Friday 23 September 2016

Digital Immersion (Term 3, Week 9)

Today we were given the challenge of creating a ignite talk on a given topic, using the keynote skills we learnt last week.

(Ignite talks are presentations that have 20 slides, each timed only for 15 seconds. This gives a total presentation time of 5 minutes. The aim of these is to really get to the point, not waffle on for an hour.

My topic was 

I was linked to a blog post which you can read here.

This blog belongs to Waikato University researchers Noeline Wright and Dianne Forbes.

Here is my ignite talk. One of the benefits of Keynote is that you can record yourself talking while it plays, to create a movie type file. I did this after the actual day, but with the words I did say during the actual presentation.

Thursday 22 September 2016

I made it through term 3!

This term has been absolutely, truly, out-right ridiculous.
 I have had an assignment for uni almost every fortnight. Throughout term 1 and 2 combined, we had one assignment. One. In term 3, we've had five. FIVE!! 
I literally haven't had a weekend the entire time.
I am exhausted.

But... I made it! (I think?)

I even managed to get improve my grades (when compared to the previous assignment) twice this term, going from an B- in term one (I know, so embarrassing!) to a B+ and finally an A-. I literally cried in the middle of my lecture when I found that out. It's so nice to be acknowledged for the effort I have been putting into uni this term. Woohoo!

As I have done at the end of each term, I gave my students a survey to reflect on the term. 
The more they do these surveys, the better they get at filling them out. Overall, their answers were much more thoughtful and detailed than last terms answers. 

They are honest with themselves...

They were honest about my teaching..
(I love the two kids who said they knew I was always proud of them - yus! and p.s. zomdai = zumba)

And thoughtful about what I can do better at ...
(I had to laugh at the kid who said 'not grilling us') 

I added a few more questions, to increase their self-reflectiveness and also to satisfy my curiosity..

"Name two people who believe you can be successful that are at school".
This question came from something I was once told at a meeting, that the biggest difference to a childs' schooling can be put simply - can they name two adults at school who believe that they CAN be successful? If they can, their chances at success go up astronomically.

(I have to say, I'm very proud of this bit!)
My kids have been AMAZING this term, they truly have. All of them have worked so so so hard and learnt so much. I loved doing the science week. I loved using videos for writing. I loved learning about chess in reading (side-note - the kids still play everyday before school!). I loved seeing them happy to be at school (even the rascals come in super early and don't want to leave). They have made such huge shifts in their levels of achievement and I am so proud of them. There are a group of kids in the class, who in the past couple of weeks have really just clicked, and they just get it. These kids previously would sit, procrastinate, not finish their work etc, but now, write three or four page good quality stories in less than 15 minutes (like, what!?!?). They are motivated, producing amazing work and are excited about their learning. One kid said to me this morning "I like writing now" - as in, she didn't use to, and now she does. (Woohoo!). There is also a good sized chunk of my class who can solve Stage 6 maths questions (above the National Standard for year 4) and another chunk who are at Stage 5 (at the National Standard). They have shifted so much!

It has been a stressful, tear-filled, exciting, sometimes sleepless, exhausting term, 
it has been pretty damn great. 
Can't wait for term 4! 

Friday 16 September 2016

Digital Immersion (Term 3, Week 8)

Today we are learning about Keynote.
This is essentially the same thing as Microsoft Powerpoint and Google Slides. 

Dorothy explained why even though we are 'Googlers' (aka GAFE users), we should know how to use Keynote because when you are presenting at conferences, other schools etc, you can't always trust the wifi (hence Google Slides is out, and since we are on Mac, we can't use PC products)

We spent a lot of time playing around with Keynote, exploring the many aspects it affords the user. Here are some things I made while playing around.
Using masks to shape images

Getting more advanced now...

(This is just a movie I had on my laptop pretending to be played on a laptop screen. In reality, the video is merely layered behind the photo of the laptop.)

My student Hope sharing her message of peace at an overseas temple. 
Again, this is just a photo of her sitting on top of a photo of a temple. 
It's all about layers!

To make an 'end product' to show, I found this photo of my student Hiria.

Then I cropped it, and used the Instant Alpha tool to remove the background. It left me with this image.
(Not perfect, but hey, still learning)

I then used keynote to take Hiria on a bike riding journey.
(Yes, the photo is a weird size on the page so you see a white bar at the top. I didn't want to spend hours and hours fixing every tiny thing when the purpose was just a play-around type activity). 

Keynote is definitely an awesome tool to use for animation and for presentations as well. It gives you WAAAAAY more options than Google Slides do, and Microsoft Powerpoint did as well. It can be used for green screening, animation, editing photos (ala Photoshop style). When being used for an actual presentation, you can pre-time the whole presentation so it autoplays, record audio and pre-time to make a self-running slideshow and much more. 
They are also bringing out an update which allows you to collaborate on Keynote as long as you have iCloud.

I'm not sure how often I would use Keynote to create animations as it was quite time consuming to create a 5 second video, but I would definitely use it more often for other purposes, such as creating unique blogger backgrounds, creating text and transferring it to iMovie or other platforms, and editing backgrounds out of photos.

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Celebrating Eid!

There is only one child in my class who is not Maori/Pasifika - he is Afghani. 
This is him.

As the only kid who isn't Maori/Pasifika, sometimes he misses out a bit.. 
As a school we have week long celebrations for Maori language week, Tongan language week, Cook Island language week, Samoan language week (etc), but there is no Afghani language week... 
So everybody else got a celebration of their culture, and he, and his little brothers, didn't. 

So in Room 6, we made our own celebration! 
Today was Eid, a Muslim celebration which marks the end of Ramadan. It is celebrated by visiting and spending time with family and friends, sharing a feast together, buying and wearing fine new clothes and giving gifts to others. We made the whole day about Eid. 

The boy, Mojtaba, was delighted. Archana and I had told him beforehand that we were doing something special for Eid, and he was bubbling with excitement when he turned up to school this morning! 

To begin our day, I discussed with the class how we celebrated everyones culture through the various language weeks (and more!), but that one culture from our class didn't have a language week, and thats not fair that we didn't celebrate theirs! The kids all nodded in agreement. They understood. Even though they know nothing about Afghanistan and Muslim holidays, they understood that Mojtaba's culture was just as important as theirs and that we should celebrate it all the same. These are some pretty empathetic 8 year olds, tell you what. 

We had several aspects to our day 
-We learnt a song that explains how Eid is celebrated
-We learnt how to say 'Eid Mubarak' and greet people properly
-Decorated cookies that we could then give to people
-Made cards to wish people a happy Eid day
-Ate Sheer Pudding

The rest of the class were so keen to try out the new Afghani food, with some then practising how to be polite about not liking it (haha!). They loved the idea of giving a card and cookie to somebody to wish them Eid Mubarak! The boys even spent the day looking after Mojtaba's two younger brothers who came to celebrate with us.

It was a great day all around. I was so proud of the kids and how enthusiastic they were to learn about the Afghani culture and gives things a go!

Friday 9 September 2016

Digital Immersion (Term 3, Week 7)

This morning we reflected on how we were going with our Manaiakalani Film Festival Movies that we are making, which are due for submission next week. We were given the day last week to film these, and the day today to edit them.

Before we began editing, we connected with Manaiakalani pedagogy and talked about ubiquitous learning.  The whole idea behind this is that learning is not contained within the confines of the school walls anymore - learning is not a 9-3 thing. If we truly had ubiquitous learning, students would be able to be learning anytime, anywhere, at any pace. 

To do this, teachers need to have set up systems so that students know what they are learning and how they are to access it. 

We were asked to reflect on how we as individual teachers are doing this, or maybe not doing this..?
I thought... I don't really do this at all?
I don't give students homework apart from something to read, they aren't allowed to take their netbooks home so they can't work on their in-class work (most of my students don't have a computer at home, or internet, or both), and there isn't any after school learning programmes happening either.

This is food for thought for next year.. What can I do to encourage my students to be learning outside of school hours?

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Better than pictures!

Today I took my target students for writing into the staff room and worked with them as a group.

