Why encourage making? Makers will help shape the future, so we need to encourage students to build and create!
After attending the ICTENSW conference last week, I have been inspired to implement MakerSpace into the classroom at my school. Thanks to some generous individuals at the conference, I walked away with not only a plan on how to implement MakerSpace, but some physical devices to support the immediate implementation!
Some of the items, I intend on supporting were not all at the conference, but the point is MakerSpace right? I should adventure out and establish my own MakerSpace and the let the kids help me to evolve it. I already had a few things I personally owned or had gained prior approval for, before the MakerSpace concept had reached me, so I'll be able to fall back on my Mindstorms robots and Rasperry Pi, but to be greedy, I want more!
Not only do I want to implement MakerSpace to support the students at school, I want to play in MakerSpace. What better time to implement than right now, as we prepare to move into the most innovation-inspiring workplace environment at school. The #YHSRebuild is due for completion in the next few weeks, and we should be ready and teaching in the new building next term.
.... I know there's more stuff, so if you have anything to suggest, please just let me know!
Continuing the learning
Many teachers often say they are often students of learning, and while I admire that philosophy, the only true method of maintaining a student's perspective is to actually be a student.
For the past three years I have been studying a Masters, and will complete this (*pending results*) around February next year. I have loved this degree and found so many of the aspects to be absolutely fascinating. I have however, not been overly impressed by the method of delivery for many of the individual subjects.
As a high school teacher we are constantly encouraged to provide a high quality teaching, the NSW Quality Teaching Model describes three key aspects of this - intellectual quality, a quality learning environment and significant in the work. The extract below explains this:
Not only are we encouraged by our employer, but we encourage each other, are encouraged by parents and sometimes even by politics and the media.
The universities I have studied through, which I will purposely not name, have had no issue meeting two of those three criteria - the first and last. They are great at promoting high intellectual quality, and exemplary at utilising significance in the various courses of study. Both however, have failed miserably at providing a high quality learning environment. My experiences as a student, while also being a teacher have given me some profound insight into exactly what students want. Most notably I must admit, it's through negative reinforcement - whenever my uni lecturer did something that annoyed me, I made it my mission never to do that to my own students.
A common example would be not returning assignments back in an acceptable time frame; I once waited four months to get a uni assignment back. As a student, this drove me insane - how am I suppose to learn from my mistakes, if you won't tell me what the mistakes are! Needless to say, I would have appealed this grade if I was unhappy with it. As a teacher, I strive to ensure my students always have assignments back in quick succession. Not only does this support their learning but it helps to reinforce good management techniques for myself around reporting timeframes.
Another frustration I feel as a student, is when I get the assignment back, with little or no feedback. As example from just this year is when I received 19/20 for a task with written feedback saying "Good job". Don't get me wrong - the mark is good, but seriously, what did I lose the one point for? If it really is a good job, why is it not worth 20/20? To this day, I still have no way of knowing what it was I did that was incorrect. Once again, I find this form of feedback very unhelpful, and so make every attempt to avoid it with my students. One of the most effective methods of removing any doubt about where points were lost, is to construct an assignment with explicit marking rubrics or criteria such as the ones I have used for my juniors - see IST for the assignments.
What to do now?
There are plenty of other examples I could list as to how I think universities are doing the worst type of educational modelling, but I don't really want this to sound like a rant. I'm more inclined to say it's learning I did through experience. If not for my decision to continue post graduate education while working full time, I might never have become the stringent assessor and meticulous person and teacher I am now, so in the end it's all positive.
I am curious however, does anybody wish to share a similar experience?
Purple Zeus website now live
I am proud to say that the scaffold and structure is finished for the Purple Zeus website. The comments below were originally posted as a news article at Yass High School.
Starting term three, computing students at Yass High will have a new online platform to support their learning.
The primary purpose of the website will be to supplement the teaching of all computing courses from years 9-12. Junior years will be added later. It will offer links to relevant resources, access to multimedia projects and online learning assistance.
The learning activities also incorporate heavy use of the free online tools Google Docs. Students will be able to save and download the activities and open them in a word processing application of their choice such as Microsoft Word or Notes. Additionally, if students have a Google account, they are able to save their own copy of the document online and edit it live through the website.
The platform is additionally designed to be fully compatible with any type of technology, supporting the BYOD initiative. The website, along with the worksheets and learning activities contained within it, can be accessed and utilised to their full potential from anything with an internet connection - screenshots from various devices are included below for your benefit.
If you have any questions, you can submit them through the website or contact Mr Biddle or Mr Saville in the computing faculty.
