Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

Reflections from the PPTA ICT meeting and the TELA laptop scheme

On Friday, I was in Wellington for the PPTA ICT committee meeting. As usual, it was a full on day, leaving home to be at the airport by 5:50am is always fabulous, and then I got home a little after 9pm. As usual, these are my interpretations of what was said, and I am happy to be corrected if I got something wrong.

This time was a little different, and I am celebrating a beginning. A small beginning, but a beginning and a success of sorts. After all, there are so many non events, that even the smallest glimmer of hope needs to be celebrated 🙂

The TELA laptop scheme and centralised purchasing.

For some context, for a while I had been concerned about the lack of access some teachers have to good PD, and fit for purpose devices. As I blogged about recently, the digital divide is not just effecting students. I pondered on how best to make a change to this – realistically, what was the best way to make an impact I could think of. So in late 2015 I approached my local PPTA branch with concerns I had around the access to ‘fit for purpose’ devices for teachers. I felt that the TELA laptop scheme was not meeting the changing need of educators and learners. I made it an equity issue so that it could be realistically within the unions range of activities. They listened sympathetically, and suggested two options 1) propose a conference paper and 2) write a letter to the ICT committee. So I wrote my letter in early 2016 (March), and wrote a ‘blog’ for the PPTA magazine and this BLOG, and hoped some-one was listening.

I was invited to attend the ICT meeting where TELA was coming to talk about the scheme in June 2016, and it was a massively eye opening experience. (You can read about my impressions HERE) The way the different departments manage/run different facets of education is quite astounding, and it is a very complicated web of trying to figure out who is responsible for what, on top of what can be mandated, central purchased, or what is considered impinging on a schools right to be self governing. I then applied and became the ICT rep for Otago Southland, and have been to 2 meetings so far this year (reflections from the first are HERE) and on friday.

Amongst a whole lot of other things that were talked about, the representatives from TELA said they were looking at updating/changing the scheme, and thanked us for our input, asked for more, and said they were asking for other interested parties input too.

Which is massive. MASSIVE. I felt like a landslide…. there is still so much to do, but the first stones might just have started tumbling. Even if it would have happened anyway, even if there are others (and I’m sure their must be) pushing it along, I might have got somewhere.

So of course I will keep kicking up a stink 🙂

My notes for the rest of the meeting where not anywhere good enough as I floated in some sort of ‘did that really just happen’ cloud.

Other items on the agenda for TELA were central purchasing of software – specifically plagarism software for schools. With the increase in digital assessment submission, just blindly copying and pasting is easier (to quote someone from round the table – at least you used to have to take the time to copy it out by hand….). It is a really delicate balance – if the ministry purchases software central, it can be seen as a) endorsing the software and b) telling schools what to do. As much as I hate being told what to do myself, if there was a central purchase of software it could save schools MASSIVE amounts. So it is still being thought about, the but the ever increasing squeeze for funding, and the rapid change in pace of technology, and that for a lot of software (eg photoshop) you no longer buy the software, but a LICENCE it is a growing concern.

SLANZA

SLANZA is the group for school librarians in NZ, and it is fair to say many of them are having a pretty tough time. Yes, the role of libraries is changing, but it is still a really important part of any community, including schools. Bought up during the discussion was the reminder that often libraries are not just for learning, they are safe spaces for cohorts of kids. And librarians are pretty kick arse people, who are deeply passionate and skilled. I also had no idea it was not compulsory for a school to have a library, it is up to individual boards. So it a really sad thing to hear that so many schools are closing their libraries to try and squeeze budgets and find spaces.

COOLS

COOLS seem to have been less in the news of late, but they are still simmering away in the background. ‘New’ cools will not be operational until at least 2020 as they need to be regulated (I asked why…. because students need to be enrolled in a school till they are 16 there needs to be processes in place to track this). There are still loads of questions around costs, platforms, quality and pastoral care, but despite these questions things are continuing to roll along.

DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES 

There was some interesting, and at times quite technical, discussion around the digital technology curriculum changes, and I think there are a few people working REALLY REALLY hard in the background on this. I’m a little bit gutted (as I have mentioned before) that the assessment was the starting point, and that the Level one Achievement standards are going to be rolled out next year while there is still no curriculum goals (or learning progressions as they are going to be called) for the junior school. I did go full ‘out there’ at this point and question why so much time and energy was being invested in these ‘qualifications’ when 1) digi tech moves incredibly fast, would they be defunct in 2-3 years anyways and 2) when the head of NZQA goes on record saying the future of education is not assessments, why are we still doing them?????? Which I off course believe, but it did divert from the discussion somewhat.

There are also going to be issues around training for staff, what will happen to the ‘unit standards’ and is there still a need for word processing type courses….. as well as cost. The comment was made their had been a massive effort to ensure $500 robot kits were NOT a requirement – but then if you are using a $15 arduino you do need a bit more skill level.

So the jury is still out in my head about this – HUGE potential but also lots of unanswered questions.

Other stuff

There was some general discussion around the cost of professional learning and how some staff are feeling pressure (real or imagined) to gain a master qualification. This is NOT a requirement, yet some schools/areas represented did comment that it was an important consideration for them when employing new staff. The issue of PLD funding is (again) a complex one, and just where the responsibility sits is confusing.

There was also discussion linked to many things around support in schools for teachers. Schools can be very heirachy based, and often those doing the grunt work do not get the best devices/classrooms/timetables. Linked to this, in some subjects, access to PD and/or money hungry resources is impacting students ability to achieve – an example was sound quality in media studies impacting the overall production.

So yeah, another really informative and busy day. Lots of ideas, lots of productive discussion, and a nice reminder that there is hope.

