Posted in 05. Design for learning

Lockdown Learning

Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster- Elon Musk

As I write this post, New Zealand has been in lockdown for almost a week. We experienced a few days of online learning before the earlier-than-normal Easter holidays began. In that time I have witnessed a flurry of companies offering advice, resources and professional learning opportunities for this new normal. Call it what you will, home schooling, online teaching and learning, lockdown learning, it all amounts to the same thing. Teachers connecting with their students (and families) online.  I believe we need to rethink entirely the way we have been working, because the world as we know it has been changed forever. 

How do we inspire learning, creativity and productivity in our students while in lockdown? And when lockdown finally ends, what will the new normal look like?

The Teacher, Student, Family Triangle

We have for years spoken about the importance of the link between school and home. But now this connection is quite simply a lifeline.

Of course we have many students who are self motivated and driven to succeed, even when the goalposts have been removed. But for those students that normally rely on being pushed by the teacher, it is now more important to have supportive and involved parents and whanau. Parents that have a clear understanding of what a typical school day would look like, so that this can be fairly closely replicated at home. Routine, boundaries, expectations. These do not, as we well know, miraculously form themselves. It takes planning and hard work to set them up. And then it takes determination and drive to adhere to them.

This global crisis called Covid_19 has been equated to a war against an invisible enemy. I believe we need to plan and prepare as our forefathers must have done back when the world was at war.

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Some positives  

  1. For most of us, lockdown has slowed us down, which is not entirely a bad thing. It has forced us back to basics as we contemplate a world which is vastly different to what we have grown accustomed to. Can we sustain this slower pace? Only if we have productive plans in place.
  2. For a lot of families, they will support their children to learn as best as they possibly can. The helicopter parents will intensify and their radar will be smoking hot. For others, they will remain largely distant from the learning process. Those students will need closer monitoring.  The ideal would be when parents understand that children need freedom to learn, create and discover. Online learning is one way to do this, but certainly not the only way.
  3. Once the official school lessons have been tackled, I predict that families will turn to the old skills that have fallen by the wayside. Baking (if you can get any flour) sewing and knitting will resurface. As will gardening, DIY and home projects. Even the patience required for building jigsaw puzzles, creating art and boardgames should make a resurgence.
  4. On my local runs and walks, I have noticed far more families, confined in their bubbles, out walking and cycling.  I have noticed a marked shift from solo runners, to family units out exercising together. And I have noticed that physical distancing is politely but strictly adhered to.  But of course I can only speak for my local area, because travelling is prohibited.
  5. In addition, as we have read, pollution is down and it is almost as if the planet is being given the much-needed opportunity to reboot itself. As a family of three drivers, we have not used our cars in the entire lockdown period. Again, we are in the fortunate position to have everything we need within walking distance, which can’t be said for all. But this chance to take stock of life has been a real positive.

Students learning during lockdown

This brings me to what really prompted me to write this post. Last Friday was the due date for my year 10 students to hand in their Design Brief. Having a global epidemic and the world in crisis gave students the perfect excuse for not doing their work. Instead they got on and did their work. In fact I was amazed at some of the results. So here is a glimpse into what they have been working on, some completed with me in class, and the rest in lockdown.

And this…

In summary

Lockdown Learning
  1. I think the style of teaching where students are actively encouraged to work independently, accessing the resources when they need them, is a huge advantage. When we get back to school, this should be encouraged, enforced, regulated. It is in the best interests of the students.
  2. It helped that we had two weeks of preparation for lockdown, even though the preparation was all highly speculative and hypothetical. We had discussions and made plans anyway. Students and parents need to know what the expectations are. Having experienced this first lockdown, we will be better prepared for the next one.
  3. Video creation is now more important than ever. Teachers and parents could learn a thing or two from students with this skill.
  4. Video conference calls, while they can feel a bit awkward to start off with, are a fast track to touch base and get some instructions out to the class. Or to the team, department, board.
  5. It is important to have some protocols surrounding these calls. For example, a mute student mic helps until some order to the call is established. Typing their questions in a chat box is great to get the conversation started. It helps ease the initial awkwardness too.
  6. I have heard that some schools have insisted on school uniforms for these video calls. While I get their reasoning, I really cannot understand this type of deficit thinking. Give students more credit than that, is my view. Our school, by way of example, “conducted 2796 Meets in the last 10 days with an average length of 15 minutes.” Not once did I hear a complaint about the students’ attire being inappropriate in any way.
  7. I would strongly advise against getting students to simply fill in worksheets or do online exercises. Now is the time to get creative. Learn new skills, as with the Everyone can Create series. The beauty of these workbooks is that they take technology outside. For example going on Photo Walks and Freezing the Perfect Action Shot. For more ideas, have a look at the newly curated apps on the App Store
  8. It is also the time to resurface old skills, like knitting, sewing and crafts. YouTube is probably the perfect place to start.

