Modern Learning Environments – Yeah, Nope

I had my first experience relieving (more like babysitting than teaching) in a modern learning environment (MLE) recently. It was a Year 10 maths class sitting adjacent to a Year 9 class in an open plan area designed for 3 classes. The Year 10 class was studying for an NCEA assessment – 16 were, the other 8 were doing ZIP. I learned the following:

  1. It is noisy. A Year 9 class was seated less than 1m away were doing group work. The Year 10 class was studying for an assessment. Fortunately, the seniors are on study leave otherwise may have had even more students in the same area.
  2. You need to be on your guard – phones are out and other off-task behavior using BYOD devices is quite hard to spot … students are spread out with a variety of seating arrangements including the floor.
  3. You need to avoid confrontation if possible. As soon as you start a “restorative chat” there are 50 eyeballs watching and listening (there is nowhere semi-private to have the discussion)… And as was the case, a group of six students clearly wanted a confrontation ie refused to put phones away or do any work,  there is very little I can do. I cannot send them from class… there is nowhere to send them! And they know that.
  4. The open plan area is excellent for students to socialize. There is quite a bit of foot traffic and students just leave other classes and come for a chat with their friends. Again not anything I can do… Report their names to their Ako (Form) teacher and teacher for whom I am relieving?
  5. Pity the students that cannot work in the MLE. There is no escape.
  6. Book another classroom if you need to sit a test, show a movie, do direct delivery of content…

Of course, I did not know any of the students and have never used an MLE (at least in an education context) and ultimately I was not required to actually teach anything in this relief session… Still, what I experienced gave me concerns…

I like the flexibility of modern learning environments but I want this flexibility to include options of sticking up walls when needed.

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Pessmistic students?

I recently gave a multi-choice test to 17 Year 10 students in the area of Human-Computer Interfaces. I also asked them following the test to estimate how well they did. Consistent with similar surveys I have done, all but two students estimated their grades as lower than what they actually gained.. some significantly. Two estimated correctly. When asked why the answers were typically about “expecting the worst”, don’t want to disappoint… In business, we called this under-promise and over-deliver. Would a group of similar male students under or overestimate?

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Catalyst IT award for top WEGC Digital Technologies students

Wellington East Girls College(WEGC) prizegiving was held last night (31 October 2019). It is quite a formal affair. Catalyst sponsored the prize to our top two Digital Technologies students: Jamie U and Charlotte Cordwell. Presenting the award was Aleisha Amohia from Catalyst – a former WEGC student and recipient of the award 4 years ago. The cup was donated by IT Professionals NZ. Teachers, Cris Roughton and myself are proud to have taught all three of these young women in recent years.

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When researching usability as part of teaching Year 10 students about Human-Computer Interactions (HCI) I came across . Noting that New Zealand was not represented I created an event focussed on teaching HCI to multiple Year 10 students. At the culmination of this “event”, I will give them a multi-choice test…

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Sometimes, maybe, possibly some sanctions are necessary?

The Transport Agency has discovered that a purely educational and facilitative approach with some restorative justice perhaps is not adequate for people to do what is required when it comes to WoF inspections. Hence the debacle over having thousands of potentially unsafe cars on New Zealand roads. I wish they took this approach with speed camera fines – I would write in, say sorry, promise never to speed again and laugh all the way to the bank.

I wonder if Education needs to rethink aspects of student management. We (secondary schools) tend to take a facilitative, education and restorative justice approach to student behavior – and that is fine, but there are few if any sanctions for minor issues ie

  • not wearing correct student uniform is common
  • devices are not brought to school (over 20%)
  • students skip parts of class (toilet breaks, wandering the corridors…)
  • pen and paper is often not brought to school (or headphones)
  • minor truancy

These are all relatively minor “offences” but if I was a student knowing that apart from a discussion nothing else would happen, I would be laughing all the way to my next class. At least that is what students tell me…


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Disgraceful telephone stats for IRD

Following on from recent challenges contacting IRD over several months I did an OIA on their call stats. I can see why I got frustrated. I also wrote to IRD on 24 September with the first line stating…

“Please acknowledge receipt of this letter by mail, email or text to avoid me having to ring to see if you have this letter.”

So far nothing.  A private sector company would be out of business by now with this level of s$%t performance.

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In flight construction

This is what a classroom looks like when you truncate 1m from available space and erect a temporary wall and windows (perspex). The process involved moving power and data cables at short notice – fortunately, things mostly work. Students are pretty flexible however and during Christmas break, the real work will begin… (involving asbestos removal)

Never a dull moment.

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