Some of the world’s finest teachers

17 08 2010

Part of our requirements to achieve successful teacher registration and qualification is to complete a professional learning profile, which must include a log of professional development activities.

This might include current or previous jobs, research, volunteer work, PD sessions, or even trawling through youtube and teachers.tv

So for those of you who might need something to add to those personal development logs, or just gain a clue in the classroom watch these global experts at work.

Embedded videos below the fold.

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Game: I wanna play forever

30 06 2010
Kids hard at learning.Image: sean dreilinger (Creative Commons)

Play-based learning is used in the Early Years to provide children with an intuitive learning environment suited to activities that little kids do best – playing around with stuff.

This tends to be phased out around the end of year 3, as we move into constructive activities and even, ‘oh noes’, direct instruction. This is something one the children I look after lamented now he is in a year 3/4 class at his new school, “We never play anymore”. Boo hoo, little Johnny, boo hoo. You don’t think I don’t not want to not play games too, yeah?

With gaming returning to an acceptable past time for adults – just listen to Kevin Butler¹ at this year’s E3 – shouldn’t this be reflected in our schools and curriculum? Many of the kids I taught respond to questions like “What’s your hobby?” or “What do you do in your spare time?” with some form of console or another. Many child care centres, and even libraries, these days have consoles available for visitors to use. And if you want to get into economics, I’m sure you can go and find your own figures on just how much this industry is worth.

Games in the classroom do present some problems, mostly to do with moral panic. Firstly just about “games” in general – with some of the students I’ve worked with not allowed to complete teacher-set homework on Mathletics at home because carers won’t let them². Others more serious and understandable moral panics about inadequate classification, excess violence, and depictions of sexual and criminal activities. The ethics and other social issues surround video gaming culture and industry is probably enough to design a unit (or three) all on your own – but what I am interested at the moment is what recreational video games are out there that could provide the stimulus material for an entire trans-disciplinary unit on there own.

As this Dueling Analogs strip illustrates games today are becoming more and more complex – not only in gameplay and graphics – but in background stories, character development, dialogue, and even the style or genre of storytelling themselves (also known as interactive fiction). These components should make it easier to take a single game and safely stretch it into multiple learning areas.

Below the fold are just some ideas:

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Creativity unleashed

22 11 2009

I mentioned in my last school post (the one about set ups), that I’d used a modified version of The Future Is Wild‘s animal design activity.

While TFiW is more focused on evolution and decent with modification, my class was currently focusing on a more ecological unit – what roles do different organisms have in an ecosystem, how do they interact and how do we classify them.

Previous lessons had gone through self-made classification schemes, traditional classification schemes (e.g. The Classical Greek), and scientific classification schemes. The two scientific classification schemes were taught in my classes. Read the rest of this entry »





I am not your friend

13 11 2009

One of the best farewells that was written on my end-of-prac card was “you r now mi friend”. I had told this student earlier that day when he was not cooperating that today was the last day he had to make me his friend.

But is it okay to be friends with students? Particularly where everyone’s friends are now, Facebook.

During my last week, Education Queensland updated their code of conduct for employees to clearly stipulate that teachers “must not use internet social networks such as Face Book, My Space or YouTube to contact or access present students enrolled in any school or institute” and “If you use internet social networks in your personal time you must ensure that the content is appropriate and private, and that you restrict access to specific people who are not students” (Section 2.2.2 (b) Interactions with Students).

Teachers (along with probably everybody else) have been needing to be increasingly careful about what sort of material they make available online (for example). Thankfully a lot of social media websites have been updating features to make it easier to control how you are viewed online. At the start of previous school year Facebook blogged specifically to teachers about the benefits of making friends lists to control what is viewable by “students” (or non-teachers may like to create a similar group for “Uncles, Aunts and Grandparents”).

The private education sector in Queensland has yet to install a blanket ban on social media interactions with students (and last I heard they were not intending to go that far, but were considering available options). While I understand where EQ is coming from on this, it is a bit disappointing that there appears no room for leeway or principal-appointed exemptions (which are included on clauses regarding camera usage and other points). This means a whole range of Web 2.0 based activities and learning environments (Second Life, class blogging) are excluded from Queensland state school classrooms at all age levels (and I think it may also apply to TAFE classes too).

The Queensland Curriculum embraces technology on most levels, to me it just seems disappointing that it is not being flexible on this one. Perhaps their strategy is to ban it while they work out a more appropriate strategy to monitor student-teacher interactions on the world-wide-web.





It’s the set up (You need this)

5 11 2009

The major lesson learned over the last month is that no matter how awesome I am, I am not a magician.

