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.