Sunday, May 26, 2019

Palo Alto and Esther Wojcicki post 3

The last school we visited on our Boma Ed Fellowship to California was Palo Alto High School to see their Media Studies department and meet with Esther Wojcicki (It was a highlight for me, to meet Esther). 

I had watched a few of Esther Wojcicki online talks through Singularity U and have the 'TRICK' acronym up on my whiteboard. The word I really love is the acronym   'Kindness' and is something I am wanting to focus on with the students.

I think what struck me the most about visiting this school was here was a teacher who had believed in her students and program. She made it work inside prefab buildings until the number of students overwhelmed the space, and a purpose built building was built. That Esther had the drive and passion to deliver a curriculum that was truly engaging and authentic.

We walked into a classroom where students were just announcing who the new editors were.
Students where running this learning with teacher off to side observing. Students clapped and cheered as the new editors went up. The chatter among the students was positive. The air was filled with anticipation and celebration. It really was exciting to watch. From here they split into their own groups and down to the business of putting together a publication. 
There are a number of publications students put out and each one is responsible for gathering the advertisements to fund the print run. Each publication is of an exceptional high standard whether it be a newspaper such as The Campanile or a magazine like Agora:
Besides the print publications there are also involved with visual media such as tv where student produce a variety of tv shows.

Infocus is a daily tv show where students share announcements and information for the school community - it is the schools daily update system. 
There is is so much to this Media department (including radio) and students have the responsibility of not only producing articles of an exceptional high standard but for distribution.
Esther is an inspiring educator and woman who not only has seen this vision realized at Palo Alto but also has raised two incredible daughters. One is a co-founder  of 23andMe and the other the CEO of Youtube.
I recommend watching Esther Wojcicki presentations there are a number of videos and she has also released a new book 'How to raise successful people'. You can follow her on Twitter @EstherWojcicki

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

June Jordan School of Equity - Boma Ed Fellowship post 2

 The June Jordan School of Equity, San Francisco was the second school we visited as part of the Boma Ed Fellowship program. I have never been to a school like this and found it absolutely amazing.

This is a school that was was created when the community demanded a new school and was named by the students after it was established. June Jordan was a West Indian-American poet, teacher and activist who discussed issues of race, gender, immigration and representation. It is fitting that students chose this name -especially when you read about their 'pedagogy project' (end of this post)

The focus of the school is youth participatory action research - fighting against institutional repression. Their mission not only prepare students for college but to be agents of change.

The June Jordan School for Equity describe themselves as:

  • We are a college prep school, but we believe what kind of person you are comes before academics.
  • We are an innovative public school, but not a charter school.
  • 100% of our graduates have a strong post-secondary plan.
  • We believe working-class families and students of color deserve a private-school-quality education, in a free public school.
  • We believe that true excellence cannot be achieved without equity, or fairness to all.
It was interesting talking with students about their senior projects. Students had chosen project that were important issues to them. One student spoke about gentrification and the impact of this on his community. Another student was looking at immigration. Click here to read about the interesting students at the school, their experiences and how they are trying to make change.

The school has a beautiful community garden with kitchen on site. There was a community group working in it when we were touring the school. The aim is to provide programs on nutrition and farm to table food. They also have chickens and fruit trees.

Walking around the school the walls are covered in quotes and images that affirm their goal of social justice

This is an incredibly school that works at empowering the students to not only believe in themselves but to be the change they want to see.  They have a pedagogy project which they explain as:  "pedagogy (a fancy way of saying “the way we teach”) is expressly designed to help our students understand the forces of marginalization they have experienced growing up, and thus to begin the process of freeing themselves from oppression, including especially the internalized oppression (or self-imposed limits) which we see preventing so many students from meeting their potential."

It was an inspiring visit.

Further Information:
Student Life Video:
Youth Summit Video:

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Boma Education Fellowship: High Tech High, San Diego

This is the first blog post from the Boma Education Fellowship to California, USA.  It is hard to put into words the learning experience. I have decided to write a series of posts on the different places we visited with a culminating blog post on my design for a school if anything is possible.

