What makes us effective teachers?

July 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

What makes us effective teachers?

This question is at the forefront of the minds of teachers who strive to make a difference. These teachers are the ones who stress over their students, their own ‘being’ as a teacher. It reminds me that:

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Teaching in the 21st century is a challenge. Why is it a challenge? It is challenging because we are constantly having to ‘let go’. Let go of our former understanding, belief structures, and the easeness of which we do things. It shouldn’t however, distract from the essence of why we think teaching is important.

Today we are going to look at some of the techniques we can use that can help us become more effective in what we do. It is by no means exhaustive. And it is by no means stating that what you are doing is wrong. It is probably going to challenge you into thinking in a new perspective, or even challenge you into letting go of some of the beliefs that you have. This is the beauty of being a learner! We are constantly on a course in learning new things, new ways of doing, new ways of teaching, new ways to say what we want to say. Isn’t this what makes us unique? Isn’t this what moves us forward?

Is education supposed to a partnership?

A lot of talk, when we are looking at 21st century learning is looking at the link of the partnership model. Making us effective teachers within the 21st century is coming to the realisation that we are entering a partnership with our students.

If the kids come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job easier.

If they do not come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job more important.

Barbara Colorose

So, to be in an effective partnership with our students, we first need to understand what outcomes and support systems we can use to effectively teach in the 21st century.


Taken from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills website, the image above presents a holistic view of 21st century teaching and learning that combines a discrete focus on 21st century student outcomes (a blending of specific skills, content knowledge, expertise and literacies) with innovative support systems to help students master the multi-dimensional abilities required of them in the 21st century.

The key elements of 21st century learning are represented in the graphic and descriptions below. The graphic represents both 21st century skills student outcomes (as represented by the arches of the rainbow) and 21st century skills support systems (as represented by the pools at the bottom).

Taken from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills website the Core Subjects and 21st Century Themes indicate to us, as educators, the subjects and themes that should be forefront and centre of, not only our learning, but the learning that we should be imparting to our students.

The mastery of core subjects and 21st century themes is essential to student success. Core subjects include English, reading or language arts, world languages, arts, mathematics, economics, science, geography, history, government and civics.

In addition, schools must promote an understanding of academic content at much higher levels by weaving 21st century interdisciplinary themes into core subjects:
• Global Awareness
• Financial, Economic, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy
• Civic Literacy
• Health Literacy
• Environmental Literacy
Learning and Innovation Skills
Learning and innovation skills are what separate students who are prepared for increasingly complex life and work environments in today’s world and those who are not.They include:
• Creativity and Innovation
• Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
• Communication and Collaboration
Information, Media and Technology Skills
Today, we live in a technology and media-driven environment, marked by access to an abundance
of information, rapid changes in technology tools and the ability to collaborate and make individual contributions on an unprecedented scale. Effective citizens and workers must be able to exhibit a range of functional and critical thinking skills, such as:
• Information Literacy
• Media Literacy
• ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) Literacy
Life and Career Skills

Today’s life and work environments require far more than thinking skills and content knowledge.The ability to navigate the complex life and work environments in the globally competitive information age requires students to pay rigorous attention to developing adequate life and career skills, such as:
• Flexibility and Adaptability
• Initiative and Self-Direction
• Social and Cross-Cultural Skills
• Productivity and Accountability
• Leadership and Responsibility

Developing a comprehensive framework for 21st century learning requires more than identifying specific skills, content knowledge, expertise and literacies. An innovative support system must be created to help students master the multi-dimensional abilities that will be required of them.The Partnership has identified five critical support systems to ensure student mastery of 21st century skills:
• 21st Century Standards
• Assessments of 21st Century Skills
• 21st Century Curriculum and Instruction • 21st Century Professional Development • 21st Century Learning Environments


Happy thoughts Make Happy Molecules

September 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’m sitting here at the doctor’s waiting and I have focused on being in the present. With 22 people in front of me, the wait is long. The thought of trying to be in the present for two hours of waiting, is really testing me.

