Tuesday, February 23, 2021

UDL in Distance Learning: Meeting Each Learner’s Variability Webinar

This webinar by was full of great ideas, tips, and resources supporting all learners learning from home. This webinar also had excellent ideas for supporting all learners in collaboration and working online in a 1:1 classroom. 

What is learner variability? 

A recognition that all learners differ and that learning sciences research guide us in understanding how these differences matter for learning.
It considers the whole child.

In the video Research@Work: Embracing Learner Variability in Schools, David Rose discusses the importance of providing learning supports and structures tailored to students’ individual needs and abilities. He shares his vision for “de-standardising” education to help students discover their strengths and become expert learners.

Teachers need to understand how I learn, not how the average student learns, which our new National Education and Learning Priorities focus on, particularly Learners at the Centre and Barrier Free Access.

What do we mean when we say engagement?

Student engagement is made up of Emotional and Relational, Cognitive and Behavioural which I have blogged about previously in Wellbeing Won't Cut It Alone!.

The Learner Variability Navigator: A Whole Child Framework

A great framework is The Learner Variability Navigator, which helps us understand learner variability and then recognise learning challenges become a design opportunity rather than a student problem. 

First, you choose the area of interest of either math, reading, literacy or adult learning. Then you explore the factors that may create barriers to the learning for example in Literacy 4-6 Examples are Literacy, Cognition, Social and Emotional Learning and Student Background.

 If you know Syntax is a barrier by clicking on it unpacks the factor.

Once you understand the factor, you click on Strategies, and the framework has various research-based strategies for the factor.

The framework is not specifically for New Zealand; however, I see value in this, especially for teacher PLG's as part of an inquiry to include in the Learn if they are looking for new strategies to support learners and the connections between the factors.

The framework also supports teachers of learners with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Deaf/Hard of Hearing by identifying what strategies would support.

If Universal Design for Learning is new to you or you wish to inquire further into it Smita Worah a professional development consultant from SERC has created this Padlet - Introduction to Universal Design for Learning

Made with Padlet

The following notes come directly from the slideshow today and are the work of the educators below and others. Even though this is talking about distance learning there are strong links to online learning when using Google Sites as part of classroom practice.

Distance learning: 6 UDL best practices for online learning

Examining Barriers to Find Solutions Summary (click the link above to unpack each point)

  1. Explicitly teach expectations and engagement. 
  2. Allow for asynchronous learning. 
  3. Assign note-takers or provide guided notes with a summary of key ideas.
  4. Make materials accessible. 
  5. Embrace your students as teachers.
  6. Actively build a supportive community.
Watching a lesson via video rather than experiencing it in the classroom can make it difficult for students to: 
  • focus
  • feel connected 
  • process information 
  • identify key ideas
Video is a challenging medium of learning for many students. Students have varied skills and
comfort levels with technology for distance learning.

Examining Barriers to Find Solutions Summary (click the link above to unpack each point)
  1. Feeling Anxious About Being on Camera 
  2. Staying Focused
  3. Keeping Up With the Lesson
  4. Managing Sensory Information 
  5. Remembering Key Points

UDL solution: Explicitly teach expectations and engagement

  • Co-create expectations with students.
  • Teach and provide opportunities for practice
  • Use multiple formats for sharing and referencing expectations. 
  • Some students have trouble processing information only in auditory form.

UDL solution: Allow for asynchronous learning

  • Record video to access later (or again)
  • Incorporate other representations
  • Provide transcripts, using apps like (has a limited free version), Youtube (Not always accurate), iPhone dictation
Materials, handouts, and images can be difficult to access for some students, including those who use screen readers.
  1. Be consistent in how you post your content and share information.
  2. Create a regular timeline for providing information and activities.
  3. Use a consistent layout for sharing tasks and activities. 
  4. Offer multiple means of representation.
  5. Remember to use multiple means of action and expression.
  6. Introduce new tools in low-stakes ways. 
  7. Provide a structured drop-in option for help, questions, and support. 

UDL Solution: Make materials accessible

  • Create short text descriptions for images and videos.
  • Use Word, Google Docs, or another accessible format that have optical character recognition (OCR) for screen reader access.
  • Use tools like WebAIM (cost involved) to check written materials, especially PDFs, for screen reader accessibility. 
Distance learning can make it harder to check-in on and gauge emotional and physical well-being and to provide support to each other. 
1. Schedule regular check-ins with students and their families.
2. Teach strategies for organization, planning, and self-regulation.
3. Read and discuss current events.
4. Assign a project that encourages students to be “helpers.”
5. Share stress-reduction and mindfulness strategies.

