What motivates learning?

Learning is has been part of my life’s journey- I have been learning since the day I was born. Often I didn’t even realise that I was learning because I equated learning mostly with school. Until I started thinking about this topic, I wasn’t conscious about how much I have learnt and continue to learn on a daily basis.

I wanted to be independent so I learnt:

  • to drive a car
  • how to teach, so I could get a job and earn a living
  • how to use the Melbourne transport system (in case my car breaks down or I need to go to the city)
  • how to pay bills and manage my money when I moved out of home.

I became a technology leader and I didn’t know how to use it effectively, so I:

  • attended technology conferences
  • learnt how to use Twitter to talk to other educators about technology in the classroom
  • participated in Twitter chats to learn about how technology is breaking down classroom walls
  • participated in an Edmodo course to learn how to get connected and try out new online resources
  • read blogs, websites like Edutopia to learn how to improve my use of ICT in the classroom

There are many other reasons I learn:

  • I’m interested in giving my students a voice in the classroom- so I read anything I can on that topic.
  • I’ve become the English Learning Leader so I’m constantly learning on the job and finding PD to help me.
  • I’m doing a year long Leadership course because I want to be an effective leader.
  • My students love sharing information about themselves and what they read which allows me to learn more about them.
  • I love dancing so I took ballroom dance lessons and learnt new dances.

At times throughout my life, I was learning just to get by. However I’ve realised that when I’m passionate about something, that’s when my learning is the strongest. It’s been years since I was a student myself, but as a teacher I’ve realised that in some ways I’m still a learner. Every day I learn something new and often don’t realise it. Whether it is learning to dance or learning about my students, if I’m passionate about something then I will learn. I don’t want to stop this learning journey because there is still so much I want to know and do.

So what motivates me to learn? Being passionate about something.

So my question to you is “What motivates you to learn?”

#YourEduStory Week 17

My ideal conference

There are many different styles of conferences that are run nationally and globally. Most are carefully organised and structured to suit those in charge. A timetable is created. The day begins with a keynote address after the welcome. Then depending on how big the conference is, educators and other stakeholders will decide which sessions to attend.

Edcamps are an alternative to conferences. They are an “un-conference” whereby there is no organised schedule or keynote speakers. Participants on the day decide what they want to learn or talk about, thereby creating sessions based on preference. Workshops are facilitated by interested educators.

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So what would be my ideal conference?

Firstly I would prefer an un-conference like Edcamp. Whilst I’m yet to attend one, I would prefer to have the sessions chosen by the participants. I want to see how other teachers use technology in their classroom, or implement different teaching pedagogies in their schools. To me, Edcamps seem to be more personal and hands-on. It allows teachers to actively participate in the sessions.

Other suggestions for my ideal conference:

  1. A conference run only by teachers – not consultants who don’t know what is happening in the classroom. This allows educators to demonstrate what they are doing in their classrooms and other teachers can see the how it can fit into their own classrooms.
  2. Students are involved in the conference. Since the focus is on giving students a voice in the classroom to direct their own learning- why shouldn’t they also be given a voice at a teachers’ conference? Together with teachers, they can help to design learning programs that can be implemented in the classroom. The conference will allow them to tell teachers what they want and how they learn. Teachers and students can work together to create engaging units of work as well as learning environments that can be adapted to different learning styles.
  3. One where participants attend in school teams- each team is represented members of the principal class, the leadership team (e.g subject leaders/technology leaders), classroom teachers, students and parents. This allows all stakeholders to have a say in how students learn and what support is needed. Parents will also have a better understanding on changing teaching practices and how they can provide their children with the necessary support at home. The teams will then be responsible with sharing the learning with others at the school.
  4. Sessions at the conference are streamed via Google Hangouts or another platform. This will allow for a wider audience, especially since it is not possible for everyone to attend. Those who watch online can tweet their own questions/comments (with the conference hashtag) allowing them to contribute as well.

 

YourEduStory Week 14: Describe your ideal conference: What is covered? Who is present?

Show Don’t Tell!

“The world of connected educators can be an echo chamber at times, how WILL you grow the conversation so that we bring more people and perspectives along the journey?”- #YourEduStory Week 13 topic

For me, being connected is important. As a teacher I’ve learnt so much and have found that passion for learning (that I felt was missing when I was growing up). I’m still working on sharing my ideas with people outside school- I’m still hesitant to do so as I feel I’m just repeating what everyone is saying. This is especially true for me on Twitter.

