Posted in random ramblings, Uncategorized

Reflections from PPTA ICT committee meeting May 1

The PPTA ICT committee had an extra meeting in May, to review how online learning is working for different regions, and to offer some opinions and ideas to exec who are continuing to meet with various official parties such as NZQA and the ministry. As usual, these are my thoughts and interpretations, I’m happy to be corrected.

We started with a bit of a whip around people present, to see what was happening and if there were any concerns from regions. All had been REALLY busy, and most had noticed a drop off in engagement in week 3. (On reflection, I wonder if this was a symptom of the shorter week with Anzac day on the Monday, and the ‘teachers only’ day on the tuesday…. especially as even Te Kura had notioced a drop in engagment and really they were almost business as usual). There had been issues with some online learning platforms (MSFT and GOOGLE) that were in various levels of being resolved. Many schools had been working hard to get devices out to students, some students had received hard packs from the ministry, but there were still some students who had limited contact. Lots of members talked about the positive shifts that were happening, and the open, willing attitudes of staff and students to make the most of the situation, while a few were really using it as a push to a strategic shift in teaching and learning approaches.

There were of course some concerns, especially around teacher work loads. some teachers are more confident working in the online environment, where as it is a source of stress for others. Managing workloads with other commitments, such as looking after children, or vulnerable people in a household are of concern. The distinction between online learning and ’emergency learning’ was discussed, and this interesting article was shared. Clarification was sought around ‘bubbles’ in schools, are teachers allowed to be rotated in bubbles, or should it be the same teacher with the same group of students? (it appears there is conflicting advise on this, and different schools had different approaches, as well as different numbers of students attending).

There were also questions about NCEA and NZQA. NZQAS has released some information to help with online learning, but the general feeling was the resources were underwhelming (The Chem matrix is HERE). (I got a little but ‘pippy’ with these, it is all very well to say you could assess redox remotely for example, but the authenticity of the task will be significantly different without the practical to support learning. And while some students might have access to some household equipment they could make do with, other will not, making the situation even more inequitable. Needs must I suppose, and if we got to the end of the year, I would do this online so students had the ‘credits’ to pass. Sigh. Credits for credits sake…. )

Other subject teachers brought this up, how can soldering, hard material tech, foods…. assess. Not all subjects are equal in this regard. A Languages teacher shared it was also difficult for her, as speaking and responding is a key part of language learning, which is more difficult to replicate online, especially with mixed access to technology. There was also discussion around the ‘Assessment evidence gathering templates…(chem one HERE) and how they were not perhaps as helpful as they might have been (some subjects made a comparison of a unit standards ticksheet, whereas I said I didn’t think these would help with the lottery of moderation as they were quite broad and moderators feedback was often quite specific) Questions where asked about UE requirements and endorsement. If standards are dropped, this might limit options for students seeking endorsement, as you need a mixture of internal and external standards for this. So while NCEA if ‘flexible’, it was a challenge to flex specific requirements of different subjects and standards. There was mention of a group started by Claire Amos to try and ‘hack’ NCEA to make this more workable (HERE) which could help some schools and students.

A couple of other little things came up before I get to the last big thing

Accord days – will these be happening as given how disrupted everything was, would these teacher only days actually be useful. Was the NCEA review still going ahead? Short answer re accord days was we are not sure. The review is still going ahead, but the timeline has been extended. Exec were going to look into it.

Subject associations and Networks of Expertise(NeX). The PPTA had talked to several subject associations and NeX, and were thrilled with the work these subject assocs were doing to support teachers at this time, from webinars on online teaching, sharing resources etc. If you are looking for some support, do check them out. There was no word on whether the NeX funding would continue, but that the work they were doing was awesome.

Lastly, there was a specific question about intellectual property of resources being made by teachers, which lead into an interesting discussion around the future of schooling. The take home message if despite the fact you are working from home, you are being paid by your school, and your content ‘belongs to them’. The ministry ‘encourages’ creative commons, but it is up to individual school board to decide on their policies, and some board are more sharingly minded than others. I still don’t get why the ministry just doesn’t make this a whole thing for any state school in NZ, but who am I to make that call 🙂  (An interesting aside was if you read the google and zoom terms of service, if a document is stored on their servers, it belongs to them, which might be worth checking into depending on your personal or schools arrangements.)

The conversation on sharing resources took an interesting turn, as a point had been raised (by a member out of the committee) that they felt they were making resources that would see them out of a job and make them redundant. While I don’t feel this is the case, there were several points raised about the future of education, and centralisation of resources. There are still issues with teacher recruitment (although a global recession might ease that as others are forces into career changes) and education is expensive. There had been previous pushes for online learning communities, and there are, of course, some really positive education stories coming out of the current challenges. But there is also a stark reality that online learning pushes the cost onto families, and the inequalities for families are definitely more obvious. There are also some students who need the routine, the face to face contact, more than others, and how could those two be blended? If we move into lower levels of lockdown in NZ, what creative ways can we manage timetabling to allow for greater social distancing in our schools. I think of our corridors, and our crowded teacher work spaces, and wonder how these will be managed. Much less our class rooms with 30+ students crammed in. I also ponder how (in Dunedin at least) there are lots of schools who might have 2 or 3 students wanting to do a subject, but can’t because of lack of resourcing, where as if we were centralised there could be so many more options.

