Saturday, 25 July 2015

See Think Wonder

This blog post is part of the #blimage (blog-from-image) challenge recently set by Steve Wheeler and Amy Burvall. You can learn more about it on this video This particular image was set by @debsnet in this post.

This blog is going to be much shorter than any of my previous ones. Why? Because I don’t think I have much more to share. Over the past 6 weeks, I have shared my whole #EdVentures journey and I think sometimes you need to be still. However, @debsnet wrote and challenged me and @mesterman wrote an amazing piece, so I felt oblige to blog.

I SEE a small child playing with shards or fragments of shells. 

At first I thought, this child was trying to make a sand ball. He has probably made sand balls before but he doesn’t realise that this material doesn’t form into spheres.  

I THINK we should never assume what a child is thinking.
I THINK we should listen to the student to learn more about their thinking.
I THINK we (teachers) should also be permitted to play and learn by doing.

How do we not know that this child may like the sound of the shells cascading from his hands? How do we not know that he may like the feeling of scooping up the shells? Do we really know why he is playing with the shells? We all speak with children but how often do we listen…really listen? How often do we ask the important questions?

Sometimes teachers also have to listen to themselves. Teachers need to play too! Sometimes we have to take a chance and try something new. It may not be effective the first time (or at all) but at least you are learning, reflecting, persevering and hopefully growing as an educator. What a wonderful role model you are for your students. I watched many educators 'playing' at MaryMount when doing Design Do Discover in their vacation time. 
I WONDER if he is getting frustrated.
I WONDER if there is a parent or adult telling him that he can’t make a sand ball with the small shells.
I WONDER what would happen if teachers played more.

Should we save time and frustration and tell our students the information or should we allow them the time to discover on their own or with their peers? My children didn’t walk or talk at the same time, why do we expect students to reach goals at certain dates or ages. Let's give students time to explore and learn both inside and outside of the classroom. 

So when you see students or educators playing or learning, instead of assuming their purpose or what they are thinking, why not question and start a conversation. When was the last time you played and learnt something new?

Friday, 24 July 2015

#EdVentures Part 9: A Community of Collaborative Coaches.

A few years ago, Steve Box came down from Brisbane to visit a few schools in Sydney. His purpose or focus was on boy’s education, PYP and also to meet some 'key' people. He visited Newington, Shore, Kings, Roseville, NBCS and Knox. You see, I will always remember Steve visiting Sydney as this was the first time I met many people in my PLN. Steve's 'key' people were also members of my PLN and it was August 2013.

Thanks to @7mrsjames for this photo

At my school in the US, for educators to be allocated a band (salary) increase, one domain required you to visit and learn from other schools and educators. It wasn’t unusual for my children’s principal to speak with me about what we were doing at San Domenico. Educators shared openly.

While talking with Cameron Paterson at ISTE this month, I shared how when I return to Australia, I wanted to continue to learn and also connect with others who are coaching or are interested in coaching. From this conversation, my school organised for me to meet with Glenn McLaughlin at Knox Grammar and Len Nixon at Barker College. What made these meetings even more valuable was that I would be Skyping with Dr Jim Knight beforehand. The power of collaborating and connecting has really resonated with me over the last six weeks.

On #satchatoc we tweet six questions to promote rich conversations. Instead of creating the six questions myself or asking Jim to generate them, I asked some members of my PLN that I highly respect- “What questions would you ask Jim about coaching?" Through Voxer, Twitter and a few phone calls, I had some strong questions to share with Jim. People ask what do I 'get out' of being a connected educator? Well, I think I just answered that question. 

So when I met with Glenn, I asked him the six questions. One point of interest was that Glenn provided another great question for our chat. I didn’t record our conversation though I wish I had. Glenn also offered to support me with my learning and extended this offer to my school. This further proves that many educators are willing to share their knowledge and their time. This is also evident with the TeachMeet movement.

That night, I also Skyped Shira Leibowitz Ph.D, who is a coach & mentor, innovator, former principal, facilitator of on-line learning, writer & editor, #educoach co-founder & co-moderator. Unfortunately Shira and I couldn’t meet in person while I was in New York, but honestly, the connection we made virtually was amazing. We talked about the presenters at Harvard, observations, evaluations and the coaching process. She also offered her support and asked me to keep her updated on my progress. Her generosity was inspiring.

So on my last day of #EdVentures, I visited Len Nixon at Barker College. Len & I spoke for a long period of time about coaching, professional development, mentoring, accreditation and much more. I also chatted with Brad Merrick about doctoral studies, passion and perseverance. We all discussed opportunities for us to learn, collaborate, grow and develop our profession. I left Barker believing I have two new friends who share the same passion for education.

Later, I thought about how we ask our students to collaborate and work on group projects, so why couldn’t we? Yes, we may be from all different schools and states but ultimately it’s our passion and interest that unite us. I thought about this tweet from Dayna on last week's #satchatoc about Professional Learning with @adambellow

@stringer_andrea the best connections can be outside your school. You may be on a different learning arc & need a better match.
10:00 AM - 18 Jul 2015

So here are my thoughts-

  • Couldn't we coach each other to become better coaches? 
  • Use Voxer to discuss various scenarios? 
  • Create a chat for coaches? (not mentioning any names)
  • Organise a TeachMeet to share our experiences?
  • Create..."A community of collaborative coaches"

I'll finish #EdVentures with the words that inspired my fellowship.

“No matter how well trained people are, few can sustain their best performance on their own”(Gawande, 2011).

