Posts Tagged ‘professional learning’

Having blogged a few times in recent weeks about fake news –  So … what are we doing about fake news? and an earlier post titled Evidence based journalism: WikiTRIBUNE I got a buzz reading last week’s Open Culture post: “Calling Bullshit” – which describes a College course designed by two professors at the University of Washington, Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West to combat bullshit in the information age.

Their comprehensive website “Calling Bullshit” gives a great rationale for introducing this course to college students.  A statement shared with students attending the first class highlights the most basic of reasons for establishing such a teaching course:

Have a listen to the first lecture and you’ll probably find yourself hooked!

The presentations – available on Youtube – are short, sharp and easy to watch and, say the two professors who developed the course, it is all there online for anyone to pick up and teach.  All they ask in return is acknowledgement of them as authors of the material and to let them know how the material is being used.

Viewing this series of 10 sessions would make a great professional learning opportunity for any of us working in education.

Most particularly for teacher librarians, viewing this series could be an inspirational stepping stone to develop a course suited to students and would clearly be an extension of the CRAAP Test mentioned in my recent post.

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I feel privileged to have been able to attend this year’s CBCA Conference held in Sydney (20-21 May 2016).  Jam packed with inspirational speakers addressing the conference theme Myriad Possibilities, it was truly awesome to mingle with authors, illustrators, publishers and teacCBCA 2016 Conferenceher librarians and to be inspired on the topic of reading and books for young people.

The thought that went into the conference organization ensured that a range of issues related to books and reading for and with young people were tackled from virtually every angle possible: the reader, the writer, the illustrator, the publisher and everything in between!  With only two concurrent sessions held on the first day, it was enlightening to listen to the range of keynote and panel sessions that filled the two very full days of the conference. By incorporating the conference theme “Myriad Possibilities” into each session, aspects of books and reading were teased out and analyzed in a depth not often enjoyed at a conference of this nature:

Read: Myriad Possibilities
Picture Books: Myriad Possibilities
Myriad Possibilities in Creating Children’s Picture Books
Has the Internet killed Non Fiction or Created Myriad Possibilities?
Myriad Possibilities to Hook Young Readers
Myriad Possibilities for YA Readers
Myriad Possibilities for a Better World

Underpinning the conference was an emphasis on the incredible life altering and enhancing impact that reading has on young people.  Speaker after speaker mentioned the empathy building power of books, highlighting the ways in which readers are able to learn and experience how people relate to each other and to situations in which they find themselves, simply by slipping into the shoes of a story’s characters. These opportunities arise in all forms of literature for young people – picture story books, graphic novels, films, poetry and young adult fiction.

There was also a significant focus on the serious intentions of authors and illustrators in the creation of their books.   Themes explored were many and varied, but standouts were recent publications by Carole Wilkinson (Atmospheric) and Jeannie Baker (The Circle) who in totally different ways tackle the complex topic of climate change and nature, teaching our young about the impact of change at one point in the world and its’ ripple on effect to other far away locations across the world thereby developing a consciousness of the environment and how we each play a part in ensuring its sanctity.

Politics didn’t escape the attention of many of the presenters either.  Recent remarks by the Australian Federal Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, who in highly publicized statements has slated the value of refugees coming to Australia, were highlighted by a number of presenters who have written novels that grapple with the refugee experience and making our world a better place: Deb Abela (Teresa), Sarah Ayoub (Hate is such a strong word) and Nadia Wheatley (Flight) to name just a few.  Their words were passionate and in some cases primal as they begged readers to indulge in the empathy of the stories they have written and in the process develop a greater sense of compassion as they move through life in our world.

Another political push, made several times by various authors, related to the Australian Federal Government’s proposed change to laws regarding Parallel Import Regulations.  Delegates to the conference were urged to address their concerns by contacting the Australian Government Productivity Commission.

A fascinating focus of the conference was discussions and presentations about Picture Books.   So often regarded as books for only the young, authors and illustrators spoke about the complexity involved in writing the text and creating the illustrations for books that hold far more meaning than appears on the surface. The incredible depth of research that goes into the creation of picture story books and the intense collaboration required between author and illustrator is very impressive. Speaking in pairs, authors and illustrators shared with us the incredibly complex detail involved in creating a meaningful expression that upholds the author’s intentions.  Although it is hard to single out one presentation from another, Susan Gervay and Anna Pignataro stole the show as they described the painstaking process of writing and illustrating their two philosophical books: Ships in the Field and Elephants have Wings.  While the first picture story book unequivocally highlights the right of everyone to have a nationality, the second book re-visions the timeless parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant.

