Of Pendulums and Pedagogy

I have stumbled across two articles this week related to the role of computers in the classroom and it encouraged me to revisit an earlier post:

OECD Report on Ipads

Computers in Class a Waste!

It is a wonderfully unique time in history for education. Learning opportunities and the breadth/depth of information access is overwhelmingly delicious. Running the Teachers’ Lounge websites/pages has been a great vehicle to document some of my own exposure to this wonderful e-world and I run with arms out-flung to embrace the digital age!

I recently reflected with a friend that I recall my Dad having won a prize at his work (in the 1970s) – a hand-held calculator, with green lights! There was a huge controversy in schools about whether these devices should be allowed in mathematics classes. Similarly, the typewriter created controversy in its day, as it was seen as a ‘lazy writing tool’ ! We’ve come a long way in education.

It has been interesting to watch the evolution of the digital manifesto in our schools. Millions of dollars poured into 4 year turnaround devices (or less!) in order to ensure that schools are on the cusp of the education revolution – or at least – seen to be! Worse at times, is the competitive vying for digital one-upmanship which focuses little on the educational outcomes of the child, but rather the projected persona of the institution.

In 2011 I oversaw the roll out of iPads in our Year 6-12 classes (our focus was on portability to outside spaces, the role of the camera/video element, e-portfolio to “capture learning over time” and to enhance emerging digital skills). As a team we were cognizant that our responsibility did not end once students knew how to use the devices and commenced the interface with the virtual “www superstore”! I do see that this is a trap many educators (and leaders) fall into. The focus of time, energy and funding can be very much on getting the digital mammoth established for quick sale and the underlying pedagogy given little after-thought!

The momentum is continuing; with the development of funding (and curriculum) for coding and robotics in the upcoming “Innovation Nation” … Believe me; I’ll be on board, but with eyes-wide-open on the developmental needs of our children.

… even as some parents and educators express unease about students’ digital diets, they are intensifying efforts to use technology in the classroom, seeing it as a way to connect with students and give them essential skills. Across the country, schools are equipping themselves with computers, Internet access and mobile devices so they can teach on the students’ technological territory.  (Click for full story)

My son is currently in Year 5 at a school where iPads have been rolled out – I hear and experience (!) the concerns addressed in Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction. With the recent announcement that NAPLAN will now become a compulsory digital platform for “two to three years from 2017” (http://www.nap.edu.au/online-assessment/naplan-online/naplan-online.html ) – the proliferation of devices in schools for the purpose of “testing” may be a sad synergy!

In the big picture, do we want students to do better academically or find and pursue their passions? I do understand that many educators would argue for both. The current educational climate is so centered on academic achievement and standards-based curriculum, I believe we need to make proactive, concentrated attempts to get the pendulum to swing towards semi-structured, open-ended, process-oriented and student-driven learning environments. Read Full Article

Despite the genuine educational concerns about the use of devices in our community; I do believe the balance can be found and we can still embrace the opportunities at our fingertips! The engine of this opportunity is embedded in that last quote… Re-read that last sentence… NO – read it again. Do we do that? Do YOU do that? I like to think I’m an experienced educator and despite some amazing WINS in this area; I still feel I have only splashed in the pool of “… open-ended, process oriented and student-driven learning…”

My recent viewing of “Most Likely to Succeed” reaffirmed the directions we are taking and the voice we hope is heard in education… relationship, engagement, project-centric, real-world connectivity and the responsibility of exhibition (with the ultimate goal of “contribution” … in my opinion)! Yet; whilst this generation offers educators a spectrum of exciting choices; the truth is – it’s all about the LEARNER.. does their engagement with school make them want to learn more? Is it about their passions which are being foregrounded or ours? How valuable do we rate “our curriculum” over “their inquiry”?

There are deeper waters here! In our classrooms, technology must be the slave and not the master; a vehicle for deeper learning, an access for students to reach a real and engaged audience, an opportunity for deeper expression and enriched engagement… if not – we will suffer the consequences of a missed opportunity in education and deliver a generation of Candy-Crushed Kids.

Notes From AFR “Teach Skills, Not Subjects”

 

AFR bossI really enjoyed Brett Rolfe’s article “We need to teach children skills, not subjects” in this weekend’s Australian Financial Review Boss Magazine. For those interested, here was the source statement to Brett’s questions on the subject.

