Sunday, 20 March 2016

Game Design - Connecting curriculum areas

I started this year with the aim to challenge myself and others around me to do things differently. This started by creating a unit of work for my Year 9 PE class with their Technology teacher using the NZTA Game Design Competition being run this year. The main objective of the competition is to get young people creating games that enhance road safety. The more I looked into it, the more excited I got about the possibility of creating a unit that had students learning about road safety while in two curriculum areas. Interestingly, as my students have taken part in it I realised it would have worked well had we integrated other learning areas into it as well.


Overview of what we did
We are lucky enough as a school to own 12 mountain bikes. Some students brought their own bikes in and after adding my own bike we nearly had one bike for each student. In PE we spent the first couple of weeks looking at bike skills, going over road rules, practising our communication on bikes with signals and encouraging the students to ride bikes as much as possible. From there we started to look closer at what potential hazards existed for urban cyclists. We used GoPro Cameras attached to students and their bikes to investigate these hazards. Meanwhile, in Technology the students were learning about the design process and were putting it to use as they started to create their own road safety games in groups. We have just finished a two week block that was set aside in both curriculum areas for the groups to work on their games to allow students quality time to make a quality product.

  

What have I observed so far?
It was interesting to find out that only eight from my class of 26 owned a bike. I had at least four students who could not ride a bike or who were not confident on them. It was particularly satisfying to see the progress that the students with less confidence on bikes made. Hopefully I have enabled them to consider engaging in this form of exercise and mode of transport in the future. One question I have been left with after thinking about the lack of bikes or bike skills that these young people have is what effect this is having on our roads later down the track as these young people become drivers of cars.

 Another interesting observation is how engaging the use of technology can be. When I brought the three GoPro cameras out there was much competition because everyone wanted to wear one. By placing the cameras on different students and their bikes while they were riding around our local community, we were able to gather great footage from different perspectives. When the class watched this footage it was amazing how engaged they were with it and how this led to some fantastic discussions around road safety when different aspects were seen on the footage. 



I have also been really interested to watch how the groups have used the 12 hours of PE and Technology time over the last two weeks to really make some progress with their games. I have seen highly functioning groups getting through a number of different tasks and taking part in some great learning. I have also seen some groups really struggle with self management when it comes to getting on with the game design, given the more independent nature of task. The last activity the students had to do was to share an example of something they felt they or their team had been doing well in, relate it to the key competencies and talk about an area that they need to improve on still. The main theme coming out from all groups was that managing self was the one area that everyone needed to improve on. For me as the teacher, this was absolute gold as it allows me over the next couple of weeks to dig deeper with the students to see how we can improve how the student's manage themselves in these situations and look to develop better strategies to improve. 



I'll be really interested to see the final games that my students come up with. Some may have a chance at doing well in the competition. Some may not. The one thing I am certain about is that this task has allowed students to learn more about road safety, something that effects everyone. They have had the opportunity to make a game that could help to improve road safety for them and others. Lastly, they have taken part in a process that has allowed them to learn more about how they learn, create/make and interact with others, which surely will help them as people in our community.     

An example of a modern learning environment in action  
As I walked around talking, helping and motivating my different groups over the last couple of weeks as they worked away on their games, I reflected on how it was exactly the modern learning environment in action. I had students sitting around tables creating game scenarios on paper and devices. I had students on devices learning to code and learning to use other online game making software. I had students outside painting boards for their board games and I had another group in the workshop cutting game pieces out. I also had two students on bikes capturing footage from GoPro cameras to use as backdrop scenes in their game. We often hear about the so called "bean bag schools" but it's not about the furniture it's about the pedagogy and the ability to be flexible.




Integrating curriculum areas, why do that?
The students like it! When students were asked in recent learning conferences what they liked about being in this class, many replied along the lines of "I like how what we do in PE relates to what happens in Tech".  I also believe that a lot can be gained by students making or producing things and therefore why can't more that one curriculum area contribute to the learning around one project? I'm really looking forward to connecting with a teacher from another curriculum area next term to see how I can create another good learning experience for the students in my class. To be able to work with another teacher for the good of the same students has to be better than keeping to yourself. I have really enjoyed planning, bouncing ideas around and working alongside another teacher from another learning area to create a more meaningful learning experience.



