October 20 2012

I love writing.

I love writing. I really do. It’s fascinating to hear the opinions of someone who does if for a living. The idea of learning about the world of their narrative because it is fun- eg the way people know stuff in Skyrim – is immensely powerful. The power of narrative to suck you in, and to completely absorb you in its world, is incredible. None of this stuff was new to me …. and that’s ok. I found this to be a really well thought out discussion of the powerful elements in narrative which build and sustain engagement in your story. I probably needed something a little kinder to my brain after the previous sessions.

Alan Baxter, the presenter for this session, is an author of books with pages, as well as of game narratives. He wrote the Leornian storyline, as well as the narrative for the Seymour Quest, which was an interactive game played around the festival of learning. If you want to check out his work you can head to his website (in a post earlier today I mentioned I was a little fan-girly over some presenters today? Totally applies here!!)

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October 20 2012

Ok, could do better. Chatting with Dan Haesler

Second session in a row that has my head spinning. The idea of welfare as about more than just making sure people are doing ok. The focus on not being ok with ok …. just getting to 0 from -5 is not good enough. The deficit model of welfare is about just wanting to fix problems then stopping there. We hang on to bad stuff, and we let the bad stuff define us … So do students.

We become teachers for a purpose. We talked about the idea of positive psychology, and the impact that positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment have on a person’s well being. And I’ll be honest … This whole session has been really hard for me to process at this point. The idea of “ok” is a powerful one, and I feel like sometimes I’m just clinging on to ok. I love what I do, but there are so many ‘cultural forces’ that are impacting on this. I’m really struggling to clarify my thoughts on this one …. certainly something I’m going to be thinking about in the coming days!!

Thank you, Dan. Very powerful ideas.
http://danhaesler.com/

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October 20 2012

Dean Groom and Bron Stuckey …

Don’t just wonder about the future … Create it.

The first three minutes of this keynote have just blown my mind. Really. Exactly what I needed to hear this morning I think.

So, I was too busy thinking about this keynote to make notes. Really awesome. And I agree with Dean – awesome stuff should be allowed in classrooms because it’s awesome. End of story.
I want to be both a unicorn, AND the best person I can be … Is that so wrong? 🙂

I love Bron’s idea that teachers are heroes. The metaphor of the hero’s journey is a really interesting one, and how it applies to our role as teachers. So, that’s part one of my reflection on Day 2 Keynote …. Stay tuned for more on this, though, as I know it’s going to be rolling around in my head for a very long time!!

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October 20 2012

Halfway though the flight …

I’ve just sat down on the train, on my way to day 2 of the PLANE Festival of Learning. Yesterday I spent the whole day down in the Permission2Play stream, and whilst I loved that so much, there was so much going on everywhere else that I can’t help feeling like I missed out! There were a couple of sessions I missed out on that I really wanted to attend, so I’ll be picking the brains of people who made it to Dan’s session on staff well being, for example.

I really had a great day yesterday, so kudos to the PLANE team …I’m so impressed with the variety of sessions on offer, and the diversity of the learning experiences that we can immerse ourselves in. For me, though, the real value of the festival so far hasn’t been what I’ve learnt in the workshops I’ve attended. It’s been the conversations with other educators. I’ve met people who I’ve never come across before, and that’s always interesting, to hear their experiences in their teaching practice, and to share ideas. There were also a lot of people I caught up with that I feel like I’ve known for ages, but in reality most of them I was meeting in person for the first time yesterday. We have connected on twitter, or yammer, and we’ve come to know each other fairly well. I know about people’s favourite tv shows, and chocolate preferences. I know what they teach. I know their political views sometimes, and I understand their views on or profession. I know what books they love, and whether they are night owls or early birds. Seem of them have become quite good friends in real life, and some of them wonderful familiar faces that I see occasionally at a conference or teachmeet. That for me is the real value of this festival- building connections, and developing networks that are going to continue to support me in my professional practice long after my sides stop hurting from how funny Kitty Flanaghan was.

There are a coupled of incidental takeaways for me too – more personal than professional, but still fairly relevant. I love writing. I love blogging, I want to do it more, but I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, so often I’ll start writing posts and get sidetracked by other stuff, and never get around to posting it because it isn’t quite finished, or I just want to fiddle with it a bit more, or find just the write photo to go with it – both my personal and professional blogs have an embarrassing number of posts sitting in draft, just waiting to be finished. When Jonesy asked me if I’d do some guest blogging for the festival, I decided to just write posts as I was in sessions, rather than taking notes like I usually do, then going back and doing them later. The immediacy of posting means that I am having to let go of some of that “it has to be perfect” mentality that plagues me in many areas of my life …. And I’m ok with it! It actually feels really good to hit submit, then move on. Remember that, Rodgers, it’s important!!!!

