Sunday, 13 August 2017

Bringing it all Together

My last post shared a video to help you create a blog which is a great way to collect evidence for your appraisal or teacher certification.  This post today is about creating a Google site to bring evidence together from your blog and folders in Drive.  Sites are a great way to select what is needed for your purpose and present it in a static way.  While I am not yet a fan of the new google sites compared to the old google sites, one thing about them that is useful is that they are easy. So watch this video if you are keen to bring it all together.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Teaching Standards Portfolio

If you are looking for a way to record evidence for the new teaching standards, here is how I think you could do it. This video helps you set up a blog for that purpose.


Learning in and About Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh

This is the second post about a recent trip to Vietnam as part of ongoing professional development provided by the IPL, University of Waikato, for teachers from Vinschool.  I travelled to Vietnam in June with a colleague to facilitate 6 modules of work, firstly in Hanoi and then in Ho Chi Minh city. We flew in, along with a whole lot of tourists, to Ho Chi Minh City on a July Thursday, disembarked on the tarmac as you do,  and we met with our new translator at the newly built secondary VINschool.  The teachers that we met here were all new to the Ho Chi Minh school as it had not officially opened.

Construction was still going on in the Vin complex so this time we were accommodated in a nicely centrally placed hotel - the Bong Sen. We travelled each day via taxi to the school.  Catching a taxi was something I quickly adapted to.  Just step out on the scary Vietnamese roads and hail one down.  Each time I stepped onto a road I would cross myself and say "I'm with Mary" hoping that Mary's experience and the religious connection would help me.  Those who know me well will realise how preposterous this mantra was.

Generally speaking, I was terrified every time I looked out of the front of the taxi, and so I forced myself into the habit of looking out the side windows (still not an infallible method of avoiding traffic scares but better on the nerves).  It did give me the opportunity to focus on the transport and the buildings.

We were the first to use some of the facilities at the school so everything was pristine and after starting up in one room, we realised that we would need a lot more space for the activities that we needed to do, and were moved to an enormous presentation room.

Friday went well as did Saturday, but as afternoon tea time finished, we realised that the teachers were up to something when they broke out the karaoke youtubes.
They usually had time to work with their teams on their presentations following the mid afternoon break but they said - it is Saturday evening, time to relax! And so, we became part of the ongoing karaoke show.  Mary bravely found a Pokarekareana youtube and we sang along for our part. There were songs from the North and songs from the South and some of the teachers were real entertainers.  Dancing, laughing and singing until time to go home.

Mary and I checked out some of the views of the Vin complex up the river from a hotel dining room one night and then other views of the Saigon River from the Bitexaco Tower viewing platform another night.  Living right in the middle of the tourist area provided us with ample opportunities to sample the food, with my favourite restaurant being one right next to the hotel called Lemongrass.  Fabulous food and Vietnamese music being played live as we ate dinner.

We were also able to see many of the tourist sights in the evenings, and on our day off we took a tour of the inner city which was really worthwhile in getting our bearings and also provided us with an interesting history of the city.  We visited the Notre Dame Cathedral,  the Independence Palace, the Post Office, a Taoist temple, the Book street and the War Remnants Museum (sobering). This place is chock full of history and I made a promise to myself to read some books with Vietnamese history.  The first book I have found is called "Saigon: An Epic Novel of Vietnam" so I will look forward to reading it knowing a bit about the area now.

We found the Vietnamese teachers just as charming, humble and gracious as those in the North, although a little more outgoing (see karaoke photos).  Everyone had told us that Saigon was much more westernised and open than Hanoi but I found it hard to make that discernment and I think that was due to the fact that we were in the middle of the tourism area in Saigon after all.
We had school lunches in the school dining room each day.  These were superb!  Always rice or rice noodles, vegetables and meat dishes followed by fruit.  They were very healthy as well as delicious, and we also had fruit at every morning and afternoon tea break.  The teachers took to bringing us different fruits to try out and there were a lot that I had not sampled before.  Fresh lychees, rambutan, jackfruit, dragonfruit, and longan to name a few.
As we worked through the modules each day, we talked with teachers about how the learning could be adapted to their own context.  Once again I found myself pondering on how difficult it was to reconcile the crowded Vietnamese curriculum with deep learning practices.  We are so lucky in New Zealand to have the curriculum framework that we do.  The teachers in Vietnam seem to be so busy all of the time, and they make fun when they see an opportunity.  During several of their assessments, there were dances and songs incorporated as you can see in this video of the last day.

