Reflections from PPTA ICT committee meeting May 1

The PPTA ICT committee had an extra meeting in May, to review how online learning is working for different regions, and to offer some opinions and ideas to exec who are continuing to meet with various official parties such as NZQA and the ministry. As usual, these are my thoughts and interpretations, I’m happy to be corrected.

We started with a bit of a whip around people present, to see what was happening and if there were any concerns from regions. All had been REALLY busy, and most had noticed a drop off in engagement in week 3. (On reflection, I wonder if this was a symptom of the shorter week with Anzac day on the Monday, and the ‘teachers only’ day on the tuesday…. especially as even Te Kura had notioced a drop in engagment and really they were almost business as usual). There had been issues with some online learning platforms (MSFT and GOOGLE) that were in various levels of being resolved. Many schools had been working hard to get devices out to students, some students had received hard packs from the ministry, but there were still some students who had limited contact. Lots of members talked about the positive shifts that were happening, and the open, willing attitudes of staff and students to make the most of the situation, while a few were really using it as a push to a strategic shift in teaching and learning approaches.

There were of course some concerns, especially around teacher work loads. some teachers are more confident working in the online environment, where as it is a source of stress for others. Managing workloads with other commitments, such as looking after children, or vulnerable people in a household are of concern. The distinction between online learning and ’emergency learning’ was discussed, and this interesting article was shared. Clarification was sought around ‘bubbles’ in schools, are teachers allowed to be rotated in bubbles, or should it be the same teacher with the same group of students? (it appears there is conflicting advise on this, and different schools had different approaches, as well as different numbers of students attending).

There were also questions about NCEA and NZQA. NZQAS has released some information to help with online learning, but the general feeling was the resources were underwhelming (The Chem matrix is HERE). (I got a little but ‘pippy’ with these, it is all very well to say you could assess redox remotely for example, but the authenticity of the task will be significantly different without the practical to support learning. And while some students might have access to some household equipment they could make do with, other will not, making the situation even more inequitable. Needs must I suppose, and if we got to the end of the year, I would do this online so students had the ‘credits’ to pass. Sigh. Credits for credits sake…. )

Other subject teachers brought this up, how can soldering, hard material tech, foods…. assess. Not all subjects are equal in this regard. A Languages teacher shared it was also difficult for her, as speaking and responding is a key part of language learning, which is more difficult to replicate online, especially with mixed access to technology. There was also discussion around the ‘Assessment evidence gathering templates…(chem one HERE) and how they were not perhaps as helpful as they might have been (some subjects made a comparison of a unit standards ticksheet, whereas I said I didn’t think these would help with the lottery of moderation as they were quite broad and moderators feedback was often quite specific) Questions where asked about UE requirements and endorsement. If standards are dropped, this might limit options for students seeking endorsement, as you need a mixture of internal and external standards for this. So while NCEA if ‘flexible’, it was a challenge to flex specific requirements of different subjects and standards. There was mention of a group started by Claire Amos to try and ‘hack’ NCEA to make this more workable (HERE) which could help some schools and students.

A couple of other little things came up before I get to the last big thing

Accord days – will these be happening as given how disrupted everything was, would these teacher only days actually be useful. Was the NCEA review still going ahead? Short answer re accord days was we are not sure. The review is still going ahead, but the timeline has been extended. Exec were going to look into it.

Subject associations and Networks of Expertise(NeX). The PPTA had talked to several subject associations and NeX, and were thrilled with the work these subject assocs were doing to support teachers at this time, from webinars on online teaching, sharing resources etc. If you are looking for some support, do check them out. There was no word on whether the NeX funding would continue, but that the work they were doing was awesome.

Lastly, there was a specific question about intellectual property of resources being made by teachers, which lead into an interesting discussion around the future of schooling. The take home message if despite the fact you are working from home, you are being paid by your school, and your content ‘belongs to them’. The ministry ‘encourages’ creative commons, but it is up to individual school board to decide on their policies, and some board are more sharingly minded than others. I still don’t get why the ministry just doesn’t make this a whole thing for any state school in NZ, but who am I to make that call 🙂  (An interesting aside was if you read the google and zoom terms of service, if a document is stored on their servers, it belongs to them, which might be worth checking into depending on your personal or schools arrangements.)

The conversation on sharing resources took an interesting turn, as a point had been raised (by a member out of the committee) that they felt they were making resources that would see them out of a job and make them redundant. While I don’t feel this is the case, there were several points raised about the future of education, and centralisation of resources. There are still issues with teacher recruitment (although a global recession might ease that as others are forces into career changes) and education is expensive. There had been previous pushes for online learning communities, and there are, of course, some really positive education stories coming out of the current challenges. But there is also a stark reality that online learning pushes the cost onto families, and the inequalities for families are definitely more obvious. There are also some students who need the routine, the face to face contact, more than others, and how could those two be blended? If we move into lower levels of lockdown in NZ, what creative ways can we manage timetabling to allow for greater social distancing in our schools. I think of our corridors, and our crowded teacher work spaces, and wonder how these will be managed. Much less our class rooms with 30+ students crammed in. I also ponder how (in Dunedin at least) there are lots of schools who might have 2 or 3 students wanting to do a subject, but can’t because of lack of resourcing, where as if we were centralised there could be so many more options.

But the discussion kept coming back to people. The people, the people, the people. Those teachable moments because students spark of each other, the small smiles that indicate progress, the relationships and ‘soft skills’ students learn from each other. Even if education does move into a more long term distance learning model, students and teachers will still need to find ways to build relationships to move forward with learning. How hard people are working at this time, from the ministry, unions, boards, SLT teams, teachers, parents, teacher aides and cleaners and maintaince crew, all of these people are working to do the best we can by the kids.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to sing out, and if I have got something wrong, please let me know. As always, I’m happy to be corrected, and these are my opinions and ramblings only.

Take care.


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