Sunday, 24 September 2017

Professional Development Through Twitter

Here I sit on another wet weekend afternoon - I say 'another' because, in the first fifteen days of September, it has rained on 13 days - officially over it.  As I sit here, my thinking has turned to Twitter, and what a powerful place it is for my professional development. I love the learning I am presented, and the change it makes to me and my teaching practice. 

So What:
Through Twitter, I gain both practical and theoretical ideas for my work. Here are some ideas from today's foray through the people I follow:

7 Habits of Innovative Thinkers - I enjoyed this because it is written for all workplaces, not just schools - a reminder to not be so insular. It reminded me of the importance of emotional intelligence, and that this is an area I can develop in personally as well as supporting my students to develop in.

  Phil Macoun is attending a conference in Sydney, where he is learning about Mentor/Mentee relationships. Here are his notes so far:

This has caused me to reflect on my past Mentor/Mentee relationships, particularly where I have been a mentor teacher for beginning teachers. It is interesting that the person who credits me the most influential factor in them 'surviving' as a teacher, is the person I actually think I did the poorest job for. This is because I think I did too much for him, and as a result, he went on to rely on other people and their resources, being quite lazy himself. Looking at the above table, I think that our partnership was too unbalanced with me doing the bulk of the work, and he taking my offerings. I also think I helped him survive, rather than focusing as much on future development as I should have. Today's learning will make me a more effective mentor in the future. 

Practical Ideas
Shared photographs of sketch-noting he'd done with his students. These blew me away and made me think of a group of students that I'd like to do this with. Here were some of his photographs (

#PYPexhibition - this week we are starting our PYP Exhibition for the year. I am excited to be working leading it for my team, working with a teacher who is new to Exhibition. Our theme is "How We Express Ourselves".  I turned to Twitter to gain inspiration with new ideas. I enjoyed looking at new photos which inspired me for this years' effort. This photo gave me new ideas of how our team can express themselves as a whole:

What now:
I get guilty of getting too busy to explore Twitter, yet whenever I do, I come away feeling inspired with new ideas for my class and new ideas to challenge my thinking. I will make regular to time to learn from my colleagues across the world.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Andrea Muller: Conceptual Inquiry Through Engaging Student Curiosity

Friday, July 21 at  BNMS

Resources Booklet

I care not what subject be taught, if only it be taught well - TH Huxley

In conceptual thinking it is important to know the kids:
It's good to know the content
It's great to know the pedagogy
It's imperative to know the kids

7 Essential Principles of Innovative Learning
  1. Learners have to be at the center of what happens in the classroom.
  2. Learning is a social practice and can’t happen alone.
  3. Emotions are an integral part of learning.
  4. Learners are different.
  5. Students need to be stretched, but not too much.
  6. Assessment should be for learning, not of learning.
  7. Learning needs to be connected across disciplines and reach out in the real world. 

Moving around the room looking at ideas:
  • Pictures - what concept relates to each pic
  • Quotes - to discuss
  • A series of statements - true or false
  • NESW - a key word starting with each letter (eg. What do you find WORRISOME about inquiry, what STANCE....)

Information World

We live in an age of information-overload and rapidly changing technologies.

Students in the 21st Century need to acquire skills for deciphering what information is useful and what is not.

Classrooms need to be learner focused: 

The Role of Knowledge Building (KB)
Knowledge Building pedagogy refers to teaching and learning approaches that: • are based on fundamental guiding principles rather than on procedures alone

  • focus on improving the ideas of the entire classroom community instead of solely on the individual learner
  • emphasize collaborative learning experiences within a classroom environment, where students openly and publicly negotiate their ideas with each other
  • strive to help students “regard themselves and their work as part of the civilization- wide effort to advance knowledge frontiers” 

(Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2009, n.p.)

deGrasse Tyson thinks we get in the way of learning, people don't have the space to discover and learn.

What are students doing in an inquiry classroom? 
(p. 12 in the resource Booklet)

What is the Teacher's Role in an Inquiry Classroom?

We need to record evidence of students' questioning and thinking.


5-3-1 Thinking Routine
Individually, identify 5 key ideas
In pairs, share your list and come up with your top 3.
At your table, or with another pair of students, identify 1 MVP (most valuable point) from the article.

