Monday, 15 May 2017

SPARK MIT Meeting #2

Today was our second SPARK MIT meeting at SPARK Headquarters. We talked about where we were all up to in terms of our inquiry focus. I talked about my inquiry focus which is all about improving critical thinking skills through the use of 'deep dialogical discussions' with the Year 5 & 6 Extension group. I also talked about the use of 'coding' with the Year 7 & 8 Extension group to extend their thinking skills.



When I reflect upon my experience during term one, I consider myself really lucky to have had the guidance, help and support from Anne Sinclair who has been like a mentor teacher. The Year 5 & 6 students were extremely lucky to have the attention of two teachers throughout the term to help guide them with their learning. Teaching students how to hold deep dialogic discussions was something new for me. By the end of the term I could see how most of them had developed their skills in speaking and holding a conversation with others based on a topic. With some prior knowledge and background research (including lots of scaffolding),  most of the students could talk about their position/stance about an issue (pollution) much more deeply. We gave them an opportunity to reflect on the Paideia Seminar that was held at the end of the term, and most students were able to recognise and reflect on the areas that they needed to work on.

In terms of coding with the Year 7 & 8 group I am also grateful for the help that I received from Zoe from OMGTech. I don't think we would have made as much progress with their games as we did if she hadn't been there for support, advice and guidance. It would have been a very stressful process to try and get the students games completed on Scratch (in time for the cluster exhibition) without her help. The students also learnt many new technical skills along the way. I felt that it was a huge learning curve for me as my knowledge about coding was quite limited earlier in the year.

During our meeting we also talked about the 'innovation' aspect of our inquiries. My innovation is around the use of a range of tools to collaborate with and capture evidence of student learning and collaboration. I have used padlets, shared docs, google slides, a survey (google form), movies (vignettes) and my site (Creative Space) to capture evidence of learning and collaboration. This forms part of a bigger question which was how to assess and measure learning with these students based on my inquiry. What evidence did I have? Monitoring and assessing some of the Key Competencies would also be important. Using surveys to capture evidence of student attitudes towards their learning was considered. I also needed to consider how to get the home class teacher (of the student) to take notice of what the extension kids are doing.

We also had the opportunity to meet with our SPARK buddy. Today I met with Tracy who is a lawyer at SPARK. Tracy has previously been a teacher so we had a very interesting conversation about my inquiry and how she could help support me this year.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Coding - Scratch Games shared at Te Oro

Our Manaiakalani group of schools in Auckland, NZ have been learning about how we can take care of our local environment. The theme was 'Te Taiao o Tamaki'. On Wednesday 12th of April our Manaiakalani Cluster of Schools held an exhibition at Te Oro to celebrate a term of learning about the environment. You can view highlights from the exhibition on this link

At Pt England school our theme for the year is 'Responsiblity'. In term one we have focused on 'Kaitiakitangi i nga wa katoa' which is about taking care of our environment and everything in it. The Year 7 & 8 Extension group used Scratch to create games about our local environment. 

This is the first time that many of our students have used Scratch. This was a great platform to learn how to code using blocks (lines of code) rather than text. The backgrounds are of our school, local reserve and beach. The exhibition at Te Oro was an opportunity for our Year 7 & 8 Extension students to share their learning this term. The 'Game Space' area was very popular with students at the exhibition. 

Link to the students games



Scratch Games at Te Oro - Manaiakalani Cluster Exhibition 2017 from SchoolTV on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Deep Dialogic Discussions - First Paideia Seminar 2017

Today we held the first ever Paideia seminar for our Year 5 & 6 Extension students. The Paideia method is based on the idea of having deep dialogic discussions and is sort of a Socrates based philosophy around discussion to share ideas. The students had plenty of support during the lead up to this seminar. Earlier this term they began to learn how to disagree agreeably, listen to what others had to say and think about how to share their ideas based around an issue. The main topic was based around our school wide theme for the term - ‘Kaitiakitanga i nga wa katoa’ and about caring for our environment.

During the term the students practiced arguing their point of view about an issue. We were lucky to have the guidance and support of Anne Sinclair who helped throughout the term. Later they were put into groups to talk about the issue of pollution.

The five main groups were: Conservationists, Caretakers, Birds/Eels, Children, and the Maori Tribe. Each group had to research from the perspective of these groups and find relevant information to support their ideas.
Once each group collected their research they began to create DLO’s to share their information. One group decided to create a play and filmed down at the local creek. Others decided to create mini documentaries. These movies will be shared on their blogs and on PENN.

Today’s panel discussion was the culmination of the students research and work around the issue of pollution. The room was setup to create the atmosphere of a conference. Students in each group received lollies as a form of token. Each student could eat a lolly once they had shared their thoughts. Everyone was encouraged to speak, share and respond.



I noticed that the students were quite shy to begin with. Further into the seminar the students began to gain confidence and were more willing to participate and speak up. One student in particular needed to be reminded to let others speak as this person tended to dominate the conversations.

Overall I think that the seminar was very successful. I am proud of what the students have achieved. It reinforced the knowledge that we have some very bright students in this group. However a couple of students still need to learn how to listen and give others a chance to share. A few students also need to be more prepared, or have more courage to share their ideas.


Our reflection will look at:
  1. How are we going?
  2. What worked well?
  3. Where are we going?  
  4. What could we improve?
  5. Where to next?


For a first time in Stage 1 of the Paideia Seminar the students did so well. We can ask them these questions as well and also what they would like to see and what ‘rules’ we could use, eg:
  • Only one person talks at a time
  • Respect the speaker
  • Give others a chance to speak
  • Look at the person you are talking to or asking a question of
  • Say their name when you ask them a question or challenge an idea
  • Be supportive of others and help them to participate
  • Be prepared
  • Expand on the discussion ideas next time using the prompts
  • Extend the discussion


Paideia Seminar Term 1 from SchoolTV on Vimeo.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Inquiry Focus 2017 - Term 1 Findings



Today during our staff meeting we broke off into our collaborative groups to share our findings so far for our inquiry focus. This is a summary of my inquiry findings this term.

Year 5 & 6 Extension: Focus on deep dialogic discussions (Paideia method)
Year 7 & 8 Extension: Focus on coding using Scratch

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Coding and OMGTech

The Year 7 & 8 Extension students were lucky enough to receive support in the form of Zoe and Alex from OMGTech to help with their projects on Scratch. Their knowledge and support was invaluable and helped the students to make headway with their projects. First they introduced themselves, described their backgrounds and then explained the basics of using Scratch. Later they worked with the students and helped them to problem solve and deal with issues regarding their games.

OMGTech visit Part 1 from SchoolTV on Vimeo.


Monday, 27 February 2017

Inquiry Focus 2017



Today during our staff meeting we broke off into collaborative groups to introduce and discuss what our inquiry focus was for the year. Many teachers are focusing on an aspect of Maths since that is what our school wide inquiry is based on. It was interesting to see where teachers were at in terms of their inquiry and to listen and share ideas with each other.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Paideia

What is Paideia?

The Paideia method is a way of providing deep dialogic discussions. Its origin stems back to Socrates, the Greek philosopher. It involves having to have a talk about something that is very topical that requires you to research, think about things in a much deeper way, to struggle with ideas, look at alternatives and different ways of approaching something. It pushes students to look at multiple perspectives, challenge those perspectives, and justify why they took those perspectives.

The year 5 & 6 students got the chance to work with Anne Sinclair this week who is an expert in the field of education. They were introduced to the Paideia method which is a way of learning that can provide opportunities for deep dialogic discussions. This process will hopefully improve the communication and critical thinking skills of the students. A set of mini tasks were provided that enabled students to work in small groups and to think about the issues surrounding a statement or image.

This was one example:


Students were expected to think, talk with others and provide reasons for their thinking. They had to justify their thinking and needed to be able to communicate their ideas with others. They also learnt how to listen and respond effectively, as well as how to disagree agreeably. During this task I noticed that some students were more vocal than others. A few would dominate most of the conversations and the majority seemed to hold back and were reluctant to share their ideas. The next step would be to find ways to encourage the others to participate and share their thoughts. So far the activities have been interesting, but I would like to see other students gaining the confidence to speak their mind.

Monday, 20 February 2017

SPARK MIT 2017

I have the privilege of being a member of the SPARK MIT group in 2017. My initial proposed inquiry was: How to improve problem solving and critical thinking skills through use of coding and robotics?’


Today we met for the first time as a group at SPARK Headquarters in Auckland City. We also met with Lynne Le Gros (SPARK Foundation) and her team. Our first task was to identify and share what our problem was regarding our inquiries. Then we brainstormed lots of different hypotheses for why the problem was occurring and shared these with the group.



After quite a bit of thinking and discussion around our inquiries I have decided to alter my inquiry proposal to: ‘How to improve critical thinking skills through the use of code and deep dialogic discussions?’


After looking at some of the recent PAT and STAR data from the Year 7 & 8 Extension group, I have found that the majority of our extension students are not achieving above the national norm in literacy. Most are achieving at the national standard (between stanines 4 - 6), but these are our brightest students in their cohort who should be striving to achieve well above the national mean.


The following is a list of hypotheses:


  • The majority of our extension students are not achieving above the norm in literacy (PATs and STAR) because they need to develop critical thinking skills
  • Students need to be encouraged/pushed to grapple with harder concepts to extend their thinking
  • Need to be exposed to a range of texts - multi-modal/wider and deeper
  • Need to learn to question/argue/challenge/build on thinking and expressing of ideas
  • Need to close the gap in knowledge and experience between students who know how to code and those who don’t
  • Must make sure that learning is visible, and that students have access to resources and exemplars
  • Students need to be taught how to use thinking tools more effectively e.g. SOLO
  • Students need to know what next level looks like - expectations
  • Students need more support from home to extend learning at home
  • Students need to have access to their own data - to reflect, set next learning goals
  • More student ownership/empowerment of learning is needed
  • We need to find ways to raise the ceiling in student achievement at school




I am looking forward to another year with the SPARK MIT group.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Year 7 & 8 Coding Survey

Since the focus this year will be about learning how to use code to improve the students critical thinking skills, they were giving a survey to complete which was about coding. Although there are 18 students in the group, there were only 14 responses as some students were away. Here were some of the results from the survey.


  • For the question: What is coding? - Most of the students responded by ticking the box that said coding is about writing a set of instructions for a computer to follow. 
  • 100% of the students agreed that students should be taught how to code. 
  • Most had used coding programmes such as code.org, code combat and Scratch before. Not many had used Khan Academy or other sites. 
  • I'm not sure if the students understand what the types of coding languages there are e.g. html, Javascript, Python etc.
  • Most were unsure if they had the skills to teach others how to code. 
  • Most have used a coding programme for 2 years or less. 
  • Most agreed that code.org was a good coding programme to use for students because it is a good site for beginners. 
  • Most agreed that learning how to code would help to improve their thinking skills. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Deep Dialogic Discussions - Paideia Practice Task

This movie shares some highlights from one of the Paideia practice tasks that the students had to work on. Anne Sinclair (teacher mentor) facilitates the discussion and guides the students through the process of learning how to have deep dialogic discussions (Paideia method). Students take turns to talk about a subject and explain why they think the way they do. The other students practice listening and responding to what is being said. Prior to the discussion taking place, students were presented with a list of issues. They had to decide on which issue was the most important for them to focus on immediately. Many students were hesitant to share their ideas and it was clear that a few students tended to dominate the discussion.







Paideia 14 Feb 17 from SchoolTV on Vimeo.