Thanks

And I do need to thank some people, who advised, supported, critique and listened as I started out on this ‘vendetta’ to get better access for teachers to fit for purpose devices and PLD. MY PPTA rep Alister MacDonald, the local Otago branch, Tom Haig (who helped me understand how processed work and to be patient), Lynette O’Brien who is a real workhorse and also incredibly patient, and the whole ICT committee for being so passionate and interested (and for tolerating my ‘out there’ comments). And also my family for listening to me rant and storm, and supporting my with the hours I’ve poured in, and to me critical friends, especially Nikkie, for helping me find the language I don’t always have access to which helps explain to other why this is so important for our teachers and learners. And thanks too to those who have followed along reading my blogs, got in touch when they have seen the articles in the magazine etc. Hopefully it makes a positive impact for the teachers out there – I’ll keep fighting for it. Kia Kaha teachie friends.

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Posted in Professional learning, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Move over classroom, Teams is coming to town

I have really enjoyed Microsoft classroom, and school had been enjoying a high rate of uptake from staff and students. Despite a few teething problems that any new system will have, the roll out school wide as a learning management system had been successful. Some departments or individuals decided that OneDrive suited their needs or tasks better, while others opted to stick with Office 365 groups that they set up last year. But most are using Microsoft classroom as an LMS, and it has worked really well. So I did have a feeling of dismay when I heard that classroom was being replaced by Microsoft Teams – or more specifically Microsoft Teams for Educations. But after having a play, and seeing a couple of demonstrations, I am certainly feeling brighter about the prospect of unveiling Teams to my staff, and there are certainly some exciting new features that will really boost the classroom performance and adaptability of Teams EDU. For now, I am just itching to get my hands on the teams EDU to have a play around myself.

If you want to find out more, you can do so HERE

To kick start the process of upskilling myself, I have had a play with the teams app. As a ‘place’ for almost everything 365, it automatically grabbed events from calendar, files from onedrive, and it was easy to create new teams and add members.

 

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Calendar events showed up in the meetings tabs – I’m hopefully that maybe the EDU version will have a different ‘language’ as not all events on my calendar are meetings. Still, it is very convient to have everything in the one place.

 

 

 

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Files has access to all recent files, as well as Onedrive

 

 

 

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It is super easy to add apps into the teams environment – and you can see there is a massive variety of apps too

 

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The mobile app is also pretty solid, the files tab goes straight to recent files. I was a little dissapointed the calendar tab was missing from the mobile app – it would be nice to have all of the pieces together in one place.

 

So my initial verdict on teams was that is was positive but it felt VERY corporate. It looked to be a useful app for personal use, but to be honest, I wasn’t super sold on it as a classroom replacement.

And then I saw a preview of Teams EDU via the surface expert call and on a Microsoft call which went into a bit more detail. It is fair to say I was blown away by the additional features – although still not quite sold on the names 🙂

Some vital stats are listed below – the summer referred to below is of course the Northern Hemisphere summer, I am REALLY hopefully NZ gets this in winter to try out before our new school year starts in Feb 2018.

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The following pics are either screen grabs from the call or from the MEC site. Because I still don’t have access to Teams EDU, I’ll have to make do with explaining the demos’s I’ve seen.

Highlight ONE – INKING

So, firstly Teams EDU comes with a classnotebook, that will be populated via the data sync. In fact, all class ‘teams’ will be populated this way. This is a massive tick from me, as it saves considerable time for all teachers, and because it is done for them, it really does increase update of use. The Classnotebook looks great, and the fact that it opens within the team environment is another tick – it saves leaping from tab to tab. And the ability to ink right in teams – will that is just lovely 🙂

 

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Assignments and Planners

These don’t quite get a highlight status, but they looked practical and a little more ‘friendly’ than the assignments tab in classroom. The ability for students to add activities or assign tasks to planner also looked like it could be an excellent tool for increasing learner agency and/or chunking larger assignments into smaller tasks for students.

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Students (and teachers) can easily keep tabs on what assignments are coming up, and teachers can mark them in the teams environment.

 

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I liked the look of the planner feature – giving kids agency to plan out their tasks and plan their activities looks awesome.

HIGHLIGHT TWO – KAHOOT

This really was a massive selling point for me, and I’m pretty sure it will help me sell the change from classroom to teams to the staff at my school. The ability to embed a kahoot app into the team environment, and play it right there looked pretty sweet. As did the ability to have a chat window open, so students can still ask questions or give feedback as they go.

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Kahoot is an example of the apps that are available to be added in to the teams EDU environment. The demo list of apps was not as extensive as the list I could add to my generic team space – not sure if this was due to it being a preview, or a deliberate restriction of apps. I suspect the IT admin will be able to control the apps available within teams EDU (but don’t quote me on that). The presenter on the call also said Microsoft will continue working with partners and this list could keep expanding. The apps all stay within the teams environment, and show up as an additional tab across the top.

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Teacher spaces

Also within teams is a ‘Teacher Space’, which looks a bit like a PLG group from office groups. There looked to be a very nice power BI dashboard that could work really well for data analysis. There was also space for shared planning, resources, readings, and a cool meet now feature where you can ‘skype’ within the team environment to have a virtual meeting. As someone who does a lot of work from home once the small person is asleep in a department with similar people, I can see this being a useful feature (as well as a possible great distraction!!)

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So over all I am really hopefully that teams will deliver on the promises. And that it will be similar enough to classroom and groups that I will be able to assist teacher become confident users without too much trouble. The really big highlights for me were the inking and the app (kahoot) integration. And that it looks like the SDS process will be similar – getting the data out of KAMAR (our SMS) is still going to be a significant task, but a doable one for a good end result. If your an admin person, there is some good info HERE

A last piece of info – if you have set up classroom in your school, the handy chart below explains what will happen to things stored in their. The bottom point is probably the most important – make sure you have those grades back up!! The chart below came from HERE which has some useful info on the changes from classroom to Teams.