High Tech High, San Diego

4 Guided Principles of High Tech High

High Tech High is a school which delivers a project based curriculum with a pathway focused on tertiary study.  Teachers are on a year contract with the assumption of contract renewal. The year levels are organised into teams with approx 56 students per Team. Learning Advisory (tutor/form time) groups had approx. 14 students. Teachers are qualified in two subject areas, for example, Humanities and English or Science and Math. Each Team is responsible for designing their own timetable for the year. The 56 students are broken into two classes of 28 students. Teacher collaborate on projects to varying degrees. We spoke with a Science teacher who was team teaching with the Humanities teacher on building rockets. Students who had finished could move into a group that was filming the learning taking place.
The two classrooms had been opened up and in the centre was task:

We had been encourage to talk to students and staff. We could enter any classroom and we could approach any student/staff member. I was incredibly impressed with how articulate students were in regards to their learning. Every student I spoke to could clearly identify what they were learning, why and if they had attended a different school prior to HTH the differences. Teachers regarded themselves as the 'adult learner' in the classroom and modeled this.
Part of the HTH program are exhibitions of learning which could take place at school, in the community or within classes. For example, a group of students had the goal of raising participation during local elections. The student did a lot of learning around elections and then their 'exhibition' was being out in the community the day before the voting and sharing their knowledge to encourage people to vote. Students could also present their learning to parents, to classmates or in a forum that best suited the learning project.
Internships is part of the senior curriculum with students needing to complete approx 5 weeks of 30-40 hrs a week. Teacher are actively involved with students prior to and during the internships. 

Some images from HTH

Student work is displayed everywhere and often with QR codes to get further information or more student work. 

A summary:

  • All teachers and students are on the same page. PBL with a tertiary pathway.
  • Students are involved in the employment of teachers
  • Teachers are on 1 year contracts 
  • Students enrollment is based on application through a lottery system. Depending on the postal code/zip code depended on how many student from that area could attend. They have a system to ensure equity during the enrollment process.
  • Teachers create the timetable based on the Team they are in
  • The level of collaboration is organised between the teachers within the Team
  • Link to projects 
I was very excited to visit High Tech High and the opportunity to meet with Larry Rosenstock was amazing. Talking with staff and students it was clear to see the the school principles in play. 
It has been difficult to include everything in one post and I am sure I will write another at some point.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A glimpse inside a BYOD integrated curriculum class

I was asked recently what a BYOD class looks like - how do students use the devices? I was also asked what the integrated curriculum class at Year 9 looks like.

Here is a photo I took last week that captures the students in the process of learning.

An explanation of what is happening:
Our context for learning are the United Nations Sustainability Goals (SDGs)
Students are working on an inquiry around Goal 13 - Climate Action. 

  • On the TV in the background is an interactive map from Before the Flood, 
  • The whiteboard has some instructions. 
  • Each student has a specific role within the group
  • This table has 1 device, they are tasked with trying to come up with 'potential problems in Christchurch if our sea level rises due to an increase of 2.5 degrees global average temperature. They are thinking and working together on the cultural, environmental, and economic impacts.
  • The computer has a template to assist the students which has been distributed through Microsoft Teams/Assignments to only one student in the group - you can see this open and it is this students responsibility to fill it in and submit it later in the week.
  •  Another student is the scribe for the group and you can see her writing down the ideas shared by the other members. These are going A3 sheets of paper to be used at a later lesson in another activity. 
  • You can see another student is explaining her thoughts to the other students in the group.
Our curriculum with this class is integrating at Year 9 (age 13): Science, Social Studies and English. Students work on student led inquiry. Currently, they see each teacher in a different timetabled slot rather than teachers teaching at the same time. The curriculum specialist works with students on their inquiry however, sharing and teaching to their specialist subject. For example, I had students ask about the release of gasses back into the atmosphere when trees die. This is not something as a Social Science teacher that I am particular knowledgeable about. This was passed on to the Science teacher to explain in more detail. 

This picture to me, shows students: communicating, collaborating, managing their learning,and working with appropriate tools to deepen their understanding.

Friday, March 8, 2019

My first step in including coding in Social Studies

 I am trying to integrate technology into my teaching and learning programs that: engage, are relevant and build skills. I am also aware of the digital curriculum that comes into NZ schools next year. So, I find myself playing with games and codes in order to learn how to integrate this all into the learning programs for students. With the purpose that students can learn  within a relevant context that provide them with skills for the future. I have not played with code since the mid 1980's as a kid, and I really havent played computer games since the early 90's  - are they still called computer games?! Coding and gaming is not something that comes easy to me and I feel outside my comfort zone with even the idea of coding!

Last year at the MIE f2f workshop in Auckland I was given a Micro-bit. When I got home I had a play. I then gave it to my 9 year old to play with and teach me.  The coding is quite simple. It is all colour coded and step by step. This little Microbit was a way to introduce coding to the class at an ability level I could cope with. We are framing our learning around the UN Sustainability Goals. I found a board game that students could play and instead of just giving them the dice I realised I could have them create the device through coding the Micro-bit.

It has been interesting talking to teachers and one question that popped up, 'why not just give them a real dice?" I could have given the students a 'real' dice but this was the perfect place to create an opportunity for learning code. The start of integrating some computational thinking and the digital curriculum. It involved students problem solving such as when the dice stopped changing numbers when shaken. 

Another question was around the 'sustainability' of using a microbit over a 'real' dice. This is a little tricker due to batteries, plastic etc. I think here it is about providing the students with skills and in the future they can apply this skills to solve some of these issues created by a lack of sustainability. The Microbit is a tool that can be used over and over in a variety of ways- giving it a long life, longer than other materials used in teaching.

A light bulb moment: I had one student who said he couldn't code and I should get someone else - his opinion was transformed and his confidence in coding dramatically improved in 6 minutes. 6 minutes was all it took to download the app, follow the tutorial, code the microbit and download and change a students approach to their own learning.

Overall, it was a brilliant learning for the students and myself.

Additional Links

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Minecraft Edu

I have heard about Minecraft Edu, followed the tweets, blogs and general buzz around the use of Minecraft Edu in the classroom. But, I am not much of a gamer and whilst I'd seen my 10 year old play Minecraft wasn't really sure what it was all about. At the recent MIE Expert Hui in Auckland, NZ - Minecraft Edu was again raved about. After avoiding it due to to a lack of understanding and confidence, I thought, 'lets give it a go!'.

Well,  I was blown away with the students and Minecraft Edu.

First up, I spoke to some MIE's last term about using Minecraft. I asked my Year 10 Social Studies class if they would like to use Minecraft Edu, "Yes" was the general consensus. Right, next step, off to IT - how do I do this? They made it super easy, loaded it onto our class devices and stayed with me for the entire period! Did I mention I know nothing about Minecraft or Minecraft Edu!  But it reinforced for me the idea that if we as teachers stay away from what we don't know, we could deprive the students of some cool learning experiences. 

I gave the students a lesson to play - just play. This was so that I could see the level of expertise in the class, and M from IT and I could see how it worked.
Students were all engaged and talking about what they were doing. They were soon creating and several were exploring the Science elements. I was asked if they could work on it at home, or stay in at lunch. Students that preferred to work on their own were now collaborating. 
They are using Minecraft Edu to share their understanding of Sustainability. I will share how we go in a couple of weeks time in another blog post.
The Minecraft Edu resources are great and I really appreciate the lessons others have uploaded for a place to start. There is a course in the  Microsoft Educators Community

Whilst I don't yet fully understand how to use Minecraft Edu the students are great teachers! and our IT department are brilliant with their support.

p.s the 'Pause' function is brilliant - the most effective way ever to get everyone's attention!!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sustainable Development Goals

It is great to attend a conference, workshop or hui and be able to implement what you learn straight away and that was the case with both events that I attended in the recent school holidays.

I was very lucky to attend the face to face MIE Hui weekend in Auckland (two blog post worth a read by Microsoft Education NZ and Sam McNeill). This was an amazing weekend of learning and reconnecting.  I came away with a number of great ideas that I could put into practice on day 1 of term 3.
Prior to the hui  I had come across and completed the  Sustainable Development Goals in the Microsoft Educator Community. At the hui these goals were again mentioned in a skype call with Koen Timmers (Global Teacher prize finalist 2017 & 18) who is an ambassador for the SDGs. He spoke about the SDGs and the work he has been involved in. I was also found very interesting the program he has set up where teachers around the world are teaching refugees in Africa. Project Kakuma is where  over 175+ educators around the world teach Kakuma refugees via Skype.

Back to what is happening in my Year 10 class this term week 1:
This term with my Year 10 Social Studies class we are looking at the Level 5 Achievement Objective: Understand how people’s management of resources impacts on environmental and social sustainability. We are linking this AO to the SDG 13 Climate Action. Students are also working on the skills of maker mindset and thinking. Social Science is connecting with Science for this unit of work.
I developed this Sway using resources from the Microsoft Educator Community. This was to give a context and understanding of what the SDGs are,  where they have come from, as well as what sustability is:

This generated a lot of class discussion around the role of the United Nations and those involved. Questions on what needs to be done to make the world a better place was particularly interesting. Students then created a visual poster or diagram in their books on what they understood sustainability to be eg.

This student was looking at the before and after e.g poverty v wealth
This next student created a diagram to illustrate their understanding:

From here we looked at another Sway about Climate Change:

We spent a lot of time discussing the Greenhouse Effect. Students drew a geographic diagram of the Greenhouse Effect. 

Our next step is look at fossil fuels and renewable resources. Ultimately the students are going to work in Minecraft Edu and combine their knowledge gained in Science (e.g.wind turbines) and Social Studies. I will blog about this in a couple of weeks. The students are very excited about using Minecraft - I've never played in Minecraft. However, there is a good course in the Microsoft Educator Community to get me started. I will definitely be the teina (learner) with Minecraft and the  students will be the tuakana (teacher) (tuakana/teina relationship).

NB: The Sways contain minimal student activities this is because there is a quite a lot  of student choice/input into how we show their understanding based on the discussion and direction the learning takes.