Learning is....
Planting a seed in our brain... learning to water, nurture and grow it.... so we can live on the fruit of our learning and plant more seeds.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

#edblognz ULearn15 Blogger Selfie Challenge #cenz

If at Ulearn - Find a blogger you admire, shake their hand and take a selfie with them to post on your blog. Then find a new blogger and do the same! If you’re feeling really generous buy them a coffee! Write about it too!

This last week I went to ULearn15 at Sky City Convention Centre in Auckland.  This is my fifth ULearn in a row, and at each one I have found inspiration and met amazing people and reconnected with old friends from many areas of my life. 

This year the networking was awesome.  I got to meet bloggers and tweeters and inspirational educators who I've been connecting with for up to four years (the amount of time I have been on Twitter as I joined at the end of ULearn11).  This is how I have built up and widened my Personal Learning Network and become a connected educator through Twitter and going to ULearn, Educamps and EduIgnites.

On Wednesday night I attended the Twitter Dinner.  There were about 55 people there, not all of whom were attending ULearn.  @digitallearnin organised the evening and had us interacting with a game of Twitter Bingo, as you can see below.

First up for the selfie challenge was @st3ph007 or StephT who has the blog Four Seasons in One Kiwi.  I've always really enjoyed reading her blog posts.  They challenge me in some of my thinking.  Often I agree, at times I do not.  @st3ph007 has also supported @kerriattamatea in her establishment of the #BFC630NZ quick education chat each week day morning of term which I have participated in on occasion.  @st3ph007 also is a regular participant in #edchatnz and has been known to put her wisdom out on Facebook pages I frequent too.  It was fabulous to finally meet Steph and hear her passion for education in the flesh.

One of the Breakouts I went to at ULearn15 was presented by @Cherie59789095 and it was about networks and clusters, a hot topic currently.  It took me a few minutes to click on to the fact that I had been interacting with the presenter on Twitter for quite a while as I wasn't able to click into the online resource for about 10 or so minutes.  I had the opportunity to have a long chat with Cherie later in the evening after the Gala Dinner and I was thrilled to make the face to face connection with such an amazing leader.

During Brunch on the last day @vanschaijik who is also known as Sonya, sat beside me, and soon after we were joined by @mrehu.  Sonya is one of the admins for #edblognz and is a big driver behind TeachMeetNZ, a virtual PLD meeting space.  Sonya has also been a connected educator in many other ways too, which you can check out at http://sonyavanschaijik.com/.

I have been following @mrehu for nearly two years, I think, and at the Gala Dinner I met one of his teachers, @KNgarangione, who had come to ULearn15 with a group of the staff and she raved about working with him.  So it was a bonus to sit down with Maurice for a few minutes and shoot the breeze about our highlights at the conference.

And lastly, after a false start the afternoon before where our timing was out, @mjbuckland and I finally caught up and had that f2f meet up and chat about the conference this year and in the past, Twitter and the "take homes" we have. 

Alas, I failed to meet any new bloggers at ULearn15, but if you are a fairly new blogger and you are reading this and would like to help me out with a virtual meeting, or a f2f if you are in Hamilton, Cambridge or Te Awamutu, drop me a line at @melulater or through the comments.

It was great to meet all these people in the flesh for the first time this year, but also great to meet up with many other awesome educators that I have been meeting over the last few years, especially since 2012's ULearn.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

ULearn 15 - Keynote Speaker: Grant Lichtman - On the Road: Keys to Successful School Innovation in Times of Change.

Surprisingly (NOT!), I arrived to ULearn15 just after the first keynote speaker, Grant Lichtman, began his address to the conference.  As I caught up on the previous couple of hours of messages and social media, I was listening and picking things up.  But I decided to retweet others and respond to their tweets rather than live tweet myself.

Consequently, when I drew the tweets from this keynote from my Twitter timeline for the Storify down below, it is out of order of what actually was said when as the tweets came out where I retweeted from.

Grant Lichtman's address to ULearn15 was about being successful with innovation and change in your school.  A timely address, as, like all education systems around the world, New Zealand is going through yet another change.

Going to Grant's website, www.grantlichtman.com, this is the introductory paragraph about Grant:
Nationally recognized thought leader in the drive to transform K-12 education, Grant speaks, writes, and works with fellow educators to build capacity and comfort with innovation in response to a rapidly changing world.

Grant also blogs at http://www.grantlichtman.com/blog/.

As Grant spoke, I was struck by a number of points he made and how similar his metaphor was to Dr Jean Mitaera's metaphor during her address to the NZEI Annual Conference last week.

Grant likened being a teacher to being a farmer.  The teacher has to clear the land of obstacles and layout the fence lines (boundaries) so they can nurture the crop/animals/learner.

It struck a chord with me as Dr Jean last week said teachers were like gardeners: preparing the soil (finding out about their learners and making the classroom a great learning space), choosing the seeds (what needs to be taught), watering, weeding, pruning, nurturing.  You can read more about this at Talanoa and Dr Jean Mitaera at the NZEI Annual Conference.

This is my tweet from the NZEI conference last week.  Dr Jean also spoke about choosing the right tools to do the job and making sure they were sharp and ready.

Grant also talked about teachers being active in the learning with the students, not being a guide on the side with a degree of detachment.

Another stand out comment from Grant that spoke to me, was how impressed he was that New Zealand educators were not reliant on text books generally like they are in the US or the UK.  I found, when I was in the UK in 2001/2002, that it was almost like, "Today is Wednesday 7 October, so the Year 4s should be doing page 27 of Blah Blah text book" regardless of whether or not they were a struggling learning, on track or way ahead for their year group.  New Zealand is very good at catering for the diverse abilities within a class, however, we have also found, with National Standards being implemented, that sometimes the target group gets all the attention and the capable and above sometimes don't get that extension we would like to give.

Surveying my students for that one word that describes a part of the day - I quite like this idea and I think it would be worth a go - so that is a "take away to try" for me.

And these two questions tweeted out by @chaelebel and @MissDtheTeacher are well worthy of further consideration.

The difference between just going to school and really great learning?  I guess it is being excited about school and learning in my opinion.  Just going is a chore, a necessity.  But being excited about school and learning is another thing altogether.  But I think this doesn't just apply to our students.  I think it has to apply to us as teachers too, because if we are not excited about learning and school and our students, how can we expect to inspire our students and give them what they need from us?

I think for wanting more time, some of it has to do with being planned and organised.  There is nothing worse than kids waiting for you to think about what you want to do with them when they get to the mat.  Another aspect is having great classroom systems so that the students know what is expected of them and when so they can be self managing.  And another aspect is timetabling - running workshops, having flexibility about when you take your maths or reading or writing groups, when you demonstrate a skill, a MYLearning aspect to it.

The tweets below are basically telling us that we have to be used to change.

This is my 20th year of teaching, and in my experience, teachers are constantly in a state of change and discomfort.  This is our normal.  When I was still at high school, Tomorrow's Schools was the huge shake up.  During my teacher training and early teaching life in the 90s there was constant change with a new curriculum document in draft form each year along with another curriculum document being gazetted and implemented.  Plus there were huge political issues with bulk funding and individual employment contracts for principals.  Then there were changes in areas such as EOTC and ICTPD.  Moving into the 2000s we had the Literacy and Numeracy projects and inquiry hijacking the ICTPD.  In the mid 2000s we had a whole new curriculum document to comment on, and then just as we were working to implement that document, we were knocked sideways by the introduction of National Standards, followed by IES/Joint Initiative.  Now this is merely looking at it from a primary teachers point of view, but the ECE, secondary and tertiary sectors have also had massive upheaval and change, and adult education/night school was massacred.  So to me, this statement is somewhat of an insult.  Change is our norm.

Below is something I agree with - but I am not sure we are talking the same thing.  This statement may be focused on the small picture within each school.  I'm thinking big picture, nationwide, all of education!

To me, the Operating System is our Education System.  Now Hekia Parata has clearly stated on a number of occasions over the last year that she wants to totally revamp the Education Act.  She intends to do this over the next year.  The last time we had a major change to our education system was Tomorrow's Schools. 

What I think we need is a full stocktake of the system.  Identify what is working and what isn't; what should stay and what should go; what is fine and what needs to change; what would work better with a bit of tinkering or a bit more tinkering.  And this should happen before changing the funding, before changing the Education Act, before bringing in another level of bureaucracy like IES/Joint Initiative - but it won't.

It was a very good keynote to start the conference with and certainly got people talking, tweeting and thinking.  So that was my thoughts.  Read through the Storify below and let me know your thinks.

What was really nice was that Grant Lichtman attended the Twitter Dinner that evening and it was great to interact with him in a social environment.

Sadly, Storify has deleted itself from the Social Media scene, so all my Storify stories have gone.  😭😭😭😭😭

Sadly, my first Breakout was a failure with the presenter being a no show due to being double booked.  I was extremely disappointed that the ULearn organisers were not more proactive at the time in ensuring participants knew and had an alternative to attend.  However, it appears a major communication failure happened to cause the situation, and Core Education has been brilliant in coming to a solution to appease my disappointment.  So thanks team at Core Education.

My second Breakout was cool as... but that is for another post!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Why do I blog? #edblognz #cenz

So here it goes, yet another challenge for #edblognz:

Write a blog post about why you blog professionally and some of the things you blog about. Share it using the #EdBlogNZ hashtag so the newbies can get further ideas to blog about.

I started this blog four years ago next week at the end of ULearn11, well actually the 21 October 2011, but we rearranged when the term breaks were that year for a wee Rugby World Cup that was happening in NZ that year.  This is my first blog post:  ULearn11 - learning, discovering, trying it out for myself.

Since I began this blog I started four others:
  • One where I discuss the political side of education and society in general.  It is public.
  • One where I review books, because I love reading.  It is public.
  • One that is attached to my Curriculum Vitae as a link to give more information about how I run my classroom programmes and me as a teacher.  This is not public and is by provided link only.
  • One that is my Teacher Inquiry and is a record of me as a classroom teacher for registration.  This is not public and is by provided link only.

So what have I blogged about on this blog?
  • art activities I have done with my class.
  • social studies units I have done with my class.
  • reading units I have done with my class.
  • writing activities I have done with my class.
  • my class camp.
  • how I run my Reading Tumble, my spelling programme, why I do handwriting and homework.
  • how I use modelling books.
  • technology I have used in my classroom programme with the pros and cons.
  • courses and conferences I have been on like ULearn, ConnectED, Teachers Matter, Educamps, EduIgnites and NZEI.
  • why I use Twitter and social media.
  • blogging challenges like #edsketch and the blogging meme.
  • being the new teacher and the challenges it brings.
  • leadership.
  • classroom environments.
  • issues of the day in education.
I blog professionally because sometimes I want to reflect on what when well, what didn't and what I would do differently.  Sometimes I want to show off my students' work.  Sometimes it is to clarify my thoughts after PLD and conferences.  Sometimes it is just to share new information with colleagues.  This blog serves a number of purposes.  This blog fits the purpose I decide it will fit when I write the blog.

Cathedral Cove..... #edblognz

The Challenge:
Write a blog post about your favourite movie/song/piece of art including how it relates to your life as an educator.

This is my favourite piece of artwork.  It is by Diana Adams, a New Zealand artist, and is of Cathedral Cove.  I have a copy of this artwork, which was given as a gift to me by my brother and his wife one Christmas.

I love this picture because, firstly, Mercury Bay on the Coromandel is my most favourite place in the world.  Although we holiday closer to Whitianga, Cathedral Cove is the most iconic part of Mercury Bay to many people.  When I was on my OE in the early 2000s I carried with me a picture of the view out into Mercury Bay from our family beach house my Dad's family built 60 years ago in 1955 when he was at primary school.  My beach is the place where I am the happiest, the calmest.  It is my turangawaewae.

How does it fit in with my life as an educator? 

When I was a child I learnt so much at the beach.  How to fish.  About friendships.  About how families operate.  About nature.  About how to ski underwater.  About time management - or lack of it in my case. 

I lived in Whitianga for two years and taught at two local schools.  I loved the lifestyle and made some true lifelong friends, as well as getting to spend extra special time with my Grandma who was in her 90s and passed away a year after I moved away for a new school. 

It is a place I draw inspiration on as a teacher for how I teach and what I teach at times.  I took my class to my beach as part of my camp in 2012, because it is the safest beach I know.  See the post:  Room 3 Camp March 2012 - Day Three.  I've used it as inspiration for doing art, such as in this post Beach Scenes where I was inspired by walks along the beach and the bunny tails glued on the art were actually from my beach!

When I take work up to the beach to do, like reports, records, planning and the like, it never seems like hard work when you have this view to look out upon.  I am calm and focused with the sound of the waves pushing in and out on the beach.


Saturday, 3 October 2015

Distant Dreamer.... #edblognz

The Challenge:
Write a blog post about your favourite movie/song/piece of art including how it relates to your life as an educator.

This is a challenge set as part of Connected Educator New Zealand (#cenz) month for October.

The song I have chosen is Distant Dreamer by Duffy.  I've chosen this song for many reasons.

These are the lyrics of the song:

Although you think I cope
My head is filled with hope of some place other than here
Although you think I smile
Inside and all the while I'm wondering about my destiny
I'm thinking about all the things
I'd like to do in my life
I'm a dreamer, a distant dreamer
Dreaming far away from today
Even when you see me frown my heart won't let me down
Because I know there's better things to come, woah yeah
And when life gets tough and I feel I've had enough
I hold on to a distant star
I'm thinking about, all the things
I'd like to do in my life
I'm a dreamer, a distant dreamer
Dreaming far away from today
I'm a dreamer, a distant dreamer
Dreaming far away from today
Yeah, I'm a dreamer
I'm a dreamer, a distant dreamer
Dreaming far away from today
Yeah, I'm a dreamer
I'm a dreamer

I am a dreamer.  I'm always thinking about what I want to do next with a group of children, what I think they can achieve as a group and as individuals.  I dream about what the future will be for the children I work with and how they will go forward in their lives.  And while sometimes I can feel upset or stressed out by the students I work with, or fellow staff, I know it won't always be that way.

I am also dreaming about how we can save our quality public education system from the GERM of neo liberal policies and how I can help fix the mess the current policies are making after a change of government in 2017.  And while the current situation does get me down at times, I know there are many people out there that are thinking just like me too.

I'm also dreaming about what other possibilities there may be out there for me in education and other aspects of life.  I love teaching, the creativity, the child's light bulb moment, the fact that every day is a new opportunity to learn and brings something different - but it is now time to explore what else I can do in my life.  2016 will not see me back in the classroom, I will be spreading my wings.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Talanoa and Dr Jean Mitaera at the NZEI Annual Conference

This week I gate crashed the NZEI Annual Conference in Rotorua. 

Why?  Because on days two and three there are usually some awesome speakers, and the Pasifika team of NZEI did not disappoint me with their funny, witty and insightful speaker, Dr Jean Mitaera, they had chosen for their section of the Conference.

Last year they had Efeso Collins for the Pasifica session introducing and discussing the concept talanoa.  I included the Storify from the tweets made from Efeso Collins' speech in this blog post on my other blog:  World Teachers' Day 2014 - celebrating teachers who have inspired us.  You'll find the Storify at the bottom of the blog.

But here are some pictures of the tweets explaining talanoa to warm you up to the inspiring session with Dr Jean Mitaera.

The NZEI Annual Conference theme was It's Got to be About the Child but Dr Jean said straight up that this caused her some consternation has she prepared her presentation.  To Dr Jean, It's Got to be About the Teacher!  Dr Jean said that after the mother, the most influential person in a child's life is their teacher.

That is a rather confronting thing to hear.  I guess we all know the stories about how a child puts so much stock in what their teacher says.  But sometimes I know I am too busy to apply that knowledge to myself as the teacher.

My nephew started school in early Term 2.  All of a sudden my brother and his wife, and his great aunty who is their nanny, knew nothing in the eyes of my nephew.  His teacher was all knowing.  She said that museli bar has too much sugar in it, so when Aunty put the museli bar in his lunch he told her to take it home and not to do it again because the teacher says it has too much sugar.

I began with a new class at the beginning of Term 3.  I have a mixed group of children from all backgrounds and opportunities.  Although I have taught children with Pacific Island backgrounds before, this is my largest group ever in my current class.  But the concepts Dr Jean was talking about do not just apply to Pasifika children.  They are applicable to all children.

As only 2% of the teaching workforce is Pasifika, it is important that all teachers are aware of or are continuing to develop their knowledge of the Pasifika families in our classes.  And that was pretty much the only statistic that Dr Jean threw at us, because she knows we know the data for our own classes and schools and areas.

Dr Jean used metaphors a lot during her speech.  One of them was a gardening metaphor - and she said she is not a gardener.  She also took inspiration from her minister at church... from the last time she went six years ago.  The minister talked about how we reap what is sown before us....

She also said that was a load of rubbish!

But she did talk about us preparing the soil for our students.  We need to choose the right seeds (learnings, knowledge, skills the children need) to grow.  We need to nurture, water, plant, water, weed and prune what we are teaching and our students to grow what they need within themselves.

