Category Archives: Education

A Simmering NAPLAN Rage

I have no idea how this post will end. I am not even sure whether I should post it. I do know that a rage is simmering within me and it has to do with the week ahead.

It’s NAPLAN Week.

It says so on the front sign at school. It says so in the Sydney Morning Herald. It says so in The Australian, The Age, The Times and on Channel Seven! It says so. It says so in the supermarket aisles, where lurid red signs screech ‘Essential School Supplies’, appealing to my mother guilt, warning that my lack of purchase will consign my children to scrapheap of  educational failure.

It’s NAPLAN Week.

It says so in the school yard and in the coffee shops where different mums and dads compare “My School” to “Others” and declare hopes for this year’s performance compared to last; where some boast of the prep that’s been undertaken and others outline the study regimen in the lead up to this week.

This NAPLAN week.

It whispers to me on Twitter where stories are posted making generalisations about the misuse of data or worse still revealing the breathtaking inequity of a system that demands disabled children in ‘special schools’ sit the same test as, and be measured against those in ‘elite, selective schools’. I want to write to that school this week, this NAPLAN week. I want to write and say “You are amazing! You do, every day, what I could never do. You are the champions of education!”

But I want to write to you too, whoever you are. I want to write and implore you to reconsider the value we place on this week. Can we reconsider the value we give to high stakes testing when we say we will plan for and implement effective teaching and learning by introducing a series of practice NAPLAN tests? Can we reconsider the value we place on learning when we suspend it for weeks to prepare for tests? Can we reconsider the value we place on children when we speak of them relative to state or national averages?

I am sure my rage will subside as the week does. The tests will come and go. I’ll read more stories about vitamins to improve brain function during the tests and about stress toys which can be bought for those nervous ones amongst us. I will no doubt read more stories which pit systems of education against each other. But a question still nags. Can we please, as Australian educators find and use more meaningful data about student learning so that standardised test results are no longer publicly perceived as the sole indicators of school performance and of children’s intelligence?

Delighted To Meet You: My First TeachMeet Experience

TeachMeetDelighted to Meet You!

Friday was a shocker. One of those days when I got nothing, of everything I had planned to do that day, done! I was tired. I was grumpy… and I had committed to going to my first ever TeachMeet. Moreover, in one of those moments when my brain and mouth operate independently of each other, I had said I would present. (I know! What was I thinking?) After dropping my iPad in the carpark, smacking the lippy on in the rear view mirror and doing my best creative driving to get to the University of Canberra by 5pm, I arrived at the aptly, although in this moment ironically named Inspire Centre not really knowing what to expect.

Name badge slapped on, convenor discovered and seat found, I quietly prayed for divine intervention with the dropped iPad on which my presentation, made with Explain Everything, flicked in and out of reality. And my mind raced… “You are about to be discovered… exposed! You’re here to present and you’ve got nothin’ babe!” I thought of a tap routine to create a distraction, perhaps a fainting spell or an urgent phone call which required my immediate presence on the other side of Canberra. (These are the panicked inner thoughts of the introvert who has trained herself to be social). To my enormous relief, I learned I was presenting last.

What unfolded next surprised and delighted me. A young chaplain from one of the local colleges spoke first, in rap, about the importance of voice and relationship in teaching. We then heard from a teacher using Schoology to develop meaningful learning connections with his students. We heard about the ways Minecraft, Google Docs, Twitter and learning spaces are being used in innovative ways in ACT schools to engage students and to create powerful learning experiences. I found myself in a room of like-minded teachers who clearly love their jobs, love teaching and love kids. They were so affirming of each other and so appreciative of the sharing that when I finally got up to present I was no longer worried. I just shared my experiences of getting out of the way of my students’ learning (without the pictures on my little slide show but if you click on the link, you’ll see them). They even (sometimes) laughed at my jokes. We chatted afterwards and I got to meet some of my Twitter colleagues face to face, which was a particular joy.

This is what I learned.

  1. There are great teachers in schools
  2. Great teachers love learning and love teaching
  3. Great teachers are doing great things in schools
  4. Great teachers affirm and encourage each other
  5. Great teachers make the effort to meet each other

Can I encourage you that if you are yet to take part in a TeachMeet in your city, state or territory, you should. Even more, can I encourage you to find your voice and to present? The thing you think might be really naff might actually be what someone needs to hear. It is a fabulous era in which to be teaching and the more we seek each other out, the more we learn from each other and the more we share, the more exciting the learning in our schools will be.

Twitter Chats: A 10km Run For Your Brain

In Connected Authentic Learning Communities, Voice Matters


In early January I wrote a post outing myself as a ‘Twit’ and reflecting on my status as a ‘Twitter Newb’. I’d taken part in several chats and was reflecting on how these, and the people involved in them, were having a positive impact on my own professional learning. I was watching, with curiosity, as the education community on Twitter related and grew. Grateful for opportunities to learn from people like Tom Whitby and Angela Maiers, I was also amazed by the number of great educators who were willing to talk to me, answer my questions and even ask me some of their own. Chastened, because I’d always thought Twitter to be banal, I wrote the post in response to someone participating in #Satchat who had chided me that when we remain silent the learning of others is impaired. This idea, my own experience of ‘finding my voice’, a Twitter chat with the staff at school and Bruce Arcurio’s blog post about that chat, have me thinking very deeply… and when I think, I write.

