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Posts Tagged ‘passion’

  1. TeachMeet: Solve For x

    20 October 2016 by shartley

    Phillip taking a selfie before presenting. I'm the one waving up the back.

    Phillip taking a selfie before presenting.
    I’m the one waving up the back.

    * This blog post is also found at http://squibsandsagas.blogspot.com.au/2016/10/teachmeet-solve-for-x.html

    I have been to several TeachMeets.  This particular TeachMeet was held at Google headquarters in Sydney which was one of the main attractions for me.  I missed out on one two years earlier and as I searched for the Twitter hashtag for this evening I found an exchange that occurred about the use of #TMGoogle – the issue being that TeachMeets are supposed to be teacher ran and teachers as presenters, no sponsorship.  However, to host a TeachMeet in a cool location such as Google HQ there is a trade-off.  Tonight I felt the trade to be rather unequal.  The hashtag was not #TMGoogle but perhaps it should have been. It seemed every second speaker represented Google and was promoting something, useful somethings, but advertisements nevertheless. An extra grating factor was that teacher presenters were held to their time limits, albeit poorly, speakers not being deterred by soft Star Wars toys being thrown at them when their time had expired, yet Google presenters had limitless time.  And trust me, the teachers were much more interesting than the Google employees.

    The stated theme of this TeachMeet was ‘Solve for x’, thereby promoting problem solving in education, that students solve whatever issue ‘x’ represented for teachers and/or students. The evening was officially launched by Kimberley Sutton through a YouTube video to explain the concept: Moonshot Thinking: Solve for x @ Tribeca Film Festival. Our first teacher presenter linked a goal to this theme nicely.

    I have known Phillip Cooke through TeachMeets and Twitter for many years.  He is a passionate secondary school educator and declared this evening that his moonshot concept is teaching for life instead of for exams, a policy I am also passionate about.  I have enjoyed seeing Phillip present on this theme in many variations before. He is always interesting because not only does he and his colleagues come up with the ideas but they actually implement them, although I’m sure he wish he could implement more.  Phillip was intricately involved in the complete rebuild of his school, a school often seen in the industry as an alternative option for the misfits in our education system and thus had a poor reputation for a long time for drugs and disruptive behaviour. However, its hands-on practical approach to education is becoming more dominant in industry discourse and it has featured on a TV show for doing things a little differently.

    Phillip’s attitude towards authentic learning is borne out by some of the initiatives he has shared:

    • Establishing an annual Creative Careers Day where the future implications of their learning come to life through the people operating in creative enterprises
    • Implementing cross-curricular activities, such as Design and Technology with English and Drama to create wearable art costumes for a production of Othello, “Students didn’t just read Othello – they lived it
    • Printing art designs of students on tea towels and selling them, simple but effective (also make great thank you presents at Teach Meets)

    If I was to give my own moonshot for teaching and learning is that I desperately want students to be thinking for themselves. As a senior school teacher, I hate how much teaching is about preparing for HSC exams, such as artificial artifice that it diminishes authentic learning.  This is why I always like what Phillip has to say.

    Dominic Hearne set the tone of his talk by quoting Gary Stager, “Schools have a sacred obligation to introduce children to things they don’t yet know they love”. In line with this philosophy, Dominic’s school has introduced a series of compulsory critical thinking courses, which I absolutely applaud. These include:

    • Future Problem Solving
    • Visions of Leadership
    • The Art of War / The Ethics of Peace
    • Epistemology (how do we think, why do we think, what influences our thinking and perception)

    My daughter is currently studying International Relations and Human Rights at university. She would have loved the opportunity to examine some of these topics at school.  Her response being:

    screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-3-03-05-pm

    One of the students undertaking this course used several sources to investigate the Jewish holocaust and, as might be expected, referred to movie representations of the holocaust such as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. He also had access to his grandmother’s letters and other documents depicting her time as a Jew interned by Hitler.  The result was not just a well researched product but the rest of the class had a new insight into the atrocities.

    Nick Brierley hooked me by not only emphasising the thinking skill of problem solving but linking to the TV show Stranger Things, where the children in the show are constantly having to solve problems, not always successfully. He advocated the use of BreakoutEDU, a resource for creating engaging problem-solving games in classrooms. This is definitely a tool I will investigate further.

    Technology definitely has a role to play in developing students’ critical thinking skills. A primary school teacher, Alfina Jackson commenced with the statement that she hasn’t heard students say they need PD before they can use technology, so if they can do it, teachers can do it too.  Glib, but mostly true. I have come across many teachers who are so ingrained in teaching the same way, with the same worksheets, year after year, that they truly struggle with making more than the occasional change to their regular modus of operation.

