Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Manaiakalani Online Secondary Connect

Today I was the guest speaker on a Manaiakalani Google Hangout.

 I was suprised how easy and effective Hangouts were with one person as the MC making sure people's microphones were all off when they weren't speaking, giving time for asking questions, and keeping the discussion moving. 

I spoke about how my sites and visible planning have evolved over the last 3 years. 

I also mentioned Google Class OnAir, and the Spark MIT inquiry I've been doing this year, and where to find my resources, lesson plans and sites.

This video was also on the page I presented, but I left it for anyone to watch it in their own time. Secretly I am quite proud of it! It's a summary of my year of inquiry with Year 13 Biology, focussing on improving University Entrance.

It's 7 minutes 33 but I promise it moves along at a cracking pace :)

We finished the Google Hangout with a collaborative Padlet, asking for tangible suggestions on how collaborative teaching and learning communities could be build up among secondary schools. 

Made with Padlet

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Student Voice and Agency

It's Wednesday afternoon at uLearn and I'm two thirds of the way through my presentations!


Right now I'm sitting in a presentation about student voice and agency.

Here are some things I took away from the session today: 

~  Student voice needs to be recorded to have agency.

~  Never ask "are there any questions?" - because there won't be. Rather say "what IS your question?" It tells student's it's about personalised learning, and that we need them to think. And it's ok to have a think, and then have a question.

~  If it's free, it's for me. 

~  Twitter and https://twitterfall.com/ to quickly gain student voice, then get them to reply to each other's tweets online too. 

~  Every Thursday period one Stuart starts the lesson with everyone dancing, to a different song each week. Why? Certainly not his idea. He asked the class how to revitalise them and get them ready for class on a Thursday morning - the class said they want to have a boogie. Kids run to class for it! Two rules only: no mocking, and no sitting out - dance to the best of your ability. 

~  Student voice and agency allows teachers to get out of the way of learning. 

And finally, here's the Padlet of everyone who was in the session today, Padlets are so easily embedded!

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Hui Reflection Term 3

Today in the hui we each provided five principles that we thought would be important to tell a new teacher about teaching with technology. Then we all went through and analysed the underlying assumption of each given principle. 

Here are my five principles, analysed by the people in the hui for assumptions:



Establish a routine for disconnecting from the technology when you want to communicate with the class (e.g. slant devices, remove headphones, eyes on you etc).
  • that classroom management is important - with or without technology
For introducing or reviewing new content, try to evaluate online videos/interactives/simulations/activities that are able to be paused and rewound, or that provide immediate feedback to students on how they are going.

  • Teachers can inherently spot the learning value in different tools.
  • Teachers know best how to teach.
  • Having learning student-paced helps students learn.
  • Immediate feedback helps students to learn.
  • Teachers have time to wade through the offerings on the web
Pick ONE platform for all of your visible planning/explanations/resources/work distribution and stick to it throughout the year - an online routine or online learning zone. It is VERY confusing to bounce from gmail to bio folder to short goo.gl links etc to find your work.

  • that teachers have sufficient confidence and courage of their convictions to go with just one and not be swayed by the brighter and better rhetoric
  • that this doesn’t then lock you into something that is old, useless, boring or superseded by something flasher.
  • That students can’t handle different platforms easily
It is just as good to have an online presence on all of the student’s work (having all their docs open, leaving comments and repeatedly cycling through their work) during class time. They know you’re watching and helping.
-that students like feedback
-that teachers appreciate the value of giving feedback
-that feedback is critical to learning
-that students like to be monitored
Use technology to share planning and learning progressions with colleagues in an organised way, as well as recording student data by having links to student work in one place.
  • several teachers are teaching together/ in the same place/ same school/ on same project.
  • teachers believe in sharing information

Monday, 30 May 2016

Hui Reflection Day 1

Today I was at the first day of a two-day hui for the "evolving pedagogies when teaching with digital technologies" project being funded by the University of Auckland.

The main discussion point for this morning is preparing our students for their future. What does that look like and sound like currently, and what does it hope for and assume?

Thoughts about knowledge valued by the school system:
  • Is knowledge still power? We think so, but the nature of knowledge is constantly changing. 
  • What is the power of having knowledge in your head v knowledge in your device, knowing something v knowing how to find out, knowing what you know v knowing when to Google. 
  • The role of the teacher has changed from transmitting to facilitating knowledge building. 

