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Dear Bianca: Semester 2 is about to start and…

…and I had promised you I would write back. This is probably going to be about my speed. Unless we pick up pace. Time will tell.

I honestly don’t know anyone who has gone to those research coursework seminars and felt differently. The stuff is always too general, but you’ve hit the nail on the head – it’s hard to do otherwise. With adult learners, that is.  Though I’m surprised you didn’t get credit for already doing similar courses, that’s a shame. The flipside is though, that you also typically learn something interesting or important at those things, even if you don’t know until way down the track how relevant some tidbit will turn out to be.

Like, that activity you described, where images are used as metaphors to get people talking about their feelings…that’s a cool idea. I plan to steal that. Thank you Sandy Shuck.

So, you seem pretty confident about conceptual frameworks, but can I ask you this – it’s the question I asked at the end of your blog post. Do you know the difference between a theoretical and a conceptual framework, and can you explain it? I had not honestly given enough though to the difference between the two. I looked back on my own thesis and found that I sectioned things out like this:

Chapter: Research Design.

Subheadings: ‘research issue and key questions’, ‘research framework’, ‘theoretical orientation’, ‘methodology’ and ‘methods’.

It got me wondering whether I just used non-standard headings for some things. That sounds like me. But also whether my ‘research framework’ was more or less conceptual or theoretical. One thing I do often wonder is how anyone can have a conceptual framework before having reviewed the relevant research literature. Surely it should go: lit review first, THEN select some research questions based on gaps in the field, THEN choose conceptual/theoretical frameworks and methodologies to best answer those questions, and THEN select methods suitable to collect and analyse data.

I wonder if you would like to share a part of your research proposal. I’m curious how you wrote up the bit about researching in your own school, and glad to hear you were satisfied with the direction you had worked on with Jane. Is it a…practitioner inquiry? case study? …?

Um, tips. You have to write. So write me back. It’s not a kind of writing you can rush. It’s good to have an audience in mind, so write me back.

In the spirit of that, I am also going to tell you in this letter about a thought I’ve had recently, and that I’m presently investigating for a research paper later this year. I’ve been thinking about the specifics of PBL and what the advantages of project-based vs other inquiry approaches (problem-based, challenge-based etc.) might be, in relation to democratic education. I still have no interest in trying to argue that project-based learning is ‘better than’  any other particular type of learning inquiry, but I do suspect it may be more democratic. This is based on the way PBL encourages and provides students with tools to frame their learning in the context of socially and textually authentic, personally relevant driving questions. At a gold standard it also incorporates opportunities for students to exercise choice and voice, and work toward presentation of a public product. Positioning students as knowledge creators, not just knowledge consumers, is vital here.

Here’s where you might take up the Dewey reading sooner rather than later, because that’s what I’m revising and I could use a buddy. What do you think PBL has to do with democratic education, or freedom? A question for another day maybe! I’d also like to attempt reading some of Garth Boomer’s work about English curriculum specifically, but because about to start semester 2, reading time is limited.

Your friend,

K.

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Tips and info for teachers new to Twitter

Came across this video today that I made with colleague Jill Willis, back in 2015. I’d still give all of this advice…though I might add a caution about not engaging in Twitter arguments, as there are too many of those going around these days.

If you are a teacher who is about to try some tweeting, here are some tips:

…and here is an older blog post that also features some practical ideas for new users.

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How many hours in a work week?

I have been wondering what advice I should give to my pre-service teachers (PSTs) next semester before their first prac., about how many hours a week a new teacher actually works, generally speaking.

Here is my working so far:

  • Each school day (Mon-Fri) you work your teaching timetable from about 8am-3pm. Or 8.30am-3.30pm. Whatever. A roughly 8 hour day, including roll call, teaching, prep periods, playground duty, and yes a recess and lunch break when we are probably meeting with students or colleagues or…ugh, so many things eat up the lunch breaks, don’t even try to suggest that teachers enjoy many lunch breaks.
  • Let’s say you do leave straight after school, maybe you pick up your own kids and/or grab some groceries, make some dinner, eat and wait until the house is settled. Or maybe you crash into an epic nap to recover from the work day. You can probably start working again if you need to around 8pm.
  • Experienced teachers perhaps don’t do as much work at this time of night as others (unless they are also in a leadership role or have taken up extra duties/further studies – thoughts?) but beginning teachers will generally do another 2-4 hours every night to keep on top of the workload. For new English teachers this work includes reading new texts they are planning to teach, marking assessment tasks and draft work, finding and preparing resources for upcoming lessons such as AV materials and student support strategies. Let’s say an average extra 3 hours per night. But perhaps this is conservative – I know I did more, and rarely saw bedtime before 1am.
  • When teachers are new it takes them a long time to mark each piece of student work. This results in long weekend marking sessions. I’d estimate I did around an extra 4 hours each weekend day in my first couple of years of teaching. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Rarely none. Teaching has peak periods and slower patches, but truthfully there’s always something big on – half yearly or yearly exams, half yearly or yearly reports, year 11 and 12 assessment task marking sometimes double marked, year 10 and 12 formal, camp, debating finals, school musical…

That’s a 59 hour work week for new/graduate teachers.

