31 May 2015

Engaging the team in Professional Learning and Dialogue

Just by making use of Twitter and a simple hashtag, professional learning took on a whole new perspective this past week. It was great to see people sharing their thoughts and opinions in the back channel!

30 May 2015

Big Week - New Phase

My thinking was challenged on so many different levels this week after several sessions/ discussions with Julia Aitken, the leadership team and the teaching team. It was one of those weeks that was absolutely draining due the depth of thought and emotional energy spent. I found it completely worthwhile and the week generated many 'new thinks' for me - each of which I will need to blog about separately.

Pixabay by John Hain
The first is another perhaps deeper reflection about collaboration. This has been an on-going area of discussion and thought for me. I have found that while we all value the concept of collaboration and believe it is a skill that our children need to develop; we don't necessarily have a collective understanding of collaboration.  

Effective collaboration requires dialogue about previously unforeseen opportunity and possibilities. High quality collaboration requires teaming which in turn requires a psychologically safe environment to speak up. That means that to move from a group to a team we need to ensure that the environment is one of high trust. The people have a shared responsibility to achieve such an environment. Each of us need to be reflective and totally prepared to absorb others’ ideas and build on them. Which of course means that people need to be open and share their ideas and always prepared to have their ideas morphed and re-shaped by others. It is this kind of collaborative environment that will lead to innovative practice.

Pixabay by HebiPics 
All of this can only be achieved with a clear, collective vision. Julia suggested that schools are abominable at visioning! They constantly seem to come up with a statement and then park it or paint it on the wall at the very most. This resonated for me. It is all too easy to lose sight of the big picture vision when our days can be dominated by the micro administrative stuff.  

"Without vision, there’s paralysis" (my favourite quote from Julia). "The challenge is to build a common shared vision and that is only done through conversations." 

It is about ownership and alignment. 

The vision answers the ‘Why’ question. This will lead to shared understandings and a collective agreement. Julia suggested that schools have a lot to learn from businesses when it comes to developing a vision statement. She shared great examples in her own words such as Nike (to make everyone an athlete), Pepsi (to beat Coca Cola) and Disneyland. - (to make people happy).

To ensure our vision statement/ purpose is effective, we need to perhaps consider the following:
  • is it cognitively portable? Can all stakeholders recall it easily? 
  • does it challenge and inspire the team to strive to reach a high but achievable goal?
  • is it fixed? The principles and practices may change over time but the purpose of what we do on a daily basis remains the same. 

26 May 2015

Building Learners' Capacities

The Development of our Learners - what toolkit, competencies will they have? What will they have that makes them unique to children from other parts of the country?

We live in an amazing laboratory - serve the learner and the environment as opposed to contain learning inside the classroom. We have the opportunity to design a curriculum that is unique to our environment.

If our children thrive in this environment the outcomes include:

  • lifelong learners
  • relating to self/ others
  • adaptability
  • resourceful
  • Polarity Map
  • risk takers
  • curious
  • compassionate
  • ability to persist
  • courage
  • connectedness to what has come before
  • contributing
  • voice: leading learning
  • innate love of learning
  • empowered
  • self regulating/ self managing
  • knowledgeable and resourceful
  • moral and ethical
  • entrepreneurial - kiwi ingenuity, initiative, innovative
  • Contented

To make it real this list needs to be smaller.

Implicit responsibility for educators to lead learners through their learning. Scaffolding is need to support our children to achieve these characteristics. We need to take this back to our beliefs and principles.

The 5 key competencies appear to underpin what we are talking about. ie, resilience is a part of managing self, growth mindset culminates all of the competencies. Therefor what makes us unique is the context that we operate within. The competencies are the essence of the curriculum so therefore, what does that look like in the culture of our school. 

Rhetorical question: are we delivering a 21st Century curriculum or is it just a 1995 add on? Competencies are like dispositions, they are a set of behaviours rather than skills. They wire the learner with competencies to help them to achieve with core areas.

Each of the 4 competencies has a language. What are the vital competencies that we need to embed in our children to enable them to their capacity?

18 May 2015

What Does Learning Look Like?

This chart is created by Like to Write 
In the pursuit of designing learning and what it could possibly look like, I am forced to re-visit the multitude of readings about learning in the 21st Century. I have previously articulated my reticence of these texts as we are too far into this century to pull the 'time to change' card. It should have changed in my books by now.

