Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fun With Fakebook

Fakebook lets you enjoy creating a character - any character - complete with all the Facebook style presence.
Above is my spin on a character called FutureSeeker.
The full screen version of my FutureSeeker may be found HERE!

A great tool for English, History and Drama teachers because:
1. It can adapt to any lesson involving characterisation - a character from a novel or short story OR a historical character OR a future character.
2. Suitable for a wide range of learning levels.

3. It extends students so they can imagine the reality of different voices and language of characters in interaction.
A great way to practise and retain characterisation in preparation for a play.
* Imagine mixing real and fictional characters
* Imagine the wind, trees, mountains or seas turned into characters
*Imagine numbers turned into characters

4. Differentiation is built into this activity -  represented by the opportunity for all students to respond to this activity in different ways.

5. Bonus - Fakebook offers a generic marking scheme on the right sidebar!!!

To teach is to keep learning

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Newspaper Clipping Generator

I have just discovered The Newspaper Clipping Generator
What a neat tool for practising economic thought!
And the result looks so real!
Above is my response!

You can even use The Wizard Text Generator to create a caption for the name of the newspaper!

How could this be used? 
Inject imagination into so many subject areas
Not just English!

- students create a dynamic, short, newsworthy item that sounds real based on knowledge of a topic
Geography - volcanic explosion in Antarctica
History - new child president in Bongoland
Science - murex shell heals cancer
English - Harry Potter's secret

- students create a short article using particular techniques or terms for a particular purpose
English - satire, metaphor, simile, alliteration, assonance, paradox
Art - dada, surrealism, post impressionsim

Group work extension
- students create a storyboard of group newspaper clippings that connect in some way
This activity demonstrates how students can associate ideas

Students film group projects to be presented to the class
- This activity demonstrates how students can order their clippings in some kind of sequence

Class Challenge
Sequence the groups into some purposeful order

Assessment Criteria
Topic knowledge - a sense of reality
Application identifies understanding of the topic
Application represents creative extension of the topic

This must be one activity that could be re-used in so many different contexts.
Re-use does not mean disinterest or apathy.
The students could be encouraged to improve on their last use of this generator - a personal challenge.
I can imagine that this tool can be celebrated as an inter-curricular feature.

To teach is to keep learning

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

NIE's 21st Century Teacher Education Model

NIE as a university-based teacher education institution has a strong foundation in terms of the structure and substance of its teacher education programmes. 

The model suggests that there is a trend towards collaborative teacher learning - Edmodo wins on this one.

But further into the document, there is a suggestion that the school's structural environment should cater for a 
teachers' collaborative room.
What a great idea for streamlining the school curriculum!

In terms of primary teachers' advantages:
This would enhance an awareness of progression of topics through the primary years.
Perhaps the room could have noticeboards for each primary year - program + events

In terms of secondary teachers' advantages:
This certainly would be a more efficient scenario for faculty meetings than the current practice of just using a classroom.
Perhaps the room could have noticeboards for current faculty discussions so that there is more inter-curricular awareness of programs.
Perhaps the noticeboards could have outlines of subject based programs so that all subject areas are aware of whole school approaches.
What a wonderful way to inter-connect topics easily e.g. the study of natural disasters from a Science and a Geography perspective.

Our school is a Prep-12 school
What a great bonus such a room would be to inter-connect primary and secondary teachers.
I am sure that there would be an enhanced appreciation, respect and understanding of one another.

To teach is to keep learning

Monday, September 24, 2012

Don't Want the Photoshop Complex?

Image editing can be fun!

But what if:
You still prefer the AS IS basic photo (as I do) and just want some other kind of tweak?
What if you don't have the time or maybe the inclination to test run a complex editing program?
What if you would prefer access to a free program?

The above photo is an AS IS + text + frame using Online Image Editor.
It may require a little fiddling with the elements, but it's good for a weekend adventure.

The basic section has:
add text
colour change
add border
photo border
round corner
cut shapes

The wizard section has:
blinky tag
add glitter
add stars
overlay image
gif only
convert flags
LOL cats text

The program that is almost unbeatable for editing photos on the run must be PicMonkey 
(used to be Picnik before Google sent them out to pasture)

Their basic section is:
range of special effects - texts + overlays + frames + textures
All areas are easy to follow + if there is any little hiccup, there is always a good monkey joke around!

But if you are seeking more advanced photo manipulations - and have school holiday time to play around - there is always GIMP!

To teach is to keep learning

Reflections on Sustainability

from Huffpost Arts and Culture - Penny Paintings - 18.9.12 - artwork by Jacqueline Lou Skaggs

In tune with the virtual realities of today
could art become a virtual re-cycling depot?

