This year my personal inquiry focussed on the following statement.
Changing pupil outcomes depends on changing practice. What we have always done is no longer good enough. Do teachers participating in virtual learning networks, reflective blogging, using social media make a difference to student learning outcomes?
The challenge I have is how do I measure the results of teachers participation? I know that often it is not just one intervention that makes a difference to student learning outcomes but a range of strategies.
I know from Hattie’s research that teachers are one of the factors that does make a difference to student achievement. It is what teachers do.
So again how do I measure the results?
As the year roller coasts towards the final term I thought I would reflect on some of the online work I do that is over and above what I do in school.
The reason I take this on, is the immense satisfaction of seeing teachers come together to share their learning. I also wonder about the impact that this has on student learning. Being a teacher with over thirty years experience I am aware that what happens in class is no longer enough. Teachers must make connections with educators outside their domain to lift their own practice. They must see what others are doing and use this knowledge to lift their pedagogy. They must be part of active collaboration in order to bring about this same change to the content that they have their students create. I think about them collaborating together with sufficient magnitude and question how much of a difference this makes to their student’s learning.
This year is no different.
I set goals that by the end of this year, every teacher at Newmarket School would have a blog and be connected on twitter. That goal is at 99%.
I found from my involvement in the edblognz project that the blogging goal I set for our Newmarket School teachers is very high as I have identified very few edubloggers in our New Zealand system in comparison to the number of registered teachers there are. As for our principals who blog, At the same time I know from experience that edubloggers are a certain type of educator. If I use the 1% of content creating rule I guess that applies to most schools. I have been tracking our teachers involvement through their contribution to the education community. I regular remind them that it is not enough to just take part in professional learning but to leave some kind of legacy that is easily seen. If I cannot see what they are doing? Does this mean that it did not happen?
So this year again, I know that before I push something at my school I have to be actively doing the same activity that I would ask of teachers. So it is seen that I would never ask them to do something that I was not willing to do myself.
This year I have written 36 entries on my reflective blog. I have actively given feedback where I am able to and responded to feedback on my own blog. I have used twitter to celebrate what teachers do. I have just passed 18,000 tweets.
Know my impact
I have coordinated and run three TeachMeetNZ for New Zealand educators with two more still to go.
So far this year that involves 23 educator stories. In that group I had 2 teachers from my school share their stories. If I think of the impact on the number of students that these teachers are involved with say approximately 25 x 23 would guestimate an impact on 575 students. How this affects student learning outcomes, I am unable to clarify.
In April I encouraged 3x teachers to present at Google Summit and because I presented twice I was able to bring in a 4th teacher. You can read my reflection here. I had two teachers join me in an Educamp held at Tamaki college. You can read my reflection here. I work hard at getting our teachers to actively share their learning. I know I can be insistent but again, I remind teachers that they expect their students to do this but where is their evidence that they are prepared to do the same.
In April I was fortunate to attend the WELLs Conference with my principal and Assistant principal. It was great to have them write their reflections of the experience. My ultimate is to co-create a piece of writing with some of our teachers. I will get there using baby steps.
We have developed our #NPSfab twitter hash tag and that is being used more and more as more of our staff see the relevance of making connections with educators outside their immediate learning bubble.
I have presented twice this year at Eduignite and have left a legacy on my Slideshare account. I have presented my student inquiry to our Board of Trustees and have made this visible on our staff site.
So where to next.
Teachers Collaborating. I believe that before teachers can collaborate with each other successfully, first they must make a connection. I have set up a large collaborative initiative using google+ communities. I have approximately 28 educators involved in the EdbookNZ collaborative project. Again, how do I measure the impact of something like this? I have some idea. I can do this via active involvement. As for measuring effect on student learning outcomes I believe the area is still quite grey.
The teachers are working together to create an artifact for the education community. But for me the real goal is seeing if teachers can work collaboratively outside of their own school environment. The measure would be in seeing the product and in seeing the blog reflections that take place. I also aim for teachers to ask me lots of questions as this would clarify my thinking too as part of my own ongoing inquiry.
Overall I think that teachers working together will enable them to see what other teachers are using and what tools they are using as part of their own learning. This will raise their own benchmark of what is possible.
At the same time I am learning from others. For example, I created the google+ community after experiencing what it was like to be actively involved in one. This enabled me to see what is possible with the tools that are available to us as educators.
In the past I have struggled a bit with creating communities. I struggle too with being part of communities but I now realise that virtual communities ebb and flow. I go in and out of them when I am learning just as I am aware that the educators who have joined the current one are doing the same. They want to see how an active community operates. I hope to see them go on and create their own communities or use the skills that they learn with me to finetune communities that they currently lead. How do I measure the effect of this you might ask? Again I have no idea. I am always gathering data on involvement and use the data to create something better next time. But I am not sure how to use the data to measure affect on student achievement.
Relevance to teaching and learning
By creating a virtual community, I can see how I am able to engage and motivate the students I work with in a virtual community. The teachers in the Edbooknz project do not need to be there so I have to be experimental, motivated and inspirational to enable them to participate willingly and most importantly actively. I am leading my moderators so that they will actively give feedback to the teachers that they work with.
In addition I am part of two global communities and I am also learning from the best. I have brought on board three of our Newmarket School teachers so that they can begin to take part in communities outside of school and learn how to inspire and engage the children that they are responsible for in the Flat Connection project. I am also moderating in an educator’s group using very different tools to connect, collaborate and create with.
As I move around our school I observe our teachers and I can see the teachers active online in a variety of ways. They are the ones creating content with their students. Their lessons are engaging and they teach their students to be persistent in their learning. The ones who are not so active are consumers of content. I believe that being active online contributes to teachers creating content with their students. How do I measure this against student learning outcomes? Maybe I am focusing too much on student achievement and should be focusing on students creating content and students engagement in their own learning. Maybe I should be identifying the teachers who persistently encourage their students to reflect on the learning process.
Maybe my question should be, is there a relationship between teachers creating collaborative content and their students creating content? This I could measure using our involvement with Hapara. This is what has given me an incentive to have teachers collaborating because I still see very individualised content in our students folders. I would like to see much more collaborative content and much more teacher and student reflections on the learning process.
Ah well blogging is about clarifying one’s thoughts. But at this stage I think I am more muddled than ever.