Why do I like the idea of Game Design?  
First and foremost, let's face it - people like playing games. I'm also a big fan of design thinking and believe it has the potential to help learners not only be creative but also to have empathy and to be people that actually make things happen. Therefore, getting students using the design thinking process was high on my priority list. Creating a game that allows students to understand more about issues that exist on the road for those that use it has to have some benefits. Enabling them to create something that could have positive social change is fantastic. Student agency is big in game design. It enables students to control so much of what they are doing. Students create the narrative, they choose the type of game they want to make and they learn so much about themselves and the others they are working with as they turn ideas into a real game!

Would I use game design in the future? Yes!



Learning outcomes for the unit 
Students making safe decisions on the road while riding bikes (A3 Safety management)
Using technology to gain a greater understanding of the environment they are in (B3 Science and technology)
Having students regularly riding bikes and enjoying that as a physical activity(A2 Regular physical activity)
Getting students to learn the design process and design thinking
Students working in groups to create a game that could help promote road safety (C3 Interpersonal skills)
(D3 Rights, responsibilities, and laws; D4 People and the environment)

+ Technology Curriculum Objectives  

                   
   

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Contemporary Issues Facing NZ Education

An issue that has been getting a lot of attention over the last year within New Zealand education circles focuses on the use of the Modern Learning Environments (MLE). When defining MLE I'm referring to the more spacious buildings that are appearing at all new schools and schools that have had recent rebuilds. They resemble more of an airport terminal look than what most people would recall from their classrooms back in the day. The major difference between MLE and the more traditional classrooms is the openness of them. MLE have the potential to have anywhere from 50-80 students using the same space to learn. Within the MLE is a variety of different furniture allowing students to work individually and collaboratively. MLE have attracted a lot of attention because some schools are against them and believe they will not help students any more than the more traditional classrooms and that by building bigger open spaces in fact the Ministry of Education is actually saving money from this design. This link to an article on stuff from late 2015 picks up on how some schools believe the Ministry of Education is forcing them to take these new designs on when they do not agree with their use.  
Why I believe this is such a big issue within NZ education is not the fact that new flash learning spaces are being built, but that so many schools seemed to have missed the point as to why they have been designed in this way. The traditional single cell classes are set up for a teacher led education. A whiteboard at the front, learners at desks facing the front and often a big teacher desk for a teacher to sit at. Yes, MLE are big and open and seem so different to the traditional classroom of yesteryear, but they have been designed this way for a very different pedagogy. This is what I believe gets over looked when such articles or stories like the one I alluded to earlier come out. The MLE has been designed for education that is far more student centered, where students are able to be creative, work where they are comfortable and with whom they work best with. The education they are taking part in is being driven by them, with teachers being the ones who support, mentor and meet their individual needs. The MLE allows a pedagogy such as this to take place more easily, but in saying that this could happen anywhere if the teachers wanted to make it happen. 

I find this issue very pertinent to my own school given that we are for the most part a MLE while many of the teaching staff still very much teach using a more traditional pedagogy. We have created the space for students to have a more flexible education, for them to be more creative and collaborative in. However, we have yet to make the shift in pedagogy that would see us using our MLE for what it has been designed to do. That leaves me with the challenge of continuing to redesign my own pedagogy to meet the needs of my learners better while taking advantage of the MLE I work in. Hopefully this will help to influence others around me to reflect on how they are teaching and meeting the needs of their learners.  
The other issue that I believe is big in the NZ education system is the rise of standardised testing and the over emphasis placed on assessment. Over the last few years within the NZ education system we have seen more and more emphasis placed on assessment to judge where our students are at and how our teachers and schools are going. This testing then allows our communities to compare different schools with one another via the media. Don't get me wrong I am very keen for critical analysis of schools and student achievement to be looked into but often it is not as critical as many make it out to be and people end up comparing oranges with apples. Primary schools have seen national standards introduced for literacy and numeracy and at times this gets talked about being introduced to the lower years of secondary school. All this before NCEA starts for our students at Year 11 right through until Year 13. This assessment schedule of three years of high stakes assessment appears to be one of the toughest in the developed world.    

