Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Action Research- Connecting Globally and Reluctant Writers


 What Impact have our Global Connections
had on Room 11's Reluctant Writers?
By Patricia Whitmore
To be read with presentation
Scanning: Reluctant Writers in Room 11- Year 2
Sam, Nicholas and Copper showed some of the traits described by Catriona Pene in her Slide Share (2013) on Reluctant Writers.
Teacher observation and the target children’s writing samples from February showed:
-          - Little enthusiasm towards writing.
-          - Difficulty coming up with ideas on what to write about.
-          - No real reason to write.
-          In Cooper’s case lack of vocabulary.
-          In Sam’s and Nicholas’ cases they used ‘sounding out’ strategy to write but the sounds they produced did not match the letters they wrote.

2.      Focusing: Motivation to write
To deal with some of the obstacles the Reluctant Writers were facing...
Target children's parents were contacted to find out what their children's interests were.
- Only two parents replied.
- Two parents suggested a topics that I had not included in my lessons.
- One parent went the extra mile and added photos of her child enjoying his interests.

I had a chat with Natalie Morfett about how she motivated her own students and she suggested to use real experiences (formerly known and Language Experiences).

I observed these children during writing sessions...
- Nicholas dragged his feet to his seat and then he used to rest on his forehead and dangle his arms on the sides.
- Sam would seat quietly and 'fly under the radar'.
- Cooper would engage others in lengthy conversations.

3.      Developing a Hunch
From my observation in class and analysis of these children’s work I was able to conclude that three areas needed attention:
-          Lack of children motivation to write.
-          Lack of purpose for their writing.
-          Poor reading skills – Sam had attended Remedial Reading sessions in Year 1 and Nicholas and Cooper are currently attending them.
I decided to focus only in Motivation and Purpose because these children’s reading skills were being already attended to via Remedial Reading sessions.

4.      Learning: Design of New Learning
Recently, in New Zealand the view of knowledge has change from getting to creating and from learning areas to vision, values and principles (R. Bolstad et al, 2012) to cater for 21st Century students and Global Citizens. Meanwhile ICT started enabling global connections and global collaboration through the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Blogs, Wikis and online communities such as Classroom 2.0, and so on. Later on Google Apps have simplified connectedness and collaboration completely.
A 21st Century Student / Educator
A 21st Century learner is one who uses social media and Web 2.0 tools to create and co-create knowledge with the guidance of a connected educator. The roles of learners and educators are being redefined by moving away from the terms ‘teacher drive’ or ‘child centred’ (R. Bolstad et al, 2012).
See video in presentation.

Connected Educator-
Definition by Tom De Boor and Darren Cambridge.
See presentation.

Connected Educator Month (CEM)
It is an initiative created by the Department of Education of the USA to provide teachers with a platform to become and stay globally connected. It is an amazing range of events online that lasts a whole month (October). Sometimes countries like New Zealand runs a parallel program linked to CEM USA. It caters for beginners with a ‘how to become connected’ guide, to live discussions via Google Hangouts that one can join or see them later in You Tube or in the CEM webpage.

Why Connect Globally?
‘Greater “connectedness” between schools and other organisations, groups and individuals in the wider community is a key part of 21st century education’ ((R. Bolstad et al, 2012)’
See video in presentation.

The Connected Teacher Network
First Layer- It is called the Professional Learning Community (PLC). It is a traditional school based structure formed by the school where the educator works. It is all the personnel in the school, the children and the parents. The educator’s professional development or learning usually happens in a Top Down approach and in some schools the teachers choose to learn about issues related to the needs of his / her class or needs of his / her own professional learning. When professional learning, inquiry and reflection happens it gives the teachers a sense of empowerment, creates a climate of inquiry and generates change.
Second Layer- It is called Communities of Practice. They are groups of like-minded people who share an interest, a concern, a problem, passion, etc. who interact in an on-going basis and in this case they are on-line, global and diverse. Examples: Classroom 2.0, Virtual Learning Network (VLN NZ), Connected Educators Month, Pinterest, LinkedIn and so on. These communities work under the ideology that “None of us is as good as all of us”. Elienne Wegner (1998) these communities have three distinctive criteria:
a.      A Shared domain of interest.
b.      Collective competence among equals who are skilful and talented.
c.       A shared practice or common sense of purpose.
The purpose of these communities is to create relationships, construct knowledge, create meaning in authentic ways and innovate.
Third Layer- It is called Professional Learning Network (PLN) - Video. They are about individuals gathering information and sharing resources that enhance their personal and professional learning and growth. PLN’s are reciprocal learning systems where educators share learning and resources. It involves regular communication and it breaks down physical and geographical barriers through the use of digital tools. PLN’s revitalise an educator’s practice and they are the PD of the 21st century.

What other Schools are doing
Point England School, Glen Innes, AUCKLAND
- Globally and locally connected.
- To have a real audience and their feedback/feed-forward.
- To collaborate to learn.
- Through Google sites, Google Apps, Hapara Dashboard and blogs.
- Changes: * Lift in engagement both behaviourally and cognitively.
                    * Acceleration in writing- more than expected: over 1 year.
                    * Acceleration in reading - more than expected: 1.5 -2 year levels in one academic year.
  NOTE: Low decile school where children go into school up to 2 years below expectation.

Stonefields School, Mt Wellington, AUCKLAND
- Globally and locally connected.
- To create an opportunity for learning that involves them in the real world.
- To collaborate to learn.
- Through Twitter account and blogs.
- Changes: * More engaged and motivated due to authentic context and purpose.
                    * Enjoyment for learning in the 21st Century way.

5.      Taking Action: We Got Connected!
What do I want for my Reluctant Writers?
-          A purpose.
-          A real audience.
-          To experience success.
-          To be able to see and share their progress.
-          View themselves as writer, authors and publishers.
Catriona Pene (2013)

Taking Action:
   I reached out to my (small) PLN via Twitter and Google+ and I established a pen-pal experience between children in Room 11 and high school children in Greece and another group in France. ‘The 21st century learning literature argues that today’s students need to engage in knowledge-generating activities in authentic contexts’ (R. Bolstad et al, 2012).
   All the exchanges with our pen-pals and members of our immediate community were recorded in our class blog. We exchanged letters via Google Docs and Google Slides and we also exchanged videos. We did not Skype with our pen-pals due to International time differences, but instead we Skyped with members of our immediate community.
    After writing our first letters, children were to proof read their letters and add information they thought their pen-pals wanted to know. Sam, Nicholas and Cooper added a number of sentences to their existing letter, something they had not done before! As shown in their writing samples from March.
   Writing samples from the middle of August show that these reluctant writers are writing longer stories. The stories show a structure in the shape of complete sentences, well sequenced ideas, chapters and interesting verbs and adjectives. Nicholas, Sam and Cooper do not show a negative attitude towards writing anymore and they are able to choose a topic for writing with ease.
Nicholas created a series of books about Gruffalo for Book Week and at the end of August he created a video about Ninjago ninjas. He wrote the script, read it and his mum filmed it. 

6.      Checking: Have I made a difference?
   Their early February writing samples showed these children were writing one to two simple sentences in one writing session (60 minutes).
   Their late March samples showed that they were writing longer compositions, using a wider vocabulary with ease (because their compositions were letters about themselves), writing more sophisticated sentences and editing for meaning.
   Their mid-August writing samples show evidence of use of interesting adjectives and nouns, strong verbs and even use of chapters.
The three boys are not reluctant to write anymore, Nicholas is the only one who has developed a real love for writing. He is eager to conference with me, he creates books for family members and peers and he has created a video based on a script he wrote. During drama sessions he took the role of script writing for his group.

7.      Recommendations
What I Learned from the Experience
Please see presentation

-          The Connected Educator- Learning and Leading in a Digital Age. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall. Solution Tree Press USA, 2012.
-          Engaging Reluctant Writers Using e-Learning Tools. Catriona Pene. CORE Education Slide Share- Online Presentation. New Zealand, 2013.

-          Supporting future-oriented learning & teaching — a New Zealand perspective Report to the Ministry of Education. R. Bolstad & J. Gilbert with S. McDowall, A. Bull, S. Boyd & R. Hipkins New Zealand Council for Educational Research. New Zealand, 2012.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Modern Learning Environments / Innovative Learning Space

- From CORE Education


What we know about learning has increased dramatically over the last 20 years. MRI scanning that allows us to see inside the brain as learning occurs, and landmark studies such as John Hattie’s Visible Learning (Hattie, 2008) mean that we now have a much better idea of how learning occurs. As a result of these developments and others, we know that quality learning is a combination of the following elements:

● Personalised learning: no two individuals learn in the same way, nor do they bring the same prior knowledge to a learning experience. The way we learn is as unique as our fingerprint. 

● Socially constructed learning (Johnson, 1981): the collaboration, peer-tutoring and reciprocal teaching that occurs when students work together results in a deeper understanding of the material being covered. 

● Differentiated learning (Bloom, 1974): the prior knowledge we all bring to a task means individuals require different levels of challenge, pace, content and context. 

● Learning that is initiated by students themselves (Ramey & Ramey, 2004): typically when a student initiates a learning experience or exploration, they learn more. 

● Learning that is connected to the physical world and authentic contexts: children learn through interaction with others and the physical world (Malone & Tranter, 2003). Learning about pond ecosystems is more powerful if students visit a pond in addition to learning about them in a classroom or textbook. 

Most of New Zealand’s school buildings were built in a time when direct instruction was considered the only pedagogy that resulted in effective learning. “Factory-style’ learning (where all students learn the same things, at the same time, in lock-step fashion) has largely disappeared from our classes. However the actual classrooms largely remain as they were originally designed, and still retain the suggestion of factory-style learning. 

Features of modern learning environments Modern learning environments that align better with what we know about the brain and student learning can facilitate traditional pedagogies such as direct instruction if needed, but they typically offer students and teachers much more: 

● Flexibility: the ability to combine two classes into one for team-teaching, split a class into small groups and spread them over a wider area or combine different classes studying complementary learning areas.

● Openness: modern learning environments traditionally have fewer walls, more glass and often use the idea of a learning common (or hub) which is a central teaching and learning  space that can be shared by several classes. They provide opportunities to observe and learn from the teaching of others and be observed in return. They also provide access to what students in other learning areas and level are learning, so that teaching and learning can be complemented and enhanced. 

● Access to resources (including technology): typically a learning common is surrounded by breakout spaces allowing a range of different activities, such as reading, group work, project space, wet areas, reflection, and presenting. There is often a mixture of wireless and wired technology offering access as and when students need it, within the flow of their learning.

Kurt Soares and Kirsty Soames, from South New Brighton School, describe how they started team teaching and constructed a collaborative space from a traditional classroom with their students. Kurt comments, "It’s been an easy process and it’s certainly improved learning in my class."

Anne Kenneally: Student designed learning spaces from EDtalks on Vimeo.
Anne Kenneally (@annekenn) has been on a year long learning journey visiting classrooms around New Zealand. Anne has decided to create a radically different learning space for her learners from the one they are used to. We talk to Anne at the beginning of 2012 as she awaits the arrival of her students to start her trial of 'doing learning differently'.

Part 3 three of series revealing the transformation of a crowded classroom to a space that facilitates new and deeper ways of teaching and learning enabled by the physical changes.

Anne Kenneally: Creating learning spaces from EDtalks on Vimeo.
Anne Kenneally started the year looking at desks in rows and thought there just has got to be a better way. She has spent this year experimenting with student designed learning spaces, allowing the students to take the lead in deciding what spaces they need for different activities. In this EDtalk Anne explores the changes in her students and their learning environment.


What I have learnt:
- Link the pedagogy to the modern building.
- MLE cater for the environmental needs of the students to improve their learning: air flow, access to natural light, ergonomic furniture, flexible furniture, quiet spaces, open spaces that allow collaboration.
- MLE give the children more autonomy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Action Learning- This is what I learned

Action Learning has 6 stages:
1. Deciding- What do I need to find out?
WITH FACILITATOR: There has to be a situation, a question defined by the learner with the guidance of the teacher in a role of facilitator.
There has to be dialog and narrow down specifically on what the learner has needs to find out.  
Brainstorm what we already know then brainstorm questions, narrow them down to ‘wh’ questions.
Have the stages explained to the learner?
2. Finding-  Where do I find it?
WITH FACILITATOR: Decide where to go to get the info: printed, internet, other people, experts…
3. Using- Is this info what I need? Do I know how to extract the info?
WITH FACILITATOR: Do my findings provide answers to my questions. Am I extracting the information I need?
If question is not there or not clear the journey may become worthless, confusing even.
4. Recording – How am I going to record it?
WITH FACILITATOR: Go back to initial questions to know what to record. Take notes. Record only what you need to know.
Was there a decision on how to record findings?
5. Presenting – How am I going to put this information together and present it?
WITH FACILITATOR: What am I presenting? Who is my audience? Am I answering the initial questions? How am I presenting my findings?
Is the learner aware that findings have to be presented?
6. Evaluating- How did it go? Am I happy with the results? Do I need better skills to make it easier next time?
- Have I covered what am I supposed to be covering? Do I have the info I need to answer the initial questions?
Was there an initial question or set of questions to answer at all!?