Forcing conference delegates to consider whether or not the Internet is killing non-fiction books was an unexpected opportunity to contemplate this issue.  Hearing that many authors are now pitching their work to a younger age group, mostly middle school, was a sad reminder of where and how schools students today are locating information. Addressing the topic, Mark Norman commented that for upper primary and older students, his books cannot compete with the Internet.  Facts viewed visually on YouTube, he said, outstrip interest in reading books.  Instead, he concluded, the Internet and non-fiction books must create pathways to each other.  Other panellists in this session implored teacher librarians to help create a groundswell of interest in non-fiction books and to create opportunities for authors to address students in schools.

Captivating and thought provoking sessions presented by over 30 speakers, all of whom have a passionate connection to children’s literature, has left me thinking deeply about all that is around to offer our students.  A number of times I wished that I could transplant the speakers into our school library so that the students could listen to the stories behind the stories they read.  The very full two day conference was an intense exposure to incredibly though provoking topics and at its end, a large number of books have been added to my never ending pile of ‘must reads’.

I am left feeling very fortunate to have had the opportunity to immerse myself in all that was offered by attendance at the 2016 CBCA Conference.

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I very rarely look at the stats of my blog.  Quite honestly, I’ve better things to do.

But the other day, I was poking around on the NovaNews dashboard looking for something and came across an incredibly high number of hits for a post I wrote back in late 2012:  Learning to learn: 10 essential skills for teachers.

I was amazed to see that in just the first three months of this year – 2016 – there have been a total of 962 hits on this post, a figure which equates to 43% of the total number of hits on the same blog post last year.

Learning to learn - 10 essential skills for teachers!

So I’ve been sitting here for a while puzzling over why this post should be generating so much interest.

Perhaps my post may be garnering some attention via Twitter, but a check of recent stats on my WordPress analytics suggests not.  Most of the ‘referrers’ to this blog post are in fact coming from search engines which suggests

that many ‘out there’ must be searching for ways to improve their own teaching skills and that is the really interesting finding in all of this!

Inadvertently, it seems, I’ve discovered that my thoughts are being read far more widely than I’d previously thought.

Ah, I say with a smile on my face:  the power of blogging!

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Ever keen to pick up new skills, I was really excited to receive advice via one of our online library associations that an innovative program called 12 Apps of Christmas would be run commencing December 1st this year.

12appsofChristmasmas logoAimed to personalize learning, both students or educators are able to pick up tips on how to become more fulfilled independent, self directed learners by exploring apps on either smartphones or tablet devices.  Over 12 week days starting on December 1st this year, 12 helfpul app gifts will be available to unwrap and explore.

To get involved just download the App: 12AppsDIT from the App Store and view it on either your smartphone or smart tablet or log onto the webiste: 12 Apps of Christmas to more fully explore.  By registering, both students and educators will be able to explore all that can be gained from this innovative learning program.    A bonus for educators will be a page detailing how students can utilize these apps to enhance their learning.

Check out this video to learn more about this innovative learning program.

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A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about my disappointment with colleagues who shied away from participating in a TodaysMeet backchannel room created by the presenter at a conference I attended.

And then just a few days later, I came across an article which came up with 2o useful ways to use TodaysMeet in schools which has some really great ideas.

TodaysMeet is an awesome, easy to use tool!TodaysMeet

Go to the website, create a name for your room (no spaces or punctuation) and select how long you want the room to be kept online – an hour, a day, a week, a month or a year – then open the room.  Reassure students/staff that at the end of this time, the posts entered and the entire room disappears from the web – it cannot be revisited or relocated.  Remind  participants (veterans of newbies) that they can write no more than 140 characters.  Decide in advance if participants are to put their own names/initials or whether they can be anonymous.  Remember to tell them of your requirement.  Share the TodaysMeet room address with participants – and away you go!!

That’s all there is to it.  Pretty simple!

