About Thinks

Sometimes good thinks happen and sometimes bad thinks happen. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between the two.

Some thinks need immediate action and some thinks may remain as thinks forever. Thinks can be angry and heated. Thinks can be joyful. Thinks should never be cold.

These thinks are linked to many other wonderful thinks and I like to attribute these.

These thinks do not necessary reflect those thinks of my employer.

Think long, think on.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

the sickening silence of asTTle

I really do not know what Hattie was thinking with Asttle. As I look around my class I can see children sitting in silence answering out of context maths questions. This year, thanks to the fine work of Dan Meyer, I have been teaching maths by getting the children to generate and ask questions. After about 5 minutes of asTTle-ing they start twitching. It was my job to tell them to keep still. Then they started whispering, generating questions, and seeking clarification from each other. It was my job to tell them to be quiet.

How is it that these National Standard Approved assessments are so far removed from the paradigm shift in education? Why is it that we are seeking innovative exploratory learning methods, encouraging collaboration and critical thinking and then measuring all this with an isolated test that must be done in silence? What are we doing to our kids?

In this environment WHO CARES what a kid can do on their own without any access to equipment or people to bounce ideas off? I spoke to my Principal about it (he just LOVES my morning talks) and he convinced me to a certain extent that there is a place for individual data. Okay, I can accept that. BUT I think that individual data is too heavily weighted. I'm guessing most primary schools base their childrens' maths knowledge on individual assessments. NUMP diagnostic assessments, Asttle etc.

Why is it that the Nat Stds are calculated from working back from the NCEA system yet there seems to be no scope to have 'team assessments? Why can't we get groups of children to together to try and figure our an AsTTle test as a team? Why would that be considered invalid?

Participating and Contributing Managing Yourself Relating to Others
Where do these sit when we chain our children to desks with white photocopied booklets? They don't - they're not valued. We say they are, we go on about them, we pride ourselves in them, but really? "We" (whoever we are) don't value them.

If there is a team based Nat Stds approved maths assessment I'd be keen to hear about it. I must run it by my Principal at one of my morning talks.

AsTTle: What is the difference between 208 and 132? (completely out of context)
Favourite Answer: 208 is bigger than 132

Seriously, What are we doing?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Re-inventing the wheel

It came to me today when I was responding to an MLE post.
How did we end up in a society where we say in all seriousness,
"The wheel is good, no need to reflect, evaluate, or improve on it. It's fine! Leave it!"

Teachers have taken the phrase "We don't want to reinvent the wheel" to the extreme. There is a huge industry based around this ridiculous sentiment. There are resource rooms all over the world full of generic teaching products because, crikey, we don't want anyone to waste their time thinking!

Hopefully every teacher has made their very own resource at one time in their life. And hopefully it was shared with someone who gave it a wee tweak and used it in their class, and so it goes. I like this process, and with technology this sharing and collaborating is taking off.

What I do not like is the private industries that create resources, put a price sticker on them, copyright them and then hock them to, beginning teachers,senior management, and anyone else who will listen, with the claim - "this will save you time - you don't want to reinvent the wheel."

And the scary thing is that it is no longer just black-line masters. It is entire educational programmes that sit online behind credit card numbers (or are 'free' but stuffed full with commercial advertising). They are usually one-size-fits-all, completely out of context and written by adults who have been out of the classroom for years.

If a kid came up to me in a classroom with a twinkle in her eye, producing a round object as she said to me,
"Look what I made, it makes the box move!"
I would be super impressed - "You reinvented the wheel!"

Reinventing the wheel is important, creative stuff. The very act of making a teaching resource enables you to deliver the learning with more depth (it doesnt matter if it has been done before). I believe that it is the same with children and their learning. This is why I use video heavily in my class. Not to 'make movies' but to enable them to go through and explain and then reflect upon their learning. Sharing their learning is so easy via their blog and other children are benefiting from it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


It's quite terrifying when I think about the fact that we are about to embark on Term 4 Week 6 2010. Where did the year go? What have I achieved?

2010 - The year of the eFellowship.
If anyone is considering applying for one of these ... DO IT!

Having the fellowship on my mind enabled me to really think about how I use the eTools in my classroom and compelled me to deepen the learning associated with the use of these tools. Specifically, my use of cameras went from one of recording information and events to one of insightful reflection and self-monitoring. Through the use of our blog, the oral language progress of my children can be reflected on. When left to their own devices the children will look back on their older posts and be in awe about how far they and their friends have come. This kind of reflection is now normalised in my classroom. I think that is awesome (even if I do say so myself).

