Category Archives: Know students and how they learn

Kids who code from ‘The Weekend Australian’


11 Ways Finland’s Education System Shows Us that “Less is More”.

One could do worse for a framework to review what we all do as educators. Well worth the time to read and reflect.

Filling My Map


When I left my 7th grade math classroom for my Fulbright research assignment in Finland I thought I would come back from this experience with more inspiring, engaging, innovative lessons.  I expected to have great new ideas on how to teach my mathematics curriculum and I would revamp my lessons so that I could include more curriculum, more math and get students to think more, talk more and do more math.

This drive to do more and More and MORE is a state of existence for most teachers in the US….it is engrained in us from day one.  There is a constant pressure to push our students to the next level to have them do bigger and better things.  The lessons have to be more exciting, more engaging and cover more content.  This phenomena  is driven by data, or parents, or administrators or simply by our work-centric society where we…

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Diigo – the educator account

Great news this year that Diigo has created accounts designed for educators. It’ll streamline the way that we create groups for use with our students, and will make them more secure as well for younger students.

Another new tool for creating a learning channel

Image representing Thinglink as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

I’m grateful to my colleague, Teresa, for introducing me to the tool ‘Thinglink’ ( recently. Simply, it allows you to upload an image and place links to online resources – video, audio, text, etc. – on the image in places that resonate with that resource. So, for example, a map could have video links pinned to cities marked on them; a picture of the human body could have links to explanatory notes; an image of punctuation marks could be linked to audio explanations of each, etc.

I think I’ll use this tool to encourage my students to make connections themselves – a creative way to collect research links on a particular theme or topic.

When does ‘resource support’ becomes ‘pressure to conform’?

I applaud all of those teachers who selflessly share their best resources with others through various online repositories. Some of the major ones have hundreds of thousands of resources and are available regardless of geography (for example, the collection which boasts ‘the largest network of teachers in the world’). One of the real boons of the Web has been the ability simply to share resources and draw on the imagination and ingenuity of others (with the option to use them collaboratively even more of a bonus).

Some education authorities also provide a wealth of resources, usually tied to particular curriculum areas, topics, units, activities or assessment items. These, too, can be very useful.

I wonder, though, whether it is always in our best interest when an education authority provides a collection of resources so explicitly linked to each learning activity/ task/ assessment item? Is it possible that this kind of detailed link between a unit and relevant resources can suggest:

  • these resources MUST be used;
  • these resources are ALL that you need to use/ may use
  • these resources must be used IN THIS ORDER/ IN THIS WAY
  • these resources WILL work with all students/ teaching styles/ in all learning contexts?

If this is the outcome – desired or not – is it fair to raise concerns about:

  • de-professionalising teachers who become deliverers of standardised courses?
  • limitations on creativity, ingenuity, responsiveness to individual learning needs?

Seems to me that there is the potential for, paradoxically, these potentially marvellous resource banks to become counter-productive, working against other educational aims such as joint construction of meaning, individualised learning, and wide-ranging collaborative learning.


Something new for Term 4

If I come across a tech tool that I think might add something to my work with students, I’ll often look for the next opportunity – or create one – to use it with them. An example of this would be the social bookmarking tool, Diigo, that I realised part-way through last term would help my senior English students keep track of reference sites for their most important exam of the term, as well as share the fruits of their labours. Although I’d been using it myself for some time, I hadn’t created – or found – the opportunity to build it into my lessons plans; however, when I saw how my students were conducting their research (simple bookmarks, or copying and pasting URLs into their OneNote workbooks) I realised that Diigo’s time had come.

There are also times when I’ll plan in advance to use a tool because I anticipate it will be productive to do so, and  – usually – I am trialling it to share with others and so want some evidence of its usefulness. This term I think I’ll try to expand our Googledocs repertoire.

We’ve previously used Googledocs to collaborate on a series of questions: with 90 revision questions to answer and 30 students, each student was assigned three to write a ‘killer’ response to, and then had at their disposal the other 87 answers to revise from (they were encouraged to suggest amendments/ refinements to those other answers through commenting, by the way).

This term, I want to try the ‘immediate feedback’ function of Googledocs. That is, I’ll project a Googledoc on the screen and invite all students to co-edit it. They can add questions that arise during the class discussion, and add ‘me too!’ to existing questions, etc. so that I can get a sense of the more pressing questions/ areas needing clarification. I can add some pointers or other guiding responses to the document after class and then change the status to ‘view’ so they can see the document later as part of theirt revision. Incidentally, I won’t require them to log in to edit the document during class time so that their contributions can be anonymous – this time at least, and with my senior class, I want to see if this encourages the quieter ones to ask questions without their worrying about what others think (there is more research I’d like to do in this area using this tool!).

I’ll post about the outcome later….