Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Student-led PD

About 3 years ago when my son was in grade 3 I showed him how to use Prezi.  He quickly became proficient with this tool and started utilising it for some presentations he had to do at school.  When his teachers saw what he was doing they started asking him to show them some of the basics, and when they wanted to do more complex stuff they would ask my son if he knew how to do it.  He felt very good about teaching his teachers and this extra responsibility inspired him to continue learning and pushing the boundaries with Prezi - so much so that I now direct my Prezi questions to him as well.

It is no secret that our students are often more tech savvy than we are.  It is also no secret that school directed and provided PD relating to technology often does not meet the needs of the participants.  As Keane states, " 'One-off' professional development sessions or workshops do not translate to productivity in the classroom, especially when taught out of context." (2011).  So how can we provide more relevant 'just in time' PD for teachers, while at the same time utilise the vast technological skills and knowledge of our students?

The formation of a student tech club can help to identify potential student tutors - students who can work with teachers, one on one or in small groups, to help build their personal capacity with regard to the use of technology in the classroom.  The outcomes of having students lead PD for teachers could be:

  1. Student self-esteem is boosted
  2. Student skills and knowledge are recognised and valued
  3. Teacher skills and knowledge improves (therefore so can teaching and learning)
  4. Student-teacher relationships can be fostered in a different environment
If you, like most schools, are struggling to find the time and personnel resources to meet the ever increasing PD demands relating to technology, you may find that you have invaluable resources in your student population who can help.  Find out what you can learn from your students - I am sure they will appreciate it.

Reference: Keane, T. (2011). ICT Leadership in Schools Part 1. The Australian Educational Leader, 33 (4), pp. 20-24.

Friday, October 7, 2011

QSITE 2011

I spent the last 2 days of my September school holidays attending the Queensland Society for Information Technology in Education (QSITE) State Conference for 2011.  This was an action packed 2 days and I was very privileged to have the opportunity to present 2 workshops.

My workshop on Using Google Apps in the Classroom to Build Collaboration can be viewed here.

My workshop on Using Blogs and Twitter to Build a PLN can be viewed here.

Thanks to @darrenhowell for capturing the conference tweets to Evernote.

A Livebinder of links and resources from the conference can be viewed here.

Thanks to the conference organisers and to all who shared and collaborated over the course of the 2 days.  Looking forward to QSITE 2012.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rewarding High Performing Teachers

The issue of rewarding high performing teachers with financial bonuses is not a new one.  For years now this topic has been debated and each time it comes up so too does the related issues of identifying these teachers and whether or not these bonuses will have any real impact on student learning.

I strongly agree that a great teacher can help students to achieve wonderful things, not 'just' high results on standardised tests.  I think it also worth noting that we have always had great teachers, and we will continue to have great teachers with or without the carrot of financial gain.  In fact, none of the great teachers I know and have worked with do what they do for the money.  Great teachers do what they do because they love teaching and they love working with young people and seeing them achieve their goals.  If mediocre teachers start doing good things for the sake of money are they really great teachers?  Or are they simply good at jumping through hoops to receive an external reward.

The major goal of recognising great teachers should be to improve teaching and learning, not just learning.  It stands to reason that if you improve the teaching, then the learning will also improve.  So how do we recognise great teaching and capitalise on this exemplary practice to improve teaching in schools?  Rather than hand out cash bonuses I believe we should be taking our great teachers and putting them into consulting and mentoring roles for a 12 month period.  During this time our great teachers could have the opportunity to work with many teachers, in many different classrooms, in a few different schools, therefore spreading their expertise and their exemplary practice and impacting teaching in the best possible way - growing and developing their fellow professionals.  Let's build a national professional learning network by recognising the best of the best and giving them the opportunity to do what they do best - teach!

If the government and education unions are serious about improving teaching and learning then they need to rethink the handing out of cash bonuses.  My fear is that this proposed system of merit pay will do more harm than good, actually alienating great teachers rather than putting them into the positions of respect and admiration that they deserve.  I have no doubt that the truly great teachers would jump at the chance to share their craft with their peers.

Monday, April 25, 2011

QR Codes - Have you seen them?

After reading Jeff Utecht's blog on QR codes at the end of last year I somehow became more acutely aware of these symbols appearing in my surroundings. I think that his prediction that 2011 will be the year of the QR code is right on the money - these things are popping up everywhere:

After encountering the one in the picture above at my local pharmacy, I spoke with my students about the codes and told them to expect to see a lot more of them in the near future. The next day I had two students present QR codes to me:
Encountering the codes on three very different products in a matter of days has assured me that these things are here to stay and will become a valuable marketing tool in today's world of informed consumerism.

Jeff's blog post has some very good information on how to get started with QR codes.

After you have installed a QR scanner on your phone you can try it out with the code below:

Google URL Shortener automatically generates a QR code for the long URL that you are shortening.  A very quick and easy way to generate your own codes.

Monday, March 28, 2011

It's all about the Balance

Maintaining a balanced lifestyle is something that we all know is good for us, and our children, but is something that is easy to lose. It doesn't take much for our lives to become unbalanced - life gets busy and things get hectic and before you know we can't seem to find the time to eat healthy meals, get enough exercise, or spend quality time with the family. Like everything, it takes deliberate effort and commitment to maintain the balance in our lives.

This recent article on the parentcentral website offers a good piece of advice for helping our children keep the balance in their lives - limit your child's screen time. As adults we know the benefits of taking a break from our computers, however, our children might not yet share this same wisdom.

Time to show our kids that the real world can be just as exciting and fun as the virtual one.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Neutrality of Technology

When things go wrong we naturally try to find the cause. When people do bad things we often look for somewhere to lay the blame. The advances in technology over the past 5-10 years and the worldwide phenomenon of social networking have certainly received their share of blame for the roles they have played in cyber-bullying incidents.

I have always subscribed to the notion that technology is neutral - it is neither good or bad. How people 'choose' to use the available technologies is a different story. Parents and schools are very deliberate in their efforts to teach right from wrong and both are well aware that at some stage you have to let children exercise what they have been taught in real-life contexts.

I was delighted to read the following article and hear how some students in South Korea have been using their technology to enact positive change:

A Sunshine Policy to Combat Cyberbullies

I have seen far more positive uses of technology than I have negative - it is a shame that our natural instinct seems to be to focus on the negative.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

One Size PD Does Not Fit All!

Recently I prepared a resource for an international online conference run by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust in the UK.  The Prezi focused on individualising professional learning and offered some tools that teachers can utilise to take charge of their professional learning.

Digital Literacy - How to build it in teachers through professional development

After viewing this Prezi you can imagine my surprise today when I was involved in a 3 hour PD session that consisted of roughly 50 teachers meeting in a room to learn about the changes that have occurred from Microsoft Office 2007 to 2010.  We also did some work on integrating ICT into the classroom that consisted of the presenter showcasing a unit she had planned.  It was a very good unit and it would have been wonderful if we were in a small group so we could spend some time discussing and deconstructing the unit and exploring how we could apply the same principles to our own units.  I have no doubt that in that room every single teacher was at a different level in terms of their knowledge and skills relating to the office suite of programs and how to utilise ICT in the classroom.  Therefore the only conclusion I can come to is that these 3 hours were a complete waste of time for all involved.

When are we going to accept that if we aspire to true differentiation and personalisation of learning for our students then we must model these same principles in our PD sessions.  PD like this really fits the mould of 'one size fits none'!