My 5:
  • The more curious we are about a topic we are, the easier it is to remember info
  • Curiosity has to be stimulated
  • Stimulating curiosity is important for all ages
  • External rewards, however, may be useful if the subject matter to be learned is less interesting, and doesn’t have any inherent motivation. 
  • [For] children who may be struggling to learn and become frustrated. Stimulating curiosity before learning in an educational setting can enhance incidental learning and also increase the motivation to learn.”

Our MVP:
[For] children who may be struggling to learn and become frustrated. Stimulating curiosity before learning in an educational setting can enhance incidental learning and also increase the motivation to learn.”

We have an issue with students who are now terrified of taking risks without an adult supporting them - it comes from children not being allowed to step on the grass, climb trees, swing without being surrounded by adults.

So What?

What are Concepts?
Applicable in different concepts

Conceptual learning creates a cognitive framework that allows students to organise, retrieve and connect new learning and existing knowledge.

Students need to connect to a topic before gathering prior knowledge. This means that the provications are really important and then bringing out our prior knowledge. Therefore gathering prior knowledge isn't the starting point, the provocations are. Gathering prior knowledge comes at the start of learning inquiry.

Planning a Conceptual Unit (add in working from the top slide from slideshow)
Work from the bottom up with this process. The top step (Conceptual Understanding) is creating a Central Idea.

So What?
I have been left feeling inadequate and grumpy - I totally get the benefit of inquiry teaching and I know that it is the key part of our school, but I also feel like the school doesn't 'set the scene' for this to happen.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Week 32: Reflecting on my Mind Lab Journey

To reflect has two distinct meanings, firstly it means to look back on the past, but it also means to mirror or give back an image.

To look back on and then mirror my learning for others, I first need to remember my initial motivation for beginning my Mind Lab experience. I wanted to learn lots of new ideas and ways to use technology in my classroom. I was also nervous about the academic nature, not having written any form of essay for 20+ years. Despite that worry, knowing how much I love new learning and good old debate, I was very excited as I anticipated the academic side.

So What?
As I look back, has my digital technology usage in class stepped up? No! Ironically, I've been so busy balancing my school paperwork with my assignments, that I haven't made time to add a new digital dimension to my class. The academic side has been great. I've loved working on the assignments and essay writing (video making, not so much). Even the literature review wasn't so bad (said in hindsight, maybe not at the time).  

So, how did my growth stack up in terms of the Practicing Teacher Criteria? I feel that I now have a much stronger understanding of all of the criteria and the types of things that fit into each one. I feel that I have made significant progress in two in particular:

Criteria 4: Demonstrate commitment to ongoing professional learning and development of professional personal practice. 

Doing this course is obviously ongoing professional learning, but I have and will take it further through my newfound confidence in planning and running teacher inquiries into both my students' and my own personal needs (with a greater understanding of the Spiral of Inquiry). I will turn to the literature in the future rather than blindly following the latest ideas/trends. 

Criteria 12: Use critical inquiry and problem-solving effectively in their professional practice.
As I mentioned, I am now more familiar with and confident in my ability to use the Spiral of Inquiry, both to solve any issues I am having with students and with my own practice. I like the model because it not only addresses the data and ensures that I use the data, but also that it ensures that I am researching to see what other people have found out about the topic. It also puts the students at the centre as well as bringing in their families, and my colleagues. The other part I like is that it has a place for my gut feelings - that it is legitimising my professional experience.

Now What? 
Looking forward, I have just been made the leader of second language teaching in my school (every student learns a new language). I'm really excited to be able to put the leadership knowledge we learned into practice. This relates to PTC Criteria 5 on leadership.

Over this break, I have been thinking about each person who is teaching a language to their team, as well as a new staff member who will be teaching a second language for the first time. I have been thinking about which type of leadership styles will suit different members as well as how to introduce new ideas. Into this, I have been thinking about Rogers' Diffusion of Innovation. In my new role, I have a range from early adopters to a laggard.

So to sum it all up, the Mind Lab course has been brilliant for me. I am looking forward to going back through my Digital notes and planning ways to use that knowledge in class. I also want to continue my studies to complete my Masters qualification. Then I will use my knowledge to help others improve their practice. I enjoy public speaking, so I see that as a natural progression for me.