Thoughts about curriculum, choice and learning:
  • Students learn best when they're learning about something they see as interesting or relevant. 
  • Following student interest and passions in learning v forcing students to experience new content (and form neural connections) that the education system has determined to be important.
  • What age is appropriate for students to exclusively follow their existing curiosity and passion, so they are not limited learners later in life?
  • Following on from that, is there a basic level of learning and knowledge that students NEED and would be lost without; for example, are times tables necessary any more? 

Thoughts about other things valued by the school system?
  • Skills required in the workplace such as cooperation.
  • Skills required to succeed in the current economy such as creativity.
  • Dispositions such as curiosity, love of learning and resilience in the face of difficulty.
  • Expanding students' options for their future (whatever that may look like).

Thoughts about teaching:
  • We are in a new age of access; teaching is one of the only careers where professionals consistently work outside of working hours and teachers need to consider when they are available and when they aren't.
  • In schools there seems to be a discord between innovation and mastery; moving always to the next next next idea/tool/programme before teachers can master the last, reducing consistency in their teaching.
  • Collaboration and sharing between teachers/departments/schools could reduce workload.
  • Universities do not model this and instead focus on competition to the detriment of all. 

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Reflection on MIT Inquiry

My Problem: raising Year 13 University Entrance in Biology at Tamaki College.


1. Students of 2016 are often not in biology class for many and varied reasons. Therefore, learning must be available for students online to access in their own time:
  • to catch up
  • to revise
  • to move ahead
Further to that, students must be MOTIVATED to access their learning online.

2. Blogging during the learning of internal assessment content is like walking a tightrope.

This statement from me caused great debate within a few of the 2016 Spark MIT teachers. I said that during internal assessments students blogged during the 'learning' stage; sharing what we had done in class, different activities they completed, any practicals that we did, etc. The example I gave was having students diagnose whether an imaginary patient had Type I or Type II diabetes and share their 'Doctors Chart' online. 

Students can't (on the other hand) share online any information they have analysed, synthesized, or extended from class learning or sources online. These understandings that each student has formed are their own. This distinction was made to minimize the risk of plagiarism, as well as meeting assessment conditions and authenticity requirements.  

Another teacher argued that her art class frequently post their emerging products online for peers to give each other feedback and help; and isn't this the nature of collaboration? I couldn't help but agree with her sentiment. 

However in Biology we assess the understanding of a concept that students are able to put into words and explain, analyse, or link, so to have access to another students' explanations would blur the lines of assessment as it currently stands. 

Term 1 Summary: 

1. I have been using Google Docs to create my visible planning that students can access. I had to explicitly show them that the column on the left is where their learning outcome is written, and the two columns on the right contain activities of different levels. I have used SOLO levels to differentiate the tasks.

Potential challenge: I am unsure whether my class actually understands SOLO levels, or that they are set out to gradually build understanding of a concept. 

2.   I could also be using Google Calendar, or Hapara's new Workspaces on Teacher Dashboard to format my visible planning. 

Potential challenge: I should survey my class as to which format would be the easiest for them to navigate, and which one they would be most likely to access and use to catch up or revise. 

3.   Halfway through learning the internal I surveyed students as to how they were using the visible planning document. I asked students:
  • to describe where they could find my visible planning (all of them could).

Only 1/4 of the students who had accessed it outside of class time had used it to catch up, despite every student in the class missing more than one lesson throughout the term. 

  • did they look at the learning outcomes for the unit?
  • had they used it in another way?

4.  Challenge: due to the amount of time I have lost with this class, I have not asked students to reflect on whether the visible planning was helpful during their assessment, or what I could do better/more/differently to assist their learning. However, one student took the time to respond in their weekend to provide me some feedback (which was really nice of her!) She said:

What worked:
  1. It worked for me because we have done an assessment similar to this one Yr 12.
  2. Youtube videos were more helpful than website.
  3. The topic was pretty interesting that I wanted to learn more about it.
  4. I like that the teacher was always there when I needed feedback or when I think I’m going off topic.

What didn’t:
  1. The time wasn’t long enough for me to do it my research properly.
  2. Didn’t have enough understanding for the topic and what the structure for the assessment will be.
  3. Researching helps but not so much information about the homeostasis whole cycle.
  4. The time of the assessment was not a great, a lot of distraction was on at the time.
  5. Distracted from other assessment and other stuff.
  6. I went off topic most of the time because the topic was quite interesting i guess.

