Sunday, July 31, 2011

Writing In The Digital Age


Many teachers are building on the strong foundations of their writing programmes by adding technology and digital skills to the mix. Although this has been integrated often, there is finally beginning to be a shift in pedagogy through more deliberate and explicit teaching using support from tools such as iPads, iPods and laptops. Then there are a variety of means for delivering the skills to children such as wikis, blogs, online boards such as wallwisher and linoit. The purpose is the same. The outcome of skills is the same. But the presentation method and delivery is often not recognised as the same.

I have found this a powerful tool with the special needs children in my classes over the past few years. Whether they were working on an iPad or laptop, they were happiest when able to cut out one mode - the pencil on paper. With dyslexic children particularly it is wonderful to see them freely 'write' - uninhibited by NOT having to make another connection in their cortex i.e. forming letters from inside their head to look the same on paper. This connection is the one that causes them the biggest issue when recording, so if we allow them some precious time of just 'getting the ideas out of their head' (quote from one of my learners), we are actually relieving them of one stress, which is huge.

Now don't assume for one moment that this means that children do no recording on paper. There is still a need for communicating through this mode (it may become obsolete one day!) and so we still have a diary writing book in our class which they free-write in once a week. But for the rest of the week, the technology assists them by allowing them to get their ideas down, manipulate them, edit them and publish them quickly, clearly and with all of the focus being on the content and the process rather than the spelling and the accuracy of letters and words.

The focus has to be the processes - we can use the most amazing means to deliver this now and we have more and more ideas and options growing and changing daily! My class love to choose their own ways to present their ideas such as using iMovie, keynote, voki, vocaroo, podcasts, blog entries and so on. They enjoy creating ComicLife pages, Pages posters/brochures, grouping their Stickies - they love the choices, they like to have control over the style of presentation that suits their writing, they enjoy sharing their writing through a range of media as well as sharing online through their wiki pages and blogposts. And through all of that, the learning continues through explicit teaching throughout with the drafting, editing and publishing processes - we use googledocs for a lot of the drafting and brainstorms so that I can see the changes in their writing as the process develops.

Writing in the digital age is still writing...what began as a stick in the sand, grew into a pencil on paper...letter on a typewriter, became a letter on a keyboard and is now just a screen to tap - is all just writing. What we need to come to grips with is how learners like to move with change and enjoy being able to communicate in the language of their time and in the mode of their time. Leading them into this age is the best way that we can support this and giving them as many choices and opportunities to explore these modes is ideal.


Friday, July 29, 2011

How To Reach The Unreachable Parents


There was a fantastic discussion yesterday through #ukedchat on Twitter around 'the challenge of reaching the hard to reach parents'. Many comments really resounded for me and it was wonderful to hear so many positive and resourceful ideas about how we attempt to do this as teachers. Over the years, I have had some real battles with this at times, always dependent upon the school and area I was in as to how hard the battle was of course!

When I first started teaching, I worked in a school where the parents rarely came into the school. In fact, the turn out for parent interviews was less than 25%. Those who came often spoke little or no English and really only wanted to know that their child was behaving. Learning meant nothing - school was the one place that you had to behave. As a beginning teacher I had little idea and few resources to call upon to help with this situation so I just floundered around for 2 years and left.

When I worked in a school in South London several years later, we had a large traveller (gypsy) community and although I had close to 50 children on my class roll, the attendance was more a regular 25 as the rest came and went sporadically throughout the year, depending on where the seasonal fruit picking was. The few traveller children I had who were there most of the time were still playing truant (or so I thought) as their attendance was less than 50% to say the least. I floundered around for many months trying to talk to the kids about it and to try to gain some understanding of why they would choose NOT to be at school. When I asked them, the kids said they LOVED school but they had responsibilities at home and stuff they just had to do, so it was imperative that they have some time there too. I couldn't understand this so I asked colleagues about. Most of them rolled their eyes and laughed at my innocence, but I was not going to be deterred - this became my challenge.

When I asked the principal if I could visit the homes of some of the children, he laughed and told me that you have to be invited onto the site and no teacher had ever been invited before. So this gave me more of a challenge. I talked to the traveller girls in my class and I asked them who was the most influential person in the traveller compound? They told me and I set about getting to her...

I talked to every traveller parent I could find in the school, parents of the other children. I became a constant presence in the playground after school as the kids were being collected (my year 6 children just walked home, no parents came for them), I introduced myself and told them that I was a traveller too, although a different type of traveller as I was from New Zealand. It took me several months to build relationships with these mums and a few dads but it had the desired effect. One day the 'head of the travellers' came to see me. She told me that she was hearing great things about me from the kids and the other mums. She said that the girls in particular were wanting to go to school more (the ones in my class) and she wanted to know why. Eventually, as we got to talking (I did a LOT of listening!) she invited me to come and see where my girls lived and to meet their mums.

Well, there it was - the first teacher to be invited into their world from our school! And go I did! I was welcomed with open arms and treated like royalty. My girls dressed for the occasion and showed me around their homes proudly. I finally began to understand a little of their world and their lives. I met their parents and was able to listen to their concerns for their children. They told me that their was no real need in their lives for 'school' other than basic skills of reading, writing and maths. Their children would never be expected to go to high school - in most cases this was just unnecessary to the life they had.

When I returned to school the next day I was looking at the class through a different lens. I am proud to say that 2 of the 5 traveller girls in my class did make it to high school the next year, but only only one of them completed any exams at the age of 15 and her attendance was still poor. But the reality for me was much more powerful than that.

Sometimes, we just have to go the extra mile to really understand the lives of the children we teach. I have attended funerals of my children's grandparents and occasionally, parents, I have visited children in hospital and done weekend visits to families in need whose children are in my class. I have run a breakfast club for the children who would come to school hungry. These things and others may seem too much to ask for some teachers but the reality is this - if you do not reach into the lives of your children in your class, you will never reach the hard to reach parents. Sometimes, going the extra mile can make up the yards lost. I have never regretted one of the extra miles and I have never done it begrudgingly, because the effect was almost instant. The families feel valued - they are worth your time and you have a personal effort for their child. This has the power to change everything.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Destination Unknown


"Success is a journey not a destination. The doing is usually more important than the outcome..."
~ Arthur Robert Ashe Junior.
I was reminded today that we are on a journey, one that is continuous, unpredictable and challenging. This whole lifetime of learning is something that we are all a part of, whether we are involved in the field of education directly or if we are working in any other area of life. From full-time parenting to I.T specialists, doctors, road workers, chefs and bank tellers...any vocation or field of employment brings the challenge of learning to it.

