Friday, August 5, 2016

Connected Learners Share

The Manaiakalani Digital Immersion programme is designed to support teachers in their first year of teaching in a 1:1 digital learning environment. This eclectic group of teachers includes beginning teachers and teachers who have been decade(s) in the profession; teachers who are in their first year in a Manaiakalani school and teachers who have been in one of our schools for years but have never had the opportunity to teach in a digital learning environment until now.

One of the professional learning opportunities designed for this group is a whole day professional learning group once a term. This provides a chance for teachers to come together and explore their own teaching inquiry, to network and share, to learn more about Manaiakalani pedagogy and valued outcomes, and to develop some new digital skills.

Click to open presentation
Today we had 35 teachers attend our plg exploring the Manaiakalani focus for Term 3: “Connected Learners (young and older) Share”.

We began the day with an overview of the goals, valued outcomes and pedagogy of the Manaiakalani Programme, and teachers formed groups of three to share how they were outworking these in their practice after two terms (six months) in our schools.

The focus then shifted to how we as adults share. This initial conversation separated out personal, social and professional sharing. There were predictable differences  and robust opinion sharing around:
How do you share?
How do you define the boundaries for your sharing? If you have them.....
How do you deal when the boundaries blur or are breached?

Click to open this collection of reflections
A ’speed dating’ session followed designed for our teachers to each share aspects of their professional learning arising from their Teaching as Inquiry this year.

After connecting with half a dozen teachers they were invited to reflect on what they had heard and learnt, in light of their own Inquiry. With 12 schools represented here it was apparent that this was quite an eye opening time for everyone. Why? Schools interpret this important aspect of teaching in a variety of ways and this can be seen in this slide show.

We then spent time exploring how our young people share in Manaiakalani schools and touched on some of our celebratory events like Schools Inc and the Film Festival. But our major focus was blogging which is evident in all our schools.  We have endless anecdotal evidence from teachers and learners about the power of blogging in raising learner engagement and outcomes and discussed this.
Click to open the padlet

But it was the research of Rachel Williamson which excited attention and debate. An external evaluation of an integral component of our education programme. After spending time reading the report and talking in groups, our teachers contributed to a padlet with an ‘I Should” statement.

The most frequently recurring statements indicated that our new teachers had not been interacting with the learners’ posts and had become aware that this was important.

We ended the day with a ‘Create’ activity inviting everyone to create an infographic sharing the data they could gather from their own blog analytics. These were shared on their own blogs and in our Manaiakalani Google+ community. Reading through these showed the ongoing depth of critical thinking in this group. Some of the teachers chose to share their infographics on the presentation below as well.

 It is a privilege to be part of a group like this who are so open to exploring their own practice and go to great lengths to improve outcomes for our tamariki.

Thanks to Karen and Georgia for sketchnoting the session today and sharing on your own blogs.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Blogging Supports Writing Outcomes

Blogging has played an important role in the Manaiakalani pedagogy for over ten years now and a generation of young people have been through our schools knowing that sharing your learning publicly is an important part of the learning process.

Many of our learners have chosen to continuing sharing on their blogs during the school holidays and I have written posts like this sharing anecdotal observations about their holiday writing. Writing is a social activity for many people and our learners are encouraged when someone interacts with their post and they see on their feeds that people have viewed their blog.

Over the 2015/16 summer holidays the Woolf Fisher research team set up a project to encourage more of our young people to blog during the long summer break to observe whether this was in fact a valid way to arrest the frustrating 'summer drop-off' that so many of our priority learners experience. This was led by Rachel Williamson. Rachel constructed the Summer Learning Journey using the Manaiakalani pedagogy and the young people had multiple opportunities to Learn, Create and Share as they explored the world virtually.

A full description of the programme and the outcomes can be seen on this page on the Manaiakalani website.

Two observations I have noted from the research report:

The first one is a highly valued outcome in our Manaiakalani schools. The learners who participated in the blogging programme did not experience a significant drop off in their test scores as measured by the e-asttle writing test. The blue line on the graph shows the summer bloggers test scores over the course of a calendar year. The red line shows a matched sample of learners who did not blog over the summer (matching gender, ethnicity and achievement level) and displays the trend we are familiar with - writing outcomes rise during the school year and take a deep slide over the summer break.

