GAFE for Comprehension

A fantastic idea to help students to build a deeper connection with the story. Thinking about all the applications for this in my secondary English / History classes.

ChantelleLove's Blog

In my previous blog post, I wrote about using Google My Maps to demonstrate comprehension of a text.

This post will be about taking that comprehension to a deeper level using Google My Maps and Screencastify; a Google extension.

If you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know that my class have been plotting locations from the text they’ve been reading in Google My Maps. They have also been adding important information to those points of interest  – what the characters in the story did in this place and the historical significance of that location.

Their next challenge is to combine all this together to create a screen recording. Students need to:

  1. Read the chapter
  2. Plot the locations on their map
  3. Add the historical significance information to that place’s description
  4. Add images to the description
  5. Add in what happened to the characters at this location in the description
  6. Taking turns…

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It’s time to kill the timetable 

Love this post, love the idea of disruptive thinking about schooling…however, I’m feeling a bit jaded about the capacity of our education system to change.

Maybe it’s the fact that we are a system…we’re too big – and lack an “agile” culture – small pockets of innovation are rapidly stifled…

Can’t help but think that structural change needs to play a part…so how do we get buerocrats to see it? Bring on the tipping point!

Innovative Pedagogy - Dean Pearman

On a recent trip to Ballarat and visiting Sovereign Hill (which was ace, if you live in Melbourne go there!) it became very obvious that schools haven’t moved on for years! Dare I say hundreds of years. Students sit in rows, move in blocks of time, every second is timetabled. Stepping back to Ballarat of the 1800’s the School resembled so much of what schools still look like today. A room with rows, a board, sit, be quiet and learn. When will we get it? There is so much talk about moving schools into contemporary learning places but how much is actually getting done and what is stopping us? Are we slaves to final year examinations? Is the University entrance process flawed and not supporting 21st competencies? We know examinations don’t assess the skills required to thrive in the 21st century. Yet we are still following a system that is…

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Implementing SOLE for the First Time

ChantelleLove's Blog

Yesterday, it was my first day on a new class. Thus, as is my usual modus operandi, I decided to try something new. I decided to combine two newly discovered learning tools; Google Advanced Power Search and SOLE.

Google Advanced Power Search is difficult to find for a reason; it’s built so that people can’t google answers within the site. Developed by Google, it’s a research course that helps participants think laterally when searching for information as well as check sources. Participants are provided with a video which asks them to research several questions that are not easily ‘googlable’.

I wanted to use this tool to enhance collaboration and help my students to think outside the box. You can find the example question, strategies for research, the example solution and further questions here.

The other learning tool that I was keen to try was SOLE. SOLE is an “unprotocol”…

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Growth Culture

The importance of building a growth culture in schools cannot be overstated.

“In a world where we are educating children for jobs that don’t yet exist, educating children to work with technologies that have not yet been created, we have a duty to create adaptable individuals who have a capacity for learning.”

Here are some great tips to help you generate a Growth culture in schools.

Shareday Friday – What does ‘Growth Mindset’ look like in schools? | Living and teaching in Spain

The problem of learning – Accreditation, or moving from novice to expert behaviour?

