Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Need for Change

Back in 2017, Hon Nikki Kaye, @nikkikaye said "Digital fluency is now an essential life skill for our young people, so we must ensure they have the skills and knowledge they need to engage in an increasingly digital world." Personally, as Assistant Principal, ICT Lead and teacher, I have been excited about the announcement of this whole 'digital shakeup' for our NZ school curriculum. This change was needed for our education system and has made me carefully considering my goals in my respective areas of responsibility. I wrote a blog post after attending one of the Digital Technologies / Hangarau Matihiko (DT&HM) Consultation workshops in 2017 in which I've added some valuable links.

Anand Timothy, eLearning Enthusiast and co-founder and Director: Business Development at eNyota Learning, also wrote: "Technology is making our world more interesting… it is changing our perspectives… it is redefining previous definitions of normal. Technology has become the great disruptor; the magic wand that gives us the power to make or do things that were previously unthinkable."

One thing that makes me cringe lately, is when I read comments from educators who talk about how they hear and read about research that is warning educators about the effects of 'screen time' on our students....
It makes me wonder how many educators are aware that Computer Science can also be taught through engaging games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons and lots of running around (no 'screen time'!). This can then be integrated into the curriculum through activities and exercises.

I also feel a bit frustrated, when people make comments like "this is a separate digital curriculum" and "we already do this at our school"... hmm, yes, but there is so much more to the [new] DT&HM curriculum...
In my humble opinion, I do not see this as a separate digital curriculum. In fact, the re-organised Technology learning area still has the three strands of Technological Practice, Technological Knowledge, and Nature of Technology. The only difference is that there is now five technological areas instead of three. The new content covers Computational thinking for digital technologies and Designing and developing digital outcomes as Progress Outcomes.

I can fully understand that there are [some] uncertainty, hopes and fears about what this means for schools from 2018 onward. However, there are opportunities to upskill... one such opportunity came through the 'Digital Passport' created by The Mind Lab by Unitec "which empowers teachers in New Zealand to realise the opportunities of the new digital curriculum and bring 21st century skills to today’s students."

I gained some valuable insights after completing two of the Workshops, but do not consider myself an expert now. However, I truly believe that your attitude determines your direction... what you do with this [new] exciting change is up to you, my quest for knowledge will carry on... and I will guide my school colleagues along on their journey to the best of my abilities.

'The Tweet'

NZN. Major education shake-up as schools shift to digital focus, Retrieved from: Newshub 

Timothy, A (2016). How Technology Benefits Learning. Article written for eLearning Industry

The Mind Lab (Monday 19 March). New education platform empowers Kiwi teachers in the 21st century, Retrieved from their Media release

~ "People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do." - Steve Jobs ~

Monday, April 16, 2018

Seesaw... no turning back!

Although I've always aimed for my students to have a digital portfolio (trialing and using many different platforms in the past), I had not been convinced that Seesaw was the way to go.... BUT oh boy, was I wrong! Seesaw is an excellent platform for housing student work and sharing it with parents. The feedback and communication is instant.

The Ministry of Education have seven key principles (Ako, Focus and coverage, Foundations for learning, Student responsibility, Motivation, Technologies, Checking in with parents) that guide effective reporting and information sharing. After using Seesaw for almost 3 months now, I already recognise the benefits of this student-driven digital portfolio and I believe that if Seesaw is being used effectively it has all the tools to fulfill this MOE 'requirement'. Hence (after having a chat with my favourite online mentor Sonya, @vanschaijik) my decision to apply to become a Seesaw Ambassador to support teachers [further] with integrating technology effectively into their teaching and to serve as an expert resource to other teachers, by sharing how I use Seesaw in my class.

I love that I can create and assign activities for my students when planning 'lessons', but that is not all... students can post to their journal and reflect on their learning instantly! It also gives me insight into their understanding and enable me to track progress over time. Parents can also look back at all the learning that their child added to their journal and see how much has been learned. This 'tracking' can easily be done when using folders when posting.

Some examples of how I have been using Seesaw with 5 year olds:
1. Goal Setting and Reflection...

2. Reading / Phonics / Sightwords...

3. Writing...

4.  Maths...

5. Discovery / STEAM / Key Competencies

6. Some others...

The Values that Seesaw stands for speak for itself... 

Therefore, I consider myself lucky and feel proud to be part of the Seesaw family...


~ "It's more important than ever that educators collaborate to continually improve and support the success of each learner." - Dr. Gene Carter, CEO and Executive Director of ASCD ~

Friday, March 23, 2018

Difference, Difficulty or Preference... The Power to Decide (SENCo Workshop)

As part of my SENCo role, I felt it is important for me to learn more about working with students with specific learning differences and how to be able to identify these students more accurately. 

Raising Achievement in at risk students and setting them up for success:

Although there are many success stories, 'good outcomes' does not always happen for kids with 'problems'. Unfortunately, teachers are not trained to look for learning difficulties. Traditional teaching is auditory which does not help, these kids need kinesthetic learning.

Assessment [for at risk students] shows the following:
- Adequate intelligence
- Literacy underachievement
- A range of undiagnosed learning difficulties / disabilities
- Unaddressed barriers to learning
- Learning styles are not readily catered for in our mainstream education system

In any given classroom there are different groups of learners...

1st Wave Learners: These are the students that learn easily and who hardly need a teacher. Our job is to put opportunities and resources in front of them and they are off.

2nd Wave Learners: The majority of our students lays here. The may be a bit above average, intelligent or they may be achieving even 6 - 18 months below their chronological age. Given all the good things we do in education, they will achieve quite nicely with the programmes, resources and teacher capability we have and they will reach their chronological age quite easily.

3rd Wave Learners: Students with things like dyslexia, dyspraxia, children who are on the autistic spectrum (Asperger's are part of the autistic spectrum) and ADHD. Not that ADHD is regarded as a learning disability, but often children with ADHD also have a learning difficulty and remediation for ADHD is similar to the other groups. The other ones to consider here are the auditory and visual processing disorders.
Underpinning Cognitive weaknesses (how brain process things - visual processing issues), Auditory (hearing fine, but how brain process) - hear things in the wrong order and write in the wrong order. Say words wrong. Phonological is the part what these kids struggle with.
Working memory important (kids who did not have this will have trouble in literacy and numeracy) - cognitive testing - processing in the head takes much longer.

4th Wave Learners: These are students with perhaps major auditory / visual type problems, major physical difficulties, intellectual difficulties and we also have our behavioural initiative in here. They are looked after Special Education teams, MOE and Special Education.  

Looking at the role of a SENCo:

Reading is a very difficult task for these students. We participated in a 'simulated' reading task... (note: put the two lines together and try to read it... you have to think if letters are p, b, d, etc). This is how a dyslexic student might see reading...

Currently the best means for identification of dyslexia type difficulties are tests of Phonological Processing. (Tunmer & Chapman 2005)

Something to think about:
50% of people with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) might also have dyslexia. There are 3 types of ADHD 
- inattentive type: getting distracted, having poor concentration and organizational skills
- hyperactive-impulsive type: never seeming to slow down, talking and fidgeting, difficulties staying on task; interrupting, taking risks
 - combination type (when student behave one day and another not - chemical imbalance)

- Print on pastel colours when making copies for dyslexic students - white page is not desirable. 
- See the ability, not the need... (show students photos of famous people with dyslexia)
Dyslexia... Disability? Difficulty? Difference? or Preference? "STOP" before we label! Understand dyslexia as a learning preference.

Strengths of Dyslexic learners:
- Often imaginative, creative, lateral thinkers who develop original solutions to problems.
- Have an ability to think in pictures, sometimes with strong artistic talent and often with a strong visual preference for information acquisition and processing.
- Many are socially and verbally able and may enjoy drama and sport

Limitations / Difficulties of Dyslexic learners:
- Unexpected problems - literacy / numeracy (e.g. can't transfer skill from adding to subtraction)
- Require special ways of teaching to minimise problems and maximise potential
- Vulnerable as learners when reading and spelling is allowed to detract from information processing, core thinking skills and knowledge acquisition.
- Thinking ability is good or better than peers.
- Writing is the ptoblem

