Personalised Learning and LOTE – The Confucius Classroom

Last week we were lucky enough to take 45 enthusiastic grade 3/4 students to The Confucius Classroom at Mount Clear College in Ballarat. They are each currently completing personalised learning projects for their Studies of  Asia unit, and using this excursion they were able to investigate similarities and differences between Australian, Chinese and Japanese culture.

As some of you know, I teach at Canadian Lead Primary School in Ballarat, so the centre is just a 5 minute bus ride down the road. We are so incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful resource on our doorstep, and for any other schools learning Chinese or Japanese I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the centre as a fantastic immersion opportunity. Our thanks go to Johanne Reyntes, who is brilliant at what she does with the various programs outlined below. These are just a few of the great workshops available for students.

The students were treated to some amazing Asian cooking experiences using the kitchen facilities and Jo’s skills! They talked about the ingredients that were used and tried their hand at making their own pork dumplings. The centre is fitted out with several interactive LCD screens, and the students watched the process before trying it themselves.

Once they had finished the dumplings and were waiting for them to cook, the students put together their own recipe book to bring back to school or take home and try more recipes.

There was a green screen room, where students were dressing up in traditional Asian clothing (with some hilarious results!) and learning about some of the various forms of dress. We were able to transfer the images onto authentic Asian backgrounds back at school and students could then use them as a stimulus elsewhere in their learning.

The centre is very tech-friendly and has enough iPads for a small group of 12 students. The best part of this rotation was the students’ enthusiasm to explore different apps, and use them as an investigative tool. Some of the best apps (as recommended by the students) were:

The centre has a relaxing atmosphere. There is quiet, soothing Chinese music playing in the background and the walls and ceilings are decorated with traditional Asian cultural items and hanging lanterns. It is clear that a lot of time and thought has gone in to the smooth management of the centre. Students are given badges to identify which group they will be working in and a clear timetable of activities is set out for the day, and each activity was easy to pick up and teach for a classroom teacher.

I think that the key to the working environment is space. Students have ample room and flexibility to choose where they would like to work. Furniture is approximately a 1:2 seating ratio, small and moveable, and other students work on the floor.
Our students have come back to school, rapt with their experience and ready to dive into their last personalised project of the year. Thanks again, to everyone at the Confucius Centre!
The centre has some details on their website, linked to the Mt Clear College website, here.
On a side note, right next door is another excellent resource for teaching science. The Earth Ed Centre offers some genuine, hands-on science experiences for students of all ages, and some professional development opportunities for teachers too. Their website can be found here.
Please leave your comments, links, questions and feedback below.
Cheers,
Teddy.
Disclaimer: I have in no way benefited from the writing of this post. My efforts are entirely voluntary, as they should be, for such a great resource!
How do you immerse your students in experiences to prepare for project-based learning?
Can you share any local (or otherwise) resources that provide similar opportunities for student-led learning?
What opportunities does your LOTE program provide to students at your school?
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Professional Teaching Portfolios, What Should They Look Like?

I use Keynote on the iOS platform and navigate my digital portfolio using my iPhone as a remote.

As a second-year graduate teacher, it is around this time of year that I see a lot of activity on my social networks related to final teaching rounds and preparation for new graduates who will be seeking a job the following year. Lately I’ve become hung up on the obsession that some universities have with the creation of a huge portfolio that graduates are encouraged to take to each interview they successfully apply for.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the creation of a document that promotes reflection upon successful completion of a Bachelor’s (or similar) Degree in Education, and I’ll list some of those reasons below. However, I also think that there are some other things to stop and consider before potentially spending hours on a static document that will rapidly pass its use by date.

Firstly, here’s what I like about the concept of a professional portfolio:

  • As I mentioned, by curating a portfolio, new graduates can spend valuable time reflecting on the pedagogy and experience that their degree has delivered;
  • Becoming fluent with terms associated with professional practice allows candidates to practice responses to questions if they are lucky enough to be short-listed for an interview;
  • There is a huge sense of pride and achievement associated with constructing a document that reflects what you have done, what you are capable of and where your true passions lie.

