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

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, 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!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Design Thinking FAIL

We all get excited when we have an idea about how to engage our students and innovate teaching and learning. What a great idea we think! But what if it all goes wrong?

Yesterday I had a design thinking fail. The process surmounted to terrible irrelevant ideas and even more terrible feedback on them. I was so disappointed. Why did it fail? What did I do wrong? Why can't these students be creative?

But rather than give up completely (and trust me I was feeling quite deflated after this experience), I decided to go back through the process and see if there was a step missing for them or something we hadn't done enough of.


I had spent quite a bit of time building empathy of our target groups (refugees, homeless and those in poverty). The students had identified their assumptions and challenged each other on them. They had also explored what others were doing to help these groups. There had been a significant shift in student's awareness of the needs of these groups. I was confident that the students knew their target group well.


Our overall context for our inquiry is sustainability.  When discussing what this means in the context of people. We grappled with some tricky ideas (keeping in mind these students are Year 4-6). I thought each group knew of an area of need for each group.  This is where I was wrong. My students had thought narrowly in the iteration stage because they didn't have a handle of what problem they were needing to find solutions for. Because of not knowing the problem they then forget about the user and therefore produced ideas that were half-hearted.

So this is where we began today.  Using the sentence starter "How might we..." they were able to articulate what some of the needs were. They recorded their groups "How might we's" and then chose one each that they felt they could begin to ideate on.


The aim was 20 ideas in 2 mins (I tried to put the pressure on so they wouldn't hold their ideas lightly) but they asked for 5 minutes to complete the task. The all then shared their most far out, costly, time consuming idea. This broke some barriers as the more ludicrous the idea the more excited I got. They then reflected on their list to find their easiest fix before identifying their darling. The darling idea needed to be the one they could see their group working together on. Finally some ideas worth exploring!

We are now ready to Prototype!

I think that it is really important to document and share the failures as much as we share the successes.  Teaching isn't meant to be perfect and a design thinking mindset also would suggest that reflection is important. I was able to reflect on the process and find the missing piece. When I saw one student in particular light up when she realised that her idea was a possibility and that she had the backing of the others in her group, that is when I realised it was all worthwhile.

Monday, July 18, 2016

EdchatNZ MOOC Portfolio


I have to admit that I began this course with blue sky thinking that plunged into a dark discontentment as the content opened my eyes to a bleak and complex future. I become dark and cynical and then I got scared. The future and talking about the future is rather scary. But to talk about the future we must turn to the past...


My assumptions were that everybody understood the purpose of school. That even I understood the purpose of school. I also assumed that change was manageable and could happen in my lifetime. This bubble was quickly popped as I realised that society’s view about the purpose of school was not ready to change with as much vigor/passion as I was (am?) willing to give it. There is still so much out of my control. People are the sum of their experiences and everybody has experienced being in school. There is all drag and no lift when people discuss school. Most interestingly, those who I tried to engage in the discussion were apprehensive about giving the “right” answer, like they weren’t qualified to have opinion on the subject. Not what I expected! Maybe I assumed too much community voice and perhaps there is not enough. The ladder of inference has everyone (including teachers) stuck in a loop of past experiences. To move forward we need to examine our values closely.

The future
I took a break from facebook for a whole day recently. It took sheer willpower to disconnect for the day. I missed 2 birthday notifications and it took me a good hour to catch up on what happened that day. But what an awesome day I had. I got sh!t done!
The unplug from the system task made me realise how much we rely on automaton. Everything we do is connected to technology. When the media says “robots will take over our jobs” they ain't kidding! We strive for efficiency and speed yet the contradiction is that we are so tied to the system that we are missing out. I don’t think teachers will be put out of a job though. This article and quote resounded with me:
The new rule is that if you are a participant, you are, by default, a moderator, a curator and an editor for others. (Kilpi, 2016)
I like to think of teacher’s fitting this role no matter what the context or content, no matter what “school” ends up being. Not everything needs to be automated. Humans are still important.
“Love. That was what she had that IT did not have.”
-Madeline L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

