Having just returned from EdtechTeam's awesome Melbourne GAFE Summit, I was once again reminded about the importance of teachers to be superheroes not to only to their students, their school community but also to themselves. Of any profession I know, teachers are arguably the ones who have the most important roles yet are the ones who so often undersell themselves. Having rubbed shoulders at the GAFE Summit with so many super-smart Edtech leaders, you become aware just how much of edtech is about ensuring that the hearts and minds of teachers are safely taken of, before even worrying about pedagogy or tech or devices.
One of my key responsibilities at Aorere College is the digital ecosystem and pedagogy for our school population.
Our school has gone from zero to hero regarding a digital transformation. We now have an extraordinary Wi-Fi network, significant student access to devices and over half the staff part of Digital Learning PLG. All students at Aorere College are expected to have their own device(s) for educational purposes, and from 2017 Chromebooks will be on all year level stationery lists. At of today, there has been over around 3,000 downloads of our Aorere College smartphone app.
Furthermore New Era notes "In the past 18 months, Aorere College has undergone a remarkable digital transformation. With an intelligent wireless network that provides internet access to every corner of their school grounds, a senior leadership group that places emphasis on student achievement and growth, and robust firewalling ensuring cyber safety is of paramount concern, the school is leading the way in providing a world-class platform for teaching and learning for its students, its staff and the community that it serves."
ERO have further commented on Aorere Digital noting "A well considered digital learning plan is guiding improvements in developing digital competencies for both staff and students. Its key focus on raising student achievement and enabling equitable access for students to learning is continually reviewed and refined."
But what on earth you may ask has anything of this got to do with "horizontal connections"? My answer- everything.
For secondary schools to better leverage learning opportunities that demonstrate horizontal connectedness for/with/between students, schools must ensure that the platform provided is an explicit and efficient enabler of this ambition over being a disabler. For our teachers and students to have both virtual & global connections, it is critical that the technology effectiveness does not come into question. Once the tech provision is no longer an issue, teachers and their teachers can take risks and grow both as learners, leaders and connectors.
An example of growing horizontal connections in my Year 11 English class is the fact with students being 1:1 Chromebook-enabled, I work with my students rather than to them. They can connect with students and content from anywhere in New Zealand, anywhere in the world and instantly. They can also increasingly work at their own pace and with strong freedom of choice and empowered agency. Within the class, the use of Google Classroom. Docs, Slides, etc. enable legitimate real-time collaboration that via digital means, can be safely and effectively accessed in the future. The horizontal connections in our GAFE-accredited school are further enhanced through students being able to work anywhere, anytime on their school work. With so many of our students having Android phones, they can access their schoolwork, even without a laptop or Chromebook.
A fundamental benefit of horizontal connections for me is the way digital technologies enable all student voices to be heard. Students on Padlet for example, are all in being heard equally and simultaneously while the vast array of devices available today enable absent students to still submit work or in many cases, NCEA assessments whether physically present or otherwise. Lastly, digital devices in my experience enable students to co-construct work, assessments and deadlines with their teacher and as a result, have not only greater ownership of their learning but also arguably of the outcomes.
For me, horizontal connections are about people over devices. Having said this, digital technology enables these connections to exist stronger, faster and more sustainable than what was possible in the past.
I look forward to connections pertaining to any of the above!
If you are a New Zealand teacher, please make comments here.
The author and the leadership team of Rototuna Senior High School
For ages, there has always been "schools of choice" for parents and students. In New Zealand and no doubt around the world, the "choice" schools often have more to do with the social status of these institutions or the assessment results that students have achieved in these schools. Simultaneously, there has also been some schools that have been more attractive to teachers than others. In 2016 and the future, I now believe that the concept of "schools for choice" for teachers is so prevalent that it will lead to a clear divide of the schooling system in New Zealand.
Bill Lindner is a Sixth Grade English Teacher at Community School of Naples, in Naples, Florida. Bill was an exceptional contributor to one of my recent twitter chats. I are very pleased that subsequent to the chat, he agreed to present his opinion on cellphones in the classroom. Enjoy!
