Staff Profile – John Quealy

John Quealy

Mr John Quealy

Throughout 2016, I am going to be profiling a number of different St Andrew’s College staff. The first of these was a post that I wrote a few weeks ago about Ms Donna Jones, in the English department. The subject of this post, is Mr John Quealy, a teacher in our Mathematics department.

We have previously blogged about some of the great Teaching and Learning that occurs in this department. This week I had the pleasure of chatting to Mr Quealy, and the Head of Department, Mr Mitch Howard, about the work they are doing to redesign the content and delivery of the Year 11 General Mathematics Course. This course focuses on the practical application of mathematics in everyday life and achieving Numeracy. For students working towards level 5 of the New Zealand curriculum with the opportunity to progress to NCEA Level One Achievement Standards.

Mitch Howard

Mr Mitch Howard HOD Mathematics

Due to the nature of this particular Year 11 course, and the specific learning needs of the group of students enrolled in the course, a few deliberate changes have been made in 2016. As this group of students are in a 1:1 computing environment, the decision was made to increase the role of the device in the course. The pleasing aspect of this course development was that this increased use of technology was not simply as a direct substitute from the original textbook and exercise book model used in the past, but included the deliberate integration of technology into specific, and most importantly authentic, learning tasks.

Working collaboratively, Mr Quealy and Mr Howard identified that these particular students would benefit from more practical and hands-on learning. An example was the Number topic that they are currently working on.

Practical applications of Number in Mathematics

OneNote clip Maths

Example of a student’s food diary, ready for analysis

To give this topic a more practical application the decision was made to embed this important learning into a wider topic around food, and food labeling. Students have been using Microsoft Excel to keep a food diary, which they have embedded into their OneNote class notebook. The benefit of this was that it allows Mr Quealy to access the students’ work and provide the extra feedback, and assistance that certain students require.

The second benefit from using Excel in this situation was that the students were able to develop the basic skills required to complete basic formula, such as percentages and decimals, and data display within Excel through tables and graphs.

“It is great to be able to engage students with real life activities that they can hook onto and see the relevance of life long skills” – Mr John Quealy

Y11 Maths Screenshot

The content library in the class OneNote being used to model what is expected.

 

Mr Howard shares the same sentiments, particularly about the benefits of these students engaging with their devices.

“Numeracy is about being able to use numbers in an everyday setting. If this is the last Mathematics course that these students do, we want it to be useful and practical. We want to be able to teach these students how to use spreadsheets for calculations and organising their thinking. Also if a person is comfortable using a spreadsheet, they will be comfortable using most software that they might be asked to use in a workplace.” – Mr Mitch Howard

 

The benefits of Collaboration between classes

Another clear benefit of this new, computer based course, is that it allows the teachers of both Y11 General Mathematics courses, Mr Howard and Mr Quealy, to collaborate in the planning, delivery and reflection stages of the topic. By having access to each other’s class notebooks, they can keep in close contact, and share ideas, all while obviously maintaining the differences that their individual teaching styles, and student’s needs require.

“It’s also great to be able to collaborate with John, bouncing ideas off each other and seeing which ideas have worked or not. John’s architectural knowledge will be great for when we do our measurement unit on autocad.” – Mr Mitch Howard

A department constantly developing their practice

Within the Mathematics department there are an increasing range of eLearning tools being utilised. There are a small number of staff who run flipped classroom, while others are experimenting with Microsoft Surface tablets. What I particularly liked in this example was the fact that the technology is being used to allow teachers to work more closely together, and use their shared expertise and experience to improve the learning, and engagement, of their students.

It is great to see the increasing engagement with Technology within the department, and I look forward to documenting their innovations in later Blogs.

Introducing Blair McHugh – Teacher of Digital Technologies

Licensed under Creative Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons

Recently I took the opportunity to sit down with Mr Blair McHugh, our new teacher of Digital Technologies at St Andrew’s College and discuss his previous experiences and vision for the subject. What became apparent was Mr McHugh’s passion for the subject and how his approach to teaching programming aims to dispel the common misconception of a sole programmer working in a darkened room eating pizza!

