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.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Latest Ignite Talk

I delivered this talk a few days before the election.
Being the fast and furious format that ignite is, a few points were glossed over.  My point in relation to Gary Stager can be seen in full here. And Just a boy who likes turtles can be seen here.  Sometimes it is hard to say things in a few seconds. Other times it feels like the slide will NEVER advance.  I hope you enjoy it regardless.

Ignite Talk | Tara Taylor-Jorgensen from Emerging Leaders on Vimeo.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bar-Class Reflections

Describe the lesson you taught.

"I teached them how to play the guitar, it was challenging teaching them all at once, next time I would like more guitars. I learnt that I am like a teacher"

".First we taught them the basic like bowling and batting. We had a bowling practice first. They got to have 6 bowls each then they each had a turn at batting. But if they made a mistake we would teach them how to do it properly.After we finished the basics we played a game of cricket.we played on the field next to the hall.

Reflect on the lesson you taught

The enjoyable thing was we had fun doing our arts and carfts and there were heaps of smiles on our visitors faces. What was challenging was cleaning up the work and running out of glue. What i could've done was get enough glue sticks for the glue gun so it won't run out. What i learned was that teaching something about your culture can be fun and interesting.

Teaching them was fun because it gave me something to do and they enjoyed it.
It was hard teaching them and it was hard to teach Shayden how to dougie becuase his leg kept going right up. So i concentrated on his hands and body instead.
I learnt that everyone learns things differently - what i found easy, they found hard.

I found it easy but they were finding it kind of hard. I learned that its good to teach people something that they don't know.

I liked seeing them have fun on the computers.

The enjoyable thing was teaching people and being able to connect with them.

Should we use bar-class in our regular class schedule?

Yes because it would give the teachers a rest. Sometimes i am put in a group and told what im learning. It would be nice to choose.

I think kids should teach other kids to do math and reading
and writing.

yes because i learn from them better because i feel more relaxed around them.

i would like that because when you are with other people they talk about other things but teachers just only talk about what we are learning...

Yes - Because it will be really good for your friends because they will be able to listen more often.

This would be better because we could choose what we wanted to do and sometimes kids are better at teaching each other because we help each other and understand each other.If we didn't get something we could ask the teacher and then go back and teach each other...

yes because its nice learning from other kids and if i think that they have a done a good job i could let them play.

I like being taught by other kids because we can chat about other things at the same time.

I would like to be able to choose what i do. you shouldn't always have to stay in the same group and learn what the teacher wants you to.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 2: Bar Camp

Today the children turned up to school with supplies and resources that they could teach each other with. One student brought photos of her Dad's carvings and is planning a hands-on workshop for next week (eeek sharp tools!). Another brought in a very flash looking guitar. We had tools, crafts, beads and all sorts of special treasures from home.

Unfortunately we also had swimming today - do you think any remembered their togs? ooops!

After the sessions we had reflective breaks. The children talked about how they were inspired by each other and how they felt supported in their learning.

I had decided not to introduce the 'vote with your feet' rule as I was trying to avoid crushing their self esteem.  However they started shopping around the workshops naturally and noone got offended.

Check out the vid :)

yeah yeah I know, I need new music...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bar Camps in the Primary School Context

Reports and assessment are done and dusted. Our laptops have been stolen. Books are due back in the library, our art supplies are low. We are plagued by senior prize-giving and graduation rehearsals. It's the end of the term and we know it ...but I feel fine.

Why? I introduced by kids to the concept of the 'unconference'.

After yet another inspirational emerging leaders ignite talk from Mark Osborne, and a too-and-fro tweet jam with Tim Kong, I decided to give it a go with my class.

To be honest, I went in with low expectations thinking "what have I got to lose?"

Now I am sitting here at the end of the day wanting to shout to the hills - "Today was AWESOME!"

All it took was a short explanation, a google form, and they were off!

Today was a preparation day - but interestingly the kids 'couldn't wait' they have already started teaching and learning with their friends and they are ready to replicate their "workshops" tomorrow with kids they don't normally work with. They are promoting their workshops in the playground - "wanna learn how to dougie? come to my workshop!"

Kids are naturals. The 'teach me how to dougie' teacher had an inherent success criteria (keep your arms close to your body) and used something that the kids could to relate to (spongebob flipping burgers).

It's nice to have enthusiastic engaged kids at this time of the year!

Try it!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

DOWN with pencils!

I was lucky enough to gain my Teaching education from a legend. Harry Hood was not only my literacy lecturer but my final year practicum supervisor and he had many great insights to share.

One of the many things I gained from him was his ideas surrounding the pencil. Like all things good, he assumes competence in learners. He convinced me that emerging writers are perfectly capable of using a pen. As adults we use pens, why should children have watered down tools?

I know that there are some of you out there that love the feel of a freshly sharpened pencil and enjoy using them. I won't take that away from you. However, I am not a pencil lover. I never have been. I struggle with a blunt eyeliner on a daily basis and frankly, that's all the pencil action I need.

So out I bounced fresh from teacher's college with an enormous amount of ideas running around my head. I jumped into various teaching roles when I learned very quickly to toe the line for a while before creating the waves. The pencil vs pen debate was the least of my worries.

Then today it hit me. Owing to a school wide 'understanding' the children in my school are not allowed to use pens! Pencils are the BANE OF MY LIFE! How could I let this happen? Why have I put up with this for all these years?

