Thursday, 31 December 2009

2009 Reflection

Term 4 seemed to fly by so quickly and suddenly my first year of teaching is behind me and it is time to think about what I have experienced and learnt through this year.

I started out with my head in the clouds and many ideas about 21st century learning, luckily I was not given the class laptops until the 2nd term as I was just keeping my head above water that first term. Teachers really do need to manage a deluge of paperwork and in your first year everything is new learning curve. The 12 laptops I got for my class (8 with internet connection) were battered second hand laptops donated by Westpac. Some have keys missing or not working, but they were a blessing that enabled me to realise my dream of having a digital class.

Teaching requires that you manage data easily especially assessment data. I used Excel to run a spreadsheet of my students with tabs for each learning area. I could sort them in a way that allowed me to interpret and use the data to plan next step learning and groups. I am hoping to use the Google Docs cloud version this year, in fact I aim to try use Docs a lot more myself and with my students. A small step towards a paperless world and the many exciting opportunities Docs offers for collaboration and assessment.

Teaching and Learning

Reading: Thanks to ongoing Reading Professional Development (LPDP) at school, I have grown in confidence and run a good guided reading programme. I have also experimented and learnt a few useful teaching strategies like Readers Theater and Reciprocal Reading and using Google Forms for assessment.

Writing: Although I covered the required range of writing I felt I needed more time and structured programme of guided writing or workshops.

Maori we had a booked class time for a Maori representative from the local iwi to come ‘teach’ Maori. The ‘teacher’ only turned up 50% of the time and followed no learning sequence or planning that I could determine. I am hoping to teach my own Maori next year although I may not have a choice as the school views the Maori iwi connection vital, I agree but I have to wonder is our school just paying lip service to “community” and “maori language” learning?

Blogs

I first started blogging in my 3rd year of university, when I was inspired by an ICT teacher who had a blog. I realised at that point the possibilities for recording my learning journey, sharing my thoughts with a greater audience and as a self assessment tool. I have never been an enthusiastic writer but blogging certainly hooked me to write about what excited me and in turn through blogging I found other educators who did the same, who I could learn from, and it was the beginning of my professional self development and my first Professional Learning Network (PLN) . I use my personal blog as a tool of reflection, although my blogging posts declined to about one post a month near the end of the year as I waded paperwork and ensured a regular flow of class blogs and student blogs.

This Wordle of my blog shows my focus is still strong on collaborative teaching and learning. I have written 115 posts to date.

As the only blog I the school I had an enthusiastic attempt to engage the staff in the 21st century. I set up a wiki and ran a PD session for other teachers at my school to encourage and assist them in getting a class blog set-up and running. I got 5 teachers who came and 1 who used the wiki to set-up. I was happy to have any willing participants and for a week or two got a few posts. They all petered off and disappeared, the main problem for most was fitting it into class!

After discussion with the lead ICT teacher, we are making class blogs our main objective for next year. I will set up a plan and training to get all our classes blogging. I feel this is going to be a huge challenge as you can take a horse to water but …

Class and Student Blog’s

Our class blog is where we as a class, reflect and share our learning, most posts are posted by me or as a shared writing / reflection, often the students had a reading activity of commenting on a class blog post. Our class blog is going to be lucky enough to be featured in Interface Magazine’s Blog Profile next year.

They eventually got individual blogs in term 3, they have been used mostly for weekly learning reflection but as the year progressed you could see students really engaging and taking ownership of their blogs. Although it took lots of ‘marking’ time, I regularly commented and gave feed-forward on each blog, it was an assessment and next step that they actually read. I do wish to get students replying more to my comments and grow that conversation. and after teaching commenting they would comment on each others and other class/school blogs giving others positive feedback and feed-forward. The average number of blog posts per student was 20 posts with the highest number of post being 36!

Tools my student used regularly with Blogger were: Voki, Flickr, Wordle, Clustr Maps, Gadgets.

Parent engagement and supprt of the blog and wiki were really poor dispite my ploy of offering chocolate fish for each whanau comment. Net year I plan to run a parent evening early in the year where the students teach their parents how to use & comment on our blog, e-portfolio and wiki.

Wikispaces

Our class wiki turned out to be our main digital hub of learning. I created pages for each learning area on which the students knew they could find the weeks learning intentions and related activities.

