Author: preservicepilgrimageponderings

I am a preservice teacher not far from entering my own classroom for the very first time. I have a keen interest in differentiated learning and understanding the needs of the gifted leaner. This blog documents my journey as I develop my identity as a teacher and start to formulate my own education philosophy.

Skype is it the answer to extension?

I was apprehensive as I walked into the meeting with my son’s principal today. When you have children like mine (both profoundly gifted and one with aspergers) you tend to have lots of meetings with principals and teachers and support staff and district advisors, even the window cleaner or at least it seems that way.

I am pleased to report I left feeling excited and encouraged! My son has a keen interest in History- well medieval history and further then that medieval weaponry. Not subject taught in the depth he wants to learn about if even touched on at all in primary school (he is 9).

 

After a particularly hard patch with him quite upset about the boredom in school, at his request we started looking into the possibility of sending him to a high school for one lesson a week so he had at least one thing to look forward to. Not ideal I know he is very young but his entire life has played out differently to you ‘stock standard’ child’s.

Rather then being told it wasn’t going to happen and that he would need to learn to deal with it, the principal suggested we try a special mentoring lesson once a week where he would have contact on a one to one basis with a high school history teacher who has just retired and is looking at giving something back to education. His commitments mean he may not be present every week but it looks like Skype has been organised to occur when he can’t be at the school in person.

What an era we live in where technology opens doors for those who would have otherwise been left standing alone. Skype is but one of the amazing things that we can do if we are prepared to think outside the box.

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ICT reflections from prac

Tonight I have begun to reflect on the ICT experiences I had during prac just as my fellow students begin to tred the same path. I have found it invaluable to read through the reflection of others. Whilst this list is not exhaustive it is the start of what will morph into the final assignment for my ICT course. 

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I have found this process challenging and enlightening. It is a surreal feeling to analyse what you have taught. Are you so critical you can’t see and appreciate what has been done well or are you blinded by your ICT prowess that good pedagogy gets thrown out with the bath water?

A lesson for us all to remember is that even though we are approaching the end of our degrees we are far from the end of our learning journey. We can always do things to improve our teaching and should strive to implement new ideas. I feel it is also important to take stock of what we do well, even if this is just to have something to look back on after those really hard days when things don’t work out!

 

Connected classroom

What an exhilarating feeling when I successfully made and connected a Skype call between my year 3 prac class and a 2/3 composite class from another school. Skype offers so many opportunities for education.

The technical issues were quite tedious to overcome but I never let that defeat me. As the school had no wifi connection was an issue. The school computer had no web cam and whilst I was able to bring in my own laptop, the school wasn’t too keen on giving me all the login details I needed to connect it to the internet. 

Plan B: Connect to the internet using my iPhone as a hot spot. Great idea but this too was also draped in difficulty. Thankfully I had a very supportive teacher from another school (who happens to be my sons teacher) that spend two afternoons trying to connect in a trial run. The first day didn’t work at all only ringing then cutting out. We tried FaceTime but this too wouldn’t connect.

When I was about to concede defeat a last minute walk around holding my phone out to all areas trying to improve the reception gave a signal strong enough to support the call. This did result in me having my phone perched on the verandah railing in order to maintain the signal. I ended up wrapping tape around my phone so it didn’t fall off. I am grateful it didn’t rain!

Coming from a classroom that has never had any experience like this (the computers in the classroom were turned on once during the 3 week period and only at my request) the kids were very excited. Was it hard to settle them? Yes. Were they interested and engaged in the learning? Yes. Was it beneficial, interesting and exciting? Yes.

I’m looking forward to using this technology again. Interviewing authors, politicians, scientists the opportunities are only bound by our imaginations.

Quotes from my mentor “ICTs are only for entertainment”

It is with a mixture of sadness and relief that the final week of my prac comes to a close. Sadness because I have to leave the students I have gotten to know and like and relief to be away from the outdated and often cynical opinions of my mentor who is only weeks away from retirement. 

I have enough life experience to appreciate different teaching styles and strengths. This is what has pulled me through the past 3 weeks. My teaching style focuses on groups work and students building their own understanding in a hands-on learning environment. The complete opposite to my mentor.

