Innovation

Do You Know My Name?

Just before I went to our faculty meeting yesterday, I saw this graphic in my Twitter feed:

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Image by: Trevor MacKenzieBlog Post with more ideas about data collecting we should do.

 

I went off to our meeting to find we were about to engage in a grade level protocol based on an Edutopia post titled “The Power of Being Seen”.  As a team, we were given a page with three photos of our kids down the left side. The rest of the page was blank. We were to start writing and write everything you knew about that child.

Do you know their face?

Do you know their name?

Do you know something personal about them?

Do you know their family story?

Do you know their academic standing?

 

It was really interesting to see who we had lots to write about and who the 8-10 teachers had very little to write about. It also made me think about the data we collect about students. So often we talk about how learning is about connecting with other people and that kids will learn from people they trust and like. I was reminded of this TED Talk by Rita Pierson: Every Kid Needs A Champion:

 

I was reminded that developing relationships with our students are key to moving them forward in their learning. And I sat asking myself, “Who am I championing?” But, so what?  So what do we do with the data we have now gathered? Now what? Where to from here?

These questions will be up to each grade level to respond to but I know for me, it was a call to action to get to know the kids I teach a lot better than I do now. I teach all Grade 1 – 5 students or about 45 kids per grade level so that is a lot of information to know. But aren’t they worth it? As grade level teams respond to this data, my hope is that we are supported to move forward in our understanding and connection with students. We are really lucky to have a very permissive and open culture in which “grassroots” uprisings of ideas are encouraged, if not expected. What can we do to truly connect with our kids?

What would your next steps be?

My TA and I are doing a couple of things. Firstly, we have created similar photo pages and I have put these in my iPad to make notes on during or straight after class. We spend a very short time of each design lesson talking to the whole group and the rest of the time working with individuals or small groups. Often there is time to talk about things other than the project we are working on. We know that we don’t get to talk to everyone and that we also tend to gravitate toward those kids who are perhaps louder or more assertive. We want to collect some data to see who we are missing.

As I was thinking over this protocol, I was reminded of a similar protocol suggested by the Responsive Classroom.  This one is a little more simple but equally powerful. In summary, you need a piece of paper folded into three columns. In the first column, write the names of your students – any order. (That in itself may lead to some understandings about your relationships in the classroom.) In the second column write one thing that you think is cool about that child, the child is passionate about, or something they really care about.  And in the third column, make a star if you are sure that the child knows that you know this about them.

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What would you do next after one of these protocols?

 

Innovation

UPDATED: Related Concepts on Concept-Question Cards

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The IB recently sent out this tweet which has sparked renewed interest in the Concept-Question cards that I first put together when working as the Grade 3-5 Coordinator and Grade 3 teacher at Yokohama International School in 2008.

I have used them for teacher workshops, PYP Exhibition, parent workshops, and most planning meetings I go to.

Recently, Sam Sherratt wrote a blog post: Being A PYP Teacher Part 1: Carry the Book. The “book” he referred to is Making the PYP Happen.  All of the concepts, descriptors, questions and now related concepts that are on the cards, are from this book.  I am in agreement with Sam that we need to be so familiar with “the book”.  There is a wealth of information about the PYP in there that I think often gets overlooked in favor of other things from other sources. I am all for diversity in ideas but as PYP educators, we do need to make sure we are not passing over some really great ideas in our own program guide.

In the comments that followed on Twitter, the suggestion to add related concepts came up. These are also in the book and some users said that they have added these to the cards themselves.  I have now made a quick edit and added them too. Please download and use for good!

Happy conceptual thinking and questioning!

Concept-Question Cards with Related Concepts

 

Innovation

Ask And You Will Receive

Last night I posted about Single Subject teachers and I asked the question:

How might we all move toward a more open system of schooling in which the boundaries and delineations that divide us, did not exist?

This morning, the single subject teachers at my school got an email from our head of primary:

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Everything is a two way street. If single subject or integrating teachers want to be included and more than an “add on” they also have to do their part in making this happen. What I appreciate is that the need for holistic inclusion has been considered and is already part of “what we do”.

