Thursday, 28 August 2014

Teachmeet Fraser Coast: The 1st TeachMeet Fraser

Teachmeet Fraser Coast: The 1st TeachMeet Fraser: On Tuesday 26 August the very first TeachMeet for the Fraser Coast region took place. My first experience of TeachMeets was during EduTech 2...

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Twitter momentum & 'The Question'

My journey with my Twitter PLN has really gained momentum over the past 12 months. Since attending EduTech in 2013 I have become more involved and interested in using Twitter for educational purposes and professional development. I joined Twitter in 2012 after my AP Stuart Taylor (@Sharelearning) discussed it at a staff meeting. It was a slow start, with some heavy use and weeks of no use to start with. I noticed it took me close 18 months to get to a 1000 Tweets and about 150 followers. In the past 12 months I have tweeted about 2500 times and gained a further 450 followers. The growth is carrying on exponentially. There are a number of reasons and individuals that have brought this about.

Last year I delved into my first Twitter chat, #histedchat every second Wednesday. It was such a fantastic experience being able to connect, share and discus with other history teachers from many different places. I made contact with so many new teachers online, and this gave me a real encouragement to get even more involved. This first chat saw me connect with individuals that I still connect with very regularly, Matt Esterman, Simon McKenzie, Ilja van Weringh, Jan Molloy, Catherine Hart and many more. It spurred me on to host my first ever chat, I moderated the #histedchat session 'Teaching History in the 21st Century' and it was a great learning experience. 

Along came 2014, and my Twitter journey has really taken off over the last six months. Matt Esterman approached me to present at the TeachMeet during EduTECH 2014, and I'm so grateful for that opportunity. It was a first for me with regards to speaking publicly, and I loved doing it. A few weeks later I was presenting an hour long workshop at the Christian Schools Australia Queensland Conference in Brisbane. Another first, and a very rewarding comments from participants. The momentum is just gaining steam, I have applied for the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney, created a 1-minute video for it. Holding thumbs I get in, but if not, I will keep on applying and perfecting my use of Google Apps in Education. I then presented in Bec Spink's Evernote in Education Hangout on 7 August. Another great experience and learning opportunity. I'm looking  forward to using hangouts with my students in the coming weeks. Now my next big event is TeachMeet Fraser (#tmfraser) which I'm organising to try and get teachers in my region together to start connecting, sharing and exploring digital possibilities in teaching. I'm grateful to Matt Esterman & Steve Box for their help and guidance getting this started. I love the concept of TeachMeet and the potential of different educators getting together to share.

Through sharing and connecting I have gained many new followers, but also found countless educators for my PLN that contribute to my own development. I have joined into various other chats whenever I had the opportunities, like #edchat and #aussieED. All of which open the doors for greater connections between educators all over. Twitter surely is the best professional development tool, global staffroom, group of experts, network, friends, and so much more combined. 

The question however is, why are there still so many that are not using it?

Friday, 8 August 2014

Independent life-long learners in a restrictive system.

I have hit a bit of a conundrum (quite like this word) in my senior classes. In my History classes I have my students do 2 research assignments each year. In both Year 11 and 12, Ancient and Modern History. I try and keep the topics nice and broad to give students I diverse range of topics to select from. In my Business classes I do something similar to encourage creativity in marketing with the choices they could make and how they can present it. All these subjects lend themselves to allow students to be creative and to tap into their own interest. 

Now I have two problems. Firstly the Queensland system. The senior system follow Verification and Monitoring procedures, where a panel of teachers get together for a region and review student work. They look for evidence matching the criteria in the students work to make sure an A, B, C, etc is consistent across the state. Last year I had students produce a range of multimodal and written tasks that were brilliant, and of the highest quality. But, I got criticised by certain panellists that they struggled to find high A-standard evidence in these types of assessments because they have never attempted doing it themselves or seen it done like this . Some students wrote music lyrics and score for an Ancient History unit on Judaism, there was a board game for the Egyptian afterlife, video documentaries, websites for conference presentations, historical fiction, graphic novels. These I find fascinating and the students love the choices that allow them to express history research in different formats. 

Secondly, there are students that struggle with the freedom and being asked to be independent. They want you to tell them the answers, tell them what to do, give them the topic. They have been conditioned into believing that they cannot do it themselves or come up with their own suitable ideas. I don't know how they have gotten to this point and it is an uphill battle to change this thinking. 

Quite often our education system is very rigid with not a lot of scope for creativity in senior classes, and the focus is always on ticking boxes. The students often do not really invest themselves in the learning process, all they are after are the grades. I'm trying to change this, as there is so much scope and fascinating areas in History and even in Business (mainly marketing and not-for profit ventures). I'm hoping my passion for the subjects, my drive to see them excel no matter what methods they use to present their tasks; and that their own interests are grown and developed. I don't want 20 students doing exactly the same writing, presentation, topics or responses. I want them to be individual, creative, critical, independent and have their own intrinsic motivation for learning. That is the challenge, to develop these independent life-long learners in a restrictive system.