The remaining days at work passed really quickly and as we approached the final presentation day, Mary and I reflected how quickly the time had flown.  The teachers had worked hard on every activity and it was going to be hard to say goodbye.  Our last day was another day of celebration of learning, with presentations given, assessments completed, certificates presented and feedback given, followed by more gifts and exchanging of Facebook details so that we could stay in touch.  Here is one of our last photos together, with a few faces missing as teachers dashed off to other venues for different responsibilities.

Mary and I stayed on for another four days after the programme was finished.  We moved to a backpacker hotel in a different part of the town and took time to try out more food, visit the Mekong Delta, go to the Ben Thanh market each day for shopping (strange smells, crowds, bartering, heat and crazy, crazy, traffic) and I took advantage of the tourism dentistry opportunities. But that's another story.

Learning In and About Vietnam in Hanoi

As part of ongoing professional development provided by the Institute of Professional Development, University of Waikato, for teachers from Vinschool I travelled to Vietnam in June with a colleague to facilitate 6 modules of work, firstly in Hanoi and then in Ho Chi Minh city. Mary and I were in Hanoi for two weeks and then Ho Chi Minh for two weeks, so a great chance to see a few sights and taste the culture of Vietnam, when our work allowed us time off.
We arrived in Hanoi on a Friday.  The first thing I always notice, about any country when I travel, is the architecture and this did not fail to disappoint.  The buildings in the cities were so often very tall and narrow, from skyscrapers to residential properties. This photo was taken from the taxi on our journey to our skyscraper apartment.  The scene is pretty typical of many of the streets in Hanoi, although without the usual jumble of electrical wires often found along the roadside.  Motorbikes strew all of the footpaths in Hanoi and there are moves to have them banned from the city centre.
We were working for the private Vinschool and stayed in the apartment complex which houses many of the families whose children attend Vinschool.  It is beautifully planned and has manicured gardens and playgrounds, as well as a large underground shopping mall so residents are well catered for in terms of amenities.   Each day we would walk from our apartment to the school which was about a block away but within the boundaries of the Vin group complex.  The temperatures were high (well over 30 each day) but not as high as the last time that Mary had been over when Hanoi was experiencing high 30s each day.  I was pretty pleased about that as just the walk to the school had us pretty hot each morning.

Our work entailed a variety of activities and strategies that the teachers could use in their own classrooms (from kindergarten to high school) so a lot of learning involved a lot of student-centered fun.  The Vietnamese teachers entered into all activities fully and were not shy about getting right into the role plays and expressing their own individual styles.  I was interested in how they would be able to adapt a lot of the pedagogies to suit their prescriptive national curriculum.  

The Vinschools are working on building modern teaching practices into all of their schools, which is awesome, but the pressure is on for all of the teachers to deliver a lot of content as well.  I can see a huge future for digital learning to play a place in helping them do that.  As much as possible I tried to incorporate digital ways of achieving some of the outcomes of the modules.  The Vietnamese teachers were very keen on learning more of these.  They have some very digitally competent teachers, and every one of them had mobile phones which they used extensively to access and interact with the learning we were facilitating.  It was great to see them working together, in blended ways - using phones or laptops, to access learning which could then be expressed in a poster for example.

 I noticed that the teachers all helped each other with their devices.  Some were less used to accessing learning this way, but we provided QR codes and shortened URLs in each session so that they were all pretty much experts at this by the time we left.  
We had them working on collaborative google docs and slides, using Flipgrid to record oral responses, Menti to gauge class opinions, using images and videos to illustrate learning, for example.  At the end of the modules, the teachers were required to present their team's learning in multimedia ways and we were blown away by the myriad of tools they used to do this. 
Each evening, we had a chance to experience different food, the traffic and a bit of the culture of Hanoi.  We went to the night market in the centre of Hanoi, where we experienced a typical downpour and were soaked within minutes, even with our umbrellas up!  It was the rainy season and rained nearly every night when we were there.  I think I saw patches of blue sky about 5 times over the month!
The night market is a great place to really feel what it is like living in a country of 92 million people.  It is crowded, steamy, noisy,  smelly and happy.  Street carts are set up down the middle of Hang Dao Street, selling all sorts of wares - souvenirs, food, homewares and the famous silk scarves. Well worth the experience.
We also had a chance on one day to tour Southward into the country, to the Bai Dinh temple, which is a modern temple built around an old existing pagoda temple and to the Trang An caves.  It was hot and steamy in the mountains and we were exhausted after a huge climb at the temple and paddling up the river at the end of the day to help shorten the upstream journey.  Soaked again, but this time with sweat! The countryside was beautiful - paddy fields and the astonishing mountains rising steeply out of the flats as if pushed up by giants from underground.  Mental note to self - must find out about the geology of this place!

