Inquiry, Learning

Find Your Water

I read a great post by Kath Murdoch on Getting Into The Habit Of Inquiry. The post has so much to offer that you should read it in its entirety if you are or aspire to be an inquiry focused teacher. As I read it, I couldn’t help but connect Kath’s ideas with those of David Foster Wallace. I believe Kath has “found her water”. Living life through inquiry is something as natural to her as living in water is to a fish.

This is Water-David Foster Wallace from alexander correll on Vimeo.

What I particularly appreciate about Kath’s post is that she doesn’t just say, “Oh, I couldn’t teach any other way – lucky me!” and that’s it. She gives some great advice on how to develop your own skills and strategies to becoming a stronger teacher.

My favorite advice? Include your students in your learning process. Can you imagine yourself saying this to your class:

Hi everyone! I was doing some reading over the last few days about questions and asking good questions, and about giving you time to think about and answer questions. I have learned about this thing called “wait time” which means I have to stop talking and let you talk! I have written down some reminders to myself to help me learn and I would love your help too in reminding me to let you talk!

Maybe that is a bit cheesy? I don’t know. But I do know that we expect our kids to articulate their learning goals. Why not show them authentically what this looks like? Why not also show them that you are learning too? That in this classroom, we are all learners – and actually show them what that means.  What if we dared to let our kids know that we don’t know it all, that we are always learning and changing our perspective on what good teaching and learning looks and sounds like? What if we acknowledge when we slip back into old ways and share our struggles with learning?

What if we were all learners?

Approaches to Learning, Learning, Publications, Technology

Into Alignment

Approaches to Learning (ATL) are a hot topic at my school at the moment.  We recently had Lance G. King at school to guide our understanding of how ATLs can and should be embedded in our teaching and how this long list of skills and executive functions can significantly impact our students.

With this in mind, and with a desire to see technology integration become a more fluid part of our program, I typed all the ATLs into a document. Tedious but also helpful, giving me time to think about each one and its connection to technology.  I then pulled up the new ISTE Standards for Students.

introducing-the-2016-iste-standards-for-students-7-638

7 standards, each with four descriptors. I copied and pasted next to what I felt was a correlating ATL. A third column saw me list possible scenarios you might see in which these skills and standards were put into effect.

Confusing? Hopefully more clear if you take a look here:

fullsizerender-2fullsizerender-6fullsizerender-3fullsizerender-4fullsizerender-5

My thoughts upon doing this?

  • I found the process was super helpful in taking a wide lense look at how everything can and should work together
  • I wondered, “Who else is doing this?” and “Can we do it together?!” I did google around a bit before starting and I know of one person who is starting down this road but would love to hear from anyone else also doing this or who would like to join me in working on this. Let me know and I can share the Google Doc with you.
  • I realized I am far from done! Here are my next steps:

 

  1. There are some ISTE standards that hit more than one ATL or standards that only partially apply to an ATL so I need to duplicate and add, and I need to highlight the specific portions of standards that apply
  2. The “How might we….?” column needs to be added to, linking with existing sources and documentation and external websites and apps
  3. Consideration needs to be given to a fourth column that encompasses the Visual Literacy curriculum objectives as many of these can be taught in the context of technology usage, media creation, viewing and presenting. Likewise, there are considerable overlaps with Visual Art (the Elements of Art and, particularly, the Principles of Design) and with the Library scope and sequence documentation.

These ideas are less than 24 hours old so there is a lot of scope for development but I am intrigued to see how this will develop in terms of guiding teachers toward a more integrated approach to technology in (and out) of the classroom.

Inspiration, Learning, Mindset, Reflection

At Least I Tried….Again.

A year ago, I published a post on this blog titled At Least I Tried.  It referenced a daily cartoon from Gaping Void that was accompanied by this text:

In light of yesterday’s post, this was (again) very timely for me.

