Sunday, 3 March 2019

Teacher Professional Learning and Development [BES] and my Raranga Matihiko facilitation

I felt the need to re-read Teacher Professional Learning and Development to ensure that my understanding of effective professional learning and my practice as Raranga Matihiko facilitator are on the same page. Integrating with this my trusted Golden Circle approach, I need to start with the Vision: Why are we doing this?, followed by the How are we doing this?, and finally What are we doing?

My personal professional vision has long been to provide the learners in Northland, despite their geographical isolation, their socio-economic background and any other 'challenges', with the best learning opportunities, on par with - or even beyond - what their city peers experience. 'Learners' of any age, students and teachers and school leaders and whānau etc. In the Raranga Matihiko context we are providing a PLD programme to a teacher and their class, supporting them to become experts and share their learning with others in their school and community. I have often thought of the impacting on one person, or a group of people, who then have an impact on others like the ripple effect on the water: You drop a pebble onto the water, and the rings spread out from there; so our Raranga Matihiko programme becomes the pebble, and their sharing of expertise is like the ripples. We want to be one of the factors that allow those ripples to travel further.
My explicit vision for Raranga Matihiko is to support teachers (and school leaders) to provide effective and integrated learning opportunities to their learners which allow them to develop their competence in regards to Digital Technology Hangarau Matihiko. We go about this by providing teachers from selected schools with information about the added DT HM content, show them how to integrate this with other learning area and model learning experiences with them & their learners, utilising the collections at Waitangi as well as the digital technology available within our Raranga Matihiko lab. [Thanks to that German upbringing I can construct rather complex sentences lol].

How does the way we facilitate our programme fit with effective PLD as synthesised by Timperley, Wilson, Barrer & Fung 2007? 
Most of the following quotes are from 11.3 bringing it all together, chapters for other quotes as indicated.

The authors note: "In the few studies that provided evidence of sustained, substantive students outcomes, we found that the professional development had equipped teachers with a strong theoretical base that served as a tool to make principled changes to practice..." (my emphasis). We encourage our teachers to attend our Teacher Planning Day (and we try to make attending easier by the programme paying for their teacher release if required). During that day we go over the new DT HM curriculum content in quite some detail, and we encourage teachers to do a similar activity with their colleagues back at school. Teachers who can't attend that day are invited to come on a different day, observe a class in the lab at Waitangi and then stay on after that class finishes to go through a condensed version of the TPD incl. collaborate programme planning. All teachers are provided with a copy of the new DT HM content via the shared Google Drive. During the work with the class I try to make a point to refer back to the curriculum content in conversation with the teacher, point out where students are demonstrating their competence regarding an aspect of a Progress Outcome and / or how the teacher might want to build on this in class.

Further on, the authors write: "The most successful interventions allowed teachers considerable autonomy to develop teaching programmes within the constraints of agreed theories and possible solutions" (my emphasis). We invite the teachers to fully co-construct their class' Raranga Matihiko programme with us, but the reality is that while they provide us with their inquiry project and desired learning outcomes, it is mainly us facilitators who come up with the final programme, keeping in mind not only our DT expert knowledge but also our understanding of other constraints like time, number of devices available etc. - and so far all teacher seem to have been happy with that. The programmes teachers implement in their classrooms from there are fully under the discretion of the teacher. If we had more time available, I would love to open up the planning of the RM sessions to more input from the teacher and would like to support the teachers more with the implementation in their classrooms.

I completely agree with this statement in the final conclusions: "Ongoing engagement of this kind requires a purpose" (my emphasis) - in fact I believe that any worthwhile learning needs some purpose, leading to some sort of outcome. Timperley et. al. 3.1 Determining student outcomes talk about "...academic, social, personal or performance outcomes". For me, the purpose of professional learning might be to influence students' academic, social, personal or performance. Beyond that, we have anecdotally noted an very high level of student engagement in our Raranga Matihiko classes, and increased engagement often supports other desired outcomes. In my opinion, the fact that DT HM is compulsory to be taught in NZ schools from 2020 is not enough of a purpose in itself, the teachers need to see how the inclusion of this new content will benefit students.

The biggest challenge for myself as facilitator is provided by the following statement (final paragraph of 11.3 Brining it all together): "A key finding of the synthesis has been that teachers need to have time and opportunity to engage with key ideas and integrate those ideas into a coherent theory of practice" (my emphasis). Teachers (and RM facilitators...) are notoriously time poor; however, by this PLD programme running concurrently with the teacher and the students, integrating with their regular inquiry project, I hope it is less of an add-on and therefore allows the teacher the time to engage with the ideas. By modelling in context with their students while the teacher observes and supports the RM facilitators, we try to show the integration of the new learning (integrating the new curriculum content with other learning), hoping to make it easier for teachers to implement this into practice back in the classroom.

