Wednesday, 11 July 2018

MIT-2018 Teamwork

There was teamwork in abundance in Sydney! As Kariene Gardiner (Kaikohekohe Education Network in Northland) and I were both presenting sessions on different aspects of blogging at the EdTech Team Summit, we decided to take time to attend each other's presentations. As well as an opportunity to learn from each other, it was also a time to offer a different perspective during question time.

It was so interesting to hear just how different our blogging presentations and stories were. As my presentation focus was how blogs are set up and organised at a cluster-wide level within the Manaiakalani community of learning, and shared research evidence that blogging is an effective tool in supporting achievement in literacy, it was particularly poignant to hear Kariene's examples and stories of student voice and the value that whānau places upon blogging as a means of communicating about their children's learning.

There was also teamwork at play when I was able to support Clarelle Carruthers at her hands-on session about creating a Google site as, unfortunately, her co-presenter was sick. It was all hands on deck with about 30 attendees in the room ranging from complete beginners to experts. It was a timely reminder that everyone is an individual who has different learning needs and learns new things at a different pace!

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Capes Not Required: listening and learning @ Sydney EdTech Team Summit

As well as presenting my blogging session at the EdTech Team Summit in Sydney, there was much to learn from both experts at keynote addresses and presentation sessions delivered by classroom teachers.  

Jesse Lubinsky, an American innovator and Director of Technology at a New York school district, opened the summit with his keynote address, Capes Not Required.

What has shaped and influenced our lives as teachers? What extraordinary things can we achieve as teachers? Using his love of comics and superheroes as an analogy, Jesse believes that a learner’s journey through school is akin to the 12 stages of the hero’s journey:

Jesse asked us to think about how can we support learners as they travel the hero’s journey from the ordinary world to become superheroes when they reach the end of their journey through school. A teacher’s role, according to Jesse, is being the mentor along the way who nurtures persistence and accuracy. We are there to ensure that school doesn’t inadvertently become a difficult test for some learners. Our role is to get to know our learners as individuals because we want what’s best for them. We are the superheroes who encourage passion, provide opportunities, celebrate scars along the way and honour each learner’s individuality.

Lindsay Wesner, a keynote speaker from South Africa, also alluded to the power of a teacher’s story to shape the stories and passions of learners when she began her address, Once upon our time, by asking “What is the point of change technology?”  Although we may fear change, worry that there is never enough time to make change, she encouraged us all to strap on our shark fin to face our fears because it is worth investing our time learning to use change technology because it matters for the success of our learners.

Lindsay expanded upon her thinking in this area during her Deep Dive session, The power of possibility - cultivating a growth mindset in your classroom.  As a group, we collaborated to reach a shared understanding of a growth mindset, shared here in Lindsay’s graphic:

According to Lindsay, the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset is the power of the word “yet”!

We want our students to believe they can succeed so it’s about offering our learners multiple opportunities to follow a passion to success. Of course, to achieve success, learners need to have been involved in co-constructing a rubric, seen an example of a finished product (as long as this exemplar does not become a recipe) and enjoy opportunities to celebrate their success. Lindsay shared powerful ways in which change technology can support a growth mindset:
  • Google Forms can be used a little like choosing your own adventure story: a learner is taken on a different learning journey based on their answers to particular questions by using different sections within the form. If a learner is flying through, they will be taken directly to an extension and enrichment task. If a learner is struggling, the form will take them back to a support video and then the same questions will be asked in a different way.
  • Choice boards offer learners opportunities to present their understanding and thinking in different ways through differentiated tasks. Teachers don’t have to do or know how to do all of the tasks, we just have to think of what a learner needs to be able to do. We can give students tasks that are non-traditional.
As teachers, we need to show our learners that we value their learning process and not just the finished product. Kimberley Hall reiterated the importance of valuing the learning process during her deep dive into the digital tools we can use to support project-based learning.

How can we find out what students already know about a topic? Kimberley introduced us to a number of tools that synthesise previous understandings. AnswerGarden is one such tool in which students can share thinking and key words about a specific topic. The live word cloud is generated and regenerated as words are added. The font size changes depending on the number of times the same words repeat. Kimberley’s key recommendations when using AnswerGarden:
  • Keep the character count to 20 to enable learners to get to the crux of an issue.
  • The spam filter is off by default. It should always be changed to "on".
  • Change "browse other answer gardens" to hidden so that students are not searching and taking other ideas. They have to show their own thinking.
  • The default text is lower text, which makes it easier for the programme to collate data.
  • Take a screenshot of the word cloud as a record of ideas, thinking and learning.
Here is an example of a word cloud we generated at the conference:

Further information on all of the digital tools explored and shared by Kimberley can be found in my copy of her presentation.