Keen to give it a go one day, I thought I’d think out loud and consider how some of the ideas suggested in this article could be applied in either my school library or among staff at a staff meeting.   So here goes:

Using TodaysMeet in a School Library:

  1. Have a conversation: Having students share their thoughts about books read is one of the regular activities that occur in library sessions.  Having them record their thoughts about a book read and then having others who have read the same book share their thoughts, may be a different way of approaching this well spun activity.  With multiple participants being able to participate at the one time, increased participation by more students, particularly the shy ones, would be possible.
  2. Share links: Students could be asked to locate a range of different links to share with each other:  book reviews; author and publisher pages, fandoms, book vlogs, graphics, book covers and more to create a sharpened focus and awareness.  Allowing students time to explore these links could be part and parcel of the session.
  3. Ask questions: Encouraging students to write questions about information and/or opinions being shared orally by one or more students is a great way to develop analytical skills.
  4. Give examples: Inspiring students to read widely is often achieved by the teacher librarian spruiking books they have read.  By having students respond in writing about how the book’s context or story relates to them can be a powerful way of creating a connection and boosting interest. This kind of activity allows greater participation than the traditional classroom approach of ‘talk/share in a circle’.
  5. Create rotating stories: Have each student add a sentence to an ongoing story.  Check the increasing interest level as the story progresses around the room.  If the class is large – break it up into two or more groups to allow for increased active participation.
  6. Hold online office hours: Circulate the url of a TodaysMeet room and post ‘office hours’ which can be used by students to seek assistance, ask questions, share information or just clarify uncertainties.  Don’t forget to also give a start date and an end date of the availability of the room.
  7. Connect with other classrooms: An online forum enables a conversation to move beyond the four walls of a classroom.   Line up classes in other schools both locally and globally and have them participate in a conversation about a set topic.
  8. Connect with experts: Contact the author of a popular book and see whether they will agree to make themselves available to join the TodaysMeet at a certain hour/day, then just sit back and watch the conversation flow!
  9. Host a contest: Competitions with immediate rewards are a great way to ensure involvement.  The sky is the limit on this kind of activity!  Instructing students to enter their response onto TodaysMeet after the count of three is bound to be a winner!
  10. Facilitate group projects: Students tackling a group project could use a chat room created in TodaysMeet as the place to share links, resources, interesting articles, graphics, videos and ideas.  Instructed by the teacher in advance that the recorded conversation would be an assessable part of the completed project would inject inspiration for all members of the group to participate.

Using TodaysMeet at a Staff Meeting:

  1. Have a conversation: Give teachers a real life opportunity to become familiar with the value of engaging in backchannel conversation during a workshop or conference presentations by creating a TodaysMeet room at either a staff meeting of for sessions held in an onsite Curriculum Day. Learning by doing is as powerful for teachers as it is for our students!
  2. Share links: So often when we attend staff presentations, mention is made by the presenter of different tools, websites and links.  Sometimes details of where to find more information is given by the presenter, but often it is not.  TodaysMeet allows teachers present to immediately share their knowledge with other teachers attending.  At the end of the presentation, a valuable record of notes, thoughts, ideas and links shared can be copied and kept for later review by participants.
  3. Ask questions: Being able to pose questions on the spot and have other participants respond is a great way to question without interrupting the thread of the presenter.  If style of presentation involves a group activity or discussion, the presenter can read through the TodaysMeet chat and respond to specific questions when the presentation resumes.
  4. Give examples: For those sessions requiring participants to reflect on a situation created/described by the presenter, TodaysMeet offers a great way to record thoughts and examples given.  Often ideas given by one can trigger the thoughts of another.  Ideas teased out in this way can leave the group with a valuable set of notes on which they can individually reflect.
  5. Take a poll: Some school issues need a quick resolution. Being able to see opinion of all staff on a couple of choices given is valuable.  If desired anonymity can be introduced.
  6. Discuss an event: There seem to be a never ending range of issues that arise in staff meetings.  From procedure to practice, the opinions of staff are often heatedly shared. What better way to ensure that everyone has their say than to have them jot their thoughts in a 140 character statement!  Discussion of school events, the logistics and concerns of the event can also be discussed and shared in this space.
  7. Hold online office hours: Being able to discuss or give feedback about a burning issue can easily be put in place on TodaysMeet by having teachers anonymously enter their comments.  Posting comments in a respectful manner goes without saying.  Lending some ‘punch’ to the comments posted could be achieved by having the focus topic created and posted by the Principal or others from the school’s administration.
  8. Connect with experts: Inviting a local or global expert on a certain topic would give teachers a real feel of the power of a virtual classroom.  Use Twitter to locate the volunteer expert.  It may come as a surprise how willing world experts can be!
  9. Create a club/team communications site:  A TodaysMeet room can be created for a day, a week, a month or a year.   Use it as a place to publicize subject or campus meetings.  Use it to connect with parents about the upcoming swimming carnival.  Use it to post updates on time, venue, provisions or just anything that relates to the event.  And as suggested in the article that has inspired this blog post this approach could “Save yourself tons of phone calls or text messages if everyone checks the group TodaysMeet site.”
  10. Have asynchronous staff/committee meetings: TodaysMeet can break down the need for a set staff meeting at a given time on a specific day of the week.  A virtual space liberates teachers, allowing them to participate in a discussion about a specific topic over a set period of time – a day or a week.

