Friday, 1 December 2017

Final Reflection SPARK MIT Inquiry 2017

This year I have been privileged to have been a member of the SPARK MIT 2017 group. Last year when I wrote my proposal for the SPARK MIT programme I initially thought that I would focus on using coding as a platform for improving critical thinking skills for my Year 7 & 8 Extension students. Little did I know that my inquiry would take a different direction at the time.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to meet with Anne Sinclair who is an education specialist. Anne introduced me to the idea of the Paideia method and Paideia seminars. Prior to this I hadn’t even heard of this concept before. I had heard about deep dialogic conversations though. I soon realised that this was a big part of the Paideia method of teaching and learning.

I was still keen to develop coding skills for my senior extension group, so I enlisted the help of Zoe from OMGTech. We focused on using the ‘Scratch’ programme to code as I thought that it would make sense to start off with something that was manageable for the students and myself. We set a goal of small groups of students creating a game with three different levels on Scratch. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to achieve this by the end of Term 1, but we did with help from Zoe. I was extremely proud of this achievement.

In term one, my Year 5 & 6 extension students were introduced to the idea of the Paideia method and Mrs Sinclair. We set goals for these students and informed them that their first Paideia seminar would be held at the end of the term. Along the way students were expected to conduct research based on the topic of ‘Pollution’ and present their findings in the form of a DLO (Digital Learning Object). They also practiced having Paideia style conversations and learnt how to express themselves verbally. Scaffolding their learning based on the Paideia method was really important at this stage.

The first Paideia seminar was held at the end of term one. The results were mixed and interesting. The seminar was filmed and analysed based on a SOLO framework. I had a fairly good idea how the seminar went as I had witnessed it firsthand, however after viewing the footage and analysing it, the results were worse than I had expected. One student had dominated the conversations far too much. Around 5 students barely contributed anything to the discussions and one student didn’t say anything at all. There was also little piggy backing, or building off the ideas of others.

New goals were set for the Year 5 & 6 Extension group after the results were shared with them. At least we could clearly identify the students who needed to participate more. As for the Year 7 & 8 Extension group, I decided that they would continue to use Scratch to code to consolidate their learning. The focus was still on creating a game, but adding on extra elements to make it more difficult and interesting.

By the end of term two, the year 5 & 6 extension students had participated in their second Paideia seminar. They also held their very own mini-production in the hall in front of the whole school. With some help from Anne Sinclair and myself the students had created their own scripts, soundtracks, dances, songs and backdrops for the production. What was amazing was that this was the first time ever that a production of that scale was fully scripted, created and performed by students. The students had plenty to talk about during the second Paideia seminar as the idea of ‘collaboration’ and ‘technology’ were two of the main themes.

The Year 7 & 8 group created their mini games on Scratch. By this stage it was clear which students had become quite skilled at using this coding programme and the few who still struggled a bit. The students were given the task of working on the ‘Beat the Goalie’ game which is set at level four of the draft technology curriculum. Most students were able to achieve at this level which was great to see.

In term three the Year 7 & 8 Extension group continued to work with Scratch but also had the extra element of working with Makey Makey kits. Their task was to create in small groups, either a game show, band or game for people with disabilities. The students enjoyed using the Makey Makey kits and their knowledge of using Scratch made this task very manageable for most students. This group also presented two workshops at this years GEGNZ student summit at Ormiston Primary.

In the third Paideia Seminar, the results showed that at least 13 out of 18 students had made an improvement in their critical thinking skills compared to the term one results which was fantastic. There are still four students who still need to shift out of the unistructural stage of SOLO. One student had not moved from the multistructural stage all year as well. Overall I am very proud of the results and can’t wait until the final Paideia Seminar.

On the last day of term three I received an email to advise me that I had been accepted into the Apple 'Women Leading Learning: Coding Summer Camp' which will be held in Sydney in January next year. I will join a group of around 50 women from Australia and NZ to take part in a three day workshop learning how to use Swift Playgrounds to teach coding to students. This is an amazing opportunity that I know I only received because of my focus on teaching coding this year. It’s amazing where a pathway may lead and the opportunities that it opens up. For myself personally this is so awesome because I get to learn about something that I am interesting in developing my own personal skills in. I will become more skilled at teaching others and I get the chance to travel overseas and meet other like minded people, which is something that I don’t do very often.

In term four I am hoping that my students get to really show off what they have learnt this year. I have kept the tasks quite simple as it is such a short term and I need to collect data quite early on this term in order to complete the academic awards list. The year 7 & 8s had to create a soundtrack on Garageband, create an original song and a short animation. They also had to demonstrate their skills combining Scratch and Makey Makey.

Overall it was a privilege to be part of this years SPARK MIT group. I'm proud of what I achieved and acknowledge that I had some great mentors in the form of Anne Sinclair, Zoe from OMGTech, Dorothy Burt, Lynne Le Gros and others to help me develop new skills and knowledge this year.