Wednesday, November 7, 2012

#KidsEdChatNZ: articulate, engaging...and connected!

Today marked the first #kidsedchatnz - a concept born from a EdChatNZ conversation on Twitter.  

I personally (or should I say professionally) love being involved in twitter chat sessions and at the last #EdChatNZ @PascalDresse made the comment:

Imagine the kids in our classes participating in a weekly  aimed at different topics. Imagine the ideas they would have...

and to that, the responses came flooding in...
What a great idea 
Would you start a twitclass?
Fantastic idea - could get them doing it during a set time during a school day
That type of thinking answers question 1 of  what elearning should look like
Too often we think learning is pen on paper. imagine a chat between schools/classes that involves parents.  
Number 1 on to do list tomorrow. Get twitter unblocked!!  

So #kidsedchatnz was born.  We discussed the logistics of involving kids, ironed out some issues we could forsee, discussed some questions and Pascal Dresse created a website for this information to go on...KidsEdChatNZ.

The time was set, the topics were put out there - next step: discuss with the class.

We have been using Twitter in our class for the year.  Popping in and out, sometimes we are prolific tweeters, other times it is in the background, so my students already had a handle on the basics of Twitter.  I showed them the #edchatnz discussion and shared how it all worked.    Then I talked about how the #kidsedchatnz would work during school time.  I showed them the website that had been created and we looked at the questions that had already been suggested.  

As with anything, some were excited...some glazed asked how much they will get paid!  So I invited those who were interested to participate - half the class were interested.  

Tweet deck loaded on laptop
Next we talked about the logistics.  Part of being involved in a twitter chat, is being able to quickly respond to questions coming in.  My students are so hands on, I knew they would need their own device, or at the very least 1: 2.  It was all devices on deck...laptops, iPads, iPods - any device that could accomodate Twitter.  It was at this stage I invited another year 5 class (@pinehill10) for those interested to join in - this also meant those students in my class who were not interested could go out for a game with the remaining other students in Rm 10.  I loaded up Tweetdeck on both the laptops and iPads, so the students could easily follow the hashtag and we were ready!

Wednesday 7th November:
The day arrived, the devices were charges and the students were ready - I was secretly nervous we would be the only ones involved!
1.15pm - I met the students in my class to get ready and make sure everything was connecting.
1.30pm - Off it went - just like a normal chat, the tweets were coming thick and fast ~ phew!
So what did they talk about? Here is very small snippet of what was discussed...
What to use? Laptop, iPad...iPod???

We think that being connected to the internet means enjoying technoligy but still learning. MM MS
We think being connected is working together with our class (Aaron) and others around the world (Loren) 

What makes your school special?
 Our Pinehill Way makes our school special. MM

Q. What's your favorite subject at school AS 

Q. What's the greatest thing you've ever done at school???
 Being nice to others (Nevaeh, 5 yrs); swimming (Alisha, 5yrs); playing with others (Tipene, 6 yrs); learning (Xander, 5 yrs)
 That's nice! I especially like the first one about being nice! MM 

Room 10 & Rm 14 busy keeping up with #kidsedchatz
I used to have an account with Sumdog and it helped my maths By Reuben 

Do you use your ipad for maths? (Ashleigh, 6 yrs)

Question:Take a photo of your uniform and show it on tweet deck From Isaac

The devices we use in the classroom is the iPods, iPads, computers and the (teachers) iPhone. ST 

Engaged, connected learners!
By the time 2:30pm rolled around, the students involved were absolutely buzzing.  They raved about the experience, saying they loved the way people replied to them straight away and they got to learn how kids around NZ are learning.

- Very worthwhile activity reinforcing the digital citizenship values we have been discussing throughout the year - students were asking about talking pictures, this lead to a conversation about digital citizenship #proudteachermoment!
- Questioning skills - students had to think on their feet.
- Succinct answers - due to the 140 characters, students had to get to the point, quickly - which proved difficult for some!
- Connections (being a connected learner) - making these connections with other students.  We have already investigated some of the tools other classes discussed.
- Make sure we have enough devices for the session...we had a lot of devices in the room, but the internet was dropping in and out.  I had my phone on 3G, which was quickly picked up on and my phone soon found comfort in the hands of one of my students...lost for the session.

Check out #edchatnz and #kidsedchatnz as well as the facebook page we have set-up for teachers to reflect and discuss up and coming topics/ ideas

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Conference Week

What a huge week of learning and sharing!  GAFE summit in NZ and ULearn!

Here are some of my favourite/ inspirational quotes and advice from the week...

Suan Yeo - 
Heads Google Enterprise Education Asia-Pacific

Technology is not new if you were born with it

Learning should be open, free and easily accessible
- does your classroom encourage learning outside the classroom?

Become a 21st Century teacher...teach with technology, not teach technology!

Teach how to use not BAN technology

Mike Reading

Offer training that leaves your staff wanting more...train before you implement!

Technology magnifies what is happening in the classroom: think through why technology is being deployed in the classroom.

Glenn Capelli


Natural play is the greatest developer of the brain that we know

Kaizen - a little bit, a little bit, a little bit of improvement - every day!What was your Kaizen today? Great for reflection at end of learning session

The Russian Brothers and their Cousins

Morov - do a bit more of  - Kaizen
Lessov - back off a bit - a bit less of sometimes
Ridov - shed/ kull/ get down to it - live simply!
Cousins: Tossin - What can you bring in?

This principle can be used for coaching, appraisals, observations, feedback - do a bit Morov this and a bit lessov that...

e-book that challenges us to ponder some of life's significant issues in a delightful collection of anecdotes, lessons, humor, wit and wisdom - iTunes Store

Treat the scariest kid like he’s the only one you trust.

Recast a student as a leader in the classroom. Give them the tools to investigate (might be a problem, a learning tool...)and then let them teach the rest of the class. As teachers, we have the power to manufacture this success.

Archive yourself. Take a video of yourself changing a tyre for your daughter/ son, video yourself reading a story for your great great grand daughter...what a great legacy to leave.

When filming - put a paper face over the camera so you know you are talking to a person.

Kick my butt with love. Expect something from me set up an alert to mointor your name, school, child’s name. Anytime it appears on the web, you get an email.

We need to teach kids to manage their devices, not let their devices manage them.

We need to be a door opener for our kids, especially when it comes to their curiosity and their creativity.  We need to act to prevent them living in two worlds - one in school, and one out of school. BYOD is a good example of how to create this shift.

Ten digital literacy media guidelines

  1. Good media is based on good writing
  2. Value writing more than ever
  3. adopt art - art is the next R
  4. The DAOW of literacy - digital, oral, art, written Storytelling and new media narrative
  5. Attitude is the aptitude - the degree to which you are willing to learning new things will determine your intelligence - now have both personal and social literacy
  6. Practice personal and social literacy
  7. Develop literacy about impacts of digital tools
  8. Develop literacy about information
  9. Fluency, not just literacy
  10. We need to harness both the art of storytelling and story - the new media narrative

The degree to which you are willing to learn new things, determines how smart you are! This determines your intelligence.  Learn, unlearn, relearn.  

Be problem finders as well as problem solvers.

Leave positive digital footprints. Put information out there you want people to find, you can’t hide anymore so put out what you’d like people to see.  

“So what’d you do on facebook today?” - Families need to have these conversations with their kids.

Turn concerns into goals - a concern is just a negatively stated goal.  
Whats your concern? Great we now have a goal to work towards.


One of the main highlights was meeting up with some of those wonderful people who make up my PLN. Networking is an understatement and is almost it's own breakout!

Thanks to all those I was able to have an actual conversation with and I love what Kevin Honeycutt said in regards to his PLN...'you don't just get me, you get 2000 others in my back pocket'.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Classroom Walls - Who Are They For?

The classroom that I share with my students is a continually evolving and changing space.  The furniture is set out in a way that can be easily moved to suit the activities that we are doing in the class.  Recently I had a conversation about the walls in my classroom and the question was asked as to why I didn't have a lot of student work on display.  Why didn't I have a lot of student work on display...this too has been a thought out process - but don't get me wrong, I do have student work on display, but it all has a specific purpose and reason for being on the wall.

Clutter-free Classroom
With a constantly changing room, I like to have a clutter-free space.  Often I walk into other classrooms and the environment is very 'print-rich'. Work is hanging on wires diagonally across the room and  every space is covered with literacy or artwork.  These spaces make me feel quite claustrophobic and I personally find it difficult to concentrate in such an environment.  Of course when visitors visit these classrooms they are wowed, but how do students feel day-in and day-out in these environments?  Do they really look and engage with the work that is on display?  Who is the display for?  After speaking with a few colleagues most admitted that the work is put up and forgotten about.  Some teachers had work from previous years up - who is this for?

So what are on my classroom walls?
Every wall in my classroom has a purpose.  We have a Twitter wall as we use Twitter in the classroom on a weekly basis.  This wall we constructed at the start of the year.  We deconstructed a twitter page, so students know what certain Twitter terms mean.  They have an example of a tweet (that they have each written) and some rules around using Twitter in the classroom.  Students are referred back to this wall if they have simple questions and students who are new to the class, can easily read this and be up with the play!
We have two displays dedicated to our iWrite programme - adapted from the Big Writing - a UK based writing programme. We have a VCOP (vocabulary, connectives, opening and punctuation wall, where students have been part of creating pyramids for these key elements.  We also have a WOW word (impressive words) wall.  Another wall is set-up at the start of the year and shows the country where each student identifies themselves with.  I like to keep this display up as it shows the diversity of the class.  We also have guidelines for using the iPads.  These are put around the room and are written by the students for the students.  There is the obligatory 'notices' board, where notices relating to the students are posted (e.g. ESOL timetables, school jobs, fitness timetables, etc).  A new addition this term has been a reading response wall, where students have created possible response questions they can answer after a reading (e.g. what emotions do you feel after reading this story? If you could end the story in a different way, what would that ending be?) We also have 'functional' posters on display - a poster which has relavant usernames and passwords for whole class sites (e.g. vimeo, youtube, etc) and booking sheets for devices.

The question was also asked of me, if the students are not online how do they share each others work?  Students are often working collaboratively on a project and sharing is part of this process.  Although the work may not be displayed on the wall, this does not imply that students are not sharing their work.  Often the work we do is not intended to be put on a wall. My students are year 5 and their writing can be pages and pages in length - the intention is not to display this on a wall, instead we have folders for this work, which is easily accessible to anyone in the room.

Food for thought - who is the display for? Who is benefiting from the display?  How is it promoting student learning?

Is the writing on the wall for busy 'print-rich' classrooms?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Connecting with our Communities

I think including parents/ caregivers/ whanau in their child's online world is so important.  We talk about students having a wider audience and including parents in their audience is such a powerful tool.  I use Wikispaces a lot with my year 5 class and I really wanted parents to be involved in their child's space.  Parents are often mentioning how little they know about the digital world, so to involve them would also mean educating them.  We decided to run parent workshops at night.  We have now run two of these sessions.  Originally we thought we would run them every 4 - 6 weeks.  Our first workshop was on Wikispaces and after feedback realised the parents needed a follow up session the following week.  So we ran a second one this week and had some familiar faces (who became the 'experts') and some newbies.  On the second workshop we also looked at what made a quality comment.
Seems this has been a great success and it has also opened up the path of conversation around this topic even further.  The parents can see the real benefit in using these tools and my students have already commented on their parents feedback. 
To back this all up, we are also emaling a weekly eNewsletter to parents.  In this they can see specific events from our classroom as well as students reflecting on the week (interviews, etc).  This has allowed me greater connection with the parents on a weekly basis as this is often a conversation started either through emails or face-to-face).
Our next session is on Twitter (see Parent Presentation here) and how parents can get involved as many classes use this microblogging throughout the day. 
For me it is great to see the parents connecting with their children on another level and my students are even more aware of the content they put up as they know they have people in their immediate circle viewing this.  

PadCampAkld Reflection

Giving up a Saturday to embark on professional learning with no real agenda set, may seem a bit daunting, but the EduCamp type unconference is a great way to meet and network with teachers who have similar passions and interests.  This past Saturday was the iPad version of EduCamp.  Having attended the previous EduCamp at Stonefields - I was excited to attend an iPad specific event.

As with the last EduCamp, the experience has given me even more to think about, from the set-up to the role these tools play in our students learning.  Here are the main points of interest:

Determining the role that iPads have at your school is a crucial first step and one I wish we had thought a lot more about and had a clear definition for staff.  I see there being two main purposes for the iPad in the classroom and although each purpose may cross over, clearly  defining the devices role will affect the set-up and management of the device in the classroom.
Teacher iPad: some schools issue each teacher with an iPad.  Teachers use this to collect assessment data and keep anecdotal notes on students.  Staff have their emails set-up and it is predominately used for the teacher, although, like staff laptops, students sometimes use these.
Student iPad: The role of the iPad in the classroom for students is all based around student learning.  All apps on the iPad are for student learning and students these apps on the iPad to capture student voice.  The set-up of these iPads may have specific settings disabled according to the schools' e-learning philosophy.

We have not been very clear in our school about the role of the iPads in the classroom.  Some people have the iPads set-up solely for student learning, with no teacher-specific apps on them.  Others have a hybrid version with staff mail being set-up on the iPads, notes from PD courses, then students using the iPads for learning during the school day.  On top of this, we have teachers with apps/ features enabled for their own children (when they take them home), some even have another (personal) iTunes account on the class iPads - is this good practice?  So the role of the iPads in our school are not clearly defined and although I don't like a lot of rules, think this is an important step to take.

Our staff have full access to the App store.  Being able to download anything (as long as they have $'s left) they want.  We have no criteria set and no evaluative process.  On one hand this allows staff to find and install apps when they need then, on the other hand, iPads end up with hundreds of apps that are unused or apps that are similar (e.g. 5 different interactive whiteboards!)

So with all that said and learnt - what is next?
I think a re-definition of the role the iPads play in our classrooms (specific to our school) would be hugely beneficial.  Do we have a nominated teacher iPad, where staff can enable certain features or are they all going to be defined as student learning tools?
We have had a term to 'play' with multiple iPads in the classroom and staff are getting to grips with the management of these.  We have discussed moving from playing to deliberate acts of teaching and learning.  Some staff are well down the road of using the iPads to collaborate and share student voice, but some are still (unfortunately) using them as a digital worksheet.

So How?
Having had a term to get used to multiple iPads and apps, I know I have a handful that we (the students in the class) use all the time. Sitting down in planning teams (year group based e.g. year 5's) and deciding (as a team) the apps that clearly capture student voice, that should be on the iPads.  We need use evidence based on the pedagogy of learn, create, share to justify an app being on the iPads.  This will hopefully get teachers to think critically about apps and ask the question: how does this capture student voice and is so, how can this information be used?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

iPad Roll Out - Four Months Down The Track

What a couple of months we have had.  Deploying just over 100 ipads within a school is no easy feat!  See initial iPad deployment post here.

Mass Deployment
After the original distribution of an iPad for each teacher (to get to grips with), it was time for more!  Teachers were itching to get more in the classroom, one was not enough!  It was decided that each class would have a total of 4 iPads, with the exception of the transition classes (year 0) wanting 3 per class and the year 5 classes who had fundraised (through a student market day) for an extra iPad per year 5 class.  So the iPads were ordered and arrived! Now for the work...

Setting Up Multiple iPads
Staff took an active role in setting up their original iPad, and we (eLearning Team) had user guides to help with the process.  We made ourselves available for a set-up afternoon, where teachers were able to come and set-up their multiple iPads...others set these up on their own.
Two Ways We Set-up:
Mirroring - I found that you could 'mirror' an iPad by backing up one and setting up a new one by selecting back-up from iCloud.  This was great as it literally mirrored an iPad I had selected.  Downfall - only 10 devices can be backed up from the same itunes account.
Setting up as new iPad - the rest were set-up as a new iPad.  After going through the initial set-up menu's, once the iPad is ready and the itunes account is loaded, you can find the apps that have already been purchased using that account.  Downfall - time consuming installing all apps you have previously purchased.

We decided to turn off the iCloud on the iPads. We found it was getting full quickly and we didn't need to back up the students work to the iCloud as the content produced could be uploaded to a website e.g. youtube/ vimeo or a website version of the app.  The only app we left on the iCloud was Find iPhone.  This app allows you to find your iPad - if the need arises.

Naming iPads
Having over 100 iPads in the school (all looking the same), meant we needed to be able to easily identify each classes set.  We got each class teacher to name their individual iPad (settings> general> about) correlating it to the serial number we had recorded.  This is important when you use Find iPhone, as the name is displayed on the map - if they are all called the same, you cannot distinguish between them!

We also named the iPad by creating a unique picture and saving it as the lock screen.  I took a picture of my room door and numbered my iPads 1 to 5.  This way they are easily identified as a Room 14 iPad and the students know what iPad they are working on (e.g. iPad 2).

Classroom Management
Having the iPads named is vital for the classroom management side. Students are able to book out a specific iPad and we can quickly number off at the end of a day and if any are missing (which happen on the odd occasion), using Find iPhone, quickly locates the missing iPad.  
Ensuring the iPads have a durable cover, gives extra insurance against drops and bangs.  We went with the Educase, which has provided fantastic protection for the iPad, while not obstructing any of the iPad features (some cases obstructed the camera).  So far, the class iPads have been dropped in the mud, fallen off tables...and I am sure a lot more I have not witnessed...but they lived to tell the tale, albeit after a wipe down!

Staff Development & Support: This is a crucial part of the process!
The school originally had a document which was meant to be a guide for ICT skills to be taught.  This was very out-of-date (it included faxing!) It was also printed which meant it was difficult to up date.  A small team (4 of us), got together with our elearning facilitator - David Kinane and designed a resource which would:
- reflect the changing nature of elearning
- enable easy staff collaboration
- easy to use!
This resource would be a home for teachers to record apps, websites and software they used in their classroom.  We also wanted new teachers to the school to be able to look at this resource and have a starting point and know some of the resources that are used in the school.

So we decided that a wiki would best suit our needs...and so I bunkered down and created our eLearning wiki...

We have the four strands of eLearning: Enrichment, Publishing, Collaboration & Problem Solving.  Once these are selected, another page opens up for teachers to enter the tool, potential use, curriculum area...  
We launched this wiki during a staff meeting, showing people how to use it and adding content.  It is important that the staff take ownership of this resource and feel they contribute, so in planning meeting, teams are encouraged to add/ update/ view this resource.  At the staff meeting we also discussed teachers making deliberate plans for their eLearning.  We did not want the iPads to become a digital worksheet - busy work, as some people were allowing students free reign and calling this 'elearning'.  We wanted teachers to think about two questions:
1. How can we get student data off?
2. How can we use it as formative assessment?
We also wanted them to think about the types of activities they were offering the students.  Although enrichment activities have their time and place, if these are the only activities offered, are the students being extended?  It was time to move into the next phase and get teachers to think critically about the apps they were installing - how do you know students are benefiting?  

Before our weekly staff meeting, a year group have been assigned to share what is working in their classroom in regards to eLearning.  It is great to see people share their knowledge and enthusiasm!

This is also a major part of the deployment.  We (eLearning team) wanted staff to feel supported and their needs met.  After attending the EduCamp in Auckland, 3 of us decided to host a similar support system in-house.  So, every Thursday staff bring their questions and we sit around for about an hour helping those who need it.  From teaching staff how to use new apps, to creating Wiki's, to finding widgets to classroom management of iPads.  Whatever people need on the afternoon is where we go.  Groups sit around and people bounce from person to person, idea to idea getting what they need.  Some stay for the hour, others come and go as they need.  It is a great environment to be in and I personally enjoy seeing staff helping each other - some who started knowing very little are now helping others - it's great!

What would I do differently?
I have been asked the question - what would I do differently?  There is not a lot I would have done differently.   I would have an action plan, a clear path, aligned with the goals of the school.  A plan that was developed and shared with the staff.  I would also define the role of the iPads within the school.  At our school, the idea is to use the iPads in the classroom for the students.  Some teachers have put 'personal' apps on the class iPads (e.g. Facebook) and have the mail function set-up with their school emails.  The role of the iPads within the school should have been clearly defined as getting staff to do this retrospectively can be difficult.  I see the iPads in my class as a resource for all of us to use, so any apps that are on there are for us (therefore need to be student-friendly) and we do not have emails (students do not have email addresses) or messenger set-up.  I have also heard some people refer to one of the iPads as the 'teacher' iPad, which means that is one less device the students can use.  So to answer the question - what would I do differently? Clearly define the use of the iPads before deployment and have a clear road map aligned to the school's goals.

So what is next for us?

Continue to focus on staff deliberately planning their eLearning activities.  Seeing this in the planning stage of their units, so activities have a purpose.  We also need to continue to look at how we capture student voice.  How do we know this is helping their learning?  Some staff are doing this really well and using this expertise will be an invaluable modelling tool.

I would also like to investigate Apple Configurator to mass configure the iPads as we still haven't found an easy way to install apps on multiple iPads or update apps.  But of course this all takes time...time I cannot seem to find!

And of course....more iPads!  Ideally I would like a 1 to 3 ratio...just putting it out there!

(1 iPad to 3 students...not 3 iPads to 1 students...although...)

Timeline for iPad Deployment:

Term 1: 
- eLearning group formed consisting of members from across the school covering all year levels

Term 2: 
- 1 iPad distributed to teaching staff
- Teaching staff given PD around setting up and using these devices
- Staff encouraged to use with class when they felt comfortable

Term 3: 
- Each class receives at least 3 - 4 iPads (incl. covers)
- Tech sessions set up weekly to offer support for teachers
- Sharing during weekly staff meeting from one year group per week
- eLearning Wiki developed and introduced to staff to document apps, websites and software that teachers use in their classroom
- Most classes get an apple TV to plug into either their IWB or TV to encourage greater sharing of iPad content

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

All Aboard...

The other day I read an interesting tweet (which I can no longer find!), that asked the question: how do you connect to parents? Blog, newsletter, emails, anyway as I am a connected educator....
This got me thinking about my own do I connect to my parents?

Recently, I had a discussion with a parent who was struggling to find how technology was helping with their child's education.  After several twists and turns, I discussed the wider audience that their child is now exposed to...I am no longer one of the only people reading the students work, there is a wider audience.  I also discussed how great it would be to get them onboard with their child's learning and encouraged them to join their child's Wikispace so they can comment and be part of their child's audience.  This parent agreed and could finally see the relavant of this "computer work".

After this conversation, it got me thinking...why haven't I got more parents involved and part of their child's audience?  Don't get me wrong, I do have parents who read their child's online work and comment every now and then, but I would like to push the involvement further and get them actively involved.

I had a conversation about this with the class...some of them cringed, some of them cheered, some of them wished me good luck!  Why shouldn't the most important people in their lives, be part of their audience? 

My Goal: To get most parents actively involved in their child's online work.  I want them to be part of this audience.

How I will try and do this...

I have set-up a blog with the intention that it will come out weekly (Friday').  The post will be made up of student input - interviews, reports of events, round-up of what they have learnt.  I have assigned a few volunteers to be the 'reporters' for the week.  They may interview someone about events in the week - e.g. our swimming program is coming to an end and one of our reporters wants to interview the coach and another Rm 14 student about the past 6 weeks.  Students also have as an option in their ILP to create a blog post entry...this could be a written report, imovie, audioboo, educreation...the list goes on.  I will have 1 part of the post to write up - Wiki page of the Week....inspired by the Wikispaces blog that includes Featured Wiki.  After speaking to the students, they said they want it to come from me rather than another student, so I will feature one of the students pages each week.

Parent Emails:
I keep up with some parents in my class on a regular basis, but some I only see a couple of times in the year.  I'm going to send home a letter about the eNewsletter (hmmmm that doesn't sound quite right) and give them the option for a weekly email with the blog post in it.

Parent Involvement:
The main part I would like to get parents involved with are the students Wikispaces.  The students work really hard to put up all sorts of interesting content from stories they have created to reflections of workshops they have attended.  I would love for parents to join and use the comment section of the wiki's to add feedback for their child.  I would also like to get parents more involved with the class twitter feeds we have going on a regular basis.

This sounds great but...

I know this 'connected' world is quite foreign to many of the parents in our community.  As a staff we have offered tech sessions for those staff who want help ~ I was thinking...why can't we offer this to our parents?  Maybe not on a weekly basis, but once a month/ six weeks offer an hour tech session for our parents.

Topics to cover asap:
- Wiki's: the basics
- Twitter: more than just a status update
- Blogs: the basics, making valuable comments

How great it would be for the parents and students to be able to collaborate together!!!!!!!!

So, I ask the do you connect with your parents?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

But Why???

My Class August 2012...

I have always been interested in new learning ideas and my classroom is changing (developing) as I read and see more.  The main question I always have in the back of my mind is 'why' ~ why should students do this? I remember being at school and not having a lot of choice over my own learning.  Books were given to us...why? I was told where to sit....why? I had to write the date and underline it in red pen (with a ruler)...why? So in my class the 'why' has to reflect the students and their individual learning paths.

So why?

Learning Spaces:
One of the main changes the class have gone through are the learning spaces.  Over the past 10 months, my classroom has transformed from the 'traditional' seating areas to an interactive learning space....20th century building meets 21st century ideas...
Students do not have set seats...why? Students use the space that serves them best for the activity they are doing.  I thought about what 'areas' students would need and how can I make these four walls a great hub for learning!

Teaching Cove: We have a group of tables around the IWB.  This is designed for workshops (group lessons) and have 8 seats (usually the most students in a workshop) although I have another table behind it (which seats 6) if needed.  This teaching cove allows students easy access to the IWB (interactive whiteboard) and it is in a slight U shape so everyone can see and hear each other.

The Boardroom: This space is designed to cater for group projects.  There is enough seating for 6 - 8 students and has a whiteboard students use for collaborating ideas.

Connected: We also have a 'connected' area, where the iPads (5) can be easily charged.  This area has low lying kneeling tables and a couch.  The students tend to use the iPads in this area (for easy charging) as well as a group meeting area.

Independent areas: There is another table, where students tend to work independently.  There are a few power plugs around this table, so students tend to use the laptops in this area.

I do not choose where students sit - where they sit is determined by their learning needs.  If they have a workshop, they sit in the teaching cove, if they are working in a group, they might sit in the boardroom area.  This has meant students take greater responsibility for their learning.  

As I have mentioned in previous posts, students have their own ILP.  This teamed with the learning spaces allows greater use of the resources in the class.  Within the ILP, student have a range of activities from teacher-lead workshops to independent activities...the why again was asked...why do all students need to do say Maths at the same time? 

New activity within the ILP:

Writing has been a focus for our year 5 team.  After spending time teaching in the UK and implementing Big Writing from Ros Wilson. I have taken some of the ideas from this experience and designed a writing programme we call iWrite.  

How this works: students get a topic every Monday (usually related in some way to what is happening in the class/ school/ community/ globally). They go home and discuss this (with parents/ older siblings/ grandparents...) and formulate a plan which may consist of new vocabulary they might want to use, ideas from different view points, etc.  Students also think about the genre and structure that suits this piece of writing (e.g. an interview, story, play, report, poem).  On the Friday, students bring in this plan and have half an hour to write.  While they are writing, we play music (usually baroque although we have ventured into Adele upon request...why not!) and have an oil burner, scenting the room (vanilla, tea tree & lemongrass).  During the following week (in a workshop), we use this piece of writing and 'make it better', by looking at the vocabulary, connectives used, the way they have opened their sentences and their punctuation.  We usually focus on one or two of these four.  

The Why: If students can’t discuss and verbalise their ideas, how can we expect them to write them down?  This is the underlying idea behind iWrite.  It is one of the only whole class activities that we do and after just over a term, students are still really enthusiastic and motivated with this writing.  Why do students all need to do this at the same time? As the room needs to be quiet for students to concentrate for this half-hour...having the whole class write at the same time works the best.  This also ensures that this their own creation, so when we work on it in the following week, they know why they have used a certain word/phrase and what they may have meant.  Parents have also commented on how they love being part of this process and look forward to the new topic on Monday's.

Next steps: within the ILP, students have some optional activities that make up the remainder of their timetable.  One of the options is iWrite development, where they can continue working on their piece of writing.  Students also publish their writing to their writers club blog or their own wikispace.

So here is a snapshot of some of the new developments within my class - August 2012!