But the discussion kept coming back to people. The people, the people, the people. Those teachable moments because students spark of each other, the small smiles that indicate progress, the relationships and ‘soft skills’ students learn from each other. Even if education does move into a more long term distance learning model, students and teachers will still need to find ways to build relationships to move forward with learning. How hard people are working at this time, from the ministry, unions, boards, SLT teams, teachers, parents, teacher aides and cleaners and maintaince crew, all of these people are working to do the best we can by the kids.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to sing out, and if I have got something wrong, please let me know. As always, I’m happy to be corrected, and these are my opinions and ramblings only.

Take care.

 

Posted in random ramblings, Uncategorized

Reflection from PPTA ICT meeting April 2

We are sure living through interesting time. I hope everyone is as safe and as happy as they can be in their various bubbles around the place. And you are enjoying school holidays – what ever that looks like for you.

This morning I attended via zoom the PPTA ICT committee meeting. These are more thoughts, recollections and interpretations of what was said. As always, I’m more than happy to be corrected or directed on what I say below. Or if you want more info, please sing out and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.

The meeting was not quite as structured as usual, with lots of points being revisited in different contexts, so my notes were not as complete as usual. This is more of a stream of consciousness around some key topics

  1. Expectations of schools

The PPTA exec asked the teachers/reps present about the expectations from their schools in regards to online teaching. The people present were remarkably varied in the expectations from their school

  • some had gone straight into online teaching last week, with an expectation of maintaining a full timetable
  • Others had a more flexible present for 10-20 minutes to introduce an idea, then be available for the hour while students worked on it.
  • Others had a try your best but if you schedule online time please make it during normal class time to avoid clashes
  • Others were avoiding meeting online altogether and setting work that could be completed – aiming for the normal timetabled hours worth of activity with the work set.
  • Another example was the teachers were expected to email home each day (so five!! emails) with the work set for the day
  • Another was work was being set by class teachers, but the pastoral care team (whanua or form teachers I guess…..) were doing the face to face checking in a couple of times a week and collating any questions or concerns.

So it was a really big mixture. There was also a wide range of learning management systems (google, Microsoft, Schoology etc) with some schools asking to stick within a particular platform, and others with a much broader option.

All the teachers present were on holiday now, but we were all working and prepping in some degree. I talked about how I didn’t want to put any pressure on my students, but I was also aware some would be coping by smashing out some school work as that was something they could control. I suspect there will be teachers doing this too – where as I have been spending time with Mr 7, trimming the overgrown holly hedge fence around my home and drinking copious amounts of tea. So we need to find a way to make sure teachers stay supported too, while remembering this will look different for everyone

2) NCEA/NZQA/Courses and content

This was a really messy inter-threaded conversation, but from my understanding the main points were

  • How do we support more practical subjects like dance or hard material tech with online learning?
  • How do we manage changes to NCEA/courses. Eg As a chemistry teacher, I can’t complete the practical internals that we had scheduled. So do we just change direction? (FYI, you can change the standards offered, but you need to touch base with your principals nominee to do so! Check in with them before offering any standard that is not your normal standard)
  • This lead to a really cool conversation about what was important. I’m firmly in team NCEA doesn’t really matter right now!! But of more interest was how could NCEA change?How many credits do we really need? How could we gain evidence from different tasks? How could this be more equitable and accessible for all students?
  • How do we find a balance for students who will be finding themselves working more, either in essential jobs like the supermarket, or is equally essential but perhaps less recognised like looking after younger family members (or perhaps older). If students have picked up more hours (potential also supporting family who might have lost jobs) is it realistic to expect them to complete assessments?
  • What expectations will universities and polytechs be having around entrance requirements?
  • How can subject associations be utilised. I know that some have been active hosting webinars and such to support specific subject areas – how could this be supported?

The PPTA exec had also meet with NZQA and the ministry, and assured us that while they could not share specifics, these questions were all being talked through by those parties, who were working very hard to find some solutions. It was then asked that the PPTA keep pestering both the ministry and NZQA for update to limit the spread of misinformation (I’ll just add here if I have something wrong, please let me know and I will fix it ASAP. Always my interpretations!!)

