Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Coaching, collaboration and professional learning

Last weekend we started with the 4th cohort of our Teacher Training Programme at ASB.  At the same time, as I have some workshops planned both for the PYP and for tech integration and coaching, I thought I'd have a good think about the sort of professional learning that is most meaningful for adults.  Over the past couple of months, I've also read posts that have been shared on Facebook by teachers I used to work with in previous schools.  These are mostly about the type of professional learning that is most meaningful to adults, in particular coaching and collaboration.

The first article, published earlier this month by Chalkbeat, is about how the majority of professionals, when asked about how they became good at their jobs, talk about having a mentor. You almost never hear someone remark that they became great at what they do by attending workshops or training, by being observed by a boss and then getting feedback, or by analyzing data that measured their results.  Despite this, the vast majority of teachers do rely on these as the most common forms of professional development.  In particular this article talks about the value (or lack of value) of using data:  pre-assessments, goal setting, reassessments.  The authors write, "We are losing hours, days, weeks of valuable time when students could be doing engaging work and teachers could be collaborating on improving their craft.  Other professions recognize that data is not, itself, a mechanism for improvement."

The article goes on to discuss what it calls "adding a Band-Aid".  This involves weekly training sessions after school, and weekly meetings to discuss data.  The argument is that adults sit together to do this and it is often labelled as "collaboration" yet it rarely involves any lesson planning.  Instead, the authors argue, "We foster greatness everywhere by working closely in small groups that include someone whose work is great."  They conclude that "Schools need to stop adding more work for teachers to do in newly created groups and partnerships in an artificial attempt to create "collaboration" and instead reorganize the real work teachers already need to do every day, creating authentic teams."

The second article, which appeared at the end of June, is written by Karen Johnson and sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  This article is about what PD should look like.  In summary teachers want professional learning that is:
  • relevant and personalized
  • interactive, applying learning through demonstrations, modeling and practice
  • delivered by someone who understands their experience - someone who is still in the classroom
  • sustained over time - for a semester or a year
  • treats teachers like professional
The two forms of professional learning that most fit with these criteria are coaching and collaboration.  However although teachers values these types of professional learning the most, experience shows that most PD in schools lacks engagement and is poorly planned and executed, so ends up feeling like a waste of time.

I feel proud to work in PYP schools that seem to get the combination right which have strong models for collaboration.  These schools have collaborative planning time built into their schedules, shared responsibility for instructional planning, and grade level or subject area teams that work well with each other.   In these schools coaching and collaboration combine to produce really impactful professional learning.

(Thanks to Rebecca and Lesley for sharing these articles that started me thinking about adult learning)

Photo Credit: Marc Wathieu via Compfight cc

Monday, August 29, 2016

Exploring the new ISTE Standards for Students

The 2016 ISTE Standards for Students were launched around 2 months ago.  At the start of the year I took some time with our tech coaches to explore these new standards and to compare them with the previous ones.  I also took a good look at some of the student tech artefacts we collected last year to see how the new standards would apply to them.  My first thoughts were that there are lots of new things in the standards and therefore we will need to consider what we teach and how the students are using technology to ensure all the new standards are being addressed.

The intention of the new standards is to focus on deep learning, and to encourage students to take more ownership of their learning both inside and outside the classroom. The students standards have evolved a long way since they were first developed almost 20 years ago in 1998.  At that time the focus of the standards was on how to use technology tools.  The standards were rewritten in 2007, at which time the emphasis shifted to cognitive and learning skills.  At this point 4 new words/concepts were introduced:  culture, global, creativity and innovation, and digital citizenship.  These took priority over "basic skills", whieh appeared in only 1 of the 6 new standards. Now the focus has changed again.  In the 2016 student standards there is more about the learning and less about the tools; skills are seen as a means to an end; and the expectation is that students will use technology to take charge of their own learning.

Empowered learning, the first of the new standards, is about motivating students and letting them make choices about their learning.  Over the course of 20 years, the trend has been from teacher-directed (1998), to student centred (2007) and now in 2016 to learner driven.  Teachers still play a key role - so I'm interested to see how the ISTE-Ts will change when they are rewritten.  The 2016 standards recognize that students do need guidance as they gradually learn to take responsibility for their own learning.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Living with dementia part 3

This is the final post (for the time being) about apps that have been recommended that can be used to support people with dementia.  First of all I want to say that I have not tried any of these apps yet with my mother, as I returned to India at the end of July for our new school year.  Rather than wait until Christmas to try them and write about them, I decided to do some research about what the apps offered.  I can try them out with mum the next time I'm in the UK, and then add further comments.

Two apps that are very similar are Talking Tom and Talking Ginger.  Tom and Ginger are both cats - the app gives you a virtual pet who will repeat things back to you.  You can stroke them, poke them, tickle them and so on.  You can dress them up and play mini-games with them.  You can also record videos of the cats and send them or post them onto Facebook and YouTube.  These apps might appeal to people with dementia who have had to give up a pet in order to move to a care home.  Both these apps are free, though there are in-app purchases.

