"All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind." Abraham Lincoln

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other." Abraham Lincoln

"He knew? You mean this A thing is a thing Rabbit knew?" "Yes, Eeyore. He's clever, Rabbit is." "Clever!" said Eeyore scornfully, putting a foot heavily on his three sticks. "Education!" said Eeyore bitterly, jumping on his six sticks. "What is Learning?" asked Eeyoe as he kicked his twelve sticks in the air. "A thing Rabbit knows! Ha!" AA Milne

I have created this page because I have needed a space to store the links and resources, readings, websites, videos, podcasts that I have found or been given about teaching and learning. I may even comment on them occasionally!

September 2012

I was invited to "Learnist" yesterday and I couldn't resist playing with it today. It looks like it could be a great way of curating resources - websites, videos, pictures and documents around a theme to create a Learning Board. I decided to make one to help people learn the Present Tense in Spanish.
At the moment you can only log in through Facebook, which is a bit limiting if you don't have a FB account. Nor is there a mobile app just yet. However, reading the comments on the home page, it sounds like they are looking into creating other ways to log in and also plan to create an app. Have a look at my board and see what you think. It is very basic but only took me about half an hour to create. I am sure that with more effort I could add more of my own resources and personalise it.

April 2012

furled_fern.jpgOoh, a long time since the last post but it has been a busy term and now it is the holidays I have a bit of time to catch up on reading. The content in this blog resonates with me and sort of follows on from my previous post. I am the "IT Teacher Coach" at my school. In short, this means that I am often only one or two steps in front of some of my colleagues and probably several steps behind others! However, the upside is that I have 6 hours of dedicated time a week which gives me some opportunity to do some research and be able to help and support my fellow teachers using and integrating technology and Web 2.0 tools in their learning programmes. I also lead an "elearning" group as part of our Professional Development programme and Reflective Practice and am trying to work out the best way to facilitate this group. They are all willing conscripts and very keen to learn how to develop their own expertise and how they can implement the tools into their lessons, but the constant reprise is the lack of time. We are luckier than most teachers in that we have 30 minutes each week dedicated to PD but by the time we leave our classes, get to the designated room and assemble we are down to maybe 20 minutes and it is never enough - our discussions often go well into lunch time. Last term we spent most of the time discussing the benefits of blogging and so I asked my colleagues to set up their own blog as part of learning more about what blogging is all about - my argument being that if teachers don't know how to blog, how can we expect our students to do it and what is the point anyway? I provided them with several links to other blogs and to blogs that blogged about the benefits of blogging and It led to some robust discussion! I am hoping that they have all had time this holiday to add some posts to their own blogs and reflect on how they could help their students in their learning. So what about next term? Well, I would like to look at the benefits of using Social bookmarking to share resources between colleagues and students. We have an LMS at school and one of my aims is to encourage more teachers to use this with their students. I think it is important that the teachers know how this can work to their advantage as well as to their students' advantage. So as part of the group I have set them up with a virtual classroom and am showing them the tools that they can use. At the end of last term we briefly looked at using the Quiz Box and Evaluation tools to get the students to reflect on what they had learned and for the teachers to find out how much the students had learned. I have been using this tools with my classes for a while and have refined the sort of questions to ask to get the most effective answers although I would still not regard myself as any sort of expert in this area. However, I made the basic error of forgetting how much learning I have done over the last two years in this regard and blithely talked about how easy it is to set these quizzes up quickly flicking through the quiz on the Whiteboard and expecting my colleagues to keep up. This is not something I would do with my classes so why should I expect to do it with my colleagues? I realised when they asked me what sort of questions to ask and how to set it up and "could they have a template?" that I really need to think again about how to approach these sessions. I am keen that they are collaborative, discursive, interactive sessions, that I am the "guide on the side" and not the "sage on the stage", but I also realise that in such a short time when my colleagues are pushed for time between timetabled classes, tutorials, writing reports, preparing lessons and marking work, I maybe have to do a bit more directing. Maybe I have to scaffold the sessions more and maybe I also have to push for more time to be made available for teachers to learn the skills that we are expecting our students to have. Yes, kids today have lots of technological know-how but they don't necessarily know how to use it most effectively for their learning. Teachers need to also understand how they can use technology to effectively for their own learning and professional development and in their teaching.

January 2012

I wasn't there and haven't had chance to listen to this yet, but reports were all good! This is just an extract so go to his website for more info about what he has to say.

The_Third_Teacher.PNGI am not at Learning@schools this year as I thought I would be recovering from shoulder surgery, but have been trying to keep in touch with what is going on through the Twitter Feeds. This organisation and another similar one seem to be making an impact. I think we already have a fantastic and stimulating environment for our students to work and develop in, but there is no reason why we can't think how we can make it better. I have the good fortune to have a brand new, beautiful classroom this year and have enjoyed being able to put posters on the walls and create a pleasant and (hopefully) stimulating learning space. However, I am conscious that what I perceive to be an environment conducive to learning, may not be what the students see as stimulating for their learning. I will observe how the classes work in the room and we can move furniture around as appropriate. Unfortunately, I had no control over the types of tables and chairs so will have to be creative around what I have been given. Nevertheless, the lighting, the ventilation, the aspect and the layout is fantastic and I look forward to welcoming the students in and encouraging them to make it their space as well as my space.