From the Australian Curriculum ACARA:
Sustainability addresses the ongoing capacity of Earth to maintain all life... 
Education for sustainability develops the knowledge, skills, values and world views necessary for people to act in ways that contribute to more sustainable patterns of living.

We are on a 21st C journey that encourages sustainability - especially environmental.
Why not let those re-cycling thoughts overflow into the art world?

Ms Skaggs is a trend setter, a role model, turning old "worthless?" coins into a "canvas" for art.
HP comments:
...we admire Skaggs' desire to rescue the runts of the capitalist litter, saving them from a life spent below couch cushions or forgotten in pockets.

So, what other "canvases" could there be?
* I have seen old and weathered fence palings used as a canvas and a frame for artwork - I guess they may need treating for possible borers?
* I have seen old garden pots painted to display plants
* I have seen old plates, cups and bottles painted - or broken to create a mosaic for a coffee table top feature
* I have seen old LP records transformed into a mobile

But what about:
*old garbage bin lids?
* fabric fragments?
* old chair seats or backs?
* old cupboard doors + handles
* old drawer fronts + handles
* roof tiles and guttering
* foam pieces - great for overseas postings as gifts

Here is a new genre of art - COINED ART?
The term is "punny" enough to embrace all re-cycling categories.

Sustainability is not all about growing plants effectively but about creatively re-cycling the harvest of our society so that nothing becomes "waste".
Perhaps these thoughts could reduce the cost of procuring art supplies in schools.
The students could be given the task of rounding up some discarded items which could become potential canvases.
Their challenge would be to seek novel ideas.
Items could be stored as a resource for future lessons.

Now about those plastic bags....hmmmmm

To teach is to keep learning

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Reflection on Dogs as Therapy

I have just discovered the amazing, inspiring teacher's blog by Kate Baker in New Jersey.

This particular post - screen shot above - certainly sets the thoughts flying.

Would it be possible to use dogs as therapy in schools?
- for students with all manner of social difficulties
- for students in personal crisis
- for teachers needing a touching moment and and a "slow down" from insanity.

I see so many advantages in using dogs as therapy in schools - easing troubled spirits and connecting where no words can really go.
But on the practical side, should there be one or more dogs?
Teacher owner dogs?
What if - dog turns for some reason. School liable?
Is the risk minimal?
The advantages of a dog's presence far outweigh any disadvantages?

I remember many many years ago, my sport teacher brought Banjo the corgi to school.
The main reason Banjo was there was because he loathed being home alone 5 days a week.
So when the sport teacher had all day sport lessons - often twice a week - Banjo was out there offering support.
He loved basketball, and soon learnt to be a team player.
He loved encouraging the runners- cheerfully bolting along beside them.
Students loved to try to beat Banjo.
Even the non sporty students enjoyed getting out there and playing when Banjo was around.
And Banjo was one happy guy!

To teach is to keep learning

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Reflection on Edmodo - Update

Screen shot of my current Edmodo profile page.
More to complete, but it's happening.

I mentioned in my first post HERE that part of my professional learning journey was to check out whether Edmodo could solve some problems with my Year 10 English class.
Now I have explored further, marking written work on line at Edmodo seems far more user friendly than the Word document option available on Moodle.
I have emailed all students in the class, asking them to sign up in one of two groups - Year 10 English - Outdoor Education - and just Year 10 English.
Then any extra class information for the Outdoor Ed students can be added.
I am trialling all this for their current Night assignment.
(So far just one student said she will sign up. Others still prefer to upload their assessment as an attachment on gmail.)
Even if just a few do so initially, that will be OK!
Then I am not wasting too much time if this idea does not work as well as I would like.

So enjoy exploring new teaching concepts, but only value them when I can see they have a valuable purpose in my own teaching context.

To teach is to keep learning

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Reflections on Differentiation

Students with the masks they created for a Romeo and Juliet activity.

Many of my ideas for differentiation parallel or stem from Teacher Tools
In particular, I have utilised ideas in:
* Differentiating the plenary upwards
* Differentiation
* Whole class teaching and learning strategies

ENGLISH - In 9A English - Tomorrow When the War Began - introductory discussions involved the following levelling of questions.
1. Discuss first impressions of TWWB
2. Discuss first impressions of character, setting and purpose.
3. Discuss any other impressions that you feel are notable.
4. Small groups select a character. No more than 3 small groups may select a character.
5. Introduction to characterisation + find page numbers of characterisation quotes + opinions about group's selected character
6. Each group records in a 2 columned chart the good and bad qualities of the character.
7. Groups share findings with class.
8. Based on these findings, class decides strong and weak characters, likeable and not so nice characters in the novel.

