Friday, October 29, 2010

Time to be thankful

It's that crazy time of year again at school

Major assessments are being undertaken by students. Report writing has commenced. Curriculum documentation is being prepared for next year and a major overhaul is occurring in readiness for 2012. Departmental budgets are coming to a close, many meetings are taking place and associated departmental reports are being composed.

Add to this the many school social events taking place including - Year 12 graduation and valedictory dinners, Year 8 graduation celebrations and dinner, Speech and Awards nights, House athletics competitions, Spring APS sporting championships, Community Fashion Parade, Ladies' special 'Cup' luncheon, not to mention the soon to begin early Christmas parties, due to school breaking up on 9th December.

At this time of year, it is all too easy to become exhausted and overwhelmed by the work load and its associated stress. In addition, students are also becoming weary and teary! When this occurs, there is the danger of teachers donning the glasses of negativity and forgetting all that is good. Therefore, I believe it is time for me to remind myself just how grateful I am for what I have. The following is just a snapshot of the wonderful things in my working life.

  • I work in a career that I am passionate about and I am fortunate that I have the choice to do so
  • I have the opportunity to share in students' journeys as they learn and I get to witness their 'aha' moments
  • I can watch my students grow from young children into incredibly talented and responsible young adults
  • I am fortunate to work in an environment with great facilities
  • My workplace has strong, talented and innovative leaders who listen willingly to others' ideas
  • I work with dedicated, talented colleagues from whom I am able to continuously learn
  • I am listened to at work and my ideas are welcomed
  • Although I work incredibly long hours, I get the opportunity in the holidays to 'recharge' and 'refresh' as well as to add to my professional development


Now, having looked at some of the many things in my work life for which I am really grateful, I think perhaps I need to take active steps this year towards minimising my stress levels. The following site by music educator Karen Stafford: http://www.musiceducationmadness.com/stress.shtml has some wonderful suggestions.  Particularly her fifth point: Allow yourself 5 pieces of dark, delectable chocolate. Don't wolf them down, but savor them. SLOWWWLLY.

I also like @zenhabits blog - http://zenhabits.net/start/ for suggestions and ideas.

So, here's to a far more positive and hopefully less stressful lead up to the Christmas holidays :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Space for learning

There seems to have been some discussion recently about the use of space in education. I wanted to share some of my thoughts. Not so long ago, I was reading about barriers to effectively incorporating new technologies in teaching. One of these barriers related to space: the organisation of students, furniture and technology.

Warren (2003) in her paper on Actor Network Theory explained how the ‘machines themselves, the walls that housed them...played a powerful but largely invisible role in the uptake of ICTs.' The overall environment had a significant impact on workability of class technology success.

Honan (2008) referred to the overall effect of technology placement:

It is becoming common for primary schools to locate computers in hubs, laboratories or withdrawal rooms. While these central locations may be efficient for cabling and networking, they detract from teachers incorporating digital technologies into their daily practices. (Honan 2008, p. 42)

It is certainly challenging to fully integrate technology into classes when it is not in a suitable focal location.

At some schools, teachers have shared access with adjoining classrooms to a limited number of  desktop computers. When teachers wish to use computers for whole class access, they either need to book a laboratory (in high demand), farm students out to the various hubs around the place (difficult to actually monitor and assist students), or perhaps book a mobile laboratory (where each unit must be unplugged, unlocked, packed into a transportation container, transported to the classroom, with the reverse process occurring prior to the end of the lesson). Add to this the hope that within their teaching space, the wireless network will be accessible and functioning.

Honan, E 2008, 'Barriers to teachers using digital texts in literacy classrooms', Literacy, vol. 42, no. 1, pp. 36-43.

Warren, W 2003, 'Actor Network Theory goes to School', NZAARE Conference, PAPERCODE: WAR03832, Auckland, New Zealand.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Barriers to effective use of technology


Recently I have been having problems with the laptop I use at work. I believe it is a lemon, if that is possible! Function buttons indiscrimately cease to function, volume/sound works intermittently, program updates freeze. The laptop was carefully checked for viruses etc. The best solution offered was to reformat the drive. Problems solved? No. Intermittent faults still occur.

This brings me to the reason for my spiel today. I wasted thirty valuable minutes of a fifty minute lesson, attempting to show a clip to students via said laptop on the IWB. NO SOUND! With assistance from tech, it appeared settings kept defaulting after being changed. Finally, although probably what should have happened in the first instance, shut down and reboot.

