31 March 2013

Frustration with comment size limitation!!

Helloooo up there!!

I got sick of having my replies to your comments rejected because of the number of characters, and that was 4,000+. You can see why I feel constrained by Twitter!!!
So here are my comments in the form of a post. Sorry they're so long winded but this process really helps me to get my head around things.

First of all, I'm having a lovely time with my Bear down here for Easter. The weather has been very kind and mild so far and we've been enjoying the beaches and cafes in equal measure.I'll be sorry to see him go back on Tuesday.

I'm not surprised that my 100 question questionnaire elicited your astonishment as it seems, as you say, out of character for me. I'm nothing if not unpredictable! :-) What may be a little difficult to understand from your perspective, without knowing the students, is the fine line that I'm treading here with my Year 11 class, to whom I gave it. They are pretty nervous about NCEA and any time spent not obviously focussing on it seems to some of them like time wasted. This was certainly the case with our Lithuania exchange for some although the majority thought it was very cool.
So my questionnaire was just a quick way into starting the process of reflecting on learning and it has yielded up some pretty predictable results of teacher dependency and lack of autonomy. So their perception of learning and themselves as learners is on the whole very conservative and it will take a series of sensitively handled steps to wean them off spoon feeding and make them more proactive. It's been interesting to correlate the results of my wee ten-question diagnostic test (based on what they're supposed to have covered last year) with the results of the questionnaire. The very few pro-active ones who want to take responsibility for their own learning and are not risk-averse and who find creative ways to reinforce new learning are of course the ones whose diagnostic results showed that they had fully mastered prior learning.
The two portfolio standards, to my mind, are very closely tied to self-direction and self-management so my main aim before Easter is to help them develop these particular skills and get cracking on the writing and interact portfolios. The session with Shirley and Jo really reinforced my understanding of how they're supposed to be handled and restored my confidence after a few days of nagging self-doubt. It won't be easy but it's where we've got to go. Our first task after Easter will be to make a MyPortfolio account for Year 11. Jacqueline and I are rolling it out to all our French classes following the enthusiastic take-up of it at Year 9. I'm sure we'll have a host of questions to ask you as we proceed. One of my first is 'What happened to my nice Primary school dashboard?' It disappeared when I changed institutions and I've been unable to find out a way of customising it. 

I agree that I could have done both the diag test and questionnaire electronically, but I'm not quite at that point yet. It will eventually save me a lot of time and when they all have MyPortfolio accounts I guess that will make things even easier. That's the next step. First things first. A spreadsheet would certainly help to filter out certain bits of info. It might help my learning if I fed the results into a spreadsheet when I have a moment. It was an idea that grew out of my worrying about how to proceed with them and it was simply quicker for me to do it the old-fashioned way. I really want them to reflect on learning and their own in particular but in some ways it's likely to be easier with my younger classes who have less external pressure. The Year 11s will  be spending time with me individually over the next week so we can work out together where we're going and decide on an individualised approach. I've detected from the class dynamic that there's a certain resistance from some to working with some of the others. We can handle that. I think choice will be a key factor and the fact that I have my two little break-out rooms will enable anyone who feels they don't need what I'm  offering to go and do some extension, self-directed learning or recording of interactions for example. As I see them 5 times a week I'm planning, with their approval to spend 3 of those periods working more or less together and 2 on supporting them in whatever aspects of their learning they've identified as being most in need of attention. That's where the trusting that the learning will take place comes in.
I heartily concur with all your comments. First of all, I was disappointed that only one student accompanied her mother to the parents evening. It would've been so much more productive if they'd come in pairs. They don't seem to encourage it at the school. This particular interview changed my perception of that student radically with her mother there, and in a very positive way. One poor mother said her daughter doesn't communicate with her except through texts and I've already had a taste of being cut dead by this student. When we're theorising on what's desirable in the classroom we tend not to take into account the considerable affective factor which adds so much complexity to the teaching and learning process not to mention the teacher student relationship. It's such a psychological tightrope with some students, and it's so easy to 'blow it'. It brings you back with a jolt from any idealistic 'adviser drift' which has set in.

I'll need some more tuition on QR codes before I act on your suggestion. At the moment I'm just struggling to keep my head above water for much of the time. It's been a monumental mousewheel of activity. It sounds a really good idea - a good one for a wee skype tutorial perhaps. If you have a moment when I come back to Hammy in the hols, maybe a trip over the hill to Tauranga would be in order???
The poster I referred to is just one that you stick post-its onto as ideas come up. It would perhaps be good if they made their own electronic ones and customised them but I imagined that the comments and suggestions would probably be in English. I think they'd be more likely to be acted upon if they were.

We do have both Moodle (although I don't know of anyone who uses it) and Kamar (just new this year for school admin) and of course wikis. There's not a lot of evidence of Google Apps being used, at least by teachers. I haven't had a chance to ask the students if they use them. I'm sure we could do with your whizzy ideas there. These things are more easily demonstrated than talked about.

I'm really looking forward to hearing about your latest experiences both with the National Advisers and on your recent MyPortfolio sessions. I'd love to hear how some other schools are going with it and other language teachers in particular. I can hear you calling yourself into question over your effectiveness. I constantly put myself through the same process. I guess it's a way of remaining vigilant and aware rather than blundering on complacently thinking that your own way of doing things is the right way and that everyone should get real and jump on board. It just doesn't happen like that. People come to things when they're ready, if ever!! For me it's a constant process of give and take. That's what keeps it stimulating, I guess.

Our wee intercultural interlude with the Lithuanian art students was fun and I felt it was particularly successful with the juniors who had only a day's warning, dived into research on Lithuania on their laptops and were ready for action on the day. They brought along a couple of guitars and sang some Maori songs to the Lithuanians and they had a guitar too and they all sang pop songs together. They were totally amped. The Lithuanians had done a poster of each student's name in Year 11. They're lovely and Grazina has shared them with me on dropbox because they were a bit 'flou' on skype. We'll print them off and put them on the wall as very special artifacts. They also showed us the lovely Easter eggs they were decorating. Fun.

Time to think about food, before a family skype session later.
Bisous bisous
^. .^


  1. Helloooo down there!
    Funny: I heard your voice as I read the greeting on your post ;-)
    And how I wished you recorded your Skype session with Lithuania! That could be an awesome post by itself!
    This is fab that you have your very own Bear's company for the week end. I love how long week ends, combined with clement weather, are conducive to enjoying the company of our loved ones. You know P and I spend a great deal of time in the same home. But we have very separate activities and involvements, and while we talk and discuss things a great deal we actually don't spend that much time doing things together, going places together, socializing together. So we have crammed in lots of "together time" these last couple of days that might even last till we fly to France in July LOL!
    And how I understand your frustration at the character limit in the comment box… It does work well that you move the conversation to a post and I ll engineer to make my comment fit under your post!
    Again I want to thank you for your post and the details it provides. And do keep focus on the learning, the why of what you and your students do.
    I really love how you describe the use you are planning to make of your classroom environment. The small adjacent rooms are great aren't they? I can see why so many primary teachers spend time on working out, with students sometime, the lay out and the furniture arrangement that they like to learn around and that makes activities interaction collaboration but also quite times possible. Wished that secondary schools overall paid more attention to this, and they should be warned: a primary student "educated' in a flexible adaptable learning space is coming near their rows of desks and four wall classroom shortly!

    (to be continuuuuuued below!)

  2. I would gladly read from you what aspects of the Best Practice workshop have confirmed how you envisaged seeing them handled. These internal AS are pretty visionary really in how they foster self direction and self management . This is proving a sticking point for both teachers (as you were aware) and students, as you are discovering. So if you could share your understanding of how to get to it I will be awaiting with anticipation!

    I can share with you how some of our language colleagues and their students are making use of myportfolio, I have examples and a few teachers I work with are sharing with me to show quite happily face to face. There is also the work at HGHS and there is a video (a dvd recently produced by nzaft… hence not so easily sharable widely (not my call) displaying the effectiveness of their approach. I ll show you. Once infrastructure and access are sorted there is still the need to grow awareness and skills around producing quality online content.

    The e-learning will augment what you can do and make it visible but unless it is built on a clear vision for learning, which you are developing, why bother some might argue. Part of me can't resist the "bling" of tools and the wow factor of something created online and while spending time on teaching use of tools is not good modeling some of their use can also bring in the punters!

    And yes I would love to drive over the hill during the next holiday (it is my turn to cross over no?) for a little tool "investigation" and show and tell codes and soundfiles. It might just be a few things to bring to your students' attention so that they too investigate a range of ways to produce work. But that won't be much use to them or you unless there is a precise learning intention anyway.

    You touch on a theme that I have been pondering on for a while working with secondary schools and myportfolio: the teacher-student relationship. I also wonder if this teacher-student relationship gets more "loaded" in the French class as a teacher is more likely to have the same student for their all 5 years at secondary school. Which also means the student will have the same teacher (élémentaire mon cher Watson!)… I shudder at the thought that some of my students opted out of French because they knew they d be stuck with me if they carried it through to Senior level! But last week again a teacher, new to the school she is in at the moment, was telling me it was hard to get her senior students move to doing things differently and that she had to argue and compare and convince that there was a reason for this (in this case it is moving away from a course book and getting them to manage their own files) Why would they change since their previous teachers had always done it for them they argued? How much do we influence behaviors through our own behaviors in a given classroom is certainly well documented somewhere. This very teacher who has a good command of Moodle was facing a "no no" to myportfolio from her students! There was need for a few big conversations for this to move. I suggested that her target group to get started could be another class! You know "work with the willing!"

    (and agaaain!)

  3. This example also led to another question which is the concerted planned discussed scaled approach at school level when it comes to implement something new that has potential to transform quite deeply practices for both teachers and students. What you are currently doing with MyPortfolio with your colleage is championing the cause! Oh while I think of it, the myportfolio interface you like (Primary school dashboard) is set at admin level,it is not a user setting. I have offered to have a conversation with your school admin and I believe further discussion with your principal coming up in the next week or so will lead to have me try to set MyPortfolio at its best for you all to use, including accounts for students. If you can hold back on creating account and focus on your students gathering digital evidence of their learning until I am in contact with your school admin, it would be likely to save quite a lot of time in the longer run. With Kamar it should be easy for the person in charge to create accounts and groups.

    Thank you also to remind me that people come to things when they are ready, that is absolutely right. People are ready when they articulate the "Why" for themselves. I sometime think MyPortfolio has been made available 5 years too early for many reasons! These are the sort of thoughts arising from the latest sessions and my recent survey of French teachers. There is a post in the making there Ruth, but it is a complicated meander of thoughts at this stage and I need to unravel a bit to articulate.

    As I have written all of this off line, I am about to go and discover how many comments that will make.
    Continue to be strong as your Bear departs tomorrow, not long till you are back Hammy way!

    A très vite!


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