Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Learning at Hornby Presentation (PD)

The following is a presentation that I used for all the staff at Hornby Primary (Teacher Aides included), as an introduction to the new learning model that we are beginning to implement.

I discovered the 'Movenote App', which I intend to use in my classroom, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to practise using it, to understand its functions.

I have attached both the Movenote presentation and the slideshow presentation.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Have you heard about the word?

One thing I have learnt as an educator, is that educators love buzzwords like agency, ubiquity, inclusive, thinking tools, innovative learning, elearning, open plan, self directed learners, inquiry based learning, 21st century learners, MLE’s, digital technology, collaborative teaching, the list could go on and on.  

But which one of these words has had the most impact on teaching and learning, or is having the the biggest impact on what you do at your school and in your class in terms of strategic planning or even the day to day practice of your classroom delivery?

Don’t get me wrong, the words that I have mentioned and of course the hundreds of other buzzwords that I haven’t are important (some more than others), and some of these words have shaped and influenced me as a leader and as a classroom teacher.  But for me, there is a much more influential word.  In fact it sits above all of these words and should actually be used when looking at anything that influences change, curriculum delivery, strategic decisions, long term planning and the day to day running of your classroom.

The word is ‘WHY’ (and no it’s not bird, I do like Peter Griffin, but he has little impact on my teaching and learning philosophies!).

The Power of Why!

The word ‘why’ has been part of my vocabulary since I was a toddler, but its true potential has really only been brought to my attention and used effectively in my profession over the past 2 years.

I was listening to a presentation about strategic planning  in developing an effective ICT plan and it was stressed about the importance to answer ‘why’ before you get to the ‘what’ or the ‘how’.  
A few months later I found myself talking to a Principal about collaborative teaching and MLE’s, and he stressed the importance of going back to ‘why’.
When planning our new learning space at the beginning of our team teacher journey, we used ‘why’ during all of the design process.

Then we began the the process of planning our moderate redevelopment of our school (Rebuild) and guess what, all ideas, concepts and discussions around what we wanted learning to look like, came back to ‘why’.

But wait there's more,  there is even a Ted Talk about ‘why’.

This 3 letter word definitely punches well above its weight. So why is it so important and influential?

As leaders, an important part of our job is leading change and also to ensure that the school vision is the driving force of the actions we take and the decisions we make.

Leading change can be difficult, but I have found that by answering ‘why’ first, it gives a clear message to all stakeholders, of where we are going and why we are doing it.  ‘Why’ is now second nature to me in all that I do professionally and has had a significant impact on what learning looks like in my classroom and how I deliver the curriculum.  

When I ask myself ‘why?’  and the answer comes back to raising student achievement or motivating and engaging learners to raise student achievement, then I know I can justify my decision.

Here are some examples of ‘why’ working in our school.

“Why do we do the Peters Spelling Test?”
“Because it’s been on our assessment schedule for years, we always do it in term 1 and 4”.

“How do you use the data that’s collected?”
“I don’t really use it for any of my planning or my spelling programme, because we use the Essential Spelling Words Programme”.

“So tell me again, why do we do the Peters Spelling Test?”
The Peters Spelling Test is no longer on our assessment schedule.

“Why do we need to use e-asTTle for our writing assessment?”
“We are underachieving in writing, and e-asTTle provides us with the data to show us gaps in individual children’s learning, it also breaks down weaknesses and strengths in sub groups.  This information provides us with a clear pathway for the children’s next learning step. Essentially it makes me question my delivery of writing and it will help raise student achievement in writing.”

Last week I was at a cluster meeting about the ‘Me and My School’ survey that our cluster had undertaken.  Cathie Johnson  was there to unpack the data and to begin the discussion about what we do with this information.  She then talked about leading change and asking yourself why? Not once but 5 times. If by the fifth time the reason for change still sits well, then you have a good reason to make change.  

Maybe its time to do some reading and stop thinking of ‘why?’ to the power of one, and start thinking of ‘why?’ to the power of five.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Universal Design for Learning.

UDL (Universal design for learning) What is it and how can we use this in our classroom?
Learn, Create, Share.  What is it and how can we use this in our classroom?

Can these be married together?
Do they need to be married, or can they sit nicely beside each other?

Before we look at these in more depth, we need to answer the WHY?

To raise student achievement.  Motivate and engage all learners in our classrooms especially students who are disengaged in education, have learning disabilities and have high learning needs.  
If we get it right for these children, we get it right for all children.