The students have been processed from random ideas to ideas with a specific purpose to analytical comparison of ideas. This enables both able and less able students to progress comfortably to a higher order of thinking.

HISTORY + GEOGRAPHY - It is paramount to understand terminology in both subjects. Often the less able English students struggle with both these subjects if they don't manage to progress steadily from a base, descriptive level to a higher order of thinking. They need to know definitions of terms.

When introducing a novel, I often use this order of staged thinking. It helps to measure whether the students have read the novel; have understood the novel; can draw ideas from the novel. Quickly I can learn what students can only process "black and white" thinking and those who can develop quality ideas plus explain them well. But I also realise that especially in Year 9, (NAPLAN + City Experience break up a term) it is important to select the time for doing this. This is a very time consuming process if all the sub-topics in this unit of work intend to reflect this process.  Hopefully, each stage of the unit can begin at a higher level of thinking. For those who cannot manage the pace of this progression, I have found that slowing down is not the only option. Group work can be very effective if the teacher ensures that each group has students of varying abilities. Each member offers the group different kinds of skills. One can help the other to offer a rounded product.

In English, History and Geography differentiation means constant tweaking and adjustment of:
topic resources - mixed stimuli - visual + speaking + reading resources cater for individual learning styles
topic depth
topic pace
topic assessment - allowing for modified version of criteria or a choice between different topics.

Bloom's Taxonomy is invaluable for developing and measuring the quality of the student's learning
Knowledge - describe and identify
Comprehension - translate and predict and perhaps estimate
Application - demonstrate in a new context
Analysis - explain and infer detail
Synthesis - design and compose
Evaluation - assess by comparison and contrast

Often the personality connections between student and teacher are variables that may impact on the level of differentiation success.
I have learnt to recognise that differentiation is difficult. So much relies on what the teacher understands about the thought processes of the student.
To enhance the differentiation processes, more and more I am finding web tools are an invaluable means of offering a variety of stimuli to the students.

To teach is to keep learning

Friday, September 14, 2012

Reflections on a New Teaching Model - Flipped Classroom

The concept of the flipped classroom represents a new wave of educational thinking.
Initiated by by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams - teachers at Woodland Park High School, Colorado. Beginning Spring 2007, this involved lectures - instruction online to be viewed at home - and homework at school with the teacher acting as a guide for individual mentoring and students helping one another.
Teacher role becomes tutor role.

Resources suggest that there have been significant improvements in assessment results with a special improvement noted in literacy and numeracy skills.

But some resources suggest that relying completely on the flipped classroom model defies the idea that quality learning needs to recognise different learning styles.

Most schools that have adopted this model seem to be centred in the United States.
There are many resources identifying that behavioural problems in the class environment have now reduced, enhancing more productive activity.

Is this new trend intending to wipe out all other forms of learning or is it only focused on selected lessons?
Teaching should recognise differentiation. In this model, I feel the home learning environment does not recognise this need and relies heavily on the classroom environment to "sort it all out".
Perhaps this model may best suit particular subject areas but not others. It seems to suit Mathematics, but I can't find any example where this classroom model has been used for English teaching.

Could this model be too easily adopted with the intention of modifying/reducing poor classroom behaviour?
For me, this is a possibility.

Further, my experience has taught me that the best learning time of day is the morning.
Students absorb more in a space of time at the beginning of the school day.
Weariness and restlessness settles later in the afternoon - not ideal for beginning a new topic.
So how ideal is it to go home and learn new information?
And what of those students committed to team sports after school?
They may not begin learning till after dinner at night?

Until I see this model in action in Australia, I feel I need to hold my value judgment.
Though I can't escape some suspicions.

Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age - Flipped Classroom (Victoria)
How the Flipped Classroom is Radically Transforming Learning - April 15, 2012

UPDATE: 24.9.12 
I found my first  flipped classroom English outline - for a 6th Grade Vocabulary lesson - posted September 23, 2012 on Your Smarticles by Mary Howard.
Could this transfer into a Year 7 classroom?
I couldn't imagine that older students would be energised by these games, but maybe Year 7?

UPDATE 26.9.12
I have now found my first secondary English flipped classroom unit - Years 10, 11 and 12 - from Cheryl Morris and Andrew Thomasson - team teachers -  via Cheryl's post on Edmodo.
Cheryl has created a blog to it called Morris Flips the English Classroom.
Here is their Complete List of Unit 1 resources on Google Docs.

