Saturday 22 November 2014

Learning Less Is More - My First EduIgnite Presentation

I'm a teacher. Listening to, relating to and knowing my learners is so important. I care about provoking their wondering AND meeting each learner's differing needs. I enjoy planning with my kids - then I know they are going to be engaged. I am passionate about teaching our littlest learners to notice 'how' they are learning and how they might construct new learning.
I appreciate how through using symbols AND words AND hand signals, I enable learning about the levels of SOLO to be accessible to more learners in more ways.

Media preview
Media previewLast week I presented my first quickfire EduIgnite talk.  Thank you  +Sonya Van Schaijik for the friendly nudge yet again!
Media preview

EduIgnite Evenings are an opportunity to bring people together. Food, beverages and conversations are shared. Attendance at your first Ignite evening is 'no strings' then to encourage sharing of practice and passions, at your second Ignite evening attendees are asked to present or bring a colleague - though I suspect all attendees will always be welcome. Auckland events are well orchestrated by +Andrew Cowie & +Mark Osborne

I was in remarkable, friendly, FUN company at the Auckland Public Library on Thursday evening. The presentations shared by passionate educators; Justine @digitallearnin and Diana @DianaWilkes, Sonya @vanschaijik, Fuatino @f_leaupepe, Holly @HmsMoore and Carolyn @CaroBush were each thoughtful and thought-provoking - I really look forward to 'rewinding' their videos when they are shared online.

Presentations are FAST - less is more! 5 mins maximum and your 20 slides auto progress every 15 secs. This leads to high energy sharing and - I found - very little time to refer to any notes so I abandoned plans and just spoke.

I attempted to meet a challenge set by +Pam Hook earlier this year and use ONLY images on my slides. I failed! More effort is required in learning about 'less is more'...

Considering the way I communicate about SOLO, with hands, symbols, written and spoken word - and because I am intrigued - I've begun reading around the theory of communication (Weiner & Mehrabian, 1968), the power of non-verbal communication (Mehrabian and around Birdwhistell's Kinesics. Obviously, this is a huge area to explore and my summer reading list is now longer than a certain 5 year old's Christmas list... Less is more = complex!

I then wondered if 7% of a message is conveyed through words, 38% is the way the message is shared, and 55% is non-verbal (Mehrabian), then what message is conveyed through my slides without my voice and 'flappy' hands?

Are written or spoken words more important? The screens, the nose-gazing, the 'both and'?
What if I attached any one of Scott Bradlee's tracks to it in place of silence? Or perhaps Ella's classic - "T'ain't What You Do..."

There are multiple ways in which we can present our learners with opportunities to explore and create understanding of ideas or concepts. And there were multiple ways in which my colleagues hooked me in and engaged me with their ideas and messages at EduIgnite last week.

To say there is a lot to learn in this world is stating the obvious.
One thing I am noticing is that actions do speak louder than...

Friday 14 November 2014

Not Just Describing

I've been making a conscious effort recently to limit my use of 'just'. A conversation had with our DP triggered a wondering...Why do I use it so often? 
As a learner first, I try, and fail forward a lot - if an idea doesn't work, I know what to do - if it's worth pursuing; I think with SOLO Taxonomy. AND I'm not 'just' doing it... 

There are always 'musts do' and I know I'm fortunate to be able to make choices about so much; many in our global family do not have this freedom. I can choose the way I act and react, to feedback; to people, to the world. I can choose to reflect honestly, to strategise and make improvements. I choose to share; maybe it's sometimes too much, too little or just right... This blog is not 'just' my story, it is part of my story, told my way. 

I choose to tweet - I don't 'just' do it, I do it because I enjoy learning from listening to others. AND then I noticed with a bang last year, how important those people who share their experiences are. I really love teaching and learning so being able to 'meet' with people about my 'passion project', while my broken organs sorted themselves out (slowly!) helped. I figure paying back by paying forward is pretty great. 
My class and I aim for 'kind and helpful always' -to self and others. What I know and experience might be helpful for someone else, in the way that when others share their knowledge and experiences, they are helpful to me. So, I am sharing another couple of answers to questions from my ULearn14 SOLO Taxonomy in Early Years Breakout Presentation... No 'justs' about it. :-) 
For anyone who may read and is thinking SOLO? Greatest source for finding out how it can be used in classroom practice is here from the person who introduced it +Pam Hook 

1. I notice you use hand drawings of student hand signs alongside the success criteria in your rubrics.  Has this been helpful in re-interpreting the SOLO resources with five year olds.

