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.

Beginning the BYOD Journey

I am in a predicament as I have only a 1:3 ratio of devices in my class an would love to increase this ratio to 1:2 at the least and the idea of 1:1 is very exciting. There are also parents knocking on my door and saying “Timmy has an …… and we were wondering if he could bring it to class to use?”. That is not the predicament, as the possibilities of what we could create and accomplish are endless, but the predicament is there is no policy around BYOD and we have not really begun the journey towards even creating one.

Tomorrow morning I could announce to all “Here Ye, Here Ye, Bring me your devices!” then within a few minutes each one would be attached to our WiFi and ready to go. I even have a list of what apps/programmes that I wish each student should have, reasonings of how each would enhance our classroom programme and their child’s education, plus all are free. Just like that the ratio would be more in line with that desired 1:1 dream. Those who have devices would free up the classroom devices for those who do not and we would all live happily ever after.

The conundrum or pickle or boggle that I am facing is one that I do not have an answer, but have a list of problems with allowing access.

How do I keep the school, students and families safe?

Simple Problems

-Transporting to and from school – who is responsible for the device if it gets broken?
-Tech Support at school is myself and the wonderful office lady and we have no additional time to organise and assist students with connection issues.
-We are not device specific as classes have Desktops, Netbooks and iPads. Problem arrises that we know how to connect PC, but Apple is new to us and we have a lot of learning to do around the Techie skills of the MAC.
Bigger Problems
-Our server is School Zone, which requires a hole to be made in the firewall for many apps to work (Many Apps do not require Proxy, so if we do not put the hole in the Firewall then most Apple Apps will not work), but by allowing a whole we also loose some of the filtering capability that School Zone offers us.
-We have 60GB of data month, so other than turning off the WiFi out of school hours, what stops parents from taking the Proxy given to their student, adding it to their device and then surfing the school internet over the weekend? Checking emails is not a biggie, but illegal downloading or worse could be problematic and effect the legality of the schools internet connection.

Solutions
As I have said, I do not yet have a solution, but by writing down all the problems that are staring me in the face I have taken the first step towards finding a solution. Now is time to talk to my colleagues who are also thinking the same issues (but hopefully not more issues). Look at other local schools who are trying the BYOD approach and see how they have dealt with the issues or if they have even seen them as issues. Ask you and my PLN for your ideas and thoughts.
Last of all I need to get the ball rolling, as it might just be a small issue that affects a few kids this year or next, but it will be a larger issue as the years progress. The day will come when BYOD is not a term we use as devices will be as common place as a students pencil case.

Extra Lead

In the 45 minutes that I have spent writing this post I have also been having other conversations with friends on Twitter about this issue and it has just cemented in my mind the power of a twitter PLN.

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@mosborne01 of CORE Education has sent me on a hunt to see if I can create a VLAN network at school.
@WellsChristine of Orewa College has sent me her student BYOD Contract to study.
@BridgetLCM sent through a link to a Pre-BYOD Checklist.
@JudyKMCK sent through a links to two separate readings around BYOD implementation.

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Unintentional Metacognition

I must admit that when I first looked upon Stories for Thinking by Robert Fisher I was guilty of judging the book by its cover. I flicked through the book and came across a series of short stories and each was followed by a set of questions that would build thinking skills. I put it aside ready to return it to the resource shelf where I found it.Stories for Thinking by Robert Fisher

Before I had the opportunity to return the book I was given a 15 minute slot that I had not planned for as we had returned early from swimming. This time would usually be an opportunity for fitness type game outside or a ‘Circle Time’ favourite, but it was raining and the kids were exhausted after a week of swimming and asked for a story.
Flicking through Stories for Thinking I came across one titled Fair, which was fitting as fairness has been a bit of a playground focus, so I began to read.

Short synopsis is… A Farmer needs workers for his orchard so he goes to hire a man at 9am and says “If you work for me today I will give you a gold coin”. Then he hires subsequent workers at 10am, midday, 2pm and 4pm and each time he repeats “If you work for me today I will give you a gold coin”. Then when at the end of work for the day he gives each of the workers a gold coin no matter how long they have worked and the workers are upset.

