Articles by " wkirkwood"

Refocus the Model

Sep 18, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Collaborate

This post is a follow up to an earlier post – Perfect Blend

Is there a perfect blend out there? Finding that right balance is a challenge in all areas of life. Finding this blend in my position as an ICT coach has been a constantly evolving process. Balancing class time, resource development, just in time support and general IT support is a tough role.

As an ICT department we are in the process of actually defining our blend. We want to get it down on paper and have it as a document which we can base our practice around.

So here is our refine blend:

75% – Coaching (Individualized Coaching with teachers mixed with Just-In-Time classroom/technical support)

25% – General Support (Workshops, Resource Development, Professional Development and Sharing Professional Practice)

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Leo Reynolds
We are still further clarifying the full break down of the various areas but it looks like things are coming together. This blend encompasses some of the best features of the blends I have used in the passed but has a different element which may really help further student learning. We will see how this blend matures.

Classroom Connection: Expression

Sep 16, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Classroom

“I wish I was encouraged to express my feelings more when I was younger”

This is the line that really caught me in this class. An IB student was talking to a room full of year 7 students about how expressing herself through her writing and performances has changed her life. Her comment was not made as a slight against her previous experiences but more a call to action to these year 7 students to share their passions. She challenged them to write about the events and friendships that they are involved in now.

“Do you need to write a poem about the flowing blue water? Why don’t you write about the experiences of one of the characters from a Halo game?”

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Visualogist

This discussion made me realise the power of real life examples, role models, play in a student’s development. Having a person who students can make a connection with whilst also pushing the student’s thinking is an empowering thing. Students need to see that their learning can make a difference – not just to the world around them but also to themselves.

If you want to hear more about this student’s thoughts take a look at her TEDx talk from last year

Classroom Connection: Common Craft

Sep 4, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Classroom, Collaborate

So what is the perfect professional development experience? Is it a conference with a fantastic guest speaker, a small working group focusing on a specific topic or a visit to another school?

I have been part of many different professional development experiences but still the most powerful experience I have had is visiting the classrooms of my fellow teachers at the schools I have worked in.

In this series of posts I am going to highlight some of the amazing teaching and learning strategies I have had the chance to be the part of.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by niznoz

Classroom Connection 1 – The Research Assignment

From the looks of it this class was completing a pretty standard activity – researching a topic and then presenting their findings. But as I got involved I began to realise it went much deeper.

In this class, students were asked to take on the perspective of a historical figure and prove that a certain theory was correct. They needed to provide evidence that supported their case. To make things more interesting students were given a variety of options of how they would present their findings – essay, comic book, storyboard, “Common Craft” style video or Go Animate animation.

So obviously the students were engaged but this wasn’t what really set this experience apart. Here were the things that I took away:

  • A clear task which was effectively presented and shared with students
  • A thorough explanation of the assessment rubric as the task was introduced (and regular refocusing throughout the assignment)
  • Individual conferencing with students during the assignment to check in with how they were going
  • Accessing support teachers to lend assistance to students.

I really looked forward to working with this class on this assignment because they were actively engaged whilst also having an effective structure of support to help assist them throughout the process.

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Marina – Canon broke,no new photos till it’s fixed

Admiring the View

Sep 4, 2012 by     4 Comments    Posted under: Collaborate

Things seem to have been travelling at a million miles an hour of late. Like the start of every year there is so much going on it seems like you are constantly trying to catch up. The increased activity on this blog is my way to get some head space and take a time out. I am finding that I really need these moments to step back and think about the things that have been going on.

This idea of stepping back is something that the tech department is going to actively pursue this year. It never ceases to amaze me the number of things going on the tech office at once – student laptop repairs, new program requests, recording tv shows, log in issues, student information systems, teaching help, new students, and that is just as I am writing now.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Mark Wheadon

In the next few weeks the IT department is going to step out for a day and take a look at where we are at and think about where we want to head – we are having a “retreat”. We have talked about doing this a number of times before but have never got the idea out of the planning stage. We have drawn up a skeleton of how this day will look. So here are the elements:

  • We will be off site during the day
  • Members of the administrative team will be invited to attend certain sessions
  • Specific goal – further refine our model of curriculum integration and instructional coaching
  • Hope – by the end of the day we will have a plan which will enable us to further support student learning and teacher development

What do you think? Any elements missing? We are planning to have a few conference calls with fellow educators to ensure we are aware of current best educational practice and will be sharing our work as we do it.

