Thursday, January 9, 2014

All you need is a pulse

I believe that one of the most important aspects of student learning (and therefore success) in any classroom is the relationship between the students and the teacher. This is therefore one of my highest priorities every year - and I also believe that it is one of my biggest strengths as a teacher. A combination of knowing where students need to go with their learning, and allowing them the freedom to explore their own passions is important. I also believe that some of the best learning occurs when teachers are students and the students are teachers (the empathy facet of understanding). For this to successfully occur it is important to develop a culture of respect, trust and collaboration amongst the students and teachers.

Once in an interview I was asked to identify three things that need to occur for successful learning to take place. There are many, many factors that influence learning but I finally settled on the new three Rs. The '3Rs' was a popular acronym when I was in Primary School - Reading, Writing & Arithmetic (see what they did there?). While these are all important literacies to develop, and their associated skills give students access to conceptual understandings, in isolation they don't necessarily always guarantee successful learning. So for that short meeting I coined the 'New 3Rs' - Respect, Risk-Taking and Reflection. Respect goes both ways. More successful learning will occur if the teacher respects the perspectives, backgrounds, learning styles and competencies of his or her students, and students should return that respect to their teacher. If students don't feel as though they are in an environment where they are free to take risks and try new things then the learning will suffer. This is a key element of inquiry teaching practice and it also applies to teachers as employees as well. Finally, we learn by trying or doing something and then reflecting on the experience before trying again. When we learn there is constant evaluation happening and in a variety of forms. So these were the three things that I highlighted at the time.

This brings me to the point of this post. John Hattie once stated: 'All you need to enhance achievement is a pulse. Everything works.' Hattie's seminal work on the influences on student learning analysed thousands of pieces of work in order to find out what it is that really makes a difference to learning in the classroom. His point was that there is an abundance of research about what makes a difference in classrooms - and everything makes some impact. Therefore, anyone can make a convincing argument, with data in order to support their claim. An example of this might be someone who wants to mandate one hour of homework per night in grade three. They could point to the fact that doing this much homework will improve student learning (and it will). Unfortunately for some, homework can also reinforce that they cannot learn independently, can undermine motivation and can internalise incorrect routines and strategies. So which side do we take? According to Hattie, homework has an impact of 0.29 on student achievement (the figure in Elementary school is 0.15). To put that in context, 0.40 is the benchmark for a years learning. Any initiative that produces a result above that is considered to be worth doing while those that fall below that mark need further consideration. Hattie's work enables us to see which are the things that we definitely should be doing, and which ones we should think twice about. This not only has implications for teachers and their students, but also for teacher training and development.

For a description of the top 10 influences on student achievement - check out this glossary.

So almost anything we do as teachers can have a positive impact on student learning and achievement. What is important for teachers is to understand the impact that we're having on our students and choose the practices that encourage the most growth.

Photo Credit: AMagill via Compfight cc

Top 100 tools for learning

Following  on from my previous post, I was looking through some of my old drafts and noticed that I'd already began writing a post about using Twitter almost a whole year ago. That post highlighted the results of a survey about the best on-line learning tools. In 2012 Twitter came out on top of the list. I was curious to find out if it was still considered number one.

Top 100 Tools for Learning 2013 from Jane Hart

I had also kept an old article from a newspaper in Australia that highlighted some of the ways that teachers are using Twitter  in their classrooms. It talks about the social media revolution and the role that it plays in today's classrooms. It states that social media use is now the number one activity on the web. I'd be interested to hear how other teachers are using Twitter in their classrooms.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Twitter as a PD tool

A little over 2 years ago I created my own Twitter account. I was encouraged to do this by a friend of mine. She told me that she found Twitter to be the best way to stay abreast of latest trends, information and ideas. Since then I have created a PLN that stretches across the globe and have learned a great deal as a result.

People use web 2.0 tools in many different ways. I know teachers and schools that use Facebook to help in their learning. Pinterest, Slideshare, Livebinder, Prezi, Glogster - the list goes on and on. Personally, I use Facebook for my personal life and Twitter for my professional life (although sometimes the two combine).

#Pypchat is something that I've become closely involved in this year. I've been following it for a while, but had never participated in a chat because I lived in Europe and the #pypchat was run on a timezone in Asia so I was always too late. I've since found out that there are other #pypchats sprouting up all over the world (Europe, Americas) so are opportunities wherever you live.

Twitter also provides me with countless links, feeds, trends and articles that have helped grow my understanding of a great deal of topics, as well as quick connections with educators around the world who are very generous with sharing their expertise.

Sometimes I feel like Twitter gives me too much information to keep up with - we do live in the New Media Age after all! Luckily there are options that help to filter information so that you can be more accurate in both your search for and contribution to certain topics. TweetDeck is one that I've used before (although there are may others) and it works well for me. Twitter also uses hashtags (#) to help categorise information - like #pypchat.

I believe that Twitter has a real place in the classroom and can help to contribute to authentic learning engagements. I try to incorporate it into my classroom wherever possible so that my students can also benefit from it. Last year one of my Gr. 3 students received a tweet from Zlatan Ibrahimovic during our UOI on role models - he was chuffed!

Twitter has transformed the way I access information and collaborate with others. Best of all, it offers me fantastic professional development on a daily basis (and its free!).

If you would like to learn more about #pypchat then you can find out about it here.