Primary PLE Please

Hi Steve, your reimagining of the PLE fits pretty closely with my interpretation.  I guess you know how I feel about institutional and corporate fingers in the VLE, but I think to some extent it’s unavoidable.  Learners need a framework to hang their learning cloak on and, in many cases educational institutions are best placed to provide that framework.
That is, of course, if you accept that students don’t encounter the PLE/VLE concept or start building it until they reach higher education.  What if we were to start all this in the early years of school?  Scaffold 5 – 11 year old students in their development of a PLE like we do with core literacy and numeracy skills? Integrate it and weave it into their learning experience right from day one.  What would it look like?  Would it be modular, introducing new tools and concepts in tick boxed turns (like the linear learning that many schools seem to still seem to favour)? Or would it be up to the teacher and learner to identify and negotiate the best tool for the job?
At these early ages there is much modeling by teachers, eg., reading to, reading with and reading by students.
Maybe…
It would fall on the the teacher to share and use their own PLE in the classroom to model its use? Then a co-construction of a “basic” PLE by teacher and student.  Finally the student begins to walk alone…into a world of connected learning, branching out on their own as their learning needs dictate.
There are many barriers.  It depends on teachers having their own PLE, and we know that such teachers are a tiny minority. Not to mention COPPA and the restrictions that web tools put on their use by minors.
I read your posts and see that usually they are aimed at or discussing issues that affect adult learners, but I always try and turn them around and consider how they apply to my teaching/learning, my students/colleagues.  You’ve made me think about where PLEs fit for primary/elementary education and I’m seriously coming around to the idea that to organically grow an effective PLE we need to plant the seed in students as soon as they enter formal education.
Am I being unrealistic? I’ve always  had a Utopian streak running through me.

PLE

I originally wrote this as a comment in response to this blogpost by Steve Wheeler/@timbuckteeth, but it was rejected for being too long.   So here it is, exactly as the comment was written.

Hi Steve, your re-imagining of the PLE fits pretty closely with my interpretation.  I guess you know how I feel about institutional and corporate fingers in the VLE, but I think to some extent it’s unavoidable.  Learners need a framework to hang their learning cloak on and, in many cases educational institutions are best placed to provide that framework.

That is, of course, if you accept that students don’t encounter the PLE/VLE concept or start building it until they reach higher education.  What if we were to start all this in the early years of school?  Scaffold 5 – 11 year old students in their development of a PLE like we do with core literacy and numeracy skills?  Integrate and weave it into their learning experience right from day one.  What would it look like?  Would it be modular, introducing new tools and concepts in tick boxed turns (like the linear learning that many schools seem to still seem to favour)? Or would it be up to the teacher and learner to identify and negotiate the best tool for the job?

At these early ages there is much modeling by teachers, eg., reading to, reading with and reading by students.

So maybe…

It would fall on the the teacher to share and use their own PLE in the classroom to model its use?   Then a co-construction of a “basic” PLE by teacher and student.  Finally the student begins to walk alone…into a world of connected learning, branching out on their own as their learning needs dictate.

There are many barriers.  It depends on teachers having their own PLE, and we know that such teachers are a tiny minority. Not to mention COPPA and the restrictions that web tools put on their use by minors.

I read your posts and see that usually they are aimed at or discussing issues that affect adult learners, but I always try and turn them around and consider how they apply to my teaching/learning, my students/colleagues.  You’ve made me think about where PLEs fit for primary/elementary education and I’m coming around to the idea that to organically grow an effective PLE we need to plant the seed in students as soon as they enter formal education.

Am I being unrealistic? I’ve always  had a Utopian streak running through me.

teachernzandface.jpg

Goodbye, Hello

DSCF2594sml

2009 has been a strange year at school with lots of changes along the way.

The main difference has been my change in roles. No longer confined to my classroom five days a week, I roam across the school now. Four mornings every week are spent in other classrooms, working alongside teachers or working with specific groups of children.   From shiny, new 5 years olds to crusty 11 year old veterans and their teachers – I’ve worked with them all.  I’ve really enjoyed it, though I still miss the time I had with Room 9, and I sometimes feel like I have no base to call home.  Our classroom blog has been sadly neglected because of my new responsibilities, it hasn’t quite fitted with what’s been happening in class and in the afternoons there is so much to do in so little time.  Next year we’ll make it work.

A few highlights stand out.  The trip to ULearn09 in Christchurch was a major event in our school calendar and we were lucky enough to take nearly our whole staff.  Twenty-two of us descended on Christchurch from the sky, hit the road running (we landed 45 minutes before the first Keynote) and spent three days soaking up the fresh ideas and collegiality.  I met up with some of the internet freaks that my mother would have warned me about, my twittering friends.  It as great to meet so many of them in person.  Tony Ryan says it much better than I can, but if you’re considering going to ULearn next year – just do it! We returned to school in Term 4 energised and enthusiastic.  If we weren’t quite reading from the same page we at least had the same book open.

