Thursday, 11 December 2014

Hour of Code - My Robotic Friends

Having no computers was no barrier to two year 3 classes participating in the  world-wide Hour of Code* yesterday. We chose an "unplugged" activity with plenty of hands-on collaboration to (hopefully) engage the children and get them thinking. The Thinkersmith tutorial we chose included a full lesson plan which helped reduce our workload - always a bonus!

We started off the lesson (as recommended) discussing robots and how we communicate with them which led nicely on to introducing the My Robotic Friends activity. We briefly went over our goal (to stack cups a certain way) and showed the children the code we would be using. We then modelled the activity. My colleague left the room and the children and I co-constructed the code needed to make a simple stack of cups on the IWB, a child doing the recording. My colleague then came in and attempted to follow the code. It soon became clear that coders would need to write clearly!

Once we successfully completed that task, we split the children into groups of three. The "robots" (one per group, pre-chosen to save time) went into the other classroom for "training", while the "coders" stayed with me. Both the coders and robots had a set of cups to help them with their task. The coders were given one of five different cup stacks to make.

Once they had written their code, they sent for their robot who had to recreate the stack only using the code. Some groups found that they needed to send their robot away so they could adjust their code. Once successful, a new robot was chosen and the coders were given a different stack to make.

In our reflection at the end of the lesson, the children noted how important it was that the coders knew what each instruction meant, what order it needed to go in and (again) that the code was clearly written! It was a fantastic learning experience with the children thoroughly engaged and the key competencies of using language, symbols and text, thinking, managing self,  and relating to others being exercised.

* The 'Hour of Code' is a nationwide [hmm- perhaps should be world-wide!] initiative by Computer Science Education Week[] and [] to introduce millions of students to one hour of computer science and computer programming.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Supporting children with difficulties in reading and writing - Week 3


  • Audition is a broad area of processing. Audition is how the brain makes sense of the sounds it receives from the ears.
  • Speech sounds can differ due to duration, pitch, loudness (vowels are louder), stress syllables
  • Auditory perception is not one thing


  • Visual part is not typically the primary cause of dyslexia
  • Motion perception/ eye movement problems
  • Visual stress - seeing highly contrasting visual images - providing special glasses or coloured overlays that seem to reduce visual stress.Research evidence is mixed for these solutions.
  • Magnocellular theory - - evidence also mixed - cause or effect?
  • Visual attention - the brain is deciding what to attend to. May find it easier to read a smaller window of text - may be better for some people.


  • Attention can be hyperactive or inattentive
  • If attention is not on instruction, can miss vital parts of instruction
  • May take approximate approach to reading - eg may miss words, change small words
  • If child has decoding issue, find reading frustrating - may show similar patterns
  • Different causes can cause similar behaviours - or can be an issue with both!
  • Children with a more primary reading issues tend to have bigger phonological issues.
  • If you read comprehension questions to a child with dyslexia, they can sometimes perform better without demands of decoding. Children with attention issues may show the reverse.
  • Do attention issues only occur at reading time?


  • Up to 60% of dyslexic children have issues with maths
  • A lot of rote learning in maths - difficult for those with dyslexic tendencies
  • Then don't have the foundations on which to build
  • Dyslexics can have issues with sequencing - challenge in maths
  • Focus on concepts rather than rote learning can help
  • Symbols can look very similar to dyslexic people
  • Word problems - different words used. Abstract, relational terms
  • Need to instil competence in early years


  • Difficulties in motor control, automatisms and spacial temporal organisation.
  • Difficulty in dressing, coordinate hands and legs to ride a bike, tie shoelaces etc
  • Appear to be clumsy
  • difficulty in reading time
  • Computer is useful because they find it hard to hold a pencil
  • Verbal intelligence is normal, sometimes superior
  • Visual/Spacial ability problematic
  • Difficulty with geometory - adaption - ask them to explain problem and you write or use app
  • Use computer as early as eight.
  • Often goes hand in hand with dycalcula

Oral Language Impairment

  • Phonemes often fuzzier
  • Non-dyslexic learners ignore unimportant variations while dyslexic learners tend to notice them - although this is controversial.
  • Difficulties in identifying fast temporal changes in oral language
  • Specific Language Impairment often comes with dyslexia.

