Know What You Stand For
Different situations provide us the opportunity to stop and reflect on who we are as educators, what we believe in and what we want for our students.
This is what I believe in...
Positive Approaches to Leading
Cultivating a Community of Caring
Technology has really changed the way we teach. As technology becomes more prevalent in education, its impact on education continues to evolve. No longer are we teaching in traditional ways or focusing on traditional technology tools, rather how we can use the best tool for the best possible learning experience and expression of our students’ knowledge (ACARA, 2012). ICT is constantly changing and adapting and education must find a way to continue to adapt to it yet have a state of constant for our students at the same time. One way to do this is to focus on the transdisciplinary skills such as creating, communicating, collaborating, building knowledge, managing their tools as the students of today prepare for the unknown jobs of tomorrow.
Working in an international school, I find myself with a plethora of technology resources easily accessible to me. However, I know that back home in Canada I would not have the same luxuries in the public and Catholic educational systems. This would make me believe that it would be a similar experience in Australia. I wonder how teachers are finding the ACARA guidelines if they don’t have the resources to implement the ICT capabilities across the year groups and subjects effectively. On the flip side, are schools with an abundance of technology really impacting the teaching and learning in the way we hope it would? If some schools struggle with not enough technology, is it possible that at times the other end of the spectrum of too much technology occurs in some classes?
The ICT capabilities in the Australian curriculum (ACARA,2010) are similar to the International Baccalaureate ICT skills in the PYP. The ACARA ICT capabilities consist of 5 capabilities with a continuum across all year groups through 6 levels. The capabilities include:
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2012, March) Draft Shape of the Australian Curriculum - Technologies. Retrieved from: http://www.acara.edu.au/verve/_resources/Draft_Shape_of_the_Australian_Curriculum_Technologies_paper_-_March_2012.pdf
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2010). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Capability. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/generalcapabilities/information-and-communication-technology-capability
International Baccalaureate. (2011). The Role of ICT in the PYP. UK: International Baccalaureate.
Mindfulness Meets Technology
Technology has become a vital component of our everyday lives and changed the classroom environment. With easier access to information and the ability to connect globally, classroom walls now expand well beyond the school’s physical boundaries. However, with instant information and connectivity, this also creates increased distractions and challenges, leading to a greater need to focus on digital citizenship with our students.
When our phone buzzes or we hear a ‘ding’ indicating a message, it is likely that both kids and adults alike reach for their phones to respond. It is rare that we stop to think about our relationship with our technology and the many notifications, interruptions or distractions that technology generates impact our environment and our daily lives. As teachers, we need to be cognizant of the purpose of technology in our classes and ensure we model a balanced approach to technology use inside and outside of the classroom. It is important to have an awareness of when devices are enhancing creativity and learning, and when they are hindering development.
Mindfulness is one way to develop an awareness of ourselves as individuals. We do this by taking time to refocus, breathe and evaluate our current needs. Mindfulness is about bringing awareness to the present moment you are in. It can be practiced informally through sitting quietly and meditating and breathing, or through more formal mindfulness routines that focus on being aware of certain aspects of your body or environment. Mindfulness is becoming more present in classrooms to begin the school day or refocus after a break as a way to reconnect with oneself.
The Benefits of Mindfulness in the Classroom
Mindfulness benefits students in many ways. It allows our bodies and minds a break from screens and devices. As students focus on themselves throughout a routine, they provide their eyes respite from screens, while providing their body with the ability to realign from potentially poor posture and relax tension throughout their muscles.
Students learn techniques to help manage and regulate their emotions, allowing them to feel less stressed and reactive to situations, creating a greater sense of calm within. This allows students to develop coping skills with their emotions. When students have greater self-awareness through mindfulness, they are also more likely to be compassionate towards others. The focus on socio-emotional learning, skills and student wellbeing through mindfulness allows students to develop a greater ability to focus and concentrate during their lessons.