3. Supporting teachers and students.

This was a big one. Round and round we went, thinking of all the diversity and richness that our education system has, but because of this there is no one stop solution. Some key ideas were

  • tens of thousands of students will not have access to online learning – either through lack of device, lack of infrastructure (rural properties or areas like northland with poor connectivity) or poverty. Some students biggest concern should not be learning, but finding a safe place to live during the lockdown! How do we support that. Again, I had a comment about schools giving devices, and then the ministry organising this too – how could we streamline this process. I also had an after thought concern about the MASSIVE amount of data being collected on families ability to connect – who has access and what will be done with it? It was also a pretty big ask for schools to collate that info on short notice – well done schools!
  • PLD – how much is too much? How much is too little? Where will people be overwhelmed? The PLD alloted for the DT/HM integration can be reallocated to providing online support for schools and kura (I am 99% sure this is the case) and there are some additional resources coming out. Is there double dipping occurring – not so much as people getting too much support, but too many people trying to do the same job, which creates inefficiency?
  • On this, what do teachers need? I’m sure lots of you have seen the fail work meeting were the person takes their laptop into the loo with the video on – how do we keep ourselves and our students safe? Not everyone has a seperate room in their house to work from. and some do not have good access to wifi either. Some homes the teachers TELA device might be the only device in the house that is needed to teaching and their students learning….
  • And more on the health and wellbeing, some will be balancing their own needs as well as child care or looking after other family members. Some will have essential workers in their homes and be anxious about them. What are realistic expectations here?
  • And looking forward, realistically we will not be coming out of level 4 into level zero. There will be (possibly, it really is unknown) level 3, or 2, where some teachers will not be able to come into classrooms, either due to their own vunerability or the vunerablity of those they care for. How will this look moving forward. Some schools were already looking to roster home age groups the week lock down was announced…. how can we balance the health and safety of all our teachers (and learner – some students won’t be able to come back either!!) with the work loads and well being of the teachers who can attend school. How will relievers who often move between schools, or itertinarent music teachers be supported?

Lastly linked to this, there was a suggestion that the PPTA produce some ‘documentation’ around some keeping yourself safe and some ‘how to’s’ for teachers. We had robust discussion about how this might look, given the wide range of devices, LMS, expectations and digital fluency levels of teachers in NZ – it was decided it would be useful rather than overwhelming but pitch and timing would be important. If you are a PPTA member, and on the facebook group, you can head over there, find the post from Matt and type in any suggestions.

 

So lots of questions, and not many answers! We do live in uncertain times. I do know however that there are teachers working super hard the country over to keep themselves well, and that we will find a way through. AND while it is sometimes hard to remember, there are groups of people working hard to help too.

 

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

Reflections from ICT PPTA meeting November 2019.

Last week I was up in Wellington for the PPTA ICT committee meeting. It was quite a busy meeting, with a LOT of discussion around equity, in terms of access to devices, access to support, some issue with PLD, and digital assessment. There was then a run down of the progress being made by the Te Rito project, which I first blogged about after the meeting this time last year which was a good insight into progress made, and the impact for the Learning Support roles which are starting in January 2020.

As usual, this is my interpretation and memory from what was said, and I am happy to be corrected or put you in touch with the right people for more information. 🙂

I’m putting the Te Rito at the top, as I’m guessing most people will be most interested in that, even though the reps came at the end of the day 🙂

Te Rito

Rachel and Donna came from the ministry Te Rito project to update us on who things are going. They started with this video as an overview of the aims and scope of the project

If you click above, it will take you to the vimeo site (I hope…..)

In my words (and happy to be corrected) the premise and drive is to protect and uphold the mana of the child – which links to the name as Te Rito is the inner of the Harakeke/flax plant, with the surrounding leaves offering protection. Along with this as the idea of ensuring ‘the right’ stories of the children are being told, and the ‘taxonomy’ for different situations is similar enough to be useful.

 

The aims of the project are

  • reduce admin burden
  • make sure those who need to know KNOW

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Which has involved a LOT of background work to make the systems ‘interoperable’ – that is, the Te Rito system will work with multiple SMS (Kamar, Edge etc), as well as browsers, health care software, NZQA, google and office 365, lots of things 🙂 There is a lot of work, but Rachel was (quite rightly) quick to stress these are desired outcomes, but getting everything to talk to everything was a VERY big job.

The ‘system’ will be sector owned, but the budget will ultimately be meet by the ministry. They were clear that they do not own the data (the child owns the data – but then could a child really understand what that means?), and there are some very clear guidelines around who can access the data and for what purpose. Which also requires a lot of different law (for example, health and safety trumps privacy, and there is interesting case law in Australia for this were a teacher aide was severely injured by a student).

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There was also a lot of talk about how the system has been modified for the new Learning support roles. (ESR = Early Stage Roll out)

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And some info on the governance and privacy

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There was also discussion around what training would be needed for BoTs, Principals, learning support co-ordinators and teachers. Chatting to a friend going into a LSC role next year, some of the PLD has already begun, as the team are hard at work trying to get the LSC interface ready for Feb 2020. So if you are in one of these rolls, it might pay to check out the information out there and have a think about how the implementation of this might look in your school/Kura.

