Insight 1: Become a GTAV member - resources, ideas and support aplenty!
At the beginning of the day Steve Latham (GTAV) provided a link for digital copies of all presentations and resources for the day. The collation of resources into one easy to access online space was fabulous - and a treasure trove of ideas, planners, resources, PPTs can be found HERE. The sharing of resources on this scale is testament to the collegial nature of the presenters (thank you!) and the GTAV's role as a key hub for geopgraphy teachers and teaching. In addition to this, the GTAV also made several chapters of their soon to released (Jan 2016) VCE textbooks (ORDER FORM HERE) available for early start programs (HERE)
Insight 2: The Study Design, Advice and resources are critical
Monica Bini (VCAA) walked through the new Study Design, Advice for Teachers and resources list (HERE). Knowledge of the Study Design is essential. Check these out and make sure you are registered to receive VCAA Bulletins/updates (HERE)
Insight 3: Develop a conceptual narrative to drive teaching and learning within and across units
Stephen Matthews' presentation (HERE) emphasised the use of concepts as base for the teaching and learning of geography.
Stephen highlighted the ways in which geographical concepts have evolved across the old and new Study Designs and how these can be used to develop a conceptual narrative to drive teaching and learning within and across units (see two of his PPT slides below)
Insight 4: Understand and utilise Spatial Technologies
Stephen clarified that: He also offered useful practical examples:
Insight 5: Collaborative planning (at a variety of levels) is essential
Curriculum planning is a like a dress rehearsal - it is a critical part of the teaching process. Margaret Bourke (McKinnon Secondary College) shared her experience (and that of her colleagues) in preparing for a new VCE Course (HERE). In a different presentation Emma Mathias-Williams discussed how she and her geography colleagues approach short term, mid-term and long term VCE Geog planning (and lesson planning) (see HERE slides 15-21). If you are the only Geography teacher in your school or find yourself wanting to work more collaboratively - join a GTAV network (HERE).
Insight 7: Teach students how to engage with data
To ensure that we are challenging students and promoting the development of higher order thinking skills, students need to be explicitly taught how to access and collate data and how to interpret data. They need to become data literate. Trish Douglas' presentation on population Movement (HERE) provides some examples of how data can be used to develop conceptual understanding. Cathie Meyenn's presentation (HERE) highlighted the importance of looking for and utilising 'new data' also. If you (like me) need help in this area - join a GTAV network and ask for guidance.
Insight 8: There are loads of Fieldwork options for the new VCE Geography course
If you read through the various presentations throughout the conference (HERE) you will see numerous references to already developed and possible fieldwork experiences for VCE Geography.
Insight 9: Case Studies - sequence within and across units
Having read through the presentations and various resources provided you will also note that all presentations (across units 1-4) address the issue of using case studies - with particular reference to selecting and sequencing appropriate case studies. You should also consider how your case studies sequence within and across units (how might you build on one case study or use it as a point of comparison elsewhere?). This highlights the need for careful and strategic planning.
Insight 10: Tech tools - don't be afraid to try something new
At every GTAV conference I come away with my head spinning - so many tech tools and great websites are mentioned. Here are a few I found interesting at this conference:
Digital trace Maps using Inkscapes
City of Melbourne Maps
Field papers (courtesy of Stephen Matthews) - awesome resource for fieldwork
Mapwing - build and share virtual tours
ARCGIS for desktop (apps avail also) - creating smart maps
Having just attended my first GTAV Annual Conference, I can't stop thinking about Geography. As a History and English 'specialist' I have taught 'humanities' for years and led Humanities departments in schools and in universities; I have even taught Years 7 & 8 Geography (albeit poorly on reflection). I have long been concerned about a lack of geog specialists in schools - to have one or more in your department is staffing 'gold'! This is compounded by a lack of a specific 'Geography', as opposed to 'Humanities', teaching method in many pre-service teacher education programs. Indeed, I am both a product of this (I am a Humanities trained teacher) and I currently work with History and Humanities pre-service teachers. I value the 'humanities' as a teaching method and have written broadly in this field (see HERE). However, the GTAV conference and the wonderful people I met, have fuelled my determination to become a geography specialist through practice and some additional study. So where will I (and where might others in a similar position) start? My notes from the GTAV conference (and links) might provide a good starting point.