Psychological Effects

  • Need more effort to succeed and not rewarded with results
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Can have a significant impact on the justice system
  • Need self-esteem to learn
  • Self-perception if negative difficult to deal with difficulties
  • Teacher has central role to recognise all children at school
  • Dyslexic child who experiences failure at school can develop four types of behviour:
    • Inhibition
    • Regression - requires attention, doesn't think by themselves
    • Projection - tries to ignore difficulties but will notice them in others and make fun of them, perhps violence
    • Displacement - get validation in other domains
  • Results often do not match the huge efAdvantage that dyslefort put in
  • Teachers must make sure they recognise the other abilities of these children

Positive Aspects

  • People with dyslexia can excel often in eg visualising things in 3D space 
  • Dyslexics have more of their brain for visual information
  • Professions where dyslexics excel - architect, engineer, designer, TV presenter, poet, singer, entrepreneur, salesperson

Pros and Cons of Labelling

  • Advantages - relief to put a word on something; some countries will allow adaptations at school
  • Disadvantages - sometimes child will give up; in some school systems then can get packaged intervention which doesn't always help; labels easy to give, hard to take away

Thursday, 16 October 2014

How to Identify Reading Difficulties

Week 2 of the Supporting Children with Difficulties in Reading and Writing.

Definition and Causes

  • Dyslexia is a neurologically-based condition, which is often hereditary. It results in problems with reading, writing and spelling. Also usually associated with difficulties in concentration, short term memory and organisation.
  • Dyslexia is NOT caused by poor schooling or home background or by poor motivation for learning. It does not clinically manifest with poor sight, hearing or muscle control - although it may occur with these conditions.
  • Matthew effect - if child struggles to decode they will read less texts over time, exposed to less new vocabulary and so results in lower vocabulary level compared to peers later on.
  • Why do children have these problems? 
  • Decoding struggles - these children tend to struggle with phonological processing. Problem with manipulating sounds in words.Dyslexia usually associated with visual problems and there are often these as well but primarily it is a phonological issue. Harder to automatically link sounds and letters.Also might be a separate matter with speed of processing which can exacerbate the phonological issues.
  • Strong genetics component to dyslexia caused by mulitple genes. Continuum of effect.
  •  Early intervention critically important. Children who are late talkers often go on to have reading difficulties.

Identification - Pre-Primary

  • Dyslexia exists from birth.
  • Risk factors for dyslexia (not to be considered in isolation - combination of risk factors and consistency over time) before the child learns to read: 
    2. Dyslexia in the family. Did parents, grandparents have difficulties reading and writing?
    3. Ambidextrous, difficulty establishing manual preference.
    4.  Persistent confusion between left and right.
    5. Inability to appreciate rhymes in nursery rhymes and songs.
    6. Difficulty following a rhythm and reproducing it.
    7. Difficulty learning songs or poems by rote.
    8. Difficulty naming familiar objects - finds it hard to access the name of something even if it is known.
    9. Difficulty in following a sequence of instructions.. They have a difficulty with short term memory.
    10. Difficulty in saying words - will confuse sound order. 
    11. Difficulty with organisation and frequent loss of personal items.
    12. Difficulty with time and space eg before/after, tomorrow/yesterday. 

Identification - Primary

  • Things to look for (persistent over time):
    2. Auditory confusion between similar phonemes eg buh/puh/duh.
    3. Visual confusion between graphemes that are similar eg p/q, n/u, f/t.
    4. Inversion between letter and syllables.
    5. Addition of letters, syllables or affixes.
    6. Omissions of elements of words.
    7. Substitution of words, guessing words.
    8. Contraction or de-contraction. Misusing word boundaries.
  • Other behaviours:
    2. Lose the thread of what they are reading. Re-read the line two times without being aware they are doing it.
    3. Read/write a text in present tense instead of the past or future.
    4. Very inconsistent autography - same word spelled in several different ways in same piece of writing.
    5. Ignoring punctuation, no intonation.
    6. Writing is very slow.
    7. Fatigue. First long OK, end of product mistakes

