It’s NOT homeschooling! Here’s why …

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Finally, I get to revisit my blog! My offshore Foundation students are sitting exams and my 4th-year PSTs are on professional placement. It’s been a l-o-n-g and exhausting 18 months and it doesn’t seem that we’ll be digging ourselves out anytime soon. Once again our students are showing their capabilities to deal with the ups and downs of online, offline, ‘any-line’ teaching and learning. The media continues to report the impact of ‘homeschooling’ on students and parents. To begin, IT’S NOT ‘home-schooling!’ Please stop reporting it as such. Homeschooling is not run by schools, but is the responsibility of parents or caregivers who may or may not be teachers. Students who are homeschooled are registered to be taught at home – hence the term. Currently students who usually attend school are learning ONLINE due to lockdown and other Covid-19 restrictions.

Online learning

 

Online learning is education that takes place over the internet. While at home, parents should be supervising students as they would at anytime when their children are at home. It’s just tougher right now because, well, they are ALWAYS home, and so are you. Your children might just be thinking the same. The online learning that happens during Covid lockdowns is planned, guided and delivered by teachers on various platforms which may include Zoom, or Microsoft Teams. This learning may be synchronous or asynchronous depending on decisions made by individual schools catering to a vast expanse of student capabilities, access and engagement. School leaders, teachers and learning support staff everywhere have been working above and beyond expectations to ensure our students are learning. We love and care deeply for our students and experience similar emotions about being online. We likewise have families and children at school, bad internet, loved ones who work from home, elderly parents or relatives to look after, meals to prepare, places we cannot go. We too are human. We do not make the rules, but like you must follow government directives to ensure our safety and that of others.

I don’t doubt that parents assist their children with learning tasks, but in online learning, teachers set the agenda. That said, I’d like to offer a suggestion for both parents and educators to help with the daily grind of lockdown learning.

  1. Parents, establish a routine where your children ‘get ready’ for online learning in a similar vein as they do to go to school physically, except forget the uniform, but no pjs, that’s just asking for trouble. Get dressed, have breakfast, brush teeth, yadayadayada, roll call, recess – all screens off, lunch – all screens off, after school go for a walk, play, run, skip, jump, anything but screen for 30 mins. I know teens will need to urgently check their social media, like that’s not what they have been doing ALL day (cue eye roll) but just try it, no screens for 30 mins!
  2. During online learning, I find that sometimes changing spaces helps – this may or may not be possible depending on whether you are using a portable device. Moving to different spaces is the same as reading nooks, desk work, floor or other learning stations in primary classrooms. For secondary aged students, well is the freedom to move around and find a space that suits the subject, like changing classrooms – even standing and writing notes on paper or whiteboards or windows might help. I say this because they mostly have their cameras off anyhow so they might as well be moving around! Hopefully as the weather improves, outside might also be an option for a learning space.
  3. Educators – see points 1 & 2!

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

 

Online tutorials: What I learned

After many hours of planning with colleagues and setting up my platform to facilitate online learning, yesterday was D-day. I had two, 2 hour tutorials back to back of the same unit. This arrangement seemed fine back in February but then COVID-19 happened. I sat in my chair here in our study at home for 4 hours knowing many of my colleagues in universities and in schools are doing even tougher. It is draining, yes, but strangely rewarding – especially when the chosen platform works. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, I am hearing today that some platforms are not coping, making it even more stressful for both teachers and students. That aside, the reality is here and it’s here to stay. I wonder how we might change as educators, as learners and as humans once it’s over? I do hope we bring with us what we have learned and evolve into even better humans. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I want to share with you all what I learned during my online sessions.

The many faces of me!

Firstly, I missed the physicality of a class, seeing my students walk into our learning space – being able to move around that space, see them react to the learning, laugh at my jokes (or not), see them working collaboratively – all at the same time. In the Adobe Connect platform I could move them into break out spaces but then I had to continuously pop in and out of the groups, and while it was great to spend a few minutes there I was also conscious that I couldn’t see or hear the other groups simultaneously. I realised I had FOMO (fear or missing out), so while I had the opportunity to focus on just two or three students and really listen, I found I couldn’t and I really regret that. Nothing beats a physical space full of learners.

