Archive | April, 2018

Digital Passport

30 Apr

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“We must think of coding not as a skill but as a literacy”

Before I begin a big thank you to MINDLAB for their assistance in this PLD.

After attending the ANZAC Day Dawn Service this week, I completed the Digital Passport course which gave me an insight into the new curriculum.  To prepare the next generation for the future, this has answered the call to teach our tamariki code. But many now recognize it’s not enough for students simply to know how to write code. The capacity to build a product or solve a problem requires an entirely different literacy.

The focus of the new digital curriculum is shifting from teaching the specific skill of coding to teaching computational thinking—or the ability to follow a step-by-step process to solve a problem. The future workforce will require a solid grounding in the discipline of thinking computationally. We think of coding not as a skill but as a literacy. I was reading article this week which suggested “We don’t teach reading because we believe everyone will write War and Peace,” therefore  “we don’t teach computer science with the belief that everyone will be a computer scientist. We teach it because it is increasingly a skill we need to operate in and understand the world around us.”

Much like students learn to read and then read to learn, coding and computational thinking are intertwined. Computational thinking will be fundamental to many of today’s students’ careers and interests in the same way that knowing how to read is fundamental to everything they do in school.

Computational thinking is defined as the ability to “develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.” According to Code.org in the United States, there are more than 503,000 open computing jobs nationwide, but only 35 states allow students to count computer science courses toward high school graduation, and fewer than half of U.S. schools teach computer science.

Much like reading, it’s important for students to learn the basics of computational thinking early, especially for girls. As digital technology increasingly becomes integrated across the disciplines and year levels, access will become more equitable. A quick and easy algorithm exercise for young our tamariki is to ask them to tell a partner, step-by-step, how to tie a shoelace without showing them. A bonus in this exercise is that it includes making a loop, which is a coding principle.

Our tamariki can solve a lot of problems when they understand the language and process of computing. Letting those problems be real, and identified by the students themselves, keeps students engaged and trying. An example could be to ask students to identify a problem in their community, research existing technology, and design an innovative app to solve the problem.

If we want our tamariki to be comfortable learners and creators, for their own interest or as part of the workforce, they need a basic understanding of how computational thinking works. If a child can talk about how something is made or built, then when something doesn’t work right, they can debug it or tweak it. Our job as teachers has always been to support our tamariki as they start exploring bigger ideas and provide the tools they need to be able to do that. Now let’s help them take that next step.

 

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Term Two Planning

28 Apr

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When teachers are confident in their ability, persistent through challenge, and innovative in their practices, students can really benefit. This is to the forefront of my thinking this week as we evaluate of courses at school. Are we meeting the needs of students? Are we supporting the needs of teachers as they meet these needs?

According to Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning by John Hattie, collective teacher efficacy has the greatest impact on student achievement—even higher than factors like teacher-student relationships, home environment, or parental involvement.

At the heart of this is PLD. Nothing feels more counterproductive than useless Professional Learning Development (PLD) meetings. A school’s staff members are all at different points in their careers, possess varying levels of experience, and have likely sat through many workshops on any day’s meeting’s topic. When teachers receive PD on topics over and over, they can feel unrecognized and stagnant, lowering their sense of efficacy.

I have discovered another way. Utilizing the experience of staff and allowing teachers to self-elect PD topics, run training sessions, and share their own work can lead to teachers who are active participants in their development, rather than passive receivers. Here the PLF Café was born. This builds a culture of efficacy amongst staff who genuinely work together to improve their practice.  So, what can I as a school leader do to build teacher efficacy in their school? As I do this this some of the areas I am focussed on the following:

Empower Staff

Empowering teachers to take on leadership roles gives educators a voice in their school. When teachers have a role in making important school decisions, feel their voices are heard, and can actively participate in building school culture, efficacy is raised. Top-down, overly evaluative leadership models can lower teacher self-efficacy and ultimately demoralize teachers, negatively impacting classroom achievement. When staff work together toward mutual goals, so grows a shared belief in the direction of the work and the ability to effect change with students.

Praise You Like I Should

Effective praise in schools is authentic recognition of a teacher’s hard work and the resulting student successes. It’s also about sharing that work with others as a model of excellence. Teachers who feel valued and see positive outcomes for their students are more likely to persist in their efforts. A school that routinely recognizes the efforts and accomplishments of its teachers builds a community that believes in its members, collaborates, and continually pushes to do more.

Stop, Collaborate and listen

Building a collaborative environment is key toward building collective and individual teacher efficacy. Teachers need to know what’s happening in other classrooms to build trust and confidence in each other’s ability to guide students to success. They also need time to share their ideas with each other and to work together toward building school-wide best practices. Leaders can assist by providing co-planning time, exhibiting models of excellence, and hosting norming exercises for teachers to build and revisit a collective school mission. And of course, it goes without saying, when teachers are sharing their ideas with you, actively listen; actively show that you care about their insights and opinions, and ask questions.

