Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Recording learning – how do I get this right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Modeling ‘microbes’

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Posted in Digital Technologies, Professional learning, Teaching and Learning

Making a Chemistry App with Thunkable

Half way last term, I got to accompany some students to a digigirlz event that was hosted by the fabulous Phillipa Dick At Balmacewen Intermediate. The girls where given a ‘challenge’ and then quickly showcased a variety of digital tools they could use to make a solution. One that grabbed my eye was Thunkable, a drag and drop ‘app’ builder. So while the students I was ‘looking’ after went to work, I sat and had a play with Thunkable and found it easy enough to use and quickly built a small prototype app for identifying ions in Chemistry (which is an internally assessed achievement standard for L2/yr 12 Chem that I have previously had a go with adding some computational thinking in around algorthims and scratch. ). The I got ridiculously busy, and didn’t think to much about Thunkable again until I got to this standard with my Chem class, and I gave them the challenge of building an app. Using thunkable was much more accessible for students who did not already have the coding experience of confidence to use scratch, and it also took less time.

I am SO impressed with the app that the students built. Below are some screen shots

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The welcome screen – which type of ion are you trying to identify?
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Based on that result, this is the possible ions – do this next (and fix the NaOH) formula

 

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All of the final you got this ion have some cheesey pictures the students photo shopped themselves

 

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And, if you didn’t follow instructions……. for example pushing ‘no’ here
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you got ‘Rickrolled’

This work was completed in addition to the class work – about 5 girls worked on this app, almost completely independently of me. They said they really enjoyed doing something a bit different, and the other students in the class soon realised that while it was a bit more work, it was also some really good skills to learn, and rather fun being able to work together on a project like this.

This standard is changing for next year, and after toying with the computational aspect for a couple of iterations now I am feeling confident that I could incorporate the digital technologies aspect more completely into the unit of work, rather than having it as an optional add on. The new achievement standard specifications have a component where students need to describe why (or why not) an ion in a solution might be harmful (or useful) – so perhaps students could each research a different ion as part of the learning, and then combine this knowledge into the app….. still pondering how it might look, but excited for possibilities.

And so proud of the mahi my students did

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Myth busting Napoleon’s buttons

I am sometimes reminded of how small things can be so important. Making connections, learning new things and questioning things said can make such a difference to learning, engagement and interest, including mine. So this a wee story about some buttons, some exploring, some learning and some fun.

Recently the Science Learning hub posted a tweet about Napolean’s armies and how their coat buttons succumbed to ‘tin pest’.

I didn’t know that Tin did this, and was immediately intrigued – as were a couple of my L3 chem students I talked to about it.

So I tweeted back, and we put some tin in the freezer

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But nothing happened….

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and got this reply

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So…. we left it for a bit longer…..

But after a weekend at -19 C, it was still just tinScreen Shot 2018-06-15 at 12.01.32 PM

So then we melted some tin 🙂

But it still wasn’t enough….

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In the middle of this discussion, the plot thickened with some more information about tin pest and solder…..

So of course melted some solder to make another ‘button’

And some discussions around purity of tin

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Then Science learning hub popped in again with some more ideas and some more people to contribute

And the best upshot from my kids point of view was when my students went into the university as part of 3.1, they got to play with some dry ice….

The current update is the tin is in a -80 C freezer somewhere – or maybe still on Dave’s desk.

So in a very busy couple of weeks, with internal assessments, report and all sorts of chaos and disappointments, this was just awesome. My students and I were ‘chatting’ with world class chemists, doing some experiments, having an explore, in no way related to credits. It was awesome – we skimmed over history, weather, complex chemical structures, alloys and physical properties related to structures, more history learning about expeditions across Antartica, pipe organs and archeological digs. My students loved it, and so did I.

And we will let you know what happens with the tin 🙂

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Science and Ethics

Every year as part of my Genetics topic I set aside a couple of hours to talk about morals, ethics and ethical frameworks. I am still using an awesome outline I got from a session at Biolive in 2009 that Fiona Anderson presented that uses some great resources from the Science learning hub Ethical analysis page. I ask my students to try and think past there ideas of ‘right and wrong’ and identify why they think so. Yesterday was the first time I got asked

‘Why are we doing this in Science Miss? Isn’t this social studies?’

Which was both a great teachable moment around science and ethics, and a little bit of a downer that somehow throughout the year I hadn’t made an impact on to why ethics might be important for Science. That said, you do need a relationship with the class so it is a safe space for students to ask questions and share ideas – you can end up talking about some fairly heavy stuff.

