Posted in coding, Digital Technologies, Teaching and Learning

Microbit ‘Monsters’

This is the second year that Kevin and I have co-taught a yr 7 digital technology course, which runs for about 24 lessons on a rotation. (You can find previous reflections on this course (the first one is from this year when we introduced a greater focus on the technology curriculum here, here and here). We have used the BBC Micro:bit from the start. Micro:bits are reasonably cheap, there are LOADS of resources and ideas available, and the microbits offer lots of different ways to adapt coding for students with different ability and confidence levels. We generally work through some data representation and algorithms before introducing the microbits and coding – sometimes (depending on time) we also include some of the hour of code tutorial activities for a more self directed introduction.

About half way through this year, we introduced a ‘micro:bit monster’ after Kevin saw the idea from a school in Queenstown – he is currently on camp so I apoligise I can’t acknowledge this as much as I’d like. We liked the idea and saw it as a way to get a more authentic brief design and planning for practice task into the course. And so Kevin wrote up a brief design plan for the onenote, and away we went

 

The currently module group is our third iteration of the project, and I think we have got it ‘right’. Judging by the hour I just spent with 28 yr 7’s who were all working with an engaged hum, they think so too…..

To start, we have a onenote template that scaffolds the expectations for the students – essentially what evidence they need to show to meet the planning for practice learning outcomes.

We then ‘let the students loose’ for want of a better phrase as they complete their own designs in their own sections

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This student had some awesome ‘paint’ skills
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This student opted for some different inputs using the tilt/shake functions

Then the students get to be creative and build their micro:bit costumes 🙂 It is a bit messy, but super fun, and gives some little iteration ideas – like making holes for the buttons, or for the leads to attach speakers too. And create the code for the micro:bits

Some cool costumes made for the micro:bit pets and/or monsters – the blue and red one with the leads coming out of it had to be modified so the speakers could be attached, so it got ‘spiky’ teeth

And then using the makecode site for the code

We then ask the student to make little video clips of their microbit monsters and pets to show us what they could do, which the upload into their onenotes.

These little monsters have been a really fun way for the students to incorporate some code while fitting the technology curriculum goals. We have found students really engaged in this project, and they all push themselves along – one group decides their monsters would use the radio functions and get their monsters to play paper scissors rock with each other!

So this cool little idea that Kevin found has worked really well for us 🙂 There are some much more developed ‘pets’ than ours at https://makecode.microbit.org/courses/csintro/making/project if you wanted to have a look, and some really great examples on youtube

Have fun

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Recording learning – how do I get this right?

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about how I/we/the system records learning. My thinking on this has been challenged a few times, and was kicked into gear way back in 2015 when I saw an amazing learning conversation around a thermos flask take place, that these students couldn’t write down but could explain very clearly, and link other ideas they had learned. (a reflection from the time is here )More recently, this has been playing on my mind as my yr 10’s have been completing a Science capability task.

Now Science capabilities can be a tricky thing when you get to the nitty gritty of them, but are also amazing simple too. I don’t feel our school has really got to grips with them yet (although we are certainly improving all the time), and we are certainly too focussed on the ‘paper trail’ evidence for assessing them. Which has got me back to thinking more explicitly about how I gather evidence for learning.

With this Science Capabilities task, the context was ocean acidification and how increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere increases the dissolved CO2 in the water, which decreases the pH/increases the acidity of the ocean. This then has an impact on creatures in the ocean with carbonate shells or exoskeletons. We investigated the impact of concentration on acids on the reaction rate for carbonates. Reaction rates really sits at NCEA Level one rather than yr 10, so we have tried to scaffold the prior learning and expectations around reaction rates for students final answers.

As part of the task, students where asked to design an experiment that gave them ‘quality data’ (reproducable, no overlaps etc). Students were given a range of material to try and design their method, as we had previously used gas displacement, a lime water test, amount of bubble produced by adding dish washing liquid etc. There was much fun as the bubbles produced from the highest concentration of acid shot out of the test tubes and all over the bench tops and floors. But this is where the really rich conversations started happening, as students realised that this method was the ‘most fun’, it did not produce the more reliable results. Then others discovered that if they used small volumes of acid, the lower concentrations stopped reacting before the amount of gas produced was detectable. Others found it difficult to distinguish between the two most concentrated acids because the times were very similar.

The learning conversation between the students and the students and myself over these 2-3 hours were amazing. It felt really good, I was excited to be in class, the students seemed to be enjoying it, and the frustrations and successes were palpable. Students were really gaining knowledge from the various practical tasks as they were trying to ascertain the best method for them to use. Students saw that they got ‘the same’ end result while using a different method to another group, and had conversation around which way might be better or worse. The conversations around the ‘why’ the reactions where proceeding that way were amazing.

And yet, while it was a valuable learning experience for me and the students, I feel a lot of that valuable learning was lost. How do I record those conversations that were had? How do I translate that into the students written work, or scaffold the questions better so they are encouraged to incorporate more of that learning into their answers?

Or, do I need to? Is it enough that those conversations took place, and they do not need to be included in the gathered data for reports and feedback?

And, how to I replicate those conversation in other settings?? How do I get students to see more explicitly that there is often more than one way to come to a similar answer, and that discovering the path is often much more exciting than getting to the end of it. How to I make sure more of the learning experiences I offer are open ended??

And how do I ensure I capture the ideas that students don’t write down??

 

 

 

Posted in random ramblings

On poems

It is poetry week at my school this week, linked to New Zealand’s (I’m assuming it is New Zealand’s, it might be all over…) poetry day this friday (23rd August). I am currently avoiding others tasks, but have been spotting all sorts of beautiful poems on twitter, and it has made me think of some of my favourite poems, what they mean to me, and where I remember learning about them. While I often get frustrated with my own stuttering prose and find expressing myself clearly a challenge (not to mention sending my grandmother round the bend with my appalling spelling) I love reading, and greatly admire those who can work their words with such magic.

And after writing the above, I realised I have already written about two of the poems on my mind, all the way back in 2014. It is funny how the past comes back….. and how despite meeting these poems in high school some 20 years ago, they are still with me.

‘So, it is day 2 of Ulearn, and we have been given some time. Time is so precious, and I always struggle to use it wisely. Or I get so caught up in tomorrow I forget about today, or last year, or even before that.

One of my favourite poems is about time

Time out – Hone Tuwhare

I pursue

but I

Can not catch up with you, Time.

You precede me

like the echo of sad footfalls in my heart,

fading away.

Tears pool

my eyes

as I turn back

to find the solace

in a resolute search

for my space

my beginnings

my Self.

It is resonating with my right now, as I think about the English teacher who first introduced me to it, Ms Fowler. Fowler was hard arse – she reminded me off the teacher Katie Novak talked about in the keynote. Fowler made me work harder than I ever had, and unlocked some potential. I argued with her, got cross, got disheartened and then picked myself up and tried again. I learned to love poetry as a means of expression rather than to loathe it as yucky english – even if I still can’t spell to save my life. I learned resilience, perseverance, and the importance of sticking to you guns despite what others say or think. To go with your gut feeling. That can again be described by a poem (this one I found specifically for a ‘read allowed’ assessment we had to do, I didn’t fully understand it at the time) – she taught it to her classes after which I found amazingly flattering. We ‘bumped’ into each other online recently, and she is still doing amazing things.

The Riders in the Stand

There’s some that ride the Robbo style, and bump at every stride;
While others sit a long way back, to get a longer ride.
There’s some that ride like sailors do, with legs and arms, and teeth;
And some ride on the horse’s neck, and some ride underneath.

But all the finest horsemen out — the men to Beat the Band —
You’ll find amongst the crowd that ride their races in the Stand.
They’ll say “He had the race in hand, and lost it in the straight.”
They’ll show how Godby came too soon, and Barden came too late.

They’ll say Chevalley lost his nerve, and Regan lost his head;
They’ll tell how one was “livened up” and something else was “dead” —
In fact, the race was never run on sea, or sky, or land,
But what you’d get it better done by riders in the Stand.

The rule holds good in everything in life’s uncertain fight;
You’ll find the winner can’t go wrong, the loser can’t go right.
You ride a slashing race, and lose — by one and all you’re banned!
Ride like a bag of flour, and win — they’ll cheer you in the Stand.

Banjo Paterson’

Even 5 year on, and maybe always, I often think of these poems. I am thinking specifically of the riders in the stand – I need to work to my standards, not the standards of others. It is so easy to look at others and think, they aren’t doing this or that, so I won’t. Rather than thinking this is where I want to be, now get there.

Another poem on my mind right now is Epiphany by Ted Hughes

From the collection Birthday Letters, which won the Forward prize in 1998

London. The grimy lilac softness
Of an April evening. Me
Walking over Chalk Farm Bridge
On my way to the tube station.
A new father – slightly light-headed
With the lack of sleep and the novelty.
Next, this young fellow coming towards me.

I glanced at him for the first time as I passed him
Because I noticed (I couldn’t believe it)
What I’d been ignoring.

Not the bulge of a small animal
Buttoned into the top of his jacket
The way colliers used to wear their whippets –
But its actual face. Eyes reaching out
Trying to catch my eyes – so familiar!
The huge ears, the pinched, urchin expression –
The wild confronting stare, pushed through fear,

Between the jacket lapels.
    ’It’s a fox-cub!’
I heard my own surprise as I stopped.
He stopped. ‘Where did you get it? What
Are you going to do with it?’
    A fox-cub
On the hump of Chalk Farm Bridge!

‘You can have him for a pound.’ ‘But
Where did you find it? What will you do with it?’
‘Oh, somebody’ll buy him. Cheap enough
At a pound.’ And a grin.
    What I was thinking
Was – what would you think? How would we fit it
Into our crate of space? With the baby?
What would you make of its old smell
And its mannerless energy?
And as it grew up and began to enjoy itself
What would we do with an unpredictable, 
Powerful, bounding fox?
The long-mouthed, flashing temperament?
That necessary nightly twenty miles
And that vast hunger for everything beyond us?
How would we cope with its cosmic derangements
Whenever we moved?

The little fox peered past me at other folks,
At this one and at that one, then at me.
Good luck was all it needed.
Already past the kittenish
But the eyes still small,
Round, orphaned-looking, woebegone
As if with weeping. Bereft
Of the blue milk, the toys of feather and fur,
The den life’s happy dark. And the huge whisper
Of the constellations
Out of which Mother had always returned.
My thoughts felt like big, ignorant hounds
Circling and sniffing around him.
   Then I walked on
As if out of my own life.
I let that fox-cub go. I tossed it back
Into the future
Of a fox-cub in London and I hurried
Straight on and dived as if escaping
Into the Underground. If I had paid,
If I had paid that pound and turned back
To you, with that armful of fox –

If I had grasped that whatever comes with a fox
Is what tests a marriage and proves it a marriage –
I would not have failed the test. Would you have failed it?
But I failed. Our marriage had failed.

I was sitting in the staff work room listening to a spirited discussion between two English teachers – they both taught yr 13 classes, one was doing Ted Hughes, and the other Sylvia Plath. I was listening purely from enjoyment as they argued their points about the intricasies and styles of the writers, the different possible interpretations, and how had we really changed in our expectations and realities of relationships since the 1950s and 60s. As an avid fan of Slyvia Plath, I had avoided Ted Hughes, but as there two English teachers teased out ideas I began to become more familiar and would occasionally skim read a poem or two. The ‘team Ted’ English teacher read this to me, and as two people with our own young families discussed how life had changed so much, that risk was now so much harder to take… that consequences were suddenly so much more real. And that epiphanies often strike when you least expect them. (I feel I need to add we are both still with our significant others, and seem to be weathering the occasional twists and turns of life reasonably well)

I also wonder if I’m thinking about this poem because I feel like I am running from a few ideas at the moment. I had a good conversation with a teacher friend yesterday about how I still can’t find a way to pull myself out of assessment driven teaching. How I am uncertain about how to build learning for L2 chemistry next year as the standards are changing. Have I, too, left the fox cub on the bridge and taken the ‘easier’ path that is safe and known??

And last, but not least, Dunedin poem, but Janet Frame. My favourite work of Janet Frame is excellently terrifying ‘The Bath’, but many of her poems pop into my head sometimes.

I thought of this poem yesterday, as I too went to the beach, and stared at the waves, and stood in the sun.

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Image credit – https://www.otago.ac.nz/library/exhibitions/burns/janetframe.html

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Modeling ‘microbes’

This year I ‘swapped’ classes to pick up a yr 7 class part way through the year. It has been an interesting challenge, for two reasons. 1) I have not taught yr 7 Science before, and 2) I found it ‘difficult’ to pick up a class when expectations and routines had already been set. It took a while before this class felt like ‘my class’, and that challenged me to think about the concept of ‘ownership’ of a class, and who should meet whos expectations.

Anyways, we have recently starting a topic on microbiology. After a typically energy filled monday lesson (For reasons I am still working on, when I have this class on a Monday they are such a different class to Tuesday. They take longer to settle, are disruptive, noisy, and just a bit off on a Monday compared to a Tuesday. I’m still working on the why, and trying to plan activities to make the most of it) I was a little apprehensive about how Tuesday would go – we were going to build some model bacteria based on what they had learned the day before.

And, to be honest, they blew me away. Absolutely blew me away. I had been convinced the lesson before had been a right off, and no-one had learned anything. But the class could tell be that a baceria had a cell wall, a cell membrane, some had flagella, some had a capsule, all the ‘stuff in the middle’ (DNA) and that funny c word (cytoplasm). So, despite the noise, and the seemingly off task carry on the day before, they had still mostly achieved the learning objectives around knowing what the parts of a bacteria were, and what they did.

And they made some fabulous model bacteria displaying these features, and as I went about the room we had some excellent discussions about what the different bits did.

 

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The girls that made this model not only listened the day before, but made different coloured sugar to bring to show the different layers….

 

So it was a really good reminder for me that, even though I know learning doesn’t need to be quiet or tidy, that in this case the students did really did learn while being noisy and slightly outrageous. And that many of them really enjoyed the chance to be creative and collaborative, rather than doing a work sheet or a computer animation. That even though I didn’t think they had listened, they had, and had taken on board the key points.

Well played yr 7, well played. Bring on bread mould this week.

Posted in Uncategorized

Finding the ‘bright spots’

I found this post in my drafts – And I think it is worth sharing, even if it is unfinished. Hope you are all finding some bright spots.

For a multitude of reasons, the last couple of months have been a bit tough in my teachy life. Work stresses including two teachers resigning in the space of two weeks, the upcoming teacher strikes, multiple interruptions making it hard to get into a routine and get through work required, report deadlines looming, knowing that some teachy friends are going through some really tough times…. well it has all contributed to a big pile of unhappiness. And those creeping thoughts of  why don’t we look after the people who are still turning up and working hard as well as the people where the wheels have fallen off. The kind of time where it is easy to forget to find the ‘bright spots’ and things I LOVE about working with young people. And ‘old people’ too.

So I thought I’d take some time on a friday night (with a gin in hand after take aways for tea) to write some of these down.

I guess this was mostly highlighted for me this week on Wednesday, when I had 4 out of 24 students arrive for Level 3 Chemistry. The rest where out on a Biology field trip. Bugger this, I decreed – let’s go get a coffee. And so off we went (after leaving a note on the board so if anyone came looking for us they could call my mobile) to a cafe 5 minutes walk from school and they were all ridiculously polite and ordered small drinks and I topped it up with some cakes. And we just talked about future plans, uni or polytech? Gap year? Work? Our international student talked about plans for when she returns to Germany. We talked about travelling, and then about formal dresses and suits (the formal is in 3 or 4 weeks). And it was really lovely to just sit with some exceptional young people and talk, to be able to listen to them.

Another moment was today, P5 on a friday, where my yr 10 Science class are finally starting to see some results from their independent learning around windmills and/or renewable energy generation. Having worked on a high trust model, and given them some space, it did take 3-4 hours for them to settle into the task, but now some of their projects are really taking shape, and they worked pretty solidly with very little input from me for the whole hour today.

Different ‘windmills’ taking shape

I also attended a girls coding event for tech week (which I will cover in another post), watched the girls football team play superbly well for a 4-3 loss, took pleasure in being able to help some people because their need was greater than mine, and also made some progress on the rather long list of things to do.

And this is where I got to…. I can’t remember what I was going to add…. but the windmills were definitely very cool and I was proud of what the students acheived. 

 

Posted in Digital Technologies, Professional learning, Teaching and Learning

Making a Chemistry App with Thunkable

Half way last term, I got to accompany some students to a digigirlz event that was hosted by the fabulous Phillipa Dick At Balmacewen Intermediate. The girls where given a ‘challenge’ and then quickly showcased a variety of digital tools they could use to make a solution. One that grabbed my eye was Thunkable, a drag and drop ‘app’ builder. So while the students I was ‘looking’ after went to work, I sat and had a play with Thunkable and found it easy enough to use and quickly built a small prototype app for identifying ions in Chemistry (which is an internally assessed achievement standard for L2/yr 12 Chem that I have previously had a go with adding some computational thinking in around algorthims and scratch. ). The I got ridiculously busy, and didn’t think to much about Thunkable again until I got to this standard with my Chem class, and I gave them the challenge of building an app. Using thunkable was much more accessible for students who did not already have the coding experience of confidence to use scratch, and it also took less time.

I am SO impressed with the app that the students built. Below are some screen shots

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The welcome screen – which type of ion are you trying to identify?
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Based on that result, this is the possible ions – do this next (and fix the NaOH) formula

 

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All of the final you got this ion have some cheesey pictures the students photo shopped themselves

 

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And, if you didn’t follow instructions……. for example pushing ‘no’ here
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you got ‘Rickrolled’

This work was completed in addition to the class work – about 5 girls worked on this app, almost completely independently of me. They said they really enjoyed doing something a bit different, and the other students in the class soon realised that while it was a bit more work, it was also some really good skills to learn, and rather fun being able to work together on a project like this.

This standard is changing for next year, and after toying with the computational aspect for a couple of iterations now I am feeling confident that I could incorporate the digital technologies aspect more completely into the unit of work, rather than having it as an optional add on. The new achievement standard specifications have a component where students need to describe why (or why not) an ion in a solution might be harmful (or useful) – so perhaps students could each research a different ion as part of the learning, and then combine this knowledge into the app….. still pondering how it might look, but excited for possibilities.

And so proud of the mahi my students did

Posted in Uncategorized

Reflections from the PPTA ICT committee June 2019

Once again this post has taken some time to get to sorry – Life is just a bit busy at the moment. But Friday a week ago I went up to Wellington for the day for the PPTA ICT committee meeting. As usual, this post comes with a disclaimer that these points are my interpretation and I am happy to be corrected, and/or provide any additional info. An additional disclaimer that I was pretty sick with the lurg doing the rounds, and dragged myself onto the plane at 6:25 am that morning on some pretty good cold meds to boot!! But, as usual, it was a very worthwhile day with lots of interesting discussion and some projects moving forward.

Stuart Wakefield – Chief digital officer, MoE

Stuart was on the agenda to talk around anti plagiarism software (a common discussion point at OCT meetings) but he actually offered a much more broad overview of some of the ministry projects going on, and ‘what could the ministry listen too’ to make sure they were meeting the needs of as many as possible.

There were 3 key ‘rolls’ for the office/team Stuart leads

  1. digital support internally –
  2. Digital support for so different education type agencies eg, NZQA, ERO, Library, MSD (study link) people
  3. Direct support of schools

The support of schools includes all sorts of things, from software licensing (hence the plagiarism software), digital equity for students (how is this managed, supporting pilot programs, internet access etc), digital wellness – screen time, cyber safety (netsafe, N4L, and government level cert stuff)  mental health, and physical features such as furniture .

Several points of interest for me, the first being equity. Massive discussions around the table about what that looks like and what that means, both with Stuart and then later in the day talking about technical support in schools. It is one thing to give a student a device, but if there is no internet at home, or the infrastructure of the school can’t support it, or if teachers are not confident in changing their pedagogy, then the device can’t function fully. John C talked about virtual desktops for devices in his school – they are looking at this route so that less powerful devices can be virtually upcycled with software that might not run on a less powerful machine – trouble is it comes at a cost for a very grunty server. Discussion around how to get wifi into all homes without undercutting the market (I hadn’t considered this) but the ministry is looking into some creative ways to manage this (linked to maintaining a free view TV network – as it seems TV is going to be universally through the internet sooner that we might think).

The next was why do we need anti plagiarism software. I get a bit titchy about this – if you assign a ‘project’ and get 30 identical reports back, then it was a recipe, not a project. How can we move to more authentic learning experiences for students so they are not just copying. But also, in Science, there are only so many ways you can say something like ‘more successful collisions per second means the rate of reaction is faster’ so everyone would be ‘plagiarising’ Those with experience using turn it in or other softwares commented on the PLD required to use it well, and some said using the software had provided students with the opportunity to learn more about plagiarism, which provided great opportunities for critical thinking. I think the take home message is the ministry is open to funding something like this, but it might be at the expensive of something else – so teachers/schools would need to think careful about what their digital priorities would be. BUT also, with the new NCEA review, will this still be an issue?? Watch this space I guess.

Mixed in with the discussions around PLD, I leaped in with my usual comments on the TELA scheme and that PLD for teachers receiving ‘new’ laptops is still lacking….. and what information has been gathered to determine satisfaction around the scheme? So TELA is still simmering in my background, but was not one of the main points in this meeting.

Another idea was around a machine readable curriculum – how can we get ‘resources’ so they can be read by any device/browser (at least, I think this is what it meant) so that is doesn’t matter what devices students have, they can all access the materials. This would mean students don’t need ‘grunty’ devices if all the tools they needed could be web based……

So a really interesting, forward thinking discussion was had.

Round Robin

Due to weather delaying flights and people not being able to arrive, I ended up dominating this a little…… but points of discussion were

  • Tech support – still not enough movement on getting a more uniform technical as well as e-learning/changing pedagogy in schools. Tied into teachers not always being tech savvy using new devices, much less new software. Discussion around how schools are at liberty to spend their money as they choose – do not need to fund a tech if they don’t want to. But round the table there was a massive discrepancy of support in schools – one school with around 1300 students had a 1.5 teachs (one full time, one part time), another slightly smaller had 0.5 of a tech who often worked longer, and another of similar size had no on site tech. Some schools had teachers with time allowances to support staff using technology in their classes, so had teachers with time and units, and some had nothing. So it really is an area of concern as more resourcing goes into digital technologies and learning, especially with the increasing use of online and digital assessment. If teachers are not comfortable using IT in their teaching and learning programs, how can students be expected to be successful in online assessment? And if the infrastructure is not in place so technology is reliably usable, how can teachers be expected to use it?

Outcome was the committee is going to write to the ministry and the PPTA exec to look for ways forward to get a more uniform support for schools – at the moment there is no ‘legal’ route as schools do have autonomy over how they spend there operations grants. There was a comment made that as the NCEA fees have been scrapped, there is going to be even less money (or less chance of money) available to schools to get ready for digital assessments.

  • As already mentioned, John talked about virtualisation of desktop computers for students, so the students could use cheaper computers and still use grunty software. Asked for opinions and ideas around this – the ministry is pushing for schools to shift to the cloud, but this means you no longer control availability or cost of access – to quote John. So if you have any thoughts or experience on this, please reach out and let me know and I’ll take it back to the group
  • I raised an issue around VC courses for language learners, especially Te Reo Maori. I have spoken to a few teachers and schools about this, and VC is not really meeting the needs of these students as well as it might. There was some discussion around how this might work better, but no concrete ideas, so again if you have any please get in touch.
  • DTTA update. Chris Dillion gave a big update from the Digital technology teachers Aotearoa group. Ket points of interest were

– the teacher shortages for DT teachers is going to hit HARD. Many schools were unable to offer DT due to not having a suitable teacher – what impact would these have? And what would ERO think

– New curriculum content – difficulties around working out what was teachable and workable at yr 9 and 10. Varying levels of competence coming from primary schools, some have made massive strides while others not doing much. (I quietly thought this was a bit like Science – some primary do loads while others do not much). Makes it difficult for teachers who are still coming to grips with the new expectations. It is the old chestnut I guess, do we box students in to a year level of ‘skills’ or try and find ways to let them work at their level? But when a kid comes in and says, oh, I’ve already ‘done’ ‘scratch’ it does make it difficult, especially because you can do loads of things with various programs or softwares, but some students won’t see past the tool.

– Assessments are now available – schools will need to ‘book’ a time and a set.

– Support for the Hangarau Matihiko curric and assessment seems to have stalled – difficulties with translation and information from different sources. Watch this space

– Check you the webinar from Kate Curtis and Nathan Owen on the NCEA review changes.

– The date for DT.HM embedding is still 2020 – below is a copy and pasted exert

The following has been passed on from MoE via email, and will be communicated to all schools soon. I have highlighted the relevant parts.

What will ERO be looking for in 2020 in terms of implementation of the new curriculum content?

The purpose of internal and external evaluation is to improve education outcomes and to ensure that schools are accountable for their stewardship. Under the Education Act 1989 all schools are expected to be involved in an ongoing, cyclical process of evaluation and inquiry for improvement. Through the annual reporting process, they are required to report on the achievement of their students, their priorities for improvement, and the actions they plan to take.

ERO supports this review to ensure schools are providing their learners with the rich and engaging curriculum they are entitled to.

It is expected that by 2020 students will be meeting the progress outcomes for digital technologies to match the curriculum level expected for their year level at school?

Over time students should be supported to progress in their learning in technology. In 2020, the Ministry of Education expects that schools will be using the revised learning area to provide students with even broader opportunities to learn in and about technology, informed by the new content around computational thinking and designing and developing digital outcomes.

As for all parts of the curriculum, teachers will design learning programmes with rich and authentic local contexts that provide quality learning experiences for students.

So lots of info from the DTTA – and I again want to acknowledge how hard various members of that group have been working in the back group to support the new curriculum.

Andrea Grey – NZQA

After the last PPTA ICT meeting, I had a comment on my blog from NZQA asking to respond, so I was a teeny bit nervous about them coming to talk to us. Turns out I had not much to worry about, and Andrea was very pleased to come and talk to us to try and build on the/the NZQA’s understanding of where things are at, and what steps might be taken moving forward.

Here are the key points as I remember them – it is also worth having a looksy at the NZQA/NCEA website for more info https://www.nzqa.govt.nz/about-us/future-state/digital-assessment-ncea-online/

  • exams will be online ‘where appropriate’ from 2020 (but paper copies will still be available).
  • Exams have gone online in response to more and more learning experiencing being online. In my opinion, this links into the growing disparity between schools in NZ, some students are using computers very often, and so doing an exam and typing etc are much more ‘natural’ to them than using a pen and paper, while for other students and/or schools, they are still doing most of their learning from work books or paper, so online exams are exceptional and strange. So school who have the infrastructure are finding this all ok.
  • NZQA are working with N4L and school providers – ‘on the journey together’ to understand the main issues/problems and attempt to find solutions. There is no one size fits all….

There was a side discussion around exam centers – some smaller schools and Kura are not exam centers, and sometimes needing to travel is a barrier to learners – so how can those barriers be overcome? Would online assessment mean more students can access assessment from their own school/Kura/Marae? And do students need to be in a big vast hall? Or could they be in a more familiar environment that they feel more comfortable in and so do better…. And even with paper exams, I think it is a shame we shove kids into a hall because it is ‘easier to manage’ either with staffing or timetable changes, rather than give them the best chances of success in environments they fell comfortable with. Personally, when I’m ‘thinking’, I like to sit on the floor and spread out with my laptops and papers all over the show….. I HATED sitting in a desk for 3 hours.

  • about 200 schools have tried one or more online exams to date – some big cohorts and some smaller.
  • Feedback from students has been positive (around 90% strongly agree or agree) – even in instances where technical issues occurred (perhaps because students are more resilient to tech fails than teachers….) although it was acknowledged only about 25% of students who sat the exams completed the feedback forms (which I don’t think it too bad for teenagers!!)
  • Special assessment conditions are a work in progress – text to speech from next year and aiming for speech to text for 2021
  • Any time assessment is still on the radar, but not the immediate future. Will be assessed with the NCEA changes

This also lead to a fun side discussion around some research needing to be done around the timing of assessments…. Is there a magic number for time after learning to have an assessment? How to we promote long term retention? How do we promote skills rather than content ‘regurgitation’? I know from my own teaching that I get frustrated with students who learn something for one assessment, and seemingly can’t remember the skill two months later for another topic (eg writing balanced equations in chemistry…. but there are others). So is assessing straight after the learning always the best option? What are we trying to assess when we assess? How might this look with the changes to assessment with the NCEA review. How might classrooms and learning programs need to change to accomodate varying ‘assessment’ timetables?? I hadn’t really considered the timing of assessments as much as I might have before this meeting and have had several interesting discussions online and in person about what this might mean for different learners, subjects and skills.

  • next target for online exams is languages – there has been some complications with browsers auto-translating!! (I thought this was awesome…..) and then into maths and Science – but how do we move passed substitution
  • for 2019 there are 35 exams online – manly text based as there is confidence that these work as the exams are mostly just substituted for the written exams

Which lead into a really cool (and hopeful) discussion about how online assessment might move on from straight substitution of paper exams into other different ways we could assess students. How could these exams meet the needs of all learners. How could the ‘language’ base of maths problems be removed so it is easier for students to interpret what the questions are actually asking? How could ‘2D’ pictures students are asked to draw or label be redone as animations or VR immersive sessions where students can display their knowledge in different ways? Good an exam have an element of game based design – a pick a path story of sorts? It was a really cool discussion around what assessment could look like, and how might we like to look?

 

So all in all a slightly different meeting with a few more ‘big picture’ ideas than there have been previously. I left with some ideas to ponder and research to do, and some hope around what learning might look like in future

As always, I’m happy to be corrected, and pass anything on to the committee if you have any questions or concerns 🙂 some things don’t fall under the umbrella of the committee, but I’m happy to try and find where issues should go as well.

Have fun

 

 

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

Introducing forces and making mazes

This term I have picked up a Year 7 Science class (mostly due to timetabling changes) and we have started the term with a ‘Bikes and Trikes’ topic, which is essentially aiming to cover levers, simple machines and forces. I had this class once, which was mostly a let’s get to know each other a bit better (we did flipgrid introductions with mixed success, but it was a good way for me to figure out the more digital literate and confident students, and the students who can follow instructions more easily than others). After this, I walked through a colleagues class, and saw their students blowing ping pong balls around using straws, and thought to myself ‘I’m poaching that’ for lesson 2. It was an easy way to introduce the ideas of the lessons, which were

  1. A force is a push or a pull
  2. Forces can change an objects speed and direction (or velocity…. it is yr 7) or forces can change an objects shape

We wrote some notes (still a good settling activity, especially this brand new class I had meet once) and did a think, pair, share activity on any ‘forces’ they could think of. There were lots of star wars themed answers, and a few space themed ones to. We then watched some videos of rollercoasters etc…

And then I let them lose with ping pong balls and straws, and they had a ball. I set them a challenge of getting equal and opposing forces acting on the ball, so it stayed still. This proved a bit too challenging as many students just couldn’t resist blowing a big puff to knock the balls off the center.

I then thought about getting students to design mazes that they had to get their ball to travel along. This was much more successful at getting the idea that the direction of the force, as well as the size of the force is important. And I was amazed by the effort that went into some of the groups mazes, they tried and failed, and tried again, decided things were too easy or too hard and really got into it.

The groups of students who worked more collaboratively were able to get their ping pong balls to the ends faster than others, because they positioned themselves around the maze so each person had a different direction to direct the ball.

And if I had thought about it a little more, I ought to have put some computational thinking ideas in there – how many breathes/blows to get the ball to the end, what direction does the next breath need to be etc. How could you get the ball to the end of a maze with the least breaths possible? It would have been a useful little exercise similar to how I have seen sphero’s or bee bots used to get students designing instructions/algorithms to get a sphero out of a maze.

And for when I do this next time, I will think about how I can get the idea of direction change a little more explicit in the preparation for the maze, and how I can follow up (I left it too late and it was basically an oh crap, the bell is about to go, packing up now please…… so working on timing is obviously important too)

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

On burnout, moral injury, tiredness and I’m not sure……

Today is the middle Tuesday of the 2 weeks easter break. Today was a fabulous autumnal day filled with holidays chores like getting a hair cut, chimney sweeps, gardening etc. And marking. And then some-one popped round which was a very welcome distraction from marking. I was talking to them about how I had felt burn out after the last term, which isn’t like me because I usually have pretty good coping strategies etc, and how frustrated I was with teaching and education in general and she introduced me to to idea of moral injury (see the youtube clip below). Moral injury has been mostly explored (from what a quick google search could tell me) from a military perspective, where those who had gone into a war zone (or other traumatic place/experience) but is increasingly being used in health and in education. 

 

For what ever reason, it has really hit home. I am not burned out, and I do not need a well being program in my school to make me feel better – I need education to be better. And society too!

Easier said that done right 🙂 Sigh

From what I could find (in a brief search where I can’t access a whole of of journals due to pay walls etc), the idea of moral injury is a real thing. For example, this paper gives an example of whether to exclude a student or not – something I know that I have grappled with as an educator when I am struggling to understand the steps my school has taken (or not taken)

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 8.56.04 PM.png
Source – https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/17368460/Moral%20Injury%20and%20Educational%20Injustice%20HER%20FINAL.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y

It is the very classic damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario…. for schools, for school leaders, for teachers and for communities……

Another example is HERE, where a teacher just didn’t want to come to school after a decision was made that they didn’t agree with. The post goes on to talk about how to find ways to still enjoy your job.

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 9.08.04 PM.png
Source – https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/fall-2015/healing-from-moral-injury

 

And the hopelessness is real. Knowing that change could be made, but constantly feeling hamstrung by the very system you are battling against. Knowing that there must be good reasons for decisions being made, but not being privy to them, or not agreeing with them.

So I’m going to have to re think how I look at systems, and system change, and if nothing else from today, I have found a way to be kinder to myself and to my colleagues. Because there is shame attached to burnout is a thing. And I have often wondered why some people blow out and others don’t. As the video said, when we think of burnout, we wonder what strategy or resilience did they lack? Or was it simply the case of the straw that broke the camels back? We teeter around on tiptoes not trying to upset some-one to try and avoid things getting rough again, or shift classes, or re-arrange time-tables without ever addressing the underlying reasons why people are struggling.

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 9.25.33 PM.png
Source . – https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm/
Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 9.28.35 PM.png
Source – http://moralinjuryproject.syr.edu/about-moral-injury/

 

And then sometimes the world just does get too much. Illness, moving house, relationship issues, there are rafts and rafts of reasons why people sometimes struggle at work. And they perhaps need to be made more seperate from when the reason some-one is struggling at work is because of the work, rather than another life event.

Another friend said to me last week in when I was catching up in chch when I said I wasn’t sure I still enjoyed teaching ‘well, there is a reason people get paid to go there, not many people would if there was no money’. So where is that line between being ‘precious’ and actually being fulfilled enough to be content. When do I need to remember I am paid to do a job, and I should (sometimes) shut up and do it……..

And I guess I still don’t have an answer, and I’m still not sure where this thinking might take me. It is another reminder I need to do better by my family and myself. Make that time. Just make it. But if you are out there, feeling ‘burnt out’, you are not alone, and maybe, just maybe, you are not as burned out as you think.

Keep swimming

 

And I really wanted to read this article, but it was locked behind a paywall – https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00344087.2017.1403789?journalCode=urea20 

 

 

 

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Redox demo

So, a short and sweet post about one of my favourite low tech demonstrations for redox – I don’t even know what it is called, and I learned it from the fabulous Murray Vickers who was my associate teacher when I was a trainee teacher 10 (oh my goodness 10!!) years ago. It is a really nice demonstration as it shows not just the reaction occurring, but can be linked back to the composition of the air we breathe and the different amounts of gas.

All you need to do is get some steel wool, and put it in the bottom of a longish thinish tube. I used a gas jar this time, but a measuring cylinder also works well. You then need to put some water in the tube, so that when you upend it, and stand it in a container of water, there is still some water in the tube. The pictures below show it much better than me trying to write it out. But you need just a little bit of water in the tube. I put a line around where the water level was at the start

 

The gear was then left over the weekend, and as the oxygen was used up the water rose up the gas jar.

 

And as you can see, the water has stopped about 20% of the way up. Because Nitrogen makes up almost 80% of the ‘air’, and oxygen is just over 20%, the reaction will have stopped/slowed because there is no oxygen left to react with the Fe (iron) in the steal wool.

Often reactions with gases are hard to visualise – we also burned steal wool (makes great wee sparks) and you can’t really ‘see’ the oxygen being reacted. In this cause, you still can’t ‘see’ it, but you can see that something has happened to the gases.