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.

 

 

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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.

 

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Reflections from the #NZMIEEHui18 Part 2

So, aside from just catching up with some of my favouritists teachery people, and meeting some new ones, I actually did learn a few new things to take forward. This is a summary of those I guess, for me to come back to and check in to see where to next

  1. Zoom in powerpoint.

You know how sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. This was a definite case when I was chatting to Steve and he was showing me some of the online resources he and his colleagues have set up for their biology students. Steve is ‘big’ on visible learning and we were talking around how to make this possible I guess. I saw a ppt and was like, hang on, how did you do that, I want that. And so I learned about zoom. It is a feature in powerpoint where you can have a summary page, or a ‘list’ of pages and/or sections of ideas from a ppt presentation. I could instantly see this would work really well for our upcoming Chemical reactivity topic, so I have been having a play

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Step 1 is to go to insert and then hit zoom

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then select the sections (or slides) you want

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Which then gives you a summary slide, which you can then click on to go into more depth into that section

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I’m still putting this together, but I really like the visual ‘these are the things you need to know’ and then click into them to get more detail. So this resource will just be online for the kids to use – kind of a flipped learning resource I guess – rather than for me to use in class. So it was a really good little techie tip when I was talking to Steve about making learning more visible.

2. 3D paint and mixed reality

Sometimes there are things you know you don’t know, but don’t have time to go and learn more about them. I’d seen little demos of Paint 3D and mixed reality, and gone, I must look into that, but never made the time. Then at the hui, I didn’t get the time, but thankfully there were some shared slides and I got onto having a go once I was back home. Why, oh why, have I not had a go with this sooner.

Paint 3D is a windows 10 app, and it is really rather grunty so a non art specialist. It lets you mock up little pictures, and with the digital inking of a surface if was super easy to sketch up a little kiwi

But then you can sketch in 3d, and get a 3D kiwi using shapes and sketching, and with a slick of a button, your sketch is quietly standing on your trousers as you are sitting on the couch having a play.

There is also a pretty cool library of shapes and other animals via the mixed reality viewer…. Mr 5 Loved the shark swimming through his book

And I quite liked the solar system just sitting there

So my immediate goal is to get some of my chemistry students to use this to make shapes for revision for 2.4 and 3.4…. as well as to share the solar system with the yr 9 teachers at my school who are doing space this year. I’m glad I took the time to check this out properly, there is a wealth of resources and ideas just sitting there, and I think it could really help to visualise some of the more abstract ideas around chemistry. If nothing else, it will make reading the shark book for the millionth time much more enjoyable.

3. Putting some more puzzle pieces together re the digital technologies curriculum and classroom integration.

I’ve been pondering for a while about how I can both best integrate the DTC into my own teaching and learning programs, AND help other teachers, both in my school and everywhere, do the same. There is still a real ‘unknown’ quantity out there, were teachers either don’t know about the new curriculum, or are afraid of it, or simply think – oh, someone else will do that. It wasn’t till earlier this year that I had a wee ‘light bulb’ moment that you don’t need to do everything at once, and different areas of computational thinking and designing digital outcomes can be slotted into lots of different places in out fabulous New Zealand Curriculum – and in actual fact many people already are without realising it.

So by half listening in to the keynote sessions (not because I was slack, but I was busy doing loads of other things) from the fabulous Becky Keene on computational thinking, and then the equally awesome Iain Cook-Bonney and Chris Dillion on the digital curriculum, by popping in and out of sessions in the afternoon and then the keynote on global thinking and the UN sustainability Goals in education from the inspiring Koen Timmers, a few more little pieces started to fall into place for me. They are nicely summed up in some of the tweets from the hui

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And there were many more fabulous little ideas and snippets floating around the conversations, tweets and presentations. They are weaving themselves into a stronger sense of possibility for the new curriculum and how we can better support our young people to be the very best they can be. What models and exemplars could be made to support staff as learners of these new ideas? How can we insure we are meeting the needs of all our learners, and embrace the rich cultural aspect that the NZC supports?

So I had a fabulous weekend. Some specific learnings, and some big picture where to next learnings, ponderings and dreams.

Bring it

 

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

Reflections from the #NZMIEEhui18 part 1

It was very hard to know where to start writing this post, as it has been an amazing journey, filled with successes, failures, excitement and despair, collaboration and lack there of, to get to the point where the NZMIEEhui18 has been and gone. It was an amazing weekend, filled with learning, laughter, ideas, diversity and fun. I would like to thank everyone who came along and made it what it was.

So how to did come to be?

The New Zealand ‘chapter’ of the MIEE group (Microsoft innovative educator expert) had never had a face to face meeting before. Small groups had meet at the global educator exchanges, most of the ‘initial’ group meet in Sydney back in 2014, and there have been local events held in Auckland, Christchurch, Nelson etc. Occasionally we would bump into each other at other conferences (there was an excellent crew at energise!!). We do meet once a month on a Wednesday evening to have a webinar, with usually 40 or so people there, to share, chat and have occasional guest speakers. These calls have really grown, and focus on a mixture of pedagogy, curriculum, tech tools/demos and conference feedback depending on the month. But we had never had an NZ wide meeting, and there are people I work so closely with that I had never meet, or I could count the number of times I have meet them using one finger.

