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FORUM: What does innovation look like in your school? | An Enabling e-Learning event

Started by Nathaniel Louwrens 16 Mar 2016 9:24am () Replies (81)

Innovation in schools of any type needs to start with the idea that the goal is not to force kids to abandon their passions and interests for our curriculum.

- Will Richardson, Stop innovating in schools. Please.

blue orange Dictionary.com defines innovation as:

  1. Something new or different introduced

  2. The act of innovating; introduction of new things or methods.

There is so much innovation going on in our schools. Leaders and teachers are coming up with new ideas, and new ways of doing things all the time. But what innovation looks like to one school could be completely different for another as each school has different goals and philosophies.

George Couros states in Innovation and best practice, that his “belief is that innovation in teaching and learning starts with empathy; truly trying to understand those that you serve.” He expands on this to say that it’s “not only a starting point, but a continuous part of the process”.

As with all things in schools, we need to ensure that student learning is foremost on our mind. This includes in how we innovate. Will Richardson made this very clear when he says,

To put it simply, innovation in schools today is far too focused on improving teaching, not amplifying learning.

 

Join the discussion

  • What does innovation look like to you?

  • What does innovation in your school look like?

  • Are the innovations in your school amplifying learning? If so - how?

  • How is digital technology supporting innovation in your school?

  • Where do the tensions/challenges lie if any?

 

Image source: Thom Lunasea - Flickr CC BY-2.0

 

Replies

  • Jenny van der Merwe (View all users posts) 12 Jun 2016 3:33pm ()

    Kia Ora, My name is Jenny Keber. I am the Deputy Principal at Mission Heights Primary School and a member of the NAPP 2016 cohort. The quote from Will Richardson about not forcing kids to abandon their passions and interests for our curriculum particularly resonates for me on this topic, as our ACE program that I detail below is all about students finding their passions and interests.

     

    Innovation at our school has many faces, but I am going to single out our flagship, customised-learning ACE program for particular attention. Since our school’s inception in 2009, it has had an ACE (abilities, curiosities, and essentials) program that runs one hour per day, three days per week. All students, from Y1 to Y6 make a choice at the beginning of the term about which 3 ACEs they want to attend that term. Each day has approximately 40-50 options for students to choose from. For instance, Joy may decide that she will take Kapa Haka on a Tuesday, Mathex on a Wednesday, and Basketball on a Thursday. She will attend each one once a week, getting 10 hours in total of each subject across the term. The engagement and agency of the students is off the chart. When you see Y1 students confidently marching off to the other side of the school to attend a class with different students of different ages and a completely new teacher, you know that you are on the right path.

     

    When I first came to MHP in 2011 as a senior leader, I was quite unconvinced about this program. First of all, it takes place in the middle block (11:30-12:30), affecting my long tradition of teaching reading, writing and maths through the first 2 blocks of the day. Why wasn’t the program in the afternoon - where the unimportant subjects are placed? How was I supposed to get all the learning I needed to do done, with 3 hours of my week being removed from my control? But as my principal has said all along, if you put it in the afternoon, or only run it on a Friday, then it signals to the whole community it’s not important learning.

     

    Over the years the program has improved immeasurably. The quality of the delivery of ACE subjects by both teachers and outside experts has increased, with a greater emphasis on innovative practice. All students are required to take an essential. For students that are at risk of not achieving in numeracy and literacy they are required to take an intervention ACE that target these areas. Teachers are strongly encouraged to deliver these subjects in an innovative way - after all, the normal classroom practices have clearly not being working for these students. We try and steer away from ACE teaching that becomes just like classroom teaching but even slower, louder, and longer. We encourage innovative practices by highlighting and discussing things people have tried, and how we can take these new ideas back to our ‘normal’ classroom programs. Employing external educators also give the students a chance to explore subjects that their teachers don’t have expertise in, or the resources for. For example, over the last term we have had a robotics ACE and a design ACE that involves the use of a 3D printer. In both these cases, a teacher has buddied up with the external educator so they can learn these subjects as well.

     

    The system to design ACEs that the students want to take each term, balance the courses across the days, co-ordinate with external facilitators, and monitor the selections is a massive job. You have to be willing to put in a lot of hours of effort and resources to get a program like this to work effectively in a school of 700 students and 30 teachers. Each term the system is refined in some way.