Informal Assessment

  • Combination of several symptoms, frequency despite your correction ad persistence over time.
  • Examine phonological awareness in child. Difficulty in manipulating sounds of language.
  • Complexity differs - syllables are easier than onset rimes which are easier than phonemes.
  • Important to pronounce pure sounds eg t not "tuh"
  • Eight tasks:
    2. Generation - get child to generate words containg the same ending, final syllable or rime as a target word.
    3. Detection - give three words to child and find odd one out. Child has to retain words in memory and give answer.
    4. Blending - syllable give me the whole word "te-le-vi-sion"; onset rime - what do you get when you join up "tr and ap; phoneme - c a n a l
    5. Segmentation - Give child word and divide into syllables, onset rime and phonemes.
    6. Deletion - syllable eg say word cabin, now say it again without "ca", phoneme - meat say it again without m.
    7. Substitution - track - what would happen to it if I replaced tr with cr.
    8. Phoneme Fusion - first phoneme of two words eg big apple = ba
    9. Inversion - eg invert two first consonants in a word and say the word. Very complex!!
  • Irregular words - said, yacht, knight etc. You can't use phoneme code you need to know these words. Have to use direct access path. Typical mistakes are regulatisation.
  • Pseudo words - invented words. Can only be read by phonological decoding route.
  • If they can read pseudo words better than irregular words then you know that phonological decoding is working quite well. Direct access route not so good. Errors include lexicalisation - eg labbit - rabbit (overuse of direct access path); addition/omission/ inversion.
  • IF they are reading irregular words well and pseudo words poorly then you know direct access route is working well but phonological decoding route is not.
  • Text comprehension - find suitable text. Evaluate comprehension. Assess child' background knowledge of the topic of the text:
    2. What do you know about the subject?
    3. What do you think the text is going to be about?
  • Gives you an idea of their knowledge before they read.
  • Present the text. They read text aloud. Have two copies of text so you can record errors and if possible, record them. 
  • Assess their comprehension. Either recall task - get child to tell what the text was about eg describe it to someone who hasn't read the story (look for sequence, central idea, details, basic structure, precise, omissions). Explicit and implicit questions about the text.
  • Assess strategy used for completing information. Present text again to child and ask questions that were not correctly answered and analyse the strategy they use to find the answer in the text.
  • Analyse mistakes in reading. Positive errors - omissions, insertions, changes in sequence, inattention to punctuation, repetition of part of a word, self correction where meaning is not changed. Negative errors - omissions, insertions, changes in sequence, inattention to punctuation, repetition of part of a word, refusal to read a word where the meaning is altered.
  • Using the results - stimulate positive strategies eg link more to prior knowledge, pay more attention to punctuation, improve decoding strategies, encourage self correction. Guide child away from strategies that are being over used eg relying on context to guess a word.
  • Assessing sequencing abilities - dyslexics find thing like alphabet, months of year, multiplcation tables etc hard. Design a test - name months of the year. for older children - what letter comes before "p"?
  • Rapid automatised naming - name as quickly as possible and without mistakes. Dyslexics are much slower at this. Uses pictures - don't put learner in a situation where they "fail".
  • Auditory short term memory - digit span test. Keep increasing until the child makes two mistakes in a row. Then you stop. Do the test again and ask child to repeat in reverse order. In primary school, digit span forward is usually 4-5, backward 2-3. Dyslexic usually much lower.
  • Visual short term memory - copying test. Copy text as quickly as possible (eg in 2 minutes). Stress mean dyslexic learners will make mistakes.
  • Finding shapes - bell test. How many do they find? What strategy do they use? Dyslexic usually more erratic.
  • Sequence comparison - series of letters - are they the same? 
What Can you Do with Test Results?
  • If child has difficulty in phonemic awareness and difficulty with pseudo words - design a programe to enhance phonemic awareness and improving the phonological route.
  • Child has greater difficulty reading irregular words and much better short term memory for visual rather than auditory materials. Teach irregular words with flashcards.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Kupu o te Wiki - Kaiako

By VectorOpenStock (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0
(], via Wikimedia Commons
He kaiako ahau.

