Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Cultural Connections @ Confucius Institute Day

This post may be a bit belated but i really loved joining in with the Confucius Institute day in Auckland recently. I know our Mandarin students around Aotearoa would have loved to participate in these activities too. I wished they were all with me to enjoy the day. My mind was racing on how we can have a 'Camp China' for our students that are distributed around the country or how we can support them to attend future events such as this one. Definitely something to plan for the future and may be more accessible if we can grow participation in Asian Languages (see my last post) further than Auckland and out into the regions.

The day started with a Breakfast seminar at the Fale Pasifika, Auckland Uni, with guest speaker Professor Zhang Wei. His topic was around a Chinese Perspective of democracy & the future of China. It is a good reminder that there are many viewpoints beyond our own that we should be aware of, irrespective of our own political ideologies. Naive statement i know but politics is not a path i want to follow on this blog. I am sure though if the events in HongKong were unfolding earlier we would have had a livelier Q & A session.

So breakfast is always good and my first real Chinese breakfast with Black Rice:

We then headed over to the quad for a powhiri, more speeches, great dancing and martial arts demo. Here are photos of just a few of the activities to join in:

Chinese cultural activities are a great way to spark interest and participation in learning Mandarin and in developing Asia Awareness in your school. Check out Parnell School's Mandarin Blogspot that showcases all their activities - i like the idea of the Great Dragon Challenge that engaged the whole school in a day of immersive cultural activities.

Well done to the team at Confucius Institute and our Mandarin Language Assistants (some above), including Dandan (below) I know a lot of effort went into the planning, preparation and hosting of the day! (Here is the link to more pics from Confucius Institute of the day)

Promoting Asian Languages

I was recently invited to join discussions with Asia NZ on the future directions of Learning Languages (particularly Asian Languages) in New Zealand. It was very well organised for conversation as we  moved Cafe style around changing groups of participants from across the sector and language and cultural organisations. This engaged us in discussions that teased out key themes and issues that emerged throughout the day. Thanks Jeff for superb facilitation of the day & outgoing AsiaNZ director John McKinnon for an inspiring welcoming speech (you can read the accompanying opinion piece here). The Key Question was: "By 2025, all school students in New Zealand will have the opportunity to learn an Asian language. How do we make this happen?"

Some of the general discussion raised around the room was echoed by many - access to NZ based teachers, the recognition of languages as important, the drop off in students past year 10, competition for resourcing within schools & lack of policy direction. This is not just the case for Asian Languages but these are the same messages coming through on the Languages listservs i belong to as well.

For me the main themes I formed from discussions I had, was the need for a clear strategic direction that should be developed and enacted through the collaboration of all key stakeholders; alongside this is the need to engage with the wider community and to make learning relevant to our students in order to incentivise greater participation. You can read the full overview of the day's discussion collated and shared by Asia New Zealand here.

It is encouraging to know that the government is investing in this area and schools can access funding to support learning Asian languages but at the same time it also a concern that this funding isn't aligned to clear educational strategies. Schools will find it useful to refer to this supporting document from Asian New Zealand that gives guidelines for planning, piloting and sustaining Asian Language learning programmes.

So moving forward from here we look forward to taking these conversations further, building on our collaborative partnerships and developing new ones to support Asian language learning opportunities for our students. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Connected Students @ Rosmini College

I have always been a great fan of the work that Geoff Wood is doing with his students at Rosmini College and have written on them often in the VLN Primary School blog (here, here & here). His classroom is truly a Connected Classroom and his students Connected Learners. Geoff is a full time classroom teacher and has 'flipped' his classroom to be revolving around the constant connections that fuel their learning processes, through the sharing and relationships they develop with the many, many different students who come 'virtually' into their classroom everyday. On my second face to face visit in two years i can see now how this has really developed into the culture of the students Years 7 - 13 in Geoff's health classes. They are organised, they are confident, they are patient & persistent (dealing with the technology), they are able to communicate with a diversity of students from new entrants, all over NZ and globally. On the afternoon i was at Rosmini two boys were in the workroom (cupboard?), teaching youngsters in South Auckland about sugars in our diet; another two were on the outside deck talking to students from Te Hapua about online safety & Geoff was preparing an international connection with Bangladesh & Pakistan (?) for later in the day. I was impressed with the ease of communication, through pretty average technology & connections (HD desktop VC it wasn't). It was a joy to watch the students at Te Hapua perform a waiata & haka for the Rosmini boys and then one by one approach the camera to introduce themselves & say thank you.
Below is are some snippets of one of the sessions and a short interview with two of the boys:

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

VLN Primary Schools Roadtrip

A quick round up of my road trip to Auckland last week. It was great to pop in to some of our schools who have students learning with us in our online classes and projects. So good to have some face to face time with our students, getting to meet teachers & kids we have been working with throughout the year; also good to catch up with old friends in real space & time :-)

Moanataiari School                                     

Students at Moanataiari school participate in our extension Mandarin class, extension Maths & te Reo Māori. In addition to these students are another dozen joining in with My Story, Our Story, Your Story - Photography project. (Lots of kids running around with camera's & a very keen classroom teacher). Feedback from their Principal ise that in Mandarin they are 'going great guns', te reo just starting to come out of their shell and participating more, were a little whakama to start with & maths students are being challenged with the step up in learning.

You can listen to some of the students comments here:

Mahurangi Christian School

A shame that I spent a good part of my visit on Helen's floor looking for the screw for my glasses and then more time with her sticky taping my glasses together - we did have a short 'meet &greet' to touch base. Language classes are the interest for this school at the moment & perhaps we won't see them again next year with the prospects of having a Japanese teacher at school. Which is a good thing, some of our schools are participating or NOT depending on the needs of their students and what support they need at the time. The VLN Primary should not be an end in itself but a bridge to connect our students, our schools and learning opportunities. Other projects are of interest but only if they fit what's happening for these kids - so message here - just keep in the loop, keep connected, hook in & engage where there is a clear & relevant purpose to participate.
Great to see independent student learning & inquiry based learning in this school and have the children tell me all about how it works in their school. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me Louise. Here's a short video via VPLD on how Staff at Mahurangi Christian School connects the classroom to the community through digital technologies.

Ahuroa School

A great little country school less than an hour north of Auckland. Ahuroa School was my destination to meet Theressa who is running a collaborative Photography project - again another great opportunity to make a face to face connection. Although completely virtual, if there is an opportunity to touch base in person, it is really worthwhile making the time. Theressa is a great asset to her school, not only running the photography club, but also their Robotics team, and a keen hands on interest in elearning. Thanks Theressa for taking the best of what you do in your school and collaborating with other schools - i know there are a lot of teachers & kids already buzzing with this project, Some nuts & bolts still to work out around managing so many photos, maintaining a feedback & improvement process and keeping engagement going to ensure student are improving their photography skills, choosing relevant photo's to the theme and having some great thoughtful images to exhibit in 2015. Looking forward to watching this unfold.