Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Recording learning – how do I get this right?

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about how I/we/the system records learning. My thinking on this has been challenged a few times, and was kicked into gear way back in 2015 when I saw an amazing learning conversation around a thermos flask take place, that these students couldn’t write down but could explain very clearly, and link other ideas they had learned. (a reflection from the time is here )More recently, this has been playing on my mind as my yr 10’s have been completing a Science capability task.

Now Science capabilities can be a tricky thing when you get to the nitty gritty of them, but are also amazing simple too. I don’t feel our school has really got to grips with them yet (although we are certainly improving all the time), and we are certainly too focussed on the ‘paper trail’ evidence for assessing them. Which has got me back to thinking more explicitly about how I gather evidence for learning.

With this Science Capabilities task, the context was ocean acidification and how increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere increases the dissolved CO2 in the water, which decreases the pH/increases the acidity of the ocean. This then has an impact on creatures in the ocean with carbonate shells or exoskeletons. We investigated the impact of concentration on acids on the reaction rate for carbonates. Reaction rates really sits at NCEA Level one rather than yr 10, so we have tried to scaffold the prior learning and expectations around reaction rates for students final answers.

As part of the task, students where asked to design an experiment that gave them ‘quality data’ (reproducable, no overlaps etc). Students were given a range of material to try and design their method, as we had previously used gas displacement, a lime water test, amount of bubble produced by adding dish washing liquid etc. There was much fun as the bubbles produced from the highest concentration of acid shot out of the test tubes and all over the bench tops and floors. But this is where the really rich conversations started happening, as students realised that this method was the ‘most fun’, it did not produce the more reliable results. Then others discovered that if they used small volumes of acid, the lower concentrations stopped reacting before the amount of gas produced was detectable. Others found it difficult to distinguish between the two most concentrated acids because the times were very similar.

The learning conversation between the students and the students and myself over these 2-3 hours were amazing. It felt really good, I was excited to be in class, the students seemed to be enjoying it, and the frustrations and successes were palpable. Students were really gaining knowledge from the various practical tasks as they were trying to ascertain the best method for them to use. Students saw that they got ‘the same’ end result while using a different method to another group, and had conversation around which way might be better or worse. The conversations around the ‘why’ the reactions where proceeding that way were amazing.

And yet, while it was a valuable learning experience for me and the students, I feel a lot of that valuable learning was lost. How do I record those conversations that were had? How do I translate that into the students written work, or scaffold the questions better so they are encouraged to incorporate more of that learning into their answers?

Or, do I need to? Is it enough that those conversations took place, and they do not need to be included in the gathered data for reports and feedback?

And, how to I replicate those conversation in other settings?? How do I get students to see more explicitly that there is often more than one way to come to a similar answer, and that discovering the path is often much more exciting than getting to the end of it. How to I make sure more of the learning experiences I offer are open ended??

And how do I ensure I capture the ideas that students don’t write down??

 

 

 

Posted in random ramblings

On poems

It is poetry week at my school this week, linked to New Zealand’s (I’m assuming it is New Zealand’s, it might be all over…) poetry day this friday (23rd August). I am currently avoiding others tasks, but have been spotting all sorts of beautiful poems on twitter, and it has made me think of some of my favourite poems, what they mean to me, and where I remember learning about them. While I often get frustrated with my own stuttering prose and find expressing myself clearly a challenge (not to mention sending my grandmother round the bend with my appalling spelling) I love reading, and greatly admire those who can work their words with such magic.

And after writing the above, I realised I have already written about two of the poems on my mind, all the way back in 2014. It is funny how the past comes back….. and how despite meeting these poems in high school some 20 years ago, they are still with me.

‘So, it is day 2 of Ulearn, and we have been given some time. Time is so precious, and I always struggle to use it wisely. Or I get so caught up in tomorrow I forget about today, or last year, or even before that.

One of my favourite poems is about time

Time out – Hone Tuwhare

I pursue

but I

Can not catch up with you, Time.

You precede me

like the echo of sad footfalls in my heart,

fading away.

Tears pool

my eyes

as I turn back

to find the solace

in a resolute search

for my space

my beginnings

my Self.

It is resonating with my right now, as I think about the English teacher who first introduced me to it, Ms Fowler. Fowler was hard arse – she reminded me off the teacher Katie Novak talked about in the keynote. Fowler made me work harder than I ever had, and unlocked some potential. I argued with her, got cross, got disheartened and then picked myself up and tried again. I learned to love poetry as a means of expression rather than to loathe it as yucky english – even if I still can’t spell to save my life. I learned resilience, perseverance, and the importance of sticking to you guns despite what others say or think. To go with your gut feeling. That can again be described by a poem (this one I found specifically for a ‘read allowed’ assessment we had to do, I didn’t fully understand it at the time) – she taught it to her classes after which I found amazingly flattering. We ‘bumped’ into each other online recently, and she is still doing amazing things.