    Alfina has her own YouTube Channel, mainly consisting of videos made by K-2 students.  These videos demonstrate learning in an authentic and meaningful way for our modern age.  Without many of us realising it, children are learning all the time through YouTube.  Actually many adults too.  I recently used YouTube to learn how to cast-off my knitting.  Alfina is therefore not only teaching students a particular topic, she is teaching digital responsibility.  Creating public videos also motivates students through the hands-on activity and real audience feedback.  All of this requires several higher-order thinking processes.

    Another initiative Alfino implemented was Year 1 completing book reviews on Google Slides. For the content, the teacher taught students to use three simple sentence word-starters:

    • I liked the part…
    • I disliked the part…
    • I would change…

    However, after a quick introduction to using Google Slides, the students worked out for themselves and taught each other the various creative features of using the slides.  After the first drafts were completed the teacher provided feedback through the comment feature which prompted students to comment on each other’s reviews, leading to a discussion of how to write positively, particularly in a public domain.

    On the other hand, I don’t believe technology should be used for simply its own sake.  Alfino showed how students learning to write could trace the letter on an iPad.  I’m not sure how this particularly improves on the pen and paper version except simply for the hook that it is on an iPad.

    The highlight of the evening was the dynamic Kathleen O’Rourke. Kathleen is learning to become a Primary School teacher at Macquarie University after a decade or so in the workforce. She is passionate about many things and her LinkedIn profile reveals she is not only an advocate for education and the marginalised but she walks the talk.  At first I thought she was also going to emphasise technology due to her tagline, “Is it OK to ask students to do something that we are not comfortable to do ourselves?” Instead, Kathleen answered that question with, “If we don’t pursue our x’s how can we expect our students to?”

    As part of being a pre-service teacher, Kathleen decided there wasn’t enough professional development on offer, beyond the regular uni courses and practicum experience so out together some events and now the concept has exploded.  As a full-time carer for her grandmother, Kathleen found it difficult to access working disabled toilets, particularly in medical institutions.  Consequently, she has an aim to develop an app that lists and user-rates them. I spoke to Kathleen at the end of the evening and found just how determined she is to put theory into action. Earlier that day she had been at a school presenting to teachers and discussing with them a university assignment. This was not part of the set work.  She has also tutored primary-aged students who are newly settled refugees on a volunteer basis.

    I was not the only one who thought Kathleen was amazing. This was the reaction on Twitter:

    screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-25-15-pm screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-25-30-pm screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-25-47-pm screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-28-48-pm

    All in all it was worthwhile attending this TeachMeet.  I learned about some new Google products and enjoyed hearing how other teachers are implementing problem solving and other critical thinking activities.  However, I’d prefer it if future TeachMeets adhered to the no sponsorship ideal, even (especially?) if it means returning to the pubs and clubs where they began.


  2. The Education Revolution (a quick post)

    20 January 2011 by shartley

    Pročitano u prvoj polovini 2008. godine

    So I was doing the laundry and thinking about the prep work I’ve been doing this week and about a conference I’m helping to run later in the year and wondering how many teachers actually want to move away from an industrial style of teaching and learning. I think those of us on Twitter feed off each other and become enthused and energised by the concept of change to improve students’ learning. Further, I teach at an extremely innovative school led by a Principal whose current passion is architecture and furniture for education. Not everyone is like us.

    I want my students to love learning, to enthusiastically participate in discussions, to want to learn more, to think, investigate, discover, problem solve, create, participate in world matters, and so on. I don’t want them to merely regurgitate facts and figures, to memorise standard essays, to simply read and feed it back. Yet I am constrained by our system. For the last 6 years I have only taught students in Year 9 and up so am duty bound to prepare them for the School Certificate at the end of Year 10 and the HSC at the end of Year 12. The majority of my students are not pushed at home to perform at the highest level, they have cruised through most of their school life coasting on whatever ability they are at rather than adding value to their education by being enthusiastic about the learning process and/or their subjects.

    It seems the majority of the top performers are the ones who have a culture at home of valuing academic education but what about those who don’t? Even then, many of them are seeking marks as a means to university entry and power and wealth rather than valuing education for its own sake. How do we encourage students to embrace learning?

    The work I’ve been doing this week is preparing a Business Studies course for a new syllabus. One of my main aims is to use the textbook as little as possible to the extent that next year we can ditch it altogether. This means using less than 10% of the pages and so far I’m on track. Business Studies is a subject that lends itself to being real and relevant. The Australian government at all levels and various business associations provide material online to help business owners establish and operate their businesses. Students can dream and plan their very own businesses. I love showing students how they can turn their interests into a real live business. My current HSC students that I have often referred to in this blog include a lot of sports enthusiasts. It is an absolute joy when they can envisage running a coaching clinic, owning a sports store or running a sports travel agency.