A few weeks ago, I took part in an EdCamp Global Twitter chat with other educators on the use of cellphones in classrooms. Not surprisingly, most participants, except for one, seemed to see phones as beneficial tools. There are many interesting apps designed for education that include writing and editing tools, and I love the fact that I can access virtually any book in a few seconds.
Modern smart phones are truly amazing devices. They allow us to stay in touch through voice, text, and video. They allow us to access the Internet, play games, and even perform research. As a new grandfather, I may use my phone’s camera more than any other feature! I also find it indispensible for navigating when driving.
Young people use their phones for everything. Along with using phones to maintain every aspect of their social lives, students often use them to read books, type essays, and check on assignments.
During the Twitter chat, I was the lone challenger. While everyone was polite and respected my stance, with some even admitting that phones can be distractions, I was clearly on my own. As an English teacher, I just do not see the need for using phones in classrooms. My goal is always to help my students become more effective writers, and I just do not see how phones help me do this.
My first objection is that phones provide an unnecessary distraction for students. It is just too tempting to stay on task and resist checking text messages, watch videos, or play games. I get it; I fight the same temptations. While teaching, it is also a distraction to have to monitor student phone use. This is nearly an impossible task as students can instantly switch to different screens.
During the Twitter chat, I mentioned that some parents add to these distractions by sending text messages to their children throughout the day. This undermines the efforts by schools to maintain some control over phone use. Some teachers wrote that we can improve this by educating parents on the importance of this issue, and my school tries to do this, but we are not always successful.
Most educators would agree that students at all ages need to develop reading stamina. The ability to focus and read effectively becomes more important at every grade level. In a 2009 Washington Post article, “Why Reading Doesn’t Make Us Better Readers?” cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham noted that reading and literacy scores were down across the country from 1980 levels, although Americans were actually reading more overall from sources such as websites and social media and even video games. This high volume of reading might seem like a good thing, but Willingham referred to these sources as “lightweight.” He concluded by suggesting that people ought to spend more time reading “content rich material” such as books, newspapers and magazines as they have a “higher probability” of containing material that will improve reading ability.
Another problem with cell phones in classrooms is that I believe they stifle creativity. Jeff Vandermeer in Wonderbook, his book on creating imaginative fiction, writes that one’s imagination needs “curiosity and imagination” but adds that, “being available to social media 24/7 does not count as receptivity; it’s just fragmentation.” Students need time to think and create and dream; I do not see how staring at their phones helps them to develop their imaginations.
I realize my opinion is a bit on the outside here, but I just do not see the benefit of allowing phones in classrooms. While there are certainly times when lessons include going to interesting websites and even communicating via social media, there is time for this outside of class. With only 45 minutes per class, I cannot give up the time required to monitor my students and make sure they are not texting or doing other things over the Internet. Technology for the sake of technology is just not worth it. I want my students to become better writers, and I do not believe phones help me to do it.
Sixth Grade English Teacher
Community School of Naples
This guest blog article is provided by Bridget Compton-Moen & Greg Pearce from Selwyn House School (Christchurch, New Zealand). I asked if they'd write this article as I'm really interested in Future Problem Solving for my school but wanted to learn and share from a couple of New Zealand experts.
Educators talk a lot about the importance of empowering our learners to solve “Wicked Problems.” We know that if they are to make a difference in our world, they will need lots of practice at identifying and solving the challenges the world might face.
But are we as educators, explicitly teaching learners how to do this?
Are we giving them the skills required to create a brighter future?
The New Zealand Curriculum is built around eight principles which embody what is important in school curriculum design. One of these principles is Future Focus, encouraging our learners to keep an eye on the future and consider the ways we can creatively and positively impact on it.
I am a huge fan of the Future Problem Solving Programme created by creativity expert, E. Paul Torrance. This programme “kills two birds with one stone” so to speak, addressing the NZC’s Future Focus principle while also explicitly teaching the skills of identifying and solving wicked problems.
Future Problem Solving is a collection of programmes for teams and individuals, aged 8-18. These programmes include the Global Issues Problem Solving Booklet Competition, Community Problem Solving and Scenario Writing. Schools can take part in the competitive or noncompetitive programme.
