So it is Summer Break here in New Zealand. Christmas and New Year is done and dusted once more! Of course, Summer will fly by and before we know it, teachers will start heading to school to get organised for their new classes! In a few short weeks schools will be buzzing with excited students (and parents). So what is going to be your focus for 2016?
Whenever I would head back into the empty school in January, I was always struck by two things. 1 - the quiet and 2 - the pile of "stuff" that I hadn't quite managed to deal with in the rush of finishing the previous year! It was always a great time to reflect on the successes and challenges of the past and to start thinking about the year ahead. As learning centred educators, we are always engaging in this natural form of "teaching as inquiry." Thinking about what engaged our learners and was successful so we know what to do more of, but also thinking about what wasn't working well so we know where to improve.
So to get you started, here are a few of thoughts about what is worth spending your precious time on as you start a new year.
1) Your collaborative relationships.
Do you have a new co-teacher? Are you co-teaching for the first time? Do you have new people coming onto your teaching team? However you are organised and even if you are working with the same people, it is key that you put in the time to find out about each other, your strengths and skills and plan for the way you will work together.
The fantastic Steve Mouldey(@GeoMouldey) has put this resource on The Pond - a questionnaire for getting to know your co-teacher. (PDF copy at the end of this post.) It could easily be adapted to a variety of settings. Also if you're not on The Pond or the Virtual Learning Network,maybe this is the year to join and start exploring some of the awesome resources and discussions that are on there!
2) Student Voice
Getting to know your new students and gathering student voice and input is key to establishing authentic positive relationships quickly. How will you quickly access information about your students' opinions, ideas and strengths? Is this maybe an opportunity to get rid of some of those tired first week of school activities and to try something different?
3 Organising your virtual space
Have you had a tidy up of your virtual space? If you are reusing parts of it ( and hopefully you are if it is a site or weebly ) have you checked for out of date information, archived old student work that is no longer needed and fixed broken links? Make sure you're working smart - moved rooms? You may just need to change your site address or class twitter handle.
4. Organising your learning environment
Here's a job to take off your list NOW! This is not your job! This is one of your learners' jobs! Sure, you might have some furniture to quickly move and a couple of posters to put up, but this is no longer your responsibility! I remember spending days setting up and rearranging my classroom furniture, but in the past few years it's been all on my kids! Once again - ditch that " All about me" poster and get the kids involved in setting up spaces for their learning. Document the journey and create a resource for the class. These blog posts have some ideas for starting out! CEM #2, Just like Starting Over
4. Start Scanning
From Day 1, this is the time to start thinking about Teaching as Inquiry for 2016. In the scanning phase of Spirals of Inquiry, we need to be genuinely curious about our learners and to stay open to all kinds of new information and insights. I often find that in these early days, you might spot something that leads to a "hunch" that may need further investigation as the year progresses. Just keep it on your radar.
5. Improve One Thing
Challenge yourself to make an improvement with one thing. Maybe your reading programme needs a revamp? Does your school have a professional development focus in a learning area that you could build on? Maybe you are never making it outside with the students to fitness? You might want to ask better questions. But just pick one area that you know needs improvement and focus some energy on that.
6. Try One New Thing
Ok, so number 5 features improving something that you already do. But what about trying one NEW thing? Maybe this is the year you become a tweeter. Maybe you've always wanted to write a blog? You might want to try students running their own learning workshops as part of your classroom programme? Seek some support from your colleagues if necessary - perhaps someone is a whizz at GAFE and you really want to upskill. Model being a learner in front of your students.
7. Set a self-care goal.
Don't burn out in the first three weeks! Remember to take care of yourself too! Teaching is one wild ride! Don't sweat the small stuff and focus on what's important - those excited kids coming through the doors ready to learn! Good luck!
Used with acknowledgement and cited below:
Introduction/ Executive Summary
The future that we face today is unknown. Often we are surprised! Mistakes and failures will happen and it is important that we fully understand these to create a context for learning and growth.
The world no longer rewards people for what they know. Being able to extrapolate from what we know and apply learning to new and novel situations is key. Creativity and Innovation are required.
Education is now more about ways of thinking,communicating and collaborating, using technology well and the development of social and emotional skills.
It will be more important to be a VERSATILIST - able to apply a depth of skill to a wide range of situations, capable of changing and adapting at a rapid pace and being able to reposition oneself in fast paced environments.
The focus is shifting from individual achievements, to acknowledging the power of collaboration to support innovation and development.
The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey found that 2/3 of teachers said their schools were "hostile to innovation." Innovative Learning Environments still remain the exception, not the rule.
Drivers for change include the penetration of technology, employer's interest in education, global connections and new learning providers.
Page 12, 13 of Executive Summary - A Learning System that that has a thoroughly integrated ILE framework will have:
Education has become more and more important world wide. Driver of this is economic and based around education's role in maintaining competitiveness in the world. Global interdependence has fuelled comparative measures. These have led to pressures to reform education.
Key issues - engagement of students, especially teenagers, perceived role of teachers in society and the value placed on the profession, slow pace of change in education, systemic change needed rather than isolated innovation.
Learning systems extend well beyond schools and to enact change, we must look beyond the traditional partners and structures.
Page 18/19 - Framework for ILE: The 7+3 model.
Page 20 - The C's! Common features of ILE strategies and Initiatives
Time - system change takes TIME. Time for relationship building, connections and interaction.
A system transformation - there will have been a matching shift in educator's views, knowledge and practice. Widespread use of social media and technology. Culture of evaluative thinking and self-review. Distributed leadership. Evidence based decisions.
What kinds of broader changes and conditions are needed in order for the "7+3" to become commonplace features of learning systems?
What will the indicators be?
1)Reduce Standardisation, Foster Innovation, Broaden Institutions.
Standard rules and procedures should not be barriers to innovation.
Allow for non-formal learning opportunities, both face to face and in online communities.
2) Accountability and Metrics for 21st century learning.
Page 25/26 - ALL these messages are key!
3)Promoting leadership, trust and learner agency.
Effective, distributed leadership is critical.
Learners must be active partners in their learning establishment's design, curriculum and decision making.
High trust environments and connectedness with all stake holders.
4)Widespread collaborative expert professionalism.
5) Ubiquitous Professional Learning.
Professional development opportunities in evaluation and evaluative thinking.
The real and virtual environments inhabited by teachers should be conducive to professional exchange and dialogue.
6) Connectivity and extensive digital infrastructure.
7) Flourishing cultures of networks and partnerships.
Horizontal connection and collaboration.
8) Powerful knowledge systems and cultures of evaluation.
There needs to be a culture of diagnostic expertise and evaluation.
Indicators of the widespread adoption of the ILE framework:
Chapter 3: Promising Strategies for spreading ILE's
From studies of 26 countries:
Culture change: more important than surface change, but much more difficult to realise.
Clarifying Focus: Don't have too many things going on at once. Innovate, but remain focused. Doing the "same old" has not improved student achievement and quality.
Capacity Creation: Knowledge and Professional Learning. Generate knowledge about student learning and how that knowledge will be acted upon.
Collaboration and Co-operation: Collaborative professionalism is necessary for innovation.Professional Learning Networks are key.
Communication and Technology Platforms - supporting the development of an ILE.
Change Agents: people who are able to provide influence on the ground and provide the expertise and drive to maintain innovation.
Chapter 4: Growing Innovative Learning through Meso - Level networking.
Chapter 5: Transformation and Leadership in Complex Learning Systems.
Recently I have talked with many different teachers about developing their learning environments, teaching collaboratively and making changes to the ways in which they personalise learning in their classrooms. I have to say, that I believe many teachers are feeling confused by the vast amount of information that they are seeing, the pace of change, the demands for change and they just want to yell, "STOP!"
Everyone, just take a breath! Slow down! Why are we all here? It doesn't matter if we are saying MLE, MLP, ILE - we are here to do the best job that we can to teach our kids. We want them to be happy. We want them to be motivated. We want them to love school.
Now I happen to believe that working in a collaborative, responsive environment that integrates e-learning is the best place for our kids to be. They need teachers who are empowering their agency, who listen to their voices and who inspire them to reach for their "not yet". But I am one of the converted and I realise that you have to come to this place on your own. And so, I am trying to gather ideas into one place for those who are searching. Check out some great research, thinkers and bloggers who have inspired me on my own learning journey. I'll keep adding to this, but it's a start.
When beginning to think about teaching collaboratively, many people are often concerned about maintaining contact with their students and still "knowing" their students really well. I would agree that this is a challenge. It is different than when you are in a single cell classroom. There's no way that you can know 50 students that you teach at different times as well as you would know 25 who you teach all the time. That's when the conversations that you have with your co-teacher(s) become so important. Together, my co-teachers and I find we have a really good knowledge of our students. We work on learning reports together and feel confident that what we are reporting is a true and accurate reflection of a particular student. I just wish that we had more time allocated to for 3 way learning conferences. It would be amazing to both be able to be at the conferences for all our students, not just the ones on our homebase list. Extra teacher only day??
I know lots of school are thinking about assessment/ learning conferences and pastoral care with multiple classes and teachers and I would love to hear what's working well in your school.
Meanwhile, I wanted to share a student survey that we conducted at the end of Term 2. I find Google Forms a great way to gather information from students and to gather student voice. We have been introducing our Year 4 students to using their Google Drive, so sending out a survey let them have some practice. We were amazed at their responses and gained some valuable information. Let's face it, you would never have time to go around and ask each child a whole bunch of questions, let alone remember the answers and collate! Let Google do the work for you!
So here is a sample of a few questions we asked and some responses. We did ask the students to put their names, which they happily did. We asked quite a few pastoral care questions - how students were finding the playground etc. This gave us some good information and we were able to identify a few key children that need some extra support. There were 48 children who took the survey, give or take a few user errors who had so start again!
We were interested to see which subjects were appealing to the students the most. We found it interesting that Reading was so far ahead in the survey. We think this is because this is the area that is most student directed, with a lot of choice, elearning opportunities and independence. This gave us the idea to try and include some of the same elements into other areas of the programme. (Stay tuned for a blog post about how this goes.)
This question was in response to us getting rid of "Read and Feed" time. Students now just get their snacks when they want to eat them, between 9:15 and 10:00am. We wanted to check that they were still happy with this.
This is an especially interesting question as we now have almost 2/3 of our students bringing their own device. These are mostly ipads. However, the laptop still remains incredibly popular which is a good reminder about using the best tool for the best purpose. The laptops have been in hot demand with the use of GAFE, especially as our students love using Google Draw, which is not supported on the ipad at this stage.
Can't believe that PAGES is still so popular - though I think it is because our kids love making poster type creations on it.
As you can see, a huge amount of the class is bringing a device. Below are a few likes/ dislikes. One common thread that came through was that the way we are storing the devices is making the kids crazy! So, Day 1, Term 3 we will pose this as a problem for the kids to come up with a solution for.
We wanted to check in with the kids who don't bring their own device how they were feeling about this. The more BYOD kids we have, the harder we are working to make sure that everything is equitable. We have PLENTY of school devices for kids to use. The biggest issue for school users seems to be saving work in progress. Hopefully as they become better using Google Drive and their email, this will be easier for them to manage.
We are big on collaboration, so learning partners are used all the time in our class. This was interesting feedback. Something we have taken on board, is to give more opportunities to work in a 3 or alone - mix it up a bit! The kids often get to pick their own partners and I bet they don't like it when we assign - but I guess that's too bad for them!! But it would be interesting to discuss with them why we do this.
So, our next step is to discuss parts of this survey with our kids once Term 3 starts. Maybe ask them for more input. We want to show them their voice matters and that we have taken many of their ideas on board. It'll be interesting to see what they can come up with for ipad storage and security. I also can't wait to unveil our new and improved Maths programme - I think the kids will love it!
I came across these two articles recently, which I've really enjoyed. Nothing like a bit of light reading for the holidays.....
This article featuring Jane Gilbert in Idealog is excellent:
"Equipping kids with iPads in the classroom is nice, but Gilbert advocates a fundamental shift. She urges us to think beyond surface features such as technology in schools and to consider how our learning environments are structured to create inquiring minds. Without these skills, future generations can never hope to solve significant issues such as climate change, social inequality and the impact of globalisation.
I love that phrase - " how our learning environments are structured to create inquiring minds."
It made me wonder:
How do we ensure that the environment is the third teacher?
How do we as teachers who have been educated in a traditional way make a REAL shift to be future focused?
How can we fight against the crowded curriculum, the traditional curriculum and let the kids drive the learning?
Not just as Jane says: "We’re still working within the same twentieth-century framework. The thinking hasn’t changed. "It’s just couching what we’ve already done in much fancier production values. It looks cooler and more digitised, but the underlying educational objectives have not changed."
If you don't follow idealog on facebook, make sure you do! Excellent articles on a range of cutting edge topics!
Also, loving this blog post from Karen Boyes:
Sensible, practical and on the money! Could be a great starting point for those beginning their MLP journey. Also, a great way for those of use implementing and developing MLP to check point how we're doing - successes, failures, things that have fallen by the wayside.
Enjoy while you munch on those chocolate bunnies!
As the school year draws to a close, my co-teacher for 2014 and I sat down and talked through the highlights and next steps of a year teaching collaboratively.
The unique and different ways that every teacher works. Being a teacher team is a little bit like a marriage - you have to listen to each other, compromise and learn from each other.
