Monday, 28 October 2019

Manaiakalani Wananga 24th October 2019

Our MIT Team had the privilege of sharing our "final" presentations for our inquiry at the Manaiakalani Wananga last week. Our challenge was to create a Pecha Kucha of 20 slides of 20 seconds each to capture nearly a year's worth of inquiry!
It was quite an intimidating experience presenting to everyone, but also awesome to share the occasion with my MIT buddies. The presentations were awesome. A reflection of some amazing work being done by a group of educators who are passionate about making a difference for students across the country.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Practice Analysis - “Encouraging students to talk about their learning to promote deeper understanding”

As part of our professional inquiry, our school uses practice analysis observations. We introduced these to Pompallier in 2015, as part of Literacy professional learning and development. At that time I was working as a Literacy facilitator with the University of Auckland. Practice analysis conversations were developed in the literacy professional development project which included over 300 New Zealand schools over a period of seven years. Pompallier School was one of those schools.
The conversations occurred in four phases:
  • Establish learning goals and co-construct criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of practice prior to the observation.
  • Observe using the criteria as a reference.
  • Analyse relevant parts of the lesson using the criteria.
  • Co-construct new ideas for practice based on the analysis.
Developing Teacher Effectiveness through Professional Conversations (Timperley, H. 2014) outlines the process.

As part of my reflective practice this term, my principal and I used practice analysis to investigate aspects of my inquiry focus - encouraging students to talk about their learning to promote deeper understanding. In particular I asked her to ask students about the SOLO poster tool and to discuss with them how it is helping with their learning. Kathryn is familiar with the SOLO poster tool. We have regular discussions about my teaching goals and the MIT journey. She recorded in her practice analysis notes that “you keep me up to date with your thinking and how you are changing your focus with the poster construction and the learning conversations. You seek input and feedback”.

Student voice collected during the observation confirmed a shared locus of control in the class, with students enjoying using the class Google site to make choices about their Literacy learning. They knew what they were learning, what they needed to do, and what would be successful. They were using group modelling books to help with this. She noted that my “think aloud” statements were good models for the target students.

The students were able to talk about the SOLO poster. They were most used to seeing it on the TV screen - when we have used it as part of our end of day reflections and plenaries. Some students could articulate their thinking more clearly than others.
Kathryn’s conversation with two boys is recorded below - Student A was a target student in 2018, and for the first half of 2019. Student B was a target student in 2018.

Kathryn - What is SOLO?
A - “digging deeper in your learning. Down the bottom (of the poster) you are cracking the work and you have deep thinking.”
B - “You can get better and better”
B- “Developing knowledge”
A - “Yeah - Developing knowledge”
Kathryn - Do you think this will help you
B - totally - it tells you what to focus on.

Our post-observation conversation led to the following thoughts about future actions for me:
  • Continue to build on the locus of control through using the SOLO poster with the students;
  • Add visual cues and colour to strengthen student knowledge and understanding of the poster (especially for target students);
  • Add more blog reflections about the student use of SOLO.
I have created several updated versions of the SOLO poster to trial with students - including more clear colour coding of the different levels; inclusion of SOLO symbols to assist with understanding for students; and a "student speak" version for student reflection and goal setting. 
(see the new trial Teacher and Student versions below)

Thursday, 15 August 2019

MIT Session 3 at Auckland - 12th August

It was great to get together with the team at KPMG again… our first gathering since the Sydney Summit. This time there was an opportunity for us all to share the progress we were making with our tool development. Everyone presented their tool in its current stage of development, and discussed how it was being used with students. It was valuable to hear everyone’s stories - including the things that are working well for them, and students, as well as the challenges. The change for collaborative critical inquiry into both the tool, and our development process for me is invaluable. The opportunity to be involved in a professional learning community that extends beyond my own school provides a greater scope for challenge with regards to how I might change my practice to improve outcomes for my students. During this gathering, we acknowledged that the time away in Sydney together has strengthened our relationships with one another. I feel this has helped to nurture a high trust between one another, which was present in open and honest discussions about both our tools and the next steps in our development journey. We were more prepared to challenge and stretch our thinking about what changes need to be made.
I shared my first SOLO poster and analysis tools to our MIT session in Auckland to share with the rest of the MIT team. It was good to get initial positive feedback about the concept and the tool - especially as a way of adding to the stories we can tell about student progress.

