Posted in 01. Te Tiriti o Waitangi partnership, 02. Professional learning

Equity Maps for Staff and Students

After every conference or institute, there are always a few things that resonate with me. One in particular was the spotlight by Stephanie Thompson on the use of equity maps. As an English teacher, I am constantly getting my classes to work in groups. But at the back of my mind, there is always the question of equity. Who is participating fully? Who is being excluded? Who is overlooked and has given up trying to be heard? Stephanie focused on gender equality, which I will pursue with my classes. But in addition to this, in the New Zealand context, we have priority learners. Teachers have a hunch about participation and contribution. But now, with the aid of equitymaps.com we have group analysis and data at our fingertips. And it is instant.

The data you get answers the question of equity of participation. You get gender balance, amount of time spent participating, and even how many times the teacher spoke. You can see this in graphs, or look at individuals and see how much of the discussion they contributed to. As the website says:

Is everyone sharing air-time?

Is someone with many ideas a little too quiet?

Someone can’t keep quiet?

Is the teacher doing most of the talking?

I decided to introduce equity maps, not to my classes [yet] but rather to a community leaders’ meeting (Kāhui Ako.) We are working across six schools, with teachers of year 1 through to teachers of year 13. We actively promote collaboration and some of us are currently working on a moderation process for use across the community. This is easier said than done, given that the jargon in a primary school differs to a high school. The writing tasks are quite different. And we are looking at writing from across the curriculum, from years 1 to 10. At this meeting we had got to the point of finally refining and just about producing our matrix.

I mapped the discussion. While moderation doesn’t sound all that exciting, there was a sense of energy because we could finally see that the hours of refining the matrix was finally paying off. At the end of the session, this is just some of the data I had:

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I could show the group members who had contributed, how many times, and for how long. They could compare their contributions to the rest of the group. The equity factors showed that they had been quite inclusive, but this could be worked on. And then I discovered when I hit the “playback session” that there is a recording of the participation from each member. Dare I say that I had to hit the “Teacher Talk” icon 19 times. Useful to see the data on that one. I’m happy to say I never had to hit the “chaos” icon, but then I also had to avoid the “silence” icon because they were never silent.

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The power of this tool is immense. As Stephanie said, “Whose voice is not being heard?” With this tool, you’ll have more than a hunch. You’ll have the data to back that hunch up. If you are wanting to promote collaboration, this is the ideal tool. Thanks to Stephanie for her inspiration, and to app creator Dave Nelson and EquityMaps.

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Posted in 02. Professional learning, Professional development, Uncategorized

Worldwide ADE Institute 2018: Texas

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This year there were 371 educators from 38 countries represented in Austin. The temperature in Texas exceeded 35 degrees on most days. On others, it climbed to 40. Not that we would’ve noticed because we were grinding away on our projects in the sometimes rather chilly air conditioned rooms. Regardless of temperatures, it is always great to connect with my New Zealand teacher-friends. Donna Smith is generally the first to spark an idea, and this is normally after a casual ten minute conversation.

Donna and me

In addition to the Kiwi connection, it is a really humbling experience to witness the stories of inspiration from across the globe. Some teachers are utilising the accessibility features in iPads simply to allow their students to communicate with them on the most basic level. Without these features, these students would be silent.

The hashtag for the conference was #EveryoneCanCreate. There was still an emphasis on coding, but the big drive was towards getting our teachers and students to be more creative, in the largest sense of the word. The point was made that conformity is easier than creativity. I’ll be challenging my students on this one: are they taking the easy road because it’s simply that- easy? And what about our own teaching practise? Are we doing what we’ve always done? As one of the presenters said, don’t confine your students to your style of learning.

After a full day of workshops, we broke off into homeroom groups. One of the first things we had to do was define what creativity means to us. So what would you say? What does creativity mean to you? For me, at its core, creativity has freedom and choice. It also has flexibility and courage to produce your ideas. The next thing I really took away from the creativity topic is that less is more. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. With the result, the Clips video I made (using the combined ideas from our project team,  namely Donna Smith, JJ Purton Jones and myself) was clean and simple. We were pleased to see it up on the big screen as one of the nine examples used in the institute reflections on the last day.

