Monday, December 22, 2014

School is Boring - A high achieving 14 year old girls perspective of her School

This is a persuasive argument written for the School's Year 10 speech competition. A very gutsy effort from a high achieving girl who is doing very well in the current system. 

School is boring.
Believe me, I've been going for ten years. Day in, day out listening to teachers talk for hours on end. It sometimes makes me just want to fall asleep.
But no longer will we bored out of our minds again, as today I am going to convince you that the way students learn in classrooms needs to change.
Ask yourself is what we are learning relevant in our future? Does your brain switch off as soon as your teacher stands in front of the classroom? And shouldn't we as students have a say in our education?

Some of you might be shocked to hear me, a goody-two-shoes question the teaching methods of schools.
But while teachers are standing up in front of us, telling us what to write and copy down for notes, who is really doing the thinking? We are spoon fed facts and information for what seems like the sole purpose of regurgitating them later in a test.

Which brings me my next question; is what we are learning relevant to our future? Have you ever read a book then thought "I'm going to write a 2000 word essay about that!"? And perhaps knowing that in 1945 Korea split into two zones along the line of exactly 38 degrees latitude will come in handy one day, but wouldn't it be easier to just ask the mighty google?
So you see, boring us with the facts of poetry, geometry or history is just a waste of time.

So, what should we be learning in class? The problem with school is that everybody has to learn the same thing while we all have different interests and the things we find not so interesting. Think back to the joyous times of the kindergarten days; we were free to paint million dollar worthy pictures while our buddies ate play dough.

Now think about what happens in school today; we are given a timetable, scheduling what subject we will learn and when we will learn it. We are told what to learn and how to learn. Confined to work in the walls of a classroom, stuck in rows of desks, sentenced to lunch time detentions for longingly gazing out the window wishing we learning something else.

The solution is self-directed learning. The principle of self directed learning is simple; students taking initiative and having a say in their learning.
Now, I'm not saying that teachers should just let us go willy nilly running round to doing whatever we want, there does need to be structure to what we do in our school day.

Students need to be able to set their own goals, based on a criteria given by a teacher. The Ministry of Education have a vision for all schools to have an inclusive educational system where the school's adapt to fit the students rather than the students adapting to fit the school.

Students can focus on what they are interested in, like understanding the mechanics of a series circuit by actually building a circuit for a light bulb. Or learning the different types of rhyming sequences by writing a song. By taking charge of our learning we will become more engaged and less bored in class.

School is boring.
Believe me, I've been telling you why for almost five minutes. The way we are taught in classrooms needs to change. We need to be engaged and involved in our learning. So when your teacher stands in front of you to tell you about the irrelevant facts of the world, you stand up. Stand up for your education, your right to investigate and explore what you want to learn. Teachers, as J Wesley Baker said, "don't be the sage on the stage, be the guide on the side" and help us become self directed, life long learners.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Teaching as Inquiry and Data Collection

After reading chapters 1 and 2 from  Data-based decision making in education: Challenges and opportunities. (Schildkamp,Lai & Earl, L. 2012) I have been thinking how I could tie their definition and categories of data into Timperley's Inquiry Spiral. I have attempted to show my thoughts below.

Input data
–  Data on student characteristic such as data on truancy, intake, transfer and school leavers, home language, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
–  Data on teacher characteristics, such as data on teacher qualifications and length of teaching.
Outcome data
–  Data on student achievement such as assessment results, written and oral exams, portfolios, and report cards.
–  Data on student well-being such as well-being surveys.
Process data
– Data on instruction and types of assessment such as observations and documents on instruction and learning strategies, instruction time, organization of instruction, classroom management, and organization of assessment.
Context data
–  Data on school culture such as survey or focus group results on the opinions of students and teachers on the school’s atmosphere, climate, and discipline.
–  Data on the curriculum such as subject descriptions, rosters, year guides, and special programs.
–  Data on building and materials such as data on how many times certain rooms and equipment are used and the availability of computers.

I often struggle with what data to use as evidence and usually go back to outcome data as it
is embedded into classroom practice and often the easiest to use. For me changing my mindset around data use is helped by thinking about breaking the data into the different contexts and then having some examples to reflect on.

I like the two following examples from Schildkamp,Lai & Earl, L. 2012 as it gives ways of using multiple data to inform the decision making process.

