Friday, August 27, 2010

Kura Kaupapa Māori using LAMS to help motivate and engage students

Robin Ohia (image provided by Robin)

Robin Ohia is one of the energetic, creative educators with whom I have been working for the last eight months as part of the Virtual Professional Development (VPD) project.

To provide a little bit of background around the project he is leading**, in 2005 the Ministry of Education funded the launch of LAMS in Aotearoa New Zealand. Since 200, Robin has been working on the LAMS Bilingual Interface Trial / Te Reo Māori Project, which has a strong focus on the Learning Activities Management System (LAMS). The idea behind the project was, in part, to reduce isolation, and to help with this he has been working with five geographically distant Kura Kaupapa Māori from the Whanganui, Ruapehu, Taranaki and Wellington regions.

Te Atihaunui a Paparangi (Images provided by Robin)

The stated aims of the project were to provide access to digital resources and learning activities for teachers and students within bilingual educational settings, while also evaluating the effective management of an online learning environment, the systems within the learning environment, and the effectiveness of such an environment to assist students with student learning outcomes and objectives within bilingual educational settings. I was hoped that through the use of integrated systems and rich mixed mode media learning content (available both online and offline), would help teachers construct new ideas leading that in turn led to improved student engagement and motivation.

An important part of the achievement of these aims was the establishment a vibrant community of learning, and online access was seen as way of connecting people. Robin, therefore established online collaborative areas in LAMS, Moodle and Adobe Connect. He mentions that it can be tough to help sustain the community, as teachers can be keen on the Professional Development (PD) aspect, but sometimes find it more tricky to be active members of the community while also grappling with identity shifts as teachers and as learners.

Some project participants (from top) Miriama Harmer - Principal (Te Atihaunui a Paparangi), Robin Ohia, & Yvette McGregor (images provided by Robin)

The Aotearoa New Zealand LAMS is aimed at students in years 1 to 8 and designed specifically for Māori-medium settings, whereby students are able to learn individually and collectively and teachers are able to create lessons and monitor students’ progress online. Robin also sees the project as a positive professional development experience for teachers who are starting to explore online learning environments within their kura, and says “The project enhances outcomes by teachers becoming more aware of how to construct learning for their students. This is particularly efficient when systems are incorporated into the students’ existing environments” (Annual Report on Māori Education, 2008/09). LAMS appears to be a good way of scaffolding teachers embarking on the design of learning experiences within online environments - a kind of stepping stone.

For the future, Robin is encouraging a more coordinated effort to help expand the existing digital resources that have already been developed as part of the project. One of the barriers to this is workload: “The scary part is whether those responsible for Māori education, with their heavy workloads, can sustain the momentum the project needs” (Annual Report on Māori Education, 2008/09). Robin hopes LAMS will extend to other kura in the near future.

To watch and hear Robin speaking about the LAMS Project click HERE , and to watch a slideshow to some of the underlying concepts of the project click HERE.

(**Some of the information above was sourced from VLN Projects 2008/2009, the 2008 LAMS conference in Sydney, and the Annual Report on Māori Education, 2008/09.)

An illustration of the environment that Robin has created in Moodle as part of the LAMS Project

Successes to date

As well as helping to develop the initial bilingual interface and facilitate the community and associated PD around the LAMS Project, Robin continues to teach and is rapt as his students have started to suggest topics they would like to see as LAMS sequences. Robin has also noted that the LAMS PD community has encouraged the integration of an online environment into students’ learning in a way that mirrors the kind of online experiences they have in their personal lives. One specific learner Robin speaks of is a student with attention problems, who went on to spend 35 to 40 minutes on a LAMS activity, as well as other students who voluntarily access LAMS from home. “The feedback from teachers pertaining to motivation can only be described, in their words, as ‘unbelievable’.” (Annual Report on Māori Education, 2008/09).

