A Learning Space...Reflections about My Space

Hi everyone, I'm Claire Buist from Dunedin. This year I am a class teacher four days and AP at St Clair School in Dunedin. We have a class blog which the children have an active part in deciding what is posted and moderating of comments. We use google apps as an admin tool in our teaching team including team meeting minutes, timetabling, planning and data accumulation for the purpose of forward planning. At the end of last year, I decided to throw in my hat with regards to digital learning and focus on bringing the teaching team on board.

2012: Beginning the Year in Eutopia...

I have to confess that I lost a lot of sleep and relaxation time over the summer break as I readied myself for beginning the year with flexible learning spaces. I have been one of those teachers who set out welcome name plates and fixed seating arrangements on desks for at least 15 years.

Last year, I worked hard to develop my understandings and practice with regards to learning spaces after massive building developments on our site.The children I was working with contemplated learning styles/spaces, key competencies incorporating "managing myself" and James Nottingham's learning pit. We developed a metaphor for classroom learning related to learning to ride a bike and this metaphor became part of our daily dialogue with regards to WALTs and learning experiences.

Beginning the year with learning spaces as opposed to building them was something I anticipated as an issue but there was no way I was asking by caretaker to find me 30 desks again. Turns out it has all come down to classroom management and planning to include the spaces. I love it. Am wishing that I was a part of these schools that are beginning out as brand new but excited to be working in one that can develop its buildings so that they allow for changes in pedagogy.

U Learn - Here I Come...

I am approaching my fourth U Learn conference. I am such an advocate, I have funded myself this year. I am excited to be presenting with Anne who has been on a NZ TEACH scholarship this year to complete her masters. We are hoping to share the benefits of online collaborations and the impact this has had on our teaching and practice.

It is about now, that I set my own goals for the week ahead. I want to come back ready and able to set up google apps for my senior team teachers and children. As a staff, we already use docs for planning, agendas and booking of spaces. I am excited at the possibility of creating teacher dashboards and accounts for the children in our team. The discussion on this space has helped me develop my perspective = particularly Shaun's use and Jo's development of draft writing...

Watch this space... Look forward to seeing you at U-Learn!!!

End of the Term 3, 2011...

It has felt like a crazy term filled with swimming, Stars on Stage,Kapa haka performances and the determination to develop targeted, accelerated learning programmes in literacy and maths so as to see a shift in standards...The former is nothing unusual in any busy school, and the latter is definitely a sign of things to come.

Having said that, I am enjoying the challenge of developing targetted learning programmes and the monitoring of these new programmes. Especially, when there are links being made to the benefits and potential of ICT. This includes tools such as I-Pads and the use of web tools to enhance learning.

At a recent management meeting, we discussed the
  • very significant resources recently purchased including 31 macs for our I-Suite, 12 new laptops and 12 I Pads.
  • pockets of excellence with more than enough evidence that ICT enhances learning
  • 2012 needs to be a year of ICT linked to pedagogy
This meeting then tackled the ideas surrounding what we think is practical in next 12 months?

This is obviously an open ended question and the beginning of our next steps but it was great to be able to throw the following links into the conversation... They definitely sparked the fire... :)

I am most interested in suggestions from my PLN in how I can make maximum use the traditional computer lab...
Finally, the feedback from my kids and their thoughts about learning spaces was enlightening. We have managed to reduce the 32 desks to 16 this term and added two round tables and a rectangular one to the mix. Not bad given there are 31 students in this group... The class make great choices about how they learn and can be seen to migrate to "caves" for individual learning during reading and writing times and then gravitate to tables and other collaborative spaces for inquiry, discussions and maths problem solving. When I asked for their feedback at the end of term, there was a resounding "YES" to continue operating the way we have this term. I even found a wee 'post it' note from Caitlin on my laptop asking me to allow for those quiet caves because "this has really helped her to concentrate and focus on the learning - especially in maths and reading sessions.

Recent Reflections...

I was recently asked to share my journey with E-Learning and pedagogy in CINZS. It proved a great opportunity to take stock of where we are with e-learning and how it fits within my practice...
Click on the link to read the whole reflection... A summary is posted below...

