CEWA LEAD Awards for Excellence 2016

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A photo with my Principal, a passionate advocate for our makerspace and robotics program.


A few weeks ago, my library colleague and I accepted, on behalf of our school, a prestigious Catholic Education WA LEAD Award for Excellence in Learning. This award recognized our work in establishing our school’s makerspace and robotics program, which includes a research partnership with the Schools of Education and Engineering at Curtin University. Unfortunately, due to a family emergency, my library colleague was unable to attend the awards event.

Working in a girls’ school, we are primarily focused on engaging and empowering our students’ interests in digital technologies and engineering. After setting up our library makerspace late last year, we were introduced to several researchers at Curtin University, who were interested in researching the impact of makerspace projects on girls’ engagement with Science, Technologies, Engineering, and Mathematics. As a result of this connection, we have hosted several “STEM makerspace workshops”, facilitated by pre-service teachers and engineering students. Earlier this year, we created our after school “Maker Monday” program, run in the school library, which provides interested students with the time and space to pursue design and engineering projects – going beyond tinkering with electronics and robots. At the start of 2016, I also established our competitive LEGO robotics program. As you can probably imagine, it has been a rather busy year!

Our makerspace and robotics program is very much in its’ infancy, but our curiosity, risk taking, and experimentation are beginning to have a real, positive impact on our students’ learning and engagement with digital technologies. We know we have a lot to learn, and we have a long way to go before what we can meaningfully integrate the makerspace philosophy and pedagogical approach across our school. We are indebted to our school leadership team, both past and present, for without their support these projects would never have happened.

Having our work acknowledged by our system as an example of innovation and excellence in learning means a great deal, and it is a huge confidence boost as we continue on what has been a challenging, but ultimately very rewarding, teaching and learning journey.

 

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Demystifying Coding and Programming – Just Scratchin’ Around

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Jenny Ashby @jjash may not know it, but her Sydney #slide2learn session on Beebots and coding gave me the push I needed to take a risk, and experiment with Scratch programming in Years 4 and 5 in late 2014.

Openly acknowledging in class that I had next to no idea of how Scratch worked, and what it could do, I set my students a challenge to create a game, or tell a story. With the help of YouTube tutorials, older siblings, and coding enthusiasts amongst their classmates, the girls merrily set to work planning, problem solving, and coding their projects; and they were only too happy to teach me in the process!

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The Task

Challenge 1:

Use Scratch to tell a simple story which includes at least one talking character (sprite), and at least two settings or backgrounds.

Challenge 2:

Create a simple game where the user or player has to choose a key on their keyboard to make the sprite move or perform an action. This game could be a maze, a guessing game, or your own idea. It needs to include at least one Sprite (object/character), and a background.

Self Assessment Criteria

I have:

  • Storyboarded what my story / game will look like, and what will happen.
  • Created a simple story or game using Scratch
  • Included at least one Sprite and background
  • Used code blocks to require user/player action – e.g. IF the player clicks their mouse or presses the A key, THEN ….

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Some Results

Arcaine

Press ‘s’ to start, then use arrow keys as per in-game instructions.

Super Grandma!

Press the following keys to progress the dialogue: a, c, e, r, q.

Ask Katy Perry

Start by clicking on the green flag.

Fun Maze (Year 4)

Click on the green flag to start, then use your arrow keys to navigate.

What did we learn?

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Introducing Scratch programming to my students was a huge professional risk, as to the best of my knowledge, it had not been formally taught at the school before. It was also the first time I had ever attempted to run a coding/programming project, something which I wouldn’t have dreamed of trying before #slide2learn.

Through this project, I learnt a great deal about the power of play – allowing students to explore, experiment, tinker, and collaboratively solve problems as they pursued their coding projects. I was surprised by the level of student engagement – both in, and outside of class. Many went home to ask their older brothers and sisters for help and advice in coding their projects! I was also really impressed with the power of peer teaching and support in class, as we even brought some Year 4 students into a Year 5 class to explain how they used a particular Scratch tool !

