Continuing to learn…

December 12, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Posted in Conferences, Education | Leave a comment
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As a teacher, it is so important that we continue to learn and be willing to learn! Along with this is that we have to do what Ardis Cochrane suggested at the International Conference on eLearning Futures 2011 a couple of weeks ago. She suggested that:

teachers need to be respected as learners

This is so important for those who are involved in eLearning in some way – particularly promoting it with teachers in your school or organisation. Some teachers are nervous when it comes to using ICT and they need to be given time, space and support to learn how and when to use it appropriately.

Of course the experts also need to be continually learning, so I thought I would share a couple of the ways I try to continually learn.

  • As you can see, I go to conferences. To be honest I’ve only been to one this year. It was good, but conferences can be quite expensive so might not always be possible to attend. Conferences of course are great for networking.
  • Blogs – I read blogs, and quite a few of them. I follow blogs of academics, teachers and educational technologists. Using the RSS feeds and an RSS reader such as Google Reader it’s not too difficult to keep up with blogs. I also use an iPad app called Flipboard where I can read the blogs a bit like a magazine. It’s a good, enjoyable way to find out what’s going on in the educational world.
  • Twitter – this is probably the key way I find out things that are going on. I don’t follow just anybody. Again, I pick teachers, principals, academics and so on that relate to the topics I am interested in (education, eLearning etc). Twitter, like conferences is great for networking. I’ve ‘met’ quite a few people on Twitter that I chat to and they give me advice/suggestions etc that are very valuable. (I wrote a blog about Twitter some time ago…)

I hope this is useful to someone. I’ve also been doing some extra-mural study and just completed my Postgraduate Diploma in Education. Next year I am hoping to complete my Master of Education (eLearning). The learning continues!

As much as possible don’t keep your learning to yourself! It needs to be shared with others!

As Steve Wheeler said at the conference:

Knowledge is like love. You can give it away and still get to keep it.

Engagement vs Learning

June 11, 2011 at 11:02 am | Posted in Education | Leave a comment
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Ever since I started teaching I’ve kept hearing this word ‘engagement’.

“Are your students engaged?”

“This will get your students engaged.”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to see them engaged, but what I’ve been wondering about recently is whether we can actually say that because a student is engaged, they are learning.

I happened to be at an ERO information evening as a Board member the other night, and they mentioned that one thing they look at, along with student achievement is student engagement. I straight away wondered, ‘how can they measure engagement?’ – particularly as they come in and take a ‘snapshot’ view of a school at a particular time.

In my view, student engagement is not quantifiable unless you can link it explicitly to achievement. Engagement can usually only be seen with anecdotal evidence. I have seen whole classes of students engaged… – in a DVD that the teacher has put on for them. Are they learning anything in particular? Probably not. Are they engaged – you bet! (And no, I’m not talking about a media/film studies class here!)

I guess I kind of know the answers to my question. We are, of course, talking about students being ‘engaged in learning’. And that should possibly be clarified in a classroom as ‘engaged in on-task learning’ as they could quite well be learning through sending (unrelated to the class) text messages to their mates. To find out if students really are engaged will take a range of formative and summative assessment also, but this does come back to my question about ERO taking a snapshot of a school – how do they measure engagement?

So, this is quite a disjointed post with some random thoughts of mine on engagement – but I guess I would argue that student engagement does not necessarily equate to student learning, but hopefully it does. What I would say though, is that if we want to increase engagement (and hopefully as a result, achievement) then we need to begin (or continue) to look at providing authentic learning activities and experiences to our students that they can relate to in real life. Continuing to allow learner-centred learning will help also.

What do parents want their children to know when they leave school?

March 15, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Posted in Education | 5 Comments
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My wife and I have 5 children and I asked her this question late last night. Do you know what she didn’t say? She didn’t say, “I want them to know lots of stuff”.

Why am I telling you what she didn’t say? Because the ‘stuff’ is still what our curriculum seems to be full of. The ‘stuff’ is what I still feel like I need to get into my students’ heads so that they can achieve this standard or that standard. At the end of the day, in order for our students/children to succeed by gaining a qualification, they need to know ‘stuff’. Yes, I realise they need to be able to apply it in different situations, but ultimately, we as teachers have all these things we need to teach our students before they finish the year or sit the final assessment/examination.

So what did she say that she wants our children to know when they leave school? Here is some of what she (and I – since we happen to fortunately be in agreement on this!) said:

  • we want our children to be confident and competent in basic literacy and numeracy
  • we want our children to be able to think for themselves
  • we want them to be able to work successfully both independently and collaboratively
  • we want them to be able to communicate confidently, clearly and effectively (this could be orally, or by pen or technology – text message, IM, facebook or similar etc)
  • we want our children to know how to learn
  • we want our children to be critical thinkers and to be able to ask effective questions
  • we want them to know how to search for answers to their questions

There was probably more and if I’ve missed anything crucial my wife will add to this list I’m sure.

I guess, if I was going to put it in one sentence:

When our children leave school we want them to be prepared for their future, having the skills to survive and succeed, and knowing how to think and learn in order to overcome challenges that may come their way.
What do you think? If you have any views or opinions on this, it would be great to hear from you. Just leave a comment below.

Make learning fun!

June 14, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Posted in Education | 1 Comment
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You know, this is going to sound really obvious – but we need to make learning fun!

Have a look at this Volkswagen ad and think about the learning we get our students to do. Is it enjoyable? Are we presenting it in a unique, interesting way that would compel them to learn? Is there a purpose to learning?

Early Childhood Education & Technology

June 6, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Posted in Education | 2 Comments
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It was very interesting to read this article from today about early childhood education providers using Nintendo Wii and Skype in their centres. This was especially interesting after reading a blog post from Educational Origami about what age was appropriate for children to be using social networking.

In the article we are seeing technology being used in early childhood centres in a way that promotes both education and exercise. The Nintendo Wii is a very useful piece of technology that can get kids moving, especially in the wet winter days that we are getting at the moment. My sister, who lives in Australia, bought a Nintendo Wii for her children for this reason – keeping her kids active during the very hot summer days where it is sometimes better to stay inside an air-conditioned room. I must admit, that right now I would love for our family to have a Wii, as our kids are getting a bit crazy with all this rain! Of course the other good aspect of the Nintendo Wii at this age is that it helps build motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

The kids were using Skype also to video call other kindergarten children around the world! Well, in my view that is absolutely fantastic! The kids are getting a grasp of technology, able to learn about other cultures, countries and possibly languages. They get to meet new and different people and getting to make at least a little sense of the world!

All of this interaction is being closely monitored and it needs to be. As the article suggests there are critics of these schemes however we really do need to look at both sides of the situation. There is some good teaching and learning to be done with this technology. I would certainly be happy for my children to be experiencing this sort of learning at kindergarten or school. And just like everything, it needs to be balanced. It should not totally replace other activities.

One bonus for educators in primary and secondary schools is that the students themselves will already have started to learn about cyber safety and privacy.

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