Posted in Digital Technologies, Minecraft, Teaching and Learning

Getting started with Digital Technologies

Partly in response to the new New Zealand Digital Technologies curriculum, my school is offering a Year 7 module for Digital Technologies for the first time this year. It almost didn’t run as it fell prey to the beast that is secondary school timetabling, but I am super glad it did. We (Kevin and I) did a little bit of planning last year, but of course things change (we got yr 7 instead of yr 8, and about 20 lessons rather than 30). It has been a really good learning experience for me, trying to keep abreast of the changes in the New Zealand Digital Technologies curriculum, watching with interest the changes happening at NCEA level one so that we can try and tailor our program so that students can have a pathway to those qualifications, and we want to do a good job so we can get a yr 8 digit tech course into the timetable, and then on up through the senior school. I have an interest in coding and Computer Science, where as Kevin teaches L2 Robotics and has much more experience than me with coding etc, although I’m pretty sure I could kick his butt in Minecraft. We are both fairly good at driving the microbits, although Kevin has an advantage as he is better at coding in general. We are also using Microsoft Teams, which is new to the school this year. It is also my first go at co-teaching a class, which has (so far) been fabulous…. because we both have different skills sets, terrible senses of humour, and have helped each other out.

So, before I go too much further, I do need to acknowledge Kevin Knowles. He and I are co teaching this module and (between you and me) I think we have been ROCKING it. Being our first go, there are off course some things we will change next time, and I have learned loads (Kevin was kind enough to say he had learned one or two things).

Getting started

Our first lesson had a very simple objective – get everyone logged into Office 365. Because it was the first lesson, we had less time than usual as it took a we while to get all the kids where they needed to be. And we learned for next time we need to print off a sheet with all of the log ins and passwords 🙂 Going through Kamar for pretty much every new student took a wee while…. but also hopefully by module two this won’t be such an issue as the students will have had 5 weeks to get used to logging in. Once logged in, students sent us an email, so that they knew our email address and so the very few who didn’t know how to do this could learn how.

Next we focussed on algorithms – how do you make toast (an idea poached from the fabulous Cathy). We did this as a class, then the students had to do an algorithm to get dressed in the morning – which lead to an introduction of if this, then what type questions (eg, if Monday-Friday – wear school uniform, if Saturday go back to sleep). The students where surprisingly passionate about little details – what order to put on socks and shoes, or top half then bottom half first – which gave Kevin the opportunity to talk about (and me to learn about) the fact that sometimes order in programs is important (eg socks then shoes) and other times it doesn’t matter (sweater or pants)

Getting started with Microbits

We then hit a bit of disruption with some students going to camp – so we had 1/3 of the class absent over the next 5 lessons. But by the end of it, everyone could (and almost everyone DID)

  • Do some coding with the makecode microbit site
  • Download the code and get it onto their microbit
  • code a microbit to say spell out the letters of their name
  • Take a screen shot of their code and put it into their onenote
  • Get the microbit to do something else (some did AMAZING things with no input from us)

 

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Kevin 3d printed all the cases last year – colour coded for 1) easy grouping of students and 2) easy to check we get them all back

Then when we had everyone back together again, we covered loops/repeats – trying to get Santa to say ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’

Thinking about Data representations

Once everyone was back, we doubled back a little I guess to go over data representation. I have to say it, Kevin NAILED this. The kids did maths without knowing they did maths!! And it got kids thinking about what number and letters are actually representing….

Kev started with counting in base 10, with a ‘ones’ column, a ‘tens’ column and so on, which got the students thinking about what the number represent. Then he moved onto binary using the same table…. and away we went. Kids just picked it up.

Kev did share some tricks, eg 15 is 1111…. you don’t need to count it up, because it is just one less than 16, which would be 10000. and so on. And if the last number is a 1, you know the number must be uneven. Some of the kids who have brains that like patterns picked up a few more, and I spend some time helping less confident kids go through adding up the different numbers.

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Kevin had found a scratch game for the students to do for the remainder of the lesson, and they were SO keen on it we started the next lesson with it too.

Which then lead into ASCII coding…. a brief demo on the board and then we gave the students a code to solve and then asked them to write them names in ASCII in their section of the onenote

 

Where to next?