Ministry of Education (nd). Practising teacher Criteria and e-learning . Retrieved from
Osterman, K. & Kottkamp, R.(1993). Reflective Practice for Educators. California: Cornwin Press, Inc. Retrieved on July 1, 2017 from

Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001).Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Jeff Anderson: I've Never Written so Much

10 July 2017, Ellerslie Event Centre

How Mentor Texts Inspire and Nurture Writers

You can't make children write, but along the way, you can mentor and nurture them.

From Katy Perry, Firework
Teacher, you're a firework
Come on let your colours burst
Make 'em go "oh, oh, oh"
You're gonna leave 'em writin down, oh, oh, oh

What discourages you from writing?
- time
- lack of ideas
- being judged (self-consciousness, inferiority)
- perfectionism
- not knowing how to start

Students are resistant to re-reading their work, they don't want to. Our job is getting them to reread it.

What inspires (encourages) you to write?
- having something to say
- time
- space
- knowledge
- knowing I can write well
- a reason to write (purpose)
- time limit
- communicate
- feedback (encouragement)

Low socio-economic writers do not have fewer experiences to write about, they have different experiences. We need to find writings they can write to.

How do you teach writing?
What do writers do?
How do we support writing behaviours in our classroom?

Our responsibility as writing teachers is to create a space where writing behaviours happen. The more time students spend writing, the more successful they will be.

10 things every writer should know:

1. Motion
Just write
Read a short snippet of text, and ask, "What sticks with you?"
The things that stick with you are the effective things the writer has done. By highlighting them to students, they are learning what writers do. Then read it again and they notice.
"let me tell you something about _________" (4 minute quick write). It was so easy to write when we had a starting point.
It's about keeping them motivated and keeping them writing - getting them over page fright. They need to get words down on the page to get more words down on the page. 

Power writing technique - give students to words, get them to choose one and write as much as you can, as fast as you can, as well as you can (so it is legible/readable) in one minute. (the rule - don't make a list). Children can start till the timer starts. Get children to record how many words they wrote. Next time, try to beat it. Quality isn't there but they are getting words on paper, which is a starting point.

Variation - do it three times in a row (three minutes of solid writing). Do three days in a row and see how they grow (or don't) and talk about why or why not.
Use as content-area review. Works as a way to review specific words or concepts in any content area. For example, write for three-minutes about photosynthesis or conflict. In composing or listening to what others say, the concept is often deepened. 

2. Models
I learned to write from writers, I didn't know any personally, but I read. - Cynthia Rylant

“When Dorothy stood in the doorway and looked around, she could see nothing but the great gray prairie on every side. Not a tree nor a house broke the broad sweep of flat country that reached to the edge of the sky in all directions. The sun had baked the plowed land into a gray mass, with little cracks running through it. Even the grass was not green, for the sun had burned the tops of the long blades until they were the same gray color to be seen everywhere. Once the house had been painted, but the sun blistered the paint and the rains washed it away, and now the house was as dull and gray as everything else.”

Everything was grey, then in Oz it was all about colour. With the students, sit somewhere and write about what you see. Or you can do it with your class from memory. Get students to visualise a place in their minds, then silently write using these sentence stems:
I see...
I smell...
I hear...
I feel...
I taste...

Smell taps into memory

Write for 5 minutes
Share with a partner (read word for word, not explaining it) and discuss for 7 minutes
Write some more for 10 minutes

3. Focus

List three things you're interested in or curious about
Choose one item from your list and explain to a partner why it's interesting to you.
Take your Classical Invention Cards - quickly rush through the questions, skipping one or two if necessary (you should be able to make them work).

“You don't know me at all.
You don't know the first thing about me. You don't know where I'm writing this from. You don't know what I look like. You have no power over me.
What do you think I look like? Skinny? Freckles? Wire-rimmed glasses over brown eyes? No, I don't think so. Better look again. Deeper. It's like a kaleidoscope, isn't it? One minute I'm short, the next minute tall, one minute I'm geeky, one minute studly, my shape constantly changes, and the only thing that stays constant is my brown eyes. Watching you. ” 
― David Klass

"What do you notice?" Quickwrites ' "You don't know me..." This does not need to be shared with people.