One of the most important things I believe a parent can do is take an interest in their child’s learning each day. A teacher might not be as willing to support a student if both the student and parents do not care about their education. Without motivation from both home and school, little learning is likely to ever take place. A teacher can only gauge how well a student is performing based on assessment results and their attitude in class – the rest of the time the student flies under the radar. It is the parent’s responsibility to focus not only on their child’s academic ability, but also their interactions with their peers and teachers. When I become a parent, I really only wish to know a few things at a parent-teacher night: is my child performing to their ability? Is my child willing to engage in class discussion, and is my child respectful of their teachers?
It’s hard to gauge just how much my internship has prepared me for real life once I enter the profession. One of my biggest concerns is that the ninja’s at my school weren’t exactly the worst behaved students in the country – how has the classroom management I learned and honed with them going to accurately translate to a school I’m employed at?
The truth is, I’m not sure I have been fully prepared – at least in terms of discipline. However, I do believe that the benefit of having well-behaved classes throughout the internship challenged me in a way I did not expect – lesson preparation. These students needed to be challenged and I needed to create highly effective and engaging lessons each and every single time to keep their respect and maintain the discipline. This has benefited me in a way I did not fully understand until it happened – students usually want to be involved, but often the lessons are so dry and boring (especially in maths) that they lose interest and act out. If I can continue my excellent structure of lessons and engaging teaching style (3.1.2), I feel this will outweigh (at least to some extent) the lack of classroom management techniques (5.1.6) I have developed.
I learned during my practicum about teacher digression. Often at the beginning I set tasks and activities for students to without fully explaining the structure or even omitting and instruction. As McBurney-Fry points out, these interruptions cause great confusion and lead to “an immediate decrease in student attention” (McBurney-Fry, 2002, p. 116). Teaching for ten straight weeks allowed me to develop this skill, outline exactly what I wanted my students to do each and every time and my digression issues were reduced.
When I weigh up to what I extent I achieved my goals, over all I am quite pleased with my results. Some of these opinions come from myself, my supervisors and my students (whom I issued a student teacher evaluation form to at the end of term).
1. I was well known in the maths faculty and classroom as the ICT maths guy, and I even presented tasks to other teachers I had developed.
2. Girls talk, and talk and talk and talk. This culture difference was evident quickly, but I feel I adapted to it well.
3. Maths is harder that computing. Kids don’t like it, there’s no prac rewards, so its harder to motivate – hence my use of video clips, games, tech and groupwork.
4. Nah, didn’t get a job =( They gave me some casual days, but literally no maths positions available.
5. Every element was passed by and checked by myself and my supervisors except for the one about aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders (2.1.5) – the school didn’t have any, so I couldn’t do anything about that one.
6. I was proud of myself. I was proud of my girls and their results. I will miss them and I feel they will miss me as teacher too. This is all down to the supportive environment I helped promote.
7. It was very enjoyable. I really did love teaching girls in the end, and I was sad and disappointed to be leaving.
McBurney-Fry, G. (2002). Improving Your Practicum. Sydney: Thomson.
N.S.W. Institute of Teachers. (2010). Professional Teaching Standards. Sydney: NSW Institute of Teachers.
I have applied to over twenty positions in the last few weeks, across all school types. Some for TAS, one for Science, most for maths. I am so tired of writing these applications, each one requires an ability to outline how I will meet a certain criterion. They’re like writing uni assignments all over again.
Many of which, I received an email (with a clear fill in the blank name template), informing me already I’m unsuccussful. So disheartening.
I set a challenge to myself to ensure every point of the NSW IT teachers elements were adhered to in at least one lesson throughout my internship. Up until this week, I had not fully met that goal. I have tested the waters in many classroom activities of peer tutoring and collaborative learning with many students discussing questions and solutions with person they sit adjacent to, but have not established a full group work activity with little to no input from me. Hence, I was as yet unable to tick off element 4.1.4 (Uses student group structures as appropriate to address teaching and learning goals) and 4.1.2 (design and facilitate a variety of purposeful group structures that facilitate student engagement to make content meaningful). I corrected that this week.
In year eight, I started a new topic in maths – coordinate geometry. This has a very strong correlation to map reading skills, so the introductory lesson was largely based on maps. I created my own resources with letter and number coordinates for Sydney, London, Disneyland, Hogwarts Castle, Sydney Entertainment Centre and the Sydney Football Stadium (examples are below). Each map had its own set of scaffolded questions (starting from identifying the feature at reference E5, up to determining bearings, most viable roads to take and varying perspectives in a seating plan). I separated the students into teams of four and assigned one map (Sydney) to three teams and one (London) to three other teams. The ninjas had to correctly answer every question and race their solutions to the front – the winning team for each set of maps scored three points, with the runner up receiving 1 point. I repeated this three times – three teams working on Hogwarts, three teams on Disneyland. Eventually we had declared a winner on the scoreboard.
