Welcome to Learning More Stuff

Posted: June 22, 2012 in Admin

I’m a Year 3 and 4 teacher in the New Zealand education system, and I have a passion for eLearning. In this blog I hope to share my successes and failures, my experiments, my planning and my sources of inspiration for engaging students and making technology accessible to teachers and students.

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Expectations!

Posted: February 10, 2014 in Cool Tools, Philosophy, Starting Out

Research shows that teachers need to have high expectations while looking after the socio-emotional climate of the classroom. So, expect excellence and be excellent to each other! One way we can do this is explicitly teach children about the rules in our class and how we need to follow them.

Rights and Responsibilities is one of the first lessons I give in my room. Here are examples of our class talking about what we need as human beings to be safe and learn, and what we need to do to make sure we are all safe and learning.

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The children work in table groups to put their ideas as drawings or a list in their book and I collate the whole class ideas on the modelling sheet.

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The next lesson is when we use the rights and responsibilites to formulate a treaty:

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For classroom management, I then use Class Dojo and select positive behaviours to reward based on the Class Treaty. It is entirely positive behaviour that I focus on and  I choose to word the rules carefully so that it gives examples of what to do, rather than what not to do. I also do not ever take points away from children for negative behaviour. This principle of behaviour management is linked to Positive Behaviour For Learning and the Incredible Teachers’ Programme. Screenshots of Class Dojo and behaviour expectations to follow!

 

Starting 2014: DAY 1

Posted: January 17, 2014 in Starting Out, Teaching Plans

DAY 1: Here is an example of how I might organise my first day of school. Having an idea means that I can prepare things in advance. I recommend looking at other teachers’ plans as well. The first week can be overplanned as it takes a long time to get things done while everyone is getting back into routines.

Welcome notice at door with your name. Instructions to put their bag in cloakbay or at the desk. You decide: is stationery on desk? Are desks assigned? When does it go home? Put this on the notice. Greet every child and family. I let children choose where they will sit at first. They may lose that privilege or the class may discuss how to arrange the classroom together. 

Roll- Use kia ora, set expectation for silence while roll is completed and praise for clear voice and trying kia ora.

Powhiri? Maybe your school has an assembly to attend. Set expectation to line up quietly at the doorway and choose a responsible leader.

CLASS DOJO: Show class the class dojo reward system. Give everyone a point for being in the right place at the right time, for joining in, for risk taking as the class goes through the day. Kind manners point for whole class for the roll and using respectful greeting.

NEWS: Introduce Bomb news. Sit in a circle and take turns to say the best or most boring part of your holiday in 3o seconds. Teacher to scaffold and talk first. Maybe even use a class puppet. This may take a while so we can always break this up into five minute sections throughout the day. (Class dojo points for joining in for each child and kind manners point for the class listening quietly.)

WHERE ARE WE? Orientating children to classroom. What are some things you might need to find? Brainstorm. Children to go on a hunt seeing if they can find things. What is missing off our list?
Ideas to find: Class library, bookbags, homework, laptops/ipads, maths corner, wet lunch day games, PE box, hat box, star of day chair, teacher desk, writing display, reading display etc.
Come back! What did we miss?! Expectation: Hands up, taking turns to speak, walking in the classroom.

WALK AROUND: Find toilets and office, where you put school notices, where buddy classes are and where siblings might be, where we can play, out of bounds areas.

MORNING TEA

CLASS STORY: Reading to class. Choose a friendship book or a book about change or new schools. Use Journal Surf to find a journal story for the whole class and then you can send the book home with them that night. Junior Journal for Y2, Part 1 for Year 3, Part 2 for Year 4, Part 3/4 for older children etc. Basically, I use “NEW SCHOOL” or “FRIENDS” as a search for all articles, and I find a story, a poem, an article and a play linked to that. This first day I’ll do a story. The next, a poem. Each day a reader goes home with the child but I cover a range of genres.
Follow up activity: Summarise the story using a picture and three sentences. (Can use a worksheet set up or can set up how to use their books but best if you do an activity that instantly gives you something for your wall.)

LEARNING CLASSROOM: What is a learning classroom? Show pit of learning. Discuss how it looks like, feels like, sounds like in a learning classroom in a Y Chart.

LUNCH

PE: JAILBREAK
Expectations for PE
Participation, put ups, safety, following instructions
Discuss rules (get children to say if they know the game. Buddy up kids who are experts with those who are not.)
Play game!

ART: Drawing a self portrait (needed for file)

Teacher model, showing sausage body, arms, legs, head. Thinking out loud. Correcting mistakes, not using a rubber, trying to look in mirror to see what I might also need on my face. Bottom of sheet has te reo: Ko…… toku ingoa. (My name is…)

END OF DAY: Set expectation. Tables tidy. Chairs stacked. Everything in bags- including clothes. Shoes collected. Books in bag. Lunchboxes and hats. No mess on floor. Lots of praise for tidy helpers!

DAILY PLENARY: Teacher to model thinking, then sharing with puppet buddy, then puppet buddy shares with class.
Think Pair share the following questions-

One thing I learned that is new today is:
One thing I liked is:

RELEASE THE HOUNDS! Who is sitting up nicely ready to go? You may get your bag… Good afternoon class etc.

Usually when our class attempts to brainstorm, half the class is bored silly waiting for the teacher to transfer their ideas. Yesterday I decided to use Google drive to record our ideas. The whole class has one log in for drive so they all logged in using various computers and then proceeded to add their ideas. The ensuing discussion was nothing short of hilarious! Plenty of ideas were discussed for their merit and any silliness was soundly condemned by their peers. Meanwhile everyone was engaged, if only in the efforts to get the laptops working in the first place.

I am attempting to record the learning conversations I have with children this term, but I am trying to do this over a range of devices. I want to be able to use either a laptop, an Android or an iPad/iPod touch to do this. So all the apps or sites I use need to be available consistently on any device.

YouTube

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This sounds silly but a simple app like YouTube is all I need in conjunction with the device camera. I can record children showing their learning or talking about what was tricky, good, or what helped them. Using Youtube I can then upload the footage, ensuring that the child’s name is not on the footage and that it can only be seen by people who have access to the link.

Class Blog

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My students have their own page on the class blog that I use to record their conferences with their parents. These pages are locked with a password so only people that have the password can access their information. That means I can create a subpage with Reflections and then link any recorded reflections to the child.

Integrating this into my Classroom

My first step is to use this with the children as I work with them in a group. I might ask a plenary question at the end of trying out the work and record each child saying what might help them when they try this task. I will model it first, then record the children, then I will upload their reflections to Youtube at the end of the day and then place the video on the pages of the children involved.

This seems like a lot of steps but I think if I try using it for maths one week, for reading the next, for writing the third, then I can restart the rotation and cover all subjects. I intend to use only one group per day to start. Then eventually the children will know how to reflect and record and will be used to thinking about their learning, so I can remove my involvement and get them to reflect instead when they are working independently, using either a laptop, or a mobile device.

Trial: New 7 Wonders of the World

Posted: January 27, 2013 in New Product

Well, apparently there is a new list of the Seven Wonders of the World. If you want to play a game potentially in development for NZ Schools, then The New 7 Wonders Of the World is available.

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I’m about to check it out myself. Let me know if you download it and find it useful. How would you use it in a classroom? Would you use it?

iPod Touch in the classroom

Posted: January 27, 2013 in Cool Tools

Last year my students wanted to bring in their own devices for a day as a reward. What started as one day turned into an experiment with using iPod touch in the classroom. We don’t have WIFI in my school, and we don’t have a BYOD policy as yet so it was completely unplanned. Having said that, schools are often too slow to adapt to technology and changing times. So, I devised a plan where the device had to be named, and in its own case. The children were responsible for bringing it in charged, and bringing a charger. They had to email me the info (although now we know about Google Drive or Dropbox so that might work instead) and they had to lock them away at breaks and only use them when for learning. They also couldn’t just play on them before school until they had organised themselves and the classroom.

All of these rules worked out as we went along. Not all of them were easily enforced! And the other problem of course, was that I was operating from the point of view of an iPad owner and then didn’t realise that some of my apps weren’t usable on both platforms. So here are what I used.

 

MENTAL NOTE

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While not perfect, and while you do have to pay $6.49, this is the iPod app I used instead of Paper Desk. With the free version, you can only use about four notes. You can tag them and categorise them so it is more useful than AudioNote. I felt like I wanted an app that could incorporate pictures as well as drawings, audio and text, and that would allow users to organise using folders or some kind of category.

DROPBOX

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Basically, if you want kids to do anything on an iPod touch, then they can, but how can you get to it? One potential way is DropBox. I think the iPod is fabulous for recording work- like filming a child solving a maths problem with equipment and a whiteboard or filming them talking about their learning. Using dropbox, you could absolutely share that learning and download it onto another device for publication. If you don’t have WIFI, which essentially I don’t have, then the kids can learn how to use it and then share from home, with the added benefit of involving the parents in what they did at school.

WORDPRESS

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My students have their own WordPress blog and so having the app on their device makes sense. They can comment and share ideas from home and if I set up a wireless hotspot from my phone or SIM enabled tablet, they can participate in class. I like WordPress as a blogging tool because it is simple, effective and fast. You could also use the Blogger app if that’s the blogging platform you use.

USING THE CAMERA AND VIDEO

My main argument for using tablets of any kind in the classroom is that they can be used to show actual learning processes rather than just written work. Some people use Slideshare and so on, but if you have a secure online environment like an ePortfolio, or in the case of WordPress blogs, passwords for posts and pages, then you can upload their footage using Youtube with a private video link that only people with the link can find, or use Dropbox, or upload it directly if your blog platform allows.

GAMES!

There are tonnes of games that I have already covered in my iPad post and to be honest, a lot of the apps I find useful are the ones kids find themselves. To that end I ask the kids what they are using and then check it out. I used to spend my money downloading educational apps but without having a system in place at school where iPod touch is supported, I didn’t get the most out of those apps. So keep it simple and remember to agree on the idea that it’s entertaining, but still learning. If you’re playing a game instead of learning, you will face consequences!

MESSAGING

As Apple has its own message and FaceTime applications, children need to be supervised and guided in the use of electronic communication. We regularly learn about Quality Comments. We have lessons on Living and Learning where we discuss how to be assertive, what values we need to flourish personally, how we should communicate, and so using this technology means modelling appropriate online safety measures. They should never communicate with someone they don’t know. If they are concerned about a message they should show it to a parent or adult and adults should regularly check the device and discuss safety with their children. Many parents disable the device for the kid but it is a valuable tool. I have had children message me with work so I have put in place boundaries that tell them they can only send work and I disable my messaging over the holidays and in weekends.

POLICIES

While my school doesn’t have policies around these devices, I’d be interested in hearing from people who do. I didn’t arrive at this location by design, but I have found that iPod touches are a fabulous way of tapping into child creativity and I’m thrilled at the results I’ve had with engagement and problem solving in the classroom. I get written work like letters and emails a lot faster and children seem happy to find ways of learning in more creative fashions. Leave a note in the comments if you’ve found a great post or have some ideas of your own- I’m really looking forward to seeing how the lessons I’ve learned have already been exploited and managed by others!

Yesterday I spent the whole day watching this presentation by DK. ( It’s only 50 minutes long but I was stubborn and insisted on watching it on my buggy android tablet. Until I realised I had to just get my laptop. Anyway.)

You should click to his blog for the notes, because it is an excellent presentation with good visual examples and narrative to cue you into the key points and keywords. In other words, he makes his point and he makes it easy for you to hold onto various ideas and connect them to your own ideas. I posted a stupidly long comment in response and then realised that I should have written a blog post instead. (And in fact DK is setting up his own Humanising Wisdom blog to explore this concept further.) So, here is a more in depth connection to some of the points in his presentation!

A CULTURE OF QUESTIONING

If wisdom is a question, (and in fact it has been since the early philosophers we all tend to quote nowadays, I mean, heard of Socrates and Plato?) then the question I ask myself, is about the culture I create in my classroom and how it reflects my community. So if my class is learning centred, and child centred, then what if my community was wisdom centred? What would that look like?

Ideas around thinking, like De Bono‘s six hats, and the UNSTUCK app all work towards finding ways of asking questions and focussing on the process, not just the answer. To this end, the concept of Desire Paths as mentioned in his presentation, really sticks with me. Desire Paths refer to when we head toward the same goal using different processes. For instance, I often end up operating outside of policy because in the process of testing technology, we tend to attempt what was previously unthought of. Twitter for kids, setting up a Facebook page, using an ipod touch in class- I didn’t think of doing this when I first started teaching, and in fact I didn’t realise I could let kids influence what we use in our class just by letting them ask if they could do it. So desire paths are based on seeing what our kids use and then allowing them to apply it to show their learning. If I teach te reo, I allow children to use Sockpuppets apps, or sing on camera, or make a puppet show in real life. I don’t dictate HOW they do it, I just facilitate ways of showing their learning and asking questions about it.

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Not all of my questions need to be so serious…

I think this also links into the idea of permaculture, taking care of people, the earth and sharing the surplus. If we question why we do what we do, and apply the ideas of permaculture to it, then we can challenge the status quo and try to shift society towards better solutions. If we then do this in the classroom, it means that I personally give up the locus of control and put it back in the hands of the children.

A CULTURE OF HAPPINESS

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Well, for starters, Google, a company well known for creating positive working environments, focuses on happiness of their employees. Happiness would be the main point of a society I want to live in. There are so many social commentaries on happiness, but perhaps the ones I know the best are The Happiness Project and the Tuesday Program involving positive psychology. So the tool I use for this is Class Dojo in my classroom- positively rewarding children and myself for learning and investing in a constructive class environment. ( I NEVER use the negatives.) While my classroom is focused on learning, it is based on an environment that is happy and safe for everyone. This doesn’t always work. Say, when I’m growling at people and realise I sound like my, and every other persons’ mother, but you get the point.

For me, this is particularly relevant because people often want to put on a work persona when they go to work. Why do we have to be less than who we really are in order to teach? If I’m having a hard time, surely I need to acknowledge that to my students in an appropriate way. This has become very salient in my room because over the past few years, I’ve been teaching children who have suddenly lost a parent, or have had an extremely ill parent, and have been coping with the grief process. We don’t get the option of being unapproachable if we spent the second day of school at a funeral with seven year olds. If a child in your class is supporting a seriously ill family member, then we need safe ways to nurture ourselves and allow that to be processed even while learning.

I’ve found that our system seems to think who we are as people is irrelevant and that we just pretend everything is ok. What if, instead, we have permission to just acknowledge sadness and be there for each other, without overdramatising or ignoring it? The research I’ve read supports this contention. So the system I have in place for starters is 30 seconds of “bomb news”. I use an online countdown timer that “blows up”. Each day a group gets thirty seconds per person to share something and we have emergency topics to discuss. This has the benefit of touching base with kids who have difficult situations. If it’s not their turn but they have important news, they still get to share it. We discuss how to cope with change and loss, and what grief might look like. We also have a journal process where kids who are suffering can take time out at any stage just to write in their journal or draw. I’ve found that giving permission to then go on with their day is a great way of letting them deal with it without constantly having to dwell on it, and it works the same with me. Note that it isn’t all about going digital. Teaching ‘grandpa breaths’ to take advantage of meditative techniques (in through your nose, out slowly through your mouth, feel the breath in your tummy) is an excellent device that coaches children with anxiety as well.

Of course, this also means that we should celebrate our success. So in class, if we reach a tally of two hundred points in class dojo, we get a class celebration! And of course every point in class dojo is a celebration of our success. So often in learning and teaching we are onto next steps, but to pause and reflect and enjoy the journey is a vital part that we must not overlook. Our last class celebration was a whole day with popcorn, bring your own devices, movie and massive waterfight. We couldn’t just do one of those things, surely! Oh. And donuts. Anyway…

A CULTURE OF ALLOWING MISTAKES/FAILURE

One of the most influential diagrams I have come across in both my personal and professional life has been the “Learning Pit” or as we call it in my class, the armpit of learning. Learning, essentially, is embracing failure. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not learning. So here’s one version of the learning diagram found online. I don’t have the copy I have in class available here but we use this to look at where we are and how we feel about it.

And here we see the red hat depicting our emotional journey through the learning process…

This is particularly powerful because you have permission to fail, and in fact you get to say that this particular journey is not always enjoyable! So while I want people to be happy, I motivate them to get to that by working through the tough bits. Resilience from the Tuesday Program supports this model and allows children to understand that they don’t have to get everything right. In Class Dojo we have rewards for learning from our mistakes. This works for social conflict as much as it does for academic subjects.

If we accept failure, then of course we have to celebrate our successes!

A CULTURE OF COMMUNICATION/ACTION

I’m loud. My class is loud. But sometimes I feel like I don’t have a voice, in society or in my community, in my classroom or in my school. A culture of dialogue, where we truly hear what people say, as opposed to discussion, where we argue our point, is one of my greatest challenges. I once went to a presentation on difficult conversations, which then linked into my ideas about conflict resolution, which then linked into quiet leadership, which then helped me to understand why sometimes I seemed to clash with management or colleagues or children. This then links into ideas about control.

If people are heard, then they feel like they have control. So how do we hear, and then think, about what other people believe or know, on a regular basis? Well, we can use online twitter and commentary and responses as one way, and we can link into the ideas excessively linked to above in our personal and professional lives. This isn’t an easy concept to use because so often we have win-lose habits and combat mentalities. I know I do!

This then reminds me of David Kinane’s biggest lesson- that it’s not Information and Communication Technology we are using. It’s Technology for Communicating Information. And it has to be, within guidance, in the hands of the students. They need a voice.

I have a nifty example of this- we were learning about social action. The kids decided to learn about Palm Oil and why we should go Palm Oil free. We were all really upset about the way these companies were endangering the habitat of rare animals like rhinos and orangutans. I used my class facebook page to copy and paste a letter drafted on Google Drive by a child, to Arnott’s Facebook page. The children got to read Arnott’s response and declare it unsatisfactory! So far, so good. But then what happened? A seven year old boy created his own blog and got his father to buy the domain BuyPalmOilFree.com . I now have a lunchtime club planned around technology, to create a viable website to support Palm Oil Free initiatives. Of course, we had to take down the posts where he had copied and pasted the Auckland Zoo’s website, and learn about copyright, but that was awesome! The process took off in a different direction, a very positive direction where there is now a site developing that presents the debate at a young child’s level.

INSPIRATION FOR THE COMING YEAR

So where does this leave me? Well, I’m inspired to think about how I apply wisdom. Wisdom, the application of knowledge using questioning, is going to be on our class dojo as a way of respecting the concept and encouraging children to ask positive questions, meaningful questions that are deep and contribute to our community. And I guess I have to let the direction of our learning take its own path, and continue to allow technology into the hands of children so that their voice is heard and acknowledged. If I apply these concepts- questioning, happiness, accepting failure, communication and action- then perhaps I can embody a culture of wisdom into a learning focused classroom. And perhaps we can contribute to society while benefiting from its wisdom. I look forward to seeing what comes of this as the year progresses. Will I continue to join the dots, linking connected ideas to inspire and engage others, or is this another pick me up that I eventually leave in its packaging? I think the challenge is there though. For a start, maybe I should make a better effort to reflect in this blog and share my journey a little more regularly!

A QUESTION OR TWO FOR YOU

As I read over this post it occurred to me that I was missing the opportunity to gather wisdom from other people. Pff! Already I am noticing a shift where suddenly I have to give room for other opinions. So here’s my list of questions. What have I missed? What links do you have that connect to the concepts DK covers? How would you paraphrase the concept of humanizing wisdom for your sector? And if you, or your child, was in my classroom, what big questions do you have that you think should be reflected in the subjects or topics we cover?