Thursday, 2 November 2017

Luckily ... happened - I am truly grateful

Seniors leave for exams next week and I am at the time of our staff appraisal process where I begin to reflect on the school year just about over....I pause at this time to think about how to begin this blog, so much has happened.
In the last 12 months a lot has happened to my family and my department that has left me feeling I might have done more, but also grateful that there were so many moments of ...

"lucky that happened"



This time 12 months ago, my brother was having a scan of his prolapsed disc in his back before surgery to fix it, and the radiographer noticed one of his kidneys didn't look right.  Lucky that happened.  He had surgery for his back and then 3 weeks later had surgery to remove his cancerous kidney.  No more cancer, all clear, no more treatment.  Lucky that happened!
Just before Christmas a staff member had an odd turn but she was fine and her family were all schooled up on strokes and aneurysms.  2 weeks later, she suffered an aneurysm and lucky for her,  her family knew exactly what to do and she has had a marvellous outcome.
She was the first of our dept to have surgery in the last 12 months with 4 more to come, including me.
Luckily, just as one person returned from recovery after their operation, the next one would be madly setting relief to go for theirs.
At the end of term 1, I went in for my surgery and had some complications which led me to having nerve damage to my voice box, with just a weak voice by the time I came back to work which was prone to squeaking and disappearing completely. Luckily for me, one of our dept staff thought it would be a good idea for me to use a portable microphone and the DP had it ready for me to use on the day I came back to school which really made a difference to me.
One staff member took leave in term 2 to travel and no-one applied for the job, like so many schools, were in that drastic position of no science teacher to fill the roll.  I was still on medical leave and had to set relief for the first week for the reliever, luckily another staff member thought I would need help with that and came into to school to help, goodness knows what kind of instructions I would have left if she has not helped.  With the first week of term 2 covered by a reliever, there was a mad scramble to find someone to put in front of the classes for the rest of the term....In stepped a graphics teacher and an english teacher to science, biology and horticulture, including 4 NCEA courses.  While they struggled with the content of the courses they were teaching, but like all teachers, they were passionate, enthusiastic, and deeply cared for the learning outcomes of the students.  At the end of the term, the students threw themselves into their internal assessments and left me with an enormous marking pile when theirs was added to my own.  Luckily for me, I work at a school with the most understanding students and they were incredibly patient with the knowledge that it was going to take some time for me to wade through it all.
In term 3 my student teacher arrived.  When you offer to host a student teacher, it is a lottery as to how much support they will need.  Luckily, he happened to be one of the best student teachers I have had the pleasure to work with in some time that gave me the time to truly catch up with myself and get back on top of everything.  He is going to be an awesome teacher, and he was very good at forming great trustful relationships with the students.
Term 4 rolls on, and my Mum goes into hospital with severe hip pain and decreased mobility.  She has gone from working, walking the dog, gardening and being independent to not being able to walk unaided in just 4 weeks, due to a side effect of prednisone.  Luckily, she hurt her shoulder trying to get to the hospital ER and so they didn't send her home the next day because her mobility was too compromised, but kept her 2 weeks which gave then time to really sorted out pain management, what was going on, and did a bunch of tests.
On the day Mum was going home, a staff member's partner unexpectedly died while over seas and ERO were meeting with the Board of Trustees, of which I am a parent rep, the same day.  You couldn't read about it!  Luckily, the DP thought to find me recently retired teachers to do marking for me and luckily, one of our most amazing relievers walked through the door and said she had heard and was available to do all the relief for the staff member for the next 2-3 weeks while she was away to bring her partner home to New Zealand.  This reliever knew all the students because she had been the reliever earlier in the year when this staff member had surgery.  Lucky that happened.  All that was left for me was to set all the relief for the classes for the next 2 weeks.  Luckily, the seniors were finishing off some internals and studying for exams, and so I only had to write detailed relief for a junior class.
Luckily for me, I have the most amazing team I work with in my department.  They are incredibly skilled teachers of science and warm-hearted, generous, and wonderful human beings.  They keep their sense of humour, and mine.  This last 12 months has been hard, challenging me and my team emotionally and professionally.  But we have stuck together, worked on problems together, and we have come through.