Kupu o te Wiki - Awa

Ko Te Mata te awa.

Kupu o te Wiki - Pahi

Kei te haere ahau mā runga i te pahi.

Coursera - Supporting children with difficulties in reading and writing Week 1

I signed up for the Coursera Supporting Children with Difficulties in Reading and Writing course many months ago because I felt that it was an area I didn't know enough about. I must confess that I had almost forgotten about it but it has finally started! I won't be going for certification (it is simply too much to take on at the moment) but I will be doing some "blog notes" so that my brain doesn't totally forget what I hope will be useful content. Let the blogging begin!

Week 1

Writing Systems

  • English has an added layer of "messiness". Aural language changes, written language takes time to adjust.
  • Great vowel shift in the Middle Ages - English is an old language so these changes are more noticeable.
  • Children learning English take longer than in more "transparent" language such as Finnsh.
  • Sound (phonological) awareness key predictor of success in alphabetic languages.
  • Think about reading direction (left to right vs. right to left).

Models of Reading

  • No pre-programmed module in the brain for the acquisition of written language.
  • Logographic stage - recognises some words as pictures or logos.
  • Alphabetic stage - child needs to be aware words can be divided into smaller parts called phonemes. Also they need to understand how oral language links to written language.
  • Autographic stage - have direct access to the word without relying on phonological route. Comes with repetition.
  • Child has to establish millions of new connections in the brain to learn to read, especially between the visual and auditory areas.
  • Fluent reader nearly always uses direct path. Experience!

Importance of Automatisation

  • Two parts - speed and accuracy
  • Dyslexic readers don't have this automaticity so a lot of more work.
  • Fluent readers do not use the context to identify a word because the process of word recognition is too quick.
  • Only poor readers rely on context.
  • Rapid automatising test - dyslexic people are slower than others
  • The child with dyslexia is spending so much brainpower on putting letters into sounds that he/she has little left over to think about the meaning.


  • Very few studies relating bilingualism and dyslexia.
  • Many different variables.
  • Diversity of pairs of languages put together.
  • Some mistakes result from the contrasts between the languages while other relate to generalisations and simplifications specific to second language.
  • Eg "L" and "R" sounds difficult for Japanese speakers.
  • Difficulties where one language alphabetical and one not eg English and Chinese. Where both languages are alphabetical, children seem to be able to transfer knowledge.
  • Bilingual adults and children activate both languages even when they don't need to.
  • "In the bilingual reader, words that look similar in both languages interfere with each even when the person is trying to work mostly in one language. There is cross-interference from the other language. The brain is trying to work out which word or meaning is intended. So the response is slowed down." 
  • Dyslexia in biligualism - makes language learning difficult, memorisation difficult.
  • Dyslexic or not, some children find oral language acquisition easier than others.
  • When acquiring the writing system for a second language dyslexic learner have to learn a new set of grapheme/phoneme correspondences, some which may conflict with native language.
  • English is the most opaque language in the world.
  • If one of the languages of the dyslexic learner is transparent, then there can be benefits for the less transparent learner.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Te Kupu o te Wiki - Waea

Kei runga te waea i te tēpu.

#edchatnz Conference 2014

I was full of good intentions to post some thoughts on the #edchatnz conference last week but, by some weird, cosmic coincidence, last week was also my first one as an employed (albeit part-time) teacher. Good timing in many ways but finally having an actual class to teach has tended to dominate my thoughts over the last few weeks and it has taken me a while to revisit my #edchatnz experience.

And what a great couple of days it was. Packed full of interesting content, the only downside was that there were many sessions that I just couldn't fit in. The ones I did attend were:

Network for Learning & Pond

I had heard of Pond but knew little about it so that was my reason for choosing this session. The first part of the session was more a pitch for the company rather than information that I would find useful. I could have done with far less of that. Once the speaker got onto Pond, things got much more interesting. The three column search concept sounded useful and the idea of teachers being able to recommend resources will hopefully add value. I was sitting next to a current user of Pond who was far from convinced but I saw enough in the session to want to dive in and see for myself.