Prior to joining the staff at St Andrew’s, he had taught for 9 years at Burnside High School and before that at Cashmere High School. Importantly, however, he has industry experience with Fujitsu NZ primarily in networking and infrastructure and it is these skills he aims to impart to students at the College.

A coding language is just a tool – if you’ve not solved the problem before you begin the actual coding,  then you’re probably not going to solve the problem.

Mr McHugh will be teaching students the Python coding language, however as the above quote suggests, there is significantly more to this subject than just learning one of the many programming languages that exist these days. The steps students are encouraged to follow are:

  • Plan – understand what the requirements of the job are, ask the right questions and formulate an approach to solving this before you start coding. Analysis like this early on helps to ensure future success in the project.
  • Code – once you have fully analysed the problem and planned an approach, only then attempt to write some code.
  • Test – execute the code and see if it works!
  • Review – check how it has all gone
  • Repeat – go back to the planning and analysis to see what may need to be improved, re-work the code accordingly, and test it out. Keep repeating this process until you have it working and the problem is solved and the key outcomes from the planning stage are met.

One of the key messages Mr McHugh has to remind students of is the need to avoid “programming on the go” as this almost invariably leads to wasted time:

Time is the biggest and most precious resource available to students. There is little cost in ‘real’ resources when churning out code, but time spent aimlessly coding is too important to waste

To achieve an Excellence in Level 3, students need to demonstrate real efficiencies in their code – there should be no “blind corners or dead ends” – and the easiest way to avoid this is effective planning and regular reviewing of the code.

To further enhance the students ability to plan efficiently, he promotes a very open, collaborative environment where students are not just expected to participate and inter-relate with each, they are required to. This is supported by the banning of headphones in class – students can not be an individual silo separated from the rest of the class. The rationale behind this is that increasingly in the workplace, programmers need to be talking to stakeholders, clients, fellow programmers and communicating effectively to all of these individuals.

Sec_T1

The Term 1 2016 DPR Value of “Honesty” works very well in Digital Technologies

Whilst discussing this, Mr McHugh pointed out how well the Term 1 DPR Value (Developing Positive Relationships) worked in his class. He expects students to be honest when they’ve struck a problem with their coding or analysis and be able to ask other students for input.

Key Competencies

The Key Competencies from the NZ Curriculum

 

Consequently, the Key Competencies from the NZ Curriculum play a major role in his classes, in particular  Participating and Contributing and Relating to Others as students interact and collaborate together. In the words of Mr McHugh:

 

No one codes alone in a silo in the real world – being part of a team and coding on a bigger project is a critical skill to learn in school.

To further support this, students practice sitting around a table, asking questions of each others’ projects. Asking the right sort of questions is an essential part of problem solving and developing critical thinking skills. Along with these skills is the continued importance of a strong mathematical foundation to be a successful programmer.

Too often, students do not think maths or physics are necessary in coding, however to start doing advanced 3D graphics a strong grasp of matrices and geometry is critical:

Students can still do 2D platform style games, Angry Birds etc, without strong maths. However, it’s the 3D graphics in games like Halo that really spins their wheels and attracts their attention … BUT you need great maths ability to do that sort of thing.

Following on from the work of Mr Phil Adams, Mr McHugh will continue the lunchtime Code Clubs for those students who are not taking Digital Technologies as a subject.

I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the projects that students will work on this year and hopefully writing about them on this blog.

Robotics: From No-bots to Go-bots

This post was originally published on the Interface Magazine Online website – you can read the original post here.

Briony Marks

Miss Briony Marks

Last year was my first teaching robotics. We began a Robotic Club using EV3 Lego Mindstorms, which quickly found its legs and became firmly established across the Preparatory School. It was a fantastic learning experience; the children were enthralled, writes Briony Marks, St Andrew’s College, Christchurch.

We began with construction and attempting to understand the components. Identifying the sensors and motors was a key factor. Discussing wheel size and rotations formed part of our initial learning. With time, we began to program the Lego Block. Hanging to the instruction booklet like a life raft, the students and I navigated the early concepts.