What systems do you have in place that show all teachers are a vital part of each child’s day? How do you purposefully plan for collaboration?

Innovation

Reflection: LEGOs

My previous post, Start With Kindness…And Then Legos outlined the plan for the first lesson with students in the Design Pit. I have done this lesson nine times now. Six to go. And it has been really interesting.

Here is what I have learned:

  • Kids don’t mind working on their own but some will almost always ask if they can work with a partner

  • Kids form really strong attachments to things that they make even when that “thing” is from a cup of lego randomly scooped from a box

  • If kids don’t want to work together or in a group, they won’t

  • Kids are seriously creative

I thought this challenge would be more about the creation of the thing – and to a degree it was when kids would tell animated stories about why they built the thing they built – but it was definitely more about the how kids work rather than the what kids can make. I learned a lot very quickly about the kids in each class and the dynamic of the class as a group. I heard some very clear statements from people both pro and anti working cooperatively, and I saw the power in keeping hands busy with little need for talking when it comes to having a large group of English language learners in the class.

This was a successful starting lesson despite it not heading entirely in the direction I had anticipated. I hope it set the groundwork for a little insight in the wondering, risk-taking, making, working together and having fun that will be Design Class this year.

Would I recommend this: yes. It definitely gets kids active, engaged, talking, and it is self directed enough to allow you the freedom to join in or roam at your leisure. I didn’t push the thinking routine as a “let’s stop and do a thinking routine” but just embedded the ideas into the questions I asked during the lesson.  Overall, a successful intro lesson for the year and would be an equally successful hour in a homeroom class too.

Innovation

Producer Mindset

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Recently I posted about a Maker Mindset. My friend, Darcy, shared an article with me today about a Producer Mindset – specifically, Raising Producer Kids. Written by Assistant Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Philip Guo, this is a great piece with loads of ideas about the concept that we need our kids to be more actively producing ideas/products/songs/plays/art/games than they perhaps are at the moment.

Here are some of the best parts from the post:

Encourage your kids to become producers. To the extent possible, have them strive to consistently produce something new rather than consuming all the time.

Producing isn’t limited to creating tangible artifacts.

…engaging in creative activities can give them a deeper sense of personal satisfaction than the superficial fun that comes with passive consumption.

Fostering a producer mindset isn’t hard.

You can still let them spend the vast majority of their free time consuming media like all of their friends are doing; as long as you encourage them to spend at least some time producing

…kids (at least in America) desire both conformance and uniqueness: Consuming the same media as their peers allows them to conform and fit in with the mainstream crowd, and producing gives them a legitimate sense of uniqueness, which can make them happy regardless of what their friends like.

The key here is intrinsic motivation—doing things for their own sake rather than for the promise of external recognition or reward.

…observe what your kids naturally like doing and then figure out ways to get those activities to involve producing rather than just consuming.

Modifying existing works—taking the constraints of an existing book, game, or activity, and then being creative within those constraints—is often the first step toward developing a producer mindset. It also teaches your kids that the things they buy aren’t sacred—they can feel free to alter or remix them.

Exactly what they’re producing isn’t important; what’s more important is the fact that they’re getting into a habit of producing regularly.

Here comes the part that I just LOVE:

Reading and school learning are also forms of consumption. Yes, they’re healthier than ad-ridden mass media, but they still involve passively absorbing, memorizing, and regurgitating information. I’d go as far to claim that if your kids have hobbies they’re passionate about concentrating on for long periods of time, then that’s better preparation for being a happy and productive adult than studying more and possibly getting better grades.

Whenever people ask me about apps for the iPad, I talk about consumption -vs- production apps. It is no secret that Book Creator, Adobe Spark, Stop Motion Studio, Doceri, Draw and Tell, iMovie, Hopscotch and Garageband are among my favorite apps. Games and apps that are task specific (solve these problems, drag these words, fill in these boxes) are really just a substitution for a worksheet, and while they may be “fun” and “the kids really like them”, they are not building a producer or maker mindset.

