11 December 2013

Aurasma in ECC - Bringing wall displays to life

I've been in and out of my Twitter PLN for the past year. Coming to Saudi Arabia to teach has had it's challenges and is a vast difference from my role as an IT facilitator traveling New Zealand facilitating learning and delivering workshops. We are somewhat isolated here at TKS - access to educational technology conferences like Ulearn are not so easy. Instead, I turn to Twitter and Blogs to get the professional learning I need as an educator.

Thankfully, Twitter never fails in providing the bit of enthusiasm I need to push my own educational boundaries.  A few weeks ago @PanaAsavavatana shared her exciting discovery in her classroom using Aurasma through Twitter.

Here are all of the links I used to get motivated.

Today we had our K2 Open House - an opportunity for families to come along and spend a morning with their children in our classroom engaging in typical learning activities. I was very mindful not to have parents perform or commit to time frames. Everyone is busy! Especially at this time of year and I wanted to make sure there were a variety of activities (all optional) where they could take the lead from their child and spend as little as long or as long as they could.

Here's what we had on offer. 

As a former IT facilitator I was very excited about using technology to share video snippets of children with their families (Read: awwww cute). We have been working on a collaborative mural over the past month and have been adding to this bit by bit. We've dabbled in some of the Skype Education lessons for Ocean Exploration month and looked at various stories to support our thinking and inquiry. I videoed each child and asked them "What lives in the ocean?" and asked them to share their ideas. 

I created name tags for each child with their name and an ocean creature and used these as the 'trigger image'. I used the children's videos as the overlay and had iPads available for families who did not have access to a device. Families could see their own child's video by hovering over their child's name - in most cases the child lead this process because many parents were not familiar with using iPads in general.

I can see a variety of ways I can use this in future and can't wait to test my ideas -watch this space!

07 November 2013

Global Teddy comes to Saudi Arabia

Our class was invited to be a part of the Global Teddy Project #globaledted. Teddy’s journey will see him fly to 7 different countries - Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, USA, India, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia and back to Taiwan. We were very excited to see Teddy arrive in Saudi Arabia.

When Teddy arrived in KAUST we unpacked him from the box and found a few surprises from Ms. Pana’s class. It was Chinese New Year in Taiwan so she sent us some an-pao (little gifts in a red envelope). She also sent us a story book that her class had created that discussed the things that Teddy enjoyed doing in Taiwan. Teddy enjoyed adventures in KAUST too. He visited the beach, our King Abdullah Mosque, our PE class and our Library class. You can see stories of his adventures on his website http://travelingteddybear.com

15 October 2013

From Hollywood to Hajj

Bookmark Banter #1

Here's a new addition to my blog that I am calling "Bookmark Banter". Basically, as I surf my PLN (Professional Learning Network) I come across so many links that inspire me, challenge me, provoke me and interest me. Instead of bookmarking my links to delicious.com. Im going to add them to my blog, with a small commentary on why I find the link interesting.

Here goes:

School starting age: The evidence
An article referring to the importance of play based childhood.
* Advocacy for play-based learning
* Research that overwhelmingly supports a later start to formal schooling
* Play enables humans to become powerful learners and problem solvers

Spoken Word: Invisible Privilege by Sacha Norrie
A video at Spoken Word - South Auckland Poets. The ongoing dialogue between Maori and Pakeha and the history and emotions this provokes. Fabulous piece of Spoken Word.
* When I turn on the TV it is through my eyes the news is shown.
* I have never had to claim back my culture because it was never taken from me.
* I am the coloniser - said no Pakeha ever.

From Faking it to Making it: A PYP reflection
A great article that looks at one persons reflection on PYP.
* Having the concepts, IB Learner Profile etc up on the wall does not make you a PYP teacher.
* Very timely as I start my PYP journey.

Failure and mistakes
An open reflection looking at the lessons we learn from failure and mistakes
* Make you school (and life) a safe zone for failure and mistakes.

Cultivating Imagination
This article grabbed me because last week in my class of 4 and 5 year olds I encouraged the children to pretend that they were on a raft (also known as a bit of fabric) and that there were sharks in the water we had to use two pieces of material (aslo known as rafts) to get to the beach (also known as the bit of lino that leads to our corridor). All but two of the children could 'pretend' to be on a raft and see sharks. Imagination is so important for life. Einstein said "Imagination is everything it is the preview to life's coming attractions".

Global Citizens?
Another awesome article from David Penberg.