The students on the whole saw us both as their teachers. However, they still gravitated towards their homebase teacher with any pastoral care issues.
Relationships with parents developed well throughout the year and parents would come and see either of us.
So, now after a great 2014, we are getting divorced! Our teaching partnership is dissolved due to class makeup for 2015 and both of us are headed into new co-teaching arrangements with awesome people.But I know we will both take ideas from each other to our new partnerships! Which leads to this:
How long should teachers be in collaborative partnerships? If we were staying together, there are many things we would refine and improve, but how long is too long? What are the best ways of grouping teachers into teaching teams?
Still these twice yearly written reports are limiting innovative teaching practice. Check out this blog post for ideas that would work out WAY better! http://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/instant-communication-and-twice-yearly-report-cards/#comment-19122
This month I was lucky enough to attend this awesome conference, along with other members of our Clearview staff and Board of Trustees. There were some excellent keynote speakers and workshops held over the three days. I would say, that as a kiwi teacher, what was missing for me was a focus on Modern Learning Practices. The Australian curriculum is quite different to ours and the focus for many of the workshops was on their national testing programme. Still, you always learn something!
I very much enjoyed Christine Haynes presentation about Coaching Teachers as Lead Learners. An excellent model for developing e-learning practices throughout a school and one that I am hoping to use parts of in my school in 2015.
Alec Couros is an inspiring speaker. His keynote discussed how we participate in the world using technology. That aquaintances can often be our biggest source of new ideas. He encouraged the audience to embrace and model connected communities and asked, "How are you contributing to the learning of others?"
Greg Butler asked, "How might we transform learning?" He urged the audience to "get comfortable with situations where you don't know the answer." Check out the excellent website http://newpedagogies.org for some excellent downloads from Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy.
Simon Breakspear was one of the best keynote speakers I have seen. A real entertainer. He discussed learning agility as the key skill for the future, to cope with the agile career pathways that will develop. He asked, "How can we sustainably redesign learning behaviours?" He believes that learners need agency, relevance and connection. You can see some of his past EdTalks and his presentations.
There were of course a lot of cool workshops. I went to Augmented Reality, Itunes U, 3d printing, Cybersafety and a few other good ones.
Probably my key wonderings focused on the New Zealand education system and where we are in our journey towards MLP as a country. Obviously every school is different, but I came back from Australia feeling proud of where we are. It was great to get an international perspective and to chat with Australian teachers who were amazed to hear about our collaborative teaching and elearning opportunities. I felt like their use of technology in the class seemed more focused on creating content and the purpose was often to help with the NAPLAN. Yet another reason to keep standardised testing out of our education system!
Next year's conference will also be in Melbourne. Definitely worth a look when planning your 2015 professional development.
Libraries have been coming up a lot for me lately! Firstly, at school I spent a couple of afternoons moving our library into a room off our hall, to make way for our rapid student growth. I'm actually a little jealous, as now our library is home to two of our new entrant classes and it makes a wonderful collaborative space. In the short term, our library will be housed in our drama room. Meanwhile, we are looking at creative ways of keeping our library as a hub in our school. Stay tuned!
Then in the holidays, I visited the new library that has been built in Lincoln, a community about ten minutes away and part of our Selwyn Council network of libraries. I loved the space and creative use of furniture. The day I visited, the library was buzzing with members of the community involved in various activities. ( See slideshow below.)
My mother is now a primary school librarian, having spent the majority of her career as a high school librarian. She passed on to me the latest issue of " Collected" magazine, the magazine of the School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa. This issue focuses on modern learning environments, the role and place of the library and librarian.
So I felt that the universe was sending me a sign that it is about time for a library post!
After reading through the " Collected" issue it became apparent that librarians and libraries are facing major challenges. They are looking at a major redefinition of their role and place within education. I thought I would summarise the main messages, though recommend reading the whole magazine here if you wish.
Lisa Salter, Communications Leader had this to say; "I can be a librarian wherever I am, I don't need a library to identify myself. A traditional librarian was connected to a place, librarian = library. Now a library is a state of mind; physical, digital, social, communal. Adapting has become one of our specialties." As many schools ponder the need for a traditional library space, Salter points out that schools without libraries are in even more need of an experienced librarian. " An MLE must enable itself to provide modern approaches to inquiry learning and in doing so must rely on advice from information professionals in planning and practice."
Bridget Schaumann, SLANZA President urges schools to make their libraries spaces for literacy, discovery and inquiry. Paula Eskett and Janet McFadden of National Library encourage rethinking restrictive practices, what has been "always done" and putting user's needs first. They urge schools to develop MLLE's ( Modern Learning Library Environments) where "print and digital resources meet…..creating user driven, proactive, constantly evolving participatory spaces that support and reflect the education world all educators are now part of."
