Saturday, August 6, 2011

'I've Been Thinking'

My e-Fellow colleague Tara Taylor-Jorgensen has been exploring and researching MIE (Minimally Invasive Education), based on the work of Dr Sugata Mitra and influenced by Sir Ken Robinson, with her students at Bairds Mainfreight Primary in Auckland. As I have been following her journey I have spent a lot of time reflecting on how I can also apply these ideas into my own teaching practice.
At the same time I have also been following the journey of another e-Fellow colleague Florence Lyons as she works on creating an online French language course. In a recent blog post she discussed what is learning?
This has led me to several ‘AHA’ moments, as I look at my own teaching practice and the way I am working in the learning environment I am providing for my students.
The conclusions I have come to are that I am providing a MIE environment for our children. Activities and resources are set up for them to explore and investigate, with support, as we work primarily as facilitators with our children.
In relation to ICT’s I cannot help but think back on how in my early interaction with a computer it was the children who taught me how to use it. They showed me how to turn it on, negotiate my way around the desktop, use a mouse, open folders etc. I encourage and support our children to work as peer tutors in a similar manner when a child does not know how to use our ICT’s as I believe this allows for a reinforcement of prior learning and a self-esteem booster as well.
So often I have loaded a new piece of software onto the children’s computers and stood back to see what happens. They quickly work out the different parameters of what they are using and then share their discoveries with their peers. Often the new arrival will extend on the first child’s discoveries to a deeper level.
As I have undertaken research over the past six years I have come to see my role as a teacher becoming more that of a facilitator as I have learnt to stand back and see what happens as children interact with equipment and resources – not just ICT’s. There are times when I need to step in to support and build on what is happening to take the learning deeper and more complex but so often I am surprised and excited by what I observe happening. I recently had a visitor make the comment that the children in our Kindergarten are experienced researchers who know how to access and/or find the information they need or want. I was so stunned by this comment and felt really delighted that this could be observed by an outsider and also excited that what I value in learning happening for children is visibly happening in the environment I am providing.
I find that the MIE approach works across all the core curriculum areas, although there are times when guidance from a teacher is needed in the initial stages before they move on to explore and work.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Here We Go Again!


Last week I finally had the opportunity to revisit animation with my children and now I feel I have opened Pandora's Box again! I revisited with the children the movies made last year and asked if they would be interested in trying the process for themselves. A large group immediately said they would so I decided to start with a group animation, with those children who were interested. We discussed the processes for creating a story - beginning, middle and end - and then the decision as a group was to create an animation on Pirates sailing to an island to find come treasure and their finding treasure on an island. The group that decided on this was in the majority boys with one girl participant and one girl observer. 
I found our pirate models and ship, gave them to the children and set up the camera and lap top. Off with much enthusiasm they went, and I had to explain again how they needed to move the models in very small steps between frames. After reviewing their initial footage they quickly grasped this concept and we started again, this time much more successfully. It was a little tricky making an island for the treasure to be on but this was resolved with a small cane basket. 
The movie was photographed against a 'green screen' so we could add a background and we searched for a suitable image of the sea to add later. The boys helped to choose the title, and selected some copyright free music to add to the background before we shared the movie with the whole group at mat time.

video



A few days later several of the girls approached me and said they wanted to make a "Princess movie". I said they could, and we would do it during the following session.
The girls had obviously spent some time thinking about and discussing how they wanted their movie to look, because when I started to set up the camera and lap top for them, they set straight to work, selecting the models they wanted and demonstrating forethought in the process. They all took turns taking the photos for their movie and decided when they had completed the sequence of moves to create it. 
When we were ready to edit the movie they chose the title - "The Princess Wedding," the design of the title, the background picture (a castle - as we had again used a green screen to add a background) and the background music. Ella told me it had to be "pretty music like la la la la" singing the way she wanted the music to be. I managed to find a copyright free piece of music that satisfied her ideas and she was very happy with it. At mat time at the end of the session the girls shared their movie, with pride, to the whole group and then I put their movie onto CD's so they had a copy each to keep. 

video


I now have some of the children who are very keen to create an individual animation, so we will be doing this over the next few weeks.

I have also facilitated workshops on how to use the ‘I Can Animate’ software with a group of teachers – I really enjoy sharing with others in this way.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

You Can Lead a Horse To Water


I started this teaching year with great ideas and enthusiasm for the work I, and the children I am working with, would achieve particularly with animation, building on what happened last year. Well, that was the start of me going back to the basis of what we do – who determines the programme in our Kindergarten? THE CHILDREN OF COURSE!

So, despite my discussing what we could do – animation and robotics – despite introducing the precursors to robotics of Logi Blocs and Laser Pegs they were far more engaged by and interested in exploring the sand and water play.  

video

Mind you I don’t blame them, a hot sunny day, the chance to get under the sprinkler, build dams and water courses in the sand pit, explore the different properties of assorted equipment in the water play area – I know what I would have chosen too. I must confess to ’accidentally’ splashing myself with the hose when pouring water down the slide when creating a water slide to cool off.  I also seemed to just need to adjust the sprinkler head when it was on and had many an interesting and informative discussions in the sand pit with the hoses regularly cooling off the feet.

At the same time as all this was happening the new vegetable garden area I developed with the children late last year, that sits alongside our orchard, started to really come into full production. This has led to much creation of very yummy food with the produce. We have made potato wedges with the potatoes we grew, vegetable quiche with a huge range of home grown veges, feijoa muffins and scones from the fruit from our very productive tree, lemon cake and apple pie with our own apples. The engagement of the children in this process is demonstrated by their suggestions. Scott came in with the first of the apples that fell off the tree to say to me “look we can make apple pie with these now they are ready”. Several of the children appointed themselves ‘official feijoa collectors’ and begin their day collecting the latest fallen fruit to add to our fruit basket for morning tea. 

So, who am I to decide that they should be inside creating animated stories for me to extend on my research? Who am I to decide that what is happening is learning of a determined value or not?

I have spent 12 weeks being blown away and excited by the high level of engagement in our natural world through the simplest of means. The combination of water and sand, the properties of water, the difference being cool can make to our bodies on a hot day, the joy of collecting and making yummy food with produce we have grown and nurtured ourselves, the pleasure in sharing the food we have created communally as we sit sharing it together in a group. The walks around our community (including looking for trolls under bridges) noticing and exploring things we haven’t seen before because we always seem to be in cars these days. All this is valuable and highly effective learning and I have had to accept that my passion for ICT with the children and the ideas I would love to build on and extend don’t always mesh with that of the children. 

The children have continued to take photos and create their own learning stories, they have continued to explore KIdPix, they have continued to want to find information online, they have stimulated and provoked discussion and we have even been to Kelly Tarltons to see the sharks to follow one of their interest areas. However, my own goals have taken a back seat for now –we have winter coming up and what is better to do when inside for much of the time but to explore animation and robotics? The fun in these areas is waiting for them to discover when they are ready!

As an aside one of the children’s favourite online discoveries has been this You Tube clip – they are very interested in fire-fighters and their ancillary equipment at the moment and I was asked to find something online about fire fighting helicopters. Found this with Theo and it has become the most requested piece of footage by everyone. And, it has led the children into their current passion which is ... helicopters!

  

