Education

Feeling pretty chuffed!

I recently inherited the job of setting up and maintaining the website for VALHALLA Strength – South Brisbane and right now, I’m feeling quite proud of myself!

We inherited the site earlier in the year. It was essentially a straight copy of the website for our sister gym on the north side of Brisbane: VALHALLA Strength – Brisbane. I had to change all the details, links, images, and much more to reflect the information required for our gym. Let’s just say, I had a lot of hidden links to uncover, image settings, and many other general settings to find and change. In fact, I’m feeling so proud of myself that I want to share a little list of all that I have achieved in the last week (yes, I’m even celebrating the tiny wins because they’re still wins!):

  • Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 6.24.36 pmSite icon! It’s such a small thing and hardly noticeable, and I may change it again, BUT I STILL DID IT!
  • Site logo! Again, such a simple thing but it was hidden somewhere in the back end of the theme design and it took me days to find it…
  • Different menu options
  • Resizing of featured images for the blog post – this was a massive win!

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  • Integrating a social stream plugin! So proud of this one as it took LOTS of trial and error (and lots of frustration and head scratching and even consultation with colleagues that are very clued in about this stuff)

Of course, there were numerous other things I had to do and it’s certainly not perfect at the moment but it’s done, and I’m very proud of myself. During all my fumbling around I learned quite a few things about myself and thought I would share some of my learnings…

Here’s what I discovered:

  1. You can figure it out if you don’t give up
  2. Google is your best friend when problem solving the unknown
  3. You don’t have to be an expert but you have to be willing to learn
  4. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s very rare that you’ll do something so horrible that it can’t be undone!
  5. Always ask for help
  6. If you’re starting to get frustrated, WALK AWAY! It’s amazing what a little bit of distance can do for your frustration levels…
  7. And most importantly… PUBLISH FIRST, PERFECT LATER!

While fiddling with the website I couldn’t help thinking about how my students would tackle the problems I encountered. In my classroom, when a student comes up against an issue their first instinct is to ask me, their teacher, for help… They tend to be unwilling to trial things, make mistakes, search for the answer and then give it a go. It’s like they want to be shown exactly how to do it and to know that they won’t fail! Well, this is not what happens in the real world, as I have just proved, and somehow we need to teach them that they are more than capable of discovering the answer to their problem themselves.

I’ve been tossing up with the idea of writing down my thoughts about digital natives and the like, which after this experience I think I’m going to have to, if only to get it straight in my own head! So… stay tuned for that.

Education

My version of flipped learning

I recently discovered Flipped Learning. I know that a lot of you are probably all over this already, but it was new to me and I fell in love with the idea of saving time in the classroom. At the moment, I teach three year 9 geography classes. I see them all twice a week for about 2 hours in total per class. As you can imagine, I spend a lot of time repeating information. Sometimes I catch myself giving one class a really in depth lesson on a concept, and another a very quick snapshot. I realised that this wasn’t fair.

I turned towards the idea of flipped learning because I found it to be a really great way to give my students information, and allow them to work at their own pace.

Here’s how I do it

  1. I record myself going through a particular resource or skill, such as a:
    • PowerPoint where I want to add commentary
    • Piece of assessment that requires a deeper explanation
    • Researching or referencing
    • Using Google Earth Pro
  2. I upload these videos to my Google Drive and ensure that Link Sharing is turned on
  3. I add these videos to the Google Site that I have made for my class
  4. I direct my students to these videos as needed.

Here are some screenshots of what it looks like

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Here’s what I’ve discovered

At first I was a little hesitant about this idea as I felt that perhaps I wasn’t doing my job properly. We get trained to think that good teaching is us standing in front of the class and giving instructions (or at least, that’s what my experience was during my study) so having a video replace me in many ways was a little confronting at first BUT what I gained from doing this has been amazing.

I have more time! I now spend less time going through certain skills repeatedly AND I and I can direct students to these videos if they either need a refresher or missed the class altogether. The feedback I’ve received for this has been great.

It’s been better for students that require different paces! I’ve been able to differentiate better in my classes simply by using these videos and then adding in activities to complement them. For example, in one class I did an “Interconnection” activity that had 3 levels. The students all watched a video (I cheated a little with this one, I found a perfect video on YouTube), then I had 3 different options for activities. I directed the students towards choosing their own activity depending on their learning. I made it clear to them that they needed to pick the activity that would challenge them in the 15 minutes that we had. At first I found that some students needed some guidance with this, but after a little while they all managed to settle on the activity that I would have allocated them anyway. Overall, the learning that happened here was far more authentic than I had experienced in the past with my “Interconnection” activities, simply because the students had more ownership over their learning and I was able to spend more time broadening opinions and exploring ideas, rather than explaining things over and over again.

I’ve also used these videos in my research and referencing lessons. Usually I will be asked to visit a class and help them find resources and books on the topic they are studying. We in the iCentre, have found that the engagement with our resources has skyrocketed after doing these lessons and even though students grumble about having done this before, they do like walking away from a lesson with some good research to use for their assignment. Even though I will always go to classes for this type of thing first, I found a need for the videos AFTER I visited. And so, I created quick 2-4 minute instructional videos that went through exactly what I did during the lesson, and shared them with the teachers and students. I find that often, students just need a quick reminder on how to do something rather than a complete repeat lesson. So far, the feedback for these videos has also been very positive.

Final thoughts

With the feedback that I have received and the amount of time that I have saved so far, I’m going to continue using my version of Flipped Learning. I’d love to hear if you’re using Flipped Learning in your classrooms and how it’s going. I’m also curious to know how you host your videos as I am currently tossing up using YouTube as my hosting site – any advice would be greatly appreciated in the comments!