“Americans make more trash than anyone else on the planet, throwing away about 7.1 pounds per person per day, 365 days a year. Across a lifetime that rate means, on average, we are each on track to generate 102 tons of trash. Each of our bodies may occupy only one cemetery plot when we’re done with this world, but a single person’s 102-ton trash legacy will require the equivalent of 1,100 graves. Much of that refuse will outlast any grave marker, pharaoh’s pyramid or modern skyscraper: One of the few relics of our civilization guaranteed to be recognizable twenty thousand years from now is the potato chip bag.” 
― Edward HumesGarbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash

We can relate to the example of a potato chip bag because we can all relate to it. By comparing the size of us to a grace, it sets the mood and shows the seriousness of the situation. It wouldn't have been as effective if it made a comparison to the size of a single bed. it is about the mood created.

Take non-fiction topics down a few rungs - narrow down the topic

Hayakawa's ladder of abstraction
What is it? Making things 

4. Detail
Focus can lead to detail and form

Detail: Selecting the concrete and necessary
The senses feed shards of information to the brain like microscopic pictures of a jigsaw puzzle - Diane Ackerman

Lots of telling that doesn't paint pactures in the mind.
She needed a job. A lot. She was hungry. She was poor. She went to a candy store.

"Emily Watson peered in through the shop window. The afternoon sun made a mirror of the glass, forcing her to shade her eyes to see inside. A long counter ran along one wall. On top were glass cases holding trays of candies — mounds of chocolate balls, butterscotch pennies, peppermint lozenges. Emily’s mouth watered. Halfway along the counter stood a cash register, its gold paint glinting in the sunlight. The lady behind it was plump and motherly. And she was alone. Emily glanced again at the small sign in the window: Help Wanted. She tugged down her too-short jacket and smoothed her skirt. Then, taking a deep breath, she pushed open the door. The jingle of the bell startled her." Factory Girl by Barbara Greenwood.

Take a paragraph from a book. Butcher it (to make it boring - cut it to the main points). Ask kids what they think about it. Then show them the full text.
Construct a table together. On one side, have 'Telling'. Break down your boring text into sections. One the other side, 'Showing' and put the actual text into it.

5. Form

6. Frames

7. Cohesion

8. Energy

9. Words

10. Clutter

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Week 31: Interdisciplinary Teaching - Crossing Boundaries

To start this week's study, I asked myself the most basic question, 'What is interdisciplinary teaching?' Wikipedia tells me it is, ' is a method, or set of methods, used to teach a unit across different curricular disciplines.' An example of this might be my current unit on Conflict. I am teaching social sciences and integrating both reading and writing into it, plus my students are using conflict as their theme in art and music.

As an International Baccalaureate school which uses the Primary Years Programme, we teach the curriculum through six themes over the course of the year. The expectation is that all programmes taught are to fit in with the current theme. I feel I do a reasonably good job of this, except with including maths, which I feel gets watered down by trying to fit it into the theme (for example, I am teaching mult/div at the moment, and I can't legitimately fit into conflict).

This means that when I read that the topic for this week was interdisciplinary teaching, I felt a little smug, right until I did my research. I was interested to read about Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Andrews (1990) defines interdisciplinary collaboration as occurring "when different professionals, possessing unique knowledge, skills, organizational perspectives, and personal attributes, engage in coordinated problem solving for a common purpose" (cited in Berg-Weger &. Schneider, 1998). 

So What?

I had never stopped to reflect on my personal collaboration with other teachers, both within and outside my school. Then I asked myself why it just has to be teachers, what about experts, clubs, and community groups, not to mention all the expertise parents have?

I created this map of my current and possible interdisciplinary collaborations. The ones I am using are in green, and the ones I'm not, but could be using are in red:

As you can see on the map, there is an awful lot of red - opportunities that I am missing. 

I feel that it is really clear that I'm not making the most of other teachers and schools as well as experts, both in my community as well as nationally and internationally. I asked myself why I'm not doing this. Time is a factor, but also my personality - I am very shy when it comes to meeting new people and as well as not wanting to burden people -  I constantly ask myself why people would want to take the time to talk to my class or to answer my questions or even mentor me when they have important jobs and businesses or organisations to run.

Does it matter that I tend to silo my students within my classroom? What are the benefits of interdisciplinary teaching? Casey Jones (2009) summarises the benefits, "Students and their teachers will advance in critical thinking, communication, creativity, pedagogy, and essential academia with the use interdisciplinary techniques (p.80). Therefore, it is something I need to facilitate, for my students.