However at work, when I begin to talk about what I’m learning via Twitter and blogs, I get a variety of responses. Some will be interested in what I say, whilst others will listen politely and then move on to another topic. It’s a different concept to them and I often hear:

After all aren’t we going for Professional Development sessions relating to our subjects? Isn’t that enough? We already have so much to do, why do we need to do something more? Going home and spending time seeking out new ideas and practices is not ideal- it’s family or me time. Why should I try to seek out new ideas- after all the school leaders make all the decisions anyway. We are constantly forced to accept their ideas. We’ve done things this way for nearly 20 years- it’s all a fad!

I want to sometimes interrupt and say no it’s not a fad. Learning is different in today’s world and it’s not right to expect our students to learn the same way we did. I know I didn’t enjoy learning at school because I was spoon-fed. I wasn’t taught to think critically and therefore I often struggled (and sometimes still do) to articulate my opinions.

So instead of talking to people about what I’m learning, I try and demonstrate the “so-called fads” in my teaching:

  1. My Year 9 students have a voice in their learning in my subjects. I’ve taught them since Year 7 and they are confident in speaking their ideas and help to decide how the learning will take place in my class. As a result they are engaged in class and I rarely have behaviour issues with them. So when they have other teachers who still use the “chalk and talk” method for the entire lesson and dictate how they should behave, they struggle and often misbehave because the classes don’t cater for their learning styles.
  2. Last year, I had students from the same class present their “Black Death” PBL unit in front of 50 teachers and principals during a staff presentation. When the students presented in class, I had our Technology for Learning Leader as well as House leaders as guests. Students created their own units on the Black Death that will be used with Year 8 classes this year.
  3. My current Year 8 students have their own class blog to showcase their learning. At the moment it focuses on developing their writing skills but I also use the blog to teach them about Copyright and acknowledging their sources.
  4. I’ve joined the school PBL Action Team to help develop units of work for Years 7-8 that incorporate Maths, Science, English and Humanities. As staff aren’t very confident about PBL and in the aim to promote it more in our school, the team provides a very structured unit of work. It’s still very much teacher-led but my hope is that other staff will start seeing the importance of PBL in the classroom and allow it to become more student-led. In a school as big as mine, we’ve had to follow this path in order to get more teachers on board. We still had a few complaints, but overall staff have been happy with the Year 8 unit we did in Term 1.
  5. Last year our Technology team trialled the Blended Learning Action Project. Not only were volunteers creating their own Blended Learning unit in their classrooms, they also learnt how to conduct their own Action Research. We had a lot of issues throughout the year, but eventually we managed to get on track. We ended the year with a Showcase, where staff presented their units to other teachers and school leaders. As one of the Tech leaders, I was amazed at what our volunteers had done. However those who weren’t involved in the whole process, were completely blown away. For many, the ideas were very new to them and they were presented with actual units of work that had been done in our school. The Showcase was supposed to be only for an hour after school- we still had people staying after 5 because they were so interested.

I’ve come to the conclusion that whilst a conversation about being connected is good, it’s better to demonstrate the ideas in practice and then have the conversation. Staff need to see how it can be implemented and the benefits before they will adopt the ideas. That’s what will make them more willing to accept new ideas. Not everyone rushes to Twitter or blogs, but those of us who do need to show and demonstrate it at school. A few might even start a Twitter account or their own blog. An even better idea would be to get staff to be guests in our classrooms when students showcase their learning.

Being an Emerging Leader

In February I finally began my Bastow Emerging Leaders’ Program. Ever since I started seeking my own avenues of learning, I realised that I had to find a face-to-face learning environment that was actually interesting and engaging as well as relevant to me. Whilst I enjoy learning online, it can sometimes feel as if I’m missing out on the in-depth conversations. Twitter is great for micro chats, but having the time and unlimited word count can result in a conversation that is not constricted by 140 characters.