Technology Applications that Support Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness doesn’t have to always mean putting away our devices completely. There are many resources available online and in the app store to support introducing mindfulness into your classroom. Here are four that will help you integrate mindfulness into your daily classroom with lessons, breathing and easy-to-use resources right away:
Student Developed Mindfulness Routines
As the school year progresses and students become more accustomed to mindfulness as a practice, there is the opportunity to move beyond the apps to have your students create their own routines and develop ownership over the mindfulness in their classroom. This presents a variety of learning opportunities for the students:
Allowing for student voices to become a part of the mindfulness program increases engagement and participation. Mindfulness positively impacts the culture and climate of a classroom by supporting student wellbeing, encouraging balance, breaking from digital screens and allowing students to have more awareness of themselves before they continue going about their day.
*Originally published on Education Technology Solutions: https://educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/2017/11/mindfulness-meets-technology/
This summer I climbed Mount Rinjani in Lombok with a close friend of mine. To put it bluntly, we both are not much of the exercising type and we showed up with our running shoes and a few items in our backpack ready to take a stroll up the mountain. Little did we know what we had signed up for. We didn't know what lay ahead, the challenges, the mental game and of course, sore muscles. The 3 day trek that seemed almost impossible at times almost got the best of me and I thought I wouldn't be able to keep going a few times.
The physical exhaustion kicked in at 3am as I was literally taking baby steps up the gravelled trail where I would take a step forward and slide a bit back down. Without proper shoes, it was a struggle to move forward as I felt the world pushing back at me. It felt like I was doing all this work and yet getting know where. So what was the point of even trying?
At about 5am, I could see the top in the distance but the vertical climb was not something I mentally ready for yet. I almost just stopped to say this was a good enough view. But then a layer of sun started to rise at the horizon and the fire inside began to illuminate as well. The only thought in my mind was that I was going to make it to the top and that there was nothing anyone could do to stop me. The only one who could stop me was myself, and I wouldn't let that happen. I had set out on this journey to make it to the top, and that is where I planned to end up.
And so I pushed on with my brain cheering my physical self on with my head down, looking only where I needed to go next, focusing on the now. Every once and I while I looked up from where I was and could still see my goal in the distance. So again, I forged on.
Finally, as I pulled myself up, there I was at the top looking out at what I had accomplished. I could look back and see the hard work and dedication, the tenacity and drive and the mental willpower to achieve my goals. I could see ahead the volcano surrounded by a lake that was surrounded by mountains and just stood there enjoying the beauty that was there.
To me, this is my educational journey. I'm a long, long way to the top, a long way from where I want to be as a teacher and future career aspirations but nevertheless, I'm still moving forward. Some days you travel farther then others and some days your feet are just sliding in gravel.
As a teacher, there are so many other components to your job than just being a teacher - communicating with parents, staying current on best practice, collaborating with peers, meetings, paperwork, report writing - the list goes on and on. You can have days where your class just drives you a little crazy or you're dealing with girl drama or students using technology inappropriately. You can have the wind and the rain pushing against you as a teacher - but yet you keep moving forward.
The best part of my day is just standing where I am, no matter where I am on the mountain and enjoying the view. I see how far my students have come from the day they first come to my door, and I know they have a long way to go until I can help get them to their own mountain top in June. I love the smiles I see on my students faces when we spend the last five minutes dancing or when a student helps another one down the stairs who is on crutches. I love watching the students laugh as they play tag in the playground or succeed at a challenging task. Their resilience to the obstacles sets an example for us all. Their caring nature shows us how to support each other along the way. Their ability to take risks sets an example of how we should be in our own lives. They are the reason that you keep pushing yourself forward to be better each day.
The bumps in the road as a teacher are always going to be there. The one thing I've learned is that you may never make it to the top of the mountain any day soon but it is possible if you keep moving in the upward direction. But most importantly, you don't have to be at the top of the mountain to enjoy the view - your students are right in front of you.
Technology in the classroom has changed substantially over time. Once upon a time, computers were not affordable for the average school to have in each classroom. The computer took up a good chunk of space in the room and had limited functionality. Nowadays, many schools have computers in every classroom, some enough for every student or a BYOD programme adopted so that technology can be integrated on a daily basis.
