Sunday, November 30, 2008

E Portfolios - Why what's the point?

How can we communicate to parents in a more timely manner?  We seem to hang on to all this information till the end of a term before sending it home.  How is that helpful?  The moment taken by teachers to call home when a student has passed the next reading level, or photocopied a piece of stunning writing a student has been working on and sending it home in a card seems to be more authentic and meaning for both the learner and parents.  It amazes me how much time and energy teachers put in to writing end of year reports, if the same time and energy was put in to communicating across the year I wonder if the more informal connection would have more impact on student achievement.  
I see one of the significant benefits of e portfolios and reporting using an LMS is the ability to report assessment information as it happens.  An accumulative record of achievement would surely supersede a summative report.  An online space where students can demonstrate their achievements, successes and reflections is surely beneficial to encouraging continuous improvement.  A space that encourages collaboration and ease in which families can share in the journey has endless possibilities.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

ICT Tools

Have had another wondering this week.  We are strategic planning for the next school year, considering possible items to fundraise for and formulating a budget.  ICT hardware year after year takes a considerable chunk of ones budget.  In thinking about continuing to move forward in the implementation and expansion of ICT integration what should the school wisely purchase?  Having an array of mimios, interactive whiteboards, large monitors, projectors, cameras, video cameras etc  -which tools best engage students and powerfully help to improve students learning? We are not convinced it's tools such as mimio, whiteboards as they can have a tendency to regress teacher practice to presenting and being the 'sage on the stage'  Such tools often perpetuate teacher control.
I wonder if we should not be making our choices based on the ability for the tool, application to be student led and driven.  It's interesting how successful blogging is for many students.  Why I ask?  It puts the learner in the driving seat, they are in control leading their own learning.  Like Facebook (for better or worse)- the interface is intuitive, no manual is required to use it and you create your own profile, contacts etc for your own needs and purposes.
Maybe we should be purchasing the new small portable computers that are wireless and connect to the web so that more students get their hands on and are involved in the 'doing' of learning.
All interesting thoughts to ponder?  Are we not better to buy a few one off pieces of hardware and give them to students, observe what happens and then purchase from student feedback and consultation?  We are ignorant and maybe arrogant to not be led by students as they are the digital 'natives' we the digital 'immigrants'

Friday, November 21, 2008

Managed Learning Environments

Yesterday was an interesting day. Had the opportunity to find about LAMs - an online course and lesson planner, exe - similar tool for teachers to design learning material for lesson or course sequences, Moodle - a Learning Management System predominantly used in secondary schools and lastly Maharas e-portfolio applications.
Creating content is a time consuming task, teachers all over the globe and throughout New Zealand are creating and recreating similar kinds of material. Would a different and much needed approach be to first gain national consistency around key learning progressions in student speak. Rich digital material could then be linked to specific learning intentions e.g digital learning objects, flash animations, artifacts, games etc that students self select. Isn't our goal for students to know how they are going?, where they are going? and where to next? Should the students not be more empowered to own this learning process more. Is it extremely motivating for students to select their next learning goal and work towards achieving it because they are owning the process. A student who requests an assessment to check in on how they are going is a huge constrast to the assessment being done to a student.
I am sure the benefits would be two fold as I am constantly hearing that teachers need support in developing content knowledge. Let's put the learner more in the driving seat, as Hattie suggests students raise the bar more for themselves as to their next learning steps than teachers.
The rich material is there, let's stop working in isolation on this and gain the clarity nationally around these progressions. Then if more writing of content is required in certain areas it can be developed and added to a depository that all teachers across NZ could benefit from.
The literacies is a great place to start - the numeracy is there and assTTle has put huge effort into the writing matrices. Let;s get kid speak around it and get better about showing kids exactly where they are and what the next steps look like.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Student Voice - Always worth listening to!

I had an interesting chat today with a year 3 boy. He was identified 3 years ago as a child we would track over their primary school years to gage any movement in his development and understanding of the identified Life Long Learning competencies. When I asked this young man if he believed he was a life long learner his response was 'not really because I don't use it all the time' I probed a little deeper to discover he could indeed recall (quite surface) all the Life Long Learner qualities that we reinforce at Red Beach School and he could describe in full which each of the Life Long Learning qualities was. As the developmental framework we have developed over time highlights the goal is for students to apply these qualities in their everyday school and outside school life. I then asked 'What will it take for you to apply these qualities more?' He said I could pick a quality a day and really work on applying that during the day, positive self talk and making myself do it helps'. It appeared he had all the Life Long Learning literacy necessary. I have been reflecting on what he said all day - what enablers help to shift students, shunt them into really applying the qualities? What can we do better to demonstrate the gain/value add? Do students experience enough challenges each day in their learning to truly have opportunities to apply such qualities? All good food for thought! I continue to rate highly the power of student voice in directing our where to next steps. This kid has huge potential are we really building his learning capacity as best we can?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Life Long Learning Displays

The words around each quality proved to be useful success criteria

Life Long Learning - Possibilities

There are many ways of exemplifying Life Long Learning.  This is one model we worked on during 2003.  We wanted to develop a shared language for talking about learning.  A key goal was to move our focus away from reinforcing behavior.  Over a term we ran learning assemblies under the theme of 'The sky's the limit' Each week we would pick a quality.  We had lots of fun, loud music and learning experiences to reinforce each quality.  The term ended with each class creating a display on a particular quality.  A local newspaper was invited along with our community to celebrate Life Long Learning. 

On reflection the Life Long Learning qualities that seemed to have the most significant impact on students learning were the (I) related qualities e.g self improves, self motivates. 

Monday, November 3, 2008

Synthesizing Success

It's not about adding new ideas and flavors of the month on to current practice.  Two words need to go hand in hand.  Embedding and Abandonment.  What are we going to let go of to embed future focused initiatives to improve student outcomes for all? Developing a shared vision, collective purpose and synthesizing current global thinking can help to set the stage.  The major topics under the current educational microscope are how do we develop student learning capacity in conjunction to teaching content.  Thinking skills, learner dispositions (key competencies) and conceptualizing curriculum in meaningful and manageable ways is quiet some task.  The following link is a draft attempt in doing so in 2005.  The big ideas reside under I, We, It and Make a difference headings.  The matrix has proven to be a helpful way of providing a framework in which each piece has been further unpacked and embedded in practice.  How important is the development of such a framework?  How influential ha it been in the strategic direction? What would have happened without such a structure?  When is structure helpful/ unhelpful?  All questions I like to continue to ponder.