Science Fiction/Speculative writing has made predictions that are scarily true. I am still in awe with this particular quote as this book was written in 1973 right before personal computers came into our lives. L’Engle recognised that technology could never take the role of a human. That to be human is the ability to reason and empathise.
There is purpose within school to help our students survive in an uncertain and contradictory world. We need to them to be able to connect and disconnect, make and consume, work and play. But most importantly I believe we need to humanise them. They need to be social, to use language and symbols, and keep using their incredibly complex brains. On a more philosophical level this includes building relationships, problem-solving, increasing reliance, being resourceful and expressing themselves creatively. This is one aspect that has not changed for me during the course. I felt strongly about this before and perhaps even more strongly now because I have engaged with bigger ideas about the future, about education and about being a human. Humans, not technology, have the ability to shape the future.

Knowledge is a hard concept to pinpoint and I think that is because it is contextual. I also think that our view of what constitutes knowledge has changed. David Weinberger pointed out that we have so much access now to information via the internet and we now have to shape and filter that knowledge and apply thinking to it. Our students need to learn how to do this and find information that is valuable and credible. This increase in content is also rather exciting. We can dip into new knowledge and we can dip out. To paraphrase Weinberger in his EdchatNZ webinar “this better to have MOOC’d a bit than not have MOOC’d at all”. We can also get overloaded with knowledge. How do we determine what is important? Again this comes back to the curation of knowledge. That we can curate knowledge for our students and co-create it with them too. So then the argument becomes “Who decides what knowledge is important for school?” This I feel comes back to what we value in society and in our communities.One person/government cannot decide this and this will look different in different communities. Literacy and numeracy - yes, we’ve already decided that these are important but what it is to be literate and numerate should be discussed and debated frequently within our own schools and clusters.

Futures thinking
To quote myself:
Bad decision making from current political leaders and so called experts leads to disarray and chaos. From the ashes rises a new group of changemakers ready to take on these problems and shift the focus to future-ready solutions. It's the hacker culture, its people being resourceful and showing resilience. Power to the people! - MOOC entry Week 7

There is hope! There is a horizon! Futures thinking allowed me to see that the most important future is the one I can shape, the one I can reach out and touch right now. I don’t have a crystal ball but I do have the ability to make immediate changes that will have an impact tomorrow. Again, empathy is at the heart. I can determine the future based on the actions I make today for my students (Keri Facer).


Where to now?

There is huge potential in the role of tools like design thinking, spirals of inquiry and fail-safe experiments to make small yet important changes to that way that I teach. All of these are processes, not outcomes and because the world is changing we need to be adapting as we go not finding permanent solutions. I will use these tools to help me make future-focused changes that are within my reach. I would really like to engage in more discussion with a wider group of people about the themes of future education. It is scary to think that decisions are being made in schools all over New Zealand that are not being informed by current thinking and discourse. I wish to be the knowledge curator, to get other people thinking and to make these ideas and resources accessible to them. I need to keep asking the questions, laying the wero for others to join me.


Monday, July 4, 2016

Diving into the pond

This blog post is cross-posted on WellyEd.

Sometimes you have to be the first to dive in. In a small pond you won't find much and your ripple maybe me more of a splash or you may only just wet your toes. That is what it was like to be a Pioneer Educator in the Network for Learning (N4L) Pond. It was a completely new space to collaborate in and the temperature hadn't quite reached bath tub for me.

Fast forward two years and that Pond is a bit bigger, a lot warmer and full of things to discover. I have rediscovered the Pond and I'm swimming around hoping others will join me.

So what is the Pond. The Pond is a professional space to share resources, lesson plans and ideas around teaching. The Pond is not Facebook, or Twitter, or like any other social media which I'm pleased about. It is also only for New Zealand educators. The Pond is there to use as you choose so I am going to outline how I use it:

1) I have added the chrome extension for Pond onto my browser so whenever there is a news article or webpage that I think "aha! that would be good for <insert learning objective here>" I add it to the Pond and to one of my buckets.

2) I have set up some buckets within the Pond to collate resources in so I can find them easily myself and direct my colleagues to them too.

3) Users outside the Pond can use the Pond still as a search engine. I use a special hashtag on my buckets that I want my students to be able to find. They simply put in our class hashtag and the buckets pop up.

4) I search within the Pond and find stuff to add to my buckets.

I really like it because it makes my searching and collating purposeful. I can easily find things I've saved and alert others to it. My wish however would be for more educators to contribute to it. Why should we hold on to our precious lesson plans, web links and resources? To build a Community of Practice we must be willing to share.

So my challenge for you this week is to take a risk, dive in, the water's good!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Since when did I become a gamer?

80's gamer wearing Atari vest. I'd totally rock this look.

This year my interests in education have led me back to the future. My thinking is sprinkled with automaton, science fiction, gaming and the Anthropocene. I blame Danielle Myburgh and her brilliant EdchatNZ MOOC (massive open online course) on the Future of Education. I blame Rachel Bolstad for wooing me with Enders game at a Core Breakfast 3 years ago and then attacking my brain cells this year with Ready Player One.

I have game on the brain.

So much so, that I watched two gamer documentaries back to back yesterday. I know! Major geekdom. (For those that are interested they were Atari: Game Over and King of Kong).

Gaming is fascinating.  Atari itself created the possibilities of the computer through exposing young players through gaming. They were such simple looking games which required so much complex thinking. Like the hidden easter eggs, imagine how cool it would be if you found one of them. Playing games has so much complexity.

I introduced some of my Year 6 students to the first introductory chapter of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It opened up a conversation right at the very heart of educational future. What if the world does get so bad (tweens and teens love all that dystopia) that we are going to have to "plug in" to a virtual reality? Are we going to be able to influence reality while in the virtual world? I was so surprised at how much my students knew about gaming and it's history. Gaming just about playing games, it's a culture, it's a knowledge bank.


Science fiction is freakily predictive. It's a medium in which big future issues can be explored. Perhaps it's a good way to talk to students about possibilities? These books have predicted the future or should that be reframed as the possibilities that can happen.

My class have also been playing and reviewing Curriculum for the Future. In this game they help convince a panel of adults what the new school curriculum should be. These curriculums are different from the ordinary and show some fantastic possibilities. "Why don't we do some of this stuff now" - said Miss 10 and I agreed.

So right now I am seeing gaming both digital and table top, as being ways in which we explore ideas, work with each other ("I love how interactive my learning is when I play a game with someone" - Mr 11), create new possibilities and have some fun. Play has uncertainty and we need to experience this to prepare us for the uncertainties we are yet to face.

Call me a gamer if you wish... Games are the key to our future.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Eduignite Term 2 Pukerua Bay School

Sharing practice with others is a powerful and engaging way to think about your practice. That's why I find Eduignite evenings so enjoyable. A recap of the speakers for evening can be found in the blog post I wrote for WellyEd.

My talk was linked to my latest teacher inquiry around mathematics. My speaker notes are underneath.

  • Your past has an impact on your future. What do you value? I haven’t had a successful pathway in mathematics. In fact, most of my maths learning has occurred from me teaching students and from students teaching me. 
  • I teach a year 6 class who are all Stage 7 & 8 learners, some have maths ability beyond the primary school curriculum. They Have been told from probably a young age that they are good at maths. Maths has been a competition to get through the stages, to beat each other, to be the best 
  • Our school professional development focus has been on mathematics. Teachers wanted to move away from the Numeracy Project and invigorate their maths teaching. We have had several sessions with Gillian Kissling from Cognition Education unpacking our values, our strengths and our future 
  • The latest research says that our brain has the ability to change. The brain has plasticity, synapses are firing when we make mistakes. Growth mindset is a real thing. 
  • The children in my class are very good with symbols. They can use them to get the right answers but do they understand what they are doing? The research shows that to be a good mathmatician you need to activate both the visual and the symbolic pathways in the brain.
  • When we talk about the visual pathways we are talking about estimating, drawing and visualizing information. It makes it easier for us to see the patterns. This has been a particularly powerful learning experience for our challenged students including those with dyslexia. 
  • As well as our maths classes we get together as 3 year 6 classes once a week and do mixed ability problems that focus specifically on the visual aspect of learning. This has been very successful for raising the confidence of learners and implementing the Talk moves and focus on using materials, making drawings and looking for patterns This is what we focus on a lot. 
  • We need to be challenged but it is not a game where you are trying to get to the Ender dragon.
  • If maths is about communicating how do you get the students to talk to each other about their thinking? How can you help them see that maths is about arguing ideas and challenging each other's thinking? 
  • We use Talk moves. These are a way for you as a teacher to guide students thinking but also for students to have a scaffold for their discussion. Some have hand actions. Students are taking risks and accepting challenges. For example Getting a student to revoice another student’s thinking is very powerful esp if that original person is less confident 
  • There is some beauty in not knowing what is going to happen. What you plan isn’t always what you teach. This organic way of teaching and learning has meant that we don’t learn in silos, we learn naturally, as it occurs 
  • This is an example of a problem that we would work on in groups and discuss as a whole class. Working together to solve this puzzle allowed for different perspectives but also allowed for incidental learning to occur. Those who are confident with equivalent fractions scaffolded the learning of those who were not. 
  • Sometimes the learning that comes out of our discussions far exceeds the expectations of our level of learning. I am enjoying the collaborative nature of learning, that I learn with the students and that I am not the fountain of all knowledge. I have learnt so much this year from my students and they are always amazed when I tell them that I don’t know the answer. So tonight I challenge you to think about your maths programme, does it encourage competition amongst students or does is promote collaboration?

Training the teacher

I've always thought that a good way to influence change and transformation in education would be by taking on a student teacher. I know from my experience that an Associate teacher shapes who you become as a teacher. A supportive learning environment where you can take risks, make mistakes and reflect openly is ideal.

I knew that I wanted to provide this environment to the student teacher I took on this year. To prepare for this, I reflected on my student teacher experience and initial thoughts with my mentor. This was helpful to pinpoint the purpose of the placement for both parties. I saw this opportunity as a learning experience for me too and a chance to reflect on my own teaching practice.

From our first meeting, I made it clear that my philosophy of teaching was based on relationships and that it was okay to spend time getting to know the students. I didn't want my student teacher to feel the need to teach right away. She spent the first week just being part of our class, talking to students and finding out about them. Relationship building proved to be the most important thing she did all placement. It was the foundation on which she built her teaching.

My student teacher drove the placement. It was her placement so she needed to do what she needed to develop. Interestingly enough we ended up in a team-teaching situation for quite a lot of the time. Students saw us working together and respected us both in our teaching capacity. They saw us as learners too.

So my reflection on this experience has led to me seeing the potential for teachers in training and beginning teachers being in team-teaching partnerships. For what better way to learn? It's collaborative, reflective and benefits students. For me as a more experienced teacher, it taught me to let things go, how to ask reflective questions and how to address non-negotiables. We want our students to work collaboratively together; we encourage tuakana-teina so it makes sense to model this as teachers. Plus it was fun! Lot's of laughs were had, successes shared. And I'd do it all again.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Taking risks in maths teaching - QLC

Newer than 1960 math of course...

For today's quality learning conversation (QLC) we were asked to focus on mathematics as this has been our professional development focus. Having a shared topic immediately had us all engaged and asking questions to help further our thinking. Interestingly all of our wonderings/concerns/fears were the same! So let me unpack them a bit further in my context.

1) When trying something new there is always uncertainty about whether you are doing the "right" thing. There is also the added pressure of external reporting. What exactly does assessment look like when you totally flip the way you are teaching? What does that look like when planning? Are we using the right assessments?

2) What does the structure of the lesson look like now? What does the week look like? How on earth do you fit everything in?

3) How do I ensure I am meeting the needs of all my learners? How do I know that the quiet ones (less vocal) are learning? How do I spread myself to be in more than one place at once?

