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.

 

 

 

files
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.

edu features

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.

add ins grab.png

 

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 random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

I reckon you do this for the fun of it….

Right now it is 6:43 am and I am on a plane on my way to Wellington for the PPTA ICT meeting. I should be prepping (actually I should be sleeping) by reading all the info that has been sent to us that I hadn’t quite got to yet, and instead I am reflecting on something one of my students said to me yesterday.

You know Miss, I reckon sometimes you do this job just for the fun of it.

 

And I reckon she is right. And it was just what I needed to hear right then

 

For some context, this week has been madness. My hubby has had events on in the evening (bless toy library committee meetings and that he goes, I have ZERO tolerance for such examples of ‘engaged’ parenting), we have people from out of town coming by (and my house was not even good friend coming round not tidy, it was I can’t stand it disaster), sickness seems to have over taken the whole of Dunedin and I’ve been asked to do little bits if internal relief, reports are due (and who doesn’t love report writers block). I’ve had 2 after school meetings, plus one I just didn’t get to. Today I am in Wellington, so I had to set relief, get my reports done early (so staying up late to get them done…) and then be up at ridiculous o’clock to catch a plane. And yesterday I made time to pick up some extra glassware my students needed for the 3.1 Internal we are doing the practical for next week, and head into another school in Dunedin to have a looksy at how they are using Calendars as Kevin, Lyndon and I plot around updating our calendar and what we need it to do.

An upshot of going into the uni was I also picked up some dry ice for a student having their ‘class act’ photo shoot. (they asked for a chem text book, and I was like bugger that….let me find something better)(as another aside, Otago Uni and Dave Warren are so so so so awesomesauce for the support they offer for teachers and schools). So I had some ‘extra’ dry ice, and pulled it out at the end of a lesson on chemical reactions. Chemical reactions is a great Level one internal because there are loads of practicals, and so we had just finished burning sulfur in oxygen (you get an amazing purple flame) and steel wool in oxygen. The kids had gotten right into the gas jars, and using the fume hood to get rid of the sulfur dioxide gas (It really smells) and then when I pulled out the dry ice to ‘play’ with for the last 10 minutes they were over the moon. And at the end of the lesson, as I was struggling to get a beaker frozen to the desk off, and telling kids to stop pointing film canister ‘bombs’ at each other (they don’t fly very far, or very fast, but still, safety first) this kid came out with that.

I think it is easy to forget in a week where reports are due, when you need to pull extra activities or presentations out of no-where, when you are writing relief and preparing for field trips and writing proposals and and and……. that most of the time, teaching is really really fun. Young people are so full of energy, even when they creatively hide it in morose teenage angst. I am so lucky that the young people I work with (and the old ones too) mean that I have fun most days. And then my wee man, and the big one too, are mostly fun at home too. Even if the lego is starting to take over the house and we have ‘issues’ getting Mr 4 dressed in the morning.

It also what struck me is that this student didn’t quite know if it was a good thing that I did my job for ‘fun’. I’m not sure if this is a reflection on what students think work should be, or what fun should be, or if she just thinks I’m totally bonkers, or a mixture of all three. I still have this ‘issue’ of students not thinking they have ‘learned’ in my class, either because they have not written anything done, or because really they feel like they have just been playing around.

I think it also comes down to resilience. I find challenges fun, I like working on solutions, and the aha moments when ideas click into place. But of course challenges need to be achievable, or they can be overwhelming and motivation runs screaming. So something I want to think about in my classroom is around building the aspect of fun into failure and challenges and that you can learn that way. I’m not quite sure I even have the ideas right in my head about these two things link together, but pondering it this morning has given me a wee kickstart into being more explicit on the benefits of having a play and having fun.

And maybe, just maybe, this kid will see that you can be’ good’ at your job, be passionate about your job and have fun too – and she will find a job that allows her to do both.

