A more advanced level of collaborating between schools is enabled by Office 365. It is aided by classes where students have 1:1 device access. This is an example currently being employed in 2019 with VCE Year 11 and 12 students studying History Revolutions using PowerPoint online. I am waiting for the other two schools to act – watch this space!
I have an experienced and enthusiastic teacher who is currently teaching Russia, which I teach in the second half of the year who wants to be involved.
The restrictions on this task were enormous: I visited the class for 50 minutes per week on Friday mornings. Many things were commenced and then by the time we met again a new topic was being introduced. Most students, however, were able to produce something useful in the first lesson. I can’t share the links with you because they all did what was requested and only shared with people within our organisation.
The student 1:1 devices were not quite ready to be used and my timetable allocated me to one of the Year 6 classes to assist with an Inquiry Topic into World War 1. Hmm – how best to meet the brief?
I selected a number of texts from the Senior School Library, loaded them into a crate with wheels and headed north.
What did I choose? A range of texts about the “Great War” – including titles relating to Chinese soldiers, the Australian Imperial Forces (great language to discuss) and several volumes of the wonderful but underutilised Official history of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 by Charles Bean.
By taking these somewhat ancient tomes I was able to discuss the role of an official historian, censorship, and the age of our school (which is why we have these in our collection).
Students were invited to enter the book gallery and complete a table in any way that they felt appropriate.
The collaboration, obvious interest in content and active discussions around the room were wonderful to behold. The images below were taken with my staff laptop (Toshiba Z20) screen and they worked better than I thought they might.
These methods increase in complexity as you progress down the page.
1. The most basic form of collaborating is within a class. It can be technology free, for example, this Year 6 activity about the Great War, or this example of collecting data and developing ways of using it at senior level. Work can be shared by the teacher taking photographs and embedding into OneNote ClassNotebook, or, if mobile devices are permitted, by the students themselves.
2. Blogging by Grade 4 students in 2018, who were involved in collaborating with our regional Rural Industries Skill Training centre (usually training farmers and senior level agricultural students). Their experience can be seen here. This work was presented at a Microsoft Edumeet in Melbourne by the Grade 4 teacher, Stephen Mirtschin, and me in the middle of 2018.
3. A more advanced level of collaborating between schools is enabled by Office 365. It is aided by classes where students have 1:1 device access. This is an example being employed in 2019 with VCE Year 11 and 12 students studying History Revolutions using PowerPoint online.
When working through a subject, such as History: Revolutions, it is difficult to get the base knowledge mastered, yet the course requires students to consider different ways of looking at the same events in order to more deeply understand the range of perspectives from the time and the multitude of ways that historians have interpreted them.
The situation is exacerbated when the class is very small. In my class, we spend about 1/3 of our lesson time each week working together to collect and then analyse what we have found. I explain to the students that we can work more effectively together to maximise data collection, then give feedback to the collectors in terms of content and coverage of the topic.
It is a number of years ago since I first tried this with a class of 7 with the intention of getting my students thinking. That attempt is detailed here.
This worked brilliantly with the class concerned, but the next time I tried was unsuccessful as a number of students wanted to be silly.
Yesterday, I tried again and it was wonderful. here’s how the lesson unfolded
First I set a potential essay topic (selected to target the earliest part of the course): “How significant were preexisting tensions as a cause of the French Revolution of 1789?” Students were asked to work out the key topic words for each paragraph – could be four or five. Results looked like this once they were stacked in order of discussion.
Once the main concepts were stacked in paragraph order, I asked them to choose one main topic and use 3 small blocks to indicate the content of the sentences within the paragraph for that keyword.
Mind map in the same pairs as before what the essay will cover overall, using all class ideas to this point.
Providing feedback to the other teams on their mind map.
Students went home to write their planned essay over the weekend. The results were very pleasing – the longest first essays I have seen in many years of teaching this subject. Well done to all of them!
I confess – my views differ from some of the strategic Information Technology directions some schools are currently promoting, but in terms of providing valuable education, I really believe we should be embracing smartphones rather than banning them.
That would mean this:
Instead of this:
I am collating data on use and gain, which I hope to have in a state worthy of sharing shortly. I do not think the future will be easy, whichever way schools proceed but from my perspective, the key points are:
Ubiquitous tech such as smartphones and watches are part of today’s world.