Five reasons to stop saying "Good Job".
1. Manipulating children
2. Creating praise junkies
3. Stealing a child's pleasure
4. Losing interest
5. Reducing achievement

What can we say when children do something impressive?
* Say nothing
* Say what you saw
* Talk less, ask more

It's not a box
Leading on from the imagination article, shared at work by colleagues but also seen on Dereks blog.
A video that supports the importance of imagination.

Bottom up
An article that reminds us to work with our colleagues and meet them where they are in terms of their learning and understanding, and vice versa.

Healthy Habits of Mind
Link to a wonderful video that reminds us to slow down and look at healthy habits of mind.
Mindful eating, mindful listening, mindful movement.

How do you plan?
Another article supporting my PYP learning.

13 October 2013

Reform Symposium - FREE High quality professional development.

Once again Twitter has offered a wealth of information and interesting links. The link to the Reform Symposium came across my feed today just in time for the Reform Symposium Opening Plenary Session. I popped into a number of workshops over the weekend, see below for bits and pieces I collected along the way.

Creativity with kids - Using Online Tools
Michelle Worgan
Recording can be found here

* Creative early
* Creative regularly
* Make it fun
* Make creativity a 'habit'.

Probably useful for older children. Children can add text, videos, songs, pictures to make their learning visible.

Tips and Tools to Teach Memorable Lessons
Roseli Serra
Recording can be found here

*Using images to promote language and conversation and to provoke questioning.

How to use Puppets to Promote How to use Puppets to Promote Student Learning Student Learning
Sam Patterson
Recording can be found here

* Puppets can be used for the 'fun and playful' aspect of learning
* Using puppets as a transition tool
* Using the puppets as a relationship tutor and a focus tool
* Puppets as a language learner
* Creating puppets as a part of technology learning

Direct Your Own Learning
Edna Sackson
Recording can be found here

* Who dares to teach must never cease to learn - John Cotton Dana
* Change thinking of 'professional development' to 'professional learning'.
* Those who are not 'connected' online are falling further and further behind.
* Lots of learning online and offline.

* Where are we providing spaces for 'teacher dialogue'.
* Recommended Reading - Making Thinking Visible http://www.amazon.com/Making-Thinking-Visible-Understanding-Independence/dp/047091551X
Making Thinking Visible website
* "Watching the learning is more important than watching the teacher" 
* Innovative learning spaces - really important.
* A large percentage of professional development in schools happens through conversation.
* Good reading on learning spaces http://www.jisc.ac.uk/uploaded_documents/JISClearningspaces.pdf
* River of learning (Children are spread across a large piece of paper, photos on a section of paper and ask children to reflect on their learning).
* Debrief/Reflection important for interrogating practice.

These are just a few thoughts from the workshops I have been too. There are a wide range of workshop recordings that can be seen here.

23 September 2013

Accountable Talk - My Cousera Course

It's Saudi National Weekend. I'm using this weekend to catch up on reading and immerse myself in some professional development goodness. I love learning...learning excites me and invigorates me.

I'm currently in Week Two of my Coursera course - Accountable Talk. This week we are looking at the Growth Mindset and the Fixed Mindset. Part of the resources available to us is the video below:

I'm a fan of Carol Dweck and have read her book "Mindset".

Three ways to instill a growth mindset in ourselves and those around us:
1. Recognise that the growth mindset is not only beneficial but is also proven by science.
2. Learn and teach others about how to develop our abilities. When we understand how to develop our abilities we take conviction that we are in control of them.
3. Listen for your fixed mindset voice and reply in a growth mindset voice. If you hear "I can't do it?" - Reply with "Yet".

Useful readings:

Quotes of interest:

As Nobel laureate Herbert Simon wisely stated, the meaning of “knowing” has shifted from being able to remember and repeat information to being able to find and use it (Simon, 1996). More than ever, the sheer magnitude of human knowledge renders its coverage by education an impossibility; rather, the goal of education is better conceived as helping students develop the intellectual tools and learning strategies needed to acquire the knowledge that allows people to think productively about history, science and technology, social phenomena, mathematics, and the arts. Fundamental understanding about subjects, including how to frame and ask meaningful questions about various subject areas, contributes to individuals’ more basic understanding of principles of learning that can assist them in becoming self-sustaining, lifelong learners. (How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School, 2000, p.5)
Teachers must draw out and work with the preexisting un derstandings that their students bring with them. The use of frequent formative assessment helps make students’ thinking visible to themselves, their peers, and their teacher. This provides feedback that can guide modification and refinement in thinking. Given the goal of learning with understanding, assessments must tap understanding rather than merely the ability to repeat facts or perform isolated skills. (How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School, 2000, p.20)

