Teacher Excited

Teacher Excited

Definition: The excitement of developing and/or attempting a new learning experience that you believe has the potential to engage and challenge students.

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Recently I got “teacher excited” about an idea I had come across on my favourite professional learning network, Twitter.  The idea involved using OneNote to create an Escape Room Math experience for students.  I read about this on the OneNote Education blog and instantly thought my Year 3 math enrichment students would love this!

I am always looking for new ways to engage the young mathematicians while also consolidating their learning  and challenging them in new ways.  The Escape Room seemed like the perfect tool to achieve these aims.

Rather than escape from actual rooms students were required to work their way through a number of sections on a OneNote Notebook.  Each section was password protected.  To unlock the section, students needed to solve a math problem and use the correct answer as the password for the next room or section.

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During the semester, we had been learning a range of problem solving strategies and the Escape Room provided a great way for students to put this understanding to the test.  I intentionally selected a range of questions that required different strategies and progressively got more difficult as they worked their way through the rooms.

Now back to my “teacher excitement”.  I wanted to take the Escape Room to the next level so I included a video introduction and a special video in the final room of the challenge.  I stayed up past my bedtime creating the Notebook, choosing the math problems and making the video segments.  I emailed the finished product to one of my colleagues to triple check the layout, video and passwords worked.

The next morning I raced into her office and asked if she got my email?  She said she had and then went on to say how cool it was and she wanted to make one for her Year 5 students.  I said that would have to wait a minute because I needed to share the Escape Room with my Year 3 group.

I sent out the Notebook link and then literally raced to the Year 3 classrooms…

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“Check your email, check your email I have sent you something really cool!”

Students weren’t 100% sure what I was on about when I started rambling about escape room, math, passwords…then students checked their emails and they were in!

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The challenge of unlocking the rooms had students instantly hooked.  I had students outside school hours (remember they are in Year 3) emailing me about the questions and strategies they needed to employ to solve the questions and get the next password.  I was impressed with the confidence and persistence the learning experience generated.  The collaboration between the students took me by surprise as I had set the task as an enrichment activity and had foreseen them completing it individually.  However, before school and at breaks they were discussing questions and how they had worked out answers.

On completion of the challenge, students shared that they really enjoyed having to solve the problem to unlock the next room and wanted to know when I was creating the next Escape Room.  It was great to see my excitement for the task matched by the students.

“Teacher excitement” is one of the best things about our profession.  The opportunity to be lifelong learners, accept challenges and light a spark in a young person’s life are aspects of teaching that set it apart from other vocations.

“I love my job.” #teacherexcited

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Who needs a plan…

So saying my journey to Microsoft’s E2 Conference didn’t go to plan would be an understatement.  Here is a quick rundown:

  • Flight out of Brisbane delayed by over an hour;
  • Missed connecting flight to Toronto;
  • Got to do three laps of LAX due to a certain airline messing up my new connecting flight ticket;
  • Lost my coat somewhere in LAX;
  • Had the pleasure of a full pat down from a US customs officer due to forgetting to take gum out of my pocket when getting body scanned;
  • Arrived 8 hours after originally planned only to find that my new airline lost my luggage;
  • Oh and the next morning the hotel locked me out of my roomgiphy1

My luck turned around when I just so happened to meet fellow Australian MIE, Jess, in the elevator.  Like a guardian angel, Jess pointed me in the direction of a shopping mall where I could begin the mission to feel human again.

After already spending a day in Toronto, Jess played tour guide and we went exploring.  We just so happened to bump into a very “unique” St Patrick’s Day parade.  Let’s just say it’s not every day you see an Irish hill billy float that included a man with his pants down sitting on an open toilet and a Chinese drumming group.

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Later that evening, got to finally tick off something that has been on my bucket list for 25 years – attend a NBA game.  It was everything I expected and more!  Air Canada Centre is an amazing venue and to top it off the Raptors got the win and scored over 100 points – free pizza for everyone!

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After the rocky start, the first day in Toronto has been pretty awesome.  The locals have been really friendly including this lady we met walking her cat in the CBD as we were off to get dinner.

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The calm before the learning…

In less than 7 days I will be in Toronto ready to dive in the deep end at Microsoft’s E2 Conference.  Before I share what I am looking forward to let’s rewind to 2016.

An opportunity arose to apply to be one of four Australian MIE Experts that would represent Australia at E2 2017.  Having spoken to a number of MIE’s who have attended the conference in the past it was definitely a conference that was on my professional learning bucket list.

I submitted my application and had to put my feet up and wait.  Something I did literally after undergoing a knee reconstruction.

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Travis Smith, Microsoft Teacher Engagement Manager, decided he would test my knee out by calling and informing me that I had been selected to represent Australia at the E2 Conference and he topped it off by telling me it was now in Toronto!  If I could have jumped up and down in excitement I would have.