But this post is also about the power of our words and how a few thoughtfully chosen ones can really help a person who needs to hear them. Within hours of posting, four different people from different parts of my life reached out with words that I needed to hear. It made me grateful for these people but it also made me think how important timely feedback is.

As educators, how are we supporting our students with our words? 

For EXCELLENT advice about feedback including what it is, what it sounds like, what it isn’t and how to use it effectively, take a look at this 2012 ASCD article by the late Grant Wiggins. His work is an amazing reminder of the talent and wisdom we lost when he died last year. “7 Keys to Effective Feedback” will also give you insight into the difference between feedback and advice, and feedback and grades/evaluation.  It is a great read.

Last year’s post also made me think about Seth Godin’s mantra to “Pick Yourself” – in reference to the idea that waiting for someone else to validate you is nonsensical. Time is precious and your ideas are worthwhile and waiting for someone to ask for them will get you nowhere.

So last night, I reached out to an author I admire with a suggestion for a potential collaboration idea based on a comment she made on Facebook. And I drafted a new book idea for building momentum in schools.

Opportunity is everywhere.  You just have to look – and leap.

pick+yourself+seth+godin
Photo Credit
Learning

Summer Slide – A reality or media construct?

I just read Alfie Kohn’s take on the Summer Slide.  He puts forward an interesting argument and correlates the ‘fear’ of loss of progress over the summer with the same fear of what will happen if teachers don’t assign homework (hint: Mayhem! Chaos! Kids Gone Wild!).

He summarizes his argument:

By the time September rolls around, kids may indeed be unable to recall what they were told in April: the distance between the earth and the moon, or the definition of a predicate, or the approved steps for doing long division. But they’re much less likely to forget how to set up an experiment to test their own hypothesis (if they had the chance to do science last spring), or how to write sentences that elicit a strong reaction from a reader (if they were invited to play with prose with that goal in mind), or what it means to divide one number into another (if they were allowed to burrow into the heart of mathematical principles rather than being turned into carbon-based calculators).

Summer learning loss? It’s just a subset of life learning loss—when the learning was dubious to begin with.

His summary is really a blueprint for what parents can do (and teachers can support) in order to use the summer break as an opportunity for growth rather than loss: Do experiments, swing in a hammock and write a story from the perspective of something around you, bake something or make something that has you using your math skills, for real. Most importantly, focus on the process of having a summer vacation and all that entails: rest, experiences, creation, re-creation, and play.

As Kohn points out, the ‘summer slide’ is evident when standardized test scores are compared. But what about the skills that can not be measured on such a test?

My take on combatting the slide? Here are some Summer Learning slides I shared with the parents at my school:

With the exception of the ‘knowing’ slide, which gives details of websites in which students can practice traditional academic skills, the tools suggested focus on the idea of creating and documenting based on experiences. The more children see, do, touch, feel, experience, and try, the more they will have to speak, write, and create about.

In addition to technology, get outside, and read (read outside or just read and then go outside or vice versa). If you are needing help with summer reading, look no further than my favorite book blog: One Page To The Next.  Last summer she posted on Summer Reading for Book Enthusiasts. This summer, her Summer Reading post is another great spread of excitement for readers.

If you are still looking for ideas, my other favorite blog Engage Their Minds has a wealth of resources under the category “Summer Slide

Finally, I love this list of ideas for experiences for kids from Ranger Rick.  Take a look and download from here – and then make a digital book, i-movie, podcast, artwork, poem, rap song, comic book, or ??? about your experience!

RR_SUMMER_BUCKETLIST_working

Learning

Failure Is An Option

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 10.51.57

So often, the sentiment above is what echoes in our minds when we start something new. But what if it wasn’t? What if instead we focused on the idea that failure was an option – as long as we fail well?

