Saturday, 18 July 2015

It's all about the Student Engagement!

It is all about the student engagement! This is what my week has been about. As we all know there are so many things that happen in the week of the educator, but this week was like I entered into a theme park on Monday and left on Friday.

This theme park had so many attractions that could be focused on but I am keen to share about the killer roller coaster of student engagement.

I was prepared and excited to be coming back from mid-year break. I was ready to introduce the new topics for the term, however, I was most excited about introducing Genius Hour to my Year 4 class.
My stage also had planned an immersion activity for our PBL unit: Was life the same for everyone? (colonisation). My stage then had an innovation planning day on the Friday with a science focus to allow us, as Jr School teachers, spend time with our HS head of science, promoting investigations from a true scientific direction.

I felt that my week was going to be excellent. I could not have been more correct.

Student rapport and engagement have always been central to my teaching. Always on the look out, as many of you are, for something to grab the students and make them see themselves as you see them. Genius Hour has grabbed me this year. While this concept, from research appears to be gaining legs in the US, here in Australia there are only some small pockets of educators talking about it.

When I introduced GH to the class this week I was blown away by their excitement and enthusiasm. Feel free to track how GH is going in my class through the "Idea Share" section on my blog. I am going to post there about all the trials and tribulations that occur along the way. There was one reaction that literally made me leap in the classroom as I heard it.

Framing the moment - I have finally explained to my class what GH is. There had been one small poster on our board and the students had been asking for two days what it was about. I followed the lead of those before me (Chris Kesler) and prepared as suggested with multimedia presentations, I even used the 'Kid President" video, which was a hit. The students have learned the 3 Rules that GH will run with and they are going somewhere in the classroom to brainstorm ideas. One student (JW) jumps up, a few moments later than everyone else, who have run off to get their ideas down before they fall out of their heads. JW runs to me and says excitedly, in a strong and proud voice:

"Mr Hosking, I am going to tell the world about dyslexia from a kids perspective!"

If that is not engagement, I don't know what is. I cannot wait to see what comes from that first thought, but JW has the Genius Hour bug as the next day his mum came up and said that he was "bouncing off the walls excited to learn" when he got home.

As I said, student engagement was a roller coaster this week.

The whole of Stage 2 were buzzing, it was sport day but their teachers were dressed up in 'weird' clothing from the start of the day. We were in character, the everyday British people of the 1770s. What the students learnt was that we were actually people from the first fleet to Australia. Today was our trial and the four classes were directed by guards, also dressed up, into the 'courtroom' ready for the judgement. The trial started and we were sentenced.

Student engagement was high. So high, that it all felt too real for some of the students. After some debriefing all was fine. However, while it was fun and I would do it again in a heart beat, the spotlight was thrown onto the idea of failure. I could see this as a failure, or as a set back to what was trying to be achieved. I choose not to. I see this as win! Next time I will take into account and be better prepared for this as a possibility in student reaction. However, it was great and the students are asking questions and looking for answers as to why people were treated this way and why the need for transportation.

Image from @HostBrian
A good roller coaster ends with you wanting to have that thrill back. Teach Like a Pirate was that end. Thanks to the enthusiasm, and experience of Dave Burgess, I am highly motivated to keep the thrill of this week a reality in my classes permanently. At the beginning of the week I had only heard of the book Teach Like a Pirate but had not read it and not really looked into the idea. I was invited to tag along with a colleague to a PD evening with the Pirate himself, Dave Burgess.

I have to say that I am 'hooked'. Dave Burgess was motivating and entertaining. His enthusiasm for the students in his class is unmatched. Working with some of the hardest students in his district he has planted the love of learning in their lives.

Some of the key take homes for me include:

  • Teaching is not supposed to be easy. It is supposed to be WORTH it!
  • It is not enough to be good, you have to inspiring.
  • If you had to sell tickets to your classes, would anyone be there?
  • Use hooks to engage the students and then deliver content at their peak engagement.
These are questions that I look forward to asking myself more regularly. What are some of the questions that you ask yourself to gauge if you are on the right track? 

Walking away from the most entertaining and motivating PD sessions for some time, with a new book to read and a head full of possibilities, I could not help but smile. I am looking forward to the next ride on this roller coaster.

 These images are available on Dave Burgess's site.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Learning Design Professional Development

Over the past week I have had the opportunity to participate in professional development (PD) using the Backward Design model, suggested by Wiggins and McTighe, focusing on our Learner Profile. It was a great privilege to have Simon Breakspear lead the staff through this process. His expertise in considering educational reform and learning innovation was refreshing.

Simon made it clear that as educators we are; constantly working towards specific learning goals, considering all aspects of learning, planning exciting and engaging learning experiences. He reinforced the concept that innovation comes as true shifts in ideas change. We were encouraged to make small changes, but big leaps in thinking. Simon also made it clear that when we want to innovate we must make it about the quality of learning and not about the new technology.

The shifts made this year in my thinking; about education and where I, or the ‘teacher’, fits into the educational landscape was again brought to the floor as Simon set the task for the following sessions, stating that educators should consider themselves as ‘learning designers’.

So as ‘Learning Designers’ we set to work on our driving question; How do we design, implement and evaluate an educational experience that shapes the school’s Learner Profile (LP) in our students?” using the Wiggins and McTighe three stage model:

It was amazing to have time carved out of our busy schedules to sit and consider key outcomes the staff have identified for our students to have when they leave school.

In mixed discipline groups, primary and high school, we came up with ‘non-jargon’ definitions of the two outcomes we were focusing on this year. From here we decided what was acceptable evidence to prove that these outcomes were being achieved. This allowed us to created a rubric that showed a clear continuum of learning.

Seeing the definitions, reasons for their importance and the rubrics created by each of the 19 groups, through a shared Google Doc in real time, was exciting. This created a crowd sourced resource, spanning Kindergarten to Year 12, that can begin to allow us to track the progress of a student over time. It allows for authentic and purposeful assessment, providing a basis for growth, as the student can see what they are achieving and the next step to take in order to improve.

Most importantly, doing this allowed the staff, as a whole, to reflect on what the LP means and how it relates to their field of expertise.

At this point we began to apply the process in our own teams with a learning experience that we could teach this coming term. Being given the green light to go and trial our PD learning was great but challenging.

I would encourage other educators to give yourself or your team to go into the “Pit of Learning”. It will be hard, there will be debates and challenges to face but that is because you are passionate.

As we all look forward to a new term of learning, I also encourage you to consider one area that you can have a go of applying or reapplying the ‘Backwards by Design’ concept.

Have fun!

My key take away - when we want to innovate we must make it about the quality of learning and not about the new technology.

Follow Simon Breakspear - @SimonBreakspear

Monday, 6 July 2015

Real World 21st Century Job - Current Students Must be Prepared

The opportunity to see inside Linkedin, one of the most innovative and global aware companies, doesn’t come around every day. There is so much that sets this company apart from the traditional, it is hard to know where to begin. Let me start with the offices.

Linkedin has just opened their new Sydney office. It is located in Martin Place with the War Memorial just out the front and the entrance is surround with beautiful sandstone architecture; very traditional. However, traditional stops at this architecture and the amazing work ethic of those who work under the banner of the company. To find Linkedin you follow one of the trendy or eclectically dressed, early 30’s individuals to the lift, get out of the lift to see the 6ft logo made of the ever popular Havaiana thongs and walk past that into the open planned, warehouse style office space. Here you are transported to the hub that has made this company globally recognised for connecting like minded people in business of the 21st Century.

There are collaborative teams at personalised but communal work spaces. You could easily miss the ‘quiet’ spaces, which have doors and all the modern communication technology for when you have conference call or a meeting with a client. Each of these rooms is named after typically Australian iconic symbols such as ‘boardies or shark biscuit’.

As I walked in I felt like I was intruding as over to one side was a team having a collaborative discussion, at one of the many breakout or open spaces, talking strategy about the current problem or event. I leant down to my 5 year old son and asked him to make sure he was not too loud to interrupt the meeting. I am met with a smile from him and told ‘Dad, they are just talking.’
‘Yes, they are working.’ I replied.
He looks again and then smiles ‘Cool’.

I cannot help but think that this is what my son is growing up to understand work to be. The collaborative 21st Century Educational values are real here. This is really exciting.

The shift from tradition continued as there leaning against one of the columns that frame the picturesque views of Sydney, are some scooters and laying around on many desks are Nerf guns, prepped and ready for whenever they may be required.

Looking around some more you find the company-supplied and maintained kitchen, complete with an ever Aussie industrial sized and fitted BBQ and bar. There is a smaller kitchen up on the second floor. On the lower level you cannot miss the video games on two wall mounted monsters of a TV or the table tennis tables or the Daytona Racing arcade games that are off from the dining area. There is also a gym that runs classes at specific times throughout the day and then there are all the required facilities for showering as well as dedicated rooms for new mothers. It was mind blowing.

The second floor continues the idea of industrial with a loft feel. It is a mezzanine floor with many spaces that can allow for the two-story loft idea. Here there are the learning spaces, the big meeting spaces as well as informal meeting areas indicated by the sunken floor or the waist height table with a coffee machine on it.

Each of the learning hubs is a flexible space and has movable desks and chairs. The rooms are set up with cameras and highly sensitive microphones that connect the rest of the world to the room. This layout, technology and the globally conscious attitude of the company is exciting.

There is a sign post that has the cities where other Linkedin offices are located. Each city has the distances to them from this point which was also a nice touch to remind the Sydney team that they must think globally to compete locally.

Everyone clearly has their own set tasks but the freedom to complete these tasks appears limitless. This workplace feels like a home office. Close to all the comforts but adaptable and productive for work. People appeared focused but relaxed.

A job here is highly sought after and rightfully so even just for the amazing work environment. However, my interest was in the shift in understanding, on the companies part, to initiate this type of environment and culture within their work place.  Freedom to work how you see fit, places to relax, areas to focus, time to exercise and seemingly endless opportunity in this case equals productivity and creativity.

This is what I am preparing my current students for. I love my job!