My friends and family talk constantly about the changes in our world - they read the paper, watch TV, follow news on the internet and so on. They discuss and debate, they interact and interpret, constantly changing their perspective on events and happenings in their direct sphere of interaction as well as that of the wider world.

This is no different to my learners in my class who also interpret, interact, discuss and debate what is happening in their sphere of activity. The learning looks and sounds the same at times and very different at others but there is learning all the same. The more I teach, the more I learn and this has grown exponentially over the past 5 years as the rapid changes in the area of digital learning have exploded into our schools and workplaces.

So I remind myself that this term is like other I have ever had before. The learning will blow my mind, the children will surprise me and themselves, I will learn new and incredible skills and ideas that will challenge and stretch me, the class will develop new skills and ideas themselves as they journey with me.

How exciting that the 'success' we are talking about is actually the success we want the children to feel about themselves as lifelong learners.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Great Education Quotes


"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." Walt Disney.


All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.
Walt Disney

All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
Walt Disney

Crowded classrooms and half-day sessions are a tragic waste of our greatest national resource - the minds of our children.
Walt Disney

I believe in being an innovator.
Walt Disney

I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained.
Walt Disney

If you can dream it, you can do it.
Walt Disney

It's kind of fun to do the impossible.
Walt Disney

Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.
Walt Disney

Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards - the things we live by and teach our children - are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.
Walt Disney

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
Walt Disney

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island.
Walt Disney

Monday, July 25, 2011

Challenge!



"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves" Victor Frankl.

I had the difficult situation this year, when I kick started the year all excited and OTT with my ambitions and visions for the school year, at having to change myself. It is easy to sit back and blame the system or the parents, the school leadership or the board, the children's lack of ability or focus, but it is not easy to sit back and face the fact that we may be the issue.

I was planned, well planned, in fact, I may have a slight anally-retentive-gene that features in my life as a teacher. I was ready, the classroom was set up incorporating most of the 7 spaces of learning (Ewan MacIntosh), the class garden was ready to plant in, the books were labelled, the iPads, iPods and laptops were all ready for the learners to tap, type and text, the theme was set - CHALLENGE.

Oh heck, did anyone bother to THINK about what kind of year THAT might make??? CHALLENGE?! Why didn't we call it the year of BLISS or CRUISE-Y, or the year of JOY or EASE. But no, somewhere in our psyche we considered it a wonderful 'big idea' to call it 'challenge'.

And challenge me it did. From the first week I knew that the children couldn't cope with what I had planned for them. I pondered what was wrong with them...I looked back at my initial assessments and observations and couldn't rationalise why this seemed like a very different group of children from last year...

Then it finally dawned on me (actually, this process took me 6 weeks of tearing my hair out, gnashing my teeth and moaning to myself and a few colleagues about THAT class of mine) - this class are NOT last year's class. They were a whole new bunch of learners and the problem *GULP* might be -

ME.

Oh dear. Yep. That was it in a nutshell. The real 'challenge' I was now faced with wasn't 'how do I change these kids?' instead I was slapped in the face full on with the realisation of 'how do I change ME?' My attitude. My expectations. THEIR expectations of me were more important than mine of them. My goals for them were not fair or worthy of their time - if I wanted this group of individuals to learn and function in an eLearning class, I was going to have start from where each of them were, NOT where I was. That was a lightbulb moment the size of a small nuclear detonation.

Okay, so I was highly skilled in some things, highly unskilled in many others, learning madly along the way, but why had I not considered that this is EXACTLY the sort of attitude my class needed me to show them?! I have taught for so many years with little or no stumbling block of this nature - eLearning presents its own new and unique problems and I had just blindly stumbled in, thinking I could start from where I was and assume they would catch up! No, no, no!

So it began - the change in me. I planned WITH the children. We plotted their learning pathways and checked their skills as they were learnt. We shaped our classroom together and pulled apart the key competencies one at a time to really look at what they mean to us as learners. We walked through failure to achieve success in our learning. We have developed the class wiki and blog together, with full control of the majority of content being theirs. I have yielded power and decisions and it has felt dangerous, daring and excellent. The class are all on a learning journey from the driver's seat. I am only along for the ride, kind of like a driving instructor who is terrified half of the time and thrilled with how quickly they learn the rest of the time!

"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves" Victor Frankl.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Get on the bus!!!


It's moving. It has been for the past goodness-knows-how-many years. It has had many changes in appearance and labels but it has been driving on the road of change for many, many years.

What is it? The education reform bus. It has seen many changes in pedagogy. It has weathered many different drivers. It has had refits and re-paints, it has worn different colours and has been slow at times and fast during others. It has struggled up hills and lost control down hills. It has had punctures and breakdowns. People have threatened to scrap it. But like it or love it, the wheels of change grind on and they are simply not going to slow down for anyone.

As technology joined the driver on the bus, as children began to control the bus, as the curriculum wheels changed shape and the road got smoother, the momentum picked up and the reluctant riders were left with some ugly choices.

Some got on from the beginning. They paid a lot to begin with. The personal cost was high as much time was invested in learning to steer the bus. The trip was bumpy, sometimes slightly out of control. Sometimes the early riders worried about whether they were on the right road, but they continued the journey and managed to collect much learning and many more people with them on the way.

What we are left with now is a very fast-changing, ever-evolving bus. It has no final destination because the direction is constantly changing, but the drivers don't mind that. The children know how to get there and what supplies they need so that's all that matters. But what we are also left with, very sadly, is a lot of teachers left back at the first bus stop.

Why are they still there? Fear kept them there to start with. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. Fear of it all being too hard. Fear that technology would get in the way of their classroom programme. Fear that they would somehow lose control on the bus and never be able to direct traffic again. Fear and the overwhelming thought of how much they are falling behind the bus, now keeps them paralysed at the bus-stop. They can see the bus in the distance. Others offer to catch them up and get them on board but it all seems like the bus is just too far away, out of their reach. And so, daily, weekly, yearly, they watch the bus get further and further away, happy to just stand and watch it disappear into the distance, yet somehow unaware that in reality, there in no choice. They will have to get on the bus or they will be left behind forever.