As a teacher that uses technology on a daily basis to enhance the education experience, it is hard to imagine it being challenging for teachers to find educational uses for computers when they were first being introduced into the classroom (Bigum, 2012, p. 18). For me, trying to find the best way to transform technology for education is something I enjoy doing. I like trying to find new ways to use the tools I have to make learning different and engaging for students. Back when computers were first being introduced this may have been more of a struggle with dedicated teachers still trying to lead the way.
I love being able to introduce new technologies into my classroom. Often I just show my students and just let them explore it. They will often be able to grasp how to use the tool faster and better than I would be able to show them if I was to lead a directed lesson. Because my students are now proficient with a number of technology tools, it is easy for them to transfer their knowledge between technology tools until it is 'domesticated' as part of the class (Bigum, 2012, p. 22).
As an Education Technology Coach, I am often approached by teachers wanting to buy the 'new big thing'. For me, it is important that our school doesn't just jump on board with purchasing things to 'keep up with the Jones'. Rather, take the time to trial it, see what the pros and cons are before purchasing and rolling out to the whole school. This helps to slow the cycle. It is important to note how a new piece of technology will change the experience of what already exists with a focus on how is it going to improve teaching and learning (Bigum, 2012, p.26).
I believe technology is enhancing the way I teach in my classroom. From a productivity and organisational standpoint, I find myself feeling that technology has supported me in developing these areas. From a teaching standpoint, I have access to resources and information that I would not be able to access without technology. I can engage my students by showing them other parts of the world giving them first hand references instead of just a text to read. Students can also access information easily, share and connect with other students. My students are able to collaborate in school and from home on assignments using a variety of technology tools and resources. Having had access to so much technology for educational purposes, I would find it challenging to move to a system that did not embrace technology. Technology has allowed me to better my teaching practice so that my students have the best possible learning experience.
Bigum, C. (2012). Schools and Computers: Tales of a Digital Romance. Transformative Approaches to New Technologies and Student Diversity in Futures Oriented Classrooms. L. Rowan and C. Bigum, Springer Netherlands: 15-28.
As Proctor et al (2003) suggest, the measurement of effective ICT integration is quite challenging. In my setting, we have teachers self-evaluate their technology skills and competence at the beginning and mid-year. This data helps us support the planning of professional development to meet the overall needs of our staff.
Currently, we do not have something to measure the impact of technology use in our organisation on a large scale. However, I am interested to look for ways to measure data and have data-driven dialogues to help move us forward. I’d be interested to hear what other schools are currently doing to help measure this data. A lot of our conversations with teachers are around the purpose of their technology integration: Is it achieving the desired learning outcome? How is it enhancing the learning experience for students (Proctor et al., 2003, p. 69). These informal discussions are great sources of informal data which can help us better understand teachers’ approaches to technology integration. The SAMR model is one way to help teachers understand how they are using technology for integration.
Much of the data that I gather for different trials I have been involved with (ie 2-to-1 teacher devices) is anecdotal. This can be challenging to measure growth. However, you can often see the changes in patterns and growth.
When our school became a 1-to-1 laptop school, there was a clear decision from the administration that ICT skills for students would not be assessed (ie, typing, etc). However, there would be more of a focus on transdisciplinary skills such as visual literacy, research skills etc. These skills would be a source of teaching points and commented on in reports but not given a numerical value. Because of this, it makes it challenging to gather concrete data on student skills as a way to inform future planning. That being said, I’d be interested in giving our students a survey at the beginning or end of year to see what skills they have and what skills need to still be developed according to students’ self-assessment.
Reading Voogt & Pelgrum (2005) really resonated with me. Our school pedagogies are definitely becoming more student-driven and inquiry based with the teachers in the role of facilitators and supports. ICT has become more woven and embedded into the curriculum with less focus on tools and more on what they are trying to achieve. Skills that can be transferred between disciplines are also emphasised with a focus on skills that will be long-lasting. Our inquiry approach to teaching focuses more on collaboration and creation with students exploring their own inquiries based on personal interest and sharing their findings. Because an inquiry model is a focus for our pedagogy, it changes how teaching and integration of technology in the classroom. Our school has invested a lot into professional development to support teachers in developing a transdisciplinary and inquiry classroom. Through planning with the education technology coach, the teachers and coach can work to support students with this model and find the most meaningful ways to integrate technology.
