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Posts Tagged ‘teacher

When I facilitate workshops for teachers, I focus on large ideas that create dissonance. Minutiae are best left for conversations with individuals, teacher reflections, or purposeful accidents.

I find that break times and post-workshop chats are best for having deeper or more focused conversations. These allow me to address very specific needs or concerns that others are not interested in.

Time for reflections during or near the end of a workshop encourage teachers to think of actionable takeaways. Rather than leave this to chance, I use one-minute papers or exit tickets.

Purposeful accidents might happen if teachers are curious or observant enough. I typically model the use of multiple technology-mediated strategies. They range from simple timers to manage group work to creating my own wireless hotspot to using almost the entire suite of Google Edu Apps.

Until they ask, I do not tell teachers how I set Google timers, tether or use a mifi device, or embed Google Docs, Slides, Forms, and Spreadsheets (and other tools) into Google Site pages. Doing this helps me model how:

  1. pedagogies or strategies come first
  2. transparent technology needs to be
  3. to provide just-in-time information to learners

Without realizing it, my workshop participants learn not because I have taught them. They learn because they have caught behaviours and value systems I model.

I followed @sjunkins when the graphics embedded in his tweets caught my eye.

This was a recent one that educators should process critically.

Someone else on Twitter called it an infographic. It is not.

Does it have information? Yes. Does it have graphic elements that illustrate the information beyond text form, more richly, or intuitively? No. Far too many people perpetuate the wrong idea of an infographic.

The list includes some things a 21st century teacher should do. I appreciate that this is a challenge to teachers to see how connected, relevant, or current they are. But many of the items are technical skills.

These lead a teacher who might be interested in doing these things to wonder HOW to do these things. I think that it is more important to first know WHY.

I have noticed some leaders in education saying that the time is past asking why technology important. It is more important to know how. This might be true in contexts where asking why is a delay tactic among the stubborn or the undecided.

But not revisiting or emphasizing why is a mistake. I do not mean just reiterating that times have changed or that we must prepare our children for their future instead of our past.

These are all good reasons, but there should be specific reasons for wanting teachers to tweet, Instagram, lip dub, ad nauseum.

So I present an alternative list of 21 things educators might do and I suggest a reason for each.

  1. Don’t just use ICT, integrate it. If the ICT is not integrated, it is dispensible. If it is not needed, why incorporate it?
  2. Crowdsource an idea or co-author a collaboratively created lesson resource. Many hands make light work and you stand to gain ideas you would never have generated alone.
  3. Don’t just talk learner-centred, walk learner-centred. Do not tell me; show me what you can do.
  4. Make real and lasting online connections with other educators. They are your broader support system, your cheering team, and your sounding boards.
  5. Follow someone new or different on a PLN like Twitter. Get new perspectives, grow your network, help yourself by helping others.
  6. Provide a meaningful community service. Apply what you do in the real world instead of the contrived one that is often the classroom.
  7. Get inspired, be inspiring: Lead a PLN discussion, share at an unconference. One of the best ways to learn is to get out of your comfort zone. If you care, you must share.
  8. Model critical and creative thinking. More things are caught than they are taught.
  9. Overcome divides. Stop making excuses; start creating opportunities. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
  10. Talk less, facilitate more. Talking and teaching does not guarantee listening and learning. Get learners involved and become the meddler in the middle.
  11. Challenge your teaching philosophy. Question your assumptions. Focus on the learner and learning, not just on the teacher and teaching. It is your core and it becomes obvious to those around you.
  12. Update your e-portfolio. Focus on the processes behind the products. Curate and create as a model of a lifelong, lifewide learner.
  13. Critically reflect on your own practice. Stepping outside yourself might be the single most important attribute of an educator.
  14. Unlearn a bad habit or a bias. Deconstruct your behaviour or belief system and see what lies in the middle or at the foundation. Question if that is what you want to drive you or what you want to build on.
  15. Relearn a lost value. Reconstruct an ideal you had when you first started teaching. It can help you make that quantum leap you are looking for.
  16. Experiment with the science and hone your art of pedagogy. Think different, do different, and know why. You will not know until you try.
  17. Fail forward. FAIL = First Attempt In Learning. Do not let your first step be your last. Keep moving forward.
  18. Lead change. Do not expect someone else to show you the way. Find your own path and others may follow.
  19. Learn. Learn. Learn. An educator should be a learner first. It is the best way to understand what other learners struggle with.
  20. Play. Leverage on instinctive ways we learn. That way the learning and teaching are natural extensions of what we do.
  21. Strive to be an educator of people, not a teacher of content. If you forget WHO you are trying to change and WHY, there is no point telling them WHAT or HOW.
Day 60 - Fear by juanpg, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  juanpg 

Yesterday I reflected on why Twitter was an ideal component of an educator’s PLN. Today I ponder on why some teachers do not want or even like Twitter.

There are several reasons why teachers stay away from Twitter and lose out on valuable unPD as a result. I focus on three.

One, there is a shallow but twisted learning curve. Twitter is not difficult because it is based on texting. However, like learning how to operate a CB radio, there are procedures and standards of practice that only emerge from tweeting.

If newbies do not learn how to select a frequency (use a Twitter hashtag like #edsg), then they might find themselves shouting into the great big ether. Newbies must quickly learn how to follow and create a following or they will be talking to themselves. They need to learn what a retweet, favourite, and @ are. Heck, it can be difficult to understand the difference between replying to @someone and .@someone.

Two, if a newbie overcomes the initial tweeting learning curve, s/he will need to learn how to follow hashtagged conversations. A new user might not know that Twitter’s default web interface and mobile app are not good for such conversations.

Once they learn to use a proper tool like TweetDeck, they might find popular and synchronous chats scrolling by faster than they can read, much less respond to.

