Be open and creative and good ideas can flow

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I was chatting to LibrarianSarah M. in the Library recently about the Mass furniture in the Sanctuary in The Centre. I told her that I noticed she did not push the Altar Table or the Lectern into a corner when school resumes each Monday. She told me that she leaves it in place and the children do not go up to the top level. A few things arose from this conversation:

I thought it was very respectful of Sarah and her staff to adopt that attitude. Sometimes when spaces are shared, people can be a bit territorial.
It gave me the idea that more than just leaving the furniture in place, we could put it to good use.
I think the Sanctuary area could be used as Sacred Space or a Chapel until we build our Chapel onto the Pope John Paul 11 Hall in the future.
We can make a feature of the Word of God with the Bible opened on the Altar during the week.
We will add moveable vinyl cushions on the lower step to invite to kneel or sit comfortably in prayer or reflection
Class groups could visit the Sacred Space to listen to the word of God in word or music
We the staff, could use the space for staff Prayer
And many more possibilities

“Magic” Screens, new ways of presenting and sharing learning

Ten years ago when we were installing the latest form of presentation technology at the time, the so-called “interactive Whiteboards” we were removing the “old” fixed static White Boards. When the staff were lifting off the White Boards from the walls, in some places lo and behold they found their predecessors ..blackboards.

As it happened, we quickly found that the Interactive Whiteboards were not so interactive after all. Four years ago we moved to Screens which truly enabled learning interactivity among stakeholders adult and children alike.

The introduction of the screens was preceded by establishing an extensive wireless network which we saw as an essential element in launching the emerging technologies which we could forsee in the future. The trends were clear, miniturisation and portability of devices and a focus on the personal rather than shared devices.

It is interesting in education that there is often a gulf between the perceived purpose of an innovation and the actual outcome in schools. One of the traps for the unwary seems to be when technologies are developed and schools try to fit themselves around them.

In our case the screens fitted hand in glove with our pedagogical predispositions. We went looking for the screens not the reverse where someone sought to sell something to us. In one sense we wanted to wrest the chalk from the hands of the teacher and share it around a bit.

These days children and adults use the screens seamlessly to present and share their learning. The various learning areas have access to a range of screens of different sizes placed in various positions. We have an outside screen beaming information out to the community, a huge screen in the Hall suitable for sharing learning with large groups.

I was anxious that the screens should not be a simple electronic substitution for the previous static forms of presentations. We wanted to move from pedagogy which operates basically the same way it did before computers were developed to pedagogy which simply unattainable without computers. In this we way we are being truly transformational. As Ruben Puentedura describes the process it is about moving the use of technology from Substitution to Augmentation to Modification and finally to Redefinition (Known a the SAMR Model)

Interestingly, other schools who resisted our early promotion of using screens in the classroom are now taking them up. The real challenge, as I say, is allowing the students to use the technology to be resilient agents of their learning.

 

 

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Figure 1.  The screen in my office to which a five year old referred recently announcing he was going to bring in his device, connect to the screen and show me his learning

The latest iteration in the use of Screens is to use the new Samsung magic info which enables dynamic imaging of learning in a class controlled by a teacher loading and storing images on the network and using to post images celebrating learning achievements or providing provocations for new learning.

All learners at Holy Family use their devices (iPhones, iPads and Laptops) to connect wirelessly via Apple TV to share and celebrate their learning. The screens proliferate in our school with three in most learning areas, some in leaders rooms and large LED screens strategically placed for large audiences and lots of ambient light.

 

Speaking of feeling at home in Church….

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Recently there was a meeting of generations in my home Parish when my youngest son acted as Sponsor for my oldest grandson at his Confirmation.

It was lovely when our Parish Priest Fr Michael welcomed the whole family casually but warmly as we assembled in a pew near the front of the Church. “G’Day boys” he said to my teenage boys. (not many teenage boys go to Church I’ve noticed). We have always sat near the front, atypical for Catholics, since my youngest daughter Emilie complained that she couldn’t see when she was younger! (We were then in prime focus late on separate occasions when the same child fainted and another time threw up in her primary years.) She certainly got attention and care.

During Confirmation the Vicar General, Fr Philip told a story about the birth of his niece Kate who now teaches at Holy Family. Amid the huge religious significance of Leo’s Confirmation there was something special about Fr Philip’s approach to people. I think it was about being present in a human way to the people who had taken the trouble to be present in the Church.

