Thursday, 2 February 2017

When everyone knows the destination ..... take the first step.

Knowing your destination gives any journey a purpose. What's more, when you know your destination, then it becomes far easier to select a route, a pathway. So with Hornby High School's destination decided - 'A centre of creative excellence' - it becomes possible to plan and begin the journey.

Our journey began late last year when we announced to the world that our destination was our collective aspiration to be that centre of creative excellence, and I take every opportunity I can to lay the same challenge at the feet of every person connected with our kura: what will you be doing that will move us closer to that destination, to that aspirational state?

I lay the challenge at the feet of staff, I lay that challenge at the feet of students, and I lay that challenge at the feet of whanau. At our Mihi Whakatau for our new students, I told them exactly what our vision is, and asked them to think about what creative excellence might look like for each and every one of them. That's a hard question to answer when you are a Year 7 student, maybe 11 years old. However it's a hard question to answer regardless of how old you are, for it's not a challenge that many of us have faced before, it's a question that pushes all of us a long way outside our comfort zones.

Staff began their year asking themselves exactly that question. I challenged them to try to imagine what creative excellence might look like across these five areas of our kura:

  • the classroom
  • day to day school organisation
  • pastoral systems
  • co-curricular activities, and
  • community and whanau engagement

There was a lot of discussion, and many suggestions came from our brainstorming.  Here are just a very few of the wide ranging suggestions that came from staff.

  • Students have a say in what they learn how they are assessed and how they present it
  • Students are not afraid to share ideas, trial, experiment and learn from mistakes or errors
  • Creativity will be students learn concepts in their own way, presenting in their own way, and sharing on a medium of their choosing.
  • Connected curriculum
  • Creativity is based on 3  components , knowledge , critical thinking processes and most importantly motivation(intrinsic or extrinsic ). To establish a truly creative centre of excellence students would need to find their own individual drivers and their "why"
  • Once a student gains interest there is nothing worse than saying - time's up - pack up and move on to your next class.  Why not allow a student to spend 3-4 continuous hours on a project - which ideally will then include all aspects - maths, science, technology etc
  • Classes are based around rewindable learning. Students are set problems/activities/tasks to achieve in an expected time and physical space with the teacher providing support and ideas to solve problems. Classes are designed to reflect this space.
  • Vertical whanau groups. Opportunities for whanau, students and staff to gather informally to get a greater sense of belonging.
  • Give option of whanau evenings at home or traditional 'at school' parent/teacher interviews


When we plan a journey, we also need to know how we will travel, we need a vehicle to take us there. That question has already been answered: our vehicle will be our pedagogy of 'Learn Create Share', the underlying pedagogy of the Manaiakalani programme. It is no coincidence that the middle word of the pedagogy is 'create'.

In an early walk around classes today I developed a sense of satisfaction at the calm settled nature of the students and their classes. I was encouraged when, on entering one class, the teacher asked the students 'what are we trying to develop in this class?' The answer came back reasonably quickly 'creative excellence sir'.

It will be a long journey, but as the Chinese philosopher Lao is supposed to have said 'a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step'.

And as with any journey:

E huri to aroaro ki te ra,
tukuna to ataarangi
ki muri i a koe

Turn your face to the sun
and let your shadow fall behind you



Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Starting our journey towards creative excellence

I've been thinking a lot about this creativity thing. We have embarked on an exciting new phase of our growth and development as a school with this new vision as 'a centre of creative excellence'. It connects perfectly with the manaiakalani pedagogy 'Learn Create Share' to which we have 'nailed our colours', and the nationwide data being gathered by Auckland University's Woolf Fisher Centre supports the effectiveness or impact of the pedagogy, and the corresponding use of digital tools, to improve learning.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, we now need to get stuck into a whanau/community wide discussion that helps us to understand what we mean by creativity.

When the vision was first unveiled for staff, a number asked if the word 'innovative' wouldn't be better than the word 'creative'. I was enormously grateful for this response for two reasons.

It told me that we weren't suffering from 'group think', that situation where people think they should just shut up and agree with everyone else. At the heart of our future must lie the growth of our individual and collective willingness and ability to question, to critically evaluate, everything we do.

It also made our Board Chair and I do a double check: is this really what we mean?

We decided that it is what we mean, but it is always worth that double check, everything should be questioned. What does the data say? Is this what we mean?

So now, we need to ask ourselves what we mean with the word creativity. I have been at pains to make the point that the word should NOT be tied only to the visual arts. It applies to everything we do. It applies across the curriculum (arts for sure, but also sciences, phys-ed, languages, English, mathematics, technology and social sciences).

It also applies to our school management and scheduling, to our course structures and organisation, to school governance, and to how whanau engage with the school and how they are supported to take part in the education of their tamariki.

I did a simple Google search on the word, and produced five pages of 'definitions' of what creativity means. Perhaps the most powerful was this:
If you have ideas but don't act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.
So if we are to embed creativity in the curriculum for example, students actually have to produce something. In the visual arts and technologies that has always gone without saying.

What about the social sciences? As our project based learning trial showed last year, getting students to take a social action to improve the lives of others in their community is an act of production. Students had to learn about the problem, and also learn whatever skills they need to help generate a solution.

In Te Reo, could it not be the creation of an app that supports the learning of the language, or promotes its wider use? In science, why not have students create a weekly podcast that highlights science issues that affect our local environment? In physical education, why not the design of a sports programme for younger children in the area? In mathematics, what about the creation of geometric shapes that can be translated into sculpture? The number of options is limited by our own creativity, and nothing else.

Notice that all of these things require 'learning', and once the act of creation is complete, they also involve 'sharing'.

On the question of course design, why do we assume that everything we do must be 'silo'd', that is why should learning be split out into separate 'subjects' (English, maths etc). That's not the way the real world operates. The real world needs people to solve its problems. Why isn't learning structured around the formulation and solution of those problems. Only then should we attach assessment to the student output/production. One sure outcome of this is likely to be increased student engagement. How much human potential do we lose in New Zealand because students are switched off school? Whether you measure that in traditional economic terms, or in human terms, it represents a massive loss for the nation as a whole, and for the Hornby community too.

What would happen if we abandoned courses as we know them today, and caused learning based around projects and problem solving?

The only significant obstacles to that are resourcing for teacher time to initially set these things up, and ensuring that students meet external success criteria for such things as university entrance. None of these is insuperable, forewarned is forearmed.

Is our current year group pastoral system the best way to provide pastoral support for students? What would happen if we shifted to a whanau based system? Society needs us all to look after each other, we are stronger when we work together.

E hara taku toa
i te toa takitahi
he toa takitini

("My strength is not as an individual, but as a collective")

A whanau or 'vertical house' system makes much more sense as a means of providing the pastoral support that our tamariki need if they are to grow into complete adults who are the foundations stones of the caring society that we all yearn for.

It is time to 'get creative', to rethink our solutions to the issues that confront us, and in doing that everyone's vice needs to be heard.

I'm very keen to hear from whanau and stude nts as well. Let's talk!!!


Wednesday, 11 January 2017

A centre of creative excellence

So here we are at the start of a new year, that time for new academic and personal goals, aspirations and expectations. This year Hornby High School begins its first year with its own exciting new vision 'A centre of creative excellence'. When the Board of Trustees set this new vision, it did so with two specific thoughts in mind:
  1. A vision is an aspiration, a statement of what we want to be not what we are now
  2. Every one of us now needs to determine exactly what this means for us. What will creative excellence look like around the Board table? In Social Studies or Te Reo? In science or on the sports field?
At the start of their year staff will begin their own dialogue in which they try to determine what creative excellence will look like for them as professionals, and for their specific subject areas. A first look in a dictionary may give you something like this (depending on which dictionary you choose to use):


the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness

Sir Ken Robinson, English commentator on creativity in schools, maintains that schools around the globe kill creativity, and has this to say:



Why creativity? The pace at which technology is replacing repetitive human activity means that we need to more clearly understand and develop those things that make us human. Amongst those is the ability to think critically and creatively, things that technology (so far) has not been shown to be able to do.

