Monday, August 30, 2010

Becoming more Balanced

While I have a lot of professional goals this year such as integrating the IT more into the maths and language as well as the units of inquiry and supporting specialist teachers more, my personal goal this year is to find more balance in my life (balance being one of the attributes of the IB Learner Profile).  I know that the first year in a new place is always going to be a bit unbalanced - last year I introduced so many new things that it seemed I was never away from the computer, trying out new tools and seeing how they would support what was being done in the classrooms.  This year I've decided I need to put more emphasis on family and friends.

After the first full week of school with the students, which included a back to school night, I decided the weekend would be just for myself and that I would use the computer as little as possible.  On Friday night I went out with friends - just into our local town, but it was a nice and relaxing evening.  On Saturday I went with my husband and a friend around the organic market along the lakeshore of Zug.  There was an "Open Gallery" evening, so we went to view some artwork.  We'd heard there was an upstairs restaurant where you could sit out on the balcony and get "the best sunset in Europe" (according to a local guidebook), so we did that too.  Then yesterday I went into Zurich and spent about 6 hours in the Kunsthaus (Art Museum) looking at a wide variety of paintings.

Today I went back to school probably less prepared for my lessons than anytime since I started here, yet the day went smoothly and the classes were productive.  I was more relaxed too and am already starting to feel the benefits of becoming more balanced.

Photo Credit:  Sunset over Lake Zug, taken from the balcony of the Taberna la Paloma.

Using Google Maps with our students

This week two of our teachers asked me if I would do a lesson with their classes using Google Maps.  This was the first time I had used Google Maps but I was keen to do so after attending the great presentation at the Google Teacher Academy in the UK given by Tom Barrett (check out Tom's blog  I used Google maps with our Grade 2 and Grade 5 students as a sort of "getting to know you" activity - being in an international school we were making maps about where our students had come from world-wide.

Our Grade 5 students wanted to go further and add on photos.  I didn't have any idea how to put on photos that didn't already have a URL.  We could get these photos onto Picasa, but they didn't end in .jpg so when we tried to add them to the maps it did not work.  Thankfully I was able to contact another educator who had attended the GTAUK, Mark Allen (see his blog Ed in the Clouds) who was able to let me know how to do this.  I am sharing the instructions below for those who,  like me and my students, would like to customise the placemarks or to add their photos to their maps.

Once you have navigated to your Picasa page with the photograph you want to add to Google Maps, you have to right click (Control click on Macs) and click "Copy Image Address" from the drop down menu.  This will create a URL that ends in .jpg and which can be added to the Google Map.

To add to the Google Map, click on the placemark and then click Rich Text, where you will be able to paste in the copied URL of the photograph.  The image above shows me adding a photo of myself and my children onto the placemark of Zug, where we live.  The beautiful town of Zug is behind us in the photo.

For more ideas of how to use Google Maps in the classroom, check out this great resource by Tom Barrett which is full of interesting ideas and tips:

Photo Credit:  The top photo is the view from one of our Grade 2 classrooms - it was taken while the students were working on their Google Maps.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ability, Motivation and Attitude

Several times during the past year I have thought about and written about our school's mission statement (Respect, Motivate, Achieve) and much of that thinking has been to do with the word "motivate".  I have done a lot of reading about what motivates people, and also what does not motivate people and at the same time I have looked at what is going on in my own school and other schools where I have worked.

At my last school we had an honour board for the achievements of our secondary students.  It was right outside the library and most students would have walked past it almost every day.  Students got their names on the board as a result of their academic achievements.  These achievements were a result of ability combined with effort.  The students whose names appeared on the board were definitely highly motivated to do well.  On the other hand there were many students who were motivated and yet, because they were not so academically able, their names never appeared on the board and they were not recognised for the often considerable progress they made.

I have attended a number of awards ceremonies over the years, and as a teacher I can say that some of the awards have been controversial.  Often when choosing a student to receive the awards, the same names came up over and over again.  Where there had just been one award for academic excellence in each subject, there had often been a discussion about the merits of "sharing out" the prizes so that one person didn't get them all.  The emphasis was often on "the best", or in the case of sports awards the "most valuable player".