Friday, 9 August 2019

MIT Tool Development - SOLO For Student Talk

My focus for my MIT journey is to gather and use student voice collected from interviews, written reflections, classroom oral reflections and student blogs alongside student achievement data, to establish links between the quality of student voice and improved student achievement.

I planned to create a tool, using SOLO taxonomy, to measure the quality of student talk. I wanted to create a tool that could be used to gather measurable data, so that shift could be seen, monitored and celebrated as part of the story of improved learning for target students. I was particularly interested in doing this, as it is often challenging to demonstrate shift using  normed assessment tools. Teachers will often observe changes in engagement and improved student talk during learning that assessment data does not show. These teacher observations form an invaluable part of the narrative of target student progress.

I have been gathering student talk about learning, as part of our class reflective journal since the beginning of the year. Our “NZ Enterprise 2019 Kea Class Captain’s Log” records afternoon plenary sessions. The students take turns with being the Captains. Those of you that are familiar with Star Trek, will understand the concept! I act as the recorder of the entry notes as the captains use named stick in a jar to randomly select students to answer questions and prompts about their learning from the day.

Initially my idea was to create some way of analysing statements using SOLO vocabulary, with a particular focus on verbs and adjectives used to describe learning. After the Sydney conference, I realised that I was over complicating what I needed to do. I had forgotten the KISS principle!

I then thought of developing a simple rubric to unpack what the learning talk might look like/ sound like at each SOLO stage. I developed a simple Google Sheet to record this data over time. I then used my trial rubric to analyse student statements from our class, and record it in the data sheet to track progress for individual students. I took these tools to our MIT session in Auckland to share with the rest of the MIT team.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Te Hiku Cluster Schools Teacher Only Day with Christine Rubie-Davies

Our learning focus with Christine Rubie-Davies at the beginning of the year had been on "High Expectations and Classroom Climate". Key themes included: teachers having high expectations for students; grouping for learning; setting a positive classroom climate; goal setting with students; teacher self-reflection and monitoring student learning.
None of this was new at the time. I was already using mixed ability grouping in Literacy and Mathematics, and had been doing so since returning to classroom teaching in 2016. But I did make some goals at the time prompted by her session:

  • To purposefully plan opportunities to build positive peer relationships;
  • Review groups on an ongoing basis to make changes that would enhance and improve effectiveness of group teaching and learning; 
  • To plan station activities that would provide choice and/or challenge to enhance student agency.

Since then I have regularly reviewed my classroom programme, either personally or with the students, to check on its effectiveness for students - especially my target learning students. Most recently I changed my target groups to being a "boy's group" and a "girls group" and planned for learning tasks and activities appropriate to this. The boys like a competitive edge to some tasks and activities. Whereas the girls seem to prefer tasks related more to social aspects of learning. 

In Christine's session on 22nd July she continued with this theme. She spent quite a bit of time going over what she had covered with us back in January. Some of the data, the research and the solutions she presented in this session seemed dated. In addition, much of her data related to her research which was conducted primarily within urban settings, and with a large proportion of the teachers presented in her data being secondary based. Most of the teachers in the Te Hiku cluster are primary school teachers who use either chrome books or i-pads with their students as part of every day teaching and learning - we haven't used tools like on "OHP" for quite some time...

It was a frustrating day - I guess it is comforting to know that teachers in the Far North are well and truly on track with the professional learning that encourages improved learning outcomes for students. I sat at a table with three other teachers. We had in excess of 100 years teaching experience between us. We were a little bemused by the notion of cultural bias with regards to our students. Most of the teachers nearby had classroom with the majority of students on the roll being Maori. We acknowledge the strong cultural bias within our education system. A great example of this, is the assessment tools we use to track and monitor the progress and achievement of our students. These tools are primarily white middle class assessment tools. And yet, as we sat and talked at our table we came to conclusion that we didn't actually use ethnic labels with our students, or think about their achievement from this angle. We might consider other circumstances and issues that relate to specific children, but not use a "Maori" label to explain lower achievement. Target students in my classroom are simply that - students who need an extra boost with their learning, in order to help them to be on track to achieve at the same level as their peers.