We all like to create exciting and engaging learning opportunities by using the full range of tools within GAFE. However, John Meng, Deputy Principal at Rooty Hill High School, shared how he uses the Google suite of apps for a different purpose - formative assessment. He introduced his session by exploring the differing approaches to providing feedback put forward by Professor John Hattie and Dr Douglas Fisher. John Meng’s preferred model is Doug Fisher’s Gradual Release of Responsibility because he believes that Doug Fisher puts common sense in a sensible order:

This approach to teaching and learning is supported at Rooty Hill High School through a common way of planning across the school in all learning areas: every child walks into class to see the same planning format up on the screen. Students are hooked into learning through digital technology, collaborate digitally and in person and select how they will demonstrate their learning from a range of digital options:
  • Thinkwell - Maths videos on youtube
  • Google Slides
  • Google Slides voiceover
  • Prezi (very impressive but can cause vertigo)
  • Powtoon
  • Screencastify
  • Keynote
  • Google sites
  • Voki (language teachers love this)
  • Lucidchart (maths teachers love this)
  • Google photos - story
  • Podcasts
  • Infographics
  • Kahoot! (If questions are written carefully, answers can be used as formative assessment.)
  • Google sheets (Data validation - like comments)
These options offer multiple formative assessment opportunities from peers and the teacher. John also uses individual commenting within Google as cues for learners (for example, "Have you thought about ... ?, Go and ask ...) in a way that is similar to Linsday Wesner setting up different sections within a Google form.

Having listened carefully to many interesting ideas and presentations, it now remains for me to assimilate my new learning about Google Apps for Education from the conference to leverage my creativity and efficiency to support individual learners as they strive to succeed. No cape required!

Monday, 9 July 2018

Blogging: sharing a learning journey - feedback from my session in Sydney

As a closing activity at my session at the EdTech Team Summit in Sydney today, we created a collaborative blog post to share the reflections of attendees.

Blogging: sharing a learning journey

Blogging is how learners at schools within the Manaiakalani community of learning share learning, wonderings and thinking on their educational journey. Digital artefacts shared on individual learner blogs are a rich record of student learning and growth as they voyage through school from age five until they leave school.

At the EdTech Team Summit in Sydney I was able to share some background about the what, why and how of our blogging journey.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Partnering with whānau

Whānau often ask what they can do to support their child's learning at home. We always recommend reading and talking about what has been read. We encourage whānau to find ways to enable their child to participate in our holiday blogging programmes to support literacy. However, with the change to the way in which Maths teaching and learning is happening in our learning spaces, there was the opportunity at last night's parent-teacher interviews to empower whānau to strengthen the connections between school maths and real-world maths.

The Developing Mathematical Inquiry in a Learning Community (DMIC) approach to teaching and learning in Maths requires learners to think, talk and collaborate to solve relevant, real-life Maths problems as a group. So, to support learning conversations about Maths at home, I created a Maths @ Home pack for each learner and enjoyed many conversations with whānau about how they might use this to support their child's learning at home.

Talking about Maths has never been so much fun!

Monday, 2 July 2018

Teaching As Inquiry: mid-year reflection 2018

What steps have I taken to change my practice in the first half of 2018?  My practice has inevitably changed with the transition from levelled-group teaching to the Developing Mathematical Inquiry in a Learning Community (DMIC) problem-solving approach to Maths with in-class mentoring provided by Dr Bobbie Hunter’s team at the University of Waikato.

An important focus during the first half of the year has been setting up the norms and expectations for learners when working together in a small group to solve a Maths problem. It is easy to forget that this change in approach to learning Maths is also new for the learners and vastly different from how they have historically learnt Maths at school. Unpacking and exploring the key competencies of managing self and relating to others has been crucial throughout this period so that students feel empowered to embrace this new way of Maths learning. It is beautiful to hear something as simple as a learner politely asking a presenter to speak up so everyone can hear significant Maths thinking.