Next time I run this, I intend to more formally stress the need the storyboard and planning aspect of the project, and include some higher level coding skills in the assessment criteria (drawing upon the Australian Digital Technologies Curriculum). I’d also like to try and provide better summative feedback to students, beyond the whole class discussion and reflection sessions we ran last year. The peer teaching and problem solving approach worked very well for most students, encouraging them to think and learn from eachother.

Later in 2015, I am hoping to introduce Beebots and coding apps into Early Childhood maths / procedural writing, and explore how to integrate Scratch programming into other learning areas in upper primary. We are at the very early stages of teaching coding / programming at our school, but I am very curious to see where this little experiment takes us over the next few years.

Unleashing the Power of @AdobeVoice

Over the past few years, I have been privileged to attend two #Slide2learn events, in Perth (2013), and in Sydney (2014). Despite being terribly sick for most of the Sydney event, it made a deep and meaningful impact on my teaching practice.

At the 2014 event, Tony Vincent @tonyvincent introduced me to Adobe Voice, an extremely powerful tool for telling stories, narrating procedures, explaining a concept, and so much more. I have now successfully integrated this rich digital storytelling tool into Year 2 and Year 3 ICT and English classes, most recently in collaboration with our Early Childhood teachers.

Last year in ICT, I had a class of Year 3 students script and voice creative ‘newscasts’ and narratives. We had originally planned to create iMovies, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to find a more manageable alternative. I chose Adobe Voice, and was absolutely blown away by the results …

Staying Safe Online

Then, in Term 1, 2015, seeking a simpler alternative to Explain Evrything (which we used last year), I introduced my Year 2 and Year 3 colleagues to Adobe Voice. Working on an online safety unit, and keen to integrate ICT into literacy, we taught our students how to use the app to create “Online Safety” presentations, some of which you can watch here.

What have we learned?

As we’ve experimented (played) with the use of Adobe Voice in the early years, we’ve discovered a few useful tips worth sharing:

  • Younger students need some explicit modelling of how to use the app, especially for how to add their first names to the final credits (to make identifying the work easier), and saving the completed product to the Camera Roll and Dropbox.
    • It is important to balance ‘learning through play’, with some explicit teaching
    • I intend to create a poster explaining the ‘Save to Dropbox’ process which we can post in the classroom for student reference.
  • Have students write out their scripts prior to using the app. Scripting the presentation leads to a more polished result, and also encourages students to ‘think’ carefully about what they want to say, rather than making it up as they go along.
  • We found we needed to encourage students to say only one or two sentences per slide – some thought they had to present all their information on one slide!
  • Students need to be taught how to match images and music to the tone and content of the presentation. For example, a horror music soundtrack is probably not appropriate for an explanation about ‘Staying Safe Online’!
  • Having an authentic audience and purpose is powerful – students learnt that they needed to speak clearly and sensibly when presenting an explanation video which will be viewed by people outside their classroom.
  • Build in some time for reflection and discussion. We found sharing the final products with the class, and talking about what they did well, and where they could improve, was a very valuable part of the teaching and learning process.

Where to next?

Given that I am in a new integration / support / coaching role this year, I am taking a slightly different approach to integrating iPads in the early childhood classes. Based on collegial feedback and my personal observations, I’m focusing on helping teachers become confident, independent users of just one or two creative / digital storytelling apps per Semester. I’m also trying to develop my early childhood pedagogy and teaching techniques through observing and team-teaching with my colleagues, learning and refining my approach as we go.

I am looking forward to seeing how we can integrate Adobe Voice next Semester!

Science, ICT, and the Global Classroom (#CONSTAWA33 Keynote)

Last weekend, I presented the Dinner Keynote at the Science Teachers’ of Western Australia conference, exploring the topic: Science, ICT, and the Global Classroom: Exploring the Possibilities. 

