Sunday, October 11, 2015

Pearls of wisdom from ULearn 2015

3 days, 6 workshops, 2 guest speakers, great food, even better company and a bombardment of information! That is how I would briefly describe my fantastic time at the Core ULearn15 conference. Below is a reflection of what I have learnt, questions I now have and how I would like to implement this learning in the classroom.

Day 1
Guest speaker: Grant Lichtman

  • Teachers don't need to provide/transfer knowledge anymore, thats what the internet is for!
  • The world is not divided into subject areas.
  • We need to teach our students how to embrace failure
  • As teachers we cannot be innovative without taking risks
  • There is a feeling that we must make a choice between choice, innovation and experiences, and standardised testing. How can we get a balance?
  • Change in schools is uncomfortable, not hard; get comfortable with discomfort.
  • Lead from where you are, teachers in the classroom can make change, not just school leadership
  • How could we get away from teaching 'subject areas' while still providing our students with the basic skills such as learning to read? All very well doing integration but how many books are available at a suitable reading level for our struggling readers. How can this be done without causing an overload of prep time from the teacher?
  • How do we get a balance between creating, real word experiences and our requirements such as National Standards? 
Now what...
  • Have more discussions with my students about their learning process eg, what did you learn about how you learn best? What happened when this didn't work? What will you do next time?
  • Carry on implementing new ideas and take more risks of my own

Workshop 1 - GAFE in an ILE, PDQ!
Presenters - Diana Wilkes and Caroline Bush from Ormiston Primary
  • Not just about preparing children for their future, aims is to create learners that are successful in our time.
  • Four levels of independence when learning
  • Power of Narrative assessment, making these more important than reports - 3 narratives per term, per child
  • Using twitter as part of planning and evidence of learning
  • Children find evidence in regards to learning progressions and put this on their blogs with links made by teacher to National Standards
  • Could following our learners assist in developing good learning relationships? Not having to get to know a new group of students each year.
  • What is the point of end of year written reports? Would using learning stories be more beneficial and meaningful to parents?
  • How can we engage our parents more? Would be great to see more parents commenting on our blog
Now what...
  • Think more about the idea of best reporting methods, discussion with Gary and Simon
  • Organise another techy breaky for Term 4
  • Look at ways Ormiston school organise their planning
  • Explore 4 levels of independence and how this could be incorporated into literacy

Workshop 2 - Agency and ownership: Why the how?
Steve Mouldey, Hobsonville Point High School
  • Curiosity enables student to find their own learning path
  • Questioning is the number one thing to assist in own learning and engagement
  • teaching children to use a critical eye to refine questions
  • The what are you learning is more important than simply the content
  • Seperate inquiry away from research
  • The choice - co-design continuum - teacher controlled - student choice - student voice - co-design
  • Feedback quality may have more impact on student achievement than any other factor
  • Rose, bud, thorn feedback model
  • What are the concept skills that we want our students to develop?
  • How can we use student voice more in our planning?
Now what...
  • Set up a wondering wall and curiosity table in the classroom
  • Work on developing question skills in the classroom, use question scaffold as a tool
  • Make self and peer assessment a key concept in Term 4

Monday, October 5, 2015

The last piece of the puzzle...from a large collection of puzzles!

My latest motivation at the gym has been to watch Ted Talks while pedaling madly on the exercycle. If you don't know about this resource yet, I strongly encourage you to check it out here. Today I watched a talk which hit close to home for me on a personal level. It was one of those, 'oh yeah, I get it! It all makes sense!' moments. This year has been filled with these moments in my professional life. My first post is a perfect example. It reminded me of putting all the pieces of a puzzle together; you can see a lot of the picture already but it's not until you stand back and look at the final finished puzzle you get to see the true picture. It's having a fair idea about something already and then having that moment when it all comes together.

