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.