Friday, December 22, 2017

Changing the Paradigm

I finished in my role as Learning Facilitor with Ngā Pūmanawa e Waru on 6 December 2017. I really cherish this time in which I have been privileged to be working alongside teachers to enable shifts in teacher practice. At times, teachers were reluctant about changes they had to make, but they were encourage to adopt 'a beginner's mindset'. 

At times the journey was unpredictable, but when meeting with teachers, I had been looking at the challenges they might experienced and how to overcome difficulties to enable change. What also impressed me was their willingness to seek feedback once they tried something new that I introduced in the learning environment. 

The outcome was one of great satisfaction, as shifts were made in practice and teachers were eager to move forward [even more] to support students in their learning journey.

~ "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams ~

Friday, December 15, 2017

End of Year - A Quick Reflection

With my 'Possibilities, Options and a Course of Action' post at the start of the year, I was looking forward to pursue the many things that was twirling around in my head...

Unfortunately, I did not always 'stand firm' mentally and emotionally when challenges arise, so my one word, prudent (adj) 'acting with or showing care and thought for the future' did not always come to fruition, as there were days I was not ready for some unexpected challenges / bumps in the road.

One of my biggest 'problems' was that I felt tired, tired and tired. I question myself constantly as to my lack in motivation to effectively use my PLN (Twitter, VLN, EduCampNZ) and colleagues to create productive working relationships by learning from others, asking questions to find out the thoughts of others and to reflect understanding. 

Many days, I felt like "Forget Everything and Run" rather than to "Face Everything and Rise." (the two meanings of F-E-A-R according to Zig Ziglar).

The following post on a closed group also made me wonder if this showed what teaching became for so many in 2017... yes there are other stories too... unfortunately.

Throughout my unexpected challenges, I think I stayed true to my students... one example:
Two of my ‘at risk’ Māori students (Student 2 and Student 3) experienced difficulty with oral language. 

I reflected on why this might be and came to the conclusion that the pronunciation of Māori vowels in relation to English is quite different, which could very well contribute to their specific areas of need. A ‘non-confident’ Māori student, can find this extremely difficult and result to them finding it hard to follow instructions, process information etc.
I planned deliberate activities that meet the needs of these learners, whilst also capitalising on spontaneous authentic learning opportunities that support oral language development. 
Steps was to:
- Locate, create and utilise a variety of activities/resources support sequencing development.
- Use Big Books and Cards, and use the planning support that accompanies these to develop oral language.
- Use guided reading lessons to continue modelling and promoting retelling of text with a focus on oral language.

Although Student 2 still requires some support, I am delighted with the overall progress - as this was a student who did not talk at all to start with.

Progress can be seen as shown in the end of year spreadsheet below. 
All the blue areas, were areas of concern. Now it is only the two green areas, which I am confident will be shifting further [as well] in the coming year.

One of the best parts of this year [for me] was working in classes alongside teachers and ākonga to develop capability in pedagogy (teaching and learning) and the use of technology as a tool to support learning in my role as 0.2 learning Facilitator with Ngā Pūmanawa e Waru. Part of our (my) role was to working through and with the wider community to enable ubiquity (every where, anytime) of learning, honouring an authentic Rotorua and Arawa context, foster collaboration for learning across Rotorua (I have a G+ community for junior school teachers where we share resources / ideas) and to build knowledge about Future Focused Learning. I have been working with teachers and school leaders (I engaged regularly with principals about growth in teacher adaptive confidence and professional development) by embedding effective future focused teaching, using learning technologies to build learner competencies. 

End of Year Highlight:
Received a choc bar with this lovely message from a student! #EndOfYear #FeelingBlessed

~ "Ships don't sink because of the water around them; ships sink because of the water that gets in them. Don't let what's happening around you get inside you and weigh you down... stay up." - Unknown ~

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Constant Improvement

Our school had been very fortunate to secure Anne from CORE Eduaction and CLA as facilitator for our PD this year. One focus was on parent engagement... This has been something that I have been talking about in one of my past Inquiries... How can we get parents ENGAGED in their child's learning? Many people think that attending sports events means that parents are engaged, however; parents are here only 'involved' in what is happening at a school... therefore the importance of getting them engaged... in students' learning, especially class and individual student blogs as an ePortfolio is crucial.

A good starting point for us as a staff was to look at the elements of a positive learning environment for us individually. This also help us to understand each other a bit better (I think)...

Anne lead a session with parents around the eLearning Planning Framework. Feedback from parents and teachers both were very valuable...

As teachers, we also brainstormed our ideas...

Closer to the end of our PD, we went back to a Padlet we started at the beginning of the year and revisited our ideas...

So where to next for us at this stage?

Exciting times ahead...

~ "Excellent schools don't believe in excellence - only in constant improvement and constant change." - Dan McCabe ~

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Future Focused Learning

A great resource I found compiled by Jonathan Broom... worth exploring!

