This year I am pleased to say that Orewa Kāhui Ako was well represented at uLearn18. We had 17 delegates from across the community, two presentations and one fantastic gala dinner. Across school leaders presented on the journey we have covered so far. And Fleur Knight from Orewa College presented with several students included in the presentation to give student voice.
The three focus strands to uLearn18 were: Capability. Community. Change. MC for the conference was the dynamic and enthusiastic Stacey Morrison She has fantastic stage presence and knows how to woo a crowd.
Day one kicked off with the first of three keynotes. Dr Hana O’Regan spoke about: “Let your story be heard in the heavens, and your mana restored to the lands.” Hana’s focus was on contesting and resisting Māori stereotypes in order to do justice to learners, their futures and their outcomes.
The next keynote was by Pasi Sahlberg of Finland who spoke about small versus big data. “If you don’t lead with small data, you’ll be led by big data.” Small data is processed by humans, and reveals causation, collective wisdom and understanding the present. As opposed to big data which looks at big trends, processed by computers, reveals correlations and predicts the future. Big data spews out impersonal trends, where small data gives a more personal view. You can strengthen small data by using professional wisdom as evidence. Pasi asked students from a number of schools, across multiple continents, to draw a typical maths teacher. This is what they commonly thought: Unstylish males whose sole purpose in life is to solve equations. His point was that students arrive at class with stereotypes and preconceived ideas, often born out of the beliefs of their parents. We can use this evidence or small data to make changes in our own classes.
Day three ended with a beamed in hologram of Mike Walsh from America. Mike is a futurist and his keynote was both provocative and inspirational. Computational thinking starts with problem solving, and then leads to which tools to use to solve the problem. His challenge for us driving forward is that students should be able to answer the following question: “Can you make good decisions in ambiguous conditions?”
I attended a breakout by Philippa Antipas on student wellbeing. She said that we should be in a youth-adult partnership when it comes to wellbeing. Students should be active agents in their day at school. And perhaps most importantly, a reminder that you can’t nurture the wellbeing of others unless you are a well being yourself.
Next I attended a workshop based on PBL. It was introduced by a year 9 student who loves working in this independent way. She felt her learning was enhanced because she understood why she was learning certain concepts. Nicholas Pattison, her teacher, said that PBL should have the following factors:
- Access to outside expertise
- Access to necessary resources
- Projects should lead naturally to career education
- They should provide authentic experiences for the students
Nicolas had this as his parting quote: “If we want a modern education system, we need to think in different ways. We need to work with communities and iwis.”
Karen Boyes led a session on Visible Learning. There are 8 Cultures of Thinking:
Each strand is important. But to highlight a few, she said that we need to give students time to struggle. Don’t ask a question, and a second later answer it for them. They will never develop a growth mindset if we do this continuously. Rather, provide wait time and think time. Just like a computer takes time to download large files, so too we should give students time to process ideas. Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work! Is this true for your students? Interactions: What do you want students to unconsciously learn from you? Use inclusive words like ‘us’ ‘we’ and ‘our.’
One of my favourite breakout sessions was by a school that went to Finland to find out more about the Finnish education system. My take is that the Finnish teachers seem to keep things uncomplicated. No bells, because teachers decide when their classes need a break. No uniform rules. Less is more: Little homework, short days, lots of play, long family holidays. Children are encouraged to be independent from a very early age. Nothing happens or changes in Finnish schools unless it is backed by research. They believe in early intervention which will save money in the long run. So, don’t wait for the child to fail before they get the help they need. Classrooms are simplified and de-cluttered to promote calmness. They promote activated learning which means increased physical activity during and between lessons. Active citizenship is promoted by students (as young as 6 years old) running their own meetings with a chairperson and secretary taking minutes. This is done independently of teachers. One of my favourite take aways: teachers are encouraged to have active meetings. They tackle issues while out for a walk together. On my reading list: Finnish Lessons by Pasi Sahlberg.
Sandy, Lesley and I ran a breakout called “From Community Schools to a Kāhui Ako.” We prepared a card game and that was to be followed up with discussion about the successes and pitfalls we have encountered along our journey. It was an interactive session with many pertinent questions. We looked at our starting point, which was setting up face-to-face meeting time, which we feel is a real strength of our Kāhui Ako. We moved on to the surveys we ran and the results, through to our focus groups and the strides we have made with these areas. Finally we looked at what we hope to achieve over the next two years, which is clarity and acceptance by the wider Orewa Kāhui Ako community. Time galloped along and before we knew it we were faced with our final keynote address. And uLearn18 was at an end.
Of course the one detail I have left off, the gala dinner. The theme this year was “Under the Big Top.” There was the predicted number of clowns and ring leaders, and even a few rogue lions. We were blown away by the entertainment: trapeze artists dangling from the ceiling. Our group went as the Bearded Ladies and it was a fun way to end the conference. I think I speak for all when I say how grateful we are for PD opportunities like this, and the camaraderie that you build up along the way is priceless.