I’m not super sure when I first heard the term Computational thinking, but the first time I took proper notice of it was in March this year when I was fortunate enough to hear Lisa Anne Floyd speaking at E2 this year. Even then, I thought, this is nice, this is a way to get people thinking about thinking and problem solving, rather than, this is life changing. But as I have delved a little deeper and been planing our digitech module for next year, I’m really liking the ideas behind computational thinking, and the links I can make to multiple other ‘thinking’ thunks, like Nature of Science, or using taxonomies. To my mind, the ‘computational thinking’ strategies seem a little more visible, maybe because they are based around problems and finding solutions, rather than just meta cognition and thinking about thinking. I then read this fabulous paper about a pedagogical framework for computational thinking which got me onto other papers and other ideas.
So what is computational thinking? There are lots of fancy definitions, like this one
So, how can I link this to my ‘Science lessons’? Lets say I want to know how the pH of an acid effects how quickly a piece of magnesium corrodes. There are various ways I can measure this . -how long it takes for a piece of Magnesium metal to disappear. Or how long it takes for a jar or test tube filled with water to be displaced by Hydrogen gas. I would need to ensure both of these measures were ‘fair’ so I could need to use pieces of Magnesium that were not only the same mass, but they same surface area. i would need to start the stopwatch at the same time and stop it at the same time. I would need to use the same gas jar or same water displacement to measure Hydrogen production. I would need to do a test run to check I could accurately measure the timings or that the volumes produced where sensible.
And then you get to the fun stuff of how do you accurately measure the pH of a solution anyway? In junior school we use universal indicator, but when you get into the senior school this isn’t specific enough – both HCl (a strong acid) and CH3COOH ( a weak acid) turn red in universal indicator. Yet CH3COOH has a lower pH because not as many Hydrogen ion dissociate, which you can pick up using a pH probe or different indicators. So while 10mL of 1 mol/L HCl and 10mL of 1mol/L CH3COOH will make the same mass of magnesium metal corrode and disappear, and the same amount of Hydrogen gas to be produced, the HCl will happen much faster, due to the lower pH/high concentration of reactive particles in the solution. Or do I just use different concentrations of HCl and test the impact of decreasing pH that way?
If you don’t teach Science, chances are the above 2 paragraphs make no sense at all. Even though I am pretty confident that every student in NZ in the last 60 years has put some magnesium metal in some acid and maybe done a pop test, you are definitely excused for not following
So if I put these steps into a flow chart, they become clearer…. and the steps required to determine each factor that might impact the conclusion become more explicit. And like the friendship algorithm above, it can be amended or changed if the process doesn’t work. The ability for iteration to be used and not perceived as a failure is massive.
So while this might not have been the best or clearest example to use, it is one that came to mind. A simple junior science experiment that is actually a lot more complex than it appears, or we even teach it. And when I ask my yr 13 chemistry students to do this, they get a bit a stumped. They have been taught fair testing in terms of nature of Science, but not how to go back and find a solution is the results are inconclusive, or what processes are available to find solutions.
I think these also applies to writing frames and other tools we use to organise our students thoughts, and try to get them to think about their thinking. Perhaps I have been using aspects of computational thinking all along with out realising it, but this now just means I can refine it and make it more explicit when I am trying to get my kids thinking ‘scientifically’ and following a process.
And this isn’t to say that computational thinking is the answer to everything. One thing I really like is the idea (to quote my colleague Kevin) if you can put a problem into a flowchart, a computer can solve it. If you can’t, then the problem needs a person (or several people). People have the ability to think creatively, which is also so important to problem solving, but only if you have a robust system in place to identify the problem.
I’ve read some ‘troubling’ things in the last week around education. I guess being election time socio economic issues and education are more in the news than usual. It has got me thinking again about change in schools, how to manage it, what is important… but also what change needs to happen in our society and culture to make those changes stick. There is such a big difference between have and have nots. In society, between schools, within schools and even within classrooms.