No child’s parent has grown up with appropriate use of tech being modelled (first smart type phone 1992 – first iPhone 2007) so who teaches usage, advantages, dangers, and protocols if we don’t?
We are dealing with rapidly evolving products which we can’t hope to keep up with in terms of banning and have far greater chance of impact if we respond in an educational manner.
These devices augment computers (and in some ways surpass them) and should be harnessed appropriately for the enabling of learning as appropriate.
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), is home to a passionate community of global educators who believe in the power of technology to transform teaching and learning, accelerate innovation and solve tough problems in education.
ISTE inspires the creation of solutions and connections that improve opportunities for all learners by delivering: practical guidance, evidence-based professional learning, virtual networks, thought-provoking events, and the ISTE Standards.
The app I would recommend most highly is Office Lens and it is incredibly powerful when paired with OneNote with its amazing “immersive reader”. It works on laptops, iPads, and phones and is excellent for differentiation and assisted learning.
To my way of thinking the gains to education far outweigh the pain, particularly for older students who will soon be expected to function in the world of work.
Fortunately, I chose to attend a free webinar presented through Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) which was hosted by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. The inspiring session ran for nearly 90 minutes starting before school and finishing part way into period 1 (luckily, it was on a day that I could stay till the end!).
Heidi had presented a session in person at our school in the past, and while I cannot recall the topic, I can recall the way that she was able to mesmerise our teaching staff! I wasn’t sure what she would focus on but I reasoned I could always drop out of the call if it wasn’t valuable to me.
The ideas and concepts they work with have strong connections to the work we have done this year with Thinking Strategies, and a small group of has done with No Tosh this year (Stephen Nelson, Nick Palmer and myself) and previously with Amy Andrews, Jody Ogle and Paul Churchill. In both cases, we were led through a process of Design Thinking For Learning #DT4L. This time the process is being guided by a team at ISV and takes place over three sessions so the potential for real and strategic change is strong.
Concepts from the webinar:
In an animated presentation, Heidi focussed on the ways in which we might apply a refreshed pedagogy for contemporary classrooms, comparing elements we have retained from the past and those we have ignored.
This was demonstrated with a classic image of a “school photo” taken outside the front of an old, wooden, one-roomed schoolhouse. We were challenged to consider what we had kept from this era, and what we have chosen to forget.
This image (Vernon, 2015) (shared with CC attribution – non-commercial- share alike) shows the inside of such a school:
While this was no surprise, the forgotten element of this, a challenging (and much more “Reggio Inspired”) example of use that has not continued as this image (James) displays:
Heidi postulated that teaching has been largely directed by others, an issue we must address by seizing control back for ourselves (webinar meets Revolutions – I was delighted!).
In thinking about the non-traditional schoolhouse image, she pointed out that responsive environments don’t run on habit. She asked us to consider education from an empty chair and suggested that we need to consider the needs of the learner.
Hippocratic Oath as starting point:
She compared us to doctors, saying that their focus always starts with the patient. They also pledge to do no harm – something that has occurred for some students exposed to ill-directed theories, or by us focussing on the wrong things.
We must come work from a position of respecting our students and their learning needs and listen to them with understanding as social contractors.
No more C21st skills or “future ready” excuses:
Heidi challenged us to stop talking about twentieth-century skills – we teachers and our students know we are in it. In fact, we are nearly ¼ of the way in, so none of our students have experienced life in the C20th!
So what then?
We should discuss 3 literacies only – digital, media and global. We need to consider these pedagogies and question how well we are meeting our students’ needs. We need to farewell our final year students knowing that they are mindful citizens, innovative designers and global ambassadors ready to take their place as adults in the contemporary world.
She tapped into my History self again by referring to Socrates and asking what we should keep from his time.
She challenged us to review pedagogies we are using to move forward, as summarised in this image based on (Jacobs & Alcock, 2017, pp. 12-17):
We need to move from a classical to a contemporary construction of space and programs.
Here are some highly simplified statements that summarise her question: “How can we be more creative with our canvas?”:
Learning spaces versus cells.
Learning times versus bells.
Fluid, flexible spaces.
Consider spilling into the outdoors.
Replace seat time with proficiency so that credentials are the focus not hours in a subject.
See time as currency (which is the way the No Tosh team worked with Stephen, Sophie and myself in September) – make every minute count.
