Module 1 – Introductions

Greetings

My name is Simon. I am in my 50s and have changed tack to teach science after a career in banking. You will note from the image that I am living in Shanghai where I teach chemistry and economics at an international high school. Students at my school are in Years 9 to 11. They then move onto a school in Canada for Year 12 and from there to university in Canada or the US.

This is the last subject for my Bachelor of Teaching other than a final professional placement which I still have to work out how, when and where I will do.

I have 21 months teaching experience: 6 months in Australia as a casual teacher at an Anglican high school outside Sydney and 15 months in China. The transition to teaching was initially difficult. My classroom management during my first placement was terrible: it just felt alien and awkward telling students how to behave. I have now developed the art of switching instantly between relaxed humanism and iron-handed authoritarianism. I love teaching science and hope to inspire my students to go on and do wonderful things such as solving some of the universe’s great mysteries or tackling humanity’s pressing challenges such as climate change and pollution. For those students who do not pursue science as a career I hope to imbue lots of positive values, attitudes and skills. Central to my pedagogy is experiential constructivism; for example, letting students tinker with hands-on projects and experiments in the lab or conduct secondary sourced research in the library. It is however challenging teaching like this in China because education is still wedded to the direct instruction model and there is little support for the resources, including technology, required for experiential, inquiry-based learning.

 The integration of technology is central to my pedagogy. While saying this I am no expert and spend too much of my life frustrated trying to work out how to do new things we these darned gadgets. Technology enhances science learning at a number of levels. Technology can be used to engage; to help picture and learn complex concepts; to provide opportunities for student centred learning; to develop self-directed learning skills; to provide authentic learning experiences; and to manage assessment and reporting. I am looking forward to this subject to deepen my understanding and skills in the integration of technology in my pedagogy. This blog, for example, is a new experience.

School technology in China is basic. There is an old desktop in the classroom, with a projector and screen to show videos and display PowerPoint slides. Something is often broken requiring you to fall back on markers and the whiteboard. The internet is slow and thus streaming of internet content is difficult. You Tube is blocked in China. I have therefore made a collection of videos. There is no classroom Wi-Fi and a limited number of old desktops in the library, some usually out-of-order. I encourage students to use their own devices and have given students a number of open-ended projects to develop their secondary sources research skills. I give students time in the library to develop their self-directed learning skills.

Chinese students are for the most part respectful. The biggest challenge is language. These poor kids are learning science in a second language. Most are capable and hard-working and thrive. Some barely understand what I am saying and need lots of language support including co-teaching with Chinese intern teachers when available. Some students, mostly boys, who struggle with English are disorganised, playful, easily distracted and can be disengaged. They need to be managed with an iron-hand. Don’t ask me why parents put these poor kids through the torture of learning complex subjects such as Chemistry in a language they barely understand!

I enjoy using technology and students respond well to its use. There is however considerable resistance to embracing technology in China in education because, as already mentioned, attitudes to teaching are still locked onto the direct instruction model to prepare students for high stakes exams.

Here is a summary of my use of technology.

  • Personal devices: iPhone and Surface Pro
  • Use a desktop at school
  • Familiar with Charles Sturt’s distance education learning management system
  • Have used an Interactive Whiteboard as a casual teacher
  • Use PowerPoint and videos in class to engage and support learning
  • Use online resources extensively to plan lessons
  • Use interactive online resources such as www.absorblearning.com in class
  • Use library technology resources extensively for student centred learning
  • Use a system at school called Engrade© offered by McGraw Hill Inc. – this is used for administration, planning, assessment, reporting and more

 I am open to new ideas. I would now like to learn how to set up class websites. I am therefore looking forward to learning from my fellow students and sharing ideas.

 

 

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Author: simonromijn

Science Teacher

2 thoughts on “Module 1 – Introductions”

  1. Hi Simon,
    What an interesting post. Do your students enjoy the experiential constructivist approach? Or are they also wedded to the direct teaching method. I was talking to someone the other day who has classes that are mainly overseas undergraduate students. They prefer and do better at the traditional style of classes and assessments rather than elegantly constructed authentic learning assessment tasks. Very discouraging.

    Re class websites: I was thinking today about using Google apps for class websites. One of the things I did not do well on my prac was letting the students know the intended learning outcomes for the class. I would like to have a central repository where the lessons outcomes, instructions (such as investigation procedures), and links to extra resources could be an ongoing resource for students to access for revision, catchup when they are away etc. They can also go straight onto the IWB during the lesson. I appreciate the value of students proceeding slowly by processing information as they are copying things down, but I would rather maximise the time to do the hands-on activities too.

    Thanks for the http://www.absorblearning.com link. I’m going to bookmark that one.

    Regards,
    Ellen

    Like

  2. Hi Ellen

    Thanks for your message. I had a quick look at your impressive and extensive posts and will have to read them more closely. In respect to your question about overseas student, in my case Chinese students, it is a hard work getting them out of the largely passive learning mindset that comes from being exposed (subjected?) to direct instruction teaching. Their reaction to experiential constructivist approaches is generally good if you catch them early in senior high school (in my case Year 10). The students who are doing well in English are adept and adjust well to new techniques; they accept them as part of the transition to Western style learning. Fortunately there are other new subject teachers at my school who are also trying constructivist techniques. This helps. Sadly, if students are struggling with English, they are mostly not able to deal with constructivist techniques; dealing with the language is already tough enough let alone asking them to learn differently. I also find the senior high school students at my school (Year 11) who have not previously been exposed to constructivist strategies are mostly passive and poorly motivated in terms of running with open ended tasks. The bright students however get it and do well. I am still trying and am starting my Year 11 Economics class on a stock market game tomorrow that I found reading Roblyer & Doering.

    Sadly I am unable to explore Google apps at school in China. Google is blocked.

    Best wishes and thanks for your message,

    Simon

    Like

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