Providing children with practice at telling or “reading” stories is an impetus to the growth of language skills and is related to early independent reading; seeBox 4.6. For many years some parents and scholars have known about the importance of early reading, through picture book “reading” that is connected to personal experiences. Recently, the efficacy of this process has been scientifically validated—it has been shown to work (see National Research Council, 1998). (How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School, 2000, p.105)

Story telling is a powerful way to organize lived and listened-to experiences, and it provides an entry into the ability to construe narrative from text. By the time children are 3 or 4, they are beginning narrators; they can tell many kinds of stories, including relating autobiographical events, retelling fiction, and recalling stories they have heard. The everyday experiences of children foster this story telling. Children like to talk and learn about familiar activities, scripts or schemes, the “going to bed” script or the “going to McDonald’s” script (Nelson, 1986; Mandler, 1996). Children like to listen to and retell personal experiences. These reminiscences are stepping stones to more mature narratives. As they get older, children increase their levels of participation by adding elements to the story and taking on greater pieces of the authorial responsibility. By 3 years of age, children in families in which joint story telling is common can take over the leadership role in constructing personal narratives. (How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School, 2000, p.108)

....research studies show clear evidence that when teachers engage students in a
certain kind of academic talk, they learn better than when teachers do not engage them in this kind of talk. What we know from these and other similar studies, is that the changes captured in these results are retained over time and often extend beyond the subject area in which the students engaged in the academically productive talk. In fact, some of these results are quite startling. One of the exciting things about these studies, and some of the other research that exists, is that the findings cross diverse sets of students. It is very easy to think about having rigorous discussions with advanced placement high school students. But we see in the research that all students can benefit from this instructional practice: students who don't speak English at home, students from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, and even very young students. All students can engage in academically productive talk and see the benefits. (Research that informed our thinking, p.4)

14 September 2013

Kia kaha Team NZ!

Thank you to Manaiakalani for the link.

Teaching is a wonderful thing...

I've been thinking lots about teaching lately, and what makes a good teacher. I wrote a little bit about this in an earlier post. I've come across two other blog posts that have made statements that really resonate with me, the first of these is:

I’m grateful  to work at a school where learning (rather than ‘good teaching’) is valued… - Jina Belnick
Being a good teacher is not just about well prepared lessons…
I am grateful that I now understand that being a teacher is no longer just about a well prepared lesson. For me it has become an understanding of what engaged learners look like; what the curriculum and all its interwoven components require – and how we need to listen to every child to help them to get to know themselves as learners. 
- Jina Belnick (Original post here).
The second of these is:

[teachers] manage to listen and respect children's choices while at the same time creating an atmosphere where children are challenged and feel safe to try new things. - Anna Golden (Original post here).
I love reading blog posts that make you nod and smile and think YES! Teaching is a wonderful thing...

07 September 2013

International Mindedness - First thoughts

I've set two professional goals for the 2013/2014 academic year. One of my goals is to gain a deeper understanding of 'international mindedness' and provoke my teaching and student's learning of 'international mindedness' through the use of digital technology.

So what does 'international mindedness' mean?

On my first day at TKS the school was in the middle of celebrating International Week. I walked into a school with a range of flags, various greetings, world maps and different cultures embracing the walls. I saw evidence of shared food, shared stories and shared experiences. Was this 'international mindedness'? I'm not sure, I think this is one aspect of being international aware but surely the notion of 'international mindedness' runs deeper than this?  We talk about honoring diversity and celebrating differences in New Zealand. We see this as an ongoing and integral part of our curriculum. But is this 'international mindedness'? I'm still not sure, I'd really like to get my head around what International Mindedness means and how I can facilitate this learning for students in my class.

The video below "Musika Malie" by Wellington College spread like wildfire on my newsfeed with friends from NZ, Australia and further afar re-sharing this inspiring video of a group of predominantly European students singing and dancing to a Samoan song to mark and celebrate Samoan Language week. If I speak and celebrate another language, does this mean I am Internationally Minded? Surely it's deeper than this too?

In my brief search to find out more I came across two very intersting articles written by Steven Mark.

These articles are perhaps the most valuable find so far on my journey to finding out more:

What's 'international' about an 'international school'? 

International mindedness is a frame of mind...

I'm looking forward to uncovering more gems like these as I search for understanding. Stay posted for more reflections.