We know and have now known for a longtime that the world is changing rapidly and that we cannot begin to predict what the world will look like in 8 years let alone 50. Collectively, it sounds as though everyone involved in education acknowledges that we are preparing all children to be active participants in a globally, connected world. But it seems that some view the 3Rs as the old band aid that needs to be ripped off quickly and cleanly while others see them as the enablers that must be central to early learning. 

The key competencies refer to real skills such as growing as critical thinkers, goal setting  and knowing what to do when the going gets tough. Managing themselves to get through those hard places so that they can achieve well by picking themselves back up and carrying on. Surely, these competencies are not 'extra' things to cover in the learning environments? Each of the key competencies is evident in the process of learning and it is this that needs to be the focus in our habitats not the content. 

The devices are a perfect vehicle for facilitating the learning process. This suggestion is not to be confused with creating another stand alone curriculum that involves learning how to use the technology. Nor is it about teaching with technology tools. Instead, it is about the children creating and constructing with the technology. 

Knowledge is accessible and totally ubiquitous and this alone has placed a greater emphasis on the need to shift our practices. Children don't need to think of things, but need to think about them. This takes us to a whole new level of thinking including analysis, synthesis and evaluation. 

We need to develop the children's communication skills so that they are able to communicate in our media rich world.  They need to be able to use their learning to solve problems and to record this digitally including texts such as news broadcasts, gaming, blog reflections. The engagement that these tools provide give licence to the children to create texts that reflect their individuality. 

The use of platforms such as google docs allows for collaboration. It is important to note that collaboration is not just about helping each other or giving each other feedback. Truly collaborative tasks will enhance student learning by closely modelling how they are likely to work as adults. 

We need to be aware of our role in helping children to understand the process of learning and the grit needed to achieve longterm goals/ projects. We need to ensure that learning is authentic and meaningful for the children. 

9 May 2015

Moon Shot Thinking

Moonshot Thinking is a way of thinking. Courage, persistence and growth mindset are crucial. Choose to be bothered by things because they are hard. Our ambitions can be a glass ceiling on our passions. 

Have the courage to try!
We choose to do this because it is hard!
We are a species of moon shots!
Take risks, inspire others.

It's okay to not know how to do it yet!

7 May 2015

We Had a Feeling

It's hard to believe that is was nearly 5 years ago that the classes I was working with did this project in a dance colaboration. It was a magical moment when the kids were able to connect via skype with classrooms around NZ and the world to share/ perform a dance. The product was the end of year dance item. The wonderment and awe was the connecting, the collaborating and developing an understanding of the Arts and how our culture impacts on us.

Here's what it looked like from Mr Miller's end...

SuperScooper Dance Instruction from John Miller on Vimeo.

This is Mr Wood's Class - Room 17 from Bailey Intermediate practising...

2 May 2015

Lester Flockton discusses what is needed to connect the School Curriculum with the intent and changed emphases ofThe New Zealand Curriculum. 

We need to develop a structure that embraces the nature of learning, values, essential components that develop self directed, motivated and engaged learners who are empowered throughout the learning process. 

Mark Treadwell describes personalised learning as:  
- making sure we know our audience and purpose
- knowing why we are learning our learning intention
- applying efficient and effective ways to learn
- being engaged in the learning process 
- knowing what knowledge is needed to build the required understanding

Mark also explains Conceptual Curriculum as a paradigm shift from text based learning systems to multimedia and collaborative environments. Concepts are built from a body of knowledge and requires numerous contexts. Understanding concepts is a developmental process, as your braining is constantly developing. 

We have conceptual understandings in our Curriculum Document =

The four conceptual strands in the social sciences curriculum are: 
• Identity, Culture, and Organisation; 
• Place and Environment; 
• Continuity and Change; 
• The Economic World. 

The four conceptual strands in the health and physical education curriculum are: 
Attitudes and values
Socio- ecological perspective
Health promotion

So why use a Conceptual Curriculum?

-When learning concepts we use different parts of the brain to create a better understanding; neurons (7% neurons used for rote learning), using concepts for learning uses astrocytes (75% of brain cells and neurons)
-Keeps learning authentic and purposeful for the student
-In an information age concepts allow us to organise information in our own way in a meaningful structure
-Allows flexibility for teaching and learning
-Student focused

Sir Ken Robinson challenges us to move away from conformity, standardisation and 
the production line mentality. It's necessary to change the paradigm and begin 
to address divergent thinking.