The Bastow course aims to provide teachers with the skills necessary to be an effective leader in their schools. Whilst some teachers in the course have been in positions of responsibility for a couple of years, others like me are just starting out. Everyone is there for the same reason- they all want to be the best leaders and to improve their leadership abilities. The 1st  two workshops allowed the teachers to question themselves and 4 key questions were raised:

Leaders

In the 2 day residential workshops, I felt as if I was stripped bare. There was nowhere to hide- and for once I didn’t feel as if I wanted to run away. I wanted to face my fears and know what I needed to do to become a better leader. I was open about what I needed to work on. My leadership journey is just beginning and I know (at least I think I know) my own strengths and weaknesses. The emotional intelligence test, that all participants had to complete, produced results that weren’t a surprise. Instead of the results making me feel discouraged, they worked to make me more determined about the skills I needed to work on. I wanted to be here- now I was going to have to find the steps that would allow me to go forward.

In the Genos Emotional Intelligence test that I completed, as a requirement for the Bastow course, it identified 4 emotional skills that are important in shaping workplace behaviours. These skills are acquired over time and can help shape and strengthen a leader’s capabilities. The effectiveness of a leader depends not only on their actions but how they react in a variety of situations. The aim of this test was to help participants understand that as leaders they needed to cognizant of that fact.

  1. Awareness (perceiving and understanding your own and others emotions)
  2. Expression (effectively expressing your own emotions)
  3. Reasoning (using emotional information in combination with other data when making decisions)
  4. Management (maintaining positive moods, dealing effectively with with stress and reacting positively in a controlled manner)

In my report, it showed my results for each skill and listed suggestions on how I could improve in each area. I’ve decided that for this year, I will focus on 4 suggestions (1 for each area) in order to further develop my leadership skills. To me, they are my biggest weaknesses which have the major impact on how I react to events that take place around me.

  1. Being aware of how my feelings influence the way I interact with people (awareness)
  2. Expressing how I feel to the right people (expression)
  3. Asking people how they feel about different solutions when solving problems (reasoning)
  4. Handling stressful situations effectively (management)

During the workshop, I questioned myself and my abilities several times. I framed several questions that are important to me on this year long course. I don’t need to have them answered by the end of the year, but they will help me learn and understand more about how I lead.

Do I encourage others to build up their skills?
Do I motivate them to be better?
How do other leaders make me feel? Do I feel daunted or inferior? Or do they make me want to do better? Do they encourage me?
Where am I heading as a leader?
What are the values that shape me as a leader?

[This post was started a week after the workshops but due to a busy schedule, it is only now during the 1st term break that I was able to complete it.]

Connections changes classrooms

So the topic for #YourEduStory this week is “What is connected learning and WIIFM?”

WIIFM?? What’s that? I had to actually search it up as it was an acronym that I hadn’t come across. WIIFM stands for “What’s it in for me?”

It is interesting to note that getting connected can have a great impact especially on teachers. These days being connected refers not only to teachers connected to other teachers, but also their classes can connect with experts around the world to expand their learning environment. Everyone benefits from a teacher being connected.

Being connected means flattening the local, national and global boundaries for learning.

Being connected means that teachers and classes can connect with each other in real-time.

Being connected helps teachers learn new practices that can change their classrooms.

So how has this had an impact on me and most importantly on my students?

Being connected has led me to change my classroom:

  • Students have a voice in their learning- they enjoy being able to be part of the decision making process
  • Students are given more of a choice- where they sit, to set the pace of their learning and how they learn
  • Use of PBL to develop my students’ ability to question, investigate and explore topics
  • I’m helping them to strengthen their skills- they are becoming more independent in their learning, they seek help from peers and support each other
  • I am able to provide more support to students who are struggling whilst others are engaged in their learning.
  • Using a Blended Learning approach, I am able to tailor the learning for my students. It allows me to see where students are struggling and need more support. It also allows me to extend the abilities of more capable students and set challenges for them to complete.

The biggest impact however of being connected is that I have gotten to know my students as individuals. This has strengthened my relationship with them. I am able to act silly and make a fool of myself in front of them- that gets their attention a lot quicker than yelling. There is a bond of trust- they know I trust them to complete work and they have put their trust in me to help them when they are struggling.

Without being connected I would still be frustrated about my ability to engage my students.They are happier in class and always ask me what we are going to do before we step into the classroom. They have the chance to explore new ideas -they are more confident in testing their abilities independently. If they start to struggle they first ask a peer before coming to seek my help. If I hadn’t become connected they wouldn’t have become so independent. They get frustrated in other subjects because they aren’t given the same opportunities they get in my classes.

