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.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Getting the most out of the school day - make it snappy!

Children using the Harakeke Snappers

I completely agree that the students should be creators and not 'done to' and quite often the flipped classroom gets accused of merely being the use of video to spice up traditional teaching methods. What I believe, is that it is all to do with the use of the tool and not the tool itself. I tire when I hear people complain about the Khan Academy and the Ted Ed talks. These complaints are laden with the assumption that teachers are non-creative imbeciles.

Any tool, even the sacred book, can be used in boring and non-creative ways. This is especially the case if they are used only at their face value. If teachers get creative and peel back some layers they can make any tool or resource a wonderful thing. If a teacher is awesome enough, he or she can inspire and learn with children even if the only tool they have is brown paper and a vivid or a stick in the mud (which, by the way, gets a very bad rap!). Even the dreaded work-sheets can inspire learning - if we take time to think about how we use them.

We have taken many steps to get the most out of the school day. One of which was the Leadership team's decision to embark on Team Teaching. I cannot emphasise enough how incredible that is in terms of creating a quality education (but that is another blog-post).

Another thing we have done is cut-out the morning roll call completely. The children sign in on a google form each morning and one of us transfers the information to eTap as they walk through the door. We have all 3 of us out in the hub meeting and greeting the students and by 8:55 all bonding is done and we start the programme immediately.

How do the children know what to do? That is taken care via our 'Whats On' page which is updated daily. Often children will access this from home and know what's up before they even get to school.

We are currently taking a look at what we call Snappers. The snappers are in the emerging stage. We are creating them on a 'just in time' basis. We are currently doing a batch on basic maths but our 'vision' is to have them cover all curriculums areas.

From the outside the concepts covered will look somewhat traditional and very much based on the National Standards. That is the point. We are using Snappers to cover the essential skills. When covering the alleged essentials we need to ensure that we are 'keeping it snappy'. I think all of us will admit that we can drag a simple concept out for far too long to an audience who has mostly 'switched off'.

We are also purposefully not taking advantage of readily available 'flipped classroom' material because we believe that the art of making snappers ourselves is a meaningful form of Professional Learning. Although they may appear simple, we had many debates that has tightened up our conceptual understandings. For example, what is a fraction?

Ordering Fractions

Even watching them back informs our teaching practice. We have a relationship with our kids which is vitally important and I think that it is more effective having us up there. It's brilliant role modeling too - if we can do it, they certainly can, and they will!

I also like how the snappers can motivate self learning. In our 'using texts' and 'locating materials' snappers students are empowered to make their own decisions about their personalised learning (and they do it very well).

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Speedy Reflections

Another cool trick we picked up from Sharon and Sharee at ignition was the idea of 'Speed Dating'(we renamed it to speedy reflections). Speedy-refections works by lining the students up opposite each other. One side talks (uninterrupted) to the person opposite them for (in this case 30 seconds) then a bell rings and the other partner talks. Once this is done the line moves down one and the process is repeated.

To bring our amazingly full-on week to an end we tried it with the kids where they reflected on their highlights of the week. This put them in an awesome head-space for the end of week acknowledgements that followed.

Thanks for a cool take-home idea :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

5 year olds, iMovie and MIE

In my last post I rekindled my passion for both Sugata Mitra and Minimally Invasive Education (MIE). I have always appreciated the way he addresses remoteness in educaion.

Remoteness was first addressed by Mitra in a geographical sense.  For example (in the context of Delhi) he found that the further schools are from the city, the lower the educational outcomes. He then went on to discover that remoteness was not just a developing nation problem but happening in all countries across the globe.  Even in developed nations there continues to be areas where there are clusters of 'under-achievement'.  When it comes to access to, and knowledge of,  digital resources this is often referred to as The Digital Divide.

Like remoteness, the digital divide can lurk anywhere.  It is often assumed that the higher the decile ranking the more access children have to knowledge and digital literacies.  However this is an incorrect assumption - there are many cases where children in decile 10 schools can have very limited access to eLearning and, at the same time, many decile 1 schools have exceptional eLearning programmes and opportunities.

It can also be the case that there are digital divides within schools. For example, there are many teachers who bring old devices in from home, encourage students to use their personal eLearning devices (often their smartphones), beg borrow and acquire older computers from wherever they can, and basically do anything they possibly can to increase the computer to student ratio.  Yet, in the class next door, there could well be only one classroom computer sitting on the teachers desk while their Tela laptop remains at home and is lucky if it is used once a week for facebook and trademe.

Just as Sugata Mitra has said, the most important factor to increasing learning is very much down to the individual teacher. Too often a student's digital literacy experience is limited by what their teacher can do.  How often do we hear "I can't do eLearning unless I get adequate PD first".

Enter Minimally Invasive Education.  Today a couple of exceptional junior school teachers and myself pooled all our iMacs together to see if we could encourage our 5 year-olds to gather in SOLES (Self-Organised Learning Environments) and teach themselves how to use iMovie.

Within less than an hour they were creating projects, dragging photos into iMovie, adding sound effects, adding titles, adding transitions, and recording their own voice-overs.  They were self-teaching, they were exploring, they were empowered.  The topic of their inquiry this term is Beauty and Joy.  As an outsider looking in I was overjoyed and it certainly was a beautiful thing!