UDL solution: Deliberately build a collaborative community
  • Build time in for students to connect with each other
  • Use “break-out” rooms (Zoom) or have individual/group check-ins with students
  • Use discussion boards or collaboration tools like Miro or Padlet

UDL enhancement: Embrace your students as teachers

  • Build in interactive ways for students to provide feedback on your plans
  • Check in with students about what they need and be flexible and responsive 

How to plan online lessons with Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Using a Google Doc and Screencastify with Drawing Tools to annotate.

Before Teaching - UDL-Aligned Virtual Lessons

  • Think about physical design and layout
  • Familiarize yourself with technology platforms
  • Give time and patience to student and families to learn technology
  • Anticipate misconceptions and questions
  • Think about pacing and breaks

While Teaching - UDL-Aligned Virtual Lessons

  • Leverage options within technology platforms
  • Provide choices for how students can interact
  • Give students agency over how and when they engage in work
  • Be open minded about formats that students’ work can take

After Teaching - UDL-Aligned Virtual Lessons

  • Develop a reflection and evaluation practice with yourself and with students
  • Read and study up-to-date research
  • Engage in learning communities with other educators to learn and share insights

UDL Lessons In 2021 and Beyond

  • Don’t feel like you need to implement everything all at once.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new. Expect several iterations.
  • Work in partnership with others rather than trying to do it all by yourself.
  • Acknowledge that cognitive demands on kids and adults can look and feel different across learning models.
  • Prioritize necessary skills and standards for students. Think about how to integrate different skills within lessons and across content areas.
  • Think about UDL even when teaching social emotional learning and self-advocacy skills.

Distance learning toolkit: Key practices to support students who learn differently

Monday, February 22, 2021

Toro Mai - Hauora - Health

What does Hauora mean?

Hauora conveys wellness and vitality from a Māori worldview and describes a way of understanding the holistic nature of wellbeing. Hauora encompasses all of ourselves, our relationships with whānau, hapū and iwi, and our physical environment.

Mana and Mauri

You nourish Hauora with deliberate actions to enhance an individual's mana and mauri. By recognising and supporting each dimension of Te Whare Tapa Whā can help support Hauora.  The wharenui offers a useful analogy to understand Hauora. Sir Mason Durie developed te Whare Tapa Whā in 1983 to understand the interrelated and holistic nature of Hauora. Each taha (side) of the whare represents one of the four cornerstones of Hauora:

The dimensions are
Hinengaro (mental and emotional wellbeing)
Whānau (social and relational wellbeing)
Tinana (physical wellbeing)
Wairua (spiritual wellbeing)

If one element is ignored or not attended to, Hauora can become compromised. All four cornerstones of Hauora are critical for wellbeing.

What areas stand out as being particularly strong or flourishing? 
I feel I am flourishing in these areas of Hinengaro (mental and emotional wellbeing), Whānau (social and relational wellbeing), Tinana (physical wellbeing).

Conversely, are there any particular areas that may be languishing or may require more attention? 
I think an area I need to develop more is Wairua (spiritual wellbeing). I am not sure about connecting with spirituality through a church or religion as some of the values and beliefs do not sit well with me. I may investigate this further in the future. I do like the concept of spirituality format Te Ao Maori word view and the connections to atua.

What strategy might help to strengthen those aspects of Hauora for you and your whānau?
To strengthen all the aspects of Hauora, it is about being present and allowing time to participate in each dimension.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Toro Mai - Te Ao Māori - Guiding Principles

Kaupapa and Tikanga: Guiding principles and cultural practices

The marae is one of the most important and sacred gathering spaces for hapū and iwi and guided by kaupapa and Tikanga. Tikanga is unique to each marae.

Kaupapa (Principles)

On the marae, kaupapa is a guiding principle, value, or purpose. Kaupapa informs Tikanga. The kaupapa of manaakitanga (hospitality) on the marae through Tikanga, includes feeding manuhiri well and welcoming manuhiri (visitors) onto the marae by way of pōwhiri.

