These are the rules of teaching. Pay attention to Ms. Pierson.
Every child deserves a teacher who plays by these rules.
That is all.
These are the rules of teaching. Pay attention to Ms. Pierson.
Every child deserves a teacher who plays by these rules.
That is all.
Last month, I delivered a talk at TEDxMelbourne: Education Leadership. It should be online in the next week or two at the TEDxMelbourne YouTube channel, so you can make your mind up then as to what you think about it. I haven’t spoken about it at length here, but I thought it might be an interesting exercise to analyse the process I went through putting a talk like that together. It may help anyone who is asked to do something similar.
Find your story
First up, there are time restrictions on your talk. The premise of a TEDx talk is to present an idea worth spreading in 18 minutes or less. I’ve watched my fair share of TED talks and know that the ones that grab my attention are often those that have a thread of a story running through them. When I first started presenting, I found the work of Garr Reynolds invaluable. Garr speaks often of the need to tell a story when you are presenting and I try my best to do that using techniques he recommends for slides that accompany my talks. So, I knew I needed a story thread that could run through my talk and bind it together.
Getting your ideas down
Once I had my idea, I then needed to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard to be more accurate. I use Evernote for most of my notetaking now, so I set up a folder and started jotting down ideas as they came to me. I’m not sure if this is true for everyone who delivers a talk like this, but for me, it occupied much of my available thinking time in the weeks leading up to it. My thinking time is often restricted to moments of solitude, and they are not all that frequent in my busy life. Some of my best ideas come to me while getting ready for work in the morning, when everyone else is asleep and there’s nothing that can distract me. I had to take to having my iPad or phone close by at all times so that I could jot down lines on the fly. Some of the key ideas came while I was standing under a hot shower; I’d have to repeat them over until I could grab the iPad and record them for posterity.
Understanding the format
I’m used to using a slide deck to guide my presentations. I don’t use notes when I present; I have my ideas running through my head and the impetus for the next idea is prompted by the next slide in the deck. I’m used to presentations of an hour or so in length, and know that I have room to ad lib or embellish, or speed the presentation along if I’m running out of time. A TEDx talk is very different given the time restrictions. I was also pretty conscious that it was going to be filmed and I didn’t want my speech to be sloppy or to fall into habits that I know I have when I’m speaking in front of a group. I tend to say, ‘you know’ and sometimes lazily abbreviate words eg: say ‘gonna’ instead of ‘going to’. I’d reconciled that notes weren’t going to suffice; I was going to need to write this out as a speech.
Find ‘airplane mode’ (Literally!)
My dilemma was finding time to write. In the lead up to this talk, I had an ISTE presentation and a Keynote to prepare, as well as marking and end of semester reports to write. I resolved that the fourteen hour flight to Los Angeles was going to be writing time for this talk. I needed to go into airplane mode where no other distractions were going to interfere with the writing process. It worked. I wrote the bulk of the talk on my iPad on the flight over inside the Evernote app. I found myself dozing on the flight and dreaming my way through the talk. On more than one occasion, lines that I used on the final talk were ones that came to me in my sleep; I’d wake and scramble for the iPad, getting them down before they disappeared from consciousness. The flight home gave me an opportunity to look at it closely again, and I polished it further and added new paragraphs on that journey home.
Hear your voice
Once home, I decided I needed to record myself speaking the talk to time it and see how I went with the 18 minute limit. I used SoundCloud to do this, and shared the track with Jon Yeo and Hamish Curry who were mentoring me for this talk. Their feedback was invaluable, and led to me refining the talk further.
The Hardest Part – relying on memory
When I was happy with how it looked, it came time to commit it to memory.
The hard part.
I haven’t had to memorise content that has a time limit restriction for a very long time, and I struggled trying to to do this. I’d read it over and over, but it just wasn’t coming naturally to me. One night in the week preceding the talk, I had a minor breakdown and told my family I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. It was that breakdown that was the catalyst for finding a way through. I pulled myself together, took the speech in hand and wrote it out in point form. I condensed 3000 or so words down into key ideas and lines and started to rely on these to prompt my memory to fill the gaps. This was a major breakthrough – finally it was coming together.
