A little pain


Teeth by the follands cc by-sa

It is interesting what thoughts go through your mind at 4am after being woken by a teething baby. One of the key thoughts I have had over the past few weeks is sometimes a little pain can lead to some amazing experiences (like bread). She may not realise it at the moment, and I need to remind myself at 4am, but teeth lead to the ability to eat so many different foods. So a little pain can lead to some amazing experiences?

But Lordfolland, you say, this is an educational blog, why are you writing about pain and teeth?

It is a metaphor dear reader, educational pain can lead to significant changes and improvement in learning outcomes for both teachers and students. Let me elaborate.

I had a student in my information processing class who is comfortable using Publisher to design documents, as he has been using it for many years. When I explained that to make website he should use dreamweaver he was fearful. “I don’t know how to use it, I won’t be able to do it” he told me. After a few days of discussion and encouragement he gave dreamweaver a go. He has since discovered that he has been able to create a good website with all of the features he wants, even if it was a little more difficult then publisher.

To be even teaching this class was a challenge not without mental anguish for myself.  I have three university qualifications; a chemistry degree, a teaching degree and a teacher librarianship degree. As part of each of my studies  I have looked at computer technology. With this background the knowledge and skills required to teach science, research junior high ICT and junior maths were never something that I was worried about having. Information Processing and Publishing was another matter.

IPP is part of the Business and Enterprise learning area in our states curriculum. Last time I was involved in a business enterprise it closed after one year with losses of 10000’s  of dollars. Information Processing and Publishing also has artistic undertones, in the design process. Art was one of the subjects at school that caused me the most fear, worse than PE. With these fears behind me it was with trepidation and a lot of research that I took on teaching of year 11 and 12 Information Processing and Publishing (in one class another first) last year.

I am pleased to say that I have greatly enjoyed teaching this subject and that my current year 11 class may be my favourite to work with. So when teaching or your own education throughs up something that looks hard and may give you some pain, give it a go, you just might have an amazing experience.


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Four types of teacher

I have been thinking about teaching and sharing over the past few weeks. This post has been inspired in part by this thinking and in part by George Couros and his DECD workshop. My thoughts have lead me to think there are four key groups of teachers.

Teachers who do not investigate new ideas
To me this is a problem, life outside of school is constantly changing we need to be changing our teaching to help students connect with this world.

Teachers who learn new things and keep them to themselves
Learning new ideas is easy. There are blogposts, twitter links, professional journals, other teachers, trying new ideas in the class room based on inspiration from students or life.

Teachers who share the new things they learn with staff at their school
Once teachers have found a new idea what makes this powerful is when they share the idea with other people. Many teachers work in a school where they share new ideas with the teachers they work with. This is a good thing as it can help other teachers to improve their teaching too. The feedback from the other teachers can help refine your ideas too.

Teachers who share what they learn with anybody they can via blogs/twitter etc
When we work in the school we can connect with between 2 -100 teachers. Using blogs and twitter I have connected with over 300 Australian teachers. This has helped me further refine my ideas beyond what the teachers in my team can give me. I think this is an excellent way to work and how I hope to work more.


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Growth Through Student Teachers

I think  having student teachers are one of the best thing that can happen to a teacher. Let me explain. I have my fourth student teacher this year, an undergraduate High School IT and PE teacher. There are also a biology teacher a history teacher and a tech studies teacher at our school. She has reminded me how useful to an experienced teachers development working with a student teacher can be. I see four big areas that having a student teacher helps me.

1. Reflection – Student teachers ask questions. This is a good thing. Unlike students who ask questions about how to do something or what is the answer, student teachers as why questions. These why questions cause teachers to reflect on their practice. Some of the questions I have been asked this year have made me consider my planing of my units, and how they fit with the curriculum I am using. I have also had to think about the explicit reasons behind some of the teaching practices I use with my students

2. Enthusiasm – Student teachers have enthusiasm, after 10 years of teaching I must admit there are days in which I just go through the motions. These days are rare, but they do happen. Often talking to another teacher or checking out what exciting educational things are being shared on twitter can help this mood. Having a student teacher, who is still fresh and enthusiastic can rub off and help to renew that enthusiasm in teachers. My student teacher has made me think about some new things I can try with my class.

3. Organisation – Student teachers are required to present lesson plans as part of their course work. I must admit my lesson plans have in many cases degenerated to a few dot points on my note pad (in addition to my list of resources such as weblinks and videos). My student teacher has made me think more about this.  I have also been required to plan my semesters in more depth as my student teacher wanted to know which topics I wanted taught next term in the middle of this term, this is a good thing too.

4. Helping Others – One of the keys of education (as I see it) is to help others to develop their understanding of the world. By helping new teachers we can help many students in the future, increasing our reach. The first student teacher I worked with (in my second year of teaching) will next term become a principal at a country school. I feel honoured to have worked with him and think about how many students will be impacted in the future by his leadership. Not all student teachers will have such an influence but they will help some students in the future.

So have you had a student teacher in your class? Are there other ways having a student teacher helps you? How many are in your school this year?

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The challenge of tracking

Australia has a new National Curriculum, this year we are supposed to be reporting about student achievement in this curriculum. This means that teachers need to be able to determine which of the parts of the curriculum students understand and can use. In a standard single teacher class teachers can prepare activities that assess understanding and then report on the outcomes. A team teaching project based situation like we use in our academy of innovative learning makes things a little more complex. Since more than one teacher may be helping a student on their maths for example, a system is needed that allows up to 10 different teachers to record student achievements. An ability to update the records while working with students would also be good.

The above was written in January as we prepared to teach in the integrated way for the third time. Over this last term I have tried to find the best way to track this progress. My school has found a web based solution that enables us to track against the Maths outcomes, but it is not a perfect option. While marking a particular task sheet it took about 3 minutes per student to note the two outcomes that were addressed. This may not seem much, but I marked over 30 papers. ACARA the publishers of the new curriculum are the national Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting agency. I hope that we will see this reporting aspect be developed soon, unlike the Accountability aspect of the South Australian SACSAF that I never saw in my 7 years of officially using the framework. A simple national recording and reporting system for our national curriculum, perhaps even one where we can inform students and parents which outcomes have been met.

This is something I look forward to, if you hear of any developments please let me know.

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National Standards

Over the last week I have made connections with a number of educators from Selena Woodward’s #ED3625 class and people who attended the George Couros sessions in Adelaide this week.

One of these teachers is Rebecca Hunt. Her blog post after her professional learning day about using our blogs as an e-Portfolio for our development as teachers hit a nerve with me. So now I have done it too. I have added pages to my blog to record my development against the Professional Standards for Teachers.

Hope to share lots of learning here over coming months.

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ABC Splash working the waves

This will be an excellent resource for teachers.

ABC Splash is a new education website for Australia, packed with 100s of videos, audio clips and games. Everything is totally free to watch and play at home and in school. in a nutshell ABC Splash has teamed up with Education Services Australia to link hundreds of new learning resources directly to the Australian Curriculum. Look out for cutting-edge games, virtual worlds and immersive digital experiences.

The site features information for Early Primary, Upper Primary, Secondary, Parents and Teachers. It’s new and it’s bound to be fabulous, so bookmark it today and start using the services in your classroom, or to support your school community.

It’s also cool to see friends included on the site – we’re making our own ‘celebrity splash’. 🙂

Dean Groom and Grand Theft Childhood.
Darcy Moore and From Primary to High School.
Judy O’Connell and Rules of Engagement in the Digital Age

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