"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."

~Neale Donald Walsch~

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Let the creative juices flow

Over the last few weeks things have been changing. TAFE finished, my kids have been on holidays for a few weeks and I'm back to be a full time stay at home mum. The problem with that is I have been finding the adjustment a little difficult. Coming down from a very busy year has set my brain into 'now it's time to deal
Image by Presentermedia.com
with all that stuff you put on the back burner to think about and I am going to think about it NOW!' So consequently not only do I feel like I am 'filing things' away in my brain but my creative and ideas part of my brain has gone into overload and I can't sleep. I was so encourage by all your messages from my last post that I set about thinking about the future of education and philosophy for a few weeks before I was able to get my head back into the reality of teaching for next year. So having processed some of these thoughts about technology and the future of education I am now up to thinking about how I can practically take on board some of these things and incorporate them into my programs and teaching for next year. It's time to be creative!

Image by Bigstockphotos.com
Not many people know this (although you are all about to know now) that in my previous life I was a professional musician. I spent many years of my life as a flautist. I use to play in bands and orchestras many years ago and I still play on a regular basis at church. I also play piano and guitar and use to sing in choirs and at weddings. So my first love and passion in life was and still is music. Whenever I feel strong emotion I often thump it out on my piano or flute and I find music helps me process my thoughts. It's my 'soul food'. Whilst I can't draw for quids I have a very strong creative side to my personality. I love the discipline and creative capabilities that music brings to my life. I also know that I can use both these things to make me a better teacher. So after having a few down weeks to reflect on the things that worked and the things that need to improve for next year I have decided to be disciplined this week and allow myself time for creativity. So I have joined Lynda.com  and am learning all about Photoshop for a start. I could find all these things on Youtube however I like these well paced and plain English lessons and they are great for my beginner level. I can fit it in around the kids and school holiday activities and they aren't too pricy. I have also slotted in some time for my music and I am working on Debussy's Children's Suite as a school holiday project on piano. 

So when do I relax? Well after many conversations with people I don't know. I have never been very good at it. Sitting by the pool for hours on end or at the beach is boring. I love spending a few hours but not all day. I love to read but even then I can only do that for a few hours. Put simply I find the art of doing nothing frustrating. However I do know that in my own way I need to find time to recharge. By using music and other creative endeavors I find this the best way to recharge. Feeding my soul as such. I find this through spending time on my spiritual faith, my family and the creative side of me helps me recharge and look at things with a fresh and new perspective. So with this in mind.... Let the creative juices flow!
Image by Bigstockphotos.com

I do hope you all have some time to unwind and be creative over the holiday break.

Until next week,

Sunday, 1 December 2013

What will the future look like?

Today I tried to take a break from the things that get me down. I admit yesterday morning I was flat as a tack however I am not one to stay there long. After some retail therapy and a facial I was on the road to recovery. So today I needed to spend the day being inspired. I took time out for some reflection and thought processing as well as taking in positive thinking that would lead me to better teaching practice. This always leads me to TED. However TED was not the only place I stumbled across today for some inspiration. 

Image from bigstockphotos.com
TAFE does provide some excellent professional development for teachers through TAFE Connects. TAFE connects is an online elearning meeting each week and they have excellent guests speakers on a range of topics. Alex Miller is a TAFE teacher and she and her team have embarked on exploration into the virtual world of teaching. I must say until today I had thought about elearning from a very 2 dimensional way however today I now think differently. We have been creating avatars for years through gaming using say the xbox, play station or wii but what if we had our virtual avatars in a virtual classroom that was totally interactive. I love the concept that our face to face teaching practice can also take on form in the virtual world.  Who knows what our learners will look like in the future? 

This year I started Teach Meet as a means of feedback to other teachers about what was going on in classrooms. At no point do we really measure how successful we are at what we do. How do we know our students are better at English than those in other schools or colleges. Do we just rely on Naplan? How do we know which teachers are having success and which ones are not. Are we only measuring results based on scores? Is there a means of measuring quality teaching over the last 5 years or so and how do we compete with each other? This thinking came out of a TED talk by Stefan Larsson. If the medical profession can get a grip on this why can't education take a leaf out of their book. 

Then I watched Angela Lee Ducksworth's talk about the importance of 'grit' in our students. 

We know that our students lack resilience for many reasons and is there something we can do to help our students build resilience and encourage them to stick out for the long haul? 

This then lead me to the next  2 videos....

After watching Bill Gates deliver his talk on teacher feedback I have been thinking about how this applies to me and can we deliver quality that is cost effective and manageable?

So can we do these three things? Can we measure the success of teachers, build grit in our students and provide quality feedback, sharing and leadership for our current cohort of teachers? Is this too much to ask? 

