Monday, 27 June 2016

Changing World

"The future is unknown but not unimaginable" is a saying I have liked for a long time. Like many other future focussed educators I am trying to prepare the young people in my charge for an unknown future. There are different theories out there about what will be required to be successful in the future.

Our NZC's vision says: 
Our vision is for young people:
  • who will be creative, energetic, and enterprising
  • who will seize the opportunities offered by new knowledge and technologies to secure a sustainable social, cultural, economic, and environmental future for our country
  • who will work to create an Aotearoa New Zealand in which Māori and Pākehā recognise each other as full Treaty partners, and in which all cultures are valued for the contributions they bring
  • who, in their school years, will continue to develop the values, knowledge, and competencies that will enable them to live full and satisfying lives
  • who will be confident, connected, actively involved, and lifelong learners.
Another view on the skills required to be successful in the future comes from the Institute for the Future:
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Both above statements emphasise the importance of being connected and culturally aware and competent. Some of the more recent international political landscape has been somewhat contrary to this, and this brought back to me how the future could be less imaginable than I expected. I am now wondering if this requires me to change my approach, to prepare my students differently? While I want my students to be valuing different cultures and I want them to be connected learners, do I also need to prepare them more consciously for situations where they encounter people that are less so inclined?

Our students will be the future society. What are we doing that helps shape this future society? And how do we ensure that these future citizens of Aotearoa will not (need to) search on Google after their vote what the decision was all about in the first place?

I have many more questions than answers - how about you? Keen to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Passion Learning for Teachers

Having attended a number of PLD events over the last few weeks, I have been pondering my own 'passions'. While I thoroughly enjoy my current role teaching 'little people', I have found that one of my passions still endures: Supporting other educators to transform their practise. This starts with sharing information about PLD events with others, encouraging others to attend events I think they would find useful, with trying to make myself available for others who would like support from me, to submitting proposals and presenting at events. Due to a lack of time I have heavily reduced my participation in online communities, creation and sharing of resources, as well as blogging and I do miss these aspects - but there are only so many hours in the day, and my little people and my family have to come first:)

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It has been interesting to observe who participates at various events:
There are still many teachers out there who are 'new' to digital tools and the pedagogies required to transform learning for their students. This is not saying that in the past no teachers have adapted to meet the needs of their students, or that they have not had their students' best interests at heart. I am passionate about using digital tools in a way that we transform our students' learning experiences - though I am not necessarily the best example of putting this into practise myself (I have said before, I seem to be more of a 'do as I say, not as I do' person...).
I have encountered teachers I would regard as more experienced or experts in using digital tools in order to transform learning at these events; in most cases they would be presenting at such events. But what other avenues are there for them? Where do those teachers get their PLD who are already experienced / experts (gifted?) in this area? Where can I get my PLD fix?

While I know that every teacher has many areas they need to be confident in (and I have many areas I need to work on), when we compare teacher learning with student learning, we have moved away from the deficit theory of telling our students to only worry about the areas they are not good at. We want our students to follow their passions while we help them build up the areas they are less confident in. What does this look like in teacher PLD?
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I am wondering if we can learn from the classroom when we look at teacher PLD (I have previously written here about how I don't think I applied enough of what I used to tell my teachers in my work with them). Let's assume we have a technically confident future focussed teachers looking to further their passion for this, what are we offering them? Just like in the classroom, teachers have different needs, so considering UDL we might want to offer them Multiple Means of Engagement (why), Multiple Means of Representation (how) and Multiple Means of Action and Expression (what of learning). What could this look like at a f2f event I wonder? Could we design workshops and sessions around these principles rather than a one-size-fits-all present approach, and what might this look like? How can we incorporate asynchronous, digital learning with this?

I have had some of my proposals to present accepted for the NZLA Conference and for Ulearn16, and I am really keen to make these sessions applicable to as many learners with different needs as possible. I have previously attempted to incorporate UDL into my presentations, (e.g. my Supporting UDL with GAFE presentation at Ulearn14, see post here).  This could be my starting point for how to design my sessions for later this year. I am also interested to see how this might further influence what we already do in our y2&3 ILE classroom.

The question remains though: How do we ensure that teachers can push their passions further? And where can I learn more about this?

