Keynote address: Wiring a child’s brain for lifelong success - Laura Justice

I was fortunate enough to attend the Child Well-being Research Symposium last week.

(Handout with abstracts)

There were many interesting sessions shared and I will work on posting up the most engaging over the next week.

The first session was a keynote from Laura Justice a professor at Ohio State University - I found it really refreshing and it reminded me of a lot of the work I had looked into way back when I was at University 8 years ago! Here is a link to her presentation.

The first part of the session looked at Neuroscience. In particular how the brain forms and develops. Each part of the brain is relative to a function - Rational thinking comes from the frontal lobe, Temporal lobe = speech and language features etc. Pathways between and within these lobes are built over time & experience. This means that society has to do the work to build these pathways and how these pathways are formed is important to think about. The word that is used for this process is Synaptogenesis - 2 base words 'synapsis' the connection between two neurons and 'genesis' to bring life/beginning.
An experience causes the pathway between neurons. Meaning that experience-expectant plasticity = synaptogenesis. Research shows that the peak period of plasticity is 7/13years ish. Here is a picture of the process:
Justice mentioned that the most important message she hoped we left the lesson was to always remember that a young child’s brain is much more robust and open to change than ours and therefore you should never underestimate them or what they are capable of.

Another strong message from this keynote was that:
"The environment matters more for certain skills than genes - especially ‘kindergarten readiness skills’."

High quality experiences (nurture) are crucial for buffering the effects of early adversity on the child’s brain.
Meaning that quality early care and education promotes resilience in children, offers a positive offset to challenges.
The second aspect of the keynote was looking at the acquisition of vocabulary, known as Linguistics.

Vocabulary is the basis of a number of things - reading, pro-social behaviours, math, world knowledge and computational thinking just to name a few. It is a key readiness skill and is the foundation for the majority of the curriculum.

Vocabulary is an ‘emergent structure’ it depends on the experiences that you have and the language that you know. The visual representation she shared for this was the creation of an ant hill - something that evolves over time, no two people's vocabulary is the same.

The sensitive period for vocabulary development is age 0-5. Having a good vocabulary is crucial for meeting your needs and wants.
‘Achievement gaps’ (or better-worded opportunity gaps) in vocab are largely a product of experience: the hardware is there, the input needs experiences.
We should be looking further into what it means to know a word.
A word in the lexicon means that the student knows - what it means, how it sounds, how it is spelled, how to use it grammatically, and whether affixes be added to it.

What does it take to know a word deeply? Repeated exposures that are highly informative

The message given was that classrooms should be noisy because the hardware is in place (experience-expectant plasticity) what is needed is input.

Finally, Justice spoke on her ideas around Education.
Language acquisition in the early years is dependent on interactions with others.
Expressions, gestures, intonation, pauses, and loudness provide important cues for learning.

Joint attention - adult and child sharing the same experience is crucial to language development.
In her keynote Justice defined this like a game of ping-pong which involves a serve and return - back and forth = one turn. The completion of a turn develops the brain circuitry/pathways.
The serve is known as a communicative bid (an effort to start the game). Here are some examples:


The adults serve starts and the adults serve is always contingent on the child’s return.
Meaning that the adult is following the child’s focus.
The message from researchers is that IT MUST LAST 5 TURNS.

Interestingly classrooms conversations (cabell, justice et al., 2015). Looking at conversations in small group settings and found that the average length of a conversation is 4 turns. With 50% under 4 turns, 50% over 4 turns and 1:10 conversations was 10+ turns.
Justice put a warning in play - be careful about play based conversations - these need to be supporting long conversations and the evidence from this study show it is not happening currently.
Another reason being that from a very early age children prefer to play with children who have the same language skills as them. And what we need to do is disrupt this.
One solution could be "Bug in the ear" coaching - providing cues to the teacher - to guide conversations.
For ESOL students we should be providing the same opportunities as other students. The serve and return might look a little different, it could be gestural or physical. These students can benefit from exposure to sophisticated language. Instead of us simplifying what we are saying the students will strip down the language to where they are at the moment.

In our settings, we should be designing strategies for implementing to monitor each child’s experiences on these 5 serves.
Exposure to extended conversations are really important.

Overall, I found this session was one of my favourites from the two days. I enjoyed the messages around not underestimating children and also around the importance of developing vocabulary early. I found that this session linked nicely to the learning I have done and the work we do with Manaiakalani.
I would like to read more around the "5 turns" and what evidence supports this - so if you have any links please feel free to leave them in a comment!


First PLD Session of 2019! - PLG Groups: Why These Are Effective for Professional Learning.

Welcome back! 2019 has started with a hiss and a roar and I am super excited about all of the cool initiatives we have started this term! On Tuesday I was invited to attend a session with the PLG Leaders at Hornby High run by Deirde McCracken. This was a great experience and I look forward to working with Deirde in a larger sense over the year.

