Who’s voice is being silenced?

Who do we silence when we “collaborate” and “connect”?

Trust Pam Hook to ask this question.

I recently read a blog post where Pam commented and asked this question.

loudspeaker-clipart

Those of you who know me, connecting, collaborating, creating and sharing are my ongoing personal teacher inquiry. So much so that I have literally made an online name for myself with doing all this “connect” and “collaborate” online stuff..

Pam asked an interesting question and one that I am sure like me you had never really thought about or really cared about and you have been hell bent on gathering followers or creating virtual communities to have teachers work together because you realise how much of an impact this has on teachers learning.

But if we think about it, who are the teachers who are  being silenced by all this online learning ‘stuff.’  I remember in the early days of social media trying to convince teachers to ‘at least read emails’. or saying things like, ‘The information is on the server #DUH.’

And ‘Paper?? What’s that.  Give it to me digitally so I can have the option of repurposing what you have created.’

I know the internet is the main form of communication in this 21st Century and who does not have a cell phone? Correct? But it is still a valid question.

We are extremely lucky at my school because we have a strong school leader who has always been forward thinking in her approach. Such as giving the teachers the tools. So we all had an iPad 2 when they first came out and have since been updated and senior teachers were given an iphone with a school plan. She gave us all a chrome to play with because this was a tool we would be using with our children. We can even choose what kind of a TELA we want.

Yet I grew up in a 3rd world nation and I speak to other teachers who do not have the same access to technology or professional learning as what we have at Newmarket School.

I visited 13 countries in 11 weeks and spoke with teachers who many do not have the same opportunities and access that we have here in New Zealand. I visited many teachers whose classes do not have internet access.  For teachers in New Zealand I query their access because TELA has been available since 2003 and access to the internet really took off in 2004 when the first waves of schools were snupped. Name a new Zealand teacher who has not been part of an ICTPD contract in the past 10 years. Our Ministry of Education has poured millions of dollars into our digital learning.

So again whose voices are being silenced through connection and collaboration?

I am aware of the challenges that some outlying schools have to access. They do not yet have broadband and are still reliant on dial up. But I believe that if you want access bad enough somehow you can find a path. Even if you pay for access yourself. When I think back to schools that I have been at where I have had to pay for first of all for my own laptop and then my own lease or when when I was an early adopter of technology and bought dial up at phenomenal costs.

Online I notice that my twitter PLN are made up of mostly European educators. I find the Maori and Pasifika Educators appear to gravitate to Facebook. As for Asian educators I talk to them on WeChat. So I guess if I am looking for certain voices then as an educator I must move in the social media that has greater numbers.

When I have run online professional learning for educators I particularly target voices that are often very quiet. I am much more conscious of this then I have ever been because of my work with Pam.  Yes using digital communication can silence when we “collaborate” and “connect”.

The ones taking part in connecting and collaborating online can have their voices amplified like being the only ones holding a microphone at a face to face meeting. Yet what about our children who do not yet have access to home broadband because the extra cost is a luxury that is over and above feeding a family? That and even having a device to access communication with. Yes we still have those.

I also think about the work I do with my Samoan colleagues who insist on face to face meetings because, ‘This is the way we work best.’ I encourage digital communication but that is on ongoing journey I have always had. I also find that in the face to face meetings I am the voice being silent. I am used to having my voice amplified with media that sometimes I feel frustration in the noisy face to face meetings. I feel frustration at the speed of getting things done because I am so used to getting things done at super speed using online communication. I am the educator who amplifies our Samoan voices digitally and I do so willingly because I know some can be very quiet online.

My citizenship question to you is the same as Pam’s.

Who do you silence when you “collaborate” and “connect”?

Afterthought

I should have begun with this quote taken straight from Tahu’s Blog Post on Whānaungatanga.

Me hui kanohi ki te kanohi kia rongo i te mauri o te tangata!’ It is important to meet face to face, eye to eye, breath to breath to get a full understanding of the people we are working with.

What am I learning? How is it going? What am I going to do next?

Teams are currently setting 2016 learning targets and I have been reading some of the targets set with interest because cognitive applied language proficiency plays an important part in achieving these targets. The year 3 & 4 teachers regularly see a fall in data and often I often hear discussion around the ‘why’. From my previous work as a Ministry of Education verifier I know that reading, writing and mathematics should be reasonably aligned. When I see several sub levels between the two I know straight away that some of the data pieces are incorrect. Also if earlier school data is not maintained then that earlier data has been gathered using student’s basic interpersonal skills. When they reach years 3 and 4, cognitive applied language proficiency becomes the learning norm and often our ELL children have just not YET achieved that in their second language of English.  

I keep reminding our teachers at Newmarket School of the chart from Thomas and Collier, 1997 that shows children learning English as a second language (L2). The chart shows the process from early production to advanced fluency can take from 5 to 7 years depending on their literacy levels in their home language. The best outcome is when children are able to learn through the curriculum in both languages or through full bilingual education. The challenge can be schools who believe that English only is the pathway for academic success and actively dissuade teachers and children from using their first language. There is a common belief that by immersing the learner in English only will accelerate the learner in their second language. However the longitudinal research proves otherwise.

