Different situations provide us the opportunity to stop and reflect on who we are as educators, what we believe in and what we want for our students.
This is what I believe in...
Positive Approaches to Leading
Cultivating a Community of Caring
Technology has really changed the way we teach. As technology becomes more prevalent in education, its impact on education continues to evolve. No longer are we teaching in traditional ways or focusing on traditional technology tools, rather how we can use the best tool for the best possible learning experience and expression of our students’ knowledge (ACARA, 2012). ICT is constantly changing and adapting and education must find a way to continue to adapt to it yet have a state of constant for our students at the same time. One way to do this is to focus on the transdisciplinary skills such as creating, communicating, collaborating, building knowledge, managing their tools as the students of today prepare for the unknown jobs of tomorrow.
Working in an international school, I find myself with a plethora of technology resources easily accessible to me. However, I know that back home in Canada I would not have the same luxuries in the public and Catholic educational systems. This would make me believe that it would be a similar experience in Australia. I wonder how teachers are finding the ACARA guidelines if they don’t have the resources to implement the ICT capabilities across the year groups and subjects effectively. On the flip side, are schools with an abundance of technology really impacting the teaching and learning in the way we hope it would? If some schools struggle with not enough technology, is it possible that at times the other end of the spectrum of too much technology occurs in some classes?
The ICT capabilities in the Australian curriculum (ACARA,2010) are similar to the International Baccalaureate ICT skills in the PYP. The ACARA ICT capabilities consist of 5 capabilities with a continuum across all year groups through 6 levels. The capabilities include:
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2012, March) Draft Shape of the Australian Curriculum - Technologies. Retrieved from: http://www.acara.edu.au/verve/_resources/Draft_Shape_of_the_Australian_Curriculum_Technologies_paper_-_March_2012.pdf
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2010). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Capability. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/generalcapabilities/information-and-communication-technology-capability
International Baccalaureate. (2011). The Role of ICT in the PYP. UK: International Baccalaureate.
As Proctor et al (2003) suggest, the measurement of effective ICT integration is quite challenging. In my setting, we have teachers self-evaluate their technology skills and competence at the beginning and mid-year. This data helps us support the planning of professional development to meet the overall needs of our staff.
Currently, we do not have something to measure the impact of technology use in our organisation on a large scale. However, I am interested to look for ways to measure data and have data-driven dialogues to help move us forward. I’d be interested to hear what other schools are currently doing to help measure this data. A lot of our conversations with teachers are around the purpose of their technology integration: Is it achieving the desired learning outcome? How is it enhancing the learning experience for students (Proctor et al., 2003, p. 69). These informal discussions are great sources of informal data which can help us better understand teachers’ approaches to technology integration. The SAMR model is one way to help teachers understand how they are using technology for integration.
Much of the data that I gather for different trials I have been involved with (ie 2-to-1 teacher devices) is anecdotal. This can be challenging to measure growth. However, you can often see the changes in patterns and growth.
When our school became a 1-to-1 laptop school, there was a clear decision from the administration that ICT skills for students would not be assessed (ie, typing, etc). However, there would be more of a focus on transdisciplinary skills such as visual literacy, research skills etc. These skills would be a source of teaching points and commented on in reports but not given a numerical value. Because of this, it makes it challenging to gather concrete data on student skills as a way to inform future planning. That being said, I’d be interested in giving our students a survey at the beginning or end of year to see what skills they have and what skills need to still be developed according to students’ self-assessment.
Reading Voogt & Pelgrum (2005) really resonated with me. Our school pedagogies are definitely becoming more student-driven and inquiry based with the teachers in the role of facilitators and supports. ICT has become more woven and embedded into the curriculum with less focus on tools and more on what they are trying to achieve. Skills that can be transferred between disciplines are also emphasised with a focus on skills that will be long-lasting. Our inquiry approach to teaching focuses more on collaboration and creation with students exploring their own inquiries based on personal interest and sharing their findings. Because an inquiry model is a focus for our pedagogy, it changes how teaching and integration of technology in the classroom. Our school has invested a lot into professional development to support teachers in developing a transdisciplinary and inquiry classroom. Through planning with the education technology coach, the teachers and coach can work to support students with this model and find the most meaningful ways to integrate technology.