Prototype is another organisation that seeks to look at how we and the students can best use the tools at our disposal for teaching and learning. I like this statement from their website under the heading "The shift from tools to learning"; "While many ideas celebrated emerging technology and the impact of architecture, the groups's energy focused more on "what" students (and teachers) would be challenged "to do" in a truly 21st Century learning environment." I constantly ask myself what I can do with a tool to make it work for my students and to help their learning. All too often I end up in lectures at conferences where people talk about how wonderful a tool is without giving us any concrete ideas or example as to how it can work in a real classroom environment. I know that I can use my own imagination to create new ways of doing but in the hectic madhouse that is the academic, teaching year, there is often not the time for thought and creativity. I am lucky because I enjoy creating and thinking and imagining, and I think I have said before that I get bored easily and so need new ways to teach old stuff to keep me motivated. However. I know that others are not blessed with the time I have, nor with the inclination, and prefer to have those concrete examples given to them so they don't have to do the thinking that they have so little time to do. And, yes, I know you might be thinking that it is good for us to take a bit of time out to think, that it actually helps us to develop and ultimately makes us feel better, but I know that it is often difficult to persuade some people that it is good for them.
I was reading a blogpost by Steve Wheeler the other day; 7 Reasons why teachers should blog and I also read the many comments on that blog which suggested many reasons why teachers didn't blog! Time, or lack of it, was the major factor cited by many. I responded by saying that I am a firm believer in using the tools available to us to enable learning. I too have found it difficult to find time to blog, and the long gaps between my blogs reflect that. However, one of my personal goals in 2011 was to try to reflect more on my lesson, what worked and what didn't and what I could do to modify what I did to make it more effective. I have been using Springpad to plan my lessons and reflect on how they worked. I have found that making time for that daily reflection has been hugely beneficial and I hope that I have improved my practice as a result. I will continue to use it this year. I used to use Onenote which I think is a great product but when I bought a new computer, I went Open Source and so had to find a new tool. I tried several but Springpad works for me. I like the way I can add documents, links to websites, videos, sound files to it so that I can build a sort of scheme of work with associated resources. I can also add photos, sound recordings and videos that i take in class with my phone and it automatically adds them to that lesson so that I have "evidence" of learning for my teacher registration portfolio. O-oh! Spuds are burning, better go and sort them!

I have been trying to get my head around the projects I am involved with this year and have managed, as usual, to procrastinate and find lots of other, not necessarily more interesting as I am excited by what I have to do this year, fun activities to distract me. Checking my emails I found this video link
Paraphernalia from my husband, which is delightful, and I am trying to work out how I can build it into my teaching programme to enhance my students' learning. All too often, and I speak from experience here, we find a resource which we think is fantastic and are so keen to use it and share it in the classroom, we don't necessarily use it in the best way possible to enhance the learning of the students. I am also keen to look at how I can use Vimeo myself. Another thing I want to improve this year is how I bookmark links that I find; I am pretty good at slotting them into Diigo as I find them but my cataloguing and tagging system is not well-refined and so it is sometimes difficult to find the link that I know I saved several months ago!

January 2012

DSC06094-1.JPGIt is that time of year again and I am feeling a little more refreshed and almost ready for another year of new faces, familiar faces and some who I know but can't quite put a name to. I am sort of ready for the challenge, well, I have lots of ideas turning round my head at 2am when I should be asleep, but somehow when I try to remember what they were in the cold light of day they are kind of elusive! I have been reading lots of links that have been posted on Twitter and other Social networking sites of which I am a member and have got quite excited by some of the content but my thoughts are still a little jumbled, my brain still feels a little woolly.
This article prompted me to think about one aspect of my job this year; encouraging and training colleagues to use technology in the classroom to enhance teaching and learning. I have already looked at theMinistry of Ed's elearning framework for schools and made some notes about where we as a school, sit in the continuum. As I clicked on some of the links and skimmed some of the articles, I somehow came upon a link to Education Skype got distracted looking at some of the projects, created a classroom account and created my own project for my Spanish students. Looking forward to getting some responses but I am not too hopeful that they will flood in. Part of the problem of living and teaching European languages in NZ is that when we are in the classroom, Europe is in bed! We will see....
I was away for a month on a school trip to Cambodia and Vietnam and returned to an inbox overflowing with daily posts from LinkedIn and the NZ teachers VLN There is so much discussion going on about education, elearning, online forums seem to be as busy as ever despite (or maybe because of) the holiday period. I found it quite overwhelming trying to sift through the posts, so I am afraid, I gave up! I am sure that many of the discussions will be ongoing, and those that have relevance to me will continue and I can catch up with them when I can.
This video Shift Happens is not new but it still has resonance for me. Also see for different versions and discussions.