Twelve months ago I was incredibly fortunate to be offered a role as a Future Problem Solving (FPS) Coach alongside existing coach Greg Pearce. Future Problem Solving has a long history at our school, and we’ve seen the enormous benefits our learners reap from being part of this international programme.
My involvement has been in the Global Issues Problem Solving Programme (GIPS). This programme involves learners researching a meaty topic for the term. Topics are fascinating, and there is a huge variety of concepts explored; previous topics have included Treatment of Animals, Disappearing Languages, Medical Ethics, Nanotechnology and Recovery from Disaster. Learners immerse themselves in the term’s meaty topic before being engaged in a lock up situation. This is a two-hour competition where individuals and teams are presented
with a futuristic scenario based on the topic. They employ a six-step problem solving process, completing a booklet during this time.
Initially, FPS was implemented at our school as a way to extend our learners who’d been identified at gifted. However, we have seen such benefits for these girls that we’ve broadened the programme and encourage all Year 5-8 learners who are interested to nominate themselves to take part. Other teachers comment on the critical and creative thinking skills they see in their programmes from learners involved in FPS. Students who have participated in the programme frequently comment on how much being part of FPS has impacted on
their learning in other areas, and indeed on how much it is now second nature for them to use the process when considering and making decisions in their everyday lives.
There are many things I love about this programme:
1. Participants are required to IDENTIFY the problems themselves, not just solve a problem already selected for them.
2. The programme is balanced in that it provides both a welldefined structure, while also encouraging highly creative thinking. This is wonderful for our perfectionist learners who like the safety net of a
structure and need encouragement to take risks and think outside the square.
3. The programme rewards risk taking and thinking creatively. Our awesome quirky thinkers absolutely love FPS.
One of the highlights of FPS is the opportunity to compete at Nationals held each year in Auckland. Some teams from this competition qualify to compete at the International Competition which is always held in the USA. We have just returned from Michigan with two teams who qualified as Year 8s in October last year. I simply cannot overstate how incredible this experience was. The opportunity to meet and learn alongside nearly 3000 FPS participants from all over the world is an experience the girls, as well as Greg and I, will never ever forget.
Ben Nistor, a postgrad student at the University of Auckland recently made this comment:
“Over recent years, I have reflected how my involvement with FPS at school was critical in shaping the way I perceive the world. I also believe FPS challenged me to be part of developing, discussing and enacting the
solutions we require across society for a multitude of global and domestic challenges.”
I encourage you to consider implementing this programme into your school. You will be blown away by the levels of engagement and the growth you observe in your learners.
I leave you with this quote from Hannah Hudson, International Senior Individual GIPS Champion and presenter of this amazing Ted talk:
“If other students are given opportunities such as the opportunities that I have received through Future Problem Solving, then they too may become passionate about thinking, engaging in our future, and positively changing the world, like I am. In a world where we have no way of knowing where our lives will lead us, these passions are fundamental to empower our young people to cope with whatever challenges we face tomorrow.”
Tips for a successful FPS Programme in your school.......
1. Make every effort to attend an FPS workshop. This is a challenging programme, and you will feel so much more confident implementing it if you have been to a training day.
2. Honour the programme by giving it class time. We are fortunate to have 90 minutes per week.
3. Start the year with a “taster” session for all learners, looking out for those who thrive in this type of environment. You might be surprised.
4. Allow students to selfnominate. Consult with class teachers too, but be open-minded about the learners you include in the programme. This programme is fantastic for quirky thinkers.
5. Start each session with fun and creative thinking games. Drama works well. Ensure you have lots of starter activities where the learners work in teams.
6. Reach out to other FPSers. Check out the FPSNZ website. Follow the incredible Robyn Boswell (@boz23) on Twitter and join the Future Problem Solving New Zealand Facebook page for fantastic resources based on the current topic.
I am really excited that #digitaledchat (Monday 1st August) will be co-hosted by Bridget & Greg on the topic "Learning through Problem-Solving. Join us for what will be an awesome chat!
