Engaging and belonging – it’s all in a day’s learning

Issue: Volume 102, Number 10

Posted: 3 August 2023
Reference #: 1HAb6p

Education Gazette has covered several kāhui ako teacher-only days this year, and a common theme has been the value in bringing early learning and school communities together.

Northcote Intermediate principal Phil Muir, who, alongside his team, recently organised a teacher-only day for the Northcote Kāhui Ako, reiterates this, saying, “Professional development plays an important part in keeping our teachers connected, current, motivated and focused.”

Left and right: Educators enjoyed breaks in the natural settings of Northcote College grounds during their kāhui ako teacher-only day.

Left and right: Educators enjoyed breaks in the natural settings of Northcote College grounds during their kāhui ako teacher-only day.

A sense of belonging was felt from the outset of a Northcote Kāhui Ako conference in June, with its focus on ‘Engaging all Learners’.  

International sports performance coach and bestselling author Owen Eastwood engaged all educators with his opening keynote presentation, delivered via live link.  

Setting the tone, Owen drew on his knowledge of the importance of belonging and organisational culture, as shared in his global hit book, Belonging, to welcome teachers and education professionals to the first-of-its-kind event for the kāhui ako. Previous iterations of professional learning and development within had taken place remotely, due to the Covid pandemic.  

Northcote Intermediate School principal Phil Muir and his team organised the conference, held at nearby Northcote College, to wide praise from attendees.  

“I think it’s a great example of a kāhui ako working together, as well as having a fantastic range of outstanding speakers and so many workshops – 24 in total,” says Phil.  

“We’ve had so many topics covered including learning support, AI, the importance of belonging, structured literacy, mathematics… the list goes on!”  

The event’s three keynote presentations provided time for attendees to come together for shared learning, with a healthy array of breakout workshops spread throughout the day.  

Mental health education and hauora was provided by Abbe Waghorn from the Sir John Kirwan Foundation’s ‘Mitey’ programme. Educators were energised with interactive workshop sessions aimed at ‘reframing thoughts on supporting students’.  

Massey University’s Sally Clendon presented sessions on ‘Literacy for all’.  

“Literacy is such a hot topic,” said Sally, who also has a child at the Northcote College host school.  

“We are making sure we are looking at all learners when it comes to literacy, and this includes considering children with complex needs.”  

A sense of community  

Northcote College deputy principal Mike Dudley with Northcote Intermediate principal Phil Muir.

Northcote College deputy principal Mike Dudley with Northcote Intermediate principal Phil Muir.

Learning support coordinator Helen Morris loved the fact that she didn’t have to travel far to access this wealth of professional development.  

“It’s great to come together as a community again,” she said. “We often think of our community as being our own school, but it’s good to remember and experience being part of a larger community of schools.”  

The event saw more than 240 secondary, intermediate, primary and early learning teachers come together. Energy was provided via a colourful, quality spread of kai prepared by Northcote College senior students.  

Frances Kluge, the teacher in charge of food technology and hospitality, was delighted to see the mahi of her cohort being enjoyed and discussed by attendees, with students serving their dishes personally and enjoying warm praise.  

“We offer a Year 12/13 professional cookery option – our students love it! They have been working hard in class and cooking at lunch times. They’ve done themselves proud with what they’ve produced today and how they’ve gone about it.”  

Artificial Intelligence  

Kai was prepared by Northcote College Year 12 and 13 professional cookery students.

Kai was prepared by Northcote College Year 12 and 13 professional cookery students.

Facilitated by educational experts across a raft of engaging topics, interactive workshops included an eye-opening session from educational technology trainer, Nicole Brown. The self-titled ‘Sciwi’ (Scottish Kiwi) delivered sessions focusing her lens on the use of AI in the teaching profession.  

Nicole shared her insights and experience on the benefits of Artificial Intelligence capabilities for teaching and learning. Her sharing on the potential use of AI to assist teachers with lesson planning and student reports grabbed the attention of workshop participants.  

Nicole employed real-time AI tech during her session, with live caption translation from English into te reo Māori, to demonstrate one of the many multitudes of AI’s capability. Her spoken words immediately appearing on screen in te reo, she said, “I’m passionate about AI. I know not everybody is. But AI is for everyone; it’s low entry, high ceiling.”  

Outlining the opportunities AI presents the teaching profession in terms of assessment marking, lesson planning and developing personalised learning tools, Nicole acknowledged the pitfalls of the highly intuitive technology, conceding students could potentially manipulate the technology to their advantage.  

“Whatever technology develops, students will probably find ways around it,” she said.  

Nicole informed participants of the Google Classroom upgrade available, which offers additional AI benefits to the standard offering, with an extra licence. She explained features such as ‘practice sets’, which give students answers to questions straight away, enabling immediate reflection and learning. ‘Read along’ provides an insights dashboard that enables educators to see how many guesses a student has had to achieve the correct answer to a question, for example.  

Nicole discussed ChatGPT’s capabilities and limitations, saying, “ChatGPT input determines the detail of its output. It doesn’t have pedagogical knowledge or teaching experience.  

“You could, for example, ask it to produce 10 questions that show students’ comprehension of chapters one to three of the novel, Wonder, that align with Te Mātaiaho | the refreshed NZ curriculum, in language suited to Year 5 students. It’s that good.”  

Met with a range of knowing nods among some open mouths, reactions suggested this knowledge is already being used by some, and was new information welcomed by many.  

Addressing concerns around the potential AI takeover, Nicole summarised, “AI won’t replace you in the classroom but someone who uses AI will.”  

Valuing identity 

University of Canterbury’s Jennifer Pearl Smith provided an overview of Hikairo Schema for primary and Te Kura Tapa Wha, before leading workshop sessions delving into how educators enable students to develop a stronger sense of identity and belonging in a te ao Māori context.  

Māori Achievement Collaborative’s (MAC) Brenda McPherson looked at the ways teachers can engage students, in line with the conference theme, as part of her keynote address.  

“Knowing their students, we’re asking ‘What more can teachers be doing to build relationships with these students and their whānau?’”  

A former principal at Windy Ridge School for over 10 years, Brenda has been with MAC for more than four years and her keynote speech provided an opportunity for educators to reflect on their level of engagement with all learners.  

“Everyone is doing engagement differently,” she said. “It would be wrong for schools to have the same engagement methods. In schools that deliberately consider the need to build these relationships, engagement is working well.”  

She added that the focus at MAC is on better engaging Māori learners to improve outcomes. But the strategies used often translate well across many cultures.  

“We are seeing some really exciting engagement initiatives being used by schools across our region, which runs from the [Auckland] Harbour Bridge to Wellsford.”

A wealth of information was on hand at the Northcote Kāhui Ako teacher-only day.

A wealth of information was on hand at the Northcote Kāhui Ako teacher-only day.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 1:20 pm, 3 August 2023

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