It seems that as a nation or at least those making the decisions around educational policy in this country we have become obsessed with assessment. Is this so that we can compare our learners, our teachers and our schools? I also find it really interesting that many in education take the PISA tests results so seriously, once again looking at a comparison of how NZ learners fare against others around the world. These results seem to give our education system depending on the grade either a pass or fail mark. One country that continues to score well in the PISA tests is Finland - and shock horror they do hardly any standardised testing!


The Finnish curriculum is far less 'academic' than you would expect of such a high achieving nation. Finnish students do the least number of class hours per week in the developed world, yet get the best results in the long term. Students in Finland sit no mandatory exams until the age of 17-19. Teacher based assessments are used by schools to monitor progress and these are not graded, scored or compared; but instead are descriptive and utilised in a formative manner to inform feedback and assessment for learning (see for example http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2012/apr/09/finish-school-system)


I think much could be gained from asking more questions about how Finland achieves such great results. Clearly in their case they have been able to create an education system that meet the needs of their learners without seeing the need to compare everyone against each other all the time. 


Within the NZ education system I believe that we should be using the NZ curriculum far more to focus student assessment around the key competencies. This would mean making students more aware of these and have them keep more up to date portfolios of learning and how they relate to the key competencies for evidence. NCEA is a fantastic assessment tool and if used well it could provide far more authentic assessment opportunities to judge the learning that has taken place. Schools could also ask the question about the relevance of doing all three years of NCEA and drop the first year of it as Hobsonville Point Secondary School has recentlySo instead of boring courses being taught with teachers dumping content into students, we should look to set up courses that give students the opportunity to learn via being involved in more cross curricula projects that also assess from the different areas.     


The key competencies are important ideas to change teacher thinking. They have potential as agents for change within The New Zealand Curriculum and so we need to think carefully about what sort of changes we expect to make in teaching and learning and then consider the implications for assessment (see Dr Rosemary Hipkins - www.edgazette.govt.nz/Articles/Article.aspx?ArticleId=9185)


       
     


  

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Legal contexts and digital identities

An ethical dilemma i'm often faced with in my practice is in terms of students and their images being put online. What should I be putting online via our school website, facebook page my twitter account and my blog? Why is this a dilemma? As someone in my school who updates both the school website and facebook page and who tweets and blogs about my practice I'm aware that when I upload a picture of a student I'm putting their image up where potentially anyone could access it from. As a school when a student enrolls they sign a document giving the right to the school to use their image while they are taking part in any school related activity. The majority of the students sign this document which makes things relativity straight forward. For those that don't sign that document I have to ensure that I keep that list of names at hand whenever I upload new images to ensure I am not acting against the wishes of these students. 
My usual approach when putting images of students up onto our website or facebook page is to firstly ask them if they don't mind their image being used. Its very rare for a student to have an issue with their image being used. Secondly unless a specific announcement is being made I usually avoid tagging or naming the student pictured so that they are harder to identify via a search. This is definitely the case when I post a picture on twitter or my own blog. The main issue that sits in the back of my mind when it comes to images of students being put up on line is that a small minority of students may have some issue going on outside of their school life and for them being identified as attending our school could put them a risk. The situations that comes to mind for me are custody cases where a student is not permitted to have contact with someone and its important for those students that their daily whereabouts is not known. 
Ensuring that at risk students are not identified is not just an issue with the uploading of pictures. Recently our school moved to put the daily notices online. This raised the question once again that by putting student information into a public space are we potentially putting some of our students at risk in terms of having their whereabouts known. With this in mind as a school we decided to make sure that notices featuring students names would only be put up on the internal notices and all others would be made visible to the general public. 
As the world gets more and more public with the use of social media its important that those putting up images of others have the best interests of those featured at heart and always get consent for the use of the image. The digital age has changed the way that so many people communicate, access information and generally live their lives. Many ethical dilemmas come up all the time especially when using social media. Social media has changed the way that teachers can connect with their students and in most cases it enhances the learning and communication between teacher and student. For me two things that all schools need to ensure they have in place as we use technology more and more are - good digital citizen programmes for learners to take part in so they are guided through one of the toughest times of their lives in terms of not knowing how to behave and be appropriate in a public domain like social media. Secondly that schools have sound guidelines around the use of social media by teachers with students. This will ensure that teachers continue to act in a professional manner when online and model good digital citizenship.               

