Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Principals and their Very Necessary Involvment in the Professional Learning and Development of their Staff

In 2014, I decided to conduct an inquiry into the involvement of principals in the professional learning and development project that I was facilitating in their schools.  I had found that in 2013, some principals were not active in the professional learning and development (PLD) that they wanted their staff to particpate in.  When this happens, some staff see the project as being of lower priority in the school.

I had about 30% active involvement of principals and decided I wanted 100%, so my inquiry was to see what I could do about it, as research had told me that the PLD would be more successful if principals were actively involved.  I decided to approach the principals and ask them to complete a checklist of indicators that they were actively involved.

This strategy had a twofold purpose:
  1. To alert the principals to the fact that they should be involved (even though the Memorandum of Understanding clearly stated they would be)
  2. To give principals some ideas of how they could be involved (because sometimes these things may be as clear as the big nose on your own face but not to others)
Principals were asked to help me with my inquiry by assessing their own degree of involvement and also adding any other factors that they could think of that would indicate that they were involved.  
There were unexpected outcomes.  As I watched some principals complete the checklist, I saw them waver as they filled out the sheet.  They WANTED to check the indicators positively but they knew they had not , in all honesty, done what they indicator had suggested. But they went ahead and checked it anyway!  And then they started doing it from that point on!  

So I suddenly became aware that some principals need a little help in meeting success criteria.  They need to know what is expected of them spelt out in black and white.  This year, I had over 80% active involvement by principals in the PLD.  A big improvement.

Principals also added some criteria to my original list and I am publishing this list of indicators so that it can be used by others working in schools in the same way that I do, and by principals if they wish to do a little self review on how well they are involved in PLDs in their school.

If you have a suggestion to add to the list, please do so by adding a comment below.  Here is the checklist: 


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Disadvantages of using digital technologies in schools.

I read a blog today on Mindshift about what students think about using ipads in school. I skipped through the positive comments pretty quickly.  After all, I am a big fan on using digital technologies for learning and I pretty much have all the positive things in my heart.
But then the last comment (voice and text) on the page was from a student, Anthony Mainiero, who says there are disadvantages, like when there are glitches.  And there are times when the pen and paper would work just as well than the $US600 device that the school gave him.  This is so true!  For those of you who are familiar with the SAMR model, you will no doubt immediately realise that the learning in this instance is at the S or substitution level.  As one of my colleagues would say - "ipads are very expensive pen and papers".

But Anthony had more to say.  He talked about the fact that they did less field trips at school now.  This is another very valid point.  Are schools relying on the technology to connect them to experiences that would take hours of paperwork to prepare for? There are all the things that can go wrong on a field trip.  And you are responsible for getting all the little (or big) darlings back to their mamas and papas.  Far too easy just to do a virtual field trip and there are many good ones around.  Learnz in New Zealand provide a fabulous range of virtual field trips for students, backed up with awesome resources, prior learning and next steps and so on.  You can visit Art Galleries, World Wonders and Online Exhibitions using the Google Cultural Institute site or even explore space and our planets using Google Sky.

Still, I don't blame Anthony for wanting the school to make learning more fun by having more field trips.  I will always remember that class trip to W(h)anganui (the spelling changed to the correct Maori version from when I went to school), where we climbed the Durie Hill Tower, the Water Tower, visited the underwear factory, and I rode on a town bus to school for the first time from my billet host home.  All the sights and sounds of the city were pretty exciting to me and they became etched in my memory from first hand experience.

I also know that my own students will remember forever the 8 day trip a colleague and I took them on a trip to Fiji.  It was an awesome experience for them sit in open motorised canoes, travelling inland up the river to a remote school and to suddenly feel utterly privileged to be from Ohakune, Waiouru and Raetihi, where they had books, pens and beautiful classrooms.  But I digress. These field trips were once in a school lifetime experience.  They were not the normal classroom activities and will continue to be the special events that teachers selflessly craft for their students.  School camps will not fade into oblivion, nor will trips to the swimming pool, or on a bus to the marae, or local farm.

The technology, on the other hand should be seamlessly integrated tool for learning that students use as second nature, just as they once used the pen and paper.  The learning will need to be a bit more relevant for the students though.  If Anthony's teacher knows her/his stuff, she/he will be using it to enable the students to cross barriers that have never been crossed before.  Teaching and learning will be collaborative, connected and students will be confident learners.

I recently heard a teacher bemoaning the fact that kids just dont remember stuff any more.  Well guess what?   They don't need to any more. They can google almost any bit of knowledge they want to if they have the skills.  That is what they need to learn - skills and attitudes and dispositions that allow them to LEARN.

