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‘General Stuff’ Category

  1. Catching Up

    January 1, 2016 by Mrs Hurley

    Dear Reader,

    Forgive me, it’s been (approx.) 6 months since my last post. What have I been doing in that time?




    I have been absent from social media (other than my personal Facebook page) for many reasons. Firstly, this past year I’ve felt more stretched for time than normal. My time and energy were spent on my classroom and the individuals that required constant attention in there. I’ve also taken on more responsibilities at my school and have been leading a curriculum team for the first time. The classroom has well and truly drained me this year though. It’s funny how different a new group of kids / combination of personalities are from previous classes.

    Personally, I’ve also spent a fair chunk of time planning my upcoming wedding (Yay!)

    I’m sure I’ve said this before (in fact, probably as a New Years resolution from last year?) but I am aiming to publish more posts this year and take the time to reflect on stuff that is working or not. Classroom blogs themselves are going to be reinvigorated at school this year so I will (hopefully) be reigniting my passion with blogs and all of the wonderful possibilities.

    I hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas, New Years and Summer break. I look forward to learning with you again this year.

  2. Collaborative Problem Solving

    August 4, 2014 by Mrs Hurley

    The following is an 800 word essay that I wrote for the MOOC “Assessment and Teaching 21st Century Skills” run by the University of Melbourne through Coursera.

    I found this assignment to be difficult at first but easier as I wrote more. The peer assessment was valuable but I’m not sure how valuable my feedback would’ve been to others. I could tell that other students lacked understanding of the assignment itself and collaborative problem solving skills, based on the three other assignments that I peer assessed.

    “After Sugata Mitra conducted his famous “Hole in the Wall” experiment in a New Delhi slum, he studied for 13 years on the nature of self-organised learning. At the 2013 TED Conference, Sugata invited educators of all kinds to create their own self-organised learning environments (SOLEs). I decided to take this approach in my classroom as a way for students to discover how continents were formed. Large, open, difficult and interesting questions often make the best “big” questions for SOLE inquiries. Instead of posing a “big” question to my students, I made a statement that they had to find evidence to either prove or disprove – “Continents were formed by one man digging many holes and filling them with water, thus separating each continent.” SOLE inquiries employ the basic parameters that students can choose their own groups of approximately four and they can change groups at any time. Students can talk with other groups and see what each group is doing and participants must have the opportunity to share their learning at the end. These were the only instructions given to the students, thus making the task very ambiguous. Each group had access to one computer and one handheld tablet, as well as note taking tools. The SOLE inquiry required collaboration between students because each student was able to take on a different role and bring different resources to the task, all of which are required to solve the problem. Each student brought a different perspective to the task, the task required negotiation skills and agreement on a plan to tackle the problem. The collaborative problem solving SOLE task presented to my students required both social skills and cognitive skills. Students chose to stay in their original groups, despite constant reminders that they were allowed to change. In the beginning, students were sharing information and resources with other groups and started to focus more on their own presentations in the end. One of the major foci for students was using collaborative tools, such as Google Apps, to assist with the collaborative nature of the task. Students exchanged information and discussed vocabulary that they wouldn’t have had the chance to discovery without the SOLE investigation – or else, they would have had this knowledge imparted to them instead of discovering it for themselves and sharing with each other. Such diversity and demonstration of collaborative skills was wonderful to witness.
    Educators play an important role in both teaching students how to think, and giving them room to feed their curiosity. My role as the classroom teacher in the SOLE investigation is purely as a facilitator. The most effective educators are great witnesses, supporters, and structure-providers, but not answer-suppliers. In this SOLE investigation, due to the diverse ability levels and social groupings, it was inevitable that each group would demonstrate differing skill levels in collaborative problem solving. In one small group was a girl who struggles with the concept of student-centred learning and has to be encouraged to discover answers for herself. As I watched her work with her partner, I noticed the low level collaborative problem solving skills she was displaying. Socially, this girl has difficulties anyway and collaboratively solving problems proved no different. She reluctantly participated in the task, contributing very little herself and expecting her partner to complete the task for her. She could not seem to focus due to the lack of structure and or scaffolding given by the teacher before undertaking the task. When sharing her learning with the class, she tended to let her partner divulge all information and made small contributions but did not take into consideration what her partner had already mentioned. This particular girl found it difficult to understand the task and therefore could not resolve differences with her partner to achieve a common goal. Her problem analysis was almost non-existent and she was unable to respond to such an ambiguous situation. Small facts were recorded instead of a wider understanding of the information and how it related to our inquiry focus. With prompting, she was able to undertake the task but did not have the foresight to see the end result or consequences of her inaction. On the other hand, this particular girl’s partner was displaying high level collaborative problem solving skills. He constantly attempted to engage her in order to solve the problem collaboratively. He listened to her contributions and was able to tailor his own contributions and ideas for solutions based on his partner’s understandings. He persevered in the SOLE investigation and prompted input from his partner. Throughout the task, he was able to evaluate his own and his partner’s performance. He attempted to assist his partner by dividing the investigation into smaller tasks and he identified patterns between multiple pieces of information and their sources.”

    My feedback for the assignment:

    Suggest any elaboration of the example that could have made it more clearly an example of a collaborative problem solving:
    peer 1 → This task clearly identified that an individual could change groups at any time. In a collaborative problem solving exercise, if it is a requirement that the problem can’t be solved without the input of different people/resources, having members move in and out of the group (even if in this example the teacher noted that they didn’t despite being urged to) would seem to defeat the purpose. What happens to the group if a high functioning individual chooses to leave? If the problem could be solved without the involvement of all members, is this CPS? In this example, if the boy who demonstrated high CPS skills left, most of the group’s ability to solve the problem would go too.
    peer 2 → The text indicates the truism that behaviour cannot change overnight. The two collaborators represent extreme skills in CPS according to their behavioural responses to the situation. Perhaps for the sake of illustration, I would want an instance when the girl with low-level CPS rises above the level she’s at and encourage and affirm her partner by getting more substance into their joint solution to the problem. We are allowed, anyway, to fictionalize a bit.
    peer 3 → A fantactic description of a collaborative problem solving at school. A good example to follow. One suggestion. How about to think of some subtasks to motivate students “not to stay in their original groups”?
    7. Say what you liked best about this example as an instance of collaborative problem solving.
    peer 1 → This example was clearly structured and identified a problem for which there were many possible answers. The process allowed students to discover knowledge for themselves, and to share this with other members of the group. It also identified that not all participants in CPS are ready to be able to contribute at an effective level, and may require other scaffolding to get them to the point of readiness.
    peer 2 → The problem and the CPS skills and the corresponding levels demonstrated by the collaborators are clearly described. Thanks.
    peer 3 → This example is so close to my own professional career. I’m a teacher of English in Ukraine. I often engage my students to work like this. Most of all I liked the level of professional competence of the author because such replics and observations “My role as the classroom teacher in the SOLE investigation is purely as a facilitator. The most effective educators are great witnesses, supporters, and structure-providers, but not answer-suppliers.” prove this. The author knows all the tiny aspects of collaborative problem solving,in particular, how to observe, analyze, interpret and develop CPS skills.

    What do you think? What examples of collaborative problem solving can you think of in your own classroom?

  3. Education Bucket List

    June 29, 2014 by Mrs Hurley

    Inspired by Alex Semmens (@AlexSemm) and the #EduBucketList, I’ve decided to create my own bucket list for “education stuff I want to do before I retire” So, here is a list of goals that I want to achieve before I retire. I have no doubt I will change my mind on a couple of these goals by the end of the year or next year!

    • Attend ISTE Conference – International Society for Technology in Education. These conferences are held annually in the USA and I’m always jealous of those who have attended. I follow the Twitter hashtag (#ISTE2014 or #ISTE14) which helps alleviate my envy a little because it feels like I’m there.  This is the conference that has inspired both mine and Alex Semmens’ #EduBucketList
    • Attend a Google Apps for Education Summit – I came oh-so-close to attending a Summit this year. I actually attended a Boot Camp for Google Apps with the idea of taking my exams and hopefully becoming accepted as a Google Trainer. Attending a Summit (from what I’ve heard) is an amazing experience and the exposure to the possibilities of using GAfE in schools is incomparable to anything that can be found on the internet.
    • Complete GAFE exams and become a Google Educator. Create video, get accepted as Google Trainer!
    • Attend a DLTV conference (formerly ICTEV) either as an attendee or a presenter…
    • Become a team leader
    • Become an eLearning leader and coach staff in my school (either still working in the classroom or just part-time)
    • Make my name known in Education circles
    • Present at a conference
    • Complete my Masters in Education
    • Continue blogging with students
    • Keep learning and keep changing my practice to best suit my students

    I think because I am still an Early Careers Teacher, I should have much, much more on my list!

    I guess I can’t really add any other conference opportunities or anything because I’m not entirely sure what is still out there!

    Do you have any other “must do” suggestions for me? Tell me a little about them!

  4. “It’s been a great year”

    December 7, 2013 by Mrs Hurley

    … But has it really?

    I’m hearing this said a lot lately, as members of my PLN begin wrapping up their year and reflecting on how their year has gone.

    When I look back on this year, I feel exhausted.

    Has it been a great year for me? It has certainly been a challenging year. I don’t mean in the “my knowledge is being challenged and it’s fantastic” kind of way either. It has genuinely been a tough year for me.

    While I don’t want to sound like I am whinging or making excuses for myself, I will try to explain why…

    1. Firstly,  there are two boys in my class who have completely worn me down. I have spent every lesson repeating myself and reminding them that they are not to sit with each other or talk with each other as the combination of both of them together is lethal.

    2. As the year draws to an end, as in any primary school, year 6s are becoming restless and ready to move on. I have one Year 6 boy who packed up shop 4 weeks ago and hasn’t done anything since. He refuses to complete tasks or follow any instructions – despite the fact that he is already going in to secondary school behind in his learning, which is even more frustrating.

    3. As far as the ‘norm’ goes, I have spent a number of days out of the classroom this year, taking advantage of external professional learning opportunities. That being said, I have also participated in programs where I am required to “work” after school and into the night. Now, I wouldn’t change my decision to participate in any of these professional development days at all – in fact, they have been the best ones I have attended in my whole career – but days out of the classroom (particularly when they are one day a week in sequential weeks) can really make you feel out of whack.

    There are other contributing factors which are a little personal so I won’t list them.

    I’m not sure how I feel about this year. I certainly love this time of year because of how busy it is and with all the extra activities we get to do, such as the swimming carnival and Year 6 Graduation. I am definitely looking forward to a change next year…


  5. Being Connected

    October 3, 2013 by Mrs Hurley

    I am feeling a little small and insignificant today. In my chatting with other educators at last night’s Teach Meet (Thanks @charte – had a great time!) I mentioned that I had only attended one other Teach Meet before. Thinking about it, I would never had heard of Teach Meet in the first place had I not joined Twitter a few months ago. I can’t actually remember when I joined, I think it was the Easter holidays this year. Does anyone know how I can find out? I’m curious.

    Anyway, it got me to thinking. I saw a lot of teachers last night who had given up their own time on their holidays to further their knowledge in Education. Although last night’s crowd was mostly younger (Margo said it, not me!) surely a lot of attendees would have kids and families at home? Yet they still make the time and effort to travel – some even from the country! – to listen to a bunch of other teachers talking and learning from their peers.

    Many teachers are constantly making the efforts to improve their teaching and to improve the education, knowledge and lives of the students that they teach. When I first joined Twitter, I couldn’t and still can’t believe the amount of teachers and educators on Twitter who are so willing to share and engage in meaningful conversations.

    Having a Twitter account is  like having your own school and who you follow is like choosing your staff. Your Twitter feed is like listening to conversations in the staffroom. I just love that you get to choose which ones to tune into and participate in!

    But what of teachers who aren’t on Twitter? Or connected in any other way? How important is it to be a connected educator? Tom Whitby has written extensively on the subject. One such post can be found here. He explains himself much better than I do, so I highly recommend you head over and have a read!

    How are you connected? What are the benefits for you personally? What are the benefits for your classroom?

  6. My First Post

    August 11, 2013 by Mrs Hurley

    Who would’ve thought that I’d be inspired enough to create my own personal blog?

    After attending the Teaching & Learning in the 21st Century Face-to-Face session on Friday and listening to all of our speakers, I came to a couple of conclusions.

    1. I need to make a bigger (positive) digital footprint
    I consider myself pretty tech savvy. I can usually fix any problems that the kids have with their netbooks without calling the technician. I use Facebook & Twitter personally. I moderate our class blog. I have organised Mystery Skypes & Guest Speaker Skypes for my students. However… I Googled myself the other day (something I swore I wouldn’t do – thanks Jenny Luca!) and was unusually disappointed. 3310 results. Most of which belong to a photography in America who shares my name (unique spelling and all.. I’m annoyed.) The thought occurred to me that this didn’t mean I wasn’t “good” with technology, this just meant I didn’t have such a huge online presence and I’m only just starting out. And that’s OK but I’d love to have a bigger name online (for good reasons of course).

    2. I’m on the right track with our class blog
    So far this year, my students have Quadblogged, Mystery Skyped, Tweeted (haphazardly) and Skyped with a teacher in Japan & a class in Malaysia to learn more about their culture for our Asia unit. Not to mention all of the positive outcomes just having a class blog has, such as improved writing skills when learning to write a quality comment. Can’t wait to start using Google Docs in the class!

    3. Nothing beats the connections I’ve made to other teachers this year
    It’s awesome.

    Finally, I’ll leave you with an important message I picked up on, shared with us by Peter Maggs. We can’t stand by and be aloof like cats. We all need to dive in with constant enthusiasm and “be more dog”!

    So, I’ve hoping to update my blog at least weekly. I’m really hoping it doesn’t just fall to the floor because I forget to post.

    Have you done any of the mentioned online ‘things’ with your class? What difficulties have you faced when creating your own personal blog? If you attended the Teaching & Learning in the 21st Century session, what did you think? What was your favourite part of the day?

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