Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Day 24 #28Daysofwriting - Choice or Voice?

"What is the difference between student choice and student voice?
How you using student voice to inform learning in your learning common?
How are the activities you have in your learning common responding to the needs of your students? Or do they just keep them busy?"

These 4 questions were posed in our staff meeting this afternoon, the example being whether I had considered these in my enthusiasm to bring Kidsedchatnz to HPPS. I know that the example wasn't a personal attack, more an extension of the "Warm and Demanding" culture at the Hobsonville Point Schools. But as I quickly pondered these questions I decided that Kidsedchatnz does deserve this lens being put to it. Not just for its use at HPPS but for its role in schools as we seek to grow it. 

Some readers will know that I am one of the coordinators at Kidsedchatnz and love what we have done with participation increasing significantly since it began. I've posted about it frequently (e.g., here and here) and it has been integral in my own PD as my role and enthusiasm has grown.

I sat in the last block this afternoon running a workshop to introduce a variety of Yr 4-6 students to twitter this afternoon, in preparation for the first chat this afternoon. All of them would have a range of learning and dispositional needs. Without rambling through how each child's needs are met, I think there are still valuable questions and answers contained within a focussed reflection.

Core Education outline successful student voice (in relation to MLE's) as being:
  • do students have ‘the power to act’ in the MLE?
  • are all learners empowered to make choices and decisions about how, where, what and when they learn?
  • are learners a part of their own learning support network within the MLE?
  • Is the design of the MLE adaptive to learner needs and ambitions? (http://www.core-ed.org/professional-learning/mle-matrix)
Where does Kidsedchatnz fit within the lens of choice versus voice? Kidsedchatnz and the topics that have been used have always relied to a large extent on student voice, over time our team of coordinators have accessed our participants to establish topics, questions and activities. But is this the voice that is required? If I am the moderator for the week, I've always posted a topic using my class to generate the questions, but the weeks that I'm not the moderator I can't say that it is my student's voice, but this is where choice comes in I would argue. I've always given my learners the option to take part in a chat session, if you're not interested in talking about EOTC or Science you don't have to participate. 

Once in a session then student voice is obvious, the children have agency to express themselves within the topic, and can support, question and discuss the topic with other students. In the past, I have watched as different students engaged in quite different learning conversations based on their own interests.

How you using student voice to inform learning in your learning common?
I have to confess that Kidsedchatnz is a 'programme' I have experienced success with and is easy for me to fall back to/rely on. This is the worst form of teaching we've discussed with Daniel, when things are tough or we're in the Learning Pit, we can revert to what we know. However, while Amy will be confirm that I've been proactive in pursuing Kidsedchatnz being used at HPPS, I've been very pragmatic. I know that should demand (aka student voice) not be there, then I can not reasonably continue to dedicate time to Kidsedchatnz. 

If I am sensible about HPPS involvement in Kidsedchatnz and use student voice then I will be looking at student interests and where possible looking to create an opportunity for my students to really express their voice. 

We have also used flipped lessons and activities as a precursor to the chat sessions. Student voice could be used here, creating an activity that students want to do with the follow up being the discussion questions formed by the learner.

How are the activities you have in your learning common responding to the needs of your students? Or do they just keep them busy?
I once ran into a topic that my students at HNS just weren't interested in, but I also use to have 1-2 other activities on offer. At the time I would argue that these additional activities were responding to student voice and worked against Kidsedchatnz participation, a student even told me that I should make the options less exciting. Using the warm & demanding lens, I'm not sure I would now judge them as being responsive but hindsight is 20/20. At the time I'd blindly ploughed on and believed that the options needed to be less exciting, but if they were truly responsive then Kidsedchatnz should have been the option to remove.

I am confident that using voice & observation my learners will be able to meet many learning and dispositional needs though Kidsedchatnz. For some learners, participation in any given week may lean towards being stuff they do rather than a great learning experience. But if they were to exercise discretion around the topics they engage with, and fully extend themselves in those chat sessions then it ceases to be stuff and becomes the awesome collaborative and connected communication experience it can be.

Kidsedchatnz will be under intense scrutiny at HPPS, I think this is positive and if the scrutiny is warm and demanding then it may signal an awesome growth period for my beloved Twitter-based chat. In the afternoon, Amy and I run responsive workshops (e.g., Movie making or Garageband). The workshops are set up to help with a need that we have observed, students can lead them and they generally need to opt-in for these workshops. We will easily be able to identify if students are not opting in, each days planning is there for both Amy and I to see and it will quickly become obvious if my time could be better spent elsewhere. Although, if Kidsedchatnz was to truly become responsive then maybe there are some amazing opportunities that could be pursued.

Student voice or choice? Or just stuff?

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