Jul 27

Schools and Creativity – a quick video for your day!

I’ve been overseas recently and heard some fantastic speakers. All of them about edcuation, and all of them focusing on the changes we need to see in the classroom. The way people talk about learning today is changing, it’s no longer about reciting textbook facts and it’s definitely more than searching facts online.

I think that Sir Ken Robinson sums it up, so I wanted to share this with you. His TED Talk has been around a while but if you haven’t seen it – or it’s been a while – have a look.

It’s 20 minutes long and he’s a funny guy with some serious things to say about education and why we need creativity.

This video would be perfect for your commute, for when you’re watching your kids play sport or for an enforced period of quiet time for mummy! Get those headphones on!

I hope you enjoy :0)

 

May 23

Sleeping Teens!

No matter the age of your kids, your sleep is likely disturbed. Either you are awake and feeding/changing/rocking to sleep or your are lying awake listening for the car in the driveway dropping off your teen! It’s a joy of parenthood, right?!

So, this week I’ve found you a video that might help you feel better about your baby/toddler/preteen or teen’s sleeping habits. Wendy Troxel argues that days should just start later! High school should begin at 11am – because teenagers’ sleep patterns are different to ours.

I love these Ted Talks – and hope you do too!

Enjoy the video – and GET SOME REST!

 

 

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May 19

5 ways to be a helper on a class excursion – with tech and without!

Have you been asked to go on a school trip? Or even a school camp?
Despite what your child may imply, attending school events with your child is a great way to learn more about their daily lives!

There are a few things to remember though, so I’ve made you a little list! Not all tech ideas but all important! As a teacher who has taken students on excursions and camps for 20 years, these are my best suggestions for a happy time!

Do arrive on time!
I know, easy to say, but you are a helper for all the kids, not just your own so get to the bus, station, school on time to ease everyone’s mind!

Don’t take a million photos to share on Facebook!
Take all the photos you like of your own child, but be aware that other parents will have their own beliefs about online publishing. If in doubt, blur out the faces of kids who don’t belong to you. A good iPhone app for this is ‘Annotable’.

Do be present!
Yes, the bus is loud and you just want to finish your take-away coffee, but you have been invited to help supervise. This means engaging with the students and teachers – not checking emails or Facebook. Save that for after the children are (hopefully) asleep or you’ve finished the day excursion.

Do ask the teachers how you can help!
Offer to do the head count, get the coffee, check in with the Museum Education Officer, call the bus to come get you…All these little things need to happen while the teachers are also trying to educate and manage the little darlings. I love, love, love excursions – but there’s no doubt they are hard work, be a helper and we will love you forever!

Do ask if the teachers want photos of videos taken for back in the classroom!
We won’t just need photos of the students, but also of museum exhibits, views from windows, photos of the walking paths we took, the places we saw and maybe the information plaques we read. These are invaluable back in the classroom. Videos of experts talking or of the local environment are great educational resources back in the classroom!

Enjoy and have a great day with your child and their classmates – and if you can, be a helper! You’ll get asked back for more fun adventures!!

 

Apr 19

How mindful are you? Teachers using mindful education in schools

Why Teachers Need This (Not Just Another Fad To Take Up Teacher Time) !

 

What’s this mindfulness education we keep reading about? Why is it a part of some classrooms these days?

I was reminded of these questions the other day in talking to some parents after a school session I had run…They are good questions! What is all this talk of ‘meditation’ and ‘mindfulness’?

 

As a primary school teacher, I often use yoga and mindfulness with students from grade prep (5-year-olds) up to High Schoolers. Basic yoga moves are great for younger kids who might struggle to sit still. But all yoga sessions (and they are never more than 5 mins!) were followed by a few minutes of quiet sitting – leading into mindfulness practiceas they got less fidgety!

At The University of Melbourne we have a department called Positive Psychology that, among other areas, focuses on mindfulness for students in schools.

Read more about it here.

 

Mindfulness is a type of meditiation that has no religious or spiritual overtones. It is about reminaing present and reducing stress and perhaps calming that over-active mind!

 

Here are three good reasons to support mindful practice in the classroom:

 

1. Mindfullness is a way to focus on the moment, not what happened last night on tv, or who you might play footy with at recess. It provides a break in the day that can help us – and our students – refocus on learning.

2. It brings the class together as a group. We know that learning is social. We learn better when we can make sense of things through others. When we use mindfulness it lets the class know that we are in this together!

