Wednesday, February 27, 2008

People in order

I have just come across this endearing and life affirming video. People in order is a video of  people aged from one to one hundred banging a drum and saying their age. The smiles on their faces are contagious. Seeing the difference in personality through one beat of a drum is interesting as well. I could think of many ways to use this video in a classroom to help kids think outside of themselves.  Enjoy.

Embedded Video

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Learning @ School day one

Well here I am again, my fourth Learning @ School. It is still just as exciting. Seeing over 1100 people in one place who all have a passion for leading learning and implementing ICT is great. I have heard two keynotes so far and it seems there is a focus on the new curriculum this year. Jeremy Kedian, during his keynote, made mention of the difference between managers and leaders which I liked. He said that managers know how to keep schools moving, leaders know how to keep schools moving somewhere.  Listening to his keynote made me think of a few things. Firstly he asked the question "what do you know about learning?" that is quite a difficult question to answer! I thought this would be a good question to use in a workshop and then have participants think about what type of learner they are in line with the new curriculum, key competencies, principals, values, vision and maybe with other thinking tools such as habits of mind. Jeremy Kedian asked "What makes a teacher?" and the answer was "They know about learning" (notice it's not teaching). 
Anyway that's the end of my notes for today. Will try to write some more. This is a very busy L@S for me as I'm attending in two different capacities and feeling rather split down the middle.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Split screen thinking

I read an excellent presentation written by Guy Claxton yesterday. He was talking about the importance of teaching students how to learn. He begins his presenation with these quotes:
‘The test of successful education is not the amount of knowledge that pupils take away
from school, but their appetite to know and their capacity to learn.’ Sir Richard
Livingstone, 1941

‘All skills will become obsolete except one, the skill of being able to make the right
response to situations that are outside the scope of what you were taught in school. We
need to produce people who know how to act when they are faced with situations for
which they were not specifically prepared.’ Seymour Papert, 1998

‘One of the core functions of twenty-first century education is learning to learn in
preparation for a lifetime of change.’ David Miliband, 2003

‘Pedagogy should at its best be about what teachers do that not only helps students to
learn but actively strengthens their capacity to learn.’ David Hargreaves, Learning for
Life, 2004

‘Effective teaching … should aim to help individuals and groups to develop the
intellectual, personal and social resources that will enable them to … flourish … in a
diverse and changing world.’ ESRC TLRP Evidence-informed principles for teaching
and learning: No 1, March 2006
This paper is well worth reading all the way through. There is a practical section where Claxton talks about split screen teaching and he had me so fired up I was ready to demand a class to teach to try out his ideas! I always think the best ideas are ones that when you read them you think, "why didn't I think of that?" Anyway, split screen thinking is when you keep two things in mind when teaching your lesson, both of equal importance. Firstly the content you are teaching, this is still important, but of the same importance is the learning to learn skill you are teaching at the same time. He tells the story of a teacher who was doing a lesson on electricity.Her learning to learn skills was questioning. She sent them off to explore the elements of electrical circuits as we usually do but set them the task to gather all their questions as they carried out their experiment. They then discussed the different questions a scientist might have about electricity than a mum, or a farmer, or an actor etc.

Another example he gave was when you are reading a novel to your class have them identify what kind of learner the main character is with examples. This idea led me think about something we were doing at Pine Hill. We had introduced the students to the Habits of Mind over the last few years. A way to revise these habits of mind would be to have the students identify what habits of mind famous characters use with examples. I have a set of cards with the habits of mind on them with explanations. I thought you could put students in groups with a set of cards for each group. Then give the group a well known character, say Harry Potter, the BFG or goldilocks. Give the group a few minutes to agree on a habit of mind they think that character uses with an example. Each group reports back and then you give them all a new character. This could be a quick 5 - 10 min activity to keep the kids thinking about thinking. If someone is lucky enough to give this a try please leave me a comment. I have been out of the classroom for one week and you can see the withdrawal symptoms are setting in. :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lester Flockton and the NZ Curriculum

A learning organization is an organization:
• where people continually experience their capacity to create the results they truly desire
• where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured
• where collective aspiration is set free
• where people are continually learning how to learn together
(Senge 1990, The Fifth Discipline)

Today I spent a couple of hours listening to Lester Flockton talk about the revised New Zealand Curriculum at the University of Otago. It was a jam packed two hours and I have included some of my notes below. These are mainly pointers for school leaders looking at where to start when thinking about implementing the curriculum.

