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New Lynn School – Growing digital fluency

New Lynn Primary teacher, Christina Fortes.

New Lynn Primary teacher Christina Fortes is equipping her students with digital literacy skills so that they able to use digital technologies in smart ways. Christina is also looking at ways to integrate the new digital technologies curriculum into her classroom programme so that students can become skilled creators of technology.

Christina is currently working collaboratively with one other teacher within a year 5/6 learning hub. At this stage, they are working in two single cell classrooms that will soon be transformed into one space. Christina believes that pedagogy is more important than the wall that separates the two classes and sees collaborative teaching as an opportunity to work to their strengths. Christina is new to the school and new to this style of teaching.

Christina brings with her the passion to give students technological skills that will enable them to be lifelong learners, so they can use technology for their own benefit. She wants them to know how to navigate the internet safely, use digital devices to create their own content, and actively innovate. Her goal is to help students and parents understand how digital devices can be used to extend learning beyond the four walls of the classroom.

“There is a lot of tech out there and it can be used in the wrong way. I want students to understand how to use digital technology in a smart way and for them to share this knowledge with their peers and whānau.”

At New Lynn Primary they have enough devices for 1:3 throughout the school, with a mixture of Chromebooks and iPads. They use Seesaw to share their learning with whānau, a Facebook page which is regularly updated, and a school website. They also have a class site which Christina uses with her learners.

Why focus on digital technologies?

“We know our children are digital natives who have been surrounded by technology since birth. With this in mind, we want to equip them with the ability to use it to the best of their ability. We also want to give them the skills to be safe online and see technology as a way to communicate, share, and create content.”

Last year Christina’s students had their own individual blogs. Sharing their work via blogs provides students with an authentic audience. It is a place where they can provide positive feedback to others and receive feedback on learning they have shared. Here are some examples of content that has been created by students and shared through their blogs.

  • Video reflection created by a student – This student was able to listen to her own reflection and reflect on it again. By creating an audio reflection she widened her audience to those who may not be keen on reading a reflection.
  • Student maths challenge – Students created their own Google drawings based on a chosen maths strategy. This helped students master their strategy, provide examples, and apply it in a range of settings.
  • Mannequin challenge – During topic the class researched New Zealand native birds. The students decided to share their learning in the form of a mannequin challenge. They particularly enjoyed creating the video, getting the rights to the music direct from the owner, and the challenge of condensing their learning down to one fact each.

Christina is looking at ways to integrate the new digital technologies curriculum content into her classroom curriculum. Like many teachers at the beginning of 2018, she is still unpacking it. She picks out one aspect to focus on and aligns it with the school’s vision:

 ‘to prepare students for the future by nurturing, developing, and valuing each learner.’

"I’m lucky enough to have the past experience of working 1:1 with devices. This has helped me understand the new digital technologies curriculum. However, for those who are new to this part of the curriculum, the exemplars provide a great way to get started. I wish they were around when I first started teaching.”

New Lynn Primary students.

She has come from a school where she worked 1:1 with Chromebooks, to a school working 1:3 with devices. She’s having to reflect and adapt her own pedagogical practice. In a way, this has become her mini-inquiry.

Christina is excited about how they’ve used "Scratch" in the exemplars because she has used that already. She says it’s important to familiarise yourself with the content of new apps but not to feel like you have to be an expert at it. Christina suggests you leave that part to the students because they can be the experts. She likes how each exemplar has the links to the progress outcomes because that really helps to illustrate the learning.

As a confident user of digital technologies in her teaching and learning programmes, Christina sees part of her role at New Lynn Primary is to help her colleagues understand what the new digital technologies curriculum is all about and give them the confidence to integrate technologies into the classroom without feeling overwhelmed by them. The staff are already doing this, however, with a little extra support she believes they can strengthen their collective understanding of this curriculum.

She wants to lead by example and finds it best to run something with the students first as their voice can be very powerful.

“Students are quick to learn and need the ability to articulate their learning. It makes the learning visible …”

Christina feels it’s important that teachers don’t see digital technologies as something that comes on top of everything else they need to do. She believes this curriculum can help us integrate digital technologies into the classroom.

“You don’t need to be an experienced musician to teach music, nor a qualified scientist to teach the basics of science. The same applies to digital technologies.”

At Christina’s previous school they had year 4–6 students who were called "techXperts" and "Chromebook ninjas". With support and training, these students were confident using digital devices (Chromebooks, laptops, and iPads), setting up WiFi, and operating the ActivBoard projectors. They could act as tuakana and support students during class as well as run workshops for parents and teachers.

They haven’t used "techXperts" at New Lynn Primary yet but Christina plans to train a small group who will then go out and work with other groups across the school. They will start small and expand from there. One example of how techXperts work is having the students teach other students how to locate and use the docking station on an iPad. Another example would be having the techXperts run a small toolkit (short session) where they teach their audience how to retell a story using an app such as ‘Puppet Pals’. Christina believes this approach can help teachers who aren’t confident with digital technologies.

Christina says an important thing to remember is to give students some "sandpit" time. This allows them to have hands-on experience, develop vocabulary, and problem solve together so they don’t always come back to the teacher for answers, especially if the teacher is joining the sandpit time. She also says that it helps get all of the giggles and distractions out of the way. Christina finds that a lot of the tricks and tips come from the students. They often solve the problem before she does or find a shorter easier way.

“When students have the opportunity to share their knowledge with others, it allows them to take ownership of it. That’s the power of student voice.”

Here are Christina’s suggestions of things to try with students to integrate the new digital technologies curriculum with other learning areas:

Scratch

This app can be very engaging. It can be used alongside Makey Makeys and other robotic devices. Scratch can be used to build an understanding of how basic circuits work (technology). Here is an example of a reflection sheet Christina has used with her students. Scratch can also be used to create animated simulations based on maths, for example, the reproduction of rabbits versus an introduced predator (maths) or creating their own music (the arts).

Creating QR codes

These can be used to link information from an inquiry unit. For example, students could add a QR code to a piece of art they have displayed on the wall (the arts). The QR code could link to a recording of themselves talking about their art (English - Speaking, writing and presenting; DTs and literacy and topic study/inquiry).

New Lynn Primary student artwork.

Creating a Google site

Students can create their own Google sites. For example a site on renewable energy (science), students’ research can be added to the site, including measurements, calculations, and graphs (maths). It’s a great way for students to share their work with peers and whānau as well as keep everything together. It also provides opportunities for feedback from a wider audience.

Cybersafety and an awareness of copyright can be integrated through Google sites lessons (digital citizenship). For example, a lesson on legal image use from Google. Teachers can unpack copyright and show students how to locate the usage rights of an image before they use it on their site.

New Lynn Primary Google sites lessons.

Stop motion animations

Students could collaboratively create storyboards to retell a story or plan a new concept (English). These could be completed on paper or digitally. Then a stop-motion animation could be created. Part of this process includes using props and creating backdrops (the arts), calculating the speed of the animation and the number of pictures required (maths). Here are some examples of stop-motion animations created by Christina’s students.

Advice to others

Christina offers this advice to teachers just starting out with digital technologies:

  • Take small steps and be prepared to fail a few times.
  • Model risk-taking and show your students it’s okay to make mistakes as long as we learn from them. For example, don’t panic when there is no internet or the dreaded padlock shows up for Google documents that haven’t been shared properly. Instead, use it as a way to problem solve.
  • Be open to new learning.
  • Immerse yourself in professional development opportunities such as GAFE summits, uLearn, EduCamp NZ events, and Google+ communities.

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Digital technologies spotlight
This spotlight explores the revised digital technologies curriculum, helping you understand the changes and support available. Find short videos, group activities, and opportunities for personal reflection.

Published on: 13 Apr 2018


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