The second observation is an outcome that is valued by some people who question us about 'WHY' we 'LET' our young people share their learning prolifically online. These adults express concern that the writing might not be perfect, and imperfect surface features may even reflect negatively on the child, the family or the school.

Glass is half full people!!
Rachel analysed the surface features of the writing shared online during the summer break - presumably completed with little direct adult support - and came up with surprising results that should reassure people whose inclination is to micro-manage children's published writing.

Accuracy was measured using four indicators: Percentage of words spelled correctly, percentage of word sequences that were correct, percentage of punctuation marks that were used correctly, and percentage of sentences that were complete and correct.
In each case the percentage score was calculated as: Number of correct examples/total number.

On average, 96.7% of the words in each post were spelled correctly

Correct Word Sequences:
 On average, 88.2% of word sequences in each post were correct

On average, 77.1 % of punctuation marks in each post were used correctly.

On average, 73.6% of sentences in each post were complete and accurate.

We highly recommend you read the report yourself.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sketchnoting ISTE2016

Sketchnoting has taken the humble art of doodling to a new level and at ISTE this year we were delighted to have a ‘professional’ sketchnoter capture our presentation at the Google Theatre.

Fiona, Lenva, Dave and I gave a presentation on Visible Learning in the 2016 Google for Education Teaching Theater. We had a full house and it was a new experience for the four of us; not only speaking together for the first time but preparing the whole session virtually as we were on different continents whilst planning our presentation.

So what is Sketchnoting?
Sketchnotes are purposeful doodling while listening to something interesting. Sketchnotes don't require high drawing skills, but do require a skill to visually synthesize and summarize via shapes, connectors, and text. Sketchnotes are as much a method of note taking as they are a form of creative expression. Quote from the Sketchnote Army

I took the opportunity to attend two sessions on sketchnoting as I think we should be introducing our learners to this and utilising it as a creative tool for many young people who would prefer to organise their thinking and learning graphically.  It includes all the elements of the Manaiakalani pedagogy in an accessible and engaging package. I heard from teachers introducing sketchnoting to children as young as Grade 2, and of course it is a valuable tool for older learners in senior classes at high school who have a lot of content to come to grips with in their classes.

Listening to the ‘experts’ speak, it was clear that this can be taught well or badly (not taught), just as with any new skill - digital or not.  Showing some examples and letting kids tear into it will work fine for those on the same wavelength, but will leave another (probably larger) group discouraged and feeling inadequate. There are clear steps and organisational tricks that can enable anyone to create a sketchnote to represent a piece of learning.

Matt Miller shared his sketchnoting 101 ideas and tips in one session I attended.
In the second session a panel of sketchnoters shared from their own experience. Kathy Shrock’s extensive guide here supplies everything needed to get started or to take this to a new level. Royan Lee shares a Drive folder of how to teach sketchnoting here.
The panel presentation is shared below by Vicki Davis, panel chair...

My notes from both sessions are on a Doc here.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Future Ready

The opening Keynote for ISTE 2016 Michio Kaku — futurist and theoretical physicist-  connected with a train of thought that has been running as we have travelled around the world and connected with educators in many countries on the #BurtsLearn journey.

First a little about the Keynote.
Michio Kaku was an entertaining and knowledgeable speaker who challenged every preconception any of us non-scientists may have had. He posed all kinds of challenging questions from a physicist’s perspective and had the engaging ability to laugh at himself and make the audience laugh. His topic was a futuristic one and he undertook a wide-ranging view of the world our young people will be living in when they are our age.

I am not going into detail here about his speech as the journalists from the ISTE team have done a wonderful job of recording his points and they can be read on the ISTE Blog.

It was his reflections on education that connected with me most directly as I was able to bring a modicum of intelligence to the content, whereas I simply had to take his word about the medical and technical insights he shared.

Before I comment on his predictions I will backtrack over some observations from the previous couple of months.