The students  will know themselves well, their strengths and weaknesses and what they have to work on. They will be creating their own personalised learning journeys, and learning to learn as they go.  They will have choice, decisions to make about which way to go and what goals to reach.  They will be making stuff and communicating with others about what they have made.  They will be taking photos and making slide shows and videos and voice recordings of the events in their lives and have permanent records of the awesome times they spent in their school years.
I hope Anthony does not give up hope.  I hope he can teach his teacher about what matters to him, what is going to hook him into his own learning journey and develop into the best human being he possibly can be.  And most of all, what digital technologies will help him on that journey.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

In my perfect class

I have been out of secondary teaching for two years now after 33 years.   I loved teaching, and of course, my practice had changed a lot over the 33 years but the rate of change in the last 10 years had suddenly increased and was continuing to grow exponentially.  Why?  Because I found digital technology and new, exciting, more engaging ways to do things.
I often wonder what it would be like to be back in a class again on a permanent basis. Even in the two years that I left, I have thought about so many new ways for me to try to improve student outcomes.  I think about the students I have failed in the past and "what if things were different."    How could I meet every student's needs? How could I design a course with UDL guidelines to the fore.
I have a friend coming over today.  She wants to know how she can rethink her classroom into a modern learning environment.  It is not just the environment that is important, - it is the modern pedagogy.  So I need to start asking questions.
How do I allow students to collaborate, create and connect with others?
How do I make the learning relevant to them?
How do I build on the relationships that I forge with them?
How do I teach them to learn?
I must design my classroom for learning, for inquiry and for discovery but not forget the qualifications that they are moving towards. So now it comes down to the practical stuff.  My friend's school has a newly acquired Google Apps For Education platform to work with so this is the chance for me to say how I would use it in my perfect imaginary class.
Screenshot 2014-04-30 at 3.35.12 PM.png
In the beginning:
First of all, my students would all have a device through which they could access GAFE.  I would use Google Classroom to  push out the daily instructions to my students.  I would initially get to know my students by using Google Forms and getting them to fill in some information about themselves, including asking them to identify anything about what helps them learn and what stops them from learning that they would like me to know.  Information about themselves would include where they have come from, what school they went to, who their close friends are, how they see themselves as a learner and what they needed from me.
Every student would be introduced to their Google account, and their own Drive with unlimited storage for all of the files that they may have gathered over the course of their schooling years.  They would learn how to share and collaborate with teachers and other students.
My students would initially collaborate on a class Google Presentation and make a slide each for someone else in the class.  It could be a friend, or someone they feel safe with and I could model that by making a slide about myself and perhaps even another student.  It would include a photo and a "flavour" or style that the other student was happy to be identified with.  These two things along will help me lay the foundation for positive relationships with my students.
Along with those two things, would be a brainstorm on good citizenship including digital citizenship on Google Draw from which we could elicit our own class rules together on a Google Doc.  This would be referred to and modified throughout the year as circumstances arose.

During the year
A Google Site would be where I placed a lot of resources and activities for the class.  There would be a Google Calendar on the front page which would inform the students of any crucial dates and class wide assessments that were due.  Students would also have their personal calendars into which they could add the class calendar.
Other pages on the site would contain resources organised into content and assessment pages. Students could choose what content and assessments they wanted to learn about.  The learning outcomes would be clearly identified.  There would be instructional videos, and resource videos as well as written, image and audio resources to account for different preferences. Practical sessions would also be explained though video, and the students would be able to access the resources that they needed to do the practical work through information on where and how they could find them.  Access to formative assessment would be through the site.

 Every day I would have a video or image to start the whole class thinking and group discussion. This may or may not be relevant to the main body of the individual student work.  I would choose appropriate images from "The Big Picture"  for example, or "Ted" talks as prompts.   There might be associated activities which could lead the students into deeper thinking about the matter at hand and these could be on a Form or a shared Document, but could also make use of a number of apps, add-ons and extensions for Google.  Class discussion would be essential.

Work in the class would be differentiated and individualised through the affordances of technology. To some extent, choosing my subject has already allowed for some personalisation of study.  The contexts in which they studied different aspects of my course could be chosen by them as often as possible.  My students could work in groups but would not be streamed on ability.  They would create Forms to test their group members on what they needed to know for assessments.  They would also create presentations, videos and sites to showcase their work, so that others in the class could learn from their work.   Some students may prefer to work alone but they would be required to share their learning later with others in the group.
Students would work collaboratively on constructing their knowledge.  I would expect the students to do a lot of creating resources themselves for example, I would expect them to create their own Sites. There would be time for the presentation of their work to the class.  They would learn to be construcively critical of their own and others work by asking for feedback.  I would collect feedback from them on their learning experiences and what worked best for them.
Links to work that was submitted for assessment would also come to me through Google Forms or perhaps I would use Google Classroom.

Outside the classroom: 
Students would have access to all of the resources and work 24/7. For homework, I would expect the student to use Blogger to report about and  reflect on what they have learned and to embed videos, images, voice recordings and links to which they could refer back to their own work when it came time to revise for assessments.  The new blog posts would be submitted to me using a Google Form so I could regularly check that the work was being completed. Their blogs would also be linked in to the class blog which students could have turns at writing, along with myself as the overseer of the class blog.  The class blog would be a multimedia affair - images, videos, embedded apps.  Students could use their own phones to collect images or borrow the class camera and upload to their Drive and share if need be, or they could use the class ipods.  I would write comments on their blogs and other students would also do the same.  Students would invite feedback from their parents and well beyond classroom or even country borders.  The blogs could also serve as eportfolios.
Parents and whanau could access the blogs and the class site so that they could be involved in their child's progress.  There would be no surprises as there were sometimes on parent teacher night because the progress on assessments would be available on the student mangement system portal as well.
Other connections would be made to the parents using gmail, google docs (newsletters) and google forms,  for example consulting and collecting relevant feedback from the forms onto spreadsheets.

