Sunday, 26 May 2013

What does a 21st Century Classroom look like?

Last week I attended the first Educafe being run in Auckland, New Zealand by Emma Winder.  This is where people get together to discuss educational issues in a particular format whereby everyone sits at  'cafe' style tables and there is a 'summariser' at each table.  You are given fifteen minutes to talk about a particular issue/question, brainstorming on paper and when the music goes, you go off to another table but the designated summariser stays behind, summarising what was discussed to the new people that arrive.  Then the same thing repeats itself.

A wide variety of people attended from Board of Trustees, Primary and Secondary educators.

The the poignant question discussed was:

We know there is a need for us to change our teaching for the 21st century, we know why this is, we’re working towards it,
BUT what does 21st century teaching and learning actually look like in practice?
It was great to get the different perspectives, particularly from a secondary level.  I'm going to focus on one idea that really clicked for me.
The importance of the  New Zealand Curriculum Key Competencies was a common thread amongst the discussions and noted as an essential part of the today's classroom, particularly thinking of future jobs (
The five key competencies are Thinking, Using Language, Symbols and Text, Managing Self, Relating to Others, Participating and Contributing.

Glen Taylor school from West Auckland mentioned how often schools do a blanket coverage of a key competency where one key competency for a week is focussed on, however each child at their school has a key competency as a goal that they need to work on.  Love this personalised learning.  So when a learning area is discussed, the children are reminded of their own key competency goal to focus on within this task.  

I think that a vital part of this will also be getting the children to reflect on the progress in their key competency.  I will certainly be trying this with teachers.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Today's children can google their mistakes! How well are we preparing our children for it?

I am in the process of developing a digital citizenship/cyber safety programme for Years 0-6 at school and am initially focussing on our year 5, 6 level.   Digital citizenship is not a ‘one off’ and should be a continual discussion in the classroom, particularly as situations occur.  This is very much the start of my journey with this, and I will share more as I progress further down the track. 

I started by looking at the resource that Claire Amos had instigated for NZ Teachers that NZ teachers had put together in Wikieducator.

I reviewed a few videos and wanted to try these out.  To start the conversation going, I worked with a year 5 and 6 class for one block talking about digital citizenship and showed 2 videos and they took an online quiz.   I got feedback from the children and it really made them think.  Fantastic, that’s exactly what we need kids to do nowadays.  THINK, particularly BEFORE they ACT. 

I am terrified for children growing up in this day and age.  In my day there was no internet, so any mistakes I made as a child are not searchable, but the reality is their mistakes will be searchable.  With the increase of mobile devices, pictures/videos are taken too easily and with no respect or thought for others putting things online.

It is important to talk about the attributes/qualities of a good digital citizen and how respect is such an important one.  We should ask permission before we post a photo or video that includes other friends out of respect to those friends.

I will now describe the process of what I did in these year 5 and 6 classes as follows:

What is a digital citizen?
We started our conversation by using and built an online wall (allows collaborative post it notes) and we explored the key attributes of a citizen, (after determining what a citizen was!).   Then we related these key attributes to online (just put online at the end of each attribute i.e be respectful online). I got this idea from Kevin Honeycutt who is an inspirational speaker from the States, very popular in NZ.

Digital Footprint:
Online safety, privacy, sharing and footprint

Next I showed the video "Digital Dossier" which goes through what a person's dossier looks like throughout the entire life starting in the womb!  There are lots of teachable moments throughout this video and it  is an eye opener as to how large their digital dossier is going to be.

Digital Footprint
Honesty, Integrity and Ethical Behaviour
The second video is all about digital footprint. It reinforces that everything you do do online can be seen by everyone and is there permanently and can be copied and passed on to anyone!

It looks at photos and has a silly photo of a child with pencils up his nose, which is a geat opportunity to talk about 'who' puts photos up on line.  I ask the children, "Do you think this child put this online for everyone to see? and this brings about great discussion. Great for talking about respecting privacy and other's privacy too.

After watching both of these videos I then took the children through the online quiz at
This gives great opportunities to discuss passwords and dodgy pop ups and dodgy emails.  The children really enjoyed this.
Note, whilst I did this in one session it could easily be broken up into serveral half hour sessions, although the children coped really well with the one session.  Their next task is now to create an online resource that they can share with parents and friends about what they have learnt to reinforce the learning. 
Note prior to these discussions I had taught children about Creative Commons which is all about copyright and how to license your work to share.  We had Matt from Creative Commons New Zealand Skype in and do a session.  The does this free for NZ schools. (Matt McGregor <>).  I have blogged about how I reinforced CC in the classroom too at

By the way, this Ted Talk on 'electronic tattoos' is an eye opener for teachers and talking about facial recognition.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Teaching the Five Ws for Orientation

This post explains the use of an MS Word feature to motivate writers to ensure they are using their five Ws in their orientation paragraphs.

I was teaching a year 3 class about including the five W's (who, what, where, when, why)  in their orientation paragraphs of a recount.

The children typed up their orientation paragraphs in MS Word and then we used Ms Word's call out feature found in Shapes (Insert, Shapes, Callouts) to add callouts to show where they had used the five Ws (or not!). I showed them how to hold down the Ctrl key while they dragged on a callout to do a quick copy. What was really interesting was that even the reluctant writers were engaged and motivated and could easily see which of the five Ws they were missing.

I observed one typically reluctant writer and once he had completed the above, he saw very clearly what he had to change and he went ahead and changed it all by himself resulting in the following:

On reflection, I think the advantage of using this method over pen and paper and highlighters is that it is much easier to edit in Word and editing and adding text using paper makes it look really messy.  Children like the ability to edit in Word and have an instantly good looking piece of work to present and of course learning a new tool (callouts and copying using the magic Ctrl and drag) also helps.

Other teachers heard about the success of this method and so the learning was shared. 
Love it when the learning is shared!!