a close bond with the current group graduating students, and at the end of next week I have to say goodbye to them as students, but I believe we will remain in contact over the coming years. At the same time, there are other students that I have started to develop relationships with, and the cycle continues. 

The mutual respect is there, they respect me, they have listened, worked hard, trusted and grown. I have respected them, listened, worked hard, trusted and grown. I'm no longer the teacher, I'm the facilitair in their learning journey. If you want to make an impact on a students lives, show them you care about them as a person, believe in them, work hard, encourage, be human, don't be afraid to fail, and go on the journey together.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Quick recap from a busy teacher

I have been trying to start this blog post for over a week now, and finally I hope I manage to get something down. This final term here in Queensland is always hectic, with a million different requirements and things to get done. Quick recap on these last few weeks:

  • I'm on the Modern History District review Panel, and we had our Verification day on the 21st of October. Intense day of scrutinizing other schools work, students submissions, and making judgements & recommendations. It is a challenging process, but invaluable PD and learning that takes place. It always helps to understand the State assessment requirements and see how other teachers do it.
  • My Year 12's have done tremendously well. I'm so excited and proud of their achievements. More than half of the Year 12's I teach across three subjects have achieved a VHA level (Very High Achievement, essentially 86% and above). Also the second year in a row that one of my students achieved a VHA 8 level (VHA 10 is the highest possible).
  • My Business subject folios and tasks were selected to represent the sample for our district at State level. Only the second time in our schools history one of our submissions have been sent to State. 
  • On Wednesday the 23rd October I moderated my first ever Twitter chat on #histedchat. Another tremendous opportunity to learn and interact with a range of educators from all over Australia. I have been so excited getting involved in twitter chats, and then hosting one to really move along my Twitter journey. I'm very thankful for the opportunity to have moderated the chat, and I'm really looking forward to joining more chats and getting to make contact with even more educators from all over Australia & world.
  • Through everything that has been going on I have also proceeded to do 3 different MOOC's through Coursera (previous post). They have gone really well, with 2 wrapping up tomorrow, before I join a new one. All three have been fascinating, and I'll have a full review and reflection on them in the coming weeks.
  • Lastly for now, I have decided to enrol in a Masters course. I'm leaning towards doing my Master of History through the University of New England or doing my Master of Education. Hopefully have everything in place to start part-time studying next year. I enjoy learning and developing my knowledge and skills. Doing a Mssters will definetely help me grow as an educator and at the end of the day benefit my students.
That is just an extremely quick recap of some of the things from the past few weeks. Lots to share and reflect on over the coming weeks with my Seniors finishing up on the 15th.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

MOOC's and me

It's been a few weeks since my last blog post and I have been meaning to write for so long now. My 2 week September holiday disappeared in a flash and I'm thrust into a hectic final term. My holiday was consumed by house jobs, school work and coursework with MOOC's. This post is all about the exciting and challenging journey with MOOC's over the past month. These courses are all free and are a tremendous opportunity to learn.

At the end of Term I enrolled myself with 8 of my Year 12 students into a Coursera course titled "Understanding Media by Understanding Google". It is a 6 week course offered Free by Northwestern University. It involves online video lectures, lots of readings, quizzes, tasks, peer assessments. We have now finished week 4 of 6, and all the students are performing very well. I'm also enjoying the course, and it has taught me a lot about the company Google and the way they operate. More importantly I have exposed my students to a new learning area, new tools, new lesson formats, and a global learning place.

At the same time I enrolled into a History course for my own interest and to grow my own knowledge in my subject area. I'm a senior Modern and Ancient history teacher, and I love learning about what happened in the past. So far I have found this course quite intense with the workload. The weekly lectures are over 2 hours, and then there are essays over the 12 weeks. I finished my first essay last week, and then did the peer-assessments this week. Tomorrow the next essay task is up and I have a week to write a 1000 word essay on a topic from the past few weeks. I'm learning a lot and I'm finding it fascinating.