Where to from here?
My immediate challenge is to plan for the end of the Senior School Library renovation. How might we reorganise the Senior Library to create a modern learning environment?
The Junior School faces the challenge of altering their current Lower-primary curriculum to a Reggio Inspired model; and the return of Year 6 to the site, which will alter the whole campus learning environment.
What are the conditions that enable learning?
Starting from this question indicates a real belief in the value of the learning process. Considering everything from the perspective of the empty chair soon to hold a student is a good place to begin.
We need to work with each other and our students with mutual respect and renovate our curriculums in ways that allow us to be ourselves. We do not want our students to travel back in time when they come into our Prep classroom.
It was the most amazing, uplifting, challenging and inspiring way to begin my day. I have so many ideas running around in my brain that I don’t know where to begin the follow up action, but I have been motivated apply some of the concepts, and completing phase 3 of our Senior School Library, and potentially dealing with a significant change at our Junior School, I have plenty of room to manoeuvre. I am enthused!
Last year a colleague recommended that I apply for the MIEE program. I was in the middle of planning to head overseas on long service leave, writing lessons for my VCE History Revolutions class (a new course last year) and setting up instructions for managing the library in my absence, so I held off until this year.
The application process requires a number of steps, the most daunting of which is a two minute film explaining why you should be considered and what you will do differently if selected. Two minutes is not very long and the hardest part was knowing what to leave out. It was tricky choosing an appropriate “vehicle” to deliver the message, but my approach was to tell a story and weave in my experiences with products such as OneNote, Office Mix for PowerPoint, Forms, Outlook and Teams.
Along with the required number of accrued points within the Microsoft Educator Community, a Sway introducing myself, and my participation in online discussions such as Tweetmeets, I managed to be selected. As one of just under 90 Australians on the list I feel honoured, and humbled.
Approaching the events that 2017-2018 will hold is causing excitement and much anticipation. I am especially interested in the professional learning which I may be able to access and developing my skills to perform at a higher level in my school and beyond. The passion of those who are involved, or have gone before me is contagious!
This lesson will commence with a reading of Dust by Colin Thompson
An extract from the publisher’s description of this text:
“A beautifully illustrated book that sensitively looks at the themes of peace and social justice In a perfect world, this book would not exist. But we do not live in a perfect world. At any given moment of any given day, there are people dying from natural disasters over which we have no control. Beyond natural disasters we add disasters of our making, but even if we all learn to live in peace, there will still be millions of people who need help.”
This video will form the introduction partly because it is very pertinent of itself, but also because one of our Middle Years (Year 6 – 8) classrooms is named after Malala. These students may well be studying in that room in 2018.
It is interesting to stop and think about what we might be modelling to our students beyond actual subject teaching – something the school library needs to consider on a regular basis.
These are the targets that I believe we are working towards:
These three are probably the most obvious.
We are so lucky to belong to our College Community – with a long and proud tradition, a strong focus on health and well-being, dedicated and passionate teachers, and a well-established curriculum and pastoral care system based on Justice. We expose students to a number of world issues where these targets are far from being fully implemented and our opportunities to work towards these goals are provided through fund and consciousness raising.
Next, these two are related to each other:
Last year we had a display based on LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Intersex) Rights. The concept resulted from a member of staff attending a professional learning event at our local hospital. Up to date and relevant material was purchased, and a display space near the public phone, located in the Tower building, has been set up with relevant and medically approved brochures. We also create focus displays on New Internationalist topics of note, and refer students regularly to issues relating to refugees and people fleeing war and or natural disasters.
Another set of connected goals which we model as well as teach can be seen in these three target areas:
The subjects we teach that cover these areas include Geography, English and Science. The way in which we live these are as follows:
paper recycling bins
Papercut is now controlling our printing – which allows for jobs to be cancelled if they are no longer required, and prevents students printing to all the printers in the school but only collecting from one. This has had a massive impact on our paper and toner use.
OneNote notebooks which are now ubiquitous across the Senior Campus are also saving us from printing as many work sheets etc.
We also consider the environment when we turn on the air conditioners, and lights – and determine the timing, temperature and duration of use based on necessity rather than just having them running.
Can you think of other ways that we are meeting these goals? If so we would love to hear them.
The logos in this article have been used as laid down in the UN Guidelines for use.