Soaring high

I’m writing this post on an Air New Zealand A320 heading up to Auckland for a hui (not sure why the aircraft type was important) and thinking some more about reflecting on my practice.

One of the difficulties we can have when considering a class we’ve just taught is that we’re too much in the moment. We can be caught up in the good or bad things that happened and not really see the various places or things we could work on.

Often it is useful to take a step back or get into your helicopter and soar above the class you have had. This might require a break of a few hours or even overnight. It could also require a look at some of the data collected whether it be anecdotal—what you noticed—or actual student achievement information. It might even occasionally mean sitting down with a colleague or other critical friend to talk about the situation and help clarify things in your own mind.

Everyone is different and will find different ways of reflecting work better than others. Or even different ways work better at different times. It’s important though to get out of the zone and soar high above your class to get the full picture of what was going on.

What will learning look like this year?

learn
I’ve been reading through the report, Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching – a New Zealand perspective by Bolstad et al (2012). I actually thought I’d already read this report but it turns out I’d only read the executive summary and skimmed through it. There is a lot of good stuff in here!

One of the things that stood out to me was in Table 3, entitled What we know about learning (p 15). We are aware that learning has and is changing. It’s no longer just about consuming information/knowledge that is fed to us by an expert in that area. There is much more to it than that (and probably always has been to some degree but our model of school has been like this).

It’s almost cliche now. The industrial model of education is so last century! 

However, it’s so easy to fall back on this tried and true method of imparting knowledge, particularly when things aren’t working well, or time is getting tight (eg. close to exams). 

The summarised list from Table 3 (p 15) is here:

  • Learning is much more than simply adding new concepts (or knowledge) to one’s existing repertoire.
  • Learning involves thinking.
  • Experiences are critical to learning.
  • Learners need to develop in-depth knowledge in some areas if they are to go on learning.
  • To learn, people need to be actively engaged—they need to be doing something, thinking something and/or saying something that requires them to actively process, interpret and adapt an experience to a new context or use.
  • Learners have to want to learn the material.
  • Learning has to be a personalised experience.
  • Learning (usually) needs structure.
  • Learning involves interaction.
  • Learning needs to take place in a wide variety of settings.
  • Intelligence—or intellectual capacity—is not fixed, but is expandable (through the right kinds of experiences).

Being the beginning of a (school) year, I’m finding it a good chance to consider what learning will look like this year for me and for those I’m working alongside, whether they be children or adults.

A lot of my own learning takes place on line through reading blog posts or articles. I’m not a big reader so I find it quite difficult at times to focus and find I drift off (occasionallly to sleep!). So one thing I need to work on this year is ensureing that my learning involves thinking. That I stop after a section or chapter and think back and reflect on what it said and how it might relate to me and my work. This highlights the second and fifth points in the list above.

Even thinking about this now, I realise that when I’m learning for me I’m not always engaged! How much more is this likely if I’m pushing things on to my learners!

Thinking about my learners (who are mostly adults), how will I ensure I’m doing the best job for them? I will I know that learners what to learn the material? One way is to ensure they have a voice into what they are learning. Adult learners in particular need to be involved in deciding what they learn as they don’t like things forced on to them (this is not to say we should do it to children!). By working alongside side the learners to help them to voice their needs appropriately, ensuring that they have a voice in to any learning that I’m involved with, I can support them with learning that is relevant, useful and desired by them.

These are very much just my initial thoughts. I’m continuing to reflect on this list and what it means to learning in 2015.

I wonder what learning will look like for you and your students this year?



Bolstad, R., Gilbert, J., McDowall, S., Bull, A., Boyd, S., & Hipkins, R. (2012). Supporting Future-oriented Learning & Teaching: A New Zealand Perspective. Ministry of Education.

Looking back ~ Looking forward

I didn’t want to write one of those cliche reflect on last year, set goals for this year blog posts but I think that’s what I’m doing. I wanted my focus to be on looking at what might be ahead this year. Reflecting on last year is an important part of that.

Looking back – 2014

Looking backPersonal highlights

2014 was an eventful year for me both personally and professionally. Some of the highlights include:

  1. Celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary.
  2. Completing and submitting my Master’s thesis. This was the end of two years work and boy was I glad to get this done!
  3. Accepting a new job with CORE Education. An exciting and challenging career move for me which also includes now working alongside some of the people I have looked up to in regards to e-learning and education.
  4. Getting a passing grade on my thesis. I found this out in the same week as being offered and accepting my new position. It was a good week!
  5. Having the opportunity to be involved with some great PLD through Virtual Professional Learning and Development, Ulearn, Connected Educator Month, and Twitter (including #edchatNZ).
  6. Graduating with Master of Education in E-Learning with Merit.

