Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Breens Intermediate.....A Great Example of Many Things

Last week I,along with the rest of the Haeata team, had the privilege of visiting Breens Intermediate for a morning. I’d read things about Breens Intermediate previously- MOE case studies, and blogs from other visitors, so I was really looking forward to the visit. My expectations were well and truly met.

Breens Intermediate is a school that has clearly reflected on what will make learning engaging for their learners, and then put in place programmes to meet these. In doing so they have transformed the practice from that traditionally often seen in Intermediates to practice that anyone wanting to operate any form of Innovative learning practice could learn things from.

Collaborative practice was strong with a group of three teachers and two teacher aides working together with the equivalent of three classes. They worked with them in various ways. One classroom block we went into had three adults in one space working mainly with individuals while another was in another space taking a group workshop. The final adult was a support adult- roaming around all five spaces that students were working in. While the students had an attachment to one whānau teacher, there was an absolute sense of the collective. Those adults were responsible for all those students. The students as a whole all belonged together, were accountable to each other and supported each other.

Students knew what they were doing and showed some amazing independence and self direction for this time of the year. Students that needed more support were more restricted in some of their choices but this was being done in a positive way instead of the negative and restrictive way Ive seen it in some schools. There was a very strong strengths-based approach being taken to both learning and people management.

Technology learning (not just digital, but all technology) was integrated back into team learning each week, both before and after technology times. Technology wasn’t just something kids went off to that was totally disconnected from the rest of their learning programmes.

Programmes were responsive with most being centred around the theme for the term, but also some stand alone curriculum learning options and an independent booklet around the school’s dispositional curriculum that students could work on at any time it fitted into their personalised weekly schedule.

While they were operating as three “small schools” within the wider school, they were also aware of the need to keep things unified as a whole school and not be three completely separate units within the bigger picture. There was a very strong dealing of whānau, and of pastoral support tied right into learning programmes. These adults know their young people really well.

We spent most of the morning with Nikki and Nathan. They talked a lot about “re-setting.”  About taking that step sideways or back when things seemed a bit wobbly and figuring what was needed to steady things and doing it. It was refreshing to hear school leaders so honest about their successes, but also about how they handle things when they go wrong as well. I loved this part of our conversations. I find sometimes, that people in ILE type learning situations schedule so much, once they are working collaboratively that they find it hard to ‘find the space” to react accordingly and be flexible with their programme when the need arises.

Student voice was clear and evident and not restricted to the traditional “student council project” that doesn’t have any significant place in the learning programme, seen so often when schools think they are doing great things with student voice. Often student voice seems to be restricted to something extra curricula rather than feeding right into learning programmes. At Breens it was all about the learning.

The learners had real input into the ‘overriding school theme for the next term, before teachers sat down to plan it as a whole school team.

I overheard a student in one room be asked by another student what to do about something. There was a very firm discussion about what needed to have been done first, and she was sent off with the message “you need to do …first. Go and find a computer and get that done and then come back to me and I will help you…”

Breens is an example of so much I believe about Innovative learning practice:
  • strengths based
  • collaborative practice
  • self direction of learners
  • strong student voice into learning programmes
  • technologies integrated across all learning
  • conceptual theme based learning over extended periods of time

Breens is a great example that Innovative Learning Practice  does not need an Innovative Learning environment built before you start it. It’s a great example that the practice is so much more important than the environment is. It’s a great example that this stuff is possible in lower decile schools, just as much as it is in higher decide schools. It’s a great example of the power and importance of reflective practice.  It’s a great example of the power of collaborative practice. It’s a great example of the flexibility needed to make learning the best it possibly can be for the learners you have in front of you. In short, it’s a great example.

Definitely a place to visit should you ever get the opportunity. 
A privilege I’m pleased I got. 

Thanks Nikki, Nathan and the whole Breens team.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

My Learning Spaces

A very late February Edblognz Challenge 

My learning space for the last 6 weeks has been really different than being in a classroom or a school. The learning space for my colleagues and I has been the city of Christchurch.

While we have an office space situated at Aranui High School and we have spent some time in there

The office at Aranui High School

We have also been out and about visiting various groups and businesses. This has helped us be aware of whats available in theca its as we move into designing learning programmes for the students who will start wiht us next year. Its also been helpful to have conversations with businesses about what they really ant form school leavers, and be privileged to see the way different businesses manage their people and their workloads.