There are some areas I don't feel my practice measures up yet:

Learning as Inquiry
Timperley et. al. talk about "... professional, self-regulated learning. [...] self-regulated learners can answer three questions: 'Where am I going?', 'How am I going?', and 'Where to next?'" as the conditions evidenced in studies of Professional Learning that led to sustained, substantive student outcomes. For me this sounds like Teaching as Inquiry, a vital part of professional practice for many NZ educators. I particularly like this spiral interpretation of the process by Timperley, Kaser & Halbert 2014:

I don't think that I have talked with teachers enough yet how their participating in the Raranga Matihiko programme fits with their professional inquiry, or how it could be part of a professional inquiry. I need to reflect more on how I can facilitate such conversations.

Where to next?
Directly taken from above quote, I have been worried about not providing teachers with enough guidance myself about the 'where to next'. However, in reflection I have come to the conclusion, it is not about me giving them with the where to, it is about directing them to places where they can learn about the 'where to next', such as Kia Takatū ā-Matihiko etc. As per my previous post, I still somewhat mourn the loss of a commonly-used and central online platform dedicated to learning and teaching around digital technology. We are still working on providing some sort of online platform/resource that can support teachers with their journey.

School Leaders
"Leaders had an active role to play in re-culturing their school so that they became evidence- informed"; while I have met some of the principals on the class visit to Waitangi or during our school visits, I have not had an in-depth conversation with most of them. Can I assume that they are behind and driving the integrated learning we are promoting with Raranga Matihiko? Again, more reflection on my part required...

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Digital Technology Hangarau Matihiko - are we there yet, and how will we get there?

Sometimes it can be a challenge to swap different hats; there is my hat as Raranga Matihiko facilitator, funded to provide PLD under Digital Technology Equity for All; there is my hat as former / not currently active Digital Fluency Facilitator; yet another hat wanting to make sure our young people (especially the one in my local rohe, Te Tai Tokerau) receive the best possible education to be set up for a successful, fulfilled, happy life - and then there is a few others. This is post is to gather my thoughts, to put out there what I know, to ask questions of others.

PS: Having just read the post over to the end, it might show my ignorance of what is going on, my lack of time to go deeper but hopefully also the passion I have for getting this right; but if I don't know and don't have enough time, how many of our local teachers do???

We are a couple of weeks into our second year of the Raranga Matihiko programme. I am very happy with the programme we are running, I feel we are facilitating lots of innovative learning with the enrolled class in our rōhe. We continue to run our programme for classes in their first year with us mainly within Designing and Developing Digital Outcomes (DDDO), with a preference for one collaborative project across the class, combing a range of tools with the final product often housed within Tiltbrush. For schools in the second year of the programme we focus on Computational Thinking (CT), and given that many of our schools currently focus on Whanaungatanga, over the last week we had several classes beginning to code their pepeha within Scratch: They design a suitable backdrop (using tools such as Paint 3D), they design their Sprite (e.g. within Paint 3D decorate a 3D person and save as image with transparent background), and then they code within Scratch their person moving around the backdrop and sharing their pepeha. This idea could be applied across a range of topics and using a number of suitable coding programmes (see Progress Outcome 2 "... in age-appropriate programming environments.")

I think it is time to look at the bigger picture; I absolutely believe that skills and knowledge gained from learning with in DT HM are vital for our young people in Aotearoa New Zealand. We are now less than a year off from it being compulsory for NZ schools to teach the additional DT content that's been added to the NZC [Note: I am only referring the the NZC as I am not yet confident enough in my knowledge of TMoA to comment on HM within that context]. Where does it all fit in? What is it all about? And who is going to teach it...

Mark Grams from MoE gave a presentation at our recent Raranga Matihiko Hui; he reassured me that we are still talking about e-Learning (under effective Pedagogy in the NZC) as well as Digital Fluency as well as DT HM. [I just realised that I have been a Blended e-Learning Facilitator, then I became an accredited Facilitator for Digital Fluency, and now I deliver PLD for DT HM - I'm still pondering if that makes me feel good or simply old lol]. There are a number of initiatives out there schools and individual teachers can access to up-skill themselves - I came across this post by Arnika MacPhail on LinkedIn the other day:

I feel a bit out of touch with what is going on in the schools in my area outside the classes I work with - by their nature, these classes and their teachers are engaged with digital technologies (if they were not before, they certainly are while they are with us). What is happening out there? Do schools understand what the curriculum addition contains? Do teachers have the confidence yet to engage with this content and incorporate it into their learning programmes? Somehow I am reminded of the introduction of  'the new curriculum' in the late 1990s and the introduction of Key Competencies incl. Using language, symbols and text. When I think of how I had a teacher calling it 'the new curriculum' (in quite an off-handish way) less than 5 years ago, I wonder how long will it take us to fully integrate this new content into learning programmes? There have been so many changes for teachers in the last few years, many will feel there is yet another thing added to their workload. How can we as the education community of Aotearoa New Zealand and how can the Ministry of Education / the government ensure that our learners are getting the best learning in this as in all other areas of NZC to set them up for their successful future? I want to look at a few options here and ask questions about others.

