My Community of Practice – #BFC630NZ (Applied Practice, Activity 1)

Community of Practice vs Community…What’s the difference? A community of practice (COP) is more than just having something in common, it’s about “groups of people who share a concern or a passion or about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interaction on an ongoing basis” (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder, 2002, p.4).  These Communities of Practice must have 3 elements to allow them to differentiate from a standard community: Joint enterprise, mutual engagement and shared repertoire (Wenger, 2000).

The education community on Twitter definitely fits into the COP category- sharing ideas and expertise, challenging the status quo, discussing concepts and curriculum and helping to bring about pedagogical change one tweet at a time. One such Twitter based COP that I have found very valuable in 2016 is the NZ Breakfast Club (#BFC630nz). As an active user of Twitter, I often searched up the hashtag #BFC630nz to see what they’d talked about each morning. After meeting the co-founder, Kerri Thompson, at Educamp Palmy I decided I needed to get in on one of these early morning chats.

I remember my first chat well: 3 important traits of a quality leader. I left the chat feeling energized, inspired and like I had a whole new bunch of colleagues from around New Zealand. It wasn’t hard for me to jump in on the collective understanding and culture (Joint Enterprise) of #BFC630NZ. I felt as though I could contribute straight away due to the welcoming nature of the group. At that exact moment, I decided I would definitely be back.

The #BFC630NZ whānau comprises of some great leaders who take on sharing an educational topic and facilitating the chat, sometimes even playing devil’s advocate in order to encourage rich discussion. It was started to inspire/spark thinking and provide a sense of connectedness and belonging while allowing educators to feel supported in building their professional learning network (Thompson, n.d.).

Our Shared Repertoire is defined through our routines, common language and stories we share. The chats kick off every weekday for 15 mins at 6.30am (hence the hashtag) meaning a small amount of time to give for a big reward in terms of motivation and inspiration. I have been able to build connections with educators from a variety of education sectors through participating in regular chats (I try to make it at least once a week). Sometimes however, I don’t always make it. Work demands, prior commitments or sleep deprivation can get in the way, but that’s ok- an integral part of the #BFC630NZ kaupapa is ‘when you can, when you need’.

This community of practice has provided me with a place to debate and discuss thoughts, opinions, pedagogy and research while delivering professional learning online. Through mutual engagement, we interact and maintain a kaupapa based on education: there is mutual trust in our online interactions (Wenger 2000). When I recently had to complete a Mind Lab assessment and needed feedback on a question, I immediately thought to tag #BFC630nz. Little did I know this would actually lead me into running a chat on innovative learning environments a few days later. 

#BFC630NZ

With the support and encouragement of others in the #bfc630NZ community, I tried to keep up with tweets coming in from all directions. It was an inspiring experience and confirmed for me that you don’t need to know people face to face to feel safe, supported and a sense of belonging (even in disagreement). My role within this Community of Practice has gone from standing in the background to new comer to an active member who has made many connections. Depending on the topic, I am able to learn, offer expertise, share experience and contribute to the thought provoking discussions with the #BFC630nz whānau. They are my community of practice.

 

References

Thompson, K. (2015). #BFC630NZ. Retrieved from https://breakfastclubnz.wordpress.com/

Wenger, E.(2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems.Organization,7(2), 225-246.

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

 

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Reflection on Key Competencies (MindLab DCL2)

John Dewey stated “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” (n.d.). This quote inspired and lead me to implement a digital and collaborative innovation based on reflective thinking and visible learning using the key competencies as a lens. The problem I identified was a gap in my practice that saw learning from year 9 and 10 separated from learning in years 11, 12 and 13. Many Health and Physical Education achievement standards involved with the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) call for students to reflect on their performance, practice, actions or skills over a period of time. But while reflecting on my own practice, I realised that I had taken limited action to prepare learners in Year 9 and 10 for this next step in their learning. As the New Zealand Curriculum (2007) includes reflective and critical thinking as part of the lifelong learning process in its vision for the young people of Aotearoa, this was a definite area for improvement. Seeing the importance of this, our school has developed an Effective Teacher Profile as part of our Professional Learning Plan (2016) and the development of substantial collaborative skills is outlined clearly within this.

I wanted to introduce this innovation based on several key points. Resta & Laferrière (2007) infer that the use of technology to support collaborative learning fosters student engagement and develops higher order thinking skills for the learners involved. We are a Google Apps For Education school and the use of google docs to collaborate on the Key Competencies in Health and Physical Education allows learners to complete tasks in their own time and also work with others to construct ideas. This was intended to improve literacy skills across the board while also allowing for individuality and collaboration. Because I shared the particular class I trialled this innovation with, it was also a way to allow effective sharing of learning between myself and their other Health and Physical Education teacher.