Tomorrow I'm and traveling to Auckland with two colleagues for the 2015 U Learn conference. My hope is I will have lots of 'puzzles' coming together over the next three days. One of the workshops I have signed up for is title: 'Creativity in education is no longer an option, it's an absolute necessity'. I'm particularly keen for this workshop as it has been influenced by Sir Ken Robinson. Creativity is a key component of our learning model, 'learn, create, share'. One of the messages that has stood out for me from his talk  'changing education paradigms ' is that as teachers, we are preparing children for jobs that don't exist yet.

So, why are we so focused on teaching literacy and numeracy? Don't get me wrong, until someone can convince me otherwise I want my students to leave our school literate and numerate but what other skills do they need for their future? What's is going to be important for them to be a successful member of society and to reach their full potential? We are so lucky in New Zealand that we have a curriculum that has a vision which matches this and that education is not just about the 8 learning areas.
Recently I watched another Ted Talk by Sir Ken Robinson called, 'Do schools kill creativity?' This talk spoke volumes to me and was another one of those 'of course...' moments. What struck me while I drank in his word, is that in the background I could see the year, 2006! How did I not know more about this before now? and why wasn't this seen as more important in our education system?! 

I will admit I have definitely had moments where I have worried about not giving enough focus on literacy and numeracy but over the past few years it has become clear to me that skills such as creativity are equally as important. This is one of the skills that will prepare our students for reaching their full potential.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Never thought I had a list of top apps until today...

Today I learnt about a new app that will be a major time saver. Flick is a free app which I have now downloaded onto all my apple devices. Basically it's an app that makes sharing things like photos from one device to another almost instant. Once you have opened up the app on the device you want to share from, and to (must be opened on both), pick a photo and simple swipe up to the top of the page to share.

Before today if I wanted to share a photo I would have to email it to myself or cross my fingers and hope my iPhotos was playing the game on my slowly-dying Mac. Tomorrow I want to download it onto all our iPads so that the kids can instantly share their work with us. This will be perfect for printing out and sharing their work on the blog quicker. Bonus, the likelihood of sharing will increase dramatically if I can do it right then and there!

The help section is easy and straightforward, just had to check it then to add photos! Once I downloaded the app onto my Mac, an icon appeared on my task bar and flick now runs in the background.

Open flick on both devices.

Select image you want to share and swipe upwards to the tool bar at the top of the page.

It then instantly transfers onto your chosen device.

The help section is easy and straightforward, just had to check it then to add photos! Once I downloaded the app onto my Mac, an icon appeared on my task bar and flick now runs in the background.

My only issue was I had trouble saving the image once it was on my Mac but this wasn't a problem on my ipad. Perhaps something to do with needing an update to the latest IOS?
Great app,, looking forward to using it in the classroom and with the kids.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Today I attended a short toolkit run by Mark Maddren on 'Universal Design for learning' (UDL). I have to admit I hadn't heard of UDL before, (I know, another b****y acronym to remember!) but quickly realised it was giving a name to a current revelation I am having in the classroom. I've always known the old saying, "if a child can't learn the way we teach, we need to teach the way they learn", but recently it has become blatantly obvious.

One particular child has been like a totally different kid this term. He's engaged, motivated and having real success as a learner unlike ever before and, as a bonus, his general behaviour has improved significantly! The key to this new child? A personal passion, typing, positive communication and hands on activities! To me, this child pretty much sums up the importance of UDL!

UDL is basically a framework for teaching and learning with the main purpose being that everyone is a successful learner. It's around designing learning experiences that are universal and allows everyone to learn, not just the 'average' student.

UDL is based on 3 principles about what research tell us learning really is, the way we pick up information,the way we express and act on information, and our level of engagement.

There are four main components:
Goals: What we need/want to teach; what's important
Materials: the key to learning, what materials will be used to help with this learning
Methods of teaching: how we go about teaching
Means of assessment: how we are sure learning has occurred.

The great thing is I have a third year student on full control so I have a bit of breathing space to learn more about UDL and use this to complement the Learn, Create, Share model we are currently incorporating and developing into our classroom programme.