Friday, September 26, 2008

I had a cool teacher-moment this week!

I had such a cool teacher-moment in my Year 5 class this week! In the life of a teacher, these moments are rare, but cherished!

I've been encouraging my students to become 'powerful learners'. On their ePortfolios, they have had to reflect on last term's goals, think about what they've achieved and set new goals for next term. I want them to take ownership of their learning, and I'm encouraging them to really think about their learning.

To do this I have empowered them by giving them links to sites explaining the strategies in Maths and Reading that we are focused on. All year long I have kept referring to our AsTTle results, and explained the relevancy of every task we do in connection to the skills they are practicing. On my class Home Page, I have a link to the NZMaths Numeracy Framework. It has each of the stages illustrated by animations, and you can even see videos of students explaining their strategies. I use this to help my students verbalize their goals.

This week, I overheard a conversation between some students. It seems my efforts have been rewarded!

(I've changed the students' names to protect their identity.)
Sammy: John, you're stage 8 for Maths aren't you?
John: (In the middle of a chess game, and from a different class.) A-hu.
Sammy: (Persistently nudging John.) So what did you have to do to get to Stage 8?
John: Huh? I dunno? I just got it.
Jim: (Who's sitting at a nearby computer, and is in the same class.) It's on our Maths page, silly. Come here, I'll show you.

A while later, I notice Jim and Sammy pouring over the Numeracy Framework and looking at the animations, but I get sidetracked by another student and forget the whole conversation.

Next Day, enter Sammy with ear-to-ear grin.

Sammy: Mrs T, I'm ready to be tested for Stage 8 now.
Me: Oh? How do you know.
Sammy: I know rat-tee-oh now, Mrs T. I asked Mum and Dad to help me. I have to know decimals, percentages and rat-tee-oh to get to Stage 8. And I can do it.
Bless his little cotton socks - it took me a while to figure out he meant ratio!

P.S. I've just noticed that Sammy wrote on his Maths Goals, for his ePortfolio: "I want to find out more about phi = 22/7 = 3.14285714." Gulp. Anyone know of Maths catch-up lessons for teachers? ;)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Retro - look Podcasting tool

I came across this tool, Mixwit, from Dean Groom's post, Learning with an audience. He has been using it to record student's reflections on their use of Web 2.0 technologies, and how it affects their learning.

For now, I've just popped a normal MP3 song on it, but I'll experiment next week with my students' own stories about their 'Production Highlight'.

MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes

Is anyone using it, and what interesting ways have you used it in the classroom?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ahoy Ye Landlubbers! Talk like a Pirate Day coming up!

I read about an interesting event on Amanda's blog: It's 'Talk like a Pirate Day' on Friday, 19 September! Everyone on Twitter is also talking about it. Check out the cool wiki and add to the Voicethread with your class.

It sounds like so much fun: - I'll be planning a fun Pirate-themed day for my class for Friday! After our week of production, it will be just the right way to end a busy, busy week...


Sunday, September 14, 2008

How to make your Digital Photos even more fun!

I've just found a brand new fun application, called dumpr. It's free, and all you need to do is register. As with all the other fun toys I find, I don't know yet how I'll apply it in my teaching, but it's pretty cool! Have a look:

I'm sure my pupils will come up with some cool ideas for this application pretty soon!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I can teach Hip Hop!

I'm at home in bed today. I have two complaints: 1) I've lost my voice. 2) Every muscle in my body is protesting.

Now, it may be the lingering flu / lung infection that I've been battling since last week, or... and this is more likely ... it may be that I've taught my kids a Hip Hop dance for our upcoming production.

This is how it happened: I was in bed all last week, so we weren't able to practice the more traditional dance that I had chosen. (Our theme is 'The ebb and flow of the Waikato River'). When we eventually got around to it on Monday, I realized that the dance just wasn't working. The kids were NOT INTERESTED. So I asked them (like a good 21st Century Teacher should) "What kind of dance do you want to do?" "HIP HOP!" was the answer.

I already knew what Hip Hop was, as two of my boys had done their speeches on that subject. (See my previous post on Speeches.) I also do have extensive dance experience, having been a ballet dancer myself (way back when) and also having been part of a dance troupe as a student (many moons ago). But.... that was then and now I'm fat, frumpy and forty-plus. And recovering from a lung infection. And... I had one day to do it!

This is where the marvel of 21st Century Education comes in. I hit YouTube. There are loads of lessons - online and free - on how to Hip Hop. First, I found music I liked. I chose "The World's Greatest" by RD Kelly. It has loads of images which we could translate into dance moves, and a really strong motivational message. It empowered me to learn to Hip Hop!

