Friday 29 November 2013

And now, the end is near...

Wow. 2013 academic year and my part in the MITA academy (for now!) are drawing to a close. Being a part of the academy has been an interesting journey, and I have had the opportunity to try out using Google + with my classes.
I have posted about this work from time to time (intermittently if I am being honest) on here, and of course there are posts on Google + from my students to show that there has been some buy-in from them as well. It has been good to have had the time to look into what social media work well with students, especially as they are all very into Facebook, so trying a new tool was going to be a challenge.
In summary, my students are still not regular posters on Google +, nor do they all regularly check their accounts or respond to posts. Having said that, when they post, they are getting good at leaving comments and are happy to post pictures. Positive points though; they have learned how to use it, despite the classes trying several other means of communication prior to settling on G+.
My future intentions are to carry on using G+ with students, but I plan to make it an integral part of my classroom practice right from the start of the year, with lessons on how to use it properly and also about putting people in circles, to avoid the issues that we have encountered this year. There are going to be instructions and how-tos for all aspects of Google + so that my classes are used to the idea and using it right from the off. I suppose it still isn't Facebook, something I am glad about, but the students are maybe not as keen yet. It IS still a relatively new social media and many of the students have not been exposed to it, especially as it was not enabled until this year on our domain.
I like the idea of putting resources onto the discussion part of our communities, as well as having stuff on my site. I also want to try putting up exam-style questions and getting the students to answer and refine each others answers to develop their skills in answering NCEA questions - all to be continued next year.

I stand by my choice of Google + still, mainly because it is a good set up, is flexible and there seems to be a huge number of teachers already using it. I meet people who use Facebook with students, but that makes me uncomfortable. I have a page/ group (not sure which!) for the Envirogroup, but I really don't want to go down that route with my classes, especially as it is blocked at school. I now know the areas I have to watch, specifically who students add to their circles and DEFINITELY who they share posts with...
Now I want to also have a look at how Google Hangouts could further be used to enhance the learning going on with my classes - there are people all around the world we could be communicating with, experts, biologists, other students... it really makes everything possible doesn't it?
I'll still continue posting, probably as irregularly as this year, but you'll mostly find me on Google+!

Friday 15 November 2013

Those last few weeks of the year...

I've done it again. All through the year I think to myself "I'll go through my paper resources and either scan them or throw them away". Then we get to the stage where we are marking heaps of NCEA work for classes and trying to push them to study for exams (22nd November for my Level 2 biology students!). The next thing the senior prizegiving has come around and the year is almost done. "Great, once the seniors are gone, I can get on with XXXXXXX..." (Insert 1 of 3 or so million things that need doing here.) The reality always trips me up; this time of year is SO BUSY! I should know this by now...

Of course there is all the paperwork to make sure kids get credits for the work they have done, then there are all of the PD opportunities and clusters that come up because nobody has much to do at this time of year, do they?

This week we had the 6th annual Manaiakalani Film Festival which was wonderful, and an awesome way to celebrate the fabulous stuff our cluster is doing. Sixty two movies were shown, on 2 screens during the day with 2400 students of all ages coming to see their work on the (incredibly) big screen. The films cover everything, from a cool Dr Who from Tamaki College, with some great special effects (tardis) and some Oscar-worthy acting from one of our deputy principals (video here) to a video that Somerville Special School created to show how they deal with the changes involved in having a reliever in their classroom (video here).

The other demands on my time are mostly to do with planning for next year. It is not confirmed yet, but I might be doing the Level 3 (year 13) biology as well as the Level 2 course, and also I have been given the green light to run a Level 2 Education for Sustainability course as well. The latter has caused me some issues as I have never taught this subject in NZ before (I did a few months with a year 13 course in the UK, and I have done papers etc, and my masters around the subject). The main issues have come about because the curriculum is being re-aligned for 2015, which means I have been working to set up a course which will need big modifications after one year. Thankfully, it looks like I might get to use the new standards as part of the pilot programme but, these are currently under consultation.

What this means in practical terms is we get a really short period of time to go over the new standards in very thorough detail and propose any changes. And we have found a few. We have all learned from experience that sometimes moderators expect the exact letter of the standard to inform the task, so we need to make sure the language used allows this to be as painless a process as we possibly can.

All of that aside, I am still excited about the prospect of running this course as it is so new to me. It is going to present students with an opportunity to learn more about sustainability; something I am very passionate about as it is. Perhaps it will lead to a chance to create a film for the next Manaiakalani Film Festival, although I am NOT making promises here!

Now, next week we have junior exams, then into activities and camp, as well as marking for the external Level 2 biology Cells paper starting on the 30th. So actually, there really isn't any time left. Again.

Well, I now have about an hour to go through those boxes of resources. Or maybe I really should just bin them (in the recycled paper bin, of course) and move on. My policy has been if I haven't used it in a year, it's no good, but I still have paper resources from my practicum (some of them that unusual shade of grey achieved by multiple photocopying!). Maybe I can deal with it in February when we get back from the summer hols. Maybe...