Integrating the Australian Curriculum Using Web2.0
 
This year I am beginning my teaching career. I am privileged to be working with a year 6 class for 2011 at one of the top schools in the state. I have a very strong support base of teachers around me as well as a history with both the school and the students I will be teaching. The conditions are in a word perfect and I could never have hoped for a better start to my teaching profession. 
With all this in mind I am still anxious about starting and have no idea what is going to be expected of me over the first few weeks. It's funny how I never did a prac on their first day, I literally have no idea what to do with them. We were always told to be firm and in control in the first couple of months of the year, but how does a teacher who is naturally very relaxed do that? Do I become the teacher I know I should be, or the teacher that I am? I am a little worried about how my already formed relationship with the students is going to impact on the classroom climate.  As a prac student, I was fun, I took these kids on camp and was like their older brother, we were in control but we allowed them all to enjoy their camp experience. I know that if I let this occur in the classroom they will run riot and we won't get anything done. How do I integrate all the Web2.0 technology that I am so craving? Where do I get the resources that are required, comprehensions, spelling, homework, templates, maths problems etc. 
From that great support base I mentioned and the many great teachers/mentors I have around I have come to one main solution; I don't have to be the greatest teacher in my first year. I will make mistakes, I will have to try different things, and I will have to become 'different teachers' to get the best out of my students. Consequently I have this terrible thought in my head that I am somehow disadvantaging the students in my class as the other two year 6 teachers are excellent accomplished teachers.
Everyone keeps saying how much work we will have to do this year, being the first year and the lack of resources etc but I honestly don't mind the work, I am more concerned that I am going to miss something or that I'm going to make a fool out of myself. 

Enough complaining

How to start the year (plans). Every year must start with time to get to know the teacher, decorate the room, set the rules and explain what is going to happen, or in other words set the expectations.  This will involve some ice-breaker games aimed at getting to know the students and conveying the idea that it is their classroom which they should take pride of and hopefully care. I will do an online safety session and gauge their understanding of online technology (trying to get them excited about it).  I will also have to do some assessment. I am currently thinking how I can engage the students but comprehensively assess their writing, reading, maths literacy etc. 

Maybe i'll just let them all go outside and we can play sport all day. Sounds fun easy and sure to win me some votes! (kidding)
 
 
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Thinking seriously about my responsibilities over the coming months, I have begun to plan which tools I will use in my classroom. This is difficult work as there is such a plethora of resources I want to try but deep down I know that only a few will work and in my 'green' state it is probably not the greatest idea to be using everything. Hence I have decided that I will try and use Edmodo in the classroom. This will be used mainly during our ICT times (3 times a week) and for home time as I only have the one computer in my classroom connected to the smart board. Edmodo is a great resource as it works just like facebook with  heightened safety precautions and the ability for students to submit work. 

Edmodo will be used for students to ask questions, raise concerns, work on group assignments, collect data and hand in work. This will be closely paired with student blogs so students will be able to publish their work to the wider public. I am very excited to be talking to a fellow class blogger this week where I will have the opportunity to ask him about how to set up the class blog and how it will work . Some other great resources I am looking forward to using are Jaycut and Aviary which will allow students to create videos and multimedia projects online without relying on the software packages in school. 

 
 
With Classroom management strategies fresh in my mind I went off bushy tailed to a year 6 substitute teaching day. This became a unique experience to test out different theories as I was teaching three different year 6 classes with many different personalities and completely different classroom teachers. 

My first class (my previous prac class) were well behaved on the whole. There was one student who refuses to do any work he doesn't feel he will enjoy and is generally disruptive in class. I began by ignoring him during the teaching experience. I started by calling out his name, just letting him know that I knew what he was doing and this was followed by him moving to the back of the classroom and lying on his back/throwing a ball in the air. The other students were very well behaved as they were completely ignoring him. As this student was not disrupting any one I was happy to leave him where he was and call him up to the front once all the work had begun. This worked quite well as the rest of the class was into the lesson and beginning work. 

Thinking about what worked in this lesson, I noticed that I continually negotiated with the students. "If you are able to work quietly for the next 20 minutes we can go out and do 10 minutes of sport at the end of the session". Or, "Just complete two more questions and then you will be done". It is really interesting how I have to provide the motivation for the students and they are unable to or I do not give them an opportunity to develop their own self-motivation. 

In the other classes, I noticed similar trends, lots of negotiation. I was however very quick to stamp out negative off-task behaviours when they occurred. Making sure students were doing what they were meant to be doing and that the work that was meant to be completed was finished in a suitable time. 

So what does this mean for next year? Well it contributes to the idea that a balanced approach is required in the classroom. Students need to be set boundaries but they are there to learn. They will learn most productively if they enjoy what they are doing and that will require different sort of activities which test what they know and to the limit of their abilities. 

