Archive for March, 2011

The FOUR C’s

We edu-tweeters often use the catchphrase ‘connect, collaborate, create’ to signal our pedagogical perspective.

But…what about this really important fourth C:


Surely this must become another essential C-word?


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Learning from: Mary Poppins

I’ve been keeping an eye out for a range of texts (‘literary’ and ‘pop culture’) that I can use in lessons with preservice English teachers.  I’m looking for things that are interesting texts in their own right, as well as can shed some light on an important aspect of secondary education or English curriculum.

My find for today is: Mary Poppins (1964)

In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun –
you find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game!

An uplifting message and one which bears a clear connection to Games Based Learning.

There are certainly conflicting discourses in the song though – I’d love to take an extract from 1984 to compare and contrast here, the one where Orwell describes how the proles are kept in line through pop music and the lottery…

‘a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down’ (eek!?)

Another one of my favourite songs from the movie (and no, I’m not generally a fan of musicals) and another that I think bears exploration is the Chiminey Sweep song.  I’ll let you do your own reading of that one!

Chim chiminey
Chim chiminey
Chim chim cher-oo!
Good luck will rub off when
I shake ‘ands with you
Or blow me a kiss
And that’s lucky too

Now as the ladder of life
‘As been strung
You may think a sweep’s
On the bottommost rung

Though I spends me time
In the ashes and smoke
In this ‘ole wide world
There’s no ‘appier bloke

Up where the smoke is
All billered and curled
‘Tween pavement and stars
Is the chimney sweep world

When the’s ‘ardly no day
Nor ‘ardly no night
There’s things ‘alf in shadow
And ‘alf way in light
On the roof tops of London
Coo, what a sight!

I choose me bristles with pride
Yes, I do
A broom for the shaft
And a broom for the flume

Though I’m covered with soot
From me ‘ead to me toes
A sweep knows ‘e’s welcome
Wherever ‘e goes

Chim chiminey
Chim chiminey
Chim chim cher-ee!
When you’re with a sweep
You’re in glad company…

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Put your money where your mouth is

Stepping it up this week a bit in the ‘modelling-best-practice’ stakes…

It occured to me that as I am advocating the importance of studying texts and their traditions to…well basically, the development of human society as we know it, that I’m not doing enough of this in my own university classes.

Last week I got a real buzz relating the theoretical material in this unit to contemporary texts and practices, namely to the story of Terminator II and to the ‘Pirates vs Ninjas’ meme.  So this week I am using another text as a way to relate to theory, this time going into even more depth.

I have chosen the film Pleasantville.  I am going to use this film to explore ‘critical literacy’ and interrogate the resistance to critical reading of text in secondary English.

Yes I am.

Now, to construct the learning experiences.

In the lecture I am going to focus in on metalanguage, showing students how historical paradigms of English curriculum (skills, cultural heritage, personal growth, critical-cultural) have been revisioned in two more recent literacy frameworks that have had significant influence on contemporary English curriculum – Luke and Freebody’s ‘Four Resources’ model, and Green’s ‘Three Dimensions’ of literacy (which we have already been using at length).  I’m also going to rock their world by showing them how subject-specific pedagogy relates to more general theories of pedagogy, such as the ‘Productive Pedagogies’ that are used here in QLD, as well as to theories of learning such as Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.

The two hour tutorial though.  Hmmm.

My message in the coming weeks will be to embrace ‘workshops’ as well as individual and group ‘project based learning’ as alternative approaches to lesson organisation.  I want them to start thinking about how we traditionally do “class” and what learning experiences are encouraged there.  As I’m electing to ‘put my money where my mouth is’ this week I suppose I should give them a taste of this too…but what to do?

Perhaps I will split the two hours into a ‘workshop’ and a ‘project’.  Will I have time for both?  I’d like to also screen the first ~20 minutes of the film in class, giving me 30 minutes for the rest of the workshop.

That leaves ~50 minutes for students to complete a seperate project.  But what?