Gratitude Journal

Glen McLaughlin & Mr Weeks (Headmaster of Knox Grammar)
Len Nixon, Brad Merrick & Mr Heath (Head of Barker College)
Dr Briony Scott (Principal of Wenona)
Jim Knight
Shira Leibowitz
My PLN- with a special thanks to-
@cpaterso @CmunroOz @Borto74 @debsnet @corisel @wholeboxndice

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Passion or Promotion?

I have really enjoyed and benefitted from being active on Twitter. It has helped me build connections and develop strong relationships that have provided great learning experiences for both my students and me. Twitter introduces me to new practices in education and provides insight into current research. I can learn what is going on in others’ classrooms and schools. After attending ISTE, observing recent tweets and also chatting with friends, I wonder…
“Is there a fine line between sharing your passion and promoting yourself on Twitter?”
Here are some of my wonderings…

  • Is it expected that you follow everyone who follows you?
  • Do people compare the numbers of followers to following?
  • Is it ideal for educators to disclose that they are associated with certain companies, services or apps on their profile? 
Retweeting (RT) - not responding
  • Is it okay to RT or quote any compliments given by others?
  • Should you RT or quote when someone has given you positive comments about your blog?
  • How often should you tweet out your blog? 
  • Is it cool to drop into a chat, introduce yourself and ask for people to follow?
  • Is it okay for one to drop into a chat, share a blog with little or no contribution?
  • Are there any unknown protocols or expectations when participating in a Twitter chat? 
Direct Messages (DM)
  • How do you feel about automated messages thanking you for following?
I understand that for some, education is their livelihood and Twitter is great for promoting oneself or a company. Have you noticed the increase of paid advertising lately? Educators may need to promote their book, app, sponsor, or perhaps their goal is to be the next keynote speaker at a conference. I think Twitter will always consist of Passion and Promotion and I suppose that’s life. I wonder… is it necessary to know one’s purpose and does it really matter?

I so appreciate the humility and generosity of many educators who share their passion, successes, failures, blogs, lessons and reflections. I assume they do this because they want what is best for their students. Or should I say our students, as they share to make us more effective educators as Brad Currie so clearly stated on #satchat. 

What does matter is that the students and their learning should always be our focus.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

#EdVentures Part 8: ISTE - The Perfect Balance

I've just spent four days at ISTE and while I could share how technology can be integrated to promote student learning, I decided to compare my two ISTE experiences.

Two years ago, my son and I returned to California as my son's best friend was battling a very aggressive cancer. His friend's parents had shared with me what a wonderful son we had raised. Harrison had attended his friend's treatments, made him laugh and was part of their family again. I was so proud! This US trip provided time for some great mother-son bonding. He was 17 years old and had had to deal with some of life's hard truths. Sadly. there are some things in life you can't  protect your children from. I knew that he needed support and time, as he had lost another friend (Australian) to cancer the year before. I asked Harrison if he would like to go to San Antonio for a few days since ISTE was there. 

We left Pasadena and flew to San Antonio. During the day I went to ISTE, so Harrison was free to do 'whatever'. He was happy with this arrangement as he had spent 10 years of his life living in the US, so everything was very familiar to him. Probably more so than Australia. I planned my days with sessions back to back. I ran from one workshop to the next. I started at the earliest session and stayed until the very last. I did not however, socialise much, which for me is quite unusual. Harrison would sometimes catch the shuttle into town and meet me for lunch. Each afternoon I would meet him and we would share our days events. 

I had just been asked to co-moderate #satchatoc, so I asked Brad Currie who I should meet and connect with while at ISTE13. Jimmy Casas @casas_jimmy, Jerry Blumengarten @cybraryman1 & Daisy Dyer Duerr @DaisyDyerDuerr were just a few he mentioned. I approached these total strangers to introduce myself. I began by saying, 'Brad Currie told me you were someone I should meet and connect with'. While uncomfortable at first, I was grateful for the introduction. Everyone was incredibly friendly.

Two years on and I returned to ISTE by myself and this time it was very different. I didn't attend workshops back to back. I chose one BYOD session per day (that's the limit) with another 1 or 2 workshops. This meant 2-3 workshops a day. I found this sufficient and allowed for more time to reflect and absorb. I was more selective as I now had more knowledge about the presenters and topics for which I have to thank my Professional Learning Network.

This year, I didn't rush to the opening keynote speaker. I watched it via Periscope from my hotel room, then walked up to watch the second half in the blogger's cafe. This is an area where people meet and connect. People connect with friends or those who they have known 'virtually' for years or even total strangers. It's strange... I have been trying to find a word to describe the feeling of seeing someone for the first time after you've got to know them through social media. I have shared my thoughts, opinions and feelings with these people through Twitter or Voxer or both. Even 'hanging out' or Skyping is different to meeting face to face.

Meeting face to face solidifies your friendship. It takes the relationship to another level. It adds another layer or dimension. I found it surreal when people recognised and chatted with me because they knew my profile picture. And yet, I did the same thing. I sheepishly approached some educators, which resulted in some great conversations. Instead of people being friendly towards me, I now had friends at ISTE.

These organic conversations were just as powerful and beneficial as some of the well-prepared presentations. This ISTE was much more enjoyable. I balanced my accumulation of knowledge with social events. ISTE provided a learning experience but also provided a learning environment where people connected and learned from each other unconditionally. By unconditionally, I mean, you can chose the time, the place, the person, and the topic. We had a conference and an un-conference all rolled into one. I think this is the perfect balance.
Gratitude Journal-

@tina_p - for introducing me to some wonderful educators & experiences at ISTE.
The Aussies @ ISTE - it was great meeting and reconnecting with you all.
To my Professional Learning Network-For those who I met for the first time at ISTE and those who support me from afar. I've grown because of you!
My family- for supporting my passion of education.