Thursday, 30 April 2015

Tweeting in LC4

I've been using twitter in the classroom for some time now but am constantly picking up new ways to do things, naturally we're all learning but its the launch of Twitter into the classroom that I'm specifically referring to.

Going into HPPS I was wanting to use Twitter again but was conscious that I'd need to focus my attention elsewhere first and that there would undoubtedly be differences in the approach to what I used at my previous school (blogged here). Some differences featured primarily because of the use of Kidsedchatnz and others more for the use of Twitter generally.

Here are some things we did launching Twitter in LC4 and HPPS more widely:

The launch of a laminated Tweet board for every student in LC4. There are plenty of examples on the Internet but our example allowed for students to draw their own avatar, username and the box at the bottom allows for students to retweet or favourite their peer's tweets on the wall. This is all with the purpose of creating familiarity with the medium.

When an account was established for the school it was decided that the username should be generic for the school. This would allow for minimal clutter/confusion of accounts and that I could manage this account, the school retains control through a collating usernames, passwords and security questions for all social media accounts. For the record, along with other coordinators at Kidsedchatnz we believe that all class twitter accounts should include the username for the teacher in control of the account. This means should a dodgy tweet be sent it is easy to connect with the teacher who deserves to know what their kids have done, when moderating chats with children this provides an extra layer of support that is quite helpful.

Discussion about the use of social media with my co-teacher Amy and our principal signalled that clear communication with our school community would need to take place. This was a marked difference to my previous school but in hindsight is valuable and I would recommend this regardless of school practice. I sent permission forms home outlining the purpose of Kidsedchatnz specifically, as well as placing a poster about Kidsedchatnz on the walls of both LC3 & 4 for our school community to read.

Once these components were all in place I pursued a path which is more akin to what I have done in other years. A couple of classes introducing Twitter, tweeting & Kidsedchatnz for those that are interested. When a Kidsedchatnz session is taking place I now try to ensure that the children are always in pairs so that no inappropriate tweets get through, this doesn't rule out poor spelling or off-topic tweets but that is largely a work-in-progress.

I always have the HPPS kids account on my Tweetdeck as a user column, this provides me with an ongoing record of what the kids are tweeting (as shown).

Some useful things to know if you are launching Twitter in your classroom:
It is possible to revoke permission to the Twitter App from the main Twitter website- a useful tool if you have loaded it onto multiple devices. Just go to Settings>Apps to revoke access.

You can schedule tweets through Tweetdeck, I've used this when moderating the chat sessions as it frees me of the need to post the questions and lets me concentrate on reading all the tweets.

I hope this is helpful for those investigating using Twitter in the classroom.

Any questions feel free to tweet, email or comment.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Innovation - Term Reflection

"HPPS - wow!" you exclaim.

One of my first thoughts on heading there was how I would be able to push my creativity and innovation in the classroom. Naturally, I would look to include innovation somewhere in my personal goals. We have several goals to set, so within my own Personal Professional Development I decided that I would "Evolve my teaching through innovative and responsive practice".  I could achieve this through the following: 

  • Attend regular professional development in numeracy and literacy.
  • Implement and reflect on innovative teaching practice.
  • Regular professional reading.
I completed all my Individual Education Meetings (IEMs) on Monday and naturally teacher brain decided to redirect its energies rather than relax, reflection on innovation became the focus. How might I have been more innovative? What if this had been my previous classroom? What barriers had I perceived/removed/battled? How might I change my practice in term 2? It is also worthwhile to think about what innovation means, for me it is not a synonym for technology in the classroom. I recently stumbled across a definition (battling to find the reference right now) that included all the 'radical or incremental change' stuff that seems to be always present but for the education context included the important addition that it would add value. 

During reflection I became dubious as to whether I had been innovative and responsive, or more importantly had I added value to Learning Common 4 (LC4) or any other part of HPPS. I decided a good old fashioned stock-take was needed. I needed to simply evaluate each and every tool or idea I'd used this term and make a judgement on whether it has added value.


Have introduced twitter in the classroom to LC4 and LC3. After 1 term students now opt-in on the Wednesday as part of their independent learning activities. There are some regular participants, a few who have decided it isn't for them and for some it depends on the topic. I have remained very hands-off with Kidsedchatnz this term to allow for student voice (a concern I raised in an earlier post) but am needing to check-in with participants early term 2 so they can identify some purpose for their Kidsedchatnz participation, be it literacy, dispositional or topic focussed. 

Immersion Workshop:

Week 5 we held our immersion workshops where all of our staff ran a small workshop to give students an insight into a world they didn't know. This is to help our students find their passions for the Project Based Learning. This term we were focussed on Inventive Thinking. With Caine's Arcade in my mind, my workshop was construction we had Lego, wooden blocks and stacks of cardboard boxes. My workshop was targeted for our Y0-4 learners and from the looks on their faces they had a blast inventing some pretty cool things, including tanks, time machines, boats, mermaid robots (who knew?) and towns. Construction has continued as a theme for some learners as they have created projects inspired somewhat by these early steps. Learners in LC4 also had my lego out for a time which has led to great discussion and writing.