To often the Pasifika learner comes into an assembly line classroom.  We, as teachers need to dismantle the assembly line.  We need to develop talanoa within the class.  We need to develop the relationship with the family and design the learning house for the learner.

I saw a comment somewhere today where a teacher talked about how she had to rearrange her classroom to accommodate pushchairs because each morning she had many families and siblings in her classroom, the parents having a cup of coffee together.  What a wonderful way to grow that unity not only within the students, but within the parents of the class, and to help parents feel at home in the class.

The metaphor Dr Jean used for the learner was a house. 

So what did I get out of listening to Dr Jean?

Her talk resonated with me because I am still developing relationships with some students in my class having only been with them for one term.  I need to do more of what is in this photo below - building capability, sharing intelligence and facilitating transition. 

Dr Jean set us a challenge to increase our own knowledge of not only individual children and their families, but where they come from.  She asked us to also share our learning with other colleagues to increase their knowledge and understanding.  After Dr Jean spoke, each table had the opportunity to discuss resources and opportunities we have available to them within their communities to develop our personal knowledge of Pasifika cultures.  Tip:  Ready to Read, Junior Journals, School Journals and the Connected series have some great Pasifika stories and articles to help us and our students develop our Pasifika knowledge and understanding.

But most importantly, it was the reawakening that even a small amount of time spent one on one with a child can be an important piece of building a relationship with the individual child, and something they can cherish.

You can watch Dr Jean's address to the Annual Conference here:

Below is the Storify of the tweets and pictures from Dr Jean's presentation for the Pasifika session at the NZEI Annual Conference.  There is not a video link yet, but if one comes, I will add it.

Sadly, Storify has deleted itself from the Social Media scene, so all my Storify stories have gone.  😭😭😭😭😭

Sunday, 6 September 2015

EducampTheTron 15 August 2015

EducampTheTron was this year hosted by Tamahere Model Country School.  A bonus was it was also the Tamahere Market day over at the Tamahere Church, so we had time to wander the market at lunchtime and choose some food and look at the wares.  I have to admit, despite living just over the river and around the corner for half my life, I've never been to the Tamahere Markets before!

Many teachers and educators filled the Tamahere School Library and Steve had problem solved the lack of projector and his fragile voice (winter ills and ails) to ensure that the Smackdown could proceed.  We later broke into three breakouts over three sessions to share some learning.

We were very grateful for the water provided by @OnepurenzPure and the snacks from @N4LNZ.

The Smackdown always happens first after the intros and housekeeping at an Educamp, and you can view the Smackdown by clicking here

Five Card Flickr and Pechaflickr @robeanne
These are picture tools that you could use to enhance student engagement, creativity, language and communication and would be great for story telling.  There are links from the slide on the Smackdown.

Mobizen @davein2it
http://mobizen.com screen mirror to PC and Screen record for android devices - very handy to project one's phone presentation to the big screen.

Scratch @zaanacooper
This is all about coding meets the ethos of Lego.  Sign up is free.  Give coding a go.  There are beginner tutorials where the kids teach themselves.  I've had a big play with this myself and would love the opportunity to work with a group of kids on this.  https://scratch.mit.edu/

N4L The Pond  @steve_trotter
The Pond is not by TKI, but is by teachers for teachers.  The slide has some links to get your journey with The Pond going.  http://www.n4l.co.nz/pond/

Notability @tracy_dillner
This looks like a fabulous tool for i-pad and i-phone users.  Tracy talked about using it for recording annotations (written and verbal), creating assessments, demonstrating learning....  http://www.gingerlabs.com/

Quadblogging @barb1
If you want to have a nationwide audience for your class blogs, contact Barb and she will match you up.  For more details:  http://www.vln.school.nz/groups/profile/806819/quadblogging-aotearoa

Crowd Sourced Presentations @barbs1
Barb discussed how you can create and/or use a document that is crowd sourced in the classroom.  You can create a document and then share it for others to contribute to.  Links to examples of the Smackdown Slide.

Google Educator Group NZ @barbs1
Google+ is another place where NZ teachers are networking.  A place for questions.  Uses Hangouts to find share with/observe with others.  Click here for more information:  https://sites.google.com/site/gegnewzealand/events

Recordable Whiteboards @jkellow
Jan-Maree demonstrated the following online recordable whiteboards for us:

Comic Life @AbbyCMorgan
I loved playing with this programme in the workshop later in the afternoon.  There is a free month after downloading the software to your computer, and after that you need to pay a licence per device.  Once you own the licence you have access to more content.  I can see the potential for story telling by the students and creating content for your class.  Abby and her colleagues were using this to record a summary of what their learning class were doing daily for parents to access, but she is using this for not only teaching, but to also document her PTCs  -  one can insert it into their reflection blog or other documents where they are recording evidence for PTC.  http://comiclife.com/

Google Cardboard @nzleeangela
Great for creating virtual worlds around the school or visiting the worlds created by others.  In the workshop later on I experienced using this.  It was a lot of fun.  Apparently you are not supposed to walk around as you do it (but I would recommend sitting on a backless stool at least), but I did and it was a challenge not to bump into the furniture.  I actually felt woozy on the rollercoaster and got a little closer to dinosaurs than I would like to normally!  https://www.google.com/get/cardboard/

Student Reflection @MaryStGeorge
Mary shared her experiences of guiding student reflection.  There is no app or website.  This has grown out of experience of distance learning, as demonstrated in this blog post: https://creatingcurriculum.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/guiding-student-reflection-the-journey-so-far/.

Young Engineers - STEM  @reshmaph
Reshma discussed how this is accessible for all learners, and great for giving all learners success, especially children with dyslexia and similar learning challenges.  Here is an example of a group in Hamilton:  http://www.youngengineers.nz/

EdIgnite Hautapu  -  Sarah Moorhouse
Great to see that EdIgnite is coming back after a wee hiatus in the Waikato!!  Hautapu School on Thursday 3 September 6:00pm.

OneTab @carobush
This is for Google Chrome and Firefox so you don't have 50 million tabs left open.  It makes it easy to save and doesn't run down your battery.  https://www.one-tab.com/

EducampInvers is also on today!!  Encouraging interaction.

Split Screen
A Chrome app that allows you to have two windows open at once.  Like a website and a task.

Saving infographics on Twitter
Twitter > Pocket > Evernote

Google Calendar
Showed us how to find a mutual meeting time for each person required using "Find a time".

There is also way more on the Smackdown that I didn't get a chance to record.  The fabulous thing I love about attending Educamps is reconnecting with people I have met previously, meeting new people, the networking, and the inspiration that other share with everyone.

Sadly, Storify has deleted itself from the Social Media scene, so all my Storify stories have gone.  😭😭😭😭😭

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Behaviour management - the making or the breaking of a class.

Behaviour management - it makes or breaks a class environment and affects relationships and learning progress if you do not get it right.  Every class is different.  Every class has a different key that the teacher needs to find with the students to create the effective classroom environment to foster relationships and learning.

Over the years I have used a variety of systems. 

One school I was at I used the tried and true points system.  I had my class divided up into 4-6 groups (depending on numbers) to earn the points.  It had the advantage of ready made teams for fitness and sports as well.  I dished out points for having all their chairs down before the morning bell, being in class before I was after any bell, bringing completed homework back, winning students in maths games, being ready to listen, participation.... you name it, it had the potential to earn points.

Other schools had students in houses, so I used that to give out points.

Then there is the classic smiley face/sad face name on the board for positives and negatives.

I had CBGs (Caught Being Good cards) that I dished out to one class in order to keep a positive vibe going and so I didn't develop permanent frown lines.

Some classes I did not need to bribe students/give out points.  The evil eye and the phrase "I'm very disappointed..." was enough to do the damage.  In another class I had, students would hold my hand while I was on duty to pay back their time to me.


Over the years I have been to a number of behaviour management and class climate courses.  I believe this should be a must do for every teacher ever 2-3 years because we can get stale and 'forget' strategies if we haven't used them in a while.  I've particularly enjoyed the courses I went to by Bill Rogers (assertive discipline) and Lynley Russek (more classroom management techniques) and have used their techniques over a number of years. 

But there is always new tricks an established teacher can learn, and I am currently in the middle of a steep learning curve.

I took over an established class a few weeks ago.  There has been a lot of firsts for me in the last few weeks, and at times it has been overwhelming.  Firstly, I am teaching for the first time at a big town school - a huge adjustment after mostly teaching at small country schools with less than 120 students.  I'm working in a syndicate, which I am still working out how this works.  The planning is different.  The way staff meetings are run is different.  The daily timetable is different.  The methods of communication is different.  The behaviour management system is different.

This school follows the virtues model.  It is actually something that I am excited to learn about.  I was first introduced to the concept at an introductory workshop many years ago that my principal sent me to in order to find out about it and report back.  Zoom forward many years and I wanted to go through many of these virtues with my with a Year 5-8 class using a fabulous book by Peter Millet, The Anzac Biscuit Man.  So the actual virtues themselves are not unfamiliar, but the implementation of using them in a behaviour management system is.  It is like learning a whole new language.

And that is the part I have struggled with the most, the discourse of how to speak the language of the virtues.  For the senior leadership team (principal down to team leaders) this language flows freely from their tongue as they support me as a beginner to this way of speaking.  They use the virtues as the basis for restorative conversations between students and between individual teachers and students.

I have struggled with establishing the classroom environment with this group of students.  The majority of students are keen and ready to learn, but there is a group who struggle to manage their own behaviour and have not been responding to the positive measures I have been implementing.  And because I am still learning the discourse of the virtues, because these children are testing my boundaries for reactions, I am not connecting well with these students; I have not found the key.

So here I will describe what I am attempting to implement:

I have inherited a class metaphor.  This was new to me.  Each class at the school has their own metaphor which links in with targeted virtues, and there are some really creative ones to inspire the students to develop class unity.  My class metaphor was established two teachers ago, and I thought it was best to stick with it and not reinvent the wheel.

The metaphor is: We are shining our virtues to become award winning stars.  

It uses Hollywood/movies as the theme.  My class leaders are called Assistant Directors (I guess that makes me the director) and they sit on camp chairs (reminiscent of director's chairs).  Oscar (as in the highest award for films) is like the class mascot with the following virtues attributed like an acrostic poem:


I've divided the class into four groups, the Grammys, the Oscars, the Baftas and the Golden Globes.  I have Tuis (named after the NZ Music Awards, and instead of CBGs) to hand out as positive reinforcements.  At the end of the day the students hand these back in with their names written on the back.  Each Tui earns the student 10 points for their group and is another chance to have their name drawn out on Thursday afternoon for a treat (highlighters, mini pads, coloured pencils, pens and pencils...).  Groups can also earn points for actions like being the first ready with books and equipment, showing they are listening, great group work, having their chairs down.

All of the group points added together will go towards the class goal, currently set at 10,000 points, and then a higher total like 20,000 once we reach that to move forward.  The whole class gets a reward.  This time round it is likely to be a sport of their choice.  In the past I have also used a movie afternoon, trip to the pools, Easter eggs, board games afternoon....

That was the easy part to implement.  The majority of the students are receptive and are working hard to earn Tuis and points for their groups.

The school also has Virtue Cards.  Teachers (and class leaders I think) give these cards out as reinforcements and rewards for the virtues they see demonstrated by students or are promoting.  The student then takes it home for the parents to acknowledge and sign before bringing it back to school and posting in the Virtues Box at the office in the hopes of being drawn out at Assembly for a special prize.

