Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Reflections from the PPTA ICT meeting April 2018

There was a pretty full on agenda for the April meeting of the PPTA ICT committee, and I got myself wonderfully wound up over several points. Much discussion was had of hard issues, and of course, hard issues have no easy answers and there is not always a clear pathway to follow. So if you have any thoughts, opinions etc, feel free to sing out and I will pass them along. And, as always, I hope I have the information correct, but it is my interpretation of what was said, and I am happy to be corrected and/or put you in contact with people who know more than me.

  1. Acceptable use policies

Make sure your school has an update to date acceptable use policy for school devices. This is one of these things that isn’t an issue until it is an issue… and the field officers had loads of horror stories of teachers being caught out. So if you don’t have one, get that done, and if you do have one, check you know what is in it. If you aren’t sure, ask. Your PPTA field officer will have more info.

2.  Tela

The new scheme has rolled out, and I was pretty happy with the range of devices available, and obviously time will tell around tech support etc for the new scheme. some issues around screen sizes were shared by other members of the committee. However, cost remains an issue, as does equity of access. So (on a personal note) the next big challenge for me is to think about how teachers can be educated on the fact they have a choice of devices, and somehow get schools to be more supportive of ‘diversity’ in device choices for teachers. I think at times it is a little ironic that all teachers needs to be on the same system for ease of admin, when we are pushing so hard for personalised learning for our students….

But back to the point in hand. There was a robust discussion about how to get more funding, including ideas around do schools pay the base line price and if teachers want a fancier/more expensive model, then maybe they can pay the difference. Tied in with the discussion of personal uses of devices and acceptable use policies, I could see this being a viable option…. Say the base line is $30 a quarter, and the top of the line, $90, then for $240 a year having an option for a better device is still a reasonable option. Or perhaps departments could pay the difference. But then because the device is linked to the school, if that teacher leaves, who foots the bill. This discussion was linked to needs versus wants – but it is a chicken egg situation, for example, a teacher with a device that can ink might use it, where as a teacher without that capability in a device definitely won’t. It also lead into a discussion around school infrastructure – many round the table schools did not have sufficient infrastructure to cope with the devices joining the networks at any given time – if everyone has a laptop, a phone and maybe an ipod, fitbit etc that is connecting, it bumps up the usage pretty quick.

3. Plagiarism software

This conversation was more of the same from last time – we need it, but who pays for it. Suggestions a centralised model may be coming. There was a more robust discussion about how this type of software should be implemented – how do we educate students and teachers about what plagiarism actually is? (I don’t really know myself) How do we support teachers using it? Examples were given around how with some software, a teachers effort to make an original piece of writing still showed a result of 30% copied, simply because some common phrases are often used. So what is an acceptable level?? As I have no experience with this software, it was interesting to listen to those that do and how it impacts what they do, most comments were positive, but there are some pitfalls also

4. BYOD

There was a brief conversation around BYOD devices – many schools who rolled this out for juniors were now finding the devices (Chromebooks were mentioned, but I don’t think it is an exclusive problem to those devices) were no longer grunty enough for the senior school. Is it fair to ask parents to pay for 2 devices for 1 student moving through school?? What about feeder schools – different primary schools may have different device choices that tie into one or two secondary schools that use different devices? What about if kids move schools? Some schools present provided devices for students at a cost to the school. Others had COWS or the like for juniors, and BYOD for seniors. And some were full BYOD.

Again, my perspective is schools need to be more flexible and adaptive to providing support for different devices, but am more than willing to acknowledge how challenging this is at a tech level, and I probably only know about 10% of the problems!!

5. NCEA review

The person sharing had a lot to say, but not a lot that can be shared publicly. Sigh. BUT again rather a lot of discussion was had, including some frantic hand waving from yours truely to be included some-how. There is a Consultation process occurring from April to July that we were strongly encouraged to participate in and share, so I will be doing so with great gusto. Hopefully it is easy to find when the time comes 🙂

The discussion I can share around this was mostly in two arguments. Work load was one (obviously, being PPTA!!!) and student wellbeing and ‘credit’ counting was the other. There was also some discussion around what NCEA results are used for – I know from a personal perspective, at L3 chem my students are desperate for internals so they have UE before exams, and would gladly do no externals, even though the externals are the most important for many first year chemistry papers. And while not every student doing NCEA goes to uni, many doing L3 chem do, and managing the expectations is something I really struggle to do. There was also discussion around hoop jumping, again despite my best intentions, I often find myself saying things like – to get excellence in an exam you need to stress the bonding electrons in electronegativity discussions….. sigh.

6. SISI

The student information sharing initiative is still rumbling away in the back ground. Again most of this is confidential, but the discussion was around feasibility, timelyness and the ‘weight’ of privacy over health and safety. Get in contact if you want to know more, but also there is not too much to tell as it rumbles away.

7. Spark Jump

John Leslie Smith came to talk to us from Spark about Spark Jump – a service that provides prepay internet for families who can’t afford/access/other wise get wifi at home. Worth checking out if you know of any vulnerable families who would benefit https://www.sparknz.co.nz/what-matters/spark-jump/ 

8. Digital Technology curriculum

A lot of the discussion was aimed around the achievement standards, which made me a little cranky. BUT that does not diminish my appreciation for how hard the team working on those standards and the implementation have been working. There are loads of teething problems predicted (a favourite was a standard involving social media use that many school block on school networks !!) but a general feeling that the standards are aiming for quality skills. I noted with some disdain that it is a shame the assessment drives the learning… but it does for chem too so pot calling the kettle black I guess!!

There are some upcoming PLD days via regions and connecting nationally via zoom scheduled for May 12, so look out for those. There should also be a national digital readiness program ready from the end of this term. There are also some new resources on the TKI pages and technology online. And some webinars and online courses from various sources.