Proctor, R., Watson, G. and Finger, G. (2003). Measuring information and communication technology (ICT) curriculum integration.Computers in the Schools, 20(4): 67–87.
Voogt, J., & Pelgrum, H. (2005). ICT and curriculum change. Human Technology, 1(2), 157-175.
All teachers are responsible for teaching studies literacies whether they are traditional reading, writing and speaking or the new literacies we encounter. The idea of transliteracy was a new term for me. Transliteracy was defined as “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks” (Thomas, Joseph, Laccetti, Mson, Mills, Perril & Pullinger, 2007).
With these new literacies comes new skills that need to be unpacked and taught to students in order to succeed in this evolving digital age.
1. Critical Thinking & Questioning
As part of digital literacy, students need to think critically in conjunction with their digital tool knowledge (Anyangwe, 2012). Many students feel confident using technology but don’t truly understand the skills they need to be successful. So much of the content online is taken at face value by students and they need to understand who is saying it, why they are saying it and what are the other perspectives (November 2014). Students need to learn how to question the authenticity of content online and using these questions to drive their inquiries further.
2. Creating & Curating
With the rise of Web 2.0, it is no longer okay just to consume digital content. Rather, students need to learn how to create content and curate it. Not only that, they must be able to create content that effectively communicates a message. As a consumer of content, students need to take this content and sift through it, organising what is relevant and pertinent information and what content is not useful (Holland, 2013). These skills take time to develop and should be continually built upon.
3. Collaborating and Connecting
Working with others doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Building the skills and strategies to be effective with others takes time but the outcome of connecting and collaborating is phenomenal. Through collaboration, many ideas can be combined to create something better than any one individual’s ideas. In education, connecting with others allows you to learn from others and better yourself while being exposed to so much more knowledge and experiences that one could ever imagine. It is important to model appropriate ways to connect with others online in a safe and positive manner and how to make these interactions beneficial to everyone (Holland, 2013).
Anyangwe, E. (2012, May 15). 20 ways of thinking about digital literacy in higher education. The Guardian Newspaper. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2012/may/15/digital-literacy-in-universities
Holland, B. (2013, November 18). Packing for the digital exploration. Tedx Talks [video]. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJBwe1HPTtw
November, A. (2014, May 6). Who Owns the learning? Preparing students for success in the digital age. [video] Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOAIxIBeT90
Thomas, S., Joseph, C., Laccetti, J., Mason, B., Mills, S., Perril, S., & Pullinger, K. (2007). Transliteracy: crossing divides. First Monday, 12(12).
Cuban, Kirkpatrick & Peck (2001) suggested that the majority of teachers in US are not computer users. If teachers aren’t using the tools, then the impact on teaching and learning is not present. In my international school setting, this is not the case at all. All of our teachers are provided with a laptop when they begin with our school and receive training on them. There is an expectation that attendance, grading, reports, planning are all on our LMS systems. Thus, technology use is not an option rather a mandate as part of being an employee at the school. In terms of teaching and learning, much of this is also done digitally, however, not mandated in the same way. That being said, with digital resources for classes, teaching teams can share the workload easily by sharing resources with a click of a button. Teachers can view student work using tools such as Teacher Dashboard easily to support them with their work without having to take bags of workbooks home to review.
Cuban, Kirkpatrick & Peck (2001) suggested we need to know more than how often students are turning on computers but rather what students are doing with them while they are on. If it is simple drill and kill practice all of the time, the impact on learning will be minimal as they are not developing skills that are transferable in other scenarios.