So not only do I benefit from being connected but so do my students. I look forward to being connected for the rest of my life!

Learning

Lifelong journey, one that should never stop

Eagerness and enthusiasm you need to have

Absorbing new ideas from the world around you

Real-time conversations with people locally and globally

Not always online, often face-to-face

In your own time, at your own pace,

No one can stop you, except yourself

Get started on this journey, it’s fun to learn!

 

#YourEduStory Week 4

What is the best thing you do in and outside your classroom?

One of the best things that I do in my classroom is getting to know my students and how they learn.

I have been a teacher since 2009. My teaching style has changed in the last 6 years. I am now at the point where I’m confident in my teaching abilities. In the past year my teaching style changed as I decided that I could get students to listen to instructions without having to be very controlling. As a teacher with only a few years’ experience I had thought that I had to be strict at all times because if I showed any weakness, my students would take advantage of it. They proved me wrong.

As I became more comfortable with teaching, I decided I didn’t want to be the teacher students worked for because they were afraid of me. I wanted to be a teacher who they could talk to – who would listen to their opinions and who knew them as individuals. I didn’t want to be a teacher who was seen as only working with EAL students and who didn’t know the rest of the class. I wanted to know all my students- a big task as my class can often have up to 50 students (I teach in a team of 3 teachers to 50 students). The only way I could do this was to get to know my students as they worked and to let them get to know me. I restricted my “board talk” in my lessons and allowed students to have more input into their learning.

By focusing my attention on getting to know my students, I have found that this helps me understand them a lot better. I have gotten to know my “naughty” students a lot more and by taking the time to get to know them, they are starting to be engaged in their learning. They are starting to try and attempt work- they are more confident with asking me to help them rather than just giving up as they did before. My more focused students are starting to extend themselves- they are willing to try new challenges because they know they can get support from me when needed. It is amazing how just talking to my students and often with their “lingo” I have seen them become more confident as learners. They come and talk to me in the yard whenever they see me, they will often try to line up with another year level just so they can pretend they are coming to my class. It makes me feel good to see that.

On Thursday an ex-student visited the school and he came to talk to me. He and his classmates were my first class to graduate. I hadn’t taught him since Year 10 but whilst he was at school, he often made it a point to come and speak to me. On his visit he told me that he was going to do a Cert III at a university. I was so proud when I heard him say that- he had a lot of challenges at school. He is dyslexic and he had been a recent arrival to Australia when I started teaching him. He came to say thank you to me (as his English/Humanities teacher) and another teacher who taught him Maths and Science. He told us both that without our help he would have struggled. It was sweet of him to do that. It made me realise that it doesn’t matter what abilities a student has- if they have someone to support them and encourage them, it makes a  difference to them. They want someone to listen to them and not just see them as another essay to grade.

My students come from so many different backgrounds and trying to find their place in a class with nearly 50 students can be daunting. I try to take the time to get to know them and I am willing to talk to them about myself. I like that we can talk to each about more than just classwork. It makes them see me as someone they can easily approach and this has resulted in them being happier in class. They are more actively engaged in their learning and whilst at times they will try to avoid work, in most lessons they are focused and willing to participate.

It is amazing how much you learn from students once you let them talk…….. my teaching practice has certainly benefited. I will continue to let them talk and ask questions because it gives me a way to help them and encourage them on their journey at school.

 #YourEduStory Week 4

Believe (in yourself)

As the new school year begins, there is the usual flurry to get everything ready before going back to work. Having enjoyed a wonderful break in Europe, it’s now time to get back to regular routines and schedules. My 1st day back on Twitter, I noticed the #YourEduStory challenge and decided it was a great way to start blogging again for the year. I enjoyed reflecting on my work last year and feel the need to continue the process this year. With new challenges, it will allow me to take at least an hour to think about what I am doing and why.

The first challenge was “What is your “one word” that will inspire you in your classroom or school in 2015?” Immediately the word “believe” came to mind. It is a powerful word that often eludes my thoughts as well as my students. To believe in yourself is often hard to do and I notice it is a challenge not only amongst my students but for me as well. It can be easy to believe in others, to believe things that our families, religion, the government and any institution might tell us but we often forget to believe in ourselves.