There was also mention of some support from the ‘Digital technologies for All Equity Fund’ but it seems the furthest south this will come in CHCH… sigh.

I asked about the ‘compulsory’ aspect of the curriculum, and of course nothing is compulsory!!! But it will be a priority…..

There was also a challenging little comment that has stuck with me as a ‘beginning’ teacher of digital technologies. I was talking about levels, and how I had some kids in the (brand new) course Kevin and I are teaching doing simply amazing things…. but the comment around this was that yip, some kids are learning and going really deep into one area, but they have huge holes in others that can create issues further on. To be honest, I hadn’t considered this, but on reflection, it does worry me a wee bit. I know how frustrated I get with ‘non chemistry’ Science teachers teaching all sort of simplified ‘nonsense’ (it isn’t nonsense really, but it doesn’t make my job with L2 chemistry students any easier) and couldn’t help but wonder if I will end up doing the same thing. Depressing thought, but also a we reality check to try and keep upskilling myself, and think about just how I check for understanding in a situation where I have no understanding myself. And how, while we should all be teaching kids, specialist knowledge is REALLY important.

Now to find a way to get those with the specialist knowledge into classrooms!!

9. Digital Examinations/NZQA

The aim for 2020 is still on. much discussion around logistics, infrastructure and is it a measure of typing speeds over knowledge

A much more interesting (from my eyes) discussion occurred around any time any place learning, and digital learning in general. Which tied into the COOLS debate which followed on from this, so I’ll bring it in there

10. COOLS

A change of government is an interesting thing it would seem, and it was bought up a few times throughout the day. But it seems that COOLS will be reshaped in someway or another, as there are some benefits that can be seen to autonomous learning.

There was a discussion around the research commissioned on online learning, which was summarised as for the top 20% of students, building an online learning platform where they can succeed is relatively straightforward. But for the bottom (FYI, there was no indication of what the criteria was for top and bottom) 20%, it was ‘REALLY, REALLY HARD. The idea that relationships are important was highlighted (I was cheeky here and asked if the report even half suggested teachers where actually a useful thing), and for struggling students, having a person or people checking in on them was critical to their success.

The rep from Te Kura had a useful perspective here. She is super experienced with online learning and strongly expressed that students who connect do better. Te Kura have some face to face gatherings, and students who can attend some of these fare better in their success and happiness it would seem. Online mentoring is not an easy model, but there are some benefits. There is also questions around the role of correspondence school – at the moment entry requirements are (from my understanding) flexibly fixed – you do need to meet certain criteria to enrol. So how would opening this up work???

This lead to a discussion around funding. Many schools have distance learning options for students if a teacher is not available, or for time table clashes etc. But this is not a perfect model either, who is teaching the student, the ‘VC’ teacher, or the supervising teacher?? And if students are half time in schools, and half time online, where does the money go?

Around all of this, and along side a few other topics was this idea of what is the big picture. If there is a substantial review of NCEA occurring, why the big push for the new digital technology standards? Likewise, if big changes happen to L1, it seems a great shame to have had SO MUCH WORK go into the new digit tech curriculum and standards that maybe won’t be used in the next 5 years… But also is the shift in assessment what we need to shift teaching and learning into a new place? I’m almost sure that ironic is the right work to use when I constantly battle assessment driving my own teaching and learning, but if digital assessment does become ‘take an exam when you are ready’ situation, then that will dramatically change the way classes are ‘taught’ and teachers support. Which might not be a bad thing…. personalised, independent learning. Still leaves the question of what to do with a kid that passes everything in a week – but with the right glasses on that could be an amazing opportunity and I hope it can turn out that way.

11. Tomorrows school review

There was a lovely history of tomorrows schools (if you haven’t read Cathy Wylie’s book, do it) and how the unintended consequences of competition have marred what could have almost been a useful model. But this is under review with some big names on the panel, so it will be interesting to see their recommendations and see what sort of school will be coming our way next. I’m not sure of dates etc, but it could have a serious impact, along with the other sweeping reviews taking place, education could look quite different in 5-10 years, and I hope we are ready for it.

 

So, as usual, lots and lots of content, debate and ideas. I was quite riled up at a few points, and need to remember for my sake and those around me that getting wound up is not always the best course of action!!! There was a feeling, and comments, that many of these ideas and arguments are not new, and ‘we’ are not making any headway on them – but I guess that is always going to occur when you are dealing with a multi headed hydra like education – so many stake holders, so many other impacting factors, and so much as stake.

Have fun, and as always, free free to get in touch if you have any questions 🙂

 

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Posted in coding, Digital Technologies, Professional learning, Teaching and Learning

Finishing off digital technologies… till we start again next week :)

It is almost a month (where does time go) since I posted about the start of our digital technologies module, and as it finished tomorrow I thought I should remind myself and share how it has gone. It certainly has been a bit of a wobbly path the last couple of weeks, not helped by us being newbies to modules and getting the finishing dates wrong! But we were gained a week, rather than losing a week, so this meant we got to give Minecraft Education Edition a go, as well as doing some hour of code and doing some super cool projects on the microbits. All and all, I think the students have enjoyed it, I certainly have, and I have learned loads :). We have already started making plans for a digital technologies module for yr 8, and how it might look through into yr 9 and 10…. very exciting. Hopefully we can find a way to carry it on right up through the school, and to integrate the ideas more into all subjects rather than being stand alone. But that is a discussion for another post!!

