Learning is....
Planting a seed in our brain... learning to
water, nurture and grow it.... so we ca
n live on the fruit of our learning
and plant more seeds.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

#edchatNZ Conference 2016 Reflection of Day One

One of the amazing things that has come out of the National led government killing off our former Advisory Service is how teachers started doing professional development for themselves - for teachers, by teachers.  Instead of having advisers who would run courses or possibly even visit you in your school to support a school wide PLD opportunity, we now have the online Science Hub and your school has to be in a contract to get any support for literacy or numeracy.

Into the vacuum came EduIgnites, Educamps and Twitter chats.  #edchatnz was started in 2012 by Danielle Myburgh aka @MissDtheTeacher as she felt isolated as a beginning teacher.  Danielle calls herself an introvert, and you can see her nerves as she stands in front of a large group of educators on a winter's morning in the brand new auditorium of the brand new Rototuna Junior High School, but she is also a passionate teacher who wanted to do the best for her students and so reached out to teachers across New Zealand and beyond.  She established #edchatnz, a fortnightly chat at 8:30pm on a Thursday for Kiwi teachers (and beyond). 

From that many other chats emerged for subject areas like English, Science and Maths... and a leaders' chat too.  At ULearn (a conference held in the first week of October by Core Education) there has been a Twitter dinner and this is a place where the #edchatnz participants often meet properly for the first time face to face, if they haven't already at an Educamp.  #edchatnz has also had two conferences, by teachers for teachers, in 2014 and this most recent one at Rototuna Junior High School in northern Hamilton on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th of August.  At $30 it will be the cheapest but possibly the most inspiring PLD you could do!!

There were so many people there from near and far.  Some of the participants came in large groups from their school, some in small groups and some were, as Danielle called us, Lone Nuts.  There were principals, teachers, support staff (two I knew already were a librarian and an IT technician), professional learning advisors, tertiary lecturers and some education industry personnel.

The conference was held at a school, starting on a Friday for a purpose.  Firstly, at the registration desk, after registering and being delegated a tribe (explained later), we were referred to some students from Rototuna Junior High School (aka RJHS) to be our tour guides and take photos on our phones of us in groups with an #edchatnz frame.  As I was registering I hear another person say her name, and I recognised it.  So I turned around and said hello.  What was even better was Melanie (yes, same name!) was also in my tribe.  Anyway, her is our selfie taken by one of the students.  (Is that still a selfie?)

So we gathered in the hall where Danielle did a welcome along with the principal of RJHS, Fraser Hill.  We heard some background from Danielle about how she established #edchatnz, her journey and the purpose of the conference: #possibilities.  We heard from Fraser about the ethos of his school and a bit of the journey in his welcome.

Afterwards we went to meet our tribe.  My tribe was #kotuku - they were all named after native New Zealand birds, which was cool.  Our tribe leader was Alex (@ariaporo22) who I have known for a couple of years though #edchatnz, Educamps, EduIgnites and ULearns, so it was lovely to have a friendly face.  Melanie, who I met at reception, @michaelteacher and @MSimmsNZ were people I had conversed with through #edchatnz on Twitter or through NZ Teachers on Facebook and were also in #kotuku.  There was also a high school English teacher who we didn't see much because she also had her school production in full swing and two teachers from a school north of Hamilton who were still getting to grips with Twitter, but soon recognised me from the NZ Teachers Facebook page (I'm on it far too much).

Soon it was time to head off to our first workshop.  There were also tours of RJHS, which would have been great to go on, because the place looked amazing, but I decided to get out of my comfort zone and go and learn more about Google Sites.  I have tried them once before a couple of years ago, but I found them rather frustrating.  And then I heard that Google was dumping the whole thing.

But now Google is revamping them.  Currently only certain schools have access to Google Sites, kind of as guinea pigs as they work out the bugs.  @steve_trotter was having a few technical difficulties with his laptop and the network, as I did too, but I brought a back up with me, so it was a slow start getting going.  We had a tu-tu with Google Sites under a username for a school he works at and that was interesting.  I thought it was an improvement over the previous Google Sites, but it still has a long way to go before I will be excited about using it.  There are still a few things that I did not find aesthetically pleasing, did not have enough choice or were fiddly to achieve.... but the bugs are still being worked out.

