Sunday, 11 December 2016

'You can Code your own way'

'You can Code your own way' - what Fleetwood Mac may have written if they started out today (try unhearing the word 'code' now when you hear that track...). How we let staff have a go at coding/robotics, do it their own way, and the success of that.

Our final e-learning PLD session this year we used as a taster, to setup thinking for next year. Some of us have been exploring the use of coding in our Options program, and I have recently started using Edison Bots within maths. While we have talked about these things at staff meetings, we have had little uptake...so this session was designed to let people explore.

As a lead-in we set some 'pre-readings' to get people thinking. We included some Maker Movement stuff from Core Ed, to set the scene in terms of children 'creating', 'building', and 'playing' as a part of their learning. Also, dropped in an Hour of Code promo clip...



Those videos were good, but what this Herald article was a definite winner...1) because it showed NZ kids and teachers using coding and robotics as a part of learning, and 2) because it was 'old' if that was 2 years ago, then we needed to get cracking.

The session started with a massive win...we asked the staff to discuss what learning could come from these technologies, and we heard back from then about developing:
- creativity
- problem solving
- communication
- agency
- collaboration
All things that we have been unpacking and working on as a school, coding etc was seen as a vehicle to teach and develop those attributes.

For the 'playing' part of the session we took the learning approach of...describe the instructions for use with minimal detail, and give them the seed of an activity/idea to follow. We hoped that this would promote discussions between the people working together (trying to figure out how to use the tech), and would lead to creative application...as we didn't prescribe the end result.

In the leadup we were nervous about how staff were going to approach the session, but it was fantastic. people really got into it, and the discussions were great. The outcomes of some of the stations were far more creative than what we had suggested...reinforcing to me that having a prescribed outcome is ot always best.

The slides are embedded below, and include links to useful websites with further ideas.


We ended up showing this clip about iLuminate, the dance crew. I wanted to end by showing that coding really has nothing to do with computers, it is just another tool to develop creativity. The video is amazing, and the amount of probem-solving and collaboration that must go into her works, wow. The video served its purpose, and broke down the barrier for some people...they could see then that coding had application in the arts, in farming, in whatever field of choice...it is just another tool to arm children with.





Monday, 5 December 2016

It's not about the Coding, it's about the Thinking

At Mind Lab last week a Steve Jobs quote was shared "Everyone should learn to program a computer, because it it teaches you to think". A few people disagreed with the quote, pointing out that thinking and learning were much broader than 'coding'.

At this point Rochelle introduced the term 'computational thinking'. At first glance I took it to mean coding, and related it back to Jobs' quote...but after a short discussion it turns out that computational thinking IS what we want from our students, and the skills it brings with it are at the core of 21st C learning.

Computational thinking is a way of solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior that draws on concepts fundamental to computer science. To flourish in today's world, computational thinking has to be a fundamental part of the way people think and understand the world.

Being able to problem solve, communicate, translate ideas into action, innovate and create...these skillsets are important to develop, and are a core part of computational thinking. It is much, much more than just being able to code a machine.

Google has an online course for Computational Thinking, and it describes 4 elements:
- Decomposition: Breaking down data, processes, or problems into smaller, manageable parts
- Pattern Recognition: Observing patterns, trends, and regularities in data
- Abstraction: Identifying the general principles that generate these patterns
- Algorithm Design: Developing the step by step instructions for solving this and similar problems

Again at first glance they seem to be computer related, but I love the ideas they also post to break this misunderstanding...they are mainly secondary-based, but illustrate well the CT concept inside a traditional application of learning


I think having this in mind when planning some work...how can I take these 4 elements of computational thinking, and allow students to apply to their learning...would be a great start. It's not about the coding, it's about the thinking.


Monday, 28 November 2016

How leading a research team might be similar to / different from leading a teaching team

During last week's Mind Lab session we had a look at research into how to lead a research team effectively.

The key points were around:
- Setting aside time for leadership
- Promoting inclusiveness, do all members feel valued?
- Motivating staff by:
  • knowing members strengths
  • respecting their backgrounds
  • delegation
  • coaching of individuals
  • providing feedback and recognition
Obviously the parallels can be drawn with leading a team at school, or leading a group to effect change. 

