Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

Recently I have had the need to reflect upon and to deconstruct my teaching. Yes, I have been teaching for a while and, No I don’t intend to leave the profession. But why have I had a need to think backwards in some people’s views?

The reason lies in the fact that since January of this year, 2013, I have been teaching in a different country from where I trained and gained many years of experience. This has meant that I have had to learn about new ways that teachers are accredited, how they are observed and how important, in some situations, performance management is. The last part of the reason is that I have also recently chosen to work through mentoring a Trainee Teacher through their PGCE year in their quest to become an accredited and qualified teacher here in the UK. For all my Aus colleagues this is halfway between being a University Practicum student and the first year of the being a New Scheme Teacher with the NSW Institute of Teachers. So what is the point of this I hear you thinking……

(Source: TES)

The purpose of this post is come back to one of the oldest things I remember being forced to learn about when I was at University, Bloom’s Taxonomy. At first I wondered ‘what is the use of this?’, later I tried to remember what it was so I could add some depth to student understanding, and now I stealthily use it as an underpinning of most lessons and question sequences. I have had the fortune of being a teacher through the times from pre-digital learning to now, a time of digital understanding and citizenship. This in turn has brought with it many guises of Bloom’s Taxonomy through to include the Digital Bloom.

I have included a link to a very good poster that shows the basic elements of the taxonomy from TES (click on the image at the top). This poster is excellent in that it includes the levels of thinking required, keywords and some questioning examples. It does unfortunately not include one of the recent developments of Bloom’s, Creativity. All of the elements of the original and many of the more recent versions are important to understand and to be able to use when it comes to teaching. As I have been finding, it is a principle which is a part of the International language of education. It is one that I have grown to believe in, borrow from and teach with. I try to refer others back to it as a support block and it is an important of any experienced teachers’ toolkit. It can be built into any pedagogical approach or model and is something that I hope you take time to work with and to understand.


On the weekend I attended a TEDx event at Macquarie University in Australia. As with most people who have attended a TED or TEDx event I left with a mixture of both inspiration and question. Amongst the talks I found themes and concepts that I will ponder for a long time and, hopefully, work out ways to bring them into my practises, my classroom and my thinking.

One idea I will explore for a while is how I can challenge people’s perception and perspectives. But what do I mean by that statement and how might I do it? To start, I want people to ask questions about what they do, how they do it and how they could do it differently. I also want people to contemplate how others would do the same thing and how through examining a concept from a different perspective could radically change the potential outcome. But how can I bring this to my teaching without wasting time, without messing or missing required curriculum content and with ensuring that valid and worthwhile learning experiences are achieved. Hmmm, the challenge!

As I sit here and brainstorm, I keep thinking back to the talk given by Tim Noonan (@TimNoonan, Vocal Branding Australia). To understand this it has to be recognised that Tim Noonan is visually impaired, that he spoke about the history and importance of vocal and auditory knowledge and that I kept thinking of how he, or any person, whether impaired or not, experience, develop and learn. Again, where is this going and how can I take it to my classroom? Amongst the first ideas that come to mind is ‘Black Box Design’. This could be done by:

  • Placing a variety of objects inside a closed box with cut arm holes. The students get given a brief and have to spend time identifying, by feel, the objects in the box, design how they think they will be assembled and then assembly them. This could occur over a few lessons, all without the students seeing inside the box until they have completed their design
  • Creating a brief that requires students to design a product that is functional, yet functions differently according to the direction in which it is used.
  • Getting the students to create a claymation animation sequence where they create the characters for their stop motion sequence in a black box environment by feel only.
  • Create a narrative and sound track for a silent piece of video/movie.

The above are just some of the first ideas I have had. Each could be mapped against different subject or curriculum areas. I would be happy to share any other ideas with those willing to contribute.

I feel that through getting others to be aware of the difference perception and perspective makes, I will be able to enrich the way my students see their world, and how they develop ideas and solve problems.

What are your thoughts on this topic?  Do you have any ideas to share?

What does collaboration mean to you? This is a question that I have spent a few weeks contemplating. The reason for this started with a statement that a colleague made several weeks ago and has continued with reading some very interesting blog postings on similar topics. The statement started this though was by far the most profound. It occurred at the conclusion of a long day of working with a project team developing new resources for the assistance of other educators and was:

I wish some teachers within my school could have witnessed the work we did today to understand the difference between collaboration and sharing. We truly collaborated…”

As you can imagine this sparked a great conversation between us as we walked to the station to get our trains home.

The above event occurred about 5 weeks ago and since then I have continually found myself reflecting upon our experience as well as of how I have worked in teams or as a colleague or mentor to others in the past. One of the statistics I have read a few times since is that under the guise of working on collaborative projects only about 5% actually collaborate. The other 95% divide the work (sharing), converse about it, distribute content or just wish to trade tips and tricks to complete things quickly.

Where does this take us though? I propose that with the future developments of the National Curriculum and the inclusion of the General Capabilities and Teaching Standards we should all work on our skills to collaborate. The future of education may bring great things to those that are willing to truly collaborate and not just trade.