And what happens if they miss that bus forever? Well, they will grow weary with the changes that rage around them. Their classes will be searching for opportunities in learning that these teachers cannot offer them. They may tire of the constant aggravation from other staff to do professional development and get on the bus. They will walk and never ride. They could become irrelevant and inflexible. They may struggle to recognise the classrooms and learners around them. Perhaps then, they will simply have no choice - at some point, they will get dragged onto the bus and they will have a long, long, way to travel to catch up.

Friday, July 22, 2011

No More Excuses


One of the speakers at our conference last week was an amazing administrator (teacher in her first life!) from Ontario, Canada, called Avis Glaze. Her main point during the address was this idea of 'no-one gets left behind' and that as educators, it is time to stamp our feet and have no more excuses for children who are underachieving.

Although in essence, I agree with these statements, I still feel that the reality plays out differently in schools the world over.

The reality is:
  1. All families are NOT created equal
  2. All teachers are NOT created equal
  3. All schools are NOT created equal
In a perfect world where there was true equality of resources, money and people, the statement of 'no more excuses' would ring like a gong in our ears. But in a world where this is not the case, it is hard to eliminate the automatic response of explaining or excusing the underachievers.

Is it an excuse then, to say that some children have no-one who reads with them at home or no-one who is interested in their achievements due to alcoholism or no-one who gets them to bed on time or feeds them healthy brain-food because of being on the poverty line? This is not an excuse, I believe this is a part of those children's realities and often a reason teachers register a difference between the progress of one child and another.

I think it becomes an excuse when we, as educators, then fail to find ways around the lives of our students by supporting them in better and more creative ways. I have taught in two schools during my career where there were children from challenging backgrounds filled with abuse, lack of money, food and care, but where the schools dealt with these children differently. One of the schools where I taught as a beginning teacher, was only interested in the curriculum and very little effort was made to find out how to make these kids learn on an even playing field. When a new deputy head was appointed early in my first year, boy, did the school change! Attitudes shifted left, right and centre as she moved people's minds into not what the children couldn't do but instead, what WE could do. I started a breakfast club for the kids who were coming to school hungry, she started a cultural music group and the kids had to maintain their attendance at school to be able to be part of the group. Teachers set up before school clubs and lunchtime groups and the school slowly began to see achievement and the possibilities for our children in a new light.

Perhaps what I am trying to say can be summed up more easily by saying that I don't believe in excuses but I do believe in change. If we can't change a child's family situation and we can't change their home-life, then we have to change the way we educate them, the skills we empower them with and the way we perceive achievement. I believe that there won't be any reason for excuses or explanations if we view our children through a different lens not by placing them in boxes instead.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The 3 T's


At the literacy conference there was a lot of talk around how the central focus of schools has evolved hugely in the digital age. The catch phrase of the hour was around the 3 R's changing into the 3 T's. Tap, text, type.

I am inclined to wonder if this will eventually become the 2 T's - talk and think. My reason for this idea is the fact that technology is making our lives more complicated while also simplifying things along the way. When I say complicated, I mean that there are always new skills developing as new technologies develop, so this can seem rather tricky to keep on top of let alone ahead of. Technology is also simplifying our lives in many ways and some of the future technologies look like they will no exception:

1. The thinking cap - this allows us to think of a person to call or talk to and the cap does the dialling! Or the transferring of funds...or the bookings online...

2. Hand-held x-ray/scans - these were invented a long time ago apparently (I think some Trekkie got the idea and ran with it!) This enables doctors to do a scan by just passing a hand-held machine over the body. Lots of evidence points to this eventually superseding the humble doctor as the machine will also give a full diagnosis.

3. Passenger jets to the moon/space - we all know that this has been on the boil for a long, long time...the next Concorde-equivalent is coming and there are new and wonderful developments being made constantly with fuels and travel that we are not going to be restricted by this globe for long.

4. ??? well, I am leaving this space for all of the thoughts you have on the future. I may not know or even dream of what can go in this space, but I do know this...if someone can dream it, it's highly likely that someone can make it happen.

So, type, tap, text may be overthrown by think and talk, or there may be something even bigger and easier just around the corner. All I know for sure is that the mind has no boundaries even if the parameters of life appear to. We have a future generation in our schools right now who are going to dream, create and be part of things that are more exciting than we can imagine. And they are going to tap, touch, text, talk, tweet, think and type their way through to the future!

Feel the fear...


I did it! I really did it! I felt the fear and did it anyway! Whoop whoop!

A few days ago I wrote a post about my fear of public speaking. I wrote about how I was presenting at a conference and was, frankly, petrified by the entire thought! Well folks, here it is, the news, LIVE and wonderful...I SURVIVED! Oh, actually it was slightly better than that - I didn't faint, barf, collapse, have an asthma attack, choke on my own tongue, expunge, expire or even sweat. Nope. I just felt the fear and did it anyway!

So how was it? Liberating. A bit invigorating. Kind of fun...and so much more! I felt empowered and in control. All of my nerves evaporated in a receptive audience and thanks to my wonderful partner in crime, we were so well practiced and so well prepared that nothing could go wrong - so it didn't!

Am I going to leave my day job? FAT CHANCE! Do I intend to repeat the experience? Hmmm, probably one day in the future but I am not in any great hurry to do it all again! I will never really 'enjoy' public speaking but I am now reassured by the fact that I can still do it if required. (Oh and prepared. And rather well-practiced...)

So what did I learn?

Fear is its own enemy.
Fear has no power when you dare.
Fear does not belong in my shoes or my socks or my handbag. I have kicked its butt and I have won a victory over a personal fear.

WHOOP WHOOP!
Feel the fear!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Reading and then reading some more!


What a fab experience the NZRA Conference has been over the past few days. I find it a wonderful experience to gather with other educators, researchers, administrators and so on from all over the globe to look critically at what we do and why we do it in relation to literacy.

The buzz word at the moment because of the National Standards is 'comprehension'. Every stand I visit with publishers is geared towards this huge drive towards deeper meaning for students.

Although I fundamentally agree with the real need to ensure our students do more than decode, I also think we must be extremely careful not to tip the balance yet again, as we always seem to do in education, so that we end up decomposing texts too much and lose the readers through another method.