Proctor, R., Watson, G. and Finger, G. (2003). Measuring information and communication technology (ICT) curriculum integration.Computers in the Schools, 20(4): 67–87.
Voogt, J., & Pelgrum, H. (2005). ICT and curriculum change. Human Technology, 1(2), 157-175.
Literacies in a Digital Age
All teachers are responsible for teaching studies literacies whether they are traditional reading, writing and speaking or the new literacies we encounter. The idea of transliteracy was a new term for me. Transliteracy was defined as “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks” (Thomas, Joseph, Laccetti, Mson, Mills, Perril & Pullinger, 2007).
With these new literacies comes new skills that need to be unpacked and taught to students in order to succeed in this evolving digital age.
1. Critical Thinking & Questioning
As part of digital literacy, students need to think critically in conjunction with their digital tool knowledge (Anyangwe, 2012). Many students feel confident using technology but don’t truly understand the skills they need to be successful. So much of the content online is taken at face value by students and they need to understand who is saying it, why they are saying it and what are the other perspectives (November 2014). Students need to learn how to question the authenticity of content online and using these questions to drive their inquiries further.
2. Creating & Curating
With the rise of Web 2.0, it is no longer okay just to consume digital content. Rather, students need to learn how to create content and curate it. Not only that, they must be able to create content that effectively communicates a message. As a consumer of content, students need to take this content and sift through it, organising what is relevant and pertinent information and what content is not useful (Holland, 2013). These skills take time to develop and should be continually built upon.
3. Collaborating and Connecting
Working with others doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Building the skills and strategies to be effective with others takes time but the outcome of connecting and collaborating is phenomenal. Through collaboration, many ideas can be combined to create something better than any one individual’s ideas. In education, connecting with others allows you to learn from others and better yourself while being exposed to so much more knowledge and experiences that one could ever imagine. It is important to model appropriate ways to connect with others online in a safe and positive manner and how to make these interactions beneficial to everyone (Holland, 2013).
Anyangwe, E. (2012, May 15). 20 ways of thinking about digital literacy in higher education. The Guardian Newspaper. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2012/may/15/digital-literacy-in-universities
Holland, B. (2013, November 18). Packing for the digital exploration. Tedx Talks [video]. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJBwe1HPTtw
November, A. (2014, May 6). Who Owns the learning? Preparing students for success in the digital age. [video] Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOAIxIBeT90
Thomas, S., Joseph, C., Laccetti, J., Mason, B., Mills, S., Perril, S., & Pullinger, K. (2007). Transliteracy: crossing divides. First Monday, 12(12).
Armfield (2011, p.109) suggest that in many situations technology integration in the classroom is simply used for traditional activities. Yet, we need to be looking at how technology transforms the teaching and learning experience for our students and ourselves as teachers.
Armfield (2011, p.111) also brings to light the idea of a community of practice in which all stakeholders are working towards the same goal. I think this is an important point with regards to technology integration. If the administration does not value the transformative aspects of technology in education, there won’t be budgeting for devices. If teachers don’t value technology in education, they won’t bring it into their classroom. If students don’t value it, they won’t engage with it. It really needs to be a part of the school’s mission and vision about creating a learning environment to meet individual needs using 21st-century tools and strategies to enhance learning.
Armfield (2011, p.114) suggests further challenges such as teachers having little experience with technology and fearful of attempting to use it. Many teachers lack knowledge in how technology can support pedagogy and content to benefit their students. This is something that is very common in schools. It takes a lot to build ownership in learning as well as the confidence and courage to take risks in the classroom in front of students.
Matzen & Edmunds (2007) suggests that just teaching technology tools in professional development is not good enough and teachers will not likely integrate into the classroom in a transformative way. However, if there is a student-centred approach to instructional strategies, then teachers are more likely to have a shift in their own instructional methods.
