To read the storify for this edition of digitaledchat, please click on the image below.
This chat quickly moved from serious discussion to one where much fun was had recollecting digital classroom fails and successes in 2015. Although humour and fun was evident through-out the chat, it was very clear just how confident and brave many of these contributors were and are in their localised teaching & learning environments. In many cases, they are individuals trying to move many and arguably without the support of online PLNs such as #digitaledchat, this pursuit would be virtually impossible. It was also very clear via the chat and #digitaledchats earlier in the year that schools around the world need to do to do a lot more to support these edtech innovators for student benefit now and in the future. Digitaledchat is incredibly grateful for the diverse range of talented, visionary and committed contributors over 2015 who have supported this chat from its infancy to its current position. Thank you everyone!
To read the storify for this edition of digitaledchat, please click on the image below.
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!
When us teachers try to challenge our students in the classroom, it is essential that the learning is challenging for the students and in some cases may be beyond the teacher's capabilities. When a collective #thinkbig culture exists in a classroom, the world is literally one's oyster. The walls of the classrooms drop away as does much of the learning imbalance between teachers and students. To achieve #thinkbig requires a clear vision, teamwork and a priority of journey over destination, if a destination even exists!
To read this digitaledchat storify, please click on the image below:
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?
Wow, it's finally the weekend and I now have a brief respite from one of the coolest professional learning weeks I have ever had!
My week "officially" started last Sunday with my regular participation in #includEDau, one of the more unique ed. chats on twitter. What makes this chat so awesome is that the chat deals with the really difficult issues in ed. that some of the more mainstream and "bigger" chats would never dare to go near. Sunday's chat was one of the more mainstream topics they have covered in recent times.
It is when #includEDau goes near the topics like the one below, boy do I learn and am challenged on my prejudices and knowledge (or lack of!).
Following one great chat after another, at 10.30 (NZT) it was then time for #aussieED, an Australian chat that is very fast but still highly prevalent in the depth of discourse and debate. Even better they welcome Kiwis!
This is another great chat as the speed at which the stream goes often means that your contributions are instant and while not always perfectly drafted, they are from the head and from the heart and as such less filtered.
In my role of Deputy Principal at Aorere College, I have three key areas of responsibility, these being Assessment & Reporting, Academic Mentoring and of course Aorere Digital. It was with respect to these latter two that we hosted senior managers from Kaitaia College on behalf of the Auckland University Starpath programme. Our visitors were really interested in how we had used technology to make our mentoring programme so durable, successful and sustainable. Over about a two hour period, my nationally-recognised database manager Lyna Thai and myself explained how technology enabled our teachers and students to have real-time access to student achievement, information and pathways whether in or out of the classroom. I was really impressed with our visitor's willingness to change potential change in their current practice and structures. Although I am a huge fan of digital collaboration, this meeting reminded me of the massive learning benefits from face-to-face engagement, plus we had an awesome lunch!
Monday night saw me get my slides finished just in time for #digitaledchat, my own professional learning chat on twitter. I started doing this chat as I was getting frustrated with the delay in finding out answers for digital pedagogy & infrastructure from traditional means. This chat for me is the absolute best professional learning I now get and have ever got. The questions are very straightforward but wow, the responses and side-chats are invaluable in challenging my thinking and also my actions as one of #aoreredigital's architects. Even better, the chat frequently has people joining in from literally from all over the world and there is a considerable hard core of returnees who have little difficulty in telling me what to do and where I am wrong!
What was fascinating about Monday's chat was that I thought the topic of In-school Digital PL would be a fairly comfortable one hour discussion and that it would have lower participation than other more "exciting" topics I have covered in the past. How wrong was I! Monday's chat was very robust in debate and the discussion was so significant we trended in the top 3 for Australia. What turned out was that there appears a huge variance in the allowance of in-school PL for digital advancement and that access varies considerably from school to school, country to country.
Nice work! #ANZACspirit. It should also be mentioned that the chat normally finishes just after 10.00pm (NZT) and then I do the storify but this one informally finished around 10.30pm. I must have struck a raw nerve with this one!
We are fortunate to have a number of high quality teachers at Aorere College who want the best for our students and are not afraid to be innovative and risk-takers in their classrooms.One of these teachers is Nyra Marshall, a former lawyer now first year teacher who has come through the TeachFirst teacher training programme.
Nyra is wonderful in that she has no pedagogical baggage in terms of tradition or conformity. She decided that the best way for her students to sit a Year 9 Te Reo exam was to do it via a Google Form that had a mix of closed and open questions. I only came across her doing this as I was walking the school grounds and looked into her classroom. Naturally excited at how engaged her students were, I quietly "bowled in" and was blown away by what she was doing. It was so cool to see that the students were safe and effective in using digital technology in this context and were doing the absolute best they could. When I looked at the test questions, any thoughts of this being an easy test were quickly dispelled.