Reflective practice as introduced by Jordi (2011) is a pedagogic tool used widely within a variety of learning activities and processes. He believes that reflection allows us to integrate a range of cognitive and non-conceptual elements that make up our experience and consciousness. Reflection needs to be introduced to learners as part of a lifelong process of how we think and learn. My feeling was that the task will likely never be complete as students begin a lifelong process and continue to reflect on their knowledge construction and application of the key competencies. Learners would start to understand in more detail, the deeper reasons for the learning.

The first concepts we had to work on was covering the background knowledge to allow this innovation to work. We looked at; what the Key Competencies actually were; introduced reflective thinking and the associated language; collaboration and the varying levels of collaboration as introduced by the Innovative Teaching and Learning (ITL) Rubric (SRI International, 2012). Students then needed to reflect individually at the end of (or during) each week on a shared google doc via Hapara and then collaborate on their learning to summarise the week. This did not simply mean that they would put all their reflections into a paragraph- they needed to discuss and decide what stays and what goes and potentially, what needs to be added to accurately describe their week in Health and Physical Education. This was where I hoped they would start to move towards interdependence as defined at level 4 and 5 of the Collaboration Rubric by SRI International (2012). At the start of each week, one group will feedback to the class their learning from the previous week.

Introducing the Key Competencies was easier than expected. Many students had knowledge of what they were and that left us time to unpack what they might look like in Health and Physical Education. This happened as a face to face conversation in small groups and as a class. This was highly effective with this group and allowed many ideas to be shared at the same time.

Introducing reflective thinking was  more complicated and even through the introduction the what, so what? And now what? from Kolb’s Experiential Learning cycle (1984) many struggled to reflect on action as described by Schön (1991) and look towards their next learning steps. They were able to reflect in action but then interpreted that as and wrote it down after the fact as reflecting on action. What they did do was infer whether they had made ‘good’ or ‘bad’ choices in a particular competency area. I found this quite interesting as this had not come up in any discussion beforehand and 3 ako groups went down this path.

Situated Learning Theory, as described by Lave and Wenger (1991), involves teachers and students coming together to form communities of practice. Students are able to make sense of the learning and acquire knowledge through an authentic context in Health and Physical Education through learning in, through and about movement. My innovation is strongly based on situated learning where social interaction and collaboration are a required aspect of the learning. The concept of collaboration was not lost on this Year 9 group. They understood it perfectly. I utilised the ITL Rubric for collaboration to share with them the different levels of collaboration and the difference between that and cooperation. Two things really hindered progress in this area: time and access to devices. They have Health and Physical Education for three hours a week, of which I am with them for two hours. This means the collaboration must be online and after hours as the time we have together at school is already allocated to other learning. During the time I implemented this innovation, my school went from Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to recommended BYOD. I had several students with no access to a device let alone an internet connection when they were not at school. This posed major difficulties for some to complete the reflections.

The impact of this innovation varied depending on who the various stakeholders were. The teacher I shared the class with echoed my own observations when she said time was a factor and we just seem to run out. She believed that the idea had merit and could work for her but this was currently not the case. She agreed that the work on the key competencies had made the learning visible for this class in practical sessions and this was definitely seen as a positive by all involved, including the students.

Students online collaboration is a skill that still needs to be developed. As discussed earlier, the lack of time and devices did have an impact on this innovation and needs to be addressed in order to improve the learning outcomes for students. Students were able to accurately reflect on their practice during lessons in a face to face forum but many struggled to put it into words on a google doc. I wonder if I was asking too much of them (in regards to their time) and should have given each person one competency to look at (instead of all of them at once) and then put them together via collaboration. I also wonder if google docs was the best digital tool to use. The use of padlet as a whole class may have been a better option.

In the class I tried this with, learners worked in one of five ako groups. The idea behind this was based around Social Development Theory (Vygotsky, 1962). Students are able to use their more skilled peers within their zone of proximal development to assist them with their learning (1987). The development of their reflective language skills and being able to internalise this drives their cognitive development. Thought and language will eventually become totally interdependent (Vygotsky, 1987). This is developing within the class and students sit at many different levels.