Raranga Matihiko (shameless self-advertising)
The Digital Technology Equity of All fund we operate under focuses on Decile 1-3 schools and on Kura Kaupapa Māori. I absolutely love that we are able to work not just with teachers but also with their students; 31 pairs of eyes see more and 31 heads remember more, than one set of eyes and one head (one of the reasons why in my past roles as facilitator I would go into classrooms and model). Within Raranga Matihiko there is a strong drive to apply DT in an inquiry context the school has chosen, so we try to make it as relevant to the learning in the classroom as possible. The challenge is that we only work with normally one class per school who are then expected to spread their learning through the school. I am wondering if that is enough to make it sustainable, especially when we look at high rates of itinerancy amongst the students, or at larger schools, or at schools covering a wide age range. Another challenge is that so far our programme is only available in four regions of the Northland Island, though it would be relatively easy to scale it up if there was enough funding. In addition, the parameters around facilitating the programme make the workload very intense for facilitators. My dream would be that we could offer this learning to more classes within each eligible school, that we could offer it to more schools within our respective rohe, that Raranga Matihiko could also be offered in other regions and that we could review facilitator workload.

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Centrally funded / Nationally focussed PLD
MoE funded PLD like what we used to provide under the Te Toi Tupu consortium used to be one answer; has nationally focused PLD taking this place? While I am still an accredited facilitator, I am not currently associated to a provider and I have not done any PLD work under this scheme so far.  Are all schools able to access this kind of PLD if and when they request it? Are there sufficient providers available, and can they work with schools on an ongoing basis?

Online PD
I love Online PD but I know not everyone is like this. From my experience engaging with online PD around Digital Technology often, but not always relates to how ready a teacher is to integrate digital learning effectively into their practice (in a country like New Zealand with a relatively small population over a large geographical area, Online PD can be an important  way to access professional learning). There are a number of different frameworks describing technology integration & readiness, such as the SAMR model by Rueben Peuntedura (find some of my SAMR posts here), RAT (and here are two of my RAT posts), the Pencil Metaphor by Richard Wells, etc. I'm borrowing loosely from a framework Tara Fagan introduced me to with the following four stages:

  1. Not knowing you don't know
  2. Knowing you don't know and seeking out learning
  3. Knowing you know something and applying it in your practice
  4. Having gained mastery and naturally integrating into your practice

Looking at online learning, many teachers at stages 3&4 will use Online PD if it meets their needs. Teachers at Stage 2 might also explore online learning, and they benefit from being steered in the right direction just as much as Stages 3 & 4. From my experience teachers at Stage 1 are unlikely to look at Online Learning without support, and given they often have limited digital fluency skills, they might struggle with Online PD unless they have effective guidance.

Kia Takatū ā-Matihiko is a very useful site with lots of information. I have dipped in and out a few times (but not been able to dedicate a decent chunk of time in one go to explore it all), and we were lucky to have some of their facilitators host a workshop at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds a few weeks back. I have the feeling this could be useful way to engage teachers at stages  2-4 into professional learning; however, I understand that an in-school leader is very important, and I'm wondering how this fits with the ongoing struggles with workload for teachers.
I have explored the Digital Passport by MindLab in a similar superficial way (again for lack of time), again it looks very relevant and useful. I can't remember if there was any opportunity for f2f PD with their facilitators beyond the tertiary Certificates and Master degrees they offer (these programmes are very worthwhile for teachers at stages 3&4, maybe also stage 2?).
In the past I used the Virtual Learning Network as a place to find resources, connect with other teachers & educators, ask & answer questions around e-Learning and Digital Fluency. I miss it humming and buzzing along; yes, the platform was a bit clumsy and maybe outdated by now, but there were loads of teachers and facilitators supporting each other in their practice. There have been a few other platforms set up since, but none of them seem to be taking off in a similar way (see "N4L's education social network Pond dries up"). While the NZ Primary Teacher FB page has more than 34,500 members, I have not felt it is meeting my needs, so I have stopped visiting it (a timeline versus organised discussion threads in sorted into topics is not helpful for me to find an answer easily to my question - and too many times I saw posts like "I have to teach [such and such] tomorrow, who can give me their unit" with too little thought/time given to personalising learning for the people in their classroom; rant over).

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Kahui Ako / Communities of Learning
What is the status of these? I have never been part of a formal Kāhui Ako. Are they the same / different from the old LCNs? How do they fit in with other groupings like Manaiakalani Clusters? Where does PD overlap between all these different groups and entities? And talking about overlap, is there a way to provide an opportunity to communicate between different providers to make sure we work within our strengths, fill any gaps and therefore provide local learners and teachers with the best possible support to enhance the learning programmes in their classrooms?

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

"Congrats on your work anniversay" - a navel gazing post...

"Congrats on your work anniversay" - a navel gazing post about the last two years and a look ahead at 2019

Linkedin must have decided to announce my work anniversary because I had a few messages and likes in my Linkedin notifications this morning (not that I use Linkedin much). My two year anniversary with the Treaty Grounds is coming up next week. If you looked at my CV, you would note that there is only one job I have held for longer than 2 years. I'm a bit of a wanderer, I seem to get bored easily; the first year in a new job is all about learning, about mastering challenges, and in the second year I get comfortable, to the point of boredom, and then I seem to move on. Pretty stupid really, because going through a first year again and again sounds much more fun than it often is! So what have I achieved over the last two years?

When I started here, there was no exisiting staff member in Team Education, in fact during 2015 there had been several staff changes in the team, so no one was really able to induct. I started on the same day as a teacher who I had met before, and together we learnt to swim rather than sink. We learnt the required content with the help of colleagues, such as our guides and especially our Curatorial Manager who we share an office with. We dealt with bookings that were made before our time, often on top of each other, at times triple-booking us two. We learnt what we could cope with and what not. We learnt about the Health and Safety at Work Act, about minimising and / or eliminating hazards. For the first few weeks, every Monday morning at Staff Meeting other staff and the boss seemed relieved that Team Education had not thrown in the towel lol, and over time we seem to earn respect of visiting teachers as well as those members of the public (and even some colleagues) who weren't sure if a group of children or teenagers really ought to be here or really needed a staff member to look after them.

We had gotten through our first term, had gotten to May, felt much more confident and comfortable when we went on a trip to Wellington and Auckland to see the actual Treaty documents and how 'Museum Education' was done elsewhere - and then we threw out the rule book and started from scratch. Without a ME background, and without induction from an experienced Museum Educator, my idea of what education at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds should be is heavily influenced by Future Focussed Teaching and Learning and by what I know about good pedagogy. Thankfully my colleague just rolled with it while we worked out what it would look like, personalising every visit from a school, creating a connection between visitors and Waitangi, adding practical activities that result in a take-away, something that the visiting classes or individual students could take away with them etc. At the same time in collaboration with our H&S Manager I tidied up our RAM forms, edited our H&S plan, wrote an Education Vision, created Annual Plans, wrote Milestone Reports to the Ministry of Education etc. etc.

Education is in the Statements of Intent for the Waitangi National Trust (in fact the first of several SoI), and our CEO is very supportive of the work we do, so for FY 2017/2018 I was approved budget to get a third teacher in the team. Rob was awesome but he had other places to be, so ended up moving to an AP position - well deserved, and from his messages he is very happy there. At the beginning of 2018 we had a new teacher join the team; she slotted right in as a trained teacher and with experience from a different role at the Treaty Grounds. In the meantime we had started offering Virtual Visits to Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi, we are now working with international student groups as well as our domestic students and we offer Holiday Programmes (usually during the second week of the school holidays) which are well frequented by local families and visitors with children from further afield - work life is busy!

We have a strong connection with Te Papa Tongarewa through our CEO and through me to Tara Fagan and their Ed Team, so in 2018 we ended up joining with Te Papa, Auckland War Memorial Museum and MTG Hawkes Bay into the Raranga Matihiko Programme, a PLD programme funded by the Ministry of Education to support the implementation of the Digital Technology Hangarau Matihiko Programme. This is 'right up my alley' with my previous experience in Teacher PLD and with my passion for transforming learning with the help of digital technology. For many years I had said that our rural students who are away from many things city kids take for granted deserve to have the best possible teaching and learning to make up for that - and here is my chance again to help make it happen :) After the changes to the PLD system I felt the sector was getting diluted, lots of commercial competition for PLD work with schools, facilitators pitched against facilitators, something I hadn't been used to in my previous facilitation role under the Te Toi Tupu Consortium. While I had toyed with the idea of going back into PLD work, the opportunity hadn't arisen until now. I have written about the work we do in Raranga Matihiko in previous posts. I love the work, but it is hard work. It is long hours, little time to do anything else - and as I continue my role as Education Manager at the same time as being a full-time facilitator for Raranga Matihiko, I feel like I'm always running to catch up. On top of my other work, I am also responsible for our Waitangi Day Speech Competition, and I oversee the administration of the Bay of Islands Education Network.

As part of the Raranga Matihiko contract we have employed a fourth teacher - she is equally amazing as the other two <3 - and to help out with the ever increasing demand we have been approved funding for a part-time Education Administrator as well as a relieving teacher - Team Education rocks! In addition to our exisiting work, we have started working with an increasing number of professionals (mainly from education and social work related professions) both face-to-face and online. We had both a LEOTC and a RM evaluation during Term 4 and both of them were very positive. 

So just like in previous jobs, my first year was all about learning, about mastering challenges, and my second year was like that again when we started RM. Given the long hours I put in, the stress I felt, I had been tempted to apply for a facilitation job that was advertised before the holidays. Sometimes I lose sight of what I have achieved with the help of my team and the support of my boss; in the end I felt there was too much at stake that I had built up - and leaving a permanent job for a fixed-term one didn't sound like a good idea either. Unlike in my previous roles, it's not boredom that led me contemplate a change but stress, the feeling I can't do it all and well, the worry I might not be able to meet my own expectations and the expectations of others. I also felt there would need to be some sort of succession plan in place to ensure that not all is lost, that what I have built up continues - though some people would tell me this is stupid, it is not mine to decide what happens in a work place when I leave it.