Self-Leadership and the One-Minute Manager

Sometime ago a colleague mentioned research that suggested that our habits of reading have changed, that we find sitting for long periods of time reading difficult, information are so accessible that it is too easy to flick out of one book to the next based on your mood. I had this discussion with my colleague almost 5 years ago. David Amerland confirms this notion of thinking:
When we are swimming in words, have near-instant access to knowledge and books and can download entire libraries at the click of a button it is inevitable that reading, as an education or entertainment experience is going to change.
I am a self-professed digital reader, and I admit my reading habits have changed over the last ten years. Long ago, I could open a book and read from cover to cover in a single sitting (pre-children) of course. Now, I'm lucky if I can get through a chapter without flicking to another book, another activity or find something else that diverts my attention.

It's been a year since I downloaded the book "Self-Leadership and the One-Minute Manager" from Amazon onto my iPhone (Kindle App). I am pleased to announce I finally read it. What a great book! There were clearly some quotes that jumped out at me, and I wasn't too keen on the 'corny' storyline but some very powerful messages arose from this book. For those that are visual learners I have made the quotes that captured me into InstaQuotes. Have you read this book? What are you thoughts?

06 September 2013

Cute is a Four-Letter Word

A must watch for all educators and families, here are

*Play is how children make meaning of the experience.
*Let joy be joy (ironically I wrote about this yesterday before even watching this video).
*A thoughtful teacher understands and respects arrive in the classroom with deep attachments - children at play see what they do as a real contribution for others.
*Genuine meaningful effort (by the child) is met with deep respect (by the teacher).
*Burst through the barriers of cute, the ABCs and 123s and speak to the meaningful experience.

02 September 2013

Professional Goals for the Year

As part of the new PMP programme being implemented at our school we are required to set two professional goals for the year. Setting goals has been an ongoing part of my teaching practice for many years (see here). As I ponder what will be useful and achievable goals for the new academic year I am confronted with my lack of in-depth knowledge of the PYP (Primary Years Programme). Many years ago, on one of my numerous professional development courses a facilitator stated "good teaching, is good teaching, is good teaching". There are things I hold dear in my teaching craft, almost my mantras if you like that guide my daily interactions with children (and if I am honest I consider fundamental to being a 'good/great teacher'. These include:

* The children are the curriculum - While you might plan the most amazing lesson plan, you might have the most wonderful ideas, you may have the latest and greatest resources - at the crux of all teaching is the learner.  So, I value taking the lead from children. I value getting to know children. I value identifying strengths and interests. I value connecting with children and families and I value children.

*Akonga - This is a Maori term that encompasses the value of 'the teacher as a learner, the learner as a teacher and relates to my previous point. I see myself as a learner for life. I value learning from children and other teachers. Just today I asked a 4-year old to translate my English sentence into an the Arabic language. With ease she flicked between both languages and taught me how to say the Arabic words. The smile on her face showed me that she was excited that she was teaching me something. I am a learner for life.

*Nothing without joy - In my experience as a mother, a teacher, a facilitator, a manager and a nature kindergarten educator. Learning is most powerful when it is FUN, engaging, relevant, significant and challenging (PYP Handbook). I value joy, exhilaration, fun and all of the things that give you a positive feeling. As the above quote suggests, I also value childhood. We only get one childhood, the brain makes so many connections in the first few years of life that it is vital to children's development and ongoing health benefits that they experience JOY! When was the last time you felt truly joyful?

While there are numerous other aspects that make a 'good/great' teacher, these are the things that I see important values in my own teaching practice. So, now my challenge is to develop two professional goals for the year.

The PYP and Te Whariki: The New Zealand Early Childhood curriculum (in essence) have many similarities. I will save my thoughts on this for another post. Clearly there are things from each curriculum that are transferable, but what I feel I need to investigate further is the PYP Curriculum, the language and the jargon. This seems like a natural progression into a professional goal.

Professional Goal Number One:
* Develop a deeper understanding of the IB Primary Years Programme.

Possible actions:
* Work with and alongside colleagues who are well versed in the document.
* Compare and contrast Te Whariki and PYP.
* Attend PYP professional development courses.

Professional Goal Number Two:
* Use digital technologies to explore the notion of 'international mindedness'.

My experience with digital technologies in early childhood education has held me in good stead in my new working environment. There are numerous technologies available to us at TKS. I would like to combine my passion/interest in digital technologies with the IB placed importance on International Mindedness and take full advantage of today's technologies.

Possible actions:
* Interrogate my own understanding of International Mindedness
* Look at ways to use technologies to enhance this aspect of my class programme.

