Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Good stuff done well

So while whipping through a room the other day I came across what appeared to be the retyping of stories for publishing. I saw miss whatsername struggling with finding which key was what, and with a quick eye roll I thought hmmm. What then hit me was the reality of what was being taught. Kids were creating pictures that described their writing and then re editing their stories to make the two correlate. Add to that the thinking templates that helped step out the stories, these templates included scenes, pictures and descriptions. Great teamwork discussions between kids, the teacher had carefully manipulated who was in each group, the teacher facilitating cleverly with those needing help. They were into kid pix and were faced with a few options from there. They could either print their books off or flick them out as digital books to the junior class with whom they were going to read them with.
The story is that sometimes the simple things can be done really well and can make for great learning and teaching. I remember Mr Canterbury's boost reading project, which did a similar thing and benefitted all, or aunty Dots mileage, teamwork and comprehension jaffa on itunes. The thing is its easy to forget how much fun we can have while making learning real.

Friday, March 19, 2010

School Trustees Association are they Double Dipping ?

I'm a little unsure if this is double dipping, stupidity from schools or just paranoia over National Standards.
So the podgorani has had his fair crack at the NZEI over the years and nothing has changed, but you pay your union fees or you don't. It annoys me endlessly that if I ring NZEI and say "i need help with a teacher, and you are my union, help". They say "Oh i'm their union too, ring STA". This is the big joke and we all know we need separate unions, but those NZEI fish heads cant afford to lose our fees and wouldn't be able to have endless hakas at their national conference without their "respected" principals.
This isn't about the NZEI this is about our friends at STA School Trustees Association. They have clearly not asked their members about the national standards and are now alongside their funding partner the National Party. At first I thought it was just a stand by a lone figurehead but the penny dropped last week. After talking with the Mike Canterbury he noted that you don't actually have to pay the STA "subscription/membership" to have the use of their services including legal and communication. STA has a contract with the Ministry of Education (insert Anne Tolley is the boss here) to provide Boards of Trustees with governance help and provide legal advice. I have over the years used this service (once) and the STA guys that assist the school were brilliant, but it is a big job and takes ages, imagine how many schools have used their services.
This is a big contract, any chance STA are now puppets for their bosses? Their behavior suggests something is going on. They certainly haven't listened to their members. Then they wrote to Boards of Trustees about sacking BOTs who don't follow the standards, but they didn't write to all members of the boards (ratty smelly). This was a hot headed reaction to pressure. Who might have been behind this letter (insert all people who want the standards who are hot headed and have some power to do something)?

This is all a shambles, don't blame me for jumping to conclusions, this is what happens when the internet bites back at the Govts ownership of the mainstream media and when our only representatives (NZEI bus tour joke, NZPF's read our website for our press release campaign) drop the ball like the Highlanders on a south african tour.

If you want to make a stand, talk with your BOT review your subscription/membership - you already are a member, I rang the STA and checked the facts, their help desk was very helpful.
Might save your school $1000, fiscal responsibility, at least one National MP, Bill English would praise your accounting prudence in these tough times.

Please, before getting angry, note that while I type i am usually laughing, and if you saw what I edit out of each post you'd be shocked. If you cant take a joke don't read, if you don't have a SOH don't read, but there is usually a message in there for someone.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cooliris Photo Wall

Visual learners - old but still cool

My mate Wes (australian so i will use simple language, terms like "mate" go down well there - see I can be politically correct) posted a nice little tweet about how to avoid questions to kids that will be easily answered by google. This led me through to a nice blog post which led my eyes to a cool graphic about blooms. The graphic was cut off slightly which always annoys the visual learner (insert Podgorani here).

A quick search in google images for blooms taxonomy graphic and I had a series of hits. Still the click through to next page bollicks, and the see real image is garbage, but click to cool iris and get the scrolling images hit just the right spot. I was like a boy in a lolly shop.

I know cool iris is old and yesterdays web 2.0 tool, but the way the web moves so fast we jump past things that still work and shouldn't have been left in the web 2 trail of crappy apps.

Cool Iris in action.
If you were looking for visual representations about blooms then surely Cool Iris is where you should be.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Finally some sort of leadership

This whole national standards issue is a joke.

I dont know what is more embarrassing, the unions, the NZPF or the National Government.

All we ask for is some balance to the argument, and some leadership.

Im not sure who to credit for this article but it did come via the APPA (auckland Primary principals Association.

Now there is also another side, which is some schools are bloody useless and something is needed, my theory revolves around giving ERO the teeth to sack teachers and principals and having 8yr contracts for principals (ouch).

National Standards and concerns/issues

Our school will do what is required in 2010, but we have ongoing concerns about the standards. These concerns include:

  • The standards have not been trialled in NZ and respectful requests for a trial by a number of organizations and individuals, including respected academics, have been rejected out of hand by the Minister of Education, Anne Tolley and the Prime Minister, John Key.
  • This system has failed in other countries to improve student achievement
  • The Minister has an advisory group of academics to advise her about the implementation of the standards in schools that does not include a teacher or a principal
  • We already use a range of assessment tools and the processes involved in deciding where your child sits on the standards will involve extensive moderation work. Our school is not resourced for this work, nor are schools being resourced to attend training in the implementation of the standards
  • There has been insufficient genuine consultation with teachers or principals about the standards
  • Each standard has a number of descriptors that will make it extremely confusing to align the standards with standardised assessment results, the NZ Curriculum levels, and overall teacher judgment
  • Children begin their formal schooling at varying levels of capability and they progress at different rates. National standards do not acknowledge this
  • Learning is individual, it takes time, it is different for everyone and it is emotional. Placing harmful pressure on young children is likely to be counter productive to their learning and development
  • The national standards will label some children during their first year at school as failing. This is of major concern to educators as early learning must be positive for children
  • The possibility of “league tables” that publicly compare schools will have a detrimental effect on many schools, particularly those located in low decile areas
  • We would much prefer government funding going into learning support programmes that we know work well to improve student achievement
  • Principals and teachers are feeling that our profession has been totally discredited and that the tail of under achievement is the fault of schools alone. We all know that there are other significant variables that contribute to low achievement levels

These issues and concerns need to be understood by all parents and caregivers and they need to be debated and acknowledged. Please feel free to call in to school to see our senior staff to discuss anything related to this new government requirement.

Yours sincerely