Monday, 2 July 2018

Inquiry 2018

I am now six months into my inquiry about accelerating the literacy progress for students between years 7 and 10. I have been making the connection between reading and writing explicit to my students - check out my findings so far!

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

High Expectations Teaching - Christine Ruby-Davies

Nobody rises to low expectation - Calvin Lloyd

Are high expectations important? 

Educators who hold high expectations of their learners support their self-efficacy and belief. Whilst pushing their students to engage with challenging material, they are not only supporting higher achievement outcomes, but they are also demonstrating their belief in their learners, which in turn supports the students belief in themselves.

Monday, 21 May 2018

MIT Day 2

We, the Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers, met once again at KPMG today to discuss our inquiries and collaborate to extend our thinking. 
My inquiry is focussed on addressing the issue of decelerated achievement in literacy for students in year 7 and 8 who attend Manaiakalani Schools.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Plan for what's in front of you; James Hopkins

Are we using the opportunity to teach rich conceptual understandings or are we simply teaching factual information? James Hopkins challenges educators to teach the 'why' and cater it to the 'who', as opposed to focussing simply on the 'what', or teaching a series of facts.

For example, many educators 'cover' the Treaty of Waitangi, by encouraging students to learn the main facts of the event, as opposed to looking at it through a conceptual lense and posing deeper questions, such as how it is relevant in 2018, who benefited etc.

But we are still concerned with curriculum coverage, of covering content. When we plan we focus on our curriculum achievement objectives, but rarely do we visit the key competencies or values when we flick through the curriculum document. James asked us to highlight a piece of our planning indicating where we were teaching content, behaviour and skills. As a group, we noted the large amount of 'content' in our planning, as opposed to behaviour or skills. I found that my weekly planning incorporated far more 'skill' and 'behaviour' than our overviews, which I expected. This illustrates that we start with the curriculum and content, the 'what'.

James compared this to our 'Learn, Create, Share' cycle, as we understand that we can start at any stage of this, sometimes we create to learn, or start by sharing our prior knowledge. When we plan are we considering our school values or the key competencies? Do we plan to start at create or share? Do we plan for our learners, their experiences, their culture, their worlds? Are we deliberate enough when we make these plans? 

Overall, it was a very thought provoking and inspiring session that I will carry with me as I complete my planning next term.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Keynote 2: Once Upon Our Time

 Lindsay Wesner's keynote was about storytelling. She began with her own story, one not to disimilar to my own; a little girl who grew up with very little access to technology and who was greatly challenged when she was asked to use it a school. However, Lindsay began her teaching career at the blackboard using worksheets and exercise books. At the time this was the norm, she was respected by her colleagues and her students experienced success. Then she found herself lost in a 1:1 Macbook class.

This could have very easily been me; I learnt basic IT skills at high school, but I would have struggled in a 1:1 classroom had it not been for the professional development I gained from the Manaiakalani Digital Teaching Academy. It was great to hear Lindsay's story as it reminded me of how far I have come and how fortunate I am to be capable of presenting at such an event so early in my career. It also reminded me to slow down when presenting and to be considerate of those who are at the start of their journey with technology and education.

Lindsay described the discomfort she experienced as she adapted to the 1:1 classroom.  She tried one new thing each week to develop her understanding of technology and to make the change more manageable. Then she asked us to consider whether we are still taking risks and trying new things, or whether we have become complacent with where we are now; just as she was at her blackboard. This was a good reminder that we cannot stop learning and adapting our practice, we must continue our stories and question where we will reach our climax.

While time and the curriculum can be viewed as constraints, the real constraint is our mindsets. As educators we must find the time to be innovative, to challenge our current practice and to be committed to constantly adapting our practice. We cannot become complacent.