TodaysMeet is a vibrant and versatile tool which can be used in both the classroom and the staffroom.  By actively engaging with the tool, students and teachers alike will develop improved skills engaging online and in the process will gain confidence in both using the tool and in themselves.

Let me know how you are using this tool in your school.

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I feel kind of sad to be asking the same question again and again, but after nearly five years of being hooked on all things digital, I still find myself questioning

Are teachers in your school ‘hooked’ yet?

It is easy for those of us blogging, tweeting, exploring, sharing and learning online to think that this is the norm, but sadly the ‘real world’ out there says otherwise.

Having attended and presented at a number of conferences over the last couple of years, I guess I’ve become accustomed to virtually all those attending to open up their laptops, tablets or smartphones to either take notes or participate in backchannel sharing that is nowadays common to conferences.  Most often those attending conference presentations simultaneously attend while surfing the net to explore information shared at the session – a very powerful way to embed learning as it happens.

Attending a conference last year, my naivety about this reality resulted in what I can only describe as a total culture shock!  It was beyond my belief to see a bunch of teachers attend conference presentations without the technology to which I’ve become accustomed.  While I could accept that not everyone is aware of the incredibly valuable TodaysMeet backchannel chat room, a free, dynamic and easy to platform in which a plethora of ideas and thoughts can be shared, I was thrown when I saw only two of a room full of conference delegates armed with a tablet and smartphone – and neither were game to jump in and participate in the chat room set up by the presenter.

Ugh!  Will educators on mass ever bite the bullet and get on board?!

Thoughts around this issue have been floating around in my mind for a very long time.  I was pleased when Pearson contacted me late last year asking permission to republish an edited version of a blog post – Fine tuning the professional learning of our teachers – I had recently published.  The article: Developing a love of learning in teachers has now been published in both the Pearson quarterly Always Learning and can be seen as a pdf version (pages 6-7) as well as on the Pearson Newsroom Blog.

I feel privileged to have my thoughts added to the body of thinking which aims to develop teachers’ lifelong learning which in turn will strengthen the teaching profession.

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I feel both frustrated and saddened.

Frustrated because I don’t know how to change the situation I’m faced with and saddened because I know that unless change happens, others are not only missing out but those they teach are missing out too.

What happened?

Yet another professional colleague gave me that irksome, fixated, glazed stare as I rattled on about the joy of learning and all that I have learned by talking, reading, writing, listening and sharing along with the immense pleasure I constantly gain by acquiring new knowledge and knowing that I am part of an amazing never ending chain of knowledge.

Why doesn’t everyone get it?!   Why doesn’t everyone understand that all educators – young and old, experienced and less experienced – need to continuously learn?!

If you’re reading this blog, you’re already hooked.  You already know how important it is to constantly reach out for new thoughts, ideas, pedagogy and technology.  It’s something you do on a regular basis.  It’s something that feeds your joy of being.  It’s something that helps you grow and perform as a better teacher.

Unfortunately though, not everyone feels the need for ongoing professional learning.