Now the underlying pedagogy (the way in which we create learning) at Hornby High school comes from the Manaiakalani programme: 'Learn Create Share'. It is no coincidence that creativity sits right in the middle of that sentence. Our underlying approach to causing learning is to help students learn stuff, create something new with that stuff, and then share that creation with the world.

Every junior student at Hornby High School now has their own personal blog on which they will be writing about what they have learned, and share what they have created. Perhaps one of the ways in which as whanau you can be creative from now on is to look at what your tamariki have created, and to comment on it. Even a simple 'Well done' speaks volumes for young learners.

The Woolf Fisher Centre, the research arm of Auckland University, has been gathering data on the effectiveness of the Manaiakalani pedagogy, and the associated use of Chromebooks and devices, to improve learning. You can read more about their findings after three years here:

Click this link to read more 
The data so far is much more positive than we had dared hope: gains in reading and maths at 1.5 x the national level and gains in writing at 2 x the national average. 

So our mission starting right now is to find our creativity, to develop the ability in every student, every teacher, every whanau to come up with original ideas, to create something.

Whatever your perspective, whatever your place in the learning journey of every one of our extraordinary tamariki, dare to challenge yourself, dare to be creative in seeking out new ways of supporting their learning (and our own), dare to be creative in meeting the many challenges that every one of us faces daily.

Ko te pae tawhiti,
Whaia kia tata; ko te pae
tata, whakamaua kia tina

Seek out distant horizons
and cherish those you attain

Robin Sutton
Principal

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Looking backwards and forwards

The text of my 2016 Senior Prize Giving speech.

Senior Prize Giving 2016

Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei
Seek the treasure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain
Tihei Mauri Ora!
Ki nga kaumatua me nga kuia, tena koutou
Ki nga mana whenua ki Ngati Moki me Ngati Ruahekeheke ki taumutu, tena koutou
Ki te Kura Te Huruhuru Ao o Horomaka, tena koe
Tēnā koutou katoa

Our Board Deputy Chair, Mr Jonti Ward, fellow Board of Trustees members, Te Taumutu runanga, honoured guests, colleagues, parents and friends, ladies and gentlemen, students of Hornby High School  - welcome every one of you, welcome to this 42nd senior prize giving of Hornby High School. As I begin this my first prize giving address I am mindful that you will most likely be wondering how long you will need to sit and endure my words. When I talk of ‘Achieved ‘ grades you will know that we are almost there.

It was Benjamin Franklyn who said “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” To that list someone added “change”, and over this last year  Hornby High School has certainly seen its fair share of change, with plenty more on the horizon.

2016 began in the wake of the departure of Mr Richard Edmundson as Principal. Mr Edmundson is a visionary educator, a remarkable change agent, a man who brought Hornby High School forward by leaps and bounds, a man to whom I am very grateful as together with a wonderful staff team he created the solid platform for our school’s next steps.

I am grateful to the members of the senior leadership team, and to staff generally, as they stepped up during term 1 awaiting my arrival.  Mr Jon Rogers, Mrs Karen Wheeler and Mrs Sue Elley, and Mrs Laurie Tafua, deserve special mention in that regard.

During the year we have experienced some additional changes to staff. Mr Andrew Cooper (TiC History) and Mrs Justine Menzies (SENCO) left us at the end of term 3 to take up positions as establishment staff at the new Rolleston College. Mrs Julia Messenger left us in the middle of term 2, and we are very grateful to Mr Warren Cain who stepped in to fill the breach for the remainder of term 2 and most of term 3, creating a settled learning environment for those children. Late in term three we welcomed back Mrs Diane Alpers as a relieving teacher. Diane has a record of long and faithful service to and support of Hornby High School over many years and she filled a final short term gap for us before the arrival of Ms Marina Shehata who has taken up the permanent position as Year 7 team leader.

Mrs Oonagh Beharrel our guidance counsellor decided that motherhood is simply far too attractive and so tendered her resignation before her planned return from maternity leave. We were thrilled to appoint Mrs Sarah Kavanagh to the permanent position of Guidance Counsellor, the role she had been filling in a relieving role since the beginning of the year.

