Last week I became a Splash ambassador.  Splash is an Australian website run by the ABC which collates high quality content to share with Australian educators, parents and students.  It includes videos, audio clips, games and interactives which can be used across all year groups.

I was part of the initial group which worked with ABC in the conception days of Splash.  It was a great opportunity to have some input into what would become the Splash website and also see the process of building the website from brainstorming ideas to having students involved to find out their needs of the website. We even got to vote on the name!

So why have I become a Splash ambassador? Well, here are a few reasons.

  • You can trust Splash.  We all know what it is like in a classroom when you want a video or information at a moment notice.  We also all know how easily we can get into trouble when using YouTube without checking through all the video first.  At least with ABC Splash I trust that the videos and materials are related to education and have been through a process to be placed there.  I can confidently allow students to browse the resources and know that they will not come across unsafe material.
  • It is Australian. So often I look for resources online and get stuck with geo cached resources I can’t use in Australia.  All of the resources on Splash are available in Australia and there is also lots of Australian made content. It also means there are resources specifically designed for Australian audiences and related to local events.
  • The quality of the resources are high.  The Splash resources are selected with educators in mind and are very high quality.  You only need to look through the video to see documentaries that are filmed by professionals and often come directly from the ABC.
  • It is ever changing.  There are lots of resources that are continually being uploaded to the website. I have Splash on my RSS reader and enjoy flicking through the new resources which are added every few days.
  • There is a great variety of resources from videos, audio to games and interactives.
  • They think about teachers too.  The teacher section not only has lesson plans and resources to support them but also some great articles from amazing educators around Australia who share their insights, expertise and provoke us.

As an ambassador I am certainly in good company as I join many great educators who share their love of Splash. You can catch these educators on twitter and Google+ using the #SplashEd hashtag as they share how they are using Splash in their schools and universities. I will be tweeting using that hashtag and you can also find me on Google+ where I have set up a community to share resources.  I will also be reviewing a Splash resource every week which I hope you will find useful.

If you want to find out more about Splash you can go to the website, follow them on Twitter and join their group on Facebook.


Why our schools are NOT failing your children

This morning I read this article by recent graduate Johanna O’Farrell in The Age.  Of course any article which opens with “Why your schools are failing your children: a teacher tells” piqued my interest.  I have always advocated for teachers telling their stories in our media rather than politicians but this one had my heart rate rising as she spoke of schools tossing aside “any sort of rigour, routine or repetition when it comes to classroom learning.”

I am truly concerned of Johanna’s experiences in schools where she believes that the strategy is that students “will simply learn to read and write by osmosis” and that rote learning should be a valid part of learning.

If we want our schools to factories of students who can travel a conveyer belt learning times tables through hours of chanting and memorising the laws of the English Language then maybe she has a point.  But I couldn’t imagine why we would want students to know facts in isolation and that a “blackboard and chalk, a pen and paper, a few good books and some learned teachers will suffice.” Isn’t an education of experiences which connect ideas, is in context with the real world and develop skills of self directed life long learning a more holistic approach?  Sure, we can rote learn many things if we believe the learning journey ends with our VCE results.

I am saddened that Johanna doesn’t have the knowledge to explain why students expression in English is wrong, not because she was denied learning about the laws of the English language but because she was not exposed to experience of curiosity, self directed learning and how to take control of her own learning.

Maybe this is a message that we need to be more articulate in what we are doing in schools.  I too believe that technology is not a silver bullet and have questioned the use of “genius hours” or “inquiry learning days.”  But I do believe that inquiry learning and technology should be embedded into our classrooms and become as normal as pen and paper learning and chalk and talk was in the past. We need to talk about why we do what we do.  It is more than engagement.  It is embedding real experiences and constructing knowledge through context, introducing conflicting ideas, connecting those experiences and developing their own understandings.

Maybe the more we talk about the why, the less misconception will be there about the relevance of education and demonstrate how schools are helping our students to succeed.

Learning for working

This post is part of a series reflecting on my international study tour to Copenhagen, Berlin and London.

Angelika greets us this morning from the Oberstufenzentrum – Kommunikations, Informations und Medientechnik. The OSZ is a gymnasium offering more career focused education and vocational subjects. It is clear from a tour of the school that they focus on media, with more media equipment than I would expect to find in a TV studio! The school has both full vocational and dual students and offer the university exam, the Arbitur.

Media equipment

We start with Angelika introducing three students from the school aged 25, 23 and 18.  Most schools like this have a small percentage of mature age students.  The first student talks of how he didn’t identify with his first attempt at a Gymnasium and much prefers the opportunity to have lots of options.  The second student, who has returned to study after being musician (he had recently had a top ten hit in Germany).  He enjoys the project based learning which occurs.

Around the school

Angelika and the students talk a lot about behaviour and how much time is dedicated to managing it.  Sitting in the middle of a deprived district of Berlin it is known for difficult students.  They do a  lot of work on setting rules and expectations, getting to class on time and creating a working climate.  Walking around the school it certainly doesn’t feel like a place that needs working on culture and students seem engaged. When we walk into an editing class, students are working in groups on a project and are assisting each other on their work. The equipment in the room is well planned so they can work in pairs or small groups but still have access to everything they might need.

I am educator. I am me.

I have been thinking lately about how I conduct myself on social media.  After reading George Couros‘ blog post on Professional vs Private I reflected on my own use of social media.  I too have tended to separate my personal life which generally lives on Facebook and my professional life which predominantly lives in Twitter.  I don’t think I planned it this way but when I first started using Facebook I was travelling the world and wanted to share what I was doing to my antipodean family.  Twitter came a bit later and I was wearing my teaching hat when I fell into it.  Slowly, the lines between the two are starting to blend as my Twitter acquaintances become friends and my friends find Twitter.

I do believe that Facebook offers a false sense of security of privateness where as Twitter boldly puts everything into the public realm.  George stated that he is happy to have students follow him on Twitter as it is a completely public arena, whereas on Facebook he won’t ‘friend’ students.

I agree when he points out that although it is in the private section of Facebook we would be very naive to think it is always private.  It does make me wonder if Facebook too was as public as Twitter whether I would sepaprate the two as much.  Maybe I have learnt skills from Facebook that I use on Twitter?

Image: ‘Teaching the Toys
Found on flickrcc.net

I was recently given the advice that I need to draw a line between my professional life and personal life.  I took great offence to this. Education is personal to me.  Even as a young girl I would ‘play school’ with my Barbies, setting up my bedroom to look like my classroom and teaching them how to spell. And today it continues to invigorate me, comfort me, consume me.

I check twitter before I get out of bed in the morning.  I reply to emails or questions at the park on a Sunday. I walk past free postcards and I take a handful as they might come in handy for teaching writing one day. And I am not willing to draw a line between my personal and professional because it would tear me in half.

My  friends expect I am going to talk about learning over dinner  and my students get to know my friends through the stories I tell. I love that I can be there for people who care about the same things I do on Twitter and learn from them, the same as I do with friends I have grown up with.

Being an educator is who I am and I wouldn’t be whole without it.