Using Easiteach Next Generation in the classroom

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Posted by MissD | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on September 4, 2012

My initial journey into technology in the classroom began with interactive whiteboards and I am still a big fan of using this tool in the early childhood classroom. When I started to learn about using them effectively under the guidance of my mentor teacher, it was with a Smartboard. I felt very confident after a few months of using the software everyday. Then I arrived at my first teaching job and had to grapple with a new format – Easiteach.

I found the software to be far inferior to Smartboard, but at that stage the school was running the original software and it was very outdated and not user friendly at all. The school has now updated its software to Easiteach Next Generation and to help the staff (and myself) utilise it effectively I did some research and created a Glog on edu Glogster.

I found the video tutorials created by Selena Woodward (Teacher Technologies) and Easiteach Australia to be really straight forward and useful. Thankfully, Easiteach Next Gen is compatible with other IWB software (unlike Easiteach) such as Smartboard so not only can you use resources such as Easilearn but you can also access Smart Exchange.

So if you have Easiteach Next Generation and don’t feel that you’re really getting the most out of it, take a look at the videos in the Glog.

How are you using the software in your classroom?

Integrating technology into my reading program

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Posted by MissD | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on August 5, 2012

This semester I am working hard to effectively integrate technology into my reading program to help boost literacy levels in my classroom. In particular, I am working hard to implement learning experiences that will improve the ability of my students to “read a wide range of texts with purpose, understanding and critical awareness” (Department of Education and Training Western Australia, English/Reading scope and sequence, December 2007). This is a very broad learning outcome encompassing contextual understandings, language conventions and processes and strategies. To help my students move towards achieving a higher level of understanding, I realised that I needed to plan and implement a sequence or routine of learning activities that would simultaneously cover a wide range of outcomes in reading.

Last year, my mentor teacher taught me the value of differentiated learning centres. As a student teacher, I found the implementation of learning centres quite difficult initially but as my confidence and ability grew I successfully managed this task. Now in my first year of teaching, after trying various ways of implementing my reading program I am using a mix of explicit teaching and learning centres with technology to help my students improve their reading fluency, comprehension and word knowledge.

I have been lucky enough to take part in the TIPS research project – TPACK iPads in Schools Project – with Dr Jenny Lane from Edith Cowan University. This has allowed me to trial the use of 6 iPads in my year 2 classroom. Last term I integrated the iPads into the History curriculum, but after seeing how engaged the students were in their learning as a result I am integrating their use throughout all learning areas.

At this point I would like to direct you to my class blog to read about the way I have planned my reading program this term. The integration of these technology tools into these learning centres has been guided and in conjunction with explicit teaching and modelling. Over the first semester I worked intensively with my students on using reading comprehension strategies, including visualising, inferring, questioning, summarising and scanning. These were all modelled, guided then independently practiced. Here I would like to map out how I introduced technology into one learning centre: Comprehension with iPads.

Outcome: To develop strategies for comprehending texts (WA K-10 scope and sequence) or using comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning (Australian Curriculum)

Materials: Text (The Gruffalo), iPads, connection cord, interactive whiteboard, mini-whiteboards

Mental Set/Opening:

  • Shared reading of The Gruffalo (had been read before), allocated students one character in the story to focus on (Mouse, owl, fox, snake Gruffalo).
  • timed think, pair, share after reading to share their thoughts on one character

Objective/Purpose

  • established that we are going to be using the iPads in our learning centres this term to help us understand the books we read.
  • I let the students know in that particular lesson, we were going to think about the relationships between the characters in The Gruffalo then have a go at using the iPads to explore the characters in their guided reading books.

Instructional input/Information to be learned

  • students will need to be able to use literal and inferential skills to describe the characters
  • students will learn how to use the Popplet app to build a digital mind map on the iPad

Modelling

  • connected the iPad to the interactive whiteboard and walked the students through how the Popplet app works step-by-step
  • using the Popplet created by Lou Cimetta on Technochalkie, displayed an example of a finished digital mind map for the characters in The Flintstones
  • With the ‘I do, we do, you do’ in mind, moved on to creating a Popplet with the class
  • students allocated the same characters moved into small groups
  • one student was note-taker on a mini-whiteboard, one presented findings at the end, one was timekeeper, the other was leader who made sure everyone had their say (5 min timer)
  • came together and I modelled how to create Popplet using their findings

 

Checking for understanding

  • Knee-to knee, students recounted how to use Popplet app and the information they needed to find about their characters for the task
  • I moved around the room, checking for understanding

Guided Practice

  • Students moved into guided reading groups
  • Students created Popplets with their guided reading texts with same group roles as earlier
  • I moved around the room, helping students with any difficulties and keeping them on track with the task

