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

~Neale Donald Walsch~

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,