Thought-Full Classrooms: creating opportunities for thinking, presented by Dr. Bern Nicholls

GoodChildhood 2013_027In this workshop, Dr. Bern Nicholls PhD gives advice for educators on how to build a classroom environment that values thinking.

Classrooms need to be ‘thought-full’ in two ways: respectful of ideas and others, and by facilitating thinking.

Over the conference, presenters have talked a lot about culture and about the stories that come through our experiences and shape us as people. When communicating with young people in a classroom, we need to think about how their personal stories might shape how they think. We need to think about thinking.

Learning is a direct outcome of thinking, but sometimes we forget about the thinking part and only focus on the teaching.

Thinking isn’t communicated, it’s invisible! When you can’t read how a student is thinking, you’re making assumptions and that’s dangerous, so why not try to make that thinking visible and easier to comprehend?

You can try to make your students’ thinking visible by turning this thinking into a wider understanding. This might take some experimentation and trying different exercises, but always remember to dig deeper. Asking students questions like ‘what makes you say that?’ peels back the layers of their learning and helps you understand how they connect their personal story to the course content.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs an educator, you can think ‘what sort of thinking do I want my students to take with them for the rest of their lives?’ Making thinking visible is about engaging your students, challenging them to think in different ways and reminding them that thinking is always valued in the classroom space.

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

How to make your voice heard through social media

Jonathan Brown, SYN Education and Training Manager
Jonathan Brown, SYN Education and Training Manager

The keynote speeches early on Friday morning alluded to some of the evils of social media, so it was refreshing to hear SYN’s Education and Training Manager, Jonathan Brown, highlighting the benefits and showing that if you don’t quite get the hang of social media at first, then perhaps you should have another crack at it.

The session began with a breakdown of the major social media platforms and some of the ways in which they are used, as well as what benefits you can get from using them.

Facebook: The largest of the social networks with a jack-of-all-trades focus. You can share videos, photos and links to other creative efforts. Listing the people you connect with as friends, however, is slightly misleading, because the connection isn’t quite at that same level.

Twitter: The focus on shorter messages and links is what sets this platform apart. There isn’t the same pressure to add your “friends”, simply follow people who post thought-provoking comments and share your interests.

Instagram: The home of the “selfie”. Usually connected with Twitter or Facebook, Instagram is all about sharing a moment in time with followers across all networks.

Tumblr and other blogging platforms: These work similar to your own website. You can add as much of your own creative content and layout and share creative content that you’ve created.

Jonathan Brown

 

After listing the various options to make your presence on the internet known, Jonathan provided his five fail-safe tips to ensure that you are on the right platform and doing the right things to get noticed:

 

  • Be authentic: act on social media as you would in real life.
  • Post consistently and diversely: stick to a schedule and mix up your posts. If you tend to post a lot of image content, try a video or text post.
  • Make it conversational: Unlike mediums such as television, you have the ability to talk to and engage with your audience to make it a more rewarding experience for them as well as for yourself.
  • Play to your strengths: Ensure you’re focusing on what you are good at. If your strength is writing, try blogging platforms. If you’re more artistic, try a tumblr.
  • Consume, research and share: If you find something that catches your eye, feel free to share it with others. Be transparent with your sources and start a dialogue.

The session concluded with a feel-good image of cats, encouraging you to feel positive about posting what you enjoy and to have fun with social media.

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

For what we’re about to receive: using gratitude to boost wellbeing in schools – Lea Waters

Associate Professor Lea Waters
Associate Professor Lea Waters

“In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy” – Albert Clarke

What is gratitude? How do we define gratitude? How has gratitude changed over time for us as individuals?

We all most likely began our life seeing gratitude as manners. As the “pleases” and “thank you’s” in life, as what our parents told us was right. Turns out, this is possibly the simplest meaning of gratitude we could have.

Opening our eyes to the power of gratitude, Associate Professor Lea Waters began by asking us to tell her what gratitude feels like. Having closed our eyes and brainstorming to find a moment when we felt gratitude or have received gratitude in our own lives, Lea then helped define this feeling of gratitude as:

“A worldview moving towards noticing and appreciating the positives in life” or

“An acknowledgement that we have received something of value from others”.

Gratitude is not just a feeling, but a reaction from a complex cognitive process. Lea explained that there is actually multiple factors that are taken into play right before we begin to feel gratitude for something, a whole judgement process considering factors such as:

  • Is this gift something of value?
  • Was it through kindness or altruism?
  • What is the cost of this action?
  • How is this impacting the person who’s giving?

Associate Professor Lea Waters

However, gratitude is more than a feeling and it is more than a cognitive process. Gratitude can improve your health on all different levels. The physical findings from studying the impact of gratitude on the body has come to show that:

Gratitude can:

  • Help us sleep better,
  • Support our immune system,
  • Help us cope with pain,
  • Reduce somatic symptoms.

So remember, “If we don’t show gratitude, it’s like receiving a present and not opening it”.

Why not try the exercise yourself, close your eyes and think of something you have to be grateful for, or a time you felt grateful; then share it with us!

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

Is Childhood Improving for Aboriginal Children?

Professor Muriel BamblettProfessor Muriel Bamblett AM, CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA), covered issues facing Aboriginal children in today’s society.

And, the stats were shocking.