    A pic of my capping photo. #graduation #Massey
    Graduation at Massey University – 28 November 2014.
  7. Getting the #edblogNZ hashtag up and running. It’s not hugely used yet, but it’s growing. The main reason I tried to get this going is that many blog posts were being shared on Twitter and disappearing quickly due to the busy-ness of the Twitter feed or #edchatNZ stream.
  8. Being voted onto the BLENNZ school Board of Trustees. This was unexpected, but as I have two children who are supported through BLENNZ I thought it would be a good opportunity to give back to this fantastic school!
  9. It was also exciting to celebrate my Dad’s 70th birthday, my sister-in-law’s wedding and my youngests 5th birthday (no more pre-schoolers for us!).

Okay, so numbers 2, 4 and 6 are really all part of the same thing, but they were all separated by time and each one was a separate highlight for me.

NZ education

There have been three stand-out happenings in NZ education in 2014 from my perspective. None of them are necessarily new, but have been areas of growth.

  1. The first one is the increase in teacher-led/teacher-driven PD. This has come through a couple of avenues. Connected Educator Month certainly had an impact on this as we saw a huge amount of PD available for free during a single month. There appeared to be a huge growth in the number of teachers trying out twitter, webinars, online discussions, blogging, and more! The other BIG part of this was the continuation of the #edchatNZ Twitter chats as well as the #edcchatNZ conference that was fully run by teachers. I was disappointed not to be able to attend.
  2. The second thing I’ve noticed is the shift from looking at/implementing Modern Learning Environments to using Modern Learning Practices. This has come about a lot through many schools simply being unable to create large open plan spaces as they are limited to single-celled classrooms and/or prefabs. It also takes the emphasis off the space and the furniture and puts it back on the teacher and their practice.
  3. The final area of growth that I’ve seen is around Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Interest for this, I believe, grew through Katie Novak’s keynote at Ulearn. While it’s far from embedded, having such a well presented/facilitated keynote that demonstrated some of the principles of UDL has certainly raised awareness of it.

Looking forward – 2015

Blogging goals

Claire Amos in her recent post Reflections and Resolutions has decided to write a weekly Ed blog and has asked who wants to join her so I’ve decided to join in on this and write a #weeklyedpost.

Along with this I’ve decided to set another blogging related goal. That is to comment on at least one blog post every week. The comment must also go on the blog and not on Twitter or elsewhere.
So this is my first #weeklyedpost.

#oneword2015

Question Everything / Nullius in verba / Take nobody's word for itI’ve noticed too that many people have decided not to have goals/resolutions for the New Year. Instead they’ve chosen one word that they will focus on/live/do for the year. So my #oneword2015 is QUESTION. I want to question more. This might be questioning people, ideas, concepts, theories etc. It might be physically questioning someone, or it might be questioning in my head. I already do this to some extent but I want to do it more, take it further, and seek out more information on certain things that I’m just not sure about or not happy with.

I also want to grow my questioning skills with people, particularly with the adults I’m working with. I want to learn to ask questions that help others to think and, wonder, ponder and perhaps question themselves and their own thoughts and beliefs.

NZ Education

In regards to NZ education in 2015, I think we’re going to continue to see growth particularly in modern learning practices and UDL. I think these two things go together so well, as MLP allows for much great student-centered, personalised learning and UDL give opportunity for students to learn in ways that are most appropriate for them at the time.

Introverts and Social Media

Over the past year or so I’ve also developed quite an interest in understand introverts more. I am one. Since I first read an interview of Susan Cain on the TED blog I’ve started to understand myself better and why I do what I do. I’ve also realised that we need to consider introverts in education much more than we do. Both students and teachers. Throughout the last few years there has definitely been an emphasis on collaboration and group work. While I think this is valuable it doesn’t suit all students all of the time (actually in my Masters research, most of the students I interviewed who liked to do group work also really liked to work on their own). I believe UDL could help with supporting the introverted student and I hope that we see more of an emphasis put on introverts throughout 2015. E-learning can help some introverts, even in group situations. I’m interested in exploring this much more and how introverted teachers like myself can manage in situations like open plan, team teaching, modern learning environments.

 

So that’s it! I’m really looking forward to see what comes through this year!
Have a great 2015 and keep sharing, reflecting and learning!