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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Let them loose – they’ll surprise you.

We help schools develop their STEM learning development with their students and teachers and one of my favourite activities is the ‘Artbot’ design challenge. It’s super low tech with simple circuitry and coloured felts and uses mostly vibration as a mechanism to drive the cup across paper to create some ‘art.’

artbot-operationMost of the time students will create something that resembles this image, especially if you frame this as a research exercise where they can research what an Artbot is.

But, given the time and space to ideate, design and redesign, students will often come up with stunning designs, completely out of the box. These students yesterday created a hand held rotating mechanism. Brilliant. I’d never seen that before.

See what happens when we allow them that time and freedom to imagine, to create, to explore. That’s what people were made to do. We were created to create.

Image above –cdn.sciencebuddies.com

Too worried to poke the bear

I came across this quote yesterday on Twitter, by @wes_kieschnick. You’d have to agree, it’s not the kind of quote I would splash on the screen of a presentation with some teachers since it’s pretty confronting.

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But it’s real, right? I saw a classroom recently that had a pile of student work sitting on the teacher’s desk. It was a pile of A4 photocopied templates where the students had ‘published’ their writing in pencil and cut out and glued a photo from the internet in the bottom corner. I write ‘published’ since you could tell that they had rubbed out their errors (that’s why it’s in pencil) to get it perfect.

dontPoke-the-bearIs that preparation for the future? Is it even the world we live in now? I’m not aware of many, outside of some classrooms, who are sharing their ideas with other on paper with pencils. There are just so many better ways out there to get a message out to people.

What kind of school are you in? How can you be a ‘bear poker?’ A change maker. I think our kids deserve it.

STEM Elements

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 7.06.59 AM.pngOne of our most popular regional events is the “STEM and Digital Technologies” workshop we offer. Teachers have a day to explore both the pedagogy of STEM and get hands on with a range of technologies, from Sphero SPRK+, to low tech gear like popsical sticks and ping pong balls! You can see a Twitter moment here which gives you a small window into the action!

This week I’ve been updating some of the material we share on the day and I’ve adjusted this graphic of the ‘STEM Elements’, based on based on the book, “STEM Lesson Essentials, Grades 3-8” by Jo Anne Vasquez, Cary Sneider, Michael Comer. STEM ELEMENTS (1)

 

These elements are a great way to make the important aspects of STEM stand out for teachers and I also encourage them to use these four elements as a planning guide when they’re preparing to engage students in STEM. When we have an empty box it forces us to fill it in! It’s a helpful way to help us engrain this thinking when we are starting out and a good technique to foster new pedagogies into our school culture.

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Here are some images from the workshop ran last Wednesday. If you’d like to host a regional STEM event at your school, or have me work exclusively with your staff, contact me here on Twitter or use the contact widget on this page.

 

Being ‘Tech Multi-Lingual’

For the last 2 years I’ve been a full time digital learning specialist. That’s a long winded way of saying I’m a technology coach in schools. It’s the culmination of having a growing interest in technology while I was a teacher, that expanded from being the school IT lead teacher, to facilitating a cluster of schools, then being full time in an itinerant role in my local city and finally, now, working full time for Using Technology Better, an international training company.

teh-1For most of this journey, especially while working in schools, you are usually locked into one technology ecosystem. Schools either adopt one platform or another and mostly since teachers (on the whole) struggle to keep up with technology as it is and the last thing we need is people on different devices confusing things. It’s also easier for the IT department or person to manage. (Let’s be honest…that’s usually the reason.)

tech pic.jpgSo I’ve spent most of my time in the Apple world, using Google and later on, Chrome Books. I dabled with Samsung phones (I loved my first S4 and the camera it had at the time) but have mostly used iPhones and Macbooks for the last 8 years. But if you saw my desk at moment – it’s a range of Apple, Microsoft and Chrome Books. And I would use most of this gear on a daily basis!

I remember a conversation with a colleague of mine, about 3 years ago. She was starting to work as a digital learning consultant and I asked which platform she used. Her reply took me back. She said they had to be ‘device agnostic.’ It just sounded plain weird! In those days you were either a PC or a Mac person. And you still hear comments like that now. I know people who won’t go near a kind of device cause it’s not from ‘their tribe’ regardless of whether it might have merit or value for what they’re trying to do.

So now, my role is to help schools learn to get the most out of whatever platform they are using. I’m currently preparing to train teachers in the Office 365 environment with Onenote and Microsoft Classroom – and these tools are amazing! I’m super impressed with the way that OneNote structures their notebooks and tabs, and connects with digital ink (the stylus and the drawing function) in a way that is so familiar to every teacher, for marking and editing student work for example.snip_20170107114317

I think, my main point here is that schools and teachers would benefit so much if the people making the decisions about what tech they use had an open mind to the range of options out there! And maybe, in the next few years we will see schools being open to having ‘the right tool for the right job’ with a range of different devices being used across the school. The days of, ‘We’re a Mac school’ or ‘We’re a Google school’ could be a thing of the past as we become ‘Tech Multi-Lingual.’

BUT –  I think I know the reasons why schools go in one direction or the other. BYOD programmes that let students bring any kind of device into classrooms with teachers who aren’t prepared for the range of tech is a recipe for disaster. What I’m advocating and talking about is a shifting world where we increasingly live and work in a shared tech space. Not most but many of us are realising the benefits of it and I think schools will shortly follow suit.

Are you seeing this in your schools?

 

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.

The Power of Video

Screen Shot 2014-08-09 at 3.13.34 pmThis week I facilitated 2 sessions at the Mediamash Workshop day in Winton. This was a teacher/student day for everyone to learn alongside each other – a powerful theme for the day in itself!

My sessions were looking at the potential for videos as a powerful tool in the learning process. In our class we recognise 3 things:

1. Today’s learners are incredible visual in the way they like to learn.
2. Outside the school environment, we often use video to learn things – from gaming walk throughs, to instructional videos for building and fixing things. So why not at school?
3. Videos can be used at lots of different stages in the learning process.

In the slides below you’ll see some examples for how we use videos before, during and after which are just ways to describe the steps our students take in our learning pathways.

The before part of the process is where flipped learning emerges. Many times this year we have had students come to a learning workshop having watched a video we provided in the pathway with a much deeper understanding of the concept or skill we are looking at. This allows us to practise, or fill in the gaps they have.
During in this sense indicates the workshops that happen with a teacher and after is where the student goes away to consolidate, clarify or create their own videos.

Make sure you click on the images and links to access the movies and sites.

**Above image sourced from http://www.visual-learners.com/image-files/models.gif

 

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!

Solo Stations and Student Agency

Within our team teaching programme we’re looking at how we can create as many opportunities for students to learn at their own pace and with the right learning goals. This, in itself, is quite a huge ask when you’re talking about 58 students and counting. 
One of our favourite tools for learners to know where their understanding is, and what to work on next, is the Solo Taxonomy model. The Solo levels are, and framed for a math’s learning goal, in a nut-shell;
Pre  Structural – I’m just starting out.
Uni Structural – I know one thing about the goal.
Multi Structural – I know three or more things about the goal but I’m not sure when or why to use them and I sometimes make mistakes.
Relational – I know three or more things about the goal and I know when and. Why to use them.
Extended Abstracted – I can teach others how to do this and I can use this goal to apply to other goals.
This year we’ve started using the Solo Taxonomy (See Pam Hook’s site for more info) to create differentiated stations within our math’s workshops. Here’s how we put the levels to use;
When we first run a workshop we work with materials and take the whole group through the learning intention and use buddies to share our ideas and work through a few problems. At the end of session we share our understanding of where our learning is at. We talk about what each Solo Level would look like and then share our understanding using hand signals. You can see some examples of the symbols here.
The next time we run the workshop we meet as a large group and quickly remind ourselves of the goal and how it works with a couple of examples. Then we show the symbols our learning is at the moment (we’re trying not to say, ‘I am….’ because it’s not US that are multi structural but our learning). This is usually quite varied with students at all stages of understanding.
Then we talk about the different stations around the room. We make sure that everyone knows where they are, what they will be doing at each station and how the will know when they can progress to the next station.
At each station we have card signs for each Solo Level that are shown in the pictures. Here’s how each station works.

1. At the Pre-Structural / Uni-structural station the students work mostly with the teacher and are scaffolded through examples with materials and lots of prompting and questioning. The focus here is helping them see some concrete solutions and touching, moving and talking with their thinking buddy.

2. The Multi-structural station has a set of written equations with at least example of how to set out the thinking involved with solving the problem. Students work with a little prompting from the teacher checking in on them occasionally and their learning is written into their books for easy reference for them and the teacher.
3. Lastly, the Relational and Extended Abstract station is where the students can have a chance to confirm that they have a solid grasp of the goal and to check and little holes they have in their understanding. We give them a word problem with the maths within it and they have to read the problem, write down the maths equation or solution to the problem and then create an ‘artifact’ of the learning that will help others learn. So far these have been posters, instructional videos like Showme or Doodle Cast Pro. 
There are three things that impress me during these workshops;

  • The students are (mostly) incredible honest about their understanding. It’s very obvious when someone is at the wrong place and their peers are very quick to help them out when they are, either with redirection or peer tutoring. For the odd one or two who constantly over estimate their understanding it’s very easy to quickly check in with them once the stations start.

  • This approach allows them to move stations when they think they are ready and is always done with some guiding from the teacher. Once they think they are ready to move they check with the teacher and we talk about why they think they are ready. It’s wonderfully fluid with some learners moving very quickly and others taking 2 or more workshops to consolidate and really gain some depth to their learning. I have seen learners move from Pre Structural to Extended Abstract in one workshop and it gives them a real tangible way to view their progress.
  • These Solo Stations make the learning visible! We can all see where our thinking is working at, where we are moving to next (literally and figuratively) and as a teacher I have a quick snapshot of where this group is currently at.

I should also mention that we run learning programmes where students are guided to make their own choices about the goals and workshops they attend. In a workshop we could have students who have been working on a goal for 2 weeks and others who arrived for the first time. The Solo Stations approach allow us to make the learning M and M – ‘meaningful and manageable.’

Our next step is to move this approach and adapt the pedagogy to other learning areas. There are advantages for workshops to remain as a large group and I’m thinking that we could set up the stations later at the end of a reading or writing workshop.
Are you catering for different learning levels and learning paces in your programme? We’d love to hear how you’re doing that.