Starting Collaboration Reflections

What’s on top?

  • Creating times in the day/week for normal classroom activities that are not curriculum based (hidden curriculum)
  • Managing use of learning assistants as in the mornings there are 6 adults in the space
  • Whole group sessions – split into 2?
  • Getting to know students who are needing those strong relationships to ground them
Innovative Learning Spaces (ILS) are really bound by context.  The context will guide the programme. What may work for one school or class may not work for another. I am fortunate to be working with another teacher who has a shared understanding of how children learn and what an effective year 6 programme looks like.  We have 2 other teachers that support us that also have this shared understanding.
My wonderings to share with my teaching team:
  • If there could be a block each week that isn’t a shared learning time?
  • If the structures that we set up for literacy and numeracy could be explicit about how the Learning assistants are used?
  • If we could give feedback about having less Learning Assistants in the first 3 weeks as we establish our collaborative practices?
  • If areas outside of literacy and numeracy could/should be done in smaller classes?
  • Would more time with my smaller class help those students who need to anchor themselves and find their place?
  • Gather some student voice
  • Do some reflection with my teaching team

Game Design with Year 3/4

I don’t think I had ever thought I would spend a Friday morning designing a digital game for a 66 year old Grandmother to play. But I guess that is what you end up doing when you sign up for a workshop called “Gamestorming” – A way to generate transformative educational thinking!

Game based learning is an area that researchers are looking at more carefully because of the way that the process of learning occurs and also how it engages students (KQED, 2013).  Game design fits well with Design Thinking, the process or mindset of generating ideas to help create solutions to real life problems. Gamestorming is a creative way to generate and explore ideas and innovate with others.  Rachel Bolstad and Dan Milward used a combination of design thinking and gamestorming to get us designing our own games that Friday morning.

My reflection on the process of designing a game is that it was incredibly fun. I was fortunate to have a wonderful team to work with and we spent quite some time creating our play profile. “Raewyn” became a real person, she was someone we wanted to hang out with, and we wanted to make her the best game we could.  Using the process that Rachel guided us through we unpacked games, looked at elements of games we knew Raewyn would enjoy and looked for what she still might be missing… in the end we came up with a community based social action type game utilising Raewyn’s guerrilla knitting background and love of pictionary and bananagrams to help shape our thinking.

So… as all excited educators do… I got my class to do some gamestorming of their own.  The task being to design a new fitness game.  This was actually an idea I had suggested last term as we were exhausting our repertoire. So in random groups of 5 they got ready for their challenge!

The Plan

They started by using 3 different post-its to write down a digital game, a non digital game and a fitness game that they enjoyed. These got stuck round the room under those headings. So instantly that is 75 ideas to work with…

Then they needed to in their groups choose 2 of those post its from each category and unpack what you actually do in those games which makes them fun and challenging.  They found this bit quite hard and I had to ask lots of questions to help them get thinking.

The next step was to combine some of those elements to come up with their own game.  One team got their idea right away while others carefully thought about their game and took a bit longer.

The 5 games that were then pitched to the audience were as follows:

  • Plants vs Maths
  • Crossy Surprise
  • Hunt and Kill
  • Octocraft
  • Clash of Uno
The audience then gave feedback on post its using “I wonder…” and “I like…”

The students then spent time sorting out the data – which I quickly linked to our statistical inquiry from last term.  They needed to use the feedback to make any modifications to their game.  Again this was challenging and needed much discussion and filtering and negotiation.

So then it came to actually playing the games…Before we started I mentioned the idea of “fail faster” which I had watched in this YouTube clip that Rachel had shared with me.  It fits well with growth mindset, which the students are all well aware of.  Basically I told them that there was a high chance of the game failing on first play but that was ok, we almost needed it to fail in order to improve it.  An interesting concept in itself that I would like to explore more.

So with the only requirement for this game being that it was for fitness, 3 of the games were maths based and 2 were actual fitness games.  This was an interesting surprise.  I think that they were using a game that we play outside called maths chess and interpreting it as a fitness game because it is played outside (concept #2 to explore further).

The teams trialled their games on half the class to begin with and modified as they went.  I was luckily enough to have Marianne Malmstrom (Knowclue) visiting me that day and it was a great chance for me to reflect with her on our observations of the process the students were going through.  She noted that all of the students used positive feedback to help the team improve their game as well as noting the level of negotiation that occurred within each team but also with their players. Student leadership was also noted.

The two fitness games proved to be the most successful in their trial runs with students asking to play them again and students who weren’t playing them asking if they could play them too (they looked fun!). So after a democratic vote the students decided to play “Hunt and Kill” as a whole class.

This game according to the students has elements of Monopoly, Black Ops, Minecraft and Hide and Seek in it.  It is played in our school gully playground which is multi-levelled.

