Monday, 25 June 2018

My Iste 2018 Experience - Part ONE: Keynote speakers

One of the most inspirational keynote speakers I have heard for a long time presented at the opening of the Iste Chicago conference for 2018.  Her name was Patricia Brown and she is a Technology Specialist at Ladue School District in St Louis, Missouri.

One of the key points she made was that digital media can change how people interact in the world.  She has 5 sons, and as parents of African American males, the conversation she has with her boys is that they have to work twice as hard and be twice as good who have the same opportunities as others who don't look like them.  Always take the high road and make good choices.  

Her community was in turmoil because of the a number of issues that were going on and she could not ignore it.  She wanted to teach kids to be socially aware and saw the impact of what was happening on her kids.   As a teacher of influence, her kids questioned what was happening and she gave them the tools to use their voices as a way of raising awareness. 

"Activism is my rent for living on this planet", a quote of Alice Walker makes sense to me, especially when I think about how lucky I am in the community and society that I live in to have access to the resources I do and the people I know to support my kids to make change for the good.
Patricia also encouraged us to 'find our tribe' and to begin the conversation and find people who were willing to speak up.   "Digital media can amplify the voices of marginalised individuals.  It can foster dialogue that is uncomfortable but absolutely critical".  We need to speak a safe and hopeful future for our children today.

My Iste 2018 Experience - Part TWO: The Grand Expo hall

The Exhibition hall is the biggest sales yard I have ever been too!  There are over 5,000 people involved in presenting and showcasing the latest digital tools and technology for the future of education and there was not enough time to see even half of the exhibitions!  Below are some of the awesome stalls I had a chance to visit which I found exciting and mind-blowing at the same time.  Much of what was shown were things that could change and alter systems in our teaching and learning and which I thought could be more relevant for our senior leaders and board members to address (thankfully we had the right experts with us).  I took a picture of my crazy collection of swag at the end and I am thankful for the opportunity to see where the future of teaching and learning is heading.

We made our Wonder Workshop Dash toy shoot a 3 pointer!

Project Unicorn was one of my favourite exhibitions

 Some Google time

Good to see I can use my SMART board properly now!

Thanks for the goody bag Microsoft!

Putting our photo on the board as the only Polynesians!

A really interesting presentation that supports students creating a digital family tree.

Using avatars in real time.

Hapara in the house!

My collection of swag (I forgot to add another couple of t-shirts darnit)

Friday, 25 May 2018

The Big Picture - A reflection

I have been thinking about my role as an across school COL teacher and have put together 'The Big Picture' diagram which  shows all of the different areas of the school that I have been working in.

When I was trying to figure out what was important to address, with regards to raising the achievement of boys writing,  I felt I needed to support and work across three main areas:  Students, Teachers and Parents.  In my attempts to focus on each aspect of the process, I am finding it takes up much of my time and I am spending less time focussed on the kids in my classroom.  Don't get me wrong, my students are well on track to achieve success for the effort that 'we' have put in.  I just feel disconnected from the goings on in their lives at times, and this frustrates me. 

My next steps is to find time to meet with my COL leader Russell and our experts of Inquiry Rebecca and Aaron, to figure out where to go from here!

Monday, 21 May 2018

Visiting the Innovation Stream at Howick College

The Innovation Stream at Howick College is a unique programme that sees integration working across a number of multiple subject domains.  At Tamaki, we have had a a number of trials of integration across our school and are still in the process of finding the right fit for our learners.  We have been closely working with Liggins and engaged the expertise of Rose Hipkins in creating a cross curricula programme for our year 9's that will allow us to use real data and research from our community to shape the contexts for our learners.  I was interested to see integration and innovation in action in a secondary school context and made arrangements to visit Angela McCamish at Howick College.

After a discussion of what the programme was all about, Angela showed me the space where the innovators innovate.  There are two large classrooms joined together and whilst one was like the project room, the adjoining room housed the students, which seemed like a 'learning' space.  The project space had lots of places for group work and different projects seemed to be going on in the different spaces around the room.  I saw some cool projects like old style desks being revitalised to show messages of support for social actions and a table filled with little houses that had measured down to size to address the housing issue and how kids could up with real world solutions.

My favourite project were the student designed rubbish bins that were created to encourage students to put the rubbish in the bin.  They were bright and eye catching and I am hoping to encourage my year 13's to think about pollution and rubbish as an issue at our school, and to come up with an idea such as this one which could support their actions.

In the next room, I visited a group of year 10 who were designing an 'Angry Birds' type game and were looking at promoting it through an activity where the teacher was going be the target of the angry bird to test out their game physically.  Kids were predicting how far a projectile would fly using different scientific and mathematical equations and were trying to see who had the best prediction.  They had to argue why each groups prediction would or wouldn't work.  In the room was a maths and a digitech/graphics teacher who shared the space at the same time and supported the kids in their learning. 

I enjoyed seeing the Innovation stream in action and one of my next steps is to sit down with HOD's at my school to see how we could develop something that could work for our kids.  I also want to meet with Louise Addison, who was one of the instrumental developers of the programme and is currently the Principal of Edgewater College.  I would be interested in seeing if she plans to implement the programme at Edgewater and if so, how she would go about doing it.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Learning from our mistakes - getting the boys back on track

The results of our first internal assessment are in and four of my nine boys passed.   Three of them started well but did not complete the assessment and the other two didn't even attempt it.  My hunch was that after 3 weeks of solid teaching about the context, introducing relevant guest speakers and a trip to a community exhibition, would mean that they were ready to write what was needed for their assessment.  I left them to it, expecting that they would be able to self-manage and ask for help when needed.  This was not the case and I realise that they lacked the motivation to stay focussed.  By me handing them the whole assessment, I didn't into account that maybe they would lose momentum.