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So, all in all, I’m feeling pretty positive about teams. The name is a little corporate, and will possibly be the hardest sell with teachers. But the way it works looks really good. Bring on 2018 🙂

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

Ponderings from #energiseNZ2017

In the holidays, I went to the ENERGISE conference (A while back, Arnika Macphail asked me if I’d be keen to present at Energise, and I was like ‘hell yeah’. Then she asked if I’d like to co-present with Steve Mouldey, who I had never yet meet in the flesh and I was like ‘HELL YEAH’). Energise had a Educamp feel, so while the presenters were set, it was not about the ‘big names’ and more about the connections, ideas and challenges. While it was acknowledged that Cyclone was behind the conference, the team did a great job of not making it about things to ‘buy’. It was being hosted at Shotover Primary, so it was a good chance to visit a ‘new’ school and gain some insight into how it works. I had an amazing time, caught up with people, meet some new people, learned some new things, got challenged to ensure I was not just using ‘e-learning’ to engage student but to enhance their learning and was challenged around am I doing enough for my students.

Another interesting moment for me was during the ‘drum’ session. We had a really fun and amazing drum session on the second morning of the conference. I was sitting with 4 of my favourite educator peeps and laughed so hard. But it reinforced a funny idea for me. Do we really all need to be in time? Do we really need to be conforming to the same beat? I’ve been told I am reading to much into this type of activity… but I just wonder. So then of course it turned into us being ‘naughty’ and whacking the drum next to us out of time….. do we sometimes need to break those ‘rules’ to start something new?

BUT mostly energise got me thinking we really do need to change how we approach professional learning/development for teachers.

The pondering around changing PD has really stemmed from about 4 sources that were building before the conference, but these really bought it to my attention.

  1. Presenting with some-one you have never meet

I meet Steve for the first time the night before – drinking warm Sake in a (very nice) Japanese restaurant watching ‘magic’ tricks.

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That said, I have ‘talked’ with Steve loads online (As it turned out, this was a great way to introduce our session – a genuine we meet online gag 🙂 )We were given the brief ‘ Creating a STEAMULATING environment’ and were then basically left to our own devices on what to present.

We set up some collaborative docs (funnily enough a MICROSOFT OneNote and the GOOGLE slides…), had a skype and some twitter chats, and it just came together. I think (hope) because we were both open minded, coming from slightly different places and experiences, but willing to let these ideas be shared and compliment each other, rather than drowning each other out.

And despite my nerves, the presentation went pretty well I think. I’m not confident we ‘nailed’ it, but we definitely got some good discussion going, engaged our group, warmed up as it went on, and tried to avoid ‘us telling, them listening. Although we did still fall into the trap of saying what we did…. instead of listening to all the voices

As always with presenting, I benefit enormously by trying to explicitly describe what I am trying to achieve for my learners and myself – it is hard to put into words some times. And having another person to bounce idea off, especially from another school and ‘a different silo’ was especially helpful. So presenting with some-one I had never meet was a completely new experience for me, and I feel I learned loads. Which makes me think about ‘groups’ of teachers going to PLD – do we really get the same benefit if we only really talk to people from our schools rather than pushing ourselves to incorporate different points of views.

The reason I don’t feel I/we nailed it is because I wasn’t sure/confident we meet our learners expectations. Some people seemed to enjoy the discussion, while others seemed to want more from us – I don’t like the term spoon feeding but I do think some teachers expect this at PLD. Which leads into point number

2. What do teachers expect from PD?

The second day of the conference I went to a session that Steve ran on bringing empathy into learning conversations. He talked about how teachers see PLD, and loosely categorised teachers into some PLD stereotypes. As part of this, we were sent to ‘spy on/observe’ other sessions and see what we could see. And the stereotypes were there – Steve had outlined in his talk some in his talk, and I’ve added a couple

the teacher who wants something they can use in their class on monday

the teacher who came for morning tea

the teacher who came to meet and talk to people and build connections but is not really into the sessions

the teacher having an AHA moment

the teacher who obviously doesn’t want to be there

the teacher who is taking so many notes they couldn’t possibly be processing them, it is just verbatim. Will they ever look at those notes again

the teachers tweeting (usually me….)

the teacher catching up on emails.

the teacher obviously in presenter rapture and having a professional crush moment

 

All of which reinforced times when I have been in PD (honestly, I have been all the teachers above and more) and when I have delivered PD. The stand up the front and talk at people model doesn’t really work. And yet, we are still doing it. Which leads to point 3….

3. Why, oh why, do presenters still sit behind a laptop, sitting at a desk, talking their way through their slides..????

I went to a session like this, and could not cope. The person presenting obviously knew there stuff, and I had a great discussion with them afterwards that almost made up for the presentation. But it was so so so so so hard to sit through that 2 hours of slog. It felt like a slog. Even though I was learning new things, and interested at some points, the rest of the time I switched off.

We have learned that this is not working in our classrooms. Surely we should have learned that it doesn’t work for PLD.

And surely we as teacher should expect and demand more. Which leads me to point 4..

4. Why do ‘some’ teachers still expect PLD on a plate?

This constantly annoys me. I always try and make the most out of any opportunities that are provided to me. So I pay for my own PLD sometimes. I buy books and read them. I read blogs and talk to people. I also apply to different places for funding, and really make an effort to get to free stuff (I will drive to Christchurch for the educamp in Term 3 for example.) I also make use of free PLD on line – there are loads of MOOCs, courses, youtube videos, and of course the microsoft educator community (and the google one).