Tikanga (Actions, practices and behaviour)

Tikanga is sets of actions, practices, and behaviours appropriate in a given situation; Tikanga refers to culturally informed practices handed down from previous generations of kaumātua, elders. Tikanga can sometimes evolve or adapt to reflect new or altered circumstances. Therefore Tikanga may change. However, the kaupapa itself, the value or guiding principle, does not.

Kawa (Ritual)

Kawa is atua-endorsed rituals that keep people safe and protected. Kawa supports a process to help achieve the goals. Kawa is often started with a karakia to set the scene. 

Karakia (acknowledgement of the atua)

Karakia seek the endorsement of atua and are recited by tohunga (experts) upon entry into and exit from atua domains. The ocean, for example, is acknowledged as the domain of Tangaroa. The forest is the domain of Tāne Mahuta. Karakia helps raise critical awareness before and during entry into atua domains, ensuring participants' mindset is appropriate for the tasks. Karakia necessitates a moment to pause and be mindful of the risks, threats and challenges associated with the environment.


Pōwhiri is a ritualised process of welcoming visitors, manuhiri, onto the marae. Each marae has its distinctive way of directing and leading this process. The role of tangata whenua is to uphold the customs and protocols of the marae and maintain the mana of the hapū and iwi. It is the responsibility of manuhiri to be aware of the marae's tikanga and kawa before going on.

Hohou i te Rongo

Hohou i te Rongo is the transition into the realm of Rongo (peace) from the realm of Tūmatauenga (conflict, war) and establishes peace and respect. Hongi is an important part of this process because the sharing of the breath signifies the joining of the two parties' māuri and ethos. Hau is the wind; it is air. It is a distinct energy that belongs to the realm of Tāwhirimātea and refers to the vitality of the universe and people. 

Tangihanga: a period of mourning

A tangihanga is a mourning period that brings together whānau, hapū, iwi and the wider community to grieve the loss of a loved one. Tangihanga takes place at the marae and is one of the most sacred and detailed of all Māori cultural rituals. The Tangihanga ensures whānau pani can be removed from daily tasks so that they mourn their loved one with the support and guidance of their people around them. The rituals and practices performed at Tangihanga stand alone and are unique. Tangihanga is lead by kuia and kaumātua of marae, hapū and iwi, and each marae has particular kawa and tikanga for Tangihanga.

Tangihangi help to support two important outcomes:
Provide the whānau pani with the highest expression of Aroha – unconditional support as they remain in a state of mourning, or tangi. 
Help send the wairua, the spirit of their loved one, onwards into the realm of te pō and on to te moenga roa, the final resting place. 

Whakatau: A Return to Te Ao Mārama

Whakatau signifies the commencement of the whānau pani journey back to te ao marama and their reintegration back to everyday life.

Whakatau ki te Marae

After the burial or nehunga, the whānau pani is called back into the whare tupuna with a Karanga. This Karanga signifies that the most intense period of the tangihanga is now behind the whānau pani. Often it is light-hearted to help lift the burden of loss. 


The serving of cooked food as part of a hākari (feast) helps ensure that the Whānau Pani can participate in whakanoa, which is the lifting of the state of tapu they have carried in recent days.

Takahi Whare

To prepare the home of the loved one to be reoccupied again after the tangihanga an ope kaumātua (a group of elders), they will often go to the family home and perform karakia to bless the house, lift tapu and enable whānau to return to reoccupy that space.

Hura Kōhatu

Hura Kōhatu is the unveiling of the headstone in the urupā (cemetery). The Hura Kōhatu occurs anytime from a year (sometimes longer) after the tangihanga.

Tikanga at home

Tikanga is not limited to the marae or formal occasions. Here are some of the ways that Tikanga can be applied at home – te kāinga.

Kaua e noho ki runga i te tēpu (refraining from sitting on tables)

Sitting on tables designated for kai should always be avoided as it is considered offensive to Māori. Therefore, it is best to avoid sitting on any table rather than speculating whether it is for food use or not.

Kaua e noho ki te urunga (refraining from sitting upon pillows)

The head is tapu; therefore, we need to be careful about things that are related to māhunga (the head), including pillows. Sitting on a pillow compromises the tapu of the person who uses it and could diminish their mana. Similarly, intentionally stepping over another person, especially when we are on a marae, can also jeopardise mana.