The current revolution in education is in the shifting priority to the learner, learning; rather than a single focus on what needs to be taught. It is clear to me that fear of non-compliance to curriculum standards is driving much of the educational agenda in Australia. Our focus on meeting the requirements of a broad curriculum is robbing educators of the ability to invest in the depths and directions which our children are interested in exploring and the “push down” of educational expectation into early childhood is robbing our children of the emotional and interpersonal foundations for long-term success.

There is no question that schools must develop student’s mastery of multi-disciplinary substance in literacy, numeracy, sciences and the arts; but our approach should focus more on the cohesive nature of these fields; a marriage and integration of width and depth in our investigations and studies.

I recently visited a beautiful school in Perth but after walking around the immaculate grounds for 10 minutes I had not seen a single student. I asked my host “Where are the children?” to which they cheerfully replied, “This is the NAPLAN term.” … I don’t really know what that means anymore; I live in a bubble where permission abounds for children to explore, play, experiment, challenge, debate and reflect; the longer I operate within this learning environment, the more acclimatised I become to the benefits but more ignorant to the truth that these possibilities are not the norm.

Our school’s Founder; Gillian McAuliffe, has been a passionate advocate for getting the “word out” and has championed the education-of-educators in this arena (long before it was popular to do so). I do believe that successful schools; schools who are connected and listening to the broad range of international research and best-practice, have a responsibility to reach out to other educators and offer pathways within their own contexts. Our school has been a model of excellence in responding to the needs of our own student body and we are constantly looking for ways to improve and extend our successes.

The foundations of our approach to learning are focused on developing Critical thinking, Creativity, Collaboration and Communication – these do not need to be elusive skills – whilst there are finer nuances; the crux of developing and mastering these skills is in providing time and opportunity. At Bold Park Community School;it is embedded in our environments, our policies, our approach to the disciplines, our questioning techniques and the provocational opportunities we develop for and with children.

http://www.afr.com/brand/boss/we-need-to-teach-children-skills-not-subjects-20150605-gh4c7c?stb=fb

Secret Mums on “POSITIVE” Business … OR … Engaging Our Parents in the Learning Partnership

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I hope you don’t mind my indulgence. It has been a fantastic few weeks at our little school. We have been running an intimate and innovative program for our Middle School girls (aged between 11 and 14).

These are confronting years for our young ladies and we have identified the need to focus on our girls in this age range. Families are needing support to cope as their girls deal with the new pressures of adolescence; confidence issues, body image and representations of beauty, healthy attitudes to food and exercise, complicated relationships (parents, “other girls”, and attraction/s to others) as well as the stresses of school, building success and coping with the technological presence of social and electronic media. It is no surprise that anxiety and stress are a growing community issue.

If our young people don’t have the tools to deal with these issues, they are simply not in a position to be able to learn.

The Middle School team consulted and researched widely to target a program that would offer the girl’s the confidence to address these issues within the school environment. Staff worked to collate a library of POSITIVE centred readings, video clips, podcasts, songs, feature articles and short stories centred around the themes we had identified and addressed POSITIVE solutions to HELP Girls… Kaz Cooke, Maggie Dent (our patron), the “Dove” media packages offered some great provocations;  as well as best practice readings from Relationships Australia and other professional support organisations.

resourcesThese “readings” have been broken into five weekly reading packages which will be delivered as a “girls only” group in a fully integrated English program. We have secretly employed the mums who also completed the reading program, complete with homework for Mum AND daughter.

Mother and daughter study, discuss, read and reflect on the weekly readings TOGETHER before they come to school to share their thoughts with their “Reading Circles” group.  The package integrates perfectly with English, Health, Electives, Zentangles and our Girls group and is informed by the pastoral care focus we have throughout the school.

The series culminated today (Friday the 6th June) with a special surprise event! The girl’s arrived to find all their mothers AT SCHOOL accompanied by our special guest; Kate Wilson – our amazing “spoken Word Poet” – a passionate young lady who has much to say about the issues we are addressing. You can view a sample of her work at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rK46nILY-rw – she was truly MAGICAL!