So here's what the #GTAV2015 (Tweet archive HERE) conference 'said' to me:
1. How you conceptualise Geography shapes the way you learn and teach Geography:
This is a dynamic process and you need to actively engage with it - some recent things I have read include:
2. GEO-LITERACY is essential and needs to be explicitly taught: see National Geographic Overview . Geographic knowledge, skills and conceptual understanding facilitate geo-literacy. These are discussed below:
a) Geographic knowledge: Read, read, read and collaborate. Start with the relevant textbook. observe a range of geography lessons with a range of geography teachers, do a MOOC (massive open online course) - last year I did Water: The essential resource in preparation for Year 7 Geography; do free online preparatio courses such as that offered by Annenberg Learning HERE become an individual GTAV member and read the GTAV Journal Interaction religiously, go to TeachMeet and seek like minded teachers, join EDMODO and their Social Studies Group, connect through Twitter (#geography #geographyteaching), resource mine (yes, trawl the internet for resources), share and collaboratively develop units of work using Google Drive. Don't know how to do any of these things? Ask someone or start by searching for youtube demonstrations.
b) Geographic skills: see 2016 VCE Geog Study Design (pages 11-12). MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) provide FREE professional learning opportunities - see Coursera example HERE and D2L example HERE.
c) Geographic Concepts: understand the purpose of concepts and the difference between second order and first order concepts. Gritzner's paper has a great image that for me, makes me really think about the relationships between knowledge, skills, concepts and higher order thinking:
Stephen Matthews presented a really engaging session on VCE Geographic concepts (with links to AC Geog concepts) (contact @srdrummer to access) . Using these concepts as a framework for student learning is essential. I try to think beyond 'topics' and 'themes' - I like to focus on issues and how concepts can provide a scaffold for examining an issue. A relevant reading is: Maude, A (2014). The concept of interconnection. Interaction, 42(2), 23-24.
3. Fieldwork and the process of being a geographer is central to studying geography - see GTAV website for range of resources and ideas, go on the annual conference fieldwork day, read the many examples published in Interaction, develop fieldwork and do a 'dummy run' before trialling it with a class, call on the MANY freely available resources (organisations such as Zoos Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Museums Victoria, Parks Victoria and a range of private companies that provide opportunities for excursions and incursions), lobby for fieldwork across years 7-12 in your school, make it relevant and engaging and challenging...
4. The people - the people at the GTAV conference were extremely welcoming and generous in sharing their ideas and resources - having attended many conferences, I can honestly say that I had no CBS (can't be stuffed) moments, no moments of being bored or distracted and I have met new colleagues who I hope to develop collaborative connections with - so thank you GTAV and the community of Geography teachers who attend this conference - I appreciate all that you give to teachers, students and the community...
Having just spent 2 days in Canberra at the ACSA (Australian Curriculum Studies Association) Symposium entitled Innovative Assessment in the Face of Changing Curriculum: Testing Times and being in the process of completing a Coursera MOOC entitled Assessment in the 21st Century with Patrick Griffin. I find myself reflecting on the following:
NAPLAN, MYAT, PAT-R, PAT-M (and the list of Standardised external tests that we require our students to complete - some of which are "high stakes') are of limited use. Yes - they provide us with some insight into 'where a student is at' but inferences made from these can be far-reaching. At a systemic level, schools and teachers are given directives to "raise the middle band". What stands out for me is that we broadly acknowledge the limitations of Here I highlight the major points I took from the three keynotes (discussed in order of presentation - Prof Stephen Dobson, Dr Greg Thompson and Associate Professor Debra Bateman), and provide links to workshop resources shared at the Symposium.
My all-time favourite presenter and friend - A/Prof Debra Bateman - focused on the 'oppervations' or 'opportunities for innovation' within the current assessment climate. She spoke of the moral imperative teachers have in saying that "curriculum policy that is constructed with integrity demands that schools are accountable for student learning". With this in mind Deb articulated a clear argument for a focus on 'capturing student learning'. In doing so she critically discussed representations of learning (LHS below) and made perhaps the most important point of the conference for me - and that is (yes, I believe this point is so important I am using caps!) IT IS NOT OK TO ALLOW THE WEIGHT OF 'OTHERS' EDUCATIONAL AGENDAS' TO DISTRACT US FROM THE CORE BUSINESS OF TEACHING AND LEARNING (see RHS below)
Platitudes about change leadership are now commonplace - some are inspirational, some are hopelessly cliched and others are downright unhelpful. There are a few 'catch cries' I like - "work with the radiators" is one of them - find those people who are like-minded and hot-house with them... thanks to Twitter I have been able to leverage this and to collaborate with like-minded Tweeps. More often than not this collaboration is with teachers from other schools and the outcomes for my students and I are tangible. On occasion these experiences have also allowed me to gain traction in terms of leading change within my own school. Whilst this is beneficial, I feel challenged in my current role as an Assistant Head of the Humanities Department in a large three-campus College. I am well versed in Educational Leadership literature thanks to 10 years spent as a Senior Lecturer in various Education Faculties specialising in curriculum change and educational leadership. I 'know' that effective leadership is both relational and task oriented; I know that you cannot merely lead from the front, that you have to differentiate your leadership style to meet the diverse needs of your team... I know that leaders need to capacity build... but this isn't easy...