I love it!
 
 
As I contemplate my future teacher career and anxieties about my inexperience surface in the face of great responsibility next year, I am starting to think about what kind of teacher I am going to be. Of most concern is how I will deal with particular negative behaviours. As a younger teacher, I want to be a relaxed, easy-going teacher where the focus of the classroom is learning, technology and respect rather than poor behaviour. This is however a Utopian classroom, and not all students will be able to be self-directed in their learning, it is also a cruel reality that not all students will learn the same, come from stable home lives or be as interested in their learning as I am.  


In my behaviours management classes, the lecturers joked about the idea "we don't smile until Easter" or "treat them mean, keep them keen". Furthermore, my practical teacher this semester is a very experienced teacher who I respect very much. I would consider her one of the most effective teachers I have ever witnessed and yet she is what I would describe as a tough, finger on student's behaviour at all times kind of teacher. She created a sense of respect as she would not accept any behaviour from any of the students. Her teaching style was incredibly efficient and effective as she got the absolute most of her students. 


So the question remains, do I take that role, lay down guidelines early and create a hierarchy of response and make sure that if any negative behaviour occurs it is stopped by paying attention to it and punishing those students involved.  Alternatively, I would prefer to allow a little bit of off-task behaviour if it allows for students to feel comfortable in the classroom, are willing to try new things and trust me to push them in their learning. One of the best ideas I have heard through my studies is the idea that if we plan more interesting relevant lessons less time will be spent on classroom management. This is of particular interest to me as my strength is in my lessons and creating unique interesting learning situations and is clearly not in classroom management. 


One other interesting way to look at this issue is through the thought of social justice. This strategy looks at creating environments where students feel safe, where all students have the ability to succeed without fear of failure. This places a large emphasis on the role of self-motivation and self-regulation where students will feel remorse for their actions on others and want to improve their behaviour because they want too. Students don't receive awards or punishments and it is their success which they strive for. 


Stay tuned, I will let you know how it goes over the coming months. 
 
 
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Over the past week, I have been exploring our world through this wonderful program Celestia (Thank you to @MitchSquires for the link).  It had me thinking about the possibilities of exploration and how that can be used to develop inspiration, focus and interest in the curriculum. 
Celestia allows you to travel through space, orbiting the Earth, the planets in our solar system and a multitude of stars. A visually stunning program which excites the mind into thoughts of astronauts, star wars and that need to discover something for the very first time. 
I was trying to imagine how my own excitement could be extracted in a class setting from a large group of both boys and girls. Firstly, I believe that this type of program reaffirms the need for Web2.0 and other technologies in the classroom.  We all know, and witness everyday that students learn best when they construct their own understanding, when they take what they know and the challenge themselves.  A unit on space is a fantastic way for students to challenge what they know, to explore the world as we know it as well as their own way of thinking. "We came out of the cave and we looked over the hill and we saw fire. And we crossed the ocean and we pioneered the West and we took to the sky. The history of man is hung on a timeline of exploration and this is what's next." (Aaron Sorkin in The West Wing) If we are to really prepare our students so that they can advance our world, challenge the unknown and be fulfilled, educated people we must give them opportunities like this everyday.

 
 
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One of the greatest elements of prac teaching is the ability to try out new things, to have a go at weird and wonderful things with little if any consequences. Of course, I don't try anything, but I do attempt to have a go at as many different styles of teaching as I can. 

I have realised through my very limited experience that for me, I have to start with the activity.  My best teaching this semester has been done when I have created a creative task which the kids will enjoy and I will enjoy teaching and then developing it for the students needs.  Some of the other less productive, enjoyable and successful lessons I have given, I have focused on the students needs and abilities first and tried to find tasks which will suit them. This has not worked for me at all.  

My weakness has been classroom management. Keeping students interested and on task. I read an article the other day about the differences between engaged and on task. At the year 1/2 level, students are honestly not engaged for longer than 10 minutes, so to have them on task for 20 minutes is a big challenge.  As I would expect, student behaviour goes out the window when I attempt long tasks, no matter how enjoyable.  

I had a successful science lesson, a possible reason for its success could have been how I had students move from their desks, to the floor, to walking around the room investigation.  There was noise, and it was very loud but all students were commenting on what they had found. We were investigating gravity and air resistance through the use of paper helicopters. It was a very successful lesson, and if I had enough time I would have finished it.  Having all the students do the same thing at the same time, but having their activities vary made it a successful lesson. 

I worry too much about the issues in the class. For example, there is a student who is ESL. He struggles with his writing, and will basically freak out if he has to do anything to do with writing. Frustratingly, he is very clever and is actually able to do more than what he allows himself.  I spend a lot of time and cognitive effort trying to come up with activities which will engage him and push him without his knowledge.  It has got to the stage where I have absolutely no authority over him, he will regularly say no to me, or completely ignore me.  I am just not sure what to do. I have tried getting to know him better and being more friendly on a personal level outside of the class. This seems to work as he will react to me well however when we are in class and I am in that position of authority, it is as if I do not exist.  

