The Importance Of Collaborating With The Community…

Recently our school has added another tool to support our e-Learning practices and embraced the use of blogging as a way to increase student voice and agency; while at the same time using this to build relationships with our community.  

A potential issue I see arising from this is parents and caregivers not understanding why we are moving towards digital tools to record learning.  This is moving away from what they know learning to be.  Their schooling experience was very different to now.  Often the teacher was at the front of the class, and students were expected to write everything down in books.  Therefore, I think it is necessary to address the question:  ‘Does our community know why their kids are using blogging?’

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Technology can be overwhelming… so how do we support those in our community who are still adapting to a technological age?

Everything we do as educators must come back to purpose.  Recently I asked ‘What comes first:  tools or pedagogy?’   One of the responses to this question was:  ‘They hold equal weighting.’  But what I have learned over the past year is that everything should always stem from pedagogy, then it is about applying the best tools to help us secure learning experiences that make the learning purposeful.  Jefferies, Carsten-Stahhi & McRobb (2007, p123) believe that if a given technology is not compatible with the underlying pedagogy or if the pedagogy conflicts with ethical ideas, then it is likely that the purpose of the use of technology, namely to educate, is in danger of not being fulfilled. This is important to acknowledge because it highlights how important it is to understand why we as educators are choosing to teach the way we do, and use the tools we are.  So then how do we convey all this information to parents when what we really want to be doing is getting on with the teaching?  How can we assure parents that what we are doing is the best for their child?  

One of the difficulties for schools when wanting to embed digital technologies into a school, is having the time to connect with the community.  Often only a small amount of the community will be consulted with, often due to parent availability and tight timeframes. Before blogging was reintroduced to our school, Senior Management were provided with the pedagogy that supported this initiative with an inquiry question to drive it:  Can blogging improve the strength of a student’s voice when given authentic opportunities to identify their interests, direct their own learning and receive feedback from peers and the wider community?  An implementation plan was established with clear guidelines and timeframes.  To address the need for community consultation, this plan included meeting with our community focus groups to find out what they know, and to share why and what we are doing to improve the 21st Century skills of their tamariki; and in doing so building stronger relationships with our community.

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Coming Together To Work Towards A Common Goal.  *

When I think of how best to reassure parents that our approach to use blogging as a tool is in the best interest of their child, I look to the Teachers Code of Ethics, particularly point 2:  Commitment to Parents/Guardians and family/whānau.  It states that professional decisions in regard to learning must always be weighted towards what is judged to be in the best interests of the learners.  However, it is crucial to acknowledge and collaborate with parents and caregivers about these decisions. Parents and caregivers trust that we will make sound choices when it comes to their tamariki.  But, we must involve them in the decision making process by providing more than one opportunity for them to be part of open, honest and respectful conversations about changes that affect their child’s learning.

 

References:

Code of Ethics from Certified Teachers.  Retrieved on 7 March 2016 from: http://www.educationcouncil.org.nz/content/code-of-ethics-certificated-teachers-0

Commitment to Parents/Guardians and Family/Whanau.  Retrieved on 7 March 2016 from:  https://app.themindlab.com/media/12729/view

Pat Jefferies , Bernd Carsten‐Stahl & Steve McRobb (2007) Exploring the relationships between pedagogy, ethics and technology: building a framework for strategy development, Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 16:1, 111-126, DOI: 10.1080/14759390601168122.  Retrieved on 8 March 2016 from: http://www.tandfonline.com.libproxy.unitec.ac.nz/doi/pdf/10.1080/14759390601168122

* Picture sourced on 9 March 2016 from: Room 10 – Student Hands 🙂

Yes, Social Media Has Enhanced My Professional Development

Back in 2006 when I set up my very first blog, I had no idea what social media was, or the impact it would end up having on my personal life, or how it would go on to enhance my professional development later.  At the time it turns out it was quite innovative, but I just saw it as a way to share with potential employers evidence of my teaching practice, my philosophies and 21st Century skills; not that I called them that then, I only connected with that term in 2015 as part of a Postgraduate course in Applied Teaching.  Over the past 10 years I have developed a few online blogs, webpages and opened a twitter account due to business ventures, and wanting to connect with like minded people.  Interestingly, it has only been over the past year that I have started to maximise its potential to enhance my teaching practice.  

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My First Blog…..

Having been fortunate enough to work in a multitude of roles before becoming a teacher, I have seen how the use of social media and technology has quickly changed the economy.  I was reminded of how quickly things change when I watched an interview where educators spoke about the importance of being “connected” in order to be an effective teachers and leaders (Connected Educators Month).  Change goes hand in hand with leadership; to stay the same serves no one.  I have been asking myself many questions over the past year, and one of them being: “How can I be an effective leader if I am not using social media in most forms in my practice?”  The short answer:  I can’t.  I have to know what it is I am to teach, and to lead, I must be using the tools of the trade, as well as reviewing my pedagogy that underpins my practice.