Our Challenge: Engaging Students in Science

As a primary school teacher & global education specialist, being asked to present to secondary science teachers was an interesting experience 🙂

The central theme of the presentation focussed on the use of technology to enable teachers and students Engage, Connect, Communicate, and Collaborate in secondary Science – via connections with external organisations, experts, and science educators around Australia, and around the world.

Building Bridges with REAL Science

My most memorable science teachers were those who were passionate about their subject, and who went out of their way to CONNECT their students to REAL science. As was posited to me on the night, these connections should, and indeed MUST begin, in the primary school classroom, but I was interested in exploring the possibilities at the secondary level.

You DON”T have to be an Expert (when you’re part of a community)

I was also very keen to point out that teachers don’t have to be ICT experts to engage & connect their students in Science. The keys to success lie in keeping an open mind, and and being willing to learn and collaborate with colleagues and experts beyond your classroom walls through engaging in online communities, such as the Scootle Community and Twitter.

I finished up by sharing a crowd-sourced Google Doc, containing links and ideas for Secondary Science teachers interested in exploring the possibilities of ICT and global connections in their teaching. You can access (and contribute) to that document via the short link: http://bit.ly/CONSTAWA2013.

 

Post Conference Reflections

I was rather pleased with the reception I received at the CONSTAWA Conference. It was rather challenging to walk into an unfamiliar conference audience, but the feedback was very positive.

I’ve learnt a great deal through the experience … not just about how much work and preparation goes into these kind of presentations, but how I can personally integrate ICT and global connections into my own Science teaching in the future. The connections I’ve made … the lessons I’ve learned … will help me a great deal when I eventually find my own space and own classroom – one day.

Thank you to the long list of teachers, scientists, and experts who helped make this presentation possible. I am indebted to you – for your support … and inspiring example of what is possible when you ‘explore the possibilities’ of Science, ICT, and the Global Classroom.

Finishing up the #WLPSict Journey – For Now

On Wednesday (March 27), I completed my four week stint as the #WLPSict integrator.

I left with mixed emotions … sadness at leaving a position which I loved, but also with a great sense of personal vindication. I left knowing that I’d done my best, and that I’d done it well.

The last week gave me the time to finish what I’d started, wrapping up some projects that I’d been preparing students’ for, as well as laying the seeds for ongoing ICT projects which will continue when I’m gone.

Here’s my final #WLPSict wrap for Week 4 …

World Water Day 2013 (Year 2, and some Year 7s)

I’ve already blogged about this here, so I won’t go into too much more detail – except to say that with comments from 10 countries, and 1000+ hits in a week, I’m proud to say that the third anniversary of my ‘first’ global project was a wonderful success. Well done kids! 🙂

Completing the Asia Google Docs Inquiry (Year 5/6)

I spent my last lesson with the Yr 5/6’s helping students finish their Asia presentations, incorporating the information so kindly shared by students and staff at a variety of international schools throughout Asia. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I was unable to obtain copies of the presentations to share online, as I couldn’t work out where the students had saved them! 🙁

If I’d had more time, I’d have used Google Presentations … which would have allowed students to actually collaborate on their presentations AND easily share them online! (I’ll get off my Google Soapbox now …)

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the staff and students at the following schools for the wonderful support for this experimental project:

PuppetPals with Year 3N

I was really pleased with the progress Year 3N (Year 2F, and Year 3C) made with their use of the PuppetPalsHD iPad app.

We used our last lesson in Year 3N to create group PuppetPalsHD presentations on Jungle creatures, tying in with the class theme. With the help of their wonderful classroom teacher, students had planned these presentations, and the final results weren’t too bad. I was able to put a few on the school YouTube channel, and I’ve shared them below.

This little project bore witness to one of the most infuriating moments of my #WLPSict tenure … stay tuned for my upcoming reflections (rant) on (trying to) teach about Creative Commons images.

WordFoto with Year 3C

The Year 3C teacher has exciting plans for using the WordFoto app with her class, and to my great surprise (and pleasure) actually borrowed an iPad, and showed her class how to use it (outside of our ICT time) – a significant leap forward!