Our new unit is around planning and participating in the 40 Hour Famine.  For this unit, I've decided to break down each task and do it as we go.  Students are in 4 groups and for each task, I've showed on the whiteboard each groups tasks, to motivate kids to complete them.

I have been doing this for a week and have found that the boys are responding really well to this method.  One of the boys has done more writing in the last two weeks then the whole of last term (that 10 weeks!).

I asked them why and they said it's because they could see that on the board, where their names are and if there was a gap, they didn't want to be left out or the only ones who have not done the work.  They also got ideas from each other and could see that they also had the same ideas.  I want to see how long this would work for before they got sick of it.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

A professional development opportunity at Glenbrae Primary.

Professional Learning Meeting - Ministry Facilitator for Supporting Writing Mary Wootton

In my role as an across school COL's teacher, I am always looking for opportunities to meet with my colleagues in our primary schools to see how we can support each other in our inquiries.  Recently I was invited by Elfrida Raj, DP at Glenbrae Primary School to attend one of their staff PLD sessions held in their staffroom.  One of the key areas of focus for Glenbrae, is raising the achievement of their learners in writing.

Glenbrae Primary is focussing on Writing.
The senior leadership team has enlisted the help of Mary Wootton, who is the Ministry Facilitator for Supporting Writing to drive and lead professional development for teachers.  Staff have engaged in learning observations, collected diagnostic and formative data and collaborated over strategies that work. 

The particular session I attended focussed on peer and teacher feedback and how effective feedback can support a child's writing.  Mary Wooton asked staff to think strengths, surprises and challenges with regards to how students' provided peer feedback and it was interesting to hear how brutally honest students were on each others work!.

Mary Wooton's PLD reflecting on Feedback.
One of the activities we did as a group, was to look at the best and not-so-best examples of feedback provided on a students piece of writing by the teacher.  We had to put in order which feedback was the most productive for the child and offered deeper levels of support. 
Teachers collaborating to decide which feedback could be the most effective.
I found this exercise really useful in seeing the levels of feedback that children received and how important it was to ensure that feedback was also feed forward.  I found the meeting beneficial and valuable in my efforts to find a way of improving writing across our cluster.  I have attached my meeting notes and the parts I've highlighted in blue, are ones I want to focus on.  Thank you Elfrida, Lesley and the team at Glenbrae Primary for being so welcoming!

(Here is Elfrida's blog posts which give more insight into the Glenbrae Primary writing journey)

Supporting our learners by making the 'why' real.

My level 2 Social Studies class are busy preparing for the 40 Hour Famine this year, which is raising money for the refugee children from South Sudan who are in camps in Uganda.  We have been talking about human rights, and whose rights we are standing up for when we are doing the 40 Hour Famine.  I asked my kids 'what is your why for doing the famine' and the majority said was 'I'm doing it for the credits'.  I knew this would be the answer for most of them, because they struggled to relate to the context.  My hunch was that if I could make the learning real for them, they would care about the context and about their writing.

I contacted the Auckland Resettled Community Coalition and asked if there was someone who who would be willing to share their journey with our students.  Mr Gatluak Chuol who is a Community Outreach co-ordinator, contacted me and said he would be happy to come and speak to our year 12s.  In 2015, Mr Chuol arrived in New Zealand as a refugee from South Sudan.

Today we were fortunate to have Mr Chuol speak to our class about the religious conflict that had led to the civil unrest in his homeland and he described the atrocities that had happened to him and his family when his village was attacked. "One morning, bombs were dropped and we had to run. We ran to a bush. We didn't know where our parents were. We were scared of being killed and saw lots of death around us. We walked for miles with nothing". He shared the anguish of losing loved ones in front of him and how the trauma still exists with many refugees who are trying to settle in our country.

I know our kids are respectful when they have a guest speaker, but there was a strange vibe in the room as Mr Chuol spoke.  It sounded like empty silence, it looked like disbelief and felt like time had stood still.  Here was someone standing in front of our kids who'd survived the unimaginable and he choose to share his story with them, making it real. 

As he wound down his talk, I invited him to wander around and have a chat with the kids who may have had a few questions but were too scared to ask.  I noticed two students at the back of the room and overheard them talking about how they'd heard about South Sudan and why we were doing the famine, but weren't really caring about it until they heard the reality from Mr Chuol.  "We complain about little things like not having money for what we want and then we hear how Sir had to see his relatives pass away around him and hide under them away from gunfire...what do we know about hardship?".   I asked them if they were o.k and they asked me if I had any tissues.  They quietly thanked Mr Chuol for being there and I could tell they were affected by his talk.

Mr Chuol with members of our Level 2 Sos class.

At the end of Mr Chuol's visit, our students thanked him for sharing his journey and a group of boys asked to walk him back to the office.  For the students that remained, I asked how they felt about his visit.  There were mixed reactions of sadness for Mr Chuol and thankfulness for what they'd had.  Later on in the day, I emailed the class to ask them to let me know their reflections about the visit.  One of the boys, who I've struggled to engage with in the past, replied.  I was surprised by his reaction and understood that he may well have found his 'why'.

My Iste 2018 Experience - Part ONE: Keynote speakers

One of the most inspirational keynote speakers I have heard for a long time presented at the opening of the Iste Chicago conference for 201...