Aren't I lucky!

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Assisting Learning with Technology

Of all the interesting and cool things you can do with digital technology, for me the most powerful effect it has is when it enables students to access learning and share their thinking when traditional reading and writing it quite a barrier for them. I am very keen on equity and justice in education and these technologies have gone a long way to helping provide that for my students.

My Y10 science class and I have been trying out a few readily available assistive technologies with the idea that next year, when they are in Level 1 NCEA, they will have a few options that might better support the communication of instructions to them from their teachers, and their thinking and learning to their teachers.  For all my Y10 students, their learning struggles are not severe enough to be financially supported by the Assistive Technology Funding provided by the MOE, but most will qualify for special assessment conditions for NCEA should they sit external exams in Level 1 and beyond.

I love OneNote because it enables so many of my students but particularly the assistive technology it offers to my Y10 students who persist in their learning with challenges.  I use the combination of “To-Do” tags and Learning Tools add-in which contains Immersive Reading and Dictate.  To-Do tags allow my students with sequencing challenges to keep track of their learning projects by ticking off what they have achieved so far and gives them a sense of control over their learning because they don’t have to rely on me as much to guide them to the next step.  The Learning Tools Immersive Reader will read instructions to them if they are not confident readers, again giving my students freedom to learn at their own pace.  Students can then use the Learning Tools Dictate to record their thinking and progress. 
As a spin off of this, my more fluent writing students of all levels and I are enjoying using the Immersive Reader for proofing our own writing.  I am always proofing my own writing and just reading what I think should be there, not actually reading it for what is there.  Listening to the immersive reader lets my students and I pick up our mistakes instantly.

Recently, I have begun using Dictate, a new voice-to-text add-in for PowerPoint, Word, and Outlook.  My Y10 students can then use this to “write” their thoughts down.  They really struggle to get their thoughts into writing and for many of the dyslexic students, this is really helping.  With a little practice, they can get the voice-to-text recognition quite accurate, then they can use the immersive reader in Word Online or OneNote to read it back to them for proofing.   This could be a really useful assistive technology for them if they have teachers who are less digitally confident because the end format is written text, which can be printed off.  

So far, the students are enjoying exploring the different technologies and evaluating their value for their personal learning goals and I hope they will become confident enough to continue to use the collection of technologies that best suit their learning needs, enabling them to reach to the heights of their thinking and learning, not just the limits of their confidence to read instructions.
Resources:
Learning Tools add-in for OneNote https://www.onenote.com/learningtools 
Dictate add-in for Word, Outlook, PowerPoint http://dictate.ms/
Universal Design for Learning - Inclusive Education http://inclusive.tki.org.nz/guides/universal-design-for-learning/

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Homage to the Digitally Curious Colleauge

I have been thinking back on my experience of the last year as an Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.  I have come a long way.  My confidence in new digital environments has increased and I realised a very important thing about being a digitally fluent teacher...you don' t have to know everything there is to know about all the tools available to you in your kura, you just have to have the confidence to know you can work it out if you play around long enough.

BUT, it is quicker if you have a colleague to brainstorm with!

Enter (Stage Left) - Digitally Curious Colleague

Much of the digital world I try to get my head around these days has large components of collaborative capability, which are the ultimate digital tools for a teacher.  Having a curious colleague to help you explore it all means that one of you can be the teacher and one of you can be the student, nutting out all the useful tricks of the tool.  The Web must be littered with carcasses of old embryonic 'Test' files and accounts of collaborative digi-tools created by teachers and their digitally curious side-kicks.