So I thought I’d share how I approach the ethics ‘lesson’ and I need to keep pondering where else I could include ethics.

So, as I mentioned, I still follow most of the ideas from the presentation from Fiona in 2009. (The slides were shared at the time, so I hope Fiona doesn’t mind me sharing the presentation now – the links are from the old biotech learning hub that have moved to the Science learning hub – link are smattered down below)

Essentially, you identify what bio ethics and ethics is first up

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Then distinguish between morals and ethics – there is a explanation video HERE on the science learning hub.

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I also tell a personal story of when I was working in research, and, without thinking, when my flatmate asked how my day was when we were at the supermarket and I casually replied I’d had a nightmare day because I’d ‘processed’ 150 odd mice, I got ‘attacked’ by a person who overheard and screamed that I was a monster for a good 5 minutes. She and I had very different morals around animal testing. I just tried to diffuse and ignore their leather shoes…. sigh.

And in responses to the ‘why are we doing this in Science question’?, I talked about Mengele and some of the horrific experiments during the Holocaust. And how just because ‘Science’ can, doesn’t mean ‘Science’ should. And how I thought Genetics was a relevant topic to discuss there issues, as genetic screening and IVF techniques become more advances and common place, society as a whole needs to be aware and educated so informed choices can be made.

For my class yesterday, I asked them about the ‘anti smacking law’ (which possibly lead to the social studies question….) as I knew it was something they would all have an instantly moral feeling about – but when I asked them why they thought that, or felt that way, they had a hard time explaining it to me….. we spent about 10 minutes talking through some of these ideas, and of course they all come up with questionable moral and ethical situations in order to ‘trick’ each other. But I have asked with different class and students about euthansia, ‘paying’ for addiction treatments or should the youth wage be less than or the same as the minimum wage.

I then called them back, and spent some time talking about ethical frameworks…. Video HERE

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And then we watched the example of the ethics of whaling, and how you can apply these ethical frameworks to decision making.

And then they class had definitely had enough of me, so I put them into groups, gave them a framework to work with and gave them a task of deciding if we should screen ALL embryos for susceptibility to cancers. (You can have ‘real’ fun with the groups if you like…. in another year I asked about vegetarian versus omnivore diets and put some ‘farmers’ in the values group….) (I thought about vaccinations – should ‘we’ pay for the treatment of some-one who is really sick because they didn’t get vaccinated, but I’ve already had a couple of vaccine debates with this class this year)

And of course, ‘chaos’ ensues. Mostly that awesomely good chaos as students argue, talk over each other, go hang on, I need to look that up…. what do you think?

I LOVE talking about ethics with my classes. It really stretches there thinking. It allows ‘non science’ kids a chance to shine and fully participate. It always opens my mind up to different ideas and morals. It is a great chance to bring up historical cases, or talk about the ethics proposal systems in NZ (it is a rigorous process to gain permission for animal experiments for example, and research can’t be published unless ethical approval was obtained. And students are often quite interested that ethics doesn’t extended to insects….). But can I fit it anywhere other then Biology? Even the story of Rosalind Franklin and the use of her work ties in with DNA. I touch on it with the story of Alexis St Martin who became a living experiment on the digestive tract – and how his family ‘hid’ his body when he died so it couldn’t be used for further research. But I’m not sure how it could fit into Chemistry, or physics quite the same? Maybe around ideas of space travel? Was sending the dogs and primates into space ethical? Or climate change – is it ethical for people to allow building new building consents for ‘water front properties?

I’d love to know where you fit ethics into your Science curriculum 🙂

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Thoughts on Computational Thinking

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

‘an approach to solving problems, designing systems and understanding
human behaviour that draws on concepts fundamental to computing’
Wing 2006″

but to my mind, it is breaking a problem down into a flow chart, and working through the steps to solve it, with some iteration or corrections. A bit like this

Core education also has a nice page and video with Tim Rice talking about Computational thinking… and I have shared this video before but it is still a good 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.

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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.

Posted in coding, Minecraft, Professional learning

Getting my code on at #kiwipycon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, Uncategorized

Taking a deep breath…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Do some work

For context, I am writing this post in a unit in the Gore camp ground. Metservice tells me is 2.5 degrees C outside (feels like 1 degree C) and I have a heater on a timer…. so it is going to be chilly. While the students are in shared bunkrooms (4 per room) their heaters at least stay on.

I am here because we have a football tournament tomorrow in Wyndham. We were supposed to play today but the weather got in the way – tomorrow is supposed to be just as cold, but with no snow. YAY

The drive down was pretty horrendous at times. As it, is this getting to be an unsafe snowstorm and level of snow on the road type horrendous. Lots of ‘why am I doing this’ type thoughts crossed my mind.

