Thursday, 25 September 2014

Engaging Kids Today with Dan Haesler

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about gamification. Not my longest, finest, best researched or most thought out blog post ever but if you want to check it out you can do so here.  It was a blog post on the fly, written as part of a challenge during a day long professional development day with Dan Haesler.

I attended the day as part of a team of teachers from my school. (We form the 'digital learning' committee, and as a team advocate for, facilitate and support digital learning in our school community.)   On the surface the content seemed to be a funny, engaging mix up of all the great ideas of the moment. It was polished, it was engaging and it was personal. It was enjoyable and I came away buzzing. BUT… Later that night when I started reflecting to my husband I couldn't come up with anything particularly new.  Don't get me wrong I loved the session. I was NOT disappointed.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and my thinking has changed somewhat. It was engaging. It was personal. It was polished. And… It was practice changing. It was inspiring. It was foundational to some of the small by vital changes I've already made in my classroom.   It might not have had any new ingredients compared to anyone else but by golly, Dan put the ingredients together in way that came up with a fair trade artisan made chocolate truffle instead of the canteen's stale rock cakes.

So, what made 'Engaging Kids Today' such a powerful learning experience for me? Dan asked more questions than he answered. He forced us to think. He moved through his material at a rate of knots.  And he demanded action.  The last session of the day was given over to the gaming session during which I blogged on the fly. The game was all about putting our money where our mouths are in the search for connection.

One of the most powerful reminders of the day, for me, was that the power of technology is in the power it has to connect people. This has driven the changes in my classroom. We have recommitted to twitter and are engaging with people on a daily basis.  My students chose to participate in Kid President's #Socktober social media campaign and use the internet for 'good rather than evil' (you can read our class blog about it here or my own post about it here). The students are blogging regularly and we've signed up with Quadblogging. We're still hoping to get involved in a mystery Skype but that's a work in progress at the moment.

I can hear many of you asking 'but what does this have to do with learning?' My answer is simple, and combines a few thing Dan said that day. It's all very well to prepare our students for the future but the future is tomorrow. If we can't engage students today then we have no hope for the future. So, how do I get my classroom to be so engaging that my students would choose to be there even if they didn't need to turn up? Connections. With me, with each other and with the world. How do they make those connections? Often in writing, other times in video, other times in designs. All of which need to be learnt. The learning enables the connections which in turn feed the learning.

It was a BIG day, and I'm incredibly grateful to have been involved.

There were a number of us live tweeting through the day so you get a good idea of our immediate reactions to Dan's presentation at this storify made by Jess Ottewell a year 6/7 teacher at the host school.

This relates to all of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers… Really.


  1. There's no like button......

  2. Engaging kids to facilitate learning underpinned by rapport and relationship. Now that's a professional objective worth bottling.