Tagged: teaching

Week 2: Goal Setting

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Goal setting is an important way to focus time and energy on improvement and a lifelong skill that can assist students to achieve their ambitions. Make sure you introduce the handy acronym ‘SMART’ goals and discuss examples (and non-examples).

  •  S – specific
  • M – measurable
  • A – achievable (or attainable)
  • R – realistic (or relevant)
  • T – timely

This Kids Health site has five great tips for goal setting.  I like to provide some guidelines to students and suggest 3 academic goals, 2 skills and a personal goal for improvement. We also created a rubric based on the “You Can Do It!” framework – Confidence, Organisation, Persistence, Resilience and Getting Along. Students rate themselves from 1 to 5 for each of these attributes and then choose a couple to work on. Again, it is useful to give examples, such as 1 = I talk to a special friend about my ideas, 3 = I can speak to small groups of about 10 people about my ideas,  up to 5 = I can confidently speak to a room full of over 50 people about my ideas.

 1. Use Padlet or Linoit for students to create a wall of goals

Each student posts their goals on a ‘sticky note’ on the wall. You can save this wall embedded in a blog or wiki to return to at the end of the term, semester or year. 

2. Create a form in Google Drive

Again, this way you can save and store all your student’s goals for review in Semester 2 or at the end of the year. Students also need a copy to refer to, so make sure they have saved them.

 3. Create a poster or infographic with your goals.

4. Create a video about your goals.

Repeating goals out loud and recording them are powerful ways for students to remember and solidify their goals. Investing time and energy into creating a video about their goals assists students to make them authentic, relevant and purposeful. As simple as recording a student reciting their goals or as imaginative as creating an animation, this task is open enough to allow students of all ages and abilities to get engaged.

 5. There’s an app for that!

Of course there are hundreds of apps that can be used to support goal setting – whether your goals are to break a bad habit, get fitter, lose weight, read more or whatever. This is a comprehensive post for free and paid apps that can assist. The top free apps for goal setting are “Way of Life – the ultimate habit maker and breaker” and “Everest – live your dreams and achieve personal goals”.

What are your tools, strategies and ideas for student goal-setting?

Week 1: Icebreakers!

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My aim for 2014 is to write a blog post each week that includes a range of teaching strategies that can be used to engage students in their learning. The focus will be on the learning goal, using a variety of hands-on strategies, web tools and mobile apps. For week one I am suggesting a range of strategies to be used as ‘Icebreakers’.

Since Christmas Day, 52 passengers and 22 crew members have been stranded in pack ice near Antarctica – three icebreakers have failed to reach them and finally a helicopter is being sent to rescue them. Classrooms can be a bit like ships sometimes – students with different interests and abilities are grouped together with a common destination. The goal is reached more effectively when everyone gets along and demonstrates good organisational skills, persistence, resilience and teamwork. Setting high expectations in the beginning and clearly communicating those expectations is important in an open and trusting environment.

At the beginning of each year, teachers will benefit from getting to know the students in their new classes – their interests, strengths, experiences and skills. To build trust and respect in your classroom, students need to get to know each other too. The following activities can be used to help participants feel comfortable in the classroom and assist in creating and maintaining a successful learning environment.

1. Create an avatar

Avatars are small images that can be used to identify users online. There are a huge variety of online sites to create your own avatar, including

2. If I was an animal, I would be a…..

Students find a picture of an animal that represents their character. ARKive  and Flickr are two great sources of animal images. Students then describe the characteristics of the animal that they have. This is a question sometimes used in job interviews, so it is worth thinking about. A monkey might be considered agile, intelligent and curious; an ant is hard-working and part of a team; a tortoise might be slow-moving, but thoughtful and persistent and an elephant is strong, loyal and has a great memory.

3. Self Portrait

Students draw/sketch/paint/collage themselves and display their image. Digital tools that can be used include:

4. Use word clouds to create an image

Wordle and Tagxedo are two web2.0 tools that students can use to create an image using words they choose to describe themselves. WordFoto is a mobile app that can be used in a similar way. Lois Smethurst explains the process of using Tagxedo and WordFoto on her blog, “My ICT Journey”. Ask students to choose at least ten words that they think describe themselves. An alternative might be “Ten things you didn’t know about me”.