Microsoft Teams is out and true to form, I have created a 'Test Team' and roped in 3 digitally curious colleagues to work out how it all works.  Another embryonic digital carcass in the making.  My colleagues go along with their role as side kick with enthusiasm, and helpfully answer all the internal dialogue questions I ask such as "Who can see this, I wonder if this chat stream is private?" and daft comments like "Ooo - it doesn't look like this turns up in my email feed".  My trusty, digitally curious side-kicks just join in the conversation.

On Friday, I was building a conference presentation with a colleague and had a need to ask this question "Is group blogging even a thing?".  Even when all curious colleagues nearby don't know the answer, there is always someone in world who has asked your digi-curious question before and what do you know?  I googled that question and came across an unknown digitally curious colleague who not only had the answer, but also published the important 'how to' information.   I worked it all out, joined my co-presenting colleague to the blog and hey presto, I had gone from not knowing group blogging was even a thing to starting and publishing a group blog in 25 min.

Some of my digitally curious colleagues have applied to become Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts and so it seems our time of  exploring digital tools together is set to increase.  My personal learning has been great as a MIE-expert over the last year but this learning would not have been as productive, as fun, or as expansive, if I had not had the privilege of working with my digitally curious colleagues.

References:

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Decreasing Teacher Admin Workload with Office 365

The school term break in New Zealand is just finished.  I don't call it the school holidays...we all know it isn't a holiday for teachers as they spend it marking, writing feedback, preparing lessons, going to conferences to learn more, and in some cases, still teaching.  By the end of this week or certainly next week, teachers all over the country will be feeling like they are starting to count down to the next term break when they can catch up on all the jobs that are already beginning to build.

Decreasing our workload is really important. REALLY important.  We want amazing teachers to stay in the profession and we want to attract amazing teachers to our profession. 

Marking student work and giving quality feedback is a teacher task that is incredibly important and is an effective way of causing learning.  TKI - Effective Feedback webpage states that feedback is "most effective when given at the time of learning".  This means that amazing teachers prioritise this job amongst all the other jobs they have to do.  AND they prioritise it for each student they teach...in secondary schools, this could be 90-100+ students per teacher.

In the past we have used something like Word to write a feedback template which we photocopy and hand write for each student, stapling it to their papers or gluing it into their books.   Sometimes it is lost by the student and your access to what you wrote is certainly lost to you, the teacher, relying on memory when having further discussions with the student.

Microsoft Forms is an app in the Office 365 suite.  Most people think of setting surveys for their students to seek feedback, but you can also set a Form as a formative or summative test for your students.  Forms automatically analyses the results for you, and you can export the results cleanly to another Microsoft app, Excel.  In Excel you can print off the test for each student, you can re-visit their answers at any time and compare their progress over time. 

Microsoft Forms can also be used to create marking schedules.  You can complete a response for each student, even providing long sections of feedback when you need to.  Again, this can be exported cleanly to Excel and re-visited at any time and you can compare the progress of students over time.

Tips for marking schedules in Forms:
  • Make sure when setting the Form up, you select Multiple Responses so you can enter one response per student
  • Make sure the first question you ask yourself is "Student Name"
The very first time I used Forms for a marking schedule, it only took me 10min to set up and I now have that Form for the same topic next year.  So easy.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

My grounds duty is IT-Drop In

Problem = offering one off PLD about digital tools to teachers is not effective because more than half of them can't keep up with the lesson, there is too much content, and teachers weren't given time to play with it and think about how it fits their classrooms.
Solution = offering teachers ongoing support much more often; what they need, when they need it
                   2nd Problem = IT staff don't have time to do this, not enough IT staff too many teachers
My version of this solution = "IT-Drop In" which is an allocated grounds duty

All teachers have duty in schools, designed to make the environment during break times safe for students.  All schools have those cushy duties where your relationship-management skills are not really needed, it is just supervision.  In my school, that cushy duty is the Library Classroom - a suite of computers the students can use at break time.  The students are so busy in their virtual worlds, they don't have time to annoy anyone in real world.