I began using Web 2.0 tools about four years ago. Truth is, I saw this “stuff” happening and was hearing about innovative teaching making the most of these tools. My interest in this area came from my own action research in writing. I was hoping to find a way to improve writing outcomes and motivation in the children that I work with. I wanted to explore the value that Web 2.0 tools might have on pedagogy and practice. In this article I share some of my experiences of using these tools.
I began by using Wikispaces with my class. The purpose of the Wikispace was to share our learning with families from outside of Dunedin and to involve working parents with what was happening in our classroom. In hindsight, this was invaluable as it taught me quickly many skills including html coding, uploading images and the Creative Commons. Understanding about the Creative Commons has meant that I have been able to guide children about legal use and downloading of internet content. A great explanation about the Creative Commons can be viewed here: <http://www.vimeo.com/25684782>. At the time though, this became a virtual display space and added to my duties as a classroom teacher. Certainly, it was very motivating for the children to see their writing published online and visitors reading it from around the world, and it definitely became another display space for me. In other words, this was teacher driven, not student driven, unless they were responding to my feedback.
I am glad I began with Wikispaces because it developed my knowledge and understanding of web tools and sites. I feel it helped my digital literacy to develop, thus leading to increased confidence. I have continued to use Wikispaces but my philosophy about their use has evolved and changed.

See: http://stclairsuper7.wikispaces.com/Home

Wikispaces are a form of social web tool. Therefore, it is intended for users who are 13 years and older. Our syndicate teachers have developed a Wikispace that we access and update as administrators. It is a valid form of communication between home and school and includes links to notices, homework, road patrol rosters, photos, etc. This has proved itself to be invaluable for working parents, grandparents based around the country and the world as well as helpful for students. If children are away, have lost notices or homework sheets, or want to practise spelling and basic facts specific to their current learning goals, they can access these from home. If you are thinking about establishing an online class site, Wikispaces is where I recommend you begin. It is easy and intuitive to use, mostly free and gathering huge momentum with teachers around the world, who are keen to collaborate, communicate and comment. It has created an authentic audience for the children we are working with in so many ways.
Last year, we began blogging. Both the children and teachers became administrators of the blog and the class took on an active role. The Super7Scooper Blog http://super7scoopers.edublogs.org/ is a classroom blog that has been developed firstly by myself and then evolved by the Year 5 and 6 children working in Room 7, as they took on ownership of their space. The blog shares our daily learning experiences, exemplars of our different levels working within our classroom and also acts as a reflective journal that we have referred back to regularly. Initially, it was started as a teacher-driven tool as a vehicle for modelling during shared reading and writing sessions, and as a means for introducing the children to digital citizenship and literacy. Over the year, the ownership has shifted from the teacher to the students who now decide what is blogged, which Web 2 tools they use to publish as well as the moderation of comments.

The aim of blogging was two-fold. Firstly, the blog was intended as a means for children to share their learning with their families and to further develop the sense of community between home and school. The second aim of this blog was to give the children a sense of audience. We were targeting writing in all classrooms across our school and looking for ways to improve student standard and motivation to write.The latter has grown far more than I had initially planned thanks to the use of a professional learning network (PLN) who offer comments, feedback and motivation to write. This group comprises teachers and students from around the country/world that evolved from professional discussions and sharing on Twitter and VLN (virtual learning network) – an online community for New Zealand teachers.
The “Scooper” derivation came from “what’s the scoop?” in other words “what’s the news?” Over the year, operation of the blog has evolved. Initially, it was set up and managed by myself, the teacher. Over the first term, the blog presented itself as a fantastic means of shared reading and writing supporting the modelling of safe internet practice and modelling of the writing cycle from planning and drafting, to conferencing, publishing and responding to feedback. As the year has progressed, the children have stepped up and slowly taken over the running of the blog. “Today’s Scoopers” were rostered and they would work through the writing cycle to plan, draft, edit and conference their posts. Once posts were published with the approval of the rest of the class and myself in the form of conferences, I would then (secretly) tweet my PLN if feedback or audience would be beneficial to those writers. Often feedback comes from families, friends and “followers” without being solicited. The children read their feedback and respond or edit their posts depending on the feedback they receive. There is a sense of pride in this group of writers when they receive feedback and see readers from around the world visiting their blog.
Children will actively seek reasons to write, either collaboratively or on their own, and will independently respond to feedback in order to revisit and edit their writing. It was noted at our most recent three-way conferences that writing was voluntarily shared as a favourite area of learning and (surprisingly) not one boy failed to mention that writing was one of his favourite subjects. By using digital tools ranging from the class camera to web-based tools for publishing, this class has been inspired because they’re reaching an audience and their published pieces look “real”. Above all, they are getting feedback.
Blogging as a class has led to connecting with a range of audiences and developing projects with classes worldwide. However, the development of using blogs in this classroom really came from a school-wide initiative to develop our writing programmes in order for improved achievement at all levels. Obviously aspects of development included pedagogy and practice. Blogs and Web 2.0 tools have been only a part of this project but it is fair to say that they have accentuated motivation to write, a purpose to publish our writing, and engagement in the whole writing cycle. The ease of web-based tools has impacted on other areas of literacy including visual and oral language programmes. Children are actively involved in reading and responding to blog posts, sharing their news orally in their fortnightly “Scoop” videos and sharing photos that support blog posts.
The blog has become an archive of learning experiences and outcomes. It has proved to be an easy way to store artifacts that have been created using software and web-based tools. These tools have had a huge impact on learning including the following examples.