Fr Philip was reaching out to all the people there, being inclusive of everyone, posing for photos afterwards as he did at the Confirmation in Salisbury, even staying around for the cutting of the Confirmation cake! I appreciated the outreach to people: it wasn’t about power over people but embracing them and their Vision and walking beside them. Very  homely and very reassuring that we are in safe hands .

 

 

Words from the Wise….

I enjoyed our time spent with Dominican Friar Fr Timothy who was visiting Adelaide at the invitation of the Archbishop.

His message was deceptively simple:

His Vision for local Church was for people to feel at home.

As DH Lawrence wrote that being at home is “to be like a grasshopper in the grass”

When you are at home you are at ease

Pope Francis has a vision for Church to be the house of the Father. We know how well Pope Francis lives out his vision. He is wonderfully caring, approachable and inclusive.

However, the reality is that not everyone feels at home in the Church. Part of the disconnect for people and church may be the way that Church makes them feel.

If people feel judged that does not make them feel at home.

Fr Timothy asserts that people should be accepted by the Church “where they are . He can see no purpose in telling people where they need to be”

As he said, “If they live in Chicago there is no point in telling them they should live in New York”

The same can be said for schools; it is of critical importance that people feel at home at Holy Family.

 

You can at least look the part…

IMG_2392 photo 1 IMG_2495When I was growing up, I can remember my mother saying to us “It is important to at least look the part!”

I think sometimes it related to the sporting field. She was saying that if you were playing a sport, it was important to present yourself well. If it was football, boots clean, socks up etc

If it was cricket, whites clean equipment in order …and so on

I think in life, most people would think presentation was important. Certainly, if you really want something, such as a job, you present yourself in the best possible way.

At Holy Family, we espouse a commitment to Ecology and Sustainability. It would then seem only appropriate that we would present the school in the best possible way. This means we would take care to establish and maintain gardens, to ensure that the buildings are well cared for, painting upkeep well programmed, repairs undertaken where necessary. Cleanliness and a litter-free playground is our heart’s desire

Daniel Pearce working in God’s Garden

Recently, one of Position of Responsibility in Ecology leaders, Daniel Pearce was helping to establish one of the above ground garden beds in the St Francis of Assisi Piazza outside the R/1 Classrooms.

What we have noticed is that although Mr Pearce is a Yr 3 / 4 teacher , the fact that he helped the children plant the vegetables, the children attach a high level of value the plants and consequently care for them more diligently. This process was also assisted by the manner in which Daniel carefully explained to the children the conditions under which a plant would successfully thrive in the soil.

Making the learners and the learning visible at Holy Family Catholic School

Recently, I was meeting with the two teachers who were in Positions of Responsibility for “Making Learning Visible”. They were asking were wondering where to start…

My mind went to Situational Analysis, Coalition of the Willing and Building on Strengths. So I said “lets go on some learning Walks around our 33 Classes and look at the good things happening.

In our latest “learning Walk”, we walked across the yard to Emma T. and Bianca’s double Yr 2 classroom. I explained to the staff that what we were trying to do was to “make learners and learning visible in our classrooms. We have read that Harvard’s “Project Zero” had identified certain principals of learning which seemed to be present in classrooms achieving these visibility outcomes.

  • Learning is Purposeful

At the outset, I suggested that there were ways of setting up classrooms so that learning could be purposeful and ways of doing it that caused the purpose to be not so apparent. I heard one teacher saying recently that he and his partner now question each an every item of furniture they have in their room. . Rooms in which this is happening really reflect student’s interests

  • Learning is Social

We are questioning how we can make knowledge creation more active than passive and more relevant to learners needs. Rooms can be set up to make such interactions and group work more accessible

  • Learning is Emotional

We are conscious of ways which could evoke an emotional response from the learners and ways which might shut down such a response

  • Learning is Empowering

Very obviously, there are ways of facilitating empowerment of learners and ways of minimizing learner empowerment simply in the way we set up the room. You can see in these rooms opportunities and artefacts of self-directed learning

  • Learning is Representational

Rooms can reflect the Reggio concept of 100 languages and Gardiners idea of multiple intelligences as learners translate their learning into their various representations of what they have understood.

 

I have been talking to the staff about these five Principles of Making Learning Visible which I gained from Mara Krechevsky in my visit to New York recently. I also refer to their book:

 

(Visible Learners Krechevsky, Mardell, Rivard, Wilson) 2013

 

What distinguishes classrooms that make learning and learners visible from other classrooms? The authors have identified five (and often over-lapping) principles of learning that suggest how you achieve powerful learning.