As I wrote this blog, the enormity of the teacher's job hit me.  There is so much that I could do to teach my students how to learn.  In the end, there are only so many waking and working hours that you have.  A teacher's job is never done.  Organising the class needs to start one step at a time.

I wonder if I will ever go back into the classroom to try this out?

Monday, 3 November 2014

What is the most important thing?

I have a great builder.
He can visualise what can go into a space to make it more beautiful, and he crafts and builds with skill and accuracy.  He is also dyslexic.  This means that he doesn't read my emails very easily and I have difficulty understanding what he means when he replies to my emails. So, I have learned through experience (and finding out about his dyslexia from his offsider plumber) that it is best to phone him and/or talk to him face to face.  He has a successful business, is always busy, keeps to his spoken schedule and is genuinely a nice man.
Why am I telling you about my builder?  Well, at school I believe he would have struggled to meet the literacy standards of the day.  And therein lies my problem with the obsession with measuring literacy and numeracy standards across the country, and I suspect, across many countries' education systems.
Unfortunately, I think much of this focus on meeting national standards is driven by the idea that people must be literate and numerate to be able to succeed in life.
Is this paradigm is driven by the people who are in business in high places right now?  Outmoded education systems were built for the Industrial Age, and we must start to prepare our students for an unknown future.  It is, however, apparently still very hard for some schools, some teachers and some parents to make the shift to a more personalised, future focused education for children.
I think that very often, parents support and perpetuate the old system of education.  They seem to want to be educated the way that they were educated.  You hear these phrases often: -

  • You should get back to basics.  
  • Focus on the three Rs.  
  • You are not getting enough homework
  • The teacher knows everything you need to know
  • You just need more discipline slash respect
I do understand how literacy and numeracy are important for many real life situations.  But they are not the most important thing.  The most important thing is that success will come from focusing on learning through and about what interests you. Teach yourself how to learn, how you learn best and seek help as and when you need it.  
I believe that technology opens up a number of different pathways to success.  My builder uses an ipad to help visualise the project, along with his own notes which may not be very comprehensible to others.  It works for him.  There are a whole bunch of successful creative people out there who do not need to know when to use particular punctuation, or know the difference between an adverb and an adjective.  Instead they have learned to improve, how to strive for improvements, how to learn and often they have had a supportive mentor, a guide on the side, a teacher, partner or parent who has encouraged them to go further, or even keep going when others would have given up.
So in your quest for success, always remember these important things.
  • Be prepared for failures.  
  • Be prepared to unlearn what you may have learned in the past. 
  • Be prepared to adapt.
  • Be prepared to work on improving.
This way you will find your own niche in life.

Image sourced from openclipart 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Five tools for 21st century connected teachers - a story of connection.

Last week, my friend Melanie Matthews and I presented an afterschool workshop to the Connected Taupo Teachers group at Tauhara College.  Celebrating Connected Educator Month was a priority for us, and we modelled this connectedness in an unusual and unplanned way.
But I will give you a little bit of background to begin with.  Melanie and I live only a few blocks away from each other, but did not know each other before we had met online in the Virtual Learning Network (VLN). We also connected through mutual friends and decided to form a group in Taupo for teachers who wanted to share and learn from others.
Hence the Connected Taupo Teachers group was conceived and born at the end of 2013.  Supported by two more friends, Kristen and Angela, with ideas and resources, we have met each term to provide an opportunity for local teachers from all schools to meet face to face and share and learn.  Our facebook page is growing in popularity and each time we hold a meeting we see new faces which is awesome because it is achieving the purpose we wanted.
Our term 4 meeting was held this October, which is worldwide Connected Educator Month.  So we decided to focus on how to use 5 tools that help teachers become and remain connected.  Our presentation was based on a talk or discussion for 10 to 15 minutes on each of five tools - Twitter, Feedly, blogging, Diigo and the VLN.  The slides, along with links on the slides, can be seen here.

 So when it came to the day of the presentation, Melanie unexpectedly had doctors orders to stay at home and keep off her feet.   So coming to the meeting and presenting her share of the slides was impossible.  Luckily Melanie never missed a beat.  "Connect me up with Skype or Hangouts and I'll do it from home," she said.
So when I arrived at the venue, I connected my ipad via Skype to Melanie at home, and we co-presented, with me holding the ipad up when it was her turn to talk.    The group interacted with her, asking questions which she answered with aplomb!  
I reckon we did pretty well, modelling connected-ness.  

Monday, 20 October 2014

Using Google Apps for Education as a Learning Management System

A friend (secondary school teacher) wants to migrate from using Moodle as a learning managment system to GAFE. I am trying to think of ways that will make the transition painless, and also engaging and visually stimulating for the students. The school has effectively dropped access to Moodle and has moved to being a GAFE school.
So what are the main components of GAFE?  

  • Drive (storage and also the applications of docs, sheets, slides, drawings, and forms)
  • Blogger 
  • Sites 
  • Youtube 
  • Gmail 
  • Google Class 
  • Maps 
  • Calendar
  • Google + including Hangouts

Each of these components can be integrated with each other easily and there is a single sign on.

Google Drive is a great place to store and organise resources, documents, images and many different files and, with the added bonus of unlimited storage for GAFE school students and teachers, Google has effectively wiped the floor of other LMS's. As I see it, Google Class is the place to start in getting "the work" to students. I also think that Google Blogger could work in the same way, with the newest information on top, and it could be a lot more visually appealing. You see, you can embed videos into Blogger and students respond quickly to that stimulus.
Maybe she is better to work with a Google Site as that can really be made very attractive and a site can deliver the year's curricular content as a fait accompli for students to refer to as they need to complete assessments. I can also see Google Slides being a great way to present instructions and or content. Google+ groups would be great for her students (who are mainly over 13 years old) but Google Class allows students to submit completed work easily.  I do think that Google Forms can be used effectively for work submission (through sending the link to the work) as well.
There are so many tools available in GAFE, each with so much potential to do many different jobs for us. I also think I am maybe looking at this the wrong way. What if the students were involved in the design of her new course? It is so beneficial for students to create content and thereby create their own knowledge. The difficulty here could be that much of their year would be focused on learning to use the tools instead of the knowledge that they need for their NCEA assessments. I have a reasonable knowledge of all the Google tools available so it would be pretty easy for me to mix them up a bit, but for a beginner like my friend, there is a lot of learning to be done in all tools.
 This is my big picture thinking: Take a google site, build resources around all of the "must knows" on the site. Use Google Class to address day to day "what to do".  The calendar can be used to attach assignment work and give due dates.  Require students to write blogs on Blogger which reflect on what they have learned each lesson and check for learning. Ask students to demonstrate knowledge creation on Slides and Drawings.  Use Forms to gather feedback, formative and summative assessment.  Hangouts make great ways to break down the walls of the classroom.
Now, as well as that there are thousands of apps, addons and extensions that work with Google, but I think I will leave that lesson for another day.
Any other feedback and advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Using Google Apps to Flip Learning in Your Class

As you might know, I am a real fan of flipping the learning. That is, using videos to move the instruction or content(for learning) from the group space into the individual learner space - available 24/7, if and when needed. It is a great step to take toward personalisation of learning. In this post, I am sharing the workshop slides that I did at the Ulearn conference this year. There are two main parts in this presentation after the introductory slides. The first is about using Youtube for editing and the second part is about useful tools to use that integrate well with Google Drive and or Youtube. Please contact me if there are any questions you have about the steps to take toward flipping or about this workshop, and do let me know what successes or failures (which are really just opportunities to learn from experience) that you have. Enjoy!!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Ulearn14 conference was different for me this year because of tweeting

I have been going to Ulearns for a few years now, not all ten that have been held, but quite a few of them.  I really feel like I got a lot more out of ULearn this year.  I think the reason was that I tweeted a lot.  I decided that instead of making notes that I lose or get hopelessly out of order, I would try and record keynotes and workshops by taking photos of slides and writing 140 character tweets on what I was hearing.
And as a result, my tweets got retweeted and I made connections with other educators that I have not met.  If someone retweeted, then I made sure I followed that person, too, and in the evenings, as I sat alone with my miserable head cold and recapped the day, I looked through the tweets and remembered a lot more that what I would normally have done, and felt connected.
Visuals make all the difference, and so does the fact that you have an authentic audience. In addition, if you use "Storify", you can get all the relevant tweets up in order and make comments as you go.  I didnt have time for that just yet but it is something I will do.
As well as that, I was able to use Tweetdeck on my laptop to manage to review the tweets of the day with the hashtags #ulearn14.
So I have been slow to get on board with tweeting, as I felt that I had all the extra external contact I needed through Feedly and Diigo, but it did make my whole Ulearn experience much better: -  more useful and more memorable and more recollectable and more connected.
As I look over the tweets this morning, my favouriteimage of the day so far is one that came from an overseas tweeter @shirljud1 who retweeted a tweet that I made about someone at the conference.  Rings true on many planes.

Twitter, I made a mistake about you.  There is a place for you in my life.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Today was all good.

Media previewMedia preview

My four main learnings today came from
  • Keynote speaker ( Joram Harpez) - that we must choose an educational ideology.  Must we?  I am still not sure.  Of course the individuation was my choice, but I am not sure that socialisation and acculturation cannot be integrated into the model as well.  I might have to read more!  
  • How do we learn? Mark Treadwell presenting.  Revisiting his work was a real treat for me.  Must read more!  
  • Google Fest a group collaboration on SAMR then a grand slam.  Fun.  Too many people.
  • Keynote speaker. (Adam Lefstein) Enjoyable look at professional discourse and conversations. Great advice but not sure about the good professional discourse from Israel shown as an example.  I thought the principal lacked vision in his conversation.  I also thought his approach was all wrong - it was quite "superior" and not collegial or collaborative in tone.  The conversation was about the "what" and "how", not the "why".  Perhaps I need to read more. 
Big picture learning: the over-whelming number of participants are primary school teachers - do we need a secondary school focus or stream for the next Ulearn?  What is happening in secondary schools?  Can we have a 50:50 turn out next year on primary to secondary?
Yes, I will give feedback.

The meeting up with people was great.  Awesome catchup with friends and foes.  

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The good and the bad and the ugly at ULearn Mobile Learning Day 2014

The Good
Today, we kicked off ULearn 2014 in Rotorua with the Mobile Learning Day.  I was clever enough to choose Tom Barrett's workshop on Learning as Inquiry for my first.  Tom had a model of learning through inquiry which was very easy to understand and could be applied to many learning situations.  Along with that model, he had Thing-linked a heap of digital tools which could be used at each stage of the inquiry.  Thanks for such a useful morning, Tom. Here follows a little storify of mainly my tweets as I listened in.  It is really great to be able revisit these tweets alongside his notes.  Great prompts for remembering.

The Bad
By contrast, I became frustrated and even angry at my afternoon workshop where the presenter had quite a few digital tools to address a pedagogy that, it was obvious that she knew very little about.  Now I don't want to sound like a know-it-all but when the tools were being used just for showcasing the tools, the workshop became meaningless.  There has to be some semblance of substance about the knowledge being learned.  You can't crowd-source knowledge for two and a half hours from a crowd that had very little understanding of the topic.  They were there to find out about the topic, and instead got to use some of the tools which could be useful once they had the knowledge.  They made resources based on their lack of knowledge for the rest of the time.
The Ugly
 I hate to see teachers going away from a workshop ill-informed, which is what they would have done.  Teacher pd time is precious, especially for those who have give up out of school time.
I have to admit, my feedback was pretty scathing.  And I am sorry for that,  because it is not easy standing in front of a group of teachers and presenting a workshop. However,  I do hope that she learns from that.  During my teaching life I have been taught to take on board good feedback and discard any negative feedback that you don't think is warranted, but act on what you think is warranted.   You don't need to argue or discuss, just do it.  However part of me still feels ugly for being unkind.
So that's it.  My first day at Ulearn 2014.  The good, the bad and the ugly.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Some ideas aound flipping your class (or at least the learning.)

The Free Technology for Teachers guru, Richard Byrne, is amazing!  He has a way of quickly reviewing and aligning the functionality of different digital technologies to different educational settings and assessing their usefulness.  He is a must to follow - I have been since about 2009 -  and he never ceases to amaze me with the sheer variety of technologies but more importantly, his clear statements about how he thinks they could be useful in the classroom.

Recently, he has reveiwed 7 tools to use in one of my favourite pedagogies - flipping the learning.  By co-incidence, I also talked to a journalist about flipping.  There seems to be a surge of interest in flipping in New Zealand. Flipping, of course, has evolved so much since the first years when Aaron Sams and Jonathon Bergmann started videoing their Woodland Park, Colorado lessons and posting them online so that students who had been absent through illness or school- based activities could catch up.  They found that all of their students started using the videos for their own learning.

Sams and Bergman started to get the students to watch the videos at home first and then come back to them with any questions the next day at school.  As a result, their lessons evolved into interactive, student centred learning rather than teacher led "lectures. Nowadays the two recommend short videos that engage the students easily, to be watched in their own time.   This approaches a more personalised learning paradigm, or at least an individualised one.

As you start to make the move towards personalised learning in your classes, consider a flipped approach.  It is important that you make use of the relationship that you have with your students to connect with them through video.  Video is a powerful and engaging medium. The flipped learning network is a useful organisation to belong to. They have come up with a great explanation of what they believe flipped learning to be, and an easy to remember mnemonic (FLIP) which characterises the concept.

I am about to run a workshop on Flipping the Learning using Google Apps - it might be worth a look at the slides if you have an interest in  trying flipping out.  I am happy to field questions about this important pedagogical approach.  Happy to help you walk this way.

Have a happy Connected Educator month!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Connected educators

October has begun.  Nothing unusual in that. October follows September. But for educators, it is time to stop and take stock.
Educators, ask yourself.  Are you connected? That means using technology to forge relationships with educators you wouldn't meet at your own school.  Strictly speaking I suppose that may not be the official definition, but for me it is the most relevant.
I spent 33 years at an isolated country school.  Professional development meant two hour trips to bigger centres where I would meet others for the day, and then we would go our separate ways, maybe meet up at a follow up workshop, but just as likely to never see and share resources and experiences again.
I must admit that I liked to get out of my own school and get copies of what the other teachers were working with, and share my own work.  I once found my own work turning up in a booklet made by others in my subject area, so nebulous were the connections.  
As email and technologies developed, the connections became a little more long lasting.   But things have changed now.  We have opportunities to connect with others whom we may never meet, and if and when we do meet, it is sometimes as old friends.  Virtual friends that is.
I have made friends with educators across the globe.  People who are willing to share time and effort to help, discuss and investigate.  I belong to overseas communities, one of which is the Flipped Learning community based in USA.  When I joined that community, I was the first in New Zealand to do so.  There were about 500 members across the USA.  Nowadays it is more like 20,000 members across the world.  
How awesome to be able to lurk in the community, join in virtual events, and discuss with members across the world!
One of the other overseas communities that I belong to, has webinars regularly.  Usually they are not in my waking hours, sometimes 2 or 3 am in the morning.  Through technology, they are available to me as soon as I get time to watch them.  
The virtual world has allowed me to travel down a pathway that was unimaginable years ago.  I am happy with and cherish my connectedness.  So as I write in the middle of the North Island, New Zealand from Taupo,  I wonder how far afield my readers are tonight.  My request to you is that you write in the comments below how far away you are from me.  
This will be a celebration for me during Connected Educator Month. Please join me in celebrating my lifelong learning journey.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

What do we know about learning?

