Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Tuakana Teina with Scratch

Last year I attended a wonderful PD session from Amanda Signal about using Scratch with middle - upper primary. The subsequent fun and learning in my classroom was a total win.
I tried to introduce Scratch in term 1 this year to my year 4 students. However, it was bad timing as they were still trying to come to grips with managing all things Google.

Term 4 seemed like the perfect chance to try again! - This time with ScratchJr on iPad and Scratch on Chromebooks.

We have spent the last week learning with Scratch and ScratchJr to share our stories, tell jokes and even just to show off the cool things it can do.
Most notably the students learnt about timing and angles through trial and error as they attempted to make their sprites do the unimagined.
The problem solving and thinking at such a young age just can't be beat.

Today I was asked to send a handful of kids to share ScratchJr with the year 1s. Karen Belt - their teacher, knew that technically her students were more than ready for it, however, having a more focused approach with Tuakana Teina would mean that both her students and the older ones, would be learning, creating and sharing in one happy moment.

The morning was an utter success. Karen commented that you could hear a pin drop in the classroom as her young ones came to grips with a new tool. My kids all thoroughly enjoyed themselves and thought that perhaps the 5yr olds' animations may rival their own. - They now have some work to do!

The draw card for the students as they create sprites and backgrounds and experiments with code, is indeed the element of experimentation and creating things never created before. They excitedly discuss new found tricks and techniques with friends and eagerly help one another to complete some fairly sophisticated stories.

Unfortunately, like many iOS apps, ScratchJr is unable to be shared online. So as much as the students want to post their creations on their blog, without screencasting via a laptop or desktop, it can't be done. However, the handful of year 4s working on Scratch should have some fabulous recreations of Hairy Maclairy and some original stories to share in a short while.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Chromebook vs iPad

As many schools and countries head 1:1, a current world wide debate seems to be tablet vs laptop - or more specifically iPad vs Chromebook. I have been experiencing this first hand over the last 9 months.

2014 had me tackling not only a new year level, but also the exciting prospect of 1:1 iPads.

The plan was to pilot a year 3 class, testing and trialling to see what a school wide pedagogy may encompass. However, student numbers were thrown into the mix and I ended up with a year 3/4 class.

The kicker, was that the year 4s had already signed up to receiving their Chromebook for 2014. So I was set to embark upon a split level class and split devices.

The general conclusion - I don't envy anyone in a BYOD situation!

I was very confident, technically with both devices. I had spent 3 years in Chromebook 1:1 and I was an early adopter of using creative iOS apps for sharing thinking and learning.
I wasn't scared about the prospect of managing 2 different devices. I was a little nervous planning how on earth I would teach 2 sets of skills to children in their first year of a 1:1 class.

Manaiakalani operates a very structured and visible pedagogy. One that is learner centred and is visible and transparent. Each learner and parent always knows where the learning is at and where it's going. This is made possible by using Google Sites for each class as well as Hapara Teacher Dashboard.

The idea of transferring this pedagogy to junior students and iPads was a tempting and challenging one. The question I posed myself in January was;
                        Is the pedagogy delivered the same no matter the device?
I assumed that it would be delivered identically and the device was just a tool and would make little difference.

Once the majority of basic skills had been acquired by the students (massive shoutout to Lynn West for all your assistance), I truly began to focus on pedagogy.

It became apparent that there are in fact many differences in the tools themselves.

The Chromebook is perfect when working in a visible learning environment. Google integrates seamlessly, obviously, and the wide range of apps associated with the Google account, means that you can extend learning, tasks and ideas very easily.
Learner agency comes to the fore as everything is linkable, or embeddable in a class site. Which means that the learners are directed and scaffolded into the learning without having to stray too far from the main learning portal of the Google Site and Google Drive.

Conversely, the iPad with apps can often mean that a student is working in different "windows" and not always having each piece of the learning puzzle perfectly accessible. Having to decide which browser performs a task best, or which app am I using, can hinder or slow down the learning. Not to mention the utter clunkiness of GAFE for iOS. For this reason, we largely limit the number of apps on the iPads.
(We fundamentally use 3 creative apps, 5 sharing apps and a handful of teaching apps - such as Matt Thomas' Hundreds Board.)

