Friday 24 May 2013

MITA reflections

I was lucky to be selected last year to be a part of the Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers Academy (MITA) is in it's inaugural year. This was to allow teachers to find something they were interested in following up and doing some research on this topic, with several paid days leave a year to do so. All of the recipients work is listed on this site.

My research has been to focus on the use of social networks as a means to communicate with students. I have specifically selected to work with Google + as it is accessible at school, is moving forward and does not come with the drawbacks of Facebook. Twitter was not giving enough scope for really sharing ideas about learning, and Edmodo was a little too 'educational' and also required a log in that always seems to be an issue for our students.

My plan now is to set up all of my classes with Google + accounts; to talk them through how we are going to use these accounts and also having communities to have a place to all communicate together.
I am going to gauge student views on the use of this type of social media at the end of this term and again hopefully a couple of times a term. I want to be able to 'talk' to students in a place that is not necessarily email as students are not very good at checking this, whereas Google + can be accessed independently of email. It is not always easy taking on new ideas in class as it is usually easier to stick with the status quo, but I want to move forward; these tools are there, they need to be used as they are going to become more and more prolific in the lives of our students. I hope too, that I can post exam questions that students can then develop answers to, in preparation for their external exams; something our students always struggle with as a result of language barriers and subject-specific knowledge.

Another nice thing about Google + is accessibility I can just as easily check my Google + feed on my Android phone as on a pc or laptop, plus of course I can get the notifications fed into my Gmail account as well if I want to.

My next real step in this project (as well as student account creation) is to find some way of creating tangible evidence about how the students are using Google + as a means of communication. It is possible it will be difficult to evidence any physical changes in student communication behaviour, although actually getting a response to something could be an indicator! Watch this space.

Ch-ch-ch-changes! (Sorry, David Bowie...)

Week three of term two and where has the time gone? Yet again, I am forgetting the 'real' blog in favour of the micro-blogging world of Twitter and mainly Google +. I have even posted a 'I have moved to Google +' banner at the top of my Facebook page. I used to like Facebook, but can't be bothered with it any more as there is so much more of interest on other media. I am specifically interested in social networks and this makes up my Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers Academy research, specifically the use of these networks in class.
Learn, create and share is part of the Manaiakalani ethos, and I feel this term I have really surpassed myself in this. I started the term by attending the Google Teachers Academy in Sydney to become a Google Certified Teacher. Below are a couple of views from the main restaurant area of Google Sydney. Not jealous or anything, oh no.

This was an awesome experience as it really allowed me to learn, create and share with some really great educators from around the world. Thirteen different countries were represented, and the collective energy was phenomenal. I came back from this recharged with ideas, although I have to remind myself not to try everything but to focus on just a couple of items to start with! The Manaiakalani community was well  represented with 3 new GCTs added to the community (+Helen Squires and +Georgie Hamilton and I) with Dorothy and Fiona there as lead-learners.
I was 'volunteered' to speak at a #gafecommunity event in Auckland which was another positive experience. Being able to share with 250 other learners/ teachers (should be one and the same thing within teaching as inquiry). I hate getting up in front of my peers; I feel I always doubt my knowledge and abilities, and then by the end of the presentation I am usually astounded by how much people have found what I have spoken about useful or interesting. Wow.

Another change this term has been with my year 10 class. I hate marking. I hate homework. The students hate tests and homework as well. I have decided to try out a PBL unit on forces, specifically looking at the forces involved with roller coasters. Next week, we start building the paper roller coasters to try out some of our ideas. Watch this space, I hope that there will be another post following this one rapidly, with some photos to document the growth of these creations! It means putting the emphasis back onto the students to find things out for themselves- the way it should be.

This is why I chose the title. I am just finding so many ways to change the way I teach and learn. It makes things a bit more fun (I think...) and my students do seem to enjoy the way I do things, so here is hoping there will be something to report by the next update!