Friday, 20 December 2013

Final Course Reflection (web2.0 online course)

In this final module, we are asked to consider all the Web 2.0 tools we have learned about during this online course. We are to think of them in the context of Bloom's revised digital taxonomy as well as our own diocese contemporary learning model, in terms of pedagogy, curriculum planning, student learning and educational leadership.

I have found this course to be quite involved, requiring a deeper level of thinking about the potential uses for various web2.0 tools in education. I feel that my appreciation for the use of some of these tools has grown (say using Picasa to curate events, or wikis/GoogleSites to collaborate), whilst for others it has diminished (I see minimal effective use of Facebook or Twitter in the classroom, despite Twitter being useful in maintaining a PLN).

If I consider the iLE@RN model:

It shows a continuum that is focused on collaboration, creative thinking, reflection, critical-thinking, mathematical and literacy and questioning skills. It sees learners as knowledge creators and managers, who thrive in creative learning spaces. I feel that this constructivist approach where students are involved in the knowledge creation process, will allow for a deeper level of learning than some traditional methods will. Where students are involved in the teaching/learning process in this way, there is a deeper level of commitment/buy in to the process.

Through the use of web2.0 tools, students are able to become involved in this fashion with the learning process. They are able to design and manipulate knowledge and ways of knowing and thus have more ownership over their own learning.

I remember watching an academic at the John Monash Science School observing students conducting experiments during one of my placement's as a pre-service teacher. He was struck by how involved in the process they were, intently focused on what they were doing. This contrasted with how students often perceive the science laboratory. I mentioned simply that the students had ownership over the experiments, as they had designed and chosen them. This begins in the web2.0 classroom as well - and I have witnessed it during this term at my school when my classes were writing to their blogs and had a deep level of focus.

I think this can be developed further through collaboration between classes at a school, or between different schools. Educators need to become more au fait with web2.0 tools and use the strengths of such options - creativity and collaboration and critical-thinking. Web2.0 tools cover the whole gamut of Bloom's Digital Taxonomy, from creating as the highest-order skills, down to remembering. When I reflect on how my students benefited from their blogging experience, in some cases it was the lower-level remembering and understanding, and in other cases it was being able to create content and knowledge and evaluate others' understanding. I would like to further develop how I teach using this, to focus on developing student's ability to critique and question.

Our school is beginning to become more familiar with different web2.0 tools and their use in the classroom, and I think that is an area where we needed to continue to focus, to develop clear goalposts in terms of what we are trying to achieve. Having a student blog for the sake of having a blog might not achieve our educational aims; yet knowing that we can develop student interest and engagement through one, and use it to develop skills of evaluation and collaboration through one might. Being clear about how this is built into the curriculum is also important, as it becomes part of the regular planning/teaching/evaluating process. I would like to think I can help lead my school into effective use of some of these tools as part of our pedagogical model (we have recently develop new non-negotiables in terms of teaching - more to follow!) in the upcoming year, as part of my new role as Curriculum Leader.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Module 10 (web2.0 online course)

In this module we were required to look at various learning communities and using wikis. I found this topic quite interesting as the use of wikis in education is something that I have been investigating over the last two years. During my graduate diploma of education study I began learning about Wikispaces, an example of a site that hosts wikis. FYI, a wiki is defined as:

a website or database developed collaboratively by a community of users, allowing any user to add and edit content

During that time I developed a wiki with several other pre-service teachers based on a biology unit that we were planning for. At the time I remember feeling that it was a little cumbersome, requiring us to format and re-edit documents to display them correctly and share them through Wikispaces.

Since that time, I have developed more familiarity with both Wikispaces and Google Sites and have found them to offer a number of benefits to my classes. I wanted to use them for my classes for two reasons: firstly as a place to store digital documents for students to readily access, and more importantly, as a place to help students join in a conversation about their learning process, to enable them to see other learning process from their peers, and share feedback and strategies about their learning.

