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There’s been a lot of posts lately on various forums about various learning management systems and digital learning tools.

In the current lock down, these teaching and learning mechanisms have been first and foremost in many teachers’ minds as they try to stay connected to their students remotely. Whether you use Microsoft or Google or a mixture of both, those efforts are to be applauded.

But the lock down has also shone a light on the elephant in the room. You know, the one the politicians have sidestepped for years.

The importance of digital literacy and its role in growing creative, connected, life-long learners was spelled out clearly in black and white when the revamped NZC was launched ten years ago.

A decade ago.

Just last week principals were contacted requesting a full inventory of their students capacity to learn remotely – how many have internet, is the internet reliable and do they have suitable devices (not phones)?

For the past ten years a slowly growing body of teachers have done their very best to integrate digital learning opportunities into their classrooms, at times it has been a bit like making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Access to devices, internet reliability, technical support and professional development has at best been sidestepped and at worst, ignored.

A teacher I know who put in long hours to set up lessons before the lock down told me after the first week, he had about a 50% uptake by students. That has a huge impact on what happens when everyone returns to school – especially for those already teaching multi-level classes.

He also noted that as he teaches three subjects within his discipline (junior science, physics and chemistry), it wold have been easier for him to teach all the level two classes for physics rather then being spread across five classes and three subjects.

Other teachers posting online are lamenting the constant 24/7 questioning from students, the etiquette around online meetings (hands up please! – this is coming soon in Microsoft Teams) and the mixed messages around looking after their well-being while preparing for another week(s) of remote learning.

Good points.

Became now we find ourselves in a situation where these issues really, really matter.

Finally these issues will need to be addressed but given the likely state of the economy post lock down, it seems unlikely there will be more funding available.

What the lock down will show is that there is an enormous disparity between and within schools in digital learning capability. And that is not a divide that can be crossed by the good will of teachers alone.

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Amidst the hurly burly of senior exam week, I shared and reviewed a raft of learning tools available via Microsoft 365 with our school’s teacher aides. They loved the read aloud function and had some good ideas about how they could use Office Lens with their learners too. Using read aloud via the edge browser was also a winner for them

The presentation was structured as a showcase followed by a why we would use it brainstorm and then later on, how would we use it. For some it was their first time sharing ideas via the collaboration space in a Notebook I have set up for them.

The downside was the devices we had in the school library weren’t running exactly the same versions/setting of MS as mine so that was a bit frustrating for them but I will follow up and get that sorted so there are half a dozen there they know have the tools we reviewed together.

And on the up, they’re keen to keep sharing ideas via a follow up workshop next term. Watch this space.

Here’s a link to what we’ve covered so far!

https://sway.office.com/5cXovvK2ivhzhDOb?ref=Link

 

 

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It’s one of the biggest challenges for educators everywhere. How to encourage resilience and a positive attitude towards learning in an era of instant gratification and digital distractions.

One of the core philosophies of New Zealand Teaching and Learning Curriculum is we must strive to create life long learners.

As teachers and parents, and as a society, we see value in raising resilient young people.

But there can be a disconnect marrying that philosophy alongside an assessment driven educational system that anticipates most learners will move at similar speeds through a range of learning levels.

At primary school, pupils have eight years to move from Level Zero through to Three. At secondary school, there are five years to progress from Levels Four to Eight. So the expectation is students move up a level each year.  That’s quite a jump.

While we recognised long ago the need to differentiate teaching styles for a range of learners, the system dictates a more rigid, linear progression through various skills and learning stands as “evidence” of learning.

Which makes it difficult to encourage growth mindsets in young people. According to Dr Carol S Dweck’s, research if students believe they are capable of improvement, they are more likely to be motivated towards attaining a goal. Alongside that, learners must accept that they may have to work harder in some areas, that it might take them longer to get there than others but that is part of process.

Source: https://www.mindsetworks.com/science/

We all want our kids to be resilient – at home and in life. But they can’t do that if they zone out the minute things don’t come easily, if they’re not prepared to make an effort or if they get stuck in a rut thinking they simply “can’t do” something.

Even our younger students are fixated these day on senior assessment terms.” Is that Achieved?”  “How do I get Excellence?” While it is good to be focused on a goal, they are increasingly fixed on the end point rather than the process. Even worse, I believe, is having students with high expectations drop subjects because to them “getting an achieved is the same as not achieved” which they feel is unacceptable.

What those learners fail to recognise is that they have been exposed to new ways of thinking, developed fresh skills and broadened their general knowledge by dipping their toes into unfamiliar territory. And who knows what they might have “achieved’ if they had developed those skills for longer?