So my 2 goals for this year are:

1. To believe in myself and my abilities: this year I will be Head of English at my school. This is a new leadership role for me- one that I didn’t believe that I would get. I went for the interview in order to get more experience and I was surprisingly offered the role. Like any other leadership role, it comes with its own challenges. My first thought when my principal told me that I was successful was “Oh no, Oh no, what have I done? I don’t think I can do this!” A friend told me that if the interview panel didn’t believe that I was capable of being the English Leader, I wouldn’t have got the position. She told me that she had faith in me and knew that I could. She said that I needed to believe in myself- that I had the ability to be the subject leader. So this year I need to believe in myself- that I am capable of being a good leader. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know how to do everything in my role- I will learn as I go along. I have people who I can ask for help. This is my opportunity to help shape curriculum at school and to grow as a leader. It is a chance to learn new skills and to strengthen existing ones. As I tell my students- if you don’t try, how do you know you can’t do it.

2. To help my students believe in themselves: this will be an ongoing process. Most of my students come from refugee backgrounds and low income families. When they come into my class, many are aware that they are at a disadvantage and refuse to participate in activities for fear of embarrassment. They feel that they are unable to do the work and will give up. I tend to provide tasks that provide extra support for students with language difficulties or learning difficulties, providing several entry points in a unit of work. Getting them to believe in themselves is a year long journey. I encourage them to try- I will sit and work with them until they are comfortable with the task. It’s often easy to build up their self confidence one task at a time- each completed part makes them more willing to try the next. Having to do this with a whole class takes time and effort but it is always worth it. I tell them that it is important for them give everything a go- no matter how tough it might seem. If they need help, all they need to do is ask. To help them with this, I tell them that it’s okay to feel fear but they must use that fear to challenge themselves.

So learning to believe in my own abilities and helping my students believe in themselves will be my goals for this year. I think it will be easier to help my students believe in themselves than it will be to convince myself that I am capable of being the English leader. I think it will be an interesting reflection in December to see what I have achieved.

 #YourEduStory Week 1

2014: A Year in Review

My 2014 journey:

  1. I joined Twitter and it’s made me think more about my teaching practice. It’s opened up a new world of PD for me along with educator blogs, Google Hangouts and communities. Pd in pajamas and in my own time!
  2. I’ve become passionate about Student voice in my classroom and take time to talk to my students about what they think about the class on a daily basis. 
  3. I take more time to get student feedback and show them that I’m implementing their suggestions in the classroom. 
  4. By reflecting regularly on my lessons and teaching practice in my blog posts, I am constantly thinking about the reasons why I adopt new technology or a different method of teaching.
  5. My development as a Leader is changing because of conversations with leaders at school- I know why I want to be a teacher and a leader
  6. I’ve re-ignited my passion for teaching by connecting with educators outside my school- there is so much that I want to do.
  7. Implementing #PBL within my own Year 8 class has seen a dramatic improvement in student engagement and learning and I hope to do this with all my classes from Years 7-9. 
  8. My Year 7 students’ class blog is up and running. Students are getting used to posting their work on the blog and even my teaching team is now more familiar with running the class blog. This will carry on next year as I hope to extend it to their other subjects as well. 
  9. I became more comfortable with my role as the Domain Technology Leader as the year passed. Helping staff implement Blended learning lessons in their classroom was a challenge and at times it seemed as if there were too many obstacles. However staff from all 4 domain areas presented their Blended Learning Action Projects on the 10th of December 2014. It was a great success and it was wonderful to see other teachers come and learn from participants in a “speed-dating” session. Feedback from staff and participants was positive with many remarking that they had picked up ideas to implement in their own classrooms in 2015. 

Overall, this year has been a positive learning experience for me. I have become an enthusiastic learner and am constantly looking for new ideas to implement in the classroom. I constantly evaluate my teaching practice to ensure that it is the students who benefit from it. 

Where to from here:

  1. First of all, a well-deserved summer break during which I will be going to Europe for the first time- a dream come true.
  2. In 2015, I will no longer be a Domain Technology Leader. Instead I will be the English Learning Leader- a new role for me with many new responsibilities. I’m sad to give up my tech role but I look forward to new challenges. 
  3. I have also been accepted into Bastow’s 2015 Emerging Leaders’ Program – this will help me further develop my leadership skills and hopefully will help me become more confident in my role as a leader at school. 
  4. I will continue to learn from Twitter, blogs and all the great educators out there. I’ve already downloaded e-books on to my Kindle to read whilst I’m on long plane journeys. I’m looking forward to reading “Teach like a PIRATE”, “Digital Leadership” and many others. 
  5. I’m looking forward to learning from my students and working with them again in 2015.

