Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Second day of mainly digital learning


First morning running learning from a digital platform.
From our slower set up day on Monday I decided not to do any new content learning today.  I cut my expectations in half.  And still achieved less than I would have hoped for.  The children are very capable in the areas they are used to - navigating media and looking up information but there's still a lot to learn.

The main learning is online self management - the answer to "What do we do now?" is online.  So its like teaching a new way of reading a maths or reading taskboard and its going to take a little time to make this the automatic way of looking for what next.  Some of the children began to get this and started reminding each other where they could look.

There were huge issues with getting Google docs going in different environments on different devices.  I could not have aimed at doing any substantial content teaching whilst introducing this.  It would have been counterproductive -  for this week, this IS the teaching.

In maths I only aimed at achieving: everyone doing some Mathletics time; everyone doing basic facts practice; entering their score on a shared Google doc plus a couple of workshop sessions to discuss how to go about doing the geometry project and that was it.  We got through this but it took nearly two hours.  I told them I'd expect all of that to happen within a 30 minute time slot once we're up and running.  The good thing is its easy to keep track of the basic facts information, as it comes up on the Teacher dashboard.  The Mathletics was great too, the reports were easy to read and I could easily see and set the next steps for the children.

I'm impressed that everyone is being very patient.

For our quickwrite, many of the children continued writing in the doc they used on Monday.  It was only the second time they did it and it was way more efficient and competent.  .  Teacher dashboard has helped so I can comment on all the docs either in real time or later.  That's encouraging, to affirm it will get easier.

For the novels - we just sat down and read.  I was going to show them a Quizlet example but decided it was too much new information for one day.

We did good old-fashioned role plays in RE.

In the afternoon we did the "Environments for Learning" work Environments for Learning and they had their first experience of writing in a shared Google doc.  It was hilarious.  I had it up on the projector and they worked in groups of two or three.  They discussed the ways they learn and what sort of environments would suit these ways of learning.  Then when they were writing they tripped over each other's cursors and accidentally deleted work.  Some children took this naturally as accidental, others got cross.  So we discussed protocols and ways of working with Google docs - such as putting in lots of returns at the beginning and putting your cursor away from others which were already writing.  Our first effort at a shared Google doc: - (this is just shared within St Joseph's as its a work in progress).

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Second Post

The beauty of the journey towards more technology at St Joseph's has been that it is for the sake of child-centred learning.  Learning where the students are in control of their learning.

We started our first two classrooms, year 7 & 8 with BYOD in 2013.  Previously the children had been leaving their technology in the teacher's box all day whilst we struggled to find enough outlets so children could go online.  It made complete sense to allow them to use their devices for learning.  Of course we had to put systems and agreements in place but really it all worked very smoothly.

In mid 2014 Jenny Jackson, Siobhan Patterson and myself visited the Manaiakalani cluster of schools in Auckland.  It was inspiring to see what this group of decile 1 schools could do together.  All children had their own devices, purchased by their parents.  Engagement was obvious and Auckland University researchers have proven that achievement has increased.  The learning in these schools was truly visible, it was all online and accessible by anyone.

Our ICT strategic plan included one-to-one devices for our senior students from the beginning of 2015.  I knew that the most important thing, as always, is what will this do for learning and how can we prove it?  So I started the St Joseph's Future Focused Learning website sharing the idea of many-to-many pedagogy with our staff.  I also conducted some small action research projects with my year 7 students to investigate the benefits of digital learning (also available on the site).

Siobhan set us all up with Google accounts and Jenny initiated all meetings and developments to be done using Google docs.  Staff were encouraged to experiment with a Google Site.  Mine is: 

In our teacher only day of 2014 the staff reviewed all the systems we use for thinking and guiding learning in St Joseph's and put them together on a SOLO map.

In term 1 of 2014 Jenny went on her principal's sabbatical and, even while she was still away, she shared some of her learning about project-based learning through the Matthew Moss High School that she visited in England,  This stimulated more inquiry into project-based learning which has been very motivating for our students and reminded me to explicitly return to key competency teaching.  The exciting part of this is we now have a student-driven curriculum in many areas.  The senior syndicate team are tracking our students' learning and making sure they cover all learning ideas and we are making sure we provide them with stimulating experiences which will encourage their learning.  But its really exciting that they are taking control of the direction, and its working.   They report that they feel more engaged and are learning more because its what they want to learn.

We have had two parent huis where we have shared our approach to learning and how we want this to develop in 2015.  The parents were brilliant and some have been really helpful with coming forward and sharing their perspective.

The big challenge this term, term 4, 2014 is for the senior syndicate to work towards having the main focus of our learning online and how to use one-to-one device technology to metamorphosise teaching and learning.  We will need to develop consistency with our planning and systems with the junior syndicate.  We are also hoping to involve the parents with using SOLO for learning in a learning process themselves while they develop some guidelines for digital citizenship at home and school.

First Post

This is my first post about my own and my school's learning journey.  The weeks go by very quickly in schools and a lot of amazing things can happen, quickly to be forgotten as we move on to the next mountain to climb.  I want to track our journey and maybe even help others with their journeys.

There was a time when I was anti-technology.  When I was growing up, beyond the Amstrad and the thing with the joystick that boys (all the players I knew were boys although I'm sure many girls enjoyed it too) played on the TV, there wasn't really much option.  By accident really when I entered the workforce I worked for the Cellnet division of British Telecom.  At the time this was cutting edge mobile technology and after that about 70% of my working experience until I became a teacher was in large technologically-advanced companies.  So I became very tech-savvy by default.  It was also a way of avoiding getting a "proper job" and left me free to do the things I was really interested in (that's another story).

If one becomes tech-savvy then eventually one ends up teaching adults - its inevitable and a good 40% of my work prior to teaching children involved teaching adults.  And finally, through this I found a vocation that actually felt in tune with those things I was "really interested in."  That was how/why I became a teacher.

My first child came along in my first year of teaching, followed fairly closely by my second.  This was fairly fortuitous (obviously from my parent perspective as my children are my greatest blessing) as it also allowed me the time, when I was not committed to paid employment where I could pursue further studies.  So I began masters studies through Victoria University and the first two papers I did were about e-learning.  So very early on in my teaching career I became aware of the possibilities of e-learning.  What it meant for me was that traditional teaching never became my default practice.  There's never been enough technology to do what really could be done with it but in small ways I've had a lot of fun and many frustrations making the best of what I have had.

Finally, I think we at St Joseph's are finally on the cusp of really changing how we do things.

The Children's Machine

"Imagine a party of time travelers from an earlier century, among them one group of surgeons and another of school-teachers, each group eager to see how much things have changed in their profession a hundred or more years into the future. Imagine the bewilderment of the surgeons finding themselves in the operating room of a modern hospital. Although they would know that an operation of some sort was being performed, and might even be able to guess at the target organ, they would in almost all cases be unable to figure out what the surgeon was trying to accomplish or what was the purpose of the many strange devices he and the surgical staff were employing. The rituals of antisepsis and anesthesia, the beeping electronics, and even the bright lights, all so familiar to television audiences, would be utterly unfamiliar to them.
"The time-traveling teachers would respond very differently to a modern elementary classroom. They might be puzzled by a few strange objects. They might notice that some standard techniques had changed -- and would likely disagree among themselves about whether the changes they saw were for the better or the worse -- but they would fully see the point of most of what was being attempted and could quite easily take over the class."
- Samuel Papert, The Children's Machine

Avoid the trap of using modern technologies for learning in the same old way.  We have tools which can reinvent learning.