Thursday, May 24, 2012

Classroom Walkthrough 2012

On Saturday 19th of May several teachers met at Waiuku Primary School to listen and share with other teachers what their classrooms look like and how they have changed their teaching practice. Rachel Boyd (@rachelboyd) was our host at Waiuku. They have made the decision in their junior school to use 32" TV screens as their computer screens for the students.

They have bright coloured tables of different shapes spread around the room.

Rachel has made particular good use of an old TV/DVD set where she has made a watching space for her students. They can watch educational videos on phonics and stories.

The next school to visit was Hingaia Peninsula School, a newly built school that has just opened this year. The principal Jane Danielson (@janedanielson) talked about how their rooms are called studios with multi-functional nooks (the watering hole, the camp fire, the cave). There is an interesting mixture of furniture with tables of all heights and sizes and chairs to match. Three teachers work together in this space sharing the teaching of all of the children in the studio.

Then we visited The Gardens in Manurewa. There are 3 e-Learning classrooms. Christine Hansen showed us the three rooms ranging from Year 5 to Yr 8. They have replaced all of their desks with different shaped tables and chairs. They have incorporated spaces into their classroom layout. All children have an iPad and there are 10-15 laptops in each classroom. Google Docs are used extensively by teachers and students.
This photo was taken a few weeks ago.

We then went to Point View, where Lynne Laburn (@llaburn) showed us around 2 junior classes and one senior.
Lynne has her children for the second year in a row and likes to have a themed classroom. Last year it was the Secret Garden and this Year it is Pirates.
Her year 2 students blog regularly and are also part of Quad blogging.
She has lots of spaces and students are allowed to work wherever they like. They are very independent and self managing.

Ksensia skyped in and as we viewed her class she pointed out all of the features. She has several spaces where students can go to be by themselves or with a partner.
Recently she turned her classroom into the trenches of WW1 for a week!

Finally we ended up at Dave Beehre's Year 8 class. He is famous for his 'Class without Walls' approach to teaching.
Even though he has more desks in his class this year (student choice) his room is not like a traditional style Intermediate class. He has several comfy couches and beanbags scattered around the classroom. The students are not expected to sit in one place, they can sit anywhere in the classroom. Dave is well known for his wikis and he talked about how well Hapara (Teacher dashboard for Google) was working in his classrom.

This was a great opportunity for teachers to talk about what they are doing in the classroom and for other teachers to listen and see what it looks like.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The use of ICT across schools in New Zealand

I was sent this infographic by Paul on behalf of Adobe who together with Interface Magazine conducted a survey of 280 educators across New Zealand.
Further findings can be found on this Interface page.

Interface Adobe ICT in Schools What are the implications of this for schools?

In a year just over half of the schools in NZ will have Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) giving 60% of students and teachers fast access to internet. So then the following questions need to be asked...
Do schools have the necessary equipment and infrastructure to access it?
Will all teachers make good use of it? 
Does the rest of the community have the same access?
In one small country town I know, they already have UFB in the school, but the houses down the same road cannot get internet at all. Those teachers want to use online applications like Google Docs with their students and colleagues but they all have no access to it in their own homes.

Educators are saying that students will be able to be more self directed, they can create multimedia projects, online resources will be more available, and wider collaboration opportunities can be used. For the teachers who can manage this learning it will be a godsend, for the majority who can't it won't make any difference.  As with all of the other barriers listed the same problems exist with the addition of Bring your own Device (BYOD), a great idea in theory... if your network can support the influx of devices and if the teachers are confident and knowledgeable enough to allow the students to use the devices in the classrooms. I am regularly seeing school networks struggling with the flood of extra devices whether it is through BYOD or the mass purchase of iPads.

I would contest the last finding of only 25% of teachers saying there is a digital divide between them and students. I would argue that the percentage is much higher than that and would like to see a survey result using a larger sampling. I still regularly have those discussions with some teachers, most who are excellent practitioners, who tell me that they don't need this equipment forced upon them, they didn't ask for it and they can't see how it is going to make any difference.

These teachers are scared of the technology, they are nervous when children are using devices, they don't understand how they are using them and feel they have lost control of their students to the internet.
As with all advents with technologies making their way into school, what often is the case is that there is not enough Professional Development (PD) with teachers to show how these tools can be used. It is not just the internet anymore, it is Digital Citizenship, Cyber Safety, social networking, cloud computing...all words and phrases that are terrifying to a lot of teachers.

So let's do it right this time, provide PD to teachers that will give them the knowledge, understandings and tools to be confident social networkers, who know how to be safe online, can use online resources and can positively include these tools in their teaching and learning practice.