She then asked how often we ask our students to tell their stories. This again caused me to reflect on my practice, as I am a firm believer in sharing my stories with the children and I have attempted to solicit my students. However, I don't believe I am doing nearly enough of this, or in enough depth. Hearing some of the things that Lindsay has done with her students in the past inspired me to push further with this and to give more of a platform to my students to share their stories.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Session 1: Digital Tools for Student Voice

As someone who regularly sends out Google Forms to elicit student voice (generally regarding student engagement and learning), I was eager to attend Jan Marie Kellow's session 'Digital Tools for Student Voice'.

This session started by looking at the use of some of my favourite tools; Google Forms (which I use heavily), Answer Garden (which I tend to use to gather prior knowledge) or Padlet (which I use as a sharing tool).


We then looked at the use of Google Slides - which could be used similarly to Padlet, but with each child creating their own slide to respond to the prompt or question. While I do use Collaborative Google Slides, I had not thought of doing this before. At the same time, I use Google Draw pretty often, but I had not thought of using a collaborative draw in a similar manner to AnswerGarden. I quite like this idea as the students could easily save it to their drives and reflect on it in the future.

Some other ideas that I enjoyed were using My Maps as part of an introduction - identifying important places to the child and linking MyMaps to a Google Form. We also looked at Flipgrid - it is similar to Padlet in it's layout but it requires the student to record a short video response instead of text. Another free to use version of this is called 'Recap', which I am quite interested in investigating further.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Unconference: Hangarau Matihiko

This afternoon I elected to investigate Hangarau Matihiko or the Digital Curriculum. I went in feeling quite comfortable designing and developing digital outcomes, but feeling like I need some support to incorporate computational thinking into my teaching. I was also curious to see how this might look in Māori medium schools and what the reo behind this might be.

I was really excited to learn some kupu hou that involved technology - things like Netflix (Haoata), Google (Kūkara) and Meme (atakata). I thought that these would be wonderful to incorporate in my classroom as we so often use these kupu. It was really interesting to learn how these new words are created and approved.

We looked at some Māori contexts that could be used to teach computational thinking or te whakaaro rorohiko, such as placing mattresses in the Marae, setting a table, making Kai, flax weaving. The more relevant we can make that computational thinking, the more engaging it can be. It is all about identifying patterns and using algorithms. For more support, we looked at getting a Digital Passport, a site which takes you through the new digital curriculum.

We ended the session with an awesome vocab game called papaki, which was a bit like snap but with te reo. It was pretty fun and I can imagine my children would really enjoy it.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Ignite: My Takeaways

The first presenter,  Dorothy Burt lead a thought provoking session regarding educational policy. She asked us to reflect upon New Zealand's history in Education. She took us back 60 years to look at the hands on approach that educators such as Elwyn Richardson used. This was a time of creativity, where students loved learning and were provided with rich learning experiences.

She linked the lack of creativity and tactile experiences in today's curriculum to the recent announcement by the Ministry that they would once again review educational policy. She asked teachers to find time to create learning experiences that require creativity during the holidays.

Anthony Speranza sought to give us hope that it is possible to change our teaching. He spoke of asking his students what they thought a good learner was. This idea had been presented to me at PD before and it had previously challenged my thinking. This year I made sure to begin by explicitly discussing the difference between learning and behaviour and I continued the conversation throughout the term. Anthony noted that teachers need to model the behaviours that we hope to see in our learners. We need to take risks and model a growth mindset if that is what we expect our learners to hold. I will continue to enact these behaviours in the classroom and I will keep the dialogue open.

Dot Apelu then took us through her inquiry regarding writing and blogging. It was pretty cool to get more of an insight into the college and the way that they are continuing to use blogger. She created some wonderful authentic experiences for her learners to engage them and she saw great acceleration because of this. I also realised what a fabulous person she would be to connect with in the future and I will definitely be following her blog.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Leading Learning Through Google Sites

This morning Clarelle and I lead a workshop discussing the way we use Google Sites to lead learning. There is a lot we will adapt for our next presentation but it was a great opportunity to share our learning and to realise how far we have come in our learning journeys so far!