It's taken me a couple of weeks to get my head around the Virtue Cards, but I have now made it part of the daily expectations to reinforce the behaviours I want to see in my class.

But what happens with the negative behaviours?  This is where I have really struggled because the feel of the school is for those positive restorative conversations, but how to you convey the gravity of the impacts of continued negative behaviours to the students who frequently fail to demonstrate their self-discipline and respect without stepping over the mark, in a way that is effective?  I was not happy, my students were not happy. 

I sat down with my team leader and the AP early last week and nutted out what this part would look like.  What was helpful was knowing that the team leader also had to put in the hard yards at the beginning of the year when she was new to the school.  I've since had the opportunity to observe in her classroom and her hard work at the beginning of the year has certainly paid off. 

I took the expectations back to the class and explained it.  Essentially it boils down to me explaining the virtues I expect to see as we learn during the day.  If I see a student who is disruptive or off task or loud I give them a verbal reminder of the virtue they need to exhibit, e.g. Bob, please demonstrate the virtue of peacefulness (translated: Bob, stop being so loud).  I check back to see that Bob is now quietly working.  If Bob is not quietly working, I write Bob's name on the board along with the virtue they need to practice.  If Bob continues to not use his virtues, he owes the teacher, me, time in his next break.  During this time I get Bob to write out the Kawa of the school as many times as his name ended up beside a virtue on the board.  For repeated behaviour through the day, Bob can be referred to the Virtues Help Room where he has the chance to discuss his behaviour and how he can make better choices and a restorative conversation and/or to the team leader or AP for a restorative conversation, and this could result in home being contacted. 

So I began doing this.  But I had students who continually demonstrated that they were unable to manage their own behaviour.  It was becoming somewhat overwhelming and on Monday I was so disturbed by my inability to do any teaching and the frustration of the other students I removed a repeat offender from the class to the team leader's room - where another AP was releasing her for the block!  Mortifying!

But he was just as supportive as the other AP, modelling restorative conversations, some advice on how to utilise the Virtues Cards and discussing how the SLT (principal included) can support me as the teacher and these students to achieve a sustainable outcome.  This is still a work in progress, but the next day was a better day.  The students know the consequences and I am no longer getting howls of despair when I follow through.

In writing this post, I came across this meme below, which pretty much sums up the learning curve I am going through in learning the language of the virtues.

Learning the language of the virtues and establishing the climate of my class with me as the teacher is still a work in progress.  After watching the team leader with her class I was in awe.  But I have had classes like that too, and I know I'm going to have to work hard to get this current class to the standard I've had previously in behaviour and self-management.

So bring it on and let the learning continue.... and may I always remember these wise words below:

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Educamp BOP 8 August 2015

The Bay of Plenty hosted their first Educamp for a couple of years at the weekend.  It was hosted by Tahatai Coast School in Papamoa, a school built in the mid 90s which was a showcase school for using ICT has teaching tools.  Sadly, it also became synonymous with being a leaky building school, and has had to have all its teaching spaces rebuilt in the last few years.

We were lucky enough to be taken on a tour by the principal, Ian Leckie, through all the teaching spaces.  Ian discussed the differences between the two blocks and the learning achieved through teaching in these spaces - not only pedagogical, but the practicalities of what materials achieve the best sound control on the walls and the floors and the ceilings, where walls should and shouldn't be and furniture.

Before that though we had the Smackdown, which you can view slide by slide here:

@shonapoppe is passionate about the use of Kahoot in her class.  It is all about quizzes which can be child made or teacher made.  She uses it as part of her assessment tool kit.  There is no social media so all good for students under 16.  It can be curriculum based (because you choose the quiz topic) and is very versatile.  https://getkahoot.com/

Connected Learning Advisory (Te Ara Whitiki)
Dave Merton explained that this is a free advisory service for all schools and “geek based” – it really about helping teachers with the learning side of connectivity.  Phone based  -  0800 700 400 – goes to Wellington and then re-directed to more local people.  Mostly dealing with Google apps, Microsoft 365 and Snup issues currently.  Also deployment of i-Pads.  Behind these people are others with even more knowledge.  They don’t tell you “how” to do it, but give you advice and options for you to choose from.  Could be over phone, Skype, f2f, Google Doc…. 

