The year coming up

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Aaah summer

So, now we are on summer holidays here in Australia and teachers’ thoughts begin to turn away from the pudding and the beach occasionally to reflect on the year just gone. I know that I have looked up from my book, my chocolates and the wrapping paper and caught myself pushing work thoughts aside but it is time for me to look back over the year and plan for next year. I know I have a Year 7 English class which is very exciting as I love middle years teaching and I also have a year 12 English class which is again, exciting as it is the first one ever at our school so it is a privilege to be part of it. It also means a lot of hard work and I need to begin to set my plans in action. I have set up a class blog for the year 12s and myself and the other year 12 English teacher will post regularly about what we have been doing in class and link to materials that students can use to help them to prepare for their final exams at the end of the year. I also plan on blogging with my year 7 class as part of their wider reading program. Their library time will be used to learn about genre, sample different texts, share their reading and learn about things such as copyright and fair use and good research skills. My year 7 class study a film text (Wall-e) first and we do lots of different writing tasks around the text as well as some oral presentations. The boys liked this work last time but I think I can make it better by introducing Socratic Circles earlier and practicing it with some non-fiction texts linked to the main themes in the film as well as some texts about the film and about film in general. So task one is to gather the materials together. Socratic Circles (or seminars) are a really good way to get students to learn about dialogue and to give each other feedback. This  links well to the ‘Language for interaction’ strand of AusVELS as well as ‘Expressing and developing ideas’. It also allows students to continue to develop strong literacy skills, especially AusVELS ‘Literacy for interacting with others’ and ‘interpreting, analysing and evaluating’.

Last year (this year as I write- but 2013 anyway) I did not have year 7s so I need to look at my notes from 2012 to help me to organise this unit of work. We will be preparing our units using understanding by design and planning backwards from our standards and what we want our students to learn.

In 2013 I took a year 10 and a year 11 class so none of the materials or content will be useful for me in 2014 other than as material to support other teachers with.  As teachers in secondary schools we often have to change our teaching plans year after year, this is an excellent opportunity to reflect on what we teach and why we teach it. If we can only come up with the state standards then we are really in trouble. We need to ensure that we are teaching students to successfully negotiate the world that will be theirs. They need excellent literacy skills, including technological literacy, and be effective communicators, thoughtful citizens, creative and flexible thinkers. If our curriculum does not aid them in this we must rethink it. We need to work as teams of professionals to build connections between subject areas and we need to understand, most of all, who they are and who they want to be.

So this has ended up being something of a manifesto for my year ahead. I want to learn from the best, so I use my online networks through my twitter account @loremipsem and use my Scoop It pages to curate the research I do into better teaching and learning.

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This blog is set up so that I can reflect on my Masters in Education course at Monash University. The current unit requires a more reflective approach and given that it is about using technology in education a blog was an ideal choice for me. I will endeavour to write at least once a week, but usually more about my reading and my practice.
The unit is about the intersection between innovation and learning and this is an area that I am very interested in. I currently use some technology in my classes, but only things like grouply, ning, wikis (from wikispaces)and blogging as well as the use of Smartboards. I have a Googlesite for one class and we regularly use Googledocs as well.
I use twitter for professional learning but have not used it in class, partly because of access issues and partly due to time constraints as I teach VCE.
One thing that has just occurred to me about the use of technology in education is something that I just read today. I had created a Survey Monkey survey for teachers at my school as part of the preparation of the e-learning plan. One teacher’s response dovetailed with my own philosophy of teaching and learning. The respondent said ‘it’s not just about doing it for the sake of it. It has to have a real purpose’. I was glad that this came up in the survey because it showed that at least some of the respondents had a balanced approach to using technology. Another response was unfortunately, more typical. It was from a VCE teacher who saw their role as preparing students for SACs and exams only and that technology had no place in this. This showed me the breadth of responses at my school and I am sure that this would be seen to varying degrees in most schools.