Sunday, April 9, 2017

My Journey with ISTAA Experienced Teacher Accreditation #4

Getting Some Guidance from the AIS


When I last wrote about the Experienced Teacher Accreditation process, I had just completed my literature review and project proposal. At that time I was not entirely happy with what I had put together as it had been a bit of a rush towards the end. I really wished that I could have more time to get it right. I was also somewhat limited in the academic literature that I had access to at that time as I was not connected to a university. 

This term I received an email to say that someone had reviewed my writing and had provided feedback for me. I looked over the feedback and felt a bit stumped. The person who had read my work was confused by the way that I had put my information together. She thought that I was saying that students develop a growth mindset through receiving feedback from formative assessment. But what I was trying to say was that students benefit from having a growth mindset when receiving feedback from formative assessment. 

The AIS contacted all the teachers involved in the Action Research Pathway to let us know about two professional development opportunities in which we could meet with the reviewer to discuss our work further and also receive further information about the process. Feeling uncertain about what I could/should do to improve my literature review and project proposal, I thought it was important to attend one of these days. I got the "ok" from work and headed in last Tuesday.

It was a huge day, and very brain intensive. By the end of the day I had a migraine and still had to go back to work for Parent Teacher Interviews! The great thing was that I got a lot of clarity through the process and now feel I have a better sense of where I am headed. I still need to put at least a day's worth of work into sitting down and restructuring things, but I now understand more about action research and the importance of being clear about the constructs and how they relate to one another. 

I enjoyed hearing about the variety of projects that teachers are working on. Everyone was so passionate about their choice of topic. I heard lots of people sharing their sentiments about how they were worried their project was too big, but they really wanted to explore all the parts. Some people, like me, had begun working on their ideas last year, and one had already presented on her findings at an international conference! Lots of people were talking about what they will focus on for their project, but already considering the other questions that have been coming to light that they would like to investigate as well. 

I feel that this professional learning session was really beneficial because it helped to reinvigorate us as well as providing the nuts and bolts of what needs to be done. It was encouraging to hear the experiences of others in the process and to realise that we all generally felt as much in the dark when it came to formulating an action plan, completing a project proposal and writing a literature review - none of which form part of our usual teaching role. Many people expressed how challenging this had been having not done any form of formalised learning since graduation, plus doing it alongside normal work load and towards the end of the year with so many other time pressures. 

Going forward, I feel excited about where my project is headed. My question is now: What is the impact of Growth Mindset on Year 1 student academic achievement through formative assessment?
I have spent this term building a supportive classroom environment and teaching students about the Growth Mindset using a variety of videos including those available through Class Dojo. I am using elements from the lesson plans in The Growth Mindset Coach and I have been working with my students on the language that we use in the classroom when facing challenges. 

Next term I will focus more on giving, receiving and using feedback. I need to spend some time these holidays thinking though exactly what this will look like and the data I will be collecting. I will also revisit my literature review, this time with access to a wider array of resources (due to other studies I am also doing now) and adjust my project proposal accordingly.

For those considering this option for 2018, I believe that they're allowing more time for the projects in the future. I would highly recommend this pathway for the accreditation because you learn so much through the process. It is incredibly confusing at times, and frustrating, but through the process you make changes to the way you do things and find a new level of excitement in what you do. Teachers that I spoke with said that the changes they have made have become a part of the way they do things now. They can't go back to how it was before. 

What are some of the things that you have found useful for invigorating your teaching? What things have helped you to make changes for the long-term?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Study Techniques for Busy People

On top of my usual teaching load and working through my Experienced Teacher Accreditation, I thought I'd finish off my Masters in Education Leadership this year! I knew that it would make for a busy year, but I don't think I realised just HOW busy things would be. As I started first semester at University, I had to get used to the whole online environment and figure out how to get the readings for my classes. One of my biggest struggles has been finding time to do the readings, so I decided to get creative with how I do this. Here's what I worked out:


Let Siri do the reading 

I don't live too far from work, but each day I have over an hour of commute. Ordinarily I have used this time for listening to podcasts or enjoying some of my favourite songs. I now use this time to listen to the readings I need to get done.

