Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Reflection SPARK MIT 2016

2016 has been a really interesting year in terms of the SPARK MIT Programme. Not only did I receive extra time and support to focus on my inquiry, but I had the opportunity to meet and learn from others in the programme. Out of a group of 10 from the Manaiakalani schools, there were three from Pt England School: Matt, Karen and myself. I knew some of the teachers from the other local schools in our area, but it was great to meet other teachers from the outreach clusters.

I enjoyed the time spent with the group as we shared ideas and reflected on our inquiry journeys at SPARK headquarters in the city. Lynne Le Gros, General Manager of the SPARK Foundation, was always available to listen and to share her stories, views and advice. We also had the chance to meet with Sera and Mary who are also part of the SPARK Foundation team.

I would just like to thank Dorothy Burt and Juanita Garden for their time, support and encouragement over the year. Thanks also to Lynne and the SPARK Foundation for the opportunity to focus on our inquiry. Last but not least, thanks to the teachers who shared their journey with me. All the best in the New Year.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

SPARK MIT Presentation 2016 and Inquiry Findings

Inquiry Findings 2016 from SchoolTV on Vimeo.

This movie is about my SPARK MIT inquiry this year. It was based on the question: How to use film to improve writing achievements for students? I presented my inquiry at this years Manaiakalani Hui, ULearn (Rotorua) and at one of our staff meetings.

The movie also shares some results from the easTTle writing data. It was great to see that many students made shifts well above the expected national shift in writing.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Inquiry Collaborative Meeting

On Tuesday afternoon we met as a staff to talk about our inquiry focus. We split into small discussion groups and had the opportunity to reflect on our inquiries and share some gems.

I shared a few key ideas:

1) Using snippets of interesting footage (e.g. Olympics) was good for engagement and motivation of writing. Keeping it short and to the point is the key.

2) Consider using a short movie with no dialogue. Students have to write a script/story based on the movie alone. Use visual cues to describe/explain/narrate what is happening in the story.

3) Teaching how to use punctuation e.g. speech marks: Peer assessment is always helpful. Create a doc with a couple of paragraphs of writing. Exclude any form of punctuation and allow the students to make a copy of the doc before editing. Peer assess.

I also brought up an issue that I had been thinking about. There was no clear link/connection between my planning and the class planning for writing lessons in Extension class. Basically I was free to plan my own lessons based on the needs of my group. I wondered whether I needed to collaborate more with the teachers in Teams 4 and 5. This issue was put to the group/panel of teachers.

Here's what they came up with:

- Awesome that they can work together as a group (Extension) to do something different.
- Might become too boring if they have to do the same thing in class in extension.
- (Me) Easier to plan to suit my programme and timeframes available for classes.

Friday, 7 October 2016

ULearn 2016 Day 3

Enhancing Thought-Full Classroom Dialogue - Karen Boyes

For children they feel both the fear of failure and success.
Tri-Une Brain

Turning fear into fun - students who laugh more learn more! Its ok not to know or to fail
Frontal lobe is part of brain we are trying to influence.
Higher order thinking to emotional to lower order
If children are hungry they can not learn - can’t do higher order thinking if they are under stress

Turning fear into fun - students who laugh more learn more! I

When asking kids questions don’t just stop at the right answer, keep encouraging them to answer.
Say thank you and encourage participation.
Be non-judgemental and build a safe classroom environment so that they give their ideas

Manage impulsivity - encourage students to take time to think
Give students enough time to think - at least 7 to 10 seconds (pause time)
Think, pair, share - helps to clarify ideas

Need to teach children how to listen.
Listening and understanding with empathy.

Listening sequence: Pause, paraphrase, Probe (inquire and clarify).

How to hang on to an idea - repeat a key word or idea in head, connect with what is being said to a similar experience, visualise what is being said. In a noisy environment - need to lean in more, focus on face, maybe lip read. Speaker can slow down speech.

When you really listen there are values e.g. respect, curiosity, etc

Teaching oral language is extremely important. When teachers use great language in context, children will learn it. Use language of thinking e.g. compare, predict, analyse.

Metacognition: Think aloud problem solving (TAPS). Strategy is important for students for efficiency of answers - but it's not a reflection of intelligence.

I enjoyed this workshop as the presentation was engaging, interesting and I walked away with some useful strategies to try out.

Building thinking and mathematic capabilities through coding in the primary school

Leamington School

General skills being developed when engaging in coding activities.
Coding presented an authentic learning opportunity to learn about positional language, instructions and shape (geometry)

Apps: Scratch Jr, Daisy the Dinosaur, Pyonkee (All three available on ipads)

Lightbot used to cover basic introductory elements of coding.

Core school values and SAMR model underpinned focus on coding strategy pathway. Juniors spent time outside focusing on positional language and direction before looking at coding language.