What I have found so far is that Google Sites works more effectively with the students from my school, in comparison with Wikispaces. The difficulties my students found with Wikispaces was that they had to remember another login for another site, and often the school server blocked students from accessing the website. Whilst the first is easily remedied, the second really impacted on the students taking it up. Google Sites on the other hand was more easily taken up by students due to using the same logon details as their school email, which is already required for all their subjects. I also found that the layout presented by Google Sites was more user friendly, and a more simple interface.

As I have used these websites, my awareness of what they can be used for has developed. Initially I thought they would serve to outline the 'course' and subject materials; which is such a small application. Since I have been using them regularly, I have seen their potential in getting students to complete groupwork collaboratively, in a way that I can observe each students contributions. I have also been able to blog to the class discussing why we are studying certain things in class, presenting students with feedback and discussing class survey results. I feel that they can help my students to see that I can meet their needs outside of the classroom.

I feel that I am able to more easily see more of my students achieving/satisfying requirements of a course through their interactions with a wiki. Several of my students have provided feedback, saying that they enjoy using the websites, but would prefer to use them every class or not at all. I think they find it difficult to add another literacy (digital/use of wiki) when they might already be struggling. Some of them would prefer to use a wiki in place of a notebook, recording their class notes etc. Some of the year 10 science research projects really worked heavily on developing their group page, seeing it as part of their overall project assessment.

Overall I think that I will continue to use a form of wikis in my classroom, and expect that my usage of them will develop with my teaching. I look forward to helping students see different ways of learning, through what they share with their peers. I look forward to establishing a sense of collaboration in my students. I look forward to developing their digital literacy as well.

How do you use wikis in your classroom?

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Self-assessment in education

Over the last few weeks a lot of things have been happening at my school. Year 12s finished their studies with end of year exams; Year 11s have had their final assessments and are beginning Head Start classes for next year; Year 10s have had final assessments; including their research presentations; Year 8s have had camp; I have been teaching Head Start; I have spoken at my first assembly for year 11 in my new role as curriculum leader; and I have begun moving office into the VCE centre.

Oh and reports and finishing marking.

So apart from feeling a little:

I am actually quite excited about teaching my Head Start classes. This week I have started teaching year 11 biology and chemistry. In my chemistry class today, one of the things I was doing was getting my students to self-assess a timeline that they had produced in groups in the previous class. The timeline illustrated development of atomic theory, hopefully showing understanding, content knowledge, and presentation skills (in order of relative importance).

What I found was that students were quite on the mark in terms of assigning 'grades', compared to what I assign. More importantly, the discussions that ensued were particularly revealing. Through a conversation I facilitated, they indicated why and why not they thought particular posters were well done- several students were corrected by peers for praising well-presented work that showed no understanding. They began to auto-correct and critique the work beyond a surface/superficial level. Some students misidentified information (dates/names etc) as understanding, and were able to be corrected by their peers, who explained that the posters did not in fact show the experimental evidence leading to the development of the different models.

I know that Hattie ranks student self-assessment as an important and powerful element of education, yet I do not think I had experienced just how powerful it could be in my classroom. To watch students reflect and change their thinking in front of me was really satisfying. Taking the time to think, to really slow down and look at a piece of work, was something that benefited my chemistry students. I will definitely be employing this more often in my classes, with the intention of developing self-correcting, deeply understanding students.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Module 9 (web2.0 online course)

In this module, we are asked to explore social networking sites including scootle (educators online community, Australia based), Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. The module also reviews what social networking is, in case we had forgotten!

There are some interesting social media statistics out there...

I think that social networking might offer some benefits in the classroom, although given that teachers need to maintain a professional boundary with students, social networking tools are of more benefit to a teacher connecting with other teachers. Establishing an online presence can serve to connect teachers to a large professional network that operates 24/7 around the globe. Beginning teachers can seek advice from expert teachers, and there is a sense of not being so alone knowing that many other teachers are blogging about the idiosyncrasies,  the particular demands of, and ways to develop teaching.

One of the problems I see in networking and social media sites, is that as 'new media' voices can be echoed and teachers can begin feeling as though everyone feels the same way, even though only a small minority of people are joined to that conversation. This bias is something that needs careful scrutiny - how many teachers at your school are actually connected to Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter? Probably less than you might think.