I refuse to abandon my use of technology and will continue to persevere (although always with other ideas as a backup). However, I can certainly understand how frustrating and insurmountable problems like these could be for teachers who are reluctant to incorporate ICT in the first place.

There has been considerable research conducted into the barriers, challenges and impediments associated with the effective use of technology in schools. (For example, Charp 1997; Deaney & Hennessy 2007; Honan 2008; Johnson 2003; Keengwe, Onchwari & Wachira 2008; Molnar 1997).

One particular barrier to be identified is that of reliability. Problems with unreliability of technology contribute to a lack of confidence in the ICT system in general. When teachers feel they can no longer trust that what has been planned for the lesson will work, they often opt not to use new technologies in their classroom practice. The overarching belief is that with such a crowded curriculum, they simply cannot afford to lose valuable teaching/learning time. Monahan (2008, p. 90) discusses the behind the scenes disruption that occurs as a result, asserting that ‘students, teachers, and staff members at school sites are intimately familiar with and, by now, somewhat desensitised to technological disruptions in their everyday lives.’ 

 I'm not sure if I would completely agree with this statement. 'Familiar with' technological disruption - definitely. 'Desensitised'? No!

References:
Charp, S 1997, 'Some reflections. (the 30-year history of computers in education).', T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), vol. 24, no. 11, pp. 8-11.

Deaney, R & Hennessy, S 2007, 'Sustainability, evolution and dissemination of information and communication technology-supported classroom practice', Research Papers in Education, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 65-94.

Honan, E 2008, 'Barriers to teachers using digital texts in literacy classrooms', Literacy, vol. 42, no. 1, pp. 36-43.

Johnson, JM 2003, 'From Lofty Beginnings to the Age of Accountability:A look at the past 30 years of educational software. ', Learning and Leading with Technology, vol. 30, no. 7, pp. 6-13.

Keengwe, J, Onchwari, G & Wachira, P 2008, 'Computer Technology Integration and Student Learning: Barriers and Promise', Journal of Science Education & Technology, vol. 17, no. 6, pp. 560-5.

Molnar, AS 1997, 'Computers in education: a brief history.', T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), vol. 24, no. 11, pp. 63-9.

Monahan, T 2008, 'Picturing technological change: the materiality of information infrastructures in public education', Technology, Pedagogy & Education, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 89-101.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Beginnings for Me in Education


An interesting journey...It began when, after much deliberation, I decided to embark on further study. A difficult decision - how to be a full time mother to two children (aged 12 and 17), wife, full time teacher with three positions of responsibility and a student?

Driven by what? By my own personal love of learning, my desire to be a better teacher and the belief and knowledge that there was so much more to learn.
When I began the Masters of Education program online, it was a huge challenge and a really steep learning curve. I was forced to learn how to use online libraries for research, programs such as End Note and academic expectations/formatting and so on.

By far, the biggest challenge arose when I was approached to become involved in a group project on using Social Networking in education. I didn't even have a Facebook or Twitter account. My initial response was to decline the offer; however, after some thought, reconsidered. At least I would have a group to work with and wouldn't have to spend time searching for a topic and group.

I don't know why, but I volunteered to focus on Twitter and how this could be used in education. As I learnt more and more about Twitter, I soon became consumed by the many possibilities. I opened up an account, researched a lot on the Internet and also through the university library. Suddenly, I became a Twitter enthusiast, with a really helpful and supportive PLN. This was really just the beginning. From following key people on Twitter (educators and so on), I learned about so many more possibilities for my students.

Working on the group assignment was an extremely frustrating and challenging experience. However, as a result, I learned how to collaborate using Google Docs and then using a wiki. Using a wiki proved to be a real turning point for my teaching.

The wiki got me thinking - I found working in a wiki to be really engaging. How could I use this in my English class?

In the past, my Year 7 students had read and responded to 'Chinese Cinderella' by Adeline Yen Mah.  Here was the opportunity to look at getting them to use a wiki to respond to the text. First, I set up a wiki that included the tasks students would need to complete, as well as to function as a demonstration model for students.

This can be found at
http://chinesecinderellahy.wikispaces.com/
Students then created their own wikis in groups. The results were simply astounding.


As part of my next unit at university, I was required to produce a professional development presentation. For this, I chose to focus on Using Wikis in Literacy to Engage Students in Text Studies. The requirement was to present using a PowerPoint file - which I did. However my preference was really to present using a wiki, so I established a wiki that could be used instead: http://usingwikisfortextstudies.wikispaces.com/


The above mentioned wiki contains all the details regarding my student wiki project, as well as guidelines for teachers wanting to try something similar.