Slow Down!

After posting about Austin’s Butterfly, I entered into a discussion with a Twitter-friend:

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If you look, you’ll notice my tweet about a ‘slow-education’ was favorited:

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After following Joe, I checked out the website.  Similar to the concept of ‘slow food’ the principles of a slow education are:

  • Promoting deep learning in the context of a broad curriculum that recognises the talents of all students.
  • Believing that the quality of the educational engagement between teacher and learner is more important than judging student ability by standardised tests.
  • Supporting investment in education and in teaching as a profession as the essential moral foundation of society.

Further investigation led me to this video which is so cool and such a good reminder as to why we need to trust kids more, allow them more agency and freedom, and be prepared to let them take the lead in their own education.

I love the PYP Exhibition for this reason.  I am wondering though, if even this is something that we are sullying with our obsessive need to

1. be in control

2. checklist and rubric everything

3. keep learning on a tight, fixed schedule

What if…

  • ‘exhibition’ was a year round process
  • all units were designed with big ideas that allowed for individual inquiries
  • we created a space for kids to learn at their own pace

Imagine that school….

Responsive

One of the things I have read about is the importance of kids getting to talk in the classroom.  If it is an inquiry based classroom it stands to reason that the voices being heard should be that of the students. Our school is a PYP school that offers “guided inquiry” and it is the guided part that is really important.  The role of the teacher is ever-changing, yet one of the key tasks is to move conversations along.  To facilitate discussions, to guide inquiries.

The following guide is very comprehensive and offers loads of strategies that move (as opposed to blocking) conversations forward:

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The TERC also has a checklist that teachers can use to deepen the discussions:

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One of the best practitioners I have seen when it comes to kids talking is Tasha Cowdy. Tasha and I worked together at Yokohama International School.  She was a kindergarten teacher and like no other teacher I have ever seen before when it came to really listening to her children, moving them forward, and guiding their inquiries. I would love for everyone to see her teach to get a feel for what guided inquiry really looks like.  It is amazing. You can get a brief feel via her blog.

If I could sum Tasha up in one word, it would be:

Tasha responds to her students. She doesn’t try to get ahead of them in her planning but takes the time to listen while they talk and responds to them where they are at in their understanding.  She listens and she acts – but she is not reactive. Her actions are considered, measured, timely, and responsive. 

That is the key when it comes to creating discussion and dialogue in classroom.  The students have to feel like their is a point to their participation (not just to please you and give you the answer you want and already know). When classrooms are responsive and children’s conversations are key to moving inquiries forward, then we have a true inquiry classroom.

Connected Feedback

Today was a great day.  It may have something to do with the fact that we start a two week spring break today.  But it also was a day in which I made connections with the following ideas:

1. It is great to be a connected educator. 

2. You can be connected online or within your own school environment. 

3. Feedback is essential to move forward.

We have recently started blogging with students and so I have been looking for ways to help students connect on each others blogs and leave feedback for each other.  With one grade level, we are looking for students to comment on each others posts. In another, students have made videos and were seeing feedback.  I found this video which I thought was good but still wanted a little more:

Today, a 4th grade teacher shared Austin’s Butterfly with us. It is a great example of the power of feedback and how specific feedback can help a student in their learning.  The progress made by Austin is amazing but even more amazing is the powerful reaction of the students in the video who are guided through the feedback process.  It is so powerful:

Austin’s Butterfly: Building Excellence in Student Work – Models, Critique, and Descriptive Feedback from Expeditionary Learning on Vimeo.

As I sat down to write this post, I first glanced at my Twitter feed and Grant Wiggins was at the top with a new post:

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The post he shared, was an article about the use of video footage from different angles so baseball players could see specifically what they were doing, how they were responding, and how they could improve.  Watching footage of themselves prior to a game, was become just as important of a part as stretching in order to make sure they were optimally prepared during Spring Training.

Both of these examples of feedback, point to the power of specific, timely, accurate feedback in order to best move the learner forward.

When I zapped off an email of thanks to my colleague, she replied with a link to a post where she had got the video from in the first place – fellow COETAIL participant, Reid Wilson, who’s work I have shared a lot of in the past. His post has a wealth of ideas of how to draw better comments from your students when giving feedback on the work of others.  Well worth a read.

I feel really lucky to work in a time when we are not limited to our immediate environment for inspiration and ideas in our teaching. I love that there is so much out there to help me become a better teacher and a more reflective thinker, and I am so pleased that I have invested the time into growing a network of educators who inspire.

Together Everyone Achieves More!

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One of the main facets of the PYP Exhibition is the ability for students to work collaboratively. Teams of students are asked to work together with a common goal, heading toward a common goal.  This is not always easy for students (or adults for that matter!) and it could be really worthwhile to spend some time having newly created groups or teams come together and figure out how they are going to work as a team.

One part of this could involve having the students design their workspace. Giving the students the chance to create a learning space and have a dedicated wall space and learning blog may help them figure out their roles and purposes as a group.

Another way, would be to dedicate a few minutes each day for the first weeks of Exhibition to some team-building time. While looking at the Destination Imagination website, I saw these team building exercises.  They are pretty standard exercises that you may be familiar with but they also come with the reminder that time for reflection needs to be built into the exercise and they offer these suggestions for post-exercise evaluation:

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Here is the link to the PDF download of instructions and exercises.

Take A Moment

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In remembrance of the people who lost their lives in the Germanwings crash over France today.  Thinking of the families and friends of the students and teachers who were on their way home from an exchange program. Heartbreaking.

Imagine A School

Almost three years ago,Seth Godin wrote Stop Stealing Dreams.  This manifesto is a powerful piece of work that has the potential to change the way we think about and “do” education – if people will read it.  As Seth said of his work, “This isn’t a prescription. It’s not a manual. It’s a series of provocations, ones that might resonate and that I hope will provoke conversation.”  He goes on to add that, “None of this writing is worth the effort if the ideas are not shared” and urges his readers to most of all, “Go do something!” – anything, but settle.

This was my response:

If you are looking for further inspiration, check out any of the following:

Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin

A New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown

Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner

Out of Our Minds and The Element by Sir Ken Robinson

Linchpin and Tribes by Seth Godin

Dancing about Architecture: A Little Book of Creativity by Phil Beadle

Seth Godin’s Blog

Simon Sinek’s Blog

So Few Of Me by Peter H. Reynolds

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

Samaritan Blog – A Case for Organized Compassion

What-if-Concepts Blog – Connecting causes and people who inspire to their best ideas.

Dallas Clayton’s Blog and Books

Inspire My Kids Website

At the recent ECIS Technology Conference, I asked attendees at my workshop, “What is one thing you could do to make school different?”.  Will you join us?  What is your one thing?  Click here to add your ideas.

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ECIS Technology Conference Notes

This weekend I attended and presented at the ECIS Conference in Munich.  Here are some of my notes from the weekend.  A full write-up is on it’s way!  Follow these people on Twitter to keep up with their thinking on education and technology.

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Keynote speaker Kim Cofino @mscofino

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Connected Learning Through Blogging with Tricia Friedman @friedEnglish101 (1/2)

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Connected Learning Through Blogging with Tricia Friedman @friedEnglish101 (2/2)

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iBooks Author Reloaded with Martin Fritze and Tobias Schnitter

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Engaging Students With Instant Feedback Tools for Formative Assessment with Fred Nevers @fred_nevers

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iPads in the Play-Based Classroom with Jocelyn Sutherland @JKSuth

These are my notes from my presentation that I wrote when planning my own presentation.

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Technology won’t revolutionize education – teachers will. @terSonya