“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.”
― Eckhart Tolle
This year has seen a major change in teaching style, one that is still evolving. With the ‘on tap’ availability of the internet, we do not have the pressure of being the font of all knowledge for our students. The teaching becomes more about helping them to use effective search words and choosing websites that are appropriate. There is also a place for teaching digital citizenship and Habits of Mind such as persistence and managing impulsivity. On a practical level the freedom of not using a computer lab and spending time booking and dealing with technical issues and breakdowns is awesome! We have found that students can often teach themselves with us guiding and facilitating alongside.
“I’ve been teaching for 36 years and this is the most exciting time in my teaching career!”
– Althea White, English/Media Studies teacher, Orewa College.
This has led to a change in the delivery of the lesson. We have discovered that we do not need to spend a lot of time at the front of the classroom ‘standing and delivering’. The students are often very keen to get on with the tasks that we give them and it is a challenge to keep them focussed and listening to a long instructional spiel. What has evolved is the teacher as the ‘guide on the side’ and this style has many benefits. It enables the teacher to spend time one on one with students discussing the activity and their involvement in it. This in turn helps to develop a closer relationship with the student and a better knowledge of their abilities and needs. We have found that a teacher that is roaming is more connected to the students and their needs and is less likely to battle with off task behaviour.
The ‘Flipped Classroom’ has had a lot of press as the latest educational technique touted as the way to ensure more success in the classroom. We have not bought into the Khan Academy style of instructional videos for every flipped lesson but we have modified the idea and added our own flipped techniques such as using Educreations for essay instruction, reading through a couple of slides from a PowerPoint or simply reading a list of poetry techniques and examples. We expect that the students will use this information to prepare themselves for the following lesson. The expectation is that they will come to class ready to engage with an activity based on the information that they have read or worked through as their flipped lesson. Then class time is used for getting on with a task and not sitting and listening to their teacher telling them things that some will already know and therefore tune out with boredom. The teacher can then work with the students who know the least to bring them up to speed while those that understand the information can work independently or in a collaborative situation.
Most students enjoy working collaboratively so when we read about Project Based Learning and the success that teachers such as Bianca Hewes in Sydney and Valerie Lees in British Columbia were having we wanted to know more! It seemed that the combination of a 1:1 device and PBL would be a great match. We trialled our first PBL unit in term 4 this year and it was successful in many ways. As predicted, the students enjoyed working collaboratively and created some great products. We were able to share what we had learned with Bianca Hewes’ class in Sydney in very funny Skype session where her class showed us their Gangnam Style dance techniques! We did get a bit off track but it was very exciting to do this.
As teachers we have used Twitter to collaborate with like-minded educators from around the world. We are following and have followers from Canada, Australia, England, South Africa and the United States. We also follow our fellow compatriots, of course! This has led to a wide range of ideas and philosophies to consider for our own teaching and learning. Twitter enables us to have a fantastic Personal Learning Network. Many teachers, ourselves included, will blog their successes and failures in the classroom so we are able to learn from their experiences and choose whether to adopt their ideas or modify them for ourselves. Linkedin is also a great way to connect with other educators and borrow their ideas. At the time of writing this we are teaching a project based on New York educator, Jonathon Chase’s Public Service Advertisement project. The students are fully engaged and have the technology at their fingertips to create their own PSA. It is great for them to create a product that raises public awareness of a social issue so they feel good about taking a social action.
A New World
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein
We have entered a new world that is continually evolving. Students are happier to engage in learning and are creating quality work. There are always new apps and websites to consider for creation or engagement in learning. As our first year has progressed we have revised and changed the ways that our units of work are delivered as new apps and websites are created. That is probably the one thing that will not change as we travel this journey!
Our year 9s totally surprised us this year with the quality and quantity of their work. In the past a typical mainstream year 9 student would complain about and struggle to write a 250 word essay for English. The norm for the same student this year has been an average of 400 – 500 words. Amazing, right! Because they have written more they have been able to include more detail and description and therefore have often gained a higher grade. There were still a few that either waffled or did not manage to write more than 250 words but these were the minority not the majority. A cool thing was that no student in our classes complained about writing an essay. Some students also asked to continue writing their essays in a library period! As the quality and quantity of writing has increased so has the submission of work. Some teachers have a 100% rate of submission and resubmission after feedback/forward. We believe this is because it is so much easier for them to write and make corrections. It is also more convenient as many of them are on the internet at home so when an email appears they are more likely to take action instead of putting it off for later or putting it in the too hard basket.
The classroom environment has also transformed from a mostly noisy and, at times, negative atmosphere to one of peace and calmness. If it is noisy it is because the students are excited about what they are learning. This is because the students are engaged and some teachers even allow their students to listen to music, if appropriate. Some teachers also play their own music in class and this has a calming effect. We have been pondering different classroom layouts lately and would like to create a relaxed learning environment in which the students can choose from sitting on stools at round tables of different heights, beanbags and even a lounge suite. We are thinking of getting rugs and some of us are even getting rid of our desks in favour of an armchair and side table. Getting rid of the desk eliminates the barrier that can sometimes be a fortress for some teachers to retreat behind. The armchair would be for those times when you are not roaming the classroom when a ‘hairdresser’s stool’ would be good for moving in between different groups.
So change is still in the air and will be for some time yet but we say, Bring. It. On!
Viva la Revolution!
1. Do students forget how to write?
Short answer, no.
Longer answer: we were concerned about this too but we needn’t have been. The students all wrote four 2 hour exams and coped with iPen and iPaper.
2. Do you have to be a tech savvy teacher?
No, but you need to have a positive attitude to technology and a willingness to learn new stuff. We have all been using laptops for years now so you do not need to know anything extra apart from using the websites that you choose for your class to complete their work. If you are using an iPad it would be wise to take a couple of months to familiarise yourself with it. If you have an iPhone you will be fine as you can transfer your skills to the iPad.
3. Do you have to be an expert with the iPad?
No, but give yourself time to get to know your device and the apps that you are likely to use.
4. Is there an issue with plagiarism?
Some students have tried to plagiarise some things but it is easily noticed just like with your other students. You know your student’s ‘voice’ so will be able to pick it up. This is another opportunity to teach good digital citizenship.
5. Do many student’s iPads get stolen or broken?
We have not had issues with iPads being stolen as we ask the students to activate ‘Find my iPad’ on their devices so this has prevented any theft.
We have had a couple of broken screens from students who have flimsy iPad covers and who have been careless with them. There have only been a few and this is a good time to teach responsible use.