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Friday, 31 October 2014

Modern Learning Pedagogies - Learning Pathway

Today, we were challenged to produce a DLO (Digital Learning Object) that showed a learning pathway - from planning to student outcome.

This is my finished product - enjoy:

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Linking Digital Pedagogies and Bilingual Pedagogies

This was a presentation that I presented as a Toolkit session within the Manaiakalani cluster.  Toolkits are FREE teacher lead Professional Development sessions, which other teachers from around the cluster can sign up to and attend.  We share the expertise and the love and get to network twice a term (Week 2 and Week 6 of every term).  Two - three sessions are offered on each Toolkit day (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) of that week.  Teacher sign up via google forms.

My presentation was inspired by a personal challenge and journey I was going through - as I complete my Graduate Diploma of TESSOL and strengthen my practice as a teacher in a digital immersion classroom within the Manaiakalani cluster.  How do I take, of what I know is best practice from each of these strands of my life and put them together?  This is what I came up with.  This is definitely to be continued, and I would love any feedback and supporting materials that you have.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Professional Development: Visual Arts

Today, I was lucky enough to be approached by our specialist art teacher Maryanne Manuyag who had a block of time available and asked if Room 8 would like to fill it - of course!  What a fantastic opportunity for some free professional learning development!

The students were creating their art pieces which would go towards the school's calendar art fundraising efforts.  They were creating 'Zentangles,' which is an artwork based on circles and patterns, which is apparently quite therapeutic - perhaps for the students, not so much the teachers!

Key learning for me and my pedagogies included:

  • Models
    • Of what the art will look like once it is complete.  We often see this as stifling to the students' own originality, however, it is hard to explain something as abstract as an image - could you imagine holding up a blank piece of paper and saying "Imagine, this is going to go here, and this is going to go here..."  The students would probably switch right off!  However, with an end goal in mind, students can begin to process ideas, time management and get motivated.
  • Step by step Instructions
    • I really liked the way Maryanne broke the art (not literally!) into steps.  She gathered the students in a circle so they could all see her model the task and then she sent them away with a given time to complete that step, before coming back for the next step.  This meant that by the end of the lesson 95% of the class handed in a completed piece of art, and they all looked stunning!
  • Purpose and Audience
    • Not really something I often think about when teaching art, but this was set up in a similar way to Writing.  "We are going to create a Zentangle so that (purpose), we can create calendars, diaries or giftcards with our artworks on them, and then maybe we can gift those lovely things to our families (audience), friends or special visitors for Christmas, birthdays or other special events."  This statement made students take the tasks seriously and put in a lot of effort into making them beautiful.  Just as you would when setting purpose and audience in Writing, and finding that students were more engaged because they felt that the reason for writing was authentic.  
  • Preparation
    • Maryanne was so organised, and for something like Art - you cannot 'wing' it.  The exemplar models were prepared, the equipment was prepared, practice paper was ready if students needed it - working spaces were set out.  It meant that students could get on with the art and not waste time organising the working environment.  
  • Copying VS. Inspiration
    • This was a great way of encouraging the collaborative classroom environment and was stamped out at the very beginning of the lesson.  "If you are inspired by certain things people do, that's great...but if you are 'inspired' by every single thing and you use every single thing, then you are not thinking for yourself."  I really liked the term 'inspired' instead of copy and 'thinking for yourself' as a way of saying don't copy in a more meaningful way.
I asked Maryanne about her thoughts when teaching art at this level (Year 7/8) and we discussed some great ideas:

  • Art at this stage is about the process, the different mediums, technique, balance and what looks good
    • Students who have not had these experiences may find that when they go to college - Art is a bit harder because they don't know as many ways to achieve a certain idea - to make it a visual reality.  Giving students a variety of experiences means they may be able to communicate their ideas by making informed decisions and can then truly begin to play with art and show their originality. 
  • Extending concentration time
    • We often have 'art block' which can be an hour and a half to two hours long - usually so that students can get a finished product at the end.  How often do we do this with other learning areas?  Art is a great way to practice extended concentration.  I noticed that Maryanne eventually played music but that she turned it off again as students were getting distracted - taking away that idea of 'art as the cruisey subject' and encouraging students to focus and take it seriously - like at any other time of the day.

It was such a fun morning overall and the artwork looked AMAZING.  Thanks to Maryanne for inviting us in, and I thoroughly encourage other teachers - if you have a specialist in your school, rather than rush off to finish the paper work, stay in the class and learn alongside the students every so often :)

Here are some photos from our time in the art room today! 

Monday, 20 October 2014

The aims of a 21st Century Teacher

Lately, I have been reflecting on what it means to be a teacher in the 21st Century, in terms of what is necessary to teach in order to realistically prepare students for the future.

