Awesome Blogging = awesome learning

I am learning so much about the work being done at St Elizabeth’s from reading the blog posts. I just wish that I could read everyone’s posts. I have learned a great way to scaffold student’s blogging posts from Tania and  Delphine has been thoughtful in reflecting on children’s ability to give feedback about writing. Louisa will collect baseline data that will be very valuable not just for Jess and Louisa’s PART project but for all of us who work in communication with parents. We have been very quick in moving from paper based newsletters to online newsletters and then to electronically stored personal information. I wonder if that was done too quickly? Louisa’s survey may show us how parents are adjusting to this new way of communicating.

I wonder how you are feeling about blogging and using Google Docs? I know how I feel. I feel overwhelmed at times. I feel like an idiot when I can’t remember how to do something that I was shown yesterday. Technology is not the way my mind works BUT I love what it can do for me. I will take the pain as long as I know that I am creeping forward to a gain. What I value is the patience and encouragement of those who help me when I am in a mess. I am an adult so I understand that the mess is what happens when you are learning something very new. How must children feel when they are in the same mess and they do not have the benefit of hindsight to know that what they are involved in will be worthwhile if they persist? They cannot  understand that the mess is creative in itself if we have enthusiastic caring teachers around us. Mess is manageable if we are scaffolded. No wonder some of them get discouraged.  Its possible to learn by yourself but its not nearly as effective and as positive as when you are learning collaboratively. I really understand far more about learning from being a learner that I did from just being a teacher.

Reading around the Blogs

I have been reading blogs and commenting on my designated sites. The variation in our blogs is interesting and echoes what we know about working with our students. Everyone’s journey is different. When you stop and think about how we have managed learning in the past, you can see the pace of change in the C21 is enormous compared with the years prior. However, I guess that each era had its own challenges. In the early days no-one knew much about how we think and not everyone thought children should even be at school. It just wasn’t feasible to consider individual needs when class sizes were enormous!  When I started teaching class sizes were up to 40 but colleagues would sometimes have taught 50 or 60 in a grade and I remember some of the nuns that I worked with in early times talking about classes of 100!

Now that we do recognise that different children learn in different ways, it seems so obvious that whole class teaching is only one option that we have at our disposal and most of what we deliver has to be tailored to small groups. I am not referring to the ancient method of grouping where cetain chn were in` Wombat’ group and stayed the same with a different group name until they left! I am talking about groups that change constantly according to the individual’s immediate learning needs. I think that all the questions we are researching for PARTS  are geared to providing support to this concept. Whether its provocations that will appeal to children based on their interests or use of the latest collaborative technology or publishing on-line, we are learning how to maximise learning for everyone at their point of need.

Given that, it is often the case that when I walk around I see heaps of  teaching to large groups. Why is this so? How does that fit with what we are learning about providing particular learning pathways and how are we using technology to optimise individual, small group independent learning? We know that focused teaching brings about powerful learning. Two focus groups of 8 children with a strategic intent having 20 minutes with a teacher  is much more powerful than a group of  16 for 40 minutes. Much much more useful learning in the group that really hones in on the student’s learning need.

Those of you who taught at a time when the CLaSS Literacy block was the established practice will remember that we managed to do 2 focus groups as well as Big Book and Reflection time all before recess. Are we achieving small focused group teaching for all the children across the week? Will blogging, collaborative online learning tools and rich provocations support and strengthen what we are doing in our clinics and focus groups. Will they enable us  to build them into our routines to support the precious individuals whose learning is in our hands? Big questions! Lets keep looking for big  answers!

Module 1

I have really appreciated the overview gained from the first few weeks of the web 2 module 1. Very grateful that this is spaced, collegial and interactive based learning. I constantly weave between thinking I know what I need to know and feeling I know nothing.  This is just the way it is now and I have had to learn to accept this state of ambivalent competency. Whilst I knew lots of unconnected pieces of information, it allowed me to connect the dots and see the big picture. There have also been glimpses of information  mainly apps etc  that I do not know much about  but in this world, I am ready to accept that I may not use the knowledge until I need it and then I only have to ask someone which bit of information to use and I will use it and learn it.

Learning in a busy learning environment is and must be, purposeful and just in time.

This is not just true for me but for my colleagues and for our students.

I feel as if I am being dragged along at the end of a very long tail on an amazing kite. The kite being the world of the internet. I am never tempted to let go but would love to stop and look around. Guess that is not possible so I will just hang on and watch this gigantic colourful swirling kite which beckons me higher and higher. The kite has has just left the ground and is full of wonderful potential. Thank God someone knows how to keep building the kite and knows how to keep it flying, they have my awe and wonder!

I am a recent convert to blogs. I know the despair when one vanishes. I know the time commitment required. But it opens the window to  a world of your thoughts that I have not had before and I am grateful for this new way of seeing how we can move forward to achieve our vision. We do share the same vision, don’t we? Our BIG 4 are only there because we are trying to educate our students so that they can live in a contemporary world successfully. To do that we want to have children who are factive Christians, independent, responsible, reflective, confident life-long learners who value their own gifts and talents. There are other skills we want them to have but generally speaking ,I think that might be that is a good overview.

So here is a dilemma that I have. I have listened to everyone talking about their PARTS projects and I hear that :

Its too hard to align WLA, AusVELS and Lane Clark’s tools.

There isn’t enough time in the day to do everything.

Its easier to go back to working independently and control our homegroup than find new ways to assess and plan for a learning community .

Now, that might just be venting and frustration because you are all on the brink of moving forward to finding new solutions. That happens! I know this as a pattern. It has happened before when  we get into this stage of a research project like the  PARTS  questions and the messiness of new learning overwhelms us.

1) First and foremost, push on and move through it and trust in your learnings and knowledge as top educators that you will find new ways to manage together. COLLABORATION is the only way forward. You will not achieve our goals by retreating.

2) Understand what you have to LET GO of to bring new learning in.` News’ is a nonsense when you have Focus Children and Class meeetings. Can you justify 1 hour of news as Oral Language when you do Investigations? Where is the time coming from. Oral language is addressed in Investigations and Class meetings so you are taking time from all other areas to do News.

3 ) You can only teach to students needs adequately if you share the teaching load in your community. If that means we have to change the report format so each teacher in a community signs off on all comments for all the chn they teach, so be it! Lets do it.

Can we make sure we speak our mind on our blogs (as opposed to just going through the motions)  so that we get real dialogue happening. Then we can all  move towards our vison together,  supporting each other in the pain and mess of the learning process. I trust that you will understand that I share the pain of the journey but I  also  TRUST you can teach these students for their future and that means doing it differently and living with uncertainty.

I truly hope that blogging allows us to vent as well as learn, share in the mess and the positives. We have much to celebrate but we cannot, for the sake of these children, go backwards.





Why educate?

`To work with others to create a Christ- centred community where  life-long learning is valued, creativity is nurtured  and where everyone is encouraged to make the world a better place.’

From the time that I could answer the question, `What are you going to be when you grow up, I have wanted to be a teacher. In fact, I probably wanted to be one before that.  I cannot identify why, its just who I am and what I am driven to do. Teaching excites me, challenges me,  energises me, enriches me and fulfils me. My greatest teacher is Christ and I find him in community. Put all that together and you can see why I have spent my life working in schools, all types of schools, but particularly Catholic Schools! I love it.