About the Course

This course explores the history of the modern world since Chinggis Khan. It focuses on the connections between societies from the time of the Mongol conquests and the gradual, but accelerating ways in which connections became ties of inter-dependence. The relations between societies are what will concern us. The forces pulling the world together vary from religious to economic, political to intellectual. These forces bring the world together, but they also create new divisions. Nowadays, we call this "globalization." That term has tended to emphasize the drive to worldwide integration; the view of globalization taken in this course emphasizes disintegration as well as integration. We will tackle some very basic questions: How do we explain the staggering wealth of China in the centuries up to 1750, as well as China's recent ascent? Where did the United States come from, and where is it headed? What are the significance and legacies of empire in the world? How have world wars and revolutions shaped the international system over time? What exactly is globalization, and how does today's globalization compare with the past? How has the relationship between humans and nature changed over the centuries?
In the holidays I also enrolled in a course for teachers, 'Foundations of Virtual Instruction'. This course covers the foundational background of virtual instruction and I can see the benefit in my own teaching practice. This course I have signed up for their Signature Track to receive a Verified certificate. This could be quite useful for my resume one day, and will add to my professional knowledge. Two weeks in and tomorrow we receive our assignment, developing a synchronous or asynchronous lesson plan. This course will lead into further studies on Virtual Instruction next month.

I have three different instructors from three different universities. I have learnt more about online delivery of teaching thee 4 weeks than what I had learnt in two years of teaching hybrid classes (online and day school). Each one has their own style and own delivery method. I'm looking forward to harnessing some of the best qualities and applying it to my own online teaching next year.

These three courses are keeping me busy, and I'm also very busy at school at the moment. Exciting times ahead over the next few weeks as I juggle multiple things.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Paperless class reflection

My first attempt at a Paperless classroom is over and I have two weeks holiday over which I will be reflecting. There have been some highlights and quite a few frustrations. This blog post is just the first in my reflections about how it went, with more to follow. I discussed the paperless classroom in two previous posts: Post 1 & Post 2.

The Positives
  • Students love not having textbooks and papers to cart around
  • They don't have to worry about forgetting their books
  • They all saw the benefits of Evernote
  • The website creator - Weebly -was easy to use and they all plan on using it again
  • Easy way to share information with students
  • Track students progress with their shared notebooks

The Negatives
  • Internet access at times being inconsistent
  • Student laptops having issues connecting with Evernote and Weebly
  • Draft marking quite time consuming with a large class and doing everything digitally
  • Doing the final marking was difficult with multiple documents - assignment task sheet, research notes and the actual websites

Possible Future Adjustments
  • Better structured digital research notes
  • Help Desk for kids having trouble with technology
  • Allow students to write notes and digitally scan them in
  • Need for final task to be printed out to keep records
  • Speed up process of getting studnets set up
  • Higher expectations of research

Monday, 16 September 2013

MOOC excitement

I'm very excited about the prospect of starting my first Coursera course on Monday the 16th. I'm doing 'A History of the World since 1300' through Princeton over the next 3 months. It will be challenging, but ultimately rewarding. There is no credit for the course, and it is just for my own personal learning and development.

The biggest excitement however is the fact that my Senior Business class have signed up for a 6 week MOOC from Northwestern University doing a course on 'Understanding Media by Understanding Google'. It will be a completely new learning place for them, with a whole new format and expectations. Some of them are very excited about these free courses and are looking at what else they can enroll in over the next few months. They realise the potential benefits of developing their own skills, knowledge, understanding and adding to their resumes'. I'm linking the course back to our curriculum requirements, and making it meet the requirements. But it has sparked their interest and excitement. 