As I was reading about Cuban, Kirkpatrick & Peck (2001) study, I felt our school had much more access to technology than the schools in the study who had computer labs. With a 1-to-1 programme at our school, each student has access to connectivity and software at all times whether at home or school, thus, increasing the use of computers. Teachers do not have to worry about booking the lab or if the internet connection will be working. This allows for technology to be used at a moment’s notice in class or left to the side of the table when not needed. The 1-to-1 programme allows for technology to just be another tool for students to use if deemed necessary.
Somekh (2004) outlines 4 examples of institutional resistance to change in the article. ICT is often seen as a separate subject rather than being integrated into every subject. Teachers often use one-size fits all, a linear model where they start from scratch and teach all the skills rather than differentiating for the needs of the students who are well advanced. Access to technology is compounded by the kinds of ICT use. Finally schools restrict access to a number of websites out of fear of the unknown and need to be extra cautious in schools. What we have learnt is, that in order for technology to be effective, it needs to become a part of the human activity (p. 177).
I think there will always be resistance to new technologies entering into the educational realm. Geoffrey Moore’s book ‘Crossing the Chasm’ (2001) outlines that there is always going to be a bell curve when it comes to technology starting from technology enthusiasts who are willing to try anything as soon as it is available to the sceptics who are the last to give in to technology initiatives if ever. I actually think this is a good thing. It is good to have a variety of perspectives and varying adopting times. It gives the visionaries time to try it out and imagine where it can go which convinces the pragmatists and conservatives to make the transition once there is some proof it will work. When I run trials with new technology tools, this is exactly how I approach it. I access those most willing to try, see what the results are, reflect and analyse if this is the best move forward as a school and use this data to help move the school forward.
In my school, technology is not just the responsibility of one teacher. Rather it is the expectation that all teachers teach ICT within their classrooms. As the Technology Coach, I support teachers in doing this but at the end of the day, we all need to weave ICT into our lessons when appropriate. This takes the ownership of ICT off just a single specialist, just like we are all language teachers to an extent. Integration of subjects has become the norm not that anomaly. As a school who uses a transdisciplinary approach to learning through the IB framework, students have all subjects being intertwined.
As I am reading the articles by Somekh (2004), I wonder what his findings would be today 12 years later. Cuban, L., Kirkpatrick, H., & Peck, C. (2001)’s article is now about 15 years after it was written. What are the more recent studies arguing about the impact or lack thereof with technology? Is there really as much discrepancy between home and school? When my students were doing something at home (ie 3D printing), we found a way to bring it into the classroom. I let the students drive their own learning and incorporated the tools they wanted to use. I use Edmodo to mimic Facebook for privacy, age restrictions and safety but still allowing them the social aspect of media. With a student who struggled with creating content and developing his e-Portfolio, I used a mobile device with Blogger to mimic what he was doing with Instagram on his own time. Are these the same tools they are using at home - no. But they are replicating their uses at home in an appropriate and safe way for educational purposes. Because I was making the effort for them, they were also making the effort and I saw improved work quality and quantity. Technology can have a positive impact on learning, community and teaching if used in authentic, meaningful and innovative ways.
Cuban, L., Kirkpatrick, H., & Peck, C. (2001). High access and low use of technologies in high school classrooms: Explaining an apparent paradox.American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 813–834.
Moore, G. A. (1991). Crossing the chasm: Marketing and selling technology products to mainstream customers. New York, N.Y.: HarperBusiness.
Somekh, B. (2004). Taking the sociological imagination to school: an analysis of the (lack of) impact of information and communication technologies on education systems. Technology, pedagogy and education, 13(2), 163-179.
Classroom management focuses on creating a positive classroom culture where students can learn. A number of factors play into this such as discipline, building trust, routine, learning spaces, and transitions. Classroom management can make the different between a good teacher and a great teacher.
There are 5 elements of classroom management as outlined in Chai, Lim, & Pek (2005). that teachers need to consider when integrating technology into lessons.