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

‘That’ class… and no I don’t want a seating plan

I am a little ashamed to say that this year I have a ‘that’ class. The class I can’t seem to get to work. Despite careful planning, talking it through with my HoD and their year level dean, trying a few different things like shifting furniture or even classrooms, they are still ‘that’ class. The class I almost dread some days, the class I get frustrated with, the class I feel like I am being the least effective in, the class were I feel like I am so busy dealing with 1/3 of the class I just forget the other 2/3s…. the class I just haven’t got to gel yet.

It is a hard problem, and one I have been pondering – this class works ‘best’ when I have more ‘structure’. When I chunk tasks into 20 minute blocks, have the whole class writing quietly from the board, when I STRONGLY control practical tasks. I have ‘learned’ not to do practicals with them on a last period if I can help it. They all work quietly when doing tasks like cutting and pasting pieces of paper, or colouring things in, or wordfinds …. but then I lose the ‘spark’ – despite the ‘crazy’, this class can think.

And then I read the first two paragraphs and go there it a whole lot of ‘I’ in there. What is the class (that I am a part of) going to do to make our time together work better??

Among the ponderings around this is….

1) Why did I/do I resort to ‘structured’ traditional tasks for this class?

This answer is partly due to all of the advice I received when I was trying to talk through the issues I was having. Have you tried a seating plan is almost always the first thing anyone says. (I teach them in a ‘new lab’, so the tables often move anyway, but also NO, I want them to be in an environment that is comfortable for them and suits the task). Then it goes onto something like do you have a set routine? Do you have a settling activity?

Then it goes into if they work quietly while taking notes of the board, then why not give them notes off the board? And then I want to burn everything to the ground.

But also, the students like writing notes of the board – the quiet, diligent kids think this is what learning should look like, and the ‘anxious’ kids know nothing is going to be asked of them but mindless copying, and the ‘troublesome’ kids just draw pictures in their books. And I can use the ‘discipline referral system’ if I need to (and I have needed to….) Happy classrooms right.

Sigh

So for anyone reading – next time some-one asks about a difficulty in their class, please don’t ask if they have a seating plan 😉

2) How can the classroom expectations be made clear and stuck to.

As a class we have had some discussion around what we think is acceptable and not acceptable for learning. The class are actually surprisingly harsh on themselves when it comes to what they expect…. perhaps tying into them thinking that learning is writing in silence….

So changing that mindset while also maintaining security is a big challenge

The other challenge is managing responses to behaviour. How do you ignore unwanted behaviours? I think I speak for every teacher (or I hope I do) that sometimes it only takes that one kid to throw a whole lesson out of whack because of the response it generates. So how can those responses (including my own) be changed to support a better classroom culture.

3) How I can ensure I don’t miss the 2/3s of the class while dealing with the 1/3?

Because right now I know I am not being the best teacher I can be for that 2/3s. But I don’t quite know how to get around that. How do I ensure I provide fun, engaging, authentic learning for them, while ‘managing’ the other 1/3. Short answer is I can’t…. so how can I get it to be everyones job while still ensuring the get the support they need.

And why am I having to manage the others?? Why are the so disengaged from what we do?

 

An added challenge to this class is I have them for 2 hours a week. It is proving to be very challenging to build the type of relationships I would like in this 2 hours. And a kind colleague saying ‘well, you can suck it up for 2 hours a week, just don’t worry about it’ was not super helpful either…..

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The class loved drawing with chalk outside rather than in their books.

And today, when we did a slightly different activity, despite the noise, the disruption and the non-participants, there was some really good learning going on. Kids had learned some things. I am clinging to that glimmer of hope…. a gossamer thin glimmer at times, but still there….

So I am going to keep thinking, and keep trying with ‘that’ class. For the kids that keep trying to meet me half way. And for the kids that don’t too….

 

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Revision tools

Today in my yr 10 class we are doing some revision for an upcoming summative assessment on Monday. We still do paper tests… sigh. But practice makes perfect right 🙂 So as a class we were talking about some different ways we can do revision, and I think we came up with some pretty good ideas – and I hopefully got the idea across that just reading and rereading ‘notes’ is a passive way to learn and that trying to find more active revision activities has much more benefit.

