Saturday, September 26, 2015


Neuroplasticity - the brain's ability to grow and change over time depending on experiences is a departure from traditional understandings of the brain, and intelligence, as a fixed structure.  Neuroplasticity underlies the popular "Growth Mindset" thinking.  It also explains how the brain of the "digital native" - those who speak DFL - Digital as First Language (most of the students), is structurally different from the brain of those who have DSL - Digital as Second Language (most of the parents and teachers).  But DSLs can immerse themselves and become bilingual.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Comparison - traditional versus collaborative teaching

From: labelled for resuse
Here’s a scenario that my 14 year old son and myself made up to illustrate the difference between a traditional teaching model and a collaborative teaching model.  The difference that we were discussing between traditional and modern teaching is the traditional is based on the “one to many” model and the collaborative is based on “many to many” teaching, where the students themselves are teachers.

There are many shades of difference that we could have put in between the models and probably ones that go way beyond the “many to many” we’ve described.

This could be a level 4 social studies achievement objective: Understand how people participate individually and collectively in response to community challenges

Teaching Activity
Traditional – “one to many” model
Modern  - “many to many” model
Setting up the learning intention
We are learning Kate Shepphard’s role in shaping New Zealand culture through campaigning for women’s suffrage.
WALT identify effective responses to challenge and apply them in our own lives
Pre-lesson preparation
Teacher finds out about Kate Sheppherd.  Prepares work activities that help students learn about her life.  All the information will come from the teacher in the form of oral instruction, projected digital displays*, bookwork or worksheets.
*The teacher may actually be a digital whizz and make fabulous digital learning displays but this does not necessariy make them a teacher who supports collaborative learning.
The teacher will spend time teaching the students how to:
Do effective Google searches,
Identify useful information etc according to my previous blog post: how to find information

Then establish with the students some criteria for what useful information will look like in this context.  This will include some discussion on characters who have shaped history through responding to challenge.

Students will be encouraged to follow characters they personally find interesting.
Seating plan
The students will need to get their information from the teacher so they will have to sit in rows or desks groups, or in a mat area where they can all clearly see and hear the teacher ie. traditional class structure.
It won’t matter where or how the children sit as they will be accessing their information from their devices.

Their environment may well look like a café.
Where will the teacher be?
At the front
With the students.
Who will the teacher interact with mainly?
The whole class
Individuals on an ad hoc basis
Individually as once the students start gathering the information via their devices the teacher will have access to their thinking processes beyond “real time.”
In groups as students will be grouped to learn the skills (linked above) according to their needs.
Once the information is gathered/learned what will happen next?
There could be a test to find out how much the students remember about Kate Sheppherd.

Or the students could make a presentation to share their learning.  This will be the re-sharing of information in a different format.  The most likely choices would be a poster, or a Powerpoint.

There is some element of many-to-many learning if the students share their information back with their peers.  But not much because they all had the same information.
The teacher will move the children into “relational” thinking.

This could be by identifying some challenging circumstances that people identified as shaping history have faced and comparing them with circumstances they have faced or could face in their own lives.

The teacher could initiate this by modelling the process with a challenge from their lives.

The children would need to be given tools to do this sort of comparison e.g. a venn diagram in digital format, or a Popplet where they can brainstorm and reorgnise information.

They would need to be able to categorise aspects of a challenge – eg. People, conflict, physical hardship etc.

At this point students would be accessing each other’s learning online and giving constructive feedback to each other according to co-constructed criteria.
And after that….
Summative achievement data is entered – students know x amount of information about Kate Sheppherd.

The next unit is being planned.
Students will identify an area of challenge in their life.  If they can’t come up with one, their challenge could be about self knowledge – they don’t recognise challenge, or avoid it – the teacher might have to be a bit creative when helping these students.

They can make a resolution to change one aspect of their behaviour based on what they’ve learnt and see how it affects their challenge.

Extended abstract: They could then set up a challenge helpline or coaching service for younger students.  They could publish guidelines for identifying the aspects of challenge and giving strategic advice on behaviours which will help to meet different challenges.  This could be run through a blog.  Or it could be run in person on the playground like a peer mediation program.

Or they could set up a challenge counselling program for their own class.
Or they could identify a problem in their own school or community, analyse and categorise its components and use what they have learnt about people who shape history to apply positive action to the problem.

