Archive for the “Uncategorized” Category

Last week I attended a wonderful day of professional learning run by the Central West RTLB Cluster in Auckland.

Mere Berryman was the first presenter looking at te Kotahitanga, a research programme that has spent a number of years looking at factors influencing maori student achievement.  There are a number of things that really struck me over the day:

  • "we know what works now, so why would we do anything else?" – a challenging quote!  Can be applied to so many things in so many places in education.  We have research that shows what works and what is effective in the classroom …. how can people ignore them and stick to the same-old, same-old?  eg:
    • Feedback is most effective when specific and focused on learning not the person or effort – Hattie and Daniel Pink. 
    • External rewards are ultimately demotivating – Daniel Pink
    • children already know a large percentage of the content of classroom programs, especially in "Inquiry" times – Graeme Nuthall et al
    • engagement matters!
    • etc, etc, etc
  • The BIG picture counts …. if we get too hung up on micro-managing the small bits we can loose sight of the things that count overall.  This is especially true of applying research and extrapolating out what good practice looks like I think.  We need to look at the whole package not try and dissect teaching up into a series of discrete behaviors that are supposedly then replicable and 'cause' learning.  This is a very behaviorist model of schooling, and the mechanization of the profession is something we are increasingly seeing in an effort to discern so called quality.  One of the later speakers in the day described three standout teachers in his school and they were fundamentally different from each other in their style and approach …. but they did 'cause' success in exams in the senior secondary system and so had kids lining up to be in their classes.
  • The tail is not the only point.  Maori and pacific achievement is lower across the board. Their 'bell curves' have slid to the left for these groups compared to the NZ European and Asian demographics.  This is quite different from the picture of the tail of achievement we have focused on and heard so much about in the past decade or so.  It also has different and more profound implications for the teaching profession …. particularly when combined with the next point.
  • This shows how the four different groups – Students, Whanau, principals and teachers explain achievement of maori students in their classrooms.  Students, whanau and principals (green and blue) are largely agreed that school and classroom structures are the biggest influencers on achievement.  Teachers  (Yellow) however assign the main influence on achievement to the student, contrary to what everyone else believes. 

This leads to the conclusion that teachers don't look at themselves when children are not succeeding they blame the child, their home, circumstances, etc.  This deficit thinking is also an issue for other than racial or ethnic issues I believe.  We see this constantly with children with all sorts of learning needs – what is wrong with the kid that they aren't leaning because my classroom programme is, of course, so stunning?  It is quite a mind-shift to ask yourself why kids are not maximising their potential as a function of what you are doing as a teacher rather than what they 'are' as a learner.

A powerful challenge there for teachers to reflect upon!!

  • "we know children well, bit we don't know ourselves well".  As teachers how well do we honestly and accurately reflect upon and get feedback on our practice?  Do we REALLY know what is happening in our classsrooms and how effective we are being?

Check out the Effective Teaching Profile and the site on TKI

There were a number of speakers in the day who followed similar themes and contributed to and reinforced these points for me.   Some real challenges and thinking there.  For us all!

A big thanks to the team who put the day together.



Comments 2 Comments »

Education has become increasingly low trust.  We have to keep proof of everything we do, all the decisions we make, the progress kids make in their learning, the progress we make in ours.

A big focus is on the evidence.  We have to document the evidential breadcrumbs to show the trail.  I believe strongly though we are collecting huge amounts of evidence (which takes a huge amount of time!) when we could often be a bit smarter and use exemplars.  When we talk about evidence we often mean every little thing that can find to show we did the right thing.  If the brown stuff hits the spinny thing we have to have enough written down – or stored online, portfolio-ed, blogged, pintrest-ed, moodle-d or whatever – to show it was not our fault, we made the right decision, the kid did know what we said.  We did everything we could and should have done.  Teachers keep huge amounts of data – scores, notes, observations, and so-on.

