Sunday, 18 December 2016

Celebrating Success

Our inquiry focus for 2016 has been "From Challenge to Success". We have certainly faced our share of challenges this year. Seven learners left Room 10 between the end of 2015 and Term 3 of 2016. One learner returned to Room 10 at the beginning of the year after spending one term with us earlier in 2015. Five learners were moved into Room 10 from another class in the middle of Term 3. These changes impact learners on a day-to-day basis in terms of friendships both inside and outside school, and relationships with others, for example within reading groups. Additionally, Ruapotaka was adversely affected by asbestos risk during Term 3, the result of which was we were moved to a nearby primary for a few days. On our return to Ruapotaka, Room 10 continued learning in the school library for three weeks. The resilience and "can-do" attitude to problem-solving displayed by most students during these changes and challenges was heart-warming and positive for their ongoing learning.

So how did we approach celebrating success in Term 4? Working in small groups, learners were challenged to create a movie to demonstrate how we celebrate success or what success means to them. The purpose of this was two-fold: to promote greater collaboration within small groups; and to offer learners the opportunity to plan and create their own movie whilst learning some basic editing skills in Movie Maker. Supporting resources were shared via Room 10's class site: How do we celebrate success? Each mixed-ability group brainstormed and recorded their ideas, from which plans were formulated.

More detailed planning took place via a shared Google doc and the end result of collaboration, learning and creating was four completed movies which have been shared on the class and individual blogs. Only one group needed some teacher support and a slight adjustment to their plan to meet end-of-term deadlines. Learners overcame challenges and worked together in a positive way to achieve the team goal and were excited by the opportunities offered by these learning experiences. As well as having some beginning experience of creating and editing using Movie Maker, many learners explored different options for creating their own beats, music and animations to enhance their movies.

Some learners shared their thoughts after the movies were made:

Monday, 28 November 2016

Linking my things: a ThingLink for Spark-MIT 2016

To help join the dots within my Spark-MIT inquiry 2016, I have created a ThingLink to share my inquiry so far in one Digital Learning Object (DLO). Using ThingLink for the first time to create this DLO reminds me of the learners in Room 10 when they are faced with new learning - they challenge themselves and ultimately persevere to make sense and meaning!

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Spark-MIT: Sharing at a staff meeting

On Tuesday there was an opportunity to share my hui and uLearn presentation at a Ruapotaka staff meeting to update my colleagues about my Spark-MIT inquiry: what have I discovered while involving and engaging whānau in their children's learning while trying to cause accelerated gains in their children's reading?

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Our final Spark-MIT meeting for 2016

This week has seen the final Spark-MIT meeting for the year at Spark HQ - a time of sharing and reflection for our cohort of 11 teachers from within Manaiakalani and its outreach clusters. An updated video of my uLearn presentation shares my reflections.

So what have I achieved through my inquiry since August? Two more families have enjoyed whānau training with Manaiakalani's Whānau Learning Kaiarahi, Yayleen Hubbard. Whānau have begun to engage with blog commenting in response to student-created support resources and homework tasks! Year-end reading data has been collected and analyzed.

So what have I learnt from this data? 57% of the control group (currently 14) has made accelerated gains of 1.5 years in reading achievement since February 2016. Significantly, Alex’s new-found positive attitude to learning combined with whānau engagement and digital affordance caused a 1.5 year shift in reading. This model of engaging whānau with their child’s learning while striving to meet individual student needs will remain the central theme of my teaching practice.

And what next for my inquiry? Learners are excited about blogging through the summer holidays with the launch of the 2017 Summer Learning Journey. Further reading assessment in February 2017 will tell the final chapter of this inquiry’s story.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Spark-MIT: where to next?

The second half of Term 3 offered some challenges which impacted on life and learning in Room 10: five Year 5 learners joined the class from a neighbouring class in Week 4 and are in the process of buying personal Chromebooks; and we relocated to Tamaki Primary and then Ruapotaka’s library during Weeks 7, 8 and 9 due to asbestos risk.

However, these challenges were put aside during the school holidays with the excitement of attending my first uLearn conference. Sharing my Spark-MIT IGNITE presentation as part of the Spark-MIT 2016 cohort has been the highlight of this Manaiakalani inquiry to date, but there was so much more to learn about, reflect upon and take away from uLearn.