Being able to work with like-minded people has given me the opportunity to take some extra steps. Florence Lyons enabled me to 'get brave' and start my kids video conferencing with other children. We have started this process. As Florence puts it, this expands their horizons. How wonderful that my kids can talk to others kids in Australia about AFL, home and away, the issues surrounding school litter. This is where we are headed in teaching. Our kids are getting overseas experiences in the comfort of their classrooms. They are hearing new accents, reflecting on them, and realising that people are people. Yeah we're different but we often think about the same stuff. How wonderful that my kids can present themselves as intelligent, digi savy, friendly, beautiful Maori and Pacific Island children from Otara to people from all over the world and (possibly more importantly) all over the country. That they can tell the "many" stories of Otara and not just the ones presented via the television media.

The fellowship has also enabled me to visit something that I gave-up on many years ago. My academic career started not in Education but in Commerce. I was drawn into the world of the theories behind collective bargaining, business ethics and the philosophies of organisational theory. I became very passionate about swimming against the tide. I challenged capitalism, questioned the ethics of business and I developed a general, but informed, cynicism for big business. In my 4th year I wrote a dissertation on the injustice of a family who discovered that their family home had been built on an abandoned gas-works site. The family had been eating out of their garden for years and had started to suffer from serious health problems. I dropped the ball on this one, lost my mind, got caught up in the injustice, and forgot about the theory, the criteria, and the general rules that must be followed when writing a dissertation. As they would say in twitterland #fail.

It's not good for an A average student to get a C- their final dissertation. It really messes with the grade average. Scholarship dreams come crashing around your ears, PHD dreams fly away. Tears rolled, tantrums thrown, and a major lesson in picking yourself up, building a bridge, and getting over it, was had. I ran away from business ethics and directly into the arms of Gender studies. It's a nice world in there. It's a collective world. It's a world where assumptions are challenged and insights are made. If only there was a way to combine these two worlds.

As an educator, opportunities have come up where I have been able to have a wee poke in the ribs of business and government policy. For example my class study on eWaste was a good learning adventure, I encourage my class to hassle and question government policy, and currently our study on "where is it from?" is making me smile. But these adventures are always slotted around the sides of the curriculum. I sneak it all in around reading crappy school readers, meaningless numeracy project maths at 'maths' time, and writing to the "genre" of the term. Its very hard to justify writing a 'report' on something when it is the term of the 'narrative'. If only there was a way around this.

Then I discovered that there are educators that feel the same way. And not only do they feel the same way, they are well on their journey, and they are willing to share. Nathan Parker's insights and practices around envirethical education are reminiscent of what I was trying to achieve in that commerce building but there is grounding behind it, proven experience, and a general maturity and depth around the issues.

I've got the big business bug again. But this time I have experience, grounding, context, and most importantly, support. My class and I are going to have a play with Ubuntu (OS and Philosophy), question the government's decisions around the blatantly uninformed usage and funding of Microsoft's products, attempt a paradigm shift (Sir Ken Robinson) in my teaching practice, as well as drawing on the research of Dr Sugata Mitra where we will address the issues surrounding remoteness in education. See here

So yeah, what a year! Bring on the next one - 2011 will the last year of slotting the good stuff in around the sides...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Inquiry/Enquiry TO WITH and BY

I've been contemplating the world of inquiry-based learning...

Owing to a busy schedule this term our 'learning pathway' programme is taking a bit of a back seat so I have been trying to squeeze as much in as I can, where I can.

Having been inspired by the notion of using envirethical themes within school programmes
my classes 'question' this term is Where is it From?

Here the kids get to investigate their favourite thing and find out about its origins (where is it made? who makes it? what are the working conditions like?)

In one of those spontaneous brain-waves (you know, the ones you have in a split second and the 'plan' for the day flies away) I decided one afternoon to 'model' the process using chocolate as an example.

I chucked a few questions onto the board and the kids googled away for 10-15 mins to come up with more information.

What are the ingredients of chocolate?
Where in the world are cocoa beans found?
What does child labour mean?

Interestingly these questions generated some interesting questions and statements from the kids:

Where is the ivory coast? Where is Ghana? (woop, spontaneous meaningful geography lesson)
Cocoa beans look like Coconuts, Miss! (Using prior understandings)

We then watched the Bitter-sweet BBC doco

And more questions came:
Why are they making those kids make chocolate for the world? (Critical Thinking)

Could they come to NZ and make us do it?