Three, a few persistent folks push through the barriers and these tend to be the ones that are already driven to learn and change. These intrepid folks tend to form a peripheral and possibly vocal group. And as long as they are part of the minority, the majority are likely to view them with suspicion.

The first two barriers are technical and relatively easy to overcome, say, by attending a workshop conducted by more experienced peers. Some handholding during and after the workshop also works wonders.

The third barrier is social. This might result in teachers being lurkers in Twitter conversations. While lurking for a while is advisable (to learn if the conversations suit them), quite a few never find their voice. I have followers who have zero tweets but follow several or many people. These teachers consume and do not give back.

Why do some folks choose to lurk even after an extended period of time?

They might be intimidated by the conversations or think they have nothing to offer. They might only want to monitor conversations. They might be asked or told to monitor conversations.

There is hope for teachers who are initially afraid or prefer to listen. Once they summon up the courage to participate, they are likely to find out how fun and motivating it is to be part of local or global conversations about topics they care deeply about.

I cannot say anything positive about the spying group. In some contexts, they patrol just in case they need to police. They create fear. They add to the perception that social media in education is a dark place and not to be trusted. They add to an exaggerated problem instead of being part of the solution. The solution is to be open and social and to break the cycle of fear.

That there is a plethora of educational hashtagged chats on Twitter is evidence that openness and trust beget more openness and trust. These chats are a joy to observe and an even greater joy to be part of. Why don’t teachers use Twitter and jump right in?

Video source

Here is even more teacher appreciation and from a BuzzFeed video of all places.

At the end of the video you learn what the retail giant, Target, is planning on doing to help teachers help others.

If you are a mollycoddled teacher in Singapore, you might wonder why a corporate entity needs to help. That might give you an appreciation for the system that you are in.

You might also wonder why our local “be thankful to your teacher” videos might come across as flat or humourless compared to efforts like BuzzFeed’s. If you do, you might begin to appreciate the things that other systems encourage that ours does not.

If not for RSS and Twitter, I would not have realized this was Teacher Appreciation Week in the USA. Here in Singapore, we discount the week to a day and celebrate it in September.

So I tweeted this yesterday to share the news and the hashtag #TeachingIs:

Real teaching is mostly a thankless task done by educators who do not expect thanks. These educators tend to have two important attributes.

I think that the second most important trait to have as an educator is the ability to think like a learner. It is only when you understand what and why they do not understand that can you accompany them on the journey to bridge that gap.

The most important trait is being reflective. If you are reflective, you will constantly analyze yourself and seek improvement. If you realize that you do not connect with learners, you will find ways to do so.

So I share a YouTube video I found a while ago.

Video source

It helps to remember what it was like to be a beginning teacher. That is probably when a teacher learns the most because s/he is most like a student and more ready to reflect.

Last Thursday I made my way to the Civil Service College to attend the 10th C J Koh Professorial Lecture. The lecture was by Prof Dennis Shirley.

I tweeted my notes, but as these tweets stream rapidly away, I am consolidating some of them in this Storify.

BTW, I also tweeted as @cel_nie as I was the Twitter ambassador of the week. My theme that week was group selfies.

My favourite part of the presentation was a quote from the work of Meredith Hong (not sure of the spelling):

I pursued this with Shirley over refreshments. I asked him if he could share any examples of what he had observed during his travels of change that were truly bottom-up, mindful, and sustainable.

Shirley explained how the Finns (yes, those guys again) have central curricular groups that share their ideas with teachers in schools. But it is teachers that decide what actually gets taught.

They take ownership of what they do from a grassroots level. It seems to be less about policy and agenda and more about focusing on learners and learning.

Bottom-up? You could call it that.

Mindful? Certainly!

Sustainable? They have been at it all this while and will continue to do so as long as they ignore the slight dip in PISA scores.

Long may their efforts last. Short may our own longing be for greater grassroots efforts, mindfulness, and sustainability in the face of rapid change.


Yesterday I reflected on what I might do if I could change the way teachers are prepared. This is Part 2 of a few more scattered thoughts.

I think that every modern teacher needs some experience on Managing Expectations. These expectations are their own and those of their learners, the learners’ parents, and the teachers’ superiors. I think that teachers are sometimes blind-sided by unrealistic expectations from many quarters, so much so that some leave or remain unhappy because of them.

I also think that teachers need a strong dose of Valuing Values. I think most teachers join the profession for the right reasons, but they lose sight of what is important (the learners and learning) when grades and exams become the focus of schooling.

Valuing Values would be like the Group Endeavours in Service Learning (GESL) in NIE. It is an active reminder of who, why, and how we serve.

GESL is also a wonderful example of what I mean by an experience instead of a course. It actually straddles more than one university semester and causes disruptions in administrative thinking about what counts and how to count it.

Another critical experience is knowing the difference between Assessment and Evaluation. This would essentially be another name for assessment literacy. Teachers would not just learn about different ways of assessing and evaluating, but also when to use which strategy or tool.

For example, this experience would not just be about designing good multiple choice questions (MCQs). It would also be about deciding if MCQs are the right choice for assessment or if learners need to be assessed (given a number or letter grade) or also evaluated (given value or worth).

I think that preservice teachers also be taught How to Reflect. Here teachers learn how to create space to think, set aside time to reflect individually and collectively, and use different strategies to reflect.

I am not sure if this should be a core requirement or something like writing support. But I am leaning on the former because not everyone is naturally reflective.

While I might have described these elements of teacher preparation in the context of preservice teachers, it might be necessary to extend experiences like Managing Expectations into inservice learning. After all, it is only then that teachers learn to temper idealism with healthy dose of reality.

So these are just a few ideas that have floated in my mind over the last few years. I thought I should capture them in a net regardless of whether they were fully formed or not.

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