Most significantly – each mother shared about a moment from their own childhood where they had to face a challenge lead to a POSITIVE; something that was special to all of the girls – they were invited to present their snapshot through a medium of their choice; a dance, a song, a poem, a story but REAL and from the heart.

They also gave their daughter a handwritten letter in which they communicated and celebrated the BEAUTY they see in their daughter.

We are sold on the belief that schools must work with parents in partnership toward developing our young people – not JUST in an academic program but multi-elementally. We are excited that our school has been in an intimate position to RESPOND to the needs of our children in partnership with our wonderful community.

Teaching World Political Systems with SMARTIES?

2013-02-17 15.55.51My wife is also an educator and we are looking at ways to continue to “make thinking visible” in our classrooms … a challenge we enjoyed from last year (Article A and Article B)

We wondered how we could explore; Fascism, Communism and Democracy through the use of visual codes and we came up with the following idea … using SMARTIES. We modeled the work we wanted the children to produce to see how it might look. We were pretty sure the kids (Year 10s) would like the obvious “pay off” at the end! THEY DID. Here’s our “everyday language” version with visual representation! Let us know if you try something similar!

CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW:

REPRESENTING POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY THROUGH THE USE OF … SMARTIES!

You may also like: GOVERNMENT HOROSCOPE

20 Things a Secondary Teacher Wishes He Could Say to Parents

Can we have an honest conversation?

I promise, I am not “representing the teaching fraternity” by writing this… I haven’t consulted with my colleagues; in fact they may well feel VERY differently from the views I express here. I do want to express some of my thoughts from my own teaching experiences over the past twenty years.

I understand that by doing so – I open the door for “20 Things Parents Want to Say to their Child’s Teacher”; and as a parent, I may well write the reply myself. 🙂

  1. I want to help your child – please trust me and empower me to move your child forward.
  2. Read the school policy statements. You NEVER know when you need to know them.
  3. Serve your child a good breakfast, pack a healthy lunch, stop excusing them from sports and leave the Cola and Energy drinks for the weekend. Nutrition and physical activity hugely impacts concentration and behaviour. PS – They could pack their own lunch and they could make their own breakfast.  PPS – They could pack your lunch now and then too 🙂 .
  4. I didn’t give your child a “D” – the work they gave me however, was.
  5. As an English teacher – I BEG you. MAKE THEM READ! Read TO them when they are young. Buy them books/comics as much as you already buy them video/games based materials. When they get older, buy second-hand texts that will either SUPPLEMENT what they are currently learning OR model the kind of writing rigour they are expected to produce in essays, etc. My biggest recommendation? Put these materials in the toilet and change them regularly!
  6. Please contact me when your child needs help, assistance and guidance in their learning. I know you’re not an expert in my field and trying to help your children with their homework can be a real maze! Please let me know the areas your child is struggling with as they happen (not after the due date of a major assignment). On the flip side – don’t empower incompetency or mediocrity by justifying your child when they have been lazy by not following through on a task, responsibility or their homework.
  7. I know my obligations to have a working ownership of your child’s condition, learning difficulty, illness, allergy, diagnosis – I take my working knowledge of this really seriously. With all due respect to the professional who spent time diagnosing your child; please remember that (in most cases) they have spent 1/2000th of the time I spend with your child in the year – I really do have some valuable insights about their learning and behaviour too. On a similar point; when a doctor tells you not to notify the school that your child’s medication has been adjusted so they can get “accurate feedback on its effectiveness”; please remember to discuss with your health professional that the school has a duty of care.
  8. I ask this question of teachers too – Should we reward children for things that they should be doing anyway?
  9. On Parent Interview Night I have only 5-10 minutes with each parent and we need to communicate effectively in the short amount of time we have. If you need more time – please ask – I want to make sure you are happy with what is happening in my class and that we are clear about expectations and all of the support materials available to your child. Also, please make a time to see the drama and dance teachers… they don’t have as many bookings on these nights and you’ll be amazed what you learn about your child from a meeting with them.
  10. Your child is just like you were at their age. Your child’s version of class events, homework due dates, behaviour and attendance; reflect this similarity. If you were a perfect child and you don’t know what I am talking about – please speak to your partner /spouse.
  11. Your child’s education will be negatively impacted if you continue taking two-week holidays during school time because it’s cheaper to buy Bali tickets in the off-peak time. Yes – I will prepare work for them (though experience tells me they will do it the night before they return to school – it just makes you feel better – right?).  Yes – it is a great educational experience. But – ask your boss if you can take two weeks off during non-leave time; ask if s/he will send your work to you while you are away and promise me it won’t impact your work routine.
  12. Be involved wherever possible. Read the diary, read the blog, read the school newsletter, know the examination timetable. Ask me how you can help in my class – but only if you’ve done the other things first.
  13. Talk to me FIRST (not the poor office lady, the principal or another parent). I know I can be a moron, I have a weird and wacky sense of humour that is easily misunderstood, I make mistakes, I make tippos in my typing (;)) but please; unless it’s almost criminal, talk to me about it – FIRST. IDEALLY, have your child talk to me about it (because when your child talks to me – the version of reality that got home is stripped away and we can talk from a different platform). If you aren’t happy after talking it through – then please talk to someone else – you have given me a fair go at coming to a resolution.
  14. If you are visiting the school to see me – GREAT. Please make a time. I don’t want to be rude when you “talk to me at the classroom door” but when I am talking to you during teaching time, I have my back to 30 children.
  15. Stop doing your child’s homework for them. I know it is tempting to do some “creative scribing” and editing. I know you want them to do well. BUT … I know it’s your work because they can’t replicate it in class. If you keep doing it – I will embarrass you by asking you to stop. It is OK to let them fail.
  16. If you’re allowing your child to use technology – YOU have the GREATEST power and responsibility as the gatekeeper – please exercise this power. Letting them have free rein and saying you “aren’t tech-savy” is like sitting in the backseat when your 17-year-old commences driving lessons with your car.
  17. I understand that school may have been hard and even traumatic experience for you but this isn’t about you or me.
  18. Please don’t ask me to be your FACEBOOK FRIEND until after your child has left the school. Please don’t visit my home, phone me at home or send mail to my personal home or email address. BUT do write to my school email, leave me a message to ring you back or arrange a time to get together.
  19. Provide your child with a well-lit, organised, comfortable and distraction-free environment for study. If your child tells you they can study with the TV on – they are probably lying. If they have been on the computer for longer than 25 minutes – check on them – they are either on a social network or they need a glass of milk.
  20. You know your child – I DO want to know what motivates them, what their interests are, what might be “eating them” at the moment, a little of your family situation and of course any challenges or medical conditions that need attention. Please don’t leave vital information for me to discover after three months. I only have a small window before they potentially move on to another teacher.

