Sunday, 26 July 2015

#EducampAkl 2105

Work life balance has been a bit of a problem this year.  I've got two young kids at home, a desire to play golf, a passion to pour myself into my new school and did I mention my kids who are almost 3 and 14 weeks old. The notion of giving up a Saturday for professional development at the moment, while attractive, isn't the easiest decision.

As July 25th had approached I'd delicately mentioned to my wife that it was something I'd like to do but recognised it might not work. Thankfully the stars aligned, off to Tamaki College I trundled. Three things were crossing my mind:
  1. What F2F connections would I make?
  2. What would be my takeaways for the day?
  3. What could I offer to the others that were there on the day?
Last year my first educamp had been quite an eye opener and I anticipated lots of PD goodness this time around.

F2F connections
First of all it was awesome to meet Stuart Kelly @stuartkellynz (nice blog post Stuart), Myles Webb @NZWaikato and Amanda Signal @Heymilly. I have different connections to each of them, so it was great to meet them. I caught up with many others that I'd met before, whether fleeting or not so fleeting it is always beneficial having face to face time. Along with others, I find the connection made through Twitter is advantageous but there is nothing like the relationships and connections that are formed through real conversations rather than just 140 character snippets.

Play-based learning
I wasn't sure about this but with an HPPS colleague's voice ringing in my ear, I embraced the discomfort and wandered into this workshop. We're beginning some good discussion about Reggio philosophy at HPPS so I figured I had nothing to lose. One of the participants had been at the same Reggio PD with my colleague, thanks for that connection Kristyn and Amanda. I have a lot of wonderings about Play-based learning that include:
  • How might Play-based learning fit with the needs for LC4?
  • How might provocations be used effectively in LC4? Thanks for the idea of Grand or Petit provocations Caroline.
  • How would our wider school community feel about Play-based learning, especially if this was within LC4 (Year 4-6).
  • Did the #ScientistForADay inquiry have components of Play-based learning? I think it might of, I now need to reflect on whether this was successful using another lens as opposed to the original aims that Lisa and I had at the time.
I'm quite curious as to where our discussions at HPPS could take us, stay tuned I know this will lead to a blog post or two.

Google Cardboard
I didn't even know what this was prior to the start of the day, but seeing Justine Driver talk about her love of the Viewmaster as a child I knew I was in the right place. For a concise description, place your phone inside a cardboard box with some lenses to watch an app, then let the Virtual Reality App do the business! Check out Google Cardboard for a better description. Totally cool and as a toy I want one! From an educator's perspective these are also very exciting. Before the end of the session I had 4 ideas running through my brain. 

Firstly, as a simple writing prompt Google Cardboard could be exciting. We know that children may engage with activities simply because of the addition of digital technology. VR apps that could have a child experiencing another city, a tourism attraction or any such thing really opens up writing opportunities. 

Second (and third), the Hobsonville Point area and even our school are rather new. We could take photos, upload them and then allow others to experience the growth of our area and school through Google Cardboard. This has direct ties to an ongoing project at HPPS and HPSS, opportunities for some authentic collaborative projects here are massive.

The last opportunity, all credit here to @Gmacmanus (pictured). I've been taking part in an interesting little project to assist @NZWaikato and his class as they try collect information on classes so they can recreate them in Minecraft. His learners and mine are operating in quite different classroom environments, Google Classroom would provide a more realistic way to experience each others classrooms.

This was a very cool takeaway for the day, now I have to order me some Cardboard but I think I'd like to get an old fashioned viewmaster too.

What did I offer?
I took part in the smackdown by talking about one of my favourite subjects Kidsedchatnz. My involvement in this is limited to being an advocate these days, but advocate I did. I also posted a slide for #Edchatnz and all of the other education chats on Twitter. I'm glad I did this as it led to a small session where myself and @jacquea provided support for others new to twitter, chat sessions and tweetdeck. 

During this session I also chatted with Michelle Simms who is about to begin a chat session for librarians as the moderator. I know that many of us have now moderated chat sessions and I thought that I might have even seen the odd blog post or two on this, searching for posts online gets you many responses. Perhaps we need to crowd source a Moderators Guide for our Kiwi educators.

Once again, #educampakl has proven to be useful PD. The unconference style really lends itself to be whatever you need it to be, for me the connections, takeaways and ability to give back make for a powerful day. But more teachers ought to engage with educamps as they are so much more invigorating than the one size fits all approach that other PD courses tend to be. Futhermore, if you were struggling to get your school to come to the party with some PD need that you have, you'll more than likely find that need met at an Educamp, or at the very least someone who could answer your questions or point you in the right direction. 

I recognise that giving up another day seems like a big ask, but its only a few hours and never leaves you feeling like you've wasted your Saturday. I wouldn't give up the precious time with my kids otherwise! Educamps have a place in my #Worklifebalance

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Scientist for a day

During the holidays I met with my LC4 teaching buddy to discuss our plans for term 3. We are in the midst of immersing our learners in Digital Age Literacy (see attached image), yes this goes across the term break! Initially we considered some of the activities in our planning document. But Lisa floated the idea of "scientist for a day", in a short space of time this had morphed into we what presented to LC4 on day 1 of the term.

Immersion into a world they didn't know was our main motivation, but we also wanted to excite them, provide a level playing field for some new students in our space and challenge several learner profile statements. It would serve as a great activity for us to observe many possible learning needs.

When the students arrived Monday morning they were confronted with a table that included:
Models demonstrating gears & pullies,
Newtons Cradle,
Models of the brain,
Plant Life Cycle,
DNA model,
Microscope slides with various objects.

The excitement before the had even started was fantastic!

Our first task was watching some short science videos - all conformed to the notion of snackable content. As a class we completed a PMI chart on the style of videos, this was later turned into the criteria/matrix for a science video they would create. The audience would be other HPPS students, each video would explain the particular model/concept the students had been charged with. QR codes would be used to link to the published videos.

Next we broke students into groups of 3 with peers they don't normally work with, they were given a random science model and sent off to brainstorm all their questions and prior knowledge.

Our original idea was that creating the video would take place within the day. However, the first block hadn't elapsed and we'd noticed that the day wouldn't be enough for the task. All groups were highly engaged, sharing their excitement and asking lots of good questions.

After morning tea we provided the learners with a graphic organiser to scaffold their research. We supplemented their journey with more models, texts, wonderings of our own as we modelled noticing things and asking questions to help us understand.

Lunchtime arrived quickly with talk of brains hurting and plenty of sharing their findings taking place. The final block continued in the same vein, except for a short workshop on creating a QR code, which they would need when they completed the filming.

Day 2 included plans to refresh/immerse our learners in several creative platforms (iMovie, YouTube Editor, Screencasting via Quicktime and Explain Everything).

Our learners have been busy researching, writing scripts, creating videos and  generally building their understanding of a small part of the scientific world.

So what's next?

Lisa and I wondered today about whether a second iteration would be appropriate, instead we'll allow a small group to pursue any new wonderings if student voice and needs demand it.

We contemplated whether allowing this activity to run into tomorrow is a good thing. The science literacy and basic literacy is unquestioned, our students are so busy hurting their brains with their learning. While we have shaped, nudged, modelled and questioned each group, the process and its direction has been very student-led, this has meant that very little maths has been integrated. Sharing our thoughts in reflection time as the day ended the students told us about the many measurement learnings they had had.

Students have challenged themselves with their creative skills and the sharing tomorrow shall be enlightening.

Our students have used their research skills both online and in books and we've witnessed them evaluate sources, synthesise information, skim & scan, summarise, plan, craft, and recraft their writing.

Permission to not teach and just observe has been powerful. We have many workshops we will be able to run based on our observations and the students will no doubt have many ideas for new projects, workshops and curiosities to explore. A key moment will be to complete mini-conferences to celebrate each groups learning with their whanau.

Soon we will enter our project phase. An important decision we need to explore is how might we best leverage our immersion activities so that the learning and dispositional needs of each learner is met.

Tomorrow our 3rd day of #ScientistForADay will continue.