Wednesday, 30 August 2006

Paengaroa Regional Meeting

Thankyou Lorraine & team for organising such a worthwhile meeting.

The agenda for the day went like this:
"What is a Learning Community"
"How do we develop it?"
"What are the barriers?" and
"What do we want to sustain?"
This culminated in the development of Action Plans - "Towards Sustainability"

You can read more on Lorraine's blog & pick up files from Centre4

I enjoyed the day because we talked all day long! It was great to have such a focussed exchange of ideas. And the big focus of the day was Sustainability - for many of us third year clusters - sustainability after the contract. Out of all the regional meetings we have hauled ourselves around in the last 3 years i really wish our whole team had been at this one. Our team have started talking about 'sustainability', read Mel's research & floated ideas around since this time last year but we have not actually formalised any 'where-to-next' plans.
I know from having read Mel's work that sustainability is not a carbon copy of the 3 contract years - it is not about continuing on exactly the same (Ha - who can afford to without the funding...). It may not even involve a 'cluster' or the cluster as it previously was.
The key questions for me are "What do we want to sustain?" (& why) & "How are we going to do this?" Things we need to talk about at our next cluster meeting.
OK another key question for me (as it was for other facilitators of 3rd year contracts) was "What am i going to do next year?!"

Thursday, 24 August 2006

Regional Meeting Road Trip

A big trek up to Paengaroa today for the last of our ICTPD regional meetings and so i took the opportunity to detour along the way to catch up with Clare bear at Otewa School. A great little 3 classroom school in a quiet rural valley 10 minutes out or Otorohonga. As with new beginnings it has been tough especially as when she arrived the school office/admin was in her house! But she is really easing into her new role, getting involved in the community and seems to be loving it :-) She has big plans for new computers in the school - if only she could find some money... A lovely new SmartNet server and top class cabling throughout but no computers to hook up to this great new network. Uuuummm think the MOE is missing something out of the equation here.

Tuesday, 22 August 2006


Stratford children playing in the hail storm - my sources tell me this was not the only school where this was going on today :-)

They don't call it the WebChallenge for nothing! The Challenge for this group at SPS (& St Jo's also) has been the need for more time. Our kids are spending so much time on research and developing content for their site which leaves little time to work on building the site. 2 hours a week is just not going to do it well. So one thing to reflect on for next time - they need to work on a topic they have previously studied or have some sound experience and content knowledge of so we can focus on the skills of site building at WebChallenge time. Site building in itself is not a huge technical skill - the learning skills (or attributes) are design, creativity, problem-solving, communication & collaborative skills. A big focus from the beginning has been making sure children respect copyright on the internet in the making of their sites. Here's a link to a list of sites compiled to guide them to some sources online.

Sunday, 20 August 2006

Junior Jaunt - St Georges

St George's was like walking onto the set of Harry Potter - a beatiful school and very unique :-) At Castlecliff we were really looking specifically at the work of Mary Dean and practical ICT examples; at St George's we were looking at their Inquiry Process and thinking skills. Here we saw a range of "innovations" in place consistent across the school and implemented from Day 1 when a student arrives at school. It was really interesting to see their whole school approach that incorporated the Dunn & Dunn model of Learning Styles, David Hyerle's Thinking Maps & Habits of Mind. Their inquiry model is from the PYP Primary Years Programme as they are an International Baccalaureate School. Many schools are now developing their own school models of learning with these types of elements especially so now with the freeing up on the NZ Curriculum. St George's have as well, but within the PYP programme this being for them 'a point of difference'. A bit like (trying not to be too cynical here...) but a learning driven model meets market driven model. It seems to be working really well for them in their school. Thanks Pauline & Ken for being such kind and informative hosts.
More pics on Flickr.

Junior Jaunt - Castlecliff

Last week 20 Bard Wired Junior classroom teachers visited two schools in Wanganui to observe specifically in the Junior school (Y1 -3) examples of: "Effective use of ICT, Inquiry Learning, Thinking Skills and Innovative classroom ideas"
Lots of positive feedback from all teachers involved that now other teachers in our schools are asking "When is the Middle Schools visit?" What we saw in the schools we visited was not rocket science or revolutionary in any way but for some teachers an affirmation of the things they are already doing and for others a wealth of ideas and inspiration. A great opportunity for our busy teachers to take time out to look into other classrooms, reflect on their own practise and to discuss this with colleagues. I think that the schools we visited could return the visit to our cluster schools and gain just as much as we did from the experience.