I asked the wonderfully knowledgable +Hazel Owen for some advice around it, and she wrote:
The interesting thing is - there isn't (as far as I know) that much research / papers out there that look into this specific subject. Rather the research is around:
  • personalised, tailored learning, 
  • teaching as inquiry, 
  • action research in teaching, 
  • Continuing Professional Development (CPD), 
  • (online) communities of practice, 
  • PLEs, and 
  • mentoring / coaching for teachers' / education leaders' PLD.
In the holidays I plan to start reading more on this topic. If you regard yourself as confident or an expert in a particular area, but still passionate about learning more about that same area, how do you go about this? I would love to hear from you :)

PLD Term 2 2016 - Reflections

My reflections on three 'away' PLD events this term

GEGNZ Sparkshop in Auckland 28 May 2016

(go to the Twitter Stream here)

It's been great to catch up with other GEG NZ educators. Approx. 50 participants shared, learned and collaborated on a variety of topics around the use of Google Apps in education. I really enjoyed the session with +Ellie Mackwood around using DTs with learners with SEN - a lot of this applicable to our young learners in our y2&3 ILE, too. Another fabulous session was run by +Lenva Shearing, she shared a multitude of useful Chrome Apps and Extensions. I especially appreciated the extra time she took over lunch to show us some of the ins and outs of Hapara Teacher Dashboard.

Apart from the app tricks and tips that come in useful as my students are working more within GAFE, I have been reflecting on the way PLD event experiences differ from when I attended them as a facilitator to attending them as a teacher. As a facilitator I looked for a wide range of applicable learning that I could pass on to the educators I have been working with. Often I would bookmark tools, presentations etc. for later and sit down and tutu until I was confident I could pass this on to an interested teacher. As a classroom teacher now I am looking more for ideas that are directly relevant for my context and the learners I am working with. With no time set aside in my day to 'play', I probably pick up on fewer tools than in the past (not saying this is better or worse, just noting that this is different).

I also reflected on the attendees and the content of the presentations. This was free PD and even with my rather patchy Social Media presence nowadays I saw it advertised weeks ago (and two colleagues joined me). Among the 50odd participants there were few of the GEG educators I used to meet in the past (having been overseas for a year probably added to that). Another participant mentioned she was surprised that not more Auckland teachers took up this offer of free PD. I suppose Saturday morning sports are an important commitment for many teachers and parents, reports coming up etc. all have an impact.

Educamp Tai Tokerau in Whangarei 11 June 2016

I had been to two EducampTT previously (from memory), and this one probably had fewer attendees than the ones in the past. I believe the annual event did not run in 2015, so I expect this had an impact - as well as the game All Blacks vs. Wales in Auckland the same day. And again it was a Saturday where many of the rural primary teachers have commitments. [One of my wonderings: Am I right that there are more primary than secondary teachers represented at such events, and why is that?]

In difference to the Auckland event, there were lots of familiar 'experts' present. Due to the number of attendees rather than individual workshops, a smaller number of topics were presented to everyone in the room.

I personally gained less from this than from the previous experiences, but it gave me an opportunity to revisit some of the tools I have come across previously. Especially Edpuzzle is something I want to explore more; I would like to investigate flipping my classroom, and Educreations could be one way to record 'lessons', or I could use Edpuzzle for a range of existing (or my own) videos with or without added questions for my students.

As I had not quite had enough of commuting that week lol, I also attended the Open Night at the MindLab Whangarei 13 June 2016.

First thing I realised was how long it takes to travel from Mangonui to Whangarei - at least 1h 45min. I am lucky to live in Kerikeri, 45min south of Mangonui. As I have previously written about, I am very passionate about professional learning for rural and isolated teachers, and commuting to Whangarei for a 4h sessions every week for (I think) 16 weeks would be hard work. In 2015 I had encourage the MindLab to come to Whangarei for Northland teachers to be able to take advantage of the great programme they are offering, but back in the classroom working long hours, I would struggle with the commute alone.

Karen Baker competently presented the 'intro' to the course. I was interested to see that the ITL research was quoted, something I had not come across much in New Zealand before but have worked with intensively in Australia. It sounded like I would enjoy a lot of the content, but given that I have worked across this field previously I am not sure that I would find enough 'new' learning to justify taking that much time away from my day job and my family (please note the order... sigh...)

I am incredibly thankful to my colleagues for their company on the trip to Auckland and to our principal for the financial support.