Social media in teaching and professional development

The use of social media within my practice as a teacher and leader in my school continues to grow the more and more I use it. As a teacher I have now been using facebook with my students for the last 4 years. Over this time I have seen the benefits of using this medium to engage with my students in their world in their time. Initially I found it very useful as a means of communicating basic information to my students such as "remember to bring your swimming gear tomorrow" or "hey team change of plan we will now be based in the computer room for today's lesson".  As time has gone on I've seen how big social media and in particular facebook for my current students and how massive it is in their lives. It provides a great platform for putting up short, to the point video clips or text that fit in with the teaching and learning programme. It also provides a great place to showcase student work or performance via video clips and photos. It also enables collaboration and critical discussion to take place about specific topics. Lastly I believe it provides a stage for teachers to monitor and model digital citizenship.

When I first started using social media as a teacher with my students I was very careful about how it should be done as I was taking myself into a world where teachers were not normally invited. To this day I believe that it is so important for teachers to ensure that they take care when using social media with students so that they do not cross the strict professional line of what it is to be a teacher.
Click on this link for article about such issues
www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/9821548/Teachers-blurred-lines-with-students 
With this in mind myself and the other social media friendly teachers created a set of guidelines for the teachers in my school to follow when starting to use this medium to communicate with students. Which you can see below.


Social Media Guidelines for Staff 2016

Social media can be an effective tool for engaging with learners and communicating with parents, whānau and communities. Staff who model good social media use will grow learners who apply positive, respectful values in their interactions on social media platforms.

Currently Facebook is the main form of Social Media being used by staff so here are some guidelines that you should be following if using it with your learners.

  • Create a separate profile that separates your professional use of Facebook to your personal use of it.
  • Give this professional profile a very school specific name eg HC PE Shaw, use the school crest as a profile picture rather than making it personal.
  • Create groups that you put your classes into and add the learners as you friends. Once they have accepted go through and unfollow the students so that they remain in your groups but their personal lives won't be shared with you.
  • Add another staff member to your group so that others can view what is going on in your groups.
  • Unfollow students so that you don’t have their posts popping up in your newsfeed
  • Make sure that conversations that take place online are of a professional manner just as they would be in the classroom. Never like or comment about something that a student has posted that is not related to what you are doing in that class.
  • If a student starts to use this medium to communicate about personal issues you need to tell them that this is not the place to talk about such matters and that they should go through the normal channels at school eg using the guidance counselor.
  • If material that students post on your groups/classes page is inappropriate, you as the admin person for the site can take that content down and talk to the student in class about the inappropriate use of content and follow the schools usual behavioral procedures.
  • Let parents and caregivers know that you are using social media with your classes and how it is being used as a tool to help learners. 


One issue that many teachers seem to bring up is that they complain about students being distracted by social media far too much and that they would be far better off if we just disabled sites such as facebook within our school. Now this seems like the very simple solution to what is a growing problem as more and more students become in some instances addicted to being on facebook. Yes it would be easy to just flick the switch and say you cant use it but I believe it would be more powerful for us to tackle the issues around this distraction. Firstly before we even start with the students the question needs to be asked about how engaging the teaching and learning programme is. A tough one for many teachers to face but perhaps on reflection if the learning was more interesting one might think that the student would be less inclined to seek out their number 1500 friends latest post about a cat! Instead of just avoiding what may actually be an addiction it maybe far more beneficial for the teachers to try and engage their classes in discussions about this very topic. This may allow students to start see the pros and cons of social media in a balanced life. Lastly by being connected with students on line a teacher puts themselves in a situation where they can model good online behaviour and jump on teachable moments when someone crosses a line and help to steer their students in the right direction. 