The trip wasn’t all bad… playing in the snow was fun (and cold… one of my ratbag even got me with a snowball. HMMMMmmmmmm)

However, I know why I am doing it. Because I really place a value on experiences and trips like this. Stopping at the Clinton horses and getting a photo. Learning the Gore Trout and Sheep are Pokémon gyms (I am purposely not playing Pokémon…. I am too competitive and would obsess over it). A great group of girls from yr 9-13 having a good time playing in the snow and having a trip. Despite the time away from my family, despite the work for relief, despite the COLD, I also really enjoy these trips. I learn a lot about ‘my kids’ on them and it helps to strengthen relationships.

Yet I couldn’t help mull these words from Miss D the Teacher in my head as I was wondering in the van on the way down…. (thanks Danielle for again making me think about life and learning….)

idea

Because I do tell my students to get back to work. (In some cases I beg, bribe, cajole, threaten and rage to get students to ‘do work’)

So what am I meaning when I say that…..??

When I left school today, one of my year 13’s was there (it was open day at school today and he was showing people round) and I said to him – do some learning tomorrow. Instead of doing some work. I did like how it sounded.

But while I like how it sounded, is it true?

Some people do need to ‘work hard’ for their learning. Think of a little person learning to walk. They fall over heaps and heaps and heaps. It isn’t considered work I guess because they are little. I consider myself as having to work hard to learn some things (like coding…. I am still waiting for it to click….but also I keep getting bogged down in other stuff and so lose some of the gains I make) and other things come really easily (like new software – which makes the coding thing even harder….)

In a physics sense, work = force x distance. I don’t think you can force learning on others – at least not the sort of learning you want (despite my best efforts). However, you can use self discipline to force yourself to stick something out.  And what roll does distance play?? Einstein said that doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome was insanity – but then why do somethings finally just click when you have done them enough times?

And how can I reconcile my ideas around valuing experiences and student centred learning and this belief I have that sometimes you have to work for things. How can I get my head around the idea that I want my students to learn themselves, but some of the things I need to teach them can’t be taught. Or others need to be practiced and learned through sheer hard work.

For now I am left pondering, as I need to go and do some work…..

 

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Reflections from the PPTA ICT meeting

I was very thankful to be invited to the PPTA ICT committee meeting last Friday. It was a REALLY worthwhile trip and I enjoyed the whole experience. Thanks must got to the PPTA (and hence every PPTA member) who paid for my flights etc so I could attend the meeting. Also a huge thanks to the two TELA representatives who came along and where so willing to listen and talk.

You can find a recap at my previous blog post about TELA HERE

I’m breaking this post into two – 1 about the TELA ‘hour’ of the meeting and 2 about the other things at the meeting that I’m pretty sure I can share about.

  1. TELA

An hour of the ICT meeting was set aside for the TELA issue and two people came to represent them. I put my foot in it right from the start by stating I was the one that sent the ‘angry letter’ but they had no idea of any letter…. turns out key points had been summarised and sent away by the PPTA to them to come and discuss. so I learned (another… I am a slow learner sometimes…) valuable lesson around the ‘proper’ processes and policies around stuff like this.

The TELA people talked about the scheme – along with some history from some members of the PPTA – apparently the started with Principals receiving a computer from the scheme so the ministry could ensure everyone could receive information from e-mails. It spread to teachers a couple of years after – and even until the last 5 or so years, it wasn’t completely uncommon to get untouched devices back after the 3 year less term as teachers just didn’t use them (this did my HEAD in)

In terms of numbers, there are over 46,000 TELA devices in schools. Given that there are over 100,000 registered teachers, this seems to me to fall a little short. There was a person present who’s BoT didn’t fund the TELA laptops, which HORRIFIED me. They just didn’t have access to the scheme in their school. Plenty of others weren’t aware of the choice of devices that was available as they were simply just given one. No-one seemed to reveive any training on how to use their device. There was discussion around why don’t the ministry just remove they layer and provide devices for al teachers (as the boards paying the TELA fees from the ministries grants is a bit backwards…)

Then there was discussion about the devices themselves. Screen size was an issue for many present – and set up around doing admin tasks. As we were getting into details about devices I did try to say ‘what about the teaching and learning?’ ‘How can me make these devices more accessible for teaching to use for more than just writing reports and playing videos.

The best question that got asked from the TELA reps was

‘how do you think it would look?’