For me "the best" is often a big turn-off - I'm not into rankings or league tables.  I have worked at schools that were striving to be "the best" international school in the world without giving the teachers any idea or ownership of what that meant.  Did "the best" refer to the academic scores the students achieve on their external exams?  Did it refer to a policy of inclusion and doing the best for each individual student regardless of how these students are doing when compared with others?  And what happened when we are not "the best"?  When our IB scores were just slightly above average?  Did we then feel disappointed and demotivated and end up with an "attitude problem"?  Like many primary and middle school teachers I don't have much control over the exam results of our Grade 12 students, therefore I do not feel that their exam success is a good way of measuring how we are doing on the good to best continuum.
Ability is what you're capable of doing.  Motivation determines what you do.  Attitude determines how well you do it.  (Lou Holtz)
In my experience, motivation and attitude come from a sense of being in control and having ownership of what you are doing.    This is true for teachers and students.  Students who have been encouraged to be interested and passionate about a subject are bound to be motivated and this motivation will keep them learning way beyond the exams.  One of the most moving "awards" ceremonies I have ever seen was when I was a middle school teacher.  During the course of the year the Grade 8 students had been writing poetry.  Their English teacher collected their poems and published a poem from each student in a book, which she then "awarded" to the students at the middle school graduation ceremony.  She spoke about each student's contribution - every student was special.  No one student got the "English prize" that year.  The poems were beautiful and the students all knew they were valued.  It was because of this teacher's attitude that they were motivated and because of that motivation they were all striving to achieve and to be the very best they could be.

Photo Credit:  Party in the Sky by Seattle Miles

Monday, August 23, 2010

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

Last week was our teacher orientation week.  Next week our students come.  It goes without saying that like most other teachers worldwide going back to school this week, our first few days have been dominated by meetings.  This subject was the topic of Tuesday's #edchat too.  As someone said on #edchat, it seems like there are an awful lot of bad meetings going on in our schools!

Last week I read George Couros's blog post entitled Our First Staff Days:  The Gift of Time.  George, the principal of a Canadian K-12 school, talked about the need to give teachers time to get their rooms ready, and that many meetings in the first few days of school are unproductive because teachers' minds are in the classrooms.

Another post about meetings I read this week was the Pipedreams blog.  Zoe Branigan-Pipe, who is also a Canadian educator, offers the following suggestions for meetings:

  • Don't start the first staff meeting of the year with a PowerPoint - instead model new strategies such as using wikis to transmit what is mostly "housekeeping" business.  Zoe also suggests using a backchannel.  I love these ideas but reflecting on our first week of school they are possibly too revolutionary to be taken on at my school right now.  Our first meeting of the year actually had 4 PowerPoints and at one other meeting I was told to put away my computer when I was using it to look up something directly related to what we were discussing!  
  • Use a secure school Twitter account to communicate, rather than email.  Twitter promotes ongoing discussions and is not just one way communication.  Again I like this idea, but we haven't had a very positive experience with Twitter at our school which has led to some teachers protecting their tweets.
  • Start the first staff meeting by showing your staff your new blog.  At my school I know there are some teachers who blog.  There are others who are interested in setting up student blogs.  Some teachers read my blog (including some of the new ones who just arrived and said "So you're Maggie!")  I have no idea whether anyone on the admin team blogs or reads blogs.  I did a Google blog search on the names of all the admin and came up with nothing, so I'm assuming none of them actually have their own blogs.
  • Survey your staff - ask them what kind of PD they want - use a Google Form.  I'm trying to get Google Apps into our school.  It's a slow process.  We have done some online surveys though, including one this very week.
  • Be willing to ask an expert, even if that expert happens to be a first year teacher.  At our school I think there is recognition of the fact that some of the teachers have expertise in areas the admin does not - for example some of our teachers are very proficient using IWBs.  I would imagine our admin would be open to this suggestion.
The final post I read this week about meetings was this summary of the 17th August #edchat entitled Are Staff Meetings Salvageable?   I  love going to meetings where I feel we are engaged in professional dialogue and professional development aimed at improving teaching and learning.  Sometimes, however, like the author of this blog post I feel very jaded about unproductive meetings:
It is a staff effort to kill a professional meeting.  To do it you must have certain ingredients in place such as whispered conversations, lack of agenda, limited follow through, and overall stressful teaching days.  I do not think that any staff sets out to arrive here, but once at this dead-end destination, those staff meetings can be hard to resuscitate. 
This week I was walking through the halls with a book I was taking back to the school library - Howard Gardner's Five Minds for the Future.  I was stopped by a colleague who told me how he'd loved reading that book and how he missed the sort of professional dialogue he used to have in meetings in the early days of his teaching.  I told him that, along with our librarian, my plan this year was to set up a professional reading group.  He was very enthusiastic about this, despite the fact that this will mean one more meeting for him.

In the #edchat discussion this week it was clear that many, many teachers around the world see staff meetings as unproductive add-ons to their very busy days.  Many called for these meetings to be more focused on professional development and the sharing and celebration of work that was already going on in our schools.  There was discussion about the tokenism that is attached to staff meetings - where teachers are asked for input, but in reality decisions have already been made and the discussions are, in these cases, irrelevant.

Is there another way forward?  Rliberni's Blog suggests 
We must take ownership of the meetings and create the type of environment we would like to be taught in.  We ask our students to do this ,so why is it as adults that we do not hold ourselves accountable?  Whether it be a back channel, a protocol or simply renewed energy; keep in mind that you are the controller of a staff meeting as far as  that your energy for that meeting is replicated and mirrored by those sitting around you.
Having read all that, you can imagine I was quite daunted to actually have to go to one of our other campuses and lead a meeting myself.  I tried to take some of these ideas on board, so that the meeting, about technology, was very focused, celebrated the good work being done by teachers and gave the participants a choice.  I started with a question that I hoped all would be able to answer by the end of the meeting:  What is Web 2.0 .... and how can I use it with my students?  I did have a presentation (using Prezi) but it was mostly links to projects students had created last year.  I showed examples of VoiceThread, Bitstrips, XtraNormal, TimeToast, xTimeline, ZimmerTwins and Google Earth projects students had done and then gave the teachers a choice of one of these they would like to explore further. I had originally thought of running through a few of these and showing teachers how to set them up, but I thought that most of the student examples were self-explanatory, and in any case I thought they would learn a lot just from playing and discovering for themselves.  Although I think this approach was a bit unorthodox (I think they had been expecting a "how to" session), it did seem to work.  One of the teachers made a Prezi about autism that he decided he would use the following day in a presentation of his own, and several teachers made comic strips in Bitstrips and animations using ZimmerTwins.  

I hope the fact that they were able to do this, mostly figuring out how to use these tools themselves and with only minimal help from me, has inspired them to try others.  I'm hoping that when I go back this week for the collaborative planning meetings, they will let me know that they want to use these tools with their students.

Photo Credit:  Hanover:  colorful chair parade by Juergen Kurlvink

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I've moved

I've thought long and hard about this, but finally decided I'd like to have my own domain name for my blog.  It will still be found at the old Tech Transformation address, but now it is also going to appear here.  It was very easy to do this from Blogger, in fact I went straight into the Settings tab and then clicked on Publishing.

I'm constantly amazed at how this blog has grown.  From my very first post, back in mid-December 2009 to now, I have had thousands of visitors.  I only really started tracking the visitors the following month - how exciting it was to see the little red dots appearing on the map.  I have had amazing support from the iLearn Technology Blog Alliance - what a wonderful PLN I have.  I find it incredible that my blog has been read by people in the Maldives, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland, countries I have never been to and probably never will.  On average about 100 people visit my blog each day - how great it is to be connected to the world in this way!  And how much I have grown as a teacher along the way.  I think more deeply, I question more and for sure I am definitely a better teacher as a result.