Kaua e kawe kai mā runga i te māhunga o te tangata (refraining from passing cooked kai over someone's head)

Cooked kai, is noa; it is an agent for lifting tapu. Passing kai over someone's head compromises tapu and can potentially diminish the mana of that person. There is the real and present risk of being burnt by hot food.

Te tapahi matikuku, maikuku me te makawe (cutting & disposing of fingernails, toenails and hair)

Matikuku, maikuku and makawe come from the tinana (body). Removing these items from the body can lead to a person's mauri's potency or life force weakening. Cutting fingernails should also happen outside and well away from areas like the kitchen (he wāhi kai).

Te tiaki kākahu me ngā taputapu (taking care of clothing and personal possessions)

Anything that is attached to or used for the tinana, like clothing or towels, should be safeguarded. It is essential to store these personal possessions thoughtfully. 

Kia mārama, kia mōhio ki te tapu me te noa (keeping things that are tapu separate from things that are noa)

Tikanga and Kawa help keep things that are designated as tapu separate from that which is noa, this also helps to protect mana and mauri. Common practices keep kai away from areas such as the whare tupuna and wash tea towels separately from bath towels.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Toro Mai - Kōrero Pūrākau - Ancient Narratives

Kia kaha, kia māia, kia manawanui!
Be strong, be steadfast, be willing!

My Te Ao Māori journey continues as I worked my way through Massey University Toro Mai Tikanga module over the last few months. I have enjoyed the insights I have been gifted with this course, especially Te Ao Maori's spiritual side, a part of my life that is lacking. These are my notes and thoughts as I try to get my head into the Te Ao Māori world view.

The mother and father of life

Papatūānuku - Earth, Earth mother and wife of Rangi-nui - all living things originate from them.
Rangi-nui - atua of the sky and husband of Papa-tū-ā-nuku, from which union originates all living things.

Tāne Mahuta was the offspring of Rangi-nui and Papatūānuku, and after discussing with his offspring, he forced them apart and was the creator of all living things such as animals, birds and trees by creating space between his parents.

The other children

Rongo-mā-Tāne - atua of kumara, agriculture, and peace
Tangaroa - atua of the sea
Tāne-mahuta is atua of the forests and birds and one of the children of Rangi-nui and Papa-tū-ā-nuku.
Tāwhiri-mātea is atua of the winds, clouds, rain, hail, snow, and storms.

Karakia and Kawa

We perform Karakia to engage within kawa (rituals) that enable groups to move carefully into the realms of Atua. This makes me think how important it is to know the purpose of a hui so the group can connect with the kaupapa and each other.
Karakia heightens our sense of awareness of specific Atua domains before moving into those spaces occurs. For example, if going for a group trail run through the forest performing a karakia supports bringing everyone into the right headspace to stay safe during the run.

Tapu and Rāhui

The observation of tapu helps to regulate safety, promote wellness and mitigate risk within the Māori universe. Tapu is also about the observation of factors that might pose a significant threat or risk to wellbeing. Tapu is used to control how people behaved towards each other and the environment, placing restrictions upon society to ensure that civilization flourished. 

Rāhui is an example of applied tapu and represents a way of restoring balance within the environment and conserving resources. Rāhui can manifest as a temporary ban on access to a particular natural resource or element and can be activated through karakia and the placing of environmental markers such as pou whenua. In some ways, rāhui can be likened to a public conservation, health and safety, and announcement.

I am beginning to understand tapu and rāhui and the benefits they can bring to support wellbeing, especially around the time of whānau passing. Reflecting on my past and not being religious, I wonder if when my nana was passing, the concept of tapu and associated kawa could have supported us over the week? 


Mauri is a concept that embodies physical vitality. Mauri can represent the life force within people and across the environment. The observation of tapu protects the essence of mauri. If tapu is disregarded or transgressed, then the mauri can be diminished.

Mauri Ora and Mauri Noho

A state of mauri ora is one of flourishing vitality, wellness, and being actively engaged and present. 
In contrast, mauri noho is a state of languishing vitality, disconnection and inactivity.

Mauri Tau and Mauri Rere

Mauri tau can describe a state whereby the mauri, or lifeforce of a person is settled and open to a process of renewal and rejuvenation. 

On the other hand, Maui rere refers to a state where the mauri is distinctly unsettled and where rejuvenation or renewal may not be possible.

