IMG_8339

Education’s best kept secret – teaching at International schools. 

I assume that all who read this blog are teachers or somehow involved in the education game. What might make me different to you is that I no longer teach in my home country, but choose the life of a teacher in the international school world. This stint has been for 2 years and I can’t see it ending any time soon as it is providing a life far richer in experience for my family and I than could ever happen back in New Zealand. Yes there are things that we miss and the distance from family and friends is difficult, but I would not change it for the world.  

 

You see, as I write this post I am sitting at a quiet restaurant next to my hotel in the quiet Vietnamese town of Hoi An – a place I had never heard of, let alone thought I would ever visit. Christmas holidays were spent in Rome, Florence and London and last year we traveled to Singapore, Taiwan and many places throughout our home base of China. While we are travelling around the world and exposing our daughters to different cultures, cuisines and ways of life we are still paying the mortgage back home and saving some money for a rainy day. 

My daughters are receiving an world class education that is on a par with unaffordable private schools back home. Working hard and focusing on your learning is the norm and expected by both students and teachers. They are learning to speak Chinese in an environment where they get to speak the language every day. Their school trips so far have been to Cambodia, Fujian, Vietnam and Brazil – not quite a hike through the beech forests of New Zealand, but unforgettable life experiences. 

As an educator there are draw backs; professional development can be hard to find and you may have to learn a new education system, but when learning and students are the focus it is easy to find a work around any problem. A few friends and I are in the process of planning Nanjings first EdCamp, so I guess PD is what you make it and blogs and Twitter are always there to inspire and challenge you. 

So I guess the point of this is to say, if you are stuck in the grind of teaching back home, feel like a new experience and challenge send me a message and I will be happy to answer any of your questions. It’s not the right choice for all, but it might be the choice for you. 

cropped-nanjing-panorama.jpg

Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.

This ancient Chinese proverb expresses how I feel my learning has been progressing the past 6 months, not stagnant, but moving forward slowly and as the end of the year approaches, and the first anniversary of this blog also approaches, I can say I am not standing still, but may need to walk a bit faster.

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 4.30.05 PM

This Webpage is Not Available – a very common occurrence behind the GFW.

This is my first blog I write since August where I have not needed to turn on my trusty VPN as I am in Singapore on holiday – it is liberating. Living and working behind the Great Firewall has been an adventure, but the internet restrictions of the GFW have stolen half the tools within my 21st Century Teacher Toolbox…

-YouTube
-Google Docs and Apps for Education
-Blogger
-Wordpress
-Edublogs (Unless we subscribe as a school for over $1000)
-Twitter
-Skype

…all unreachable within my classroom environment. Blogging platforms and Google  gone from a modern classroom seems unthinkable and I have spent the past half year rethinking and reworking my philosophy to ed tech as it relates to my present situation.

Stolen from Smosh.com.

The Classroom

All of the restrictions aside there is still much that I can do as a professional for my own learning and there are still ways that I can create a connected classroom…

-I am creating a class Wiki.  Wikis are not my preferred  tool with a year 2 class, but it will suffice in the absence of a blog. Additionally, it will allow me to embed YouKu videos (China’s version of YouTube) and gives us a platform to share work as well as host relevant clips for flipped learning at home. With many of my parents not being native English speakers it may also break down the barriers between school and home.

-Skype: I can access skype through my personal VPN, so connecting with other classes through Skype is achievable.

-Email: Letters never seem to arrive, but connecting to other classes through email is a definite.

The Teacher

Now for me as a learner and a connected teacher I just need to keep looking at the glass being half full. I am researching into some online study, but reconnecting with my PLN is a must, as through the GFW and timezone differences I have been inactive on Twitter and Google+ and not dedicated the time to blog reading and hashtag following that I normally would. Edcamp Home is a mere 14 days away and I can not think of a better way to inspire a new year and prepare a teacher for the second term.

I have discovered that learning to code is like a Soduku  or Crossword and is giving me a better understanding of how a computer and the internet works. I am halfway through a html course on Code Academy and trying to create Apps for my Android phone with MIT AppInventor (You have to give it a go if you have an Android, and get your class to give it a go too!).

I got my class involved with Decembers Hour of Code initiative for Computer Science week  – seeing 6 year olds programming Angry Birds was inspiring and let me know that Scratch, another product of MIT,  will be part of my class program next term.

