Analysing the Use of Digital Technologies beyond my 2017 Classroom

Issue: The challenge of fostering deep learning in our classrooms using digital technologies while people are saying that all knowledge can now be googled.

We are being told by the experts (and more often than in the past) to expect change and to expect it at an exponential pace due to the increasing impact of digital technologies on lives in both developed and developing countries (*1). This is putting real pressure on most teachers to adapt our teaching to this “exponential” rate of change but in our rush to embrace digital technologies (and by implication, student-centred learning pedagogies like ‘blended’ learning or ‘flipped’ learning) we seem to have forgotten that our students also need to have memorised – facts! Put in SOLO taxonomy terms it simply would not be possible to reach the level of extended abstract (i.e. deep thinking) without having gone through the multi-structural level (*2).

The belief that a digital device somehow makes a child more intelligent has been successfully challenged by many researchers in recent times (*3) but many lay-people still insist that it does. How then to successfully encourage the deep learning required in today’s modern world (particularly with so many ‘white-collar’ jobs on the verge of becoming automated that previously needed a university degree – e.g. accountancy (*4))

Locally and Nationally

The rise and rise of Mindlab has met this growing need for teachers at all levels to receive more training with digital tools and collaborative approaches. The founder of the group, New Zealander Ms Frances Valintine, established the 6-month “Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital and Collaborative Learning)”. It was launched in Auckland in October 2013 (*5) which myself and almost 1000 other NZ teachers have completed to date (*6).  Ms Valintine states that “that if 15 per cent of NZ teachers are taught to implement digital learning, it can bring about transformative change in industry” (the aim is about 10 000 teachers completing (the course) over the next 5 years).

Here in New Zealand successful (and complementary) teaching and learning websites teaching for computer science have been set up by both Dr Tim Bell (and his post graduate tutors) at Canterbury University (http://csfieldguide.org.nz/en/index.html). Waikato-based internet educational ‘entrepreneur’ Michael Walmsley has also set up a portal called  as ‘code-avengers’ (https://www.codeavengers.com/about) which performs a similar function (i.e. delivering computer science and discrete structured coding lessons to students of any and all ages. As at 2016 this business employed 15 to create and deliver the increasingly wide variety of programs encompassing python, HTML/CSS, Javascript and even game development.

Internationally

Similar such initiatives have seen the creation of similar such websites by other developed countries around the world but there are also similar moves afoot in many to develop such programs as many have already embraced coding as a compulsory subject from the age of five, most recently in the UK.” (*7). Online learning portals such as https://scratch.mit.edu/ and https://code.org/, both started in the USA, are having an effect worldwide including in my rural classroom in a school of 300, only 90 of whom are students aged 13 or more (years 9 to 13).

In conclusion, it can be said that educators around the world are engaging more and more effectively with the explosion of digital technologies in teaching. The only cautionary note to be sounded is that: “The average Kiwi teacher is a woman in her early fifties. She’s facing a generation of kids she wasn’t trained to teach who have grown up with Wi-Fi, the cloud and hand-held technology.” (*8)

This important group will therefore be retiring in the next 10 to 15 years so importance must be placed on training the training of tomorrow through institutions like New Zealand’s Mindlab.

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(*1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ystdF6jN7hc Digital transformation: Are you ready for exponential change? Futurist Gerd Leonhard, TFAStudios

(*2) Learning Strategies: a Synthesis and Conceptual Model, John A C Hattie & Gregory M Donoghue, 10 August 2016

(*3) Is Technology Making Us Stupid (and Smarter)? Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic Ph.D, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/

(*4) The Future of The Accounting Industry In 2015, Russ Alan Prince, Forbes Magazine, 21st January 2015.

(*5) http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/77839277/changing-how-kids-learn-the-mind-lab-and-the-future-of-education-in-nz

(*6) http://m.nzherald.co.nz/education/news/article.cfm?c_id=35&objectid=11406138

(*7) https://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/dec/03/should-kids-learn-code

(8) http://m.nzherald.co.nz/education/news/article.cfm?c_id=35&objectid=11406138

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Professional Environment and Supports for my Digi-Tech Teaching

 

Organisational Culture:

Teaching staff are divided into two syndicates, Primary and Secondary, and these are overseen by an Assistant Principal and Deputy Principal respectively with overall governance across both accorded by the Principal.

One aspect of the organisation (that was only recently introduced by the Principal about 2 years ago) that has noticeably contributed to the positive environment of the school is a reward system for all students (both primary and secondary) using cards given out and accumulated like tokens. These ‘ASPIRE’ cards (known as ‘STRIVES’) have the words printed on them that are based around our school values and mission (http://www.amuri.school.nz/our-school/visionmissionvalues):

The ‘ASPIRE’ acronym means AMURI, Self-Discipline, Pride, Integrity, Respect and Excellence.

