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

 

 

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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.

Posted in Digital Technologies, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Putting some technology into our digital technologies module

Last year, Kevin and I taught a yr 7 digital technology module based around the digital technology curriculum. (If you like, you can read about our efforts here and here). Part way through last year we got a new Technology HoD, who has ‘encouraged’ us to include more from the technology curriculum, and we are reporting based on the technology curriculum rather than the progress outcomes like we did last year. This was a real challenge for me and took me a bit to get my head around – being a science teacher I knew the sci curriculum pretty well, and I have spent a lot of time working on being more familiar with the digit tech curriculum. But the technology curriculum was a whole new experience and initially I really struggled to get my head around it, especially ‘planning for practice’.

So, I went and tried to learn up. And slowly but surely I think I’m finding my way – a work in progress shall we say.

Planning for Practice

The CD for Tech (who is awesome, fyi, it has been good to be challenged and have crunchy conversations and to try new things) asked if we could ‘assess’ on planning for practice so across all the yr 7 and 8 modules they have a range (our modules are 6-7 weeks with 4 periods a week).

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 8.22.37 PM.png

And with a bit more detail, thanks to TKI

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 8.49.02 PM.png

I also used this resource from TKI which explains planning for practice in a bit more detail, and got some exemplars from TKI and from the other technology teachers in the school

Essentially, I figured out that Kevin and I already did some of this without making the learning explicit. To try and make it more explicit, I modified a TKI resource and asked the students to do a little more planning around the minecraft design than last year.

We got some nice examples of planning and work 🙂

 

But (there is always a but!!) there were a couple of things that hindered us this time. One was the students got SO excited building in Minecraft that they often forgot to record changes they had made, or progress they have made into their Onenote. We have a policy of if it isn’t in the Onenote it doesn’t exist, but in this case there has been some fabulous learning that didn’t get recording. So I am having a wee think over the next 2-3 weeks (before we get to this in the next module which starts on Thursday) of how else I could record this? There were such rich discussions occurring with the groups building collaboratively that I just didn’t capture…..

AND I need  to modify our template a little more. I hadn’t used one like this before for this purpose, and see now it doesn’t quite fit….And we also ended up running out of time to do this properly, we thought we had 6 full lessons and ended up with 4 (because schools have things come up!) so we will try to get a full 8 lessons for the next module

Fortunately, we also did some planning with algorithms and coding with the microbits so we can make a holistic judgement around students abilities to reach an outcome from their evidence portfolios. And we will tweak it for next time 😉

Technological systems

So, again to ensure that across all the junior modules, we adapted the module to cover inputs, transformations and outputs.

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 8.23.40 PM.png

And again some more details from TKI

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 9.16.10 PM

This was way easier to incorporate, given we had already been doing a lot of it without realising.

Through out the module we spent a little more time on inputs and outputs around the microbit, and when introduced the topic. We also included some questions in the ‘form’ we used for an assessment

 

Progress outcomes for digitech

We still also incorporated progress outcomes from the digitech curriculum around computational thinking. We covered data representation with binary and ASCII code. We walked through algorithms (love making toast) and did some coding. with hour of code and with the microbits. Kevin put some of this into the assessment as well so we had a bit more ‘hard data’ around whether the students understood the aspects of code in addition to their evidence portfolios. It wasn’t a memory test, students were encouraged to copy the code and test it to see what it did.

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 9.54.19 PM.png

What the students thought

We gave an end of module survey, and generally got positive feedback. Minecraft was a clear favourite with the students

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 9.57.07 PM

And it was really heartening to see that some students picked up on prototyping and multiple ways, although most felt they gained skills in simple coding and using office 365 (which is awesome, as these students are new to TC this year and getting them upskilled with office 365 is really awesome as an ‘offshoot’ of the module.)

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 9.57.16 PM.png

So overall I think it was a good first go. We do need to tweak the planning template, and I’d like to find a way to get students to design a success rubric (we ran out of time this time round). And I’ll keep working on building my own confidence and understanding of the technology curric.

Would love any ideas/feedback as we work through, or happy to talk it through if you are doing something different

Have fun

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Having a go with flipgrid to explain graphs

I have been a little bit slow to jump on the flipgrid wagon – I have used it a few times when I have been part of a project to give my response, and have had a look at other peoples flipgrid ‘grids’ when they have gathered responses. You can learn about flipgrid from the website https://flipgrid.com/. When I used it, I made a tab in my classes ‘team’, as the flipgrid app is one of the apps supported by Microsoft Teams. This meant students could use the app within the teams app on their phones, or some of them used the flipgrid app on their phones too. Both apps were quick to download, and while some had a few issues with the different between a microsoft account and an office 365 account, most were quickly logged in and found the app easy to use.

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 10.35.48 AM.png
There are loads of apps available to use within the teams environment, this is the apps I use most often

The tasks I asked my students to complete was around graphing. I have a competent class, and drawing lots of practice graphs was getting pretty dry pretty quickly. So I asked my students to make some videos explaining what a ‘good’ graph should have.

And they (mostly) did really well. Some students took some chalk outside and drew some graphs on the concrete to demonstrate the important points. Some just used some example graphs in their books they had previously drawn. Some drew new graphs, and one group drew a ‘bad’ graph on the white board to demonstrate what you should not do.

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 10.48.42 AM.png

It was a really nice way to check for any misconceptions, and while most students enjoyed the task (and some REALLY Loved it), all of them feedback that the talked about and thought about what they needed to do for graphing more than if I had just given them another practice graph. It also made for a really nice piece of work to share at our recent parent teacher evenings, just a 30-90 second snapshot of some of the work we have been doing.

So my class agreed that this was a ‘sometimes’ activity for everyone, and a few of the students asked if they could use it more often, as they found it really useful going back and looking at other peoples videos and seeing how they explain it. My next step will be to try it with my yr 8s, giving each group a different type of ‘cloud’ to explain, and hopefully we can get some cool cloud videos for the group to share.

Have fun

 

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Boiling water

Today I got a gentle reminder to look through my students eyes a little more often that I do. It was timely as all those classroom routines and tasks start to bog down all that beginning of the year energy.

On Tuesdays I have my delicious yr 13 Chemistry class, followed by my energetic yr 8 Science class. Yr 8 start the year looking at weather, and today I had planned to boil some water so they could learn, be reminded, or I could check that they could read a thermometer. It also gives a chance to practice drawing a graph. But really, in my eyes, boiling water is as dull as a dull thing, and I remarked to my yr 13 Chem class about how I wasn’t especially looking forward to yr 8’s and boiling water, pondering how else I could practice using thermometers. And one chap piped up with

‘I loved doing that in year 8’

I looked at him to see if he was being sarcastic, and he wasn’t. In response to my raised eyebrows he reminded me that back then Bunsen burners were super exciting, and it was new to him and he did really enjoy it. Lighting a match was fun, and they all used to fight over who got to.

I suppose it was also a timely reminder that just because you have done something before, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it again. Obviously there might be tweaks or changes you make, but making sure I make those changes for the correct reasons.

So, when the year 8’s filled the room as my yr 13’s left it, I had an increased spring in my step. We set up gear, lit matches and measured, and compared tap water with water with ice cubes. The students did love it, as they do every time. And I enjoyed it more than I might have, because I remembered to look through the eyes of a year 8 learning new skills rather than a 36 year old teacher who has done it before.

 

 

Posted in Digital Technologies, random ramblings, Techie stuff

Reflections from the PPTA ICT committee meeting November

Edit – since I first published this blog, the friendly folk at NZQA got in touch with some answers and responses to my ponderings below. I’ve put their responses in italics and separated it out from the general round robin info. 

At the end of last term I attended the PPTA ICT committee meeting in Wellington. Due to the end of term mad rush, this post is a bit delayed sorry – time just flew. As usual, this is my recollection of the meeting and what was said, I am very happy to be corrected if I have made an error, and very happy to take any concerns you may have to the committee in my capacity as a representative. To recap, there are reps from each PPTA region, Te Kura, low decile schools, DTTA, Maori/Kura/immersion schools, as well as PPTA exec members and people who work for the PPTA there. This meeting we also had a group from the Ministry talking about the student information sharing initiative.

Round robin

We started the meeting with a round robin of concerns and questions from the different reps present.

Points of note were

  • Chromebooks – what to do with them once the three year less is up? What to do with older devices in general? And what to do when device choice limits software choices or use? As schools who were early adopters move forward, the number of older devices is increasing, and leasing definitely appears to be the model of choice for many schools. There does seem to be an enormous amount of ‘e-waste’ being generated though, I wonder how we could do this more sustainably….

 

  • Linked to that was some schools are still struggling to get enough devices into schools, and access is still an issue for some. Feel like they are getting further and further behind. There is no easy answer to this sadly. Linked to this discussion was accessing MoE PLD – relief costs are not built in so there is still a cost to schools, and schools struggling to get relievers can’t always make full use of this funding….
  • And then the chestnut of managing online exams – some schools are ready, some are miles away. Some have there head in the sand, and by doing this are slowly the whole process done. Confusion still there re 2020 deadline – it is apparently happening, even though NCEA MIGHT look quite different? Or I made a cynical point of is it worth significant infrastructure and PLD investment for an assessment model that might exist in a very different form after the NCEA review. No-one had any clear answers, so as I understand it, all NCEA level one exams (with the exception maybe of maths) will be online in 2020. And schools have the responsibility to ensure this happens, including having a computer technician on site to help with any issues (challenging if you don’t have a tech at ALL, or if you have one that works part time or is shared between schools…..)

NZQA got in touch re the points I’ve raised, and gave the following clarifications.

NZQA can provide some clarification on a few of the points above and are happy to provide more information to the group:

In terms of why do this with the NCEA Review happening “We are tracking closely the ideas generated in the public discussion and the platform is flexible enough to accommodate exams or portfolios / projects and scale up or down for whichever subjects or levels are offered as part of NCEA and the time of year they are assessed”.

  1. As digitally supported teaching and learning is increasingly happening in the classroom, NZQA is reflecting this by making NCEA examinations available online. After four years of working closely with schools on co-designing, trialling and piloting online exams, we are starting formal implementation on a new platform with the delivery of 14 NCEA exam subjects in 2019, comprising 35 exam sessions across Levels 1-3.  These subjects represent around a third of the exams that are mainly text based. NZQA will further expand the range of subjects in 2020 and beyond.
  2. NZQA is adopting a planned, staged, managed approach to the NCEA Online programme. As schools gain confidence in completing text-based exams and technology evolves, we will look at those subjects where special characters are required, such as mathematics, science and music. We are working with schools and students to ensure technology delivers a good user experience for a particular subject before it is offered as a digital assessment that counts towards NCEA. 
  3. We also recognise schools are at different stages regarding their approach to digital teaching and learning and digital assessment needs to be in sync with that. We will continue offering the paper-based exams as schools transition towards digital education.
  4. We will be supporting schools to prepare for digital assessment through:
         Familiarisation – showing students and teachers the features of electronic examinations

Digitised examination papers from 2018 – for the 35 subjects available in 2019   

School readiness – working with school staff to assess school and student readiness for digital assessment
Training – providing Exam Centre Managers and Supervisors with the knowledge and skills to administer the assessments.

Schools considering participation in the 2019 digital examinations can view technical requirements and other considerations here

 

And back to my ramblings 🙂

  • Some issues with TELA are ongoing – the basic devices are not fit for purpose for many teacher needs. Schools need to be aware of this, and manage costs. I’m also going to follow up on whether training on devices was included in the final contract awarded….
  • Digital citizenship – interesting debate around how this is taught in schools, and who is responsible. Is there sufficient training for teachers (some of whom have fallen prey to online scams themselves!!) Where does this fit? Is it a schools responsibility? Also software such as ‘Family Zone’ and controlling filtering for students on site and off it – is this a schools responsibility? Will it just encourage kids to find ways around the filters that put them at more risk…. Linked into later in the meeting with a summary from Peter Cooke from the recent crossroads conference. Managing online bullying, and easy access to pornography and the ‘normalisation’ of unhealthy relationships and expectations this can promote, seems to fall on schools – are we equipped for this. There was a general feeling that the recent Netsafe resources fell short, although I have not seen them myself.
  • Continued threats to ‘libraries’ was discussed, whether due to exams, classroom rebuilds or just insufficient space and staffing, many schools present felt their libraries were being under used and are consistently undervalued. The provision of ‘special areas’ for special exam conditions especially seemed to fall repeatedly onto libraries.
  • Staffing issues continue in many schools, especially for technology classes, and some schools are genuinely looking at not offering classes because there is no-one to teach them. 😦
  • The DTTA rep updated us on the new achievement standards, which have been released to help with planning. There are a whole lot of resources they are working really hard to finish off to be released on December the 6th – keep an eye out for it.
  • There was also some discussion around COLS – linked into sharing of data, which fits in a bit later on

So there was lots of interesting discussion, but not too much action really….

MoE digital strategy overview

Before the meeting, we were emailed a copy of the overview document, which was an overwhelming read. We were then asked to consider how this will in our schools, and what needs to happen to make it so. I was massively overwhelmed trying to read through, so was pleasantly surprised by the presentation.

From what I understand, there has been significant funding to ‘digitize’ education in New Zealand – this included things like N4L, ‘snupping’ of schools, getting broadband in etc. There is now a planned shift to move student management systems into an all encompassing online database with the following intent. (The images are the slides that were shared, taken on my phone, so apologies for some of them that are not the best quality)

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Sisi was put forward for the reasons below……

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And has been ‘rebranded’ as Te Rito

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Which I think really embraces the idea of putting the learner/child in the center so that the system works to help that student.

I really do think the intent of the system is very good. There are a lot of perceived benefits, and the presenters were aware that the roll out of the system would need to be carefully monitored and PLD would need to be provided for all users to make the roll out as user friendly as possible.

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There was also acknowledgement that different pieces of information should have different levels of accessibility and some should not be put online at all

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And that the access and privacy need to be well managed

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And there are data governance guidelines in place (which makes the ‘big brother’ feel slightly less)

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Early stage roll out is being run this year – with one group focussing on the yr 7 and 8 ‘technology’ cohort – as this is where school systems can sometimes fall down. So when a school sends students to another school for technology (hard materials etc) sometimes absences etc don’t get noticed immediately. Or it is difficult to follow up on an behaviour or health issues. So by utilising Te Roti which both schools would have access to, this information can be accessed and used much more easily.

Some concerns and questions asked were along the lines on

  • How will we maintain consistency between schools – some schools might have different systems or ‘hierachy’ of issues (eg not doing homework might be a bigger deal in some schools than others)
  • What else might this information be used. There was a suggestion that this information could (voluntarily) be shared with employers…. but I had some concerns around this as even it is voluntary if you chose not to you may be negatively impacted.
  • Data security – is always a risk, but I believe the design team is working very hard to ensure data safety
  • Will it be all schools – short answer yes – private schools can opt in, and early childhood can
  • there will be the possibility of storing portfolios of student work, so there are plans for Te Roti to be an LMS too.

So a big piece of change, but I really did get the feeling there has been consultation and careful thought – but best laid plans can also go awry. The intent is great, and I am looking forward to seeing how the early roll outs go.

IT support in schools

I brought forward a concern from a member around IT support in schools. In the gazette last year there were several positions for ‘e-learning’ specialists with varying amounts of renumeration and time allowances. And then some schools do not have ‘computer’ technician, and other schools or teachers have digital technology teachers who are getting overwhelmed with the updates of the digital technologies curriculum.

This was discussed and we came to the conclusion that we really need to find out what schools ‘need’ and then want. Some different schools will have different requirements.

So I’m looking at gathering a group of merry people who would like to put a PPTA paper together to assess needs, as well as learning about what schools already have and how schools fund these

Tom Haig

Tom talked through some of the changes and reviews that are occurring – there are lots that are documented in other places. Linked to this, is that the Teachers contract is perhaps not fit for purpose anymore due to changing contact hours and changing teacher roles. So the PPTA is looking at how this might look, which is a comforting thought that there is at least some forward thinking. My feeling is that teaching will look significantly different in 10 years, so there will need to be some changes and some flexibility, but also there do need to be provisions to protect teacher work loads. I have decided to set up an auto reply for the weekends this year – I do work on the weekend but my own personal feeling is I need to have some more boundaries for myself on better balancing my time.

 

So there you go, sorry it is so late, and as always I am happy to answer any questions, be corrected if I have made any mistakes, and put you in touch with the relevant parties if you wish

 

Good luck for the new school year

 

Posted in Digital Technologies, Professional learning, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Integrating digital technologies – computational thinking, designing digital outcomes, and Dichotomous keys

As my inquiry this year, I have been trying to explore ways to incorporate aspects on the digital technologies curriculum strand into ‘my’ classes in a meaningful way. I have had a play with my Level 2 chemistry class by focussing on pattern recognition and algorithms we were exploring solubility rules, and then also with some mystery skypes to work on students questioning ability. I have also had a play with some stop motion videos for polymers with my chem classes (trying to be brave and branch out into the designing digital outcomes strand rather than just the computational thinking strand of the digital technologies curriculum!! I am definitely less confident with this strand… and I am still working to find ways to incorporate programming specifically into my Science classes, my own knowledge of programming is still holding me back a little). My yr 8’s have had patchy lessons here and there as I tested out little activities trying to get my head round things. As I have grown more comfortable with the ideas, and the levels to pitch to different students, I am planning to incorporate a more learner centered approach with my yr 8 Science class for our plants topic. Specifically around incorporating computational thinking to pattern recognition, algorithms and plant identification, and then designing a digital outcome for the students final plant identification tool.

Almost every person who has ever done any science at school will remember seeing a dichotomous key – a flow chart with this or that answers that you works your way through to identify a species of plant or animal

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A dichotomous key for identifying sharks – thanks wikipedia 🙂   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shark

The key is dichotomous because it there are two choices, does the shark have this or that. So it is like a binary system, with only 2 options. Which is essentially how all computers work, because the only have the two possible options. To be able to draw a key like this, you need to have identified the patterns and traits that are unique to each species, and then order them in such a way so that each species can be identified.

In the past, I have focussed on ‘teaching’ my students how to interpret these keys rather than getting them to build their own. There is often a key in an end of topic test, and (being a bit brutal on myself) it was an easy way to get some students over the line.

This year, I’m allotting a bit more time and the plan is.

  1. spend some time learning how to identify plants.

Using the plants around us, the plants that we see at the Sinclair wetlands (we go on a great field trip there, spending the day ripping out gorse and planting trees and shrubs and watching all the bird life in the occasional moments the students are quiet enough to not scare them all away) and some online resources, I’m ‘hoping’ that students will learn more about the different features of the plants, and why these adaptations are important. An easy example would be deciduous compared to ever green trees – NZ natives do not lose their leaves in the winter compared to many introduced trees. Why might this be? Or why do our local sand dunes have different plants to the river bed a few metres up.

There will be a bit more direct instruction in this section. I watched with interest the debate over learner centric and teacher driven teaching and learning, and I think, like all things, you need to find a happy medium between the two. So we will go over what some adaptations are, ideas to look for, how environment impacts growth etc.

2. Look specifically for different patterns occurring with the various traits of the plants.

So, as we look at the adaptations, what do all the plants that have ‘spiky’ leaves have in common? Are they related or not? How can we tell the difference between the two different types of leaves and the plants they represent? How can we begin to group plants together based on similar patterns, traits etc.

If we get time, we might get into some abstraction. What adaptations would a plant living in this environment have? If the climate continues to change, what adaptations do you think the plants in different places might need to make. Could the plants do this fast enough?

3. How could we help some-one else identify the different plants? Making a dichotomous key.

So, designing a flow chart seems simple enough right. I’m hoping not. I’m thinking there will need to be some good leading questions, and some iteration involved to get the best possible outcomes. What yes no questions could we ask to identify 10 different plants that are common about the school? How could this be done in the least number of steps? How can we cut down on repeating questions? What is the best way to ask the questions clearly.

4. How do we present our keys?

I’m sure some of the students will want to do this in minecraft (they are minecraft crazy!!).  I might be brave and try doing a java based program with those that are keen. And those that are less confident I am thinking we might do some options with a powerpoint – using the hyperlink function to jump between slides to mimic bringing up the next question in the key. Or I am sure the students will have some other ideas about how they can present their work.

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The over view for digital outcomes for the NZ digital technology curriculum  http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Teaching/Curriculum-areas/Digital-Technologies-in-the-curriculum#js-tabcontainer-1-tab-4

 

So this ‘unit’ of work will hopefully tie in some of the learning I have done around the digitech curriculum, and allow me to more specifically focus on the designing digital outcomes strand. My holiday project is to modify the classes onenote so all the plant adaptation content is there, as well as spending some time on the digital design outcome strand to sure up my knowledge of this area.

And I will report back on how it goes in Term 4.

Have fun

 

 

 

Posted in Digital Technologies, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Integrating computational thinking – Mystery Skype.

When I first did a mystery skype with Kyle Calderwood, I remember thinking this is a great way to encourage students questioning skills as well as for them to learn about other people and places. The premise is that during a Mystery Skype, students will ask questions to locate where the other class or person is. You skype a class, ask some questions and figure out where they are. (Or you could figure out which element they are, or which historical figure…..) These questions have to be yes or no questions – for example where do you live is not an acceptable question, but do you live in the southern hemisphere is. When prepping students for mystery skypes, and supporting them during, I’ve tried to focus on what sorts of questions can narrow down answers and what information can you use to ask more useful questions. What I didn’t realise until recently was I essentially showing the students how to build an algorithm to narrow down a search term to find a specific piece of information. Which fits really nicely with the expectations of the curriculum.

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Computational thinking (as defined by the New Zealand Digital technologies curriculum) http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum/Technology/Learning-area-structure#collapsible2

A beauty of this is that the ‘algorithm’ or questions asked change depending on the circumstance. So, for example, I have ‘trained’ my students to ask are you in the northern hemisphere (yes/no) and it is between 12midnight and 12 noon, or after ‘noon’ so they can figure out a possible area (time zones are more important for the northern hemisphere calls when you are from NZ – most of the southern hemisphere except Australia is in night time during our school day). But then as you zoom in on a location, the questions have to match the area (eg are you south of this city, or this highway, or river), so no set of questions is ever quite the same. But you are still breaking down the questions, coming up with yes/no answers and using evidence to inform your next question.

It is also a really useful way to support students to use search features on their computers really well, as well as how to look a geographical features. Not only for where they are searching for, but where they are. In order to answer truthfully, kids need to know where places are in relation to them, and so learn more about their own place as well as learning about others.

So I thought I would try a mystery skype for our last digitech lesson as part of the current module. In preparation for todays call, I got my students to pair up, one with a laptop searching where the other class was, and one looking for us, to make sure we gave truthful answers for where we were based. We practiced yesterday by guessing where in the world Mrs Chisnall was thinking of (The new Optus Stadium in Perth… I am a cricket fan). It was a good chance to review algorithms, how to ask specific questions seeking the important information (eg are you in a park is a very vague question, as lots of things could be a park. But then a student asked do you have to pay to get in which was a helpful question around what to search for attractions in the area.)

And so even though todays call was a flop because of connection issues (I suspect our internet or firewall was to blame….) the students still did get something out of the practice we did, and I will definitely look to try again with the next digit tech module. And next time I do a mystery skype with a ‘general’ class, I will focus my prepping questions slightly more towards the thinking behind asking the questions, and how computational thinking and algorithms can be used to solve problems.