Hour of Code

So, we had just finished up with some basic commands on the microbits, covering ACSII codes and binary when I last blogged. Due to some technical issues getting minecraft to work, we segwayed into using the Hour of Code minecraft tutorials. I was not quite prepared for how much the students would enjoy this. But they really did, and it was a great follow on from the simple coding we had done of the microbits.

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Feedback from students indicated that hour of code was a real winner 🙂

In 3-4 lessons, most students finished all of the minecraft tutorials, which reinforced programming tools such as loops, and introduced more complex ideas like functions. Once students had completed each tutorial, they could insert their certificate into their onenote pages to let us know what they had gotten up to.

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I got to learn about functions too 🙂

A really important part of these three lessons was students using trial and error to build their code. Because there is the visual representation right there on screen, it is easy to see where the code went wrong. It is not always easy to fix it!! But Kevin and I tried really hard to make sure we encouraged kids to try things, and then fix them – could they work out where they had gone wrong? What else could they try? What had someone else done that worked?

Then the class had an hour to do an hour of code of their choice, most choosing the starwars option, but some chose frozen (which has come lovely maths/numeracy links) and other made an angry birds game.

Back to microbits.

We then went back to the microbits and set a couple of challenges (Kevin set the challenges, and I struggled to do some of them too…..) The first was could the students make their microbit keep score in a rugby game? This involved using the buttons on the microbit so explored in more depth the idea of inputs.

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A screen shot of Issac’s code to use the microbit to score a ruby game

The next challenge was could we make the microbit do a times table. I REALLY struggled with this one, and was ‘accused’ of writing ‘ugly code’ by Kevin (in a tongue and cheek kind of way) But this was because I ‘forced’ the microbit to show all the 2 times tables one after the other, instead of using a button press. Some students used functions, but then I also learned that making the code too complicated in this way creates problems too. So it was a great lesson for me about keeping things simple without writing things down over and over and over.

Some different examples of students code from their onenote portfolios – some are ‘prettier’ than others. It was a challenging task, but it allowed for a lot of extension for those that wanted to:) 

We then had a play with some speakers on the microbits. I think this my favourite, although some of the tunes got old pretty quick. But the students LOVED the sounds, the more annoying the better. Thankfully the speakers were very quiet.

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Kevin ordered some ‘cheap’ speakers and some crocodile clips – the speakers were surprisingly robust, but sadly 2 crocodile clips were harmed in the making of music 🙂
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The interface allowed students to create their own tunes… which could be amazing for music classes looking to integrate technology into their lessons.

We then set the students some challenges for (what we thought was) the last week

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The snow globe was a great idea, students loved making these and making their own patterns, and then adding tunes to go with them. Which was a nice ‘friendly’ extension for less confident students.

Some of the more able kids completed the ‘hard’ challenge on the first day, and then went further….

and then still further. Which then also dragged other students along as they wanted to replicate what they were seeing.

Minecraft

We then figured out that we had a bonus week, so we put in a BIG effort on the night of parent teacher interviews to update all the laptops in between interviews. It meant that there was finally a class set of laptops that had minecraft EDU on them, and the students were delighted.

 

It also meant that I got to properly try the code builder, and the pre built world is PERFECT for what we need to do, especially for the first time. As I get more confident I might tweak it or build our own challenges (or get kids to build it with me, or to show me how really…) that maybe replicate more closely something from their lives. For example, rather than getting an agent through a maze, can you get a yr 7 student to the canteen for a juicie!!

So for our first crack, I think it went pretty well. Student feedback indicated they had enjoyed the course, learned some things and they gave us some ideas for what we can do next time.

A few asked for easier instructions, and so I’m working on putting together some screen shots and instructions to go into the onenote so if students are lost they can refer back to it. And most didn’t enjoy learning about binary/bits, even though I thought we aced this part of the course. I guess we could have worded the question differently…. but we will still have a think for the next module.

We also asked the students about generic computer/office 365 skills they picked up

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Remembering back to my surprise at the lack of typing skills the students had, I think it is important to integrate the skills we want students to have into the programs. So hopefully this module has set the students up to be able to email, insert pictures etc, and therefore help them be more confident using technology in other subject areas, and help other students to so to.

So overall, I think for a first go, Kevin and I did a pretty good job of our first digital technology module and our first crack at co-teaching. We did put a lot of effort in, but the next modules will be easier as we tweak and refine and work out exactly how it works for us. I am looking forward to making my code prettier, and getting more stuck into the code connection for minecraft education in the next module. Bring it

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Powerpoint recording – the little tab that can

When I first heard that one of my most favouritist tools Office Mix (an add in for Microsoft Powerpoint) was not going to be available from mid 2018, I had a proper tanty. I LOVE mix, use it all the time, for handy little feedback videos, for relief lessons when I am away, for exam walk throughs, for all sorts of things. It made powerpoint, a fabulous tool which gets so much stick, a really flexible, powerful and essential tool for me, and it made learning rewindable and accessible from everywhere. Flipped learning was a breeze.  So, with some trepidation, I made myself check out the new powerpoint recording feature today as I wanted to give some kids some feedback on their practice tasks for an assessment, and I can say it was perfect. Just as easy, with a nice interface, easy options for saving videos once you have made them, the same ability to do screen recordings, the inking worked superbly,  it is awesome. You can find out how to access the recording tab in powerpoint 2016 via this link.  You do need to have Microsoft Office 2016 installed, and if you are already logged into powerpoint, it automatically finds your stream account to upload the videos too. Given that you can add Stream tabs into teams, it is an easy way to share the flipped learning videos with students. Almost seems too easy.

So, what does it look like?

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The recording tab has all my favourites from office Mix. I mostly used record slide show, usually with images of student work or a past exam question. Sometimes for a particular concept or idea….