My role is to lead all of the professional development sessions for education technology. This includes creating surveys to understand staff needs and develop a professional development plan each term to meet these needs, deliver the sessions and reflect back on the success of them and where to go from there. Depending on the time of year and session topics, attendance can vary but I measure success in how teachers then take their learning and apply it in their classrooms or share their learning with others. I love when teachers come back and say they’ve tried something they learnt during a session in their classroom and can share their reflections on it. This also helps them consolidate their own learning and they can then support others who would like to try similar integration strategies in the future. Just like I would facilitate sessions with our students, our professional development sessions are all linked to at least one of the ICT in PYP skills that the International Baccalaureate outlines (2011). This allows teachers to also think about what transferable skills they are developing, similar to how we teach our students.
During sessions, I believe it is important that it is hands-on for teachers and that they try things out. I always allow for time to explore so that teachers are constructing their own learning with technology (Matzen & Edmunds,2007). In addition, I model teaching the sessions in a way that I would teach my students to ensure that the learning is student centred (Matzen & Edmunds,2007). This also helps teachers integrate into their own classrooms as they often model what they have been shown during professional development sessions in their own class (Matzen & Edmunds,2007, p. 427).
I think that it needs to be a combination of ICT skills and learning new ways of teaching. This cannot just fall on the technology coach though - it needs to be supported by the administration and the curriculum coordinator to guide the way of teaching and learning. In order for teachers to incorporate technology into their lessons, they need to understand how to use the technology. Therefore, whenever we do EdTech PD at our school we always have a dual approach where we look at the technology tool and also look at applications of this in the classroom. From there, hopefully, we’ve sparked some ideas with teachers to help them use the tool to deliver or assess content in the future. We can also then have coaching sessions to support teachers in their planning and draw on some of the tools that would help them best deliver content without spending time ‘teaching’ them during these times.
Professional development is ongoing as suggested in Armfield (2011, p. 115). Therefore, we cannot teach teachers everything there is to know about technology integration at once. There needs to be an ongoing commitment to professional development of best practice and technology integration at the school level to build this idea of a community of practice. This will help teachers become more confident using technology in their classes and move beyond just teaching skills towards transformative learning.
In addition, as teachers become more confident using technology they should also spend more time reflecting on how they’ve used it and adapt to enhance their teaching. Similarly, as more professional development sessions are run, there needs to be reflection by the technology team to ensure the sessions meet the needs of the staff in a challenging and effective manner.
Our school is really good about providing time and resources for teachers to actually learn through technology. Our department has offered close to 30 sessions this year for teachers and are looking to expand that to an online course for new teachers to bring them up to basics as well as use 2 days if staff professional development days and 2 Primary/ Secondary meetings to develop our new digital citizenship curriculum next year. Schools need to keep this commitment of giving teachers time if they want their teachers to use technology effectively (Armfield, 2011, p. 119).
Lawless & Pellegrino (2007) suggest that most professional development is voluntary. This is very true in our school this year in terms of technology integration professional development. All 30 sessions are voluntary meaning that only those who are motivated and want to engage with these sessions, rather than those who really could benefit from sessions like this. This is another reason we are moving 4 mandatory staff professional development sessions next year. Effective technology integration is something that all staff need to work towards, hence the whole school approach by administration next year.
Armfield, S. (2011). Technology leadership for school improvement Planning, designing, implementing and evaluating technology, pp. 109-128, 2011. in Technology and Leadership for School Improvement. Papa, R. (Ed) California :Sage
International Baccalaureate. (2011).The role of ICT in PYP. UK: IB.
Matzen, N. J., & Edmunds, J. A. (2007). Technology as a Catalyst for Change: The Role of Professional Development. Journal Of Research On Technology In Education, 39(4), 417-430.
Collaborative learning has many benefits in an educational setting such as developing social skills, a deeper understanding of knowledge and soft skills (Chai & Tan, 2010). However, like with any learning approach, there are challenges for both teachers and students. For teachers to effectively facilitate collaborative learning, they must be willing to loosen the structure of the classroom. The teacher cannot be in control of groupings, specific group roles and learning expectations, rather, it is important that the students in the group feel like they have ownership in the learning process as a group and agency (Sing, Wei-Ying, Hyo-Jeong, & Mun, 2011, p.8). One way for both teachers and students to deal with this issue is for teachers to begin with cooperative learning and gradually work towards collaborative learning through scaffolding.