The last point I want to raise about the use of social media in today's world of learning is the blurring of when a teacher is working and not. For many of my students the fact that they have been able to make contact with me at night when they have seen I'm online has helped them understand more about the work they were doing or it has meant they know more about what they need to do the next day. I have heard many people in the staffroom talk about the fact that they wouldn't go online then as its not work time etc now I understand that its important in life to strike a good balance so that one gets time for them self but I also feel that it is very easy if one is online working to be able to engage with students in a professional manner that helps them with their learning. The reality we as teachers face is that our students spend so much time online so if we are able to connect with them from time to time about school work then surely its win win for both the student and the teacher.  

In terms of the use of social media for professional development I cannot speak highly enough of how twitter has influenced by own teaching and leadership over the last year. Firstly the ability to follow inspiring teachers and see and read about the things they do gives people the chance to firstly reflect about their own practice and also gives them ideas that can tried in their own setting. The teacher twitter world has a lot going on with various chats that take place at any given time allowing for collaboration and reflection and challenge. I continue to gain a lot from being connected to fellow educators and feel that teachers who are not connected in this way are somewhat missing out on innovative practice that could be transforming the learning for students in their schools.
             

Friday, 11 March 2016

My postgraduate learning journey and your plan for the future

When I started this course 32 weeks ago I didn't really know what lay ahead for me, nor did I realise the positive affect that this study would have on my professional learning on so many levels. I started the course keen to learn new ideas that would help me as a teacher and leader within my school. I have finished with new ideas but also a much greater sense of purpose as an educator and a thirst to keep learning so that I can have an even more positive influence on the learners that I have a responsibility for. 

One of the highlights from the course of study for me has been the ability to focus on leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning (Criteria 5). As part of a couple of assignments, I had to create an initiative that I would lead within my school school setting focusing on how I would lead this initiative to create improved teaching and learning in the classroom. This took the form of a Year 9 pilot class that would get teachers to integrate curriculum across subjects areas while also introducing more inquiry learning/project based learning. This initiative has given my year much purpose related to leading this pilot class. The learning for me personally as I have linked with another subject area to make learning more meaningful for students has been massive. The challenge I have in encouraging others in the pilot to try different approaches is always there but the gains for these students and teachers because a more collaborative approach has been taken is fantastic. 

Not only are teachers who are involved with this class working in a collaborative, inclusive, and supportive learning environment (Criteria 7) but so too are the students from this class. Classes are designed for students to work in groups/teams to solve problems, create and make and seek information in a inclusive manner. This will come to the fore even more so as the students start their inquiry/project based learning episode early in Term 2. It has been great to watch the students in their teams take part in the NZTA Game Design Competition this term which is a combined PE and Technology unit of work. To watch teams of students creating, problem solving, seeking feedback and coming up with new ideas while collaborating with peers has been awesome. The finished products will no doubt vary in qualit,y much like the pitches for their games that I heard today in class, but the learning that is taking place will be of huge benefit as these students move forward in this knowledge age. 


(Source - education.nzta.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/54853/Game-Design-Competition-poster-2.pdf) 

Another positive I believe that I have gained from this course of study is the deeper understanding that positive relationships play a massive part in the success of students at school. The pilot class has allowed me to do things differently for the benefit of the students. In terms of promoting wellbeing with students (Criteria 2), I decided to look at how I could build greater relationships with my students and their whanau. Some of the initiatives that I have put in place to build greater relationships within this pilot class so far this year have included phone calls to all parents to welcome them to our community. I have arranged a student and whanau evening meeting to go over plans for the year. I have organised goal setting/well being learning conferences with both students and whanau. I have also created a class noticeboard on padlet that all the teachers of this class contribute to regarding what is happening in their particular learning area. Lastly, I have been emailing home regularly to keep everyone updated as to what is happening within the class. With the increase in communication and the face to face meetings with students and whanau I believe I have got this year off to a very positive start for the students in this class. When the students have been asked via interviews and surveys if they are happy at school all students have said yes so far which is very pleasing! Long may that continue!




