End of Week 4

We’re getting there! It’s easy to forget that I’m expecting children to approach their learning in quite a different way to what they are used to, which results in pretty high standards that can be difficult to reach, especially for some children. It has been so engrained in them by year 6 that the teacher dictates what is done when, and so forth, that this system is throwing them way out of their comfort zone. However, having said this, I don’t think I would change any of my teaching over the last few weeks – instead I should have been less surprised and more tolerant when children struggled with the relative freedom of My-learning.

Week 4 saw us plan Monday and Tuesday, then Wednesday to Friday. The children are starting to get into the swing of things and also enjoying this way of learning more, for the couple of children who weren’t convinced at the outset.

Here are a few quotes from some of the reflections the class did on Friday last week:

  • “I discussed my learning with people like I discussed maths when I was stuck or when I learnt something.”
  • “I talked, but only learning came out of my mouth.”
  • “I’m really glad the teacher gives us a to do list, otherwise I would be really stuck.”
  • “I have learned to be independent, but sometimes I ask for help.”
  • “I have LOVED My-learning. It has taught me how to be independent for later in life.”
  • “I’m finding summarising hard, but I’m going to work on it by doing tasks about that earlier in the day rather than in the afternoon when I’m really tired.”
  • “I like My-learning because you get to do whatever you want when you want.”

This week (week 5) will see us planning out 1 whole week. Fingers crossed!!

“Bring Your Own Device” Seminar

On Monday evening we headed off to the Torque IP BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) seminar in Penrose. I must admit that when we arrived, it looked like we were about to be sold timeshare, but it was a really valuable experience which, I think, is worthwhile sharing – especially given all the media attention this has been receiving of late.

The seminar began with the usual spiel that we’ve heard a fair few times before now, on the way in which the world surrounding schools is changing ever so fast, and we are stuck teaching children using the same old English industrialisation era  schooling ideals. Preaching to the converted! However, if you haven’t listened to one of these talks so prevalent at ICT conferences, here’s a couple of points mentioned at the seminar, that may interest you:

  • Apparently children learn 9 times faster when the learning is presented visually.
  • Schools are really much the same as they were 120 years ago, despite the new technology. Much of the teaching we do uses all this new technology, but presents ideas for students much the same way as we always have (e.g. projecting up a typed class discussion as opposed to writing ideas on the board). Does this really improve student outcomes?
  • Students don’t learn the same way we do. They learn best hands on, by experimenting, by connecting and collaborating, and by trial and error.
  • Therefore 21st Century learning should be connected, student centred, interactive, mobile, anytime/anywhere. The students need to be taught new skills – how to find accurate information, how to organise content, how to manage their privacy and their identity online and so on. We also need to ensure we have effective physical and virtual learning spaces to cater for our student’s needs.

Following this, Sam Gliksman went on to outline the positives and negatives of a BYOD scheme in schools. On the plus side, he said:

  • Learning can truly be anytime/anywhere
  • The computers themselves are parent funded
  • Often parent provided laptops will be more up to date than the ones schools can afford
  • They are able to be personalised by the students
  • Students, he said, would be more engaged and motivated
  • Computers would be better looked after, since they were the student’s own
  • This is more cost-effective for schools in that the repair and maintenance costs, as well as server costs would be reduced.

Sam also mentioned that many students (of course depending on the community) already had their own devices but they were banned at school. In this case students would use them anyway, so the ideal would be to refrain from banning them and, instead, aim for effective use of these devises in schools. However there are, of course, negatives to a BYOD program and these are the ones mentioned by Sam:

  • You can end up with a ‘haves and have nots’ situation. So you need to scope the community well prior to instigating this and, since you have lower ICT costs at school, the extra money could be used to create a pool of devices for children to use.
  • You have less control over the student’s use of the devices.

Sam, along with a representative from Orewa College, went on to discuss the ins and outs of actually implementing such a program which is probably beyond the interests of the readers of this blog so I shan’t bore you! However, an interesting point came up. apparently at Orewa College, before they brought in the BYOD program, a few classes were given the option to B(their)OD should they want to. The response to this was minimal as parents were unwilling to send devices to school if the teaching failed to change to accommodate these devices. Food for thought if a school goes down this road – is the pedagogy/elearning capabilities of the teaching staff up to this?

End of week 3

Well this week was a bit of a mixed bag but we got there in the end!

Monday and Tuesday didn’t go quite so well. I think the children just felt like they had waaaay too much freedom! The children had to plan 2 days, but I think the end of Tuesday (this was when their work was due) felt an awfully long way away. This coupled with the fact some decided to test how low my standards were for the quality of their work was a recipe for disaster. Well perhaps not a disaster, but about half a dozen children didn’t finish on time. We therefore decided to reflect as a class and talked about what went wrong. The class decided (with a fair bit of teacher direction) that they needed to practice listening well to instructions, following written directions and only talking about learning. The classes over all lack of ability to follow written directions remains a mystery to me. They will inevitably forget what exactly their tasks entail following the initial briefing meeting when they are given their task list, but when this occurs, they do not think to look as their task list to see what they have to do! Of course this isn’t a universal problem for all the students in the class, but I guess they just haven’t had to do this kind of thing before.

So Wednesday was spent practicing the skills required to begin My-learning then we got right back into it on Thursday, again planning 2 days. It was therefore a relief that the latter 2 days of the week went really well. The class decided that every now and again I would stop them and they had to do 5 star jumps if they were not focusing on their learning and not talking about learning. This was funny at first then sufficiently annoying to act as a deterant for the children! On Friday, they decided that  they would just give themselves a rating at random intervals based on  the same criteria using their thumbs.

The class are getting much better at being honest about their learning, on the whole. We are still having a few problems with children’s lack of focus, difficulty with the freedom of being allowed to talk throughout the day (but keeping the conversation on their learning), understanding how long tasks take and completing work to a high standard but we are getting there. Bring on week 4!

End of Week 2

Week 2 down and what a shame it was our last 4 day week for a while!

Tuesday to Thursday of this week was spent working hard on independence and collaboration (especially collaboration). We worked on gaining more of a sense of individual responsibility for the workings of a group as well has devising a set of solutions to common group problems as a class. There’s more work still to do in this area, but for the moment I’m happy that the children are more able to collaborate effectively. We have also begun to work on another skill I think is important – cyber safety and digital citizenship. I believe a few children have gone home and altered privacy settings and taken some personal information off line as a result. Hector’s World, a visit from the community constable and lots of discussion have been key to this and we will continue to develop our skills in this area.

THEN on Friday, we had a much more exciting day! (At least in my eyes!) My-Learning began and I was really pleased, and pleasantly surprised, at how successful it was. Especially given they had only had 7 days at school by that stage. In preparation, on Thursday afternoon, I showed them parts of the presentation I did at U-learn to demonstrate what exactly My-learning was. I had also got some children in my class last year to film “handy hints to survive Miss Winder’s crazy system” at the end of the year last year. Such useful ideas as “do your work properly the first time or you will have to do it again” (!!). I think this was really helpful to do as it meant that some problems we had last year were eliminated more easily.

The first day of My-learning really couldn’t have gone any better (phew!). I made sure each task I set was able to be done individually, did not require computers to be booked or wrangled with and was about half an hour long. We spent allot of time discussing each task and answering questions before we started so everyone was 100% clear (theoretically anyway!) about what they needed to do. Then I ensured I was available to help any children that needed it. I also sat at the same table as one student who I knew would struggle for quite a chunk of the day. It turns out I wasn’t really needed very much at all though and spent most of the day conferencing with individuals. The other thing that made the day somewhat successful was stopping to do super quick reflections regularly throughout the day. The class had 2 learning intentions for the day – to be independent and to manage their time well. They rated themselves out of 5 on their hands for these 2 intentions about every half hour. This seemed to keep them on track. I do need to make sure children know it’s OK to talk, but they need to be talking about their learning. It seems to be all (loud chatter about everything and anything) or nothing (silence and no discussion, helping each other out etc.) at the moment.

Here is what the class said when we reflected at the end of the day:

Things that were successful:

  • We got to choose who we sat with.
  • It was fun being independent.
  • Nearly everyone finished. (One child did not, which was good from a behavioural stand point as the class realised that it was not an empty threat that I would call parents of children who were not finished and they would have to complete the work set for homework).
  • The class was better behaved.
  • Liked choosing when to do things.
  • Some children finished early.

Things that weren’t so successful:

  • Didn’t like to choose when to do things, like to be told when to do tasks (this was just one child this year – fewer than previous classes).
  • Have to wait for others to finish for the end of the week reward (for those who have been well behaved and have completed all their work).
  • Hard to know how long things will take.

Week 3 I will get children to plan Monday and Tuesday; then Wednesday to Friday. Monday and Tuesday will involve a task in a pair and one where they have to book a laptop. There will also be group meetings for Maths groups. Wednesday – Friday will involve computer bookings, group Maths and Reading meetings and organising a group to do a collaborative task.

Week 4 This will be a whole week to plan, assuming everything goes to plan!

I’m not sure when I will begin opt-in meetings but I’m working on getting students to be more honest about their learning for this to work well.

End of week 1

So, one week down already! This is the first time I’ve introduced my-learning with a view to begin teaching this way fast! The idea is to start this properly in week 3. Last year I delayed teaching this way because I was concerned about 2 or 3 students but, as it turns out, my concerns were unfounded. Hence starting the way I mean to go on earlier this year.

In order to get my-learning going quickly, I have focused intensely on 3 skills I have identified as vital for children to be able to cope in this system – independence, collaboration and time management. On the whole, the children have been pretty good at being independent. Strangely enough, they can follow verbal instructions more independently than written ones! We do need to work on this more though, in terms of students being independent of me. Collaboration has been trickier for the students. They can identify what is working and not working in a group setting, but are frequently unable to fix the things that aren’t working. I think we need to work on children taking a more personal responsibility for their role in the group. Lastly, time management – most students are pretty good with this and I think that those who are struggling will improve when they can plan our their day and take their time to do difficult things and  speed through less challenging tasks. The students last year also told me that being able to pick the time of day they completed (especially more difficult) tasks helped them do their best and complete work in a timely manner.

Next week – The plan for next week is to continue practicing being independent and working collaboratively. I’ll also teach them how to troubleshoot ICT issues and about digital citizenship. I’m assuming the children will be up to planning one day at a time on Thursday or Friday. Then the idea is to plan Monday and Tuesday, then Wednesday-Friday in week 3, and then a full week in week 4. This will help the children learn how long tasks take, so they are better able to mange their time. Can’t wait!