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
An intense rehearsal stage followed. My lounge room became my venue and the blank television screen was my audience. My family found it quite amusing listening to me speak animatedly to no-one for hours on end. I used the stopwatch on my phone to record the length of the talk, but every run through was different. I never delivered the same talk twice. Sometimes I’d be over 18 minutes, and sometimes I’d be under. After a couple of days of this, I had to accept that I might not stay within the 18 minute limit and that I was more than likely to run over. What I came to realise was that, in my mind, it was more important that I impart my message and not get hung up on 30 seconds here or there.
You might need a crutch
The day prior to the talk I realised that I was going to need some palm cards with me as a bit of a crutch to help me on the night. I made four small cards that fit into my palm and I wrote key words for each part of the talk to help prompt me if I stumbled. It gave me peace of mind, and at that stage, I needed it!
The realities of the stage
One of the things I rely on when doing any form of public speaking, be it in a classroom or at a venue, is making a connection with an audience and feeding off their reaction to your words. Not everyone is always with you, but there’s usually some kind of body language from someone that’s encouraging and helps you give out the energy needed. I’d forgotten about the lighting that’s required when you’re being filmed and found myself on stage with spotlights glaring from the sides and an audience of shadowy heads in front of me. I couldn’t for the life of me make out a face and see how the audience were reacting to my words. I could hear laughter at appropriate moments, but couldn’t detect if there were any nodding heads or knowing smiles. It was like I was standing in my loungeroom talking to the blank television!
You can be the judge of the success or failure of the talk when it becomes available. I’ve come out of the experience very thankful for having been given the opportunity. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but one of the most rewarding too. I have new found respect for anyone who has done a TED or TEDx talk, and for those students out there whom we ask to perform oral presentations in our English classes on a regular basis. One of the really cool features of the night was the inclusion of Lynne Cazaly, an artist who drew our talks in graphic form as we spoke. Her work is such a wonderful representation of what was imparted.
True Blue Production, who volunteered their services to film on the night, have done a great job of a backstage video of the event. Take a look below.
Over the weekend, I wrote a post on the Voices from the Learning Revolution blog called ‘TED in My Classroom‘, with a focus on TED Ed, their latest initiative. I’m still pondering how I might offer something to the project, but I’ll have to mull over it a little more. What they’re looking for is the following:
TED-Ed’s mission is to capture and amplify the voices of great educators around the world. We do this by pairing extraordinary educators with talented animators to produce a new library of curiosity-igniting videos.
I don’t know if I’m one of the extraordinary educators they’re looking for, but I do think there might be something in my bag of educational tricks that might be worth sharing!
What’s in Shawn Achor’s bag of tricks is well worth your time. He’s a very engaging speaker, talking about what he calls ‘the happiness advantage‘; the effect of positive psychology on our productivity and attitude to life. Here’s some text from the transcript of his talk;
But the real problem is our brains work in the opposite order. If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, what we’ve found is that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31 percent more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37 percent better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed. Which means we can reverse the formula. If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully as we’re able to work harder, faster and more intelligently.
Just imagine if our focus in schools was on this instead of Naplan tests and My School comparisons? I’d like to see schools value this kind of research and invest time and effort in helping our students understand how their state of mind can effect their performance.
I’m happy and positive after watching this. In my view, 12 minutes well spent in any classroom you teach in. Think about sharing it around.
Cyber crime expect Mikko Hypponen delivered a talk at the TEDxBrussels event that has made it this week onto the TED site. If you’re at all interested in conversations surrounding privacy in this digital age, then it’s 10 minutes well invested.
As teachers, we need to understand the implications of our use of the Internet and we should be helping our students understand it too. Mikko makes the comment in this talk that he believes you are more likely to become a victim of crime in the online world than in the real world. How many of us think about whether or not trojan viruses have infected our computers after visiting a site? Do we ever think that our keystrokes may be being monitored by a criminal hoping to gain password or credit card details?
