A few thoughts and ideas

Being, not just practicing

Brain-anatomy

 

 

 

 

(Image from http://commons.wikimedia.org: by User:Primalchaos)

At my school this morning, a teacher presented a report on the recent ‘Artist in Residence’ event. We call this type of short presentation a TWEET (This Weeks Educationally Excellent Tip). The presentation takes only 2 to 3 minutes and starts us off for the week with an educational idea for all Secondary School teachers before we get down to the administrative items which typically dominates our start-of-week briefing.

This morning was an excellent example of blood-less brain surgery. In the experiences that the Art Faculty employed for their students they took the students from learning about art and media to Read More

Habit of Mind Zero

Mindfulness = Habit Zero (Image from Sergiu Bacioiu from Wikimedia Commons)

During the last few months we have been looking to introduce mindfulness at my school. Having started to introduce the Habits of Mind during the last 18 months the issue of mindfulness has been seen to be a good fit for our pastoral care programmes aimed at encouraging students to be emotionally resilient and our focus on developing success through the adoption of the Habits of Mind.

The more I look at the language of the Habits of Mind and mindfulness and consider the underlying mechanism of making our thoughts more deliberate and our minds more effective, the more I think that mindfulness and the Habits of Minds are different expressions of the same thing. More than this the principles of mindfulness place it as an overlaying structure that supports all the Habits of Mind as well as adding its own benefits for mental health and the functioning of the mind.

So maybe Mindfulness can be considered as Habit 0.

Do Schools Need a Policy for Social Network Issues?

Social Media Regulation (image from Wikimedia Commons by Pmox)

I think it essential that a school or system of schools has policy that covers the communication behaviours that are considered acceptable as part of school operations, and, furthermore, details those behaviours that either need regulating or banning.

There are several aspects to the use of social media use that relate to schools. These include consideration of:

  • Official school and school system use of social media channels – news / parent information / promotions / advertising
  • Educational use of school mediated social media – hosted inside or outside the school or system – Facebook groups that students can join / School LMS functions / educational Web 2.0 tools / external course material / chat rooms
  • Personal use by staff and students of social media for educational purposes – personal email addresses / twitter accounts / Web 2.0 tools (wiki’s, blogs, socially mediated groups, photo sharing etc.)
  • Social, non-educational use of social media between staff, staff and parents, staff and students.

Generally I don’t believe in setting policies that:

  • Cannot be policed
  • Are based on a specific type of device, object or service

Probably weapons such as guns and knives are an exception, and even here there are grey areas. Read More

Discussions with pre-service teachers on ICT use

NetworkThis is a link to a forum I recently contributed to which discussed the use of ICT in classes and how to manage the use of computers in schools. The scenarios were well presented by the students and the discussion was very useful.
Fellow contributor was John Oxley and the forum was run by MIchelle Williams.

Image modified from Zigomitros Athanasios work at Wikimedia Commons

Professional Status of Teachers in Queensland

TeacherFor a long time in Queensland the professional standard and standing of teachers has been compromised by the very silly situation where teachers in primary and middle schools can be qualified to take up general teaching duties where they teach students in literacy, numeracy, arts, sciences and the humanities with an entry to their university training only requiring a pass in English. I’ve heard today that over the next couple of years the requirements will be for trainee teachers to have a pass in English, maths, and science. This is good news and gives hope for the increased professionalisation of teaching in this state. I look forward to Queensland improving its teaching capacity and professional standards over the next few years.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Do we need coding in school?

MatrixIn a recent Guardian article (See Here) John Naughton gives us some ideas about how to approach the problem of educating our kids in the technology saturated world that is only going to get more-so in the future. A great deal of what Naughton says I agree with but he then resorts to some good old-fashioned rallying cry stuff like 
”The biggest justification for change is not economic but moral. It is that if we don’t act now we will be short-changing our children. They live in a world that is shaped by physics, chemistry, biology and history, and so we, quite rightly, want them to understand these things. But their world will be also shaped and configured by networked computing and if they don’t have a deeper understanding of this stuff then they will effectively be intellectually crippled. They will grow up as passive consumers of closed devices and services, leading lives that are increasingly circumscribed by technologies created by elites working for huge corporations such as Google, Facebook and the like. We will, in effect, be breeding generations of hamsters for the glittering wheels of cages built by Mark Zuckerberg and his kind.” Read More

Knowing, understanding and create optimistic futures through the Habits of Mind

This is a short article I wrote for my school magazine. I hope you find it interesting. 
As the needs of our society have changed, so the level of expected intellectual ability required by people to enable them to be successful has risen. Prior to the industrial age it was sufficient to learn a process or job that you would have for whole of your working life. This job was likely to be similar to that done by your parents and grandparents throughout their working life. Later, during the industrial age, the primary concern was production, with workers being selected (and socially ranked into classes) based on their ability to read, memorise and use a large number of recognised facts. As time has gone on, society moved from the industrial to the information age. With this change the ability to learn and remember facts has given way to a much more important need for understanding. So what are the characteristics we now need to develop in our students to ensure they have a good chance at a successful, productive and satisfying life? Read More

Some thoughts on the effects of ICT on our society

Now I love technology, but the following is related to an email I received from one of my colleagues who is similarly technological but yet concerned with detrimental effects of modern technology use on our students. This is an email I was writing to him in response. It’s a bit rough and needs more work but contains some important thoughts (if I may say so!!)

Computers and phones in bedrooms will become more and more of a problem. I think a large number (I would guess the majority) of parents have no idea what their kids are up to online. I have always told parents in newsletters and meetings to have the computer in a family area and to make bedrooms a technology free zone where possible. I also tell them to set up these expectations early as it is harder to convince a Secondary age child than a Primary child of where the computers in the house should be. Read More

Teaching is a bit like torture!

As I was driving to work today, I had a thought. Teaching is a bit like the act of torture, the principle is exactly the same.

When you torture someone you inflict a level of pain to effect a confession or extract information. In both cases the level of pain needs to be just enough, but not too much. Too little and the victim will be able to suffer the discomfort, too much and the victim will either lapse into unconsciousness or expire – both of little use to the torturer.

When we teach, both the appreciation of the student’s readiness to learn and the design of the lesson have the quality of enough but not too much. The students level of readiness and the appropriate teaching strategy needs to be explored, much as the wiggling finger of pressure on a pressure point seeks first to discover just the right place and then to judge the right level of pressure to bring about the squirming of the victim without causing a complete faint.

With ill-judged application of our teaching methods or incorrect analysis of our students’ readiness to learn (another way of describing the Zone of Proximal Development) we will either fail to interest students due to pitching our instruction too low or cause our students to disengage by overwhelming them with expectations of their learning that are far too high.

Teaching is hard and needs to be precise. Much like the torturer we need to study our methods and try some new ways. Just make sure that not too many of your victims expire before you get some learning happening.

Using web filtering as classroom managment

For some reason teachers who ordinarily are comfortable with managing students in their class, find the management of students within a computer area such as a computer lab, extremely demanding. One response to this is that teachers ask for technical staff to block websites citing that the sites are a distraction.
Here is a good response to this issue http://tiny.cc/nTk10.

Within my experience I would say that one of the reasons for students being distracted when in class is due to the trivial and/or unengaging nature of the work that students are set. The cure for this is differentiated learning and the use of powerful questioning techniques. A good reference for this is www.fno.org