AITSL: 3.6 Evaluate and improve teaching programs

I have been using PBL units in my Year 7 and 8 Humanities class during Terms 3 and 4. I have found them to be really effective. My Year 8 students enjoy it because it allows them to choose how they want to learn. As they’ve told me quite often “It’s good when the teachers don’t stand in front of the whiteboard talking to us for the entire lesson”. It allows them to ask for help when they need it. Some groups will require more teacher support and that’s ok. I like my PBL units because it allows my students to work at their ability- it’s not the same information delivered to them. They have different entry and exit points and I try to ensure that they cover the basic skills needed for that unit. 

In the units I’ve implemented I’ve noticed the development of the following skills with my students:

  1. Collaboration: Students learn to work in groups to complete the tasks. In our projects we had a mixture of student chosen groups as well as mixed ability groups chosen by the teachers. This enabled our students to develop their ability to work with a variety of students who have different learning capabilities. I often saw advanced students helping our EAL students with completing tasks and learning how to share the work based on ability. Issues arose, but with the help of teachers, they learnt how to talk about it in their group in order to resolve the problem.
  2. Time Organisation: Most of our PBL projects were limited to 3 weeks in which students completed their work. Students had to complete a plan that would help them with time management. Often this plan was abandoned along the journey and the last week would see a flurry of activity as students rushed about completing their projects. The News Reports project on Sustainability saw students suddenly realise that they were running out of time as the filming took them a lot longer than they expected. They had spent more time researching their topics and had left just half a week to film their reports as well as to edit their videos. Feedback from students showed that they felt they needed to work on their time organisation skills a lot more, especially when working in groups.
  3. Learning how to create questions for research: In our PBL projects, students had to come up with a list of questions that would guide their learning. In order for them to ask a variety of questions, teachers ran a “toolbox” lesson on the different types of questions they can ask. Students started to develop questions that were beyond the basic “recall” style of questions. This  enabled them to delve more deeply into their topic. 
  4. Self-direction: One of the key skills that I have seen my students develop is their ability to self-direct themselves. Yes, whilst at times they tend to get distracted, I’ve noticed more and more that my Year 8s especially are focusing more on their work. Many have told me that they like being able to work by themselves and choose how they learn. They make the decisions on the content they want to learn in a PBL unit and enjoy exploring different aspects of the topic. With my EAL students and High Needs Learners, I provide them with more support. In a current unit on Rainforests, I sat down with a group of 6 EAL students and asked them what they wanted to learn about. They chose Australian rainforests and together we worked out a list of 10 questions for them to research about rainforests in their chosen state. They made the decisions and I helped them with writing out the questions. It is amazing to see the boys working more independently each lesson and staying focused on their work. 

As a teacher, the PBL units have given me the opportunity to learn more about my students and the way they learn. By going round to different groups, it allows me to talk to them about their learning. They share what they are learning with me and we often get into discussions about the topic. My students like this way of learning- it teaches them to be independent learners and I find that they are more engaged in their learning than if I was standing in front of the class and teaching them. On days when they are struggling to focus on their work, it can be a challenge to redirect their attention but it is easier for them to get back on task when they are doing a PBL unit.

It allows my more independent learners to delve more deeply into their topic and I will often challenge them to extend themselves further and give them further areas to investigate. The dependent learners work at their own pace, seeking support more regularly whilst at the same time extending their capabilities without them realising it.

PBL units have allowed me to tailor the learning to suit my students’ needs and address the feedback that they give me. They are more vocal now about how they want to learn because they know that I will implement in the classroom whilst at the same time teaching them the required skills. It is interesting to note that they often tell me that it’s good that I don’t “teach” them – by that they mean that I don’t stand in front of them and talk for 75 minutes. I enjoy these units because it allows me to focus on individual student needs and to provide 1:1 support to them based on the task. 

Diigo vs Flipboard

Curation tools are a lifeline: they help you gather resources that you read from Twitter, Google, blogs and other sites. They allow you to decide what you want to keep so that you can consult, annotate and constantly refer back to articles of interest. However deciding which ones to use is a tough choice. The ones that I’ve tried are Flipboard, Diigo, Evernote and more recently Scoop.it.