It is an exciting exploration in online learning with MOOC’s and I will be blogging about it over the coming weeks.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Academic Stamina

A couple of weeks ago I posted about "No more Homework" and had quite a mixed response from a lot of people since that time, and also a lot of comments that I think missed the real point of the post. Yes, I do believe homework in the junior grades should be completely taken out. But, there are certain areas and times when homework is beneficial and this is where we need to draw the distinction. As students progress through school, the skills and understanding required increases incrementally. There will be periods of time when they get to 13yrs plus that they will be required to do work at home, but before this age it should be evaluated to see if there is real benefit to their learning. The message from the Alfie Kohn article I posted a few weeks back was that 'no homework' should be the default and any work given needs to benefit their learning/development.

This past week colleagues and I discussed some aspects relating to homework, but the essential part that one of them mentioned was that a lot of students lack academic stamina when they get to the senior grades. Essentially it means that they just do not have the work ethic and dedication/commitment to sit down and study for an exam or work on an assignment for extended periods of time. So to do away with all schoolwork at home would be completely counter-productive and set the students up to fail. Any work they do at home needs to be for their own learning and development, not just worksheets and tasks for the sake of it. I like this term, academic stamina, and I have seen the evidence this year with my senior students that have built up this academic stamina with the work they put into assignments and preparation, versus the students that have not developed it successfully. I'm also grateful for the work my teachers assigned me in the 1990s, the work I had to do at University so long ago, because this has prepared me for the life of a teacher. As a teacher we need stamina, we work from 8-3:30, but most evenings consists of another 2-3 hrs of work each night and plenty more other times. Ans this is the case for all teachers that care about this profession, their students and own teaching. It requires commitment, dedication, perseverance and essentially stamina.

So my goal is to build academic stamina with students I teach in the middle school years whenever possible, but not give any homework where possible. It will require more self-evaluation, reflection on units/tasks and individual students needs. They need to be ready for senior school, university and life. This means assignments that require them to think, evaluate, constructs, develop, engage and create. It should be a challenging environment where they have the intrinsic motivation to work home on tasks and their own learning.

Have a read of this interesting article on 'When homework is a waste of time' . Some key points include:

  • A recent study, published in the Economics of Education Review, reports that homework in science, English and history has “little to no impact” on students’ test scores. (The authors did note a positive effect for math homework
  • When we work hard to understand information, we recall it better; the extra effort expended signals the brain that this knowledge is worth keeping.
Any school work needs to build academic stamina and expand their thinking by being meaningful and challenging. This is key to making a lasting change in a student's academic performance and success.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Using Evernote

A couple of weeks back I posted about my Paperless class using Evernote.  Here are links to the posts:
My Paperless class & My paperless class part 2, I thought i would share a bit about how I use Evernote.

I have loved Evernote from the first time I had used it and over the course of the last 18 months I have embraced everything Evernote. I signed up for Premium in within 4 months and over time I have used Evernote in all aspects of my teaching. There is still so much more to do to fully integrate it in more areas. Here are some of the ways I have used it and my plans for the future.

At school:
I have been able to record ideas for classes, prepare unit overviews and plan term outlines on Evernote. I have also set up individual notebooks within stack for each unit I teach. Here is just an example of my Senior Modern (World) History

I have Notebook Stacks for all my subject areas, and in each Stack there are Notebooks with notes inside them. It has allowed me to organise all my work in different notebooks. I have certain notebooks that I share with students as the year progresses. My senior students have enjoyed using evernote for the ease of communicating information. They have also utilized it in all of their subject areas. 

I use Evernote constantly to save information and web pages that i come across. I take photos, record audio clips, emails, written notes and so much more.

The current project with my year 10 paperless class has involved using Evernote exclusively for their notes. The students all shared their notes with me and allowed me to see how they are progressing. This has been invaluable in tracking progress and understanding. 

I also have a number of other Stacks that are focused on managing my Humanities department, School Admin related notes and a Personal notebook. All of these are handy in keeping track of my life. I have enjoyed reading how some people have gone completely paperless, and the great ideas they have.
One of them is Jamie Tod Rubin who is a writer and the Evernote Paperless Living Ambassador . Some great blog posts and ideas to use there. Then there are also two Education Ambassadors that I follow - Nicholas Provenzano and Bec Spink.