Quoting the fabulous Christian Long - "The focus of innovative learning spaces is never about the building. It's what the building enables users to do."
Mark Osborne of Core Education outlines ways in which libraries are evolving - service centres for digital citizenship and information literacy, gallery spaces, community hubs and storehouses for valuable resources. He challenges schools to ask, "How might the library act as a 'third place' to provide unique, compelling and engaging experiences for staff, students and community that aren't offered elsewhere."
How is your school using their library? How do we ensure that we maintain all the tradtional "good" things that libraries brought to education, while developing them into vibrant, vital, flexible hubs of learning?
The fabulous team at Clarkville school were our hosts for the first MLE PLG for 2014. I was excited to return to Clarkville after my visit during my sabbatical term, to see how they were going on their journey using Modern Learning Practices. (Original blog post.)
Pene and her teaching team relayed their story so far:
Bells, homework, desks, students only learning in class, students as learners of facts, curriculum coverage.
Choice - students are self regulated learners, there is a high trust environment.
Connectedness - between the school, the community, the students and the teachers.
Culture - a culture that is focused on learning.
Consultation - student consultation team that provides authentic student voice, community in action (CIA) groups and workshops, relationships with early childhood providers and high schools, to develop transitions for students.
Authentic learning opportunities.
The development of a professional learning community.
Critical friends - seeking feedback from professionals such as Christian Long. ( Christian Long blog post)
A dynamic, responsive curriculum.
Student think tank.
All teachers teach all kids.
Clear data shift.
Enablers of a school wide culture shift:
A strong strategic plan owned by everyone.
Principal/ Board support.
Teaching as Inquiry.
Clear appointments process.
After this excellent introduction, some of the Clarkville students lead tours around the school. Teachers were able to spend time in each area of the school, talking with the students and teachers and seeing student work and learning environments. It was exciting to hear that some of the classrooms are going to be renovated and linked together, to enable collaborative teaching in a more open environment. The teachers and students are really excited for this next step to happen.
There were almost 100 registrations to attend this PLG and all around I could hear teachers discussing what they saw, chatting together and being inspired by new ideas. A huge thanks to the Clarkville staff and students for sharing their vision, hard work and innovations.
So 2014 has started with a bang! Here at Clearview, we made the committment to teach collaboratively, right from Day 1 of the new school year. It has been interesting for me, as I have been released from my classroom for the first 6 weeks, to implement some ICT initiatives and provide support for teachers. This has meant the opportunity to spend time in all parts of the school and to see first hand how teachers and students are working together.
As part of our PD discussions last year, we decided that it was important that students and parents felt right from the start of the year, that there was more than one teacher involved in their education. In our 2013 "Meet the teacher" session, we had students meet altogether with the teachers who were to be part of their 2014 "power team." We made sure that on Day 1 of our 2014 school year, there were opportunities for students to all be together to get to know each other and their teachers.
Last year when creating our new classes, rather than create them in a traditional way with each homebase getting assigned students, we created clusters of students, then separated them into homebases for management reasons. For example, in my team we created 3 clusters of 45 students. We looked across those 45 children for behavioural issues and diverse learners as you would normally. It did mean however, that we didn't need to worry if a student was "on their own" in a homebase at a particular level, as there would be others in their power class that they could be grouped with.
We have also experimented with furniture and setup in different ways. In my team, classes are mostly working in power teams of 2 teachers and 45 kids. One room may be set up as a large open space, while another room may be set up as "rooms within rooms" for the children to work in. Different teachers are making use of the learning studio space in unique ways. Some using it as a watering hole space, others using it as a teaching space, others as a working space. Most often it is a mix of all three.
We are developing ownership of the space, by making sure students have a presence in all spaces. One room might display art and inquiry work for all students. Another room might have maths and writing displays for all students. In our newsletters, we have made parents feel welcome to visit all teachers and all learning spaces that their children are involved with.
As I have moved around our school, I have definitely noticed that the environment feels very welcoming and collaborative. It is very busy, but when you stand back and watch, you see students using all of our spaces, interacting with each other and a high level of engagement.
I am about to head into my classroom for the remainder of the year, so exciting times ahead.
My name is Ngaire Shepherd-Wills. This website is a record of my TeachNZ sabbatical, Term 2, 2013 and then I have continued to share my wonderings and discoveries about Innovative Learning Practices. I now work for CORE Education. Views are my own.