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So, are you heading to the festival of learning today? Im feeling a little fan-girly at the thought of some of the people I’ll be meeting up with again today …. I’m coining the phrase “teacher-crush” to describe the admiration I have for some of these amazing educators. Totally in awe. I imagine its something like my daughter at the thought of meeting up with One Direction … Although with less squealing and fainting, possibly. I’m incredibly proud to be a part of my profession every day – events like this really solidify that for me. The incredible commitment and passion that people show is really inspiring, and I love that, at the centre of every conversation is a focus on authentic and effective student learning, and how quality teaching practice can support that. Truly inspiring.

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October 19 2012

Reflection on Game labs

I popped down after lunch to the games labs. If you are at the PLANE festival of learning, and you haven’t ventured down to the dungeons yet, it’s totally worth it! I spent some time helping out a colleague get dressed in PLANE Virtual worlds … apparently I’m known in virtual worlds for my cool outfits, according to Vivian! I checked out Kodu …. I’m totally looking into that some more tomorrow. It looks really interesting!! And I had some conversations about Leornian…. argh, the maze!! My takeaway reflections from my dungeon visit?

The main one really for me, a bit of a gamer myself, is mostly about the nature of the gamers i saw participating in these games labs. Gamers are NOT isolated. They build connections. They collaborate and communicate at high levels. They engage in problem solving activities in order to successfully achieve their goals. The fail, then fail again, then fail again until they succeed. Karran did this today whilst attempting to get her avatar in virtual worlds to do a backflip. Who doesn’t want their class to be full of students with these attributes?

Gamers aren’t always experts, and neither are the people who are teaching gaming. Those who mentor in gaming are not always the ones who know everything about what to do – they are often the ones who are willing to take a risk to figure out how to achieve a task, or succeed in a quest.

I’m typing this reflection whilst listening to Dr Sarah Howard talking about risk taking, and I think there are some definite links here! We are often worried about trying something like gaming in classroom because of the risks inherent in such a task. What do you think? Is it really worth it?

Oh, the main thing about gaming for me? It’s fun! Everyone sitting in the game labs seemed to be enjoying themselves too – that’s just my feeling, though, I took no measurable data! Fun + learning + risk taking + problem solving + ….. sounds like a great mix!!

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October 19 2012

Why use consoles in the classroom? Jay Trevaskis

I LOVE games consoles. Love them. I’ve used them quite a bit in some of my classes. Jay’s discussion about about his experience with gaming consoles in the classroom really resonates with me, as the issues he had to consider when making gaming consoles a part of his teaching have been exactly what I went through last year when starting my gaming unit with yr9.

Key takeaways from this session –
Kids can be the experts. Don’t stress too much if you don’t know how to use it – letting students know that their knowledges and experiences are valued in class is of far greater benefit than of you waiting till you know how to do it yourself!

Want to teach road safety? Put students on a driving game. Drive 2 laps, at or below a set speed, record time, number of crashes, and times over centre line. Repeat, getting students to change a song on their iPods, etc. Compare stats. On the third attempt, read and send one text message per lap. Meaningful Road safety learning without having to crash a real one!!

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Feedback from gaming provides some essential rewards for students. Want to get boys engaged in a dancing unit? Get them to compete with each other to achieve the outcomes of the performance, based on choreography in a game like Just Dance. Winning!!

Kids by nature will become immersed in the world of games. They get drawn in to the learning outcome that you are establishing for the unit. Let them!!!

Great ideas for using consoles in PDHPE in particular, but Jay has some great thoughts about how it is applicable across all faculties. Certainly a discussion worth having!

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October 19 2012

Permission2Play! WoW, gaming and failure.