Examples from some of the LAMS sequences that Robin has been involved with

On the PD front, Robin now has four teachers who are ready to start facilitating their own LAMS PD sessions with new teachers in the cluster. Robin is also working with a new PD group around LAMS and says they have a lot of energy and motivation to go full steam ahead, which he is finding exciting and inspirational. He has also noted that online PD is becoming more mainstream, and is consequently a focus of some of the groups he is working with. Some of the feedback Robin has received from participants includes:

Glenise Ward - Year 2 Teacher

"My first impressions were, oh my gosh, what is this all about? At that stage IT and I were not very good friends. HOW, was the biggest issue but looking ahead to the benefits for the tamariki [children] drove me to rethink my position with IT. Eventually seeing the activities hands-on, and the tamariki being involved helped me to understand the objectives and purpose."

Tira Woodley - Year 4-5 Teacher

"Impressed by how quick most of the tamariki grasped the concept of following through with the activities. As i have grown I have had time to absorb and understand the direction that LAMS has to offer and the benefits our tamariki will achieve in this modern eLearning programme. Its cool...all the tamariki love it and the enthusiasm has been shown by all tamariki, especially their learning behaviour."

On the assessment front, Robin in keenly exploring the potential of LAMS for diagnostic, formative and summative assessment, and accelerated achievement and outcomes. It all looks really positive.

Robin also takes an active part in the LAMS international community.

A screen shot from the video Robin made giving an overview of the LAMS Project

A bit more about LAMS

The Learning Activities Management System (LAMS) is a resource that enables teachers to create lessons and monitor students’ progress online. It also helps school leaders in general, and in Māori-medium settings in particular, to share knowledge, resources and teaching ideas on a daily basis. LAMS has been completely or partially translated to 27 languages by more than 55 volunteers (and you can volunteer to help out with this initiative). To find out more about LAMS you can visit:

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Sharing effective practice between education institutions: Why and how?

One noticeable shift that has been underway for the last few years in education institutions in New Zealand and globally is the increasing awareness of the benefits of sharing effective practice, hand-in-hand with a growing willingness to share. The following are examples of this trend toward sharing, and both cite benefits, but are there any drawbacks, and what could this sharing 'look like' in the future?

To be part of this conversation, first watch  the video and then read Darren Sudlow's blog post "Why Communities of schools?". Next, post your thoughts around what you see as the benefits and barriers to sharing between education institutions.

The description from the site reads: At the First Federation in Devon, four primary schools have formed a hard federation in order to improve standards across the board. This allows them to share good practice by arranging senior leadership meetings, joint staff meetings and even video conferencing to allow schools to link up and increase dialogue. Staff are able to change schools within the federation, which means that their knowledge can be shared further. Meanwhile, at Bishop Stopford School in Kettering, they have joined the Leading Edge Partnership Programme started by the SSAT. They work closely with four schools in their local area to share ideas and make a coherent strategy both at management level and for teaching and learning. The partnership also allows them to team up with local businesses,share lesson starters and brainstorm ideas to improve lessons and make them relevant for the world of work.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Alternative approaches to assessment

Paul Denny from the University of Auckland has created a system that students use to "develop course-based multiple-choice questions and accompanying explanations to share with other learners. These questions are used by others for studying, critiquing and discussing. Each question is rated for difficulty and quality. The process of answering, evaluating and discussing questions developed by their peers enables students to compare their performance and understanding with that of other students studying the same material" (quote from this page).

Please watch the video to hear what the lecturers and students who have been using Peerwise think, and then feel free to answer some or all of the questions below, or to contribute your own thoughts and experiences around alternative approaches to assessment.

  • What were your reactions to the video? Anything strike you as particularly controversial?
  • What are your reactions to the concept of students creating assessment questions?
  • Have you encouraged your own students to develop (or co-develop) their assessments?
  • What might be the positive aspects of getting learners involved in assessment writing in this way? Negatives?
  • Are there any sector-specific considerations?
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Friday, August 20, 2010

Young learners leading the way

Image source
 There is much talk of creativity and concern that schools indeed, in the words of Sir Ken Robinson, kill creativity. A Futurelab review (2002 - click here to download the .pdf of the review) indicated that the "Understandings of the nature of creativity have changed in scope and depth over the last hundred years.... More recently there has been an acknowledgement of the creative potential of all individuals in different knowledge domains, or subjects not confined to traditional definitions of the ‘arts’ or ‘sciences’. An ethos which encourages creativity in different communities and environments also has an influence on individuals and groups. Creativity can now be recognised and valued at the level of individuals, peergroups or the wider society and considered as an essential element in participating in and contributing to the life and culture of society".
With this notion of creativity in mind it is heartening and reassuring to find concrete examples close to home. I found the following learning story to be inspirational, and think that it illustrates how important it is not to underestimate young learners, and what they are capable of when given the freedom/scaffolding to be creative.
(Note: The person who contributed this information to a discussion forum of which I am a member has given me permission to reproduce the story - many thanks, but wishes to remain anonymous to protect the privacy of 'M').
"Some days you just get blown away. Some of you may stop reading now. We have had a number of comments about what 'young learners' can and cannot do and whether it is 'real' learning or even fits the curriculum?? I would like to recount a situation i observed yesterday....
Place - small rural school of 9 pupils (yes pupils not teachers) 7 classroom computers (cross platform) with 3 not working "we can't afford to get them fixed right now even if I take them to town". This school has minimal (like no) technical support, no technical expertise on staff, have one password for everything (that HAS to change) that was set two principals ago but the kids are confident, thinking eLearners and doing some stunning stuff.
Subject - girl 6 years and 7 months (I checked). School focus Water - special stuff. That's not quite what the teacher called it 8-}
9.00am a quick class discussion about looking after water and with each of the kids having previously chosen a question to focus on, they headed off. the kids had learning intentions for the process basically 3 page presentation a minimum of 4 of their own images and/or drawings (NO Clip Art allowed), one embedded video commentary, a title and explanatory text throughout. They were 'allowed' one piece of Comic Lettering.

M grabbed one of 3 digital cameras and a year 7 buddy (I am not allowed to go without him) and headed across the playground to the creek. Took at least 10 photos of the creek - talked about showing the important things, getting close (mud, rubbish and weed) and telling a story. The creek was really pretty clean but M thought the slime and the mud were 'gross' - she was thrilled to find the Coke can 8-} I am not sure how she would have handled it if the creek had been pristine??? Got back and dismissed Year 7 - "thanks X". The rest was all done on her own.
  • Downloaded photos - had to search for the cable 8-}
  • Opened Comic Life
  • One screen large photo of Coke can and comic lettering YUK
  • next screen 4 photos with captions (got help with spelling!)
  • Saved as .jpegs
  • Opened Photobooth and then spent time thinking about what she was going to say about the state of the creek. Had 4 trial runs and deleted them all.
  • Happy with the 5th - 18 seconds of commentary!!!! Dropped movie onto desktop.
  • Opened KidPix made a title page - no clip art - her drawing of the creek with a 'Mind our creek' title.
  • Inserted coke picture and caption on second slide.
  • Brought in 4 picture jpeg and added some colour (frilly stuff with the pencil) onto slide 3
  • Then embedded her movie commentary in the middle of it - checked it a couple of times - giggling
  • then went to slideshow and bought in each of her 3 slides - timed them herself!! so that her commentary finished.
  • Exported that as a Quicktime and put it on the shared drive saying 'this is going on the class story (shared keynote I think) ticked a box on the board so the teacher would look at it and then went off and did a maths exercise with counters.
Image source
I sat back thinking 'Far out' or something similar - I must note here that i had been 'floating' around the class.
This was a quality learning experience, all of the tools worked and were suitable to age stage and focus. There was significant thought, planning, multi literacies, minimal collaboration, mountains of construction. She problem solved verbally throughout (and not just because I was there)."
The person who contributed the story, went on to say that the creativity, autonomy, responsibility, involvement, sense of ownership, and quality learning were in part facilitated by access to reliable and appropriate tools. The writer pointed out that they wanted "the software to be kid friendly and as bullet proof as possible.When we are talking about new environments we need to make sure the steps are forward, manageable by the '3rd principal in 4 years' and are robust and affordable". And finishes with the key question: "if she can do this at 6 what might we be able to support her to do at 16?"
What are your thoughts? Experiences? Stories?
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Myth or reality? Learning styles under investigation

learning stylesImage by LindaH via Flickr

In this video Professor Daniel Willingham puts forward a compelling argument that learning styles are a myth and describes research purportedly supporting his stance. (It is interesting to read some of the comments and discussion below the video too).

  • Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  • What have your experiences with learning styles been?
  • What conclusion have you reached about learning styles?
  • And, what implication(s) does that have for the design of learning experiences?
Please jump in and contribute to this discussion.

Learning Styles Don't Exist

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Make your Moodle visual

Internet Map. Ninian Smart predicts global com...Image via WikipediaThis is a short video that shows you how to link to activities created in Moodle as well as external sites, in a Moodle book plugin. It also shows you how to create very visual home pages in Moodle with less scrolling down.

Click HERE to view the video full size.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Teaching geography in New Zealand: Māori geography

An equirectangular projection of Polynesia, cr...
Image via Wikipedia
Following on from a post I made a few weeks ago Links to ideas, resources, and tools for learning and teaching Te Reo Māori, there has been growing interest in discipline-specific resources, in particular geography.




Paul Keown from the University of Waikato suggests that Māori geography should feature more strongly, and indicated that the new school curriculum certainly enables that, while the Māori Geography Unit standards allow geography students to gain NCEA credits too.


Original documents and sources


Graphs that show the number of canoes arriving 1852-1858 (click on the thumnail images above to see the graphs full size)

Janey Nolan (also from the University of Waikato and initiator of the Isolated to Connected Geography Community) has also uploaded a couple of graphs (click on the thumbnail images above to see them full size). Janey advises that the graphs are "not great quality but ok if you click on them and enlarge them". The graphs illustrate "the number of canoes that arrived in Onehunga from the years 1852 to 1858: Also, Crews and Quantity and Species of Produce, as nearly as can be ascertained (A. J. H. R. 1865). The graphs show [that] the amount of produce the Waikato Maori traded with Australia is amazing , especially kits of Onions, Cabbages, Peaches, Maize etc. as well as fowls, pigs, ducks, fish etc... I also have the stories of how the canoe passed through the Waikao River and then to Waiuku and was carried by men, women and children [and] dragged from Awaroa Creek to Manakau. (written Jan, 1859). I'll add story...[later] as this is particularly interesting to those of us who teach natural processes in the Waikato River/Aka Aka basin /Waiuku area" (source).



If you are interested in finding information and resources about official and unofficial names for features and places in New Zealand, Antarctica and the Pacific, this Web site is well worth a visit.



This is a glossary of Māori geography terms, which "has been compiled so that it is especially of assistance in the application of specific concepts and terms to geography".


Sites for locating and researching Māori geography

The following are all sites that students could use to carry out their own projects and research study around Māori geography.


Other resources


Other resources include this video where Simon Lambert explains re-indigenising humanity, what Māori geography is, and revitalizing the Indigenous mind.

More resources include a video about "Māori names sought for North (Te Ika a Maui) and South Islands (Te Wai Pounamu)", which raises some good points for discussion, and "Whale Watch Kaikoura, Responsible Tourism Awards winner", that, again, could be a useful conversation starter.
For those who prefer to read and are interested in socio-economic geography, this paper by Chris Paulin looks at perspectives of Maori fishing history and techniques (click HERE to download the .pdf).
For and up to date conversation around many of the factors and issues of Maori land use, this blog (Whakairo te whenua, whakairo te tangata: Maori Cultural Political Economy) is a useful one to follow, and some of the posts could be a powerful way of opening up discussion amongst learners.


A call for more


Does anyone have other suggestions? What other resources do you use with your students? What can you recommend (especially interactive, online resources that would be pretty much ubiquitously accessible)? Please add ideas below, and I'd be very happy to collate them if you'd like :-)
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