Apart from the sadness of no longer assuming competence and the rise of the blame culture I think we need to focus more often on exemplars instead of simply gathering piles of evidence.  Exemplars are quite different in my view.  They exemp-LIFY.  They are carefully chosen artifact that shows a whole trail of thinking or logic or learning.  An example may show what I mean.  We could keep a lot of data/evidence of a kids ability to multiply basic facts, solve problems, understand place value, etc …. or …. an annotated sample of a 2×2 (or more) digit multiplication problem solved quickly and with working that then shows:

  • basic facts knowledge – tables facts must be knowledge or they would have taken a lot longer to work it out if they had to solve each tables problem with materials or on their fingers.
  • place value knowledge – they must understand PV to keep things in columns if solve in an algorithm or if 'split' in some way into tens and ones as a strategy
  • understanding of multiplication as a concept – repeated addition, whatever the strategy used shows
  • addition knowledge – depending on the strategy chosen
  • strategy – and the sophistication of the strategy shows you the 'level' or 'stage' of mathematical understanding

…. and are a few more things too, but you get my point ….

(Information for formative purposes is different.  But is doesn't need to be exhaustively comprehensive – just focused and informative of the classroom/childs programme.)

In order to be an exemplar the sample, or the collection of samples, also need to be annotated.  This should include things like:

  • date – we can only be certain what the kid knows now, today, in this context …. we are making no claims they will have it sussed tomorrow, the next day or especially weeks or months into the future.
  • context – how was the activity set up?  How much teacher/peer support was there?  Was this at the end of the learning sequence or at the beginning?  How heavily was it scaffolded?
  • achievement – does it show what the kid can do ….in your overall experience of the topic is this a representative sample or did they blow it or fluke it?  This could be a short note …. and only note something if you need to.
  • summative assessment – overall how have they done?  Is there a level this shows? 

Much of this information is generic to all the kids who completed the task and so can be cut-and-pasted.  The judgment is the bit that that is individualised.  It is information that could be kept in a form as simple as a class list; with the generic information detailed at the top.  Only the exceptional things need to be noted.  If a student did as we expected and performed to a particular level a simple letter, symbol or number may tell us everything wer need to know.  We have to be smart about this stuff. 

The same is true of documenting our professional learning.  We have a multitude of requirements to meet from different regulatory bodies, or from our school.  Lets keep exemplars of practice that show we are meeting a range of requirements through a single activity, reflection, change in practice, etc – rather than what are often simply a list of activities that may or may not have actually had any impact on our pedagogy.

Keep it simple, keep it effective, keep it focused.

Comments 1 Comment »

Been a busy week or so for things coming through the RSS and in the different projects I am involved in.

Some of the more interesting ones….

Learning and Teaching:

* Another list of top 10's but interesting to note the alignment in the thinking that these have around specific trends.  Comparing with the CORE 10 Trends for example –  There are more and more references to this mag (for the ipad) assuming it is at the same sort of level as the Edutopia site which is a pretty meteoric rise.

* iPads v Laptops – short but good post outlining the benefits-pitfalls of each

* Alllanahs great google site on iPads in education.  Have iPads you need to have a look here.  Deal Extreme ( is a good place to get some of this sort of gear and they do free international postage.

* Harvard Teaching for Understanding Framework.  I came across this through some work in the Future Schools in Singapore.  Similar to Inquiry but project based and more teacher directed.  Some great reflective questions and resources.  A site worth taking the time to browse around.

* The spaces we learn in are critical.  The size of the bodies makes no difference to this truth but it is often only the smaller ones we think about.  The Reggio philosophy for example has a specific focus on the physical classroom as a 'teacher' for chidlren.  I have always had a fascination with this and the Learning Spaces space on the Enabling eLearning site has some great links and resources.  Have a look if you are planning any upgrades ….

* quite a different view on learning.  Good to challenge yourself a bit ….

* GREAT post about using data.  The importance of collaboration in making OTJ's and for the learning of the team.


