About Thinks

Sometimes good thinks happen and sometimes bad thinks happen. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between the two.

Some thinks need immediate action and some thinks may remain as thinks forever. Thinks can be angry and heated. Thinks can be joyful. Thinks should never be cold.

These thinks are linked to many other wonderful thinks and I like to attribute these.

These thinks do not necessary reflect those thinks of my employer.

Think long, think on.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Facebook Journey

I have been subtlety campaigning for a Facebook page at my school.  
The main reasons being: 
  • to engage our community 
  • to reduce our paper use 
  • to celebrate children, sports teams, teachers, and general school successes
  • to gain an insight into how many of our families have regular access (whether it be through home, work, education, library etc) to computers and/or mobile device
I don't know of many schools doing this (I am sure there are some though).  I know of Willowbank School in Auckland, Albany Senior High School, Coastal Taranaki School, and ACTS community school in Tonga (Go Miss Bramston!)

I have several unapproved friend requests on my own Facebook account (parents, ex students, current students) but have not been able to honour them.  We need to protect ourselves as educators and be very wary of how far we cast the net when it comes to our private lives.

However, facebook is a powerful tool.  It is a tool that is being used by our families.  The newsletters crumpled at the bottom of our kids bags are not always getting through.  So if our families are logging onto Facebook on a regular basis, why shouldn't we be there? We can be there with friendly reminders about sports practices, mufti days, great achievements, and notifications that reports are being sent home.

Strip Design App (Thanks @Rakt)
I am aware that there are factions of society that are campaigning against facebook who think that it is a dangerous tool.  I am aware of the ethical issues surrounding the ownership and redistribution of images, I am aware that Facebook has been used to lure children (and adults) into false relationships with devastating results.  I am aware that Facebook can be used as another tool for bullying.  But there is potential for this with any interactive online tools (chat rooms, interactive gaming, bebo, myspace, shared google docs etc).  This is also the case for many off-line tools (pen, paper and adhesive tape, envelopes and stamps, books (yep, they had this same debate about books) and of course, my old favourite, scissors.  But the fact remains we are not using facebook to 'lure' people in.  They're already there.  If there are cases where people 'join' because of us - we will be demonstrating a positive use of the tool. There is also potential for us to provide information and educational support for online interaction and social networking should there be a need for it.

It was one of those pipe dreams,  I had been spending a lot of my energy 'wishing' it would happen.  Well guess what?  It's happened...

So now I am actually sitting down to DO THIS THING. 

It's exciting
It's exhilierating

My energy has shifted from "Can we please..." to "How? and Help!"

I have so many questions:

Should I enable comments?
I should to give the community 'voice' but what if ...  

Should I (or can I?) moderate comments?
Who am I to drive the tone and content of the community? (that's an awful lot of power)

Should it be a page that anyone can 'like' or should members have to be approved?
Why should I be the one who says who is (or is not) in our community?

Should our under 13s be able to 'like' it and if so what are the legal implications around this?
Can we seriously tell our kids that they mustn't 'like' our school?

Should we go fully open and then restrict if necessary - or should we start off restricted and then slowly open it up?

Should I use the facebook interface or do something fancy with wix? 
(Thanks @gericoats)

So I am thinking I should assume the best of our community, just like I do with my learners.  My school has a community filled with competent, responsible, educated, and well intentioned people,  Surely that's how I have to go into this?

If you have had experience or ideas with this exhilarating and terrifying process please comment or drop me a line...

Now I must go write reports - watch this space as the magic unfolds...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Are your kids ready for paper, hole-punches, and ring-binders?

I mentioned in a previous post how I am very much enjoying having a student teacher in our class this term.  It is a great way to self- monitor our practice and hone in or any gaps that may be present in the class programme. It was awesome having the adrenaline pumping through my body when the visiting lecture came to observe. I was so proud of my kids who read the seriousness of the situation and behaved accordingly.