My future plans with Evernote are quite ambitious, but achievable. I plan on following the lead of these people above and others, and transforming more areas of my life into the paperless realm. My first big project before the end of the year is take all my Business and Ancient History resources completely paperless. This will mean creating digital records of all my handouts, notes, worksheets, etc, and transferring it into Evernote. I want my shelves to be clear, empty of the big bulky folders with tonnes of paper inside them. I want to do this with all my folders and subject areas. 

Then the next step is to make sure all my subjects, with their individual units are all in Evernote in notebooks. I also want to create individual lesson plans with links inside Evernote. This will all take time and I hope to have this ready for the start of the next school year in January.

Evernote is a brilliant tool, and I love sharing it with people. There is still much to learn and explore, and I look forward to the future developments with Evernote.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

21st century teaching

Follow on from yesterdays' blog post. A couple of clips exploring the 21st century learner that a 21st century teacher needs to be able to teach, motivate, guide, create and inspire.

The 21st Century Learner

Teaching in the 21st Century

Monday, 2 September 2013

Becoming a 21st century teacher

There are so many terms floating around in education currently, some have been around for many years and many are quite new concepts that have evolved. I'm trying to get to grips with all of them, to understand the different perspectives and frame my own thinking. It is important as educators in the 21st century that we are aware of them and how we can use different strategies or concepts for our students.

Here are just a few strategies or tools, but there are many more out there:

  • Flipped Classrooms
  • Project-based learning
  • Flat classrooms
  • Paperless classrooms
  • Genius Hour
  • 20% Time
  • Blogging
  • Twitter in the classroom
  • Social Media
  • Collaboration
  • MOOC's
  • Maker movement
  • Gaming
My 1st attempt at a paperless class is nearing an end with the assessment pieces due next week. there have been a number of highlights, but also some negatives. I'll reflect and blog about these in a few weeks time. 

I'm really interested in the Project-based learning idea, and how I can integrate it into a sometimes rigid system that has many requirements that need to be met. Also the concept of flipped classrooms intrigues me, and this concept has challenges, but I can clearly see the benefits of it. It does require a lot of preparation, changing work habits of students, but tremendous possibilities for classroom and development of learning.

I would love to develop a strategy to integrate both of them, with a genius styled hour or 20% time. This with an idea of getting students involved in Twitter & Blogging, plus online collaboration. All of these concepts are exciting, and inspiring. Then the MOOC's concept I discussed in a previous blog post I find intriguing, and I plan on enrolling in a course in the coming weeks. This is to investigate it for myself, see if it could work for my students and to enhance my own skills.

I'll be spending the rest of the year exploring these concepts, and seeing how I can actually use them to benefit my students. That is the key, not just using them, but the reason why and to what ultimate goal. We are preparing students for a 21st century and as teachers we need to evolve into being 21st century educators and equipping them with 21st century skills.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Business Brand Awareness

I teach a mix of Modern History, Ancient History, and also Business. My real passion is my Modern History subject, but my first degree and job was in the business filed.Every year in my senior business class we have a unit on Marketing. We started about a week ago, and this week we did an activity that everyone enjoys -  The Blind Taste Test. We started talking about the Marketing Mix -The 4 P's; Product, place, Promotion and Price. The first focus is the actual Product and establishing the Brand. We discussed packaging, labels, name, symbols, colours and how the actual product needs to stand out in crowded marketplaces. I introduced branding with a few short clips and then we do an activity based on the top Superbowl adverts of the year.

What is Branding?
Superbowl Top Ads from 2013

The lesson explains how important is creating your brand image, and what the major companies do to promote and safeguard their images. I'm planning on the next lesson to link how they create their own brand on the internet by their activity on social media, and how to actively build it and protect themselves.