I can't say enough how much I value the work of researchers, Bolstad and Gilbert et al who wrote the report for the Ministry of Education on "Supporting future oriented learning and teaching".
The report focuses on a vision for New Zealand learning and what transformation of education could look like for New Zealand.  In some schools, the transformation has begun.  We need to focus on the six themes of future oriented learning and teaching to undergo the transformation.
They are personalised learning, new views of equity and diversity, new connections to the community (local, national and international) using knowledge to build learning power, lifelong learning for leaders and educators, and new roles for teachers and learners.  Another earlier blogpost refers to these themes.

My mind keeps wandering back to page 15, table 3 in the report.  "What we know about learning." The table heading is a statement, not a question.   In other words, this is what we know about learning from the research.
I think the table provides a great basis for a  reflective tool to check out how we as teachers are supporting learning.  I have made up a form (see below) based on the table so you can do a self review.

  • It would be great if you could answer all ten questions.  That would allow you, and other teachers to view your responses.  
  • This form is completely anonymous and I see it as a way to think about the learning that is going on in your class, and learn from others as well.  
  • You are able to edit your responses.

If you are the first person here, go on, fill it out and allow others to learn from you, as well as reviewing your own performance as a teacher.
You are also welcome to make a copy of the form to use in your schools.  Make a copy of the form here by going the the menu "File" and choosing "Make a copy"  (You will need your own Google (free) account to do this).
The responses can be viewed at this link (which is also available at the end of the form)
For those of you who do not want to complete the form: here are the ten questions:
Are students in my class thinking?  How do I know this?
Am I providing experiences to draw on? Examples of this are?
Am I supporting my students to build deeper knowledge by searching for different approaches to answers?  An example of when I have not “given the right answer” is...
Are my students actively engaged in processing new knowledge (is there a task which required them to engage and interpret the new knowledge?)  The new knowledge is ….  The task is ….
Do my students want to learn this material?  How do I know this?  Is it relevant to them is there another way of learning the material which makes it more relevant?
Do my students have control over the pace and goals of the learning?  I have given choice to them when …..  The students can go back to the learning at …...time.
Is there structure to the learning? When students are ready for the learning, have I resources and learning management systems that allow them to do this?
Does the learning involve interaction with others? Do my students work with each other to create new learning?  What evidence do I have of learning that happens with people other than myself?  Do I enable connections for interactions to happen?
Does learning happen outside the classroom and do I acknowledge it, and plan for it?  In what ways have I enabled learning outside the classroom?
How do I expand the intelligence of each of my students?  Can I demonstrate ways in which learning has happened for students who thought they were “no good” at something?

Tuesday, 23 September 2014


Todays thoughts are for Christchurch.  Such a beautiful city still lays wasted by earthquakes.  A stark reminder, as we walked the streets after our conference snapping photos, on how lucky we are not to have suffered the losses in lives, buildings, livelihoods and broken dreams.  How lucky we are not to have to live amongst the rubble, dust and memories every day for three years.

But they are getting on with it - the rebuild.  Although the graunching machinery sounds more destructive to the ear, there are busy sounds, not so unpleasant.  These photos are some of those I took today.    So no real sense of connectedness in this post, fellow educators, just a reminder to celebrate the lives we have.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, 22 September 2014

Upping the ante

With "Connected Educator Month" coming up, it is timely for me to increase my blog output.  The month-long event is a prompt to remind me how much I learn from blogging and to get onto it.  It  is such a useful learning strategy to reflect on what I have learned, and where I am going and sometimes just cogitate.

I sometimes feel that blogging is my outlet for venting frustrations as well but then I remember I should be politically circumspect.  In my work, it pays not to get too "out there" with your political stance - it could get you into trouble as Mr Whale Oil (Cameron Slater) has found out.  I suppose he has made his money in the meantime though.

Blogging is also a way for me to connect with other educators.  Isolation has been one of the barriers I have suffered from (and also enjoyed) in the past. Not just geographically.   My social self is underdeveloped.  I am always the person who stands on the outside of the crowd, the last to be chosen for sports sides, the most likely to not have a date for the ball.  (Despite all that I have a happy marriage (the second of two, in fact),  lifelong friends and a great career.)

Blogging gives me an added dimension.  I have a voice.  It is not restricted by social mores.  So, over the next month, I am going to put myself out there more often, more regularly and more directly.  My goal is to blog once a day over connected educator month, at the end of the day.  With something to say, or not.  Getting on this bus and going for a ride.

Let'e see what comes out of it.

JPEG Image

Friday, 22 August 2014

Fear of Flying

Flying - one of the things I am truly scared about. Yes, I know the logic, more likely to get killed by a bolt of lightening while sitting on the loo, but logic doesn't figure with a fear.

I need to fly in my job, here, there, everywhere, and have learned to manage the fear, but the fear is still there. When I get on a plane I repeat to myself during the journey, " the worst thing that can happen is that I will die," and that gives me a certain amount of comfort. I don't like being completely out of control. Not that I am a control freak on the ground, or at least I don't think I am, I suppose no control freak actually realises that they are one.

The book, by Erica de Jong, I read a long time ago. Not likely to join the Mile High Club where I cannot bear to unlock my seat belt unless in dire need of toilet (where I am probably likely to be struck by that bolt of lightening while flying - a real double whammy!).