At the moment, I don’t see much happening to bring these closer together.
Which is where my ‘lone nut’ comes in. The ‘crazy’ person every school needs, who is relentless in pursuit of some goal to make a positive difference.
The first article I read was this one, about working in a decile one school. About how we are still failing our most vulnerable kids. There lives outside of school are such a barrier to learning in school. The lack of hope is so soul destroying. I have a friend who moved to Dunedin after a stint in a decile 1 school just out of Auckland, and some of her stories just horrify me. She still doesn’t get how we just pitch in and help each other down here, even if you are at a different school – she is so used to everyone being in full on survival mode with no extra room to help out.
I’m also really worried about how vulnerable schools are getting the least experienced and least trained teachers.
Who is going to help these teachers learn on the job? If there is such a massive turnover, there will be no experience to lend to new teachers. Many of these teachers are bonded for 2 years and then leave. One mentioned in the above article was leaving to retrain….. I suppose it has always happened, that the ‘best’ teachers have always been pulled into private schools, or into ‘better’ state schools, or out of the class room and into ‘the corridor’ but I feel like more and more ‘innovative’ ‘lone nut’ teachers are being pulled into spaces like HPSS, Rototuna, Rolleston Horoeka and now a new ‘school’…..
Because then I read about City Senior School. I love the concept, really I do (except maybe boot camp, but maybe I would benefit from some ‘enforced’ voluntary fitness)… and perhaps part of me wishes I was that brave.
However, I am really struggling to understand why that money is going to go to 300 odd kids, when I pretty sure it could have been spread around a bit and impacted a whole LOAD more. And yes, this is addresses in the post – and maybe there is a place for a prototype school. A proof of concept perhaps. But there are also loads of different types of schools in NZ – unlimited springs to mind, and I went to Hagley for 7th form in 1999 and had english once a week for 3 hours and it rocked…..actually watching a movie in one go made life way nicer. So alternative models are not new. Schools like Albany Secondary, or HPSS are shaking things up, and have not had a systemic change on a wide range of schools. Will another prototype achieve this?
I’m also jealous it is another example in the ’09’. Good ole sunny Dunedin won’t be getting a new school any time soon, and several of the local schools have been closed/combined or under CAPNA in recent years. Geographically speaking, where you live can have a massive impact on what opportunities you have. Two students jump into my mind who would both LOVE and hugely benefit from this type of school. How will the students be selected?
On the industry partners…. I’m not sure this is that ‘new’. Back in 1996 I think, I was involved with an extension sci program while I was a student at Lincoln High school. I visited a lecturer a couple of times as part of that project, as did my class. My school does the same thing with GATE science students – for example one BLIS technologies will mentor students. I have a student in yr 13 who travels into the uni to visit the Chem dept for some extension. After bagging Dunedin’s geographic location, we are lucky we have lots of places who will help students out if you ask. And we have some top notch techie companies too 🙂 So maybe it is not standard, but if my school can do it surely most could. Except again for those who are really isolated, either by funding or by geography.
I also think that it is one thing to bring this type of learning into a new place, and a completely different thing to be changed in an established, traditional space. With older style building and furniture. Or parents who are cautious around technology. Or kids who comes to school because they get food. Or schools who are isolated with small rolls and one Science teacher. Or schools with teachers less confident around trying new things.
Because, of course, this new school will be recruiting ‘excellent educators.
So some schools will ‘lose’ these excellent educators… and what happens to those they leave behind? they get a teacher with 6 weeks training on the teach first program? Or, they need to limit option lines, or get a ‘less’ excellent teacher. The teacher shortage is becoming more recognised. Especially in the ‘STEM’ subjects. Sigh.