3. It can help manage childhood disputes or disagreements. I remember one year, after nearly every recess, I’d have at least three students who had struggled to play well outside. Often they just reacted quickly without thinking of the consequences. So when their friend refused to sit with them after playtime, they were remorseful and sad – and their friend was hurt. Teachers sometimes use mindfulness to calm situations down and enable frazzled kids to reflect on what has happened. This often meant they could reconcile more easily… and get on with their day.

Mindfulness is not just for kids, of course. Try these apps for your own dose of calm in your crazy day! You can do these short sessions on the train, in the car park, at your kids soccer game…wherever! Have a smart phone and headphones? You are all set!

10%happier
Headspace
1 Giant Mind
Smiling Mind

***This post is not sponsored! I just think these apps are great!***

 

 

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Mar 28

Going paperless? Is it possible at home?

A paperless world might be more environmentally-friendly, but is it possible at home?

I think so, but I also think that sometimes paper is still the best option for some things…

Paper is good for working with groups of people – especially if you want everyone to be able to write or draw at the same time.

If you use paper to make lists or leave notes then it’s hard to ignore them! I could text my kids to empty the bin – but if there’s a note on the kitchen bench, then its harder to say they didn’t see it!

Paper is now used for ‘special occasions’. Wedding invitations, thank you notes, postcards…these are lovely ways to keep in touch and to show you have some effort!

When it comes to school notices, band camp reminders, soccer payment forms though – do they need to be kept in paper?

If your children get lots of notes, try these tips to keep on top of all their commitments!

1. Have dedicated space at home for you and your family to put notes/letters that need ACTION taken – an ‘in-box’
It’s important that these are only those things you need to decide about or complete a form or pay for…Thank you notes or reminders for things you’ve already done can go elsewhere (I’d say in the bin, but up to you!)

2. Once a week (or more often at the beginning of school term!). Open your computer and take each item from the ‘in-box’ and add the date and details to your shared family calendar (you do have one don’t you? See here for more info).

3. Make any online payments you can – schedule them to be paid when they are due if you like.

4. Any other info that you need to keep that can’t be added to your calendar -> take a photo of the paper and add it to Evernote (learn more about Evernote here). There’s a great app called ‘Scannable’ that you open, it takes a photo, turns it into a pdf and then saves it straight to Evernote – worth having a look at :0)

5. Recycle the papers!

6. Rejoice in your paper-free living/hallway/kitchen bench/wherever papers usually accumulate!

So even if those around you aren’t paperless – you can be. It just takes a bit of a routine and practice!

The bonus of this system is that you now have all the details you need with you wherever you are. SO as you leave footy practice and are heading to Guides, you can check if you were supposed to bring painting clothes this week or next – and cry/smile accordingly !

Sep 21

Getting off track is great learning…

questions and getting of track are great learning

I had a great class the other day. I was teaching a group of Masters students and we were talking about how to use social networks in schools. One student pointed out that social networks are relatively new – e.g. Facebook has only been around since 2004! Then we began chatting about how social networks are everywhere and whether they were useful in schools. THEN we moved onto social interactions in the real world…and then, after about 15 minutes on that topic, we came back to our original conversation. It took a while and we really had gone off track. But I never mind that….here’s why…

When we are working with children it’s the same thing. Sometimes we have to work hard to keep our little learners on track!

I never mind when the teaching wanders off topic. We know that learning happens when we (and our kids) can make connections to what we already know! So when during a maths lesson, a student says, “My gran has a new puppy!” (classic 5-year-old comment btw!), we know that something we have said has triggered a memory. Of course we can’t always just drop our train of thought or our sentence, but when we can it’s great to be able to ask ‘what made you think of that?’.

You’ll get some interesting Five-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon-type responses :0). There might be 5 steps in the connection between gran’s puppy and addition problems but there will be a link somewhere!

Learning happens when our kids can interact with each other (and with us) and connect new knowledge to what they already know.

So my Masters students weren’t actually entirely off-track in that conversation. They were connecting their knowledge of their offline world to the new learning about how social interactions work online. Great work team! Keep up the off-track chatter and hopefully the leaning will come!