Closure

  • We displayed each group’s Popplet on the board
  • Each group shared how the activity helped them to understand their characters
  • Each group shared how positive/negatives about using Popplet

 

Following this explicit session on how to use Popplet, students then started to use the app in pairs in their guided reading learning centres. The level of engagement and motivation during these sessions has been quite incredible, particularly with my reluctant readers and writers. It has incorporated the opportunity to learn and practise processes and skills, the learning experience connected with prior knowledge but it also challenged them to present their findings in a different way. I found that the students were more willing to investigate their text using technology than using pencil and paper. I have encouraged collaboration but emphasised that all learners need to contribute by writing their name next to comments made in their Popplet to make each student accountable and involved. Importantly, we reflect and share our learning. In the initial learning experience, we displayed each Popplet and talked through the findings of each group but subsequently I have asked students to document how they feel about their new learning centres with a comment for our blog.

Technology has to be a tool and it needs to be connected to learning new content and reflective of pedagogical practice. I am not completely happy with transitions between learning centres yet, but now that the class has started to engage so well in their learning, classroom management will be the focus to ensure smooth transitions between activities.

I believe Popplet could be used effectively as a technology tool across many learning areas, including science as per the Popplet below.
How have you introduced technology into your classroom?

Goal setting: Walking the talk

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Posted by MissD | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on July 9, 2012

With my first semester as a teacher completed, it’s time to reflect and set some goals.

Quite honestly, I feel like I have been caught in a whirlwind over the past 6 months. Sickness, developing IEPs, reports (WHY don’t they provide us with training in uni to handle reports and IEPs??)parent interviews and managing learning difficulties have been the most challenging parts for me. But, it has been really rewarding and I feel like my skills and level of knowledge has started to take off.

Some of the positives that I am most proud of: inspiring one of the most experienced teachers in the school to start blogging, helping many in my class to start reading for enjoyment, watching students become independent learners, developing students creativity and ability to collaborate using iPads and receiving such positive feedback from my colleagues, leaders and parents at the end of the semester.

Walking the talk

Next semester there will be a strong emphasis on setting realistic and achievable goals in my classroom. So, it is important that I walk the talk and set some clear goals too.

1) Post honest reflections on my professional blog more often.
2) Engage with my PLN on Twitter regularly.
3) Be more assertive in collaborative planning, particularly using different ways to demonstrate student achievement.
4) Integrate iPads into learning more effectively.
5) Incorporate more brain breaks for students into my lessons.

I believe these are achievable and important goals to set. When I reflect more often there is a real difference in my teaching. I have been taking part in a Graduate Advocate program with the Department of Education this term and the professional discussions resulting from observations have lifted my game. With the whirlwind of teaching, you often don’t notice aspects that are working or aren’t proving beneficial to the kids. The few observations my advocate has given me feedback on has helped me to improve. For example, she noticed as she walked around and chatted to students during a Maths problem-solving lesson that most don’t have a strong understanding of what will happen when you try to solve 8-10. The answer in most cases was 0. This observation and the resulting discussion helped me to realise the importance of addressing misconceptions. We developed a series of lessons involving the weather and calculators to explore the concept further.

I have been involved in the TPACKproject with Dr Jenny Lane from Edith Cowan University this past term, which is researching how to effectively integrate iPads into teaching. I have helped my students to develop projects in History this term – see class blog for all the details – but this term I want to integrate their use across the curriculum throughout their learning rather than as an end of unit exercise. The students are becoming more adept at using them effectively, with one student asking on the last day of school, “Can I please make a book?” after finding the Book Creator app. Now that I have established routine in my class and feel more confident, this task will be more manageable.

My last goal resulted from attending a PD run by the SPELD Foundation and UK Education consultant Neil Mackay. It provided me with some very practical strategies to use in the classroom that will benefit all students, not just those with learning difficulties. One that I really need to incorporate is to slow down my lessons and take the time to check for understanding as part of my regular classroom practice. With Year 2s he recommends brain breaks every 13 minutes. He suggests using mini whiteboards for students to demonstrate their understanding with a picture, asking students to write down a few words to explain what is ‘muddy’ or unclear and regular self-assessment using traffic lights. I do use these strategies already but if my teaching is going to be effective it needs to happen far more often.

Teaching: Organisation is the key

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Posted by MissD | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on March 10, 2012

Will I EVER have enough time to do everything? As a graduate, this is the question I have been asking myself lately as my ‘to do’ list just keeps growing and growing. I’m well aware that your first year or two teaching are often called ‘survival’ years but still I wonder when I will be on top of it enough to manage a better work/life balance.