The three figures included below are screenshots taken from student ako groups show one week of their reflecting. It clearly shows that students were able to recognise the Key Competencies and how they related to their learning. It demonstrates that students reflecting skills are still developing. Some have demonstrated collaboration (figure 1 and 2) and some have merely put their thoughts onto a google doc separate from the rest of their group with no collective thinking (figure 3- one group member’s contribution). While talking to students, many saw a use for developing their reflective skills in order to understand the reasons for their learning while others saw it as a complete waste of time and were unable to link it to future learning with one even referring to it as “a bit hippy”.  The next steps is developing the now what? aspect of the experiential learning cycle (Kolb, 1984) enabling students to look to the future.

Figure 1       Figure 1.

Figure 2     Figure 2.

figure 3Figure 3.

The summative result of implementing this innovation with my Year 9 class is they are far more aware of how the front end of the New Zealand Curriculum relates to their education and life as learners. They understand that the Key Competencies are a useful way to gauge their learning and reasons for learning. As stated earlier, my feeling is that this innovation will continue to evolve as my students do. As we find new ways of thinking and learning together, we will also find new ways to reflect. My key goal of making the learning visible through collaborative reflective practice will enable learners to know where they’ve been and where to go next in order to adapt to an ever changing world.

 

Reference List

Aotea College. (2016). Aotea College Professional Learning Plan 2016. Wellington: New Zealand: Aotea College.

Dewey, J. (2016). John Dewey Quotes. Retrieved from: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/664197-we-do-not-learn-from-experience-we-learn-from-reflecting

Jordi, K. (2011). Reframing the Concept of Reflection: Consciousness, Experiential Learning and Reflective Learning Practices. Adult Education Quarterly. 61(2) 181-197. DO I 101177/074713610380439

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ministry of Education. (1999). Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum. New Zealand, Wellington: Learning Media Limited.

Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum. New Zealand, Wellington: Learning Media Limited.

Resta, P., & Laferrière, T. (2007). Technology in Support of Collaborative Learning. Educational Psychology Review, 19, 65–83 DOI 10.1007/s10648-007-9042-7

Schön, D. A. (1991). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. United States of America: Basic Books Inc.

SRI International. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.itlresearch.com/images/stories/reports/21cld%20learning%20activity%20rubrics%202012.pd

Vygotsky, L. S. (1962). Thought and language. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1987). Thinking and speech. In R.W. Rieber & A.S. Carton (Eds.), The collected works of L.S. Vygotsky, Volume 1: Problems of general psychology (pp. 39–285). New York: Plenum Press.

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Term 2 #OneWord2016 Reflection

Over the last couple of days and some serious soul searching on the last 3 months (and the next 6) I have come to realise a few things. It’s fair to say that Term 2 has been a challenge. While I’ve had success with many of my classes, I have failed to engage some rather energetic students, mindlab assignments seem to pop up all the time, EOTC forms all over the show and Mother Nature hasn’t allowed me to get to my happy place (on the water) more than a couple of times in the last 3 months.

At our recent EONZ/PENZ/NZHEA Conference, the last keynote speaker Allison Mooney was great. She was engaging and fairly accurate as she put forward her presentation on different personalities. Apparently I fit into the precise  category and i feel like for the most part, she had me pinned. I think…a lot! Too much in fact. Sometimes this can be a really good thing and other times it can be detrimental to my wellbeing. Over processing thoughts is a specialty of mine- if anyone has any tips on letting this go, I’m all ears.

What does this have to do with my word of courage? Lately I’ve been listening to my inner critic and even though I know that most of it is my mind gone wild, I still listen. It takes a lot of courage to ignore this inner critic (she can be very convincing!). When you try something new and it fails completely, it can be hard to carry on. I’ve had to remind myself how resilient, determined (and as my father would suggest, stubborn) I am: I don’t quit.

This year has seen me reach out and ask for help on many occasions and awesome friends, whānau and colleagues have jumped straight in (shout out to my folks especially, they’re awesome!). My message to myself and others, don’t be afraid to ask for help and if someone asks you the dreaded “are you ok?”, don’t run away. Just be honest and know that you’re not alone.

Despite the curve balls Term 2 has thrown at me, I have been proud of the way that I have stood up for who and what I believe in- getting connected, collaborating, colleagues, curriculum based decisions and my beliefs and vision for Health and Physical Education at AC. And I finally knocked that half marathon off! (nevermind that I haven’t run since mid May!)

Term 3 goals:

  • Assign time for me everyday to practice the art of relaxing
  • Find time to be active
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff
  • Use trello to maximise time
  • Blog more!

 

Look-After-YourselfImage source: http://quotesgram.com/take-time-to-relax-quotes/

 

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Innovation…Buzzword or mindset?

Innovative learning environment, innovative teaching practice, INNOVATION! Variations of the word seem to pop up in most educational circles these days but what does it actually mean?