Mrs Helen Temby from the learning support team left us at the end of October to begin a well earned retirement and we also received the resignation of Mrs Sudha Pandaram, HOD Mathematics as she takes a break from teaching. We wish them all well in these next steps in their life journeys.

We also learned that Mrs Barbara Climo was granted a study leave position for the whole of 2017, and Ms Helen Boothby gained a Royal Society fellowship in science education leadership, absent terms 1 and 2. To both our best wishes as you take up these well deserved opportunities.

Kaye Banks, Jonti Ward and Donna Sutherland were re-elected to the Board of Trustees, and Rochelle Jackson was elected for her first term. Rylu Dequita was elected as the new student representative. Thankyou to you all for putting yourselves forward, this is important work that you do.

I would also like to express our thanks to our outgoing student representative Fatafehi Tongotongo. You have represented your student peers well.

One of the first tasks undertaken by the new Board was to revisit their vision for the school. Every organisation needs a vision, an aspirational statement of what it wants to be in the future. A vision should be bold, audacious and challenging, and our new Board has not stepped back from the challenge.

Their vision for Hornby High School going forward is ‘A centre of creative excellence’. This acknowledges that the world is changing, and that as an educational organisation we must be ready to meet that challenge. Why the focus on creativity?

Consider this: In a 2015 report the NZ Institute of Economic Research predicted that within the next 15-25 years 46% of the jobs that we know today may well cease to exist as technology replaces workers undertaking routine repetitive jobs. One simple illustration close to home was the recent announcement by the Christchurch International Airport Authority that it will begin on road trials of driverless buses in 2017.

Our future lies in developing and exploiting those things that make us human, a message that I have tried to communicate regularly to staff and students (and I apologise now to everyone who has heard me rant about these things already). It includes our ability to empathise, to understand our fellow human beings, and the abilities to think creatively, critically and collaboratively.

Creativity is not limited to what you might traditionally think of as the arts. We mean creativity in every endeavour that we undertake, technology, sport, mathematics, physical and social sciences, administration and governance. Our biggest challenge now is to determine exactly what that looks like for each of us. What for example will creative governance look like? What will creativity on the sports field or in the science lab look like?

In steering the school towards this vision, the Board resolved to adopt three strategic goals:
To provide future focussed individualised learning
To create and sustain an inclusive learning community
To foster inspirational, risk taking and enterprising leadership in all members of our learning community

There is much in what the school has been doing over the past 8 years that is already closely aligned with these goals, but there is also the opportunity to look the new vision squarely in the eye and say ‘come on then, bring it on’.

Perhaps our most pressing and immediate challenge lies with the complete rebuild of our built environment starting in March 2017. Much of the new design matches our new vision and goals. The initial stages of the rebuild have been designed to accommodate a predicted roll of 800 students, and the school has been master planned for roll growth to 1200 students. The rebuild is planned completion by late 2019

As the build progresses we must not forget this:

He aha te mea nui o te ao
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

What is the most important thing in the world?
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people

The buildings will allow us to do great things, but these things do not happen without a dedicated talented and hardworking staff, and our wonderful tamariki. They are our true taonga. Thank you for entrusting their care and development to us.

When all said and done however we are here tonight to celebrate achievement and it is important that we don’t take our eye off the ball and forget that this is our primary purpose. The school’s NCEA results at the end of 2015 were the best yet, with level 1 pass rates higher than the average for all schools regardless of decile rating. This speaks of the enormous dedication, energy and hard work that our staff put in with your tamariki, and I would like to publicly thank them here tonight for their wonderful dedication, their skill and focus.

There is plenty more to be done, and the biggest challenge will be to align the vision, the buildings, the teaching methodology, and student aspiration. Staff continue to put a large amount of effort into their consideration of the changes in teaching practice that our brave new world demands. We are a school of immensely strong relationships, and we should be proud of the resilience that lies behind these relationships. All staff regardless of their jobs provide an amazing degree of wrap around support for our students. We have to remind ourselves that these relationships are necessary for good learning, but in themselves are not sufficient to cause that learning.

