Missed Opportunities

I went for a walk along Manly Beach this morning. I recognised a face on the beach; a young dad enjoying some quality time with his kids in shallow water. It was Joel Parkinson. The Australian Open Surf Championships began on the weekend. It dawned on me I had missed a fantastic opportunity. Sometimes you get caught up with meeting deadlines and other administrative duties you fail to see the forest for the trees.

This was a fantastic excursion opportunity for PASS and SLR students, who are currently studying Event Management at my school. It certainly would have addressed all the dimensions of the NSW Quality Teaching Framework. Significance: having an event such as this near your own back yard immediately creates a connection with the students. I believe that “significance” is a critical ingredient. It could be the key to engaging students in a task. Quality Learning Environment: rather than having to create mock activities, watch videos, or rely on our own school carnivals, there is an actual showcase just down the road, where the students can experience firsthand. Intellectual Quality: where do I start? Addresses all the meta language from the syllabus/program.

There are often programs, activities and the sort happening within our communities that we are oblivious to. They provide perfect opportunities to support the education of our students and maybe spark their engagement to the task. Getting students out of school is always a good thing. Understandably there are always school protocols and systems for organising excursions so that planned activities do not interfere with other planned activities. In my school excursion forms have to be in at least two weeks before the excursion. However, there are exceptions for every rule. Maybe I haven’t missed this opportunity.

There are many aspects of the championship for the students to analyse: the venue, facilities, display of the draw, role of the announcer, advertising, merchandising, sponsorship, security presence, amenities, accommodation provisions, food, the list goes on.

Police Presence

One thing that impressed me, and I’m sure the students would revel in, is a game the sponsors have set up to involve/engage the community/spectators. Sponsor representatives distribute ID cards that individuals scan at various booths around Manly – opportunity to win prizes during the day. The major prize each day a Blackberry playbook tablet. I won a pair of sunnies – woohoo!

ID Card Booth

Just imagine what some of our students can come up with in a venue like this: the photos, recorded interviews (with spectators, organisers, police, competitors, Joel parkinson), sample merchadise, win a major prize, an excellent analysis of a major event, enthusiasm for my subject.

Oh, I also bought a T-shirt. $10 of the $30 price goes to Surf Aid.

I better get that VOR (variation to routine) in for tomorrow.

Is anyone doing anything creative about the London Olympic Games? How often do you take your students on excursions?

First lesson with my year 7s

I’ve been pretty excited about th opportunity to use my Agile Learning Space throughout the holidays. I thought I’d take the easy option and capture on film an introductory lesson with my new year 7 class.

I always start by going through class rules and assessment expectations with any class at the beginning of the year. I folded all the flip tables and wheeled them to the perimeter of the room. Students sat on the carpet as I introduced myself and explained the special features of this learning space.

They sat attentively for 20-25 minutes listening to me ramble on. I thought it was time to move. I asked the students to set up the tables, where they wished, around the room – and that each table would accommodate 6 students. After the tables were set I distributed their workbooks, and instructed them to write my name and theirs on the spaces provided on the cover.

I presented a short introduction of the first health topic: “Changes and Challenges”. I wanted to find out what they’ve learned about PDHPE in primary school, so we had a brainstorm activity. You’ll see students bring butchers’ paper to their desks for this task. It was great to see the students engaged and collaborating with this simple activity.

To share their ideas we moved all the tables to the centre of the room and spread the butchers’ paper on top of the tables. We walked around the tables and I remarked on the common themes as well as the differences between the groups’ ideas.

We finished off the lesson by packing the tables away. I wanted to show them the video clip I had just taken, using the iMotion app on my phone. When the tables were packed away, the Year Adviser requested if she could distribute time tables and convey a brief message. The students did get to see the video clip bellow. It was a nice way finish to the lesson.

I would love to hear of any group activities you feel would work well in my Agile Classroom.

iMotion / Painting Classrooms

Yesterday, one of our teachers bought paint, brushes and rollers to spruce up his classroom. I couldn’t see this happening in the private system. I may be wrong. Dany helps me out quite a bit with technology matters. So I stopped what I was doing and helped him out. Painting raw brick walls was going to be a two day job.

When I got home from painting, apart from the importance of learning spaces, I had iMotion on my mind. Mr Robbo The PE Geek alerted me to this app (through his blog) and I thought this was a good opportunity to try it out. Today I took my iPad with me and set up the iMotion app for time laps photography. It provided us with some fun on the day. We were all impressed with the end result. I also learnt how to upload a video to Youtube. I can think of a number of uses for this app at school and I think the students will take to it.

Many other teachers were at school today. The day before Australia Day. Two days before we start work. Some were preparing their presentations for Friday. Others were getting their resources in order for the students, who start the following Monday. I am excited about what 2012 will bring.

Agile Learning Spaces

Agility has been on my mind. Agility is an important concept in PDHPE and sport. The ability to change direction quickly and maintain balance is an essential skill in many sports. It is also a key element in teaching. PE teachers are generally pretty good at chunking lesson time for practical activities – Intro; Warm up; Skill instruction; Drill; minor games etc.

However, do our classrooms provide for the ability to change activities quickly, as we are able to out on the field?  Teachers should be well prepared and skilled in the craft of teaching. Able to adapt, be flexible and resourceful when things aren’t going as planned. However, I believe our learning environment (the classroom) could be more “agile”. I’m not sure who originally coined the term “agile learning spaces”. I picked up this term from Stephen Happell. By this I mean that if your classroom environment is easy to change, to support shifting activities, you are more likely to vary the settings and activities and therefore providing more engaging lessons.

Stephen Happell presents what agile classroom of the future will look like. Well, he presents some already purposely built and in use today. However, for most of us these examples are unattainable.

At the end of 2011 I allocated some of my budget to transform my classroom into a more agile learning space.  At a SMART conference I met David Gordon from UFM solutions. I found him very helpful in advising me how to use my limited finance for best results.

Here is a picture of my classroom:

The main features of the room are the folding mobile tables. They are on wheels, so they are easily moved around the room to accommodate varying activities. They also fold away very easily. I was very sceptical about this function, wondering if can sustain regular student use. However, they seem very sturdy. We used them towards the end of 2011 and were very happy with the way they are constructed. I have set up the desks in two ways just for the photo. One desk (1800mm x 900mm) will seat 6 students comfortably. They were very reasonably priced compared to similar tables in DEC approved sites. I also installed another whiteboard in the classroom. Stephen heppell suggests that there should be “three points of focus” in a learning space.

Agility: The idea is that, on occasions all the tables will be folded away. Students will sit on the carpet for the planned activities. Tables can be put together to hold student conferences etc. I have also added to the room butchers’ paper, housed in a dispenser, for ease of use. Add to this the integration of technology and I am hoping that I have created an agile learning space that will support teachers in shifting activities to better engage our students. (lessons at my school are 75 minutes long).