So I spent my last lesson with Year 3C roaming the school grounds with a box of iPads and iPods, letting students have a play with the app, and Dropboxing the results. The brief was to create WordFoto partner portraits & school landscapes, so the only one I’m really comfortable sharing is the one they did of me 🙂

 

Year 4 – Getting Excited about Animoto

In my last week, I introduced the Year 4 students to Animoto. While with hindsight I wouldn’t use a ‘whole-school’ account again, I was really pleased to see how popular (and useful) this tool actually is. The Animoto for Education account wasn’t as fully featured as I’d expected; however, it does allow for the creation of student accounts – In fact, I’ll be recommending WLPS teachers to create their own class accounts in future.

Here’s a student created example – using images they took on a recent class excursion to “Sculptures by the Sea”, at Cottlesloe Beach, WA.

And thus ends my stint at #WLPS … for now at least. This is one of remarkably few schools where I have truly felt ‘at home’, and the first where I’ve been able to really share my passion for all things ICT and global education. I hope that this #WLPSict journey marks the beginning of a fruitful long-term relationship over the years to come. Time will tell.

Sharing our World Water Day Reflections with the World #WLPSict

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With the help of our international #globalclassroom PLN, this year’s #WorldWaterDay International LinoIt Project was a huge success!

We’ve had over 820 hits in 3 days (we’re still hoping to hit 1000!), and received comments from around Australia, Spain, Greece, Denmark, South Africa, Trinidad, Canada, Russia, Taiwan, and Argentina! We even hosted an original music video created by high school students in Trinidad.

I’d like to thank the Year 2 students, and their teacher, from West Leederville PS  for ‘hosting’ my third #WorldWaterDay project, and extend my sincere thanks to all the  students and teachers around the world who helped make this project possible.

You can check out our 2013 LinoIt page here, and we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d watch, and leave a comment, on our Year 2 students’ PuppetPal presentations (see video below)!

#WLPSict – Weeks 2 & 3


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Saad Faruque

While the past two weeks have passed by in a blur, I can honestly say that I look forward to my #WLPSict teaching days. I’m starting to build meaningful relationships with the teachers I’m working with, and my students eagerly anticipate my arrival in their classes.

It’s been tough knowing that my initial four weeks are nearly over, yet I’m starting to see some of the rewards of my paced, collaborative approach.

When I walk into my classes, I’m starting to see classroom teachers taking the initiative … actively preparing their students for their ICT time. For example, our Year 3 teachers have encouraged their students to develop story plans for their PuppetPals animations; and have been excitedly brainstorming ways to integrate the app into their Jungle theme.

I’ve learnt a few technical & management lessons the hard way (particularly in the Year 4 class), and have struggled somewhat working with the Year 1 students … but I feel that I’m getting there, slowly.

 

Weeks 2 & 3 looked something like this …

Years 1-3

I’ve introduced an ICT rotations scheme to ease management issues, and ensure easier access to mobile devices. I now take a cart of laptops, and as many iPad 1 & 2s as I can get my hands on (they are in hot demand!). Half the class does Mathletics / Reading Eggs, while I work with the students using the iPads. This has had the side benefit of allowing teachers to ask questions about how to manage their students’ tasks, and monitor their performance.

The Year 1 students in particular will benefit from this long term, for as indicated by one of the teachers, a number of ESL students were unable to keep up with the whole-class activities.


cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Ευτυχία (Jim is Nice)

Two of the Year 2 classes are researching old fashioned toys and games, with a view to creating iMovies and an assembly item. One of the Year 2 teachers is an early adopter of iPads and ICT, and she basically plans the lessons, with my input as needed.

The Year 3s, and the other Year 2 class are continuing to work on PuppetPals. This past week, I introduced these students to the Character and Background import options in the Puppet Pals Directors’ Pass.