I’m sitting in studio 1 at the Seymour Centre. The first session in the Permission to Play strand at the PLANE festival of learning is a virtual conference. Presented by Peggy Sheehy from New York, we are hearing about the power of gaming in education. When kids are in a game environment, the benefits are enormous … Do you want sustained focus on your classroom tasks? I do!!! I know that my students are MUCH better at sustained attention to gaming than they are to reading a chapter from a novel! Whilst novels will ALWAYS be important (I’m an English teacher, of course I’m going to say that!!!) I think that we do our kids a great disservice if we don’t consider the possibilities of gaming in our classrooms. I’ve talked a bit about my gaming unit last year with my interesting yr9 boys class, and what a success it was. This term, with the same group of boys now in year 10, we are jumping in the deep end with looking at designing game narratives, as a way of meeting the “creative writing” outcomes in our scope and sequence.

Things that are impressing me about this session so far …
– importance of challenges – starting at level one, with level one skills and abilities, then progressing as you demonstrate mastery and develop new skills in competency. It happens in games – shouldn’t it be happening in schools too??
– differentiating between time for work and time for play ,… Really? Why don’t enough of us recognise the vital connections BETWEEN these goals, rather than seeing them as mutually exclusive?
– progression is determined by the player, and gamers crave assessment – the whole game is assessment!!! Failure equals opportunity to develop knowledge and skills. Failure is frowned upon in schools, but not in gaming.
– gaming provides amazing opportunities for blended learning…. lilteracy in gaming ROCKS!!!! We looked at genre literacy in our class last year, but think about the kinds of vocab used in WoW … What amazing opportunities to build a students’ language skills without having to do dull language sheets.
– reflections on life experiences …. The heroes journey applies in gaming, in novel, in text, in life. It’s an interesting notion to think about – building the capacity for students to recognise their own value, and to engage in some meaningful real-life learning.

I’m really stuck by the idea of failure and how we view it … @townesy77 tweeted from her session with conference doodler Dr Jason Fox that Tetris is a game where you are guaranteed to fail, but everyone keeps playing it!! Do our students keep revisiting their failures in out assessments? Wy to, and how can we make that possible/ valuable?

Get your game on …. What are your thoughts on gaming in class?

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October 19 2012

Festival blogging!!!

I’m at the PLANE Festival of learning today. It’s a wonderful collection of amazing learning experiences, and I’m so excited about the possibilities!! I’m sitting in the keynote session. Michelle Bruniges, our DG, was up first, and spoke about the importance of passionate educators who embrace the opportunity to provide exceptional learning experiences for their students. She also gave a lovely thanks to the wonderful group of HAICTE’s, who all got to see our avatars up on screen – I’ve never seen my head so big!!

Now, Adam Elliot, creator of Harvie Krumpet, is talking about his role as “self-appointed story teller for our culture.” Entertaining and inspiring – he is an outstanding representative for what you can do if you believe I the power of your stories. His only piece of advice … Life is not a dress rehearsal, you have to do what you love. Awesome!!!!!

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I’ll be blogging throughout the day as I get a chance …. Are you at the festival? What are you excited about? If you are, come up and say hi!!

October 18 2012

Happy camper.

I don’t know if I’ve posted about this before on here, but I’m a year advisor. I’ve been with my year group since they were in yr6, and we were doing transition activities. My year group are now in year 11, just starting their HSC year. Up until this year we haven’t had camps at my school for as long as I have been there. Our new principal, however, was really open to the idea of running some. So, after a lot of organisation, this week we headed off to Vision Valley. Three days of Crossroads activities, canoeing, abseiling, getting to know each other and basically having an amazing time with this fantastic group of young people.

I’m a bit of a stress head. The words “control freak” have been thrown about occasionally. I can’t even begin to tell you my stress levels over the past few weeks, as things have fallen into place for this camp, sometimes not the way I would expect them to. But it was all totally worth it. I’m now in evaluation mode, and as I look back at the past few days there are a couple of things that have come out of this camp that really struck me as amazing.

Teenagers will surprise you.
I like to think that I know my year group pretty well. I take my role as year advisor very seriously, and I spend a lot of time getting to know my students. This week, though, I found myself on a number of occasions looking at them in amazement. One kid, a bit of a rat bag at school but very likeable, held everyone captivated around the campfire with an impromptu Bear Grylls impersonation. The quietest girl in the group, usually found with her nose buried in a book, shocked everyone dancing away at the disco, and taking every opportunity to talk to people she usually wouldn’t look twice at. Yet another usually difficult boy told me that his favourite part of camp was “when we did that letter writing thing where we said nice stuff about each other. I never knew people thought about me like that and it was awesome to read what everyone wrote.” I was expecting him to say he loved the abseiling. 45 kids, some of whom I had expected to not be interested in coming, all working together, willingly building connections with people outside their friendship groups, and taking risks. Being supportive of each other. Encouraging others on, and being totally amazing!