This reminds me of some reading I had done a couple of years ago into effective workplace's. The Gallup Organisation identified 12 traits of productive workplaces, and most of them (like the ones above) revolve around treating your colleagues as people, and being very humanistic in your approach. The one that always struck me was everyone should 'have a friend' at work. 

These points are things that I need to continually remind myself of, and it has prompted me to re-surface the Gallup work for our Leaders team next year

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Augmented or Virtual reality in the Classroom

Our Week 3 Mind Lab session had a section looking at disruptive technologies. These technologies force or accelerate change, and lead to new innovations. Think Netflix, and what it has done to renting DVD's...

Some of these emerging technologies involve virtual, or augmented realities. Virtual worlds we can inhabit/create, or ways in which the physical and digital worlds can interact (Pokemon Go).

I've used Minecraft quite a bit now in learning...starting as a context to drive my writing program, through to children creating inside Minecraft (settings of stories, or just 'things' they want to make). The tool is a powerful one because it is open ended, it isn't a linear story to follow. The blocks, tools and the way these things can interact (via crafting table etc) means that the children are forced to build and create, rather than consume. The ability to communicate within the world, and interact with others adds more layers of awesomeness.

I haven't really tried VR aside from a little go at using it as a writing prompt. Using Google Expeditions this afternoon has re-shown me the potential for this as a tool...especially to help give children experiences that they might not have otherwise (even simple things like visiting a zoo).

Augmented reality, I've not had a go at. At first it seemed a bit gimmicky during the session, but super engaging. Towards the end when we made a trigger image and overlay in Aurasma, I could start to see some uses. I'm especially interested in how it could be used to bring concepts/content teaching to the children. Have some trigger images to do with surface features in writing (picture of speech marks), create the overlay, then then children can seek out learning using the app... up comes a video tutorial you can use to develop these skills before a writing session.

Monday, 14 November 2016

21st Century Learning Design

A quick video reflection as part of my Mind Lab studies...how well does a learning activity I have taught meet the criteria of the ITL 21st Century Learning Design rubric?


Thursday, 10 November 2016

WALT? WILF? WTF - The Difficulty with Learning Intentions

I've been internalising a very complicated situation in my head...how I use Learning Intentions with my students.



Learning Intention...I intend for you to learn something? Teacher in control
Success Criteria...to be successful you have to complete the learning in this set way? Teacher in control
We are Learning To...are we? Or am I telling you...
What I'm Looking For...Am I the only one who can judge success?

Don't get me wrong...students being clear about what it is they are doing, and clear about what it is meant to be like is super important. It's the way that these things are framed to the learners that I've been struggling with. Is using those acronyms, and breaking down the learning into tiny, tiny parcels of learning, really making things clearer for them?

A maths advisor we worked with once said the content of the purple Numeracy books is gold, but the way it was written was garbage. The Learning Intentions inside those texts...they are so narrow, so precise...how do you write success criteria for them? Are they really what we wanted children to learn, or were they a part of a bigger whole?

Absolum's Clarity in the Classroom (awesome text) promotes having Global Learning Intentions, big picture stuff that smaller learning intentions/criteria can come from. Our Assessment for Learning PLD taught us that having these clear in the minds of the students first, before bombarding them with the miniature ones, is key. Co-construction of criteria is another important part of helping learners get 'inside' their learning, letting them have agency enough to describe what good learning looks like. All fantastic stuff, but still I persisted with the WALT/WILF labels, and I feel these limited my thinking, and that of the kids.

We, like may schools, also have progressions...for reading, writing and maths. These form the basis of consistently assessing learners across the school, and help identify gaps and next steps in learning. Nothing wrong with that, except it has meant that learning in literacy has become as detailed/splintered and fragmented as that in Numeracy. Do we really want to work on the fine detail in isolation...is the learning really to "Use most grammatical conventions correctly eg. Correct form of simple, compound and complex sentences and use of pro-nouns and prepositions" Is that what quality writing really is? Do that by itself, learn that in isolation, and you are a better writer?