When you read the newspaper or a gossip magazine or car mag, do you really analyse the text type and then spend 15 minutes discussing the audience and purpose for the text? We are often at risk of losing a realistic spin on reading - what we want our kids to do is READ. The research paper I wrote in the UK was around why boys were turned off reading in primary schools. Around 82% of the responses were that reading made their hand sore. Does this not alert us to the fact that kids don't always like to write in response to reading? Some do, we know that too, but I have no intention of writing a 10 lined response to this morning's news article so why would we ask our class to do this to justify their understanding?

Balance. That is the key. We need to ensure deep understanding through explicit teaching and probing, relevant questioning. Asking for a response to a text to clarify knowledge and understanding needs to include choices for our readers, not a demand to answer 20 written comprehension questions. We can dress up the chicken to look like a horse, but it's still a chicken.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Public Speaking


I used to be okay with public addresses and public speaking. Somehow, with age, fear has crept into my psyche and etched its way into my adrenal glands. I woke up a few years ago, paralysed by the thought of having to speak in front of adults.

It's not like it's new to me. As a child, I did theatre and happily wet the floor several times prior to kicking off onstage. As a teenager, I took part in productions. All throughout my youth I sang in a national choir and happily leapt about the stage. As a young adult, I fronted up to staffrooms and boisterously led staff meetings and professional development days without a care in the world. I have modelled in a hundred classrooms in front of many teachers and been unphased by it all. Yet somehow, sometime, and in some way, the seeds of professional and personal doubt have ebbed their way naggingly into the very core of who I am, and made me doubt what I thought I knew.

When I did literacy consulting in the UK years ago, I used to feel like a fraud. I remember it so clearly. I couldn't quite work out why any school wanted a little 20-something pup like me to advise Ofsted on literacy progression or why they would ask me to teach their children for them to watch or what on earth could I have of any value to tell a staff about anything. I felt truly fraudulent and if some fraud inspector had hunted me down and arrested me, I would have felt vilified. But they never did. I actually wondered at the strangeness of just being a typical young Kiwi teacher in London, who taught like every other Kiwi teacher in any part of the world, and was permanently confused over what the fuss was about. Fast forward me back to NZ, where I was (and still am), a bog-standard, run of the mill, typical Kiwi teacher. Hard-working like all of them, forward thinking like most of them, dedicated and passionate like the rest, but a typical teacher the world over.

So why, today, 3 days out from presenting at a reading conference, do I feel sick to the very pit of my gut? I don't LIKE public speaking. I don't WANT to public speak. I don't care that only 25 teachers have registered for the breakout group. 25, 5 or 250 is as daunting as 1!!! Give me a crowd of kids to speak to and I would be whoop-whooping from the rooftops. But adults? Adults expect something. They judge. Kids don't. Adults expect me to know something more than them. Kids expect me to be real and transparent. Adults judge because they know they can. Kids just accept and take us as we are. I would rather take a model lesson with my class in front of a crowd of 1,000 adults than stand up and talk to these 25 adults!

But, I have to suck it up and, as Nike would tell us JUST DO IT. I realise now that I will never enjoy it. I will not look back and say that I was glad I did it. I will wonder at the insanity of the moment when I said yes out of some convoluted fear of saying no to my friend who I am presenting with. And I will never, ever, make the mistake of thinking I can public speak or present ever again! I am a talker, yes, I am a writer, yes, but not a presenter, and these things are very different skills. So on Wednesday I will blush a very bad tone of crimson while having my temperature go up 1,000 degrees as I nervously stumble my way through this, wondering the whole way, oh dear lord what have I done???

Wish me luck!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Best Things I've Learnt


As I hit the middle of the year with this class, I have to admit that it has been easy to reflect on my personal learning journey, as there has been so much new learning!

So what has been the best learning so far for me?

Well, number one for this year so far would be twitter. Now that I know how to use it to inform my teaching and learning, it has become an incredibly powerful tool. It is more than social networking, it is the first stop for many questions and the easiest way to ignite new thinking for me. I love the way I can be in contact with people from all over the world asking questions and receiving answers from a range of experts at the touch of a button.

Close second would be the class wiki as a true extension of our classroom. This has become the most powerful classroom teaching tool for me and the class are fully invested in its benefits. We have expanded the ideas of how to use the wiki and when to use it so it is now just fully integrated through all that we do.

Then I would have to also say that using the class Facebook page to communicate with the parents in my class has been really effective. It is so easy to update the wiki/blog or flickr365 pages and then have the parents instantly informed and able to access the new information without them needing to remember addresses or logins. They have commented on how effective they have found this.

The class blog is really beginning to take shape as an early ePortfolio and the children throughly enjoy adding their reflections. There has been a lot of discussion around what we write and the importance of this process, so the online part of it is really helping many of the children to feel they have a true student voice.

I have decided that this year is really one of the biggest learning curves I have ever been on. Every time I think things are getting harder to master as new learning, I end up surprising myself with what I discover - it may take me longer to learn things, longer to have things stick in my head in the concrete form, longer to catch onto new ideas and longer for me to practice things, but I am still going to keep on learning regardless.

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Learning Spaces


I have just sat down to do a bit of a review of the learning spaces in my classroom. At the end of last year, I viewed the youtube clip of Ewan MacIntosh's '7 spaces for learning' and was inspired to consider how I used the areas in my room, as well as developing some other types of learning spaces that I hadn't really considered before.

It's not that the concept was new to me, rather that it was now a conscious choice that I was making to create some more opportunities for choices and self-management as well as the chance for more collaboration through shared spaces.

The 7 spaces are:


  • Secret Spaces
  • Group Spaces
  • Publishing Spaces
  • Performing Spaces
  • Participation Spaces
  • Data Spaces
  • Watching Spaces

It has made me create some fantastic extra environments in the classroom (and some outside such as our class garden) and I have thought much more carefully about how I use space in the room. The children have really loved the secret space which is our library - they just cuddle up there and enjoy the peace and quiet hidden from the world! Our group spaces are working better than they did - the children are much more collaborative within the writing area now, which originally operated as a mini-independent space. The blog is an online shared space which works well for giving each other feedback and also feedforward. It is being used as a constant reflection of ongoing learning and is finally developing into more of an ePortfolio, which was always the plan.

