Changes in my Practice

It seems like I am constantly talking about where I was and where I am going. Looking back over the past few weeks of blogging I can see this very clearly. For example, I seem to say a lot, “I was doing this and now Mindlab has made me see how I can do it better.”

I think the Practising Teacher Criteria (PTC) I have engaged with well over this course is the criteria 4 which is demonstrating commitment to ongoing professional learning and development of professional practice. I have been looking critically at the content of Mindlab and actively looking at ways to do better what I am doing. I have always been reflective and looked at ways to develop my teaching. Having Mindlab as a coach has helped steer me in the right direction for how education is shaping up in New Zealand. It reminds me of a saying in the yogic tradition of how a yogi without a guru is like a rudderless sailboat sailing aimlessly about in the ocean of life.

Mindlab has helped invigorate my teaching career. For example, becoming a Seesaw Ambassador is a result of implementing ICT into the classroom programme this year. It has helped me teach children how to use ICT and also connect with the parent community. Further on from here I think these online learning journals are going to be more successful at showing parents justifications for national standard results and also show parents how they can help their children. Also tying in with the PTC of demonstrating in practice how akonga learn is when recently I videoed a child who had been struggling with the idea of ‘making a ten’ in mathematics. After a small lesson with me we recorded her working a sum out using the counters provided and it was then sent to her parents. This helped her parents see how she is being taught this and how they can reinforce this learning at home.

Becoming a Seesaw Ambassador will also require me to teach others in the teaching profession how to use this App effectively in the classroom. This links in with the PTC showing leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning. I think this also ties in with the PTC establishing and maintaining effective professional relationships focused on the well being of all akonga. Within teaching we all have the common goal of doing whats best for every child’s learning. To do this we must keep ourselves informed and up to date with any changes in pedagogy, or new regulations or new environments.

I have become critical of how I use social media and how this reflects me to my peers. I have now considered setting up a professional Facebook profile to use for educational learning purposes. I know feel included in a vast collaborative pool of other educators not only in New Zealand but internationally. I feel that my knowledge is more research based not airy fairy and based on an idea I had. It’s given me the opportunity to explore perspectives with others and see where I may need to change. It’s also helped me celebrate my successes.

In the future I want to be able to implement using online journals for each individual child and for this to replace our current reporting system. This would be a great way to teach children the importance of their online identity and provide a clear record to show far they have come in their learning journeys. I would like to see teachers use smarter technology to collect data about each individual child that creates our next steps for that child’s learning more effectively in a way that takes into consideration that child’s interests. I would like to see this replace the hours we spend slogging away being data collecting paper pushers to becoming inspiring educators for children.

I want to continue learning about how to harness technology to help us work smarter so we can spend more time doing the things we enjoy doing in our jobs.

Who am I in a professional context?

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This mind map is all the parts that I think make up me as a classroom educator. I think it is an interesting activity to do. It has helped me examine how I express myself in this teaching arena. As Gozzer (as cited by Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M., 1997) says of discipline – it is the process in which learning finds expression.

If I was to choose two branches that I would like to focus on it would be Professional Development and Year 3 curriculum in particular inquiry.

Professional Development

I am nearly at the end of the postgraduate certificate in Applied Practice run by Mindlab. I have found this course has reshaped, reinvigorated and redefined who I am as a educator. It has developed me in ways that I never would have thought possible. I have tried out new ideas and meet people that have inspired me to do things differently. This has been expressed in my day to day classroom practice. I am know trying to implement ICT in the classroom regularly. For example I may catch myself stopping and thinking, “do the children have to present a poster? Can they not show their learning somehow creatively using the computer and not just making a slideshow?”

A lot of time has been invested into the course at the cost to family time. Mindlab opened up a lot of avenues for me to explore and finding the time to explore these can be very time consuming. I would like to continue with Mindlab to complete the Masters component. My only reservation is weighing up the time spent on my professional development versus my private life.

