Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Talking Really DOES Matter

...especially in the first three years of life.

The NEXT Foundation have made a generous gift to New Zealand funding an initiative called Talking Matters - a campaign to promote the importance of communicating with babies in their first 1,000 days.

For years our teachers have been aware of the significant negative impact on children who arrive at our Decile 1 schools having heard 30 million less spoken words than their fortunate peers in suburbs not too far down the road. They spend their life playing catch-up. We work hard to accelerate learning with highly effective teaching strategies and try not to focus on the wistful thought that we are starting 5 years too late!

We are delighted to hear that a group are taking action. Watch Talking Matters Director Alison Sutton talk about this exciting initiative to educate parents about the importance of talking to babies and immersing them in conversation, songs and rhymes - as well as reading to them.

You can watch a further video where Prof Stuart McNaughton comments on the significance of this initiative.

Alison Sutton on Talking Matters for NEXT Foundation from Nicola Smith on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Digital Pedagogy

The search for digital pedagogy that raises achievement
Graphic created by Russell Burt
Dr Rebecca Jesson from the Woolf Fisher Research Centre attended our recent Manaiakalani combined Boards of Trustees forum and presented current findings and recommendations resulting from the research carried out in our schools.

Her half hour presentation was informative, to the point and made very accessible for the audience - most of whom were not educators.

The graphic on the left illustrates one of the outstanding findings shared by the researchers - that learners who spend three consecutive years in the Manaiakalani programme make more progress than the average kiwi kid.

The video below is a highly recommended watch for people wanting a progress update on the 12 Manaiakalani Schools in 2016.  

Another standout quote from the night for this group of parents who may have had questions about their children being in digital learning environments assured them that the face to face conversations teachers have with the young people can be more powerful because of the digital.

"Manaiakalani is one of the most effective interventions across the world for improving face to face conversation". 
Dr Rebecca Jesson, Nov 2016

Manaiakalani: The Hook from Heaven

We are delighted to see the story of Manaiakalani shared by Oiwi TV and the amazing team from Hōkūleʻaʻs Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage.
Manaiakalani: The Hook from Heaven from Oiwi TV on Vimeo.

 Thank you for including us in your journey and telling our story through your eyes.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Connected Learners Share

The Manaiakalani Digital Immersion programme is designed to support teachers in their first year of teaching in a 1:1 digital learning environment. This eclectic group of teachers includes beginning teachers and teachers who have been decade(s) in the profession; teachers who are in their first year in a Manaiakalani school and teachers who have been in one of our schools for years but have never had the opportunity to teach in a digital learning environment until now.

One of the professional learning opportunities designed for this group is a whole day professional learning group once a term. This provides a chance for teachers to come together and explore their own teaching inquiry, to network and share, to learn more about Manaiakalani pedagogy and valued outcomes, and to develop some new digital skills.

Click to open presentation
Today we had 35 teachers attend our plg exploring the Manaiakalani focus for Term 3: “Connected Learners (young and older) Share”.

We began the day with an overview of the goals, valued outcomes and pedagogy of the Manaiakalani Programme, and teachers formed groups of three to share how they were outworking these in their practice after two terms (six months) in our schools.

The focus then shifted to how we as adults share. This initial conversation separated out personal, social and professional sharing. There were predictable differences  and robust opinion sharing around:
How do you share?
How do you define the boundaries for your sharing? If you have them.....
How do you deal when the boundaries blur or are breached?

Click to open this collection of reflections
A ’speed dating’ session followed designed for our teachers to each share aspects of their professional learning arising from their Teaching as Inquiry this year.

After connecting with half a dozen teachers they were invited to reflect on what they had heard and learnt, in light of their own Inquiry. With 12 schools represented here it was apparent that this was quite an eye opening time for everyone. Why? Schools interpret this important aspect of teaching in a variety of ways and this can be seen in this slide show.

We then spent time exploring how our young people share in Manaiakalani schools and touched on some of our celebratory events like Schools Inc and the Film Festival. But our major focus was blogging which is evident in all our schools.  We have endless anecdotal evidence from teachers and learners about the power of blogging in raising learner engagement and outcomes and discussed this.
Click to open the padlet

But it was the research of Rachel Williamson which excited attention and debate. An external evaluation of an integral component of our education programme. After spending time reading the report and talking in groups, our teachers contributed to a padlet with an ‘I Should” statement.