Some of the ideas we came up with were

Make a podcast and listen to it; Make posters and make them your phone wallpaper; practice questions; use flashcards and get a friend/family to test you; kahoot quiz (this class LOVED kahoot quizes for learning electrical component names); writing notes over and over; writing notes and then trying to write them again from memory and then filling in the gaps and trying again; online animations like PHeT; youtube videos; mind maps and graphic organisers; making acronyms or rhymes…..

Which I thought was a pretty good list really – and I was super stoked that no-one said highlighting. (still had the writing notes in there… but baby steps…)

To try and have a new take on writing notes, I suggested little books. I really don’t make these enough – But I think they are a great way to get lots of ideas condensed into a small space, and almost force people to process the notes they are writing. The are low tech, low cost, and meet the needs of the students who NEED notes while still not just being copy stuff straight down because there is not enough space (some still just right REALLY REALLY small though……)

To make a little book, all you need to do is take a piece of paper, like an A4, and fold it in half and in half again.

Then fold it in half long ways (or just fold it so you have 8 folds 🙂 )

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Then cut the middle fold

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Then fold it up, the trick is to have the ‘connected’ bits on opposite sides.

And then you have a little book that you can make notes into. I encouraged kids that liked them to make on for each topic – then when it comes time for the end of year exam, they will already have a good start on some revision material. Girls in particular seem to like them, but even a couple of the boys gave them a go today.

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Reflections from the April PPTA ICT meeting

(Please note – these musings are my own thoughts, and while I have done my best to accurately portray what was said, they are my interpretations and I have possibly misheard or misrepresented. Please get in touch if I have. I am happy to provide any more info, or put you in touch with people who might know, if you would like any more information. And I am really happy to take any concerns, questions or success stories you have to this forum)

Friday April 7 took me to Wellington for the first PPTA ICT meeting for the year. This group of the PPTA meets 3 times a year, as well as e-mail correspondence in between times, to took over any ICT issues that PPTA members may have, or to provide a sounding board for various agencies, government departments etc. It is a varied committee, with representatives from all the different regions, PPTA exec and field officers, Te Kura, low decile etc. On top of that, it seemed that everyone’s school was using a slightly different system or had a different policy, so I think the group is reasonably representative, even if they are not able to gather voices from lots of places (I know from my brief experience on this committee of 8 weeks that it is hard to get your voice out there)

The agenda was as follows

Round robin – using a shared doc, each member highlighted key issues or ideas relevant to them. It was a great way to get a lot of information and ideas out quickly. The points that I picked up were

  • Online moderation – how do we get files to NZQA? What about large files, or ‘fussy’ files like garageband?
  • SMS compatibility is still a large issue in some schools – sharing information a challenge
  • Wireless access in schools is still an issue – N4L gets to the gate, but the infrastructure isn’t always within the school.
  • Still concerns with teachers not keeping themselves safe in online environments – digital citizenship is not just for students.

TELA – representatives came from TELA to again talk about device choices in schools for staff. This is an ongoing issue for me, having initially raised it last year and I have learned a lot more about it, as well as learning more at the meeting and being reminded that TELA is NOT responsible for staff PLD!! It would seem that the issue around equitable devices for teachers is a multi headed hydra of regulation, funding and departments.

 

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I am not a great sketch artist, but this was my sketch in my notes during the TELA discussion – lots of different challenges to face around getting equitable device access for NZ teachers

 

That said, the contract renewal process is underway, so it is a good time for them to be talking with us. Some basic stats – TELA has over 47,000 laptops in the scheme, 99% of schools in NZ (27 schools don’t and they don’t know why). Almost half of the devices are HP, with around 30% Apple and the rest Toshiba. Schools are FREE TO CHOOSE – but many staff in schools are not. There was an animated discussion around are teachers in school digitally literate enough to know what device would best suit their needs if they were given a choice, or would everyone just want ‘the best one’ regardless of how they used it. The flip argument being that ‘innovative’ teachers are being restricted by this policy, or (more often) an overworked IT admin is a school makes everyone the same because it makes their job easier. Ideas were mooted around allowing teachers to order there own devices, but this would make it hard for schools to budget around devices. There was also issues with the devices being tied to the school rather than the teacher when teacher changed schools – often staff will inherit a machine that may not be suitable to them but not have an option to renew for a year or 18 months.

