Thursday, 25 June 2015

Challenge accepted

When I first came up with this SPIN I thought I would just go through and do the same old tasks in python that I had been doing with my students for the last couple of years. However, this place makes you want to challenge yourself.

That is what I have been doing over the past 10 weeks, challenging myself in what I am doing with my SPINs. In Term 1 I had a SPIN for programming where I used the programming language Scratch. This term I took it up a level to a text based programming language, called python. This is able to be freely downloaded and installed on the computers without having a licence which makes it work in our BYOD environment as well as being able to be installed on the school computers.

The challenge of programming is that sometimes it is just maths problems that get created and solved. I decided that I wanted to look at game development. Not your normal games of multiplayer environments in 3D. The simple games of Quizes, 8 Ball, Hangman, Paper Rock Scissors and High Low.

These are games which can be developed to increase in skill and ability. Perfect for a differentiated class. Why you might ask. The class that I teach is not just one year level. It is 4 year levels in one.
I have year 8, year 9, year 10, and year 11 in the same class. One thing is that we do not have the achievement standard to contend with. This is about the learning. Students come in with all levels of ability already, working the tasks into the different scaffolds helped. It meant that a student could still succeed. Working with groups of students around the class provided opportunities for support, most of the time it was a student asking before they tried the code themselves. They wanted the validation, yet the answer was almost always the same, "Have you tried it?"

A number of these ideas have come from other resources on the Internet, but being able to develop these and work them towards our students knowledge and understanding. Bringing in our schools Learning Design Model helps students understand the common language in our school as well as areas that they may need to look at and develop.

Using self assessment tools like SOLO taxonomy provides students with feedback and those next steps in their learning.

As I near the end of term, I reflect back at where we started with code being copied from the TV and whiteboard, through to now students planning, testing and developing work as an individual or peer programming. Through the use of other items such as playing cards for high low and working out what has to happen, and what steps are required. Through to playing hangman in class and working out the word, a list of letters tried and how many guesses left(which is interesting as some are as little as 8, where some have 16). Getting students to work out the planning through playing the games has helped immensely.

But one thing that still gets the students are the use of the less than and greater than signs (< >) in programs.
if num1 < num2 : # num1 is less than num2
if num1 > num2 : # num1 is greater than num2

Why is it so difficult?

Friday, 12 June 2015

Awareness of Digital Technologies

One thing I think people are struggling with is how many students are doing certain subjects, tonight I started playing around with an idea.

Showing the schools and how many students sat the standard.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Sitting down beside the fireplace

This week is a special time in my life, it is when I decided to go back to Christchurch four years ago. I took up a position at a traditional catholic school. I had been at my first teaching job for 8 years up till then. The move south opened up new friendships, new ideas and a great change for me, a subject area called Digital Technologies. Over the next two years through the school I tried new standards, sometimes the idea failed, but in others they helped developed new innovation and thinking for my students.

I look back fondly at the end of my time at my first school. It just so happened that my final week at the school the Whare Nui was opened.

This was an amazing event for staff and students. I often think back to the dawn ceremony and the pride that the community had that day, and since then.

Moving south that weekend, happened with the front bonnet of the car taped down as an unfortunate rain shower caused traffic to not be its normal self and I went into the back of another car. Snow and quakes were to show me the way the first couple of months at the school. Working on a different timetable as we were site sharing offered new challenges and new ways to look at assessments.

The classroom, although when I left the monitors and computers had changed.

One thing that stood out were the students. Throughout the rough times and travelling from all areas of Christchurch their learning continued on.

Watching areas of school coming down due to quake damage allowed thinking to happen about what would replace these areas. New classrooms with Modern Learning Environments. But how to make this change within a traditional school. 

Being able to attend conferences in Christchurch around Modern Learning Environments started me thinking about what this could look like. I was also able to attend a BYOD conference in Auckland at a new school. Going to this conference brought with me new ideas, I still remember saying in a session at the end with the teachers from my school, "This is the school I want to work at."

I still feel very lucky to have a position at the this school, to be thinking of new ideas, student centric learning, looking at what Modern Learning Practice is in reality, but there is one thing that I still miss, sitting beside a fire at night in winter staying warm after a day of teaching. It allows for reflection, to talk to others in the flat, and to think up new ideas.

I look forward to tomorrow and the challenges it may bring and where the next couple of years will take me.

Monday, 1 June 2015

changing it up

In the past, I plan at the beginning of end of each year and the beginning of the next what I will be doing with the students. I ask students what they want to do and work around that. It normally is the same each year and although you can innovate on some ideas there are always obstacles in the way. be it a trimester, school sports, special character activity, mid year exams, end of year exams. There seems to be always something that inhibits something.

I feel so far that there has not been the obstacles, Thursday is known as SPIN day, it is almost an obstacle free day. You know that the students will be there barring sickness. 
The one and a half hour sot allows you to focus, and as I have posted previously they do focus.

So far I have done with students, there is no year 9 and year 10 in the class, they are learners, nothing about what they have learnt the year before and building up. The course is structured in a way to help define curriculum levels, and the students work towards different levels based upon ability. I have year 10 students that could be working towards level 8 of the curriculum, and others that are working towards level 4.

Term One
Scratch programming
Webpage design using html5 and css3
Digital Information

Term Two
Python programming x 2

Planning term 3
Programming using hardware
Digital Media
Something special

Term Four,
waiting for student voice

The freedom to change your course up, try new thinks, be innovate, engage and inspire. 
To make this work we are using SOLO rubrics, for Digital technologies they are brought back from NZC level 6, since they do not exist at levels 4 and 5. However I am also working towards the Technology Curriculum at Levels 4 and 5 as well. So I have a skill and a Achievement Objective from Technology that I am covering.

As well as the SPINS that are changing, I am also changing Semesters, Going from an English/Digital technologies mix to a Health and Physical Education/Generic Technology mix. Currently this is still being developed on the HPSS Planning document. Through this I am working towards Brief Development under an Innovation Theme. The second half of the semester I am working with Functional Modelling under a Transformation theme, (I can see flexible filament in a 3d printer being used here) having a context to work under within the technology curriculum is amazing.