My kids use tools such as smartphones, ipads, laptops, computers and video cameras. My kids create movies, they blog and skype so why are they not allowed to use a PEN?!

It's time to take action. DOWN WITH PENCILS!

1. Pencils WASTE time (breaking, sharpening etc)

2. Pencils are EXPENSIVE (a box of 20 pencils costs $16.95 a box of 50 pens costs $14.95 ). Yes, you can get cheaper ones but any teacher in my position will tell you, the cheap ones waste even more time (see point 1). As far as ethics goes pens and pencils are created in the same sweatshops.

3. Pencils are magical - they can disappear into a void after having owned one for less than an hour.

4. Pencils DO NOT celebrate mistakes. Their main feature is the ability to rub out mistakes.

5. Pencil lovers believe that pens look 'messy' in children's writing books.  I'm sorry, but those teachers need to focus on the DEEPER features of our children's writing.

6. Pencils have a mystique about them that they are somehow green and natural.  They're not. They are made out of rain forest trees just like most of your wooden classroom equipment and tools.

Next week I'm going to do something a little wild.  Let's see if my kids can put a stop to this nonsense before the end of the year!

Friday, October 14, 2011

BYOD - Creativity and Inspiration in the 21st Century?

This morning I read BYOD - Worst idea of the 21st century? by Gary Stager.

I was perplexed by some of the arguments against BYOD. Arguing that BYOD enshrines inequity and stifles creativity raised some questions for me.

The only way to guarantee equitable educational experiences is for each student to have access to the same materials and learning opportunities. BYOD leaves this to chance with more affluent students continuing to have an unfair advantage over their classmates. This is particularly problematic in a society with growing economic disparity.

This is the same mentality used to justify standardized test conditions. It assumes that if all the learners are sitting behind the same device that this somehow magically equalizes them. It doesn't. I don't think that there are any two students in the world who have access to the same materials and learning opportunities. If you take cultural capital into account there is more to equity than standardizing tools.

As an aside, I would go as far as to argue that the child using the 'inferior' device could be getting a different (and possibly better) education. There is nothing like having to deal with problems, trouble shooting, and finding a workaround, to gain some very valuable skills.

To use the car analogy who is going to be the better mechanic? The kid who drives a beaten up Toyota that s/he is constantly having to fix, or the kid driving the serviced Porsche?

BYOD is bad policy that constrains student creativity...

This seriously undermines our learners abilities to be creative. One example that springs to mind is Joel Dodd's students who were supposed to download their maths lessons to their cell phones prior to coming to his class. He noticed that those students who were unable to download the lesson instead captured the lesson on the computer using their video function. It still worked.

Repeat after me! Cell phones are not computers! They may both contain microprocessors and batteries, but as of today, their functionality is quite different.

Never underestimate what our learners can do with their phones.

How can we say that different students bringing in different devices is less creative than them all sitting in front of a standard machine? With the increase of web-based learning BYOD gives students the opportunities to run their choice of operating system, their choice of hardware and their choice of software. They can do this creatively. I have blogged previously about one of my students recreating hyperstudio with a blend of MS paint and iMovie. She aspired to this because she saw the results from another school that had the software.

She would have been robbed of that creativity had she been in a place of 'equity' where all students had the standardized school device. She would have been robbed of the idea had she not been exposed to someone else with 'better' equipment.

BYOD allows students (and their families) to make their own choices. What if your child's state sanctioned computer ran a MS operating system but you were more aligned with MacOS or Linux? Why should a student have to buy-in to the school's software choices?

I like the idea of students and their families being able to make choices about what they value. For one child you may wish to invest in a high-end IT device, cheap sports shoes and a recorder. For another you may want to buy them a full running kit, a low end IT device and a piano. This is happening in our homes anyway, so why deter them from bringing their devices to school? We don't ban our kids from wearing expensive shoes on sports days because it's 'unfair'. Let's give our family choices to personalize their children's learning tools to suit their needs.

There will always be that amazing kid who wins the race in bare-feet anyway...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A slice of Otarian Paradise

On Saturday the BMPS community came together to share months of preparation for the school's 50th jubilee.

Despite the windy coldness the kids put on an amazing show. My own little Palagi children felt the generosity of the Otara community as they were rewarded with money (a PI custom) for their dancing.

Where does this spirit, talent and authentic learning get recognized in our NZ education system?

National Standards aim to lift achievement in literacy and numeracy (reading, writing, and mathematics) by being clear about what students should achieve and by when. This will help students; their teachers and parents, families and whānau better understand what they are aiming for and what they need to do next. Source: MOE website

I'm often met with surprise when I reveal that my children are schooled in a Decile 1 environment. My children have been blessed. Thanks to our rich education from Otara we, as a whanau, have a better understanding what we are aiming for and what we need to do next, and it certainly was not gained from a numeracy or literacy exemplar.

The above 15 minute video is a perfect example of why ePortfolios can be such powerful tools in our NZ schools. Video is a powerful reflection tool that enables us to see the whole child. This form of assessment needs to (at the very least) accompany our standardised tests and arbitrary writing samples.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Collaboration - "it's mean-as Miss!"


The coolest thing happened this week. One of my colleagues read my latest blog-post! Not only did she read it but she embraced it AND did something about it.