So I do get a bit pissy when people say to me, oh, you were at another conference. I go to them because I choose to, I often self fund, and I value them. Probably because of this, I have had several awesome opportunities to attend conferences paid for by other people. And if I got to those, I make sure I work every damn minute to get the most out of it for me and for the people attending. It is also why I started scichatNZ (along with Matt and the team) because I was frustrated at the lack of support for Science teachers wanting to break the mould….. and almost talked myself out of a ‘job’ when I’ve come to the conclusion that I really don’t want there to be subject silo’s….. sigh

So I do get hot and bothered when people attend PLD paid for out of precious school budgets and either 1) don’t get quality or 2) don’t put an effort in. 2 very different problems, but with a similar outcome – professional learning goes on the back burner as too hard, too much time, too expensive for what you get……

Changing the culture around staff professional learning in many schools is a challenge I don’t see going away any time soon, despite the efforts of many outstanding educators out there to change that mould.

So all in all I had an amazing time at Energise, and am really thankful for the opportunity to attend and share. It was definitely a ‘different’ type of teacher conference and I hope we see more of them in the future – I’m already looking forward to energise 2018.

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Thanks heaps to the team at Shotover for sharing you school, and the team at Cyclone for hosting us 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Professional learning

Reflections from the #E2 Global educator exchange

I was fortunate enough to attend the Microsoft E2 global educator exchange held in Toronto, Canada last week (March 21-13). It was a truly global event with over 250 educators from over 80 countries in attendance, as well as product developers, Microsoft partners, school leaders and some representative students!!! E2 had so many highlights and I am still processing the 3 days. But here is a brief (actually long.. but skimming the surface of lots of deep ideas) summary

Day 1 – Tuesday.

The keynote included welcomes from lots of important people and some areas/ways that Canada is trying to boost its eduction system. Then John Myers talked about Edsby – a cloud based learning management system, which looks pretty cool but I am not sure how it would fit with Kamar in NZ. Then Lisa Floyd spoke about computational speaking and the importance of problem solving in classrooms. I loved her presentation and the idea that computational thinking doesn’t need to be based around computers – she didn’t use it but the analogy of knitting patterns to coding definitely came to mind.

Then I meet my ‘educator’ team who I was mentoring for their challenge (design a hack for a classroom problem) and had some training on how we would be judging the challenge entries.

After lunch it was presentation time!! I as so glad to be on the first day. I was a little bit nervous, but enjoyed Velichka’s presentation on the importance of diversity in computer Science.  Then it was me (which I will write about in another post), and then Marisol shared about bridging the gap between neuroscience and technology. My take home from her talk was around providing adequate choices for learning as every brain is different. Amanda‘s presentation on Active learning was crammed full of useful tidbits geared toward making a student centred learning environment.

Then it was hanging with my team and basically watching them do their thing – right from the get go they worked together really well. I almost felt I was in the way of them working on their challenge!! It was fun to talk to them and learn about education in their countries. I also had a great chat with the Microsoft classroom team about how we are using this is my school. It was a great opportunity to talk to the developers and how we are using it, how we could use it better and how they could tweak it to make it easier to use. There are also some really exciting developments coming.

On Tuesday from 5pm I had some STEM training. This was TOTALLY AMAZEBALLS and so much fun. Other people at my table were not as confident as me with both the language and just ripping in and giving things a go, so I found myself to be the expert of the table. Which was cool to be helping people get the same buzz I got, when things started to click the excitement in the room was massive

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Building this was SOOOOO MUCH FUN!!!!!

Tweemeet – the Tuesday night was the #MSFTEDUCHAT tweetmeet. So there was a party with wines and beers while we tweeted. This was sooooo different to my normal experience talking to the crew from the other side of the world. So there was real chat, and virtual chat, and it was rad.

Then it was dinner time. Sadly I missed the APAC dinner because I did the tweetmeet, but I went out with Steffie and Mike and caught up with the Europe crew afterwards – there was much merriment 🙂

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Big smiles 🙂

Wednesday

Luckily the keynotes on Wednesday Morning were AMAZING as I was a tad jetlagged (and hung over…. blaming the Irish….).

If you are interested, you can sign in and watch the recorded session HERE. Essentially, the whole keynote was a plethora of new ideas and challenging thoughts.There was a showcase of We.org around how you can become involved with this program, students from the Queen of Heaven school spoke about their experiences helping others gain an education. The awesome Meenoo Rami spoke about Minecraft in the classroom and Mike Tholfsen talked about his 10 favourite ways with OneNote in Education.

The presentation that really struck me was Daniel McDuff and emotion sensing machines. Essentially, the technology is there to track emotions of participants completing tasks. This could be used to track student engagement or learning, or even alter the task in real time to meet the students needs. I am still not sure how I feel about this – is it too ‘big brother’? Could it be useful for students to learn about how they learn? Would it help break down barriers of students not feeling confident to ask for help? What are the ethics around measuring this data as students complete set tasks? It was a really though provoking presentation that challenged my assumptions around education and big data.

Then it was off to learn about microbit – these little beasties are super fun. Drag and drop code, cute interface and very user friendly. I had a great time pretending to know how to use Java script – I am getting better but still a way to go.

I then went to listen to fellow Kiwi Steve. This session had 4 speakers. Lieu talked about building communities. Steve talked about using Onenote to personalise learning using student accessible language and the importance of involving students in choosing the level they learn at. James Gill gave a great overview of how he personalises learning in a multi aged, diverse learning needs classroom that really resonated strongly with me – learning is not always perfect and we need to find ways to engage all students and their families in learning. And then there was a great example of Minecraft in the classroom from Miroslav – I was VERY jealous he had been able to commit 3 months to this amazing project of building his school in Minecraft.

I then sat my Microsoft Office Specialist exam (word) and passed – although I didn’t get 100% so room for improvement there. I then went and check on my team, but they were well on track and Koen had arrived by then so they had been well supported. They got their pitch in on time and I hope they enjoyed the experience of working together and learning about each other.