As a young teacher I know there are so many things I can improve upon and I really want the best strategies I can find to improve on the quality of my teaching. I would like some feedback on how I'm going but would like the input of those who know the students and also those who don't. Regular feedback conversations would be so helpful. 

Image by bigstockphotos.com
If we improved the overall quality of delivery then we may get more students succeeding and reaching their goals. By looking at countries who have managed to model success much can be gained by thinking through how these techniques can further develop quality teaching for teachers in Australia. There are people like Alex Miller who are pushing our expectations of what teaching is and by addressing quality and innovation it can go a long way to providing successful pathways for our students. 

I need to mull on these ideas for further implementation and improvement in my own teaching practice. 

Until next week,

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Do you suffer social media exhaustion?

I have had several conversations with colleagues and friends lately about the lack of time people feel they have to keep up with all aspects of their lives. It appears that social media is deeply rooted now into our culture and staying connected can be stressful and addictive for some and exhausting for others. Being connected all the time doesn't have to be burdensome provided that you set yourself some boundaries and remember that it doesn't control your life.

Image by Marish at bigstockphotos.com
There are many ways to stay connected with loved ones, friends, colleagues or business associates and it is really up to the individual to decide how much of their time they are going to devote to social media. Facebook has certainly revolutionised the way we communicate and there are countless cases of how is has been used in terribly negative circumstances such as cyber bullying leading to suicide. However for the most part social media can be used for good and provided you don't use it as a venting device then there are some really beneficial outcomes if you use social media to enhance your connections with people. I've listed my top favorite social media sites and why and how I use them to encouage others to consider that it doesn't really take a lot of time to stay on top of what's going on in your networks.

Blogging: I started my blog just over two years ago. I wanted to improve how I write and primarily I wanted to use as a reflection on where I was at with my teaching. As my blog developed and I found people were actually reading it I then discovered that I wanted an opportunity to have a voice in the educational sphere and comment on how policy, technology and social changes were impacting the students that I taught and were they having an impact on the way I was teaching?

I continue to blog because not only does it allow me the opportunity to reflect on my teaching but it allows me to move out of my space at work and connect with other teachers who may also share the same thoughts or sentiments in relation to the teaching in their classrooms.

Facebook: I stayed away from Facebook for a long time because I couldn't see anything positive that was going to come of it. After spending some years researching and observing I fianlly jumped on the band wagon. For some years now I have told my students that they can compartmentalsise how they use social media. If they just want to use it for work they can or if they are keeping things social keep boundaries on who you connect with. I also talk about being mindful about what you put up and remember there are some things in life they should always stay privae. So taking my own advice I set some clear boundaries for myself and at the moment I am using Facebook for only people I know and would still have regular contact with outside of Facebook. However I have seen how businesses are using Facebook and I would likle to spend the Summer setting up an Educational Facebook page for my business and see how that goes.

Twitter: By far Twitter has been my favorite and most used form of social media. In some ways Twitter saved my from feeling disconnected and alone as a casual teacher and open up new relationships with teachers that I never imagined possible. Twitter has connected me with some of the most amazing teachers and individuals and whilst you can only say what you need to say in 140 characters I have developed some wonderful relationships based on these short conversations. I have used Twitter to connect and network with teachers and only use Twitter for work. #ozengchat on Tuesday nights continues to be my regular chat and I have been greatly enriched by the sharing of this group. I don't generally tweet anything to do with my private life.

Linked In: I was a little dubious at first about getting on board with Linked In and thought it was a bit gimmicky however I have really changed my mind abou this. I have found that Linked In is not only a great net working tool but contributing to converations, groups and just having information available about conferences has been really helpful. I have found that whilst I don't spend a lot of time on Linked In when I do get on there is always something interesting to discover.

Mashable: I stumbled across Mashable a few years ago when I was looking at other social media sites I could link in with and I find that Mashable gives some very general and interesting information about what is going on in social media. I find it as a good resource to get a feel for what people are talking about. If you looked at it from an anthrolpological point of view it would be like being a fly on the wall for what a group of people are talking about in a given space. Whilst there are millions of people that use social media there are also a lot of people who don't. So social media isn't always representative of what the population think about a topic. However I do find it insightful and I like to know what people are thinking about on a range of topics.

So these are my top 5. Whilst I do use some others I find these would be the ones I spend most of my time on. The great thing about social media is that you can use it a lot or a little. You don't have anyone standing over you telling you when and where you need to do it. I admit I have spent less time this year using social media because my work committments increased however adandoning it because I didn't have time would have destroyed all the work I had put into establish relationships and connections and these were too important for me to loose.