     

    We have looked at different ways we can monitor the impact of ACE on student achievement. Anecdotally, we have seen some big shifts in student learning. However, because you can not isolate what a student has learnt in an ACE program from what they’ve learnt in the class program (or out in the community), you can not be definitive about what has caused the shift. We generally assume that all the different factors play a part. What we can measure is student engagement and student enjoyment with learning. Our annual surveys have over 99% of the students responding that they are extremely happy with the ACE programs.


    While the amount of effort and resources required to get a program like this running effectively is immense, I am now a complete advocate for it because of the benefits it provides for student learning and agency. It allows innovative practice while allowing students to find their interests, strengths and passions.

  • janined (View all users posts) 12 Jun 2016 7:11pm ()

    Hi Jenny

    This sounds amazing!  What a great way to provide a curriculum for your students that is owned by them.

    Do you think it would work on a smaller scale?  We are a smaller school with only 200 children.

    Currently each team block out 1 and half hours each week for KORU time which relates to our school values.  In this time the teachers provide opportunities for the students to solve complex problems together more often than not with a stem focus or using stem as a vehicle.  Some teams have also started to bring in passion projects into this time slot.

    We are still developing this as we only began on this journey this year.

    Thank you for the inspiration

  • Leah Boldero (View all users posts) 12 Jun 2016 4:59pm ()

    Hi Jenny

    I've enjoyed reading your post.

    At our school the senior class (year 4 - 8) do what we call passion projects as part of their home learning.  I was thinking how amazing some of these projects have been this term, and how we could/should be incorporating more of this passion into our curriculum. Which was reinforced by your opening statement.

    I was thinking about how we could incorporate some kind of programme like your ACE programme into our school And yes I was going to fall into the trap of once a week on a Friday.  One main reason was going to be because of that view as you outlined, breaking into "Valuable Teaching Time".  I have a teacher who is often dropping comments that due to school interruptions, she hasn't done reading groups, or her student achievement will be effected.

    My other concern is how would 6 teachers provided enough options for 125 children to get results like you outlined.  Many years ago we tried to enlist parents, but found that was a big commitment for many parents, and with so many working parents didn't really work.

    The other big question would be how is it going to amplify learning?

    I would be interested in learning more about the options

    "for students that are at risk of not achieving in numeracy and literacy they are required to take an intervention ACE that target these areas."

    How are these students identified, do they know they are at risk and told one of your options this term must be ....

    Anyway thank for sharing how successful your ACE programme has been, even though it may not be measurable for reading, writing, maths, sounds like its definitely benefiting in other areas of learning.   

  • Angela Botherway (View all users posts) 12 Jun 2016 5:09pm ()

    Kia Ora Jenny

    I really like the concept of ACE. Our school uses Individual learning plans. I plan to start using this concept when our Akonga plan their up-coming week out on a google document.

    How do you help students acknowledge their weaker areas? Or do you discuss this during catch up planned times with the student? 

    Thanks Angela 

     

  • Jenny King (View all users posts) 14 Jun 2016 10:49pm ()

    What does innovation look like at our school? 

    What can we do to hook in those children who have not succeeded with our previous programmes?

    What we have been doing for many is very successful but not so for those identified as our target kids. So we have gone to the "think outside the box." Innovation is anything a teacher wants to try that is different to capture those kids. 

    Currently we are encouraging all of our staff to have mixed ability, often randomly selected groupings. Flexi needs based groupings where children opt in and out as they need support. This innovation draws a large amount of discussion from some of our junior teachers as it questions the ability based small group teaching strategies that many use for teaching reading and numeracy. 

    Growth Mindset Thinking classrooms are also where we are currently identifying indicators of what we will see in our classrooms from teachers and students when we have Growth Mindset principals being supported. We would like to move to having all our classrooms teaching Growth Mindset thinking skills and promoting the ideals, language and culture of the classroom that this requires.

    Problem solving approach to learning is what we are encouraging our teachers to work on, currently as a beginning step for many with our maths PD but moving to many other areas also. 

