This week was moving week. All students were developing agency way more than in the last three weeks. In terms of Literacy development more and more of my 9SV Digital, Thinking & Problem-solving (9DTP) class were using Google to check the definitions of digital terminology. As a result, I fielded a lot less definition queries. Students were also more at ease explaining literacy terminology to their peers. Students were also required to continue writing about their 9DTP learning. At the end of each period, they were required to write about not only what they had learnt but also their feelings and thoughts about their learning. Equity strategies continued to be prominent with students completing their Google Slides about themselves with significant agency in choice and presentation. The Innovation continued with 9SV being introduced to Pencilcode.net (a coding and programming platform) with exceptional buy-in and interest from both boys and girls. Here is an example of one of the girl's (Lainey) projects. Once again, the students were given personalised learning opportunities through choosing what object they were to program and how they animated their name.
Originally published 9/8/15, Updated 10/4/16
At the time of writing this rather evangelical "demand" for teachers to not take up arms, I was on a global massive high having discovered this incredible on-learning community that held similar aspirations and expectations for students of today and tomorrow. Fiona Grant made a good point and a fair call in challenging the notion of twitter chats having to be "compulsory" for all students. However I do think ALL teachers need to at the very least "online" and "globally connected & aware" in terms of their educational and pedagogical learnings. I do still strongly believe in the role of twitter as a unique and highly credible professional learning context.
Having now run near 40 twitter chats and been a contributor in now hundred of world-wide chats, I can safely say that this has been the most effective professional learning I have ever been exposed to and this includes my Masters study. But why so? Firstly I have to choose a topic I am passionate about, that other people would interested in, and then be prepared to defend my opinion in a safe but very challenging conversational environment over 60 often furious minutes. The second reason why I find my professional learning via twitter chats is that I am not just discussing educational issues with just my immediate school or country-located colleagues but indeed participants from literally the four corners of the world. In having such global discussions with an incredibly diverse range of individuals in often varying educational locations and positions, I realise how important I hear and talk on issues and also how important it is that New Zealand contributes to this most important of discussions.
Here is the original article published 9/8/15
On Monday 3rd August 2015 9.30pm (NZT), I hosted my third #twitter chat in three days. The first two chats were part of #EdCampGlobal, the last one was the first of my regular #digitaledchat sessions.
Over the three chats, it became distinctly aware to even this social media for professional learning novice the power, significance and need for twitter to be one of many but never-the-less a compulsory professional learning undertaking for all teachers and those adults with any connection to student education, pathways and achievement.
So without further ado, here is why I believe twitter edchats should be compulsory for all teachers:
I used to to lecture my English students until I realised that 1) they weren't listening, 2)they often forgot what I just said and 3) academic communication is often more effective 1:1 and/or via digital or at the very least, written.
Nowadays aside out of a cordial greeting, I very rarely if ever now "address" a whole class verbally. Instead the lesson is pushed out in advance via Google Classroom. This gives me time to answer 1:1 questions and address small groups. The result? Students feel valued, considered and the more questions they ask of me and their peers, the more they are learning. The students in my English classes at a range of schools are often suprised at the time given to their questions and the seriousness with which I treat their clarifications. Often a student remarks that there is often very little question time or allowance in their other classes. I'm sure it's not because teachers are scared of student questions.....pretty sure...well kind of sure.
Why could teachers be scared of student questions?
Wow, what a first week back at Aorere College as we continue our journey as a modern & digital learning institution.
It now seems a lifetime ago (mid-2015) when we made the above expectation & encouragement public. On doing so, the statements were met with a mixture of excitement, fear and to be honest, a fair degree of scepticism by the Aorere College community.
Now in February 2016, only the excitement exists and arguably continues to grow and evolve, as students, teachers & parents become more comfortable and understanding of our school's digital transformation.
