Student Engagement Poster

This is a great poster I’ve seen thanks to Educatorstechnology.com and it’s doing the rounds on twitter at the moment. I’d probably say that I’m great at using 2, 3 and 5 in my teaching practice at the moment and I’m definitely going to utitlise the “3-2-1” method of reflection in number 6. Lately I’ve been asking, ‘What’s one thing you’ve learnt or gotten better at today?’ and this would take that to another level, I think.

I also remember a teacher using number 7 a lot when I was in Primary School. We would try to beat each other to finish her sentence. Funny. What’s something you’re already using and also, what would you like to use in your class a little more?

image

4 Keys for Successful School Sites


It’s great to see so many schools wanting to connect with their staff, parents, students and wider community in an online environment. I think many are now seeing the potential for the web to form genuine connections in a fast paced, digital world. But, how do we make sure that our digital strategy will be really effective?
Here are four keys to successful sites for schools that I think are an important element for online sites for your school or classroom.
1. Keep it local and in-house.
When schools first started tapping into the online world the internet was built on complicated and time consuming webpage programmes. Most schools hired an outside agency to design and build their website and relied on them to upload any changes. It’s only natural, however, that as time has developed and the online world easier to navigate, so too have the ways that we can publish online become simpler and uncomplicated.
With a basic online understanding we can create web pages using tools like WordPress, Blogger, Google Sites and others that are easy to use, free! All you need is someone of your staff to have some time and patience to persevere and ask for help when they need it. Having a third party handle your site can slow the process down and make us less likely to keep things current. I think it’s much better if we can develop these skills within our own staff.
I wrote a post about the benefits of having a school site with up to the minute information
2. Keep it current and fresh!
Things online can become stale and boring if not updated regularly. Having the last change to a site with a date of 6 months ago also reduces the credibility of your site. If we can see that things are up to date then we will be more likely to return to it! It’s also time for schools to realise that they can upgrade their school website from what is essentially an online brochure. They can be engaging, interactive and fresh!
3. If it’s important to you – give it some resources.
One of the keys to success with anything online, whether it’s a class blog or a school website, is having the discipline and structure in place to maintain it. The cost of this will most certainly be in terms of time and sometimes this can be expensive. Can we allocate some release time each week, for example, for a staff member to spend up-keeping a site or can you diary in some time every couple of days to post on your class blog? As a wise eLearning sage once said (@nickrate, yes, you are a sage), ‘If it’s really valuable to you then you should spend the time on it.’ Great advice. I also ask teachers, when they ask how I find the time to do all of this digital stuff… ‘How much time do we spend watching T.V?’
4. Use the right tool for the right job – and then link them.
One of the mistakes I see all the time is when people use an online tool to do things it was never designed to do. They all have their uses – from wikis, to blogs, to websites, to social media sites etc. The trap can be easy to fall into when we have several purposes for a digital site and try to use only one tool.
We might, for example, want a school site for
sharing photos of special events, posting

Its newsletters, encouraging feedback from parents and sharing files between staff. Instead of using a blog for all of this we can easily link a wiki, a blog, a google calendar and a flickr account page using url links and embedding tools. Each tool will appear as a page that can be part of one central site – like this site for Salford School that uses the flash based Wix site.
Is there anything you’d add? Do you have some examples of sites or schools that cover all four keys?
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Habits of Mind Heros

One of my favourite breakouts at this years Ulearn conference was one taken by Karen Boyes.  She presented on how to embed the Habits of Mind into the life of a classroom and school.  I’m a HUGE fan of the Habits – they compliment the Key Competencies so well.

One of my goals this term is to consolidate and deepen my classes understanding of the Habits.  I’ve led some activities that taught them explicitly and we often refer to them during the day.  We have a ‘Superkid’ who gets to sit on the sofa chair and watches for a student to be the next Superkid – someone who displays one of the habits, for example.  These little moments help us focus on what I think is one of the most important parts of being successful.

This term we are creating our own ‘Habits Heros.’  The class had to choose a Habit in pairs and design a super hero – using The Hero Factory.   They then had to create a comic life poster that explained what their hero wears and how that relates to their habit.  Here’s an example from Gabby and Ella.

 The habit they chose was ‘Remaining open to continuous learning’ – interesting!   I learnt a lot about the students from their choice but the greatest part of this project (apart from looking so cool around our room) is the investigating that had to happen for the groups to create their hero.  Most students had to explore their habit some more to be able to apply their understanding in a hero context.  ‘Why does your hero’s cape help them fly into humour?’  ‘What does their sword do to help others manage their impulsivity?’
Embedding the habits into our class room culture?  Priceless.

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Critical Thinking Odyssey!

We all hear a lot about how important critical thinking is for our students. Employers are saying that problem solving and team work are two extremely important traits they look for in their work force and it’s something I look to develop in my class programme as much as possible.

This year I’ve stumbled on an interactive game (and I use the word with hesitancy because that word has a bad rap in education circles) that is probably as much of an ongoing narrative and visual ‘epic’ as it is a learning experience.

Samorost 2 is the story of a pyjama clad hero in search for his alien abducted dog. samorostYou are the hero in this space odyssey that has you searching, experimenting, questioning and defeating various levels, or scenes, on your way to the dog’s liberation.

The benefits I’ve seen from children playing this are increased conversation (coming up with strategies) and negotiation skills, knowledge of machinery and basic physics (if you push this it will move that and turn this off, etc) and the accumulation of experience and hindsight that comes as each scenario is conquered (using prior knowledge).