Our school has a mix of staff on any of these social networking sites. A majority use Facebook, but not for teaching purposes. Some are on LinkedIn, as a form of online/digital CV, whilst very few are on Twitter.

I find Twitter a great network for teachers, particularly with conversations such as #edchat and #tmmelb being some useful ones close to home that I follow. The ability to have these ongoing conversations with other education professionals is something that I have found beneficial as a beginning teacher. I also particularly enjoy being able to find teachers' blogs and reading about their experiences and opinions.

Overall I think the benefit of social media in the classroom, at this stage, belongs to empowered teachers being able to connect and share ideas, support and stories.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Contextual learning

We have just finished a semester long course at year 10 in advanced chemistry and physics, a subject we called Future Energies and Sustainability. The focus of this course was a research project into our local suburb, Ferntree Gully, to investigate different aspects of energy production, usage and sustainability that could be improved for the year 2040.

Josie Hopkins and I came up with the idea of contextual unit to teach science at St Joseph's College because we wanted to achieve several things:

1) We wanted to students to engage with science as an inquiry based subject, rather than a content based subject (although there is a need to teach content as part of science).

2) We wanted students to be involved in a learning process (the research project) that is authentic (solving real world problems, engaging with real people)

3) We wanted to use assessments (the research project, the student blog) that allow for deeper learning through reflection and collaboration in an ongoing process for students.

Last Monday we came to the end of the course, finishing on a high with student led presentations in our learning centre, Chieri. The students put on a science fair of sorts, presenting their research into future energies and sustainability for the suburb of Ferntree Gully. What they presented was of high quality, with deep understanding evident in many presentations. Some groups had made posters communicating their ideas, whilst others had conducted experiments to test and refine hypotheses. We provided the boys with an authentic audience - Lisa Loulier and Sam Sampanthar from Knox City Council's Community Sustainability Program; Kate Evans, Director of KIOSC at Swinburne University; as well as a member from Energy Australia; and a long serving member of the engineers' institute of Australia. These visitors were full of enthusiasm about the program after speaking with the boys, impressed by the level of their understanding and knowledge in their project areas. Several students have been asked to present at an Expo at KIOSC early next year.

What really hit me with this course finishing up was that it could work. Science education could be contextualised and allow for deeper understanding. Students could have a longer term exposure to the themes underlying a subject and move beyond surface or skill learning. It was by no means perfect, and I can already see ways to improve how we ran the course, including: how and why we use the student blogs, incorporating more practical work, building more links between students and the community. Yet the overall results of the project encourage me to think that we can positively engage students in science, and achieve better understanding of science through making it real in the classroom.

Friday, 22 November 2013

A cheeky demo!

Here is a little taster of something we have been working on at the ECCN... Enjoy!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Module 8 (web2.0 online course)

In this module we are asked to develop a familiarity with RSS and different RSS tools. In particular we looked at Feedly (a popular RSS service that replaces Google Reader). I think that having another service to help manage new content from the web would be useful for the avid user of the internet (although somehow I have survived without using any kind of RSS service for years!).

I struggle to see how the majority of classrooms would benefit from using this kind of service at this stage. Many of my students are less au fait with technology than might be expected, and trying to get them to use something like feedly, when they see the internet mostly for connecting and communicating, rather than researching and learning, does not seem like it would be effective at this stage. I am happy to be wrong in this regard, and perhaps there is a way in which students would use this.

I currently use feedly to keep on top of various sites of interest, including various science and education blogs. I think that some of my students would read blogs, but perhaps not as much as would warrant using feedly. Perhaps they could use it as part of research into a given topic - but I am still unsure...