Bonus of being able to teacher Chem, Bio, Sci and Maths with a twist of digital technologies/coding and a passion for helping others use technology better – I’m pretty sure I’d have to try REALLY hard to get fired. 🙂
I then read this article about Haeata in Christchurch. It made me soooo frustrated. I know some of the educators at Haeata and how desperately hard they are working. How passionate they are about their school and their learners. Unlike some of the other new schools in NZ, these guys opened on day one with yr 1-13, with nearly a thousand kids. All the politics that went with the closure of schools in one of the most deprived areas of Christchurch. Of course the school is not perfect, because nothing is perfect. Kids thinking they need to take weapons to school is not ok. But I’m fairly certain this won’t be the only case in NZ, and it is probably again happening more in lower decile schools.
The other thing to remember is schools are run for people, by people, and people are messy. Wonderful, creative, hardworking, confused, disengaged, angry, MESSY. Teachers are all these things too. It interests me how highly teachers behavioural standards are held – and rightly so in some areas. But the expectation of professionalism is not always meet by the level of respect for the profession, the training and support provided for people in the profession, and in the pay packets on those in the profession. When I tell people I am a ‘teacher’ it is generally meet with either a ‘so, are you on holiday then’? or a horror story of the ‘worst teacher in the whole world’. Sigh
And then there is this story full of hope from Nelson. Getting kids feed, in the proper clothes and feeling like the belong, and what do you know, they come to school! They start to engage. The most vulnerable students achieving success – perhaps not in the traditional academic sense, but really does that matter?? There is a focus on hygiene for these learners!! They are happier and healthier and feel more valued. How can we build more places like this for our most vulnerable learners, rather than the proposed ‘bootcamps’…
How can we justify having such disparity between our schools?
My school is decile 7 (although we will do ‘better’ under the new funding scheme) and we have some problems. To quote a colleague we may not be perfect, but we try damned hard to help every kid. Since writing this post about kids falling through cracks, more students have left. One in particular rattled me…a yr13 student left for a job – I’m not going to uni so why stay here? was her answer to my almost begging her to stay. And she is doing well in the job, and enjoying it, so maybe it was the best thing for her.
My school is changing though. The changes might be ‘glacial’ but they are happening. We are quietly doing out best to respond to students needs, we are listening to our community. IMHO, our ‘corridor’ are still a little reactive rather than visionary (please don’t fire me…) but there are definitely strategies in place to try and get a culture shift. Teachers have the freedom to try new things. We are slowly breaking down the ‘just’ us barrier that kids put up when they compare us to the ‘town’ schools. We try really hard to meet kids needs, whether that be freshly cooked cheese toasties for breakfast, screaming internally and staying relentlessly positive with that class, or sending a kid into the uni once a week for extension. Watching football in the rain for a kid who told you to ‘get lost’ that day.
In my campaign around getting more equitable access to devices through the TELA laptop scheme (hopefully some of this will come through in feb, and I’m going to keep chipping away) I was horrified to learn than teachers in different schools have such a disparity in their access to tech support device choices, software to install. I am constantly saddened by the ‘tightness’ of our schools PLD budget – hence my passion for free PLD, tweetmeets etc – and wonder how many other thousand teachers are in the same boat as me but don’t know about the free stuff. Or perhaps don’t have the same supportive family set up that I do, so I can spend an hour of twitter instead of reading bed time stories that night. I know not every person has that luxury.
So, as I reflect on those four articles/blogs, and others I have seen recently, I worry for education in New Zealand. So many kids are hungry, cold and sick. Some are parenting younger siblings, some are looking after other family. Some are so anxious about results and their future they can barely think about right now. Many are working long hours in ‘part time’ jobs. Some of them are at my school. I suspect there are many more in many schools around New Zealand.
And so many teachers are leaving. Last year I wrote this blog about some amazing educators flying away from the classroom, and still more have left. I have a constant internal battle about where I could be the most valuable…. in ‘the corridor’ (if I got a job…) I’d have more ‘clout’ so more of my ideas could be implemented, or if I went to work for a PLD provider (if they would have me) I could impact loads of teachers and possibly impact way more more kids. If I worked for the ministry (hahahhahahaahhaaaaa) I could possible change EVERYTHING and then I have weird day dreams about what I would be if I was education minister.
