A Learner's Journey

April 28, 2013
by 34mk2012
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AITSL Self Assessment Tool: Professional Engagement

This is the second post written after completing the AITSL Self Assessment Tool for teachers. This post is my reflection on the section of the tool titled Professional Engagement and my areas of strength and areas for development. For me, this  really prompted me to think about how I see myself as a learner and how am I enabling and supporting the learning of my colleagues. 

Areas of Strength:

6.3L Initiate and engage in professional discussions with colleagues in a range of forums to evaluate practice directed at improving professional knowledge and practice, and the educational outcomes of students.

As part of a dynamic 5/6 teaching team this year, I have many opportunities to engage in collegial discussion about how to improve learning opportunities and outcomes for our students. Sometimes these discussions are data driven, using the data collected to plan a pathway forward for our students. Other times, these are idea sharing dialogues where each of us can contribute our thoughts, resources and plans for discussion and consideration. As the Religious Education Leader in our school, I believe it is my role to provide opportunities for staff to engage in rich, collegial discussion and have worked hard to build this into every meeting that I lead. In planning meetings, this discussion may take the form of personal reflection on the ‘big question’ we are using for inquiry with our students. The discussion may other times be based on some professional reading I have shared, or on specific issues such as the integration of ICT into our RE units. I have posted about the development of our ‘culture of dialogue’ previously. This has been a worthy pursuit as a leader and staff now value these times as opportunities to build knowledge and gain from the insights and experiences of one another.

7.4L Contribute to professional networks and associations and build productive links with the wider community to improve teaching and learning

Many of the connections built in this area have come about through my PLN on twitter which has afforded me opportunities to participate in twitter chats (#teacherwellbeingchat #summerbookclub #ozprimschat), attend TeachMeets, exchange ideas and resources and ask questions. I am hopeful that I am able to contribute to the professional growth of my twitter PLN as they do over and over again for me.  I am a member of the Executive Planning Team for the Eastern Region Religious Education Network and have had the opportunity to have input into the Professional Learning offered to the network and be a presenter on several occasions. My students have also benefited from my twitter PLN as we are now participants in initiatives such as quadblogging which not only build connections for the students, but also for me as a professional.As written about in the previous post, I am currently exploring a partnership with LLEN and continue to work hard to maintain our school’s integral links to our Parish and wider local community.

Areas for Development

6.1P Analyse the Professional Standards for Teachers to plan personal professional development goals, support colleagues to identify and achieve personal development goals and pre-service teachers to improve classroom practice.

One goal that has come out of completing the Self Assessment Tool is my intention to address the Professional Standards for Teachers on this blog. I would like to set up a new page where I can keep a record of how I am meeting the Professional Standards, highlighting the areas of focus for me each term. I would love for each member of our Leadership Team to complete the Self Assessment Tool as I believe once  completed, the possibilities for future learning and development become so much clearer. This may give the team  the impetus to start using such a tool with the staff and committing to Personal Learning Plans for each staff member. This will build a pathway towards more personalised learning for the staff, something we strive to achieve for our students but not often for ourselves!

7.1G Maintain high ethical standards and support colleagues to interpret codes of ethics and exercise sound judgement in all school and community contexts.

At Holy Spirit Community School, our ethical stance comes directly from our Vision Statement which opens with the quote from Galatians which calls us to live out the fruits of the Spirit in every aspect of our lives:

“… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  Galatians 5:22

Whilst this quote obviously has a very specific context, the values it espouses are ones that many people would aspire to in their interactions and relationships. This is very challenging in any context, but particularly in a school where so much diversity exists. I think it is vital that our Vision Statement is placed before all of our community regularly, to remind us of what is of value to us, to challenge our decisions and behaviors and to guide our policy making.

Once again, the Self Assessment Tool has provided me with much food for thought as well as some concrete actions I would like to take to further my own learning and journey as a professional educator. I can highly recommend the process as both affirming and challenging and would love to share in some other’s experiences and reflections.

Stay tuned for the next post coming soon on ‘Professional Practice’.

April 10, 2013
by 34mk2012
3 Comments

AITSL Self Assessment Tool: Professional Knowledge

I have recently completed the AITSL Self Assessment Tool online and am starting to consider what I have learned about my strengths and areas for development. For this post, I will focus on the area of Professional Knowledge.

I have noted two areas of strength from the tool:

1.2L Expand understanding of how students learn using research and workplace knowledge

Having just completed my Masters, there have been a myriad of opportunities presented to me for accessing current research about best practice for contemporary learning. One of the things I enjoyed most about my study was the many interesting places it took me, often quite unexpectedly. I may have been reading a particular article or similar online but it was often the links that were really interesting. For me, studying was the beginning of my relationship with Diigo, and I have continued to curate many resources since. Over the past few months, I have also been doing some professional reading in areas of interest to me including Visible Learning, Comprehension and Collaboration, Making Thinking Visible and The Cafe Book. My PLN on twitter has been instrumental in my own learning also. Over the past 12 months, I have connected with many inspiring educators and learnt about things such as PBL and CBL – in fact it is quite likely I would not have even known about the great work AITSL is doing as it does not seem to  be on the agenda in the Catholic system in Melbourne as yet.