On the first day our Year 9 students graced our campus, I was amazed at how competent and confident these young men and women were in a digital context. Part of the induction day involved every Year 9 student present creating their school network, Google and Wi-Fi profile and being briefed on digital citizenship. By mid-morning, this part of the day nicknamed "Google Sessions" became so popular that those students who had not yet had their turn could barely wait.
What was also so pleasing about the first week back at Aorere from a digital perspective was the enthusiasm of the teaching staff. Whether it was during our whole school Digital professional learning sessions, during our Digital Learning PLG session or most importantly in the classroom, teachers were being great role models in implementing school-wide expectations re Google Classroom & Google Drive.
And the Wi-Fi held!!!!!! Through-out the week, there was always the occasional lag but the school's considerable 2015 investments (Fortigate, 60 new WAPs, seven external WAPs outside, and UFB) paid off big-time.
As the image below indicates, we needed to have reliable and fast internet to ensure that teachers could have confidence in delivering on-line content and activities.
In my wanderings around Aorere this week, student digital use and playground requests for Wi-Fi log-on information strongly reminded me that we were now meeting the students' needs now and for the future.
Two classroom experiences reinforced the power of modern learning. In visiting one of the school inaugural Year 10 Robotics lessons, I was blown away by how adept technically the male and female students were and also how focused and collaborative they were over the double-period.
Then on Thursday, I had my first double-period with my Year 11s. Suffice to say, the lesson activity of them completing a one-minute wevideo introducing themselves made the time fly. What was even more impressive was how quick a number of students discovered the play version of the wevideo app and proceeded to make high-quality videos on their phones and submit them to our Google Classroom.
The week closed off with students going home at 2.20pm Friday and teachers as learners in their chosen professional learning group. In a sweltering staffroom, approximately 50 teachers (over half the staff) were brilliant in their contributions and engagement in the Digital Learning option with many staying on task even well after the accepted leaving time.
What a week indeed for Aorere Digital and what's even cooler is we're just getting started. Roll on Week 2!
One of the great privileges in my job is that I have the time and freedom to roam Aorere College and see amazing classroom learning and first class pedagogy in play. In recent days, classroom visits have highlighted the ability of ANY teacher to be new and engaging in the classroom. Ironically despite the old-fashioned ethos of "learn to walk before you run", my experience and most recent frequent observations, suggests that some people find it easier completely side-stepping any time spent "walking" in the classroom.
What has been even more amazing is both the examples of the examples most recently observed were "beginning" teachers, one a "first year", the other "second year", both teachers part of the excellent TeachFirst teacher training programme. Please note that the beginning is in speech marks deliberately as although both women are new to the teaching profession, both individuals were strong achievers outside the classroom and with a wealth of learning and leadership experience.
The first example of running over walking in the classroom was our new Te Reo Maori teacher Nyra Marshall testing her Year 9 students' language capabilities. I happened to be walking past her classroom and unfortunately for Miss, the windows in her classroom were wide-open and yet not a student was out of their chairs nor could a sound be heard. Now normally as a fan of "learning noise", I would be really concerned about the dramatic tranquillity of a learning space but there was something going that needed further further inquisition on my part. Step forward Detective or should I say Inspector (that's better) Kelly.
Entering the classroom and trying not to distract the Year 9 students (too much!), I immediately questioned Nyra about what on earth was going on. She politely informed me that she was testing her Year 9 students' Te Reo understandings via a self-designed Google Form.
The Google Form was predominantly written in Te Reo and contained a mix of closed and open questions. What was also really cool about this "test" was that it was contextually relevant just to the Maori cultural context but that Nyra has designed the test to to be contextually relevant to Aorere students. What was super-awesome was how seriously the Year 9s were taking the test. I'm sure I heard hundreds of pins dropping. Susequent to the test, Nyra with the support of our digital learning coordinator then "auto-marked" the tests with Flubaroo, a Sheets add-on that also allows the students to be emailed their results instantly and allows Miss to see the strengths and developmental areas of her students.