In an ideal world I could just employ another facilitator to take my role in RM and I could do my Ed Manager job as well as relief within my team where required; however, even if my budget could afford this, there are quite likely other departments that look with envy at the growth we have gone through and they might have more pressing needs. The options at the moment seem to drop quality or even a contract - and I'm too stubborn to do either of that (I contemplated using the word strong-willed, but stubborn is probably more fitting) - or to just get on with it. However, I have realised that I won't be able to continue doing everything and do it well forever. I have taken 4 weeks annual leave over the summer, turned off my phone and my emails and it felt good! However, this week, my fourth week, that uneasy feeling is starting to creep in again, the things I ought to be doing... There are a few coding sites I want to check out for RM, and I want to renew my Google Facilitator accreditation simply for myself...

So as I am getting my head around going back to work next week, I'm trying to think of things to put in place to minimise stress:
  • I have already been delegating tasks to my team members.
  • I have a proposal to take to management about training one of my other teachers for RM.
  • Our RM plan for schools in their second year is more streamlined than the plans for first year schools (though still personalised to their topic), cutting down on preparation time.
  • I have cancelled my gym membership as getting up a ridiculous o'clock to go to the gym was adding to my stress.
  • How can I manage my work hours differently: If work doesn't fit into 40 hours, rather than staying an hour or two every night, can I just make it one late night a week? Or could I come in earlier (my teenagers are not up early anyway)?
  • Taking a break: I plan to take the July holidays off again to recharge batteries.

On a different note, Museums Aotearoa 2019 here I come, two of the proposals to present have been accepted, and I am looking forward to seeing what this conference has to offer. I also want to go to the Social Studies Conference in Auckland in the October holidays, and maybe to Ulearn19 in Rotorua. I think I have things to share, but I am really looking forward to learning from others, to be challenged and to grow. After all I have another 20 years or so to retirement, a long time to go still...

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Raranga Matihiko 6 months in: Is there a 'too old' to start creating with DTs?

Raranga Matihiko has been running for 6 months now here at Waitangi. It's one of these things where time just flies. I look back and can't help but think 'wow, what a ride'! There are a lot of different ideas swirling around in my head at the moment; I have decided to spread them out across a few blog posts to keep clarity in my own head and hopefully for any readers.

Further to my last post where I came to the conclusion that it's never to early to start using DTs for creating and for sharing your learning, I want to give some serious thought to an upper cutoff age. While I am an advocate for lifelong learning, does there come a time when it's too late, no longer worthwhile?

My own children have had differing experiences with DT use during their schooling; the eldest, first year uni in a Software Engineering degree, has taken his laptop to high school in years 11-13, mainly for his illegible handwriting (he had SAC). He experienced some more innovative use of DTs when in Y12 English all work went through OneNote, but from what I have seen, most of his experience would have been at Substitution-Augmentation level. The middle child had one year of compulsory BYOD at a high school which aimed for Modification level, years 9-11 have seen him bring a Chromebook to school and activities mainly at Augmentation level. The youngest had one year at a Manaiakalani primary school, Modification+ level (first year MK for that school), in his 3 years at high school he has chosen not to take a device to school instead he relies on the school-supplied devices (he is the only of our children who is not taking DCT beyond year 9). To me the activities appear at Augmentation level.

My boys go to a well-reputed local high school, I know that the school has spent a lot of time, effort and money on improving teacher confidence & competence and the school network, and while some teachers do some fantastic work incorporating DT use into learning, what I see appears to be on average at Augmentation level. Maybe I'm not looking in the right places? Yet I am from this field, so if I don't see it, who can see it then?! To date the school has not chosen to make BYOD compulsory; is this the reason for the way DTs are used in many classes? What is the point for primary schools to operate at Modification - Redefinition level, when high schools go back to Substitution - Augmentation??? [Please don't misunderstand me, my boys are getting a good education at their school, but I wish there was a chance they would use DTs more innovatively].

I could imagine that some primary schools might want to focus on their younger or middle learners with technology adoption. Surely that way their students will have the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge for several years, even if their future schools don't use DTs to the same level. What about the older children missing out? 

We had a discussion in the news media over the last week about a primary school cancelling their prizegiving for what sounded like very valid reasons; some of the arguments against were that students had to get used to it in preparation for high school. This so reminds me of the arguments against computer use at upper primary / lower secondary school, "students have to learn to hand write for 3h for their NCEA exams"...
Arguments like that really get to me, it is as if high schools were these unmovable institutions that everything and everyone else would need to fit in witn and fit around. When I work with Y13 students (in my other role), I often try to get them to derstand that when they leave school, they don't just join society, they shape society with their actions and decisions. High school can and do change, too!

If it was up to me, students would start using DTs to create knowledge and to share their learning from ECE onwards, in age appropriate doses. I think an 'upper age limit' is set when there is a lack of innovation in our teaching and assessment practises. Lack of time, hige workloads, lack of suitable PD all contribute to this, quite likely also a fear to let students down with a yet unproven learning and /or assessment approach - and sometimes a lack of understanding why such a change is needed. That upper age limit can also be caused by a lack of communication, lack of knowledge, by assumptions about what happens in regards to DT use at the next school.

If my conclusion is that there is no cutoff, that it's never to late to get started: What do we need to make this happen?

* With the inclusion of Digital Technologies | Hangarau Matihiko into our national curricula, there are many high quality PLD programmes available to teachers. Start by checking out the information on this Ministry of Education website:
* Seek out your colleagues in your school, your Kahui Ako, your subject association, online communities etc. Just like I think it's never too late for students to start using DTs for creating knowledge and sharing learning, it's never to late to learn for us as teachers.
* If you haven't done so yet, make contact with your contributing schools or the schools your students move on to after they leave you. Try to establish commonalities and differences in pedagogy and approaches to learning.
* If these connections don't lead to common approaches, even if you feel your students will not continue with DT use at their next school at the same level as they do with you, there is no reason why you shouldn't have your students work with DTs to a high level; they might well persuade and encourage their future teachers & classmates.
Financially many schools struggle to afford digital technology, and some schools are not prepared to make BYOD compulsory due to the financial burden on the parents and whānau. The Manaiakalani approach of providing affordable finance solutions has a lot of merit to me. Donations and grants are another avenue. I'm not sure on the status of initiatives like Computers in Homes, but they have done some very good work at one of my past schools.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Raranga Matihiko 6 months in: What is the best age to start creating with DTs?

Raranga Matihiko has been running for 6 months now here at Waitangi. It's one of these things where time just flies. I look back and can't help but think 'wow, what a ride'! There are a lot of different ideas swirling around in my head at the moment; I have decided to spread them out across a few blog posts to keep clarity in my own head and hopefully for any readers.

What age is the best age to start creating with Digital Technologies?

We have been working with students between year 1 and year 8 over the last six months. The majority of classes participating have been year 5-8, during Term 4 we have for the first time worked with students as young as 5 years old. A conversation with a lovely Teacher Aide has prompted me to think about ages more deeply. I often get asked about what age students are best suited to enrol in Raranga Matihiko. So what age is the best age to start creating with Digital Technologies?

One of the ideas behind Raranga Mathiko is to create a group of experts in the schools (students and teacher). The two year programme gives more face to face contact in year 1 than in year 2. In an ideal world you would get both the same students and the same teacher for both years (or at least the one or the other). If you want to work with the same students for both years, you might avoid picking this year's seniors. To ensure your experts are able to share their learning, you might choose students of a certain maturity / age, therefore selecting year 4/5 or year 6/7 makes a lot of sense in that regard.

You can take a different approach and start with the teacher - someone who has a high level of digital fluency and can take the RM ideas further, someone who is good at sharing their learning with colleagues, someone who can benefit from a boost to their digital fluency - or how about someone who is simply curious, keen to try something new? All of these are perfectly valid reasons for joining the Raranga Matihiko programme, and by default, whatever the age of their students, they will become the RM class.

There is no answer here yet... Sometimes it's a good idea to turn a question upside down: What age is too young (or too old???) to start creating with Digital Technologies?

I feel the word creating is key here. Young children are inherently creative, they can use anything in their environment to show their creativity. Digital Technology is just another tool for this. The Progress Outcomes in the Digtal Technology | Hangarau Matihiko curriculum scaffold learners from teacher-led activities (PO 1) to increased independence. This can make using DTs both harder and easier for teachers of young learners: Harder, because students quite likely require more active guidance; easier, because the teacher has more control over the tools they use. Admittedly, young learners might be less well equipped to actively teach other students around the school, but their example shared with thr others can inspire them ("if 5y olds can do this, I can"). With ongoing guidance these young learners can challenge their future teachers (and new classmates) to lift their digital fluency, too, they learn by necessity of having to keep up.

Coming back to the original question: So what age is the best age to start creating with Digital Technologies? I don't believe there is a best age, rather that any age is best. This is not about abandoning creativity outside digital technology, this is not about spending hours in front of a screen every day. It's about realising that there is benefit in utilising digital technology for creativity, as one of many tools, in a methodical, scaffolded way, in order to give our students the opportunity to create and share knowledge and learning. Our challenge as RM facilitators is to work with students of any of these levels appropriately (e.g. some weeks we jump from year 2s to year 7s and back). The key is not the age of the students, it is about knowing how to integrate digital technologies with the rest of their learning.

Despite the challenges for us with switching between ages, I am so thankful for the wide age range, it gives me hope that we will end up with a diverse, digitally fluent student & teacher population here in Northland which benefits our Tai Tokerau communities as a whole.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Raranga Matihiko 6 months in: Working with schools

Raranga Matihiko has been running for 6 months now here at Waitangi. It's one of these things where time just flies. I look back and can't help but think 'wow, what a ride'! There are a lot of different ideas swirling around in my head at the moment; I have decided to spread them out across a few blog posts to keep clarity in my own head and hopefully for any readers.

blogged about RM back in June, before our first class was due to come in. So what has changed?

My current elevator pitch has slightly morphed into something like: "I work with teachers and students, and together we apply computational thinking and we create digital learning objects (DLOs) so that students can share their learning with others in their whānau, their community, Aotearoa / New Zealand and the world. Through this experience students and teachers pick up and share skills that are necessary for learners to be successful in the future, no matter what field they enter after they leave school."

You might see above that my most recent elevator pitch doesn't focus on museum content, because in Raranga Matihiko we try to build on whatever the class is already learning at school. Ideally (for us) the topic fits easily with what we have on display here at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, but we have found many connections with less obvious topics like Space, Kauri Forests, Patterns, Story Telling, Forces etc.