However, at the end of the day I did find a couple of good "takeaway" points to consider, and think about in terms of both class and school-wide programmes. For the classroom there were several things I came up with to continue to develop a "high expectation" climate within Kea classroom:

  • In our Captain's Log plenary - continue to model and prompt questions related to what students are doing well with, or are pleased with.
  • Create a classroom brag wall for display of work - in addition to the class blog, as the students do like to see their work on display.
  • In the RE corner have a gratitude wall space - this could also be added to morning prayers, or included in Captain's Log (or instead of). Time for students to acknowledge the things and the people that make them feel grateful.
  • Spend regular time focusing on different role models or special people. The examples from the RE day with Richard Leonard would be a good place to start.

With respect to the whole school. Christine made passing mention to the notion of  mastery goals that focus on the development of new skills, rather than just performance goals, which are focused on beating something or someone. Assessment goals often focus on the latter. I have noticed in my classroom than many students often lack basic skills - art skills, craft skills, life skills... I have also noticed that they enjoy learning new skills, and are really pleased when they have opportunity to show their learnt skills - for example in our Google Doc Ninja activities! I think we do need to think more about this, and what types of skills our students need to become resilient future-oriented learners. There is a big gap in their learning here, that we need to consider. Are there ways in which we can plan to teach some of these skills that students need to master in order to be fully creative amazing 21st century learners?

Friday, 12 July 2019

Sydney EdTech Summit Day Two

The keynote speaker this day was Kim Pollishuke and her theme was "Let's Build an Elevator to the Moon" She chose this title from her son's idea of anything being possible. The key idea from her talk that stuck in my mind was  "Don't be the flea in the jar" . She used this analogy to illustrate how a lid can metaphorically be put on possibilities to achieve. Fleas can jump to amazing heights, but when placed in a jar with a lid, they adjust their jump to not hit the lid. When the lid is taken off, the fleas continue to jump to the height of the jar, as if the lid is still in place. This challenged me to think about the students I teach, and consider what "lids" I might put on their learning, thus creating barriers to possible achievements. 
She also challenged us all to find time for ourselves and our students to pursue passions. This learning time can be incredibly powerful.

I attended three workshops on the second day of the summit:
  • Apps and Tools for Making Thinking Visible - Kimberley and Lorinda
  • Shifting Maths Teaching and Learning for Modern Learning - Sandra Chow
  • Put Students’ Stories on the Map… Literally - Kim Pollishuke, Ontario
All three workshops focused on the use of quality apps for making learning both accessible and visible for students.
Kimberley and Lorinda shared a variety of apps including Answer Garden, the Visible Thinking website, Flipgrid, the Talk and Comment Chrome extension, Screencastify, EdPuzzle, Peardeck, Quizlet, Canva and the Dynamic Learning Project. Peardeck is add-on for Slides and looks useful. It can be used to make Slides interactive - it can be set up with questions for students to answer or discuss in an anonymous forum.
Canva looks like a great publishing tool - it has a little more to offer than Google Docs or Drawings. Answer garden uses questions to create word cloud type answers. It was fun to use and would be useful in the classroom.
Sandra's presentation was very comprehensive. She focused on apps and sites to use for different aspects of Mathematics education - Mathematical Investigation; Consolidation; Manipulatives; Authentic Maths Problems; Coding; Game-based Learning; Media; Differentiation; Formative Assessment; Prominent Maths Thinkers; Amazing Websites; and other hot topics. Lots to process and think about...
The last workshop I attended was lots of fun. Kim's aim was to use geography tools to tell stories. She wanted use to gain an understanding of the tools and how we can share personal identity through stories using these tools. It was a hands on workshop using My Maps and Tour Creator to create stories. This would be especially great with students to create mihi and pepeha to share at the beginning of the year.

This was another great day of learning. The two days with my MIT colleagues were an awesome time of learning and fun spent with a great team of individually amazing professionals. There is a lot to reflect upon - what professional learning is going to make the biggest difference to my practice? What changes do I now need to make to my practice? What tools will make the most difference for my students? What do I share with my colleagues?

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Sydney Ed Tech Summit Day One

The Keynote speaker to start the summit was Jim Sill. He started the day with a short 'Ignite' talk. Jim is the Director of Global Business Development for EdTechTeam, Jim is based out of Melbourne, Australia and works with schools all over the world inspiring new uses of technology in teaching and learning. He is a Google for Education Certified Innovator & Trainer and Apple Distinguished Educator. He specializes in Google’s collaborative tools, project-based learning, and visual / media literacy. 
He spoke about tools that lead to change. He used the development of the paint tube as an
example of a tool that led to amazing change and opportunities for all. He then game some examples of 21st century tools that had the potential to create similar change and opportunity. One example of this was the Merge Cube where you can create augmented reality “in the palm of your hand”. The merge cube allows students to interact with virtual objects, rather than simply view them on a screen. 