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Module 7 (web2.0 online course)

In this module we are introduced to the tools delicious and diigo, tools to help share, manage and collate online content. I have started using delicious for some of my cycling related websites (being an avid bike fanatic) and have found it quite useful to tag different bookmarks. I think that this particular topic does not lend itself to immediate reflection (what does?) and I will surely begin to appreciate it more deeply as I build up all my regular websites and new areas of interest and begin to catalogue them using these tools. It looks like they would benefit online communities of teachers- PLNs where teachers with a similar method or topics could easily and effectively share resources. I found one of the interesting features of delicious to be that it could synchronise with twitter to build a feed based on your interests (although this kind of feedback cycle is not always useful imho). I already use twitter as a professional networking tool, so am hopeful to see some good material come into my delicious feed (not so many just yet...).

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Module 6 (web2.0 online course)

In this module we asked to explore using Picasa to share photos/images. Initially I uploaded photos using Google's Photo app - before trying the Picasa app. Honestly, although I found that Picasa has more options, the Photos app as part of the Google suite of tools was much easier and straightforward, not requiring me to install anything else.

Having the photos online allows me to visually reflect on a learning activity from a class - in the particular example I uploaded for this module, I am able to see examples of student conceptions regarding the model of the atom. It allows me to work out what I could change for next time. For this particular activity I was happy with what my students developed in small teams - it accurately reflected the model I wanted them to understand.

More powerfully, publishing online allows a user to share photos with a colleague and allows for external contributions, rather than leaving things in just the one classroom/professional learning team.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Module 5 (web2.0 online course)

What good are web 2.0 tools?

In module five we reflect on our current understanding of web 2.0 and the tools that may be used in this domain. Through the website, we are asked to create a concept map of web 2.0 tools and export it to include in this blog post.

I found the process of creating a concept map to allow me to more effectively reflect about what I thought was powerful from web 2.0 tools. In creating the different strands of my map, I decided that I thought the two most important elements of the web 2.0 environment are creating content and collaboration.

Through publishing tools, we can create vodcasts and podcasts to engage students, and compete effectively with other sources that clamour for their attention. We can create blogs and wikis that serve not only to house teaching and learning resources, but also to be a place where they are reflected upon. This reflection is the second part - the collaboration. Web 2.0 allows users to develop and refine together, efficiently. Gone are the email chains bouncing back and forth (well, almost) and now we can collaborate quickly in Google+, through wikis, on Twitter. This rapid feedback allows teachers to work with their peers and develop their resources and expertise. These tools allow for professional networking in real time, outside of school.

I think that gradually web 2.0 tools will replace existing professional development; it is free and accessible. I do not think this will occur rapidly, indeed, the majority of my colleagues do not have a professional online presence as yet, and there is an incongruence between those that do use online networking, and those that do not know it exists. There is also the problem that networks such as Twitter can easily end up as an echo chamber for the loudest voices. Yet, I do not think this is solely due to it being online, I feel sure there is historical precedent for certain people having voices which are heard when there are others which are not.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Module 4 (web2.0 online course)

Module 4 of the web2.0 online course required us to investigate podcasting and vodcasting as elements of digital storytelling. Feeling like a digital native, I had already investigated both of these tools prior to engaging with them through the course. I remember creating a video for some of my students last year, more as a proof of concept that vodcasting could work.

I enjoyed the process - and feel that there is room for the use of such resources, particularly because they can engage and audience readily, especially an audience accustomed to rich online content. Younger generations are used to dedicating attention to things that stimulate it, and all too easily, a classroom can become a place where a students attention is lost by the teacher. Commanding a student to focus, to dedicate their attention, is not going to easily undo the countless hours of training they subject their attention to through digital media in and outside of school.

However, creating rich, engaging, and more importantly, effective (in an educational context) digital media, when a teacher is often time poor, seems to be the typical catch-22. As a committee member of the Early Careers Chemistry Network, I have been involved in producing some digital resources for chemistry teachers, videos of demonstrations, that seek to be rich, engaging and effective as learning resources. And they take a lot of time! Given the scope of what chemistry courses at VCE level cover, there is no effective way to provide quality digital content of the course when teaching is my day job.

Any suggestions?

We interrupt this service...

I have been quite busy over the last three weeks: getting engaged, celebrating my birthday, and running my first marathon. So apologies for the gap in my posts! ;) I am lucky enough to now be engaged to a beautiful, intelligent woman who I find inspiring! We were engaged over the school holidays, and now have a little bit of time to plan an engagement party, and hopefully about one year to plan the wedding!