The keynote speaker at the AGIS (Association of German International Schools) Conference was Lance G. King: a fellow New Zealander with a dry sense of humor and a passion for failure. His keynote often referenced the work of Carol Dweck with regard to establishing a growth mindset over a fixed mindset.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 12.30.29

His talk, however, primarily focused on the ideas of failure and resilience. In his research he noted that the key difference in the success of students was not that one group failed and one was successful, it was that one group failed well and the other failed badly:

*All slides are from Lance King’s Website: The Art of Learning

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 11.40.15

So, how do we encourage students to fail well? King shared the following ‘Failure Cycle’ in which teachers actively guide students in the process of considering their actions, taking responsibility for what was done (or not done), and setting in place a plan for doing something differently the next time around:

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 11.39.35

Lance is an advocate of skills based teaching and has taken a lead role in the re-development of Approaches to Learning for the new MYP curriculum. In addition to content acquisition,  he demands a focus on skill acquisition with the role of the teacher being one of guiding students through the process of successful failure.  He (ironically? sarcastically?) asks the following of teachers:

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 11.38.51

Well? This is the reality for many people, yet has our teaching changed? Like Sal Khan, I believe Lance King is not suggesting that we replace teachers with computers.  What they are both suggesting is that we embrace the power of technology and elevate the role of the teacher from content deliverer to skills guide or even failure coach.

Some questioned Lance as to wether the notion of supporting failure amongst students would not simply lead to apathy and lack of effort on their part: “My teacher says it is ok to fail”. If this mindset were to develop, we have done the students a disservice in not putting emphasis where it belongs.  It is not ‘just’ failure we are embracing but failing well. If you were to review the cycle (above), you will see that it actually takes quite a bit of work to fail well. We are in an age when we are seeing ideas, innovation, solutions to problems that don’t even exist yet. We won’t get where we need to be without first embracing, accepting, and even celebrating our failures, first.

Like most things, this approach of embracing failure is going to take some educating amongst parents, teachers, and students in order to be successful. There seems to be such an emphasis on success that is direct, clean, linear.  But rarely is this the case:

Last year, I shared this video with my fourth graders and had them draw their own version of success.  I asked them to think about a time they were successful at something and then to think back as to how they got that way.  Did they just wake up and be a brilliant skier? An amazing artist? A super reader? What did the journey look like from not knowing to being successful?

All of the twists and turns and bumps and gaps along the way point to the resilience each student developed in order to make their way to ‘success’.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 12.04.27

Not giving up, looking for new solutions, believing in yourself, pushing yourself beyond what you think you know.  These are all characteristics of resilience that can be summed up in this humorous clip that your students will get a kick out of:

So how do we get here?  As Lance said in his presentation at the IB Conference in Madrid, “The most motivated learning is self-regulated”. This is something we have all seen to be true: passion, interest, and curiosity driving learning. As teachers, we would need to develop a classroom culture that supports self-regulated learning (SLR):

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 13.03.08

So, what now?

My suggestion would be to look at the Approaches to Learning and start thinking about how these skills can play a more prominent role in your classroom.  One way of doing this (or easing in to this if this is totally new to you) would be to take a look at this reflective blog post from Mags Faber, in which she tries out split screen teaching in order to draw attention to the skills she is trying to focus on.

How do you build resilience, allow students to self-regulate, and teach your kids to fail well?

Learning

AGIS Conference Reflection – Part One

This past weekend I was at the AGIS annual conference (Association of German International Schools). One of the teacher-led workshops I attended was run by Chris Graham of the International School of Düsseldorf.  He was sharing his passion for coding in the elementary school. Prior to the conference, Chris created a screen cast of his presentation, which you can watch here:

Chris had created a website (using Weebly) to share his extensive collection of coding sites and lesson plans to support the implementation of coding in classrooms. He shared a number of sites that I am quite familiar with and included in my Hour of Code SMORE.