I have absolutely no idea how it would look. I would like it to look like a more flexible task driven system where different teachers can take agency for their choices. But as some-one pointed out, not all teachers have the competence to know which device is best. Or what if it changes? Others wonder about tech support in school – a lot of PPTA members present also were in charge of the devices in their school and spoke of the difficulties of managing different devices – so they didn’t offer choice. So how can we also ensure adequate tech support in schools? How can we ensure tech is seen as a tool, not a barrier and also not the be all and end all? How can we ensure that teachers know what they are actually entitled too? How can we better support part time teachers who do not currently qualify for a TELA laptop?

I guess maybe the best I can suggest is a good look at the vision and values of the NZC

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 5.08.55

This bottom line is key for me. How can ICT open up new and different ways of learning if all teachers are using their devices for is writing reports and watching videos?

secsource for TELA laptop use data.

So I want it to look like the NZC says. That learners (including teachers) are competent and confident users of ICT to communicate with others, are able to use new technologies to secure a better future for out country and are able to explore new ways of learning.

In terms of where to next, a user reference group is being set up (I’m not actually too sure what this means if anyone cares to enlighten me…..) and there is also some movement towards providing more information on the TELA website which has currently got next to nothing. So I am glad that something at least is happening, but will keep poking with a stick to see if this could cascade into some sort of change. I would love to see the TELA scheme to change a focus from solely devices into having a more teaching and learning/pedagogy focus, but this might also happen around some other things that are possibly changing.

I am also aware that there is a multifaceted change that needs to occur for the shift to occur. TELA is a start 🙂

And if you have ANY ideas of how this might look, I’d love to hear from you, or get in touch with your local ICT or PPTA rep to get your ideas heard.

2. All the other stuff.

N4L has got a single log in for students and teachers for a wide range of APPs called TAHI. It looks pretty cool and I need to have a proper explore of what it means.

There is a project to link SMS data together called SISI (student information sharing initiative). You can read the report HERE. Amongst some 1984 type concerns, it would be (IMO) nice to have a more centralised system for tracking students. It also links in to the vulnerable children’s act (there was some discussion of what trumps what, privacy vs health and safety vs vulnerable children’s). It is a complex issue so make sure you read the report and have your say if you are interested.

Creative commons was also discussed – basically this is a HUGE issue and a non-issue all at once. Again, I wonder why (along with some others at the table) if we are all ministry employees (on a salary so even if you do work in your ‘own time’ you are still on ministry time) why doesn’t the ministry just do a creative commons agreement for all schools rather than relying on individual boards. I have shared loads of resources and had them shared back ( when we were at TCOL we actually handed around a flash drive to snaffle everything……) and there is potential that even though I would never sell them, and even though I use them solely for education, I could get in trouble. But actually, would anyone actually prosecute? Is it a storm in a tea cup? Perhaps better to be safe than sorry

Along the same lines was discussion around the use of personal equipment at school. Especially for part timers this is a hard one. For instance, if I’m using my phone to take a slow mo video (which is something my phone can do and my TELA laptop can’t) and a student bumps me and I break it – who pays for a new one? What if I’m taking photos at football to post on the sports facebook page and it gets hit by a ball and breaks? Again, better to be safe than sorry – but it wouldn’t stop me using my phone if the tech I am given can’t do that task. I completely understand for others it might.

A very exciting thing was a presentation from NZQA about the digital moderation platform. If they can pull of what they are thinking about it will be AMAZEBALLS cool. Simply (as I understood it) NZQA hope to have a flexible space were you can upload work to be moderated by other teachers. Discussion (with limitations… ie max number of posts so individuals can’t get too carried away) will be available. If everyone agrees, no action required. If there is discussion around a grade boundary – maybe have a looksy. If grades are all over the show, NZQA will get the moderators to have a look. NZQA are aiming to have this up and running by next year – so watch that space. Also linked to this was NZQA would like more appeals – currently way less than 0.01% of tasks get appealed. NZQA would like this to be at least 1% so they can also make sure their processes are working. So get appealing people 🙂

There were a few other things that came up too that I’m not sure if I can share in an open forum. But the PPTA webpage is getting changed so hopefully it will be easier to find the minutes of such meetings and get yourself informed.

So again, it was a really worthwhile day. And I got to catch up with some super cool #wellyed peeps. And meet some really passionate switched on educators from around the country and also see a bit better what goes into the PPTA. There is a bit of a wall I think for ‘everyday normal teachers’ to see the policies and processes behind managing education so it was a good insight for me. Thanks again to everyone who gave me their thoughts, support and to the PPTA for inviting me up

Job isn’t finished though – rest assured I will keep poking the bear 🙂