Sunday, 3 September 2017

Reflecting on the Teacher Effectiveness Rubric

At Stonefields School, part of our Teaching As Inquiry process is reflecting on the Teacher Effectiveness rubric. Check out my doc here. The rubric outlines key areas that effective teachers need to improve on. Within each inquiry the teacher needs to reflect on a few key areas and how they see they are going to improve on this.

At the start of this inquiry, I chose the following 2 areas to improve on. 
Using the SAMR model to deepen my teaching practice with digital tools was a big focus of this inquiry. I have always had a passion for using digital tools in education, but it was important that I wasn't just "throwing" these tools into my practice. I wanted to be deliberate. I wanted there to be a purpose for every tool I used. I wanted to know WHY I was using each tool. Using the SAMR model to make me reflect on how creatively and deliberately I was using a digital tool has been great. Before each tool I think to myself "How is this going to cause a shift for my learners? What gap am I trying to close by using this tool?". Teachers can not use digital tools in the classroom just because they are cool, or the hip new thing. Part of the final end of the rubric, where the teacher effectiveness element is considered "Part of me" is that the teacher "Continuously reflects on the affordances of digital technologies and their impact on student achievement.

Part of the philosophy behind the SAMR model is enhancing the experiences that learners are exposed to, deepening the cognitive engagement they experience. For my particular focus, this was how I could use digital tools to design more cognitively engaging experiencing in reading. Reflecting on where I started on the rubric, I most closely aligned with the description "Designs tasks that motivate and have some level of mental effort.  Evidence of shared goals and enjoyment." This is fairly low on the rubric and showed that while I could provide some learning experiences where learners were somewhat challenged and would make "okay" progress over time, it wasn't enough to be considered impressive.  I wanted to move towards an area where my practice was more aligned to"designs connected relevant, engaging, challenging tasks that motivates learners mental effort to develop understanding, over time." I believe over the course of this inquiry I have started to use apps such as Explain Everything, iMovie, CoSpaces, and to make learning more exciting and engaging, and through this motivate learners to work harder and put more effort into their learning. My recent use of CoSpaces to try organise ideas in writing really showed how much learners were willing to reflect on and change their writing in response to using the app. 

Supporting Organisation of Ideas - CoSpaces

Lesson Sequence
Today we had the following learning intention: I organise and sequence my ideas and information confidently. We had already written our narratives last week but the task today was to take our organisation to the next level. I decided to try out a virtual reality app we have been using called CoSpaces. You can find out information about this app here. I had learners organise their scenes using a storyboard format with the following thinking organizer. It was their choice if they wanted to plan each scene using key words or drawing a picture. They were prompted to make sure that in each scene they showed the setting, the characters, and any speaking or thinking from the characters. We then looked at the CoSpaces app and I did some teacher modelling of how to create new scenes and do basic functions like add in characters and set a background. Note: Learners had already had some sandpit time with this app last week. We used an example learners story and modelled what his first scene might look like. We discussed how we knew it was the end of one scene in his story because the setting had changed, using language that supported learners understanding of sequencing and organizing.  Learners then had a go creating the first three scenes of their narrative using their own iPads and CoSpaces account. I roamed to support them and we shared back after 30mins of creating time. 

Reflecting on the SAMR model, this task was really living in the deeper parts of modification and redefinition. 
Completely redefining the way that we sort and group our ideas into scenes, this supported learners to understand why paragraphs are important to use in our writing. At the start of the lesson about 60% of learners had paragraphs in their writing - and we had a really rich discussion about how these learners found it much easier to decide what parts would go in each scene. It led to rich dialogue about how each time the setting changed, we should use a new paragraph, because it makes it easier for the reader to follow along in our narrative's plot. 
Learners were highly engaged in the learning task. They loved the idea of using CoSpaces because it reminded them of a learning game, and they could make connections to other apps such as Explain Everything and Minecraft. 

Monday, 21 August 2017

Observation at Pt England School

Today I am at Pt England School in Glen Innes, Auckland, New Zealand. I have set up an observation here to try and understand how digital tools are being used in their junior classrooms, with a particular focus on reading.