How wonderful that we have an unwritten understanding.  When she asked the kids to explain how they got their answers (it was maths) soft little voices would explain the equal addition strategy while the others looked on and listened knowingly.

Real life assessment was going on there for my kids that standardised tools such as Asttle could never capture. I am thrilled to know that my kids can adapt their behavior for different settings while still holding onto and applying the knowledge they have acquired.

As I open my eyes and look closely at what is going on around us with our big brother and sister educational institutions I become more convinced how very important this adaptability is.

All the material I have had for my student has been posted (in the mail) and is in analogue form. She is working completely with pen and paper, taking notes on prescribed linear formats. Her teaching practice folder is an immaculate ring binder with dividers and screeds of paperwork that she has gathered and produced.

It is important to note that she herself is perfectly tech savy, she's got that young person thing going on when navigating a computer, she can fix the wireless when it falls off the laptops. But she is gathering notes and resources in this manner because this is the requirement.

"To maintain records during each practicum, students should use a ring binder..."

One other such requirement was to question the associate teacher on his/her educational pedagogy so I referred her to this blog and my wiki on Minimally Invasive Education. Knowing that a link would not suffice her institutional requirements, she printed these out in their entirety and placed them in her folder! I'm pleased that this will enable my thoughts to be read by a pen and paper lecturer. It's always good to broaden ones audience even if it is by only one or two. Scary to think that it is in a frozen-in-time-state though.

BUT what on earth is going on? How can it be that my student is having her course delivered in the same way I did in the late 90s? It was a very established delivery even then! They seem to be stuck in an age old routine.  Her lecturer, for example, is coming to pick up (by hand!) the final report - which is fine - it's lovely to see him...

So what is all this stuff I read on twitter about Moodle and the like? Which institutions are using these tools?  From the (albeit small) glimpse I have seen from university nothing has changed!
Are they producing and delivering the material like this because that is what they think we (primary school teachers) want? Then when they get back to uni do they come back to the 21st century?

Or do I live in a twitter bubble? I get slightly uncomfortable when people tell  me how 'different' my classroom is. I find it very hard to believe given what I have seen and read on other peoples class blogs. I truly believe (and am totally fine with the notion) that I am an amateur when it comes to innovative learning. Are my like-minded people really a minority? And if so is it mean to teach our children in this way if they are going to have to return to a more traditional approach in their next classroom experience?

There are aspects of my programme that make me cringe. There are many occasions where we do rote learning, reading work sheets, maths worksheets etc. Quite often they are digitized so they're in disguise but they are no different.

We do do amazing learning too. Our latest brilliance is our unique take on 'heal the world'. We've veering off from the reuse reduce recycle stuff and small groups are healing the world by looking into:

How can we help prisoners to not re-offend?
Why do we have war?
Where and how can drug addicts go for help?
How can we help NZ endangered species?
Why are some people poor? Where are they? How can we help?

The kids themselves came up with these great topics at the beginning of the term using the 'world cafe' technique. There are no fancy digitized worksheets for this topic. This is the REAL 'different' stuff that goes on in my class. But noone really sees or hears about it because it is not 'core' curriculum. It's just stuff we do in the afternoon.

If my primary school kids are asked to produce a folder on this learning their first instinct would be to look for a computer. Should I get them to do it in a ringbinder? For fun? They'd probably dig it!

Am I, infact, doing them an injustice by not teaching them about the ring binder? The pinchy injuries you get if you shut the rings too quickly. The damage you can do to documents if the rings don't close properly. The little plastic ring stickers you put on the hole-punched holes. The hole punch! - oh dear more gaps, more gaps!

We need to ensure that our kids are adaptable and will cope. Just like when they found the atlas -
"It's like google earth, but it's a book, Miss!"

They're not silly and find the advantages (it's very portable and we have enough for one each!) and the disadvantages (it doesn't update - it's frozen in time).
Oh well, this seems to work for our bigger and more powerful institutions... Are your kids ready?