We are so quick to fall back on the way it has always been in schools and its been a real privilege to have this time to look at possibilities out there in their real world.

We've used public spaces like libraries.....

eBOT and SLT in the Aranui Library
and we've spent time on our building site...
The Building site for Haeata Community Campus

We've travelled the city looking at street art......

We've worked in Board rooms

At Sheffield Recruitment

and visited places of technology and action

Mind lab ChCh
and played in parks and playgrounds....

Margaret Mahy Park
We've visited businesses and seen them in action.

Office space at Jade

And worked in the corners of the odd cafe or two

We've talked a lot about needing to take time to unravel our thinking, to rid ourselves of the "notion" of what "school" must 'look like," before we get into designing what it might be. (Some people call this un-schooling or de-schooling)

And so when I need to reflect, and ponder on some of the things we are seeing...and discussing....and reading....

then I can sit on my porch with this view

Or walk 3 minutes to the beach and watch the sun rise.

It is an absolute privilege to have this time and be able to work in so many different spaces. What we will be able to design  through dong this will hopefully be the school of all dreams- for teachers,  but more importantly for whānau and most importantly for the young learners who will join us in 10 months time.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Mind Lab and PTC's

Mind lab Post 10/10

The Task:
Create a blog post where you reflect on your personal 32 week learning journey through the whole postgraduate programme with regard to the 12 Practising Teacher Criteria (PTC) in e-learning.
First choose three of the criteria you have met well. Briefly give examples of these from your practice. You can also refer to previous (DCL, LDC, R&C or APC) assessments that you now have as evidence.
Then plan and justify two main goals for your future development.

Completing the postgraduate certificate in Digital and Collaborative Technology over the last forty weeks has been an absolute joy. I have loved it. I have managed the workload alongside leading a busy school and holding a reasonably heavy teaching load as well at times. I remain so glad I have done it. 

Although I have been working in the field of digital technologies for as long as possible- I remember having one of those computers that got passed for teacher to teacher each week in my very first year of teaching in 1997- I learnt something new with these papers every week. I enjoyed being forced into practically experimenting with things I might not have chosen to like robotics.

I am finding it hard to select specific PTC as I believe my involvement withe these papers have strengthened all PTC. If i had to get specific I would say Criteria 4,5 and 7. Not only was this a great way to demonstrate my commitment to my own ongoing learning, it was also a great model for others. I know that staff certainly mentioned thinking about giving up their own study but seeing me persevere with mine with everything else I had to do inspired them to keep going. I loved that the papers were freely developed enough to let us have a real input. Thanks to Tim, in the Gisborne Mindlab for being so keen to hear from us as participants and letting us contribute to sessions and lead parts that were in areas we had specific skills, knowledge and experiences. The papers all gave such worndeful examples and suggestion for promoting collaborative, inclusive environments.

Having that experience last year will be invaluable as I have moved into a new positions where as one of four learning directors, alongside a Principal, I am currently working to design a completely new curriculum for a new school beginning next year. Will definitely be aiming to develop PTC 6 as we do this. As this new school will be strongly bicultural and multicultural everything we do has both  bicultural lens and a multicultural context to it so I will also be working to develop PTC 3 and 10.

Practising Teacher Criteria
Professional relationships and professional values
Criteria 1: Establish and maintain effective professional relationships focused on the learning and well-being of all ākonga.
Criteria 2: Demonstrate commitment to promoting the well-being of ākonga.
Criteria 3: Demonstrate commitment to bicultural partnership in Aotearoa / New Zealand.
Criteria 4: Demonstrate commitment to ongoing professional learning and development of professional personal practice.
Criteria 5: Show leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning.
Professional knowledge in practice
Criteria 6: Conceptualise, plan, and implement an appropriate learning programme.
Criteria 7: Promote a collaborative, inclusive, and supportive learning environment.
Criteria 8: Demonstrate in practice their knowledge and understanding of how ākonga learn.
Criteria 9: Respond effectively to the diverse and cultural experiences and the varied strengths, interests, and needs of individuals and groups of ākonga.
Criteria 10: Work effectively within the bicultural context of Aotearoa NZ.
Criteria 11: Analyse and appropriately use assessment and information, which has been gathered formally and informally.