And then I set fire to something in my classroom, or help a kid with something, watch my students participate in global projects, or make slime/sliver mirrors/a robot dance/anything in minecraft, or a thousand little things that make connections and learning and a difference, and I decide to maybe hang around a bit longer 🙂
And be thankful for the people out there, like me, the ‘not so lone nuts’ who are working in ‘normal’ ‘messy’ ‘faultless in spite of all their faults’ schools (I do like me some Jane Austen) and doing their best to quietly change the lives of the students who come into their classroom for the better. Who have a box of muesli bars for hungry kids, or who buy a box of pens for the start of each term, or who pushes their kids to new heights, or who ignores their own kids while driving others around to sports. Who give new things a go, whether on paper, on a computer, in a sports field or in a staff meeting.To all the ‘invisible’ educators, the ‘just a teachers’, I see you, and I thank you for all that you do.
The New Zealand curriculum got an update of sorts recently with the introduction of a new digital technologies strand. As a teacher interested in using digital technologies to enhance learning, I was really quite excited to see what it would look like, and how it might be integrated into the curriculum. The NZC digital technologies strand was released with much fanfare but (IMHO) limited information for what it might look like for schools. Through my roll with the PPTA ICT committee, I have heard a bit more about the process and am in awe of the people who have been working incredibly hard behind the scenes – especially it seems to have been a made rush to prepare some draft NCEA Digital technology standards for term three this year. I have meet some people at workshops and online who have been generous with their time and ideas. We (my school partner in crime Kevin) and I have come up with some ideas about how we can introduce digital technologies into our school as a module for yr 7 & 8 students, what we are hoping the students will get out of it, and how we think it fits into the goals of the standard. I am really stoked our principal is using this as an opportunity to reflect on technology teaching school wide rather than just putting it in the technology department bucket, and we are possibly looking to review this in the next year or so. He also is of the view that all teachers need to be teachers of technology, not just the ‘technology’ subject teachers. (Hope you don’t mind my quoting you boss man)
This blog is to try and cement some of the ideas in my head after percolating some of the info I’ve read and reread over the holidays, to share some of my thinking and hopefully get some feedback on what other people/schools are doing and how we might improve our plans.
Where did I get the information…
if you have some resources – please feel free to share them and I will add to this list 🙂
Finding (useful/readable) information on the curriculum proved a bit of a challenge – that really is ongoing because the curriculum is still in draft form and this is quite recent. So get in and read up and get some feedback in HERE!!
There are some workshops being held around the country, so if you haven’t seen them and want to go, the info is HERE.
Currently, the learning progressions are in draft form (see the link above to submit feedback) and you can check out the ‘NCEA’ levels HERE, (This link came from THIS TKI site). (Incidentally, learning progressions is going to be put in curriculum wide… rather than curriculum levels – a tidbit from the PPTA ICT meeting)
This page is particularly important for us thinking around our course for yr 8.
And to put it in simpler terms, this is the best diagram I have seen (it makes sense to me) for how we wrap those thing together
(This is a screenshot, and a thousand apologies, but I can’t find the original link to the article…..)
How does digital fluency and computational thinking tie in?????
So, to me, computational thinking is just another way of talking about thinking critically, and it strongly ties in for what we are also trying to achieve with the Nature of Science and science capabilities. I wonder if really we could simply say, lets try and get kids thinking!! (shock horror). Because it might be nature of science in Science, computational thinking in digital technologies, algebra in maths, design process and prototyping in fabric tech or DVC etc…..
But back to the task, there are some lovely resources about computational thinking on the TKI page, including the video below
Digital fluency is a slightly different beastie, here is a snapshot from the same TKI page
So digital fluency is not just about using the computers, it is about everything. And this is where I think my principal hit it on the head when he said ALL teachers need to be teachers of technology. We need to be able to apply different technologies to our different specialities and then explain why they give us a desired outcome.