We have about 2 more weeks to go… and are still tossing up about giving the code builder in Minecraft education edition ago using some of the ideas from the introduction to comp sci course. Because of timetabling issues, we haven’t been in a fixed room yet, and on different laptops each time, so it is only now that I can get minecraft up and running on them all. So tomorrow I am going to try and install everything to get it going, and then off course I’m out on tuesday for a cricket tournament…..

Alternatively, we will carry on with the microbits, we have some speakers we can attach so we can explore the concept of inputs and outputs. And there are LOADS of cool projects we can do with the microbits. (You can see some HERE). So Kev and I are sitting down on Monday to talk it through.

Reporting

We do need to report on progress made…. which is one reason we have encouraged students to put their work into the OneNote we can gather a portfolio of evidence of the code they have built and the tasks they have completed. We are also going to make a couple of Microsoft forms to check students can 1) read an ASCII code and 2) interpret simple program commands such as loops. So we will have evidence on understanding of data representation, algorithms and programming to report to parents about. Which only covers 3 of the 6 ‘themes’ I guess, but is not too bad for a 5-6 weeks module we hope.

For next time

Next time we will make some subtle changes. Hopefully students will be already confident at logging into office 365 and using teams and/or classonenote, which will save us some time at the start. We are also going to rejig the onenote slightly, we started with sections for each of Minecraft, microbit, ASCII etc… which lead to extra clicks for the students. So we will just have one section, with pages for each, which the students can then add to (also means less clicks for marking). We will also make the front page the place were we put the links for students… we started having them in the conversation but they got lost in the chatter, and then having them as a tab in the team means they open in the team, which is rather a small window/space.

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The teams interface works well to keep the students in the one browser window, but it does reduce the size of the usable space for coding… The expand tab does give you some more space, but still not a full window (and Yr 7’s struggled to find the 2 little arrows on the top right….)

We will also survey the students (using forms) at the end of the module and use their feedback to tweak the second module through. At which point I think we would make any bigger changes if they were needed.

Successes and challenges

I think every teacher in New Zealand right now is probably desperately wishing for a ‘normal’ week. It will be week 7 before I have a full week at school with no disruptions… and then I am away on camp in week 8, and then hit the 2 short weeks around easter. So juggling the disruptions when we are trying to introduce a new course has been a bit of a challenge, but also a relief because it has given us a bit of breathing space to think about what the best next step is.

Something I didn’t expect was the typing skills (or lack there of) that the students have. A number of students were turning the caps lock button on and off to capitalise one letter, and didn’t know to hold down the shift button. While I’m not a ‘touch typer’ (and I have terrible spelling both in my handwriting and typing) I can use more than 2 fingers. So we might need to include some sort of upskilling process so the students are not slowed down by their typing speed.

A real success (I think, Kev can speak for himself) has been how Kevin and I have worked together. As we move throughout the year, we will definitely be more confident and so maybe need to communicate less, but we really have worked together quite well. We have taken turns at being ‘good and bad cop’, and we are both able to reach different students at different times. We have pretty much both been in the room for the whole time, but it hasn’t felt crowded. Kev has definitely got more expertise, but I now feel confident that I could tackle all of the concepts myself next module. As we move through the year, we will probably be in the room together less, but it has worked really well for starting out, especially as I grasped some of those programming concepts.

And another success was the absolute buzz in the room after Kev introduced binary numbers. It was maths, it was abstract, I was worried it would be ‘hard’ but the kids nailed it. And seemingly LOVED it. The cheers around the room as the worked their way through the levels of the binary game where awesome, I kind of just stood and stared as the kids just nailed it. You don’t always get those moments as a teacher, so it was worth savouring, even though Kev had done all the work for that lesson.

The biggest challenge I think for us will be getting this option carried forward into yr 8, 9 etc. Or finding some room for it among another curriculum area… so we will press on and try to get it fitted in to the timetable one way or another.

Reach out

If you are teaching a digit tech course, or using the code builder in minecraft, I’d LOVE to hear from you. Either on twitter or flick a comment on the blog and I will be in touch (probably late). If I have made a mistake you have spotted, please let me know so I can fix it and learning from it. Or if you are wanting any more info, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, I’m definitely learning as I go, and am happy to help out as much as I can.

