The Learning Curve

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It is been a while since I’ve ‘put pen to paper’ here, but it is nice to be back. In light of my experiences and the challenges I’ve faced so far this school year, I’m dedicating this post to the ‘learning curve’.

For me, good teaching is about learning. It is about taking risks, experimenting with new ideas, and collaborating with colleagues to improve the learning experiences and outcomes of our students. As an educator, taking risks and exploring new ideas is not an easy or straightforward process; and without leadership support, you are likely to fail. It is one thing to dream up an innovative idea, it is quite another to implement it within your school community.

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This year, with the benefit of a FIRST Australia grant, and the support of my school leadership team, I found myself teaching an extracurricular LEGO robotics program, preparing two teams for the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition. I’d never worked with these sophisticated robotics kits before, and I wasn’t sure how the program would run in our school, let alone how I’d teach it. After many hours of internet research, watching YouTube videos, and adapting teaching materials from EV3Lessons.com & Carnegie Mellon University, I set up my Google Classroom groups, and set to work.

Admitting that “I don’t know, but let’s try it and find out” is not an easy thing for a teacher to say to their students.  Yet, this quickly proved to be a common refrain in my robotics class! Learning isn’t linear, and sometimes it can be messy. I based my teaching and learning approach on the idea that we could explore robotics concepts and skills through guided problem solving and hands-on experimentation. If it doesn’t work, let’s keep experimenting, and work out why. I was teaching out of my comfort zone, trying to stay one step ahead of my students. I could hardly pretend to be the font of all knowledge – I was often building and testing programs and mechanisms an hour before my students arrived for class.

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Our FLL robotics program was never intended to just be about ‘teaching girls to code’, or capturing their interest in ‘STEM’ careers, although these were important underlying goals. We were interested in teaching our girls to think, and empowering them to become confident learners and problem solvers. Now, a little over three months into the program, I’m starting to appreciate the impact of this approach, particularly for those girls whose academic results would usually deny them this kind of opportunity.

Learning how to teach robot programming and engineering with LEGO EV3 Mindstorms has been a steep, yet extremely rewarding learning curve. My teaching programs are covered with notes about what worked, and what I’ll need to do differently next year. Yet, by taking risks, experimenting with new ideas, and facing my fears – I am not only growing as an educator, but I am making a difference in my students’ learning.

At the end of the day, that’s what teaching is all about.

#iEARN13 Takeaways (#RoadtoDoha Part 5)

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Qatari Cultural Performance

It is hard to believe that nearly two weeks have passed since this amazing event, as its implications are still sinking in.

For now, here are some of my major takeaway from #iEARN13.

1) The People

A sign of a good conference is its impact on professional practice. The sign of an extraordinary conference is the quality of the professional relationships forged with educators from one’s own country, and around the world.

The #iearn13 conference was an opportunity to meet teachers from all over the world, some I already knew, and others I met for the very first time on the #roadtodoha. Meeting David Potter @iEARNUSA and Michael-Ann @cerniglia, who I’ve literally known for years,  as well as the iEARN Twitteratti from the Netherlands and Pakistan, were true highlights of the trip.

I was also lucky enough to meet, and spend time with Julie Lindsay (from Flat Classroom), one of the two ladies who helped inspire The Global Classroom Project.

And then there were the people I connected with at the conference … From Australia, Mali, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Italy,India, Azerbaijan, Netherlands, Jordan, Canada, Australia, and the United States. Listening to their stories was a fascinating, thought provoking experience which transcended cultural and national borders.

Meeting @cerniglia

Meeting @cerniglia – roughly halfway between the USA and Australia

The Pakistan iEARN Twitterati - including @FSKamal, @hsaeed92, @SidrahN,   and @BilalZKhan

The Pakistan iEARN Twitterati – including @FSKamal, @hsaeed92, @SidrahN, and @BilalZKhan

The iEARN Australia delegation @ Cultural Night

The iEARN Australia delegation @ Cultural Night

2) Realising I have a future in iEARN, and a role to play within it.

The primary reason for my attending the conference was to learn about the philosophy, community, and people which make up iEARN. As a relief teacher, I was struggling to make a connection with the organisation, as I couldn’t engage in the projects and opportunities it offers. But, this conference helped to change that – in a very positive way.

Walking away from #iearn13 with new friends, new ideas, and three international presentations to add to my resume was the culmination of months of planning. It was a huge risk, but it appears to have paid off.

I can see myself having a positive future in this organisation, and potentially a long-term role in helping iEARN grow and evolve over its next 25 years. While I’ll freely admit to still searching for a school where I can make a difference here at home, I’m excited about exploring new global opportunities with iEARN.

