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Granted Education

Sh!t Classrooms: How to Troubleshoot Them!

Teaching Strategies, Behaviour Management, Troubleshoot classrooms, Creating Engagement

Troubleshoot Classrooms

Teaching - are you ready for the future NOW?

Posted by Granted Education on April 18, 2017 at 12:00 AM

You may not have noticed it, but how we teach is starting to change - thank goodness!


Look beyond the evolutionary hangovers of uniforms, school bells and rigid timetables and you will start to see something exciting that is bubbling below the surface - hybrid schooling. No, we’re not raising a new generation of half human, half machine (although the kid’s ability to quickly adapt to new technology may have you thinking twice), I’m talking about the ultimate in flexible schooling.


The emergence of Moocs (Massive Open Online Courses) put the education industry in a spin. Many futurists sensed the end of school as we know it and some even went as far to suggest that schools will become obsolete. Whether that prediction will come true, I’m skeptical but there is no doubt that it’s becoming easier to access quality education regardless of your financial status or location. So why the hesitancy to adopt and use them?


Since the industrial revolution, the education profession has remained largely unchanged. Sure, technology has had an impact, but despite that, many of the practices seen in today’s schools echo those of their industrial ancestors.



{{Information |Description=Typical classroom in Br. Andrew Gonzales Hall |Source={{own}} |Date=Jan. 29, 2011 |Author= Malate269 |Permission= |other_versions= }}


Collaborative classrooms have had an impact on the how of teaching, with ‘Modern Learning Environments’ touting bean bags and other flexible furniture but are we going far enough? While held within the rigid rules of what schools ‘should be’, thinking that is as flexible as the furniture is notoriously difficult.


Let’s be honest, change is scary. How will you know that your school’s new, ‘hippy’ approach (I’ve heard parents say this!) will provide your precious little one with the skills to successfully navigate the world? Parents often hold tight to the notion that ‘it was good enough for them’ but did it really get them ready for the 21st century? Did your school arm you with skills like: new media literacy, design mindset, virtual collaboration, novel & adaptive thinking and cognitive load management? I doubt it! These are skills Forbes Magazine predict employees of the future will need.


As the forward thinking Thomas Jefferson toted “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done before.” It’s time to be flexible with our thinking around how we teach.


I’ve been lucky enough to be able to teach in a school that encourages experimentation, a growth mindset and ‘hacking’ education. Certainly not what you would expect from a small school outside of a major city in New Zealand, but here it stands anyway. I share my day and working space with my teaching buddy and between us we have 58 (year 7 and 8) kids in our room. We’re still stuck in our traditional classroom space (for now), but we’re trying something different this year. We’re hacking our kid’s education.


In Aspire (our room), we have had a measure of flexibility around what the kids study. They complete an in-depth investigation into a range of topics that take into consideration the student’s interests. These topics build in collaboration, critical thinking, reading and writing skills and media literacy. I guess you could say they are a form of ‘rich task’. Here’s a link to our class website from 2016 so you can get a sense of where we’ve come from. This program worked well last year but we wanted to help extend our kids even further - let’s send them to university!


Initially, we selected our highest ranked kids for reading comprehension in year 8 and offered them a chance to complete a university course online through one of the major MOOCs - Open2Study. We really had no idea how they would handle the workload but supported them with an hour allocated during school time each day to work on their course. The kids were off and racing before we knew it and were so excited to share their learning and test scores. These courses run for only 4 weeks, with a new module opening up weekly. We incorporated their reading and writing goals into the course. This meant that they had to find the key points in each video and create a summary at the end of each module that included technical language and definitions where appropriate. Here’s a link to the marking rubric we’ve adapted from the New Zealand Curriculum Learning Progressions.


We weren’t sure what would happen or even if they would cope with the language and pace of the courses but at worst, their vocabulary and time management skills would get a good workout!


Four weeks later, of the initial 10 students (including a grade 6 boy!), all but one student had completed their course with overall pass rates between 70 and 90%. In order to get a certificate, you need to have at least a 60% pass rate. They were simply buzzing with excitement! The flow-on effect was even more unexpected. One of the students was so passionately engaged in the course that his mum also enrolled in a course (and passed). One of our teaching colleagues showed their high school child the site and they enrolled in a course. A number of educators I’ve spoken to about this initiative have also introduced this to some select students who need extending.


There was such a buzz in our team about these courses that lots of other students also wanted to come on board. We initially held them off until the 1st generation of kids had finished, as it really was an experiment. They were then able to share their tips and tricks with the next generation. We decided to open the courses up to any student in grade 7 or 8 who wanted to try a course. 


We are running a ‘Level Up’ program in parallel with the university courses which is a rich task, involving the upcycling of pallets. Here’s a link to our current site so you can see how it all works. If anyone was struggling too much in the university course, they could just jump back into the Level Up project without it affecting any of their reading or writing assessment. 


Nearly 30 students elected to do a university course when given the chance with only 5 dropping back into the Level Up project. Students who were enrolled in the same course were encouraged to work with each other and discuss concepts so they developed a deeper understanding. This was one of the tips the 1st generation of university students suggested. 


The quality of conversations we are having with our kids has skyrocketed! I am a high school trained Biology teacher, working in a primary school and you can imagine how excited I was to be able to have a solid discussion about marine ecosystems and the importance of keystone species like plankton, with one of our grade 8 girls! 


This initiative has really stretched our kids with their skills like - proactivity, time management, note taking, listening, researching (to understand technical language) and interpretation of patterns. They are well on their way to developing the skills businesses predict as important for the future. The kids already have their sights on the next course they want to complete and some even complete large chunks of their work at home so they can also build with the pallets. 


This project has really helped our students see that teachers are no longer the holders of all knowledge and that learning is by no means, limited to inside the classroom walls. 


Where will we push into next? I have no idea but I can tell you, I’m looking ahead. It’s initiatives like these that help push the envelopes for schools, to embrace the future and give our kids the best shot at being successful. What are you doing?

Categories: Effective Teacher Practices, Technology, Innovation

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