For students, a number of issues often present themselves during collaborative learning. Often students feel there is an unequal workload in the group with some people taking leadership roles and other students slacking. During the cooperative learning, teachers should model how to divide group tasks, model ideal group roles and how to reflect as a group throughout the process for the next steps. Teachers can also support students in how to give critical feedback in a positive way. If these strategies are developed during cooperative learning, they will carry over into collaborative learning as strategies to be used by the students.
Often students get off task during collaborative learning tasks (Sing, Wei-Ying, Hyo-Jeong, & Mun, 2011, p. 7). As the teacher, I will go around monitoring the different group and have conversations about what they have done, where they are at, and where they are going. I don't provide too much feedback, rather, ask questions that make them think to guide them moving forward. Often groups will have a timekeeper and someone to monitor task behaviour which also helps the group move forward productively.
With collaborative learning, conflict is enviable to arise at some point. Perhaps there are different perspectives of where to go next, someone isn't pulling their weight or things have been forgotten at home and therefore productivity is at a standstill. These are excellent opportunities for students to develop their problem-solving skills. For me, I always try to get the students to talk through their problems first. We spend a lot of time near the beginning of the year stressing how to express how you are feeling with ' I statements' instead of pointing blame. If students still struggle after a period of time, I support them by mediating the situation but mostly letting them talk. It is important that the students work through the situation together so that they feel they have autonomy in the resolution process.
It is important for the teacher to facilitate a positive collaborative community from the beginning of the year and cultivate this type of culture. From there, teachers can facilitate cooperative learning and through a gradual release of responsibility and scaffolding, shift the ownership of learning to the students in collaborative learning.
Chai, C. S., and Tan S. C. (2009). Professional Development of Teachers for Computer‐Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) through Knowledge Building. Teacher College Records, 111(5), 1296‐1327.
Sing, C.C., Wei-Ying, L., Hyo-Jeong, S. & Mun C. H. (2011). Advancing collaborative learning with ICT: conception, cases and design. Ministry of Education, Singapore. Retrieved from http://ictconnection.moe.edu.sg/ictconnection/slot/u200/mp3/monographs/advancing%20collaborative%20learning%20with%20ict.pdf
There are various types of interactions within the classrooms between students and between the teacher and student. Interactions can also include the interaction with technology and ICT. Each type is used in different scenarios but could be used in a number of different situations in an everyday classroom or assignment.
For this type of interaction between students, the teacher has little input other than the learning outcome and initial instructions(Beauchamp, & Kennewell, 2010, p. 762). Students could together determine their own group roles and responsibilities to show the necessary learning outcomes by creating a product. Through this, the group would need to choose an appropriate ICT tool such as Google Slides and work together to build their final product.
Authoritative interactivity is directed instruction that is planned by the teacher with specific questions and feedback (Beauchamp, & Kennewell, 2010, p. 763). It allows the student to get immediate responses to their answers. An example of this is students watching a BrainPop video individually or as a class on the interactive whiteboard and then completing the quiz following. This type of interaction is very structured.
The teacher provides variation to help students develop their knowledge in a constructive mode (Beauchamp, & Kennewell, 2010, p. 763). An example of this would be a teacher using a Google form with a series of questions for students to answer. In conjunction, the teacher would use Fluberoo to grade answers and email results. Based on their responses, they would receive an email directing them with addional links and questions to further their understanding or support them in developing their understanding to meet their needs.
There is less structure given by the teacher and more ownership by the student(Beauchamp, & Kennewell, 2010, p. 764). The ICT tool is a way to interact and builds students' metacognitive skills. This could be a student using a class resource site with a generated list of resources to search for specific information or searching through Google chrome browser.
This interactivity requires the most technology skills to be successful. It is when students are reflecting individually but as a whole class (Beauchamp, & Kennewell, 2010, p. 764). An example is when each individual student in the class contributes to a Paddlet board online.
Beauchamp, G., & Kennewell, S. (2010). Interactivity in the classroom and its impact on learning. Computers & Education, 54(3), 759-766.