So I carry on. If I want to get anywhere, I know I have to control the fear. Things I have tried include

  1. Taking valium

  2. Drinking on international flights

  3. Rescue remedy

  4. Fear of flying online course

  5. Books on anxiety

  6. "Travel Calm" tablets

and each of these have helped in their own special way.  Would love to "get the cure", at least before I hop on that plane that does the MH370 trick

Monday, 18 August 2014

Why do people blog?

Blogging is in the news!  
What a storm over the weekend following the release of Nicky Hagar's book.  After a conversation with a colleague about blogging last week, I had a few thoughts.  The conversation was around why she kept her blog private.  I was thinking that blogs should be about putting yourself out there.            

  • Expressing who you are and what you think.  
  • Putting your personality into print, and pictures, and videos and as Allanah King  says it, putting Bling in Your Blog so people will know what identifies you from others.  
  • Connecting with the world.  
  • Putting your opinions on the line.  
  • Putting yourself up for critiquing.  
  • Not being aftraid of making mistakes.  
  • Learning from your mistakes. 
  • Asking for feedback from the world.  
  • Blogging is kind of like the news with your opinion attached. (I suppose all news is really just that, with someones opinion attached.)  
  • A blog can get you feedback.  
  • It can help you learn - how to read and write are just two of the ways.  
  • It can help you formulate your opinions.  
  • It can help you change your mind.

Over the weekend I began to think there were a number of occasions when it would be good to keep your blog private.
Firstly for privacy reasons.  No, I mean that, maybe you dont want people to recognise you and come and hunt you down or stalk you for anything you might have said that they disagree with.
Secondly for reason of private reflection.  Reflection is how we learn from our experiences and also sometimes we want to keep those experiences (and reflections) private.  For example, maybe someone has been an a...hole at work.  And you just need reflection time and thought to get over it.  Or you may want to take it further and you dont want to prejudice your options.
Thirdly, maybe you are trying to grow an idea or a community, and you don't want people to see the tender seedling of your idea/ community at its young and vulnerable stage, before it has grown into a massive oak tree of an idea.
Fourthly, blogging can be just like an eportfolio which can be a showcase, process or accountability.  Maybe you just show the bits of it that you want to, to the relevant people.
Fifthly, I guess that blogging can be like a private journal - but does that make it a blog?  Stephen Downes says that a blog has always been more than just a online version of a private journal.  Blogging is after all short for Weblogging.  So shouldn't it be out there, on the web?

Once again, I ask you graciously for feedback.

Downes, S. (2004) Educational Blogging

Monday, 4 August 2014

Inserting links into a part of an image

Today, I revised the skill of inserting a link into a part of an image using Google.  I have been unable to insert the image with the link into Google blogger but it does work well embedding into a Google site, and is updated as you make any changes to the original drawing.

 I used "Google Draw" polyline to draw a shape around myself, make it transparent, and then inserted a link to my Google+ profile.  This image can then be "published to the web" to be placed in your site.  This could be useful at schools so that students could just click on parts of images to take them to another website that you wish them to work with. For example, a picture of a number of books with each book spearately linked. Here is a screencast of how to do this.

Managing Change In Your School - What is Missing?

I am sharing an image with you which reflects five essential elements of change: - vision, skills, incentives, resources and action plan. If you look at the descriptors at the top of the image, it reflects what many teachers are feeling right now.  Confusion, anxiety, resistance, frustration and treadmill feelings.  This is because all five elements of change need to be in place at any one time.  Take any one of them away and you can see the result.

So it is very important to make sure that all five elements are clearly communicated to all on your team.  It may be that some of the elements are a work in progress, but if you outline all elements to your teachers, and make them part of the process in developing the elements and making them their own school-wide property, you will get change.  It is called ownership, but means a lot more than just that - it is a way of being.
Image Source: The Managing Complex Change Model is credited to Dr. Mary Lippit:

Here is also a super slideshow which can help everyone understand the need to change.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Green screening

I made this little youtube clip about one way of using Google to flip your class for a specific purpose, but the reason I want to tell you about it, was that it was my first attempt at green screening. The green blob behind my head is in fact the shadow cast from the light in the lounge. The shadow was slightly different green to the green that I removed. However, it generally came out better than I had hoped otherwise. I whipped down to the lake and took a short video of the lake and superimposed myself on top of that after I removed the green background. I might try to experiment a bit more on this. I read somewhere that blue screening works just as well. Has anyone tried that?  Would love to hear more.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014


This presentation was based on a Maori whakatauki "Kaore te kumara e korero mo tona mangaro" which basically means the kumara (sweet potato) does not talk of its own sweetness. It is considered inappropriate to speak of your own achievements. So in this context, how could Maori students allow an eportfolio to speak for them? My idea was that someone else could write an eportfolio about your achievements that you could share when going for a job. I am not sure how successful this concept is but the participants in the workshop had fun. It was one way of trying to be culturally responsive. Tell me what you think.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Google Sites - a great tool for learning

This one is about using Google Sites - lot of text to begin with but you can see where it goes....

Monday, 21 July 2014

On collecting evidence for mathematics...