2.2L Exhibit innovative practice in the selection and organisation of content and delivery of learning and teaching programs

I have worked hard since my return to teaching 4 years ago, after a 10 year break, to try new ways of working within my classroom. My perspective has changed enormously during this period and I now truly see myself as a learner (I have blogged about this transformation previously). I love the shift this has made in my thinking and in my openness to the learning of my students. I feel much less like the expert imparting knowledge and more like a co-learner, sharing the journey, asking some enabling questions, being challenged myself by the questions, and being open to units of work taking surprising directions. I love the addition of extra computers and a couple of iPads to my classroom as they enable the students to express their learning in far more personalised ways and I have tried to provide them with a more flexible learning space, within the confines of a traditional classroom. I think I still have much to learn in terms of innovation but it is great to feel like I am heading in the right direction.

 My areas of development are:

1.4G Provide advice and support colleagues in the implementation of effective teaching strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students using knowledge of and support from community representatives. 

This is somewhat of a tricky area for me as the school community I work in does not include Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students. I have however made some attempts to forge some connections with community groups in an effort to include the perspectives of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities throughout our curriculum. Through our PE teacher, I was able to connect with an organisation called Desert2Surf  which engaged my class in some very student driven fundraising and and eventual meeting with some of the aboriginal students. This year, we have forged an association with LLEN and although progress is slow, we are hoping this may lead to some contact with our local aboriginal community as well as local businesses who can support us in our learning.

2.3L Support colleagues to plan and implement learning and teaching programs using contemporary knowledge and understanding of curriculum, assessment and reporting requirements.

This goal is an ongoing one. In my work as Leader of Religious Education,  I have some opportunities to work directly with the whole staff in PLT meetings and staff meetings. We are fortunate in Victorian Catholic Schools to have a Contemporary Learning Schema that is useful in terms of planning and evaluating units of work across all areas of the curriculum. I feel our staff is doing very well in planning Inquiry units in Religious Education that are rich, diverse and authentic for our students, but it is the assessment and reporting aspect of the units that needs attention. I began to address this last year, working with our Teaching and Learning Leader, and using some professional reading to tune us back into what  assessment is as, of and for learning and what might it look like in the contemporary classroom. We will continue to work on this aspect of our planning and the natural extension of that is to look at our reports and how we can truly reflect student learning, successes and challenges in them.


Maybe this Self Assessment Tool could be called the self reflection tool, as that is certainly what it has prompted in me! I think this is a positive thing as it has given my thinking around my practice as a teacher a framework and structure.  Stay tuned for the next post on Professional Practice!

March 23, 2013
by 34mk2012
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#etmchat 6 Word Story

One of our final tasks for #etmooc is to create a 6 word story prior to #etmchat on the 27th March. The topic is:
“What does it mean to be an educator and digital citizen? What is our special role?”
I won’t be able to be part of the chat but have made a story anyway using haiku deck. Here it is …

 

February 21, 2013
by 34mk2012
2 Comments

The Power of Collegial Discussion

As part of the planning team for the RE Eastern Network, we spent quite some time last week talking about the place of dialogue in Religious Education. Our first discussion was about what constituted dialogue. We talked about what dialogue IS and what it IS NOT. This is what we came up with:

Dialogue IS: participatory, open, acknowledges difference, respectful, purposeful, seeks understanding and multiple perspectives

Dialogue IS NOT: prescriptive, closed, dominated by one person, casual, incidental conversation

We then participated in a ‘Guiding a Dialogue’ protocol where we considered some possibilities dialogue enables for the participants. There are a variety of ways to contribute to dialogue including:

  • playing with ideas – possibility thinking
  • affirming and building on others’ ideas
  • following the ideas as far as you go – giving in to the ebb and flow of different directions
  • making links with others’ ideas
  • considering multiple perspectives or various viewpoints
  • offering questions and paraphrasing as well as your own thinking

The protocol enabled us to practise our dialogical skills and challenged them also. 

At Holy Spirit Community School, we have worked hard to embed collegial dialogue as an integral part of the planning process in Religious Education. All staff are encouraged to participate in this phase of the planning, not just classroom teachers. This brings diversity and richness to the discussion. We have found that staff enjoy grappling with the ‘big concepts’ central to our RE units at an adult level. The dialogue is often loud, enthusiastic and hard to wind up! Staff value the opportunity to sort out their own thinking and ask their own questions about the key concepts we are going to be working with. This stage of the planning also helps us to resist the urge to jump in with great activities and focus on developing deep understandings ourselves before we try and do that with our students. 