If we are to create lifelong learners, we need to create a love of learning. That starts at home and is developed in classrooms where we recognise everyone works at their own speed, regardless of the assessment system in place. We do our best to help all our students experience success however that looks for them. The problem is when the measurement systems expect success to look the same.

Another issue working against growth mindsets is attitudes towards learning. I’ve noticed international students come to class prepared, seek and use feedback, put in extra effort, proactively manage their learning and have clear learning goals. They come from countries, cultures and families that value education. They know where they want to go and respect their educators. Is there a lesson to be learned here?

My students look puzzled when I write “not yet achieved” on a test or an essay. What does it mean? Will Mum and Dad be okay with it? What it means is they have not quite attained the magic line in the sand (actually we do have marking criteria, even in the humanities 😉 ) but I know how hard they tired, I know what they produced in May is an improvement on what they wrote in February and that with some effort, they should get “there” by the end of the year.

I want them to love learning and I want them to believe they can improve.

Hopefully they take those messages home so that families can nurture their self-belief, encourage a desire for self-improvement and emphasise the need for effort. After all, learning is a journey not a destination

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School Daze

Source: School Daze

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A timely post as NZ teachers take a break. But how many will be catching up on marking? Lots I bet! Some great ideas here about quality feedback. Extremely pertinent as the powers that be continue to demand evidence of learning progress and sadly link that to professional competency.

The Learning Profession

cover pic

The conflation of marking and feedback has led to a pernicious culture in schools that equates lots of written marking in books with high quality feedback.The irony is, of course, that the evidence on written marking is thin (read the EEF’s review on the evidence of written marking: ‘A marked improvement’) and sometimes great feedback isnigh on impossibleto evidence.

It’s difficult to pick the best metaphor to describe the profusion of marking and consequent impact on teacher wellbeing but I’m going to go with this (and excuse the hyperbole – I’m an English teacher): teachers are drowning in a sea of marking. At the start of term we dip ourtoes into the sea of marking (got to test the temperature)and before we know it ourfeet have been pulled out from under us by an undercurrent we didn’t see coming. Midway through the term we’ve lost sight of land and…

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Probably the most dreaded activity for many students is oral presentations. Our school guidance counsellors have told me they get lots of visits from extremely anxious students around this time.

Providing supportive environments, a back up stool for shaky legs, making preparatory tasks fun, viewing inspirational speeches for motivation all help but for a core group of learners, none of this really works. You could argue that speeches are just one of those evil necessities (like going to the dentist) but where’s the engagement in that?!

And while we might be able to jolly our juniors along, for the Level 2 alternative English students I teach, opt out rates are high. Four credits up for grabs but if you’re terrified of public speaking and chasing reading and writing credits, it’s a no brainer.

I think for those students, a better selling point might be developing more relevant, accessible tasks. Broad topics like “adaptation”, “choices”, “courage” are simply not doing it for them.

As long as we can assess against the schedule – is it appropriate for the audience, does it contain conventions suitable for the type of presentation, is it crafted and controlled, are a range of speaking techniques used in the delivery – alternatives to persuasive formal speeches need to be offered.

  1. Small group seminars – a seminar is more interactive than a formal speech. It should contain some visuals, some direct engagement with the audience and be informative. With Level One students, I’ve used this activity and linked it to career planning. We started by completing the career quest survey online, whittled the job options down to three then one, carried out research and developed a seminar on a specific career/industry. There are clear links here to with the Vocational Standards on offer.
  2. How To presentations -Instructional clips are popular. From making loom bands to using a green screen, it’s likely that students have consulted YouTube at some stage so this is a genre they’re familiar with. Due to the lower levels of crafting involved, this is probably better suited to junior students. Here’s some links to clips some American students have created and presented on Smart Phone apps which range from 30 secs to two minutes. Students need to produce story boards, scripts and practise their delivery. Here’s the backgrounder with rationale explained in detail.
  3. Mihimihi – This is an introductory speech that shares whakapapa (genealogy, ancestral ties) and other relevant information. A mihi is presented in Te Reo. A few years ago, a junior student who was struggling to write a persuasive speech nailed this. He began presenting his mihi as per the conventions and then proceeded to unpack the relevance of each reference point to his identity. I still have the scrawly, hand written transcript.  A Level One student also chose this option and invited her whanau to school for the presentation. Again, it one of the best pieces of work she completed all year. Engaging, crafted and delivered with pride.This may just provide the deeper connection some students seek and also help them to draw strength from their whanau and whakapapa thus overcoming nerves.

Here’s a clip on making a visual mihi too:

There’s a few alternatives. I’d be keen to know what other people have tried as well.

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 710 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 12 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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