So overall, the website and activities were not so useful (although, this is based off the small sample size of just one student) and perhaps I wasn't clear enough in explanations of content OR the assessment criteria. This is a rather large failing on my part; I thought we had spent plenty of time covering basic homeostasis and different homeostatic systems, but from this student's perspective perhaps I did not.  

I suspect that this student may have found youtube videos more useful during the writing of the assessment because the visible planning document provided links to class activities such as reading simple presentations and answering questions, completing interactive animations, making and placing SOLO hexagons to discuss links between concepts - rather than just providing information to use in the assessment.

The activities were usually completed in class with teacher explanations occurring before, discussions between friends occurring during, and plenty of time for questions to be asked. Perhaps as a stand-alone document this format of visible planning is not as useful for the single solo learner trying to catch up on missed class time? However, it also can't simply provide links to resources for the assessment, as students require understanding before they can begin to understand and process resources online.  

The student did also have some other feedback (to herself!) 

What I would do again if I could?
  1. Definitely my time management because I thought it would be easy so I left it to the last minute to do it.
  2. Search for a lot of information on the internet to get more understanding about the topic.
  3. Take note when the teacher is explaining the topic.

Another point to note from her feedback is around the clarity of assessments. We discussed this at Spark MIT again; isn't that exactly what we wanted when we were time-pressed at university? WHAT do I need to know to succeed? What do I have to DO? So I understand where she is coming from. We are within our boundaries to provide NCEA students with generalized marking schedules, as long as no exemplar judgment statements are included. So I have done that for their current internal, just as University students are providing with marking schedules for their assessments!  

5. Random positive outcome: some students' blogs have been so clear and concise that they can act as resources for students who missed a lesson. Case in point - Sela quickly caught up on the idea of phototropism by reading Rita's blog, and was able to create her own within the same lesson! 

Where to Next: 
  1. Find out what students need in the time that they're with me.
  2. Find out what they need if they're away and need to catch up.
  3. Find out what would motivate students to access the online tool - because success in NCEA may not be enough to overcome any barriers in formatting, clarity, lack of understandable resources etc! 
  4. Will have to survey them after school so as not to remove them from more class time, and will probably provide food to tempt them to stay! 
  5. Upgrade sites with marking schedules. 
  6. Provide time in class to interact with assessment requirements; perhaps have time in class to make own schedules? 
  7. Consider how to swap the format of online planning; back to websites with links and videos and explanations? But then I am explaining content and could potentially just be giving students answers on a plate! 

Friday, 18 March 2016

Kahoot - Fun for All (and Data for Teachers)

All of my classes (except Year 11, for some reason) LOVE Kahoot. Even the Year 13's love Kahoot and regularly ask for it. 9KLe plays it every Friday afternoon, as a reward for working well and also for me to collect data and see who has understood what and where I need to go next. 

In case you don't know, Kahoot is a revision tool where teachers can easily and quickly set up multi-choice questions. Then during class time the questions and options can be projected up onto the board for students to answer on their devices. This comes complete with music and a constantly updating leaderboard.  I like to just ask 10 questions, and a review can be done in under 5 minutes, but that's just me. 

An important note: If you want to use the data from the game, students must log in with a username you can recognise. Just their name, for instance. I concede to modifications of their name; for example Robin in KLe likes to be Echo Robin, while Pili in Y13 likes to cleverly merge his name with the topic being quizzed, e.g. Pilikinesis

Link for teachers: getkahoot.com
Link for students to log in and play during class: kahoot.it 

Once all the fun and games are over, you can log back in and look at the full data set from the game. This is how:

Step 1: Sign in

Step 2: Look on the bottom-right hand side of the next webpage that you're taken to, and click on the little blue, green and yellow Drive button for the quiz's data you want to download to Google Drive, or the purple one if you want to download another way.

Step 3: Click save.

Step 4: Choose where to save your results to. I have a folder for Year 9 Kahoot data in my drive. Hit change to choose your save destination.

Step 5: When happy with the destination, click save.

Step 6: Open it by clicking the Kahoot Results link and have a look.

Step 7:  Quickly see which student got the most correct, or scroll sideways across to see which question/s stumped students the most (in red). 