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So there was a lot of information on offer. There are some really awesome aspects, and then some that concern me a little. Mostly around making sure the right information is sorted, and that students are not given a label they don’t deserve. Kids deserve a fresh start I guess, but also, sometimes the information would be useful. It might stop some students ‘falling through cracks’. Or get more continuity with their learning and support.  Many around the table who were in more ‘senior’ positions than me in a school were really excited by the prospect. And I guess if it helps students, it is worth it.

There was also a request for a PPTA rep for a the Data for Wellbeing sector advisory group – so there is a PPTA representation in the development team.

And if you are still reading, prior to this presentation and questions, we discussed.

Round Robin

The meeting started (after the perfunctory accepting last meeting minutes etc) with a quick whip around the regions/representatives to see if they were any concerns. Main points of interest were

  • multifaceted log ins and cell phones – how are people dealing with two part log ins. One school had seen 1500 attacks over the period of 90 minutes, and it is a growing issue. Office 365 two stage log in requires a cell phone… what if kids don’t have on? Many schools round the table had a ‘phone’ box – a clear plastic click clack for phones to go into, either at the start of the lesson, or if they were used innappropraitely. I was firmly on the side of educate, not punish, but also, if I’m not insured if the phone gets broken, I’m not touching it. There was discussions around search and seizure guidelines – can schools legally hold a phone??? So the conversation went slightly sideways, but cyber security is still a big issue, as is the misuse of devices by students.
  • School donations/Government fees scheme and BYOD. Very mixed spread across the group of schools who had or had not opted in to the fees scheme. Some felt ‘pressured into it’ by communities struggling. Others realised they would have less money, but hoped communities would be better for having the extra money available. Others had chosen not too – did not feel they could offer adequate curric with those costs. When you look at the details, if a students needs a calculator to complete a Chemistry pH calculation, or a maths problem, the school SHOULD provide one if they have opted into the fees scheme. Same with BYOD. Some grey areas around should and MUST. Quality of devices is an ongoing concern, as is access in the community (for homework etc, but also social inclusion). Great discussion around the richness of extra curricular activities – I am not a camp person (I hate not having a nice bed with clean sheets and a good shower) but I make an effort to go on school camps because of the relationships you form, and how refreshing it can be to see a frustrating or shy or outgoing student in a different light on camp. Students remember these trips…. and they do build richness into a curriculum, but how can they be done on such a shoe string budget?
  • DDTA had some specific info – the next version of the curric is out, and the wording has had a subtle but significant shift. The curric no longer says ALL students. Screen Shot 2019-11-27 at 10.03.38 PM There are still LOTS of places to look for support. The regional digital champions are an admin based role but they will help you find the help you need, or you can look at http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum/Technology/Learning-area-structure, or http://technology.tki.org.nz/Technology-in-the-NZC, or http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Teaching/Curriculum-areas/Digital-Technologies-in-the-curriculum. Exemplars for digitech standards are still coming (two years after the standards were started)….. There are also some changes coming in with the tomorrow schools. The next meeting is December 2nd, so I’m guessing we will here more early next year.

Then there was some more specific discussion around

  • Online exams – seems to be working well – a few seemingly isolated issues – in schools using it. Questions linked to equity of access were asked (discussed more below) and members asked for some specific info relating to decile of schools and access to online assessment (ie is it mostly higher decile completing them) as well as any information around comparative pass rates (eg high school decile online compared to paper – do schools in decile one have comparable results etc). There was also a request for ‘best practice’ for running online exams – there are lots of info sheets from NZQA on this, but perhaps that information is not finding the right people – often the network manager  or perhaps the Principals nominee are not always getting the message…. and which information needs to go where???
  • EQUITY. Of seemingly everything!! Access to devices, tech support in schools, infrastructure in schools, access to PLD – both for digital fluency for staff, as well specific support for elearning pedagogy. (The upcoming PPTA PLD grants might help with this – there are LOTS of $700 grants, but no news (that I have heard) of how to access them yet.) Mixed in with the general ‘wait and see’ with the new NCEA changes. A comment was made that ‘BYOD is just a policy’ and so should not get the noise it does! Schools who have thought about their policy and procedures are often more successful – so how do you support more schools to have better policies????? What do schools do when students don’t have devices? Loaner devices (but again equity issues, they are often slow, and by the time students go and get them, then take them back, they have missed significant learning time. Questions around is there any BES work that could be shared on this – it seems a little adhoc, and many boards may or may not have the skills to implement this in schools well. There was a similar discussion around BES for digitech integration – I’m guessing it is still too new so the data hasn’t been gathered yet?
  • Is the committee still relevant?? And WHY? This was an interesting question, and generated good discussion – I feel I get well informed, but often that we lack the ‘clout’ to make real change. Getting information out to time poor members and leads was discussed – how can we improve the information reach. (I bought up my stats from my blog reflections – I generally get between 70-100 people reading these posts….). There was also value in meeting with government departments, partly to share back to the community, and partly to give feedback to them from a wide base of people (ICT has reps from schools, low decile, Te Kura, PPTA itself). So it looks like we will be going for a while yet, and it was a good motivation to push on and get the conference paper on equitable access to ‘ICT support’ in schools for conference for next year.

