Sunday, November 29, 2009

Challenging Thinking - Julia Atkin

Always refreshing spending time with Julia. She has built up an incredible wisdom over the years she has worked in education. She has the most incredible ability to question and probe that bit further. I jumped in the car on Friday to head north for the weekend. Great to clear the head and gain some head space to ponder the depth of what Julia was getting at.
We have been working of the front of the New Zealand Curriculum for around 4 years. This time has been spent focusing on developing a learners capacity and disposition to be a Life Long Learner, Relate to Others and Inquire. This focus was deliberate to try and pull away from the traditional curriculum dominated instruction that was occurring. We are now digging into the back of the New Zealand Curriculum to think about the conceptual understandings we would like our students to leave our school with. Julia critiqued our start by stating that 'I think you have depth but not breadth'. As we started to unpack a bit more what she meant by breadth I felt we could quickly again go down the coverage track rather keeping her infamous questions in balance 'What is powerful to learn?' and 'What is powerful learning?'
It got me thinking about the purpose of primary school - what is our place and role in the learning pathway? Is it exposure to surface interests and talents across a broad range of learning experiences, Is it setting up individuals with important conceptual understandings to make sense of their world? Is it to develop curiosity and wonderment and nurture learning capacity so that when the authentic learning opportunity presents itself the individual will embrace the learning and take it beyond what we could imagine? The later suggests that the teacher pedagogy required is some what different to what the majority students would experience today. There must be a sweet spot in the middle I believe, where students develop the necessary dispositions to know what to do when they don't know what to do and to grow some conceptual understandings to help make sense of their world. Anyway great to get away for that bit of head space, your thoughts?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Artifact to stimulate a Learning Conversation

Just the sort of resource we continue to look for to stimulate learning conversations with students. Perseverence, Self Motivates, Sets goals and plans etc all come to mind.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Seriously - Why e-learning?

I don't think we have the artifacts, stories, evidence and convincing argument to sell Why e-learning to our students, teachers or parents. I am sold on the direction that needs to be taken and in my heart of hearts know that we should be headed in this direction. I do however get a bit stuck beyond my usual arguments justifying the WHY when the spend to mobilize our students and get them into this space is so costly. Moore's laws predictions weren't wrong stating that tools and devices would quickly become considerably cheaper. When this cost is rolled out across nearly 700 students is remain significant.
I am becoming convinced that maybe the spend, once excellent connectivity is in operation, should be on good wireless. Students are encouraged to bring mobile devices and hook into the wireless and away you go. High end machines for Indesign, movie making and other publishing are then placed in pods within classrooms to meet that need. The question comes what about the students and families who can't afford such devices. An alternative option certainly needs to be made available whether that is through lease.
If prices of the Asus eee's continue to come down then I believe we are not far from this reality.
What convincing arguments have you got around justifying the spend on e-learning tools and hardware? Did you know v4.0 is the most significant one I know of?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Educating Parents - Getting the Balance Right

I had a pleasant afternoon today welcoming around 15 new parents to our school with Shirley. Their children were on their 3rd of 4 preschool visits and it was our turn to talk about the school vision and how things are 'done around here'. The highlight of the afternoon would have been listening to 2 of our students share their view on the value of the vision and unpacking what it meant to them as learners. As I intently listened to each child's words it was clear these children were speaking from their heart and that indeed the vision lives within them. They showed a depth of understanding of how they use quite intangible learning dispositions such as reflects, makes connections etc.
I feel satisfied that we seem to be getting the balance about right. We are certainly building key knowledge and understandings that students need to know to make sense of their world and be able to learn on their own, this to is kept in equilibrium by the emphasis placed on building each learners learning capacity.
I felt satisfied walking away from our session together today that we are getting better at communicating the importance of getting this balance right with parents.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pt England School = Deep, Engaging Learning

I left Pt England School this morning looking at my watch in disbelief. The time had flown. In the 2 and a half hours spent there, I was totally absorbed by watching and talking to students about their learning. The depth of learning and engagement was to say the least, impressive. We were warmly welcomed by Dorothy and Russell and then bowled over by an address from six year 6 students passionate about sharing how they had been using different e learning tools in their classrooms.
As a partnership both Russel and Dorothy have a futuristic vision that is enabled by their beliefs, drive and passion to meet the needs of their students and wider community. In touring classrooms at all year levels it is clear that the 'rubber hits the road' and what is shared in concept, lives in practice.
I believe the positive results that have come out of the research within the school need to be shared widely. We have much to learn from the courageous use of e learning and the positive impact it has on student engagement and learning.
Hats off to what you have been doing, you are leading a legacy. I feel humbled by experiencing such greatness!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Us and Them - Surfacing a Traditional Norm

Have been thinking of late that the education system has perpetuated an 'Us and Them' barrier between parents and teachers. Why is it that so many parents report a fear of approaching the school grounds. When you dig a bit below the surface you reveal that, we often use exclusive education speak with parents that adds to the divide. Parents nod in agreement at conferences for fear that they may look silly. As a breed some of us are more approachable than others! The kids can tell you who are the scary and not so scary teachers.
I advocate that a child's success at school is maximised through a 3 way partnership, the child, parent and teacher. Deep down I am sure you would agree that all a parent wants for their child is the best. I think as a system we can afford to get better at letting down the guard to sincerely show that, that is what we want too.