(I reassured them that we have laws in NZ to protect children and workers) Then one of them brought up Warner Brothers, but that's a different story. Needless to say, that was a lot of learning packed into 45 mins.

Some of them are now going to continue our chocolate study as their inquiry and I have noticed that the other individual research projects are benefiting from having gone through this process.

Normally we have talked about research methods, key words etc and then I have sent them on their merry way where I then 'react' to their questions and problems.

According to Harry Hood, a good literacy programme should have a balance of TO, WITH, and BY. In the early years there is a larger focus on TO and WITH and as the years go by it lies more heavily on WITH and BY. So why are we not doing this with inquiry-based learning? Or will this turn it back into 'topic'?

Watching The BBC Documentary

Friday, October 15, 2010

Edmodo - Speed Teaching?

So i have brought Edmodo into my class. Turns out it is a fast-paced teaching tool.

The kids embraced this social networking tool with both hands, staying up all hours of the night posting hilarious youtube videos and shooting the breeze.

I'm trying to embrace this enthusiasm into something more meaningful so i tried to digitise the good old theatre-sports game - word at a time (but it was more like phrase at a time).

The result was quite remarkable. Everytime a kid wrote a sentence we were able to comment (out loud) "That doesnt make sense, you need punctuation, what does that mean? How does that relate? etc etc ).

Feedback was fast
Feedback was instant
It was exhausting. We were having fun - but it was condensed.

Where are we headed?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ulearn Thanks

Wow thanks uLearn!

This has been a beautiful adventure that I hope will never end.

On completion of my presentation I did not feel a feeling of relief or that it was 'over'. It's only just begun.

Sharing the ideas with the eFellows, I have discovered that although our research may appear to be vastly diverse we are all on the same path.

My kids could be the luckiest kids in the country (we all say that though don't we).

But they are about to embark on a journey where their horizons will be expanded via skype (Thank you Florence), they will see new class news shows where Te Reo is sustained (Thank you Puti). They will be aware that 4 year olds have the patience and discipline to do animation (Thank you Margaret). Their maths programme will be more meaningful and less wordy while at the same time communicating with them through social networking out side of 'learning hours' (Thank you Joel). And they will have a raised sense of social responsibility and awareness and will start to have conversations in relation to their purchasing choices(Thank you Nathan).

They will also continue to reflect on their presentation and group behaviour skills as well as collaborating with a bunch of other kids from all over the world.

So I am a buzzing mess but at the same time at ease. I have achieved a true love for my work.

Thank you Michael, Thank you Vince, Thank you Naketa, Thank you CORE


Friday, September 17, 2010

It started with a tweet

This term has been the first time I have used twitter as my PLN and I have to say it has been a remarkable experience.

In 9 short weeks the quality of my practice, my learning, my enthusiasm, and the children's experiences has increased. I have always thought that the internet provides a '5th' wall in the classroom but we have always interacted with it in a passive manner.

Twitter and active blogging, and the connections it provides with like-minded classroom practitioners, has enabled my class to connect with classrooms globally.

It started with a tweet...

I followed a tweet where a teacher from Hamilton had linked a post to his classroom blog. His student was appealing to classrooms to help him answer a maths question that would be eventually collated into a movie for a specific competition. By participating in this project I was able to see other teachers who had contributed and follow their classroom blogs (while in turn those teachers saw our contribution and followed our classroom blog).

A connection was made with a school in Geelong, Australia. The kids there are around the same age as mine and do similar things to us, the most notable being the weekly news shows. The first time my kids discovered that there were other schools out there filming news shows they were somewhat unnerved.

"Aaaaw Miss! They're copying us!"

This provided an excellent learning opportunity as to what is meant by collaborative and shared learning. What do we like about what they have done? What have they done well? What ideas of theirs can we use in our news?

That day when they went off to film their stories something had changed. Things seemed to get very serious. Suddenly our news presenters were thinking about their angles, the camera people were thinking about their backgrounds. Here's what they came up with.

The kids then started to shift their reflections. Prior to the 'audience' they were reflecting on their content and features such as clarity of speech etc. Now that they had an authentic audience they started looking at the news through the audiences eyes "The sound doesn't sound good, Miss. They wont know what that was about."

So we thought we would be able to rectify that problem with a couple of Easi-speak mics. It was a lot harder to implement them into the news programme than I had anticipated. Here's what we did.

The kids were rather chuffed with themselves until the next Monday when they saw the latest news show from Geelong

Yep, there was an uproar - "They've got mics Miss!" AND THEY'RE BIGGER THAN OURS!!!

Without any input from me an impromptu brainstorming session came up. What can we do now??? So I thought it would be a good time to show them the concept of The Green Screen. (it was in fact a terrible time to introduce the green screen - week 9, an impending cultural festival to rehearse for as well as a DARE graduation) But they were in class an hour before the bell rang the next morning experimenting and playing with the concept. They then came up with this.

Interestingly the quality of the actual stories are taking a dive as the kids are focusing on (and learning about) the new technology. This is something that I will have to address next term. The point I am trying to make however, is that the children's hunger for learning can be directly associated with this authentic audience. The kids are no longer shy or self-conscious when the camera is on. There is a message to be delivered and nothing is going to stop them.

Meanwhile on the other side of town...

A school in Dunedin Tweeted that they would like assistance with their project. This school in Dunedin are making postcards to depict their community. On Tuesday an exciting parcel arrived from Dunedin. In it were beautifully made postcards depicting the St Clair community with little messages and explanations on the back. As well as that was a HUGE block of Cadbury chocolate (another iconic symbol of Dunedin)

I was impressed with how this teacher had fused two kinds of communication together thus cementing the authentic audience. Immediately we uploaded a photo with the kids holding the postcards to send to our friends in Dunedin. I am itching to get into the response to the postcards - we could just about use them as the basis for an inquiry. But at the same time I am aware that there are kids in Dunedin eagerly waiting for a response.

eLearning and collaboration is definitely changing the way I am teaching. In one respect the workload has become a lot easier because ideas, planning and motivations are coming in thick and fast. But on the other hand, I seem to have inherited a new set of children, the eChildren.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Web-Cam as self-monitoring tool

I can't say enough about explicit teaching in relation to attitudes and skills (rather than just knowledge).

This film shows how the webcam enabled this group of children to think about and reflect upon their skills and attitudes as group members. The previous footage was valuable in that it enabled them to reflect because they could see themselves.

This also meant that I was able to see how the group was functioning rather than relying on the output of the task and their reporting back.

Check out the progress they have made after self-evaluating...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Teachers are awesome!

Earlier this week, a colleague had asked me if I could offer him some advice in relation to class-room blogging. So I set up a non-compulsory teacher workshop the next day and invited anyone to come along.

3 teachers came along (which I thought was pretty cool given the 'same day' notice).

I didn't really have to do anything except provide them with an environment and time where we shared ideas, logged onto blogger, looked at other teachers' blogs, and we even looked at Ewan McIntosh's e-Portfolio Edtalk.

By going through the process of signing up, adding a clustr map and looking at the blogster widgets I was able to benefit from this process too. Our class blog now has a label directory :)

Today, one of the teachers excitedly showed me her blog. Her class was buzzing with enthusiasm and have already taken ownership of it. Check it out!

The enthusiasm has spread and I've had inquiries to run another session next week - I'm in!

I guess the moral of the story is:

If we set aside an occasional half hour, and collaborate, we can influence the eLearning of many children (and teachers)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Maths lesson inspired by Dan Meyer

Don't you just love it when you hear someone speak and it changes your life?

Dan Meyer's recent TED had this effect on me and my maths teaching and long may it last...

As you can see, this is largely set in the secondary school context, but we in primary school can figure this out ... surely.

So here is my first attempt at it. I started this last Monday.

My maths class had been working on addition and subtraction strategies for 3 digit numbers. Specifically, we were working on place value strategy and compensation (also known as equal addition).

I was browsing through the numeracy project resources (www.nzmaths.co.nz) and thumbing through a numeracy project based textbook and I just couldn't go through with it. I looked at the questions and wondered how I could "DD MYERS" them and none stood out as even slightly inspirational.

I tweeted a pretty indirect cry for help but nothing happened. I googled "DD Myers primary school context" nothing much. I racked my brain, went to bed, gave up...

Then at 3am I woke up chanting "money money money money money MUUUUNay" (you know the one).

That morning at 7am I was parked outside the local supermarket waiting for it to open. I went to the trolley park where they keep stacks of promotional mailures and carefully counted out a class set of them. (incidentally a bolshy checkout chick called security on me and I had to go to another supermarket but that's another story!)

Anyway, 2 hours later, they were looking at me and I was looking at them.

I explained to them that they would be using the fliers for maths for the day.

Then came the ambiguous statement...

Then they started to generate the questions, the rules, the formulas

"How much money can we spend? I have more people in my family, do I get more money? Do we have to buy breakfast? Can we buy anything we like?

