Classroom Connections

Over the past 18 months I have been lucky enough to build a wonderful personal learning network, mostly through Twitter and blogging.  I couldn’t begin to list the ways it has helped me to further my learning and my teaching.

This year, participating in the PLP Connect U project, I have continued to build a connected network of wonderful educators who inspire me to learn more, teach better and share often. These connections allow me to bring experiences into the classroom I know would not have been possible before, such as the learning we did yesterday.

Our inquiry unit for this term is, ‘How do we design and create furniture for a particular purpose?’ After spending the last few weeks learning about the design and features of different chairs we are now delving into the design process of making our own model chairs.  It soon became evident we needed some skills in woodworking from someone with a greater knowledge than mine.

With perfect timing I happened upon the blog, which the PLP Connect U – Animals and Habitats team were using to share their experience of Project Based Learning. They had made possum boxes at one of their schools and it was obvious they needed some woodworking skills to produce this.  It was time to do some investigating.

After an email to Ben Gallagher, he was able to suggest a student who had worked on the boxes and was happy to do an Elluminate session with us.

So yesterday the kids all crowded around the Interactive Whiteboard to hear Harris’ presentation.  It was amazing! Harris worked through the slide show he had prepared, sharing with us tips for using a hammer, a drill and saws as well as how to choose the correct wood.  He spoke with such confidence and the students were mesmerised by his expertise.  He then answered our questions without hesitation. We did have a few technical hitches where our class didn’t have a microphone but it certainly didn’t matter, especially as we now have the recording.

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As a teacher it was such a powerful experience to watch our expert share his knowledge with the class.  And he wasn’t an expert in the traditional sense but someone who was confident in his knowledge and willing to share it. The students in the class listened attentively and took on board all of his advice. Can teaching and learning be any more authentic?

How have you connected with an expert, classroom or teacher?

Do you have a similar classroom experience to share?

Me as a learner

I have been participating in the PLPConnectU project and I am having a fabulous time learning!

The project is based around building a network to bring about new learning specifically based around passion based, 21st Century learning.  Our project began when we met face to face in March and since then we have developed a group of teachers working as a network to converse around a specific question (What is creativity?)

"Creative Hands" - Mindy

We are currently about half way through the project and already my ideas and beliefs have taken a huge turn.  I guess one of my highlights of the project so far is how powerful a network is for forcing you to question what you believe in and more importantly why you believe in it.  Just as I begin to be clear in my thoughts about what creativity is someone throws in a new question which takes me back to the drawing board.

I have also enjoyed the chance to sit in the shoes of my students.  For each step of this project I have compared myself and my learning to that in my classroom, from how I chose the group I worked in to how I reflect on my learning.

I didn’t actually choose my group based on a passion of mine but the people I would be working with.   I have seen the students in my class choose their teams based on similar reasoning.  In fact we discussed this in my class recently with students choosing their groups based on their friends, groups most likely to succeed and based on what there passions are.  All valid reasons in specific situations.

The topic choice was pretty much irrelevant in my decision to join this group which may be the reason I was completely on a different path to others in the group.  With cretaivity given to the group as a beginning topic my mind first went to art and being artistic.  But the power of the network soon changed my thinking to creativity as something I should be adding to all aspects of my classroom.

Many readings and discussion later I now have these questions I am reflecting on;

How do I encourage creativity in my classroom?

Do students feel creativively nurtured and supported in my classroom?

Does my teaching give opportunities for students to take their own initiative?

How can I be more creative in how I teach?

Who Needs a Philosophy? – I do!

I often reflect on myself as a teacher and the journey I have taken over the years.  I sometimes feel like I have only become a ‘real’ teacher in the last couple of years but I guess it is really that my teaching has taken the shift I am most proud of during this time.

I am currently participating the PLPConnectU program in Victoria and have thoroughly enjoyed the conversations and inspiring educators who I am now immersed with daily.  On our first face to face session and again during a recent elluminate session we were asked to share our philosophy on education.

Interestingly enough I have rarely been asked this question.  I think the last time was when I was at university.  Actually, it may have been the last essay I submitted, explaining my philiosphy in education.  Sadly I fear it was a regurgatation of theorists we had read about.  But it was percieved as being one of the most important aspects of an educator and certainly a requirement of every teacher.

It then took 10 years before I was asked about my philosophy again…. Not in a job interview, not in my performance review and certainly not in the staffroom.

Although I never shared it, I have always had a philosophy and it has always been changing.  Transforming my beliefs as I learned and experienced more. Taking what I saw and forming a new belief or being inspired by what I read and heard from others. Often it would blend around what I was told by my leaders as being important.

So what has changed in the last two years that has allowed me to develop and share  my own philosophy?  I guess blogging and twitter would have to be the main reasons.  I was introduced to amazing educators who could think for themselves, form beliefs and work towards them.  Through reading other’s work and hearing inspiring educators on twitter I started to question my own ideals and what education means to me. And then share them.

I guess by now you are wondering what my philosophy is!  It revolves around anywhere, anytime learning not based solely on content but on developing life long learners who can communicate, collaborate and create in today’s and future societies. I could go into great detail here but I think you get the picture!

So is a philosophy necessary to be an educator?  Do you think we need to talk about it more, in the staffroom, or with our leaders? How do we ensure we are being true to our philosophy whilst being held back by red tape? I would love to hear your thoughts.