Now, the parts that I’m hung up on:

  • As with any aspect of teaching and learning: practice, knowledge and curriculum are constantly changing. Too many portfolios seem to be static documents which leave little room for updating. Anything representing your professional capacity as an educator should be open to change.
  • They are bulky and difficult to navigate.
  • The general consensus among the interviewing panel members (in my experience) is that they rarely have time to look through a portfolio.

I’m not against the idea of collating professional knowledge and experience, the very opposite! In fact, visual arts teachers rely very heavily on hard copy portfolios of work for obvious reasons. However, I am just trying to encourage people to think about how they go about it.

For example, digital portfolios have many advantages:

  • If you do a great job, they also show your capacity as an ICT educator – a highly sought quality in teachers;
  • There are a number of amazing, innovative publishing alternatives (Prezi is a must see!);
  • It is inclusive of engaging, digital media (such as photographs andvideos) that have a huge potential to showcase your various talents;
  • It can be showcased from a variety of different platforms; including iPad, projectors, laptops, Skype and much more;
  • It is a live document that can easily be shared, edited and updated for every purpose – this is my most valued aspect.

I hope this post proves useful to those currently updating their professional resources, and I welcome any comments or thoughts in the space below.

Cheers,

Teddy.


What I’m Reading – Procrastination

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Okay so I’m writing this post to avoid doing my master’s assignment, but I thought it would be interesting.

I always tend to be reading a few books at once, I like to try and keep a work/life balance and I’m always appreciative of the books that I can pick-up, put-down (such as Hattie’s brilliant Visible Learning adaptation below).

Ballarat has a top-notch selection of commercial book retailers and various second-hand book stores, my favourite being The Known World in Sturt St – I can spend hours in there! Anyway, listed below are some of my current reads.

Engagement Matters, Personalised Learning for Grades 3 to 6 (Kathy Walker & Shona Bass, Acer Press 2011)

This inspiring resource is a follow-up from Play Matters, and offers educators an overview and step-by-step instructions and resources for implementing the Personalised Learning approach in your school. I read this book at the beginning of the year and find something reaffirming and new every time I come back to it. A practical guide for all teachers which I highly recommend.

Visible Learning for Teachers, (John Hattie, Routledge 2012)

Speaking for itself as ground-breaking research, me and my colleagues aptly refer to this book as ‘The Bible’ (Which leads us to ask, ‘is John Hattie God?’). Dispelling myths about some strategies, and providing concrete evidence to support others, this is a book that I constantly refer back to throughout the year to affirm and inform my practice.

The Gringo Trail, a darkly comic road-trip through South America (Mark Mann, Summerdale 1999)

Pulled off a dusty shelf in the ‘Travel – South America’ section of The Known World, this account of three friends’ journey across the turbulent continent has been a stepping stone in my future travel plans for 2013. This book lends itself to the rich history, culture and drama of a range of South American countries and inhabitants.

The Consolations of Philosophy (Alain De Botton, Penguin Books 2000)

De Botton has recently become one of my favourite authors. He has an extraordinary capability to work philosophy and its thinking into layman’s terms. He does this by exploring some of history’s great (and sometimes not so great) characters and exploring their lives in incredibly succinct, relevant detail. In The Consolations of Philosopy, De Botton offers consolation for: Unpopularity, not having enough money, frustration, inadequacy, a broken heart and difficulties. He is also author of a number of other subject-specific books.

Until recently I used Fishpond for my online orders. A colleague has recently recommended Book Depository for their quick postage and excellent prices, but I cannot speak for them myself.

Please use the comments section to add any feedback. I have posed some questions below to help with discussion.

Back to my essay!

Cheers,

Teddy.

What is on your teacher bookshelf at the moment?

Have you got any particular educational researchers/writers to recommend?

What do you read in your spare time?

Have you found this post useful? 

Please share your feedback in the comments, I am always on the lookout for a good read!


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