Who’s in the driving seat?

During our second Teacher Only Day, Anna Stephenson who was our facilitator gave out a reading by Watkins (2009) entitled ‘Learners in the Driving Seat’. The reading looks at who is responsible for students’ learning and how young students can take the lead in their own learning. You can view the article here: Learners in the driving seat – Watkins (2009). I am looking forward to trialling an idea with my class on day one – Ask the students to point at the ceiling with their index finger and then ask them to point at who is responsible for their learning. I am looking forward to taking pictures of this that we can, as a class, reflect back on later in the year. It is my hope that some of the students that I had last year point at themselves, but time will tell:-)

Watkins’ reading was a confirmation of sorts that the professional development/leadership that I had been planning for my team was heading in the correct direction. Last year, after reading about student agency, visiting various schools that promote student autonomy and attending educamp2014 I decided that I wanted to give students greater control over what they learnt in my classroom.

During Term 4 I trialled running small groups where students could opt into what was being taught. If the students decided to attend the small group and realised that they new the content they were free to leave. Of course, there were varying degrees of autonomy depending on the student; however, I felt that this approach worked very well. It was interesting to anecdotally note that motivation of the class improved as a result of being able to choose when and what they studied within the context of a wider topic.

Following on from this, I decided that I would like to try this approach on a wider scale. As part of our team teacher inquiry, which each teaching team has control over, I decided I would like to look at creating greater student agency/autonomy in 2015.

Aa part of the session with Anna, we were asked to think about what our team inquiry would look like. I was conscious of wanting to develop interest and motivation for the topic with the rest of my team members rather than telling the team what we would be inquiring about. I think that team ‘by in’ is massively important when looking at new initiatives/ideas.

After some explanation of my thinking and showing the rest of the team The Learning Pyramid they were excited about the idea of creating greater student agency across the team.Learning-Pyramid

Realising that this could be a massive inquiry for a team which has a third year teacher and a PRT 1 we decided to narrow our approach to the maths curriculum. Hopefully this would be beneficial from two aspects, firstly it will give us a more focussed approach and secondly it will give us concrete data to use and compare when studying the effectiveness of our inquiry.

I am thoroughly looking forward to implementing some of the ideas, readings and thinking that I have done over the Christmas holidays within my class and team.

PS: I tried the activity today from Learners in the driving seat (Watkins, 2009) with the students in my class and interestingly there was a correlation between the contributing schools my Year 7 had attended previously and who/where they ended up pointing. I was pleased that about 80% of my Year 8 students pointed at themselves. When asked to discuss who they pointed at and why, one of my Year 8 girl’s said that she pointed at herself because “You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” which I thought was very insightful comment/reflection.

MLEs – A change in mindset, not necessarily buildings

As Modern Learning Environments (MLEs) are reasonably recent, it is difficult to find quantifiable research that suggests MLEs lead to raised student achievement. Mark Osborne from CORE Education suggests that “this is one of the drawbacks of working in a relatively recent area of education.” So, although robust research isn’t readily available into the effects of MLE’s it is easier to identify what won’t change student achievement.

Changing classroom environments – knocking down walls, creating ‘break out’ spaces, adding bean bags and funky furniture and introducing devices is all relatively straightforward. However, MLEs are pointless if the teacher still leads from the front of classroom and doesn’t change his or her practice. The challenge will be to explore how MLEs can be used to genuinely change how and what we have been doing. In this respect, there is plenty of research available. The following is taking from the Virtual Learning Network and sums up the type of change and pedagogy we should be aiming to implement.

“When looking at how a learning environment might be used well, we should look to the research around pedagogy. Attention should be paid to work such as the Best Evidence Synthesis on pedagogy (Quality Teaching for Diverse Learners), Te Kotahitanga and John Hattie’s Visible Learning to identify teaching strategies that are most likely to make a difference for our learners. Providing an environment that offers as many learning settings as possible to promote these kinds of powerful pedagogies (peer tutoring, reciprocal teaching, mastery learning, student agency over learning etc.) is crucial and for many schools this variety is offered through modern learning environments. To summarise the thinking in this area: MLEs make a difference because they give teachers more opportunities to use pedagogies that make a difference.”

Mark Osborne, CORE Education.

e-learning and effective pedagogy

e-learning is clearly identified as a powerful means of supporting effective pedagogy in and beyond the classroom. As the NZC states:

Information and communication technology (ICT) has a major impact on the world in which young people live. Similarly, e-learning (that is, learning supported by or facilitated by ICT) has considerable potential to support teaching.

For instance, e-learning may:

  • assist the making of connections by enabling students to enter and explore new learning environments, overcoming barriers of distance and time
  • facilitate shared learning by enabling students to join or create communities of learners that extend well beyond the classroom
  • assist in the creation of supportive learning environments by offering resources that take account of individual, cultural, or developmental differences
  • enhance opportunities to learn by offering students virtual experiences and tools that save them time, allowing them to take their learning further.

Schools should explore not only how ICT can supplement traditional ways of teaching but also how it can open up new and different ways of learning.

My Vision

We live in an ever-changing world where the majority of students now use devices outside of school to communicate and learn on a daily basis. I would like to see devices being used more prominently within schools to further enhance teaching and learning.

My vision for schools is that they begin to  innovatively blend the use of technology into current programmes, as well as adapting current practice to include the use of devices. By doing this, we will develop connected, life-long learners, who are actively involved in the global community.