So we want to be encouraging our students to think critically about the technology they are using to complete tasks, have an understanding of the limitations and strengths of those technologies, and how to create their own digital solutions to problems.
Sounds easy right….
Our plan is for a module for Year 8 (and possibly yr 7 too if we can squeeze it into the best that is timetabling in a secondary school) that will have approximately 32 lessons/hours (depending on the timetable. We have a very loose plan at the moment…. mostly because 1) we aren’t sure who will be teaching it, although Kevin and I would like to teach it together – perhaps 2 hours a week each… again depending on the timetable… 2) We are not super sure of the skills the students will bring with them (sounds a bit like students coming in fresh to Science classes right… ) 3) we are waiting to see if we can get all the licences, resources etc we need.
If we get a course at Yr 7 too, we would re jig both programs so there was also an explicit focus for some of the course on the digital applications and devices/infrastructure themes we have ignored below.
Rationale behind our choices….
Without wanting to sound too much like I am getting paid (which I am not) by micro:bits, they are easy, not too expensive (about $30 each) and they are web based so it doesn’t really matter what devices you have to use them on. We ordered some from HERE, and hats off to PB tech, they arrived in a week. I attended a session on the microbits at E2, and was really impressed. I bought the one I was given home, and the kids who had a play were also really impressed.
Then I handed it to Kevin, and didn’t get it back 🙂
Some other advantages include you can see the ‘prototype’ on the coding screen, so students could also build code at home, then bring it to school to see if it worked, or you can debug before you download the code, and you can alternate between a drag and drop and java code etc.
Why Minecraft? Mostly because WHO does LOVE minecraft!!!!! But the education edition is a really nice way to ease into coding, and games for learning too. I know some of our students love using minecraft, while some are not so keen, so really it would just be another tool in this tool box to try and engage as many learners as possible. The biggest issue with this will be having enough mice – playing minecraft with a laptop trackpad is not the same as playing with a proper mouse. So this will impact where we can take these lessons, and depend on what we can organise. That said, I’m sure we can find some old mice somewhere to use.
We are deliberately steering clear of Scratch as it is part of the yr 9 program on information management all students at our school do. So trying not to double dip on the tools. That said, if a student wanted to play, we wouldn’t stop them.
We will also look at using hour of code for some extension acitivities – mostly because the game design is very explicit in the tutorials. I have used hour of code in my science classes a few times, and most students really enjoy it, and all of them like playing the games the all make. This also has the advantage of being available in different languages.
I got the idea of the post it notes game from Julie during the OMG tech rangers day I went to earlier in the year. She explained how she gets her yr 8 students to make a binary alphabet, and then write a post it note with their name and something about them. Students then swap notes and decode. I thought this was a really nice started activity because 1) It helps me get to know the kids, 2) it isn’t on the computers do it stresses the it isn’t just about computers angle, 3) it has a nice literacy link and 4) most kids LOVE post its- and so have stolen it (with her permission). Julie also did a bag tag activity, but I’m not super sure all our kids (am I being stereotypical when I think ‘boys’) might not be so into this….. but perhaps we could adapt it somehow…
We included the OR option in terms of designing an app OR researching how tech is used to benefit humans because we are well aware that some students will be more interested than others about the actual coding while others will be desperate to get in and make something.
This week we are talking through what we have so far, having a closer look at how it fits around everything else that is happening in school, and trying to sort out all those pesky logistical issues (like which classroom will be used, and what budget does it come under.) As I said at the start, I’m am still processing the ideas and how to best implement them, and welcome any feedback. I am thinking we would run a trial class in Term 4 – my year 10 Science class might become some testers of tasks and lessons. We will also have some staff attending the information days, which might also inform our choices.
In the mean time, I’m having fun playing with the microbits and learning more about what they can do. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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!!)
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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…..
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….
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 🙂 )
Then cut the middle fold
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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)
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).
This experience has made me think on a few things.
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.
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.
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.
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.