Wednesday, 21 June 2017

What is Success and Why?

2016 was a really big year for the Senior School at Hornby Primary School. Lots of new learning for teachers and students and more importantly, students and teachers getting out of their comfort zones.

So what is the 1:1 digital classrooms and the learning model of  Learn, Create share doing for our learners?   The answer, 'Bucket loads' and the best thing is that we have the data to show this!

The data from our E-asttle results shows us that we have accelerated learning and our Year 5 and 6 students are now achieving above the national norms.   Our Year 4's have also made significant gains.

But what was more pleasing and satisfying for me, was our 'Me and my School survey results that all of our year 4, 5 and 6 students completed.   The results were outstanding especially in our year 6 group.

Year 6 (n=38)
Scored higher on 27 of the 28 questions than NZ norms

The one question was 1% point lower than NZ norm

Significant responses - agree/strongly agree

  • I have a lot of respect for my teachers: 100%
  • My teachers help me learn: 100%
  • Doing well at school is very important to me: 98%
  • At school I always try to do my best: 98%
  • I feel like I am making progress at school: 95%
  • When I’m learning something that’s hard I keep on trying until I get it: 94%
  • I feel my culture is valued and respected at my school: 92%

So what's happening at our school that is causing children to accelerate their learning and also be extremely happy to attend school.    I took my time to reflect on this and have come to a couple of conclusions.  Our children are hooked.   The digital platform that we have created  caters for all students.  They are engaged but more importantly teachers are activating learning.

As teachers we are spending more time teacher and less time managing the class.  The learning is authentic and has a purpose.  The students see themselves as teachers and learners and the have a voice with a world wide audience.  This directly relates to Learn, Create, Share and the affordances of digital technologies.

So what does learning look like?  why are we making significant shift?

I created this presentation after discussions with the other teachers in the senior school team, which is essentially a reflection of our writing practice.

We had a really good reflection session at our last staff meeting run by Kate Mclachlan our literacy leader.  What got me really excited was that although we have had significant success, everyone of our staff was reflecting on what they could do to improve their practice.  We all had a clear idea of what our next steps were.

That in my books is a recipe for success.  Not being happy with status quo,  but striving to better ones practice collectively.  A great example of teacher as inquiry.

Creating Learners

It has been a hectic start to 2017 in our learning environment.  We have about 30 new students joining us, most of whom were in a 1:1 digital classroom last year and some who have arrived from a different school who have no experience of what it like to be in a digital classroom.

I was excited about this challenge and understood that there would be a lot of challenges along the way.  After the first two weeks, we (Kate, team teacher/ work wife) had one particular challenge in front of us in the from of a student.  I will refer to this student as Student X, and I am sure that you will all be able to relate to this student and the impact that they can have on your classroom.

Student X came to us completely disengaged with education, they didn't see themselves as a learner and had extremely low self esteem.  They would often make comments such as "I'm stupid", "I can't do this", "I don't understand".   When given a task, they would do anything possible to not do the task.  Strategies included trying to get the teachers to do it, or the teacher aides, getting other children to do it and if none of those worked then distract others and cause chaos.  After causing chaos and having a melt down we would then hear, "I'm stupid",  "I can't do this", "I don't understand". 

It is fair to say that we spent a lot of time scratching our heads trying to come up with a solution.  We came to the conclusion that we needed to change what we were doing.  It is our job to activate learning for all children, and for this particular child we need to look outside the box.

 One afternoon I observed them sitting down by on task working on a piece of art work, I approached him and commented on his work.  A conversation began and a connection was made.  At last I was able to develop this student teacher relationship.  They told me that they loved gaming, Minecraft and spent a lot of there spare time doing this.

The following day we had Goal Setting interviews with the children and their parents.   I had an interesting conversation with the mother, she wasn't happy about the situation and  I was getting a lot of negative comments from her about what we were doing.  I  talked to her about his engagement and that it was our job to make sure that they were engaged.  I then moved my focus onto the child and talked to them about what they want to do when they grow up, and what is it they are passionate about.  They talked about gaming and wanting to be a game designer.  The mother was also contributing to this and the meeting finished on a positive note.

As I was walking them to to the door a light bulb went off in my head.  This student needs to create.

I went and discussed this with Kate.  This students biggest barrier is engagement, lets get them hooked by getting them to create.  Being in a MOP (Manaiakalani Outreach Programme) School under Learn, Create, Share we have the licence do this.  

The next day I had an idea that I shared with this student about creating their own game/animations using slides and drawings.  I created a template for the child and scaffolded this process.   For example, first they were to create the characters, which needed to include a hero and a villain.  They would then create the characters homes/castles including a floor plan.   Finally they would create the background settings.   Once all that was complete they would begin to create their animation.

We saw a positive result from the get go.   We had hooked the student!   For the first time in a long time they were engaged in the classroom environment and had the sense that they were successful.

Two days later, I bumped into his mother after school.  This time her body language was a lot different.  She was smiling.  She went onto tell me how her  child came home and was really keen to share what they had been doing.  The child even asked if they could do some at home.  This was a first for this child according to the mother.

Now this hasn't solved all of this child's issues.  They are still working well below in all areas and is still very reluctant to get out of their comfort zone.  There is a lot of work a head of us.   But the lightbulb moment for me was that we now have the learning platform that can truly cater for all of our learners, square pegs, round pegs and even hexagon shaped pegs.

Learn, Create, Share allows us as teachers, to connect to all of our learners.  This has given me more time to teach and less time dealing with behaviour issues.