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Action Research takes 5 minutes!


I frequently hear teachers say something along the lines of “There’s too much out there…I don’t have time to sort out what will have the biggest impact on my teaching”.  They might as well add ‘So, I’ll do nothing’.

Wise people know that when we say “I haven’t got time”, what we’re really saying is “It’s not important to me”

The answer is simple ‘Just try one thing’.  Just give one thing a go (C’mon, we all have a hunch that one or two things that might make a difference to our students’ learning), and then have a conversation with a peer about it (or maybe better still, with your students!).  Guess what?  That’s Action Research!  That’s changing a variable, and even on the most simple level, assessing what kind of a difference it made.

Once you get the hang of that small step [(1) act (2) have conversation], it’s time to broaden your experience and see if someone else has had some BIG ideas about what you’re doing…use a search engine, send out a tweet, read a journal or a book!

Now, using your new wisdom, refine your variable, practice your variable, keep up the chatter with some trusted peers or students about the impact of the variable.

And when you’re ready, introduce another variable.


Improvement is that simple.





I was in a conversation today with some peers, when someone remarked that she had been speaking with a group of teachers who had recently transferred from Government schools into Catholic and Independent schools. They were remarking on how lazy teachers were in their new schools, pulling out last year’s curriculum and teaching it over and over, because they had the luxury of classes that were relatively compliant. They believed that in the Government sector, teachers were forced to be much more responsive to the needs of the students in their class each year, to ensure that the learning met the needs of that particular group of students, who could change in attitude and achievement level quite dramatically from one year to the next. I think their observations are largely correct (yes – big generalisation there…of course there are exceptions).

It seems to me that a good number of our teachers expect to be able to use the activities they prepared for their class the year before (or perhaps, many years before) each year. The mindset of preparation for the new group each year is not as strong amongst our staff, because they haven’t needed to make dramatic changes before.

The move to 1:1 curriculum, and even a differentiated curriculum is therefore an even greater cultural change for us, because there really isn’t a culture of “starting again”, each year.

Interesting times. Would love to hear your thoughts.

The E-Learning Classroom


This Blog post is a component of a Cert IV in Training and Assessment (hence the formal language & super obvious observations!).

Having observed the required 3 hours of elearning classes throughout our College, it is evident that there is a great variety of approaches to the use of elearning throughout the school.  Certainly Wikis (used with Blogs) and Nings are the predominant forms used by teachers to hold resources together and to build units, but increasingly, teachers are utilising SIMON (our LMS) as the foundation site for student work.  I looked at the unit and lesson plans (mostly found online now), and was really pleased that staff development of units if soundly based on the VELS and VCE.  In this, the units are rigorous and sequentially developed.  The College Base Wiki (http://sje.wikispaces.com/) holds the vast majority of the school’s wikis, although there are others which have not yet been linked.  The majority of these requires students to either maintain their work on a Blog (usually Global2 Blogs) or to complete work in other programs and upload to SIMON.  In this way, a lot of the curriculum is now being experienced by students in an elearning format.

The classes I observed were using a combination of WIKI/Blog and Ning respectively.  The Ning has the advantage of being much more self contained, in that students can have their own page within a secure site.  This is ideal for VCE classes who require an online environment to share, practice and discuss their ideas.  The WIKI/Blog combination seems to be used more in junior classes, because student information, where there appears to be a lot less online discussion and/or collaboration.  I wonder if this isn’t an area for growth.  Certainly, the students are used to the format, and use Wikis/Blogs and the Ning with confidence.  It is difficult to judge if improvement is increased, but all students are quickly tracked for their contribution, and can receive quick feedback from their peers and teacher, so there must be some credit in that.

Observation revealed that most tasks saw students working first independently on their elearning, and then moving into a collaborative mode, sharing ideas and/or commenting on each other’s work.  This is an are that can definitely be improved.  Some classes were using GoogleDocs to contribute to the same piece of work, but this was the exception, rather than the rule, and usually used for brainstorming processes.

As a tool for submitting and marking assessment pieces, SIMON is liked by both students and staff for its ease of use.  From a teaching perspective, it is quick to see who has submitted their work, and is easy for keeping track of drafts and cumulative comments.   Students progress and feedback from teachers is accessible to parents through their online portal, so even greater accountability is maintained.

The rooms are safe, in that students have grown used to being careful about their power cords and having their bags tucked under seats to avoid tripping.  Many students now use their computer on their lap, rather than on a desk, and there are issues here around posture and potentially harmful emittance  from the computer (although I believe the jury is out on that issue).  The addition of the new glare-blinds has made a huge difference to classrooms.  Those rooms that do not have them are difficult to work in a screen environment with.

Suggestions I might make to the teachers who work with these classes is that greater space needs to be provided for online collaboration.  Wikis provide for this, but it is fiddly to build on a course each year in the WIKI environment (removing previous year’s discussion boards so as to be able to use the same/modified content again is problematic).  The new provisions within the next roll-out of SIMON should alleviate some of this, as discussions can be tagged to a class, rather than a course.

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