Most recently I have been a Year 6 teacher at an independent school on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. My school is quite young perhaps by other’s standards and will celebrate it’s 20th anniversary next year. Though not a foundation staff member I am the longest serving academic staff member on campus. I had many ‘lives’ at the school but consider myself first and foremost to be a passionate middle years educator. I have recently taken six months leave and, after some persuasion, have decided to undertake more formalised study at USQ.
Over the last few years, I have been intrigued by what NGL can do to enhancing my teaching and, more importantly, the learning experiences of my students. Like most institutions, my school as been eager to try new ways of using technology with ranging success. Wikis, web sites, interactive whiteboards, online learning platforms, the list goes on. In addition to these, personally I have used Edmodo extensive with my classes for the last three years and Sophia, which I have mentioned previously.
Both Edmodo and Sophia have change the way I teach and interact with my students. Whilst providing instruction, support and a way to differentiate learning, the real benefit was a little unexpected. Interactions through both of sites has increased my students independence, problem-solving and drive. They support and encourage one another, answering questions, offering suggestions, challenge each other and all without my intervention. They are developing their own learning networks and my role has become one of facilitation rather than instruction. It is a profoundly different way of looking at my role as a teacher, all be it still in a very traditional schooling environment.
Most recently our Year 6 cohort has been part of a pilot program with Microsoft and centred of developing instructional learning experiences that mesh with the 21st Century Skills. Within this program each student has they own tablet device for use within the classroom but they device is not able to taken home, which has created it’s own set of challenges. Student have used these devices to access a range of tools and programs to enhance their learning through online collaboration and sharing. Microsoft’s OneDrive has been our primary collaborative tool due the school’s affiliation with Microsoft with this project. While there have been numerous teething problems, the online collaborative opportunities within the program are promising.
Like most schools, students also access other online tools such as Spelling City, Mathletics, ABCs Reading Eggspress and Pixton to name but a few.
While NGL is embedded within my teaching, especially through the using of online learning platforms like Sophia and Edmodo, and Genius Hour, I am limited with what school curriculum constraints and planning will allow. Understandably the school wants to ensure all students are receiving the same opportunities across classes but this has meant that I have had to limited my use of NGL in my classroom based on these external controls, the most recent of which is being told I can no longer use Edmodo. These constraints have put a lid on my plans to look at ways to increasing my students global interactions through Skype and possibly coding. I confess to feeling somewhat frustrated by the process and am personally challenged by these limitations. Through my studies in this course and in others, I hope to acquire more knowledge and expertise to assist me in inspiring and helping others to explore the benefits of NGL opportunities within their classes with the expressed purpose of enhancing their teaching practices and learning outcomes for their students.