Welcome to my Professional Learning blog.
My name is Matt Nicoll and I am a high school teacher in New Zealand, interested in improving the classroom experience for my students. I am open to trialing new approaches and hope to use this blog to reflect on my ideas and practices.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Flame Colours with Year 4

With the seniors gone, I invited 4TMF from our Preparatory School to spend a lesson with me in the laboratory. They had been looking at trends and patterns throughout the year, and Guy Fawkes night has recently passed. Therefore, Penny (their enthusiastic teacher) and I decided to look at the patterns used to make different colours, particularly in fireworks.

The first lesson was more teacher-directed, followed by a chance for the students to "play" with some of the chemicals, seeing which colours they observe:

Penny made some fabulous laminated SOLO Describe+ Maps for the students, so they could record the colours as we went.

The second lesson is yet to be done at the time of writing. The plan is to give the students a variety of salts to heat. Penny has made more laminated record sheets. The students record the name (cation + anion) and the colour(s) of the respective flame.

The students then need to "relate" the colours they observe to the name. For example, I expect both copper salts to make a blue/green flame. Therefore, maybe it is the copper that makes those chemicals create that flame colour...?

Here are some of the flames:

Monday, 10 November 2014

Three Ideologies - Yoram Harpaz

At ULearn14, Yoram Harpaz introduced the idea that there are only truly three pedagogical ideologies, and all other ideologies in education fall into one of these three categories. This challenged my thinking, and I am not convinced that he is correct.

The Ideologies of Education: in search of the pedagogical sentiment from EDtalks on Vimeo.


SOURCE: http://yoramharpaz.com/presentations/the-ideologies-of-education-en.pdf

SOURCE: http://yoramharpaz.com/presentations/the-ideologies-of-education-en.pdf

SOURCE: http://yoramharpaz.com/presentations/the-ideologies-of-education-en.pdf

Professor Harpaz insists that all are effective, but we need to choose only one ideology. I do agree that the only way for a school (and its philosophies) to be effective and successful is for all teachers etc. to "sing from the same song sheet", supporting the ideology of the school. However, I do not agree that it needs to be just one of the ideologies identified by Professor Harpaz.

What I really liked about the presentation, was that we needed to identify the ideology that most resonated with us and what we wanted education in New Zealand to look like. We were also asked to identify what we thought most schools did actually prescribe to (more often than not). Overwhelmingly, we (the audience) chose Individuation, while identifying Socialisation and Acculturation as the predominant ideologies currently employed in New Zealand. I wonder what the outcome would be if we did this survey with our own staff, students and parents...

We talk about wanting our students to be independent, life-long learners. What are we doing to ensure that this is the outcome? Are we following an individuation philosophy to ensure our students have these qualities?

On reflection, I feel that these ideologies are a little simplistic. Or, maybe there is a little lost in translation (into English). Don't we evolve from Socialisation to Acculturation, then (ideally) to Individuation through the course of a year, or over a series of years. I know that our Senior College philosophy is much more in line with Individuation than our Middle School philosophy, which seems to me to be more like Acculaturation.

Don't we have to adopt different approaches (ideologies?) depending upon the students in front of us on any given day? If Individuation is actually the ultimate goal (should it be at school level?), then how do we embark on that journey? Do we not also need to initially instill an understanding of social "rules", an understanding of New Zealand culture and an understanding of their own "story" to help students develop a genuine individual identity?

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Three Inspirations

As part of Connected Educator Month, #ChchED has done 31 Days of Blogging. To round this off, the committee are giving a quick overview of five key people/groups who have inspired them to be connected educators themselves.

Matt Nicoll
St Andrew's College

  • ChchED Committee
  • edchatNZ Conference Steering Committee
  • scichatNZ Committee
  • edSMAC Co-Founder

ULearn12 was the big change for me for becoming a more connected educator. Twitter and VPLD were the first avenues I used to be more connected, then I started to take some risks with making my pedagogy and keeping an blog to share these risks and innovations. But to take these steps, I needed inspiration from others:

Website: http://kevinhoneycutt.org/
Twitter: @kevinhoneycutt

Kevin was one of the Keynote Speakers at ULearn12. Just watch the first fifteen minutes of his talk and you might get an idea why he is #1 on my list:

Don't wait until it is perfect to get started, just get started. I didn't wait to be any good at filming my teaching and posting it on YouTube and our class blogs. They are not perfect, but they are useful to my students and to many others. Thank you to Kevin for giving the inspiration and courage to get started!

Website: http://missdtheteacher.blogspot.co.nz/
Twitter: @MissDtheTeacher

When Danielle started edchatNZ, and its respective fortnightly twitter chat via #edchatNZ, she was still a Provisionally Registered Teacher! From modest beginnings in 2012 (after ULearn12...), Danielle has been a "lone nut" leading an amazing team which brought us the first edchatNZ Conference in September 2014. I am proud to say that I am one of her most ardent followers and feel privileged to be able to call her a true friend. Every time I am in Auckland, catching up over coffee is always an inspiring highlight of my trip. Watch this space; Danielle is one to watch!

edchatNZ itself is probably the main reason that Danielle ranks so highly on this list. Via edchatNZ, I have built a really strong PLN and received great feedback for my own blog and ideas. Via edchatNZ, I have got help with units (or even just the teaching of individual concepts) that I thought were a bit "stale" or just wanted more variety with. Via edchatNZ, I have found the courage to share my ideas, and even to help build some other communities, such as edSMAC, scichatNZ and ChchED.

Sorry, Brent is not on twitter, nor does he have a website or blog. This does not make him any less "connected" but it does mean that I will need to email him about this post, instead of letting my PLN wheels do the turning for me.

Brent is my Head of Department. He is on this list because of the faith he has shown in me, and the opportunities he has afforded me. He is also here because he is a voice of rational reason when I start getting ahead of myself with my "great ideas!"

In 2013, Brent and I both went to the International Conference on Thinking (ICOT 2013) in Wellington. We were both inspired by what we were exposed to and driven to make changes in our own department. Brent then organised for us both to visit some great schools in Melbourne, Australia.

Brent is a wonderful leader of our department. He has made me feel valued, while also offering much-needed advice and critique. He is open-minded to ideas, so long as they are based upon sound pedagogy and match the goals of the department. He has encouraged me (and others in our department) and never been an obstacle in the way of innovation. He is not an advocate for "we've always done it that way", so he belongs squarely at #3 for me.