Saturday, 24 August 2013

Modern Learning Environments

Tamara's blog on modern learning environments reminded me of the struggle one teacher is having in a school where she has revamped her room to be a relaxed enjoyable space for the students - sofas, coffee tables, bean bags and the occasional desk for those who prefer it that way.  The students love it, she loves it.  The students are focused on their work, they are relaxed and enjoying it, and achieving like never before.
She has been told she has to share her room soon and she must return it to the straight rows of desks and chairs because "no other teacher will want it that way."  The students haven't been asked.  I assume their has been some consultation among the teachers.
There is a lot of talk about modern learning environments and I refer the teaching profession to Mark Osborne's report as a good place to start as there are reflective questions which will enable you to make the right decisions for your learners.
I also like Claire Amos' words in her blog about MLE's " I worry that the introduction of these physically, palpable and measurable objects will be seen as making a change for the better, when the one thing that that really needs to be "introduced" is still lacking - the teacher's belief that the student is capable of leading their own learning."
So back to the original teacher, her pedagogical change over the last 5 years has been huge.  She is a facilitator of learning.  She uses many different pedagogical approaches to suit the learning needs of her students.  Who should change?  The teacher concerned or the other teachers?  Do the other teachers believe that their students are capable of leading their own learning?

A moment of learning captured in a perfect MLE in 2012 (not in the school concerned).
Just saying........and wondering.........

Saturday, 17 August 2013

A modern slant on a traditional introduction: - My mountain, my river, my mihi.

MIHI:  In my work, I formally introduce myself to the staff at the schools by way of a short mihi or traditional greeting about who I am and where I am from.  For me it is quite easy as I have lived in the same area for a long time and feel an affinity for the mountain(s) of the area and the river(s).
This link to a Maori language website explains how a mihi could be said.  I usually say "Ko Leigh Hynes taku ingoa, ko Ruapehu te maunga, ko Mangawhero te awa" although I also feel that certain affinity for a number of other rivers like Whakapapanui, Waikato and Whanganui Rivers and I delve no further into who my tribe or ancestors are/were.  
MODERN NEW ZEALANDERS: For many urban and transient New Zealanders, it must be difficult to identify with a certain mountain or river or sea.  I thought I would experiment with Google Maps to see if I could make it easier for students to identify where they feel they belong. This is not the traditional approach but it may be helpful for some to have a modern approach in the technological environment and so I have decided to share how I did it for myself. 
GOOGLE MAPS:  I have made my own map using Google's "My Places", following these instructions. Here is my map:- 
View My mountain, my river in a larger map

 I think every learner could make their own map and use it at different times, say to embed in their blogs, or on their website if they do make them.  Luckily Google saves these maps for you in the cloud and you can build on them as you wish.
And here are the instructions on how to make your own map:-

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Does size matter?

According to Andreas Schleicher, class sizes can be big with no detrimental affects on achievement, if they have the best teachers.

The overarching theme of this interesting talk by the director of PISA, which compares achievement data from different countries,  is that using such achievement data leads to improved outcomes for students in all countries.
But he has many other interesting points in the video, including some contentious issues for New Zealanders.  For example, his data shows that successful outcomes for students does not depend on small class size.
In fact, what does matter is the valuing of teachers and teaching as a profession in general.  In countries which have made the greatest gains in achievement, teachers are paid very well, but have high class sizes.  They also have "intelligent pathways" for their careers.
Luxembourg as a country spends a lot of money on education, but the penchant for smaller class sizes means that their teachers are not paid so well and subsequently, or so it seems, their student achievement has not been at a high level.
In other countries where achievement is high, the societies value education highly.  Their citizens are told "school is important" and parents, teachers and everyone strives to make sure they get the best from their education.
So how do you think this would go down in New Zealand?  Have we become a nation of undervalued, underpaid teachers and a society which believes school is not important in the scheme of things?  To a large extent I think this is true.
Now I am not necessarily for larger class sizes, but I would like to know, how can we make school more important?  I think that we need to make it more relevant for every learner with differentiated learning opportunities.
Parents and society in general would be much happier with schools they saw potential flourishing, and every individual given the chance to develop their own expertise and skills.
Or would they?  Are we stuck in an industrial model of education where society believes that the old education system worked for them, so nothing should change? Where the drafting of our students into "successes or failures" based on someone's idea of useful criteria is helpful to creating a vibrant, viable society?
Food for thought.  The video is packed full of discussion about other issues as well.  The positive message from the talk is that objective comparative data does make a difference.  No-one wants to be seen as the last in the race.  It is interesting to see the position and size of New Zealand's dot on the graph.
What do you think??

Friday, 2 August 2013

VideoNotes : - an awesome way to gather your thoughts

I watched this interesting TED talk video from Andreas Schleicher who runs PISA, the international assessor of student achievement.  There are many, many interesting concepts in this video that compelled me to watch it more than once. To help me get a grasp on what was being said,  I used the fabulous VideoNotes in Google Drive to collect my thoughts.
For those of you who have not used this function before, let me tell you, it must be one of the most useful for any learner to have in front of them.  It allows you to take notes while you watch a video, and your notes are automatically saved in Google Drive
I first found out about VideoNotes from  the FreeTechnologyforTeachers blog by Richard Byrne.  All you have to do is add it to your drive and when you go to the Create button in your drive you see the VideoNotes option.  Press on that and you just put the URL of the video into the bar and away you go.  As you write your notes, it automatically synchronizes it to the correct place in the video.

Here is the video itself.    Well worth a watch.

And here  is a screen shot of my notes and here are the actual VideoNotes  for what they are worth.  I will use them to write a blog about the video a little later.  I can imagine every teacher and student/learner in New Zealand being able to use VideoNotes in some way or another!