Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Student Led Toolkits 2016

By James Hopkins

Manaiakalani Outreach Facilitator

What is student agency? It’s not something you can touch or taste, but it is something you can feel and see. I could spend time trying to define the levels of empowerment and interwoven student voice as indicators of success, however to many teachers and whānau, it is a feeling deep inside and one that is more than challenging to explain. On Tuesday 23rd August, the Ako Hiko Cluster offered perhaps the best chance to anyone wanting to see what student agency really is. Over 150 students from eight schools descended on Hay Park School to lead, explore and experience together. I am, of course, talking about Student Led Toolkits.

What Are Toolkits?
The basic premise of a toolkit is for someone with strong skills sharing their practice around a specific tool being used in their classroom. The ‘expert’ teacher is tasked with sharing the ‘why, how and what’ of a specific classroom tool that they have found success in. Sessions are generally around 45mins long and offer input and ‘sandpit’ time in which teachers are invited to play and explore the new learning in the context of their own class. All are offered for free and the chance to connect with other teachers from across the cluster is often a draw in itself. Originally the concept was designed as professional development for teachers by teachers, however Ako Hiko has taken it one step further and developed an annual student led conference for 1:1 learners across the cluster.

Student Led Toolkits
With the inaugural conference in 2015 being a huge success, the Education Programme Leader Team began planning for the 2016 conference in June this year. A simple website was constructed offering students the opportunity to submit sessions to present, sign up to go to others’ and provide general information about the running of the day. Like any conference, students were provided with lanyards and name tags, offered a goody bag and placed into a draw to win a host of prizes offered by conference sponsors. A half-day programme was offered with 18 sessions held across six different areas of the school, each offering a specific skill or an introduction to a new learning concept. Slides were prepared, students were rehearsed and focused and the individual toolkits ran with absolute precision.

An incredible day of learning took place with students leading one another. Teacher input was minimal and predominantly centred around solving tech issues and small pep-talks prior to sessions commencing. This day was for students, by students.

A special thanks must go to all of the presenters and attendees who made the experience a memorable one, but especially to Vicki Archer, Phil Margetts and Rebecca Barton for their leadership and incredible efforts in providing such an incredible experience. Many others helped behind the scenes and the staff at Hay Park were more than generous in not only offering their site for the day, but also for their planning, support and leadership. Roll on Student led toolkits 2017!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Auckland lawyers appeal pupils' homework

By Alastair Lynn 

Ako Hiko Education Trust patron Phil Goff helps Alipate Vaka, William Pasa and Jairus Hulbert-Matthews with their homework.

Litigation, affidavits and depositions are not what you would typically find in the classroom.

But that hasn't stopped clued-up lawyers trading the courtroom for some impromptu lessons in maths, science or English.

And the pupils of Wesley Primary School are soaking up this new wealth of knowledge. To continue reading this article via stuff.co.nz, click here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

WHY, HOW and WHAT we share

By James Hopkins
Manaiakalani Outreach Facilitator

Everyday hundreds of students across the Ako Hiko cluster share their learning via their blogs. As they become more familiar with the processes and skills needed to share their learning in the 21st Century, it is fascinating to see who engages. Often comments are from Whānau and friends, but from time to time they come from further afield. This is a true teachable moment as we begin to talk about concepts like ‘authentic audience’ and ‘purposeful online relationships’ as part of the CyberSmart programme.

Many of the learners embrace the chance to post their learning to blogs and understand that it has a much greater potential of reaching the intended audience than ever before. Picture this, a student writes a speech about world hunger and the constant struggles of people living in the third world communities. When completed it is collected by the teacher, read aloud to classmates and feedback/feedforward is given. This in itself is a great learning experience, but it often leaves the writer with the question ‘how can my research and learning really have an impact?’ This is where a blog comes in. The chance to place the learning online, share the processes and research involved and attempt to reach people who feel the same way or have the power to implement change, is greatly improved. A personal passion that started in the mind of a learner now has the possibility of reaching someone that can make a real difference...
One example of a blog treaty constructed by a student at Christ The King School

As part of their learning and device use, we spend a lot of time looking at the concept of Smart Relationships. Using resources from Manaiakalani schools and carefully constructed research, students are shown how to engage with their readers and commenters through well worded responses. Alongside this we teach the importance of carefully constructed comments when looking at peers’ learning. This is a valuable online and offline skill that helps them focus on reading the learning and making a purposeful comment to connect.

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Image courtesy of Manaiakalani and the CyberSmart Team

While facilitating in schools I often get asked the same question… ‘How can we make sure their safe online when sharing their learning?’ This is of course a teacher and parent concern that is very common. Just searching the web for a few minutes can fill your screen with horror stories. However, we focus on making SMART decisions that proactively reduce or eliminate risks online, rather than reacting to something that has already happened. I urge you to head over to the Ako Hiko Cluster Twitter feed and explore some of the student blogs. The emphasis is on sharing learning. Student’s personal information is guarded and the blog remains free of elements like their email address or last name. Teaching these life skills now is invaluable as the learners of today become the workforce of tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Finding The Right Process

In the uber-connected world within which we live, there has never been a more important time to educate our students around interactions online. Whether it’s commenting on blogs, posting their learning or even replying, it falls to the educators of today to teach the skills of tomorrow (I know, what a cliche!).