1. Supporting activities for ICT tools
Learning technology tools to complete an activity adds another level of complexity to the learning for students even when technology is a great way to engage students. When I am teaching a class where I am introducing students to a new technology, I model how to go about doing it and then allow them the opportunity to try. This is aligned with Hudson & Notman's paper (2001) that suggests teachers should model a few technology skills to begin the lesson. Often I also give students time to explore a tool first and allow them to inquire into what the technology tool can do. Then we share what we've learnt and ask questions about things we still can not figure out.
2. Role of the teacher
Teachers are no longer the only source of information with ICT and a class of students. Thus, teachers become the facilitators of learning(Chan, Lim & Pek, 2005, p.410). I always make sure I can see the students' screens easily and walking around to monitor students' online behaviours. Visual timers and sound cues help to cut down on transition times in order to make the learning the focus and not the time getting ready for learning. I also ensure my materials are ready prior to the start of the lesson in order to have a lesson that can flow from one part to the next.
3. Role of student helpers
In my class, I have always had student helpers. The students in my class generate the jobs at the beginning of the year that we feel are needed to help the class run. Each week I would move the helping hands so that everyone had each job at some point in the year to make it fair. The students take their roles very seriously which helps students get on with the learning.
4. Technical support for teachers
The best technical support in my classroom always came from my students. Each week I had two students designated as the techsperts. There role was to help other students and myself solve any technical issues they were having. This meant the students would go to the techsperts before coming to me for support, creating a culture of collaboration and community of support. If necessary, we could also call on the tech department for support.
5. Establishment of rules and procedures
It is important to set the tone of the classroom from the beginning of the year. Each year, the students create their essential agreements together and sign them stating they will abide by them. Having students come up with the essential agreements mean they have more ownership over the class and more responsibility to follow them.
For ICT, we have our acceptable use policy that we also use and abide by. Students read it with their parents and return it to school signed. Online safety is important and students understand that if they are unable to follow the agreement, they may not be able to use technology in their learning experiences. These agreements are reviewed and reflected on regularly throughout the year.
Chai, C., Lim, C., & Pek, M. (2005). Classroom management issues in information and communication technology (ICT)-mediated learning environments: back to the basics. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 14(4), 391-414.
Hudson, R. & Notman, H. (2001). Challenges of ICT resourced classes and helpful routines: Lessons from teaching practice. Computer Education, 99, p. 24-26.
1. Start with the end in mind. Know what you want your students to know. Use backwards by design.
2. Think about a strong hook to capture your students' interest. What provocation can you use?
3. Be prepared to change your plan on the fly - be flexible.
4. Choose assessment tools that make sense with your lessons.
5. Have opportunities to extend and support the lesson.
6. Prepare all your materials in advance.
7. Only integrate technology if it makes sense and enhances the learning.
8. Think about your questioning strategies.
9. Be aware of timing, including transitions.
10. Think about the set up of the classroom, groups, physical layout.
11. Don't plan too far ahead - let your students' inquiries guide you.
So today I was greeted by one of my dear students at about 8:45am as I was wandering out to the playground. I simply smiled and said good morning and asked how he was doing today.
"Ms. Mac, this is the worst start to Monday morning ever...again! Last week it was a bad start to the morning before I got to school and today is too."
My response to the student, "Well I certainly hope we can change that before our Monday time together is over. We did last week once we got into class. Don't you remember we did our inquiry investigations and place value rap? What will make it better today?"
As he rubbed his head and thought very intensely about his answer he responded, "Ya... you're right. We had fun that day. But today is going to be different I can feel it. I don't know what will make it better. Well... you're going to say no. I know you're going to say no if I say this. It's not going to happen."
Curious of what I was 'so sure to say no to' was as I have basically jumped on board every idea a student has suggested this year (something I'm trying to do more of - letting the students guide the learning), I said, " Give it a try - what would make your day better?"