 

My comment would be that armed with this language, teachers are able to recognize more adequately what they are looking at when visiting classrooms and learning from the experience. You can see this evolution happening before your eyes by visiting our Class Blogs on this website.

Celebrations with the Vietnamese Community

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Our partnership with the Vietnamese community and our joint efforts to build community and to raise money for projects that will provide the community with much needed support and resources, are worth recording.

We have jointly conspired to present four mega-events over the past couple of years:

  • The first event was a fundraiser for projects in Vietnam supporting vulnerable women and providing orphanage services for abandoned children. The model deployed is quite simple really. Invite as many people

as possible, usually 600 people, feed them 8 Courses of sumptuous Vietnamese food and entertain them

The second event was a fundraiser for Archbishop Wilson and the Cathedral Appeal. The event mobilized the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem who came along in force to enjoy our hospitality.

  • The third event was to benefit the Holy Family Early Learning Centre.

This again was dinner for 500 and featured a wonderful Auction offering a plethora of items for sale varying from spectacular Religious objects to marvelous bonsai plants. The event launched our campaign for an ELC and gave a number of disparate groups a sense of working together for a common cause.

  • The most recent event was a fundraiser for the new Vietnamese Catholic Community Centre to be built at Pooraka. We have worked hand-in-glove with the Vietnamese Community for the past 14 years. They have supported our school so marvelously. To reciprocate for them is our pleasure.

 

Emma and Elizabeth’s Classes

Interestingly, it was against the backdrop of Inquiry Days that some other intriguing pedagogically events were unfolding across the school. One of the issues emanating from the Inquiry Days was an apparent disconnect between the learning needs of children and what the teachers saw as imperatives. The children were at varying stages of requiring support to access learning opportunities, the teachers were worried about accountability relating to curriculum scope and sequence and assessment. Some people probably saw the Inquiry Days as a form of disconnect as well. We saw it as a means to an end.

 

I think we were all agreed that the children’s needs should be met; there were perhaps different ideas about the way this could be delivered. I wrote last year about the imperative for schools to be ready for children rather than children be ready for school. I think it in that space that we made big steps forward.

 

Emma and Elizabeth early in the year had moved away from a play-based program to one of a more formal paradigm starting the day with set tasks.

I had noticed this happening and asked why the change? The teachers felt that to get through the content they moved the play to later in the day. They had found that by starting the day with play wasn’t working as well as it did last year. This year the children didn’t want to stop playing and didn’t want their play items to be packed up. The change to more formality also coincided with the much younger children associated with the Same First Day Start policy change. The children “arced up” and behavior and engagement issues abounded.

 

To cut a long story short, Emma and Elizabeth checked with me if it would be ok to revert to a play- based program with simultaneous documentation and teaching moments seized as the two teachers worked in tandem. It was an magnificent, insightful strategy to deal with a “herding cats’ type dilemma. Immediately, the veil of confusion and stress lifted (and that was only for the teachers!) My reflection was that the teachers always had my permission. However it was a delight to have the privilege of being part of this learning.

 

Since then the classes have gone from strength to strength for children, teachers and families. Their class blog reflects this wonderful learning.

Inquiry

The series of vertically-grouped Inquiry Days held in the first month or so of Term 1 led to some amazing learning opportunities across the School. For me the most significant insights gained were in the area of pedagogical practice. Some people really engaged with the challenge and some great learning emanated from these days.

After the first month, when we retired the Inquiry Days to reflect upon our learning I was aware of a “connect” between the experience of the Inquiry days and the research findings from our research in 2012-13 based on the TEfL Framework.

From the data, Chris Goldspink and Incept Labs identified three Teacher Wordviews:

  • Content and Control
  • Evolving Pedagogy
  • Relationship and Rescue

Chris also found there was a disparity between what we say about learning and what we actually do about learning

I saw those Worldviews in action on these Inquiry Days.

My sense of our experience with Inquiry Days is that it was due to issues emanating from the Teacher World Views together with different perspectives about “re-imagining childhood” that prompted us to pause the program of Inquiry.

Interestingly, I did not discern that the “drivers” of enabling children to be agents of their learning were shown to be invalid. Rather, it was probably an issue of the adults engaging with the “drivers”

  • Negotiating learning with students
  • Students constructing new authentic knowledge
  • Teachers engaging in professional enquiry
  • Engaging parents and carers in learning
  • Leaders designing of change

I shall report on this with some deeper observations once I have the opportunity to listen to the teachers about what they thought was happening. I am immensely proud of our steps forward. It certainly has caused lots of soul –searching.