Guest Host: Meridith Ebbs @imerinet

  1. Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

Ebbs, Meridith

I have been teaching for over 20 years. I enjoy working with people and teaching was always something I came back to when exploring different career options.

I am primary trained and I have a Masters in Adult Education. I have taught K-10 for many years. During the 90’s I was also a computer trainer where I taught people to use computers in the workplace. During this time I also worked as an instructional designer and wrote custom training materials for corporate clients.

 

Currently I have two roles. I work as a year 5 teacher two days a week and I also work for the University of Adelaide as the NSW Project Officer three days per week. In my role as Project Officer I travel the state facilitating workshops and speaking at conferences to assist teachers with integrating computational thinking, digital technologies and coding in the classroom. This involves unpacking the NSW Syllabus for K-8 where technology is compulsory from 2019. I also introduce the concept of computational thinking and various digital technology tools. The university has free online courses to assist teachers wanting to upskill in preparation for the digital technologies curriculum. https://csermoocs.adelaide.edu.au/moocs/

 

  1. Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

 

I love learning and I am inspired by people who have a hunger for more knowledge. So jobs that require this are exciting for me. I also work with amazing people in both my roles, that support and encourage me both personally and professionally. My professional learning network (PLN) is also inspiring and they are an amazing resource. I love meeting my virtual friends face to face and developing virtual relationships into real friendships.

 

I enjoy teaching, both students and teachers show such excitement when they learn something new. This is inspiring.

 

  1. What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

The biggest rewards for teachers are the same today as they have been for years. Seeing the light bulb moment in a student, receiving a token note from a student saying how much they loved a lesson, casual personal moments with students that create a connection you never had before. These are the reasons I continue to teach in a school. I think it is fantastic to see the increase in the number of awards and scholarships available for teachers now and I encourage everyone to apply or nominate unsung heros for acknowledgement.

 

The real challenge for teachers is the changing face of the profession. Teaching is in the midst of disruption on so many levels.

  • Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) has resulted in increased administration and accountability. This is important and necessary but leads to an increase in administrative responsibility in the form of documentation and also development of new activities to comply with the changes.
  • Changing pedagogy is having a huge impact on teachers and their craft. Research on changing pedagogies is limited and often difficult for classroom teachers to access so establishing what works and how best to implement it is time consuming. Obtaining information on how to implement the new pedagogies is also difficult to find, as their are so many variants on the same idea and limited free details on exactly how to use these ideas. This requires schools to invest and commit to often costly resources and programs that may or may not be best practise.
    1. Project Based Learning
    2. Problem Based Learning
    3. Flipped Learning
    4. Inquiry Learning
    5. Co-operative Learning
    6. Open-Ended Instruction
    7. Differentiated Instruction
  • The increase in analytics and formalised data collection. This results in increased workload and often increased need for formalised assessment.
  • Increased requirements on the use of technology. Teaching is one of the last occupations to fully utilise advances in technology.

    In the business world

    1. Fast wifi is an expectation,
    2. 1:1 computing has been in the workplace for over 30 years
    3. Computer Graphic Design, Augmented reality, virtual reality, Drones,  automation and 3D printing are being used in real life applications.

 

In education, many classrooms still function the same as they did in the mid 1900s. Adopting technology in education is essential yet it can be expensive and requires teachers to increase their own skills. Is the cost of professional learning both in time and financially the responsibility of the teacher or the employer? Many teachers need to upskill themselves to be able to teach the new Digital Technologies Curriculum areas. While schools may support this there will still be a gap that needs to be filled by the teacher in the form of sourcing projects, lesson ideas and planning time.

    • Changing content and updated curriculum in recent years have meant the recycling of classrooms programs is not possible. This results in time spent updating and reinventing teaching programs. This is time intensive but not necessarily a bad thing. Teaching should be writing programs to cater for their students. The benefit is there are many free resources that can assist the planning of projects and teaching which means you do not have to create every resource. Changing teaching programs is a good way to modernise classroom practise so students stay engaged.
    • Connectedness 24/7 has many benefits to obtaining information and gathering resources when it suits your personal lifestyle. It also creates a blurry line for personal time. Phones dinging and buzzing while relaxing with family and emails from colleagues and students at any time can be intrusive and create the dilemna of when should I answer them. It is important we utilise the “Do not disturb” function on our phones and ipads so we are not interrupted while resting with family and friends. Maybe consider removing your work email from your phone so you are not tempted to answer emails during your down time.

 

  • Teacher wellbeing is commonly discussed as a reason for teachers leaving the profession. It is crucial we take responsibility for our own wellbeing and manage the stresses in our lives to maintain balance and positive wellbeing. Our families and students deserve a balanced person in their lives so we need to be proactive in obtaining the support we need to maintain positive wellbeing.

 

  • Standardised testing is another challenge faced by teachers. What priority should we place on these? Are they designed to test student knowledge and how much do we structure classroom content to cater for the test? The pressure on schools to perform well in these tests results in “teaching to the test” by some teachers, to ensure their students perform. Does this create the most engaging and educationally sound environment?

 

There are many controversial issues listed above. These are my observations in my travels and conversations with various teacher groups. These are only the issues that come to mind as I write this post.

 

  1. If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

I would like to see every school have fast wifi and the technology resources they need to engage students in the new digital technologies curriculum. Opportunity for teachers to have paid sabbatical to do research and improve their pedagogical approaches in the context of their personal and school needs.

 

  1. What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

EduTweetOz provides an opportunity for teacher voice. Each week it presents a different viewpoint on different issues in education. This creates an interesting account to follow as you see the views of others that you may not hear in your usual professional circles.

 

This week I would like to highlight the priority for teachers to upskill in the area of computational thinking and digital technologies. I plan to share resources that I think assist with this area and pose questions for discussion.

 

Find out more about Meridith Ebbs here http://imerinet.weebly.com/about.html

 

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