The ninjas loved this activity – many came up at the end of to specifically tell me how much they enjoyed it, and every student seemed actively engaged in the activity. This helped me greatly in developing a strong rapport with the students, which McBurney-Fry outlines as a vital component in obtaining and keeping the attention of students (2002, p. 104). While walking around the room observing the teams working on their maps, I was pleased to see plenty of debate, peer tutoring and “tremendous energy towards mathematics” (Narayan, 2010). I was quite proud of myself (and of my students), and hopefully it opens the door to keep them keen and interested in the new topic until the end of term. A key dependant variable of an effective group project is member satisfaction and these girls were very satisfied with their efforts (Krech, Crutchfield, & Ballachy, 1962, p. 457). Aside from adhering to the teaching elements concerning group work, I am confident I have also met standard 5.1.4 that requires me to provide clear directions for classroom activities and engage students in purposeful learning activities.
Here is an example of the Disneyland Map:
Krech, D., Crutchfield, R., & Ballachy, E. L. (1962). Individual In Soceity. Berkeley: McGraw-Hill.
McBurney-Fry, G. (2002). Improving Your Practicum. Sydney: Thomson.
Narayan, D. (2010, January 24). Motivating Student Learning through Real World Applications of Higher Mathematics. Retrieved September 1, 2010, from Mathematical Association of America:http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p206824_index.html
NSW Institute of Teachers. (2010). Professional Teaching Standards. Sydney. NSW Institute of Teachers.
I helped you, now help yourself.
A recent study by Monash University (2005) has found students from public schools outperform those from private schools when they reach university; students simply could not adapt to the independent learning style and, after years of spoon-fed instruction, left because university made them feel incompetent. Coady and Bloch discussed the claim that an established set of rules and procedures relating to professional ethics, can lead to a lack of thinking by individuals and the inability to self-medicate or self-educate (1996, p. 4); this links back to a classroom that does not promote student-centred learning.
Depending upon their upbringing, students are always at risk of becoming too reliant on their teachers, parents or caregivers to provide, and tend to their every need. I went to a private school, and I’m currently teaching at one. The issue of housing and rent prices in Australia has led to a longer stay-at-home age for young people, and many are simply not saving enough for the future. A famous Chinese proverb states “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for the day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” Essentially, too many kids aren’t prepared to go out into the real world due to being ‘babied’ throughout their schooling. It is not a problem, nor uncommon for me to provide students with the necessary means to engage in that class, I still want them to attend after all.
For instance, this past week I had asked year eight to bring a compass to class, roughly half managed to remember to do this, a part of me wanted to punish them for not remembering, but then I would have half the class not participating in an important discovery activity in hexagons. Fortunately (or is it unfortunately? Not sure on that one), I had remembered to bring a dozen compasses to share around in anticipation of this event. So did the girls who didn’t bring it actually learn anything, other than their mistakes (or laziness) means nothing?
Worse still, I asked year 11 to print out a document and bring it the following lesson. Of the 19 students, two managed to do this. So, disappointed by this, I decided to award merits to the girls who did remember. While I provided this positive response, it wasn’t exactly the most difficult of instructions and probably wasn’t really worthy of a special award.
NSW Teaching Element 2.1.4 states “Teachers demonstrate knowledge and understanding of students’ skills, interests and prior achievements and their impact on learning.” One interpretation of this is to recognise the students’ ability to engage in independent thinking and learning, and promote it (Lefrancois, 1982). I chose to do this when awarding the merits to the year eleven’s. On the same note, I chose to encourage little thinking (or none), to year eight by providing them with the means to partake in the lesson anyway. Students need to act, learn to cope with issues independently, be it successfully or unsuccessfully, in place of the easy ‘outs’ that teachers often provide.
Coady, M., & Bloch, S. (1996). Code of Ethics and the professions. Melbourne: Melbourne Press.
Lefrancois, G. R. (1982). Psychology for Teaching (4th ed.). Belmont, California: Wadsworth.
Monash University. (2005, April 6). Public school students perform well at university. Retrieved August 14, 2010, from Monash University: http://www.monash.edu.au/news/newsline/story/350
NSW Institute of Teachers. (2010). Professional Teaching Standards. Sydney. NSW Institute of Teachers.
A Computing teacher with a passion for collaboration and open source teaching.