It depends where you look as to what definition you get but the basic idea is: Innovation is a way of thinking that creates something new and better than what came before. It is not a tool, task or even a piece of technology. The key here: it is a way of thinking.

Different is no longer enough. If something doesn’t meet the criteria of ‘new’ and ‘better’, it cannot be considered innovative. This doesn’t necessarily mean learning activities/assessments/experiences/environments must be wholly new, small changes or iterations can have a big impact. What has to be remembered is that what is considered innovative today, could be the norm tomorrow- innovation is a process with no end point. It is constant evolution.

Technology is often aligned with the word innovation but they are not the same thing. Innovation is able to take place without the use of technology. Technology is however, opening up far more opportunities to be innovative in the classroom. It is about how we use new technology, not the technology itself.

George Couros takes the growth mindset a step further and presents what he calls the innovator’s mindset. This is the belief that abilities, intelligence and talents are developed so that they lead to the creation of new and better ideas. Innovation sits alongside skills such as collaboration, communication, adaptability and initiative- skills seen as highly important by todays employers. Key to developing an innovator’s mindset in a school setting, people must feel empowered in their own learning. This is important to develop not only in teachers but in our students and must be lead from the top. Innovation should be inspired, not demanded.

Is innovation an educational buzzword? Absolutely! And it’s one that we need to run with. The digital age means the way we interact, work and live is constantly and rapidly changing and we must do our best to keep up.

Along with reading The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros, The Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice is an excellent opportunity to get you thinking about innovation. With the right (innovator’s) mindset, the content and self directed learning is invaluable and it’s considered one of the top professional learning opportunities for NZ teachers.

Couros, G. (2015). The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. San Diego, United States of America: Dave Burgess Consulting. Inc.

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Term 1 #OneWord2016 reflection (plus a bit of #edsketch16 too!)

So a bit of a combo on this post- I’ve decided to reflect on my word for 2016 and kick off #edsketch16 (posting a day late!). So just a quick blog, otherwise I’d be here all day…

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My word was Courage and I think by all accounts, I’m doing ok. At some points last term I felt pulled in many different directions all at the same time and it took it’s toll. The holidays were an essential refresh period. At the moment though it feels like the ups have more strength than the downs and I’m hoping to keep it that way.

I’ve had many fears to start this year and I’ve tried to to throw many of them out the window but unfortunately, sometimes they just come right back at me. Sometimes it has felt like I’m boxed in and I have to find a way out but sometimes I think I’ve also done this to myself. I feel like #edsketch16 will definitely help me to frame things more positively and looking forward.

MindLab has been a challenge but 8 weeks in and I’ve enjoyed the learning so far but by golly, postgraduate study is a lesson in time management! I’ve enjoyed making the connections with other people studying in the Wellington group and those on the Google+ community from all over NZ.

I’m still hard at work on the 8 goals I set at the start of the year and constantly reviewing them. The pineapple chart is almost up and running- it just needs to be reintroduced next week at staff meeting. The half marathon is in less that two weeks- quietly crying about this one as it scares the living daylight out of me! And the rest are all a work in progress.

I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone frequently and have encouraged others to do the same. I had another teacher come up to me and thank me this morning for sharing the information about the EdChatNZ MOOC and a couple of readings on student engagement back at the start of the holidays. As well as signing up for the MOOC, she had found a reading on the website and it had completely changed her outlook for the start of the term.

This morning I asked my form class to reflect on their chosen words for 2016 and the discussion it caused amongst them was fantastic. This was even more amazing considering their less than ideal start to 2016 but there they sat, discussing openly and honestly with their peers how they  thought they were progressing this year in relation to their #oneword2016.

What I am seeing for myself is that I have to keep persevering and remember to take time for me. I have to get stuck in and keep my students at the centre of everything I do at school and for the rest of it, continue to look after myself and my wellbeing- do the things that make me happy and keep me centred (not sure that the half marathon quite fits the bill here!). I’d rather be a lion than a sheep.

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Purpose of education in my learning spaces

So, how is the purpose of education evident within my learning spaces?* That’s quite the question and I’m not sure I’ll do the whole thing justice here but we’ll give it a go. As a foreword, something that I have tried to remember around my purpose as an educator is a statement from 12 year old  Adora Svitak, “the goal is not to turn kids into your kind of adult but rather better adults than you have been”.