5. My five best qualities

Students trace around their hand and for each finger nominate a characteristic that they are proud of – some students might need prompts, so perhaps you could brainstorm a list as a class to start with. You can also use Padlet or Linoit to complete this activity (each student posts their five characteristics on a sticky note on the digital ‘wall’ or ‘pinboard’). Here is a list of 555 personal qualities that students may find helpful.

Some more ideas for Icebreakers can be found at Educational Technology and Mobile Learning – Ten Techy Icebreakers for the 21st Century Teacher.

Learning 2.013 – Making Change!

“Learning 2.0 is a transformative, challenging experience for all participants; it is the conference that leads the change in education. Every year the goals of the conference are to connect  educators from around Asia and the world as well as to create an active learning experience that pushes their thinking about learning and technology.”

What an amazing experience – more than just another educational technology conference! Learning 2.013 is the eighth (?) in a series of unique conferences for teachers, organised and presented by teachers. Although I may have been the only teacher from a small, rural, government school, and certainly one of only about half a dozen teachers from Australia, I was one of four hundred delegates that were inspired by the whole event. Coming from Hawkesdale P12 College (230 students from prep to Year 12) I was amazed by the scale of the conference itself and the resources and infrastructure of the school. United World College South East Asia (East Campus) is a new school, building up to 3000 students from kindergarten to Year 12. It aims to be one of the most environmentally sustainable schools in the world, with passive solar design, air-conditioning powered by solar panels and an extensive recycling system.

Another great part of the conference was the overall structure and the Learning 2.103 app, which allowed users to choose their sessions and have an up-to-the-minute individual schedule at their fingertips. The conference was a combination of learning 2.0 talks (punchy presentations from the stage in the main hall, TEDx-style), extended sessions and ‘in a nutshell’ sessions from the same presenter, student sessions, hands-on workshops, un-conference sessions and cohort meetings. This allowed participants to choose some sessions based on feedback from others. There were three Science cohort meetings, which myself and John Gaskill facilitated.

Thursday 10th October

I attended the pre-conference day, participating in Heather Dowd’s (@heza) “Google Apps Bootcamp” workshop. Heather works at the Singapore American School and started the day by creating a collaborative slideshow using Google Presentation: Learning 2.013 GApps Bootcamp Introductions. Although I knew this was possible, and have seen Tom Barret’s “Interesting Ways” series use it with great success, I was surprised how well it worked with multiple users collaborating simultaneously. Other activities included:

I really enjoyed the opportunity to spend an extended period delving into the more intricate functions of Google Apps and especially ‘Flubaroo’ – a ‘script’ that allows you to automatically correct tests created in Google forms. Thanks Heather, for the huge amount of time and effort you put in to preparing and delivering this six hour pre-conference session (9.00am to 4.00pm).

Friday 11th October

On Friday, I attended Rebekah Madrid’s (@ndbekah) “Everything is a Remix – Learning 2.0 Edition”. Rebekah opened the session by sharing some YouTube videos by Kirby Ferguson, where he demonstrates how popular musicians and film makers have re-used melodies, lyrics and scenes over time. His argument is that there are no truly unique creations and that everything is copied, transformed and combined, so that new ideas evolve from the old ones. His brilliant TED talk is here:

Following the extended session were student presentations in the library, which included “Design teaching”, photography and robotics. These students were very capable, confident and enthusiastic about sharing their ideas, as well as demonstrating excellent technology skills. In the afternoon, Diana Beabout (@dianabeabout) from the Shekou International School, presented  “Asessing Learning with Digital Resources”.

Saturday 12th October

I was lucky enough to attend Adam Clark’s (@AdamClark71) extended session – “Balancing the See-Saw – Living Deeply with Technology”, which was all about  keeping the balance between work and family life in a digital age. He encouraged technology users to take breaks, using various techniques such as colouring mandalas, stretching towards an upturned cup on the floor and Pomodoros.