I try to meditate a mantra that I have heard from Deepak Chopra. I’ve only recently rediscovered Deepak, after having read only two of his books; “Ageless Body, Timeless Mind” & “Perfect Health”, through @DeepakChopra. The mantra “Happy thoughts make happy molecules”. Below is the link where you can find the story of where I have arrived today with this mantra in my thoughts. Thank you to Alana Stewart for sharing her story.

So….this wait has forced me, and I mean, forced me to focus on the present and think of thoughts that make me happy.

It would be very easy for me to sit here and think negative. Seeing all the sick people waiting, stressing out and waiting for their turn to see their doctor. I could take on board their energies and react like them.

The lesson I have learnt today was to stop analysing the thoughts that are running through my head, and just relax and be in the present.

Happy Thoughts Make Happy Molecules

Daring Greatly

September 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve just begun to read a fantastic book which I know will transform the way I understand, and tackle, my thought processes. Every now and again something like this just falls into your lap. This afternoon, after feeling weighed down with expectation and self doubt, I received a link for this new book from Brene Brown, while I was reading the #cpchat conversation. Thank you to @gmbondi for pointing out this fantastic book. Check out his blog here Gino Bondi.

Now, up until this point, I vulnerably admit, I’d never heard about Brene. But something resonated within me to pursue it further. I downloaded a ‘sample’ of the book through iBooks, and when I read this following quote:

We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be – a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation – with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgement and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.

I had to buy it!

There are many quotes that I could place here within this post. Search for ‘Daring Greatly’, and you will see what I mean. I’ve spoken before about how Seth Godin has been instrumental in changing my perceptual thinking. He features in the advance praise in the beginning of the book. This also swayed my leanings into buying the book.

I dare you to read it!

Edmodo in the Classroom!

August 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Welcome to Cowpasture Connections – Edmodo in the Classroom!

Today we are going to spend some time thinking and sharing about learning in your classroom. The key issue about using ICT in the classroom is not the technology but the pedagogy. Today is all about sharing our knowledge. This information was created by Darcy Moore. You can find his page here. Thanks Darcy!

Please register as ‘a teacher’ at Edmodo (or login if you already have an account) and use the ‘group code’ for our session. Everyone will be able to decide if Edmodo is for their classes, after using the tool for our Cowpasture Connections session.

Edmodo is my favourite tool in the classroom. I believe Edmodo is useful for our students and staff for a number of reasons of which I list but a few (also, here’s another view):

Why are we doing this?

1. It is a really easy to learn, effective way to share ideas, links and files quickly in a classroom situation. You can poll students and they can even submit video files to you. The students work it out in about 5 seconds.

2. Students like the interface (many have said to me it is similar to Facebook) and engage in a wide-range of different styles of lesson using the tool.

3. The teacher creates the class space, only people with the code can join. The code can be changed and the teacher is able to manage their ‘online classroom’ effectively in the most appropriate way for that group.

4. It is a practical way to teach students about good digital citizenship. You can insist upon a code of conduct that focuses on everything from good spelling and punctuation to netiquette.

5. You can communicate with the whole class, make small groups or send individual direct message DMs. Students cannot DM other students with this tool. It is a great way to extend students and allow them freedom to develop their own ideas and interests while you are busy with other students.

6. A simple game I play with students where they have to produce a short, perfect piece of writing, edited by their peers, is one of the best writing strategies I know.

7. There are many DEC and educators from around the world using Edmodo. They are very collaborative and willing to share. Classes can communicate online if you share the code.

8. It is free and has an iPhone app. It is not blocked by the filter.

9. Why do you think it is a great tool?

It is important to take this opportunity to share and comment at Edmodo during the session to reflect on how the tool(s) may be used with students.

Here are some options to explore (see activities/ideas at Edmodo):

1. I suggest you look at all of these Top 100 Tools for Learning and ‘favourite’ the best for your classroom. Some may prefer this version.

How many of these 100 online tools have you used? What works for you and why? What would you like to try?

2. The Digital Education Revolution resources site is a great example of using Livebinders. Explore the DERNSW site and Curriculum Support for links and teaching ideas to share on Edmodo. Would livebinders work for your teaching, subject or students?