I had to watch her teach the students the algorithm for adding money following a lesson that revealed they had no idea at all of he concept. When I suggested they needed more experiences and time her response was I had to learn by just doing what I was told. The students proceeded to parrot exactly what was written on the chalk board. However when I went around asking the students to explain they had NO idea what they were actually doing. I understand that didactic teaching has a place. What shocked me was the vast difference in opinion I had to my mentor in relation to its application.

I also had to print every piece of correspondence as my mentor refused or couldn’t use email. I know this was an extreme case but interesting to see. I think it is time for a new wave of teachers to take the reigns. There are many reasons why teachers don’t use technology– my mentor had many more then these. It was an interesting placement for an ICT prac. I did manage to hold a Skype session with another school where our classes exchanged strategies used to answer a series of maths questions. The response was ‘that was good for a bit of fun but now you will need to mark the work because the kids don’t know whats going on’ (this was what we did over Skype). This kids loved it and continued to ask if they could Skype for every lesson after this.

They also responded well to the group work i incorporated into the lessons. I has a student comment to me on our back from a group research task in the computer lab that she had never learnt so much in her life and she thought her head might burst. Interestingly this was the same lesson the teacher called a halt to as she felt the students weren’t engaged in the task. Group work has so many positives I think the students should get to experience this at least some of the time.

The 45+ years experience was invaluable and I am grateful for the experience. I shall not be defeated by comments of ICT only being used to entertain and that the students don’t learn anything. My stance couldn’t be further from this.

clash of two worlds

it was an enlightening experience for me during my 7th day at prac today. My mentor called a close on one of my lessons as she felt the students were not engaging in the lesson. Now I tend to disagree with this as they were excited and learning lots of information using Google to research a National Park of their choice. We had lots of discussion about what to look for and even had research scaffold sheets. One particular student commented on the way back tot he classroom that they had never learnt so much before in their life (a timid under achieving girl).

However as my mentor has a chalk and talk ethos the very idea of students discovering things by themselves seemed ludicrous. I am a little down trodden to be faced with a just give them a booklet to do response every time I make a suggestion of an exciting activity. Hats off to my mentor for having control of the class. They can read silently for 30min (yr 3) and sit quietly to copy from the board. I wonder how much they are learning or worse still how much do they actually like school or learning in general?

Experience isn’t always the only way. I hope I will be willing to try things differently when I am given the opportunity to host a student teacher.

Always have a plan B… and a plan C

So today I was lucky enough to spend most of the day teaching! My mentor was ill so there was a casual appointed to my class. No big deal as my mentor had run through yesterday what the plan was for today.

1) I was to plan and teach a session in the computer room that involved the students researching information about Kakadu. I went home and devised some scaffolding sheets to guide the questions they might like to have answered.

I even found 3 suitable sites. Planning ahead I created a wix site with images and the links to the sites I wanted the students to use.

So 1st problem- Students went straight to computer room. I forgot to write on the class door where we were so the couple of stragglers were left to wonder about looking for us. Because we went straight to the library the students also didn’t have pencils to record info. Rookie mistake right (all easy enough to fix).

2nd problem- After printing the wix address out in huge writing so the whole class could see and type it in- it turns out it is blocked by the department of education. Oh man. So some quick reteaching on key words saw my very scaffolded lesson become a lot more open. Some students (they were in pairs- student choice) worked amazingly well and got well into the higher levels of Blooms. Some with out the sites were distracted typing silly things into google.

My lesson: is to check the technology works. My mentor being away threw me a little. I did manage to hook my iPad up to the smart board and connect the internet using my phone as the school has no wifi. Next step is to try Skype on the big screen as i want to teach a lesson between different schools. where the students complete maths questions and then explain their answers over Skype. I have even had some ‘maths challenge’ trophies made for each class.

Feeling grand today. The casual was full of praise and was unaware of my failure.

Bee Bot Bonanza

One of the most exciting and rewarding things about becoming a teacher is engaging with games and manipulatives that have the potential to inspire a love of learning in students.

A previous post of mine hinted at my impulsive tendencies, my love for books and anything classified as educational. 

I again have fallen vicim to my whim. My postman delivered my latest purchase on Friday.

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I am so excited to bring these into the classroom. My children have given the seal of approval and I just know they are going to be a huge hit with my prac class. I’ve come across some great blogs about bee bots and have amassed a few ideas already. I managed to find what I believe to be older stock as these are still battery powered for half the price of USB rechargeable models. Apparently batteries will give 8hrs life and the Bee bots sleep automatically after a few minutes of inactivity. That’s good enough for me. I just wish I could have gotten more. Three for the whole class might be a bit difficult. Needless to say my laminator has been getting a work out making time and money cards to use.

Now the next thing I am waiting for…… is giant number and dot dice as well as 12 sided giant foam dice. The plan is to use them for quick warm up games as a whole class drill exercise. Add the two dice, subtract the smaller value from the larger value. There are so many ways to use dice. Check this out– toward the end of the document some more great ides with dice.

I think I should learn my postman’s name- I have a feeling we are going to become very good friends at least over my first few years of teaching. My second take away front his situation is I am far better off to blog in the wee hours before i hit the hay then search for teaching ideas. At least my bank account thinks so!

 

 

We need to be mindful of political spin

This blog is in response to the online cyber safety course I recently completed. I have been fortunate enough to have been to two separate parent cyber safety sessions run by my children’s schools. I think there was a lot of content that was just skimmed over. Was this my complacent attitude to my studies this morning, or a case of information overload?

As a part of the professional development participants were required to answer a series of questions in the form of a survey to indicate personal computer usage and practices. Here is where I lost focus and respect for an otherwise well intentioned program. One needs to consider the motive behind any means of text and communication. What is it that is being said, who does it benefit? In this case the intent is to provide teachers with the knowledge to teach students how to be active and informed citizens. Perfectly reasonable. But is it?

The cynic in me is drawn to the use of survey data. Is this recorded, who has access to this data? The responses offered ranged from every day, 2-3 times a week and then jumped to once a fortnight and then never. If the results are to be considered critically how can such a wide range give an effective indication of actually usage? It seems to me the results have been slanted toward responses that indicate an increased use beyond what is the reality. Does this then serve the company that later offers an endorsement to a full day professional development package? 

Perhaps this is the biggest take away from this course. Let’s teach our students to consider more then just the overt aims of the author when viewing online materials.

ponderous planning

I sat down last night and contemplated all the things that I now know about lesson planning. My ideas were plentiful but a little difficult to group together. Unlike Jenny i didn’t feel this post should be about planning as such but more to do with my reflection of it. Below you will find an image I created to synthesise my thoughts. I was enlightened to think of the gains I have made since my very first prac. What I would give to have had the knowledge I do now then.

The planning is where all of the concepts and theories we spend so much of our degree learning come into play. It is an intricate balance between content, context and execution. Is it stupidity to strive for something that is impossible to achieve or reflective and incentive? I personally opt for the later.

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Our students MUST learn to be bored- Really?

I came across a blog today that whilst well intentioned I felt missed the mark. Comments were made about the need for children to learn to be bored. I understand the sentiment but feel the reasoning is flawed. ICT were cited as being detrimental when used ineffectively and to excess. So too may I point out is food. Does this then mean that we should teach our children to starve? Teaching programs, content and pedagogy have eve loved to make learning more engaging and effective. If i can include a variety of tools I will.

Some of my blogs in the past have focussed on gifted education and some of you may be familiar with my passion for this topic. The amount of times I hear “I’m bored” saddens me. Not the can’t think of anything kind of bored but the cold relentless ache from countless hours spent in dull uninspiring classrooms. I don’t feel children should ever have to ‘learn to be bored’. When is it ok to settle? When is it ok for a teacher to feel that this would ever be ok? Quiet reflection and time for thought is a far call from claims of boredom.

I fail to see why a child’s boredom would be advocated for. I never want my students to except boredom- in my classroom anyway. To just copy the list because drill is the only way I am going to teach. I want my students to be excited to learn. Sure I can’t make everyday a carnival but I can aim to peek the interest and imagination of my learners. I may not achieve this 100% of the time but I will never resign myself to my students needing to learn to be bored.