I hope there is something that you can reflect on. Thank you for allowing me to be so candid – I feel cleansed! Now I will read it back to myself with my PARENT hat on – and will make some adjustments myself.

Schoology – 1 Year On

A little over a year ago I posted about my delight in discovering SCHOOLOGY (READ FIRST POST HERE); I was asked to complete a quick review of our experience, one year on;

For us, Schoology was initiated as a means of assessment/homework communication  between teachers, students and parents. I looked at a LOT of platforms before deciding on Schoology … a year on … I have had no regrets.

It is important to note that, like all platforms, it does require some significant time to establish and administer – with particular careful attention to the privacy and communication settings.  Once up and running, the core administration time is lessened with some upkeep required for semester changeover, new arrivals and exiting students.

The platform offers significant capacity (Function capacity is well explained on the website along with some great videos – https://www.schoology.com/about.php).

I was attracted to:

  • Safety / Cyber-safety features – Student email is NOT required (though functionality is improved if students have an email)
  • Ability to synergise with MOODLE (if you choose to go that way in the future or you have existing resources on this platform)
  • Gmail connectivity and (new) additional “apps”- REMIND 101 is a RIPPER!
  • Internal “dropbox” facility
  • Friendly platform for students
  • HIGH visibility WITHIN our learning community and ZERO visibility/access for OUTSIDE users
  • FREE with high functionality – great to “test” with a small class group before paying for subscription
  • Clear Calendar function – settings for students / parent and staff
  • Making visible the expectations of courses/homework, etc.
  • SAFELY building community (parent/student/staff) e-skills
  • iPad APP (this was a bonus as we had already committed to this platform before the iPad decision)
  • Handles roll and grade books for each course – available securely to parent, student and any “approved advisors”

I liked the ability to stagger the functionality so user were familiar with each “phase” we added over time. E.g. as students and parents have become more confident with the space – we added student blog function (WITHIN SCHOOLOGY) , student comment on course materials (MONITORED) – ability to access grades and roll.

