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

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Digital learning.. it's time

The world of work is changing. Well the world is changing, and it is changing so fast that it can leave us breathless. Who would have thought that within five years we will see driverless cars on the roads of Christchurch, or that the City Council would be installing electric car charge points in parking buildings? This makes it really difficult for schools to know how best to prepare our students for their future. Schools have traditionally been seen as places from which you acquire knowledge. Over the past fifteen years however our very definition of knowledge has changed. Whereas we once thought of knowledge as ‘stuff’, facts, processes etc, now we see it as stuff, and being able to do something WITH that stuff. It has moved from being a noun to a verb. This means that more than ever before schools need to develop skills and dispositions in students rather than simply fill their heads. Our model of learning has shifted: we can no longer see students’ minds as empty vessels to be filled. We hear from employers that we need to provide them with people who are able to learn, and they will give them employment specific facts and skills. This includes those important dispositions like persistence and resilience, the ability to work collaboratively, to think critically and creatively. Digital technology is vital tool. It is no coincidence that this has become a part of the New Zealand curriculum. Hornby High School is a part of the Hornby Manaiakalani Outreach Hornby cluster. Modelled on the Tamaki cluster in Auckland, the programme uses the pedagogy ‘Learn Create Share’ to define work with students, using devices (currently Chromebooks) as the essential digital tool. The Tamaki experience reveals dramatic impact on student learning, engagement and results. Students acquire knowledge, create authentic product with that knowledge and then share it with the world, perhaps as published work, or the solution to a real world problem.

You can read more about this programme here. The learning is powerful, the impact profound, and it requires students to have devices in their hands. The Chromebook is the most affordable solution to that challenge. It’s a big ask for many families, but the return on their investment is huge.

It's time.

Nga mihi
Robin Sutton

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

So what are they meant to learn?

The world is changing at a faster and faster pace.  Experts talk about 'exponential change'. That is, not only is change happen but it is happening at a faster and faster 'rate'. It's like gradually pushing your foot down further and further on a car accelerator as you travel down the road. The question that has confronted education for a long time is therefore what are schools meant to teach?

I have written several times now about the changes that are happening in the workplace, the changes that our current young people will face within the early years of their 'working life' (whatever that might look like).

In 2015 the World Economic Forum (in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group) prepared a report titled 'New vision for education' in  which it outlined what it thought schools should be doing, where schools should be going.

It's story is the same story I've described with reference to Yong Zhao. For example, WEF present this data on the changes in the types of skills being demanded globally of workers:

So routine skills of the sort that many would have assumed offered good job prospects are simply disappearing. Look at the skills that are increasing in demand. BOTH are non routine, because anything routine can be automated, that is replaced by technology. One is that of interpersonal skills - dealing with other people. The other analytical - making sense of the world. Neither of these is currently easily undertaken by technology.

They go on to describe the types of skills that we will increasingly need as this century progresses. Here is their summary:

The middle (orange) block describes basic competencies, those that we describe within our New Zealand curriculum in part with our key competencies. It is my opinion that creativity is the key. In a previous post I used the term 're-imagining'.

The more immediate and more pressing question is how we will get there. I don't think there is one path, there are many paths. For us at Hornby High School our 'connected curriculum' across years 7-10 is our critical pathway, and that connected curriculum will involve more project or passion based learning and less direct instruction. That is not to say that direct teaching is dead. It isn't. It means that direct teaching is no longer enough.

This is risky ground for any school, but we don't have much choice. Time and the world move on. We can either get on board or lag so far behind that we become irrelevant. Our young people, our precious tamariki, are the ones who will pay the price if we don't.