Spring is in the Air: Time for another #ISMTeachMeet

My school community is filled with educators who come from a range of backgrounds and have a wide variety of expertise so it would be foolish for us not to take advantage of such a skilled and knowledgeable bunch of teachers and encourage a professional sharing practice.

John Jones, @mrjonesICT, and I first introduced the idea of a TeachMeet to the ISM teaching community well over a year ago. Our first session was met with a mixture of extreme caution, some resistance but mostly curiousity and enthusiasm.  We welcomed some risk-taking teachers to stand up and share their experiences, wisdom, learning and innovative ideas to colleagues. They led the way in ensuring that gradually TeachMeets are becoming part of our School community culture.

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Many teachers found it an enlightening experience to hear what fellow colleagues who they share their morning break with every day actually find useful, engaging tools to inspire learning in the classroom. Since then the #ISMTeachMeet has gained momentum and we have scheduled to have these school-wide at least once a term. Our Spring TeachMeet is lining up to have everything from Design Learning presented by Jen Rhodes @JenRhodes to using Pinterest & Smore to create and share revision guides by Michael Cotgrave @Miclaaa.

Now, my next thought is how about we create a StudentMeet for teachers and students! Why don’t we ask students to present for 2 or 5 minutes about the technology tools and learning practices that engage and inspire them in their everyday learning….. Wouldn’t it make sense to hear what they find successful? My next goal has been set!

Being Mindful following BETT 2014

I was delighted to be able to attend BETT 2014 in London this past month and, just as last year, have come back inspired and renewed with ideas as to how to engage and inspire students through using technology mindfully; with purpose and taking a balanced approach. Reflecting on BETT this year these two words, mindful and balance, are what spring to the forefront. I believe  being mindful and finding balance are going to be fundamental in moving forward with how we enrich student learning through use of technology.

At present, I have, quite literally, maxed out the memory space on my iPad with the number of apps I have downloaded, however, I know that my first step post BETT will be deleting apps and reflecting on the tools I will use and introduce to teachers and students now back at ISM. That is not to say that all the apps on my iPad aren’t brilliant in their own right, but what is relevant, suitable and going to be effective right now at my school?

Being mindful, I believe, is going to become a term that we will hear more and more in our everyday lives, it is actually something that we actively now have to draw attention to, as evolution has pulled us away from doing just that, from being aware in the present. We  are so ‘busy’ and ‘connected ‘ all the time that we  quite simply have forgotten to be present in the here and now.

I think being mindful can also can be applied to our use of technology as educators; we must be mindful when introducing new tools and experiences to students, and whilst embracing the innovation we must also evaluate and reflect upon its use. Here are some questions I will be asking when deciding what tools and apps to share with teaches and students.

Is it serving a true purpose in this moment?

Is it enriching the message or learning that I would like the learner to engage in?

Is it delivering or conveying information in the most effective way?

Is it helping to provoke questions and engage the learner in deeper thinking?

I also believe that balance is going to be something we must consider in both our teaching and learning. I certainly have come away from BETT with a determination to be more mindful about the tools I use, and, how they impact learning.  Finding balance, well that, as always is going to be a constant tightrope walk!

BETT & the Blogging Journey

As I listened to the presentation by Head of ICT, John Jones (@mrjonesICT ) http://ict.ismonacoblog.org/2013/01/31/to-blog-or-not-to-blog-the-ism-question/
that charted the highs and lows of the blogging journey our school has been traveling along at the Bett 2013 Exhibition, I was struck by a number of things.
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Firstly, the immense progress that can be made in a relatively short space of time; what has been achieved is inspiring and is largely due to the passion and commitment of our Head of ICT. Our school has opened its doors to the outside world and invited others in to share in successes, provide inspiration for learners and give feedback and purpose to the learning taking place. What’s more, the reciprocal role of this experience, that is, that the students are also being asked to give their personal opinions and feedback has been transformative in many of our classrooms.
That is not to say that the journey has been smooth, in fact, in reality it has been anything but smooth! Nor does it mean that blogging has been embraced by all, although, it is gradually spreading school-wide as teachers explore what is the best fit for their classrooms and learners.
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Change, any kind of change = tension, heightened emotion and hopefully a great deal of reflection and debate. Being part of charting the unknown and navigating a pathway to successful blogging has been an enriching experience as an educator. Would I change anything about the journey so far, not at all, it has all been learning, the highs and the lows.
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Secondly, the greater realization that technology, rather than stand in the way of forming relationships has actually opened possibilities, broadened horizons and enriched learning for everyone. This is often the argument I hear against using blogging or indeed, technology as a tool in classrooms, that it depersonalizes  leaning, or stops traditional talk and collaboration.
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Relationships are really at the heart of any learning community and this is exactly why blogging has transformed much of the learning taking place in our classrooms.
No longer is it only the teachers’ opinion that provides feedback to students but suddenly there is a wider audience to encourage, critique and comment on student learning. The relationships that form from this online forum are key to its success. The one thing that has changed however is the definition of these ‘relationships’. That, I believe is the ‘new’ part of using technology as a tool in education.

Reflecting on BETT 2013

So, I survived my first BETT show, I navigated the maze (quite literally a maze!) of stands, speakers and technological wonder and made it through, overwhelmed, exhausted but most definitely inspired and restored!

Interestingly, all of this without actually knowing what BETT stood for… I mean I had a guess, a pretty good idea what the acronym was… but I didn’t really know. On reflection, I thought of the question Sugata Mitra concluded his presentation at BETT, ‘Do we need to know?’.  Was my understanding and appreciation of BETT lessened any by my ignorance as to the title of the event?

I have read and heard varying reports and comparisons to previous BETT conferences about the location, layout and physical space that it encompassed and the ‘buzz’ or ‘energy’ it generated, but for me the whole event was simply about people. Technology may have been the focus but people were at the heart of the BETT show. It was truly the people there that inspired me and restored my values and beliefs in education and learning. The tools that are available now are truly amazing and innovative but it is the ways in which teachers are using them to enrich learning and allow students to make connections from an early age.

The 100WC created by Julia Skinner, @TheHeadsOffice, is just one such example of how technology has been used to inspire and encourage even the most reluctant writers and essentially is all about connecting people to share comments and give feedback. Our Year 6 students at ISM are enthused and love this morning writing challenge which gives them the opportunity to be creative, share thoughts and ideas and gain feedback from readers around the world. A simple, but powerful way in which technology has been harnessed to improve student learning. http://100wc.net