Lastly I need to remember about this blog – writing a blog post like this is the best way for me to clear my head and order my thoughts, make a plan and direct my thinking, let me reflect and redirect, as that was the purpose of this blog when I created it, but if I do not use it with regularity is is a waste.

Personal Inquiry: Learning to use WordPress.com

This blog was my first blog that was not in the Blogger domain and it has been a huge learning curve.  Blogger is simple, Blogger is point and click, and Blogger links to my Gmail account and syncs instantly to my YouTube and Picasa accounts. So the question 6 months later is why change and the answer is the same – WordPress offers things that intrigue me and look challenging. There is so much I do not know about WordPress and I have thoroughly enjoyed the problem solving that I have had to do in order to make my blog do things that previously were simple.

James Nottingham

James Nottingham’s Pit of Learning

Seeing Widgets and realising that there was some simple code involved has pushed me out of my comfort zone and put me in James Nottingham’s Pit of Learning.

This code along with a few images found on CC Search becomes the Widget below.

This code along with a few images found on CC Search becomes the Widget opposite.

I have wanted to jump back to blogger, but enjoyed the distance that this blog has given me from my previous one – my Blogger is class/student centered and shared with parents/community, WordPress is not secret from parents/community, but is focused on my professional learning and really only slightly interesting to other educators.

So I have scrambled in the Pit, discovered the difference between WordPress and WordPress.com, felt frustration at .com not offering the same opportunities as  Wordpress, but then learned that many others before me have followed this same journey. I have read forums as need has arisen and even learned some simple HTML coding through the Code Academy, which has given me an insight into how code is formed and the little rules that must be followed in order for it to work. To me it is like a recipe and once you have the base ingredients you are able to create much more interesting dishes.

Todays learning was just a piece of icing on the top of the cake – taking the simple Twitter ‘Follow Me” button that is there for you and changing itScreen Shot 2013-08-01 at 11.54.22 AM to my new “Follow Me on Social Media”. The code was more complex in details and length, but really was quite simple once the recipe was found on a WordPress.com Forum.

Now that I have begun to unlock the secrets of WordPress.com I am pretty sure that I need to take the next step into a straight WordPress site, but that is a piece of learning that will need to wait until another set of holidays. Before then I have a new job to begin, China to explore and there is an Aurasma Studio account in the midst of being processed as I type. I guess that the key to this post really is that I have really enjoyed the process of learning that I have had to go through with this blog with regards to the technical aspects as it has challenged and frustrated, but I have problem solved and reached the outcome that I was trying to achieve.

For 2013/14 I will teach… My pledges for the next school year.

As I am now officially in my summer holidays (although I have a chilly -2 outside) I am ready to post the goals that I have set for myself for the rest of the 2013/14 school year.

For 2013/14 I will teach…5107173769_8cee35848b

…with clarity and purpose.

Taking into account what I have taken away from my time with Gail Loane and Kath Murdoch with regards to writing and inquiry teaching I will make sure that within my teaching I will have the outcome and purpose clear all of the time, not just most of the time.  Additionally I am also wanting to use Guy Claxton’s Split Screen concept with greater openness with my class.  Letting the content have just as much importane as the concept and skills that are being developed within the lesson – I want my students to build their own thinkers toolkit as the the year progresses of knowledge, skills, learning approaches, thinking styles, reflective tools and ways of questioning.

…like a builder.

I remember talking to  my Grandfather as a wee lad and he told me that when you finished work for the day you always needed to clean up so that when you come in the next day everything is in order and ready for the day to begin.  So at the end of each day as I leave my class I will make sure that my tools are stowed away and that what needs to be done is done or if it is not completed it is added to a list and given a priority rating and a deadline.

…with connection.

I have already joined the Global Classroom, looking to rejoining the Travelling Rhino Project, thinking about Mystery Skype and will be blogging up a storm with my new class – Connected! 

…with innovation.

As technology moves along I wish to move with it, not two paces behind. I want to look into augmented reality as a way of getting students to share their learning with visitors and peers.IMG_0471-150x150

…like a Pirate.

Don’t just teach a lesson, create an experience.

P     assion
I     mmersion
R    apport
A    sk and Analise
T     ransform
E     nthusiasm

…without walls or barriers.

Other than the connection that happens through the web and technology tools (Skype, Blogs etc…) I want no walls (figuratively) between home and school, the environment around us and the classroom. This will happen through parents and experts  in the classroom, learning not confined to a text book, but in mand different contexts and 2013-2014-season-tease2taking every learning opportunity that comes my way.