1913_Victoria_Copying_Machine.jpgSince I started teaching in 1985, the way that I teach has changed, hopefully for the better as I have reflected on what works and what doesn't and adapted and refined my practice to improve my skills and to enhance the learning of my students. But what has changed even more are the tools that I have been able to use to teach. As a language teacher, I remember the early mornings in school to get to the banda machine before anyone else to run off the colourful works of art I had laboriously created the night before for my classes. The smell of bander fluid in my nostrils, warm sheets of paper and inky covered hands I would float off to my classroom to face the day! Now I can create documents on my computer send directly to a school printer and pick up as I walk into my office, I can also upload worksheets and assignments directly to the school LMS so that the students can download them into their own homes, I can share them through Google Docs, create on-line quizzes which I can mark at my computer and completely bypass paper altogether. I used to use a reel-to-reel tape recorder ( the first school I taught in was not at the forefront of technology!) , then a cassette recorder, then CDs. Sony Walkmans allowed students to listen individually to cassettes I recorded, prepared and copied, now I can record a podcast and upload it so that the students can download directly to their MP3 players in minutes rather than hours. All this technology has made it easier for me to create and deliver, but how has it enhanced the way that I actually teach and the way that my students learn? This is a question that I keep coming back to and, yes, I know all the stock answers, but I still doubt myself and whether I am making a difference and whether the methods I use are having the impact I hope that they have.
I am not a very methodical person, I am attracted by "new ways of doing", I hate standing still and I hate repeating things too often, so I am a bit of a sucker for new gadgets and things that offer me a new way of trying things out. I am conscious that I do not always follow things through; I am experimental, but do I always reflect properly on how the experiment turned out and whether it was DSC05699-1.JPG? Do I make changes based on results or on gut feeling? I know that, at the end of the day, it is how we teach, how we engage with our students, how we inspire them that is important and not the tools we use. However, I wonder if because using technology inspires me and makes me excited, by using it in my classroom, it also makes the "how" more exciting too so that my students catch my bug for the way that technology can help them to learn. I hope so.

In Cambodia one of the biggest challenges to progress and development as a country is education; one third of the population was murdered by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979, most of those were the educated people, the doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, musicians, writers, painters. As a result the country now has a population which does not have a history of formal learning, does not have people who aspire to academia, to learning, to developing a professional class. Because of their past, they are a people reluctant to look to the future, to the long term, to developing an infrastructure of learning just in case it all gets wiped out again. It is a country of farmers, of agricultural workers, unskilled workers, uneducated who are content to live to survive, to produce enough food to feed a family, or maybe a cooperative community. They have short term goals and low expectations. We met a man who is desperate to see change; his vision is to provide the local, rural communities with centres where the whole community can access education. Mobile technology is one way that that this might be able to work. Most of the people have mobile phones, computer hardware is cheap, there is relatively easy access to internet although the infrastructure is expensive to put into place especially for establishments that do not create money. Internet access in the towns in internet cafes is everywhere and very cheap; getting the same access out to rural communities is much more expensive. Many children do not attend school because their parents do not see it as a priority; if they can get the parents to see that education is worthwhile, the kids will too. If they can make the parents excited about how they can access education, they can excite their children too. If they can make it easy for parents to access education, they will make sure their children get it too. They have labour intensive jobs, their wealth is dependent on the harvest, a good harvest is dependent on the input from the workers at seeding time, at transplanting time at harvest time. It is essential that they start to make the connection between that success and the success that they could have if they invest the same effort into education. They still have to work the paddy fields, the children are needed for that work but think about how mobile technology could help them work in the fields and also access education?

I am conscious that I have rambled a bit here and I am not too sure of the point I wanted to make! Reading back over what I have written, I think that maybe we dwell rather too much on the hows and the whys of education and learning when we have the luxury of taking for granted something that large numbers of the world's population do not have access to at all.

December 2011

"Tread Softly"
I was lucky enough yesterday to meet up with Steve Wheeler and be part of a conversation with him and some other educators in Hamilton. Nigel Robertson broadcasted it via DS106 - internet radio and recorded it on his ipad. One of the other listeners also recorded it and this is his live recording.

I love Tedtalks and this is a classic by a well-known, well-loved presenter, Sir Ken Robinson. Bring on the Revolution

We make very poor use of our talents - in fact some people go all the way through their lives without ever really knowing what their talent is.
Do you enjoy what you do or do you endure it?
Do you do what you are?
Education dislocates people from their natural talents - human resources are like natural resources - they are deep and we need to dig deep for them to find them.
Education reform is not enough - reform improves a broken model! We need a revolution in education. One of the main challenges is to innovate fundamentally which is hard because it disrupts our lives and puts us outside our comfort zones.
Kids live in a digitised world - most teenagers don't wear watches - why - according to his daughter watches are single function devices!
Life is organic not linear - our lives develop as we explore and find our talents within contexts which then change according to how we use those talents and the choices we make
Are we obsessed with getting people into college?
"Human communities depend upon a diversity of talent and not a singular conception of ability, the heart of the challenge is to reconstiutue our sense of ability and intelligence".
He likens the current education system to the fast food model - it is impoverishing our spirit and minds in the same way that fast food is depleting out bodies.
He finishes with a poem from WB Yeats;

Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

And everywhere, everyday children spread their dreams beneath our feet. And we should tread softly.