What impressed was just not the cool way of engaging the students in a culturally responsive manner that had legitimate assessment rigour but the awesome faith that Miss had in her students in using digital technologies. This was a classic example of learning digital indirectly, in my opinion the best way to do so.
Now teachers at Aorere College know how passionate I am about legitimate student learning and achievement in the classroom and beyond, so I don't think there was too much of surprise to Nyra when I politely but strongly asked her to present this #coolschool assessment to the wide staff as one of #TechTuesday Aorere Digital sessions. Nyra was keen as (eventually) and I think in part her slight initial reluctance had more to do with her short tenure thus far at Aorere College and how the wider staff would receive a relative "newbie" talking to modern learning practice in the classroom. Needless to say, Nyra's presentation to the staff (bear in mind, this is Term 4 and EVERYONE is tired!) was not just good and positive, it was brilliant and empowering. The original request was for an around two minute presentation. To my and everyone's delight, Nyra spoke to a transfixed audience and even has this old-timer and classroom pedagogical know-it-all in all awe of her supreme confidence that she was doing the right practice for her students and their learning. What was even more impressive was that while she expressed pleasure in the success of the testing undertaking and how well the student engaged and performed in this context, Nyra was not satisfied, she ended her presentation by noting that she wanted to go even further in this engaging form of assessment by having such an occurence as part of a series of formative tests rather a isolated consummative test. Furthermore, she seemed almost impatient in wanting the test to be even more interactive by introducing both voice test elements and voice-to-text student responses. Now we're getting almost #toocoolforschool.
At the end of her presentation, Nyra was overwhelmed by the support and expressions of admiration and requests for support! Remember that this is a first year teacher but one who guides her students with her head and her heart. In all honesty, there is no way I would've ever have done something so cool in my first year of teaching or probably second or even third.
Nyra's successful innovating reinforced to me that the SAMR model may be an effective transitioning reference for standardised pedagogical progressions, sometimes it is better and makes more sense to dive straight into the deep end. This way, you're guaranteed to "get wet" and be first to the treasure. Furthermore, what I observed highlighted to me that while tradition has its place, ignorance can be bliss and free us of historical occurrences that have no authentic or relevance to the classroom and students of today or tomorrow.
Ka pai Nyra, kia kaha!
Disclosure:I have never visited physically HPSS or met either Claire Amos (Deputy Principal) or Maurie Abraham (Principal) in person. Maurie does not even follow me on twitter! Having said this, I felt I don't really need to, such is this institution's online openness and communication.
Hobsonville Point Secondary School (HPSS from now, because this sounds hip) has been in the news recently for their decision to drop NCEA Level 1 in their school with the public support of both NZQA & the Ministry of Education (MOE). Yet despite such high level support from such illustrious and reputable entities, there still exists in the New Zealand education system and beyond, a great deal of wariness and dare I say it, indeed out and out fear about what this young upstart of a school is doing. Even when the mainstream media gives the school a fair and balanced review, there is someone such as Mike Hosking arguably doing considerable damage through ill-advised throw-away comments to the promotion that teenagers are incapable of self-direction or independent learning. The most august media outlet stuff.co.nz, recently appeared to take great delight in highlighting that ten students had obtained MOE permission to be living in the HPSS zone but be able to attend alternative, "mainstream" secondary schools.
Here are some of the reasons why I think many in education and beyond are wary and/or just scared stiff of HPSS:
1.They seem themselves as part of a HP cluster/continuum with Hobsonville Point Primary School and not a stand-alone education institution. There is even a website that the two schools share (http://www.hobsonvillepoint.school.nz) as if they are equals. In my experience, this is just not the done thing. Lower level schools are supposed to separated and subservient to the almight high school/college. How many high schools can truly say that there exists an explicit and practised continuum of learning from Year 0 to Year 13 in their locality? I'm guessing not many, if any!