Whole-school programme

Our confidence grew and, when asked to make a presentation to the PTA in Term 2 about the benefits of a widespread robotics programme, I was able to talk confidently about the phenomenal learning that had happened in our club. Our students were measuring in degrees, centimetres and metres; calculating turns; programming and sequencing and all within a couple of 40-minute sessions on a Friday lunchtime.

We were fortunate enough to receive another eight sets of the Education Edition EV3. This was to enable us to roll out robotics on a class scale (allowing one robot between two in our maximum classes of 26). The year saw a huge transition, from a small group of 15 experimental and brave Year 5 students to a school-wide project.

RoboCup Junior NZ

robotics1At the beginning of Term 3, we decided to enter the RoboCup Junior New Zealand competition (robocupjunior.org.nz). This was an ambitious plan with only five weeks to prepare. We selected five teams (from Years 5, 7 and 8) and with two full days blocked out and about two extra hours a week we went from unpacking and building to choreographing a piece of Robot Theatre.

The time frame was tight, with little opportunity for instruction in even the basics. However, the students managed to self and peer teach to eventually put together four very different theatre pieces. We were incredibly pleased with their hard work. From ‘Mazerunner’ to ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘Jurassic World’ to ‘Pink Panther’, students’ ideas and creativity came to life with MDF, plenty of paint, papier-mâché, some poorly mixed soundtracks and, of course, the robots!

Positive student feedback

Following RoboCup, I asked them to take an anonymous survey. I was delighted to read the overwhelmingly positive responses. As a general comment, the students enjoyed the independence, working creatively and intuitively to overcome problems, and saw the experience as enriching rather than disheartening. They listed their interpersonal skills with comments such as:

“I learnt to take turns at things and not always be the leader”

and

“You can save time if you work together as a team.”

My reflection and advice

Three weeks prior to RoboCup I attended a training day with the fantastic Sandy Garner at the University of Otago. Her easy-to-use booklet allowed me to grasp huge concepts of programming. This structure has driven the way I now introduce the robots to my classes. Her website Learning with robots (learningwithrobots.weebly.com) hosts a wealth of resources that will help focus your planning for establishing a robotics course.

The greatest challenge I found was trying to structure lessons that allowed for creativity and continued success to maintain student engagement.

Term 4 saw us expand Year 4s, who have been chomping at the bit all year long to get their hands on a robot! These young masterminds blew me away with their ability to problem solve (as I become a more confident teacher of robotics the children are encouraged to experiment more).

I’m incredibly proud of the reaction of the students and parents, and of myself for being able to understand and teach others to use the robots (mostly) with success. I hope that I’ve managed to inspire some future robot engineers, modelled a ‘growth mindset’ rather than a ‘fixed one’ … and also that I might have broken down some stereotypes about women and tech along the way!

Five-week sampler course, by Briony Marks

  1. Introducing routines below and allow students to discover how to go forward, backwards and turn
  • Where things are kept;
  • How to save your files to avoid confusion;
  • The basics of programming and downloading your code to your robot; and
  • Rules, such as ‘never run your program with the robot on a table!’
  1. The Arch Challenge – Students must navigate through a simple arch maze. They must not cross the lines and must perform a ‘trick’ at the top. This allows them to experiment with different turning styles and the sound and image function.
  2. Complete the Arch Challenge and start the Red Riding Hood challenge. This is from Sandy’s booklet, which shows a sweet challenge where students must navigate safely from Grandma’s house to Red Riding Hood’s garage. She must stop at the main road, check left and right and then navigate the maze to reverse safely into her garage without being eaten by the wolf!
  3. Complete Red Riding Hood
  4. Introduce the Ultrasonic Sensors and loops to create a program that lets the robot navigate the classroom without crashing.

 

Briony Marks teaches at St Andrew’s College in Christchurch. Learn more about her work at her blog missmarksblogs.wordpress.com

Inducting Students into a 1:1 Laptop Programme

As the new school year begins, the 1:1 laptop programme at St Andrew’s College continues to grow. As the year begins, all Year 8-11 students are required to bring a laptop to school each day. With the number of Senior College students voluntarily bringing laptops to school growing each year, we are ever closer to all students in the Secondary School having a laptop with them each lesson.