The other big winner this year was surprisingly, Keynote. This app is no longer being used as a presentation tool. We saw the most fantastic movies, animations and inspiring ideas, all created in Keynote. The great thing is that our students are very familiar with the tool, now I’d like to get them digging way deeper into the capabilities of Keynote. In fact I thought I knew quite a bit about this tool, but there are so many as yet unused layers. This will be my mission over the coming weeks, to familiarise myself with the deeper layers. What I think was the best sharing session regarding the capabilities of Keynote was from Noah Katz If you have ever seen the graphic novel The Boat by Nam Le, this is the type of animation Noah is producing, along with his students. When I have more insight into how to do this, I will share. As I’m sure will my fellow ADEs.

Stephanie Thompson gave a fantastic spotlight session on using gender equality apps to track who speaks up in group work.  She used equitymaps.com where you can download the app ($4.49: It’s a teacher app so only you need to buy it.) She found that when she started using these tracking maps, the boys dominated over the girls. You are able to chart the dialogue in group work, or in fact get the data about how much time you spend talking in a lesson. The point for group work is clear: Whose voices are not being heard? In addition, we might find that we need to develop the mantra of talk less and listen more. I wonder what the data would look like if we tracked school meetings?

But wait, there’s more! Who knew that Pages could be so exciting? My students have used the book template in Pages, but they tend to use the blank copy and work from scratch. No need to do so as all the templates are editable. Teachers can make use of smart annotation when marking, which magically anchors to the text, even if the student edits and moves text around. Hit presenter mode and the document transforms into a teleprompter. Add voice recordings and you can edit the audio directly in Pages. Mask photos with shapes for some really cool effects. To change colours, drag and drop the central dot in the colour wheel.

Next we went to a session which looked at Universal Design for Learning. They highlighted how important it is for teachers and students to get to know how the accessibility features work on our devices. This could potentially remove barriers to learning for some students. They recommended a book by John D. Couch called Rewiring Education: How Technology can Unlock every student’s potential.

Book Title

Another great view, which I think will resonate with many teachers, is that digital natives do not exist. We need to actively teach digital literacy. How many times have we seen students happily producing digital work, only for us to be disappointed with the quality of the sound, visuals, or both? What I picked up is that teachers are taking time to teach these digital skills. The question is, if we stick closely to the curriculum, where do we fit digital literacy in?

John Danty of GarageBand fame was sublime. I’m no musician but even I felt inspired to investigate loops and smart drummer more closely. I’ll prompt my students to make use of GarageBand to create special effects and tracks to be used with their videos and podcasts.

We ended institute at Salt Lick BBQ, an authentic Texas experience. And a quick trip to 6th street for some of the best live music and jam sessions. My last trip was to fulfil my mission of buying some Texas boots for both Trevor Rubens and myself. I’m pleased to report: Mission Accomplished.

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So finally, in sticking with the theme #EveryoneCanCreate, if creativity is higher order thinking, are we driving our students in that direction? And is our work allowing for courageous and flexible freedom to create?

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Posted in 03. Professional relationships, Uncategorized

Visit to NZQA in Wellington

 

 

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A representative from New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) visited Orewa College and spent a couple of hours in my class. The aim was to see how teachers and students are accessing and utilising technology in the classroom. He then invited me to run a session in Wellington, and this took place on Friday 22nd June.  

The session involved 12 National Assessment Facilitators, and some other members of Secondary Examinations. Secondary Examinations is the team responsible for the development of the NCEA and NZ Scholarship examinations and the marking of those exams.  They will be the team responsible for the development and marking of digital exams and will be responsible for delivering on NZQA’s goal of using technology as the catalyst to transform assessment. One of the principles they are trying to adhere to, with regard to the digital examinations, is that they reflect what is happening in the classroom. This session provided an opportunity for the team to gain some insights into how teachers are using technology, not as the focus, but as the instrument to enhance their students’ learning.

I travelled down to Wellington and presented the Orewa College journey from the perspective of my classroom. The focus began with the optional BYOD in 2010, through to the current system where technology fits comfortably into our daily work. We looked at how students access their work, and what teachers need to do to engage their students. We discussed how, as a staff, we do still share good apps and websites. But it is far more about changing pedagogy to suit the situation. It is more about students taking ownership of their learning and finding out what works best for them, and working at their pace. And we looked at how it helps to be flexible enough to allow and promote student choice.