Particularly impressive is Andrew's Skills Map - perhaps create a rubrics for differentiation of skills?
More to think about!

To teach is to keep learning

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Reflections on a Creative Lesson

In Term 3, Year 10 English experienced a creating and presenting unit of work based on the novel Destroying Avalon.
The context of the unit was conflict and my class particularly enjoyed exploring the related theme of bullying.
Students were required to read the novel over the holidays in preparation for the term. They were also asked to record first impressions of the novel in preparation for a class discussion.

1. Lively class discussion of the novel's characters and message because most students read the book and recorded notes as required.
2. Viewed the above trailer and discussed whether it reflected the spirit of the novel.
3. Explored and discussed quotes on bullying.
4. Viewed and discussed Celebrities That Were Bullied.

5. Students were invited to share their own stories of being a bully or being a victim. Extraordinary stories emerged. At first, the more vocal students wanted their turn. And they seemed to inspire the quieter ones to open up. One student said she had never shared her story before. Tears flowed. The class supported her and more stories were shared. There was a feeling of amazing bonding in the class after the experience. Many students said as they walked out that they "felt better" and "that was good!" (And yes! Two students admitted to being a bully at some stage. They added that this lesson helped them to understand the victim's point of view.)
6. Relating to the broader context of conflict, we looked at Poetry of Revolution 
e.g. Palestinian poet Mazen Maarouf was raised in Lebanon and recently forced into a double exile in Iceland after criticising the Syrian regime. His third poetry collection, An Angel Suspended On The Clothesline, was published in Lebanon after he had left.
 Tunisia's uprisings were started neither by political action nor a military coup, but by a regime of banners and chants. 
NOTE: I avoided too much war poetry or prose because the students would soon be studying World War 2 and Hitler in History and would be looking at the Holocaust related to their study of the novel Night. I felt that there would be too much, even repetitive, focus on one topic area.
7.  These lessons seemed to inspire the students. They were quite willing to do a practice assessment task.
I allowed them to explore any form of writing response as long as it connected to the prompt and included some reference to Destroying Avalon plus at least one other resource. This was one task I thoroughly enjoyed marking. One student wrote a song and recorded it. Many students wrote two narratives - one with the voice of the bully and one with the voice of the victim.
8. Finally, I had no problem at all encouraging the students to write a haiku for the Casey Grammar magazine based on this unit of work.
Here are some of the haiku:

Propaganda floods
The minds of the innocent
And clouds their judgement
Jacob Cousens

People are dying
Seeking non-existent peace
Conflict has a price.
Tian Pozman

A small evil starts
No attempt of prevention,
A big evil stays.
Jacob Cousens

Shrapnel firing lives
Bodies hit the ghostly dust
Men go down in vain
Regan Bayliss

It will never stop
All this pain will never go
I shouldn’t be here
Kelsey Minton

The endless cycle
A bully destroys a life
For the cost of his
Jacob Cousens

Increasing horrors
Tragic murder of people
Nothing warm remains
Desvilla Zinck

REFLECTION: I felt that this unit of work stirred the students. They were willing to read, discuss and write responses. Beyond just learning information, they seemed to pick up lifeskills. There was a definite sense of feeling more secure in their own identity and more secure in this class environment. At times, lessons seemed to create themselves based on student responses. Not one but many creative lessons seemed to emerge. (There were more beyond those named here! I have selected the most significant ones.) For me, this was exhilerating. My only regret is the time frame. I had more resources than there was time to appreciate. I felt we could have explored more conflict types such as conflict of values and maybe even conflict of interests (to name just two). Perhaps this unit could have lasted all term with little problem.

To teach is to keep learning

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Reflections on Year 11 Lessons - Orientation + Homework

One of many powerpoint slides I created for the Year 11 English Orientation Course - introducing the students to the Creating and Presenting unit of Future Worlds.
They enjoyed discussing what this image suggests about future worlds.
In particular, they enjoyed discussing whether this was a negative or positive point of view.

Another powerpoint slide - This was the homework set for students to complete - selectively - in preparation for the new year of 2012.
I felt that because this homework was set over an extended holiday period, very specific questions were required and there should be an element of choice to stimulate the creative juices.
The homework also represented signs of my own teacher agenda
1. What types of questions would the students prefer? Why?
2. What writing skills were represented by their answers?
Differentiation - This was invaluable to measure the students' abilities in preparation for the new year.