For the Twitterers amongst you, student blogs have been populating the Twittersphere via the Ako Hiko Cluster account. Over 500 student and class blogs now automatically tweet out a snapshot of the learning and encourage other members of the global community to engage and share in the learning. So what does this all mean for our students? Quite simply, it means their potential audience could explode in two simple retweets. My own professional account has close to 2,000 followers and I have several online friends with over 10,000. Now imagine what happens if I retweet a student blog and then a high end user does the same. We now have a potential audience of over 12,000 people, in a matter of minutes.

This all means that the online audience for blog posts becomes highly unpredictable and includes people from all walks of life and all corners of society. With the highly developed CyberSmart programme, students personal information is closely guarded and not at risk, however from time to time they may encounter ‘spammers’. The reprehensible process of flooding the comments section of posts, blogs and social media has been around for several years and is an unfortunate part of the digital world. However, this doesn’t mean we cannot be proactive one dealing with the comments.
A recent blog comment from a 'spammer'
Although tricky to see, the above example appeared on a student blog very recently. It is predominantly in Turkish and utterly inappropriate for a student blog, however the good news is that we have the tools and the teaching to act upon it quickly. Each time a comment is posted to the blog, the student and class teacher receive an email. This alerts both the child and an adult to anything being made and shares the responsibility when things like this happen. In this case, the student immediately reported the comment to his class teacher and it was removed.

It has provided an opportunity to remind students and teachers of the process used to report malicious or inappropriate behaviour online and lends a valuable ‘real world’ context for this to happen.

Students within the Ako Hiko schools are very familiar with the processes in place and this term’s focus remains on interacting with others online. It’s a fantastic reminder to all that they’re never alone and a trusted adult or person is a few clicks away.

Blogger has inbuilt automatic spam detection

Monday, June 27, 2016

Helping Writers find their Voice

by Phil Margetts (Ako Hiko Education Programme Leader)

You might think that two hours of PD after a long day at school (that included writing moderation) would be a struggle but I found Charlene Mataio’s session extremely inspiring and thought provoking. It was also amazing to see so many teachers from the Ako Hiko cluster come together and work in the same space.

One realisation that I had during the session was that I’ve probably spent more time marking and moderating writing samples, that force me to look at what makes a ‘good writer,’ than sharing this information with my students. As Charlene suggested, co-constructing anchor charts that show the features of ‘good writing’ could so easily be added to class sites and be updated regularly with the added bonus of being more visible to the community and accessible to students at any time. Another goal of mine based on this session is to start displaying writing from all parts of the writing process. I believe that all too often we push for that perfect finished piece of work without valuing the process that gets us there.

My grand idea that I implemented the day after the session was to create a digital resource where students could identify their passions and interests. This would then be used as inspiration and as a framework for students to carry out personalised writing every week. The immediate challenge: What to do with the group of boys whose interests are made up entirely of inappropriate computer games? Is it our responsibility to expose these students to a new range of interests? Or do we accept their current interests and let them write about shooting people until their hearts are content?

And what about our students who need extra support with their writing. How are we using the new technologies to help them? Are we still just substituting worksheets for Google Docs and relying on their increased engagement due of their devices? Are we using the devices to their potential? And if we are, what are we doing to share our practice with others? With so many teachers in one room I couldn’t help but think: What if everyone was to share one tip, trick or resource? How much richer would we become as a cluster? How much would our students benefit?

Finally, the point that was left ringing in my ears: “What have you taught your students about writing today?” So often I find myself trying to get tasks finished, rushing through activities or spending time checking students have filed their work in the correct folder, that this question has been neglected.

It sounds ridiculous that you wouldn’t teach something new about writing to each student every day but I know for a fact that I have been guilty of this in my classroom. The most obvious idea that comes to mind is to use the knowledge that already exists in the room. There are 24 people in the room. Only one of them is me. With so much talk around student agency, how beneficial would it be for your more able writers to take on a greater role in your classroom. How could they be used to make sure that every student goes home knowing something new about writing every day?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