Teacher’s cannot expect to walk into their classrooms, open their box of tricks, and have children play along gleefully (not even with music and white powdery ingestables).

What is really important for setting up a classroom for a smooth and successful learning journey^ is just that – the set up. It is so easy to gloss over this, and I certainly have been a lot. I mean these kids have been in school for eight years already, they know how a classroom learning environment works by now*. Reminding them of that is not my job as a middle school teacher, right? I should be able to just dive right into my lesson, yeah? These guys should know how to work in groups already, surely?

Wrong. Wrong. And more wrong. And apparently “group work” needs to be replaced with “co-operative learning”. Read the rest of this entry »





Thinking mathematically: Man vs. Machine

11 10 2009

My first mathematics assignment was an essay on the role of calculators as teaching tools (not just a computing device) in middle years classrooms. From this, I have been able to adapt a few of the techniques I researched into lessons and activities for my year 8s.

Man vs. Machine is a lesson I adapted from an activity from Creative Mathematics Teaching with Calculators (Amazon). Essentially a flashcard quiz, students have to solve the problems as quickly as possible. Some problems require a calculator, some can probably done faster in their heads.

I created a fancy-pants activity sheet for this lesson*. I think activity sheets appear to work very well to scaffold students in this age group. There are still several students who take a long time to write stuff down and draw up charts – this is from either lack of ability and tools, or a need to make it look pretty and perfect. That said, there are some problems with activity sheets that I might mention in another post.

For the lesson summary click through.

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Unit: Swine flu and you

1 09 2009

What would you do?

For my multiliteracies assessment I have planned out (somewhat) a Swine Flu/Public Health unit for a hypothetical group of year 7s. The unit combines essential learnings mostly from the Key Learning Areas of English (we had to include English) and the Health in HPE (which suits disease units better than Science standards).

A main part of the unit planning task was to come up with multiple outcome tasks for our students, that would cater to a range of diverse learners. Gone are the days when everyone is expected to hand in a written information report. We had to design our tasks to combine not only multi-modes, but also cross-genre tasks.

The tasks I set this imaginary groups of four students were:

  • An animated morality play: Students would script and create an animated (stop-motion, flash-based, cut-outs) narrative short film that will educate a peer-level audience on appropriate disease prevention and control strategies during an influenza pandemic. This group would have some help in accessing technical expertise from a high school AV club (one good thing about a hypothetical classroom of hypothetical students with hypothetical tasks meant we could hammerspace mentors and equipment). Outcome: Script. Character outlines. Final edited video.
  • Expert interview podcast: Students would identify and approach a small number of relevant community opinion leaders (doctors, scientists, nurses, school officials, mayors etc.) to interview. They would then use excerpts of the interviews to assemble an audio podcast on disease prevention and control in the event of a local influenza outbreak. This group would also receive guidance from our friendly teens in the AV club. Outcomes: Question plans. Opinion leader profiles. Final edited podcast.
  • Public health campaign: Students will design an entire school-based public health campaign that would encourage peers to engage in activities that prevent and control spread of influenza. The school’s art teacher has thankfully volunteered to help students produce printed materials (posters, pamphlets etc.). Outcomes: Multiple campaign materials. PowerPoint and group oral presentation of campaign to class.
  • Digital art gallery: Students will create a digital art gallery centred on a specific theme related to pandemic prevention and control. Students select a variety of images and illustrations, decide how to arrange them appropriately to create a user-friendly interactive display. Each picture needs to be accompanied by a short amount of text. Outcomes: Digital gallery – pictures, captions, layout and interface.
  • Recommendation report: Students will research pandemic responses around the world and produce an information report that compares these with actions taken in Australia and then provides recommendation on actions Australia should enact in the future. The report is for the Federal Minister for Health and will have a cover letter that provides a synopsis of the reports findings. Students will also provide a small resource folder that reports on ‘further reading’ resources the minister could use. Outcomes: Cover letter/synopsis, information report, recommendations, resource folder.

What sort of learners do you think each task was designed to cater for? Do you think I missed out on a particular group of learners with these tasks? Do you have a preference for which task you would like to be allocated if you were in my hypothetical class of year 7s?

What do you think of the idea of students being set different assessment tasks? Is it fair? Is it realistic?

You may notice that some of these tasks overlap in both content, genre and modalities. This is deliberate. After all, I cannot be expected to teach five totally distinct learning outcomes to a single class at the same time (or am I?) All students are working towards the HPE Essential Learning to “understand how to/apply skills to promote health and wellbeing” among other things.

Note: This assignment has been handed in and is currently being marked. The above outcome tasks have been somewhat refined from their original state.