Growing up, I was surrounded by Girls can do anything stickers (bright yellow with pink writing) to encourage and motivate me at school and to do as well as males. Times have changed — when I went to University, over twenty-five years ago, females already accounted for over 60% of the students in the Marketing Department and in my year the honours class was 80% female.
Now, as the mother of two tama, I want to start the conversation — sharing stories and resources of how teachers and whānau can support and engage boys at school and at home, to be all that they want to be.
How can we make sure all our tamariki fulfil their potential?
Anaru White (a teacher for many years, and now a CORE Education facilitator) and I have started this ongoing discussion and asked for ideas from colleagues (Jo Robson and others) as well as on Twitter.https://soundcloud.com/core-education/lets-hear-it-for-the-boys-encouraging-boys-to-succeed-at-home-and-school
Podcast: Let’s Hear It For The Boys — encouraging boys to succeed at home and school
Anaru and I would like to continue gathering ideas on how parents and teachers can continue to support boys to fulfil their potential. If you have a resource or a story to share – or an issue you would like us to explore — please leave a comment below or tweet us: @rsavagenz or @anaruwhite. Or, join the conversation on #BoysInEducation.
Audio interview: Parenting with Joseph Driessen — girls vs boys
Blog: 11 Ways to grow great readers: A parent’s perspective
Image: boys playing on Kaikoura beach — by the author.
This is the time of the year when both good practice and legislative requirements have schools focusing on their achievement and other student outcomes data. We are looking to see where we have made the biggest impacts so we can celebrate this. We are also looking to see if there are groups of students, or areas of our programmes, or parts of our school that are not making the progress we had hoped for. School leadership teams often spend a lot of time crunching numbers and making the huge mass of collated information meaningful and enable colleagues, staff, teachers, Boards, and sometimes even students to make sense of it. The question is: Are we focussing on the right things?
Student Management Systems (SMSs) are making the analysis process a bit simpler if they are used effectively, and if the information being stored and collated is numerical. But, often SMSs are simply repositories for demographic information and a place to keep test scores, NCEA data, and Overall Teacher Judgments (OTJs). A basic understanding of spreadsheets certainly helps make sense of data on scale, and means different theories can be explored and views of data used to try and understand what it really means.
Being “data literate” also means being able to choose appropriate presentation formats for the kinds of data being shared. A table may show everything, but can be confusing and significant things can be lost. A graph is good for showing differences, but attention should be paid to using an appropriate scale, for instance.
Lack of experience with data analysis can lead to making incorrect assumptions. For example: the assumption that a numerical difference is a significant one. By this, I mean, ensuring that the differences in the numbers could not simply be attributed to chance. If numbers are small then the so-called margin of error can be quite large. Think about political polls, for example, that often quote a margin of error of plus or minus something like 3.5%. This means that the actual results could be expected to vary by up to 3.5% bigger or smaller. This is with surveys of over 1000 people. In the school context, we may well be talking about samples of less than 10% of this size. With a sample of 50 or less, the variance of 20-30% in scores could, in fact, be expected simply by chance. This is particularly true if the confidence we have in the accuracy of the measure being used is not that high.
In the school context, we also know that comparing one year group with another is not comparing like with like. Different year groups can have completely different compositions and the students can vary wildly in their engagement, confidence, and ability in different components of the curriculum we may be assessing and tracking.
‘Data-driven practice’ and ‘data-informed decision-making’ have become real buzzwords in recent times. Both these things require consideration of the factors outlined above. They also require that we position assessment data in a way where it is not the sole determining factor in what we do.
In the same way that good assessment practice means a single-test score is not the only indicator of an OTJ, analysis of OTJ data is not the only indicator of schools achieving successful outcomes for their students. Or, indeed, of teachers being successful in their settings either. Any assessment should be a point-in-time litmus test of the outcomes being aimed for, not the only criteria. Effective schools and individual educators know a lot more about their students collectively and individually than can ever be captured in a single number, or set of numbers. Student outcomes over time are not always well represented on a graph.