The slideshow above is a summary of the points I raised, looking at my preferred way of working with technology, as well as that of the students. The whole exercise, putting the presentation together, and delivering it, was a reminder of how far we have progressed over the past few years.

It is encouraging to know that NZQA is actively visiting classes and seeking understanding from teachers, as they strive to improve the examination process for our students.

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Posted in 04. Learning-focused culture, Personal TAI

Developing my teaching as inquiry approach

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The Teaching as Inquiry (TAI) model is designed to improve both the delivery of content, and the experience for the students. In essence, TAI is a process that encourages teachers to change their practice in order to enhance success for all students. My TAI aim is to raise awareness of the complexity that students can bring to their writing by the act of adding layers. To help with the awareness of these layers, I have looked at what the assessment standards give us, and also the Learning Progressions Framework (LPF.)

But is it enough to just be aware of these layers? How do students check that they have added enough depth to their writing? I created the resource above to help. In this exercise, students are required to find someone to check their work; someone they trust; someone that is not me. I will of course be one of the checkers, but it simply is not good enough to wait for my feedback. Some students naturally turn to their peers and get them to read their work. This checklist should help with the process. But what about those students that don’t necessarily want their peers to look at their work? One boy in my class said that he didn’t want his friends to see his work until it was, in his mind, perfect.

So I’ve opened the activity up. My instruction was: Find someone that you trust to read your work. That someone might be a relative, a past teacher, a peer in another school. And the other thing that I reminded my students was that they should get the checker to be critical. And then, when they are given constructive criticism, that they should act on it. Not sulk about it. Because let’s face it, their writing can and should feel very personal, and therefore, they get protective over it.

To clinch the deal, I made this poster to highlight the Ako Orewa questions they should be able to answer during the whole writing process. This should help with developing their agency.

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Thanks to Richard Wells for the critique on my original poster.

Posted in 05. Design for learning, Personal TAI

Take control of your learning

Teaching as Inquiry: 2018

I’ve been mulling over this post for ages. I know my inquiry is linked to improving students’ writing. And I know I want to include increased student agency in my inquiry. In addition. I know that my approach will be based on design thinking. So what is my hunch? This morning, while reading a post by Kath Murdock it struck me. It’s all good and well me being flexible and giving choice. But the students do not believe that they actually have a choice. Therefore they are not owning their learning and in turn developing independence. This quote resonated with what I’ve been thinking:

Having a sense of agency then, is fundamental.  Our well-being depends on it…Teacher’s conversations with children help the children build the bridges between action and consequence that develop their sense of agency.’(Johnston, 2004, p. 30).

Students are so used to being told what to do, and when to do it, that they have not developed that sense of independent thought. My mission, or rather my inquiry, will be to promote students’ flexibility, independence and therefore their agency.

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The students that I will base my TAI on are a class that have enjoyed success at school. For their first assessment, the results were: 20 Excellences, 5 Merits and 2 Achieved grades. They work hard, have high standards and meet deadlines. But they struggle to answer the fundamental questions demanded of them by our school’s Ako approach:

Through Ako Orewa, all students will be able to explain:

  • What they are learning and why?
  • What success looks like
  • How well they are doing
  • What their next steps are

The Leadership reworked  the focus for Ako Orewa in such a way that it emphasised student leading their own learning.

My method will be to regularly ask these four questions. I encourage them to peer assess, but if I’m honest, they still would rather I tell them how well they are doing, and what their next steps should be. That does not foster their independence. As Kath Murdock points out:  ‘If children know there is someone standing over them who has all the answers they are less inclined to want to find the answers for themselves.’ 

Through our Orewa Kāhui Ako work I have revisited the Learning Progressions Framework with its seven aspects to writing. This is what should have been covered in writing classes from years 1 through to 10. I shared this with my class as they are busy crafting their creative or formal writing. In my next lesson I will get them to identify these seven aspects in their peer’s work. This will help them with understanding the questions: How well they are doing and What their next steps are. Without relying on me telling them.

I designed this Padlet to help with these two questions: What they are learning and why? and What success looks like. I’ll have the quantitative data after the assessment is graded. But I’m just as interested in the qualitative data gained from asking the four Ako questions. This is something I’ll need to revisit regularly. Until it becomes a habit for the students to do themselves, without me prompting them.

