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.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Share an Idea

I made a promise during last Thursday's #edchatnz on Twitter: Ask a question in a blog post this weekend. This made me think...I will try and go "one better". Here, I am going to list the "initiatives" that I currently employ and invite any readers to ask for more details, including the short-comings/epic failures. I am also going to ask (plead, even) my readers to offer some advice and ideas. If we share ideas, we both have them (as do other readers) which can allow us to build on these ideas, personalise them, and make the learning experience even more amazing for our students.


  • Filming my teaching and publishing these on YouTube
  • Maintaining blogs for all of my classes (content, primarily)
  • Students "teaching" students; so far this has only been in the guise of Science Shows for junior classes but I see a lot more scope.
  • SOLO to scaffold/chunk lessons and Specific Learning Outcomes; this also improves students' awareness of their own abilities and empowers them to see how to gain a higher grade.
So, my first question to the reader is: Would you like to know more?
My second question to you is: Could you suggest some other initiatives that would complement/enhance what I already do?

My third question is probably my most important: What are you doing that you would like to share with the people who read this blog?
Please do give me your ideas/responses in the Comments section. I can't wait to read some wonderful ideas!!


  1. Get the students to teach lessons, or part of a lesson, procedural lessons wise (ie they write the prior bit and plan it) and then film it, set it up, post it on youtube which includes your blog URL and then see if anyone can get some serious numbers from the lessons.

    1. I love it!! This takes what I do to the "next level" nicely.

  2. Get out of the classroom, go on a field trip. Get students to investigate a local issue and use science to come up with a solution.

  3. Love to learn more about the fourth bullet pt! Are you using standards based grading?
    I have recently found that having my students produce the class practice materials by making Quizlet sets and Kahoot! quizzes is a really effective method of involving them in the process that leads to great motivation, engagement and higher level thinking. Do you do things like that with your students? I'd love to hear which methods you've found that work!

    1. SOLO taxonomy is used school-wide. It has common verbs etc. (like Bloom's taxonomy) and visual marking rubrics which help make the task(s) more transparent. Here is a link to the SOLO website: http://pamhook.com/solo-taxonomy/
      I haven't actually looked into students creating their own quizzes..and think this is a great idea - thank you!!

    2. Another growing resource for SOLO is the Global SOLO network which even includes a dropbox for sharing resources. Check it out here: http://globalsolo.wordpress.com/

  4. I have started Google Plus communities for each of my classes ( i am a secondary teacher ), in a bid to support their analysis and note writing skills. I want them to be spaces where we analyse together and then they can dip into their for help and support when they are doing their own project work.
    If your students are too young to use Google Plus, you can always do similar things on a blog that you share between you but keep it private to just you guys.

  5. forgot to add my blog :D

  6. Straight away I want to know your purpose for each initiative and especially for filming yr teaching and putting it in YouTube. Once I know that I will have more questions about what you do with the footage and what frameworks you will use to reflect on the videos :)

    1. Most of the rationales behind each one can be found throughout my blog. However, here are a few:
      - film my teaching for self-reflection and so students can view the teaching of the content of each lesson
      - put the videos on YouTube so anyone can access them and it is an easy platform to link to for blogs and our Learning Management System
      - blog so students don't waste time copying notes etc. but we spend lessons learning and applying our knowledge/skills instead
      - students teaching other students as it makes the learning more authentic and gives them more ownership of what they learn; community-based "assignments" would also achieve this, though

  7. How are authentic/real world issues involved in this? Are you looking at citizen science opportunities or how students could design solutions to the many problems facing Christchurch or them as teenagers?

    1. Real world issues are not involved in this...yet. This would be a great "next step" that I would love to investigate more. When we do this again at the end of the year (for an older audience), linking their experiments/ presentations to real world issues (particularly ones relevant to teenagers) would definitely make this more authentic.
      I guess by "authentic" in this context, I meant that the students have a personal reason for doing the work, so (last year) put more effort into their work than they probably would have otherwise. Having an authentic audience, rather than just doing it in front of me and their own class, seems to have led to better-quality work as well.
      This year, there will be a link maintained between my class and the "audience" classes. This will be to turn my students into the "science experts" for the Year 3 students to use when they need help with their projects etc. throughout the year. Again this is not "real world" per se, but I see this as more "authentic" than learning concepts just because I tell them they need to :)

  8. Re: students teaching students - have you got them critiquing each other's work? In English, I use Ron Berger's method (comments are based on success criteria for the task and must be kind, specific and helpful) for all types of writing and essay work. If you haven't come across the method before, check out Austin's Butterfly on YouTube.

    Enjoying your blog - one thing I'm going to do before the end of the term is film my own teaching.