This day tour was a really lovely break from the classroom but we were exhausted and early to bed that night!
The tour group that we went (not the one in the link above) with seemed a bit disorganised (they left someone behind whom we then had to wait for) and therefore it all seemed very rushed.
The lunch that was planned seemed to have already been picked over by many before us, and we arrived just as a power outage stopped the fans and lights in the restaurant, thus making for an uncomfortable meal  Mary left an appropriate review on the Viator site for them.

The rest of the modules passed quickly, followed by the group presentations and before long we were saying our goodbyes as we prepared to leave Hanoi for Ho Chi Minh.  This was unexpectedly emotional as the teachers flooded us with gifts and praise.  We were treated like royalty as the certificates of completion were handed out and the teachers were briefed on the next phase of their learning, which was to prepare a video to help pass on their learning.  We are to provide online support from New Zealand for the next few months so that they can achieve this. 

What an opportunity we have had, in the development of modern pedagogy in Vietnam and to be immersed in the culture and environment of Hanoi.  The people have been amazingly hospitable, gracious and humble.  We have been treated to exceptional food, sights and experiences and made increasingly aware of the international culture of teachers - to continually strive for improvement for the benefit of learners everywhere.

This final video shows the trip to the airport.  My next post will give an overview of the time in Ho Chi Minh where the teachers are also outgoing and friendly, and have the same relentless positivism about teaching and learning.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Working in Vietnam with Teachers

I have been working with teachers in Vietnam on modern learning practices.  It has been a great experience, revising all of the principles of learning, assessment practices, student-centred learning, curriculum development, and ways of connecting your school with your community - local, national and global.

It reminds me how lucky we are in New Zealand to have a flexible curriculum framework and a future-oriented system to work within.  Sometimes I think that some New Zealand schools and teachers do not take full advantage of that flexibility.

I wonder how New Zealand teachers would cope with a very prescriptive curriculum and a textbook to adhere to.  On the plus side here in Vietnam, the teachers are very keen to learn and approach new ideas with a positive attitude, even when their context may not allow much movement in some areas at the moment.

I have been reminded constantly about the global changes in education that are happening in many countries.  For example, Andreas Schleicher, head of PISA (which, co-incidentally, is testing much more than just numeracy and literacy these days), in a recent interview (see video below) talked about countries which are moving very quickly into innovation in their education systems.

Andreas cites China as looking at values-based education now as their government realises that industry will not be sufficient in the future to maintain their economy, Brazil as the most improved country, Germany as being the country that is working to reduce the disparity gap, and Japan as having the courage to removed 30% of their curriculum content.

This video is well worth a watch for any educator or person interested in a changing society across the world. More to follow later!!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Changing Times for Teachers Reflected in Changes in Our Teaching Standards

In July, 2017, teachers will be held to new benchmarks of their professional practice through 6 Teaching Standards which will replace the 12 existing PTCs (practising teacher criteria).
The new (but, still draft until July 2017) standards can be found at this link here on page 37.
Included in this publication is the new Code of Professional Responsibility which replaces the existing Code of Conduct for teachers.
The new (draft) standard titles are:

  1. National Context
  2. Professional Learning
  3. Professional Relationships and Behaviour
  4. Learning Focused Environments
  5. Design for Learning
  6. Teaching

So what will change for teachers and principals at the coalface?  Probably not a lot to begin with, except a new awareness of the professional responsibility to aspire to make changes in areas that they may not have pursued.

The new standards have imperatives around commitment to the national context of biculturalism.  Commitment means a lot more than tilting at windmills.  It means making changes to your practice that reflect understanding of this country's true heritage to the point of "specifically and effectively address the educational aspirations of Māori learners" as an example.

Critical inquiry into practice continues to be a major focus, with collaborative problem solving coming to the fore and the associated essential professional learning to improve impact on the learners.  Reflect on the old adage for this one - "if you do things the same way you get the same results".

