This is a journal to document my journey this year as I explore the issue of motivation and learning. I have been given this opportunity as part of gaining a MITA (Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher Award) and am excited about trying new and more innovative things as I explore ways to make learning relevant and engaging for the students in my class.


Helen Squires
Position: Year 7 and 8 teacher at Point England School
Teaching Record: I have taught at Point England since 2002 where I started as a Beginning Teacher. In my time at Point England I have taught Year 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 and 8.
2013 Class:  Year 7 and 8.

Proposed Area of Innovation:

Question: Can giving children more ownership over their learning lead to their increased motivation for learning, better understanding of content,  greater creativity and quality of work produced?

I would like to explore children taking more control over their learning. This will include them having the opportunity to share what they have learnt and now understand in a variety of possible ways i.e. movie, presentation, song, animation, spoken word poetry etc.

Part of this will involve experimenting with a different timetabling system to allow children to have longer blocks of time to be able to work on their projects uninterrupted.

Initially good processes will have to be established by giving clear direction and support into planning their project and following through the steps needed to reach completion. However as the children show competence with this they will be able to be left to manage themselves more.

A consideration is ensuring that projects reach completion stage. This has been an area I have found challenging this year with teaching Year 7 and 8 for the first time. To help establish an environment  where it is clearly established that deadlines need to be kept I would like to make more of an event of the sharing. One possibility could be an after school event where children invite their families to come and share in the presentations.

Evidence of Sharing With Colleagues:

Since 2005. I have been presenting at ULearn (6 times)
I presented at the 2012 Google Summit.
I was a foundation lead teacher in our cluster as part of Manaiakalani since 2007 and continue to be.
Having been an instigator of using sites in our cluster, I have since helped many colleagues develop their own class sites.
I was the first person in our school to use individual blogs, and have helped develop this idea with other teachers so that now our cluster has more than 1000 individual student blogs.
In 2008 as a result of getting frustrated at not being able to check how the children's draft writing on their blogs was going before publishing without going into each separate blogpost, I started using a class google docs account. The success of this for my class was the start towards the journey of the students in our cluster now having individual google accounts from the moment they enrol - all under the management of Teacher Dashboard.
I have been part of the team of teachers who have been working in collaboration with Hapara in developing the Teacher Dashboard.
Here is a link which shows the number of visitors our school (Pt England) had during 2012. Pt England Visitors 2012
These teachers visited my class and often had many conversations with me about my pedagogy and teaching programme.
Here is a link to the visitors for so far for 2013. Pt England Visitors 2013

Evidence of Innovation:

In 2008 I established the idea of using individual blogs in our school as a way of trying to give children more of a sense of ownership of their writing and publishing. I found that it had a significant impact on children’s motivation to write. This then became a model for other classes at our school and later on in classes throughout our cluster. Now our cluster has more than 1000 individual blogs.  http://www.manaiakalani.org/school-projects
These blogs have become the key means of creating an authentic audience for the children where the children discover that what they write and create is read and viewed by others from all over the world. 

Here is the cluster map of a student who started blogging with me in 2009. It shows how powerful blogging can be in that  the children’s voices can be heard by a very large audience - that what they have to say counts.

My classroom site is something that I initially started as place to share inquiry resources, tasks and rubrics, but along with the collaboration of others in particular fellow teacher Helen King, we have been developing our sites, over the past 3-4 years, into managed learning environments. They have become the place where all teacher planning,  resources and teaching activities,  are housed and are accessible to the children. Essentially it is a central place where anything and everything related to my classroom teaching can be found.
Using google sites in this manner has meant that it has become the essence of my classroom organisation and has been the impetus in a change in pedagogy. In the netbook classroom environment our classroom sites have been key to having effective management, and enables children’s learning to be transparent to them so their learning can happen any time any place any pace. Our sites have been a model for all the schools in our cluster.

Over the past 5 years the children in my classes have also been involved in creating podcasts for KPE (Korero Point England). This is where they create a recorded dialogue between a DJ and a reviewer discussing a book they have read. This is then published in iTunes and also posted on the KPE blog.

Movie Making
We have also created many movies including entering movies in the I Am Making Movies  museum competition and the Next Vista For Learning. In 2012 three of my students won the top overall prize for their movoie in the I Am Making Movies competition.

In all my teaching I have endeavoured to incorporate elements into my programme that challenge and engage the students, and give them an outlet for their creativity. My classroom blog and links to the children’s blogs show examples of this. In particular here is an example of Learn Create Share from Term 4 this year.  http://pesroom15.blogspot.co.nz/p/teaching.html

We then used the message Joshua shared with us as the inspiration for our entry into the Manaiakalani Film Festival. The lyrics for our movie “I Can” were written by a group of children from my class who then recorded it as our soundtrack. The movie was also filmed and edited by
by class members. Here is the movie.   http://pesroom15.blogspot.co.nz/2012/11/manaiakalani-film-festival-2012-i-can.html

I would really appreciate the opportunity to try and develop these ideas even more next year.