Voice Matters

I hosted my very first Twitter chat (#BCCchat) last week… a conversation about Will Richardson’s book, ‘Why School?’. My Principal and I had asked the staff to read it just a couple of days beforehand and I was very interested to know how it was impacting their thinking. Aware that sometimes people are reluctant to share in staff meetings, and aware too that these can occasionally be droll ‘person out the front’ affairs, I wondered who might ‘speak up’ if Twitter provided the platform to be heard.

I was amazed by what happened. It was not just that Will Richardson and other international educators joined the chat (I may have sqealed when that happened), it was also that some of my quieter colleagues found their voice and this was publicly (even internationally) affirmed. They shared deeply profound insights and asked questions which revealed considerable wisdom and confirmed what I already knew. They are a quality bunch of educators.

After the 1 hour chat (it seemed like 5 mins) several of these people remarked that it had been wonderful to be able to say something, to be heard and taken seriously and to connect authentically with educators from around the world. Listen to these comments (some tweeted and some spoken) which were made in the days following the chat;

“This is the best professional learning experience we’ve had!”

“I have rediscovered my love of teaching. Thank you!”

“Struggling with the duality of feeling so connected with people in different places whist loving the energy of people in the room.” (How’s that for a beauty!)

“Thank you @willrich45 for inspiring us to have these conversations and asking the questions that will direct the way we offer education.”

“I found it really encouraging to be able to join in. It switched my brain into drive, which I’ve been missing.”

This last comment is pertinent for any educator who is thinking about the value Twitter might add to their professional learning. Because educators around the world use the platform so well, the quality of the observations and questions offered in the educational space really do force you to engage your brain and to think. A Twitter chat is invigorating but also tiring because it demands such high levels of engagement, participation and concentration. It’s like a 10km run for your brain.

Just as our doctors, spouses, bosses and friends encourage us to exercise our bodies to keep them working well, can I encourage you that a really well-hosted and well-directed Twitter chat can do the same thing for your brain? At a time when reform is at the forefront of our educational dialogue, engaged, authentic, connected learning communities and professional learning networks are precisely what we need.

I’m a Twit: Reflections of a Twitter Newb

6721376969_ca96361c89_bUntil September 2012, my experience of Twitter went something like this;

“Have just finished hanging nappies on line. Time for tea. Winky face.”

“1D tickets for my birthday! OMG!!! Totes #AWESOME! Best parents eva @mum&dad.”

“Btwn u & me desp 4 #followers.Pls retweet #ff #fb #somerandomhastag. @theentireglobalpopulation.Thx”

… and here in Australia we endured a week long news story about a minor celebrity who had been hounded into a mental health unit by some despicable trolls to whom she’d made the mistake of responding. Frankly, I believed the ‘Twitterverse’ was populated by ‘twits’ contributing banality (or cruelty) to a crowded ‘Twittersphere’.

And then my friend Anne came over.

We were talking education, as we do, and I was lamenting the current preoccupation with summative assessment when deep learning often happens in the formative. I was grappling with the idea of finding valid ways to measure that.

“I think I’m going to write a paper. I think I’ll send it to [insert a range of educational bodies]. Something has to be done!”

Her response? “Don’t. No-one will read it. Start a blog.”

She introduced me to a news aggregator and then talked a bit about Twitter and the educational community that exists there. When she left, I went to my defunct Twitter account, stared blankly at my egghead, my mainly family followers and the blue bird thinking, “I really don’t get this”.

My husband tweeted ‘Welcome’ and Miss 16 tweeted something obnoxious (that I accidentally ‘favourited’)  to which I responded ‘Well at least I’m trying!’. And I was. Over the next hour, both teenagers gave me a crash course in the use of hastags (LOL Mum just made a super long hashtag & used punctuation #facepalm), explained why I should put a * before @ and showed me how to ‘discover’ chats.

This is what has happened since.

1. I have met and talked to some extraordinary educators nationally and internationally. They have actually cared to answer my questions and surprisingly, have asked a few of me.

2. I have discovered a world of creative, informative, relevant blogs and websites that feed me intellectually and challenge my preconceived ideas

3. I have experienced the buzz of live chats (likened by someone, somewhere, to ‘drinking from a fire hydrant’) that have caused me to think very deeply… and sometimes for days afterwards

4. I have read several outstanding books I did not previously know about

5. I am finding my voice because I am encouraged to share my ideas

When I look back over these past 4 months I recognise I have been blessed to encounter only positive, encouraging people (the education community is like this). I realise I have been on an extraordinary learning journey… and that I have been a terrible snob. In my thinking at least, my responses to what I had previously labelled banal would now be a bit different.

To the nappy hanging tweeter: while I might not follow you because I’m not using Twitter for the same reasons as you, thank you for sharing your day with me and I hope your tea was nice. When ‘junior’ starts school, let’s chat.

To the 1D fan: You’re welcome. Shucks. I feel loved. Will try to use less punctuation in future #soz

To @Desperate4Follows: Join a chat, follow an interesting person, share your great idea… give me a reason to follow you and I just might.

And to those who have chatted, followed, retweeted, ‘favourited’ and responded, thanks. I enjoy your company. You enrich my learning.

Photo Credit: Justinvl via Compfight cc