Thursday, August 18, 2011

It does not have to be about Commerce

As I was drinking my coffee in the staffroom I came to my page. It is by pure chance I found this page as I was following one link, which lead to another wich lead to another one.

The page has for title "Five C for Commerce teaching" but it actually applies to any class I reckon. It is not a life changing discovery but sometimes you need to read again something you know about in order to keep it fresh in your mind.

My favorite word of this page is "Connectedness" as I think it is pivotal in our learning.

Have a wonderful day =)

image source :

Monday, August 15, 2011

Those who can teach Jiu Jitsu...

Sometimes you go to conferences or PD and although you have learned something new it has not changed your life (as a teacher), and sometimes you do that has got nothing to do with school and you realise that what you are doing should be part of your weekly PD.

I explain what I mean.

As you know it is always easy to tell people what to do and how to do it well, but it is another story to actually tell people and do it yourself. I keep hearing messages from people who tell me how to teach but I don’t see anything in action. And then I learn Jiu Jitsu and I learn not only the movements which could give me another coloured belt but also I learn how to be a better teacher.

As you know last week was my second lesson of Jiu Jitsu. The fact that I went back after my first lesson already shows that I am enjoying myself as it is a very late class. Because I was complaining (surprise !!!!) that I could not do a particular movement- maybe because I am vertically challenged- the teacher told me that he would love to have a video camera and film me, so in 2 months time I will be able to see how much progress I have made. While I was struggling to get out of a strangle, I was thinking that this guy (call me how you want; a facilitator, a teacher, an instructor, a master!!!) had understood the power of a portfolio (with an E or no E). Because I go to a community class, the teacher has a paying job during the day (he is actually a farmer). Although teaching is not his job, he has more understanding of learning than a lot of teachers !!

My learning did not stop there !! For the next activities, the teacher paired us up and asked us to work on our moves by ourselves. First we were put with someone more experienced and then when we were put into groups of same ability. It was very interesting to see that while we were struggling (the other guy I was working with is a beginner as well) the teacher kept an eye on us and could stop us every now and then and show us how to improve.

OMG !!!! This is constructivism in action !!!! I do not need to go to another PD, I only need to go to my Jiu Jitsu class on Monday nights.

Image source:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Constructivism: I am jumping of joy !!!!!

Yesterday was our first lesson during which the social studies students have been presented with Myportfolio. It went quite well for most of the students. Our main objective of the lesson was to familiarise ourselves with Myportfolio and create a new page.

Of course there were some students (boys !!! ) who were more interested to see who was online and who they could become friend with (typical!!!!) but 90% of the class was quite engaged and asked relevant questions. I wanted them to try to figure out by themselves how to use Myportfolio’s features which they did well and independently. I mean independently of me, as they were actually asking each other for help. YES !!!! they were working collaboratively

I gave out simple rules of online

behaviour, like “do not change your name and/or username, do not bully people and do not put inappropriate picture for your profile”. The boys thought it was quite cool they could put a picture of a motocross for their profile =) and some girls put pictures of koalas and squirrels (typical !!!!)

I was quite impressed when a boy who is not the most academic boy in the class, asked me if he could start doing his homework on Myportfolio as he said he would rather do it online than writing on a piece of paper. He even added that it was quite exciting for him and that he could not wait to start. I am not sure if he said that just to make me happy or if he really speaks the truth, only time will tell. Anyhow, even if he just wanted to please me it is still very sweet of him =)

What was even more surprising was this little lovely girl who is also in my French class (2 periods after the social studies class). As she was writing her French project about her family, she asked me the permission instead of doing it on a poster if she could do it on Myportfolio. I was so happy that she could not only see the potential of Myportfolio but also that she took responsibility of her own learning.

My next move with the Social Studies class is to ask them to start on their project itself and reflect at then of each period using the “journal” feature of Myportfolio.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Constructivism: I am jumping in......SCARY !!!!!!

Thanks to all the comments and feedbacks I received in my last post , I have decided to jump in and face my social studies class with another learning approach.