I did, however, love seeing them on the webcams and hearing them speak up, even if it was a few of them at one time, but it was better than the chat window where I’m sure I missed many of the comments written. Next week I’m going to risk having them all turn on their webcams at once and see what happens. Just for a bit while we all say hi. I’m imagining the Brady Bunch opening credits but with 30 faces staring back at me (assuming they’ll all be online)!

Brady Bunch https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_The_Brady_Bunch_characters

Next week I’m also going to have them send emojis in the chat so I don’t feel like I’m talking to myself! I learned I need a lot more interaction if I can’t see or hear them while I’m speaking.

Finally, while there will be glitches, it will get better. My youngest daughter, who is an early career teacher, (2nd year out) heard some of my sessions and thought I was lacking my sassy self. I should just be she said – maybe I will.

One last thing, as we are both running our classes from home, I learned that my daughter and I could feed off each other. apparently she enjoyed listening to my sessions and was going to steal a few of my ideas. My daughter should know that I was sooo proud to hear her interacting with her little Year 7 Drama class on line early this morning and that I’m going to steal some of her ideas!

Stay safe everyone. Stay home.

Thanks for reading 🙂

My mum

Prompt number 24 of the #Edublogsclub asks us to write a post about parents.

My mum passed away 27 years ago, 2 weeks after her 49th birthday.

My mum

My Mum has always been an inspiration, even though most of the time she drove me crazy. She always seemed to know everything about what was happening in my life as a kid. I couldn’t understand it. It felt like I couldn’t do anything without her finding out. I must admit, I wasn’t a terrible teen – but having been raised in a very strict Italian household even talking with boys who were not family was frowned upon back then. In the end after many tantrums, when I wasn’t allowed to go to parties or go out with my friends, in general, I soon gave it up and just made excuses to my peers to avoid the embarrassment. I just had to accept that this was how it was and that there was no use trying to get away with it. As an adult – I think I finally realised just how my mum always knew in the times before social media…

Image: pinterest.com

That aside, my mum was the best in many ways. She always supported our learning, both my brother and I were encouraged to go that extra mile with our studies. My mum always attended parent/teacher meetings and made sure we were on top of things. We are the first lot to go through post-compulsory studies and gain university degrees. If you follow my blog you’ll also know I’m currently chewing through a PhD. I love learning and so did my mum. She was the only one of her 7 siblings who finished school and if it wasn’t for the antiquated thinking by my maternal grandfather, she would have gone onto university. But alas, ‘there were things to do other than filling your brain with useless knowledge’ as he used to say.

At 20 she migrated to Australia, learning English on the boat, she landed with at least some idea of what awaited her. Mind you, she never really gave herself away, choosing to just blend into the already growing community of Italian migrants in and around Melbourne. She joined her big brother and his family, along with her 2 sisters and together they formed a new extended family. She worked and lived as they all did to make a better life for themselves. She learned heaps on this journey, though she never boasted at how much she understood English – choosing instead, to blend into the Italian community.

In 1963 she married my father, an Italian migrant, her brother’s friend and together with my dad’s two sisters and their husbands, they moved to the house in which I am currently writing this blog. My own family now live in this wonderful house – though it has been extended and refurbished over the years. Still, it holds all my childhood memories and will forever be my sanctuary.

Wedding Day, 1963

I remember my mum always used to say she wanted to be a social worker. She was a great listener and problem solver. She supported many people and often as a child there were many friends who came by to have a chat – little did I know that they were actually seeking out my mum’s for advice on all manner of things – but mostly about relationships. My mum loved having people over and organising wonderful dinner parties. Our extended family always gathered to celebrate everything and anything. My childhood and young adulthood were a stream of parties, dinners, celebrations with family and friends.  She was an avid church goer and loved being part of the Italian Community. Many can attest that they met their partners at some ‘do’ that mum helped organise for the community.

My mum loved learning and so do I. She is and always will be my inspiration to continue my work in education. I hope to make a difference, to make trouble, to unsettle, to challenge and encourage others to think, to take risks, to go beyond that which they think possible. I owe it to my mum and I owe it to myself.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Eat in or take away? Day 1: Evidence Based Teaching Summit 2016

Last week I was invited to chair a panel discussion on policy and practice at the Informa summit on Evidence-Based Teaching and with that came the opportunity to attend two days of professional learning. I gained some wonderful insights and follow up for my own research, but I also came away with many more questions. You’ll see them filtered through the rest of the post.