3. Copyright issues for students and staff are increasingly important and complex to understand. Are you aware that Flickr is being used by the great libraries, museums, archives and galleries of the world to share their images legally online? Check out the amazing list of participating international and Australian institutions here. More information is available about Flickr at their FAQs and about ‘creative commons’ licenses generally here.

How do we know this is a legitimate, copyright safe idea/site for teachers in NSW schools?

Good question. Here’s the official line including great ‘Creative Commons Australia’ resources for educators.

How can you practically teach students about copyright? How will they use Creative Commons and Flickr? Please post a comment about how this relates contextually to your subject and students at Edmodo.

4. Explore teaching and learning activities at this DERNSW Digital Citizenship site. How could the activities be integrated into your pre-existing programs?

5. Check out great Maths, Science, PE and History teacher blogs. Here’s an extensive list of teacher, student and classblogs. I like Mitchell Squires primary school blogging at a DEC school, especially the The Super Blog of Awesomeness! Talk with Mr Cattle or Mr Horsley, who have both successfully run blogs with senior classes, if you are thinking about starting one.

6. Twitter and Facebook are unblocked for teachers at our school. Why not join? Quite simply, Twitter is my No. 1 professional tool. I am not alone in having this opinion about the microblogging site. Here’s a post about the relevant professional policy relating to social media use for DEC teachers and a list of DEC teachers I know on Twitter and aMaths teacher’s DEC ‘followers‘. Everything you need to know to make a start with Twitter is here but read this first.

7. Spelling and vocabulary – check out these poems and other resources that explore the peculiarities of the English language for (and not just) kids. Many students will find these words confusing and will probably struggle with literary terms. Most will find Spelling City, this visual thesaurus and dictionary useful sites.

How could you construct fun lessons, perhaps using these resources, and/or using Edmodo, that improve spelling?

8. Diigo (read this) and Pearl Trees are great social bookmarking tools to help you save, tag and share resources. For example, here are all my tags for Twitter, English and photography to give you the idea. Why not get an account, bookmark and tag sites discovered today?

9. Prezi is a great free online presentation tool for staff and students. Here’s an example, Cool Online Tools, I used with senior students and another, about Twitter by Pip Cleaves.

I have discovered that student engagement (especially at home) has increased greatly when they use this tool.

What option(s) from the above list did you take? How will students benefit? I look forward to your comments here and, more importantly, at Edmodo.

Why not establish your own class spaces at Edmodo? Here are some of Darcy Moore’s tagged resources and some other ideas on how he uses Edmodo in his subject area.

Thanks to Darcy Moore for his inspiration and guidance. As this is licenced through Creative Commons, all Darcy has asked is if anyone would be interested in joining his blog or follow him on twitter. You can find his blog here – http://darcymoore.net/

Enjoy Edmodo!

iPad Journey

August 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

We are about to embark on our iPad journey. It will be something of a learning curve for all of us here. The staff, students and the community will all be learning together. It is what is going to be a real ‘inclusive’ learning environment. We are on this journey together. I will be posting more on our journey as it unfolds. For now have a look at where I have taken some pointers on how to attack the journey, from the excellent Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything. Enjoy!

Flipping the classroom

May 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

This is interesting. Some ideas to flip your class, with the use of bloom’s!

Bloom’s Flipped


May 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Students need feedback! It’s as simple as that. It’s suprising to hear that there are about 20% of teachers do not give any feedback. It’s very important to give students appropriate feedback. Steve Dinham has said that it is the most important factor in the child’s learning. They need to have an understanding of their desired goal. John Hattie has said that teachers make the difference in their students’ learning.

You combine these two powerful understandings, and you have the basis for what is the foundation of the heart of education. They are fundamental. Feed the children what they need to learn, it touches the core of their being. We say that this generation is one that is akin to sponges, well this strikes at the core of that premise.

Below is some food for thought!

The PIPS method

Steve Dinham Presentation

John Hattie: Seeing Through The Eyes Of Students

The Principal of Change

Stories of learning and leading

Darcy Moore's Blog

learning leadership technology


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