My daughter helped me work out some 'moves'. My three teenage sons stood around making appropriate comments. (At their age 2 grunts means 'Cool' and 1 grunt means 'Not cool'.) One of them did say "Gee, Ma, I didn't know you could Hip Hop!" and the other one grumbled: "That's too hard for eight year olds." (Which actually means 'Wow, Mum, that's pretty impressive footwork'.)

Yesterday in class we pushed back the tables, got into rows, and learned the dance. We ripped up our flowing river fabric, and made them into bandannas and hand-scarves. We even added some glitter paint. My students' comments? "Mrs T, this is SOOO COOOL!" Praise indeed!

I will keep you all posted on the success of the production next week!Here's my class and our last practice before the final dress rehearsal!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Educating boys.... and girls?

I've always been really interested boys' special teaching needs. But do you ever stop to think about the girls' special needs and maximize their learning?

I found this provocative article in the Teacher Magazine (I get a free email subscription) : Teaching Secrets: Bridging the Gender Gap by Laura Reasoner Jone.

Many teachers have been observed giving different kinds of feedback to boys and girls. Boys tend to receive correction, help, and criticism. Most follow-up questions and suggestions for improvement are directed at boys. But girls tend to receive comments on the appearance of their work, rather than the academic content," she says.

Sounds familiar, I'm afraid. I'll have to give the matter some thought, and dig deeper! What is your opinion? Are we giving our girls the same consideration as the boys?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

21st Century School Speeches

These days, we know all about 21st Century Learners, and most of us are proud to implement the new strategies. Just to refresh my memory I've been reading up on 21st Century Learners:

"A 21st Century Learner tends to be a multi-tasker that uses sound and images to convey content whenever possible. Text, the primary medium of traditional academics, is tolerated only when the technology does not (yet) support something better." (Dr. Roger Von Holzen, Director, Center for Information Technology in Education Northwest Missouri State University in his paper: The 21st Century Learner)

"For New Zealand, the development of a prosperous and conīŦdent knowledge society means the development of new skills and knowledge. It will require a culture of continuous enquiry, innovation and improvement, risk taking, and entrepreneurship. This can only come from the education system." (Enabling the 21st Century Learner - e-Learning Action Plan for Schools 2006-2010)

"Speaking, Writing and Presenting
Students will:
• Integrate sources of information, processes, and strategies with developing confidence to identify, form, and express ideas...
– construct texts that show a growing awareness of purpose and audience through careful choice of content, language, and text form." (from New Zealand Curriculum, Level 3.)

I recently had to sit (as did the other 21st Century Learners in my class) through 30 x 3min speeches. I had to assess each of the speeches according to specific criteria, such as voice quality, eye contact and speech content.

According to the school-wide benchmarking structure, the students are not allowed to use any visual or audio aids, and they should refrain from 'over-dramatizing'. Students were expected to write their speeches in class. They were allowed to use cue-cards, which they were permitted to take home to practice their speeches. I heard some teachers say that they did not allow the actual speech to go home, because in the past parents have been known to assist in the speech writing process. Others did not want their pupils to introduce themselves.

Each teacher has different views on the actual content and delivery, probably framed by what their teachers had expected them to do/ not do when they did speeches (in the 20th Century). This is completely plausibly, because, let's face it NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

While listening to these speeches, and sensing the students' growing boredom / frustration / disinterest in the whole process, I started thinking: Why are we still doing speeches in this archaic way?

Our 21st Century Learners find it arduous to write a speech independently. Even when they can use Google to find the data they need. (They don't have loads of general knowledge stored in their brains - they know how to find it, though.) Rather, they want to collaborate, give feedback, create information and most of all, they want it all to be interactive. Speakers of today are using audio, video and images to convey meaning and capture audience attention. They are inviting audience participation, even letting audience's needs direct the presentation. (Heard of an unconference, lately?)

My pupils took weeks to construct their speeches - not because of interest or meticulous care. It was really hard to keep them motivated. I'm sure if they could have done digital presentations, it would have been a different story!

Listening to the speeches was arduous as well. I had a discussion first with my pupils on what constitutes a 'good audience'. They were still bored, and fidgety. Is forcing our modern learners to be 'good audiences' realistic? Do 21st Century audiences today really just sit and listen? Certainly not at the Keynote Speeches I have attended lately. As an audience member I contribute, Twitter, chat and collaborate. I have a Voice.

Why are we still expecting 2oth Century Speeches from 21st Century Learners? I reckon it's time for the 'culture of continuous enquiry, innovation and improvement, risk taking, and entrepreneurship' to be related to School Speeches too!

Images: (THEN)