Topics up for discussion for next year will be checking in on the online NCEA assessment, as well as the changes with tomorrows schools, and of course keeping advocating for more equitable access to device, PLD and learning opportunities

Feel free to flick any questions my way, and I’ll do my best to answer them or put you in touch with some-one who can. If you would like anything raised with the committee sing out. And as always, if I have made an error, please let me know.

Take care

 

 

Posted in Digital Technologies, random ramblings, Techie stuff

Reflections from the PPTA ICT committee meeting November

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

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

Round robin

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

Points of note were

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

And back to my ramblings 🙂

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

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

MoE digital strategy overview

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

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

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Sisi was put forward for the reasons below……

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And has been ‘rebranded’ as Te Rito

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

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

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

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And that the access and privacy need to be well managed

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

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

Some concerns and questions asked were along the lines on

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

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

IT support in schools

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

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

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

Tom Haig

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

 

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

 

Good luck for the new school year

 

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Reflections from the PPTA ICT meeting April 2018

There was a pretty full on agenda for the April meeting of the PPTA ICT committee, and I got myself wonderfully wound up over several points. Much discussion was had of hard issues, and of course, hard issues have no easy answers and there is not always a clear pathway to follow. So if you have any thoughts, opinions etc, feel free to sing out and I will pass them along. And, as always, I hope I have the information correct, but it is my interpretation of what was said, and I am happy to be corrected and/or put you in contact with people who know more than me.

  1. Acceptable use policies

Make sure your school has an update to date acceptable use policy for school devices. This is one of these things that isn’t an issue until it is an issue… and the field officers had loads of horror stories of teachers being caught out. So if you don’t have one, get that done, and if you do have one, check you know what is in it. If you aren’t sure, ask. Your PPTA field officer will have more info.

2.  Tela

The new scheme has rolled out, and I was pretty happy with the range of devices available, and obviously time will tell around tech support etc for the new scheme. some issues around screen sizes were shared by other members of the committee. However, cost remains an issue, as does equity of access. So (on a personal note) the next big challenge for me is to think about how teachers can be educated on the fact they have a choice of devices, and somehow get schools to be more supportive of ‘diversity’ in device choices for teachers. I think at times it is a little ironic that all teachers needs to be on the same system for ease of admin, when we are pushing so hard for personalised learning for our students….

But back to the point in hand. There was a robust discussion about how to get more funding, including ideas around do schools pay the base line price and if teachers want a fancier/more expensive model, then maybe they can pay the difference. Tied in with the discussion of personal uses of devices and acceptable use policies, I could see this being a viable option…. Say the base line is $30 a quarter, and the top of the line, $90, then for $240 a year having an option for a better device is still a reasonable option. Or perhaps departments could pay the difference. But then because the device is linked to the school, if that teacher leaves, who foots the bill. This discussion was linked to needs versus wants – but it is a chicken egg situation, for example, a teacher with a device that can ink might use it, where as a teacher without that capability in a device definitely won’t. It also lead into a discussion around school infrastructure – many round the table schools did not have sufficient infrastructure to cope with the devices joining the networks at any given time – if everyone has a laptop, a phone and maybe an ipod, fitbit etc that is connecting, it bumps up the usage pretty quick.

3. Plagiarism software

This conversation was more of the same from last time – we need it, but who pays for it. Suggestions a centralised model may be coming. There was a more robust discussion about how this type of software should be implemented – how do we educate students and teachers about what plagiarism actually is? (I don’t really know myself) How do we support teachers using it? Examples were given around how with some software, a teachers effort to make an original piece of writing still showed a result of 30% copied, simply because some common phrases are often used. So what is an acceptable level?? As I have no experience with this software, it was interesting to listen to those that do and how it impacts what they do, most comments were positive, but there are some pitfalls also

4. BYOD

There was a brief conversation around BYOD devices – many schools who rolled this out for juniors were now finding the devices (Chromebooks were mentioned, but I don’t think it is an exclusive problem to those devices) were no longer grunty enough for the senior school. Is it fair to ask parents to pay for 2 devices for 1 student moving through school?? What about feeder schools – different primary schools may have different device choices that tie into one or two secondary schools that use different devices? What about if kids move schools? Some schools present provided devices for students at a cost to the school. Others had COWS or the like for juniors, and BYOD for seniors. And some were full BYOD.

