This week, in addition to the normal excitement of my classes and the challenges of eLearning at school, I was fortunate enough to participate in three distinct learning experiences: a whole-staff Professional Development day at school, a Careers Information night at Macquarie University, and finally a fantastic teachmeet at the State Library of NSW.
Each experience had its own focus, structure and outcome. Each confirmed the reasons I became a teacher. Each – I hope – made me grow that little bit more.
First, our professional learning day at school. The focus was on differentiation and embedding ICT in the curriculum. Whilst I know some may have walked away overwhelmed, some underwhelmed, I feel that at the very least my colleagues and I could walk away with two things: new tech-related ideas to apply in our classrooms and a virtual and social space in which to develop robust learning programs.
New ideas came thick and fast from one of our teachers who recently attended the CEO Sydney Digital Showcase (though it may have gone under another name) organised by @simoncrook & co. She was impressed by the level of collaboration between CEO teachers, their depth of innovation – especially in primary classrooms – and their ideas for enhancing learning and teaching by using technology. After this excellent introduction to the ICT arena, six other teachers on staff ran 2 x 10 minute workshops on a technology they use in the classroom. IWBs, Edmodo, Diigo, flipped approaches and more were on offer and led to some interesting and challenging discussions about our capability to support such things in a strategic and whole-school manner. As always, I’m inspired when listening to my fellow teachers discuss and reflect on their experiences.
Second event of the week was the Macquarie University Career Information Night on Tuesday evening. I was invited to go by the President of the Education Society, @stephyadan – this is a student-run organisation whose responsibility it is to engage and connect budding teachers. Although the first presentation’s 40 minutes went a little too long for my teachmeet-induced ADHD, it was informative and clearly valuable for any pre-service teachers intending on teaching in a government school. Other presentations included an educational researcher from MQU, an education officer or Senior Aquarist from Sydney Aquarium, a teacher who worked overseas for several years and myself blabbing on about how awesome teaching is. I tried to argue that by connecting with different areas of teaching and learning early on, with bodies like @aitsl and their online resources like Teacher Feature and Illustrations of Practice, pre-service teachers can get a leg-up into what actually happens in a school even before they set foot in a staffroom.
The Prezi I used to distract people can be found at http://prezi.com/nv4lcg6hupxp/teach-now-and-for-tomorrow/ and includes a bit about my journey, some of my ideas about education, a few tips and a super cute message at the end. Don’t worry, it’s not a picture of me.
I truly wish I had had the chance to go to one of these Career Nights when I was a young teacher-in-training (which I still am by the way). It was highly informative, very targeted at what these students needed to know about systems and applications and reasons for sticking with what can be a difficult but deeply rewarding vocation. It is essential that all universities take on board this idea and make sure they are connecting their students with practitioners in the field so that they are as informed and connected as possible in their future endeavours.
Third, I had the privilege of walking the stone steps, through the columned entrance of the grand Mitchell section of the State Library of NSW last night. The reason for this was that a distinctly different kind of teachmeet was being held there. I helped to organise the event along with Megan Perry of SLNSW and Cameron Paterson @cpaterso from SHORE School. Both are magicians of organisation and have a deep passion for learning and history. History, in fact, was the focus or theme of the teachmeet, with many history teachers and education officers of historical sites, university professors and even @simoncrook from CEO Sydney offering their insights and imaginations to the 70+ strong crowd that met in the Dixson Room.
If you haven’t yet been to a teachmeet, please get involved. In Sydney, we use the http://tmsydney.wikispaces.com site to organise and communicate with other teachmeeters. Any teacher can host a teachmeet so long as they keep it free, fast and devoid of advertising. We heard about the Holocaust and how to teach it from Nurit Davidson of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem (who happened to be in town on a speaking tour and offered to do a talk for us too!). We heard about techie ideas and solid teaching practice and challenging ideas that threaten to change the subject so many hold close to their hearts. It was fantastic to see such a broad spectrum of ideas as well as a diverse audience: all three sectors were represented both in the presentations and in the audience; primary teachers, secondary teachers, pre-service and higher ed sat together and chatted, sharing ideas; we also had several heads of History departments in attendance, hopefully now spreading the word about teachmeets to their minions.
I’m sincerely grateful and amazed at my colleagues from another campus, who give up their time, experience and energy to stimulate each others’ teaching spirit.
To catch up on what as discussed, check the following twitter feeds: #tmsydney #tmhistory #tmAChist and/or #histedchat. You can also visit http://tmsydney.wikispaces.com/TeachMeet+AC+History to see who was there.
To join or host a teachmeet yourself, go to the wiki site http://tmsydney.wikispaces.com and join in the beautiful anarchy that is teachmeet.
This week let me engage in three very different forms of professional learning. They all matter for different reasons but orbit the same omnipotent aim: to make learning as good as it can be for the students in our care.
THAT is why I love being a teacher. THAT is why I love taking control of my learning. You should too.