Towards the end of 2016 I attended the Mountain Club of Cape Town’s Leaders training weekend at Du Toitskloof Hut for their Outreach Program. The weekend was a lot of fun and I learnt a great deal. But one session in particular stood out for me – the one on Fynbos with Wendy Hitchcock . I decided to record what stood out for me in the session in the hopes that I could reuse some of the techniques myself in future. Below is a description of the session as best I could remember it.
When we arrived for the session Wendy started by introducing herself and then asking us to sit quietly for a few moments and take note of the sounds and smells around us in Nature. She also had a collection of plants she had picked from the nearby bushes, together with large sheets of paper with labels like Big Leaves , Small Leaves , Waxy Leaves etc.
Our first task as a group was to sort through the collection of plants and put them onto the piece of paper that corresponded to their main characteristic. Wendy suggested techniques to determine these characteristics like blindfolding a group member while asking them to touch and describe a plant or smelling a plant and describe its smell and so on … It was a really sensory experience and I cant remember being quite as observant about plants before. We continued on like this for a while sorting the various plants into categories.
Some of the plants wouldn’t fit neatly into any particular category and so were placed into an unsure category. After the initial sorting was done, Wendy initiated a conversation about the sorting and then continued on to the topic of how to classify things. Names such as Restios, Geophytes , Proteas , Ericas and lots of terms I was only vaguely familiar with were introduced. For someone who hikes a lot, I have been pretty uninterested in plants and this informative session really changed my basic outlook. I really got a sense of the adaption of plants to their environments and how interesting they are. Wendy then allowed us to write up any questions we had about plants onto sheets of paper and addressed them in conversation with the group.
Our last activity was to go on a walk and observe the different plants we had discussed. Wendy had brought along field lenses that allowed us to look at plants on a much smaller scale. Most of them were just inexpensive jewelry lenses but showed remarkable detail once you help them up close to a plant. I liked them so much I bought one on the spot from her.
I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy the session as much as I did and it really highlighted the effect that an Educator can have on a group when they are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about their subject matter. I really liked how the whole session was done outside under the trees and how natural learning in that environment felt. I feel challenge to get my classes outside more to create some similar experiences.
Create your own digital learning portfolio showing evidence of your individual learning path.
A Personal Learning Portfolio is a virtual, personal space that serves as a dynamic planning tool, archive, profile, and showcase of an individual’s lifelong learning experiences, goals and achievements. It is created by the learner, controlled by the learner, and is on a platform of his or her choice. Though the tool is geared to be an open tool that records the digital footprint of the individual, the learner controls who has access to any section of the portfolio at any given time.
ArtsWorks , Writing Pieces , Video Clips , Audio Recordings, Projects, Books read and reviews of them, Online Courses or Programs , Blog component, Social Campaigns, Growth Filled Experiences, Leadership Roles, Projects Initiated , Volunteer Work , Places you’ve travelled or want to travel , Interviews with Interesting People , Vlogs ….
Tools you could use:
When signing up to create an account with one of these tools, rather select the option to “Sign up with Google” than creating an account from scratch. This means you don’t have to remember different passwords.
Recently I had the opportunity to attend a Maths workshop presented by Mark Philips and the Mind Action Series Textbook publishers. I signed up on a whim because of the topic, which was Euclidean Geometry. In my experience it’s one of the most poorly understand topics by learners. I hoped to learn some new approaches that would make the time I spend on this section more productive and ultimately improve the learning outcomes.
- Focus on the Process
- In Geometry, do exercises first & then theorems. (Build’s awareness before complexity)
- Allow learners to do well in early tests to build confidence
- Build confidence through slow ascent in difficulty
- Don’t be so preoccupied with Time
- Spend 80% of the Time on Basics and 20% on the Harder Questions for most classes
- Encourage learners to move around and do physical stuff – Eg Circle Dance
- Use narratives and stories in your teaching – especially those involving relationships
- Make Learners Feel about the Topic, see above
- Humour & Novelty are important – keep learners on their toes
- Integration between Mathematical Topics important
- Get Learners to make their own questions – higher cognitive levels of thinking
- Understanding Mathematical vocabulary is important – specific practice on this is warranted
What stood out for me
So the biggest surprise for me was how for the most part, our attention was held throughout the 3hr workshop. It’s no easy feet to keep a room of 40 + teachers on a Saturday morning engaged, talking about content that they cover every year. The presenter was really skilled at keeping people on their toes and you never quite knew what was coming next. The amount of movement in the session also stood out for me as well as the clarity and size of the visual aids. The presenter also showed a depth of understanding on the topic and vast experience teaching it, which meant his comments were specific and helpful.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I learn’t in the session. It is not always the case when going to Maths Development workshops. I took detailed notes and they are reflected in the key ideas section above. I also managed to grab a clip of the Circle Dance (below), which was a fantastically creative way to remember the circle geometry theorems. I am struck by how useful it is to have a development session with a teacher who is a real master of their craft. More of these types of workshops would be brilliant for the development of best practice among Maths teachers.
The Circle Dance
Additional Resources from Workshop:
I often find myself needing to create a shared digital space on the fly, for interaction amongst a group when doing training or facilitating. In terms of speed, accessibility & price(free), this is my tool of choice for getting the job done. A good way to describe TodaysMeet is, a free pop up private chat room that can be controlled by a presenter in real time.
What I like
I love how it allows everyone in a room to have a voice and that as a presenter I have a way of monitoring at a glance what sort of things are happening for the learners. It facilitates easy sharing and becomes an effective archive system too, as everything that is discussed is easily downloaded as a transcript at the end. It’s also fast which is important when doing workshops and time is limited.
- Go to TodaysMeet.com
- Associate your Google Account or Create Login
- Pick a Room Name
- Share the link to your Chat Room with participants
- Download Transcripts of Session
This tool has been around for quite some time now, but still seems underutilized to me. For anyone looking to be more collaborative in their classroom/workshop and wanting to encourage more active engagement I would definitely give this tool a go.
Screenshot of Interface
I have been experimenting with making my own videos and creating a “flipped” classroom environment for a couple of years now. However it hasn’t been a smooth journey, rather lots of little experiments with different tools and approaches.
I recently made a series of videos for my grade 11 Maths class and got really positive feedback, so I thought I would share my workflow for any other teachers out there conducting these type of experiments.
The tools I used were my Macbook Pro 13 inch mid 2012 , my Galaxy Note 10.1 inch Tablet (N8000) with the very useful S-Pen and then the App – Explain Everything. I also knitted together everything using iMovie. Continue Reading
At the beginning of this year I tried out a new way of discussing and defining my classroom Rules with my learners. It was by no means perfect, but it felt like a breath of fresh air compared to the top down heavy authoritative processes I had used before. The purpose of this post is just to define the basics of what I did and to open the concept up to other teachers so it can be further refined through collaborative discussion. Below is a brief description of how the process works. Continue Reading