I'd love to know what other forms of social media others are using it and how they are using it for work.

So this is my last week at TAFE until the holidays and it has been a mega year. This year I taught on four new courses that I hadn't taught on before, was a course coordinator, started my Graduate Certificate in Adult LLN, was elected onto the board of the Central Coast Campus friends, was secretary for my daughters Girl Guide Unit Support Group, lead a Youth Group at Terrigal with my church and helped run a youth band and raised my three kids and yet I still found time for social media.

So be encouraged. Make time for social media and if it gets too much take a break and then come back to it. Some one will always be around to connect with you when you come back online.

Until next week,

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Ethical Practices

You know when you have so much to do you just don't know where to start? Well I have decided that I really can only do one effective thing at a time. So I am forcing myself to time manage one thing at a time because I am getting totally overwhelmed. I am desperately trying to finish my Grad Cert in Adult Lit and Num and I really want to hand in all my assessments in on Thursday. For one of my assessments I had to take a Maths class. Had major Maths anxiety before starting and I was desperate not to make a mistake. However I am only human and I did. Thankfully when we went back through the steps we found out the wrong step as a class and fixed it quickly. We were looking at Area. The task was to find out how much paint would be needed to paint the classroom and how much it would cost to paint it. Thankfully the students were totally engaged and really enjoyed themselves. They were deep in discussion, helping and encouraging each other and desperate to make sure they could achieve the task. So all in all it went very well. However I am happy to leave it to the professionals. One assessment down. Yeah. I have 2 to go.

As my English students come to complete their major research projects I feel as though I am banging my head a little. They are so ingrained in copy and paste that I am constantly pointing out that the work they are
Image by numistmarty / Big Stock Photos
submitting is not their own. They must give recognition where they have used an idea or a direct quote from a source. Thankfully I have seen a lot of their writing over the past 5 months and I am able to recognise their 'voice' in their writing and I can point out exactly which sentences they have written and the ones they have just 're-worded' from somebody else. They are somewhat surprised at how I can do this and are surprised by the fact I can pick out a voice that is not their own and it is like a neon sign to me. I am sure there are lots of teachers nodding their heads in agreement. However they are usually very willing to go back to the text and give credit where credit is due. So whilst I am on the topic of plagiarism I also have another bugbear. 

Recently I have become a huge advocate for images used on the web or in print and the importance of recognising and paying for these images. I have several friends who are photographers and there is a lot of skill and time that goes into producing these images. So I would like to share with you my favorite one and the ones I use most frequently.

I hope you find these helpful. 



The end of term is getting close and like most of you I am hanging on by my fingernails. Hang in there.Hope you have a great week. 
Until next week, 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

What does influence really mean?

You when I was a kid I always wanted to be one of the popular kids. I was not. I was hard working, at times incredibly shy and awkward and thought I probably would never get noticed. I was shocked and surprised when at school in my final year I received the schools most prestigious award for school service. I couldn't believe that whilst I was lurking in the shadows someone had noticed. 

Well I can honestly say that feeling of overwhelming shock, surprise and pure joy are not
Image by Bigstockphotos.com
moments in ones life that you get to live everyday. In fact in my career those feeling are few and far between. There are kids in our classes who just try all the time and aren't at the top of the class, they aren't the most attractive in the class and yet they are endearing with unique personalities and it is these qualities and enduring personalities that are the ones I remember. They have few opportunities to shine because they aren't at the top and they aren't the worst behaved but yet they help out the strugglers and always are the first to put their hands up to have a go at things. It is these students that I most resonate with because I was one of them. 

On Friday I was fortunate enough to participate in a staff development day on how to deal with difficult customers, facilitated by my good friend and colleague Bronwyn @Ms_Bee_2U (twitter).We completed the DISC personality test and my dominating personality tendency is an influencer and promoter. I never had thought about myself like this however as I read more about myself I discovered I was. I love to share,  and am enthusiastic about what I do and have a strong desire to share with others. I just thought I was sharing what I was interested. So why am I telling you this? Not sure. However in reflection I hope that my actions as a teacher are to influence others for good. I will always strive to do better and one of my weaknesses is that sometimes I overestimate what others can do. I always see the best in people and can see their potential however I am coming to see that people need to make their own way and my job is to encourage them to be the best they can be whilst they are part of my life. 