As educators we need to ask ourselves this one question.  How can we remove barriers and provide support that will enable all children to learn?

UDL is made up of three principals as shown on the diagram below.

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 9.20.31 AM.png

When looking at the curriculum (learning) UDL has 4 main components, each that needs to be universal.

  1. What are the goals (of the learning)?  How do we translate standards (learning intentions) into things that are important to do in the classroom.
  2. What are the materials? (books, websites, videos, posters, pictures wall displays)  Are they key to learning, if so are they universal?
  3. Methods.  How does the teacher deliver the curriculum? Lecture, collaborative groups, experiences, practical activities.
  4. Means of assessment.  How are we sure learning has occurred?

So what might this look like in your classroom?

Principal 1 - Engagement
Why do you need to learn your basic facts?
It’s important because we use maths everyday.  Shopping, measuring, driving a car, cooking.  Many jobs require you to use maths, e.g. trades, truck driver, accountants, retail, teaching and even doctors.

Principal 2 - Representation
Giving children opportunities to learn in different ways.
Instructional lessons, videos (teacher tools), using materials, digital tools, flashcards, singing table songs, rote learning.

Principal 3 - Action and Expression
What the children do to show their understanding, using equipment (counters, rods, abacus etc), number lines, tests, Explain Everything on Ipad or making a video explaining the strategy that they used.

So where does Learn, Create, Share fit?

I see that it plays an important part of the Representation stage and an even more significant role in the Action and Expression stage.

What does this mean for the learning in my class?

Creating learning activities with less barrier (no barriers in a perfect world).  Allowing agency for children to express their understanding.  It’s ok if someone wants to use Puppet Pals, while others use slide show and someone else draws a picture.

This is not rocket science, this is quality teaching and learning for all those in our classrooms.

I want to acknowledge Mark Maddren from Core Ed, for his presentation on UDL.

Friday, 7 August 2015

I'm stepping off the cliff.

As a teacher over the past 12 year I have often encouraged, expected and celebrated when children have taken risks in their learning, jumped out of their comfort zone and had go! Whether this be with new learning, or a challenging task.  One of the many privileges of being a teacher is experiencing those light bulb moments when that child, who takes a risk  and 'steps off the cliff' actually fly's.

As an adult, how often do you do this?  Are you a risk taker?  Do you strive for new learning opportunities, or do you prefer the status quo?

I am very lucky that I work in a school where a culture has been created where teachers are encouraged to 'have a go', or 'try something different'.   If we can come up with the 'Why' (which almost always comes back to raising student achievement, motivation and engagement of our learners), then we are given the green light to 'step off the cliff.'

Two years ago I decided that it was time to 'step of the cliff'.  It was during my time on NAPP (National Aspiring Principals Programme) a lot of the KŌrero was around collaborative teaching, modern learning environments and digital devices.  The more I heard about this, the more I liked.  It was my very own lightbulb moment.

After discussing this at management level I was given the go ahead to approach a colleague of mine, and discuss with her what her thoughts were and if she would be keen to try collaborative teaching, beginning term 1 of 2014.  Luckily for me she shared similar philosophies about education, and was really keen to try something completely different.

So in September 2013 our collaborative teaching journey began.  Fast forward 2 years  and I find myself reflecting on what we have learnt, the failures and the successes (yes the ugly bits are important too).  The reality is that I have learnt more about myself as an educator, leader and learner in the past two years than ever before.  And it's exciting!!

Along with the collaborative teaching journey our school has also been accepted onto the Manaiakalini outreach programme (which is a game changer in my opinion).  This programme is built around the Learn, Create, Share learning model, and uses 1:1 devices (Chrome Books) to engage and enhance learning programmes and of course blogging.  

This year we introduced a class blog to share and celebrate children's learning and also for parents to experience the day to day happenings of our classroom.  The response has  been incredible from children and parents.  Blogging happens daily and captures those moments that need to be seen, heard and celebrated. 

So here I am, writing my first personnel blog post. Why? I see this as a natural progression for myself professionally.  It just makes sense, and ticks a lot of boxes.  I will use this blog to reflect on what I have learnt and capture those light bulb moments.  I also find that this form of reflection brings clarity to what I am doing and where I am going, and also encourages others to put their perspective on the topics discussed.  I welcome all comments queries and questions.  

So in a nutshell this blog is me taking another step off the cliff, as I expect and encourage the children in my class to do.  

Please check Kate's blog (whom I team teach with) and our class blog