Staff continue to develop their skills in using best evidence practice supported by research coming from a wide range of educational organisations.Trials are underway with project based learning in the junior school as staff look for approaches that will make learning more relevant, engaging and challenging for all students. The use of data is increasingly informing decision-making whether it be about class groupings or support for the Ministry’s priority learners.

The school’s journey into the digital era has continued with students in Years 7 to 10 making increasing use of Chromebooks in their learning. There is now a growing body of evidence to support the positive impact of digital learning for students. Hornby High School is a part of the Manaiakalani Education Trust’s Hornby Cluster, the work of which is underpinned by the methodology ‘Learn Create Share’, and there again is the reference to creativity. We are grateful for and excited by the preparation that our partnership schools are giving their students in preparation for their transition to Hornby High School. Let me now publicly acknowledge your contribution and say thank you. The work you do is quite extraordinary. Thank you too to the Manaiakalani Outreach Trust, Dorothy and Russell Burt, and Pat Sneddon, you are truly pioneers and visionaries, people driven by the moral imperative behind what we do.

The Spark Foundation announcement of its new ‘Spark Jump’ programme allowing cheaper access to broadband will be a significant enabler for students to improve their learning using digital tools. Thank you to Spark Foundation for this exciting initiative, and for your generous donation which will be used to help more families access personal devices. From 2017 we will require all students to have a Chromebook with which to undertake their work.

Let us not forget however that learning happens in many ways, and we use what I term a ‘blended learning environment’, that is an environment in which we focus on using the right tool, for the job. There are times when the Chromebook is the right tool, but other times when a pen and paper are the right tool for the job.

Across the entire secondary school network in Christchurch there is a new air of cooperation readily apparent as schools, the Ministry of Education, and the School Trustees Association attempt to coordinate decision making at the strategic level to produce the best quality of education possible across the whole city. A part of this has been formalising mechanisms that promote the sharing of best practice between schools. Our own journey down the path of project based learning has been informed through such sharing. Integral to this coordination will be the introduction of school zones across the city to ensure that all children can access their nearest local school. Our moral imperative is to ensure that all children have access to quality education. This requires an open mind and a willingness to try new things. As one comic once said, insanity is doing the same things and expecting a different result.

There are many people and organisations that need to be acknowledged and thanked at this time of year. First and foremost are my wonderful colleagues. Regardless of whether they are teaching or non teaching staff they all do a wonderful job. Teaching staff deliver the learning, but that is not possible without all of the many support functions that sit alongside them: grounds and maintenance, security, administration and accounts, all completed by wonderful people. Thank you.

To our many supporting organisations, thank you. The Hub and Hornby Working Men’s Club, a special mention as long term supporters of our wonderful tamariki. Your actions  demonstrate your understanding of the desirability of investing in your local community. Please be assured that you do make a positive difference.
Thank you also to our many other supporters:

L CERT Trust
Mainland Foundation
OJI Fibre Solutions
Konica Minolta
ISS Facilities Services
Westpac Trust - Hornby Branch
Orica Chemicals

Finally, to our prize winners, well done. Tonight we acknowledge and celebrate your attitude, your persistence and your achievement. The prizes we award acknowledge only one part of the wonderful achievement represented here tonight, and throughout the school. In NCEA terms, an ‘Achieved’ may be a wonderful result for some, but a mediocre performance for others. Everyone who produces a personal best performance is a winner. You owe it to yourselves to accept nothing less than your best. Over the next few weeks many of you face the biggest test of the year as you sit external examinations, some for the first time. Go well, don’t settle for second best, be the best that you can be.

To our 2016 Prefects, thank you for your leadership and your commitment to the school, and to all of our leavers - please know that you take with you our best wishes, and the knowledge that at Hornby High School you have your turangawaewae, your place to stand.

Noreira tena koutou tena koutou tena koutou katoa

R Sutton
Principal

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Re-imagining Hornby High School

I recently gave an address to the Hornby Rotary club in which I aimed to update them on happenings at Hornby High School. I realised that I had actually put together a lot of our thinking over the past two terms, and so I thought this was worth sharing with our wider community audience.

We live in exciting times in education, and that is a good thing, contrary to what is supposed to be an ancient Chinese proverb ( I have been able to find no evidence to convince me that it was).

Across the city we are seeing significant Govt investment in the schools network, with several hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in new secondary school facilities. We are also seeing more cooperation than ever before across the secondary network. We are seeing collaboration about everything from enrolments to learning pedagogy (that stuff about how we cause learning).

We are also seeing unprecedented levels of investment in the up-skilling of teachers.

Why?

We are living in times of exponential change. Technology is changing at a pace never before experienced in human history. Jobs as we have known them are at the very least changing if not disappearing at a similar rate.

The very meaning of the concept of knowledge is changing. It was once a noun, meaning facts and data. Today it is a 'verb'. That is, the concept of knowledge covers not only the stuff (facts/data) that we need to have in our heads, but also the ability to do something with those facts, that data.

Schools are becoming increasingly aware of the expressed needs of employers who tell us that 'soft skills' are a key factor in determining employability. Employers tell us that if we produce literate and numerate citizens who have the skills to get along with their fellow human beings, who can empathise, collaborate and think, then they will give them many of the technical skills that they need. That statement is certainly open to challenge but you get the idea.

This is driving changes in the way we cause learning, in the pedagogy that we employ in schools.

There is this increasing focus on the ‘soft skills’ that employers are telling us they want - those abilities to collaborate, to empathise, to communicate, to have a set of values to hold fast to.

Schools are always seeking improvements in the levels of engagement of students, and Hornby is no exception. Project Based Learning is well up over the horizon and set to become a normal part of how we engage and motivate learners while developing the knowledge, skills and key competencies that we all need. Enthusiastic staff are planning and trialling approaches that will make this common across the curriculum.

There is a shift to more online learning, although like most schools we hold fast to what we call 'blended learning' where learning is achieved in a wide variety of ways, using a wide variety of tools, and we focus on 'the right tool for the job'. We don't live solely in the digital world.

Hornby High School's participation in Manaiakalani Outreach is yielding growing benefits in improved learning as our learners are empowered with the MKO pedagogy 'Learn Create Share'. Of course to do this learners need to be connected and to have devices. For this reason the recent Spark Foundation announcement of their newest programme Spark Jump, designed to help struggling families 'jump the digital divide', is a huge step forward for New Zealand. Learning any time any where is now available to what has previously been a disenfranchised portion of our society.

This still leaves us with the challenge of how to make sure that every student has a device in her or his hands.

We can increasingly see evidence of the impact of this technology, here for example is commentary from across the fence at Hornby Primary School on the benefits to their children.

Finally we are about to undergo an almost total rebuild of our school. At the heart of the school culturally will be a whare, sitting alongside fantastic new science, technology and visual arts facilities. At the very centre of these facilities will be the creative arts. We believe that creativity is central to what will keep us apart from technology and offer us a future in a world of dramatically different work.

When I first joined the amazing Hornby team I invited my new colleagues to help re-imagine education. Most have taken up the challenge with relish.

Look out for the new Hornby High School, watch the progress and be a part of our re-imagining as we shape education to equip our wonderful Hornby kids for their extraordinary futures.

Nga mihi nui
Robin Sutton
Principal

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

'Learn, Create, Share'

In education you often see the word 'pedagogy' used and it's one of those words that can be quite intimidating. It just means 'how we cause learning to happen'.

Now a device is a device is a device, whether it be a Chromebook, or an iPad, or any other tablet of laptop. It's how we use it that matters. Or more appropriately it's how we use it to cause learning that matters.

Hornby High School, and the Uru Manuka cluster of other local schools with which we are in partnership in an educational sense, are a part of the Manaiakalani Outreach programme. This means that we have agreed to use the 'pedagogy' used in the original Manaiakalani schools set up in east Tamaki to help improve student learning.

That 'pedagogy' that is central to this programme is 'learn, create, share'. The technology (or the devices we refer to) is used to help students to learn content knowledge, to create new 'knowledge or product', and to share that with a real audience.

There has been a lot of debate about how much effect devices have on student learning, and there is certainly evidence around to show that if not used effectively devices can have a negative effect on learning. Distraction alone has a huge negative impact on learning.

But similarly there is a growing body of evidence to support the view that if used effectively devices can have a strong positive effect on learning.

'Learning' is improved in many ways. Evidence suggests that students are better engaged with their learning, they have access to a far wider pool of content knowledge, and the technology can be used to 'flip' the learning (where students review content at home, and then do problem based work in class with teachers) or rewind the learning (look at it again) any time they want.

The technology also promotes better writing, and better thinking. There is a  growing body of evidence in the research literature to support this too.

'Creating' is a much easier process with the right technology. Whether it be creation through writing, the production of video clips, or design of structures, the technology makes this process much much easier, shifting the focus to the thinking that lies behind the creation. That is, it allows students to unleash their true creative powers.

Creation doesn't just have to be done digitally though. We should never forget that creation of objects in a technology workshop or an art studio or a science lab is just as much a part of that as it ever was. The difference is that there are now so many more possibilities with access to 3D printers, or CnC cutters, for example.

Then there is the power of the Google suite of applications that allow students to work together (to collaborate), and to build their understanding of new ideas through that collaboration. Tools such as Google Forms and Google Docs (entry level applications these days) have revolutionised what can be achieved in terms of collaboration, and they are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of applications.

I have previously talked about creativity and the idea of 'reimagining' here.

'Sharing' is perhaps more profoundly affected by the technology than anything else. Access to the world wide web means that students (well, anyone actually) can share their creation with the whole world if they choose. Student blogging is becoming more and more a part of that activity every day. The blog itself is an act of creation but more importantly it acts as a simple way to record and share the results of student creativity with whomever students choose.

This sharing is perhaps most powerful when done with family and whanau. It is an amazing experience for a child in Christchurch to get positive comments on some work she has created from whanau in Kaitaia.

Where does this leave us? Access to devices, and to the internet, are both vital to improving our kids' learning. A strength of the Manaiakalani approach is that by agreeing on common devices we are able to work with suppliers to get better prices for those devices, so giving families easier access. By using a common 'pedagogy' students find their transitions from one school to another that much easier. This is important because there is some learning lost for students every time they make a transition (a shift such as from one school to another). By giving students the same approach to their learning we make that transition less of a problem for them, so reducing the amount of learning lost as they shift from (for example) their primary school Year 6 to their intermediate or secondary school Year 7.

There are great things afoot in New Zealand to allow easier access to the internet.  There is also a lot of work going on behind the scenes to give easier access to Chromebooks. Access needs to be easy for everyone.

We have a saying: "It's not about the devices, it's about the learning".

You can read more about Manaiakalani here.

Nga mihi nui
R Sutton
Principal

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Friends and whanau

This week we extended an open invitation to whanau and friends of our Year 7 and 8 students to come and join in with lessons. For our first such day we were gratified to have 20+ whanau and friends join us for an hour of lessons.

Whanau saw their tamariki engaged in their literacy and numeracy learning, many using their Chromebooks to support their learning. The impact of this technology on learning is becoming better documented as time goes by, often resulting in deeper learning and better engagement.

We have to be realistic and acknowledge that the technology can also result in increased distraction, although of course distraction has always been an issue in classes. I suspect most can recall times when they found themselves staring out the window watching a bird, or a cat, or something else of interest at the time. The answer lies in capturing interest, being vigilant, and educating for responsible use of the technology, all of which take time.

As time goes by our tamariki develop better skills and dispositions, included in which are focus and persistence in their learning.

On top of that, we are happy to acknowledge that we operate in a blended learning environment where pen and paper still sit alongside Chromebooks and iPads. We firmly believe that learning requires the 'right tool for the job'. Sometimes it's a Chromebook, sometimes it's a pen and paper, just as it might be in the workplace and in everyday life.

We were happy to host a small morning tea for whanau, and were able to share preliminary lans for our impending rebuild.

We will be repeating this week's invitation. Whanau are always welcome to come and see what our students are doing with their learning; the power of the trio of student, parent, and school has never been greater.  These are exciting times ahead.

R Sutton
Principal