Development of the new curriculum:
A curriculum stocktake was held which highlighted that the old curriculum was overcrowded, inflexible, difficult for parents to read, teachers weren’t involved in the curriculum; achievement objectives (AOs) were artificially structured; curriculum levels were arbitrary; teachers were less creative as they were dependent on the AOs; assessment practices undermined teaching and learning; ERO used AOs as audit tools where as teachers saw them as planning tools. This stocktake led to the revised curriculum document.

The previous curriculum was a model of accountability founded on the AOs. The new curriculum is a co-constructed curriculum, which is more professionally embracing and received overwhelming support during the draft consultation phase. Over 15,000 people took part during online and face to face consultation in the construction of this curriculum and over 10,000 responses were received during the draft consultation phase.

The goals of the curriculum project are:
1. Clarify and refine curriculum outcomes (AOs)
2. Focus on quality teaching
3. Strengthen school ownership of the curriculum
4. Support communication and strengthen partnership with parents and communities.

The new curriculum document must be in use by all schools by 2010. Lester cautions us to get our thinking right and not to rush into things. There are two years to implement the curriculum and schools that are doing good things may not have much to implement. The key is in making the principles, vision and values of the curriculum explicit.

Lester states schools could address the implementation in three stages. Firstly schools need Clarification – what does the curriculum mean for that school. Next Exploration – think the curriculum through, critically review it in your context. And then Decide – which direction will you take. The key to this process is to continually be reviewing.

The principles from the curriculum document should underpin all school decision making. ERO should look for these principles infused in the school curriculum and we need to become better at talking about them in our schools. We need to be able to provide evidence through practical demonstrations in our school community of the existence of the principles.

Lester was part of preparing a package for schools called From NZ Curriculum to School Curriculum. This is available for download from the Curriculum online site on TKI.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New Zealand Curriculum online

Well, I have had two days in my new job. It is exciting to be doing something different and it is challenging to take a risk and step into the unknown. I am starting to get my head around what I'm supposed to be doing but I'm sure it will all become much more clearer as I get further into the year.

I have spent some time today working on the NZ Curriculum share and discuss site. On this site you can share stories of how your school has begun to implement the curriculum. You can also read about other school's experiences. Today I set up a page where you can find some strategies to use when talking about the curriculum with your staff in your school. These strategies will be added to in the near future and there is the option for you to post about successful strategies you have used and would like to share with others. The other section I set up today was a page for people to share what they are going to do on their 'curriculum day', the day the Ministry has funded for schools to work on the curriculum. It would be great for schools to share their plans for this day to spark ideas for other schools and to engage in discussions.

If you have a school story, are looking for an implementation strategy, or want to share what you will be doing on the curriculum day, then please follow the links and share your experiences and expertise with the rest of us. I look forward to reading your contributions.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Bloggers' Cafe at Learning @ School

Hey all you NZ edubloggers out there, want to put a face to the blog? The NZ Bloggers Cafe is happening this year at Learning @ School. Come along and engage with other bloggers in some lively debate about life, the universe and everything. This would also be a great place for 'budding bloggers' to come and learn some tips and tricks from 'blooming bloggers'. The cafe will be open during morning tea and lunch breaks so come along and join in the discussions. The venue will be advertised in the conference handbook.

We will need people to help man the cafe during these break times, the idea for the cafe is twofold. The first is so that we can all get together and meet in person the minds we have been reading. The second is to be of help to other bloggers just starting out and who would like some tips and tricks.

The bloggers' cafe was a big hit at ULearn with virtual friendships turning into face to face friendships, and new names added to our aggregators. A few visitors to the cafe have started their own blogs with a guaranteed readership and a lot of online collaboration has happened. So new bloggers and old, come along and join in the fun at the cafe.