Getting to know this week’s @EduTweetOz host Meridith Ebbs

Please tell us a little about your background in education.
I began teaching in South Western Sydney in the mid 90’ as Primary teacher. I then moved into corporate education as a computer trainer and instructional designer, this was when I obtained my Masters in adult education. The highlight of my corporate career was documenting the computer systems for Sydney 2000 Olympic games and developing the training materials for the volunteers. After the Olympics I moved north and returned to teaching. I was a foundation teacher at my current school which has been an amazing opportunity and a great learning experience.

When I had children I left the classroom and became a technology specialist in a release from face to face role. For the past 5 years I have been the schools eLearning integrator. In this role I offered professional support to teachers with the integration new pedagogies and technology in the classroom. This support was as required by the teacher, ideas, resources, skills support or team teaching.

This year I have returned to having a teaching load in combination with my eLearning role. I have been given the opportunity to develop a Year 2 program in computational thinking, a Stage 2 unit in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and a year 8 elective in computational thinking. These units have been a fantastic learning experience for the students and myself. The most interesting result has been watching below average students produce above average projects.

Why did you decide to become involved in education?
I never planned on being a teacher. I actually did a science degree with majors in ecology and land management. The plan was to work in the environmental field. Job opportunities led me into primary and corporate education. When moving away from Sydney it was the lack of job opportunities in technology that led me back to teaching. This career path was not planned but I have no regrets either.

What are some of the roles you’ve had and what is your current role?
As a foundation member of a school you have many opportunities that are not available in an established school. Over the 13 years I have taught a range of subjects and school years.

As a classroom teacher Stage 2 was my main classroom teaching speciality although since then I have covered every year group from K-10. For the past 10 years I have had a release role in my school. In this time I have taught every KLA as a specialist including Kindi French, K-6 Music, K-7 Technology and more recently year 8 Computational Thinking, 9 and 10 IST. In my role as eLearning I have developed a K-12 digital citizenship program that was launched in 2012. I wrote the application for BOSTES internal accreditation. As a result we are now offering internally accredited training for our staff. I have also been integral member of the team to establish the Professional Excellence and Innovation Centre (PEIC). In June 2015, we ran a conference on Computational Thinking with 84 delegates from 4 states, 2 keynotes and 11 workshops all on integrating computational thinking in the K-10 classroom. I will be also running a workshop on digital citizenship this term through PEIC.

Who or what keeps you motivated in your work?
The students and Learning!
Without the enthusiasm of the students teaching would not be very exciting for me. I love seeing the excitement and that light bulb moment.

On a personal level I love trying new ideas and implementing new methods. I like to continually raise the bar for engagement, student learning and my teaching.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
The biggest reward for me in education is the students. I love engaging students in learning especially those who are not usually engaged. I see them as a challenge. I love seeing past students and hearing stories of their achievements since leaving school. I often see past parents around town and love getting updates.

I think education is moving through an era of disruption. Many teachers, parents and students are not satisfied with the traditional chalk, talk and textbooks. Technology and pedagogy are being disrupted. Teachers are expected to differentiate and cater for a classroom that sometimes has a range of years in developmental levels. This is our biggest challenge. We need to rethink our approaches to education and the pedagogies used. I think we should embrace the disruption and work through what is beneficial for learning. We also have many teachers who are still very traditional teachers and are not embracing the disruption.

Therefore I thinking the biggest challenge for education is TTWWADI (That’s the way we’ve always done it). This includes classrooms, professional development and attitude. The TTWWADI culture consumes education with a focus on standardised testing and teaching to the HSC at the expense of engagement and applied learning. Administrators need to enable their innovative teachers to explore new methods of teaching and learning that still focus on learning outcomes. The maker movement and computational thinking are two massive international movements that have the potential to revolutionise applied learning. Providing professional development for staff to enable these movements in schools is a challenge.

Another challenge is to empower students (and teachers) to take responsibility for their own learning. While linked to maturity I also believe this is linked to the culture of our schools and the attitude of society toward learning.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
If I had the ability to change the education system I would like to see thematic teaching units in primary and secondary. I would also like to see movement away from chronological aged group towards groupings on ability levels with various forms of delivery. Online delivery via videos and podcasts would enable students to work at their own pace. This model would sit alongside face to face teaching and mentoring. I would like to see a focus on digital literacy. There needs to be a larger emphasis on early intervention in reading so all students can read at grade level before year 3. This will help ensure success in later years at school.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
EduTweetOz enables teachers to connect and engage with an online audience. I love the discussion and varied ideas that emerge from EduTweetOz on a weekly basis. This week I am looking forward to engaging with teachers outside my usual professional learning network (PLN) to hear different ideas and points of view.

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