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The schools that helped create Hāpara’s Teacher Dashboard are reaping the rewards
The Manaiakalani Cluster is a group of cooperating schools in the eastern suburbs of New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. In 2007, an initial cluster of schools wanted to find a way to engage the students in their community. Digital learning proved to be the ‘hook’ to guide the whole community to better educational outcomes.
Students in the cluster are a diverse group. Most of the children are of Maori/Pasifika descent. The schools range in decile rating with most schools having a 1a or 1 rating, the rough equivalent to Title 1 in the United States. Students begin their education in the Manaiakalani schools significantly below their age expectations in numeracy and literacy. The professionals that serve the Manaiakalani Whanau (community) face similar challenges to those faced by many educators working in the inner cities of Europe, North America and Australia.
The Manaiakalani way
The Manaiakalani families, educators and education leaders want their children to live locally, learn globally and be actively involved, lifelong learners. For years, success had been defined by the ability to get out of the community. The school improvement leaders started with a goal that their children succeed academically and in life with a strong compulsory education, and that they would choose to bring that success back to the community.
The Manaiakalani community is focused on:
- Developing a model for 21st century teaching and learning
- Motivating students to engage in learning activity
- Lifting student achievement
- Empowering students to develop a personal voice
- Creating and discovering authentic audiences for students’ work
This is done by:
- Providing equity and access for all students in the community, in order to give them the same opportunities available to other children.
- Ensuring that each child knows their learning pathway – progress, outcomes, planning- as well as knowing their own next personal learning steps with no surprises for child, parent and teacher; making learning visible.
- Ensuring all students receive excellent teaching and utilizing small group discussions (micro-teaching).
- Making sure students are confident in a digital world.
- Students from ages 8yrs – 18yrs have 1:1 digital devices.
- The students are global digital citizens and are succeeding.
- Schools ensure that teaching and learning is visible. There is an expectation that all participants will constantly reflect on how well they are doing in relation to the “Learn, Create, Share” pedagogy, conceived by cluster leaders.
- Future-focused learning practiced in connected communities.
In 2013, students in one of Manaiakalani’s colleges (secondary or high school) showed statistically significant improvement on their end of schooling exams. The figure shows pass rates on each of the four levels of New Zealand’s National Certificate of Education Achievement Exam (NCEA), a comprehensive, levelled exam similar in scope to the international metric known as the PISA. In 2013 the pass rate on each of the level two and three exams more than doubled the average for the period 2005 – 2011. This statistically significant finding has focussed national and international attention on the work of the Manaiakalani leaders, educators and students.
Pedagogy “Learn, Create, Share”
The pedagogy ‘Learn, Create, Share’ puts the young people at the very center of their own learning.
These four principles guide Manaiakalani teaching and learning:
- Ubiquity: anywhere, anytime, any pace, any people learning.
- Agency: students with the power to act as informed/empowered/enabled learners.
- Connectedness: edgeless education, connected minds.
- Visibility: Learning is visible to students, teachers, parents and the community.
Although the mantra of the schools in the Manaiakalani cluster is simple, there is a long history of experimentation and adaptation being practiced in this community, which seems to have found a recipe for accelerating the learning of their children.
Cluster leaders are inspired by the research of John Hattie, Stuart McNaughton, Dame Marie Clay, Gwynneth Phillips, Russell Bishop, Dorothy Burt and others. Teachers in the cluster have, for many years made sacrifices to make space and time for practices that were developed from the combination of learnings from Schooling Improvement, Edutech development, and Te Kotahitangi (effective learning relationships).
Hattie’s meta-analysis of global education research strongly suggests that one of the most powerful accelerators for student learning is constructivist practice; engaging, student-driven discussions and hands-on experimentation are two examples of constructivist practice. Educators in the Manaiakalani schools structure their classes to prioritize small group discussions that lift the voice of every student on a daily basis.
The New Zealand Ministry of Education commissioned a global study of education practices that accelerate learning. Among the many action outcomes from this study was the institutionalization of inquiry practice. Inquiry-driven exploration is pervasive in the Manaiakalani schools as it is in many New Zealand schools.
Learning when and how we learn and when we are not learning effectively is a task that many adults never master. Training in metacognitive practice can help students to use their learning time more effectively, build on their strengths and improve in areas where they may not have natural ability. The research of Hattie and others suggests that metacognitive practice is the single most significant accelerator of student learning. Manaiakalani schools infuse training in self-awareness and self-regulation into the experience of their children. By using progressions, self assessment, and teacher feedback/feedforward, students are able to know exactly what they have learned, assess how well they have done, and understand what they need to learn next.
In 2010, Manaiakalani schools began their ‘one to one’ computing journey. Students all use the free G Suite platform as a repository for all of their creative efforts. Manaiakalani teachers support their students in making full use of what G Suite has to offer. It is part of Manaiakalani culture that students communicate with each other and their teachers using Gmail. They create and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, presentations and drawings in Drive. They post regularly in Blogger. They curate and reflect on their best efforts using Google Sites-based portfolios. High school learners use Google+ communities. The Google Calendar serves as a backbone for class organization.
A 2011 analysis of Manaiakalani language arts improvement identified the frequent, informal writing that students do in Blogger as a likely contributing factor to the statistically significant results.
The original Teacher Dashboard users
The teachers and school leaders in the Manaiakalani cluster were the driving force behind the creation of Hāpara’s pioneering tools. Having first-hand experience with the transformation as well as challenges teachers face when adopting G Suite, the Manaiakalani educators collaborated to design a dream tool that would streamline teacher workflow and deepen personalized learning and student engagement. To do this, they created a dashboard that consolidated all student work into a single view. They emphasized a straightforward design that would empower teachers of all technical abilities to track student progress, provide ongoing feedback, disseminate files and facilitate collaboration and differentiation through flexible groupings.
Mindful of the nuances needed for an ideal teacher workflow, the designers added details like mouse-over views on any Google Drive file and single-click email, as well as filtered searches for documents that would allow teachers to locate a particular assignment quickly and efficiently.
These features and many more were the result of countless hours spent imagining into existence the ideal teacher dashboard workspace. Little did they know, the Manaiakalani educators attempt to facilitate learning in this small community of New Zealand would profoundly impact and transform the way educators around the world could use G Suite
The Manaiakalani schools have become an exemplar of how education technology can be integrated mindfully and effectively into a school community. They receive visitors from around the world every month, which is a reminder that their persistent creative efforts are having a global impact not only through the students they are educating, but through those that will be educated a world away with the tools they created.
There is more to be told of the Manaiakalani success than can be contained in this brief. Please visit manaiakalani.org to learn more about the incredible work being done in New Zealand and the research that identifies the roots of their success.
Hāpara tools are used by schools in every U.S. state and in more than 40 countries.