Aboriginal children today are twenty times more likely to be homeless, receive over 30% less financial support, face a life expectancy 20 years lower than that of non-Aboriginal children, and they are more likely to experience disability, ill health, and a reduced quality of life.

Despite all of that, Muriel reminded us that this data doesn’t tell us about the good things happening in Aboriginal communities and spoke of the successes in culture and sport of indigenous people like singer Jessica Mauboy, AFL star Buddy Franklin & NRL star Jonathan Thurston.

Muriel shared that building Aboriginal culture into everything VACCA do is crucial, and that after their safety, the most important thing to establish in an Aboriginal child’s life is culture and cultural safety.

Professor Muriel Bamblett and cultural identity

How can we help provide an environment which respects that culture around us?

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

Youth perspectives & leadership – A Youth Panel

Youth Panel

Day 1 of the Good Childhood Conference 2013 wrapped with a youth panel consisting of four young people, all of whom work actively in areas relating to youth affairs and leadership. Facilitated by UN Youth Representative 2012, Dan Ryan, the panelists discussed issues related to modern childhoods from their own experiences and work, and answered various questions posed by Dan and the audienceThe panel was made up of:

  1. Marlee-Alice Gorman of the Victorian Student Representative Council (VicSRC) who’s been described as “the most compassionate speaker Parliament House has ever seen”.
  2. Sarah Faithful of the Young & Well Cooperative Research Centre, Youth Brains Trust, who is interested in utilising technology to improve mental health and well-being in young people.
  3. Crystal Goetz, A Mirabel Foundation Youth Ambassador, who is passionate about a world that is fair for all.
  4. And, Linh Do, a Melbourne-based social change advocate.
Marlee-Alice Gorman
Marlee-Alice Gorman

The panelists spoke eloquently and honestly about their interests, passions and opinions regarding topics facing youth today:

  • On the (often negative) perceptions of youth in society the panelists all agreed “I’m gonna defy this stereotype of me”,
  • In regards to the boundaries that young people face Crystal argued that “You need to be allowed to make bad decisions”,
  • And, when asked what they would tell their 10 year old self if they had the chance, Marlee summed it up perfectly saying “What the other kids think about me doesn’t matter”.

There was united consensus among the panel on the notion of treating young people as equals and a strong belief in the idea that anyone is able to change the world.

Melbourne based social change advocate Linh Do.
Melbourne based social change advocate Linh Do.

Connect with the organisations or young people on Twitter:

Victorian SRC @VicSRC // Young & Well CRC @yawcrc // Mirabel Foundation @MirabelFndation // Linh Do @lmdo

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

Trauma Informed Positive Education: Wellbeing strategies in relationship-based classrooms

Tom BrunzellIn this session, Berry Street’s Tom Brunzell spoke about how to engage young people, specifically in the context of the Berry Street School.

The Berry Street School caters for young people aged 12-16 who have become disengaged from mainstream education, and strives to re-engage them and promote pathways into employment.

The part that stood out to me was when Tom introduced the concept of ‘flow’ as proposed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – a state where a person is completely engrossed in what they’re doing.

Imagine a situation where a child is entirely uninterested in school, but the area they’re interested in – the place in which they ‘flow’ – can be used to help them learn and grow as a person.

He also spoke of the importance of value clarification exercises at Berry Street School.

Both students and teachers are encouraged to reflect on which skills they have built on regularly, on their own and as a group, with the students’ skills posted on the wall to encourage the students.

The Berry Street School recently celebrated it's 10 Year Anniversary
The Berry Street School recently celebrated it’s 10 Year Anniversary

This isn’t just an idea, or an activity which is done once a term, but a weekly exercise to reinforce the strengths of the children, as well as the areas in which they are improving.

What way might you be able to help increase engagement around the young people you come into contact with?

Post written by youth blogger from SYN Media.

Outdoor adventure experiences for vulnerable adolescents: what are the benefits?

Helen SkouterisIf we keep having this top down effect where ‘mum says’, ‘school says’ and ‘society says’, we’re not really making our young people active agents of change.

On an annual basis, thousands of adolescents participate in outdoor adventure programs that usually aim to connect these young people with their peers and nature.

When Associate Professor of Psychology Helen Skouteris started her research into these programs she found that it crossed over different areas of study such as socio-emotional development, cognitive development and obesity and weight gain. She also found that the benefits of participating in outdoor adventure programs are not limited to vulnerable adolescents.

Benefits of participation in outdoor activity programs include gaining a sense of belonging and growing an understanding the social environment. We can see how these would be hugely beneficial to vulnerable adolescents who are also enabled, through these programs, to achieve social goals, build trusting and meaningful relationships, meet more people and learn to control anger.

Hiking on the Gippsland Wilderness Program
Young people on the Gippsland Wilderness Program are encouraged to challenge their boundaries.

There are so many skills to be gained from this type of participation, including cognitive (e.g. problem solving), emotional (e.g. forming relationships) and physical (e.g. canoeing or hiking).

The outdoor environment pushes young people out of their comfort zones and allows them to take on responsibility and become an active agent of change for their own wellbeing and that is hugely beneficial to all adolescents!

Canoeing on the Gippsland Wilderness ProgramCanoeing on the Gippsland Wilderness Program
Canoeing on the Gippsland Wilderness Program

Post written by youth blogger from SYN Media.