Criteria 12: Use critical inquiry and problem-solving effectively in their professional practice.

Using Indigenous Knowledge with Respect in Our schools

Mind Lab Post 9/10

The Task:
Create a blog post where you first share your own views on your indigenous knowledge and culturally responsive pedagogy.
Then evaluate how you or your school addresses cultural responsiveness in practice.

I have just seen the new Lee Tamahori directed movie Mahana based around a Māori whānau growing up on the East Coast in the 1960’s.  There are a number of strong messages in the movie- the connectedness and support of whānau, loyalty, hard work, the willingness to speak up when you witness injustice.

I can’t help but ponder on some of my indigenous knowledge and connect this to the movie  and then relate this to pedagogy in the classroom as I am reflecting on the movie.

I have been a strong proponent of significantly multi level classrooms for some time- not just the two years most of us have grown used to- Yr 5 & 6 or Yr 7 & 8 and then completely separate from Year 9 up. 

Sir Ken Robinson is famous for his statements around the conveyor belt of education and putting students on it based on their ‘year of manufacture.’ Instead he suggests putting learners on the learning conveyor belt based on their needs and with multiple entrances and exits. Isn’t this what Māori have always done with learning? There is a lovely scene in the movie of the whole whānau working together to clear scrub from a hill- all interdependent on each other and learning from and with each other- from the youngest child (under 10) to the kuia of the family who is 60, and every age in between.
Why don’t we capitalise on this more in our classrooms? When we put our Year 6-13 learners together in a classroom last year at Te Karaka Area School people thought we were crazy and while there were adjustments for our young people because they were so used to a system that classified them by age, they soon relaxed and all learnt together. There was a keen sense of tuakana-teina, and this wasn't always based on age. Sometimes our 17 year olds were learning from our 10 year olds and vice versa.

There is so much talk about agency in schools today. Agency for learners and agency for teachers. The movie illustrated so well the dilemma we all face between obedience and loyalty and a preparedness to speak up when we witness injustice. Learning to be great orators, to articulate themselves is a strong indigenous skill for out Māori learners and one we need to embrace in our classrooms.

Above all the movie illustrated a sense of whānau. Positive relationships are such an important core to our classrooms as well. If we can get that sense of support, that sense of loyalty into our learning environments they will be so much more enriched. It reminds me of a video taken as a Ka Hikitia illustration of one of our students where she describes the school as “one whole whānau learning together.” To me there was no higher praise or indicator of our success than that.

Wharehuia Hemara summarises some key findings in research about Māori students and the education sector in Māori Pedagogies.Traditional curricula were closely related to the spiritual, intellectual, social and physical wellbeing of the community and individual. Children and adults are at the centre of the educative process. Teaching and learning is a cooperative venture in which everyone involved learns something new. Learning is a gradual process. Learning is a mixture of formal and informal learning. IN a formal setting a small number of students are given instruction at a time. There are other adults on hand to be kaiarahi (guide) and kaitiaki (guardian).

I can’t help but reflect how like the innovative learning environment we have at Te karaka Area School this all is. A focus on te where tapa wha as a graduate profile. Teachers worked wiht students not for them or in charge of them. There were a mixture of small group formal learning workshops with small number son students while others worked on learning they co constructed with teachers, and there were always spare adults for be kaiarahi and kaitiaki. 

Involving whānau in this learning is an ongoing goal for the teachers remaining in this environment this year. I know they have already met with whānau and co-constructed with them appropriate concepts to underpin their learning for the year.


Hemara, Wharehuia. Māori Pedagogies: A View from the Literature. Wellington, N.Z.: New Zealand Council for Educational Research, 2000. Print.


An Online Ethical Dilemma in Schools

Mind lab Post 8/10

The Task:
Create a blog post where you identify an ethical dilemma in your own practice linked to digital or online access or activity. Explain the dilemma and discuss either:
how you would address the potential issue if it occurred in your own practice
or (if relevant)
an actual situation that you have knowledge of, and how it was resolved.

Teaching and leading in  small rural school has amazing rewards, but also comes with its challenges. Not only do you live closely together but in some cases many of your staff and students are related. Blanket policies about not being friends with students on social media are impossible when for some staff students are also nieces, nephews sisters and brothers.

This became a real ethical dilemma for me when leading my previous school. There was no way I was going to tell staff they couldn’t be friends with students on social media, especially their own relatives. So this posed its own dilemna. How did we keep the school safe? How did we keep staff safe? How did we keep students safe?

The basic solution was conversations about appropriateness and around common sense and then using initiative. Coming to see me if they were unsure whether something crosse the boundary lines or not. It was good that I was in a position that most staff also trusted me as Principal and most were happy to have me be friends with them on their pages. This meant if I saw something that I thought overstepped the bounds I could also initiate a conversation about it. (I actually only had to do that twice in five years.)

I witnessed on many occasions the fact that teachers presence as  ‘friend’ on Facebook led to situations where teachers developed an awareness of developing situations outside of school that could have tremendous social and emotional impact in school and for learning. Because of their awareness of issues they are able to address those issues as they were developing ratchet than coming in to try and mop up a situation after it had happened- as often happens when social incidents outside of school bubble over into school.

In another context it may be totally inappropriate for teachers to be friends wiht students on Facebook. But once again, I don’t think we can make blanket decisions and statements about this. It is contextual and dependent on so much more than a a guidebook. What is most important is both that we all keep safe and that we find every opportunity to help our young people deal with something that will always be in their lives.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Social Media in Teaching and Learning

Mindlab Post 7/10

The Task:
What are some key features of social media that you have identified as beneficial for teaching and learning?
What are potential challenges that teachers need to be aware of when integrating social networking platforms into teaching activities?
What social media platform do you feel best supports engagement with your professional development? Why?
How do/would you use social media to enhance your professional development?

It intrigues me when I hear people talking about keeping the world of social media away form teaching and learning.  Probably in the same way that it intrigued people years ago when schools let fountain pens be used instead of slate, or half a century ago when ballpoint pens were seen to be the scourge of modern education as they took over for fountain pens.

Social media is the world we live in now. We know the news as it happens. When we went into lock down at a school this week and the loudspeaker told us to remain in our rooms wiht no further information, as adults we went straight to twitter and news apps on our mobile phones to see if the world outside knew what was happening. Of course this requires some critical thinking skills. The ‘news’ spread on social media is often rumour based. But I’ve seen some pretty big assumptions in print media over the last few months too. Of course we need to teach critical literacy skills. And those skills need to take higher priority in our teaching programmes than some of the content and skills of the past. 

I wrote in a previous post about the power twitter has given me personally in my professional learning over the last couple of years. I have connected with people locally, nationally and globally. I have learnt new things through reading others thoughts and the links they publish. My professional learning was broadened extensively- it was no longer dependent on the people geographically close to me and the face to face events I could afford to get to. Twitter with it’s 140 character restrictions has shaped me into a better writer. I have found participating in twitter chats and having to figure out what I really believe as part of conversations in 140 characters or less great for sharpening my meta-cognitive skills.

I belong to educator Facebook groups, and occasionally look at stuff that comes up on my feed. I know some of the teacher Facebook groups are a great source of inspiration and help to some teachers. I also know there has been some powerful conversations about the content some teachers put on them- theres been a lot of learning about copyright and about appropriateness of comments, requests for support and offers of help. Again some real learning about where professional boundaries are. I personally have some real concerns about the support some of these teachers are getting in their schools when they have to ask for the kid of support they ask for ut at least it is an avenue for that.

The brevity of twitter was also great when I used it in a classroom for reflections. We asked learners to reflect using a format- rating their  focus level, one thing they had learnt ir developed and a feeling word as they left class. By standing t the door and farewelling learners with your phone you could see if they had tweeted- no collecting in of books etc. And then you could reply to tweets you wanted clarification for, like things and even retweet things for other learners to see.

I’ve seen Facebook used successfully on classrooms to share learning- with each other and with whānau. Its immediacy for giving peer feedback is great, and its yet another opportunity to teach digital literacy and cyber awareness through authentic tasks when you set up agreed collective understandings about what feedback is appropriate.