Year 3 Integrated Curriculum

This is my first year teaching a year 3 class. I have made my way down the primary school levels over the past 5 years. I spent the majority of my time teaching intermediate. In an intermediate classroom we were solely teaching through inquiry. Here is a link to my blog that I ran back then

http://howickintermediatemansfieldroom21.blogspot.co.nz/

You will see that the learning was what I thought at the time to be interdisciplinary. We would begin by brainstorming all that we wanted to learn about and then further narrow it down at the beginning of each inquiry cycle. Then we would discuss all the things we needed to learn about covering the curriculum areas. We then had to have some sort of social action or outcome that served the community from the result of the new knowledge. As a new teacher I was nervous to let the children choose the subjects that they wanted to learn about so I stirred them towards things that I already knew about. As the EnviroSchool cluster was a big support network for me I, more times than not, steered my class towards a Education for Sustainability (EFS) inquiry. I found the children had more meaningful learning experiences. If we were learning about water quality then we would test the local streams in the area, have speakers in, learn about the flora that is ideal around a stream, plant the shrubs and so on.

This year I have found myself conflicted. One school of thought from those I speak to is that year 3’s need to be taught the fundamentals like reading, writing and math everyday in a structured way. I have found it good because I have learnt what it is exactly year 3’s need to know and how they learn. On the other hand my past experience has shown me that inquiry learning (even if directed by me) is fun for the children. I myself enjoy seeing the links between the subjects in the day and find it satisfying.

I agree with Foshay when it is said (as cited by Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M., 1997) that knowledge is ‘something becoming,’ something to construct through active inquiry. Also with Marzano (as cited by Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M., 1997) who says learning is not simply the accumulation of facts but it is believed to induce the restructuring of the learner’s cognitive structure or organisation.

Then at the same time children who cannot read confidently cannot access the rest of the curriculum typically. I have found children in my year 3 class who are more capable with reading and writing are typically thirsty for knowledge. They are normally the children who will read a journal story with me and the next day tell me more facts that they found out about that particular topic. I think by hooking into the individual child’s interests would help drive the inquiry. This is something that I am going to work towards.

References

Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from http://www.albany.edu/cela/reports/mathisonlogic12004.pdf:

Anywhere and Anytime learning through Social Media Networks

I have found Facebook, Seesaw and Twitter to be a great way to get new ideas and fresh perspectives on my teaching practice. With Facebook I am the most interactive and I find the responses I get are extremely positive. Usually within a day I will have several people giving me support and ideas with my query. I have emailed Facebook and asked that they develop a system where the files that are shared on the page are categorised so they can be accessed through a search function. Currently you have to scroll through literally thousands of files to find what you need as they go up chronologically. I use my personal Facebook account to interact with other teachers through the private groups that I am part of. I have decided today that I will set up a professional Facebook page that will have my colleagues as friends that I can interact through.

I am still learning how to use Twitter so I can get the most out of it. I am what they call a ‘lurker’ more than a participant as such. I have the found the #edchatNZ the one feed that I follow the most regularly. It also led me to start the online edchatNZ MOOC. I must admit I have not completed much of the MOOC but its great how I can grab moments whether sitting in the hairdresser’s chair waiting for my colour to process to go through the course material. I love the whole digital idea of learning anywhere anytime.

Which is interesting is Melhuish (2013) says,

“Future-focused reports predict that personalised, adaptive learning environments, and massive open online courses (MOOCs) will tip into the mainstream in the next two to three years, driven by changing patterns in the way people expect to able to work and learn, and by education paradigms shifting towards more blended approaches.”

Because you can choose what you want to learn. I love this. As said by Bull & Gilbert (as cited by Melhuish 2013) the management of teachers’ professional learning varies considerably across New Zealand, dependent on a range of factors, including the strength of the school’s strategic plan and the effectiveness of the leaders and Boards of Trustees. This year the school I am currently employed at is focusing on Math for the entire year. This is without a doubt very beneficial for me but my focus this year for my own development has been using ICT in the classroom.