Photo Credit:  The Letter "L" by Justin

Our First Staff Meeting of the New School Year

Today was our first day back with all the teachers and we had meetings the whole morning.  We heard from the Director of our school, the Director of Student Life, the Curriculum Director and so on.  We heard about our beautiful new middle and high school buildings, we heard about the achievements of our students in their IB and AP exams, we heard about respecting each other and the code of conduct and we heard about how we will be moving forward over the next 3 years in aligning our 3 curricula (PYP, MYP and DP).  We heard some talk about 21st century skills too.

Obviously our job as teachers is to prepare students for their future.  Over the last few years the catchphrase "21st century skills" has been used a lot.  I've always disliked that term, though, and in this morning's meeting it was pointed out that many of these skills are not in fact new at all - problem solving and critical thinking have been around for a long time and were certainly part of our IB curricular well before the 21st century.  There are some new skills our students will need, however, such as global awareness and information fluency.

Some teachers talk a lot about the subjects/content that students will need for the future, others talk about the skills.  As was pointed out in our meeting this morning, our debate should not be about the content versus the skills, but should be about how to meet the challenges of delivering both content and skills in ways that improve student learning.  Also it's not just about "delivering" these - we want to empower our students to be self-directed, collaborative, creative and innovative learners.

Another thing that was presented to us was that we often talk about giving our students experience, yet experience is not the same as practice.  Experience is using a particular skill, practice is that you improve and formulate strageties to do better.  Practice requires feedback, usually from someone more skilled than you are.

All 3 of our IB programmes have 21st century skills built into them.  However they were developed at different times by different groups of teachers in different schools.  The MYP and PYP both started as different programmes that later came under the umbrella of the IB.  Our challenge as a school is to connect them in meaningful ways to produce a coherent programme that runs from pre- school to grade 12 - and it was pointed out that 20% of this year's graduates have actually spent their entire school life here in this international school so the programmes need to flow together and build upon each other.  So far, what we have as a way of unifying these 3 programmes is the emphasis on international mindedness and the learner profile.  Our challenge this year is to consolidate what we are doing and to identify the desired outcomes - what we want the students to know (the content), what we want them to understand (the concepts) and what we want them to be able to do (the skills), and we also want to know how this is going to look in each grade in the school.

Photo Credit:  United Hands by Rita M

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A wise person knows how to improvise ....

Today I had planned to go to the Street Parade in Zurich, but because the weather forecast was for heavy rain all day I decided not to go.  Instead I looked at the iLearn Technology Blogger Alliance 2.  Now I'm part of the first alliance and most of my time is spent reading and responding to the blogs in that alliance, but every so often I have a bit of time and I dip into the second one.  Today I came across this blog post by Jason T Bedell.  I read about how he was having to rein in what he was doing, move at a slower pace and that tools he was using, such as Facebook and Twitter, were being shut down in his school.

As I read through the comments I came across one by George Couros.  I followed the link to his blog and read his great post You Don't Need to be Brilliant to be Wise.  In this post George talks about the need to make wise decisions, not just follow the rules and he posted this TEDtalk by Barry Schwartz.

I found the metaphor about the jazz musician to be very powerful.  Barry says:
A wise person knows when and how to make the exception to every rule .... a wise person knows how to improvise ... a wise person is  like a jazz musician using the notes on the page but dancing around them, inventing combinations that are appropriate for the situation and people at hand ... you need to be allowed to improvise, to try new things, occasionally to fail and to learn from your failures.
Photo Credit:  Sonny Stitt - tenor saxophone by Tom Marcello 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The IB Learner Profile - Balanced

I have written about the IB Learner Profile before and how one of its strengths, as I see it, is that it applies to all members of the community.  The IB believes "we must all strive to put into practice what we believe".  Therefore this summer I started to look at the different attributes of the Learner Profile with the aim of working on my weakest one this year as part of my personal goals.