Ive heard significant arguments for and against teachers being ‘friends’ with students on social media platforms. And I’m undecided on this myself. However I have seen some great teaching of cyber safety cyber awareness and digital literacy through this. Teachers becoming aware of escalating issues and being able to become part of helping young people deescalate and work towards solving issues rather than making them worse. I’ve seen teachers work through Facebook statements with young people that they have then decided to remove and hopefully gradually learn not to posit any more. If those teachers hadn’t been ‘friends’ with those students online they would not have been aware of those escalating issues.

Of course teachers also need to keep themselves and young people safe so this needs some robust discussion and agreements but let’s personalise those discussions and agreements. What is appropriate in one context may not be in another. 

And let’s not put our heads in the sand and think that our young people are going to learn to use social media effectively and with respect by banning it from the place they spend so much of their time. We are only banning effective learning opportunities.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Learning From the Journey of Other Schools

I'm sitting on a plane flying back to Christchurch, after three busy, tiring, exhausting yet inspiring and exhilarating days.

I think we've all learnt, been challenged and been affirmed at different times over the last three days. We've been simultaneously scared by the journey ahead but at the same time excited by the immense privilege and trust placed in us by our eBOT to develop Haeata Community Campus over this year so that it is indeed a superb place of being and learning for the young people who choose to be on this journey with us from next year. 

In these few days we've visited secondary, primary, senior secondary schools and a school with special designated character.

The thing that stood out the most was the manaakitanga shown by all schools. The way they made us feel welcome and the way they all encouraged us to have continuing and ongoing further dialogue with them. That it's not a one-off but the start of an ongoing relationship we have begun with each of them. The willingness with which they all shared their journeys- both the successes and the pitfalls was inspiring and we can only endeavour to repeat the same for people who come to visit us and learn from our journey in the future.

All schools are different, all are designed to meet the specific needs of a specific community. I guess one of the things that struck us was the deliberateness with which decisions-not just about learning, but about everything in a school are made. I know new schools have a lot of advantage and privilege in the decisions they make and the practices they develop, but it is also demanding and hard work. The deliberateness of decisions around learning linking back to core vales and principles of each learning community struck us in all the schools we visited.

What's happening out in edu-land at the moment can be truly invigorating. There is brave courageous unwavering work being done by unrelenting tireless advocates for improving the learning landscape for all young people. We've met a few of the brave and courageous people out there breaking down barriers and inspiring learning in some imaginative, different and innovative ways this week. It can be lonely work. It's definitely hard work. It can be polarising work and it's very nature often attracts criticism and detractors. But, oh the satisfactions and rewards as well.  I know for me personally, the opportunity to be helping to develop a new school for the second time in my professional journey is an immense privilege. I am looking forward to seeing what we develop together as a team, even more after what we've seen in the last few days.

Thanks to Hobsonville Point Secondary, Hobsonville Point Primary, Stonefields, Albany Senior High School and Kia Aroha College. You all shared your stories so willingly with us. And you gave up so much time to be with us, to talk with us and to discuss with us.
We appreciate it. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Collaborative Practice-Starting It Again

Mindlab Post 6/10  Part B

Create a blog post where you identify and evaluate two contemporary issues or trends that are influencing or shaping NZ or international education, which you find most relevant to your practice.
Elaborate in your own words how you would address those issues or trends in your context within your learning community or professional context. 

Collaborative practice is definitely a  trend influencing New Zealand education at the moment. I have written about this on more than one occasion- examples here (teaching) and here (leading).

Although some of the other concepts of Innovative Learning Environments are taking a little longer to embed, one of the central concepts of collaboration- whether this is teachers working together with larger numbers of students, or leadership being distributed using some very non traditional leadership structures- seems to be taking hold across the country with so much deeper collaboration evident than fifteen years ago when I started working singininfcatly with others to deliver curriculum and leadership. See a post here referring to practice in the early 2000's.

I have been working with teachers to develop their collaborative practice in order to provide a more effective learning experience for their students for many years now. I see so much more willingness and expertse in doing so than I did even five years ago. 

As I now work with a new group of people its important to remember some of those lessons as we develop a way of working that works for us as a team. And and as we very soon look to bring 50 teachers into that new team and put them into a place where they will have to practice collaboratively with strangers from Day 1 in order to set up our new school it will be important to revisit those lessons, to give them time to understand the concept of collaboration before they figure out how to manage and organise for leaning within the new parameters we will all have next time.

The thought is a little scary but a lot exciting!