Digital Citizenship

Turns out that digital citizenship isn't what I thought it was (although it is more what I thought it should be). This was a very engaging session with quite a bit of audience feedback. My big takeaway from this presentation was the importance of teaching and modelling good online practice so that as children start to explore more on their own, they have the skills they need to manage their own safety.

Political Debate

Unfortunately, I had to leave early and missed most of this. It was much more interesting than I had expected.

Cultivating Identity and Community Through Gamification

I had seen Bronwyn Stuckey at  the sessions I attended on Friday so was surprised to see her as a presenter. I really liked this session. I had heard of gamification so it was interesting to hear Bronwyn's take on it (she prefers the term "game inspired"). The main points I took away:
  • should be opt in
  • not everything needs to be a game (and it would be tedious if it were)
  • when you level up, you get responsibility
  • the importance of community and relationships

Modern Learning Environments in Every Classroom

The main point of this session was that modern learning environments do not depend on cool furniture but on pedagogy. I certainly want to learn more about My Learning (Emma Winder).

Curiosity and Creativity in the Classroom

This was a very stimulating session by Steve Mouldey. His discussion on brainstorming made me rethink a lesson I had planned for my new class (and I think it was much better as a result).


I came away from this session much more impressed than I expected. I gave Booktrack a brief go (as a reading experience) a few months ago and quickly decided that reading with a soundtrack was not for me. Of course, not everyone is me so I went to investigate with an open mind. I was surprised to find that Booktrack doesn't only supply soundtracks, it also allows you to create your own. I was pretty excited about the possibilities in the classroom for this and hope to use it in the near future!


These short snippets do not do justice to the stimulating material that was presented at #edchatnz. The organisers do a fantastic job and this (unemployed at the time of registration) teacher certainly appreciated the insanely cheap price. Can't wait until next year!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Blogging Meme from #edchatnz conference

I must confess that I really don't like these blogging/ tag challenges (maybe I am just jaded after too many years on the internet) BUT I will make an exception because of the awesomeness that is #edchatnz.

Monika Kern (‏@BeLchick1) tagged me and I was excited  to discover someone from the Code Club for Teachers sitting right next to me at a session during the conference. It truly is a small world.
So here are my answers:

If you get included in the blogging meme: copy/paste the questions and instructions into your own blog then fill out your own answers. Share on twitter tagging 5 friends. Make sure you send your answers back to whoever tagged you too.

1. How did you attend the #Edchatnz Conference? (Face 2 Face, followed online or didn't)
Face-to-face - although being the shy, retiring type, hovered around the edges.

2. How many others attended from your school or organisation?
One other person from the school where I am about to start work.

3.How many #Edchatnz challenges did you complete?
Only a few. I did retweet a few things and just about covered challenge 8. Maybe next year....

4. Who are 3 people that you connected with and what did you learn from them?
A teacher from a secondary school already using Pond and unconvinced - made me more keen to see see it in action.
A teacher from a primary school using My Learning - I wanted to visit her classroom.
Bron Stuckey - for teaching me the difference between gamification and game inspired learning.

5. What session are you gutted that you missed?
Nanogirl - because she is so cool.
SOLO for Primary - because those who went raved about it.

6. Who is one person that you would like to have taken to Edchatnz and what key thing would they have learned? 
One of my son's ex-teachers. Because I know she would have lapped it up (I am sharing stuff with her anyway).

7. Is there a person you didn't get to meet/chat with (F2F/online) that you wished you had? Why
Am hoping to do better with the chatting next year....

8. What is the next book you are going to read and why? 
A More Beautiful Question maybe...

9. What is one thing you plan to do to continue the Education Revolution you learnt about at #Edchatnz?
I will work on collaborating with another school to make connections between our classrooms (and perhaps to the wider world). I definitely want to give Booktrack a go.

10. Will you take a risk and hand your students a blank canvas?
As a (very) beginning teacher coming into a new class half-way through a year, my risk-taking will be tempered but I have already changed a planned lesson to focus on process and idea generation (thank you Mr Mouldey).