My Chromebook and a Plug

This post was written after a visit to New Windsor School in October 2015. Originally published here.
By James Hopkins (Outreach Facilitator)
With such increased visibility, we have much to learn from today’s students when we look at coping with change. Adults who have developed a fixed mindset or those afraid to step outside of their comfort zone are often those most resistant to change. Once the fixed mindset takes hold, those who have it quickly become problem finders, not problem solvers. And yet here I sit, in a ‘classroom’ of 60 students in a low-decile school, watching intently as they decamp from their room and settle into a new home for the next 8-12 weeks. Why? Because their rooms are being knocked through to establish an environment for collaborative practice and it’s unfeasible to stay in them while the building work takes place.
So on a dreary Monday morning, 60 students seamlessly transitioned to their new makeshift classroom, the school hall. Not an ideal situation, but as a temporary home it has everything the students feel they need to continue their learning, their Chromebook and a plug! How many teachers do you know that are able to comfortably shift their learning environment for three months and simply just pick up their laptop and power cable? How many are able to work anywhere, anyhow and at anytime? Of course there are the modern learning pedagogy enthusiasts and practitioners, but most would struggle and spend days wrestling with the upheaval and shift. Yet the students that surrounded me this afternoon were simply happy with their device and a power source. When the time comes, non-digital resources will appear just as they would in their own classroom. Art will still take place and hands on practical resources will be fetched or retrieved. Make no mistake, this is not about the device! It is about mindset and change.
“Now put yourself in a growth mindset. You’re a novice- that’s why you’re here. You’re here to learn. The teacher is a resource for learning. Feel the tension leave you; feel your mind open up.
                                    The message is: you can change your mindset” (Dweck 2006)
I chose Carol Dweck’s quote to reaffirm the differences between many of our adult minds and those of the learners in our school system today. The understanding that learning can take place while surrounded by four walls and facing a data projector, but also while sitting under a tree and watching the world go by, or collaborating across the globe in the online world. It is anytime, anywhere and anyhow, it is ubiquitous.
blog 2
What these teachers have created is an environment that encourages risk but within the realms of a pedagogically sound model. Their students are unphased by change and look actively to lead it over experiencing it- this hasn’t happened overnight! Students choose their focus, articulately express their goals and collaboratively unpack next steps to achieve them. These students are self-regulated and motivated learners. This is by no means a new concept and looking as far back as 25 years ago, Zimmerman was able to state:
“At one time or another, we have all observed self-regulated learners. They approach educational tasks with confidence, diligence, and resourcefulness. Perhaps most importantly, self-regulated learners are aware when they know a fact or possess a skill and when they do not.” (Zimmerman 1990)
And what of the walls or the classroom as a home base? What about the constant need for a teacher to direct the learning and feed the information? Exactly! This is the growth-mindset, self-regulated modern learner. These are students who understand the value of collective responsibility for their learning.
The modern classroom, or ‘innovative learning environment’ doesn’t need to look like it’s been plucked from Google or furnished with running desks to engage. Yes it would be nice, but these are enablers and to some could even be a distraction. The modern classroom should be learning focused, tool and skill rich, visible to others and promote a culture of risk taking. How many walls does it need? Who cares?! A flippant response, but arguably appropriate and leads us to the question, how many walls do our students want?
blog 1
Our mindset as we enter a room often dictates the effectiveness of our teaching and learning. Have we forgotten to ask ‘why?’ or simply ‘what else could I do?’ The students I observed today weren’t reliant on the walls that surrounded them or their seating plan. Their chromebook is an enabler. It is the right tool at the right time. Nothing more. Their knowledge of the Google Apps tools meant they were able to begin a piece of work in one room and confidently pick it up in another, without giving seating or furniture a second thought. They slide effortlessly between conversations via email, the chat box and into real-life. They still call across the room, they still value face to face time, but they recognise how temporary a shift can be, because to them, it’s just a set of walls.
Dweck, C. 2006 Mindset: How You Can Fulfill Your Potential. Random House Publishing, New York.
Zimmerman, B. 1990 Self-Regulated Learning and Academic Achievement: An Overview. Article retrieved from Education Psychologist, January 1990.
Image sources

Friday, May 6, 2016

Hay Park School: Reading Recovery

Image courtesy of The New Zealand Herald
Image courtesy of The New Zealand Herald
'There's huge urgency and no holding back'
When Gabrielle Letele began at her new school this year, her mother was worried. The shy 6-year-old was struggling to learn to read and it was affecting her confidence.
"I used to wonder all the time if she was okay, if she was in classes where teachers didn't pick up on kids that were quiet," Vaimaua Brown-Letele said. "I didn't want her to be behind."
The family decided to move Gabrielle to Hay Park primary, a decile one school in Mt Roskill. Gabrielle was assessed, the school swept into action, and just one term later counts reading as her favourite thing to do with mum and dad.
"We have seen such a dramatic positive change," Mrs Brown-Letele said. "She's much happier to go to school, and she's always got her reading bag out."
The rate of children meeting reading expectations at Hay Park is 30 per cent higher than the decile one average. It also has more than 50 per cent of its students in the highest achievement bracket despite arriving with very low literacy and numeracy levels, and varying experience with early childhood education. For the full article, head to the NZ Herald Website

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Wesley Intermediate is 'Breaking The Mould'

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A new project is helping students take technology to the next level.
Wesley Intermediate students in Auckland are throwing out the rule book and breaking the mould of what can be achieved in the workshop.
The introduction of devices like Chromebooks and 3D printers has opened up a world of design and production that was unheard of just a few years ago.
Wesley Intermediate deputy principal Lou Reddy says a shift in thinking is helping students push the boundaries of classroom learning.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Ako Hiko: Bridges the Technology Gap in Schools

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Principal Sheree Campbell insists technology is not ruling the classroom.
It's an interesting concept when year 4 pupils at Hay Park School are tearing open boxes to reveal their new Chromebook devices.
But Campbell says educators are not just jumping on the technology bandwagon. For the full article click on the image above or here.