This year I implemented Seesaw into my classroom programme. I have been lucky enough to be invited to be a Seesaw ambassador. Tomorrow morning I will take part in a 2 hour webinar to learn about how to go about this. From what I’ve seen on YouTube for other Apps that are similar to Seesaw to be an ambassador is providing support to other users through uploading videos of how you use the App in your classroom.

Becoming a Seesaw ambassador is going to be taking me out of my current comfort zone with my online professional presence. I think it will help me grow immensely and help me walk the talk more.

I have always been driven to inquire into my practice. I’m always wondering if what I’m doing is really effective and worthwhile. The Facebook groups that I am part of are fantastic for new ideas but you have to be driven to follow these up. It’s not so much a space for reflection but more a sharing of resources and ideas which is fantastic.

I am going to end on this final quote from Melhuish (2013) because I think it sums up for me what I enjoy the most about social networked professional development.

“The trend of ‘anytime, anyplace’ learning is increasingly a key enabler for any institution or organisation that wishes to serve its learners who now expect to use mobile technology and 24-7 connectivity.”

 

References

Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrived on 05 May, 2015 from http://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/bitstream/han…

 

 

 

 

Teachers on Facebook and School Websites

At every school I have worked at I have seen teachers post photos of their students on their personal Facebook pages. I think using a student’s image on anything other than a school related or professionally related website is inappropriate. Also adding students as friends on your own personal networking page is also just asking for trouble.

On the TKI website it outlines how social media and social networking can help schools by:

  • direct your parents and community back to more information on your website
  • respond quickly to incidents and manage risks
  • weave the school messages through online spaces that your community uses in ways that are relevant to them
  • grow your understanding of how people use online tools to help you manage inappropriate communications or privacy settings.

All the schools I have worked at have a school Facebook page to post videos and photos daily these did not directly link into the school’s website. But, this leads me to question if Facebook really is an appropriate space for a school site. Is there really much difference between the school website and Facebook in the way of ethics and professionalism?

I think Apiti School has set up a well-designed online professional platform for parents, students, teachers and the community to engage with. In this clip the principal takes you through how they use their school website set up on Weebly. http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Ministry-initiatives/Connected-Learning-Advisory-service/Social-media I think how Apiti School has chosen to engage with the community brings together many things that I have tried implementing such as a classroom blog and Seesaw.

I think it’s important for schools to embrace social media as supported by the New Zealand Teacher Council here in this clip. https://vimeo.com/49216519. I think if set up properly where it is legally accessible by parents and students then even its better.  I believe the age for Facebook is at least 13.

If I was to set up a page online to communicate with parents to share notices, events, reminders and students work I think a well set up school website can do this. I think a well thought out and designed school website is an appropriate place for communicating with the community.

From this website I do think using blogs for sharing student’s writing is a great tool to make their writing purposeful and is a great way to engage parents and students.  These blogs can also have privacy settings on here for students to decide who they want to share it with.

I think having the student portfolios shared on this space as well as their reports (private of course) will also bring parents to this space and provide up to date evidence of their progress.

Teachers can share student’s photos and videos on their classroom blog. Some schools have this open to the public and others have an invite only option. Better than sharing photos of students on a classroom blog that is set up in a professional space as opposed to a Facebook page.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. What does it mean?

I initially thought that to be culturally responsive teacher you only needed to include lessons and visuals around Maori language, Maori history and Maori art into the classroom programme. On reflection culturally responsive teaching is about using the strategies their parents and communities use to teach them life skills and basic concepts long before they come to school and out of school time.

Zaretta Hammond, in her book Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, talks about 3 key concepts on this topic. The first one is gamifying. Upon reflection I have found gamifying key concepts I want students to learn gets their attention and requires their minds to start active processing.  I have tried using Kahoot in the classroom and turning math concepts into card games. I have found it engages the children to have fun while they are learning.

Across the junior school we have discovery time and students are free to explore hands on activities across the junior classrooms. This is part of keeping it social learning as Hammond explains is important for cultural responsiveness. During discovery time students are learning through experimenting and working alongside one another.

