Agency and Ownership

Last week I attended uLearn15, an epic conference in Auckland with 1700 teachers and 250 sponsors and exhibitors. On the first day I ran a Breakout session called Agency and Ownership: Why the How? Initially planned as a smallish interactive workshop, it proved very popular as people chose their sessions so it grew into a large presentation to around 250 people with a lot more of me talking from the front.

Core Education filmed this presentation and streamed it live from their conference website. You can watch it here (jump to 11.50 where it actually starts):

Or, if you don’t have an hour and a half spare, this post will cover the highlights.

We have all heard the terms Learner Agency and Student Ownership of Learning. We all have the same vague understandings of what these are about. This presentation was focused on working out they actually look like in the classroom. What the practices are that we as teachers can implement to enable and empower students to truly own their learning.

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Sir Gateway?

Many people may get annoyed with this post, in fact it may even be considered sacrilegious by some. Sir Ken Robinson is extremely well known, liked by many and revered by some. His TED talk from 2006 has been watched almost 35 million times. Yet on finishing his most recent book I was left with an overwhelming sense of “meh.”

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A Catch Up

I have just had my largest break from blogging since I started 2 and a half years ago. Blogging is a big part of how I reflect and progress but priorities have shifted a bit lately with family circumstances. I have still reflected, tweeted, discussed with coteachers, critical friends and colleagues; but the blog has sat here much quieter than normal. That said, here is what has been happening in my classes lately:

Learning Hub

The early part of this term was focused on students’ IEMs. This is a 3-way conversation between students, their parents and me as their advisory coach. The highlight of this day is being part of genuine learning conversations. Celebrations and challenges are shared, discussed and implications considered.
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Empowering Learners Through Common Language

It’s hard but that’s okay because you keep trying and then it becomes easier and then it becomes fun. That’s how you learn.

This cool little quote is from my 5 year old daughter after ballet practice yesterday. Apart from the glaringly obvious growth mindset that she has at the moment, it made me start thinking about how my students would describe how they learn.

At HPSS we have our Learning Design Model that was developed out of our deep exploration of the New Zealand Curriculum. This is the language that we use to describe how learning occurs.

HPSS Learning Design Model

HPSS Learning Design Model

We envision learning as cyclical (not circular otherwise you go nowhere – in Di Cavallo‘s words!) rather than linear. Continue reading

Student Echo Chambers

Yesterday I wrote about breaking out of my echo chamber, so of course my thoughts then turned to my students. Are our students operating in echo chambers and should this be something we worry about?

Well yes, I believe this is something to be concerned about and here’s why. Deeper understanding is developed through:

  • encountering multiple perspectives
  • confronting cognitive dissonance
  • empathising with situations different to our own

If students are constantly interacting with people with similar opinions to themselves, how are they going to do any of the above? Continue reading

Shattering the Echo Chamber

For some time I have spoken about the value of reaching outside your echo chamber to ensure you keep growing. At Hobsonville Point Secondary School we have been living in a privileged bubble with unheard of resources of time and space as we got started. Claire Amos realised the danger of only listening to those with similar views early on and kept making a point for us to keep challenging ourselves.

I regularly try to read blogs and books that will push my thinking forward and have tried to break out of the educational echo chamber that is my online and face to face PLN. What this weekend has just proven to me, however, is that I have merely dipped out of my echo chamber every now and then.

This weekend, I completely shattered my echo chamber. Kiwi Foo is an invite only unconference of people from across many different fields and sectors. From Friday evening through to Sunday afternoon I was with over 150 of the most intelligent people I have ever met. The workshops ranged from specific topics such as Conspiracy Theories of Aotearoa (you really should follow Matthew Dentith) to wider ideas such as how to make the most of conferences or if NZ had an aim, what would it be? These workshops stretched my brain but it was the discussions in between that completely blew my brain.

CC image from Prairie Kittin that matches my brain at Kiwi Foo

CC image from Prairie Kittin that matches my brain at Kiwi Foo

Discussing:

  • Design Thinking with Start Up investors, major corporates and social change innovators;
  • education with Researchers that I have read for years, Principals and teachers that I have either connected with online or not ever met before, engineers, bankers, scientists and entrepreneurs;
  • ethics with journalists, professors and social enterprise experts
  • meaningful societal change with politicians, designers, web developers, festival organisers and entrepreneurs

meant that my brain was pushed incredibly hard and it is taking me a few days to really process what happened over the weekend. To those who I chatted with, made quasi-plans with, ate next to, swam with or played Werewolf with: Thank You!

To Nat and Jenine that make the incredible world of Kiwi Foo occur, thank you for truly shattering my echo chamber. I will not be going back to a mere dabble in outside ideas. I am now going to be actively seeking voices from within education that challenge my ideas and many, many voices from outside education to see what we can learn from each other.

p.s. written in 28 minutes for #28daysofwriting so excuse my still mind fuddled ramble

All is well, or is it?

I was worried how last week would go. How could I possibly keep up the excited puppy heights of hosting the Geography Awareness Week TeachMeetNZ and being at the inaugural EdChatNZ conference?

The Monday following EdchatNZ conference saw me spend the day in the Take Action big module I am co-teaching with Bryce and Martin. I spent 2 of our blocks helping Martin in the workshop as students constructed marble runs while their groups were affected by changes in government policies.

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Students also had similar experiences with Bryce as they played Volleyball with Government policies affecting the rules for each team. The final block focused in on actions we can take as citizens other than voting and brainstorming issues of interest to the students. Continue reading

How Might We create the learning experience of a conference more regularly?

Since my post on overcoming the conference to classroom chasm I have been wondering about maintaining the intense learning atmosphere of a conference when we are no longer all together.

Now, twitter is great for continually accessing information, ideas and resources but there is something all together different about the learning and networking that occurs at a conference. The Network for Learning Pond may be aiming to provide this for New Zealand teachers but at the moment is just a search engine, I look forward to seeing what the Communities function looks like when it is released.

Last year as we designed how Hobsonville Point Secondary School would operate we often talked about how it was exhausting even though we had no students. We realised it was because we were effectively living in a conference 24/7. We were given time to rethink education and were encouraged to read as much as possible (see here for readings that influenced us in our first term).

I still am privileged to work at HPSS and get access to amazing PD and rich learning conversations daily. We have, however, stopped sharing our reading as much as we used to and I miss those amazing conversations that developed as we shared and critiqued things we had read.

Then today, a great conversation erupted on twitter with @AKeenReader @chasingalyx @beechEdesignz @mattynicoll @shiftingthinkng @MissDtheTeacher and @mrs_hyde about sharing some of our edu-nerd reading we are doing. End outcome is that we are meeting/holding a workshop at the #EdChatNZ conference to organise a book chat to happen once a term where we read the same Edu book then meet up online (twitter or GHO) to discuss how we found it.

So now, I have my daily conversations, regular school PD, twitter chats, the odd Google Hangout (with long term critical friend Michael Harcourt or with new US critical friends Grant Lichtman, Bo Adams and Thomas Steele-Maley)  a new Edu-Nerd book club plus 2 conferences in this next term. Think I’m good for maintaining that conference feel, how are you going to keep the learning going?

 

This post is Day 19 of My Questioning Quest.

Lessons from Term 2

While playing with family over the first week of these holidays I have been reflecting back over last term. This reflection has led to me finding 5 key takeaways to remember in future.

1. Name the Elephant in the room

If you can name the issue/concern that is bugging you at the time it arises it allows your team to move forward together much quicker. An effective team has healthy working relationships and can deal with these situations, not get stuck on taking things personally.

2. Take the time to get students defining the problem

An extremely important step in problem solving is actually defining the right problem at the start. So often students are given the problem by the teacher. This term Pete McGhie and I really found out how powerful it is to get students defining the problem themselves. More time consuming but incredible learning ensued!

3. Teach less and teach it better

Page 34 New Zealand Curriculum

Page 34 New Zealand Curriculum

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What If schools really did involve parents as much as possible?

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This tweet from Pete Hall prompted this post for Question Quest.

  My current position at Hobsonville Point Secondary School sees me having more contact with parents than I have done at previous schools. I email parents of my Learning Hub regularly giving an overview of what their son/daughter and I have discussed in learning conferences. We meet for IEMs, parent information evenings and exhibitions of student projects.

I feel, however, there is so much more we can do to really reach the point of being partners in the students learning.

My aims next term are to:
– include parents regularly in the learning happening in modules
– test the prototype of our curriculum tracking tool with parents to see if it meets their needs before we develop it further
– investigate how parent voice can be included in the development of future modules. Currently we have learning area and student voice, the obvious next step is seeing what parents see as being part of the next term’s concept.

Maybe it’s also time to revisit the parent skills database collected at start of year to see if parents could be used as partnership connections in our learning!

Surely there is a lot to gain by truly involving parents in the learning!