Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

I am a huge advocate for exercise, PE, sports and fitness programmes in schools. I try to set an example in my own life through participating in a wide range of sports, competitive running, and regularly attending the gym.  I really do believe in healthy body, healthy mind.

It seems to me that PE and sports are too often placed on the 'not so important', or 'we'll do it if we have time' lists for many teachers.  The feeling being that literacy and numeracy must be fitted in first.

My feeling is that neglecting physical fitness is detrimental to the learning of students; with my belief confirmed by research highlighted in Lord Robert Winston's book 'The Human Mind'.  One example given is a case study in Japan in which two groups of students are selected at random, with one being prescribed a regular jogging programme and the other group being sedentary.  After a 12 week period the regular exercisers did 30% better than the non-exercisers in similar academic based tests.  Lord Winston states that there are several other studies that suggest regular exercise enhances memory.

Teachers, the next time you think about canceling a PE session due to lack of time or a commitment to a 'more important' learning area; stop and think about what our priorities should be in terms of providing our students with every opportunity to perform to their potential.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hats off to Google!

Lakeview School, a U5 school in Masterton is fast becoming a Google school. Here's how:

Last year we replaced our locally hosted Microsoft Outlook email system with school gmail accounts. Since this time staff haven't had a single problem with their email accounts. Previously a lot of our ICT support time was spent addressing a wide range of issues that meant staff couldn't access their emails. Additionally, being cloud hosted, email can be accessed from anywhere that an Internet connection is available; be it school, home, or Timbuktu!

Our school website (www.lakeview.school.nz) was created on Google Sites and is also hosted in the cloud. Updating it is ridiculously easy, meaning that it is as up to date as any school site that I have seen anywhere (take the time to check it out). Our student Tech Crew has taken on responsibility for maintaining the website.

Class pages have been created on Blogger. Teachers are very good at keeping them up to date with what is going on in their classrooms. The ease of using this product is highlighted by the fact that teachers who had struggled with ICT are now doing (at least) weekly updates.

This term all of our Year 5 - 8 students will be trained in the use of Google Docs as their primary word processing tool. This has been done by creating a Google account for every student within the Lakeview School Google Apps account. Students will have access to their work anywhere that there is an Internet connection, meaning parents and caregivers will be able to check out what their children are doing at school.

Student Google accounts also give students their own email address. This provides them with another means of communicating with their peers and teachers.

Our school calendar is now a Google Apps calendar. This can be accessed by our parents and caregivers via the school website.

I stumbled across Google Apps when I clicked on the 'more' option on the Google home page. From here I, an ICT novice, have become self taught in the wide range of applications within the Google Apps product base. Staff and students are now doing a lot of what our ICT service providers had done in the past, saving us potentially thousands of dollars.

Oh yeah, Google Apps for schools education edition is free. What more can I say about a great range of products from Google. I strongly believe that cloud computing is the way of the future, a future that we are embracing at Lakeview School.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Keep your eye on the goal, but ...

I read a really interesting true and tragic story in Matthew Syed's Bounce book today.  The story goes over the events leading up to a plane crash in the early 90s, causing over 100 deaths.

The story outlines how the flight had gone without fault or problem until the pilot tried to engage the landing wheels.  As he did so he noticed that the light to signify that the wheels were in place wasn't on.  The pilot called the tower to say that there may be a problem; leading to the plane needing to circle the area as the crew attempted to rectify the problem.

The pilot, co-pilot and everyone else in the cabin then got to work.  They pulled off the light from the control panel, discussing how it could simply be that the light was faulty, that the wheels may actually be in place; the whole cabin crew was captivated with the problem.

As this was happening, the autopilot was disengaged; no one noticed because they were so engrossed with the light problem.  Time went passed by; the ground warning system started showing that the plane was rapidly losing altitude; still no one noticed as their attention was totally focused on the light issue.

It wasn't until the plane was seven seconds away from hitting the ground that the crew noticed their dire predicament and attempted to take evasive action.  Unfortunately it was too late, leading to the deaths of almost everyone on board as the plane crashed into the Florida Everglades. 

Everything that took place in the cabin was recorded.  The crew were so totally focused on the one, obviously important, thing that all other matters were left unattended.  Later, air craft crash investigators found that there actually wasn't anything wrong with the landing gear; it was simply a matter of a cheap bulb not working.

As educators we need to have targets in key areas, such as numeracy and literacy.  However, it is imperative that the the education of our students doesn't crash and burn as the arts, PE, science, social studies, ICT, and health are left unattended.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Watch what you say!

'Later doesn't always come to everybody'  These were the words that Shaquille O'Neal's mother said to him when he returned from a basketball camp feeling that he didn't quite have what it took; that he would take it easy for a while and put in the hard work later.  The words of O'Neal's mother jolted him into action to work hard to achieve to his potential.  Years later look what the guy has achieved.

A close friend of mine who had a love of art at college was told by an art teacher that art would never be any more than a hobby to her.  These words from a teacher; someone who should be inspiring and encouraging us, were enough to kill the dreams of a person who could have gone on to follow a tertiary education and a career in an area that she loved.

As teachers we need to think carefully about what we say to our students.  One careless comment could kill the dreams of a child.  Conversely; a carefully though out piece of feedback could lead a child onto the path of fulfillment as they follow their passion to achieve their dreams.