My goal is to empower my students with the competencies required to actively control their learning, as stated in the New Zealand curriculum.

 

Posted in 02. Professional learning, Uncategorized

Teacher agency and the digital curriculum

At our school we are really consciously giving students more agency. I have found that this flexible, student centric approach optimises productivity for many students. Giving choice often promotes ownership. Surely you’ve got to own the work if you chose to do it?

But what about the teachers? Where is our agency? Are we freed up to make choices about how we work, and what we focus on?

With that in mind I led the Wednesday PD session in our English department. Instead of telling them what to work on, or sharing what I was feeling passionate about, we looked at a range of activities they could get busy with.

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The activities ranged from getting to grips with Google+ and joining the various groups, to blog categories and reducing the 12 practicing teacher categories down to six. There was time for some cross year level collaboration, and some good old NCEA pre-standard discussions .

What I personally was most keen to get started on was the Mindlab Digital Passport

This Digital Passport is designed to help both teachers and parents understand the NZ Digital Curriculum more fully It is an online course and offers videos, a very brief quiz at the end of each workshop, and additional resources or learning modules. What they do is define much of the terminology and jargon associated with the digital curriculum. They define simple algorithms and computational thinking for Years 1-3, right through to how to create apps for years 8-10. There is not enough time to learn the skills behind the concepts. Rather it is to give teachers and parents an overview of what students from years 1 through to 10 would be expected to cover. And If you like getting certificates, you can get one at the end of each of the four workshops.

In the words of the @NZDigiPassport on Twitter this is “your ticket to navigate the new digital technologies curriculum.”

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Posted in 04. Learning-focused culture, Personal TAI

Exam Results 2017: Reaching for Excellence

These results reflect the hard work and tenacity of a fantastic group of students. They link to my Teaching as Inquiry post but as that post was rather long, I have decided to analyse their results in a new post.

Although these students were enrolled in three external exams, I strongly suggested to both them and their parents that they do two of the three exams. A large proportion of the students followed this advice. This partly explains the high percentage of excellences for both the visual text exam and the unfamiliar exam.

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Looking at all the standards over the year, they achieved a remarkable set of results. 55% of all students in the class reached excellence for all their work. I think this is in part due to the atmosphere in the class. That they know that they have choice around how they work. That they take ownership of the level they work at. But also, that these students drive each other to do really well.

But the other aspect is the question of excellence grades: How do students get their work to excellence? Particularly intriguing in a subject like English where the marking can be very subjective.

My views are that some students are naturally good at the subject. No matter what teachers do, they will excel. But these students are, in my experience, a small minority. So how is it that 55% of all students in this class got excellence grades over the entire year? The answer is tenacity. We live in an instant society, where we expect instant gratification. So most students seem to believe that one draft is all it takes. These students do not get to excellence. Tenacity means that students are prepared to accept that the first draft is just that, a draft. And that the draft might go through a number of iterations and refinements before the final product is ready for submission.

The students in this class showed drive, determination and bucket loads of tenacity. And they can be justifiably proud of both their grades and the key competencies that they developed over the year.

 

 

Posted in 02. Professional learning, Personal TAI

Reflections on Orewa Kāhui Ako Conference 2018

There is nothing like a conference to invigorate you to start the year. This year we held our inaugural Orewa Kāhui Ako: Community of Learning Conference. It was attended by staff from all six schools in our community, with nearly 300 people taking part. Our keynote speaker was Derek Wenmoth who challenged thinking about the future of education. He was both provocative and stimulating, in both his address and his workshops based on deeper learning.

We then sent the delegates off to their workshops. There were 18 workshops in total, all run by teachers from the community. These ranged from specific curriculum areas, through to teaching and learning strategies. Some of the workshops targeted specific age groups, but most could be used and adapted to any age or curriculum area. Most workshops were run multiple times, with the goal being that we generate, promote and share practical ideas.

I ran a few workshops based on video creation, in particular I looked at the app called Clips. In fact, I was surprised to learn that I am the first ADE to run a workshop of this nature in New Zealand. But I know I am not the only one to be using and publishing material from Clips. You only need to follow the #Clips on Twitter to see how widely teachers are using it.