A colleague last year suggested an approach to change much like that of the radiator mentioned above - "water the plants, not the rocks" - and I recently posted this suggestion on Twitter in reference to change leadership. A highly respected colleague (coincidentally by the last name of Rock) highlighted the irony of my comment in view of her surname. Whilst I had a laugh about this - it got me thinking... I don't have any trouble watering the plants - working with those colleagues who share my excitement about and commitment to a technology rich pedagogically engaging environment for students is easy - no surprise there. The mark of a good leader however is not how they lead the early adopters, it is also how they influence the laggards (here I refer to the oft-cited Rogers Model of Change Adoption) , The plants in most schools are easy to identify... but what about other colleagues? They are a mix of pebbles, stones and rocks - and whilst many (most) may be impermeable to water - they are vital in terms of achieving change. Effective leadership here, cannot merely be about minimising their impact - it has to be about maximising their potential. Below I attempt to 'theorise' the pebbles, stones and rocks through metaphor...
The Pebbles: are small, smooth and can be polished; they are usually found in clusters. They may not be water permeable but in dried river beds they play an important role in stabilising the soil in which plant roots take hold and they, along with the plant, provide a habitat for a host of creatures. The pebbles remind me to take note of the masses, to pitch one achievable 'good' idea and to get the pebbles to work in partnership with the plants.
The Stones: if the pebbles help build a habitat, the stones help protect that habitat. Strong, impenetrable and versatile; stones are dependable and when laid in the correct place, stand the test of time. The stones remind me that sometimes those colleagues perceived to be 'laggards' are resistant to change for principled reasons - and that leaders need to address this (developing trust capital is essential here) and provide an evidenced rationale and process for change. If able to see the benefit of proposed change/s to their students and provided with a manageable process to support change, the stones ultimately provide protection for the plants.
The Rocks: rocks can be enormous in size and varied in form. They form cliffs and mountains and can seem insurmountable from below. Once climbed however, the view is like no other. The rocks remind me that those teachers who seem most resistant can be the greatest of supporters. They can provide shelter for the plants, pebbles and stones and they can provide a veiw from the top like no other.
Whilst this little reflection has made me appreciate the role of ALL members of team in change processes - I am still going to water the plants... but will also take time to understand the role of the pebbles, stones and rocks. The ultimate goal is the development of a self-sustaining eco-system... a rainforest....
This blog is motivated by recent moves by the new Australian Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne's decision to appoint "experts" to review the current Australian History Curriculum. If interested in media coverage of this debate see:
Teachers warn of 'culture wars' as Christopher Pyne announces back-to-basics curriculum review, ABC, Jan 10, 2014
Christopher Pyne is on 'brainwashing and propaganda mission', critic claims, The Guardian, Jan 10, 2014
Educators baffled by Christopher Pyne's plan to review new national curriculum, ABC Jan 11, 2014
Australia's 'Judeo-Christian heritage' doesn't exist, The Guardian, Jan 13, 2014
Education reviewer Kevin Donnelly makes case for more religion to be taught in public schools, ABC, Jan 12, 2014
Christopher Pyne confirms more experts can be called in to help on national curriculum review, ABC, Jan 16, 2014
It is not a blog purely about Mr Pyne; but rather a blog deploring the politicisation of curriculum; particularly history curriculum. This issue has been broadly canvassed before by minds far greater than mine, but I have had a number of things to say about the inherent control governments and politicians yield in terms of curriculum, particularly mandatory curriculum ala National Curriculum (renamed the "Australian Curriculum"). In a 2010 paper I discussed the dangers of federalism and education in Australia - see National Curriculum and Federalism: The Australian Experience. Under a Labor Government I believe the current Australian Curriculum was developed using a thinly veiled form of coercive federalism and in my opinion the resultant curriculum is... disappointing. Now, we have a newly elected Liberal government wanting to "review" the Australian History curriculum (which has not full rolled out yet). The selection of overtly conservative "expert reviewers" is alarming especially as it appears to be politically motivated.