Angela Carbone from Monash University opened proceedings delivering a keynote on the

What is student success?

What is student success?

resurgence of evidence-based teaching. She spoke of the need for evidence in order to ‘bust’ educational myths. To increase student success, we need valid, reliable, rigorous, accurate and timely evidence. But what is student success? What does it look like in the diverse classrooms of the 21st Century?

The second keynote was delivered by Dr. V. Darleen Opfer from the US. Teachers need to use a data driven approach in order to improve student learning but how do we support teachers to do this? Dr Opfer’s presentation was very practical and I could easily imagine her 5 recommendations working in our schools. She suggested:

  1. Making data an ongoing cycle using a variety of sources.
  2. Teaching students to examine their own data and set their own learning goals accordingly.
  3. Establishing a clear vision for the whole school.
  4. Providing the type of support that fosters a data-driven culture.
  5. Developing a data system that incorporates data from multiple sources.
Change doesn't kill you...

Change doesn’t kill you…the difficulty is not in developing new ideas but in escaping from old ones  (reflections from case study on literacy program by Jeff Symms).

In making data an ongoing process teachers will need to be taught how to collect and analyse the data. This may be facilitated through the appointment of a data facilitator, who is not just a number cruncher but one who can organise, explain and disseminate the data. Teachers can then interpret, develop hypotheses and modify instruction to suit -well if they had time… .Dr Opfer advised that teachers collect a variety of data including classroom performance (formative assessment) regularly and to look for patterns.  Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have time and thus it often takes a back seat when in fact data should be out on the field, playing and contributing to the learning and teaching in schools. Hence the need for a data-driven approach to be established as a whole school endeavour.  What could we do without in order to make time for targeted professional learning, access to data and to developing a whole school culture?

The conversation continued in Chris Ramsden‘s presentation. He challenged educators to make a

Create the climate

Create the climate

difference and thought teachers need ‘actionable’ data that is tangible and accessible. He introduced the notion of practice-based evidence instead of evidence-based practice. Ramsden discussed the general capabilities and questioned whether they are indeed visible in the learning and teaching in schools. In making a difference do we challenge our students to persevere, to grow and be hopeful of the future? Are we arming them with strategies, modeling empathy and humility and displaying a growth mindset? After all, we do need our students to figure things out for themselves and hence the need to encourage risk-taking and the skills to deal with failure.

David Zyngier (Monash University) was up next to discuss the evidence on the issue of class sizes. Of course, there are many arguments for and against smaller class sizes. I’m sure most teachers would support having fewer students in their classes but what we don’t seem to understand is that reducing class sizes requires a different teaching approach, jut as lengthening or shortening periods in secondary schools require a change in mindset. Dr. Peggy Kern from the University of Melbourne and Janis Coffey from PESA presented arguments in separate presentations for positive education. To create ‘better’ learners said Kern, through a focus on positive psychology, a ‘thrive not just survive’ mentality of holistic education needs to be adopted in schools. With one in four young people diagnosed with a mental disorder and one in four teachers in Victoria suffering stress-related illnesses, Coffey believes that schools can make a big difference in this area.

A lively panel discussion with Kevin Donnelly, Peter Goss and Justin Mullaly followed provoked by my opening remarks:

Are policy and practice truly that separate and what role does research play in the scenario? In evidence-based teaching –what is the evidence on which we base our teaching? Does the evidence that tends to prove or disprove something become the basis of belief or disbelief? And what of belief, which is essentially an opinion or conviction, what role does it play in schools?

Can our judgements as educators be credible? Might the empirical evidence we see, hear and think emphasise a more informed approach to evidence-based teaching? In fact, can it be that instead of evidence-based we perhaps adopt an evidence-informed teaching practice?

As Dylan Wiliam suggested in 2015 “…the simple truth is that, in education, everything works somewhere and nothing works everywhere.” So are we to continuously believe the headlines we read – homework is bad, feedback is good, funding is not making a difference in our schools, or will we ever be able to make and follow through on our beliefs based on evidence-informed judgements? Are we to continuously answer to policy driven practice? What changes need to happen to successfully marry policy, practice, theory and experience in education AND have it truly enhance this highly complex and multifaceted notion of effective pedagogy?