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Posted in Professional learning

Reflections from the #E2 Global educator exchange

I was fortunate enough to attend the Microsoft E2 global educator exchange held in Toronto, Canada last week (March 21-13). It was a truly global event with over 250 educators from over 80 countries in attendance, as well as product developers, Microsoft partners, school leaders and some representative students!!! E2 had so many highlights and I am still processing the 3 days. But here is a brief (actually long.. but skimming the surface of lots of deep ideas) summary

Day 1 – Tuesday.

The keynote included welcomes from lots of important people and some areas/ways that Canada is trying to boost its eduction system. Then John Myers talked about Edsby – a cloud based learning management system, which looks pretty cool but I am not sure how it would fit with Kamar in NZ. Then Lisa Floyd spoke about computational speaking and the importance of problem solving in classrooms. I loved her presentation and the idea that computational thinking doesn’t need to be based around computers – she didn’t use it but the analogy of knitting patterns to coding definitely came to mind.

Then I meet my ‘educator’ team who I was mentoring for their challenge (design a hack for a classroom problem) and had some training on how we would be judging the challenge entries.

After lunch it was presentation time!! I as so glad to be on the first day. I was a little bit nervous, but enjoyed Velichka’s presentation on the importance of diversity in computer Science.  Then it was me (which I will write about in another post), and then Marisol shared about bridging the gap between neuroscience and technology. My take home from her talk was around providing adequate choices for learning as every brain is different. Amanda‘s presentation on Active learning was crammed full of useful tidbits geared toward making a student centred learning environment.

Then it was hanging with my team and basically watching them do their thing – right from the get go they worked together really well. I almost felt I was in the way of them working on their challenge!! It was fun to talk to them and learn about education in their countries. I also had a great chat with the Microsoft classroom team about how we are using this is my school. It was a great opportunity to talk to the developers and how we are using it, how we could use it better and how they could tweak it to make it easier to use. There are also some really exciting developments coming.

On Tuesday from 5pm I had some STEM training. This was TOTALLY AMAZEBALLS and so much fun. Other people at my table were not as confident as me with both the language and just ripping in and giving things a go, so I found myself to be the expert of the table. Which was cool to be helping people get the same buzz I got, when things started to click the excitement in the room was massive

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Building this was SOOOOO MUCH FUN!!!!!

Tweemeet – the Tuesday night was the #MSFTEDUCHAT tweetmeet. So there was a party with wines and beers while we tweeted. This was sooooo different to my normal experience talking to the crew from the other side of the world. So there was real chat, and virtual chat, and it was rad.

Then it was dinner time. Sadly I missed the APAC dinner because I did the tweetmeet, but I went out with Steffie and Mike and caught up with the Europe crew afterwards – there was much merriment 🙂

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Big smiles 🙂

Wednesday

Luckily the keynotes on Wednesday Morning were AMAZING as I was a tad jetlagged (and hung over…. blaming the Irish….).

If you are interested, you can sign in and watch the recorded session HERE. Essentially, the whole keynote was a plethora of new ideas and challenging thoughts.There was a showcase of We.org around how you can become involved with this program, students from the Queen of Heaven school spoke about their experiences helping others gain an education. The awesome Meenoo Rami spoke about Minecraft in the classroom and Mike Tholfsen talked about his 10 favourite ways with OneNote in Education.

The presentation that really struck me was Daniel McDuff and emotion sensing machines. Essentially, the technology is there to track emotions of participants completing tasks. This could be used to track student engagement or learning, or even alter the task in real time to meet the students needs. I am still not sure how I feel about this – is it too ‘big brother’? Could it be useful for students to learn about how they learn? Would it help break down barriers of students not feeling confident to ask for help? What are the ethics around measuring this data as students complete set tasks? It was a really though provoking presentation that challenged my assumptions around education and big data.

Then it was off to learn about microbit – these little beasties are super fun. Drag and drop code, cute interface and very user friendly. I had a great time pretending to know how to use Java script – I am getting better but still a way to go.