As I ran my eye down the list, the attribute that stuck out clearly to me as a weakness was Balanced.  The Learner Profile defines this as:

They understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to achieve personal well-being for themselves and others.

Yesterday was the first day back in school for Subject and Team Leaders (Leaders is our new title, we are no longer called Coordinators).  At one of our meetings we were asked to think about our goals for the year.  Our school is a large school with 3 divisions and 3 campuses.  There are school-wide goals for all of us which this year are focused on the curriculum.  We will also have divisional goals - so in my case I will have the goals from the 2 primary campuses as well, as I will be teaching on both of these campuses this year.  We also need to set one team goal which should be connected with inquiry learning - in my case my team is the ICTL team (Information and Communication for Teaching and Learning).  This year I would like for this goal to be connected with differentiation and giving students a choice in how they use IT in their learning.  In addition we have to have 2 personal goals.  To be honest this is quite a lot of goals to achieve!

This weekend I have been thinking about my personal goals.  As mentioned before I wanted to work this year on being more balanced as one of my personal goals.  For my other goal, I would like to it be connected with professional development of our teachers - running more sessions like the Techie Breakies I already started last year.  Inspired by the great ideas from Kelly Tenkely, I'd like to also add Webspiration Wednesdays on our Zug campus and Tech Tuesdays for our teachers at the Luzern campus.  I've also discussed running a professional book group with our Librarian.  At the same time I am very conscious that at the moment we don't offer any IT provision for the Pre School and Pre Kindergarten students at our school, and last year I know I did say I wanted to work on that goal for this year too.   Right away, then, I have a conflict between my goals - I want to be more balanced, yet at the same time I am adding more and more into my school days so I am in danger of becoming less balanced than I already am!  Something is going to have to change.

One of the most powerful things I have read recently, is that for every new thing you have to do, you have to identify something that you have to stop doing.  Basically it is saying you have to have priorities and you have to know which things  not to do.  If there is just a whole list of things to do, and no prioritites, then you will just do, do, do and probably not do anything really well.  As someone once said "good intentions are no excuse for incompetence."

Yet I feel myself unwilling to stop doing things.  I think it is something to do with the culture of the schools I have been in - I just keep on doing, and finding new things to do, and I never, ever stop doing.

I know it's important to work on this.  I know I need to get balance into my life.  

Here are some ideas I have already:

  • Only do the things you are really passionate about and what you are really good at
  • Make a priority list of all the things you need to do and then chop the last 20% off the list as they are the least important
  • Start with a blank page - think of the things you are doing right now and try to imagine you were not doing them but just about to make a decision about whether or not you would start doing them.  If you would not, right now, make the decision to start doing them, then they are things you need to stop doing.
Does anyone have any more ideas for me?

Photo Credit:  Spring Stones by Vicente Villamon

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Using Google Docs - GTAUK part 6

Today I went back into school for the first time this new school year.  I didn't actually have to go to work, but I wanted to chat to our network manager about using Google Apps in the classroom.  I'm hoping we can get over the bandwidth issues, so that we can try some of these apps with a couple of different grades.

As well as this, I also started to work through some of the different activities and presentations that took place during the Google Teacher Academy last month.  As one of the other participants said, we were introduced to new ideas every few seconds and it was quite hard to keep up with everything.  For me, the best way to learn something new is to play with it, so this afternoon I started to look at the presentation by Zoe Ross on Google Docs.  Zoe had come up with several activities for us to work on in small groups, unfortunately our group ran out of time so I wanted to go back and try them all out again.  She had an activity using Doodle for Google, one that involved making a presentation about London landmarks and one that involved adding favourites into a spreadsheet.  This afternoon I had a good play around with these trying out lots of different features until I felt confident with them.

Zoe had provided us with several useful links and classroom examples, one of which was Tom Barrett's presentation (below).  Tom was another of the Lead Learners at GTAUK.  I can already see how I can use some of these ideas, for example the spreadsheet about pulse rate data.  Last year I worked with the PE teacher and the Grade 2s during their Who We Are unit of inquiry to measure the students' pulse when resting and following various types of activities, which we then graphed.  Each student was only able to graph his or her own data, and I can see how great it would be to actually graph the results of the whole class by having them collaborate on just one spreadsheet.  Another idea I would like to use is #10, the backchannel, using the chat window during presentations.

Later in the day I attended another session by Tom Barrett on using Google Maps.  I have been playing around with that too and will be blogging again later on ideas for using that with our students.

Image Credit:  9/13 Roald Dahl's Birthday by bangdoll@flickr

Respect, Motivate, Achieve - GTAUK part 5

Last month I attended the Google Teacher Academy UK.  It was an amazing experience, and following it several of the teachers who attended have been writing their own blog posts about the things they got out of the day.  Today I was reading this post by Tim Bleazard where among other things, he reflected on the "Google way of working":
The Google way of working was amazing. Everyone gets 20% of their time to work on projects of their own choosing. This has led to a number of new features and apps being developed. It makes you think if there would ever be a way we could get this into schools. You must be motivated so much more when you literally have ownership of what you are doing.
I have written before about our school's mission statement (Respect, Motivate, Achieve), and it strikes me that, just as Tim said, having ownership of what you are doing is very motivating and empowering.  This has set me thinking about what I would like to do in my action plan and how I could present it to the school, and I think I would like to try to introduce a little bit of the Google 20% into what the students are doing in IT.  Each year our students, who are doing the IB PYP, study 6 units of inquiry.  I'm thinking about giving them one of these units as their IT 20% (well not quite 20% of course since 100/6 is actually 16.6%, but you get the idea).  Perhaps for just one of these units they could have the choice of showing their learning in any way they choose.  Perhaps letting them work on a project of their own choosing will lead to greater motivation and therefore greater achievement.  It's definitely worth a try.

Photo Credit:  Salcombe: 20 by Kevin Paul Jones

Monday, August 9, 2010

Different Hats: Google Search Tools - GTAUK part 4

On the first morning at GTAUK, Lisa Thurmann talked about Google search tools.  She asked:  How can we as educators help our students to organize and access their collection of information in useful ways?  Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.  Most of our students today take access to information for granted, but still struggle to find a way to make use of all the information they find.

Lisa talked about the different hats we wear, the different roles we take on, and how the different Google search tools would fit with the different hats we wear.  For example many teachers and students still start at the main Google page and type in their query, often resulting in millions of results.  As adults we are likely to look at a maximum of 7 of these results, students are more likely to just focus on the top 4.  It’s really unusual with this type of search for anyone to go beyond the first page.

However the new Google results page now looks different and allows you to refine the search: on the left hand side there are now links to news, blogs and so on.  A really useful tool is to click on the Wonder Wheel to refine the search.  Following on from this you can also look at the Timeline and check when the links were posted.  Google Scholar can refine the search further as it has been designed to search periodicals  - this will give students more timely documents to use in their research.  Then there is Google News which is a useful tool for current events.  Another great tool is the Updates – this will give you a live feed (including what is being written on Twitter).

Another tool that could be useful, Lisa suggested, is to go to Google Alerts and put an alert on a name, a blog, the school where you work and so on.  That way, anything new that is written will immediately be sent to you.  I can certainly see some advantages of this one …..

A new tool for me was the Google Labs tool Google Squared.  Lisa showed us how we can type in a word or phrase such as netbooks or document cameras and this will give you a spreadsheet with information, pictures, prices etc of these items.  Other uses of Google Squared could be typing in phrases such as great novels, planets, revolutions and so on. 

Lisa moved onto talk about wearing a creative hat:  one thorny issue I have faced this past year is that of copyright – in particular students taking images they have found using a Google image search and using these images in their work.  As teachers we have to model fair use for our students and our colleagues.  Using strict filtering in the Advanced search feature in Google images will allow students to search for copyright free images that they can use.  Of course they will still need to give credit for these images!

Moving away from the copyright issue, another great feature we were introduced to in Google images (not the advanced search) were the different search tools on the left that also now include searching for images with a certain colour theme (for example blue apples).  Once you have found an image that is close to what you are looking for, it’s possible to hover over it and then search for similar images.

Putting on yet another hat, the student hat, Lisa showed us Google Books.  I love the way you can see common words and phrases in a word cloud - clicking on the words brings you to the pages in the book where they occur. Google Books allows students to search the world’s libraries and browse the available pages which can they be saved in their own “Library” with bookshelves.  Google editions of eBooks are available in the cloud and can be viewed on any device online, though they are not downloadable.

A great tool for elementary students could be making your own Google custom search engine.  Often a teacher won’t want a student to search the whole web using Google, but would like to limit the sites students can search while still teaching them the skills they will eventually need to make a fuller search.  The Google custom search engine will focus students’ search on safe and relevant sites that you as the teacher have pre-selected.  This is possible by adding a list of sites you want students to query and a great advantage is that you can take ads off the pages.

If all this seems a bit confusing, Google for Educators has classroom lessons and resources to help teachers and students.  These lessons have been built by Google Certified teachers and are broken down into different grade levels and modules.  This is certainly something I am going to be showing to the teachers in my school once I return to work next week.

Photo Credit:  Rainbow Hats by Susanne Anette

Look a few more turns down the road - GTAUK part 3

Some of the most important statements made in the GTAUK were made right at the start of the first day.  In the opening session these were the statements that made the most impression on me:

·      Focus on the student and all else will follow
·      It's best to teach a few things really, really well
·      Fast is better than slow
·      The need for information crosses all borders
·      Great just isn't good enough
·      You don't need to be in school to learn

For me it’s important to have one or two new tools to take back to my school and to focus on these, to introduce these to our teachers and have them understand the potential for using them in their classrooms, and then later on to introduce a few more.  We were told to think about our teaching the way that racing car drivers think about their driving:  they don’t just look at the next bend but have to look a few more turns down the road at what is coming, so that they can get into the right position and prepare for what is to come.    As teachers we shouldn’t just focus on what we can use on Monday, but we need to think about what we can use next year and then the year after that.  We were told:  "with science and the human heart there is no limit"

Photo Credit:  BMW E46 M3 by Pibmak

He who learns from one who is learning, drinks from a flowing river - Native American Proverb GTAUK part 2

I loved the fact that at the GTAUK we were all called learners.  Even the leaders of the different sessions were called “Lead Learners” showing that we are all learning from each other.  This philosophy ties in with the IB Learner Profile that applies to everyone in the IB World Schools:  students, teachers, administrators and even parents.  So often in the various sessions the lead learners talked about their learning journeys, the things they are trying out, what has worked and what hasn’t and what they have learnt from these experiences.  I definitely have the feeling that I want to jump into the river and go wherever it is flowing!

Photo Credit:  Sip by Jenah Crump Photography

Why Me? GTAUK part 1

Like many teachers who were invited to join the first Google Teacher Academy outside of the USA, one of the things I was curious about was why I had been chosen.  This question was answered in part when we were told the following statistics:  the 49 teachers who were selected together teach over 19,000 students.  In addition we work with over 6,000 other educators who teach 162,000 students.  23 of those at the GTAUK were from outside the UK.  The potential impact we can have worldwide once we are back in our schools, therefore, is immense. 

Google’s stated aim is “improve teaching and learning by leveraging innovative tools.”  Google started working in education in 2006, teaching teachers how to use the tools to foster learning.  The first GTA was in November 2006 and since then there have been 8 more Academies in the USA and now this one in London.  Google Apps for Education was launched in 2007.

It was an honour to attend the GTAUK – I learnt so much and made so many good contacts, including one who also works in an international school in Switzerland.  I’m very happy that I won’t go back and be the only Google Certified Teacher in the country, which is what is going to happen to some of the other international attendees.  I’m looking forward to being able to work further with Jonathan to set up some training for teachers in international schools in Switzerland, as well as for teachers working in the Swiss schools – this will definitely be a challenge as I don’t speak German!