Good Company, Great Conversations and Collaboration...

Living in the South can sometimes lead to a feeling of being somewhat isolated particularly when we have connected digitally with colleagues up north and we hear about their frequent and casual get togethers with like minded colleagues. My envy and desire to be part of such a group made me take a risk.

I'm not one to put myself out there but when an E-Teach group that I had belonged to, looked like it was coming to an end I started suggesting we find out who else in out area is thinking like we do... From that discussion hatched "EduCamp Dunners" A great idea, I know but really quite daunting when you had never even been to one!

It seemed fitting that Educamp Dunners begin at our school given its recent building developments and recent research into learning spaces. It was an exciting day with 40+ teachers not just from Dunedin but also, Mosgiel, Lawrence, Invercargill, Oamaru and even Christchurch! The range of people included primary teachers, lecturers, principals and a physics lecturer. The highlight had to be the 8 students who turned in with one of them even participating in the Smackdown!

We were privileged to have Jo Fothergill come down after her E-Fellow meeting in Chch and there was a great mix of Twitterers and people who have been quietly exploring e-learning on their own within their classroom. The success of this occasion was indicated to me in several ways...
1) A third year student's excitement when she saw collaborative notes forming on a shared doc.
2) The ease that people posted up their wonderings and formed groups quickly.
3) The hugs at the end of the day.
4) and the on-going discussions and sharing that have been happening the day after on Twitter and via e-mails.

To anyone who has never attended an EduCamp, I say "do it" and if there are no EduCamps in your area - be the cowboy and set one up...

Lunchtime and the conversations continued...
Loved the relaxed atmosphere and laid back approach!

Learning Spaces and Learning Wobbles!

First week back proved a bit of a challenge and ended with time in hospital for my daughter. Nothing serious but just a reminder for her that life with Type 1 Diabetes often presents us with some surprises...

Despite all this, I set goals for the classroom and managed to achieve some. Most disappointing was the fact that the leave, combined with swimming meant that we didn't manage to skype into classes with established learning spaces... We are still keen if anyone is available this week! The high was the feedback from Shaun's kids - I think my class was almost relieved to hear this was not a crazy idea just by me! :)
I asked the Scoopers how they were feeling mid week about their new space and got these unprompted thoughts...

Interesting thoughts and mostly positive. I sense some hesitancy but noticed most of those children were happy to negotiate where and who they worked with. I am glad that we spent term 2 focusing on our Learner's Licence as children have quickly defined their difference expectations of learning groups and social groups, ie a 9-10 boys at lunch eating does not even feature during learning time.
I haven't managed to get rid of any desks yet... but we did get a new student from Tamaki this week and I have not added a desk... Oddly enough, I think she is genuinely finding the lack of personal space very difficult and I would appreciate some thoughts on this...
Lastly, after hearing James Nottigham in the holidays, we worked on our own Learning Metaphor relating learning to ride a bike to the learning wobbles in the classroom. This is what the Scoopers came up with... Best moment was when William watched Max have a eureka moment and divide 48 by 10. William looked at me and said, "I am having a learning wobble"!!!


Images from http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

So What?

  • Continue to develop the learning spaces in our classroom. I will do this by unpacking and exploring further with the children where they think they learn/work best when learning in different curriculum areas and different types of tasks.I am going to move some more desks (which I am stuck with) to the outer limits of the classroom and see if I can add another table. I have purchased two footstools, and 6 bright plastic stools, a beanbag and am wondering about a few exercise balls...

PA - Potential Ability, CA - Current Ability, SA - Subconscious Ability
  • Highlight to all children the "Learning Wobbles". I will do this by introducing the class to the metaphor for learning: "Learning to ride a bike" I have created a handout for this that I think I will cut up and use as a sequencing activity that leads into role as mentor and role as a learner type discussion. I found that this really linked to the "Learners' License" that the Scoopers have developed during term 2. (Yay!)

  • Develop Personalised Programmes. I am not quite ready to do this with the whole class, despite my self timetabling Fridays. But my release teacher and I did begin to discuss "Self-Regulated" learning for a few of the Year 6 children who have been working with me for 18 months. Therefore, I am going to set up a personalised learning programme for 6-7 of the Scoopers. I will be able to interview them weekly on Wednesdays, my release day. I am keen for any assistance, resources, or links that will help me to achieve this.
  • Implement the Ask Model. This just made sense to me and seemed to match what I was trying to achieve with my class about "Driving their Own Learning"... This PDF is free to download from James Nottingham's site.