After lunch with the #kotuku tribe, there was a mix and mingle in the auditorium with a game of meet people Bingo.  This was how far I got in the time set.

We were also made aware of a set of challenges for us.  But to be honest, I was so busy meeting people, figuring out where I was and making sense of it all I forgot about these challenges... but some people did really well at them:


Are you ready to be an educational explorer? Complete these missions to open up the possibilities for yourself, your tribe and the others you interact with during the conference. Share your mission progress on #edchatNZ and check out what others have achieved so far as well.

New to Twitter Challenges

  • Help someone sign up to twitter and send their first tweet
  • Share a link that supports a presenter’s idea
  • Share something you were challenged by
Asking Questions
  • Tweet a question that made you think
  • Ask a question of a presenter
  • Write a question on a post it and place it on someone else’s property so they will find it later
  • Meet people from at least 10 different towns/cities
  • Chat to someone from Early Childhood, Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, and an Outside Provider
  • Get a Tribe Grelfie that shows something you all have in common
  • Get a Tribe Grelfie with the Rototuna eel
  • Make something with your tribe to represent yourselves to the rest of the conference (totem pole, secret handshake, sculpture, human pyramid…)
Have Fun
  • Make a sculpture with your food
  • Play a song loudly from your device that shows how you are feeling as you finish a workshop
  • Share one of your favourite edu quotes
  • Bust out your favourite dance move
  • Quote Star Wars in an educational discussion
Get Critical
  • Be the Devil’s Advocate: ask a question from a different perspective to make people think deeper and differently
  • Recommend a book that someone could read to learn more about a topic
  • Connect someone with a person who could help move their ideas forward
  • Give someone deep feedback about their idea/plans

Then it was off to the second session of workshops.  I went to a session run by the students of RJHS.  During this session the students explained the vision and expectations of the school.  They explained how the structure of their timetable worked, how they achieve credits and modules, and how they design their learning with a mentor teacher.  The students are expected to be aware of and track their own learning.  They also set us some tasks to do that they had done.  These tasks required us to use team work, think out of the box and communicate - and many more key competencies, which their programme revolves around.

The first task involved a set of nails.  We had to balance on one nail all the rest of the nails.  The first three photos below are our failed attempts in our group.

Below left is my attempt to sneak off another group what the finished product would look like.  Even then we couldn't do it and one of the students had to show us before we could do it ourselves, bottom right.  The student who showed us admitted their teacher had to give them lots of help.

There was also an activity with Lego.  Every group was given a box with Lego in it.  Every box had the same pieces, the same colour as each other.  Again we had to work in a group.  One person had to go to a table and look hard at the example made up and then come back to the group.  They had to tell the group what to do to make it, but they were not allowed to touch it.  After a couple of minutes, the students allowed a second group member to go up and look hard at the example and come back to tell us what to do.  This happened probably six more times, but even then a student felt the need to correct our group.  This was another great example on how to use the key competencies as a learning task.

So here we were getting all the pieces out and starting with the most memorable bits.  @ariaporo22 was telling us what to do first.

As you can see, we had to put on and take off a few times, as each new communicator picked up something the previous one had missed.  Also the students came and set us straight too when we were off tangent.

On the left is our final product, and on the right is the original model.  I think we did pretty well.  It was a fabulous oral language activity, not to dissimilar to barrier games for oral language.
Below are some photos of the things the students talked about in relation to their learning journey.

Next it was time for the students to go home and we headed for the auditorium where we were asked to put the chairs into groups of four and sit down for a face to face Twitter #edchatnz.  My group failed to hear some of the instructions, so stuffed it all up, but it was fun to move around and talk to different people on the questions set.

We had afternoon tea and then gathered in our tribes again with the goal to create something as a group to share with the conference the next day and to hopefully contribute to The Pond.

The day ended very late, and it was after 5pm when I really just had to go off to attempt to rescue a cat (that's another story elsewhere!)... and that is really all this blog post could possibly handle apart from me adding the Storify of pretty much every tweet about Day One of the #edchatnz 2016 Conference to the end of this post.  Day Two is another post in the writing....

Sunday, 28 August 2016

The HeART of the Matter - the Gordon Tovey Experiment.

On Friday I went to see a New Zealand Film Festival film at the Lido in Hamilton called The HeART of the Matter.  It was an afternoon showing, and I expected that I would be one of a very few members of an audience, but there were heaps of people there - probably reliving their long ago school days.  I had heard about the film while at the #edchatnz Conference the other weekend and as I am currently studying education policy, I thought this was worthy of seeing.

The film was about the programmes Gordon Tovey implemented, while under CE Beeby, as the head of Arts and Crafts in the Department of Education from 1946 until 1966.  You may be familiar with the work of Elwyn Richardson at the Far North school Orauti, which was part of what was known as the Far North project or experiment.

Part of the essence of the experiment was to nurture the creativity of children and allow them to explore and express themselves.  It was part of the child centred driven philosophy that emerged from the First World War and the Depression in the first Labour government's education policy to give children better opportunities.

This is from the New Zealand Film Festival website (see sources for links):

Luit Bieringa’s richly archived documentary examines the legacy of Gordon Tovey and the post-war education programmes that put art, artists, and Māori arts in particular, into the New Zealand classroom.

Under the leadership of a legendary director general of education, Clarence Beeby, the years immediately after World War II saw the most remarkable shifts in educational philosophy New Zealand had ever experienced.

Luit Bieringa’s documentary traces those changes and the army of men and women who worked to establish a thoroughly bicultural and arts-centred education system. Gordon Tovey, national supervisor of arts and crafts, and his team of artists and art specialists fostered the lively and colourful classrooms that New Zealand is familiar with today, in stark contrast to the rote-learning environments preceding them. Contributing art specialists included Cliff Whiting, Para Matchitt and Ralph Hotere. Critically, they ensured that aspects of Māori art such as kōwhaiwhai, kapa haka and waiata had a central place in our mainstream classrooms through in-depth consultation with Ngāti Porou kaumātua Pine Taiapa. Replete with archival interviews and little-seen footage, this film is likely to transport any Kiwi-educated boomer back to school, but its richly storied excavation of the past is as clearly pointed towards the future as once were its public-servant heroes.

“Given current challenges in education, and because this rich history is beginning to fade from living memory, ‘Tovey era’ stories need revisiting now more than ever… New Zealand needs a strong story that challenges the notion of the arts as a ‘frill’ in the educational process. Not arts or science – but both taught creatively for our children, students of all cultures, and the public at large to enhance and partake of the challenging future.” — Jan Bieringa

Gordon Tovey with his Art Specialists.  This photo is shown in
the film The HeART of the Matter.  See sources.
Tovey himself never trained as a teacher.  In his words, in the film, his teacher said he had "two options in life: become an author or become an artist; since your spelling is so poor, you'll have to be an artist."  So he did, and he was a good one.  He went to art school, after prompting from his aunt who was an artist, with Len Lye.  He also was a commercial artist, working for the railways in Britain to produce advertising posters and the like.

'Mitre Peak' from 1966 by Gordon Tovey  See sources.
It was in England where he met his wife, Heather, whom he married in 1930 and returned to New Zealand with.  Once back in New Zealand he became a tutor at Dunedin School of Art at King Edward Technical College in art, where he began to develop his own style of teaching.  In 1937 he was appointed as the head of the Art School at its new location where he pioneered programmes integrating art, music, movement and drama. 
When World War II broke out, his flat feet prevented Tovey from service overseas, so he insisted on painting camouflage for the army and was made an Intelligence Officer.  He was also appointed as a lecturer at the Dunedin Teacher Training College, but it was several years before he could be in this role full time.  While in this role he introduced programmes to "encourage the expression of creative imagination, which he believed held the key to both children and society fulfilling their potential."
These ideas caught the eye of the Director of the Department of Education, CE Beeby, who was revolutionising the New Zealand education system.  Beeby had become the Director of the Department of Education in 1940.  This was Beeby's belief for the New Zealand education system:

“Every person whatever his able ability, whether be rich or poor, whether he live in town or country, has a right as a citizen to a free education, of the kind for which he is best fitted and to the fullest extent of his power... That idea was deep in the public consciousness, deep in the public aspirations, and deeper still after the war. When again, like after the Depression, the country felt a sense of guilt for what they'd done for the young. And nobody! nobody! nobody would challenge that.” – Clarence E. Beeby, Director of Education 1940 - 1960

In 1946 Beeby appointed Tovey as the first head of the Arts and Crafts department in the Department of Education.  The seeds were sewn for Tovey's experiment in Northland.
The film explains how Tovey hand picked high performing students from various teacher training colleges, invited them to an interview and then had conversations with them about what they liked doing artwise.  He then selected a group to take to Dunedin to train as Art Specialists.
These Art Specialists were then sent all over the country to run workshops for teachers and do demonstrations in classrooms to encourage teachers to have the confidence to teach art.  This was part of Beeby's plan to change the appearance of classrooms in accordance with his modernisation of the education system.  Among these Art Specialists were people who came to prominence in New Zealand as artists in a variety of genre and media: Ralph Hotere, Katarina Mataire,

A still from a video in the film of students from the Far North with
instruments they have made, making their music.  See sources.
The film has these Art Specialists talking about their selection, training, work and relationships with Tovey.  They spoke of the high energy and the creativity that was demanded of them, the opportunity to explore their own art interests and develop their skills.  After their training they were sent around the country to devolve all they had learned to classroom teachers and students.

Students from schools in the Far North and the son of a set of teachers talk about their learning experiences as children involved in the project.  One gentleman is shown turning the pages of the infamous Elwyn Richardson book In the Early World identifying his classmates and discussing the creations in the pictures.  This brings in the student voice, maybe sixty years after the event, but these experiences stayed with the students of the schools involve in the Far North.

It also discusses how Tovey travelled to countries in the South Pacific to learn about their arts and crafts and institute similar programmes too.  It invigorated his desire to have more Mäori arts and crafts in schools as well.  Art and Craft for the South Pacific (1959) and The Arts of the Mäori (1961)were two books to come out of this.

A collaboration with celebrated Ngati Porou carver Pineamine Taiapa (above) was instrumental in getting Mäori arts and crafts into the arts syllabus.  Initially he faced some opposition.  Sir Apirana Ngata was opposed to promoting the arts of the Mäori, believing they should be learning to live, be educated and work in the Päkehä world.  But after Ngata's death, Tovey began to gain more traction with including the arts and crafts of the Mäori tradition into the art syllabus.

How did this film speak to me?

There were certain quotes and ideas in the film that spoke to me as I watched and listened, fascinated with how innovative it was for the age and wishing we had a similar freedom today.... lamenting what National Standards, standardisation and GERM has done to our classrooms and freedom as a teacher today.... remembering how this approach was still in vogue when I was at primary school and disappointed my nieces and nephews will not be experiencing this is the same way wee did.  So I did a wee bit of sneaky tweeting during the film (which was hard because heaps of people got there earlier than me and took up the back seats) and I a Storify:

A speech or lecture by Gordon Tovey is in the film, where he says "Unless a person has abrasiveness in their personality, they only have complacency" and that spoke to me.  Probably because I can be rather abrasive.  But it also spoke to me because I can not be complacent about the current state of our education system or education policy, which is why my Masters is specialising in Global Education Policy.  As a teacher, there are things I do and the way I achieve them I know work, but when they don't I know I have to find a better way to do it or that I need to approach it from a different angle.

An old interview with Beeby conducted by Ian Fraser was also included in the film to set the scene on education policy of the day.  Beeby talked about how determined the first Labour Prime Minister, Michael Joseph Savage, was to have a quality education system for everyone.  Beeby talked about how education for the masses scares the Tories (National) and is the first item to be cut.  Well, for all the current Prime Minister and Minister of Education say that they have put more money into education than every before, it is the cuts you can not see due to inflation and regulation that inflict a lot of damage currently.

