Education, Thoughts

Templates on Instagram – Innocent or something more?

I came across a great teachable moment last night on Instagram, but this moment I woke up and felt that I needed to share it a little more widely…  Templates on Instagram – are the innocent, or something more?

Firstly, here’s the post:

krystalgagen Can we talk about these templates for a minute? I’ve been noticing an increase in templates that you screen shot, fill in, and then post on your Instagram story. While most of them are harmless, there are some that ask for a LOT of personal information. For example, this one is asking for your age, your birth day and month – put those together and you’ve got your full birth date. Add in your height, birthplace, and descriptive features, like eye and hair colour, and all of a sudden that’s everything that you’d put on a driver’s licence/form of ID!

I’m not saying that everyone that creates one of these templates is out to collect your information, but in today’s world of selling information and identify theft, we need to be super careful! There are some of these templates that are harmless fun, and while the creator of this one probably didn’t mean any harm, the minute you put this amount of information into the world, you put yourself at risk.

Don’t let this stop you from engaging in the Instagram or general online community! Just be careful about what and how much you share. Be smart, stay safe 💪

#adventuresoftheliftinglibrarian

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When I first saw this template I thought, “aww, that’s a bit cute.” And then I read it through properly and my heart stopped. I’m not exaggerating. I actually felt that thrill of fear, and experienced a spike of adrenaline as I saw what this template was asking me for. As I said in my Instagram post, the creator of this template might have created this with innocent intentions – you know, maybe they hadn’t fully thought through the types of questions that they were asking? But the cynical side of me, the part of my brain that assesses risks, couldn’t help but think: “this is the type of information you’d put on a drivers licence, a form of ID, a missing person’s report!” Put together the birth date and birth place, and if your profile has your first (or even in my case, first and last) name in it, then BAM! They know enough about you to start stealing your identity. Call me paranoid, but in this day and age, with companies selling and buying your information daily, we need to be super careful.

You might be thinking: “but Facebook asks me where I lived and for my birth date, how is that any different?” Well, yeah, sometimes we do give out that information willingly, I myself have done this. The difference being, Facebook is a company that I know the terms and conditions of. I’ve read their fine print (I know, nerd!) and I’ve made an informed decision. I am prepared to take that risk. The difference between that and these templates floating around on Instagram, and probably other platforms that I don’t use, is that there are no safe guards in place for my information. I don’t know who is on the receiving end of it and what they plan to do with it. That scares me.

All I ask is that you think before you post! That you open discussions with people you might think are at risk of answering these types of questions without fully thinking through the consequences. (By the way, I don’t just mean teenagers… I know plenty of adults, of any age, that don’t think things through before posting!) The more we talk about this type of thing in our families, or communities, the less likely we will be at risk of something horrible happening online. As I signed off last night: Be smart, stay safe.

Wellbeing

Hearts on the line everyday

Disclaimer: the following is a brief discussion about mental health for teachers.

Teachers. We put our hearts on the line every day.

When Jane is in your office telling you that her parents are divorcing and they don’t have time for her and she’s failed her math exam but can’t tell her parents because they’ll take away the only things in life giving her joy…

When Sam is looking to you for advice because his friends and peers are making fun of the fact that when he speaks to them as their Student Representative he uses hand gestures, and rather than focusing on his words, they focus on his hands…

When Anna is 100% engaged in class and contributes insightful and thoughtful comments in discussions but when it comes to assessment she simply doesn’t try and accepts her punishment because “she’s used to it…”

When Tim has spoken to you every day for 6 months about his mum having cancer and you can see that he desperately needs help but doesn’t know whom to speak to so he unloads on you and you don’t know how to help and you try and you try but it takes all your energy away and you can’t give anything more…

Teachers. We put our hearts on the line every day.

These stories are fictional, but they are based on events that teachers all over the world deal with daily. These types of events are the reason that I tell people going into teaching that it is the best job in the world and also the hardest. What I have learned is that we teachers, with our hearts on the line every day, cannot shoulder every burden that our students have. We also need to reach out for help and seek guidance in dealing with these burdens. Obviously we keep in mind student protection procedures and confidences, but by speaking with colleagues we can sort out our feelings, work out what we can do to help our students, and continue to support them, all the while protecting our hearts.

Sometimes it means stepping back and letting someone higher up in leadership or counselors take over with managing a student’s needs. Sometimes it’s talking to parents, or mediating conversations between peers. Either way we can always do something but we don’t have to be everything. We all have different roles to play and sometimes it’s easy to forget that we are humans with emotional needs too. We cannot take care of our students if we don’t take care of ourselves.

So, when you have given everything that you can to your students, and you’re barely holding it together because you’ve taken hit after hit to your heart and you can’t imagine feeling anything more than despair, and desperation to continue trying to help them? It might be time to reach out to your colleagues and seek help. Talk to someone, get strategies, and protect your heart so that you can continue to put it on the line every day.

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!