Time to Learn

I have always been one to study and work on the really important stuff late as night when the world around me has gone to bed. I’m talking between the hours of 10PM and 3AM. Is this as crazy as my colleagues and peers think?

I love this quote from an unknown author:

Looking at the night horizon brings you closer to reaching the stars.

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Maria Hadden

I have been discussing this with many educators this week, so I thought I’d put my keyboard to work and reflect upon this in a professional and educational context.

Firstly, my personal experiences: During the years when I studied my Masters degree I was working full time with a growing family (child #5 was on his way). The course I selected was not only due to the courses available, but also it’s delivery format (Online), and thus the ability to learn when I had the time rather than attending university lectures (and “zoning out” during the lecture) only to miss key information while wondering about the family I had to leave to attend the classes. This was an experience I had too often when completing my undergraduate course (with only one child at home).

The delivery method and the ability to interact, collaborate and get the perspective from students from across the world was a great draw card also. When I got into the course I initially found the format foreign and difficult to navigate, both due to the new format for me, and the family distractions. I soon found my optimum time to think, study and learn was late at night. I was able to sustain this with great support from my extended family, and my untold ability to fully function on 6-8 hours sleep is a bonus.

Today I attended a CEGSA organised day full of workshops related to the Moodle environment for secondary school curriculum delivery. This once again aroused the discussion amongst educators about the flipped classroom, and 24/7 access to learning and resources. I again explained to the group that personally, my optimum time for productive work is late night and repeated my reasoning and examples. This then evolved into a rigorous discussion around the big question;

When do learners learn best? And is this always between during conventional school times?

I would suggest for many students even in the conventional school system, that the majority of their true learning happens in the quiet of their home without the distractions of others.

The only problem with this conventional model means that the teacher is not available to assist students outside of the school times…so what do these students do? They turn to the places they know their friends will be and ask them for help – Facebook or other social networks of choice.

In reality the students have flipped the classroom themselves, and providing the opportunity for students to review and reflect the information at their “optimum learning” time is not a bad thing at all. We must recognise this and rethink our professional practices, the availability of teachers when they are required the most for the learners.

Sometimes when the world around you is asleep and you are awake you can look into the dark and see the future – Unknown

The biggest barrier we face in education is to change what it means to be a ‘teacher’, how we ‘teach’ and genuinely cater for all students in the class. I would love to hear your ideas on my remaining big questions:

What will our education system look like if we cater for learners learning at their “Optimal learning time”

How will the conventional school system integrate this new mode of curriculum delivery?


Lessons, Lessons, Lessons

Upon the resumption of the final school term I was asked by our Principal to read a very concerning email that had been sent into our school via our website. This was a notification to the school about some undesirable behaviour by students of our school on a page naming our school, on Facebook. The author of the letter also expressed her concern about this online behaviour as the company she works  for actively seeks information online about prospective employees and the behaviour of these students will reduce their chances of being employed by some companies.

Through further investigation we found that there were quite a few schools (approximately 30) across the state who had  similar pages. The major concern for us as educators is that of the future of our students. We recognize this digital association will remain attached to their names indefinitely.

The analogy was recently made that the decisions and posts we make online should have more consideration that the decisions of a tattoo. A tattoo will go to the grave with the individual but the posts online will remain in cyber-space forever.

The following is an Info-graphic about employers screening employee candidates, from How Recruiters Use Social Networks to Screen Candidates [INFOGRAPHIC], By 

How-Recruiters-Screen-Candiates-Using-Social-Media infograph

I would like to know how you teach socially appropriate behaviour for students’ future?  And what action your school takes with socially unacceptable behaviour online when it is posted out side of school hours?

Fighting the Distractions

In recent weeks I have felt the distraction of learning and interest pull me away from the professional reflection and blogging.

Last week I completed a Cousera course in ‘Gamification‘, this is the notion of applying game elements into existing structures of learning and engagement. During this course I signed up for another Cousera course only to begin it and find it was not what I expected. I also realized that through the duration of the ‘Gamification‘ course I became withdrawn and removed from the things I find most valuable, connecting on social networks and reflecting on this here in my blog. It was time to drop the courses and get beck to the more important things.

I am now in the process of preparing to apply for positions for the 2013 school year and beyond. Again another distraction I thought, only to look at my pages here on this blog and read what I have posted in response to the Australian Professional Teaching Standards. This is what all Australian teachers will be assessed against in the near future.