Helen King from Point England school seized the moment and came up with this STUNNING interpretation! Check it out!

The students in my class thought that it:
"was mean-as!"

Again collaboration and sharing has lifted the quality and creativity of my children's learning. My children were so impressed with what they saw that they have put together very similar interpretations using a generic bitmap editor (in this case MS Paint) and the picture in picture function on imovie. We are also experimenting with the puppetpals ipad app (Thanks for the tip Allanah K ).

The example below was conceived and put together by one persistent and creative 10 year old girl. She blew me away...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Perspective = Empathy "Shake it up baby!"

This fine Saturday morning I was hit by a wave of inspiration thanks to Ranghava KK.

His Ted Talk ticks all my boxes.  It's short and sweet.  It's powerful, and I'm left bursting with ideas.

My class has had a little exposure to playing with perspectives. We have found Google Docs a brilliant tool for seeing other peoples points of views and takes on situations.

Ranghava KK's use of his ipad book, where kids can shake page to get another perspective has really got me thinking!

While I am not an App developer, the technology of QR codes can make this concept easily achievable in the classroom. Let's take last night's opening of the Rugby World Cup. This is an awesome illustration of how one event has multiple perspectives.

To name but a few:
1. A person who got to the opening ceremony on time, with little fuss and was blown away

2. The person trapped in the train

3. The person at home watching it on TV

4. The person in the cloud

5. The person taken to hospital

6. A lonely person watching on their own

7. The boy in the opening ceremony

8. The person who missed it all by choice

9. The person who missed it all because they had to work

You get my drift, right?

So thanks to this fantastic TED talk I can imagine an eBook that when shaken can give you these multiple perspectives. But in the classroom we can achieve this with a QR code display that links us to these alternative perspectives.

As Ranghava KK says, perspective = empathy. The act of my kids being able to report on these differing accounts will be great stuff. The Rugby World Cup will be a good start, but I imagine much deeper learning will come when delving into more politically charged material.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Copyright - It's all the rage

I started making movies in 1986. My parents had friends that owned a television shop in Wanaka. When we visited their family one year they had a video camera. It was the beginning ...

A few years ago my year 3-4 class made a very cool wee video to a popular song at the time, Bad Day by Daniel Powter. The children reenacted situations at school that would constitute a bad day, such as having your lunch stolen, being excluded by friends etc etc. We enthusiastically shared it with the world, uploaded it youtube (we didn't even have a class blog out the time - how odd?!)

Anyway I arrived to school one day to a very disappointed bunch of kids - youtube had muted our very precious video because it breached copyright. The kids were flabbergasted because we had even had a conversation about this and had added a title in the credits where we thanked Daniel Powter for writing the song.

We moved on pretty quickly and no longer included copyrighted music in our movies. Last year I was introduced to the world of creative commons thanks to an online wikieducator course with Wayne Mackintosh. I was also introduced to a creative commons music/social netwoking site Jamendo. For us it is an essential moviemaking tool.

This term the teachers at my school are beginning to get the moviemaking and blogging bug. This is an absolute thrill! Excited teachers come to me for advise, borrowing microphones, and kids are excitingly discussing their films in the playground. Yesterday afternoon (Friday) I left the teacher next door at 5pm happily editing away. Just awesome!

... here comes the BUT

It seems that the natural video making order is to make one using a copyrighted song. For example, making a slow motion movie accompanied by the Chariots of Fire Theme Song. It brings the moving images to life, it draws upon notions of connotative meaning and it enables students to learn how film and music work together. Replication like this is one of the first steps of movie making. Just because I have had a few more years of experience - does this give me the right to blow their buzz?

Fortunately the teacher I was talking to also happens to be the choir teacher of our school. She produced a document that I have never seen before. It is a licence that our school has purchased from ppnz so that our choir can sing songs at school and concerts etc. It includes an AV clause that states:

This licence allows the making of audio and/or video recordings of musical works for the educational purposes of the school and to supply to their students for their private domestic use, providing that the audio or video recording is:

intended to be played at a school event;
of a school event; or
for analysis by students as a part of a course for instruction.

So we figured that if our intention is to show such films at a school assembly, it is okay to use audio that would otherwise be copyrighted? We could even burn a DVD of it for domestic use, but we can't upload it to youtube or blogs. Are we right?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

EduCamp Auckland

Photo supplied by Fiona Grant

Tara TJ and Florence Lyons discussion Minimally Invasive Education
Another fantastic event organised by the lovely Fiona Grant at Epsom Girls Grammar thanks to the other lovely Claire Amos.

There was a fantastic turnout of educators who were all generous in the sharing and learning of ideas. After a fast-paced SMACKDOWN, came three sessions where we grouped ourselves with like-minded others and took responsibility for our own learning.

This was an awesome chance for me and Florence Lyons to discuss F2F the issue of Minimally Invasive Education in a New Zealand context. Over the past two months Florence and I have been connecting via Skype (and Google+ hangouts) and Twitter to debate and discuss constructivism, the Khan Academy, and Minimally Invasive Education.

We were very fortunate to be joined by Margaret May, Chris Dillon, Helen King, Helen Squires,
and Stephanie Thompson. Meaningful conversations were had as to whether or not MIE can be achieved in a NZ context, much of which is documented here. The key message for me from this was:

Our role as teachers MUST change. We need to stop wasting our student's time by 'teaching' them banal content knowledge. This is quite simply because (as the late Arthur C Clarke said to Sugata Mitra):
If a teacher can be replaced by a machine, they should be...