Education

The power of language

It’s no secret that words have power. My good friend Lynette Noni has based a whole series on not only the power of words, but the power of our intention behind the words. (First in the series is called Whisper and it is set to be released on May 1st 2018, get excited!) However, as much as I would love to discuss the power of words when we use them to talk to or about people or places, today I am more interested in a slightly more education based discussion. I want to talk about the power of the language we use when teaching, and how we can either promote or demote certain subjects just by saying an off-hand comment!

I am a geography teacher. I love what I do and I love what I teach. I try to make my lessons as authentic, engaging, and filled with opportunities as much as possible. I know I still have a fair way to go but I am getting better every single lesson.

When I started teaching at Mount Alvernia College I was thrown into the world of girl’s education. I never had any aspirations to teach in a girls school and when I stood in front of my first class, I really struggled – despite being a young woman myself! I quickly discovered that I needed to change my language.

Girls are predisposed to thinking “I can’t do that.” There’s no point arguing about it, it’s ingrained in us from the very beginning of our existence. In my first couple of weeks I would often hear myself saying to the girls “I could never do maths, I just didn’t get it.” I’d say the same sort of things about science too, and I quickly realised that not only was I undermining the girls’ confidence, but also the subjects that my colleagues had been working so hard to encourage girls to engage with. It hit me then, I NEEDED to change my language. Not only to make sure I wasn’t undermining my colleagues or my girls, but also to change my own ideas about what I thought I was capable of achieving. In short, since I changed the way I talked to myself about the possibility of me learning some scientific facts, or relearning some maths skills, I have become more open to these subjects AND I have found that I have a much better capacity to understand them – JUST FROM CHANGING THE LANGUAGE I USED!

My next realisation came when I was teaching a year 9 geography class just yesterday. We were looking at a choropleth map of Australia that showed the average rainfall in January across the country. We ended up having a discussion about North Queensland and why it would have more rainfall than South Australia. One of the girls ended up asking if it had something to do with the humidity and I was a little shocked to realised that they were struggling to make the connections between humidity and precipitation – the water cycle that they spent so much time learning in year 7 and then touched on again in year 8 – and it got me thinking. Do they truly not remember this important piece of information OR is it because we weren’t in a science classroom that they weren’t able to make the connection?

Again, I realised that I would need to change my language. I started to wonder if I needed to use terminology from their science classes in my geography classes so that they could connect the dots themselves? I got really excited by the possibilities this would open up – I have never been more excited about broadening my scientific knowledge than I have in the past 24 hours! I’ve spoken to the Learning Area Advisor for Science and a couple of the science teachers to see if there was potential for cross curriculum collaboration (I know, it’s an old concept but for the first time I’ve actually thought it to be possible) and I was even more excited to learn that they were VERY interested in working with me on getting this up and running! I’ve even had an invitation to attend a year 9 science excursion on Monday next week and I’m going to do all I can to be involved.

I’ve gone from someone that thought “science wasn’t my thing” to “science is something that I want to learn so much more about!” I know that I have a long way to go and that I will be limited by time when it comes to just how much I’ll be able to achieve. However, if I can get this excited over the possibility of learning more about science and implementing it in my geography classes, I hope that my passion will inspire the girls too. I hope that they will be able to make the connections between what we’re doing and what they’ve learned in other classes themselves. The ultimate goal in teaching (in my humble opinion) is to create authentic learning experiences, and the research shows that clear connections between subjects helps with that, so that’s what I’m hoping to work towards. Who knows, perhaps I’ll be able to turn maths into something that is “definitely my thing” and feel more confident in including that terminology in my classes too!

One final little mention about the Science Department at my school. THEY ARE AWESOME. In a girls school it’s really important to have strong female role models, and our science department is majority female; we even have a female physics teacher! (I’ve been told that this is an amazing thing as there aren’t many.) Not only are they awesome teachers with a great range of knowledge, but they are passionate about what they teach and are willing to include me in their teaching and learning, me who is someone that quite possibly would have been their idea of a nightmare student – you know the type, lots of potential but just lazy because “science wasn’t their thing.” Not only have they been welcoming, but they have also been enthusiastic and full of great ideas. I can’t wait to see where this goes!

Education

Feedback: How “wearing hats” can teach us to be more helpful in our feedback.

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about my Learning and Teaching Goals for 2017, but I found this really interesting article and thought I’d share!

On Monday this week I received a weekly newsletter email from MindShift, and one of the articles was called “Developing Students’ Ability to Give and Take Effective Feedback.” At first, I was sceptical because how often have we received articles from subscription services and discovered that they are fairly useless, but this one turned out to be pretty helpful. I was intrigued by how the teacher featured in this article, Emerie Lukas, has developed a culture of student to student feedback in her class based on the “Six Thinking Hats” by Edward De Bono.

The basis of De Bono’s approach to feedback, is that participants are required to give feedback while wearing different hats, and then giving feedback that is appropriate to that type of hat. Lukas has recently begun training her colleagues in using the hat system, and suggests using the first three regularly, and the remaining three only when applicable. The hats are broken it down to:

  1. Yellow hat = positive feedback
  2. Black hat = specific feedback that points out not reaching a goal
  3. Green hat = suggestions for improvement
  4. Red hat = “a breath of fresh air” or a new perspective
  5. Blue hat = ability to identify the skill that is being developed
  6. White hat = taking a look at the bigger picture, something that’s been noticed but is neither positive or negative, only interesting.

I found the idea of getting students to try and give specific feedback an interesting concept, and I think the idea of “putting on a hat” will help them step into that role. I’m not sure when I will get the chance to trial this strategy this year, but I am definitely putting it in bank for next year!