We used a cool book stand that I saved from the bin and have created a neat performing space - we present our intros to group play performances as well as doing our daily news reporters and our class mascot award from the 'dias'. The class have really loved this space and often 'perform' unprompted to one another. They are practicing their poems for the poetry competition at the moment from behind the performing space!

The data spaces are fantastic and really functional. The time that I invested has been returned ten-fold by the level of buy in from children as well as the parents, through Facebook (class page managed by me and viewed only by parents) as well as the class blog, flickr account and wiki space.

One of the biggest shifts this year so far has been the way our class wiki space has become a total learning zone for the children. This has become an extension of our classroom programme and since we are so fortunate with the level of investment our board of trustees has had in providing devices, we are brilliantly resourced and able to use the wiki in a fully integrated way throughout the day.

The watching spaces are certainly growing and having now found a lot of safe ways to provide high quality youtube clips minus the ads etc. it means that the viewing is expanding and the class are able to share their clips safely and can now add these to slideshows and also embed in their wiki pages. There are so many different and magical skills being added to it daily and finally the class understand the importance of their investment in the decisions around their own online spaces, which has been a powerful discovery indeed.

The publishing spaces were already well embedded early on and the class are starting to use googledocs more as a drafting choice as they realise the benefits of being able to edit online, visible editing is a great tool. We are adding almost weekly to the publishing choices and many children still prefer to print or publish in hardcopy. Somehow there is still the strong desire there for the children to hold or see on display their completed writing/storytelling. Although there is a much stronger pull developing towards comic presentations and vocaroo or voicethread as well as creating iMovies, the class still love the tactile world of paper and books! I like that there is a real balance to this publishing domain.

We are working more collaboratively now as a class to make decisions around where we locate some of the spaces such as the shared spaces and there have been some great debates and discussions around where certain learning centres and writing centres should/could be. This means much more of a personal investment for the class and a sense of real ownership which is a vital part of making any classroom tick as well as a helpful ideal when it comes to the spaces.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Are YOU Leading?


The world is full of leaders. Some amazing, some inspiring, some despotic and tyrannical. Leaders who succeed are full of energy like Martin Luther King or quiet and calm like Mahatma Ghandi. There is no 'one way' to define a leader, no 'one word' that encapsulates what makes a good leader, but instead, there are many qualities that describe what leadership looks like.

Are YOU leading? And if you are, then WHAT are you a leader in?

I tell my class all the time that they have the potential to lead. Leaders are born but they are also created in part too. EVERYONE is capable of leading something, although there are some people who just naturally draw others to themselves, and these people are natural born leaders. These are the people who are calm in the storm, rallying the troops, organising the bake sales, gathering and amassing people around them for a cause and so on.

So what makes a good leader? I believe there are some qualities that we find in most excellent leaders:

1. The ability to listen - recently, I had cause to contact the Principal of my son's school to make a minor complaint. The only thing he did was the only thing he needed to do - LISTEN. He immediately made me feel that he had the issue in hand and that I could trust him to lead me to the resolution. Great leaders LISTEN.

2. The ability to innovate and synthesize - thinking ahead of the game is something that is essential. Leaders will naturally find new ideas and will draw people to their own ideas as well as their ideals. They are often market leaders and look for the opportunity to seek what has not yet been found. Great leaders CREATE.

3. The ability to empathise - everyone wants to be valued and feel understood. When we talk to someone about an issue, we like to feel that the person knows how we feel. This empathy is important in leaders - we need our leaders to feel what we feel. They do not have to sympathise, but they do need to empathise. Great leaders FEEL.

4. The ability to draw others to them - we have all worked with these types of people and we know this quality in our friends and family members. Some of them have a charisma that naturally draws us to them. My mum would always say that my father could sell a donkey to a racing car driver. He has a natural charm and charisma that always drew people to him. He still has it - at 76 years old, I watch him with his friends and they simply hang on his every word. This quality is dangerous in some people - it is the quality that Hitler and Edi Amin possessed. It is the one leadership quality that depends upon us using it very wisely. With this power, comes great responsibility. Great leaders are TRUSTWORTHY with this ability.

5. The ability to judge well - leadership has its drawbacks at times and this is no exception. When we lead, others expect us to have good judgment. It is a given. Great leaders have INTEGRITY.

6. The ability to risk - leaders are always the ones with their necks on the line. The buck stops firmly with them and good or bad, the end result is their responsibility. They are resilient, often looking for the next option or planning the back up plan in case of disaster. They accept failure as the deep part of learning. Great leaders DARE and RISK and are often the possessors of great courage.

7. The ability to 'lead up' - strong leaders always grow other leaders. They recognise leadership qualities in others and are constantly on the look out for those who are like-minded and who they can grow into leadership roles. Someone once told me that the greatest leaders are the ones who work themselves out of a job. In other words, they recognise in others the NEXT phase that the leadership role needs to move forward. Great leaders GROW GREAT LEADERS.

So, take a look at what you are leading and how you are leading. No-one in the world ever gets it perfect with leadership and it really is a huge responsibility to lead in any field. Good leaders recognise their short-comings and GREAT leaders seek constantly to improve these. Some of the best leaders I have ever met are the most amazing encouragers and also incredible followers when that is required of them. Food for thought...

Happy leading!


Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Note For The Teacher


Dear Teacher,
I am a learner. I have certain needs and wants so I would like to give you a short lesson on how to get the best out of me...

1. Give me the choices - I like to have choices, not directives. You don't like being told what to do and neither do I - UNLESS I can choose from some options.

2. Trust me - do this by letting me have the power over my learning and the pathway that I follow. I will really respect you if you respect me enough to trust me. Oh - and don't think this means I know all of the answers, I still need you to guide this process!

3. Help me find my learning style - I really don't know the inside-outs of HOW I learn. You are the expert who can help me to tap into my learning style and in return, I will use this knowledge to move forward with my thinking!

4. Discover my 'IT' and let me immerse myself in it - everyone has an 'IT'. Some people love to fish, some to cook, some love music, some love bikes, some love movies and so on. I am just like everyone, so I have STUFF that I love to read, see and do. Find out what this is and use it to make me want to learn more!

5. Find unique ways to enthuse me - dancing around the room...being dramatic...making movies of us...recording my/your voice...putting my work on the ActivBoard as an exemplar...read me stories in silly voices...anything you can do that makes me buy into your way of teaching me!

