Earlier this year Mr Matt Nicoll started introducing a wider group of staff at St Andrew’s College to Twitter, and how they could use this as an expanded Professional Learning Network (PLN) to support their teaching practice. As part of this, he introduced them to the fortnightly #edchatnz “teacher chat” which is sometimes referred to as “PD in your PJs” since it runs between 8:30-9:30pm on a Thursday night.
As wider momentum built nationally behind this regular chat, plans for a conference grew, coming to fruition over the 8-9th of August at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. Matt Nicoll was part of the #edchatnz organising committee, and St Andrew’s College sent ten staff to attend this, a mixture of Preparatory and Secondary teachers and our Library Manager. They all committed to blogging some reflections and you can see them in their entirety here. I have selected just a few observations to include below:
Vicki Pettit – Head of Learning Preparatory School:
Mrs Pettit started with a tour of Hobsonville Point Primary and reflected:
From hearing all the talk about modern learning environments it was great to see one in action [at Hobsonville Point Primary] … What we saw continually reinforced by staff and students at HPPS was the students being at the centre of the learning … Learning is visible and by visible, all stages of the planning and process are displayed as you move around the different spaces … It was interesting to talk to the students and hear them articulate where they are at in the learning process.
She went on to reflect about how personalisation of learning is instrumental:
Personalised learning in Action and lies in designing a curriculum that truly engages the learner. And of course to do that, personalisation is the key. Would your students still come to school, or to your class in they didn’t have to? The answer should be a resounding “YES” … A great two days spent with an inspiring group of educators!
Ben Hilliam – Maths and Statistics Teacher:
Like Mrs Petitt, Mr Hilliam started out with a tour, but this time it was of the brand new Hobsonville Point secondary school. He observed:
The campus is unlike any secondary campus I have ever visited. It is built to accommodate 1350 day students, but currently it has a roll of around 120 year 9s … The feel of the building is much more in line with what a modern library, university campus or software development company office might feel like. It is physically set up to encourage openness and collaboration …
The potential challenges of teaching in an environment like this was not lost on him, but there was abundant evidence that learning was taking place:
There are no classrooms, form-groups, timetables, bells, periods or subjects. As a teacher from a ‘traditional’ school, the question begs, how on earth does anything get learnt?! (or taught) … Yet, despite the apparent lack of structure, the year 9s were busy doing all sorts of things. The walls were covered with examples of student work … What struck me a lot within the way students self-direct themselves was the way they are encouraged to be self-aware of their goals and what they will have to do along the way to achieve them.
This final comment is telling in terms of the emphasis placed on students to be responsible for their own learning:
Such a pedagogical structure places massive amount of responsibility on the individual student. This is not a fact lost on the staff at Hobsonville Point.
Nicola Richards – PE, Health and Te Waka Teacher:
Mrs Richards is responsible for the ongoing development and use of the SOLO thinking taxonomy at St Andrew’s, and captured evidence of this in action at Hobsonville Point:
Some other notes she picked up from Mr Maurie Abraham (Principal of Hobsonville Point Secondary):
- We need to be 21st century teachers and schools, the students already are.
- Shift from the paradigm of one to many…..
- Innovation creativity and responsiveness should be the norm in all schools and for all students (ERO)
She also attended a presentation by students from Kelston Boys Grammar about their “Defeat the Label” Facebook Campaign designed to change the perception of their school being a violent place for students. Mrs Richard’s observations included:
The Year 12 Health class has taken an assessment opportunity, extended it and taken action at their school and in their community (confident student presenters including one of Stephen Dudley’s closest friends) … Social Media has been a fundamental bullying tool, take it from the enemy and use it against them!!!
Cathy Kennedy – Library Manager:
Mrs Kennedy picked up on a recurrent theme from all the attendees – that the conference was full of enthusiastic and energetic educators:
What a great two days this conference was! Why? Because the keynotes and workshops on offer were practical and accessible with ideas to take back to your teaching practice on Monday (or library practice!). The other undeniable strength of Edchatnz was the passion and love of teaching evident in the people there.
As a Library Manager, it’s important to know where resources are available and so she attended a session on the Network for Learning POND which she described as:
What an amazing resource the Pond could be or will be. A place where you can search across multiple platforms but more importantly, a place to upload your teaching resources to share with others, find resources that others have found useful and share with you, ask for help and find providers.
The main message is that we cannot be the ‘Sherrif’ to our young people and block and deny access but rather provide the tools and knowledge to stay safe in online environments … being safe online is only one part of digital citizenship and I find that the other aspects of digital citizenship are often forgotten – this teacher librarian’s crusade!
Dean McKenzie – Head of Department Maths
As an HoD, it’s unsurprising Mr McKenzie chose to attend a presentation from NZQA focusing on the future of assessment. He noted:
The new approaches to assessment that NZQA are bringing in will definitely change the landscape in the schools in the very near future. The line between internal and external will become blurred and according to Steve [Bargh from NZQA] this is a good thing as he believes that there is a disproportionate amount of status attributed to external examinations.
Some interesting comments made from the presenter included:
- “there is a need for positive disruption to change the current paradigm of education to realize the use technology in classroom learning and it’s place in assessment”
- “given the age of the teaching population they need an incentive to change and motivation to change, assessment must reflect teaching and learning, therefore there needs to be a fundamental change in teaching in our schools”
- “students prefer to do things online …. we are doing this in response to demand from the sector”
- “the government’s mandate is to move all services online, so this is in line with current government policy”
The upshot from these statements were summarised by Mr McKenzie as follows:
- All external NCEA end of year assessment will be marked on line within 3 years
- All assessment will be “on demand” 24/7 doing away with end of year external examinations all together within 3-6 years and it is envisioned that all grading of the “on demand” assessments will be done within 48 hours. The mantra of “anywhere, anytime, online” was mentioned several times.
- The issue of authenticity was dismissed as there are current advances in software such as keystroke analysis (the elephant in the room of having someone stand beside you and feed you the answers was completely ignored)
- The issue of finding sufficient people willing to mark online was quickly addressed by referencing several countries that had outsourced their marking to India and Bangladesh.
Given the extremely low cost of entry to this conference ($20 un-catered, $60 catered), the value of our teachers attending is immediately obvious. This was largely a case of “teachers teaching teachers” about some of their best practice in the classroom, and I suspect this is why so many of our staff came back saying they learnt things they could apply immediately into their teaching practice.
Given the success of this conference, it would seem this is likely to become an annual professional development opportunity, alongside the fortnightly Thursday evening #edchatnz chat.
If you’ve not considered getting involved with Twitter for Professional Development at this stage, then hopefully the quality of some of these reflections will encourage you to check it out.