Monthly Archives: August, 2013

What makes a PD worthwhile?

As teachers, we sit through a vast range of professional developments – some compulsory and some elected. We would all have sat through the brilliant and the boring, the engaging and the excruciating. But what is it that makes a professional development effective?

There are a number of factors that I feel are crucial to an effective PD.

Firstly, relevance. Now there are two sides to this. As an attendee, I need to make sure I select appropriate workshops to my context. Assuming I have selected appropriately, I would hope that the presenter/s are providing learning that is relevant in terms of curriculum, contemporary society and its resources, and the learning of modern students

Engagement is also crucial. Every presenter will have a different style, and different topics will require more or less talking from them. As a teacher-learner, I, like my students, want to be engaged. I want to hear about things that I can explore, adapt to my context and apply in my own teaching. I want to be able to interact with others in the room, including the presenter. I want this engagement and excitement to continue after the PD with the connections and networks it has allowed me to develop.

In my opinion, a PD should not answer every question. Participants should walk away with old questions answered, but with their heads full of new ones to explore themselves and continue the discussion with their colleagues. The most effective learning experiences I have been a part of as an educator are those that I have walked away from feeling exhausted but excited because my brain has been buzzing all day with ideas to apply to my practice.

Finally, I think effective PDs leave the participants with at least one practical thing that they can take away and use almost immediately. Sometimes the theories that are presented at these workshops can be quite overwhelming, but if there is a practical example that can be applied to one’s practice straight away, then I, personally, am more likely to take the risk by trying something new.

So, they are my four main criteria for an effective professional development. I’d love to hear from you. How do you gauge a workshop’s effectiveness?


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Blogging and your online profile

Question: If you were to do a Google search on your own name, what would appear on the results page?

I ask this for a reason, not simply because I want people to satisfy their inner narcissists. Through the rapid increase in social media, people’s lives have become more and more public. As a result of this, it has become increasingly common over the past decade for potential employers to “google” the names of applicants to their organisation. Decisions can be made about that applicant and their suitability for the company based on what the search engine digs up about them.

Scary, right?

Maybe. But maybe it also presents an opportunity for individuals to take control of their online reputations in a powerful way. As educators, we spend so much time teaching students about their own digital footprints and online reputations, but is everybody also walking the talk?

Our digital profiles can paint a picture of us as individuals and as professionals in one of three ways:

1. Over-sharers of personal information who should review the privacy settings of our personal (insert name of relevant social networking site here) page.

2. Technology-savvy professionals who use social media, blogging and other tools effectively to network, collaborate, share ideas, and create.

3. Or…non-existent (at least according to cyberspace).

Personally, in a professional world so driven by local and global connections, I know which I would prefer….

Today I presented two short workshops to staff at our school about the place of blogging in education. I started by explaining how I began my ed-tech journey, which has been discussed in a previous post on this blog, and then launched into the question: WHY BLOG?

In researching this presentation, I came across many reasons that people blog professionally and academically:

– facilitate reflection on learning (for students and teachers)
– record professional development
– promote collaboration
-connect with others locally and globally
– writing practice for students
– share ideas and resources
– authentic audience
– share class news
– a digital display of learning

I have posted the link to the Prezi for my whole presentation below, but there are a couple of points I wanted to focus on in particular here.

The Australian Curriculum is now upon us and has been for some time for English, Maths, History and Science. In my opinion, it seems to call for greater metacognition and reflection on learning than we have seen formalised in curriculum documents prior to now. It also recognises through the General Capabilities and the Cross-curricular Priorities the increasingly connected world our students (and our teachers!) exist in. The public but moderated realm of the educational blog means that students can connect with an  authentic audience, engage in discussion and productive critique, share ideas and connect with others locally and globally – all the while continually learning, unlearning and relearning in an authentic manner as the AC proposes they need to be able to do. Of course, the achievement standards will be met in different ways in different subject areas, so it is open for collaboration and negotiation between teachers and students to set the parameters and expectations. These blogs are also the beginning of a personal profile that students can present to future employers as evidence of a vast range of skills needed for the workforce of today and the future.