Consequently, Learn Create Share has taken on a different emphasis during these early days of DMiC problem-solving:

  • Learn: learning to work with others to be able to solve a Maths problem
  • Create: creating Maths learning collaboratively with others in a small group while being thoughtful of others, respectful of their ideas and empathetic to their feelings
  • Share: sharing Maths thinking orally as a cohesive group for the benefit of others

Naturally, opportunities for students to learn together in small collaborative groups have been provided across all learning areas to build positive relationships and encourage a sense of community responsibility.  Not only does this support the DMiC approach to learning Maths but is helping Room 11 make headway in its "waka".

As for my target learners, there are positive and observable shifts in their attitude towards Maths. I no longer hear talk of “I don’t like Maths”, “I suck at Maths”, “I’m dumb at Maths”. Maths is now viewed as a time when you work with others to talk about a problem and how it can be solved. Within the small social groupings, everyone brings different perspectives and knowledge about how to solve a problem. It is still very much a work-in-progress but collaboration is replacing suspicion and competitiveness now that people realise that there really is no top Maths group! It is noticeable that everyone is more confident to share their Maths thinking in front of others and, equally as important, most are much more confident to ask questions if they don’t fully understand what someone else is talking about.

As far as possible, Maths problems have been created to integrate number and strand, while balancing curriculum demands with student prior knowledge. Interestingly, a problem was posed recently to explore number flexibility and explicitly begin the transition from additive to multiplicative thinking (as many learners rely on skip-counting to solve multiplication problems).

This context with blocks of wood was chosen as real blocks of wood have been available for building bases in the playground recently. These objects have been the source of great enjoyment and frustration as groups of students build and knock down each other’s bases. Much talk at our first exploration of this problem centred around the fairness of the problem: Why can’t they put all the blocks together and make one big base? Why do they have different amounts? It would be fair if all the blocks were added together and then shared equally so there won’t be any arguments.

Rich oral language and the key competencies were clearly on display while the Maths in this problem was explored further on a second occasion. There are the beginnings of understanding that numbers can be broken up and recombined in different ways - and that some numbers are more flexible than others. Some connections have been made that using your times tables is more efficient for solving some problems than skip-counting - based on the arrays that were drawn to show how the flexible number 24 can be broken up in a range of different ways.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Tuakana-teina in action

As part of a whole-school Matariki celebration at PES last Friday, an amazing group of tamariki created kites in Room 11 with Mrs Stone and I. The reason for reflecting upon this event is the absolute joy of witnessing tuakana-teina in action. Vertical cross-groupings meant that the kite-makers ranged from Year 1 up to Year 8. Throughout the day there was a sense of whānau and belonging as older students supported and helped younger students design and create their kites from the assortment of materials provided. This sense of community was enhanced by rich oral language as young people negotiated sharing resources, shared design ideas and asked questions of others to find out how they had solved a particular design problem.

Participating in this hands-on experience offered all learners an opportunity to strengthen positive relationships beyond individual classroom walls and extend their sense of belonging within the wider learning community at school.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Measuring the fun in Maths

As part of our learning about how things move, I created a practical learning activity which integrated Inquiry, Reading, Writing and Maths. The purpose was to learn about some big Maths ideas (Shape and Measurement) and related vocabulary whilst making a model parachute based on the design of Leonardo da Vinci.

A number of challenges needed to be addressed to remove potential literacy barriers that could prevent some learners from engaging with the activity. After introducing the topic through a video, the initial focus for the whole class was exploring key vocabulary from the instructions. This was similar to launching a DMiC Maths problem to check everyone's understanding about the story of a problem. Learners then worked with buddies or in small groups to support each other as they tackled their challenge by reading the instructions, asking each other questions, checking understandings and taking risks to share their ideas and thinking.

Learners were required to accurately measure and cut out four equilateral triangles before combining these to create a square pyramid. Further precise measurement was needed to cut the correct length string (dental floss) for the parachute.

Nearly everyone created a parachute and many enjoyed experimenting (with varying degrees of success) how they could reduce and speed up the rate of fall by adding/ removing weight. Most learners could identify that they had used four plane shapes (equilateral triangles) to create a three-dimensional model of a square pyramid. Most developed an understanding that we measure angles using a standard unit of measurement (called degrees) with a protractor.

Overall, learners engaged positively with this integrated learning activity and worked well together. It seemed to offer the right amount of challenge whilst requiring cooperation and collaboration to achieve success. Additional support was provided for those who required it. Consensus was that it was a lot of fun and didn't really seem like Maths.