6. Reward me - but with REAL stuff, I mean, value me as a learner! Stickers and certificates, Principal's awards, special people for me to take my work and show, putting my work on the school website or in the newsletter and so on. All of these small and big rewards help me to stay focused and to desire learning. No-one does something for nothing and I am no exception! I want to feel valued.

7. Take me on an authentic learning journey - don't just give me a topic an say, "This term we are learning about frogs." I might not care about frogs. I may already be a frog expert. I want to have some part in the planning process...well, I AM the one doing the learning, aren't I? If YOU want to know more about frogs, go to Wikipedia.

8. Leave the rest to me - it's like when I learnt to ride a bike...you had to take the training wheels off someday and let me fall...and get up...and fall...it teaches me to reflect, problem-solve and explore! It helps me to dare! It is part of building resilience! So walk on the path with me and then let me walk alone for parts...

9. Make me accountable - I need to know that you are going to make me report to you and that you have expectations for my learning. Give me some markers where you will be checking on me and conferencing me as I learn. Help me to decide what these will be and then hold me accountable!

10. Make YOU accountable - I have to know that you care enough about my learning for me to be able to hold you accountable. If you promise me something, I WILL expect it. If you plan to do something with me or for me, I WILL be disappointed if you don't deliver. I trust you to have integrity and I want to learn from you. Make sure you model what you want me to see.

And thank you my teacher, for your time, your desire to seek the best in me and for me. I will be a parent one day and then, and ONLY then, will I truly know what you have done for me.

Lerna x

The One That Never Blossomed


It is always easy as a teacher to recall the children who are 'wall-flowers' - almost like 'the one that got away' in fishing terms, or the one that never blossomed in gardening terms.

I went through school with a wall-flower. She was quiet, obedient, unassuming and able to wheedle her way out of any assignment, sharing aloud, recital or humiliating presentation simply by batting her eyelids and looking at her feet silently. She was extremely clever, but the teachers assumed her to be the opposite. She has managed to go on to become the company CEO of a huge law firm through determination and the silent stare that she perfected at primary school with me. She also knew how to stick close to the back - never close enough to get in trouble with the more boisterous kids, and never far enough from the kids who answered to be noticed. These strategies served her well - she passed every exam with flying colours but was never required to participate in the learning in any other way. Because she was not disruptive or demanding, she never received any attention from the teachers.

This reminds me a lot of the children who I have worked with over the years who yearn to be left alone at the back, hiding in obscurity and praying that you won't call on them for any input, answers, questions or suggestions. When I look at these children, I see the unopened flower - the wallflower that just prays it can blend in when all of the other taller, brighter flowers loom and tower over them.

We owe it to all of these unopened flowers to discover the right way to fertilise their minds. It is a tricky and time-consuming adventure, but one that is worth every hour that is invested. These children have a different way of learning and they just want us to find it with them - they need to feel a part of the whole learning process, not just a casual observer who sits at the back waiting for the bell to ring. Inside every one of these children lies a CEO waiting to emerge! Or a writer...or a doctor...or a programmer...or a teacher...who knows? It is up to us, as educators, to help them discover what lies within!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Curiosity and Problem-Makers...


Recently, a colleague suggested that we don't need a world filled with great problem-solvers, but we do need problem-CREATORS. All of the world's greatest inventions, from the wheel to the web - have been created out of a need to fix a problem.

The wheel was invented because someone said, "We need a way to transport things from one place to another without having to manually carry it!" The web was created when someone said, "We need a way to transport information and data from one place to another without having to carry it!" We need to be empowering thinkers and solvers as well as guiding learners to become curious about the unknown, unsolved and unheard of.

We cannot imagine the world 100 years in the future unless we learn to IMAGINE. A crisis which has been created by the internet and television is the absence of children 'playing' and 'pretending' where imaginations run wild! Instead, their brains are switched into 'absorb' mode and their imagination closes down. One of the cleverest things to give children is blank paper, blocks and boxes. These tools enable children to create and synthesize. They can then video, vocaroo and iMovie the results!

Let's take a long hard look at the learning we are driving - are we making sure as educators or parents that our children have worked out who they are as learners? And do they know HOW to find out about their own learning? They should never be afraid to challenge, dare or question! Especially if it leads to them creating a problem that they will need to think about and solve!

A little used word in education is synthesis. 'Reasoning or logical deduction' is one of the definitions for synthesis, but in terms of language and literacy acquisition and higher order thinking skills, synthesis is abstract thinking, reflecting and creating new ideas, perspectives or opinions. It is the ability to create new and fresh ways of looking at problems including creating problems for themselves.

So how do we teach this? Part of this is to allow for curiosity and questions. Setting up question times with a class is a great way to encourage these skills. It may sound contrived, but no-one trained for a marathon without learning to run! So, use multi-modal delivery of ideas - use youtube and flickr to view images/videos that naturally beg for children to ask questions. Show artwork from strange and wonderful artists that evoke reactions and questions. Look at images of 'problems' in the world that are HUGE - things like global warming, space travel for the common person, cars run on water and so on, then get your children to discuss their wackiest ideas for solving them - get them used to all ideas being accepted.

So...get creative! Leave the thinking to the class - let them share ideas, images and BIG global issues and then see what they come up with as new ideas. They will be synthesizing madly before you know it!

(M)eLearning


Yup, I have decided that it's all about Me. ME-Learning that is rather than eLearning. If we combine M-Learning and eLearning we get ME-learning anyway, so I am simply creating the natural link.

ME learning is all about learning about ME as a learner. How do I learn best? What environment suits my learning style and for that matter, what IS my learning style? What is my learning personality? Who do I work with best? What types of challenges do I thrive on? What sorts of benchmarks and increments do I like to be measured against? Am I a 'big picture' or puzzle pieces kind of learner? Do I need the whole picture to work backwards from or do I prefer to create my own learning pathways with no pictures? Am I a tactile learner? A visual learner? Do I need to be inspired by knowledge bombs or do I need to become curious for my own ideas?

ME learning is all about mobile learning and digital tools but well beyond that, it is about helping ALL learners - kids and adults alike - to discover, unwrap, unpackage, unhinge, unleash and unravel their own learning personality. It is about the WHAT as much as the HOW. At times we get bogged down in the delivery or the surface features or topics - we tend to forget that these, like the internet/apps/iPods/iPads/devices, are just the delivery mechanisms for the SKILLS base that we are working to develop as learners.