For example, a teacher who wants to make effective instructional changes to her reading program to better cater for the boys in her class could use the following data:
  • Data on student characteristics such as absenteeism rates for boys (input data).
  • Analysis of student performance on reading tests (outcome data).
  • Discussions with the boys about their strengths and weaknesses in reading and
    their love of reading (process data).
    • Examination of the school curriculum such as whether the reading texts are

    engaging for boys (context data).

A Principal who wants to find out whether parents understand the new school report cards could use the following data:

  • Data on parent characteristics such as home language (input data).
  • Analysis of parent understanding of the reports through discussions and surveys
    with parents (outcome data).
  • Examination of the report cards to see if there are features of the report that aid or
    hinder parent understanding, for example, whether the comments written in the report card use educational jargon that would be difficult for parents to understand (context data). 
A great example I found is a rural district in the USA looked at why a subset of students where struggling academically. Teachers and administrators looked for explanations in student performance data, medical records, behavioral data, attendance, and other less quantitative information. No meaningful correlations emerged. Administrators began to examine what might seem to be unrelated data, including transportation data, where they finally found a direct connection. The students who were having the most difficulty were those who had the longest bus commute. 
The outcome from the data analysis was a change in bus timetables to shorten the non productive time on buses. Another district with similar issues could not shorten the time spent on buses so they installed wireless on the buses so students could work while on the bus.  (Ellen, B., Mandinach, (2012). A Perfect Time for Data Use: Using Data-Driven Decision Making to Inform Practice. Educational Psychologist, 47,(2), 71-85.)

We collect a range of data within the school and for me focussing in the on the contexts of data I could possibly use at each stage of the inquiry helps me to make better decisions for the students and focus my own learning.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

When planning in a team, what does that actually look like? I have visions of teachers either working in an online doc or site, planning together based on their learners needs and then linking off to other docs as they get more into the detail of what they are teaching. I have tried to visualise my thinking below. 


In reflecting on research I have read it seems to me the way you document planning in a collaborative space is probably not a lot different to documenting planning in a single cell classroom especially if you are using online tools like Google Docs or Office 365.

The big difference in a collaborative planning space appears to be the need for time and resources to allow rich discussion between the members of a collaborative team around the data they have collected and the next learning steps for their learners. This in turn leads to planning the learning for the following sessions.

I am interested to know if schools see the benefit of investing in professional learning around data literacy as internationally this seems to be an area that teachers are generally weak in. Data literate teachers have the skills to analyse and infer from the students responses, what they know and can do. This then enables next steps to be planned for and also enables the teacher to understand what they need to learn to teach that child.
In a collaborative space I can see that data literate teachers would be far more effective at meeting their learners needs and would be able to have much more in depth discussions about the student data. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The writing process and a Year 9 Student - A Students Reflection

This is Megan's reflection of the Writing Process using digital tools.

What did you like about the tools for writing?

  • I really liked using poppet it was really easy to use and it was easy to organise the way you wanted it to be and you could move the text boxes around wherever you wanted to. 
  • Wordle was very useful just because it was a different and cool way to show what words you had used too much. 
  • The speech selection was also good because it would speed up it's talking when there wasn't enough commas and full stops. 
  • Book creator was a good app to use once you got the hang of it to set out your work. 
  • Write about this was a good app to decide what to write about it had good pictures to use if you wanted to and it was just good in general because I'm pretty sure it had topics.

What barriers or problems did you find with the tools?

  • With dictanote I found it very awkward to use because it did not fully understand my voice and I feel like if you were to use this in the classroom that the computer would go physco trying to understand what you were saying. 
  • Book creator was a little bit fiddly at the start learning how to use it and putting the text in the right place was a bit annoying.

What did you like about Write About This?

It was a a good app to get an idea of what you were going to write about. I think I got one of my pictures in the book from there.

What barriers/issues/problems can you see with using Write About This at home/school?

It looked like it was made for little kids, the app could be designed for older kids and teenagers.

What did you like about Popplet?

It was handy to show your ideas clearly and you could customise it sort of.

What barriers/issues/problems can you see with using Popplet at home/school?

I don't know I thought it was a good app overall and I would use it and I'm sure that other kids would use it in class

What did you like about Googles Docs/Track Changes?

I already use it at school so I am used to it now, I like it because it has the search thing at the side of the screen that you can get images and just normal google search. It's good so you know what you have fixed and you can go back and and change it back again.

What barriers/issues/problems can you see with using Google Docs/Track Changes at home/school?

Not having internet and having other apps and program's already like Word and Pages. You would have to know how to track changes in add ons and not many people know how to use it.

What did you like about Wordle?

I liked wordle because it all you have to do is copy and paste all your writing in and it makes the words you use most the boldest. It's quite a good tool because then you can compare your changes with the first time you did it.

What barriers/issues/problems can you see with using Wordle at home/school?

No internet. On the iPad it doesn't like using it because I tried and it didn't work. Wordle is a Web Based Java program the equivalent on an iPad may be Word Collage 

What did you like about Speak Selection - iPad reading your text aloud?

I liked it because it would speed up speaking when there wasn't enough commas and full stops.

What barriers/issues/problems can you see with using Speak Selection at home/school?

It had a Horrible voice which made it a bit frustrating but you could have it set to your voice maybe.

What did you like about Book Creator?

It was a good way to set out your work. Once you knew how to use it, it was quite good.

What barriers/issues/problems can you see with using Book Creator?

Not knowing how to use it. It took a while to figure out to change the font and change the size of the words. It was just quite fiddly in general.

What other tools or digital opportunities would you like to see at school?

Getting to use more apps in school to help our learning. I think that the teachers need some training about new apps to help kids in the classroom.

Anything else you would like to share about the day?

It was a good use of my work day.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Creating personal knowledge from existing knowledge - Understanding the How

Agency, Collaboration, Connectedness and Ubiquity are all catch words in the New Zealand education sector.

But do we truly understand these terms as educators. Along with two of my colleagues we attempted to gain a greater understanding of Agency as we were about to present to a cluster of schools at a teacher only day.

Having mentioned these terms in workshops in the past we were quite surprised to discover that between the 3 of us our understanding of Agency was not very consistent or well formed in our heads.

So we looked to existing knowledge to help us clarify our understanding. After turning to Art Costa, Derek Wenmoth and numerous other papers and articles we started to form a greater understanding of agency especially when we had to think about teaching others about it. By collaborating together on the presentation and bouncing our ideas and thoughts about agency, a greater clarification occurred for ourselves. The ability to connect with others thinking at anytime ensured our learning could occur when we were ready, as we all needed to first process some aspects of the new knowledge before we could move on.
Keywords from Art Costa's Video
The personal knowledge of agency that I have gained through this collaborative approach of synthesising existing knowledge has enabled me to understand agency and also see a much bigger picture when it comes to Modern Learning Practise.

What we need to focus on as educators in this new and exiting time is not the Why or What aspects of technology in the classroom, as these are focussed on continuously and often lead to the digital tools being used as consumptive or as substitutes for traditional tools.
Instead we need to focus and unpack the How. Looking at Agency, Ubiquity, Collaboration and Connectedness. By focussing on the "How" we can use the digital tools to ensure personalised learning, creativity and sharing are embedded in our practise. 

So the next time you open a Google Doc for your learners, start to think "this is not a word processing tool", instead see Google Docs as an opportunity to increase collaboration, give learners agency, connect them outside the classroom and allow them to learn anywhere and anytime.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The writing process and a Year 9 Student - My reflection

Last Friday I had the opportunity to work with a student from the local college who was on work day and I employed her to play with some of the apps I had found and to give me feedback from a students points of view. I was thinking as part of the writing process she could use digital technologies to enable her to express her creativity.Megan is a Year 9 who does not particularly enjoy writing however she is a very creative person.

Megan started by using Popplet to create a brainstorm of what she wanted to write about. After a few moments it was apparent that she needed more guidance around the topic and what to write about. Using Write About app gave her some ideas to create her story. Once Megan had chosen a topic she asked if she could brainstorm her ideas using pen and paper.

Once Megan completed the brainstorm I asked to her to create a copy using Popplet so she had an experience of using Popplet as a brainstorming tool.
Reflection of Popplet
On reflection some students would not choose Popplet as their first choice as a brainstorming tool and neither would I. To brainstorm I like to get my ideas on paper as it gives me more freedom to quickly build a mental image of my thinking.
In hindsight I tend to use an electronic brainstorm when I need to publish the output and would generally still choose paper over digital for my own personal use. In a class situation with a group brainstorm I can see the power of collaborative brainstorms that are digital and would lean towards Popplet or similar.

Drafting was done using Dictanote as was this reflection. Dictanote was not an easy tool to use on the Megan’s Acer Laptop as the microphone did not pick up the words well. We tried to calibrate the microphone and used the train the computer to Megan’s voice with little success. We also tried my Macbook however I think it was tuned into my voice and this did not work well either.
Reflection of Dictanote
  • Works best on an individuals own device
  • need to set spoken i to capitalise to I
  • Takes awhile to learn the tool but worth the effort (device also takes awhile to learn your voice)
  • Speak naturally and pause to allow dictanote to catch up
  • realise there will be mistakes that need to be fixed later (try not to fix as you go)
  • Really need a good brainstorm with good sequence to help prompt speaker what to say next
  • Stop mic recording to enable think time
  • Text will need cut and pasted into a word doc or equivalent to edit

Using google docs Megan drafted her writing using her handwritten brainstorm as a guide.  On completion of drafting we cut and pasted her text into Wordle keeping the common words boxed ticked to enable repeated words to be shown larger on the wordle.
We used Wordle to see which words were most commonly used, in the case above we focussed on cutting back the use of and. From the Wordle Megan focussed on what words can be changed in her writing to make it more interesting.
Reflection of Wordle
  • Needs flash plugin on a Mac
  • Fantastic to focus students into words they have used too much. The above Wordle shows how Megan used and to join sentences together.
  • Visual easy to see or screenshot

Finally we turned track changes on in Google Docs and Megan went about the process of editing her writing.
I emailed the text of the document to myself and opened the email on my iPad. This enabled me to use speak selection on the iPad and get Megan's text read aloud so she could hear her mistakes. The less punctuation the faster the iPad speaks the text, so easier to hear where punctuation needs to go.
Reflection of Speak Selection
  • Easy to use
  • Makes mistakes very obvious
  • Student can hear and fix the mistakes as they go
  • The less punctuation the faster the iPad reads, inserting punctuation correctly, slows down the speaker.

Finally we used Book Creator to publish Megan’s writing by cutting and pasting the text from the google doc into Book Creator. Some images were added to the book and then it was published to iBooks and as a PDF.

On reflection the day was a great success for me as I gained a lot of in sights in how to use the apps in a class situation. I also feel it was successful for Megan as she produced a good piece of writing and hopefully will use some of the tools she used with me in her own work. Even though it looks like a long process it was very quick to flick between apps and digital tools to complete the writing.
Dictanote or an equivalent app really would allow a reluctant writer much greater opportunities to get text onto a page as long as you are willing to give some time to learn the skill of dictating text.

Thank you very much Megan for allowing me the opportunity to work with you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

MLP and LwDT Workshops

Reading Campfires in Cyberspace has got me thinking about our new Modern Learning Practices in relation to our LwDT PLD contract. We have an opportunity to create a new way of delivering PLD to schools. On reflection of the article below it has made me think we should be looking at modelling MLP in all our workshop sessions, TOD and Leadership forums. The idea of campfires, waterholes and caves needs to be factored into the learning, whether this is during or after the “session”. A campfire obviously is often catered for in the expert delivery model but what about opportunities for watering hole interactions and quiet, reflective cave experiences. How do you set up a watering hole or cave experience in the setting of a staff room or Hyde House? The cave experience may in fact occur in the car on the drive home or at some quiet reflection time in the learners life. With a bit of thinking we could set up exciting learning opportunities that will model and enhance learning. What are your thoughts?

Excerpt from Campfires in Cyberspace:Primordial Metaphors for Learning in the 21st Century David D. Thornburg, Ph.D.

There was a mathematics conference. A thousand or so school teachers gathered for a weekend at the beautiful location on the Pacific coast to learn more about the teaching of mathematics. Numerous presenters shared their insights through formal, scheduled, presentations. Exhibitors had their wares on display in a separate hall. Meals were held in a huge dining room, and lodging was on-site so people with common interests can share their ideas into the early hours of the morning. A visitor to this conference would see, at any given time, examples of all four learning environments. Some attendees sat in conference rooms listening to experts sharing their insights. The glow of the campfire is replaced by that of the overhead or computer projector, but the metaphor of the shaman or troubadour remained intact.Outside these conference rooms, other participants gathered at the exhibit hall, shuttle bus stops, main lodge, or other gathering places where they shared ideas with each other. These interactions ranged from choosing an off-campus restaurant for a special dinner, to sharing new strategies for introducing calculus to children in middle school. In the absence of a clearly defined watering hole, gathering spots are chosen by convenience. As in the film, Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come.” The exhibit hall, Asilomar lodge and dining hall are probably the closest this conference came to providing metaphorical watering holes. In addition to the two settings in which people are grouped together, the conference visitor would also see people walking by themselves along the trails through the dunes to the ocean shore. Individuals might sit for hours looking at the water, exploring the trees on the grounds, or just engaged in quiet thought. This “cave time” is facilitated by the nature of the Asilomar site. In fact, the ability of this one site to support all three of these learning environments probably accounts for its great popularity as a conference center, even if these multiple aspects of the facility are never overtly addressed. And, finally, participants might gather in informal groups to try ideas out to be sure they truly understood them before the conference was over.

 Compared to

 A major invitational conference on educational technology in Washington, DC had brought an audience of about 600 highly regarded experts together for an intensive two days of presentations. The presentations were set up back to back, with no breaks until lunchtime, and then again after lunch with no breaks until dinnertime.The presentations were (generally) excellent. For example, Arthur C. Clarke held us spellbound with his visions of the future during a live two-way remote video conference from Sri Lanka. Even so, by lunchtime on the first day, there was a lot of grumbling from the attendees. They had been exposed to some intense campfires with no access to watering holes or caves. The conference was so tightly scheduled that several people complained of “overload.” On the one hand, people were free to walk out of sessions they didn’t like, but the presentations were of such high caliber (or the presenters were so well known) that most people were reluctant to walk out. Even so, by the second day, the audience had started to vote with its feet, building in breaks where none existed.This experience brought home to me the importance of scheduling in opportunities for all four learning experiences, and showed the disaster that awaits those who neglect the need for balance.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Modern Learning Environments

The following blog post is excerpts that interest me from 
Mark Osbornes White Paper  and other readings.
Reflective Questions

● What is your school’s vision for teaching and learning? Does everyone share this vision?
How do you know? Which aspects of your school culture would you like to improve? How
would you measure the improvement?
● What are the key pedagogies required by teachers in the 21st century? Are these the ones
in use in your school most days? What systems and processes are in place to help
teachers reflect on their own practice and learn from each other?
● If you were to build a new learning space that reflected your school’s vision and
commitment to learning, what would it look like? What would students need to have access
to over the course of a day? What activities would they engage in over the course of a day?
What technology would be required to support this?
● If curriculum, pedagogy and learning environments are helping to make learning more
personalised, what other elements of the schooling ecosystem need to change? Who is a
‘teacher’ and who is a ‘learner’?

Learning Studios
A da Vinci studio might help students to combine art and science to make discoveries.
In the same way that Leonardo da Vinci used his artistic and scientific skills to invent
helicopters, bicycles and submarines, what might our future students invent in a studio
that contained space for experimenting, building, testing, drawing, studying, observing,
questioning, discussing, debating?

An Einstein studio might house quiet spaces that encourage reflection and exploration
of difficult, abstract concepts. The acoustics would be subdued, allowing students to stay
‘in the flow’ with difficult ideas without being interrupted by noise. Deep reflection might
be encouraged by personalised furniture, technology, lighting and access to resources.

What might these studios look like?
Ralph Hotere studio combining art, politics and society
Karen Walker studio combining design, business and innovation
Jamie Oliver studio combining health, nutrition and social justice
•      A Dan Carter Studio

Caves, Campfires and Watering Holes
Watering hole - coming together to share, brainstorm, exchange ideas, modify ideas
Mountain Top - A place to celebrate your your learning, presenting
Sandpit - a place to play, experiment, create, destroy, prototype with learning
Cave - a quiet place to reflect, question, draw conclusions and make connections
Campfire - share stories, exchange ideas and allow the group to build on each others’ ideas.

MLE Matrix
How children learn
Visible Learning - Hattie (Govt Treasury)

Machines for learning -Mark Osborne
The house is a machine for living, the school should be a machine for learning.
Schools of past where machines for listening, sitting and writing as a whole class.
Should not look like industrial model as longer need to impart knowledge to learners at that level.

Young learners will make their living through creativity, ingenuity and imagination - Charles
Alive in the swamp - Michael Fullan and Katelyn Donnelly - graph of love of school
Vision needs to drive MLE as it does for all aspects of the school. It's not what you know but what you can do with what you know.
Individual instruction is very inefficient way of teaching as no social, collaborative reflective learning. Inquiry teaching and teaching as inquiry very powerful tools. Adult tutors and same age tutor learn about same amount. Cross age tutors more powerful for both individuals. Hattie 

Need a new name for Bar Leaners in schools! Is it not funny that good pubs and bars were MLE in design by providing a variety of spaces years ago. How come education has taken so long?