Saturday, 25 February 2017

Creative excellence: getting involved

Our vision for Hornby High School is 'A centre of creative excellence'.

A vision is an aspiration, a statement of an ideal future state. But it should also be an inspiration, a motivation do something different, a call to action to change the way things are at the moment.

If you don't know what those actions should be, the aspiration is likely to fail. We can't change things if no-one knows what they are expected to do to change them in the first place.

For the next three plus years our Board has set three strategic goals, three big things that it wants to achieve, and these are:

  • To provide future focussed individualised learning
  • To create and sustain an inclusive learning community
  • To foster inspirational, risk taking and enterprising leadership in all members of our learning community

The first of these is the one that explicitly refers to the academic learning that we want for our tamariki, and to drive that we have this annual goal:

  • Embed the culturally responsive pedagogy ‘Learn Create Share’ to develop future focussed individualised learners

'Learn Create Share' is the pedagogy of the Manaiakalani programme on which we are hanging so much of our academic development.

Let's think about what that means.

Students have to learn 'stuff'. This 'stuff 'will be a combination of content knowledge and skills, and personal skills (we call these 'key competencies' like being able to work with others, think critically and creatively, or manage themselves effectively). So don't let others convince you that schools don't teach knowledge anymore. That's still the cornerstone of what we do. After all, you can't think in a vacuum, you can't think if you have nothing to think about.

How is this different from the past? In the past knowing 'stuff' was enough. Now it isn't. Now, students need to be able to do something with that 'stuff', that knowledge. They need to be able to 'create' new 'stuff.'

This creation could take many different forms. In an English class it might mean writing a poem, or an essay, or creating a movie clip. In a visual arts class it might mean creating a sculpture. In a technology class it might mean 3D printing a dragon. In a music class it might mean creating a performance. In a business class it might mean creating a small business entity to produce and sell a good or a service. It could mean creating and performing a social action in a way that changes our world for the better. For example, promoting more effective litter control or recycling, promoting the planting of flowers to attract and sustain bees, or undertaking a food collection to donate food to a food bank (these are actual examples that some of our Year 10 students tackled in their project based learning in 2016).

These are the more obvious examples. But what about a maths class? Or a language class?

Well, it could just as easily mean creating a short video that explains how to solve a multiplication problem (any problem, for that matter). In a language class it might mean creating a short video clip that explains a point of grammar, or offers up new vocabulary and how to use it. In the jargon of education, these are called 'digital learning objects'.

It's hard to motivate learners to learn and create unless there is a purpose for that creation. As human beings we mostly prefer being with others, so a really powerful way to give any creation a purpose is to share our creations with others.

And at Hornby High School (in fact, across Manaiakalani schools generally) a really important sharing tool is the personal blog. Every student has a blog, and on that every student is being asked to share their learning and their creation.

These blogs are open to the world, so anyone can see them, anyone can make comment. We talk about having an authentic audience, and about making learning visible. That is the main purpose of the blogs (although they also leave us with a lovely record of learning and achievement).

This is where you as whanau come in. One of the most powerful things that you can do is to get involved with your child's learning. Ask to read their blogs, make comments, give your children feedback, ask questions, offer praise, get involved. This is one of the actions that you can take to improve the learning and the lives of your tamariki.

The evidence supporting the impact of this technology and this approach is growing all the time. The data collected by the Woolf Fisher Research Centre (Auckland University) from across our cluster of schools (we are called the Uru Manuka cluster) shows clear acceleration in our students' writing, reading and maths. By acceleration we mean that they are improving faster than the national averages for children of their age.

That makes sense. Students are more in control of their learning, they are writing more, and they are creating for a real audience. If we want our kids to become better writers, they have to write more. This is powerful stuff.

If you are not sure how to do that, ask your tamariki. We are hoping to run some whanau evenings in which we can help you to understand how to use your child's Chromebook to do just this. Keep an eye open for more information.

Oh, and in the meantime, our heartiest congratulations to every one of you who has made that investment in your child's future by buying that Chromebook. We do understand the sacrifice that this rerquires. Be assured that it really does make a positive difference.

Nga mihi nui
Robin Sutton


  1. Kia ora Robin.
    Thanks for sharing your blog. It is good to see that there is consistency and continuity in what schools in our community are doing and the direction we are all heading. We can certainly learn from each other so the work we are doing as a cluster is not only encouraging but vital.

  2. Kia ora Robin,
    Thanks for sharing your understanding of LCS at Hornby High. I like the way you have given examples from a range of subjects. I appreciate the cross-cluster opportunities especially between the high schools. I am the Manaiakalani Outreach Facilitator in the Kootuitui ki Papakura cluster.

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and vision for HHS Robin. Many of your comments struck a cord with me; LCS is at the heart of the school vision, teachers need to teach, students need a purpose for creating and the power of the blog. I am thrilled to see you have also highlighted the Key Competencies, these are the dispositions that I hear employers crying out for, resilience, perseverance, adaptability, team work and problem solving.
    And like you, I cannot thank our parents/whanau enough for making the investment in digital technology to support their child's learning. By doing so they are providing their child with the opportunity to reach your school's vision and ensure they lead a happy and successful life!