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Technology…Amirite

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August 2015

How Did it Get So Late So Soon ?

So if you remember back to last week I talked about how teachers need to be learning new content all the time. The problem is that they need to do it so quickly because the time available to them is so short. Teacher workloads are pretty intense especially the longer they are at a school, this usually means they would have inherited more jobs and responsibilities. So when does this give them time to learn the new content and then write lesson plans, the time is always so short but there is always so much to do. The answer sadly is at home. In 2005 Graham Butt and Ann Lance found that secondary school teachers were spending 9.7 hours a week outside of school doing school related work and a further 3 hours on weekends usually a Sunday. As a training teacher this is a little worrying, on one hand it is probably no different to being at school or Uni but I thought I would get to leave that all behind once I graduated. I think a lot of this work is probably related to assessment i.e. marking assignments and tests. But I am sure that teachers are doing lesson and unit plans at home and I feel that this is an area that could possibly be improved upon. Any reduction in this time will be time used for better things, even cutting this time by one or two hours would be a noticeable difference for most teachers, letting them relax a little and reduce some of the stress that comes with the profession.

So tell me what you think. How can we reduce the time teachers have to spend outside of school to do the work expected of them?

dr-seuss

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HPE and the Glass Slipper..

If I were to go onto the popular online job search engine SEEK and plug in the terms ‘teaching aides & special needs’ I would get an immediate response. An immediate response of 97 available positions right at my fingertips. And get this – those 97 results were from August ALONE. Now that’s something to think about, wouldn’t you agree?

Australia-wide there is a huge appreciation for the work teacher aides and teacher assistants do for schools, especially their involvement with special needs students. The one-on-one attention teaching assistants provide for students is a valuable source of support. However, there is growing frustration with the lack of resourcing – little aide assistance, inadequate facilities and scarce funding – in Australian schools. The limited aide support, which has such positive influences on both the students with special needs and their teachers, is a result of schools having to juggle budgets to provide for the needs of all students and all faculties. In such a competitive environment, teacher aides are assigned to classroom subjects and PE becomes the Cinderella of the curriculum and is not given support time. Does this mean physical education lessons are not valuable enough to warrant their presence?

Organizations such as the Australian Association of Special Education (AASE) believe that it isn’t appropriate to develop educational models for students with special requirements that primarily depend on assistance and support from teacher aides. Giangreco and Broer (2005) suggest alternative models that instead focus on involving special educators and teacher aides as additional tools for student learning and development, rather than being the primary providers of such programs. Teacher aides are not intended to take complete responsibility for the education of all special needs students, and inclusion must still remain an important factor in general lesson structure and preparation. Just as teacher aides should be a support for the teacher – not a substitute for teachers, associated pedagogies and inclusive practices.

Have a read and answer the poll below – Should teacher aides be regarded as additional support? Or form the backbone of special needs education?

But first, let me take a survey

“Alright children, today we are going to be learning about the legislation of health promotion”

“Ah, Sir, we don’t even know what health promotion is, could we take a step back?”

“Of course, I’m glad we had this conversation”

“Thanks Sir, this has really helped our education.”

Although just slightly paraphrased this is what the literature tells us about our issue of student feedback on comprehension. Effective and supported student feedback is the difference between a 1 way learning environment and a learning conversation. It is no surprise than that there is a collection of literature in the area of student feedback, though it should be noted that in many cases the research focuses on macro feedback, feedback that reports on a program at the end, rather than concurrent feedback in a lesson. In short the general consensus is that student feedback to the teacher is an important part of students achieving their goals.

A search through academic literature shows that the gaining student voice on comprehension is a widespread cause of research with articles from Germany, Sweden, Australia, England, America and Malaysia being read when exploring the relevant literature. This suggests that the issue is not just local to one culture but in fact is a universal concept.

The majority of literature focuses on students being able to report to the teacher after the course or class on how they went. Though the literature does strongly suggest that student feedback is vital for teachers to moderate their classes and provide the best education this post class feedback is a step back from where we want to be heading in terms of teachers being able to adjust their delivery on the fly to ensure best results for students.

