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?