I took a second and thought to myself for a second and said, "Yes!"
I'm pretty sure my student just looked at me in disbelief. He had asked for free time and I had agreed to it. It was clear it was not a common thing for him. "We will make sure you have a designated time for free time if that's what will make your day better."
To be honest, I had the best Monday morning of the year with my students. Maybe it was coming off the EdTech Team Singapore Summit conference this weekend or maybe it was me just savouring every moment with my kids but to me, it was a great morning too.
First thing, I ditched my chair and we just sat in a circle talking. It was a different vibe being on the same level as them as we discussed our weekends in connection to our learning from the past week. Last year I would always ask my kids about their weekends and hear all kinds of wild tales but this year by just changing the question slightly, I feel my students are enhancing the connections they make from in class learning to everyday experience.
Then I literally gathered every book from our classroom and put them in the middle of our circle (with some help from the students of course). I received a few looks of being a bit crazy as I completely disassembled our class library.
"We need to figure out a better way to sort the books. I was going off what we used last year but I think you all could find a better system that works for you."
I have never seen kids so excited to sort books! I turned my back for a second to grab my camera and by the time I turned back, each child had a pile of books trying to figure out which one went together. I saw students creating lists of categories on the board, scratching out ones that could be combined and renaming others. Students began questioning which category a book would fall into - it was non-fiction but could go into science and habitats - which was better? Or why a book would fall under poetry if it was written as a picture book with a storyline. The discussions were amazing, the teamwork and collaboration was so evident and me... I was standing on the sidelines. I kind of just stood there watching for a few minutes before I jumped back into action and started to join in the fun asking questions to challenge their thinking. Don't get me wrong, there were a few kiddos that would wander into another mind space and need to be redirected back with specific jobs they could achieve but for the most part they were running themselves. A successful class library was created. Is it the way I would sort them? Not completely but that doesn't matter. The fact they were able to do that together was most important. And of course when I asked what they thought of their new library, "It's much better our way Ms. Mac" was all I needed to hear for a chuckle.
Our next challenge - how to get the books out of the classroom and into homes. We decided as a class by brainstorming and combining our ideas on how we would make our book sign out procedures most effective. Each student created a page in a book for their individual sign in/out log but then we also had a wish list page so students could wish to receive books others already had out. Seemed simple enough but let's see how this works in practice.
Then the good stuff, presents! Over the summer a friend and I had created some book bags for the back of chairs. Students are going to use these to store up to 5 books they want to read at any one time. This will give them no excuse when it's time to read. My kids were so excited by their presents.
" Did you really make them just for us?" they questioned as their little eyes looked up at me.
My favourite email of my day (one from a student doing their writing homework for the week) said,
"Today was really fun. I really like to read. I have one question did you make the present you gave us? I really like the idea because I'm a bit lazy so I don't need to walk to get a book now." Laughter again - my kids crack me up constantly.
Now that little boy who had 'the worst Monday morning start...again" was doing some independent reading and I said to him he was free to do whatever he wanted until break (about 10 minutes) as I had promised that time. To my shock, he just shook his head.
"Actually Ms Mac, I think I'd just like to keep reading."
"You sure? This can be your free time and you really can do anything."
"Ms. Mac, I was hoping when I woke up we would get to read today, so I just want to do this."
Speechless. It's incredible how often my students do that to me these days. By the end of the day, I had done nothing different in my classroom for this one student as he chose to do what we had already decided to do. But yet, he thanked me as he ran off at night. Sometimes it's not the academics that make the difference it's your attitudes towards the students. Showing the slightest bit of compassion towards them can make a bad day turn upsidedown.
I can't wait until next Monday morning at 8:45am...wondering what my next worst start to a Monday morning challenge will look like next.