Waiora – environmental wellbeing

The importance of wai (water) to wellbeing is significant.
Waiora includes protecting the environment, so water, land and air are clean, preserving and enhancing biodiversity, and opportunities for people to experience the natural environment. Waiora reaffirms our understanding of whakapapa and the connection to whenua and highlights the importance of sustainability.


Mana is said to flow from atua. It is also a concept that carries a broad range of interpretations and definitions, such as prestige, dignity, aura, spiritual vitality, influence and importance.

Manaakitanga and Mana Tangata

Manaakitanga is a critical concept that refers to sets of actions, practices and behaviours that embody empathy, compassion, hospitality and generosity. 
It is also a reference to how we look after manuhiri (guests) and indeed each other. 

The expression of Manaakitanga is also recognition of Mana Tangata; the mana of people is enhanced by the nature of our interaction with others. Our actions, practices and behaviours can be said to be mana enhancing or, on the other hand, mana diminishing.

Mana Tūpuna and Mana Atua

Mana Tūpuna refers to the mana of one’s ancestors or tūpuna. Recognition of Mana Tūpuna is also an acknowledgement of mana inherited through whakapapa. 
Mana Atua comes into this world through the energy sources of the Atua – from beyond this world.


A defining aspect of the Māori world view is that we emphasise the collective. Ko tātou katoa is an expression that means all of us. This concept is reflected in kaupapa such as Kotahitanga (unity), and Whanaungatanga (social connectedness). In the māori world view, the collective is more important than the individual. As a result, māori are brought up to be humble and do not readily share their strengths or skills. 

Whānau is a term that refers to your extended family, not just the immediate nuclear family (mother, father, brother and sister etc.), but encompassing grandparents, uncles, aunties, nieces, nephews, cousins and whoever might be closely connected. 

Kaupapa whānau, on the other hand, is a more modern term used to describe a collective of families who connect through a particular kaupapa. Common examples of kaupapa whānau include the touch rugby whānau, the Kura whānau, the kapa haka whānau, the kōhanga whānau.

Hapū is a term that is similar to the concept of community. It is a group who share a common ancestor (tūpuna) and rely on shared resources daily, for example, a fishing ground, a kōhanga reo, a kura, a mahinga kai (food gathering space).

An iwi is a collective of hapū or sub-tribes connected through whakapapa in a common ancestry and who unite as a collective or a consortium for particular reasons. For example, iwi might cooperate in natural disaster times or when critical political decisions are required. The Waitangi Tribunal has tended to engage with iwi; however, Te Tiriti o Waitangi was primarily signed by hapū leaders.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Wellbeing Won't Cut It Alone!

I thought by reflecting on my journey during this opportunity; I might clarify my thinking and support others. For myself, I believe that it is not wellbeing alone that made this challenge so manageable. It has been the combination of wellbeing, success and engagement, which has enabled me to come through this period refreshed and excited.

In my head, this has never been a crisis, I have seen it as a challenge or opportunity. I have been fortunate like most educators, I have continued to receive my full income. I am in no doubt if my wife or myself lost our incomes, then this would have become a possible crisis.

Do not get me wrong as I have had many moments of self-doubt, stress and anxiety; however, I have managed to work through these. I have come out the other side fresh and reinvigorated in my purpose and role supporting schools.

How have I done this? Let me take you through my reflections focussing on my wellbeing, success and engagement. At the time, I was not aware I was doing things that supported all three aspects.

I remember a colleague once telling a school staff meeting to ensure student success we needed to look at three parts of an equilateral triangle. These parts were student wellbeing, student engagement and student achievement. Missing one would impact on the others as they were all interconnected.

 Since the earthquakes in Christchurch, there has been a real push for wellbeing. As a result, I think we have forgotten about the importance of success and engagement for improving wellbeing.

The image above is my attempt to understand what these three things looked like for me. 
When I started, I was not sure how to define each, so I went to good ole Google. Here are what I have used to describe Wellbeing, Engagement and Success.

Engagement - I used a combination of resources from TKI Student Engagement Teaching as Inquiry, Universal Design for Learning from Inclusive Education and Ka Hikitia Accelerating Success

I am going to relate them to my own experiences and why I am feeling so positive and refreshed.