The Riders in the Stand

There’s some that ride the Robbo style, and bump at every stride;
While others sit a long way back, to get a longer ride.
There’s some that ride like sailors do, with legs and arms, and teeth;
And some ride on the horse’s neck, and some ride underneath.

But all the finest horsemen out — the men to Beat the Band —
You’ll find amongst the crowd that ride their races in the Stand.
They’ll say “He had the race in hand, and lost it in the straight.”
They’ll show how Godby came too soon, and Barden came too late.

They’ll say Chevalley lost his nerve, and Regan lost his head;
They’ll tell how one was “livened up” and something else was “dead” —
In fact, the race was never run on sea, or sky, or land,
But what you’d get it better done by riders in the Stand.

The rule holds good in everything in life’s uncertain fight;
You’ll find the winner can’t go wrong, the loser can’t go right.
You ride a slashing race, and lose — by one and all you’re banned!
Ride like a bag of flour, and win — they’ll cheer you in the Stand.

Banjo Paterson’

Even 5 year on, and maybe always, I often think of these poems. I am thinking specifically of the riders in the stand – I need to work to my standards, not the standards of others. It is so easy to look at others and think, they aren’t doing this or that, so I won’t. Rather than thinking this is where I want to be, now get there.

Another poem on my mind right now is Epiphany by Ted Hughes

From the collection Birthday Letters, which won the Forward prize in 1998

London. The grimy lilac softness
Of an April evening. Me
Walking over Chalk Farm Bridge
On my way to the tube station.
A new father – slightly light-headed
With the lack of sleep and the novelty.
Next, this young fellow coming towards me.

I glanced at him for the first time as I passed him
Because I noticed (I couldn’t believe it)
What I’d been ignoring.

Not the bulge of a small animal
Buttoned into the top of his jacket
The way colliers used to wear their whippets –
But its actual face. Eyes reaching out
Trying to catch my eyes – so familiar!
The huge ears, the pinched, urchin expression –
The wild confronting stare, pushed through fear,

Between the jacket lapels.
    ’It’s a fox-cub!’
I heard my own surprise as I stopped.
He stopped. ‘Where did you get it? What
Are you going to do with it?’
    A fox-cub
On the hump of Chalk Farm Bridge!

‘You can have him for a pound.’ ‘But
Where did you find it? What will you do with it?’
‘Oh, somebody’ll buy him. Cheap enough
At a pound.’ And a grin.
    What I was thinking
Was – what would you think? How would we fit it
Into our crate of space? With the baby?
What would you make of its old smell
And its mannerless energy?
And as it grew up and began to enjoy itself
What would we do with an unpredictable, 
Powerful, bounding fox?
The long-mouthed, flashing temperament?
That necessary nightly twenty miles
And that vast hunger for everything beyond us?
How would we cope with its cosmic derangements
Whenever we moved?

The little fox peered past me at other folks,
At this one and at that one, then at me.
Good luck was all it needed.
Already past the kittenish
But the eyes still small,
Round, orphaned-looking, woebegone
As if with weeping. Bereft
Of the blue milk, the toys of feather and fur,
The den life’s happy dark. And the huge whisper
Of the constellations
Out of which Mother had always returned.
My thoughts felt like big, ignorant hounds
Circling and sniffing around him.
   Then I walked on
As if out of my own life.
I let that fox-cub go. I tossed it back
Into the future
Of a fox-cub in London and I hurried
Straight on and dived as if escaping
Into the Underground. If I had paid,
If I had paid that pound and turned back
To you, with that armful of fox –

If I had grasped that whatever comes with a fox
Is what tests a marriage and proves it a marriage –
I would not have failed the test. Would you have failed it?
But I failed. Our marriage had failed.

I was sitting in the staff work room listening to a spirited discussion between two English teachers – they both taught yr 13 classes, one was doing Ted Hughes, and the other Sylvia Plath. I was listening purely from enjoyment as they argued their points about the intricasies and styles of the writers, the different possible interpretations, and how had we really changed in our expectations and realities of relationships since the 1950s and 60s. As an avid fan of Slyvia Plath, I had avoided Ted Hughes, but as there two English teachers teased out ideas I began to become more familiar and would occasionally skim read a poem or two. The ‘team Ted’ English teacher read this to me, and as two people with our own young families discussed how life had changed so much, that risk was now so much harder to take… that consequences were suddenly so much more real. And that epiphanies often strike when you least expect them. (I feel I need to add we are both still with our significant others, and seem to be weathering the occasional twists and turns of life reasonably well)

I also wonder if I’m thinking about this poem because I feel like I am running from a few ideas at the moment. I had a good conversation with a teacher friend yesterday about how I still can’t find a way to pull myself out of assessment driven teaching. How I am uncertain about how to build learning for L2 chemistry next year as the standards are changing. Have I, too, left the fox cub on the bridge and taken the ‘easier’ path that is safe and known??

