Feel the fear…

Today was the first day of our school year. This morning, our Principal told us a story about her holidays and explained how her experience could be used in our teaching.

Our Principal is afraid of deep water (not alone there). However, as she and her family have a boat and had recently purchased a ‘sea tyre’ which is towed along behind the boat, she knew that she was going to have to ride on the tyre with her grandchildren. The grandchildren were very excited and showed no fear, so not to ruin their excitement, she pretended she was excited as well.

Logically, she knew that nothing could go wrong. Everyone was wearing life jackets, there was an observer on the boat, the boat could quickly turn around if needed. In fact, everything went well and she had a great time.

So in terms of learning, the idea is that even if we are afraid of teaching or learning something new, as long as we scaffold the learning to support our students, they can take what they perceive as risks and will come to no harm. Once the perceived risky learning has been successful, our students will become more confident and willing to take further risks.

Learning and sharing

These days, I find that pretty much everything I learn has been shared by others. I try to share back through having the resources I develop for school open and public. Of course, many of the links on my school wikis (professional learning and online resources for students) are links to items that other people have shared. What goes around, comes around.

So it was really heartening to read the tweet from The Age reporter Jewel Topsfield that stated:

Here is the link for the wiki page Jewel used as a  source. Aitken Creek Primary School teacher Bec Spink agreed to my request to feature her use of Twitter in the classroom on the wiki page to share with teachers at my school. Jewel saw our correspondence via Twitter and voila, a story on Bec and her use of Twitter that was published nationally.

Congratulations to Bec on the recognition her trailblazing deserves. Read her post about the article here. Thanks too to Jewel for highlighting the great work teachers are doing. Got to love sharing.

‘Everything I learned was from the internet or YouTube’

Yesterday’s Age and Sydney Morning Herald featured one of my school’s students. Andy Truong is a 15 year old fashion designer who is just about to mount his own solo show at this year’s Melbourne Spring Fashion Week. He is the youngest ever designer to hold their own show. What an amazing effort, it’s seriously impressive.

But the line that really stood out for me in the news article was Andy’s quote, ‘Everything I learned was from the internet or YouTube‘. It’s a way of learning that some of us don’t understand and don’t rate. At Friday’s excellent session with Marco Torres, he told the story of presenting to 7 different Maths conferences. He held challenges between the maths experts and students. At each session, the students won the challenge simply because they used the internet, apps and software to discover what they needed to know. We need to start acknowledging the way the internet can teach us; we need to start thinking differently.

If Andy Truong had sat back and waited to learn design and sewing using traditional methods, he wouldn’t be experiencing what he is today. So kudos to the people who shared their knowledge via YouTube and the internet that he was able to access.

This type of sharing is something that, I believe, has brought us to a crossroads of current human belief and nature. It has been epitomised by the Apple vs Samsung decision in the last few days. Debate rages online about whether Apple or Samsung are in the right; simplistically, should we share our ideas or are others allowed to use our ideas or to ‘copy’?

Again Marco Torres illustrated a point using the example of Disney buying the rights or ideas to Marvel Comics for $4 billion. Here ideas are our new currency. He also explains how chefs like Jamie Oliver are the ideas people and it’s the sous chefs who actually fine tune the recipes initially conceived by head chefs. It’s the head chefs who earn more as they’re the ideas people.

Andy Truong certainly has his own ideas, that’s not in doubt; but what if the people who shared the ‘how tos’ on YouTube hadn’t have shared? How would Andy have learned? He probably wouldn’t have. So what value is there on sharing? It’s not something we can put a price on.

We need to radically rethink our ideas about making a lot of money vs making enough money and the role of sharing in our society. What will we decide?

The reason I became a teacher

Yesterday I was reading a newspaper on my iPad while on a treadmill at the gym. A young man approached me and asked me if I ever taught at a certain school. When I said I did, he introduced himself. I had taught this now 31 year old man for pastoral care for one period a week when he was in year 9.

He still remembered my name (and I remembered him well, once he had told me his name. Of course in the meantime he had changed from a boy to a man) which surprised me. But the most pleasant revelation was what a fine young man he had grown into. He was extremely well-spoken and polite.

He admitted that when he left school, he tried to get a job without any further qualifications, but it was impossible. He took on an apprenticeship and is now a tradesman, gainfully employed and enjoying is work. He is also completing further study to improve himself and his future prospects. We agreed that learning is much easier all round if the student wants to learn, is ready to learn.

We discussed technology in schools and he really gets what a lot of teachers don’t. That if young children are playing with interactive devices like iPads to play games and read interactive books, when they get to school, it’s hard for them to be engaged and want to learn if they are forced to use a pen and paper all day every day.

How nice to think that I might have had even a tiny influence on the way this fine young man has developed. He really has got his act together. He didn’t even have to approach me, he could have just walked past.

This encounter really made my day and is the reason why I became a teacher.

Digital native goes old school

Firstly I have to say that the term digital native is not one that rings entirely true for me. As we know, students who have been born in the last ten or so years have not known life without mobile phones, internet, Google, video games and so on. That doesn’t mean that they actually know how to use these resources well.

However, at eight years of age, my niece is what we can term, for interests sake, a digital native. She’s a gamer, has an iPod touch and Skypes. But she’s also interested in learning other skills, such as knitting. She told me this morning that she’d like to “make stuff instead of buying stuff”.

I like the idea that she’s aware of consumerism and the power she has to change the ideal that she comes across in the media and at all of the birthday parties she’s envited to.

So today on the first day of the school holidays, my Mum has been teaching her how to knit. A lovely way to learn a skill and build on their loving relationship.

Knitting 1

Sometimes I forget that children might be interested in what could be termed “old school” skills, like knitting, gardening or cooking. But one look last year at Junior Masterchef made me take notice that some children not just like, but excel at things like cooking. Today my niece showed me that she too can be a gamer, a 21st century learner as well as love to learn other skills “old school” as well.

A while back Edna Sackson wrote an excellent post What does learning look like? Today I learned that it can look like this:


Cool tools for the connected classroom

Australian award winning teacher and all round edtech guru Anne Mirtschin has written a must have guide for teachers: Cool tools for the connected classroom.

Anne guides teachers and students from how and why these tools are used, suggesting activities right through to a number of assessments. Cybersafety and good digital citizenship are often referred to with some excellent guidelines for students to consider and discuss.

With lots of suggestions for tools for:
there is excellent support for using these tools for learning and teaching and how teahcers might go about introducing them to students.

Anne Mirtschin is an experienced and passionate educator who knows her stuff. Cool tools for the connected classroom is an ideal companion for those wanting to push the virtual boundaries in their classroom and school and is equally useful for those new to social media and those who have more experience and confidence. Written in an engaging and accessible style, lesson plans, activity sheets and exemplars will assist teachers in successfully implementing social media in their classrooms. An attractive and thoughtful layout adds to the accessibility of the resource.

It’s nice to see an Australian author and an Australian publisher produce a guide that is relevant to teachers globally.

Cool tools for the connected classroom by Anne Mirtschin is priced at $38.95 and the ISBN No. is 978 1 74200 498 3 and is available from Education Serviced Australia, PO Box 177, Carlton South, 3053. Ph: 61 3 9207 9600. Email: sales@esa.edu.au  Website: www.curriculumpress.edu.au