Welcome to my Professional Learning blog.
My name is Matt Nicoll and I am a high school teacher in New Zealand, interested in improving the classroom experience for my students. I am open to trialing new approaches and hope to use this blog to reflect on my ideas and practices.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

ICOT 2013 - Day Three Reflections

Day Two

Day Two was interesting but held little that I could actively apply to my classroom. As such, I will not be recording my reflections of Day Two; instead those ideas will fester in my little brain and make me a better citizen...


I went to a very enjoyable interactive and energetic presentation by David Koutsoukis (www.acropolisleadership.com)about identifying and controlling your own cognitive processes. With these tools, you can help create an environment and experiences which promote attention, thinking and learning. For me, it defined a lot of what I already do in the classroom to achieve these outcomes, but never really knew if/why they worked.
Additionally, David talked about using "Intelligence Leadership" Model, both in the classroom and in professional dialogue with colleagues.

Intelligence: The ability to recognise, label, predict, respond to, and initiate patterns.
Leadership: The ability to inspire and enable yourself and others.
There are three types of leadership to consider:
  1. Self-Leadership
  2. People Leadership
  3. Organisational Leadership

In a nutshell:
  • Try to maintain calmness/equanimity. This is a good place for your brain to function/learn. How often are you in this emotional state? When are you emotional? When are you agitated?
  • Understand what type of personality you have (which sphere of your brain is dominant?)
    Understand that others have different personalities – cater for these in your lessons/PD sessions.
  • When do you have high energy levels? This is when you should make the important decisions.

I think I will encourage my students (and maybe even my colleagues) to 'play' this meta-cognition game early in the year. For my students, it will be to understand their personal learning/thinking strengths and why they do not 'click' with everyone else. As well as self-awareness and social tolerance, it should make it easier to guide them towards suitable learning/studying strategies.
It would be great to get David in to work with the staff for similar reasons. His energy and strategies seem wonderful for making people want to learning, want to collaborate and be tolerant/accepting of others and others' ways of doing things.

What do I need to accommodate for in my lessons and meetings?

What do I need to ask of others once they are more self-aware?

What About Me?

I know that I often fit into different 'boxes' depending on the environment and situation. David explained that would be the case but we 'naturally' associate more with one than the others; also there is often one that is definitely a 'polar opposite' to us.

  • curious
  • impulsive
  • playful
I think this the one that resonates with me the most, but the poor outcomes (and judgment of others) of impulsive decisions throughout my life have 'killed' a lot of my natural creativity and willingness to take risks. However, my natural curiosity has never wavered. Heaven knows that I hate giving in-depth justifications/reasons, hate being 'one of the crowd' and am a shocker when it comes to being distracted! When I look deep inside, I love taking risks; being careful makes sense but is doesn't 'feel right' for me. I guess that is why I haven't been scared to try new teaching and learning strategies, to film my teaching/lessons, and to put my thoughts and practices out there on the internet...

  • practical
  • careful
  • organised
I have become more and more like this - society and professional necessity has driven me to take on many of these attributes. I usually organise my lessons to the nth degree and consider a multitude of possible permutations regarding behaviour, student responses to questions etc. This is a good thing. Sadly, I was a very 'safe' teacher and have become too 'safe' in many things I do now. But naturally, this is the one which resonates least with me.

  • analytical
  • logical
  • problem-solver
As a Scientist, it is not surprising that I have developed these skills as inherent parts of my psyche. I just know that I am far too emotional to have selected this as being dominant in determining my responses and reactions.

  • sensitive
  • spiritual
  • emotional
I do not like confrontation, but get wound up (invested??) enough in ideas or situations to naturally be confrontational. I am also quite trusting, following my 'gut' instincts. But there is no way I am empathetic enough or a good enough listener to be described as 'The Carer'.

Capturing and Maintaining Attention

Judy Wills, M.D. gave some insight into the neuroscience behind successful (and other) teaching strategies used to capture attention and to maintain it. To be honest, I felt like we were being treated like primary school children for much of her talk, but there was a lot of affirmation for strategies I support the use of.
As mammals, we are 'programmed' to pay attention to changes in the norm (changes in patterns), especially if these changes are a perceived threat.

Strategies to direct students’ attention:
  • sound (volume changes, pitch changes, cadence)
  • colour
  • movement (if you move around, this makes the students’ heads/eyes move and changes the background; these open the intake filters for at least a short time)
  • your appearance
  • curious items

  • walk backwards (teaching negative numbers, reverse timelines etc)
  • suspenseful pauses
  • curious videos
  • use promos for something that is coming up

What about those students who might be distressed by change or the unexpected?
  • Plan and partner with them
  • Let parents know

Draw attention with cues; don’t just say “pay attention”! e.g. Certain colours for levels of importance. A change is tone/pitch etc to emphasise importance.

Curiosity gets attention; prediction sustains attention. The brain seeks the pleasure that rewards accurate predictions. Why? It releases dopamine!

Judy used the idea of getting the students to make predictions at the start of the lesson. These predictions are recorded and "held up" so you know the students have done it. These predictions can be changed at any time throughout the lesson, as they get more "clues" about the possible answers. At the end of the lesson, they will know if they are right or wrong, but not have to share that. I can see this being a very useful and enjoyable way to explore a concept where there is really only one or two correct answers:
  • personal accountability
  • lower fear of failure/participation

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