Having a plan, being prepared, is the way to cope with the new normal. Because the world as we knew it is gone.

Posted in 05. Design for learning

What to do When the World Shuts Down

When I had the idea of making the following poster, it was done when school closure was a theoretical concept, not a reality. I must say I was hugely skeptical that we would go into full lockdown. But when lockdown came, it did so swiftly and uncompromisingly.

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Was I worried about my students? Their health, welfare and anxiety worried me, but I think over the past few years we have been developing their digital capability, so online learning did not worry me at all. In fact, in 2012 I first came across the concept of flipped learning, where teachers video their lessons so that students can watch in their own time. Judging by the multitude of posts I wrote back then, it is safe to say I was pretty excited by this idea. And I was about a decade behind Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams who first shared the idea. So when we were told that schools were going to shut and that we were moving to online learning, the shift for me and many like me was actually very easy.

I already had many lessons which rely on student independence. They already receive their information through video, presentations and digital links. But on Sunday I added a few fresh videos in preparation for possible closure. The beauty of having worked in this way for a number of years is that the shift for many of my students has seemed to be a fairly seamless one.

One of the greatest gifts you can give your students is independence

Yes they still need to connect with you, speak to you, and hear from you in a face-to-face way. There might even be the argument for a short lecture-style lesson. But this should be a small part of all the ways you get your message across. Think of the variety of ways we all like to learn. And so, if students have developed that independence and reliance on a number of reliable sources of information, learning from home will not be as daunting.


What I have added, which was previously unnecessary, is weekly (or more frequent if necessary) video voice overs to remind students of where they should be up to with the work. Again, if teachers are comfortable with this form of technology, they’ll know exactly which tools to use. For example, for videos that I want students to refer back to, and need to have a permanency, I create them using the Clips app and then I publish to YouTube. In this way I may well be helping beyond my own school. However for daily updates, I use QuickTime and do a voice recording over the resources that I want to highlight. Like this:

I have a feeling these videos might be more useful for nervous parents, rather than students


This last point brings me to the 2020 integration of curriculum areas, and the anxiety surrounding this way of working. This is again an area of school life that I am excited about. And with school closure, I am eternally grateful for. The topic I am involved in is a combination of the following three subjects: English, Hard Tech and Science. These are some of the things that have surfaced this week:

  1. I am no expert in the field of Tech or Science, but I now have a clear understanding of what the learning intentions are for these subjects. Having compiled the following timeline, I know exactly what comes next. Being on a shared Google Classroom, I have access to resources across all three subjects. So when I held a video call session for my rotation of students, and the rest of our topic group started joining in, I was able to confidently answer the questions based on all three subjects. Students were not asking content based questions which would have left me in the dark, rather they were asking for due dates and next steps. All of which I could either answer, or direct them to the relevant resource.

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2. Our first rotation for English involved the students coming up with a Design Brief for an innovation to reduce; reuse or recycle. Fortunately when I made the following resource, I took the vocabulary straight from the Technology TKI website. So if school closure means that students are not able to fulfil their tech brief and make their prototype at home, we could easily share the Design Brief marking between English and Tech.

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3. I would normally have had influence over one class, about 30 students. One of the big criticisms of the rotations in the integrated approach was that we would have 75 students to work with, albeit not at one time. But the fear was that relationships would not develop. I was fortunate to be in a three week rotation and made it a priority to fast track getting to know students. With this closure I have had contact, and therefore I would hope influence, on students from all three groups, not just the group I was busy with. Had it not been for our 2020 integrated curriculum, I could never have helped these students with their next steps.