And then there are some schools who charge teachers.

So it is a difficult issue. But an important one, and TELA are coming back, but I am thinking about others ways I can raise the device issue (and lack of training provided for devices given)

Update on Digital Technologies Curriculum – This again was an interesting discussion. It would seem the many schools are simply ignoring the update and the ministry has not yet answered the ‘compulsory’ aspect. However, there are roadmaps in place for digital tech Achievement standards, so it may well (sadly) be the cart that leads the horse in the curriculum strand implementation in schools – or a visit or scolding from ERO!!! There is confusion around digital fluency – what exactly is meant for this term. Also big concerns around infrastructure and staff PD. Sadly (In my opinion) there seems to be some resistance to this becoming a more academic subject as robotics or ‘ICT’ classes which are more about formatting word documents and secretarial skills are ‘dumping’ grounds for less able students. There are also concerns about ‘teachers’ to teach the courses – what PLD is available and how will schools access it. And of course, as nothing it being taking out of the curriculum, what will have less time if digital tech is bought in.

Personally, I think there is a need for these courses. In terms of junior school, it is not hard to incorporate some hour of code (or similar) into a course, a wee bit of robotics here and there, something small like a microbit could be incorporated in maths really easily – even just making a dice for ‘chance’. For seniors, there is more need for a specialist teacher, but more importantly teachers who are willing to learn along side their students, as many students are far more skilled than teachers know. I learned this last year with my yr 10s setting up a minecraft server – they left me far behind. Which was ok.

20/20 Trust

Stephen Carr came to talk to us about changes occurring – but many of them were confidential so I can’t talk about them here.

One thing that I can share is the spark jump modem. Which is a subsidised modem to help breach the digital divide. It is prepaid, doesn’t require a deposit or credit check, and could be really useful for families, or in situations like school kids going to stay with their grandparents for a short time, so rather than get a permanent internet connection you can get something like this.

BYOD resourcing  – There was a discussion around BYOD resourcing and how to manage this. Legally, schools can not insist that a device is part of a students stationary, as every student is entitled to a free education. Practically, this is a really difficult issue, as different schools and different deciles can (and do) have different policies, access and requirements. This lead to some interesting discussions around lots of side issues – for instance, some schools do not allow laptops to be charged at school as the power chords have not been safety tested. (I wondered about this for our school – I know all the ‘Science’ gear like hot plates and soldering irons get tested every year, but I don’t think laptops do….). Other issues, like WINZ will forward a payment so a family can buy a device on a stationary list, but not cover it.

And then there is the idea of what device specifications are ok. In a truely heart breaking discussion (fro my perspective) it appears that in a perfect example of the cart leading the horse, the device choice could be decide by the digital assessment requirements once digital assessment is online (2020 is still the aim I think). (I got a bit frustrated with this)

It again highlights the lack of training for staff and direction for schools – saying a school is BYOD is one thing, but implementing it and having staff well trained in both technical aspects as well as the big broad why do it is seemingly still very distant. I know myself I am guilty of using a digital textbook as a substitute rather than a transformative learning experience.

Cools update – was a slightly heated discussion – mostly based around the fact the online learning communities already exist and work very well. Why change them you ask??? I don’t know. (A really key idea I took from this was a move by ‘online educators’ to start calling their courses online learning, rather than ‘video conferencing’. VC is the tool, not the learning. I thought this a really subtle but important point.)

