Tuesday, 18 April 2017

How pedagogy should underpin the innovation of powerful technologies

How pedagogy should underpin the innovation of powerful technologies

We have learnt that introducing a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy can be fraught with controversy unless it is executed through a robust consultation process, transparency at all levels and most importantly being grounded in how the device will enhance learning. The clear articulation and shared understanding of how the device will impact learning positively, what pedagogy will underpin its use and the agreed safety around use is an important first step. In fact the introduction of any new technology should be underpinned by this process.

In his article Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, Gregory Firn commented:

Cutting-edge technologies like virtual reality, 3D printing and the “Internet of Things” have reached the classroom. While these technologies already have potential to enrich STEM concepts, they often originate from the consumer world and risk standing alone in maker spaces and classroom workshops.

I agree with Firn and in the age of the introduction of modern learning environments/innovative learning environments/flexible learning spaces we are acutely aware that the effective pedagogy that underpins learning, no matter the learning space, must be clearly articulated, shared and consistently applied across the school before utilising these types of future focused spaces.

As an example, acquiring a 3D printer needs to begin with the same question:

How will this new technology enhance learning?

Introducing a 3D printer into existing mental models and practices of teaching and learning may result in usage within a particular learning environment, such as a Maker Space, but only as an end tool to produce an item.

If, however, the 3D printer is integral to carrying out an authentic inquiry based on a real world need, utilising rich task pedagogy and developing transdisciplinary knowledge and skills, then its introduction will enhance learning.

I saw a wonderful example of this last term whereby the year 7 students undertook a unit of inquiry focused on developing an innovation to aid an adult who was a tetraplegic.

The teachers utilised a powerful combination of practice:

inquiry based pedagogy

transdisciplinary learning

design thinking

student agency

authentic constructionist

The students invented and designed a variety of tools to hopefully help improve the quality of life for their subject. Their dedication, enthusiasm and level of innovation was astounding!  Students explored problem solving through trial and error by digitally designing and modifying models on-screen, and revisiting that design after testing and analysing the printed prototype.

The 3D printer making the knife designed by the students
 Key to their success were the 3D printers. These machines were an integral tool that enhanced learning by bringing the students' designs and products to life. They produced a final and tangible product! As a result of this unit we've now got a number of students who can design and print an object completely independently, which is no small thing.

The knife being tested – a great success!

The 3D printer enriches the STEM concept immensely and when introduced within a rich inquiry, a design task with real world application has huge potential to enhance learning. 

George Velez in his article:


A 3D printer will no longer be a rare classroom accessory, or a tool transported from room-to-room on a cart. They will be the center of the classroom makerspace environment. Rather than teachers assigning students a clear objective for building a working 3D model, students will turn to this technology to complete cross-curricular project-based assignments, or to conceptualize algebraic formulas or sequences.

Velez believes 3D printing as a skill recommendation, or even requirement, is expected to become a reality as soon as 2019.

In conclusion, I believe new powerful technologies are a reality of education today. However, ensuring they are not just a fad driven purchase but introduced to enhance effective future focused pedagogy is key!

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Helping girls to lean in

This week I asked my lead team to offer ideas for my principal’s assembly that I host at the beginning of each term. I choose a focus in order to introduce a specific value or attitude for the girls to work on or develop throughout the term. In effect it becomes our mantra for the term and has included phrases like the power of yet and I want to see you be brave.
The teachers talked about helping girls to have the courage to stand up for what they need and want. They want girls to believe in themselves and in their talents. They want girls to be confident and to make their own good choices.
The teacher’s discussion reminded me of Sheryl Sandberg’s text Lean In:  Women, Work and the Will to Lead which describes the challenges women face in trying to get ahead. Sandberg argues that internal obstacles, such as lack of self-confidence, hold women back and consequently women lower their expectations of what they can achieve.

Helping girls to make that transition from seeking continual approval and advice from parents or teachers to making their own good choices and being confident in their own abilities is a delicate but essential developmental stage. As educators we need to provide activities and strategies that allow a great deal of practice to succeed and fail but ultimately empower our students to be confident in their own skin to make good choices.
How do we do this?
Firstly, by ensuring our school’s pastoral care programme is underpinned by the development of key social and emotional core competencies such as self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills and social awareness (casel.org).