The first part of the session was looking at professional learning groups and the research behind why we chose to learn in this way. The information we looked at was from: The Ten Tenets of Collaborative Professionalism, AITSL: Professional Learning communities and The Adaptive School: Developing & Facilitating Collaborative Groups (2018).

My biggest take aways from this session were:
- Collaboration is the key and we need to learn how to do it well as professionals
- We need more open, honest and reflective dialogue with our colleagues
-"difference, debate and disagreement are necessary for improvement"
- our main goal is collaborative professionalism

Our 'homework' was to look through the agenda and come up with an outline for future PLG meetings. This involves looking at aims, principals and dialogue protocol. I am really excited about working in a more guided and driven PLG group. I will keep you up to date with all of the other learnings... along the way.


Week 32 / Activity 8 - A Change for the Better.

Activity 8: Key change in my professional practice

We are tasked to: 
Create a reflective journal entry in which you reflect on your personal 32 week learning journey and critically evaluate ONE key change in your own professional practice in relation to either any ONE of the themes. Then share your plans/dreams for your future professional development or your future practice.  

For this task I chose to use Rolfe’s model of reflection and... Google Slides! (As per my other posts). 

My final post for Mindlab... at this stage. 
This whakatauki comes to mind... 
"Ehara taku toa, he takitahi, he toa takitini." My success should not be bestowed onto me alone, as it was not individual success but success of a collective.
Thank you to all those who have supported me on this journey.


Week 31 / Activity 7 - Cultural Responsiveness

Activity 7: Indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness in my practice

We are tasked to: 
Create a reflective entry to demonstrate your critical understanding of indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness. Then, critically evaluate how your practice or your school’s practice has been informed by indigenous knowledge and culturally responsive pedagogy in two areas. I have chosen to evaluate 

For this task I chose to use Rolfe’s model of reflection and... Google Slides! (As per my other posts). 

What are other school's doing to be culturally responsive when looking at Learning Resources and Communications? 

Week 30 / Activity 6 - The Impact of Digital Learning

Activity 6: Contemporary trends in New Zealand or internationally

We are tasked to: Create a reflective entry where first you analyse a trend that is influencing or shaping NZ or international education that is relevant to your practice. Then, critique and evaluate your practice in the context of different audiences (local, national and/or international) and their perspectives. 


For this task I chose to use Rolfe’s model of reflection and... Google Slides! (As per my other posts). 

So here goes... 
This is my take on a 'trend' that is dramatically changing our futures. The impact of digital learning... 
A question prompted by my learning is what are other schools doing to provide equity of device ownership? 
How are we providing a free education when those without are disadvantaged? 


Week 29 / Activity 5 - Using Social Networks to Improve Practice

Activity 5: Using social online networks in teaching or professional development

We are tasked to: Create a reflective entry where you critically discuss the use of social media in YOUR teaching OR professional development. Your reflection should be based on a reflective model of your choice.

I chose to look at the social media I use for professional development. 
Again, I have chosen to use a slide to present my information in a way that is more engaging for me. (Sorry there is a lot of writing this week!)

What types of social media do you use for professional development? Does the way you like to learn have an impact on the way you engage online? 

Look forward to hearing your thoughts... 

Enjoy! 

- Kelsey 


What is the relationship between blogging for learning and engagement of learners?

Kia ora team, 

As part of our research assignment we had to complete a literature review on a topic relevant to us. The question I chose to research was: 


"What is the relationship between blogging for learning and engagement of learners?"


I am really proud of the work that I completed for this and feel that it gave me a good understanding of the current research on blogging for learning. Throughout the research I became really interested in how an authentic audience impacted on student engagement. I also found that there seems to be a gap in the literature on the impact of commenting on cognitive engagement.


Here is my introduction:

Education researchers over the last two decades have been focusing on the integration of ‘21st Century Skills’ and their effect on engagement and student achievement. It is clear that technology is rapidly transforming the design of teaching and learning. When peered with effective teacher pedagogy the affordances of technology create ubiquitous, connected, visible and empowered learning opportunities (Burt, 2007). A new understanding in 21st Century Education is that learning occurs not only during the hours of a school day but also at home, on the marae, on-line, off-line and with a diverse range of people from any age bracket (Gleeson, 2010; Ministry of Education, 2015). Blogging is a ‘social software’ that provides users (known as ‘bloggers’) with the ability to become writers, readers and commenters by simply logging on. It has the potential to connect individuals though visible portals across time and space in addition to allowing for personalised thought and reflection. The use of blogs encourages reflective thinking through knowledge creation, transformation and sharing, allowing the opportunity for users to express emotional experience and exchange social and cognitive support with peers (Sun 2010; Robertson, 2011). Current education research provides insight into the potential of blogging to impact on student engagement. 

Keynote address: Wiring a child’s brain for lifelong success - Laura Justice

I was fortunate enough to attend the  Child Well-being Research Symposium last week. ( Handout with abstracts) There were many inte...