Pedagogy Litmus Test

We have a saying in our company.

“It’s about evolution, not revolution.”

It’s often the line I end workshops with. I encourage teachers not to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ and completely revamp their whole classroom practice, but to choose one thing that will make a difference tomorrow for their students (that they’ve learned from the day) and go from there.

BUT, there’s a caveat to that. If your classroom is operating in a way that needs revamping… then you TOTALLY need to start again. Our children’s future relies on them being taught, encouraged, nutured and developed in a way that is completely different from before. Our generation have adapted because we’ve had to but this generation’s need to be agile, collaborative and multi-skilled is crucial.

So, how do you know if your practice needs evolving or a complete revolution. Here’s an idea – a small test. Where is your class on this spectrum? If you’re far to the left, then you need some serious ‘pedagogical redesign.’

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Innovation’s not just a buzz word

No one likes to jump on a band wagon but the funny thing about cliches is that they become what they are because there’s some truth in there. ‘Innovation’ is like that. It’s overly used because we need it. Desperately.

 

We need innovative teachers and schools so that we prepare students for today, let alone for tomorrow. What we did yesterday just won’t cut it anymore, for these reasons;

  • the amount of fake news that needs filtering
  • the disruption to our familiar because of technology
  • the disconnect between family and community

If we keep following the techniques and practices that have worked in the past, just because it ‘used to work’ then we’ll miss what will work for now and tomorrow. It takes bravery and it’s not about short cuts.

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Playing to our strengths

One of the reasons I love to watch Rugby (I played it through my school years) is that it’s a game for anyone, no matter what your size or shape. You can be tall and thin, wide and not so thin; there is a position for you on the field.

Some players are called ‘forwards’ who do all the grunt work in getting possession, some are ‘backs’ whose role is to run the ball and find space out wide. Everyone has a role to play and they all rely on each other.

In our company, we have a wide range of strengths and abilities. Some of us have insight and skills in areas that are different from each other but when we play together then we are incredibly strong as a unit.

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What I’m learning as I get older is that self-awareness is everything! Knowing what position we are suited for, what skills we have, and equally, what skills we lack, is what makes us strong.

I think the key is to know how much to ‘work on our weaknesses,’ and how much to have others around us cover those areas. There is a point to which we can’t just ignore those weaknesses. One of my strengths is NOT to be organized and prepared down to the fine details but by working on that, hard, it’s something I can do now.

But, my real goal should be to know where I’m strong and build on that strength. What am I good at? How can I contribute in this situation best and help us succeed? That’s real collaboration for me.

Listen to the Learning Chatter

If you’re like me then you love using technology to engage and motivate learning in your classroom. One of the ‘hits’ you often have to take when you do this is being labelled as a ‘teacher into toys.’ It’s frustrating to hear since you know and have seen the difference they can make for your learners.

img_2650One of the ways you can show others the benefits of these ‘toys’ is to record some of the conversations that your students are having during activities. I’ve started to call this;

  • LEARNING CHATTER = the language and conversations of learning in action.

Here’s a video of some sound bites I captured with one group at a recent Sphero SPRK+ demo hour I took at a local Primary School. Listen for the subject based vocab, the design thinking and collaboration here.

 

3 Ways to get the most out of your Sphero robots in the classroom!

Last week I was helping the Macgear team demonstrate the Sphero SPRK (Schools, Parent, Robots and Kids) robots to educators at the NZ Ulearn Conference in Rotorua. Here’s a short vid I made that shows some of the snippets of what we were up to for the 2 days.

We use these robots in our STEM workshops with teachers and they’re one of my favourite STEM tools to use; I’ll explain why in a later post. Here’s a link to our upcoming events page where you can see the dates and venues of some STEM workshop days coming up. (Let me know if your schools would be interested in hosting!)

Here are 3 ways to make sure you’re getting ‘learning bang’ for your buck with your Sphero.

1.The teacher is ALWAYS key!

Just like every learning situation, the role of the teacher is paramount. And not in a central, dominant way but as a facilitator, driver, connector and coach. The learning that happens is always best done in discover mode, where the learners are working things out, solving their own problems and making their own ‘cognitive links.’ It’s the teacher, however, who has a crucial part to play to;

a) Frame the activity – create the motivating problem or scenario,

b) Help redirect and scaffold the learner towards some learning outcomes,

c) Provide the framework for reflection and to help students make connections with what they’ve learned – and the space to share those with others.

2. Use a great learning app, like The Lightning Lab

This app – The Lightning Lab, is a great app to use with the Sphero SPRK, partly because of the community you can connect with. Students can download other people’s programmes and build on top, or alternatively, create their own programme and become Sphero authors by uploading to the community themselves!

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SPRK Lightning Lab App – IOS Android, Chrome OS.

The community section also has activities and lessons that teachers and students have written and shared within the app – it’s a great way to share learning experiences and get ideas for your next activity. An even better idea is to have students create a learning experience (around a concept such as angles, gravity, friction etc) and share with others through the app!

3. Combine the digital with the material world…like a boss!

I love seeing the digital world interact with the material – afterall, that’s reality! When we scaffold experiences like the one in the video, where we make a craft that will move across the water, and include a coded programme for the Sphero to automate the craft, we are connecting so many areas of the curriculum and AMPLIFYING the learning. Who doesn’t like getting hands on with things!

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Those are my three tips! Do you have any other ideas or things you know work with your Spheros? Leave a comment below or retweet this link in Twitter with an idea to share.

Chromebooks on a Macbook?

Most NZ Primary teachers have Macbooks as their main teaching tool under the Ministry’s leasing scheme, but their student have Chromebooks. This isn’t a bog deal as most of what they do with their students is in the cloud on platforms such as Google.

screen_shot_2016-09-15_at_11_05_42_amBut – every now and again it’s helpful to be able to model things using the same OS (operation system) as the students, especially in the early days of setting classrooms and accounts up. So what to do? A teacher ‘could’ just use a Chromebook  in those situation but that would be much too easy and no where near as cool as using Parallels!

screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-11-10-06-amThis software (comes with a free trial for 14 days and costs $79 after that) runs a different OS inside your MacOS in a seperate window. Simply download, install and choose the Chromium OS system download to get going. And then you are away!

You can also run Windows 10, even an Android phone’s OS if you really wanted to…I did and it was totally nerdy fun!

 

 

Student Engagement Poster

This is a great poster I’ve seen thanks to Educatorstechnology.com and it’s doing the rounds on twitter at the moment. I’d probably say that I’m great at using 2, 3 and 5 in my teaching practice at the moment and I’m definitely going to utitlise the “3-2-1” method of reflection in number 6. Lately I’ve been asking, ‘What’s one thing you’ve learnt or gotten better at today?’ and this would take that to another level, I think.

I also remember a teacher using number 7 a lot when I was in Primary School. We would try to beat each other to finish her sentence. Funny. What’s something you’re already using and also, what would you like to use in your class a little more?

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So you’re Team Teaching now, are you?

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 10.16.23 pmOur school has been working in Team Teaching pairs now for the best part of a year. It’s been so successful and beneficial across the board that we couldn’t imagine going back to teaching alone. We are also really pleased to see that this approach to a school structure is catching on all over the country and we’re having quite a few schools visiting to see what all the fuss is about.

Of course we’re not claiming to invent the idea of working with other teachers – my first introduction came from Jo Fothergill, a teacher from New Zealand, who spoke about her team teaching aspirations at an Educamp we hosted at our school in 2012. But we are very proud at our school of developing a whole school culture that has embraced Team Teaching as a crucial part of our shared pedagogy and learning programme.

So – why is there so much push back? I’m going to start a short series of posts that will ‘unpack’ (one of my favourite words, apparently) some of the reasons why TT gets so much resistance and also what makes it work at our school!

 

‘Engage, Empower and Enlighten’ Presentation

This is the presentation for a workshop I’m taking tonight with some Home Educators in Southland. It’s exciting to sharing with a ‘different’ crowd and one outside of my normal environment – people involved in schools. But, it’s also exciting to be sharing at tonight because our own children are taught at home and I’m sharing some links and sites that have been created by my own kids!

Please dig into the presentation and engage with the links. Most of the images are linked to the actual sites and resources that I share. This is a presentation I’m sure I’ll adapt and use a few times more!

Popplet Criteria

One of the principles of quality learning we push with our students is knowing what success looks like. We do this in quite a few ways but having a success criteria is pretty up there.

This week our classes are publishing their short stories on Comiclife, one of the student’s favourite ways to publish and share their work. This criteria below was created using Popplet. I love this tool for the following reasons.

1. You can create visually stunning posters in less time than it takes to shake a stick.

2. You can import images, links and video as well as text.

3. It is interactive but also adaptable to be static – you can export or take a screenshot and print this into a great poster for the wall.

This embeded version lets the user move it around, zoom in and out and, if there are videos they can be played within the window, too.

So far this term we have created two different posters of criteria that students can refer back to; this one and one for creating a great instructional video on Doodle Cast Pro (a great video making app). My hope is that we will create a wall of criteria that will help guide the student to success for a whole range of publishing / sharing tools they can choose.