Then there was the technology showcase, which I saw very little of as I was busy helping people with the Hacking Stem project. Looking back, I think this was some of my favourite E2 moments – the joy on peoples faces as they got their sensor to work was awesome. For some, this was a completely new experience and it was an amazing privilege to be part of it.

And I was so tired that I can’t even remember if I got dinner or not. I must have, but I have no recollection of where or what it was 🙂

Thursday

Keynotes – The keynotes kick started with Actiontec talking about screen beams. I LOVE my screenbeam and how this tech allows me to be be able to move about my classroom. It is especially great for putting Science demos or examples on the big screen. There was also a session on accessibility tools – Microsoft has really put a huge focus on this area and the array of tools is growing all the time. Then Lakesha Kirkland talked about how her students had gained certification with the Microsoft imagine academy – which is definitely worth our school exploring further.

I then went to listen to fellow Kiwi Arnika talk about her experiences ‘letting go’ and how her students participated in the design process for the Margaret Mahy playground in Christchurch. Then I popped into to visit the Pearsons group to talk about the Microsoft Certified Educator exam and give some feedback on the updates the are making.

Then it was time to judge the group challenges. This was a very tough job – it was amazing what 5 random strangers could put together in 2 days when they worked together. I think everyone should have got prizes…. sigh

After Judging I popped into the learning market place – which was an overwhelming mix of amazing education ideas. All the Kiwi crew did a great job of presenting their ideas, and I saw some pretty cool other ideas too.

I then went and got a coffee with Steve, and we were joined by Koen Timmers. This hour of quiet ‘chat’ (punctuated by terrible puns and bad jokes) is definitely my best memory of the conference – while there were amazing presentations and lots of learning, in the end this always comes back to people and the connections and relationships you build.

Thursday night was the awards dinner and party – and party we did. There was spirits on the bar and great company and music. It was an awesome celebration to finish off a great week.

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Koen, Steve and Me at the awards dinner – it was a great night 🙂 there were loads more photos, but they got a bit blurry as the night progressed

So a MASSIVE thank you to everyone that contributed to my having an amazing week. The people I meet and reconnected with really made it an exceptional week. Massive shout outs to James, Amanda and Koen (and Steve….) for giving me my key takeaways and friendships, as well as the whole kiwi (and ANZAC) crew for being so inclusive and fun. Massive respect for Sonja, Becky and the team for putting it all together and the STEM microsoft team for an amazing experience (and cheesy T shirt). And too everyone I meet, thanks for being awesome and being you – keep rocking it 🙂 Ka Kite An0 – till next time….

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

Why share?

Life is just a bit hectic right now. Mostly by choice – I have kicked started organising a #teachmeetNZ in term 2 which takes a bit of planning, I has a Microsoft catch up session, and I applied and got selected to present at a conference in Toronto (squueeeeeee!!!!!!!) in a couple of weeks time. Add that to Energise in Queenstown in April (you should come!!!!), general life events and crazy, it makes for a busy time.

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Love #teachmeets 🙂

So I am currently thinking about some different presentations I need to do. Which is challenging for lots of good reasons – mostly because sharing makes me THINK about what I am doing and why.

It forces me to reflect on my practice. It makes me clarify my own points within my head. Sometimes it makes me double back and check something I started and left by the wayside, other times it makes me realise things aren’t quite working they way I would like and how can I change that. I am a bit obsessive about presentations like these – while the slide deck might be a bit thrown together, I always agonise over the message and ‘theme’ I guess.

It also makes me think – am I putting the same level of thought into ALL of my lessons? obviously it needs to be sustainable re workload, but am I really doing it a good job, or just rolling out stuff cause I can (or I am too busy doing other things… like presentations for conferences….)

I often wonder why some people are so reluctant to share. I know some people have ideas around inadequacy – maybe I am falsely confident, but I feel ok presenting. Maybe growth mindset helps – I am really interested in the questions people might have, or ideas they might have. Maybe it can be a thankless task – I have been in the situation where I worked really hard on a presentation and had 3 people show up, and 2 seemed more intent on checking facebook…. I’ve also been the one checking facebook…. and sometimes I guess you can get fatigued from always presenting or sharing – it is some-one elses turn I hear myself saying….

But I am at a loss to know how to change this mindset with NZ educators…. surely we can’t all be that bad as to not think we have ideas worth sharing. Surely we can’t all be that bitter and twisted about wasted time, nor we have not all presented everything we know….

I guess it is the same with blogging. I like blogging because it helps me organise my thoughts. Sometimes I blog for me, other times I do blog more specifically to share…. but it always helps me reflect on what I am doing and why.

I am also wondering how I can shape these next few presentations to be less me standing telling and more collaborative. How can I walk that walk?

Lots of wonderings…… why do I do this to myself again 🙂

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Getting Schooled

This year, I have a student who made the Olympiad training group. He sat the next round of selection exams last week. I have to say I am really proud of him, he has worked hard and independently, and has enjoyed the challenge.

But it has reminded my just how much I have forgotten. The Chemistry is essentially first year, and I just have had no idea. My Maths was as rusty as anything…. ratios and percentages should have been easy but I really struggled. I have tried to catch up, but time, time, TIME. Essentially, I thrust old text books at him, frantically googled tutorials when he wasn’t sure, sat and puzzled over problems through lunch times, and then admitted I needed more help and reached out to the amazing Dave Warren at Otago Uni. So this student now heads into the uni once a week to get the help and extension I couldn’t give him (I have to say, this is an AMAZING arrangement for him, and the uni seems really happy as well, so win win. And I got away with a minimum amount of paper work too…. Extra win).

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I used to be able to show mechanisms……. not any more

This experience has made me think on a few things.