2. They're too hip to be effective.
For starters, look at their motto and accompanying visuals! The white birds look so tranquil, collegial and free, drifting in the blue sky. Where's the academic rigour, the message to the students that they must win, they must excel? Their motto is not even a complete sentence! Surely when the average secondary school's motto is a unique mix of latin (never ever understood this significance in NZ!) and is often old-English, what right has this school got to have just three formally punctuated words (note full stops) as their vision? It can't be a vision if it's easily understood and in words students and parents of today and tomorrow can readily access and understand. I thought the last thing a vision was supposed to be was so accessible it could be remembered. Where are the references to traditional teaching, students being vessels to be filled etc., etc., etc.
3. They have rather nice bean bags and they sit outside.
Disclosure: I know no-one in the above picture.
What is going on here? I see no books, no pens, for a modern learning institution I see no tech equipment either. That's it, they're teenagers, they can't self-manage. I reckon they've either run the batteries dry or they've lost their device. Typical. Anyhow back to the bean bags. One thing's for sure, they're certainly not hand-me-downs from Auckland Grammar. I cannot believe that the teachers appear to have no equipment either. It appears it is not only the students who can't self-manage either. I think these confused souls believe that students and teachers can learn and lead back and forth from one to each other and are equals in the learning process. Lastly why are they not in a classroom? I thought a classroom had four walls, lots of books, teacher, whiteboard and teacher's desk at the front and 30 perfectly aligned student desks facing the "front" of the classroom. HPSS obviously has a lot to learn.
4. HPSS lives and breathes the NZC and its original intent.
All jest aside, I believe that the HPSS's significant and innovative application of the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) Framework is one of the greatest reasons this school is so feared. Considering that the NZC was introduced in 1993, how many schools see such a world-leading artefact as the key driver underpinning what they do in the classroom and how they do it? Many schools in my opinion briefly considered this publication and quickly and in their eyes, safely returned to the Victorian pedagogy of teacher-knows-all and students-know-nothing.
Furthermore the NZC was visionary in that its first 40 pages barely refers to the curriculum's learning areas (what used to be "subjects"). The NZC hoped to emphasise the importance of Key Competencies, Values and Skills over subject matter. This is why all the learning area detail is at the back. In my opinions, a number of schools' current practice suggest they are reading this publication from the back to the front or maybe not even getting past the learning area pages. Even fewer schools dare to design their learning in response to real-time student choice and a minimal number of schools voice the beauty and viability of the NZC so explicitly in print, on screen and in reality.
5. The school dares to favour learning over teaching.
Learning, learning, learning. What about the teaching? Surely without teaching, there can be no learning. Enough is enough! This silliness and fragrant and disruptive schooling of our youth must cease immediately!
Disclosure: I hate the word "teacher" and its' obvious connotations.
6. The final reason for now (because they WILL be more) why HPSS is so feared is they have dramatically challenged and deconstructed the role of what to most is still called the "teacher." This for many TEACHERS is unforgivable and almost a most disgusting breach of collegiality and solidarity and what's worse from within our own profession, our own teachers. Hold on that's right, HPSS doesn't even have teachers or Heads of Departments. Instead they have the following:
See how tricky those HPSS people are? They've removed the focus on administration over education. How dare they? Leaders of learning (not HODs), learning coaches (not teachers), what on earth? In sport, doesn't a coach only guide from the side, intervene when necessary? Coaches are not even supposed to be on the field. I need a lie-down; if the myth of HPSS ever becomes a reality, us real teachers are out of a job! At the very least, teachers could have been renamed instructors, advisors or something that tells us (and the students incapable of self-anything) that the power and content is still with us EDUCATION PROFESSIONALS at the front of the class. That's right sorry I forgot, HPSS doesn't even really have classrooms, that's why they "learn" outside and sit on bean bags. At least they could try to look like a real school and get some bean desks and bean whiteboards!