"As a teacher you are an enabler, not a doer."  How often do we see parents and teachers doing it for the children nowadays?  I am a strong believer in demonstrating and then getting the kids to do it themselves.  And I could see this was the philosophy around training the Art Specialists so they could enable teachers to create and then teachers could enable students to create.  This is something I do a lot in my own class.  I demonstrate.  I train up certain students to be 'consultants' who 'boss' the others around so they can do it themselves.

The observation of one of the Art Specialists in the film that the advent of Tomorrow's Schools changed the Department of Education being dedicated to the needs of the children into the Ministry of Education which is dedicated to the whims of the Minster of Education educating children for an unknown future.  He lamented the role of Art Specialist evolving into being an advisor which then has disappeared into trying to win a contract.  Support and guidance for classroom teachers has evaporated.

Another Art Specialist felt the project was worth doing and if they had the choice to do it over again they would.  I feel that they were pioneers and our education system was the better for it.  I believe that this project enabled the children of the time to have that No.8 wire mentality that New Zealand became known for.

What does this mean going forward?

But I do feel we still have some of these pioneers in our education system today, people who are taking the values and essence of creativity and self expression of the Tovey era and taking it in a new direction:  Makerspace and Genius Hour. 

According to one definition, Makerspace is this:

Makerspaces, sometimes also referred to as hackerspaces, hackspaces, and fablabs are creative, DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn. In libraries they often have 3D printers, software, electronics, craft and hardware supplies and tools, and more.

Genius Hour can be described as:

Genius hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom.  It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school.

Essentially these ideas are reboots of what Tovey achieved in his time as the head of the Arts and Crafts Unit of the Department of Education with the support of Beeby.  Tovey empowered teachers, who in turn empowered students, to unleash their creativity.

My desire is to have the freedom that Tovey and Beeby empowered teachers with.  But with the National Standards as the Harry Potter Dementors spreading doom over our enabling New Zealand Curriculum many teachers do not have that empowerments.  Rather they are the slave of a data gathering machine - pretty much what Beeby was trying to move away from when he wrenched the education system out of the traditional British model of schooling.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Cartoons for the Rio Olympics

I am really lucky with the classes I get to go into, and last week I had another opportunity to do art with a Year 5/6 class.  Since the Rio 2016 Olympics were on and the current class topic, I based my art on that.  I thought for a quick, fun art topic we would do cartoons of athletes.

First of all I demonstrated some shapes for cartooning noses, heads, eyes, mouths and other body parts.  Then I gave the students about 15 minutes for some experimentation (see the pictures above).  When they were ready, they came and got an A4 piece of cartridge paper from me - the pre-requisite being that the cartoon athlete takes up the majority of the space so that I do not have to use my binoculars to see the character.

Naturally there were a few who wanted to stretch the brief.  Some asked if they could do an Olympic mascot and others asked if they could do an animal athlete, in line with a current writing task.  Who am I to stand in the way of creativity, so of course I agreed.


As the students started drawing their characters, some expressed concern that they "weren't very cartoon-like".  I reassured the students that, like artists, cartoonists each have their own style.  You could put a bowl of fruit in a room full of ten artists and they would all produce a piece of art from that bowl of fruit with their own take, I told them.  I also said that you can tell who has drawn a cartoon often from the style of drawing, so it was important for them all to bring their own style to their character.

As we progressed through, the students began to use jovis to bring their characters some colour.  While none of the students completed their characters while I was there, the idea was for them to use felts or sharpies to outline their characters to make the jovi and the character pop.



I talked to the students about how cartooning often uses exaggeration to create the look of the character.  This boy really used this idea in his character.

And then there are the kids who forget we are doing an Olympic athlete and turn them into an army mercenary - happens every time.

I think this one is a highlight for my day.  This boy drew a cartoon version of Mahe Drysdale.  It wasn't hard to figure out!!!

If this was my class, I would have been using my set of cartoon cards over several weeks to build up to this.  We would have practiced drawing different aspects of cartoon features, movements, shapes and ideas in a dedicated 15 minutes after lunch.  I wouldn't have squashed it into an hour like I had to do as a reliever.

Despite the short timeframe, I think these students did a great job, and I am hoping the next time I am back at that school I see the finished product.