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Research and Soapbox

This morning I am in at Epsom Campus at the Faculty of Education, observing Dawn Garbett teaching her 614 course to fledgling science teachers. My job this morning is to observe in the "video camera" style - recording what I see, hear, notice and think during her lesson. 

My particular focus is on pedagogical underpinnings, on and off task behaviour with devices, proficiency with devices, when students are most and least engaged, and anything that interests me. 

This is part of a research project aimed to help all of us in the research group reflect on and improve our practice, particularly around the use of devices in class. 

The main digital tool utilised in Dawn's very practical, excellent, investigatory (which chips are the crunchiest, which are the oiliest, design an investigation, GO!) lesson was gosoapbox.com; a site that I will investigate further later today as it has the fascinating feature of a confusion-meter for people to anonymously confess their confusion online!

Gosoapbox.com also has quiz, poll and discussion features, although the thread on the discussion board doesn't appear to allow people to respond to others' comments, unlike a blog or Google+, or numerous other tools. 

As I sit here and make "critical friend" comments on my notes of Dawn's lesson I wonder how I can be more purposeful in my selection and use of tools, and the benefits they provide for my students.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

SPARK Innovative Teacher Day #1

This morning instead of heading to Tamaki College I caught the train to SPARK headquarters in Auckland's Central Business District for my first Spark Innovative Teacher day.

Our first activity 

The first order of business was for each of us to speak about the problem leading us to apply for the programme. However; we were banned from innovating! No solutions were to be spoken of! We could only try to identify the specific problem that learners in our class face.

It was difficult at first. Our instinct as teachers was to go straight from identifying a problem to hypothesizing a possible solution. We found the problems identified were often broad, such as "second language learners in my class are not performing as well as they should be," or "students in my class cannot communicate their learning needs."

Each of us faced five minutes of polite but relentless questioning, and eventually each of us managed to identify a specific problem we want to address this year. The problem second-language learners face became (more specifically) "Samoan-speaking English-as-second-language learners in my Year 5 and 6 class are not completing a year's worth of learning within a year, and are therefore continuing to fall further behind the New Zealand national mean for reading."

My reflection 

When I applied for this role last year my problem was more of a question; "how can I improve achievement in Year 13 Biology learners at a decile 1 secondary school?" and I came up with one possible solution; having all of my planning and activities on-line for learners to access any pace, any time, any place, to allow them to catch up on missed lessons or accelerate ahead of the class.

However, after a bit of prompting at today's meeting I identified the biggest problem my class is facing; most learners who take Biology at Year 13 at Tamaki College are hoping to have a career in the Health industry and require entrance to University the following year, and historically very few learners have managed to pass a) all internals and b) at least one external that they need to gain University Entrance (UE) in Biology.

Unlike the Primary School teachers in this group I couldn't hone in further on just one aspect that is specifically contributing to this problem. Primary teachers focussing on a writing problem could focus on (for example) learners' depth of narrative, punctuation, vocabulary, and could do so based on their classes e-asttle data, PAT scores, etc that differentiate the skills required for learners' achievement.

In Year 13 I can only hypothesize about the underlying causes of the problem with UE results. There are many possibilities, and they are varied. For example:

  • Attendance in class.
  • Direct access to the teacher. 
  • Quality of teaching.
  • Intrinsic motivation. 
  • Whanau/school connections. 
  • Context or relevance of the curriculum to students' lives, culture, or identities. 
  • Learning styles. 
  • Assessment style. 
  • Fear, nerves or lack of practice around exams. 
  • Self-efficacy, self-belief, or self-fulfilling prophecies.

The underlying cause of the historic Year 13 achievement problem could be any or (far more likely) a combination of these factors. For pragmatic reasons my inquiry will have to address just one of these possible factors, and I am slightly nervous about selecting the wrong one and effecting no major change for the precious futures of  the Year 13's I'm responsible for in 2016!

I am also aware of the possibility that at the end of the year the results of my inquiry will be "having visible planning and learning on-line appears to make no significant difference to the University Entrance of Year 13 biology students."

However; even a result of no significant change is still a result, and future innovative teachers could inquire into a different potential solution to the Year 13 UE challenge. That is the worst-case scenario though.

Hope for the year

I am hoping that whichever hypothesis I choose to test helps solve the historic problem facing my class, and  help them on their pathway into University and beyond!