Together we narrowed it down to a budget of $120, they had to buy breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. The lunch had to be suitable for school lunches.

Within minutes they discovered that the mailer did not have milk, so we went online and found the woolworths online shopping page where they list the prices for most grocery items (enter your nearest suburb and away you go).

By the time they were really getting into it, it was the end of the maths session. The time flew by!

The next day I made up a sheet outlining the success criteria and blank lines for them to write a list of all the food items they would need.

I asked them "If a kilo on mince costs $7.99, how much would 1/2 a kilo cost?

It would cost $4.00, Litia relplied.

"And how do you know that?"

"Well $7.99 is really $8 and half of 8 is 4"

Interestingly if I had asked her what 8 DIVIDED by 4 was she would look at me blankly. The previous week when I was asking them to round up number like 799 (for compensation purposes) they really struggled with that concept.

Then, like magic, the genuine question came out ...
How can we add these up without a calculator?


"If you needed to add $7.99 for a kilo of mince and $2.30 for a packet of pasta how could you do this using the compensation strategy?"
We'll add 1 cent to the $7.99 to make it $8 and then 'steal' 1 cent from the $2.30 making it $2.29
$7.99 + $2.30 is the same as

How many cents do we have? (PLACE VALUE STRATEGY)
How many dollars do we have?
So the answer is ... $10.29

Then we started adding bigger lists of numbers ... For fun!

Then it was time for the session to end ... again. Again time flew...

The next day a child came into the class with a countdown mailer tucked under her arm and asked if I could show her again the way to add the numbers up!

So as a warm-up I ask the kids to find the prices and then add some random items using the place value and and compensation strategies. Not only did they do this enthusiastically but they actually knew what I was asking them to do.

I was out of the classroom for the next two days so it will be interesting to see if they have completed their original mission (Of feeding their families for three days) most of them were fairly close by the end of Wednesday.

What I found even more compelling about this series of lessons was the incidental learning along the way and the meaningful conversations also.

"is it appropriate to feed your entire family a bag of oven fries for dinner? Those bags are only 500gms How many fries do you think that would be each"

"Would you normally have a king-size block of chocolate for breakfast?"

"How many loaves of bread would you have to buy to make sandwiches for 4 kids?"

"How many sandwiches do you have in your school lunch, how many kids in your family? How many slices of bread is that?"

The greatest part was that the kids were genuinely asking the questions and genuinely wanting to know how to add things together.

ePorfolios Ewan McIntosh


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Big Brother

How a webcam can be used as a self-reflection tool in the classroom

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Computer/Internet use agreements

Image source http://www.kidsmart.org.uk

Thanks to a comment made by Peter Kent I have been chewing on this issue over the last two weeks. There is not a lot that can be done about it on a school level. It's just a thought for the policy makers out there ...


I was at a panel discussion at the IWB.net conference run by Peter Kent. As we were walking into the room he suggested that this discussion was for principals and policy makers. Being neither of these things I nearly made the decision to leave but in the end I stayed.

During this discussion Peter Kent made the comment that in Australia's ACT they have done away with computer and internet use agreements. This was met with many a gasp (including my own).

He then converted me:

The use of computers and internet is integrated meaningfully through our entire curriculum. Should we be denying children their right to learn if they (or their parents) refuse to sign an agreement? Imagine a scenario where we could say,
"today we are learning about cats in the library (except you Ruth you haven't signed the safe use of library agreement, I have something else for you)..."

I accept that many things can go wrong on the internet, but many things can go wrong with ALL tools we use in the classroom and beyond. When things go wrong- or look like they can potentially go wrong - it is our job as educators to deal with it, and educate our children so that they can learn from their mistakes.

If a child threatens another child with scissors, we remove the scissors, we have discussions about the scissors, we reiterate what behaviour is expected when using scissors and eventually we give the child another opportunity with the scissors. We do not demand that every child (and their family) sign a scissor safety agreement before being allowed to use them. We assume that our children will act within the rules and take action if they don't.

Why do we assume the worst for Internet use?


I have been using the Internet since 1995. The internet was so slow back then that you had to click on a button called "auto load images" to stop the images being loaded. Once you could see what was on the page (5 minutes later) you would then make the decision whether or not you were willing to commit to the page.

Since 1995 I have NEVER 'stumbled upon porn'. The closest I have come is seeing questionable thumbnails on an image search (but that has been more GORE than PORN) and sometimes if you mistype a web address you can see something you are not looking for. I have read cases where peoples caches have 'magically filled up with porn' but they must have downloaded some kind of wacky programme for some 'other' reason. Generally school filtering systems are pretty good. Programmes can not be downloaded without an admin password.