Again and again the importance of giving time to educators so they can collaborate, attend PD, collect and analyse data. Here the implementation gap between policy and practice appears. There is no one answer, yet I think we all agree that evidence of student progress is required to inform practice and influence what teachers do. Justin Matthys (Maths Pathways) uttered one of my favourite lines of the first day “What matters is growth along a continuum – not keeping up with the course.” I wish more teachers would take heed of this advice.

Know your staff...

Know your staff…

I have always maintained that to ‘learn’ your students is a most effective way to assist them in their own learning and to experience ‘success’. The same can also be said in this final message visualised here in a slide presented by Jeff Symms: Know your staff…

End of the first day.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Day 2 reflections here

Moonshots and other really cool shooting stars

Last Sunday night’s Aussie Ed tweet chat was all about moonshots. You can read the storify later.

A Moonshot is literally the launch of a rocket into space. In more recent times the term has been introduced in education as a means to think ‘big’, think ‘innovatively’, think ‘huge’, think ‘change the world’ one small step at a time.  It can be big or small, done on your own or in collaboration with others.

What we said

The first question in the #aussieED chat asked this: In your opinion, what is a moonshot? My initial response was

What is a moonshot?

What is a moonshot?

You’ll notice my question mark at the end – obviously I had not heard this before and was taking a stab at it. As the chat continued and others shared their thoughts, it got me thinking about my own personal experiences with moonshots and those of the people around me, family, friends, students, colleagues, and parents. I really enjoyed reading what others thought about moonshot. I’d like to share a few -there were many others that you can read for yourself once you’ve finished. I’ll even give you the link. Keep reading…

Kim said this

Kim said this

A crazy idea

I love this! I’ll admit I’ve had some really crazy ideas over the years and was not afraid to see if they could go anywhere. My crazy idea that I could write a book came about simply because I thought I could. Mostly it’s pretty much finished but needs a little tinkering and possibly updating given I began writing it some years ago. Maybe I’ll shoot this one early next year.

Joel said this

Joel said this

It just won’t work…(really?)

This kind of comment just makes me more inclined to go after that which others think won’t work. I’m an optimist but more importantly I work hard to solve problems or issues. There are a great many things out there that people thought impossible  – imagine if we still thought the world was flat and if you went to the edge you’d fall and plunge to destruction. Thank goodness that belief was proved wrong. What else? Better still what other beliefs are there today that could be holding us back?

I’d like you to imagine a place where all children had the opportunity to learn in their own preferred way but also engage in other ways of learning so as to grow their repertoire as an ‘all round’ learner. Imagine a place where children and adults collaborated to change the world to make it an equitable, safe and sustainable place for all living creatures. Some have already started but it would be much more logical if we all worked towards it. So…let’s do it!

We can begin making a difference by taking Carl’s advice and developing a plan to save the world. Impossible? Do you mean making the plan or saving the world? Nothing is impossible.

Carl's plan

Carl’s plan

As Steve points out:

Steve said this

Steve said this

It is most important that we adults model how to deal with failure; after all without it we cannot learn. To make a mistake we have to take a risk, if we fail, we analyse why it happened and move on to make it better next time. Imagine if Edison stopped work after blowing up the first bulb.

Never give up

Never give up

Shake it out

Shake it out

Shake it out

I really like Karen’s idea of a moonshot too. I enjoy shaking things up – in fact I make trouble all the time. I say what I think and I back it up because taking a shot at something you truly believe will make a difference – so worth it. A major component of moonshots is to believe.

http://www.collegenetwork.com/blog/positive-self-talk-i-know-i-can-do-this

http://www.collegenetwork.com/blog/positive-self-talk-i-know-i-can-do-this

Last week I had to deal with a family issue interstate but had a consulting gig already booked which couldn’t be undone. So I asked a colleague if they would consider workshopping it for me. I never doubted her ability to do it – not because I’m so good but because she is. It’s a little like paying it forward – someone gave me a chance to shine long ago so I’m passing it on. Its success is in your hands.

exploding moonshots

exploding moonshots

What’s your moonshot?

Thanks for reading 🙂

(Now you can read the storify)

Sunday nights 8:30 AEST #aussieED