A new experience for a new year…

I have finally done it! I have joined my first ever MOOC and so far the experience has been amazing. The only thing that will get in the way is ‘time management’ but I have a plan.

I started off well with this intro that I posted on the ETMOOC Community:

“Hi everyone!
I’m Tina from Adelaide in South Australia and I am really excited to be participating in my first MOOC. I am currently at Cowandilla primary school and will be teaching a Year 3/4 class when our new school year starts on January 29.In addition to classroom teaching I also have a specialist background in teaching Greek, ICT, ESL, Music, Drama and Dance, from Reception to Year 7 (K – 6).
I love social media and the beauty of connecting, online and face-to-face, with amazing people from all over the world.
I am looking forward to sharing and learning with you all.”

Since then I have participated in the Orientation online session using Blackboard Collaborate, which started to make my ETMOOC experience feel ‘real’. Seeing and hearing Alec Couros made the session more personal plus chatting with others on the side, participants and moderators, helped me to connect even further. Add to this the updates that I am receiving from other participants in the ETMOOC Community on Google+, I now feel like I am on my way with my ETMOOC learning adventure.

I just took part in my second ETMOOC online session “Connected Learning – Tools, Processes & Pedagogy” and even though it started at 4:30am my time, I am so motivated at the moment that I started this blog post. I am glad that I got up early for this session because it brought me back from the land of procrastination. I think this came to be because I was feeling a little overwhelmed with so much happening, both in my physical world and my online world. It was timely for me when I came across Sue Waters’ blog post ‘Work smarter and stay connected in a learning community’ I took her advice to help keep things manageable and I now feel less overwhelmed. I still have a way to go before I have it all organised to suit my needs but I am determined to work smarter in 2013.

Next on my list is my introductory video/presentation and that I will leave until later when I will be more refreshed.

Here’s to a great ETMOOC experience for all of us participating and if you aren’t participating, give it some thought because it is a great way to learn online.

A simple thank you…

Today was the last day of our school year and I was busy cleaning up my room. I went outside for some fresh air and one of my ex-student came to visit. We talked outside for a while.

He was in my Greek class last year and would chat about his love of Greek Mythology and Turkish Delight (the sweet). He had also experienced some extremely hard times in his life and he was pretty philosophical about all that had happened.He acknowledged that he had an anger management issue based on his past which he never wanted to talk about as he didn’t trust many adults, but he trusted me. His love of family was heartfelt. He also promised that he would visit as he felt at home at our school.

I hoped that he was okay at high school and that he would find a mentor to help him through the hard times. He thanked me for being there for him during the year and I thanked him for listening and for taking my advice onboard. He was one of those kids that just needed someone to listen to him and to know that they cared.

Today he had just completed his first year at high school and I asked him how he fared. He answered that it was ok but he was a little fish in the big sea. He was happy that he could talk to the school counsellor. He also made some interesting observations about school. His take was that if schools were there to help kids then why didn’t they allow creativity. I asked what he meant and he said, “We are the future but schools are in the past, they don’t hear us that we need to create, to be ourselves. Why do we all have to be excellent only at Maths and English? I can do those subjects but there is more to me than that. I love drama and watching media and acting. I did really well and never got upset in that class. I could express myself. You let us create in your Greek lessons and we were able to be ourselves. That was important to me. You also listened and we could trust you.”

He was affirming that relationships are important to learning and I am so glad that I believe strongly in relationship building with my students. He was sincere about relationships being very important to him and to his successful learning. He thanked me for listening to him yet again and for believing in him. I told him that I would always be there for him and that I was proud of him for his mature outlook on life. He was quite emotional when he said that it meant a lot to him. We said our goodbyes and he promised to keep in touch.

As I started working on clearing my room again, I thought about this fine young man and how he was embracing his life experiences. He could have taken a very different road but I am so glad that he didn’t. I felt honoured to have played a small role in his school life and his simple thank you from the heart was the gift that helped to end my year on a positive note. As I said on Twitter – J, you matter!

My Edublogs nominations for 2012

This is the first year that I am nominating my favourites for the #eddies12 and it is quite a buzz! There were so many amazing educators and blogs to choose from and I wish everyone the best of luck.