Geeky Stuff:

* tips and tricks with iOS.  Slow to navigate but some geeky wee things

* Some people have just too much time on their hands!!

* Interesting new player in the ISP game in NZ.  Very different pricing model and getting the squeeze from the big boys after less than a week it would seem.

* iPads and other tablets now account for 40% of the mobile broadband market globally.  WOW!  There has been talk of the inevitability of BYOD …. so it is happening even if it is not sanctioned by the school.  I know our kids friends tether to each others devices to get around school filtering to get to facebook at break times for instance.  There are increasing numbers of 'how to' and 'readiness' posts on the BYOD topic – heres another good one.

* speed up the reaction time of the home button on your iPhone – this worked!!

* Slow motion capture on the iPhone …. not actually tried it but sounds great for PE skills.


Other things:

* There was a blog I used to follow ages ago with lots of these wee venn diagrammes. this is a snappy but still useful list of things to think about.  With reference to rutts – I once heard them described as a grave with the ends knocked out … mmmm

* photography posing guide – the series of these are great!  This is the couples one but they cover all sorts of situations.  Could share with older kids to work on their composition and shortcut to 'what works' too.

* find free Kindle books – the good ones, the best sellers.

* A Blog title designed to get attention but some wonderfully funny and cleverly written posts – Stuff white people like

* creating success quickly as a key factor in development.  Leadership Freak blog is a great place for succinct leadership tips.  This is important in our work as Facilitators as well ….

* If you need something special in the clothing line and want to go custom made.

Comments No Comments »

This rubric/infographic from Edudemic Magazine outlines their thinking on how to decide if an idea/product is worth reviewing or looking at further:

This also provides a useful framework for looking at any idea or initiative in a school:

1.  Does it make sense.  Do you understand it in terms of your kids, their learning ….?

2.  Does it fill a need we have (or are we creating one just to get the shiny toys?)

3.  Is it gobsmackingly simple to use and does it actually do what it says it will, and well (any unintended consequences?)

4.  Is there a better option?  A free/cheaper one?

5.  Does it fit in the overall way we do stuff – with the school culture and ways of working?


5 outa 5?  Go for it.

Notice there is nothing about $$$$ … if it is important enough you can make that work (usually, in some way)

Comments No Comments »

WOW … it is certainly a while since I have written anything on here.  Life has been busy and got away a bit.

Still lots of learning and thinking going on but a pretty big change of direction this year.  I have been at school since I was 5 … but no more.  Well not quite really.  I spent some time last week at Taieri Beach School working with their senior kids building their skills with their new website.  Similar idea to the one I built for Outram but being a smaller school it needed to be scaled back a bit.  They also have some iPads and it was great fun to explore the possibilities of this 'new' technology with them.

This week I have begun a contract at Natural History New Zealand.  The film company here who did the Wild South series, Wild Track (remember them?!)  and now do work all over the world.  They have over 200 000 hours of footage in their archives as well as an iOS gaming unit and the obvious movie making expertise.  A very cool place to be and the building has been custom refitted for them and is AMAZING.  They also know what bandwidth is here …. fastest I have ever seen, anywhere.  Geek heaven!

My role here involves scoping opportunities for the company in the education sector – given the companies skills, resources etc.  All very different from principalship but a blast so far!  I am working with the iOS team (who have developed the iOS games Howling Mouse and Puzzle Planets and the Facebook game Flutter).  So do you have a "wish there was an app to ….." list?  let me know (gregc5nz at gmail dot com) it may be possible 🙂

In a few weeks I will be back with CORE again with the Blended eLearning team.  Looking forward to that too!!  The ICT professional learning landscape has changed a bit in the last wee while so schools do need to make sure that you know what the possibilities are if you are looking for support and how to access it through your local MoE Office just like you now do for Literacy and Numeracy.

Comments No Comments »

That it has been!

