Thursday, 6 November 2014

Rethinking a Twitter disaster

Picture a classroom with 14-15 devices with children busy taking part in a chat session with over 1200 tweets and 25 classes participating. Add to it their classroom teacher who is moderating the session, its the last 10-15 minutes of the day so the class is starting to pack up and those who have been in another part of the school are filtering in excitedly. Sounds like chaos! This is the situation I found myself in last Thursday as my colleague entered the room to expose a "F-bomb" that had just been launched by my class in the chat session. I scrolled to the top and there it was for all to see, lobbed casually into cyberspace with no other tweet content so the intent and meaning of the message were in plain sight.

With devices shut down and class packed I let my them know I was disappointed and angry. They left school knowing they weren't to bring devices the following day as a trust issue had arisen. I had quickly been able to rule out several kids based on duties or responsibilities that had them out of the classroom, but this still left a large pool of students.

After school I spoke with my colleague, our IT support and the DP. Removing devices, a renewed focus on digital safety and mention of hunting for the IP address would all be used to attempt to find the culprit. The kids had been in peers, there was hope that 1 would come forward. Talking with Stephen Baker, another Kidsedchatnz coordinator, he supported the tactics but didn't envy the position.

The next day, they were asked to write apology letters and discuss digital safety. No further progress was made as to a culprit. It's fair to say that I was bitterly disappointed for both Kidsedchatnz, the classes exposed to this, the innocent parties in the room and our school. We had misrepresented our class, school and enthusiasm for BYOD and eLearning.

That weekend as I reflected I decided that I should apologise to them. I had partly contributed to this situation through trying to do too much. Over time we had been using more & more devices during a chat session. By having so many participating it made it more difficult to monitor what each group was doing, it only took 1 child to push the limits. A lot of thought perhaps over 1 word, a word that is all over our television screens, but our RTC require us to keep our students safe. I owed my students and others participating honest reflection of my own role in this.

Monday morning I spoke to the class about my role in this and apologised but stressed that I was still disappointed. We followed this up by investigating the power of the internet by focussing on what takes place in 1 minute and then sent out a simple message to investigate the reach of just 1 tweet. We have have discussed Digital Safety many times, but this lesson appeared to really resonate.

When the class had a look Tuesday afternoon, the potential viewers based on 21 Retweets was between 25 - 35,000 followers. They were blown away by the magnitude and 2 astute children likened the spread of a tweet to that of a virus.

Tuesday night I reflected on 2 days of device-free learning that had gone very well with plenty of engagement, choice, learning and student voice, I reached a shocking conclusion. I am convinced that I had moved away from effective use of the devices! However, the shift was so incremental that I hadn't noticed and it was only a complete removal of devices that highlighted this. This begs a question that I can not answer fully right now and brings me to the purpose of this post. What are the symptoms of ineffective use of technology that I should have noticed?

Clues that I have identified in my reflection:

  • A group of students that were seeking every opportunity to complete a learning task, but still not completing it.
  • Angst & disagreement between group members while completing tasks.
  • Tasks that were getting little to no feedback/forward or teacher support.
  • The tweet & inappropriate language suggests that they weren't being supervised or that I ought to have paired the students more effectively.
When recorded like this above, it would seem blindingly obvious, but each & every incident has taken place over several weeks and I have treated any issues on their face value rather than looking at any overall trends.

There is plenty of material discussing the point that eLearning should have the "e" removed, it is still effective pedagogy that drives the use of technology. I'm not a 'tool driven' user of technology and have experienced much success with technology so I am a little frustrated by this realisation. I'd appreciate some feedback on other indicators of ineffective use of technology, especially anything going beyond the 'why' a certain tool is being used.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

#Kidsedchatnz special chat session for Connected Educator Month

To celebrate Connected Educator Month the coordinators at Kidsedchatnz agreed that it would be fantastic to host a twitter chat session to connect all of the amazing teachers who have their classes take part.  It would also serve as a great tool to help any teachers who were considering having their class join us in our regular Thursday slot.

I'm definitely glad that we chose to do this, there were some great answers that came through and definitely make us as a team think about some of the things we're doing. A couple of new tools will be added to our arsenal of resources to make Kidsedchatnz so useful for teachers and the best thing was learning that so many of our participants are using their children's involvement in Kidsedchatnz as part of their assessment and end of year reports.

The following is an archive of the chat session:

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Connecting as an educator

Are you staggered that we are now approaching mid-October, the T3 holidays are over and we're part way through Connected Educator Month? It's commonly stated that time flies when you're having fun, maybe it should read time flies when you're connected!

I'm just approaching the end of Carol Dweck's Mindset, this book was first suggested to me as I reflected on praise in my classroom and most recently has become required reading for a position I'll be starting next year. I've found it difficult to think about a review for this book as I've seriously tried to adopt a growth mindset in the classroom but think CEM14 probably summarises my mindset better than actually reflecting on the book.

T3 has been crazy busy for me, it started with EducampAkl and Edchatnz (both blogged here EducampAkld post Edchatnz post). I've applied for and secured a job at another school (Hobsonville Point Primary School), this was an intensive process and deserves a blog post in its own right as any other teacher at either the primary or secondary will attest. I then concluded the term with a visit to Rotorua for EducampMinecraft (blog post). Not satisfied with this level of professional development I've used the holidays to contribute to a Minecraft in the Classroom GHO, moderated the inaugural #Primedchatnz twitter session to support @mrjhopkins GHO with Graham Watts, taken part in the 1st KC4F chat (book review here) and watched several more webinars. I believe that I must have been rather tweety during this time and the Ulearn conference as I've secured close to 70 new followers over this time. As a virtual attendee, one of my highlights was +Juliet Revell presenting a Kidsedchatnz taster session and some of the many tweets we got afterwards about Kidsedchatnz, my favourite collaboration, hopefully it will be seeing an upsurge in participants this term.

This week, I've also facilitated a callback day at HNS based on the Educamp model, I believe that this also was quite successful as I am sure that I saw some teachers with more of fixed mindset start to shift by being able to reach 'low hanging fruit'. For some of our staff this was the first they'd heard of CEM14, but I was pleased that many furiously wrote down the website as explained it's benefits.

None of this would be possible or as close to as engaging without adopting a growth mindset that finds an outlet through connection and collaboration. Hence, so much blogging to reflect on all this PD.