In addition to his coding website, Chris shared a great tool for editing videos called EduCanon.  Essentially, you simply upload a video from the source of your choosing to EduCanon and you can then insert pauses to the video and pose questions to your viewers.  This would be a great addition to the toolbox of a teacher who likes to flip their classroom and have students watch videos at home. I would add a caveat to that: One of the examples I viewed on the EduCanon site was the great video by LifeVest Inside about the power of kindness and the chain reaction random acts of kindness can have.  It is a video that deserves to be played in its entirety and for students to develop an understanding of what is going on, at their own pace. When I  watched the teacher edited version on EduCanon it was much choppier and the message harder to follow.  Using EduCanon might be the way to go for the second or third viewing.  There are some videos that don’t need to be interrupted with more talk.

I was inspired by the slick look of Chris’s website to explore Weebly for myself.  I ended up creating a website for the PYP Exhibition.  I have made one of these before using Wix when I was teaching at Riverstone International School in Boise.  I took some of this content and things from my current school to create a source of information for students, teachers, and parents leading up to, during, and after the exhibition. Weebly is awesome and so easy to use.  

While at the conference, I led a Roundtable discussion on the PYP Exhibition with the hopes of gaining insight from other Exhibition teachers as to how they plan, implement, and evaluate this culminating component of the PYP program.  Notes from our discussion are here if you are also a PYP Exhibition teacher and are interested in our collaborative thoughts. Please add your thoughts too!

One of the things we discussed was how to guide students to take authentic action.  I shared the following video about how NOT to take action:

I also shared 6 Ways of Taking Action which I first learned about via a teacher blogger in Australia who I can no longer track down as his blog has been deactivated.

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 19.12.49

When discussing the idea of ‘Action’ it was good to be able to share different ways that this could look. You can download the 7 page Action PDF which features each way of taking action on a different page and a summary page of all 6 ways. You can read my FlipSnack Book here

One of the biggest ‘takeaways’ for me following our discussion was the idea that we are pretty hard on ourselves as teachers.  I think that there are so many great ideas out there and as a teacher, it can sometimes feel like you are not doing enough, reading enough, innovating enough. What you realise when you sit down with a group of fellow educators, is that often what you are doing may seem obvious to you but amazing to others. And that’s a good feeling.

Learning

Adobe Voice

In addition to the workshop on Building a PLN, I am also leading a workshop on using Adobe Voice in the classroom as a tool for students to use their voice to tell their story.

‘Story’ doesn’t just mean fairytale.  It could include:

  • reflection on a book they have read
  • description of the theme or characters in their books
  • explanation of how something happened in history
  • description of a person, place, or thing
  • personal narration of their own learning journey
  • a guessing game about themselves using their voice and images of importance to them
  • a summary of their learning within a unit
  • a weekly check-in in which they reflect on goals they have set themselves
  • recording their voice in a foreign language as they describe images
  • timelines of events in history
  • narration from the perspective of a character or iconic historical figure

The options are virtually endless!

I have been using Voice with students from EC5/6 (5 and 6 year olds) to Grade 4 students (9-10 year olds) and all have been really successful in making powerful presentations.

If you are unfamiliar with Voice, I would highly recommend giving it a go.  It is a free iPad app, and it is beautifully designed with loads of functionality.

In the spirit of sharing new tools,  I have created an Adobe Voice ‘lesson’ using Blendspace.  This used to be known as EdCanvas and I posted about it last year. It can, in it’s most basic form, be a place to store content related to a lesson or unit – videos, websites, images, documents.  Dig a bit deeper and you will see that once you create a lesson, you can share it with a class of students (student and teacher accounts are free).  Students can give the content you post a ‘thumbs up’ or they can add comments about their understanding (or lack thereof).

Click on the image below to go to my Blendspace Lesson on Adobe Voice:

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 21.57.50

Learning, Presentations

Building a PLN

I am sharing some ideas with teachers at my school about building a Personal Learning Network. I have put together a Haiku Deck to summarize my main points and then expanded on these in a Smore Flyer.

Part of my job as a Learning Technology Teacher is sharing tools with teachers so I decided to use two ways of publishing that I don’t always use.

