Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Developing life-long learner skills

How do you become a life-long learner?  I was qualified and worked for some time as a microbiologist.  I then married someone who lived in the middle of nowhere and there were no jobs for microbiologists within a 100 mile radius.  But the local secondary school needed chemistry and science teachers, and so, I entered the teaching profession, without any training and I learned how to teach on the job.
This set me up for a lifetime of learning on the job.  My skills developed through need and, of course, I was putting in effort along the way.  As a chemistry and maths teacher, I kept thinking about better ways to teach the students, and attended professional development opportunities to help me improve.
I had previously thought that getting a degree in microbiology (and a post graduate diploma) would set me up for my working life, and that was all that I would need to be the most invaluable microbiologist in New Zealand.  I look back shamefacedly at that notion! Little did I know that knowledge was expanding at an exponential rate and whatever I knew back then, would be well out of date in five years.
As I moved into a senior management role at my school, the job description changed even more and now also included presenting and working with the staff.  As a classroom teacher, I had seen the development of the internet and digital technologies in education as opening up a whole new world for me and my students.  I started reading, watching and listening to as much as I could, and more importantly, started searching the internet for strategies using digital technology skills so that I could engage my students and deepen their learning.
 I looked for the "just in time" professional knowledge rather than the "just in case"  because there was so much to learn, it would have been overwhelming otherwise.  And so began the next stage in my learning journey. The age of the confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learner had arrived.  I am confident because I know that the knowledge that I need is out there in the ethernet.  I am connected because I have expertise at my fingertips, and have professional learning networks I can tap into 24/7.  I am actively involved because I seek out new learning myself as I need it and give that learning back, whenever and wherever I see the opportunity. I am a lifelong learner because the journey never stops.

 I don't tell you this story to celebrate my success as a learner.  I tell you this story so that you can think about your own journey and how you become a lifelong learner so that your professional expertise is based on your own wants and needs in a changing world.  And I also tell you this story because your students need to know and understand it, as they enter a rapidly changing world.

The internet has changed the playing field for everyone.  So much knowledge and learning available for all.  If I want to learn how to copy and paste, I just google "how to copy and paste".  If I want to make a podcast, I just google "how to make a podcast".  There are instructional videos about everything and anything on youtube.  You can find out anything "just in time".  And that knowledge may be redundant in a years time, so be prepared for change.  Never have Heraclitus's words been more true - “Change is the only constant in life.”

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Do you have a class blog?

When you have a class blog, it is often about a "showcase" - showing your parents what their children are doing in class and celebrating their achievements.
If you are ready to take the next step, it can be very empowering for your students and will help them raise their literacy levels through more careful attention to correct grammar and presentation, with your guidance.
When you use student blogs in this way, it moves the blog from a "showcase" to a "process" portfolio.  Students make progress and are able to show their learning in an explicit way.  If you can encourage your parents to make positive comments and to extend the authentic audience for the students by letting their friends and relatives have the link as well, you will see great progess in student literacy achievement.
Not only will you be able to show learning, you will also be able to show evidence of students reaching the National Standards.  This will make the blog an "accountability portfolio."
You will need to make a decision about whether you want to check every post on the student blogs or whether you will do spot checks and address digital citizenship issues as they arise.  I prefer the latter because the students do need to learn to "live" in a digital world.
Teach the students how to comment positively on their peers blogs and you can also let your parents know what kinds of comments will help their child's progress.
If you have a class blog on Google Blogger and you want to add links to your students' blogs to the class blog, this short video will tell you how you can do this.
I would love to hear your stories of how student blogging has empowered you and your students in these ways.