Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Digital Immersion: Field Trip to Stonefields School

Today the MDTA cohort was fortunate to attend a 'Manaiakalani principals and leaders study tour' of our neighbouring school, Stonefields School.  The purpose for our visit was to observe how Stonefields' Innovative Learning Environment's (ILE) function.  Since Robyn, Kiri and I are in our 7th week of our Innovative Learning Space journey, we were very eager to see Stonefields' take on ILE. 

A bit of background information about Stonefields School

Stonefields School is a multi-cultural Year 1-8 school  in Mt Wellington, Auckland, which firsr opened their doors in 2011.  Stonefields is a digital school and an Innovative Learning Envrionment, made up of Learning Hubs - large shared classroom spaces.  The learning hubs are hugely beneficial in a number of ways. They allow learners to work in places that best suits their needs, encourage collaboration and provide learners with access to a range of teacher strengths. In 2013 they joined the Manaiakalani cluster.

My wonderings

Going into the Manaiakalani principals and leaders study tour of Stonefields School, I was mostly interested in the logistics of how teachers and learners best utilise their ILE. How do you call your groups when they are spread out around the classroom? How do the learners know where they should be? How do you monitor your learners?   I was also interested in their 'Breakthrough' time - where they follow their own lines of interest.  How does Breakthrough work? What is the teachers role?  How do you ensure learning is occurring?

What I took from my Stonefields visit

Learning Spaces

Create learning spaces that suit specific learning activities.  

Make your own spaces - create nooks, caves, corners etc.  Cleverly use the furniture you have to transform your learning spaces.

Encourage learners to work where they learn best. 

Knowing where you are meant to be

Have a display which shows the learning spaces the teachers are at.  Move the teachers tags to where they are to avoid confusion of where learners and their teachers should be.

Shift responsibility to the learners by getting them to show where they are in the room.

Get learners to put forward a proposal for why they should move up the SOLO scale. In our classroom we use SOLO as a way of showing learners the links between their self-managing skills and their level of freedom in the classroom (there will be a blog post on this shortly).  Instead of the teachers having to decide to move learners, the learners provide 3 pieces of evidence to prove that they can move up the solo scale.

Get your groups by asking one learner to quietly get the rest of the group, or set up reminders on their Chromebooks.  For junior classes, let the learners to remain near their group so teachers can easily find groups.

Breakthrough - passion projects

Learners put forward proposals.  The proposals answer the question what learning is involved?  

Children need to outline goals they need to reach each week.  This gives learners a focus and teachers use them to ensure their learners are on task and learning.

The locus of control is on the learners.  They decide what they are doing.  They outline goals.  They take charge of their learning.  The teachers role is to guide and support them on their journey.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Digital Immersion: Create to Learn & Effective Site Layout

Create to Learn

'Create' is a vital part of Manaiakalani's learning cycle.  Creativity has a significant place in all classrooms, irrespective of the learners age and capabilities.  It allows learners to demonstrate their learning in ways that align with their strengths and interests. Gone are the days of dull, non-autonomous summative tasks!  In Manaiakalani schools, learners demonstrate and consolidate their learning by creating a Digital Learning Object (DLO). 

Learning about the importance of 'Create to Learn' got me thinking about my current teaching practice.  Am I creating to learn or learning to create? Are my 'create' tasks helping to consolidate my learners learning? Or is the focus more on the tools they are using? These are important questions to reflect on, so I can be certain that my lessons allow my learners to embrace their creativity and express their understandings in a way which best suits their needs, interests and strengths.

Effective Site Layout

After learning about 'Create to Learn' we moved examined the principles of effective site layout.  After discussing the ten principles, we examined 10 class sites from around New Zealand.  We had to think critically about whether or not the sites were effectively designed by rating them against the 10 principles and justifying our reasoning for our ratings. 

Click on this screenshot to explore Learning Space 2's site.
Critiquing the exemplar class sites got me thinking about how Learning Space 2's class site compares to the 10 principles of effective site layout.  Robyn, Kiri and I worked hard to collaboratively create a class site which meets each of the criteria for effective web design. 

Here are a few things that I believe demonstrates that LS2's site meets the principles of effective site layout:

  • Each page is uniform and simplistic, creating a sense of cohesion amongst the teachers and their groups.  At a glance, you will notice that all teacher pages look the same which is our intention.  We did this because  a. we wanted the three of us to be seen as one, and b. we didn't want our learners to feel as though one teacher was doing something that was better/easier/harder etc. 
  • Our use 'wee mee' avatars is a great visual prompt that focuses our learners attention.  Our learners know that clicking on their teachers face will take them directly to their tasks. 
  • Get to where you need to be within 3 clicks.  This has proven to be extremely effective for our learners, as they can find their work easily without getting lost or confused.  
  • Our class site is 'accessible to all'.  All our tumbles, tasks and resources need to be visible to anybody with the link.  It is beneficial for learners as it ensures their learning is 'rewindable', as they can go back to the learning at any time.  Moreover, it is beneficial for whanau as they can see what their child is learning.

In term 2 I will be in charge of creating a site for our inquiry unit.  I look forward to applying what I have learnt about effective site layout to create a site which fits the 10 principles.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Digital Immersion: Critical Thinking, Sites 101 & Multi-Modal Learning

Critical Thinking with Caleb Allison

Today during Digital Immersion we were fortunate to have a visit from MDTA Alumni and Tamaki College teacher Caleb Allison.  He spoke about building critical thinking in our learners within the context of Current Events.  It has been noted that teachers are not making the most of their teaching time to challenge students to think more critically.  Critical thinking involves challenging students to think beyond themselves.  Caleb uses SOLO Taxonomy in his Current Events lessons to encourage critical thinking.  Caleb's Current Events programme got me thinking about how I could implement something similar into my reading programme.  I am looking forward to giving it a go.

Here is an infographic I created which shows the progression from surface to critical thinking about Current Events, using SOLO Taxonomy.

Sites 101

The digital component of the day was about learning the basics of creating and designing a Google Site.  We each created a 'sandpit' site, where we created different pages, played with the layout and adjusted the settings for our site.  It was a great opportunity to develop our understandings of Google Sites.

Multi-Modal Learning

In the afternoon we had to create a multi-modal learning site, which would help learners to explore and develop their understandings of a fairy-tale. Multi-modal learning is related to Gardener's theory of 'Multiple Intelligences'.  I chose Three Little Pigs and set out to find resources which would cater to all student's needs and learning preferences. I found a YouTube clip, a story that had a 'read aloud' function, a YouTube clip featuring a student's summary, a text version and a short summary of Three Little Pigs.  Here is a screenshot of my site:

Here is a screenshot of my multi-modal site for the fairytale Three Little Pigs.
 I am looking forward to implementing what I have learnt today into my classroom.