    Student Directed Learning in my Year 4 class allows students to choose their topics and design their questions to investigate their own interest areas with an emphasis on investigating widely. The kids are encouraged to email and contact experts and visit them where possible. This was my innovation 3 years ago and has begun to spread across the school in different forms as teachers adapt it to suit their groups of students. Every Friday my class spend the day on their SDL. Fridays are the days that they kids are super excited about as they have complete control over their learning. Initiated by individual Year 4 students we have had  interviews with experts in many areas, a student spent time learning to draw plans with an architect,  a visit and show from the NZ Police dog handlers, Airport Beagle dogs visit, 2 students visit Te Papa to have a discussion with a palaeontologist, and a visit to a vet to see them in action - to name just a few. The reporting back to the class then excites the others students to try similar things and in some cases all the students have enjoyed the shows and displays. 

    So SDL is one innovation for our school that amplifies learning for our students. The  other innovations are around teacher practice to provide learning culture that can foster and then amplify learning.  

  • Tim Carson (View all users posts) 22 Jun 2016 9:23pm ()

    For 2 days a week I am the Director of Music at Dilworth Rural Campus (Te Haerenga) opened on the site of the former Hotel du Vin at Mangatawhiri in the North Waikato for around 90 boys for the entirety of their year 9 experience. Most have already been at the Dilworth Junior Campus for 2–4 years, although up to 25 have not previously attended Dilworth. All boys are boarders and, as is the case with all Dilworth boys, are on a full scholarship. The philosophy of the campus is to facilitate a year-long journey that encompasses all aspects of each boy’s development through learning in the academic, outdoors and social living environments. Boys are on site for 12 days at a time and during their time with us they spend two days in the outdoors doing activities such as tramping, sea kayaking, cycling and rock climbing, among others. They also spend eight days in the classroom doing subject-based learning with a focus on experiential and strengths-based pedagogies. An additional two half-days are spent doing project-based learning. Over the past four years various strategies have been in place to try to provide the boys with as integrated a learning experience as possible at the campus. One of the goals of the campus is to move to a 50-50 model of fully integrated and subject-based learning by 2017. The key competencies, in particular, have involved a focus for collective planning. However, after the first two years we came to a point where we felt that we were only scratching the surface of providing a truly integrated learning experience that enabled them to make real connections to context and to the real world. In the middle of 2014 there was a teacher only day  to focus on how we could engage students more in genuine cross-curricula contexts. This was a tough day of open and frank discussion but at the end of the day we arrived at a framework that everyone felt was a good way forward and would benefit student learning.

    It was decided that we would offer, during Term 4, a three-phase inquiry, teaching skills nominated by each learning area but taught by a cross-curricula team of teachers based on a careers/disciplinary context. Students would choose one of four contexts offered, each with a different focus. The contexts offered were: science, technology, engineering, arts and maths (STEAM); society, arts and culture; the natural world; and sport and hauora. Each group used their context to teach the skills as determined by subject teachers.

    For example, the STEAM group I was involved with last year chose to investigate the spread of infectious diseases. The lessons began in a memorable fashion, with a ‘corpse’ that was ‘infected’ with the fictional disease ‘zomitis’, (a disease with zombie-like symptoms) found on the campus, leading to an investigation into the causes and possible cures, as well as modelling the spread of the disease. Highlights that stood out were the strategic and collaborative skills shown by students who battled to survive the disease at Laser Tag; the statistical inquiry into the spread of the disease on a cruise ship; the flash mob dance (performed to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’) reflecting the anatomy and physiology of the symptoms of the disease; and the creation of an emergency broadcast to inform and reassure the public of New Zealand. The success of this year’s programmes was evident in student feedback gathered near the end of the three-week period. There are still issues that we are grappling with such as how to assess the skills that have been taught in an authentic way but we are looking to expand this method of teaching and learning in the future and I am enjoying the animated discussions with colleagues about what we might do this year.

  • kiri laing (View all users posts) 22 Jun 2016 10:36pm ()

    Nga mihi koutou katoa, Ko Kiri toku ingoa, no te Kura takawaenga o Kerehana ahau (Kelston Intermediate) 

    ·       What does innovation look like to me?  What does innovation in your school look like?

    At Kelston Int we have been on a journey through innovation using our strengths, as a school we have found one of our strengths is in our culture. With a school make up of mostly  Samoan, Maori, Tongan, Cook Island, Fijian, Indian, Nuiean, Middle Eastern, Filipino, Tuvaluan, African, Asian, Soth East Asian, Japanese and Polish. With so many cultures and diverse ethnic groups we wanted to use these as assets to strengthen our relationships with our community so we give culture and social aspects in our school the same mana (strength) as we give academic aspects. How do we do this? Through knowing who we are (Tatou, Matou, ahau - Us, we and I) and being proud of Pasifika, NZ, Auckland, West Auckland, Kelston and myself, placing importance on the different heritages, languages, cultures, voices (waiata) and traditions that we have in one classroom and spending 5 weeks getting to know who each member in each classroom is and celebrating this with our whanau and community. Each person holds mana for who they are. I know this is not a new concept but creating an inquiry using design thinking around this is where new learning has taken place for us.  

