Mrs A's Blog

My Rambling Thoughts on Teaching and Learning

Personalised Pathways Take 1

2016 was a difficult year.

It was one where I have questioned myself on a number of levels including professionally.  I have doubted my abilities, and even my career path.  I have wondered if after 12 years in the classroom that perhaps it was time to leave.  The pressure and the stress got to me.

During 2016 I had a full time academic class for the first time in 6 years.  And while I had missed the student relationships I had built up in the past by having my own academic class (rather than team teaching in multiple academics classes) the one thing I didn’t miss was parents.

I am not your traditional chalk and talk teacher, I don’t do death by PowerPoint, I don’t give worksheets, I don’t allocate homework (students set their own by answering “What am I going to do before the next lesson to ensure that I retain what I have learnt this lesson and further my learning in preparation for the next lesson?)

In fact at times I can have 28 students doing 28 different things.  At our school there is only one supply teacher who will cover my class as the instructions left are “numerous”. (Sample lesson plan below)  I plan the course and then help students work their way through it at their own pace.  Adding additional support materials as a student needs it.  I aim to individualise.

Every parent’s dream right their kid gets a personalised path through the course.  Nope apparently not…  I had more parent complaints than I thought even possible.

  • Why don’t you teach?
  • My child is missing out on vital information if you don’t explain in a PowerPoint.
  • Why do students get to opt in and out of your lessons?
  • You better make my child opt in to every mini lesson.

2017 is a new year.  I’m going to try this individualise the course thing again and see if the parents react the same way.

At some point education has to change.  I’m trying one class of parents at a time…





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It’s Time to be Cyber Savvy Citizens…


I am often asked how does one keep up with the pace of the online world and make sure that I really am safe online.  Reality is – no one can.  Every other day we hear a story in the news about another cyber issue we need to keep ourselves and our kids safe from.  What we can do is teach ourselves and our kids to be Cyber Savvy Citizens.  Being a Cyber Savvy Citizen involves remembering to follow six simple principles:

  1. Remember to protect private information for yourself and others.
  2. Use your heart and respect yourself and others online.
  3. Stay safe online by listening to your gut feelings.
  4. Stand up to cyberbullying when you see it happening.
  5. Balance the time spent using digital devices with other activities.
  6. If in doubt seek help from a trusted adult.

As students get older they do tend to need a reminder about what this really means, especially as they get caught up with the excitement of social media and keeping up with their peers.  How as parents or teachers can we help our kids be safe online?  Here are a number of suggestions:

  • Ask the child to show you what they have set their privacy settings to
  • Ask the child to help you set your own privacy settings and use it as a conversation starter about what are the good choices to make
  • Talk as a family or class about the importance of your online digital footprint
  • Google yourself and ask the children to Google themselves and talk about the results which come up (ask them if they are embarrassed that Mum or Dad saw the photos they had posted or what if the teacher saw it or even the principal)
  • Remind them to think before they post, as once it’s online it’s always online and you never know who is going to save, copy, forward or post your photos, videos or even words
  • Use articles in the newspaper or news to start conversations about current cyber safety issues

In 2016, digital citizenship is not a once off check-in to say: yes, I’m a Cyber Savvy Citizen.  It is a mentality that I’m a Cyber Savvy Citizen 24/7, 365 days a year.

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Learners and Learning


Last year I was at a two day workshop looking at the future of education…  One of the first series of questions looked at…
Who are you as a learner?
What is learning?
How do you learn?
Define it…
This is was my rough as guts response….
Learning is the acquiring of new knowledge or skills and the cementing of old knowledge or skills.  It is challenging the existing knowledge and then adjusting it to meet the requirements.   I learn best by having a go.  I can read or hear about a topic however until I implement it or try it I cannot see how it will work for me.  I am a learner who wants to try new things, to think and mull and find what is going to work for me.  I inhale and breath…  I want to play and move, hear and see…  I need space…  I want to talk with other people I want to build on the ideas generated.  Shared knowledge is important to me.  No one person can ever know everything.
Learning must be…
Continual, Experiencing, Meaningful and have Purpose, Formal and Informal, Holistic, Individual and Communal, Able to be Applied, Challenging, Engaging, Authentic, a Failure, Lifelong, Interests, Passion
After revisiting the notes this week it resonated with me again so I thought I’d post it.
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Department of Me…

Due to a restructure for a part of 2015 I have been a department of ONE (and a bit).  This last 15 weeks has really taught me a lot.

I have to admit I do like to say “yes” when someone wants me to help them.  I feel it is part of my job.  As an ELF I’m there to help.  That’s ok when you have a teaching partner and you can spread the love.  However when there is one of you and a new system has been implemented you really can’t say “yes” to everyone.   The thing is I actually started to say “I’m sorry however I can’t help you at this time”.  I was surprised at the effect.  With most staff it resulted in them trying to solve the problem themselves and coming back with a more pedagogical question.  A question which I definitely had time for.

There was that small group of staff who just threw up their hands and said I won’t do it.  When I asked them a few weeks later their response was I don’t like the system so I’m not going to use it.  An offer of lets sit down and look at it next term I was met with a you won’t have time for me.  It had become personal.

Realising I am going to be a department of me for around another 4 weeks I decided to look at ways I could effectively expand my reach without stretching myself to the limit…  I discovered a webinar entitled exactly that “1, 2, 3 S-T-R-E-T-CH! Expanding Your Reach as a Department of One”.  And I have learnt that I need to have my own mission statement and priorities in order to effectively do my job.  So while not perfect I have decided Term 2 is about meeting my own mission statement and priorities so I can do my job…

To provide quality and innovative learning programs, ICT and pedagogical tools and ideas, which are in-line the college’s strategic directions.