OR they could write an app where people can enter information about their challenge.  The app will categorise aspects of the challenge and then analyse how historical heroic characters have met similar types of challenge and give feedback on strategies they can apply to their problems.  They could make a game app along similar lines. They could then sell their apps to Google and retire before they even finish school.  :) 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Visioning 2015 - parent and student survey responses

At school, we are looking at what innovative learning environments mean to us. We are starting from a vision point and we've got some really useful feedback from the community to start our process.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

What will school look like when this generation are the teachers?

In 8 years my oldest son's cohort will be qualified teachers.  They are the first cohort who had BYOD,  Google docs, flipped learning, ubiquitous wireless, personal blogging etc.    Not just that, they have a type of innate wisdom.  They've been raised on circle time and treaties and restorative justice.  They've been asked to think, challenge, debate with their teachers, and to investigate the world as if they have a right to change it.  What will school look like when these people are the teachers?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Its what we do together that sets us apart

“It’s what we do together that sets us apart.”
Apple, Corporate Careers Site

In preparation for our Community Gathering on August 3rd, some parents have asked me to share things to get them thinking about modern learning.  Here’s the first sharing:

One of the key attributes of a lifelong learner is the ability to collaborate.  Together, people can achieve more and employers actively seek people who can work effectively in teams.

To prove this point I have looked up the Forbes top 100 list of the most successful companies in 2015.  Most of the top 10 are banks.  The first is a bank, and I’ve recorded the next four that aren’t banks.  Then, I’ve looked at their careers sites to find out what they want in employees.  Initiative and innovation are highly sought after and I’ll cover those in another post another day.  Today I’m thinking about collaboration and this is what these Forbes top 100 companies think:

World Ranking
What the Company says
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China
“Employees are encouraged to excel and contribute
7th (first non-bank)
To think independently, to take initiative and be innovative.
Right now, teams of engineers, scientists and business people are inventing new technologies that will unlock the secrets to the energy systems of tomorrow.  
Combined talents of our diverse workforce help us to lead the competition.
General Electric
The best, brightest people who are trying hard, who are humble, who are living their dreams and are willing to do it together.
Do you consider yourself innovative, team focused, broad-minded and passionate about your career?

It’s what we do together that sets us apart.

We’re perfectionists. Idealists. Inventors. Forever tinkering with products and processes, always on the lookout for better. Whether you work at one of our global offices, offsite, or even at home, a job at Apple will be demanding. But it also rewards bright, original thinking and hard work.

None of these companies specify a particular body of knowledge.  All of them specify personal attributes.  I’m not saying that educators are ONLY preparing children for future employment.  But if we don’t, we’re doing them a great disservice.  What we actually do is help children grow to their full potential - to be rounded, respectful, holistic individuals who live life to the fullest (John 10:10 again).  This also seems to be the type of people these companies think are needed to change the world.

Changes in technology mean schools can now use Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in ways that support the development of these necessary skills.  It used to be that our programs were individualised on separate machines.  We could save to a shared source - such as the network driver but we couldn’t work together at the same time.  With Google Apps for Education (GAFE) or Office 365 you can simultaneously work on the same document and you don’t even have to be in the same place.

This is just the beginning.  I believe it will significantly change how the world works.  It won’t be as necessary for people to congregate in offices in cities.  It has the potential to revitalise our rural communities.  People will be able to live in lovely places (such as Pleasant Point) and work anywhere in the world, all the while staying in their lovely places, supporting local trade and industry and enriching their local communities.

What does this mean for students?  Imagine you’re brainstorming something.  The children who have a lot to say will contribute a lot, some will contribute nothing.  They can only contribute as fast as the recorder can record.  Some children will be switched off altogether.  Some will feel very inadequate as the “better” ideas of the more confident children get heard and shared - those children feeling quiet and inadequate may actually have brilliant ideas.

A transformative moment is the first time you get a whole class of children logged into their own Google accounts, with their own devices, to add to a group brainstorm on a shared doc which comes up on the whiteboard.  Everyone’s ideas go up and at the end when you come to think about them they’re already recorded and ready to be analysed and synthesised.  Its not a quiet and rigid classroom with children behind rows of desks glued to devices.  Children are talking, responding to others’ ideas, developing their own ideas further and rushing to add them to the sharing.  The teacher is no longer the gateway for ideas.  Ideas come from everywhere.  