I have to say this was one of the most unsuspected and unplanned learning engagement I have done with my students, but was definitely was one of the most fun ones. Last week, my students were watching a few videos about buildings, structures and environmental factors architects needed to consider when planning and building in various locations around the world. One of the videos featured Hurricane Sandy and showed the effects it had on various buildings. One of my kiddos asked, “What makes a building ‘hurricane proof’? What makes a building not get destroyed in a hurricane?” Of course, when a student has an inquiry, we usually go about investigating so this was just another one of those days. At that point it was made known, the hurricane would be here in 3 days.
First the students broke into teams of 5. I am still amazed at how well my 9-year-olds can make groups. Ever since our design thinking and inventions unit at the start of the year, they see the value in creating diverse groups. WIthout teacher support, they make sure there is varying abilities, boys and girls, and unique perspectives. They choose not to work with their best friends and understand that by making these decisions they can make the best teams that can solve any problems.
Once the teams were established, they started to do their research. They brainstormed questions that would be necessary for the investigation such as what happens during a hurricane, what materials are best for structures in hurricanes, etc. and documented them in a shared Google Doc. From there, they began their research. Each student in the group was responsible for different questions as well as keeping a list of references they used to solve their answers. Some groups even colour coded who did what to help them self-monitor if they were each contributing equally to the gathering of research notes.
From there, they pulled the keywords out from their research that would need to be included in their design before creating blueprints that they drew by hand. One group even drew their building from 5 perspectives so they could have a well thought out plan. When they had finished their sketch, they had to meet with me briefly to explain some of their design decisions in the sketch. I was amazed by the thought and detail they went into for their structures. One group thought about being inspired by the Gherkin with a rounded building so the wind would curve around it, Another group had the building on stilts in case there was flooding. The final group created a basement for safety with reinforced walls in the basement with lining to prevent water from seeping in. There were inclined planes for water to run away from the building, multiple exits for if there was something blocking it and a variety of different materials used that they felt would be best to minimize damage.
Then they got to the building process. The students were allowed to use any materials they wanted to construct their buildings. We used recycled materials primarily as well as other resources that were found around the classroom. I loved watching them as they talked through their disagreements in designs, working collaboratively and inclusive of all group members.
Finally, it was hurricane day. I walked into class still unsure of how it was going to play out and no real plan on how to make it happen but sometimes creativity strikes and you roll with it. We had a video with sound effects on the projector as a visual and hurricane sirens as a warning for the members of the community. It was time to see if these buildings would hold. Every student played a role in creating the hurricane. Some students were the storm chasers who used iPods to video document what was happening and finding different angles to capture the storm. Other students were the fierce winds with large sheets of cardboard or boards used to create the wind. Finally, we had students who were the rainstorm who would toss water at the buildings. Hurricane Mac was intense. As the hurricane progressed, debris (in the form of pencil crayons) began to be thrown about and hitting the buildings.
When the storm had passed, we looked at our buildings to see how they had stood up against the storm. Luckily they were all pretty much intact. We had a lot of discussion about why some were better than others, how some materials had been more durable than others, etc. First the teams debriefed individually and then they shared with the whole class. To wrap it up, the students created a written report about the experience from beginning to end including all of their reflections, photographs and experiences.
It was the absolute best way to begin our Monday morning (even with the bit of mess we created). The experience brought about so many questions and inquiries. The students worked collaboratively to investigate and create an experience that was memorable. I honestly think they are still shocked of how we did the simulation in the end. But the smiles on their faces was completely worth every second.
Sometimes teaching can’t be all planned out. Sometimes you just have to jump into the storm, get a little bit messy and be ready for whatever is thrown your way.
There's something to be said about students doing what they want to do. When students are engaged their learning is far superior. My Tuesday was all planned out as usual but I wasn't sure if we were going to be able to Skype another class or not so I simply left a question mark on the schedule for the day. Of course when the kids came in that morning, they asked what the question mark was and I said I wasn't sure yet and we could decide later. What I didn't expect was to be greeted with pleas of doing their 'home learning' work for a period. Of course sticking with the attitude I've taken on this year (Go With What The Students Want), I said sure. Little did I know what would transpire.