So 'The Blind Taste Test':

I have 4 different well known brands and 4 store brands. The items are placed in bowls and numbered. They then have to try them and write down which product they think it is. The brand names included Schweppes Lemonade, Doritos, Allens and Tim Tams. These brands are what the kids grow up with, what their families buy and which they identify with when thinking of these products. It is a fun lesson, and by the end of it everyone is usually quite surprised by the results. For most of the products they preferred the no-name/store brand products. They believed that they were eating the well known brand name, the 'better tasting' product, but they were wrong in more than half the results. This was to highlight how the actual brand, with its reputation, packaging and emotional connections, actually influence our purchasing habits. their all time favourite chocolate biscuit, Tim Tams faired the worst. Only 2 out of 10 identified it right, they were shocked by this. Helps with putting the point across about expectations.


Everyone had a great time and at the end the message came through clearly on how branding influences our purchasing habits. This will hopefully make them consider what products they buy next time they go shopping.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Why do I blog?

Why do I Blog?

Well, this blog is based on sharing ideas, reflecting on teaching and learning, reflecting on my own practice and improving my teaching. I'm not a great writer, I struggle to really gather ideas and thoughts for writing on most occasions. But, here I am writing, and starting to write more often. I'll admit, the posts won't always be perfect, may contain errors, but it is just honest writing about what I'm thinking and learning. I have been constantly experimenting with the layout and what it looks like. It is a work in progress as I figure out how Blogger works and what suits my style the best. My last post it did something strange with the formating and highlighting text, and I have tried many different ways to fix it, but it will stay as is.

I have been a teacher for about three years now, and it has been over the past two years that I have realised the powerful nature of sharing and reflecting. Since being exposed to Twitter, and the innumerable amount of educators out there, I have been actively engaging in exploring and sharing. One of the big messages was that having a blog really improves your reflective practice and makes you think about what you do in class. Also one of the main driving forces is sharing of information, and being to help others.

I hope my blog will be interesting, that I will be able to share valuable information and encourage greater reflection of my teaching practice. Any comments, suggestions or critique is welcomed.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Every contact leaves a trace

One of my favourite television shows is 'Dexter'. I have been intrigued by the story from the very beginning, and the moral ambiguity of the main character. It definitely is not your traditional story, not a black & white story, but many different shades of grey for each situation. This past week a quote from a recent episode came through my Facebook newsfeed.

“Every contact leaves a trace. Everything and everyone we touch is changed in some way. But the changes, they are never what we anticipate.” –#Dexter

This made me think of our role as teachers and how each day we leave a trace of ourselves with the people we come in contact with. Over the past few years I have come into contact with many students in my classes, in playgrounds, different events and multiple excursions. I have had great discussions, laughter, stress, tears, stand-offs, joy, excitement, surprises, fun, anger, happiness, success, failure, achievements, and many other experiences. Many of these situations I have had an influence on a student, and in most cases I could never anticipate exactly what it would be. 

There have been a number of students that have in turn had an influence on myself and my teaching. They have left a trace on me and how I approach my own teaching. Many of them probably will never realise how they have left an influence on me. 

As a teacher we have a very important responsibility in how we influence our students and what legacy we leave with them. This is why it is important to be mindful, considerate, approachable, fair, dedicated, committed, compassionate, and always give your absolute best. 

Friday, 23 August 2013

No more Homework - Part 2

Since posting the 'No more Homework' post yesterday I have had quite a mixed reaction from people. Seems having a title like that gets more people looking at your Blog, tripled the usual 'traffic', but that was never my goal. This is something that I feel quite strongly about, and an idea I plan on exploring further.

I received some mixed reactions, with some really positive and supportive comments from people and offering their points of view. I quite enjoy hearing other viewpoints that support and challenge my own ideas. Life is a learning process and every single day I'm learning new things in education and become exposed to different theories. I read this interesting extract from Alfie Kohn, education author and speaker, regarding homework.