I’ve been watching Bianca do this – I know I need to start with a driving question or challenge

…and thus I am away to make coffee and have a think about this.

Ideas welcome x

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Motivation and Participation in Asynchronous Online Discussions

I was very interested to read the findings of Xie, Durrington and Yen (2011) published in the recently released issue of the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching.  Given my current use of Twitter in my own university unit for preservice teachers, I was glad to read that others were also observing a relationship between participation in online asynchronous discussions and students’ level of motivation.  I have reproduced their abstract here:

This study investigated the relationship between students’ motivation and their participation in asynchronous online discussions during a 16-week online course. Fifty-six students participated in
online discussion activities as a normal part of their classes. Their motivation for participating in online discussions was self-reported three times throughout the semester. The findings continue to
indicate that students’ motivation has a significant relationship with their participation in online discussion activities at time two and time three. Students’ perceived value, autonomy, competence,
and relatedness have different levels of impact on their online discussion behavior. This study also found that students’ intrinsic motivation and their perceived value of online discussions remained at a moderate-high level over time, although the perceived value had a significant drop from the midpoint to the end of the semester.

Keywords: Asynchronous Online Discussion, Motivation, Distance Learning, Collaborative
Learning, Learning Community

Reading this article has motivated me to collect my own data in the next week of classes, to gather some initial responses from my own students.  I look forward to hearing their views!

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Hunting for twits

Of the roughly 85 students in my English Curriculum Studies unit, currently about 62 are following our class twitter account @CLB_018

No mean feat considering it is only week 4.

However, it is week 4 of a 9 week unit, meaning we’re almost half way done (eek! I still have so much to SAY!)

Aaaand, I’m aware that a small handful of those followers may be spamish.

So today I am embarking on a twit hunt – hunting through my list of followers to see who has not tweeted anything (many only joined for class and only follow the class profile).  I’m going to DM each of them individually and privately to encourage them to participate.

Am I going overboard in doing this?

On one hand this looks exactly like the kind of time-consuming ‘tech monitoring’ that teachers often tell me they don’t like about teaching online.

On the other hand, I see it as analogous to checking students’ workbooks a few weeks in to term and pointing out their missing work.  Is this something that University teachers see as beyond the scope of their ‘job’?  I don’t.

But please – please – tell me if you think this is too much, or if this seems like a good strategy to you.  Especially if you do something similar – did it work?



Change agents – Pirates vs Ninjas

I was prompted by Binaca today to look for an old post of mine on giving feedback to students.  In my search I was delighted to find it had been almost exactly one year since I wrote this post about the tension caused by curriculum change, especially in regards to integrating ICTs:

Let’s make sure we’re applying the ‘too much is too much’ rule across the board, and not just as an excuse/a reason for neglecting the new. If what we mean is ‘we haven’t had enough PD to use this right’ then by all means say that. But there are some things that would be good to drop out of our current practice to make room for the new. One thing that we know about teaching is that no matter what you are taught to do, as a teacher you will instinctively model your practice on the teaching you received at school.  Fighting against this instinct takes concentration, and learning about new practices and tools takes a lot of work. Because of this, teachers who are embracing technology are feeling increasingly overloaded and burnt out this is the real problem that needs managing.

In a later post I tried to be more generative than reflective by reframing the process of change, suggesting that:

…as educational leaders, if we want to help people come to terms with change and embrace it, then we need to recognise and validate their desire to stick with ‘the known’…Recognising that people are resisting change because they feel disempowered helps us to employ methods that give power back.

These lines of thinking manifested in the lecture I gave today to preservice English teachers on how to navigate change amidst all of the ‘theories of text and response’ that they had learned so far.

You may be pleased (dismayed?) to watch how I liken the characteristics of change agents to either the NINJA or PIRATE side of the popular theoretical battle, Pirates vs Ninjas 😀

I think I am mostly pirate!

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Stuff I believe

It was interesting to follow the tweets of @BiancaH80 and @durk94 tonight, as they discussed the school funding data available on the MySchool website.