It is hard and it is scary

The demands of teaching can be overwhelming. It’s easy for educators to feel like they’re drowning in paperwork, lesson planning, grading, teaching multiple courses and the many extracurricular activities they generally take on. A leader who truly understands and acknowledges the workload helps teachers feel like they’re not just endlessly treading water. When a leader doesn’t assist teachers who feel overwhelmed, they can lose their sense of efficacy. They may feel like they’re failing, and may blame themselves for not keeping up. Resentful of SLT, Classroom instruction and staffroom culture, in turn, is sure to be affected. How you can help: empathize with your teachers, listen when they ask for help, and do what you can to help them manage their responsibilities.

 

Visionary Leadership

26 Apr

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I have been reading this week an article around  “visionary leadership.” But what does that mean? How do you know if a leader is a visionary? A visionary leader talks and walks the school’s vision. Her actions consistently align with it. Furthermore, she has a plan for how to implement this vision and every day takes actions towards leading all stakeholders towards this vision. The vision is consistently acted up, all initiatives align to it, and the principal is its primary champion. A visionary leader is  receptive to new information and can hold multiple perspectives. This open-mindedness allows them to navigate stressful situations with a flexible mind, pulling from many resources and sometimes unrelated industries to arrive at

A visionary leader is clear about what he or she believes and knows is best for children — for their academic, social, and emotional learning. The leader’s individual beliefs have developed in collaboration with other stakeholders and articulated into some kind of vision or mission statement. You might ask the site leader as well as staff, students, and parents, “What’s really important at this school?” Or “What are you striving to create here?” That’s where you’ll hear elements of a vision. Also important element is that the experiences of students and outcomes are at the center of this vision.

Observational Tools and Observation

24 Apr

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It was stimulating listening to those in ERO speak about how they approach a lesson observation. They emphasised the richness in conversations surrounding this. They emphasised the approach from the lens of students. They noted after a classroom observation, it is important to place the learning and reflection directly in the hands of the teacher. Therefore, strong questions can guide a conversation that empowers the teacher and supports the relationship between observer and the teacher being observed. These are some key ideas to consider:

  1. How do you engage in pre-learning, and what kinds of information do you find most useful to collect during this process? What do you do with the results?
  2. How did you engage in formative learning today? How will what you learned impact the instructional choices you make tomorrow?
  3. How were your learning processes and feedback connected today? Who gave the feedback? Did it provide the hoped-for results?
  4. How are you capturing and collecting evidence of learning? Are students part of this process? Why or why not?
  5. How did the learning experiences connect to standards? How did you explain this connection to your learners?
  6. How will you assess tomorrow?
  7. What did students do when they were done early today? To what degree were you ready for this possibility? Was your response purposeful?
  8. Which learners showed the most confidence today and why? Which were the least confident, and how do you address this?

Key Questions Around Assessment Review

22 Apr

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Involving students and teachers in an active assessment process where they can take information, interpret it, and move forward is the key to finding success in the classroom. When we think of assessment as the learning instead of as an endpoint, it creates a continuum rather than a sequence of starts and stops. Assessment is learning.

How is the word assessment perceived in the eyes of students? Is it viewed as a tool such as a test, paper, or project, or a process to gather information? Furthermore, how is it perceived in the eyes of teachers? It is critical to get everyone on the same page about the perception and purpose of assessment.

When assessment is learning, it is an active process. It moves beyond the tools used to gather information about student learning to a place where students and teachers can take information and feedback to grow. Assessment becomes a conversation between students and teachers, as well as among classmates. It reveals where students are to progress with their learning. As a student myself, the word assessment was associated with the type of activity we were going to engage in instead of being a spark to light the fire of learning.

What can be done to realize the idea of assessment as learning in our classrooms?

Involve students in the assessment process.

Tamariki need to feel part of the assessment process. Assessment becomes a much less fearful process when it is done with students, not to them. Students may not make these important connections on their own; they can be made plain through classroom dialogue and discovery. Students engage in assessment and learning when relevant associations are made among all happenings in the classroom. They should easily be able to answer the question “Why am I doing this?” Student investment is also built through seeking feedback from students.” Feedback is not a one way street. When students are part of the feedback loop, the teacher and the student share a more robust picture of achievement and a more precise path forward.

Infuse assessment into daily classroom happenings.

The learning process feels very disjointed when everything stops for assessment. Assessment practices should be infused in the process of teaching and learning so neither the student nor the teacher stops to give pause when it is happening. The pause comes when it is time to make decisions about next steps. Note that this is a pause, not a stop. It is a quick moment to make an informed decision and then move on. Assessment should be a familiar part of what happens when we learn. The less students feel like it is ‘time to be assessed’, the less high-stakes assessment becomes. The practice of finding out where students are with their learning, knowing where they need to go, and making choices based on those two pieces of information is a natural routine in the classroom, but the impact on learning is monumental.

Show students how to interpret feedback and assessment results.

Students will not automatically know what to do with the feedback provided to them.

Continuously learn more about assessment practices to support student learning.