If I had the chance to talk with Mr Pyne I would say three things:
1. Politcians using curriculum as their playground/soap box is antithetical to any real and effective change; not only is it unhelpful it is counter-productive
2. Re-envisioning a 20th Century curriculum to solve 21st Century problems is non-sensical
3. The Australian Curriculum is a dud - too content focused, too prescriptive, too controlling... you can't polish a turd - you need to move well beyond it; imagine an educational future that would address all students learning needs AND the economy (as opposed to a focus on solving current economic problems)
I just read "Rethinking the role of university teacher" by Prof Marcia Devlin in today's Age and I feel compelled to document/share my response. As an ex-academic I know too well the enormous pressures on acaemics to maintian 'active research' status. Such status is essential to university research funding and to academic status, privelege and I would argue professional growth. One's teaching pratcice ought to be evidence informed and that applies to ALL teachers not just those teaching in a higher education setting. Having said this, active research status in Higher Ed is measured annually and for me, this meant I would target research projects that had 'quick' and measurable outcomes (publications) and these sometimes had little impact on my teaching practice.
I now work as a secondary teacher and understand teachers' reticence to 'apply' academic research in their classrooms and schools. Research is highly contexual and the most powerful research in terms of informing practice, is often that which the teacher is involved in. Action research is and continues to be a powerful vehicle through which teachers can critically reflect on their practice but unlike Higher Ed academics - school teachers are not workloaded for this nor are they provided with the support structures that as an academic, I took for granted (access to an online tertiary library is hard to come by for the average teacher). What amazes me is that the same dislocation between research and schools I mention here (and I accept this is not ALWAYS the case) is also occuring in Universities. Devlin, quoting Professor Belinda Probert, points out the emergence of the "Teaching-focused academic' is related to attempts by Universities to improve their research standing for international ranking purposes".
Whilst on the surface the fact that (as Devlin states) "Traditional so-called acacdemic 'content experts' now work with learning learning/educational designers, e-learning specialists, curriculum consultants, languages and academic skills experts, library staff, work-integrated learning experts, careers and employment staff, information technology staff, learning-space designers and others to create and deliver university curriculum anbd learning environments and experiences" seems to suggest the collaborative development of a wholistic learning experience, I am sceptical and my scepticism HAS legs. Recently I dallied with the idea of returning to Higher Ed (in Teacher Ed) and had some conversations with a University based in Victoria who are (in collaboration with an Australian Recruitment Company) offering a suite of commercial Teacher Education Degrees wholly online. To ensure the project is 'scalable' Content Developers (ie. not fully qualified Academics) develop the content which is then passed on to Educational Designers who are responsible for the pedagogy (teaching and learing strategies). This is housed in a Moodle LMS and enrolled students undertake a paced wholly online course. An eLA (eLearning Advisor) supports students as they progress through the course. eLearning Advisors are only required to have the degree they are teaching... This is alarming - pre-service teachers require mentoring and they need to be taught by teachers who are themselves instructional experts (whether it be online, blended or F2F).
I find this incredibly concerning - it reduces the role of the 'teacher' to one of a technicist so whilst I agree with Devlin and Probert that there needs to be greater focus on University Teaching and Teachers - it cannot be done in the context of saving or making money - it has to be done in the context of effective learning.
I've just read a blog 5x5: 5 Thought Leaders, 5 Questions, 5 Answers and was not surprised to read responses to the question 'Technology versus textbooks: will there ever be a winner?'. Invariably textbooks were positoned as the loser although digitised e-readers/textbooks did get a brief reprieve.