Let’s fast forward to now and I am super excited to be soon departing for E2.

I am excited about the whole conference and visiting a city I have never been to before.

I am excited to get the opportunity to learn from some of the leading educators in the World.

I am excited to network with developers of some of my favourite Microsoft tools.

I am excited about the team challenge – the opportunity to overcome potential cultural and language barriers in the quest to collaborate and work together to win the challenge!

I am excited to get the opportunity to showcase the wonderful teaching and learning that occurs at my school on the global stage.

In a nutshell – I’m excited!

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I look forward to sharing that E2 experience through the blog and Twitter handle @TravGoulter

PS: Did I mention I am also excited about going to my first NBA game!

"We The North" before the game between the Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets

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The Power of Yes

This blog was inspired by a tweet I posted during Mark Anderson’s thought provoking keynote address at the Teach Tech Play Conference.  Mark discussed how we need to trust our students when they approach us with an idea or a question they are seeking answers to.  We need to trust them by saying YES.

Mark, shared the story of a student in Brighton, England.  Students basically had been set the task of creating an information report about their city or something close to that.  One student, Caleb Yule, asked his teacher if he could create a photographic representation of Brighton.  At this point Caleb’s teacher could provide him with one of two responses: No, that sounds like it would be too difficult or Yes, it will be challenging but give it a crack.

I’m glad his teacher said YES

This also made me reflect on highlights from Eleni Kyritsis’ Genius Hour session.  During the session Eleni shared the story of how one her students had created and programmed a robot that would “destroy” things and Dean Kuran shared how a group of boys during their Genius Hour are investigating the “breakability” of things.  Their students are engaged, motivated and thinking.  What if they had said no to their students ideas?

Kurt Challinor, Director of Centre for Deeper Learning at Parramatta Marist, shared a student’s achievement with me on a recent visit.  Students had to create an artificial hand using the 3-D printer then program the hand to move.  One student wanted to take it a step further and create a voice activated hand. Even though teachers questioned if he would be successful in his ambitious quest they provided the green light and you know the rest…a voice activated hand was created by a high school student.

These examples of educators trusting their students and saying YES made me contemplate the reasons why we say no.  Are we projecting our own limitations onto students?  Are we afraid are students may fail and we’re not sure how to manage that and what that means for us as teachers?

In Michael Thornton’s blog post Creating Space for Risk he outlines even though risk-taking is an important ingredient in  learning it is often the thing least evident in schools.

“People shy away from risks because they fear failure — but what’s so bad about failing? Some of the greatest moments of understanding happen after we’ve “failed.” Viewing failure as a typical aspect of the learning process allows a learner to appreciate the need for risks”

It is therefore key in my role as a leader that I ensure that teachers have the understanding, skills and most importantly the confidence to say YES and allow their students to take risks in their learning.  This will most likely mean I will need to say YES to teachers to take their own risks in pedagogy and programs.

 

 

This Critter isn’t scary…

Over the last three weeks I have been exploring RedCritter.  No it’s not a creature I found in the courtyard but rather an online positive behaviour reward system.  This is something I have been looking at implementing in the Junior School for quite sometime.  My wish list for an online positive behaviour reward system is:

  • Align with current Student Enhancement Program and positive behaviour initiatives
  • Be engaging and interactive for all members of school community – teachers, students and parents
  • Provide data to monitor positive behaviour, classroom management and ultimately improve student outcomes.
  • Strengthen partnerships with families
  • Easy to administer and maintain

We currently have a number of excellent positive reward systems that both teachers and students are engaging with.  So this brings me to my biggest challenge or rather biggest question – will my colleagues see the value in using RedCritter that I do?

From this question comes my challenge – getting “buy in” or developing the shared vision.  Getting teachers to share my excitement in bringing our already excellent reward system into the 21st century, getting teachers to see rather than more work this will hopefully lead to a more streamlined approach, and hopefully get them to respond with a little bit of wonderment and awe.

Over the last week I have changed the trial model a number of times as I learn more about RedCritter.  Once we have the “buy in” the aim is to trial the system with Years 3-6.  The main actions of the trial will be:

  • Identify key features that we want to focus on during trial
  • Provide initial and ongoing professional development to teaching staff
  • Use usage data to monitor weekly engagement with system at a student, teacher and parent level.
  • Midway through trial gather feedback on strengths, weaknesses and most importantly opportunities of the system.
  • Provide feedback to developers to enable any identified opportunities and/or weaknesses to be addressed.
  • At conclusion of trial provide detailed report to Senior Executive on engagement with program and feedback.

So wish me luck…I don’t need luck!

I’ll keep you posted on how we are going…