That red thin line falling is one I see regularly.

collier

(Thomas and Collier, 1997)

The children often appear too high too soon in the early years. Then we see the fall and this usually happens after 3 to 4 years at school. What we should see is a gradual improvement with a goal of meeting benchmark by year 6. Then if that happens the children have a much better outcome in their following years.  I also regularly look at this chart to remind myself that the most effective way of learning English is in class and not necessarily when the children are withdrawn for specialist intervention. Finland have this strategy nailed when a second teacher is placed in the class to support with intervention. Notice I said teacher and not teacher support.

Most of our ELL children at Newmarket School learn in class with teacher support because that is where we are generally as an education system. We have some learners withdrawn for reading recovery, some for steps and some for intensive support with me if the children come from several classes and have similar literacy needs. Previously we have had other forms of literacy support, especially as we unpack our data against National Standards.

However the data I would be particularly interested in is when our children leave Newmarket School and what happens to them particularly at NCEA level 1 & 2. I look forward to seeing this happen because our school is part of the Community of Schools for 2016.

Our teachers at Newmarket School have asked for professional learning using SOLO taxonomy to advance writing. All our teams have set this as an inquiry goal for 2016 because our writing data continually appears mismatched against reading and mathematics. In additions some teams will work with emergent learners and have learning support with other students. This will take place in class and I am excited at seeing this change in teacher thinking. Myself I believe our writing data is the most realistic data and regularly remind our staff of our school’s student makeup. In April 2015, Newmarket school had 263 students on the school roll. 86 ESOL funded in the 2015 A round of funding. 74.60% of our children come from homes with another language spoken. Just under half of these are ESOL funded at 24.6% of the school roll. Currently we have 21 different languages at home. Our total Asian group has nearly doubled in the last 7 years from 43% in 2007 to currently 61.5% of our school role. Our biggest ethnic group is Chinese children who make up 28.2% of our school role.

SOLO Taxonomy background

What is SOLO Taxonomy? SOLO is the Sustained Observation of Learning Outcomes. I was first introduced to this learning framework during my TESSOL diploma in 1997. I selected to present the work of Biggs and Collier during one of my earliest assignments. We had to present our learning in 5 minutes. A decade later I joined Newmarket School and the school was in the second year of an ICTPD contract with Pam Hook. I was incredibly lucky in my second year to oversee the contract therefore was able to have extra learning time with Pam Hook. My understanding of SOLO became embedded in my practice. My earlier attempts at SOLO highlighted that I often focussed on the product and the outcomes of my students and gave little attention to the process. I believe that this has changed as I regularly step through the learning process with the children and have made this process visible.

Screenshot 2015-11-08 at 20.38.13This year, Pam Hook and I wrote SOLO Taxonomy English Language Learners, Making second language learning visible. Our book is now in the last stage before publishing.

I have been working alongside Pam for several years and she has been an amazing educator mentor for me. I think she just understands what I say and mean and regularly helps me clarify my thinking by asking probing questions. Several years ago, Pam suggested that we write a book together framed with SOLO and I baulked at the idea because I felt my learning with SOLO Taxonomy was in early stages.

However last year after Ginny and I had presented to a school who were asking how to use SOLO with second language learners, I decided that I was on track and went back to Pam and said I felt I was ready. Ginny pushes my pedagogy and is often quite straightforward in her honest feedback. She sometimes pulls me back in my thinking because I have missed a building block and highlights where I need to address the gap.

With that seed in mind, I began collecting artefacts that could be suitable. This year I fine tuned an idea about making the writing key words visible using colours. Before that I had the children highlighting words with whatever coloured felts that were available and were not dried out. My thinking wall was usually just a jumble of words hand scribbled on cut out cards as I clarified my thinking.

I am one of those teachers who puts something up and by looking at it daily, I can see where I need to develop or see what I still need to do. So my walls have been a hive of activity. Some school terms have seen better wall displays than others. My learning this year around teaching writing has been immense. My own writing has also developed and I have blogged much more. Teachers if you are reading this, bear the following in mind. If you want to teach writing and get results with writing then understand your own learning with writing.

 

I am really clear with description, explanation, sequencing, analogy, part whole thinking and  classifying. I can now see how to get to extended abstract thinking in SOLO Taxonomy and I can see the vocabulary that is required for this deeper thinking. This year I was hoping to nail extended abstract thinking. However on reflection I know that my own writing was still developing and currently sits mostly at relational thinking. Every so often I write something amazing and I hope to do so much more of that next year.

 

I created a list of words that help make writing visible against SOLO Taxonomy. Over the past few years this idea has grown and I have tested it out with my writers. This year I colour coordinated the list. and constantly used the same colours for the same key ideas and it has worked. Next year our teachers will be using similar ideas as they continue to unpack writing framed with SOLO Taxonomy. They will make writing visible and the best way that I have found to do this is using consistent colours.

 

 

wallSo if you are interested in writing and want access to this writing vocabulary list framed using SOLO Taxonomy then very soon our book will be available and this list is part of the package. If you want to know more about how I have unpacked my learning using SOLO Taxonomy and English Language Learners then again this book would be an ideal addition to your staff bookshelf.

Finally if you have high numbers of ELL students then again you will find this book of interest and value.

In addition next year Bridget Casse and myself are running a TeachMeetNZ meets SOLO Taxonomy session. I am super excited because Pam said she will also be involved. I will share the year I have had making my learning visible. I have convinced Virginia @ginnynz01 to be part of this Teachmeetnz. Over the next few weeks, our SOLO Taxonomy list of presenters will be available as we confirm presenters. The confirmed date is Saturday 16th of April at 2.00pm.

Follow me on twitter @vanschaijik and also Bridget @BridgetCasse. You can also watch Pam ‘s feed too @arti_choke. The hashtag is #TeachMeetNZ.

Being heard and the right to influence others

‘Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Māori.

The language is the life force of the mana Māori.’ Sir James Henare, 1985.

matariki

Matariki signals the dawn of the Maori New Year and this year begins 20 June and ends on the 19th of July. Matariki is a time for reflection and where we are up to on our learning journey. Matariki is about whanaungatanga and the chance for our school community to come together to plan, collaborate and celebrate this important event. Matariki  is a time to retell stories and to revisit traditional games and crafts. Matariki is a time to set new goals and make new connections. Matariki is a time to focus on Te Reo and the upcoming Maori Language week that begins on the 29th of June.  I can tell Matariki is close in season when our school centenary tree loses its leaves. I see Tui making a regular appearance around school. They come for the black  whauwhaupaku berries and for the the ripe Puriri fruit. At our school the rainbow is a regular sight and we get the torrential rains just like when it rains in Samoa. Often the mornings are misty and our grounds become soggy so we have to look for alternative lunchtime activities for the children. Our school gardens are in the last stages of harvest and the gardening club plan for the next cycle of planting. The children are usually excited because it is also at this time that they prepare for our annual Matariki disco.

Sometimes events can suddenly happen to make you sit up and take notice.

Friday was no exception. We had an interesting day as a flow of speakers came through our school as part of early Matariki celebrations.

While the school was at assembly the first groups arrived and were greeted by our principal and deputy principal in a whakatau because our speakers and workshop presenters were immediate and extended family members of our school and local community.

Eilleen our deputy principal and of Te Rarawa descent organised the day as part of the Te Whanau Kotahitanga Maori enrichment programme and we were given a shared doc to choose activities that we could take some of our children to. Two relievers were brought in to tag teachers in and out of class so that they could take part and they could take some children from their class to attend the planned sessions.

During this same time our senior school had their Friday Discovery day where several children were part of the planned Masterchef cook off and today was their semifinals. At lunch time I had my usual Travelwise lunchtime group meeting where I had aimed to complete work for an upcoming global sharing celebration that my group are involved in as part of the ‘Week in the Life Project.’ We have worked towards this event for nearly two terms as part of preparation for an experience for learning student project I have planned to launch in terms 3 & 4.

The challenge I had is that several of my Travelwise children were involved in all three events. Sometimes events like this can throw all planning out the window. So after speaking with the children in the morning I readjusted on the day and worked with only one Travelwise student instead of my ten  to get a model up for the rest of my group.  Over the next week I will find time to support the others as they complete their part to share with our global audience via skype over the next few week.

As I worked with my usual English Language groups to complete work the computer system played up. I wanted to complete a piece of digital art with a few children but did not finish this. In between children I attended a few sections  of the Matariki activities. I attended three activities in the middle block. In the afternoon, I had agreed to share my journey about receiving my malu and missed seeing the other Matariki activities then too. I made sure that I finished a little earlier so that guests who had come to hear me would be back in time for the whaikōrero with Eilleen.

Our Maori students and teacher need acknowledgement of who they are and under the Treaty of Waitangi, they have the right to come together to celebrate their uniqueness with role models and senior members of their community. Friday was no exception because at our school we had a range of powerful role models join us for the day to mentor, guide and share their gifts with some of our students. On Friday our Maori teacher and students took charge of the day. They had their voices heard and had the opportunity to influence others.

So on reflection Matariki is about whanaungatanga and the chance for the whole school to come together to plan, collaborate and celebrate  this important event on the Maori calendar. We have focussed on whanaungatanga in the past with great success as can be seen shared on our school Matariki wiki. I also believe that an event like this allows us to reflect where we are up to on our commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi.

Other Links

To find out more about Matariki, visit our digital story on Issuu .

To find out about whanaungatanga visit our Matariki Wiki.

To find out about Maori enrichment at Newmarket School, visit Te Whanau Kotahitanga’s blog.

To read more about the Treaty of Waitangi visit ‘Waitangi Tribunal claim’, URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/maori-language-week/waitangi-tribunal-claim, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 8-Jul-2014