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.

Alan November @ ICTEV

These are the notes I took during Alan’s keynote “Should I publish for the world or my teacher?”

  • Giving kids opportunities. We’ve tried to fit technology into school instead of using it to rethink school.
  • Get rid of the word technology. The words are information or communication. Technology is only the vehicle to get what you want. ‘what information do you want to be the best possible teacher? What relationships do you want with teachers, students, global?’ right information at the right time. For teachers, students and parents. We don’t have right information or relationships.
  • John Hattie says peer tutoring best for learning change.
  • Math is an example of this. 6th grade classroom. Most teachers don’t publish student work for the world to see. Place a value on student work. The moment the boundaries are expanded of who sees the students work can be so empowering. Can contribute to learning this year, next year and the year after, etc. Students then want to do better than other students or better than last time. Some screencasts took students 3 hours, rather than 7 minutes of homework. Students get critiques before publishing. Some students think teachers don’t explain things very well, they assume they already know. Student teaching students, teachers should have a library of tutorials. Saves teachers time. We all need to consider to do this. Use Jing. ‘In order to teach it, I needed to learn it.’ Take responsibility for quality of work, take more care. 24,000 views. No grades. The more you grade creative work, the less they’ll do. Children given a global voice and inspire other children. This is not happening in schools as it shifts control from teachers to students.
  • Kids write their own stuff. Reviews but not graded.
  • Grading creative work is counter productive. Grading rote work is neutral.
  • Skype for making connections far and close. A school had great success bringing in grandma from India via Skype. So they brought a grandparent in via Skype every few days. Teachers learning about children and family. The school then mailed a book to Irish grandma who read book to kids via Skype. Talked about her own story as an immigrant. Teacher audio recorded book reading. Made CD for students who didn’t have anyone to read to them. Kids would listen over and over and over again. Kids ended up with an Irish accent!
  • Family involvement is no. 1 predictor of student success. Grandparent day transformed elementary school. Relationships.
  • Every classroom should be a global communications sector. Every teacher should have Skype. Teachers will be brokers of human connections. Connecting students to authentic audience worldwide.
  • In US teacher is the endpoint for all work. End of information flow. Irony is once assessment is given, students never reread piece or reflect. Break boundaries; space, time, relationships, information. These boundaries describe what we know to be school. If we don’t break these boundaries, school will remain the same.
  • Ask teachers about their best unit of work. Then, change how you could build on it using tech. Ask teachers to tell you what creative work looks like.
  • Showed how to search Google by country. Look up country codes. Site:in for sites just from India.
  • Problem teaching students to become creative thinkers with internet.
  • Research has shown that people don’t bring critical thinking skills from one medium to another. We need to teach teachers critical Internet thinking.

Top 10 Bright Ideas

This is the presentation I gave to the NSWAIS teacher librarians on 3 June 2011. As the former author of the Bright Ideas blog, I was asked what were my top 10 tools for keeping up with technology.

If you cannot see the Prezi on your device, try this link.

Supporting documentation on starting or enhancing your PLN and links available here.

The challenge for school libraries: a theme park parable

Anyone who knows me, or reads what I write will be sick of hearing about my trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in November 2010. I promise you this post is the final opportunity I will have to wring out any more mentions of the WWoHP.

The Great Hall

The Great Hall

However, the WWoHP can teach those of us in school libraries a lesson.

I visited a range of theme parks during my trip. It appeared to me that some of the old favourites had not changed one aspect of their park since I last visited in 1999. This even seemed to include a lack of maintenance such as painting. Whereas the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, part of Universal Studios Islands of Adventure in Orlando, opened in June 2010.

Obviously fresh and new, the WWoHP takes advantage of the newest technology to create an interactive experience. No expense has been spared to give the visitor the ultimate Harry Potter experience, from a 3D hologram of Dumbledore, to Moaning Myrtle in the bathroom to the way in which the visitor (or guest as the parks seem to call us) is entertained while queueing for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. The ride itself uses sets and 3D technology as well as the innovative KUKA “robocoaster” technology to let the riders’ seats pivot and move throughout the ride.

The queue lets riders (or even those who don’t want to ride) walk through Hogwarts and visit Professor Dumbledore’s office (complete with moving books that shelve themselves, the ultimate for a librarian!), see and hear the moving portraits of the four Hogwarts founders, see the talking Sorting Hat, move through the Herbology greenhouse, walk through the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom while treated to a visit by Harry, Ron and Hermione and visit the Gryffindor common room.

But how does this relate to school libraries?

I believe we face the challenge to use all of the technology available to continue to engage our audience. Things have changed dramatically in the the past 11 years, both for theme parks and for school libraries. One theme park I visited had not changed at all in that period of time. Sure, it was still wonderful, but compared to the WWoHP, it seemed dated, awkward and uninspiring. I am sure what we were doing in school libraries 11 years ago was fantastic and it is still good today. There is no need to get rid of the services we provided in those days if they are still needed today. But we have to grow with our users and with the tools available. We need to offer more. There are so many opportunities to use technology to connect with our students and teachers and many of them are free. We need to add these to our arsenal. This is really no longer an option. If it hasn’t already, it has to start now.

I know that time is always short and budgets are often a problem. But have a look at the following photo:

People can't get enough of the WWoHP

People can't get enough of the WWoHP

This was taken on a weekday that was not a holiday time. Some of the other theme parks I visited were practically empty. Reports have said that on occasions, people had to wait between 2 and 5 hours to enter the WWoHP.

Wouldn’t it be fabulous if our libraries were this busy? Were this attractive to our users? Were this innovative and fun? Connected with users constantly? I realise that mega dollars have been spent on the WWoHP, but I think we can still learn something from it. The theme parks that have not kept up-to-date are being ignored. The ones that are connecting with people and are thinking about making their visit the best possible are thriving.

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:  Website: