The DNA of a STEM Academy

2016-05-31 11.22.45

DNA of a STEM School

Amanda Fox

@AmandaFoxSTEM

The STEM Academy at Bartlett

Fox talked about the DNA of a STEM school, wearing a DNA inspired dress to do it. She talked about STEM as a trans-disciplinary approach, and talked about her journey over the last few year as a social science teacher, arguing that STEM had to change year after year.

It was interesting to hear about the journey; how she’d been involved in hiring and creating the team and the changes that had taken place in such a short time. I was interested I want to know more about how to make STEM actually work in a subject orientated culture. Some of the things she stressed were:

  • Adaptability. Don’t keep doing things that aren’t working
  • Content comes after you teach it for a while
  • Rigorous curriculum: Problem solving, trans-disciplinary, story-centred, real world
  • A story-centred curriculum
  • ‘Tell your story before someone else does it for you’

They set ‘grand challenges’ that run over nine week intervals, solving a problem like creating a ‘planetary rover’, renewing urban infrastructure. They used iTunes U courses and student worked through the course. Students also worked in teams, fostered community involvement and had on-site visits and field trips.

Session Details

STEM DNA: Design, Narrative, Application

We all know what STEM stands for…Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics…but what does it look like in action? How can you design transdisciplinary, problem based curricula that is unique to your school and community?

Amanda share the narrative of what it’s like to be teacher in a STEM public school; how we began; what is the curriculum, and how in just three years they have evolved to be considered THE top middle grades certified STEM program in the nation. Decode the genome of their transdisciplinary approach, and learn what you can transplant to your own program.

Amanda Fox, Film and Broadcasting Instructor, The STEM Academy (USA)

 

 

One model does not fit all

 

One model does not fit all

This session by Tamara Sullivan focused on professional development, and used sli.do to gather delegate feedback. One thing I’ve been focusing on is feedback tools and this was a new one to me.

Sullivan used the AITSL learning design model to frame professional learning at her school. They ask ‘what is the purpose of this PD, and is that clear to participants?’ She took us through the process her school had gone through in trying to instil 21C skills across the curriculum.

This bit became a bit specific to her school and her problem, but she was able to unpack it and think about the bigger principles, though those threads could have been made more explicit.

Some of the core principles and practice she talked about were:

  • Clear purpose, clear purpose to participants
  • Collaborative
  • The tools, features, design, accessibility
  • Taking a ‘flipped classroom’ approach to PD in lieu of physical attendance after school (highly collaborative, self-directed, respecting teachers as learners, aligned to priorities, sustainable, modelled 21C pedagogies and technologies.
  • Shared ownership of the change (6 leaders took a course and became mentors/coaches)
  • These coaches then made the ‘flipped’ modules, using Office Mix.
  • Teachers were then asked to do something practical with the learning – Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 responses.
  • One purpose was to MODEL their tools. As an Office 365 school they used Office Mix, Yammer, Mosaic and SharePoint. Yammer was important, she argued, in encouraging participation.
  • This learning was followed up with a survey (using Excel?) and a three hour whole staff workshop to look at practice: looking at action plans and auditing existing tasks and assessment.
  • Other factors: a Learning Innovations Committee (about 30 staff)

I liked this session. I had some things to take back to school. I was impressed with the strategic thinking involved and the respect for teachers as learners.

Session details

One model does not fit all – Professional development for the 21st century teacher

Educators around the world are undertaking school wide reforms to ensure that they are preparing students to live and work successfully in the 21st century and beyond. However, teacher professional development is not always designed or delivered to meet the needs of the 21st century teacher. So how can we restructure professional learning to ensure that all teachers are well equipped to cater for the needs of students in today’s environment? This presentation will explore practical strategies to transform professional development at a school level to develop the competencies of lifelong learning for both students and educators.

Tamara Sullivan, Dean of E-Learning, Ormiston College

 

 

Endless Possibilities (tinkering to Utopia)

Endless possibilities: Liberating mindsets to effect change

Anthony Muhammad, PH.D.

This was a nice start to the day, opening with the big questions: like why do we have a public school system (quoted Tinkering towards Utopia) though pretty US-centric for all that. (grade-point average, college enrolment data etc.)

Muhammad argued that change was necessary for equity (and the achievement gap) and there were two forms of change needed:

  • Techno-structural (skills)
  • Cultural (will)

He argued that the cultural stuff is by far the most difficult. Using a gardening metaphor, he described culture as the ‘soil’, the technology as the plants.

Muhammad was particularly strong against the US model of failing schools, failing teachers, standardised testing etc. ‘Don’t do it’, he said. Yay, I replied silently in my seat. He argued for a move from meritocracy to egalitarian systems, and gave examples of egalitarian systems that education might aspire to. (like medicine, law enforcement and fire services, some of which had big holes in them aka ‘black lives matter’)

He called for a change to change mindsets, and two clashing mindsets (the superiority mindset, and the victim mindset) Schools that have one, or both, of these mindsets, have very big challenges in trying to improve. Superiority mindset is based on paternalism, competition and ‘standard-bearing’ (my construct is the best, and the only construct through which I define myself and others) THe victim mindset has irresponsibility, low motivation and low expectations of self.

He concluded with a liberation mindset with three commitments:

  1. A commitment to equality
  2. A commitment to responsibility as educators
  3. Advocacy (Dont’ be silent, advocate)

It was a good, aspirational, optimistic big-picture session. A great start to the day and not a gadget or gizmo in sight.

Session description

Endless Possibilities: Liberating mindsets to effect change

This session will explore the connection between personal/ institutional mindsets and substantive change. Schools have historically had a difficult time changing with the needs of the society and the primary culprit is our thinking. Technology and innovation are only as effective as the mindset of the people who use them.

 

 

Fast and slow learners

Fast and slow learning at Amesbury

Some great principles from Amesbury School in NZ

  • Fast and slow learning (15 minutes)
  • Self-testing (Kahootz)
  • Status indicators: Red cup means ‘I’m in flow’ (Do not disturb) even in open space
  • Collaborative and solitude
  • Tents. Yes, tents.
  • One minute meditation (YouTube)
  • Online collaboration

Session Details

Paradoxical Education: Meeting the needs of our 21st century learners

As a new school which opened in 2012, Amesbury’s vision is for every child to continually fulfil his/her potential. This means every child gaining knowledge, skills and attributes; becoming “insiders” in the existing social orders – especially the community of learners; and, every student developing as an empowered and joyful human being. Lesley will share the pedagogical approaches that underpin what they do, and the practices that enable in eduation: “weak” and “strong”, ”risky” and “risk-free”, “predictable” and “unpredictable” – paradoxical education that meets the needs of 21st century learners.

Dr Lesley Murrihy, Principal, Amesbury School, Wellington (NZ)

 

 

Implementing an LMS

Implementing an LMS

Paul Mears (Firbank GS)

http://www.scoop.it/paulmears

@paulmears

Paul talked about

1 How to be strategic with human-centred design

2 selection process of an LMC

3 Implementing for success

This was interesting, beginning with a focus on ‘human centred thinking and design. ‘Opportunities, not problems’, which came out of Stanford.

He argued for ‘shadowing’, observation, interviews … and the importance of ‘student agency’ Bring the students in, give them respect and they’ll rise to the occasion.

When he talked to students the students hated the ‘mushrooms’ that had popped up with different teachers all doing their own things. They wanted to select a unifying LMS and shared the process they used to select that company. (Firefly)

Mears prefers ‘integrated learning platform’ to LMS, as the platform should integrate diverse things like YouTube, ClickView, Google Docs, PowerPoint

This was the most practical session I had for the day. Good advice, ‘The main thing is to make the main thing the main thing’

 

 

Flipped Learning Possibilities

Flipped Learning Session (Rupert Denton)

 

Flipped Learning Possibilities

Rupert Denton from ClickView talked about the possibilities of the ‘flipped classroom’, particularly in a context of an education system that is ‘failing’. (cue lots of graphs featuring PISA in full dive mode, alarm bells ringing, crew jettisoning ballast)

He cleverly used the work of Geoff Masters (what should we do to arrest the decline?), particularly ‘ensure every student has access to excellent teaching’, which aligned nicely to flipped classroom approaches.

It got a bit edgy when he compared the explosion in educational technology as a bit like the evolutionary explosion of life known as the Cambrian explosion.(see Wikipedia) He argued that, as in evolutionary terms, not all trees of life (or technology) will survive. One strand that he argued would survive is the ‘flipped classroom’.

Denton showed some of the emerging research around flipped learning (99% of teachers would use it again), one calling it ‘differentiation on steroids (Flipped Learning Network, 2012) and made several explicit links between ACER research and Flipped classroom approaches (flipped classrooms are shareable, so good teaching can be shared, and teachers can learn from other teachers about their own pedagogy.)

The Flipped Classroom

 

He then talked about the approach of ClickView in curating and gathering good content for Australian Curriculum approaches. He also shared some of the ‘value-add’ ClickView brings to video, like questions, annotations etc. as well as the teacher collaboration features that the platform has.

It was good to see this platform again and to see how some of the once competing threads of technology are coming together.

Rupert Denton is ‘a sceptical optimist’ who works for ClickView.

 

 

Terms and tools for engagement

Terms and tools of engagement

Andy Hargreaves has an ambivalent attitude to technology. He doesn’t own a smart phone (because he might use it!) and he talked about being critical thinkers about engagement and dis-engagement. ‘We need to be where our kids are’ (he said, sans mobile phone) He aimed to disturb our preconceptions, but this was a strong session, the third time (I think) that I’ve heard Hargreaves.

He argued that historically …

2000-2015 – The age of achievement (of testing, NAPLAN, a sense of urgency around achievement, literacy and numeracy) ‘Beating the odds’

2015-2025 – The age of engagement and wellbeing. To ‘changing the odds’.

This was a call for more engagement: 43% of students at high school are, to some degree, disengaged from their learning and showed the challenges of an ‘average’ class (mental disorder, bullying, parent separations, self-harm …)

Engagement is a challenge, especially now. (He talked about the needs of refugees). The job of educators is to take the kids where they are now, and move them forward. Before achievement comes engagement. Engage the kids as they are, not how we’d like them to be.

Six ways to improve engagement

  1. Architecture / School design (validating students through symbols)
    1. Curriculum
    2. Student voice
    3. Pedagogy – The future teacher will have less authority (around content) and more authority (the narratives from the ‘Ken Robinsons’ of the classroom: this seemed a weaker point)
    4. Technology – The Chromeboook and the climbing wall
    5. We have to stop disengagement – much of which comes about because of assessment.

Hargreaves ended by talking about teacher engagement; ‘A school that is good for a kid to be, has to be good for a teacher to be as well’


Session Details

Terms of Engagement

There is no genuine achievement without engagement. Too often, we have overlooked the importance of engagement as a condition and a companion for achievement. This presentation describes the need to pay more attention to student engagement, to understand what engagement actually means, to address its importance for adult as well as students, and to learn how to enhance engagement for all, with and without technology. Drawing on his current and development work, award winning author Andy Hargreaves will, in his characteristic fashion, get us thinking harder and differently about the role of engagement in our schools. 

Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair, Lynch School of Education, Boston College (USA)