Thanks for this question - using drawings of the hands was something we thought would be helpful. We saw this video clip of wonderful 5 year old learners Pam had worked with using hand signals, so our team decided we would draw some to help ‘trigger’ the learners in an additional way. Some learners make connections best by reading text, some by the use of the hand gestures, some by connecting with images - no one way is better than another - it's 'AND'. How many ways can I offer them to help them develop an understanding? It’s another way to make the links visible. 
I have the hand signals  displayed around the room, and permanently above my teacher station, but I don’t put them beside each rubric anymore - my students are familiar with the symbols. Pam has examples of the hand signals published by Essential Resources. 
Personally I love the extended abstract symbol with the open hand because “I’m throwing an idea out there into the unknown, into a new context… It’s a wondering.”

2. Using SOLO strategies - You were the first person in the world to use SOLO Hexagons and the HookED Describe ++ Map with five year olds. Do you have any special advice for teachers in the room who are just starting out?  

I think the greatest advice I could give is to use the SOLO rubric to plan to meet your 'Starting Out with SOLO' goal!

I still have so much more to explore about how SOLO could be used in the classroom, but I didn't start out trying to do everything all at once. Reflecting with SOLO, this was what I did... 

Link for HookEd Resources

I have a post about using Hexagons with SOLO here

The See, Think, Wonder stickers are one 'branch' of the Describe++. You can use several of these together to explore an idea/concept in depth E.G 

1.Writing a sentence. Describe: What elements do I see? Why is each important? I wonder if I can make one, two, three... of these elements happen in my writing?

2.Getting myself ready for learning (managing self). Describe: What might/should we see in our room? Why do we do this? I wonder, can we make it happen? (The learning about the 'How' of school that is so important in an early years classroom!)

3.'Get Creative/Innovative Together' then Describe: What did we make? Why is this part important/Why did we do this? Wonder; what could we change to improve, who could we share this with, who could use/enjoy this? 

AND most importantly have FUN together using it - learning should be FUN. 

Whether learning to play Minecraft together as my daughter and I are - using this Fab Minecraft video from Pam, learning to read for the first time, or learning to use SOLO Taxonomy to help make the learning process visible for the first time - it's not 'just' learning, it's learning AND it's remarkable!

Ironically; I have only just noticed how much I use another word too... Wondering 

Thursday 6 November 2014

Hearts, Minds & Marmalade - Meeting the people of Waimairi School

Wow. Wow. Wow. Yes, Pam, it did needed to be repeated.  
Prior to my arrival, conversations I'd had with Mike Anderson @mikeachch Principal of Waimairi School @waimairischool made me aware I had made a fabulous decision to visit with them 'face to face'. Thank you, Pam @arti_choke  for encouraging the connection!

I think the best way to communicate the feeling I have after visiting, is to share this photo of Lynley @LynleyL and I... 
The meeting of hearts and minds excites me! 
I immediately connected upon meeting Lynley. Waimairi School has deep understanding of SOLO within their yard! We are both most comfortable sitting on the floor. We appreciate George and his scones ;-) #BothAnd #MakingItWork

I value this discussion about 'Meeting and Connecting' here between Dr Wendy Kofoed & Pam Hook.

Cognition Education @CognitionEdu made this meeting possible - I really thank you.

At the #edchatnz conference earlier this year, organised by fabulous Danielle @MissDtheTeacher and her energetic team, I won an amazing opportunity to spend a day with an educator of my choice - a seemingly impossible task to choose only one from a country full of awesome educators who make magic happen in their classrooms every day! I considered... and decided I needed to meet as many of Mike Anderson's @mikeachch Waimairi School team of educators as I could! Pam, has spoken fondly of this school, so I knew I would be in for a treat. I was intrigued by, and wanted to discover more about their use of #solotaxonomy and their literacy programme, their inquiry learning processes, their focus on the development of key competencies and making visible community connections. 
But my personal, and in fact professional, goal was to ENJOY every moment and have FUN. Because, it isn't every day you get this opportunity! I walked in with a growth mindset, ready to absorb what the day would offer. And WOW… What a treat it was!