This morning as I was preparing lunches for the day I watched this TED talk by Aaron Koblin and was both amazed and inspired. For me this short talk was particularly interesting from the fact that it is based on making use of data, the meaningless stuff, that can be collected or is created by people in their normal living. This is particularly pertinent for me as I am in the process of teaching about the concept of ‘Data’ in relation to information systems and databases with some of my senior classes.
As well as the core principle of data I was also extremely interested in the artistic processes that are shown here. For me this appeals to the old Art teacher within. Yes that goes back to my beginnings!! Though I am now a member of a Technology and Applied Studies department and primarily teach the computer-based courses, I find that I frequently come back to teaching and practising many concepts through the use and implementation of media-based activities. Some ideas I have had since watching this include:

  • having my students each develop small pieces of (specified) individual outcomes and then getting the students to assemble them in a given order to create a larger integrated system. (this reminds me of activities I did with art classes in the first few years of my teaching!!!
  • As an intro to Graphics Tablets and Adobe Flash, getting students to each practice drawing and recreating given images that can then be inserted into an animated Flash timeline in given order. This would be a lot of fun for my students!
  • A variety of other sound and image based activities…..

I hope you enjoy this talk as much as I:

I was recently sent reference to this video of a Valedictorian delivering her final speech and was intrigued by the title that it was about a student speaking out against her schooling. I encourage all other educators to watch this clip and reflect on what is said. I found that it raised a lot of health questions about my value and approach to what education represents and how schooling is, can be, should be viewed or percieved.

Here are some of my favourite excerpts from the transcript:

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, “If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years . .” The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then?” Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.” “But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?” asked the student. “Thirty years,” replied the Master. “But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?” Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”

Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.

The full transcript is here.

Recently, I took the plunge and have now embarked on the voyage of the DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex). I have previously posted a reflection on the difference and impact of digital technologies on photography and imaging so this reflection is not a posting of the same content. The purpose of this blog post is to reflect upon the decision making process I went through to choose a new DSLR camera.

So where did I start? The first initial question was do I stay true and loyal to the brand for which I had small collection of SLR equipment or do I open up my range of choices by disregarding this. After much research and thought I chose to open my selection as the newest of my gear was from the early 1990’s and though the lenses I had were great they were limited in regards to their ability and the new APS-C DSLR sensors. Now the hard yards started. Being fussy and one to over-research the smallest of details I set about organising to borrow different digital cameras of different brands from friends. I thought that by trying them out I would get a better idea of what I liked about the different brands and what I wanted in my dream DLSR. As it turned out what I wanted was simple. A camera that felt robust and well built, that captured light well in all the environments I like to shoot (including low light situations) and that gave that general, all-round warm and fuzzy aesthetic.

Of the camera’s I tried and tested some were too noisy, some felt too light and poorly built, some had limited control over the images colour, some had limited access to different lenses and others just didn’t feel right to me.

But what you’re thinking does what I have written so far have to do with the car door effect? The answer is that our choices often lie in the aesthetic of the product. For example in a car yard, two cars, same price are for sale. One of them is well built and has doors that feel solid when you shut them and the other looks cheaper and feels light and tinny. Which one usually sells first? The one that gives the greater aesthetic response is the answer. This is where it got to with me and my camera choice. I quickly narrowed it down to two choices of similar price and I chose the one that best suited my needs, which felt better in my hands, was quieter in operation and had the better sound as the shutter worked.

This reflection post finds its origins in a tweet requesting links examining the impact of digital technologies on photography.

I have had an interest for photography since my high school days but it was during my undergraduate degree that I developed a deep passion for all things visual, especially those that included the capturing of light.  During my uni degree I studied a plethora of areas and techniques in the Visual Arts but specialised in the medium of photography and early digital media. I was fortunate that I studied at a time when Digital Art was still in its infancy and Digital Cameras were rare to say the least.  I was taught photography from a purist’s perspective using film.  Artistically, I started to explore the digital realm about 1996 when I had my first play with Adobe Photoshop V3.0. Since that first play I was intrigued by the digital medium.  The potential possibilities were immense. The limitations of this time though were computer processing speed, available memory and presentation methods. 

Where does all this sit in regards to photography and digital technologies?  For me it was the turning point.  A point where I started to realise that I was going to be one of the last of a dying breed.  That is, those that had been educated in the skills and techniques for taking photographs and using a camera.  Those that understood the light spectrum and lights impact.  I became one of those that were able to shoot what I call ‘high percentage keepers’ and finally someone that sees the difference between a digital or film sourced image.

The above may be regarded as things relating to deskilling from technological development but on the flip side there are many bonuses.  Photography has become more affordable.  Cameras are more accessible, you can shoot what you like and only keep what you want.  The idea of a taking photos to print and keep every one has gone. You can see all your pictures before working with them or getting them printed.  And printing, well you can print as many or as few as you choose.  We can share pictures globally at the click of a button.  People in general are showing better pictures (as they take 5 times more) and are better documenting their lives.

From a purists perspective I do miss; the organic feel of a film printed picture (especially in big enlargements like 40×60 inch), knowing the differences between the characteristics of film brands and types, Pushing and Pulling film, the development process, Dodging and Burning, the skill of multi-negative printing, being able to take 9 out of 10 pictures as keepers and the patience people had for others to compose and take a picture.

So the impact of digital technologies on photography…  We have more pictures than ever, we share them globally easily, we collaboratively document the world and more people have access to photographic technologies than ever before because it is more affordable.

In time I may reflect upon the impact of digital imaging, editing and manipulation, the emergence of digital multimedia, the aesthetic of sound as analogue and digital etc…