This week I finished writing my first Individual, Group and Behaviour Education Plans. They were a task in themselves, now I need to organise myself so that I remain focused with these targets and put in place the strategies that I have listed. On top of that, I am spending a considerable amount of time this weekend making my planning more organised and developing assessment checklists and files so that everything is clearly aligned. It’s so easy as a new teacher to get caught up in the whirlwind of a schooling week, then getting to the end and realising that I haven’t made enough notes or recorded enough information so that I can monitor progress over the term. The work samples will show me, but I need to have a better system in place so that I can keep track – plus I need to implement an anecdotal notes system, targeting different groups of students at different times so I can build up my records. There is no way you can try and document every child every day. Of course I learnt all about this at uni but I need to find a way to make anecdotal notes work for my specific classroom.

I thought that I was a fairly organised person, but with teaching you need to take personal organisation to a whole new level. That’s one of the key learning points I have taken from my first few weeks in the profession.

Building resilience as a Graduate Teacher

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Posted by MissD | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on February 23, 2012

Wowee. How can it be Week 4 already?! Where did the time go? It certainly feels like someone hit the fast forward button around here. So, I am now 3 and a half weeks into my teaching career and even though I am exhausted I feel more alive and motivated than I have ever been throughout my working life. The challenges of the job are constant and unrelenting but that’s what I love about it so far. I expected my first couple of years to be intense, so the workload isn’t any great surprise, though the school I am working at most certainly has high expectations, for both teachers and students. The more I reflect on how I am feeling, the more I appreciate that those expectations are a huge positive in my book. What I have come to understand about myself is that unless the bar is set pretty high, I feel fairly stagnant and unfulfilled. There is no danger of that in my life at the moment.

The danger in all of this lies in burnout. The dreaded teacher burnout – normally within 3-5 years we leave the profession. A terrible attrition rate. I can certainly see how and why after just a few short weeks, though I am VERY conscious of it – hence this timely reflection. It’s hard, I want to be the best I can be and there always feels like there is so much to do. The pile just grows and grows. My mind feels like it is constantly on the job: how will I extend that child; I need to write those IEPS; must track down those guided reading books for tomorrow; email that parent; check the duty roster; write that long-term plan; do I need to write a GEP?; how will I write a GEP? This type of thought process feels continuous and switching off has been a real issue for me so far.

Thankfully, I have an outstanding group of teachers supporting me within the school. They value my opinion and I greatly appreciate their guidance. There has been give and take with planning, ideas for teaching strategies and sharing of resources. That has been really important for me. I don’t want to feel like I am a burden, so contributing in a constructive way helps to alleviate those concerns.

The work-life balance is a tricky one but I am trying to find small ways to increase my resilience. At the moment, I have to drive quite far when travelling to and from work so that has eaten into any free time I might have had to chill out. One day, I was driving home in that stop-start, annoying as all hell peak hour traffic and thought – why aren’t I stopping at the beach for a swim on the way home?? We are in the middle of a hot summer here in Perth, with days often reaching 37 degrees Celsius. Now, stopping at Cottesloe Beach for a swim and relax in the afternoon sun has become a ritual. I come away feeling rejuvenated because it gives me time to reflect on the day while doing something I love, rather than getting cranky in the middle of a traffic jam then coming straight home to work on activities for the next day. You have to find what works for you. In addition to really engaging in the collaborative process and being proactive in gaining advice from a mentor, pit stops at the beach have certainly been saving my sanity. What works for you??

Summer Hiatus

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Posted by MissD | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on January 2, 2012

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve taken a little break from my blog over the summer. How rude of me not to tell you!

It’s not a complete break though as I’m busy preparing for my first teaching post. In just a few short weeks I will be teaching a beautiful bunch of Year 2s in Perth, Western Australia. I’m excited and nervous all at the same time, but mostly just plain excited!

I would love to hear any advice from my fellow teachers, more general first time teaching tips or specific early years information that you think might help. I’m all ears!

One thing I will quickly add is that Twitter is proving to be one of the best moves I have made in a while. I have already learned so much from my growing PLN (Professional Learning Network). They have challenged, inspired and supported me in just one short month, plus I have taken my first tentative steps into live education chats with #1stchat. This involved teachers working with Year 1 students and the early years from all over the world discussing a specific topic. We asked each other questions, compared techniques and strategies and provided useful links to each other. It’s certainly a fast and furious pace, but really worthwhile.

I’ll leave you with that, happy holidays to you all! In the meantime, I’ll be elsewhere 🙂

Twittering about

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Posted by MissD | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on December 4, 2011

Ok, I’m all signed up! You can find me @Miss_Doig. I’m still navigating myself through the process, but I can already see how valuable this is going to be. Why?

  • connecting with other teachers (wherever they may be)
  • learning about new Web 2.0 tools and handy websites
  • discovering different perspectives on teaching
  • finding out about opportunities to collaborate online
  • sharing resources

I’m sure that I will be able to add to this list as I learn more, but that’s my initial observation anyway…now it’s time to get involved!