Listening to internationally-renowned keynote speakers as well as teachers from around New Zealand sharing innovative ideas and their best practice was a catalyst for wonderings and ponderings in relation to my learning context.  What can I learn from Larry Rosenstock’s philosophy at High Tech High in San Diego after watching the documentary Most Likely to Succeed?  Regular exhibitions of student learning engage whānau and community on a large scale.  Closer to home, the Ako Fakataha initiative at St Pius X within Manaiakalani is a striking example of teacher persistence in engaging and empowering whānau to connect with their children’s digital learning journey.

While learning how coding and robotics can be introduced into learning at school, I experienced my “aha” moment of uLearn: Knitting is coding!  To achieve success at knitting, learners have to follow instructions exactly and persist in carrying out an often repetitive activity.  Feedback is instant for self and peers: it is easy to spot if the pattern has varied unexpectedly or stitches have been dropped. Of course, the free coding and creating programme, Scratch, offers learners opportunities to code, create and animate digitally!

As Term 4 begins and we have returned to our usual place of learning in Room 10, what is the most important thing for me to do as we approach the final weeks of this school year?  It is time to hold my ideas lightly as we focus on creating further opportunities and resources to support whānau engage with their child’s learning.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Spark-MIT 2016: sharing at uLearn

As part of the Spark-MIT 2016 cohort, I am inquiring into raising reading achievement while enabling family and whānau to engage with and support their child's digital learning journey. Each of the Spark-MIT 2016 teachers was tasked with sharing key learning and reflections from these individual inquiries to date in a five minute IGNITE presentation at uLearn 2016. Here is my presentation:

Saturday, 27 August 2016

IGNITE-ing those sparks!

It was a privilege to share the progress, successes and wonderings so far of my Spark Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher (Spark-MIT) inquiry at Manaiakalani's annual hui yesterday. After sharing my thoughts for a second time at uLearn in early October, along with all other Spark-MIT 2016 inquirers, I plan to share my presentation via this blog.

The Spark-MIT 2016 cohort was tasked with creating an IGNITE style presentation to share this journey at the hui. Quite a challenge to share all that has happened in five minutes using only 20 slides! Such a challenge focused the mind on the key ideas, the important milestones, expressed succinctly - to avoid having to speak at a hundred miles an hour. Thank you, Dorothy, for demanding this of us. It reminds me of those classroom learning conversations when teachers are inspiring learners to craft, recraft and reorganise their writing ideas to meet the writing purpose!

As well as a time to reflect upon my inquiry and its progress, yesterday was a wonderful opportunity to listen to the successes and wonderings of others - my fellow Spark-MIT teachers, student ambassadors and research experts from the Woolf Fisher Research Centre.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Spark-MIT 2016: a milestone for whānau

Yesterday, digital training to empower whānau within Manaiakalani was undertaken for the first time by a family at Ruapotaka. After much persistence on the part of the student, a one-on-one training session was organised between a parent and Yayleen, Manaiakalani's Whānau Learning Kaiarahi. Alexandra's mum spent an hour with Yayleen learning about kawa of care and setting up a personal email account.

It has been two months since our Chromebook hui, but this significant meeting is further evidence that whānau do want to engage with and support their child's learning. As well as being a milestone for whānau, it was a proud moment for Alexandra too. She is now able to take her Chromebook home more frequently: Training with Yayleen. Time will tell whether other learners follow Alexandra's model to facilitate such whānau meetings!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Spark-MIT 2016: Literature Circles

I am inquiring into how learners in my Year 6 class can make and sustain accelerated gain in reading. Based on my observations and conversations with learners, all fluent readers enjoy reading but do not always actively choose to engage with longer texts independently. Despite some barriers to these learners accessing a range of relevant and interesting books, there are also personal mindset barriers which impact which books learners choose to read and how learners attempt to sustain reading a longer chapter book.  

According to the Ministry of Education, a literature circle is an approach to teaching reading that encourages fluent readers to think about and discuss books, usually longer texts. In such a “book club” a small group read the same novel independently, coming together at certain times to share their opinions, feelings and thoughts with the rest of the group.

Within the context of this inquiry, one reading group has been introduced to literature circles this term to investigate if this teaching approach can foster independence and deeper connections with a longer text amongst fluent readers. The group has taken on different roles using literature circle resources devised by Sheena Cameron.

So far, the response has been positive: learners have worked together to clarify roles and provided support to others when preparing for their first meeting - at which they enjoyed rich discussions led by the Discussion Director.