We also discussed the 'barriers' to this paradigm shift in education. Such barriers were the expectations of what learning and education looks like to students, parents, management, and the government.

In the secondary school context, assessments such as NCEA and timetabling can work as a barrier to MIE.

As an aside we discussed the ways in which we teach writing in the primary school context. I was delighted to hear that there are primary schools in NZ that do not arbitrarily dictate certain writing genres each term. It is always good to have ones faith restored in the NZ education system!

We will continue to practise, record, and document the 'glimpses' of MIE we do in our classrooms in the hope that one day it will become the norm. If these educators are anything to go by we will achieve our vision

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Orewa Debate

At the beginning of the holidays the Orewa media circus was a fantastically entertaining event. The story broke that Orewa had made the iPad2 a compulsory item on the 2012 stationery list. It was soon reveled, however, that they only recommended the iPad2 and that any wifi device would be acceptable. But as many people have commentated it is not about the technology or the device. I suggest we stop getting wound up and wowed by the iPad and think about what it is that Orewa are trying to achieve (1:1 devices). Schools have the freedom to make choices regarding equipment. While I wouldn't prescribe an ipad, I certainly wouldn't stop others doing it.

I believe the crux of the argument is:
Is 1:1 where we are headed?
And my thoughts are, Yes
Once we can agree on this then we can start to consider the underlying issues that have been debated and discussed by educators in online forums.
1. - Who pays (BYOD? School? Government? Corporate?)

2. - Will 1:1 create more eWaste and how can we responsibly manage it?
It is important to note that if managed properly 1:1 could actually reduce the amount of devices we have. For example as a worker I had a computer at home and a computer at work.
As a teacher in the Tela laptop scheme I now have a computer that travels with me to school and back. Surely we can create a system where children are doing the same thing? Then we will not require as many 'classroom computers', 'computer suites', or 'COWS'.
School computers lie dormant at night. Home computers lay dormant during the day...

3. - Will 1:1 destroy group learning pedagogy?

This is of course up to the individual educator. I believe, however, that I would continue to use Self Organised Learning GROUPS even in a 1:1 setting. The beauty of 1:1 is that learners can continue to contribute to a group's learning - even when they are not physically present.

4. - Who should we be buying our products from (from an ethical, sweatshop point of view)?
This is a question for ALL of our consumer choices and should not be used as a barrier to 1:1. If you know me, you know that the children I teach do learn about such issues. We have questioned the origins of our sports gear, clothes, computers, toys, mobile devices, carpet, furniture, chocolate, pencils, school uniforms ....
I will not accept that children's learning should be compromised by an ethical debate. Not when they are trudging to school in sweatshop shoes, wearing sweatshop uniforms, kicking soccerballs and being rewarded with chocolate produced from child labour. Our children need to learn about it and take action where they can. Isolating our children from these very issues by the banning of ICT equipment in schools is NOT the answer!

Working Child Brickaville Madagascar

By Harald Kreutzer Madagaskar Vision e.V. (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

And that's my two cents...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Watch The New School - 30 Minutes Well Spent

This has many of the ideas that we have already negotiated with the famous RSA animate of Sir Ken.

I enjoyed the discussion regarding creativity being integrated into what we are already doing rather than having a separate 'creativity hour'.  Get creative with Maths and Literacy!

"Creativity is the process of having original ideas" Sir Ken Robinson

 I also enjoyed the sensible stance in relation to standards - using them as a diagnostic tool rather than the purpose of education.

And of course making changes to rectify the problem that:
The current education system works for the benefit of the providers and not the consumers - Joel Klein

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A year today

Thank you to all my visitors - I was going to write something pertinent but it's school holidays and time to do some Real Life stuff and spend my time with people F2F.

So I'll leave you with these guys...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ignite evening at ASHS

This was yet another great gathering organised by the good people at Albany Senior High School. All the speakers were awesome and topics ranged from Evolution to Augmented Reality. I got my comeuppance for being a little silly on my registration form and ended up doing mine on 'giggity' - a catch phrase by Glen Quagmire from Family Guy.

I used this to highlight the importance of finding the goodness... in everyone

Ignite Talk | Tara Taylor-Jorgensen from Emerging Leaders on Vimeo.

Still insanely nervous - but feeling more comfortable in this welcoming group of educators. Thanks everyone :)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Facebook Journey

I have been subtlety campaigning for a Facebook page at my school.  
The main reasons being: 
  • to engage our community 
  • to reduce our paper use 
  • to celebrate children, sports teams, teachers, and general school successes
  • to gain an insight into how many of our families have regular access (whether it be through home, work, education, library etc) to computers and/or mobile device
I don't know of many schools doing this (I am sure there are some though).  I know of Willowbank School in Auckland, Albany Senior High School, Coastal Taranaki School, and ACTS community school in Tonga (Go Miss Bramston!)

I have several unapproved friend requests on my own Facebook account (parents, ex students, current students) but have not been able to honour them.  We need to protect ourselves as educators and be very wary of how far we cast the net when it comes to our private lives.