Articles that have focussed on concurrent student feedback on comprehension such as Rauschenbach (1994) and Shepherd (2011) have been strong in their recommendation that gaining student voice on their understanding is an important yet difficult facet of teaching, with both papers stressing the need for it to occur while discussing the problems in finding an effective method.

This research, to this writer at least, suggests that this is an issue that is both recognised in its presence and in its need for further solutions. I’d invite readers to share whether they have always felt that teachers knew where they were with their learning or if there were times that it felt like you were on a whole different planet.

Chalkboards and notebooks should be from the ‘olden’ days

In my previous blog post, I introduced the idea of the ‘flipped classroom’ teaching technique.  This pedagogical strategy is becoming an increasingly popular technique for teachers around the world (Hotle & Garrow, 2015).  A study by Roach (2014), (as cited in Hotle & Garrow, 2015) found that 76% of the students reported that a flipped classroom environment assisted their learning but also their average results on midterm tests were improved.  However, being able to utilise a flipped classroom raises many challenges for particular schools and students.

Many schools across the country are starting to adopt the Bring Your Own Device scheme to their classrooms.  However, this scheme has introduced some equity issues among their students (Stavert, 2013).  What happens to the students who can’t afford the devices, or can only afford the basic models and lacks the power etc. of other students?  Students in high socioeconomic status areas would benefit over schools in low socioeconomic status areas.

Technology has been shown to facilitate 21st century skills (Stavert, 2013).  For example students learn vital skills to this day and age such as communication and collaboration, creativity, digital literacy, creativity and innovation skills and digital competency.  If students don’t have access to these resources, how are they able to learn these skills?classroom_3d_images-1024x863

Schools need to plan for those students who cannot afford such devices.  The Alberta Guide (2012) suggested two strategies that can overcome this problem.  Firstly for the schools to have a pool of school-owned devices for students to loan where their family can’t afford their own.  Secondly, is a scheme where families lease-to-own making it easier for payments.

To have the flipped classroom technique work to its full potential, all students will need access to some sort of device with capable internet access.  This is certainly a limiting factor for my idea and narrows the target audience in which I’d like to pitch my idea to.

In the ‘technology savy’ age we are in, don’t you think that it would be vital for governments to assist school with new technology and devices to further enhance the learning capabilities of our students?

References

Alberta Education. (2012). Bring your own device: a guide for schools. Edmonton: Alberta Education.

Hotle, S. L., & Garrow, L. A. (2015). Effects of the Traditional and Flipped Classrooms on Undergraduate Student Opinions and Success. Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, Retrieved from: http://ascelibrary.org.ezproxy.library.uq.edu.au/doi/10.1061/%28ASCE%29EI.1943-5541.0000259.

Stavert, B; State of NSW, Department of Education and Communities. (2013). Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in Schools. Retrieved from: https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/policies/technology/computers/mobile-device/BYOD_2013_Literature_Review.pdf.

If Stress Burned Calories I’d be a Supermodel

It is a well-known fact that with any job there is associated stress, however teachers are under ever increasing pressure to be more than just teachers. The role of nurturing and developing student’s potential is a thing of the past. In today’s society teachers work comprises of “complex mix of various factors that include teaching, learning new information and skills, keeping abreast of technological innovations and deal with students, parents and community” (Australian Journal of Teaching Standards). Emerging issues of concern in the teaching profession are attrition rates and burnout levels, Ewing and Smith, (2003) reported that between 25 and 40% of beginning teachers in the countries in the Western Word are leaving due or are burned out.

Peoples behavior and body language as we all very well know can have a large impact those around them. A teachers positive or negative well-being can impact on students and their learning when in the classroom as a result. This is solely dependent on the stress in which the teacher is under which can determine how well the lesson will run to some extent. According to Donna Cross, Professor at Winthorp, “sources of high level teacher stress are workload, workplace conditions and climate, and expectations”. This along with classroom climate (aggression from pupils and parents) excessive workload and hours plus poor student behavior can really diminish the ability of a teacher to do their job to the best of their abilities.