    When I taught Business Studies early in my career I was bored silly by the textbook and the internet worksheets I created so much that I never wanted to teach it again after just two years. When I saw the students enrolled in my class last year I knew they and I would never survive if I continued in the same vein. Now I use tools like LinoIt, games like the lemonade stand game, online quizes like this entrepreneur one and creating their own online glossary of key terms in Moodle. The best aspect of Business Studies is how they can apply the theory to their own future business. It takes a lot of energy to run classes like this but the reward is great. Most of these students will not perform well in the HSC but they will perform better than they would have by merely studying the textbook. They have learnt heaps about business, they are quite enthusiastic about business and they have a foundation on which they can build their own business. The HSC does not measure that.

    Now thinking about the conference on best teaching practices in Business and Economics classrooms, I wonder about the participants. What do they want from their teaching? What do they want for their students? Have they heard from a change enthusiast like myself before?

    Some of the teachers participating in this conference come from schools where the standard is extremely high and the pressure for results in tests are immense. Are innovative teaching methods appropriate for their students? Is there a trade-off of marks for passion? Is it possible to achieve both?

    I think it is possible. Actually, I believe innovative teaching is important even if marks are sacrificed. Passion can lead to better marks for the lower to average student. However, I think there needs to be a change in culture for the top-end to understand memorisation is just a means to an end and in the long-run they benefit more from enthusiasm and curiosity.

    Our testing system also needs to change. There needs to be greater scope for the way students present what they have learnt and how they can create, problem solve and be active citizens in our economy and society as a result of a quality education.


  3. Ideas

    6 August 2010 by shartley

    How beautiful would it be if all teachers lit up with ideas?

    How beautiful would it be if all teachers lit up with ideas?

    A teacher in my staffroom is very excited about some ideas she has for the students in our school.  This week she sought out the Principal to discuss her ideas.  He gave her some more ideas to consider and now she is going to spend some time at home putting a plan together based on her vision and their discussion.  She is passionate about her subject area and that students are given every opportunity to perform well in it and this is what motivates her.  I am enjoying listening to the journey and hope and pray it comes to fruition.  It also helps to motivate and encourage me.

    However, other staff think she is silly to offer ideas because she will only create more work for herself.  This is not a far stretch in thinking by any means.  Often when someone sees a need the boss tells that someone to look after it, not just in schools, in any organisation.  But isn’t why we become teachers is because we want what’s best for the students?  I’m sure everyone with whom I work at least once thought that, but sometimes the focus is forgotten as we become buried in the tasks at hand and small problems become huge time consumers.

    I commend the teachers of the world who see a problem and work at resolving it, no matter the cost in time and energy.  May there be more of it.  May the passion be reignited in all teachers.


  4. Pulled every which way

    9 April 2010 by shartley

    Twitter has inspired me as I see other teachers passionate about what’s best for students.

    It has depressed me as I realise how little I know compared to many others.

    I want to investigate every which way of teaching but I would find the process overwhelming.  I want to read the hundreds of blogs I have found through Twitter.  I want to use nearly every resource I discover.  But time, sweet time, prevents me.

    Twitter has connected me to other parts of the world.  One highlight of this is a (private) blog between my Society and Culture students and students at the UN International School in Hanoi, Vietnam.  Blogging is something I am trying in a variety of contexts in class (eg see http://saclife.edublogs.org) but also a little as a teacher and anonymously as a writer.

    The last few days I have been following #ACEC2010 (Australian Computers in Education Conference) on Twitter.  Two of my colleagues have been presenting there, Stephen Collis (@Steve_Collis) and Chris Woldhuis (@cwoldhuis) and I’ve watched via U Stream.  I have been addicted to all this, yet I have learnt nothing new since it has all been discussed before in my PLN on Twitter and through what we do at my school anyway.

    I had allocated today to completing a university assignment for my Editing subject as part of my Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) through Deakin University.  I’m just over half way through this course and I’m really enjoying it.

    My other subject this semester is Script Writing.  I spent Easter writing a monologue for it.  You see, I want to be a writer, probably a fiction writer.

    I am already published as an educational writer but that is just to gain a name for writing before I hit the real deal.  I must admit I enjoy the exercise though.  At the end of each year EdAssist send me a list of topics I could write on for BusiDate and generally I choose something that would interest me, or is most relevant to what I’m teaching, or most recently, what I know a lot about and can write with minimal research.  I then write the article during the summer holidays.

    My educational writing started when Grant Kleeman came to my practicum class during my Dip.Ed. at Macquarie University and asked who had a finance background.  I’m actually a degree qualified accountant who used to work in funds management.  For example, for three years I was the Accountant for the Cash Management Trust at Macquarie Bank.  Through Grant I ended up writing three chapters of Commerce.Dot.Com.  Grant then passed my name onto EdAssist.  EdAssist also invited me to deliver lectures on Business Studies to students in holiday workshops, which I did for two years.  I have also lectured for Economics and Business Educators (EBE) as a result of an article on WorkChoices I wrote for EdAssist.  I enjoy doing all this.  But the time!