Diigo was the 1st curation tool that I started using. I was introduced to it at school and we have a group where teachers share new technology tools or websites that might be useful. I continue to use it to save all my favourite websites and tools so that I don’t lose them. It allows me to categorize them according to topic and I can go back to refer to them when I need. I use it predominately to share new websites or resources with staff at school. For me the positive feature of this curation site is that I share sites directly with staff who are part of the Diigo group. My web toolbar also has the Diigo Web Collector which allows me to add the useful websites directly into my Diigo account. Yet at times I feel that for me Diigo is just my favourites’ folder which has all the sites I use and I often forget about it until I need a resource that I have used before. Since I’ve also been trying Evernote, I might decide to stick with one of them instead of using both.

Flipboard is a curation tool that I have been using recently. I use the app version on my phone and I use it to collate articles and other useful information for my own personal learning. I stumbled upon Flipboard during the ISTE14  conference. This helped me read the tweets and articles generated by the conference in my own time and at my own pace. It was a good way to follow the conference rather than using Tweetdeck as the tweets were too fast to follow. I have been using it more frequently to organise my own reading according to topics that I am interested in. One such magazine that I’ve created is “Student Voice” as that is my focus for Term 4. I like that you can embed the magazines into blogs and share them with the readers.

View my Flipboard Magazine.

The benefits of Student Voice

Since Term 3, I have been making a conscious effort to use “Student Voice” in my Year 8 class. It started with a simple game of Hide and Seek and has changed my relationship with the students. I have taught these students since Year 7 and I have noticed the changes in the way they interact with me. In order to facilitate these changes, I’ve had to re-think how I interacted with them. I also had the support of my team to allow students to be more vocal in their learning.

In reviewing the PBL unit on the Black Death, I asked students to complete an evaluation form. This was the first time they had to choose how they wanted to learn and complete their own tasks and I was interested in hearing their opinions.

One of the questions on the evaluation form was: “What did you like about this unit?”

“I liked this unit because we learnt in our own way without the teacher teaching us” – Student 1

“It was really challenging and interesting to me”- Student 2

“I liked how we could control the task by ourselves”- Student 3

“I liked that we didn’t have to stay and listen to the teacher giving instructions. We did our own work and what we had to do and also liked it when we listen to music”- Student 4

“That we actually had a choice to do something instead of doing what was planned”- Student 5

 

Student 5 has been the one responsible for the increased use of student voice in my class. Since our conversation in term 3, he has become quite vocal about how he wants to learn. He’s realised that I am interested in his ideas and opinions and am willing to implement them in my class. Since then I have seen a remarkable change in his behaviour. He is more engaged in his learning. He often assists me in getting the class to be quite, enjoys doing marking the roll for me and constantly volunteers his ideas in class discussions. He still gets distracted at times but out of my class of 42 students, he has made the most significant progress. He works harder to complete his work and will readily admit when he is struggling. 12 months ago, he would refuse help, get distracted or distract others and his work would rarely be completed. Just by giving him a voice in the class has changed his behaviour in my subjects. The other students respect him and follow his lead.

Seeing this change in Student 5 has made me realise the following:

  1. “Student voice” is a necessity: I make a more conscious effort to ask the students for feedback on the lessons. It helps me get to know their learning styles better.
  2. Learning space: I try to be more open-minded in letting the students choose their learning area and space (some choose to work at tables, others on couches with the rest scattered on the floor).
  3. Groupings: I am more flexible in allowing students to choose who they want to work with. Some like working independently whilst others work better in groups. I don’t have to be worried that they won’t work.
  4. Trust and Respect: It is a challenge to win the trust and respect of all students in a class. By allowing them to voice their opinions and by implementing it in my classroom, I have gained their respect and trust. They are more open about themselves,  they are happier in the classroom and I’m starting to see increased levels of engagement in their learning.

It is now my challenge to use Student voice more in my Year 7 and Year 9 classes. With them it will take a while as I don’t know them as well as the Year 8s (who I’ve taught for nearly 2 years in a row). However having noticed the changes in the Year 8s, it is imperative that my teaching team and I focus on it, as it will improve the students’ engagement in their own learning as well as allowing us to help them learn in a way that suits them.

This post is written as part of the #blogsync challenge for Connected Educator month.