In regards to educators, blogging is a fantastic way to engage with and reflect on professional learning, connecting with others from outside of one’s usual group of colleagues. These reflections and new knowledge can then be shared through professional networks on social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Linked In. Also, with the AITSL National Professional Standards for Teachers now in many educators’ minds, it is a great time to recognise where educational blogging helps teachers to meet these standards. Not only is a blog a great record of professional learning required for re-registration, but it specifically ticks the boxes a number of the standards. Take the highly accomplished teacher standards for example. A professional blog goes a long way to achieving the requirements for the following:

2.6 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) – Model high-level teaching knowledge and skills and work with colleagues to use current ICT to improve their teaching practice and make content relevant and meaningful.

4.5 Use ICT safely, responsibly and ethically – Model and support colleagues to develop strategies to promote the safe, responsible and ethical use of ICT in learning and teaching.

6.2 Engage in professional learning and improve practice – Plan for professional learning by accessing and critiquing relevant research, engage in high quality targeted opportunities to improve practice and offer quality placements for pre-service teachers where applicable.

6.3 Engage with colleagues and improve practice – Initiate and engage in professional discussion with colleagues in a range of forums to evaluate practice directed at improving professional knowledge and practice, and the educational outcomes of students.

So, I want to finish with the question: the next time someone “Googles” your name, what will they find? And what do you want them to see? Over-shares of your private life, the internet’s equivalent of white noise, or a connected professional who engages in life-long learning and development with colleagues from across the country and world?

Full Prezi:

Composing Written Texts Across the Australian Curriculum F – 6

This afternoon I was fortunate enough to be present at the launch of Composing Written Texts: Across the Australian Curriculum F – 6. This fantastic resource, aimed at a national audience, represents several years of work from Beverley White, Anne Hamilton, and Kylie Pedler from Catholic Education SA and Bronwyn Custance from the Department for Education and Child Development.

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The book is a practical manual  for classroom teachers to support the scaffolding of written language in English, Science, History and Mathematics. The writers set out to provide “written models that illustrate the language features for particular genres at specific stages of linguistic development” (White & Hamilton 2013, p. 5). They have drawn upon genre maps to determine which genres students are expected to write at each year level in the Australian Curriculum. They have then developed writing samples for each genre which reflect the AC’s expectation of linguistic capacity at each year level. Each year level and genre is aligned not only to the Australian Curriculum, but also to DECD’s 2012 Language and Literacy Levels across the Australian Curriculum: EALD which have replaced the former ESL Scales and “describe the development of language and literacy needed across the year levels to access and demonstrate curriculum knowledge, skills and understandings for all learning areas” (DECD 2012, in White & Hamilton 2013, p. 6). Hence, the content of the book is relevant to all students in a mainstream or EAL classroom.

It is important to note at this point that while the resource draws heavily on functional grammar, it is not a guide to functional grammar and does not offer further explanation of terms other than in the glossary. That is not its purpose, although it provides references for those who do wish to learn more about the linguistic theory that underpins the work.

Structurally, Composing Written Texts is divided into year levels Foundation to Year 6. Annotated samples of the genres expected at each year level are found within the sections. These annotations include details about text cohesion, text structure, grammar and word knowledge, which are features described in the Language and Literacy Levels. Immediately following the annotated samples are practical suggestions for scaffolding the learning of students at this stage in their development. The scaffolding is structured around the following teaching and learning cycle:

teaching and learning cycle

This cycle allows teachers and learners to engage in a continual process of assessment for learning, and provides the flexibility necessary for differentiation of learning at any point depending on student needs.

Finally, at the end of each sample, specific links are made to the Australian Curriculum for English, Mathematics, Science and History to demonstrate where these units of work meet AC requirements.

This edition of the resource only covers Foundation to Year 6, but there were whispers at the launch today of an edition covering the scaffolding of writing from Year 7 to Year 10 (where the Australian Curriculum stops and the South Australian Certificate of Education begins). This would take some time to develop, but as a secondary teacher I am excited about the possibilities. Having said this, I still think that Composing Written Texts: Across the Australian Curriculum F – 6 is an incredibly useful resource for secondary teachers. It is a reality that we do have students working at the language levels that are explored in the book. This may be for any number of reasons, but regardless of what those are we must meet these students where they are at and work to move them up the levels. Composing Written Texts provides a practical guide for doing so that I will certainly draw upon in my role as both an EAL teacher and a mainstream classroom teacher in a secondary setting.

For more information or to obtain a copy of Composing Written Texts, contact Catholic Education SA or download and print the order form, found here.

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