Saturday, 25 February 2012

Passion for Learning, Learning for Passion...

I have to admit, I was a bit miffed at the time, when I discovered that due to a communication issue, my grade level PLC had missed out on going to ASBUnplugged 2012. 

However, thanks to Twitter, one can at least getting a taste of what's being offered. Over the last few days I have seen a few tweets from the conference. But this morning's tweets have been coming thick and fast, particularly about students' passions, and offering time in the school week to allow students time to follow their passions.

And, as it happens, this is the second time this week that this idea has been mentioned. Kath Murdoch, at her Learning to Learn and our matrix building sessions with us, talked about a growing number of the schools she works with having "I Learn" time once a week to pursue personal passions.

The more I think about this the more I like the idea. I am thinking that I'll start a trial for a few weeks and see how it goes. 

And wouldn't it be great to see if students become so ignited by the learning that they are doing in their 'regular' inquiries, that they will be acquiring new passions as a byproduct to engage them during their "I Learn" time. 

Orchid of my passions!
It will be interesting and fun to see how it works.... 

Friday, 24 February 2012

All Mac All Day...

Watching this video, "Iridescent Classroom" by Ira David Socol, in a blog post tweeted this evening by Mrs C got me thinking about how my classroom will look next year when I have a class set of macs. It won't be 1:1 as the laptops won't be taken home, but having those macs there will mean no having to get into the school booking calendar early to see when a netbook cart is free and working my lessons around that time.

I am starting to collect as many videos and photos of elementary classrooms which have laptops available all day for students to use. Having those laptops all day will also mean we can change the way we do things. 

My classroom is already a room where students are learning through Inquiry. We often have the netbook cart in the room for a couple of hours a day, for students to use for word-processing, watching videos, researching in World Book online, Brain Pop, searching on the internet, looking for images (on Flikr using compfight), creating prezis, PowerPoints, etc. We also have a huge number of library books that go with our unit work as well as our classroom library of 600 odd books. 

The whole process is very exciting, if not easy. One thing to dream, another to put those dreams into practice.

Luckily there are lots of teachers going through this process. As I search, I am finding the most useful way to collect samples and pictures and videos is in a LiveBinder

Easy then to share with colleagues!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Inquiry Programme

So exciting!

At 3:00pm this afternoon, JIS elementary school has a new, you-beaut programme of Inquiry.

Five units, starting with Learning to Learn at the start of the year. Next job, for next Friday 2nd March is to work on that unit across campus and start the planning for it.

Yes! Very exciting!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


As a UbD trainer, one of my roles is to assist in the development of planning of units of work at my school.

One of the things about Understanding by Design that I like is the breakdown of understanding by ways it can be seen. There are many ways to show understanding. Wiggins and McTighe chose six in their 6 Facets of Understanding: Explanation, Interpretation, Perspective, Application, Self-knowledge and Empathy.

Being a risk-taker is one aspect of our JIS Learner Quality, Creative Individual. I was initially surprised at that. But it makes sense that being creative is putting your creation "out there" in public, to get a reaction which you hope will make you feel like your efforts were worthwhile. Taking a risk that this might not be the case. We expect our children to do this often.

This blog is a new venture for me. I am way outside my comfort zone doing this. As I first posted, it doesn't come easily. I don't feel that I am a writer of quality, but I do need to understand how my students feel when they are asked to write and they can't think what to write about, and that's the point. The next step after the writing is the publishing and sharing and that is where I now have some empathy with our writers.

Having written a few posts, I decided I might as well get some feedback, so I have shared the blog with a few colleagues. I didn't expect adulations and didn't get any, and I was happy with that. It seemed honest which is important,  and I got some good feedback which made me feel like I can keep going.

Except from one... which was unexpected and therefore came as a blow and I am sure my colleague didn't mean it to have that effect. My initial thought was to stop and give up. But then hours later, here I am reflecting on that feeling. Do students sometimes feel like this? I can say with certainty, I have acquired some empathy.

I understand.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Sunday and Evernote

For a good part of yesterday, I investigated Evernote. It's been tweeted so much I had to have a look.

I started with a blog post from Bec Spink Miss Spink on Tech which had a really useful Prezi about Evernote. I joined up and started to enter student names to see how that worked. Then I took my iPod touch and added Evernote to it, took some photos and saw how they ended up in the various notebooks.

I created a notebook for each student and thought it would be great to have a writing section also for each student, and then one for reading which seemed to require a stack for each student. About half way through the creation of those, I then stopped and thought, "Why do I need these?" I already have collections in Google Docs for writing. And THEN I realised that actually I should have jotted down my needs first!

After some thinking time, I have just one notebook for each student. I am going to try adding photos of work to these, as that is not organised by me anywhere else. I also thought it might be useful to have an audio recording of the student reading e.g. the DRA2 passage where I do the running record, which I could then replay. If I had done this at beginning of the year too, I could see changes.

I think this will be enough to be doing to start! I am, after all, doing this on my own. How much easier would it be if I was doing this with a collaborator....

And for the next PD session, I have Justin Stallings' LiveBinder, Evernote for Educators bookmarked and ready to go!

So that could be next Sunday taken care of!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Organising Student-Led Conferences

I LOVE Student Led Conferences. There is a lot of organisation but every minute spent is worth it.

If I had to say what the MOST important aspects of the Student-Led Conference are, they would be this:

1. Student controls the conference. In past years, a week before the conferences, I gave my students a planning page which have the Essential Qualities of a JIS Learner in a table format. The students commented on their learning as Creative Individuals, Collaborative Workers, Effective Communicators, Self-Directed Positive Learners, Adaptable Learners, Problem Solvers and Responsible World Citizens. The next step was to go through their collection portfolio of work, digital portfolio, class folders of photographs, etc. to gather the best evidence they had to support what they said about their learning. Once they had organised the various pieces and knew what they would say, they practised with a peer who acted as parent, or with the Learning Support teacher or EAL teacher if they preferred. They could use post-it notes as memory aids and they saved a folder of their digital pieces on the Smartboard desktop once all their links were checked. Being well prepared means students have confidence! This is a big deal for them!

This year we have adopted Learning Competencies.
  • Being Resourceful
  • Relating to Others
  • Managing Self
  • Contributing
We also have JIS Values. We value: 

  • Perseverance
  • Integrity
  • Responsibility
  • Respect
  • Compassion
  • Balance
  • Fun
Using these as a basis for the reflections would be another approach that could be used and I am thinking I might use these also, although the JIS Learner EQs have definitions that are helpful in identifying what they look like.

2. Teacher sits apart from the student and parents. I find if the teacher sits at the table, even if the child is leading the conference, the child and parents will defer to the teacher. I might join the group once the child has finished, if my input is needed at that time.

3. Students and parents confer in whichever language best assists understanding of the student's learning. Sometimes students speak quite good English but one or other parent doesn't. Or the student is new to English. I may not understand what's being said, but for this purpose, I don't need to.

4. Parents know in advance what this conference will be like. A letter explaining the format goes home beforehand, so parents know that their child is in charge. They are encouraged to ask thoughtful questions about the learning.

5. Ask for feedback from Parents and Students.
In ten years, I have found post conference reflections are always positive!