And if my child was to accidentally 'stumble' across something that was not appropriate I would hope that they had been given some kind of education about how to deal with that.

Speaking of my children, my delightful eldest child and his mates thought it would be funny to image search for 'jugs' in their year 6 class at school. We were all hauled in to discuss it. Funnily enough the internet use agreement that all the boys signed was not considered by ANY of the boys before they made the decision to search for jugs. Internet use agreement or not, behaviour like that can be dealt with by schools without having to wave a piece of paper around. It doesn't make anyone less liable.


In outdoor ed we don't flatten the mountains to stop children falling from cliffs. In aquatic education we do not drain the pools, lakes and oceans. In hard materials education we do not remove all the sharp implements. We educate our children so that they can keep themselves safe. So why is the Internet any different?

Internet predators are taking the same spot as 'stranger danger' did when I was at school. Check the child abuse stats - it's not really strangers and internet predators that are hurting the majority of our children, is it? *Interesting* added Aug 16th 2010


Do we sign a playground use agreement before we are allowed to play outside? Educate the bully, educate the victim. The answer is NOT to say, "Perhaps you shouldn't play in the playground if you are going to get bullied..." surely?

Schools should be integrating the use of ICT throughout the entire curriculum. If this is the case, every child has the right to be a part of this.

My edtalk on this ... http://edtalks.org/video/do-we-need-cybersafety-agreements

IWB.Net Conference

The IWB.net conference.


Andrew Churches Key Note (fantastic presentation of where we are at, where we have come from, and where we are heading in regard to ICT.)

Peter Kent's many workshops and panel discussions. Very interesting stuff regarding policy surrounding ICT and what they are up to in Australia's ACT. We didn't always see eye-to-eye but I agreed with him on most things.

Other Stuff:

Many content based workshops using ACTIVE boards which were interesting but not too helpful if you have a different product.

My own workshop was on using the SMARTboard as a launching pad for webdesign. The basic premise was that Notebook software gives kids the opportunity to focus on design. Notebook enables children to hyperlink, attach, create backgrounds and insert pictures in the same way that they can with online bogging products such as googlesites, yola etc.

They can do this in an environment that is not internet dependent and decisions can be made and learned from without being uploaded.

I told this story of an Authentic Inquiry one of my year 3-4 classes conducted on e-Waste and how I made the assumption that the kids would be good with design and I would teach them the 'techy' stuff. I quickly realised however that the opposite occurred. The kids took to the technical stuff like a duck to water and their initial design was less than desirable. Look out fot the rainbow pen!


Monday, July 26, 2010

Melville Intermediate's plea for help

Today in Maths we had a look at Melville Int School's Problem: Here it is Here is our video for them

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Videoing - a tool for reflection

This term we are doing the DARE programme. We are also exploring personal writing because the two fit in quite well together.

As a warm-up and a welcome back to school activity I handed out cards that had faces on them portraying different emotions. The kids worked together in groups and were required to 'act out' the emotion to see if the class could guess it.

The children were told that we would be filming the acts so that we could post them to the class blog so that other people could try and guess the emotions too.

Here is an example

Interestingly the emotion they were trying to portray was 'BORDOM' Shannon was yawning at Rionne's juggling. Because of the video footage we were able to play it back and reflect upon it over and over again. Pointing out that it also portrayed laughter, frustration and embarrassment. What other emotions can you see?


So, I'm a 2010 Core Education eFellow which is a lovely honour. I get to hang out in Christchurch a few times this year with a fantastic bunch of like-minded people who do amazing things. Here we are.

I'm looking at the increased use of digital cameras (including webcams and video) in the class room and how the use of them can make the learning more authentic if, for example, they are used for blogs.

I first began to notice it when the kids in my room were putting a little bunch of songs together for baby Blake (as a part of our Roots of Empathy programme). It was a dreary rainy Tuesday morning, the baby was coming that day, I was a tad stressed. But it HAD TO BE DONE. The bell hadn't rung. Would it be possible to get them to do it BEFORE school officially starts? I grabbed the class organiser.
"Go spread the word that I need everyone here now" I said calmly
"Has the bell rung?" She questioned in disbeleif.
"Nope" I said matter-of-fact
"Okaaaaay" She trailed of.

Within two minutes they were there, some looking concerned, most looking confused and a few looking really angry (they'd probably been playing something really fun outside). They knew they didn't HAVE to be there.