Surprisingly, most students completed this homework requirement. I think it is because the homework detail gave the impression that VCE years were important and therefore preparation time was important.
In the future, I think I may include a task that involves some kind of searching e.g. range of media articles - letter to the editor, opinion piece and feature article - in preparation for their media studies.
Contrasting homework activities would then offer me a greater awareness of differentiation needs in the class, including student skills and attitudes.

To teach is to keep learning

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Year 9 Melbourne City Experience

It is now Week 8 of Term 3.

All week, Year 9 students will be enjoying daily insights into Melbourne landmarks and will navigate their way around Melbourne with special group projects to complete.

Today was my day to train my way into Melbourne and to accompany these students.

The morning feature was Eureka Tower and then students wandered Melbourne with their own group projects.
School mobiles ensured that students connected by text to update their whereabouts.

I did not venture up the 88 storey tower, but waited below to ensure those who returned first would have someone supervising.
In the meantime, I took the opportunity to photograph the area and then the students when they came down from the tower and were getting organised for their project adventures..

Reflection on an Excursion

Success - easily measured by how readily students gathered in groups to travel on the train, to view the tower, to meet together punctually when required and to update their whereabouts with text messages.

Considerations for the future - The Eureka Tower experience did not absorb quite as much time as expected. Perhaps another nearby experience could have followed before students embarked on their projects. This small weakness could have been more noticeable if there was no major disruption to the train timetable, (as happened this morning), causing most of us to struggle to get to the tower by 9:30am.

To teach is to keep learning

Monday, September 10, 2012

Welcome to My Teaching World

Sign in Casey Grammar School library with a little personalised editing

At first it seemed like just more work.
But o how exciting to break the habit of the paper tome!
There must be a way to enhance, to energise the annual appraisal presentation.
E-folios seem to be the trend.
But few have all the gadgetry for links and files and pages that would be desirable.
None could offer a record of annual appraisal variations and keep a database of those changes.
There had to be a way.
So here I am trialling a two way connection.
Pamela Adams - Teacher Portfolio is my base connection hosting my resume, my schools and my activities at those schools.
It is the constant with bricks added when needed.
But this blog represents the "reflection" element of my appraisal process, with links to my creative activity on other websites.
The blog is the variable with regular diversions.
We'll see if this arrangement stands the test of time.
(But I still have some hard copy responses for my 2012 appraisal - just to be safe for now)

Overview: A positive teaching/learning environment must be founded on teacher enthusiasm. High quality classroom teaching skills must be equally founded in a secure knowledge of the topic AND a willingness to adapt the “language” of the topic to the level of the student – at least initially. In short, a well-prepared unit of work is only effective if it “connects” at the student’s level. Without this “grounding point”, students cannot be expected to reach their full potential; students need initial confidence in their own ability to achieve. . Believing that ALL students have the potential to achieve MUST be a basic teaching value.

 Personal Values: My own particular personal values are reflected in my lesson aims. As a teacher, I aim for students to enjoy a positive learning experience. More importantly, I hope the experience is relevant and worthwhile enough for each student to find spiritual growth; to apply that experience to life itself. I aim to develop a natural curiosity in all students to learn of world societies and cultures and literatures. In short, I dare to hope there is something in these lessons that enhances each student’s appreciation of, and desire for, a “quality” lifestyle.

My view of assessment has changed over the years.
Once I valued assessment as an end of unit or semester measure of performance.
Subconsciously I valued it as a guide to content and explanation and individual attention to students without formal record.
Now my records include:
*formal assessment - comparative across the year level
*individual assessment - e.g. past years of NAPLAN on SREAMS, verbal responses, quality and relevance of current homework.
*comments on students application to work in class
All this is particularly easy in the application of OneNote
I am still exploring ways in OneNote to streamline this kind of record so it's available to future teachers of each student in my class.

Reflection - JOURNEY AHEAD
I am currently looking at new ways to manage the operation of my classes.
Edmodo - review and screen shot 5th September 2012 - is a social network for teachers, students and parents + communities sharing subject and inter-curricular resources.
For now, I am considering using this for solving a problem with my Year 10 English class.
Many in this class are absent on their Outdoor Education and /or sport commitments.
One student attends an external training facility two days a week.
The problem is keeping all students equally up to date with class activities.
So far,  gmail connections with all students has been quite useful.
But I wanted more.
Can Edmodo provide some interaction among the students - sharing ideas + a better platform for marking homework and assessments online than Moodle?
More to come!

ImageChef Word Mosaic -
Created with Image Chef' Word Mosaic

Explore and create
Connect with old and new times
Keep wonder alive

To teach is to keep learning
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