Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Its what we do together that sets us apart

“It’s what we do together that sets us apart.”
Apple, Corporate Careers Site

In preparation for our Community Gathering on August 3rd, some parents have asked me to share things to get them thinking about modern learning.  Here’s the first sharing:

One of the key attributes of a lifelong learner is the ability to collaborate.  Together, people can achieve more and employers actively seek people who can work effectively in teams.

To prove this point I have looked up the Forbes top 100 list of the most successful companies in 2015.  Most of the top 10 are banks.  The first is a bank, and I’ve recorded the next four that aren’t banks.  Then, I’ve looked at their careers sites to find out what they want in employees.  Initiative and innovation are highly sought after and I’ll cover those in another post another day.  Today I’m thinking about collaboration and this is what these Forbes top 100 companies think:

World Ranking
What the Company says
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China
“Employees are encouraged to excel and contribute
7th (first non-bank)
To think independently, to take initiative and be innovative.
Right now, teams of engineers, scientists and business people are inventing new technologies that will unlock the secrets to the energy systems of tomorrow.  
Combined talents of our diverse workforce help us to lead the competition.
General Electric
The best, brightest people who are trying hard, who are humble, who are living their dreams and are willing to do it together.
Do you consider yourself innovative, team focused, broad-minded and passionate about your career?

It’s what we do together that sets us apart.

We’re perfectionists. Idealists. Inventors. Forever tinkering with products and processes, always on the lookout for better. Whether you work at one of our global offices, offsite, or even at home, a job at Apple will be demanding. But it also rewards bright, original thinking and hard work.

None of these companies specify a particular body of knowledge.  All of them specify personal attributes.  I’m not saying that educators are ONLY preparing children for future employment.  But if we don’t, we’re doing them a great disservice.  What we actually do is help children grow to their full potential - to be rounded, respectful, holistic individuals who live life to the fullest (John 10:10 again).  This also seems to be the type of people these companies think are needed to change the world.

Changes in technology mean schools can now use Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in ways that support the development of these necessary skills.  It used to be that our programs were individualised on separate machines.  We could save to a shared source - such as the network driver but we couldn’t work together at the same time.  With Google Apps for Education (GAFE) or Office 365 you can simultaneously work on the same document and you don’t even have to be in the same place.

This is just the beginning.  I believe it will significantly change how the world works.  It won’t be as necessary for people to congregate in offices in cities.  It has the potential to revitalise our rural communities.  People will be able to live in lovely places (such as Pleasant Point) and work anywhere in the world, all the while staying in their lovely places, supporting local trade and industry and enriching their local communities.

What does this mean for students?  Imagine you’re brainstorming something.  The children who have a lot to say will contribute a lot, some will contribute nothing.  They can only contribute as fast as the recorder can record.  Some children will be switched off altogether.  Some will feel very inadequate as the “better” ideas of the more confident children get heard and shared - those children feeling quiet and inadequate may actually have brilliant ideas.

A transformative moment is the first time you get a whole class of children logged into their own Google accounts, with their own devices, to add to a group brainstorm on a shared doc which comes up on the whiteboard.  Everyone’s ideas go up and at the end when you come to think about them they’re already recorded and ready to be analysed and synthesised.  Its not a quiet and rigid classroom with children behind rows of desks glued to devices.  Children are talking, responding to others’ ideas, developing their own ideas further and rushing to add them to the sharing.  The teacher is no longer the gateway for ideas.  Ideas come from everywhere.  

It is extremely important that our children learn to be innovative, to take risks, to collaborate and work effectively in teams.  To do this they need sound teaching on how to be collaborative and resourceful and they need the “tools of the trade.”  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Presentation to South Canterbury R.E. Cluster

I was stoked to have the opportunity to present to the SC cluster and I hope that many productive conversations come out of what we covered today.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Can teaching in RE have open-ended content?

Specific Content - Our knowledge and understanding of our faith comes from three sources:
Where is the space for open-ended content?
The Bible
Church Teaching
Religious tradition and practice
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church Part One, Section 1.2

32 The world: starting from movement, becoming, contingency, and the world's order and beauty, one can come to a knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the universe.
As St. Paul says of the Gentiles: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.7
And St. Augustine issues this challenge: Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air distending and diffusing itself, question the beauty of the sky. . . question all these realities. All respond: "See, we are beautiful." Their beauty is a profession [confessio]. These beauties are subject to change. Who made them if not the Beautiful One [Pulcher] who is not subject to change?8
33 The human person: with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God's existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. the soul, the "seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material",9 can have its origin only in God.

So we can know about God through direct interaction with Creation and through our own human nature which contains God's stamp.

There IS a place for open-ended content in RE because EVERYTHING is RE.

adapted from Staathof, 1999, p132,  L Frances-Rees, 2004

A quick overview of what effective internet use looks like and some of the background teaching needed

This link is to support my presentation at the SC RE cluster meeting.

Using the Internet - for every subject - this process is needed for high school, higher education, and life in general - year 7 & 8 children can do this effectively and consistently - then work backwards putting the skills in place back to year 1

  • Safety stuff in place - understanding of digital citizenship - lots of resources available to help with this.  At a school level - need to develop community understanding of digital citizenship.
  • Teaching in identifying keywords and finding synonyms for them 
  • Putting those words into a search term 
  • Scanning the search findings to find ones that might work 
  • Quickly dumping anything not useful 
  • Specific guided reading teaching in identifying bias 
  • Scanning - contents, headers, key words 
  • Skim reading - quick reading to locate key words and get an “overall” feel - taught through guided reading. 
  • Find a selection of possible sources (5 or 6) - reference them, one sentence summary of the gist. Choose the best three and read in detail - taught through guided reading. 
  • Take notes - key words and phrases - taught through guided writing. 
  • Construct sentences from keywords and phrases - guided writing 
  • Plan effectively with main ideas and supporting detail - guided writing etc through the writing process. 

Developing this capacity through the primary years:
Years 1-3 - learning how to read and write - apps to support that learning - e.g. handwriting app on the ipad with a stylus - immediate feedback for errors in constructing letters.
Years 4-5 - guided - laying the groundwork to be an effective independent researcher. Breaking down the list above and guiding through the process.
Years 6-8 - Integrating the process and becoming independent (by mid year 7).

 From years 4-8 - RE can be included as a subject for investigation - as part of an inquiry curriculum.

Change of School

I am now principal at St Joseph's School in Pleasant Point. I've decided to keep this blog as part of my own professional learning journey. All posts up to this point refer directly to the context at St Joseph's Oamaru. Although friendships and professional collaboration between myself and staff at Oamaru will continue, I want to make it clear that my direct involvement ended at Easter 2015. All of the information I've shared on this blog so far is also freely available online in the public domain through St Joseph's Google sites and blogs.