This term, our inquiry study is based on technology.  We have called it 'Technology Challenge' and I found myself one afternoon last week, ranting on about the need for students to be able to think, problem solve, collaborate and innovate.  I discussed what it means to have restricted resources and funding, and what people are doing despite the odds, and what kinds of brilliant minds those people must have.

Our aims as teachers are wide and varied - but all centre around the belief that we are contributing to better life outcomes for our students.  Critical thinking and skills in technology are two key focuses of this particular blog post.

This way of thinking would not have been possible without the experiences I have had within the Manaiakalani project, and meeting other professionals who have challenged my way of thinking and who still challenge me to further my thinking today.  However, they're not alone....  attending the OMGTech Rangers Day with three students from Tamaki Primary on Saturday allowed me to meet with others who believe in the importance of promoting creative, critical thinkers and designers.  Gather is another group that aims to connect young people, teachers and technology.

So why is this stuff so important?

"These Days," university graduates are not guaranteed to get jobs.  We live in a world where Whatsapp - a company less that five years old, is worth 19 billion and shared between only 55 employers.  Compared to established companies, some with more than 100,000 employers.

And where 'top jobs' are those based in 'engineering' - a job that survives on the creative, inventive and critical thinking of the engineers.  

It is important to reflect on your aims as a teacher, and then align those aims with the real world.  What is actually necessary for these students?  My key aim is to have every student in my class, in 20 years time say "We learned everything about that at school."  instead of "We didn't learn about any of that at school."  Perhaps we might have the CEO of the next 100% Waste free device company.

This is just a starting point for me...what are your aims as a 21st Century teacher?

Monday, 6 October 2014

Making Connections between Bilingualism and Digital Immersion

I am completing my last paper as part of my Post-Graduate Diploma of TESSOL with John McCaffery at Auckland University.

Currently, we are learning about Translanguaging and as I listen and process, I can't help but make connections to my beliefs about the Learn, Create, Share ethos of Manaiakalani and my own pedagogical practice.

"Translanguaging is a theorised bilingual immersion pedagogical teaching strategy for promoting rapid academic, literacy language, and identify development in two languages and literacies." 

"It involves teaching students to use alternating languages for receptive or productive uses."

(McCaffery, 2014. RRS PhD work)

There are two current interpretations of translanguaging; translanguaging as a way of learning, from a student view, and translanguaging as a way of teaching, from a pedagogical approach.  For the purpose of this blog post, I will be commenting on the pedagogical teacher approach.  

The key idea is that teachers strategically draw from students TLR (total language resources) and effectively plan for the use of both languages in order get students to cognitively process concepts and ideas in both languages.

Firstly, I return to the 'ice berg model.'  

This model aims to illustrate the idea that bilingual students do not operate in one language alone.  That bilingual students draw from both languages when processing new learning.

Translanguaging - is a pedagogical approach, in which teachers strategically plan for students to translanguage by providing input opportunities in one language and output opportunities in another.  It is not learning a concept in one language and then RElearning it again - the same concept - in the second language.  Rather, it is LEARNING a concept in one language, and USING that learning to CREATE another product.

I started thinking about the term 'digital native' coined by Marc Prensky in 2001.  Interestingly, I believe in a similar pedagogy within my digital immersion classroom, or maybe, my digitally bilingual classroom.  What we do, in Manaiakalani is kind of like the translanguaging of digital literacies.

For students to translanguage, teachers need to provide opportunities for students to LEARN in one language and then CREATE in another.  Similarly, in a Manaiakalani classroom, we encourage students to LEARN and CREATE using their digital literacies.

In both contexts, what teachers are encouraging students to do, is to cognitively engage with a given task, and draw upon all prior knowledge to process new learning and ideas.  It involves teaching students to use alternating languages/devices for receptive or productive uses.  In both contexts, it aims to promote rapid academic literacy language in two literacies.

What are the advantages of this approach?

  • Teachers are prioritising learning time - in prior posts, I discuss the importance of this, especially in regards to priority learners such as Pasifika and Maori learners.  Why would you spend time teaching it in one language, and then repeating it again in a second language?  Likewise, why would you teach a concept in one medium (google doc) and ask students to regurgitate the same learning a second time (copy and paste information into a google presentation).  Translanguaging allows for students to build on concepts to create a new product, rather than repeat learning that they already have.
  • The 'cognitive stuff' goes on under the line of the ice berg - translanguaging is moving through a cognitive process.

It is exciting to see the connections between the two key professional learning areas in my life, as I can see ways forward for myself and for programmes that I am involved with.  Next steps I am thinking about at this time include:
  1. How can we include heritage languages in the whanau engagement programmes as part of Manaiakalani?
  2. How are digital tools being used for translanguaging in bilingual units in our cluster?
I would like to investigate these questions further throughout my last term of school and as part of my learning in my last paper!  

I don't know if this post made much sense, as it is the coming together of two major ways of thinking in my mind - sorry!  Hopefully things will become clearer as time goes on...follow my journey!