On the 10th December last year I had a fall off a trailer at home and knocked myself out.  12 big blue stitches in the three deep gashes in the back of my head, a few hours in A&E, and I was back home again with a booming headache but not too much more, so it seemed. The rest of the school year was spent on sick leave as the doctor instructed a few days off resting and keeping up the panadol.
One of the good things about being on holiday is resting when you are tired and doing just what you want for a week or two … so that’s what the Christmas holidays were. I knew I was pretty tired, knew the world spun a bit even though I was still, knew I was having real trouble word finding and remembering peoples names. No driving, no alcohol. What I had no comprehension of was just how much it was affecting me and that I was not really getting a lot better over time. I probably still don’t really get how bad I was ‘cos I was so bad …. if that makes sense.

As the time approached to return to school it dawned that maybe this was all going to be a bit harder than I expected. But surely a couple of mornings working at home a week would allow me to catch up? We had ERO coming so I needed to be on deck. Hmmmmm! The fatigue and fog you can be in with a concussion cannot be underestimated!

I spent the beginning of the term working part time, and only a day a week in the principal role. ERO came and went. I crashed. For the last month of last term I was off school completely and spent a lot of time simply working with the physio to get my vestibular system back in order so I was not getting ‘the spins’ and feeling sea sick all the time. The occupational therapist has provided all sorts of strategies to manage the memory issues – our kids teased me for ages that I had the memory of a goldfish; once around the bowl and it was gone. I know though that at the beginning of the school term I was having problems sustaining a conversation for more than a few minutes …. which was funny at one level but also massively frustrating and hugely demoralising at the same time for me. I know it must have driven people at school nuts, it did at home at times! After a couple of hours at school I would come home and sleep for at least the same amount of time.

The clinical psychologist from the ISIS centre has been fantastic in getting me set up for a return to work this term. Understanding what has happened cognitively; the things I can have an impact on and the ones that trying hard on will simply make more difficult has taken time, lots of time. It is a huge challenge to go from being someone who deals with multiple things all the time and at a reasonably high level to someone who has to concentrate really hard to read the newspaper or watch the news. Medication has stabilised the brain chemistry stuff and now I am told I pretty much had a ‘stroke without the bleed’. All from a ‘relatively minor’ bang on the head ….. crazy! We take concussion so lightly in NZ … its only a couple of weeks off if you play rugby! We need to get a lot more real about this ….

It feels good to be back at school, and more importantly to have a head clear enough to be able to be there and not just get in peoples way. It feels good to be back at home too, able to take a full part in the family stuff. Drive with the 4WD club for a full weekend over Easter; go out for tea and be able to concentrate on the conversation in the restaurant over the background noise. I’ll be on medication for the next 6 months or so and still find remembering names a challenge sometimes, even people I have known for years. But things are getting better and better.

The moral of all this …. take nothing for granted. Life is not a dress rehearsal, and can turn upside down in a fraction of a second! When the pressure comes on you find out those who really care and those who don’t notice. Jane and the kids have been fantastically patient, understanding and supportive. Others have had a knack of saying just the right thing at the right time; being there when needed and offering support. Turning up for coffee, phoning, timely emails. Friends have shared their experiences I never had an inkling of before. The bubble of my world has grown from not even big enough for me at the end of 2010 to much more like normal now …. finally.

Life will never be the same – the journey continues!

Comments 9 Comments »

Cheryl Doig:
* link to the resources

Some wonderful ideas in here and things I had never heard of or used as well. Thanks Cheryl!!

Comments 1 Comment »

The minister is stuck in Wellington with fog!
Anne Jackson – Deputy Secretary for Schooling in her place.

Talking about ultra-fast broadband …. egs of what schools are doing.
just made reference to needing skilled and capable teachers – and then this is all the PL offered through the MoE next year?  This is all about National Standards, not children’s learning?
new Netsafe website …. Learn, Guide, Protect.

There has been almost no references to the NZC in this speech. This is the thing that makes the difference, the rest is the stuff that helps, but it is teachers in classrooms being the best THEY can be and CAUSING learning that is essential.

Comments No Comments »