Another app that was recommended was Let's Create! Pottery.  Here you make pottery by throwing clay on a virtual wheel and create a collection of pots in different shapes and sizes.  You can paint, glaze and fire your pots and then post them online in the gallery.  It's also possible to convert your designs into real pots as you can create and 3D print pots and order them through the app.  . This may well appeal to people with demential who are interested in creative activities.  This is a paid app (it cost £3.99).  The video below gives a good overview of this app.

Finally an app I really want to explore is CleverMind.  This voice activated app has been specifically designed for people living with dementia and it includes cognitive training tools such as games and puzzles.  Unfortunately I have not been able to download this app as it is not available on the UK AppStore.  The iPad app was created by Glenn Palumbo when his father developed Alzheimer's.  The idea is that by training your brain through solving puzzles will lead to positive effects including the building up of neural pathways.  The app also contains food and nutrition tools and medical information.  There's also a CleverMind website that contains recent brain research news articles.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Living with dementia - apps that can offer support

As many of you reading my blog will know, I've spend this summer with my mother and have been exploring different ways that technology can help.  In this post I'm going to review several iPad apps that can support people with dementia and their carers.

The first app I looked at was MindMate, which is aimed both at those with dementia and the people caring for them.  There is a games section that contains 8 interactive games that build cognitive abilities and focus on attention, memory, speed and problem solving.  There's also a section called My Life that gives reminders about daily things such as brushing your teeth and exercising.   The aim of the app is to help those suffering with dementia to improve their self-management.  In this section you can add the most important information into Getting to Know Me, preserving memories so that they don't get lost if the person with dementia has to go into hospital or a residential home.

There is also a My Story photo timeline tool.  This app is available for the iPad and iPhones and it's completely free.  There are 2 other MindMate apps, Plus and Pro.  These allow the app to be used with family members and with multiple profiles on the same device - so could be useful in a care home.

To find out more about MindMate visit the website.

My House of Memories is another free app.  This has been designed by the National Museums Liverpool for exploring objects from the past and sharing memories together.  Again it has been designed for people living with dementia and their carers who can browse through a range of everyday sets of objects from the past,  brought to life with mutimedia to stimulate memory and conversation.

The app allows the creation of a Memory Tree, where someone with dementia can save their favourite objects, photos and videos to look at whenever they like.  The Memory Tree can also be shared with others.  There is also a read aloud option.  The app includes information for carers and tips for promoting memory through activities and resources.

The Book of You is a paid app (costing £25 for an individual) that uses reminiscence therapy to create a personal life story of someone living with dementia.  This digital book is designed to be constructed by carers as a shared activity to capture the memories of someone with dementia, creating a memory book of the precious times in their lives.  You can add words, pictures, music and film into the book, showing who the person was and who they are now.  The video below explains more about this project.

The final resource I'm sharing in this post is the Talking Point app - a free online support and discussion forum from the Alzheimer's Society.  The app encourages people to reach out and talk to others who are experiencing the same feelings and worries and is aimed at those with dementia and their carers.  In Talking Point you can ask for advice, share information, and feel supported.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The what, the how and the why: unpacking our mission statement

We are about to have our first day with students tomorrow.  Up to now we have had teacher orientation and just like we do at the start of every year we begin with looking again at our mission statement.

This year we started with Simon Sinek's concept of the  "Golden Circle" - the why, how and what of what we do.  This explains why some organizations and leaders are able to inspire and why others are not.  Let's start with the what.

The What
We looked at this video, We Have A Responsiblity to Awe.

After this we talked in groups about whether we do this as a school - how, where, when and who we awe.  How we are doing at inspiring our students - are we exceeding their expectations, meeting them or failing to meet them?  We decided for us that The What is our school's mission statement.
We inspire all of our students to continuous inquiry, empowering them with the skills, courage, optimism, and integrity to pursue their dreams and enhance the lives of others.
The How
Unpacking our mission statement brought us to the how.  Basically this is contained in the words "skills, courage, optimism and integrity".   When this mission statement was written 15 years ago we did not define what the skills are - indeed they are changing to meet the needs of the students.  We felt that it was quite visionary to use these words - in particular that in today's world students would need courage and optimism.  We watched the following video of a Rube Goldberg machine that was designed by Audri, a 7 year old who made a monster trap.

The Why
We are back to the mission statement again, the final part being at the heart of our why.  This is the pursuit of dreams and enhancing the lives of others.  We talked about how some people pursue their dreams, but the downside is that they leave a very choppy wake for others.  In our mission statement the purpose is to enhance others' lives, not to pursue our dreams at their expense.

Wired for Struggle
At our elementary faculty meeting this morning we watched a snippet of another video, a TED talk by BrenĂ© Brown about the power of vulnerability.  Here's the bit we talked about - how we will support our students' struggles:
And we perfect, most dangerously, our children. Let me tell you what we think about children. They're hardwired for struggle when they get here. And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand,our job is not to say, "Look at her, she's perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect -- make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh." That's not our job. Our job is to look and say,"You know what? You're imperfect, and you're wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging." That's our job. Show me a generation of kids raised like that, and we'll end the problems, I think, that we see today. 
So tomorrow I start my 5th year at ASB.   Here's hoping that it will be the best year yet!