Google Cardboard
The lovely @mrs_hyde has spent her leave playing with her new toy, Google Cardboard.  It is a low cost virtual reality platform designed to be used with your mobile phone to explore other places and worlds.  Annemarie saw this as an opportunity for students to create their own virtual worlds as part of their learning.
Google Classroom
@kirbyme explained why she is using Google Classroom and the benefits her class has gotten using this for learning and organisation.  It goes across platforms, so you can use it with I-pads and chrome books, etc.  She explained it is similar to Harpara.  Google logins are needed for each kid, but you can block the email part of it so you don't have to worry about them creating Facebook accounts and the like.  The children are leading it and demanding more tasks.  They are asking lots of questions and children are answering the questions in return, so that the teacher doesn't have to do all the work.
Explain Everything
@bekwhyte explained how she uses Explain Everything in her class.  She says it is great for assessment as a teacher and it is up to the children how they present with it.  You can use it as a teaching tool to help model a particular skill.  You can attach videos, pictures, draw...  This teacher uses it to teach one problem solving question a week.  http://explaineverything.com/ 
Google Slides
@marykjam demonstrated how you can use Google Slides to make posters because it is way easier there than in Google Docs apparently.  Good tip.
@TopKat76 shared Powtoon with us.  She said that it has high engagement and is great for presentations. Powtoon is a Google App with a free Edu version.  You can connect to it through your Google Drive (go to new, connect to apps and search it so you can access it).
Mystery Skype
@TopKat76 also talked about making your class a truly global class by using #MysterySkype.  She said it was fine for time zones in the US Canada when it is daylight savings time, not so when it is not.  Can access authors (but mostly US based).  The "Mystery" part is not to say where you are from, but to get people to guess.
Google Educator Group NZ
@FionaGrant talked to us about another forum for NZ teachers.  In other countries it is being done by city, but here in NZ it was decided to go nationwide (it was considered that it would be a bit snobby if they established it city by city here).  Members communicate using Google Hangouts, Google+.... and they are looking to do local events for teachers f2f driven by local teachers.
Google Drawing
@FionaGrant also discussed how using Google Drawing is a great way to get kids (and teachers) to start in Google Apps.
Janette Murphy discussed how the teachers applying for ACET have had little to go on and their need for support.  Through VLN there has been a group set up for those who are applying for ACET and those who have been through it already to support each other.
@TopKat76 has been set up by Barb Reid with three other classrooms (Bombay, Christchurch, other SI school) to do Quadblogging.  Each child in @TopKat76's class has their own blog.  They have developed relationships with other classes who comment on each other's blog.  You do not have to be Blogger based either.
@jaminlietze shared about someone who inspires him: LeadershipFreak is a good guy to follow on leadership and change and a person who inspires others.  I have to agree.  I have read some of his stuff.  He is 'real'.
Jo Brown shared about Padlet.  She uses it to get children thinking and for assessment.  It is great for brainstorming with a class or collecting ideas.
Later on in the day @FionaGrant also introduced a small group of us to Periscope, an app attached to Twitter, which allows you to do a mini video podcast of something.  Apparently it does not stick around forever, so is for short term viewing.  Well I hope that is right because I looked down right scary in our little video we created!!  We also concluded this was more a tool for teacher communication than for students to use. https://www.periscope.tv/
Anne Robertson, a new Core Connected Advisor, came to her first Educamp and this blog post, Educamp BOP - a challenge to secondary school teachers!, is her reflection on the day and a challenge to her secondary colleagues.  Anne also compiled the Storify below, which saved me from doing one, so cheers Anne!!

Sadly, Storify has deleted itself from the Social Media scene, so all my Storify stories have gone.  😭😭😭😭😭

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Teachers using social media.

Once upon a time this was the world of media socially...

But things change.

Social media has exploded in the last ten years. 

My first foray into social media was Bebo back in 2007.  You set up a profile and.... yeah, I think I only really mucked around with making it look pretty.  Then there was Tagged.  That was a waste of space, and emails from this site still clog up my email account because it is such a mission to delete your Tagged account.

At some point in 2008 I was asked to join Facebook by someone (I forget who).  Here started a relationship with social media that lasts to this day.  Facebook has kept me connected with so many people and reconnected me with many others.  I am in contact with old school friends, university friends, old workmates and friends I have made along the way, extended "extended" family, politicians and with professionals I know.

In 2011 I joined Twitter.  I mostly use this for professional education purposes as well as union and political postings.  Occasionally I tweet jokes, irrelevant rubbish and a personal rant, but it has opened up a whole new world of people to interact with.  I blogged about this in a post called Twitter as a Personal Learning Network for Teachers back in July.

I also began this blog back in 2011, the same day as I joined Twitter at the end of ULearn11.  I had been to a couple of breakouts that focused on using Blogger and Wikispaces as social media in schools and classes.

Some time ago, I came across this blog post called Responding to Teachers' Questions: A Social Media Recipe for Educators?  This blog includes a YouTube video by the author, Julian Vasquez Heilig aka @ProfessorJVH, who is a professor at an American university.

The Professor opens his blog with this statement and the following questions:

Is there a recipe for social media? What are the secrets? Should I blog? I was recently asked to respond to a series of questions submitted by a group of teachers. I recorded my responses to them on YouTube. See the questions and responses below.
  • How (and why) did you develop an interest in social media?
  • How did you start? Blog, Twitter, Forums?
  • What have been your main challenges? How do you keep it up?
  • What kind of responses do you get? Could you share an example?
  • How do you navigate the personal/professional line with students and your social media presence?
  • Why do you think it is important for educators to use social media?
  • What would be your advice to other teachers who are getting started, or who would like to grow online?
These are a lot of important question that we need to consider as educators in our professional lives and how we approach these questions with students.  And no doubt many of you are also thinking about how this applies to your personal life and, if you have children, to them.

How did you start?  Blog, Twitter, Forums?  What have been your main challenges?  How do you keep it up?
I've already described my introduction to social media above and how I got into Facebook, Twitter and Blogging.  Everyone would now say I'm a bit of an addict.  I shall own that.  And that in itself is a challenge, because social media can sometimes be hard to keep up with.

There are days when I will turn off all devices and step away.  I think that is healthy and important to do that, because quiet can be nice.  There are days when I am too busy and flat out to look at a device - a normal day at school, a family event, the day the house must be cleaned from top to bottom.  This is called having a life and going to work - these are very important things.  Social media, like wine, good cheese and chocolate, is something to keep in balance with the rest of your life.

Some days social media is crazy.  I can accidentally get immersed in a chat on an issue to do with education or politics (I am a political junkie too) or a current event and find that hours have dispersed as I kept up with ideas, opinions and discussions.

But there are always times you have to put the device down because the cat needs feeding or you are doing school reports.  It is about priorities and self management and face to face relationships when it comes to keeping balance between the real and virtual worlds.

What kind of responses do you get?
Who does not get a bit of a buzz when their Facebook post gets a "Like" or their tweet is retweeted or when they see the views on their blog post growing.  It does make you feel noticed.

I started my blog in October 2011.  I was convinced that no one would be interested in what I had to say or share.  I would get pretty happy if say 50 people had looked at a post.  I would post it, email the link to a few people, and tweet it about four times on Twitter.  Occasionally I would get a comment submitted.  Comments are nice.  It's another form of engagement.