Professional relationships, as crucial as ever, and I do chuckle to myself at the words "work collegially and collaboratively" as indicators, when I remember being mocked in the past for my constant reference to these words when I talked to teaching staff as a senior manager.

Maintaining learning focused environments which are collaborative, inclusive and safe should put an end to the old teaching style with never a word being allowed to be spoken between learners. Learning SHOULD be collaborative.  Assessment not necessarily so.

Design for learning will mean attention to the big picture including teaching to the edges in your class rather than the middle.  This nebulous sounding concept will perhaps take the most time and thought each year as teachers and whole staff grapple with their curriculum.  What do our students need to be, do and know, and why do they need to know it?  No more - "we are going to do a unit on the monarch butterfly in term 3" because that is what the teacher knows.

And that concept is also reflected in the "Teaching" standard which requires us to "teach and respond" to our learners to "progress their learning at an appropriate depth and pace".  For who knows what our learners will show interest in, what their needs will be, and for how long they will be interested in it and need it?

My hope is that teachers will focus on what these standards and indicators will mean to them, rather than the mechanics of changing their portfolios of evidence.  In other words, critical inquiry into your own practice with a cognisance of the new standards that are your benchmarks.

I highly recommend that you keep a tagged blog for your teaching standard eportfolio, with a site as a secondary measure to showcase your best practice examples for each of the standards.  The new Google sites can be used as a central storage spot for these purposes.  You will get the idea from this tutorial.

Look out for updates to this topic over the next few months.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Snapchat in the Classroom

Warning Note: This post is for secondary teachers because learners need to be 13 to have a Snapchat account.

I watched a great webinar this morning, led by Nikki Robertson in Alabama, on using Snapchat in in class. I first heard of using Snapchat in class at ISTE 2016 last year in June, but the idea did not really hook my brain until recently when I saw that Facebook had incorporated a lot of the functionality of Snapchat in an effort to draw subscribers back.  I began to wonder what is it that makes Snapchat so attractive to young people?
So I enrolled in this webinar from SimpleK12 to try and learn more.  Her's what I found out:-

  1. Snapchat is a great way to build teacher-learner relationships.  First of all, you can "snap" out class celebratory photos and videos to the learners.  There is an interesting line that you don't want to cross here, in the same way that you don't cross certain lines in class.  This is something that you need to discuss openly with learners and your school community, and consider carefully the boundaries before you start.  So consider your purpose first and then think about how and what you are going to use Snapchat.  Nikki feels that it gives teachers opportunities to seek those teachable moments about digital citizenship, if you do see something inappropriate.  She quotes Kevin Honeycutt - "Our kids are growing up on a digital playground and no one is on recess duty".  

This is a great point.  Our learners are safer at school than they are at home when it comes to being immersed in the digital world.  School teachers are in the privileged position of being able to teach our learners how to behave online and we need to be in those spaces.

2.  You can build up a Snapchat story of what is happening in your day so much like a class blog but when you are a secondary teacher, your day varies a lot.  This involves a simple "add to My story" function on the app.

3.  You can make QR codes more accessible to learners who say they have no room to download any more apps.  Snapchat has its own QR code maker and all they have to do is point their Snapchat camera to the Snapchat QR code and it will direct them to the right site.   Here is the Snapchat code I created for this blog.  Use your Snapchat app and click the camera.  It will give you an option to open this blog. (Note that you can use the Snapchat camera to read any QR code - it does not have to be the Snapchat version which is called a Snapcode.)  An easy way to point learners to the right place!

4. Other ideas that Nikki mentioned were sending snaps of vocabulary, real life examples (eg in Math), sending out flash cards for revision, new language learning (photo + text), and snapchat stories for revision.

5. Get your learners to be the creators of stories.  (Don't forget to set and incorporate ground rules around digital citizenship.)  Empower student voice.  I think this is THE avenue that I would like to explore more.

6.  Try a Snapchat competition. For example on field trips and spirit days.  This is sure to engage learners and help build that relationship.

7. Use the filters to jazz up your book displays.

At the end of the webinar, Nikki asked us to think about

  • who are you going to involve in your school snapchat community?
  • what are your goals?
  • what is your tone (it is not a formal app)?
  • drawing the line between professional and personal use
  • giving some feedback to her about using social media in schools through this link .

The slides from Nikki's webinar are here and you can access the webinar if you are a member of the  SimpleK12 community.  (There are Basic and Full memberships, with special free webinar days occasionally).