4. The 2020 integrated programme would never work if teachers had a single delivery method. At its core it relies on students developing independence. Working collaboratively to come up with a possible solution. And then Ako and Mai time, both of which require students to manage self. I am not saying that we have perfected the programme. It will require ongoing review and revision. But I do believe that breaking down siloed subjects, looking for curriculum links, and genuinely working collaboratively, has made the move to online learning an easier one.

5. And lastly, in these times of isolation, I would previously have communicated ideas beyond my department through blogs, on the Apple Educators site and on Twitter. Ironically, I would have reached some of my global contacts, but not my colleagues from a variety of departments at my own school. With integration, this has changed.


  • I believe that teachers should be mastering one or two video tools. Here is a link to a digital book I made to show how to create Clips: Create Video Clips

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  • For daily updates, a voice over with the required resource would be great, as created with QuickTime
  • For face-to-face contact, Google Meet works well across all platforms. Here is a rough video I made for teachers to set up their classes or departments
  • We should be connecting with people in our department, across departments and globally. We are all in this together and the more we share ideas, the more efficiently we will work. And hopefully we will keep students at the heart of what we do, keeping them engaged and discovering is the primary goal
  • Here is a link to another digital book that I made based on Apple’s Everyone can Create Series.  My version is called Unleash Creativity Now more than ever students should be encouraged to be creative, and even better if they can get some fresh air while creating some awesome projects. As long as they remain in their contact bubble, two meters away from the next person

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Be a virus warrior, not a virus worrier

Posted in 02. Professional learning

Curriculum Progress Tools

I was fortunate to attend a hui run by the ministry in their Wellington offices on Friday, 6 March. Besides loving any excuse to visit our capital city, I found the day to be both informative and incredibly useful for planning our way forward with the curriculum progress tools.

As a Kāhui Ako we have spent many hours on both the writing and maths learning progressions frameworks. It was therefore encouraging to hear the following quote from one of the attendees:

The LPF gives teachers the big picture, with eloquent descriptors of NZC levels 1 through to 5. PaCT is ‘just’ the tool for generating data. But the data is powerful and has been compared to the well-known Plunket Graph.

The beauty lies in the simplicity of the graph: If the student is underachieving according to the projected graph, intervention is required.

The other beauty of PaCT is the information that can be tailored to suit the audience. Whether it is a report for the Board of Trustees, Kāhui Ako kura, senior leaders, teachers or parents and whānau, the information can be generated quickly and efficiently.

Orewa Kāhui Ako focus has largely been on writing LPFs for the following reasons:

  • At the outset we wanted to evaluate our writing and maths programmes. We couldn’t because teachers did not speak the same language. Jargon and acronyms were so at odds with each other
  • In addition we wanted to introduce moderation across curriculum levels 1- 5. PaCT and the LPF is the only tool that measures years 1 through to 10
  • So we turned to the LPFs to understand the various aspects of writing
  • To do this we unpacked and repacked the framework. This forced communication and understanding across our range of teachers
  • We use the LPFs as a common marking tool for moderation
  • LPF gave us a clear check of strengths and weakness in maths and writing programmes across the six kura
  • We developed a checklist spreadsheet to help college teachers transition from our old marking rubric to the LPF and PaCT aspects and sets. This gives a fuller picture of a student’s writing progression
  • Termly moderation using LPF informs schools and then teachers of the next steps in developing their own schools writing programme

These are some of the observations from the hui:

LPF Writing

If the MoE could redo this diagram, they’d invert it for college teachers. The first three aspects are developed and refined in primary teaching. To get college English teachers on board they’d focus on the last three aspects. Another approach would be to get teachers into a marking hub. Specialist teachers mark aspects 1-3, for example, looking at specialist spelling and vocabulary.

An example of a Science, Social Studies and English teacher hub was given:

  • Spelling and vocabulary: science checks specialist vocabulary. How to structure science reports eg illustrations are required, reports written in passive tense.  But only the first three aspects are marked for scientific understanding of content. They might look for templates, spider diagrams, graphic organisers
  • Last three aspects marked by the other specialist teachers, for example social studies teachers. Aspect 5 look at paragraph construction
  • Creating texts for literary purpose might be exclusively for English teachers
  • Influence others: persuasive writing could be across a number of curriculum areas
  • One person must confirm all judgements

What about the pesky curriculum levels being absent from the LPF?