Some people might find it surprising that at museum which ultimately is in the business of  the past and 'old things', we use all this modern technology in our work with students. There is more to it, though: Museums are in quite a unique position to enhance the learning at school with their special artefacts and displays across a wide range of contexts. Looking at the six Future Focused Themes, museums can be very valuable partners in learning. To retain relevance in 21C, museums are looking at digital technology to help them engage young (and older) visitors. And thanks to the vision of Tara Fagan and her team at Te Papa, Raranga Matihiko has brought together a team of passionate facilitators who want combine the old and the new, while supporting the implementation of Digital Technology | Hangarau Matihiko. For me personally it's ultimately bringing together many aspects of previous roles: Supporting teachers by working with them and their students, using digital technology to effectively share their learning about things that matter to them, supported by the taonga and exhibitions here at Waitangi.

Over time we as RM facilitators have also developed our own understanding and skills further (see my previous post on Computational Thinking). Sometimes trying to figure out how to make the children's ideas work is half the fun :) We work across platforms and OSs, and over the last six months here at Waitangi we have regularly used the following apps and programs with our RM classes:

  • SculptGL (a digital sculpting web app): Allows you to sculpt, carve and paint 3D objects and add backgrounds to these objects. We often export objects as .obj to import them into Tiltbrush (VR) - though be warned, the mesh file does not transfer, so all SculptGL objects arrive in Tiltbrush in white. Note: We prefer to use the downloadable standalone version (available here) as it works best with the Surface Pro pens; when children experience success with this technology they are more likely to persevere even on a device where they need to use the mouse or a track pad for the sculpting.
  • Paint 3D: Many of us have used Windows Paint in days gone past, Paint 3D is taking this a completely new level. A Windows 10 application, it combines the good old painting functionality with 2D and 3D objects, stickers, textures a library of existing 3D models etc. The use of the Surface pens makes painting really easy for the children, but the coolest part in my eyes is the integration of Mixed Reality MR! Now if they could only add an 'export as .obj' option, that would make integration into Tiltbrush possible...
  • Tinkercad: Creating 'regular' 3D objects is quite easy with Tinkercad. While it is officially a 13+ programme, we monitor use very carefully, and the only reason for the age restriction I can imagine is the option allowing you to send your file to a 3D printing company and / or the option to share a screenshot of your creation to Facebook. Again we export .obj files from here to Tiltbrush. I have a couple of wishes on my list for Tinkercad, I would like to be able to add a background image to a 3D creation, and while you can create projects (folders) within your account, I would like the creations to be only visible within these projects (we currently have more than 200 creations in our account, and trying to find anything in there is a nightmare).
  • Dash robots: Most children love them, they look very cute and programming them is very easy via the Blocky app. We looked at some of the other compatible apps, but this one seems the most versatile for our purposes. While the app works on smartphones, the screen is rather small so you might struggle with a long algorithm. Every now and then I have run into issues with the program disappearing when another window opens on top, maybe someone can explain to me how to save a project in a way that you can return to it later to continue it?
  • My favourite app for Green Screening was and still is Green Screen by Do Ink, the best investment ever of NZD4.99. Even young children find it very easy to use this app. None of the other program we have experimented with come close regarding ease of use. I have gone away from videoing children within the app, sometimes I get better video quality just using the native camera app on the iPad (or another device), and then we just use the Do Ink app to put it all together.
  • Stopmotion animation: We started out with Clapmotion, a Chrome app, which I still like but you have to watch for it freezing. Also, the resulting stop motion clip saves as .ogv and then needs to be converted to .mp4 - doable when you are confident with technology, but a hassle if you are more reluctant / less confident. We have lately started using Stop Motion Studio which is available across several platforms and it looks promising.
  • Tiltbrush (VR): Most children love 'the VR', and Tiltbrush has become an important finishing tool in our kete. Depending on the topic and the paramenters given by the teacher, we can use it to combine objects and images created in different other programs into a finished product.
  • Occasionally we have also used Google Drawings, esp. when a school has Chromebooks for students, and sometimes we use Moana from Hour of Code in addition to Blockly and the Dash Robots.
While a lot of time is spent on Designing and Developing Digital Outcomes, every child gets to explore some form of coding during our Exploration (Tutu) Session; while they create their DLOs, they also apply a lot of Computational Thinking CT (see my previous post). However, for the second year of the RM programme we plan to make CT the main focus.

I just had a quick look through our Google Drive for some of may favourite projects, and it's so cool to be reminded of the hard work the children put in there. Please remember that we have been working with 5 - 12 year olds, the older they are the more freedom they were given to complete the projects how they wanted to do them. Here are some examples, all of them videos sitting in our Google Drive, so please follow the links:

Stop Motion Animations:
Telling stories:

Whole class projects:
  • Patterns (whakairo=carvings, kowhaiwhai paintings, tukutuku panels and waiata performance combined in VR)
  • The legend of Moehuri (Tinkercad creations, Paint 3D images, Tiltbrush drawing, SculptGL carvings, Google Drawings)
  • Te Whare o Paparore 
There are plenty more examples, apologies to all our awesome creators whose work is not on the list above! 