To make this a productive duty time I introduced IT-Drop In and in 2016 offered digital support to my colleagues during my lunch time duty slot.  In 2016 myself and another teacher offered 2 lunch times a week to our colleagues for help.   This year we have every lunch time duty in the library classroom covered by digitally savvy teachers and we are really beginning to create confidence in our colleagues to try new digital tools in their classrooms.

It-Drop In works because teachers don't need an appointment, they just turn up when they have a few minutes.  By offering it 5 days a week we can capture most of the teachers in the school and offer them a time that suites their busy schedules.  Teachers can come back as often as they need to and many come regularly, to get the next step.

We don't just help teachers, we help any student that drops by too.  Our aim is to increase the use of digital tools in the classroom and so it naturally follows that if the teachers begin to use digi-tools then more students will also need more support.

The most common requests for support are: 
Students: 
  • Connecting BYOD devices to the wi-fi 
  • Accessing online lesson content the teacher has posted 
  • Sharing online content they have created with someone else, usually their teacher 
  • Navigating Office 365 and all the apps 
  • Understanding the difference between online apps and client apps 
  • Downloading the free Office 365 students have access to

Teachers: 
  • Using and navigating the Office 365 online environment 
  • Creating and using OneNote or ClassNotebook 
  • Adding/Removing students from Onenote 
  • Brainstorming the best app to use for a particular learning situation 
  • Using Kamar (Kamar is our student management system)
  • Emailing the whole class using a group class email (which is populated from Kamar)
  • Setting up PLG groups in O365 

Students tend to only come to see me once or twice but teachers often return regularly for the "next step".  Students like getting that help when someone has time to help them, they often find the teacher in the classroom is not able to spend as much time with them or they have only done it once in class and have forgotten; just needing a reminder.
Teachers report an increasing confidence in giving something new a go because they know they can easily get help at lunch time if they get stuck.  Large learning curves are broken down into small learning curve chunks with help available at the next step.  This gives teachers the head space to think about how a particular tool could enhance student learning.

I learn new things too.  A teacher will brainstorm with me about something they want to do in class that I hadn't thought about.  We work out a strategy and digi-tool(s) together and I enjoy hearing about it afterwards.  Our IT staff are getting busier in some ways and less busy in others.  They are being asked questions that are utilising their tech-minds more and stretching their IT to learning knowledge.  Less often do they get requests for help about sharing digital content, setting up ClassNotebooks, printing etc. 
The teachers who come to IT-Drop In are spreading their new knowledge within their departments and digital knowledge is disseminating quickly amongst my colleagues.  I am starting to get teachers coming to IT-Drop In who have been shown something by a colleague and need the next step. Or... teachers say "____ is doing ___, how can I do that?"

Disseminating digital knowledge to teachers this way is a slow process but it is always at the pace of the teachers who seek it, delivered in a timely manner for them, and is able to be linked to class lessons quickly because it is a small chunk at a time, allowing for thinking  and processing time in the mind of the teacher.




Monday, 24 October 2016

Changing the Heart of Teachers of Māori Learners

After all, it isn't Māori learners who need to change, it is us.

Teaching with cultural responsivness - I thought I was alright at this, but it just goes to show, that we are never done learning...learning about ourselves, learning about others.  This is my ako.

These last school holidays I was fortunate enough to go in the place of a colleague to a hui in Wellington about embedding Tātaiako into our school. I thought I would be over my head, but it turned out to be just the perfect PLD I needed, right now.  It was run by TRCC and was THE best conference I have ever been to.  A big claim, I know, but there it is.

It began at Te Herenga Waka Marae with powhiri and yummy kai.  We remained at the marae all morning, surrounded by its visual beauty, sheltered by it in the Wellington rain.  The first session after kai was Toku Ao, where we each shared a taonga and/or kōrero of cultural significance to us.  It was emotional and heartfelt.  People shared their hopes, whakapapa, fears and joys.  A lovely Kuia shared with us the locatedness of the marae, explaining its kōrero, the poupou, and tukutuku panels.  It brought the Wharenui to life and as each poupou represented a different iwi in Aotearoa, we all felt connected, settled, truely comfortable in our welcome.  It was here that the best gem of the conference was spoken,
"You must bring all of yourself to your teaching and share it with your students before you impose your kaupapa upon them.  To do this, you must first know your own culture before you can expect to accept the culture of others."
I left the marae feeling very relaxed and connected to everyone in our group that shared Toku Ao.  I left the marae knowing a lot more about myself.

The rest of the hui took place at a local hotel in downtown Wellington.  We heard a kōrero by Hana O'Regan and she dynamically confronted us with the stereotype of being Māori, created out of law changes and infuences out of their hands; shaped by products of their time and by people who were products of their time.  We must strive to find many, many positive stories about local Māori successes and share them, often, with many people to counter the negative media and popular beliefs of Māori.  Her wero (challenge) was that,
"You are products of your time, a different time, and so it is you who must change the view of Māori, don't perpetuate the values and thoughts of an old time."

This is our time, we are products of our time, and so we must make changes and not accept the products of earlier times.

The final overwhelming reflection from the conference was a reminder on the last day when some lovely primary, secondary, and tertiary rangatahi were brave enough to stand up and speak in front of 120 kaiako, and share their wisdom.  Their kōrero was about what makes them successful, what good teachers do, what schools do, what parents and whānau do, and what they do for themselves.  The students spoke of their own apsirations, and those of their parents and whānau. Their kōrero was full of hopes that all teachers would expect them to do their best all the time and push each student for their best every time.  They asked that teachers didn't try to help them because they were Māori, but help them because they asked for help...and never give up on them.  This reminded me that,

"Our ākonga never come to class alone or empty of knowledge.  They bring with them a wealth of their aspirations, dreams, experiences, knowledge, values, beliefs, and culture."



Believing that students need filling up or that they come with nothing is how deficit thinking can take hold of teachers.  Ako comes from the teacher honouring the wealth students bring with them and accepting that the student knows a lot about themselves and their world, and we teachers know a lot about learning.  Imagine what is possible and the heights all rangatahi would reach if we teachers combined our wealth with the wealth of each student in every class...think of the richness of learning.











Monday, 14 March 2016

QR Codes as a literacy tool

Why would you want to use it in your teaching resources?

  • Most URLs are very long and students often miss-type them when entering them
  • Most URL addresses have_underscores in the URL and you can't see them in a printed resource because the underlining that indicates the section of text is a link covers up the_underscore
  • Students who are pre-literate or who struggle with their literacy can just scan the code and it takes it to the right place straight away
  • Senior students in your classes don't have time to fluff about typing in long URL addresses, and feel that there are much more productive ways to use their class time.

What is a QR Code?

What is a QR Code
This is a QR code - it is like a bar code and when it is activated, it will take you to a website or other kind of digital information.  now you know what this is, I bet you will see them everywhere.

You need a QR Reader to be able to scan one of these with your devices camera.  QR Readers are free apps you can download to your phone or tablet.







QR code generator






There are a number of free online QR code generators that work wonderfully.  I use this one http://goqr.me/  




How do you generate a QR Code?


Go to a free QR Code generator such as http://goqr.me/
  1. Select the type of media you want the QR code to take the person to, most of the time I choose the first icon of the world as I am usually linking a website
  2. Copy the location URL of your target website into the contents box
  3. DOWNLOAD or EMBED the qr code.  Note: If you save the code for future use, then give it a sensible name as they are impossible to tell apart by looking at them.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How would you use it in a resource for a class?

I always provide the URL and the Qr Code together.  Students using their phone or tablet will likely use the qr code, and students using a laptop or desktop computer will likely click on the URL link.  I often provide a paper copy of the task, but always an electronic copy to the students via our OneNoteClass or you could post it to your LMS or send it out as an email out to all the class.


Check out more cool ideas to do with QR codes here  http://www.edutopia.org/blog/qr-codes-can-do-that-monica-burns