Sunday, 8 June 2014

My Favourite Time Filler

 Like most teachers, I often find I have a few minutes to fill in before bell time. If there is not enough time to read a book, I often play a "Guess my Number" game with the children. I have played this with classes from years 3 to 6 and they have all loved it.

Guess My Number  
  1.  I write a series of numbers (usually 1-12, 1-15, 1-20 but could be any numbers) on a whiteboard.
  2. I tell the class that I am thinking of a number and they have to guess it BUT they can't just tell me a number. They have to give an equation that equals the number they want to guess.
  3. I model some examples eg 1 + 1 = 2. The equations can be as easy or hard as they want to make them.
  4. I make it clear they have to say the equation AND the answer.
  5. They start guessing. I cross off each incorrect guess until the right number is found.
  6. The person who guessed the number then gets to come up and pick a number to be guessed.
What I like about this game is that it differentiates itself - the children can make an equation that suits their level - and it requires minimal resources. We also squeeze a little bit more maths into the day which is always a good thing. 

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Adobe Voice

Adobe Voice (iPad only) makes creating video slideshows that have a voice over extremely easy. After a short tutorial, I jumped straight into making my first video (not a very creative effort I'm afraid). Making the recordings was as simple as holding down a button. If you make a mistake, you simply record over in the same way. Each slide lasts for as long as your recording so there is no messy fiddling around with timelines and making cuts. Moving your slide moves the attached voice over so it is easy to keep track of things. You can add photos (your own or from the web*), icons or text. To keep things simple, there are only five layout options for a slide and you have no way to change fonts and transitions. That is all handled by the theme that you choose. That lack of choice helps you to concentrate on the content rather than the design. Music options are also limited but the app provides enough variety for most projects. This simplicity would be a real strength when using in a classroom situation. It even compiles the credits for images used in the presentation (a nice touch of digital citizenship).

What is not so classroom friendly is the requirement to share only via the Adobe Cloud. Although access seems to be free, Adobe online offerings seem neither secure enough nor reliable enough for a school to depend on. At the moment, there is no option to save a video to your device for local viewing elsewhere (although you can play it on your device using the app). There is also no option to upload to popular sharing sites such as YouTube. Having to sign into an Adobe account would be a deal breaker for many schools.
Also a potential problem is the way it sources creative commons images for the slides. It seems to rely on some kind of Google search which may return (depending on search terms) material inappropriate for the classroom. It has also been suggested that not all images it finds actually have a Creative Commons license. The app itself says that you should check the license before using an image.
If you can get past those issues, I think this would be a terrific app to use with children. They could record a book review or a piece of persuasive language. They could use it to explain their thinking on a unit of work. They could even use it to record their pepeha. Teachers could use it to make short explains videos on whatever topic they need. If you are lucky enough to have an ipad, give it a go!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Coding with

Over the holidays I worked my way through the Introduction to Computer Science course at It seemed a very engaging way to introduce children to computer science. As a reliever, I get very limited opportunities to try out new things in the classroom so I was delighted to be able to try out this resource on a year 3 class the other day.

In this school, computers are still in the library with each class having set times for ICT. The children usually work on educational games/powerpoints/word documents etc so this was something a little different. We had been working on problem solving in maths that morning so I used that as a context for the session. I showed the children two of the introductory videos in the classroom (listening to the videos would be difficult in the computer lab). I stopped the videos and repeated parts that I thought the children might struggle with. Having worked through the course myself, I already knew some of the areas they might find tricky. Then I sorted them into buddies, gave them each a slip of paper with the URL for the site and off we went.

The levels start off very simply but the complexity does ramp up a bit once the concept of loops is introduced. I suspected that they might struggle a bit with that and most of them did. Some steamed ahead though and a few groups got up to level 9-10. What impressed me the most were how totally engaged they were in solving the puzzles. Even when they had to do a level multiple times, very few of them got discouraged. They just tried again. Having familiar contexts like Angry Birds and Plants vs Zombies really helped to drive engagement too.