The learners are creating and completing their designated tasks digitally, although this can only be described as substitution within the SAMR model at present. However, the visible co-operation, collaboration and purposeful talk are supporting the growth of actively-engaged learners who, it is hoped, will choose to persevere to become resilient independent readers over time.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

As we look forward to new learning and new opportunities in Term 3, it is exciting to report that all learners in Room 10 @ Ruapotaka now have a personal Chromebook. Parent interviews at the end of Term 2 enabled me to catch up with those families/whānau who were unable to attend our whānau hui earlier in the term. This development affords every student the opportunity to learn at home using a personal digital device from now on.

Whānau will continue to have opportunities to find out more about their child's digital learning journey by training with Manaiakalani's Kaiarahi/Whānau Engagement Facilitator. Our whānau blog is supporting the connections between home and school too: A group of students recently shared their screencast to explain the basics of a Chromebook for whānau.

Despite the Chromebooks remaining at school during the holidays, three learners have been actively blogging about the Olympics as part of the Winter Learning Journey blogging programme run by Rachel Williams of the Woolf Fisher Research Centre. 

In Term 3, while we learn about the challenges faced by Olympians going for gold, learners will be challenged to go for reading gold by taking the opportunities afforded by ubiquitous learning.

The future looks rosy - and golden!

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Connecting with whānau

Room 10 @ Ruapotaka held a Chromebook celebration last Thursday to engage with family and whānau and in order for learners begin taking their Chromebooks home to experience ubiquitous learning. To strengthen connections with whānau, two of the Manaiakalani team, Fiona Grant (Professional Learning Team Lead) and Yayleen Hubbard (Kaiarahi/Whānau Engagement Facilitator) offered support at this hui.


Students were actively engaged in preparing for this event by creating personal invitations for whānau. A small group of students also created a video invitation in English, Māori, Samoan and Tongan to maximise whānau understanding and involvement. To encourage learners to reflect upon the transition from homework to learning at home through this digital affordance, each student created a screencast to share with their families how and why their learning would benefit by taking a Chromebook home. Here is an example shared through individual learner blogs.

To support communication and engagement with whānau, an additional whānau page has been added to Room 10's class blog, where students have posted the first of a proposed series of screencasts to support parent and whānau understandings about being a Cybersmart parent.


Each student led the experience for their family. To promote student independence and agency, learners were scaffolded to present learning and work through a series of tasks and activities with their visiting whānau.

An important aspect of this celebration was gathering data from whānau through a whānau survey to gauge attitudes to learning at home, and information about digital learning, use of public libraries and languages spoken at home.

Overall the celebration was highly successful as a model for engaging with whānau. Although there are a few students in Room 10 who have yet to complete the paperwork to purchase a Chromebook, only one family (of those students with a personal Chromebook) was unable to attend.

To reflect on this event, all students have been asked to write about their experience at our Chromebook celebration: here is Alexandra's writing. It is poignant that at this exciting and unique milestone event in their digital learning, a highlight for many students was sharing afternoon tea.


Through this Chromebook celebration, I have learnt that:

  1. Learners co-operated and collaborated with new-found confidence when creating the various DLOs for this event as it represented a significant milestone in their personal digital learning journey.
  2. Parents were excited to come and see digital learning in the classroom and excited that their child was able to begin learning at home using a Chromebook.
  3. All learners were proud of their achievements and proud to share their digital skills with their visitors.
  4. Google does not offer translation into Tongan.
  5. Learners need a password to access the Tamaki Learning Network (TLN) on their Chromebooks at home!

Next steps

Learners will create additional screencasts to support whānau engagement with their child’s digital learning. Additionally, primary caregivers will attend some initial training with the Manaiakalani 
Kaiarahi/Whānau Engagement Facilitator to enable learners to take Chromebooks home more than twice per week. While maintaining relationships with family, it is now time to begin addressing the reading aspect of my Spark-MIT 2016 inquiry.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Tips for blogging more ...

The Google Educator Group Auckland held its first SparkShop yesterday - inviting educators to "spark inspiration in the practice of others".

Kate Ginders, Cornwall Park District School, and I shared our blogging tips and strategies with others:

Friday, 20 May 2016

Sparking Connections!

An engaging afternoon was spent sparking connections with Rachel Williams at the Woolf Fisher Research Centre at the University of Auckland yesterday to support my Spark-MIT 2016 inquiry. Rachel is addressing the summer slide in literacy specifically within Manaiakalani and created a pilot holiday blogging programme, Summer Learning Journey, which ran over three weeks in January 2016. Blogging was chosen for this initiative as a positive way to hook learners into creating and sharing more writing. Eight 1:1 digital classes across three Manaiakalani schools participated in the pilot programme with approximately one-third of those learners actively blogging during this time.