App called Tickle used to control robots. Use knowledge of Pyonkee to code robots to make shapes. Used Ollie/Sphero. Activities involved problem solving, thinking and communicating.

Daisy the Dinosaur and Scratch Jr - used by Junior school children. Over time, completed basic challenges with a partner. Used whiteboards to model drawing the shape/letter. Success Criteria used. Taught how to provide effective peer feedback.

Discovered that there was a huge shift in knowledge after children experienced coding activities.

App was created to record children using ipad. Then they analysed thinking skills data. Studio code programme. 

Learning to code was the vehicle, but they were interested in evaluating which thinking skills were being developed. Weighting against higher order thinking was significant. Coding activity was an excellent environment for teaching and allowing children to think. Great to work in pairs or in threes (for communication, reinforcing skills and knowledge, and thinking)

Next step - Robotics, Java scripting etc

Great workshop with some interesting ideas of how to use it in the classroom and evidence to back it up.

Karen Spencer - Final Keynote Speaker
'Beyond the echo chamber: The extraordinary possibilities of a networked profession'

Praxis makes perfect - weaving and intertwining of ideas. 

Methods that we adopt for our craft is important for teaching. Professional learning today is driven by teachers.

'A Key Note' - is the one that sets the tone for a song
Teachers make the biggest difference
Conversations with our students are important to check that if we are adding value to their understanding and learning.

Hold the line - trial something first to see if your student or community needs it. Before trialling anything do 3 things: find the most urgent area that students need most, see the story behind the data, embrace discomfort. 'Hold our ideas lightly'.

Teachers are constantly designing solutions to educational problems.
NZ curriculum document is great starting point to identify areas of need.
A future focused vision: inclusion of disabled
Pause before you leap into the next innovation - look for the need.

Maori students voices - gathered on the marae though safety net of tikanga and protocol.
Treat student voices like art.

We only see things through our own biases. Teachers have different perceptions, perspectives and experiences. We need to embrace discomfort. Teachers make a lot of assumptions about what constitutes good teaching. We can't assume what people need.

How to include diverse views in school. Role is to keep the fear off the set (John Cusack Rule). Celebrate diversity. We need to acknowledge differences.

What is research likely to say? Look for evidence/proof that new idea is working before trialling something new. 

ULearn 2016 Day 2

Prof Michael Fullan - Keynote Speaker
New Pedagogies for Deep Learning
System transformation
They build knowledge and practices that foster deep learning and whole system change
Humans are innately wired to connect, create and help humanity

Children are highly creative, but school cuts some of this creativity.
Millennials tend to gravitate towards organisations who do good things

New learning partnership between students, teachers and parents
6Cs - creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaborating, character, citizenship
Deep learning and equity - students that were underserved benefitted the most

Whole system change strategies:
  • Accountability
  • Standards
  • System culture
Breakthrough leadership:
  • Respect and reject the status quo
  • Be an expert and an apprentice
The 7th sense
  • Social media is ubiquitous
  • Weakens hierarchies
  • Distribution and concentrated connection is the new power
  • The young are the most connected and the least committed to the status quo
  • Humans, especially the young, find ‘helping humanity’ to be an extrinsic value

The job of education is to produce better citizens for tomorrow, today
Pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator

Big Idea:
Students as change agents
Professional capital of teachers

Deep learning unleashes bottom up learning

Hon Hekia Parata
Minister of Education

It can only be the profession that leads the profession. Not interested in targets and asserts that she is interested in kids learning and having choices for the future. Wants every child to get the best education possible. How will funding closely align with what the size of the educational challenge is? Strong sense of urgency that our students are successful, confident, connected global citizens.

NZ has an amazing educational system but we don't make use of full functionality that it provides. PLD - a lot of money has been spent, but not enough evidence of success. What are professionals (teachers etc) in our community of learning going to do? Building better learning environments? Build better pathways for students?

Learning how to Code - Apple workshop

Everyone should have the opportunity to create something that can change the world.

Swift Icon. My Playground - Learn to Code 1. We had the opportunity to play with this simple coding programme.

Video showing ordinary people solving real problems with code. Understanding coding concepts is a new literacy. Creativity is important and code allows development of this as well as skills like problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration.

Swift enables the ability for people to practice code. Developed by Apple and the community. It's easy to use, interactive, powerful, and open - source. Playgrounds allow code to be written and tested as its being written.

Swift Playgrounds and App Development with Swift. It introduces young learners to coding principles. Used on ipads, coding lessons built in, real coding in Swift, built for touch. Glossary of terms available. Ability to take photo/recording of code to record/capture evidence of learning. Special keyboard feature available to use.