So what? What can I do now with this information?

Excellent question! This is why you need Darcy at your school! Cue an email she sent this morning to a small group of us, currently exploring Makerspaces and the Maker Mindset. This email was about a new global event on May 2nd (which happens to be DARCY’S BIRTHDAY – coincidence? I think not!). Check it out:

Global Day of Design

I have signed up and the email confirmation comes with a file of goodies that are absolutely worth your time in downloading and looking through. I also bought the book (all in the name of education as part of my Masters course on creativity, of course!) But don’t JUST look at the resources! Share them, print them, doodle on them, remix them, leave them out for the kids to see, loop the videos on your Smartboard. Part of our job as educators is to “light a spark” – kids are going to be curious about things we pay attention to so make sure the things you are spending your time on are worth it!

How does this link to the PYP Exhibition?

If I were in charge of the world, I would have kids work through as many Launch Cycles as possible leading up to the exhibition. Traditionally, most PYPX groups follow an inquiry cycle. While these are great, many teachers use them in a very sequential manner that is theory heavy and research heavy and takes a lot of cognitive processing time rather than tinkering/doing/making time. In many cases, kids don’t move toward the messy, making, action, doing part of exhibition until well into week three or four of the six to eight week process. I would love to see iteration become one of the buzzwords of Exhibition. Instead of coming up with one way, come up with ten ways, twenty ways. Try eight or nine different ideas out. Be bold!

Embrace the Bias.

Bias exists. Everywhere. We all lean toward one thing or another which inherently means we lean away from something else. We read one more chapter which means ten less math problems. The PYP is HUGE. There are many components, each jockeying for attention in our day. Ideally, we would slice the day up into fractional perfection: Knowledge, ATLs, Concepts, Attitudes, Action. But life isn’t a perfect pie chart. So why not embrace a Bias Toward Action? (Thanks, Patty!)

According to the d.School, here is the What/Why/How on Bias Toward Action:

Bias Toward Action

How amazing does this sound? We promote action-oriented behavior. We see action as a way to get a group unstuck. Action inspires new thinking. Action promotes group agreement. Action helps make decisions.

Why would we NOT want more tinkering, producing, and action in our classrooms?

 

What else can I read about tinkering & producing?

For further reading on the subject of tinkering, have a look at these posts previously published with links to loads more ideas to bring a Producer Mindset to your classroom:

21st Century, Change, Creativity, Innovation, Inspiration

Imagine A Teacher

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Imagine you are a teacher.

The school year is about to begin – it’s the first day for teachers to arrive at school.

You walk into your classroom and there is a letter for you. From your students.

Dear Teacher,

The most important thing you can do for us this year is to teach creativity. Consider yourself no longer our teacher but be our ‘Captain Creative’ and we, your eager cohort of innovators, curators, makers, and thinkers.

To teach creativity is to equip us with the skills to think critically. To examine, debate, discuss, agree, argue, dissent, come to a consensus, and to think.

To teach creativity is to question. To make sure you ask questions you don’t know the answer to and let us ask questions too. Let’s solve them together in short, frantic bursts of excitement and long, drawn-out wondering that go far beyond the lesson plan.

To teach creativity is to teach us that ideas are treasures, to be gathered and cherished with pirate-like pleasure! We need to come to school each day more curious than the day before and should know that our actions have an impact that goes beyond our classroom walls.

To teach creativity, one can start with empathy. When we know that to empathize is to arrive at the starting point for change and possibility, that to try and to trial and to test and to try again are all part of process, and that there is never a ‘one way’ of doing (but always your guiding hand should we get stuck down a wrong way), you will be a teacher of creativity.

To teach creativity, is to allow us to bloom. To nurture each of us through the learning process at a different pace and in a different space, feeding our quest for knowledge so that new ideas can flourish. Teach us to connect rather than simply collect the dots.