"We're making a video for baby Blake!" I announced.
"And it will be going on the blog so Miss Bedford can see it"

The volume in the classroom was through the roof and the phrase "has the bell rung?" echoed all around.

I thought - there is NO WAY I am going to pull this off.

"Right, I screeched in desparation - we're doing Hello Baby Blake, Twinkle Twinkle, and ABC... The Webcam is on, We're counting down 3 2 1 ...


It was like a switch. I nearly cried with joy. These kids are video savy.

The video

They managed to record all the songs in less than 5 minutes and go back out to play. Published on the blog, dvd burned before morning tea. Everyone Happy.

So I thought Hmmmmmmm I need to capture this instant focus for many more things.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The single story

An excellent motivation to get the kids from Otara to tell their stories

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story | Video on TED.com


I have heard a wee buzz about the place lately. Prezi. I was not quite sure what all the fuss was about until I went in and had a wee look. IT'S GREAT FUN!!! I'm happy to say I've made my first one ...

Here it is

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Anonomous guy

I liked the careful way the this guy so delicately slipped the writing of national standards into his list of things he'd done. He didn't make up the idea of them but he contributed to writing the actual book of them.

I wonder what would have happened if everyone they approached had said
"uuuum sorry Anne, better things to do with my life"
I don't blame them, we all have bills to pay and mouths to feed - I was just wondering.

He was also a part of the groups that were brought together for ONE WEEKEND (yes, one weekend) to write the back part of the curriculum (you know, the foldy out bit) . Interestingly I had just been listening to Mark Treadwell the day before who said to "just rip that part out".

It's not their fault. Rome wasn't built in a weekend ...

He was a gorgeous man. He didn't seem to mind that only a handful of teachers had brought the curriculum with them and happily handed out his spare copies of the curriculum, the progressions and the national standards that he had 'dug out' the night before at home. He had fantastic ideas, passion and years of experience. He had a genuine passion for literacy and learning.  His PowerPoint show was brought to life with fabulous picture book readings and he even gave me an "AHA" moment (which was pretty exciting). He had good practical examples and I left with screeds of ideas and a basic unit plan entrenched in my head for the next term. GOOD STUFF!

He had incredible ideas on assessment, REAL ASSESSMENT, which made me question (out loud - oh dear) why oh why do we have crappy Asttle as a recommended national standards tool. 

It was a weird moment when he approached me at the end and said "don't you go back to school and tell them I said NOT to use Asttle". Your secret is safe with me ... Anonymous Guy ...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tony Ryan (Tony's Themes)

"This is a post about a superhero called Tony. It's called Tony's theme."
The above pixies song was in my head and 'stuck on replay' during the 3 Tony Ryan talks I saw.

There were many themes that he covered, one of the many that 'took' me is that we need to TRUST our KIDS and TEACHERS. Particularly in the context of gaming. He acknowledges that about 10 percent of games have little merit and points out that MOST of the games our kids are playing in online environments require enormous amounts of problem solving. He point out further that the skills from these games can indeed be transferred into the 'real world' with this cute story. He suggests that rather than trying to resist gaming and endlessly debate the merits and pitfalls of it, we should GOIAMO (get over it and move on) because it's here so why not work WITH it.

He also referred us to this good little read which also made me think that we really need to stop blocking facebook and twitter from our schools. Look at all the rich learning opportunities we are forcing our kids to miss out on.

Mark Osborne ePortfolios

I LOVE the idea of ePortfolios - especially in the way that Mark Osborne so carefully points out that they are a tool for reflection. He convincingly argues that he would happily accept a pen and paper reflective journal from a student at his school. His mission is to engage students in reflection - an ePortfolio is a tool for this.

I particularly appreciated how an ePortfolio enables us to see the WHOLE child in terms of assessing them through the Key Competencies. For example while a child may not be able to demonstrate 'Relating to Others' in the traditional classroom environment, a glimpse into their Saturday morning soccer game can show the teacher that the child can demonstrate competency in this area.

The ePortfolio product he uses is http://myportfolio.school.nz/ This has an added component that resembles social networking environments such as facebook. Students have profile pics, a wall, and the opportunity to personalise their homepage with attributes about THEMSELVES. Mark articulates very clearly how this enables him to establish a genuine and full picture of his students. Can you imagine how long it would take you to ask 30 students how their weekend was with great depth? This social networking environment can paint a picture of this in a very efficient way.