And last, but not least, Dunedin poem, but Janet Frame. My favourite work of Janet Frame is excellently terrifying ‘The Bath’, but many of her poems pop into my head sometimes.

I thought of this poem yesterday, as I too went to the beach, and stared at the waves, and stood in the sun.

Screen Shot 2019-08-19 at 10.29.19 PM.png
Image credit – https://www.otago.ac.nz/library/exhibitions/burns/janetframe.html

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Modeling ‘microbes’

This year I ‘swapped’ classes to pick up a yr 7 class part way through the year. It has been an interesting challenge, for two reasons. 1) I have not taught yr 7 Science before, and 2) I found it ‘difficult’ to pick up a class when expectations and routines had already been set. It took a while before this class felt like ‘my class’, and that challenged me to think about the concept of ‘ownership’ of a class, and who should meet whos expectations.

Anyways, we have recently starting a topic on microbiology. After a typically energy filled monday lesson (For reasons I am still working on, when I have this class on a Monday they are such a different class to Tuesday. They take longer to settle, are disruptive, noisy, and just a bit off on a Monday compared to a Tuesday. I’m still working on the why, and trying to plan activities to make the most of it) I was a little apprehensive about how Tuesday would go – we were going to build some model bacteria based on what they had learned the day before.

And, to be honest, they blew me away. Absolutely blew me away. I had been convinced the lesson before had been a right off, and no-one had learned anything. But the class could tell be that a baceria had a cell wall, a cell membrane, some had flagella, some had a capsule, all the ‘stuff in the middle’ (DNA) and that funny c word (cytoplasm). So, despite the noise, and the seemingly off task carry on the day before, they had still mostly achieved the learning objectives around knowing what the parts of a bacteria were, and what they did.

And they made some fabulous model bacteria displaying these features, and as I went about the room we had some excellent discussions about what the different bits did.

 

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The girls that made this model not only listened the day before, but made different coloured sugar to bring to show the different layers….

 

So it was a really good reminder for me that, even though I know learning doesn’t need to be quiet or tidy, that in this case the students did really did learn while being noisy and slightly outrageous. And that many of them really enjoyed the chance to be creative and collaborative, rather than doing a work sheet or a computer animation. That even though I didn’t think they had listened, they had, and had taken on board the key points.

Well played yr 7, well played. Bring on bread mould this week.

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Redox demo

So, a short and sweet post about one of my favourite low tech demonstrations for redox – I don’t even know what it is called, and I learned it from the fabulous Murray Vickers who was my associate teacher when I was a trainee teacher 10 (oh my goodness 10!!) years ago. It is a really nice demonstration as it shows not just the reaction occurring, but can be linked back to the composition of the air we breathe and the different amounts of gas.

All you need to do is get some steel wool, and put it in the bottom of a longish thinish tube. I used a gas jar this time, but a measuring cylinder also works well. You then need to put some water in the tube, so that when you upend it, and stand it in a container of water, there is still some water in the tube. The pictures below show it much better than me trying to write it out. But you need just a little bit of water in the tube. I put a line around where the water level was at the start

 

The gear was then left over the weekend, and as the oxygen was used up the water rose up the gas jar.

 

And as you can see, the water has stopped about 20% of the way up. Because Nitrogen makes up almost 80% of the ‘air’, and oxygen is just over 20%, the reaction will have stopped/slowed because there is no oxygen left to react with the Fe (iron) in the steal wool.

Often reactions with gases are hard to visualise – we also burned steal wool (makes great wee sparks) and you can’t really ‘see’ the oxygen being reacted. In this cause, you still can’t ‘see’ it, but you can see that something has happened to the gases.

Posted in Digital Technologies, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Putting some technology into our digital technologies module

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

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

Planning for Practice

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

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And with a bit more detail, thanks to TKI

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

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

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

We got some nice examples of planning and work 🙂

 

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

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

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

Technological systems

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

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

And again some more details from TKI

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 9.16.10 PM

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

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

 

Progress outcomes for digitech

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

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

What the students thought

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

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 9.57.07 PM

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

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

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

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

Have fun

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Having a go with flipgrid to explain graphs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have fun

 

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Boiling water

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

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

‘I loved doing that in year 8’

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

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

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

 

 

Posted in Digital Technologies, random ramblings, Techie stuff

Reflections from the PPTA ICT committee meeting November

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

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

Round robin

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

Points of note were

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

And back to my ramblings 🙂

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

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

MoE digital strategy overview

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

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

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Sisi was put forward for the reasons below……

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And has been ‘rebranded’ as Te Rito

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

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

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

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And that the access and privacy need to be well managed

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

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

Some concerns and questions asked were along the lines on

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

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

IT support in schools

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

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

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

Tom Haig

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

 

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

 

Good luck for the new school year

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. spend some time learning how to identify plants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. How do we present our keys?

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

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

 

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

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

Have fun

 

 

 

Posted in Digital Technologies, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Integrating computational thinking – Mystery Skype.

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

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

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

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

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

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