Again, my perspective is schools need to be more flexible and adaptive to providing support for different devices, but am more than willing to acknowledge how challenging this is at a tech level, and I probably only know about 10% of the problems!!

5. NCEA review

The person sharing had a lot to say, but not a lot that can be shared publicly. Sigh. BUT again rather a lot of discussion was had, including some frantic hand waving from yours truely to be included some-how. There is a Consultation process occurring from April to July that we were strongly encouraged to participate in and share, so I will be doing so with great gusto. Hopefully it is easy to find when the time comes 🙂

The discussion I can share around this was mostly in two arguments. Work load was one (obviously, being PPTA!!!) and student wellbeing and ‘credit’ counting was the other. There was also some discussion around what NCEA results are used for – I know from a personal perspective, at L3 chem my students are desperate for internals so they have UE before exams, and would gladly do no externals, even though the externals are the most important for many first year chemistry papers. And while not every student doing NCEA goes to uni, many doing L3 chem do, and managing the expectations is something I really struggle to do. There was also discussion around hoop jumping, again despite my best intentions, I often find myself saying things like – to get excellence in an exam you need to stress the bonding electrons in electronegativity discussions….. sigh.

6. SISI

The student information sharing initiative is still rumbling away in the back ground. Again most of this is confidential, but the discussion was around feasibility, timelyness and the ‘weight’ of privacy over health and safety. Get in contact if you want to know more, but also there is not too much to tell as it rumbles away.

7. Spark Jump

John Leslie Smith came to talk to us from Spark about Spark Jump – a service that provides prepay internet for families who can’t afford/access/other wise get wifi at home. Worth checking out if you know of any vulnerable families who would benefit https://www.sparknz.co.nz/what-matters/spark-jump/ 

8. Digital Technology curriculum

A lot of the discussion was aimed around the achievement standards, which made me a little cranky. BUT that does not diminish my appreciation for how hard the team working on those standards and the implementation have been working. There are loads of teething problems predicted (a favourite was a standard involving social media use that many school block on school networks !!) but a general feeling that the standards are aiming for quality skills. I noted with some disdain that it is a shame the assessment drives the learning… but it does for chem too so pot calling the kettle black I guess!!

There are some upcoming PLD days via regions and connecting nationally via zoom scheduled for May 12, so look out for those. There should also be a national digital readiness program ready from the end of this term. There are also some new resources on the TKI pages and technology online. And some webinars and online courses from various sources.

There was also mention of some support from the ‘Digital technologies for All Equity Fund’ but it seems the furthest south this will come in CHCH… sigh.

I asked about the ‘compulsory’ aspect of the curriculum, and of course nothing is compulsory!!! But it will be a priority…..

There was also a challenging little comment that has stuck with me as a ‘beginning’ teacher of digital technologies. I was talking about levels, and how I had some kids in the (brand new) course Kevin and I are teaching doing simply amazing things…. but the comment around this was that yip, some kids are learning and going really deep into one area, but they have huge holes in others that can create issues further on. To be honest, I hadn’t considered this, but on reflection, it does worry me a wee bit. I know how frustrated I get with ‘non chemistry’ Science teachers teaching all sort of simplified ‘nonsense’ (it isn’t nonsense really, but it doesn’t make my job with L2 chemistry students any easier) and couldn’t help but wonder if I will end up doing the same thing. Depressing thought, but also a we reality check to try and keep upskilling myself, and think about just how I check for understanding in a situation where I have no understanding myself. And how, while we should all be teaching kids, specialist knowledge is REALLY important.

Now to find a way to get those with the specialist knowledge into classrooms!!

9. Digital Examinations/NZQA

The aim for 2020 is still on. much discussion around logistics, infrastructure and is it a measure of typing speeds over knowledge

A much more interesting (from my eyes) discussion occurred around any time any place learning, and digital learning in general. Which tied into the COOLS debate which followed on from this, so I’ll bring it in there

10. COOLS

A change of government is an interesting thing it would seem, and it was bought up a few times throughout the day. But it seems that COOLS will be reshaped in someway or another, as there are some benefits that can be seen to autonomous learning.

There was a discussion around the research commissioned on online learning, which was summarised as for the top 20% of students, building an online learning platform where they can succeed is relatively straightforward. But for the bottom (FYI, there was no indication of what the criteria was for top and bottom) 20%, it was ‘REALLY, REALLY HARD. The idea that relationships are important was highlighted (I was cheeky here and asked if the report even half suggested teachers where actually a useful thing), and for struggling students, having a person or people checking in on them was critical to their success.

The rep from Te Kura had a useful perspective here. She is super experienced with online learning and strongly expressed that students who connect do better. Te Kura have some face to face gatherings, and students who can attend some of these fare better in their success and happiness it would seem. Online mentoring is not an easy model, but there are some benefits. There is also questions around the role of correspondence school – at the moment entry requirements are (from my understanding) flexibly fixed – you do need to meet certain criteria to enrol. So how would opening this up work???