I have been asked to write another blog post for the TAFE NSW blog site so I am in the middle of writing this. I have also been asked to provide training for TAFE teachers in Maitland on Tuesday and show them the joys of blogging. On Wednesday I am going to the Central Coast Campus Friends AGM and have been nominated to be a board member. I really love this group as they support academia and work on the Central Coast. Super excited about my opportunities this week. Unfortunately as I sit here with a chest infection and a temp I am hoping to be well enough to go to all these wonderful things. I am still working on the Symbaloo accreditation and am now half way through the course. I am really starting to see the benefits of this program and I like it more the more I get into it. 

I am still slowly working away at my Graduate Certificate in Adult LLN and handed in my first assessment for Numeracy last Thursday. I am determined to get all my assignments in on time. Last term was very stressful trying to get things in and I need to manage my time better so I don't get so stressed.  

My favorite sites for the week:

Whilst setting up my Symbaloo page I went back into the archives of my favorite sites and it was fun to remind myself of some of my favorite apps and places to go.

Trends in technology for 2014


Pic Monkey

Until next week,

Monday, 21 October 2013

A world of opportunity

I can't believe I have left my blog for so long. It's terrible. I have missed it. I must say. I tried to do a brain dump of all my ideas on my holiday but it just wasn't the same.

I went on a holiday to the USA with the family and whilst it was very busy it did give me time to step back from things and look at things in a new light. I had forgotten that I am an adrenaline junkie and love roller coasters. The scarier the better. I love the thrill and adventure and you know sometimes you just have to take life by the horns and go for it!

There are so many pressures on teachers and I admit at times I have really struggled to keep up with everything. Marking, lesson prep, feedback, coordinator role, getting ready for audit and working on my Graduate Certificate in Adult Language, Literacy and Numeracy. I really felt swamped and not sure where to begin. Well unfortunately I still feel like that. Yet dangling like a carrot in front of me is a world of opportunity.

I had so missed my random surfing the net that I just allowed myself time to cruz the other day. I love exploring new apps and looking at new and different trends. Last week I dived into the inner workings of Symbaloo and completed about 1/2 of the course to become a certified trainer. Was good to put my brain in a different space to think. The world of technology appears to me to be stabilizing and moving forward at the same time. There are things in the world of tech that are now becoming so familiar. Yet I still love to be surprised by new things or new apps or ways of doing things. Twitter, Facebook and Google are staples yet there is growing interest in other areas.


As the end of the year approaches it is the constant uncertainty about next. I always hope I will have work for next year but there are a few hairy weeks when you have no idea. I'm in that phase at the moment. I also like this time of year to reflect upon what worked and what didn't work.

I have been thinking that next year I really should build on my business. I have now run two training sessions from the courses I have been accredited to teach by the NSW Teachers Institute and they were a great success. They want to do further courses with me. I can see that there is a market I just have no idea how to get in to it. I need to work out how I can get into this market.

I can't put all my eggs in one basket and I need to look for further opportunities for employment. I feel a lot more comfortable now in the adult learning space and I have the confidence to go forward whereas before I was unsure. So I need to take these opportunities and be excited by the unexpected places I might be taken to.

Until next time,

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Challenging perceptions

There is no denying the fact that teachers have a powerful influence on their students. Teachers by and large operate with a great spirit of generosity towards their students and their colleagues. We are a profession that not only cares about the mind but the whole person. This notion was what attracted me to the profession in the first place and I have known many a good teacher who has lived up to these expectations.

Expectations are the things that can drive us but they can also hold us back. I was recently reminded of this when listening to a short talk by Dan Haesler at the Central Coast Teach Meet. The expectations we have of students can really influence their success. 

It is easy to get so distracted when you are in the business of lesson preparation and marking and slowly you slog through the massive amounts of information and content we need to get through in our lessons that we forget sometimes to take a shift in our minds and make sure our students are extended and challenged. Mixed ability classes in some ways are easier to do this because the stronger students in the class can help and model to those who are struggling. However the fact remains that just getting them through is not good enough. Each student is unique and different and because we are professionals and we need to continue to maintain individual learning outcomes to cater for all needs.

There has been much criticism off late of our profession however these stereotypes lack the full picture of the profession and the lives that have been changed because of the influence of one teacher who saw something in a student and dared to challenge a perception and in turn, changed a life.

I was so encouraged by all the presenters and those who attended the first Central Coast Teach Meet that I felt excited by the wonderful things that are happening in our schools and TAFE colleges on the Central Coast.

Perceptions can change and with time, one person can make a difference.

Until next week,

Thursday, 4 July 2013

What is driving teacher quality?

There has been much research and chatter on social media about what it takes to be a quality teacher. We are a society that is driven by quantitative information and access to reliable data that may indicate the education standard of our children and young people. A study in 2011 by  team of researchers from the University of Western Sydney has spent more than two years finding out, as part of a study into how teachers can boost students' opportunities for success.