On Tuesday I'll be hosting a twitter chat to support Kidsedchatnz during CEM14, we're hoping to attract current users of Kidsedchatnz as well as many more teachers who are interested in trying it out or just want to know more. I believe that we'll get a lot of useful feedback for Kidsedchatnz and make it an even better learning experience for students and teachers.

It has been a busy few weeks of connecting & collaborating, this will definitely continue throughout term 4 as Kidsedchatnz and #Primedchatnz both have lofty goals in the short term while my own class continues its own journey through twitter, blogging and minecraft. We have to make some more connections so that we can collaborate on projects but like everything, that's a work in progress too.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

EducampMinecraft - It's just a game

When #educampminecraft arose, I instantly knew I would be attending, the format, attendees and topic would all make it an excellent day. I consider myself pretty literate with digital tools but my experience this weekend has left me feeling a little like the pixelated animals walking around Minecraft, I was an easy target for any gamer who needed fed. Having had 24 hours to reflect on my learning, I am very thankful for my colleagues and the students that were at Mokoia Intermediate, its possible that my Minecraft health rating may have increased which can only benefit my students. The best explanation lies in comparing my Minecraft status before and after this PD.

Pre #EducampMinecraft
I discovered that my 2014 class liked Minecraft at our first meet the teacher, so this year I made sure that we had the Pocket Edition installed on the iPads. I had the motivation to try to integrate but I lacked the skills, experiences and to put it bluntly, I didn't know what I didn't know!  I investigated MinecraftEdu but didn't want to invest the money blindly.

Early in the year, I had an opportunity to integrate Minecraft in a lesson, we had asked children to design their ideal garden for the school. Nearly all were engaged in either writing or drawing their ideas, but 1 particular boy didn't appear interested, until offered the opportunity to design his garden using Minecraft. His 'health rating' shot up and he was engaged for the duration of the task. My first integration successful, I was looking for genuine opportunities from then on but have stumbled around a little.

Since then learning opportunities have looked like this:

    1st attempts
  • Some writing about Minecraft - narratives, information reports and even some persuasive writing where several students outlined the benefits of Minecraft in the classroom. All good pieces of writing that demonstrated the value of an engaging topic for a student.
  • Attempts to design explorations from the First Crossing TV series, I think the students were motivated but battled with some direction. In trying to give them direction, I was ruining the task enjoyment.
  • More recently, 6-8 students have been recreating the NZ parliament buildings. The first attempts didn't impress me at all and spoke more of their willingness to play rather than engage in a genuine learning experience. I suggested that they weren't achieving the high standards of which they were capable (I'd seen what they'd created in their own time). I directed them to a virtual tour of the parliament buildings, and at the same time purchased 2 of the Minecraft books. All of a sudden the buildings really developed, they had valuable research and assistance with how to create the things they were seeing. A true learning experience had been created, but we still struggled with some digital citizenship problems, both within our own class and with others.
  • I host several boys for half of Friday lunchtime, my job is to give them something to do so they don't find their way to trouble. We started out coding, but recently have just been playing Minecraft, their ability to relate to others, contribute and participate within this context is quite interesting. I need to explore how this can be translated to the real world. 
  • Post research & reading
  • More writing has taken place, several children are working on M is for Minecraft - an A to Z format book. This shows real potential and we've attacked it as more of a project.
I hadn't really engaged in any PD surrounding Minecraft, I had several of my PLN who I knew could assist in several areas but that was the sum of it. I was still struggling with how to display the work going on, we've got some photos on the wall that came from screen shots but I really wanted to see some video work and wasn't completely positive on how to achieve this. I sat down with my class pre-educampminecraft to discuss issues I might be able to investigate, I was pleased with the types of isuses they wanted to explore and experiences they imagined

My prediction for EducampMinecraft proved very astute, the day has been blogged by Sonya van Schaijik and the EducampMinecraft wiki, is of course a great resource.

Witnessing the potential of minecraft being realised, having this potential explained by both educator & student and listening to all of these experts I have a long way to travel before I can consider myself more of an expert.

Post #EducampMinecraft
1. I need to implement a treaty/code of conduct/class rules.
Why? It was naive to not have one of these for our minecraft work. Even though my class talk about digital citizenship regularly, we never expressly outlined how this might look within Minecraft. Our school uses PB4L and I believe my kids could easily transfer this model into our 5B's (Be Safe, Friendly, Respectful, Responsible and a Learner). We've had some digital citizenship issues, but this would set up expectations rather than being reactive.

2. Forget trying to learn to play Minecraft.
Why? The students have this aspect covered and can teach me far more than I could ever hope to teach them. Student voice at Mokoia proved this beyond doubt. I would be far better exploring having our students at HNS teach the teachers what Minecraft is all about as @MrRuddtheTeachr and I had believed.

3. I need to look to extend literacy within and about Minecraft.
Why? I was aware that Minecraft could be used to further the children's literacy. Having them read & write about Minecraft was pretty awesome, researching what they're creating isn't too bad either but this can be so much more. @MrWoodnz and @Steve_katene were discussing reading and writing books within Minecraft. If that's not engaging!

4. Understanding/Implementing the correct platform - Minecraft Servers, MinecraftEdu or Minecraft PE
Why? Steve and others shared so much knowledge about what can be done, while I would love to have a class server I don't have the technical know-how to do this. I currently don't have the ability to get MinecraftEdu either, but I don't believe this is now an issue. @Teachernz and Steve were accomplishing so much through just the pocket edition. Given my level of integration, this is certainly enough for now. I've plenty of potential to explore without worrying about servers.

5. Class displays & presentation need to be more innovative.
Why? As outlined earlier I wasn't feeling satisfied by how my class was displaying its Minecraft work. Steve was using Aurasma, an Augmented Reality tool, to display both static and video images. I've wanted to extend what I was doing in terms of displaying the children's work and video was a large part of this plan, I just hadn't settled on a workflow that worked. My indecision was partly due to lack of of inspiration - well now that's solved...

I was seriously blown away by the potential that Minecraft offers and still have plenty of questions, one I'm particularly keen on investigating is the use of Minecraft within science. Someone over the weekend was talking about removing the laws of physics within the game, but I wonder where else you could go in this game.

Reflecting on my own practice in such a way is refreshing, I've plenty to learn but its vital that this I recognise this. Most importantly, I know who to ask to help me learn!

Thanks Michael for creating and sharing this.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Key Competencies for the Future

A colleague recently joked that they wanted a synopsis as they handed me another book. We decided that a tweet was probably enough, but in reality trying to reflect on any professional reading certainly requires more than a tweet of contemplation.

KC4F is no different in this regard, there was plenty to consider, challenge and talk about with colleagues. Some of the staff at HNS will tell you that I have been discussing my thoughts and I'm hopeful that some may even snatch my copy to read it themselves. I was really pleased that @edubookchatnz was started by Terry (@beechedesignz) as this text wasn't even on my radar, he even followed this up with an interesting blog of his views.

I felt that my understanding of the KC's has been advanced considerably by the authors. I was guilty of treating each KC as an individual entity when it came to planning even though I recognised that they weren't mutually exclusive. But the real epiphany has come about in one particular KC, I have treated Language, Text & Symbols at absolute face value. I've sat through multiple PD sessions and my pre-service training but the concept of the multiple languages that we speak in never was mentioned. I'm not necessarily talking about about Te Reo, English or Samoan, rather the language of science, music or maths. Everyday my conversations take me through multiple languages, at a variety of levels. Conversations with my wife involve a lot of legal jargon, I'm the learner trying to comprehend what she is saying, discussions with colleagues take me through ICT/eLearning, and with my golfing buddies a different set of language, texts and symbols is used again. Do children need the skills to adapt, learn and be flexible through multiple languages? Ultimately, if they're to make meaning of the subjects they learn about, then absolutely, unless they'd like to lock themselves away and not participate in the world.

So what's a wicked problem then? I understand that poverty and food security are wicked problems by virtue of the fact there are multiple solutions, and that each solution raises many more questions. But the concept of a wicked problem has altered my approach to planning, in a future-focussed way I've tried to reimagine past or present units at my school. I believe it will shift the emphasis of the teaching/learning experiences to the benefit of those in my class.

Consider the following as an example:
Last year, we looked at Energy and there was much exploration and inquiry, but it was very content-driven. The future-focussed problem is clear - How is NZ going to meet its growing energy demands in the future? Multiple environmental groups advocate strongly against any new hydro, wind, wave or geothermal generation project. Fracking has been widely ridiculed in the general media and protested against by many. But our demand for energy isn't waning? Clearly, a wicked problem exists. I wonder what my class might have suggested if they'd been given the chance.

We are investigating culture next term, I see an opportunity for the class to investigate what NZ culture may look like in 10-15 years given current trends, demographic shifts. What was important 10-15 years ago may not be what is valued in future generations - so what will it mean to 'be a New Zealander'? There is ample opportunity to turn this topic into a future-focussed topic, I just need to find the right way to hook my class to this problem.

In a more lighthearted approach, I do believe that a wicked problem could be framed in sport. Many sports are facing challenges of time, decreasing numbers, competing priorities, changing demographics, parental concern over injuries, to score/not score and this is just at school age. How about concussion (and other serious injuries), role modelling, mega-events, social media and match-fixing at the elite or professional level. If there isn't a wicked problem in that lot I'd be staggered, most likely a problem that students of many levels would be motivated to explore.

So what's the tweet going to look like then?

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Leadership, Kidsedchatnz & Sharing Knowledge

Three qualities that describe me perfectly are passionate, hard working and reflective but I must admit that there is a healthy dose of red-blooded kiwi male ego that is mixed in amongst these qualities and the many others that make me who I am. As one of the coordinators of @kidsedchatnz it's success has been a great source of excitement and reflection but it has had many hours of my life poured into it. It's similar to the time the time that goes into my Miss 2 really and as such, is a source of much pride. 

It's with these qualities that I have viewed the introduction of other chat sessions for children and when these people have turned to @Palmyteacher, myself and the other coordinators, all three qualities have been boosted. But @kidsedchatnz success hasn't come without great effort. Bouncing ideas the other day, Stephen reflected on one of the factors in this success - it's the team.
I've recently enjoyed the intrinsic rewards of spreading the knowledge I've gained from Kidsedchatnz. I've presented at the Edchatnz conference, helped Amanda Rogers set up USAKidschat and shared Kidsedchatnz with #EducampAkl and WAPA. We've been getting lots out of these sessions to help us improve Kidsedchatnz for the benefit of the students, this ultimately helps the teachers who use it as a tool in their class.

One of the most valuable lessons was that chat sessions with children on twitter need to be very carefully managed. A chat session that was attacked by the spammers would cause all sorts of trouble and if you're running hashtags, this is always going to be a risk. Hence, we use a subscribed list with Kidsedchatnz. Amanda Rogers, responsible for #USAkidschat blogged about her hiccups, including spam and it prompted my first foray into producing infographics as I attempted to share our knowledge. This feeds both my passion and reflective nature (and the ego).

Stephen and I have been sending emails, tweets and DMs back and forth over the last few days as we discussed other ideas and how to translate these ideas into what we hoped could be a go to resource for creating successful kids chats using twitter (How to Run a Twitter Chat for Children, attached). The result, we shared with the world earlier today (September 14th ) and we were stoked as it quickly found popularity amongst educators. It is a fantastic example of the leadership that is to be found in teams and what can be done when people are wanting to share their knowledge. My experience in life (not just teaching) has shown me that this isn't always the case.

The Kidsedchatnz leadership model has been highly beneficial to my development as a teacher, not just within the confines of the chat sessions and its planning, but throughout my professional and classroom practice. Keeping this thought uppermost in my mind will be an easy mechanism for ensuring that my students, peers and wider school community can all be kept empowered, involved and engaged.

It's too easy to hold knowledge close and not share, but there are so many others that have shared their knowledge with me that it is only fair that this favour is returned tenfold. Hopefully, I'll inspire a few others to share too and that would be a fantastic form of leadership.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Kidsedchatnz & USAkidschat

Kidsedchatnz is a great learning tool and as coordinators we’re always trying to spread the word to attract more classrooms to take part. Recently we were visited online by a US teacher who was interested in what we were up to. Amanda Rogers (@mitchellrogers) was so convinced by Kidsedchatnz that she has recently initiated USAkidschat (when referring to both they can be called Kidschat).