After asking them what they would be interested in to learn, I have picked a subject. As it is my first jump and I am extremely scared of height, I made the decision of giving the class only one topic. I told them today why and they were quite understanding. Although my reasons might not be the good ones, they are very simple. I want to model to the class how to find resources, how to ask questions and how to reflect on their learning.

I have looked at a topic on Music as several kids in the class had said that they were very interested in Music. As we looked at human rights in Term 2, this is the question I am going to ask the students "Evaluate the influence of protest songs on the American society in the 1960s". I have watched the video about "planning backward" that Hazel Owen suggested me in the last post (brilliant video BTW!!!!) and this is what I think the kids should aim for. As I am keen on SOLO Taxonomy, I have used the taxonomy's questions to model the inquiry.

My objective would be that the kids would pick their next topic, so that the whole class will work on different topics. I am hoping we will be able to take on the Minimally Invasive Education approach that my friend Tara Taylor-Jorgensen has been sharing with me. My wildest dreams would be to see that at the end of the topics chosen by the students, they teach the rest of the class what they have learned and create their own resources to make others' s learning a success. What I mean is that I usually created resources (e.g. dominos, card games) but this time I want the kids to be fully in charge, do everything from the planning, the delivery and the activities.

For them to be able to reflect I am hoping to see them use Mypotyfolio, an eportfolio supported by the MOE. Because I have never been taught how to reflect I had a look a bit online and I have found some questions I should ask students to answer. Your comments on these questions would be extremely appreciated as I feel walking in the dark

What did you learn?
How do you know you learned it?
What got in the way of your learning?
What helped your learning?
How did you feel?
So voilà

Your help and comments are appreciated (again!!!)

Merci de me lire


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Constructivism in a secondary school

During the holidays I have been reading a bit about constructivisme.

At the same time in the complexe word of education, a giant dilemma appeared about Khan's academy videos. The controversy stood in the fact that by watching videos, students do not get to experience what constructivisme is really all about.

Although I agree partially with that, in the sense that even if I keep watching hours of videos of someone teaching me how to sail, I will only know how to sail the day I go on a boat, on a sea and that I can make the boat moves (and not die !!). So of course while watching a video the learning is not happening.

or is it ?

We learn mainly my mimicking and in a social environment. So I need someone to show me how to do something first. Last night I had my first session of Jiu Jitsu (Youpiiii!!!), the instructor showed me first how to break my fall, and then asked me to do it myself. Without his showing I would not have any idea how to break my fall. My instructor was in front of me, but that would have been the same if he had been in Congo, I could have watched a video of an instructor showing some movements.

I have actually learned how to break my fall when I did try myself.....actually no. I have embraced my learning (I owned my learning) when I was able to fall without crying, as I think I started to learn while I was watching the instructor. I could thus look at perfect moves and analyze where I should put my arms before hitting the mat.

If we think that watching a Khan video (or any other media e.g. books, blogs, TV, phone, networks) it is admitting that lurkers do not learn. I am often a lurker as I think I don't have a lot to offer to others, and every single time (or almost every single time) that I participate to a conference or an online vent, I learn heaps.

Another question I have about contructivism is that during my readings I have seen a lot of examples of implementation of constructivism in small schools (primary and intermediate) but I have not managed to find anything about secondary school. Is it then possible to implement constructivism theory in a secondary class knowing that at the end we have an exam?

I can see it would be possible to implement such a theory in my class, especially using an eportfolio to gather evidence of work/ progress but with external assessment which are set nationally, I dont see how it would work.

As much as I don't want to sound like a whinging teacher (too late !!!) I also wonder how it would be possible to implement it in a class of 30.

I explain.

Everything that I have read points out that it is necessary to present the students with work/ ideas that is relevant to them, that they are interested in. This morning I have asked my social studies class what they would like to study in my class if they had the choice. The kids came up with topics ranging from evolution, agriculture change throughout history, Music history to NZ sports. Knowing that, it would be easy to interest them into learning. As a few want to learn about NZ sports they should work in a group, while the kids who are interested in music history can work in a different group. So far so good. But how as a teacher who works full time (plus duty, plus Group Class, plus meeting etc..) can I cater for so many groups ?

As I am very keen in implementing this in my class, I would be grateful for any help and comments