This post will reflect on some of the questions raised through my reading of “The New Science of Learning” (Sawyer, 2006). In the introductory chapter, Sawyer discusses the emergence of the “Learning Sciences” and highlights the ways in which they present a new paradigm of learning when compared to the traditional instructional model. Sawyer draws on Papert’s (1993) description of traditional schooling known as instructionism where:
“knowledge is a collection of facts about the world and procedures for how to solve problems…Teachers know these facts and procedures, and their job is to transmit them to students.” (Sawyer, 2006, p.1).
He argues that whilst instructionism is well suited to the demands of an industrial society,
“the world today is much more technologically complex and economically competitive, and instructionism is increasingly failing to educate our students to participate in this new society.” (Sawyer, 2006, p. 1)
In contrast to this, Sawyer highlights the view that
“in the knowledge economy, memorisation of facts and procedures is not enough for success. Educated graduates need a deep conceptual understanding of complex concepts, and the ability to work with them creatively to generate new ideas, new theories, new products, new knowledge.” (Sawyer, 2006, p. 1)
When I was reading this chapter, I was constantly reflecting on the fact that this information is not new, I’ve heard it in different forms for my entire teaching career, but instructionism still dominates most of the teaching that I witness. Why is this the case? Is it the teachers, the system, the environment?
Ultimately I fell to reflecting on where I am situated as a learner.
In table 1.1, Sawyer compares deep learning and ‘traditional’ classroom practice – in the traditional classroom practice, learners engaged in more “surface learning”, whereas, in the deep learning students were actively involved in “redesigning their brain.
When you put it like that, who is going to argue with the fact that deep learning is better than surface learning. But, on reflecting on my own attitudes as a learner,  I realised that in some contexts I could classify myself as a “deep learner”, but in a other areas, I definitely exhibit the traits of a traditional one.
When I’m engaging in learning by choice, because it’s a perceived area of need, or passion – then I exhibit the behaviours of a deep learner. This is evident when I’m engaging in professional reading, discussions, reading blog posts and engaging in twitter conversations about pressing educational topics. However, when the purpose of the learning is compliance, mandated “up-skilling” or accreditation, I tend to approach my learning from a surface level.
This insight leads me to reflect that maybe one of the reasons that the shift towards deeper learning has failed to eventuate in the majority of our schools, is not because of a resistance to change on the teacher, or system’s behalf, but rather that the students are framing their learning as a “hoop jumping exercise”. That their perception of the purpose of schooling (to get good grades and go to university) is restricting their ability to engage in deep learning. When this perception is reinforced through community conversations, government policy, overcrowded curricula and an increased focus on knowledge as a collection of facts, it’s no surprise that, despite the best intentions, we have not made the systemic shift required to address the needs of our future economy.
This is further emphasised through Sawyer’s discussion on the problems of learning where in which education is conceptualised as the “problem of transforming novices into experts by developing their ability to reflect on their own thinking in these ways”. In this view, expert behaviour is not seen as have expert knowledge, but rather:
Expertise is based on:
  • a large and complex set of representational structures
  • a large set of procedures and plans
  • the ability to improvisational apply and adapt those plans to each situations unique demands
  • the ability to reflect on ones own cognitive processes while they are occurring.” (Sawyer, 2006, p7.)
Most importantly, “studies of experts show that they are better than novices at planning and criticising their work-both reflective activities” (Sawyer, 2006, p.7). The research cited by Sawyer highlights the belief that
“One of the central underlying themes of the learning sciences is that students learn deeper knowledge when they engage in activities that are similar to the everyday activities of professionals who work in a discipline” (Sawyer, 2006, p. 4)
This hit me like a brick! I totally agree with Sawyer in that the
 “research revealed that outside of formal schooling, almost all learning occurs in a complex social environment, and learning is hard to understand if one thinks of it as a mental process occurring within the head of an isolated learner.” (p. 9)
But in my classroom, we are not engaging in activities that are similar to the everyday activities of professionals who work in a discipline. Instead, the scaffolding that I provide is targeted at ensuring that every student can “get over the bar”, as opposed to promoting the reflection and criticism that characterises both “expert behaviour”, and the work of professionals in the discipline. Even though I don’t teach through chalk and talk…(I pride myself on creating a flexible learning environment, drawing on a range of activities to work with each individual student)…I still emphasise the purpose of the learning through an accreditation frame.
Earlier, I highlighted my emerging belief that this frame inherently shapes students towards more “surface” learning. I’m now re-evaluating my everyday classroom conversations and programming for Semester 2 using the following “key questions” to refine my thinking:
  1. How can I re-frame my class discussions and individual student feedback away from accreditation and towards “expert behaviour”.
  2. How can I incorporate the work of professionals into my learning design.
  3. How can I create an environment that seeks out, and draws students into deeper learning – and meet the accreditation requirements along the way.
As I work to refine my own practice, I also know that there is broader work to be done. I believe that until, as a profession, as a system, and as a site we articulate the purpose for education in the knowledge economy. Until we communicate how it looks, sounds, tastes and feels different to the shared societal norm of instructionism; and that we do that to the point that our stakeholders actually internalise it – we will continue to maintain the status quo – pockets of innovation within a generally intransigent, irrelevant system.

Activating Students as Researchers Part 1- Considering and refining your topic

I’m changing tack for this first post for week 2 in #28daysofwriting.

The main subject I teach is Research Project, which is a compulsory, independent subject, that all students need to pass (achieve a “C” grade or better) in order to complete their school studies. If you haven’t heard of it, you can find out more about it here. It really is the most incredible subject, and I love the challenge of supporting students to transition from the teacher directed model, into a self directed one.

We are currently in the “planning” phase of our projects, and the challenge is in supporting students to document their “Visible Thinking” that enables them to select and refine their topic. At the moment, the students are struggling with the fact that there are no right answers!…and that I’m more concerned with their understanding of the process they employed to select and refine their topic – than I am with the topic itself. Over the years, I have developed a number of tools that help me track each student’s level of understanding, allowing me to engage in the critical and clarifying conversations required to support them to transition.

Using the language of the Performance Standards: This may be a no-brainer, but it’s essential in providing the actionable, formative feedback that students require to improve their work. As a class we pull apart each standard, in this case “Consideration and refinement of a topic” define what it could mean, and what “evidence” of this could look like. From that point on, all discussion is phrased with reference to the standard:

  • “Show me where you have evidence of how you considered the different aspects of your topic”
  • “I love the way you have used this mindmap to show all of the different topics you considered to come up with this question. What constraints are going to help you refine this into your final question” etc…

I find this focus on the process and the standards has a couple of advantages in shifting students into the independent research / learning space:

  • Takes the focus away from the content – This allows for more considered planning, and enables deeper reflection at the end of the subject
  • Provides a scaffold for the “What next questions” (Next is planning research processes appropriate to the question for those who are interested)
  • Is open enough to allow individual choice and ownership, but structured enough to support the full range of students to develop the skills required to be successful.