So what's the point of all this?
  • Students get away from Waitangi with a deeper level of learning, closely linked to what they have been learning at school.
  • They get opportunity to explore = tutu with new digital tools which they might not normally have access to.
  • They get to make decisions about how they will share their learning with their audience (which might be their school community, their whānau / family, the wider community, Aotearoa / New Zealand or the whole world), including using the best tool for the purpose.
  • Teachers and students gain more confidence integrating digital tools in 'everyday learning'.
  • They become experts for the rest of the school to support the other students and teachers with integrating Digital Technology | Hangarau Matihiko into their learning.
I think I have the coolest job :) and we are making a difference - what more could anyone want?

Raranga Matihiko 6 months in: Computational Thinking

Raranga Matihiko has been running for 6 months now here at Waitangi. It's one of these things where time just flies. I look back and can't help but think 'wow, what a ride'! There are a lot of different ideas swirling around in my head at the moment; I have decided to spread them out across a few blog posts to keep clarity in my own head and hopefully for any readers.

I feel I now have a better understanding of Digital Technology | Hangarau Matihiko in the NZC. During Term 3 I had the opportunity to run a PLD session on Computational Thinking (CT) with local Manaiakalani Teachers, and in preparation for this I had a good look at the many examples where aspects of CT are already applied in current classroom programmes (especially Progress Outcomes 1-3):
  • For example in Numeracy, when we start teaching "double 2 is 4" and especially when we move to multiplication, iteration is applied (Progress Outcome 3).
  • In Literacy, when we look at word families such as "-ake" and we end up with words like "make, rake, lake, cake", or when we learn rules like adding a suffix to a word such as "hope -> hopeing" and "hop -> hopping". Also in music where we expect that the chord progression I IV V will lead us back to the tonic I - or as simple as the prompts we give our children, e.g. to the teacher's chant "eyes on me" the students will respond "eyes on you". In all these cases we are using prediction (Progress Outcome 3).
  • Sheena Cameron and Louise Dempsey's Oral Language book (which I have sadly misplaced, it seems permanently...) has lots of examples of giving and receiving (non-computerised) instructions (Progress Outcomes 1 and 2).
  • We put steps into logical orders in many contexts, from sorting pictures or text into a logical sequence from ECE onwards to creating an art work to completing a science experiment (Progress Outcome 2). Depending on age, task or medium, different pathways to solutions are acceptable and appropriate (Progress Outcome 3).
  • Debugging can also happen in many contexts : A Kapa Haka routine (tītītorea, waiata-a-ringa, haka), tying shoe laces, mixing colours etc.
You might wonder, if we are already doing all this, is there anything missing at all? Why did we need CT added to the NZC? IMHO, I think that for many teachers the connection between existing activities that use aspects of computational thinking and the application of CT in the world on computer science, programming, software engineering etc. is not clear yet, and if it is, there is still a gap between what we might do at primary school and what professionals do in the work force. And somewhere between primary school and university we are still loosing our girls and our Māori and Pasifika students.

Occasionally I speak with students about who makes our Dash robots and computers in general work. usually we end up with the same old stereotype of nerdy geeky young Pākeha men (I have one living in my house, perfect example). We can only changes this perception is if we continue to give our students of any gender and all cultural backgrounds opportunities to explore and apply CT throughout their schooling. I love our little Dash robots, they appeal to learners of all ages, and such robots are a really good way to visualise coding. But in isolation, without understanding how all the little bits like unplugged activities, block coding, text based coding, AI etc. fit together, we are not going to get far. Cut through the 'fluff' of the Progress Outcomes (see this previous post) and sit down as a staff to map out how your students will learn about Computational Thinking at your school.

On a side note, I don't believe the lower Progress Outcomes for CT are placed quite right yet, but it was always said that the placement of these against the Curriculum Levels was subject to change. Just this week I worked with a y1 class, that is 6 year olds, and once they were introduced to the idea of using a repeat block to move Dash, they saw no need to return to using individual blocks. Iteration is first mentioned in Progress Outcome 3 which sits at Curriculum Level 4, and while this is a good example of a Progress Outcome offering the teacher a 'pick'n'mix' of aspects (rather than a Achievement Objects which always has felt more final, everything had to be achieved before one could move on), I think many students are very capable of applying iteration much earlier than CL 4.

While I am glad that Digital Technology incl. Computational Thinking is now explicitly mentioned in the NZC, I am still worried about that fact that this sits inside Technology. If I was still a high school music teacher (and had not gone through the amazing journey I have been privy to over the last 15 odd years), I doubt I would pay much attention to what it said in a different subject area's part of the curriculum. We have to change this!

(Shameless plug :D) If you teach y7 - 10 (any subject) and you are interested in finding out more about how this can fit into your learning areas, join us for a free DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES & COMPUTER SCIENCE TEACHER PROFESSIONAL LEARNING EVENT at Waitangi Treaty Grounds on Tuesday 27 November, 9:30 - 2:30pm. Register at