My promise to the delegates: They would be able to create a video that they could use in class, in under an hour. Besides the odd person who had not updated their device, the vast majority were able to do just that. The star of the one workshop was a self-proclaimed dinosaur when it comes to technology. She worked quietly and systematically, and produced a slick, fun and exciting video clip, in under an hour, which she happily showcased at the end.

The feeling in the workshops was largely one of excitement. The reason: the app is free, is accessible and easy to use. But overwhelmingly, the hurdle of the voice over is erased. Teachers can create lessons, use voice-to-text, then mute their voice if they wish. I believe that more teachers would create flipped lessons if they knew that they don’t have to appear on screen, and that they don’t have to listen to the sound of their own voice. And now they can.

I wanted to make it as easy as possible for the teachers in my workshop to get on with the task of creating their videos. So prior to the conference, I reflected on the pedagogical approaches that I have adopted over the last few years, in particular flipped video lessons, and blended learning. This has all culminated in a new online publication:

Link to Create Video Clips

Chapters include a guide to using the Clips app for the first time, a start up lesson, further lesson ideas with video resources as examples. I also included an end of year activity and some research from my literature review, as well as my Teaching as Inquiry report, all of which were based on flipped and blended learning.

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We had such fun putting this conference together. It forged relationships across the community and has given us insight into how the various year levels work. One other thing that I should mention is that we got Eat my Lunch- Buy one. Give one. to do the catering. It feels good, as you tuck into your lunch, to think that you are doing some good in the wider community. For every lunch we ordered, a needy child was being donated a free lunch.

 

Posted in 06. Teaching, Personal TAI

Teaching as Inquiry impacts my students

As we approach the end of the academic year, it is time to look at the overall data for my Year 11 class, generated through internal standards and the school exams. My hunch going into this TAI is that students should be provided with a variety of methods of instruction that suit a wide variety of working and learning styles. My main focus has been to further develop, tweak and adapt the blended and flipped approach which I started a while back. A flexible attitude helps, along with varied resources ranging from videos through to exemplars produced by my students, and a bit of everything in between. Students have been encouraged and cajoled into forging their own learning pathways.  I’m happy to say that we have been able to work on a multitude of tasks and activities all at once, and no one has run mad.

 

 

The latest craze in my class has been Design Thinking. It gives group work impetus, meaning and drives the learning forward. However, I digress, as that will form part of next year’s TAI.

Comparisons are odious, but necessary for my TAI. My basis is always my year 11 class as they are, year after year, pretty much made up of the same calibre of student and have an even gender split. As far as the internal results go, there is not much to pick between the 2016 class and the 2017 class. This year’s class did marginally better, gaining 69% of their internal credits at excellence level. I feel far more comfortable with them driving their own learning at their own pace. And I sense a greater independence from them too, like they expect to find answers and probe for questions in their groups, before turning to me. Ako Orewa asks for student agency and this is not achieved overnight. But my year 11s have displayed a remarkable ability to self manage and generate some brilliant pieces of work independently, and their grades attest to this.

 

2016                                                    2017

Next I analysed their school exams. Our school was part of the NCEA Digital Pilot exams. Not all my students did the digital exam, but a large portion did. So that does bring in a few variables compared to last year. On the whole the digital exams ran smoothly and I am pleased to say that NCEA sought feedback from the students, both before and after the exam.  Their results? Up on last year with 40% of the class attaining excellence grades, compared with 31% last year.

 

   2016                                                      2017               

A few points, as well as variables, to consider:

  1. Blended and flipped learning, with the independence it fosters, is not having a negative effect on students.
  2. I have stopped insisting that the videos be flipped out of class time. If their learning is to be ubiquitous, some of them will, and do, prepare before lessons, and others in the lesson. It generally depends on the amount of work from other subjects whether or not they want to buy time by pre-preparing work. Freedom to work their way is paramount.
  3. Maybe the fact that they could type their essays resulted in better grades.
  4. The digital exams were marked by external markers. Perhaps as a department we are stricter on our students than the external markers were?

A TAI was never designed to be scientific. My data has a number of variables. And I have not discussed all the spirals I have included over the year. But what is clear to me is that students need to be trusted to work independently, and work the way that suits them best. I have also advised my students to only do two of their three papers. With grades like these, who wouldn’t take advantage of the flexibility of NCEA? Hopefully in the years to come, externals will be optional.