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Posts Tagged ‘tips’

I came across this video a little while ago.

It’s one of those videos which makes you appreciate how easy it is to impart knowledge in the most simple of ways.  For teachers we refer to it as our

bag of tricks!

Once you’ve been in teaching for a little while, knowing how to present to students so that they really ‘get’ the point of the lesson really becomes second nature.

Teaching becomes so routine, that sometimes, we even forget that we have these skills ‘up our sleeve’!

What am I talking about?  Simple teaching skills such as

  • Gaining attention by breaking with routine.
  • Using silence for optimum results.
  • Ensuring words of instruction are minimized.
  • Engaging with students at their level.
  • Asking pointed question to stimulate thought.
  • Utilizing student knowledge to highlight information being shared.
  • Injecting humour into the lesson.
  • Incorporating physical objects to illustrate a point.
  • Exploring alternate teaching styles.
  • Allowing students to draw conclusions.

The lesson being imparted in this video is valuable for us all.  The point of the lesson is made clearly and strongly.

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Last week I was flipping through some notes I’d made when I attended the CBCA conference back in May this year.

While I blogged about this conference soon after, one talk, which really piqued my interest at the time, has remained in the back of my mind.  A panel discussion by eminent authors Mark Norman, Carole Wilkinson and Claire Saxby addressed the topic:

Has the Internet killed Non-Fiction or Created Myriad Possibilities?

My notes, taken on the day, best elucidate a difficult issue facing today’s authors of non-fiction books:

When addressing the question of whether or not the Internet is killing Non-Fiction books, Mark led the discussion by saying 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 create pathways to each other.   Carole and Claire echoed this sentiment saying that older readers shy away from reading about the kinds of facts they present in their books.   They are, they admitted, dependent on an audience such as us to introduce young people to their books and implored CBCA to find ways to bridge the gap between Non-Fiction writers and teachers so that these books are used more.   Imploring our help to ‘market their books’ to school students they were open to any ideas.

With a conference audience almost exclusively comprised of teacher librarians, we represented a wide range of schools from across the country.  It would have been ideal if we’d had some time to collectively respond to this issue, but unfortunately, we didn’t.

As I watch an end of year culling of the book collection in the senior school library in which I work, I am reminded yet again how little our non-fiction collection is being used by our year 9-12 library patrons.  As reflected in this amusing parody which I saw some years ago, the reasons may be quite simple:
 

 
Is it really that non-fiction books are nothing more than antiquated tools not suited to today’s tech-savvy high school students?  Or is it that teachers and teacher librarians no longer direct students to non-fiction books as a valued source of information?

With fascinating facts and inspirational photography, the books created by these authors provide a wealth of information from which readers can learn so much.  Yet each of the authors on this panel intimated that today they restrict their writing to the primary school age market.

So the question remains:

Should teacher librarians be culling or retaining non-fiction books in senior school libraries?

Are there pros and cons to be considered?  Or are the benefits of exposing students to a wide range of resources too obvious to state?

While debate on this issue can probably extend for a very long time, numerous ways to assist the authors of non-fiction books to market their books to senior students spring to mind:

  • Focus books:  Use non-fiction books as a springboard for discussion around a specific topic.  Having a pile of non-fiction books on hand to inspire and generate discussion can be very powerful.  Students could work in pairs or small groups to discover information from non-fiction books.
  • Competitions:  Give students a set time to list 10 facts about a specific topic by looking through a range of non-fiction books that are brought into the classroom or library.  In the process of locating the facts, students can be incidentally taught how to scan tables of contents, the index, chapter heading and sub-headings to quickly locate information.  Reading literacy will enjoy a real plus from such activities.
  • Author visits:  Invite the authors of non-fiction books to speak.  Presentations focused on not just the content of their book, but how the author went about researching and then compiling facts into their books can be both enlightening and informative.  As an added bonus, have authors discuss the process of getting their book published and how the book cover was selected – both fascinating aspects.
  • Book clubs: Vary the traditional notion of a book club by having students meet and discuss non-fiction books which address focus topics.  With students free to explore topics of interest, provide a forum in which they share their passion with others, then sit back and see students inspire each other.
  • Book launch:  Interest and excitement about new releases can become a powerful way to ‘sell’ non-fiction books in a class, year level, school or school community.  Contact publishers to find out which non fiction books are about to hit the market and volunteer to hold the launch at your school.  Inspire enthusiasm among faculty heads to get involved and have their students participate:  science students could stage experiments described; art students could demonstrate skills outlined; drama students could dramatize portions of the text.  The range of possible ideas by which senior school students can be involved in a book launch are endless.
  • Book fair:  Hold a book fair which has a specific focus on non-fiction books.  Try restricting the book fair to a specific theme by selecting just one subject or be game and aim to create a book shop within the walls of the library in which a wide range of subjects are showcased.  To ensure success and excitement are maximized, invite a local book shop to partner with you.  Be sure to set terms and conditions that ensure the book shop oversees the set up and sale of books.  Publicize the event widely.
  • Assignment requirements:  An assignment which requires students to use a wide range of resources, including non-fiction books, will ensure that students are encouraged to read widely.  Teacher librarians are an invaluable resource for subject teachers to help design class assignments incorporating ‘must include’ references.
  • Resource lists:  Teacher librarians proactively create resource lists for specific topics studied across a range of subjects offered in secondary schools.  By incorporating both hard copy and digital resources, it is easy to encourage students to explore the valuable non-fiction collection held in the school library.
  • Create links:  Library sessions teaching students how to scan webpages can be linked to the layout used in non-fiction books: chapter headings, topic heading and sub topic headings.  By creating links between digital and hard copy resources, teacher librarians will be assisting students to become independent lifelong learners who develop skills that they will use in further study and future employment.
  • Create pathways: Instead of allowing non-fiction books to compete with YouTube videos, encourage students to find links between these resources.  For example, present students with a selection of non-fiction books and then have them find a video which discusses the same topic.  Taking the use of YouTube videos to a new level by having students turn on the ‘subtitles’ can become a way of teaching them how to take notes which they can later use in the writing of an essay or assignment.  Creating pathways between the Internet and non-fiction books, as suggested by Mark Norman at the CBCA conference, can turn into a powerful learning tool.

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I was talking to a work colleague the other day, at least she was a work colleague until she quit at the end of last year.

She was back in our school working as a CRT (a casual relief teacher) for the week, filling in for someone who was on leave.  As we chatted about this, that and the other, I was hanging out to ask her the one question uppermost in my mind: why was she working here as a CRT rather than taking up a teaching position in another school?  After all, she’s only in her early to mid 40’s, way too young to quit I’d have thought.

Fortunately I was relieved of the need to ask.  In between sharing what she was doing with herself nowadays, she told me in no uncertain terms that she was not in the slightest bit interested in finding another teaching position because she was ‘over it’.

For a moment that seemed to drag on for eternity, I was stunned and lost for words.

Sad ….. real sad ….. I thought to myself.  How come someone so young was standing there telling me that she was ‘over it’ when she had only worked in education for just ten years.   It didn’t seem possible or real.

Then later in the same week, I found myself lamenting with a male member of staff the number of older teachers who had given notice that they were retiring at the end of the year.  Another imminent exodus of experienced teachers.

Thinking while talking, I found myself contemplating the difference in the two conversations.  What a difference it is to have teachers retiring vs those who quit because they are ‘over it’.

Yes, I know.  It is said that most graduate teachers only stay in education between 5 and 8 years which must seem like forever when compared to the average university/college graduate who is likely to have 15 – 20 jobs over the course of their working lives which translates to maybe 3 or 4 years in the one job!

It’s a worry – and a concern.

The investment in the education of university/college graduates is enormous. The cost, time and energy invested by students to gain their teaching degree is high and is easily equivalent to the investment made by society/government in the provision of teacher education programs.

It’s almost inconceivable, but unfortunately is quite real, that students in our schools can and are constantly exposed to new and inexperienced teachers throughout their school days.

While it can be rightly argued that many of those ‘experienced’ teachers retiring may have stayed in the job for a few years too long, the end result equates to a significant loss of a wealth of teaching experience.

But returning to thoughts about my work colleague who quit after just ten years in the profession, the question ‘why’ keeps nagging at me.  Our chat informed me that she loves kids, teaching and sharing knowledge of her teaching subjects.  The bottom line for her was the demands of all the other things that she had to do.  It was these tasks, she admitted, which tipped her over the edge and made her realize that she was no longer enjoying ‘teaching’.

There’s little need to list all these other duties and demands on teachers as for those of us working in education, we are all too familiar with the list which unbelievably seems to grow year by year.   Besides, in a previous post Passion vs Process I list the countless number of responsibilities and duties that regularly impinge on a teacher’s daily/weekly working life.  As I re-read and contemplate the list I wrote some four years ago, I’m struck yet again by the incredible demands teachers have to endure if they want to keep their job!  Coming across an article published in The Conversation on this issue, I was struck by this comment comparing the Finish and Australian education scene:

In the Finnish system, early-career teachers are trained well and then, crucially, supported to try new things in the classroom.

In Australian classrooms, the high level of administrative demands, teaching loads, pastoral care and extra curricula activities leaves too little time for collaboration and innovation.

It’s a sad fact that unless you work in education, you just don’t know how hard it can be.

Much has been written about the high attrition levels of teachers in our schools which is said to run between 30%-50% – an astoundingly high figure.   Rebecca Vukovic in an article published in HQ a year ago: Early career educators are resigning from their jobs at an alarming rate writes convincingly of the problem as she quotes numerous researchers one of whom claims that “early career exit from teaching has reached epidemic proportions and appears intractable.”

Frightening.

So what can be done to retain teachers who love kids and teaching/sharing their knowledge?  One recent article I read aptly concludes:

provide the right working conditions for early career teachers to thrive; and strive to integrate all the elements it takes to educate a child.” (ABC News: We can’t afford to ignore the teacher exodus February 4, 2016)

Many of the articles I’ve read over recent times seem to skirt around the real issues that are causing burnout and high attrition rates among new graduate teachers.  Solutions to combat the situation however don’t seem to be as plentiful.

It’s time.  Schools need to start addressing the issue!

  • support new teachers with experienced mentors who have been taught how to mentor
  • involve teacher training academics who have developed a rapport during the teacher training years in the employing schools to support new teachers in their first couple of years of teaching
  • ensure ongoing professional learning is relevant and inspirational so that engagement with lifelong learning becomes an integral part of the job
  • limit the number of additional duties a new teacher has to complete in a day/week for the first couple of years of their employment
  • re-think yard duty and before/after school duty so that new teachers can take this time to recharge their batteries prior to the next lesson
  • monitor workloads so that fewer teaching hours for first year graduates are gradually increased so as to guard against burnout
  • control the amount of paperwork required of first year graduates so that they are not overwhelmed by the enormity of the job from day one
  • welcome graduate teachers into our staff rooms to ensure feelings of loneliness and inadequacy do not set in
  • value the ideas, thoughts and knowledge of graduate teachers as they have much to offer, share and teach experienced teachers
  • praise of graduate teachers’ achievement and contribution to the class, year level, department and/or school should be liberal and sincere to help boost confidence and self worth
  • salary incentives with appealing incremental increases should be available to entice and encourage graduate teachers to stay in the job
  • job security in the form of permanent rather than casual teaching positions should be plentifully available to graduate teachers

It was a few years ago that I wrote a concluding paragraph on a post which discussed the value of teachers in schools.  My thoughts from then apply equally to the way we need to value our graduate teachers.

It’s incumbent on school administrations to constantly express their appreciation of their teaching staff, to laud them and ensure they know they are of value in the day to day running of the school and the overall achievements and recognition for which the school strives.  Schools that treat their teachers well are sure to reap the dividends! (NovaNews: Teachers – A school’s greatest asset! February 19, 2012)

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I noticed last week that a work colleague posted a link to a fabulous article written by Sally Dring “Don’t overlook your school librarian, they’re the unsung heroes of literacy”.

When I read this article a couple of years ago, I was delighted to read Sally’s reply to my RT: “it needs saying!”.

Dring’s post highlighted the many valuable attributes and skills that teacher librarians bring to schools:

  1. With dual qualifications in both teaching and library management, teacher librarians are skilled in being able to see the big picture from the perspective of both students and teachers across a range of subjects and year levels.
  2. An expertise of teacher librarians is teaching ‘information literacy’.  Learning how best to locate information online and then learning how to judge its value and relevance to the topic at hand is a skill that can best be taught by teacher librarians.
  3. Teacher librarians are able to support teachers across the school by providing valuable links to resources relevant to curriculum being taught. Teaming with teachers to locate new resources when curriculum content changes as well as providing resource lists for students and teachers is a valuable skill held by teacher librarians.
  4. By encouraging students to shun plagiarism and instead demonstrate learned note taking skills, teacher librarians assist students to become independent researchers.
  5. By utilizing and valuing the skills teacher librarians have at their finger tips – how to approach and start a research assignment and how to locate and assess relevant digital and hard copy resources – school teachers can act as role models to the students in their classes on how to best use the skills of teacher librarians.
  6. The core ‘business’ of teacher librarians is reading and literacy.  Locating the right book at the right time for an individual child or teacher is a skill which should be highly valued and utilized by all members of the school community.

Dring concludes her well stated thoughts by imploring school communities to make the most of a valuable asset so often overlooked:

But many school librarians are seen purely as minders of a spare IT suite or as date label stampers. They are enormously, depressingly, frustratingly underused.

So don’t forget to seek out your school librarian. You will be amazed at how much support they can give you and how much time they can save you. And they really do want to be taken notice of.