So all teachers have the ability to reward any positive student behaviours – not just academic – across a wide spectrum around the school at any time for any age level. Such is the success of the scheme that even Year 13’s value the scheme and react positively when they receive such tokens. Hence, I feel that this has had a real system has had a real impact across both schools and lifted the positive feelings of both students and teachers involved. As we all tend to learn in life, little things can mean a lot and I feel that such a system of tokens would serve well at almost any other educational institution.

It worth noting here that the school runs a ‘vertical’ form system where all students from year 7 upwards are mixed together with students from other levels. In my opinion, this makes any pastoral work so much more achievable across the school (remember that it’s both primary and secondary at the one location) and also provides more opportunities for regular contact between student leaders and the other students compared to a horizontal system.

My Professional Environments include

  • include membership to my secondary subject association ‘NZACDITT’, NZ Association for Computing, Digital and Information Technology Teachers. This is an important association to me and indeed, I doubt whether I would be able to function properly as a Digital Technology teacher without the support and information that I get through this online portal. I would refer to this community of around 150 teachers several times a day by email and would confer with individuals within it many times pr week. It would be impossible for me to carry out my job technically correctly if I did not not have access to this many-layered resource-bank of current NZ secondary practitioners, many of whom are experts in their field.
  • The use of SOLO (Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes) taxonomy across both schools to deliver learning gives the staff a common goal regardless of their subject or level of teaching. (A ‘taxonomy’ is any kind of ordered classification system and there are a variety used in education to classify learners). This school-wide approach give a shared structure for classroom instructional outcomes and provides greater collegiality through the opportunity to speak the same teaching ‘language’ regardless of age level taught.

{SOLO provides a simple, reliable and systematically hierarchical way of describing how a learner’s performance grows in complexity when mastering any academic task (Biggs 1999). By describing gains in the structural complexity of a learning outcome as the student learns, it provides both a structure and a process for learning.” (Hook, 2016, [8])}

  • The increasing use of digital technologies (both hardware and software) across both schools to deliver learning and increase student engagement. This also gives the staff another shared goal and many common experiences (and occasionally frustrations!) regardless of their subject or level of teaching. Digital technologies are essential as, when correctly used, they have been shown to produce better student outcomes, more in keeping with what is happening in the classrooms around the developed world. There are six stages in the adoption of digital technologies (as identified by Knezek and Christensen, Computers in New Zealand Schools, Nov 1999) and students are increasingly gaining a sense of confidence in using digital technologies for specific tasks.

Socio-Economic Background to my School:

Decile rating = 8 (*1)

“Socio-economic decile (also known as Socio-economic decile band or simply decile) is a widely used measure of socioeconomic status in New Zealand education, primarily used to target funding and support to more needy schools. A school’s socio-economic decile is recalculated by the Ministry of Education every five years, after each Census of Population and Dwellings using data collected during the census.” (*1)

The other statistics behind my school are:

School type: Composite Year 1 to 15

School roll: 300 approximately

Gender composition: Boys 55%; Girls 45%

Ethnic composition:          New Zealand European/Pākehā 79%;

Māori and Pacific: 12%;

Asian: 3%;

Other: 6%

The student roll is affected each year by the movement in and out of the area of families working in the dairy industry, which contributes to increasing numbers of students with different cultural backgrounds attending the school.

(*1) (for an explanation of decile meaning see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socio-economic_decile )

Defining my Community of Practise

My composite/rural area school is situated in North Canterbury and has approximately 300 students and roughly 22 teachers plus administration staff/teacher aides. It caters for students from Years 1 to 13 from the township and surrounding rural areas. Teachers make good use of the school’s location to provide students with many varied outdoor education experiences. Eighty percent of students travel by bus.

The school plays a central role in the community as it provides facilities such as the library and a skate park for out-of-school use as well as offering educational opportunities for adult students to further their qualifications alongside senior students. The student roll is affected each year by the movement in and out of the area of families working in the dairy industry which contributes to increasing numbers of students with different cultural backgrounds attending the school.

The statistics behind my school are:

School type: Composite Year 1 to 15

Decile rating: 8 (*1)

School roll: 300

Gender composition: Boys 55%; Girls 45%

Ethnic composition:          New Zealand European/Pākehā 79%;

Māori and Pacific: 12%;

Asian: 3%;

Other: 6%

As a city secondary teacher of 25 years this is my first experience of both an area school and a rural school (an area school is one that combines both primary and secondary students). Unsurprisingly 90% of the roll bus to school so events like earthquakes like the recent 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake or heavy rain or snow tend to effect it more than most.

Teaching staff are divided into two syndicates, Primary and Secondary, and these are overseen by an Assistant Principal and Deputy Principal respectively with overall governance across both accorded by the Principal.

There are regular year-level pastoral or syndicate meetings scheduled almost every Tuesday and Wednesday after school where academic or other needs are addressed. HELA’S (or Head of Learning Area) also meet regularly and have the responsibility of providing support and guidance to the primary as well as secondary area in their subject. This is a new challenge for me in that I have never had the opportunity to introduce Digital Technology pedagogy to the Primary area in my 25-year career to date. I have started off this process by introducing a Virtual Reality (Samsung) headset (that is kept in the AP’s office) and also by gifting a mini-robot each to three primary classes to engage with during the term. This is a new journey for me and I am very interested in how the incoming generation students will be changed by new technologies like this that are available to them.

It worth noting here that the school runs a ‘vertical’ form system where all students from year 7 upwards are mixed together with students from other levels. In my opinion, this makes any pastoral work so much more equitable across the school and also provides more opportunities for regular contact between student leaders and the other students compared to a horizontal system.

There has been an increasingly digital focus across the school and One Drive/Office 365 was introduced as teaching delivery system across the teaching staff and the student’s above year 9.

It is worth noting that ‘SOLO’ is the teaching taxonomy has been introduced across the school (the acronym means Structure of Learning Outcomes).

In SOLO, learning outcomes are classified into five levels of increasing structural complexity – from pre-structural (no idea) to uni-structural (one idea), multi-structural (many loose ideas), relational (related ideas) and extended abstract (extended ideas). The levels represent both an increase in understanding (knowing more, moving from uni-structural to multi-structural outcomes) and a deepening of understanding (moving from multi-structural to relational to extended abstract outcomes) (Biggs 1999, Hook, 2016)

See video: SOLO taxonomy explained using Lego (4 mins) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDXXV-mCLPg

Beyond that, there is a more general focus on reflective practise across all levels within the school as outlined by Philip Dawson of Monash University  in the following clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDXXV-mCLPg

“Reflective practice is the ability to reflect on one’s actions so as to engage in a process of continuous learning” (*2)

I would be grateful for any comment regarding any of the above particularly other teacher’s experiences of:

  • Use of Reflective Practise in present or past schools
  • SOLO in present or past schools
  • Vertical forms levels in present or past schools
  • Collaborative learning with a Technology context in present or past schools
  • Any current use of Virtual Reality headsets in present or past schools
  • Any current use of mini-robots in present or past schools

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(*1) (for an explanation of decile meaning see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socio-economic_decile )

(*2) Schön, Donald A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 046506874X. OCLC 8709452.

Why I am Choosing SOLO Taxonomy as my framework for Encouraging and Developing Independent Computational Thinking and/or Computer Science

Description:

As the importance of computer science increases, I believe more educators, school administrators, parents and students in NZ will be interested in understanding how it can be best delivered in NZ classrooms. The two methodologies that I compared in my previous Mindlab research assignment were Bloom’s and SOLO taxonomies

http://blogs.sussex.ac.uk/tel/2016/11/22/5-tips-for-multimedia-enhanced-teaching-and-learning/

 

http://www.slideshare.net/danlaw7/pd-august-nps-51968962

 

 

 

BLOOM’s taxonomy certainly seems to be more generally useful across a greater range of subjects (like the creative arts such as painting and sculpting) but SOLO seems particularly applicable in the ‘hard’ sciences like Mathematics, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) or my subject, Digital Technologies.

 

I have created a BLOG which I plan to use to keep my Target Communities updated about my progress and findings. This will hopefully highlight some of the benefits and challenges of my implementation of ‘EDICT’ in my classroom which will hopefully encourage other teachers and students using SOLO taxonomy (across all subjects) to join me in their own digital teaching journeys and experiences.

 

In this way we will learn together as a distinctly NZ educational community by refining our approaches together, collaborating on our research and justifying our new approach to our classroom learning through measuring our long-term effectiveness at delivering EDICT using SOLO in ways that this project will attempt to showcase.

Interviewing a SOLO expert

To find out the benefits and challenges of implementing SOLO in my classroom I am planning to interview _______________ who are actively involve with Digital Learning which encompasses SOLO. My interview questions will focus on the benefits and challenges of embracing he principles of SOLO within my context, that of a small rural area school of 320.

  • Are you familiar with SOLO taxonomy?
  • Can you remember what the acronym SOLO means?
  • Do you agree/disagree with this statement: Higher levels of SOLO (relational, extended abstract) must somehow involve some degree of ‘Blended’ learning in any secondary classroom in NZ today, any subject (note: ‘Blended learning’ is where the student self-paces his/her classroom learning with online sources rather than teacher intervention). Can you give a brief reason why you feel this way?
  • Do you agree/disagree with this statement: Higher levels of SOLO (relational, extended abstract) must involve some degree of ‘Flipped’ learning in in any secondary classroom in NZ today, any subject (note: ‘Flipped’ learning is where the student prepares for class by doing the extra study necessary at their home). Can you give a brief reason why you feel this way?
  • Do you think some degree of ‘Blended’ learning is important in the NZ secondary classroom of today that has a digital context?
  • Do you think some degree of ‘Flipped’ learning is important in the NZ secondary classrooms of today that has a digital context?
  • Do you think some degree of ‘Blended’ learning is important in the NZ secondary classrooms of today for achieving the higher levels of ‘SOLO’ (relational, extended abstract) that has a digital context?
  • Do you think some degree of ‘Flipped’ learning is important in the NZ secondary classrooms of today for achieving the higher levels of ‘SOLO’ (relational, extended abstract) that has a digital context?
  • Do you believe that homework of any kind is important for achieving the higher levels of SOLO in the secondary classrooms of today, any subject?
  • Do you believe that homework of any kind is important for achieving the higher levels of SOLO in the secondary classrooms of today that has a digital context?

Survey request: Do you use SOLO? Are you a NZ Primary and Secondary Digital Technology teacher?

Please (please) copy and paste this (first prototype of a) questionnaire about the use of SOLO within your practise.

I will eventually be using some form of this survey this year, both within my school and across NZ through the NZ Association of Computing and Digital Technology Teachers portal (NZACDITT). Eventually of course I’ll put it on survey monkey when I have adequately tested the questionnaire.

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  1. What subjects do you normally teach?
  2. How long have you been in teaching?
  3. On average, what hours do you normally work on your job each week (exclude vacations)?
  4. How old are you?
  5. Are you aware of a teaching taxonomy called “SOLO”? (which means Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes)
  6. Have you ever used SOLO as a pedagogical structure or model for the delivery or assessment for any of your digital teaching at any stage of your career?
  7. Are you familiar with SOLO taxonomy?
  8. Can you remember what the acronym SOLO means?
  9. Do you agree/disagree with this statement: Higher levels of SOLO (relational, extended abstract) must somehow involve some degree of ‘Blended’ learning in any secondary classroom in NZ today, any subject (note: ‘Blended learning’ is where the student self-paces his/her classroom learning with online sources rather than teacher intervention). Can you give a brief reason why you feel this way?
  10. Do you agree/disagree with this statement: Higher levels of SOLO (relational, extended abstract) must involve some degree of ‘Flipped’ learning in in any secondary classroom in NZ today, any subject (note: ‘Flipped’ learning is where the student prepares for class by doing the extra study necessary at their home). Can you give a brief reason why you feel this way?
  11. Do you think some degree of ‘Blended’ learning is important in the NZ secondary classroom of today that has a digital context?
  12. Do you think some degree of ‘Flipped’ learning is important in the NZ secondary classrooms of today that has a digital context?
  13. Do you think some degree of ‘Blended’ learning is important in the NZ secondary classrooms of today for achieving the higher levels of ‘SOLO’ (relational, extended abstract) that has a digital context?
  14. Do you think some degree of ‘Flipped’ learning is important in the NZ secondary classrooms of today for achieving the higher levels of ‘SOLO’ (relational, extended abstract) that has a digital context?
  15. Do you believe that homework of any kind is important for achieving the higher levels of SOLO in the secondary classrooms of today, any subject?
  16. Do you believe that homework of any kind is important for achieving the higher levels of SOLO in the secondary classrooms of today that has a digital context?

Researching the use of SOLO in the delivery of computational-thinking/computer-science in primary and secondary using SOLO in classrooms in NZ schools

Day 1: December 31st, 2016

4 hours of investigation have narrowed down the focus of my research into the planning of my ‘Teaching as Inquiry Project’ to:

(1) What are the benefits and challenges of implementing the delivery of computational-thinking/computer-science in primary and secondary using SOLO in classrooms in NZ schools where learners are aged between 4 and 17?

and

(2) What are the contributing factors that lead to effective implementations of the computational-thinking/computer-science in primary and secondary using SOLO in classrooms in NZ schools where learners are aged between 4 and 17?