Reflective Practice and Changes in my Teaching Practice as a Result of the Mindlab Post-Graduate Diploma

In New Zealand education context, Ministry of Education (nd.) has set criteria for Practising Teacher Criteria (PTC) in e-learning:

Two areas where I have noticeably changed my practise in the last 8 months are

  • Criterion 2: Demonstrate commitment to promoting the well-being of akonga (professional relationships and professional values)

The project-based learning inherent in my subject (digital technologies – secondary) has always enabled me to create learning around students choice of ‘context’ (in other words, students can choose what the project can be about; for example, websites about informational motorcycles or rugby is popular for boys). The difference now (as a result of having done the ‘Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice’ (Digital and Collaborative Learning) with Mindlab Christchurch (http://themindlab.com/postgrad-studies/programme-overview/) is that I have added a whole range of digital tools to my subject toolbox as a result especially those that are used widely in the primary area. This in turn has increased the range of outcomes that I can offer my students, notably those with very low literacy.

To step back a little, NCEA (the secondary qualification offered here in New Zealand) is broadly divided into two parts: skills-based Unit Standards and project-based Achievement Standards (which, of necessity, involve a great deal of report writing (conclusions, summaries of testing of websites or mini-robots etc…). It is really Achievement Standards that are more important for tertiary study (although the skills taught in higher level Unit Standards are certainly useful). It is the only way to get subject “endorsements” at years 11, 12 and 13 at a NZ high school, achievements that are often highly sought after by higher learning tertiary institutions like engineering and architecture (in my subject area which is becoming more ‘STEM’-like with each passing year).

The best example of e above in terms of my recent practise is where reporting can now be done by screen-recorded video (by a senior student using a headset) instead of by hand/keyboard as in the past (in fact, a significant number of students seem to have now lost the preference to write by hand which is leading to a whole range of new challenges in the classroom. Do students not know that handwriting will be required to short notes to friends/colleagues/flatmates in the future? And that these notes are more efficiently handwritten than by any other means? Texting can’t substitute for everything too – bereavement messages for example. I wonder what sort of brave new world we have stumbled into when we lose even more basic social niceties).

Admittedly, screen-recoded reports work best for students with already high literacy but it does represent a major change (and I believe softening) of standards NZQA expects. Even so, I am getting senior students to do both these days (that is, both written and screen-recorded reports) s that I am not caught out by NZQA check-marking (called ‘moderation’). I simply don’t have the confidence in the (screen-recorded) system at the moment and am traditional enough (in an educational sense) to insist students must still know how to write an essay (which is essential for subject endorsements and higher learning anyway). These are complicated times and NCEA teachers really do need to know their boundaries of their own teaching more than any other time I have been involved in secondary teaching (almost 25 years).

  • Criterion 6: Conceptualise, plan, and implement an appropriate learning programme (professional knowledge in practice).

There are six stages in the adoption of digital technologies (as identified by Knezek and Christensen (#1)).

Awareness

Students are aware of digital technologies but have not used them – perhaps they’re even avoiding them

Learning the Process

Students are currently trying to learn the basics. They are often frustrated using computers and the internet. They lack confidence when using digital technologies

Understanding and Application of the Process

Students are beginning to understand the process of using digital technologies and can think of specific tasks in which they might be useful

Familiarity and Confidence

Students are gaining a sense of confidence in using digital technologies for specific tasks. They are starting to feel comfortable using digital technologies

Adaptation to other Contexts

Students think about digital technologies as tools to help them and are no longer concerned about it as technology. They can use digital technologies in many applications and as instructional aids

Creative Application to New Contexts

Students can apply what they know about digital technologies in the classroom. They can use them as an instructional tool and integrate them into the curriculum

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With this in mind I completed a literature review (as a part of my Mindlab digital learning diploma) into the following pedagogical question: “Is ‘SOLO’ or ‘Bloom’s’ Taxonomy the best learning framework for delivery of computational-thinking/computer-science in primary and secondary (high-school) classrooms around the world?”

Based on this investigation I have decided to pursue add an ‘action research’ component to this enquiry based around my evolving classroom practices incorporating SOLO (only). It seemed to be a better fit for the NCEA system here in NZ (compared to BLOOM’s Taxonomy) as levels of this NZQA qualification framework can be approximately equated into levels of SOLO Taxonomy as follows:

Level of NCEA Level of SOLO
Not Achieved Pre-structural/

Uni-structural

Achieved Multi Structural
Merit Relational
Excellence Extended Abstract

The end result was that I significantly modified my pedagogical approach to the day-to-day teaching in my classroom. This is best shown by the new layout of student outcomes on the walls and on my whiteboard which highlight the links between levels of SOLO and the grade boundaries of NCEA. In short, I now include references to almost all of my teaching using the website http://pamhook.com/solo-apps/. I can generate learning intentions based around SOLO (Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes) taxonomy(’s) here but I can also generate desired outlines as backbones for lesson outcomes in the form of professionally presented lesson plans in the generated word document (this can all be done quickly but of course detail can be added later on). This is something completely new in my career as I actively try to integrate this learning approach into my classroom (rather than passively).

As a consequence, all my classroom walls have been redecorated exemplars of different levels of NCEA/SOLO with the intent of further highlighting the verifiable link between the two learning systems (NCEA and SOLO). Now I need only refer to the walls whenever I want to further illustrate the relationship between SOLO and NCEA (particularly in the area of Excellence/extended abstract/rich thinking which is where subject endorsement lies – essay/report writing).

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This is but one example of how my post-graduate studies with Mindlab have changed my teaching. I have certainly moved my professional tendencies more towards collaborative and consultative particularly in regards to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) spectrum in my subject (digital technologies). This week we are trialling Virtual Reality headsets in the primary classrooms of my school of 300 (roughly 200 are in this group). Videoing each of their individual responses to such technology is reminding the seniors who are involved of the power of the technology to change how the world is experienced. It is getting to the point now where students may be able to choose a completely digital teacher in the future rather than a real one. Or friends. Or parents (?!) A brave new world indeed.

 

(#1) Knezek and Christensen, Computers in New Zealand Schools, Nov 1999; http://courseweb.unt.edu/gknezek/ihit/4.3.doc)

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