Branch Out lesson - for loop in coding (In computer science a for-loop (or simply for loop) is a control flow statement for specifying iteration, which allows code to be executed repeatedly.) Can zoom in and out of worlds. A skill is to be able to write code effectively that can be used over and over again.

ibook app - resources can be downloaded - content for teachers, how to teach coding.
Learning to Code 1 & 2 - suitable for ages 10 -15
App Development for Swift - suitable for secondary students

OMGTech! Rangers Workshop — an introduction to robotics, coding, and 3D printing

3 different areas in the room were organised to cater for hands on practice on robotics, coding and 3D printing. Really cool! We were able to rotate around 4 different stations for 20mins each.

Robotics: We had to create code which would direct a small robotic car/tank? to navigate its way around a track on the floor. 
Coding: We had the chance to create a very simple game using a programme called Scratch. 
3D Printing: Basically we were given a presentation about 3D printing and how the design process was more important at this stage then using the actual 3D printer as its time consuming to print and printers tend to have technical issues. 

There was also another activity set up where we could take apart an old CD player to look at all the different parts inside it. Interesting to find out that the physical structure of modern hard drives are similar to old record players e.g. disc with something that is able to read the information off the disc. Difference is that modern discs hold much more info. 

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Ulearn 2016 Day 1

On Tuesday a group of us arrived in Rotorua for ULearn 2016. The first presentation we attended was to support Matt, Karen and Nic who presented their experiences as 3rd year teachers in open air classes.

Wednesday was the official Ulearn opening/welcome at the Energy Events Centre. We were treated to a Kapa Haka performance from local students.

Larry Rosenstock - was the first guest speaker from the USA. He had an interesting background in carpentry, law and education. He talked about disproving the idea that certain children are only good for certain things. The following movie is called 'The Lie' which he shared with the audience.

He made another interesting comment about art. He said not to just look at the art created by a child, but to look at the background of the child who created it. He also talked about learning through collaboration. This is another movie that he shared which I enjoyed watching. 

He said that the purpose of knowledge is to transform it - not to regurgitate information or do rote learning. He questioned why we do not integrate different subjects, and solve real problems with an authentic audience. He talked about the invention and reinvention of knowledge.

Hour of Code:

This workshop was run by the team from OMG Tech. Some of their goals includes lifting participation by girls and Maori and Pacific students in computer science. Basically they gave advice on how to set up the 'Hour of Code' event in our schools. Then we were given an opportunity to practice coding on this site https://code.org/learn.

Keynote speaker - John Couch

This speaker talked about Apple's leadership model and their mission to have one computer per person. Their model is based on relationships. He talked about Education vs Learning and how the two are different. Technology should be used to do something in a classroom that you can’t do without tech. Kids see tech as an environment not a tool. He asserted that the curriculum should be delivered via apps

Their vision is that every student is uniquely gifted and their needs should be catered for. Their mission is to create a personal learning environment for all students.

He said that kids should be creators of content - not simply consumers of knowledge.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Inquiry Term 3 - What am I doing differently?

Today we worked in groups to talk about our inquiry so far. It was a really useful activity to help redirect and refocus our thinking around our inquiry.

The questions that were used as starting points for our discussions are highlighted below:

If somebody from your group came into your classroom tomorrow what would they see you (not your students) doing differently from a term ago?

  • Getting students to work in groups to create writing resources.
  • Mid year testing - writing samples
  • Weekly plan for the whole term - trying to use this as a guideline to plan ahead for the term.

Why are you doing this?

  • Thought about letting students create resources, because last term they used film/movies to help inspire their writing.
  • Marking writing test data to group students according to needs. Then teach strategies according to needs.
  • Check to see if there has been any shift in their writing.

What has happened as a result?

  • So far a bit of chaos with sticking to plan e.g. some changes have altered earlier plans i.e. I now want the group to work on Film Festival movie sooner rather than later.
  • Writing data so far (from Year 5 & 6 Extension group) shows that some have improved, some have stayed the same, and one has made a huge improvement in writing (Q: is this because the student has better oral language skills which has now transferred to his writing? Support from home? More practice? Why aren’t others making the same rate of improvement?)
  • Will be meeting with a writing expert (Juanita) soon for more ideas on how to plan how to teach effective writing strategies and work out ways to maximise learning opportunities for the Extension students.
  • Thought about how to present data at upcoming Manaiakalani Hui and ULearn conference.  

Monday, 18 July 2016

Inquiry Reflection Term 2

During our last staff inquiry meeting at the end of Term 2 we were asked to reflect on our inquiries so far. I think that I have come a long way with my inquiry since Term 1. More was achieved this term with the use of film/movies to help improve writing skills. I hope that this will gain more momentum in Term 3 as I have a better idea of which direction to head towards in terms of using movies to help improve writing skills.

Monday, 20 June 2016

More Descriptive Writing Tasks

Here is another example of a task where students are asked to practice describing how to 'show' not 'tell' what a setting might look or be like.

In this task students were asked to use their senses to describe an experience (or possible experience). They were asked to practice writing using descriptive language. Some examples are included here.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Character Description Task

Character Description Notes from Lesson:

Character Description Task

It was interesting to note that most students in this group struggled with the task even though they are our extension students. I thought that it would be quick and easy but it wasn’t. Brainstorming some ideas around what the picture or footage was about was quite easy. Coming up with a couple of succinct sentences that could ‘show’ and not ‘tell’ me what the character might be about was a lot harder. It took a bit of time to explain, model and help craft their writing. Eventually they all completed the task with some help and hopefully they will be quicker when working on the ‘Setting Description’ task.

Next step:

Show before and after attempts (by students) when crafting to see evidence of the difference that careful crafting makes to a piece of writing.

Monday, 16 May 2016

SPARK MIT PLG #2 - Part 2

Inquiry: How to use film to extend writing achievement for our Extension students?

Dorothy shared with us a handy definition of an innovation in a digital context:
"An intervention that would not have been possible prior to the move to digital learning environments”

  1. What innovations are you using to address the problem you identified?

Innovation: using online movie clips (e.g. from sites such as Youtube, The Literacy Shed) to improve writing skills. Students will write their own narratives and create movies based on their narratives. Create short movies as resources to show students how to improve their narrative writing skills.

Term 2 Goal: Combining topic based school wide theme (Art) with inquiry e.g. providing opportunities to improve writing.

Year 5 & 6 Extension:
Art theme will be based on Polynesian Warriors. The focus is on traditional/cultural tattoo designs and what they mean (Art Exhibition at end of term). Students will work on narratives about their warrior. At the moment just focussing on ideas for plot, structure of narrative, character and setting descriptions. Lots of group discussion and sharing of ideas. I have been trying to provide opportunities to develop narrative writing skills by using online resources.

Year 7 & 8 Extension:
Art theme is based on the work of author and illustrator Colin Thompson. Students will write a narrative that will inspire their artwork in the style of Colin Thompson. The focus will be on perspective and how to create the illusion of depth. At the moment we are still developing our ideas about characters and the setting.

End of last term I selected very short Youtube clips of a setting (forest and old cottage), problem (being chased by a bear), resolution/emotions (being reunited with family). We used the clips to think about what we could see, hear, feel about the clips. Lots of discussion about this. Brainstormed ideas.

Spent time collecting resources - Link

Students are expected to keep a writing log (links to their blog posts) and post regular book reviews. Reading and writing go hand in hand and reading mileage will aid writing.

  1. What is going well?
This term I have a clearer idea about what I want to achieve. I know where most of the students are at in terms of their writing. I’ve analysed their writing samples and identified individual as well as group strengths and weaknesses. I’ve collected resources and ideas that might help to motivate students to improve their writing skills.

  1. What are some of the challenges?
Managing and organising my time so that I keep up with what I want the students to learn and achieve. Lack of time is always an issue. Interruptions in the school programme mean less time with students less time working on their tasks.

I would love to focus purely on improving writing during Extension, but I also need to be mindful of school wide needs e.g. Art Exhibition at end of term. No other choice but to compromise, but the digital learning environment means that students can access resources and information anytime, anyplace and anywhere.

Next steps:
Ideas to manage inquiry:
How to have an effect (make an impact) as time is split between art and writing. Only 2 opportunities to write.
Use an MIT day to complete artwork?? Create resources?
Homework - set each week - mini writing task so when students get to class - work with scaffolding a group. Focus on aspects/elements of writing eg punctuation.


Today the SPARK MIT group met for the second time to touch base on where we were up to with our inquiries. First of all we looked at the SAMR model and discussed our thoughts about this. Several links helped us to decide whether we thought this was a useful model or not.

The SAMR model explained by students - This was a good clip explaining what SAMR is in an easy to understand way.
Wheel on SAMR and Bloom's Digital Taxonomy - Great graphic which combines SAMR ideas and Bloom's Taxonomy.

Taking a dip in the SAMR swimming pool - I enjoyed reading this interpretation of the SAMR model. I also liked the analogy of it being like a swimming pool. Teachers can test the water by creating tasks which are more at the substitution and augmentation levels (shallow end of pool) until they feel more comfortable creating tasks which are 'above' the line (Modification/Redefinition) in the deeper end of the pool.

I think that the SAMR model is a useful tool to help teachers plan tasks for students which will challenge and extend their critical thinking skills. It allows for planning of tasks which have the ability to be 'transformative'. The affordances of technology should make this happen a lot easier.