After lunch I presented my own workshop “Improving Student Outcomes in Blended Learning Environments”, which morphed into a “Digital Toolbox for Blended Learning”, after I discovered that the participants were probably less experienced with online learning than I had anticipated. it was well received, with some good feedback from participants, whose only suggestions were that we needed more time.

One of the most enjoyable sessions was Paula Guinto’s (@paulaguinto) ‘in a nutshell’Creating collaborative conversations in the classroom and beyond”. Paula is a dynamic primary teacher at UWCSEA (East Campus) and encourages respectful relationships between students by building trust. She is an energetic and thoughtful learning leader who cultivates complementary learning spaces, both physically (classroom set up to allow small group work, including a variation of the ‘harkness’ table) and virtually (teacher and student blogs). She facilitated a ‘fishbowl’ discussion, in which half the group were seated around the table and the other half were observers, recording aspects of each individual’s role in the discussion.

A Day with Stephen Heppell

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On Friday 11th March I was very privileged to be able to attend the Country Education Project “Future Rural Leaders Forum” facilitated by Professor Stephen Heppell. I participated in the first session in November last year, as a result of Hawkesdale P12 College’s key role in the Virtual Teaching Project, in which I was a supervising teacher to a pre-service teacher from University of Ballarat. It was wonderful to be able to meet up with Michelle and Bianca, now in their first year of teaching, and let them know that I have been thinking of them both.

The session started with a review of the video that was produced at the conclusion of the last seminar and a brainstorm of the blockers and enablers that had impacted on each of us achieving the goals we had set ourselves. I had set the goal of using a ‘praise pod’ and ‘hero cards’ to recognise the achievements of my students, as well as giving students more ‘”choice and voice” in the classroom. I still hope to implement these strategies in the classroom, but I have initiated a few other Stephen Heppell ideas in the meantime.

  • I made the suggestion of having a student on our interview panel when we advertised a position last year. This was strongly howled down by a fellow staff member, who saw it as a gross invasion of privacy.
  • I have created a “Hawkesdale P12 College” Facebook page, which only has teachers as viewers so far, but once the principal has approved, we can advertise in the school newsletter. Professor Heppell refferred us to Cloudlearn.net, a site for the research project about using Facebook safely in the classroom. One of his strongly held opinions is that schools do not need bulky “acceptable use” policies – students and teachers know the rules of the school and they should behave in the same way online.
  • I have created facebook groups for my VCE Biology and VCE Environmental Science classes. This is a great way to connect with the students – wish them a happy birthday, find out what they did on weekends and holidays, remind them of work and assessment tasks, provide links to resources and interesting video clips and importantly, model appropriate online behaviour.
  • I used the “Japanese Multiplication” YouTube clip in my maths classroom, which prompted an interesting discussion of how it works.
  • I participated in the discussions for landscaping around our new building, to make the natural environment accessible to students and part of learning every day.

If you know anything about Stephen Heppell you will probably know that he is a great fan of playful and authentic learning. He has worked with students and teachers in all parts of the world to enhance learning by giving students more ownership and it follows that there is no one answer to the perfect school or classroom. Different spaces suit different styles of teaching and learning so teachers will perform better in certain types of classrooms. Stephen gives the example of a UK school in which the students were given the task of designing their own classroom, a project they worked on for two years. The end result was the transformation of a shipping container into a modern space with mood lighting, a Skype bar, diversity of seating, whiteboard paint on all the surfaces where any devices that students walked in with just worked – wifi, mobile phones, netbooks.

Professor Heppell also advocates for parents and grandparents to be a significant presence in the school – as teacher support and to shadow a student for the day. Adults other than teachers, who can share their skills, can be careers advisors, music coaches, gardening advisors and more. This strategy ‘broadens the support base’ or ‘flattens the pyramid’ by giving more people ‘ownership’ of what happens in the school. He suggests that mobile phone technology and Facebook can be used to engage parents in the school. Stephen suggests that schools of the third millenium will be smaller and decentralized, with the administration ‘disaggregated’.