Through research, this has been noted as there is a plethora of studies conducted on both Australian as well as Western teachers in regards to stress and even burnout. This is an issue which has been looked at for quite some time as the ever increasing pressure of teaching begins to show its ugly face. I feel that Education Queensland as a result of creating the C2C lessons and through the introduction of ONESCHOOL in particular has made head way into efforts of simplifying work load and therefore stress amongst teachers. These outlets create a form of student, curriculum and learning, finance and asset, resource management, performance reporting and analysis system. Although is it enough to aid teachers in their work if they are still suffering from immense stress and workloads? Or has this system in turn done the opposite and provided the belief that because the information has already been supplied, that means teachers will have more time on their hands for an increased workload?

Stress_0055b4_2271910

To Demo or to Video-Demo?

“The digital revolution is far more significant than the invention of writing or even of printing.”

Douglas Engelbart

As pre-service teachers, when we analyse our teaching practice and reflect on where we can improve, I’m sure providing effective demonstrations is something a lot of pre-service teachers try and work on at some stage or another. Why? Because in order to teach a skill, it’s important to explain (verbally) and demonstrate (visually) to assist students various learning needs, as stated in Michael Metzler’s 2005 book ‘Instructional Models for Physical Education’. But if we don’t know a particular sport, how might we learn how to demonstrate it?

No doubt there’d be a range of responses to this question from speaking to peers, colleagues and supervisors, to researching on the Internet and watching videos online. I’m particularly interested in the latter.

As most of us are aware, the Internet can provide us with information to thousands of different questions, literally at our fingertips. When we need information, whether it’s the daily news, the weather, academic literature, or so on, we most commonly turn to the Internet. As I mentioned in my last post, the new generation of ‘digital natives’ have grown up in a world where this is commonplace. Even nowadays in most classrooms, it’s typical for the teacher, and even students to have access to a mobile device or computer. This provides an exceptional amount of accessibility to an extremely valuable learning resource (given the right conditions, of course).

internet

Classrooms are also equipped to facilitate this access through the presence of previously mentioned computers, as well as projectors for students to see the teacher’s computer screen. More advanced than this is the smart board- an interactive whiteboard which projects a computer screen and allows teachers (or students) to write on them in certain programs (see below).smartboard

In terms of PE, theory classes often have access to some, if not all of these devices (of course this will vary depending on the school’s policies, context, and so on). Though evidently, technology such as computers and the Internet are utilised in classrooms for learning purposes, and can play a significant role in the learning process.

Though back to my original question… its aim was to highlight that video in particular has an important place in the PE classroom, whether theoretical or practical. Jarrod Robinson, perhaps better known as ‘The P.E Geek’, emphasises exactly this in his article Digital Video in Physical Education, stating “the digital age has brought about a host of new sharing options with none of them easier than YouTube”. Further, he recommends integrating videos into classes for the purpose of providing visual demonstrations of a sport.

Though hang on a minute… how do we actually achieve that if we’re down on Oval 2B at the furthest outskirts of the school and possibly humanity?

As stated in the Metzler article earlier, students do actually benefit from viewing demonstrations- rationalising the role of video demonstrations which are perhaps more accurate than our own visual demo’s. Though as PE teachers in a practical, outdoor setting, we often don’t have access to the internet and other technological devices that we would if we were indoors.  Wouldn’t it be great if there was something that could be done to change this?…

Gambling with Thumbs

When I was on prac I saw a tool. A teaching tool. ‘Thumbs.’ Throughout the class, a math class, the teacher would ask “Thumbs?” and the students would present their hands with either thumbs up, down or sideways to show how confident they were with the topic. It was a tool that students understood and used maturely to either get help or progress. It is simple and effective, but it could be improved by using technology to make it a live marker of student understanding.

The idea stood out to me because one of the major problems I had had as a teacher to this point was understanding when students had grasped the lesson concepts and when they were just nodding and smiling, or more accurately when the blank stares were comprehension and when the blank stare were confusion. This can be a problem because as a teacher you may be wasting breath preaching to the choir if they have already understood a concept, or you may be progressing too fast with students getting lost but not wanting to be held accountable.

In broad strokes the issue is akin to the teacher needing to make guesses, albeit educated ones, on student understanding. It is a gamble that may pay off in many cases but with improved teaching tools to address the problem there could be an increase in lesson efficiency with less time spent on already understood concepts and greater equity in making it easier for all students to understand concepts.