The Case Against Homework
By Alfie Kohn
After spending all day in school, our children are forced to begin a second shift, with more academic assignments to be completed at home. This arrangement is rather odd when you stop to think about it, as is the fact that few of us ever do stop to think about it.
Instead of assuming that homework should be a given, or that it allegedly benefits children, I've spent the last few years reviewing the available research and talking to parents, teachers and students. My findings can be summarized in seven words: Homework is all pain and no gain.
The pain is obvious to kids but isn't always taken seriously by adults. Backpacks stuffed with assignments leave students exhausted, frustrated, less interested in intellectual pursuits and lacking time to do things they enjoy. "Most of what homework is doing," says literacy expert Harvey Daniels, "is driving kids away from learning."
We parents, meanwhile, turn into nags. After being away from our children all day, the first words out of our mouths, sadly, may be: "So, did you finish your homework?" One mother told me it permanently damaged her relationship with her son because it forced her to be an enforcer rather than a mom.
The surprising news, though, is that there are virtually no pros to balance the cons. Even if you regard grades or test scores as good measures of learning, which I do not, doing homework has no statistical relationship to achievement in elementary school. In high school, some studies do find a correlation between homework and test scores, but it's usually fairly small. And in any case, it's far from clear that the former causes the latter. And if you're wondering, not a single study has ever supported the folk wisdom that homework teaches good work habits or develops positive character traits such as self-discipline, responsibility or independence.
Some teachers know all this but feel compelled to keep assigning homework for tradition's sake, or because of pressure from administrators or, ironically, parents. Adults also may assume that kids will waste their time (read: do things grown-ups don't regard as sufficiently constructive) unless they're made to do schoolwork at home.
Still others believe—incorrectly—that more time spent on a task produces better results, or that because practice is required to be a good athlete or musician, it's also at the heart of intellectual growth. It isn't. You can't "reinforce" understanding the way you can reinforce a behavior. In my experience, people with the least sophisticated understanding of how children learn, or the least amount of concern about children's attitudes toward learning, tend to be the most enthusiastic supporters of homework.
We might forgive the infringement on family time if homework were assigned only when there was good reason to think that this particular task would benefit these particular students, that it will help them think more deeply about questions that matter and create more excitement about learning (and that it can't be done at school). But what educators are more likely to say is, in effect, "Your children will have to do something every night. Later on we'll figure out what to make them do." If there's a persuasive defense of that approach, I've never heard it.
Not only should there be much less homework assigned, there ought to be none at all of the worst types, such as filling out worksheets or cramming forgettable facts into short-term memory. I believe "no homework" should be the default arrangement. In other words, weeknight (let alone weekend or vacation) assignments should have to be justified on a case-by-case basis. Because most homework can't be justified, some teachers, and even some whole schools, have stopped assigning it altogether, with fabulous results.
We parents need to reach out to others in our communities to debunk uninformed assumptions ("homework is academically beneficial"), to challenge silly claims ("homework is needed to provide a link between school and family"), and to help restore sanity and joy to our children's lives. We should respectfully but pointedly inform educators that the status quo isn't supported by good research or basic values, and those values include a commitment to let kids be kids and provide them with time to grow socially, physically, emotionally and artistically—not just academically.
(The Homework Myth (Da Capo Press) Alfie Kohn)

Thursday, 22 August 2013

No more Homework

I have been reading Pernille Ripp's Blog about homework these last few days. I have had the same thoughts over the past two years, and even more so recently. I found an old post by Pernille on her reasons why she does not like homework - here is a link to it http://pernillesripp.com/2010/12/23/so-whats-my-problem-with-homework/.

Her thoughts really resonate with me. Below are some of her reasons why she does not like homework and I completely agree on all accounts:

   * Homework is an excuse for the stuff we didn't get to.
   * Homework is not fair.
   * Homework steals away childhood.
   * Homework does not always fit the learning.
   * Homework is maybe not just done by the student.

I can see how busy our students' lives are. There is so much going on, they spend most of their day at school and only a small amount with family. Yes, there are times when they need to be doing assignments that count towards their grades, but homework really does rob them of their time. They should be pursuing their own interests, spend time with friends and family, relax, play sport, discover new hobbies, explore. We need to seriously rethink the way we approach Homework, is it beneficial or are we just doing it for the sake of it.