"The teachers they looked at were creative in the classroom. They saw no limits to what their students could learn or how much they could achieve, and believed teaching was most effective when it related to students' interests and experiences." (SMH, 14/06/11)

This particular study looked at students from disadvantaged backgrounds and the impact quality teaching had on these students. I don't think it really matters where a quality teacher is working the fundamentals remain the same. Creative, innovative, experienced and confident teachers that are able to connect and engage with students seems to be the qualities that stand out. There is no doubt that teachers have an enormous influence on young people and there influence will often be life long. 

Education lecturer Joanne Orlando also adds from the study that the teachers involved in the research worked hard to instill in their students a desire to learn and succeed, and ''were so passionate about learning, it was catching''.

The teachers were also flexible, offering variety in their lessons and tailoring lessons to suit the students' progress and abilities. Children might choose what materials they worked with, where they sat, or tackle hands-on lessons.

''The children in their classes told us how happy they were, how much they were learning, they showed lots of confidence in their problem solving and learning new things independently,'' Dr Orlando said.

Image by iqoncept @ bigstockphotos.com
What I find enormously encouraging from this statement is the passion and love of learning that is sparked by the teacher and flows onto the student. It is very easy in the business of life to lose site of the excitement and enjoyment we feel when we learn and it is so important that we model this to our students. On the last lesson of one of the courses I taught on last term we finished with some creative writing. We completed a number of activities and finished with a final creative writing piece. So moved we were by the range of interesting responses within the class we all were all silent for about 1 min as we took in the shared creative time we had just shared. It is these moments that helps drive my passion for learning when students rise above there own expectations and share in a moment of pure joy and expression of who they are and we could share in how far they have come on their learning journey. 

 I hope my own professional learning journey will continue for many years to come. I still get excited when I learn something new from colleagues, students, family, my kids, friends,  life or social media friends. I love reading and exploring new ideas and love to have conversation about many different topics in life. I get a buzz out of learning and I strive to help my students to also seek to find enjoyment and satisfaction from learning. 

Image by Raywoo @ Bigstock photos.com
So as part of my learning journey I want to meet up with other professionals who also share my passion. It's very easy to be insular and isolated when you are in your classroom and you just have your students and you flow in and out of the staff room and classroom each and every day. I have realised it is so important to be encouraged and connected with other teachers and professionals. I have enjoyed my teaching more because the sharing has been so rich. I do hope I can meet and connect with many teachers at Central Coast Teach Meet and continue to share with others the passion I hold so dearly.

It is an enormous privilege to be a teacher and I feel humbled by the many opportunities that have been granted to me during my life. If you are a Central Coast Teacher then please join us on the 26th July for Central Coast Teach Meet and share the wonderful things that have been happening in your classrooms. 

Favorite sites for the week:

A Beginner’s Guide to Creating iPhone Videos for the Virtual Classroom

Until next week,

Monday, 24 June 2013

Can you keep up with technology?

Image by smikeymikey1 at Big Stock Photos
I don't know about you but there have been some days lately when I wish I had another 5 hours in the day. Whilst we all appear to be screaming down the fast lane of life there is no reason why we can't enjoy the ride. For some people technology is a drag and something that is time consuming and unimportant but I find it fun and refreshing because there is always something new. Today I attended a professional development course to learn how to use the video editing software Adobe Premier Elements 11 and I sat next to a teacher librarian from a rural public school. He has only three years to go until retirement and he is totally immersed in technology. He teaches and encourages his students to be creative and play with technology and to use it to laugh and have fun. He is enthusiastic about his students even after 37 years of teaching and I was totally inspired by his attitude. 

Having spoken with quite a lot of teachers over the past few years face to face and via social media there seems to be 3 common themes that seem to be emerging for me out of these conversations. 

1. You need to use the tools you learn. You build upon skills as each new technology comes out and you adapt and develop the skills. 

2. It's OK to make mistakes. The great thing about computers and apps is that it's very hard to break them. (Unless of course your 7 year old comes out of his room with his doona over his head pretending to be a ghost and knocks your laptop off the table and smashes the screen!!) It's really important to play with new technology. There have been times when I have had students try and use technology and it has been more of a hindrance rather than a help. You have to be flexible enough to know when to quit and try something else. Shared learning experiences between teachers and students is beneficial both ways.  

