Inner city school stands out for culture, environment and technology

Chromebook monitoring keeps learners on task at Pasadena Unified School District

How this urban Auckland school embraces culture, ecology and technology

In the heart of Auckland, New Zealand, Newmarket School is popular for international visitors. This urban Auckland school’s 300 multicultural students alternate between active learning that offen celebrates their varied cultures and quiet concentration on Chromebooks.

The primary school’s campus features both traditional buildings and an open-design building where most activities take place. Artistic work depicting local features and culturally-relevant themes make it an interesting and vibrant school. This modern learning space is a metaphor for how technology is used at the school. It provides a flexible and adaptable structure for deep learning and exploration

In many ways this urban Auckland school shares characteristics of other inner-city public schools around the world, albeit with a modern, private feel. For example, Newmarket School has a large non-English speaking immigrant population and a high percentage of full-time working families who are very supportive of the school.

So what helps Newmarket School overcome obstacles that hinder so many schools? Also, what helps them achieve a level of success that draws national and international respect?

To begin with, school leaders celebrate and take pride in things commonly framed as problems or significant challenges elsewhere. Secondly, they embrace technology as a tool to support deep learning.

The school celebrates diversity, culture and the environment 

The student population is highly diverse with 37 languages spoken and a large percentage of immigrant families from throughout Asia and the world. Through activities that celebrate and reflect the languages and cultures represented, students are encouraged to learn about traditions of the different cultures that make up the school community.  

Lenva Shearing is a renowned education leader and Hāpara Regional Sales Manager for New Zealand and Australia. She explains that many New Zealand schools emphasize making students feel welcome in their own language. Shearing notes that during her lifetime, she has also observed a growing movement across the country. That is to acknowledge the culture and language of the nation’s original inhabitants, the Māori.

Another strong feature of Newmarket School is its accreditation as a Green/Gold Enviroschool. They are recognized for students’ active participation in planning, designing and implementing sustainability actions. This program supports children and young people and includes a student-directed process of exploration, decision making, action and reflection.

This urban Auckland school also boasts what Sonya Van Schaijik calls “strong integration of our local curriculum.” She is a language teacher and technology lead at Newmarket School.

”Learning takes children in different directions, providing a range of authentic experiences,” explains Van Schaijik. “Once a year the children participate in a schoolwide camp out on the field. Staying away from Mum and Dad is something unusual for many of our families who come from different cultures. But the children love camp and say it is one of the highlights of being at Newmarket school.” 

Technology helps teacher workflows and teamwork at the Auckland school

One way teachers organize and balance the dynamic hands-on exploration taking place at Newmarket is through technology. 

The pandemic affirmed the school’s early adoption of a 1:1 student device ratio. Hāpara had already been on the scene but then became integral to classroom workflows. 

“During lockdown, we used Hāpara with all the teachers and staff teams,” says Van Schaijik. “To begin with, it was a really important and valuable tool as part of just helping with keeping our children safe.”

“Teachers love it,” says Van Schaijik. “They love it because it’s easy to put everything together. It's easy to group ideas, it's easy to group lessons, it's easy to sequence lessons.”

Hāpara also allows the teachers to work together on shared planning. It was set up deliberately so that any teacher, including part-time and rotational teachers, could go in and see everything the team was doing. They could view everyone else’s planning and Workspaces. The transparency it offers is very important.

“Teachers love it,” says Van Schaijik. “They love it because it’s easy to put everything together. It’s easy to group ideas, it’s easy to group lessons, it’s easy to sequence lessons.”

Commitment to teacher development inspires deeper learning 

When Van Schaijik started the Hāpara Champion course, she realized that their urban school in Auckland wasn’t using Hāpara to its full potential. Since school leaders here never expect teachers to do something that they themselves don’t do, the principal and deputy principal were first in line to start the training. They knew from experience that the teachers would follow. And they did.

Now the school stands out across New Zealand for the number of teachers and administrators who are Hāpara Champion Educators. The training models the learning process that students go through. It helps teachers experience the same dynamic their students will experience when they use Hāpara.

Hāpara’s infrastructure makes it user friendly for part-time and relief teachers to use. As it is used widely across the school, there have been key advantages. When new teachers come on board or support staff are working in classes, they can easily pick up the program. Hāpara alleviates the need to start over again with each new teacher. 

Another result that stands out for Van Schaijik is how much more developed the Workspaces are for teachers after completing the course. Shearing, who trained Van Schaijik in her first Hāpara professional development, notes a big difference in how Newmarket School is using Hāpara now. Unlike many other schools, the program is used for deep learning, not just for monitoring and having control over students. 

The school’s commitment to deep learning can literally be felt and heard. Despite having an open environment, principal Dr Wendy Kofoed notes how engaged the students are in their learning and how quiet the building is most of the time.

Van Schaijik expresses a similar sentiment. “If you walk through our school during lesson time, it can seem really quiet, because all the children are working. But if you watch what’s happening on Hāpara, you might not have the volume of noise but the noise of work happening.”

The “noise” she refers to could be students collaborating on documents, children working alongside each other, teachers working alongside children. Teachers also give learners on-the-spot feedback written directly on the document. Van Schaijik sees ongoing interaction happening in real time, all the time.  

“It’s the real time learning that I’m particularly excited about,” she emphasizes. “I’ve seen a lot more happening since Hāpara.”

Hāpara Champion Educators showing off their Hāpara Champion Certifications

Literacy and language development is a high priority

With 37 languages spoken, language and literacy development could pose a great challenge. Technology has helped Newmarket School facilitate learning. It also has helped the school make students feel welcome, regardless of language and background, and show deep respect for cultural differences.  

Van Schaijik explains that children who come in at a crucial time for literacy in their first language are very different learners than students who have English as their first language. She encourages them to use the computer in their first language and then they can flip between the two languages with Google.

Students showcase their work and culture for the world

Since Hāpara has taken on a central place in the school’s education program, students have been able to talk about their learning process more articulately. For example, a group of children creating a video on Matariki festivals for the Māori New Year reflect on what they’ve learned. They upload it on Workspace so that other children can quickly access it. Then they add their own videos and watch the other groups’ videos.

“I think how Hāpara makes the learning transparent is important, not just for the teachers but for the children as well,” shares Van Schaijik. “There’s nothing like seeing an example of another student’s video, or another student’s published writing to deepen your own writing or your own understanding.”

Students have showcased the work they do with Hāpara to the school’s many visitors. “People who have not seen something like this before are continually astounded at how articulate the children are with their learning,” concludes Van Schaijik.

Technology investment that pays off for the urban school

Shearing notes that Newmarket is one of a few New Zealand schools she has seen that so strongly encourages all of its teachers to boost their skills by completing the Hāpara Champion Educator program. 

Like U.S. schools, equity is an issue here. School funding is not related to property taxes as is often the case in the United States. New Zealand schools, though, often rely on what’s called a parent contribution, explains Shearing. The wealthier the area, the more means families have to give those donations and increase the resources within their schools. In poor areas, schools depend on government funding.

When a school like Newmarket invests in technology, there’s a mindset of really making a commitment to getting the most out of it. By strongly encouraging teachers to complete their Hāpara Champion Educator Certificate and use Hāpara’s tools to their fullest potential, the school’s investment in the product has really paid off. 

There is consensus among teachers, students and administrators at Newmarket School. The time, money and effort invested in Hāpara has been well worth it for this small urban Auckland school.

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