I then asked Nyra about the marking of the tests and when I found out she was going to mark them manually, to her delight I told her about the awesome Sheets add-on Flubaroo which automatically marks Google Forms tests. Now she was even more excited and keen to find out more.
I put her on to our digital learning coordinator Gareth Haddon and the tests were marked in a heart-beat! #toocoolforschool
Being completely honest, I have tremendous admiration for what Nyra did and is doing. There is no way in my first year I would have gone anywhere near doing something as cool as this in an assessment!
On this day, I had the privilege spending the morning up at my former school Orewa College, one of the first schools in New Zealand to introduce "digital" learning and iPads for their students. Orewa College is incredibly welcoming to visitors keen to find out the reality of digital in education. To my great delight and education, I spent the morning with Richard Wells, a true "nutty professor" in terms of digital in education, learning through play and authentic education for our students. Richard inspired me with his non-traditional and provocative thoughts on where we currently are and where the New Zealand education system should be heading. The time flew by and soon it was sadly time to leave to. What really made me proud was that Richard was very affirming in just how much of a leadership role New Zealand is having and should have in terms of global & modern learning curriculum designs, spaces and pedagogy.
It was also a fantastic opportunity for me to catch up with some former colleagues and see just how far they had come in terms of their pedagogical advances. It should be noted that these high-fliers were also responsible for the prank visible below!
Thursday was a really exciting day for Aorere College as we were only one of ten New Zealand schools selected from 65 applicants to showcase what we were doing to GELP NZ 2015 Conference attendees from all the world.
Although a little nerve-wracking, it was a great opportunity for myself and two of my fellow #aoreredigital team members (Gareth Haddon, Malia Ikenasio) to "look from the outside in" and as a result, be very proud and confident of our #aoreredigital work in raising student futures! I should also point that Malia is also a first year but she spoke so well (from the head and the heart) about her beliefs, I was moved emotionally...but in a very good way! To view this presentation, feel free to click on the image below.
And then a very cool surprise happened. Just as my team were vacating the boardroom after our GELP presentation about #aoreredigital, I was invited to sit in on a meeting with Richard Rowley from Mindlab by Unitec who had come to our school to give advice on our one of our new 2015 Year 10 options at Aorere College- Robotics. While I'm skiting, I should also point out that we also have huge numbers for another cool option next year, this being Gamification & App Development. Now what really fascinates me about the Robotics option is that the two teachers taking the course namely Gareth Haddon (Social Sciences) and Brent McGarva (Music) do not have a IT background but are highly competent users of the digital pedagogy & resources in their teaching.
In all my excitement about the awesomeness of what we were doing at Aorere College, I'd almost forgotten that I'd agreed to be the keynote speaker at Tangaroa College's PL day on going "digital" in the classroom. I had been asked by our good friend Jacque Allen from Cognition Consulting to speak about Aorere College's Digital Journey, a topic very close to my heart and one I need very little encouragement to get evangelical about! Needless to say, I had a bit of work to do on my presentation but as the line goes "desperation breeds inspiration." Thankfully, by 1.00am (Friday morning) I was good to go, well almost.
To say I was excited at 5.00am was an understatement, to say my presentation was complete would be a lie. I wanted to give Tangaroa an honest account of the Aorere Digital journey (warts and all!) so I kept adding, removing, changing elements of my Slides. Even when I was walking my dog before heading off, I was thinking what would be cool in the presentation and what would clearly illustrate my Aorere Digital philosophy. I then concluded that only the below clip would do justice! After all, isn't a picture worth a thousand words?
I had a brilliant time at Tangaroa College and was blown away by their welcome, enthusiasm and readiness to "have a go." I knew we were going good when I asked for everyone to get out their phones and we had selfie-nation for about 10 minutes. Although I was the keynote speaker, I learnt a huge amount of how to present the challenge of moving forward but not in isolation. I was also reminded just how important humour and fun is in any significant journey.
But I hear you ask, was the PL effective? Well, one lady came up to me immediately afterwards and politely complimented me (I think) on making her overseas conference irrelevant while there were two padlets posts I really appreciated!
By Friday afternoon I was somewhat tired but stoked at being both a giver and taker in terms of modern learning. This most awesome of weeks ended with a request for me to assist our leading contributor school Kedgley Intermediate with their digital strategy after the weekend. Phew, time for a break and then awesomely back into it. Although I love this aspect of my job, I never ever forget who this whole adventure and professional learning is really about.....