Staff feedback from the first two years of the 1:1 program raised some concerns around two main themes:

  • The first was about the amount of class time that some teachers felt could be wasted at the start of the year, getting all student’s computers successfully connected to school systems, and the class OneNote Notebook.
  • The second concern raised was around the the lack of familiarity of some students with their particular device.
Students working hard on the task

Students working hard on the induction task

In response to these concerns the decision was made to invest some time in the first few days of the 2016 school year to actively try and get Year 9 students more familiar with their own computers, and the systems that we use here at St Andrews College. In consultation with Middle School leadership, it was decided that students would have four periods to complete such a task – with the time being split over the first two days of the school year.

Creating the task

With over 200 Year 9 students the range of ability and engagement with computers was always going to be extremely varied. For this reason I decided to create an induction task that used a single platform, OneNote, as the base, with a range of other resources linked into it, such as instructional videos and surveys.

In an attempt to gain some preliminary information all students were asked to complete a short online survey. Of most interest to me was their responses to the following two questions.

Initial Survey

The results from these two questions particularly gave me the confidence that such a programme was incredibly important for our incoming Year 9 students. While approximately half of our Year 9 intake are from the Preparatory School, where we know they receive a thorough grounding in all things IT; the remainder of our intake arrive from a wider range of feeder schools; from across the city and beyond. A major aim, when writing this task was to ensure that all students gained a basic understanding of both their computers (keyboard shortcuts, power saving settings, and our systems such as printing, emailing and online storage.

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The basic premise was to write a task that was based in OneNote. To make the task more contextual, the ‘how to use your computer’ material was woven into a basic inquiry-based task that required each student to design their ultimate teenage space in the Christchurch city rebuild. Within the induction task each student was required to complete a wide range of tasks including:

  • Accessing their College email to gain access to the Onenote Notebook
  • Access a variety of video resources around computer care, computer use, and IT systems used at StAC, and complete tasks to reinforce this learning
  • Add preliminary ideas to the Collaboration Space in OneNote about a potential Youth Facility in Central Christchurch
  • Collate and analyse the best ideas from the Collaboration Space, in their own area of the Class Notebook
  • Add audio to their own area of the OneNote, critically analysing their best ideas
  • Learn how to print their work
  • Hand their work in using the Assignment activity on their classes Moodle Page

Upon completion of the task the feedback from the students was extremely positive. A number of individual students commented on the benefits they saw from completing the task:

This task was good because it helped me learn how to use my computer.

I liked how we could try some of the things by ourselves and the demonstrations from the videos.

 

student feedback two

Similarly,Year 9 Tutor staff, who were involved in supporting the students during their induction sessions, were also asked to provide feedback. It was particularly pleasing to see the high regard with which they held the assistance that they received from IT staff during the Staff feedback.

Moving forward

On reflection I am very happy with how this task went. As with doing anything for the first time, I will continue to reflect carefully on all aspects of the task and try and identify the improvements that can be made. Obviously providing adequate IT support over 13 classrooms and over 200 devices is an acknowledged difficulty, but I really hope that the teachers of Year 9 will notice an improvement in the confidence, and capabilities of their classes as the school year gets underway.

Microsoft Video Showcases Innovative Educators

On the 23rd November 2015 Microsoft NZ arranged for a TV crew to film and interview a number of staff and students at St Andrew’s College. The focus of the day was showcasing how the Surface Pro 3 and OneNote were being used creatively within the College. The three teaching staff interviewed were Mr Wilj Dekkers (Year 6 class teacher in the Preparatory School), Ms Tam Yuill Proctor (Assistant Head of English) and Mr Ben Hilliam (Assistant Head of Maths).

These three were chosen as they have been using the Surface Pro 3 since our initial trial group was formed in late 2014 and also because they have recently been named as Microsoft Innovative Educators for 2016:

St Andrew’s College’s three Microsoft Innovative Educators for 2016 from left to right: Mr Ben Hillian, Ms Tam Yuill Proctor and Mr Wilj Dekkers

All three have featured on this blog before, with some of my favourite posts about their teaching being:

What impresses me about these teachers is how natural the integration of technology and eLearning strategies are. As I noted on the post about Mr Hilliam above:

Whilst the phrase “ubiquitousness of technology” is over used, this lesson did demonstrate that when used effectively, the technology is not at the forefront of the lesson. It was not gimmicky or flashy, instead it provided functional improvement to what was already a great lesson.

Certainly, the technology available to achieve this integration is available and well supported at St Andrew’s, something that Ms Yuill Proctor noted in a blog post published today:

At StAC I count myself very lucky to have the technology, infrastructure and guidance available to try new tools to enhance the learning programs and assist with day to day teaching.

Having access to the tools and support increases the confidence of teachers to try new things – sometimes this is simply at a “Substitution” level on the SAMR scale of technology integration – but often it goes deeper into Modification and Redefinition:

SAMR Diving

These three teachers, recognised externally by Microsoft for the innovative work they’re doing in their classrooms, along with our eLearning Integrator Mr Tom Adams, need to function as change agents and ambassadors within the College in 2016, sharing their pedagogy and encouraging colleagues to follow their lead.

In 2014 St Andrew’s introduced the 1:1 Computing Programme to Year 9 students, making it compulsory for all students in that year group to bring a laptop. We have now successfully concluded the second year of this and, in 2016, are rolling back this requirement to Year 8 students in our Preparatory School as well.

Both Mr Dekkers and Mr Adams have been heavily involved in planning the rationale and support for the Year 8 programme. The result of this is that close to 700 students in Years 8-11 will be required to bring a laptop to school each day: clearly the need for eLearning leaders such as those recognised above is critical to ensure staff and students can maximise the value of this technology.

I am really pleased that this video, and the recognition from Microsoft of these three teachers, reflects the huge amount of effort and planning that goes into teaching with technology at St Andrew’s College.

Footnote: One of the happy outcomes from the day Microsoft spent filming was the chance to interview Toby, a budding game developer in Mr Dekkers’ class. This led to a followup Skype interview that I blogged about here

Toby 3

Bringing Experts into the Classroom

One of the main purposes of this blog is to raise awareness within the college of innovative pedagogy, with the overall aim of inspiring others. I was excited this week to spend a bit of time in a Year 6 Religious Education classroom, where I saw evidence of exactly that.

At the recent conference of the New Zealand Association of Religious Education Teachers and Chaplains, our Preparatory School Religious Education Teacher, Mrs Jillian Fenton, found herself reflecting on the possibilities of tapping into the expertise of others, and bringing that into her classroom. This reflection was in conjunction with the 2016 Religious Education curriculum review which was aiming to continue to make learning in this particular curriculum area as authentic as possible.

As part of this process Mrs Fenton also thought back to her Year 6 student’s end of term reflections from Term 3. Within these she noted that a number of children raised some very interesting questions that they wanted the opportunity to ask.

Accessing an Expert

Mrs Fenton had seen what was going on with Skype in the College, with Mystery Skypes, intra-college lessons, and asking an expert; and she really wanted her students to have the same opportunity. She approached Dr Jennifer McLeod, a Physics, Science and Religious Education teacher at John McGlashon College in Dunedin.

Both Year 6 classes were given the opportunity to connect with Dr McLeod and have their questions answered.  My observations of one of these session illustrated the extremely high levels of student engagement as they asked questions such as

“Does God’s power have a limit?”

 

“What proof is there of God’s existence?”

Mrs Fenton notes that “It was brilliant to give children the opportunity to ask those questions of someone they perceive as an expert.”

I thought it was great to see this example of a teacher thinking carefully about how she could use approachable technology to give her students such an engaging and authentic learning experience.

Reflections from ULearn 2015

ulearn logo

In the last week of the recent school holidays I, along with 5 other secondary staff, attended ULearn15. This annual conference, hosted by Core Education, is arguably the preeminent IT in education conference in New Zealand. This year it was held once again in Auckland – although I must admit to being excited at the possibility of it returning to Christchurch once a suitable post-earthquake venue is finally built!

uLearn15 aimed to allow its delegates to connect, collaborate, and innovate and make a difference by exploring:

  • Re-imagining Learners and Learning / Te whakaako
  • Re-imagining Teacher Practice / Te pūtoi ako
  • Re-imagining Leaders and Leadership / Te mahi rangatira

The clear thematic structure of the conference proved to be a very powerful aspect of ULearn, as it enable more clarification of the exact content of breakouts, and also allowed delegates to focus on one particular area of interest, if they wished.

THREE ENGAGING KEYNOTES:

A feature of uLearn is always the engaging Keynote speakers, and this year we were treated to three extremely engaging keynote presentations.

The first was the American educator, Grant Lichtman. In his speech Grant outlined his vision around generating a positive capacity for change within education. Of particular interest to me was his challenge to ask if your school is Dynamic, Adaptive, Permeable and Creative. The underlying aim of such an educational institution must be knowledge creation. Grant acknowledged that this journey will require all educators to break through the fear and inertia to change, saying that it is

“harder to change if we have been going well in the past. Change is Hard, but not in schools – its uncomfortable” .

A final resource that Grant referred to is the Stairway of Successful innovation. I found this resource particularly interesting as it allowed me to reflect on the changes that I am leading here at school and allowed me to reflect on the success of their implementation.

stair

The second keynote speaker was Dr Ann Lieberman from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. During her long, and distinguished career Dr Lieberman has developed a particular interest in Teacher Leadership and the role that teachers play in implementing and driving change within their schools. A focus of her talk was the success gained by the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program in Ontario, Canada. Dr Lieberman identified the successes that this program had enjoyed, particularly the professional value that was generated within the teaching fraternity. She was also keen to pint out the role that all teachers must play in leadership within their schools. She noted that

“conflict within change does not have to be destructive. Conflict can be constructive”

manaiakalaniThe final keynote address of the conference was particularly inspiring. Pat Snedden, the Chair of Manaiakalani Education Trust, took delegates on a journey describing the origins, current successes and future of this important trust which aims to improve educational outcomes for children in some of New Zealand’s most socio-economically disadvantaged communities. I had previously heard the story of this trust – but this presentation gave me a fuller understanding of the outstanding work that this group has done, and importantly their plans to help children in similar circumstances around New Zealand to enjoy the benefits accrued by this simply inspiring Trust.

BREAKING OUT:

The most crucial element of a delegates enjoyment and learning from a conference such as this, is the range of breakouts that you attend. This year I made a conscious effort to be on-the-ball regarding the opening of breakouts – to ensure that I got all my top choices, which I did.

Across the three days I attended 7 different Breakout sessions. All of these sessions were extremely well organised, interesting, and relevant to both my role here at St Andrew’s College, and the future direction of education in New Zealand.

One particularly interesting session was presented by Westley Field, an Australian educator. He initially reflected on the importance for a school to have a clear school-wide pedagogy; one that all staff can buy into. He continued, to speak about the importance of student well-being as a catalyst for academic success, and the implications that this has for schools.

“Resilience can be changed, and taught. Socratic questioning can be incorporated as a way to ensure that students are building resilience. This improvement must be happening constantly.”

One of the highlights of my conference was Mark Osborne giving an extremely interesting seminar around leading change in schools, leadership vs management, and the importance of preparing people for change.  He also gave some clear strategies that should be considered in dynamic organisations such as schools. I particularly like the question

“what is the opportunity cost of NOT changing”

The session was particularly useful for me as a colleague, Ms Yuill-Proctor, was also in attendance. She remarks that she particularly enjoyed:

“looking at 1st order change and 2nd order change. How to make the transition from 2nd order change into 1st order change smoother.”

To read more about Ms Yuill-Proctor’s experiences at ULearn, check out her blog.

IMPACT OF THE CONFERENCE:

pirate

Part of the St Andrew’s College delegation enjoying some important social time at the uLearn Dinner.

Attending ULearn is always extremely interesting and worthwhile; I was very impressed with ULearn15. After three years of non-attendance, I was glad to see that the conference appears to be re-energised, and this has definitely rubbed off on me. All attendees from our school found it an extremely engaging and motivating three days.

Moving forward I have learnt a great deal about managing change within my job, and more importantly, supporting staff to engage more proactively with this process of change.

As usual uLearn was heavily tweeted by delegates – feel free to follow me.  To catch up on the conference, check out archive tweets from @uLearnNZ or #ulearn15.