 When purchasing furniture, he suggests that locally made items can be sourced to the ideal specifications and purpose built at reasonable prices. This had been very successful at a Liverpool school, where there was a high rate of unemployment in the region. Mirrors on the wall assist to see student faces when they are working on computers installed against walls and giant billboard style photographs can be created to advertise the school and promote it’s values. Another suggestion was to mount a webcam at the highest point of the school, with the live streaming posted to the school website. It was very interesting to note that the ideal temperature for learning is considered to be 18*C.

When Professor Heppell was asked about middle years science learning he recommended that students be asked what they want to learn – using the scientific method to investigate our world comes naturally to children. The Observe-Question-Hypothesis-Test cycle is the way that virtual worlds and computer games are developed, so it is quite easy to use game-based learning to assist students to understand the scientific method. He recommends enquiry-based and project-based learning, suggesting the science of technology – how a mobile phone works for example. Stephen also showed a link to simulations of Newton’s laws and centipedal forces at Rubble.Heppell.net.

Spending time with Stephen Heppell was  great, but another highlight of my day in Melbourne was meeting up with fellow tweeps, who I had not met face to face before. Jenny Ashby (@jjash) organised dinner at the Blue Train, which was attended by Anne Mirtschin (@murcha); Helen Otway (@helenotway); Heather Carver (@hcarver); Lois Smethurst (@loisath); Bronwyn Mcleod (@seriata); Gillian  (@macgirl19); Georgina Pazzi (@edumazing) and Scott Duncan (@sduncan0101). What a fantastic, friendly bunch of tech-savvy educators all in one place together! I wish we could have talked all night, but a 4.30am start prevented that from happening. It got me to thinking how lucky I am to have a wonderful PLN – even though I live on a farm and work in a small, rural school, I have access to some of the best connected and innovative educators in Victoria. Cheers to Twitter!

Reflections on my Online Class

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This year I am teaching VCE Environmental Science to a class of eight students – only one of which who actually attends Hawkesdale P12 College. The seven other students are from Shepparton H.S. and McGuire College in Shepparton and Brauer College in Warrnmabool. These students are all passionate about environmental science and wanted to study the subject in Year 12, but it was not offered at their schools. Through the Victorian Association of Environmental Education teacher’s network, I offered to provide an online course to these students using the Ultranet, blog, ning, Skype and Elluminate. They each provided details of their school and home email addresses, phone numbers, parent and teacher contacts and their timetables. It was obvious that there was very little opportunity for the timetables of four different schools to co-ordinate to allow these students to attend the classes scheduled at Hawkesdale. It was also apparent that these schools have not yet provided Ultranet access to their Year 12 students. Another difficulty is that email, blogs and Elluminate is blocked at these schools.

So far we have had three weeks of classes, with communication from home via email, the blog and four Elluminate sessions, each about 90 minutes in duration. The first two sessions were introductory sessions, getting to know each other and becoming familiar with the Elluminate tools, which include an interactive whiteboard, audio, text, chat, video and application sharing. We will need to increase the number of online sessions as we are not covering enough material to get through the course in a timely manner. By alternating Tuesday and Wednesday and having a weekend session we will be able to increase the number of contact hours.

VCE Environmental Science is not offered by Distance Education in Victoria, as it has a high practical component, with experimental work part of the student assessment. We have overcome this difficulty by meeting at “Ecolinc”, in Bacchus Marsh, where we completed several experiments, including monitoring power output of household appliances, recording the energy transformations in solar panels, hydro and wind turbines and observing a model hydrogen car and the Environmentally Sustainable Design features of the Ecolinc building itself. These practial demonstrations were video taped and uploaded to the blog for the two students unable to attend. Students have also been able to undertake practical work with supervising teachers in their schools. It was a great pleasure to meet these students as it helps to add a face to a name in my memory and find out more about each of them. One of the students is particularly shy, although this wasn’t noticable in an online enviroment, because she had been contributing to the online discussion in the same way as the other students. I think this is an interesting aspect of the online environment that I noticed last year when doing our Virtual Teaching Rounds with Pre-Service teachers from Ballarat University. The online environment reduces the likelihood of one student dominating the discussion and allows students to participate more democratically.

I think the keys to the success of these students will be their motivation to complete the course, their persistence with technology and their ability to take responsibility for their own learning. They will need to have the confidence to ask for assistance when required and the ability to recognise when they lack the understanding they need to fulfill the requirements of the course. On my part, I need to make these requirements explicit to students and have clear expectations of the work required. I need to provide them with the materials they need to develop an effective understanding of the content as well as the skill to synthesize, apply, evaluate and create. I will also need to monitor these student’s learning carefully to ensure they are completing the work required and developing the understandings to allow them to do well in both mid-year and end-of-year external examinations.

I am very interested in feedback from other teachers who have taught online classes abAout what they think is important to ensure the success of online teaching and learning. What are the key ingredients to the success of an online course?

“For a Successful Online Teaching and Learning Experience – Communicate” by Lawrence Regan PhD

“A Top Ten List for Successful Online Courses” at the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching.

Great Educational Bloggers to Follow

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During the Teacher Blogging Challenge for Activity 2, I read many posts about effective writing and followed links to some outstanding educational blogs. Where can a beginner blogger find great blogs to follow? I compiled the following list, at the risk of leaving out some very important people’s blogs; but these are ten of the most popular and influential blogs in education, that I find myself returning to frequently for great information. These writers are leading the way in education, bloggers who have a vision for improved learning using technology and are willing to share their knowledge and experience. In no particular order, these ten blogs are a great place to start:

  1. Richard Byrne – “Free technology for Teachers” @rmbyrne
  2. Tom Barrett’s Blog at “edte.ch”   @tombarrett
  3. Frank Noschese’s blog at “Action-Reaction” @fnoschese
  4. Dan Meyer’s blog at  “dy/dan”  @ddmeyer
  5. Dean Shareski’s blog “Ideas and Thoughts” @shareski
  6. Kelly Tenkeley’s blog “iLearn Technology” @ktenkely
  7. Mr. Robbo, “The P.E. Geek” @mrrobbo
  8. Langwitches’ Blog @langwitches
  9. Tony Vincent’s blog “Learning in Hand” @tonyvincent
  10. Chris Betcher’s blog at “Betchablog” @betchaboy
  11. Edna Sackson’s blog at “What Ed Said” @whatedsaid

I know I have left out some great educational bloggers! Please leave your own recommendations in the comment section below.

Down Blog’s Memory Lane

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This post is my response to the Teacher Challenge, supported by Edublogs, Kickstart Activity 1:  Ten questions to ask my blog. The image was created in Tagxedo, using the text from this post.

1. Good Afternoon Mr. Technoscience. Now tell me when and why you started blogging?

My first post was in February, 2008 and I have been posting regularly since then, with over 260 posts to date. I was encouraged to start blogging when Heather Blakey visited our school for professional development. I saw blogs as a good place to collect all the many science, maths and other educational resources online, together in one space. I have been encouraged by Anne Mirtschin and Jess McCulloch, both keen bloggers, as well as comments from other teachers and students.

2. Has it been difficult to keep blogging regularly?

 I usually post two or three times a week on each blog (I have five blogs now!) during the school term. I have a blog for each class I teach, so it is my lesson planning, resource storage, reflection space, as well as the place for my students and I to find links to content, tasks and extension activities. So it is not difficult, it replaces some of my pen-and-paper planning and is a resource for students who are absent and other teachers who may be interested.

3. Why did you create separate blogs, instead of different pages on your blog?

I found that it was more difficult to edit pages than post on the front page and most of the time, people just look at the most current material anyway. I could have created separate categories for each subject, but then the posts were moving down the front page too quickly. So now I have Biology, Environmental Science, Technomaths and “Photo a Day” blogs as well as Technoscience.