"The Spider", Qatar National Convention Centre

“The Spider”, Qatar National Convention Centre

An apt reminder of why I travelled the #roadtodoha

An apt reminder of why I travelled the #roadtodoha

 

Circumnavigating the Globe with the Travelling Scrapbooks

A little over a year ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea … What if we could create a physical artefact of global collaboration? What if we could create something to demonstrate the power of global connections with our schools, communities, and the world?

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And thus, the travelling scrapbook project was born. 

Since March 2012, I’ve coordinated the extraordinary journeys of three #globalclassroom scrapbooks around the world.

As of May 2013, the scrapbooks have been hosted by 16 teachers, in 10 countries; and travelled in excess of 122 400 km (76 055 miles) – which is equivalent to circumnavigating the globe THREE times!

Our participant students and teachers around the world have embraced the opportunity to share a little of their lives, cultures, schools, and countries with the wider global community; and their contributions to our travelling scrapbooks are a true testament to the power of global collaboration.

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One journey is coming to an end

Scrapbook #2 came home last week.

It bears the stains and wear and tear that you’d expect from a document which has travelled well over 47 563 km (29 554 miles) over the past year. It’s been to Brasil, Guatemala, … was lost in Honduras, … Texas, and New York City (USA). It’s been shared with children around the world, and its journey is coming to an end.

It’s hard to describe what its like to hold this document in your hands … It’s the embodiment of a dream … made reality through the efforts of teachers and students who’ve I’ve yet to meet face to face. The stories, the photos, the sketches … make this a unique, and very special physical artefact of global collaboration.

Sadly #2 is in no condition to continue on its’ global travels through the mail system, but there is one last trip in store … It will travel (in my suitcase) to the iEARN 2013 conference in Doha, Qatar … in just over four weeks time, where I’ll be presenting on the Travelling Scrapbook Project, and launching a new spin-off iEARN scrapbook project.

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But, the journey continues

The Global Classroom Travelling Scrapbooks have become a unique, special part of the #globalclassroom community, and the remaining scrapbooks will continue on their travels for some years to come.

I’m planning the introduction of at least two new books in the coming months, so I’m looking forward to seeing this project evolve and develop over time.

I’d love to have scrapbooks touring Europe and the Middle East, … and I’m now starting to wonder if we can get the scrapbooks to travel more than half a million kilometres?

It might take a few years, but let’s see …

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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.

“Learning with the World, Not Just About It” – A #WLPSict Inquiry


cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Stuck in Customs

As some of you will know, I am working with a local school in Perth, Western Australia, as a temporary ICT Integrator.

My Year 5/6 students are researching Asian countries, and I’m hoping to introduce them to global connections through a simple inquiry project.  I’d like to use Skype and Edmodo, but given that this isn’t my own class, I’m keeping things relatively simple (for now at least!).

Over the past week, almost all of my students have contributed some questions to a class Google Doc, which I’m sharing with my PLN around the world. While their questions barely scratch the surface, I hope that this project will start to raise awareness of global perspectives and connections within the school, with a view to forging deeper connections in future.

If you are a teacher or a student living in one of these countries, or you know someone who does, could you help answer my students’ questions?

You can access the public Google Doc here.  Thank you!

  • Malaysia
  • Mongolia
  • Myanmar (Burma)
  • Vietnam
  • India
  • Nepal
  • Japan
  • Laos
  • Thailand
  • South Korea

Cross posted at The Global Classroom Project

2012: A Year of Exploring Possibilities

“Bather’s Beach” – By Michael Graffin (2012)

My blog is very much a reflection of my teaching journey over the past few years …

2010 was very much a year of experimentation, of learning, and finding my feet – as a relief teacher & a connected on-line educator.

2011 was a “Year of Change“, but with the benefit of hindsight, the lessons & outcomes of that painful, tumultuous year have more than compensated for the agony I went through.

So, what were my experiences of 2012?

 

2012 was “A Year of Exploring Possibilities” 

Mr Davo Devil checking out the #globalclassroom scrapbook

This has been an interesting year. I’ve had my ups and downs, but overall it was a positive, meaningful year.

Some significant moments include:

This was a year where my skills and expertise were recognised and appreciated locally, as well as internationally. Working with Jenny on the TIPS2012 project was a rich learning experience, and my involvement with iEARN Australia has thrown up some wonderful opportunities for 2013.

