Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Always Learning; Baby Steps; Is it Enough?

The brain ticks over, exhausted; another meeting, another PD, another something. I see it all the time; people so desperately want to learn new things yet at the same time, are so tired that they just don't have the energy to fully engage in new learning opportunities.

Teachers have a huge workload with so many expectations placed on them. I understand that pushing yourself to make the time to learn new things can be hard. I also know how rewarding it can be.

I have been pushing myself lately to get out more and learn new things. I have goals and know that if I don't extend myself, I won't reach them. I have been coerced into presenting new learning to others as well and I am so grateful for these opportunities.

It's so fulfilling to be surrounded by other educators that share similar interests and pedagogical beliefs. It's equally rewarding to share my knowledge with others and see that they can take something from me and be genuinely thankful. So many positive things come from these meetings and I always leave feeling uplifted, enthused and motivated.

As teachers, sharing our learning is important as it helps us to learn from best practise and avoid similar mistakes others' have made. Ultimately, we all want to do the best for our student's so, learning new ways to support them makes us better at our job.

I guess the ultimate challenge now is how to get my colleagues to engage with these new learning opportunities. Things such as local NETS meetings, TeachMeets and school based I.T sharing sessions. Is my own motivation advertising enough? I guess sometimes it can be (I can be very convincing when I'm excited about something new).

This is something that I have been mulling over recently and I run through different scenarios in my head and try to predict the outcome. When talking about it with others', I am always told "baby steps, Danny. You need to take baby steps". So far this year, baby steps have worked to a certain degree but what can I do to drive a bigger change? What should my baby steps be? There truly is a lot to consider but at the heart of why I want to trigger change is the fact that we really need to prepare our students for a digital world. Prepare them for a digital workforce; a new world that is vastly different to what we grew up with. I worry that we aren't doing enough and we are too worried about 'the ways things have always been done'. Is it wrong to think like this?

Friday, 14 April 2017

Teachers: Why We Need to Challenge Our Thinking

Something I've really liked and admired about some of my teacher friends is that they challenge the way I think about teaching and learning. We all have opinions about best practise and it's all too common to get comfortable with one way of doing things. This can hinder our ability to consider different approaches that may benefit ourselves as professionals and most importantly the development of our students.

I think there is a real danger in complacency and sticking to the status quo. By doing so, I believe a number of things happen:

1. We develop an attitude that there is no better way to do something than what we are currently doing. There becomes that self-righteous belief that we are 'already the best and can't do any better and no one can convince me otherwise'. This closes our mind to new and powerful ideas that could change the way we teach and change our students learning behaviours for the better.

2. We don't take risks and as a result, we don't encourage our students to take risks as well. Ellen DeGeneres said it best when she said “When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.” This is a message that we need to encourage children to understand. We need them to know that it is fine to fail because that in turn is how we learn. As teachers, it's perfectly OK to test new ideas and if they don't work, then so be it. We can be truthful and say "you know what, I tried this and it didn't work, so let's try something different". Students appreciate that honesty and know that if you can admit to failing and learning then they can to.

I'm lucky to be surrounded by teachers that openly engage in professional discussion about best practise and understand its importance. In a nutshell, I wrote this piece because I needed to remind myself that it is OK to have my thinking challenged and likewise, it is important that I challenge the thinking of others. I want to do the right thing by my students and encourage them to be inquisitive, powerful thinkers and problem solvers. 

Thanks for reading. I'd love to know your thoughts on this. 

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Importance of Reflection

I've often talked about how good it is to reflect on things that have happened in my life. To see what lessons were there for me to learn or to see how I can change for the better. In my career it is no different.

I think I sometimes forget the power in reflection and as a result can lose track of the 'what' and 'why' in my choices. It's easy to get caught up in 'life' and 'getting things done' and not truly focus on why I am here.

I teach because I want to make a difference to the world. I do it because I want to build resilient, independent thinkers that aren't afraid to ask questions. I want my students to challenge the norm and express themselves without fear of repression.

I am so fortunate to be surrounded by high quality educators, each with different strengths. I often get stuck in a negative thought loop where I compare myself negatively to these people and I question everything: my choice of career,  Am I a good teacher? Are my students learning? Am I offering the outcomes that matter? None of this does me any good.

I have a great friend who reminds me that I have a tendency to over think things. She is absolutely right. I guess it's only because I care so much about what I do and the impact I can have on people through my job. I need to stop worrying about comparing myself to others and reflect on what I am doing and how I can get better in my own way.

So, here I am sitting on the train after a fantastic Teach Meet session and feeling thankful that I am reminded of why it is important to reflect. Right now, I am confident I am on the right path and am glad to be thinking about reflection for growth again.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Community - Challenge Based Learning

We conducted our video call today with a fellow year 2 class in New South Wales. Things weren't all smooth sailing as the school we were calling had some crazy restrictions on websites including Skype. We tried Google Hangouts as I was really keen to try that but it wouldn't work and Facetime decided (after the first successful attempts) that it wouldn't co-operate when we went 'live'. In the end, as the teacher and I were friends on Facebook, we decided to try out Facebook's video chat function; it was a resounding success - PHEW!!!