     

    ·       Are the innovations in your school amplifying learning? If so - how?

    We have seen an increase in our student’s confidence, in the way they speak about themselves, their whanau, their peers and their community. They articulate how they feel, what they want and where they want to head in their future, their social awareness has risen of how society and media feels about them as a culture and as individuals and how they and others justify who and how they fit into society.

     

    ·       How is digital technology supporting innovation in your school? Where do the tensions/challenges lie if any?

    Social media and youtube are platforms to share experiences with pros and cons. As educators we need to give advice, share experiences and teach our students the good, the bad and the ugly of these platforms and try to enhance what is a reality for our tamariki.

    These tools can motivate and aggravate issues and situations so educators must use them positively and become involved in the positive.  

  • kiri laing (View all users posts) 22 Jun 2016 10:36pm ()

    Nga mihi koutou katoa, Ko Kiri toku ingoa, no te Kura takawaenga o Kerehana ahau (Kelston Intermediate) 

    ·       What does innovation look like to me?  What does innovation in your school look like?

    At Kelston Int we have been on a journey through innovation using our strengths, as a school we have found one of our strengths is in our culture. With a school make up of mostly  Samoan, Maori, Tongan, Cook Island, Fijian, Indian, Nuiean, Middle Eastern, Filipino, Tuvaluan, African, Asian, Soth East Asian, Japanese and Polish. With so many cultures and diverse ethnic groups we wanted to use these as assets to strengthen our relationships with our community so we give culture and social aspects in our school the same mana (strength) as we give academic aspects. How do we do this? Through knowing who we are (Tatou, Matou, ahau - Us, we and I) and being proud of Pasifika, NZ, Auckland, West Auckland, Kelston and myself, placing importance on the different heritages, languages, cultures, voices (waiata) and traditions that we have in one classroom and spending 5 weeks getting to know who each member in each classroom is and celebrating this with our whanau and community. Each person holds mana for who they are. I know this is not a new concept but creating an inquiry using design thinking around this is where new learning has taken place for us.  

     

    ·       Are the innovations in your school amplifying learning? If so - how?

    We have seen an increase in our student’s confidence, in the way they speak about themselves, their whanau, their peers and their community. They articulate how they feel, what they want and where they want to head in their future, their social awareness has risen of how society and media feels about them as a culture and as individuals and how they and others justify who and how they fit into society.

     

    ·       How is digital technology supporting innovation in your school? Where do the tensions/challenges lie if any?

    Social media and youtube are platforms to share experiences with pros and cons. As educators we need to give advice, share experiences and teach our students the good, the bad and the ugly of these platforms and try to enhance what is a reality for our tamariki.

    These tools can motivate and aggravate issues and situations so educators must use them positively and become involved in the positive.  

  • Andrew (View all users posts) 25 Jun 2016 11:34am ()

    Innovation at our school comes in small ways but is always celebrated when it recognized to raise student achievement.  It is expressed firstly in the desire of the teachers to know their students, and based on an ever growing relationship of mutual respect and trust, try new and creative ways to enhance learning by bring new or different ways to try something.

    As a school beginning to run the CrackerJack Kids programme for Physical Education, Health, combined with  a strong values focus, the first thing I have learnt is the power of shared language.  This common language growing across the school from Year 1-8 includes statements like “We are winners in life when we are better than before” and “Attitude changes everything”.  As mentioned by Dr Cheryl Doig in her talk about schools developing e-learning shared language is so important to move ahead together.

    It is as we see the power of the shared language moving beyond CJKs lessons into every curriculum area and with it the values bringing behaviour and learning changes in our students that I have come to recognize the power for a culture change at our school.

    Teachers must constantly adapt the teaching for each module to accommodate the needs and individuals of each class to make this work and so innovation, in a small way, is being constantly practiced.   It is through the effective questioning of what the students themselves have discovered that identifies if learning has indeed taken place.