It strikes me as sad that nearly two years after first reading Dring’s article in The Guardian, the same issues are still being discussed in the literature.

Just recently, I read another great article, this time by Aussie writer, Kay Oddone, who in her take on The importance of school libraries in the Google Age notes the positive attributes of teacher librarians and implores readers to user her arguments as a “catalyst for discussion” to bring about change.

As I consider the arguments presented by these two writers and being cognizant of the two year gap between their publication, I’m left wondering whether anything much has changed in the intervening years.  And if nothing much has changed in the intervening years, perhaps the question that needs to be asked is ‘Why?’

Why is the role of teacher librarians still not valued in our school communities?

It is one thing for teacher librarians to bemoan the fact that they are not valued by their school community or its administration.  To ask why though is, quite frankly, confronting!  After all, no one wants to admit failure.  Yet, to bring about change, we need to be able to objectively assess what it is we are doing, look at it from all sides and angels and figure out a different path.

I can already hear the wail coming from a large body of teacher librarians reading this!

  • It’s not easy!
  • We’ve tried before!
  • There’s not enough time!
  • It’s impossible to change school culture!

What we need to be able to do is to brainstorm different ways to approach issues of concern.  By looking at just some of the statements mentioned by Dring in her article, ideas tumble to mind.

  1. Highlight the ‘teacher’ in teacher librarian:  Don’t assume that teaching staff and students know that you have dual qualifications in teaching and librarianship.  Repeatedly and excessively refer to yourself and those on your team as teacher librarians highlighting what you can do to assist them.  If the school community doesn’t know about our skill set, how can we expect them to utilize our skills?!
  2. Run assignment ‘help’ sessions:  Be proactive: volunteer to run an ‘introductory’ session for a new topic or assignment which may include where to start an assignment, how to find resources or how to best organize information located.  Don’t fall into the trap of volunteering to run such sessions for the one subject or the one teacher or the just the one year level as that leads to the possibility of ‘routine’ overshadowing the wide range of skills that can be offered by teacher librarians.  By ‘sprinkling’ the volunteering offer among different subjects, teachers and year levels a ‘buzz’ can be created and a ‘need’ for the skills on offer can be generated.  When demand can’t be met, other voices may well take their request to admin for you!
  3. Collaborate with teachers:  By asking teachers to assist in the location and evaluation of new resources, a ‘team effort’ between teachers and teacher librarians will be initiated while increasing awareness of all the valuable resources available, so invite teachers to help locate new resources: new hard copy books, new eBooks and new online resources.  Creating joint ‘ownership’ of resources is an important and valuable way to increase their use!
  4. Run library skills workshops:  Run imaginative and fun workshops for students outside of class time on basics such as using the library website, where to find information, how to use databases, the dangers of plagiarism and note taking.  Creating a presence for the library in the eyes of the student body will underline that teacher librarians are able to do lots more than just fix the photocopier!
  5. Promote library resources:  Share and publicize lists of resources available through the school library.  Make access to these resources easy to find and easy to use. Share these with both staff and students.
  6. Be heard in staff or faculty meetings:  Teachers are busy and struggle to find time to do everything, so reach out to them.  Request a short time allocation at full staff meetings or ask faculty heads for 10 minutes of a faculty meeting and share skills that can be offered as well as how/where resources can be located on the school intranet or library webpage. Don’t try to share ‘everything’ at once.  Aim for a series of show and tell sessions or a few sessions a term/semester.
  7. Hold workshops for teachers:  Help new and old staff overcome their hesitation to utilize library staff and resources by running orientation sessions sharing the location of resources in both the library and on the library website.  Hold these at the start of the year or during the year over a recess or lunch break.  Food and coffee/hot chocolate are valuable enticements!
  8. Create ‘foot soldiers’:  Always have at the back of your mind the aim to create ‘foot soldiers’ to further the library cause.  Once teachers know how much assistance teacher librarians can provide in the delivery and support of curriculum content, the more they will act as role models on how best students in their classes can use both library resources and the skills of teacher librarians.  And if, as I suspect some of you are saying – ‘tried this and it didn’t change anything’ – try again by targeting different more influential teachers in the school.  Remember to always target those teachers who are most likely to tell others on staff what a fantastic support you have been to them!!
  9. Promote reading culture in the library:  Never forget that all library staff are the school’s resident experts on reading and literacy.  Promote this regularly in every possible way with all teaching staff and all year levels: hold book events, create challenges, flyers, posters, websites, competitions and circulate reading lists online and in hard copy.  Being innovative, staying fresh and keeping the library collection vibrant are as important as never giving up – even when programs laboured over don’t succeed the way it had been hoped!
  10. Create a visible presence for the library and its staff:  And finally ….. create a visible and ongoing presence for the library and all library staff.  Publicity is a key to success. Once a program has been initiated and put in place, be sure to ‘sell it’ by telling the whole school community what was initiated, who was involved and what was achieved.  Publicity should come in every form imaginable: newsletters, library and school blog posts, social media, wall displays and student presentations.  No amount of publicity is too much!

