Personal Learning Shared

After listening to Tony Ryan speak about the importance of developing a Personal Learning Network and the benefits of being able to meet face to face, a group of three teachers met for coffee and conversation.

The three of us have a common connection in that we were members of staff at The Australian International School, Singapore. During the 00s. After a recent reunion, we decided we’d like to catch up once a term where we could exchange stories about our schools, our teaching and our own learning.

We decided to dedicate the first half (45 mins or so) to ‘talking teaching’ and the rest on more casual chat about our families and lives. As it turned out, the whole time was twoing and froing between our work and more personal things and I think we left feeling like we accomplished the mix really well. Actually with over 60 years of teaching experience between us – separating our work and our lives is really not possible – hence strictly no partners at our meetings.  

Here are some educational based discussions we had:

Book Week just ended and given that we are all interested in literacy and reading we soon found ourselves talking about our libraries and encouraging kids to read. Yvonne suggested some wonderful programs that seem simple and effective in their goal to get children reading and helping less fortunate children get access to books.

The first one – ‘Mystery Book Challenge’ came from one of us mentioning the issues with Premiers reading challenge where students are restricted to certain titles, some we agreed are not particularly good quality. I had that conversation with Kathryn during book week.  MBC involves taking some of the old classics from 70s,  80s and 90s, (we had fun brainstorming old favourties) wrapping them in brown paper and string and putting them back on the shelves in their original spot. Titles from Gilllian Rubenstein’s, Colin Thiele’s and Ruth Park were examples. Students were then free to choose and ‘unwrap’ their book on guarantee that they read it from cover to cover and give a short review as to why this book was considered quality in its day and whether it still has any relevancy today. Bookmarks were a reward for attempts to revisit and find the magic in popular books written before they were born.

I said how much I love Sonya Harnett’s, Silver Donkey after a discussion of our visiting illustrator of Simpson’s Donkey, which led into a discussion on Harnett’s new title – Children of the King which Yvonne highly recommended and expressed excitement of it being made into a movie which then led to a shared love of, The Book Thief by Marcus Zusack’s. We wait in anticipation of  the movie being released with Geoffrey Rush. Perhaps our next meeting will be a movie night to see it?

Book Swap involves bringing in 5 books to donate to a second hand book sale. Students then buy a book for a gold coin and the $ and remaining books are sent to indigenous schools. This sequayed into my telling of Boori (Monty) Pryor visiting Redlands and a discussion on My Girragunji and the importance of exposing our kids to  Aboriginal stories and story telling.

I asked Zannah about the new library at Ravenswood as I remembered it being showcased in a PD session. She said it has taken on the Learning Resource Centre model and has changed the entire orientation of the school. New reception, new address new way of looking at what was once the traditional library.  She described first level of open design classrooms, second as reception and ICT hubs and the top resources and study nooks.

The inevitable chat about computer programs came up where it was explained that Ravenswood are about to begin a  0ne to 0ne , three year turn around program, Rose Bay are a Mac School and have no shortage of ipads and ibooks (apparently a very active parent body for a public school raising funds for maintaining programs) and I mentioned that Redlands had just employed  a new ICT manager who will hopefully help us solve what’s been a ‘strained’  program in the Junior School. 

And drawing on the glass in the LRC at Ravenswood? I remember that from a video at the PD early this year. This began the happy chat on the whiteboard’s return and the relief we all felt from the whole focus on Smart Boards. Quite a lot of anxiety justifying their cost and We all agreed that  there was a lot of pressure for a few years solely on creating whole units on creating literally 100s of slides and that perhaps it was not getting the balance right in terms of using a variety of tools when teaching. Great to have and in daily use but sometimes the old white board marker served us (and students using mini boards) just as well if not better. Striking the balalnce and undersatning that teachers don’t have time to reinvent wheel. If there are websites with slides already made, utilize those. We also acknowledged those staff who have become so  proficient that it may well be as effeicient and easy for them to continue to heavily base visual aspects of learning using the Interactive Board.

So that was our 90 minutes. As we were leaving Zannah suggested next meeting to have a chat about the National Curriculum. My cloud was ‘do we have to?’ but knowing that it will be pre movie as we line up for popcorn, I think I have to admit that I might even be looking forward to that one!

By Catherine Swinton