You may ask what it doesn’t do well… it doesn’t train the parents for you :). In most schools this is done VERY poorly or as a one-hit-wonder with little consideration of on-going-induction (personal rant). Administrators have to be willing to sit down with parents LONG after the excitement of the platform has worn off, and reteach how to access/utilise the platform fully. Easily the most “administration hours” are in this area but I do believe it has been well worth this investment. By showing a full commitment to this process; parents now believe that we won’t be “flipping” to the next exciting thing that comes on the market – a frustration for many parents (and staff!).

There is a need to keep selling this to the parents/students and remember that some students will still need to keep a paper diary despite your best efforts to keep things well organised. Also, a BIG WARNING, if you don’t have organised teachers who will commit to use the platform – don’t do it! Training staff is important but it is intuitive to use for the basics and then time needs to be invested in expanding functionality (e.g. quiz, test, roll, links, files, dropbox function, etc.).

As you can tell – I love this platform! Here are some comments from a member of our staff about their experience with Schoology:

As a part-time teacher Schoology has enabled me to communicate with the students when I’m not at school.  Also, I have been able to set up quizzes and comprehension tasks, the results of which are recorded automatically into a grade sheet for me to evaluate later. It has also been useful for setting due dates on tasks and for some students who keep losing their handouts I can upload course info, tasks and medical forms to schoology for them to download.

Going back to my first point, I particularly like the way we can post updates (like a news feed in facebook) this is really handy when new things come up or to remind students and parents about coursework or events. It is fairly labour intensive in the beginning to understand how to travel around the software, but with some time and effort and coaching from Paul it began to earn its keep. All of the teachers use the software regularly. Schoology works for us because we all use it and are dedicated to using this software as part of the communication between students and parents.

For College and MS it is great to be able to keep in touch with what the rest of the staff are doing as well as using it to communicate with students.

What’s the Word on Building Learning Environments?

One of the great luxuries I have at my current workplace, is the freedom to “develop environment” with my colleagues and more importantly our Middle School and College students (admittedly with little/no budget :)).

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Historically, I have taught my classes in many … unique environments … including teaching Year 11/12 English in a staff room, a gym equipment room, a hot tin shed, a board room meeting space, a canteen (this was only a six-week stint which had “other” benefits – LOL) and under a tree for a year. I think they all had their special moments which we enjoyed together :).

There has been a lot of development and research based around the form and function of learning spaces for education and it is no surprise that in our modern, digitally rich contexts we need to experiment with the use of space. I think I was pretty lucky to have teachers in my Primary School who used space effectively, making it both aesthetically pleasing and functional but there was certainly no consultation with students on how the room should look / feel.

Secondary environments tend to be a different story – there has been little room for creative freedom; not because teachers don’t necessarily want to “own” a space, but because the general discourse in secondary timetabling accounts for teachers who move from classroom to classroom, multiple teachers who “visit” each “learning space” throughout the timetabled day and the growing trend toward lighter teacher loads (the part-time teacher).

A quick GOOGLE image search of “Classroom Environments” will reveal some amazing looking class spaces. They range from traditional desk-centric rooms with creativity directed to the windows and doors; to rooms/spaces which look as though they were designed by supermarket architects! What is ALSO interesting to note is the few learning spaces which represent secondary (Year/Grade 7-12) learning environments.

Whether intended or not, all learning spaces do sell a message about learning WITHIN that space to our students. Whether the educator is “influenced by the historical lab school movement of John Dewey, the innovative early childhood work of Maria Montessori, or more modern theorists such as Howard Gardner, one thing is certain: classroom environment has been a subject of teacher consciousness.”. The recent trend has been to focus on our digital environmental priorities and it would be great to re-strike the balance.

I am also learning the value of “building and CAPTURING memories” from outside the classroom environment that are “projected” back into our class-home. It’s not a foreign concept, we do it all the time in our own families; for the learning environment it is about trying to capture where we have been; camps, incursions, excursions, activities, “shared” moments, capturing “fun learning” on film to frame and display … not just for Parent Nights! I am also learning the value of having a stack of old cushions available to maximise the use of the outdoors – which students love.

