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.

 

 

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Posted in 04. Learning-focused culture, Applied Practice in Context

How social media helps teachers grow

The key aspect to social media is that little catch phrase: User Generated Content or UGC. This gives us, the users, immense power. But we know what some people will do with power.

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(Source: Image from this website)

So while social media is an incredible tool for teaching and professional development (PD), there are certain drawbacks and challenges.

I feel the biggest attraction social media has is the agency it affords both students and staff. The ability it gives us to set up learning goals, and then manage our learning route. For so many years both teaching and PD have been ‘one size fits all.’ In addition, the learning has been solely driven by the teacher. PD, much the same, has been driven by school leaders and in recent years, budget constraints.

Not so with the introduction of tools like Twitter, WordPress, YouTube and Facebook. Now, we can follow leaders in their fields, and get information directly from the source. Sir Ken Robinson, John Hattie, Jon Bergmann. They all either have Twitter accounts or blog sites and YouTube channels. So whether you’re interested in Creative Schools, Visible Learning or Flipped Classrooms, you can read about, watch content, or even contact experts directly.

I passionately believe in the blended approach because, as Sir Ken Robinson’s Twitter coverphoto suggests:

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So, one method will not work for all. I do like the flipped approach, be it in the classic sense of prep before class, or in-class and rotational flipping. YouTube is ideal for this and I have used my YouTube channel extensively in my teaching practice. I encourage students to hit the pause or fast forward button, whichever suits their needs. The funniest is that in every class, every year, someone always points out:

“Hey miss, this is you! Not some random lady on the internet.” As if it would be a revelation to me.

I also use blogs, in particular WordPress. In developing so-called 21st century skills, being able to co-create a Google Doc or Google Slide is not enough. Even creating slick videos is not enough. When students are able to set up and manage a website, I believe I have set them up with some handy skills. Not only that, our students are very good at posting on Facebook and Instagram. But do we ever have conversations about good digital citizenship before mistakes are made?

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(Source:  Image from this website)

We’re really good at telling teenagers what they should have done.  But what about introducing them to active and constructive learning where they actively explore a topic, and then critique each other’s work. Blogging is ideal for this and discussions take place before anything is posted online.

There are of course challenges to both YouTube and WordPress. The most basic being that not everyone has the skills to set up and manage sites in an ordered and controlled way. Or should I say, not yet. Melhuish cited the other problem, which is fleeting engagement without deep learning. This brings Twitter into the picture. I follow a number of global teaching icons and they readily share their ideas. I see this as the most invaluable PD. But it could go one of two ways. You could become swamped by the myriad of ideas and, instead of following one or two pathways, get bogged down by trying to grasp it all. Or, you could lightly touch on a few ideas, and not dive deeply into anything. I think the best method of using Twitter for PD is to choose a few key interests, and follow those until you feel you have a greater level of understanding. Add it to your Teaching as Inquiry model and trial it with your students. In this way you’ll master a few skills, before moving on to the next one.

Social media makes it possible to draw on the expertise and experience of a global audience. It’s reciprocal in that you can post questions, observations and ideas. You will invariably get a response from a like-minded educator. Which spurs you on to the next inquiry. And that’s how you grow professionally.

 REFERENCES:

Office of Ed Tech. (2013). Connected Educators. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=216&v=K4Vd4JP_DB8

Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved from http://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10289/8482/thesis.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y

Tvoparents. (2013). Using Social Media in the Classroom. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riZStaz8Rno

Education Council.(2012). Establishing safeguards. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/49216520

Sharples, M., de Roock , R., Ferguson, R., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Koh, E., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Looi,C-K, McAndrew, P., Rienties, B., Weller, M., Wong, L. H. (2016). Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Open University Innovation Report 5. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Retrieved from http://proxima.iet.open.ac.uk/public/innovating_pedagogy_2016.pdf

Obar, J.& Wildman, S. (2015). Social media definition and the governance challenge: An introduction to the special issue. Telecommunications Policy, 39 (9), 745–750.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in 04. Learning-focused culture, Applied Practice in Context, Mindlab, Uncategorized

Climate, culture and context

SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS OF COMMUNITY

According to Elizabeth Warner  the culture of a school is different to the climate. The climate indicates how a school feels, while culture indicates how the school does things, its values and traditions. Orewa College is set in the relaxed beachside town of Orewa, 30 minutes north of Auckland. We are a stone’s throw from the most beautiful scenery: beaches, bays, islands, countryside and forests. This is reflected in our school climate which is largely warm, friendly and laid-back, although we have had to guard against the overly laidback attitude.

We are made up of approximately 2000 students, including international students. We provide additional opportunities through HarbourNet Virtual Learning.   ERO 2016 Report felt that we “provide a broad and balanced selection of learning opportunities that cater very well to students’ varied interests and strengths.” To that end, our vision is to be the pride of the district, promoting high student achievement and high participation.

ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE

School culture runs deeper and should be created with intent. As Ed Dunkelblau said, schools are a “centre for instruction.” But it is also where you interact with people not like you and your family, where you learn what’s important to you. And, what others value. To help students to figure all this out, we have three programmes which form the foundation upon which the culture of the school rests:

  1. Ako Orewa entails learning strategies. We have recently modified this 10 years old programme to focus more carefully on  learner agency as well as effective pedagogy. This has involved shifting the focus of attention from the teacher to the student, giving students more freedom and responsibility to drive their own learning pathways.

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  1. Manaaki Orewa underpins all that we do. It translates to respect: Respect for oneself – be the best you can be. Respect for others – manners matter. Respect for the environment – keep it clean. I feel that Manaaki Orewa has resonated with our students to a far greater degree than Ako Orewa, because it is so simple yet such a powerful ethos to live by. The word manaaki has made its way firmly into the lingo used by our students, be it as an admonishing verb: “Be more manaaki!” Or a praising adjective: “Very manaaki of you.” Or even as a commanding imperative: “Manaaki people!”
  1. The House System was created to provide a sense of belonging for all students to participate, compete and celebrate in diverse house activities within the college environment. The aims of the house system are to increasingly develop and promote:
  • Growth of school and student spirit and identity
  • Positive, supportive, social and emotional environments for all students
  • Interaction and positive role models between year levels
  • Leadership opportunities for senior students and aspiring middle school students

Students identify with the house system and its very healthy competition. Tabloid sports is perhaps the highlight because, rather than testing sporting prowess, full participation is the objective. Activities are designed for fun, like the gumboot biff. International students always marvel at these activities because many of them have only ever experienced academic programmes at their schools.

PROFESSIONAL ENVIRONMENT

The most invasive change we have embraced is the bring your own device (BYOD) policy. This has forced us to have ongoing and regular professional development (PD). We are challenged to look at emerging research and adaptive practice. PD is carried out in departments on a fortnightly basis, as well as in cross curricular groups. It is no coincidence that there is such a great number of staff doing the Mindlab course.

I think that our biggest challenge is to break down the silo-mentality of both the teachers and the students. Links across subjects is one we have overlooked for far too long. Ako Orewa, in conjunction with Carol Dweck’s growth mindset, is just one approach that will start to challenge this tunnel-vision approach. In addition, we are in the process of getting our Community of Learning (CoL) established. I think that these conversations across not only subjects but also year levels and schools in the district, will start to remove the cloak of secrecy which seems to hang over individual subject areas.

REFERENCES:

CORE Education: Learner Agency. Retrieved from: http://www.core-ed.org/legacy/thought-leadership/ten-trends/ten-trends-2014/learning-agency?url=/thought-leadership/ten-trends/ten-trends-2014/learning-agency

Dweck, C. Teaching a growth mindset. Retrieved from: http://mindsetonline.com/abouttheauthor/

What is school culture and climate? Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-_NvhlcusQ

ERO Report (2016). Retrieved from: http://www.orewa.school.nz/about/education-review-office-report/

Thank you to Richard Wells  @EduWells for designing the Ako Orewa poster.

Posted in 04. Learning-focused culture

Analysis of NCEA internal and external results

I have done an analysis of the grades obtained by my three senior classes over the course of the year.

The Year 11s had some very pleasing results with 68% of all their credits being at Excellence and 29% at Merit.Level 1.jpgThey wrote three external exams which I still believe is asking too much in three hours. Two exams in three hours seems far more realistic to me. I do believe that is why the excellence grades are diluted.

1-enadOn analysis of my Year 12 students, it was clear that they improved as the year progressed.I attribute this to their growing confidence in their abilities. I discussed Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset with them and referred to this way of thinking in my teaching practice. They were also a class who preferred the casual layout of my classroom.

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The year 12s wrote one exam with some mixed results. As most of them had got all the necessary credits throughout the year, the pressure was slightly less for the exams.

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My year 13 class had success with getting through the standards, with 66% passing all internal standards with Achieved, and 30% getting to Merit. As this year level was my cohort, we already had established positive relationships. I believe that this  goes a long way in promoting students’ confidence in their abilities.

Level 3.jpgMuch the same as the year 12 class, the year 13 internal class had gained most of the available credits throughout the year.

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From this analysis it seems evident that developing mini teaching as inquiry approaches is successful. This means that I am continuously refining my approach.

Posted in 04. Learning-focused culture

Promoting student agency

For my class’s end of term task I wanted them to do something fun but also something that would be real. Our school is looking at designing a new website. So I thought, shouldn’t we get the students’ input? I created a resource with a few ideas, but very little direction. My idea is to eavesdrop and see what they come up with, and so promote collaboration, creativity and student agency.

I introduced it today and the first question was: “Why not get the experts to do this? Why ask 15 year olds?”

So I explained that their ideas mattered. That the website, while it is our contact with the ‘outside world’ should also be something that they refer to and use because it is useful to them. And who knows best what is useful to students than the students themselves?

One group spent pretty much the entire lesson discussing what photos should represent the school. They finally decided that a slideshow would be best. But they were adamant that the slideshow should represent all co-curricular activities.

