Monday, 19 September 2016

As I've said previously, it is a truism that a house doesn't make a home. Equally, ILEs (Innovative Learning Environments) are much more than the bricks and mortar, fancy furniture, 1x1 devices and ultra fast broadband connection.
Pt England School was built in 1953 and of the original classrooms 11 remain. Additional to these rooms we have 4 relocatable (temporary) classrooms with the remaining 12 teaching and learning spaces being specifically constructed as ILEs. The 4 relocatable rooms are to be replaced by mid 2017 by a 4 space ILE. That means that by July 2017 well over half our staff and students will be located in a purpose built ILE. 
In the month since my last post I have conducted an informal, anonymous, online survey of the teachers in the specifically ILE classrooms and what follows is a brief summary of that survey.

  • 66% of them have taught for 2 or more years in an ILE
  • 22% 1yrs experience & 12% 6 months
  • 66% enjoy and 33% mostly enjoy teaching in an ILE

  • student centred focus
  • village raising a child, using teacher strengths
  • other teachers to always communicate and collaborate with
  • ability to provide for differing learning styles
  • flexibility within teaching practice
  • beginning teachers learn from those around them
  • varied spaces for learning and class activities.

  • more conscious of managing noise level
  • when there is a reliever, it effects whole ILE not just the one class
  • can't do my "own thing" when I want to, no real room for spontaneity
  • have to be much more collaborative
  • disruptive kids can easily disrupt the entire space
  • students have to work hard not to get distracted by other things going on around them

  • all teachers need to be on board and able to work together
  • enjoyed it more than I thought I would
  • knowing others are close by makes you think much more about how you speak to the children/how you are coming across
  • some personal ideas can be limited because there are other teachers to be collabrative with
  • 3 classroom space works better (more easily) than a two space

     Pedagogical changes:
  • give students more choice of where they learn
  • Heaps! Mainly around the village effect - how to create a collaborative approach with teaching and learning (meeting every morning as a village, how to teach small groups in a large space, using the spaces properly for teaching and learning, etc)
  • more openly reflective. I would always think in my head, but having to record it for others has been useful.
  • reflecting/ inquiring into teaching practice as a team
  • more collaboration

      Student enjoyment of ILE:
  • LOVE having almost all their friends in the same space
  • like having the options to work in different places with different people
  • more room, more freedom, more options
  • like having more teachers
  • there are other teachers available during the times when their teacher is working with a small group
  • Very much. They become a very tight knit community
  • an entire grade level to be together provides a very social atmosphere
  • more engaged and take ownership of their work as there is more flexibility around how they choose to accomplish their tasks
  • don't like not having their own space

      Student learning benefits:
  • it allows for better grouping opportunities which in turn helps achievement
  • students seemed more engaged
  • hard to quantify, especially when you consider all of the other innovation, inquiry etc. that has been put into our teaching and learning
  • students enjoy taking charge of their own learning and having some choice

      Could a single cell be an ILE?:
  • Group teaching, use of instructional videos, GAFE, Learn/Create/Share can be
  • Reflecting/ inquiring into teaching as a team in-time is only really possible in an ILE when you share the experience/ challenges.
  • more ILE on my own. More flexibility to respond to individual student needs and can ramp up the creativity 
  • ongoing teacher collaboration is the biggest advantage to being in an ILE. Going back to a tradition "single cell" classroom would be very difficult if it were with a group of teachers who did not openly collaborate on a daily basis.
  • giving students choice and flexibility with completing tasks

My reflection so far on these responses is that there are some space advantages in a purpose built ILE that help facilitate learning. ILEs help meet various learning styles through their greater flexibility. In a predominately Maori/Polynesian school, as ours is, the "village" aspect sits well with its ebb and flow of people, programmes and resources and developed sense of community.  However to suggest that the original 1953 rooms and the relocatable rooms are not innovative would be far from the truth and would do a disservice to the educators in those spaces. All of those rooms have access to wireless ultra fast broadband, have at least 6 iMacs each, all students have their own device (either iPad or Chromebook) and the teachers are actively inquiring into their practice. In fact, some of the teachers surveyed felt they could be more innovative on their own with more room to be spontaneous. 

My next challenge is to consider a meaningful way I can survey the students involved in ILEs. It would need to be from a "what do I enjoy, what don't I like" angle and not "compare and contrast". The old ways are "so last year" that few of them would be able to remember what it was like with any great clarity. 
In the meantime, if you've taken the time to read this post I would love to hear your thoughts and reflections.

Monday, 15 August 2016

I began my last blog: "Unfortunately my inquiry has been on the back burner due to the ongoing building projects..." and then I got to thinking, whilst I am vitally interested in Gifted & Talented students and how we can channel their particular strengths to help them gain greater shifts in their learning, the interruptions to my inquiry have been in fact the actual work I do in supporting and developing ILEs (Innovative Learning Environments) here at Pt England. Of course ILEs are spaces designed to help raise student achievement and so I'm going to change my inquiry focus and share our journey, both in resent history and also out into the days ahead.
We have had, as a school, the opportunity to build new classrooms through, first re-capitation (becoming a full primary Yr 1-8) and secondly roll growth and replacement building funding grants. Our journey began 6yrs ago with the building of the 4 classroom Intermediate Block, followed by the extension of this block and then the building of the 5 classroom Yr 5&6 Block completed 18 months ago. We are currently in the confirmation of design stage of a 4 classroom block for the Yr 2s, scheduled for completion in June 2017.
Just as it is true that a house doesn't make a home so ILEs are much more than the bricks and mortar, fancy furniture, 1x1 devices and ultra fast broadband connection. Integral to the development of building design in a teaching & learning context is reworked pedagogy. We had the opportunity to contextualise pedagogical change first in the new Intermediate Block  and then over 18 months in modified existing "temporary" classrooms during the planning and construction of the Yr 5&6 block. This period of development greatly influenced the final design and confirmed many aspects of the changes in pedagogy. Also, the last 18 months teaching & learning in the Yr 5&6 block have brought about tweaks and reinforcement in the design of the proposed Y2 block.
The "environment" in the title ILE suggests to us much more than one isolated location. Rather, it encompasses not only the teaching & learning "caves" but also their interconnection, their immediate environs and their relationship to other buildings and grounds. It includes, hard court playing areas, porch spaces, shade sails, entry and exit points etc. and the degree to which the whole ILE facilitates flexibility of use.
It has been, and continues to be, my pleasure to assist in the facilitation of the collaborative process described above. In future blogs I'll share more detail of what has worked and include teacher and, just as importantly, student reflections. Please feel free to comment and/or ask questions.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Unfortunately my inquiry has been on the back burner due to the ongoing building projects but it has been my pleasure to be involved in "walk through" observations in 5 classrooms across the 5 levels of the school over the first half of this term. It was a truly inspiring experience. I went with the specific objective to observe and give feedback on each teacher's stated Inquiry focus as it relates to raising achievement in students' reading and writing.  It was evident in every class I visited that each teacher's focus was level appropriate and challenged the students with achievable outcomes, whether it was letter recognition and letter sounds at the junior level, through decoding in the middle school onto inference/judgement in the senior classes.  My feedback, in each case, served to confirm aspects of the teaching and learning that the teachers themselves had already considered and were contemplating relevant adjustments.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Twenty Sixteen

The overarching PES goal for 2016 is “How to get formative practice in reading and writing to improve acceleration". 
My focus of interest, with this goal in mind and with the work we have already done as a staff in identifying GATE students (Gifted And Talented)is how do we cater for these students' strengths both in the classroom context and extra specialised activities while ensuring their continued improvement in academic achievement?
PES - GATE ID 2015