Adventuring in Brazil 2013
Running the marathon was extremely satisfying; I have been an avid cyclist for quite a few years now (starting back in university in 2005) and having done my fair share of racing, I was keen to see what it was like to be a runner. I trained for around 2.5~3 months, building up to a max of about 75kms per week. I suffered a minor setback with a temporary injury of the facia around my left ankle, but came good, continued training, and debuted with a 3:21 for the 42.2km. I am quite happy with the result, but now curious to see what it takes to get a sub 3hr; apparently some 2% of people attempting reach this goal.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Getting students involved in the learning process...

I have been mulling over how to get students more involved in the learning process since I started teaching. As a teacher, I hold a belief in the ability of all my students to be able to achieve some measure of success. I know that in a given classroom, I will have some students who are more able than others. Some will be older, more mature, have more life experience, have more supportive parents, have greater expectations put on them, have had effective learning strategies modeled for them, will be faster at processing. Some will be born into families that do not experience disadvantage. All of these things confer an advantage to these students. Yet time and time again, what I see as enabling success for a given student, regardless of their starting ability, is their own involvement in the learning process. Students who are motivated to learn, who are interested, challenged, have their interest piqued by a certain topic or teacher.

Students involved in the learning process have enough of themselves invested in the learning to continue when it becomes difficult. They persevere, seek assistance and clarify to assimilate new knowledge. As a teacher, how do I enable more of my students to become involved in this process?

One of the ways I am interested in doing this is through fostering self-reflection. I want to develop in my students an ability to critique what they are doing to learn, not just what they have learned. Too often, the focus is on what a student has or has not learnt, rather than what they are doing to actually learn it. Whilst there obviously needs to be some focus on the outcome that is desired, if there is no focus on the process, the likelihood of that outcome is quite low. I have been amazed to watch young students tell me they are 'no good at maths' or 'I just don't get it' when looking back at a piece of assessment that they have completed. Usually if we unpack it further, there is a clear sign that they were not involved in the learning process at some point, and this is where they have come unstuck. Trying to have students balance these two aspects of learning, the HOW and the WHAT, is a continuously developing part of my teaching.

I have used both a wiki and a google site with different classes at school, and endeavoured to have students use these resources not only to access class material and an outline, but also engage them on seeing what they are doing for their own learning. I have students who have a limited conception of what is required to succeed academically, and I hope that through seeing what some of their peers are doing, they might be able to change some habits. In particular I want to get my students used to reflecting on how they prepared for assessment tasks, and to try and think about ways to improve this in the future. What I have found so far is that students enjoy using these online tools if it is done regularly and often, and are resistant to it if they are not using them regularly. I think part of this comes through the perceived 'load' of becoming familiar with a blog/wiki etc and learning how to operate it, vs the perceived benefit. For some of my underperforming students, part of this could also arise from a sense of inadequacy. Perhaps when setting this up, connecting it to their goals for that subject could allow them to describe their learning against predetermined goals, and they can rationalise their results in this way, rather than necessarily feeling as through they are being compared to others.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Module 3 (web2.0 online course)

For Module 3 of the web2.0 online course we were required to start using Google Drive/Docs - again, as with the previous two modules, these are tools that I commonly use with my colleagues, for sharing professional documentation, as well as with students, as part of the teaching and learning process. Indeed this semester I set up a new subject with another colleague, called Future Energies and Sustainability (FES) and we have been using Google Sites as the base for students to gather resources, interact and blog their own learning process. In addition, I use Google+ hangouts as part of the Early Chemistry Careers Network, where we use it as an online message board to collaboratively plan our professional development events and share ideas for resources for teachers of chemistry.


                                   Here is an example of the work we share

So far I have used Google Drive to share spreadsheets for planning with colleagues; collected marks and assessment feedback into a spreadsheet; set up numerous surveys for staff or students; created quizes for students and written and shared various working documents.

