Marsden Professional Learning Session 13 (‘un’Lucky Last for 2014!)

Whew – what a year of learning and growing together! Today was our final professional learning session of the year, so we used it to reflect and review. Here is the guiding structure we followed:

You can see we used a Design Thinking process. We wanted to ensure that while staff had time to think about the high- and low-lights of their future-focused pedagogy learning journey, we actually moved on to offer solutions to continue to grow, learn and improve for 2015.

In this regard, I feel as though this afternoon’s session was successful. The short time frames and targeted tasks kept staff focused and productive. The final pitches highlighted key themes, such as ways to give staff more time, ways to work in smaller, more focused groups, and ways to explore successful models of future-focused pedagogy in practice.

Likewise, the anecdotal feedback has been positive. I think we’re all aware that sometimes when we’re asked to give an opinion on something this can easily turn into a negative whinge session. Whereas following a process of reflection, definition, ideation, feedback, refine and pitching really worked to move people out of that mode into problem-solving instead.

For me too, I really enjoyed introducing staff to a design thinking process without saying, ‘Now everyone, let’s learn about Philippa’s edugeek passion: Design Thinking.’ Nah, just get on and do it. At the end of the session when I congratulated everyone for participating in design thinking, I invited staff to visit my Year 8 class who are in the midst of an extended design thinking-based unit. And – awesome sauce – a taker!

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Marsden Professional Learning Session 12

The theme for today was critical thinking, and it was mostly about having two staff members highlight activities they have used to encourage critical thinking in their students.

Here is a copy of the wrap-around presentation I used:

I enjoyed talking about thinking, particularly the opportunity to share how I feel I have been guilty of having quite a shallow understanding of the ‘thinking’ Key Competency specifically, but all the Key Competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum more generally. When I put the slide up of points about what ‘Thinking’ entails from Bolstad et al’s book ‘Key Competencies for the Future‘ (2014) there was quite a buzz that suggests to me that I was not alone in treating the competencies lightly. We need to ensure that we don’t play lip service to thinking, but are offering explicit strategies to our learners, and to highlight to them times when they are thinking to build this awareness.

It was fantastic to hear from a PE/Health teacher and a Science teacher about their practice. The staff were impressed by the health advertisements some Year 9 students had produced. It was great to see Health content, English and Performance Media skills coming together. A challenge would be to do this in a more explicit way for cross-curricula links to be forged. I also loved how the teacher spoke thoughtfully and honestly about worrying that her students would ask her for technical support and she wouldn’t be able to offer this. She learned over the course of her unit that it doesn’t matter if she doesn’t have all the answers. Powerful stuff.

A Science teacher spoke about the collaboration I have blogged about here – whereby we teach the same Year 8 class and the girls used their forensics knowledge from Science to write ‘whodunit’ plays in English. I appreciated that she highlighted the usefulness of Google tools such as Docs and Slides to allow the students to more easily move across the learning areas and tasks. She also commented that she thought the task was a challenging one, but the students showed resilience and critical thinking in having to interweave the skills and content needed. I’m pleased that she’s keen to use the unit again next year!

My workshop was one offered previously on Edmodo, and the helpsheet for this is available here.

Marsden Professional Learning Session 11

Today’s professional learning session was awesome! We were exploring creativity in practice. Teachers presented examples of how they develop creativity in their students. It was fantastic to see the outcomes students have produced – some really amazing stuff – but, more importantly, to hear about the means by which creativity has been encouraged.

One of the primary school staff spoke very thoughtfully about why creativity is so important. She touched on ideas about it being a higher order thinking skill as it aims for synthesis, building on prior knowledge and understandings. She used Albert Einstein’s quote, “creativity is intelligence having fun,” to talk about a culture of thinking flexibly and failing forward – things that don’t always come easily to our students. The emphasis was clearly on developing creativity no matter what the subject matter or context – that creativity doesn’t just mean art.

A senior manager also spoke to us about how her students have developed their creativity skills in her subject area. My favourite idea was that of constraints: that by putting tight barriers in place lateral, ‘outside the box’ thinking can be fostered.

it was also interesting that both speakers noted the benefits of BYOD – that by students having their own devices, the flexibility of learning and capturing learning was possible.

The only downside to the showcase was running out of time to have the workshops usually on offer. However, to hear concrete examples of pedagogy in practice was worth it.