These students really struggle to write in detail, using powerful words to aid their descriptions to create visualisations in their writing. They have done a lot of writing stories using a picture prompt throughout the past two terms, but unlike their peers they don't usually produce the detail they need to have at this level.

Reflecting on this, I thought to myself maybe they just don't engage with pictures? So how can I, as their teacher, change my own pedagogy to reflect this... videos!

My goal was not to produce great writers in half an hour. My goal was to give the kids something they could write about, that they could check against to see if they had written in the most detail possible. It's hard to do that with a picture, when you have to make up the story yourself - there's nothing to compare to because you have to make the story up.

To introduce the lesson, I played the first bit of this video (note: only up to 1:10).

We talked about our aim - to write in detail about the setting and what happened.

The kids LOVED watching a clip - we were able to pause, discuss, play, replay, go back, start from the beginning, discuss while it played, watch it in silence, etc. Literally, a rewindable learning tool. 

Our discussion was incredible! Yes, a little too noisy, but I didn't care about that because it meant the kids were engaged in their learning. We wrote in detail about each scene in turn, 0:33-0:38, 0:38-0:43, 0:44-1:00, 1:00-1:10.
It helped the students focus to only write about one bit at a time. We were really able to break down the scene and what we could see before moving on. The students really, honestly surprised me with their insight. In one particular part, I was trying to get them to realise that the leaves were orange, not green like they normally would be (without explicitly telling them that of course). Two of the kids came out with 'the leaves are actually orange which means its autumn'. I didn't even know they knew what autumn was! I've never heard them use that word before.. Amazing. We were then able to include the word autumn in our story and the ideas it represented (i.e. a bit cold, leaves falling to the ground, maybe its windy). They were able to make connections with previous learning as well. As Geri sets up his chess pieces, the kids were naming the pieces with the correct terminology (e.g. rook, bishop, king, queen, pawn) and we were able to use these high-interest words in our writing. 

My job was not leading them to what I wanted them to say, but encouraging them to push their descriptions further. At first, when I would say "what did you see?", they gave ideas like 'its green', and I would play devils advocate, and probe them more - dark green? light green? neon green? green like what? Of course they could straight away tell me what kind of green it was, but they didn't initially go into detail automatically. As we went along, they got more comfortable and a lot faster at adding this kind of detail automatically.
We were able to have such rich discussions, supported by the video. One student would say something that we could write about, so we would go back to the video and watch it again, and check if that was a detailed description of what happened and what we could see. They would agree with each other, add on to what another person had said, offer more powerful synonyms etc. It was awesome!

Here is what they came up with..
(Make sure you watch up till 1:10 on the clip before reading this, to really grasp whats happening..)

It was a sunny, windy Autumn day. The wind gently blew the leaves off the dark green table onto the dusty ground. 
Boom. He slammed the chessboard onto the table. The sunlight shone down and made the pieces glisten as the man set them up. Pawn, pawn, knight, rook, queen, king. Each piece in the right place.
The wind blew colourful leaves from the gigantic oak trees. The old man in a dark brown suit gently rubbed his hands together. "Hmmm... which piece should I move first.. pawn? knight? rook?" He thought to himself. He reached a wrinkly hand behind himself, grabbing the top of the green wooden chair as he softly sat down.

Are you as impressed as I am? That, from kids who typically forget to even tell you where it was, let alone what season it was in. So stoked with what they came up with in a half hour session!

To finish up, I asked them to watch the clip again as I read our writing aloud. Their task was to judge wether we had written in detail about what had happened, and had given detail about the setting. Each scene was great! They all agreed they had given lots of detail to the story about what the man did and where this happened. They wanted to keep going but alas...lunchtime!

Next, I want to video the kids in the next lesson to show how excited they really were while doing this activity - it was intense! I also want to get the kids to write for themselves, as I was the one dictating the story today. That will help them get in their head it is their writing (not mine), and see their contributions in a physical way.

Friday 2 September 2016

Science week - the 'share' bit!

To finish off our human body week, we made a video to teach other people about the organs we learnt about. 
Check it out!

I posted this on the class blog and sent it to all the teachers at my school asking them to leave comments in support of my kids. Check it out here.

Science Week - HUMAN BODY (Friday)

Today was our day for filming our Manaiakalani movie, so we didn't really have time to finish our bodies off. I wanted to post about it anyway to complete the weeks worth of reflections about this unit. 

Throughout this week I have been constantly AMAZED by my kids. These are a bunch of 7 and 8 year old rug-rats, who love to dance and play tag, and play silly games on their netbooks and half-jokingly try to eat my lunch sometimes. 
They're just kids.

But this week in particular, they have worked harder than some adults I know. 
The amount of information they have consumed is enough to blow my mind, but the level of deep understanding that (most) of them have now about their bodies is unfathomable. Most of the stuff they learnt this week about their bodies, I didn't even know (as an adult) about my own body.

Every person who came into our class, wether it be another teacher, a visitor or the office lady, these lovelies would almost ambush them trying to teach that person about their body (and they did it using the proper words for the body parts as well - no 'tummy' here!). Even waiting to cross the road after school yesterday, some of my kids were explaining the function of the gall bladder to the teacher on duty. They are so excited about their learning, and obviously are so proud of themselves!

Yesterday while I was 'in the zone' with my body-part assembly line, the kids who weren't helping Archana or I were independently reading and writing about the organs we hadn't had time to cover yet. All on their own, and doing a good job of it too.

Even after I got mad at some of the kids who just didn't even try to do any learning yesterday, and I gave the class a lecture about how hard teachers work and how much it hurts my feelings that they didn't even try, some of the kids stayed after school to help me finish off the bodies and didn't leave till I kicked them out. 
Even at my worst, when I'm feeling stressed and tired and exhausted, they were amazing...

Then they left comments on Monday and Tuesday's blog posts...

These are some incredible kids.
There is no other way to describe it.
And I am so lucky to have them.

P.s. expect to see a movie next week as we finish off the 'share' part of Manaiakalani's learn-create-share learning pedagogy.

Thursday 1 September 2016

Science Week - HUMAN BODY (Thursday)

Today we really focused on trying to create our models of the body. 

I am kind of embarrassed to say this, but there was a lot of colouring happening...
(I promise I don't normally do colouring!)

The end goal was to have something that kinda looks like this - 

Each organ has a 'flap' underneath it for students to write the function of each organ. 
For example - 

In the planning, this meant that each kid needed each organ, twice (essentially). This was a bit of a nightmare as it meant A LOT of paper, A LOT of cutting, A LOT of laminating, A LOT of rubbish covering the classroom floor. It also meant all night on Wednesday Archana and I were working cutting and prepping the bodies ready for today, which was a mission!

But, we did it! 

Here are two of my lovelies showing off one finished body, as well as the app Anatomy 4D we used to look at the heart in detail. We posed for this photo for Paula (the lady who recommended the app, so she could go and share what we had done with her peers - go us!)

These two photos are screenshots from a video, hence the questionable quality, but they show the kind of 'flap' notion. The organs are layered in the order they are anatomically - ribcage protecting lungs, heart inside of that, pancreas and liver sort of in front of stomach/kidneys, bladder underneath intestines, etc. So for Falakika (above) to show the lungs to talk about them, she had to move the ribcage out the way! Hiria (below) had to lift the skull to show off the brain.

One of my new lovelies who doesn't speak a lot of English became my little helper for the day, helping me organise everybody's body parts, matching the flap and the writing piece, taping the lungs to the trachea, taping the ribcage together, etc etc. She got so talkative (Yes, in English!) and was having a great time helping me and being the expert for once (instead of being the one not knowing what was going on).

It was so weird for it to be normal to call across the class things like "have you written on your organs yet?", "who has a spare kidney?", "if you have finished cutting up your body parts come here please", "you need three lungs!", "have you got your brain with you?" etc etc.  So weird, but at the same time, so awesome that the kids were on board and knew exactly what I was talking about all the time. 

It was a VEEEEEEEERRRY stressful day, but, we got there in the end!