Posted in Digital Technologies, Professional learning, Teaching and Learning

Re thinking Chemistry (identifying ions) with Computational Thinking

When I first ‘meet’ computational thinking about 18 months ago at a presentation by Lisa Anne Floyd, I was hooked!! I wanted to dive straight in, and as such my first few attempts at using computational thinking frameworks kind of fizzled with my classes. (you can see my earlier post on computational thinking HERE) It has taken a while for my understanding to percolate and over the course of the last 18 months I’ve done some reading, some talking (thanks Nikkie and Kevin mostly) and some teaching and come to realise that you don’t need to do all the parts of computational thinking at once. For example, as part of the yr 7 digital technologies course I am teaching, we focus on algorithms and data representation (so a little pattern recognition, we might need to make this more explicit) with very little on decomposition and abstraction. As the new digital technology curriculum in New Zealand has a focus on computational thinking, I’ve been wondering how I could incorporate this more into my science classes. I was original thinking solely of juniors, at mostly around some add in activities such as hacking STEM lessons, or some maker space activities, or using MinecraftEDU. But have decided to be brave and have a go with my Level 2 NCEA Chemistry class with the AS 91162 identifying ions in solution standard.

I’ve decided this after learning a little bit more about computational thinking. some of this comes from being in digital technology class with Kevin teaching the yr 7’s. In my own learning, some of the resources I used included this great wee course aimed at kids via the bbc bite size site. Then there is the Computational Thinking course on the microsoft educator community, which had a link to this blog piece written by Janette Wing (and a link to the original viewpoint article, which is 10 year old)

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 4.58.22 PM.png
An excerpt from Jeanette’s Article

Google also has a good computational thinking resource…. Which has some specific Science examples around Genomics for algorithms, bouncing balls for algorithms, and classifying for finding patterns which also goes into decompositions. Funnily enough, I had never really thought about 20 questions being decomposition, but in this example it works well, and made me more tolerant of my L3 chem students playing it when they should be doing other things!

This article from American Scientist (it is jargon rich, but well worth the read) talks about experimenters and theoreticians and how computers now mean they work more closely together than ever before – with scientists often designing new software and algorithms for make new models and predictions. This article from EDUtopia is much more user friendly.  HERE is another jargon filled example leaning towards STEM.

There were also some videos I watched, while a little ‘cheesey’ this was a favourite… the idea of sorting puzzle pieces appealed to me, I always sort the edges first, then colours or a pattern.

But what it took for me to finally get my head to get to this point was a conversation with Nikkie about teaching kids to read, and using pattern recognition to identify words. The next night, I was with my Mr 5 as he read his story book and he read in his book look, looked and looking (On a seperate topic, my goodness kids books are insanely dull at times…).

I had an mini epiphany. It was simply that simple, and I had been making it too hard in my head. Not everything needed to be done at once.

So, what might this mean for my Level 2 Chem class and identifying ions.

Usually, I teach this by starting out with the solubility rules which make up a flow chart the students can follow during the internal to identify the ions. Depending on time, we might have a play with the solutions and see what patterns we can find, and what ions form precipitates with others. Generally though, I rush this step, so I can spend more time on balancing ionic equations and the justifications around the steps which students require for excellence.

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 4.02.57 PM.png
Students get a flow chart like this one in the assessment to help them identify the ions in different solutions – this is for cations, and there is another for anions.

Because I had finally gotten my head around (decomposed perhaps) the idea that I didn’t need to do ALL of computational thinking to teach computational thinking, what could I include?

The obvious one is algorithms – as there is already a flow chart in place.

But I wondered why I couldn’t let the students design there own flowchart…. maybe not to use in the assessment because I’m not sure it would pass moderation…. as a way of learning how to use a pattern to make an algorithm. And exploring the patterns of solubility (for time I might get a group to do everything with Cl-, and another group to do everything with I-, and then compare notes) we can do a fairly good job of pattern recognition. This group activity might also fit nicely into knowledge building and collaboration, and hits all the nature of Science stuff.

I was talking this through with Kevin and of course he said – well, you could make some sort of scratch program based on the flowchart – a series of yes/no questions to find the ion. So I will put the option to the students – there are a couple who are also in Kevin’s Robotics class – that if they want to make a program, they can. Again, I’m not sure they would be able to use this in the assessment, but if it works, I might find out more about this for next year…..

So I am starting smaller this time, and aiming for pattern recognition and algorithmic thinking. Students will work in groups over a lesson or two to identify which of the required ions for their assessment react with what. We will compare data and look for trends (and then compare to the solubility rules). Then design a flow chart to determine for an unknown – which might need some iteration along the way. And of course, as they are working on this, I’ll throw in that they have to write the correct balanced ionic equations for precipitates and for the complex ions formed. I’m really hoping that by asking the students to write their own flowcharts, they will ace the part of the assessment where they need to justify their ‘choice’ of ion, as they should develop a thorough understanding of the idea behind it.

I’ll also give the option of the scratch program. And if time allows (it probably won’t…. sigh) I would like to go more into the pattern recognition of why some salts are more soluble than others, linking back to atomic and ionic structures and energy….. oh the places we could go

Wish me luck

 

Advertisements
Posted in Teaching and Learning, random ramblings

Myth busting Napoleon’s buttons

I am sometimes reminded of how small things can be so important. Making connections, learning new things and questioning things said can make such a difference to learning, engagement and interest, including mine. So this a wee story about some buttons, some exploring, some learning and some fun.

Recently the Science Learning hub posted a tweet about Napolean’s armies and how their coat buttons succumbed to ‘tin pest’.

I didn’t know that Tin did this, and was immediately intrigued – as were a couple of my L3 chem students I talked to about it.

So I tweeted back, and we put some tin in the freezer

Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 9.47.03 AM.png

But nothing happened….

Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 7.53.18 PM.png

and got this reply

Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 9.49.24 AM

So…. we left it for a bit longer…..

But after a weekend at -19 C, it was still just tinScreen Shot 2018-06-15 at 12.01.32 PM

So then we melted some tin 🙂

But it still wasn’t enough….

Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 12.03.41 PM

In the middle of this discussion, the plot thickened with some more information about tin pest and solder…..

So of course melted some solder to make another ‘button’

And some discussions around purity of tin

Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 7.46.17 PM.png

Then Science learning hub popped in again with some more ideas and some more people to contribute

And the best upshot from my kids point of view was when my students went into the university as part of 3.1, they got to play with some dry ice….

The current update is the tin is in a -80 C freezer somewhere – or maybe still on Dave’s desk.

So in a very busy couple of weeks, with internal assessments, report and all sorts of chaos and disappointments, this was just awesome. My students and I were ‘chatting’ with world class chemists, doing some experiments, having an explore, in no way related to credits. It was awesome – we skimmed over history, weather, complex chemical structures, alloys and physical properties related to structures, more history learning about expeditions across Antartica, pipe organs and archeological digs. My students loved it, and so did I.

And we will let you know what happens with the tin 🙂

 

Posted in Minecraft, Professional learning, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Lighting fires with the Chemistry Add in for MinecraftEDU

As part of the inquiry section of my yr 8 Home Chemistry unit, some of my students explored the Chemistry add in for MinecraftEDU. (You can find out more about the Chemistry Add in HERE at the MinecraftEDU site.) We have a subscription for MinecraftEDU at my school to use with the year 7 digital technology unit and I have been looking for different ways to integrate MinecraftEDU into more learning areas in Science. The Chemistry Add in is pretty kick arse, with lots of possibilities for different learning. Some of my students were super keen to have a look around as they already love playing Minecraft at home, so I essentially gave them free reign in the prebuilt world and then got them to teach me how to use it 🙂

The upshot was the students LOVED it. They had a great 3-4 lessons just poking around and seeing what they could do. It lead to some great discussions, and some great practicals too 🙂 They showed me what they were doing, so I learned the ins and outs super quick 🙂 If there was the opportunity I jumped into the worlds they were playing in and had a look around with them. It was a great way for me to learn about it.

So, starting at the beginning – the game leads you into a set path , where you can make element and compounds

With no real prior knowledge, the students were able to make up a variety of different elements, and got a basic idea of atomic structure. In the New Zealand Curriculum, we used this model for the atom right up until NCEA level 3 chemistry where we introduce spd notation, so it works pretty well. In future, I would love the ability to make ions, I can see this would be a super useful tool to show students the impact of changing the number of electrons…. but as an element constructor it was still pretty amazing.

You could then go and make compounds, the tutorial takes you through making sodium acetate, which you then combine to make an ice bomb – which the students loved using to freeze the pond outside.

 

Screenshot (24)
I tried to freeze the water fall, but the water just flowed over it….

 

This lead to a discussion if this would work in real life, which it kind of does and kind of doesn’t, put I have promised we will have a go at making some sodium acetate towers at the end of the topic

By the time the kids got to this stage, they had ditched the tutorials in favour of just having a look. They quickly discovered a spot where you could  make Helium filled balloons that you could attach to animals and make them rise up into the air. There was a convenient ‘cage’ of animals, and a crafting table to make the balloons nearby.

 

The real highlight though was when one of the students found the lab book, and saw all the amazing recipes on there. They were super keen to make the torches…

lab book

So away they went, first of all we had to make the elements. Which meant looking up a periodic table and found out how many protons, neutrons and electrons each element has.

And then we made the compounds – the students struggled a little with getting the correct number of chlorides to each metal. It was great teachable moment around chemical compounds – a bit hard for yr8, but because there was a context the students ate it up

Screenshot (7).png

We then took the chloride salts and crafted the lamps…. and it was awesome

The coloured lamps rocked

Screenshot (16)

So, of course we had to make some coloured flaming torches for real….

IMG_20180517_110437.jpg

So the Chemistry add in for MinecraftEDU is pretty freaking sweet. I’ve only scratched the surface so far, and it is awesomesauce, especially for the juniors. I loved that we could remake the torches in real life, and can make links between what the students saw in the game world and the lab. I’m looking forward to exploring a bit deeper into what it can do.

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

Reflections from #ENERGISENZ2018

I attended EnergiseNZ2018 at the end of the April school holidays, and it was exactly what I needed to kick start my interest and passion for learning back into gear. Talking to loads of teachers there, many were tired, a bit burnt out, frustrated and not sure of where they were headed. Which is where I had felt coming into the holidays – not helped by the MOUNTAIN of work I felt I had to get through (some marking is still sitting in a pile on the bookshelf looking at me). So it was really good to set aside some time to think about what I am doing, force myself to learning something new, talk about some things that interest me, catch up with some old friends and meet some new ones. I don’t think I got as many ‘new ideas’ from this time round compared to last year, but I did feel like my conversations were deeper and more ‘grunty’.

An added ‘bonus’ / stress (Mostly ’cause I can’t have Arnika thinking it was too much fun) was I was asked at the relatively last minute to fill in for the fabulous Pip Cleaves to present, as she was unable to come. But being able to immerse myself in what she did and think about how I could use it, and then have to sure those ideas up in my head enough to be able to ‘present’ them, and then get the discussion and feedback, was a really good learning experience.

Anyways, the day started with a mihi whakatau to welcome us to Rolleston West school. It was a lovely new school, with an epic playground, and big open spaces. We then had a welcome from a ministry person whose name I didn’t catch (my bad) before we kicked of with

Ali Carr-Chellman –  engaging the disengaged learner

Truth be told, Ali floored me a bit with her presentation. I knew she was big on games, and I have read a little bit of her stuff. About half way through I was filled with terror for my Mr 5, as well as being enormously thankful we live in New Zealand. I am almost certain that if we lived in the states, he would probably be medicated for ADHD…. But it that simply because we value quiet rather than engaged, and because we make assumptions about how boys and girls will act.

So, in the states (in particular) there is a clear issue with student behaviour. Kids using their fingers to represent a gun have been sent home. Ali gave an example of (young – I think Kindergarten) boys talking about killing horses – the girls didn’t like it, so a vote was held, there were more girls than boys, so the class was no longer allowed to talk about killing horses. Topics like death are often censored. And the boys struggled to talk about anything else for a while. Violent video games got a bad rep for being linked to violent behaviour, but now more research is suggesting this link is non existent, and gaming may actually provide an outlet than reduces aggression in ‘real life’. Games are a way of engaging the disengaged.

What games you offer was a more provoking point of Ali’s…. even my beloved minecraftEDU got a rap over the knuckles for being sanitised and not having the zombie pigs. (Even then, kids still do like it, especially younger ones). She suggested not filtering any of the games, and laid down a challenge to find the learning in call of duty or world of war craft.

I came away with 2 main points for me to consider

  1. It is an interesting conundrum – I am not happy with the idea of we need to let boys be boys.

But, my own Mr 5 is currently full of how to kill ‘things’ in games. Whether it be roblox or minecraft, he is all about it. Yet, I have never seen anything about gentleness from him for all living things (except a spider or two, and occasionally the rough and tumble between him and Dad gets a tad rough…). He does still throw spectacular tantrums, but they are getting fewer. There are times when he got really obsessed with death, and I remember his (fabulous) day care teacher telling me that most ‘little’ kids do get really hung up on the idea somewhere between 3.5-4.5 years.

Part of Ali’s argument, as I understood it, was that many of todays teacher were quiet ‘girls’ in school. (lets face it, most teachers are woman, but they didn’t used to be). So they value quiet behaviour, and quiet girls. Boys are not always quiet play house types (neither are girls….) so they get singled out.

So, where is the middle ground. I don’t know. I don’t want there to be less expectations for my Mr 5, but I also want him to be able to be himself.

So I guess it comes down to meeting your learners needs. And making them meet you at least somewhere on that journey

2. There are games, and then there are games

I LOVE gaming, ever since I was 11 years old and my primary school got it first computer for students to use (It was a big deal, we got 4 computers for the whole school). I was a bus kid, so after school while we waiting for the bus we were allowed to play Rockfall. If you died, it was the next persons go. I was hooked – and didn’t realised I was planning ahead, learning from mistakes, working with others….

Later on I developed almost an addiction for heroes of might and magic III. There was a fabulous ‘greek’ map where you could be a ‘greek’ God (I was often Zeus) and cruise round Greece. Every few turns you got an update about what Zeus or his sons had done (Mostly annoying Hera) and as you moved round the map, little information bites popped up (eg the lake Narcissus looked into, or you meet Oedipus, or you paid a dollar to Charon to talk you in a boat to the underword). I am convinced that it was playing this game that lead me to take Classics 101 (greek and roman literature) at uni, and still more, pass that paper (quite well too) without reading all of the books.

I just can’t see how I could let my class play first person shooters…. maybe I need to broaden my mind…. Is blowing each other up in Minecraft really that different????

So yeah, what games are ok? And what games are not? And is it my place to say, or my kids, or my schools community???

Breakouts

Presenting

I then presented Pip Cleaves work on Action learning projects over two seperate sessions – I think it went pretty well. I really enjoyed learning about Action learning projects and how Pip linked this idea to design thinking. My big take home/s from reading through her work was and presenting it were 1) you have to practice what you preach and 2) it is up to you to make your inquiry/learning meaningful. And a really effective way to do this was to apply design thinking to your own learning goals and to make a ‘product’ based on your outcome. So I am going to re think my inquiry for this year (how to incorporate digitech into my everyday teaching) and put it through a design thinking process, and then make a how to for other science teachers based on my prototypes and trials. And now that I have said I will, hold me to it!!

Another idea was around holding ideas loosely. Part of Pips work explained how the staff had been surveyed for what they wanted PLD on. This was then grouped into 10 focus areas, or PLG groups that worked on projects throughout the year (with some excellent scaffolding). For this to work though, the school leaders needed to be comfortable with the ideas that the staff came up with – if they were looking into (for example) how to use Edmodo in the classroom and what worked best, then that was what worked best. And if you were in the group, the same went, you have to hold those ideas loosely and watch them grow beyond you sometimes.

This is something I personally struggle with, so it was a good reminder to myself about thinking of the whole, rather than just me. It was a challenge, but a good one, and I learned loads and was hopefully able to share that learning with others 🙂

STEM/STEAM with JILL

After being called into do Pip’s presentations, I will admit this one got a bit neglected, as I know this stuff and felt I could kind of pull it out on the spot. But I also learned some things from Jill, who talked about integrating STEM/STEAM into the early yrs in primary schools. And that is not something you need to ‘buy’ a kit for!!

We really needed more time, as the session was a little to much us talking and not enough people doing things, but I did dig up a fan activity from T col, and got people to make some leaf rubbings.

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 2.12.42 PM.png

Which of course is a very simple activity, with some nice ‘busy’ work to cut out the templates and pin them together. I asked the group how they might use this, and showed a video about ‘fighting fans’, to try and express the idea that you shouldn’t let your knowledge limit where your students can take these ideas. But also, fans do naturally lend themselves to angles, which then leads into a frozen hour of code tutorial….

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 2.17.39 PM.png

I think one of the most important things when thinking about implementing ‘STEM’, especially for less confident teachers, is to start with something they already know, and are comfortable with. So once you get angles in one way, try another. Once people see how the ideas can slot together, they can start to make it happen for them and their students, rather than happen ‘to’ them.

Other sessions

Well being

I full on bunked wellbeing sessions (which included hula hooping, walking, running, yoga and just time to sit) and went for a mini tour of the Rolleston College. I was especially interested in their new lab spaces – they were so small. But as Matt pointed out, they are only for lab work, not class work, so the didn’t need the class space like other labs do. The other thing was the lack of usable ‘lab’ storage space, which Matt agreed was a problem. Health and Safety around storage of particular chemicals does not seem to go hand in hand with open planned learning environments. But it was a lovely space, and I am enjoying seeing how the groups of teachers are using them. Sue from Haeta came along, and there was a colourful comparison of the two spaces.

Beersies

From 3:30-5 was a designated hang out, have a beer and chat. So I sat with Matt and talked somethings over, and we saw a guy standing by himself, and invited him to join us. Turns out he was Rob Smith from the literacy shed so it was awesome to have a chat to him about the differences between NZ and the UK in education, and just life in general. I then meet up with Ryan Higgins and things took an interesting turn of too many ciders, a trip in a fabulous old mini to my parents house (sorry Mum and Dad) and then out for dinner courtesy of Arnika and Cyclone…..

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 2.38.56 PM.png
Rob, Gerard, Ryan and me. The mini did not have seat belts in the back…. I have not laughed so hard in AGES

Friday

I was a tensy tiny bit hung over on friday, and very thankful for a hot chocolate and some sphero olympics to get us energised for the day. My group didn’t win, but we had fun and learned a wee bit about how sphero’s can be used in classrooms. I did not know that Sphero’s could ‘swim’ (we had to make some togs as well), that they could paint or that they could be attached to chariots and raced. It was a lot of fun first thing.

I then had my last presentation, and then I went to…

Paul Donnelly – Culturally responsive pedagogy.

Paul is a follow microsofty and I have been amazed with the way the team at St Thomas’s have worked to re-allign their curric and values. Paul had been ‘roped’ into do the presentation after the original presenters became unavailable, and he did a great job. His aim was to affirm good things we are doing, and he freely shared some resources (I poached an extra set) to take back to schools. The big take away from me was to take the time and make the effort to get to know your students, build those relationships and show them that you care. This works for ALL students. Paul also talked about pacifika students, and shared some resources on this, which was super helpful for me as I have mostly focussed on Maori thus far.

Tech tips with Jo Nicol

This was a lovely relaxed presentation which I went to just to see if there were any little tips or tricks I could pick up – you don’t know what you don’t know right!! And I was glad I went, because there was some good discussion around how people are ‘managing’ data storage in their schools, things like calendars and booking systems and EOTC. All quite mundane, but really important to have right. I picked up a couple of gems, one being an introduction to TRELLO, which I really quite like and have starting using – It is especially good as it can integrate with Office 365 teams!! I am also going to explore pocket…. I often struggling to fund things I have seen and want to follow up on and this does it seemlessly according to Jo and the webpage 🙂 there was also a link to keyboard short cuts and a suggestion about sharing one a week with a class, which I am DEFINITELY going to do with my Yr 10 form class and the Yr 7 digitech class to try and increase there typing and general computer use/literacy skills

And last but not least, was Sylvia Duckworth

I meet Slyvia the night before (I was a bit mortified to be meeting such an educational awesome person in my tipsy state) and she was just awesome. Willing to chat, wowed by NZ, open to questions, and just a relatable person who was easy to talk to. So it was no surprise when her presentation was a little bit the same, she introduced herself by way of a pepeha, she showed pictures of her travel, and some phrases she had learned…

And then talked through the benefits of creativity, from cognitive benefits, test scores, wellness indicators (including some research from Otago University). She got us throwing planes….

and dancing….

and Drawing (I had used up all my paper throwing planes….) based on @graemeshawdraw

The big take home message was if there is something you love doing, share it with your students. They will be inspired by your genuine interest and passion.

So, it was an amazing two days, full of learning, grunty conversation, meeting new people, catching up with people, being reaffirmed for what I do while still learning some tricks and tweaks and challenges to keep refining what I do, as well as so much fun and so much laughter. A MASSIVE thanks to Arnika and her team for all the work they did to put this together.

And Energise will be in Dunedin next year. Party at my house!!!!!!!!!

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 🙂

 

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.

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 10.27.06 PM
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.

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 10.23.56 PM
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.

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 10.38.05 PM
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.

IMG_20180302_114830.jpg
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 🙂
IMG_20180302_120717.jpg
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

IMG_20180307_091519.jpg

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

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 11.10.01 PM.png

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?

blog1

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)

blod2.PNG

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 🙂

blog4.PNG

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.

blog5.PNG

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)

 

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 3.17.37 PM.png
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.

IMG_20180215_124508.jpg

IMG_20180215_131147.jpg

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.

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 3.33.15 PM.png
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.