Keep posted to see how this journey unravels.

24 August 2013

Choose a job you love.....

Teacher Tom has delivered yet another inspiring post influenced by the Sand Dancer. Halfway across the world Teacher Tom (originally from Seattle, Washington) spotted the Sand Dancer on a beach in Christchurch. Sadly, it wasn't until I read this blog post did I learn of the Sand Dancer. Theneaeo TT shared got me thinking as I prepare for a new year of teaching a new group of children and prompted me to remember the following quote:

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” 
― Confucius

As my mind swirls with all the wonderful experiences I want to offer the children this year. I am mindful of the challenge of learning a new curriculum (PYP) and the implementation of PMP - Performance Management Programme (refer to this post). I am determined to teach with this quote as my focus and not be bogged down by performance pay. I'm going to teach, learn and explore with joy.

23 August 2013

25 Classroom Hacks

Well isn't that ironic! I just posted a link to 99 Life Hacks to make your life easier.  With a few of my favorite hacks from the list. I alluded to the fact that I would really like to compile a list of classroom hacks. Not even an hour later and I come across a website with 25 Classroom Hacks.  Here are a few of my favorites from this list below:

Remind101 App
You can text families without exchanging numbers. I definitely would like to try this, as one of my goals this year is to really engage families in my classroom curriculum. Easy communication is a great start. NOT AVAILABLE IN SAUDI ARABIA OR NEW ZEALAND YET BUT POSTING HERE BECAUSE IM HOPEFUL ONE DAY IT WILL BE.

Printing with Post-Its

A reading fair

I'm not sure how it will work with my 4-5 year olds. But I'm really excited about the idea of bringing books to life this year - out of the book and into all sorts of other curriculum areas. Original ideas sourced from MommyCracked.

Mission 31

Last month I blogged about signing up for Skype in the Classroom. Since then I have received a number of emails from various people offering their services to my class. **Cue excitement** I've been contacted by an author, a retired teacher and a scientist.  I've signed the classroom up for Mystery Skype as well where classrooms ask each other questions and from the answers children guess where in the world the other class is.

This morning I received another email from Skype in the Classroom.

Exploring Oceans: dive into a sea of knowledge with Skype this November
Skype in the classroom has partnered with Fabien Cousteau's Mission 31 to bring sea turtles, sharks and ships into your classroom via Skype. We've revealed the first batch of free Skype lessons with special marine experts on our site, with more to come very soon. Click here to book your ocean-themed lesson for November.

I am incredibly excited about these Skype lessons. TKS is located right on the Red Sea with opportunities to go snorkeling on a regular basis and children have access to the beach and marina life. We can easily organise excursions to the beach as a classroom trip. And I can already see links with our Unit of Inquiry - "Communication". When we look at the PYP document and think about the importance of the curriculum being - 'engaging, relevant, significant and challenging' I am looking forward to linking the relevance of Mission 31 to our school community.

99 Life Hacks to make your life easier...

So the "99 Life Hacks to make your life easier" web page has been flying around for sometime now. Here a few of my favorite hacks. This year I'm going to try and develop a list of classroom hacks....do you have any images of tips and tricks in the classroom?

17 August 2013

Is it Authentic?

On a recent trip to the Mall of Arabia in Jeddah my family and I accidentally found a New Zealand Natural Ice Cream parlor. I say accidentally because we found this shop on the bottom floor of the Mall next to shops we never knew existed. When you are living overseas you really appreciate the simple things that remind you of home and we were very excited about our find.  Initially, we were slightly skeptical because we've tasted food that can be purchased from home and it didn't taste quite like we are used to.

My first thought:

Is it authentic? Dictionary.com suggests that authentic means not false or copied; genuine; real.

Yes it was! The ice-cream tasted exactly like the type we would get in New Zealand. There's something quite unique about New Zealand ice-cream especially in comparison to ice-cream in Saudi Arabia (and other countries). New Zealand ice-cream tastes full and creamy and the texture is smooth. This experience got me thinking about authenticity in the classroom. I've been reading up on the PYP Program of Inquiry, the curriculum approach I will be using in my role as Kindergarten Teacher at TKS.

I've come across a number of quotes that have jumped out at me, resonated with my personal philosophy of teaching and very close to what I hold dear in my teaching practice. The most challenging thing I have had to get used to in my new International Teaching context is the break up of the day. The children have single-subject classes. They have two sessions a week outside out my classroom and attend another class such as Arabic, Islamic Studies, Physical Education, Performing Arts, Library and possibly Art.  How wonderful to have a teacher who is passionate about Performing Arts working with your class and sharing with them the important aspects of their subject. The only thing I find difficult about this type of programme is the number of times I have to 'stop or interrupt' the child's play and the 'managing' of transitions.