Step 1: Download the readings and send them email you can access on the iPhone or iPad.

Step 2: Go into email, download file and import with iBooks.


Step 3: Change settings. Go into General, then Accessibility, then Speech. Toggle Speak Screen.

Step 4: Open the reading in iBooks. When the reading is displayed, scroll down from the top of the page using two fingers. This will bring up a control bar and Siri should begin reading the page.

Siri doesn't pronounce all words correctly, and I found it amusing that she struggles with some words that a techy 'person' should know - like ICT and "geeking out" and "technologies". Ideally it would be great to be able to teach Siri how to pronounce the words that she is getting wrong. Perhaps this is something Apple will build in at a later point in time.


Annotate the readings with Notability

I got a new iPad for Christmas, with the intention that it could help me through my studies this year. So far I've been really pleased with how it's working out for me, and I LOVE having the Apple pencil. After I have listened to the readings, I need to return to them in order to prepare a response for the assessment of the course. I like to be able to scribble down ideas and highlight the important parts to come back to. For this I use Notability, and then I don't have to cart around a pile of papers everywhere. Please note, this is an app that needs to be purchased from iTunes.


Step 1: Go back to the email I sent the readings to.

Step 2: Import the reading with Notability this time.

Step 3: Go into Notability and respond to the dialogue box - either select the pages you want to import, or import the whole thing.

Step 4: Open the file and make notes using the available tools. I prefer to handwrite and use highlighter, but you could add text or post-its if that is your preference. For my other posts about using Notability, go here.


Build a YouTube Playlist

There have been a number of YouTube videos as part of my course materials this semester. Again, these are things that I would prefer to listen to "on the road" or walking my dog, rather than eating into official study time. Making a playlist to store these, and logging into YouTube on the various devices I use means that I can access the videos easily wherever I am.

Step 1: Log into YouTube.

Step 2: Go to a video you want in the playlist.

Step 3: On the bottom left, select "Add to", then at the bottom of the dropdown box choose "Create New Playlist".


Step 4: Enter a name for the playlist and select Create. Your video can now be accessed within that playlist, in your "library".

Step 5: To access your playlist on your mobile device, log into YouTube with the same account, select the Library tab. Find your playlist and play your video.


Another benefit of logging into YouTube is that it will suggest other relevant videos, given what you have been watching. This can help to provide further exploration and depth when researching the topic.

The next thing I need to find a short-cut for is collecting citations for the texts I use. I have been using the Citation Machine to help with this, but I really should get better at collecting the citations as I go, rather than having to chase that up when I use them in my work.

Do you know of any other time saving study techniques that you could share to help other busy people?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Blogger Behind this Blog #8

My Mindset

Lately I have been reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck PhD. This is the sort of book that challenges the way you see things. Even when you think you already have a growth mindset! It makes you look at your life and your choices differently. I really want to take some time over the next week or so to think about what it all means to me, but I find myself pondering on it all the time as it is. Today I was thinking about it in relation to my learning.

As I understand it, people with a growth mindset have learning and growth as their goal. People with a fixed mindset have maintaining their ego as their goal. Generally we have a combination of both of these mindsets at play to some degree in our lives.

In My Primary School Years
So, when I look back on my life as a primary school student, I realise that I always tried to be a couple of steps ahead of my cohort. This was initiated by my mum, who started teaching me at home before I went to school. As she tells it, I was a willing learner, so this was not a great challenge for her. Because of the head start I had, I was always a little ahead of my cohort when it came to academic subjects. I liked being at the top of my class and worked to stay there. At times I was competitive, and I would say that even though I put effort into my learning, at that time I felt that some people were born smart, others pretty, others sporty etc. (This is fixed mindset thinking.)

Entering High School
This general mindset didn't actually change in high school and I received high grades and recognition for my achievement. That said, I also enjoyed the learning experience and tried to select assignments that fit with my interests. I was happy to take on an element of challenge in an area that I was interested in, and willing to put in extra effort to demonstrate my learning in unique ways. (This is growth mindset thinking.) For subjects I was less interested in, I still got the assignments done, but more as a rush job to hand something in on time. I remember a particularly poor attempt at a science assignment that I left until the last minute.

