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.

Presenting: ‘Safer Schools for All’ – Part III

Previously I’ve reflected on presented the Safer Schools for All workshop here and here, commenting on the need to minimise the ‘tell’ and to challenge prejudice or ‘weak’ suggestions. In this third reflection I am going to try and process both my most successful presentation and my most challenging.safer schools

There was a strong challenge in terms of the cultural location of the conversation. There was a suggestion on one of the feedback forms to “include more NZ/Maori/Pasifika references”. But a discussion during the session, which continued after went much deeper than that. It asked me to have a more cultural perspective across the entire presentation as a Maori lens responds differently to the issues raised. As this participant pointed out, the language exercise at the beginning of the session was something they couldn’t relate to. In Maori there are only respectful terms for those in the LGBTI+ group. They compared this to a Maori student swearing in English and asking them to speak reo as a way of addressing this language. Homophobic terms simple don’t exist in Maori, so the colonial framework of addressing them isn’t necessarily the most appropriate.

I have since revisited the original data from which we extract the statistics in the presentation. It backs up that the data is accurate for a range of ethnic backgrounds, with similar number for Pakeha and Maori identifying as same-sex or both sex attracted. However, the report does not break down the health, well-being, substance, sexual health statistics by ethnicity. I think it is important to clarify this data before the next presentation.

The slide mentioning cultural terminology for some of the aspects we talk about on the Sex, Sexuality and Gender spectrums does -on reflection – feel like tokenism. I feel there is a much deeper way of framing this presentation in a culturally inclusive way that goes beyond just adding more examples of takatapui and using more reo in the presentation. This is something I look forward to addressing as a taskforce!

That being said the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Some of the feedback below suggests some significant shifts have been triggered:

[In] PE and Health I often feel we as a subject area are always left to teach these types of issues in isolation and with time constraints we struggle to give as much as needed.

I was really impressed with the presentation and the presenter. I wasn’t expecting it to be this good and helpful. I can totally see the relevancy and how I could begin to implement this into my curriculum.

Thank you! I came into this not knowing what to expect & if I’m honest, wanting to be doing my work – not because of not seeing this as important but just time constraints. BUT this was so worthwhile! Thank you!

Excellent presentation. Moving and thought provoking. Nice balance of videos and talk and discussion. Staff were engaged and wanting to do more to support their students and each other. Thank you.

Good session! The school has a very subtle issue of homophobic behaviour and the use of slurs. The staff (including myself) could benefit from some more thinking and action in this area.

I’m very proud to be delivering the session, and hope those seeds continue to grow for a long time.

EduCampWelly 2017

EduCampWelly was another highly beneficial PL opportunity with the cross-sector pollination particularly valuable. This blogpost contains some of the many ideas I came across during the day, ideas that I hope to explore further in the future. I owe a lot to Raroa Intermediate, as a lot of my learning from the day came from their initiatives and their generous sharing of their philosophy and approach to learning.

The Raroa Intermediate Tour

An undoubted highlight was the tour around Raroa Intermediate from Jason and Stephen. They spoke passionately about the Raroa Vision and the connection between the philosophy and the design of space. Some of the ideas that stayed with me included:

  • Designing space for learning – classrooms are organised to be used by students in student centred ways. One idea that came through is levels of learning, providing low, middle and high options for students. Other aspects of design I found interesting included white board tables, removing teacher desks, flexible design and variation of spaces. 
  • Teacher teams – Learning teams are constructed usually in groups of four with lots of autonomy around how they design learning in their connected spaces. This develops teamwork and collaboration and it sounds as though this approach of working together is embedded in the very fabric of the school. 
  • Change theories supported the shift in practice such as “social contagion” (similar to behavioural contagion?) – by highlighting and emphasising good practice the school culture shifted to follow in those same footsteps. This has lead me to reflect on the need to spread the voices that are leading PL.

Stephen’s blog unpacks some more of this journey.

Skillset, Mindset, Toolset

More Raroa goodness. This idea of three lenses to support the design thinking process can really help to grow agency and gives a language with which to inquire deeper into learning outcomes. The notosh lab defines them as:

Mindset: How you see, perceive and view the world around you – your beliefs and way of thinking that determine your behaviour and outlook, how you’ll interpret and respond to situations.

Skillset: How you act and behave based on your capabilities, knowledge and understanding as well as your motivation to put your abilities to use – ie. your mindset.

Toolset: What mechanisms you use to develop your skills and achieve your objectives – these can be any number of methods, techniques, models, approaches and frameworks that create value in your chosen field.

This blog unpacks these ideas further.

The T-Shaped Person

The T-Shaped person was new to me – pitched as a “metaphor for achieving success”. The top of the T indicates the breadth of knowledge, the bottom of the T indicates the depth. References to further resources and the source of these ideas are listed on the T-Shaped wiki page.

The Raroa Tree

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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The Creative Habit – Twyla Tharp

visionI was drawn to reading this text due to personal interest in the creative process through teaching creative arts subjects, but also wanting a deeper understanding of the word ‘creative’ which is prominent in the Newlands College vision. Twyla Tharp is someone I didn’t know by name, but I was already familiar with some of her work.

My general position on creativity in the classroom was that explicitly teaching creativity is a myth. I’ve joked about this with colleagues as we’ve laughed about the idea of framing up a lesson with:

  • C: Creativity
  • R: To learn how to be creative
  • O: You will have been creative
  • P: 1. Creative starter; 2. What is creativity? 3. Creative exercise; 4. Creative reflection

I have argued that creativity comes through student voice, agency and opportunities. Some of these opportunities to go outside the box are explicit, but if the classroom is designed in such a way that students have the opportunity of using their voice, then there is the opportunity for them to think for them to express creativity. But now, Tharp has cartainly challenged my perception on what it means to learn creativity.

254799Her thesis is that “In order to be creative you have to know how to prepare to be creative” (9). The book is essentially about how to prepare and create opportunities for creation from the perspective of an artist who has mastered their craft. She argues their is a process that generates creativity and anyone can learn it. In order to have this perspective one must therefore view creativity are the result of hard work, not some “transcendent, inexplicable Dionysian act of inspiration” (7). Therefore learning creativity is about adopting habits and a creative mindset (there are certainly growth mindset overlaps here).

A few points of interest:

  • “Get busy copying” (66). A challenge to my perception of creativity. Something I could think about reframing when giving opportunities for media students to come up with film ideas for their productions. “Traveling the paths of greatness, even in someone else’s footprints, is a vital means to acquiring skill” (66).
  • Generating ideas required four steps. Tharp argues some people are good at some of these but never all four. Holding awareness of your strengths and adopting strategies to address limitations is key to ensuring your ideas matter.
    • Generate – create, from memory or experience
    • Retain – hold on to it, don’t wake up without the idea
    • Inspect – study it, examine, infer
    • Transform – alter it in some way to suit your higher purposes
  • “Practice makes perfect – Not true. Perfect practice makes perfect” (165). Practice to maintain and protect your skills as you do to develop them. “Art is a vast democracy of habit” (166). 0968aa60b060f4d0da0400d390d0cb18

I believe overall that my views on creativity and education have shifted from this book. I have certainly begun to see the creative process as a habit, as something that can be taught. Explicit teaching appears to be the key and talking about each aspect of the process, making it clear how to scratch for ideas, deal with ruts and stay in grooves will enhance creativity in my classroom.

What about where creativity sits as a core value for the school? I’m left thinking about how these ideas sit within other subjects outside the arts. Is creativity viewed as a habit that can be learnt in science? How do we make ‘creative’ a word that doesn’t just appear in the vision, but a essential part of the fabric of the school?


Tharp, Twyla (2003) The Creative Habit. New York: Simon and Schuster Paperbacks.