 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

You Can Lead a Horse To Water


I started this teaching year with great ideas and enthusiasm for the work I, and the children I am working with, would achieve particularly with animation, building on what happened last year. Well, that was the start of me going back to the basis of what we do – who determines the programme in our Kindergarten? THE CHILDREN OF COURSE!          
So, despite my discussing what we could do – animation and robotics – despite introducing the precursors to robotics of Logi Blocs and Laser Pegs  they were far more engaged by and interested in exploring the sand and water play.        
video 
Mind you I don’t blame them, a hot sunny day, the chance to get under the sprinkler, build dams and water courses in the sand pit, explore the different properties of assorted equipment in the water play area – I know what I would have chosen too. I must confess to ’accidentally’ splashing myself with the hose when pouring water down the slide when creating a water slide to cool off.  I also seemed to just need to adjust the sprinkler head when it was on and had many an interesting and informative discussions in the sand pit with the hoses regularly cooling off the feet.         At the same time as all this was happening the new vegetable garden area I developed with the children late last year, that sits alongside our orchard, started to really come into full production. This has led to much creation of very yummy food with the produce. We have made potato wedges with the potatoes we grew, vegetable quiche with a huge range of home grown veges, feijoa muffins and scones from the fruit from our very productive tree, lemon cake and apple pie with our own apples. The engagement of the children in this process is demonstrated by their suggestions. Scott came in with the first of the apples that fell off the tree to say to me “look we can make apple pie with these now they are ready”. Several of the children appointed themselves ‘official feijoa collectors’ and begin their day collecting the latest fallen fruit to add to our fruit basket for morning tea.  So, who am I to decide that they should be inside creating animated stories for me to extend on my research? Who am I to decide that what is happening is learning of a determined value or not?         
I have spent 12 weeks being blown away and excited by the high level of engagement in our natural world through the simplest of means. The combination of water and sand, the properties of water, the difference being cool can make to our bodies on a hot day, the joy of collecting and making yummy food with produce we have grown and nurtured ourselves, the pleasure in sharing the food we have created communally as we sit sharing it together in a group. The walks around our community (including looking for trolls under bridges) noticing and exploring things we haven’t seen before because we always seem to be in cars these days. All this is valuable and highly effective learning and I have had to accept that my passion for ICT with the children and the ideas I would love to build on and extend don’t always mesh with that of the children.       
The children have continued to take photos and create their own learning stories, they have continued to explore KIdPix, they have continued to want to find information online, they have stimulated and provoked discussion and we have even been to Kelly Tarltons to see the sharks to follow one of their interest areas. However, my own goals have taken a back seat for now –we have winter coming up and what is better to do when inside for much of the time but to explore animation and robotics? The fun in these areas is waiting for them to discover when they are ready!       
As an aside one of the children’s favourite online discoveries has been this You Tube clip – they are very interested in fire-fighters and their ancillary equipment at the moment and I was asked to find something online about fire fighting helicopters. Found this with Theo and it has become the most requested piece of footage by everyone.          

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ed Talks

When I was at ULearn10 I was asked to give an Ed Talk. This was a rather scary experience, and last week my talk went 'live' - another scary experience watching myself on screen. However, I really believe strongly in what I was saying so thought I would post it here as well - 

What will happen in 2011?

As I think over the teaching and learning opportunities I have been fortunate to have over the past 12 months (as one does at this time of year) I wonder how I can top the experience of being an e-Fellow and also how to ensure I maintain my momentum. I  made a list of plans with the other e-Fellows in November when we had our final 'get together' and have started working on some of them, but will be putting more into action as the year progresses. The first thing I have done is set up my own website - margmay.com - and am now working on making it more of how I want it to look and thinking about it's full purpose - open to any suggestions here folks.

I have had a lot of new children start at the Kindergarten this year and am at the point where I have been many times in the past, showing the new children how to interact with the ICT's we offer, and helping them to become confident in exploring the opportunities available. As they become confident in using the equipment, the paths they are interested in following will become visible to us as teachers and we can then assist the children on the journey they choose. I will be also introducing animation to them over the next few weeks and I am sure it will be interesting to see where these children take it. However, with the warm weather we are currently enjoying the water play activities are taking everyone's attention rather than sitting at a computer!

As I explore some of my plans and  ideas I will post to keep you all up to date.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Vision of K-12 Students Today

While trolling around on the internet today I found this clip - a message I have heard and seen illustrated in a variety of ways over the years, but thought has been done well in this clip. It is something I often think about as I send my digitally competent just turned 5 year old's off to school and wonder how their engagement and creativity using the tools we have given them will be fostered and extended.