I have also showed them how to import / export photos via Dropbox, as we are using iPad 1s (without cameras) and iPad 2s. I have been warned that the use of Dropbox can put pressure on the school’s internet upload/download limits, but I think these skills are too important to ignore. I’ll see how we go 🙂

Next week, the Year 3s will be creating Jungle poetry / information reports using PuppetPals; importing custom backgrounds and characters that they have created in Art. This will be the culmination of several weeks work, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the final results. It seems that taking things slowly has paid dividends … 

Year 4

The technical problems I was having with a whole class Google Doc continued in Week 2 … I won’t be doing that again anytime soon. It seems too many users accessing a document from the same network is a big no-no. I did actually fix the problem last week, but the class had moved on to other things. Fair enough.

In Week 3, we introduced students to WordFoto, and dropboxed their creations – with the intention of printing them off next week. I am hoping to introduce this class to Aurasma, an augmented reality app, next week … not sure yet! I don’t want to overload the teacher…

Years 4/5

Sadly, I’ve only had two opportunities to work with the Year 4/5 class  … due to the Swimming Carnival, and their upcoming class excursion next week. We spent our second session completing their “Sculptures by the Sea” presentations, and exploring options for a future animation project.

These students deserve a special #WLPSict mention for being on the receiving end of Mr Graffin’s rant on effective presentation design in Week 1 … fluorescent colours and overblown animations were NOT on my wish list! lol.

Years 5/6

Last week was the first time my Year 5/6 class had their full allocation of ICT time, after missing out on most of the past two sessions due to catch up science lessons with the Year 6/7 class. We are making progress!

My students have all entered their questions into our Asia Inquiry Google Doc, and we’ve received responses from students and teachers in Cambodia, Nepal, India, Japan and Thailand! The challenge to connect with Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam is still ongoing! So if you happen to know someone in these countries, could you please send them a link? Thanks 🙂

The students are currently working on their project presentations, choosing to present their research using Pages, PowerPoint, or Comic Life.

While my students are very new to ‘learning with the world, not just about it’, I’m actually pretty happy with our attempt to connect with Asia. Yes, we’re barely scratching the surface, but its a positive start. And I’m working in a school environment which is open to these connections … and that’s more than I’d hoped for.

Year 6/7


cc licensed ( BY NC SA )  flickr photo shared by totallyradshow


While we missed last week’s session due to the Swimming Carnival, almost all our students are ready to film their green-screen movies. Did I mention that the green screen kit ARRIVED!!??? (Very excited!).

We’ve spent a total of two lessons on planning and experimentation, and students’ scripts and sound effects are practically ready to go. Unfortunately, it seems I’ve been dragged in as a character in one group’s movie … Not sure if I’ll be able to wiggle out of that one! We’ll be filming and editing over the coming week.

I am hoping to share students’ videos on the school blog / wiki, and invite warm and cool feedback from international viewers (via Google Docs). The idea is that students need to understand that they are creating work for an authentic, global audience – not just their teachers.

Notes – 

In Week 2, I had my first opportunity to meet the student ICT Angels, learning about their roles and responsibilities. They manage the charging of laptops & iPads (when they don’t forget!), and run the school blog. Having seen the blog, I’m looking forward to introducing the ICT Angels to some multimedia creation tools, such as Animoto, VoiceThread, PhotoPeach, etc. All in good time.

A key consideration, which I’ve noted for future reference, is the need to explicitly clarify when students are released for ICT Angel work, i.e. during silent reading time, and on Tuesday afternoons prior to Assembly. Also mentioned was the need for Angels to support teachers’ use of ICT, rather than doing the work for them.

The strict guidelines and rules for the ICT Angel program help to minimise the impact on students’ learning time; and the students’ know that they can be replaced if they don’t fulfill their responsibilities! The application process for these positions is EXTREMELY competitive at this school!

Other things on the agenda have included (finally) starting work on the #WLPSict Staff wiki, and starting to identify apps to remove from the school’s mobile devices. There are literally 120+ apps on the iPod Touches and iPads at the moment, and we need to sort out the mess before we start using Apple Configurator to manage our devices.

