eFellow – Hui #2

The CORE Education Dr Vince Ham eFellowship programme continued last week with the second hui of 2017. I’m privileged to be one of seven teachers on this year long journey that will see us challenged and inspired as we all take on individual inquiries that will be presented at uLearn17. Continuing the trend from my blogpost on the first hui, I’ll capture the journey with three ideas and three questions.

New Ideas

1. Te Pā o Rākaihautū

Te Pā o Rākaihautū is the school that fellow eFellow Heemi dubbed “the school that whānau built”. It was a magical visit from which I am still buzzing. EFellow15 Steve Mouldey wrote about the school in his blog as “truly living their vision”Te Pā‘s vision uses the verb imagine – a really provocative way of framing a vision: “imagine a world where learning is exciting, challenging and meaningful; where our marae, our whenua, our moana are the classrooms; where our kaupapa, stories and knowledge are central to the curriculum; and where our tamariki, mātua, toua and poua can learn side by side.” This vision was in action in every classroom we visited. It was a privilege to walk through the classrooms, observing learning in action and observe an authenticity that I am still reflecting on many weeks later.

2. Hagley College20170405_131737

Our visit to Hagley College captured some similar themes. A completely different environment, but it too was incredibly connected to its community. The authenticity here was striking. When entering classrooms, it wasn’t immediately obvious who the teacher was. This wasn’t just because adult students are part of Hagley, it was also because of the design of the classrooms and the way that learning was being approached. In every context, from the animation room, cooking spaces and the fashion hub, the feeling of a traditional school simply wasn’t there. It didn’t feel that students were compromised in order to fit into the environment – students were at the centre. This is made all the more impressive by how the special culture of the school means that the roll picks up a lot of students that don’t succeed in other schools – drop outs, exclusions, or students that fall short of a qualification. This was another magical school to see in action.

3. Universal Design for Learning

Chrissie Butler was our guest on the second day, who was charged with the task of disrupting our thinking through introducing us to UDL. This was my second introduction to the framework – but it may as well have been my first, such was the way that Chrissie disrupted my assumptions. I need to do a lot more gathering of my thoughts around this, but a quick easy takeaway was the need to “plan for predictable variability”. More on UDL via Chrissie on EdTalks.

Questions

1.Letting them Try

Te Pā o Rākaihautū told us about their trying policy. If someone has an idea and it’s not against the law or the lore – then they can try it. If it works, try and make it better, if it doesn’t try something else. This reminds me of Welby Ings who in his recent book Disobedient Teaching claimed “waiting for permission means very little ever gets changed” (20, 2017). What needs to happen in the spaces I work to empower every teacher feel like they can make significant change?

2. Christchurch20170404_125827

With the hui being in Christchurch, we were right in the heart of a city that was in the process of transforming; I vow never again complain about the volume of Wellington’s roadworks. In travelling around the city we saw the remarkable way that disruptive thinking was challenging the way the think about space and community. The pop up, gap filling culture focused on creating temporary initiatives that invested in connecting people to the space. The TED talk below makes it clear that the movement is about people – how people understand space in the city and how they use it. What can education settings learn from this approach? How can we gap fill our schools to improve our learning spaces?

3. Inclusive Pedagogy

Questions I am taking forward with my project. Asking teachers to consider:

  • How do sexuality/gender minority students know they are safe in your classroom?
  • How does your practice support the disruption of heteronormativity or binary views of gender?

Learning with the Community

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poibookThe photo above was taken on the school’s first ever Community Hour where members of the community were invited in to tell their stories and respond to student questions. It was organised by our Deputy Principal, Deb King, as part of launching our 2017 programme of Active Learning – weekly inquiry based learning time free from the constraints of curriculum and assessment.

The community was incredible at taking up this opportunity. Politicians, City Council, our feeders schools, police, fire department, the SPCA, InsideOUT, Newlands Community Centre, lawyers and a funeral director all came to speak to various groups of students un-conference style. The concept for the day came from the principles of curiosity found in Kath Murdoch’s book (pictured) which emphasises the power of inquiry and student questioning. The structure was supported by Sugata Mitra’s mantra of “learning at the edge of chaos” with the hour appearing unstructured and the school being alive with uncontrolled opportunities.

The group I sat with was talking to John Robinson from Challenge 2000. What struck me was the level of questioning that the students delved into – really interrogating John in terms of social justice. They really challenged the ideas being presented and the depth of their inquiries impressed me. Is this the result of giving the students free reign to respond authentically? What was also interesting was how little they listened to each other. It’s a small sample size, but the room’s questioning was erratic. Instead of building on from each other and asking questions along a consistent line, it really was pot luck as to where the next question would target. It’s a new part of teaching questioning I hadn’t thought about. The subject is important, but the room is equally so.