Our first visit was to Castlecliff School and Mary Dean who was a fantastic host - our group found her to be a dynamic speaker and very knowledgeable about using ICTs in the classroom.
The school is well resourced with a well managed network, at least 4 computers in every classroom and a full suite of computers - so access is no issue here. Mary admits that school-wide itegration of ICTs has slumped since coming out of an ICTPD contract 2 years ago. She is trying to boost this along by using CRT time to work with children from throughout the school & hopefully teachers will take this onboard back in their own classrooms (uuummmm - tried this approach before...) Some food for thought about 'Cluster sustainability' after the contract is ended which we will be discussing @ the Regional Meeting on Friday - i am beginning to get some opinions about this topic but will blog another time on this.

In the Junior Classrooms (lots of pics on Flickr) we saw a lot of use of Digital Photography to support literacy - wordbank pictures, shared writing, writing from experience, visual cues etc. Children's illustrations created in Revelation Natural Art. Letterland software, PM reader software and Clicker were all used in tandem with the literacy programme. Mary uses a Mimeo to record Newsboard each morning (we weren't early enough to see this in action). In this picture you can see the child writing by the Mimeo & it is recorded on the laptop attached - this can be made into a full interactive whiteboard by setting up the data-projector onto the board (not sure how it works - bit like smoke & mirrors to me) We then spent some time in the ICT suite as Mary worked with a group who were creating digital stories in PhotoStory. We had a good look at Clicker which many teachers know only through it's use with our Special Needs children. Mary showed us how she used Clicker to create activities that were relevant to her programme (she has created a huge bank of Clicker resources). She also showed us how to batch file photo's in Irfanview - maybe a bit hard for most of our teachers - who may be best to stick to iPhoto or MS Picture Manager to start with... Photofiltre was another free tool that we looked at.
Stratford Primary have most of this software (not Clicker) installed on the laptop pods & St Joseph's on the library & ICT room computers - check it out! Toko & Eltham you don't need any of this stuff - you've got MACS!! :-)
Just up on BardWired Interact are Mary Dean's PhotoStory resources (learning intentions & instructions) Thanks Mary.

Thursday, 10 August 2006

Apple Envy

i-School 2006 in New Plymouth. What a great time to play with the latest Macs & brush up on some skills. I always come away from iSchool wanting a Mac of my own - the closest I've got so far is the Apple sticker that sits on top of my Toshiba logo on my laptop ;-)
Some of the Bard Wired teachers joined me (though they are PC schools) in Stu Hale's digital photography workshop. Stu walked us through the elements of good photos - people, line, colour, light and the rule of 3rds. We learnt about all the features on our cameras and the need to understand the 2-step shutter, how to choose good cameras for our schools etc. We then spent the rest of the day taking loads of photos & working with them in iPhoto. I went to this workshop deciding that i would take my camera off automatic and use the features of the camera myself - well honestly since then i haven't taken so many good photos - i think my camera is smarter than me!
Some sites that Stu recommended: for comparing digital cameras, and for accessing 'free' photos for ideas & inspiration - and
Big thumbs up for Macs though they may be a little more pricey than PCs - they are definately much easier to work with - you have all these great applications that come for 'free', they all integrate, easy to use and you don't have to navigate miles of file systems to find pictures to work with...
Stu Hale (RED), Doug & Louise (BardWired) iSchool

Monday, 7 August 2006

Challenging History @ St Joseph's

A great opportunity to be involved with the teams from St Joseph's in our NZ History Challenge. It was a bit like being down at the Irish bar on quiz night having these 3 teams working competitively in such close proximity as this pic shows! There was a lot of secretive discussion & the odd student who wanted to trade answers (hey that's not part of the game :-)
What an awesome activity for developing information literacy skills, communication skills & cooperative skills - yep & competitive as well. Students used the Internet to search for key words from the clues given, skimmed & scanned the pages to read around the topic and decide if they really had found the answer to crack the question. (Ctrl F was pretty useful to quickly find key words in a page when they weren't sure if they were on the right track). Questioning skills were also developed as students worked out the best way to ask the other teams questions that could only be answered yes or no and bring them closer to the answer. It was interesting to compare the younger teams (y4 & 5) with the y7 & 8 kids. It wasn't reading skills that separated the two groups (they were all capable readers) but the older students were able to analyse the information and draw inferences from it that helped them in their research - younger students needed a lot more guidance with this.
It was interesting to see how little our children know of our own History - which is why this was such a great topic. None of them had heard of the NZ Wars - we study 'Anzac Day' every year - how often do our kids learn about the NZ Wars? - probably more important in shaping our country.
Well actually having said that, the Taranaki Wars in particular Titokawarau & the Waitara Conflict are the subject of 2 Web Challenge entries from St Josephs. Another teams entry is about Te Maunga Taranaki. I spent some time with the helping them set up the structure of their pages though that is the easy part - the most important part is researching what they want to know and presenting it in an original way so others can learn from it...

More on Smart Boards:
Staff were discussing the possibility of introducing SmartBoards to the school, having visited Manaia and having them demonstrated in the school at our last Lead Teacher workshop here. Funding is a big issue especially when there are other priorities in a school - like the roof leaks & you need sports uniforms. You really have to justify this for such a big ticket item. You really have to be sure that this is an investment that is going to make a difference to our children's learning. Fine if you have a huge wad of EDI cash or have a DigiOps project going, or maybe even are able to tap into the very generous funding that Yarrows Taranaki have been distributing to Taranaki Secondary Schools (i will be investigating this further to see if we can't try & get our Primary Schools onto this) - then you're not competing with other resource needs in the school. I think the jury is still out on this - if you want to read further check out Artichokes comments in my last blog post or read Graham's comments on an earlier BardWired blogspot post.

Sunday, 6 August 2006

Bard Wired Big Day Out

A group of principals & lead teachers had a day out to visit other Taranaki Schools. We went to Manaia Primary School to observe the use of Smart Boards in the classroom and then to Opunake Primary School to look at Curriculum Integration.

At Manaia, Principal Allan Forsyth had used a terms sabbatical study grant to write an EDI proposal to develop a school wide Information Literacy programme. His proposal can be found on Leadspace. The EDI proposal was successful and very generous allowing for (amongst other things) the purchase of 8 SmartBoard in the school - one in each classroom & one in the library.

Prior to introducing IWB to classrooms, Manaia had been very well resourced with a new server, networking & computer lab funded by WITT for a Community Education computer course. A number of other schools have hosted WITT community ed. Computer courses but none were as well resourced to do this – maybe because those schools already had good existing services… What a bonus for a school to have all of this provided. The school itself is looking really mint with alterations to buildings – corridors, computer lab, admin, staff room & hall looking great – though classrooms themselves seemed to have no major changes and were your traditional school work spaces. Staff at Manaia have all participated in InfoLink this year and follow the action learning model school-wide, they have had training in the use of the Smart Boards & provide their own just-in-time PD and sharing . SmartBoards are handy tools, to organize your lessons, pull in a range of resources, record & store your learning notes as you go (through lesson annotations), display visual images and I sure would like one when I get back into a classroom but in themselves they don’t really change what happens in a classroom – they just deliver the same stuff but differently. To be honest, I found what I expected to in all of the classrooms – nothing out of the ordinary, no innovations apart from some very nice gear around the place :-) Manaia, like all our schools are on a learning journey, with a lot of the same ingredients: whole school focus on a learning model (in this case Action Learning), Literacy contract, NUMPA, ATOL – what is their vision for learning and how will the great resources in the school support this? They are first steps on this journey and there is a lot of potential to be realized here. It will be interesting to visit again in another year and see how they are progressing. Thank you Alan for sharing your school’s experience with us :-)

me great artwork @ Manaia Primary (more pics on Flickr)

Opunake Primary School was everything I expected it to be - some great things happening here with Integrated Curriculum. Numeracy & Literacy is taught separately but all other curriculum areas are fully integrated. Lorraine began implementing an integrated curriculum at Opunake a few years ago in response to the needs of the kids many of them who were not engaged in their learning & as she said 'sick of doing worksheets'. They were involved in a CI research project along with Eltham Primary School last year and this year are the lead school in an EHSAS contract. Wow, does Lorraine walk the talk, driving learning in her school with passion and commitment. Before we had an opportunity to visit classrooms, Lorraine walked us through the nuts & bolts of how Curriculum Integration works at Opunake Primary School - an overview: CI @ Opunake is - based on student questions/interest; related to real life as often as possible; hands on learning; co-operative learning; Thinking Skills; Habits of Mind; Whole school/ including the community & Evolving. Towards the end of every term the school has an open day to share their learning with the wider community - i visited one a few years ago - awesome - well worth going out of your way to see. Thanks Lorraine for hosting us :-)

Wednesday, 2 August 2006

The Vision Vacuum

A must read article by Gwen Gawith in the latest Good Teacher Magazine.
Gwen discusses educational vision in the light of the 'new curriculum' and in reference to Bruce Hammonds comments on the Ministry's vision (or lack of it) for education in NZ.

Gwen defines vision as "being able to see clearly:
  • why we want learners to learn in our schools,
  • how we want learners to learn in our schools,
  • what we want them to learn to equip them for life now and later,
  • how we want them to be taught.
Simplifying it to seeing the critical WHAT, WHY, HOW of learning is NOT simplistic"

She argues passionately that the WHAT of children's learning is very important and has been neglected by those who think that simply learning to learn is the most important thing regardless of topic or context. Gwen encourages us not to wait for the MOE to drop their vision on us but to "Simply articulate and share your OWN school vision of learning, focus your own school curriculum, and work to achieve it."
Yes i agree with her it's not rocket science, just do it, but i wonder in how many of our schools that are developing their own vision for learning (talking the talk) how much of this translates into practise in the classroom (walking the walk). And how many of our schools have not even begun to talk the talk let alone walk the walk.

Tuesday, 1 August 2006

Fulfilling Your Dreams

Stratford Primary School 1st IV boys had the opportunity to join with schools around the country to talk with Norm Hewitt in a VC Digital Chat
Norm talked about setting goals, following your dreams, having someone to champion you (and to be a champion for others), believing in yourself and never giving up. What a motivational conversation especially so for our boys (i wish my boys had been there). Norm talks about his desire to be a 'good man' and what it means to be a good man for himself, his family and the community. I wonder if he is mates with Celia Lashlie :-)
Thanks to St Mary's School for making their VC room available to us. Check out the calendar on Digital Conversations to see what is coming up - a few presentations from Te Papa experts about spiders, kereru, conservation, art & maori weaponry. If you are in the Taranaki area and you would like to join one of these session you can contact me and I can help organise access to VC room near you.

Around the Schools

Just a quick round up of what I've been doing around the Bard Wired schools in the last couple of weeks. This is just the tip of the iceburg - loads of things happening ICT-wise that I'm not involved in!

WebChallenge is a big thing at SPS and St Joseph's at the moment. My role is to help out on the 'How To' side of things. A sense of deja vu - been here, done that.
It's great to see the teachers released at SPS to work with me and the kids, Tracy is making her own pages about Te Reo week - a quick learner too :-) I think it's really important that when kids begin to make pages they have an understanding of how they work so this little activity HTML Easy Peasy is a good starter to play around with basic code before they go onto use a Web Editor. It becomes glaringly obvious when we start working on projects like this how lacking many schools are in having good software. What i would give to have site wide licenses for StudioMX in all our schools but all we have is Microsoft everything and all we have to work with graphics is MS PhotoEditor or Paint. If you want a site to look original you need to create original graphics so will look at trying to get some serif software available and also ArtRage to create banners and buttons.

Many of our schools are well underway on the Great NZ History Challenge - lots of research and reading happening, clues being shared, emails back and forth - some challenges have already been cracked. Thanks Richard for all the work and time you are putting into this :-)

Toko School have been making documentary movies to demonstrate their learning about "Sound". Heather's kids have been hard at work finalising their entry to the NZ Herald Make a Newspaper competition. This has been an event at Toko for the last few years, a huge effort involved but the learning taking place is so much more than just desk-top publishing. Last year a special mention, this year..... certainly a quality product.