Monday, 20 March 2017

Class of 2017 - What will they say about their teachers at their class reunion?

                                                            School Prefects - 1933  

Over the past two days I have spent time talking and remembering my school years at Christchurch Girls's High School. We were the class of 1967 - 50years ago! It is quite scary to think about how quick the years have passed. It was wonderful to catch up with ex-classmates, find out what has happened since we left school and of course discuss our old teachers, the school, our two Principals, friends who were absent, look at the old photos and discuss our education compared with today.

One of our classmates produced the school rules, hand-typed (with errors) on 4 yellowed pages.Yes, we did wear hats and gloves, were silent in assembly, rode our bikes in single file in Hagley Park (both hands on the handle bars) and certainly did not talk to students from Christchurch Boys' High or Christ's College!

However, as we shared what we have all been doing with our lives and we discussed our education, it was obvious that we all felt that we had all received a solid academic education. Yes, by today's standards of ILE's, student agency, coding, flipped learning etc, it was very traditional - but that was 50 years ago. Some girls in the "A" stream learnt Latin and French, while the "G" stream could continue with French and some classes where University was not seen as a choice, did typing.

As we talked about what we had all done with our lives, many of us went on to be teachers, principals, doctors, and lawyers. Many had Masters degrees  or a PhD. There were farmers, women who worked in a wide variety of business ventures or were business owners, even a Minister. Saturday saw 55 women at lunch sharing our lives and memories of school. It is true that we didn't like all our teachers or subjects, some of us may have failed Physics because we did our English homework sitting at the back of the room, but there were also subjects we enjoyed and did well in,teachers who we had affection and respect for, lifelong friendships made.

Life in 1971 was more predictable, slower-paced and school leavers could be offered several jobs to choose from. Fast forward to 2017. Can someone really make money out of sharing their life on Instagram or You Tube?  Can a 17 year old design an app in his bedroom and sell it for several million dollars? Can a few friends get together with an idea and start a company before they leave school?

Yes, all this is possible in 2017 - but what what can we teach our students that will also help them to be successful in life if being a You Tube celebrity is not for them. Do we go back to the
key competencies
thinking,  using language, symbols, and text, managing self, relating to others, participating and contributing.
Although we didn't have the key competencies in 1967 perhaps what we learnt could fit under those headings.

So, what would we like our students to say about their teachers, their school, their education when they leave and meet up for their school reunion?  

Cross-posted from HERE

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Prove It!

Posted on 16 February 2017 Cross-blogged from HERE, with permission.

Last year, none of my Selected options had enough enrolments for the courses to run in Term One, 2017. Instead, I was asked if I wanted to take a class of "Proof", a course about forensic science and New Zealand law. Fortunately for me, and sadly for two other staff members who did the original course design and brief, there was a timetable clash which meant I was being offered the chance to lead one of the two classes of Proof.

A lot of planning went into getting this course ready and making it feel authentic, including writing a script for the first crime scene, setting up a crime scene, and preparing the evidence for the students to use. Some amazing colleagues gave up their own time to help with staged interviews, to plant evidence leading to them as suspects, and even to pop into class to be grilled by the students.

Today was my first 100 minute block, and all of the effort was worth it. I can honestly say that was one of the most invigourating, enjoyable "lessons" that I have ever "taught". Not only were the students engaged, they were challenged and having fun. Word must have got out, because we had a lot of visitors during the lesson...

It was a huge relief to see that our crime and available evidence is not too easy to solve. They may only be Year 9, but these students have already exceeded my expectations in other things in the first few weeks. Luckily, we have written in enough stumbling blocks and misdirection to keep them engaged, entertained and driven to succeed. They have been asking questions that I never considered when writing the script. Overachievers!!

We are very lucky. This is a Selected course, so students opt into it. We also have two uninterrupted 100 minute blocks on subsequent days (Monday and Tuesday for one class, and Thursday and Friday for my class). We have a small roll in a big school, so can close off a lab to set up as a crime scene. Only the last of those things will change in the future, and it is definitely not an insurmountable barrier.

I am buzzing at the moment, more than I ever have after a lesson in 17 years of teaching. I am genuinely excited about what lies ahead in Proof...

The grand plan goes something like this for "Proof 1.0":
Week One: Use evidence to solve a crime scene - Crime Scene #1. The evidence has been collected for you and suspects interviewed. Now use this information and your own observations to create a timeline and deduce "whodunit".
Week Two: Reflect on Crime Scene #1. What went well? What did not? Reveal the true story and reflect on our own conclusions and assumptions.
Week Three: Learn about some forensic and other crime-solving techniques via online games. Students will decide which skills they want to become experts in. We will seek out experts (and do some actual teaching and experiments, of course) to help students become competent at, for example, collecting and analysing fingerprints, or interviewing suspects, or collecting and analysing fibres. The students decide, we guide them to those who can help...
Weeks Four-Six: Learning skills and proving competence and/or proficiency in these skills. During this time, I will be writing Crime Scene #2, based upon the skills the students have elected to learn.
Week Seven: Crime Scene #2
Week Eight: Reflect upon Crime Scene #2. The class then plan and set up Crime Scene #3. This may be a Murder Mystery evening for teachers, parents and/or friends. It may be something completely different. The students get to choose how to celebrate the amazing learning they have achieved.

Author's Note: Since writing this, there has been a change to the plan. More time has been needed for the exploring of key ideas, such as eyewitness testimony, which has put things back a bit. I am now co-writing Crime Scene #2 with one of the learners, and this will be the foundation of the Celebration of all ākonga learning. It may still be something we set up for friends, kaiako and/or whānau, but time constraints have forced a small change to the plan laid out here. M

We will be offering learning experiences beyond the obvious scientific observation and analytical skills. "Proving" is tougher than "knowing". Writing convincing arguments. Articulating convincing points of views. Weighing up the value of evidence. Formulating questions for interrogations. Using evidence to catch people out on a lie. Teamwork. Resilience (there will be deception in Crime Scene #2, so students will get frustrated). Science. English. Social Sciences.

Then, we are looking at where we go from here: Proof 2.0. What will the next level of course look like? When will it be offered? Just for Year 10? For any student from any year level who has completed Proof 1.0? Will the timetable allow for that? Should it? Will Proof 2.0 provide opportunities for students to earn NCEA credits? Should it?

This is what teaching can be like. This is what learning can be like. And I get to do it all again tomorrow...