It is extremely important that our children learn to be innovative, to take risks, to collaborate and work effectively in teams.  To do this they need sound teaching on how to be collaborative and resourceful and they need the “tools of the trade.”  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Presentation to South Canterbury R.E. Cluster

I was stoked to have the opportunity to present to the SC cluster and I hope that many productive conversations come out of what we covered today.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Can teaching in RE have open-ended content?

Specific Content - Our knowledge and understanding of our faith comes from three sources:
Where is the space for open-ended content?
The Bible
Church Teaching
Religious tradition and practice
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church Part One, Section 1.2

32 The world: starting from movement, becoming, contingency, and the world's order and beauty, one can come to a knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the universe.
As St. Paul says of the Gentiles: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.7
And St. Augustine issues this challenge: Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air distending and diffusing itself, question the beauty of the sky. . . question all these realities. All respond: "See, we are beautiful." Their beauty is a profession [confessio]. These beauties are subject to change. Who made them if not the Beautiful One [Pulcher] who is not subject to change?8
33 The human person: with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God's existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. the soul, the "seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material",9 can have its origin only in God.

So we can know about God through direct interaction with Creation and through our own human nature which contains God's stamp.

There IS a place for open-ended content in RE because EVERYTHING is RE.

adapted from Staathof, 1999, p132,  L Frances-Rees, 2004

A quick overview of what effective internet use looks like and some of the background teaching needed

This link is to support my presentation at the SC RE cluster meeting.

Using the Internet - for every subject - this process is needed for high school, higher education, and life in general - year 7 & 8 children can do this effectively and consistently - then work backwards putting the skills in place back to year 1

  • Safety stuff in place - understanding of digital citizenship - lots of resources available to help with this.  At a school level - need to develop community understanding of digital citizenship.
  • Teaching in identifying keywords and finding synonyms for them 
  • Putting those words into a search term 
  • Scanning the search findings to find ones that might work 
  • Quickly dumping anything not useful 
  • Specific guided reading teaching in identifying bias 
  • Scanning - contents, headers, key words 
  • Skim reading - quick reading to locate key words and get an “overall” feel - taught through guided reading. 
  • Find a selection of possible sources (5 or 6) - reference them, one sentence summary of the gist. Choose the best three and read in detail - taught through guided reading. 
  • Take notes - key words and phrases - taught through guided writing. 
  • Construct sentences from keywords and phrases - guided writing 
  • Plan effectively with main ideas and supporting detail - guided writing etc through the writing process. 

Developing this capacity through the primary years:
Years 1-3 - learning how to read and write - apps to support that learning - e.g. handwriting app on the ipad with a stylus - immediate feedback for errors in constructing letters.
Years 4-5 - guided - laying the groundwork to be an effective independent researcher. Breaking down the list above and guiding through the process.
Years 6-8 - Integrating the process and becoming independent (by mid year 7).

 From years 4-8 - RE can be included as a subject for investigation - as part of an inquiry curriculum.

Change of School

I am now principal at St Joseph's School in Pleasant Point. I've decided to keep this blog as part of my own professional learning journey. All posts up to this point refer directly to the context at St Joseph's Oamaru. Although friendships and professional collaboration between myself and staff at Oamaru will continue, I want to make it clear that my direct involvement ended at Easter 2015. All of the information I've shared on this blog so far is also freely available online in the public domain through St Joseph's Google sites and blogs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Students map and plan the new learning environment at St Joseph's Oamaru

Our year 7s mapped out our learning environment as it stands now.  They looked at all the things they need to do when they're learning and decided how we could use our space to meet these needs.  These maps are on paper and annotated with Thinglink.

Tannah's version of our learning environment

Tim and Saluni's version of our learning environment :

Makeisha and Alyssa's version Maria's version Aarran's version

Our Learning Environment Modeled in Minecraft

Our year 7s mapped out our learning environment as it stands now.  They looked at all the things they need to do when they're learning and decided how we could use our space to meet these needs.  The environment is modeled using Minecraft.

Zach, Maddison, Nina, Ardan, Tess, Siva:

Ben, Jordan, Abigail, Joel, Tyler:

Laura, Daniel Mannix, Charlie:

A machine for learning part 2

The next step in our "Machine or Learning" inquiry (see Machine for Learning, previous post) was to map what we already have.  In term 3 children mapped our intermediate department and although it was very good, it didn't look quite right because it wasn't to scale.  This term the children measured our spaces accurately and decided on a scale so that they could model the space.  Fifteen children chose to work in three groups sharing Minecraft worlds to model the building.  The remaining children looked at other 3D modelling tools and in the end they have drawn a 2D paper plan.