In addition to this I have been actively promoting myself in the online world to create a positive profile in any “Google search“. It is becoming more frequent, accepted and expected that prospective employers will “Google” an applicant to find out how they behave in an online environment. They check out Facebook, Google+ and Twitter accounts as well as any other place that is accessible to the online public.

My goal for this blog is to reflect professionally upon my learning and educational experiences. Thus I am committing to  regular updates here and frequent reflections. Although these may not always be long  posts I need to reflect more often.

The Networked Educator

Image by Alec Couroshttp://jcarlos.design2001.com/?p=164

As I return to the traditional application process in addressing Selection Criteria and I explain all of the teaching and learning I enjoy in a daily basis, I am continually reading information from my twitter network, scanning blogs, and expanding my network.

Although I love the challenge of applying for positions I would find it more productive to demonstrate my skills in “communicating effectively and establish and maintain effective working relationships” or “demonstrating a sound knowledge of current practices and pedagogies” through my well established and soundly developed profile online. to establish this I am happy to provide prospective employers  my name and links to my blog Twitter stream and Google+. I rarely use Facebook, but would be willing to provide this information also if requested. Thus enabling me to continue my learning, development and less of the distractions I feel I have been caught up with recently, although these can be productive distractions they are distractions none the less.

What are your reflections of the application process?

Back to the applications…

Breaking the mold – Who’s teaching the Teachers?

It is often said that the new pre-service teachers are coming into the education system with the passion and desire to be fantastic innovative teachers, as we all were when we began our teaching careers. We were fresh, excited and keen to prove our worth. Many of us worked extremely long hours to provide the opportunities for the students that came naturally to the teachers with may more years experience.

When I started teaching back in 2007 I found myself doubting my ability to keep up the motivation to return every day. I soon became exhausted and contacting my university lecturers & colleagues for support. I was wondering how I could ever come into such an important role in society feeling so under prepared. I still reflect upon this when I am working with new teachers. I wonder if they also feel so under prepared.

I was having a conversation about this with a pre-service teacher recently who was on her final placement before graduating. We had worked together for several weeks and developed a great rapport. We were talking about the lecturers at her University and compared them to the Lecturers who were teaching when I went through Uni. Although we studied in different states and about 13 years after my graduation the feeling between us was the same.

“How can anyone know what we need to teach students for their future? Our world is changing too fast and we can only guess what the students’ will need to know and hope the skills of learning to learn are embedded along the way to ensure they can find the most accurate and appropriate information when they need it.” 

The lecturers of today must instill this in pre-service teachers. I have always had the belief that to teach someone you must have a sound grasp of the concept yourself first. Thus, with all due respect and admiration for our universities and the lecturers, I believe we must reinvigorate teaching and learning at the university level by developing more diverse and innovative delivery methods to encompass the modern learner and future students.

I believe that the vast majority of University lecturers for education have not taught at the primary or secondary level for quite some years and have, to some degree misunderstand how current students learn and interact, with each other, their learning, the environment, and their teachers. This is supported in Dan Haesler’s 2011 report quoting Steve Biddulph‘s remarks that

According to a federal government report in 2008, the average age of teachers in Australia is 43. A professor of teacher education at the University of Sydney, Robyn Ewing, believes this is a barrier to the effective use of technology in education.

 My concern is that if so many university lecturers are struggling to bring themselves into the modern day of technology, social networking and learning. How can our pre-service teachers present this and the teach students to learn through the progressive processes of technology, interactive, online networking, world wide collaboration, and filtering accurate information?

Until the change can be made completely and thoroughly at the higher education level, pre-service courses are rewritten to accommodate the new way of learning, and the recognition of need for new teaching methodologies eventuates, we will continue to provide a disservice to our students and young people. I am not saying at all that University lecturers are all behind the times and need to change, just that teaching today is different to teaching 10, 15, 20 years ago. We need to realise technology has a vital role to play in education, for both students and teachers. Innovative university lecturers like Alec Couros who encourage the use of new technologies and social media and networking, is only one such example of many. i’m sure who do integrate these technologies into their courses. The unfortunate fact is that these innovators are few and far between.

It is unfortunate that in our world of networks, connectivity and mobility that students in the primary and secondary environments are restricted to the theory of teaching from decades before.

  • How can we embrace the knowledge of our more senior University lecturers whilst developing innovative teachers and learning in our schools?