Gilberthorpe school

Gilberthorpe school

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Manaiakalani Reflection

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Last week's inspiring trip to Auckland, visiting Point England School and Panmure Bridge School, has promoted a hive of reflection and discussion amongst staff at Gilberthorpe. I feel really fortunate to have been given the opportunity to take part in this Professional Development and am grateful to Andrew and the Board of Trustees for making the experience possible. 

I struggle to conclude on the most worth while part of our visit. The opening presentations, delivered by students from the cluster, set the tone for what we could expect to see in our school visits; the openness of the teachers, who shared their practice with us, gave us insight to the posibilities of teaching in a digital and collaborative environment. While discussions with staff and children at each of the schools allowed us to see the learning in action. The whole experience was enjoyable, thought provoking and inspirational from beginning to end. 

I will admit that going into this venture I had my doubts and concerns about what the reality of digital learning might look like. Picture a typical cafe scene, with groups of friends engrossed in their smart phones, completely disengaged with to the world and people around them. I didn't want to see a classroom replica of this. To the contrary, in both schools we saw a variety of PE, Sport, Arts and values related programs occurring alongside, and sometimes integrated with, their digital learning. Children left their devices, as they would their text book, inside while they went out to play and children still discussed and collaborated orally during class. It struck me that all the children I spoke with recognised their device as a tool. A tool, not a toy. A tool that was superior to pen and paper (and yes they could justify why it was so). A tool that enabled them to create work they were immensely proud of. A tool that permitted them to share their learning on a worldwide platform. 

The key messages I took away from the experience are:
  • It is the quality of teaching that makes the difference, not the introduction of technology. 
  • As educators we owe it to our learners to be proficient in the digital skills of the 21st Century. 
  • Technology generates possibilities for learning that can not be replicated by alternative means. 
This visit just so happened to coincide with the arrival of our new iPads in Tawa class making our ratio now 2:1. This allowed me to start trialing and implementing things I had seen within the Manaiakalani Cluster straight away. My first step was to remove all educational games from the devices (this leaves Book Creator, Comic Life and Draw and Show in addition to Google Drive and a link to the Tawa Blog). I anticipated an outcry from the children, but instead I observed a dramatic increase in the amount of writing happening during Action Stations. My second goal was to transfer to a digital modelling book. My Cylinders Numeracy group enjoyed their first lesson with a digital modelling book on Google Slides today and I can see strong advantages to having this data accessable on any devise anywhere and by any person. The modelling book can be shared with the learners themselves and with their parents to view any place any time. 

A huge thank you to Dorothy, Richard, Russell and all the staff and children at Point England and Panmure Bridge. You were all so welcoming of us in your schools and the time you took to share your journey and learning with us is much appreciated and valued. 


  1. Kia ora Jenny. I enjoyed reading your reflections from the trip. You have picked out some incredible important observations. I especially liked the aspect of students recognising the devices as tools, it gave everyone an even playing field which seemed to be crucial. I t was great to see you also emphasise that the crucial element is high quality teaching and learning, naturally using the technology can support this but there is still a lot of work to be done around what the students are doing with the devices. I liked the fact that you have stripped back your Ipad and are keeping it simple, very encouraging to see a dramatic increase in writing mileage. When I walked through the classes yesterday, your students were absolutely buzzing on their Ipads, they were sharing how much writing they had done and the different ways they were presenting it, could the same motivation be seen in workbooks? I doubt it....
    I will look forward to also seeing the impact of the digital modelling books, exciting times!

  2. Jenny
    I am really excited with what you have shared with us. I agree totally with key messages that you took away from this visit.

    No matter where we go in education it will always be the quality of teaching that makes the difference.

    We as not only educators but as part of society and our local community need ensure that all of our children have the opportunity to not only develop the skills they will require for the future but also to use devices as tools to further and enhance their learning.

    Technology is continuously evolving and new programmes are readily available to us. It will be important to not only keep upto date but also be able to know what is going to meet the needs our children. Ultimately we need to ensure the digital devices are for learning, creating, and sharing, and not just a replacement of worksheets or other reinforcing activities.

    Exciting times ahead