I like to think of the things we can put the number on and, therefore, ultimately turn into some sort of graph or table as the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There are so many other things that make up student achievement, outcomes, and success that are ‘below the surface’, but nonetheless hugely significant:
These factors below the waterline are things that the ‘tip of the iceberg’ factors can point to, but often the link may not be a very strong one. They may also be things that the whānau or culture that your students (or a group of students) come from are valued more highly than those above.
As a parent, I am way more proud of my own kids being good people than I am of any of their academic outcomes. I would think many families take a similar perspective.
So, I guess my challenge in this blog post is to consider several different things. As we begin bringing our focused attention onto the year’s data and information to begin making decisions about where we need to focus for next year in our programmes and improvement efforts:
If you would like support thinking about these things more deeply, and/or planning your PLD response to what you have found, do contact us at CORE Education.
Last week I reached a milestone; I got my 100th follower on Twitter. This was followed by a fairly audible “Yuss!” and a fist pump to the air, which resulted in smiles of bemusement from colleagues working in the immediate vicinity. Why was I so excited? Because I am continually amazed that anyone finds my 140-character tweets worthy enough to click the follow button. To be perfectly honest, I used to think that Twitter was a complete waste of time. I already had Facebook status updates and LinkedIn endorsements to keep me busy, so why on earth would I want to tweet? What did I have to say that was meaningful enough to share with millions of strangers?
Starting work at CORE Education has changed my perspective on Twitter and on many other social media tools. A large part of my job as a Learning with Digital Technologies Facilitator is to find what device, app, or extension is current, figure out how it works, and show other educators how to use it to improve teaching and learning practice. But, more importantly, my role is about helping them to understand the WHY?
We live in a connected world where information is our common currency. Tools like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are modern market squares, where all manner of cerebral goods are on offer. What differs from market squares of old is that there isn’t any one-to-one bartering in these online spaces; knowledge is offered up, sought out, and passed on in ways that can influence hundreds, thousands, or millions of minds. Knowledge is power. Why wouldn’t you want to harness the power of multitudes of minds?
As an educator, I can reach out through my Twitter, or other social media networks, for examples of how to teach quadratic equations through problem-based learning; or, to learn how other teachers are motivating and engaging reluctant writers; or, to hear what some of the world’s leading minds are predicting in education. But what about me? What do I want to share with the world?
As usual, those questions led to others, particularly; “Who am I?” — not in the flesh and blood sense, but in a digital one. Here’s some questions that I asked to help guide my thinking:
What do I want to do with Social Media?”
What are my goals for connecting online?
How might I build an online presence?
Other questions that I have pondered include, ‘How do I maintain some level of separation between the real me and the online me?’and, ‘Is it okay to blur the lines between my personal and professional self?’ I think that this is something that lots of people struggle with; particularly our tamariki. Here’s a fantastic YouTube video by Kiwi teenager ‘Chase’ who talks about our on and offline selves. Ultimately, whether you blur personal and professional boundaries online is up to you, but you might like to consider protecting your professional reputation. The Education Council provides resources and advice for teachers using social media.
Here’s my challenge to you: What networked communities will you contribute to, and what kind of social media presence will you choose to have?
If you are already using social media, you might be interested in how far your digital reach is extending. Try using the built-in analytics tools associated with many social media tools such as Twitter Analytics, or explore purpose-built apps like Klout that can quantify your impact, and can help extend your digital reach.
So, here am I am, 18 months on, and 127 tweets into my Twitter journey. I’ve been exposed to some incredible knowledge and I’ve begun to develop my digital self. Maybe by the end of next year I’ll hit the 1000 followers mark. Here’s my handle: @Boysie73
Featured image: Social Media CC0
Recently, the news has been awash with wonderings and reports of schools going online as a way forward. As a modern learning pedagogy enthusiast and someone who believes in strong technology use within the classroom, you would think I would be fully behind the announcement. And I am. But, we must not lose sight of one of the most fundamental elements of learning. The very best piece of technology a student will ever have access to is a good teacher. The context of the drive to establish communities of online learning has perhaps been lost in the responses to the original announcement. Here we are faced with the opportunity to respond to the ever-changing needs of students, and keep them entirely at the centre of learning. We know that technology is not the silver bullet. It is often described by those less inclined to use it as ‘being as effective as giving a fish a bicycle’. But, is this the real picture? Once the engagement with the device as a shiny object has subsided, we can really begin to unpack just what learning with digital technology can do for our learners. The key areas are perhaps summarised best by the Woolf Fisher Research Centre’s ongoing research with a progressive cluster of low-decile Auckland schools.