Food Tech Workshops - Burritos & Kebabs
I blogged about this experience elsewhere but since then several projects have been initiated where food is part of the solution. I was also quite proud to hear some students talk about my food tech workshops in their celebrations for the term! 

Cricket World Cup

Heading into the CWC I had identified that there were many possibilities for integrating this into LC4. I waited to observe that I had students interested before using this in any way. I initiated a workshop early on that several boys opted in for, we brainstormed ways that the CWC could be utilised as a learning experience. They were particularly interested in bowling speeds, average speed of a bowler, the impact of technique and the variabilities created by the type of ball that is thrown. For me, new to HPPS, this was an exciting moment. Student voice, responsiveness, integrated & authentic teaching, what an opportunity! Sadly, in the hustle & bustle of HPPS and the learning journey that I was on this didn't go much further. The students managed 1-2 independent time slots focussed on their CWC work before it fell on to the back burner as they entered the immersion and design process phase for their Inventive Thinking projects. This was definitely a missed opportunity for innovative and responsive teaching, it required more steering by me but I was busy trying to juggle my first term requirements.

Design Process 

Early on Amy and I discussed using the Design Process for forming our project groups in LC4, I was excited by this as I had not used as a teaching tool nor been part of the process in any other organisation. Here was an opportunity to make additions to my kete of teaching tools while in the classroom, surely a bonus of team-teaching. I read about Amy's Design Process work with LC2 in 2014, and readied myself for learning. We took several days to move LC4 through the various phases but they came out the other end with their projects and a good understanding of why they were doing their projects. Some students even celebrated various aspects of the Design Process in their IEMs, whether it was their contribution to the ideation, the solution they'd formed as a team or how their dispositions had been challenged or grown. I see this as my first iteration through the Design Process and could write a post about it, but I think this should wait until I have taken more of a leadership role in its use in LC4, that will come when we head into our second lot of projects late term 2.

Reading Opportunities - 40 Book Challenge & Book Chat

Working with several of my readers I identified that they needed some challenge for their reading. They are all very keen readers with well developed reading ability but all tend to read within 1-2 genres. I've talked with them about a 40 book type challenge, emphasis on reading not numbers. I've used the 40 Book Challenge in class before and know it can provide some of the impetus required to take a look at different genres, thus growing our reading skills, vocabulary and general understanding of the world around us. We haven't worried about a way of monitoring the challenge because its the reading that is uppermost not writing about our reading, although Amy and I are wanting to implement some ways to provide some evidence of learning within reading. The 40 Book Challenge awaits as an untapped tool that I have introduced to LC4.

A colleague in Christchurch has developed a twitter-based book chat with her students. I had two of my students participating last year as it provided them with an opportunity to regularly discuss the books they were reading and expand their reading horizons. I have mentioned the existence of this bookchat to some of my students but need to facilitate their participation early in term 2. 

Where to next:
As we reviewed Term 1, I shared my frustration with my self-diagnosed lack of innovative teaching. I knew that my first term would be challenging in a new school but that I didn't feel I'd met my own expectations. The conversation took an interesting spin as we considered the impact our planning had had on this. We'd started with the lofty goal of having every week well planned in advance but ended operating on a just-in-time model as we responded to the needs of our learners. We discussed how this would have a large impact as more planning equates to a longer lead-in time and therefore more time for innovative teaching. Twitter chats, food tech lessons and construction workshops all necessitate preparation and use of any technology is enabled by more prep time also. However, directing a child to a website or app upon a teachable moment doesn't require much prep, just that the tool is top-of-mind at the required point in time.

During these discussions I was reminded of a blogpost that our principal shared with us in our innovation community. It centred on the importance of finishing, that completing a process or inquiry of learning is powerful and allows the learner to practice, develop and understand the various components required for mastery. It provided a challenge, the idea that innovation can lead to lots of uncompleted pieces of work. This reading summed up a conversation I had with another colleague about artistic endeavours that can lead to vast quantities of half-finished work, and frustration for a teacher that the true learning hasn't taken place yet.

In the last week of term 1 Amy was busy downloading information to me that may be helpful in term 2. Learning to operate our robots and what she had done for Coding within HPPS was high on the priority list. It was exciting being the learner again and in the short space of time we spent on this, combined with the reflection about my own innovative practice I felt invigorated. 

I'm still not sure if this was just my own self-doubt created by higher expectations, but the goal deserves the honest reflection and now I have a clearer pathway for term 2. Student voice, innovative teaching practice that adds value, advance planning and all tempered by a renewed emphasis on finishing experiences fully.