There is another student in the class who (year 1) is very clever (much more than his peers) however he has come up with the idea that he doesn't need to work. He will regularly try to achieve work avoidance goals, he will sit for hours with nothing on his page.  Whilst i continue to come around to his desk and offer positive reinforcement, he will end up doing a half hearted job.  I am just not sure what to do with this student.

There are however many positives that I have taken from this experience: for example the student teacher relationship is well defined. Unlike last semester in prac, I am less these student's friend and more their teacher however they still know they can have a laugh with me and they can trust me.  I enjoy hearing my name called out when I walk up to lines in the morning and the enthusiasm they share to see me.  I have also developed a stronger tone when needed.  Being able to sit on some of the loud students is something which has been developing. 

I will continue to catch up all the things I have mis

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I have unfortunately been very poor in my effort to keep up this blog. Whilst it has continued to be at the forefront of my interest, and i have endeavoured to check the edchat stream regularly, I have still not written nearly as much as I had hoped. 


This update is to put down online my thoughts, experiences and developments as I have started my heavy practical teaching experience.  This semester, I have been at a local public school with a very experienced master teacher. The school is quite high socio-economic status and there is a lot of money in the school. The school is part of a government initiative to be one of the top developing schools which provides it more money, staff and resources.  


What I have loved about this practical experience is the smart board in the classroom. Getting used to the notebook software has been a great challenge but also lots of fun. The functionality is incredible. Just today for example, we had the kids (Years 1 and 2) working in the computer room on the notebook software.  They are creating a virtual book. Basically, they have all designed characters and backgrounds and trees and tree houses. These images were then dutifully scanned into the computer.  Students were then able to create pages in the book to accommodate script that was written by another class.  Once they made their pages of background, they can use the screen capture function to move characters across the page and have a moving animation.  The possiblities for this technology are incredible, and the fact that my master teacher has year 1s and 2s doing it (6 & 7 years old) is astounding. 


Today, as I write this on a little bit of a high as I had a successful lesson. For the first time in weeks I feel like I gained control of the class and my classes were meaningful, well received and achieved the outcomes I had hoped to achieve.  My thought processes had changed for these lessons, and over the next few days I will explain why, but the short story is: I focused on my own creativity.  I started with the outcomes, and moved onto the activity.  I came up with engaging activities which would demonstrate and help students to learn what I wanted them to learn.  It was only after I knew what I wanted the students to achieve that I began to set the differentiated tasks for the students. 


The second lesson I did today was a science lesson. This one could have got out of hand, however I was able to direct the class and keep on top of any extra behaviour that might occur.  The lesson went well as students knew what was expected, I did everything in small steps and the students had the promise of an engaging fun activity which they could learn but also demonstrate understanding.  What I liked most of this activity was the language that students were using to describe what was happening. 


I will endeavour to write more over the next few days as I battle with UNI assessments and Lesson Planning. 

 
 
Via the most fantastic finding on Twitter of the past few days of the use of #edchat tag, the world of twitter and resource sharing has opened a new leaf. The amount of links and resources now flooding through my tweetdeck is almost too much to handle. However, with the vast array of resources, I have explored many quality links and have been able to explore more possibilities for my classroom.

I read in the recording of last week’s #edchat conversation the line:

"#edchat Why waste time on the slackers? If they don't care about educ., don't force it on them. Spend time on the smart kids, who care."

This really made me think. Do teachers actually believe this? And without sound harsh is this something that a teacher should be saying?  Of course I realise how preachy I sound, and perhaps how naive considering as I haven’t been ‘stuck’ in a classroom with 30 destructive kids for a couple of years, however this comment has had a deep clash with my ideals.  There are students who may not have the same kind of educational motivation that I have had, or the students who I have been teaching on practical experience.  These student’s beliefs and actions, (I believe) are a result of their past experiences with education, their upbringing and other social factors both from within the student and from their peers.  Does this mean we give up?  Is that what educators do, just give up on students who show little attention or don’t want to contribute? 

Short answer, I believe we do not give up on any student.  So many ideas come to mind as to how we should be encouraging these students and putting more effort in, not less to inspire them and engage them in the process of education.  This conversation arose from twitter, well do you think these students have myspace, facebook, twitter, youtube accounts?  I would like to assume, that if these students have the financial ability at home, they are on these websites and spending a large amount of their time (like all other students) on these social networking sites.  This gives teachers the opportunity to allow such students (all students) to explore their education, to learn and develop through using these great facilities. I was pondering last night as I was trying to fall asleep, a possible lesson plan. Having students search up the price of their favourite video game, let’s say the wii (which has become so popular over the past 12 months).  Have students check the price of the wii across the world, see how it compares in China, India, America, UK, Canada, and Germany.  They could go about this by asking students from all around the world on Facebook, twitter etc, or they could search for it. They could find out what video consoles people are using throughout the world. This activity would involve maths, English (communication skills both writing and oral) and perhaps geography if they were to represent their findings on a map.   I would like to think that if any students were given this task, they would not consider it work, they would enjoy doing it, as it incorporates their world not ours and they are learning skills which they will be able to use in the real world.