Lastly, as you can imagine, with a class of 28 students, 250 minutes per week that’s about 9 minutes per student, per week…nowhere near enough time to engage in the deep, learning conversations required to support the individual development. So I use Google Forms to track student progress…Here’s the google forms planning tool that the students are currently using…as a teacher, using google forms as a checklist is awesome for the following reasons:

  • Students can link specific evidence of performance and share to me via google drive (Always available to be marked)
  • All the students links are compiled in a spreadsheet (I can easily group students who are struggling with a particular process)
  • Provides a scaffold for the “What next” question…freeing me up for individual learning conversations.
  • Identify students in need of extension.
  • Easily share innovative examples of student work.

Tomorrow’s post is on selecting and refining your research processes.

Professionalism and Teaching

After some interesting conversations over the weekend, I’ve again come to thinking about the importance of professionalism in our identity as teachers. Surprisingly, there is a considerable degree of contention around what constitutes a profession, and what is required to be professional.

For anyone who is interested, I found this paper “Professional Ethics in Teaching, and Professional Teachers Organisations” gave me some good background reading. Apparently, in 1966, the International Labour Organization defined teaching as a profession for the following reasons:

  • it is a form of public service which requires of teachers expert knowledge and specialized skills, acquired and maintained through rigorous and continuing study;
  • it calls also for a sense of personal and corporate responsibility for the education and welfare of the pupils in their charge.

The key elements of this definition for me are:

Public Service: A service culture is the antithesis of an entitlement culture. The organisations that I have seen working well have a culture of service. Leaders serve, teachers serve and support staff serve…all focussed on common goals and working for the greater good. When those organisations start to come apart, the language of me permeates, minutes are counted and individuals fight for their entitlements.

In order to truly embrace teaching professionalism, we need to loose the entitlement culture. But, this needs true, committed, service orientated leaders that build a culture of mutual trust, respect and service.

Expert Knowledge & Specialized Skills: This one is contentious for me…as professionals, what are teachers expert in? Content or Skills? A brilliant scientist does not necessarily make a brilliant science teacher. I believe that our expert knowledge and specialised skills are in the educative process. A strong understanding of content is a necessity, but not as important as an expert knowledge in the learning process. Particularly as it relates to the modern context…it is not ok for your doctor not to be up to date with the latest practices…it’s also not ok for any of us to ignore them.

The rise in the “corporate educator” selling the next big thing in “online, personalised learning” is an ever present danger in this space. As Professional educators, we need to ensure that corporations are not dictating the learning in our classrooms. We need to develop, employ and reflect on our expert knowledge and specialised skills to design the learning experiences in our classrooms for our individual students…if lesson plans follow chapters 1-6 only, then we are de-professionalising our vocation.

Rigorous & Continuing Study: Another interesting element to our profession. How much of this study is to be provided by our employer, and how much is an individual responsibility. I know that I definitely went through a ‘flat patch’ for a couple of years where I was coasting. Fortunately, I was challenged by a professional leader, leading to some of the most rewarding learning experiences…and flipping my practice, with significantly improved outcomes for kids.

As professionals, I believe we need to drive our own study. It needs to not be a “hoop jumping” exercise, and it needs to be relevant. I’d love to move away from having to count up the number of hours of PD I’ve done…as professionals, it should be obvious in what we’re doing in the classroom / leadership, what we’re publishing / tweeting, what we’re presenting and who we’re connecting with.

Personal & Corporate Responsibility: Enough said…Professionalism is a partnership, between the corporation (Department / Admin) and the individual. Unless both expect professional behaviour from each other…it will fail. Trust in teachers to do the right thing, trust in their expert knowledge, the quality of their continuing study & research and their service ethos. Control them less and empower them more. Teacher…rise to the challenge, demand the trust, hold yourselves and your colleagues accountable…anything less is irresponsible.

Forgetting to learn

It’s so important for us to grab every opportunity to behave Professionally. Building our “professional expertise”, and striving to be experts in our field is essential to that. Important to note that our “field” is not Maths or English or PE…it’s learning.

My Mind's Museum

Why, as a teacher, do you engage in professional learning? Do you go to a workshop with a specific idea you’d like to cultivate or challenge? Do you read a book knowing what knowledge you want to build? Do you listen to a particular podcast or use Twitter or comment on a FaceBook post in order to learn something specific, or is the engagement itself enough?

In Australia, teachers are now being held accountable to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers – which is not a bad thing. The Standards are a range of proficiencies by which a fair observer might evaluate the demonstrable work of a teacher. I think it’s good to have minimum standards if we are to promote ourselves as a modern, professional body of experts. Naturally, I’m not sure those outside the profession hold us to such high esteem, but perhaps that’s for another post.

What…

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