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  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. ICERI 2013

    2 December 2013 by shartley

    ICERI A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege to attend, present and chair at the International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI) in Seville, Spain (18-20 November 2013).  This came about due to the comprehensive research completed by a group of us at school, upon the request of our principal, into ‘ICT and Active Learning’.  The investigation involved visiting a variety of innovative schools, surveying our own community and secondary research.  The report ended up being 60 pages long and has resulted in the implementation of REAL (Relevant, Engaging, Active Learning), a concentrated effort for a paradigm shift to more student-centred learning in a Year 7 pilot program for 2014.  Since we had already completed the research we wrote a couple of different abstracts to apply to present at international conferences and were surprised to be accepted by both.  The school is paying for the Innovative Learning Team (ILT) to attend the International Conference on Learning in New York, July 2014, so couldn’t send us to the ICERI one too.  I therefore asked for leave and attended under my own steam (except for accommodation).  I also gained permission to add a couple of days in Paris to visit my 16 year old daughter on school exchange there.  From lift-off to landing I was gone for a total of 9 days, only absent (in body) from school for 5 of them.

    So why would I go to so much expense, effort and jet lag to be at ICERI 2013?  Put simply, the experience.

    For the first time I’ve had an academic conference paper published (with my two colleagues, Melissa Carson and Nick Cook).  Although it’s not the level of a peer-reviewed journal, it’s still something.  It had to be submitted back in October; I wrote it during the school holidays, heavily based on our report for the principal.

    For the first time I’ve presented at an international conference.  I was the first to present during my session, forgot to mention a couple of key points, but generally thought it went well.  We were asked to use either Adobe Acrobat (pdf) or PowerPoint for our presentations.  I was quite pleased with my slides, prepared the day before I left and I wrote what I said during the flight over.  I was asked which I thought should come first, the pedagogy or the technology, and I replied quite definitely, the pedagogy, but what I’ve read since has made me question my decisiveness a little.

    For the first time ever (beyond the classroom) I’ve chaired a session of presentations.  This meant I had to introduce each of the presenters with a supplied biography, pronounce their names as correctly as I could, and ensure they adhered to the tight time regulations.  The duo that followed me were speaking for a couple of minutes before I remembered I had to time them but I recovered and nobody knew.  The next presenter was so nervous that I concentrated too much on calming and preparing her that I forgot to introduce her.  She ran out of time so I concluded with a comment about how fast the time slips away when up front that I also forgot to introduce her and did it then, at the end of her talk.  From then on I was much better and even managed to gain a laugh with my comments about the last speaker’s presentation.

    Of course there is the added benefit of the credibility it provides to me and my school.

    Unlike the various school conferences I’ve attended, this conference was wholly based on academic research.  Each presentation went for 15 minutes and I attended approximately 50 of them on a wide range of topics.  Some were highly technical analysis of statistics that bored me but then I was often surprised by the interest some audience members displayed in the following Q&A.  Most presentations had something that fascinated me.

    By theme the sessions I attended were:

     

    The highlights for me were Morten Fahlvik (@Fahlvik) speaking about blended learning, Ruth Bridgstock (@RuthBridgstock) speaking about educating for digital futures, Alex Tyman presenting on perceptions of leadership and the presenters in my session who had researched teachers’ responses to the introduction of or increase in ICT usage in classrooms.

    Some of the issues that had me thinking include:

    • technology increasing the income gap and the lack of ICT adding to the poverty cycle
    • pedagogy being taken hostage by the tools
    • ‘massification’ resulting in the requirement of large halls; personalisation resulting in the requirement of smaller learning spaces; and ‘interactive classes’ requiring convertible settings
    • parallels between digital media professionals and teachers networking through PLNs on Twitter and TeachMeets
    • how we keep judging leaders against our prototypes (men, tall, suits, aggressive, etc) instead of what we say leadership should be about (consultative, caring, diplomatic, etc)
    • a study of US songs have had a recent exponential rise in use of the words ‘me’, ‘myself’ and ‘I’ in lyrics
    • how students condemn cheating but justify their own cheating but also how this has been researched with many underlying assumptions (eg what actually constitutes ‘cheating’)
    • how to assess social and ethical behaviour/attitudes
    • the language used in relation to shifting teaching styles should not be “make them”
    • focusing more on students’ competencies than knowledge

     

    The other important aspect of the conference was simply talking with other earnest educators, the vast majority being from universities around the world.

    Before the conference, I had already connected with @davidwebster (David Webster – University of Gloucestershire) via Twitter through the hash-tag #iceri2013 and found each other in person during the first break.

    At the first day’s lunch I sat next to Tony Scafide of SUNY Oneonta (USA) and we talked intensely all lunch and throughout the cocktail party the following night about life, the universe and everything.

    On the second day I lunched with Ruth Bridgstock (QUT) and Margaret Mackay (University of Portsmouth) and we discussed how people learn and how to motivate students and teachers to want to learn (without finding definitive answers).

    It was truly an international conference.  In my session alone the presenters were from Norway, Nigeria, Israel, Poland and Turkey.  But I must say, for a conference about innovation in learning, Twitter was rather quiet.

    Overall, despite the rotten cold I had the entire time I was away (and still), it was the conversations with intelligent and passionate people in education that will stay with me the longest.  It motivates me to continue with my study, my teaching and my interest in student-centred learning.  Somebody described me as a border collie, meaning I’m the one who rounds everyone up, gathering them in to try and face them in the right direction.  I think that is a pretty good summary and a conference like this will keep the wag in my tail a little bit longer.


  3. Fitness

    24 January 2013 by shartley

    Ah fitness.  Never been my thing.  I’m the type you’d find buried in reading, watching TV or eating and drinking with friends.  I love cheese and wine more than most things in the world.  But as the muffin top rises and the doctor visits increase fitness has become a necessary evil.

    Burden.

    Pain in the bloody arse.

    I’ve been seeing my current Personal Trainer for about a year now…once a week…or less. I’m busy, you know.  I recently walked to training for the first time.  It’s a 2.5km return journey.  It has also been the walking path I take with my dog, oh, about once a month.

    There a lot of people involved in life’s journey.  I have a friend whose husband, 15 years older than her, walked out on her and their kids for a much younger woman.   My friend is now a fitness junkie.  She regularly has deep tissue massages, ice baths and other tortuous activities I can’t imagine ever doing.  Sometimes her energy is encouraging.  Sometimes it’s not.  What I walk in 30 minutes she runs twice or thrice as much.  But she does kick my arse when we go away together.  In a good way.

    My husband occasionally walks with me.  However, he can’t resist my pleas for chocolate late at night and has many times dashed to the local servo for a packet of mint slice biscuits.  I then eat two thirds of the packet.  He makes Milo to wash it down.  Hot or cold, doesn’t matter.

    My children sometimes walk with me but currently it’s the school holidays and by the time they’re awake we’re entering sunburn territory.  You see, I’m an ultra-white, redheaded, freckly woman.  I only go out when there is barely sunlight and scoff Vitamin D tablets daily.

    What has helped the most, dear friends, are women I’ve never met offline.  My Twitter friends, @madiganda @torkee and @karlao_dtn, started the new year supporting each other’s endeavours to be fit and healthy.  I’m probably the least energetic in the group but they let me tag along anyway.  A blog post titled Why exercise buddies work: “Find someone who can challenge you!”  basically confirmed that I’m the weakest link.  But we must be doing something right.  We’re still at it and a fifth person is joining our humble team.  We’re all teachers gradually returning to work so hopefully the busyness of school doesn’t kill our motivation.

    I’ve now increased my usual walking path to 4km and I’ve lost a couple of kilograms.  I usually take my very excitable dog.  This morning I left a bit too late to commit to the whole 4km so I returned to my 2.5km route but with spurts of running.  Well, that was a joke.  I picture funniest home videos hiding in the bushes as I shuffled along, one hand holding a plastic bag of dog poo and disposable latex gloves and the other gripping an iPhone and wildly swinging as the dog ran side to side pulling the leash every which way and tripping me over.  I use RunKeeper as another motivator.  Today it provided a funny record of poo stops, bursts of speed increases and virtual pauses that didn’t occur in real life due to the dog’s jerking around.

    I was once a super skinny teenager through biological chance, supported by the healthy diet my Mum provided.  Never in my life have I been fit.  I want to be slim, about half way between my teenaged weight and what I am now, but I also want to be fit.  I want to enjoy running and having energy.  I don’t want to be puffed from just walking up a flight of stairs.  I want less stress.  I also want to eat cheese and drink wine.  May this January journey continue through the rest of the year and beyond.


  4. Try Twitter

    19 November 2012 by shartley

     

    I have spent too many hours over the weekend preparing this simple guide as to why and how to use Twitter for a PD session I’m running at my school this evening: TryTwitter

    Special thanks to @betchaboy, @edumenic, @lasic, @MitchSquires@Woojm and all others mentioned in the handout.  If you want your name/Twitter handle  removed please let me know.

     

     

     


  5. Pretend I’m not here

    7 November 2012 by shartley

    Once a week I have a horrible room for teaching HSC Economics so it has become known as the room for listening or chalk ‘n’ talk to use the old language.  A couple of weeks ago I provided resources and left them to devise their own lesson.  The resources were the syllabus outcomes for the topic and an article questioning the use of GDP and the instruction was to plan and conduct their own lesson:

    Pretend I’m not here.

    I had hoped they would have a discussion based on the article but instead they reverted to individual learning, highlighting text and completing other set tasks online, in the quietest environment I’ve ever seen for this class.  I tweeted the whole experience:

    Some of the Tweets during the lesson.

    They were confused by my instruction as to whether it meant individually devise their own lesson or collectively.  When I added to the instruction to make it clear it was supposed to be a collective exercise it didn’t change anything.  There were mutters about their desire to be ‘taught’ and how our school over-emphasises innovation.

    Towards the end of the lesson some pair work occurred while others just counted down the minutes (not usual).

