EDM310 Students

Over the course of this year this blog has been visited by students from Dr John Strange’s EDM 310 class. When the first student commented here I was amazed that my blog was chosen. I don’t see my blog as being anything unusual – it’s really a way of reflecting on my own teaching practice.

To the students from EDM310 who visit – welcome.

Thanks for taking some time to read and comment on my blog. Please feel free to ask me questions about anything you don’t understand – even if it’s why I’ve done something in a particular way. I don’t have all the answers but what I do have is a wide group of people who are my PLN – I communicate with them through blogging, twitter, email, skype etc. Collectively we work together to be the best, most passionate teachers we can be.

I hope your Summer course is one that will be life-changing for you. I look forward to your comments/questions/blog posts.

Perhaps I should explain the ‘dragonsinger’. Many years ago, before the internet was around, I was an active participant on BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) and needed to find a nickname. I had been reading the Anne McCaffrey series ‘Dragonriders of Pern‘. Menolly is the main character on the ‘Dragonsinger: Harper of Pern‘ book. She is a woman, singer, musician and teacher. Because I fit all those characteristics I realised that I’d found my online nickname.

Potpourri

It’s been a while since I posted so here’s a potpourri of thoughts from me.

Evernote
Evernote is one of my absolute favourite apps around. I have a desktop version and an iTouch version (and when I get around to buying a iPad I’ll have an iPad version too). I also have the paid version of Evernote. I thought I’d post some ways I use Evernote:

  • When I travel I keep copies of my travel docs in Evernote –  the new offline sync means that whatever is in a particular folder is automatically synced and available offline.
  • I keep confidential notes on Evernote – I have a link to them from my Google Docs planner – but only I can access them via the online/cloud copy of my Evernote account.
  • I save tweets to Evernote via the iTouch Seesmic app. They are automatically tagged with my twitter name as well as a number of other tags making them easy to find via Evernote Desktop.
  • I can do the same with documents/emails – basically anything that can be printed can be sent to Evernote (I think this is something I set up myself).
  • I take photos of all Travel-bugs that come my way – and note what happens to them (this is for Geocaching).
  • I take photos of things I don’t want to forget – for instance I took a photo of my printer ink cartridge and saved it – I’m forever forgetting what I should buy and now I don’t need to worry because it’s there in my Evernote.
  • And I can’t forget the simple web-clipping that is a standard for Evernote – I can save excerpts or whole pages or links to pages via Evernote’s Chrome extension (or Firefox).
  • I can also take notes, record a voice message, use my iSight to take and save a picture straight into Evernote; send a photo from my cell phone directly to Evernote; and even send a note to myself via evernote’s twitter account.

Differentiated Instruction/Learning
I’ve seen a number of blog posts around from educators talking about differentiated learning. Not quite sure why all the fuss because that’s the norm for NZ education and educators. (Well – it’s supposed to be the norm!)  In my class I cater for students with a range of abilities – it’s been part of my teaching since I first started teaching. Maybe it’s not such a big deal for us here because it is a norm and is something taught as part of teacher training.

During one of my trips to the USA I visited some junior classes in a school and was told about their reading programme they were running where students were mixed around different classes so that each teacher was teaching students at the same level – “…because it was too difficult to cater for a large range of reading levels in one class…”.  Reading levels are a little subjective depending on the type of levels that you’re using but if I were to look solely at students reading at their chronological age then you’d find many classrooms where the reading age range could be as little as 2-3 years or as much as 7-8 years (I once had a class where my lowest reader was reading at a 5 yo level and my highest reader was reading at a 13 yo level). The expectation is that we will manage these students – hopefully providing the lower readers extra help depending on funding and resources – and that all readers will show improvement at the end of the school year.

(I’ve used reading as an example because it’s often the one area that is pivotal to all other learning – my higher ability readers tend to also be the ones who are able to do independent research and who learn new skills more rapidly.)

National Standards
NZ educators have been heading into an abyss aka National Standards. It’s been written into law and so schools/teachers are now supposed to be reporting to parents in plain language (huh – what’s going on here – my reports have always been written in plain language and parents have always been able to understand them!) and assessing their students against some (mythical) National Standards. I am very thankful I’m NOT a principal having to steer a school through the piranha infested rapids that is National Standards. The media reports of bully tactics on the part of the Minister of Education (and the first hand reports that I’ve heard from principals) are not doing us any favours either. I’m yet to see any sign of professional development from the MOE – I mean – come on – NCEA teachers had years of PD – how about some real PD for us! And how come the draft Ngā Whanaketanga Rumaki Māori (Ngā Whanaketanga) was developed by Māori-medium leaders in te reo matatini (literacy) and pāngarau (numeracy)? And is being trialled!! IF National Standards are to remain then:

  • National Standards need to be developed in consultation with teachers (just like the NZ Curriculum was)
  • National Standards needs to be trialled (just like Ngā Whanaketanga)
  • PD needs to be provided for the implementation of National Standards (just like the PD for NCEA was)

eLearning
I’ve had a rough week – which actually began the week before with me getting a cold that went to my chest & started affecting my voice. I took Monday off and went back to school on Tuesday – didn’t have too much time in the classroom which was very good as my voice was getting worse; went to school on Wednesday and again on Thursday but just couldn’t make Friday. However on top of my not being well our power at school and our school network were also not well! AND to top it off I had a visiting teacher in my room on Thursday who was there to see how I manage my eLearning classroom – something that becomes a little difficult when the power comes back but not the network!!

Which made me think. eLearning classrooms, while they usually involve high use of technology, must also be able to run when there is no tech available!

What was supposed to be happening in literacy time was:

  • 3 pairs of students editing stories from St Clairs School in Dunedin in Google Docs
  • 3 students editing their own stories in Google Docs
  • Others working on some other stories for a competition in their draft books
  • 2 students working on an online questionnaire about the book we’re reading as a class
  • (the last three rotating during the lesson)
  • Other general activities like spelling

What actually happened was:

  • 3 pairs of students editing stories on paper (I’d had the forethought of printing out a copy of the stories)
  • Others working on their competition stories
  • Spelling

Surprisingly we were actually doing some what we should have been doing – but not all. Because I had printed and photocopied the stories for editing we could have done this even with no power (as had happened the previous day). (Things weren’t helped by me not having a voice either!)

I’m thinking of submitting a preso for Ulearn10 about eLearning – but not just a show and tell – also looking at how to choose what you do; what some of the choices are; and what to do when things don’t work type of thing.

Potpourri
I guess that’s the end of my potpourri of thoughts. Feel free to comment on any or all of the subjects.

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