Sunday, 29 September 2013

Are you making the shift?

Image by Frederick D Bruner
The New Zealand Curriculum Update in Issue 26 October 2012 identified six themes of future oriented learning and teaching.  Guess what?  It is a year later - so, have you made the shifts in your class so that there is 

  • personalised learning
  • new views of equity and diversity
  • rethought roles of teaching and learning
  • a culture of continuous learning for teachers and educational leaders
  • a curriculum that uses knowledge to develop capacity for learning
  • new kinds of relationships and partnerships?
This morning I read a blog by Dean Shareski in Canada which resonated deeply with me, called "Why Teachers Aren't Making the Shift".  The gist of this article is that teachers are not capable of making the shift by themselves - they are busy, they are struggling to keep up with the demands of assessment, and they are not being informed about up to date research findings.

That is where professional development should come in.  I was interested to read the recent PPTA report on what kind of professional development that teachers like the most.  It seems that they do not enjoy the systemic, principal-led professional development that happens within their schools.  They prefer "more PLD opportunities, preferably with colleagues from other schools, led by an expert facilitator with valuable and trusted external expertise". 

Actually, when I remember back to being in their situation a year ago, it was my preferred pld as well but I think the real reason why is that you were out of the school for a day, with time to digest, and think about ways that you could use your new learning in your classes. You could discuss with other teachers without the pressures of daily routine interfering.

The first step that is needed by teachers however remains an acknowledgment that shifts need to be made for future oriented learning. There needs to be changes.  What do you think that this shift will look like in your school?  How can you provide the best possible outcomes for your students, because after all, that is what we are here for?

Don't keep on preparing your students for today's world.  Prepare for tomorrow.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Too old to know better?

The Human Rights Act makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of age. That does not stop some humans - if you can call them that - publicly having their negative say about old or middle aged (in particular) women.
As I approach a significant birthday, I am becoming acutely aware of what many other women have reported before me. In the middle of a productive, rewarding and also contributing phase of my career, I have encountered prejudices from people who should know better.
For instance, while training up younger teachers in the use of digital technology for learning in the classroom, I have been reduced to biting my tongue about comments made by said teachers about the old ones on the staff who don't use technology, when they, themselves, are barely capable of attaching files to their emails. They seem to ignore the fact that I am approaching sixty when they say these things.

Over the weekend I was exposed ( and I use that word deliberately) to a comment from a tutor about principals who are too old to focus on the technology demands placed on them. Believe me, it is not about their age! If a principal has chosen to ignore technological advancements in favour of other principal- type tasks, it is about their attitude and priorities, NOT their age.
I also get ignored in electronics shops, in favour of young customers. I waited for a sales person to approach me this week, so I could buy an Apple TV. At least 5 walked by me to serve other younger people in the shop..... buying itunes cards, and plug in Multiboards. Hello, all you electronics shop managers out there....I am in the position of influencing large electronic purchases. Train your staff! Train them to approach all people in your shops with the same amount of respect for all. You never know, you might get a sale out of it.
And on a slightly different but eerily familiar theme, what is it about criticising the fashion sense of overweight middle aged women? When do these fashion police get out and criticise overweight middle aged men for their baggy bummed pants and ill-fitting teeshirts or bursting-at-the-waist business shirts? NEVER! I feel so aggrieved I am going to start a club to put the focus onto an equal footing. Except it really is not for me to carp on about fashion sense and other qualities that seem to be important to a large portion of the population and maybe that is why they get away with it. Because people let them.
And finally today, we need to appoint a male principal. Why? Is he better than the female applicant? No, but it is what the community want. Really? OMG get that poor female out of there before she gets trapped in that community.
So as I enjoy the last couple of months of the fifties, I would like to know this ageism-sexism thing is not going to get worse than it is already. No wonder women lie about their age. No one want to be treated like a second class citizen.
Have you encountered ageism and sexism in your career? And how did you deal with it?
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
Image from

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Why can't I get into Twitter?

I do not tweet very much. I think individuals develop their own style of communication and for me, it is blogging. Blogging allows me time to think, evaluate and organise my thoughts. However, I took a closer look at Twitter to try to encourage myself to step outside my comfort zone.

I was really interested in a Wiki on how to improve teaching and learning using Twitter as it is really a tool that I have not used regularly at all, except to post my blogs to the Twerps (which I understand is people who tweet).  Note that this link refers to those people as Tweeps

The first thing I read was how to use Twitter as an instant feedback from students.  What a good idea! Instead of the expensive clickers, make a list of your students and gather their thoughts that way.