This lead to a discussion around funding. Many schools have distance learning options for students if a teacher is not available, or for time table clashes etc. But this is not a perfect model either, who is teaching the student, the ‘VC’ teacher, or the supervising teacher?? And if students are half time in schools, and half time online, where does the money go?

Around all of this, and along side a few other topics was this idea of what is the big picture. If there is a substantial review of NCEA occurring, why the big push for the new digital technology standards? Likewise, if big changes happen to L1, it seems a great shame to have had SO MUCH WORK go into the new digit tech curriculum and standards that maybe won’t be used in the next 5 years… But also is the shift in assessment what we need to shift teaching and learning into a new place? I’m almost sure that ironic is the right work to use when I constantly battle assessment driving my own teaching and learning, but if digital assessment does become ‘take an exam when you are ready’ situation, then that will dramatically change the way classes are ‘taught’ and teachers support. Which might not be a bad thing…. personalised, independent learning. Still leaves the question of what to do with a kid that passes everything in a week – but with the right glasses on that could be an amazing opportunity and I hope it can turn out that way.

11. Tomorrows school review

There was a lovely history of tomorrows schools (if you haven’t read Cathy Wylie’s book, do it) and how the unintended consequences of competition have marred what could have almost been a useful model. But this is under review with some big names on the panel, so it will be interesting to see their recommendations and see what sort of school will be coming our way next. I’m not sure of dates etc, but it could have a serious impact, along with the other sweeping reviews taking place, education could look quite different in 5-10 years, and I hope we are ready for it.

 

So, as usual, lots and lots of content, debate and ideas. I was quite riled up at a few points, and need to remember for my sake and those around me that getting wound up is not always the best course of action!!! There was a feeling, and comments, that many of these ideas and arguments are not new, and ‘we’ are not making any headway on them – but I guess that is always going to occur when you are dealing with a multi headed hydra like education – so many stake holders, so many other impacting factors, and so much as stake.

Have fun, and as always, free free to get in touch if you have any questions 🙂

 

Posted in random ramblings

Reflections from the PPTA ICT meeting Nov 2017

On Monday was the last ICT meeting for 2017. As usual it was a full on day, although to be honest I did not leave feeling as hopefully as I usually do – hopefully it is just that it is the wrong end of the year. As usual, this was my interpretation of what was said, and I am happy to be corrected, or if you have a question or an issue for the committee, I am happy to take it to them 🙂

Up for discussion was

  1.  Round robin – we have introduced a google doc for round robin discussions from regions and representatives. 2 points of interest came up this time

a) Learn Coach flipped learning – 2 members from regions expressed concern about the ‘credit’ farm feeling of this course. As they are a PTE (private training establishment) there is very little that the PPTA can do. Other than express concerns (that are shared by other organisations if I got the drift of the conversation correct) that this model is privatisation of education, and has no pastoral care provided. Due to the pastoral care issue, there is not an option for this to be incorporated into a ‘COOL’ (if indeed the COOLS continue under the new government)

This did spark an interesting conversation (a highlight of the meeting from my point of view) on the future of education. The rate of teachers leaving the profession, the lack of new ones coming in, the changing technological landscape and the changing purpose of assessments are all tied into this type of venture. Predictions are that this will be the tip of the iceberg, and more online learning ‘portals’ will become available – perhaps simply because there are not enough teachers to teach in all schools…..

A report that was commissioned by the government (conducted by cognition) into research of online learning is due of the first of December, looking into the dispositions and competencies of online learners and teachers, pastoral care, data security etc. This report may shed some light on how the government will move forward. But to some around the table, it is clear that education is at a kind of cross roads, and Education 2.0 (to quote John Crieghton) might look quite different. Are we ready for it?

b) An ongoing theme around teacher safety and workload around being ‘contactable’ 24 hours a day. What are the lines for teachers around keeping themselves and their students safe? Is it ok to reply to emails from students after 10pm? Is it ok for students to have cell numbers, or instagram/twitter/facebook? Horses for courses, or do we need a blanket policy? All it takes is one false step… are teacher adequately aware of the risks. This is a hard one, I had an example of a student texting me at 5:45 am the morning of their exam. What is the expectation around this? Some teachers would ignore, others reply? But by replying (I did, but at 6:30 when I woke up) am I setting an unrealistic expectations for my colleagues?

