Friday, 27 June 2014

Are you part of the Dream Team?

Every teacher has his or her strengths. So I ask you…what are your strengths? Would your team members agree with you? At a recent LeadMeet I listened to Cameron Paterson @cpaterso and Lou Deibe @ldeibe share their journey and strategies when coaching for collaboration. Soon after, my school kindly sent me to Hawker Brownlow where coaching appeared to be a focus (or maybe I chose it to be?). Learning from others on Twitter has developed my interest and furthered my belief that coaching is an effective practice that develops teachers professionally.  

Thank goodness all teachers are not the same! While this is great in one aspect, at times it can be difficult, as teams needs to work collaboratively. These holidays I intend to focus on reading, discussing and learning more about coaching. As we know, we all have our strengths but are we aware of areas that need developing? Who can help us learn more about ourselves as teachers? Should it be our team members? Should it be our administrators? Should it be a professional coach/outsider?  I think the one element that is missing is whoever it is...there must be a strong level of trust. I believe trust needs to be established for one to truly be open to learning about themselves professionally.

To confirm my definitions - ‘Coach'-to transform thinking, ‘Collaborate'-to form ideas, ‘Consult/Mentor'-to inform & ‘Evaluate'-to conform.

If you watch Simon Breakspear How do the innovative learning environments get created? you may understand why I visited some members of my Professional Learning Network (PLN) in Canberra this week. I hope to provide a snapshot of my ‘take-aways’.

Richardson @Borto74 @gregt39 @bingobarney @benmwhite86 

  • Developing life-long learners, not short-term outcomes
  • Student growth is more than just data results
  • Coaching is key! We need to invest in our teachers
  • Invested teachers that are accountable drive school growth. 
  • Collective accountability-Teachers working collaboratively to achieve school goals
  • Trust takes time and needs to be a priority

Brindabella School @MelanieSSpencer

  • Teaching is research in action! More educators should formally record what they are doing & share with all stakeholders
  • Learning spaces are created to provide collaborative, flexible working environments for students and teachers
  • Connect the school and activities to the real world.
  • Question when people say, “it’s always been done that way”
  • Change mindsets-this may include administrators, teachers, parents and students. This takes time.

Dickson College @betchau

  • Classes are provided for refugee students-great way for students and teachers to develop empathy
  • The subjects in the ACT provides a plethora of choice
  • I learnt about their wonderful architecture and engineering programs - which included the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) program, robotics and I also saw 3D printers in action! 
  • Passionate teachers inspire passionate students

Gungahlin College @CraigMEdwards_

  • Learning spaces are flexible and designed to promote collaboration
  • Staff rooms and learning spaces are all ‘open’
  • The teachers, technologies, resources and spaces enable students to engage and develop their love of learning
  • The college continues to evolve and adapt to suit the needs of their students and learning contexts

Ultimately being part of a team could mean your year level, stage, school, or #PLN. I don’t believe you can develop professionally on your own. You need someone you trust to help you identify where you need growth. But you also need a trusted someone to remind you of the awesome job you are doing. I think we, as educators always look at our inadequacies but we also need to celebrate our contributions to the education profession. 

Keep dreaming for yourself and your students.


Sunday, 8 June 2014

So what's in it for YOU?

Why do YOU do that Twitter thing?

What are YOU hoping to gain from being involved in TeachMeets? 

How will 'YOU' benefit from all these connections you are making?

These are questions I’ve been asked recently. Let’s begin with that Twitter thing. Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables users to send and read short 140-character text messages, called "tweets". I believe many educators are apprehensive to go into the unknown and don’t see the benefits. Some may say they have enough to do without adding to their teaching load. If they only knew…

I view Twitter as an amalgamation of various resources. It’s a library overflowing with information (both relevant and irrelevant) that includes a plethora of books and reviews, journal articles and blogs. You choose what is relevant. It is also a meeting place where like-minded educators chat about their day, students, lessons, ideas, frustrations and successes. I have found educators on Twitter are supportive, generous, knowledgeable, and at times, they challenge your thinking. I believe Twitter has the ability to support and assist every educator. You can make Twitter suit you and your needs. You may not feel comfortable tweeting and you may lurk for a while or maybe forever! Just remember you reap what you sow. You have something of value to share and collaboration is not a solo event.

Twitter has helped me meet many of my teaching standards.

1.1 Physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students
1.2 Understand how students learn
Recently I was fortunate my school sent me to Hawker-Brownlow in Melbourne and upon arrival learnt that we were going to present or write an article later. I began tweeting from the start and connected with an educator that I had been conversing with for months. As there were very few tweeting, I tweeted out how #ISTE and #PBL had given prizes or incentives to tweet. Next minute prizes were offered and my friend won that day. I won two days later and received $150 worth of educational texts. Not bad for sharing the presenters information and book recommendations. But what made me happier was receiving tweets and direct messages (DMs) from educators all around the globe thanking me for tweeting. You can't possibly attend every PD available. I learnt this week that this is the next best thing to attending, as I followed the EduTech hashtag. Being allowed only 140 characters forces your tweets to be succinct. After the four days of tweeting at Hawker-Brownlow, I did storify the tweets, which summarised all my information. 
It's the 21st Century way of note taking. By adding more educators to my Professional Learning Network (PLN) my support and knowledge develops.
1.3 Students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds
1.4 Strategies for teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
2.4 Understand and respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to promote reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians
Edutweetoz has had various Aboriginal educators and educators who are teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote areas. You could read about this topic in books or you can tweet questions and learn about their experiences in real time. I have learnt more and developed a better understanding about Indigenous students from reading various tweeted questions and comments. When I implemented Design Thinking with my students, it was an educator from Twitter, Wes Heberlein that connected my students with his Aboriginal students in Rockhampton. This was an authentic connection. On #edutweetoz this year, the Indigenous moderators have been @liz_loveslife, @bensonsaulo, @peterradoll, @wesheberlein, @chrissarra, @jessa_rogersX, @chrisvella2, @nicburrows. Moderators that are working in Indigenous communities are @jarvis001 and @nicburrows
Authentic educators, authentic context, authentic time.
2.6 Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
4.5 Use ICT safely, responsibly and ethically
Over a year ago, I was kindly asked to moderate a global education chat group every Saturday morning. #Satchatoc is an hour-long chat and focuses on an educational topic each week.  One of our guest moderators will be Eric Sheninger who recently wrote Digital Leadership. Before Eric guests, I will read his book to extend my ICT knowledge. I have access to education specialists from all over the world. People tweet out questions, advice, resources that others may find valuable. People post questions and while I may not be able to answer their questions about technology, I retweet (RT) them out to my Professional Learning Network (PLN), which consists of many experienced technology specialists. I am constantly learning about apps, programs and new technology information.
Twitter also enables me to use ICT safely, responsibly and ethically and this experience provides a model for my students.
6.1 Identify and plan professional learning needs
It was through Twitter that I learnt about the ELLA app. This will be available very soon. I've be privileged to provide feedback to the ELLA team. It is a simple and powerful app designed to assist Professional Learning for teachers.YOU plan your personal professional development goals. Check out the ELLA website.
6.2 Engage in professional learning and improve practice
6.3 Engage with colleagues and improve practice
7.4 Engage with professional teaching networks and broader communities
Tweeps share relevant research constantly on Twitter. I can easily engage in high quality opportunities to improve my practice by attending TeachMeets. I believe my colleagues are not just those educators within my building but all of my PLN. By attending TeachMeets, my professional knowledge and practice improves, which results in improved student outcomes. I am constantly engaged in professional discussions and learning to improve my practice and student achievement all thanks to TeachMeets, #satchatoc and Twitter in general. By being part of #satchatoc and TeachMeets, I contribute to professional networks and make connections with other professionals, schools and agencies to improve teaching and learning. Some of the outstanding educators I have connected with and learnt from are- David Price OBE (UK), Julie Lindsay (USA & Aus), Dave Burgess (USA), Cameron Paterson (Aus), Matt Esterman (Aus), Jon Andrews (Aus), Yong Zhao (USA), Stephen Heppell (UK), Andy Varsily (China), Cathy Hunt (Aus), Louiza Hebhardt (Aus) and Lisa Hayman (Aus). One of my personal and professional goals is to help initiate #edcamps in Australia. Over the last two holiday periods I have visited various interstate schools and educators that I have met through Twitter. You can read about these experiences on my other blogs. While Twitter is said to be a microblogging experience, it was my PLN who pushed me out of my comfort zone to begin blogging. For this I am truly grateful (HT-Jon & Matt). Tweeting and blogging is an effective reflective practice. 
Twitter engages you in professional discussions that can develop your Professional Learning Network and improve your practice.

Next time I get asked these questions I will promptly answer -“How can you not be on Twitter?” 

Twitter provides you with the opportunity to- 
  • receive 'free', flexible, 24/7 professional development
  • connect with a world of educators
  • be challenged and inspired by others
  • collaborate and learn from world-renowned educators.
  • meet the AITSL standards

So what's in it for me? 

Connecting with educators via TeachMeets and Twitter builds my Professional Learning Network. Twitter can be more than aspirational talk when laced with resources, links & exposure to thought-provoking leaders via this 'new generosity'. Ultimately, it's all about the students and their learning.