How does this relate to my inquiry? As the programme is set to expand during the July holidays, it offers learners motivation and a framework for authentic and fun reading and writing activities in addition to any holiday leisure reading. Rachel is excited to have an opportunity to connect with the learners in Room 10 @ Ruapotaka and enable their involvement in this ubiquitous literacy journey, taking advantage of digital affordances at home and in the community. We will collaborate to enable whānau to engage and connect with this blogging journey.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Spark-MIT 2016: Day 2

A haiku poem to share a moment in time! It has been a reflective day at Spark HQ with the Spark-MIT 2016 cohort sharing the progress and challenges of our inquiries so far.

Firstly we unpacked and discussed Dr Ruben Puendetura's SAMR model to evaluate how we will apply his framework to digital innovation in our classrooms. Critically, do we envisage that our digital innovations will transform learning through redefinition?

Each of us then outlined our problem, the progress made, the challenges faced and some proposed innovations. To summarize my inquiry so far:

As identified in earlier updates, my focus remains inquiring into engaging with whānau to support learners in achieving and sustaining accelerated gains in reading.

Baseline reading data has been collected for Year 6 learners for November 2015 and February 2016. As we enter our third week of Term 2, approximately 75% of learners are using Chromebooks in class on a daily basis, whilst the remaining students record their learning on paper.

Waiting for more Chromebooks to come on line in the classroom has proved a challenging aspect to this inquiry and has limited opportunities to engage with family/whānau. When beginning this inquiry, I naively envisaged that students would be learning at home with digital devices by the end of Term 1. Very soon, this challenge will have run its course!

I'm excited that students are about to invite family/whānau to school to share via a screencast why their learning would benefit from taking the Chromebooks home! They will also begin to create some "how to" videos to help their family/whānau engage with our kawa of care and support learning at home. The voice of our whānau will determine what shape some of this will take and, consequently, how this translates into innovations around reading.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Spark-MIT 2016: What do I want to reflect upon and share at the end of Term 1?

The backstory: although moving with the same student cohort from Year 5 in 2015 to Year 6 in 2016, the number of learners in Room 10 has decreased since the end of 2015 as five students have left the area over the summer holiday and during Term 1.  One student has returned to learn at Ruapotaka after a short time in Room 10 earlier in 2015.

The digital context: as at the 7th April 2016, 59% of Room 10 is learning with Chromebooks. 41% of the class continues personal learning traditionally. There is a digital divide within Room 10. Once 90% (or more) of students have access to a personal Chromebook in Term 2, family and whānau will be invited to share their initial ideas, thinking and expectations about their child’s learning and any opportunities to engage and connect with this within a ubiquitous digital learning environment.

The data so far: just under half of Room 10 read at their chronological age; just over a quarter of the students read at a level well-below their chronological age; no learners are reading above their age. Just over half the class maintained their reading age over the 2015/2016 summer break. For those students whose reading age declined between December 2015 and February 2016, the downward shift was either 6 or 12 months.

Anecdotal evidence about reading habits over the 2015/2016 summer break: two students participated regularly in Dare to Explore, a summer reading programme at Auckland Libraries; approximately half of the class said they read occasionally over the holiday; and around one-third of students did very little or no reading during the summer break.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Spark-MIT 2016: The problem unpacked

The specific problem of my inquiry was identified, deliberated and refined at Spark-MIT 2016 Day 1: how do my Year 6 learners in a Decile 1 primary school make and sustain accelerated gains in reading?

The easy answer, of course, is to read more. Therein lies the problem: how will that happen?  The cycle of inquiry begins.

My initial thoughts on unpacking the problem have evolved into a series of questions which will focus my inquiry over the course of 2016:

Monday, 22 February 2016

Spark-MIT 2016

Today was Day 1 of Spark-MIT 2016.  This year's cohort of Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers gathered at Spark's Head Office in the city to share the focus of their inquiry, challenge and support each other in finalising their research problem for 2016.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Visible Learning in 2015

Visible learning in a 1:1 digital learning environment to support student achievement. How am I doing? What can I improve on?

A first screencast to share my thoughts towards the end of my first year teaching and learning in a 1:1 digital learning environment in 2015.