"Racism is a disease in society. We’re all equal. I don’t care what their color is, or religion. Just as long as they’re human beings they’re my buddies."
- Attributed to Mandawuy Yunupingu
I consider myself quite fortunate to be able to engage with a range of other teachers through the TeachMeet Central Coast (TMCoast) meetings. In Term One of this year we held a slightly different TeachMeet event. The regular TeachMeet consists of a series of short presentations from teachers sharing a practice or tool they have been using which has been useful for them to hopefully provide their peers with an idea or inspiration to take back to their own classroom.
In Term One of 2017, we engaged with the Cooinda Aboriginal Education Consultative Group around the possibility of utilising their meeting place, the Aboriginal Resource Room at Henry Kendall High School to focus on Aboriginal culture and Aboriginality in education. They agreed and it was arranged that Elder Gavi would attend and welcome everyone through a traditional smoking ceremony and welcome.
It was an amazing night and I feel that I learned more about Aboriginal culture in that one session than during my own education as a student, or during my Aboriginal Education course within my initial teacher education program. We streamed the event and I have included below a playlist of the session. I have broken the approximately one hour long session up into smaller thematic clips.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video I show you how to add various types of multimedia to your OneNote Notebook in Office365.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
I always enjoyed casual teaching. You experienced a range of classes, schools, students, and did not have to worry about reports or so many other responsibilities that a teacher on a temporary contract or in a permanent position has. However, as a casual you do have one significant responsibility, which is to ensure that you mark all tasks you have students complete (unless otherwise directed by any note the normal teacher may leave, and you need to leave some form of note for the regular teacher as to what you have done and how the day/s went, what issues, if any, there were.
On my very first casual day I did not do this and when I was back in that school on the very next day, the teacher for that class pulled me aside and had a quiet word with me about my responsibilities as a casual teacher. Although the phrase had a quiet word tends to carry negative connotations, this teacher did so with good intent, with professionalism and with experience. I came to work in this school regularly and developed a lot of respect for this teacher. Her experience was significant (she only retired last year), her manner was direct, but her intentions were always good.
I experimented with different ways of leaving the notes for the regular teacher, but eventually struck upon the format that I offer as today's Friday Freebie. This form served me well and allowed me to simply fill in the blanks to let the teacher know what had been done, as well as gave the classroom teacher a direct line of contact to me if they needed it for the future.
"…if people had maybe a little bit more training in the creative arts, you’d probably see it a bit more."
- Research participant during our interview
When I look at this final chapter now, I am stunned at how short it is and how under developed it is. I can only presume that when I began the proof-reading and editing process that I was unable to find sufficient sections of text to remove in the previous chapters that would allow me to add significantly to the Conclusion to make it worthwhile losing that prior text. I was, quite fairly , given constructive feedback around that specific point. This is clearly the weakest chapter in my mind because I touch on a few areas but do not sufficiently unpack and discuss them and their ramifications within the context of a conclusion chapter.
If you have managed to read through the three preceding chapters in full, you will find this one, comparatively, over in the blink of an eye.
"I wanted to stay away from body-image, I hated body-image, it was so cliché, it was overkill and I wanted to do something completely different and the idea that I came up with, they said it was too shallow, like it wasn’t in depth enough and they made me do body-image, and it really made me unhappy."
- Research Participant during our interview.
On reflection, I feel like this chapter is the second weakest. There were some avenues that I did not fully explore (largely due to word limit), but largely, I was frustrated as in working through this chapter, I found myself wishing that I had asked a particular follow up question to draw further insight from my research participants, to get to the heart of what they were saying. Both of these issues were noted within the examiners feedback, as was the fact that I missed, apparently, some significant articles in my research which would have made for strong additions to my writing. I found this a frustrating piece of feedback, not because I disagreed with it but because the articles and researchers that had been suggested had not come up at all in my literature review.
This means that either their importance is over-stated (unlikely) or that I did not hit on the right combination of keywords to find those particular researchers. As well, it was noted that I did not address some issues at all, such as the impact of perceptions within schools observed during practicum and the impact that had on relationships with the arts. In some instances, I had not the clarity of mind at the time, nor the experience to follow up responses with exploratory questions. In others, it simply did not seem like something that I needed to follow up until I started to write this chapter.
If you missed either of the previous chapters, you can find them here.
As always, thank you for reading, and I welcome any constructive feedback you care to offer.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video I show you how to add various types of multimedia to your OneNote Notebook in Office365.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
A few weeks ago I was approached about delivering a presentation on flipped learning through a webinar to a school in Spain. Intrigued, I chatted over Skype with the school's Principal and agreed to provide a roughly thirty minute presentation outlining what flipped learning is, the research behind it, what it looks like in class and some ways of using it. There are a lot of areas I did not have time to go into during the presentation, and this has prompted me to put together some further resources covering those areas.
For now, this week's Friday Freebie is the recording of the webinar. For the full list of Friday Freebies, click here.
"To me the arts, was just like a, a filler. Something just for the kids to do that is fun for them, that wouldn’t really tie into anything else cause [pause] my experience with the arts never tied into anything else."
-Research participant during our interview
The examiners found some problems within this chapter and when I read back through this chapter after reading their feedback, they were rather obvious problems as well. There were also a few rather silly typographical errors which somehow neither I nor Mrs C21 managed to pickup in our proof-reading.
If you missed Chapter One, you can find it here.
Chapter II – Methodology
The underlying purpose of this research project is to examine and understand the discourses that constitute the taken-up positions of pre-service teachers at the end of their ITE programs in relation to art education, and to then identify and understand the perceived barriers limiting the implementation of the arts in pedagogical practice. Focusing on the subject positions of three final (fourth) year pre-service teachers who had all completed their ITE program coursework, and had only to undertake their final ten-week long practicum prior to completing their ITE program, this research was conducted utilising a post-structuralist lens to deconstruct and understand the discourses underlying the positions taken-up by the participants in relation to art education, and the resulting barriers as perceived by the participants, impacting on their implementation of the arts in their pedagogical practice.
The use of qualitative research techniques allows for engagement with the multi-layered lived experiences of the pre-service teachers’ ITE in order to clarify the experiences and the participant’s understandings (Polkinghorne, 2005). A post-structuralist perspective assisted in ascertaining the underlying discourses of the participants subject positioning about art education and deconstructing the barriers limiting the implementation of art education.
The use of qualitative research techniques allows for fluidity of direction in the data collection process, as participants’ responses may yield unexpected data that can drive new or different research directions, whilst also providing the opportunity to scrutinise the subject understandings of those discourses experienced by participants throughout the ITE program, and the specific contexts involved (Miles & Huberman 1984 as cited in Ramey-Gassert, Shroyer, & Staver, 1996). Participants were sourced through purposive sampling and engaged in semi-structured interviews, with the resulting data analysed through discourse analysis, assisted by positioning theory.
The research focus was on a particular set of relationships; the relationship between ITE programs and pre-service teachers’ subjectivities relating to art education, and the pre-service teachers’ subjectivities relating to art education and the implementation of the arts in their pedagogical practice. For this reason, research participants were recruited through purposive sampling of the 2014 fourth year Bachelor of Education (Primary) / Bachelor of Arts cohort form the University of Newcastle’s Central Coast campus. This cohort was selected due to ease of access by the student researcher.
Purposive sampling allowed for the selection of information rich cases on the basis of their possessing a particular characteristic typical of the population being studied (Punch, 2009), namely those pre-service teachers who have completed their coursework but have not joined the ranks of graduate teachers. The purpose of this study is not, however, to generalise the findings across the current cohort of final year pre-service teachers, but to ascertain and understand the subject positions of the participants and the barriers they perceive around implementing art education in order to gain a clearer understanding for the potential reasons for the divergence between understanding of the benefits of art education and the implementation of the arts in pedagogical practice.
