How do you Reflect?

A few weeks ago, I was listening to Chris Betcher on the Virtual Staffroom podcast interviewing Helen Otway. Helen is an inspiring leader at a Victorian P-12 school. Many of the topics Chris and Helen talked about struck chords with me including the idea of developing a more thoughtful approach to teaching and learning through reflective practice.

There has been a plethora of research on reflective practice over the years. Most people would agree, in order to continually learn and improve, individuals need to engage in regular reflection.

The world has certainly changed since the term ‘reflective practice’ was first coined. This got me thinking, how do teachers and students engage in reflection in 2011?

Image: 'Savage walk: don't ask, just go' http://www.flickr.com/photos/61787893@N00/275371357

Image: 'Savage walk: don't ask, just go' http://www.flickr.com/photos/61787893@N00/275371357

Currently, my primary avenues for reflection include:

1. Blogging: This blog is an excellent metacognitive process and avenue for reflection for me. Through the process of creating blog posts, I often “think about what I think” and put those thoughts into words. Through delving into my thoughts on topics and writing about what has been happening in my classroom, I often come up with new ideas and strategies to utilise in my teaching.

Another huge benefit of blogging is the comments. When other educators offer thoughts and opinions on my blog posts, I am introduced to new perspectives that help me reflect further. I think my students are better off for having a teacher that blogs and I couldn’t recommend blogging enough as a reflective exercise!

2. Team teaching: 2011 is the second year that I have been team teaching with Kelly Jordan. Prior to this, my reflections on lessons, student progress and teaching strategies used to happen in an ad hoc manner in the staffroom/team meetings with teachers who were disconnected from my classroom.

Team teaching allows for such rich reflection almost every hour of the day (and night!). When we’re not teaching, Kelly and I find ourselves talking non-stop about what our students need to work on, what ideas we could use and how our teaching is going. Our ideas just seem to bounce off each other proving that “two heads are better than one”! Team teaching has been one of the most rewarding and powerful situations I’ve experienced as a professional and I know my students are benefiting from it.

The key to this scenario is that Kelly and I are extremely like minded with our philosophies, drive, work habits, priorities, discipline strategies etc. Our partnership is harmonious and productive. While I love team teaching, I could think of nothing worse than being told who I should team teach with!

3. Time out: I find I have the best ideas and reflective “aha moments” when I take time out from what I am doing.

I have come up with some of my most memorable ideas and breakthroughs when I am running, bushwalking, cooking or even just having a shower! Strangely enough, I have even come up with thoughtful perspectives while sleeping! Time to think is so important for me.

4. Being part of a PLN: I would certainly not be the teacher I am without my professional learning network (PLN). Effective teaching and learning doesn’t occur in a vacuum. A day doesn’t go by where I am not using Twitter, blogs, podcast, webinars etc to connect with other educators, learn, reflect and improve. When I am pondering an idea, I can use Twitter to get ideas and opinions from people all around the world.

I can hardly believe that the majority of teachers are still relying on the insights of their immediate team or school when there are billions of people out there who can broaden your horizons!

Half of my main sources for reflection wouldn’t be possible without technology!

Students need to be encouraged to reflect as well and introduced to mediums such as blogging, collaborative work, social media or time out as they progress throughout their schooling.

In this video, Dylan Wiliam talks about the importance of students being able to reflect on their learning and how teachers can utilise these insights.

In a similar way, this Stephen Heppell interview discusses how metacognition can help a young person to become a co-producer and explorer of their learning, rather than a consumer.

What avenues do you use to reflect?

How do you encourage your students to engage in reflection and metacognition?

Goals for 2011

The school year begins for us in Victoria, Australia in a few weeks time.

2010 was a steep learning curve for me; I started to do a lot of things differently and this has influenced how I plan to approach the 2011 school year.

I am again teaching Grade Two and, like 2010, I will be sharing a large open classroom with Kelly Jordan. We team teach almost every lesson and I find this a very effective and engaging way to teach. We will be greeting our combined 42 students on Friday 4th February and we have a lot planned for them!

