Sunday, 18 August 2019

A wonderful mix of 'Learn Create Share' and good old fashioned kindness and gratitude

Our Year 7 & 8 curriculum this year includes the opportunity for tamariki to take part in 'Community Impact Projects', and passion projects. One of these projects engages the tamariki in enhancing wellbeing in their community. Last term they devised and designed a mindfulness colouring in project/competition that they then promoted amongst cluster schools. They went out to businesses asking for prizes and were, on their own admissions, overwhelmed with the support they received, and were able to support improved wellbeing.

Their teacher Miss Birtch wanted to share some great learning and community interactions. Last week she had some of the Year 7/8's writing letters of appreciation to someone special in their lives. They were expressing their gratitude to help improve someone else's wellbeing and to show kindness.

Miss Birtch writes:

"Students wrote to a variety of people including Mums, Dads, other whānau members, teachers, friends, coaches etc. Students got to choose to share their actual letter on their blog, print them off to take home or email straight to their person, and then post a reflection about the task.

"It was great to see friends lighting up receiving kind messages and students running up to us to say that "Mum responded!!" or "Mum commented back!" within the time frame of the lesson."

This is a link to Saia's blog. He posted his letter on his blog, and guess what? Mum responded. I suspect you can imagine Saia's delight.

Engagement was high and these students brightened the day for a lot of people showing once more, and in a very different context, the power of 'Learn Create Share'. Students were writing, they were thinking critically, they were reflecting on gratitude which we know is strongly connected to wellbeing. For some this was via blogs, for others it was via email, or paper copies. The sharing of their thinking and their feelings was the important thing, and for some the technology enabled this in ways that might not have been easily accessible otherwise.

This is a condition of the human heart, and powerful determinant of our wellbeing. Of course that said, technology was never required to say thank you.

Monday, 5 August 2019

The power of making learning visible 2

My last post looked at a class scenario in which some of our amazing rangatahi contacted a fave author after reading one of her books, and writing a series of reviews. The net result is Ella West's planned visit to our kura in September. When we make our learning visible, authentic connections occur and new opportunities are created, opportunities that most probably would not have existed without that visibility, without the blogging, without the affordances of the digital technology.

Here is another recent example. Natasha is a Year 10 Business Studies student in Mr Stokes' Business Studies class. Natasha put together a presentation on what we call the 'Triple Bottom Line', the idea that businesses need to focus not just on profits, but also people, and the planet. Her presentation was a mini case study about Van, the shoe manufacturer. She then posted her presentation on her blog for the world to see.

With a little 'engineering', a staff member from Van's in Australia read the presentation and commented on Natasha's blog post. You can see the reply if you scroll down to the bottom of Natasha's post.

This is a real and authentic connection, a connection with real world people in a real world context. Natasha has brought her thinking to the attention of the people who matter in this regard, she has been able to begin the process of tapping into real world expertise. The fact that her presentation has been shared across the Australian arm of this company is extraordinary. Imagine how Natasha feels. No, you don't need to imagine. In her own words:

Natasha's context is real, the expertise that she may now be able to learn from is real. Natasha's learning is real. The benefits of this visible learning go far beyond the improvements to thinking and writing that occur with the act of 'blogging', improvements that are well documented through the independent and authenticated research conducted by Woolf Fisher Research centre (Auckland University).

We can only guess at the possibilities that now exist, but we can be sure that they are possibilities that did not exist before.

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This is the power of visible learning, this is the liberation we want for our learners. This is what happens when learning focuses on real world situations, and is shared with an authentic audience.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

The power of making learning visible 1

So what's this big deal about making learning visible?  'Manaiakalani', we say. "Learn Create Share' we say. "Accelerating learning", we say. How does that work? What does the Share part of that look like, and what it the big benefit of sharing learning?

Our basic sharing tool is student blogs. Blogs are our mechanism for sharing our thinking, our work, our learning, with a real audience. This blog post that you are reading is me as an educator sharing my thinking. And whenever a student writes a blog post, she opens up the possibility of connection with an authentic audience, with an audience that at the very least may be interested in the topic, or an audience that has much more specific expertise to offer on the blog topic. That offers a pathway to much deeper learning by connecting with levels of expertise that are not easily accessible within the student's own localised community. Sometimes that connection occurs naturally, and sometimes we have to 'engineer' it in the same way that a business or organisation has to engineer its own connections with its market or audience. But that's okay. We are most often so overloaded with information that we relish any opportunity to have our attention steered towards what matters, or what may be of interest.

This post is the first of two looking at real examples that we have seen at Hornby High School in the past few weeks.

Late last term a group of students from 7/8 Al started to read the book 'Night Vision' by ex Christchurch author Ella West.

Ella now lives in Australia. The students loved the book so much that they decided to contact her. To their surprise Ella replied. What's more she replied to each and every one of them.

And then this happened:

Followd by this:

The following day Mrs Allan-Fletcher took a phone call from Ella West, with the offer to come and talk with the class when she is in Christchurch in September this year. Mrs Fletcher came to tell me, and she was almost literally jumping up and down with excitement. If I am to be truthful, so was I when I heard the news.

Here are some of the responses of the students, who were equally as excited. Their words tell the story far better than I could. These are 11 and 12 year olds, hooked onto reading, and hooked onto learning. These are 11 and 12 year olds grateful for the opportunities they have, grateful for the chance to connect with a real author.

THIS is the power of blogging. THIS is the power of making learning visible.

Perhaps most importantly this is the power of Manaiakalani, Learn Create Share, and the use of Chromebooks as a way to create real connection, to create learning in context. This is how Chromebooks amplify learning. This is how we are accelerating learning. This is how we are accelerating writing development for our rangatahi by twice national averages. Theirs is perhaps the most powerful statement of that impact, and the most powerful argument for delivering a Chromebook into the hands of each and every child. We remain grateful to those whānau who make the sacrifice to purchase a Chromebook for their tamariki. After your time, you are giving your tamariki the best gift you possibly can.

This is not the first example of Hornby High School students making those real world connections with world experts to enhance their learning. Mr Rees' work with a Year 9 Maths class constructing sundials was the first I documented on this blog. This is another outstanding example.

Let's not forget that this is students showing our school values of Commitment, Achievement, Resilience, and Respect. And let's also not forget the power of an inspiring teacher in all of this. In this case, thanks Mrs Allan-Fletcher!!! And let's also not forget the manaaki, the whanaungatanga, the simple kindness, shown by Ellas West herself... reaching out to our tamariki in this way is true humanity. Thank you!!!

In part 2 I will describe another wonderful example of the power of sharing, of making learning visible, that has occurred in our kura over the past few weeks.