On reflection there is so much that I will take away from this course of study but in terms of goals that I have for the future that relate to the learning I have done over the last 32 weeks, I have come up with two. Firstly to ensure that I continue to be a lifelong learner. I have really enjoyed being a student again and I feel that its so important that teachers model being lifelong learners to their students. Students know when a teacher is excited about something new, they see and hear the enthusiasm and this is often contagious within a classroom. As well as being a lifelong learner I really want to ensure I continue to participate and contribute in the educational community. I believe I do have value to add and that others may find some of my experiences useful. If this means continuing to blog and to share on twitter then that is something I intend to keep up.  

My other goal that I feel is very important is based around leadership. I am of the opinion that education on whole needs to change from being a one size fits all industrial model to a more personalised one giving students the opportunity to learn and develop key skills and habits that will help them be successful in an ever changing knowledge based world. As a leader I want to challenge traditional teaching pedagogy's, assessment methods, school structures and many other factors to enable the students who I have an opportunity to influence a chance of gaining a true 21st century education. This in itself will not be an overnight task but one that needs to happen in schools to create students who will be citizens that contribute a great deal to our society.                               

        

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Evaluations of the cultural responsiveness in practice

I believe my knowledge of Maori culture has increased over last few years. Growing up in a rural South Island town meant I was not exposed to much that was Maori other than a very enthusiastic Year 9 Te Reo teacher and a couple of mates who were Maori but didn't identify strongly as such. Thankfully, this changed once I went to university. As part of my training I was able to take part in Maori courses that shed more light on a culture that up until that time I knew very little about. Fast forward 10 years or so and I find myself in a leadership position at high school in Upper Hutt. Maori make up 20-25% of the students in our school and to not embrace this culture would lead to failure for myself as a leader and to letting down our Maori students.   
Thankfully, over the last few years my knowledge of things Maori has improved. At the same time my pedagogy as a teacher and leader has become more responsive to Maori. A lot of my learning about Maori culture came a couple of years ago when I initiated a programme for mainly Maori Year 9 boys who were struggling at school. The programme was call Te Whakamana or to empower. It had the boys out at the local Orongomai Marae on Fridays for a term. I went along with the boys and thoroughly enjoyed the different activities they took part in. I learnt a lot more about the Maori world view, tikanga, protocol for the marae and got to take part in bone carving. The greatest learning for me during this time was experiencing the importance of building relationships or whanaungatanga.
I believe the level of my responsiveness as a leader and teacher to Maori has improved. For me it was about changing a lot of small things in my practice in the hope that it would lead to much bigger school-wide change. I have increased my use of Te Reo in my everyday life when speaking to both students and staff. I often talk to the staff as a whole and will now always greet them with kia ora koutou. I also start and finish most formal email communication now in Te Reo. I performed my mihi to the staff last year and to my Year 9 class when I first met them this year. I also discussed with my class how I value the fact we are a bicultural nation and the importance of the Treaty of Waitangi. I am much more aware of tikanga and importance of not offending Maori by ignoring tikanga while at school and will often remind or inform non-Maori students when they are doing the wrong thing. I would like to think Maori students within my class feel comfortable being Maori and that their culture is respected and valued within our learning. 
When looking into how my school fares when it comes to being culturally responsive, one area that has improved over the years are some of the school wide activities. Namely the house system. When I first arrived at my current school their was a house system in place but to my shock the names for the four houses were colours. Thankfully a few years ago the school changed the names of the houses to represent significant Maori landmarks from our area. At the same time this happened, the school also started the long journey in trying to claim back the correct pronunciation of our own name. Heretaunga is pronounced Here "tonga" by a large percentage of local population. School leaders, teachers and students have been making a concerted effort to pronounce the school name in the correct manner.
Another school wide activity is our HC cultural day. The cultural day has always impressed me by its cultural responsiveness towards Maori culture and culture in general. Every year the four houses in the school build up to performance day in which each house performs the school haka, waiata and another performance based on a cultural theme. On the whole this day and the time spent in the lead up allows students who are not Maori to find out more about Maori performing arts while at the same time giving Maori students the opportunity to lead and have their culture showcased in what is the biggest and most important house competition of the year. Unfortunately, with all the good that this day does for Maori and Maori culture within our school, we still suffer from a community that clearly feels differently with far too many parents explaining absences on this day. This disappoints me but at the same time shows the importance of such an occasion for Maori in our school and underlines why events such as this can not be lost as it allows important conversations to take place both in school and at home and hopefully over time we will see more and more students attending this event. 
One area that I feel our school has not stood up well in terms of being culturally responsive is in its communication methods. The school it self lacks good signage around its facilities but I also feel it would go a long way to showing that Maori are truly on an equal footing if all signage about the school was in both English and Te Reo. As we move into the future I believe this is one simple change that the school should look to get right. Creating a place where Maori feel they are welcome and one where their culture is both respected and embraced is incredibly important.   
To finish  I just wanted to briefly share some of the really positive steps that our school has taken over the last couple of years to become more culturally responsive.   
  • In 2015 a level 1-3 NCEA English with Maori Voices course was started and has proved to be very successful for both Maori and non Maori students who take it.
  • In 2015 a group of Maori senior students began what we now call Ako time on Friday. When the students teach the staff about various Maori things such as waiata, mihi, tikanga.  