But it seems this idea is gathering steam and rolling on through. It seems clear the government wants COOLS to be regulated, there are accessibility issues (eg you need to have internet access, so it might immediately exclude students without this, either due to geographical location (I hadn’t thought about kids living on boats before…)or lack of funds). Who will staff them, who will attend them and how they will work is still up in the air I think.

Other random thoughts/ideas/news

There was a small amount of talk around SMS databases and SISI (student information sharing initiative) which all sounds like it is coming from the right place – although maybe limited to COLS. There was also some talk of RTLB teachers being linked to COLS also, but I am not sure where this comes from and/or when it would happening.

Teacher council criteria was briefly discussed – as always when you give examples there are some that seem to restrictive and some that seem to vague. But streamlining the criteria seems like a good idea to me – you can check it out yourself HERE and feedback (before April 21 2017) HERE

 

So it was a really interesting meeting for me personally, I have had a lot of thinking about it over the last few days, and I can see there is still a lot to do.

Again I welcome any comments, issues or ideas if you would like me to take them to this group, and again repeat that these are my own thoughts on the process and I am happy to be corrected or put you in touch with people if you like.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

New Onenote Addins (stickers, forms and immersive reader) are making me smile

I am already a big fan of Microsoft OneNote. My school uses OneNote with most of our classes, and our Science department in particular has shared Onenote resources stored on our share point site. We are using Microsoft Classroom, which makes the classnotebook really easy (as long as you go to the manage tab in classroom) and the students can always find them. Distributing work to the class, or groups of students is easy, and really helpful for setting relief. As we are not a BYOD school, the new addins for the online version of onenote are especially useful.  (On a side note, I am at times frustrated with the difference between OneNote desktop, the OneNote App and the online version… hopefully they might be all the same soon. Still love onenote though). Our students like OneNote because it keeps everything in the one place, and works well with the Office 365 suite of apps. So far I have had a play with stickers, the forms add in, and the online immersive reader.

Stickers

This tool is fun, and my juniors in particular love it. There are stickers that are customisable so you can tailor feedback. So while not super efficient, or super powered pedagogy, they are fun for the teacher and the students, who enjoyed seeing them on there work. Even the boys liked them 🙂

An example of the feedback I gave to students reflections on the topic. I also used the voice recording option with inking.

Forms addin

This is mostly just a time saver – it is really convenient to just click the button and add the form. If you have one already made up, you can slot it in there. Or you can make a new one. Making a new form opens a new tab – it would have been super nice to have it in the same side bar so you could look at the content on the page as you write the questions. That said, it is super easy to split the screen (especially on the surface) and get the same effect when writing the form.

I like using forms for quick formative assessment on content – it means I have more time to talk to students during class while still getting that data to inform my next teaching steps.

Immersive reader

I have already gushed about the learning tools function in OneNote and the other accessibility option that are coming for the Office 365 suite of software. But with this now being available in OneNote online (and word online) it is now so much more accessible for our students to use – again coming back to we are not BYOD so having the tools online is so valuable. They flexibility of this tool is amazing, with a click or two you can change background colour, font, font size and spacing, and highlight part of speech

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the tool captures the text on the page, and give you options to change it
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You can easily change the back ground colour and spacing
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There is a read aloud option, and you can make the voice go fast or slow
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You can also ID parts of speech

I am currently working with our RTLB (resource teacher – learning and behaviour) for how this tool can help students with learning difficulties access the material, and have been really impressed with how staff at my school are already using this tool (especially our ‘shop’ teacher who won’t let me specifically share his work, but he is doing amazing things with some of his students to help them get trade qualifications and a real sense of achievement and success)

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 Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Saving time with collaborative planning on Sharepoint and Onenote

(I need to acknowledge the significant amounts of work done by the Science department of my school in getting this set up, especially Kevin for his work on Sharepoint and Ryan for his work with OneNote and the unit plans, and EVERYONE for being willing to go along with this and make it AWESOME)

At the end of last year, our department made a considerable push to update our unit plans and rejig our junior science programs. A big part of this was planning for the use of Microsoft Classroom in our school, and taking advantage of all of the features of the classbook that came automatically with each classroom. To this end, we have a staff portal on sharepoint with a ‘master’ Onenote that staff can take content from and easily add to their individual class note books, while still having access to shared resources to personalise as required for students particular levels or interests. It also allows for new or different resources and ideas to be added. It has saved an AMAZING amount of time having this back of resources all set up before we even started for the year.