In reality, I feel that HPSS are being unfairly punished due to widespread educational and public ignorance and an conscious unwillingness of many to accept that while many areas of our society have moved with the times and vast technological and social transformation, education institutions still appear to be more about one-way transfers of power and content and dare I say it, still about social control and indoctrination. Thankfully there are classrooms and more significantly more and more schools in New Zealand and beyond embracing a similar, evidenced-based approach to modern learning that is contextualised to local and global localities and preferences.
For me however I'm off to my classroom.
Now class, would you all please be quiet and face the front! That's it...right...I've had enough...where's my cane?
Thank heavens for tweetdeck. I got so into this chat that if I hadn't scheduled the questions, we probably would have only had two posted at best. What came through this chat was the need for cultural awareness to be presented implicitly and explicitly in the classroom and beyond. As many of the posts emphasised, students and indeed citizens who don't have effective cultural awareness will surely struggle in a world that is getting smaller and more united and collaborative day by day.
To read this #digitaledchat storify, please click on the image below.
This edition of #digitaledchat was so enjoyable because of the honesty and range of opinions shared. It was also highly enjoyable as all the contributors were prepared to share their best and worst experiences and fears and most importantly their solutions.
To read the storify for this #digitaledchat, please click on the image below. Thanks!
Today I attended my first #educamp unconference at Tamaki College. What an awesome learning experience and great fun! Here's why today's learning conference reinforced to me the benefits of learning digital face-to-face:
In closing, although digital learning online has immense benefits particularly in terms of global and/or long-distance collaboration, face-to-face digital learning has considerable benefits in terms of on-sight connections, tactile learning and arguably an effective embedding sensory "classroom".
Regardless of the digital and/or in-person context, one theme is prevalent, together is faster, more enjoyable and vastly more effective for teachers and students. Go #teamlearning!
Aorere College has belatedly but rapidly embarked on a modern/digital learning journey that will ideally place its students at the forefront of global learning and career opportunities in the very near future. To follow our journey, feel free to visit aoreredigital.com
The further into this journey we go, our school has increasingly determined a number of significant non-negotiables in terms of digitizing our students' learning and our wider community's learning for academic and holistic benefit now and in the future.
1. The wider school community needs to be aware of Aorere College's digital vision, progress and intended outcomes/destinations.
When we set up our digital learning lab Year 9 pilot class, information was readily available online, in person, in print and via phone. One communication sticks clearly in the mind when we had sent out the invites for students to join the class. One mother was dead against the idea initially, worried that her child would be removed from learning the core skills (Literacy, Numeracy etc.). During a phone call of approximately half an hour, the aforementioned fear alongside concerns re cybersafety and digital competency and curriculum coverage were all addressed to the satisfaction of the parent. We also quickly realised that the best "sellers" were not us the staff, it wasn't the "evidence-base", it was of course the students. This is why we delayed a parents Q & A session until a few weeks into the term and at this event, it was the students themselves that showed & explained the merits of a digital learning context. One of the best pieces of advice I have received regarding communicating to parents is that it is nearly impossible to inform them too early. In light of our 2016 student & community digital expectations, we are releasing the information at the end of the month, with at least two public meetings to be held early next term, with one to be held-off site and in collaboration with a contributing school.
2. Students are fearless digital learners and have the capacity to upskill rapidly and on multiple digital fronts simultaneously.
To be completely fearless is arguably reckless and dangerous, to be completely fearful is to be retrench, become isolated and in many cases withdraw. In my Year 13 English class, it has been fascinating to observe the progress of the initially least-capable digital learners. The affirming peer pressure within my student collective and the ability of my students to teach, coach & empower each other is on a scale that I genuinely could have coming at the beginning of this year. When students understand the "how" is at the very least as important as the "what", their engagement and motivation to engage, skyrockets as does their confidence to "recommend" to their teacher, alternative learning methods and/or pathways. Once again as in 1., the students' confidence and aptitude is taken into the home in a safe and localised manner and the "one drop of water becomes a waterfall".
