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.