Made with Padlet

Friday, September 1, 2017

Discussing Computational Thinking and 'playing' with Sphero

Hancine started our Connected Rotorua session by showing us a very interesting video on 'Computational Thinking'...

There is also a free course available for educators through 'Google' to help with integrating 'Computational Thinking' into the curriculum.

It was great to be around educators who knew that Computational Thinking is about problem solving...

Getting an explanation from Neil on how 'sphero' works...

Having a play while being talked through by Shaun...
Photo Credit: Sue Winters (Ngā Pūmanawa e Waru)

~ "There's nothing magical about any tech tool. Real magic rests in the minds and hearts of teachers using digital tools to introduce students to new individuals, ideas and opportunities." - Unknown ~

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Toolbox 101 - Senior Management 'Need to Know'

Although this seminar was aimed at Senior Management looking at obtaining a Principal role, it was obvious to me that the information shared, was also very valuable to an AP/DP.

Things covered were:
  1. Appointments (Appointment letters, fixed term, permanent, job sharing and beginning teachers)... The discussions we had for fixed term and support staff appointments and whether they adhere to the PTCA and the Employment Act was definitely an eye opener. After working through a couple of scenarios, it became clear that commonly cited reasons for these appointments are not always that straight forward.
  2. Unit Allocations... A fair process is to look at what is the needs at school and to have a conversation with staff. Put out a job description for the unit. Open to anybody who would like to apply. Needs to be clear, fair and transparent. 60% of units should be permanent and 40% can be fixed-term.
  3. Leave (Sick, parental, bereavement, discretionary, refreshment)... Some very interesting clarifications came out of this, e.g. Stress and mental health are not considered illnesses for sick leave. It is also important to have conversations with staff about the entitlement for bereavement leave, so that they are clear about what this is.
  4. Support Staff Review (Variation of hours, grading, annual salary reviews, surplus staffing)... It is important to look at allocation hours for the year coming up, as you cannot change hours in a school year (although, e.g. T/A - 10 permanent hours & 10 fixed-term, you can change fixed to 5). Variation should not be more that 20% of their permanent hours.
  5. Competency / Conduct / Impairment Issues... The main message that came through was that the process should be fair to the parties involved. Discussion is absolutely crucial to ensure the non escalation of the issue. The mana and dignity of a person should be intact during this time. When this was discussed, it made me think of a thread I read a while ago and a discussion on a well know programme...  

An overwhelming body of research is highlighting the excessive stress faced by New Zealand’s educators. Therefore, it is my opinion that no-one needs any 'uncertainty' added to any process that might impact on their well-being. Communication is vital...

~ "Compassion is an action word with no boundaries." - Prince ~

Friday, August 11, 2017

Learner Engagement... 'Me and My School'

I was privileged to attend a NZCER 'Me and My School' Learner Engagement Survey Workshop.

"Me and My School is a unique, research-based student engagement survey designed for New Zealand students Years 4 to 10. It offers a snapshot of the learning culture in your school, standardised data to track progress over time and a nationally referenced gender, ethnicity, and year level comparison." - NZCER

Why 'Me and My School'? (Theory of Action)

Outcomes of using 'Me and My school':
- Impact of NPeW
- Potential link to other data
- Useful assessment at multiple level (schools, CoLs, District)
- Input into school strategic plans for 2018

What does the survey measures? 3 main aspects: - Behavioural - Effective / emotional - Cognitive (willing to try new things??) Links to the Key Competencies

Getting staff ready for online survey:

- Use demo sites to introduce staff - Teachers need to talk students through 'instructions' & 'about me' parts - When students start with survey, advised that teacher should not be walking around, due to anonymous nature

Results: - With online reports you can view interim reports - Making sense of the reports - lots of different ways that data can be looked at / intrepid. Tips: Think about protocols on how to administer - maybe get students to all do it together in class or think about how it works best for your students. If someone is away, get them to do it when they are back. Aim to get all students to partake.

This assessment tool is designed to give a school robust and systematic information about student engagement.

~ "Measure what you value instead of valuing only what you can measure" - Andy Hargreaves ~

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Digital Technologies / Hangarau Matihiko Consultation

I have been really interested in attending the consultation sessions, since the official announcement in regards to the addition to the New Zealand Curriculum from Education Minister Nikki Kaye and as Digital Technologies|Hangarau Matihiko is to be formally added into the NZ Curriculum by 2018 and fully integrated by 2020.

My notes:
Leadership / BOT session - 9.00am - 12.00pm
When thinking of DT, think about people using it.
Digital supports arts, science etc. It is not standing alone.


What is needed to teach DTIHM?:

Algorithms are not new to us. Give students the opportunity to learn the language.

- Writing a program brings the algorithm to life.
- Computational thinking is about how to create something new.

