ExplainEverything??

iPad Writing Station by tdhedengren, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  tdhedengren 
I think I can only dream of a day when my study desk will look this neat and tidy!  At the moment, mine is covered in a variety of paperwork, sticky notes, text books, chip packets and empty wine glasses, drained to the last mind-numbing drop!
Apparently, it doesn’t have to be this way though because some time back, I found out about a teacher who really seems to have it all sorted, in fact she must have very little paperwork.  It seems that when it comes around to report-writing time, she has all the evidence of student learning at her precious little fingertips!  She uses an app for iPad called ExplainEverything which allows her to import from places like Dropbox, and  Evernote and also allows her to record students reading, take videos of them performing activities and photograph student samples of work.
This would definitely make life easier when writing reports.
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There’s no ICT here ….

Whilst Kay has had a busy week at work considering fixed and growth mindsets and has been able to reflect on her ICT growth since starting Uni, my past week could be no less similar.  Whilst still in the throes of completing Assignment 2 and feeling very much weighed down by the looming deadline, I have had an emotional week.  I’m sorry to say, there’s no ICT or anything technological for me to amplify or transform you with, just a heartfelt recount of a few days in my past week.  I usually keep things of a personal nature very close to me but this topic is one that can’t be shied away from and should be aired.  Feel free to read on or move on, its up to you ………

One night last week, I received quite a distressed phone call from a past student I worked with around 6 years ago.  He was one of those students who despite many annoying features, gets into your heart and endears himself to everyone he meets.  We had maintained contact (through his Mum’s mobile phone) and all 3 of us had enjoyed catching up during school holidays from time to time.  He completed Year 12 at the end of last year and was at quite a loss as to what the future might hold for him.  His Mum had been his foster Mum since birth and he was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome as well as autism and his biological mother had died soon after his birth.  He came out as gay last year and his foster Dad did not handle this revelation very well and so they had had little contact after that.  Only recently had they started to rebuild their relationship and find mutual, loving ground to work on.  Unfortunately, foster Dad took his own life last Saturday, devastating my past student although, as he has autism, he didn’t really know how to respond.

Unlike the student I knew, he had remained in complete control and hadn’t shed a single tear and kept asking me how he was supposed to feel.  At the funeral, he initially presented as being quite calm (he even stood up with his sister providing her with physical and moral support as she spoke of their father) but at the very end, he lost it.  Big time.  Finally he was able to let it out.  Everything he was feeling or thought he should feel came flooding out and I feel so privileged to have been able to be there and once again support this beautiful young man at this time.

There was no explanation why his Dad did what he did and he hadn’t apparently shown any signs of his intention.  This really serves to remind me of the impact we can have on our students through what we say and how we make them feel and I just really want to be there to continue to support him (long after he has been a student I had the pleasure of working with for 3 years).

If you or anyone you know is feeling anxious or dealing with depressive feelings, please just be there for them and encourage them, or if you can’t, put them in touch with Beyond Blue.

Just Google it!

I guess this could become an easy catchcry for many teachers but I hope this doesn’t become a ‘go to’ response I will ever use.

Another blog I have come across called Avoiding “Just Google it!” with your students by Connected Principals encourages teachers to think about how they use technology in their classroom, specifically in relation to student inquiry.  This piqued my interest considering I am asking students in my unit plan to search for web-based information, images and videos as part of a science inquiry.  The blog shows a very brief video which really highlights how “just Google it” is not a helpful response to give.  As future educators, it can sometimes be possible to assume that as students today have grown up with today’s technology, they would automatically know how to do online research.
Until I started this degree, I didn’t really have much experience in online research but thankfully it is a skill which I have quickly acquired although it wasn’t a skill I was specifically taught.  This blog suggests that in order to teach students to search effectively on the web, teachers need training to fully understand how to use search engines.  In addition to this, teachers can provide students with structured inquiry tasks to develop skills for searching on the web.
Some useful tips I will include in my unit plan.

iPads for education

My husband bought me an iPad around 2 years ago and (being me) was a bit wary of it to start with.  Now, I love it, and it is rarely far from me.  Amongst other things, I have installed many educational apps, stories and songs on it and have found it to be a very valuable tool when I have been on pracs.  Many of the students I work with also own iPads, mainly used for games, but several also use it as a tool for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).  I began wondering about the benefits of iPad use in education and found this blog by Ashley Wainwright entitled 8 Studies Show iPads in the Classroom Improve Education.

The blog cites a variety of studies which show the positive benefits of iPad use on students and teachers.  It seems that right across the board from Kindergartners  to university medical students, iPad technology in the classroom can be a powerful learning tool for learning and comprehension.

In my upcoming prac, I don’t actually know what ICTs will be available to use but I really hope at the least, the students will have access to iPads to enrich the lessons I will deliver.

U.S. Future of Education?

I came across an interesting article this morning titled U.S. Department of Education:  The future of education includes video games in classrooms.  Initially, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this particularly in light of the article citing research that reveals many students today spend as much time playing video games as they do attending school (apparently about 10, 000 hours of gaming by the time they finish high school).  At the risk of sounding “old-school”, I realise I am actually surprised by this!

The article provides details of an upcoming Games for Learning Summit to be held in New York where organisers hope to find new ways to develop and distribute “engaging and educational video games to classrooms”.  More than anything else, I guess this course has drawn my attention to some really great technologies that can be used in classrooms to amplify and transform learning in very innovative ways, but I must admit to feeling a little bit apprehensive about the way this is headed.