  • NZC levels and LPF aspects don’t line up, this we know. Why levels don’t line up is because they were never designed in the same way. The curriculum levels are not detailed in the same way, nor do they have the student work attached in the same way
  • LPFs used with PaCT can give us a wealth of information. One attendee focused on LPFs for a year, showing his staff PaCT at the beginning of the next year. He gave them the option of loading marks into PaCT, or into another system. PaCT won hands down

Who can see your PaCT data?

The only reason data is held at MoE is so that they can dig to fix things . Otherwise data follows students. They felt that the data is infinitely more secure than other data that we have trusted for years. This is not helped by rumours and stories, and political agendas.

What about time taken to make judgements?

  • An option is to do each child aspect by aspect, but work in clusters of students. Chunk up students that are similar [😁😁]  [🤪🤪🤪] by looking for similar responses to similar tasks. The teacher is the professional, and they have to trust their judgement. So before marking, group students according to ability. This makes for better time management
  • An attendee from a large girls’ school on the South Island explained that they run a two year maths curriculum. Sometimes they felt that they need to use judgements from the previous year. This is a slight compromise but they are comfortable with that. Exemplars are very numeracy project based. So they look at the concept that they want to check the student had. eg. trig ratio. It is about what the students can do not what they could do on the day. Teachers are encouraged to trust their professional judgements. In this way we get accumulated data
  • LPF helps to know exactly where everyone is in the class because you are aligning to sets. When the teacher is clearer on curriculum, this leads to better learning. Rather than worrying so much about how accurate their judgements are
  • Understanding LPF and having it part of everyday learning is more important than results
  • Have to know students really well. Who’s the passenger? Who’s asking questions? Who’s doing homework? All of this forms part of the LPF judgements

And then there is the question of reporting

  • The PaCT scale sits inside the tool and it is mapped onto an independent scale. Not curriculum levels or in the past, national standards. So for the MoE to make adjustments behind the scenes is easy because the scale is independent. They are currently aligning the box and whisker graphs to be representative of NZ data.
  • Graph Line: gives you expected curriculum progress through 1-5 of the curriculum. When the student tracks below this line, intervention can take place.
  • When looking at overall data comparisons, it goes from years 1-8 in the reports because data is insufficient for years 9-10 student data at this stage
  • It looks like a Plunket graph. Staff like this analogy because they get it
  • There is no level 4&5 for literacy
  • Thinking and communicating are represented in our curriculum which is pretty unique. This can be judged using the LPF
  • LPF must be determined by the student’s independent work. Not scaffolded. There is a general concern that we are scaffolding too much, not raising the bar, and not offering reading programmes at many schools
  • We now have Kāhui ako functionality in PaCT reporting that can track students along their full school journey
  • Reports have three tabs: Tab 1: Progress report designed to have conversation with parents; Tab 2: achievement by time, moving through with 4 judgements; Tab 3: by individual students in class
  • Reports gives NZC expectations and typically working at descriptions. Easy language for parents to understand
  • Reporting can go from a conversion with parents right through to a comparison across kura. Leaders can get big picture view
  • Can look for judgments according to year and level eg 2019 year 4. Can run the report after student has left

Next steps

I will be working with the following table, putting the maths LPF onto a spreadsheet in order to gain a deeper understanding of the maths progressions.

LPF Maths

Posted in 05. Design for learning

New book title: Start Sketchnoting

I love creating digital books using iBooks Author. It’s a no-brainer for me: one download with all that multi-media content in one place. I am also developing a love for sketchnoting. Personally, I can feel the benefits, but more importantly, I can see the benefits for students. So I have combined these two passions into a new digital book, called Start Sketchnoting

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In it I look at the benefits of sketchnoting, or if you like, visual note taking. These include:

  • Increased focus. You are thinking about the essence of what someone is saying, and then how you can develop an icon to represent their words.
  • Next is obviously the creativity that it unleashes. Not only are you thinking creatively, you are also producing something that is pleasing to look at.
  • It gives you time to pause, reflect and process.
  • And finally, and probably most surprisingly, it has a really calming effect.