However, facebook is a powerful tool.  It is a tool that is being used by our families.  The newsletters crumpled at the bottom of our kids bags are not always getting through.  So if our families are logging onto Facebook on a regular basis, why shouldn't we be there? We can be there with friendly reminders about sports practices, mufti days, great achievements, and notifications that reports are being sent home.

Strip Design App (Thanks @Rakt)
I am aware that there are factions of society that are campaigning against facebook who think that it is a dangerous tool.  I am aware of the ethical issues surrounding the ownership and redistribution of images, I am aware that Facebook has been used to lure children (and adults) into false relationships with devastating results.  I am aware that Facebook can be used as another tool for bullying.  But there is potential for this with any interactive online tools (chat rooms, interactive gaming, bebo, myspace, shared google docs etc).  This is also the case for many off-line tools (pen, paper and adhesive tape, envelopes and stamps, books (yep, they had this same debate about books) and of course, my old favourite, scissors.  But the fact remains we are not using facebook to 'lure' people in.  They're already there.  If there are cases where people 'join' because of us - we will be demonstrating a positive use of the tool. There is also potential for us to provide information and educational support for online interaction and social networking should there be a need for it.

It was one of those pipe dreams,  I had been spending a lot of my energy 'wishing' it would happen.  Well guess what?  It's happened...

So now I am actually sitting down to DO THIS THING. 

It's exciting
It's exhilierating

My energy has shifted from "Can we please..." to "How? and Help!"

I have so many questions:

Should I enable comments?
I should to give the community 'voice' but what if ...  

Should I (or can I?) moderate comments?
Who am I to drive the tone and content of the community? (that's an awful lot of power)

Should it be a page that anyone can 'like' or should members have to be approved?
Why should I be the one who says who is (or is not) in our community?

Should our under 13s be able to 'like' it and if so what are the legal implications around this?
Can we seriously tell our kids that they mustn't 'like' our school?

Should we go fully open and then restrict if necessary - or should we start off restricted and then slowly open it up?

Should I use the facebook interface or do something fancy with wix? 
(Thanks @gericoats)

So I am thinking I should assume the best of our community, just like I do with my learners.  My school has a community filled with competent, responsible, educated, and well intentioned people,  Surely that's how I have to go into this?

If you have had experience or ideas with this exhilarating and terrifying process please comment or drop me a line...

Now I must go write reports - watch this space as the magic unfolds...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Are your kids ready for paper, hole-punches, and ring-binders?

I mentioned in a previous post how I am very much enjoying having a student teacher in our class this term.  It is a great way to self- monitor our practice and hone in or any gaps that may be present in the class programme. It was awesome having the adrenaline pumping through my body when the visiting lecture came to observe. I was so proud of my kids who read the seriousness of the situation and behaved accordingly.

How wonderful that we have an unwritten understanding.  When she asked the kids to explain how they got their answers (it was maths) soft little voices would explain the equal addition strategy while the others looked on and listened knowingly.

Real life assessment was going on there for my kids that standardised tools such as Asttle could never capture. I am thrilled to know that my kids can adapt their behavior for different settings while still holding onto and applying the knowledge they have acquired.

As I open my eyes and look closely at what is going on around us with our big brother and sister educational institutions I become more convinced how very important this adaptability is.

All the material I have had for my student has been posted (in the mail) and is in analogue form. She is working completely with pen and paper, taking notes on prescribed linear formats. Her teaching practice folder is an immaculate ring binder with dividers and screeds of paperwork that she has gathered and produced.

It is important to note that she herself is perfectly tech savy, she's got that young person thing going on when navigating a computer, she can fix the wireless when it falls off the laptops. But she is gathering notes and resources in this manner because this is the requirement.

"To maintain records during each practicum, students should use a ring binder..."

One other such requirement was to question the associate teacher on his/her educational pedagogy so I referred her to this blog and my wiki on Minimally Invasive Education. Knowing that a link would not suffice her institutional requirements, she printed these out in their entirety and placed them in her folder! I'm pleased that this will enable my thoughts to be read by a pen and paper lecturer. It's always good to broaden ones audience even if it is by only one or two. Scary to think that it is in a frozen-in-time-state though.

BUT what on earth is going on? How can it be that my student is having her course delivered in the same way I did in the late 90s? It was a very established delivery even then! They seem to be stuck in an age old routine.  Her lecturer, for example, is coming to pick up (by hand!) the final report - which is fine - it's lovely to see him...

So what is all this stuff I read on twitter about Moodle and the like? Which institutions are using these tools?  From the (albeit small) glimpse I have seen from university nothing has changed!
Are they producing and delivering the material like this because that is what they think we (primary school teachers) want? Then when they get back to uni do they come back to the 21st century?

Or do I live in a twitter bubble? I get slightly uncomfortable when people tell  me how 'different' my classroom is. I find it very hard to believe given what I have seen and read on other peoples class blogs. I truly believe (and am totally fine with the notion) that I am an amateur when it comes to innovative learning. Are my like-minded people really a minority? And if so is it mean to teach our children in this way if they are going to have to return to a more traditional approach in their next classroom experience?

There are aspects of my programme that make me cringe. There are many occasions where we do rote learning, reading work sheets, maths worksheets etc. Quite often they are digitized so they're in disguise but they are no different.

We do do amazing learning too. Our latest brilliance is our unique take on 'heal the world'. We've veering off from the reuse reduce recycle stuff and small groups are healing the world by looking into:

How can we help prisoners to not re-offend?
Why do we have war?
Where and how can drug addicts go for help?
How can we help NZ endangered species?
Why are some people poor? Where are they? How can we help?