Oh yes, it's all about ME!


I'VE LOST CONTROL!


One of the major issues that teachers face when embracing total change into eLearning and KCs as a major shift in pedagogy and classroom practice is a deep underlying fear of 'losing control'.

I find people asking me questions that I used to care about the answers to. Things like "How do you decide what they need to know next?" (I don't, they do). "What happens when some of them progress faster than others?" (they become the resident experts and I teach less, facilitate more), "How do you monitor their activities?" (they monitor it through self-management skills that have been developed)...and so on.

I have lost control. I confess it. If you were to visit my classroom you would realise it. The children are totally in control of their learning. They self-manage but they are now also learning to self-monitor. I am only a PART of the teaching team in my classroom and the children are the other part. We share the teaching. We share the learning. We share the planning. We share the reflection and we share the next steps. The direction that we take no longer depends on me, it depends on the children and their curiosity.

Drive, resilience, independence, self-management, collaboration, contribution, participation...this is the vocabulary of our learning and learners. I have a class of empowered learners who really believe in their own ability to drive their focus and choose their learning pathways. We are talking the talk and walking the walk and the pathway has bumps and pit-holes but it is a wonderful trail that we blaze!

I have lost control...and it's the most liberating thing I have ever done as a teacher!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Being A Gentle Flame Not A Raging Inferno!


Passion is a hard thing to contain. It burns like a blazing fire within the person who feels it and has the ability to catch onto other people around it. Unfortunately, a lot of damage can be done by infernos. If we let ourselves, we have the potential to create a terrible aftermath with the power of the burn.

It is a challenge, therefore, to be a gentle candle rather than a raging inferno. If we want others to 'catch fire' for what we burn for, then we have to take a step or ten back and look at how we communicate what we are passionate about.

Here are some suggestions of what that could look like:
  1. Mentoring rather than insisting people in your school adopt new ideas - get alongside others and allow them to see you at work in your room and at work in their room
  2. Start work with people from where they are at - it is vital to accept the place that other professionals are starting from before you can work out where to take them to
  3. Supporting rather than judging - tekkie brekkies and simple e-mails with websites you use regularly are often great ice-breakers with reluctant or stagnating staff
  4. Encouraging rather than pushing - praise any and all efforts that people make towards change
  5. Accept all attempts - even when others are going along the wrong tangent or you feel something could be done better your way, remind yourself that you too, had to make mistakes and learn before you could improve your practice
Lighting the fire for new learning always starts with a small flame...be patient and stoke the fire slowly and eventually, others around you may just blaze for the things that you are passionate about too!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Grade Me!


My first assignment at Teachers' College a million years ago, was this:
WHAT IS NORMAL?

Having read a great book titled "Everyone is normal...until you get to know them!" I was rather baffled by the question even then. Having hosted 2 American teacher trainees over the past year, and having listened to their frustrations at teaching to tests and being governed by grades and loathing textbooks, I know that there is a sense of immense frustration and disillusionment among many overseas teachers who are compressed into the constraints of GRADING.

So, how can I put this into an analogy for other teachers so we can get a real sense of what grading LOOKS like to kids?

Hmmm...when my son was born there was a chart of norms for him for height and weight growth. He was born small and didn't ever sit on the NORMAL line of growth progress. He was underweight. I fretted. I fed him all that his tiny, underdeveloped tummy could tolerate. I stopped short of stretching him though on a rack (I am fairly certain that went out with the dark ages.) Nothing worked.

He is still of slender build aged 11 and still very short compared with what is normal it seems. He is smart, funny, well-rounded (though not in tummy!) and is a pretty happy kid all up. Is that normal? YES! No amount of stuffing things down his throat or (God forbid) stretching him on a rack would ever get him to NORMAL though, as he really is expected to be taller and rounder.

The same applies in the learning sphere. My deepest thinkers and questioners would probably bomb on some written test. They don't appear to qualify against NORMS for reading or writing. Yet their ability to self-manage, collaborate and participate etc. are exceptional. Where's the test for that? How would someone GRADE that?

And if you need more evidence of how ridiculous norms and grades and textbooks are, given the world we are now living and growing in, take a loooooong hard look at the richest, most successful entrepreneurs and CEOs etc. Many of the richest and most successful people in the world actually FAILED high school education!

Or did education actually fail them?

Teachers across the globe are trying to embrace a new dawn in education that focuses on how learners think, take responsibility for their own learning, goal set, evaluate, reflect and plan. Grades don't exist for that type of learner and lets hope that there is never a box created to shove them into. This generation of learners are not textbook - they are out of the box and happy to be there! We have moved forward faster and faster as the normal constraints have been removed on how we learn, this propulsion will only continue to gather momentum as we allow conventional restrictions to fall away, replaced by a shift in pedagogy and mindshifts in administrators and leaders of educational institutions. Let's hope that the world is not just ready for these learners but is ready for the amazing learning that we can do through them.

Impossibly Collaborative



Did I laugh this morning!!!

My maths class (we cross group between 2 classes) were working on their online maths activities. I had really made it easy this morning by ensuring that every child had a device to themselves and was working on the assumption that this would allow them really focused, quiet time on their activities and challenges.

We have 6 new iPods floating about the room, 2 iPads and the 17 laptops and 2 desktops along with the IWB meant that there was certainly plenty going on! Little did I know what was about to come...

My lovely learners actually discovered new and wonderful ways to collaborate! Several of the children formed 'learning circles' and started loudly debating the activities that each were doing on their device - in some cases, they were even reaching across to each other's devices to lend assistance while doing their own activities!

Another group 'paired off' and headed to the class library area ('The Collapse Inn') where they set themselves up in a wee fest of pillows and cuddly toys. One of the pairs began giving 'lessons' to the toys and partner alike! One on the iPod and the other on her iPad...

Over in the writing corner (known as 'The Writers' Cramp'!) were several other children who were working high and low, always in pairs or groups. As I moved around initially, I discovered some of the most hilarious 'secret spaces' - one the photos here shows the child who tucked herself UNDER a table which was holding another child directly above her working!

