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Mike Wilson's blogs

  • A partly flipped, blended classroom with paper and pens (the busy teachers way!)

    www.passbiology.co.nz - based fully in google sites.

    As a secondary teacher with 4 hours a week in front of my senior classes and what seems to be an ever growing curriculum and literacy requirement I have trailed many methods to make more effective use of my time and better prepare my senior students for their NCEA examinations. I love the idea of the flipped classroom but dont have the time to make online video tutorials and activities. I thought there must be a better way!

    My view on effective ICT use in the classroom is constantly changing though one thing has remained constant. No matter how attached a student is to their device or online blended world the assessment they sit is still in the hall or classroom, at a desk, with a pen and paper. Any electronic device is banned and this seems to be sticking around for the foreseeable future. Now of course there are exceptions for some internal assessments but even in these cases the internet browser stays in the bag. On top of this in my subject the external literacy requirement has increased to the point of 9 hand written essays in 3 hours and this is Biology, traditionally a practical based subject.

    Now it’s definitely not all doom and gloom but what it does mean is that quite a few ICT initiatives around the country are being put in place for the wrong reasons for the current secondary environment. Learning should drive everything in education. If a device/ app or online tool increases the achievement and learning outcomes of a student then it should be used. Having a class set of tablets is great but only if there is a learning need to be met and as much as my students would hate to admit, being engrossed in a shiny online app with amazing sound effects does not increase their ability to structure a scientific essay about the trends leading to bipedalism in primates. What it does do though is provide a stimulating way to learn the scientific content in a more interactive and contextual way, at their own pace, in their own time.

    The online world in my subject area is huge, there are multiple countries education departments producing interactive tools, videos and websites that are relevant to the NZ biology curriculum. Amazing educators ranging from the Khan academy to Paul Anderson, an American biology teacher make streaming lessons that are amazing and useful for senor students. New Zealand teachers are all making the same resource multiple times in their own private classroom online space and I would love to see a less competitive resource sharing being undertaken amongst teachers.

    So how have I approached this problem? After surveying my classes I quickly realized they had a 100% ownership of browser capable devices and the vast majority had broadband at home.  Where this was not the case the schools internet could be used. I wanted to provide a platform where students used their own initiative to drive their own learning and the classroom to be a time where building skills, discussing ideas and working on assessment relevant problems could take place and also a place where the confusion of the internet could be aligned to the secondary standards I was teaching. I still wanted to teach important concepts and make sure my students were confident in the paper and pen literacy requirements of the subject so aspects of the flipped classroom model seemed to be the way to go. I originally started with a closed environment in our schools Moodle. However, this I found clunky and the students found the need to log in and find the course all they needed to put them off accessing the content. To get around this I purchased a domain name and after trying Weebly and getting frustrated settled onto Google sites due to its integration with YouTube and ease of site creation. Also making the site public and watching the user numbers increase has motivated me more to add to the site which was an issue with the Moodle site. As I am not creating the majority of the content the time it has taken to construct has not been that high. I would say similar to making a single animation that I have linked to.

    My students use the site for revision and homework tasks. They are prompted to work through the area and view the videos and in the lesson I refer back to these. Paper and traditional textbooks have a place in my classroom but students can instantly have access to the website through their devices, they do not need to login and can be viewing.  The flipped classroom has some limitations and I am hesitant to rely on it fully as the medium for learning content but following this model has been beneficial for both my students as their online learning is more directed and others as they can also gain from the site for their own learning.  I hope to continue to build it into a useful resource for all New Zealand Biology students. Currently the site is being visited over 200 times a day and this spikes to the thousands in the weeks leading up to exams, well worth the effort!

  • Hi all, 

    We are a late adopter of wireless within our school (not necessarily a bad thing) and I am hoping to learn from those who have recently moved/ long term wireless users. If anyone could answer the following questions/ comment on them it would be excellent.

    My email is mwilson@shgcham.school.nz if its easier to contact me that way. I was going to use a Google form but this way lets other sees the discussion. Thanks in advance!

    What was the learning problem(s) that you were trying to solve and made you invest in wireless?

    Who have you used as a wireless consultant? Did you find this consultant useful? Would you recommend them to others?

    What brands have you gone with? Are you happy with this choice?

    What devices are you using on your network?

    How did you gain community buy-in with your wireless/ Byod upgrade?

    If you were to do this exercise again, is there anything you would do differently?

    How has the use of wireless changed teaching and learning here?


  • I have been reading in the news the last few weeks an issue involving Cyber Baiting.  This seems to involve a long drawn out process in where teachers are baited in an attempt to generate a "reaction" that is then filmed and uploaded to Youtube or shared around social networking sites.

    The research was based on US teachers and Norton (a virus/ shareware busting company) published the results. It says 3 out of 10 teachers are being involved in some sort of innapropriate conduct, be it via social networks or this cyber baiting. The statistical pool was only 100 teachers so I actually doubt the numbers are as high as they are stating but I could be wrong.

    One "commenter" to the newstory wrote the following:

    "Many years ago, the video of a teacher lambasting a student was posted on the Internet. (A classmate had surreptitiously filmed the episode).

    The teacher was furious with the student because he had done his assignments perfunctorily and his work attitude was abysmal. She tore the assignments and ordered him to redo them assiduously and responsibly.

    I watched the video three times. Were I the parent of that student, I would be grateful to that teacher. She was responsible and caring: She went the extra mile to inculcate proper work attitude in that student."

    This brings up a few issues in terms of bringing video and camera capaple devices (BYOD) and also using social networks such as Facebook as a tool within our teaching. Another statistic release was that 1/4 of teachers are friends on social networks with their students. This also brings up  another set of risks.

    How are schools approaching this matter and do you have a specific rules in your codes of conduct covering the use of social networks for your staff?  

  • It's interesting that you don’t see a great deal of research or discussion into how the model of assessment will change now with technology becoming such powerful influence in both our social and working lives. As life is getting more complicated it seems the single subject approach is becoming less relevant. There are some excellent tools helping with assessment such as Eportfolios but my thinking is slightly more radical, school structures. As much as we hate to admit it, the senior school is based 100% around assessment of content/skills based on content, devided into seperate subject areas.

    I recommend watching the following video:


    Some of NCEA's new alignment tasks are opening up to more "skills based" assessment model that leads perfectly to a more critical thinking approach in terms of learning.  Even with this, some teachers at least in core subjects are stuck having the need to "memorise and understand" a key set of information.  Is the information or the skill sets to filter the ever increasing information bank (the www) more important? Maybe we need to focus on both?

    It is also great to see some secondary schools creating more project based courses that no longer are categorized into subjects, the blended model of subject areas into a single course is an exciting aspect of the NCEA system and going towards what primary schools have been doing for years without the overarching eyes of assessment.

    I see cross curricular project based courses as being the future for at least part of a student’s schooling, especially for the lower ability secondary school students. I still think there will be a need the traditional style of classroom

    Is anyone out there successfully trying this model and if so how did you organise it in terms of timetables and teachers? Should we be modelling the tertiary environment or our actual lives?

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