I’d love to hear in comments below if you think I’m on or off the mark on this. 

teacher

NB. The holiday clause:

Yes teachers get about 10 weeks of non-teaching time a year. Only a few weeks over summer break of this are truly ‘on holiday’.

In the three 2-week school ‘holiday’ breaks, new teachers invariably are sick for the first of the two weeks. Ask anyone, it’s true. Also true for many experienced teachers, but new teachers are still literally building up their immune system to cope with the range of nasty illnesses around a school, so are highly susceptible. The the second week is spent doing increasing amounts each day, until a final panicked frenzy of non-stop work in the weekend before school goes back.

Am I right?

So also don’t give teachers any grief about having ‘more holidays’ because although yes having respite from face-to-face teaching for a couple of weeks is essential and so so so welcome, it is rarely a relaxing or nourishing time. You may not rack up 59 hours of work in these weeks, but you probably would rather do that than be in holiday sick bay.

You really have to have some experience under your belt and work hard and be super organised to use your holiday time wisely.

I just think it would be best if PSTs prepared themselves for this. And realised that their prac placements are likely going to be just as intense. You know?

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New Milestones – Twitter, Blog, Work

wordpress screenshot

Blog

It was very satisfying this week to get a notification from WordPress reminding me of my blogiversary.

Six years of blogging!

The time sure has flown. And although I still have much to learn about online writing, I can say with confidence that nothing beats the professional development and reflection that public writing has afforded me.

 

Twitter

As if one milestone wasn’t enough, this was also the week that I clicked over the 10,000 tweet mark (!)

Sadly I missed the exact moment and didn’t get a screenshot, but here’s how it’s looking today:

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 5.15.41 PM

 

2008 – what was happening?

A quick look at my profile stats shows that I joined Twitter in May 2008, and created my blog not long after in June 2008.

Around this time I was:

  • 27 years old
  • living in Southwest Sydney
  • halfway into my second year of full time teaching
  • part time enrolled in my PhD
  • newly married
  • on the ‘Web & Technology’ and ‘Curriculum and Assessment’ Committees of the NSW ETA

Whew! When that’s all written down in a list we can see it was big year! And that’s just the ‘big stuff’.

The ETA bit is important, because it’s through ETA work that I met one of my most influential and constant mentors, Darcy Moore – it was his persistent encouragement that persuaded me to start tweeting and blogging. His advice at the time, which has always stuck with me, was that I shouldn’t be afraid to put my views in the public domain, as long as they are views I am prepared to defend and stand by. In fact, the test of whether you are prepared to say something in public can be an excellent method for testing your convictions.

I’ve used the metaphor before, but real True Blood fans can stand to hear it twice: Darcy you’re the best ‘maker’ ever!

My other big digi-hat tips go to Bianca Hewes for being such an incredible force of energy and inspiration, and to Mary-Helen Ward who got me writing my first ever blog posts back at university on the internal network. You gals have left footprints all over my professional (and personal) life and I’m so grateful for it.

Milestones IRL – Work

The end of this semester also marks a non-virtual, real life work milestone: four years in one job.

Four. Years. In. One. Job.

It’s not for lack of stamina that I haven’t stayed anywhere else for longer than three years. I worked part time for awhile when I started my PhD. Then I taught for three years in one place before moving interstate and reseting the meter. So it’s not like I’m some kind of education sector Runaway Bride! Although I am also no Baby Boomer, and I confess the idea of staying in one job for a lifetime is simply unfathomable to me. I won’t bother linking to any of the plethora of ridiculous articles about how Gen Y make bad employees – as a Gen X/Gen Y ‘cusper’ I never see myself in those stories (I’m too young to relate to Winona Ryder in Reality Bites, and too old to pull off skinny jeans). But suffice to say that after four years in one job, I’m feeling a sense of stability that I’ve never known before. It’s nice. I’m finally standing still for long enough to start sharpening the saw.

What Next?

Well, it turns out that this is my 299th blog post, so post number 300 is just around the corner 🙂

Other than that, I’m going to keep on keeping on with my online writing and continue to integrate digital communication/curation into my teaching practice. I’m working on a few scholarly journal articles for publication early next year, so my post-PhD academic writing funk looks like it may have finally run it’s course.

I’m trying to take a more active role in promoting our local English Teacher chat on Twitter (#ozengchat).

I’m slowly collecting my poetry teaching materials on the web for other teachers to access with ease.

Aside from that, time will tell.

But for now let me just say: thanks for reading, and happy blogging everyone!

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TeachMeet Debrief – September #TMBrisbane

Tea break at #TMBrisbane (photo by author)

Tea break at #TMBrisbane (photo by author)

#TMBrisbane 2013 (September)

I recently publicised a TeachMeet that my students and I were hosting at QUT as part of a unit on English Curriculum Studies. This particular TeachMeet had the theme ‘What works in education?’ and was designed to facilitate the kind of professional sharing that I want to model for my students – open, generous and friendly with a focus on developing relationships and building communities of practice.