To teach creativity one does not need to be creative (but you are). To teach creativity one does need to rethink ‘school’ (and you will). To teach creativity is to respect us as individuals, to seek the ‘so what?’, and to be authentic in all that you do.

What are you waiting for? The creativity revolution begins with you. And with us. And it starts now.

Sincerely,

Your students

What would this inspire you to do? What does it tell you about your school leadership team? And where does this school exist?

Innovation

MakerSpace or MakerMindset?

Makerspace.

Trendy? Needed? Overused? Underused? Lots of discussion in our school – and many others – about this ‘new thing’. Sometimes I find it exhausting that we have to form a committee to come to the shared understanding that kids making stuff, tinkering, thinking, designing, prototyping ideas, and playing, is a good thing!

Nonetheless, what if you have already decided it is a good thing? Where to from there? My suggestion: differentiate between a MakerSpace and a MakerMindset.  These are similar but very different at the same time. Don’t get hung up on how many hot glue guns you are going to buy, start by getting buy-in on what it means to be a maker and part of the maker movement.

If you are not sure what this would look like, take a look at the NIST Makerspace website. They do a great job of spelling out the things you see in a Maker Mindset and a Maker Space.  I liked the idea so much I started drawing out my own idea of a maker mindset:

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I would then suggest that you Start With WHY. Why do you want a Makerspace? Why is this an important thing to you? You could try framing your thinking by filling in the gaps:

“Because we believe…………………………………….. we have a Makerspace.”

Move on to HOW. How will a Makerspace work in your school? Within the curriculum? Parallel to the curriculum? Embedded in the curriculum? Totally optional and separate to the curriculum?  How will teachers know it is valued? How will parents share in your vision? How do kids have input?

Finally, WHAT. Now is when you can get the glue gun catalog out and spend! But you can also gather (hoard?) and collect and put out specific requests for those egg cartons, buttons, fabric offcuts, plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, and the like. One thing I think would be useful at this point is for teachers to spend twenty minutes in their rooms. Mentally divide the room into four quadrants and spend five minutes looking at each section, asking yourself:

  • what is useful for making and tinkering?
  • what storage do I have?
  • what could I take out of my room to make more space?
  • are there outlets in this part of the room?
  • is there ventilation in this part of the room?

I subscribe to SmartBrief on Education and in today’s edition, they had a piece on Tips For Meaningful Making. This advice section concluded with links to free resources that may be of interest to anyone in the process of beginning a Makerspace.

  • Wicked Decent Learning blog. Check out Dan Ryder’s “Design Thinking” section to get insights on making and reflection.
  • Agency by Design. Visit the Educator Resources section to see different ways to approach the thinking behind making. This is a phenomenal resource from Project Zero. If you love Visible Thinking Routines, you will love AbD. 

Do you have a Maker Mindset?

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Innovation

Summatively Speaking…

It always seems to be the way – start thinking about assessment (or any other topic) and ideas abound on that topic, literally without even trying.

Assessment is on my mind at the moment. The first thing that popped into my feed was this amazing post on assessment and Makerspaces.  What Does Assessment Look Like in Makerspaces is PACKED with information. Seriously, if you have a Makerspace or want one or are just thinking of how to add more making, thinking, and tinkering into your school or classroom, this is an excellent place to start.

In working with teams at my own school, I returned to the work of Wiggins and McTighe. This gave me three things to share with colleagues – and now with you. I was firstly reminded of GRASPS as it relates to a summative assessment task:

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I was introduced to this when I began teaching at Bonn International School in 2003. It is still my ‘gold standard’ when it comes to thinking about summative assessment tasks.

From here, I was reminded of a newer document. A checklist for performance assessment. The printed version is below. Below that, the short animated slideshow on checking the health of your summative assessment task, made with Adobe Spark Video.