I find it for the most part extremely user friendly. The ability to run surveys easily and collate the results is very useful. I have used it throughout this year to gain feedback from students about how particular units were run and to see what they thought I could improve.

I have tried running Flubaroo on multiple choice test results and was able to grade the test without having to mark every single paper, which was a pleasant time saver.

 I think the biggest benefit comes from having instant collaboration with colleagues. I look forward to further development from Google!

Friday, 27 September 2013

Module 2 (web2.0 online course)

Well without further delay, here is the second post for the web2.0 online course. I had completed both of these modules back in July, just after signing up for the web2.0 online course, but had not been able to blog them without our school allowing us to use most of the associated google functions.

In this module, the focus was on setting up this blog, finding other blogs and then familiarising oneself with twitter. I am glad that I was finally able to set up this blog so that I can continue on with the course. I have been a long time reader of various blogs, but my experience with either running one myself, or participating actively in many, is limited.

During the Dip. Ed. course at Monash, I had the chance to use wikispaces to set up a wiki for use in the biology classroom. I have continued using wikispaces in my teaching, as part of my chemistry courses in senior school, and have mixed feelings about it. Whilst I particularly enjoy curating the contents of a subject course online, and providing students with all the relevant documents, I have found that students find wikispaces frustrating to use. Part of this is probably because they do not use it in all classes, part of it is because it is another password/login combination to remember, part of it is because the number of times the school server has blocked students from accessing it... Imagine if IT came into my classroom and stop students from receiving a hard copy of the notes, or feedback. Uproar would ensue. But not so with the restriction of digital resources. I just get more grey hair!

In using wikispaces with my students I had a severalfold purpose. Firstly was to provide a common place for all their learning resources. Secondly was to allow communication between the class members outside of the classroom. Thirdly was to increase reflective learning practices by my students, and allow them to demonstrate their own learning to others. I really wanted this third purpose to take off, and empower my students through seeing the common mistakes they were making, that others were making, and what successful students were doing. Sadly, I found this generally did not take off. There was always students who couldn't/didn't/wouldn't access the page, and if they did so would not write to any prompt there. I am still reflecting on how to set up a page more successfully to allow some of these good learning behaviours to develop.

Here is an example of the wikispace working somewhat effectively (and providing me with some great feedback!)
In terms of twitter, I have found it to be a great networking tool, but also it is an echo chamber and I find that frustrating. I also find the endless slogans and chanting to take away from the tone of some conversations/debates that I would like to be part of. For me the verdict is still out, I will continue to use it, but it does not supplant actual networking and professional engagement (nor should it!).

Module 1 (web2.0 online course)

Wow - finally here! My school admin settings have meant that I have not been able to set up this blog using the school gmail login. I have set this blog up with a twofold purpose; to complete the online web2.0 course through CEOM, and also to start my own teaching/learning/education blog. Whilst I feel this is a rather protracted start to my blogging - having been teaching now for some 20 months, I do not think that blogging immediately, for the sake of blogging is necessary. This thought may change...?

The purpose of the web2.0 course is to familiarise teachers with web2.0 technology and connect them to wide audience. I already use wikis, google sites, google drive etc, so I think I have less to learn about the uses of such technology, and more to learn about other educators using these tools.

Completing Module 1, I was surprised at how basic some of the activities were; obviously targeted at teachers who are not using the internet daily beyond basic web browsing etc. Having set up wikis whilst doing my Dip. Ed and using them since in my classroom, I feel comfortable using web2.0 tools. My introduction to things such as google+ have also come through professional experience - as a member of the Early Chemistry Careers Network we have used this tool to help collaborate projects to help teacher professional development and resources.

I am hoping that as I continue through the course I will be exposed to other tools, and in particular, examples of how they can be harnessed effectively to improve teaching and learning outcomes. I feel that there are a veritable host of online tools (I have delivered PD on several occasions about several such tools including the Google suite) but knowing what is out there is not always sufficient for teachers to be able to readily incorporate them into their already busy schedules.

I am also hoping to document some of my own professional learning outside of this web2.0 online course, as this is an ongoing struggle - having time to curate the learning is the hardest part!