 

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Jun 14

Why our classrooms shouldn’t look like The Simpsons

So I live and work in Australia. I’ve lived and worked in the UK, France and the USA. And one of the things that annoys me most is the way that school classrooms are shown in the media. TV shows like  The Simpsons – as much as I love it – aren’t helping us make change in schools. It’s not just the Simpsons of course. Pretty much anytime you see a primary school classroom on TV it’s the same. All the kids sat in rows, facing the teacher.
Why our classrooms shouldn't be like the Simpsons
But that’s now how our classrooms should be run these days. This old-fashioned (nearly typed ‘old school’!) portrayal of our classrooms is making it trickier for important changes to happen. Changes like moving away from teacher-focused, ‘stand up the front and listen to me tell you things’ way of teaching. We call this ‘teacher-directed’ learning. The teacher holds all the knowledge and lets the kids know when they are allowed to learn new things. This is the kind of teaching that can be good for some kids. And its definitely good for all kids some of the time…sometimes kids ‘don’t know what they don’t know’ and so we have to help them see where their gaps are.
Student-centred learning though is what we are looking for in our schools today. This looks…well, very different. And different in each classroom and each day. Actually it doesn’t matter what it looks like as long as it’s focused on understanding what each child needs to learn – not just page 38 of the textbook because yesterday we did page 37. This is probably controversial to some people but I have to say I’m not sure i care. I want education in our primary schools to look like dynamic spaces where each child gets to have a say in their learning (not IF they learn but HOW they learn). I want them to be able to revisit things when they don’t get something or have options to learn in different ways through conversations, discussions, videos, modelling, drawing and any other way that helps them learn.
If you think back to your school education, were you interested and excited all the time? Did you love it when the teacher stood up the front and ‘told’ you facts and expected you to copy from the board?
I did and I didn’t learn much at all that way. I always had to go home and re-write my notes, re think the answers and then ask more question (usually of my friends as my teacher wasn’t available for questions!).
In Australia we are seeing more and more schools move to student-centred learning. Perhaps its different in the USA. Maybe that’s why so many TV classrooms still look like the Simpsons. Individual desks (to stop chatting), Lined up facing the front (all the better to watch the teacher and copy from the board). We do get a lot of USA TV in Oz. But this one little thing – representing classrooms as if they haven’t changed since the 1960s really bothers me. How can we get good learning going in our schools if we rely and reinforce these ways of teaching and learning.
That’s my rant for the day…what do you think?
Jun 09

Why our classrooms shouldn’t look like The Simpsons…

So I live and work in Australia. I’ve lived and worked in the UK, France and the USA. And one of the things that annoys me most is the way that school classrooms are shown in the media. And shows like The Simpsons – as much as I love it – aren’t helping us make change in schools. It’s not just the Simpsons of course. Pretty much anytime you see a primary school classroom on TV it’s the same. All the kids sat in rows, facing the teacher.
Why our classrooms shouldn't be like the Simpsons
But that’s not how our classrooms should be run these days. This old-fashioned (nearly typed ‘old school’!) portrayal of our classrooms is making it trickier for important changes to happen. Changes like moving away from teacher-focused, ‘stand up the front and listen to me tell you things’ way of teaching. We call this ‘teacher-directed’ learning. The teacher holds all the knowledge and lets the kids know when they are allowed to learn new things. This is the kind of teaching that can be good for some kids. And its definitely good for all kids some of the time…sometimes kids ‘don’t know what they don’t know’ and so we have to help them see where their gaps are.
Student-centred learning though is what we are looking for in our schools today. This looks…well, very different. And different in each classroom and each day. Actually it doesn’t matter what it looks like as long as it’s focused on understanding what each child needs to learn – not just page 38 of the textbook because yesterday we did page 37. This is probably controversial to some people but I have to say I’m not sure I care. I want education in our primary schools to be dynamic spaces where each child gets to have a say in their learning (not IF they learn but HOW they learn). I want them to be able to revisit things when they don’t get something or have options to learn in different ways through conversations, discussions, videos, modelling, drawing and any other way that helps them learn.
If you think back to your school education, were you interested and excited when teachers taught this way? Do you remember when the teacher stood up the front and ‘told’ you facts and expected you to copy from the board?
I do and I didn’t learn much at all that way. I always had to go home and re-write my notes, re think the answers and then ask more question (usually of my friends as my teacher wasn’t available for questions!).
In Australia we are seeing more and more schools move to student-centred learning. 
Perhaps its different in the USA. Maybe that’s why so many TV classrooms still look like the Simpsons. Individual desks (to stop chatting), lined up facing the front (all the better to watch the teacher and copy from the board). We do get a lot of USA TV in Oz. But this one little thing – representing classrooms as if they haven’t changed since the 1960s – really bothers me. How can we get good learning going in our schools if we rely and reinforce these ways of teaching and learning?
That’s my rant for the day…what do you think?

PS If you liked this post, you’ll enjoy our weekly newsletter.

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‘Super Simple Cyber-Safety at Home’

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