I have to acknowledge my textbook phobia - I think textbooks position teachers as technicists - they deprofessionalise teachers by interpreting formal curriculum docs and in some cases result in teacher-proofed lessons. An important part of curriculum planning is deconstructing curriculum documents and rehearsing curricular practice via reflection and debate with oneself and one's colleagues. Too often, when I have asked what I am to teach or where the documentation is I have been handed a textbook. Having edited textbooks and written chapters for Higher Ed textbooks in a former life I also acknowledge that I once enjoyed wirting texts - not because of 'big head syndrome' (this was replaced with outrage when I realised how poorly practicing teachers are paid to contribute to textbooks) but because the act of writing the text really improved my teaching - it was a learning experience. To claim textbooks are dead is not only premature, to my mind it is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Textbooks are useful beyond the days you are absent from class and need 'busy work' for students. In their current static state (hardcopy or digitised) however, textbooks are an endagered species and it is interesting to see how many publishers are reacting by positioning themselves as professional learning providers and/or eductaional providers... but that's another blog post.
What we need to do is revision/reinvent textbooks so they are not mere tools of transmission but tools that promote active leanring. The days of the commercialised textbooks that currently flood the market are numbered - what I would like to see instead are highly contextualised textbooks (given that this is a loaded term perhaps a new word is needed?) that teachers create, or more precisely, that teachers curate.
Of interest to many are the plethora of book creation tools now available. I am currently trailling Ginkgotree and its many intetactive functions. Importantly, Ginkgotree has a built in mechanism to address issues of copyright and royalties - this means that teachers can be assured that they are not inadvertently breaking copyright law.
How important is rigorous curriculum planning and documentation? Whilst the answer seems clear - VERY important, nay, critical to the PROCESSES of learning; I am regularly confronted with curriculum 'plans' that are no more than a dot point list of topics or themes that teachers and learners will focus on. Recently, I was told the following by a School Principal (not mine) "We haven't really focused on curriculum planning or formal curriculum documentation because we've been focusing on pedagogy - teaching and learning strategies - instead".
In terms of change processes and where you start this is an interesting comment and one I shared with a colleague. My question was "where do you start - with curriculum planning or teaching practice" and his answer "well, that's just a chicken and egg debate". But - is it? To my mind it's not - curriculum planning IS teaching practice. The curriculum is enacted as soon as teachers start thinking about it and rehearsing it in their minds. To me curriculum is the WHY and WHAT and pedaogy is the WHEN, WHERE and HOW - without both deep learning is not possible. Same with the chicken and the egg - they cannot exist without each other - the chicken begets the egg which begets the chicken etc...
So here goes - my first blog.... ever... (deep breath) ... Whilst browsing relevant twitter feeds recently I read about a reference to Stephen Heppel and BYOB. I did a quick google search and found the following explanation of this hard to phonetically pronounce acronym; for Aussie drinkers - Bring your Own Bottle; for car enthusiasts - Bring your own Beamer and for American fast food consumers - Build your own Burger.
I am pretty sure that Heppel's BYOB reference wasn't in reference to any of the above. Indeed Heppel suggests that BYOB - Bring your own Browser - is something to consider. For those who haven't checked out Stephen - see his blog http://www.heppell.net/.
So what is BYOB? Is it Cloud-Based learning? Does it complement BYOD or does it threaten it? Some people conflate BYOB and BYOD but to my mind they are different - how? In a BYOB model the focus in not the on device itself but on the device's ability to access and browse the internet.
Here are three things about BYOB that all teachers need to consider:
1. BYOB = focus on pedagogy: Shifting focus away from a device or a suite of Apps to how students individually and collectively negotiate the rocky terrain of digital citizenship also shifts focus away from students as users to students as producers/creators and I think this is an important conceptual shift.
2. BYOB = Cloud based teaching and learning: The term BROWSE itself doesn't nescessarily rank in terms of the real educative value of this model. For me - I equate BYOB to Cloud-based teaching and learning; the focus of which is accessibilty, synchronicity and collaboration - just think Google Docs..
3. BYOB = Open Browser Many schools are increasingly moving away from mere CMS (Content Management Systems) designed to deliver content (the ubiquitous school portal) towards LMS (Learning Management Systems) to support anytime, anywhere, anyplace learning. The associated costs of customised LMSs is beyond the reach of many schools but a BYOB focus allows teachers and students access to the multitude of free Learning Management systems (EDMODO, Learnist, Sophia etc). Many schools find this problematic - having "in-house' content housed off-site as it challenges traditional conceptions of knowledge ownership and control and raises issues of legal liability but I think open access is essential in terms of promoting access and equity - how schools and individuals manage this is however, something that needs to be addressed and one issue needing due consideration is that of copyright law - link here for advice for Australian schools.
Love to hear others thoughts and welcome debate.