Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Hi World...I'm back...sort of

Miss Piper born 11th May, 2015
2016 and I'm gearing up for the start of another teaching year. This year will be one like no other. Coming back after being on maternity leave for nearly 9 months is challenging. No more lounging around (time to retire the yoga pants I have become so attached to) flitting from baby activity to lunch dates. I have absolutely loved spending the past 8 months getting to know my daughter (Piper) and watching her grow, learn and develop, but the time has come to re-enter the (paying) workforce (thanks to horrendous Auckland house prices) and I come back to the classroom quite a different person than when I left. I come back as a working mum wondering how this juggling act is going to pan out.

So, 2016 at Hobsonville Point Primary School. This year I am in a different learning common (LC3 years 6-8) with a new team. Thinking about the start of the year, I'm not thinking about what "topics" we will delve into - that can take a seat for now. Relationships are at the forefront of my mind. How can we build, grow and nurture trusting relationships in our learning common to really get the year off to a successful start? Our "planning" will not be made of long-term plans with activities thought of weeks in advance. We need to work on getting to know each other & begin building trust, respect and boundaries. Boundaries around what everyone needs to be successful in a collaborative space. Boundaries around expectations - what do we expect from our learners, what do our learners expect from us (their learning advisors) and what do they expect and need from each other? 

So, we will be starting this year looking at possibilities and success. What is possible to create a successful environment for all people who are in LC3? Watch this space....

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Designing our learning space...together

At the start of the year we consciously setup the bare minimum for our learning common - how could we possibly setup a learning space when we don't know all our learners? Before the term started, we set up a few smaller spaces - a gaming room with various board games stuck to the wall, cards on tables, etc to help students build relationships. Apart from that, our space looked rather...bare.

Fast forward to today and we have the beginnings of a beautiful mess.  So how did we go about guiding our learners through this process? To open their eyes to possibilities? To ensure our learners take ownership of their space?  Where to start?

We began the day by getting our learners to think about how they like to learn. What are the things that make learning easy or more enjoyable for them? Working in a team vs. working alone, having music, having a clear plan, etc. We used some of the ideas from the Diversity Game - if you haven't used these before, it is a great resource. The purpose of the game is to examine how we think differently - how diverse we are as humans using a range of statements e.g. CO OPERATIVE: I like to work together with other people to achieve something; MUSICAL: I like music; TECHNICAL: I like to know how machines and gadgets work.  Selecting a small range of these cards as prompts for those who needed it, our learners wrote their preferences for learning  on post it notes (1 per post it) and stuck them on the window.  
How do I like to learn?
Next our learners were given the task of grouping these ideas together. We gave no other instructions and stood back to see how our learners would deal with a task like this. Some lead, some were happy being lead, some choose to sit on the periphery and read a book.  Interesting for us (teachers) to see this unfold and not get involved!  Our learners managed to work together to group the ideas into categories. Once this had been done, we had a great discussion around why we have done this and why it was important to know what each other need in our space.

What is possible?
Now we had somewhere to work from. How would we honour the needs our learners had identified in our learning space? Our learners then chose an area of passion and began to brainstorm possible areas/ rooms/ resources that could be used within the common to cater for these needs.  After writing down initial ideas, we read others and gave thoughtful, helpful and specific feedback enabling groups to decide on their top ideas to implement. 

The rest of the day was working towards creating these areas. So what has evolved...

Those who liked to create are developing an animation studio complete with blacked out windows, lights, props, etc; an art area where learners can go and create with a range of mediums which are visible, a quiet writing room where our learners can create using the written word.

Those who liked to help people are designing a directory of what our learners strengths are with the idea if you are stuck you can easily find the best-fit person to help.

Those who love reading have taken the library space and further resourced it with more books and are busy designing a comfy reading space.

Those who have a passion for technology are organising our devices in a "user-friendly" way along with posters to help students with their learning. 

Tomorrow we continue to develop these spaces - it's great to see our learning common come alive knowing it has been such a collective effort!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Building Foundations for Success

It is the start of a new year, new team and new students, so where to start? As many teachers have their long term plans firmly in place, we (HPPS team) have been busy building relationships and gathering a shared understanding around some of the key ideas behind what and why we do what we do.

The build-up to today (day 1 term 1), was one that was loosely organised. Having new students and a new teaching side-kick, Reid Walker, it was important to put relationship building at the forefront of our first couple of weeks.

So with no sign of a holiday recount (see Lisa Squires post) our day was filled with a mix of causal and some semi-structured activities where we both took the lead and stood back. Our focus is on our school dispositions - building foundations by which we can have those "warm yet demanding" (see Daniel Birch's post re this) conversations needed to get the most out of our learners.

Reid and I had planned Monday and Tuesday, already we have completely changed tomorrow after knowing our learners for just one day - interesting as I know 70% of the learners already (from last year), but it was clear we needed to be responsive to our learners and their needs. What does tomorrow bring? Starting to unpack what learning could look like, in our space, with our learners. Reid and I are but one small piece in LC4 puzzle. Input from our learners is crucial to the success of our space and I look forward to seeing the seeds we sow in the coming weeks begin to flourish in the coming months.

Insights from today:
- ditch the word 'plan' and replace with 'possibilities', especially during these first couple of weeks,
- don't rush, tomorrow is another day,
- have those conversations that are needed...tomorrow's conversation may be harder if left,
- jandals are the best form of footwear in 30 degree heat @geomouldey 
- everyone needs a fabulous side-kick!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Design Thinking in Action

After going through a design-type process to redesign what learning looked like across two of our learning commons (see post here) with 3 other teachers, we decided to use this process with some of our students when we came to the project phase of our learning.

Theme: Effective Communication  

With our theme in mind, we immersed our students in a world they may not have encountered before. For six weeks, we (teachers in learning common 1 & 2) offered a range of workshops with this theme in mind.  Workshops had mini themes each week including:
- working in a team
- spoken language looking at debating and public speaking skills
- visual language (how do people communicate through art?)
- symbols and codes
- signs and media
- digital communication (through digital citizenship)
- animal communication 

Through these themes, we were able to offer a broad range of experiences and different ways people and animals communicate effectively.  We also had our students working with a range of people and ages as learning common 1 (year 0 - 2) & 2 (year 2 - 5) worked together. We had some great feedback from students, with many surprised with how well they were able to work with five year old - one of the initial issues learning common 2 thought they might encounter (check out this post about how our start went).  With the teachers involved, we planned each immersion session beforehand, making sure one teacher was roving and collecting evidence for students (taking photos) as we got students to complete a quick reflection (discussing their highlights/ challenges) after each workshop knowing at the end they would chose one area of particular interest and documenting this would help students to remember all of the exposure they had had (not just the last one they remembered). These reflections where put into folders and displayed for parents/ caregivers to share the journey (on the reflection sheet, we highlighted what curriculum areas where being covered).

After our six weeks of immersion, we broke off into our project phase. In learning common 2, we put students into two groups. One more supported group where given a lot more support in either continuing with some immersion-type activities or following a interested they had developed over the past six weeks.  The other group where taken through the design process:

To start this, I shared the process that we will be going through and the resources adapted from NoTosh to guide us through the journey.  


Identify: What is the issue?Our first step was to be "problem finders" (McIntosh, 2011: TEDxLondon: The Problem Finders). We identified some of the issues through the themes we had been immersed in. Students looked through their folders and had many discussion with other students to identify these issues.  After identifying these issues, students chose one they felt particularly passionate/ interested in.  At this point, there were lots of solutions being discussed - it was interesting to hear the groups who were fixed on one solution and thinking they had solved the problem - job done (not quite).

Finding Problems
Pairing the problems with the themes we explored during immersion
From here, students began to group together with others who had chosen similar or the same issue. Some students wanted to work on their own. We shared what issue we wanted to delve into and after many discussions about each issue, moved onto the synthesis part of the process.


First we developed a 'How Might We' statement. This would define our problem to be solved. Giving examples, students quickly developed their how might we statement then shared their statement for others to help refine. Groups where introduced to the so what, who cares questioning and the HAKRS critique protocol for this refinement. 

  • How Might We design a product for people to communicate with a deaf person at HPPS
  • How Might We design a product for student new to HPPS so they know what happens here
  • How Might We invent a way that helps people communicate with each other when in a team situation
  • How Might We design a product in order to help people learn a different language at HPPS 
  • How Might We invent an exciting way to teach Maori to students at HPPS
  • How Might We help kids at playtime who don’t have anyone at HPPS to play with
  • How Might We invent an effective way for people be able to communicate with animals

How might we framework
HAKRS Critique Protocol
Ideate: Generate as many ideas as you can
With our how might we statements refined, we could begin looking at potential ways to solve these problems. We stood up and came up with 100 ideas in 10 minutes.  From the way out to the easily 'doable', students spent the first couple of minutes on their own, then bought their ideas together.  We then went around read and added to groups ideas. 
Reading and adding to ideas from other groups.
We then looked at our ideas and circled the ones we thought would be best to solve our problem.


The 'doing' part! Students began to make quick versions of their solutions and gathered feedback from others.  Then refined and gathered more feedback.

We also had a dedicated wall for displaying our thinking. This has been a great talking point for students, teachers and parents where you can see the progress along the way. When groups have made changes, we made amendments and stuck it over the previous page.
Our design process journey
Launch Pad
We started this quite late and were unable to complete a lot of the solutions. Most groups have been working over the holidays with the idea that they will launch in February when the new school year starts. Over the holidays several groups have been emailing asking advice and giving me updates on their progress.  

So starting the new year, at HPPS we should have up and running a friendship seat; language rooms (including Te Reo Maori); website for deaf students at HPPS; induction website for students new to HPPS; regular lunchtime activities for students who may not have anyone to play with an much more...

- Students struggled with the idea of solving 'real world' problems. Although very creative with some of their thinking, some where quite unrealistic. Once groups started seeing that other groups where actually solving their problems, they jumped onboard.  
- Engagement: students where highly engaged with making a real difference in the world.  Our theme was around effective communication and being a new school, a lot of the problems groups had identified where to do with new students to Hobsonville Point Primary School. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Redesigning Learning

What is possible? What can learning look like? Is this the best for our students? These are some of the questions we (as teachers) are constantly asking ourselves and at the end of last term decided to really make the most of the skill set we had across two commons and combine the way we immerse our kids in a world they are unfamiliar with in preparation for our next block of learning.

Our first year we started with 36 students, 6 staff and 2 learning commons (year 0 - 3 and years 4 - 8). We taught in teams of 3 and by the end of our first year, we had grown in size and had staffing changes. Our second (current) year, we saw the need to open up another common.  We started with 3 commons (Common 1: year 0 - 2, Common 2: year 2 - 5, Common 3: year 5 - 8). Common 1 & 2 co-taught (with 2 teachers), while Common 3 team taught with up to 5 teachers as one time.  Each space has 35 - 40 students, the most we have had in a space.  So what is in store for next year? We have new staff on board and even more students.  Time to sit down and redesign what learning could look like.

Our school vision states that we value Collaboration, Relationships, Personalised Learning, Innovative Practice and Authentic Learning. So how are we living this out? At the end of term 3, the teachers in learning common 1 & 2 sat down for the day and looked at possibilities. We used a design thinking approach to solve x.

Identify: What is the issue?
We wanted to honour our school values and ensure we were offering the best opportunities for our learners.

Observe: Gathering information about the issue from observations and experiences
We started the day by immersing ourselves in what was already happening within the school.  We gathered information about the current teaching and learning by directly observing each learning common and interviewing students about their experiences.  We asked broad question such as:
- What does school mean to you?
- What works really well here?
- What’s one thing you’d change in your learning common?

Then we dug a little deeper with specific question such as:
- What was it like the last time you did (e.g. Maths, PE, developed a skill)....?
- Why would visitors to the school think that teachers planning the day is better?
- How does HPPS compare with your last school?
- What would your reply be to someone who asks "why do you plan your own day?"
- Describe a favourite learning moment...

Share: Working with others to better understand the issue
The responses were vast, but had common themes. Students valued the ownership they had over their learning, noting that it prepared them for the 'real world' when they have jobs and need to organise themselves.  They mentioned teachers were there to support their learning and guide them, not tell them what to do.  The mention of trips was loud and clear - they wanted to go out and experience the 'real world'.

Looking at the themes from our observations - we were armed with our Moonshot idea of how might we transform practice in our school in order to actively live our our school values of collaboration, relationships, personalised learning, innovative practice and authentic learning.  

Ideate: Generate as many ideas as you can
We then sat down and wrote down possibilities. With ideas flying, this was beautifully messy.  After our ideas were squeezed out, we filtered out what was not feasible  and developed a shared vision moving forward.

This is all about DOING. We quickly came up with ideas of how to immerse our students (5 year olds - 10 year olds) in our theme for the coming term of Effective Communication.

Critique - Refine
We get together most afternoons to discuss highlights and challenges during this process.  Already, three weeks in we have made changes to what we are doing to refined and remix to suit our learners. We have had great feedback from our students, with many surprised by how they work with one another regardless of age and ability is not a factor.  We have seen our learner dispositions really shine as collaboration and relationships being the driving force behind our immersion. Although it has at times been challenging, messy and tiring, the outcomes we are seeing with our students have been rewarding and reinforce why we are doing what we are doing.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What is E(ffective) Learning?

Framework for Learning
The NCREL, enGauge 21st Century Skills is the guiding framework for our phases of learning. Instead of each term having a new topic/ proverb, we have broken up the year into three phases where we will explore a range of "21st Century" skills: Innovative thinking, digital-age literacy and effective communication.

Block One: Innovative Thinking
Provocation: If I could invent one thing to make the world a better place...
Lisa Squire discusses how project-based learning can engage learners and honour student voice. In Learning Common 2, we started by immersing our learners in a range of experiences relating to innovative thinking. We documented much of this process through our weekly common blog. We wanted the students to experience how people design products and the processes they can use and apply to their own products. First we immersed them through a series of experience including:
- Visiting to The Mind Lab where we explored robotics through making rodent traps and simple how simple circuits work through making music using a MaKey MaKey kit and programming via Scratch,
- Tim from Mindkits came in and showed us how easy it is to programme a robot,
- Visiting Hobsonville Point Secondary School where some students had a master class with Steve Mouldey (Robotics) and Pete McGhie (Cooking),
- Ria from Learning Common 3 took a master-class in programming robots using lego mindstorm,
- students grew and cooked from the school garden,
- Sharyn and Daniel lead cooking master-classes.

As you can see from the immersion activities, we were going down two roads: robotics and cooking. In the beginning, we didn't plan this path, but through our students showing interests in these areas, we delved deeper and deeper. Students began branching off into these groups and then grouped to investigate our provocation. Erin and I researched around project-based learning and found some key readings to help with the process:
- Buck Institution for Education PBL Resources
- Edutopia: Project Based Learning
- Seven essentials for Project Based Learning
- Project Based Learning Explained

Through our research we shared with our learners the design process (including a planning sheet and criteria) for their invention. 

The groups where created and the students began planning their projects.  Erin and I divvied up the groups and helped them gather resources and further learn what they needed for their inventions. We had regular (daily for some groups) check-ins with the notes from these conferences emailed home to parents. We had a range of projects including walking beds, solar powered go karts and several different themed restaurants, cleaning robots, baby helper robots and a house that had a moving floor.  

Reading, writing, maths and everything in between were centred around their projects - what did they need to be successful?  Having our check-ins meant we could be responsive to their needs. 

As part of the process, we knew we were going to share this learning. Early on when the process was shared, we discussed the possibility that some groups may not have a product at the end as they may go back and forth between the first couple of steps (generating ideas, research, testing).  We discussed the importance of being able to share this learning.  Some groups documented their journey along the way, some groups chose to do this in the final week.  All had a presentation to share with their families when it came to our celebration of learning evening. 

Wonderings/ reflections
- Very product driven process;
- 1 - 2 prototypes created - what would have happened if they had created several and had a lot more feedback around this process;
- Saturation: our kids lived and breathed their projects for 4 - 5 weeks - was this too long?
- Kids were definitely interested in their projects, but I am not sure if they were that passionate about them - how can we nurture student passions?
- How much deep thinking was actually involved in these projects?

Block Two: Digital-Age Literacy
"At Hobsonville Point, I ask staff firstly to design learning, not plan. I ask them to think about the natural links between a big concept, the dispositions we want our students to grow and then create clear connections to the NZC learning areas" Daniel Birch posing the question are we being responsive?

With these wonderings/ reflections at the forefront of our mind, Erin and I took a slightly different approach and looked further into Design Thinking (what's the difference between PBL and Design Thinking?)

Ewan McIntosh's ICOT'13 keynote shares the notion that we should be creating problem finders, rather than problem solvers and how can we teach just in time rather than just in case? The team at No Tosh have also been a rich source of information with Ewan McIntosh's Digital Media and Learning Blog and Tom Barrett's The Curious Creative.

We have also checked out The D. School out of Stanford the IDEO and the Nueva Design Thinking Institue all with a vast collection of resources. Hobsonville Point Secondary School has also been a huge source of inspiration. Claire Amos discusses this concept, including an Introduction to Design Thinking. Steve Mouldey shares his experience of problem finding and student ownership.

So with all this in mind, we go forth to co-design a beautifully messy thinking process...watch this space!
Provocation: When I see you through my eyes, I think we are different. When I see you through my heart, I know we are the same.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Edwins: Relationships & Ownership

Who doesn't love a few great eduwins! Check out a couple of the latest from LC2:

Building Relationships:
We have been lucky enough to work with Margaret Thorsborne discussing restorative practice and exploring ways in which a relational approach can be taken to managing behaviour. This was reaffirming and a timely reminder of some of the strategies that can be used. The way we started the day was sharing how the start of the day was going for us. It was interesting to hear from people in the room how their mornings had been leading up to coming to school. It was a great reminder that we all lead busy lives and events both within our control and beyond our control can shape the day we have. Spurring on the question 'how are our learners coming to school?' We started the next day in LC2 with this question. What we found was 80% of our learners were coming to school tired which lead to a conversation around what this might look like as the day went on e.g at lunchtime. We continued to start our day this way, asking how has your day started? How do you feel?  Taking this idea to another level, we married the idea of Twitter with this question. We developed a physical Twitter wall. We have 140 characters to write about how the start of the day is going.  It has been great to see the kids coming in, sitting around a table together discussing their mornings with one another.

Owning your Learning
Being able to articulate what has been going well and what has been challenging is vital in the learning process. This has been one of the focus' in Learning Common 2. How can we ensure students are critically thinking about their learning and see this as a journey rather than a destination?

Our learners are pretty competent at planning their own day, sticking to those plans however is a different matter.  With numerous discussions around the importance of prioritising what we need to do and negotiating what we want to do, it was also imperative for our learners to see what their learning behaviours looked like and the effects of the decisions that they make.  We have been getting our students to plan in reflecting time three times a week.  Here they discuss (in a range of ways including physically or digitally written and shared with adults, including parents) highlights and challenges they have faced and describe why they were a highlight or challenge.  This has been a great way for students to be honest about their learning - we encouraged complete honesty. Some wrote about how they had not stuck to their plan which resulted in them missing out on a crucial workshop. Others reflected on distractions around the room and their need to identify them earlier and move themselves. Through these reflections we have interesting conversations around setting realistic goals and prioritising. It has been great seeing students take further ownership over their learning and make positive changes towards reaching their goals *insert goal fish pond*.

Goal Fish Pond