Working with new-entrant children is an education in itself… a reminder of just how much they assimilate in those first few years of school.  They’re, for the most part, eager, fearless and engaged learners.  Nearly everything has a wow factor for them and they are a joy to work with, their energy seems to soak into you.  I watched as a boy (at school for two days) took up the IWB pen and started using the shape tool to draw circles.  Within a few minutes he’d covered the board with a rainbow assortment of circles of varying sizes.  I looked away for a minute ( I was helping one of the other 5 year olds record their story with an Easi-Speak ready for sharing).  When I looked back at the IWB he had sorted the circles into groups, by colour or by size.  There were three left that didn’t obviously fit his criteria… so he promptly changed their colours and sizes and sorted them too!

I’ve seen massive shifts in attitude and ability in staff and I credit our trip to ULearn with a lot of this.  In particular there was one teacher who openly admitted her technophobia (you know who you are).  For 45 minutes a day, four days a week, over 8 weeks we slowly chipped away at her fears, building skills in a “just in time” way that meant everything she learnt was immediately relevant, useful and used.  Success!

At the end of Term 4 I found an envelope in my cubby hole.  In it was a note from the Junior Syndicate, thanking me for my help… it was worded so positively that I had to sit down and blink to stop the happy tears (I’m a big softy).

To wrap up the year I’ve been given ICT responsibility for the whole school.  I still have a classroom role, I’ll continue to provide professional development for teachers and work alongside students too.  I also have to focus on integrating ICT and IWBs across the school and curriculum and developing a tiered support network for colleagues.  With this comes the onerous job of outlining a three year ICT strategy for the school… something I’ve rarely thought about, but I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into the challenge.

Oh yeah, to top it all off I’m moving rooms; same age students, different location.  We’re moving to vertically organised groups of classes, Years 2, 3 and 4 supporting each other and learning together.  You wouldn’t believe the “resources” that a teacher can accumulate after nine years in the same room.  Or maybe you would!

So, goodbye Room 9, hello Room 13.

Goodbye 2009, hello 2010.  Bring it on!

teachernzandface.jpg

Happy New Year to you all!

Pencils and Crayons to be Banned in Schools


A new law coming into force later this month will require students to check in their pencils and crayons at the office and collect them after school.  Any children caught with pencils or crayons in their possession will have then confiscated and parents will be informed.

“We’ve had enough,” said one teacher, “kids are writing notes to each other in class. It’s distracting for us all.  Besides that, they spend too much time sharpening them when they could be working.”

There have been many reports of children using their pencils to “poke” each other and there have even been arguments about who owns which pencil.

“They’ll have someone’s eye out one day.  It’s only a matter of time before something serious happens,” commented a parent who favours the all out ban.  “Better to ban them all rather than risk an accident – they can be really sharp.”

In some cases pencils have been used by pupils to record their ideas and learning, but they’ve also created problems with their inappropriate use in class.  The introduction of new “coloured” pencils means that children are being tempted to create ever more creative work and the notes passed around now include garish illustrations.

One parent explained his opinion. “Chalk and slate was good enough for us, black and white and easy to read, not a confusing multicoloured mess.  You couldn’t pass notes around without the teacher noticing and the chalk couldn’t be sharpened into a dangerous point.  The greatest danger was that you’d drop it on your foot.  I’d like chalk to remain the teachers’ main tool (along with talk). Let’s keep it at the centre of learning.”

A few teachers are not convinced that the ban is the best policy.  They worry about the effect it might have on student engagement and motivation.

“As soon as they get out of school kids are writing, drawing and passing notes around.  I think by banning the pencil and crayon we risk alienating students and making their time at school seem irrelevant to their lives.”

“Used in the correct way they are powerful learning tools, students (and teachers) need to be trained in their proper classroom use.”

“It seems ridiculous to exclude something that is so readily available outside school and widely integrated into all aspects of our modern society.  They are exposed to these modern implements from an early age and most children use them on a daily basis.  To take them away is erasing educational opportunities.”

No one can argue with the fact that a sharpened pencil can cause injury and that something must be done.  It’s too soon to determine the outcome of the ban.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

P.S. There is a rumour that something called a “ballpoint pen” is beginning to gain popularity among teens.  How will schools cope with this new permanent menace?  At least pencils can be erased with the right equipment.

teachernzandface.jpg

image by orangeacid at Flickr

Classroom Layout

Room 9

I spent a good deal of time this year moving cupboards, shuffling desks and recabling computers in their new positions.  What a difference it makes having the computers away from the door.

Then this morning I noticed a tweet on Twitter from @techieicebreaker to @dwarlick.  It was a link to a wiki called Inspired Classrooms.  The wiki contains links to five short videos (7 – 19 mins) describing effective ways to set up your classroom, paying particular attention to the positioning of computers.  The videos were made in 2006, before netbooks were widely available, but the same layout could be used with netbooks or laptops.  For the cost of a desktop you could probably add 2 netbooks, possibly adapting the layout to suit.

A final note… if this cheap Indian “device” turns out to be a reality everything will change.