The Teacher ‘Hub’

We have a pretty amazing Science set up on Sharepoint – we can book equipment, find our SMUS (safe method of use sheets), find curriculum reports etc… as well as a bank of resources for our classes.

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The Coffee cup takes you to the booking site for our amazing tech 🙂
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Our junior sci home page – almost everything you need for any of these classes

We updated our unit plans to include live links to any documents, videos or animations you might use with your classes.

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And have set up a conbines OneNote stored on the site that has a bank of resources also – which means you can copy the page into your classbook content library, and then students will have their own copy almost instantly after you have clicked the button.

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Need the admin stuff – it is all right there….
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Want the kids to do an interactive – a few clicks and they can have their own copy!!

So it doesn’t matter if it is an admin page (Like a year plan…) or sharing an interactive activity, it is all there and with maybe 4 mouse clicks, your students all have their own copies.

This has made the start of the year so easy. These digital portfolios were made in minutes for whole classes of students. Because the students had been entered into Microsoft classroom, teachers didn’t even have to manually enter students into the class notebooks. For the staff new to our department there was a ready made first few lessons for them while they came to grips with everything else. For our non-specialist science teachers, there was a range of resources they could just grab, whih gives them more time to explore any more indepth questions the class has.

For me, it has meant I already have a baseline. So I was able to spend more time getting to know my students, establish those relationship and find resources or learning activites specific to them. I am hoping that by the end of the first term, I won’t need to be finding the resources at all, the students will be able to find them or make their own. Which can then be shared in the collaboration space as meaningful activities to them.

Bring it!!

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

‘Bugger the boxing….’ (a presentation from Ian Taylor from Animation Research)

One of the ‘perks’ (and there are many) of being Camp Manager (Camp Mum) for Hands on at Otago is I get to go to an amazing public lecture. This years speaker was Ian Taylor, whose company Animation research LTD does a whole lot of really cool graphics for sports events amongst other things. His talk was AWESOME, and for me the idea of never stop dreaming really hit home.

Ian started by talking about his ‘literal’ light bulb moment – the moment when he was 7 years old and his house was connected to electricity for the first time. (We also got a pretyt cool animated journey to see his old house….) He said when he saw the light bulb go on he knew that anything was possible. He went on to say that we need to use our experiences to inform our paths going forward. I am sure the way he talked through this would mean something different for everybody – for me it was learning from your mistakes, never forget where you come from, and don’t be afraid to add a new footprint to your journey.

He also talked about how all through his adult life, he had to think around issues, or almost just ignore them, and find a way around it to get what he wanted. He dreamed of being in a band, so he leapt at the chance when it came up (and the band was called Kal-q-lated risk, which pretty much sums up his whole story). He had just finished a law degree, but got offered a position in TV, so went for it. While reading the news (the video of him doing so was an absolute crack up) he introduced a segment on digital technology and thought I need to get into that. And so he did. By dreaming big and not being afraid he has had an amazing array of experiences through his life – his stepping stones are varied and full of detours.

 

Ian also talked about the importance of paying it forward. How kind deeds or freebies are often the best way to get future business, or just build up a reputation. He talked over his lack of a business poker face when talking over money, which meant he was respected and people trusted him when he talked about costs. And he was big on the impact of technology on health, and how technology is not all just whizz bang, we should not forget that without the human spirit, technology is nothing.

 

An example he gave of the can do attitude of his team – they built a cricket pitch out of cardboard and used JAFA’s as cricket balls in the early R&D for ball tracking.

The part of his talk that stood out for me the most was a quote that is their ‘business philosophy’

‘Bugger the boxing, pout the concrete anyway’

I was so intent on what he was saying I didn’t even take a photo!! but it was an amazing idea of if you plan too closely, you can lose the ability and opportunity to do other amazing things. That he who hesitates is lost. And sometimes sidetracks, diversions and failures can lead to amazing things.

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Image source – this is an example of boxing to hold concrete until it sets…

For my experiences, this really resonates. I have been frustrated over plans, documentations, forms and expectations. Really, bugger the boxes. Learning will lead where it will, as will life, if we let it. If we follow dreams and ideas, they can lead to beautiful creations.

So this idea is going to be somewhat of a mantra for me this year. I know schools are very different to private companies…. and that I do have a ‘duty of care’ to lots of different sources, and that some jobs do require more structure than others. But when it comes to those jobs where I could ignore the boxes, I am going to make more of a concerted effort to do so. Ian said he worked with an incredibly team who’s standard reply to any request, no matter how out there was ‘I don’t see why not’. So why can’t I do them same.

So thanks Ian Taylor for sharing all your ideas and your enthusiasm for technology. It reignited a spark…. and I can not thank you enough. I will keep dreaming and learn how to pour some concrete

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

On St John’s people and the ‘power of one’

Over the holidays I have taken great pleasure in 1) having a holiday and 2) reading lots of books as I unpacked the last few boxes from our shift last October. One of these books was the Power of One by Bryce Courtney – an old favourite. But (as with all good books I guess) this time I picked something else out of it, which was about ‘St John’s’ people at Peekay’s school.

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This is the only real mention of the role of St John’s People in the book, other than Peekay and Hymie making money of the ‘scam’ for the betting on places.

It got me thinking about my ‘crew’ of kids. Maybe we all have them, or maybe I am alone in having a few kids that I seem to be able to do more for. I don’t like to use the word favourite, but I guess in that traditional sense they could be. The ones that pop in during a break to ask a question, make a point of trying something different or being brave,  or email me links to coding tutorials during their holidays (thanks Ben), or makes silver nitrate (amongst other things) in their own ‘lab’ at home. A couple of them probably don’t even realise I go out of my way to catch up with them, or check in on them (these tend to be the ones not doing so well…….)

Because these are the kids I am especially excited to teach. In fact, some of them aren’t even in my classes, but I will see them round school and have some sort of conversation. I might have them in previous years, or just bumped into them some-how. Some of them are the kids that ‘are fine in my class’ but not in others that drive so many teachers bonkers.

So, I started to wonder if I was to like Singe ‘n Burn, and neglecting the many for the few. Not deliberately, or as focussed as Singe ‘n Burn perhaps (there is certainly no interview process) but subtly am I putting more effort into these few students at the cost of others.

Or is it simply that these kids are demanding more effort because I can support them in ways that other teachers can’t? I am sure that there are other students interested in other things who connect with other teachers out there – perhaps not even at school but a sports coach etc.

And then the question rattling around in my brain is does it matter? Does it matter if I put a little more time and effort into 5-15 kids out of my ‘140’ odd in my classes. If I am making sure I am still doing the best job possible for all my students, then I suppose it doesn’t matter if I make more of an impact on some than others. There are always going to be students who prefer another teaching style, or just another teacher. Beating myself up over this is pointless and unhelpful – I just need to do my best for each student as I find them. With this in mind, I guess it is perfectly fine to do more for some than others, so long as I keep in mind to not let the many suffer for the few.

So I will keep thinking about my crew – how can I extend them and nurture them, while not making a big deal of it or being exclusive of others, or at the expense of others, or at the expense of myself. But I am certainly looking forward to seeing them in Term 1 and putting some ideas into shape for what 2017 can bring for them.

That is not to lessen the all important challenge of how can I impact those students ‘who come with minds already narrowed’, who I am ‘forced to fatten with sufficient information to pass the matriculation exams’ to quote Peekay’s reflections on education in the 1940’s. Doesn’t sound all that different to now does it………