No dyslexic case is the same and there is no cure for it. Dyslexia can be improved by teaching students skills and strategies to use, when putting accommodations in place. Make students aware of what they get distracted with.
Accommodations can include:
- Create and model a supportive classroom environment that recognises and accepts difficulties
- Invite students to read, but allow them to pass in a group or class situation
- Set up paired reading activities (Buddy Reading / Tuakana-Teina)
- Use I.T.
- Give information auditorally as well and not just on paper

Developing Best Policy and Practise:
Recognising Dyslexia Type:
- Family history
- Early to walk, may not crawl
- Dressing skills
- Performance inconsistency
- Quick thinker, but not necessarily when given instructions
- Possible enhanced creativity
- Aptitude for construction / technical toys
- Appears bright, but is an enigma

Multisensory is important and we need to look at it from all perspectives: Kinesthetic (37%), Auditory (34%), Visual (29%). These have to be in place for 3rd Wave Learners. We know now that it is not true when people say "I learn better visually", as learning is not just 'in a box'.

Dyslexic students' - not brain compatible and some times need up to 49x repetition -> look at different learning styles. Should train T/A's to do the repetition, use computer programmes to back up what's been taught, using peers. Based on diagnostic evidence - important to know what the gaps are.

Reading Strategies:
- 1-1 tutor reading programmes
- Provide parent training and reading support at home
-  Give 1-1 reading opportunities as often as possible

Spelling and Writing Accommodations:
- Organise a scribe
- Set up shared writing
- Encourage mind maps, story boards, flow charts
- Mark for content and ideas

Metacognitive Strategies Writing:
- Scaffolding
- Moving from dependence to independence

Minimise fears of how to start:
- Give paragraph starters
- Offer to act as a scribe
- Give sentence starters and key words
- Accept work in different form

My Next Steps:
- Learn more / Upskill myself
- Give more opportunities to work with strengths. Set them up for success and focus on what they are doing right.
- Get T/A's trained to help raise achievement
- Look at integrated reading, writing and spelling programme 'Alpha to Omega' (can be used up to age 15 years). This a a programme that can be used in a class with all children. It fits all the criteria for 3rd Wave programmes. At the beginning of the book is an assessment where you can assess where children are with spelling and phonemic awareness and identifying any learning gaps there might be, which will give you a starting place to work from. This is a fantastic resource to use as it teaches you step by step as many teachers have not been trained in specifically development stages of learning or even knowing which areas comes first.
- Setting students up for success - look in to HPP programme and JOST

- It is important to keep in mind that it is not just 'mainstream' students we are working with... some students have underpinning cognitive weaknesses that need addressing before academic learning can take place.
4D New Zealand model: "Get it right for dyslexia and we get it right for all"

~ "Learning is NOT the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners." - John Holt ~

Friday, March 9, 2018

A first opportunity to meet as a CoL

This was our first opportunity to meet as a group of Principals, Teachers and Support Staff as a community of learners to strengthen connections, share positive practices and to deepen our understanding of the 'Teaching as Inquiry' process.

Part 1 - Analyse current TAI: (school group)
My thinking:
- Interesting read: Deepen Teacher Inquiry

Part 2 - Envision creative possibilities for students to expand their Oral Language/Writing: (mixed group)

My thinking:
1. Greetings – Encourage students to greet each other by name, shake hands, sing, clap, and
learn greetings in different languages. 
2. Sharing – Similar to “show and tell,” allow students to share activities and respond to classmates’ questions
3. Daily Oral Language ...Everyone participates in singing, chanting, games, and so forth
4. Word Wall. ...
5. Nursery Rhymes / Poems / Speeches and “Take A Stand” activities. ...
6. Listening Activities. ...
7. Storytelling is a creative way to build oral language skills. Provide students with a sentence that is the beginning of a story; for example, "The boy who lived next door had a very strange pet." Have students complete the story, and then retell in their own words. Focus on the sequence of events and sentence structure. Remember to wait patiently while students put thoughts together, and praise students’ efforts to use new words and sentence patterns 
8. Sorting. - Students work together to group, or sort, words based on commonalities such as word beginnings or endings, vowel sounds, parts of speech, rhymes, meanings, or some other common feature. Students may compare, contrast, or identify similarities while building automatic recognition of words, thus promoting fluent reading and writing. 
9. Sentence starters - “Describe a time when you (blank—ex, urged) someone to (blank).” What happened?
10. Sequencing - Students frequently have difficulty following the sequence of events in a story/passage. The following activity can help pupils become familiar with the concept of sequence:
• Retell several familiar stories such as "The Three Little Pigs", "Snow White", etc.
• Purposely misread, mix up, or omit items and events. Give students the opportunity to correct you.
11. Tongue Twisters are great for practicing articulation, and fun, too.  eg. Super thick sticky tape; She  sells seashells by the sea shore; Sly Sam sips Sally’s soup.

