What makes me curious?

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I recently applied to join a new Catholic Education WA design thinking accelerator program, known as Studio Curious. Considering that there were nearly 300 applications from across Western Australia, I was shocked and delighted to be accepted into this exciting program.As part of my application, I was asked to reflect on what makes me curious, and what innovation means to me. I’d like to take a moment to share a few excerpts from my application here.

What makes you curious?

As a lifelong learner, my curiosity and desire to explore new ideas, take positive risks, and collaborate with global educators have transformed the way I teach, and the way I see the world. I’m a teacher, but most importantly, I’m a learner. I learn with my colleagues, both in my school community, and through my online professional learning networks. I am also learning alongside my students, sometimes teaching beyond my comfort zone, especially while teaching LEGO robotics.  

I am curious about online professional learning, design thinking, global collaboration, and leading pedagogical change within a school. In particular, I am curious about how we can support teachers’ acceptance and implementation of new curriculum and pedagogical initiatives; and how we can empower our students to connect, communicate, create, and collaborate with other children around the world.

What does innovation mean to you?

For me, innovation is the freedom to take productive risks in my teaching and learning. It is a mindset, a way of thinking, and above all, a way of doing. Over the years, I’ve introduced and developed several initiatives, including The Global Classroom Project, which I co-founded and led for over four years while working as a relief teacher. Now working in a school, I’m leading the development of our makerspace and robotics programs, empowering our girls’ engagement with digital technologies.

Through these projects, I have learned a great deal about leading and implementing change. It is one thing to dream and come up with creative ideas, it is another thing entirely to work with others to implement, and realize the potential of those ideas. Innovation is a fluid, challenging, collaborative process of working out what works, what doesn’t, and how you can make your ideas work better within your local and global community. Innovation isn’t necessarily easy, but it can have a tremendous impact on the teachers and students involved. In my case, my innovation experiences have been life changing.

So, what is Studio Curious?

Studio Curious is an exciting experiment “designed to provide educators with the permission and confidence to create change; promote knowledge of evidence-based best practice in education; and encourage new connections”. 

We are a group of thinkers and change agents, coming together from all around our state to explore how we can use design thinking to empower curiosity in our education system.  At this point, no one is sure where this program will lead, or what innovation projects will come out of it.

I, for one, am really looking forward to finding out.

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!

Looking back: International #DotDay 2014

International Dot Day was the first ‘global project’ my PrePrimary and Year 1 students participated in for 2014, prior to the arrival of “Travelling Teddy” in Term 4. #DotDay was a fantastic, simple little project, and I’m proud to share my students’ dots with the world – even thought it is somewhat later than I’d planned!