The wonderings activated from this opportunity preceded and will continue long past the event. This post feels almost a little knee jerk reaction; the ‘See’ when the ‘Think and the Wonder’ are only just beginning! But I have made reliable predictions about the stickability of what I noticed and ‘connected’ with. I know a lot will be visible in my next steps. So as I continue to process, I want to visibly recognise my highlights from this experience.

Ensure that we appreciate the wonder that is in our own ‘backyard’ - the conversation I had with my British ‘neighbour’ Danny, on the flight down who was also visiting Christchurch for the first time returned me to this, as did conversations shared at Waimairi School,
'Connecting’ is meeting and spending time with someone - looking at, listening to & hearing them. Again - I refer to Pam's comment
PEOPLE MAKE “Modern Learning Environments” (MY definition of this is a space where learning is valued as most important and the how is flexible - the WHY is never overlooked, and all get that) Broken buildings AND visible cracks are no barriers to an MLE and quality learning happens in the face of, and as a result of challenge and change. Every element in each classroom learning space at Waimairi School has purpose and MOST importantly the people share the understanding.
Tablet devices nudging up alongside other ‘Modern Learning Devices’ of their time - sewing machines, elements for cooking - ignite interest and conversations. Photo
Sharing, collaboration and great wonderings happen when sharing food and coffee - Waimairi School invite their community to enjoy conversations over quality espresso each morning - an initiative that is evidently very successful at creating and sustaining relationships.
'Marmalade and scones' - sharing kai really enables people to connect, and backstories should be made visible... They are important.
Learning must be meaningful, fun and there should be a shared understanding of the how and the why. Waimairi school learners use SOLO Taxonomy to describe their learning and plan their next steps instinctively. And they are proud to share it - even when "it sounds a bit complicated, but it's not really".
Every classroom, every space I walked into, every person with whom I conversed with, I felt embraced. There was an openness to learning, sharing and caring about people that was obviously important.
Relationships between people are valuable. Mike @mikeachch and his team modeled hospitality and citizenship at its finest.  

I am already so grateful for the experience and I know this face to face meeting was only the start of the relationships I will enjoy with people of Waimairi School. I showed my 5 year old learners the photos yesterday and they were as 'buzzing' as I was - particularly when they saw and related with other learners their age using SOLO Taxonomy - there was a choice and they chose to construct this together. Lynley, it may not be a 'SOLO' song for much longer... ;-)

Learning and connecting of hearts and minds is most important. Citizenship matters. Kindness matters. Thank you, people of Waimairi School. I hope to reciprocate soon and look forward to sharing future meetings and wonderings.

Saturday 1 November 2014

Connected & Connecting People... Reflection on #CENZ14

Participating in Connected Educator Month NZ has provoked a lot of sharing, learning and wondering! 

During the month of October, I have made visible contributions online  and shared my learning in the following ways (not all relevant to 'pledged events'):

Through @vanschaijik virtual TeachMeetNZ presentation:

Presentations at ULearn14
Notice, both of these presentations have further links to shared google docs. The SOLO one was VERY well utilised & contributed to during the presentation and attended by Pam Hook @arti_choke

This is a collection of the tweets shared by the wonderful group of educators who joined the breakout at #ULearn14. Thanks Pam for collating.

Pam's SOLO Taxonomy Early Years Pinterest Board has had a few extra pins contributed by my learners and I during October

The #EdbookNZ project, I contributed to as a critical / 'kind and helpful' friend for @vanschaijik. _ The result - an awesome collection of wonderings by warm, connected, knowledgeable people.

And, then there is Twitter; 'Hi, I'm @bridgetcasse and I love being connected online'! 

But being 'Connected' to me isn't black and white - it's quite a grey area - I see connections in so many ways! 

To my learning and wondering...
There is no possible way we can really think 'big', without considering small. It is indeed all the small steps especially when taken together that can lead to something quite remarkable. Slow IS ok - and yes, this is completely the opposite to what I was told at a large corporate conference I attended earlier in the year, where I must say, as connected as we all were - I felt a disconnect. But the defining moments of that conference for me were:
1.Over lunch with Mahsa @Mahsabanoo discussing how she is actively working to encourage young women to engage in computer science and technology. I still hope to attend her workshop later this year. 
2.Listening to Karen @virtuallykaren feeling excited by her effort and energy with her planning for CENZ14. These two inspiring people were thinking big, and 'making it happen' one step at a time. 