A huge thank you also goes to Nigel Mitchell (my ACEC 2012 co-presenter), Kathryn Edwards of Peach MediaKesha Busing of RIC Publicationsand Mal Lee. You’ve helped shape an amazing year, and I hope we have the opportunity to work with each other in the years to come.

 

My favourite posts of 2012

This year, I haven’t blogged as often as I’d have liked; however, there are a few posts of which I’m particularly proud.

Thank You Mr P.

Perhaps my most heart-felt, emotional post of the year, which came as a bit of a shock for Mr P. 

Life, Language, Laughter, Skype

The Hello Little World Skypers and Global Classroom Skype groups have had a profound impact on my personal and professional life. I treasure the relationships and friendships I’ve formed through these groups, and hope to start meeting some of the members f2f over the years to come.  

Teacherpreneurs – Connect, Create & Collaborate

Part of my series of posts from the Flat Classroom Book Club earlier this year, this post was an ‘ah-ha’ moment. My engagement in the book club marked the start of an emerging, and extremely important relationship with Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay of The Flat Classroom Project.

 

Publications / Articles / Podcasts

2012 has been a busy year, marking the first time I’ve had my name in print.

Contributions 

Collaboration in learning: transcending the classroom walls by Mal Lee and Lorraine Ward

I was lucky enough to contribute to the research underpinning this book, and I look forward to its’ release in early 2013. For some detail on the research, and the findings, please have a read of Mal and Lorraine’s research paper.

The Global Classroom Project –  Classroom 2.0 Book Submission

Things have gone quiet about this project; however, the more reads we receive, the more likely we are to be published in the print edition of the Classroom 2.0 Book. Your assistance has been greatly appreciated!

Articles

Teacher Feature 

Education Matters – Primary & Secondary Magazine 2012/13

Education Matters Magazine      Teacher Feature (2012) (PDF)


 

Learning, sharing and collaborating globally in the early years: Stories from the Global Classroom Project

Class Ideas K-3 Magazine (Early 2013 Release)

With contributions from #globalclassroom teachers in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, United Kingdom, and Lebanon, this was the first magazine article I’ve ever written, and I can’t wait to see it in print next year. I’ll post a link to the online version when it becomes available.

 

Podcasts

A World of Difference -The Virtual Staffroom Podcast

This interview with Chris Betcher, Theresa Allen, and Lisa Parisi was a huge confidence booster, and a great way to start the year. I forgot to link to it from my blog at the time; however, I’d highly recommend having a listen. You can find it via the link above, or find it on iTunes. Thanks Chris 🙂

 

Looking Forward to 2013

2013 is going to be an exciting year!

Flickr CC-NC-SA by Lυвαιв

I’ll be presenting at the Science Teachers of Western Australia Conference in May, and travelling to Doha, Qatar for iEARN 2013.

I’m hoping the Qatar trip will be the first of many, as I’d like to do a little travelling & meet a few international friends over the next few years. If that means I relief teach for a few more years, then so be it. It will be worth it.

Let’s see how we go.

Happy New Year.

 

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.

Celebrating Global Collaboration (#flatclass Book Club Reflections: Part 7)

Over the past year, an extraordinary bunch of international educators transformed a vision of global collaboration community, dreamt up right here in Western Australia, into a real world reality. The Global Classroom Project has been an extraordinary experience, and we thought this was something worth celebrating.

Chapter 9: Celebration, in Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds, filled in the missing piece of the #globalclassroom puzzle; bringing home the need for an official closure and celebration of our 2011-12 project.

We needed to provide a space and opportunity for our teachers and students to celebrate and share their experiences with the world. So on July 1, 2012, we held our Looking Forwards, Looking Back webinars, inviting our teachers to contribute to an international showcase of our projects, learning experiences, and achievements through Global Classroom 2011-12.

Due to terrible technical problems, the morning (Americas) webinar turned into an impromptu Google+ Hangout; however, the evening Australia / Europe webinar was an incredible success, with speakers from India, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Romania, and the USA.

The closing webinars also provided an opportunity to share the first pictures of the #globalclassroom memento scrapbooks, which are traveling to classrooms around the world. These scrapbooks provide our students with the opportunity to share their voices, cultures, and learning with the wider world, and will continue on their journeys for at least another year to come.

Book Club Reflections …

I found Chapter 9 of the #flatclass book a very relevant, informative chapter; one which had a significant impact on the #globalclassroom community. While the way we acknowledge and celebrate learning is somewhat different to the #flatclass model, that’s the way I like it.

We’re building on the work of those that come before us, and are exploring new ways to learn, connect, and collaborate globally. As they say, life is always more interesting when you’re a pioneer …