The utilisation of in-depth semi-structured interviews allowed the participants to express their narratives about their subject positions (Punch, 2009; Tanggaard, 2009). The interviews were constructed through a pre-determined open-ended interview schedule to allow for a basic framework of the understanding of the experiences which shape the positions held by the participant to emerge. Those experiences were reinforced and the understandings deepened through the use of follow-up questions, which allowed for the pursuit of those experiences and narrative truths and understandings which appeared outside the scope of the original pre-devised schedule, or prompt questions (Punch, 2009). The use of open-ended questions is preferable to closed questions as it affords the participants the choice of how they answer (Marton, 1986 as cited in Huntly, 2008). The use of ‘’what’ as a question opener was utilised as this has been cited as facilitating a rich description by the participant of the core subject being studied Marton (1986 as cited by Huntly, 2008). The recorded interviews were transcribed solely by the student researcher, and transcriptions were sent to the participants, to provide an opportunity to conduct a member check.
This research examines the positions taken-up by the pre-service teacher participants about the arts in education. Through discourse analysis of the interview transcripts, I attempt to identify discourses which construct the subjectivities of pre-service teachers’ vis-à-vis art education and future use of the arts in their pedagogical practice. The reasons behind the participants’ subjectivities are examined through a post-structuralist lens.
Discourse analysis has been used within this research study as it is a research method understood to be multimodal, combining an array of analysis techniques including, in this context, theoretical, interpretive and critical (Krug & Cohen-Evron, 2000). I take the view that discourses are a productive force created through the amalgamation of ideology, linguistic practices and social relationships which constitute the taken-up position, and the means by which we make sense of the world around us (Davies, 2004; Ma, 2013). There are a multitude of discourses encountered daily, and it is not possible to take up all available discourses (Davies, 1990). Understanding that there are multiple discourses which are not all able to be taken-up allows for an understanding of our existence at the nexus of multiple discursive practices, which can be conceptualised as subject positioning (Davies, 2004). Our subject positioning is constituted through internally owned, or taken-up, discourses (Atkinson, 2004), which are, and do, change over time (Atkinson, 2004; Davies, 2004). This post-structuralist conceptualisation of subject positioning then allows for an ongoing cycle of making sense of, and continually updating, the competing and often contradictory discourses to which we are exposed (Atkinson, 2004; Beijaard et al., 2004; Davies, 1990, 1997).
My understanding of a post-structuralist lens is that it will facilitate and encourage the questioning of those understandings and beliefs which are treated as ‘taken-for-granted’ as it is understood that knowledge is understood subjectively, produced culturally and constructed contextually (Woolfolk & Margetts, 2010). A post-structuralist framework posits that there is no single truth or meaning, and thus will allow me to examine the different narratives (Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Posner, 2011), about how positions held, about the arts in education came to be taken-up, as expressed subjectively by the research participants.
Validity, in the context of a qualitative research project such as this one, is as has been broadly stated as being “…the isomorphism of findings with reality” (Denzin and Lincoln (Eds), 1994, p. 114 as cited in Punch, 2009, p. 315). In essence, qualitative validity is looking to ensure that the findings are commensurate with the data from which they were derived. To this end, a feature of qualitative research is the use of a technique known as ‘member checking’, which refers to the practice of checking with the subjects from whence the data came that they are in agreeance that; the initial data (in this research study the interview transcripts) are an accurate representation of the reality (in this research study, the interview), and that the final representation of themselves within the analysis and findings is consistent in relation to their subjective understanding of themselves (Punch, 2009).
Due to the qualitative, and human-based nature of this research project, that is the nature of the participants’ personal beliefs and experiences being examined, due consideration was given to the ethical factors that arose, including consent and confidentiality. Participants were informed in writing about the nature of the study, and participation was on a voluntary basis, with written, informed consent being sought prior to inclusion. Participants were advised, in writing on the consent form, and verbally prior to the commencement of their interview, that they were free to refuse to answer any question, or to terminate the interview at any time, without any reason and without fear of repercussion. To protect their privacy, research participants were asked to select pseudonyms for use during the interviews, with any identifying data being either omitted or altered. Audio recorded interviews and the transcripts thereof have, and will continue to be, held securely in accordance with the University of Newcastle’s Research Data and Materials Management Policy (University of Newcastle, 2008).
Participants were provided with an opportunity to conduct a member check, and accordingly were provided with a copy of the transcription of their interview for this purpose. This was done to afford participants an initial opportunity to review the interview and ensure that they are satisfied with how they and their views have been represented through the interview process (Punch, 2009). This process also provides an initial opportunity for participants to indicate that they wish for data from their interview, either in part or in whole, not to be used for the research project. Participants were also afforded an opportunity to conduct a final member check prior to the submission of this thesis, and were provided with a copy of the final dissertation for this purpose. This was done in order to provide a final chance for participants to ensure they were satisfied with how they have been represented and interpreted as part of the analysis process, and that they have been represented authentically.
It was not expected that research participants would experience stress, mental or emotional discomfort during the interview. Participants were be reminded at the commencement of the interview that they had the right to refuse to answer any question, or terminate the interview, at any time, without reason or negative consequences for their relationship with the researchers or the University of Newcastle.
Chapter Two outlined the methodology used within this research project, and the literature that supports the methodology’s use in relation to the research question. Chapter Three will communicate the subjectively understood answers to the research questions described within Chapters One and Two.
“I’m not going to be an art teacher that teaches art”
- Research Participant, during our interview for my Dissertation
When I was in the process of completing my initial teacher education (ITE), I considered whether or not it would be worth undertaking the Honours process as part of that. There were a lot of factors that fed into the eventual decision to apply for a place, and ultimately, though it helped not one whit with acquiring a full-time position as a teacher, I am glad that I went through the process. It was long, mentally and intellectually challenging, and it pushed me to think more critically, to be more aware of research processes and biases as well of various research methodologies. I actually enjoyed the process of researching, and writing and it has had a significant influence on my writing style.
I had considered working towards having it published, however, have neither the time nor the mindset at this point to sit down and re-edit it sufficiently so that it fits within the word limits of a journal article. More importantly, I have no disconnected with the data and with that piece of research and would need to invest significant time and effort into reconnecting. I do wish to pursue a Research Higher Degree at some point (after Youngling has started school at the earliest is what I have been told) and so offer up over the next few articles, my Honours dissertation for feedback.
I have not made any edits whatsoever to this version. It is a straight copy and paste from my original 2014 file. I am rather proud of it, despite its now (to me) glaring flaws. If you wish to dive straight into the whole dissertation, you can find it here as a PDF. I have also made available the examiners reports and rubrics (after redacting their identifiable information). I found it interesting that one examiner marked it as an eighty-eight whilst the other marked it as an eighty-two. A fairly significant variation in marks, however, the average of eighty-five was sufficient to earn a High Distinction and thus, with the other requirements met regarding my Grade Point Average etc., the award of Honours Class I.
I welcome any constructive feedback you care to offer.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I show you how to add new sections and pages to your OneNote notebook using Office365.
For the full list of FTPL videos click here.
"Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you."
- Attributed to H. Jackson Brown Jr.
The first few weeks and months in a new role, regardless of the industry are a time of stress, cognitive dissonance, worry, imposter syndrome and overwork in an effort to prove yourself. My first few weeks with ClickView have been no different. The various individuals with whom I have interacted with, whether on a regular or one-off basis, have been helpful and there are those who are working extra hard to carry some of my responsibility while I transition into the fold.
So far, I have had the opportunity a significant range of schools as part of my role. All in Sydney at this point (though I am planning a number of regional visits for Term Two), and across a range of sectors. K-12 and Secondary only schools; Government schools, faith-based schools, independent schools, schools from affluent areas, schools from low socio-economic areas and one thing has become clear and made me proud to be a teacher.
