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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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?