Smore is a great way of putting a lot of multi-media information neatly into one spot. They offer free accounts which do not expire but do have a 5 flyer limit.  Educators can sign up for $59USD per year which gives access to many education themed backgrounds, a default private setting, and unlimited flyers (so your kids can go crazy and make flyers too!).

Haiku Deck is a piece of  presentation software with a Presentation Zen feel.  It is minimalist in design and won’t allow you to fill your slides with thousands of words.  Instead, when you type in a few key words or a sentence with your main point, Haiku Deck will offer you pictures that match those words for you to choose as your background images.  All the images are licensed for Creative Commons use. The only hitch with this one is that our tech department can’t help us with the firewall situation that is blocking access to the images via the iPad app at school.  😦

Any suggestions for things to add to the resources below for people new to creating a Personal Learning Network? Your feedback is welcome! Click on the images below to go to the Flyer and the Presentation:

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 16.16.45

PLN

Assessment, Learning

Your Rubric Is A Hot Mess

Confession: I stole the title of this post from this post here by the same name written by Jennifer Gonzales.  It caught my eye (yes, I judged a book by it’s cover) but then lived up the promise of the title by offering some awesome advice.  You could do yourself a favor and quit reading right now and head over to read her post.  Seriously.

Still here? OK, here is the basic premise of the post:

1. Teachers love rubrics.

2. Teachers love filling rubrics with loads of writing.

3. Students are unpredictable and don’t like to fit inside tiny (rubric) boxes.

4. Teachers spend the majority of their rubric writing, writing things they don’t really want to see.

I found myself nodding along with everything in this post. I do like rubrics but I feel like it is a lot of semantics and wordsmithing of what essentially amounts to “good”, “better”, “best”.

Solution: The One Point Rubric.  Take a look at this:

Three columns, one point for each criteria.  Instead of writing four (or five) columns, write one column based on the expectations/curriculum standards which would represent achievement at a mastery level. From here, when grading students’ work, decide if they met, exceeded, or did not yet meet the required standard.

I really like this idea. As Jennifer points out, if you are including the students in on the creation of the rubric, it becomes an easier task as they only need come up with what mastery of the task looks like rather than three or four other descriptors of different levels of achievement.

What do you think?

Have you used this approach before?  I am currently working with grade level teams at my school in my role of curriculum coordinator, to plan and reflect on the teaching of writing. One of the things the teams do when/after we meet and agree on the areas of focus from our scope and sequence, is to create rubrics.  I would like to share this with them and see if any of them would be willing to try the one point rubric.  Stay tuned…

Learning

Bias in Teaching

One of the things I love about my role as Learning Technology teacher, is that I get to work with all the teachers at my school. They come to my room or I go to theirs, and prior to our meeting, we get to discuss how and why they would like to integrate technology into their teaching. 

As I work with teachers, I get to see them in their natural habitat and see a different side of the person who I have lunch with, sit down at recess with, or talk to during meetings.  I get to see them as a teacher. And I get to see what they love, what they value, what is important to them in their classroom.  I also get to see what falls a little lower on the ladder of importance for them. I listen to the choices they make when talking to and with our students and I see them in the way they communicate. 

And that makes me think about my own teaching. 

Where is my bias?  What do I value above other things? When have I come across to my students as having a strong opinion for or against something – and is this ok?  

When you google ‘bias in teaching’ you get a whole lots of hits for gender bias, political bias, hidden bias.  This is not really what I am talking about.  I am talking about the bias that comes from teachers being human and having opinions about the job they have been asked to do.  As teachers, we sign on to teach.  This is a wide-open task that is narrowed down by the philosophy, vision, and mission of a school.  When we sign on to work somewhere, we sign on to live out the values of the school. But we are human.  And we have our own ideals and vision too.  

Some teachers don’t love math – and research has pointed to parents and teachers passing on their own math anxiety to their students. What about other subjects?  Are we unconsciously (or consciously) pushing our own agenda when it comes to what we highlight as important?

What do you do when your vision, your ideals, your beliefs do not mesh with that of your school?  Where is the bias in your teaching?