I haven’t yet thrust this at my class but trialed it on my own two daughters (six and eight) at home. The free trial you can play on-line is only the first chapter but held my girls attention (completely undivided) for a couple of hours which, despite their dad’s computer fixation, was unusual. It was fascinating to watch them problem solve their way through the challenges and even occasionally, by my own questioning, have some help at times.

I’d be really interested to see how this would fair with my class of 9 and 10 year olds and I’ll post their progress soon. I’d also love to read of any others who’ve used Samorost in a school setting. How easy would it be to justify it’s place inside the curriculum you’re working within?

FOLLOW UP –
I’ve wanted to find some links to classrooms who have used Samorost (thanks to twitter search) and stumbled on an example at Mr Sales Blog. His class used it to inspire some creative writing (a year 6 class) and, by all accounts, they loved it. The class were asked to watch the start and then describe what they could see, hear and touch. I liked his encouragement to add mystery and atmosphere to their writing. What a great use of this game! His blog is one I’ll be keeping an eye on.

Changing our spaces

There’s something hardwired in me that responds well to change. There is no doubt that our schools could improve the way we do ‘school’ and the most of the dialogue at the moment is around the role that technology can play.

But what about the role of architecture and what I’ve seen phrased as ‘spatial politics’? This slideshare, by Esltechnology, (an ESL teacher at a middle school in Eastern Oregon) shows what can be the future of all schools if administrators are committed to a new, 21st Century pedagogy.

I can imagine so many different ways that students could be learning in these spaces. I wonder how differently I could teach in spaces like these. I think I would be amazed at how much my own teaching is defined by the space in which I teach. The challenge for me, and others with a similar mindset, is to keep confronting and questioning my own beliefs and teaching practice – while remaining in a pretty traditional classroom space.

I could see how easily you could operate a ‘self directed’ classroom and encourage student collaboration and independence. This challenge would require me to push the boundaries of my physical space and act as we would as if these spaces were ours now. Is this possible?

I can see three hurdles to overcome for the potential of self directed learning to be realised.

1. A desire by schools to risk the abuse of student trust. I have seen schools that allow students to use a variety of classroom spaces to work and learn in – libraries, small offices, playgrounds, utility rooms etc, which can often be unsupervised. With trust and responsibility comes the thin wedge of risk and abuse. I’m encouraged to see many school administrators making this move and enjoying the benefits.

2. A misunderstanding community. It’s not hard to anticipate parents who are unsure of the amount of work that results from this style of learning. The challenge to this hurdle lies in open, honest communication. It’s too easy for teachers to forget that parents don’t have the insight into how education is shifting in our schools. When parents are shown the quality of learning that occurs, as I’ve been told from one school, they are usually quick to support it.

3. Teachers who are unwilling to relinquish the control that comes with 20th century pedagogy. It’s with us, as teachers, that the hurdle would appear the largest and there are as many reasons for this reluctance as there are teachers – and there are many. The control that this style encouraged was due in large part to the limit of resources that students could use but technology has released these resources. Unfortunately, for the students, the control has remained. It’s with us, as teachers, that the hurdle seems the highest.

So, to come full circle – How does my classroom space reflect my goal of inspiring student responsibility and control in their learning?

collaboration

Changing Our Spaces

There’s something hardwired in me that responds well to change. There is no doubt that our schools could improve the way we do ‘school’ and the most of the dialogue at the moment is around the role that technology can play.

But what about the role of architecture and what I’ve seen phrased as ‘spatial politics?’ This slideshare, by Esltechnology, (an ESL teacher at a middle school in Eastern Oregon) shows what can be the future of all schools if administrators are committed to a new, 21st Century pedagogy.

I can imagine so many different ways that students could be learning in these spaces. I wonder how differently I could teach in spaces like these. I think I would be amazed at how much my own teaching is defined by the space in which I teach. The challenge for me, and others with a similar mindset, is to keep confronting and questioning my own beliefs and teaching practice – while remaining in a pretty traditional classroom space.

I could see how easily you could operate a ‘self directed’ classroom and encourage student collaboration and independence. This challenge would require me to push the boundaries of my physical space and act as we would as if these spaces were ours now. Is this possible?

I can see three hurdles to overcome for the potential of self directed learning to be realised.
collaboration.

1. A desire by schools to risk the abuse of student trust. I have seen schools that allow students to use a variety of classroom spaces to work and learn in – libraries, small offices, playgrounds, utility rooms etc, which can often be unsupervised. With trust and responsibility comes the thin wedge of risk and abuse. I’m encouraged to see many school administrators making this move and enjoying the benefits.
2. A misunderstanding community. It’s not hard to anticipate parents who are unsure of the amount of work that results from this style of learning. The challenge to this hurdle lies in open, honest communication. It’s too easy for teachers to forget that parents don’t have the insight into how education is shifting in our schools. When parents are shown the quality of learning that occurs, as I’ve been told from one school, they are usually quick to support it.
3. Teachers who are unwilling to relinquish the control that comes with 20th century pedagogy. It’s with us, as teachers, that the hurdle would appear the largest and there are as many reasons for this reluctance as there are teachers – and there are many. The control that this style encouraged was due in large part to the limit of resources that students could use but technology has released these resources. Unfortunately, for the students, the control has remained. It’s with us, as teachers, that the hurdle seems the highest.

So, to come full circle – How does my classroom space reflect my goal of inspiring student responsibility and control in their learning?