  • Best administrator blog – The Principal of Change by George Couros
    I am constantly amazed at what George comes up with on his blog as it is always relevant and timely. George is inspirational and has played a big role in educators from Australia, especially Adelaide, connecting online. As our opening keynote at the CEGSA 2012 state conference in Adelaide, George connected with the audience and created a flurry of online activity which has continued to grow.  George is very open and honest in what he writes and he is a wonderful support for anyone who seeks him out online.
  • Best individual blog – Free Technology for Teachers
    One of the first blogs that I started to follow for technology resources. Following Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) I found lots of little gems of information and resources.
  • Best teacher blog – Bianca Hewes (@BiancaH80)
    Bianca is an inspiring teacher of English from New South Wales. I heard Bianca speak at the biggest TeachMeet in Sydney earlier this year and she was inspirational. We met up again at ISTE2012 in San Diego and it was great to connect again as Bianca is so friendly and approachable. Her blog is informative and I especially enjoy the Project Based Learning  section which is comprehensive and reflective.
  • Best class blog – Ms Cassidy’s Classroom Blog An excellent class blog from 6 and 7 year olds in Kathy Cassidy’s class. It’s fantastic to see what young learners are capable of doing and it is a privilege to be invited into their learning environment.
  • Best individual tweeter – George Couros (@gcouros)
    I am nominating George for this award as he reaches a major audience through his tweets which are always informative and relevant. He shares so many great links and articles to read that it is hard to keep up. I have added depth to my professional learning through George’s online sharing and I really appreciate his dedication. Judging by his many followers, especially the Aussies and their retweeting and tweets to George, I know that he has made a major impact on their online professional learning.
  • Best twitter hashtag – #ozteachers Lots of great learning and sharing between teachers in Australia and worldwide. I have found lots of wonderful resources and have made great connections through this hashtag.
  • Best free web tool – Storify
    A great free app that lets you create stories from social networks. I have enjoyed using Storify  to build stories by capturing tweets and adding narrative and other media. Extremely user friendly and allows for creativity.
  • Best educational wiki Educational Origami
    This wiki is full of a variety of resources and worth checking out. I have shared quite a few of the resources in my teaching and with my colleagues.
  • Best open PD / unconference / webinar series K12online
    An excellent online conference open to all educators interested in emerging technologies and classroom practice.
  • Best educational use of a social network Twitter
    An amazing online networking service that has so much to offer and has helped me to grow professionally online.
  • Best free web tool Google Drive
    Has made life easier for online access of files, documents, videos…from anywhere at anytime!
  • Lifetime achievement Sue Waters
     An amazing educator who has given so much to us all, Sue deserves to win this award. I was fortunate to meet Sue twice this year, at ISTE2012 in San Diego and at ACEC2012 in Perth. Sue is so giving of her time and expertise, at any given time of the day as she works in both hemispheres. Her blog The Edublogger is a wealth of information, links, resources, tips, tricks anything to do with blogs and online learning. Thanks Sue for your tireless work both online and f2f.

How did you work today?

During our English lesson on Wednesday,14 November, the kids were working on their literacy activities. I had been thinking about what George Couros had said about ourselves as learners and about reflecting. Our days are so jam packed with everything we need to cover that we can lose sight of connecting with the kids on a personal level. We need to make time to actually stop and ask ‘How did you do today?’ and then stop to listen.

I was observing the class and wondering how they were doing. On the outside it looked and sounded like they were all on task and working independently but with 27 in the class I wasn’t sure. I normally move through the room helping and touching base with the kids but as I had two colleagues supporting me in the class I decided to try something a little different.

I asked all the kids to stop using a lead pencil and to pick up a colored pencil. The looks on some of their faces were priceless! Most did as I asked, some hesitated but waited for what was to come next. I then asked them to write about how they were doing with their work and why. Again a  look of bemusement from some but a brave bunch started to write, in colour on their ‘good’ work’

I kept encouraging them that it was ok and that we were finding out more about ourselves as learners today. They got into it and one brave soul who was out of his comfort zone said ‘You’re freaking me out Tina!’ I asked him why and he replied that he doesn’t use colored pencil in his ‘good’ writing. That started the ball rolling because quite a few agreed with him and started discussing it. They agreed that in class they do use colored pencils but not for ‘good writing’. This was interesting as I hadn’t realised this before now.

My colleagues and I helped the kids with any questions and the students were then ready to share. Some of the comments were amazing and very honest. The number of kids that were really hard on themselves with comments like – I didn’t work so well because I was talking – worried me a little as I teach in a busy environment which isn’t always quiet and there are lots of opportunities to collaborate and work with others.

Another comment was ‘I worked well because I knew what I was doing.’ This came from a student who started the year needing constant reassurance from me that he was doing the right thing. He now gets on with his work trusting himself that he is doing it ok.
There were many and varied comments as some students were more comfortable with the activity than others.

We will discuss the whole experience on Monday when I am back in class and I am looking forward to hearing what the kids have to say. I will see which students are happy to have their responses filmed so that we can go back in a few weeks after doing this activity again and compare responses.

The conference that was…

This post appeared on the CEGSA site after the CEGSA2012 state conference in July.

The CEGSA2012 conference is over for another year but the difference this year is that it is not over as the buzz from the conference is still happening well after the event!

Let me start by saying how wonderful it was to see people face to face having a wonderful time connecting with like minded peers who challenge one another’s ideas. The community feel of the conference was palpable and our community is thriving like never before. There was an excitement in the air which was started by our amazing keynote George Couros, from Canada, who challenged people to share online and to connect! He engaged the audience as only George could,  through his questions, personal stories and animated examples of social media. People got into the spirit by joining Twitter, starting blogs and extending well-established networks.The buzz continues online and myself and others are compelled to be part of it.

For two full days, conference delegates were immersed in amazing presentations and workshops across a broad range of topics that appealed to our varied member’s needs. Our keynotes presented back to back workshops and sessions which gave many of our delegates a chance to really connect with them.

After their keynote presentations, our speakers mingled freely with delegates and and were extremely approachable. They were always happy to chat and attended sessions along with everyone else.  Tony Bryant shared the amazing transformation of his school, Silverton Primary School in Victoria. Professor Glenn Finger presented about TPACK and the responses to critical challenges for schools. Margot Foster and Ruth Motley explored the relationship between 21C pedagogy through the SA Teaching for Effective Learning Framework (TfEL); the Australian Curriculum; and digital technologies. George Couros presented more workshops over both days of the conference on getting started with Twitter, blogs as learning portfolios and digital footprints.

As the convener  I felt so privileged that our CEGSA2012 conference attracted local, interstate and international keynote presenters who are leading the way in their areas. We thank them for their willingness to be totally part of our conference and for being so approachable and gracious. The conference wouldn’t have been so successful if it wasn’t for our exceptional members – without your support we wouldn’t have a conference. Behind every great conference is a hard working organising committee and a wonderful band of volunteers – thank you to all of you.

This year’s conference was one of our biggest in a long time and we are planning to keep the momentum going with our online connections through social media. See you all in 2013!