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https://spark.adobe.com/video/1d9MaHwVnqXKM/embed

Finally, I subscribe to Time Space Education blog. Today there was a new post on Learning Continuums. It is really interesting to see how this process of summative assessment is being tackled by different educators in different parts of the world. The author, Chad Walsh is seeking feedback on the ideas within this post. If you are at all interested in summative assessments and rethinking the way we create and analyse these, drop him a line or leave a comment on his post.

21st Century, Action, Change, Innovation, Inspiration, Leadership

Rethink Everything

And start with rethinking worksheets.

I believe that in 7 minutes, you will never look at a worksheet in the same light ever again. What are we doing to our kids when we don’t take the time and effort to breathe creativity and agency into our classrooms?

If you are interested in taking this discussion further, take a look at The Ten Principles For Schools Of Modern Learning. This Whitepaper is the best thing I have read about education and change since I read Seth Godin’s Education Manifesto.

I have just started a course in Creative Teaching and Learning as (a final) part of my Masters Degree and my hope is that we will come up with practical ways to inject greater creativity into schools. One of my classmates shared this video and in it, the speaker tells of the need for knowledge in order to fuel creativity.

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The idea being that having knowledge helps you build creative ideas to problems  and challenges. Do you agree?  I certainly side with Tony Wagner’s thought that “it is not WHAT you know but what you DO with what you know” and believe that the ‘knowing’ and the ‘knowledge’ are important parts to being a creative person.

It comes as no surprise to me that Tony Wagner is an “Expert Education Advisor” for the award-winning film “Most Likely to Succeed”. A ‘grown up’ version of the animated ‘Alike’ this film is on my list of things to watch (when I write up my grant proposal to get the money for a screening).

Most Likely to Succeed Trailer from One Potato Productions on Vimeo.

 

 

Innovation

Secure Your Own Mask First

 

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Image Credit

I was speaking with a friend who was helping me out with a project I am working on. After we were finished talking, she asked me how I was doing: staying at home with my two sweet babies. She had seen the bomb site that is our upstairs living room (laundry EVERYWHERE) and the dog hair, the toys, the laundry, the dishes…did I mention the laundry?

She said that the best advice she had been given when she became a mom 22 years ago, was to “secure her own oxygen mask first before helping others”. She likened me to the captain and reminded me that if the captain goes down, everyone goes down.

I have been pondering this and she is right on many levels and the analogy is very apt for busy parents staying at home and raising a family. But it is also true for pretty much everyone. If you are well taken care of, well rested, well fed, well nourished by the books/people/things/spaces that make you feel good, you are in a much better position to share of yourself for others.

Many teachers are notoriously bad at this (no scientific research, just observation). We want to help our colleagues, our principals, our team, our students, our parents and so often we put all of these people above our own needs.

What do you want in the kids that you teach?

Here are some possible ideas:

  • Kids that will prioritize their health: drinking water, using the bathroom, eating a healthy lunch, getting outside and breathing fresh air.
  • Kids that are mindful of themselves, seek to be mindful in their intentions, take time to reflect on their learning and where they are going.
  • Kids that come to school well rested with a good breakfast in their belly.
  • Kids that listen to each other and ask questions, lots of them. And then listen some more.
  • Kids who are open to new ways of doing and new ways of showing what they know.

These things are not going to happen without some seriously mindful teachers, modeling this behavior for their students. Mindfulness is not a new concept but it is one that is taking off in education and for good reason. Having clarity about your intentions puts you one (giant) step closer to achieving your goals.

One of the most mindful practitioners I have had the pleasure of knowing is Neila Steele. She is the very definition of a mindful educator – and parent, wife, friend, all round great person. Her husband, Andy Vasily, hosted a session with her on his Run Your Life podcast with her on this topic. In the podcast, they cover the following:

What is mindfulness?

Specific mindfulness strategies

The power of visualization

Teacher and student well being

The importance of breath awareness

Mindfulness resources

Meditation

 

Take a listen to the podcast. And think about your own life. What one change could you make today that would better equip you in serving others tomorrow?  How can you take a more mindful approach to your own well being in order to be the best teacher/colleague/friend/parent/spouse possible?