Innovative teacher taking learning to the next level at Kerikeri High School

At Microsoft we love hearing from awesome, real-life educators in the New Zealand community. Today we are placing the spotlight on Bridget Crooks, an inspirational teacher in the far north of New Zealand.

Bridget is a Drama and Performing Arts Technology teacher at Kerikeri High School. On a daily basis, Bridget strives to provide the best learning opportunities for her students through the use of technology. Bridget makes great use of tools such as OneNote, Sway, and Skype to engage her students and encourage creativity. Bridget’s forward-thinking approach to teaching and learning is exemplified by her collaborative project with an Australian school earlier in 2015.

Today, we hear more from Bridget about this project and how she is using technology to great effect in her classroom.

Which technologies and tools do you currently use at Kerikeri High School and in your classroom?

Kerikeri High School is Office 365. The school runs a BYOD programme and all students have school email addresses, OneDrive storage and access to the Office suite of applications.

As a school we are constantly learning and upskilling to offer the best to our students. Being a rural school it is a challenge to get our teachers out to PD in the main centres. This year we chose to run a two-day IT conference at our school – bringing the experts to Kerikeri and spending two full teacher-only days learning and upskilling. Presenters came from New Zealand and Australia – offering varied keynote addresses and breakout workshops, covering everything from Content Curation, Microsoft OneNote, Online Assessment and video training in PE.

Our teachers utilise the Microsoft suite of products. Our communication is supported with Outlook and the traditional programmes of Word, Excel and PowerPoint still feature heavily in our productivity – although more likely in the Web App format on individual devices.

Along with the more traditional programmes, my drama classroom has made use of Sway and Skype in 2015. I love Sway for how easy it is – and how great it looks on all screens. Most of my revision work is presented this way and all of my presentations are available on Sway!

What has been the impact of OneNote on teaching and learning?

I adore OneNote. I’ll wear my purple cape with pride!

I have always struggled with paper and this year all my school planning and marking has gone paperless. My Surface Pro has been amazing for this – the stylus allowing me to write flawlessly. Next year I will run all my classes on OneNote and cannot wait to share with my students how incredible it is.

As a school we have also started working towards new appraisal documents with OneNote. We are currently working on creating shared templates and structure.

 OneNote as a teacher appraisal tool

I teach Drama and Performing Arts Technology. For assessment we need evidence of real stuff – not paper answers. There is no better way to document this than using the students’ phones – or my phone for that matter. This documentation is quick and easy and means I do not miss a beat with evidence for assessment.

Capturing evidence of student's performances using the OneNote phone app

Using OneNote and Surface to assess live performances

The web app is such a bonus – anywhere, anytime on anything. Makes me look super organised too – got to love that!

How has being a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Expert helped you with your technology journey?

Being a MIEE has given me the confidence to realise that what I am doing is great. Before, I think I worked in a bit of a vacuum – I never really thought what I did was special or different; I just loved using different technologies to get the best out of my students and myself.

I feel supported – I’ve met some great people – mostly virtually, but one day we’ll catch up! The fact that I get to connect with some fabulous minds is such a bonus – we are all busy teachers and cannot hope to know everything – but I have a hotline to the brightest and the best to help me with my questions. That’s pretty cool. I feel very privileged to be part of this group.

Can you tell us a bit about your collaborative lesson with the school in Australia?

Project Songologue was a collaborative project with Deanne Joosten, a fellow MIE Expert from Australia. We worked on this theatre piece for one term with our students.

Deanne and I started planning in the Christmas holidays. We met up over Skype a couple of times and worked on a shared OneNote. I got the inspiration from a post I saw on Facebook – a New York actress called Nina Millin produced a theatre piece called the Beyoncelogues. Basically turning Beyoncé’s song lyrics into solo theatre performances.

I thought this would be a great idea for my acting students – but using New Zealand artist’s lyrics. Collaboration could be seamless because the Australian students could do iconic songs from their country. And we could utilise NZ and Australian co-authored songs for duologues.

I got in contact with Nina – who was super excited for us to use her idea as a basis – and we took it from there.

We decided to run the show simultaneously in Australia and NZ – using similar publicity and design.

I handed this idea to my senior Performing Arts Technology students. This class is run on a Theatre Company model – I simply commission them, supply the outline of the idea and they produce, direct and present the product.

They LOVED this. A new idea, working with a wide audience. It is the real life learning that gives them fire to succeed. Reinventing and changing the goal posts is exciting!

This collaborative project was facilitated by Skype where my students met virtually with Deanne’s students two to three times a week for 8 weeks. The interactions were positive and full of energy. All our planning was done with a shared OneNote, and directing, rehearsals and performances were conducted via Skype. This was an incredible experience for both schools. 

Kerikeri High School students Skyping with the Australian students for the first time during Project Songologue

Skype completely redefined what we were able to do in the classroom. I blogged about this for Microsoft Hot Topics in January, my post can be found here.

In the next year, how would you like to see you and your school move forward with technology in the classroom?

2016? What am I planning? Well – going paperless in my classes using OneNote Classroom Notebook. I also plan to integrate SharePoint across our school and use Staff Notebook Creator to revamp appraisal documents for my Department. I’ve got another crazy plan for uniting Drama teachers and students from all over the world!

For me it is all about the learning experience. I think about what I’d love to do and fit the technologies to that – rather than the other way around. Good teaching for me is about pushing boundaries and trying new things. The Microsoft tools allow me to do this. I am adamant that it’s about the pedagogy not the technology – and I would not do something in my classes just to use a technology. But when it can take the learning to a previously unheard of outcome? Well, that is awesome – and I’ll be all over that!