    For the last six and a bit years I have been teaching at Northern Beaches Christian School.  It is quite a ride.  Once I muddled my way through first year blues I now find the classroom quite an enjoyable and exciting place.  I’m not great at differentiation but I do see students as individuals and treat them as such in my relationship with them, just less so in the teaching process.  I think my passion for teaching and most of the subject matter is contagious and my students generally like class as much as I do.  They also love going on journeys with me learning new ways of learning.

    I also do a lot of online teaching.  I think it is very suitable for Commerce and Business Studies but HSC Economics I still wonder about.  This year I have some very enthusiastic Economics students but personal interaction is necessary so I have Skyped with one and driven to Scone for another.  Workshops are too far apart and not always convenient for the students.  My school is very gung-ho with technology and mostly I am on board.  We have an institution as part of our school called Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL) which is constantly looking for new ways to educate better.  I don’t always agree with some of the decisions our Principal makes, such as our focus on Matrix learning in the middle years and teaching students en masse, a lot of the time with several classes in the one large space.  I’m not fond of that level of clashing noise.

    What I’m currently keen on to do through SCIL is collaborating with other schools in my area, sharing ideas and producing quality resources, preferably online.  For instance, I’d like to develop a focus study on social networks for the Popular Culture topic in Society and Culture.  I think it would benefit from lots of input from a variety of people, not just teachers.  The problem is, I’m having trouble finding Society and Culture teachers on Twitter.  My next step will be to talk with people in the Society and Culture Association, via email or, heaven forbid, phone (so old-school).

    I love to read, both for pleasure and to keep up with current events.  I have about 40 unopened Sydney Morning Heralds in my lounge room and 100 unread emails from the New York Times, Crikey and The Punch in my inbox.  In my bedroom I have dozens of books waiting for me to read them, goodness knows when.

    I also have two gorgeous children, a supportive husband and a dog.  I am trying to lose weight and become fit through Fernwood and a personal trainer there.  I attend Turramurra Uniting Church and meet with friends from there a lot less frequently than I would like.  I used to volunteer as a Youth Group leader but as a teacher by Friday night I am simply too sapped of energy.  I still haven’t completed my tax return from last year, embarrassing as an ex-accountant.  I have a small group of friends who I neglect too much.  Some of them I stay in touch with via Facebook.  I enjoy tennis, wine, restaurants, movies, classical music, opera and theatre but don’t have enough time or money for all that I want.

    I dream of living on a bit of land in the Southern Highlands with high ceilings and an open fire place with cups of tea and just writing the days away.  But I also know I will continue to be tugged by all my interests.  And I’d miss the classroom.   I plan to teach for another 6-8 years, which is when my children are due to complete their schooling, and then reassess.  However, I don’t think I can keep up the current pace for that long.

    I need to give some of my interests away.  But what?


  5. First draft of a new Personal Philosophy of Education

    7 March 2010 by shartley

    Personal Philosophy of Education

    Education is vital for a society to progress socially and economically.  It is not merely about the accumulation of knowledge but the ability to communicate, negotiate and problem solve in a rapidly changing world.  Every student is a member of society and has something to contribute.  It is the teacher’s role to enable every student to find their part in the world.

    The classroom is a community within the school community and prepares students for a role in the broader community.  Therefore, the classroom is a place for learning values and social behaviour in order for the students to be able to not only participate but contribute to that broader community.  The teacher needs to model appropriate values and expect the same from the students.

    I believe students learn best when they have a sense of ownership over their progress.  Teachers should facilitate the learning process so that students are self-directed as much as possible.  To maintain students’ interest, content needs to be made real and relevant through integrating technology with a variety of pedagogical approaches, since technology is part of every day existence in Australia.  Careers and workplaces are no longer static and hence our students need to be flexible and be able to quickly adapt to changing circumstances.

    In the senior years, when education is more heavily driven by final exams, there needs to be a balanced approach.  A student’s final school mark is a gateway to opportunities in the future and is hence a critical aspect of their learning.  It is also important to focus on learning for life.  However, the two are not mutually exclusive.  Through a passion for learning students are more likely to achieve at a higher level in exams too.

    A firm, fair and friendly approach aids discipline in the classroom.  The learning environment needs to be respected and valued by all who participate within it.  Preparation and communication are key to making this a reality and boundaries must be clear and maintained.  Yet, compassion will also have a role to play at times, according to individual circumstances.  In a secondary school students are coping with many physical, social and cognitive changes.  There are also a wide range of family situations and difficulties students are experiencing at home and carrying with them emotionally.  It is important to be aware of these factors when teaching.

    As a Christian, I believe I have been called to the teaching profession.  I try to let my faith and principles guide my teaching, my whole life, as I strive to be the best I can be.


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