What are the learning intentions for reading today?
  • Comprehension of a text and answering questions 
  • Justifying with evidence from the text
What digital tools are being used in the classroom today?
  • HyperStudio: Learners before school are using Hyperstudio to create drawings and animations. Learners are hugely engaged in this program and were really keen to show me, even a stranger, what they have been making. 
  • Class sites: Very effective way of learners accessing their learners. Probably took a bit of setup and modelling from the teacher, but here I am in Term 3 and the learners are instantly able to find their learning because they know exactly where to go. 
  • Explain Everything: Similar to Stonefields School, Pt England's main teaching tool on the iPads is Explain Everything. But it was really powerful to go to a different classroom and see the ways they are using the tool. I gained so many new ideas!!! I have listed below some of the different ways they are using it to support learners in reading. 
Lots of voice recording activities. Listen to the word and record etc. Drag and drop activities to make words e.g PR and IDE. Reading aloud to the iPad, video or voice record yourself reading the story. Comprehension questions are done in E.E. Describe the characters. Think about why characters acted the way they did. Give some facts you learned about the topic i.e Hippos. Agree or disagree with a statement, give evidence. Book reviews about books - summarize and react to the book in a video. Take a photo or draw a drawing of your favourite part of the story and tell me why.  Labelling from a picture. Finding words from the book to finish gaps in a sentence. Compare and contrast the different characters. Spelling words for the week. 

  • Blogtouch: A different way of blogging - seems very user friendly.  We use Blogger at Stonefields but this program has a really successful that works really well. 
  • Sunshine Classics:  Huge library of digital ebooks. Also has supporting activities for working with letter sounds and high frequency words.
  • Storyline Online:  Huge library of digital ebooks as well, all online. Can be used to support the students physical texts, along with follow up activities. 

Other useful observations
Email addresses and passwords all printed out to make it easy if a learner forgets, kept near iPads. 
iPad numbers are printed alongside names on the iPads. Makes it easier to troubleshoot iPads. 

Thank you!
A huge thank you to the amazing Ms Nadler, Ms Peck and Ms Gaston for all their support today. Seeing your learners using their digital tools was really inspiring for me and I have left with dozens of new ways to use the in my literacy practice. 

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Using Google Forms in the Classroom

As part of Innovating as part of my teaching inquiry, I need to be constantly trying to use technology to improve my teaching practice. Manaiakalani encourages us to reflect on how we are doing this in 5 key areas - Engagement, Teaching Conversations, Visibility, Cognitive Challenge, and Scaffolding.

I have found in the past that Google Forms can be used to significantly improve the visibility of student's learning. The fact you can have many different types of questions allows you to make visible a wide range of information, from attitude towards a topic, understanding of key words and definitions, and the application of the knowledge to an actual problem. 

Following on form our recent focus on varying sentence structures, this week I decided to use a Google Form to gather how student's understanding were developing. When I first began instruction on this, only a small handful of learners knew what a complex sentence was, and even less could write it. Awesome to see today that so many of my learners had improved. Most of the learners in the group could define a complex sentence as well as writing their own example of one. 

While the use of the tool here doesn't exactly 'enhance' the learning experience for the learners, it certainly sits under augmentation for me as the teacher. Never before could I gather information about 25 learners so quickly. In the past, making their understandings visible to me would involve an individual discussion, or analysis of each writing books, or a paper and pen quiz issued and collected from each learner. Now, each response is collated conveniently in a spreadsheet. This makes gap analysis really easy, and I can spot which learners are going to need more scaffolding and instruction moving forward. 

10/10 would recommend you introducing it in your classroom practice. 

Here is a link to the full Google Form should you wish to view it. 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Visualizing with digital tools. Results!

Last week I saw some fantastic learning coming out of my young readers. Our focus recently has been on visualizing in reading. I believe using Storyboardthat, iMovie and CoSpaces have really helped to deepen these visualizing experiences.