A long time ago in a school far, far away I started my teaching career. The year was 2000; fluros iMacs were in, and so was the role of the teacher as the transmitter, one knowledge holder to rule them all. Group-work was, to be honest highly discouraged, and student voice was limited to responses to teacher questions. Ah, those halcyon days! Oh yeah, one more thing. Teachers in 2000 guarded their resources jealousy; there appeared to be a real fear of share! Thankfully in 2016, times and practices have changed in both the classroom and teacher and student mindset. In today’s edtech landscape, to be a silo in practice and sharing only leads to pedagogical isolation and irrelevancy. Nowadays if you care, you share.
The Mindlab is a future-focused education institution that offers world-class modern learning opportunities for both students and teachers. To find out more, please check out http://themindlab.com/postgrad-studies/programme-overview/
Last night I completed my second evening of Mindlab study towards the Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital & Collaborative Learning). Even though it’s early days, some positive, dare I say brilliant trends are already emerging.
Rezetta Lina is one of my Year 11 English students at Aorere College. This article was submitted for a NCEA Level 1 Formal Writing assessment. However with her permission, I am publishing here because I think it contains some wonderful insights into the teenage perspective on social media. Please read on.
These days, many friendships have been destroyed because of social media. People have no idea how to be a friend, keep a friend or find a true friend, in a world overloaded with tweets, texts, and selfies.
Sure, everyone likes their share of photos and leaving plenty of well-meaning comments, thrown around with an abundance of emojis and share full of inspirational quotes. Sadly, they haven't experienced life with friends in a while. Many people feel discouraged, lonely and frustrated because they know that talking on social media isn't enough, but they also can't let go. We sometimes don't even realise it. I've noticed that nowadays, we keep our heads down, eyes glued to our phones, afraid if we don’t, we’ll miss out on something. Social media has altered "friendship", and to be honest I never really talk about it, but it actually has made me sad. It makes me sad because many lives have destroyed because of social media but we can't do anything about it or can we?
“SOCIAL MEDIA HAS RUINED MY FRIENDSHIP!” That’s the cry of many people today. My response is that social media didn’t ruin your friendship, BOTH of you may have played a part in the ruining of your friendship. The internet and social media have totally destroyed the meaning of the word “friends” Often we never speak or hear from most of them. On the other hand, we shouldn’t confuse online friends with real friendships. Real friends help each other. From what I know, many of the people who “friend” you online today have only their interests in mind. They aren’t particularly interested in knowing you or helping you at all. Most times I ask myself what is the difference between being friends online and being friends in person? After seeing things about getting bullied online from someone who was once my friend, I realised that one of the great things about face-to-face friendship just how personal it is.
Social media makes us feel like we know people better than we do. Let’s get one thing straight. Liking someone’s photos on Instagram does not mean a friendship’s made. Genuine relationships take time and communication, preferably face-to-face. Friendships are about more than a like or retweet .While social media may help us keep up with friends especially those who live far away, it can’t replace personal communication and shared experience. You can only intimately get to know someone through spending time with them in person, not solely online.
To say social media has an entirely negative impact on families and friends nowadays is not true. Social media is useful in many ways, but if we use it unwisely, this is when trouble start to strike. Social media is also a fantastic tool for networking, communications, raising awareness and marketing. We can use it widely and promote it to clients and students. However, social media does have a dangerous side. With fake profiles and information, we should always be careful what we do on these sites. Choose your friends wisely and don't accept a friend request from a stranger immediately. I also think that we should be careful with what we post because what we post can also be reposted by someone else. We should always remember that social media isn’t harmful. It's just the way we use it that makes it so.
I used to know everything about being a great English teacher or at least I thought I did! When there was something I was unsure about, I went to the "experts"- my fellow teachers and if they couldn't help me out, then there was no hope, no-one else. Only in the last few years has this teacher become significantly smarter through asking questions of, and learning from the real classroom experts- the students. Here's why learning from students is so powerful and essential for all teachers in my most modest of opinions.
In the world of edtech, education and dare I say even in the world of #brexit, they are many that say but far fewer that actually do. In reality, just talk is cheap and it is only through action where real meaning and effect can be derived. This past week has reinforced the reality of the above maybe more than any other in my recent memory.