2KM 2KJ classroom

In terms of technology integration, these are a few of my goals for 2011:

  • Start blogging on Day One: As I have blogged about numerous times, blogging is a huge part of my classroom and the benefits for my students have been priceless. Before the holidays, I met my new students for an hour and we spent the bulk of the time blogging and skyping our blogging buddy, Mrs Yollis. I sent a letter home to the new families encouraging them to comment on our 2010 class blog over the holidays and many of them have. This year, Kelly and I have decided to have a combined class blog. After all, we do almost everything together and last year we found that we were putting almost identical posts on each of our class blogs!
  • Teach ICT skills incidentally: Last September I blogged about how I try to take every opportunity to teach my students various ICT skills as they arise. I find this a really effective way to truly integrate ICT into the curriculum. With the help of many of my readers, I have compiled a Google Doc that suggests some of the ICT skills that could be taught to students in an incidental manner. Check it out and feel free to add to the list.
  • Increase meaningful global collaboration: Last year, my class was part of some wonderful global connections. The majority of these were informal, however we did set up some more structured projects. We worked on a joint blog with Mrs Yollis’ class called Collaboration Corner where we collaborated on projects about our lunchboxes and schools. The highlight of 2010 was our Ugandan Global Project where we worked with six classes across the world to raise $20,000 for a Ugandan school. My aim for 2011 is to continue with regular informal global collaboration while also structuring some more purposeful formal collaborative projects. Stay tuned!
  • Integrate more inquiry based learning: This method of teaching and learning is something I haven’t had much experience with, however, through learning from my peers such as Edna Sackson, I am gaining an understanding of how valuable an inquiry based approach is. Put simply, I believe students learn best when they make discoveries for themselves and I want to integrate more questioning, exploring, experimenting and problem solving into my classroom. Technology can be a wonderful avenue for this. At my school, our integrated studies units of work have traditionally been heavily fact-based. I hope to change this in my classroom and learn more about inquiry based learning from my PLN in 2011.

Leave a comment.

What are your goals for the new school year?

RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms

Last year, Sir Ken Robinson was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal by the Royal Society of Arts in London. Accepting the award, he gave a talk on Changing Paradigms in Education.  The RSA has produced a animated version of highlights of the talk.

This is a video I had heard about on Twitter and on the Ed Tech Crew podcast. When I finally put aside 12 minutes to watch it I thought it was definitely worth sharing for two reasons.

1. The ideas that Sir Ken express in the talk about change in education are very much food for thought.

2. The actual animation in itself is very interesting. Perhaps this is a style of animation that students could work on. It would be a terrific way to express creativity and could be used to animate any sort of speech, explanation, debate etc.

Leave a comment.

What did you get out of Ken Robinson’s talk?

What did you think of the animation?

Storytelling Tool: Five Card Flickr

Five Card Flickr is a simple yet useful tool that I found out about from a number of people on Twitter.

Five Card Flickr deals you random pictures from Flickr that you put together to tell a story. From each 5 photos you are dealt, you choose one to add to your story. You then repeat this 4 more times until you have 5 photos that you can then use to tell a story.

Students could use this tool for oral language story telling or for inspiration for creating a written story. Stories could be created individually or as a class using an IWB.

Stories can be written on the site and saved to a gallery or alternatively, students could just write on paper.

Especially with younger students, oral language is an important area that can sometimes be neglected in the crowded curriculum.

The possibilities of Five Card Flickr are only limited by the students’ creativity! Give it a try.

five card flickr

Do you know any other sites that are useful for writing or oral language prompts?

Tech Tools for Teachers #11 VoiceThread

Each week, Simon Collier and I collaborate on a weekly email newsletter called Tech Tools for Teachers to inform teachers of useful online tools. Find out more here.

This week we review the website VoiceThread

http://voicethread.com

voicethread-pro

VoiceThread is a popular tool that allows you to narrate images, documents and videos. Others can join in the conversation too. Your completed VoiceThreads can be embedded in a blog or website, emailed or simply stored and viewed on the VoiceThread site.

We like VoiceThread because it:

* is free (there are paid options but these aren’t necessary)
* is easy to use
* permits you to have one account for your class with individual identities so students don’t need to sign up
* is suitable for all year levels and curriculum areas
* has a range of possible uses
* is a great tool for collaboration, reflection and creativity
* allows you to control who is able to view and contribute to your VoiceThread.

HOW TO…

To sign up to VoiceThread go to http://voicethread.com. You will see “sign in or register” in the top right hand corner of the home page. Click here and then click “register.”