Irrespective of the the schools socio-economic status, the geographic location, the internal politics, the resources, the physical structure of the school or the number of students. It has been clear from teacher, librarians, IT Managers, Assistant or Deputy Principals that the over-riding factor behind their motivations has been a desire to help their students.
This may sound rather trite and obvious, however, as someone who has taught in one particular region and whose interactions with educators outside that region are solely through conferences (where you are with like-minded and focused educators) or through Twitter (where the amount of you that comes through varies greatly), I found this an exciting and uplifting realisation.
I believe I belong to one of the luckiest professions in the world. We as teachers get to see a student develop and progress across six formative years of their life. For me, this has been seeing students enter in Kindergarten, unable to tie their own shoelaces or read, count, or add, through to them finishing Year Six and getting ready to move to Year Seven with a personality going through a new stage of development and change, but who can hold a conversation, who can challenge you with their own valid ideas and viewpoints.
As someone who is in the early stages of a new role in a different sector of the profession to what I trained for, it was exciting and actually rather empowering and uplifting to find that what I feel and believe about teaching plays true across a larger slice of the teaching profession than I have been exposed to thus far.
A slightly random and perhaps obvious realisation, but one I felt worth sharing.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video I show you how to add or remove students and teachers to your Class Notebook, as well as how to manage the settings for your Class Notebook.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
"The current education system is like batter hen farming. We're too focused on the output."
- Peter Ellis
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 was under a media pass provided by the organisers.
I entered the auditorium within which the Future Leaders stream was taking place to hear about the last five to ten minutes of Shane Spence's talk about video self-modelling. It sounded very intriguing. From the small snippet that I heard, the use of recorded videos modelling behaviour expectations for things like packing up, putting something away was having a significant amount of success in reducing negative behaviour and lost learning time, particularly for students who are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The key point for me in the small segment that I heard was that showing a two minute video six times to a student struggling with some sort of behaviour yielded a far greater return than twelve minutes of any regular intervention.
It was also useful in those schools that had adopted the Positive Behaviour for Learning program as rather than simply showing or reading students a statement about what is expected, they can be shown a video, which can be much more explicit as students can see exactly what is expected in the particular scenario. A specific example he gave was a student struggling to put his tote tray away. The student was shown a video modelling how the tote tray should be put away and after watching it a several times, the student was able to put it away without any issues. I wish that I had caught all of Shane's presentation.
Peter was announced as the final speaker for the afternoon, which indicated that the final speaker per the agenda was not presenting for an unknown reason. Peter was speaking about disrupting the model of education by moving beyond student voice towards student empowerment and he began by telling the audience that "we are one of the most innovative schools in the world...self-labelled of course." Peter indicated that there is always a case for change but that engaging the community in the change process is critical. The current model of school has worked well for the last one hundred years because the career model over the last one hundred years needed the model. However, the career model for students no longer matches the school model which has created the current dissonance between school and careers that our students and industries are currently experiencing.
Peter told the audience that due to declining enrolment numbers and a poor reputation in the local community that his school had been to close. Twice. A new Principal and a new team (Peter did not actually specify which part of the staff he meant by this, but I imagine a combination of formal and informal leadership staff) created a new opportunity for change. Now, an unspecified period of time later, the school has restored its reputation, is growing with a current population of just over 1100 students and is maintaining good results in the Victorian Certificate of Excellence (VCE - the final set of exams in the Victorian K-12 education system). Additionally, there are now students running businesses alongside their studies, and doing well in both.
One of the key changes in the school that has lead to the turn around has been the desire to make school relevant again. This is one of the reasons for the change in decision making processes within the school. Now, the default setting for requests is yes. Unless there is a significant time, monetary cost or potential for a negative impact on others, the answer to requests is, and should be, yes. This is something that I find rather challenging to contemplate. My experience with schools' decision making is heavily typified with bureaucracy; the need for hoops to be jumped through, certain forms filled out in certain ways with particular types of additional information supplied. I can on the one hand see why this needs to be done, in an age where you need to cover your backside from a legal standpoint, however, how many great ideas never even see the light of day because whomever has had the idea knows that the hoop-jumping required to see the idea to fruition is too hard and to confusing to deal with?
The above tweet captured some of the beliefs about educations that Peter not only views as outdated, but that he questions as to why they are still considered normal in any way. The first dot point I can agree with. Teaching is about relationships and I have never understood why not smiling until some arbitrary point in the school year is remotely helpful to your practice. Personally, I do not have a poker face. I was that kid who would smile at inappropriate times out of nervousness, even when being told off for doing something wrong, and would therefore end up in more trouble because I apparently thought it was funny. Actually, I am still that kid, even as an adult. As an early career teacher, I have been given that piece of advice on numerous occasions. I cannot do it, it is not my personality to not smile.
I have to confess to not quite understanding the issue with the fifth dot point. I do not see that comment as an ownership statement, but as a relational statement. In 2016, I was offered a twelve-month contract to teach a Year Five and Six class for three days per week job-share arrangement. In term four, that became full-time as my job-share partner went on maternity leave. I already had a strong relationship with my class but that switch to full-time developed it further. It was the first class that I had taught for a full year, having been employed casually, or in an RFF / non-contact arrangement previously. At the end of the year we had a reflection conversation as a cohort, all of us, myself included, sitting in a circle on the floor.
I told them then that they would always be my students. Not because I owned them, but because they were the first class I had taught for a whole year, that we had developed a relationship with each other. I believe it was mutual, when I gathered them together (the now Year Six students anyway) and told them that I would be finishing up at the school that week they were gutted and there were tears. On my final day at school they all came to my room as soon as the bell went and wanted to say good bye, give me one last high five, a card they had made and some of them wanted hugs. Those were my students. Not because I own them, but because we have a relationship built on mutual trust and respect.
I disagree somewhat with some of the other dot points, however, that is the one I passionately disagreed with. Peter posted a list of current rules at his school; the student is in control, yes is the default, a strengths rather than deficit model, a one person policy (respect, first names, access to areas and facilities). Many of these I found myself nodding to, in particular the first name policy. I still do not quite understand why it is seen as respectful for the students to have to refer to Mr Teacher or Mrs Teacher, when we can refer to them Jane and John and I have written about this in the past.
Additionally, all students have access to to a kitchen. What message does it give, began Peter, when you have to wait until Year Twelve to be treated like a human? I do not have a problem with this. I remember wanting to take leftover dinner for lunch the next day at school but was unable to do so as there was nowhere to heat it up. Actually, even in Year Twelve I did not have access to a microwave or hot water. I do know schools who have a Year Twelve room with kitchen facilities, but my alma mater did not.
We were shown some more rules at the school:
Peter pointed out that students will keep learning past their schooling and we as teachers are just a small part of their education. The school therefore has students manage their own individual learning plans. Peter did not go into it, however, I hope that there is some education provided to students around how to develop and manage a learning plan on an ongoing basis. As a further extension to this, they have removed year levels which means that no-one necessarily knows what year another student is in, resulting in there being no stigma over needing or taking longer than the normal six years to complete your secondary education.
He then spoke about something that I am not familiar with, that they used a vertical system to eradicate bullying. I am not familiar with the vertical system and have not been able to find anything on Google, so if anyone could shed light on that, I would appreciate hearing from you.
The above is quite a drastic change for most teachers. One person responded to the photo by saying that if they turned up to an interview and there was a student on the panel that they would turn around and leave as they did not see what a student could have to offer or contribute to the panel and therefore having them there would be tokenistic. I can certainly understand that point of view, however, personally, I am not sure how I feel about it. It does make sense that students have an input into staffing in the school as the students are the ones who deal with the staff on a day to day basis, however, do they have to undergo the same training that staff and community members do in order to be on staff selection panels? Peter did not elucidate on that or in what capacity students are asked to be on the panels, how they choose which staff, or what role they are expected to play.