At Play and Learn (where I worked for ten years) we really valued offering a programme that limited the interruptions to children's play sessions. Children were encouraged to engage in experiences that they were interested in, they had the choice to be inside or outside when they chose (even in the rain as long as they were dressed appropriately), they were encouraged to self-regulate their eating and sleeping habits. They ate when they were hungry and slept when they were tired (often monitored by adults by way of suggestion e.g. you look like you could use some energy, perhaps you should eat something) . Children were asked to take responsibility of their learning areas so when they had finished they were asked to tidy up. Teachers facilitated learning alongside them and observed children's interactions, very much like the quote below encourages us to do. In essence, the days were not formally structured - we did not stop for mat-time, lunch time or any other times.
"analyse the interactions within a group, discover the student's strengths and difficulties, and reflect on the effectiveness of the practices used to implement the programme of inquiry and other classroom experiences" - excerpt from Making the PYP Happen: A curriculum framework for international primary education, p.47.
As I prepare for my new class and a new timetable of classes I have the notion of 'uninterrupted play' in mind. How can I make the most of opportunities to 'observe and discover children's strengths and difficulties' and how can I use these observations to inform my practice and curriculum. How can I ensure that my programme is authentic and conducive to their interests - not what I think their interests are? Here's to an interesting year ahead.

Ashton Kutchers' Speech

As mentioned in previous posts I'm a huge fan of storytelling. Ashton Kutcher's recent acceptance speech at the Teen Choice Awards is a good example of the power of storytelling. Ashton shared with the crowd and over 2 million viewers on YouTube (number of views on 16th August 2013, this video has gone viral) three simple rules to live by.

1. Opportunity looks a lot like hard work (Kutcher shared a story about working hard all is life and being grateful).
2. Be sexy - he related this to being smart, being thoughtful and being generous. He encouraged viewers to look past marketing, advertisements and what people/media were telling us 'sexy' was.
3. Build a life - don't just live it.

This speech for me is right up there with Ken Robinsons creativity speech, it moved me as a mother, as an educator, as a community member, as a wife. Yes!! Forget the stereotypes, forget what people say you should do and build your own life. This resonated with me in so many ways (I have discussed my thinking about building your own life before in another post).

My husband and I sat down with our four children and dissected and discussed what this meant for them. Our younger children hadn't quite picked up on the messages and giggled when the word 'sexy' was used. But we used this as an opportunity to explain to them the importance of hard work, goal setting and dreaming big. 

It's a beautiful day and I can't see it...

I'm a softie when it comes to emotional, inspirational, thought provoking movies. I enjoy videos with strong messages and  The video below is a classic example of a video that moves me.

The message that is shared at the end of the movie is:

Change your words, change your world

Take a look and see for yourself.

09 August 2013

Reflection before the year starts.

I'm using this blog to record my thoughts, musings and wonderings as I journey through teaching. We have just over a week before starting back at school and I have a raft ideas swirling through my head, things I want to try, explore and figure out through the year. 

Long ago when I was studying towards my Masters of Education I explored the notion of hypertext and hypermedia - a new literacy/digital literacy. Have you ever gone on to a website, clicked on something that caught your eye and found yourself moments later on a page you never actually intended on reading but find yourself there anyway? That's what happened to me, I came across the Education Review Office website and found a National Report Summary looking at the Priorities for Children’s Learning in Early Childhood Services (May 2013). As this is written for the New Zealand educational context there is reference to Te Whariki (New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum). What intrigued me about this brief summary was questions they posed for for early childhood centres to use in reflecting on their priorities for learning.  While my teaching journey has bought me to the other side of the world, the points they have made in this summary apply to my wonderings as I prepare for a new set of children and set goals for myself for the year.

Priorities for children’s learning -  (Copied from ero.govt.nz)

When we are looking at identified priorities for learning, obviously as TKS are an IB School (International Baccalaureate) our focus will be on implementing the PYP (Primary Years programme) and ensuring this is at the root of all decisions made in the classroom. I would like to ensure that my small team of three look at what our identified priorities for learning are for our classroom based on children's personalities, strengths and interests and taking into consideration the aspirations of their families.
  • To what extent is our self review ongoing and responsive to identified priorities for learning?