At times, I was giggling aloud at the class's ability to discuss, debate, support and collaborate so brilliantly that they are self-managing and yet they are co-operating brilliantly and busily interacting with others as they work. Sometimes, they astound me with how well they manage the new, absorb the necessary bits and work out their next learning. Some days I asked myself 'why am I still surprised by how incredible children are as learners?' and yet, every day I am. May the surprises never end I say!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Listen VERY Carefully...


I spent an awesome session in a classroom today, modeling listening/sharing skills for partners and also some writing activities. It is always such a privilege to get time to go and work in another classroom and spend time getting to know other learners and their learning styles.

Firstly, we brainstormed a list of qualities to describe a great listener. They came up with:
  1. makes eye contact
  2. sits still
  3. doesn't interrupt/talk while you are
We then worked together setting up buddies - one person was the Lion (L = listener) and the other was the Tiger (T = talker). Although they swap roles around throughout, it is really a reminder to the teacher of which role each person is playing.

The children then practiced going 'knee-to-knee' with one another - sitting facing each other so that knees touch. This ensures eye contact and is less distracting and more challenging for wrigglers to wriggle! We practiced taking turns and talking/listening.

Then I shared the story of 'Wombat Stew' with the class. They are currently working on procedural texts and I wanted to use a different type of text (narrative) to use for this purpose. They listened avidly and I stopped several times to reinforce what the behaviours of the 'great listeners' was looking like.

After the reading, the children were assigned the partner task of one person getting a pencil and one getting a book to press on while I put a sheet of paper with a wombat on it on the floor for each pair. The idea of one between 2 is simple - it is an exercise of building collaboration skills when working with a partner. We want them to take turns, discuss and negotiate with equal weighting of responsibility to both. This is built over time and takes a lot of scaffolding, but it does develop.

They were then asked to record the items that were put into the wombat stew, each person taking turns recording and reporting. We shared the ideas back and agreed on the final list. Then, we talked about the interesting ways to put things into the stew. They again took turns with their partner brainstorming interesting action verbs that we could use.
We were told at a conference by Tony Ryan a few years ago that a very powerful way of checking that someone has listened is to get them to say, "So you said..." and then repeat what they have told you. We tried this out today and they did a great first job. Another skill which will now be practiced and developed along with a few others.

I left the session at this point so that the class teacher can follow up tomorrow with some writing using the sheets that each partnership produced. The idea behind the session was to model how we use knee-to-knee for brainstorming and other sharing. The philosophy is quite simple - when children raise their hand they want to share. When children don't raise their hand they often want to share but know they won't or may not be asked so they can't be bothered. Or they don't raise their hand because they don't want to THINK. By going knee-to-knee with another child, they are ALL contributors and participators, thinkers and sharers. There is no avoiding it! The children are supported by one person that they can communicate with instead of the sometimes daunting prospect of many.

What a great way to spend my morning!


Friday, July 1, 2011

Blank Pages


I am currently attempting to brainstorm and write 2 presentations that I am giving at 2 completely separate and quite different conferences. For the first time in years, staring at a blank page is looking extremely scary.

The first conference is the International Reading Conference, hosted this year in Rotorua, New Zealand. A colleague was asked to present and invited me to share the terror with her. I may have presented staff meetings, syndicate meetings, conferences and other such things years ago when I was younger, more adventurous and stupid enough to think I had nothing to be terrified of, but now? What was I thinking???

The second conference is much more up my alley in this stage of life (and low confidence!) which is #RSCON3 - an international eConference where I can present happily in my PJs sipping my coffee in the comfort of my own home! Now THAT sounds more like it...

Anyway, that blank piece of paper reminded me of something...at the beginning of every school year, I used to swot up on my students who were coming to my class. I would find out every detail of their past crimes, their levels of achievement, past reports and so on. I would often interrogate their previous teachers for details about their personalities and abilities.

But a number of years ago, something changed in me.

I stopped looking at my classes of the future as something that was cast in stone, an already printed page.

I started to simply wait until I met them myself. Like a new baby or a first encounter with a stranger, I allowed my children to be blank pages. MY blank pages. Their OWN blank pages.

When they come into our classroom, we begin together to put marks on that blank page. We fill it up, edit it, add embellishments, images and memories. And we shape the way that page looks together. So that by the time the year is over, we have re-written learning for some, refreshed the page for others and given ownership to us all.

Am I afraid of my own blank page?

A little.

But I am also very excited about sharing what it eventually looks like too...

A Level Playing Field


I was lunching with a friend yesterday who gave birth 30+ years ago to twins at 26 weeks gestation. She was telling me more of the details of their learning and developmental difficulties as they had progressed through school. One of the boys was blind in one eye until a year ago, when the technology finally enabled surgeons to give him sight in that eye. The other son had quite acute hearing difficulties and both had massive issues with learning to walk (they eventually did), learning to talk (they both do this without any noticeable issues as adults) and they also had serious co-ordination problems which made learning to hold a pen/pencil and communicate on paper extremely difficult for them both.

With incredible parenting, school and teacher support, both of these young men have become married dads who work and interact without anyone ever suspecting how tough it was for them to learn. One is a botanist and the other is a top chef in an International Hotel in Auckland.

Many times my friend and her husband were advised to give up, send them to special schools and so on. Basically, admit that this is too hard. My friend, however, does not understand this concept of 'too hard' and so through sheer determination and love she got every bit of help available at the time and created the other solutions herself.

We were talking about the technologies available to children now to support their learning needs and the way we now recognise different learning styles. Her sons had a typewriter each to 'write' with and she told me of the battle to get some teachers of the time to accept this technology. One teacher point blank refused to teach 'that boy who goes clack-clacking on his machine all day' and so my friend gently told the teacher that she needed an open-minded and accepting teacher who would work with her son's needs and encourage his strengths. We still meet with this kind of blinkered teacher in today's classrooms - the ones who refuse to let children access mobile and digital devices to support their learning, teachers who don't want interactive whiteboards for fear of how much work it creates for them, those who see iPods, iPads, iPhones, laptops and desktops as games and gadgets instead of tools to deliver learning through.

What has technology done for special education and diverse learning styles, dyslexic children and gifted children alike? It has leveled the playing field. From 60 years ago, 30 years ago or today, technology has enabled open-minded and daring teachers and learners to find new and wonderful ways to access knowledge and learning.