Hammond talks about ‘storifying’ learning. It’s common knowledge in New Zealand that Maori and Pacific Islanders have strong oral cultures. They use the memory strategies to make learning sticky, like connecting what needs to be remembered to a rhythm or music or by reciting in fun ways like a song.

I think what supports this is also including those thing I mentioned earlier as well. Including teaching children basic Te Reo, Maori customs and history. Teachers underwent Te Kotahitanga training in the Culturally responsive pedagogies in the classroom: indigenous student experiences across the curriculum report (Savage,C, Hindleb, R., Meyerc,L., Hyndsa,A., Penetitob, W. & Sleeterd, C. 2011) and their students positively described the impact in their classroom, evidenced by the use of Maori language, curriculum content and Maori knowledge, and improved teaching and learning relationships. They appreciated teachers learning Maori vocabulary and phrases in the classroom as positive evidence of embracing things Maori. 

The School’s Journey

This year a Maori Parent Engagement Group has formed with two lead teachers from the school.  The goal is to show a commitment to consult and engage our Maori whanau in school decisions that impact the quality of education provided.

We have discussed how getting in touch with the local kaumatua and the local marae would greatly improve our connection with the local Maori community. Finding the contacts for these has been more difficult than anticipated.

We also discussed setting up a Maori Council group run by the students. This would span across the years from 1-6 with the older one mentoring the younger. We talked about how the students could decide on how we could start becoming more grounded in Maori Perspectives on certain areas of the school such as the programme we run, the places around the school and the practices we have. These ideas were born from the Enviroschool’s kura.

We aim to create a space and time to plan together with an open door policy. It is understood that to create and maintain effective parent engagement is a process that requires both the will and skill to form relationships with parents and community that are long lasting focused on academic success and mutual respect.

Reference

Hammond, Z. Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain.

Savage,C, Hindleb, R., Meyerc,L., Hyndsa,A., Penetitob, W. & Sleeterd, C.(2011) Culturally responsive pedagogies in the classroom: indigenous student experiences across the curriculum .Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 39(3), 183–198:

STEAM learning and Digital Badges Musings

The amount of technology that I have had available for my students to use in the classroom has changed a lot in the short five years that I have been teaching. When I first started teaching there was a computer lab that we predominately used as a word processing lab and we had overhead projectors in the classrooms. The school had two projectors that we had to book in advance to use. This year I am in a classroom with an Ipad, 6 laptops and an interactive whiteboard.

The Mindlab has inspired me to look at integrating technology into my classroom programme. As part of this week’s blog we are to look at trends and issues that are influencing New Zealand education (NMC Horizon Report > 2015 K-12 Edition”, 2016). 

 

ScreenHunter_26 Jun. 07 21.10

Discussion with my colleagues at the Mindlab brought up the following:

  • Short Term trends (Less than 1 year) – makerspaces and BYOD
  • Mid Term Trends (2-3 Years) – 3D printers, adaptive learning technologies (learning suits every learner’s needs on a digital platform)
  • Long Term Trends (4-5 Years) – Digital badges (gamification), wearable technologies
  • “The experts agreed on two long-term trends: rethinking how schools work in order to bolster student engagement and drive more innovation, as well as shifting to deeper learning approaches, such as project and challenge-based learning.”

As overwhelming as it seems for me I agree with Will Richardson (“Adaptive Learning Technology: Why Teachers Must Adapt”, 2016) who says teachers need to update their own knowledge of modern learning technologies.

STEAM, PBL and Makerspaces

STEAM education has become a focus where I currently work. I hadn’t heard of it before and thought initially it was another name for inquiry learning. In the afternoons I have begun posing problems for the students to solve collaboratively. An example of this is during Book Week we read Jack and The Beanstalk. Without a space reserved as a ‘makerspace’ instead I used the classroom to have the students solve the problem I posed. They had to design a parachute that would float down from a determined height at the slowest rate. There was a range of materials provided and we watched how to make simple parachutes prior on YouTube. After the children made their initial prototypes we had a test run. Students then reflected on their designs and some had a go at redesigning theirs before the final run.

I’m not overly sure if this is STEAM learning but its a start.

Another example of myself attempting STEAM education is when we made Balloon Cars this term. We watched this video first https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzY9RH_JnL0. The children had the aim which was to work out how to make a balloon car that would travel the furtherest compared to their peers. We found the car with the longest straw inside the balloon went further than one with a shorter straw. The students also experimented with blowing their balloons up the most to see if that would send their car over the finish line first.

Here is a student putting the finishing touches on his balloon car.

These students are experiementing with different materials for the balloon car.

Another example is when the students had to work together to create the tallest beanstalk with only the 4 pieces of newspaper, 20 cm of tape and 10 cm of string.

Gamification and Digital Badges

I am currently studying at Mindlab and I am working on the #edchat MOOC. These two courses are online (aside from the first two Mindlab papers of 4) and both allow me to complete the work at my own pace. The students in my class use Seesaw to upload their learning with a reflective statement and comment on others class members posts. Here is a good explanation of what Seesaw is about here http://www.edutechchick.com/seesaw-makes-digital-learning-journals-a-snap/

In my classroom it is expected that each child uploads at least one post to their learning journal each week. I think with the introduction of digital badges integrated with Seesaw would be beneficial for my students. I think it would encourage them to improve their posts and view examples of those who have achieved a badge for their efforts. For example, each completed post could earn the student a number of points that go towards each badge. These badges could recognise their accomplishments. Different badges could represent different achieved competencies.

References

Adaptive Learning Technology: Why Teachers Must Adapt. (2016). Online.stu.edu. Retrieved 26 June 2016, from http://online.stu.edu/will-richardson-why-learning-must-adapt/

NMC Horizon Report > 2015 K-12 Edition. (2016). The New Media Consortium. Retrieved 26 June 2016, from http://www.nmc.org/publication/nmc-horizon-report-2015-k-12-edition/

 

 

 

My Professional Community and School Culture

The school I currently work within provides a positive learning environment for its community. This is big part of what I enjoy about working at this school. Since the beginning of this year I have learnt how this school achieves this. The school has a behaviour management system that is ‘WARM Hearted’.  As a ‘WARM Hearted’ school what is valued is Working hard, Acting safely, Respect and Making good choices. The school supports The Positive Behaviour For Learning system that offers a school wide framework that provides a culture of positive support.

As discussed by Academy for SELinSchools ( 2015, Apr 28) the personality or climate of the school is apparent as soon as you walk in. It’s the feeling you get from the place. The culture of the school is what runs deeper and are the values and how we treat each other. This culture sets the tone for what happens at the school and the community.

This WARM Hearted system sets up a deliberate positive culture that supports adults and children to feel safe. Without a positive climate if its left to default then the students minds can revert to a focus on survival. As an educator in a low decile school I believe we are achieving excellent results with the children. It has long been recognised that a positive climate is of critical importance to provide a healthy, safe, and supportive classroom and school environment.

As discussed in the Academy for SELinSchools  ( 2015, Apr 28) clip the school climate is also created by those who are in it more permanently.  As the oldest school in the area we have a lot of families who have had several generations pass through the school. For example, the person who cleans the classrooms after school is in her mid fifties and she use to attend the school as a child, her children have been through the school and most likely her grandchildren will also attend the school. Also adding to the physical environment is the grounds keeper who has lived on the school grounds for over 20 years and keeps the environment immaculate. These components add to the climate of the school making it feel valued by those who work at it.

The Board of Trustees (BOT) reflect the diversity of cultures represented on the school roll. The BOT are very visible and approachable at the school. They are there everyday and are helping out in classrooms or available to talk with the teachers in the staff room. I believe this reinforces the culture of support from the local community.

In the classroom formative assessment underpins our teaching practices and is the vehicle for teaching practices for effective learning at this school. The teachers encourage inquiry learning and the students have active involvement in their own learning and co create learning goals. The students are encouraged to recognise their interests and unique strengths to guide learning in the classroom.