I have come to some conclusions:

  • The iPad is not used to access learning in the same way as a Chromebook.
  • The iPad is an incredibly powerful, individual, creative tool.
  • The Chromebook is a collaborative, functional tool.
  • Neither tool is better than the other and I could never choose which device I would solely want in a classroom. 
  • Pedagogy delivery does need to change depending on the devices in use.
  • When given a choice as a 1:1 learning tool, students as young as 7 will choose a Chromebook. 
  • For many students challenged by learning, the iPad is an ideal choice.

I look forward to planning for 2015 and the necessary tweaking to pedagogy as the affordances of the technology are used more efficiently for the device and for the age group.
I have certainly learnt many lessons and will continue to reflect and refine what 1:1 with tablets looks like in a junior classroom.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

A Midway Reflection

So what is going on with the craziness that is our classroom?

The Key Competencies still take centre stage in all our learning.
The children are confident creators on both iPads and iMacs.
More and more, the quieter students are finding their voice amongst the over abundance of "character" in the room.

What is next?

With such a focus on Key Competencies, we've let slip the focus on the students becoming monitors of their own learning.
I still strongly believe that such young learners can, and should be, in full control of their learning - They may just need some assistance.

So term 3 is calling for a greater awareness of learning content and also fostering the motivation needed to be able to identify and strive for those next steps in the journey. It is one thing to know what you are to do next, it is another thing to be motivated to achieve it and to know how best to get there.

The class Google Site will still play a major role in providing the visibility of learning the students need. Also we will also begin to introduce a series of learning progressions developed by staff at Pt England and Stonefields Schools.
These progressions give clear and concrete success criteria at each level/stage. The students are therefore never far away from being to check on what could or should come next and where they've come from. Each child has an individualised set of progressions, really personalising the learning for each child.
Initially, this process of identifying where the students are working and what may come next, will be well scaffolded and directed. The plan is that through this scaffolding and assistance, we will develop students who are more self managing and intrinsically motivated.

I am still mulling over the current learners in our classroom. I scratch my head daily as we make great progress in some areas and yet still struggling in others.
Am I expecting too much of such young kids - is it related to age or maturity?
Is it simply that I currently get to enjoy days with a class of individuals who are determined to leave their stamp on everything they do?


Saturday, 7 June 2014

Digital Learning

As a part of being a MIT (Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher) we were asked by Telecom to front a movie showcasing learning in our schools.
It was a very difficult task trying to articulate exactly what it is we do in a 30minute interview - so the cameras came to school.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Create and ReCreate

A culture of creation and reflection in a classroom, I believe, leads to true understanding of the learning process and how best each individual responds to new ideas and challenges.
In young learners, this happens many times a day and in many situations. As simple as when drawing, trying to spell a new word or tie a shoelace. Through to the more complex tasks of crafting an effective story, creating an appealing movie or writing a new song to share learning.

Each occasion calls for learning and it's our job to recognise those moments and build in the reflective thought and language until it becomes an innate experience.

I watched a 6yr old show me how she had learnt to copy and paste in Kidpix to make 2 of the same picture. After successfully copying and pasting her image, she quickly realised that the original image had been too big and there was no space on the page for the copy. Without hesitation, she realised what she had done and said "Oh, it's too big, I can do that again and get it right this time."
I asked her what she would do and how it would be better second time around.
 "I'll just have to make my picture smaller first, so that when I paste there'll be room for two pictures."

Not only are our students learning how to create great pieces of art, amazing stories, fascinating animations or solve complex problems, these tasks teach them about how to learn. A skill that will serve a greater purpose than any other.
These learners will always have learning at the forefront if they are encouraged to create, reflect, re-create and refine.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

A Mid Year Reflection

I have spent the better part of today reflecting on my students and where they have come from this year as I write their mid year progress reports. It seems like the perfect time to reflect on the process and learning that we have all gone through this year.

What have we learnt:

  • How NOT to set up tablet devices.
  • How young students take to an online learning environment.
  • How strong a role the Key Competencies play in the classroom and in learning.
  • How articulate young learners can be when given the opportunity to talk about learning.
What are we still working on.
  • The best way to set up tablet devices.
  • How can we encourage young learners to fully engage in an online learning environment?
  • How far can we entrench and use the Key Competencies to even further support learning?
  • How much more can these young kids surprise and encourage me as we talk about learning?
Major Successes
  • Week 2 Term 2. A child before school was using their Chromebook and remarked to a friend. "Look at our class site, I can see what we are learning today and what I can do for my learning."  5 other students gathered around to look and remarked that they too could "see what they are doing today."  Up till this point, despite being shown and told numerous times a day, the learners had yet to engage with the fact that a class site held that information 24/7 -  since day one of school.
  • Week 4 Term 2. I remarked to a student that I had noticed they were more engaged and participatory in class and that it was such a good thing to hear their ideas. He replied "Yeah Miss, I realised that when I listened and joined in I knew what to do and learnt more. School is fun and easier when I participate, contribute and relate well to others."
I can feel that we are beginning to emerge from the learning pit and are truly developing strategies, ideas and new, exciting ways to learn. 
Our next learning steps, as a whole class, is to delve much further into the idea of exploring our learning and taking it to that place where curiosity resides and thrives.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Amazingness of Year 0