A few weeks ago I spent about a week working on a blog explaining my spelling programme and I posted it at about 5:00am on a Saturday morning (I wanted it finished and worked through the night).  It had had a thousand views by just after lunch.  By the end of the weekend it was over 3,000 views.  Four weeks later it currently has just short of 5,500 views.

Now that is heart warming, but it also goes to show how crazy teachers are about how to effectively get their students learning spelling. 

But how did that many people know about that post?  Yes, I did tweet it out on Twitter, and according to my statistics many people came into the post from that source.  But in January, two teachers decided to start a Facebook page called NZ Teachers (Primary), and my friend Tanya was invited to join by someone.  She invited me to join.  At that stage in mid January there were about 300 or so members.  Today there are over 9,300 members.  I credit the sharing that the teachers who have become a member of this group do to the increase in traffic to my blog.  Share a post here in a couple of different threads and it gets noticed.

How do you navigate the personal/professional line with students and your social media presence?
I do not friend students.  I learnt that the hard way when Bebo first came into existence.  I originally joined Bebo because a friend who was still in England sent the friend request.  Some kids in the Year 7/8 class I was teaching at the time were talking about Bebo and I said to them that I was on there.  I then got several friend requests, which I accepted. 

Now I have already said that most of my time on there was making it look pretty, but one of the "cool" things about social media is the cyber stalking (not in a dodgy way, thank you) you do to find out about people.  So I was looking at the page of one of my students, and I couldn't help but notice the horrible comments she was making about another student in my class.  It upset me greatly.  So I went to the principal and asked her to put some information in the newsletter for parents and students about cyber bullying and the fact that it had been noticed to be going on in our school community.  This was 2007, and social media was only just gaining traction.  People were more worried about their children being exposed to pornography on the internet at this stage and the full implications of cyber bullying were only just being exposed to the general public.

As a result, I no longer friend current students.  I don't usually friend former students until they leave high school, unless I am related to them or their parents are my Facebook friends.

I also do not friend parents in my current school community, and I am choosey about which staff members I currently work with as my Facebook friends.  When I leave a school, the parents and staff I choose to continue a friendship with become Facebook friends.  We may never see each other in real life, but I do take great pleasure in seeing how my former students are going through the pages of their parents.  And I do have a habit of collecting families from different schools.

I have pondered the future, of what I would do if the school engaged with the parents, students and community through Facebook and Twitter, and I have decided the best avenue is to have an alternative account that will interact in that way.  Parents don't need to see my photos of a seafood festival, political views and black sense of humour flowing through their timelines.

Why do you think it is important for educators to use social media?
In the first place, how do you keep up with people without it nowadays?  I'm so flat out during term time that I would be lucky to text my best friend let alone see her more than once during a term, let alone that hardcase mate from T Coll or that flattie from London, or the kid who lived next door at primary school!!  How would I know what my cousins are doing without Facebook?  And I certainly wouldn't know the news behind the news without Twitter!!

But apart from gossip from old friends and left wing conspirators, I have found Twitter and Facebook have been great places to grow my Personal Learning Network (PLN) as well as other teacher connections.

Firstly, I met people by going to ULearn who encouraged me to come to and Educamp.  As I started using Twitter at that ULearn and then met people I was tweeting with at following Educamps and ULearns.  Through Twitter I started reading their blogs as well.  It has snowballed.

Through some NZEI Facebook groups I had also made connections, met these people in real life at NZEI events and become Facebook friends with them.  It was funny at one Annual Meeting when every time I sat down at a workshop table I got "So you're Melanie!"  I started thinking, "Oh dear, what have I done?" 

Now the NZ Teachers Facebook page really has brought a lot of teachers together, interacting and sharing.  I visited a school a couple of weeks ago to find in their reception area a piece of work which I had done with my students in Term 1 last year, blogged about last year, and shared extensively on NZ Teachers back in January and February.  Warm fuzzies!!!

What would be your advice to other teachers who are getting started, or who would like to grow online?
If you are getting started, pick one platform first, find out about it and join.  It would be good if you had someone you know already using that platform, because they will know other people you know and connect you to them.  Don't expose too much about yourself (such as the school you work for and on Twitter you don't have to put your full or real name) initially, and, particularly on Facebook, lock your account from sharing too much until you are more comfortable with the platform.

Look and tutu with the platform.  That's how you learn, just like children, by exploring.

If you are a NZ primary teacher on Facebook who does not yet belong to NZ Teachers on Facebook, find one of your friends who is to invite you.

If you are on Twitter, I would recommend searching the #edchatnz and looking at the tweets.  From there you can look at people's profiles and choose to follow them or not.  Tweet using the #edchatnz hashtag asking who you should follow, and you will get lots of new followers as well as great suggestions tweeted back at you.

If it is a blog you want to start, talk to some people who already have blogs to get some tips.  I started this one after attending workshops at ULearn that covered blogging and wikispaces.  I experimented with both, but feel very comfortable using Blogger which is good most of the time.  You do not have to make your blog viewable until you are comfortable either.  I now have five blogs, two of which are not searchable, so I have to give the link out to get to them.  So that is perfectly acceptable.

Other considerations....
Last year a number of teachers fell foul of the New Zealand Teachers Council due to their use of social media.  This website set up by the NZTC, Teachers & Social Media, will give you some good advice on keeping yourself safe professionally and even personally.

Below is a selection of articles from the last year of teachers and principals who have been caught out for inappropriate behaviour with social media and phones and have had complaints lodged about them with the Teachers Council.

And this piece of advice is crucial:  any contact you have with students or parents via social media should be ok for your principal or BOT Chair to read without you having to squirm and answer questions about it. 

Think before you press post or send, because everything on the internet can come back to bite you on the bum (just ask Judith Collins).

And under no circumstances do SnapChat or Yik Yak with any students.