Peter began to wind down his presentation by talking about the businesses that students are running alongside their studies. He showed a list of some of the businesses they have seen come and go, but I did not manage to get a photo of it. Many of them seemed fairly straightforward, newspapers, journals, radio, coffee stands, however, they did have a snake breeding business in operation at one point, which was apparently quite profitable. Peter also said that where possible, they employ students into various roles such as Grounds keepers, administration, cleaners because they would rather employ a student internally than someone they do not know. He did add that they are demanding as employers and that they have fired students.
I can see the logic in this, giving students real-world experience, however, I cannot wrap my head around how it would work. Is there not a conflict of interest in being paid to do work in a school where you are currently enrolled and being taught? Or is that just my own imagination? I wonder what processes they would have had to go through to gain approval from the Victorian Department of Education for those arrangements.
Peter closed with two points. Firstly, that although they believe the education model is broken, it is not just them doing things similarly to this, there are other schools in the area doing things with their own students and with refugee students that are providing them with not just an education but an indication of what adult life is like. He also commented that we need to get out of students' way and remove barriers to learning, to "...stop saying "you have to do x before you can do y" in order to develop."
His presentation was a fantastically engaging and challenging way to finish FutureSchools 2017 and I am glad that I did come to the session. Jenny Luca, the chairperson for the Future Leaders stream closed the conference by thanking the speakers for their ideas, the delegates for sticking around for the final session and by confirming that FutureSchools will be in Melbourne again in 2018.
Thank you for reading, and if you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them here.
Discoslure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 was under a media pass provided by the organisers.
My original plan for the final session of FutureSchools 2017 had been to see three speakers. Immediately after the break, Narissa Leung in the ClassTech conference speaking about being the change for technology in the classroom, Sally Wood and SImone Segat in the Teaching Kids to Code stream speaking about being inspired by curiosity and passion to integrate the Digital Technologies curriculum, and then finishing out with Renee Coffee speaking about Indigenous Education. That was before heading out for dinner with Michael Ha and some of his professional learning network, striking up friendships with a number of them. Chatting to Melissa Bray from Adelaide during FutureSchools, she was wanting some way to watch her own presentation after the fact to see how she went and what she could do to improve her presentation, so I offered to Periscope it for her straight after the final break.
I have to confess that I did not expect to gain anything from Melissa's presentation on a professional level. Melissa works in an Early Years Learning context, whilst I am Primary trained, but now working in a vastly different context, dealing mainly with secondary schools, with some K-12 schools thrown in to keep me on my toes.
I could not have been more wrong.
What Melissa and her colleagues are accomplishing with their students was inspirational and incredibly challenging. What they are achieving with their students means that those teaching at the Infants/Primary/Secondary level in their school really need to step up their game as when these students come through they will not accept just doing some coding or some movie-=making as they are used to much more. It goes to show that what many people have said, that students are capable of much more is very much the case, if we only get out of their way, to a degree.
The conversations that Melissa was relating to us that the students were engaging with, of their own accord, around gender, intelligence, the way that the computer and the Nao robot talked to each other, were incredible and as the father of a seven-month-old, terrifying. I will need to step up my game to have Youngling ready to deal with concepts like those Melissa's students were addressing. I definitely recommend watching Her presentation, irrespective of what age group you currently teach.
After Melissa's presentation, I was intending on heading to the Teaching Kids to code stream to see Sally and Simone present, however, when I arrived discovered that the final session in the agenda for that conference had already begun. I am not sure what happened there, so instead, I made the decision to head to the FutureLeaders stream and stay there for the remaining sessions, which I will address in the next article.
If you have missed any of the previous articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them here.
FutureSchools Review: Darren Mallett on Differentiation for Gifted Students and Dr. Janelle Wilson on Metacognition
"We have an overly crowded curriculum."
- Darren Mallett
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools was under a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
Following Blake Seufert's presentation, I switched across to the Special Needs and Inclusion conference stream to hear Darren Mallett speak under the title inclusion strategies for highly gifted students. Darren began by commenting that the current national testing regime and the associated pressures and demands for continuously improving results dictates that we teach somewhat to the test. This does not work for highly gifted students, Darren continued, as they become bored much quicker, retain information for longer and are often able to solve problems quicker. Highly (academically) gifted are often not sport-inclined and are regularly, according to Darren, the last students to be chosen in sporting teams.
Darren's research has been around the adapted mastery model and through that research he has found that for all the pre-assessment teachers conduct, ostensibly to determine students' current understanding prior to a topic, it is typically not acted upon, with no changes being made to pedagogy, content, or teaching focus.
Darren spoke about the need to engage with cross-curricula learning, as it is the only way to 'cover' content but that far too often, especially in secondary, the various key learning areas are taught in highly discrete ways, separate from other areas. The testing that is typically utilised in schools, whether it be end of unit, or more formal testing such as NAPLAN and HSC, often results in students freezing, especially when they a question worth big marks. They can, in an ordinary classroom context, answer the question very well demonstrating a solid conceptual understanding, however, the testing context does not work for these students.
That is all the tweets that have been captured by Storify yet I feel that there was more said by Darren. I would have liked to have heard more practical suggestions for strategies around including these students from Darren, or more information about the adapted mastery model and what it looks like when it is implemented well.
Following Darren's presentation, I moved back to the FutureLeaders stream to hear Dr. Janelle Wills, Director of The Marzano Institute speak about metacognition for leading and learning. She began with a story about her Aunty and how when she was growing up, all the gifts that her Aunty gave her were for her glory box. At the time, Janelle spoke about how said thank you for the gifts, but that she did not know or have a genuine understanding of the purpose and context; she was unable to consider the underlying purpose of the gift as the concept of a glory box either had not been explained to her or at the age she was when it was explained, it was too abstract.
Metacognition is the gift that keeps on giving, once we explicitly teach and model it. Janelle made this a very clear and important point in her presentation that was seeded throughout. It is also something that Janelle believes suffers from definitional issues and that carries a range of preconceptions for different people in different contexts. It is also suffers from not being contextualised for students, whom are often told it is thinking about thinking without going deeper into what that may look in various contexts and how it may be used beyond simply thinking about thinking.
Janelle defined metacognition as being about the self; a system of inter-related beliefs and judgements which influence our motivations and therefore our actions. Humans, according to Janelle, are driven by goals and a purpose, with metacognition being no different. Expanding on this point, we were reminded that there are many schools which mandate an explicit learning goal for each lesson. This is a seemingly strong position to take, rather intuitive, however, a learning intention needs to be linked to a purpose, to a why. Further to that, an individual needs to be aware of their own place in relation to the learning goal and to have strategies in place or available to them to assist them in reaching or achieving the learning.
This seems to be the heart, in my understanding, of what metacognition is really about. An awareness of self, of a goal and purpose for the goal, and awareness of available strategies to achieve the goal. This applies not only to explicit learning tasks such as learning a new skill or piece of knowledge, but also, I believe, to reflection on completed tasks and reflection on the self. Without an understood purpose, what is the purpose in the task?
Janelle related that our notion of 'self' is typically based upon three things; our hopes, our fears and our fantasies and that the relationship between how we embody and realise these three characteristics of self can point towards why things like makerfaire appeal to some people but chess, knitting, sport, or yoga appeal to others.
The challenge in life is in managing the difference between the tension and anxiety that can stem from the variation between the actual self and the desired self and this is where providing explicit teaching around how to engage with and use metacognition can help as it facilitate an awareness of the variation between real self and the desired self as well as potentially identifying strategies to bridge the gap. This flows onto engaging with appropriate learning tasks (or professional development opportunities for teachers) to bridge the gap between the desired self and the real self, increasing self-efficacy as success and growth is observed. This is important as Marzano identified an effect size of 0.82 relative to student performance (uncited).