The picture above shows a few of our participants in further conversation during the tea break. This was an after-school session, run from 4.45-6.30pm, and it was great to see presentations from a wide range of contexts. Speakers on the day were:

  • Alison Welch – The benefits of collaboration
  • Mark Yeates – Use of LMSs from a Year Level Coordinator’s Perspective
  • Greg Howes – Designing infographics to promote creativity
  • Garry Collins – One little thing that works in teaching grammar
  • Nathan Beveridge – Bananas about STEMx: Applications of Fruit and High Technology in C21st Learning
  • Lisa Furuya – Gamifying your practice
  • Kelli McGraw – The ongoing relevance of the Productive Pedagogies
  • Anita Garnsworthy – Inside learning goals: Gathering student insight and feedback
  • Josephine Wise – Leading and Teaching: 10 Top Tips for moving from Highly Accomplished to Lead Teacher
  • Bruce Lee – Introducing the Scootle Community (www.scootle.edu.au)

The big messages and important links from the TeachMeet have been captured using Storify at this link:

The power of TeachMeet…

Reflecting on the event, I think the best part of a TeachMeet is the opportunity for face-to-face connection with other educators in a non-threatening environment. Although we also had a strong backchannel occurring in both Twitter and Scootle, it was the chance to ‘put a face to a name’ that I valued most.

It was also awesome to see experienced educators modelling courageous sharing for my preservice teachers – everyone authentically attempted the ‘pecha kucha’ or ‘micropresentation’ styles, which are challenging to master!

TeachMeets are PD events run in the ‘unconference tradition’ – they are free to attend and the presentations are short (2 or 7 minutes only). Our TeachMeet had a mixture of classroom teachers and school leaders, as well as a university teacher, a student/pre-service teacher, teachers undertaking research degrees and policy workers. I was so proud of my students for having the confidence to host the event and get involved in professional conversations…they also put on a pretty mean afternoon tea spread 😉

The next Brisbane TeachMeet will be held soon, on Thursday 24th October, at Marist Ashgrove. If you are an educator in SouthEast Queensland I encourage you to attend – you can sign up via the wiki.

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We’re hosting a TeachMeet!

It’s been over a year since I went to my first TeachMeet, up here in Brisbane. I presented a pecha kucha on ‘fair’ assessment and Project Based Learning and had a great time meeting a bunch of other educators from a wide range of contexts.

Now the time has come for me to donate space at my institution to the cause. Each semester I endeavour to arrange an activity that puts my preservice students in touch with teachers and practitioners in ‘the real world’, and this semester the TeachMeet will be that event! When I asked my students a few weeks ago if they were keen to act as hosts for this event they were really into it the idea and the planning (mostly of potential snacks) began straight away.

Our theme is ‘What Works in Education?’, which doesn’t really narrow the focus too much but is intended to get people interested in sharing good ideas.

If you follow this blog and live in Brisbane we’d love to see you at our TeachMeet!

Details for (FREE!) registration can be found here: http://tmbrisbane.wikispaces.com/

If you exist in the Twitterverse you can also follow along and add ideas during the event using the hashtag #tmbrisbane

*** Teachers, lecturers, preservice teachers and educators at large all welcome ***

TeachMeet - BNE_Sept2013

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Using Pinterest as an ‘inspiration board’

I have been using Pinterest a fair bit this year to collect links and images of interest to me an my students. It’s a nifty platform for curating – it’s highly visual and has an app for both apple and android that I find myself using often when surfing my mobile devices in front of the telly.

When introducing Pinterest to newcomers, I am often asked the question: “how does this website full of pictures of cupcakes have anything to do with learning?”. It’s a good question! Pinterest at first glance presents as a space filled with links to homewares, fashion, craft and cooking. I know some people claim that Pinterest is therefore “for girls”, but plenty of people refute this.

One way that I have seen Pinterest used very powerfully in education is for the creation of ‘inspiration boards’.

Tania Sheko has provided an excellent account of examples from her school in a recent blog post. I’ve included her screenshot here to give you an idea of what is covered:

Pinterest screenshot by Tania Sheko

Pinterest screenshot by Tania Sheko

Working as a librarian in her school Tania was able to really boost the teaching/learning resources available in a visual arts unit by creating a range of boards with images to INSPIRE students in their project making.

What a great idea!

If I was teaching English right now, I could definitely apply this strategy. I would probably start by making inspirations boards for:

  • Shakespeare
  • journalism
  • poetry
  • different genres (a gothic board! a crime fiction board!)
  • characters for story writing
  • locations for story writing

So there you have it – INSPIRATION BOARDS. An excellent way to utilise the (wonderfully visual and digital) Pinterest in your teaching.

Thanks to Tania for sharing her ideas!

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