  1. If you don’t need the learning then, it so easily forgotten. I used to be able to do that Chem with ease – but my chem papers where the best part of 15 years ago (sob). And it doesn’t necessarily make it easier to learn the second time round – perhaps I really did leave it too long. So I really need to make sure I make more of a point when I am trying to get students to commit details for NCEA exams to memory that I bring them up again and again through out the year – not just finish a topic and move on.
  2. Learning stuff in isolation is hard. Often sitting with this student, we will talk through and stumble onto the correct strategy or answer, when we have both failed to do so. So having a partner is crime is so valuable.
  3. Even for a moderately driven teacher like me, it is easy to get lazy. I did a 100 calculus paper 6 years ago to strengthen up my maths as part of PD from my last school. But then at my new school I haven’t taught maths, and all that knowledge is gone. Maybe not completely gone, but very deeply buried. So I need to get out of my comfort zone somehow to keep that skill set going.
  4. The content from the Olympiad is presented is a very old school dry way. I know it must be difficult to cater to such a diverse group, and cost is probably a factor too, but a thick printed off black and white ‘text’ is pretty hard going.

So how can I keep that knowledge I worked so hard to get? The old saying is ‘you use it or you lose it’ so do I really need that knowledge? In my ‘day to day’ teaching, obviously I hadn’t, but this is enormously frustrating when I find myself unable to push a student on to what they are capable of. Has my inadvertent ‘laziness’ limited my students and what they can achieve.

From these internal musings, I have come to the conclusion (with the help of the fabulous Paula) that more needs to be done to help isolated students and teachers who might not always have access to that next level of learning. The sole ‘nerdy’ kid in a school where the teacher is struggling to get the other 28 kids in the class to their A, M and E’s, and so just quietly ignores the one who is getting it without causing trouble, or maybe suggesting they do Hands on at Otago, or the Rotary Science camp in Auckland, or a competition or Science fair. And I am exploring some ways to do this….. Time or no time, there is a definite need.

And I am (again) re-evaluating what I need to do to make sure I can be the best teacher I can be. In this case, I need to brush up on my chemistry, to make sure the information I have forgotten is not negatively impacting my students. That my knowledge isn’t limiting theirs.

So I have been schooled by this experience. I need to make sure I am not just doing what I ‘need to’ and I keep pushing along above what I need to know.

Bring it

Posted in Minecraft, Professional learning

Week one of a Minecraft MOOC (& getting to experience Microsoft Classroom as a student)

I have been playing around with Minecraft in my classroom for over a year now without ever really getting fully into it myself. I have mostly allowed students to use it as a tool for their learning if they chose, and some students did amazing things like build a chem lab or a heart, or some electrical circuits using redstone, or spawn a million chickens (currently a pair of yr 8 students are using minecraft to make a model water cycle…..). To keep up with what the students were doing I joined in occasionally, learned more than I care to admit about setting upservers while still having no idea how to set up servers, did a course at pycon on coding in Minecraft and generally had some fun without ever getting a full grasp of what was available. When MinecraftEDU was available with a microsoft Office 365 login, I wondered some more about how this would work in class. So when a MOOC course popped up for MinecraftEdu I thought ‘Ha, I should get me on to that’.

And as always, the very best learning has not been exactly what I expected. The very best thing about this course is that it is being run through microsoft classroom so I get to experience classroom as a student – which is super helpful as we are currently rolling out classroom for our whole school (I am running some whole school PD on it tomorrow!!).

To start with, the MOOC runs for 3 weeks, and involves 3 webinars. The first was a little laggy (A consequence of living on the other side of the world….) but still packed with some useful tips and tricks, and it is always nice to connect with other educators. There was some admin like getting logins sorted, a preach to the converted about why minecraft is pretty cool, some basics around moving about (it is funny how quickly the wasd key muscle memory comes back when playing minecraft), a walk through of the tutorial world and then we were off. We had an assignment and a due date and the time of our next call.

So my first error came through the assignment, I heard midnight Sunday as the due date and went sweet, that means Monday for me. Which is did, just not Monday Midnight. Hopefully they don’t mind it was late…. but he first assignment was one of three options based around putting yourself in the place of a beginner and trying a world through their eyes.

So I did the tutorial world, as part of the reason I am doing the MOOC is I don’t know what I don’t know. It was actually really good to walk my way through it, and I did make some mistakes…inlcuding breaking the lever that opens the door – luckily I could just smash through the door 🙂

But there were lots of other fun things to do, and I do think that if you have never played Minecraft before, the tutorial world via the Minecraft EDU site is a great place to start to see what it can do…..

So once I had (a bit of a rushed due to my assignment being late….) look around the world I completed my assignment (again, once I had learned how yo export the screenshots I took…. mild panic there) and uploaded them into the assignment section of microsoft classroom

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We also had to share our assignment on to the collaboration space of a shared notebook and comment on each others experience. This was really cool, reading about what other people had done and seeing some more experienced users than me and what they could do – definitely super awesome stuff right there….

So already it has been a really worth while course, and I am looking forward to webinar 2 this week. And I will definitely not be leaving the assignment so late this time 🙂

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

Reflections from #BettAsia

I was fortunate enough to be asked to attend BettAsia this year as a MIEE fellow but also as a panel speaker on the roll of social media in teacher professional learning. It was a full on trip, but I had an amazing time, learned some new things, made some new connections and strengthened some old ones, and also had a bit of fun exploring Kuala Lumpur. There was a group of 10 from NZ + the amazing Anne Taylor from Microsoft, and it was awesome to get to know this group of people better.

The conference welcome session were held on Monday evening, and I was invited to two. An ‘it never rains but it pours’ moment. The first was at a super fancy bar where I caught up with some of the microsoft crew, including properly meeting Kalpana Kishorekumar (a fellow MIEE) who was going to be on stage with me the next day with Anthony.