I then went to listen to fellow Kiwi Steve. This session had 4 speakers. Lieu talked about building communities. Steve talked about using Onenote to personalise learning using student accessible language and the importance of involving students in choosing the level they learn at. James Gill gave a great overview of how he personalises learning in a multi aged, diverse learning needs classroom that really resonated strongly with me – learning is not always perfect and we need to find ways to engage all students and their families in learning. And then there was a great example of Minecraft in the classroom from Miroslav – I was VERY jealous he had been able to commit 3 months to this amazing project of building his school in Minecraft.

I then sat my Microsoft Office Specialist exam (word) and passed – although I didn’t get 100% so room for improvement there. I then went and check on my team, but they were well on track and Koen had arrived by then so they had been well supported. They got their pitch in on time and I hope they enjoyed the experience of working together and learning about each other.

Then there was the technology showcase, which I saw very little of as I was busy helping people with the Hacking Stem project. Looking back, I think this was some of my favourite E2 moments – the joy on peoples faces as they got their sensor to work was awesome. For some, this was a completely new experience and it was an amazing privilege to be part of it.

And I was so tired that I can’t even remember if I got dinner or not. I must have, but I have no recollection of where or what it was 🙂

Thursday

Keynotes – The keynotes kick started with Actiontec talking about screen beams. I LOVE my screenbeam and how this tech allows me to be be able to move about my classroom. It is especially great for putting Science demos or examples on the big screen. There was also a session on accessibility tools – Microsoft has really put a huge focus on this area and the array of tools is growing all the time. Then Lakesha Kirkland talked about how her students had gained certification with the Microsoft imagine academy – which is definitely worth our school exploring further.

I then went to listen to fellow Kiwi Arnika talk about her experiences ‘letting go’ and how her students participated in the design process for the Margaret Mahy playground in Christchurch. Then I popped into to visit the Pearsons group to talk about the Microsoft Certified Educator exam and give some feedback on the updates the are making.

Then it was time to judge the group challenges. This was a very tough job – it was amazing what 5 random strangers could put together in 2 days when they worked together. I think everyone should have got prizes…. sigh

After Judging I popped into the learning market place – which was an overwhelming mix of amazing education ideas. All the Kiwi crew did a great job of presenting their ideas, and I saw some pretty cool other ideas too.

I then went and got a coffee with Steve, and we were joined by Koen Timmers. This hour of quiet ‘chat’ (punctuated by terrible puns and bad jokes) is definitely my best memory of the conference – while there were amazing presentations and lots of learning, in the end this always comes back to people and the connections and relationships you build.

Thursday night was the awards dinner and party – and party we did. There was spirits on the bar and great company and music. It was an awesome celebration to finish off a great week.

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Koen, Steve and Me at the awards dinner – it was a great night 🙂 there were loads more photos, but they got a bit blurry as the night progressed

So a MASSIVE thank you to everyone that contributed to my having an amazing week. The people I meet and reconnected with really made it an exceptional week. Massive shout outs to James, Amanda and Koen (and Steve….) for giving me my key takeaways and friendships, as well as the whole kiwi (and ANZAC) crew for being so inclusive and fun. Massive respect for Sonja, Becky and the team for putting it all together and the STEM microsoft team for an amazing experience (and cheesy T shirt). And too everyone I meet, thanks for being awesome and being you – keep rocking it 🙂 Ka Kite An0 – till next time….

Posted in Minecraft, Professional learning

Week one of a Minecraft MOOC (& getting to experience Microsoft Classroom as a student)

I have been playing around with Minecraft in my classroom for over a year now without ever really getting fully into it myself. I have mostly allowed students to use it as a tool for their learning if they chose, and some students did amazing things like build a chem lab or a heart, or some electrical circuits using redstone, or spawn a million chickens (currently a pair of yr 8 students are using minecraft to make a model water cycle…..). To keep up with what the students were doing I joined in occasionally, learned more than I care to admit about setting upservers while still having no idea how to set up servers, did a course at pycon on coding in Minecraft and generally had some fun without ever getting a full grasp of what was available. When MinecraftEDU was available with a microsoft Office 365 login, I wondered some more about how this would work in class. So when a MOOC course popped up for MinecraftEdu I thought ‘Ha, I should get me on to that’.