3. There is a desire to share that has arisen through access to technology and the internet and classrooms are no longer isolated and insular but are part of a greater more global education community.  There will always be someone who takes your ideas and try to claim them as their own. Unfortunately that is the world we live in. The wonderful thing with social media and Professional Learning Networks that has arisen from social media is that there is a lot of sharing and giving of ideas and resources that comes from a selfless attitude and desire to help all students. As a profession teachers have always been generous with their time, intellectual property and experience and this is why teachers in their thousands are joining social media at a fast and growing rate. 
Image by PixelsAway at Big Stock Photos

So the question begs, can you keep up with technology? I think you can. You don't to spend a lot of money on gadgets and things to stay abreast of what is happening with technology and education in Australia and around the world. There are so many free education sites and apps that you would be hard pressed to say it's too hard to find out what's going on with education. We may be a big island in the ocean but Australia is far from isolated in terms of pushing quality teaching and learning. 

Teachers have been getting a rather bad wrap lately but if you look at the wealth and success of the banking industry, mining and tourism industries to name a few we are leading the world in these sectors and driving change and innovation. Our education system has a large part to play in this as the majority of the work force is made up of Australians who have been educated in Australia. We are no dummies and we are hard workers and through dedicated teachers and their desire to engage students in learning we need to celebrate those who drive and strive to adapt and use technology in their classrooms to teach, learn and skill the next generation. 

Image by PixelsAway at Big Stock Photos
For thousands of years teachers have taught students how to instruct, persuade, engage, inform and entertain
those they are communicating with using a variety of methods and skills and this technology generation is no different. After today's post PD thinking I have come to realise that it doesn't matter how old you are but whether or not you have the right attitude to learn and adapt to new technology. Yet again I come home from a Professional Development day fired in the belly to be creative and give my students the tools they need to be life long learners. Technology changes are fast and ever changing and I try and keep up one app, one piece of software or hardware at a time. You don't have to use everything but it never hurts to give it a go. 

Until next week,

Friday, 14 June 2013

Time to be bold and courageous

After a few really hard few weeks I feel I have climbed a mountain and am sitting at the top enjoying a brief moment with the wind in my hair and the crisp air filling my lungs before I trek down the mountain again. I have been so thrilled this week with the standard of work that has been handed to me and I am filled with goosebumps and butterflies for my students as they hand in their final assessments for their courses. I love this time of term when you can see such growth in their learning and I love the new confidence many of them have as a result of studying at TAFE for 6 or 12 months. For some it has been a life changing event and I am so grateful to have shared in their journey. 

Image by ABC radio
On Wednesday night I had the pleasure of attending the Central Coast Friends Association mid year dinner with guest speaker Dr Michael Davey. He was one of the best speakers I have heard in a long time and I could have listened to him for hours. He had the audience in the palm of his hand and inspired us with stories about his life and his teaching experiences. He has written a wonderful book, Journey of Hope that I purchased on the night and hope to read in the coming weeks. It is his life story that highlights his harsh and horrible life in foster homes and then living in a violent family to his incredible life journey as an adult. I came away from the night truly inspired. 

It was during the night I was able to connect with some teachers and educators that were really excited and encouraged about my plans to organise Teach Meet. I was so encouraged and realised that in order to make it happen I need to bold and courageous. I need to make connections and build networks and share my love of learning with others who are like minded. I know there are many teachers out there who also share my love of teaching and passion for learning and I seek to connect and join with them. I have been crippled by the fear of failure in the past but in order to move forward I must be bold and courageous in my attempt to make it happen. 

In the last few weeks my work opportunities have opened up and I'll let you in on them in the coming weeks. A few weeks ago I was a guest presenter on an online course with the Western Institute of TAFE and it was my great pleasure to share with them how I use technology to engage my students in learning. I really enjoy presenting in an online capacity and would really like to do more of this. 

My cup is overflowing with the wonderful blessings God has passed my way and I am very grateful for the life I have. I thank all my wonderful colleagues and friends who encourage me to write on my blog and I hope many of them will come to Teach Meet or help promote it those who can make it. 

Favorite sites for the week:

Coach's Eye- annotate live video. Cool tool

What a great week. Until next week,

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Sharing, A spirit of generosity

There are many things that I love about teaching but one of them is this great spirit of generosity that many teachers possess and they feel they can share their experience and their resources with others. I am pleased to announce the inaugural Central Coast TeachMeet  that will take place on Friday night 26th July. 

Last year I blogged about the first Teach Meet I attended in Sydney. It was the first Teach Meet in Australia and it was amazing. There were many teachers who gave of their time to share what had been happening in their classrooms and schools and encourage other teachers to use their ideas and develop them further. There was not a sniff of snotty intellectualism that sometimes pervades our professional but a shared love of learning and encouraging students to develop in their creativity, confidence and skills. There was a great representation from both the private and the public sector. No wonder it has taken off throughout the rest of the country. I really hope this will be a wonderful night of sharing and celebration of Central Coast teachers and students. 