    In the debrief there was a comment that they worked individually so they could work at their own pace.  They want to plough through the material with what I refer to as the ‘tick box’ mentality, only focusing on what they HAVE to know for the HSC, rather than having an enquiry approach or making the process interesting.  Only one student demonstrated deep learning from the article.

    I love working at a school where there is freedom to take such risks.


  6. Saying Thanks

    7 August 2010 by shartley

    DSP 147: Thank You! 2007-10-11

    David Truss (@datruss) has written a blog post called Thank you and no thank you.  I wrote a comment on his post and he DM’d on Twitter a lovely thanks and then suggested in a public tweet that my comment should be a post in itself.  So I’ve reproduced my comment here:

    In my first year of teaching it often felt like a thankless job. About half way through the year a new student joined two of my classes and he thanked me at the end of each lesson. It raised my morale incredibly. I worried that the other students would be a bad influence and he would stop thanking me and stop contributing positively to class discussions. In fact, the reverse occurred. This one boy had an incredible influence on the attitude of the class and many began thanking me at the end of each lesson.

    Now, 6 years later, as a better teacher and improved culture in my school, most students thank me at the end of each lesson. I was even thanked at the end of a lunch when I kept students in to complete homework not done.

    Thanks for your post Dave. It’s nice to think of the positives in the world.


  7. 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?


  8. Keeping it Real

    9 January 2010 by shartley

    When I started teaching six years ago, having previously been in the corporate world, I was keen to show students, particularly in Business Studies, the real world, beyond the textbook.  The students were bemused by my approach of constantly showing via the web how real businesses and other institutions actually operated.  The textbook is great for providing neat answers in the structure of the syllabus, particularly for exam preparation, but for real life learning we need to go far beyond the books.  Textbooks are ideal for students who are good at memorising and regurgitating information for exams that are merely a passport for the next stage of study in life.  Not that this works for all subjects.  In Economics I keep telling my students that memorising the textbook will only give them a mark up to 80% because they need to demonstrate analysis and informed opinion to achieve any higher.  However, education at all levels should be about learning for life and about life and not be just about final results in the HSC and equivalent ‘finals’.

    Real life now involves various forms of social media.  I joined Twitter at the start of 2009 but didn’t actually participate until about half way through the year.  I also use Facebook but purely as a social network.  Twitter is my professional network.  At times it is overwhelming due to how much knowledge other educators in the world have about various web applications and how to use them in the classroom, plus the time they have to post about it, not only on Twitter but through blogs too.  I often feel guilty that I am merely a Twitter trawler since I retrieve so much information from it while giving very little back.  When I do give back, it sometimes feels I am speaking to a void, but not for long.

    The biggest impact Twitter has had on my classroom so far is an idea I had to connect students in my Society and Culture class with Vietnamese students to help them with a case study they were doing on various aspects of life in Vietnam.  Through the retweets of some of my followers and the consequent passing on of names of teachers in Vietnam I was connected with a teacher in Hanoi.  He established a blog where my students and a class within his school introduced themselves to each other before my students asked questions relevant to their case study.  It has been very exciting to see the project start to unfold.  Two of the Vietnamese students expressed very different opinions about the role of power and authority in both schools and government within Vietnam in response to a question from one of my students.  It showed my students different perspectives that they could never learn from a textbook or an official information website.  At the moment we are keeping the blog private since the students are still learning about appropriate use of blogs, not that there have been any problems to date.  However, it has stalled momentarily due to Australia’s summer holidays.  I’m looking forward to the return of school to move it along further.  This is the third time I have taught this unit but it is the first time it has sparked a desire in me to visit Vietnam.  The personal touch really does have an amazing effect.

    The same class also has a public blog to maintain a journal for their Personal Interest Project.  It opens up an opportunity for them to receive feedback about their ideas.  Again, Twitter has been the means for finding the few people who have provided some very constructive thoughts for my students.

    The next exciting project that has come from Twitter was purely by accident in the last few hours.  I was merely thinking out loud and feeling silly for posting it at all when I typed in exactly the maximum 140 characters: Thinking about teaching research methodologies by having Yr 12 students film 30 sec demos of each method with target audience of new Yr 11s. Within minutes a teacher from the USA sent me a direct message offering his 14 year old students as a target audience.  We have set a date for late February for my students to have the videos ready.

    I am constantly astounded by the connections I make and this is despite having fewer than 150 followers, a small number compared to some of the educators I follow with 1000s of followers.  Through Twitter I also discover new resources, many of which I won’t ever use but some I will and as a result my students will also expand their learning.  I can spend hours every day just reading posts and the weblinks they contain but I need to just opt in and out as I want and not become obsessive about it.  I had a few weeks over Christmas where I didn’t do any work for school so I also chose not to touch Twitter either.  I came back refreshed.  I once showed my Society and Culture students how I use Twitter and one asked, “Do you ever sleep?”  I laughed and said I didn’t sleep enough but asked if she reads everything posted on Facebook, her main online social medium.  She doesn’t.

    Twitter is an amazing resource helping me to create an environment of authentic learning.  In just over two weeks I will be back in the classroom after a long summer holiday, armed with new ideas and excited by the prospects they hold.  Stay tuned to see how they go.


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