Whilst most of us don’t have access to master architects; we do have some control over the shape and sensory elements of our classrooms; even if this requires some form of strategic alliance with those we share our classrooms with. These include; practical resourcing, choice of furnishing, consideration of “traffic” routes, maximising natural light, the “student’s stamp” (displayed production, evidence of visible learning (see earlier entry)), sensory considerations (e.g. access to music, multi-visuals, comfort, heating/cooling/ventilation, storage, ability for the environment to accommodate multiple “groupings”, aromatherapy (hey – why not?), use of all “levels” within the space… not just a floor plan?

Environmental considerations do not only focus on room aesthetics but on the functional operation of the classroom. A recent Washington study  (2011) focused on the role of basic resourcing (paper, pencils, room heating/cooling, ventilation, child-friendly furnishings, access to computers, musical instruments, art supplies) as a contributor to student (and teacher) mental health! The study concluded that use of space and availability of resource was a crucial factor in contributing to positive mental health in the classroom; this was defined by four components:

  • learning (e.g., attentiveness),
  • externalising problems (e.g., fights),
  • interpersonal behavior (e.g., forming friendships), and
  • internalising problems (e.g., anxiety and sadness).

I was particularly impressed with the following incidental remark;

“I think parents care a lot about their children’s mental health (their emotional and behavioral well-being) but we, as a society, don’t tend to focus on that as an important educational outcome nearly as much as we talk about and think about academic outcomes.”

A great challenge for us all.

Why Studio Schools Might Be Worth a Look!

Over the past year I have had the privilege to work in a small school in the Western Suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. It models a unique teaching and learning environment with a constructivist/nature based philosophy operating in a multi-age/multi teacher classroom. The school has ensured that all College students have opportunity to pursue their own path of academic excellence which has included WACE Courses, Nationally Accredited Certificate Courses through TAFE, Endorsed Programs and a partnership with Distance Education.

Our Workplace Learning (Careers) has been through significant change; over the past year we have sought to find the best model for authentic vocational partnerships. Last year, we stumbled across a pocket of educational brilliance that inspired us to reconsider many portions of the traditional workplace program we offered.

In 2011, STUDIO SCHOOLS were launched in Great Britain – schools (initially three) which focused around engaging students into “authentic partnerships with local businesses”. The school had an immediate and significant impact on student outcomes and in just 12 months has grown from 3 schools to over 60 with plans for the project to be available as a mainstream model for education in the UK and the full endorsement and funding of the British Government.

The more we examined this model, the more excited we became; because many of the unique features of the Studio School were already imbedded in our teaching and learning practices – Accredited Academic Excellence, Personalised curriculum, Practical based learning, Focus on Employability & Job-Readiness, Requirements for an intimate Small school setting and Student cohorts of mixed abilities.

The piece that has been missing (for many WPL programs) is the relationship with the business community. We have established some fantastic workplace learning experiences for students with some big name operators; however, the focus of these partnerships has been to meet the criteria for the accredited Workplace Learning Course. We were inspired to trial a model which gave the work placement a more “central role” by which there is a richer and more INFORMED, inter-relationship with the rest of the school curriculum.

Workplace Partnerships have GREAT potential; especially in a post compulsory education setting. They could/should offer;

  • Employer Projects that are integrated with at-school learning in partnership with the teaching staff.
  • Ongoing Mentorship and Coaching (INTER-RELATED not INDEPENDENT OF the child’s school goals).
  • Like-any-other-employee expectation (though this isn’t a unique property – it is foregrounded)
  • Paid work placements! Because payment is also an authentic part of our working life.

For example: Angela is a local business owner who runs a large furniture import & distribution business. She has expressed interest in partnering on a project with a student (Mary).

Angela prepares a brief “advertisement” for the position. Let’s say “Import Researcher”.

Mary’s first task is to apply for the position; Her Cover Letter, Resume and Selection Criteria are authentically seeking the position but also double as an assessment item for her English Course. Ideally, Mary could be interviewed and “appointed”. Mary works on her first day in the storeroom with Gavin and Doreen. Her assignment for the week is to profile the range of furniture pieces that the import company offer for distribution (these could be photographed and added to Mary’s portfolio).