The Power of Teams

Aug 21, 2012 by     3 Comments    Posted under: Collaborate

Things are really starting to click here at the Secondary School. There hasn’t been any huge changes but you can feel the community coming together. Funnily enough I think this shift has been due to a change which is in no way revolutionary – it is just the right timing. This year at the secondary school the focus has shift more towards year level teaching teams as opposed to subject teams.

This slight shift has helped promote a new level of professional dialogue. Discussions are focusing on how to group students, lesson pacing, targeting student’s individual learning needs and things along these lines – the type of talk we all have always aimed for.

It is amazing how such a small change can affect the environment of the whole school so quickly.

Reaching out

Launch Day

Aug 16, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Classroom

Finally the day arrived when we got to launch our new “Digital Connections” course. It has been in the works for so long I was beginning to wonder if it was actually going to work – what would the students think? Well thankfully the reception was fantastic.

I opened up with a short game to help sort them into groups and then we started to unpack what this course was about – developing their technological knowledge, awareness and skills. It seems as if the idea of a passport was concrete enough for students, as they picked up on how things would work very quickly.

With that out of the way the students completed their first activity. I started out getting them all to do them same activity (designing an avatar) so as to ensure they pick up the mechanics of how things will work. The kids really got into the task and by the end of the lesson all had completed it. Phew!

don custion

It seems like this idea might just work. Can’t wait to see how the next few sessions go.

Moving Up

Aug 15, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Be Responsible, Communicate

You have got to love the buzz of students getting their first school laptop – it is infectious. This time of year has to be one of my favourites. The sound the kids make when they get to open their computers for the first time is still priceless.

Ford Family Portraits: Mr. Isaiah Early

This year we further refined our “role out” strategy. We have always tried to give our new year 7 students as much support as possible but this year we are trying to go that extra mile. Things kicked off on Friday afternoon with a keynote speech from the secondary principal on how technology is influencing our world. The students then took their laptops home for the weekend to explore. As the new week started up we organized a Year 7 Tech Conference. During this conference students worked in groups through a series of activities lead by various members of the teaching and admin staff.  The sessions during the day were structured for focus on the Approaches to Learning from the MYP programme. Students explored:

  • Responsibility – Digital Safety
  • Organization – OneNote & The Portal
  • Communication – Blogs
  • Organization – Dyknow & Veracross
  • Responsibilty – Ethical Use
  • Organization – Outlook
  • Organization – Backing Up

This is a similar structure to what we ran last year but the extra bit we are focusing on this year is the continued support we will provide the students. During House Room (home room for most) the teachers will be focusing on specific issues every fortnight. These sessions will mostly relate to how students organize themselves electronically and learning to lead a balanced life.  We will be using resources from Common Sense Media, Manic Time, Netsmartz (and many more of course) to help ensure that our new middle school students are supported as they progress through the year.

climb up the wall (cc)
Things have started up well. Let’s hope we can keep things going.


Providing Support

Aug 13, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Collaborate

Working at an ICT integrator or technology coach it is always a challenge to find the right balance of support for students and teachers. Over the years I have tried our various different strategies but each one has had its drawbacks – there is always room for improvement.

So after much thought last year I am going to try something a little different this year. My goal for this shift is to promote further professional dialogue about teaching and integration practices – if we can talk more about what we are doing I am sure we will bring all our practice forward. I suppose this has been the goal of many initiatives that schools have brought in but it seems to be somewhat elusive.

After taking inspiration from the Olympic I once again saw the value of having personalized attention. People need that connection and attention in order to move themselves to the next level. Luckily for me I work with a group of amazing and forward thinking teachers who are always looking for ways to improve their practice. So when I introduced the idea of providing individualized coaching to them they jumped at the chance.

How is it going to work?

  • select a range of teachers from a department to work with
  • discuss what areas of their practice they want to work on – doesn’t have to be tech related
  • attend as many lessons as possible
  • after each lessons simply chat about how things went
  • highlight connections between teachers who are part of the group
At the moment there isn’t much more to report other than there is a bit of buzz building about this idea.

Could this be the formula of support that I am looking for? I am not sure but I think it is moving in the right direction

Getting Connected

Aug 9, 2012 by     7 Comments    Posted under: Communicate, Digital Suitcase

When the school year starts up again it is always an interesting challenge to get connected with the things going on at school – friends, students, new initiative, etc. It seems that the holidays hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm to try something totally different this year – it is time to get out there again.

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Ivan Rumata

For the first stop on this journey into the uncomfortable Ivan and myself have continued the redevelopment of our Year 9 course. We are looking to implement a student directed and peer assessed course and I think we are getting close.

The course is designed around the idea that the students are working towards their “Digitally Connected Passport“. Along the way they will earn stamps in this passport to show their development and mastery. The different regions/sections that the students will have to explore are the MYP Approaches to Learning. Inside each region students will have to complete a set number of activities in order to earn their stamp. As they work towards a stamp each activity will need to be peer assessed and then as they go for their stamp they have to get approved by the supervisor (Ivan or myself). Hopefully we have found the right blend of entertainment and challenging.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by JorgeBRAZIL

We have taken inspiration from many different sources for the games style of this unit and have drawn heavily on the new Common Sense Media curriculum for our activities. Things are looking good at the moment and we only have to wait a few more days to let is lose on the students. I can’t wait.

Is This Creativity?

Jul 9, 2012 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Classroom

Creativity is one of the aspects of teaching that I enjoy the most. If I thought about the traditional definitions of “creativity” there would be no way I would include myself in that definition but if you look at it through another lens then I can see why I like it so much. I simply love the challenge of thinking of solutions to challenges. Looking at all aspects of a challenge and coming up with what seem like ridiculous (creative) solutions. These are the things that I look forward to.

The other day when I was reflecting on my year 9 “Digital Connections” course that wave of creativity (or ridiculousness) hit me. Why don’t we just try something totally different next time? What we did this year was good but I am sure it always could be better.

Like all ridiculous ideas you need to have a sound board and luckily I work in a great team and I was able to “nut out” the idea with Ivan (who also teaches the other half of the students in the course).

So what was so ridiculous? Well our course is a non-assessed course based around “digital” issues. We have a lot of flexibility with what we cover but at times we haven’t got all our students won over. Don’t get me wrong they enjoy coming along but at times it has felt a bit forced. So the challenge Ivan and I were facing is how can we offer a course which is engaging, relevant and challenging whilst also ensuring our student’s learning needs are met.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Diego Dalmaso

We discussed Cathy Davidson’s graduate program where students basically lead the course and are fully peer assessed, ISB’s Google Ninja training and a range of instructional approaches. We also looked at integration and curriculum models from ISTE and Common Sense Media. They gave us a huge range of ideas and in the end I think we have settled on something of a hybrid of all of these.

Here is how things stand at the moment:

  • ATLs – IB Approaches to Learning (ATLs) will be the framework we use for our learning experiences
  • Strands – We are designing a range of learning experiences for each strand of the ATLs.
  • Grouping – In class students can work alone, in pairs or in small groups
  • Self Directed – students will have choice over which activities they complete
  • Badges – student will work towards earning badges (based loosely around the Mozilla Badge system). They will need to complete a set number of experiences in order to earn a badge – e.g. after completing 4 experiences from the Communication strand they will receive their “Communicator” badge
  • Assessment – learning experiences are peer assessed against a class developed rubric.
  • Requirements – to earn a badge in a strand the student will need to give a presentation or run a tutorial for the class. They will also need to design an original learning experience for each strand.
We are only at the early stages of planning things out but I think we have a solid framework from which we can make this “ridiculous” idea  a reality. Once again I have been reminded why I enjoy teaching so much – the creativity

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by scottwills

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