Category Archives: Australian Curriculum

Oh, I don’t know, I’ll choose C!

Each day I come across a variety of education-related websites, videos, infographics, texts and blogs which get me thinking about my role in education both in the present and the future. On occasion, something will jump out and hit the mark perfectly, like the video below.

Created by a Year 8 teacher in the US, Why We Need Common Core: “I choose C.” will have all teachers who watch it reflecting on their practice, and asking themselves what are truly the important elements of a student’s education. For those unaware, the Common Core State Standards Initiative is essentially the American equivalent to our own recently implemented Australian Curriculum. As you’d expect, both systems have a heavy emphasis on 21st century learning, but I love this sentence which is straight out of the Common Core’s mission statement:

The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.

Upon watching the video you’ll understand what it means.

BTW, this video was created with the excellent but recently-closed xtranormal.com. If you like the look of it and you’re thinking, ‘I could make a video like that to transform some content I’m teaching’, then check out goanimate.com. If you’re keen to get your younger students making their own vids, ABCYA Animate is a great option too.

Thanks to ICT principal whiz @Stephen_H for sharing the vid in the first place via Twitter.

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My (Brilliant) Place!

In 1989 I was in Year 3, and I can distinctly remember my class teacher, the delightful Mrs O’Dea, reading this to us. Chances are if you’ve been in an Australian primary classroom post-1988 (whether as a student, a teacher or both) then you’re familiar with it too. The word ‘iconic’ probably doesn’t do it justice:

MP book cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nadia Wheatley’s My Place was a staple of so many classrooms because it facilitated learning across multiple curriculum areas so easily. Indeed, a search for ‘My Place activities’ this afternoon yielded these notes, which perfectly illustrates the point. But fast forward to 2013 and our current world of IWBs, BYOD and 1:1 ICT and the burning question is: Is My Place still relevant enough for today’s kids to enjoy?

Fortunately, the answer is a resounding yes. And we have the ABC to thank for it…

Now, under normal circumstances I’m pretty good at finding Web 2.0 bits and interactives that relate to the curriculum I’m teaching – I can mostly thank Twitter for that. However, in this situation I’ll happily admit that this one has, until recently, slipped through to the keeper. In fact, it was a colleague at KDHS who was using it with her Year 2 class that got me on to it. Lucky for me I happened to pop in for matters unrelated. Thanks, Hollee!

My Place over at ABC3 is, quite frankly, brilliant. Just as the original book did, it traces one living space and it’s inhabitants in inner-city Sydney from before European settlement up to  the present day. They’ve packed a heap of features in so, just like in Wheatley’s classic, you can check out different facets of what life would’ve been like through ten year intervals:

MP before 1788 MP1788 bed

MP 1968 living

MP2008 bed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s plenty of things to click on, tangents to explore and facts to discover. The texts are pitched to a primary-aged audience in a simple, easy-to-read voice. Games and quizzes help to keep the material interesting for students, and the amount of content is so vast that I could barely see any student navigating they’re way through the entire site. For those who are familiar with the 2009-11 ABC TV production of the same name, you’ll see the clear links between the two media.

 

Waruwi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But what about links to an Australian Curriculum which has only been active since My Place was first launched? As well as multiple English content descriptors that could be hit by teachers who are able to use the site’s content to meet the needs of the year group the teach, the most obvious links are to the History curriculum. Here’s but a snapshot of some of the Historical Knowledge and Understanding content descriptors, by year level, that the site would be an ideal resource to assist with (taken straight from the AC, I’ve only included a max of two per year level for brevity’s sake, but I’m sure you get the idea):

Year 1:

Differences and similarities between students’ daily lives and life during their parents’ and grandparents’ childhoods, including family traditions, leisure time and communications.

Differences in family structures and roles today, and how these have changed or remained the same over time.

Year 2:

The impact of changing technology on people’s lives (at home and in the ways they worked, travelled, communicated, and played in the past).

Year 3:

The importance of Country and Place to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples who belong to a local area.

The role that people of diverse backgrounds have played in the development and character of the local community.

Year 4:

The diversity and longevity of Australia’s first peoples and the ways Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples are connected to Country and Place (land, sea, waterways and skies) and the implications for their daily lives.

The nature of contact between Aboriginal people and/or Torres Strait Islanders and others, for example, the Macassans and the Europeans, and the effects of these interactions on, for example families and the environment.

Year 5:

The nature of convict or colonial presence, including the factors that influenced patterns of development, aspects of the daily life of the inhabitants (including Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples) and how the environment changed.

The role that a significant individual or group played in shaping a colony; for example, explorers, farmers, entrepreneurs, artists, writers, humanitarians, religious and political leaders, and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Year 6 (this is actually the Year 6 level description):

The Year 6 curriculum moves from colonial Australia to the development of Australia as a nation, particularly after 1900.

In addition, there’s a multitude of Historical Skills content descriptors that My Place would be perfect for across the grades. Here’s just a few:

Sequence historical people and events.

Locate information related to inquiry questions in a range of sources.

Identify points of view in the past and present.

Identify questions to inform historical inquiry.

 

Oh yeah, and then there’s the little matter of ensuring you weave the first cross-curriculum priority – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures – through your teaching. Tick, done.

The more I think about it, the more I realise that my History programme from last year would’ve been far superior had I known about My Place at the start of 2012. If you’re an Australian primary teacher who’s reading this and it’s the first you’ve heard of the online My Place, make sure you don’t make the same mistake.

Now, I wonder if dear old Mrs O’Dea, who must be in her 60’s these days, has stumbled across it just yet…

Hanging with Dollar Bill…

So part of our Year 6 curriculum in Australia delves into financial mathematics, mostly calculating ‘percentage off’ deals and giving the kids strategies to work these out mentally.

(For example: if a new tablet computer has a retail price of $840, how much will it cost if it’s discounted by 15%? Well, we know that 10% of 840 is 84, and half of this value must be 5%, so that’s 42. Then we can work out that 15% is 84 + 42 which is 126, and 840 minus 126 = our new price of $714. Much easier for kids to do when they can’t rely on a written method or a calculator to work out 0.85 x 840.)

The fun bit comes towards the end of the school year, once we’ve covered all the AC content strands and we can do some extension projects. Because the financial maths stuff always passes the litmus test for students’ interest and enthusiasm (ie: ‘When are we ever gonna use this’), it’s a great starting point for meaningful problem solving and reasoning activities. At the moment, my kids are working on a project that involves them planning the ultimate trip around the world, where within a few basic parameters they track their expenses from a fictitious trip, converting back and forth between Australian dollars and the local currencies of their destinations. The kids love it, and I love that they love it!

Which brings me to this clip I found on the web, which was made by Australia’s Decimal Currency Board in 1965. It’s pure gold. It obviously worked too, as us Aussies can now add amounts of money comfortably, and even calculate percentage off deals without the need to know how many shillings are in a pound!

Aunty Makes a Splash!

Whilst checking my twitter feed this afternoon I came across the following from ABC Managing Director, Mark Scott:

 

 

 

My first thought was how great it is to see leaders in any field utilising social media effectively, because so few actually know how to! My second one (and more pertinent as far as this post goes) was that I’d better have a 2 minute glance at this ABC Splash and find out if it was, as Mr Scott put it, ‘something interesting’.

Well, 2 minutes quickly morphed into an hour, which I now believe qualifies me to share my impressions of the hot-off-the-press ABS Splash!

First off, the site is visually appealing, with nice large icons to help teachers, parents and students get around easily. You have the option to search for content by learning area (English, Maths, Science or History) or by the phase of schooling (Early Primary, Upper Primary or Secondary).

As it currently stands, the site more or less acts as a media archive, with all content linked to the Australian Curriculum. Typically, the clips come from a range of ABC programs including staples such as BTN, Catalyst, The 7:30 Report and Four Corners, as well as one-off series’ and features. Having a look through the content with my Year 6 teacher hat on, I was able to find plenty of stuff that related to specific strands and content descriptors from the Australian Curriculum for Science that I already happen to be teaching – Earthquakes and Tectonic Plates, Tsunamis, Tidal and Solar Power, Wetlands, Salinity and Native Flora just to name a few. Sure, there were a few clips that I’d come across previously, but having fully customisable search powers that assist in finding reliable content, produced for an Australian audience no less, was hugely advantageous.

Another feature that I’m extremely keen on is the information box that accompanies each resource:

Many classroom teachers would admit that correct referencing of electronic material can occassionally be replaced by merely copying and pasting a site’s URL from the address bar. Having a standardised box that kids can use to correctly cite their work, whilst checking and adherring to the copyright details is a great step forward for teaching digital literacy in the 21st century. Well done with this one, Splash!

The ABC states that they’ll be beefing up the content significantly in the coming weeks and months to include more videos, games and interactives, which will be great. Indeed, it’s worth remembering that this is a Beta version, and they’re asking for feedback via a conspicuous ‘Tell us what you think’ button on each page  . My suggestion when it comes time to check this out for yourself? Try to look at it with its potential in mind as it’s clearly a work in progress. Are you able to create learning paths for your students? Not within the site, but with the proliferation of social media, teacher blogs and school/class portals I can’t see the need to.

So there you go – ABC Splash has landed. What are your first impressions? Please share them by leaving a comment on here or via Twitter as I’d love to hear from you. And, FWIW, I’m sure Mark Scott would too!