Some of our staff have reflected on the value of collegial discussion in our RE planning. Here are their thoughts:

How is dialogue used in your school to improve student outcomes?

January 12, 2013
by 34mk2012
3 Comments

Twitter via Videoscribe

Last year, I came across a useful app called Videoscribe.  After introducing it to my 11 year old, he pretty quickly introduced it to his peers at school with great results. The app is easy to use and whilst not free, I think it is worth the $. It is yet another way students can communicate, share, explain, demonstrate and explore what they have learnt by creating something new. Here is my clip I created about the Power of Twitter for me as an Australian educator. Enjoy!

 

October 10, 2012
by 34mk2012
3 Comments

Twitter and the REL Network

Why?

Twitter is a quick and easy way to share ideas, resources, successes and learning, and a great way to support each other in our role as educators. We can create connections with other REL’s and create a vibrant network in between meetings. Twitter is an easy way to stay in touch with one another, send a quick message of support, send out a request for help, celebrate a great learning experience or share a great new resource.

How?

Sign up for a twitter account at www.twitter.com. Create a profile briefly giving people an idea about who you are and what you do so that potential followers can easily see why they should follow you! It is a great idea to add a photo – others are much more likely to follow a person than an egg!  A photo also enables others to recognise you when you meet face to face. Download a twitter app for your mobile device so you can easily tweet when you are at PD, meetings or out and about. Start by following the REL’s listed below and see who they are following to get you started. Follow anyone whose profile matches your interests, skills or specialities. Keep your tweeting professional. Most of us are not that interested in where you are having coffee but we are very interested in a great new Web 2.0 tool you’ve used successfully.

@Mj0401Mary

@twursthorn

Hashtag#

Use #ERORE at the end of your tweet to alert your network to your message. You can search for this hashtag and quickly see anything that has been tweeted by the network. Save the search so it is easy to find.

Resources

Have a look at some of these links if you are keen to find out more …

http://www.diigo.com/list/mj0401mary/social-media

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1N0pSimJhevM6KEzE1ys4VhCzkSfcGoNW3jdq479A1Ng/edit

http://blog.web20classroom.org/2011/03/twitter-its-not-just-whats-for.html

Be warned … twitter is VERY addictive!

 

photo credit: babymellowdee via photopin cc

September 8, 2012
by 34mk2012
4 Comments

Reflections on Learning through the REL Network

At the planning day for our next zone meeting in Term 4, we were asked to reflect on our learning over the past two years. Although I have only joined the planning team this year, I have been part of the network for almost three years so I reflected on the changes in my thinking, knowledge and understanding during that period. Returning to teaching after a 10 year break at home with our children, the learning curve was always going to be steep, but taking on the role of REL accentuated the angle! To reflect, we used the notion of ‘before’ and ‘now’…
Before I believed I may have been working in isolation as the RE Leader. Always well supported by the leadership team, I probably didn’t see how connected each of the spheres are, particularly in terms of planning professional learning opportunities for the staff. Now I know that we are all able to work closely together to support learning across all spheres. Being part of the AGQTP and CTLM projects has had huge benefits for our whole staff but also for our leaders. Having a shared understanding of good practice that crosses all curriculum areas has lead to more connectedness in our PLT’s and in our learning.
Before, I gave lip service to the notion of being a life long learner but now I know with every fibre of my being that I am and that I LOVE learning. This has been sparked by attending Uni over the past two years studying for my Masters, and enjoying the many challenges this has created for me. I have genuinely enjoyed the conversation with colleagues at lectures, bouncing ideas off one another and challenging what we are presented with. I am also loving the opportunities for innovation and creativity that technology is affording me in my classroom and reveling in the enthusiasm of the students to express their learning in such a rich diversity of ways. My twitter journey over the last few months has also been enlightening and exciting. I have connected with some fantastic and truly passionate educators and shared professional learning anytime, anyplace. My eyes have been opened to many possibilities.
Before I wondered how to make the shift to Inquiry learning in RE. It seemed like a huge task to lead staff towards planning our own, inquiry-based units rather than relying on Coming to Know, Worship and Love. With the enthusiastic support of the RESA from the Outer East Zone and participation in AGQTP, I began to see how the process might work and trailed it with the support of the AGQTP team at school. Now I wonder how we can keep the momentum up for planning this way? How do we avoid the trap of pulling out last year’s unit rather than using this cohort of students and their needs, questions and interests to drive the concept based unit?
What has enabled these shifts in understanding over the past three years? Attending Uni, some great Professional Learning, being a part of the REL Network and more recently the planning team, and the support of the Leadership Team at school. Most significant though is the support of my Principal, Peter. The trust he has placed in me and his willingness to discuss ideas and support me in implementing them has allowed me to take some risks, challenging myself and the staff in the way that we work, not only in Religious Education but across all spheres.
Here’s to learning!

August 13, 2012
by 34mk2012
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August Teach Meet

On Saturday August 11th, 60 keen teachers gathered at the Immigration Museum for a TeachMeet. Like the title says, it is a meeting of teachers who gather to share some of the great things that are happening in their schools. This was my first experience and one I am keen to repeat.

My students were very keen to hear about the session from Danelle Batten ‘How Minecraft is Changing Learning.’ I teach a very dedicated crew of Minecraft fans and although Danelle works with Year 9’s, she gave me plenty of food for thought about harnessing the power of the game for learning opportunities, particularly for some of the boys who tend to be less engaged in literacy focussed tasks. Check out this link if you would like to know more;

http://minecraftinschool.wordpress.com/

Edna Saxon from Mount Scopus gave a presentation on Concept Driven Learning, linking beautifully with what we do at Holy Spirit with Integrated Studies and RE. She used a great graphic of an avocado to communicate her ideas; the skin as what is worth knowing, the flesh as what is important to know and the seed as the enduring understandings.  Interesting to consider the relative size of each part of the avocado and how that relates to the learning – what do we spend most of our time on … the skin or the seed?

We also had presentations on Aurasma and augmented reality in the classroom, Why hexagons are better than squares, Danny Deck Chair and how to ‘hide’ maths in authentic learning investigations, using Google Drive forms for learning, using history pin, Teachers Across Borders, Kodu game creation, Macbeth on Trial and flipping the classroom using online video.

I came away from the day with a few things to ponder and follow up on and enthusiasm for continuing to attend TeachMeets when I can. Highly recommended!

 

 

 

August 11, 2012
by 34mk2012
4 Comments

MYSA Travelling Scholars

During the week, I was fortunate enough to attend the workshop with George and Alec Couros organised through the MYSA Travelling Scholars program. I have been following George and Alec for a few months on twitter and knew this would be a fantastic learning opportunity –  and I wasn’t wrong. 

The day was titled “Anywhere, anytime, anyone: transitioning toward 21st Century learning.” It was a small intimate group and by the end of the session, many new connections had been made. Some of the things that stuck with me are:

Schools as centres for learning, not just for students but for all staff as well. Sounds obvious but I often feel the learning needs of staff can be easily overlooked. If our students see us trying new things and learning with them, that is extremely powerful and most likely liberating for both students and teacher. I have had many opportunities in the last couple of years to allow students to teach me something that they know and it certainly brings out the best in them. I have been blown away with what they are capable of when I am prepared to hand over to them and share the learning process.

Innovation – George spoke about the need to stop talking and start doing! Sometimes, you need to go out on a limb, take a chance and just give it a go. I have found value in this approach recently in my own classroom and some of the things I have tried have worked and some not so well. We so readily tell our students that making mistakes is how we learn but can often be reticent to face that in ourselves. I firmly believe that our schools need a clear pathway toward creating a school climate that allows for personalised, relevant and rigorous learning but it can be all too easy to get bogged down in the discussions and never get around to the action.

Connection – so important for all education stakeholders. We all crave it and how rewarding it is when it is achieved. George spoke passionately about how technology can actually work to personalise education and enable us to connect deeply with our students. This is a challenging idea for many teachers who feel very cautious about the ‘risks’ associated with social media.

One of the quotes of the day was “Put it out there and let the world decide!”  I guess in starting this blog, that is exactly what I am doing!

I have placed Geroge’s blog on the blogroll – it is well worth a regular look.

Thanks to George and Alec for inspiring Melbourne teachers and for being such innovative and engaging educators.

 

August 11, 2012
by 34mk2012
0 comments

Here I Go!

Having joined the twitter educational community 3 months ago and starting a class blog, here I am now starting my own! I have been on an amazing professional learning journey in the past few months which is invigorating and exciting.

Starting a class blog is something I had wanted to do for a while so in the last school holidays, it was time. After many hours playing around, it was up and running and 3/4 MK and I were away.

I have been astounded to see the far reaching impact of such a relatively simple change to my classroom practice. The students are highly motivated to record, write and publish the learning and events of our classroom to the blog and have continued to engage in the classroom after school and on holidays. The connections it has allowed to the world wide community of learners as well as our more immediate learning community have been wonderful and to see the excitement of the students when we receive comments has been great.

After some encouragement from our school bursar, I also opened a twitter account. What a revelation that has been! Just this week, I been a part of some stunning Professional Development that I would never have known about other than through twitter. I have been able to read some great articles, participate in educational chats, share ideas, visit other blogs and build a PLN in such an accessible and supportive environment.

And so my journey continues … it is an exciting and inspiring time to be in education!

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