    I'm very keen to look at implementing Action Research as a form of self review in my classroom this year. I will have a Student Teacher and a Teaching Assistant so I'm looking forward to getting three different perspectives in our class and looking at evidence-based practice. I would like reviewing and reflection to be an integral part of our practice.

  • To what extent are our identified priorities for learning evident in our curriculum design and implementation?

    This leads on from the last point. How will I design the curriculum? Are our practices and implementation of this curriculum aligned with our priorities for learning?

  • To what extent is children’s progress towards meeting our identified priorities for learning evident in assessment?

    Progress - it seems to me that the best way to evidence progress is though the student portfolios. How do we keep a balance between over documentation, steer well away from documenting for the sake of it and documenting so that progress is evident?

  • To what extent does our assessment information show that we recognise and respond to the different cultures, ages and interests of children in our service, and lead to positive outcomes for them?

    The PYP document talks about ensuring that your curriculum is significant, challenging, engaging and relevant. This will be my biggest challenge with such a diverse group of learners from a range of cultural backgrounds. I'm looking forward to this challenge and would like to really unpack this terminology. What does significant, challenging, engaging and relevant mean for us at TKS in the context of our community and the wider city?

  • To what extent is children’s learning in relation to our identified priorities visible to parents, whānau, and children in our assessment?

    Making Learning Visible has been a passion of mine from very early on in my teaching career. Mostly because I have afforded and implemented strong values about the importance of 'learning through play'. I have had to really ensure that parents understood the value of playing in the sandpit, physical play and other 'non-structured' experiences provided.

    With todays pressures on younger children to perform academically it's even more important to ensure the play-based philosophy is made visible. I am not an advocate for hot housing or formal literacy activities - instead I enjoy 'noticing, recognising and responding' to children's interests so that their is depth to their learning and they are engaging in the experiences because they are curious and intrinsically motivated. I'm confident with making learning visible and look forward to sharing children's learning with families through our class website and email. 
    Although this year, I'd like to look deeper at parent engagement and explore meaningful ways for parents and families to contribute to assessments that make a difference to their child's learning.

Watch this space for more musings and my thought processes during what will be an exciting year of learning for us all.

08 August 2013

Storytelling through animation.

I've finally purchased a webcam that syncs with I Can Animate on my Macbook Pro. This has been a two year adventure. With the change of firewire ports and many if not all of the newest video cameras operating through USB and or SD cards, and the iSight cameras discontinued it has been somewhat difficult to find a reasonably priced camera that I can use with the newer Macbook Pro, that is robust enough to use with my 4 and 5 year olds in my classroom. I finally found and ordered one though (looks very much like an iSight camera and plugs into a USB port - hooray). So now that I have the camera organised for my new class in the next academic year, I'm looking forward to using this as a digital storytelling tool in my classroom.

Back in 2010 my own children and I explored animation using a raft of resources around the house, you can see the post here. In my role as ICT Facilitator working alongside Onehunga-Cuthbert Kindergarten we explored the notion of digital storytelling. (One of my many passions with reflections/blogposts here, here, here, here and here). Onehunga-Cuthbert Kindergarten were showcased on the New Zealand Ministry of Education Website spotlighting their work with animation and the power of this medium for storytelling - you can see Cassidy's digital story here.

As we are on Summer Vacation here is Saudi Arabia I gave the camera and computer to my own children once again to figure out how to use the tools. My youngest daughter was the first to give this a go, and created this mini-video:

After, the exploring side of the software and camera were sorted. The older children in our family decided to take it to another level:

I can't wait to use this process with the children in my class next academic year, it takes a whole lot of concentration and may take days or months to complete a project. I'm looking forward to exploring this longitudinal process with children. In today's society, we often expect/demand instant results - you can go and buy a meal and have it ready in 5 minutes. I'm going to be looking at extending projects with children over a number of days, weeks and months so that we can work past the expectation of instant gratification. Perhaps the long lost value of patience will rear it's head in our classroom.

Download the FREE Trial of Animate IT! and try this software for yourself.

03 August 2013

Like magic - the information comes to you.

If you are an avid reader of online websites or blogs you will have noticed the RSS image above lingering in various places. Early on in my role as ICT Facilitator for CORE Education (back in 2006) I learned about RSS and the revolutionary way it changed how we access information.

Lee Le Fever over at Commoncraft produced a simple video that shares how the power of RSS works, and ever since then I have let the personalised information come to me.