Then I thought about people I could follow.   I read an interesting article by Dr Elizabeth Rata in the NZ Herald today and thought I could follow her. Unfortunately I cannot find her on Twitter.  Which did get me thinking.  I wonder how many academics are on twitter? I asked educators on Twitter what they thought of the article.


Liz B Davis blogged that there is a Twitter life cycle and I wonder if my Tweeting has done its life cycle, but I have not been able to get going into the "I can't stop" stage.

I looked at this infographic on Twitter and realise how much paper it saves and how many tweets there are and how hard it would be to read them all

This slide share on Twitter was pretty useful.  I learnt about BigbigTweet which I will show you here - you can write longer tweets if you want and they follow on in the right order.


So, I have added that to my Chrome toolbar.  I have used the Twitterific app and Tweetdeck on my PC, too.

This slide was perhaps the best for me. It suggests that your contribution leads to reciprocity and as you accumulate Tweets that is where the real value will be apparent.  There is hope for me yet.PositiveSpiral

In my opinion, Twitter has a huge place in society.  In terms of instant news and keeping informed, it is second to none.  Just look at the #TeamNZ news as it happened!  I am making a promise to myself to look at more ways to use it in the classroom.

This video helped me think of some of those ways

  • You can use it as a backchannel in class.

  • You can use it to promote discussion on why it is useful.

  • You can use it to be heard - to have a voice in the class.

  • You can use it on a variety of devices

  • 140 character limit helps students be precise

  • It cuts down noise in the classroom

  • It helps you stay in contact even when you are away

  • It uses less paper than writing stuff up

  • You can find curriculum resources on it.

In summary, I do not use Twitter enough and have a renewed admiration for its potential. I will try harder!

My favourite curation tool - Diigo

There are a number of different curation tools - you know the tools you use to collect your favourite websites so they are at hand when you want to go back to them?   From the very visual Pinterest to the fully functional Diigo, each has its own particular strengths and uses. Here is a list of ten of the best, from the Educational Technology website.
 I use a number of them regularly, including Pinterest, Livebinders, Evernote and Scoopit but Diigo is my favourite for my professional work.  I believe strongly that every educator and learner should use a social bookmarking tool like Diigo. Such a valuable tool to use every day.
I have made a youtube which introduces you to some of the functions of Diigo and share it with you here.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Is your school an opaque institution?

People ask me a lot about how I like my job and I am lucky enough to be able to say I love it. I visit a variety of schools to help them build their capability for blended learning which is a combination of face to face and online learning.
Every day brings a new challenge and one of the aspects I like the most is the diversity in the schools.  Just as the students are different from school to school, the teachers and principals also impart their own particular flavour on the culture of the school.  I had not realised just how different until I started this work because I had worked as a teacher and senior manager in one school for 33 years.
Often you hear members of the public talk about a school and say - it is a great school or alternatively - they have a lot of problems there.  People are quick to judge and I often wonder what they base their judgments on.
The schools that are judged great are those in which the walls are down.  They are welcoming and allow parents and other education professionals to look closer.  Dialogue is free and welcomed.  Discussion is rich and varied, and there is an easy humour about the places.
On the other hand when doors are closed and departments are siloed and there is little flexibility in discussion between parents and teachers and education professionals, it makes one a bit wary. I heard the phrase today "opaque institution" on a Ted talk video by Don Tapscott.

It is difficult to see if the horse or the cart comes first in these schools.  If you are judged positively, does that encourage you to open your doors and welcome discussion?  If you are judged negatively, does that make you close the doors and control the conversations?
From what I see around the country, there are some awesome teachers and learners out there.  There are teams working hard to make a difference to the lives of the students, despite the abysmal backgrounds some of them come from.  There are students working hard to escape the dismal backgrounds they come from.
This is a time for change in schools.  There is a new paradigm of learning with the Internet at our fingertips.  It would be great for all schools if they were all able to open up the discussions, break down the walls and have those conversations about the future of their children and young people.  
In the words of Jim Collins, in this article about leading change,  there need to be the right people on the bus, they need to be in the right seats and finally the wrong people need to get off the bus.
A bit scary for some, I know.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

How do I love thee, Google? Let me count the ways.
I love Search to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when needing some light
For the answers to hand - you know the place.
I love Blogger for the record of everyday times,
opinions and insights, shared in the lines.
I love Maps as we strive for alternate ways
To reach destinations, the times and delays
I love Youtube, as it shows me ways how to do
I love Drive with a passion, Docs and Forms too.
Now Word and Powerpoint are well in the past
I love Google Sites with a love That will last
Oh Google- I love thee with all the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if Google choose,
I shall but love Google better well after death.
Apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but my love affair with Google started years ago and I have to tell the world that the love grows stronger every year.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad