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.
- 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.
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
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.
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
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 🙂