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Hanging with some ‘Microsofties’ Photo – Kalpana

I then jumped into a cab (driving in the ‘jam’ in KL is an experience in itself) and was fashionably late to a reception at the British High Commission. At first I felt way out of my depth as most people where from tech companies (if I attend a meeting like this again I will definitely get some business cards made) and was getting stuck into rather too much of the NZ wine on offer, but eventually meet some really cool people and even found another couple of teachers who had found there way there to talk shop with.

Then it was back to the hotel for a quick touch base wine with the NZ peeps before bed time.

Tuesday was the first day proper of the conference. Originally I had intended to go to the educational leadership sessions, but I was put forward to do a live daily adventures interview with Anthony Salcito on stage. What an awesome opportunity!! So I went along to the opening session – getting mic’d up was a new experience – and was challenged by what I heard. I think it is an interesting thing that politics and business mix in with education – and a lot of what was said was about being able to export a marketable product to countries wanting to improve their outcomes. I am still trying to decide how I feel about this…but I guess there is a cost to making resources to some-one has to pay…. but it was really interesting to here the High Commisioner and different ministers speak.

Then Pasi Sahlberg came on to talk about the Finnish Education system and PISA results. Now as I have been working through NAPP this year I have definitely learned more about these tests and why they are ‘so important’ when really they shouldn’t be that important. So this talk was especially refreshing when he mentioned the idea of educational heaven – where you have high equity of access to education and high achievement and outcomes from your systems. He actually got the room (at least 1/2 participated I think) to sing along to ‘knock knock knocing on heavens door…) He was very clear on factors he thought contributed to Finlands excellent results – including allowing children time to play and limited homework – freedom to explore other interests and pursuits was important. Maintaining and increasing the professionalism of the teaching profession was also stressed – as well as reducing competition between schools. It was an excellent and thought provoking presentation, a real highlight of the conference.

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Looking at this slide, I couldn’t help but think that NZ is taking a dangerous road with the de-professionalisation of teachers and teaching, the increase in test based accountability and standardisation. And despite efforts to form more collaborative communities, there is still an awful lot of competition between schools for funding. And as for Charter schools…
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Sadly NZ is a wee way off being in ‘Educational Heaven’ where we are both High Achieving and High Equity. We are well behind the Australians on the equity scale

Then Anthony was on stage, and I was a bit nervous by this stage so even though I tried really hard to listen, I am sure I missed some important points as he talked about the need to bridge the digital divide. And then I was up

Sadly time was short, so I only got the briefest comments in about the amazing work my students have done with minecraft and how we started with hour of code – which is coming up again this year – amazing to think who much I have learned about this in a year – and how much more I have to learn next year.

 

I then took a little time to chill out and regroup my brain, before heading into a teacher ambassador session on using 365. Which got completely railroaded by an excellent conversation with a teacher from France about flipped classroom resources and the what and how – we agreed on the why but had fun talking over the merits of different systems and exactly what consistutes flipped etc. It was really cool. I then popped into the leaders academy to and do a problem solving activity – the session was good but as I have read their book I kind of new what the process was. It was still really valuable to use the knowledge in the room to think about some problems facing education – and get a reminder that NZ really is incredibly lucky with our curriculum and resources compared to some other countries.

That night I was really really rooly tired, so bailed a bit early on dinner with the NZ crew and went to bed early. Thankfully I managed to get more than 3 hours in a row, and felt much better for Wednesday

Wednesday morning I went and hung out in the tech expo. There were some demonstrations in model class room that had been set up, as well as presentations and pitches. I enjoyed playing with some robots and checking out some 3D printing. The best take away from this session was blippar. And then I had my first go on google glasses – wowsers. I was in a WWII trench in the Soome designed by Computeam – I am going to show my history teacher this – I was so into it I walked into the booth. It was really really cool.

I then went up to meet Archit and Craig who were doing the panel on social media with me. It fascinates me in terms of my own pathway that here I was holding my own on an (somewhat small to be fair) international stage with 2 presenters who ‘meet’ 30 minutes before the presentation. We had collaborated before via email but we just came together and I think had a really good discussion. We all had slightly different view points, challenges and perceptions, and I really enjoyed the experience.

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Then I sat and had a 30 minute conversation with Craig. We just chatted, about school, curriculum, managing work life balance, living as an expat, just talked a bit of shop and a bit of life, and it was awesome. It was an absolute pleasure to strengthen this connection with Craig – I hope he got something out of it too.

I popped back down to talk coding with some tech guys, and have pretty much decided I need to get serious and do a paper or two next year – sadly not having deadlines and goals means I just kept putting it into the background this year. But it is an area I want to upskill myself in, and I am going to look into papers.

One thing I haven’t really mentioned is the conversations I had. Sadly my commitments to other sessions meant I didn’t quite see as much of the kiwi crew as I would like, but the conversations over breakfast or a beer in the evenings were awesome. It is a tad strange that we had to travel such a distance to get ‘hot housed’ as such, but when else do we make the time? So I got to meet some NZ MIEE’s face to face for the first time, learn more about some cool things NZ schools are doing, brainstorm (or just listen) to some of the frustrations we are experiencing, and just learn from some really cool people. I caught up with the super awesome Tamara from Australia, meet some other NZ principals and teachers, some more Aussies, educators and techies from the Netherlands, Britain, Maldives, Singapore, Malaysia, India (One of them new Veranda Sewag which was very exciting….) it was a diverse smogasboard of ideas, cultures, curriculums and conversation. Many conversations reminded me how lucky we are to be well resourced in New Zealand, but highlighted that despite this level of resourcing, we still have room to improve.