We identified an issue with our Boys and their writing this year (like many other no doubt). Across Terms 2 and 3 I worked with a boys-only group, mixed ability, but mainly those at-risk-of-not-meeting-the-damn-standard boys. It has been primo, and we managed (together) to create a culture within the group that writing is awesome, and that we are all authors. Writing chapter books for fun, and taking pleasure from using great language...but, all the while I was persisting with the 'normal' LI/SC/WALT/WILF way of framing learning.

Towards the end of Term 3 I'd gathered my thoughts enough to make a change...I wanted the lads to opt into workshops based on what they wanted to learn as a writer. To do this I couldn't have the LI's come from our writing progressions, I had to group bundles of them together and try it a different way. I now use titles for workshops (currently my co-teacher and I are running a Star Wars themed literacy class)...so titles like 'I've got a bad feeling about this', or 'Metaphors (may the force) be with you'. These serve to capture their attention. Going with that is 'We will'...what will we actually do...not what I intend for them to do. 'We will': "make sure that our readers knows what Han is feeling, trying not to just say ‘he is scared’". Then the 'How'...how will you actually do that: Decide on the feeling or emotion. Describe how you would feel, without using the word (what would you be doing, what would your body be doing, what would you say?). Lastly, we have an example: "Han looked ahead, the walls of the canyon were getting tighter and tighter. His hands on the throttle were white knuckled as he flipped his ship on its side. He closed his eyes tightly, and wished for the best. A second later he opened them... he couldn’t believe his luck! "Wahoo" he screamed into the headset"

It's not radically different, but now the children are clearer about what they are going to do, how they will do it, and what it will look like in the end. The little examples are great...they can look at them and decide if they need that skill, if they are able to write in that way or not. The learning isn't one little piece anymore, often several skills bundled together. I want the How (the SC) to be very actions based...what are they actually going to do and see...this makes self/peer feedback so much easier.

My co-teacher and I run a series of these workshops each day, in parallel, based on the same piece of writing. The next step I can see is for us to make it clear how each of these workshops (each of these examples of writing) adds up to being a quality writer.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Cultural Connections

Engaging with Parents...a task we have always found difficult, especially with our Māori community.

DPS Whanau Hui October 2016
We have tried a few things in the past from meetings in the staffroom, shoulder-tapping at the school picnic, surveys being sent home, and cornering parents as they are leaving their childs learning conference. None of these have been particularly successful...at either meeting the needs of the tickboxes, or gaining more parent helpers/allies for the school.

I have often felt that the school wants what some other local schools have, but we have tried to force it to happen...rather than allowing a relationship to develop and grow by itself. Perhaps our 'why' is muddled...why are we doing this? If we aren't clear, the mixed messages will be a pretty strong deterrent.

This year is the last of the schools 3 year Strategic Plan, so we were seeking voice from the community about what they wanted next for their learners. A part of that was having a hui to hear from the parents of our Māori community. After much talk, the team decided to make use of the marae across the road, and to follow Māori meeting protocol, and just allow everyone to speak their minds. Brett, our BoT chair, ended up running the hui...and did an amazing job. The voices were slow at first, many parents had come to just 'see' what this was going to be about, but soon a common message started to come through.

Respect and celebrate the culture, but give it some prominence. Many were unaware of what the school does to promote Tikanga and Te Reo (outside of kapahaka) but they felt that their children were the same, unsure as to what the school is doing. We can work on that, a great next step.

The group was also keen to carry on the dialogue...but not to make heavy, 'lets look at the data' type meetings...but to have fun, and upskill as a group. One parent has written some local stories in Te Reo that he is keen to share, and another is able to teach us some waiata and games. Amazing, we would never have gotten to this point by forcing the issue. It was very affirming as well, coming hard on the heels of another consultation evening that only 2 non-BoT/Staff parents attended.

Overall I think we have reached that point where interest can now start to gather momentum. BoT chair can push on, and use these keen whanau as experts, and the basis of starting a larger group. At some stage I'm sure the discussion will turn to the academic side of school life, but it will be coming from the parents, not from a tickbox the school needs ticked.