As well as some obvious connections to maths (particularly mapping), the course connects very well to the key competencies in the NZ curriculum:

  • Thinking - the children are actively problem solving, trying out their ideas, seeing what works and what needs to be changed.
  • Using language, symbols and text - coding requires the children to use language in a very precise way and also to understand concepts such as "repeat".
  • Managing self - the children had to learn to deal with failure and to reflect on what needed to be changed to succeed.
  • Relating to others - the children worked in pairs and shared their ideas with their buddy on how to solve each puzzle.

I barely scratched the surface of the course (which includes off line activities) with the children. I would love to see how the full course worked with a class.


Tuesday, 13 May 2014

What I have learned from Candy Crush

Candy crush home screen

Candy Crush. Addictive? Yes! Educational? Maybe. It has certainly taught me a few things:


  1. Persistence pays off. Some levels are fairly simple. Others seem impossible. Yet if you play a level often enough, chances are you will eventually beat it. Some of the most difficult levels (to my mind at least) rely require a large chunk of good luck to pass. Whether you wish to give the game enough of your valuable time to eventually get that lucky break is a question only you can answer.
  2. Revisiting "simple" games can make you a better player. Partly because I get very annoyed with the levels that rely mostly on luck, I have deleted Candy Crush twice now. Because I don't save my games via Facebook, when I start the game again, I had to start right from the beginning. A bit tedious perhaps, but I have noticed that this has led to an improvement in my candy crushing skills, especially in spotting the patterns that make the special candies. Just like revising old school work, revisiting earlier levels helps to consolidate my knowledge.
  3. It pays to consider the whole problem, rather than just focus on one part. It is very easy to focus just on one part of the board and forget that there may be moves available elsewhere that will get you where you want to go.
  4. Be prepared to revise your strategy if it isn't working. I had difficulty passing some levels because I was not using the right strategy. Recognizing this and making changes lead to success.
  5. Don't give up until the end. I have lost count of the number of levels I have unexpectedly won on the very last move. Being prepared to go on even if you think you are beaten can sometimes pay off.
  6. Keep your eye on the prize. Each type of level has a particular goal. Staying focussed on the end result helps to avoid the distractions that can prevent a successful outcome.
  7. Sometimes walking away for a time is the best way to succeed. The first time i deleted the game, I stayed away for several months. When I started playing again, I found that had a much better idea of how to play and the patterns that I was looking for.
  8. Shortcuts do not lead to long term success. One of the things that interests me about this game is the business model, which is largely based on players buying extra moves, power-ups and lives. At the end of every failed level you are offered more moves (for $1.29). If you don't take up the offer, you have to play again and again until you pass, so you become a more skillful player with a better grasp of winning strategies. Buying your way through a level deprives you of all that practice (not to mention cash!) My contribution to Candy Crush's makers to date: $0.



Thursday, 1 May 2014

BYOD: Making it Mobile

Yesterday I attended the BYOD: Making it Mobile conference organised by Learning Network NZ. One of the many disadvantages of not having a teaching position is that you do not get the opportunity to attend professional development sessions. I do a lot of reading on the internet but, for me at least, the immediacy of face-to face learning is more powerful. This conference was on a subject I have a particular interest in and was relatively inexpensive - very important when you are self-funding!

As is always the case, choosing the sessions to attend was difficult. There were many more I would have loved to go to (the session on Student Voice in Numeracy especially) but in the end I chose the following:

  • Getting BYOD Pedagogy Right - Mark Osbourne (CORE Education) - This was a VERY popular session and, for me, the highlight of the day. Mark began by pointing out how far teaching practice had come from the one size fits all model of education and yet often the way we use technology in the classroom harks back to this era. He discussed the importance of moving to a model of personalised learning that puts the student and their needs at the centre. BYOD's great strength is the ability to connect learners and allow them to collaborate and share, rather than work in individual silos. He also emphasised that technology should be used when it is the best tool for the learning objective, not just because it is there. An example he gave was feedback. Low level feedback (yes/no, true/false) was best given by the computer. Immediacy and speed made this more useful. It also freed the teacher from this job so they could focus on higher level, quality feedback.
  • Getting Good with Google for Beginners/for Extended Beginners - Allanah King (Blended e-learning facilitator) - Although I have been using Google for years (including Google docs) I wanted to attend these sessions to see how they were being used in a classroom environment. Allanah introduced us to her website and went over some of the tools she uses to get the most out of Google. One of the most useful things I learned was the research tool inside Google docs and how it can be used to to not only find information but also to place it into your document AND create the reference for it. If only I had known about that when I was studying! Using a Google document to collaborate with parents (eg for parent help) was also a great idea. She also mentioned the importance of closing off a doc for editing if posting it on a blog to prevent unauthorised changes. For student writing, using the comment feature for feedback and discussions as well as the power of the revision history so you have a full record of the development of the document. As far as Google extensions were concerned, the coolest one was Webpage Screenshot which enabled "on the fly" editing of webpages like newspapers. You could have a lot of fun with that.
  • i Movie - Amy McCauley (Hobsonville Point) - Being a multiple device user (iPad, Windows 8 laptop, Android phone), I thought I should check out at least one iOS presentation. I have done a couple of very basic iMovies but haven't looked at it for a while. We spent the most time looking at the Trailer part of the app. This has everything a user needs to make a simple movie trailer. An editable storyboard is built in which I thought was a brilliant way to introduce making movies to kids (and adults). These would be fantastic for creating a book trailer or as a way to present learning. In a classroom though it is a good idea to have the device set to mute!
  • Google Sites/Collaborative Planning - Emma Roberts, Emma Winder & Sheena Campbell (Stonefields) - It was back to Google for the final session. I was interested to see how this school used the site to open their planning to each other, their learners and their families. The information includes a weekly timetable and term overview as well as more specific information for learners such as independent and follow-up activites.
 It was an interesting day. My main takeaway was the importance of keeping the learner/learning central to any decisions about BYOD and technology in general. A tool that is not fit for purpose will not improve outcomes, no matter how new and shiny it is.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Learning Te Reo

Kei roto te ngeru i te rākau Kirihimete.
The cat is in the Christmas tree.
The Te Reo component of my teaching Diploma was one of my favourite parts of the course. The visit to Ōrākei Marae was a huge highlight, but it was the language section that really engaged me. We did several sessions of total immersion learning using the Te Ataarangi method. It really whet my appetite for more and when I saw a similar course offered at the local college night school last year, I decided to give it a go. Three terms later, I know more than I did but am still very aware of how far I have to go.

As the college no longer offers community education, I am hoping to continue my learning at another venue later in the year. Until then, I thought it might be fun to search through some of my old (and new) photos and attempt to use my (limited) Te Reo skills to caption them. Practice makes perfect!

Friday, 17 January 2014

About Me

The past few years have been difficult. In 2010 I re-trained as a primary teacher. I loved the course, even (or especially) when I found it challenging. Unfortunately, I picked a time when there were more teachers than positions and I have been unemployed (aside from some casual, non-teaching work) since then. I will admit to struggling  with this situation and, at times, I felt like just giving up on the whole thing. I guess I couldn't stay away from schools though and kept on parent helping at my son's school and volunteering in a friend's classroom.

Eventually, my friend suggested (quite firmly) that I put my name down to relieve at her school. I had always resisted the relieving option, partly because I was a little intimidated by the idea but mostly because I am not that great at learning names quickly and I feel like I am disrespecting the children whose names don't stick easily. Fortunately, I have good friends who push me when I need it and the upshot was I managed to get some days relieving at two different schools in the latter half of 2013, including one full week with the same class. It made me think that perhaps I could do this. Those experiences also made me realise that, to my surprise, I missed writing a reflective journal to help process my time in the classroom. And so this blog was born.The start of another year brings new beginnings and lots of good intentions. I am hoping this blog will be easier to stick to than a new diet!

On a totally unrelated note (and only because I wanted to include a cute cat photo), in late 2013 we welcomed Rory the kitten to our family. His mum was a rescue cat and she and her kittens were fostered by a lovely family before making their way to new homes, one of which was ours. He is lively and loving and we adore him.
Rory the kitten with the Tardis. It is bigger on the inside.