I also got to spend some time with my fellow ‘Fellow’s Steve and Nikkie. It was amazing. These people are my tribe, and I miss them already. We had some really cool conversations about what our next steps are, both personally in the class room and in our schools, with the MIEE program we are establishing in NZ, and just life. Much Arohanui for these 2 super super peeps. And of course talking with Anne Taylor who makes this all possible and manages to look super calm and collected while doing it, as well as others from the Microsoft Education team.

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And then it was Thursday, and there was time for a quick trip up the sky tower (I don’t do lifts/planes/enclosed spaces well and nearly lost it…. Sigh) and a trip to the mall, and then it was time to start the journey home. An amazing trip, great connections and lots of learning. As well as loads of fun.

And when I think back to a little 2 years ago and my first post as an MIEE, it is ridiculous. So much has happened in that time, so much has changed, and still so much hasn’t. I have learned and achieved so much in that time, and yet there is still much work to do. And I can’t wait.

Posted in coding, Minecraft, Professional learning

Getting my code on at #kiwipycon

This morning I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to a session at the Pycon conference being held in Dunedin. I have been playing around with coding for a little while without ever really getting a grasp on it, and thought this would be a great opportunity to spend some time on it. Python is a language that can be used with Minecraft, the conference was in Dunedin, it didn’t require relief as it was a Saturday morning, it cost $10, perfect professional learning really. And I learned loads.

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I took this photo partially to hide my confusion – it has been a while since I went to a conference where I knew NO ONE to talk to…. thankfully there was tea 🙂

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Firstly, I meet lots of cool people. The session was a mix of people which meant a range of skills. I was a little disappointed there were only 2 other teacher there…. but there were several programmers looking to find ways to help schools, or to help their kids learn how to code. So there was a whole lot of skill in the room.

We were working on computer that we running off a raspberry pi. I knew those we machines were grunty, but I didn’t realise how so.

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To start with , we got a series of tasks to work through – it was based on this book which I have now ordered.

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Doing this task I learned about the language around programming. For example, how important syntax it – I kind of new this, but a lowercase where an uppercase letter should be causes chaos in the code. But it was cool to be fluffing around and getting the hang of things. And teleporting all around the map was cool to – Sitting next to a pro programmer meant I got some additional help and got into writing some loops (this said, I was able to show him how to move around in Minecraft… was awesome). He also teleported to 0,0,0 and got stuck as he went to where the world was generated from (we think…).

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We also learned how to create blocks – which was very exciting for me as I would like to make some ion blocks and use minecraft for Ionic formula. So I am going to talk this through with my Yr 10s next week and see what they can do 🙂

The second part of the task was AWESOME.We got to ‘hack’ into the raspberry pi and do a little bit of electronics stuff using a bread board.

After a couple of false starts (including putting the LED in the wrong orientation – teacher fail) We got this little puppy flashing 🙂 So very satisfying 🙂 Especially when changing the times meant the flashes slowed down or speed up 🙂

 

I didn’t get up to the stage of then turning the LED of and on in Minecraft as I ran out of time, but I will ask the robotics teacher at school if we can set this up so I can have another go.

So it was an amazing 90 minutes. I got to play around with some of the tech people keep talking about and actually see what it can do. How easy it could be to do the same activity in a classroom – and I am sure my kids would be way ahead of me.

So moving forward, I want to make some time to keep playing around. And for next year, re think how I teach our electronics unit for yr 10 – currently we build some circuits and solder a device that gives an electric shock. But if we can solder up an arduino and then incorporate some programming into it, it would SUPER rock.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, Uncategorized

Taking a deep breath…

On Friday I went to a TENZ mini conference hosted at Tahuna intermediate. I had meet Bill at the 21 st century learning design session in the last holidays, and was honoured (and flattered) to be asked to open the conference by talking about strategies for implementing change in Education. And while I could only stay for a while as I had to get to the uni to sort stuff for Hands on at Otago (I can not recommend this for your Yr 11 & 12 students enough) and then back to work,  I got to hear some super cool stuff that these Tech teachers were doing and the how they were working around challenges.

I thought a LOT about the presentation I was to give. Once I had decided what to talk about and what angle to take, it didn’t actually take too long to prepare. And, as always, forcing myself to take stock and arrange my thoughts was far more beneficial to me than I had imagined, and I hope my audience got something useful. I chose the Koru based on a presentation from the awesome Nikkie talking about unfurling ideas. And I chose some Kea’s for my ‘pack’ as a reminder not to be too destructive

Because when I thought about it, there are an amazing array of resources out there to help teachers upskill themselves. I have used some, and (as always) mean to use more. When I thought about it, things are changing. Maybe not with the urgency or pace I would like, but I also need to remember to change what I can and try to not let the rest bother me so much. And to not let frustration cloud better judgement and inhibit what I am trying to achieve.

And talking to this amazing group of tech teachers and how they are looking to move their courses and learning forward was super inspiring. Often, the tech teachers in intermediate schools are isolated from the rest of the staff. While they see a lot of students, they only see them for a short time and relationships are hard to build. They are specialists in their particular fields, be it art, hard materials, music, textiles, food, and they were all amazingly passionate about their areas. Job security, funding issues, communication with the main part of schools, or secondary schools they were trying to prepare their students for, where all talked over as challenges with possible solutions.

I was super impressed with how some of the school were doing their reporting. It was live, real, all online and collaborative. If internet access was an issue for the family, printed versions could be made. I am so jealous – especially as I am coming up to report writing time in a couple of weeks.

Also present was Otto, who is Auckland based in industry and is reaching out to schools who are wanting to build there own 3d printers rather than just buy one and run with it. Really really cool stuff.

So while I could only go for a couple of hours, it was very well worth it. It made me remember I am not alone. That there are passionate, awesome, fiery educators the country over who are working hard for change. And while it is frustrating that there isn’t more support for all of these amazing educators, it was inspiring to see them still working towards their vision for better experiences for their students.