But then Nikkie gave me a buzz and said, hey, should we apply for this funding (the networks of expertise funding). I was a bit skeptical at first, we were already so busy, but also really thought it sounded good, so I said yip, but I’m not spending hours on it. But of course we did spend hours on it and sent away an application for funding for a face to face meet up and some money for release time and for the monthly calls. After what felt like AGES we heard back, could we meeting to discuss. Sure we said, not quite sure what was going on. And then we found out we had got the funding for 2 years, not one, and we were good to go.

Which then lead to an interesting conference prep time, where we both had to learn about different things, like accessing money from the ministry!! writing invoices, getting things paid, navigating other commitments. We had one planning day during the holidays when I flew up to Auckland and then loads of late night skypes. Nikkie’s school was amazingly helpful. We organised speakers, had to build a webpage (which was a real rush job at the initial time, as in when do we need it?? Oh tomorrow, sure we can do that tonight…..), we sorted flights and accom (with the help of the fabulous Janine) and then we sorted the last minute changes and challenges.

And then it was the weekend.

I flew up on Thursday so I could have some time to get my head right (I don’t like flying) and so I could meet up with the fabulous Becky Keene that night, as she also arrived that day. Friday was busy with last minute jobs, as well as a lunch trip to Waiheke island (we had to show Becky around after all). Friday night I barely slept despite having had a couple of ciders… and it was Saturday.

And while there were specific pieces of new learning, and some deep, challenging learning conversations that I will post about separately, my lasting and overall impression was of how fabulous ALL the educators who came are. Old and young (my goodness 24 is young, I’m getting soooo old), primary and secondary, senior leaders and classroom teachers, facilitators, everyone was amazing. Everyone had something to offer in a rich tapestry of being the best they could be. I had some challenging chat with Pip around the differences between the NZ and Australian school curriculums, talked through some minecraft tips with Noellene, talked literacy with struggling learners with Lynette, talked about heroic models and filling holes, about how to grow the community, connected with Koen again via skype, about building PLD that works for you. I meet people I have worked with for 3 years and saw their energy and passion with no filters. I reconnected with people I have only ever meet overseas. I filled my kete, and I know I contributed to filling the kete of others. It is true that people are the most important thing in all the world, and I am so proud of the work that was done to bring everyone together.

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Fellows – pretty much sums us up I think

 

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4 amazing woman in this picture – and we also had a fabulous time
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I got to meet Bridget Crooks – human sunshine 

 

Time to just chat and catch up

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The NZ MIEE crew that went to Toronto – minus the boys who had already left.
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Stayers!!
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Doers – just happy to help in any way 🙂
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Even found these guys at the airport on their way home from the Chemistry camp in Taiwan with the Otago University Chemistry outreach. 
Posted in Uncategorized

On international and/or exchange students

I’m a little bit sad today. Partly because it is the last day of term, and my goodness the tired is, well, tiring. But mostly because a fabulous German exchange student who has been in my L2 chem class is heading back to Germany next week. We had a party to wish her well and most (some of the boys didn’t listen) bought some food to share. We talked about what people were doing in the holidays, about time differences so we could skype Clara during a class time, how jealous we were of Clara going back to summer. I helped a kid who is also leaving with an extra internal they are doing over the holidays (to get L2 NCEA before they also leave for the UK next term) and it was just an awesome chilled hour with cool kids.

This hour quietly reminded me of the importance of recognising and celebrating diversity, as well as maintaining our own unique ‘kiwiness’ (or Germanness). Of how modelling inclusive behaviour in schools can help create tolerance and understanding, and an interest is places away from our immediate home. The football world cup has also been a talking point, our softly spoken Japanese teaching assistance flooded with tears when I talked to her about how well Japan has done in the game against Belgium, and she should be proud. She replied they are not the All Blacks, but I am very proud of them.

So it was a good reminder of the small things that make relationships work, make connections form and make learning happen. From finding a hour of code activity in Arabic for our new Syrian student, learning Te Reo, ‘gentle banter’ of sport events, taking time to uses translator tools to talk to new international students….. all of these actions benefit not just the international student/ESOL student, but also other students learning how to be kind, patient, and to learn about other cultures in their turn

I will miss ‘The German’ and I wish her well – and I am very thankful for this reminder today

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Google, ISTE, and the Death of EdTech

An excellent post – why are we celebrating making technology more efficient for ‘assessments’ when we are desperately trying to open up the world for our students…

maelstrom

ISTE ‘18 was all abuzz with imminent news of a major announcement from Google. This, the Google foot soldiers proclaimed, was going to be the most transformative thing to happen Google Classroom since its launch. Word over at the Blogger’s Cafe – where automated tracking was in full flow – was that this was going to be huge. And why not, when one considers that this was the annual showcase of EdTech and the lofty goals of the host organization: “ISTE sets a bold vision for education transformation … to accelerate the use of technology to solve tough problems and inspire innovation. Our worldwide network believes in the potential technology holds to transform teaching and learning.”

When the launch was announced, I was aghast. The big news was “locked mode” in Google Forms and, bizarrely, this news created quite an excited stir. The locked function permits teachers to eliminate…

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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)

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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.

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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

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

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

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But nothing happened….

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and got this reply

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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….

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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

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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 🙂