I am looking for teachers who would like to share a 2 min or 7 min presentation on a topic of their choice.It doesn't have to be how you are using technology in your classroom, it could be how a particular technique you used helped students or how do you help students cope with the fear of failure. You might like to tell us about an event that your school hosted or participated in.

 I am hoping to advertise this event widely but will need the help of all my social media friends and colleagues. I do hope this becomes a buzz event for the Central Coast as we seek to provide quality educational opportunities for the young people of the Central Coast. 

I am very excited about this night and I hope I won't be the only one there. Central Coast Teachers have a lot to give and share and I hope it will be a wonderful night. 

Please contact me if you would like to come or share something that is happening in your Tafe, uni or school classroom:


Register for Central Coast Teach Meet

Until next week,

Friday, 17 May 2013

When learning becomes reciprocal

I have to admit over the last few weeks I have been a little down and flat. Which is not like me at all. I don't usually let the stress of work and life get to me but I think some busy stuff just caught up with me. Since Thursday I feel a return to my usual up beat normal self with fresh glasses on it's time to reflect upon what's been going on in the last few weeks.

I was so excited for my students last term when sat their major exam and they received some fantastic marks. I felt so pleased for them and considering this was the first time that I had taught on the course I was stoked that they did so well. Often when the students are stressed it is easy to to feel stressed to. It's sad that many students don't return after the Term 1 holidays and you feel a sense of failure but I have come to realise that people for many reasons can't cope with study and the stress of it or there are things that change in their lives  or have gained employment and may come back at another time. I can't let these things get me down for too long. It's the nature of the students at Tafe and adult learners. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball and your path is no longer straight and you have to get there another way.

Last term was a steep learning curve as I was course coordinator for the first time, teaching on three courses I had not taught on before and training and maintaining the Moodle site I built for the section. It was rich in experience and I am learning more about people and how to encourage and support adult learners from vast and varied backgrounds and ages. Each day is so different and I am often inspired by my students. Our students are not empty vessels and one student in my Cert IV course gave a me a great tip she came up with herself when writing a paragraph in an essay. She remembers:
Some students like concrete rules to help remember how to write different texts and I wanted to share this great idea in case you also might have students who like structure and rules. 

One of the great things about teaching for me is the generosity in sharing. I love it when I can learn something from my students and that in turn will help others. So many times they surprise us and I look to the wins when I feel down. 

A couple of week ago on #ozengchat on Twitter we had a fantastic chat with Jen Curwood-Scott about YA fiction. This genre is changing and challenging and I love the vibrancy that young people give to YA fiction and drive the genre because of their love of reading.

I am moving ahead with my plans for the first ever Central Coast TeachMeet and I think I have a venue. They are offering the centre free but will keep you posted until next week. Waiting on confirmation. Have also applied to do an Adobe Premier Elements course and am waiting to hear if I got in. Seems like a great elearning tool. My wonderful hubbie and kids gave my a Wacom Bamboo tablet for Mother's Day and I am having a lot of fun playing around with that. Have my L plates on and not ready to take it to the class room just yet. Another week or two and I'll give it a try. 

Another busy we ahead but one full of new and rich experiences. 

Until next week,


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Money, money, money.. = success?

There has been a lot of hype, twitter chatter and many bloggers writing about the Gonski reforms and the impact they will have on students. There has been an explosion of commentating on the fact that universities are facing a $2 billion funding cut. There seems to be very little evidence on exactly what this money will practically look like. So how can we measure improvement apart from Naplan? If we throw bucket loads of money at childhood education will that mean they will be creating smarter and more capable adults that are able to contribute to society in a meaningful way? I'm not sure that the success of students now can be measured as they become adults and contributing members of society or should I say contributing future tax payers. It seems to me that highly skilled teachers will go a long way to helping students success and that cutting funding to higher education seems to be a kick in the knees in solve the problem.

Dan Haesler suggests,
"How do you suppose we train these better  teachers if we starve the universities of cash?
Maybe we could just put an instructional video up on YouTube. That should do it. That’s 21st Century teaching after all isn’t it?
We want better teachers! Pfft.
We need better politicians!"

Education should be viewed in a holistic way. There still needs to be affordable adult education for those students who fall through the cracks at school. Cutting Tafe funding was already going to make it difficult for the adult education industry but cutting university funding is also just as problematic. University fees also can't be so high that students will struggle to pay them back or be so high they can't afford to complete the degree they require to be part of the skilled workforce that we all aspire to.  This system seems so broken it's a wonder it can ever be fixed. With all the money that is being thrown around I really wonder if at a grass roots level that it will make a difference? Only time will tell. 

