Tuesday, February 23, 2016

GenZ - They're in your classroom right now!

Why are some students not engaged in class? Are they not wired to learn? Does what we teach have relevance? have context? Are we connecting then to the content? Because for them context and connection are everything!

Characteristics of Gen Z

  • Have never known a world without the Internet or cell phones.
  • Tend to text instead of talk face to face.
  • Require constant and immediate feedback.
  • Are globally aware.
  • Are independent learners and self directed.
  • Have a sense of entitlement.
  • Are collaborative.
  • Are tech savvy.
  • Expect flexibility.
  • Make instantaneous plans and commitments.
  • Smart! Able to process massive amounts of information and new knowledge quickly.
  • Know that learning and new knowledge can be found ‘everywhere’, and so, may question the traditional hierarchical role of ‘knowledge holder’.
  • Sourced from Core Ed blog post by Janelle Riki-Waka
  • Check out her blog post about the Gen Z kids in our classes

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Power of Teacher-Driven PD

Remember the last time someone recommended a good book, a movie or shared a great recipe with you. We are much more likely to act on a personal recommendation from a friend or colleague regarding trying something new, than on one from a stranger or so called "expert" who tells us what we should be doing.

I think this is one (of several) reasons so many teachers feel that Professional Development(PD) is something that is "done to them". And I think this is why getting good  teacher-led or teacher driven PD is so important This comes in several forms, from department sharing, small PLGs  (Professional Learning Groups) within a school with a specific focus,  to specific workshops lead by facilitators  and also teach meets, eduignite evenings, educamps and of course the varied Twitter chats linked by hashtag. In Australia #aussied, here in NZ, a fantastic example is #edchatnz started by  Danielle Myburgh @MissDtheteacher. This culminated in a very successful Edchat conference in August 2014. There are now numerous Twitter "teacher chats" happening around the world every day/night. In NZ there is #scichatnz or  #BFC630NZ for example.

Let's be honest, PD is something that needs to be undertaken in schools due to the very nature of our profession. The introduction of NCEA, alignment of standards, Literacy or technology initiatives, changes in Govt policies all require us to up skill as professionals.
However, it is not always a case of one size fits all or that all who need PD want it, or who want PD are able to get it. In this case I am referring to departmental or school PD budgets and policies. It is not always possible for all teachers who want to attend out-of-school sessions to go, even though attending workshops or conferences would be of great benefit professionally. personally and obviously to the school.
So why is self-directed PD beneficial to teachers? It is about striving to find new knowledge that 
makes sense to you, answers your questions, solves a problem and it is also about teachers making connections and moving outside their classroom door.  It may only be a  Saturday morning to attend
an Educamp or a Sunday morning to listen to Michael Fullan.  Perhaps it is reading a book written about teaching and learning that inspires a teacher, what ever it is sometimes that inspiration is all that is needed to make a change and that is the key. "Change is not hard. it is uncomfortable"  Grant Lichtman.  Changing how we teach and what we teach is what we need to be doing, if we are preparing our students for their future.

I think this is where teacher- chosen PD can fill the gaps as well as allow those teachers who wish to share their knowledge or who want to up skill in some way, to be involved. Whole staff PD, in the stuffy staffroom, after school, during the week reports are due is not ideal PD. So how can we do better?

Small groups/workshops that teachers have chosen to attend where a  facilitator or colleague shares resources or skills are much more beneficial. Can the workshop be linked to a personal or professional goal. Can  the skills or knowledge be used directly in the classroom. Can this be linked to and used as evidence for teacher registration. Another way is choosing professional learning that has a clear link or context to what you are doing( or want to do) in your classroom, once you have that "new learning".

I have been involved in running techie brekkies, lunchtime drop-in sessions, after school "PD",  educamps and day long workshops. And I have attended fantastic teacher-led sessions at NZATE conferences and ULearn. And there are great opportunities to share at Educamps and Eduignite events. In my job I run PD for teachers and as I plan these sessions with my colleagues, I am always mindful of walking in the shoes of those busy teachers who have set relief, have marking and or reports to do, an assessment due etc. I want to make sure that they get bang for their buck. Or as close to it as I can get!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How can we make our learners at the centre, give them more agency and include all learners

Learners at the centre

The Nature of Learning - OECD report
- I read this booklet at the end of last year and I started to think about
students I had taught .  The book highlights 7 key principles of learning.

  1. Learners at the centre - self directed learners
  2. The social nature of learning - co-operative/collaborative learning
  3. Emotions are integral to learning - positive beliefs of self as learner
  4. Recognizing individual differences -prior knowledge important, 
  5. Stretching all student- programmes that demand hard work and challenge
  6. Assessment for learning - clarity of expectations
  7. Building horizontal connections- community-global
The key take away is for me is to start thinking about the all  learners being at the centre, it's not about the teacher being the "sage on the stage".  And that as teachers we need to ensure that the 
conditions in our classes will help all learners achieve to their potential. The poster below says it 
all. We just can't expect to turn up and teach the same way we have for 20 years.

21st Century learners need 21st century teaching and  learning environments, "we need to redesign learning environments that harness the potential of digital technologies in a knowledge-based economy to develop 21st century learning competencies for our learners."  Nature of Learning 

Another concept that has made me reflect on what and how I teach is  UDL- Universal Design for Learning. Both colleagues Chrissie Butler and Lynne Silcock have presented workshops at team Hui and have shared ways we can use these principals in working with akonga. For me the image below
says it all. We need to teach to include those at the edges, not just the ones in the middle.  

This concept has changed my practice in two ways. I have changed how I prepare for my workshops-
I will send out a pre-workshop survey, send an outline of the day by email, participants are shared in to the presentation at the start of the day, videos are enabled to have subtitles, there are handouts for those who prefer a paper copy, seating is flexible.

When talking to teachers about their students,  I am aware of the impact of UDL and how making some small changes can make a difference to students and their learning. In a recent conversation with a teacher, she told me about a student who found verbal instructions a challenge. I suggested she print out a copy of the instructions so the student could have a paper copy to refer to. And why not print out another larger copy and put on the wall  for any other student that might find reading or re-reading the instructions useful.  While it seems obvious to me now, I know that many teachers do not
think about this aspect with regard to their students. This is one concept that we share in our work with schools

Link to Tātaiako : Manaakitanga