So these are the questions I am asking at the moment and it seems that everyone else is asking these too. From our conversation I have decided to focus on a couple of things:

  • If we value this new way of teaching maths how do we show that we value it in our reports? I need to be gathering some anecdotal notes about the way that students are collaborating, participating, discussing and risk-taking.
  • I need to focus on the above things as positive outcomes and trust that this will be reflected in summative assessment later in the year. I have already seen huge changes in the way that students are approaching maths tasks and I really value the culture of being able to take risks, challenge and value each others thinking and learning.
  • Talking chips (thanks Kelly!) could be a way to increase participation of those who are being quieter and/or make those with a lot to say to hold back a little to allow the quieter ones to have a chance.
  • Perhaps the planning cycle looks different for all levels/contexts. I am thinking that once my Stage 7/8 learners have truly explored fractions, decimals and ratios then the rest of the year will be full of rich open tasks that weave in their learning with the strands. I look forward to the possibilities!
I have absolutely LOVED the mathematics PD that we have had so far and totally believe in it's value. Like any new thing it will take time to implement and feel comfortable with but it is incredibly awesome to have the freedom and flexibility to take those risks and try things out.

Monday, May 2, 2016


I always say that I want my students to be resilient.

I think (in my head) that resilience is something you just get from moments of failure, of trying again. For feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Those things that make you stronger mentally to cope with the next challenge.

What I hadn't thought about was what do our students need that resilience for now in terms of their mental health.

This article looks at the mental health of New Zealand teenagers and the increased amount of teens taking medication for depression and anxiety.  The article was timely as I had just had a discussion with a dear friend of mine about her own teenage son and his battle (well more her battle) with what is clinical depression and what is just normal teenage emotional development.  I was horrified to hear that half of his friends are on anti-depressants. It made me wonder about quick fixes, trends and what on earth is happening????

The article suggests that the current generation of teenagers may not have the resilience to cope with increasing pressures or "triggers" of today's society.  I want to stop at the point and come back to my role as a teacher. Is the resilience I am trying to build in my classroom enough? Are the students who are in primary now better prepared for what's to come? Were our current teens "cotton-wooled" as the article suggests? Can I do more?

Then I read this awesome article on the Minecraft Generation from the New York Times. Here are these students who create their own problems for each other. One student quotes within his creative landscape: "The journey matters more than what you get in the end". And here we are back to one of my favourite things in education: Play.  The unpredictable nature of play, the social nature of play and the unmistakable way in which play can be a rehearsal for life. So how does this fit in with the resilience/mental health train of thought? Well in minecraft kids are constantly hacking the system and making it work for them, they negotiate and create their own communities, rules and manage resources. They are effectively solving the world's problems while playing a game (Seth Frey).

So our students are capable, and they have shown themselves to be capable and resilient problem solvers in these online gaming environments. So how can we use this to encourage our students to use their skills in the real world?  And if I/we are successful in building up resilience in the classroom environment how much of this will spill out into their "real world"?

Interestingly Francis Valentine from The Mindlab recently quoted in this article that what we are doing in education now will take another 6 years to see the impact. This will happen when our problem solving, critical thinkers begin university and start questioning (those practices?). So what I am interested in keeping in the loop with is the resilience of young people. Are we making a difference? And perhaps I too will have to wait 6 years to see those results... (hence my documentation of my thinking at this time).

Thursday, March 31, 2016

QLC: Death by Digital Documents

Something I am grappling with at the moment is how to balance the use of technology in my classroom. I have come from a 1:5 ipad environment to a 1:1 chromebook environment. The students are comfortable using the tool but I haven't quite found those systems that fit my teaching and my routines. For example, giving feedback on writing in books that get handed in... something I thought I wouldn't miss, well it is much easier to read and comment and be organic with writing in the paper form.

So discussing this issue with my colleagues allowed me to see some possible next steps and to give myself permission to provide that balance that will meet the needs of both myself and my students.