GAFE Summit Keynote

Kicking off today's GAFE or EdTech conference at Aorere College was keynote speaker Patrick Green. This keynote was entitled "the relevant teacher" and it focussed on the changing nature of the education system.

Patrick took us through some examples of innovative 21st century schools and the way that they have adapted their practice. For example, Sequoyah school in California hold students back twice throughout their schooling to ensure that each child experiences failure and leadership. 

He looked at the changing role of teaching and discussed the acts of a relevant teacher. This is a person who questions their content and pedagogy, considering whether what they are teaching will be relevant and helpful to their students. Is it worthwhile teaching students information that they can access through Google at any time? Relevant teachers are aware that students can gather information at any time online and expects students to answer their own questions, to take ownership of their learning. They support students to be independent knowledge seekers, with liberal use of the shoulder shrug (see below).

He then discussed the use of 20 percent time, or genius hour. This is where time is allocated for the students to lead a personal inquiry project of a topic of their choice. It allows for great student agency, time management skills, collaboration and independent thinking.  This was something I ran last year in my single cell class at Glenbrae. I had two students learning their native language and one learning Korean, one learning about Ancient Rome, one comparing Asia and Australasia and one looking at careers. It was a wonderful Friday activity and the students greatly enjoyed it and learnt a lot from it. This year, my timetable does not allow for this with my changing classes, but I am open to setting broad parameters and utilising student agency with my literacy class in a similar way.

Next Patrick discussed the gamification of learning; as our students have access to games that provide instant feedback, our school system can seem underwhelming in comparison. He discussed the use of Minecraft EDU, the Institute of Play and that various organisations are attempting to gamify learning. However, relevant teachers take the principles of gameplay and apply them to learning. 

He ended with his top tip for being a relevant teacher: Be a learner.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Manaiakalani Case Study Teachers

One of the benefits of working in a COL like Manaiakalani is that there is a constant supply of research regarding what is working and why. This afternoon I attended a session facilitated by some of the Woolf Fisher researchers regarding the practice of educators whose students made accelerated progress last year.

The research was split into three categories - how teachers were generating and using tasks, texts and time. Some of the main traits of these teachers were:

- They created tasks that required the students to think critically and deeply. For example, they were asked to compare and contrast information as opposed to simply retelling it.

- They used the 'wide and deep' strategy. That is, they engaged with more than one text regarding a topic and then using this information to analyse the concept in depth.These included multi-modal text.

- They offered multiple opportunities for collaboration. This could be at both the 'Learn' and 'Create' stage of the lessons and this could include students collaborating across classes and schools.

- The teachers ensured that they differentiated their students learning and made times to conference with them.

Some of the issues that the researchers identified were:

-Some teachers provided far too much scaffolding for their students. While they noted that this was beneficial to begin with, teachers need to be able to take this scaffolds away later in the year and enable the students to work independently of the teachers.

- Another issue regarding this was that a lot of the teachers were creating content for their students. That is, the teacher was doing a lot of the work and then presenting low level comprehension questions to their students.

- It was also suggested that the teachers could make the connection between reading and writing explicit for their learners; the students writing should be based upon their reading lessons. I found this quite interesting as this is my inquiry focus for the year.

- Another aspect of the presentation that stuck with me was revising wide and deep reading. So often I use a scaffolding text or a challenging text, but am I using a range of text types as illustrated below.

My goals from this session will now be to use wide and deep more effectively (while combining reading and writing), using a digital modelling book so the students can give instant feedback to one another and to use the blog more creatively. I could post a prompt (be it an image, text etc.) on my blog and ask my students to respond to the post.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Design Thinking at KPMG

Today has been both fustrating and rewarding, as I have spent the day grappling with big issues with the Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers. The purpose of the day has been 'design thinking' to think of a prototype that would address the problem that we have identified. We were fortunate enough to spend this time at KPMG with Justine Todd.

My original problem was looking at the connection between Intermediate and High School, as I was concerned that my students were not being adequately prepared to meet the literary demands of college. However, as I explored the problem in greater depth, I realised that this was just one of the affects of the true issue, outlined below.