Initially I set-up individual student wiki pages with idea them being e-portfolios but I never managed to plan it properly and get it running properly. I strongly believe e-portfolios are the future as they provide a record of self managed growth and development. It can also be used for both formative and summative assessment and a way whanau can see real work done by the students. This year I plan to use Google Sites for both blog and e-portfolio site as it is easy to manage both are on the website. Google Sites has a comment field for conversation and audience feedback but wikispaces has a very under-utilised feature called the Discussion Tab which I hope to teach, model & develop conversations and collaboration with students and whanau.

When I ran the staff blog PD in 2009, I started a personal PD wiki to assist as a digital learning centre. It started with a page on how to set up a blog and now I have a page listed some useful web 2.0 tool for teachers. I am planning to build this wiki with further helpful information and links for teachers.

Google Reader Trends

Google Reader is what I use for reading blog posts. I follow 170 blogs, mostly educators from around the world, from kindergarten teachers to academics. Aside from Twitter this is one of the main sources of my own PD, web resources and inspiration. The analytics show that I do not use it for social network purposes and show my strong interest in Google products, literacy and visual communication. It is interesting that I only read 33 of 165 articles, but I think that number is low as I read many of the posts in my iGoogle homepage.








Flickr

Flickr has been one of my favourite sites and the 365 Photo group has help been learn and appreciate so much more about photography and visual communication. I have also been lucky enough to build a supportive and friendly PLN with the group. My reflection from the Flickr site is shown below the image of my home page on Flickr. I included this to show the type of communication and conversation that we share daily.

I started out using Picasa Web Albums as our class photo storage, I like how easy it is to set up students folders and unlimited storage. However we eventually moved to a free Flickr account mainly because Picasa url link never works in others sites especially Blogger which is the same company, what’s with that?

















eTap

During Term 4 2009, I was asked to trail e-Tap digital register. Of course I still had to do my book and pen one alongside. I really liked the fact that at the end of the term you don’t have to spend a few hours adding up columns of attendance. E-Tap generates good results at the click of a button. Below is an example of information which can also be shown in chart format which I like being a visual person.

I found e-tap easy to use and I liked the range of attendance options. It did make me realize that we don’t always know and mark students attendance very well. For example, is it justifiable to be away from school for a week because you have overseas family visiting? I would like to be able to personalize the codes although I imagine they need to be standardized for the ministry to get reliable information.

eTap Negatives: If you put in a wrong username it won't allow you to re-login without opening a new browser or restarting your computer.









VoiceThread

One of the best and most fun web 2.0 tools I have used this year. I was scared and intimidated with it initially but really it is easy to use. I like that it has a number of ways to communicate such as text, voice and freehand pen. I used it for math problem solving, general commenting on artwork, to assessment (self, peer and teacher) of work done in class.

Other ICT tools I have used

Tutpup: An all-round maths testing program that the kids love, in fact it’s hard to get some to stop. I saw significant improvement in overall basic fact knowledge with many students using Tutpup.

Voki: My students loved using Voki, although I wish we could do recordings longer than 1 minute.

Audacity: Again a great tool that the students really enjoyed for recording and editing sound. It’s not Garage Band but because of that simpler to use.

Windows MovieMaker: I wish I had taught this much earlier in the year, I was amazed at some of the digital stories my students started to produce in just one term.

Word / PPT: We used both programmes but again next year I would teach all the basics as a whole class. PowerPoint and Keynote have the potential to produce sophisticated multimedia presentations, if you know how to use them! If you are taught to use them!

Glogster: A powerful multimedia online poster programme for education, which I highly under-utilised mainly because of poor wireless connection at the school. Luckily the issue has been recognised and been work on.

Etherpad: Fantastic for collaborative writing, I got some great results but believe I needed to model and scaffold the process more. It helps to have the shared pad projected onto the class whiteboard.

Edmodo: I tried this closed social network site for a term, but although I know

Stickies: I use these for daily, weekly task lists

Keyboarding: I tried a number of different programmes and sites but they all failed ultimately due my poor planning of fitting a structured programme for my students to follow with a site that I could monitor results and areas where teaching is needed. The same can be said for Spelling websites.

Goals, Plans, Ideas for 2010

  • Try Power Teaching
  • Ensure students measure their own levels and sets goals
  • Use Google Docs in class
  • Individual blogs and e-portfolios on Google Sites
  • Explore podcasting
  • Measure and assess ICT skills / learning
  • Give more grammar and vocabulary teaching
  • Extra focus for low readers and maths
  • Create and/or use webquests
  • More daily use of Thinking Keys or Thinking Hats
  • Help all the classes in the school get set up and using classroom blogs