Now What?
My next step will be planned for when I'm working with my team right at the start of a theme when we decide what we want the students to achieve and how we're going to do it. This is the place when we could ask ourselves who the experts are and who we are going to approach for help. For example, I can email parents, tell them what is coming up and ask if they or anyone they know has something to contribute to the theme. 

If I want my teaching to grow in the ways I envisage, I need to connect with classes, schools, and experts, no matter who they are or where they are. And that is going to require me to be brave and start asking for help and support as well as making connections.

Berg-Weger, M., &. Schneider, F. D. (1998). Interdisciplinary collaboration in social work. Journal of Social Work Education, 34, 97-107.

Jones, C.(2009). Interdisciplinary approach - Advantages, disadvantages, and the future benefits of interdisciplinary studies. ESSAI7 (26), 76-81. Retrieved from

Interdisciplinary Teaching (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved July 1, 2017, from

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Week 30: Professional Online Social Networks


What is Social Media?

Many people have the misconception that social media is limited to social sites where people share their lives and photos, such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. However, (2016, September) gives a broader definition as, "Social media is the collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration."

The incredible depth of sites dedicated to social media can be seen in this diagram by Brian Solis and JESS3 (2017):

So What?

Social Media in my Professional Development

I use a large range of the tools in the above diagram, from Linkedin and Picasa to Google+ and Pinterest. In terms of my professional development as a teacher, my first port of call (in order of use) are:
  1. Twitter (@ijakk2)
  2. Facebook (colleagues plus two closed groups: NZ Teachers (primary ) and Waikato GATE Group)
  3. Youtube
  4. Pinterest
  5. Virtual Learning Network
My main go-to is Twitter because I can see new blogposts, research, ideas and ask questions. I feel like every time I visit I come away with a new theory, learning or something I can use in my class.

Social Media in My Classroom Programme

I run a Blog and a Google Site for my class. The blog has been going for several years, but keeping it updated beyond the agenda (daily homework/reminders) hasn't been happening whilst I've been studying.

The students use the following as a part of their schoolwork:
  • Google sites
  • Youtube
  • G-suite
  • Pinterest
  • Blogger
  • Wikipedia
  • TED
However, when this small list is compared to the plethora of apps and sites in the above diagram, there are so many opportunities available to students which I don't guide them to or make a part of my programme.

School Imposed Limitations

My school has chosen a number of sites which are blocked to students through our firewall - these include Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat.

Most of these aren't an issue for me, except Twitter - I would love them to be able to use this network to connect with other classes and students, as well as learning from topic-related people and organisations (for example, we've been looking at our place in the universe - it would've been great to connect with the ISS and NASA, as well as individual astronauts).

The school has just put limitations on students' use of their phones at school due to cyber bullying and the distraction in class time from non-education related sites and games. We now collect students phones at the start of each morning.

Teacher Imposed Limitations

If I am honest, the biggest limitation on my students' use of social media in the classroom is me. Getting the students up and running, organising connections, overseeing their usage, organising enough devices and still fitting in a full programme in limited time can seem just too hard.

What now?

I found two of the videos on our class notes this week very inspirational. 

This video reminded me of the benefits of making connections with schools and students around the world. I did this several years ago, with a school in Canada and one in Wales. The students loved it and learned a lot about other people's lives.  I will get back to making connections.

This video reminded me of the importance students being good digital citizens - we teach them what to do and not do in terms of cyber safety, but this is different from teaching them to optimise their social media use for their learning. 

What it comes down to is, "Social media make it possible to involve and draw on the experience of people around the world." (Sharples et al, p.14) 

S. (2014, August 15). Social Media For Kids® The Social Media Education Experts. Retrieved June 24, 2017, 

Sharples, M., de Roock , R., Ferguson, R., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Koh, E., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Looi,C-K, 
McAndrew, P., Rienties, B., Weller, M., Wong, L. H. (2016). Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Open University 
Innovation Report 5. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Retrieved from

What is social media? - Definition from (n.d.). Retrieved June 24, 2017, from

T. (2013, May 21). Using Social Media in the Classroom. Retrieved June 24, 2017, from