Another group analysed our website and felt that the colours didn’t match. They also felt that we should have widgets for social media links. Yet another felt that the tabs should include the school app and frequently used contacts.

So that’s after lesson one. I think they will come up with some very useful ideas.

Posted in 04. Learning-focused culture

Reflections on my years as a dean

This week has been a week of goodbyes. My year 13 cohort graduated and this ends my five years of deaning. We finished off with a heartfelt goodbye, first from my English class.

Next it was the walking school bus followed by the ‘big reveal.’ I really wanted to surprise them. The theme was “Goodbye childhood, hello world.” So what we created was a really childish playground with jumping castles, water slides, jousting rings and mini rugby. Add to that as-much-as-you-can-eat candy floss and lolly bags. The general consensus was that they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They did exactly what I hoped they would, and that was dive headlong onto the slides.

 

And finally we got to graduation. They all did remarkably well and I am so proud of their behaviour, and their accomplishments. A moving moment was the standing ovation, I must admit.

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I attach some of my speech for my reflection:

The last five years seem to have passed so quickly. I clearly remember sitting on stage as the year 9 Dean, and watching the year 13 Dean give his graduation speech. As his tears welled up, I sat wondering what all the fuss was about. Now that I have walked that same journey and watched these students grow in confidence as well as maturity, I totally get why he was so upset. This group of students are exceptionally talented and I feel privileged to have been their dean. This night marks the end of our journey together, but remember that graduation is not the end; it really is only  the beginning. Take stock of what you have learnt in your time at the college, and then look forward to the amazing opportunities that await you.

One thing that you won’t forget is that you are ground breakers. You were the first year 13s to go from mufti to uniform. Doesn’t it make dressing up tonight so much more special? You were also the first cohort to use one-to-one devices. Technology is such an integral part of the class now, that it’s hard to remember what school was like before the introduction of devices. I do believe that our students have developed 21st century skills that far surpass anything we originally envisaged. At this point I’d like to take a moment to remember Mark Quigley, who was our senior manager for the past four years. A few years back he said to me: Linda write this down so we don’t forget: we must remember to say a special thank you to our students at graduation for allowing us to make such a big change.

So, thank you for moving forward with us and for setting the example for others to follow.

I’d like to conclude my final duty as a dean with a quote from Steve Jobs:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

 

Posted in 04. Learning-focused culture, Reflections

Going Digital: Reflections on our one-one journey

NZQA visited our school to make this short video depicting our journey after introducing technology into the classroom. The positives that I take out of this visit is that in New Zealand we have a qualification authority that is consulting with teachers who are at the proverbial coal face. But far more importantly than that, they are interviewing the students. If you want to know how a new initiative is working, ask the people most affected by it.

I was appointed as year 9 Dean, the year one-one devices were introduced to this year 9 cohort. As I reflect I feel immensely proud of these students. We have travelled on this journey of discovery for the last five years and I have witnessed their growth and their incredible potential to succeed in this ever changing digital world. At the start of this journey it was all about the technology. What we could do, now that we have a class of students with technology in their hands. All discussions surrounded possibilities: apps that would do the job better than before devices and websites that made work more engaging. Activities that were inconceivable before, were now a reality. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR scale was invaluable as a driving force to shift pedagogical thinking.

However five years on, with all students in the school carrying devices in their school bags, we have largely moved on from the discussion surrounding technology. Technology just exists in the class, along with everything else you’d expect to be there. It’s a given. Now I find that I am simply looking for the best tool for the job.

I feel so grateful that as a teacher we have so many options. I used to dread this time of year because most of my classes are immersed in revision. But we are actually having a great time. Our AKO OREWA drive is towards student agency. So I have given my students choice in the area of work they will focus on. Consequently I have some groups creating Kahoots for their extended texts, others are videoing instructions for their teach-back session based on their section of work. Still others are creating Google Forms for recall type questions. After our PD this week where a colleague, Annie Davis, gave us ideas about revision, I have groups playing “Bananagrams” which is a word game similar to Scrabble.

She introduced us to an excellent app called  Exam Count Down which I have found my students love. It shows them at a glance how many days they have left before the NCEA exams. For example:

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So yes, we do still share good apps. 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 it’s about us being flexible enough to allow and promote student choice.

Posted in 04. Learning-focused culture, Help with blogging

Help with blogging

Download iBook here

I have updated videos for creating blog posts, adding categories and adding media. It is now easier than ever to add video, photos and slideshows directly from your camera roll. All these videos are embedded in my iBook and the link can be found at the top of this post. Download for free from the iBooks store.

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Posted in 04. Learning-focused culture

Pop up Globe

We were very excited to be attending Romeo and Juliet at the Pop up Globe, even though we were lowly groundlings. Having said that, I think we had the best ‘seats’ in the house. It was great to watch teenagers laughing at all the right places in a Shakespearean play. We loved the interactive nature of the acting. And of course the students thought the fake blood was a good touch. Well worth the bus trip into Auckland.

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