Well a the end of this story the class was fuming with the workers, which is where the follow up questions come in, as the first concept was that why should the be upset with the farmer, when he did not lie to them and told them exactly how much he would pay them. The debate and questioning of the students lasted the ten minutes after the story and well into the next day as the students were so thrown by the story that they were engaged. Most students had varying points of view either in favour of the farmer or the workers and all were able to relate it back to their own experiences to make connections to their life.

This was not an intentional lesson, but the learning that occurred within that discussion into an Aesop like story was incredibly engaging and makes me think that I need to allow more time for exploring of issues and developing of thinking skills and debate style learning.

What next
Firstly I have flicked through Stories for Thinking companion Poems for Thinking and come across Somebody, a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, and have penciled talking points and questions over it. I might not use it until the bus arrives is early again or a wet lunch hour or I might use it in our library session tomorrow. When ever I use it I know that the discussion around who is a somebody and who is a nobody will be fascinating and hopefully lead somewhere.

Additionally, it has jogged my memory back to a teacher that I met at ICOT from Rangiruru College in Christchurch. We sat next t each other at the SOLO Taxonomy session and had a chat and I discovered that he taught Philosophy to year 7 through 13, which I thought had to be one of the coolest educational jobs in the world. When realising my enthusiasm he told me of  Kids Philosophy organisation in New Zealand called Philosophy for Children or P4C.  So maybe if we want 21st Century learners to learn in an environment encompassing Guy Claxtons 3 Cs and 3Rs we need to expose them to a bit of Philosophy?

Now as I go to try and work out how I could use P4C in my class and reconnect with a teacher named Andrew from Christchurch I will leave you with Somebody by Lord Tennyson to unravel.

P4C

P4C

Somebody being a nobody.
thinking to look like a somebody.
said he thought me a nobody.
Good little somebody-nobody.
Had you not known me a somebody.
Would you have called me a nobody?

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Imposter Syndrome

At one of Guy Claxton’s breakouts at ICOT he mentioned something which has caused me a lot of thought over the past few weeks, Imposter Syndrome or that feeling that you have gotten somewhere that you do not deserve to be and that any moment you are about to be discovered and outed with a carefully worded question or observation that you do not have the answer for.

It was something that resonated with me and I feel that I have been a long time sufferer. This does not mean that I am unqualified and have little idea of what I need to be doing in the classroom, but that there has been a lack of confidence professionally and the idea that no matter how hard or long I work there is still more to do, so I must be doing it wrong.

I thought back to a presentation by James Nottingham a few years ago where he talked of the ‘Learning Pit’ and the differences between boys and girls with regards to critique. He also asked..

How can we find the excellence that is within us all?

James posed the idea that through our childhood many boys got up to mischief and were told ‘Don’t do that’ and thus got used to criticism where as girls would aim to please more and thus hear ‘Oh how lovely, what a good girl” and never experience criticism (edit: after post read by JN, he clarified “girls do receive criticism, but boys experience 8x more criticism than girls” & James Nottingham was quoting Dweck). Now I am not sexist and believe that boys are mischievous and girls like to keep people happy, as I have two girls and one is in the pleasing category and the other one likes to test boundaries a bit more, but I am hypothesizing that if we get too used to criticism do we also begin to feel that we could also always be wrong and thus beginning the cycle of Imposter Syndrome?

 

James Nottingham

James Nottingham

Now taking the idea that you are always second guessing yourself and in a profession where there are a lot of strong personalities and very experienced colleagues do we find that we are instantly thrown deep into the Pit of Learning? I know that I was and I think that for the first 10 years of my teaching every time that I would claw my way to the edge I would find myself sliding straight back to the bottom. Again I do not know if this is just me or a common experience for all teachers or male teachers or slightly insecure to begin with teachers but I know that there is a way out and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

The way that I have removed my self from the pit is by actually looking at myself as a teacher very closely and seeing what I do and how I do it or in Pit terms: construct a meaning from the conflict within my teaching (Concept) to find clarity (Out of Pit). By doing this I have actually discovered that I do know what I am doing and that I am doing the right thing. I am not an imposter and I have come to cherish those questions that might expose me as I am able to either clearly construct and articulate, with references, an answer or recognise that if I can not answer a question it will be my next focus as a learner to find that answer.

It has taken me 10 years to become a confident teacher and to see the excellence within, but the struggle to get there has made me a better teacher, person, collaborator and member of my community. Although I have not enjoyed every experience within the Pit and know that I will fall back in from time to time there is not a lot that I would change from the journey.