The recording space is straightforward, and there is a nice range of colours for inking. You can choose a camera (or none in this case)

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I liked that any notes added in came across from the powerpoint slides, and that you could change the font size 🙂 But you couldn’t add notes from the recording end…

blog3Considering it is early on in the recording tabs days, there are sufficient add ins just sitting there, and I will have an explore of other options available in the store. But being able to add a PhET simulation is awesome, especially for relief, as you know it will work from within the powerpoint/stream format, where as sometimes the animations can be a bit browser specific which can cause a relief teacher some confusion and concern. It is also really awesome to be able to embed the web viewer into the presentation too – again it saves having to send the students too many places. And given that this whole thing can be accessed via teams, it will save a lot of clicks (and hopefully confusion and/or side tracking other browser windows open) for those students 🙂

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You can also still make a screen shot or a screen recording (handy for tech tips for teachers!! or students – I can see me making a few for minecraft and microbit coding tutorials), or put in a video, and then there are the export/save options. It did take a few minutes for each video to upload (maybe 10 minutes for a 5 minute video) but then I did have about 10 different browser windows open and was trying to do about 50 things at once, so maybe it is faster if it can just do its job.

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So I am really happy with the recording tab in powerpoint (even if it is somewhat begrudgingly). It has almost all of the features of Office Mix that I loved, and it worked seamlessly first try with Stream, which allowed me to email students their feedback straight from the stream interface. Given it slots into teams so well, I think I will end up using this an awful lot this year.

Posted in Digital Technologies, Minecraft, Teaching and Learning

Getting started with Digital Technologies

Partly in response to the new New Zealand Digital Technologies curriculum, my school is offering a Year 7 module for Digital Technologies for the first time this year. It almost didn’t run as it fell prey to the beast that is secondary school timetabling, but I am super glad it did. We (Kevin and I) did a little bit of planning last year, but of course things change (we got yr 7 instead of yr 8, and about 20 lessons rather than 30). It has been a really good learning experience for me, trying to keep abreast of the changes in the New Zealand Digital Technologies curriculum, watching with interest the changes happening at NCEA level one so that we can try and tailor our program so that students can have a pathway to those qualifications, and we want to do a good job so we can get a yr 8 digit tech course into the timetable, and then on up through the senior school. I have an interest in coding and Computer Science, where as Kevin teaches L2 Robotics and has much more experience than me with coding etc, although I’m pretty sure I could kick his butt in Minecraft. We are both fairly good at driving the microbits, although Kevin has an advantage as he is better at coding in general. We are also using Microsoft Teams, which is new to the school this year. It is also my first go at co-teaching a class, which has (so far) been fabulous…. because we both have different skills sets, terrible senses of humour, and have helped each other out.

So, before I go too much further, I do need to acknowledge Kevin Knowles. He and I are co teaching this module and (between you and me) I think we have been ROCKING it. Being our first go, there are off course some things we will change next time, and I have learned loads (Kevin was kind enough to say he had learned one or two things).

Getting started

Our first lesson had a very simple objective – get everyone logged into Office 365. Because it was the first lesson, we had less time than usual as it took a we while to get all the kids where they needed to be. And we learned for next time we need to print off a sheet with all of the log ins and passwords 🙂 Going through Kamar for pretty much every new student took a wee while…. but also hopefully by module two this won’t be such an issue as the students will have had 5 weeks to get used to logging in. Once logged in, students sent us an email, so that they knew our email address and so the very few who didn’t know how to do this could learn how.

Next we focussed on algorithms – how do you make toast (an idea poached from the fabulous Cathy). We did this as a class, then the students had to do an algorithm to get dressed in the morning – which lead to an introduction of if this, then what type questions (eg, if Monday-Friday – wear school uniform, if Saturday go back to sleep). The students where surprisingly passionate about little details – what order to put on socks and shoes, or top half then bottom half first – which gave Kevin the opportunity to talk about (and me to learn about) the fact that sometimes order in programs is important (eg socks then shoes) and other times it doesn’t matter (sweater or pants)

Getting started with Microbits

We then hit a bit of disruption with some students going to camp – so we had 1/3 of the class absent over the next 5 lessons. But by the end of it, everyone could (and almost everyone DID)

  • Do some coding with the makecode microbit site
  • Download the code and get it onto their microbit
  • code a microbit to say spell out the letters of their name
  • Take a screen shot of their code and put it into their onenote
  • Get the microbit to do something else (some did AMAZING things with no input from us)

 

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Kevin 3d printed all the cases last year – colour coded for 1) easy grouping of students and 2) easy to check we get them all back

Then when we had everyone back together again, we covered loops/repeats – trying to get Santa to say ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’

Thinking about Data representations

Once everyone was back, we doubled back a little I guess to go over data representation. I have to say it, Kevin NAILED this. The kids did maths without knowing they did maths!! And it got kids thinking about what number and letters are actually representing….

Kev started with counting in base 10, with a ‘ones’ column, a ‘tens’ column and so on, which got the students thinking about what the number represent. Then he moved onto binary using the same table…. and away we went. Kids just picked it up.

Kev did share some tricks, eg 15 is 1111…. you don’t need to count it up, because it is just one less than 16, which would be 10000. and so on. And if the last number is a 1, you know the number must be uneven. Some of the kids who have brains that like patterns picked up a few more, and I spend some time helping less confident kids go through adding up the different numbers.

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Kevin had found a scratch game for the students to do for the remainder of the lesson, and they were SO keen on it we started the next lesson with it too.

Which then lead into ASCII coding…. a brief demo on the board and then we gave the students a code to solve and then asked them to write them names in ASCII in their section of the onenote

 

Where to next?

We have about 2 more weeks to go… and are still tossing up about giving the code builder in Minecraft education edition ago using some of the ideas from the introduction to comp sci course. Because of timetabling issues, we haven’t been in a fixed room yet, and on different laptops each time, so it is only now that I can get minecraft up and running on them all. So tomorrow I am going to try and install everything to get it going, and then off course I’m out on tuesday for a cricket tournament…..

Alternatively, we will carry on with the microbits, we have some speakers we can attach so we can explore the concept of inputs and outputs. And there are LOADS of cool projects we can do with the microbits. (You can see some HERE). So Kev and I are sitting down on Monday to talk it through.

Reporting

We do need to report on progress made…. which is one reason we have encouraged students to put their work into the OneNote we can gather a portfolio of evidence of the code they have built and the tasks they have completed. We are also going to make a couple of Microsoft forms to check students can 1) read an ASCII code and 2) interpret simple program commands such as loops. So we will have evidence on understanding of data representation, algorithms and programming to report to parents about. Which only covers 3 of the 6 ‘themes’ I guess, but is not too bad for a 5-6 weeks module we hope.

For next time

Next time we will make some subtle changes. Hopefully students will be already confident at logging into office 365 and using teams and/or classonenote, which will save us some time at the start. We are also going to rejig the onenote slightly, we started with sections for each of Minecraft, microbit, ASCII etc… which lead to extra clicks for the students. So we will just have one section, with pages for each, which the students can then add to (also means less clicks for marking). We will also make the front page the place were we put the links for students… we started having them in the conversation but they got lost in the chatter, and then having them as a tab in the team means they open in the team, which is rather a small window/space.

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The teams interface works well to keep the students in the one browser window, but it does reduce the size of the usable space for coding… The expand tab does give you some more space, but still not a full window (and Yr 7’s struggled to find the 2 little arrows on the top right….)

We will also survey the students (using forms) at the end of the module and use their feedback to tweak the second module through. At which point I think we would make any bigger changes if they were needed.

Successes and challenges

I think every teacher in New Zealand right now is probably desperately wishing for a ‘normal’ week. It will be week 7 before I have a full week at school with no disruptions… and then I am away on camp in week 8, and then hit the 2 short weeks around easter. So juggling the disruptions when we are trying to introduce a new course has been a bit of a challenge, but also a relief because it has given us a bit of breathing space to think about what the best next step is.

Something I didn’t expect was the typing skills (or lack there of) that the students have. A number of students were turning the caps lock button on and off to capitalise one letter, and didn’t know to hold down the shift button. While I’m not a ‘touch typer’ (and I have terrible spelling both in my handwriting and typing) I can use more than 2 fingers. So we might need to include some sort of upskilling process so the students are not slowed down by their typing speed.

A real success (I think, Kev can speak for himself) has been how Kevin and I have worked together. As we move throughout the year, we will definitely be more confident and so maybe need to communicate less, but we really have worked together quite well. We have taken turns at being ‘good and bad cop’, and we are both able to reach different students at different times. We have pretty much both been in the room for the whole time, but it hasn’t felt crowded. Kev has definitely got more expertise, but I now feel confident that I could tackle all of the concepts myself next module. As we move through the year, we will probably be in the room together less, but it has worked really well for starting out, especially as I grasped some of those programming concepts.

And another success was the absolute buzz in the room after Kev introduced binary numbers. It was maths, it was abstract, I was worried it would be ‘hard’ but the kids nailed it. And seemingly LOVED it. The cheers around the room as the worked their way through the levels of the binary game where awesome, I kind of just stood and stared as the kids just nailed it. You don’t always get those moments as a teacher, so it was worth savouring, even though Kev had done all the work for that lesson.

The biggest challenge I think for us will be getting this option carried forward into yr 8, 9 etc. Or finding some room for it among another curriculum area… so we will press on and try to get it fitted in to the timetable one way or another.

Reach out

If you are teaching a digit tech course, or using the code builder in minecraft, I’d LOVE to hear from you. Either on twitter or flick a comment on the blog and I will be in touch (probably late). If I have made a mistake you have spotted, please let me know so I can fix it and learning from it. Or if you are wanting any more info, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, I’m definitely learning as I go, and am happy to help out as much as I can.

Posted in random ramblings

Reading too much into Star Wars – the last Jedi

This post contains spoilers from the Last Jedi movie, so if you haven’t seen it and want to, don’t read it. And some of the ‘quotes’ will be off, I will correct them when I see it again (or I can find the clips on youtube)

Last night I went to Star Wars – the Last Jedi. The movie as a whole was amazeballs (I am a star wars fan as a disclaimer) but there were a few moments that really stood out to tired end of year teacher brain. I am probably reading WAY too much into it, but there were a couple of ideas that really did stand out for me.

  1. The best teacher, failure is

Master Yoda rocks up when Luke Skywalker is feeling all down and out about being a failure (He did make a rather large cock up to be fair…) And in awesome Yoda style, he says some pretty profound things. My second favourite was about masters (teachers) and how you need to be lots of things to be a teacher, but failure is also a good teacher and learn from it you will. (I need to see the movie again to get the quotes right).

2. The burden of a Master is to watch people out grow you.

Again, this was Yoda at his best. But I don’t think it is something teachers acknowledge enough, and it is why I try really hard to push kids in front of me (either by dangling carrots, cracking ‘whips’ or lighting fires) rather than pulling them up. A subtle thing to think about, but if you pull people along, do you limit how far they can go, because they are following you, rather than treading their own path. How can I make sure kids are learning for them, not to please others?

3. Keeping the light alive is more important than being a hero.

In the movie Poe, the bolshy and impulsive pilot. He is pretty kick arse in a tight spot to be fair. But in this movie he fails to see a big picture and essentially is a right pain in the butt. On a whole other level, there is a moment where a kick arse woman named Haldo refuses to be mansplained to – I LOVED the woman in this movie, there were some really strong characters. And then, when the crunch comes, she acts and is awesome and Poe gets it – with help from Leia of course – that heroes come in all types, and being heroic doesn’t always save the day. And that sometimes you do have to cut your losses.

I guess this was another little wake up call for me about being ‘heroic’ and how the small little acts that no-one sees are just, if not more, important than the big bold strokes. How really kick arse people don’t need that recognition, they are just kick arse.

4. We will win by saving what we love, not destroying what we hate.

This was a really cheesey moment in the movie (There was so much awesome cheese in this film) but again, it was a wee reminder about staying focussed on what is important and that if we can protect what we love, really the rest doesn’t matter quite so much. So do we spend enough time focusing on what is awesome and what we love in education, or do we spend too much time focusing on what we ‘hate’??

 

So yeah, it was awesome, and I will go and see it again (and then buy it to go with all the other star wars movies on my shelf) but to this tired and slightly disillusioned teacher brain, it was an awesome reminder about remembering there is lots to love in education, that quiet heroics are just as important as loud ones, that failure is the best teacher and sometimes you do outgrow ideas, or people, or people and ideas outgrow you.

And that is ok

 

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

What if marking was like ‘teaching’

So, I am marking again this year (I’m not 100% I’m allowed to say which standard etc… so I won’t. I think/hope most of what I say here is stuff I’m allowed to say). Marking this year has been easier than last year somehow, although I did find one question in particular difficult to get my head around the expectations. And so, at the start especially, I checked in with my check marker quite a bit to make sure I was being consistent.

A colleague asked if I will mark again next year – after all I complain about it, turn into (even more of) a social hermit during the party season, and it is hard work. And while money is money (and while a BIG chunk goes on to my student loan, it is nice for the Christmas credit card bill in January) it is not that much when it is a beautiful sunny day, your colleagues are at the Christmas party, and you are inside marking.

But the complicated answer is I like marking. Not actually the marking, the marking is hard, takes me ages, and I feel awful for every kid that doesn’t get over the line we say is good enough. I don’t like PEPs, and I don’t like memory tests, and, in fact, I don’t like exams full stop. Marking takes over my life, and my families life for 3 or so weeks each year.

But I do like marking.

Because it is collaborative in a very unique way.

At the start, we all sit together in a big room and work through a marking schedule. We debate/argue/comment/fight over what answers can be expected and accepted, and what do we expect a student at this or that level to know. How many ways can the questions be interpreted? What do they text books say? This group of teachers talks through what we want our learners to be able to express in the exam. We then look at some example answers, and debate about whether they do or don’t meet ‘the standard’

Now, do we REALLY do this in schools? We might chat amongst the department, or think about it for ourselves,  we might ask some-one to moderate an internal task for us, but I don’t think we have this intense cross schools conversation about what students should be able to do. Imagine if we could move beyond ‘standards’ and have a proper conversation about our learners, and what they could do, and how we could get them there, rather than token conversations about competencies and values.

So, step one, I like the markers meeting. It is collaborative, robust, and we compare each others work, all with the aim of being in the same place with regards to where students from different places might be.

Step two is I like getting feedback. Bunches of ‘check marking’ go off and get double checked. And the feedback is really helpful. Around 10% of marking gets checked. Imagine if 10 % of my lessons got checked – if I had some-one sitting in on them, willing to help out, or point out a common error I was making, tell me to double check some adding up, or even just to say good job, keep it up. If 10% of my lessons got checked (I teacher 15 hours a week) that would be 3 lessons over 2 weeks.

Call me crazy, but I would LOVE this. I would love more feedback about how to improve my practice, and get the very best out of myself and my kids.

Step three – While a part of me hates saying this, it does make me able to do my job teaching kids how to meet a standard better. I am better at recognising tips and tricks. I get an insight into how other teachers around the country are teaching the kids in their classrooms. I feel like I really ‘get’ the standard, which then helps me understand other standards. And, like it or not, getting kids to pass standards is a big part of my job. And then, when so much PLD costs a fortune, I actually get paid to mark, and get a better idea of how the standard works. Go figure.

So what if teaching was more like marking. What if we had these conversations about the outcomes for our learners? What is we got paid to learn more about the standards/expectations, rather than schools having to fork out money for PLD? What if we got the feedback? What if teachers truly felt if they weren’t quite sure, they could just flick an email away and get another set of eyes or ears over something, not just from one teacher, but 2 or 3 or 4……

So yeah, I will sign up again next year. Maybe by the time my student loan is paid off, we will have move beyond exams and there will be no more end of year summative marking. But in the mean time, I like working with a group of other awesome teachers from lots of different schools to make sure we get the best result for all the kids out there.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Perspective

So another end of year has rolled around, and I have this song on repeat in my head.

But I also got a very traumatic reminder of just how precious life is, and how we do need to try and find a way to treasure every moment.

So, to myself and all my colleagues in the teachverse out there thinking of how the year has gone, and what they could have done differently, I hope you all have spend more time with friends and family at the top of the list.

For next year, I am going to take a step back, and try to remember my job is just a job, even though I LOVE it and HATE it (hate the frustrations is more accurate I guess) and try to leave it at school. I am passionate, and I do care, but this shouldn’t impact my life as much as does. I need to spend more time with Mr 5 and the hubby, and my friends, and more time on me too.

I’m looking forward to a break, to going to my parents for Christmas, ripping down some walls in my house and sorting out my garden, and then of course Hands on, which is always such a pleasure to spend a week with amazing young people from all over the country. I have weddings, friends babies due so blankets and hats to crochet and my first school holiday with me wee man.

Enjoy your break teachie friends, you have earned it. I hope that the break puts all those frustrations into perspective and you come back refreshed – it is my wish for me too. I hope you can save every day like a treasure, and you find what you want to do while there is still time left.

 

 

Posted in random ramblings

Reflections from the PPTA ICT meeting Nov 2017

On Monday was the last ICT meeting for 2017. As usual it was a full on day, although to be honest I did not leave feeling as hopefully as I usually do – hopefully it is just that it is the wrong end of the year. As usual, this was my interpretation of what was said, and I am happy to be corrected, or if you have a question or an issue for the committee, I am happy to take it to them 🙂

Up for discussion was

  1.  Round robin – we have introduced a google doc for round robin discussions from regions and representatives. 2 points of interest came up this time

a) Learn Coach flipped learning – 2 members from regions expressed concern about the ‘credit’ farm feeling of this course. As they are a PTE (private training establishment) there is very little that the PPTA can do. Other than express concerns (that are shared by other organisations if I got the drift of the conversation correct) that this model is privatisation of education, and has no pastoral care provided. Due to the pastoral care issue, there is not an option for this to be incorporated into a ‘COOL’ (if indeed the COOLS continue under the new government)

This did spark an interesting conversation (a highlight of the meeting from my point of view) on the future of education. The rate of teachers leaving the profession, the lack of new ones coming in, the changing technological landscape and the changing purpose of assessments are all tied into this type of venture. Predictions are that this will be the tip of the iceberg, and more online learning ‘portals’ will become available – perhaps simply because there are not enough teachers to teach in all schools…..

A report that was commissioned by the government (conducted by cognition) into research of online learning is due of the first of December, looking into the dispositions and competencies of online learners and teachers, pastoral care, data security etc. This report may shed some light on how the government will move forward. But to some around the table, it is clear that education is at a kind of cross roads, and Education 2.0 (to quote John Crieghton) might look quite different. Are we ready for it?

b) An ongoing theme around teacher safety and workload around being ‘contactable’ 24 hours a day. What are the lines for teachers around keeping themselves and their students safe? Is it ok to reply to emails from students after 10pm? Is it ok for students to have cell numbers, or instagram/twitter/facebook? Horses for courses, or do we need a blanket policy? All it takes is one false step… are teacher adequately aware of the risks. This is a hard one, I had an example of a student texting me at 5:45 am the morning of their exam. What is the expectation around this? Some teachers would ignore, others reply? But by replying (I did, but at 6:30 when I woke up) am I setting an unrealistic expectations for my colleagues?

2) TELA update

Was very brief, there was not much to update. The consultation process I was part of was not overly informative and was confidential. I can say (I hope) there will be a wide range of devices available. There was then debate around how do we ensure teachers and school USE the variety effectively – I got ‘kicked’ around for saying I worried ‘gatekeepers’ would just choose the cheapest devices and for ease of network management keep everyone on the same device. The gatekeepers around the table said there is never adequate resourcing for device management in schools, which segwayed into funding issues in general. So while I am pleased there will be more devices options available, I do worry that teachers will not be aware they can have a choice, or schools will take this choice away due to funding issues or network managing issues. Sigh

3) Digital Technology Curriculum update

I really feel for the team that has been putting this together, they have been getting slammed from all sides and seemingly pleasing no-one. Everything is a little on hold after the releases of the reports from the consultation process – comments where made the survey was potentially skewed due to its length and overly complicated structure – and while the new government finds its feet. Comments were made that while digitech can’t be compulsory, it is strongly encouraged for years 1-10. The NCEA level one standards will be available on December 12th, which means planning will be in the holidays (it probably would have been anyways, but it is still a late date). Other comments where around ‘digital championships’ which had drawn criticism for being too competitive and using lots of $$ for no real purpose, and the digital equity project, looking to support 12,500 kids who have limited access to technology (I feel 12,500 is a drop in a very big ocean. There was also some discussion around where are all these teachers going to come from???

There was also some discussion around subject silos (again, another hightlight) in that digitech should not be stand alone. And perhaps if schools do it this way they will find it harder, or it will be pigeon holed as something you do for an hour a week. So my take was if we can integrate these ideas into the broader curriculum, it will work much better (she says after being super excited to get a yr 7 module digitech module to teach next year….)

4) Auckland STEM project.

Graeme Aitken (along with Tony and Kate, sorry I didn’t get there last names) came to talk us through the Auckland University STEM project. I was really impressed – their ‘mission’ was to support non specialist teachers who are teaching STEM subjects, especially physics. They want to be more successful at making maths and physics graduates from Auckland Univeristy., as they realised they weren’t getting as many as they wanted (between 2005 and 2011 they only had 11 physics teachers graduate from their teaching program). So they decided to think about it differently consulted with different groups (who wisely told them to start at Level 1, not level 3) and have set up a site to support students and teachers. They were ADAMANT the whole way through it was meant to be used as a support, not a replacement, and they really didn’t want it to be seen as a ‘baby sitting’ tool. (Again, another wee side conversation about guide to the side rather than up the front delivery of knowledge). They are funded for maths and physics, and want to get into Chemistry as well. It is free for ALL schools. So check it out http://www.stemonline.auckland.ac.nz/

5) N4L update

The lovely Paula Hay came along to update us on what N4L has been doing. Again (it was a common theme) they are waiting a little bit to see what the new Government will bring to their roll. It is also easy to forget just how big the N4L job is – there are over 800,000 users on their network. They had blocked over 120,000 viruses (and acknowledged some got through….). There was discussion around kids setting up their own networks to get round blocks. A nice update was they have a new support hub, where any teacher from a school can log in and ask for help, or read some FAQS to get help. And then a great wee discussion on digital assessment and how it might work – my question was why are we bothering to invest so much into digital exam infrastucture when exams are possibly a lost cause anyways (again thinking education 2.0). Most of the points were around logistics, devices etc. Although with the idea of any where, any time learning came some questions around teacher workload, and of course classroom management and timetabling – any time anywhere assessment would come at a cost of the timetable (which is not a bad thing in my view). N4L is also working with Chorus to look at wireless extensions for schools – a polite is being run at Haeta – so that the school wireless reaches into the community and students can use it at home.

6) Creative Commons

We had a skype presentation from Mandy Henk about creative commons, who is more than happy to help any schools wanting to adopt this. It was a good reminder about how many teachers openly (and unwittingly) flout copyright laws when sharing resources and/or taking resources when they move from school to school – it is the property of the BoT of your school as you were working for them when you made them.

7) Other bits and pieces

There was a brief update about COOLS – again, waiting to see what the government will do and the government does not want private providers- but it would need to change the education act as it was amended (I wasn’t super sure of the legal aspect, it sounded complicated…..). There was a little more information on SISI (student information sharing initiative) which sounds like it might not have much impact on the ‘front’ end of systems teachers use, just the back end around getting SMS systems to talk to each other more efficiently. And then safety around who can get what information.

And I think that was it. So a full on day, and reading over this, there was a lot of discussion and information. I have a nagging worry about teacher supply and that this, rather than sound practice, will push digital schools into being, but if we don’t have the teachers on the ground, perhaps it will be better than nothing.

Have fun

 

 

Posted in random ramblings

I was wrong…..

Today I had a mentally crushing realisation of just how far short I have fallen for a goal I set for myself and my yr 13 Chemistry class. I had set out to teach Chemistry, to move away from teaching them to the Achievements Standards. I hoped to make them interested in Chemistry and the world about them, not just the credits. And I am pretty sure that I failed quite horribly at it. We had a end of topic test last week required for the ‘derived grade’ demands of NCEA and they kids just didn’t do it. Some flat out refused. The ones that did do it did terribly for the most part. When I raved and stormed today trying to get something, anything, out of them that I could do to help, I got ‘I’ve already got Merit endorsed, I don’t need this….’ or ‘I’m not doing this standard in the externals, I don’t need it…..’ or (the worst for the soul today) ‘I’ll just swot up for the exams Miss’. Or averted eyes as they thought to themselves ‘another teacher flying off the handle’.

From an outside perspective, the ‘results’ this class will get will be awesome. A good number of endorsements should be on the cards. They have learned some Chemistry. These kids will put the work in for the exam and pass. The feedback from the internally assessed standards was positive – kids did think offering the 4th internal would be good ‘for more credits’. Apart from today when I was ranty, I think most of them enjoyed the class. They gave useful feedback for next year. We did some great practicals and I feel I got them thinking more about what those practicals represent. Some might be in a place where they can even do well in Chemistry next year at uni.

But from my perspective I had wanted sooooo much more for them. I talked with them at the start of the year and tried to blend their need for credits and uni prep (this is what they said they wanted) with me wanting to push those preconceptions.

I wanted them to be motivated and challenged, not counting credits. I wanted them to be able to at least get an achieved on a practice test without having to ‘cram’ because they had a base level of knowledge from throughout the year. I wanted them to have more pride in themselves and their work, and so put the time in to learning something. I had faith that trying to instil the value for a love of learning would hold out over the credit crunch.

I was wrong.

Maybe do I need to rethink. They said they wanted credits and uni prep. Do I really know better than they do about what they want?

So I will crawl into a swirl of thought, and try and think about how I could do better next time. But right now it hurts and I am so frustrated that in the end it still all came back to credits. Credits they will get, but at what cost?

So, today I arrived at school (the day after the post and ‘incident’ above) and found my room pranked. With clever ‘political’ memes based on conversations around elections time. Maybe, just maybe, I was too hard on the kids (and myself) and they learned more than just about credits…  🙂 

 

 

 

Posted in Professional learning, Teaching and Learning

Making holograms – Molecular shapes

Watching Hack the Classroom on Sunday, I saw ‘a hack’ on how to make hologram videos. The hack was by Tomas Milicka, and he used a combination of office paint and powerpoint to make his own (or to get his students to make their own) hologram videos. I didn’t quite see the potential at first, but then I remembered some GIFs of 3D shapes I made using ChemSketch at a Peter Hollamby workshop in my first year of teaching (8 years ago) and I wonder if they could be used to make some holograms of 3D chemistry shapes that are required as part of the L2 and L3 NCEA Chemistry curriculum. Visually molecule shapes in 3D from a 2D drawing if often a challenge for students, so any hook or tool to help them is AWESOME.

So I had a play, and success. I inserted the gifs and aligned them changed the background to black, and then made a slide recording with no sound. Then exported the slide recording as an mp4, loaded on to youtube and away we went.

Screenshots of the powerpoint slides in production

I am STOKED with how they have turned out, and how easy they were to make. So now I have another tool when trying to demonstrate the 3D nature of molecules, which some students do struggle with.

And I’m stoked I found a fun wee idea I could run with, it will really only be a ‘hook’ for my classes, but it was a really nice motviational boost for me at the time of year when I feel like all I am doing is EXAMS EXAMS EXAMS. So a massive thanks to Tomas for sharing this idea, it gave me the wee boost I needed to do something fun and learn something new.

Feel free to use this videos in your class, there are loads of websites that show you how to build the ‘viewer’ including this one. I will keep adding more shapes as I make them.

I’ve made them into a playlist on youtube, so you can find them all HERE

Have fun