Good oral language communication activities should be two-way, ongoing, comprehensible, instructional, and enjoyable.

- My PD in 2017: Language and Learning

Part 3 - Refining and Forming direction for TAI: (school group)

Next Steps:
- Check out Oral progression matrix on TKI
- Check out talk moves (for maths) use it in circle time (DCIM FB page). If kid did not know what was said, they should say I don’t know and ask someone to explain it again
- Engage in discussion and kids and ask them what they are doing and what it is about
- Get kids to clap a poem. (Note: if they are unable to clap in time… that is indication / evidence that they [might] have oral language problems)
- Check out learning maps for kids to talk about their learning

~ "Our job is not to prepare students for something. Our job is to help students prepare themselves for anything." - A.J. Juliani ~

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

STEAM / Minecraft Learning for a classroom

James (a colleague) and I had the privilege of attending a STEAM / Minecraft day organised by 'Using Technology Better'.   

Interesting Fact: "75% of fastest growing occupations in Australia require skills relating to STEM."

Pedagogy of a STEAM approach
- Start with the why (why do we use it in our classroom?, why using STEAM? Make kids think, using 21st C skills…)
- Important to find solutions for problems in everyday life and to think what we are doing

How the world is changing...

What is Active Learning?
"Students that are engaged in more activities than just listening. They are involved in dialog, debate, writing and problem solving as well as higher order thinking, e.g. analysis, synthesis, evaluation and creating" - Bonwell and Eison, 1991

Our challenge... 'Make a Ping Pong launcher'

My launcher...

James, busy constructing his...

Check out MakeCode...

We also looked at MaKey MaKey and how to introduce kids to circuits... tip: tin foil is a good conductor.

Minecraft Education:
- Minecraft is not ‘low floor’
- Why sticking with minecraft?
Case Study: Kid who struggled, not engaging, hard to communicate with. Work around an inquiry. Present this any way you want. Kid choose to present it in Minecraft. Engagement changed, started talking and explaining learning. Kid started caming to school beaming, and with the opportunity to using all the learning criteria that is available in/through Minecraft.

How to persuade the Principal?
Write persuasive letters… not calling it a game (as it isn't!)… kids have to come up with another word.

Minecraft = Engagement, Collaboration, Creative Exploration, Learner-Centered outcomes!

Student Engagement:
By using Minecraft as a platform for learning, educators can motivate and inspire every student to achieve more and ignite a passion for learning.
"Motivation is such a huge part in what ends up differentiating student outcomes. Everyone has the ability to do fantastic word at a high level. It's just, without the right teacher and the right motivation, you don't always get there." - Bill Gates

Minecraft: Education Edition is designed for students to play together - whether that's working in teams to solve a problem, or collaborating as an entire class completing learning activities.
"To function effectively in increasingly complex business structures and organizations, employees must become more comfortable with ambiguity, take initiative, and be able to work in a team-based environment." - IDC Skills Requirements for Tomorrow's Best Jobs (2013)

Creative Exploration:
There are no step-by-step instructions in Minecraft - students must try, fail, and try again to achieve the result they want. This open canvas encourages independence and self direction, where students are able to express themselves and their ideas in unique ways.
"Imagination is the source of every form of human achievement. Creativity is as important now in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status." - Ken Robinson

Learner-Centered Outcomes:
Learning-by-doing in Minecraft teaches students independence and perseverance, giving them a great satisfaction and sense of accomplishment when they can demonstrate their knowledge.
"Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words, but by experiences in the environment. And Education should no longer be mostly imparting knowledge, but must take a new path - to seek the release of human potential." - Maria Montessori

Examples of how Minecraft have been used...

~ "Learning is more effective when it is an active rather than a passive process." - Kurt Lewin ~