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'

Image: 'Savage walk: don't ask, just go'

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?

Are you a Learner or Learned?

Today I attended the first session of PLP ConnectU project. This project, sponsored by the Victoria Education Department (DEECD) is run by Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. The project offers year long, job-embedded professional development that helps teachers to re-envision their classrooms, schools, and their roles in education.

Five reasons why I enjoyed the day…

  • Will and Sheryl were incredibly inspiring and engaging presenters.
  • Being in a room full of like minded educators is refreshing and exciting.
  • Being encouraged to multitask by back-channelling and tweeting during the presentations definitely suited my learning style!
  • Instead of just talking about the big picture ideas, we will be working on a collaborative project with other participants throughout the year. A great mix of theory and action.
  • The PD didn’t end at 3:30pm. We have five Elluminate sessions and one more face-to-face session for the year. There will also be a lot of online collaboration via our wiki, Ning and Twitter.

Will and Sheryl offered so much “food for thought”, however one quote that really stuck with me came from Will’s presentation. This was a quote by American writer on social issues, Eric Hoffer, from his book “Reflections on the Human Condition” (1973). Eric Hoffer was born over a century ago, however his words still ring true today.

Eric Hoffer Quote

To me, this quote says so much about the importance of students learning from and with others, inside and outside of the classroom, during and after their time at school.

It also illustrates the importance of teachers being lifelong learners. A day doesn’t go by where I am not actively pursuing my own learning via Twitter, blogs, research, networking, email, collaboration, podcasts, webcasts, Skype etc. I am constantly amazed that the philosophy of professional development being “done to you” or “given to you” is still so prevalent.

How many teachers are there out there who are equipped to teach in a classroom that no longer exists?

The world is our classroom and we have billions of people to learn from and with. How exciting!

What do you think of Hoffer’s quote?

How Has Teaching Changed?

If you’re a teacher who is trying to encourage other staff to use ICT, you have probably heard this before?

When do I have the time to learn about this?

Learning through Twitter, blogs, online conferences etc is just part of my day-to-day life as I have described in this post. This is extremely foreign to many teachers.

I began teaching in 2004. Today I had a conversation with someone who began teaching in 1984 who explained that for the first fifteen or so years of his career, there was no professional development. It was a common belief that teachers already knew everything. Work at home involved correction; not the sort of professional learning I engage in these days.

I have the feeling there was a belief in the past that taking work home to correct was a sign of a good teacher?

Today I see a commitment to lifelong learning, professional reading and collaboration as the sign of good teaching (among many many other things!)

While I don’t discredit correction, I prefer to do it as the students are working so they are involved in the process and get immediate feedback. A perfectly organised, complete and corrected exercise book does not strike me as evidence of ideal teaching and learning in 2010.

Something just clicked today that made me think that teaching has changed. Some teachers have made this change well and others have not.

How do we help teachers realise that an investment in self-motivated learning is now unavoidable if you want to provide the best possible 21st Century education for your students?

How do we help them leave their baskets of workbooks at school and say hello to someone in Twitter, read a blog or dabble with a web 2.0 tool?


Image: ‘AHO0711-003 Ingrid Alice wearing a Mariusgenser’
AHO0711-003 Ingrid Alice wearing a Mariusgenser
Image: ‘Flat Classroom Skype’

Please leave a comment with your thoughts!

Blogging Rubric

Thanks to Sue Waters, I recently came across this blogging rubric that was created by Clarence Fisher as a way to assess student blog posts.

*click on the image to view a larger version*


As the new school term is about to begin and I plan to get more of my Grade Two students creating blog posts this term, the discovery of this rubric was timely for me.

When I taught my students how to write quality blog comments earlier in the year, I found having a framework really helped. Click here to read more about how I taught commenting skills to my students.

While I wouldn’t use a blogging rubric as an actual assessment tool that students receive a grade for, I think it would be a useful reference point and framework for students aiming to write high quality blog posts.

Have you used a rubric or other reference point for blogging?

Would you use a rubric like this in your classroom?

Research Skills and Google Posters

Teaching students how to effectively use search engines such as Google to search for content is a valuable skill. This is something I’ve even started introducing to my Grade Two students. Many people don’t realise there are many tricks to performing the most effective Google search. I also like to have discussions with my students about whether content looks reliable and relevant to your enquiry. It is important that from a young age that students realise that you can believe everything you read online!

The Google for Educators site has a page with posters for teachers. These printable PDF posters demonstrate useful search techniques as well as information about Google Earth, Google Book Search, Google Scholar etc.

I’m planning on printing off the poster below and introducing my students to some of the search functions listed. Click here for the PDF: Google Tips and Tricks

Google poster

If you or your students are more into watching how it is done, rather than reading a list of tips, the eHow website has a series of 19 videos explaining how to use the Google search engine. Click here to check out the videos.

Teaching researching skills doesn’t have to be a planned or laborious task, it can be something you can teach and discuss as it comes up. For example when a student has a question, look it up on the IWB as a class and discuss how to use Google effectively. Spontaneous teaching moments can often be the most authentic and valuable.

What is your favourite Google search tip?

Cyber Safety and Young Students

Teaching cyber safety is an important aspect of all technology teaching. With my Grade Two students, I try to discuss aspects of cyber safety while using the Internet on the interactive whiteboard (IWB) and I have found blogging to be an excellent avenue to teach young students about appropriate online behaviours.

