Friday, 28 July 2017

The Heart of Innovative Teaching - Unpacking the 'TPACK'

Now that I have discovered which framework  suits my MIT Spark inquiry, the challenge is 'what does it look like in context?'.  As mentioned in a previous post, my scribing on paper has helped me formulate an idea that could be 'innovative' (let's see what my bosses say lol)!  I have attempted to apply a TPACK framework to a teaching and learning context that I am familiar with - social studies at Tamaki College.

I started with the PK (Pedagogical knowledge) and the CK (Content knowledge) circles because I felt confident with the them.  As a teacher, my PK are the practices and methods that I use for teaching and learning.  It's me knowing how students learn and using strategies that would suit their learning needs.  My CK is everything I know about my subject area alongside knowing what students need to know to achieve success.  When you combine the two, you get the PCK (Pedagogical Content Knowledge) is basically knowing how to teach the content effectively(and be able to assess it and report on it).

At this stage, I have made the PK and CK circles bigger then the TK (Technological Knowledge) because I am not an expert in the area of blogging as the technological tool.  The TK is where I need to know how to use the tool effectively to achieve effective outcomes.  The TPK (Technological Pedagogical Knowledge) is where "an understanding of how teaching and learning can change when particular technologies are used in a particular way" (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).  It is like understanding the need to use digital feedback for example in your teaching and planning because it is good practice.  

The TCK (Technological Content Knowledge) could be about using the technology to enhance the learning of my subject and teachers being aware of opportunities to utilise mediums other than the ones they are used to.

Lastly is the 'sweet spot' or the TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) which is where all of the 3 knowledge areas meet.  Koehler & Mishra (2009) study of TPACK defines the framework as follows:

TPACK is the basis of effective teaching with technology, requiring an understanding of the representation of concepts using technologies; pedagogical techniques that use technologies in constructive ways to teach content; knowledge of what makes concepts difficult or easy to learn and how technology can help redress some of the problems that students face; knowledge of students’ prior knowledge and theories of epistemology; and knowledge of how technologies can be used to build on existing knowledge to develop new epistemologies or strengthen old ones” (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).

On my diagram, I have highlighted in yellow examples of how I would apply TPACK in my teaching and learning area of social studies with the content based around a year 9 study that my students are currently completing on 'Our Government'.  

The parts in yellow show an example of applying a social studies context

I have also put around my TPACK wonderings and questions that I want to apply/research further because I can see how initiatives that we currently have at our school could fit into the framework.

My innovation lies in the use of our Manaiakalani model of Learn, Create, Share at the centre of TPACK to enhance student learning - how can we get it right at the core of TPACK with what we know works??  I have drafted an example of a possible assessment using TPACK, which I know could do with defining and developing further!

I am really happy with my TPACK framework take 1 model because it has helped me get back on track with my MIT inquiry!  I look forward to sharing more information on my TPACK journey as I investigate further how to make sure we hit that sweet spot right!

(My scribbles are an important part of the planning process hence why I have chosen to show them here).

Friday, 21 July 2017

A visit to Panmure Bridge School

After trialling a writing strategy with my year 9 social studies class, I still needed to explore whether I was applying the strategy correctly and how students could use a writing strategy within their learning independently.  During the last week of term 2, one of my COLs colleagues Robyn Anderson invited me to see her LS2 class in action.  I was really excited at the chance!

The context that the students had been working on was on the 'Tamaki Wrap'.  I observed students move into groups to identify and summarise the main points of their learning and as they did so, they shared their 'learning talk' so I could hear what they thinking and doing.

Firstly students wrote down freely the key ideas that they had learnt previously (they would normally do this online, but because it was easier for me to see the bigger picture and roam around to see each of the groups, it was done on big realms of A3 paper which I appreciated).  Once the students wrote their own key points on the shared paper, they discussed the need to identify any similarities and differences in ideas by looking at each others notes.

Students sorting out similarities and differences of ideas.
Once they had sorted which were the key ideas and points, they created a summary of these ideas which was collaborative and succinct.  I found the discussions that the students had when creating these summaries invaluable in the fact that they needed to work together to achieve a common goal, something that I have yet to see with my year 9's.

I found observing how this writing strategy was used effectively in a classroom like Robyn's important in not just how students used the strategy, but the importance of a creating a learning environment whereby student agency is key.  What I saw was a collaborative learning environment between students and an established shared trust between the teacher and the students towards achieving common goals.  One of my key takeaways from this observation is that setting the culture of learning is important so that students believe that is the norm.