As far as I can tell, there’s one week to go. Here’s to a good one 🙂

Engage, Connect, Inspire: My Teaching Philosophy

 

Whist preparing a recent job application, I took the opportunity to update my teaching philosophy statement, the ‘reflective ‘manifesto’ which defines my beliefs about 21st Century teaching and learning practices. I’ve posted it here.

What impressed me the most was not that my ideas and approach had necessarily changed over the past 3 years, but how I now have the practical experience and language to describe how I apply these ideas in my professional practice.

And then today, I found this video (via @HonorMoorman), and was lost for words … It seems I’m not the only one who believes in the power of technology to Engage, Connect, and Inspire …

I couldn’t explain why any better myself.

Walking Down Memory Lane

Yesterday, I met a former student … and the memories came flooding back.

 

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by The Wandering Angel

Three years ago, I was a student teacher on my final teaching placement. I was teaching a troubled, angry, and violent 8 year-old student … whom my cooperating teacher simply couldn’t stand.

“Roy” was (and remains) one of my most memorable “little characters’ … I’ve written about him before (September 2010). Back then, he was “liable to throw things at the teacher, run away from the class, and draw the teacher into power struggles”.

 

Yet, over those eight weeks, I forged a positive connection.


I made a difference … even if only for a short time
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“He made an effort to moderate his behaviour, and he never “exploded” into his aggressive chair-throwing & escape act while I was teaching him.

Working with him again last year, I believe I was one of very few, perhaps the only teacher Roy ever came to respect and trust.”  (September 2010)

Anecdotally, I know that Roy returned to his old ways when I left his classroom. Sad, but not particularly surprising given his life and school experiences.



Roy was a life-changing experience

My experiences with Roy had a defining impact on my teaching and classroom management approach. He taught me so much … and I still carry “his lessons” with me today. In fact, there is “a little bit of Roy” in most of my blogged classroom management reflections, which continue to bring so many visitors to A Relief Teacher’s Journey.


Yet, when Roy moved schools, I feared we’d never meet again.



Today, I went for a walk down memory lane …

“While out on duty today, I was approached by a student, and to my amazement, Roy walked into my life again. We went for a walk together … I shook his hand, and thanked him.”

“I finally had the chance to tell him that I’d never forgotten him … the chance to tell him that he taught me so much about teaching and about life.”

I know, from my conversations with his classroom teacher that “Roy” hasn’t changed much over the years; and perhaps has become slightly worse.


Yet, years ago, I once told Roy that I believed in him. I felt, deep down, behind the facade, he was a ‘good kid’. Angry, yes. But not bad.
I still do. I have hope. I care.


I still believe that my most memorable “little character” can make it. And one day, I hope he will read this and understand.

Reflections on Classroom Management (Index)

My Experiences, Philosophy, & Reflections

  1. My Jigsaw Approach to Classroom Management
  2. The Conscious Competence Ladder (Skill Development)
  3. The Four Stages in My Teaching Practice
  4. Classroom Management – Summing Up

The 3 R’s of Effective Learning Environments

  1. Setting the Scene
  2. Overview of the 3 R’s
  3. Transforming a Year 3 class into a learning community
  4. The Third ‘R’ – Shared Responsibility for the Learning Process
  5. My experiences with the Third ‘R’

‘The Theory of Bumps’ (Bennett & Smilanich, 1994)

  1. The Key Principles
  2. Explanation & Suggested Strategies

The 3 Keys to Working with Challenging Students

  1. Introduction
  2. What is a “problem” or challenging behaviour?
  3. Part 1: Building Positive Relationships
  4. Part 2: The Classroom Learning Environment
  5. Part 3: The Teacher’s Attitude, Actions, & Management Approach
  6. Responding to Anger

Building Positive Relationships

  1. Small Talk: “From little things, big things grow”
  2. Relief Teaching – Chalk & Small Talk!
  3. Get Involved with Breakfast / Lunchtime Clubs
  4. The Importance of Active Listening

Top Tips for Teachers – Behaviour Management (Video)

Cracking the Hard Class