And as always, the very best learning has not been exactly what I expected. The very best thing about this course is that it is being run through microsoft classroom so I get to experience classroom as a student – which is super helpful as we are currently rolling out classroom for our whole school (I am running some whole school PD on it tomorrow!!).

To start with, the MOOC runs for 3 weeks, and involves 3 webinars. The first was a little laggy (A consequence of living on the other side of the world….) but still packed with some useful tips and tricks, and it is always nice to connect with other educators. There was some admin like getting logins sorted, a preach to the converted about why minecraft is pretty cool, some basics around moving about (it is funny how quickly the wasd key muscle memory comes back when playing minecraft), a walk through of the tutorial world and then we were off. We had an assignment and a due date and the time of our next call.

So my first error came through the assignment, I heard midnight Sunday as the due date and went sweet, that means Monday for me. Which is did, just not Monday Midnight. Hopefully they don’t mind it was late…. but he first assignment was one of three options based around putting yourself in the place of a beginner and trying a world through their eyes.

So I did the tutorial world, as part of the reason I am doing the MOOC is I don’t know what I don’t know. It was actually really good to walk my way through it, and I did make some mistakes…inlcuding breaking the lever that opens the door – luckily I could just smash through the door 🙂

But there were lots of other fun things to do, and I do think that if you have never played Minecraft before, the tutorial world via the Minecraft EDU site is a great place to start to see what it can do…..

So once I had (a bit of a rushed due to my assignment being late….) look around the world I completed my assignment (again, once I had learned how yo export the screenshots I took…. mild panic there) and uploaded them into the assignment section of microsoft classroom

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We also had to share our assignment on to the collaboration space of a shared notebook and comment on each others experience. This was really cool, reading about what other people had done and seeing some more experienced users than me and what they could do – definitely super awesome stuff right there….

So already it has been a really worth while course, and I am looking forward to webinar 2 this week. And I will definitely not be leaving the assignment so late this time 🙂

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Blogging Challenge, random ramblings

Reading other blogs

This blog is inspired by Keith’s blog on his thoughts about other blogs he had been reading. It challenged me to think about my own post and also gave me ‘warm fuzzies’ that my thoughts are contributing to greater conversations. So I thought I would write some responses to some blog posts that have made me think recently.

Number 1 – Karen Muhuish Spencer – Holding ideas lightly

This post by Karen  explores how educators can become more future focussed and embrace student centred learning, despite the fact there are unknowns and complex issues to consider.

‘Building planes as they fly is our speciality’ is such a superb analogy for educators. I am developing a loathing for ‘fixed’ unit plans and the need to show resources in beautiful neat folders as the gold standard of a good, organised teacher. If I am embracing student centred learning then the learning should go where the previous learning takes it and not along a path predetermined by me or my HoD. Which is why I am finding myself more and more at odds with some aspects of our assessment driven system – especially with external NCEA assessments which have very specific requirements in order to achieve success. But when something doesn’t go quite to plan, or results dip, it is so easy to fall back into old habits.

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My favourite advice from this post was to innovate from an informed position and make sure you are using multiple markers to inform your teaching – not just test scores. Make sure you run ideas past a critical friend and then be prepared to change it if it doesn’t work.

It also makes me think about why it is so important to share what you are trying to achieve outside of your classroom walls. If you hold onto resources because no-one shares back – everyone loses. You don’t get a chance to improve them, and others don’t get the chance to learn from them.

Number 2: Steph Collingwood – Letting students discover OneNote features by themselves

I really enjoy Steph’s posts – short, sweet but always with something new. This post was on some features of OneNote that I hadn’t used myself – but it reminded me of how powerful it is to let students 1) choose the method/tech that works for them and b) to have a play round with new stuff

Too often I feel we don’t let ourselves take time when learning new tools to really get a feel for how we can use them best. I have decided this is my remote control rule. If you are too afraid to touch buttons on the remote control to find out what they do, you have become afraid of the new.

And if we are unwilling to let our students try things we are not comfortable using – I’d argue that we are not modelling life long learning. Learning from our students empowers our students and gives them confidence to try new things. If teachers are always too afraid to try something new for fear of it not working, then of course out students will adapt this behaviour to themselves and play it safe.