* Note: VoiceThread is offering a free upgrade to K-12 educators, called the VT Educator account. This account allows you to create up to 50 VoiceThreads and gives you 250 MB of storage. It also allows you to upload audio files as comments. You can take a look at the features of the VT Educator account here.
For step by step instructions on how to use VoiceThread, check out our newsletter here Newsletter #11 VoiceThread

USES…

There are many ways to use VoiceThread in the classroom. Here are a couple of ways Kathleen’s Grade Two students have used VoiceThread in the classroom. They were all embedded on her class blog so check out the links to see the actual VoiceThreads.

1. Happy Father’s Day
The students made a comment on why their Dad is special.

2. Monster Adjectives
The students all drew a picture of an monster which they described using all the adjectives they had come up.

3. Winter Poems
Students all wrote a poem about Winter and narrated their favourite line from their poem.

4. World Earth Day

All the students left a comment with a tip about looking after the environment for World Earth Day.

voicethread5

VoiceThread is also great for peer assessments, self reflections, discussions around videos or artwork, digital portfolios or collaboration with other students/classes. There are obviously many more great ways to use this tool, only limited by the imagination of the teacher and students!

TRY IT OUT!

We have set up a VoiceThread as a means for you to try it out and share your ideas on how you could use VoiceThread in the classroom. Please leave a comment!

Great resources for your IWB by Triptico

Triptico is a UK site that provides eLearning training and support. They also have a fantastic library of classroom tools that can be used on the IWB. I found out about many of these from Kelly Tenkely’s great blog iLearn. I have blogged about Word Magnets in the past. Here are some other great tools that you can find in their library.

SIMPLE COUNTDOWN TIMER and ONE MINUTE TIMER

These timers would be great for classroom games, challenging the children to pack up by a certain time, using as a timer for Show and Tell or oral presentations etc.

Picture 5

      Picture 2

LINK UP

This tool allows you to drag words around and link them into categories. You choose two categories each with six words. This tool is great to organise, categorise and contrast information such as living/non-living, mammal/reptile, noun/verb, sometimes food/everyday food….the possibilities are endless.

 
Picture 4
 

VARIOUS SPINNERS

  • There are spinners that will randomly select from one of four, eight and sixteen options. These spinners would be great for Maths games,  question generators, random name selectors etc. Student names could be added throughout the day for good behaviour and a winner spun at the end of the day.
  • There is also a role selector spinner where you type in names and roles to work out who will take on what responsibility in group work etc.
  • The probability spinner is great for Maths lessons. It can be modified and automatically records results.

    probability

Check out the many more simple tools Triptico has to offer by clicking here.

While you could use some similar tools to these on the software that comes with your IWB (eg ActivInspire, Easiteach etc), these are great quick and easy alternatives as they are all ready to go. Keep checking Triptico’s site as they seem to be adding new resources regularly.

Word Magnets

Word magnets is a fantastic website for the Interactive Whiteboard or classroom computers that I read about Nik’s Learning Technology Blog.

Word magnets is a tool that allows you to paste in some text and then change the text into word tiles like fridge magnets that you can drag and rearrange. Word magnets would be great for younger students who could put a sentence back together or point out errors in sentences.

 There are background proformas you can use to arrange the magnets, like Venn diagrams, tables, A-Z, numeric lists etc. They would be great for all sorts of categorising and thinking skills activities. Here is an activity my Grade Two students did today where they brainstormed uses for the sea and then sorted these ideas into “fun” and “work”.

sea word magnets

This site is very easy to use and it is much easier to use this tool than make your own activity for the Interactive Whiteboard. If you have any ideas about using Word Magnets, leave a comment!

Virtual Sticky Notes as a Thinking Tool

This week Andrew Douch published a post about Wallwisher; a site for posting “sticky notes” online. Wallwisher is an online notice board maker that people can work on collaboratively.

Wallwisher is very easy to use. You just click and drag sticky notes and can easily link to websites, pictures or videos on the web. Repositioning notes on the wall allows you to categorise notes.

Andrew Douch used Wallwisher with his high school students as a tool for generating thoughts on a topic they were getting ready to study.

This week I decided to start a Wallwisher page with my Grade Two students as a way for them to reflect on what they had learnt about dinosaurs this term. We have been working together on our wall on the IWB. This is what we’ve come up with so far (click on the pic to go to the wall) …. 

wallwisher

Stixy is a similar site to Wallwisher. I think these sorts of sites could have many uses in the classroom as a thinking tool. Students can generate ideas or questions, plan, catergorise thoughts, brainstorm and reflect on their learning. Let’s know if you have any other ideas for their use!