I’m all for bringing creativity back into the college classroom…any classroom for that matter. And sketchnoting is a fun way to make planning for an essay more meaningful. Or what about revision? Get students to use icons and visual triggers rather than screeds of writing. So next in my digital book, I looked at possible lesson ideas:

  • Meaningful planning for essays or writing
  • Character profiles
  • Selfie-sketchnotes as an introduction to the year
  • Making thoughtful notes
  • Storyboards for films
  • Planning for static image
  • Legitimate doodling

No good knowing why you should use visual note-taking, without looking at the best tools for the job:

  •   I primarily use the app Sketches, but Keynote and Pages work just as well. I love that you can do the basic background, then add layer upon layer which means you can paint and erase, without disturbing your original layer.
  • Being mobile means you have all the tools and palettes without the mess.

I have included many examples, with a variety of types of sketchnoting. Give it a go, and then unleash sketchnoting on your students.

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Posted in 04. Learning-focused culture, Personal TAI

Teaching as Inquiry: Data and Evidence

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”
― Margaret Mead

With this quote in mind I approached this term with the strong desire to continue to push my students beyond the limits they put on themselves. The hunch for my TAI was based on learning dispositions and learning mindsets. I have a gnawing concern that students are losing their sense of wonder, and are developing fixed mindsets with sentences starting with “But…” Rather than having growth learning mindsets with sentences starting with “Yes, and…” Having worked with Tabitha Leonard, I followed the simple yet effective steps of inquiry, namely:

Exploring: Wondering and Questioning

At the start of my inquiry, this was my hunch: Students have become ho-hum about their work, and their choices with regards to tech innovations. My focus was on igniting energy and passion into a class that is lovely!… but pretty passive in their approach. They are bright and well-behaved, but they seem to like to just do what they’ve always done. It has worked for them in the past. These are our top achievers. So why should they think outside the square?

Extracting: Strategising and Evidencing

To get to the final product, they worked on the Design Process workbook. The idea was to ‘see’ their thoughts and solutions. We expect students to effectively and successfully collaborate. This type of project put that to the test. Here is a link to the full Pages document. I have adapted the Everyone can Create workbook to suit our needs. Below is a small taste of what it looks like.

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Evaluating: Analysing and Reflecting

As with most projects like this, I had some students jump in, trouble shoot and get some pretty amazing work done. I had some that bleated and moaned about working outside of their comfort zone. But I was relentless in the pursuit of pushing the envelope. Here are examples of what they produced. Some of the work is not quite complete because we still have a couple of weeks to go before the end of the year. But their thinking process and the learning that took place along the way has been nothing short of amazing.

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These examples are all based on the Design Process, with the goal being to come up with solutions to the sustainability goals. The above example was based on zero hunger. If you are interested in the full document here is a link: Link to Pages document

Here’s another project, this time based on life below water. The most classic of quotes from this group was this: I was surprised to learn that…Going through the process of having a mind map and planning everything out is super useful.” 

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In addition to the previous examples, I had groups develop websites with tabs reflecting the design process, like this one and this one. I never told them to do it this way. But I did make it clear that simply answering the questions on a shared Google Doc was not good enough. So on reflection, if we want more from our students, we need to insist on more. More creativity, more experimentation and more thinking. Giving them scaffolds  and easy options might get them over the line, but it does not teach them to think for themselves. It also does not teach them to be problem solvers and innovators.

The videos were all very different too. Like the one below where the student did all her own illustrations and animations on her MacBook. This was a first for her. I was worried about her posture because she spent lesson after lesson hunched over her computer, digitally drawing everything. But as I said to her, I could easily see this video in the media as a social awareness campaign. It has all the necessary elements, has a strong message, and is original.

Then there was this short doco below. What was pleasing about this one was the obvious depth of learning that had taken place by all those that were interviewed, not just the ones making the doco.

And then there was this animation based on gender inequality.

Finally, here is the work done by a pair in the class, based on sustainable use of water. I have to remind myself that this is the work of a couple of teenagers in term 4. The term notorious for little work and lots of antics. Link to full doc here

Needless to say the data reflects their work output. And the evidence is that learning is hard. Pushing people out of their comfort zones is uncomfortable. But once you’ve got over that, the learning outcomes are pretty cool.

In conclusion, I would totally love to do this unit again. It was excruciating to start with because I had some very needy people (dare I say staff and students) who refused to read, tap or try anything because it was new and foreign. But the best work has come from those that embraced the new.  I have learnt a whole heap along the way, not only about collaboration across departments, but also about the 17 sustainability goals. (For example: Recent studies have found that sunscreen chemicals in many popular products actually hurt corals. The main chemical culprits are oxybenzone and octinoxate, which convert sunburn-causing UV rays into harmless heat on human skin. But once these chemicals are in the water, they actually decrease corals’ defence against bleaching, damaging their DNA and hurting their development. It’s almost as though sunscreen for humans has the opposite effect for corals!”)

But most importantly, I’ve learnt that students will regain their sense of wonder and will create some amazing work if we grant them the time and space to do so.

Posted in 06. Teaching, Student Achievement Analysis

2019 NCEA Level 1 Results

This is the first time in a number of years that I have not taught the year 11 extension class. My year 11 class was made up of some wonderful students with a varied range of abilities. Although I made some changes with regard to the texts we studied, I didn’t change my approach, which is to foster independence and student agency through providing a variety of approaches. The first thing I did was revise and update their Apple book: Link to book here

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Resources ranged from videos like this:

And this:

To static resources, like this:

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I have enjoyed this class immensely. I think you hit your strides with certain courses, and that’s how I feel with this course. I know the content well, the potential triumphs and pitfalls. I am able to instil confidence in the students, because I feel confident about the way the course is designed. I had no trouble with students both submitting work, and doing so on time. I had one student who did not achieve, but the reasons were greater than this course or this subject. Their overall grades for their internal assessments, independently marked by the English Department, were very pleasing.

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Static Image

As a society I believe we have moved further and further away from the written text, and our lives have become bombarded with visual stimuli. It doesn’t surprise me that I have witnessed a shift in static image creation and results. Many students are able to express their ideas in a visual way, with some solid digital skills. There has been a massive shift away from paper cut & paste, to quite sophisticated digitally created images. 75% of the class were in the merit-excellence category.

Creative and Formal Writing

With this standard, I tend to give freedom of choice with regard to the topic. I also encourage students to get multiple people to read their work before submitting to me. In this way I can focus on their ideas, rather than the surface errors. Again I was very pleased with the results, with 50% at the achieved level, the rest getting merit or excellence.

Text Connections

I have, in the past, had misgivings about this standard due to its protracted nature. However this year we had it all wrapped up early in term 3. The texts we chose (Hidden Figures, Tomorrow when the War Began, and short story Job) worked well together. Again we had half the class achieve, with the rest getting merit and excellence.

As with most NCEA students, these students have crunched the numbers and know exactly how many credits they have, and how many they still need to achieve before the end of the year. For the majority of these students, they will face the exams with very little stress, knowing that the hard work they put into the work this year has paid off.

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure

Colin Powell

Posted in 05. Design for learning, Personal TAI

Teaching as Inquiry: Final Innovative Spin

Having worked with Tabitha Leonard, this final innovative spin will focus on Learning Mindsets and Learning Dispositions. My baseline evidence is anecdotal, and based on student interviews. My strategy is to be creative, flexible and motivational. The impact data will be based on the way students approach this term’s unit.

As we move into term 4, I reflect again on my teaching inquiry. It is time to start the final spiral of inquiry and my focus is on igniting energy and passion into a class that is lovely!… but pretty passive in their approach. They are bright and well-behaved, but they seem to like to just do what they’ve always done. It has worked for them in the past. These are our top achievers. So why should they think outside the square? My TAI data is observational and anecdotal. If you look solely at their grades, you’d ask what the problem is. They get good grades, and when they don’t, they act on feedback to get good grades. But there’s more to it than that. We’re constantly told about the 21st century skills of:

  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Information literacy
  • Media literacy
  • Technology literacy
  • Flexibility

It is my belief that, in making things easier and more accessible in the classroom, we have dumbed down technology literacy. Google Classroom works brilliantly as a dumping ground: dump resources, pick up resources; dump assessments, pick up assessments. And Google docs: fantastic to type on one doc simultaneously. But where’s the creativity in that? Remember the days (for us it’s 5 years ago before GC) when students would tap relentlessly on anything tappable to troubleshoot and work things out? And use a myriad of apps to get creative? Today I witnessed some really bright students struggle to download and share a Pages document. Even when the “Download” button was highlighted for them. Granted, because we were using Classroom, those on iPads had two taps (save from “My Work”; export to Pages.) There was no relentless pursuit of the answer, just blank faces. This is a real concern.

Happily we got there with a bit of a domino effect. Once I got the first one sorted, they passed the information on and soon they were all on the workbook. In fact my students went into some colleagues’ classrooms to get their students going. They realised that the problem was not as hard as they thought.

That brings me to the work. We have eight weeks left before school closes for the summer. Our English department is collaborating with the Social Studies department. This means that students effectively have double the time to work on their products. The aim is to develop their own solutions to the sustainability development goals.

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But to get to the final product, they will be working on the Design Process workbook. The idea is to ‘see’ their thoughts and solutions. There is an expectation that students can effectively and successfully collaborate. This type of project will put that to the test. Here is a link to the Pages document. I have adapted the Everyone can Create workbook to suit our needs. Below is a small taste of what it looks like.

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My hunch (getting back to my TAI) was that certain students would rise to the occasion and get enthused, and others would be ho-hum about it. Imagine my surprise when they started populating the Padlet with the following crazy shots. The ones I thought wouldn’t get on board not only submitted the most photos, they also asked me to turn on the comments for the Padlet. I suppose it looked a bit like Instagram when they got finished with it, which is possibly why they enthusiastically got on board.

Made with Padlet

Because we are wanting them to do a deep dive into these topics, it has to strike a chord within. So I tentatively suggested that they might want to add their own sustainability/ social awareness goal. And I’ve just got an email from one of my students asking to do exactly that. So we’ve started with a hiss and a roar. My inquiry is whether I can keep the momentum going and ignite a fire in their bellies.

After all, it took passion and a cardboard sign to get Greta Thunberg’s message about climate change out into the world.

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What are our students passionate about? What changes do they want to see in the world? And how are we encouraging them to have a voice?

Posted in 02. Professional learning

Sketchnoting in practice

In April of this year our school hosted Sylvia Duckworth where she introduced us to the world of sketchnoting. I could totally see the benefits for both myself and my students. It is a great way to take visual notes, keep you focused and is strangely meditative and calming. But I have to say that getting an Apple Pencil has been the most massive game changer. I thought I was ambivalent regarding paper versus digital drawing. Turns out that digital sketchnoting is exponentially better. In my opinion anyway.

My Pepeha

  1. The first obvious difference is the undo/ redo button.
  2. Then as you get older, being able to stretch the screen out to get a better view really helps.
  3. I primarily use the app Sketches (but Keynote and Pages work just as well.) I love that you can do the basic background, then add layer upon layer which means you can paint and erase, without disturbing your original layer.
  4. Being mobile means you have all the tools and palettes without the mess.

On a side note, I have never been able to memorise even my most basic pepeha. Now that I have it visually, it has stuck in my brain. Images are so much more powerful than words alone.

The two styles of sketchnotes that I have experimented with are as follows:

  1. Planned sketchnotes:


Our Kāhui Ako leaders did a workshop at the uLearn19 Conference in Rotorua. I decided to do a number of sketches to form part of our Keynote presentation. You do still have to think about what words and pictures will represent your message, but you have the luxury of time to do it. I found it incredibly therapeutic to sit and plan the images, and would go back to them a number of times until I was happy with them. These sketches are by no means masterpieces and are far from perfect, but I think they capture the message which I intended.

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2. Live sketchnotes:

At uLearn19, I trialled sketching while keynote speakers and presenters spoke. The fundamental skill required is to listen to a section of the presentation, then summarise the essence with a word and or image. I found that my focus was pin point because I didn’t want to miss the gems that would eventually fill my page. Again these are far from perfect. I found I was filling too much detail in the top half of the page, then having blank spaces in the bottom half. But I shared them anyway because it’s all a learning process.

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With exams coming up for our senior students, I thought that this would be a wonderful skill to pass on. They could have fun while transforming their revision notes into works of art. And it would force students to look at the heart of the matter: what are the actual learning nuggets required to understand a concept?

The best compliment I got was from a colleague’s presentation at uLearn. Richard Wells did a brilliant session on the messy journey to breaking down silo subject areas at our school. After I published a sketchnote based on his workshop he tweeted: “Honoured to receive an actual Rubens!” I think Peter Paul and whanau Rubens would be proud.