Monday, 29 July 2013

Consider Chris Murphy Declared

Hi to everyone embarking on SP4Ed. My name is Chris Murphy and i am a married father of 3 boys (7, 4 & 2). I live in the picturesque, if not a little chilly, town of Mt Somers in Mid Canterbury. I am also the principal of Methven Primary School, which is a State run school of approx. 250 children aged from 5 to 11 years.
Methven Primary School is part of a fibre connected loop which connects our school, along with all of the other 22 schools in Mid Canterbury, to the main fibre trunk line (including the KAREN network). The Ministry of Education is using our district as a test case and have invested a considerable amount of money into the professional development side of things.
But what has changed? The wheels of change do move slowly... but they do move. I think part of me that lives in the the here and now gets frustrated that things are changing fast enough, and the more reflective part of me that looks back can see how far we have come in a relatively short amount of time.
Embarking on SP4Ed with its differing and diverse means of delivery and discussion will prove both a challenge and an opportunity for me. In the past i have used all the differing applications, but never in conjunction with each other. This in itself is interesting. As educators we bleat on about how integration of curriculum is a key tenet of the New Zealand education system however we don't stop to think about the positive effect of integrating digital tools to improve educational outcomes. Interesting times!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

My Arena of Change

The Arena of Change - Described
To create my change model i have adapted the Davis (2013) Arena of Change to suit my own situation. I am looking at the present situation of how we use collaborative online tools to carry out planning in the primary school i work at. The model shows people driving the change, those that want to be involved, those that are reluctant, those that receive the benefits of change, the keen observers and those that are providing support via information or application.
Davis (2008) describes innovative teachers as being a great agent of change, and our school is no exception. At the heart of my model are a group of teachers (A) that have introduced collaborative tools into their own classrooms; they use them with their students and with other teachers. Their classrooms are dynamic places of learning where the students are highly engaged and are actively involved in directing their education. The Senior Management team (D), who are also teachers, are part of this cohort but have also looked at how online collaboration can be used to support some of the backbone planning and reviews that are a necessary part of a school's infrastructure; to this end they have involved the Principal (P). The Principal has engaged in the process some time after its initiation and that is why he is on the side of the field of play.
The Learner (L) are the students at the school and while they are not engaged in the online collaborative planning they are, ultimately,  its beneficiaries and that is why they are surrounding the field of play. Also standing on the side of the field are the teachers who are keen to implement the change (K), they have observed the positive outcomes that have been reaped thus far. These teachers are digitally literate but will require a small level of professional development and scaffolding to enter the field. There are other teachers who are reluctant to make the change (R), they have positioned themselves away from the field. These teachers, generally, find technology difficult and/or have been through multiple pedagogical and planning changes in their career.
In the first tier away from the field is also the school's Board of Trustees (B). They are supportive and see the benefits in the school 21st Century approach to learning; however they are mindful of results - they need to be assured that all of their strategic goals with regard to student achievement will be met, regardless of change.
Within the wider community our parents (P), who can be wary of change and who have predominately grown up within a traditional model of schooling themselves will observe and reserve judgement. On the whole the parents have embraced learning at the school but are also concerned that their child meets their potential (this is often gauged by measuring against the National Standards). Also on this tier are our other local schools (S), who will watch with competitive interest. Some may choose to join in the conversation about online collaboration, while others will be derisive.
In the top tier we have ERO and the Ministry of Education. As the Principal, I wonder how they will perceive the direction in which we are moving. We need to make sure any changes are running smoothly before their next review of the school.
Also in the top tier are the choices we have in service providers; those that provide the applications. Our school has traditionally used the Microsoft Office Suite for planning and self review, but we are now moving towards applications within Google Drive.
Lastly in this tier are the places we will gain information to underpin our decisions - UC EDEM630 will serve the school well in providing the opportunities to achieve this.

Davis, N.E. (2008). How may teacher learning be promoted for educational renewal with IT?  In J. Voogt and G. Knezek (eds.), International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education, (507–520) Amsterdam: Springer

Davis, N.E. (2013). The Arena of Change. Retrieved from UC Learn EDEM630

Annotated Bibliography

Davis, N.E. (2008). How may teacher learning be promoted for educational renewal with IT?  In J. Voogt and G. Knezek (eds.), International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education, (507–520) Amsterdam: Springer

Davis uses an ecological perspective to illustrate how educational renewal (progression, evolution) can be driven by teachers who use ICT tools effectively in their classrooms and schools.   Davis describes a model that demonstrates the 'biosphere' of education and the differing levels of influence each layer has on educational practise.
An interesting paper that gives a wholistic view of how educational renewal can be initiated. It was good that the paper was able to give, in part, a New Zealand perspective. There were two aspects of this article that a pertinent to my research paper.
1. The place of multinationals (in my case Google and Microsoft) in educational renewal.
2. The place of motivated and innovative teachers in educational renewal.
In general this paper will help provide a grounded platform to work my research from.

Rogers, E.M. (2003). Chapter 6: Attributes of innovations and their rate of diffusion. In (author), Diffusion of innovations. Fifth edition. (219-266) New York: Free Press. 

Rogers describes the reasons why certain new innovations have a quicker uptake by the populous than others.  In short it is based on the public's differing perceptions of the worth (in multiple senses). Rogers breaks the attributes of perception into five catergories:
1. Relative Advantage
2. Complexity
3. Compatability
4. Trailability
5. Observability
The case Rogers stated was easy to understand and made complete sense when considering the introduction of technological change within a school setting. Not only is this good background information but it also provides an instructional platform for the way to successfully 'sell' change to teachers. It all about perception.

Choosing a Research Topic

 Can Google Drive be an effective tool for teacher collaboration in a primary school setting?

I feel i have always been able to hold my own when it comes to technical / IT things. My brother (almost exactly one year older) and I grew up in the 70s and 80s during, what seemed to us at the time, a technical revolution. Our pocket money was converted to 20c pieces and spent almost entirely on arcade games, we had a home computer from a fairly early age and we even learned how to programme the VCR. My parents to this day remain technophobes, with a high level of learned helplessness, but they must have recognised the dawning importance of the silicon chip and the part it would play in tomorrow's world.
What i am saying is that i feel that i would class myself as technically 'on to it' and literate. Schools i have been involved have, in general terms, been happy for me to follow my ICT passions within the school and have been adequately resourced to do so.
However... I have noticed recently that my once broad repertoire of skills, programmes and applications have narrowed significantly. I now rely on a few 'old faithfuls' to get the job done and find i become intimidated and reticent towards the introduction of new tools into my work life. Case in point; Moodle/Learn took a lot of getting used to when i first started my post graduate study. So when teachers at our school started using and sharing Google applications through Google Drive, i watched from a distance. As the momentum grew among the 'on to it' staff i braced myself for my eventual inclusion.
Over the past school term i have seen the myriad of benefits in its use. At a senior management level we are using it as a 'real time' collaborative planing and writing tool. It has been amazing to sit together and complete a series of smaller tasks individually that contribute to a larger, more complex piece of work collectively - all at the same time.
I harp on to our staff that we need to 'work smarter, not harder' and that 'collaboration is the key' but it doesn't stop us reinventing the wheel on numerous occasions.
So the time is ripe for us to make a change, the stars are aligning and an opportunity has presented itself. But i also know that if i felt uneasy about climbing on the bandwagon that many of our teachers, some of whom i know are intimidated by technology, will struggle to (want to) become involved too.
A change model that acknowledges the difficulties (technical, motivational and pedagogical) that some will face will be an important aspect of the project.
I have had a quick search of articles which returned a couple of magazine articles on the specific subject, so i may have to broaden it slightly to find research done around collaborative teacher planning.

At the moment these are my big questions:
What does research say about collaborative teacher planning?
What are the best tools for carrying out synchronous planning?
 How do i get everybody in the school involved without causing conflict?

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Creating a Blog

Hi Everyone,
My name is Chris Murphy. I live in Mt Somers - a sleepy village nestled in the Mid Canterbury foothills of the Southern Alps - depending on traffic (of both the four legged and four wheeled variety) it is just over an hours drive from Christchurch.
While I live in Mt Somers, I travel to work in Methven where I am the principal of the local state primary school. Methven Primary has a roll of about 250 children, with about half of the children coming off farms in the local area and the other half coming from the Methven township itself.
While i have used blogging sites before to share information with others, this will be the first time i have actually created a blog that i plan to keep updated. This is my last paper in the Post Grad Dip Ed (endorsed in E Learning) qualification, so i have become used to the sharing and  feedback component in each of the papers - but i still find it difficult as it doesn't come naturally. Passing my undergraduate course was a matter of turning up to lectures, passively receiving information and then regurgitating that information at the end of the semester for exams.
I chose Blogger as we are using Google applications more and more at our school, - so there was a natural fit. The process of creating the blog was relatively easy as it is similar to many of the other 'build your own' websites out there at the moment. I enjoyed discovering the various ways of individualising  my page, which, I guess, gives me a greater sense of ownership and authorship.
My manly ethic and attitude prevented me from looking at the instructions and how-to guides when constructing my blog but I can see now that I probably spent too long faffing about with things when I probably could have found the answer readily on one of the You Tube videos.
The EDEM 630 course notes provided a helpful work-through and checklist (link) that meant i was able to create something that i thought was pretty good in a relatively short amount of time.
I am really looking forward to the rest of the course and what it has to offer, although I must admit to being a bit daunted by the assessment schedule when i first looked at it.