Monday, 21 May 2018

A Catalyst for Inquiry

The MIT-2018 cohort took time out today to share progress with our inquiries and collaborate at our second meeting at KPMG's headquarters in Auckland.

Our focus was digging deeper into our inquiries through Catalyst, a collaborative inquiry game created by Core Education. This board game has been developed around the OECD's Seven Principles of Learning. Each person was allocated a different questioning role within the game which proved an effective way for the group to drill down and ask those tricky questions of each other to challenge ideas and current thinking.

I found that the game created a supportive structure and environment in which to articulate and clarify my thinking about my inquiry.  The scanning and focusing stages of the game were particularly potent for me as they highlighted and reaffirmed the importance of learner well-being and engagement as we strive to optimise achievement. This may sound like common sense but it has strong connections to the goal of our school-wide professional Maths learning, Developing Mathematical Inquiry in a Learning Community.  Through the careful selection of Maths problems with contexts that relate to the immediate world of our learners and our community, I believe we are strengthening the balance and connections between well-being, engagement and achievement.

Catalyst image retrieved from:

Saturday, 5 May 2018

DMiC: Reflecting on a mentoring session

At a recent DMiC professional development session, images were explored as a medium for  creating culturally-responsive problems for Maths.  This siapo image was highlighted as an example of a problem which is accessible to all.  As Pt England had celebrated Fiafia 2018, its bi-annual cultural festival, at the end of Term 1, this image was selected as an authentic opportunity to begin our Maths problem-solving in Term 2, which coincided with a visit from our DMiC mentor.

Planning prior to sharing this problem with learners considered what learners might notice in the image and how this might connect to conceptual understandings about patterns:

Working in groups of four, students shared and discussed their ideas and thinking about the image while only one of these learners was allocated the role of recorder. 

It was wonderful to listen to the rich discussions taking place within the different groups.  I noticed a range of both everyday words and precise Maths vocabulary being used to describe the shapes and patterns within the image.

Having reorganised the groupings for Term 2, I also observed positive progress in attitude and engagement as students took more time to listen to each other and took turns to share their thinking within these social groupings. There is still much to work on within our DMiC Maths journey but in these early days there were plenty of reasons to celebrate the small successes, notably amazing individual learners who stepped up, took the lead in their group by showing empathy to enable the group to approach problem-solving in a positive way.

Monday, 26 March 2018

MIT 2018 @ KPMG: Sharing progress in our thinking

It was wonderful to reconnect with our fellow Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers today at our first session at KPMG's head office to further challenge our thinking in relation to our inquiries: As we have faced the reality of the cohort of learners (and teachers) we are spending 2018 with, how has the thinking you developed ... gelled when ‘the rubber hit the road’?

My thinking, ponderings and wonderings returned to my identified problem: the need to lift the achievement in Maths for all students in Years 1-13 within the Manaiakalani Community of Learning.  What does this mean for my inquiry? Am I on the right track?  What is the most effective way of getting our waka to move through the water faster?

While getting to know my learners and gathering data for my target students, it has become evident that the language of Maths needs building up in order that learners can express and explain their mathematical ideas and thinking appropriately and clearly.  For example, when asked to find a quarter of a set, two of my target students asked "What is a quarter?"  In answer to the same question, another explained that the answer is 4 because a quarter is written 1/4.  These examples have thus caused me to return to the problem and progress my thinking by choosing to focus on four areas, the first of which is the language of Maths:

This focus on the language of Maths will also build support for our school-wide Teaching As Inquiry.

Now that my thinking has progressed and clarified, my next step in the inquiry process is to prototype a digital framework to support my learners acquiring the language of Maths.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Learning to create with Keynote

At this term's Learn Create Share staff meeting, Dorothy Burt enthralled us with some really clever tips and tricks in Keynote to enhance visual presentations.

Here is the result of my upskilling: a visual representation of Room 11's class description!  How much easier to understand at a glance than the written version!

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Teaching As Inquiry: Student Voice

To kick off my MIT-2018 inquiry and the Teaching As Inquiry cycle for 2018, I have explored learner attitude to Maths to gain student voice through oral language. The result is Room 11's movie contribution to Pt England School's daily news network, PENN, for Term 1 in which learners share what they like about Maths, with a few examples of when they use Maths outside school.

While listening to these Year 4 and 5 learners share their ideas and thinking about why they like Maths, I was struck by the common words and themes of "cool" and "fun". While their genuinely positive attitude was evident and heart-warming, many learners found it difficult to expand upon their one word or short phrase answers to articulate their thinking further. Through questioning, scaffolding and some paired or small group discussion, some learners were able to add to their ideas to share the "because" part of their thinking.

What does this mean for my inquiries for 2018?

  • Using the structure of the Talk Moves for oral language to create a safe and positive environment in which learners focus on ideas, thinking and friendly argumentation.
  • Ongoing oral language activities to allow all learners to feel more confident sharing their thinking with others.
  • Activities to build student capacity to use the language of Maths.
  • Oral language and Maths problems that strengthen student understandings of the connections between Maths at school, home and in the real world.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

MIT-2018: Challenging My Thinking

An Achievement Challenge identified by the Manaiakalani Community of Learning is the need to lift achievement in Maths for all students in Years 1-13. This is the challenge I have selected for my Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher inquiry during 2018. My initial thoughts were that I would approach this challenge by creating a toolbox of rewindable, visible video resources to support student understandings about number strategies and Maths concepts in a Manaiakalani context. However, as we begin to explore Dr Bobbie Hunter's DMIC approach to teaching and learning in Maths at Pt England, I have been challenged in my thinking to change, alter and expand how I might approach accelerating achievement in Maths for my Year 4 and 5 learners. After a "Crazy 8s" design thinking activity, the following graphic shares how much my thinking has shifted:

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Teaching As Inquiry 2018: Where do I start?

I am inquiring into accelerating Maths achievement as part of MIT-2018 and through Teaching As Inquiry 2018.  My inquiry focus is using video DLOs to create rewindable, visible teaching and learning opportunities.

My initial hunches are that Bobbie Hunter’s DMIC approach will support this goal through:

  • Social groupings to build self-esteem about Maths and Key Competencies
  • Culturally-responsive contexts
  • Selection of rich problem-based tasks that are worth spending time on
  • Vocabulary acquisition:
    • Technical Maths terms
    • Positive face-to-face language of friendly argumentation

What can I try? One idea that I have just introduced in the classroom is a word journal to record Maths terms to support/expand/explore language of Maths.

Some ideas to investigate at the beginning of the inquiry cycle:
  • Integration of strand and number within the DMIC problem-solving approach for greater curriculum coverage.
  • Acceleration workshops for target students, ie needs-based prior to socially-grouped problem-solving 2-3 times per week @ 8.30am or at lunchtime.
  • Students sharing their thinking about Maths and their attitude to Maths with surveys to determine how this changes over time.
  • Record student explanations of Maths terms to (hopefully) show increased oral ability and confidence to share their understandings.
  • Record students sharing their thinking about big Maths ideas (strategy/solving problems) which can be used as rewindable, visible DLOs for others.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Challenging the status quo

To kick off our whole school PD for 2018, Dr Bobbie Hunter shared her research and expertise on Developing Mathematical Inquiry in a Learning Community (DMIC).

The latest data quoted by Bobbie reveal that only 26% of Māori students and 11% of Pasifika are achieving curriculum standards at Year 8.  Consequently, when students are not achieving at this level, it is difficult for them to engage with or achieve at Maths in college.  She put forward various reasons why this comes to pass: deficit theorising on the part of both teachers and students; a mismatch of Pasifika values and teacher values; barriers created through levelled ability groupings; and the lack of value given to Maths by students because they don't see how school maths relates to the real word and life after school.

According to Bobbie, we can address these alarming statistics by adopting into our practice the DMIC approach to teaching and learning in Maths: high expectations within an inclusive, culturally-responsive learning environment;  co-constructing Maths inquiry learning in social groupings; connecting rich mathematical thinking and reasoning with worthwhile tasks through explicit and expertly-framed mathematical practices.

To embark on a way forward, Bobbie began by unpacking the values central to Pasifika culture:

How do these match our own values?  In what respect do these differ from our own values?  What do we understand by the notion of service in a Pasifika context?  How does current Maths teaching and learning in our classes connect with DMIC?

As we launch into a new academic year, challenging the status quo in Maths presents itself as a goal for Teaching As Inquiry and a path to accelerating achievement.  I’m so looking forward to our future PD sessions with Dr Bobbie Hunter and dipping my toes into her DMIC sandbox to support this teaching and learning journey.