Sticking with a negative attitude is most certainly not going to change anything.  Taking a step back to look at a situation with fresh eyes is demanding, exhausting and very time consuming.  Could the effort be worth it?  Is an improved role for teacher librarians and school libraries guaranteed by the effort expended? Quite simply – no it’s not.  But if we don’t try to turn the situation around in our schools, yet another two years may go by in which teacher librarians continue to be underutilized and undervalued.

UPDATE:  This post has subsequently been edited and re-published in Connections: Issue #99 2016 under the title: It’s time: Let’s improve schools’ perceptions of teacher librarians (13th October, 2016)

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Common Sense MediaI recently came across the Common Sense Media website and discovered all kinds of valuable info which can easily be slotted into lessons or displayed in a library on a loop to promote cyber awareness.

While there’s a wealth of valuable information to explore on this site, these two short and sharp videos speak volumes.  There quick and colourful format will ensure that their message is absorbed by young students.

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It was early December last year that a newspaper headline screamed out at me:

Teach teens to read, NAPLAN chief warns”

Finding the same article online (The Age. December 2, 2015) the headline had been toned down a little:

NAPLAN chief says first step to better results is teaching teenagers to read”

The message however is the same: students need to be taught to read throughout their school years, not just up to Year 2, which, it is said, is a common occurrence in schools across our country.

Following a report on the controversial NAPLAN testing conducted throughout Australia in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 which indicates that reading levels beyond Year 7 are stagnating, ACARA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority) general manager, Stanley Rabinowitz, comments that as students get to higher levels there needs to be an emphasis on not just reading to learn but learning to read. 

The assumption is that because we think they are reading, we don’t have to do reading instruction in years 7 and 9.”

I have long argued that reading is the cornerstone of all education.  I’ve talked about this at conferences and endlessly with work colleagues in schools in which I’ve taught.   I’ve blogged long and hard over the years about the importance of reading and the necessity to create an atmosphere that inspires our students to read.

Over the years, I’ve put my words into action by creating a range of innovative and inspiring reading programs within those schools I’ve worked.   Most of all though, I talk with the students in my classes each and every time I have the pleasure of sharing with them in my library.  I talk with them about the importance of reading and the immeasurable joy and knowledge that can be gained from reading. Without a doubt, I tell them

Read a book ….. Learn about the world!”
There’s no doubt in my mind that reading is the key to successful educational achievement.  Resources poured into education seem misdirected if they are not supporting this basic key skill.  Our students need to not just be taught to read, but to be inspired and encouraged to read.  A positive and inspiring reading climate in each and every school must be created.
  • Saturate students with books.
  • Inundate students with positive role models.
  • Make reading a ‘cool’ activity.
  • Initiate enticing book events.
  • Talk lots about books, authors and writing.
  • Encourage a whole school reading involvement.
  • Utilize the enthusiasm & expertise of Teacher Librarians.
  • Talk regularly about the value of reading.
  • Create reading opportunities during the school day.
  • Invite – often – authors, illustrators & storytellers to the school.

There’s no room for complacency.  Programs designed to encourage reading should come with no strings attached.  Negative overtones should not enter the picture.

A fascinating discussion about education was recently presented by Fareed Zakaria in his regular CNN broadcast.  Reporting on the merit of Australia’s announcement for a bold new school curriculum which gave more prominence to coding over history and geography, Zakaria moved the discussion on to the importance of developing workers who not only had skills but learned how to interact, relate and communicate with others.  “Succeeding at work and in life is more complicated” he says “than simply learning to code.”  Distinguishing between ‘relationship workers’ and ‘knowledge workers’ he emphasized the importance of students learning to interact with people.   A powerful tool to develop these skills is reading.

Reading fiction with complex characters and stories trains us to observe others and empathize with other people … which is why many medical schools are requiring that their students read fiction to become better doctors. (at 3.17 mins)

Fareed Zakaria-What in the world- Coding vs humanities

It is encouraging to hear the voice of a highly reputed social analyst support what Teacher Librarians have been saying for a very long time.

Encourage our students to read.  Inculcate reading across the school curriculum rather than relegating it to the sidelines of school programs.

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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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