Assessment practices are constantly evolving, and different ideas for classroom application abound. There are times when I feel in a rut with my assessment practices. The challenge is not about finding the new ideas, but rather, determining the method that is the best fit.

Work together with students to find success.

Learning is a collective and collaborative process. I cannot describe how much I learn from students each year I work with them. The focus of this collaborative process is success.

 

 

 

Friday Night Thought

20 Apr

Feedback is an essential part of learning, especially when we want to improve our practice and attain high professional standards. And the best form of feedback is right there in front of us in our classrooms. #nzai #assessment #edchatnz

Assessment

19 Apr

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This term we are looking at curriculum change. This week I attend a workshop run by NZAI. This got me thinking. More on this later. In in developing curricular units of study and the corresponding assessments while talking about the learning skills necessary for students to experience success. I’ve deliberately not used the label “21st Century” in front of “learning skills” as I think we all understand in 2018 that we are in the 21st century. I noted this week our teaching practices to support those skills also need to be different. How we use the evidence gathered from high-quality assessment is a key component to furthering and deepening the work.

Collaboration is an important skill. Collaboration skills may be the “black sheep” of the skills assessment world – until recently there has been very little attention paid to this competency, with very few assessments worth noting. With the rise in importance of collaborative work skills, especially for the productive development of creative work products by work teams, there has been an accompanying rise in attention paid to assessing levels of productive and creative collaboration.

It’s fair to say that we need to deepen the critical thinking skills of our students. It’s also important that we shift to conceptual understanding and away from understanding by an algorithm or rule. Both shifts will require more student agency, collaboration and conversations.

As an offshoot of the advances in technology, it’s been suggested that tamariki today communicate more. While that may be true, I think it’s equally true to claim they talk less. Teachers will need to provide the time to have students explain not only their answers but also their thinking as they developed those answers. Quiet time in class is important, as important for teachers having reflective practice.

Ultimately this will mean less teacher talk time (think of five minutes as your maximum before turning it over to your students) and more collaboration between students. This will require a shift.

Using the evidence gathered from assessments and using the assessments as formative, will result in a shift in the dialogue occurring in classrooms today. It will mean more of the “ working noise” that is evidenced in classrooms where students are highly engaged and deeply involved in their learning, and their teachers are interested in hearing about that learning. It will mean a shift to what was once valued and haled as the most productive classroom—the one where silence was golden and reigned supreme.

Changes in Teaching Philosophy

15 Apr

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With the changing role of the teacher, we have never been more important with the best of us being  continuous learners who operate within the strong disciplinary framework of our subject areas. We are living in a technologically fast changing world where, as teachers, we need to be models of adaptability to our students. Schools create the professional space for genuine teacher reflection and learning and acknowledge and support teachers who are at different stages. They also give the space and permission to teachers to take acceptable risks to explore new approaches in a supportive environment. In short, a teacher needs to become a modern connected learner himself/herself and embrace the tools and see the potential of how they can open up new and different ways of learning in their curriculum area or year level. Until they do that, little will change. With this in mind it is important to remember that.

Teachers and Learners need to not only be well connected but also be provisioned with well-chosen tools that enable genuine collaboration, communication, creativity and innovation – i.e. to open up new and different ways of learning to occur (p36 NZ Curriculum). Learning tools should be cloud-based and low or zero cost to enable easy access for all students from anywhere and at any time. The ICT infrastructure must be an enabler, rather than a disabler which can frustrate and impede progress – teaching & learning, as opposed to administration, management or other, must be the priority when choosing tools. Student devices (BYOD) are now not an option but are an essential component for students to access their online tools to enable their ability to learn from anywhere and at any time. Their devices should work seamlessly at school and from home. With appropriate learning tools and infrastructure in place.

Connection

10 Apr

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As George Couros says often, “Isolation is a choice that educators make.” There are so many resources available for educators to connect with and learn from one another.  It is easy to get comfortable doing what has always worked.  If you aren’t connected to other educators in your school, district, or globally, you are not exposed to new ideas or pushed to think about better ways of doing things.  It is easy think that the way you have been doing it is the only or best way when you aren’t seeing other models.  To continue learning and developing your practice, it is important for teachers to get out of their classroom, both physically and virtually, to leverage the collective genius of the many educators across the globe

Learning for the Week:

6 Apr

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The more distractions you have during competing that big project, the less chance you’ll have to discover that mind-blowing, problem-solving, genius idea. While it’s good to get up and move (think walking meetings “walk with me”; getting outside on duty for lunch; periodic stretching at my stand up desk) make sure that you’re not constantly stopping and starting your work–especially when you’re onto something.

I have learnt this so far this year. Gather up everything you need ahead of time. Minimize distractions by finding a quiet place and letting others know that you’re not available for talking about last night’s game (we’re not above popping in a pair of silent earbuds if that’s what it takes). Take five minutes to prep your space and materials so that nothing takes you out of the zone once you find your zen. It has also minimized mty mistakes. I hope.

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