Ken Robinson discusses how children are diverse and for them to learn their curiosity needs to be ignited. To return to my previous point I think children also need to feel like they in a supportive and safe environment. The culture and climate with in a school and classroom are fundamental to teaching and learning. I especially agree with his view that the teachers role is to facilitate learning. He says we can be actively involved in a task but not be achieving the end result. I think what helps you achieve the result is by setting the right tone for learning in your community of learners. He comically compares teaching to the task of dieting whereby someone can be involved in dieting or teaching but not achieve the results needed.

References

Academy for SELinSchools ( 2015, Apr 28)What is school culture and climate? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-_NvhlcusQ

Who I Am Professionally and My Community of Practice

Previous to teaching children, I was teaching adults how to relax and move their bodies into pretzel positions as a yoga teacher. I would spend days doing activities such as spending time (sometimes weeks ) at silent meditation retreats, attend Krishna Das kirtans, feast with Hare Krishnas and read books on yoga philosophy. My community of practice was in the company of those who were like minded people this is known as the practice of satsang. Satsang is an opportunity to examine the philosophical side of Yoga – including the psychological and esoteric aspects such as mantra, chakras, siddhis and higher levels of awareness.

Now five years have flown by and I’ve been teaching in primary school classrooms across Auckland. I have found that having been a reflective yoga teacher aids in my reflection when teaching children. The same questions arise during my practice and after. Questions such as, ‘is the way I’m teaching effective and having an impact on my students?’

Wegner (2000) talks of social learning systems. The success of an organisation depends on its ability to set it self up an effective learning systems. The structure of one of these social learning systems is according to Wegner (2000) the community of practice.  As a beginning I was part of my school’s community of practice and also the Auckland City Council’s Enviro School cluster. I became the specialist Enviro teacher at my school at that gave me my identity within the collective group at school. I attended all the Enviro School workshops and became one of their ‘workshop junkies”. I used this knowledge to create inquiry projects with the IPENZ Engineers and Futureintech groups. These groups supported me with how to create award winning problem based projects with year 7 and 8 students.

I then moved to a leading Enviro School in Auckland to take over the role as lead teacher for Enviro Schools Education. There were other passionate enviro teachers and management at the school who were a great support that year. That year we worked together, to continue the momentum of the school, towards an official end of year school wide reflection. This was to recognise the schools’ status as a beyond green gold school in the Enviroschool cluster.

Presently, I am enjoying a small primary school out in West Auckland and have taken up a new year level. I am enjoying not taking on any extra responsibilities whilst I get use to the new level. I participate in the school culture with a small gardening group. I have started the momentum of integrating technology within the school curriculum. I have done this with the introduction of the App Seesaw. Currently, two other junior classroom teachers have taken up using this App.

Now, having started Mindlab, my community of practice has increased ten fold and become virtual. I am active on the Facebook Primary School Teachers Page, Twitter (although more of a lurker), the Virtual Learning Network and have taken up the EdChat Mooc that is currently running.

Moving forward I am feeling confident to integrate more technology into my classroom lessons. Where I currently work I have suggested we move from paper based planning to sharing on Google Docs. This is still a work in progress.

At first I was reluctant with taking on Mindlab. I thought my strength is environmental education and I don’t care about teaching with technology. We had a classroom blog that was enough right? Well now with my professional community changing from an environmental education focus to technology it is now not the case of adopting one over the other. Initially I thought that’s what would happen. I am currently enjoying the morphing of environmental sustainability and technology and seeing what develops from here.

Many years ago planting trees down at the stream with Len Brown.

Source: http://www.times.co.nz/news/cleaning-up-the-waterways.html

 

puhinui stream

Investigating the macro invertebrates in the Puhinui Stream.

References

http://www.open.ac.uk/opencetl/sites/www.open.ac.uk.opencetl/files/files/ecms/web-content/Finlay-(2008)-Reflecting-on-reflective-practice-PBPL-paper-52.pdf

Wenger, E.(2000).Communities of practice and social learning systems.Organization,7(2), 225-246