15 5yr olds + 2 teachers + 1:1 iPads + 1 App = Amazing learning (for all)

As a part of my MIT Inquiry for this year, I spent a day hanging with the amazingness that are Michelle George and Karen Belt.

Their 5yr olds had spent only 6 weeks at school by the time I got to visit them. 6 weeks to learn routines, habits and skills to set them up for a life time of learning.

Karen and Michelle have these kids so engaged with learning how to be a learner - and at the same time teaching those valuable skills of reading, writing and arithmetic.

These first two movies are examples of "writing time". In this Year 0 class the students co-construct their writing through song. The rhythm and beat make the language and structure much simpler to recall.

Students then record each other "singing" their story back again, These recordings are shared via the class Apple TV - The 5yr olds have no problem waiting for their turn and then Air Playing their device independently.  The kids even figured out early on, that they needed to film each other using the other person's iPad - keeping that record of rewindable learning on each student's own device.

Reading is still conducted in a guided sense with the teacher and small groups of 3.
The iPad comes in as the teachers utilise Explain Everything for the students to complete "Follow-Up" activities, These may involve arranging sentences, drawing a picture or practicing words. The power is that each student records their learning while they undertake the activity.
No longer is the teacher left out of the independent learning. A quick rewind and you are there with the student as they complete the task. You can truly hear them think.

Major things are happening for our smallest students and as their teachers we need to ensure that this learning develops as they move through the school.
I can see great connections with my learners and the way thinking, self management and contributing are central to their day to day tasks.
Such an honour to share a day with these ladies and children as they explore such engaging ways to encourage great learning in their classroom.

Hapara Teacher Dashboard - Limitless Boundaries

After 3 years in an almost entirely Google Environment, I was heavily reliant upon Hapara's Teacher Dashboard for work flow and monitoring.
Every student knew that their work was visible to all the right people (and beyond) with only one click. As the teacher, I knew that I could always keep on top of what was going on with such young learners.

As I made the switch to a 1:1 iPad class, I did wonder how Teacher Dashboard would hold up with non-Google products.

Again, I find myself being unable to live without this tool.

We are essentially a 1 App outfit,  in that the students are learning solely with Explain Everything. Of course they share via their blog utilising Flickr and Vimeo - but fundamentally the children would agree that we use 1 App.

The students very quickly became proficient with creating their own EEs and I was moving into creating templates that I wanted them to use. The Smart Copy function on TD allows me to Smart Copy the EE Template directly to the folder of each student - it even names the EE correctly as it copies.

What could be simpler than students opening the App and finding their work waiting and ready to go? For 7yr olds, this technology has made our learning smoother, simpler and emphasises the learning - not the tech.

To think that TD functions this beautifully across platforms excites me. Almost limitless boundaries as we explore learning, creating and sharing on tablet devices in our junior school.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Listening to Them Think

I just LOVE listening to the kids think as they complete activities using Explain Everything. The perfect way to really assess understanding.


Saturday, 15 March 2014

New Things to Think About

Even though I have spent 3 years in 1:1 Chromebook classes and 5 years running GAFE,  there is still so much to learn in terms of delivering a truly digital, engaging, collaborative program, where learning is at the centre.

With the switch to iPads from Chromebooks, I knew that some technical pieces wouldn't quite fit the puzzle in the same way and that I would need to adapt around that  - no problem. I figured smaller kids would take longer to work things out - again,  no problem. What I didn't count on, was that I would be changing up the pedagogy so early on.

2 years ago I made the conscious decision to develop a more cognitively engaging maths program where the students were prompted to discuss and orally share rather than fill out worksheets to practise strategies. Why I never carried this over to my literacy program, I am not so sure.

With young students using iPads, there is a limit to how successful they are at directing a cursor to an exact point on a Google Doc, the highlighting of specific text and shuffling around is quite cumbersome and the interaction between our class sites and Apps is not so smooth.