Blogs and conversations are important in the debate and silence on the issue doesn't help robust debate. If politicians want to hear what teachers think then we need to get out in social media and in the face of people who are making these decisions. There are many people in society who do support the work of teachers and it is important that we advocate for our students and our profession. 

So whether or not you support Gonski it remains to be seen if lots of money will fix a broken system and students really are better prepared to be contributing members of society when they reach adulthood.  

A mid week blog..
Until Saturday,

Friday, 12 April 2013

Does technology really save time?

Image by Jeff Werner
During the course of this week I had a really interesting conversation with one of my colleagues about how she was using Moodle to save time. Her faculty normally would have printed out reams of paper so the students would have all the handbooks, campus information and so on. Instead of printing it all out she has uploaded all this information to the course Moodle site and now the students can access it if they need it. It probably took less time to upload it than it would have waiting for the photocopier to print it all out. Sustainability in action!! At TAFE we are always looking for ways to be more efficient and I think this teacher has done just that. Technology can be our friend when it comes to sustainability but does it take more time to do so?

In my experience yes and no. Yes in that once you have created the technology to engage in a process that will help students you only have to do it the once and then you can reuse the resource over and over again. No in that it takes time to produce the resource in the first place. This term I have tried to record my lectures and post them on my class Moodle page. Teaching on 5 courses has meant a lot of recording and to be honest I haven't kept up. In fact I plan to 'catch up' in the holidays. So I guess with all my work and family commitments time got me in the end. However, the feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive. Those who were away found it to be great and also those studying for exams. Now that I have produced them I can use them again in second semester or if I want to change them I can. Technology gives you that flexibility. 

I guess you have to weigh the pros and cons like anything and work it in to fit with what you are doing. I often say to teachers that technology is just a tool. You need to use the right learning tool to get the job done. It's important to remember that we are not 'entertaining' our students with technology. Joe Bower writes on his blog. 

 " Too many uses of technology doubles down on the assumption that the learner is a passive receptacle that knowledge must be dumped into."

There is much research that supports the use of experiential learning and students should really  have the opportunity to explore, develop and grow through a number of teaching methods and not be entertained or have information dumped on them as though they are an empty vessel or 'passive receptacle'. It's important to be time efficient and maximize the time we have in preparation so I guess I will continue to work on getting the balance right. 

Image by ginnerobots
Looking forward to these two weeks of school holidays and hope to recharge the batteries. Looking forward to catching up on some reading and attending to some of the books that have been sitting on my bedside table all term.

Favorite sites for the week,

Making mistakes

Can technology replace teachers?

Teach Amazing

Until next week,

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Why is meta-learning so important?

Yet again I have been very slack in blogging. Teaching full time has definitely put a curb on my time but not my enthusiasm for what I do.

Image by CarbonNYC
I really love this time in first term when things begin to sink in for students. There were quite a few moments in the last week when students were making connections and were able to successfully edit their work. One of my favorite phrases is "Oh yes, now I can see..." or "That doesn't make sense, I need to...". It is at this point you can see that they aware of their own learning. Often at these times I like to refer to Building Learning Power by Guy Claxton and his concepts of learning muscles and I like to point out to the students which learning muscle they are using in order to highlight the changes they are making.

This year I introduced a blog as one of my assessments. The students used their Google accounts to set up a blogger blog and used the blog to reflect on their learning each week. Some students found this really difficult and needed some prompting to write more meaningful reflections. Many students enjoyed using the blog to convey their thoughts and found that having their own online space was really helpful to follow their learning journey so far this term.

When a skill is mastered or there is significant improvement it is important to celebrate the small wins as
Image by deflam's photostream
much as the big ones. Like a great artwork it must always start somewhere before it becomes something that is marvelous to see. I had a long conversation with one of my students last week about how far she had come in her learning journey over the last 12 months. She was able to pinpoint how she had improved and what she needed to do in order continue to improve her skills. It was joy to my ears to hear her analysing herself and really critically evaluate her learning. She will be a life long learner and for this I celebrate her success.

This week one of my classes faces a major exam as part of their course. Today there is stress, tension and focus in the air as they work on a practice paper. Some really hate exams and are very nervous. Some feel anxiety as to what the exam will bring. This is an external exam not set by me and so they are trying to absorb all they have learnt in the last 8 months and put into practice all their skills. I am anxious for them also and will be relieved after Thursday.

So today I celebrate meta-learning. Being aware of your own learning. This skill will change and develop over time and it can be the thing that drives us to improve and take on board change and new challenges.

Favorite sites for the week:

Asian focus in New Aus curriculum

Google Keep

Until next time,