…to the needs of each individual student.

As per normal, the needs of the individual, not a whole class approach. I am a firm believer that to reach equality in the classroom everyone must be treated differently.

Many of these things I already do, but I feel that with each of them I could do it better and that each of them could have more clarity and consistency, so they are my pledges for the next school year, but what are yours?

A Year in Retrospect – Beginning a New Tradition.

It seems strange to me to be reflecting on my year, as it only half over, but as I am heading to an International School in China next term it kind of is the end of a school year for me. So here is a retrospective look at the highs of my past year and I hope that as this blog progresses and ages with me I will add a reflection of the year each year.  I suppose that I will follow this up soon with some direction and goals that I want for myself for the 2013/14 school year.

Classroom Blog

interface awardIn the middle of last year I put my class blog (www.mrdyerhfs.blogspot.com) forward for the Interface Awards and made the Top five for Best Class blog – Not a bad accomplishment for a little school in rural New Zealand.  At this time we also connected with other classes within New Zealand and globaly, which showed me the true power of the classroom blog.

Blogging as a Professional

I began this blog, and it has been a fantastic journal, sounding board, reflective outlet and place to connect and share. I implore each of you to try it, public or private and you will see the wealth that the professional blog offers.

Twitter

I connected, I followed, I dived in, I was inspired. Twitter has kept me going this past year with connections and inspiration. It has connected with…

  1. Projects like the Travelling Rhinos of Karen Stadler (@ICT_Intergrator).
  2. I gave creating something a go and hooked in some friends to create the #NZSchoolTimeLapse. I have not been able to cary on with it since through a school production and trying to finish this term to hand over my class, but other awesome teachers have taken it over, part two has already been created and part three is in the creation at the moment!
  3. Global PLN – too many to add here and I would hate to miss one out.
  4. NZTweeps – You all are a daily inspiration!

iDevices

A year ago I got hold of a iPhone 3, then received an iPad for the class and then at Christmas got the iPhone 4 (Still behind the game, but love it).  Apple_gray_logoThese iDevices have changed the game, I know that other devices like Andriod can as well, but it has been an Apple learning curve for me. As long as I keep SAMR in the back of my head I know that only good can come from their use. Additionally with the rise in Augmented Reality and Code Apps like Cargobot there is so many amazing possibilities from these devices that are yet to be discovered. If you want to know about Augmented Reality and Cargobot you have to check out the website of Brad Waid and Drew Minock –  Two Guys and Some iPads – as they are Grade 3 teachers who are sharing their practice with the world and it is truly inspirational!
(@TechBradWaid & @TechMinock)

PC out – MAC in

I have slowly weened myself of the PC and jumped to Mac with the purchase of a sexy MacBook Air.  I’m in love! That is all there is to say about that!

Central Otago Teachers visit to Auckland Schools

Wow… nothing is more inspirational than seeing experts in action and clever designs for both curriculum and buildings in real life.  Two days of whirlwind touring to Stonefields, Summerlands, Albany Senior College & Point England where we got to hear from inspirational educators like Andrew Churches (Read his blog Educational Origami) and quiz Mark Osborne about the awesomeness of Albany Senior College (Google it) then see Manaiakalani in action with Point England and hear from the amazing Dorothy Burt about their journey – their senior students presentation inspired me to do better and look at education in a different way.

EduCamp

I have been lucky to make it to three EduCamps in the past year and have made lasting friendships along the way and been inspired beyond measure. If have not been to one yet then you need to, they are everywhere, just google and you will have a great morning of connection and inspiration!

Tek Rush 2012

Taking a half dozen students to this kids conference was so inspirational and sadly I will not see the second as I will have already left the country.Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 12.16.11 PM  Click the link if you want to find out more, but think about some of the coolest conferences that you have been to with interactive workshops, keynote speakers and cool prizes and goodie bags then aim it at IT passionate kids who are Year 5 or Year 7 and you have TekRush.  The kids that I took last year still wear the T-shirts as badge of honor and I was stopped in the street last week by a kid who was in my trick photography workshop, she thanked me and introduced me to her parents – i.e. it made a lasting memory!

ICOT 2013

newlogoTo name a few highlights would be -Edward DeBono, Lane Clark, Ewan McIntosh, Simon Breakspear and Guy Claxton, but then you have to add in all of the long lost and new found friends and colleagues that I got to spend time with and learn with face to face.