To tweet or not to tweet…that is the question

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Posted by MissD | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on November 28, 2011

Well. I think I’m going to tweet. I’ve been thinking about joining Twitter for months really but with the craziness of the Grad Dip year, it just wasn’t going to happen until now. So far, this blog has been an online space to collect resources, reflect a little and pose questions to others out there on the web. But there has been something missing. I haven’t invested enough time in connecting with others. I’ve been more of an interested observer of other blogs. I have been trying to benefit from their experiences and inspire some new thinking in myself along the way. BUT, to truly engage with other teachers and build a really dynamic Personal Learning Network, Twitter seems to be the answer.

I’m under no illusions, it’s going to require some effort and patience on my part. I have been bookmarking good blog posts and websites for a while now, so if you, like me, have thought about joining Twitter as a teacher, these links might help. They have certainly provided some great insights for me. Kathleen Morris and Michael Graffin have both published fantastic resources on getting started that should help, with Kathleen also posting this about hashtags – start getting with the lingo people! In fact, if that part has you running scared, try Twitter for Teachers, they are a great starting point and their Twitter Dictionary should provide some education on tweet speak.

My self-education has also taken me to Creative Education and this article published on The Guardian’s website (UK). There are dozens of videos on Youtube you can check out on PLN’s and Twitter for teachers, so a simple search will help you out with that but another must is apparently TweetDeck, which helps manage your presence on Twitter.

Now. Let’s be clear, I’m at the beginning of this little foray into Twitter land, I haven’t even signed up for an account yet. I’m excited about it’s potential though because so many educational bloggers love it, praising it’s ability to facilitate professional learning. I have joined Twitter before, for work reasons (previous life as a media analyst), but this will be a brand new venture and for totally different reasons. As Kathleen Morris writes in her guide, I won’t be tweeting about what I had for breakfast. Initially I will spend some time getting my head around how it all works, working out who to follow and then starting to write meaningful tweets related to education. No doubt it will take on a whole new dimension once I’m teaching, but if it can help with my learning process as a graduate teacher then I’m all for it.

Dyslexia and Davis Learning Strategies

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Posted by MissD | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on November 9, 2011

What I really love about teaching is the continual learning journey that it takes you on. My university studies may be over, but there is no getting away from one fact – I still have a lot to learn. I was asked to tutor a student in Year 3 student in literacy the other day. Her mother is concerned about her reading, spelling and writing and feels like she will be left behind if she doesn’t catch up soon. She also mentioned that she is a little worried her daughter may be dyslexic as a few members of her family are. This sparked my interest. I thought about everything that I have learned this year, but dyslexia feels like an unknown entity. This is definitely a gap in my knowledge that I’m keen to sort out. So, I started to do a little research, to find out what might work for this student. Obviously a formal diagnosis would be a good idea, but if phonics based instruction hasn’t been working, a different tact is probably needed…

I came across some websites describing Davis Learning Strategies, which involves a multi-sensory approach to learning, involving clay modelling and other techniques. Ron Davis developed and implemented these strategies, beginning in the US but they are being taught all over the world including Australia. I really like the fact that these strategies give all students the chance to improve, not just those with dyslexia so it is definitely inclusive. Don’t get me wrong, the traditional drill-based repetition used in early childhood still has a place, but these strategies could be used in tandem to give visual and kinaesthetic learners better learning outcomes.

So I have been trying to find out how I can learn more. It seems most Davis facilitators are based in the Eastern states of Australia, but I have ordered Davis’ book “The Gift of Dyslexia” and read a scholarly article on the this approach, because I like to know that there is some substance to an approach before I go gung-ho with it. I would be really interested to hear from other teachers that have come across these techniques or know someone who has used them. I have been applying for countless jobs here in Western Australia recently (more on that later) and in one job advert it mentioned that knowledge of Davis strategies would be “desirable”. (A bit off track, but that word being used in a job advert always amuses me). Interesting though that Davis strategies are creeping into classrooms here…I wonder if there has been some PD done in WA? The official training is generally done in New Zealand and Sydney, so maybe the book by Ron Davis has been the inspiration behind this…

Using ICT to develop literacy skills

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Posted by MissD | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on November 3, 2011

Fact: I get quite excited about the potential of ICT to engage students in their learning. I can’t wait to get started with my own class next year and start implementing some of the tools I’ve come across such as Storybird. I first heard about this site, which gives students the chance to develop their own storybook online, a few months ago. The Teaching Generation Now blog reminded me about it through their fantastic fortnightly email service. The prospect of integrating ICT such as Storybird into daily classroom experiences can be quite daunting, especially if you are just getting to grips with technology. But the folks at Teaching Generation Now send out a really informative email explaining how to use different tools. I definitely recommend subscribing to this service, it’s already given me plenty of inspiration for future programming.

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