Number 3: Pip Cleaves – It’s not them, it’s me – why I can’t do big conferences anymore.

I read this post as I was pondering about whether I forced the issue of U-learn with my school. I have been to Ulearn before and really enjoyed it. But Rotorua is expensive to get to, the conference is expensive and I have been away a whole lot already this year for various reasons. I thought I should go up and present and share what I’m doing – but really I do most of that on my blog anyway.

So how much would I have got out of it? I have heard or read the books of most of the keynotes. I of course value face to face interactions and would love to have caught up with all the cool peeps that would be there. But in terms of bang for buck – some-one else from my school really would get a lot more from the opportunity. PLD is SOOOOO expensive and often not equitably shared so this is also about a moral responsibility I suppose. The money could be better spent than my going to hear what I already think and to present what I would willing share for free.

So I have made the choice to focus instead on educamps (I self funded a trip to Auckland) and teachmeets and real stuff. Real educators sharing what they do. Free, often on a weekend or in own time, and real. I will continue to connect with educators via webinars (Loving the EDCHATNZ MOOC ones even if I didn’t have time for the mooc, thanks MissDtheTeacher and the edchatNZ crew), twitter chats, facebook and the vln. Even the odd coffee or after work drinks.

That said, I had MASSIVE FOMO for the recent ISTE conference held in the US (I drooled over the twitter stream) – and so might make a mission to get to that next year.

There are more blogs that I read out there too – keep blogging and sharing your stories – as we are all contributing to a conversation that matters. Be sure to check out the EDBLOGNZ page with a list of the NZ educator blogs, if yours isn’t there, just use #edblogNZ when sharing on twitter.

 

 

 

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

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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 🙂

Posted in NAPP2016, Professional learning, random ramblings

Reflections from NAPP PLG 2

Being very honest, I have not done nearly enough for NAPP since the Hui in the holidays. There have been so many other things to do (Oh my goodness ALL the things) that it just kept getting put into the next week pile. EVERY WEEK. When the PLG day rolled around, my first thought was ARGHHHHHH – I am already out 2 days that week. We have ERO the week after. I’m off to Wellington. And then sadly I am heading home for a funeral this week now too. Life just keeps getting bigger right now…

So despite all of the other things, it was really good to have the day set aside to focus on it, regroup and get re-energised. To have TIME to think about what I am doing, where I am trying to go and TIME to talk to other people about projects and ideas and ponderings. To have TIME to listen to others and their experiences, and TIME to learning new things.

The most valuable session (to my mind) was listening to a newish principal about their experience. I can’t share the full story, but there were certainly some challenges and it was a very warts and all story that was told. The points that stuck out for me where

  1. When you apply for a job, the BoT/School want you to
    1. have all of the strengths of the previous person
    2. none of their weaknesses
    3. Solve problems instantly….
    4. without creating new problems
    5. AND be great on stage at prize giving.

So just be yourself – no point in every trying to be what they want, cause then you need to be that person. Which is impossible when you are under constant pressures.

2. Every school is full of people, and people are messy. But they are your greatest asset. Treat them like you want to be treated and build relationships with them – this will make hard conversations easier.

3. If you want your school to be a safe place to make mistakes, model it. Make a mistake on purpose if you have to – and acknowledge, apologies, wear the egg and fix it

4. Look after yourself. NO-ONE else can do this.

They also shared an amazing quote which is mixing in with my nautical themed NAPP experience so far

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Which is awesome. Don’t get bogged down in the small stuff, and don’t tell people what to do, let people find their way to change.

With all the challenges and down times, this person still thought that leading a school and a community was ‘magic’.

We also had a really good session on finance. I am mindblown about how much of this (what I consider CRAP) Principals have to deal with. Staffing, op budgets, donations, PTA, buildings, taxes, expensese…. it went on and on and on…..

What I took out of this (other than a confirmed belief I NEVER actually want to be a principal under the current model…..) is that there is not enough money EVER. So I do need to think more about the price of things compared to their value. What is value for money? What is value for students? teachers? The community?