Watch the video here

Unfortunately the Reader he refers to in this video is no longer available (Google shut this down on July 1st, 2013) but there are a number of other RSS readers that you can use on your iPad, iPhone, iPod and Computer.

I have used Net News Wire for many years, and with the new BETA version will continue to use this app. I can access my RSS feeds using this app on my computer. There are a number of reasons why I prefer this app:

  • Clean interface.
  • No distractions while reading - pure content rather than loud advertisements or cutesy backgrounds (personal choice).
  • RSS Feeds can be organised into folders
  • Looks like my email browser and lets me know how many unread posts I have.
What are some of your must-read blogs that you can have delivered to you like magic?

29 July 2013

Nature Kindergartens

Following on from my post on Ken Robinson's korero (talk) a few days ago, a video broadcasted on the television programme Sunday looks at the NZ context of child-rearing (but most likely relevant to many other countries) and the issue of over-parenting. The video highlights a centre in Fiordland, South Island, New Zealand and their Forest School programme. The importance of risk, resiliency, the health benefits of being outside and leading healthy active lives. This video is an exciting move forward for New Zealand education, shedding light on the notion of "cotton-wool kids" and the importance of Nature Kindergartens in New Zealand.

Link to video: Raising Generation cotton wool kids

Play and Learn Early Education Centres have held the notion of  "learning beyond the walls" for nearly twenty years. Taking children on small excursions into the community - embracing the rich learning experiences that occur at the farm, the zoo, the beach, the bush and ensuring children feel a sense of belonging in their own community.

Play and Learn formally introduced "Nature Kindergartens" after sending two of their educators to the UK to be formally trained in the principles of the Forest School programme. In the first term, of being introduced there were incredible and significant benefits almost immediately. Some of these include:

* Increased fitness in children
* Less likely to be absent from school due to illness (common knowledge that germs and cold are better spread outdoors than from person to person indoors).
* Children who sometimes showed signs of shyness at the early childhood centre taking on leadership roles in Nature Kindergarten.
* Increased opportunities for conversations and oral language (we know that oral langauge is the foundation to all literacy).

Among these are many, many more examples of the benefits. So now I ponder the thought of Nature Kindergartens, and the possibility of introducing this concept to my children I am teaching at TKS? Any ideas?

26 July 2013

Ken Robinson on escaping education's death valley.

I've been a fan of Ken Robinson and TED for many years, and posted several years ago on his most popular/earliest talks "Are schools killing creativity?". If you haven't seen this video, this is a must watch for all educators across the globe.

Seven years on from his first enlightening speech, Ken Robinson shares with us his views on escaping education's death valley. He uses his fun witty humor to engage us and take us on another journey.

As I start thinking about the beginning of the school year and my class of 15 children that will join me in a journey of learning - I am prompted to think about my goals, my thoughts and my reflections on how I can make it the best year of learning and teaching. In New Zealand, we use a term called ako - it means teaching and learning and values the role of the learner as a teacher and teacher as a learner.

This year I want to:
* listen more
* laugh more
* feel more

And the quote that's got me thinking on a practical level:

"If you can light the spark of curiosity in a child they will learn without any further assistance, children are natural learners..."

What does this mean for me at TKS?
How can I make the learning in my class engaging, relevant, challenging and significant?
What does relevant mean in the context of TKS?
At it's deepest, most raw state - what does 'curiosity' mean?

I'm looking forward to thinking more about this more over the next few weeks.

25 July 2013


Twitter is a fabulous tool, even when you don't visit the twittersphere as often as you would like to. A few weeks ago, my fabulous friend @hanna_fale tweeted that she had signed up for a course.

Having completed 4 weeks of our 9 week summer holiday, I figured I'd like to look further into this new found course of hers. 

Coursera is an educational technology company offering massive open online courses founded by computer science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller from Stanford University.
In my excitement, to get re-engaged in my own learning i have signed up for a handful of courses. Keep posted to read my reflections on my short courses.

Stop, think and reflect...

Often during my online travels I come across websites, images, articles that truly take my breath away. Today was no exception.  I hope to post more of these gems on my blog rather than bookmarking them for later on. Today I'll share a list of the most impressive images I've seen in a while...

The 50 most perfectly timed photos ever, can be found here

And below are some of my favorite images from the list.

In my role as a facilitator, I would encourage teachers/students to pick an image from the vast range of images I had and invite them to share how an image they have chosen relates to an aspect of our learning. For example, choose an image that reflect how you currently feel about technology.  Images are powerful, the images on this website have prompted me to reflect on my goals in life and recharge my own camera batteries.