Sunday, October 26, 2014

PD for free and you can wear your PJ's!

Holidays are a time when we try not to think of school. Apart from the marking and planning for the next term, it is a time for those sleep-ins, afternoon naps, time with family and friends, reading those books you have had out of the school library for some time (sorry to Linley, the lovely Librarian at my school), a bit of retail therapy and even trying out a new recipe. However, lots of us use holidays to spend time with other teachers at conferences to learn something new, catch up with old and new friends and perhaps be inspired. For example in the mid -term break, two colleagues went to the NZATE conference in Rotorua. This conference could be followed by a Twitter hashtag, a shared google Doc and workshops notes shared via Google.

The last holiday break was the first time I didn't go to ULearn for several years. In 2012, I flew to Auckland early on a Thursday morning, drove at breakneck speed to the Conference Hotel, and arrived just in time to hear my name announced as a CORE Ed efellow for 2013. Last year, I presented three workshops and enjoyed my last few days as an eFellow and listen to some amazing educators. So I was a little sad at not going this year - but for me it was "family first" time. However, I was able to follow the conference via the Twitter hashtag #ULearn14, shared google docs and live streaming of some workshops. Along with the conference, Connected Educator Month has been running. Based on an idea for educators in the US, this year CORE Ed have decided to facilitate this month-long series of events to celebrate teaching and learning in New Zealand. Again the connection is via Twitter #cenz14, the main list of events  and a variety of teacher -driven blogs, book groups, educamps, dinners, coffee meetings... The two hash tags to follow are #chched and cenz14

Many NZ teachers are now involved in specialist Twitter chats which take place on different nights through the week. I have contributed or followed #edchatnz, #scichatnz, #engchatnz and #pechatnz and more chats continue to grow.  #aussieed is on Sunday night 8pm -10pm (aus time ) which I find a little late for me but I can catch up the next day. Just search out the hashtag.

Educampdunners was last weekend and once again Twitter was used to tweet out links, ideas, photos etc. Later in the day those tweets were saved using Storify.  While an educamp is fantastic f2f PD, following on Twitter is a great way to get a taste of the action.  

If you are on Twitter and you are reading this blog, hopefully  you can relate to something I have written. If you are not on Twitter, you are missing out on such amazing PD, shared resources and shared community.
Give Twitter a try - you just might like it.

Here is a link to a Twitter Cheat Sheet put together by Alex le Long @ariaporo22

Image License: CC0 Public Domain / FAQ

Free for commercial use / No attribution required

Saturday, October 11, 2014

eCafe - Coffee and Learning Conversations

Over the past few weeks I have been running an eCafe for staff at 7.45am-8.15am. Surely, the lure of freshly brewed coffee, Meshino muffins and the chance to learn about a "cool" elearning tool would have teachers queueing up? Well, some people turned up, a little disappointing initially but the real benefit was not about who didn't turn up. The best aspect of a few people stopping by for a coffee and muffin was about sharing ideas and the learning conversations that we have had over those weeks.
Yes we looked at QR codes, Quizlet and embedding videos in Moodle pages. However, the amazing learning that took place was the sharing of ideas, discussing how we could use those tools to enhance the learning in our classes. How using different approaches and ideas could help our students. It was these learning conversations and sharing of ideas that was at the core of eCafe.
I think that we need to make time to talk about learning, not just about assessment. Yes, assessment is important and for Secondary teachers ,we plan our year, based on the assessment timetables. But learning is always at the heart of our core business. Somewhere in our department times we need to be having those learning conversations. And not just with our colleagues, we need to be having those conversations with our students. After a great seminar on boys' learning with Joseph Driessen, I managed to have a few of those (corridor) learning conversations with some of my more difficult boys. I felt it made a difference to them and me. It was not about discussing their behaviour in class, but about what we could do to make learning happen for them.
I believe that as teachers, we are always thinking about how we can improve our lessons, teaching, assessment, unit plans, learning, class management, time management, data collection, report writing etc etc. We need to stop the conversations in our heads and have those conversations with our colleagues and our students.  That's when the real improvement will take place.
Coffee anyone?