How many people have any understanding of what a https site is in the first place and how you know if a site has an extended validation certificate? If you’re unclear, head over to “20 Things I Learned about Browsers and the Web“, a really helpful guide written in easy to understand language that won’t befuddle you. It was published by the Google Chrome team in 2010, and is a very handy reference point for anyone wanting to know more about the code, browsers, security risks, and a myriad of other eye opening details about how the Web works. I teach a Yr 7 Information Technology class and I’ve found it very helpful to support my understanding, and the understanding of the students I teach.
Mikko identifies three types of online attacks threatening our privacy and data. Criminals, looking for avenues to steal our money, hacktivists, (groups like Anonymous) who hack as means of protesting, and Nation States, who are apparently willingly infecting suspected citizens computers in order to collect information about them. Worrying, huh? I think so, and I believe it’s important that we as teachers impart this kind of information to our students. We need informed citizens who are capable of making decisions and defending their rights.
Mikko ends his talk stating the issue at hand is ‘Freedom vs Control’, and speculates whether we will spend the next 50 years wondering if we are able to trust our Governments. He’s got me thinking, I can tell you. I bet your students would find it fascinating too. We need to find avenues in our curriculums today to teach these important understandings that have implications for all of us.
Watch this, and tell me that doctors will resist these changes to their profession.
They won’t. They’ll embrace them, because health matters to all of us, and we will demand uptake. We lay people will be involved in it too, as we use our mobile devices to access apps that measure, control and advise us how to best manage our health.
So why such resistance in education to change? Why, when we see the communicative potential of the web to connect with expert voices, to learn beyond our classroom walls, why do we see teachers cling onto textbooks and churn out assignments that Google can answer in 10 minutes?
Maybe Daniel Kraft’s Ted talk should be prescribed viewing for our profession. Maybe it’s the dose of reality we need.
One of the things I really do appreciate in my school is the willingness of our English teachers to recognise the skill set of Teacher-Librarians. Over the last few weeks my staff and I have worked closely with Year 11 and 12 teachers and students, and have shared information about how best to utilise Library online resources and the internet to help them with research on a current issue for VCE Oral Presentations.
Today I ran a session with our Yr 10 students to help them begin a persuasive essay task. We covered similar ground to that run through with the Year 11 and 12 students in recent weeks, and I’m hoping it will hold them in good stead as they tackle the research needed to formulate a strong argument for a persuasive essay. I thought I’d run through some of the things I covered, and hope some of you out there might find it useful.
1. Echo online - newspaper indexes and media issues outlines.
This is a truly invaluable resource for Victorian students. A Victorian school subscription to the Echo Education Services site is $355.00. In my opinion, it’s the best $355.00 we spend all year. I’m not sure if other States use it too, but the work done here in the media issues outlines part of the database is extraordinary. The lady who does the work is a VCE English teacher, and she trawls the daily newspapers looking for what might be the current issues that a VCE English student would want to explore for their oral presentation or language analysis task. When she’s identified an issue, she puts together an outline that includes background information, arguments for, arguments against and further implications. She also provides pages of web links and documents and links to the newspaper articles she has used to provide her outlines of whatever the issue in question is. It’s incredibly helpful, particularly for those students who just can’t figure out how you would go about analysing an issue. It gives them an entry point and the confidence they need to explore the source material to form conclusions for themselves.
The other part of this database is the newspaper index. Students can enter their search term and results are provided for relevant articles published in our daily papers. These results aren’t hyperlinked; the students would either have to source the original print copy or search a newspaper database to find the article. I point my students to Newsbank.
2. Newsbank This is a database where students can search Australian newspapers. They have to be conscious of the search terms they use, and often need to refine their search to pull in the content they need. One of the disadvantages of the site is that it provides the text of the articles only. None of the pictorial detail that often accompanies a newspaper article is available, and the text can look pretty dry to a 15 year old. We made a decision this year to stop archiving 6 months of back issues of newspapers, largely because we have noticed a decline in the demand for use, the fact that it involves a large amount of dedicated staff time doing this work, and the understanding that our move into a new building meant we were looking towards the future of collection development rather than what we could see as a process from the past. For this reason, we have subscribed to digital archives (true to print eg: as they appear in the printed version of the paper) of daily newspapers.