I will need to maintain the Learners' License but am thinking that I will weave this model so that it an integral part of my practice in readiness for next year...

End of Term Reflections...

I am thriving on this network and enjoying the odd skype interaction-thankyou.

Belonging to this group has helped me really focus on physical and digital learning spaces on a daily basis. It is probably just finding time to reflect amongst three way conferences, report writing and cross country training, that I have struggled most with. I am wishing I could get rid of the desks and replace half of them with tables but not a go this year. I will need to rethink how I introduce desks next year to the children but am not prepared to challenge a few "precise" thinking children.

Blogging as a class during Term 2 has lead to connecting with a range of audiences and developing projects with classes world wide. However, the development of using blogs in this classroom really came from a school wide initiative with regards to the development of our writing programmes that would lead to improved achievement at all levels. Obviously aspects of development included pedagogy and practice. Blogs and web 2 tools have been only a part of this project but it is fair to say that they have accentuated motivation to write; a purpose to publish our writing and engagement in the whole writing cycle. The ease of web-based tools has impacted on other areas of literacy including visual and oral language programmes. Children are actively involved in reading and responding to blog posts, sharing their news orally in their fortnightly “Scoop” videos and sharing photos that support blog posts.

My class has really, really enjoyed Shaun's Friday comments from his class and our next steps are to practise giving feedback and acting on suggestions given to us. It was only a couple a weeks' ago that I realised I had not spent enough time on feedback with this current groups of children. I had assumed that they were on the same page as me and the children I was working with last year!

Week 8, *sigh*

Screen_shot_2011-06-24_at_9.08.12_PM.pngPersonal events have been dominating my world over the past couple of weeks. My Dad is unwell in Hamilton and me being in Dunedin plays on my conscience and energy levels. Summative assessment is being collated and I am needing to report to the board about how the senior team is going and reports are due. It is at times like this, my ebb and energy sinks and I often find it hard to hold it all together. Having said that, I finished the week on a high when I found this video produced by the girls from my class. They have worked through the literacy cycle, conferenced with whoever they can (guest teachers and peers) to plan, draft, edit and publish their news this week in video format.... Hoping you could visit the blog and leave them genuine feedback if you have time.

Week 5 - Managing Ourselves

This past week was shadowed by the biannual pressure of collecting and collating data for our mid year summative review. This process always proves to be rewarding once completed but in the meantime, I can never seem to be able to lose that feeling of "test" fortnight. My focus as well as the children's, is on Managing Myself. Keeping up with the furor of paper work, maintain meaningful learning while I undertake one to one diagnostic interviews, running records and e-asstle assessments to support my OTJ! It is at these times, teachers really get to reap the benefits of an established classroom culture.
Achievements this week...
  • I had my first large group skype conference - being somewhat shy, I was hesitant but really enjoyed it (thanks team)!
  • a new parent turns out to be a sound technician! He is going to make some recommendations for the shed and help set it up!
  • children completed their first 'self-directed' learning morning.
  • a student who has struggled to manage himself during independent learning informed me he thinks he is ready to go for his FULL "Learners' Licence"
  • The "Scoop" (our video news) was drafted, planned, produced and published entirely without any input from me! (They would really appreciate any feedback as they begin each scoop by looking at their next steps.)
  • when asked to share what learning in Room 7 looks like, sounds like and feels like - a group produced this video...

This video has provided me with some thoughts and reflection. There are things I was pleased to see that the children have acknowledged and it has highlighted that I still need to work on those learning spaces....

Week 4 - Vlogging


We have a huge writing cycle on our wall that the children use to prompt them through the stages of writing including conferencing and final drafting which is done using either google docs or Word. This latter stage entails no formatting and this is what they bring to the teacher conference. It should be indicative of what they can do... Over the past 12 months, we have begun to develop specific literacy cycles as a class - these include cycles for podcasting, different genre and blogging cycles.

Our latest cycle is for our class vlogging. The class has put together the cycle below and have been working on a mocumentary to help subsequent Scoopers put together their "scoop".

Week 3, Term 2 - Spaces
It is an absolute pleasure to join this space and be able to reflect on my learning and teaching in such fantastic company! In hindsight, I wish I had begun blogging at the beginning of this year as I can already see a huge amount of personal growth particularly with regards to learning spaces. It was my class "scoopers" who directed me to this thought last week when they tried to share what a busy week we had had. While viewing it, I realised how much learning and use of spaces is happening in our room with little regard from me...