  • Take Notice - One of the simple things that give me joy is having a spa with the family which continued over lockdown.
  • Keep Learning - I signed up to two challenges during the lockdown, one around nutrition and the other the 25 days push up challenge. I learnt many new things which I implemented into my daily routine and enjoyed. I did so much professional knowledge building as I am sure many educators did as I worked through what learning from home required to be successful.
  • Be Active - I maintained my regular exercise program and even added extra with regular walks with my wife.
  • Give - with a colleague; I explored new ways to present content to teachers, learners and whānau online, created resources and shared these with our communities. I connected with friends online, played games with my bubble, supported my wife and children in working and learning from home. However, my wife did most of the learning support for our children while I had online meetings.
  • Connect - I connected teachers and leaders I supported either face to face online or through blogging, email and online support and found this very rewarding and enjoyable. I met daily with our national team for a quick update and participated in Friday online drinks. We connected with other family members outside our bubble. We gave our children access to messenger apps that allowed them to communicate with their friends and cousins.


  • I participated and contributed confidently in a range of contexts to support teachers, leaders, students, whānau, family, friends and new acquaintances. For example, we created a site to support educators teaching from home and I joined a Whatsapp group to support each other in a nutrition challenge. I was involved in numerous video conferences, messages, emails, and phone calls to connect with others personally and professionally.
  • I was a successful lifelong learner completing a nutrition challenge which I gained much new knowledge to support my training and future sporting events. I blogged as I worked through my thinking about the new learnings in lockdown. My children and I learnt lots about how we all work as we came up with strategies to support our learning from home. Once again, I blogged about this to support others who may have had similar issues.
  • I have good relationship skills, are self-confident and can bounce back from setbacks. I can lead while being able to self manage and make responsible decisions to ensure my practices are sustainable. One of the things I did that was successful during this time was creating a routine early on and sharing this with all the educators I supported.
  • I have self-belief due to the knowledge I am involved with numerous individuals and organisations that know what they are doing. I also know how to navigate the online world when I do not know something to access content, knowledge and skills to support myself. I think this self-belief supports me to be confident in my identity, language and culture as a citizen of New Zealand. This confidence extends to fixing a motor on a washing machine, supporting my son through the meltdown of online learning, or changing the way I look at traditional knowledge of food and education.


  • Cognitive - I learnt late in my life that I learn best by either doing, watching or talking with others to develop my knowledge and skills.  However, I am also able to draw on other modes of accessing information like text and audio if the situation warrants it. I am lucky the leaders I work with understand learning and therefore provide access to materials in numerous ways. I have been trying to utilise the principles of Universal Design for Learning in my work when supporting others. We had supported our children by looking at the content provided for their learning. When it was not available through the class learning, we found the information in different formats online. 
  • Cultural  - this has been an exciting experience seeing how families and organisations, including my own, have created environments online to promote a sense of belonging. The addition of grid view in a Google Meet helped develop a sense of belonging along with the use of secondary smaller online bubbles for more intimate group work. When learning online, there is a real need to show the organisation's culture and values, what makes your audience think "that is my classroom". Acknowledging culture is an area I am developing and often is left till last as I think about how learners will access the content. However, reflecting on this as I write this, what use is equitable access if the learner can not see their culture or values in the content and choose not to engage?
  • Behavioural - My children certainly had enjoyed the choice they were given and the freedom of choosing when and how they completed their learning. We did have meltdowns when there were no scaffolds as to how to complete the work or support for the students' workflow. I have been allowed the space to work in a high trust model. I had choice and opportunities for how I interact with material and how I want to show that material in my context. I was able to think about what I could manage in my context and then plan my workload accordingly. I had support and guidance from leadership about how to proceed in our daily meetings. The big enabler was I realised with support from colleagues and reading others experiences what was manageable and sustainable. I think some educators who felt their wellbeing had been impacted by Learning at Home did not modify their behaviours. They proceeded to interact with learners the same way they did face to face.
  • Emotional - going into this experience, my colleagues have known me and built relationships with me for seven years. They understand how I work and what support I might need. I think with the work I have done with educators in our online meets has developed stronger relationships. For some, working at home offered an environment with fewer distractions so they could focus on what mattered and changed as needed. It was so awesome seeing my son connect with one of his teachers and the commonalities he found he had with the teacher. Caution needs to be applied, especially in a secondary context as it would be impossible to connect with all your students individually online. I would imagine where educators tried to do this; they may well be exhausted now as we head back to schools.
My personal opinion is that if we solely focus on wellbeing at the expense of the other two, we will end up in a worse position. 
As leaders,
  • Can we empower individuals and groups to manage their own lives by focussing on the five ways to wellbeing?
  • Could we support them to enable themselves to be successful in life?
  • Might we encourage them to engage by considering how we interact with them through material and expectations of evidence? 
Maybe by focussing on all three aspects, we may help to create a  state of being for all that is comfortable, healthy, and happy for the majority of the time.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Equity: is it the Device or Teacher?

There has been an increasing focus on equitable access to education throughout the Covid19 event as it has highlighted the issues with access to education. The event has been challenging my thinking, along with being challenged by my colleague Sharon Spragg to deliver our Cybersmart curriculum differently.

I have a strong drive for equitable access and visibility for education hence why I continue to be involved in education.

Sharon and I are inspired by a number of our colleagues' work, particularly Cam Cameron from Kootuitui ki Papakura Cluster planning our Term 2 Cybersmart Lessons.

My colleague Linda Ojala also gave me some feedback on the site's layout and UDL principles.

If I genuinely believe in equity, then getting the devices into students hands is only the first step. We then need to ensure the content itself is accessible and equitable.

We have attempted to do this following Universal Design for Learning Principles and our own experiences in education. We have tried to take a lesson and differentiate the content into three parts.
The teacher, whether online or face to face, would then modify in response to individual students' needs. They would also emphasise critical thinking and strategic learning. I think we still have a way to go to create lessons that reflect a high competence of UDL however we need to start somewhere and this blog post is the beginning of my reflections into our planning efforts.

So what have we done?
As I stated in the previous paragraph, each lesson is in three parts, beginner, stepping up and confident and is aimed from Year 3 - 10. We are expecting in the classes we work with we will have students ranging from beginners to confident and want to support and stretch all the students. The lessons can be guided by a teacher or completed independently with some teacher or peer support.

Each lesson layout is the same and also colour coded, grey for beginner, blue for stepping up and white for confidence, with a button at the top of each page to take the student to the correct place. We will reflect on our layout once we have taught in some classes to get feedback on the amount of information on each page.

Any text on the web page or in the Google Slides has narration reading the text. We have done this as we find that the text to speech tools can be a bit hit and miss for the students, and we want to remove as many barriers as possible.

Each lesson has a screencast video on the left explaining the learning task and on the right side is the Google Slides of the learning resource. As you can see in the slideshow, there is a Learn Create Share overview, videos teaching, explaining or modelling the tasks as well as instructions to work through the learning.

Each lesson also has a "Pathway for Learning" to support students who like a pathway or list to support their learning. These may be added to the slides in the future; however, at the moment, they are separate as some students may like them printed out so they can tick off each task as they do it. I know personally, my son loves the format on the left, whereas my daughter prefers the one on the right. Maybe another future step is colour coding the list to Learn Create Share?

In my head, this sort of access to learning for the student should

  • Free me up as a teacher to rove and support students with discussions and critical thinking.
  • Allow time for students to choose and opt into workshops and conferencing to support their learning.
  • Empower students to drive their learning and choose when they wish to complete the work.
  • Spend longer on a lesson if it interests them and go deeper by moving onto the next stage for example beginner to stepping up
  • Reduce time the students have to wait for the teacher to explain the learning

The planning of this content has been time-consuming and has added to our workload; however, we are getting faster as we develop our processes for recording sound etc.
How would I make this work if I was in a classroom?

  • Just like learning at home, I would reduce the content I wanted to get through. LESS IS MORE!
  • Collaborate with others to plan content and share the workload.
  • Utilise Multi Text databases, and other teachers work off their sites.
  • Use everyday authentic texts that are engaging and interest students, such as journals and books both online and offline. 
  • Plan for one to two-week lessons allowing more time for discussion about the texts and learning. Separate discussion from collaboration. What is the quality of the conversation that these students are having?
  • Go wider and deeper into texts about an area instead of more texts on lots of topics. Focus on the thinking about thinking, e.g. "Do I have evidence, have I justified myself, is this an opinion or a fact etc."
  • Allow more time for the Learn. Encourage students having a role in the workshops, for example, questioner, summariser etc. Do students understand what is expected of them, and they have permission to speak and think?
  • Allow more time to Create. All these lessons work on the assumption the teacher will encourage and empower students who are capable to utilise the best tool to present their learning depending on the task.
  • Allow more time to share. Collaborating and making choices in the sharing. Encourage students to think "what is the purpose of sharing this artifact?". "Why did you choose to share in that particular way?  

If we believe in equity, then this is the next step in supporting students to ensure all our students discover success in their learning. It should work in all subject areas and right across the curriculum.

I think It is well worth the effort! Do you?

Please comment on any ideas or suggestions you have to make our teaching more accessible to our learners.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

More Questions Than Answers - Teaching and Learning From Home

Hard to believe we are into our fourth week of learning from home for Term 2. It has been incredible seeing the thinking that is coming out from the community around learning from home.

I have loved the blog posts from several educators and in particular, Robin Sutton. In his latest post, he spoke about a hunch he had, and many educators from around NZ agreed with the idea.

Excerpt from Robins blog post in blue

His hunch went like this.
"We can divide our learners into four groups.
1. Those high flyers who will be just that, regardless of how we 'deliver' or 'cause' their learning. Here is an example of that from Jessica. We have many others.
2. Those students who sit in the middle, whose engagement in school is variable, from whom we get the usual range of work from poor to great results, dependent on how successful we are in grabbing their attention and engaging them (in my opinion their range of engagement is more a result of what we do .. as a system .. than what they do).
3. Those students who attend school some or most of the time but with whom we struggle to get much meaningful engagement.
4. Those students who do not engage, and with whom we work hard as we support them through a range of social and psychosocial issues created by anything from poverty, to mental or physical health challenges, to those who have been seriously damaged by societal problems that are beyond their control".

Thinking about supporting children's learning, I reflected on what I have seen in the work I do with Manaiakalani and as a parent to my children.
I have listed some of the powerful things that I have noticed. I believe learning at home has so many variables that we need to be very flexible and agile to meet everyone's needs.

Here are my thoughts.

Leaders and Teachers

  • Limit the links - Manaiakalani's consistent message since the start of lockdown
  • Plan carefully to empower your staff, and community, e.g. make all the school learning sites a similar design to support navigation. Ensure the layout for learning is consistent and doesn't change drastically from lesson to lesson or over time.
  • Communicate with your community regularly via live streams, video and text, especially at the start - e.g. Jo Earl - principal message to the community.
  • Use platforms that do not require passwords or class codes, e.g. Google Site compared to Google Classroom - remove as many barriers as possible for the whānau.
  • Get parents, teachers and student voices, especially now we have settled into this new space.
  • Regularly reflect on what is working and what is not.
  • Offer parents, teachers and student's a chance to share their voices.
  • Share your own experiences and learnings about Learning From Home.
  • Take time to create for yourself - experiment with the tools your staff and students are using, see what the enablers and barriers are.
  • Support other teachers and students by making your teaching visible - we have a wealth of knowledge, so let's share it
  • There are days it just will not work! Relax, take it easy - tomorrow will be better.

When you connect the questions below with the four groups Robin speaks about, how would these questions look for each group?

Questions for Leaders and Teachers

  • The hook - how are you enticing learners to engage? Why should they engage?
  • Do your students have a choice about their learning at a deeper level than just being able to click different learning links? Is there a learning focus to go with the links? Do the learners know the purpose of the learning? What learning do you want to cause with the activity?
  • Are you catering for all four groups - some kids won't want to learn - how could you engage them?
  • What are you doing to connect with students and whānau and further develop these relationships? 
  • Are your expectations at the right level for all four groups - how do you set expectations so all learners feel they can succeed?
  • Are some of your students ready for face to face discussions and critical thinking about learning online? How can you extend these students while supporting the others? Does collaborative space have more opportunities to do this with multiple teachers?
  • Are there rewindable learning opportunities created by you using interactive sites (e.g Google Arts and Culture), video, audio and text to engage students?
  • Do you offer opportunities for students and whānau to connect with you? How do you manage this while still balancing daily workload?
  • What opportunities are there for students to share and celebrate their work?
  • How do you support Whānau to support their children in self-managing their learning at home?
There are lots of questions in this post and depending on where your school was before the lockdown some will be more relevant than others.

This is an exciting time to be involved in education and I really look forward to what the future holds for all our learners.