I repeat, we should not be giving up on the ‘slackers’ in our class but spending more time and energy, trying to connect with them in their world. Learning is a partnership between teacher and students.  The teacher therefore must be willing to give up some ground, listen actively to the student’s needs and wishes and use that information to get the most out of them.

I will step off my soap box now. 
 
 

The Miniature Earth Video
Following on from my work this semester at UNI based around the subject of social justice and how education can be seen as an act of social justice; this video speaks clearly about the world we live in. If the world's population was broken down into a representative 100 people, what would it look like? Does the world's resources, finances and energy represent this break up of our population?  Should it?  This video would speak clearly to students in Australian classroom's, who are on the whole wealthier than a large proportion of the world's population and similarly have greater opportunities through the ability of work, running water, food etc. 


Uses for Education: 
This video could be used in an English lesson to look at ways of communicating. The video has only picture and written words. This is a social justice resource as it allows for those people who are hearing impaired. HSIE Outcome: CUS2.4 - [Describes different viewpoints, ways of living, languages and belief systems in a variety of communities].  Students could break down their classroom, use Maths to find out the percentages of different cultural groups in their class and make up their class' miniature earth.  From there they could create a video like the one shown above or some other way of displaying the information. 


Note: I am now going to start including a Uses for Education section in each post. This is a technique used by rmbyrne in freetech4teachers blog which I have much respect for. 
 
 
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Looking back at this year, as we tend to do at this time of year, it has become clear to me that one of the largest influences on the world's social media and potentially on education has been twitter. I have had a twitter account since the 14th of March. In the scheme of things this has not been very long and this is clear from my measly 30 followers. Not that I am dirty about it or anything...... The question I am pondering at the moment is how has twitter helped? What is its purpose. There have been many sources suggesting that Twitter would fade much like myspace has and many of the other web2.0 social media applications. With this being said, it is quite clear that Twitter is hear to stay and it is getting strong and stronger by the day. So why can't I get any followers???

What is twitter used for in Education?  I have been using twitter as a medium to find new resources, stay in touch with the educational community (even though it is mainly an American population) and to broaden my understanding on some of the issues which I will be faced when I teach. Examples of these: Tombarrett posted 1 hour ago: [f you are thinking of starting a class blog, be sure to tap into these teacher's advice + guidance  http://bit.ly/86aWvc http://bit.ly/4Mv4LH]  Those websites turn out to be links to Edte.ch an educational blog I follow which has many wonderful sources and ideas to help teachers connect with tehcnology in the classroom. Considering that this was posted in the past hour, imagine what has been poster over the past 10 months of my involvement in twitter. There are at least 5 valuable resources, links, ideas or themes which can improve my teaching pedagogy, resources or philosophy. I should also mention I am only following 90 people of which around half are educators. The other half are news outlets, football outlets, interesting celebrities or friends. 

How can twitter be used in the future? As a future teacher, I can see that twitter can be a great way to teach students about web2.0, social media, and the important skills they will need to keep up with the fast evolution of information that is available today. I intend to set up a twitter account for my class. This is a great way for students to communicate with the world, with other classes and for them to have access to a wide range of information from an even wider range of sources.  Mark Prensky suggested that students today are digital natives, they require hyper-linking and large amounts of information at the same time.  Twitter is the perfect way for them to fulfil their need for hyper-linking and non-linear forms of information gathering as well as skills which they will need in the future. I honestly do not believe any student would complain about an assessment of 140 characters. The challenge is fitting the information your require in such a short amount of space. 

What does twitter in the classroom look like? I believe twitter can be something which is open throughout the day, there can be monitors who could monitor the feeds from the class' followers and then report back the day's activity.  Students could be given the opportunity to share their thoughts on a particular topic, assessment, activity with colleagues from around the world in real time using twitter. Students can share their work using the many sharing websites available to them and most of all they can publish their work in the real world. Students (according to the NSW Department of Education) must feel like their learning is significant; what is more significant than work which they are contributing to the world in real-time as they do it. 

For now, this is all... I will be blogging more on twitter in the future. Here are a few of the educators I follow:

 

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    This blog is that of a very confused, bewildered and amazed new scheme teacher in Sydney Australia who is hoping with all his might that he doesn't fall on his face. Enjoy!

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