week 10: adapting to the terrain

I have been reminded constantly in this new job, that the MLE and modern curriculum structure doesn’t automagically make it easier to teach at HPSS.  To utilise the newfangled building and modern curriculum design a great deal of rigorous pedagogical thought and structure has been undertaken and as a teacher arriving into this environment I’ve had to find ways to change my practice to take advantage of this structure.

The curriculum may be delivered differently here, but everything about how the school is managed puts the vision and values from the NZ curriculum at the heart of things. From the (academic) learning design model, which helps us to use a common vocabulary across all our learning to the (pastoral) learning community model which focuses us on building the trusting learning relationships that are essential for any effective learning to take place. The management structures that have been co-constructed here enable a vital range of learning contexts to be implemented which make it an invigorating and exciting place to teach. But certainly, as I said, not any easier than any other school.

There has been a great deal of discussion and debate in the media and beyond about the efficacy of modern learning environments. They are a contentious ideological beachhead because they challenge the orthodoxy of some very old, very rich and very politically connected schools. The most common line of attack being that they are chaotic zones of uncontrolled activity. While I can understand how they might appear, to those looking for orderly rooms of quietly gridlocked students, to be chaotic zones of uncontrolled activity, the learning taking place at HPSS is rigorously, considered, planned and assessed.

This post by Heemi, one of my colleagues at HPSS, presents some great insights into how teachers might think about adapting our practice to utilise the possibilities that MLEs open up. It is a great reframing of the M in MLE and really got me thinking about what I can do to make my teaching work better here.

At my previous school I had pretty good results teaching Adobe Illustrator to 25-30 kids in an enclosed computer room, using verbal instructions and on-screen demonstration to take them through a series of steps to produce a book jacket. It was an activity that required little planning on my part (apart from ensuring the computer room was booked), but provided a differentiated, fun, crash course in the basic functionality of Illustrator. The students were used to following instructions and the room was quiet and free from distractions.

Running a similar activity to this at HPSS did not work so well. The computer room being open on two sides and with students from other modules working in and amongst the students I was working with, the space is just not suited to having the teacher deliver a whole lesson. A better approach from me would have been to provide the steps as a worksheet accompanied by a tutorial video allowing students to work at their own pace which I could then support on a needs basis.

I have a long journey ahead of me to fully adapt, but I feel, already, 10 weeks in, that I am evolving…


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