3. Digital subscriptions to newspapers (true to print eg: as they appear in the printed version of the paper). We have a 5 user concurrent subscription to ‘The Age’ archive and a license for 50 users to access the ‘Herald-Sun‘ and ‘The Australian‘. They come at considerable cost, and it’s not easy for students to get access. We have to share the common user name and password to all staff and students for the 5 user concurrent license to ‘The Age’. This means 5 users at a time can access the site and another user will have to wait until someone logs out to get access. With the 50 user license for the Herald Sun, we have to register individual emails to each license. This means we have had to use staff emails, and we share these with students with the common password so they can get access. It isn’t ideal. I don’t think our newspaper industry has really got their act together at this stage to accomodate the needs of schools. As more schools take up options like this I’m hoping they will come up with a more user friendly method to gain access.
4. The Age Education Resource Centre Every week, in its Monday edition, The Age publishes ‘Issues in the News‘. They analyse a current issue and write their copy for a secondary school audience. It’s a great resource, and contains links to source material used to compile their summation. You can access their archive of issues they have covered
5. Google News – One of the reasons many of our students are not accessing print newspapers is because they are searching for newspaper content online through Google. I always find it interesting that students are surprised to realise a search engine like Google has many parts, and they need to look to the toolbar at the top of the screen to find these options. They seem to have eyes only for the search box in the centre of the screen! We’ve been introducing our students to Google News and showing them that they can search for newspaper articles from other countries to assist them in gaining perspectives from other cultures. We’ve also focused on the advanced search function and showing students how they can narrow a search using some of the parameters there.
6. Google Realtime search I suspect many people are unaware of Google’s Realtime search option. You can use Realtime search to do exactly what it says – search in real time. What you are accessing are Twitter feeds about the search term you’ve entered. The great thing about Twitter is that many people are sharing links about topics that are issues in the news. It’s there where you will find up to date (real time!) coverage of an event. For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, it can be the most invaluable source of information. If you don’t have an account and a network of fabulous contacts, then this is a good option for trying to find out what people are saying and sharing about topics of interest to you. Try it for yourself and see what I mean.
7. TED: ideas worth spreading Many of our students are required to put together oral presentations for their English course of study. I’ve read many times that speaking in public is one of the highest ranked fears of many people. You can often tell that as you watch some students sweat it out beforehand and stumble through oral presentations. They need to see people speaking in front of audiences and take note of effective techniques that can hold the interest of a group of people. The TED site is the perfect vehicle for getting students to analyse what makes for an effective presentation. The bonus is, the talks are so interesting and inspiring, they are bound to learn many other things in the process. I used the start of Eli Pariser’s talk about the ‘filter bubble’ and it certainly sparked a lot of interest. Students are concerned about what big corporations like Google are doing with their data, and many students asked how his name was spelt so they could watch this presentation in full after class.
I’m happy to report, this presentation was met with a round of applause from the students, on more than one occasion. Issues research can be daunting for many a student, and they value being shown a way forward. If you have other resources you use that you find helpful for student use, please leave a comment and extend the learning for all of us. : )
Does this remind you of anyone? You, maybe? Those of us who tweet regularly, update our status on facebook, those of us who blog? Once again, improveverywhere have made me smile, and plenty of others in that audience too by the looks of things.
BUT, not everyone agrees with the mirth and merriment. This video was posted on the TED site this week, and the comment thread accompanying it shows that some TEDsters are unhappy that something so ‘light’ could be put up as being worthy of inclusion. Take this comment as an example,
Between the video on how to tie your shoes and now this improv anywhere video that is reminiscent of something that would recommended to me on youtube, I’m a little bit disappointed in the videos that have been posted recently. It’s not that theres nothing to learn from these videos; one could make the case that the shoe tying video shows the importance of reexamining things we’re sure of or that this video shows the value of play and spontaneity, but I think those would be a far stretch. I guess over the years I’ve become accustomed to a TED that challenges me and expands my view of the world, not panders to me.
Really TEDsters? Lighten up. Not everything needs to be serious. In fact, sometimes taking the mickey out of ourselves provides insight into the way we conduct our lives.