Janelle spoke next about inspiration and that it is important yet often undervalued facet of education. Great teachers can inspire students and colleagues through their ability and willingness to look outside their own context and see what is possible. This includes within change management contexts, and she quoted Dr Jane Kise by saying that "there are no resistant teachers, just teachers whose needs in the change process have not been met." This sounds, on the surface, like something of a throwaway line, however, when considering it more carefully and various changes that have taken place in schools I have taught in thus far, I can see how the resistance, sometimes quite vocal and sometimes more passive, has been a case of the concerns and needs of those teachers not having been addressed to a degree that has alleviated their concerns and met their needs to understand how the change will impact them.
Janelle closed her session out by challenging the audience to consider their legacy. Who are we inspiring by our practice? What messages are we sending to our students and colleagues? I was very glad that I made it to Janelle's session. It was mentally stimulating and challenging with some very good points raised and judging by the buzz in the room and the activity on Twitter (it was one of the busier sessions in regards to the back channel) I was not the only one who thought so.
If you have missed any articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them here.
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
After the lunch break, it was into the ClassTech conference stream to hear Blake Seuferten.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Education_Revolution talk about managing a large network and rolling out a school-wide Chromebook program. The number of schools that have implemented various laptop or tablet programs in a school-supplied, BYOD or BYOT context has increased significantly over the last decade as it has become more fashionable to do so, pushed in part by the drive for laptops through the Digital Education Revolution program.
Blake spoke about his school's context, with a current enrollment of around 2100 students and 185 staff. Four years ago things at the school were going well with good NAPLAN and HSC results and so the decision was made that while things were great (echoes of Prakash's message) the next big change would be embarked upon, a school-wide roll-out Chromebooks,
Underpinning educational change management, from a teaching and learning perspective, should be pedagogy and the impact on students of the change. The schools had been using a particular model of laptop and had faced numerous reliability issues which resulted in significant downtime, negatively impacting students and after consideration of various options, Chromebooks were the option that was taken up and rolled out.
One of the considerations for the school was the ability for students to collaborate when using the laptop. For Blake, he clarified what he meant by saying "when I say collaborative I mean web ready because that's where most collaboration happens now."
Teacher self-efficacy is critical when it comes to gaining buy in for new learning tools or resources, especially when they are mandated from the school leadership. You can see from the above tweet that self-efficacy is fed in large part by the provision of professional development opportunities which need to include not only how to use the teaching and learning tool, but how to implement it pedagogically as they are two very different skills.
Blake spoke next about investing in something that will have an impact. For them, at that point, investing in the internet infrastructure in their school was, according to Blake, an easy decision to make as it would have a positive impact on the whole school. I have heard a number of schools indicate that part of the process of implementing any sort of school-wide laptop or device program has been investing in their internet infrastructure. It is important when looking at this to understand that coverage and density are two vastly different concepts. You can have fantastic coverage across a school network at any location with a device That is WiFi coverage. WiFi density, however, is the capability for a WiFi network to cope with a large number of users drawing upon its resources without a significant drop in performance. An example of this is the difference in the demands on the network before and after school when there are only staff onsite in comparison to during class time when you will have staff members as well as a large number of students drawing upon the network at the same time.
The Chromebooks are a prescribed item for students along with regular items like the school uniform. This keeps things consistent and reduces the pressures on the staff for managing devices and maintenance. it also reduces the pressure on staff who are still adapting to technology in their pedagogy. The device management license they have also allows them to hold operating system updates from pushing out to the fleet until the subsequent patch comes through that addresses any resultant instabilities or issues that may occur.
Prior to the decision being made to implement a Chromebook roll out, staff were surveyed about the types of teaching and learning activities that were being undertaken in classes. Blake said that when they looked at the data they could see that 99% of the tasks being completed in class either was already being achieved online, or could easily be achieved online. He did not give an indication as to what types of activities fell into the 1%, although I would not be surprised if practical tasks such as those found in PE, Science, TAS subjects, made up the bulk of that 1%.
Another benefit in the school's view was that the Chromebooks were easily used offline. Any documents or emails sent while offline sync or send when the connection is re-established. It is worth nothing that you can change the settings within GDrive to make files available offline. This allows you to edit those files, which then re-sync when you are next connected
Blake brought up the topic of professional development again, speaking about the process they went through to ensure that teachers had the necessary skills to leverage the functionality of the Chromebooks in class. Part of that process entailed developing a list of basic skills that were seen as essential to using the laptops. Training resources were made available to staff and it was incumbent upon staff to access the learning that they needed to ensure they could do those tasks. Once they returned the document, signed off for each skill, the expectation was that they would then be able to complete those tasks and so I don't know how to do that was removed as an acceptable response when being asked to complete tasks.
To change the focus of the PD, the training resources spoke about the why of the skill, why you would need to be able to use it pedagogically, as much as the how of the skill. I believe this is an important issue and we should talk about the why more often when it comes to PD; not just the superficial why of accreditation or it's good for the students' learning, but the why of this is why you would want to use it in class as that in itself can create engagement with the learning task.
Blake's session was interesting and I particularly liked the focus on staff self-efficacy and providing professional development opportunities to improve that self-efficacy. For those who are interested, Blake has kindly made available the slide deck that he used for this presentation, which you can access here.
As always, thank you for reading. If you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them all here.
My conversation with Belinda at the Microsoft stand, took far longer than I had anticipated and so I missed all of Lisa Kingman's presentation about utilising the experience and wisdom of older generations to inspire the next generation and so I went straight to the Young Learners conference to hear Catherine Ford speak about using iPads for cross-curricula learning learning. When I arrived, I caught the tail end of Jason Meijboom's presentation, talking about the relationship between ACARA and digital technology; and the use of technology in the classroom with some examples of chromakey (greenscreen) work he is doing. One of they key messages I took away from his talk was this:
It does appear that some schools rush out to buy whatever is the latest and greatest piece of technology without necessarily planning for their use and understanding the pedagogical changes required to use them as effective learning tools, or considering the professional development needs of teachers to be able to use them as effective tools for teaching and learning.
After Jason finished, Catherine Ford spoke and there was a particular focus on the use of iPads to recreate narratives within cross-curricula learning. She spoke about the initial inspiration for a movie making unit that was aimed at recreating the children's book The Little Red Hen. As part of the process, the students were required to have a thorough understanding of the story, but that it also created a great connection with the local community as students went to various locations in the area to film different components of it. She very much enjoyed the process, however, it was not sustainable over the long term on a regularly repeated basis, the issue of time being a major contributing factor.
Catherine spoke about the move making process being a valuable learning experience for the students as it required them to use a lot of the skills dubbed twenty-first century skills, such as problem solving and critical thinking to come up with the most appropriate way to achieve the desired outcome.
There are a number of other ways to engage students with iPads for cross-curricula learning. One of the most straightforward is to use the Book Creator app with students. This could be used to create narratives, to act as a reflection journal, or in a range of other contexts such as the below idea Catherine shared.
I was doing something similar this year with my Stage One class, sending a mascot home and having students complete a writing task in the class mascot diary, however, I can see how the use of an iPad would change the dynamic, allowing for photos and videos to be more easily captured and included as part of the mascot diary. One of the issues that Catherine discussed was the need that teachers often feel to know everything about what they are using. She said this is not necessary as the students only need to know enough about how to use the technology to complete the task. Catherine also spoke about her preference to only use creation apps rather than consumption apps.
Catherin finished with a nod to Paul Hamilton:
I like the sentiment and it needs to be considered, how is this learning tool going to be used to impact student learning. Irrespective of whether it is a piece of technology, or as Prakash Nair spoke about in his keynote, the physical structures, we should be considering the impact of the use of something as a tool for teaching and learning.