We should find time; we have to find time in school for homework. Allow them to enjoy their childhood and pursue their passions. Who knows, the passions might just start to overlap with school and become part of school. Encourage their passions and let them pursue that, rather than hours of homework each week.

I know we are sometimes so time-poor and struggle to get through content, but do we really need to cover every little thing? Focus on what is essential to know and the critical skills required. That is infinitely more important than doing homework every single day. Encourage students to explore the content themselves without you having to force prescribe work. Make it interesting, engaging and challenging. Then the learning will continue without homework.

I hope to try and make homework non-existent for my classes in the very near future.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Finding my 'Element'

I'm slowly reading Ken Robinson's The Element, and it has been quite insightful and I have enjoyed his writing style. The book contains a lot of different stories of how people found their calling, their element and purpose in life.

Ken Robinson discussing The Element

I have been teaching for almost 3 years now after only becoming a teacher in my 30s. I had studied a business degree and found the field of logistics along the way. I enjoyed the scheduling, organising and planning elements of Logistics. I still find it fascinating how the big manufacturing industry function and love watching programmes on them. There was also the family history of both my dad and granddad being in the construction industry. Construction and Logistics appear to be very related fields with the planning and organising of complex operations.

Then how did I end up being a teacher? I enjoyed school, loved university and loved learning; but at the age of 22 I had not given any thought of being a teacher. I thought my career was set to be in the Logistics world. A few years after university I married a teacher and my eyes were opened up to the education world. I saw her passion for her students and the challenging environment she was working in. There were highs and lows during her teaching years in South Africa. I started entertaining the thought of becoming a teacher, but no opportunity to do it in South Africa. We then moved to Australia in 2009 and not long after we arrived here I took the step to become a teacher. After doing my teaching diploma over 18 months I secured my first and current teaching position.

Over the past 2 year I have come to realise I have found my 'Element'.  I have found my passion, what I'm good at, and where I believe I can make a difference. I absolutely love being a teacher; it's challenging, exciting, rewarding, intellectually stimulating, unpredictable, evolving and a whole lot of fun.

I look forward to sharing more of my passion through this Blog and Twitter as I continue on my Teaching River.

Friday, 16 August 2013

My paperless class part 2

The second week of being paperless is over and it has brought along some challenges and opportunities for learning. The students have embraced Evernote, some more than others, and they are actively doing their work on there. The activity of each student in their notebooks shows up in  my Evernote account and allows me to see where they are up to. 

We have looked at 9/11 for a number of lessons and through Evernote I was able to share timelines, images and questions with them. As we covered the section on background and reasons behind 9/11 we looked at the middle east, Israel, Ottoman Empire and explored this part of the world to show the link to 9/11. 

At the end of the lesson students completed and 'Exit Card' on what they had learnt and what they were having trouble with. Instead of writing it on a piece of paper, they created a note in their shared Evernote notebook. I went through the "exit card' notes that afternoon and could clearly see where I need to focus on and look at again. Next lesson I covered this section a bit differently and they all understood the sections that was a bit unclear. This showed to me how invaluable the 'exit card' can be, and with it being recorded digitally the students are able to reflect on it and refer back to it.

Last lesson of the week we started looking at their assessment piece. I shared a note with the different documents that they will be referring to.

We will be doing the development of the assignment next week, and they will be saving it as they progress. The research notes will be using the Evernote webclipper to record their research pages and I can track their progress. Will see how this goes over the next few weeks.

Two burning questions that I have is whether to allow students the option to write down notes in class with pen & paper, or just record notes on their laptops? And when it comes to assessments; at the end should they have to print it out, should I or can it remain digitally. This becomes even more complex in year 11/12 in Queensland where their work gets sent of to a review panel to be evaluated. This means that they will have to have their work printed off. 

If you have any questions, please leave a comment or email me, or send me a message via twitter @jdtriver.