Following this, we had 'stations' where we could wander and explore different things in short sessions.
The Playground Stations I went to were: 
Augmented Reality in the Palm of Your Hand - Lorinda Ferry
I really enjoyed seeing the cube in action. The number of different apps available to use with it is
extensive and growing. Merge Things app is a good one to start with. The students would love them.
I have discovered that they are available in NZ through Modern Teaching Aids, and are not badly priced.
The cubes are made from foam, similar to a squeezy ball, so are nice and easy to handle. You can also purchase VR headsets to go with them, but they are not essential. Lorinda showed us a downloadable printable version that is worth having a go with as well. 
Coding for K-2 Using Beebots - Sharon Cooper
A Bee-bot is a simple, battery operated (or chargeable) robot that looks like a bumblebee. It’s a
perfect starting point for teaching control,sequencing, directional language and algorithms,
using simple coding instructions. You can use any combination of forward, back, left,right, pause
and clear, to create a sequence of up to 40 steps. They would be great in our junior classrooms .
I could see lots of different ways they could be used. Again they are reasonably priced.
It’s a Wonderful World - Google Maps and Earth Apps with Sandra Chow
There are lots of new features to Google Maps and Google Earth. Sandra whizzed through a few
of these. You can create maps and import them into Earth. You can now play an amazing
politically correct version of Carmen Sandiego (she isn’t an international thief anymore LOL).
You can use Maps to create stories (I got inspired to attend this workshop on Day 2). You can also
use Tour Builder - if you sign in via Google you can publish these on Google Earth. 
Mathspace Makerspace - Fiona Thomas
Taster session exploring Equati0 Mathspace to bring maths manipulatives to light - included Base
Ten Blocks and Tangrams. After this session I decided to attend her two workshops later in the day. 

I attended two workshops. The first of these was “Digital Storytelling Tools” and the second was “Using digital tools to support the development of problem solving skills”. Both were facilitated by Fiona Thomas. Fiona’s first workshop addressed the issue of “how do we support students that are not average? How do we create “adjustable seats” for learning. Universal design for learning - how do we do this in writing?” She shared a variety of apps and sites that could be used to support and engage students in literacy learning, including: Read and Write chrome app;; Sizzling Starts; The Most Dangerous Writing app; Mystoryboardthat; Headliner app;; Piktochart… We zoomed through a number of different apps and sites quite quickly. I just need time to revisit some of these to decide which ones would be most useful to use with my students or share with colleagues.
The second of Fiona’s workshops was focused on Mathematics learning. Her main focus was
on introducing her company’s app - Equat10 (Equatio) which works complementary to Google
Apps. Her presentation reflected current NZ pedagogy around Maths and problem solving, and
she did have a heap of resources to share that might be useful. It was reassuring to know that
we are on the right track with how we are integrating chromebook use within our Mathematics programmes. 

My Workshop 
In between the two workshops I attended, I facilitated my workshop on Using Google Drawings in
the Classroom. Nicola was my awesome “wingperson”. I had nine people attendees - so it was
quite small. My aims in the workshop were to look at a variety of ways that teachers and students can use Google Drawings in different curriculum areas to express their thinking and learning; and to explore how the tools within the app can be used to create posters, word frames, flowcharts, diagrams, glossaries and other presentations, as well as to practice basic skills, such as spelling, and express mathematical thinking and ideas.
The teachers at the workshop taught in a wide range of learning levels - some taught juniors within
primary settings, and others taught older students - including two who were secondary teachers.
The examples I had were mainly at primary level, but I was able to talk to the secondary teachers
about what some of the examples might look like at their level.
It was great having Nicola in the room, as it helped having her to flick from slides to
working examples, and turn the problematic projector on/off when there were issues with that. 
I was really pleased with the feedback that the EdTech team sent through after the summit. 

I got an overall average rating of 4.33 out of 5, scoring best with “Did you learn something new
(skill, perspective, idea, strategy)?: 4.50” Feedback comments included - “Found it useful to
learn about importing video clips and changing page by clicking into the bottom corner.
Gained confidence in using draw. Learnt about shortcuts are available through the help Menu
and great to see so many examples Thank you” and “I will be able to get students to create
projects using this platform”. It was great to read that people had learnt something, and that
they would also use Google Drawings with their students.