I know there are countless games, webquests etc out there which are really useful tools for learning that really do motivate and encourage students (Iknow, I’m searching for them for my assignment!) but I think that for me, as a future educator, I hope to find a delicate balance of teaching through the use of technologies as well as through the use of hands-on, real-life learning with children interacting with each other sharing learning experiences together, inside AND outside the classroom.

I DO sound old, don’t I?

Finding your mojo!

With some guilt, I must admit it has been quite a while since I last wrote a blog post.  Straddie was VERY distracting!!!  And whilst there, I guess I lost of bit of Uni mojo.  Things seemed a little quiet for a lot of others too and I see Maranda has had similar feelings to me, but it IS definitely time to get the mojo back on and stuck into blogging and assignments.
In order to do this effectively, I felt the need for some inspiration and came across this article, Why Teaching is Still the Best Job in the World.  The seven reasons  given were exactly what I needed to remind myself of and nicely explained my reasons for wanting to become a teacher in the first place.

Mmmmm. Bliss! Straddie!

So after a busy term at school we always look forward to our Easter break – 2 whole weeks!  Every year, my family and I have a week on Stradbroke Island at Easter time, camping in the beautiful campground at Amity Point.

IMGP5447_main-beach by RaeAllen, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  RaeAllen 
This tradition started probably 6 years ago and one where many favourite family memories have been made.  Since commencing my study 3 years ago, I usually have to continue working on assignments while we are here but manage to play most of the day and do some work after dinner at night.  So now, Easter Sunday, this is the first opportunity I’ve really made myself sit down and check in with Uni emails and blog posts creating a personal hotspot from my mobile phone – even being able to access internet in this way is new to me.
Initially we thought we would be in for a wet Easter, but we have had three glorious days so far.  Back soon – more happy memories to make.

Thinking for Assignment 2!

Apparently, we are required to share our ideas about what we are planning for our unit plan.  In all honesty, I don’t mind doing this although I must warn you, it could all change (or go downhill rapidly).  As I am studying with a special education view in mind, I have found it to be a difficult task to decide whether to plan for special education students specifically (for example, in a special school) or take a generic perspective and select a mainstream classroom that may include a couple of students with special needs.  I was initially a bit confused as to the requirements as on one hand, I thought we needed to make a connection with the type of context we would be in on prac placement, but it seems that we can actually make up a situation.

I have decided that it would be in my best interests to plan specifically for students with special needs as I view this as another rich opportunity to plan within my context.  This is what I have so far ….

School:  An Accredited, Independent Autism-Specific School catering for students from Prep to 18 years of age who have a diagnosis of Autism.  Students attend this school alongside their regular setting and participate in either 1, 2 or 3 day programs per week.

Students:  This class consists of 6 boys – three could be described as high functioning whilst the other three require more support, following instructions, social skills and organisation.  The students are very interested in hands-on science-related topics and also have experience with Word, PowerPoint, Google and YouTube.

Staff:  During the implementation of this unit of work, students will interact with myself (as the class teacher), teacher aide, other teachers and teacher aides across the school as well as a “floating” teacher aide who works in the classroom for one session per week.

Learning Objectives: Constructing Knowledge

Year 4 Science Understanding/Biological Sciences

  • Living things have life cycles (ACSSU072)

Transforming Knowledge

Year 4 Science Inquiry Skills/Communicating

  • Represent and communicate ideas and findings in a variety of ways such as diagrams, physical representations and simple reports (ACSIS071)

James seems to have his act together and has made great headways with his initial planning, similarly with Deneal and Tanya.

All the best everyone, happy planning and Happy Easter!

Looking forward to Assignment 2!

Look Forward on Life by Dino RWS, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Dino RWS 
Oh! I meant l-o-o-k-i-n-g-  f-o-r-w-a-r-d , not “looking forward” to Assignment 2!   I think you know what I mean.
Well, the Week 4 learning path has proven to be another massive week (in my opinion) for getting our thoughts ready for the unit plan which is Assignment 2.  The learning path was quite helpful in stepping us through the initial stages but I must admit to becoming utterly confused with identifying criteria from the curriculum documents and  jumping from Year 6 Science to Year 2 English and then a HPE one as well!.  To be honest, I have never planned my units/lessons this way before, so it was quite time consuming trying to work it all out.  Even some of the terminology was a little different to what I am accustomed to, for instance, I have always called them “content descriptors” (from the Australian Curriculum), but in this course, they are referred to as “learning objectives”.  Hopefully I’m getting it sorted though.  All the best with your planning!,

Assignment 1 artefact: Completed!

Our assignment 1 task required us to create an online artefact that would be suitable for parents to view, explaining why, how and what ICTs we will use in our class to improve student learning.

I created a website using wix.com and sourced images and video clips from YouTube and Flickr via Search Creative Commons.  I also included a piece of background music on one of the pages, sourcing this too, through SoundCloud in Creative Commons.  Admittedly, my personal ICT skills are still “developing” but I feel quite proud of my little website although I am sure it could have been more creatively presented with a bit more “advanced” ICT skills.  I take some comfort in feeling that parents may not wish to be dazzled by my ICT prowess but rather discover the simple facts of why, how and what ICTs I will use with their precious child, free of the “edu-jargon” that can frequently accompany these types of explanations.  In the real world, I would provide parents with a link to this website either by email or Welcome Note sent home in the first weeks of the school year.

Here is the link to my online artefact.

http://u1024788.wix.com/icts-in-class