These areas have become known as the ‘five affordances of digital technology’ and stem from over three years’ worth of professional research into the use of technology to accelerate student progress and achievement.
Very recently, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to unpack the affordances with a group of senior teachers and school leaders. All of these are currently in the second year of a three-year supported programme focused on raising student achievement and making accelerated progress. This is underpinned by a shared cluster pedagogy and a base of visibility through access to technology.
After the box has been unpacked and the glow of the device has subsided, what is left? Just how can using an internet-enabled device in a well-organised 1:1 programme add to student engagement? We know that intrinsic motivation stems from learning that has high levels of interest or opportunity to explore curiosity (Woolfolk-Hoy and Hoy, 2009), so, perhaps the first area to unpack with regards to engagement is authenticity. Having access to the wider world and the understanding that a piece of work is not finished when it’s handed to the teacher, means that students have the opportunity to engage with an authentic audience. In context, this could be as simple as preparing a speech on world poverty and famine. Previously, the student would write and present the speech to their peers, and then receive their feedback before moving on to the next topic of study. Having an internet-ready device opens up a world of possibilities. The speech can be blogged for others outside of the school to see. It could be recorded and shared via a multitude of audio and video hosting platforms with the intention of reaching those who can actually make a difference. Just recently, this very scenario happened. An intermediate level student shared their writing about equality and the lives of refugees to their blog. The post was automatically tweeted by the cluster account and within an hour had been read and retweeted by a small human rights organisation based in Europe. The connection came to life and the writing had, very quickly, gone far beyond the walls of the classroom. This example alone feeds well into some of the other areas felt to be related to student engagement. The writing had been completed both in and out of the classroom, researched using sources from across the globe, and curated for relevance. The learning had become relevant, meaningful, and powerful; engagement was simply a wonderful by-product.
Something New Zealand teachers do well is conferencing with students. Since moving to NZ over six years ago, I have been shown the value of purposeful, powerful teaching conversations between students and teachers. So, how can digital technology improve something that is already very strong in many learning institutions? Having access to learning via a device means that students have the opportunity to learn anytime, anywhere, and any-how. They continue their journey on a ubiquitous platform of lifelong education, underpinned by the access their device affords. Both the student and teacher have this access. Teachers in 1:1 environments have the opportunity to comment, unpack, and question student learning without being constrained by the ten-minute window to talk during the working day. When that face-to-face window finally comes around, the conversation has already begun online (through commenting and collaboration) and can be instantly focused. Simply recording the conversation with an audio tool means the student can return to it at any point and listen again to the feedback and discussion around their learning. The face-to-face, human interaction is not lost, merely extended.
Aside from not being limited by the space on the page, students have the opportunity to evolve their learning based on their understanding of an authentic audience. As they begin to explore blogging and publishing online, there is a need to think about what a ‘global audience’ really means, and how it can affect their outcome. We know that students learn in a variety of ways. Having access to multiple tools, with the expert guidance of a skilled teacher means that learning does not end when the work has been written and edited. The ‘final piece’ can now be presented as a piece of a much larger puzzle, showing research, conversations, editing, commenting and alternative ways to present- all feeding a multimodal learning outcome for an audience to interact with.
Something else that needs to be considered is ownership. Student engagement is known to be higher when there is a feeling of ownership of the learning that is taking place. Students who understand how they learn are able self-scaffold their learning, increasing or decreasing its complexity to suit their needs. Under guidance, this can not only increase the complexity of learning taking place, but also tailor or differentiate it to a self-selected level and add considerable value.
In placing learning onto a visible and accessible portal, students are able to access it at a pace and time they feel most comfortable. Most teachers I meet have become experts at planning the tasks and steps needed in order to achieve a predetermined final outcome. However, for those that learn differently, having access to ongoing learning both in and out of school hours, coupled with a strong grasp of how to access information, there is the possibility to learn around an area and build a much wider understanding. Potentially, students are able to develop a clearer perception of themselves as a learner and apply this to future situations, without the need to have the processes carefully constructed by a teacher. They are able to take responsibility for accessing the methods that they have found to be successful and use them when confronted with new and unfamiliar contexts.
Perhaps the most obvious affordance of digital technology is the ability to connect and make learning visible. As a teacher, there is the opportunity to share planning, activities and learning outcomes via a class portal. Not only are parents and caregivers able to see this and provide support, but also other teachers and colleagues, who are able to adapt and extend the ideas to meet the needs of their own learners.
In making their learning visible, students are able to make their learning ‘real’ and purposeful. The new connections have the potential to drive learning to a level well beyond the initial plan. Sharing authentic writing and learning via a blog allows students to develop meaningful relationships with students from the classroom next door just as easily as with students from a classroom halfway across the world.
Bringing technology and digital learning into the classroom must never be about learning the tool. While understanding how to use a device effectively remains important, the learners of today already have many of the skills needed to navigate the online world as a consumer of information. As 1:1 device rich environments grow, we have a real chance to make today’s learners creators of knowledge and information for their peers of the future.
Whatever your view on the use of technology in schools, the fact remains that technology on its own cannot accelerate student progress and achievement. Without a teacher with strong pedagogy, the fish and bicycle scenario remains. With a teacher with strong pedagogy, the possibilities, in my humble opinion, are limitless….
Further reading and watching
Woolf Fisher Research Outcomes — Manaiakalani Outreach 2016
What is an affordance and can it help us understand the use of ICT in education? — University of Warwick 2010
Woolfolk-Hoy, A., & Hoy, W. K. (2009). Instructional leadership: A research-based guide to learning in schools. (3rd ed.) Boston: Pearson
The opposite of horizontal is vertical. It is singular in its focus and one dimensional. It is an isolated line that does not encompass or broaden to anything deep or meaningful. It is thin and narrow. When learning is separated from context or compartmentalised, it has the danger of being stored in a box in the recesses of our mind — or not even stored at all.
Research demonstrates that skills taught, practiced, and tested in isolation are not used as consistently or effectively as skills taught when children are actually reading and writing (Basic skills belong in context.
—Lucy McCormick Calkins, 1980).
When a brain learns something new, it forms new neural pathways. These new pathways become stronger the more they are used, causing the likelihood of new long-term connections and memories.
What comes with teaching in 2016 is the luxury of up-to-date research into how learning happens. We no longer need to guess about how to teach our learners. Teaching has changed. There is a plethora of research that has been growing exponentially since the late 1980s into what works for teaching and learning — and this research keeps being updated daily.
We now know the importance of integration and connecting to prior knowledge when we teach some new skill or content. It is much easier for the brain to learn something new when it can hook onto something: a schema (a system or framework for organising new information). Constructivism proposes that new knowledge is constructed from old.
The 2013 Research report: Educational Practices that benefit Pacific learners in tertiary education states that:
Learning in traditional Pacific Island culture took place everywhere: at home, during gatherings, in the fields and at sea. “Family and community were inextricably interwoven, like strands of pandanus, into a coherent ‘school’ of learning” (Onikama, Hammond, Ormond & Koki, 1998, p. 1).
…success in education is still largely attributed to the influence of family, friends and community (Meyer, Weir, McClure, Walkey & McKenzie, 2009).
Building horizontal connections in our classrooms is when we deliberately activate the prior knowledge and worlds of our learners with the new learning we are introducing. It is also about validating learning contexts that are familiar and valued in the worlds of our Pacific learners. This builds on the strengths that our learners have and acknowledges their contexts as legitimate contexts to learn.
How can we build horizontal connections between the worlds our Pacific learners walk in (informal learning), to the worlds of school (formal learning)?
If we deliberately strategise to make these worlds intersect, then we can amplify these learning opportunities.
