Replied to Lessons of remote learning (a macgirl in a pc world)

It’s been a very interesting Term 2. We’ve settled into remote learning (as much as we can) and have built some routines around it. The exhaustion hasn’t shifted and the hours req…

Thank you for sharing your experience while teaching online Gill. It has helped me appreciate the classroom side, especially as I call schools to help them with things.

There has been a lot said about building back better and taking on some of the learnings, however the one thing that concerns me is that we take on some of those time consuming habits without recognising the additional work involved.

Liked A day in the life of remote teaching (a macgirl in a pc world)

Social and conventional media has been overflowing in the last few days with pictures of kitchen tables covered with assorted books, pens and laptops with accompanying text about how parents are coping with their new role as direct supervisors of their child’s education. (Please note, I didn’t use the term ‘home schooling’ which this blatantly isn’t.)

This is completely understandable – I can imagine how overwhelmed many parents must feel, particularly those who are juggling multiple children and who are attempting to work at home themselves. For some parents, their own experiences of schooling may not have been completely positive which also could be providing an added layer of potential stress.

I thought I’d put out there a snapshot of the other side of the equation, to balance out the narrative and provide a well rounded picture. I will acknowledge that this is only my snapshot and that this looks very different for many colleagues who are attempting to do this while also supervising their own children’s learning – a whole other overflowing kettle of fish.

Liked ‘For the greater good’ (a macgirl in a pc world)

A little acknowledgement, particularly from leaders who are talking about whether or not to close schools, that children aren’t alone in those buildings and aren’t those most at risk in this scenario would go a long way towards making us feel like the significant contribution and risk we’re taking is being seen and appreciated.

Replied to Digikids and the quandry of the declining literacy levels (a macgirl in a pc world)

I have no intention to get into a ‘phonics vs …’ debate because I don’t understand why it has to be phonics vs anything. Why can’t it be phonics + other things? Reading is a complex act that involves not only working out what the squiggles on a page say but also what they mean directly and through implication. Phonics definitely has an important role to play but I’ve also experienced students who arrive in Grade 5 believing they are star readers because they can decode every word of complex text yet can’t tell you a single thing about what they’ve read. I’m also dubious of any method being suggested that involves a whole class of students sitting in front of a teacher repeating sounds over and over with no consideration of what they already know. Where I’ve seen direct phonics instruction be particularly effective it was with small groups of students where sounds and the required practise could be targeted to their needs and gaps.

Gill, I really enjoyed your summary of Four Corner’s Digi Kids. Like you, my first thoughts were that it lacked any sense of thread. However, maybe this assemblage of people, perspectives and practices captured some of the contributing factors that influence literacy development. However, it felt like one of those summaries of a PhD thesis that strips out much of the nuance, even if everything just seemed obvious to Dan Tehan.

Your point about going beyond the phonics debate is important. One of the best things that I have been a part of is disciplined collaboration. Although the intent was to improve aspects of literacy, the prime focus was to work collaboratively to identify strategies for the context at hand. I sometimes feel that those who jump to THE solution, whichever it maybe, are unwilling to allocate the time and resources to build the capacity of those in the classroom.

In regards to your closing question:

Are literacy levels actually dropping or is what being literate looks like changing in our modern, digital world?

I am reminded of something that Clive Thompson said in Smarter Than You Think:

Before the Internet came along, most people rarely wrote anything at all for pleasure or intellectual satisfaction after graduating from high school or college. This is something that’s particularly hard to grasp for professionals whose jobs require incessant writing, like academics, journalists, lawyers, or marketers. For them, the act of writing and hashing out your ideas seems commonplace. But until the late 1990s, this simply wasn’t true of the average nonliterary person. The one exception was the white-collar workplace, where jobs in the twentieth century increasingly required more memo and report writing. But personal expression outside the workplace—in the curious genres and epic volume we now see routinely online—was exceedingly rare. For the average person there were few vehicles for publication.

What about the glorious age of letter writing? The reality doesn’t match our fond nostalgia for it. Research suggests that even in the United Kingdom’s peak letter-writing years—the late nineteenth century, before the telephone became common—the average citizen received barely one letter every two weeks, and that’s even if we generously include a lot of distinctly unliterary business missives of the “hey, you owe us money” type. (Even the ultraliterate elites weren’t pouring out epistles. They received on average two letters per week.) In the United States, the writing of letters greatly expanded after 1845, when the postal service began slashing its rates on personal letters and an increasingly mobile population needed to communicate across distances. Cheap mail was a powerful new mode of expression—though as with online writing, it was unevenly distributed, with probably only a minority of the public taking part fully, including some city dwellers who’d write and receive mail every day. But taken in aggregate, the amount of writing was remarkably small by today’s standards. As the historian David Henkin notes in The Postal Age , the per capita volume of letters in the United States in 1860 was only 5.15 per year. “That was a huge change at the time—it was important,” Henkin tells me. “But today it’s the exceptional person who doesn’t write five messages a day. I think a hundred years from now scholars will be swimming in a bewildering excess of life writing.”

Replied to Literature circles with a side of technology (a macgirl in a pc world)

Initially I was a little concerned that these spaces might increase my own workload but I now realise that these virtual classrooms aren’t about me and don’t really require me (other than as an occasional visitor) – the students are using them in interesting, purposeful and valid ways on their own.

Gill, I really liked your point about how providing students with an online space. This reminds me of Dave White’s discussion of ‘coalescent spaces‘ and the opportunities we provide students online.

Personally, my digital move with literature circles was to get students to complete their notes in a collaborative document. This was in a time before Google Classroom. It was a bit hit and miss. I think in hindsight that I really needed to work on the trust aspect to it all a bit more.

Replied to What does it take to be the ‘best and brightest’? by Gill Light

So when you see another media report or education ‘expert’ discussing how important it is that we recruit our ‘best and brightest’ to teaching, consider what attributes being the ‘best and brightest’ might entail. Look beyond their ATAR score to the combination of academic strengths and personal qualities that are both vital in developing teachers that inspire, motivate and educate students.

Well put Gill. What I feel is often missed is that it takes a village to raise a child and a teacher. For all the talk of coaching in the last few years we seem to have overlooked the development of people to instead focus on some odd measurement of success.
Replied to Celebrating the things we don’t measure by Gillian Light (a macgirl in a pc world)
  • how much more my students now speak in weekly literature circle discussions and how well prepared they are for what they want to say;
  • how engrossed they are in reading and how invested they are in the characters they identify with;
  • the quality of their questioning and the deep thinking they do about what they read, identifying themes, ideas and wonderings that hadn’t occurred to me;
  • their heightened understanding of how certain text types can be very powerful and really get things done, as seen through the number of them wanting to write to different levels of government after our parliamentary excursion;
  • their confidence in managing their own learning and identifying their own goals, inside and outside of the classroom;
  • their growing time and resource management skills that now see some of them much more able to find the key items they need at the start of the day and end the day feeling organised;
  • the coping strategies they have developed to deal with their own times of stress or anxiety and which they now avail themselves of without any need for a reminder from me;
  • the empathy they have developed towards not only each other but towards fellow human beings in the world beyond our classroom, as evident in the ideas they have about how they can improve their world for everyone’s benefit.
I remember a few years ago, when the new review process came in, I made every effort to stretch what the notion of data. Most teachers just fell into line with the simplicity of one years growth for one years teaching. Although ‘growth’ is important, to only focus on the summative feels like it misses something.