From what I understand of the game, the taggers find people who are hiding, there is something about a destination question asked (need to find out more about this part before I play) and if you get tagged you lose a limb.  When 3 limbs are lost, you become a zombie.  The role of the zombies is to push people out of their hiding spots.
The students played this game for 15 minutes before only 1 remaining “person” was left.  It was fascinating to watch. It had a level of complexity that I couldn’t quite understand because I wasn’t play it and everybody was engaged.  There were 24 quite sweaty children afterwards so it definitely constituted a fitness game! After the game the students reflected on the name of the game saying it didn’t really suit it because nobody actually gets killed.  Hugo, one of the masterminds behind the game told us that the original name for the game had been E-Limb-ination.  And because our class enjoys a good pun it was a unanimous vote that it should be ever known as that. 
The students told me that they would like to go through the process of ideation and feedback again and that they enjoyed working in groups. Last term their feedback was that they wanted more opportunities to create and have hands on learning experiences so I hope that the process of making a game allowed for that.

For me the process lent itself to a powerful learning experience. They had to be creative thinkers, solve problems, negotiate, work as a team, communicate, accept feedback, adapt, be flexible and be resilient to failure.  I am reluctant to link it with any particular curriculum areas because I am trying to break down the subject silos.  I do wonder how this experience will shape our future learning experiences and where we might end up next. Oh – I also better remember to get some more post-it notes!


Oh wow.  I am still on such an amazing high after today’s Educamp Wellington.

In October last year at ULearn, a few interested educators from Wellington got together informally to discuss making a more formalised connection.  From this WellyEd was born.  In November we had our first meeting and decided to host an Educamp.  We discussed the essence of what an Educamp was (free flowing, knowledge in the room, people connecting, discussions) and built our ideas on that. We spent the next few months planning and promoting the event proving that not only is it great to have a big team of people helping out but collaborating together is special all in itself. Today all that hard work paid off.

To be honest it is always a bit nerve-wrecking when you are hosting an event. Especially one that has nothing planned!  The Smackdown was a great way to start firing up some ideas.


Then it was time for some effective use of post-it notes and a timetable was formed based on what people were interested in.

// And then it was systems all go! The sessions that I attended were:

  • Solo Taxonomy (lead by the wonderful +Sonya Van Schaijik)
  • Minecraft (where +Steve Katene shared lots of his knowledge)
  • Genius Hour (where I lead the discussion)
  • Design Thinking (where I made +Matt Ives share all his knowledge)
Then we all shared some kai together thanks for Network 4 Learning (thanks +Tim Kong) and then hit the pub! The learning just never stops happening.  All those informal conversations you have with people are so valuable.
My takeaway things to go and implement from today are:
  • To start using Solo Taxonomy in my class (thanks +Sonya Van Schaijik)
  • To hunt down “Notebook How To” the book suggested by +Tara Taylor-Jorgensen about slowing down writing
  • To access the crowdsourced documents that +Anne Kenneally has collated and that @jackbillie35 shared.
  • Add a creative commons to my blog (thanks +Diana-Grace Morris)
  • Watching some stuff on Cell Storming (thanks +Matt Ives) and make myself some hexagons, laminated of course (thanks +Paula Hay)
  • Read all the links that people have shared with me.
  • Confirm a date for the WellyEd end of term drinks with my co-conspirator +Rebbecca Sweeney 
  • Organise a Maker Party for my class with Jess Weichler
  • Start planning a road trip to #educampHB to see +Juliet Revell 
Woah a big list I know but hey it’s good to keep the energy and the connections going.
Thanks to everyone that attended today and shared their knowledge.  Still the best professional development that money can’t buy (because it’s free!)

First steps towards digital collaboration

This week I ran a staff professional development session on how to set up a YouTube account and utilise this amazing resource.

I decided just to offer it as an after school activity for anybody that was interested. Taking the compulsory factor out of it and making it about staff making proactive choices about their own learning.  I had nearly every staff member present including our Principal!

No pressure Leanne!

My aim was to have everybody logged in and using YouTube to create playlists of resources that could then be shared with others. I found that some staff were using videos as resources already but were not using YouTube as a tool.

I had also created a Google site for the school. This holds the information from the session so that teachers can readily go back and find notes on how to do things.

One of my colleagues is a prolific user of YouTube and had never ever created a playlist before.  He was having the search the depths of his brain every time he wanted to re-watch or re-use a particular video.  In passing the next day we discussed the potential for connections and sharing within the team which then got us discussing sharing other types of resources too.  His playlists alone are going to be game-changers within the school.

And I guess that is the point I wanted to reflect on.  For me, presenting some information about how to set up a YouTube account was pretty straightforward.  As my colleagues 14yr old son said to me “so you basically taught them how to use YouTube? But that’s so easy!”. Well yes it is easy but actually to those who are new to the digital platform it is like reading a whole other language.  Their are new symbols along with new possibilities and I imagine the experience for some was quite overwhelming (in a good way). But what I have hopefully achieved through this small thing is opened a door towards more collaboration and sharing within the school. It may just be a very tiny opening to begin with, but I have plans in place for how to kick it open even wider.

Much kudos must go to the master of YouTube himself Jim Sill who inspired me at the GAFE summit in Auckland earlier this year. That man has so many playlists that I imagine Google created the “Ctrl f” search button just for him.