For instance, Pacific sports such as volleyball or Kilikiti could be used to as assessment opportunities for Physical Education and Health. Students could evaluate the similarities and differences between Cricket and Kilikiti in a piece of persuasive writing.
Polyfest is not only a rich cultural experience for dance, it could also be a context for mathematics and physical education. Could this be a data gathering opportunity? Students could measure their heart rate prior to practice, then straight after to notice increased elevation. It might be more engaging than drawing a bar graph of the heights of boys versus girls in your classroom! Could students capture a sample of student voice as a qualitative and quantitative measure. They could come up with their own survey questions in regards to Culture, Language, and Identity, then survey participants from different schools. Or, for Technology, look at the different stakeholders that are invested in this event. There are so many opportunities, it just takes a culturally responsive mind to validate these as legitimate contexts for learning.
White Sunday is a highlight of the calendar year for Samoan and Tongan families. It is a day for parents and communities to acknowledge and celebrate childhood by hosting special programs during church services that include scriptural recitations, biblical story re-enactments, and creative dance performances. Many Pacific students spend hours preparing for these church performances; these could be assessment opportunities for English, Drama, and Dance. How can we make it work?
Learning happens outside of school in many naturally occurring situations; like strands of pandanas, let us weave these learning opportunities together.
As we broaden our horizons to maximise wider community connections, let us think about how we can build relational trust to be in true partnership with our Pacific community.
In talking to your learners and families, have you thought of building a more holistic picture of your learners:
Could you connect with this wider community to hold a partnership meeting where church members alongside schools, solution-build how to amplify natural learning opportunities?
Below are some questions Delta Learns has created to help teachers plan teaching and learning opportunities with authentic learning contexts that promote and foster deeper understanding. The checklist questions provide prompts to scaffold and maximise the learning opportunities.
Provide authentic contexts that reflect the way the knowledge will be used in real life.
Activities and tasks are loosely defined, requiring students to define the tasks and sub-tasks needed to complete the activity.
Comprise complex tasks to be investigated by students over a sustained period of time.
Provide the opportunity for students to examine the tasks from different perspectives, using a variety of resources.
Support collaborative construction of knowledge
Promote reflection to enable abstractions to be formed
Articulation enables tacit knowledge to be made explicit. Provide opportunities for students to articulate the knowledge they gained.
Provide for authentic assessment of learning within the tasks.
Create polished products valuable in their own right rather than as preparation for something else. Allow competing solutions and diverse outcomes.
Instructor does not attempt to ‘transmit’ knowledge. Instructor’s role is supporting rather than didactic.
Keep weaving the pandanus strands to explicitly link the naturally occurring worlds that our Pacific learners walk in. By valuing horizontal connections, Pacific worlds will be validated as authentic and meaningful learning opportunities.
Delta Learns website: Toolkit for Innovative Teaching and Learner Success: Building Horizontal Connections
Connections image used under CC0 Public Domain
In my previous post I shared ideas around the management of cloud-based systems such as Google Suite for Education (GSFE) and Microsoft’s Office 365. Building on from that post I have two important subjects I regularly get asked about around security:
The Verizon 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report, states that 63% of confirmed data breaches involved weak, default, or stolen passwords.
A password security strategy should increase security with little impact on staff through highly secure useable practices. Here are some recommendations to consider:
When an account is deleted, anything created on that account such as emails, files, folders, and calendars will also be deleted. An important consideration is: what content needs to be retained by your school, what needs to be downloaded or transferred to that person, and what should be archived.
In GSFE, accounts can be suspended rather than deleted. This means that the shared content is still accessible to others, but the user themselves cannot log on to access it. Ownership of their files can be transferred to another account such as a generic ‘past users’ account, or to a particular person.
In Office 365, the user’s ability to sign in can be blocked by the administrator. Their OneDrive files must be copied to another location.
Another option to consider is to rename the user who is leaving to ‘deleted_$Name’, change the password, and disable email for that account.
If you have any questions around cloud management or generic technology tips and tricks, the invitation is always open. Leave a comment below and I will be in contact.