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...