The kids themselves came up with these great topics at the beginning of the term using the 'world cafe' technique. There are no fancy digitized worksheets for this topic. This is the REAL 'different' stuff that goes on in my class. But noone really sees or hears about it because it is not 'core' curriculum. It's just stuff we do in the afternoon.

If my primary school kids are asked to produce a folder on this learning their first instinct would be to look for a computer. Should I get them to do it in a ringbinder? For fun? They'd probably dig it!

Am I, infact, doing them an injustice by not teaching them about the ring binder? The pinchy injuries you get if you shut the rings too quickly. The damage you can do to documents if the rings don't close properly. The little plastic ring stickers you put on the hole-punched holes. The hole punch! - oh dear more gaps, more gaps!

We need to ensure that our kids are adaptable and will cope. Just like when they found the atlas -
"It's like google earth, but it's a book, Miss!"

They're not silly and find the advantages (it's very portable and we have enough for one each!) and the disadvantages (it doesn't update - it's frozen in time).
Oh well, this seems to work for our bigger and more powerful institutions... Are your kids ready?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Term 2 - Autumn Goodness

Our Beautiful Oak in Autumn
Term Two - Autumn Goodness

Well term two has reared its head. It's a frustrating term filled with assessments and the like. I am very lucky to have a student on the journey with me this term and it is great to have someone to co-teach with, reflect with, and bounce ideas off.

Argument writing is the arbitrary genre that has popped up on the long term plan. I was going about it the 'normal' way and was feeling a little deflated by it all. I thought that if I read, Firstly, Secondly and Thirdly one more time I may be forced to slash my wrists.

Then from out of nowhere, Rick KT just happened to post a similar sentiment while at the same time reminiscing on one of his finer teaching moments - The Bellaire Times

My student and I took a look at their wiki and decided to give it a go. Oh how perfect this has been so far. The kids were interested! Thanks to tools such as Edmodo and Blogger a real relationship has been formed between these kids. It was also helpful that they could read examples written by the Bellaire children. The data gathering methods (ipods, mics etc) were particularly appealing as well as the authentic publishing to a wiki. Again the kids were learning from kids!

Within the first two days of the new regime, my students were literally falling over each other to get to their writing books so that they could write their research questions. Very interesting (well from a 10 year old point of view) questions have emerged and both myself and the kids look forward to 'writing time' everyday. Children are taking their writing home, interviewing their families and generally having a great time with this authentic task.

There are many great anecdotes thus far, but here are my favourites

Miss K - an alleged reluctant writer is canvassing school opinion as to whether or not children can start riding their bikes to school. She is developing arguments for this notion in relation to Health of Children, Conserving Petrol and Avoiding Lateness. She intends to interview the principal, the caretaker (parking considerations) and a selection of children about this very pressing issue.

Miss Z - is conducting research on the consequences of children fighting at school. I'm a little worried about this one. She intends to interview the Principal and DP and ask them what kind of action they take on fighting. She will then interview children who she knows have been caught fighting to see if the purported action took place. Far out, we've got a live wire there!

Again what Mitra refers to as the 'granny cloud' is an incredible motivator. We really do need to come up with a name for our adaptation of the 'granny cloud' The 'kiddy cloud' sounds wrong. Any suggestions are welcome :)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The emerging leaders symposium

The Emerging Leaders Symposium organized by Albany Senior high school blew my mind. It's organisation was supreme, the structure was stunningly inclusive and the people were all magic.

The symposium assumed that we were all competent, that we brought with us our own strengths and that 'the answers are in the room'. The symposium was in stark contrast to traditional methods of professional development where hundreds of delegates are 'done to' by a bunch of 'experts' who very often don't work in school, let alone a classroom.

The symposium treated 'us' the way we should treat our children (assumed competence, valued our input, and developed meaningful relationships).

Efficiency doesn't work in learning, nor does bureaucracy (breaking down tasks into units). And the ELS brought this all to a head. Begone Henry Ford education!

I was a tad uneasy as a strolled through the Albany Senior High carpark. It looked like a shopping mall! But as the lift (yes they have lifts!) door opened I was greeted by the smell of freshly brewed coffee, and smiling happy people in an environment that made me want to smile too.

Proceedings started with a 'getting to know us' activity which was both nerve racking and hilarious. Within the first ten minutes, we had a fair idea where everyone was at. Throughout the two days meaningful reflection and sharing activities were created to ensure knowledge was distributed all around the room. Such strategies included the 'world cafe' and 'speed dating'. Around ten of us presented pecha kucha style presentations and all of us were given the opportunity to lead sessions and present to Karen Sewell.

Minimally Invasive Education from Emerging Leaders on Vimeo.

Mark Osborne was on hand to tie everything together and all of the Albany Senior High staff were welcoming, gave tours of their amazing space, and ensured everyone was comfortable. Within 48 hours they had created an environment that ensured 50+ people left both knowing and respecting each other.

With no fixed agenda or direction the common theme of the conference was the importance of building relationships to create exceptional leaders of learning. I have been 'saying' those words for quite some time, but I can sincerely say that I left the ELS with a solid understanding of what that actually means, and how truly important it really really is. Incidentally if you do have these exceptional relationships the Henry ford style of education will disintegrate. And as the awe inspiring motivational Karen Sewell said,
"what's stopping you?"