Colleagues will surprise you.
I was so lucky to have four amazing colleagues come along on camp with me. I was also equally privileged to have many colleagues back at school supporting us by covering classes, an managing so many other things to make sure that everything ran smoothly. I work with some amazing people, so I was expecting them to help out, but I was not expecting the level at which they would offer their support. I was completely blown away by their commitment to supporting me and building connections with the students on camp. I don’t usually delegate (did I mention control freak?) but last week I realised that there was no way I was going to get everything done that I wanted to. So, against all my better judgement, I sent an email asking for the people coming on camp to organise an activity each. In my head I was making contingency plans – not because I expected them to fail but just because letting go of control is not easy for me and I needed to know that everything would be sorted. They surprised me – not because the activities were planned, but because they were planned with such thoughtfulness and attention to detail with regards to my camp goals that I don’t think I could have done them in a better myself. Usually, in the back of my head I’m thinking about how I would have done it, but it was so gratifying to be able to sit back and watch other people run something and be okay with it – more than that, to be proud of it. It was a very surprising and unexpectedly wonderful experience for me, and something I’m going to keep reminding myself of in the future. I think it’s a lesson I need to learn.

I will surprise me.
I can be okay with not being in control of everything. I’m a bit terrified of heights… Okay a lot terrified of heights. When booking team activities, I was tempted to book in a “leap of faith” activity, but chickened out when I realised that I couldn’t ask students to do something I wouldn’t be prepared to do myself. Instead, I booked an activity called “zip line and power fan”, which I envisaged was something like a flying fox. I figured I could probably cope with that. When we arrived at the activity, I discovered that the zip line part was a flying fox activity, but the power fan was quite different. It involved climbing to the top of a power pole, then jumping off as your descent was controlled by some kind of winch. Just looking at it made me nauseous. It was the last thing that I wanted to do. But I’d spent the past two days encouraging my students to step out of their comfort zones, and to try something new… I couldn’t not do it myself. It was the most terrifying thing I have ever done in my life. I bawled my eyes out pretty much the whole time… The video taken by another one of the teachers is not very flattering at all. Why do people never cry in real life like they do in the movies? But I did it, to my utter surprise. I still don’t think I’m over the terror, but the comments from my students and from my colleagues has made me very glad, and incredibly proud that I took that step off the edge. Yet another lesson I think I need to learn.

I feel like, through the course of this camp, I have learnt more then the students who were supposed to benefit from it. I guess that’s one of the wonderful things about our profession – that we get to demonstrate that learning is lifelong, and that it’s not just something that we impart, but that is something that is a part of us. Thank you, year 11, I will never forget this week!

August 21 2012

In the end, only kindness matters ….

Today was a wonderful day. Not because I taught any amazingly brilliant classes – sadly, not sure they qualified for that today!!!! Not because of the weather – froze my not insignificant butt off in my classroom today, despite the appearance of the sun!!!! It was a wonderful day because of how terrible yesterday was.
I had a class that was, shall we say, difficult. It’s not unusual for this class – all boys, challenging behaviours, and high levels of disengagement with school. Yesterday, it was windy, they were grumpy, and we struggled to get through the lesson. I kept breathing, held my temper, and continued to be polite and encouraging to them, despite the fact that really, the last thing I felt like doing was being kind and generous to teenage boys who thought I was the devil. 60 minutes later, and I walked out of my room with a big sigh of relief.
I had them this morning, and was half-expecting a repeat performance. I was pleasantly surprised though, when one of my students walked in early (which almost NEVER happens!!!!!) and came up to me to apologise.

“Sorry for being rude to you yesterday Miss, I had the shits about something else, and you were still really nice even though I was horrible to you. Yeah, sorry about that.”

Not only was it surprising, but it really made me think. Sometimes, we get so caught up in doing all the daily management at schools, the referrals for negative behaviour, the paperwork, the running around, and the politics of schools, that we forget about the important things. The little things. The things that are going to make a difference in the lives of the students we are there for. Yesterday, the important thing was not all the other running around I had to do …. It was the decision I made to take another breath, count to 10, smile at the kid who was set on making my life miserable for no apparent reason, and just get through the lesson with a minimal amount of tension.

The title for this post is from a Jewel song. it’s been going through my head all day, as I’ve been thinking about the little things we do that make a difference. What has yours been this week?