I will close this particular article with a tweet from Cameron Ross who was in a different conference stream:
If you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them here.
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 was under a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
After attending the Education Nation conference in 2016 I wrote an article titled The Playground which is one of my most widely read articles. In it I challenged education vendors to re-think the way they engage with teachers, to ask questions and find out what teachers are trying to achieve instead of selling to them. I also challenged teachers to re-think how they engage with vendors, to challenge them with what they are trying to achieve rather than simply ask what the product can do.
As part of my role with ClickView I am in a lot of meetings with various stakeholders. I typically prefer to take my notes using a pen and a notebook, however, in the meetings I have been in thus far, which have typically been led by a colleague as part of my training and induction process, I have found that the process of handwriting notes during the meeting and then transferring them to the typed notes for future reference is rather cumbersome and adds an extra piece of equipment. I have been aware of OneNote's ability to write notes directly in and wanted to explore this further, taking advantage of the fact that Microsoft had a stand at FutureSchools.
I do not know whether Belinda, whom I spoke with on the Microsoft stand, read that article or not, but she dealt with me the way I wish more vendors would deal with educators. The opening was standard, but when I said I was looking for a better way of note taking and had heard that OneNote had a writing function, she did not launch into a sales pitch. She asked questions about the contexts I would be taking notes and how I wanted to use them later. She asked about my familiarity with aspects of Office365 that are inter-operable with OneNote such as Outlook and Word Online. Talking about Outlook brought up calendars and I asked if OneNote could make tentative calendar entries (it cannot), but that then led us on a merry search for an add-on that Belinda remembered coming across as a recipient some time ago, which we eventually found. It was a very helpful conversation as I learned more about OneNote that I can apply to my note taking and work, and found a new add on that may help solve a vexatious issue.
I did have a similar experience with Joe on the STM Bags stand. He asked questions about what I wanted in a bag, what I needed to be able to carry around, what was frustrating me about my current bag. I did end up buying a bag from him, taking advantage of the FutureSchools expo offer they had running, but it was great to have an experience with vendors who tried to find out what I was trying to achieve rather than simply rattling off some specifications and hoping I would buy.
Credit where credit is due.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I explore what a ClassNote book looks like within Office365.
For the full list of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning videos click here.
"We are constantly taking to each other about our students and moderating our grades because we plan together."
-Sally Wood and Simone Segat
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 was under a media pass provided by the organisers.
After attending Melinda Cashen's presentation in the FutureLeaders stream, my original plan was to move to the ClassTech conference stream to hear Peter Tompkins speak about leveraging technology in mathematics and then the duo of Sally Wood and Simone Segat speak about team teaching and using ICT to enhance student learning. That was the plan, at any rate. Unfortunately, the timing on the day of talks between the FutureLeaders and ClassTech streams did not line up and I ended up missing all bar about five minutes of Peter Tompkins presentation. The little snippet that I did see, however, looked very interesting.
Sally and Simone began by talking about their close professional relationship and that although they do operate in a team-teaching context, they do still do a reasonable amount of teaching separately. I found this rather interesting as in my own team-teaching context, the only times we taught separately were when they were timetabled to be separate; firstly for their library session and secondly for the Relief from Face to Face (RFF, though I have heard it referred to as non-contact time in other states). Everything else we did essentially, as a single class group, which in our context with Stage One (Year One and Year Two combined) worked fantastically.
Sally and Simone began by speaking about growing up using Microsoft Word and Excel (I think that was actually anyone born prior to 2000?) and that the shift to cloud based systems, for them Google Suite, was a breath of fresh air because they no longer had to worry about picking up the correct USB, or wondering which version of a needed document they were about to open. I wholeheartedly agree. It was pointed out that there are other online platforms available, such as Office365 and OpenOffice, however, they have chosen to use GSuite.
We next heard about the benefits of a cloud system for the students in terms of the ability for collaboration. There are, again, other platforms that allow this, but I do like the simplicity and ease of use of GDocs. There are a range of other benefits to a cloud-based system such as GSuite; autosave, retention of previous versions in the event of major issues, the ability to add multiple collaborators to a single doc and the fact that a document is always accessible. Sally and Simone said always accessible as long as you have internet access, however, you can access documents offline if you have set the document to be available offline in the settings. If you have never seen what a GDoc looks like when there are multiple people editing at the same time, watch the video below.
The audience were shown some videos that Sally and Simone had prepared demonstrating various aspects of GSuite that they utilise with their students, particularly around GClass. There are a number of ways to utilise GClass and we were told that they use it as a tool for disseminating learning content and tasks, an exit ticket system, and for setting reminders for students. There are so many other ways of using not only GClass but the rest of GSuite that they did not have time to go into. If you have not had much experience with GSuite I would recommend looking through the GSuite series on my FTPL Videos page.
Thank you for reading. If you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find the other articles here.
"It's not actually about the technology"
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
My original plan for the opening session of day two at FutureSchools was to attend presentations by Leanne Edwards - Steve Allen - Melinda Cashen - Peter Tompkins - Sally Wood and Simone Segat. However, staying to listen to Sarah Asome's excellent presentation meant that I had missed around half of Steve Allen's time slot. I made the decision that rather than entering with less than half of his presentation to go, and then moving again to a different conference stream straight after, that I would be better served by going straight to the FutureLeaders conference stream so that I would be ready for Melinda Cashen's presentation.
I entered the Future Leaders stream from the rear doors and found a seat in time to hear Chris McNamara talking about how students shape their day through managing their calendar. It turns out that Chris is Deputy Principal of Learning and Development at Melbourne Girls Grammar School (MGGS), so there was a certain amount of crossover and expansion of some of Mary Louise O'Briens presentation. This seems like such an obvious thing to do, to use a calendar to manage your time and commitments, yet it is something that is not only not taught explicitly in schools but is a significantly useful skills in everyday life, as a student and as a working adult. It allows for accountability to others and to yourself for time-based goals like assignments (whether school or work), for appointments, birthdays and other events.
It also plays a role in the structure of student-life at MGGS, where mastery learning and trust are key to the school. Mary commented in her session that students are only timetabled to classes for 70% of their time at school and that it is up to them to self-manage and regulate the use of their time for learning. As part of this, students are empowered to move the due dates of assignments around to suit their mastery; they can bring a date forward if they feel they are going to be ready early and accordingly push another one back that they need more time for. I can see that this system has the potential to be heavily abused, and I would like to hear more about how they rolled out this structure and how they provided learning opportunities to students (and staff) about how to manage their time and track their assignments and other responsibilities.
Things are not completely out of the hands of students as staff do have visibility of where students are up to in their coursework through a mastery report which students are required to complete on their end. This allows teachers to keep an eye on how students are tracking and to address any potential issues that appear such as a lack of progress before it becomes a significant issue.
To track the well-being, MGGS utilise a program called VisualCoaching Pro to track and monitor student well-being, however, an intrinsic part of it is that students have access to their own data and are expected to self-monitor as well. I am intrigued as to how strong the uptake with this program was in the early days, as well as how honest students were then and are now. Are students taught what to look for in regards to red flags or triggers that indicate to them that something is amiss? I am also very curious as to the impact that it has had since its introduction on student wellbeing; has it generated a general trend upwards towards improved student wellbeing or has there been no significant macro-level change? I wonder if MGGS has considered introducing the wellbeing platform for their staff to allow them to self-monitor their own wellbeign and what ramifications such a move would have on stress, workload, wellbeing, and productiveness.
Changing topic, Chris spoke about the analytics behind the school's learning management system (LMS), which allowed staff to identify not only the level of mastery that students were currently at, but also how students were engaging with the learning content that had been provided, often a reasonable indicator of the academic success in a topic.
As you would expect when a school is planning on significant change, the parents were nervous. Fortunately, the school’s relationship with the community was such that the parents by and large trusted the school to do what was right by their children. This attitude may be an unusual one for many teachers who are used to parents complaining quite vociferously about anything and everything, without ever coming to the teacher in the first instance or the school in general in the second instance.
The culture of the school is vastly different to any in my personal experience, and I cannot fathom what working or learning in that sort of environment must be like. If you are a current or former student (or teacher) and happen to (rather randomly) be reading this, I would love for you to comment and share your thoughts on what it was like from your perspective.
Following Chris was Melinda Cashen whose abstract indicated she would be talking about cultural thinking required to embrace ICT across the curriculum. Melinda opened by remarking that the Digital Technologies curriculum is more than just coding. It is a breath of fresh air to hear someone say that in public, as the default setting for many schools when they say they are going to engage more with the digital technologies curriculum is either coding or robotics. This focus on coding seems to create a panic and a stress among a great many teachers who feel woefully ill-equipped to teach in these areas which has resulted in private enterprise filling the void. There are, however, many resources available out there for teachers to upskill themselves in this area, as demonstrated in the below tweet.
This session reminds me of one of the pitfalls of Storify, that it does not necessarily capture all of the tweets under a hashtag. I know that I tweeted more than what I have captured in the Storify from this session, but they did not get picked up for some reason. I may need to look at going back to handwriting my notes, whether by hand or using my wacom tablet and OneNote (more on that in a later article), I do not know.
If you missed any articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them all here.
"We don't send readers home in kindergarten....until [the student] demonstrates a good phonemic awareness"
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 was under a media pass provided by the organisers.
Sarah then spoke about red flags for dyslexia by speaking about phonemic awareness. Research indicates that phonemic awareness is foundational to reading and writing and is one of the most important indicators for a student being learning to read and write, however, as many as 20% of readers may be struggling due to dyslexia.
Sarah then spoke about an aspect of her schools reading program that would do cause cries of disbelief in many schools; they do not send readers home with kindergarten students in Year One until they demonstrate a good phonemic awareness of the forty-six phonemes in the English language. This is in stark contrast to common practice where there is a new book every night sent home.
There has been an uproar in education and the media recently over the proposal to introduce phonics screening in Australia, however, Sarah spoke about some of the easy and quick to use options for screening that currently exist and are very useful as a diagnostic tool to allow early intervention for those that need it. SEAPART is a phonological awareness screening tool used for pre-school children, and which was written by the same authors as the SPATR. Additionally, there is the CTOPP, the Rosner Test (which is free), and PALS.
It struck me, as I listened to Sarah speak, that it seemed that a lot of what Sarah was espousing was aligned with the THRASS system of teaching spelling. Unfortunately I did not get an opportunity to chat with her and get her views on THRASS.
Returning to the phonics screening check that has been discussed in Australia, Sarah spoke about the UK's approach. The education department there mandated a synthetic phonics check nationally to ensure that all schools were teaching a structured synthetic phonics program. Only after that had been in place for a period of time was a phonics screening check mandated. In Australia, we seem, Sarah remarked, to be going about it backwards, mandating a national phonics screening check without having ensured that there is a structured synthetic phonics program in place. Do not mistake me to be saying that our schools are not teaching phonics, I have never been in an infants classroom that does not do explicit phonics teaching, however, the methods and programs used to do are widely varied and often include linguistically incorrect terminology and rules such as silent letters, bossy e, and the classic i before e except after c.
Sarah's talk was very interesting and I would have liked to have been able to hear her speak in more depth, however the time was up and I needed to shift to the next session.As an aside, Dyslexie font is a fantastic resource if you have a child struggling with dyslexia (or even if they are not). It was designed by a graphic artist who does have dyslexia and wanted to make it easier to read. I would definitely recommend looking at it.
If you have missed any of the previous articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series you can find them here.
"The future is here. It's just unevenly distributed."
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools was under a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
The session between the lunch and afternoon tea breaks was designated for the roundtable and breakout sessions which I have been critical of in the past vis-a-vis their structure. I was curious as to what impact the new venue would have on the way that they were structured and whether they were better organised. They unfortunately were not. The issues with the reverberant nature of the previous venue was gone this year as there were carpet tiles down on the floor, however, the issue of the roundtables being vastly over subscribed was still present. Chatting with one delegate, they were on the opposite side of the table to the presenter and struggled to hear them. In the second session, they had to stand due to the number of people present, and were actually butting up against someone sitting at a different roundtable. Once again, many people gave up after the first or second round table session and headed to the expo floor.
This is a real shame as the roundtable sessions have the potential to generate some real peer to peer engagement around a common interest or theme which can foster practical ideas for application in the classroom. it is also odd, because the space being used was the Classtech conference area and there was easily space to spread the tables out far more to reduce the crowding. The people I was chatting with during the afternoon break indicated they would be giving some very honest feedback if there was a feedback form or email offered that would enable them to do so.
I unfortunately missed the start of the final session. I had in my head that Marita Cheng started at 5pm, unfortunately I was wrong and by the time I got my seat in the plenary session, Lisa Rodgers was on stage and telling the audience that when she went to print the Australian Curriculum, she made a very important discovery which she was glad she found before she clicked on print. It is, all told, over 2500 pages long.
Teaching as a profession is a mess, Lisa continued. Why can a teacher who registers in NSW not move to any other state in Australia and immediately begin teaching? Why are our qualifications not more easily transferable across state borders? Damien Taylor asked on Twitter if a genuine national registration could be drive by teachers rather than politics. A friend of mine completed her initial teacher education in Queensland and had to complete a horrendous amount of paperwork to be allowed to teach when she moved to NSW; the paperwork and registration process taking about three months, during which she was unable to teach and therefore earn a living.
Linda extolled the belief that a new curriculum is not needed. That more support for teachers to enable them to better implement it is what is required. She did not specify what the support would look like, however, at the very least, more professional development seems to be a safe assumption. We have more students than ever before entering tertiary education, yet Lisa commented that there is a significant lack of diversification in the courses they are entering. The question was then asked if there should be a national curriculum and if so then what should the measuring stick be of what should be included and how it should be measured.
Lisa observed that we allow students to opt out of subjects that only a few decades ago were mandatory (maths, science) and that the lack of confidence which is often a driver for these choices infiltrates teachers. She commented that, particularly in secondary education, that many maths teachers often shy away from topics they are not confident with and give them only cursory attention in their teaching. I do not know how widespread this is, or on what data that comment was made as we were given no indication.
Linda quickly shifted gears, and began talking about the way in which Maori students represented a small percentage of graduating students for a long time, but that when the Maori culture began to be embedded and valued in education that there was an immediate impact on Maori learning and thus the graduation rates. In contrast to that, Aboriginal culture is often taught as history, or not taught at all. The recent TeachMeet Central Coast event was focused on Aboriginality in education and we were fortunate enough to have a local Elder speak (the recording of the video will be uploaded into the TMCoast archives shortly. I learned more about Aboriginal culture, religion and beliefs in that session than I think I learned in my own schooling.
Maori students felt connected to their first nation according to Lisa, can we say the same of Aboriginal students? I suspect that for some, we possibly could. Like so many areas of education, there are pockets of excellence around the country, the excellence is unevenly distributed.
There was some excellent back and forth of ideas on Twitter during Lisa's presentation, with some counter-ideas and positions taken up which made for great reading and which I believe challenged people to listen critically to what was being said.
I enjoyed Lisa's presentation, it was engaging, interesting and had some interesting insights, however, as with some presentations over the course of FutureSchools, there was no practical takeaway that could be applied or possible solutions, merely a, as Damien Taylor put it, a creative reiteration of the problem. I enjoy a good engaging talk, however, I would like to see more presentations that have a practical takeaway for the audience.
"Why do the media report the decline in our ranking rather than the decline in our results?"
- Dr. Rachel Wilson.
Assessment is a topic that is critically important, hot, and over done. Yet there was an attitude that came through from the abstract for Rachel's presentation that sounded positive and excited about assessment which is not an attitude that I have come across before.
Rachel made some cold points to start with. We have, she began, an assessment system which is essentially external to the classroom and which created a situation where her own daughters, currently in fourth grade, have already sat more exams than Rachel did during her entire schooling and which has created a competitive streak in them she had not expected. She made the point that research demonstrates that emotions and feelings are at the heart of learning and therefore that these things should be at the heart of our education system which is certainly not the case when the perception of school is that it prepares you for an exam which serves only one purpose; to determine what university and courses you are eligible for.
The media reported, quite vociferously, the recent release of the latest PISA results (for example here, here, here and here). The issue is that the stance taken is one of bemoaning our drop in ranking relative to other countries. Rachel questioned this attitude; "why does it matter if we are ranked below Kazakhstan in PISA?" Rachel continued by acknowledging that our testing results across reading, writing, mathematics and scientific literacy are certainly declining, despite the near zealous focus on standardised national testing
We were asked to consider how often a student has been unable to answer a question or complete a task in a test situation that they have demonstrated the ability to do ordinarily. It is quite often, and the rhetoric around oh, I'm not a test person is demonstrative of the fact that we are aware of the impact that testing can have on our emotions and feelings. Rachel invoked Hattie's research and exhorted us to know our impact and to consider the impact that our choices have on our students.
Assessment should, we were told, engage students. It should be something that they want to complete. Consider how eager the majority of students are to learn and to engage with learning tasks in their early years of schooling. What happens that we then see the fourth grade slump and students disengaging with learning? Assessment should engage students and allow for professional judgement. This is not, as far as I can see, reconcilable with the current system of mandatory reporting each semester in an A-E fashion how a student is going relative to their peers across a range of subject areas and the pressures put upon teachers and students to ensure growth, but that perhaps says more about the focus of our education and schooling systems.
Rachel then took the audience on a whirlwind history tour of assessment in Australia. We have traditionally utilised three main forms of assessment. Norm referenced demonstrated where students sat on a bell curve. Criterion referenced assessments were designed to measure student achievement against a clear set of criteria or learning standards that indicated what students should know and/or be able to demonstrate. Standards references assessment was designed to be a process of collecting and interpreting information about students learning and allows for teacher professional judgement. Much assessment that goes on at the moment is a hybrid of all three models, however, there is another option. Ipsative assessment.
Ipsative assessment was not a term that I had heard of previously, however, a read of the brief overview provided onscreen (captured in the above tweet) indicated that this is probably being used on a regular basis in many classrooms, though perhaps not in the structured and formal way that Rachel was indicating. She went on to talk about an online system that is used in New Zealand that allows teachers to log on and see data across a range of curriculum areas and quickly identify gaps in learning which can be used for planning purposes. It also allows assessment tasks to be completed on an as needed and appropriate basis rather than the current model here in Australia of a big day or week of assessment testing each year. Being able to input student results, have them mapped to curriculum areas and use that data for planning in a timely manner would be useful, especially given that the purpose of assessment of learning should be to inform the next steps in that area. It highlights the fact that the delay in results after NAPLAN testing makes the tests themselves completely redundant as a pedagogical tool, especially considering that neither the student or teacher is given access to their test paper to talk about what they have done and use it as a feedback tool.
Rachel's talk was very intriguing and seemed to be well received by the audience. I heard a few people sitting around me comment that they wanted to research ipsative assessment more and look at how they could adapt their current assessment processes to suit and the buzz as we moved out to lunch demonstrated that she had given many people food for thought.
If you have missed any of the articles in this series or Storifies of the Tweets from FutureSchools, you can find them here.
"My team and I are currently planning for ten years in the future."
-Mary Louise Ryan
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
After Deborah Nicholson was finished speaking in the Special Needs and Inclusion stream, I moved across to the ClassTech conference stream, ostensibly to hear Linda Ray speak about digital dementia and neuro-leadership. However, it was instead Mary Louise O'Brien speaking under the title of The Matrix is here. Mary was disarming from the start, admitting that despite having a fear of heights she would rather be skydiving than standing in front of a large group of people presenting. She was expecting that the content focus of her presentation would have her in more of an IT Leadership group rather than classroom teachers, however, she pushed on. Mary is from Melbourne Girls Grammar (@MGGS_SouthYarra), the site of the first 1:1 device program in Australia and that when she joined the school, about ten years ago, despite a ten year history of 1:1 in the school, the pedagogical practices had not changed. This is disturbing and demonstrates a lack of awareness by the leadership team of what was happening in their classrooms. Changing the tool does not change the pedagogy. Once again, professional development is required to facilitate teachers ability to adapt to new learning tools
Mary said that top-down leadership is critical for long term planning as they are the ones concerned with the future-thinking and macro-level decisions. Her team are planning at the moment, for ten years ahead to ensure that when the school reaches that point in time, that they are equipped appropriately. Given that we do not know what sort of technology will exist then (who would have imagined the pervasive nature of smartphones and social media ten years ago?) I can only assume that they are looking at demographic data and research for the area as well as looking at growth rates for things like bandwidth and perhaps items from The Horizon Report.
The move to BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) has thrown up its own challenges but that it is allowing students to use the device of their own choice for learning. Part of the change to BYOT has been around student well-being and students now, as an accepted norm, log into their student portal and log details about things like sleep, nutrition, physical activity, relationships and students are encouraged to monitor their own well-being by looking at the data for patterns. I observed via Twitter at the time that that must take a significant allocation of resources to enable that program, however, as I learned in a later session, it is largely in the hands of the students.
The next two points that Mary made are both significant. Firstly, she pointed out that change management needs to include the parents as well as students and staff. We often hear about people buying in (or not, as the case may be) to change. We want to know why something is happening, what is the reason behind a decision to make a change, and investing the time into going through this with parents, students and staff can be a significant asset in obtaining buy in for change and make change management easier from that perspective.
The next point that was made is one that I believe is slowly trickling through schools, and that is ensuring that all professional development requests from staff align in some way to the schools strategic direction plan. No longer are staff allowed to go attend random professional development courses or conferences out of pure interest. They must be able to demonstrate how the course or conference and the learning that will come from attendance is aligned to one or more aspects of the schools strategic direction plan. It was not mentioned, but I would hope that staff are also expected to share their learning in some way. It amazes me how often I hear that someone is not expected to share their learning to colleagues upon returning to school.
Part of the shift to BYOT at MGGS has been timetabling students into classes for no more than seventy percent of school time and that the bulk of the curriculum is pushed out to students via the school's learning management system (LMS). This is an interesting move, however, it is consistent I believe with the rhetoric we hear about student choice and students owning their learning. This puts the onus of responsibility onto the student to manage their time and be responsible for the tasks they are required to complete, a very real and genuine situation for them to be in given how they will be expected to operate as part of the workforce. It is up to students to monitor their learning and complete tasks at a pace that suits them. I do have to question how well this approach would work within contexts where students have disengaged from school and if it would result in them seeing it as a vote of trust and respect, or as an excuse to check out.
Returning to the student well-being component for a moment, Mary spoke about it being a preventative program and that there were triggers set in place to catch issues before they arose. She then spoke about the BYOT and technology needs of the school needing a significant investment in staff to facilitate with a five-person IT team in addition to an e-learning team to drive professional development.
Mary closed at this point and while Gavin Hays prepared himself, I shifted to the FutureLeaders stream to hear Dr. Rachel Wilson speak about assessment.
If you have missed any of the articles in this series, you can view them here.