I’ve been asked lots of questions about how to introduce Twitter to classrooms and have blogged about it. But when Amanda begun the process of setting up a chat program for elementary children in the US I instantly recognised that I would have questions too as there would be a new set of answers due to the different environment she was operating in. While Amanda is responsible for creating the US version, I can’t take credit for that in NZ and instead owe my own involvement to @Pascaldress. My own role is as a coordinator & promoter though with 6 others, including Pascal.

This blog post is written by both Amanda and I, with her answers italicised before my own non-italicised answers. We hope that this post will help to inspire more teachers to integrate twitter into the classroom and provide you with some assistance for starting that journey. If you have any other questions about twitter chat sessions please feel free to comment, tweet or email.

Why did you first get involved with the Kidschat sessions?
Some of my system’s tech specialists shared an article with me highlighting Kidsedchatnz.  I had recently starting participating in professional Twitter chats myself, and thought it was a brilliant idea for connecting students.   I asked for access to the chat so that I could “lurk” and see how it all worked.  I was so impressed with all the authentic learning I saw there that I decided to try to organize a chat for US classes.  Our district celebrates “Cyber Safety September,” so I decided to experiment with a weekly chat for the month of September just to see where it would take us.

I was doing PD as part of the beginning teacher program at the Learning Network in West Auckland. They ran a session on integrating technology, Twitter and #Edchatnz were mentioned, so I quickly came to learn about Kidsedchatnz which must have been just after Pascal had started it. My role as a coordinator came about soon after Pascal needed to pass the responsibility to others.

How do you promote the twitter chat to other classes around the country?
I started promoting with Twitter and a Google form.  I wrote a brief description of what I was trying to do and tweeted the link to the form.    After a few people had signed up, I developed a website ( to house a blog and all the needed information for participating. The Edutopia article that Stephen (@palmyteacher) wrote has also had excellent reach.

Kidsedchatnz uses Twitter predominantly for promotion, but we also use our blogsite to post the weekly topics & questions. The blog gets an incredible amount of traffic every week. We have also promoted Kidsedchatnz at PD sessions across NZ such as Educamps, conferences and there will be a taster session at uLearn 14 also. Our blog includes lots of information on how to set up twitter and subscribe to the lists as well.

What was the topic for the first chat and why was this chosen?
Our entire purpose for planning this chat was to incorporate it into our digital citizenship curriculum.  Therefore, our first chat topic was digital citizenship.  This was also a good opportunity for the classes to get to know one another.  It went very well and we had a lot of great discussion.

I’m not sure about the very first chat ever, but this year we chose to talk about our holidays and what each child brought to the classroom. It was a great chance for each child to voice what they bring to the classroom and think about what they wanted their class to be like this year.

Have you targeted a particular year/grade level and why?
We target grades 3-5, however we invite everyone.  There were some 2nd grade classes involved in the first chat.  This is the age many students begin to express an interest in social media.  This offers a purposeful opportunity to guide and teach them how to use it responsibly. I also wanted to keep the age group focused enough that the students would share similar interests and be able to communicate effortlessly with one another.

We concentrate on years 0 - 8, the primary school years. There are other chats starting to evolve for high school ages in NZ. We have thought about running sessions that are more targeted but we’re not sure if there is the demand.

Why do you think the Kidschat model is such a great learning tool for children?
The major draw for me is that it gives students an audience and a voice.  Writing is not effective unless you have someone to read it.  Students are empowered when they realize there are people out there who value their opinions.   It also encourages fluency, as the chats move quickly and students are forced to read and comprehend quickly.  It gives them a purpose for being a fluent reader, rather than just because they are being tested on it.  Another wonderful facet is that the students have a sense of control.  They choose the topics and their answers guide the discussion.  This chat is preparing them for the global workplace and teaching them how to collaborate beyond the walls of their communities.

Real world literacy, children are reading and writing with a real audience. Blogging is fantastic but a chat session allows for instant feedback as their work gets retweeted, favourited and replied to. The topics change every week, which allows for children to engage in the topics that fit their personality or learning interests. We also use flipped sessions so that children are getting plenty of learning from each chat.

How popular are the chats and how many tweets can be sent in a session?
We are only a couple weeks in.  Our first chat had 10 participants, but quickly drew interest from other educators.  We currently have about 20 members, so hopefully it will continue to grow.

Kidsedchat regularly has between 15 - 25 classes taking part and can attract between 500 to 1100 tweets per session. It can be really fast-paced, but that’s what makes it so engaging.

How does the size of your country impact on a chat session?
Obviously, the US is large and connecting over 4 time zones is tricky.  We set our time for late in the day on the East coast to ensure that West coast schools would be in session at the same time.  There are conflicts with lunch times, recess, etc.  One of our classes ate lunch in their classroom so they could participate last week.  Some join in late or leave early.  We just have to be flexible and understanding.   At this point, most of our participants are in the Eastern and Central time zones, and localized to a couple of different areas.  Hopefully as we continue to chat and share about what we are doing, our reach will spread out to the West coast.  

NZ is quite small, with only 1 time zone. Even so, we’ve found it really difficult to find a timeslot that fits everyone’s needs.

How does your chat session fit within the curriculum?
With the adoption of Common Core standards in the US, students are expected to publish writing in a meaningful way and collaborate to solve problems.   Kidschat offers a perfect setting to practice these skills, while preparing students for a global workspace.

NZ’s curriculum really supports the Kidsedchatnz model, it wants collaborative, future focussed learning and is a rather broad document that allows for teachers to interpret the curriculum in the way that best fits the needs of their community. The topics change weekly and have covered all aspects of the NZ curriculum, naturally, every topic integrates literacy using a 21st century social networking tool.

Where next for your chat session?
As we are still in an experimental phase, our next step will be to determine if this is something that will become a fixture within our classrooms.  This will ultimately be up to the participants.  At the very least, the classes will have developed a network they can rely on for collaborating on future projects.

The coordinators would love to have more classes involved in Kidsedchatnz. We’re talking about some videos to showcase what a chat looks like and demonstrate the student voice behind Kidsedchatnz.

One day we may even be able to coordinate a combined Kidsedchatnz USAkidschat session.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Why the board games?

