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 8/6/15, Updated 10/4/16
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!
DIGITAL AORERE ESSAY
Hi my name is Arshad Saheb from Aorere College. I am here to write about why digital devices are useful in everyday learning. I will be including how digital devices are useful in school, how Aorere College needs more devices in areas where they need it most, how the internet has to stay fast and how the teachers around Aorere College have to get more experienced in using digital devices.
In Aorere College I believe that digital devices are having a positive effect on everyday learning. Students in our 302 English Class with Mr Kelly are always engaged and always doing their work using laptops or smartphones. When Mr Kelly is absent from class, he always updates our Google Classroom and gives our task for the day and he has high trust in us to complete it when he is not around. Digital devices are useful in school because it doesn’t make students say “oh i forgot my pen” or “Miss I don’t have a book.” It makes sense that students work on laptops during class time where they can store their work on google docs or devices. Mr Kelly will never let us use Microsoft Word or anything because he quotes “It’s not better than Google Docs or Drive and I’ll never mark your work if you send me your work through email.” It is also useful by doing your homework and assessments on the laptop as you won’t lose your work or won’t get any excuses for not doing your work. You can get advice from your teachers by contacting them online via twitter or facebook or email.
Aorere College in the future will be a digital device school, but to make this happen, Aorere College must get devices for every subject area they need it for. We need more devices that you could use for every subject such as Health. All subjects must have fast and accessible laptops. I know this because when we we used to have to old and other laptops from other areas of the school, they were not fast and it sometimes took one whole period to load up. This did not leave much time to complete your essay or any other work or assessments. For Aorere College to be a digital school, they must purchase more laptops or chromebooks to use for students. If Aorere College purchases more laptops and chromebooks for the entire school, Aorere College will most likely not use pen and paper anymore. Another issue that Aorere College has to resolve is to keep the network as fast as possible. If the network is down for one whole day, it can have a major impact on the students learning. One whole day could go to waste without any learning. If this happens Aorere College should have a backup plan to make students work but using the devices or anything else that is useful for the school and students. As a student at Aorere College I have suffered a time where the network went down and it wasn’t a good experience. Luckily Mr Kelly (our 302 English teacher had a backup plan by making us connect to his phone and use his data via hotspot.
The teachers at Aorere College must get provided with more training on using digital devices and using online websites e.g. Google Classroom, Google Docs etc. This is because if Aorere College wants to go digital, they must give their teachers training on using the devices, so they can teach their students via Classroom etc. Some teachers that I have spoken to such as Mr Whaanga, Mr Subbarayan would love to get more training on using classroom and the digital devices, so they can help us students pass assessments using our own devices. This also makes it easier for them as if they're absent, they can load their task and the instructions of the work we have to complete for the day via Classroom. When Mr Kelly is absent, he puts up clear instructions on our 302 English Google Classroom. This makes us complete our tasks and still be on track for our learning when he is absent.
In conclusion, I believe that Aorere College should become a digital school, because I feel that it’s easier by using laptops and our own devices than using paper and pen for the whole day. This is also useful because students will sometimes make excuses such as “my dog ate my homework” or “I don’t have a pen.” Aorere College can become a digital school if we can get devices for the entire school to use and every student has a smartphone for learning purposes.
I've lost count how many times I've suggested various improvements to Google regarding Google Classroom.A search option is perpetually at the top of my list. Why? Because as I use Classroom everyday, it becomes increasingly difficult for my students to find a Slides presentation or information from a few weeks back. Sure they could do a "find on page" or source the same information potentially off our class website but isn't Google supposed to be about making our teaching and learning earlier?
If I continue to have so many suggested improvements, why don't I just go and use any other CMS (classroom management system)? Simply because my students would kill me!
The ease of use of Classroom by students who are not all particularly tech-savvy (or weren't at the start of this year!) means it has now quickly become irreplaceable in my English lessons. The ability to post to mobile via desktop, to allow comments from students and most cool of all, the "assignment" management elements ensure that a paper-scared teacher such as myself has seen a dramatic drop in subject-related academic workload. Furthermore, the "announcement" feature enables students to increasingly work at their own pace and also ensures that students late or absent from class can access lesson content where-ever, when-ever they want. By the way, the ability to post announcements via a mobile platform means that even on the way to class, I can post my Do Now and the learning activities for the day literally as I walk into the classroom.
Now as I said at the beginning, Classroom's imperfections are why it works. I love the fact that Google are consistently pushing out new, innovative updates, in the most part due to teacher feedback and demand. We don't have to wait for the annual software release or a service pack update (remember those?). If we had to wait until Google had perfected Classroom, the majority of us would have retired by its eventual release date. The fact that Classroom is consistently evolving ensures its relevancy in the classroom by teachers and students.
Now...what about that search function, Google?