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?

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?

Student and Teacher Blogging Challenges

Whatever stage you’re at with blogging, there is always something new to learn. Fortunately, there is a great community of educational bloggers online and many different ways to engage in professional learning available. Even if you’re the only blogger at your school, you are not alone!

The Student Blogging Challenge and Teacher Blogging Challenge are two excellent forms of free professional development for bloggers.

Student challenge

Teacher challenge

These challenges were created by Sue Wyatt with support from Sue Waters and Ronnie Burt at Edublogs, and Anne Mirtschin.

This Venn Diagram summarises the two challenges:

(Tip: click on the image below to enlarge it)

Teacher Student Blogging Challenges Venn diagram

New Teacher and Student Blogging challenges are beginning soon, so head over to the respective websites to sign yourself or your students up.

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My Teacher Challenge Guest Posts

Last week, I was invited to write two guest posts for the Teacher Blogging Challenge.

Even if you’re not taking part in the challenge, if you’re currently blogging with your students you may find the information useful.

POST ONE Teaching Quality Commenting

POST TWOHelping Parents Connect with Your Class Blog

student challenge guest post

Have you been involved in any of the Student or Teacher Blogging Challenges? What did you get out of them?

How do you learn about blogging?

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?

teaching

Image: ‘AHO0711-003 Ingrid Alice wearing a Mariusgenser’
AHO0711-003 Ingrid Alice wearing a Mariusgenser
Image: ‘Flat Classroom Skype’
http://www.flickr.com/photos/8107002@N03/3122642792

Please leave a comment with your thoughts!

Top 10 Ways to Engage in Professional Development

Not so long ago, professional development for teachers meant a one of excursion to an off-site location. Teachers were the passive recipients of professional development.

Times have changed.

A teacher no longer has to be the expert in the classroom and a teacher no longer needs an expert  to develop their skills.

Professional development for teachers can now be a self-motivated, anywhere, anytime event.

Change in education systems can be slow but the change from being a passive consumer of professional development to being an active seeker could determine how well teachers and students can perform at their best in a 21st century classroom.

My own personal professional development happens at any time of the day or night on any day of the week. The amount I learn each day often astounds me and exhausts me!

It is true that the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know!

Here are my top 10 ways to engage in Professional Development

1. Twitter – create a professional learning network (PLN) with other teachers. Share ideas. Give and receive advice. Find out more here.

2. Read blogs by educators. Use Google Reader to subscribe to blogs of interest. Find out more about keeping track of educational blogs here.

3. Subscribe to my Tech Tools for Teachers Newsletter!

4. Listen to podcasts. I like the Ed Tech Crew, EdPod and The Virtual Staffroom. You can find all of these in iTunes.

5. Talk to like minded teachers at your school or teachers around the world via Skype. Skype in Education is a great place to start.

6. Join a wiki or a Ning. Try English Companion for a great Ning for English teachers.

7. Watch a video on a topic you’re interested in. Try YouTube or TES Videos for Teachers.

8. Engage in webinars. Have you seen the Victorian Educators’ Guide to Innovation Ning for weekly PD via Elluminate? Classroom 2.0 is also an excellent place for personlised PD at your fingertips.

9. Write a blog – there is nothing like self-reflective writing to help you learn.

10. Lurk, explore search the web. Don’t be afraid!

    Consider…

    “If our teachers are still learning in traditional ways, they will continue to teach in traditional ways” Jeff Utecht

    Are you a true lifelong learner?

    Image: 'Sarah laboring under the misconception that partially+obscuring+her+face+will+slow+down+my+picture+taking...+seriously,+how+long+has+she+known+me?' http://www.flickr.com/photos/45842803@N00/3399410617

    Image: 'Sarah laboring under the misconception...' http://www.flickr.com/photos/45842803@N00/3399410617"

    Leave a comment. How do you learn?