In Technological Areas part - (‘Computational thinking for digital technologies’ & ‘Designing and developing digital outcomes’) are the new part of the Curriculum.

How would you start a conversation about DT in your school? What does it look like? What is it about? 
- Take away the ‘plugged’ element
- Unplugged/ de-plugged (

It is not about the pc that sits on the desk, but the pc that sits in the mind. Schools have autonomy on how to implement.

Teachers' session - 1.00pm - 3.00pm

Students should be "doing" computational thinking without computer / numbers (using alphabet)
How would you explain this whole new digital world to primary schools?
This is not about tech hardware, it’s about our brain.
We have a role as navigators and guides to our children

Creating with technology can have students feel ownership.

Algorithm comes up quite a lot in the new curriculum. All data is represented by using 2 values (binary code). A bit is the smallest bit of information...

As I am really passionate about technologies and how it can be used to support learning, I am looking forward to the implementation and embedding of ‘Computational thinking for digital technologies’ & ‘Designing and developing digital outcomes’ in learning by 2020.

Additional links:
Strengthening Digital Technologies Hangarau Matihiko in the Curriculum - A collaborative Doc created by Allanah King.
- Digital technology | Hangarau matihiko curriculum consultation: Workshop video
- Blog post by Sonya Van Schaijik

~ "Technology opens the door to the world. It's up to us to walk through it in a meaning ful and respectful way." - Unknown ~

Friday, July 21, 2017

Saying 'good-bye'... it's not easy

Due to many commitments, I had to make a serious decision regarding my ever growing workload and responsibilities. I realised that I will have to let go [at least] one of the many initiatives I am involved in. It was with a heavy heart and after pondering for many weeks, that I made the decision to withdraw myself as co-organiser from KidsedchatNZ at this moment in time. 

I feel humbled with the replies from the members of the team:

More feedback...

... and then this blog post:

"KidsedchatNZ: Crew Vacancy

Tena koutou KidsedchatNZ whānau

We have some changes afoot with our KidsedchatNZ organising crew. We are sadly farewelling the magnificent Marnel van der Spuy from our team.

Marnel has been one of our co-organisers from our very inception, and has contributed masses of her own time and energy into making our chat the great tool that it is for New Zealand kids to connect. 

Thank you so much Marnel, we have valued your contribution and commitment. You are steadfastly reliable and have always been there for us as a team. We wish you well - the kids at Broadlands School are very lucky.

Are you able to help? We are looking for more teachers to join our team. We believe in KidsedchatNZ, and know from our experience that it is a brilliant tool for kids to begin connecting with each other. 

It is great that there are now more vehicles for our New Zealand kids to use twitter to connect such as @ReadaloudNZ and @ChapterChatNZ

We love them all! These chats don't happen without the commitment of our superhero NZ teachers who believe in using digital technologies as tools for learning - thank you to all of you - you rock.

Can YOU be our next Superhero?"

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Phonics awareness - a great place in setting students up for literacy

I've always incorporated Phonics into my literacy programme, but as I am constantly reflecting on my teaching and how it can be improved, I jumped when the opportunity to attend the 'Yolanda Soryl workshop' arose.

Yolanda confirmed the view I have that students need a range of basic phonics strategies so they can easily work out new words in reading and spelling.

Teaching tips and pointers
  • Allow only lower case letters to be written in phonics
  • Only have a reason for a capital letter like writing your name. When they write a capital letter in writing ask what the reason was for writing letter in capital - if no reason, rub out.
  • Only teach capital after lower case is secure

  • Blending important for reading: d, d-o, d-o-g = dog
  • Break up word to write- segmentation
  • Some students know their sound, but don’t know how to break it up
  • Teach kids how to hear
  • The aim is to look at work and recognize it instantly
  • Read name before school - this is recognition of graphic knowledge
  • Teach high frequency words fast
  • Phonics is for low reading learners
  • Grammar - does it sound right. Get them to read their sentences back
  • Ingrain a sense of a sentence - repetitive reading
  • Teach students to re-read their writing, to check if it sounds right. 
  • 3 levels that students use to connect (sounds, words, sentences). Students that struggle don’t connect these three
  • Important to decode to enable them to comprehend
  • Book introduction important - look and introduce unfamiliar words
  • Teach fluency at word level - then you have chance to read page
  • Dyslexic kids tend to use both sides of the brain
  • Hear low level reader read out loud every day to improve reading outcome
  • Phonics is about using sounds, not only knowing sounds

I am also looking forward to the release of the Phonics App which can be used to learn/revise the alphabet sounds. It also follows a Phonics 'Hear, Read, Write' lesson plan and can stand alone or be used to revise a lesson. The App features a New Zealand accent which is so important for helping students learn the short vowel sounds.

~ "It shouldn't matter how slowly a child learns, as long as we are encouraging them not to stop" - Robert John Meehan ~