2) TELA update

Was very brief, there was not much to update. The consultation process I was part of was not overly informative and was confidential. I can say (I hope) there will be a wide range of devices available. There was then debate around how do we ensure teachers and school USE the variety effectively – I got ‘kicked’ around for saying I worried ‘gatekeepers’ would just choose the cheapest devices and for ease of network management keep everyone on the same device. The gatekeepers around the table said there is never adequate resourcing for device management in schools, which segwayed into funding issues in general. So while I am pleased there will be more devices options available, I do worry that teachers will not be aware they can have a choice, or schools will take this choice away due to funding issues or network managing issues. Sigh

3) Digital Technology Curriculum update

I really feel for the team that has been putting this together, they have been getting slammed from all sides and seemingly pleasing no-one. Everything is a little on hold after the releases of the reports from the consultation process – comments where made the survey was potentially skewed due to its length and overly complicated structure – and while the new government finds its feet. Comments were made that while digitech can’t be compulsory, it is strongly encouraged for years 1-10. The NCEA level one standards will be available on December 12th, which means planning will be in the holidays (it probably would have been anyways, but it is still a late date). Other comments where around ‘digital championships’ which had drawn criticism for being too competitive and using lots of $$ for no real purpose, and the digital equity project, looking to support 12,500 kids who have limited access to technology (I feel 12,500 is a drop in a very big ocean. There was also some discussion around where are all these teachers going to come from???

There was also some discussion around subject silos (again, another hightlight) in that digitech should not be stand alone. And perhaps if schools do it this way they will find it harder, or it will be pigeon holed as something you do for an hour a week. So my take was if we can integrate these ideas into the broader curriculum, it will work much better (she says after being super excited to get a yr 7 module digitech module to teach next year….)

4) Auckland STEM project.

Graeme Aitken (along with Tony and Kate, sorry I didn’t get there last names) came to talk us through the Auckland University STEM project. I was really impressed – their ‘mission’ was to support non specialist teachers who are teaching STEM subjects, especially physics. They want to be more successful at making maths and physics graduates from Auckland Univeristy., as they realised they weren’t getting as many as they wanted (between 2005 and 2011 they only had 11 physics teachers graduate from their teaching program). So they decided to think about it differently consulted with different groups (who wisely told them to start at Level 1, not level 3) and have set up a site to support students and teachers. They were ADAMANT the whole way through it was meant to be used as a support, not a replacement, and they really didn’t want it to be seen as a ‘baby sitting’ tool. (Again, another wee side conversation about guide to the side rather than up the front delivery of knowledge). They are funded for maths and physics, and want to get into Chemistry as well. It is free for ALL schools. So check it out http://www.stemonline.auckland.ac.nz/

5) N4L update

The lovely Paula Hay came along to update us on what N4L has been doing. Again (it was a common theme) they are waiting a little bit to see what the new Government will bring to their roll. It is also easy to forget just how big the N4L job is – there are over 800,000 users on their network. They had blocked over 120,000 viruses (and acknowledged some got through….). There was discussion around kids setting up their own networks to get round blocks. A nice update was they have a new support hub, where any teacher from a school can log in and ask for help, or read some FAQS to get help. And then a great wee discussion on digital assessment and how it might work – my question was why are we bothering to invest so much into digital exam infrastucture when exams are possibly a lost cause anyways (again thinking education 2.0). Most of the points were around logistics, devices etc. Although with the idea of any where, any time learning came some questions around teacher workload, and of course classroom management and timetabling – any time anywhere assessment would come at a cost of the timetable (which is not a bad thing in my view). N4L is also working with Chorus to look at wireless extensions for schools – a polite is being run at Haeta – so that the school wireless reaches into the community and students can use it at home.

6) Creative Commons

We had a skype presentation from Mandy Henk about creative commons, who is more than happy to help any schools wanting to adopt this. It was a good reminder about how many teachers openly (and unwittingly) flout copyright laws when sharing resources and/or taking resources when they move from school to school – it is the property of the BoT of your school as you were working for them when you made them.

7) Other bits and pieces

There was a brief update about COOLS – again, waiting to see what the government will do and the government does not want private providers- but it would need to change the education act as it was amended (I wasn’t super sure of the legal aspect, it sounded complicated…..). There was a little more information on SISI (student information sharing initiative) which sounds like it might not have much impact on the ‘front’ end of systems teachers use, just the back end around getting SMS systems to talk to each other more efficiently. And then safety around who can get what information.

And I think that was it. So a full on day, and reading over this, there was a lot of discussion and information. I have a nagging worry about teacher supply and that this, rather than sound practice, will push digital schools into being, but if we don’t have the teachers on the ground, perhaps it will be better than nothing.

Have fun

 

 

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

Reflections from the PPTA ICT meeting and the TELA laptop scheme

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

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

The TELA laptop scheme and centralised purchasing.

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

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

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

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

So of course I will keep kicking up a stink 🙂

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

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

SLANZA

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

COOLS

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

DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES 

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

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

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

Other stuff

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

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

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

Thanks

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

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Reflections from the April PPTA ICT meeting

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

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

The agenda was as follows

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

And then there are some schools who charge teachers.

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

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

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

20/20 Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other random thoughts/ideas/news

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

Posted in 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 🙂