I'm in charge of @kidsedchatnz for week 6 T3. My class had been wanting to talk about gaming, minecraft and other "fun" activities for a while, so as a class we co-constructed a list of questions and a few tasks for more of a flipped lesson. The #Edchatnz conference had really motivated me to pursue gaming as I blogged about here, so this was an opportunity to investigate, get student voice and put some energy into the "What, How and Why" of gaming.

Late last week we got out the post-its and shared what learning we thought we could get from playing games (for our task this was defined as board, dice and electronic games but did not include PE/Fitness games). There were lots of ideas, but generally they were broad ideas of Maths, Reading, Writing, Science or ideas around the theme of cooperation/teamwork, some children did recognise that survival, strategic thinking, cyber safety and taking risks could all be learned through gaming of different formats, the latter ideas were rather enlightening for a teacher about to embark on a week of gaming in the classroom.

This week I took Risk, Monopoly and Yahtzee into the class, we already had Scrabble, Once Upon A Time and ipads with Minecraft on them. I must admit that the Why is rather tenuous. They are embarking in authentic language experience that they can then use within a Kidsedchatnz topic where their literacy skills will be engaged. They've supplemented this with a small piece of writing before yesterday's game session on what they expected to learn from the games.

It was hardly a surprise that the kids engaged in the games, Risk, Monopoly and Minecraft being the favourites. There was plenty of amazing communication, teamwork and the odd dispute!

Today, in our second session, I asked them to self-monitor the Key Competencies using a simple tally chart. As they engaged in the games there was a notable shift in the discussion and atmosphere. While the competition was still evident, there was more assistance with rules as children tried to help each other out, take more care of their role in the game and generally try to be better participants. As I tweeted a couple of quick reflections/photos I was prompted by a colleague to look deeper.

Mark is right, we'd discussed with @Gingamusings and many others at her gaming session that the "Why" needs to be uppermost in a teachers mind or I'm just providing the kids with an excuse to muck around.

We're studying the geography of NZ at present and that is shifting this week to Election 2014.

Monopoly contains obvious links to maths and oral language. Here are some possible ways to build on this in other areas of the curriculum in different year levels:

  • Social Studies: Game scenarios that might include rich vs poor; who is in charge of the money; equity & fairness; financial literacy; investigating the significance of featured places to NZers; locating the places on maps; identifying how these places may be chosen or even what a future edition might include. The selection of the NZ edition featured a lengthy voting period before the eventual choice of Pukekura Park in the "Mayfair" position. I did locate two websites that used monopoly in a rigged format to explore social inequities in the US, the second is certainly quite well thought out.
  • Literacy: as hotels/houses built investigating the roles of people involved and their respective feelings. 

Risk also has its own unique set of maths links but probably can be adopted further to assist in the teaching of probability, ratios & proportions as well as the key competency & oral language links that any game necessitates. With its obvious 'conquer the world' theme there are many links to politics and power also. Extra ideas could include:

  • Social Studies: Risk could be manipulated to investigate/replicate/stimulate ideas on many AO's from the social studies curriculum,  and when combined with The Arts or Literacy many differing viewpoints could be explored. This could be about about cultural change, how the past is recorded/remembered, leadership, access to resources, or the cause and effect for different events.

I'm sure there are many more ways that these two games could be adapted or integrated into different aspects of the NZC and there are always going to be the skills and values that come out of participating in games within the classroom. Although the curriculum links are not as strong in this instance, I've been impressed by the children's engagement and believe that the use of both games for a more deliberate curriculum choice would be advantageous. Mark's respectful questioning was justified and prompted some useful reflection and it does make me wonder what other resources or uses teachers have for these or other games.

Friday, 15 August 2014

#Edchatnz - so what?

The night before the #Edchatnz conference I was a ball of energy, with a hint of nerves! I was presenting for Kidsedchatnz and my brain was racing as I wondered what the next two days would bring. Last night was a complete contrast, the realisation that Friday would be 1 week on from was quite a comedown, there would be no F2F with my PLN no, no passionate learners sharing their knowledge, no hanging out with some of the most amazing teachers.

We all knew that taking this conference home , continuing the revolution, was a large task. After 4 days, I know I've achieved a lot.

I've purchased "Once Upon A Time". This is a storytelling game recommended by @gingamusings. We were investigating narrative storywriting, its been a tad silo but I'd been using context to make it engaging with lots of minecraft, Call of Duty, visual prompts from Write About This on Pinterest and plenty of free choice. But this week, we've added "Once Upon A Time" to the mix, as well as StoryCubes (Verbs) and Scrabble.

  • Why? Oral Language is the foundation of story telling, some of my kids need help just getting their story out, others need to work on the flow/structure and for some just thinking about vocab and spelling is a big step. Its been full of "buzz" this week.

Collaborative writing: Having played "Once Upon A Time", 3 of my girls wrote a collaborative recount of their experience on GoogleDocs. We also took part in a small collaborative task started by @PascalDresse a round robin story using GoogleDocs, 10 classes writing 1 sentence each. I've posted more about this elsewhere.

  • Why? The girls wanted to share something about Once Upon A Time and they asked - I knew they would be writing, in terms of Key Competencies alone I was happy with this. 10 Sentence story children were all chosen as they have problems with stories flowing.
Choice: We had the computers for two sessions, 1 each for Maths & literacy. During Maths I took a risk with the blank canvas & conveyed that to the children. I asked each of them to write their learning outcome for the lesson, they shared this with me through Socrative where I was able to download the spreadsheet of responses. Each child then attempted to learn using their own methods with the computer, I had kids visiting lots of sites for strong math games (with their goals in mind), kids on Khan Academy and other YouTube videos. All were engaged and most confessed they had actually made progress towards their learning goal. The literacy session was much the same, children spent their time blogging, publishing, commenting, creating & sharing.
  • Why? This was a great chance to try the blank canvas for me but for the kids I know that everyone of them has different learning needs in maths, this was a chance to personalise the learning. I viewed it as a success.
Sharing @CaroBush laughed at my gobsmacked look as Pam Hook shared with us during Edchatnz. I've shown several people the Rubric Generators on Pam's site they've given me the same look.

  • Why? Because some of our mapping meetings have tedious merry-go-round conversations about what skill or verb should be included because some are too hard for different levels. SOLO and the rubric generators makes this argument go away!

Our principal was talking about digital learning, professional development and shifting your thinking. A great discussion and was supplemented with a model outlining reluctance through to innovators. I was asked to add my thoughts. I talked about three things: What, How, & Why. It's easy to find a new toy/gadget/app to play with but that it is understanding Why you have included it in your learning experience that is the real question.

  • Why? It should be central to your thinking in all planning. Why does the student need this tool, this experience, what will be the outcome for their learning.

I've purchased the book Key Competencies the first book recommended by @Edubookchatnz which was launched at #Edchatnz, I didn't go to the session but I am definitely keen to take part in this awesome journey. They're recommending professional reading and providing a chat to share the learning, consider it an online book club for teacher twitter geeks like me.
  • Why? Because professional reading is an important method to improve my teaching & professional practice.

Friday afternoon, @MrRuddtheTeachr and I are providing some PD on collaboration, connection & constant learning (aka TWITTER). I am a huge advocate of Twitter as a teacher & in the class and we also have 5-6 who are on Twitter but not very active, some are eggs because they don't have profiles & some chicks as they're not very active tweeters. But most are real eggs, they're not even on twitter. Its time for some to change that.

  • Why? Connection, collaboration, constant learning, PLN, need I go on?
1 week on, I'm feeling pretty relaxed about continuing the revolution and most importantly that I've truly engaged with the Professional Development I got at #Edchatnz

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Kidsedchatnz - the notes

Thanks to the wonderful Simone Gentil for curating this storify of the tweets that were sent during the live Kidsedchatnz session during #Edchatnz.

Here is the presentation that we used during the session.

Edchatnz Blogging Meme

I have a few questions after the last two days at #Edchatnz and I think that lots of others will too. I want to keep the connections going and make more connections. So maybe a blogging meme will work.

If you get included in the blogging meme: copy/paste the questions and instructions into your own blog then fill out your own answers. Share on twitter tagging 5 friends. Make sure you send your answers back to whoever tagged you too.

1. How did you attend the #Edchatnz Conference? (Face 2 Face, followed online or didn't)
I was there both days & continued the conversations throughout using twitter. 

2. How many others attended from your school or organisation?
No one else attended, although a student teacher from our school came along at my suggestion, so I'm taking credit for that and will say there were 2 of us. I know @MrRuddtheTeachr followed along too. So 2 1/2 people then.

3.How many #Edchatnz challenges did you complete?
Mostly the selfies & grelfies sadly. I did help by providing a back for a very complimentary post it though - do I get any credit for this?

4. Who are 3 people that you connected with and what did you learn from them?
Georgie, your gaming & key competencies session really resonated. It wasn't that I hadn't thought about gaming in the classroom, but I hadn't connected it with the key competencies. The Why is quite obvious to me now and plan a lot more gaming.
Bridget, awesome to meet you F2F and talk books & reading. Kids & books are in good hands with people like you and you continue to inspire my reading, readers & literacy programme.

5. What session are you gutted that you missed?
Matty Nicoll & Rewind Me - a great project that I've read about on his blog.
Nanogirl - an inspiring speaker from start to finish but I had to make a choice, the HPPS kids were inspirational in their own way and I'm glad I went to their session.

6. Who is one person that you would like to have taken to Edchatnz and what key thing would they have learned? 
My DP, he has so many ideas around student voice, active/hands-on learning and isn't quite sure about my twitter community. I think he would have got a huge amount from this conference and he has good views on how to implement change.

7. Is there a person you didn't get to meet/chat with (F2F/online) that you wished you had? Why
Only figured out going back through tweets after the conference did I realise that Brie @Dancewellnz was there, even at some of the same sessions. She always has something interesting to say on twitter and I think she would like to say more. Would love to have chatted F2F.

8. What is the next book you are going to read and why? 
Difficult choice between following the @Edubookchatnz recommendations & take part or make a move into some books about gaming to help my class. I believe either path is the correct one.

9. What is one thing you plan to do to continue the Education Revolution you learnt about at #Edchatnz?
My first step is an earlier post on this blog - Education Revolution - I dare you!

10. Will you take a risk and hand your students a blank canvas?
I'm planning a session like this tomorrow, we're studying NZ geography at the moment. I think I'll find a suitable picture/location to provoke some curiosity & then see how we go. I'm game enough to take this challenge.

Who do will I tag with this meme: @Mattynicoll, @geomouldey @Mrs_hyde @chasingalyx @missdtheteacher

Education Revolution - I dare you!

The push towards a learner centred model of learning isn't new, nor is my belief that anything that helps a child learn is worthwhile. I do things a little differently in my class, its not the way you learn about at pre-service, from your mentor teacher or see when you go to MOTAT, but there is no reason why kids can't enjoy learning, be working on different subjects, planning their learning or why they can't do all their learning in an integrated fashion (forget the subject silos people). But even that is not revolutionary. People have been doing this for many years and now we say it's because of 21st Century Learners and what they require. All primary children are 21st century by birth, we're the ones who need to catch up!

Two days at the #Edchatnz conference hasn't made me think differently about this, but I am more convinced than ever and now I have more tools to help achieve it. I get that some don't want to engage in professional development like this hence it is my job to bring the PD to you. I'm glad I went because the people I talk with virtually & face to face inspire me to try harder, do more, expect more, share more. To those pre-service teachers I talked with, Janna, Helen and Alexandra, isn't this a fantastic community, I know your answers!

@Geomouldey asked his audience to complete this little task in two minutes, put something recognisable into each of the circles in 2 minutes. The problem with creativity he said is starting, I see change similarly. So here is a little challenge, download the circles & give it a go. 

Danielle (@MissDtheTeacher or conference organiser) asked us "How will you continue the education revolution?"

I hope you like my first response. To teachers everywhere, if you were brave enough to complete @geomouldey's challenge then surely you're up for this second challenge, take part in the Education Revolution by doing the following.

Here is the your real challenge:

Do something different, try something new, do something for the kids and something for you.

There are so many awesome educators in New Zealand, your own schools and elsewhere to get ideas from, share, collaborate, questions. Don't think you have all the answers, or even know the questions.

But it is not the What or even How that are important, it is the Why! Think about the Why, if you can answer the Why, you'll choose right.

Go on, I dare you!

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Edchatnz F2F with Kidsedchatnz & Passion.

I became a teacher after another life, being a teacher makes me happy, even on the worst days of being a teacher I'd still rather do this than many other things in the employment sector. Why? Because I am surrounded by the most amazing people - teachers, children, families, trainers and so many of them are leaders in their own right. Walking into the Edchatnz Conference you could feel the enthusiasm & passion!

Danielle embodies that passion and by creating #Edchatnz she planted the seed for #kidsedchatnz to grow as she got teachers involved in her NZ based twitter chat. Pascal and now our team of 7 now looks after it and it is a privilege to work with them.

Several weeks ago Danielle told me "we [Kidsedchatnz] needed to be there". We presented a workshop straight after the Keynote but here's what I got out of yesterday, from an @kidsedchatnz perspective:

  • Danielle's shoutout about Kidsedchatnz during her Keynote was a special moment for me! 
  • So many teachers, more than I realised, know about Kidsedchatnz, yesterday I got face to face with some of them during a live Kidsedchatnz chat session. To the teachers at Ngatea Primary School, awesome to meet you all and talk about why Kidsedchatnz is so amzaing.
  • Talking with a student teacher who came up "Buddy Tweeting", as a way to help more junior school children take part!
  • The Core Education team, especially Becky Hare and Catriona Pene, we need to link Kidsedchatnz up to the Connected Educator month and potentially bring the Kids Chat to uLearn! (My brain is spinning)
  • The Kidsedchatnz team is so amazing, Simone & I presented together after having never met, Stephen moderated for our kids from Palmerston North. My class took part beautifully with a reliever in the room, & even convinced him to send the odd tweet! 

Kidsedchatnz is in great hands, take a look at the topic for this week's chat and you'll see why. If you haven't already, get on the bandwagon to help you're kids to some awesome learning experiences. For those of you who are still novices with Kidsedchatnz, or wanting to learn more come and see us at the Taster Session we are hosting at ULearn14 where Juliet will be leading the way (with a supporting cast of course).

Lowlight* of the Day:
Maggie Barry, if teaching has an image problem, you chose the wrong audience to disclose that moronic statement! Maybe you're right that kids don't want to be teachers anymore partly because we're considered as low paid & undervalued by governments forever, everywhere. You're also right because some kids are subjected to silo learning, artificial & meaningless experiences. An HPPS boy summed it up when he said he wanted to go to sleep sometimes at his old school. Teachers at #Edchatnz talk & teacher 21st century learning for 21st century children. In a room full of passionate teachers who are giving up time regularly to engage in PD you picked the wrong audience. Shame on you!
Another day of #Edchatnz awaits, I wonder what I'll learn, who I'll meet, what ideas will grow and what stories I'll tell...
*This comment is in no way a disclosure of my political views, I keep them off this blog & my twitter account. 

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Connection, PD & Ako

EducampAKl was a complete revelation for me, attending for the first time I had a strong preconceived notion of what was ahead. I'd followed a couple through the twitter feed and had even contributed from afar. However, I had no clue of how much I would get from a day's free PD.

On a personal level, I got to catch up with several colleagues who I always enjoy chatting with and they always have something interesting for me to reflect on. Classroom twitter accounts was one such topic that gave me a lot to think about. PD these days is always an opportunity to get put a face to name and it was a pleasure to meet two of my fellow Kidsedchatnz coordinators. Juliet & Marnel, I look forward to the next time we can meet and hope there is a time shortly when all 7 of us coordinators can sit down to a coffee.

Watching and taking part in the Smackdown I still wasn't sure what I options I would choose to learn about. So I wandered off to the Code Club for Teachers module - fantastic choice!

An hour later, I'm part of a Google Community and have made more connections with teachers all facing the same issues and wanting the similar support. Plus we have some enthusiastic colleagues to help us with our support needs and they're setting us some deadlines for Code.Org! I made light of the fact they wanted an hour of my time over the next month (my wife argues I already spend too much time working).

A week hasn't elapsed yet and this is a summary of progress that occurred because I made a worthwhile choice:

  • I've completed 2 modules, including learning in front of my class who have all spent some time with me on Scratch earlier in 2014.
  • I've sat down with my self-assessed technology-challenged ex-Mentor Teacher and worked on creating a cool little block of code (results in the video). I love it everytime I engage him in an eLearning task but coding I never would have thought.
  • Demonstrated to my class that I can make mistakes, keep learning and fix them.
  • They're all interested in doing what I am and so as the final bell went we set up a class code so they could all join also. 
  • One of my boys is already on so I hope he's prepared to help me learn too.
Lesley, Tanya, Alyx & Sonya thank you, I was on the coding journey but now I have direction, support and best of all motivation as my kids and I will be learning together.

Monday, 21 July 2014

First Aid Training - Holiday PD

I spent my last day of the term 2 holidays doing professional development, not a problem in itself, but it does highlight some questions I have.

The PD was workplace first aid training and was organised by our health & safety guru, volunteer fireman and fellow year 5 & 6 teacher @Generalrudd. The course, run by Ambulance EMT, was the second he'd organised in my time at HNS, although the first was for the year 5/6 kids. This wasn't just teachers-only PD, it was set up as school-wide so all support staff were also required for the last day. I've ready many posts and plenty of tweets about the variety of professional development and whether school-wide is always appropriate and even this had some staff not wanting to give up the day or unwilling to participate.

Our training involved rescue breathing, CPR, defibrillator, bandaging, recovery position, epi pens and most of the basics you would expect from this type of course. As a school we're investigating purchasing a defibrillator, before I started at HNS a staff member had heart attack and it was through the knowledge and skills of staff that this person survived so one can understand the schools thinking.

My questions though are as follows:

Am I prepared skillwise to help a child with a significant injury?
Yesterday was the third time I have completed some first-aid training, not once have I ever completed a refresher or renewal course so the first two certificates lapsed well before I became a teacher. Here I am again having completed the training and in a better position to help others, especially with some of the child-focussed learning we did yesterday. I'm incredibly fortunate, @Generalrudd is far more trained and experienced in delivering first aid but this is a double-edged sword for a complete novice like myself. I would hate to panic or freeze if I ever got into a situation where these skills were needed so without testing myself I will never know.

In my time at HNS we've had a few broken bones and dislocations, none while I've been on duty so I had no involvement but last year a student did have a bad accident while my class were outside. Then, we deferred to @Generalrudd, just as I would now although I feel I'm in a better position to assist him. This has to be a good thing.

The double edge of this sword is that I know that it is unlikely that any school I move to in the future will have someone as trained (first aid / volunteer fireman) as my colleague, placing all pressure squarely back on my shoulders.

How do other schools approach first-aid and first-aid training?
The only other schools I have experience with were on my three practicums, none of these schools had first aid training while I was there. I also know that they didn't expect all staff to have first aid training. But what about other schools? I know one school that a golfing buddy is at has regular school-wide training facilitated by St. Johns.

But first aid training doesn't seem to be top of mind, I'd love to have people share with me the approach taken at their school.

Should first aid training be a basic requirement for all teachers?
We include the safety of our students as an absolute imperative in our job, we have all sorts of systems to cope with any number of interventions but how come we don't include first aid training as a basic requirement? I know the cost is significant to have all staff trained, but surely having only a few staff trained at every school is a rather haphazard approach also. Clearly, we can't be trained for every student need as this list would be quite large (without even worrying about first aid training). I'm just a little surprised that this isn't at the heart of caring for our students.

I fully appreciate that we have so many responsibilities, requirements and commitments in our ever-growing job description but having undertaken first aid training I felt the need to air my thoughts. Feel free to disagree, laugh this off as an inexperienced viewpoint or simply ignore...

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Twitter in @Rm1hns 2.0

Reading tweets the other day my interest was piqued by Craig Kemp's blog post on using Twitter in the classroom. I'm in my second year of using Twitter in class and swear by its effectiveness as an ICT tool but the scaffolding that Craig used as he introduced his class to Twitter weren't how I had attacked it's introduction. I was impressed by what Craig had done and it made me pause to consider the different introductions I'd used between the first & second years using the @rm1hns account with my year 5 & 6s. My comments here are based on what I did for my second year.

First tweet of the year:
I introduced Twitter on day 1 of the year.  Day 1 has so many requirements, I thought that giving the class a chance to "meet" their twitter account was a worthwhile interlude amongst some of the more mundane activities. The class account was put onto the bigscreen and we had a little chat about what they knew of Twitter. A handful of my class had been in @rm2hns so were well versed in Twitter but they were the minority. We talked about the Anatomy of a tweet and then I gave them a paper template to write their first tweet. The template was an excellent way to engage them in writing at the start of the year and knowing that your teacher only expects 140 characters has to be less of a shock than some first-up writing activities. After the usual writing process took place, children had included a twitter handle, experimented with hashtags and begun to grasp how much can be said in 140 characters.

I can't pretend that the first attempts were perfect tweets but some progressed to being tweeted while others remained in their paper form. All were displayed on the wall for the children to read. They needed to comprehend that once it was tweeted anyone could read it, an important digital safety lesson.

How we use Twitter:
We use Twitter regularly in the classroom. Any brainstorming or mindmapping session across a topic will often involve someone tweeting their ideas or questions. Microblogging what we're up to as a class and using twitter to share work with the teacher or others are both popular uses also. Recently, I connected with a colleague through twitter to have our students communicate around book discussions. This was massive for one of my students who is reading well above level and I need to keep engaged. But our most common use for twitter is Kidsedchatnz.

@rm1hnsis an enthusiastic member of Kidsedchatnz and I'm a coordinator of the programme but my experience with Kidsedchatnz and @rm1hns involvement was such that it could be somewhat confusing for the children due to its fast paced nature. Routinely over 500 tweets can be sent in the 45 - 50 minutes it operates. This is where Tweetdeck becomes almost a necessity to participate in a chat session.

I experimented with using Tweetdeck with my class in our first year of twitter, the kids didn't like the column look and preferred to use Twitter's own platform to follow chats. This year, chat sessions have been even more fast-paced and occassionally difficult to follow. I introduced Tweetdeck by simply having my tweetdeck up on the smartboard, by demonstrating how much easier this makes it follow a chat session many of the kids were eager to give it a go. Tweetdeck is now installed on the desktops in Room 1 and the kids use a column to follow Kidsedchatnz. Because this app is always open, the spur of the moment tweet is easily sent also.

As the students have become better at following the chats and their general ability on Twitter, we've had the odd revision session. Sitting down looking at great tweets and breaking them down has been beneficial for my little tweeps. As year 5 & 6s I don't expect perfection but I do encourage them to always be lifting their standards of communication.

@rm1hns is a BYOD classroom. Many of the BYOD kids, after proving their responsibility, have installed Twitter on their devices and therefore are able to participate in Kidsedchatnz on their own. This allows our class to have up to 10 - 12 devices engaged in Kidsedchatnz. I watched a developing writer send his first tweet independently last Thursday on his own device, he was so proud it made me feel this is the right decision. The children are all happy to act as tweeters on behalf of others or the class as needs determine and several of them prefer to share their work via Twitter rather than emailing it.

I recognise that not all teachers would be comfortable having a class account loaded onto personal devices but I have my reasons. Firstly, I know that some of my students have created their own twitter accounts and I don't want to enable the use of these for class purposes, especially that occasionally there is contact between myself and @rm1hns. Because I know some have @rm1hns loaded on their devices I will intermittently send them a tweet promoting a free app, I wouldn't do this to their personal accounts.

The @rm1hns account is loaded onto all of my devices so I can easily check the activity but to this point it has never been an issue. Come the end of the year I will need to change the password and ensure the students remove it from their devices but that is not difficult.

Where to next:
I don't claim to have my students using Twitter perfectly, but I do know that as you introduce it into your class the second time you'll definitely do things differently. Craig's post made me reflect on how I'd changed the way I went about things in my second year of Twitter in the classroom. I'll be changing things next year too no doubt. I can see an earlier introduction to Tweetdeck, more emphasis on positive responses and a session where children can just have a chat session amongst themselves would be incredibly beneficial prior to taking part in Kidsedchatnz.

I haven't made the most of tools for curating social media, a couple of my students have been introduced to Storify. I would like to make more use of it as it has lots of creative uses in the classroom especially around the structure and sequencing of writing.

The use of Twitter is constantly involving and I loved the suggestion of a colleague recently about her students creating a book club using twitter. Maybe that book club is in my students future also...