And the next presentation on why, how, and what to collect for mathematics evidence, or indeed for your own registered teacher criteria evidence.  Have a look (and interact with) this presentation, recently given at Gisborne and Napier Mathematics Symposia.

Presentations to share

As I make a lot of presentations on Google, it seems sensible to share some of them in my blog. I am trying to embed a lot of them in my site so that they are available to everyone. I know they won't suit all but hope they will be able to suit some educators, so please do make your own copies if they suit you. I will start with one I did on the 6 Future Focus Themes identified by Bolstad, Gilbert et al in 2012.

I live to revisit these often as it makes a lot of sense to me why we should be learning to learn using digital technologies, because each of these themes are "doable" simply because of digital technologies.  And, not only are they doable, but they are transforming the way that we learn.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

What can Secondary School Teachers Do Differently?

Secondary teachers are wary.  They have students coming to their schools with digital skills that they have learned or taught themselves while at primary at intermediate schools.  These same students have already been thinking about the way they learn (metacognition) and know a lot about the kinds of things that they are interested in.  And then they arrive at secondary school.
Some secondary schools have "gone BYOD" which often simply means that the school has decided to allow students to bring their internet capable phones to school. There are often a lot of rules attached with this shift. The students can use them for research, and googling, but that is about it, otherwise they are "off and in your pocket."
So what can secondary school teachers do differently?  There should have been quite a bit of planning done to begin with but what if this hasn't happened and teachers are landed with these students in their class and don't know how to stop the students texting inappropriately in class, breaking digital citizenship rules and generally causing mayhem in the class?
Here are my recommendations
  1. The first thing I would recommend for these teachers is to start to use a learning management platform for the students to access.  This could be Moodle or Google or Edmodo or Schoology or any of the others endorsed by the MOE at the moment.  This means that the students know where to go to get their work and can start on it straight away. Use multimedia resources on that platform so that all students have videos, audio, images and text to access learning and activities which will build and strengthen their knowledge.
  2. The second thing is, change the way you work.  You do not have to be the person at the front of the room "delivering" any more.  You can put the same work, that those with devices can access, up on the whiteboard so that it is available for all.  You now have the freedom to walk around the class and help your students.
  3. The third is, give the power over to the students to complete the work collaboratively, and in their own time, so they all become peer tutors and responsible for any deadlines they have to meet.  Be clear in the required outcomes (what has to be learned) and in the words of the song in the movie, Frozen -  " Let It Go! " (Talk with parents, keep them in the loop, express your concerns if you have them, have consequences for missed deadlines).
  4. Let the students be creative - let them create sites and presentations and blogs about what they have learned.  Let them create eportfolios.
  5. Let them share and learn to critique each others work in positive ways.  Teach them to be positive digital citizens by discussing the work in the context that is created.   Give them opportunity to improve their work after you have collaboratively critiqued it.
  6. When it comes to summative assessment for NCEA, be very clear about revision of what should have been learned and the conditions of assessment.  This is the time that individual students must show what they have learned.  Get them to test each other beforehand, read each others work, ask for clarification and then they are on their own for the assessment.
  7. Finally sit back at watch the change in engaement and improvement in achievement.  Celebrate!  Move on and make the next unit of work even better than the first.  Allow the students to choose their own contexts whenever possible.
Thanks to Rebbecca Sweeney for publishing the images used in this blog today.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Golfing and teaching - the same but different.

To help teachers understand the concept of teaching as inquiry, I use the analogy of golfing. When you start golfing, it takes a while to learn how to hit the ball and send it in the general direction you want it to go. After the first few months you start to get the hang of it and then you start trying to refine and hone your game.

You think about the way you hit the ball. You try different clubs and irons to get the best result. You start taking into account the conditions on the course, wet, dry, long or short grass, wind from what direction? You don't go out on a golf course and hit the ball and say "that is as far as I am ever going to hit that ball, I can't get any better". You go on and try different strategies to stop the ball curving in the direction you don't want, and you seek improvement in any way that you think will work. You practice. You ask you golfing buddies to help you. Sometimes you seek help from a professional, Sometimes you might even become a professional but you never, never, never say, "that is it, I cant do any better." You analyse what happened after you hit the ball. Did it go where you intended? Why or why not? Do you need to try it again?

So when you talk to any teacher, ask them what their inquiry is this year. They will be excited that someone is interested in their role as a professional. Teaching as inquiry starts with looking at the evidence (know your students using student data, and information about their environment) and then deciding where do you want to get your students to. You put together a plan based on your experience and you trial new strategies that you think might work, and if they don't, then you try another strategy. You reflect on the influence your strategies have had on the outcomes for the students. If it does work, you keep practicing and striving to hone your practice. You don't ever, ever, ever, give up!

The difference is, that in golf you can go home happy that you gave it a go, good day or bad. In teaching, the well being and future of the children is at stake. You see - same but different!

Note: - Teachers in New Zealand must be registered. Their principals must attest to the fact they they have satisfied the "registered teacher criteria" every three years for them to remain fully registered. There are twelve of these criteria and they can be found online.

Criterion number twelve is that a registered teacher must 'use critical inquiry and problem-solving effectively in their professional practice.' This means that teachers must strive to improve their practice. They must continually look at ways that they can improve outcomes for their students. This is known as "Teaching As Inquiry" (TAI) in the profession.