Category Archives: current events
This is a copy of my verbal submission that I made to the education and science select committee into digital learning. I was inspired to make a submission after attending the ignition unconference at Albany Senior High earlier this year.
Firstly I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to speak.
Today I would like to highlight five key points from my submission which I believe are important priorities to aid the evolution of 21st century learning.
- Initial Teacher Education
- Personal Learning Communities
- Agile Learning Spaces
- Moving beyond cyber-safety
Although the graduating teachers standards mention that those entering the teaching profession should be proficient in the use ICT that is not the same as being a competent e-learning classroom practitioner.
I think there is some what of a dangerous assumption that because younger teachers as a group tend own gadgets and have social media accounts they automatically know how to implement e-learning into the classroom. This is not the case. So much of my e-learning practice has been developed through interacting and observing other teachers particularly through social media. However I don’t feel that this kind of learning is valued within a university context.
In my experience initial teacher education in New Zealand has not evolved with the times. Trainee teachers spend too much time filing paperwork in ring binders and if they are lucky they might get a lecture or two on e-learning before they graduate. Thus e-learning at this level is reliant on a student teacher being placed with an associate who understands how to use technology in the classroom.
Once teachers get out into the workforce, they need ongoing professional learning. 21st century learning calls for active participation yet how many educators are still consigned to sitting politely in rooms and conference theatres listening to experts, some of whom may not have been in the classroom for many years. Educators need time and space to develop personal learning communities that go beyond their staffroom to help bring new ideas into their classroom.
With the help of my iphone I can pinch an idea for lesson from a classroom blog in Australia, save a professional reading from a teacher in the UK and have conversation about teaching with someone in the United States during my 20 minute train ride to Tawa. We need to broaden our thinking about where and how learning can occur not only for students but the teachers tasked with educating them.
Most of our learning spaces were designed in an era with the dominant pedagogy was that students need to sit in one place, ideally in front of board soaking up knowledge, in order to learn. Learning has changed and so too should the design of our classrooms.
Rather than talk about flexible spaces I prefer the term agile. Agile means that the classroom can be constantly being configured and reconfigured to suit the needs of the students within it. Over the last set of holidays I quietly stashed half the classroom desks in various nooks and crannies around the school and replaced them with a couple of round tables, buckets for students to put their gear, some cushions and a couple of bean bags creating a huge amount of space.
If the students want to collaborate they can do so, if they want to curl up in the corner to read they can do that too. The creation of our modern learning spaces can be done with a modicum of cash, a bit of creative thinking and school leadership that supports innovation in all its weird and wonderful forms. Am I a supporter of team teaching? Absolutely teachers need to be learning from each other.
One of the elephants in the room is assessment. We cannot build and educational system for the 21st century while using 19th century tools to assess student learning.
In selecting their representatives to talk to you today my class didn’t tell their peers to sit an examination on the content of their video. Instead they asked their nominees to give a speech in front of the class and invited the principal along so they could assess nominees’ public speaking skills and how well they could handle pressure. In short my 11 and 12 year old students have already figured out a critical flaw in our education system: our tools for formal assessment frequently don’t test all the qualities we wish to develop in our learners.
Given the amount of bad news we hear about cyber-bullying and inappropriate use of technology, I can understand why it is so easy for those in education to put up walls and demand that devices stay in bags. However within this context the computer is just an overpriced pencil. It is the interaction between people whether they are sitting beside each other half a world a way which for me makes e-learning so amazing.
Just like in Maths and PE, students need their teachers to guide and model good behaviour. By taking a hands-off and punish approach we deny our learners the chance to develop as cyber citizens.
E-learning is not just about bringing the world into our classroom but bringing our classrooms into the world. The submission project that Room 15, my fabulous group of learners, created is an example of the power of what technology can do.
My students got a chance to create work for an authentic audience, they were able to connect with experts outside our school community through my learning network and share what they have been doing so that they can inspire others. 21st century takes students beyond the role of being passive consumers of knowledge and enables them to be confident creators as well.
We are ⅛ of the way through the 21st century, isn’t time 21st century learning became the norm not the exception?
This post will be of no interest to readers outside of New Zealand. I was going to write a post analyzing the different party’s policy but there’s no way I could give an objective opinion on the subject so instead I turn to wordle* to do my work for me.
First up National: Children dwarfed by schools seems a rather apt title. On the positive they do seem to be thinking about learning but not enough to be considered to be working at National Standard.
Next up, Labour. Children dwarfed by party. On a positive note the party has acknowledged the presence of diverse learners in blurb. Further development required.
Greens. Congratulations on talking about education more than your party or schools. Your next learning step is to think about using terms like engage and innovate.
Act have also chose to put education and children at the centre of their policy language. Though when it comes to autonomy is it for the child in school or for parents to participate in the free-market?
Maori Party: I like that The Maori Party uses words like ‘promote’ ‘science’ ‘literacy’ and ‘excellence’ frequently in their document.
Mana I like Mana’s use of community however would like to see children a lot larger.
United Future. Congrats for putting students and teachers at the centre of policy language. But a major FAIL for your Effective Teaching blurb where you list getting more males into teaching as your first priority. I did not realize that being a male was the first step to being an effective teacher.
Question: Did any of the parties bother to talk to kids about what they want from their education system or are they not important because they don’t vote?
* For those not in the know, the size of the word indicates the relative frequency of the words. The bigger the word, the more common the word is in the document. I simply cut and pasted each party’s education document into the wordle website and hey presto! Policy analysis by picture.