The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) Key Competencies and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP) Learner Profile are two examples of how a curriculum can be underpinned by key social and emotional competencies.


Secondly, by utilising programmes such as Pubertal Change, Bounce Back, Keeping Ourselves Safe, Friends for Life, OWLS etc. across the school and deliberately timetabling the yearly programmes across year groups. These deliberate acts of teaching and comprehensive programmes will ensure a dedicated approach to pastoral care and the development of confident students who have self-belief and make good choices.

 My mantra for term 2 is LEAN IN! My mantra poster that will be prominent in all classrooms to reinforce the message looks like, see below:


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Meaningfully connecting with students

As a leader of your school, are you meaningfully connecting with your students?

As leaders we know that relationships are at the core of everything we do in our schools. Building a healthy school culture based on relational trust and core values is paramount and meaningfully connecting to our students everyday should be our aim.

I received the note below from a student and it not only made my heart sing it reinforced my belief around taking the time to personally connect with my students everyday:

So, how do we best make that meaningful connection?

Simple advice from the net:
George Couros – The Principal of Change
Couros’ 6 ways to connect:

1.     Welcome the kids when they arrive. Wave goodbye when they leave.
2.     Your first interaction with a student should always be a positive one.
3.     Talk as little as possible using questioning to allow the student to share their story.
4.      Use humour to deal with situations any chance you can.
5.     Do the walk – everyday if possible.
6.     Kids will love you if they know you love them.

Jessica and John Hannigan – US Educational Consultants on Leadership
10 easy ways for school leaders to connect with students:

1.     Talk to students daily – know their name, ask questions, listen to their stories.
2.     Eat lunch with students.
3.     Be visible.
4.     Greet students.
5.     Take time to get to know students and their families.
6.     Support your students at school events.
7.     Have classroom chats or chats with groups of students regarding current and serious topics on a daily basis.
8.     Play a game with them at lunch or participate in school activities.
9.     Be there for them if they need you.
1. Positive phone calls home.

Going a little deeper:

James Alan Sturtevant – You’ve Gotta Connect!

He asks:
Do you share your own life with your students?
How do you show that you value their individual cultures?
How do you differentiate relationship building with different students?
How do you embrace challenging behaviours, difficult times, set backs?
Do you compare present students with past students?

Sturtevant’s best practice:

When you share parts of your life students will feel comfortable and share their own.
Enquire and learn about their interests, passions, leisure activities, and family life so that they get a sense that you value them.
Just accept that some relationships will form quickly and others will take time.
Respectfully resolving problems will ensure strong valuable connections are formed and maintained.
Focus on the gifts and needs of your present students rather than comparing the present cohort to the past.

The key word regarding connection is meaningful.
It is relatively easy to adhere to the simple advice offered above but forming meaningful connections requires not only planned, dedicated, sustained effort over time but also should go hand-in-hand with developing strong student voice opportunities.
 have written a blog post previously on meaningful student involvement and provided tools such as the Ladder of Participation and the Spectrum of Student Voice Oriented Activity Model to gauge your current school level of student involvement.
Personally, as a principal I have found the following practice as key to meaningful student connection:

·      Every day, purposefully aim to engage with students on a personal level through asking, listening, watching, and sharing stories
·      Play (in a broader sense) with students, no matter their age
·      Be the greeter – welcome and acknowledge with a warm smile encouraging interaction
·      Schedule frequent class walk through visits otherwise, if left to chance, they won’t happen
·      Host lunch sessions to get feedback
·      Attend extra curricular school activities organised by students to offer your support
·      Personally thank students for any service to the school no matter how small
·      Try to learn as many names as possible as well as personal passions/interests
·      Share your own personal passions/interests with students
·      Offer guidance, support and be a mentor to your students

And remember …

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Why asking our kids what they want to be when they leave school is now redundant

Why asking our students what they want to be when they leave school is now redundant

We have all heard the following statement many times over the past year:

The reality is if you have a child starting school this year, two thirds of the kids in their class will end up doing jobs that don’t quite exist yet.


Thanks to advancements in technology up to 65 percent of children entering primary school today will end up working in completely new job types.

What is the catalyst for this change in skill sets? 
Answer - The Fourth Revolution!

The World Economic Forum’s latest report tells us that there are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one: velocity, scope, and systems impact:

The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.

The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited. And these possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.

The excellent video below shows evidence of the dramatic change that is all around us and happening at exponential speed.

The World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Report (2016) and their New Vision for Education Report provides a comprehensive picture of the global workforce and purports the following:

·      Most new jobs will have a technology component to them

·      What will increasingly be needed is good training in basic
technology competence, asking the right questions, critical
thinking, analysing concepts and leading a purposeful

·      Creativity, collaboration and non-cognitive skills will be key

·      Knowledge of traditional arts and humanities subjects is
highly relevant to this, making obsolete past notions of a
dichotomy between humanities and sciences.

And again from the World Economic Forum:
It is predicted that 5 million jobs will be lost before 2020 as artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology and other socio-economic factors replace the need for human workers.
So what skills should workers be acquiring to make sure they have value as the Fourth Industrial Revolution gathers pace?

Some may be surprised to learn that skills we develop in pre-school will be valued highly.

David Deming, associate professor of education and economics at Harvard University, argues that soft skills like sharing and negotiating will be crucial. He says the modern workplace, where people move between different roles and projects, closely resembles pre-school classrooms, where we learn social skills such as empathy and cooperation.

Along with those soft skills, mathematical ability will be enormously beneficial.

So, in conclusion:
 Mathematics + Computer Science + interpersonal skills = being prepared for the future work force!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

7 ways to ensure meaningful student involvement leading to school improvement

Definition of meaningful student involvement:

It is the process of engaging students as partners in every facet of the education system for the purpose of strengthening their commitment to education, community and democracy.

Is it simply student voice?
That is, any expression by any student about any aspect of school life.
Is it student engagement?
That is, when a student feels excited and motivated to learn.
Is it student consultation?
That is, listening to student’s opinions about school.
Is it student participation?
That is, students committed to taking part in all aspects of learning
Or, is it a combination of all of the above?

No, it isn’t!
It is a deeper more committed active process that
leads to school improvement!

 So, what can meaningful student involvement look like?

1. Students as researchers!
Firstly, I have blogged about this before but I passionately believe training older students undertake learning walks to gather and analyse data about learning results in a meaningful research partnership leading to improved student outcomes.

2. Students as curriculum planners!
Again, I believe passionately that students should have the opportunity to plan units of inquiry, with teachers, to ensure prior knowledge and student interest is acknowledged and build into any rich inquiry tasks.

3. Students as advocates for change!
Empowering students to take meaningful action locally and globally is a necessary future focused practice. Offering students rich, complex, real world problems to solve and supporting them to take action will lead to meaningful commitment to service, as opposed to, low level giving through muffin stalls and mufti days to donate to causes.

4. Students as co-researchers with the teacher!
I believe all teacher inquiries should be informed by student voice and opinion. We consult widely to gather research and ideas in answer to our wonderings and inquiries but how often do we share our research with our students and seek their advice, ideas and opinions?

5. Students as culture builders!
In New Zealand we are great advocates of peer mediation and a variety of buddy systems in our schools designed to help students support each other and grow respectful, caring relationships. Tick this one off ü

6. Students as eco-warriors!
Again, in New Zealand, we have a strong philosophy and practice developing our students as respectful environmental citizens who are informed and have developed a consciousness and awareness of the world’s rapidly changing physical challenges and sustainable practice. 
Tick this one off ü

7. Students as teachers!
We know peer teaching has an effect size of .55 (Hattie, 2011). So why do we not utilise this valuable practice more?

I challenge all teachers to answer the following:
·      How often in a school day are your students teaching each other?

·      What opportunities do you provide for students to lead the learning, instead of yourself, throughout the day?

·      Have you consciously timed the teacher talk time/mat time in your class over a school day?

·      Do you start a lesson/activity with “We are going to investigate/learn about ……. Who would like to share their knowledge/skills about this topic/concept/strategy?

·      How often in a school day do you bring closure to a lesson by asking your students to reflect and share/question/explain their learning to other peers?

Together, the 7 ways to ensure meaning student involvement will result in some form of school improvement and definitely bring real teacher/student partnership in learning to life!

Rate your level of student involvement against the ladder of participation below: