Now that you started TP … #MSL4206

Most of the students following MSL4206 have now started their 6-week teaching stint in schools. It would be nice if we could somehow share experiences or comments about the experience. It would indeed contribute to a growth in experience and in learning about teaching. In the meantime, I would like to refer to some past posts which were quite popular with other students and which they also found useful for their teaching.

The first one is a post where you can find links in how to turn words into some more fun visuals. I am referring to the use of infographics and word clouds for teaching. This post tells you more about it.

Other students, especially from Science and Maths seemed to find the idea of using brainstorming, and concept mapping tools like Spicynodes extremely interesting. I would suggest that even language or humanities students give it a good look. Brainstorming in the class may be an extremely productive and interesting activity.

Another post which had a good follow up with comments from students, who were following the same program of studies, is the one which gives a link to a directory of learning resources. This is a website which gives a list of all the most popular online tools and resources that are used by other educators in the classroom. It could be that this might spark some ideas about additional tools that you may wish to use in your classroom, especially if you have the use of an Interactive Whiteboard and computer.

Finally, I would also like to suggest that you visit Diigo – an online social bookmarking tools. Throughout the years I have collected a whole list of Tools and Resources which I believe teachers and educators can use during their teaching. Sharing is important. Use your blogs and Twitter to share important information/tools/resources that you might come across and which you think can be of help to other teachers.

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Musings of a mum and a … teacher

Cowboy Breakers SketchI have a 4 and half year old son. The recent developments in his schooling  are making me think and re-think constantly about our education. When I was younger I had a passion for horses, and I used to go to an equestrian centre here in Malta for a couple of months. I used to do nothing much than take basic care of one horse there, and then be able to ride for a bit. However I did notice one practice in training which they used to do with the younger foals. It is called ‘breaking the horse‘. This is a lengthy process at the end of which the trainer would be able to ride the horse.

Now, I find it extremely like what is happening to my young son in his first year of formal schooling. Last year, he still attended a play school, which was completely different. I think that if I could summarise play school I would say, my son used to have extreme carefree fun. They used to go for short walks, have picnics, have some public speaking activities among themselves. They had the craft and the art and all the activities of course. They cooked, they painted and they made all sorts of stuff from recycled material (learning about recycling in the process). They of course were encouraged to sit down properly whilst eating, and during morning circle time but essentially that was all the sitting they had to do – and after all the activities I am sure even my energetic son would have wanted to sit down. However this year, the practice seems to be completely different. It feels like the school are ‘breaking’ the children so that they can be trained in the practice of class-based schooling where they have to sit down invariably for a period of time, with no chatting or talking, and listening to what the teacher has to say. Doing what the teacher says and doing it well, is, I would assume what many teachers would wish for. So the children are being ‘prepared’. Unfortunately it seems that my son, is not really accepting this ‘preparation’ without a fight, because he seems to be causing some kinds of stirs at school.

I think he still hasn’t adapted to the system. My mum part wants him to express himself and find knowledge and learning in freedom. But the teacher in me, can recognise that if any student does not conform to the present education system, then that student will be lost. It’s a survival of the fittest if you want to succeed in life (and don’t have family friends or resources which would give you a push in the right direction). And if you fail in education because you don’t adapt and let yourself be ‘broken’ then you stand little chance for achieving your dreams – unless you stumble across a spot of luck. As a mother, I don’t feel I should count on my son’s luck – so I feel torn between urging my son to follow all the rules of schools and the classrooms, and punishing him when he doesn’t follow them and the distinct feeling that I dislike that education is simply reproducing children who have to sit down and be told what to do and how to behave. I already feel the helplessness of a someone whose son may not be exactly academically oriented, and yet has to feel and share his pain of having to adhere to what someone thinks is in his best interest for learning – such as tracing alphabet letters, numbers and colouring in. I have hope that somehow the path to learning will be relatively easy going but maybe I might have to prepare myself that I might encounter a number of ‘hurricanes’ on the way…

Driven to Distraction? How does technology feature? #msl4206

Tamara  has recently linked a tweet to an article which really made me think. I would like to put my thoughts forth and hopefully provoke or spark some discussion about this. In general we have the tendency to avoid or ban objects that might be threatening to our safety, lifestyle, etc. This is natural as of course we want to preserve our well being and those of the ones we love or care about. This, again very naturally, extends to the school environment, as we want to offer our children the safest possible environment. However the question I ask is this – what boundaries do we place on the objects we leave out of our schools? Facebook, mobile phones and smart devices, are as yet banned from school. In some schools and classes, discussions about the online environment are limited to just that – discussions with no tangible or practical experience for the learners. We have this situation where in some classes, the teachers who most often describe the perils and the threats (and of course the boring benefits) of the online world, may not really have that much experience of the online world. The result in my opinion, is providing to be in the alienation of the young learners to the actual workings of the online social media. The article which Tamara has linked, and which you can yourselves read here, argues how in this day and age, we just cannot keep ignoring the online encounters which our young learners will have when they are out of the school. I think it’s really our duty to help the young learners by showing them the right practices. And this is not done in 45-minute theoretical discussion. This is done, by an ongoing best practice that is done throughout the school, across all areas and subjects. I know there are technical and logistic difficulties to these, but I believe the problem  will not be overcome otherwise. More interestingly the article links to another article which describes the results of an experiment done with students of different ages, (and which include university students) about how technology is driving to distraction [this is where I got the inspiration for the title of this blog post]. Professor Larry Rosen describes how we as educators, cannot really prevent these distractions by simply banning them from our classrooms. There are many recorded instances where academics ban the use of laptops or smart phones in their lecture rooms, thinking that like that they would decrease the technology distractions. Professor Rosen’s results show that whilst the use of multiple devices can lead to distractions and even lower grade achievements, banning them from the classroom doesn’t solve the problem. Students still think about Facebook and their mobile phones even when these are switched off! Instead Professor Rosen, suggests the use of tech breaks during sessions. During tech breaks, students are able to text, or post on to their social media platform. The scope of these ‘tech’ breaks is that of giving the students the possibility to focus more on the lecture content and material in-between the breaks. I think it’s a really good idea to give people a small tech break in which to keep up with their virtual self before moving on to continue with their tasks. In the end, it’s all a matter of giving people the right skills to prioritise and manage their time. It’s essential across every discipline and across every line of work.