The most frequently recurring statements indicated that our new teachers had not been interacting with the learners’ posts and had become aware that this was important.

We ended the day with a ‘Create’ activity inviting everyone to create an infographic sharing the data they could gather from their own blog analytics. These were shared on their own blogs and in our Manaiakalani Google+ community. Reading through these showed the ongoing depth of critical thinking in this group. Some of the teachers chose to share their infographics on the presentation below as well.

 It is a privilege to be part of a group like this who are so open to exploring their own practice and go to great lengths to improve outcomes for our tamariki.

Thanks to Karen and Georgia for sketchnoting the session today and sharing on your own blogs.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Blogging Supports Writing Outcomes

Blogging has played an important role in the Manaiakalani pedagogy for over ten years now and a generation of young people have been through our schools knowing that sharing your learning publicly is an important part of the learning process.

Many of our learners have chosen to continuing sharing on their blogs during the school holidays and I have written posts like this sharing anecdotal observations about their holiday writing. Writing is a social activity for many people and our learners are encouraged when someone interacts with their post and they see on their feeds that people have viewed their blog.

Over the 2015/16 summer holidays the Woolf Fisher research team set up a project to encourage more of our young people to blog during the long summer break to observe whether this was in fact a valid way to arrest the frustrating 'summer drop-off' that so many of our priority learners experience. This was led by Rachel Williamson. Rachel constructed the Summer Learning Journey using the Manaiakalani pedagogy and the young people had multiple opportunities to Learn, Create and Share as they explored the world virtually.

A full description of the programme and the outcomes can be seen on this page on the Manaiakalani website.

Two observations I have noted from the research report:

The first one is a highly valued outcome in our Manaiakalani schools. The learners who participated in the blogging programme did not experience a significant drop off in their test scores as measured by the e-asttle writing test. The blue line on the graph shows the summer bloggers test scores over the course of a calendar year. The red line shows a matched sample of learners who did not blog over the summer (matching gender, ethnicity and achievement level) and displays the trend we are familiar with - writing outcomes rise during the school year and take a deep slide over the summer break.

The second observation is an outcome that is valued by some people who question us about 'WHY' we 'LET' our young people share their learning prolifically online. These adults express concern that the writing might not be perfect, and imperfect surface features may even reflect negatively on the child, the family or the school.

Glass is half full people!!
Rachel analysed the surface features of the writing shared online during the summer break - presumably completed with little direct adult support - and came up with surprising results that should reassure people whose inclination is to micro-manage children's published writing.

Accuracy was measured using four indicators: Percentage of words spelled correctly, percentage of word sequences that were correct, percentage of punctuation marks that were used correctly, and percentage of sentences that were complete and correct.
In each case the percentage score was calculated as: Number of correct examples/total number.

On average, 96.7% of the words in each post were spelled correctly

Correct Word Sequences:
 On average, 88.2% of word sequences in each post were correct

On average, 77.1 % of punctuation marks in each post were used correctly.

On average, 73.6% of sentences in each post were complete and accurate.

We highly recommend you read the report yourself.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sketchnoting ISTE2016

Sketchnoting has taken the humble art of doodling to a new level and at ISTE this year we were delighted to have a ‘professional’ sketchnoter capture our presentation at the Google Theatre.

Fiona, Lenva, Dave and I gave a presentation on Visible Learning in the 2016 Google for Education Teaching Theater. We had a full house and it was a new experience for the four of us; not only speaking together for the first time but preparing the whole session virtually as we were on different continents whilst planning our presentation.

So what is Sketchnoting?
Sketchnotes are purposeful doodling while listening to something interesting. Sketchnotes don't require high drawing skills, but do require a skill to visually synthesize and summarize via shapes, connectors, and text. Sketchnotes are as much a method of note taking as they are a form of creative expression. Quote from the Sketchnote Army

I took the opportunity to attend two sessions on sketchnoting as I think we should be introducing our learners to this and utilising it as a creative tool for many young people who would prefer to organise their thinking and learning graphically.  It includes all the elements of the Manaiakalani pedagogy in an accessible and engaging package. I heard from teachers introducing sketchnoting to children as young as Grade 2, and of course it is a valuable tool for older learners in senior classes at high school who have a lot of content to come to grips with in their classes.

Listening to the ‘experts’ speak, it was clear that this can be taught well or badly (not taught), just as with any new skill - digital or not.  Showing some examples and letting kids tear into it will work fine for those on the same wavelength, but will leave another (probably larger) group discouraged and feeling inadequate. There are clear steps and organisational tricks that can enable anyone to create a sketchnote to represent a piece of learning.

Matt Miller shared his sketchnoting 101 ideas and tips in one session I attended.
In the second session a panel of sketchnoters shared from their own experience. Kathy Shrock’s extensive guide here supplies everything needed to get started or to take this to a new level. Royan Lee shares a Drive folder of how to teach sketchnoting here.
The panel presentation is shared below by Vicki Davis, panel chair...

My notes from both sessions are on a Doc here.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Future Ready

The opening Keynote for ISTE 2016 Michio Kaku — futurist and theoretical physicist-  connected with a train of thought that has been running as we have travelled around the world and connected with educators in many countries on the #BurtsLearn journey.

First a little about the Keynote.
Michio Kaku was an entertaining and knowledgeable speaker who challenged every preconception any of us non-scientists may have had. He posed all kinds of challenging questions from a physicist’s perspective and had the engaging ability to laugh at himself and make the audience laugh. His topic was a futuristic one and he undertook a wide-ranging view of the world our young people will be living in when they are our age.

I am not going into detail here about his speech as the journalists from the ISTE team have done a wonderful job of recording his points and they can be read on the ISTE Blog.

It was his reflections on education that connected with me most directly as I was able to bring a modicum of intelligence to the content, whereas I simply had to take his word about the medical and technical insights he shared.

Before I comment on his predictions I will backtrack over some observations from the previous couple of months.

  1. In some of the places we visited and shared with educators they expressed surprise that our parent community in Manaiakalani subscribe to a pervasive 1:1 digital approach in our schools.  We heard many stories of parents defining the number of hours, or in some case minutes, that young people were allowed to be on digital devices in school for various reasons cited by parents.  One of the recurring themes was that digital devices isolate children and stop them being sociable.
  2. We have heard around the world of the growth of compliances as allergies dictate the actions of schools and teachers. Approximately 1 in every 13 children in the United States lives with food allergies. That’s roughly two in every classroom. Eight foods account for 90 percent of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction. Classes and schools are issuing stringent rules curtailing the eating behaviour of the 12 in every 13 children who do not have these allergies - and of course the teachers have to abide by these rules too. Then there are the non-food allergies, some of which are potentially fatal.
  3. We were quite taken aback at one District conference we attended to find a notice on our table requesting we refrain from wearing scented products eg perfume or aftershave, as it could produce a fatal reaction in those allergic to it. These environmental allerigies are being taken very seriously in Canada with schools having policies about this.
  4. We have also seen and heard a lot about the fear in schools of acts of random terror and violence on a large and fatal scale.

These barrier and risk free environments being created in school systems may well a the pressure point that causes society to look closely at the industrial model of education, which is less than 200 years old, and question how much longer we can continue to bring children together for much of their waking day and contain them in social groups for the purpose of learning. Particularly when we consider that there are many more factors (take unacceptable behaviour as an example) that make parents concerned about the particular group of young people their own child is required to spend the day with.

It may well be that the parental concern about time on devices in point (1) above will be counterbalanced by the subsequent points. And they may conclude that the benefits of learning in a different physical environment being supported by technology delivering learning opportunities, outway the increasing risks when children who are strangers are brought together in one place.

It would be a shame if it was negative drivers that brought about the disruption to the status quo of ‘school looking like it was when I, the parent, went there’ that innovative teachers and school leaders have been modelling in increasing pockets of a number of countries around the world. But it is looking quite possible that it might be far more pragmatic factors than striving for innovative approaches to learning enabled by modern technology and creative minds that change the way we bring young people together in school buildings.

And so I return to our Keynote speaker. Professor Kaku introduced us to exciting technologies and innovations that will make learning even more delightful and engaging, and accessible to more people, perhaps everyone in the world. Where I was disappointed was that the examples of applying these futuristic innovations was in the context of a kind of school building/congregating system that is an extension of what we currently do.  One of his examples was that when unable to attend school a child would be able to have their surrogate sit in their chair and absorb the learning.  

It is understandable that with an audience of 15, 000+ educators he felt the need to assure us several times that we would not be losing our jobs and schools and kids will still need teachers. But I had been hoping for more.  I had been hoping that he would have taken us beyond this industrial model to a time when our children will not be herded unilaterally into groups for hours for learning to occur.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Profile of a SC Graduate

Many schools in New Zealand have developed a ‘Profile of a Graduate’ from their schools and it is a huge task.  

It was refreshing to be introduced to the 'Profile of the South Carolina Graduate', as something which has been developed for the whole state.

The framework that supports the profile of the South Carolina graduate is vital to helping our state stay competitive in today's global economy as it addresses the need and solution for a sustainable, educated and qualified workforce. More here

It undoubtedly contributes significantly to coherence between schools and across the age levels of schooling.

  • Rigorous standards in language arts and math for career and college readiness
  • Multiple languages, science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), arts and social sciences
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Communication, information, media and technology
  • Knowing how to learn
Integrity. Self-direction. Global perspective. Perseverance. Work ethic. Interpersonal skills

Does the benefit gained from the process of wrestling with the tough questions in our school community as we gain understanding and consensus around “What does a graduate from XYZ School look like?” outweigh the benefit of having a rigorously developed state profile?

Undoubtedly the people who were present at the time when the school went through this process gain enormously and get a great return on their investment of time and creativity. But over time, as more new staff arrive and go through an induction process rather than a development process, you have to wonder if the benefit of contributing to a profile that has been widely adopted brings a greater long term sense of satisfaction.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Leadership Keynote

The opening Keynote for the SCASA conference was Chris Fuller speaking on the Five levels of leadership. Chris works with The John Maxwell Company and is one of the world’s leading motivational speakers. He warned us at the outset that he speaks in Tweetable soundbites, and the next hour+ verified this.

I don’t have a hope here of reproducing his speech, despite two of us taking notes flat out. What did become apparent was that the essence of his message had been shared with us by our kaumatua, Ihaka Samuels before he passed away; “If you want to know whether you’re a leader, look behind you and see who is following. If no one is, then you’re not!” Ike had several ways of delivering this message, but you knew what he was referring to when he said, “Look over your shoulder!”

Chris Fuller quoted Margaret Thatcher in a similar vein, “Being a leader is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.”

His own way of stating this message was, “If I think I’m leading and they’re not following, then I’m just taking a walk!” adding the quip, “And I’ve walked for some power walkers in my time!”

The Five Levels of Leadership he led us through:

1. Position -The Level of Rights

People follow because they have to. You have Positional Leadership. You are the Boss. They don't have a choice. They have to follow, whether they want your leadership or not.
Note: Your influence will not extend beyond the lines of your job description. The longer you stay here, the higher the turnover and the lower the morale

2. Permission - The Level of Relationships

People follow because they want to follow YOU. They believe in You. They trust You
They Don't Have to, but they want to follow You.
Note: People will follow you beyond your stated authority. This level allows work to be fun

3. Production - The Level of Results

People follow because of what you have done for the organisation. Your accomplishments.
Note: This is where success is sensed by most people. They like you and what you are doing. Problems are fixed with very little effort because of momentum.

4. People Development - The Level of Reproduction

People follow because of what you have done for them. What's in it for them.
Note: This is where long-range growth occurs. Your commitment to developing leaders will ensure ongoing growth to the organisation and to people. Do whatever you can to achieve and stay on this level.

5. Personhood - The Level of Respect

People follow because of who you are and what you represent. Your Values.
Note: This step is reserved for leaders who have spent years growing people and organisations.
Just a few make it to this level. Those who do are BIGGER THAN LIFE.

Some of his quotes captured throughout this keynote:

Every leader gets the team they deserve, eventually
The law of the lid: Your leadership ability is the lid to your organisation
No one wants to be managed, Lead people, manage things
If you don’t have a SUCCESS-OR, then you’re a failure
Start training your successor
Every team has a Swing Dog - The one who impacts whether the leader’s vision is carried out or not
People join companies, people quit PEOPLE
Teams need a dragon to slay or a princess to rescue
The elevation of the external keeps us from the squabbling of the internal
Create a leadership team - if it’s lonely at the top something’s not right.
Only secure leaders empower others
Ask the children of your employees whether they like it that Mum/Dad works for you.
If they reply “Oh, it’s a 3 wine night” you’ve got your answer.
If we're not getting better, people are getting bitter

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Innovative Ideas Institute

We were privileged to be invited to attend the annual conference of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators. The title of SCASA makes it clear who the intended audience is and the theme “Innovative Ideas Institute” makes the purpose clear. Innovative leadership was front of mind throughout the three days, and was unpacked through the keynotes, sessions, vendor exhibits and networking opportunities. And clearly anyone prepared to hold their conference practically on the sand of a stunning surf beach and rely on the delegates to show up to sessions has confidence in the coherence of the group around their vision.

We had no idea what to expect and discovered a group of warm and energetic educators at an event the size of ULearn in NZ - about 1500 attendees. The focus on innovative leadership was inspiring and I will post notes from some of the sessions I attended. We sat in on conversations at the state, district, and school levels and have lots to take home from their approach to teaching and learning as well as leadership.

We knew these people were onto something, which is why we reached out to them in the first place! Back when we were first considering moving from our Ubuntu based ASUS netbooks to Google’s Chromebooks, it was Donna Teuber, Director of Technology Integration and Innovation at Richland School District 2, who generously gave us her time and the District’s resources to share their journey with us.  They were one year into the move to Chromebooks and had documented the successes and pitfalls and we learnt so much from that.  Some of us still belong to their Chromebook Google Group where we get to see and learn from daily interactions from their extensive team about what is and isn’t working with their various tech solutions around GAFE and Chromebooks. These guys are dealing in numbers that sound more like our whole country than our cluster, so they really do have sample sizes to learn from.

It is resources like this 1:1 Implementation Site  and the vision outlined, that demonstrate the power of the robust technology solutions we have learnt so much from:

In Richland Two, students will work collaboratively in digital age learning environments on authentic problem and project-based activities which enhance creativity, critical thinking, communication, and problem solving. Through personalised, authentic and collaborative experiences, our students will develop the skills to prepare them for a future that we can only imagine.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Full Day Kindergarten

In Toronto, Ontario it was a pleasure to make daily visits to Post's Corners Public School in the Oakville neighbourhood. This is a learning environment with beautiful facilities, a calm atmosphere, clean and tidy property, and a place where mothers and fathers walk their children to school and linger for chats at the gate with the teachers and each other.

We took particular note of the Junior school programme. The Full Day Kindergarten for 4 and 5 year olds would be the envy of New Entrant teachers in NZ. The class size is 15 -25 learners and has TWO trained teachers; one a fully qualified ECE teacher and the other a fully qualified primary school teacher. (NB: less than 15 learners and the teacher ratio reduces to one teacher).

Read what they have to say about it on the class site or a snippet below….

Here’s what you can expect:

Enhanced learning during the school day  
  • Teachers and early childhood educators will work together in the classroom to help young children learn and grow. This team approach will bring out the best in your child through activities and play, guided by a new full-day kindergarten curriculum.
A stronger foundation for learning
  • Research shows that early learning has long-term benefits for a child’s academic and social skills. A full day of learning early in life can help improve your child’s reading, writing and math skills later on. It also makes the transition to Grade 1 easier – for you and your child. Good for kids, good for parents, good for Ontario
  • Full-day kindergarten is an investment in our future. It’s part of the government’s plan to better prepare our kids by giving them the tools they need to succeed and build a stronger Ontario.
Read the government research published about Full Day Kindergartens.

My instinctive response was, “Imagine the progress we could make in our Manaiakalani schools if we were resourced like this!” And then remembered, well actually our MDTA classes do have two teachers and evidence to date has proven significant acceleration is possible.
See Michelle and Karen’s posts from 2014 and Steph from 2016 - all New Entrant teachers demonstrating the benefit of a powerful pedagogy and two teachers.