After initial teacher modelling through reading of poems and stories, with learners closing their eyes and visualizing in their minds, we moved to drawing what we visualized onto a whiteboard. While this was a good way to get learners to start identifying keywords from the text to build a more detailed image in their mind, it wasn't a particularly memorable experience nor transformative in the eyes on the SAMR model.

To use the SAMR model and truly redefine this learning experience, I chose to use a new app called CoSpaces, which a colleague +Bob Miller had put me onto. 

CoSpaces is similar to Minecraft in that the user can create their own digital worlds. They choose the environment, and fill it with objects such as people, animals, trees, and landmarks. What is really cool is what comes next though - the world comes alive through virtual reality. 

Learners can use either their iPad or a VR headset like Google Cardboard to immerse themselves in the world they just created. They can move around, interact with characters and objects, and really feel like they are IN the world. 

When testing 3 of my learners recently going from Gold to Silver, they all passed with flying colours. I really believe that our recent learning using these tools for visualizing has encouraged learners to build pictures in their mind as they read on a deeper level than if I had not used a digital tool. One particular question in the PROBE test for 8.5-9.5 reading level asked learners "Why would a cave home not have many homes" and one of my learners said they imagined a cave in their mind. I think this visualizing technique would have helped them to answer this question.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

How important is it to play in the sand?

Tonight I was browsing around Google for some new tools to use in my hub. I found myself deep in some articles about how to use Padlet in the classroom, namely this article by CoolCatTeacher

It focusing on the functionality of the tool, and it gave me a few interesting ideas for how to use it in the classroom, but what really stood out to me was the quote below. 

It speaks of how important it is to allow learners to have sandpit time with the tools that they use. Sandpit time means time just having a play, picking up and putting down sand, or in this case, just exploring the tool. Click on some buttons! See what that icon at the top does! Type some words in a text box and hit enter!  Why not. 

I think I really resonate with this sort of practice. introducing learners to a new app can be really overwhelming, especially if the app is complicated, and has lots of little adjustments learners can make. I believe in order for us to get the most out of each app, learners need to be excited by the options they have, and have a brief chance to explore them. Only then, should the teacher start guiding them towards a more structured learning task. 

Who knows, they might discover something that the teacher never knew possible! 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Kahoot - Quiz App for Learning

Using Kahoot in the classroom has completely revolutionalized my warm ups for liieracy.

Do you have trouble with learners taking all day to get down to the mat with their iPads? Do they dawdle, chatting with their friends and moving as slowly as possible to get organized at the start of a literacy session. Well no longer!

App Explanation
This app is SO motivating for learners. As soon as I say "Grab your iPads and make your way down to the mat for our warm up Kahoot," the only problem I have is getting them not to run with their iPads.

Kahoot is a collaborative, interactive quiz game. It is similar to the console game 'Buzz' if you are familiar with that.

As a teacher, you decide on a learning focus, for example punctuation, fractions, times tables, history, and then You then have the choice of either designing your own Kahoot or choosing from thousands of premade activities online. Learners are given a unique code which they type into, and they're in!

Kahoot shows a question, and then provides 4 possible answers for learners to choose from. Once all learners who are logged into that Kahoot have answered, the answer is displayed and learners are told if they are correct or not. A really quick, fun, interactive and collaborative way to practise anything.

App Review
I have been using Kahoot for my literacy warm ups for almost a term now, and I am finding that if I keep a focus for a week or more, I see huge improvement in that area. For example in the last 2 weeks of Term 3, learners were warming up and winding down the session with Kahoot's based on Year 3 punctuation. They came to a deeper understanding of where and when to use each example of punctuation - their answers were more accurate in the Kahoots, they could articulate the purpose of each punctuation, and in their actual writing books I saw an improvement in control over the use of punctuation.

Honestly I would recommend this app to anyone. It is hugely engaging because of the interactive, collaborative and competitive nature of the app. Learners love seeing their points in relation to their classmates, and enjoy seeing themselves improve when they complete the same Kahoot over multiple days. It can be used to improve both knowledge and strategies, it can be used in all curriculum areas, and with a little teacher instruction, students quickly transfer what they see and learn in Kahoot into their class learning.