Thinking about your teaching.

When I was at Ulearn last year, I wrote two lists – one of ‘things to implement’ and the other of ‘things to ponder or look into.’

I have recently revisited these lists as it is so easy to get wrapped up in everyday life then forget P.D like this and let ideas slip away.

One of the items on my ‘things to implement’ list was the following list which can be used to assess whether your teaching is resulting in “transformative learning”. I used this list to assess the core areas of my program. I apologise that I cannot remember the source of this but I found it useful to go thought and you might too.

Transformative learning needs to:

  • Have learning purpose and intrinsic motivation
  • Be an achievable challenge
  • Involve problem solving
  • Involve a desire the perform, create or design
  • Use wonderings
  • Involve choice
  • Involve negotiation
  • Involve collaboration
  • Have an issue to explore
  • Have a real world or a simulated world context
  • Have openness – able to be extended, different pathways, personalised level of achievement.
  • Have appropriate support available – scaffolding, accessible resources, expertise, formative feedback, stimulate metacognition
  • Incorporate assessment of process AND product – self, peer and expert
  • Incorporate learner reflection and self direction – goal setting, identifying level of support needed, reflection.

Thinking about innovation

I’ve been thinking lots about innovation lately and having some really good discussions with the principal at school, Jeff.

This video gave me some food for thought and, I think is worth watching.

I think it also links well to Malcom Gladwell’s book, Blink. All of Malcom Gladwell’s books are brilliant and though provoking if you are interested in sociology and psychology.

What can we take from this in schools?

  • Ideas need to percolate and will continue to grow over time. An idea is never ‘done’ or ‘finished’ and we shouldn’t believe we’ve got something down to a fine art, as an idea will continue to develop over time if you let it and reflect continuously.
  • Collaboration is key. We need to talk and connect with others more to grow and extend our ideas. This, I believe, should not be limited to within our school, but taken beyond though social media, blogs etc. Once again, I’m taken with the World Cafe idea…

Catering for diversity

I’m no expert at all on catering for diverse students but a seminar I went to last night got me thinking about the way in which My-learning can work for such students that don’t ‘fit the mould.’

Thinking time

Children often need time to think. We know this of course but how often have you watched students struggle for something to write about or how exactly to word the story that’s in their mind? I think it helps students to:

1.       Know that they are going to have to write something in advance, so they can mull it over and plan what they are going to write. This, they get from their task list every week.

2.       Have the option to write straight after a modelling session or take the time to think, then write later.

3.       Put their writing on hold if they get stuck and come back to it later.

Picking the time of day that suits

So many children have told me often that they liked the way they could choose when to do their work. Especially for the subjects they found most challenging. For one child, getting the tricky things over and done with works well. For another having the chance to wake up a bit, get moving at morning tea time, then tackling the challenging tasks is better.

Ability to talk

As we were told last night at the seminar local teachers attended, children frequently need the opportunity to talk things through. It can help to discuss how to solve a maths problem, how to phrase a sentence best or just talk over and articulate thoughts and ideas. Of course this is nothing new but this is not always easy to accommodate in a silent writing lesson for instance. This is something else My-learning allows for.

I think this is possibly why teachers have found that the previously naughty and disengaged students in a My-learning classroom often become motivated and engaged all of a sudden…

What is generation ‘C’?!

We’ve all heard about generation X and Y but what is generation C? Nielsen has coined this term to encompass a group of consumers aged 18-34 who are digitally savvy and connected consumers. However, some argue that generation C can be “psychographically” defined. In other words, a group of people who group share a similar state of mind, whether that be certain personality traits, values, attitudes, interests, or lifestyles.

In which case, as it appears to me anyway, generation C would also encompass the children we have in our schools today. They are “digital natives” who enjoy creating their own content, as opposed to passively consuming others’; they enjoy collaborating on content through social networks and web 2.0 tools; they form online groups; and they enjoy being creative. I think this explains the students we have in our classes well but the question is: how do we cater for these students, especially when they often differ a fair bit from us as educators?

I think this links well to Clay Shirky’s idea of Cognitive Surplus (see his book on this) which basically asserts that following WWII we’ve had a surplus of “intellect, energy, and time – what Shirky calls a cognitive surplus. But this abundance had little impact on the common good because television consumed the lion’s share of it-and we consume TV passively, in isolation from one another. Now, for the first time, people are embracing new media that allow us to pool our efforts at vanishingly low cost.” (quote from Amazon’s book description).  We, as a people, are embracing our love for creating, connecting and sharing but I wonder if we are allowing this to occur inside (both in the physical and online sense) our classrooms?

For more information on Cognitive Surplus, have a look at Clay Shirky’s TED Talk.

Planting the seed of innovation

“Yet undergraduate education changes remarkably little over time. My predecessor … famously compared the difficulty of reforming a curriculum with the difficulty of moving a cemetery”Lawrence H. Summers, former president of Harvard University.

Following the Emerging Leaders Summit last term I’ve been talking to a few people lately about what the principal at school, Jeff, calls “Inviting Innovation”. How do we encourage innovation then infect others with innovative ideas?

At the Summit, I was introduced to a different way in which to use the Innovation Curve. What was proposed was that the ‘Early Adopters’ will follow the ‘Innovator’ but the Innovators are too divergent from the majority of the population, so most people are likely to follow the Early Adopters, rather than the Innovators. The idea being that we need to nurture the Early Adopters and allow them to model, teach and share the innovations with the remainder of the people on the Curve.

I then got chatting about this with my Dad who proposed that perhaps the way for innovations to disperse in the education sector was for innovators to plant the seed within and, more importantly, beyond their school. Then Early Adopters in these schools could allow the seed to grow and spread until the idea returned to the school from which it came. This way the original innovator is not seen as a “Principal’s Pet”, the idea is validated by people beyond their insular school environment and people are more likely to take up the innovation. I wonder….