I had been meaning to post on this topic for a while but the combination of this rather brilliant dissection of Nigel Latta’s Politically Incorrect Show and #youngkidsshouldbebannedfrom trending globally on twitter a few
weeks months ago got me thinking about this topic again.
First up Nigel Latta. At times I have at times found myself in agreement with some of the stuff he says, about parents choosing not escalate confrontation and trying to support their children’s education. But more often than not I find myself yelling at the TV in much the same manner as a sports fan when he starts using children as the punchlines for his jokes and have long since stopped watching.
I admit that I am probably not in Latta’s target audience. I was raised by a SAHD for large parts of my childhood whose first reaction when my sister and I dressed our baby brother up in party dresses was to grab the camera rather than freak out. I’m pretty sure this type of urban liberal upbringing makes me Political Correctness personified and therefore I just don’t ‘get’ the punchline of the jokes.
Or perhaps the problem with being ‘Politically Correct’ is that I understand that the Politically Incorrect show is engaging in what political scientists call dog whistling. What the show tends to do a lot of is taking an absurd situation as an example of ‘politically correctness gone mad’ then using it as a way to get a message across, that children in society need to be put in their place by adults. Of course it is window dressed in language such as parents needing to relax and use a bit of common sense with a few laughs about the silly things kids/teenagers do thrown in for good measure.
But the problem with this method communicating is that it takes place within a context of society in which adults already have a considerable amount of power over children and we aren’t too welcoming of children’s presence within it.
Consider some of the tweets #youngkidsshouldbebannedfrom
- any public places I can’t stand their screaming
- the word love they don’t even know what it means
- all technology and have a chalkboard and crayons instead.
- going to the movies and sitting behind me.
- speaking. they should be seen and not heard. i hate kids. full stop.
- cellphone. I hate it when I see a 5 years old child with a BB or an iPhone!
- Making music. We have enough terrible music by talentless artists in the charts as it is
For teachers it means you need to be aware of the privilege that you bring into your relationships with your students. Some of those statements are quite confronting and might even make you a bit uncomfortable. Think about why you are uncomfortable rather than just dismissing the idea out of hand. But more importantly take the time to get to know your students and really listen to what they have to say.
Because more than anyone teachers need to believe in the notion that children are people too.
H/T to Deborah for the link.
New Zealand is a small place. So when one part of our waka shakes, we all feel in some way feel it. This week my heart hurts for the people we already know who have perished in the earthquake in Christchurch and the other souls currently missing. Like most people I feel a bit useless to do anything other than give some money to the Red Cross and send good thoughts to the people who will face untold difficulties in the weeks and months ahead.
Of slightly less significance is the news that I officially survived the first paper with a very good, but not great, pass. I also spent the bulk of this week unplugged from the world at a residency run by my university. This is the longest have I gone without internet since my week-long sojourn into North Korea (yes THAT Korea) in 2008 so was in serious internet withdrawal by the end of the week.
However the benefits of going offline was that I was finally able to put some faces to the names of the fellow students on my course. To say that I was impressed by the diverse make up of the student body would be an understatement. I had assumed that freshly-minted graduates would make up the bulk of the students on the course. However the majority of students were like me: people who had been in the workforce for a number of years or even decades and were taking on a second (or even third) career who happen to be scattered all over the country. I have special admiration for the large number of parents taking the course, especially the ones with babies and young children, who are juggling family and life commitments along with a hugely challenging course. Alongside seeing some awesome teachers in action, one of the most useful parts of the residency were the conversations with fellow students. These conversations made me realize that the fears and anxieties about exam performance, assignments and our looming teaching experience are actually quite common amongst the student body.
However I was staggered by the breadth of knowledge areas that primary teachers have to build up teaching expertise in. Alongside English and math (which cover the traditional three Rs) we also have to become proficient teachers of social science, the arts (Drama, Dance, Music and Visual Arts), health and physical education, science, language learning and technology.
I am exhausted just writing the list.
I was a bit disappointed that my beloved ICT and e-learning did not get a look in however I could see how I could use it in other parts of the curriculum.
I know there is a view that schools are wasting time doing ‘frivolous’ things like the arts when they should be spending time on core learning areas like reading and math. I have trouble following the logic that if we spend time teaching kids music and movement, it is at the expense of their learning in hard subjects. I realize that time is a finite quantity however effective teaching in areas like PE and Social studies can inform other areas of the subject areas of the curriculum. We can’t expect kids to develop writing skills if they don’t have rich experiences to write about.
My favourite workshop of the residency was the dance teacher who modeled a lesson which would get kids moving, laughing and learning some literacy along the way. Playing rugby is an application of math and physics just as much as brut physical power. Dan Carter knows that if he’s kicking into the wind, he needs to put some extra force behind the ball to get it where it needs to go. Likewise music, social studies and technology all have the potential to reinforce the ‘core skills’ when the subjects are taught well.
But even if there weren’t educational benefits from the ‘soft’ areas of the curriculum there is a far more important reason to embrace a love of areas outside science and the 3 Rs. Our kids lives would be awfully bleak if they spent all day at school strapped to their seats quietly learning their ABCs and 123s. Their lives are enriched by running, jumping, making music and creating bits of art. Actually adults lives are also improved by doing these things too.
Speaking of which, I need to go to bed because I’ve got an early stand up paddle boarding class out on the harbour tomorrow