At the end of year awards one year I was given an award for excellence in PE, and to this day I have felt that there was some mistake there. I was one of the smart kids, not one of the sporty ones. Why should I get an award for PE when there were other far more sporty kids than me! Interestingly though, it has helped me to realise that I don't have to be exclusively "smart"!

And on to University
When I was choosing subjects for Years 11 and 12 I chose subjects that would help me with teaching, in particular - psychology and sociology. As a result I got a high distinction in Human Development at University, which was really an extension of what I had learnt in Year 11. Another easy grade to get was a high distinction in Educational Futures and ICT as part of my Graduate Certificate, due to the amount of background experience and prior learning I had in the area. I also felt passionate about these subjects and loved being able to explore them more. The hardest grades I earned were credits for Global Development Education and Data Communications. They were hard because they were so foreign to me and I had so much catching up to do in order to get into the right frame of mind for them.

When I was in my early twenties I tried to write children's books and completed a Diploma in Children's Writing via correspondence. I gave up before I had anything published, and tonight as I read some of the stories I wrote all those years ago, I wondered what would have happened if I hadn't given up on this challenge. At the time I gave up because I felt I should be pouring my time into building my teaching capacity as that would lead to consistent pay. I think that in terms of my writing - I had strong writing skills, but boring plots! Maybe this is something I will return to, or maybe I've found my outlet through blogging and modelling writing for students.

I'm now on the verge of starting my Masters degree, and I've been contemplating my intentions. Why do we get degrees? Is it to prove we are qualified for a job? To suggest that we are superior? For recognition? Or to learn? Initially I was taking on this Masters course with the thought that I would smash it out and get it finished so that I had the bit of paper to say that I was done. But then, when I started looking at the degree more closely, I realised that some of the units include really helpful content that should prepare me for leadership in the future. How did I lose sight of the real reason for studying?! I love learning, so how did it become more about a piece of paper than what I would learn from the experience?

The Next Generation
My (kindergarten) son recently got his school report, with above average for reading/viewing and number/algebra. Like my mother before me, I started my son early with his academic skills through play at home. He seemed ready and interested. I wanted to make it easy for him to get As later, when grading kicks in. He is proud of his efforts with reading, and he loves puzzling over numbers. He wants to be the best reader in his class.

And so I find myself asking, where the growth mindset sits in terms of the ambition to be the best. I feel that there is a fine line between wanting to be THE best and working to do YOUR best. I don't want for my son to work at something only to be THE best at it. I want him to enjoy the journey and learn from the experiences. And when he is THE best, I want for him to keep striving. Or to complement it with developing another skill.


As you can see, my thoughts at this stage are just that - random ponderings as I grapple with a new way of seeing things and try to revisit how I have seen things in the past. I still have much to learn as I apply what I've read to my own life, to the way I guide my son, and to the classes that I teach. What an exciting journey!

Friday, December 2, 2016

My Journey with ISTAA Experienced Teacher Accreditation #3

Preparing the Project Proposal and Literature Review


I thought I had been going along so well, but these tasks hit me hard. I had been watching/listening to Dylan Wiliam's webinars, reading bits and pieces I had sourced and trying so many new things in the classroom. All these things were good, but I needed to do so much more to actually pull everything together. It was due today, and (spoiler alert) I managed to upload it to my collection in time.

I think part of the struggle lies in the fact that the due date falls right near the end of term, while reports are still being proof read and prepared to send home. I thought my time-management was on track, but it has been very tight to get reports completed and then flow straight into the ETA requirements.

I started with the Project Proposal because I knew it had to be finished about a week in advance in order to get it to my Head of School for signing. My first attempt at this was a bit of a brainstorm event, where I just jotted down my thoughts about what would go in each section. When I returned to it, I padded out the initial ideas. I was very pleased to see that I could have a main question with sub-questions, as I had been really struggling with how I could cover all the things I wanted to explore with just one question. This is what I came up with as the main idea for my project.