The vision of the New Zealand Curriculum is for our young people to be confident, connected, actively involved and lifelong learners. The idea being that once a young person leaves the education system they will have all the tools required to fulfill that vision for the rest of their lives. If this is the end goal, how do we get there? Through education…

We now live in a time where students are able to find information on anything, anywhere, anytime. I see a good part of my job as motivating, encouraging and fostering curiosity- this is not always easy. Something I read the other day may explain the reasons for this- a four year asks roughly 400 questions every day but after just a year at school, a six year old is only asking roughly 30 questions a day…there is something very wrong with this! Steve Mouldey’s blog on developing student questioning instantly captured my attention last year. It struck a chord with me and I ended up trying a couple of his strategies with some of my students. They enjoyed the challenge and saw questioning as a valuable skill that they could transfer to lots of different areas of their lives. This included the more reluctant learners. The fact that it leads to critical and creative thinking was immediately beyond them but we had to start somewhere. So now we have a wonder wall and use versions of  the question storm frequently to develop their questioning and critical thinking skills. Since reading Steve’s Blog, curiosity (and questioning) has now become a driving force within my practice.

I see myself as lucky to work within the Health and Physical Education learning area. This is an area where the whole person is valued and developed, not just the academic/mental aspects. We value holistic wellbeing, learning in, through and about movement and developing and fostering relationships with people and places. Many of the skills HPE students learn to value are those that are seen as crucial in the 21st Century workplace. Skills such as communication, critical thinking, curiosity, confidence, collaboration, leadership and cooperation are inherent and 100% visible everyday (maybe not all the time but definitely everyday). Students are encouraged to challenge assumptions and weigh up different opinions and ideas to make sense of the world around them.

Technology is making its way into HPE more and more. After watching the film Most Likely to Succeed, it’s obvious that the possibilities are endless. My students have used technology as a way to develop their curiosity (some amazing apps out there!), collaborate on group tasks, shoot revision videos and assess their practical performance to name a few. We also have class facebook pages as a way to keep connected and share ideas with one another after the school bell goes. This is a platform young people currently use but I imagine it will change in the next few years to something else. This has also served as a way to model good digital citizenship for students.

I feel that together, my students and I form a team. It is not a case of one person holds all the knowledge. It is instead an environment where ako is evident everyday. We all learn from each other (the wonder wall has helped to emphasise this). We share learning experiences that will continue to be of value long after we leave the learning space. We have shared our #oneword2016, our goals, our stories and our hopes for the future with each other. Sometimes this is not always evident to them as learning, it may just appear as a casual conversation in passing. My students are discovering day by day that within every experience is an opportunity to learn something. My biggest hope for my current students is to be curious and to ask more questions. This will ignite the desire to learn instead of just wanting to be told the answer. I want them to be less like the six year old and more like the four year old!

* I’m trying to get out of the habit of using the word classroom as it doesn’t accurately describe most of the spaces my students and I work in- plus teenagers think you’re a bit weird if you refer to the bush or the harbour as a classroom. 

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A good leader? A thought leader?

Even though developing my leadership philosophy made it to the goal list this year, I didn’t envisage myself reflecting on aspects of it so soon. Leadership is simple but also complex. At this stage I’m still throwing around ideas for the foundations of my leadership philosophy but I hope this post will help me to clarify a few things in my head  and make a start sooner rather than later.

Leadership for me is about doing. It is an action. It is about people and ideas. It can also be amazing but also tough. A friend of mine said something that made a lot of sense- it is about developing the skills in people so that they no longer need you.

The people in my life who I think of as leaders seem to share similar qualities. They are often:

  • reflective
  • adaptable
  • innovative
  • curious
  • effective communicators
  • collaborative
  • critical thinkers and problem solvers
  • supportive and encouraging
  • caring and protective
  • brave and courageous
  • open to change
  • true to their beliefs, values and morals
  • getting stuck in to a task themselves
  • able to ask for help/assistance

My word this year is courage and so I thought that being brave deserves a special mention. I think this is huge! A leader is someone who is not afraid to fail; Fail fast and you learn faster. Doing things that scare you is a good chunk of what leadership is all about. This can empower people to become followers as they feel more confident in their abilities after seeing someone else lead the way. And as I learnt the other night, it takes guts to be that first follower- being a first follower is an underappreciated form of leadership in itself.

A thought leader, the go to person in their field of expertise, is often a trusted source of innovative and someone who can put ideas into reality. I was asked firstly if I thought I was a thought leader and secondly would I want to be one. So, am I a thought leader…not yet. Would I ever want to be one…why not? I have definitely made a start and try out my ideas on my patient students. With The Mind Lab there will soon be even more to try out on them. I’m part of a small group of teachers at my school who are trying to bring about some changes, our first one being the Classroom Contiki which will be introduced to teachers next week (watch this space!).

To be continued…

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