Linked to this is that you can’t actually MAKE parents pay for anything. Eg workbooks – you can’t make students and parents pay. Because you could still teach using refill paper and a white board. You can’t make students bring a device, because you could do it with refill paper and a white board. This ‘default’ learning setting of bare bones needs to change. Bare bones should not be teacher delivery, student writing in silence. Student deserve better. But really, this is a whole other blog post…..

So it was a very worthwhile day away from school. And once I get back from the funeral, and once ERO is out of the way, and once I am back from Wellington next week (I am talking to TELA….) I must make time to go back and really invest in the readings and re connect with my coaching buddy. I need to get on and document my inquiry so I don’t get to the end of the year and find I haven’t got anywhere.

So another big thing I got out of this day is that there are sooooo many things. To hear, to read, to listen to, to watch, to discuss and to do. I often lament my students lack of prioritising. Perhaps because I am so woefully inept myself 🙂 I need to be more purposeful around my NAPP inquiry to ensure it remains meaningful, useful and FUN.

Posted in NAPP2016, random ramblings

Reflections from NAPP HUI

A week ago I attended the NAPP hui as part of the national aspiring principals program. It was an amazing few days that have really challenged my thinking and what I am trying to achieve as an educator. Finding the WHY was the theme that reoccurred for me over the 2 days.

For me, the single best idea I got out of this 2 days was the idea of an educational ‘eddy’. Karen Hopai used this analogy and it really struck a chord with me (Her whole talk was amazing really, I really liked what she had to say). I have spent a bit much time of late focussing on disruption without thinking about what do to after the disruption. (Thanks Paula and Philippa for talking me through some of this) So when I heard this idea, I LOVED it. Eddie’s can create whirlpools that can suck you down, or they can be used to propel you forward in your journey downstream. Strong rocks can withstand them over time, let the water wash around them, while less strong rocks will get shaped over time, and the small stuff will just get swept away. When I was chewing this over out loud, I (hopefully teasingly) got called a Tsunami, which was a good reminder to not be too rushed with ideas and become destructive. Some-one else also said that your end point might be across a rocky sea – there were several references to water through out the 2 days.

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The other piece of advice I got from this speaker was to stick at what you are doing. Even if it is just you, or one or two others, the idea will get there and as it gains traction great things can come from it.

 The theme of NAPP was to figure out ‘who we are’ as part of exploring what is giving passion and purpose to out leadership. I found this really challenging – I am not really sure where I want to go. Perhaps this is because I haven’t found it yet, or maybe I won’t find it, all I know if that I am not satisfied with the way things are now. So I am still thinking over these concepts. I know I am not ‘happy’ with the status quo, I am doing something about it, but I still haven’t quite always got a handle on understanding the way I am trying to do things. Even focusing on the language I am using will help this.

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Another highlight was meeting Rachel Bolstad. Meeting people I’ve meet ‘online’ in real life is always awesome – even if I was a bit ‘star struck’

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Her talk was all about possibilities, and how can we make those possibilities a reality. Do we take a what will be will be approach or do we reach out and grab the future and wrest it to our will

Leading without harm was another idea that came up a few times. Again, I’m still not sure about this idea…. Obviously you don’t want to make things worse, but you also need to take risks – if it doesn’t work you can iterate and change. So the balance between action, reaction and inaction seems to be finely poised…

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The last speaker (Graeme Stoop) was different again. School leaders are in positions of authority (after 2 days of partnerships and leadership this was a different take…) but what is authority? A title? Power? He had power over us as we all listened to him, but also the audience had power as we could have all got up and walked out (as if….). So it was a reminder that we have a responsibility and for me the big take home there was I can have all the passion in the world (I am quite passionate) but if I don’t have the responsibility to go with it, the passion will go no where.

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And finally somewhere over the course of the 2 days (I’ll admit they did start to blur, it was a very full program) we were asked this. What are we going to start doing? Stop doing and keep doing. I have been thinking on and off on this for a week and I’m still not sure exactly how to answer other than my initial scrawlings.

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All in all, a LOT to think about and it is going to take more than a week to digest some of the ideas. Thanks to everyone I spoke to and learned from 🙂

Mostly for my own reference, Storifies from the tweets from the events are HERE, HERE and HERE.