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 …

 

March 15, 2013
by 34mk2012
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Honk if you love life!

Our Inquiry and RE units this term have focussed on the concepts of community and our place within the community. It has been a rich and diverse unit and we are now at the stage of expressing our learnings about what community is and how it can be built. This video was tweeted over January and as soon as I saw it, I knew I would use it.

After watching this video, students unanimously wanted to try something similar in our own community. We had also watched the Kid President video and are reading Wonder so the students’ minds were full of wonderful phrases (or in the language of Wonder, ‘precepts’) that they thought would be valuable to others. And away they went – busily creating posters with slogans to welcome people into our community. There is nothing much more rewarding than students asking if they can PLEEEASE work on something for longer or at home!

The day we planned to share our work with the community dawned and I had most of my students at school by 8.30am to prepare. They were very excited to say the least and the reaction we got from the community was truly awesome. It was wonderful to see the smiles on everyone’s faces as they read the student’s signs and the horns were honking so much, our lovely Julie in the office wondered what on earth was going on.

Students wrote heartfelt reflections on why they had chosen their particular slogan and the impact they felt it had had on our community. We could have talked for days about ways we can build community but actually getting out there and doing it was so much more powerful. Here is a Smilebox of our experiences:

 

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It seems to me this was connected learning in so many ways. Through the inspiration of others who have built community in unique ways, to a class novel that is challenging our perceptions of community, to students taking on a project and making it their own, and then blogging about it on our class blog – so many levels of connectedness. These are the times when it feels great to be a teacher, when some of my learning is truly impacting on my students and we are all walking the walk together.

If you were to make a sign for your community, what would it say? How do you build community in your classroom, your school and your environs?

March 15, 2013
by 34mk2012
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How Evernote Works For Me

This year, I have attempted to streamline my record keeping and note taking in the classroom. I am sharing the grade with a new partner who has very willingly come along on this journey with me. We are both finding Evernote INVALUABLE for keeping anecdotal records, work programs, communication notes, testing results etc accessible and up to date for both of us. Here are some of the ways we are using it:

  • Communication – we record notes for each other on how our days have gone, issues or follow up needed for particular students and where we are at in curriculum areas. Although we still see each other often, the ability to quickly add a note to our communications folder no matter whether we are in the classroom, the office or at home has streamlined our communication. And it also means we have a record of it for future follow up or perusal.
  • Student files – we have created a notebook for each student and are filing all anecdotal evidence, test results, scanned rubrics, parent communication and work samples in them. Regardless of which of us has completed a specific task with the students, we are both able to see how he/she has understood and progressed with it. This will be an excellent, detailed resource for report writing and we have already started to write some summary statements about student progress in particular curriculum areas.
  • Work program – it is stored in an Evernote notebook and is truly a working document. Both of us can update and amend as we go so it  reflects not only what we have planned but what we have actually achieved – often two very different things!
  • Links – I store any links that I plan to use with our students in the appropriate folder in Evernote so that I can access them quickly at school. So easy!

I am sure that this is just the tip of the iceberg for the potential use of Evernote in our professional lives but what we have achieved so far has been great. I feel like Evernote helps us to work smarter, not harder – and that must be a good thing! Miss Spink on Tech is a fantastic resource for all things Evernote related for teachers and I am very grateful to her for her assistance and inspiration in getting myself organised … check it out!

What suggestions do you have for the use of Evernote in your teaching life?

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?

February 17, 2013
by 34mk2012
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Learning to Storify

Another #etmooc task under my belt … my first storify. I decided to storify some of the tweets from the past week that demonstrate my PLN at work via twitter. I get so much from interacting with others on twitter – ideas, educational conversation and banter, feedback, affirmation and challenge, professional reading and even new shopping sites! (Every teacher needs a break!!) Here is a taste of my week on twitter …

 

 

February 14, 2013
by 34mk2012
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Playing with Storybird

Storybird (www.storybird.com) is a great website which enables you to select from an extensive range of beautiful images to create your own story. You can search for images by themes and then arrange them in order to tell your own narrative.  This site has endless possibilities in the class room. I think the images are great for developing rich language and descriptive texts, or even for creating a simple poem, as I have done here …

 

What possibilities do you see for Storybird?

February 10, 2013
by 34mk2012
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Taking our parents along with us

Once a fortnight, I meet with a great group of women, my Mother’s group. We have been meeting every fortnight since our eldest children were born over 13 years ago. This week, the topic of much animated conversation was the use of iPads in schools and Challenge Based Learning. I have to say it was a hard gig defending both of these !
In general, the conversation revolved around the issue of time management and how teachers manage the use of the iPad in class for educational purposes. The majority of the students are at schools which have used iPads 1:1 for quite some time now and the mums were particularly concerned about the amount of game playing and messaging or skyping going on in the classrooms (and at home).  The general feeling was that students driving their own learning and taking ownership for it was great for the small minority of students who are motivated and bright but that for the vast majority of students, it was simply an excuse to do as little as possible and waste time. Challenge based learning was also viewed in a similar way.
WOW! I was unsure where to start beginning to defend either the use of the iPad or CBL. I have never used CBL in my own classroom in a formal way so I decided to tackle the iPad issue as best I could. It seems to me there are a few important considerations that schools have to make in implementing these, or any other device:
  • any device is only ever going to be as good as the teacher who is planning for its use. iPads, laptops, netbooks etc are only a TOOL to enhance learning and the use of them needs to be embedded into the planning and delivery of the curriculum. This is challenging for teachers but a most important facet of enabling contemporary learning in our classrooms.
  • we need to communicate our purpose and intentions for the use of these devices in our school to parents very clearly, and often. Although education has changed immensely over the past few years, many parents are not aware or abreast of these changes and how modern classrooms facilitate the learning for students. It seems that many parents expect or assume that apart from using Word/PowerPoint or Publisher, things are pretty much as they were when they went to school. We must help parents to understand new pedagogies and current educational thinking so they can support teachers and their own children as they learn in new and different ways.
  • managing devices is difficult for many parents and they are unhappy that schools requiring iPads or other devices are adding to that difficulty! One mum was delighted that her son’s school required the laptop to be left at school each night as it was one less thing to manage at home. Whilst managing devices and their access to them is definitely a matter for parents in the home, parents may appreciate the opportunity to have conversations around how this may happen. I know from experience with my own family there are many issues to consider, and having the chance to share ideas and strategies can be helpful.

From a teacher’s perspective, I have found having a classroom blog a powerful way for parents to have a ‘look inside’ the classroom and see the learning that is happening. Being able to share videos and photos quickly and having students guest post about particular lessons, sessions or experiences has helped open the lines of communication between home and school and given parents an insight into what their children are actually doing at school.

It is so important that our schools have the support and understanding of the parent community so that learning and engagement can flourish. In this time of great educational change, we have a lot of work to do to enable parents to feel like they are part of the learning of their children. We must take as many opportunities as we can to share what is happening in our classrooms and with our students, so that our parents can feel confident that their children are being well prepared for living well in this rapidly changing world of ours.

How have you supported parents in their understanding of current pedagogy and educational practice?

What strategies have been successful?

February 10, 2013
by 34mk2012
2 Comments

Tennis Time!

Today I was inspired by some of my fellow “etmoocers” to try and create a gif. This is new to me although I have embedded one created by someone else onto my classroom blog. My gif tells the story of a lazy Sunday afternoon at home, where two of my boys have headed out into the backyard for our own Australian Open! Here it is …

 

 

If you would like to try creating one yourself, you can find some help here. I am wondering how this tool would be valuable in the classroom. Any thoughts …

 

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