Aside from the technical difficulties, the students really enjoyed learning about each others communities. We had quite a lot of questions that we wanted to ask our new friends and they were so keen on hearing the answers. It was especially interesting to see my students reactions when they found out the other school only had around 250 students compared to our nearly 1000.

The most rewarding thing for me to see was the genuine curiosity the students displayed and the keen interest they showed in learning something that was very interesting to them. Learning about community as our Challenge Based Learning (CBL) topic this term has really opened their eyes to the world outside their own and to see them so deeply involved in their path of learning has been invaluable.

The students have learnt important 21st century learning skills such as critical thinking and problem solving as well as communication and collaboration skills. For me, I have learnt to sit back more and let the children lead their learning and act more as a facilitator. It has given me more passion to learn more about how children learn rather than how I can teach them; which I think is much more important.

From here, we will follow up with our video call by keeping in touch with our new friends via blogs and handwritten letters. It's amazing the amount of key learning that can be undertaken from such a simple sounding topic - reading (reading about the school we are 'visiting'), writing (writing questions and then writing to the other students), maths (data gathering, analysis, mapping and graphing), geography (the world around us, Australian places), History (the growth of our school). It has been an incredible thing to witness.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

App Smashing with Pic Collage and Pieces Basic

Numeracy is in full swing in my grade 2 class and with so much to learn about, what better way to do it than to integrate different learning areas under one topic. 
Blog 4Using our Challenge Based Learning (CBL) big idea of 'Community' we decided we would explore how our school community has changed in size since it first opened in 2011. Students will be learning about collecting and analysing data, creating tables and graphs and place value together.
Today we gathered our data by looking at all the school pictures in the main admin building (which listed the school's population) and by asking our great office staff for help. We used this data to create a basic table in our Numeracy books. From there, we looked at

Sunday, 21 February 2016

This Week in Class...

I’m really excited to be doing something a little outside the box this week in class. Our Challenged Based Learning (CBL) topic this term is ‘Community’ and our challenge is to ‘build a community of togetherness’. As a guiding activity for the students this week, they will be going on a virtual field trip using Google StreetView to explore how a country/ rural community is similar or different to their suburban community. I have teamed up with a friend of mine in this rural community (who also teaches year 2) and after our students have had their 'field trip’ they will be Skyping them. They will ask them a series of questions that they will develop themselves about their community with the goal being to understand how communities can be different. 

I’ve not done an activity like this before but am really excited about seeing what sort of things the students notice on their ‘field trip’ and what sort of questions they will come up with. 

I’ll post about the experiences on here on my blog at the end of the week. 

Has anyone else done something similar in their class? 

Friday, 19 February 2016

Using Evernote and Squid to Stay Organised

I've felt much more organised this year which is a good thing, since I have a chatty bunch of grade 2's to deal with. It's also funny how everything has just seemed to fall into place in my second year of teaching. I am feeling much more confident and much less stressed about the small stuff.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A
with s-pen (8" version)
One way that I have found I have kept myself better organised is by using my new tablet (Samsung Galaxy Tab A with S-pen). In particular, I have been using a combination of the apps 'Squid' and 'Evernote' to keep all my reading conferences, running records and number assessments together.

Before I talk about the use of the apps, I have to first explain the choice of tablet. I used to own a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and I loved it. I used it a lot whilst I was studying but decided to sell it so I could buy a decent laptop. I didn't think I would have a need for a tablet like that once I was teaching. The one thing I loved most about it was the fact that the stylus was the closest resemblance to writing with an actual pen.

I feel so organised by keeping all my
notes in Evernote.
Fast forward to teaching and I had been using an iPad that my school provided and I found annotating or any form of note taking (using handwriting) so difficult using those awful fat, squishy styluses and even worse using my equally fat, squishy fingers (haha). I know I could spend money to get a decent stylus for the iPad but they are still clunky, need batteries or in some cases will only work on certain apps. So, this is why I went back to buying my own 8 inch Galaxy tablet with the s-pen.

*disclaimer - this is not an ad for Samsung, I know there are a few brands with pen-like styluses; I just prefer this brand as it is what I am most familiar with.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Evernote - Annotating Notes

I've talked about annotating notes in Evernote in previous posts and have decided to make an instructional video for those of you willing to give this feature a go.

In this example I have used a real student work sample to demonstrate what I have started doing in my writing conferences with my grade 3 class. There is a great deal of interactivity with this method and the students love to take over the mouse of my computer and annotate the note as we discuss it. As a result, they are more deeply engaged in the learning process because they are doing all the work.

This is my first video based around Evernote and welcome your feedback.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Evernote - Getting Started in the Classroom

When I did my last post on my use of Evernote I didn't expect so many people to look at it. It seems it is something that a lot of you want to know more about. I am certainly no expert but I am learning more and more about this product everyday as it becomes ingrained in my daily routine.

I figured I would share more of what I have been doing with Evernote as it may give others some ideas of how they can put it to work.

When I started to use Evernote in class I found it

Monday, 3 August 2015

Little Bits of Tech (Part 3) - Tellagami EDU

I love Tellagami. I'm not lying when I say this. As an educational tool, it is something that I find is one of the best 'all round' tools for sharing and assessing writing, speaking and listening, reading, maths, spelling, art and music.

In my class, I have used Tellagami mainly to assess my students speaking and listening skills and writing skills. My favourite activity and the one I have received praise for was