Relationships - Student Engagement
An interesting report from the Grattan Institute this week discusses student engagement levels in Australian schools. The report details figures of “as many as 40 per cent of school students are unproductive in a given year” and the possible effect this is having on these students being one or two years behind their counterparts.
This raises some very important questions around teaching and learning, what students bring to their education and how important “relationships” in a school community are.
I would like to think that you don’t judge a book by its cover or a school or teacher or student. Disengagement levels of 40% are not reflective of all schools in this country. It really depends on the school and its approach to teaching and learning and the value it places on knowing and valuing each student as an individual.
Schools that understand their students as unique learners and ensures that teaching and learning is flexible and the curriculum meaningful and relatable to them find that disengagement is not as high as highlighted in the Grattan Report. At Moama Anglican Grammar, we work hard as a school community to reflect, review and collaborate with the students so that they are the focus of the learning. In giving students voice and choice, ownership, in what and how they learn ultimately makes each school day valuable to them increasing engagement and achievement.
The value of a regional school and its staff is akin to a hidden gem! For the most part schools like ours are much more stable in staffing not having the high turnover that city schools experience. This means a strong culture and ethos is built, maintained and grown and is specific to the area and its needs. Many of our staff have been in the school and area for good periods of time which gives them the advantage of knowing students and their families really well, ensuring strong relationships, not just with the student, but the whole family and community. These relationships grow very strongly both in and outside of the school day. The power of these relationships ensures our school has higher engagement levels than perhaps those in the cities as students are invested in both the subject and the partnership they have with their teachers. These partnerships are built on high expectations and shared understandings of who they are as individuals and what they want to achieve.
I have an educational partnership with Girl Geek Academy. They are a group of 5 women who all work full time in other IT roles and also run Girl Geek Academy.
Girl Geek Academy is a global movement encouraging women to learn technology, create start-ups and build more of the internet. Our face-to-face programs currently run in Melbourne, New York and San Francisco. They have a big goal of teaching 1 million girl geeks to build technology and create start-ups by 2025. They create educational experiences that bring female hackers, hustlers, hipsters and start up enthusiasts together to learn, teach, share, form teams and build the internet. They have 5 main areas #SheHacks, #SheMakes. #SheJams, #SheMakes_Games and LadieswhoLinux.
Their programs increase the number of women with technology skills. Girl Geek Academy is designed by Girl Geeks for women who want to learn more about technology and aspire to a Girl Geek future. They invite Girl Geeks to learn and teach through our workshops, intensive weekends, online courses, hackathons, game jams, meetups and maker fests. I am a member of Girl Geek Academy having applied and been accepted at the start of this year. Since then I have worked with them and attended workshops.
Girl Geek provides workshops that are an inspiring, engaging and fun. I was so impressed and truly overwhelmed by the spirit, creativity and intelligence that I saw at #SheHacks that then translates to bona-fide expertise and careers for the women. I wanted to work with them and contribute to what they were doing but I also could see how a partnership with them could benefit the educational program at school particularly in STEM, Coding, 3D and VR all areas that we had been focusing on. I felt that there would be mutual benefit from working with them.
So, I contacted Sarah Moran one of the CEO’s who I had met at #SheHacks as we had hit it off that day and pitched an idea. I have been teaching Prep IT for the last year and a half and this year I piloted some of the new Project Zero Visible Thinking Routines with my prep class. K has piloted the new routines this year (lucky us). In doing this I was amazed by their capacity and intellectual ability. I feel that in trying to routine Prep – Year 2 we limit and stifle them thereby teaching them to not think to their full capacity. Children at that age are at their cognitive best, open to everything having not yet been exposed to the peer and social playground “rules” that do change them later on. They have no fear of being wrong, or acting a bit silly, or trying new things, or not even knowing what the lesson is even about!
I had been teaching Coding using Code Studio to them and they were doing very well being able to understand algorithmic thinking, program structures and could use code block.
I felt that the best way to address the worldwide problem of the lack of women in IT especially programmers was to get to girls at this age. So I pitched a draft version of what became #MissMakesCode
Knowing that if Girl Geek could partner with me on this then together we could have a big impact and build a lasting program. I designed a one-day workshop that would build the confidence and ability to understand our world at its basic level of binary data.
Activities on the day focused on skills and strategies to develop algorithmic thinking and creative problem solving. Practical hands on tasks where all levels of success are recognised, ensures that all girls who participate will fast track their journey in computer science and coding.
The event was a massive success with media coverage in the Age, in the US, twitter, Code Spark and its affiliates. From our work together Sarah and I have planned more programs under Girl Geek to continue to build on what we started. With the overall goal one that is close to both of our hearts – to increase the opportunities for females in IT. We have applied for funding to scale #MissMakes across the country and to work together at my new school in the area of Makerspaces with a 3D Printing focus. The grants have been Digital Literacy School Grants (DLSG): Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies and Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship Programme Application Form. We prepared the applications together under Girl Geek Academy.
Business and education experts agree that STEM education better prepares students and opens the door for greater career options. A STEM-based education is important because some element of science, technology, engineering and/or math is evident in most well-paying jobs. A recent article in Network World stated a majority of the highest-paying university majors are in engineering, led by petroleum engineers with a mid-career median salary of $172,000. Even for those without a degree, the National Science Foundation reported technical STEM jobs often are among the best paying and most stable jobs—with incomes twice that of comparable workers in other fields. To ensure schools can support STEM curriculums, technology companies need to provide more than their fair share. If we want to improve the fundamental issues facing our country, we must devise new ways to increase involvement, such as business’s partnering with educational institutions of all levels and sizes.
Recent research and articles published of late are strongly encouraging businesses to get involved in education and partner with schools to
Schools too need to be proactive and make the connections and build the relationships. The entrepreneurial spirit that we want to develop in the students we teach that has them demonstrating a true passion for building something great from nothing and being willing to push themselves to the limits to achieve big goals, we need to develop in ourselves first.When we can role model this and bring these partnerships to our schools then we will be successful in growing the mindset that is needed for the future; one that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service and continuous improvement.
Confucius termed PBL as learning by doing, Socrates referred to it as modelling though questions and inquiry and educationalist John Dewey pointed out PBL is dynamic learning, education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.
Problem-based learning emerged more than half a century ago as a practical teaching strategy where students are challenged to solve problems or do simulations that mimic real life. Although problems are defined in advance by the teacher, they tend to be complex, even messy, and cannot be solved by one right or easy-to-find answer. This is how students learn something they can't learn in a classroom or from a text. Unlike textbook-driven instruction, problem-based learning puts the student in charge of asking questions and discovering answers.
In schools today, project-based learning has evolved as a method of instruction that addresses core content through rigorous, relevant, hands-on learning. Students are encouraged to have a makers’ mindset that has been described as “playful, asset and growth-minded, failure positive, and collaborative". Projects are typically framed with open-ended questions that drive students to investigate, do research, or construct their own solutions. Students use technology tools much as professionals do perhaps even more, to communicate, collaborate, conduct research, analyse, create, and publish their own work for real world audiences. Instead of writing book reports, they create podcasts reviews of books, post them on a blog, and invite responses from a partner class in another class or country. The visible thinking routines Stories, Sticking Points, Facts or Fiction and Same and Different have assisted students greatly in our PBL activities.
PBL appeals to and engages the full range of diversity in today’s learners because it meets the many of the cognitive processes needed to learn and think at deeper levels. Culture, context, and the social nature of learning all have a role in shaping a learner's experience. PBL offers these through relevance, choice, evaluation and justification activities that promote higher order thinking skills. Our evolving definition of literacy is also addressed in PBL, as students must to be able to navigate and evaluate a vast amount of data & information in this digital age. Fluency in technology along with the development of critical thinking skills is required.
Our children face a world full of complex challenges. Knowing how to solve problems, work collaboratively, and think innovatively are vital skills not only for navigating their own lives but also for tackling difficult issues in local communities and around the world.
I am absolutely thrilled that this event is taking place and hope to see many young girls take this opportunity to be IT Girls!
Leadership is not a destination. Once you get the role or title it doesn’t stop there. In fact that is where real leadership begins. Your leadership journey is a personal thing as individual and unique as you are. You need to know what you value, be brave enough to acknowledge it and then find a way to live it. In my life I’ve been lucky to have been around some really great leaders; some I’ve worked for, some have been my friends and others I have had the honour of meeting. What I have come to understand is that there are certain qualities that these people have that don’t just make them good leaders but great ones.
The first of these is courage.
There are times as a leader when you have to stand alone, often in the face of adversity and sometimes against your peers and even friends. Sometimes as a leader you have to stand at the very front. Be the one willing to make the first move, take the first step or stand up for everyone else. At other times as a leader you have to stand at the very back, to let others lead or to empower others to lead and recognise their potential. Courageous Leadership is knowing where to stand.
The second quality is humility.
As a leader you need to know yourself well and recognise that you are both big and small. Small in comparison to the big wide world and big in comparison with petty fears, self doubt and insecurity. Knowing others is important too – having insight, listening and hearing (two different things) and being able to see things from all points of view. Humble Leadership is a door to wisdom.
Next comes integrity.
As a leader you need to know what is right and then act on it. Knowing what is right comes from a clear set of values, self belief and listening to your inner voice. You need to say what you mean and do what you say. Integrity brings respect, trust, loyalty and commitment.
The fourth quality is humour.
As a leader humour is really important as it can put the difficult and complex into perspective. It helps you to survive to live and fight another day. Humour makes things fun for you and those that are around you. Don’t be afraid to find humour and even have a laugh at yourself. “A smile is the curve that puts everything straight”.
Lastly we have compassion.
Compassionate leadership is the balance between IQ and EQ and as women we know these well. Remember that leadership needs to be shared (you cannot lead if there is no one to follow you). You need to work together with common understandings to improve, to be generous and kind. It is also important to let yourself and others learn through mistakes, this way that we can come to understand the consequences of our actions. Compassion Leadership understands human frailty.
Courage, Humility, Integrity, Humour, Compassion – the better angels of human nature – female leaders let your better angels shine through.
Using Padlet to get students thinking about the complex issues. My activity Padlet:
The padlet completed by students highlighting the 4 levels of thinking:
We have all felt stumped by a question at some point in our life. Be that in an exam, interview, a social situation, or even when a student or our own child has given us “brain fade”. This makes us feel like the question is almost unanswerable leaving us dazed, flustered and confused. Confusion can sometimes be subjective to a situation, but mostly it’s subject to our thought processes.
Thought processes for most of us adults are long held, they haven’t changed much since we went to school. Regardless of whether we are highly academic, creative, naturally talented, multitasking wizards or successful entrepreneurs “confusion” and the thought processes that lead to it make us feel inefficient when approaching various tasks or situations. Why? the traditional learning methods from years ago are not as supportive or as flexible for what we need to do cognitively today. But, intelligence isn’t fixed or applicable to certain subjects as we know. Having a growth mindset approach clearly sets out that, it is down to you, the thinker, at whatever age or stage of development you are.
Which begs a simple question: how efficient are your cognitive processes? What does it take to find your spark?
We can help to find each other’s sparks by:
Talking to others about activities that bring joy and energy. To start a conversation, you might ask questions:
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