My initial reaction was that these skills would come with time and in the interim I began to print out group reading response sheets. This was a successful change, in the fact that the students were very familiar with paper and pencil and the "kids could get on with their work."

The more I thought about how to fix this problem, I started to feel that the problem was in what I was asking the students to do, not in how they were doing it.

Was I providing an engaging, collaborative reading program that was focused on Key Competencies and the development of reflective learners? - Nope.

Why wasn't the literacy program more discoursive and reflective?

As a class we are working towards sharing ideas, relating to others and participating, these can only be developed through interactive, shared experiences - Certainly not by completing a "follow up response sheet".

So to start the new week on Monday, Class 12 has a new approach to literacy. We're still going to read HEAPS of books. We're going to learn new words and phrases. We're going to make sure that we are understanding the message in our stories.
We're going to do all this by talking about our books and sharing our new learning in a discoursive and detailed fashion.

Explain Everything is proving to be an even more powerful app than first thought and coupled with Hapara's Teacher Dashboard, the sharing of templates and completed movies, is just far too simple.

So watch the kids' blogs, as we aim to share even more awesomeness.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Owning Their Learning

As we are now solidly into routines and life at school, I was interested in finding out what, in actual fact, the students had internalised around the Key Competencies.

 How were they perceiving their learning, their success and their struggle?
 What do they Key Competencies mean to 7yr olds and their learning?

 I must admit that I have been pleasantly surprised by the first group to share their thoughts. The learners are clearly able to articulate their understandings and create both reflective and prospective moments in their own learning.

 How cool is it to see small children talking like this about learning?

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

A "Fun" Beginning

So it has been a dynamic start to 2014 in Class 12.

After having taught senior students for the last 5years, I knew that scaling back on my expectations for the smaller children would be essential.
I am pleasantly surprised.

Bar one or two failed lessons, the students are picking up Learn, Create, Share very quickly.
Just check out the sheer number of individual blogposts!

There is a real love for learning and achievement in the class, but very few of the learners possess the capacity to know where to begin independently. I find myself giving instructions 5 times, repeating them 5 times and working individually with students as they struggle through tasks.

A life skill that I am trying to entrench is the idea shared at Educamps - "The answer is in the room." That the people around you have the answers to help you out.

Many students are reluctant to ask for help, yet when they do, their classmates seem reluctant to share. Many perceive sharing with others as "cheating". Also the belief is strongly held that the teacher has all the answers so I will wait until she tells me what to do.

Our challenge for the next few weeks is to develop more of a collaborative approach to learning and the desire to share the learning with others in the room. This is a new head space for my wee crew and one that will take some tackling.

The Key Competencies of Participation, Relating to Others and Thinking will take centre stage in this approach.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Plan for 2014

The NZ Curriculum has within it a beautiful gem - the Key Competencies.  My plan for 2014 is to teach children explicitly through the understandings of the 5 Key Competencies. Once students fully grasp the point and understanding of the Key Competencies then true independent learning can thrive.

So my plan for 2014 is to explicitly discuss, share and talk about why, how and when we are learning with the Key Competencies. Despite the children being young, I know that being able to discuss the ins and outs of learning can only benefit the learner.
Around the classroom walls and on the classroom Google site the Key Competencies are prominently displayed.

As a class we spent 4 x 10 minute pockets of the first day of school talking through what the KCs are and helping to define them. We discussed how an activity, which on the surface appeared to contain no learning, had all 5 Key Competencies embedded within and what we had learnt because of that experience. As we chatted it seemed as if the odd light bulb was turning on and cogs were grinding.  On only the second day of school, without prompting, different students referred to the KCs independently when we began to talk about our learning for the day and what we would be thinking about.  These kids are only 7 or 8 years of age and are so receptive to hearing about the whys and whats of learning.

We will be documenting the students' thinking and learning with a 1:1 iPad program. By doing this we are creating not just a reflective act but also a prospective one as it shapes the design of future learning needs. Students are metacognitively processing their achievements and failures, leading to an increased understanding of their own learning journey.

Some students this year are highly impulsive and prone to over-sharing. These students will thrive in this environment as they are already responding to subtle cues for self management and are enjoying the discussion and sharing around their learning.

I am really looking forward to 2014 and the possibilities that this approach could bring. We will be documenting, sharing and reflecting on our learning via our student blogs.

Bring on the choice learning!

Monday, 20 January 2014


“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”
― John Dewey