How can we change this mentality?   How can we excite our colleagues who haven’t yet discovered not just the need to continuously learn, but the inherent joy derived from learning?

What processes are we putting in place to bring others on board, to make them recognize how important it is to stay fresh and to maintain their relevancy in the eyes of their students and their work colleagues?

A shift toward centralized teacher registration in Australia is attempting to formalize this.  VIT registration renewal now requires each of us to complete 20 hours of professional learning each year.   But, it can be argued, forcing people to learn doesn’t necessarily translate to learning and growth actually occurring.

It’s the learning culture we need to change!  

Just as we aim to instill a love of learning in our students, so too we need to instill a love of learning in educators.   Just as we grow weary of the many students in our classes who complete the bare minimum to prove competency has been gained, I grow weary when I see professional colleagues just step through the ropes to earn that ‘Certificate of Completion’.

Just recently I was telling my son about an awesome online program I had recently ‘attended’.  In between sharing details of the course, I mentioned that while I enjoyed the weekly readings and took the opportunity to play a little with some of the tools to which we were being exposed,  the weekly assignments were not to my liking, so I didn’t complete them.   In saying this out loud, I realized that this is the first time I haven’t actually completed all those ‘required tasks’ which I knew would disqualify me from receiving my ‘Certificate of Completion’.  And, furthermore, I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt!  The many hours I had spent poring over readings of websites and the comments and thoughts exchanged by all of us participating in the program was sufficient for me.  As this realization popped into my mind, I realized that gaining the certificate was not the reason I had even enrolled in the course!   And then, I was blown away when my son’s response came swift and clear:

We learn what we want to learn, not what we have to learn.”

Funnily enough, just last week,  a senior member of our teaching staff popped into our workroom confessing that he had never been interested in learning details shared in one of the mandatory sessions conducted by our eLearning teachers, never, that is, until now – because now he needs to know how to apply that learning!   A brief exchange between us deduced an eerily similar comment to that of my son:

Successful learning most often occurs on a need to know basis.   

So, could it be that herein lies an unexplored path to ignite a love of learning among the teachers in our schools?  Could we perhaps create instances in which needs are manufactured, needs which would compel teachers to step into that glorious world of learning so that they could reap the rewards and experience first hand the joy of learning?

As I said earlier, my learning is constantly propelled by

  • talking: predominantly on Twitter and face-to-face with work colleagues
  • reading: thoughts, comments and links found on social media and the blog posts of others
  • writing:  reflecting as I write posts for my two blogs
  • listening: when attending conferences, workshops or meet-ups with other professionals
  • sharing: by presenting at conferences which encompasses much thinking and planning

So, is it possible to bottle some of the experiences and dividends I’ve described as being inherent in my style of learning to create situations from which our work colleagues could gain much.

So …..

  • what if teachers had to create a Twitter account so they could regularly receive shared information from the Principal?
  • what if teachers were then required to follow 10 thought leaders and share those they follow with their followers?
  • what if teachers had to tweet their response to at least 10 links found and read on Twitter?
  • what if teachers had to RT good tweets read?
  • what if teachers had to send an agreed minimum number of tweets a week?
  • what if teachers had to read at least six recommended blogs a week?
  • what if teachers had to view at least six videos (TED, Youtube) a week?
  • what if teachers had to create a blog on which they share reflections of their own learning journey?
  • what if teachers had to write at least one blog post a week?
  • what if teachers had to leave comments on the blogs of at least three other colleagues a week?
  • what if teachers were required to attend a school based TeachMeet where they had to present for 7 minutes?
  • what if teachers were required to attend one online learning program a year?
  • what if the above cycle was a professional learning requirement for a set number of weeks each year?
  • what if each teacher’s participation in this program was monitored by an experienced mentor?
  • what if learning time – at least three hours a week – was scheduled into each teacher’s weekly timetable?
  • what if schools underwent some rethinking and redesigning to overcome the kinds of situations illustrated here which saps the time and energy of the time poor teachers in our schools?!
The Point: Independent Education Union Vol. 4 No 6 November 2014

The Point: Independent Education Union Vol. 4 No 6 November 2014

Is it possible that by implementing these practices into our staff professional learning programs that we could, at last, instill a love of learning into the hearts and minds of all our teachers?


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