I've had great intrigue in that term 'Connected'. It's a fascinating label I think. 
Labels can help us feel connected, they generate excitement as we strive to belong and identify. Large gestures might be made, buying flash new furniture, knocking down walls, building new ones, securing access to 1:1 devices... I once got a buzz cut... Didn't need to - know that now!  ;)

I wonder... Connected Educator, Modern Learner in a Modern Learning Environment, Flipped Educator, 21C Learner... Is any one of these as important as being a kind, thoughtful citizen of our global family? Is that the greatest kind of 'connected'? 

After a few short, 'kindly disruptive' ;) words from Pam (and a really good coffee) early in October, I made a personal resolve. I sought to make these virtual connections more real during the valuable face to face time at ULearn14. Look up, say "Hi" and smile! And yep - as the saying goes, the world (well mostly!) is smiling back. :-) Reflection for ULearn14 

AND I still tried to tweet a lot of my learning, because I know how much I appreciated attending virtually as I was laid up in bed last year recovering from an accident. My PLN, though many won't know it, helped me remain and feel connected, and that is something I can pay back by paying forward. Connecting with self is also hugely important.

I observed with interest, early in Connected Ed Month, as a large part of this wonderful city I reside in was forced to 'disconnect' - the power went out. When stories emerged of people needing to take 'refuge' in hotels, or who were faced with the challenge of not being able to navigate their way around electric gates, I wondered, is it time that we need to make being able to connect with, through AND beyond the screens equally visible? I appreciated a tweet from @vanschaijik during this power outage of her cooking a full breakfast for her family over a small gas cooker. I thought, to me, that encapsulated 'connected' so well. Technology and tools - traditional and modern - check, people who care about each other - check, nourishment - check. Knowing how to combine all elements - priceless. Sonya - very deserving of the 'Queen of Connected' title! :-)

I really enjoy that at Edendale Primary School, learning from, for and with our land is such an important part of our curriculum; teaching and recognising Kaitiakitanga - I think this is connected too. We proudly identify as the first Eco-School in NZ and as a Garden To Table school and we are looking forward to contributing towards the One Planet Picnic Project soon. 

When I arrived home from ULearn14, I came across this amazing connected project happening in Bangladesh through my connection with @EcoSchoolsInt 
So I wondered... What if we streamed these fabulous people into our auditoriums? Keynotes? No need to fly them over - they are connected...
Later in the month, a young teenager was killed on the train tracks in Te Kuiti. I wonder, why wasn't the breakout presented by Newmarket School@ginnynz01 presenting a new Tracksafe resource more widely attended? Trains, roads, air and sea connect people. They are also spaces where our global family members are killed. 

I wonder, what might result from a 'trade hall' space if it were filled (ok - next step, just one corner?) with questions about, and images that represent the wicked problems existent in this country, and in this world of ours and simply invited discussion about the kids we teach? How are we making big problems accessible and visible for our learners? How are we enabling them with the tools necessary for them to solve what we cannot solve ourselves nor even predict? What if the focus remained on people instead of products - claiming to 'revolutionise and redefine' while offering 'free' lollies in exchange for my contact details? Connecting? I guess it still is... But what if I assess it using my 'grey' understanding of what it might be and with SOLO Taxonomy...? 

Taking part in connected educator month has allowed me to create more virtual connections and move beyond virtual with some of those I already had. I love that. From talking with and listening to many of my 'virtual' friends at ULearn14, conversing with people in GHOs, engaging in chats with people and listening to them sharing their learning, I know a little more about these people and many of them know a little more about me. It is the relationships between the people who have participated in #CENZ14 that has made October so meaningful. I can't wait to learn more from and with these wonderful people. October was but a beginning.

So Connected Educator... Am I one? Let's see...

Educator - my 21 five year old learners will surely attest to this. 
Connected - I still honestly am not sure what this means for me. It's ok - questions are more important than having all the answers. Maybe I will ask those little learners of mine what they think...

There are so many labels that I could identify with. But my favourite one - and the only one I am completely comfortable with, is learner.