I was never that good at poker so the idea of having a tool to help me read students understanding rather than looking for ‘tells’ of where their comprehension is something that is very interesting and I would even say exciting (#Teacher Interests).

So, as invested parties would you give the need for checking for understanding the thumbs up, thumbs down or you might need a new tool to let me know how you feel.

Why is the sky blue?

Why is the sky blue?

It seems a pretty simple question and no doubt at least once in your teaching career you will be asked it, but do you know the answer? One of the fundamental parts of being a teachers is knowing the subject area well enough to be able to teach it confidently and answer any questions students may ask. Knowing only the exact content for a unit is rarely enough to teach it effectively. As a teacher you want your students to be engaged and thinking critically about the content. One of the best ways of knowing this is happening is when they are asking questions. However if a teacher is responding “I don’t know” or “I’ll look it up for you” it’s not going to encourage the type of questioning that teachers want to hear. In 2013 Elizabeth Leader-Janssen and Joan Rankin-Erickson were studying teachers content knowledge in English and in their literature review stated “These studies suggest that inservice teachers lack the knowledge in understanding specific features of language (e.g., phonemes and consonant blends), and the impact of this lack of declarative knowledge of language structure is critical when teachers are teaching the early skills of phonemic awareness and decoding.” I think that the same can be said for other subjects, for HPE teachers the problem is even greater it is highly likely that they will have to teach sports that they have never played before, yet they need to be seen as experts by the students.

The issue is that teachers are already busy enough, with all the other responsibilities expected of them. Expecting them to take on more study and become experts is tough. It is fine for teachers who are already experts in their field like a chemistry teacher who studied chemistry at university. But PE teachers are often asked to teach science or maths and need to ‘catch up’ on the content knowledge they are lacking as well as mark assessment ,write lesson plans ,coach sport teams ,organise sport carnivals. Currently the only way to learn content is to search around themselves and depending on their skill and the topic it could take hours to get a decent grasp of the concept. Chewing up valuable time in a teachers day.

So why is the sky blue?

Find out why and tell me

1 Where you found it and 2 how long it took you.

Teaching, we’ve been doing it all wrong

The concept of teaching particularly how to deliver a lesson has remained the same for many years.  In particular, the characteristic of education where the teacher delivers the lesson, students takes notes and then extend on that material through homework hasn’t changed. If you look into history, everything is forever improving or being updated therefore why not education?  Sir Ken Robinson recently had an interview where he stated that our systems of education have been based on principles of ‘industrial manufacturing’ where typical schools operate through a linear system and where everything is standardised.  However, there is a concept that is seen as an alternative way of teaching which incorporates technology to facilitate learning and change the idea of traditional strategies for teaching.

A flipped classroom is quite the opposite of the conventional way to education.  As the name suggests, the students will learn the key learning goals of the lesson before they arrive to a lesson to which the rest of the lesson is used to expand on those ideas, class discussion and or refine where students are falling behind.  Technology helps facilitate this learning as the initial material is generally received through a short video.  This pedagogical method incorporates technology straight into the lesson and allows students more control of their own leaning.  Allowing the students to have the videos readily available, they have the ability to watch them whenever it is best suited and the ability to pause and rewind key aspects of the lesson they have missed.  As a result this then frees up class time for teachers to give immediate feedback to students and review concepts where students aren’t confident.

flipped

Studies have shown and proven a flipped classroom to be an effective method to improve student learning.  Smith (2014) has shown that 67% of students participating in a flipped classroom environment improved their test scores and 80% of the students reported an improvement in attitudes towards learning.  With these results, surely teachers would be adopting this technique in every school, but why not? How do you think you would have learnt in a flipped classroom environment?

References

Acedo, M. (2013, November 27). 10 Pros and Cons of a Flipped Classroom. Retrieved from Te@chthought: http://www.teachthought.com/trends/10-pros-cons-flipped-classroom/

NCSL. (2014). Q and A | Sir Ken Robinson. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxkaApEbQek

Smith, C. (2014, October 7). Spartan College sees results with curriculum overhaul. Retrieved from Tulsa World: http://www.tulsaworld.com/businesshomepage1/spartan-college-sees-results-with-curriculum-overhaul/article_63bb830b-4c4e-5a19-ac74-aaf722385311.html

 

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