Let's take it back 3 weeks ago though before I get there. I had gotten back from my trip to Vietnam and inspired to change up my homework from my visit to a friend's classroom at the International School of Ho Chi Minh City, I decided to try this 'home learning' approach but wanted to take it a little slower the first time round to see what would happen.
The first week I gave my students the question "How have inventions changed to impact our lives?". From there, I asked them what they thought about that question and what they already knew. We decided to focus our question a little bit more individually and each of them came up with an overarching question they wanted to explore. Topics included how makeup changed to impact our lives, food colouring and even refrigerators. Then we explored where we could gather our information from using our new MISO Charts. Media - videos, websites, pictures, books, magazines, etc., Interviews - family, friends, teachers, experts. Survey - what survey questions would gather good data. Observations - what could we see and learn about. It was amazing that the students weren't familiar with resources outside of the internet really. So one of the first things we did was take a trip to the library and learn how to find books using the online catalogue and the dewy decimal system. This week we also brainstormed a list of other questions that would help them answer their larger question.
As we began week 2, we had some serious discussions about our mountain analogy of needing to help everyone get to the top of the mountain but more importantly, the process of getting to the top was more important than actually being at the top. As we explored the topic of process journals, my students explored our DP students Art Books and added postits in it of ideas and strategies of how we could present the information we found in our process journals. This included things like various charts, labels of pictures, timelines, more than one draft, building lists of ideas etc. Then it was time for them to be like the DP students and begin their own journey through the process. We had some time in class but primarily it was something they could work on at home. To be honest, by the end of the 2nd week when we checked in as a class and reflected on our work, I was a little disappointed my students hadn't gotten into more. I thought for sure if they had chosen their topic they would want to learn more about it. Puzzled by it, I decided to forge on and give them another week of exploring their topic with research. I was curious to understand if it was just because this was the first time we were doing it or if I just wasn't putting the right spin on in.
The third week I tried something a little different. I had more checkins daily. Each day we would check in to see what they had accomplished the night/day before in class. I started sharing more of what some students had produced with the class and sharing more about different strategies they could use. Instantly, I had students coming into school each morning wanting to show me what they had done in school so I could show the class their work. I also had students begging me to give them more time in class to work on it. By the end of the week, I was flipped in my thinking and completely amazed by the depth some students had gone into. The students were learning with their parents too asking them question about the project but more importantly sharing what they were learning and developing that home school connection.
So now we are into our fourth week where students have now turned their process into a product and what an array of assignments that have started to take form! We have PowToons, bulletin boards, books, models, presentations, documents, Wordles, diagrams, iMovie, pictures and so much more. The quality of their work has gone up and the students are really excited to share what they've learnt. It also gave me a lot of opportunity to have discussions with students about the presentation of their work. How does the sizes of their titles impact its effect? What about colour and organization? How fast should the speed of text on a slide be in order for the reader to view the presentation/video?
That question mark on Tuesday that barely found it's way into the schedule that day for a period turned into an entire afternoon. When it was time for break, my students just wanted to keep going. When break ended and I said it was time for our Math Battle, they begged to keep going... and going... and going... right until the end of the day. Who am I to get in the way of their learning? Every child was engaged in 2.5 hours of work that they wanted to do. They are learning more than I could have planned for and will ultimately teach each other more than I could cover. They are inspired to research, take notes and then share their knowledge.
Next week we plan on presenting our findings to the class with our final products. My class would like to hold an exhibition and invite other classes in. Again, not something I had thought of at all but will go with what they want and see where it goes. I am excited to see what the final products turn out to be after 4 weeks of hard work from them.
At the end of the day, cancelling a few lessons for the sake of student choice and voice was just what my kids needed. Perhaps what I need more of is just a few more afternoons of those amazing little question marks.