Media Studies – Class EduCamp

I often preach that the students in my class have the experiences, knowledge and understanding to teach me as much – if not more – than I am capable of teaching them. This year I tried a new way of walking the talk by taking the time to run an in-class EduCamp. We took the time as a class to understand the EduCamp, un-conference style of learning and each prepared a slide for the smackdown:

To listen to the students talk about their area of interest and their questions about the world was fascinating. It was authentically student centred and it revealed more about some individuals than any google form could.

The class responded to the topics and contributed postits to the board with things they wanted the opportunity to explore further. We made a timetable based on these areas of interest and voted with our feet – at one point all migrating into the one room for a tutorial on how planes fly.

The sessions contained fascinating conversation about road ranging topics including how schools can best support mental health issues, the nature of leadership, photography and drones, film and empathy, doing exchanges to other countries, and using the science of microwaves to transfer data from Wellington to Auckland. The opportunity saw several students have a chance to facilitate, jump on the whiteboard, share their knowledge and have their understanding and experience validated.

This to me speaks volumes about not only the value of student voice, but also the EduCamp structure as a means of creating space for it. That’s my highest possible endorsement on the eve of #EduCampWelly17.

eFellows17 – Hui #1

wp-1485562570118.jpgThe CORE Education Dr Vince Ham eFellowship programme kicked off last week with the first hui of 2017. I’m privileged to be one of seven teachers on this year long journey that will see us challenged and inspired as we all take on individual inquiries that will be presented at uLearn17.

My intent with my eFellow17 hui blogposts is to briefly capture the discussion and learning with three ideas and three questions. I blog in order to reflect; by thinking back through the hui and synthesizing the discussion I hope to think more deeply about my learning. My aim is to share ideas that fit with the purpose of the fellowship: “to inspire transformational practice“.

Three Ideas

  1. Derek Wenmoth introduced the inquiry mindset and the key questions challenging education at the moment.
    • What do we see the role of technology in learning?
    • If education is all about interpreting knowledge – knowledge based system – who owns the knowledge?

The impact of these key questions was captured by the slide below, where he argued that realising the potential of 21st Century learning  can only occur when technology is used to transform learning and knowledge is owned by the collective.

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2.  Alex Hotere-Barnes introduced ideas regarding Kaupapa Māori Research, and what he’s learnt being Pākehā and engaging in this area result. He referenced the work of critical Māori scholars Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Graham Smith and Ani Mikaere who all foreground the cultural and political dimensions of kaupapa Māori thinking and action.  A key point was the importance of challenging “deficit theories” in research that position Māori as “objects” of research; as opposed to being the designers and doers of Māori research. I took from this that there are a lot of cultural considerations to think about when approaching research from a Māori perspective; but fundamentally one needs to be open to communication and collaboration – it’s all about relationships.

3.  Keryn Davis introduced Cowie and Carr’s concept of the consequences of assessment – that all assessment makes a difference to competence (how does the assessment impact the abilities and skills of the learner?), continuity (what does this assessment connect to?) and community (how does assessment build community?)

Three Questions

  1. Derek’s question of “What do we see the role of technology in learning?” has been answered in a way by one of the leading players in NZ education, NZQA. The commitment to using digital formats for assessment has shaped a lot of the conversation in the last two years on this matter. However, as Derek pointed out, at this stage they substituting: taking a paper exam and putting it online. If we were to transform external assessment, what might that look like?
  2. In Alex’s presentation, he gifted us an expression: “Pākehā paralysis”, which is based on the work sociologist Martin Tolich. It occurs when pakeha become immobilised by the challenge of interacting in culturally appropriate ways.  This is a barrier that gets in the way of Maori success in the NZ school system. A question going forward is how best to overcome this feeling? What strategies do we need to employ? This EDtalk expands on that brief definition and has several ideas.

3. And finally, a question that is launching my inquiry this year: how might teachers collaborate to create safer spaces for students of minority sexualities and genders?

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What Great Teachers Do Differently – Part II

41204q11wal-_sx313_bo1204203200_In a previous post on Todd Whitaker‘s excellent read What Great Teacher Do Differently I captured his first 7 of 14 points about what effective teachers do. The following post details the next seven along with a few thoughts that those chapters provoked.

8. Don’t Need to Repair – Always Do Repair

Two big aspects of this chapter that I value and will takeaway:

  • Effective teachers don’t use sarcasm, make cutting remarks, issue smart retorts, or engage in banter that could be harmful. Be I do – and probably quite often. It’s something I haven’t been challenged enough on. The potential harm to relationships and learning is too great to continue with this risky behaviour.
  • A scenario Todd describes in some detail is about building a repairing conversation with a student who has fallen out with another teacher. He suggests preparing them for an apology before any further action can be taken by using the analogy of the highway patrol man giving someone a ticket. How can the driver best get out of that situation: be nice. In practice this means helping the student to understand what their best next steps and giving them the language to support them to do this.

9. Ability to Ignore

Sometimes acting on an observation only serves to escalate something into a situation that requires handling. Sometimes not acting on an observation loses a teachable moment. Finding a balance and fine-tuning professional judgement is the key here.

10. Random or Plandom?

In an effective teachers classroom, design will play into maximising every potential learning moment. This includes the planning of the programme, but also the design of the space and who collaborates with who. Doing things by design, but not actually looking like there is a design is the goal.

11. Base Every Decision on the Best People

This tenet challenges the idea of instigating a rule or regulation because one person has done the wrong thing. The idea relates to the staff room as well and the way that staff are treated. I can think of examples where signs have been put up, or conditions put in place that have led me to question my own actions, despite how I was not contributing to the issue in the first place. This feels to me like a seed that could grow into professional capital is explored further.

12. In Every Situation, Ask Who is Most Comfortable and Who is Least Comfortable

This chapter contained a confronting idea for me that has got me thinking about the way feedback is gained and acted upon. The argument here suggests that approval of a system by a majority isn’t a measure of a success – it is who is comfortable or uncomfortable with it. Looping back to the previous chapter, it is what the best people think that matters most. For example, if 5% of the effective people are uncomfortable with a new idea, then that needs to be addressed. If 25% of the ineffective people, then this isn’t so much of a problem. If people feel uncomfortable, they will change their behaviour, for better or for worse. I’ve extrapolated a bit there, but the idea is quite a challenge to my assumptions.

13. What About These Darn Standardised Tests

The central debate in this chapter doesn’t interest me much, although Todd makes some excellent points around navigating it. What I am interested in was the overarching point of the chapter which is: “effective teachers don’t let hot-button issues shift their focus from what really matters” (107). As mentioned previously in these posts, it’s the students that are at the centre, and the goal is to prepare them for life, not for the next test.

14. Making it Cool to Care

“Students care about great teachers because they know great teachers care about them” (122).

The Challenges and Opportunities in Creating Queer-Friendly School Cultures

Earlier this year, Angela King and I presented at ILGA Oceania on behalf of the PPTA Rainbow Taskforce. This was to share what we have learned about changing school cultures to enable queer young people to be safe and welcome, something I wrote about for the PPTA News. PPTA, as the union for high school teachers in New Zealand, has been providing materials to schools on affirming diversity of sexualities and gender diversities since 2001. Over the last five years the Taskforce has delivered whole-staff professional development at about sixty schools, ranging from large urban secondary schools to small rural area schools. The workshop will consider how successful this work has been, and what more is required to ensure that all schools in New Zealand are queer-friendly.

PPTA Rainbow Taskforce Feedback

Our presentation (accessible here) gave and overview of the work that the Taskforce does, but opened up the dialogue around what the needs are for our presentation to tackle. This padlet captures the responses that the group made to the question: what’s missing? What does the presentation lack? How can we bring it into current thinking? Their responses represent the enormous amount of work that is yet to happen on a large scale in this area.

uLearn16 – Digital and Learner-Centred Delivery

‘Digital and learner-centred delivery: what’s different and how does it work in reality?’

By Cornel Fuhri (Scots College) and Shanan Holm (iQualify/Open Polytechnic)

When learner experience is put at the centre of learning design at a platform level, what changes? In this technological age, when students have constant access to devices, how do we teach them in a way that they want to learn, and that we can manage to teach? Is there a balance between pre-packed learnings and just-in-time teaching and learning? What changes are needed in tools to support assessment in this world? How do we make sure key concepts are covered while allowing for flexibility and discovery? This session will explore these questions and provide ideas on how they can be achieved.

Raised some general questions about e-learning and what digital learning looks like. Breakout covered familiar territory in terms of this area. But this neatly moved into a sales pitch for iQualify which is focused on the L in LMS. Effectively, it’s a really polished and sexy version of moodle. The perspective was a well worn pathway of contemporary thinking around digital tools. The selling points o the system logostem from:

  • Learning experiences
  • Flexibility
  • Digital Assessment

There were some interesting points and reminders about good practice. The comments on assessment contained strong ideas, deconstructing the notion of summative assessment as authentic, affirming that assessment needs to be early and often. It also provoked my thinking around using a Learning Management System and the restrictions that are imposed by locking down a course. The focus on learning outcomes is something that sits uncomfortably with me as the learning is so teacher-directed. Why determine the learning outcomes before meeting the students? The presentation didn’t offer much clarity in terms of differentiation and how this promotes learner agency or student voice. The tool claimed to be learner centred, but I’m cynical as a student who can determine what pace they go at doesn’t necessary get to be at the centre of their learning. I don’t think the tool supports this – it is still the teacher and their philosophy who dictates how agentic their classroom is.

What is frustrating about this breakout is that the conversation was directed into practice around the tool, investigating how to deal with the unexpected and the ins and outs of how the tool works including how to share URLs with students. This confused space between pedagogy and practical wasn’t particularly supportive to a deep learning experience, but it really did just shape itself as a sales pitch. I feel like jumping into a LMS like this closes off the learning experience rather that opens it up. Great for a Polytech – not appropriate for my classroom.