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Professional Connections



The impact of connections in my professional practice 

Being active online over the last year has played a huge role in shaping my own practice and also helping me to be a leader within my school. For a number of years now I have used Facebook as a teacher to interact with my students. This has allowed me to keep in regular contact with my students, share important information with them and also have class discussions on important topics, such as the one below:


Communicating with my students via social media has allowed me to address any digital citizenship issues that pop up along the way, adding even more value to connecting in this way.

The connections I have made by being part of the educational twitter community have had a big impact on my practice. By following a variety of educators and various educational groups I have been exposed to many different views, research and in many cases teachers and educational leaders own practices. This has opened my mind up to new possibilities for how things could be done in my classroom and also in my school. 



An example of the connections and impact they have had on my practice include following Claire Amos, on twitter. I also learn from her blog posts that she updates on twitter regularly. In terms of being a leader in my school I have found many of her blog posts motivating, thought provoking and at times challenging. I often share her blogs with my fellow colleagues in the senior leadership team to generate debate around certain topics to do with school wide change. Another connection that has had a big impact on my practice is from following Steve Mouldey also on twitter and reading his blogs about various learning topics. One in particular that has played a big part in changing my practice as a teacher has been his posts on design thinking and links to design thinking resources. His posts have given me greater insight into teaching method and has inspired and equipped me with the ability to use design thinking in my own practice. Not only has being connected on twitter to people like Claire and Steve allowed me to learn from their experiences as they post about various topics but it has also enable other connections to take place. For instance, last year I was wanting to learn more from schools that were integrating curriculum. Steve connected me on twitter with teachers from another school who were doing this and from there we were able to arrange a physical school visit to learn more about each others practice. 

The other professional area where the connections I have made have had a really positive impact on my practice, come from the people and organisations I have met within my local community. Over the last couple of years I have been able to meet many people, groups and organisations that serve the people of Upper Hutt. The main ones being Orongomai Marae, VIBE and the local youth worker. This has come about from attending community meetings and by inviting such people into our school to encourage these relationships to establish. These connections have proved incredibly valuable from a number of different perspectives. Firstly from a student wellbeing perspective it has introduced me to people who I have been able to turn to for advice or help. By establishing these connections within the community, it has allowed me to meet the various needs of my students that I would not have been able to if I was just working solely within the school. For many of the students the introduction to these people has also led to other positive spin offs such as creating support networks outside of school, career pathways and helping to build cultural identity and belonging.

When I first started at my current school its fair to say I made little or no effort to make professional connections with the local community that I worked in. I worked as a teacher to create great lessons for students, not really thinking about how I could enhance their learning by creating more connections at even a local level. Over the last three years as I have worked in a senior leadership position, it has become vital that I do form these relationships if I am going to even attempt to meet the needs of my students. Yes within my current role I probably get more opportunities to establish these connections but hindsight tells me that if I had been more connected during my earlier years at this school then perhaps I would have had greater success.  

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www.twitter.com/MindShiftKQED