To be honest, in the interests of keeping myself in a positive and generative work state of mind I’ve avoided looking at the new MySchool site at all (and no, I’m not going to hyperlink to it because I don’t think it deserves the traffic).  Next week I’m going to have to though, so I can talk about it with my students in class.


Even though I now work at a university, which involves striving for curriculum excellence in schools in every sector, I maintain my firm commitment to the social justice agenda of supporting public education.

However, government departments of education tend to be clunky, inefficient, wheel-reinventing institutions.  I know, I used to work in one.  And if I returned to teaching you’d find me back there.

But while funding and resource benchmarks are a large part of the problem, a widespread lack of willingness to consider radically shifting our models of curriculum ‘delivery’ prevents the construction of a meaningful way forward, in my opinion.  The composition of the local student ‘community’ and its relationship to the related local ‘campus’ needs to be significantly rethought.

So I’m posting my tweets for tonight up here, just for the record.  I’d be interested in hearing other people’s visions for the school campus of the future.  Will there still be a distinction between ‘public’ and ‘private’?

I hope not.

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Alain de Botton’s University of Twitter

A delightful, insightful and helpful series of tweets on the 18th March from contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton.

I highly recommend his twitter feed, I find something helpful to me every time I visit.  If you like that, you may want to check out the DVD or book of his series on Status Anxiety, another favourite of mine.

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don’t put me in a box, man

In honour of my wonderful students in English Curriculum Studies 1 who I suspect this week are getting a leeettle fed up with a seemingly endless web of theoretical models for curriculum and pedagogy.

But don’t worry, as Charlie would say, we are “winning“!

Howard: Well, you know. About, me. I’m a free spirit, Vince.
Vince: Yeah?
Howard: Yeah I can’t be hemmed in. People try. They try to put me in a box, but I break free.
Vince: Who’s trying to put you in a box?
Howard: It’s the nature of me. It’s the nature of Howard Moon.
Vince: Who’s trying to put you in a box?
Howard: Well, people, you know. The Man.
Vince: Have you contacted the police about this?
Howard: No, “The Man”. You know what I’m talking about, yeah?
Vince: What are you on about?
Howard: People are always trying to put people in boxes.
Vince: No one’s trying to put you in a box. You’re the wrong size, for a start.
Howard: [sighing] Let’s forget about this conversation, okay?
Vince: How would you even get in a box?

The Mighty Boosh, Series 1 Episode 8 ‘The Hitcher’

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Women seal it with a kiss

Whether you liked the tone of Julia Gillard’s address to the US Congress or you thought it was an “unnecessary suck“, you can’t deny that she made some powerful statements.  Her insistence that Trade = Jobs was a clear signal to Congress that a policy of trade with Australia would be of more benefit in the long run to the US economy than the protectionist farming subsidies that are currently under consideration.

The other powerful statement of course was the flaming red/orange (let’s call it vermilion?) jacket that she wore for the speech.  It had such a visual impact, drawing the eye straight to her, guaranteeing she was the focus.  It was so bright that it dulled the red in her own hair, and it also occurred to me that it was near enough to ‘Labor red’ to count as an attempt at branding.

Why am I so interested in Julia’s clothes?

I recently watched a TED Talk given by Madeleine Albright about being a woman and a diplomat.  She told an excellent story about how and why she started using her jacket pins (or brooches) to symbolise her stance and attitude while she was Secretary of State.  It’s a fascinating idea.  On one hand of course so infuriating that women have to pay such close attention to their costume while men’s choices in business attire very rarely attracts a second glance.  This only goes so far though – I guarantee that if a dude showed up to address congress in a bright red jacket, we’d be talking about it!

But the potential for using costume intentionally to codify our position or beliefs…I can’t say that I would rather we all wore grey suits cut from virtually the same cloth.  And in this increasingly visual age isn’t it natural for us to increasingly draw on visual codes and conventions to communicate meaning?

If you haven’t come across Madeleine Albright’s talk before, I recommend it.  It’s a 13 minute long interview and contains one of my new favourite quotes of all time:

There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.


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