  1. In some of the places we visited and shared with educators they expressed surprise that our parent community in Manaiakalani subscribe to a pervasive 1:1 digital approach in our schools.  We heard many stories of parents defining the number of hours, or in some case minutes, that young people were allowed to be on digital devices in school for various reasons cited by parents.  One of the recurring themes was that digital devices isolate children and stop them being sociable.
  2. We have heard around the world of the growth of compliances as allergies dictate the actions of schools and teachers. Approximately 1 in every 13 children in the United States lives with food allergies. That’s roughly two in every classroom. Eight foods account for 90 percent of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction. Classes and schools are issuing stringent rules curtailing the eating behaviour of the 12 in every 13 children who do not have these allergies - and of course the teachers have to abide by these rules too. Then there are the non-food allergies, some of which are potentially fatal.
  3. We were quite taken aback at one District conference we attended to find a notice on our table requesting we refrain from wearing scented products eg perfume or aftershave, as it could produce a fatal reaction in those allergic to it. These environmental allerigies are being taken very seriously in Canada with schools having policies about this.
  4. We have also seen and heard a lot about the fear in schools of acts of random terror and violence on a large and fatal scale.

These barrier and risk free environments being created in school systems may well a the pressure point that causes society to look closely at the industrial model of education, which is less than 200 years old, and question how much longer we can continue to bring children together for much of their waking day and contain them in social groups for the purpose of learning. Particularly when we consider that there are many more factors (take unacceptable behaviour as an example) that make parents concerned about the particular group of young people their own child is required to spend the day with.

It may well be that the parental concern about time on devices in point (1) above will be counterbalanced by the subsequent points. And they may conclude that the benefits of learning in a different physical environment being supported by technology delivering learning opportunities, outway the increasing risks when children who are strangers are brought together in one place.

It would be a shame if it was negative drivers that brought about the disruption to the status quo of ‘school looking like it was when I, the parent, went there’ that innovative teachers and school leaders have been modelling in increasing pockets of a number of countries around the world. But it is looking quite possible that it might be far more pragmatic factors than striving for innovative approaches to learning enabled by modern technology and creative minds that change the way we bring young people together in school buildings.

And so I return to our Keynote speaker. Professor Kaku introduced us to exciting technologies and innovations that will make learning even more delightful and engaging, and accessible to more people, perhaps everyone in the world. Where I was disappointed was that the examples of applying these futuristic innovations was in the context of a kind of school building/congregating system that is an extension of what we currently do.  One of his examples was that when unable to attend school a child would be able to have their surrogate sit in their chair and absorb the learning.  

It is understandable that with an audience of 15, 000+ educators he felt the need to assure us several times that we would not be losing our jobs and schools and kids will still need teachers. But I had been hoping for more.  I had been hoping that he would have taken us beyond this industrial model to a time when our children will not be herded unilaterally into groups for hours for learning to occur.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Profile of a SC Graduate

Many schools in New Zealand have developed a ‘Profile of a Graduate’ from their schools and it is a huge task.  

It was refreshing to be introduced to the 'Profile of the South Carolina Graduate', as something which has been developed for the whole state.

The framework that supports the profile of the South Carolina graduate is vital to helping our state stay competitive in today's global economy as it addresses the need and solution for a sustainable, educated and qualified workforce. More here

It undoubtedly contributes significantly to coherence between schools and across the age levels of schooling.

  • Rigorous standards in language arts and math for career and college readiness
  • Multiple languages, science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), arts and social sciences
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Communication, information, media and technology
  • Knowing how to learn
Integrity. Self-direction. Global perspective. Perseverance. Work ethic. Interpersonal skills

Does the benefit gained from the process of wrestling with the tough questions in our school community as we gain understanding and consensus around “What does a graduate from XYZ School look like?” outweigh the benefit of having a rigorously developed state profile?

Undoubtedly the people who were present at the time when the school went through this process gain enormously and get a great return on their investment of time and creativity. But over time, as more new staff arrive and go through an induction process rather than a development process, you have to wonder if the benefit of contributing to a profile that has been widely adopted brings a greater long term sense of satisfaction.