3. Fail forward, fail fast and fail up.
Our wonderful student and family community is naturally averse to being seen as "failures" and is for the most part, our teaching community. Such an existence is obviously seen as culturally, academically, personally (and in a teacher's case, professionally) demeaning and embarrassing. This has been one of the biggest challenges we have faced in our digital journey. The first time, I went to email to email our student community, we found that our SMS wasn't sufficiently set up for a volume of communication. I personally initially sent numerous #googleclassroom assignments proudly as announcements, much to my students' delight. Students forgot their logins, complained that work had been lost in #GoogleDrive because they hadn't saved it, our internet upgrade made online access slower, you name it, it happened! Never-the-less, the school and community believed in Winston Churchill's wonderful refrain "Never, never, never give up" and as a result, made it through the digital darkness to some level of warm, empowering digital light. Teachers increasingly are prepared to "fail" appropriately and safely. Increasingly students are becoming aware that failure is a prerequisite for success and at the very least builds resilience, critical analysis and self-reflective learners. I know in my classroom and many others, the collegial willingness to walk new paths have removed the summative assessment & endpoint focus to still obviously essential but less a perpetual focus and narrow obsession. What has increased dramatically however is the students' and this teachers' use of formative assessment and subsequent reflection. In making it clear to our wider community that our digital advance was targeting student academic achievement as a priority and that student achievement in no way, shape or form would be allowed to be harmed, our community for the time period accepts the need for certain "fails".
4. Device choice matters in terms of learning, achievement, communication & finances
Orewa College has for a number of years successfully has iPads as the preferred device in their junior school, with a preference for laptops in the senior school. Pakuranga College is device agnostic, Westlake Girls High Schools specified high-spec laptops from one specific retail chain. In our context Aorere College is in the final stages of confirming our specifics for next year and more and more, we are becoming firm believers in the prescription of one device for all, thus going above and beyond, one set of specifics for all. When we allowed portable smart devices in the classroom for educational purposes, the most obvious device was cellphones, way more than any other. I am a firm advocate of the benefits of using cellphones in the classroom as an introductory device, and as an effective learning tool just like pen and paper, however it became quickly apparent that the phones were limited in terms of being production devices. Thus it is most likely we will advocate being a 2:1 device institution with a smart phone being for consumption and portability and a second device being for "static" consumption and more formalised production. We also want to ensure that any device is cost affordable for our community but is still sufficiently capable for digital now and in the future.
5. Prioritise compulsory digital competency for all teachers & staff
The best teachers see themselves as learners and teachers. The worst teachers.... ( for more, see my blog post "The most dangerous teachers in the world"), you get the gist. In any academic institution, you need your "road-runners", your fearless, your brave, what I call them your "nutty professors." These are the digital citizens who like me are "over-excited" (direct quote from our business manager) about the benefits of modern learning & digital and pedagogy. These are the best teachers to be around, their courage, innovation and enthusiasm empowering and transformational, the ones needing obviously the least "prompting". The non-road runners (including all support staff) take a little bit more work. We quickly realised very early on that the teachers and staff we saw as "middle-roaders" were the key to getting widespread institutional buy-in and forward sustainable, action. At Aorere College, we therefore:
As one can see, by taking a holistic and integrated approach, we have ideally left as fewer stones unturned as possible. We have tried to ensure that staff are confident, capable and curious but also in many cases, have removed all other alternatives, such as paper notices. In doing so, personal choice has indeed been restricted but the end result is that students now receive a consistent base level of digital presentation and teachers have a reduced workload through digital "adoption.
In closing, #aoreredigital has come to realise that not every person in our school and wider community is accepting or supportive of our digital intent and desires. We also realise that consensus is not needed, but a willingness to try, fail learn and advance in various forms and contexts is needed and is indeed non-negotiable!