Back at school, Mary researches where some of these pieces are sold in Perth and for what price. Mary is also asked to identify five places which offer similar stock pieces to Angela’s. Mary is required to produce a written report of her findings and present it to Angela and a member of her Sales team by week five.

I believe that this kind of unique partnership allows a shift in our focus from merely delivering a workplace learning ENCOUNTER to an integrated and comprehensive work-readiness program that is unique in delivery and function. A curriculum that allows us to broaden our skill development to include Communication, Relate-ability, Enterprise Planning and execution, Critical Thinking Skills and the development of Emotional Intelligence. Isn’t this what the business community SAY they want from young people emerging from the education system?

Employers have consistently raised concerns that young people are leaving education without key employability skills and a general awareness of the world of work. Many are frustrated by the failings of the traditional two-week ‘work experience’ block, and share the view that more must be done to improve the authenticity of work experience and the quality of employer engagement in education. Strong links with local employers lie at the heart of these ideas. Employability skills need to run through most aspects of our vocational curriculum, from the way students learn to the qualification and accreditation they achieve.

VET can’t remain an independent, extra-curricular consideration of our schools if we are to fairly service this growing school market. Thanks for showing us another option STUDIO SCHOOLS!

Cultural Capital or Culture Clash?

Whether it is wise to write a blog immediately after attending a fantastic Professional Development session; I don’t know. BUT… I am throwing caution to the wind (BEFORE I return to the classroom) to jot a few thoughts down about today’s (grossly under-populated) experience with Mark Church on MAKING THINKING VISIBLE. Mark is the co-author (with Ron Ritchhart & Karin Morrison) of a newly released book by the same name (some core resources from the research/book are available at www.pz.harvard.edu/vt)

I was particularly engaged with the challenge to investigate the “culture” of our classrooms. Mark drew the analogy that walking into a classroom (or indeed any SCHOOL) is like walking into a new country; we are immediately bombarded with new sensory experiences, we quickly ascertain what kind of learning and teaching is privileged, what activities and actions are rewarded or rebuked, how ‘mistakes’ are managed/dealt with. Like the sights and sounds of a new country – we quickly draw conclusions; many of which are long-standing and most acutely accurate!

  • Do we develop group culture?
  • How do we make THINKING (intrinsically “invisible”)… VISIBLE?
  • What do we want the children we teach to be like when they are adults?
  • Does our classroom culture reflect healthy social, emotional, cognitive, spiritual and functional dispositions?
  • What is the “story” of our classrooms? Does it reflect the learning we enjoyed (or despised) in our OWN educational journey?

I’m sure that Mark would be horrified by my butchering of his content into a bite-sized, take home pack! Sorry Mark! The truth is after immersion in self-reflection on the values that we see communicated through our classrooms/schools – we were better positioned to answer the two cornerstone questions;

  • What is learned here? AND
  • What is learned ABOUT LEARNING here?

With the political mandates dictating the direction of our curriculum it is easy to see how many classrooms are a story of WORK rather than a story of LEARNING… as Mark put it; “Curriculum has become a mile wide and an inch deep”. I didn’t find the session a “preach” against these curriculum initiatives; in fact the focus was more directed to the fact that Testing, Curriculum and Syllabus are all delivered WITHIN the context of the CULTURES we DO control (e.g. modelling, environment, expectations, behaviour, interactions, relationships, structures, opportunities, language and allocation of time).

The methods and routines suggested to make thinking visible are best packaged by the team themselves but I can highly recommend the book (complete with DVD) and the website (noted in my first paragraph) as a source for unpacking these strategies.

Spiel Cheque

NAPLAN results are in for 2011 and WA has improved! Though SPELLING is still an issue.

Perhaps our relationship with email and sms-speak is a part contributor… perhaps we have become too reliant on our spell checkers and we have no need to self correct?

I had fun with this idea a few years ago and came up with this little ‘sample letter’ for students so they could see the fault in relying fully on ‘spell checkers’ in their work.

Deer Mr Coper

Eye rely licked hour conversion these mourning.

Eye have don a spiel cheque sew their should knot be a miss
stake in these litter.

Mr Whyteheed

Whilst my letter is a bit of fun – this clip showcases the fun I could have had with it…