Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Starting Collaboration Reflections

What's on top?

  • Creating times in the day/week for normal classroom activities that are not curriculum based (hidden curriculum)
  • Managing use of learning assistants as in the mornings there are 6 adults in the space
  • Whole group sessions - split into 2?
  • Getting to know students who are needing those strong relationships to ground them
Innovative Learning Spaces (ILS) are really bound by context.  The context will guide the programme. What may work for one school or class may not work for another. I am fortunate to be working with another teacher who has a shared understanding of how children learn and what an effective year 6 programme looks like.  We have 2 other teachers that support us that also have this shared understanding.

My wonderings to share with my teaching team:

  • If there could be a block each week that isn't a shared learning time?
  • If the structures that we set up for literacy and numeracy could be explicit about how the Learning assistants are used?
  • If we could give feedback about having less Learning Assistants in the first 3 weeks as we establish our collaborative practices?
  • If areas outside of literacy and numeracy could/should be done in smaller classes?
  • Would more time with my smaller class help those students who need to anchor themselves and find their place?
  • Gather some student voice
  • Do some reflection with my teaching team

Monday, February 6, 2017

Intentions for 2017

Kererū - my favourite bird and good luck charm

I like the word intentions rather than goals. Goals imply that you have to succeed, check it off the list, reach something. I think that everyone has the best intentions at the beginning of the year and that intentions can lead to best practice - a living, breathing and continual state of being.

My first intention is to look after myself this year. I intend to get up early each day and begin with a walk or run to get my circulation going. I started doing this in the holidays and immediately noticed a difference in my state of mind. I also intend to drink more water each day, I find that I get so busy that I forget to stop and hydrate which isn't so great for the body or the mind.

My second intention is to make sure I have work/life balance. To do this I intend to set myself some specific tasks for before school (a time of day where I don't seem to get anything done) and to use google tasks to keep track of what needs to be done. I also want to utilise some of the lunch hour and finish my work (if possible) before I go home. I'd also love to have my weekends free, I know that this one may be a little harder to do each week but the intention is there!

Both of these intentions are to do with my hauora (my health).

Hauora is comprised of 4 areas:

Taha tinana - physical well-being
Taha hinengaro - mental and emotional well-being
Taha whānau - social well-being
Taha wairua - spiritual well-being

(Ministry of Education, 1999)

To be the best teacher for my students I really need to look after all 4 areas.

I have a special place that I like to go to clear my mind and recharge, and that is Zealandia wildlife sanctuary. As a member I can go whenever I want and spend as long as I like. When I am there it is possible for me to not think about school.

This weekend while I was taking a track away from the crowds I saw so many juvenile birds - tūī, tieke, piwakawaka and large flocks of pōpokatea. I spoke to a family that passed me on the track and they had seen nothing. This got me thinking about the need to be observant in both life and at school. We need to take the time to notice, to be present and to see what we can take away from the experience. Being present doesn't have to mean being seen and heard, for the quieter I was, the more birds I saw. I intend to take this quiet presence, this notion of observation into the learning environment.

And lastly as we merge our year 6 classes completely and become a learning whānau of 61 students and 2 teachers I intend to spend quality time building relationships with the students and working collaboratively with my co-teacher. I intend to use the quiet observation to help understand the learning needs that exist in my classroom, noticing the small things and making sure that they too are having their hauora needs met.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Podcast review: Games are good for you!

Note to Self: The Secret to Making Video Games Good for you 

Produced by WYNC studios 

Cross posted at Gamefulpraxis.com

Quite often gaming is looked at in a negative way so it is refreshing to hear research that frames gaming in a more positive way. This particular episode is an interview with Jane McGonigal a researcher at the Institute for the Future. Yes this is a real place and yes I want to go there!

Jane's research focuses on the neurochemical changes that happen when we are playing and how we can better understand how our brain works when we are playing. How can we "hack" this experience and apply it to our real lives in those moments when we need more resilience?

To quote Brian Sutton Smith, Developmental Psychologist and expert in play:

"the opposite of play isn't work, the opposite of play is depression" 

McGonigal further unpacks this quote to state that when we are playing games the positive emotions that we experience such as; joy, wonder, excitement and success, are the opposite of the clinical diagnosis for depression. Woah! Well okay, that's a bold statement! But to give it even more credit, this is research based on which areas of the brain area stimulated/under-stimulated in both states!! Maybe video games really are the new self help! I'll be reaching for the iPad next time I'm feeling a little down... (my wondering here is if anyone has done research that measures shift in emotion when going from sad to playing games???)

Candy crush saga, Bejewelled, Solitaire... you know those games that you just play that don't seem to be of any value yet you spend hours playing while you take a break from reality? Are they actually valuable then?

Well, when we are able to stop thinking about things that are bothering us and take a break from reality we are incorporating techniques from both cognitive behavioural therapy and meditation. I interpret that as gaming as meditation, gaming as a healthy way of disassociating. I can hear your brain right now crafting an argument against this and that's cool because this is all sounding way too good right? McGonigal also did a meta-study of 500 pieces of research about gaming and wellness. Half of those found negative correlations, half positive. The key to positive outcomes was the ability to relate game play to reality in a meaningful way. If you were unable to do this games became an escape from reality, a downward spiral. Life gets worse, play more games = unhealthy outcomes. 

Unfortunately this is the picture of gaming that is painted in the media, and is on the mind of parents of teenagers. That is not to say that this negative image doesn't exist, it's just really hard to break when you are someone like me trying to use games and game design in education in a positive way. McGonigal has found research that supports the idea that escapism games are okay for us in short bursts. They can even help us break habits like sneaky snacking (I am actually keen to try this one and am tempted to put a post it note on the packet of biscuits saying "play a game instead"). She also points out that self-regulation is optimal, play the game to help you but know when you've had enough. Choose the game and see what it does for you. Jane actually designed her own game to help her through a bad case of concussion.

Her advice to parents is also very poignant. Do not shame your children about the games that they play. Do not tell them they are wasting their time or that they should be doing something else. If we frame gaming negatively like that then we stop that relationship between gaming and reality that was mentioned earlier. They will think games are for escape and they will head down the negative path. Instead ask them: "what have you gotten better at since you started playing this game?" Be interested in what dispositions they can transfer into their real life. If a child can talk about these abstract ideas then they have made that link, if they are referring only to things that exist within the game then they need us to help them bridge that gap.

The last question that Jane McGonigal was asked in this interview related to games and addiction. Addiction as a "thing" is currently being challenged in the science world and the latest research is saying that addiction is a goal orientated action that gets stuck on one particular thing. With gaming the person needs to transfer those things that give them that "buzz" into other activities so that they don't get stuck with that one thing that gets them feeling like that. That makes me sense to me. Perhaps we need to be more aware of how we can shift children and teenagers especially towards other similar stimuli?

There are so many games out there that challenge people and build on skills needed in the real world. When you play online with and against your friends there are also many benefits. A good game has transferable skills. Games can be good for you but ultimately it is you, the player that needs to make decisions about what you play, why you play and how long you play for. Own your gaming and make it part of your life not an escape from it!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

ULearn16 - Students at the heart of learning

Students at the heart of learning - growing learning through passions/Interests and curiosities The team at Ngatea Primary School share their model of learning.

Ulearn16 - Going Solo

Collated tweets from Wairakei Primary School's session on using SOLO Taxonomy across their planning and assessment.

Ulearn16 - Make Anywhere

Sunday, September 4, 2016


A coach...

The image I usually think of is associated with sports. In particular with my own sport which is football. The coach is the person who at the beginning of the season you despise as they put you through numerous fitness sessions and by the end of the season you share jubilation with as you win each game. There is a specific goal to be achieved and they are with you the whole way directing you to improve your game.
Here is a photo of my old football coach letting us use him as target practice.

However, in educational terms a coach has quite a different set of skills. Coaching is a process that allows you the "Coachee" to meet your goals. A coach does not tell you the answer to your problem or even offer a suggestion, they are simply there to guide you through a process.

The image that comes to mind now is one of a funnel; starting with a large problem and narrowing down to a manageable time fixed action.

The process follows 3 easy steps:
A - Aim
R - Reality
A - Action

Part of our workshop with Mark Sweeney was to have a go in both roles as the coach and coachee but also as an observer. I found this process immensely valuable.

My problem/Aim:

Shifting several students who are progressing in writing but not at the standard yet (a common goal).


To introduce 3 key writing ideas based on expanding vocabulary over the next 3 weeks.

Achievable - yes!