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What is the collective noun for Google Certified Teachers?

So here I am, I'm back and have returned as a Google Certified Teacher fresh from the GTASYD.

I'm not much of a corporate girl but have been taken by Google’s mission:

To organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful


Google are doing amazing things to achieve this. The beautiful thing about it is that they have exceeded their expectations but that isn't stopping them.

There are so many products that most of us know about, but just haven't set the time aside to get to "know". The GTA was a great opportunity, it was like being at a supermarket where all the products were available to test and taste. It was a great reminder to me of all the things that I have to use properly in order to organise myself to make my life easier.

Tops on my list(there is a lot of amazing other stuff that I haven't mentioned):

GOOGLE NEWS ARCHIVE - Just brilliant - check it out for scanned original newspaper articles of historical events. Brings a completely new meaning to primary resource. Man oh man it beats the cr*p out of microfiche.

GOOGLE BOOKS - This product is just AMAZING and its going to get better and better and better. Our kids are now able to have access to libraries of digital books where they can search for particular words and themes. Dr Mark Wagner also provided practical ideas in relation to organizing existing 'paper' books and 'paper' notes that you may already have by using the Google Books app.

He also suggested entering the ISBN numbers from your school or class library so that children have a virtual version of their 'RL' library. A big task but could be tackled subject at a time.

Great potential for open and accessible education here - keep pushing for those Creative Commons Licenses!

GOOGLE SCHOLAR - I played with it a bit about 4 years ago, it has come along in leaps and bounds. It makes me want to do more tertiary study because with products like these, information gathering is no longer a chore.
"The kids of today, they don't know how easy they have it..."

The implication of this is that scholars will now have more time for deep thinking. I am going to have very high expectations of my own children's critical thinking and evaluation skills. Universities/Schools should no longer be about regurgitating and retrieving information (even at a undergrad level) - and if it is, take a long hard look at that!

Google's Apps vision of children compiling and having access to their data for their whole life sits comfortably with me as opposed to more commercial products that lock down and lose children's hard earned data if they happen to move to a different school that supports a different product.


This is the tricky bit, and where the GTA and the GTCs come in. People need to know about these amazing tools, not just a select elite. This extends to both the users of these tools as well as the content of these tools. Like I have mentioned as a part of my MIE research, there are cultural narratives that cannot be found on Google and this is concerning given that Google has emerged (and rightly so) as the de facto source of information in so many domains. It raises questions in relation to all cultures being fairly represented while at the same time maintaining each culture's dignity. This is very tricky politically, culturally, and ethically but I'm willing to give it a try; this good stuff has to be available to everyone.

Google's work environment is truly amazing and no pictures I have seen online do it justice. The tour was just inspiring, all I could think of was:
"I want one of them in my classroom!"

It was really easy to get caught up in the 'adultness' of it all. I had to keep consciously bring myself back to how I can use this with my 9-10 year olds rather than just ME! Got some pretty cool ideas brewing though, and I'll be sharing them with y'all!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I bet you your gingerbread house resembles mine...

Neela's Gingerbread House 12-05-2009-4

If you are reading this you are probably aware that I am kicking around the idea of Minimally Invasive Education (MIE).

It is amazing how as time goes by I am learning everyday how complex the notion of MIE is. When I first started looking into I assumed it was much like older 'child centred' philosophies. I could imagine the more experienced educators around the place saying things like,
"Oh, so that's what you are calling it these days. We did that in the 1980s except then we called it ..."
And that may still be the case. However it does not stop me from being insanely fascinated by the concept of MIE.

What I have discovered is that the more I attempt to 'do' MIE the more I understand it, which is weird because that is what MIE is all about.

I have had many insights and revelations and I would like to share my most recent one.

Initially through the research of Dr Sugata Mitra, I went in thinking that MIE was about 'letting the kids go' and to a certain extent it is. But what I discovered today, is that it is not limited to being minimally invasive about the kids, it can extend well beyond that.

My kids have been working on sharing a tale from their culture. To cut a long story short they were outlining their culture to some kids in Australia and mentioned an old story that their Grandparents had passed down. When a couple of kids asked a question about the story, my kids first instinct was to find a link to the story on the Internet that they could forward to them. It then became apparent that their story was not represented on the Internet so they set out to do their own version of it.

This has taken about three weeks. We have had many other curriculum demands going on, so we have been squeezing this special learning in when we can and the kids have been contributing to their shared google doc at home.

I have been very hands off, providing only the digital equipment and having a few philosophical conversations with them about dominant cultures and whether or not it was 'okay' for them to be the first 'publishers' of their culture's legends.

Anyway, they finished and shared a pretty raw version of their story today. There is a mix of webcam, paint, sound recording and an old photo of one of their grandparents. The reason for the mix of digital media was not done on purpose but because that was what was available to them on various days.

There are themes of violence and cannibalism in this story. It's quite gory but I don't think that it is gratuitous. It's kids telling a scarey story. It's kids being kids.

This makes me realise how truly magnificent it is that our children are in a position where they can share their own stories with other kids around the globe without an adult being overly involved. Consider the dumbed-down and 'disneyfied' versions of the stories from my culture (Hansel and Gretal, Snow White and Jack and the Beanstalk). We were 'done to' with those versions, we were distracted by magical gingerbread houses while a witch was popped into an oven in the background. Even our imaginations where invaded with our childhood stories. Publishers made the decisions as to what that gingerbread house looked like. We will never be able to dream up our own versions.