He also emphasised the importance of triangulation in that there is an ongoing dialogue between family, student, teacher (and the whole world if, and only if, you wish). Exciting stuff! He took us through many of the sophisticated features (such as enabling public or specific person) viewing for a specified time. He points out that this is particularly useful for potential employers etc.

Furthermore he points out that the compiling of these portfolios are by the student and the use of digital technologies such as webcams, video cams and cameras can enable students portfolios to become vibrant and meaningful records of their learning journeys.

Like I said in my Mark Treadwell post, we all need to get moving on this to ensure that no children are left behind.

Mark Treadwell

I felt a tad uneasy during this workshop - which is a good thing - i like that.

I think it was the way Mark presented cutting edge material in such a calm way. He casually slipped little gems into the conversation such as:
- Einstein's brain had a higher Neuron to Astrocyte Ratio than any other human being.
- Neurons take up only 7% of the brain whereas Astrocytes that take up 70% of the brain DO STUFF thus changing the 'model' we have had of brains for many years. This paradigm shift in brain models is remarkable. It reminded me of how we giggle at the ancient Egyptians who thought the brain had the function of the heart and the heart had the function of the brain. Further, the neurons vs astrocytes theory was offered as a very convincing explanation as to why rote learning is inefficient and ineffective using learning to read (neurons) vs learning how to drive a car (astrocytes) as an example.
- 'They' have discovered that severed optic nerves can be connected to the back of the tongue allowing the blind person able to 'see' out of their mouth. (This mental image kept me preoccupied for far too long). And when I 'came to' it got even MORE FREAKY.

Mark Treadwell showed us progressive concept based learning intentions where your own relevant contexts can be 'slotted in' he has a very good product (Whatever Next?) for this which I think would be a valuable school tool in the years to come.

So the scary part for me was a glimpse into the future of education in New Zealand over the next decade. I'm quite happy with the direction we're going in. I'm loving the potential of eLearning. What I found disturbing, however, is the potential to create a class of digital savvy kids leaving the others behind.

*disclaimer* Now bear in mind, this is MY PERSPECTIVE of what was said and I was still reeling from the 'seeing out of the mouth' image ...

Student Monitoring Systems (SMS).
So, as I understand it, the Government has been trialling SMS in a select few high decile schools where student's learning data is being stored electronically on the Internet. I'm okay with that. We've been doing this on a small scale with products such as etap.

The system itself is pretty cool - student's learning will be documented electronically. ePortfolios will be built up over the course of the students schooling and if a student was to change schools their electronic records will follow them. Gone are the days of clear-files being sent (if you're lucky) through the post many weeks after the new school requests them.

The student therefore leaves school with an electronic record where they can provide evidence of their key competencies and learning to potential employers and/or training establishments. Great!

Instead of school reports (as we know them) parents will be sent a text or an emailing alerting them that their child's SMS has been updated. Initially printing options will be available for those families without access to computers or cellphones. This , of course, will be breaking an age old custom - THE SCHOOL REPORT, but I'm sure we will cope considering how quickly we have moved on from picking up our prints and negatives from the local pharmacy. Further companies such as Fisher and Paykel are providing computers in their factories for employees to access such information.

What concerns me though is the potential for a 'digitally elite' cohort of children. Already there are schools that are at least two years ahead. This means that there is a group of children with an 'extra' two years of learning on their "CVs" a trivial point for our year one and twos but not so trivial for older students who are closer to entering the workforce.

Another thing that concerns me is the 'products' that are used for this electronic record keeping are reasonably expensive. I received a quote from KnowledgeNet where initial setup is $4000 plus an ongoing monthly fee of $280. As well as $800 a day for training. There are, of course, 'free' solutions such as the Ministry's Mahara. However a national system needs to be transferable between schools and have extremely high cyber-security features (KnowledgeNet).

Will the government be providing ALL schools with this fantastic product? NO, schools will have the opportunity to APPLY FOR FUNDING - (watch the Gazette)

Will the government have to secure the businesses that create these products to safe-guard the learning data of the children? (Hmmmmm I wish I had shares in KnowledgeNet ...)

Will this be made compulsory? NO, if things are made compulsory schools tend to resist them.

Therefore while I am thrilled with the concept of the electronic curriculum and SMS I REALLY HOPE that its implementation is fair for ALL CHILDREN.

Learning Network NZ conference

Over the past two days I attended the Learning Network NZ Conference at Waipuna in Auckland.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to start my own learning blog (as opposed to a classroom blog). The first posts will reflect my perceptions and reflections of the workshops and keynotes I experienced over these two days.