    One area of technology that I have found to be an effective tool in my Year 3-4 class is the individualized “STEPS 2” spelling programme.  Used a couple of time a week as part of my Literacy programme students work independently using laptops on their own identified levels and with a variety of activities to choose from.  The children work at their own pace and are easily monitored for coverage and growth in learning through the administrator’s access.

    Choosing to have gender grouping (mixed ability) in reading this past term has also proved valuable to this class.  I was a little nervous to give it a go but mid-year results seem to have proved that it has worked and the children like it too. Daring to be innovative!

    I believe a constant teacher inquiry based culture where teachers are growing in becoming reflective practitioners asking “What do I do more of? less of? and how can I do it differently?” will give our students greater learning opportunities.  Let’s keep sharing what works, change it and make it your own.

  • Steph Kitto (View all users posts) 26 Jun 2016 9:12pm ()

    Kia ora, my name is Steph Kitto. I am the junior syndicate leader and ICT lead teacher at Clyde Primary School and a member of the NAPP 2016 cohort.

    I have enjoyed reading through this thread and finding out about the ways that schools around the country are exploring innovation within their school context.

    Recently I read George Couros book called ‘The innovator’s Mindset’ and would highly recommend it.  In his book he states that "Our job as leaders is to make sure that innovation isn’t simply a word but a mindset that intentionally and consistently shapes our daily practice."

    If we want innovative learners then we need to become innovative educators. Innovation starts with questioning and challenging assumptions. It is about creating something new and better.

    Innovation is about being brave and taking risks, but also importantly is about learning from failures and not giving up. This reminds me of a quote by John Dewey ...

    Teaching as Inquiry is a good starting point to encourage teachers to begin asking questions, taking some risks, trying new things, and become more reflective.  Timperley, H. (2014) states "Creating the conditions in schools and learning settings were curiosity is encouraged, developed and sustained is essential to opening up thinking, changing practice and creating dramatically more innovative approaches to learning and teaching."

    When trying anything new there is the risk of failure. The important thing is to learn from setbacks and to keep going. It’s important not to give up and revert back to the way we have always done things. 

    I agree with what others have said in this thread, that it is important to have a strong moral purpose, to know that ‘what’ and ‘why’ of ours actions and innovative ideas, as these serve to guide us to lead transformational change.

    Last year I was lucky enough to be part of the Core Education eFellows programme and spent the year exploring the questions I had around how to encourage and nurture curiosity in the early years of schooling. Through this inquiry process I learnt that in order to innovate you have to start by challenging your own assumptions. I also learnt that the journey of transformation and change is not always shared by everyone. Innovation is always judged.  With new innovations it is not always easy to keep the momentum going..... you need to truly believe in what you a doing and why.

  • Judy Panapa (View all users posts) 27 Jun 2016 1:32pm ()

    What does innovation look like in your school?

    Teaching as Inquiry has been the catalyst for change at our school. PLCs are well structured to keep our focus on student achievement for ALL Learners, especially our priority learners: 

    Priority learners are groups of students who have been identified as historically not experiencing success in the New Zealand schooling system. These include many Māori and Pacific learners, those from low socio-economic backgrounds, and students with special education needs.

    ERO (August 2012)

    http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/Priority-learners 

    Through TAI, teachers develop agency to make the necessary changes to their practice in order to meet the needs of their learners in a collaborative way where expertise knowledge and resources a pooled together. TAI encourages teachers to experiment with new approaches to their work, affirming what works for who and why, think critically about the relationship between teaching-learning and to be open to new ideas. Outside facilitators support our strategic direction by 'adding value' to our collective knowledge and expertise skills.

    At our school there has been a significant growth in teachers' mindsets as recorded in PLC minutes and as teacher-talk - display these and have staff refer back to these in further reflective dialogue.

    There is emerging evidence our school is evolving into an effective learning space by: 

    • Make learning and engagement central
    • Ensure that learning is social and often collaborative
    • Be highly attuned to learner motivations and emotions
    • Be acutely sensitive to individual differences
    • Be demanding for each learner but without excessive overload
    • Use assessment consistently with learning aims, with a strong emphasis on formative feedback
    • Promote horizontal connectedness across the activities and subjects, in and out of school.

    https://www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/50300814.pdf The Nature of Learning stated how each of these principles should be present in any learning environment in order for learning to be truly effective.  

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