  • Not all work needs to be done digitally (permission granted!)
  • Get them to print stuff out - blend digital with pen
  • Have a look at what other teachers are using to manage so many online documents
  • Use the Hapara workspace 
  • Try out some tools like kaizena for voice notes.
There is no quick fix or perfect solution but I am interested in how other teachers manage the constant online viewing and storing of google docs?

NB: this is part of my ICT goal for this year around "What exactly does blended e-learning look like in my classroom?"

Monday, February 22, 2016

Play - Word for the Year

Source: Flickr

Play is my word for this year.

You can:

Play with words
Play with ideas
Play with numbers
Play with friends
Play with science
Play with music
Play with drama
Play with colour...

The list goes on.

I chose the word play because it was a word I could also share with my students.  I wanted it to become their word too.

The word play has injected life into ideas. It has created a classroom culture where through the idea of play, children can become the experts. An environment that values play also values risk taking, challenges, creativity, fun and laughter.

We all know how to play right?

And for me as an educator it allows me to play with my students. To see learning through their eyes. To have fun and encourage creativity.

Tests have become Spongebobs and P.A.T's have become Patricks. It's okay to fail! Actually it's awesome if you you #failfaster (a key element of successful game design and one that promotes risk taking). You can learn through playing games, you can even learn from designing games to play. Take peoples offers and add to them. Take part in drama games and release your inhibitions.

Play in our Year 6 classroom is compulsory. Is it in yours?

Monday, February 15, 2016

QLC: Managing Learning Assistants

Source: Pargon

My reflective question for today's Quality Learning Circle (QLC) was around managing learning assistants in the classroom. The purpose of the QLC group is to be asked questions to further reflection and perhaps solve the problem or come up with possible solutions/outcomes.

My current class has one ORS student and 2 students with identified learning needs. I currently have 2 different learning assistants 3 times a day.  I have found the last two weeks rather awkward having to juggle getting to know my class with planning for the LA.

My overall goal is to create an inclusive classroom that meets the needs of ALL the students, not just those with identified learning needs. I hope to use principles from Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to help me accomplish this.

Reflective actions:

  • That I need to meet with my LA's to give them information about what underpins the culture and learning in my classroom. I hope that by doing so they will realise that my decisions and actions are not arbitrary. I need them to understand that I am constantly observing and collecting information on those students that helps determine their goals for learning. I do not rely on previous documentation to inform my actions and that my focus right now is building relationships with my students. 

  • One of the particular ideas that I want to communicate is that student voice is very important and that I put a lot of thought into how to balance the power dynamic between myself and my students.

  • To be effective, long term, my LA's would know what there role was and would come in a get on with the job.

  • That a particular goal would be to decrease the amount of support the specified students received therefore adopting a model in which the LA's time was used to assist all students.

  • I may ask all of my students to reflect on what they think the LA's role should be in the classroom therefore identifying what the students see as being useful.

  • As we move towards more collaborative teaching, the LA's are going to need more specific training about how to work in that environment and understand the thinking that underpins the teaching and learning.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Starting over

I feel like I am back at the start again...

That's right. 2016 means a new school, a new year level and new opportunities for me. It also means feeling completely discombobulated in the weeks leading up to commencement.  Funnily enough I read Philippa's blog post with advice for beginning teachers last week thinking "man I'm glad I'm not a beginning teacher" and then today it hit me. I am a beginning teacher.  I am starting out again.

So I am going to write some advice to myself.

  • It is okay to not know everything yet. 

And that may be the only advice I need to give myself. I am going to take Phillipa's advice and write my questions down in a notebook and then ask them.  I will suss everything out before bowling on in. I will be warm and amicable and listen with intent.

I realise I am not the only person in this position this year. There are actually quite a high number of us that have left the comfort (discomfort?) of our familiar schools to launch ourselves at new opportunities.  

If you are reading this and you are not one of those people but know someone else that is "starting afresh" give them some support in the next few weeks. We can talk curriculum and students but we don't know where to get the laminator sheets yet. We won't know whose cup is whose in the staffroom and we may not know everyone's name. Be kind.

To my fellow newbies, all the best with starting over. You are still the incredible teacher I knew last year. You will find your focus soon. Kia kaha!