I then gathered information about this issue by talking to a range of experts in the field and collecting more data. I realised that my students struggle to use academic language and to comprehend the language of learning. This means that they use a lot of colloquial terms in their writing and that it is not very coherent. They are not writing with their audience in mind. Similarly in reading the students struggle to identify the authors purpose for writing and they have not made the connection between reading and writing.

Since identifying these issues I have made the link between reading and writing explicit. My students begin the week by analysing a specific technique in a text, before being asked to apply it to their writing. They critique the text from the perspective of both a reader and writer, looking at the authors purpose and the choices that they made to make the text more effective. While emphasis is placed on a specific technique, I welcome the students to identify aspects of the text that they found effective and I encourage them to note the vocabulary in particular.  We then look at this technique in our subsequent reading and writing lessons. While the students are currently responding to the text through writing, I am beginning to ask them to respond through video (via screencastify) so they can articulate their ideas orally and more efficiently.

While my inquiry so far has lead to a change in my practice, my next step is to develop a tool that will address my problem. My initial idea is to create a website that acts as a resource bank for text analysis, containing student generated and established texts that exemplify certain aspects of writing. It could also include examples of the students responses and the writing that was created due to the approach.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

MIT Retreat: possible approaches?

Later in the MIT retreat we looked at the people involved in the issue and those that could support us to facilitate the approach. I created this diagram to represent those that are involved in my issue to support me to explore it in greater depth.

It was during the creation of this diagram that I realised how helpful it would be for me to discuss the issue with other educators - those teaching at year six, at intermediate, at the college and with Manaiakalani facilitators and senior management.

After unpacking the problem we were tasked with imagining different approaches that might address the issue. We had to create eight ideas to ensure that we were thinking broadly and widely (we could be as imaginative as we liked).

The hearts indicate which approaches the educators favoured

From creating these possible approaches it became obvious that a link between college and intermediate might not help my year sevens, although it might make life a little simpler for the year eights as they transition, it does not directly address the issue. Instead, looking at ways to build the students engagement or to integrate the subjects may be more useful. Lenva shearing noted how isolated some of the subjects can be and how much more useful it could be to integrate the topics - to make them seem more purposeful. It would be simple enough to integrate reading and writing and I see it as a potential next step for my inquiry.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

MIT Retreat: The Problem

On Friday the Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers were fortunate enough to travel to the Coromandel for a retreat.

There we discussed the problems that we had identified in our teaching and the hunches that we held.

Thursday, 1 February 2018


This year I have moved 1.5km up the road to teach a year 7 and 8 class at Point England School. I was really excited to have the chance to teach year eights again and to gain the opportunity to teach in a hub with four other teachers.

I feel absolutely honoured to be able to work with these strong kaiako, as despite finding the move pretty challenging, I have felt really supported by my team. It is taking me a little while to adjust to the routines and differences between the schools, but I am enjoying the journey and I can already feel myself learning a lot because of this.

This year I would like to develop strategies that I can carry with me from class to class, as I realised that a lot of my management techniques relied on my strong relationships with my students. This year I will have three different classes and I will be interacting with over a hundred and fourty students on a regular basis, so this will be an important skill to develop. I would also like to continue to develop my classroom management strategies as I adjust to the different policies and strategies that are put in place at PES. Moving away from PB4L for example has been a bit of a change, but I am developing my own strategies instead.

I am also adjusting to changes in teaching policies. For example, the students rotate between the teachers for different lessons, so I see a different maths, literacy and homeroom class each day. Within that the school also supports different teaching approaches to what I have used and had professional development in before. For example, we are currently having training in DMIC or Bobbie Maths; a problem solving approach to teaching mathematics. While this is similar to what I have done before, there are several differences between this approach and the one I had PD in at Glenbrae.

I can see that this will be a great year of growth for me and I look forward to reflecting on my learning throughout the year.