‘Twas the night before Term 2, and all through my brain…


beautiful chaos via Pixabay CC0

I’m juggling the chaos, I hope not in vain:

Coming back into the fold

I wanted some ideas this week about effective, valuable ways to use ipads in K-2 classes, because I am part of the team working on how we will be making good use of these devices when they arrive in classes later this year. For me it always boils down to the practicalities of how something will work in the classroom – I read a lot of philosophical and erudite discussion of enhancing pedagogy and moving through the stages of the SAMR model of technology adoption and integration etc, etc, etc, but when it comes down to helping teachers on the ground, I want to hear what is working for other people in similar situations.

Enter the PLN. I hopped on Twitter on Tuesday night (I am only a sporadic, purpose-driven user) and put the question out there, pinged a few people with direct tweets, and then spent the next little while marvelling at the wonderful suggestions I received.

Since then I’ve added 3 more apps, 2 more people, 2 more blogs, and several articles – oh and a very kind email list of schools to check out!

This is proving to me yet again that social media can connect us to people with the knowledge we need, if you build those networks purposefully. I found that my Twitter network grows most rapidly, and more richly, when I actively seek out people who tweet insights during conference streams. I want to connect with people who have lively, curious minds, who seek out new ideas and information and are so thrilled with what they find that they just want to share their excitement! I want to read about brave new projects, and about what goes wrong, and how they tried to fix it. Fortunately for me, I have just enough people in my PLN now that I can ask a few questions and get some helpful answers back in a reasonable timeframe, and with far less effort than trawling through endless search results in the-major-search-engine-of-your-choice. I guess it comes back to that sense of knowledge being curated information; a search engine can return data, but for a query about how to use ipads effectively in an early childhood setting, the personal responses from experienced educators are exponentially more valuable.

And speaking of gems found in the Twitter feed, just this evening I followed a tweet from @SJBetteridge to discover (on Free Tech 4 Teachers, a fabulous blog!) this lovely little homage to Libraries and Librarians in the Internet Age, by Common Craft:


And to get back to the point about PLNs and Twitter being awesome, this week a retweeted link led me to a post on Langwitches by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano about Unpacking a Twitter Conference Feed – this is amazingly helpful for anyone who is new to the whole thing!

Understanding by Design – Chapter 1 – Backward Design

  • The “twin sins of traditional design”: activity-based (engaging activities on a topic) and coverage-based (get through the course content) design
  • The three stages: 20150302-210509.jpg
  • references to previous theorists, difference here is the explanation of a process, tools, templates etc to help successfully implement the UbD approach
  • 1-page template with design questions for teachers – gives an overview of an entire unit
  • design standards as quality control
  • valuable tool for self-assessment, peer-review
  • case study example
  • assessment are “teaching targets”
  • teaching enables performance
  • The UbD Design Matrix

Digging into designing learning

I have started reading Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (2005)(this edition on Amazon). The phrase “backward design” has been floating around discussions of curriculum design for a while now, both on the ground at my school and ‘out there’, on the interwebs. This concept is not really new to me; I have read a bit here-and-there, following up on links from conference sessions, and have used similar strategies through various professional learning experiences (Intel in Education course, 2005, springs to mind – infusing technology into the curriculum by starting with the Essential Question and working back from there- review paper available here). However this is the first time I have sat down to read a textbook on the topic.

First impressions: this approach dovetails quite nicely with how I plan units of work. I think it will help me refine my techniques, and to be more explicit in sharing learning goals with students. I also like the quiet humour showing up here and there – always makes it easier to read a densely-packed serving of information when it is lightened a little with appropriate puns!

Thinking about children’s books in a global context

A comment in an online forum led me to this BBC Radio 4 episode – A World Beyond Alice.

This was a fascinating documentary about the dominance of English-language publishing for children’s books, touching on the differences between marketing and publishing structures in different parts of the world, historical influences on publishing for children (apparently English-language publishing houses led the development of publishing for children, so the whole arena began in an English-centric environment), and even what would in Australia be termed the ‘cultural cringe‘: an assumption that one’s native language works were somehow not quite good enough for the international market.

I am planning to listen to this program again, and in the meantime have been doing some research. I have heard of IBBY , The International Board on Books for Young People before, and their biennial round-up of great children’s literature from around the world is wonderful, but why is it so hard to find material written from and about other cultures? Is it the cost of translating work into another language – a similar economic barrier to that of creating audio books?  Is it the lingering tentacles of the late dominance of the British Empire? There are very few (if any) schools in Australia that do not have children who are either recent immigrants or the offspring of migrant families – are they not being marginalised by not having a variety of cultures (including that of their families or ancestors) represented in reading materials in our libraries? This is separate from the complex and emotionally-explosive issues surrounding literature by the Indigenous Australian peoples, but perhaps there are parallels to be drawn…


Going back to the radio program that inspired this post, there is much that books born of other cultures can teach our children. The sight and sound of different landscapes and environments, the rhythms of different ways of life, the love and importance of families expressed in different customs. To use a very Asian saying, people all over the world are “same-same but different”, and experiencing the stories of other cultures through literature is one way we can help our children understand this fundamental truth of humanity.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

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