4. What do you like most about blogging?

I really like having my own space on the internet, where my students, as well as their parents and other teachers, can see the work we have been doing in class. Blogging helps to organise my thoughts and plan for the week ahead. It gives students a launching platform to the world wide web – a familiar place from which they can start to explore the vast array of resources available, with a specific task in mind. It is a place to celebrate student achievements (videos, slideshows, text and images of their work) and a place to gain feedback about their learning. It is one of the places, together with Twitter, where I can meet other teachers.

5. Which are your favourite tools to embed in blogs?

 I regularly use Irfanview to crop, rotate and resize images for my blog. These images are my own photos, creative commons photos and diagrams from Flickr or sourced using Creative Commons Search. I also often use Voicethread, Slideshare, MyStudiyo (quizzes), Google forms and YouTube to embed content I or my students have created. You can find links to these sites in the column at right.

6. Which of your posts have been the most popular?

According to which posts have received the most comments “Steep learning Curve”, “Porshe versus Volvo” and “Test-driving the Volvo” have been the most popular. “Like knitting with a knife and fork” was also an interesting post. The thing that these posts all have in common is that they are my reflections on teaching and learning with technology. I am always grateful for the positive feedback I receive from colleagues and teachers from other schools.

7. What have been the most challenging parts of blogging?

 In the beginning, the most difficult tasks were the ‘behind the scenes’ technical aspects – how to add widgets and links, embed code, manage comments and add an avatar. Now the biggest challenge is maintaining my readership – keeping the content interesting enough to attract an audience and have readers return to the site. I also find I am getting more spam comments, which need to be managed.

8. What have been your most exciting moments?

Receiving a comment on my first post (very encouraging), receiving a comment from a fellow maths and science teacher in Lima, Peru, requesting participation in a global project and being nominated and short-listed in the 2010 Edublogs awards.

 9. Where does your future lie?

I think that I will continue to blog as long as I teach, and possibly even after that! I believe blogging is an essential tool in my professional development, improving my teaching by thoughtful planning, gaining feedback from students and teachers and regular reflection on teaching and learning. Although the Ultranet is designed to host teacher and student blogs, I will be running my global teacher and edublogs sites outside the ‘walls’.

10. What would you say to teachers who don’t blog?

Blogging won’t suit all teachers, but technology is nothing to be afraid of – it is a neutral tool that can be used for both good and evil. Many of our students are very tech-savvy and expect to be constantly communicating and connected to the world beyond the classroom walls. Keeping a blog doesn’t need to be something extra on top of the daily teaching load, it can replace a professional learning journal, lesson planning diary and task sheets for students. Give it a try and you might even get the blogging bug!

Why is it important to teach and learn Science?

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Unfortunately, I missed the most recent #scichat on Twitter about “Assessment in Science”, which included discussion about rubrics, portfolios, “open journal quizzes”, “performance labs.”, oral tests, addressing misconceptions and content vs process. Two of the comments that resonated with me were “shifting away from thinking of students as future scientists to students as future citizens” and “providing an authentic audience”.  This was a timely discussion, as we are finalising a curriculum document at our school at present, and I have been thinking carefully about why it is important to teach science in schools. This is what I have come up with:

As a science teacher I aim to:

1. Improve students levels of scientific literacy to enable:

  • informed debate about scientific and technological issues that appear in the popular media
  • active participation in decision-making policy on a range of scientific issues, including environmental matters (for example: stem-cell research, genetically modified organisms, climate change, immunization)
  • consumer confidence based on rational, scientific thinking

2.  Encourage students to become enthusiastic about learning and about science (increase motivation)

3. Develop student’s confidence in their ability to achieve their goals (in science and more generally)

4. Foster an appreciation for the natural environment and the develop the knowledge and skills to contribute to a sustainable society

5. Develop students knowledge, skills and attitudes that are necessary to establish and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Why do you think it is important to teach and learn about science? Please leave me a comment if you have any more ideas.