Students are able to articulate their learning.
Another key takeout for me is that the learning environment is explicit and 'in your face'.  On every wall space, there were words and phrases that reminded students of how to learn and what learning looks like.  Writing frameworks are spelled out in big writing, examples of sentence structures are provided, how to write a paragraph or what the writing process looks like is everywhere!  I know that by seeing it everywhere, students would benefit from it and it becomes their mantra!  The idea that the skill of learning is 'repetitive' and the more you see it, the more you know, the more you'd use it - I know this is what is missing on my classroom walls that's for sure!

'How' to learn is everywhere!
Students define what a learning conversation is which shows they own their learning!

Students add their examples on a learning matrix

Making connections in their learning.
Moving forward, I know that I want to use some of the ideas that I'd learnt from visiting Robyn and her lovely students to implement in my classroom practice because I see the wider benefits of students owning their learning more.  This makes me think more widely and deeply about the implications in my pedagogy and I will be reflecting more in finding out how this looks for my year 9 class.

(Robyn reflects on my visit)

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Blogging resources for teachers

One of the challenges that I have come across was that very few teachers at my school blogged.  I wanted to encourage more teachers to start so I thought I would find some interesting sites and readings that discussed how teachers and educators just like them, have dealt with blogging, in a hope that it would allow for a clearer understanding of how important it is, regardless of what subject they taught.

I like the image that is shared on this site.  It has all the components that we dream of providing our students when it comes to their learning.  Fryer analyses 6 different blogging domains that staff could find use dependant on their context and highlights the features of each of the domains that could be useful in a classroom.  

This is a really helpful guide which describes the processes involved in composing blogs in the classroom, the process of writing regular posts that are published online and a step by step guide on the ins and outs of blogging for an educator.

This write up discusses Micheal Drennan's observation of a classroom whose main teaching and learning is centred around using blogs to enrich their learning experiences.  He says that students realise how high the bar of public domain writing is and raise the challenge levels themselves.  What he found was that student blogging was 'powerful, stimulating and enriching'. 

4.  Blogging in the 21st century classroom (Michelle Lampinen) 

This blog is from a teacher who struggled to get her students to write effectively.  She introduced blogging to her junior class and found that they were motivated to write when they had an authentic audience.  She felt their writing had made a marked improvement and surveyed her students to find out their thoughts on blogging.  What I like about this blog is that she also shares the trials and honest thoughts of students who didn't enjoy blogging which has allowed for more reflection and a need to look at other means to help them write better.  One aspect that Michelle did reflect on was something that I have learnt from research that explores the notion of an integrated curriculum - that we should 'encourage students to blog about topics from other classes as it helps them to see connections among subjects and realise that writing is a worthwhile skill in any field'.  

When connecting these readings, I found that they have shared common experiences around the importance of blogging within the classroom context, teachers need to allow students the opportunity to blog and that blogging allows for the transfer of skills across a students learning journey, both in and outside of the classroom.  

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Understanding my thought processes in unravelling a framework that works!

I have been struggling to find ways to be more innovative with my chosen M.I.T inquiry.  My focus moved away from ensuring students at our school blogged innovatively, to getting the teachers on board and blogging.  I wanted to have a purpose for engaging students and staff in blogging, and essentially it was to help students improve their writing skills.  The connecting of all the aspects has proven more difficult then I envisioned, so I decided to brainstorm the old fashioned way - writing it down.  I will share my thought processes with you, to help understand how I got to a framework that I feel has hit the jackpot!!

I started by thinking about what I wanted to blog about and number 1 was to talk about some cool sites that teachers could use when trying to get them motivated and keen to blog.  Sites that were informative, helpful and interesting for staff but also basic and easy to understand.

This led me to thinking about blogging for students at number 2, which would be innovative ways to use blogs for student learning that could incorporate writing and strategies that address the gaps identified during their e-asttle tests.  I wanted to connect these through blogs that students would share and gain collaborative feedback from.  The two subject areas that would enable this to happen would be english and social studies.

Through a cross-curricula approach, we could discuss and decide how to implement the writing strategies that will allow students to achieve through the subject areas identified.

I felt that the boxes just weren't allowing me the connections I needed to make - they looked too much like a family tree where you would start with top, and end at the bottom.  What I was looking for was something more circular (something continuous and not ending) and I thought I would try a venn diagram model to see if I could find the connections between the ideas better.  Then I remembered a framework that a very good teacher colleague of mine had described once as the 'pinnacle to connecting all the key components of innovative teaching and learning - the TPACK model' (here is the TPACK model for those who have not seen it before).

I then googled 'TPACK' and found a couple of really informative sites and videos that helped to refresh my understanding of TPACK and the more I learnt, the easier it was to understand how much this framework fit what I've been struggling to get to grips with - connecting all the aspects of my inquiry together.  What TPACK could help me do is to ensure that the 'what', the 'how' and the technological knowledge we use in our 21st century classroom can be connected in a more succinct way that made sense in essence to find that 'sweet spot'!  My next goal is to take the TPACK model and it adapt to my inquiry!  I am looking forward to the challenge!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Redefining, redirecting and re'doing' integration

One of the challenges that I have is figuring out how to use the short amount of time I have with my year 9 social studies class to ensure they come away learning something that is meaningful and purposeful inevitably to achieve 'success'.  When I say short, I am talking 4 x 50 minute periods a week, and if we take away 20 minutes for AR reading, then it is actually 180 minutes or 3 hours a week!  And in the 3 hours, I am expected to cover the achievement objectives of the social studies curriculum, ensure students have conceptual understandings of key concepts key skills needed to interpret and understand resources and teach them to understand how 'societies work and how people can participate as critical, active, informed and responsible citizens' (Social Sciences in the New Zealand curriculum, Ministry of Education, 2007).

I am not alone in this feeling of frustration.  I know each subject area at high school feels that they don't have enough time. So why in the world would you want to have an integrated curriculum when there is never enough time already to do what you have to do??  Critics say that developing an integrated curriculum has the risk of losing a subjects individuality and time away from their own contexts and their own goals that they have to achieve.  But more and more research shows that an integrated curriculum increases 'motivation and engagement leading to achievement' (Costly, 2015)

In term one, our year 9 theme across the school was 'Sustainability' and single subject areas had the opportunity to jump on board and adopt the theme to support our students learning.  The idea of a subject area leading the integration was suggested so that there could be more co-ordination of teaching and learning across the school.  I took it upon myself to volunteer our Social Studies department to lead the unit for the year 9 school.  I was passionate about the topic and keen to lead this change, even though I was I knew it would be a challenge.

One of the struggles I had was trying to co-ordinate other subject areas on board with the unit, even though they knew it was coming.  We had been planning for the unit since 2016 and were provided PLD opportunities and time in department meetings to discuss how to implement that theme in our departments.  And yet when push came to shove, I felt some departments withdrew back into their own programmes and did what they knew best - teach to their curriculum.  The theme sustainability did lend itself to certain subjects more then others and although I had hoped that departments would of jump on board and embrace the theme and the idea of working across curriculum areas more, I felt they struggled to see where they fit or more accurately, how it would fit into their programmes.  

On reflection, what I found at the end of the unit was the term 'Integrated' teaching and learning was loosely adopted by some departments and feedback from HOD's was that there needed to be more planning time across curriculum areas and a common calendar to keep everyone on track.  They also felt there needed to more direction to determine the level of integration and involvement was needed by all departments.  From this feedback, I was able to ascertain that moving towards an integrated curriculum needs to come from the top at a school wide level to ensure that all subject areas are involved and that it is 'all or nothing' - meaning we all give it our all, 100% or don't bother trying.

Moving forward, I am using the learnings from the sustainability unit to change direction.  There are two projects I am part of that look at 'redefining' an integrated curriculum at our school.

The first looks at the use of a common cross -curricula writing framework that can help our juniors with their writing.  This is linked to my inquiry and in term 3, I am working closely with the English teacher of my year 9 social studies class to develop common writing frameworks (more information to come in my blogs).  My department and I are also developing a unit for all of the year 9 classes in social studies for term 3 to utilise writing strategies more effectively and more purposefully.

The second project is looking at developing a better more direct integrated programme for term 4 under the future focussed principle of 'citizenship'.  With the help of the Liggins institute who have been instrumental in developing cross-curricula programmes in the Cook Islands and Tonga, we have set up a lead team that includes our principal Soana, a member of our BOT, our school nurse and other HOD's who have put their hand up to take up the challenge.  I will be discussing our Liggins relationship in blogposts soon.

I am excited to see if these projects work!  Watch this space.

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