All my students know not to publish their surnames or reveal other personal information about themselves including passwords. They also know that what they publish on the Internet is forever and can’t be taken back. My students are becoming aware of correct netiquette.

From the discussions I’ve had with my students who are 7 and 8 years old, it seems that they are only beginning to explore the Internet independently at home. I therefore feel that it would be a opportune time to teach my students more about cyber safety before they become involved in using technology such as social networking, instant messaging and mobile phones more broadly.

I have decided to use some of the fantstic online resources on the IWB with my students to teach some lessons specifically targetting cyber safety issues. I thought a good way to open these lessons would be to ask the students exactly what they do on the Internet and how much access to the Internet do they have.

Some sites that include videos, games, professional development, activities and lessons about cyber safety issues include

While it is important to provide education to the students about cyber safety it is also important to provide parent education and I will look at doing this through a parent newsletter. I may even have the students create or contribute to the newsletter as I find student participation usually encourages more parent interest.

This poster is from the Cybersmart website and has some good tips which could be taught to students and displayed in your classroom.

cyber poster

Do you know any other good websites for teaching about cyber safety? How do you approach cyber safety in the classroom?

A Vision of 21st Century Teachers

I heard about this You Tube clip via a few different people on Twitter. The 4 minute video involves 18 classroom teachers “speaking out” on the topic of tech integration and 21st Century skills for students.

It’s a really interesting insight into what the technology in the classroom can look like in all curriculum areas and allludes to why technology integration is so important. Check it out…

Blogging: Collaboration Corner

As I have previously blogged about, the global connections that my class has made through our 2KM Blog have been extremely rewarding.

This is the second year of the 2KM Blog and in that time we have had many global visitors, some of who have become “blogging buddies.”

One relationship my class formed throughout last year was with Mrs Yollis and her third grade class in California, USA. 2KM and Mrs Yollis’ class regularly visited and commented on each other’s blog and have even skyped together.

This year, Linda Yollis and I decided to create a more formal structure for our classes to collaborate and learn together. We created a blog called Collaboration Corner where we will work on projects together.

Our first project is the “Lunch Project“. Both classes will blog about what they are having for lunch each day and what they’re learning about healthy eating etc (we got this idea from The Smarties in Western Australia).

The Collaboration Corner blog has got off to a flying start! The students from each grade have been so excited to learn about what their blogging buddies eat, where they eat, where they get their food etc.

We have been posting and commenting regularly and there have been many rich discussions about similarities and difference of the two classes.

This project is proving to be fantastic in so many ways! The students are…

  • opening their eyes to a world outside of their own neighbourhoods,
  • learning terms such as hemispheres, time zones, continents etc in a very authentic way,
  • developing a tolerance of others through understanding how different people live,
  • learning about our Term One “Food” theme in such a rich and genuine way,
  • improving their writing skills every day with so much authentic practice,
  • using technology in a purposeful way,
  • so excited to make new friends!

collaboration corner

Click here to check out what is happening at Collaboration Corner and leave us a comment!

If you want to make your own connections, Sue Waters has compiled an excellent list of various class blogs that you can get in touch with. Give it a go!

Leave a comment if you have any thoughts about working globally.

Teaching Technology Post “Noughties”

For a while now I have been questioning the curriculum that is seen in many primary school I.T/ICT/Technology/Computer classes. Many primary school students spend an hour each week in a computer lab learning about Office programs and the like….”how to make a PowerPoint, Word Document, Photo Story etc”.

Now that we have left the “noughties”, these sorts of skills will no longer get students very far.

I believe that students should be taught basic skills in an authentic way and the list of skills that students need to know has changed dramatically in recent times. In 2008, I was involved in creating a Scope and Sequence (list of skills) for my school’s technology curriculum. I now cringe to think of some of the stand alone “skills” I listed in this document just 18 months ago!

Granted, there are many technology teachers who are now moving beyond these “stand alone, software based” skills into the world of Web 2.0, collaboration and multimedia which is fantastic. I also believe that teaching students about technology is not the sole responsibility of the technology teacher and technology integration in the general classroom is essential.

Today I came across a fantastic blog post by Kim Cofino which basically put all these thoughts I had been brewing into words! Check it out here….

Kim suggested a list of skills that emphasise “bigger, more wider-reaching concepts like collaboration across distances, communicating ideas to multiple audiences, or creating something new using technology tools”

Some of the skills that Kim suggested included:

  • knowing to hold your mouse over an icon or a link to see what it does.
  • understanding that the menus for any program are at the top of the screen, that they are usually very similar, and generally what you find within them (for example: “view” usually means how you see things on the screen and that menu is found in almost every program).
  • recognizing when something is lit up (or underlined) on a website, you can click on it.
  • knowing that the cursor changes when held over different parts of the screen and what that means (the little arrow turning into a hand over a weblink for example, or being able to stretch out a picture when it turns into the double-sided arrow).
  • using tab to move from cell to cell or box to box on forms or websites.
  • being able to recognize drop-down menus – and that they hold additional features.
  • understanding that right clicking on things brings up more options.

These skills are transferable across almost all computer programs and operating systems. Many of her readers also added to this list with excellent suggestions.

Reading Kim’s post has really made me think about how I’ll approach teaching my Grade Two students in 2010 as well as how I will approach my coaching of fellow staff members. As she says, it is important to make the implicit, explicit.

I also loved this cartoon that Kim included in her post! It perfectly captures the way I’ve (unsuccessfully) tried to explain to many people that I’m not an expert but just have a few strategies that I try when I’m trying to figure something out!