Growing our Minds through Formative Assessment and Feedback

What is an effective process to enrich student learning through formative assessment and feedback?
What actions can a teacher take to help students develop a growth mindset?
How can formative assessment be used more effectively to inform teaching and provide students with relevant feedback?
How can peer and teacher feedback (aligned with a growth mindset) be used to progress student learning?

Something I really struggled with when completing the proposal was the section on the collection of data. I feel that there are two purposes at play with the Action Research Pathway. One is to provide evidence of the achievement of Experienced Teacher Standards and Descriptors. The other is to collect data for analysis in relation to the questions of the Action Research project. And, while action research provides an opportunity for a teacher to demonstrate the descriptors, the data collected for the purposes of the project will be quite different to the evidence collected to demonstrate competency. I felt that these two forms of data needed to be separated for the purposes of the proposal, so ended up creating a table with data for the descriptors split under the headings: "Evidence of Standard" and "Data for Analysis". I'm hoping that this will help me to keep track of what I'm collecting and the real purpose for the collection.

Something else that I struggled with, just a little, was considering the difference between "expected benefits" and "expected changes". I'm hoping that my responses were different enough to meet expectations.

Given the nature of my project, I sent my proposal to the Staff Development Coordinator at my school for some feedback. She saw things that I didn't see, and struggled to understand what I meant in some of the sections. She made time to sit down with me to discuss things and I was able to make some changes. I feel that I could have continued to make more changes, but given the time restraints, I needed to get the document into internal mail so that my Head of School could sign it, and turn my attention to the Literature Review.

In the lead up to writing the Literature Review I found myself really loving all the reading, but terrified about putting the first words on a Google Doc. The blank page taunted me so much that I avoided it for quite some time, opting instead to mind-mapping and note-taking. In hindsight, I believe these were important for helping me to gather my thoughts, I just wish I'd started the whole process even earlier! For me, I was concerned about understanding the topic fully and making the connections.

Eventually I sat down and forced myself to begin writing, but even in that moment I was hesitant. I wanted a "sizzling start" that I push so hard for from my students. How do you write a sizzling start for a literature review? And then I re-read Inside the Black Box, by Black and Wiliam, and realised that people don't want to read something dry and academic. We all want to be drawn into what we read. I had a false start that went for three paragraphs, and then, finally I got my idea:

Oliver goes back to his desk and opens his English book. He knows the teacher will be doing the rounds in a minute, but he wants to take a moment to flick through to the next blank page. As he does, he smiles to himself, reading a sentence here and there as he sees the work he has done throughout the year. Wow! I remember writing this, he thinks to himself. I’ve come so far this year. He glances at the feedback at the bottom of the page…

And that's where I left Oliver's story. Full of questions about that feedback.

It probably took about 15 hours of writing and reviewing to finally get the review finished. I got sick toward the end with a cold, and was pleased when I finally got to the end. Unfortunately I didn't have enough time to have my peers read over it and offer their feedback. We are all so busy trying to get our reports finalised and everything prepared for the end of school, so I just didn't feel right asking anyone else to read my writing. I also didn't have time to make adaptations based on any feedback they might have given me. I struggled with this since I have been seeing the power of feedback in my classroom, and learnt a lot from the feedback I received on my Project Proposal.

For both of these documents I had a guide for what to do, but no real guidance in terms of what is counted as a pass or fail. I feel I used a little poetic license on the literature review, but am not too sure whether it was too much. It's either my first literature review, or my first in quite some time, and I'm not entirely sure what was needed!

This experience helps me to understand some things about my own learning that can be generalised to my students and how they learn:
  1. Students need to have a clear idea of what is expected and to what level
  2. Feedback is definitely helpful, but not always practical when tight for time
  3. While deadlines are important motivators for completing a task, some students may not produce their greatest work within this timeframe. Some may be interested in polishing their work further after the due date.
  4. What ends up on the page is not necessarily all the writer knows about the topic. A lot of information is filtered along the way.
I'm really excited about what I've been learning through my reading and experiences in the classroom, but will save those for another blog. For today I really just wanted to share my journey with the Experienced Teacher Accreditation in terms of completing the necessary documentation by the deadline.

I am a lone ranger in my school as far as the Action Research Pathway goes... Is anyone else doing it??? Please leave a comment if you are.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tech Tips Tuesday

Getting Started with Seesaw

This week I started using Seesaw with my class as part of my exploration into digital portfolios and the power of feedback. I have been searching for something that I can use to collate my students digital work when using shared iPads. I wanted something that allowed for feedback from peers, students and even parents. I got the go-ahead from our ICT department to trial it this term and they loaded the app onto all the iPads.

During the last holidays I set up a login with Seesaw and added my classes. I made a test class to use to experiment with my son and get a sense of some of the issues that might come up with my class. It also gave us a chance to see what can be done and test out one of the Seesaw tutorials.

Prior to starting I wanted my students to understand the purpose of feedback, so we completed a couple of tasks last week that involved students seeking feedback, giving each other feedback and applying this information to their work. I printed out the appropriate signage for my class and set up management for the class such that student work posted immediately, they could "like" one another's work, but could not post comments.

My introductory lesson was just to show students the app and let them know that we would be using it. I demonstrated how they would log in using the QR code and the basics of how to create something and save it in their name. At this point I did not let students have a turn. Seesaw offers introductory lesson ideas to familiarise students, however I just wanted to get started with using it with our content and learning outcomes. I wanted for the task to be familiar enough for students to work with in a new format.

The next day we started Seesaw in our English lesson. I made a page for students to use as a digital worksheet. The task was the Circle of Viewpoints thinking routine, considering the perspective of different characters from the first chapter of Charlotte's Web. We re-read the chapter first, then students recorded their responses in Seesaw. They enjoyed having the opportunity to read each other's work and "like" it. The work itself showed that students were thinking about different perspectives. Some students got to more than one perspective. Others only saw through one lens. It helped students to realise that there is more than one way of viewing a situation.


One of my students quickly figured out how to give himself a like from every other student in the class, so we had to have a discussion about only selecting your own name when saving your work or liking people's work. We also discussed the point of "likes" and how the value is diminished if you just "like" everything you see.

In our Literacy Group time, students completed another digital worksheet to show an understanding of synonyms. They rewrote the sentence I had used and changed the word in brackets into one of its synonyms. Once finished students used the draw feature to make a page about a word eg. Cold, hot, large, etc. (their choice) and make an audio recording to go with this. They enjoyed this process and were prompted to get out thesauruses to add to their list. The technical side of things was working really well. It was great to see them looking at one another's work.


That night I reviewed students' work and left them comments using the feedback feature. We then reviewed the work on the IWB and I taught students how they could make changes based on the feedback by using copy/edit and making a revised work sample. Students were keen to revisit their work and those who didn't get the opportunity expressed their disappointment!

Every time I sat down with my students I found they were asking if we were about to do something with Seesaw. They were obviously hooked! On Friday I threw something together for them quickly, following on from our work on Charlotte's Web. I gave students the writing prompt "If I had a pet pig..." and they were off! They loved it. Some named their pig, others thought about playing rugby with it! Some students loved this task so much, and the ability to like one another's work, that they started to look for ways to give each other written feedback by Copy/Edit and then writing at the bottom of the page.


As soon as I clued on to this, I realised that I needed to introduce the feedback aspect properly and give them that freedom. We discussed the sort of feedback that we are wanting - feedback that is respectful of the other person's feelings and helps them to improve their work. And then they went to it. This is an area I would like to fine-tune with them some more, probably making some class charts with examples that they could use.

From a technical perspective, my students have definitely worked out how to get started, create, save and edit files, and how to logout. They are working extra things out for themselves and teaching one another. I look forward to seeing how their use of this develops in the weeks to come. I also look forward to being more creative with how we use it, drawing on photos and files as well.

From a skills basis, my students are learning how to use the iPad keyboard for typing, and they are learning where the keys are. They are also learning how to use the predictive text feature to help them when they are unsure of spelling. I was amazed how quickly they got their ideas down in text compared with how long it usually takes to write by hand. This may have been more about the motivation to get started than anything else!