People who do not use social media as intended, may find it hard to understand how it has enhanced my professional development; is it not just a time waster?  When used properly I have found that it provides me with a place to collaborate with like minded people where I can share my understandings of a given topic to deepen my understanding. King, (2011, p44) highlights that sharing my practice with others using online communities will expand my learning network, and give me first-hand contact with experts and colleagues within my specialty area, and possibly additional areas.  I have found this to be true and using social media has also allowed me to mingle with passionate educators from multiple backgrounds giving voice to so many different views and experiences, this view is also supported by those interviewed by Connected Educators.  Without a doubt I know that the embedding of  social media into my practice is essential because it not only demonstrates I am a 21st Century learner myself, but it keeps me connected with those that can grow my mind beyond the four walls of my school; and then I can share this knowledge with those who wish to develop their 21st Century skill set.     

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When using social media there should be purpose and clear outcomes to enhance student learning.

The students I teach are surrounded by social media apps, from Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and so many more.  As highlighted by Cassidy (2013), children use social media tools at home, so we need to embrace the same technologies at school as a way to provide a connection between their home and school environments.  I was given no formal training on how to behave on social media, but I was raised with morals and values which I display with every picture, video or comment I post.  Students today live in an environment where they are constantly stimulated and use online tools, often with no training, which makes my experiences valuable to my students.  I am able to help them understand how to build a positive digital footprint online, a view shared by Social Media For Kids®.  

I have brought my knowledge of blogging and social media skills to my school.  I know the importance of connecting with other people, and I believe that students need to be given the same opportunities under guidance to connect with classrooms in other towns and countries.  By integrating social media in my classroom programme, I get to learn alongside my students as we reach out and talk with experts on a topic that my students  are interested in.  My class this year has already established a connection with an international school in Hong Kong and they love it.  Social media brought us together to share our learning experiences, and develop empathy of others with different worldviews.  Whether you agree with it or not, our world is becoming more and more connected.  Teachers and students need to learn in an environment where they can communicate with others from different cultures and countries.  Everyone needs to be taught how to act online safely and responsibly.

Ultimately I see myself as a lifelong learner and already know which learning programme I will head to after my postgraduate certificate is completed.  Learning should not stop when we get our teachers registration.  My mother is a great example of this, having had 8 children and working full time, she always made time for postgraduate study.  Our students need us now, we must consistently and constantly be educating ourselves to keep abreast of educational trends, technology and best practice to help our children develop the 21st Century skills they will need to become contributing members of society.

 

References:

Cassidy, K.  (2013). Using social media in the classroom. Retrieved on 2 March 2016 from: https://app.themindlab.com/media/12724/view and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riZStaz8Rno

Connected Educators.  Retrieved on 2 March 2016 from:

https://app.themindlab.com/media/12726/view and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4Vd4JP_DB8

King, K. P. (2011). Professional Learning in Unlikely Spaces: Social Media and Virtual Communities as Professional Development. International Journal Of Emerging Technologies In Learning, 6(4), 40-46.

Social Media For Kids® The Social Media Education Experts.   Retreived on 2 March 2016 from: https://app.themindlab.com/media/12725/view and https://app.themindlab.com/media/12725/view

The Effects Of New Technologies & Global Migration On My Teaching Practice

I believe that new technologies and global migration are influencing and shaping the classroom I teach in and I will share why.

The first issue is the impact of technologies on education.  The 20th Century education system prepared students to work in industries that required a set of skills that do not serve students that are part of a 21st Century world.   Back in the day students used pens to record their learning in books, and teachers stood at the front of the class disseminating content into students, like porridge being forced through a funnel into what was thought an empty vessel.  Times have changed, and the development of technology has seen that schools are increasingly moving towards the use of tablets, iPads and Chromebooks to record learning; using the internet to find information and connect with people from different cultures and continents around the world.

The teacher’s role now, is to facilitate their learning, not stand in the way of it.   So how is this shaping education in New Zealand?  It’s simple. Students now need more than ever to leave school with the ability to engage with current and emerging technologies.  This exposure plays an important role in enabling and creating new learning opportunities and ways of learning for our students, similar to what they will contend with in the working environment. (Bolstad, Gilbert, McDowall, Bull, Boyd, & Hipkins, 2012,  p5).  

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What do 21st Century Learners need?

How do we as teachers ensure that our students can survive in the ever changing 21st Century where the technology is changing faster than Usain Bolt can run the 100 metre sprint? We must adapt our teaching pedagogy and practices.  We must actively learn the skills we need to teach.  Now is the time for teachers to be thinking about how they can work together with their students in a “knowledge-building” learning environment. Bolstat, Et Al. (2012, p16) discusses the importance of teachers equipping students to do things with the knowledge they have learned, to use knowledge in inventive ways, in new contexts and combinations.  In addition to this, they require opportunities to explore who they are and have a strong sense of self worth, a sense of whanaungatanga.  They need to be thinkers that are critical and creative; able to engage and share their ideas with people from all walks of life.  And most importantly recognise that ongoing learning will be part of their everyday lives, so they remain adaptable and open to change.

If teachers do not adapt their pedagogical practice by taking on recognised professional development and learning how to use the technology available to their students, they merely act as an anchor around their student’s neck.  Personally I have made the leap and have become a facilitator in my student’s learning, taking on study to challenge my existing beliefs and to develop my own 21st Century skills.

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Absolute IT Recruitment Specialists (2014)

The second issue I believe will affect the education sector is global migration.  New Zealand Immigration is currently offering immigrants the opportunity to combine lifestyle with a career in technology.   So how does this affect education? With over 75,000 people in New Zealand currently employed in ICT-related roles, one cannot ignore the potential impact they place on unprecedented demands on healthcare, social services and education systems (UNESCO, 2008, p2).   Teachers need to provide migrant children with linguistic integration to help them transition into formal schooling.  If this is not done successfully these children will not attain an education that will allow them to access roles that will provide them with the ability to contribute to the economic base of their community.

So how can I help my students have positive outcomes as migrants?  I work to provide them with opportunities to form relationships with peers that will help develop their sense of whanaungatanga, a sense of belonging.  I do my best to take as many opportunities that present themselves to celebrate their home cultures in my classroom so they feel valued and understood.  I also provide opportunities for my migrant students to fully participate to the best of their ability in their new environment with support so they feel valued and safe (UNESCO, 2008 p2).

Ultimately any change in society will be felt in the educational sector, and there is no quick fix.  However, I do believe that an openness to ongoing pedagogical development, learning about and actively applying best practice will lead us towards better outcomes for our students, which in turn provide better outcomes for our communities.

Glossary:

Whanaungatanga  =  sense of belonging, friendship or a reciprocal relationship

References:

Absolute IT Recruitment Specialists (2014).  Creating a High Tech Capital.  Retreived on 2 March 2016 from: https://www.absoluteit.co.nz/2014/11/creating-a-high-tech-capital/

Bolstad, R., & Gilbert, J., with McDowall, S., Bull, A., Boyd, S., & Hipkins, R.  June 2012. Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching – a New Zealand perspective.  New Zealand Council for Educational Research.  Retrieved on 25 February from: https://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/schooling/109306

Education 20/20.  21st Century Learning:  What do 21st Century Learners Need?  Retreived on 2 March 2016 from: https://education-2020.wikispaces.com/21st+Century+Learning

New Zealand Now:  Information Technology, New Zealand Immigration.  Retrieved on 25 February from:   https://www.newzealandnow.govt.nz/work-in-nz/nz-jobs-industries/information-technology-jobs

The Impact of Global Migration on the Education of Young Children.  UNESCO Policy Brief on Early Childhood.  Retrieved on 25 February from:  http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0016/001629/162977e.pdf

Connected & Collaborative Learning…

Hi to all my educator friends.  My class has been working hard at putting their first class blog together so we can share our learning with others.

We are looking to collaborate with other schools from all around the world.  Let’s make learning purposeful and help our students develop their 21st Century skill set.

If this opportunity sounds like something you would be interested in, please contact me via our classroom blog.

Room 10 @ Rangikura 

Thank you in anticipation!

Charlotte

My Professional Connections…

 

Create a map of your current and potential professional connections:

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http://popplet.com/app/Popplet_Alpha.swf?page_id=2994191&em=1

  • Choose two professional connections you have in your map. Evaluate their impact on your practice and professional community.

Parents & Caregivers:

I believe that my role as a teacher is to serve the student, which flows onto the parent or caregiver of that child.  This relationship has always been an interesting one.  Students do much better socially and academically when they know their parent is interested in their learning, and expect good results.  I have also found from experience, that often the parents/caregivers who spend quality time teaching their child about values and morals do well at school.

I know that it is important to build strong relationships with the families of the students that I teach.  They are the crucial link to the child’s success.  This can be challenging if you have never met the parent!  The impact of this has moved me with the support of my school to use classroom blogs for all classes.  During Term 1 individual student blogs for Years 4-8 will also be up and running.  It is my hope that we will be able to build stronger relationships with parents with the use of technology.  We are now able to email out links to parents so they can view their child’s learning when it’s fresh.  They will  be free to comment on it showing their interest.  It also provides another way to begin building relationships with those parents I have never met, either due to work commitments or other reasons.

Professional Peers At School:

I believe that teaching should be transparent and focused.  We are role models with everything we say and do.  This is the choice we make when we become a teacher.  I am fortunate to work with professional peers who are open to learning technology that will support their student’s learning.  I have had the privilege to work at a few schools over the years and have found it fascinating that some teachers, even though they know why they are learning a new skill, are not taking the time to embed it in their practice.  Would we let the student in our class act the same way when we are trying to move them forward with their learning?

How does this impact my practice?  Schools are only as good as their teachers.  We are a professional body who are entrusted with the development of young minds.  I do not find it easy constantly learning, but for me, in this role, there is no other option.  Teaching is learning.  I feel that teachers who are not up for the challenge, or find excuses for not keeping to agreed goals need to rethink their purpose.  If they are unable to keep pace, will the students in their class?  I have worked in both the corporate and educational sector.   In the corporate world they do not accept excuses for something not being done.  I believe this should be the same in the education sector.  Yes, support and professional learning must be provided to up-skill teaching staff around New Zealand.  But, we must make sure that those who have the skill, passion and time, are up there teaching our children.

Have You Critically Reflected On Your Practice Recently?

It is always fascinating to complete a critical reflection on one’s own practice.  I believe in transparency so I will identify and share two key competencies that I have spent time developing over the past 24 weeks whilst working towards my Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital & Collaborative Learning).  I will also look into two key changes I have made in my practice to benefit the children I serve.

For those of you that have no idea what the key competencies are, it is my privilege to share them with you.  You can click on the links to review the summary of each.  

The New Zealand Curriculum identifies five key competencies:

The two that I feel that have made the most significant progress with are relating to others and participating and contributing.   

Relating to others is about actively listening, recognising different points of view, negotiating these and sharing my own.  Sounds easy right?  Have you ever walked into a room of educated people and felt an overwhelming need to say nothing in case you say the wrong thing?  The mere thought of rocking up to someone and sharing my knowledge was not something I was particularly comfortable about.  I’m good at thinking, but articulating ideas can be a challenge for me as I have a tendency to bounce around a bit, which makes me hard to follow.  Being on this Postgraduate programme has given me a better understanding of the pedagogy that underpins the decisions we make as a teacher.  This knowledge has helped me gain confidence and acceptance that it is okay not to know everything.  Armed with this knowledge I find it easier to relate to others, let them take the lead when necessary, negotiate around differing points of view, and be confident in my own decisions.

Participating and contributing is about actively being involved in communities.  Originally I thought that this was a strength of mine, but upon reflection I can see I was deluding myself.  I have taught now for over 10 years, and when I look back, I have not really gone beyond connecting with the families of the children I teach.   Last year saw me reaching out and becoming more active in our school community.  This goes beyond the usual engagement where I have been involved in after school sport, dance splash and so on.  Professional development within the school, and the undertaking of the Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital & Collaborative Learning), has required me to step out of my classroom, and engage more often with my professional peers, student’s families and extended whānau to find out what they think, and what they want for their children.  Contributing has its challenges as often I find that I do not have the answers to hand, but I recognise that it is important to engage with others, and encourage myself and them to participate on joint projects for the betterment of our tamaraki.

When I reflect on these changes to my practice, it would be remiss of me not to consider how others perceive me. I will always be a strong personality to contend with, and when I have a view that I feel strongly about, you will no doubt hear about it.  But I am also empathic, and I have integrity.  I am open to others views, and I am working on listening without interrupting.  There will be times when I might not agree with someone’s views in the first instance, but upon reflection (which is one of my strengths) I am able to consider all the information and make a considered decision.  

Lastly, I would like to share a recent change that has played a significant role in keeping myself accountable and aware of my purpose when working with others.  My new slogan I have recently adopted has come from Rolfe et al.’s (2001) reflective model:

What?        So what?      Now What?

 

 

References:

The  MindLab by Unitec. (2015).  Postgrad Studies: programme overview. Retrieved online on 26/01/2016 from: http://themindlab.com/programme-overview/

New Zealand Curriculum. (2007).  Key Competencies.  Retrieved online on 26/01/2016 from:  http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum/Key-competencies

Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001) Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.  Retrieved online on 26/01/2016 from: http://www.cumbria.ac.uk/Public/LISS/Documents/skillsatcumbria/ReflectiveModelRolfe.pdf