This is where the deeper lever of 'minimally invasive' comes in. It's not just about minimal intervention into the way kids learn, but also minimal intervention into the content. As you can tell their story is in no way 'censored' but because they do not need to go through publishers (and that they have more options than just print) their authentic child perception of the tale is able to come through. I don't know if it's just me, but I think that is pretty exciting!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The 3 Cs, Collaboration, Culture and Critical Analysis

Last year my class experienced a taste of online collaboration with children from Geelong, Australia.

Immediately, I noticed that my children were extremely motivated by being able to see what children similar in age were capable of. Whenever they watched one of their news shows the children would use what they saw and replicate it in their own news shows. They no longer cared for, sought, or needed my opinion. They took the digital cameras outside of the classroom, they took control. Things seemed to get very serious. Suddenly our news presenters were thinking about their angles, their language, and their presentation skills. The camera people were thinking about what was in their backgrounds. I didn’t teach them this - they acquired it from observing the Geelong children.

This year their teacher Rick Kayler-Thompson and myself have continued to share the news shows and the quality of my children's oral communication continues to lift.

In addition to this, we are playing around with some written collaborative learning using shared Google Docs and WallWisher. The children in Geelong are learning about culture. My class has an extremely rich cultural mix (NZ Maori, Cook Island Maori, Tongan, Samoan, and Nuiean). We have been fairly 'hands off' and have let the children go off in a variety of directions in the shared google doc. The usual themes have emerged (food, religion, clothes, jewellery etc).

One of my students very briefly referred to a Cook Island legend. The children from Geelong asked a couple of questions about it. This, of course, made the other children in my class more interested too. The student couldn't remember all of the story, but other children from the Cook Islands could remember parts of it. They looked for it on the Internet but found nothing (with the exception of a performed dance of the legend at a polyfest festival).

This brings up an interesting point that Puti Gardiner makes (she uses TeReo Maori as an example). Is digital technology culturally neutral?

For example when her children googled Maori Technology the hits they received were of traditional fishing tools, waka, weaving, etc and there was very little information on Maori and the use of contemporary technology. After discussing this with her kids they decided to start making digital stories, films, blogging and wikiing, therefore contributing their culture and stories to the digital world. It seems that in this digital age, it is essential that a digital footprint is created so that language, stories, and culture can be sustained.

Scary questions swim around in my head. Why is it not so easy to find my student's stories on the web, when finding versions of stories such as Little Red Riding Hood is so easy? Who is responsible for rectifying this? Can I give my student's the skills so that they are able to contribute their stories and narratives while maintaining their integrity? Is this okay?

My kids talked about how their stories are shared orally to them. This is often through their Grandparents and that is how stories are passed on throughout their culture. There are, of course, variations to each story depending on whose Grandparents version we listen to. The story that was referred to, for example, had many variations within my classroom where debates raged about whether or not the main character wore the skin of a goat and so forth.

I think that the use of a shared google doc is brilliant for this phenomenon. The flexibility and collaborative nature of it allows multiple perspectives to come through. When my children come back to school with the varied versions of the same story from their Grandmas, we will be able to see these differing points of view and piece together common themes.

The children will be able to record and share their versions of the story with their Australian friends who will be able to draw their own conclusions (given that they will have observed the drafting and sharing process).

When they are eventually presented with a 'polished final draft' they will also have an awareness of what might have been 'left out'. I cant think of a better way to introduce our young children to the complex concept of dominant discourse analysis.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A letter to Anne Tolley

Dear Anne Tolley,

I hope you are ready for me this year. I am making it my mission to shake up your poor excuse for a system. The ideas you espouse are antiquated and wrong, and have been proven wrong over and over again. When it comes to doing the right thing for the benefit of our children and the nation, I will not rest.

I will write to you regularly as an educator, a mother, and a citizen. I will involve the media, local and overseas experts until you either admit what you are doing is wrong, or the nation will exercise their democratic rights and vote you out.

There is no undoing of all the money you have wasted so far with your flawed changes, but you need to recognise that a mistake has been made and cut your (and the taxpayer's) losses. You are stuck in a Piagetian system, in a world that has gone well beyond that way of thinking. We celebrate individualised progress, not the reaching of an arbitrary standard. We are not a factory.

You are forcing mediocre educators to ignore the 'at standard' children, give up on the well 'below standard' children, and deny all the others their passions.

It's easy to teach the way you expect us to: most mind numbing things are easy. I have two roles. The first one involves me ticking your boxes and boring my children. The second involves me educating my children 'outside' of your system and generally outside of ordinary school hours. We are lucky that we have a flexible curriculum that was worked on by good people well before you came along.

I have empowered my children with the ability to think critically and I will continue to do so. You and the advisers you parrot provide a wealth of material for this. I am not the first teacher to be troubled by this issue. I am not a teacher standing alone on this issue. There is a growing network of us slowly making changes within. Unlike you, we are willing to work, think about, read, and eventually solve this problem by taking action. The empowerment of our children is the first step in this process - if we cannot fix the harm you are doing then we are confident that they will.

I suggest you start your journey by watching this: