Wednesday, October 15, 2014


This is my reflection on my learning from the Ulearn 2014 conference. In my previous post I talked about my thoughts around the first keynote from Yoram Harpaz. Here are some of the other highlights for me.

Tom Barratt talked about fostering questions and how our reactions to them can either encourage them or close them down. This fits well with the idea of fostering an inquiry disposition. We all know how many questions pre-schoolers ask but by the time they reach upper primary school many of them have stopped. We need to make sure nothing we say or do contributes to this but instead makes questions and wonderings an expected part of what goes on in classrooms. As Tom put it, we need to "encourage students to be resilient questioners of the world."

Yoram Harpaz spoke about how education is always in crisis because we expect to achieve too much. This leads to us always looking for saviours. Teaching thinking was the saviour for a while, currently it is digital technology.  He didn't seem to have a high opinion of digital technology but that is another story. 

He talked about the three elements of thinking:

  • thinking skills
  • thinking dispositions
  • thinking for understanding
To find out more about his thoughts on this read his paper 'Back to Knowledge: The Ironic Path of Teaching Thinking". Just as he believed we must choose one ideology, he believed we had to choose one way to teach thinking and he believed that was by teaching thinking for understanding. Part of his reasoning was that we can only think well in areas we understand therefore teaching for understanding should be the focus which does make sense to me. 

However, even though I agree that teaching for understanding is really important and is one of the main reasons I believe in an inquiry approach to teaching, I still think there is a place for explicit teaching of skills in context. Teaching dispositions is also important, although probably the hardest of the three to develop. In my opinion the skills and dispositions support the development of understanding, just as when we teach reading we teach that meaning is essential but there are skills and strategies that need to be used and we foster the love of reading. 

In my next post I will talk about my thoughts around the breakouts from Lane Clark and Mike Scaddan.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Social Media as a Professional Development Tool

October is Connected Educator month and so I have set myself a challenge to write a blog post at least once a week during October. I'm starting with a post that I think is very apt - talking about about social media as PLD. 

Online communities are great sources of information and support and in recent times have reached a sort of tipping point where the numbers of educators involved has taken them into the realms of more mainstream PLD. Where once it was rare to find teachers who tweeted or were involved in online communities, it is now becoming almost the norm. 

It won't be long before the unconnected teacher is the exception rather than the rule. More and more teachers are realising that it is not only their students who need to be capable, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners.

So why are these online communities gaining popularity? Well for a start they are virtually free, other than the cost of the data and the device to access them. And let's face it, most people already have an internet-capable device.

Secondly, you will be interacting with educators from a wide range of backgrounds from diverse communities. You can just lurk and read what others have to say or take the next step and make a contribution, ask for help or even answer someone else's question.

How connected are you? You can take this survey to find out. I was 2 points off being a Web Celeb, maybe blogging a little more frequently will bump me up. What will you do this month to bump up your score and help you become a more connected educator?

My challenge to you in Connected Educator month is to sign up and attend at least one event. The great thing is that you don't even need to leave home to do it. Then join at least one online community, whether it be Twitter (suggested educators to follow - I am @jkellow), the VLN or an education-related Facebook group like my Inquiry group, EdudemicEdutopiaTED Talks or Te@chthought

Or follow some educators on Pinterest and start your own Pinterest boards, get the Pin it extension for your browser and start pinning sites that interest you to your boards. You can check out my boards here and see what is possible.

Or maybe you could start your own blog. Many teachers already have a class blog and this is a good place to start but you could also start a personal blog to reflect on your teaching or share your own learning with others. You might even get some feedback. 7 Reasons Why Teachers Should Blog. You could also follow some of your favourite educational bloggers. See the sidebar for some of my favourites or to follow this blog. 52 Educational Bloggers to Follow

While you are at it, why not get your school connected if it isn't already. Lots of schools are now using Facebook and Twitter to connect with parents. Creating a Dynamic Facebook Page for your School 

So go on, dip your toes in the water, take the plunge and make new connections. You'll soon find out which ones work for you.