The next step will be to make recommendations for how our space can be improved for the type of learning the children have already identified.

A machine for learning

(thanks to Mark Osbourne for sharing the term: Machine for Learning, and the link he made to le Coubousier, which we’ve used in our inquiry - environments for learning)         
St Joseph’s Year 7 students consider what their learning is actually like and what ideal spaces for this could be like - this is a brainstorm from the whole class in a shared Google doc (it is not crafted writing).     

concentrate and communicate with others
listen and discuss your ideas with the people
being on task and giving 100% and not giving up
sitting down somewhere and listening to each others ideas
we learn from our mistakes
we debate and share our ideas we take notes and learn from what others have learnt as well
put your heads together and discuss ideas with each other.
we think that its import to participate  and contribute ideas even if its wrong
we share our ideas, discuss our options and our needs and also relate to others, listen, focus, look, think, come up with new ideas,   
we like to talk and  listen to each other….and be good friends
think, discuss, sing, we argue, we work with others, we get things wrong, we get to try new things.
get confused but work it out
understand others.
we talk to others and ask for advice for good ideas to make our work even better
we help with problems and answer things
we talk together and help each other to get the job done
we get to choose our working space.
we discuss our ideas.
share our ideas.
we get  to  debate
we work quietly
we learn from our mistakes
we concentrate

We use MINECRAFT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
to try to answer a problem.

talking sometimes helps if it is on task!
say what we want to

we help people that need help at the moment when they are  stuck

enjoy and get new knowledge
do acting, have debates, songs, learn new things and new instruments or activities

make sure that everyone is joining in the convo and that people are included in it.
Also to encourage others to give 100% and to not give up.
Learn to accept a mistake, Good attitude

listen, discuss, read, write, search, explore, trial and error, make new options, design new things, brainstorm, invent, create, concentrate, play games, field trips, writing
we can read, write, do pe ,E.O.T.C, camps, maths,search, new things, discuss between  us, brainstorm, make mistakes and try again and again,
listen, stay on task, do field trips

watching other people  
learning new ideas and facts.
writing songs
silence and concentration, watching and learning from mistakes learning from elders...
singing-writing songs debates

performances , plays , silent working or dramas
different types of formal writing
arts and stuff,

crafting your imagination stories and making it better.

try over again, learn from others, songs and  performances, being silent              
we think create, communicate, share, learn

We can make everyone happy to learn
sitting facing each other at the same level (communicating)

peaceful and secure, fancy, computers,

taking turns talking

have our own little bubble to work in

we work together as a team and sensibly share our ideas

man’s cave and a girl hangout room for year 7s and 8s

change resource room into music room for intermediate department

gym for senior school

whole school computer room to work in quietly

having your own office or bubble to stay in but still communicate with each other
or talking . having a quiet space for yourself or others’ private spaces

have a musical room where people can sing and learn instruments.
a game room-a man cave for boys and a girl’s room.
dancing room where their dancing can express their feelings.
sports room where people can have fun and play with other people

we could have a couple of cubicles
we could use so that we could have our own space and we could work quietly.

we could split a room into a couple of spaces that are soundproof and will not bother anyone else!

we work as a  team       

you get more action and ideas
and information.You have more fun talking to your your friends.

in a place where you can concentrate.

Its interesting - you write a lot about collaborative learning how we can learn from each other and through discussion.  At the same time you say that its important to have your own space where you can be quiet.  You show this because when we have a lot of space upstairs, you spread out and fill it all and you still stay on task and do all the things you wrote in column 1.

When you make your recommendations for what we can do with our spaces, please think about how we can use what we have to make all these things happen.  LFR

What different learning styles are there?

watching other people  
learning new ideas and facts.
writing songs
silence and concentration, watching and learning from mistakes learning from elders...
singing-writing songs debates

performances , plays , silent working or dramas
different types of formal writing
arts and stuff,

crafting your imagination stories and making it better.

try over again, learn from others, songs and  performances, being silent              
we think create,communicate,share,learn

We can make everyone happy to learn

We stay on task and brainstorm as many ideas we can think of. We also participate and contribute many ideas. We do the learning properly we listen so we know what to do. When we don't understand we ask the teacher for help