Wish me luck

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New Learnings…

I haven’t updated my blog for a while.  The main reason – I’ve been extremely busy.  My teaching partner (HOD) has been on long service leave for the last term which has left me “in charge” of the department.  As a result I was managing more than myself.  I realised that we have gotten into the groove of how we work together over the last five years.  I can explain how I think the lesson/idea/project works and my teaching partner could successfully translate and vice versa.  And our teacher aide had become very adept at translating the way my teaching partner thought as well.

This term working with a new teaching partner, a new teacher aide and having more contact with our long term teacher aide has made me realise how good we get in teaching at understanding the ways the people we work with everyday think.  I have always prided myself on my communication skills.  I thought that I had good communication skills.  It turns out they are not as good as I thought!  When working with these new staff I realised how long it actually takes to learn to communicate with your colleagues especially those you work with on a daily basis and by the last week of the term I think we had started to think along the same lines when working together.  Understanding the inner workings of how colleagues think really does take a long time to develop.

I have learnt this term that there is more than talking and listening to this whole communication thing!  When trying to convey information through the exchange of ideas it can at times involve so many other components.  I have learnt that I think in pictures and movies and sometimes trying to translate these pictures and movies doesn’t always work.  When trying to explain to a colleague what exactly it is you are trying to achieve/create doesn’t always come across.  Even drawing funny little pictures doesn’t always work if the pictures are not understood.  I can understand how easy it is to get frustrated.  Usually the problem was not that the person you are working with hasn’t understood  the problem was how you explained it in the first place.

I have decided that communication is more about how the message is decoded rather than how the message is actually conveyed. And I need to work on making sure that the message I am conveying is clear and easy to decode.

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The Great Debate – Windows 8

Apologies for such a long time between posts.  2014 took off with such a cracking pace that its the Easter holidays already…

This year has seen the introduction of Windows 8 and Office 2013 at work.  When Windows 7 came along everyone was excited to see a new operating system that just seemed easy to use.  Sure there was the usual similarities and differences between the old and the new.  However people picked Windows 7 up quickly and seamlessly…  Windows 8 is having a polarizing response.  Everyone appears to hate it.

That is except me…

I’m excited…

I love the idea of having everything I want on the start screen easy to access and use…  I realise the pain is setting up Windows 8 however once its done everything is at the tip of your fingers… I can group my apps by ease of use…

The search option seems to search everything – the device, the app store, the internet…

I really do like the ability to snap screens side by side…  OneNote and the internet…

Having an app way of working and a desktop way of working…  While not fully integrated they connect nicely to each other.

I’m guessing that Windows 8 is a matter of personal preference…



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Have You Checked Your Settings?

Social Media and Facebook in particular are becoming more and more prevalent in day to day life.

What I find interesting is that people forget that it is public.  Some of the things that they share I’m sure they (adults and children alike) would be embarrassed about.  After yet another conversation about private vs public online with friends I feel the need to remind the world that you need to remember even if all your privacy setting are correct what gets posted online stays online – Private or not!

In their defense Facebook is notorious for constantly changing their privacy settings.  The key is to be vigilant.

Here is the easy way to check your settings….
  1. Log into Facebook
  2. Go to Privacy Settings, through the cog at the top right of the page.
    Facebook Settings 1
  3. In Privacy edit each of the settings by clicking on the edit button. (see below for recommendations)
    Facebook Settings 2
  4. Check your timeline and tagging settings by clicking the edit button. (see below for my recommendations)
    Facebook Settings 3
  5. After changing your settings review what other people can see on your timeline by clicking “View As” in the timeline and tagging settings.
    Facebook Settings 4
  6. To change Views select at the top of the page who you want to view the page as.  The default option is “Public”
    Facebook Settings 5


Here are my recommended Privacy Settings and Tools:
Facebook Settings 6
Facebook Settings 7
Here are my recommended Timeline and Tagging Settings:
Facebook Settings 8
Facebook Settings 9
Facebook Settings10
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Real Life Vs School

I’ve recently been thinking about real life compared to school… This was spurred on by a YouTube clip about learning through games.   The tipping point for me was the statement made by James Paul Gee that we trust learning through games more than we trust learning through school.  This was explained by the example that children learn algebra a school and then we test them to find out if they learn anything however children will spend hours learning to play Halo (or any computer game for that matter) and we don’t give them a test on Halo to find out what they learnt.  We trust they learnt it because they finished the game. Where else in life do we shut the the book or turn off the internet to prove we know what we are doing or to complete a task.

Here is my look at how school is not real life

  • Test vs Learning
  • Set break times vs chosen break times (doesn’t apply to all life situations)
  • Due dates set by others vs negotiated due dates
  • Repeating tasks even though you know how to do it vs mastery and only repeating as required
  • Learning occurs in 70 minute blocks vs life long learning

I’m sure there are many others feel free to add the in the comments…

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End of Year Exhaustion

Well…  I made it… JUST… to the end of the school year…

2013 has been yet another busy and satisfying year. However my question is how do you avoid the end of year exhaustion?   I know I should sleep more and probably not cram so much in…  Would love to hear how others avoid the exhaustion or have some recommendations on how to minimise it!


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