Many educators would argue that the term e-learning is twee or outdated, as it should be about learning full stop. Some educators prefer the term ‘blended learning’ to ‘e-learning’.

Hopefully the term blended learning allays the fear that schools are trying to replace pen and paper, traditional modes and methods of teaching, and instead suggests that we simply want to ‘blend’ the pen and paper with electronic modes and methods.

While blended learning is the ultimate goal for teaching and learning in schools, we are clearly in a period of transition and it is timely and important that the “e” is highlighted to remind us that we are wanting to see a greater and more effective use of electronic devices in classrooms.

Given this reason, it is appropriate, that both terms are used with the ultimate goal of having a blended approach to teaching and learning embedded in every teacher’s daily practice.

Leadership starts with vision.

This framework is one that was presented during NAPP 2014.

Fullan's Framework for Leadership

 

While Fullan differentiates between Leaders and Members I think that the blue oval and outer white oval actually apply to all members of staff within an organisation/school. I personally feel that the difference between Leaders and Members is vision.

Leadership success always starts with vision.

“There’s nothing more demoralizing than a leader who can’t clearly articulate why we’re doing what we’re doing.” –James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Leaders have vision. They share a dream and direction that other people want to share and follow. The leadership vision goes beyond your written annual or strategic plan. The vision of leadership permeates the school and is manifested in the actions, beliefs, values and goals of your senior management team.

Coding in the classroom

In today’s modern world I think it is time for coding to be taught more widely in New Zealand primary and intermediate schools. Not just through extension or ICT groups, for students who are already computer savvy, but to every school aged student in New Zealand. I see that coding fits naturally within the New Zealand English curriculum framework. I realise some educators might argue that writing code fits into the Technology curriculum but I feel that including coding into the English framework gives the skill a much more prominent place in the curriculum. As a primary trained teacher I know that often Technology is one of the areas that gets ‘squeezed out’ when things get busy. Aligning coding with the English curriculum may help elevate this problem and help to ensure that it is taught more widely in primary and intermediate schools.

The introduction to the New Zealand English curriculum, ‘What is English about?’ states that ‘English is … communicated orally, visually, and in writing, for a range of purposes and audiences and in a variety of text forms. Understanding, using, and creating  written, and visual texts of increasing complexity is at the heart of English teaching and learning. By engaging with text-based activities, students become increasingly skilled and sophisticated speakers and listeners, writers and readers, presenters and viewers.’

Surely coding fits perfectly with this rationale for English. After all, in five years time coding will be a key way that individuals communicate with audiences. Teaching coding is beginning to happen in schools around the world. If New Zealand is truly wanting to become world leaders in technology it is important that we begin to equip our future citizens with these skills now. An interesting website which is dedicated to teaching students to code can be found at https://code.org/educate.

Writing code helps students develop the capabilities for living and lifelong learning. All five key competencies can be developed as students write code. I also like the idea of students working collaboratively with others from around the world as they begin to write and refine code. Sites like http://exercism.io (don’t be put off by the name:-)) can help students achieve this.

I would be interested to hear about what other schools are doing in regards to incorporating coding into their curriculums.

Thanks to all of those who feed back on twitter about this subject. I would especially like to thank @gmacmanus for all the resources that he shared, including docs.google.com/document/d/1eC… which is an invaluable source of information.

An interesting article from the New Zealand Herald explaining how Britain has introduced coding and programming into their school curriculum. Hopefully it won’t be long before the New Zealand Ministry of Education realises the need and relevance for coding to be introduced here!

A great post on coding at iPads 4 Schools. Check it out!

Teacher Inquiry

Over the course of the year, the staff at Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School, have been working alongside Anna Stephenson from Massey University to help develop Teacher Inquiry further within the school. The decision was made that the staff would all look at the same aspect of practise to help consolidate understanding of the inquiry method. The aspect that was selected by Senior Management was to focus on raising achievement levels of Māori and Pasifika boys in writing.

After ‘playing’ with several different inquiry models over the course of the year I attended a course on mentoring a PRT and the facilitator showed the following as an example.

Teacher Inquiry Model

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I particularly liked this approach as it incorporated the RTCs and I think that I suitable next step for the model would be to include the relevant aspects on Tātaiako as well. The model clearly outlines the Inquiry model in a clear and concise way.

PRT Mentoring

This year I have had the privilege of mentoring a PRT2. Some documents that I have found useful along the journey have been:

Mentor Inquiry

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and

Relating RTCs to Tätaiako

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Both of these documents have helped shape feedback and feedforward for my mentee. It appears that various Colleges of Education are great at teaching or making their students aware of the RTCs but fail teach Tātaiako to the same degree. This is a shame as it sends the message to PRTs that Tātaiako is some how less important/relevant than the RTCs.

Robots to take take control in the future

Robots to take over. The New Zealand Herald recently ran a headline that wouldn’t be out of place in a bad Sci-fi movie. The headline did; however, remind me of a presentation I once heard about the different jobs that experts predict will be automated in the future.

Mark Osborne presented at the L@S Roadshow in Palmerston North about jobs that are likely to be automated in the future. The below graph makes for interesting reading.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 11.12.29 AM

With this idea in mind, I believe it is long over due that schools begin to challenge the traditional paradigm that many have been following. We need to equip our students for a future of change. The key to student’s success in the future will be around their EQ Emotional Intelligence – things that robots and automated programmes can’t do. Along with this students will also need to be able to apply, analyse, evaluate, create and collaborate on a level where machines cannot. As students change how they learn, we, as educators, mustn’t be afraid to change the way we teach.