Here is a copy of the wrap-around presentation I spoke to as a starter to this afternoon’s learning:

Marsden Professional Learning Session 10

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Always seeking to improve, in today’s Professional Learning session, I started with a ‘hook’: make a piece of jewellery from two pipe cleaners in 60 seconds. It always amuses me, and it’s something for me to remember, that adults are just like kids: we like to have something to fiddle with, and the soft, pliable nature of a pipe cleaner is no exception. (Next time – note to self – playdough!)

The purpose of this task was to introduce the future learning themes of creativity and critical thinking. I enjoyed the opportunity to make passing references to design thinking, and also to acknowledge some of the very recent learning I have been doing about the maker education movement. The accompanying presentation is here:

I felt a bit incoherent today, and I’m not at all convinced that my presentation was as fluid as I would have liked it to be. Luckily, the presentation is freely available for staff to refer back to, and there are lots of hyperlinks to allow people to continue to explore and learn. And also luckily, the next professional learning session in two weeks’ time also focuses on creativity, but this time showcasing examples of it in our classrooms.

The workshop I offered looked at the presentation tool Haiku Deck. The ‘help sheet’ I produced for this is available here. The lovely people who attended were very quiet, so I choose to interpret this as meaning they were thoroughly engaged in playing with the tool 😉 I enjoyed the clear link between the themes of creativity and critical thinking to this workshop. I also liked the question that I was asked as to what a concrete application of Haiku Deck in the classroom could be. I could think of two. This also reminds me, that like the pipe cleaners, all learners like to have ‘real world’ connections.

I would like to acknowledge Steve Mouldey’s work in creativity and curiosity. He is extremely well versed in this area, and I shamelessly plundered his blog (especially this post) for inspiration for this professional learning session. Why reinvent the wheel?!

Marsden Professional Learning Session 9

Because I’d had some positive feedback about a previous session where I’d put more emphasis on skills for building professional knowledge and skills, rather than tools to use in the classroom, always under the umbrella of pedagogy and the Marsden vision of course, I decided to present this week’s theme in a similar vein. So, in focusing on the future learning themes of communication and collaboration, I chose to think about this in two ways: ways we can collaborate as professionals, thereby modelling life-long learning skills for students; as well as how to encourage communication and collaboration with our students. After all, we’re all learners.

I was hoping to have a teacher Skype into this session, but it wasn’t to be. This is an option I really want to explore further though, as I think it’s invaluable to hear similar messages from other voices. Nevertheless, I was particularly pleased with the collaborative Google Doc staff contributed to, to build a bank of ideas as to how to go about promoting or encouraging collaboration in the classroom.

The workshop I ran was on Edmodo. Staff seemed interested in how this can be used. It was very helpful to have staff members in the workshop who have been exploring Edmodo both for its potential in enhancing the classroom, but also for its potential for connecting with other educators. The help sheet I produced for this session is available here.

Marsden Professional Learning Session 8

If this afternoon’s session was at all coherent or useful, I really owe it to my PLN. I was presenting on ‘UDL’ (Universal Design for Learning), which I have been growing in understanding of over the past six months or so. Nevertheless, I was struggling to know how to do the concept justice in a 20 minute slot. Luckily though, Claire Amos had covered UDL in a #hackyrclass blogpost earlier this term, which also led me to Chrissie Butler’s blogpost. This latter post in particular I found invaluable. My own presentation shamelessly plunders her links and ideas.

My own ‘spin’ was that I attempted to follow UDL principles in putting my presentation together. For the ‘Engagement’ phase I started with the opening minute of the ‘Failing Superman‘ YouTube clip and then posed a question which groups could discuss, or jot ideas down on post-it notes. For the ‘Representation’ phase I gave an overview of UDL, and then gave various options as to how people might like to access more information on the topic. Choices included watching a video, reading blogposts or discussing a document with a partner. Finally, for the ‘Action and Expression’ phase, staff had the choice of three workshops to attend based on their needs and interests (which is standard for our professional learning sessions). Sessions also end with reflection time, which staff can complete in a way that suits them.

Furthermore, I made explicit my intention in using UDL guidelines in framing the presentation. I hope that this allowed staff to both understand UDL better, having realised they had seen it in practice, as well as demonstrated that technology is a powerful tool to allow for a range of supports to be offered. Overall I feel pleased with how the presentation worked.

Image credit: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/advice/services
Image credit: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/advice/services

Marsden Professional Learning Session 7

Today the focus was on tapping into student voice to engage learners and allow for learning to be personalised. To run alongside the session I created a ‘TodaysMeet‘ backchannel. I invited staff in, get them multiple ways to access the Meet, and gave them time during the session to use the backchannel to suggest ideas or give answers. This seemed engaging, and people were interested in it as a tool.

Here’s a snapshot of it in action:

TodaysMeet

It goes to show that having something interactive is a winner!

I also offered a repeat of the Google Drive/Google Docs workshop. I enjoy these when there is a help sheet for staff to follow along and then I can just respond on the fly to what people need. This was my experience this afternoon. Today’s workshop also reminded me that people do not learn new skills by osmosis. They need time to learn, to play, and to have questions answered. As always, it is dangerous to assume a base-level of knowledge.

 

Marsden Professional Learning Session 6

Today’s overarching theme was all about collaboration. So, in fitting style, we had co-presenters for our ‘big picture’ pedagogy session. I was really excited that a Technology and a Science teacher were happy to talk about one way they have been integrating technology into their lessons. Some of the real bonuses of this approach were:

  • Highlighting that innovation and risk-taking is happening amongst staff
  • The inquiry-based approach both teachers emphasised
  • The encouragement to ‘give it a go’
  • The resilience both staff members demonstrated: neither implementation went smoothly the first time, but the value is such that it warrants another attempt
  • That teachers were from different subject disciplines

I really can’t thank those teachers enough who are not only prepared to try something new, perhaps out of their comfort zone, but were prepared to make their attempts public. I think this is awesome role-modelling and shows a real growth mindset. So proud!

Here is my presentation to wrap around the showcase:

 

Marsden Professional Learning Session 5

I was really looking forward to this afternoon’s sessions. Sometimes I feel as though I’m leading learning on something I’ve only just got my head around, and yet seem to be held up as some kind of expert – which couldn’t be further from the truth! But today was different – presenting on PLNs and Twitter – now this is something I’m passionate about, and have wonderful first-hand experiences of 🙂

I’m worried I didn’t really do the topics justice, because I was down-playing my enthusiasm for fear this would put people off. I may have downplayed it a touch too much… However, I think the presentation itself has the right amount of information and, as always, lots of links for people to explore for more learning. I also know that it is as up-to-date as I can possibly make it. I wrote it a week or so ago, but added to it at least twice as I found new blogposts! I’m also pleased that I started with a recap of our school vision, the ‘why’ of technology, and connected today’s learning to the themes of our professional learning sessions from last term. Hopefully this helps to model the kind of practices we want to see in classrooms.

Additionally, I’m feeling ultra grateful to my own PLN this afternoon. I asked for people to tweet me ‘live’ using #MarsdenPL14 to talk about PLNs and why they love Twitter so I could demonstrate the power of Twitter and technology’s ubiquity not just as being powerful for students, but for educators as learners too. And boy did they come through! I was gutted that so few people chose to attend my Twitter workshop (help-sheet here), but it runs again, so I have another opportunity to infect others with the Twitter bug…

Nevertheless, a huge shout-out to my tweeps, the #edchatnz community, and anyone else who tweeted us this afternoon – you guys rock!

hearts

Marsden Professional Learning Session 4

Today I presented on the idea of ‘authentic learning’. This was a topic I wasn’t feeling so confident on, so I relied on the expertise of Jan Herrington – finding her videos were a life-saver! But actually, it was probably good for staff to hear another voice than mine anyway. I also take comfort from the comments that kind people have made on my recent blogpost ‘Reflections on Term 1’ that authenticity is actually difficult to achieve in the constraints of a traditional secondary school classroom.

I feel I need to get better at thinking on my feet to be able to respond to off-the-cuff questions and comments. Having said that though, because I present on so many different topics each session it’s very challenging to have the kind of in-depth knowledge and experience that would allow me to have the background to do so.

I led a blogging workshop, but as this was the second time this ran there weren’t so many attendees, but we had a great discussion!

We’ve asked staff to complete a survey on this term’s professional learning. The results so far are fascinating, for all sorts of reasons… I look forward to writing a blogpost on these soon.