Anyway, my need to share brings me to this. Last week was House Music day at my school, and I was mightily impressed with the small group music items. The winning group posted their effort on YouTube, and like a proud mother, I just have to share the talents of the students at my school with you all. So, take it away Cerutty Mads 2011, singing Love You by Free Design.
Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Have a great weekend. Enjoy : )
If you ever find yourself a spare ten minutes or so, you should do yourself a favour and check out the TED: Ideas worth spreading site. I do so on a regular basis, most often when I’m in bed browsing on my iPad before I head off to sleep. Last night I watched two very different stories being told, both of which led me to think, to contemplate, to reassess.
Watch both of them. They’re worth the investment. The first is the story of two very remarkable women, both marred by the tragedy of 9/11. They come from what some would see as opposing backgrounds, but they share the common thread of motherhood. Both have suffered, and both find comfort from the other. Their story is a lesson in tolerance, forgiveness and empathy for us all, and is one we should be sharing with the students we teach.
The other is a world apart, but it deals with something not apparent to all, but something that will definitely affect us all. Eli Pariser is the author of “The Filter Bubble,” and in this talk he explains how personalized search might be narrowing our worldview. Eli explains how web services that know what we like and direct results to us that meet our likes, are allowing us to get trapped in a “filter bubble.” The filter bubble prevents us from exposure to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Here’s another lesson for not just the adults in the room, our students need this kind of understanding if they are to become architects of their digital lives. After watching this, it’s apparent that personalised search, where organisations are making decisions about what we view, is dangerous territory indeed. Dangerous territory that can lead to lack of tolerance, an inability to forgive, and a decided lack of empathy. There’s the link you need to make these two talks some of the best learning that could take place in a classroom this week.
TED: Ideas worth spreading. Never a truer phrase was uttered. Spread away.
Thanks go to Frances Manning, who pointed me in the direction of this amazing virtual choir, featuring 2052 performances of ‘Sleep’ from 1752 singers in 58 countries, individually recorded and uploaded to YouTube between September 2010 and January 2011. Here’s an explanation of how it all began from the Virtual Choir site;
The Virtual Choir began in May 2009 as a simple experiment in social media, when Britlin Losee – a fan of Eric’s music – recorded a video of herself singing “Sleep” and shared it on YouTube.
After watching the video, Eric responded by sending a call out to his online fans to purchase Polyphony’s recording of “Sleep”, record themselves singing along to it, and upload the result…
…Ever ambitious, for this latest Virtual Choir project Eric called for 900 singers to record themselves singing “Sleep”. At the final tally he received 2052 contributions from singers in 58 countries.
Upon previewing the video at TED 2011, Eric (and the choir) received two standing ovations – testimony to the power of the internet to connect people of all backgrounds and abilities and create something beautiful across time and space.
People are interested in coming together to create something special. If only we could harness this kind of energy in fields like medicine or science, where people could come together to share thinking and make concerted efforts to address issues affecting mankind. Collective action always seems to me to be such an altruistic act, benefiting all, but many people can’t get past the ‘what’s in it for me’ approach.
Been a big week. The CCAEducause conference took it out of me, and I’m glad to see the start of school holidays this afternoon. Time to recharge the batteries. I’m even thinking of starting a mosiac project tomorrow. I just need to clear my headspace and do something that will enable me to see something creative emerge.
Enjoy your weekend. Seek sunshine and soak it up. : )
Emily Pilloton delivers an inspiring TED talk that is worth the 16 minutes you need to invest to hear her message. People who give of themselves to assist those in communities where there is real need are special. Emily and her partner, Matthew Miller, have relocated to Bertie County in North Carolina and are trying to reinvigorate the community by using design principles to transform the learning opportunities of students. Their hope is that the student led projects that emanate from this will help bring the community together and provide benefits for all. They are committed; both of them have recently studied and received teaching certification so that they can teach their design-build class called Studio H. Emily has written a post worth reading on Design Mind that expands on some of the ideas she discusses in the above TED talk.
Their idea is reminiscent of Project Based Learning principles and requires students to be immersed in what they’re doing for three hours a day. They are rethinking education to meet the needs of the community they live in and care about.
Lessons here for us all.