Class Twitter Account

This week we have started a class Twitter account which has been fun and beneficial. The initial purpose of this was:

  • To allow children to connect with other teachers and students around the world.
  • Students like to share their learning on Uspace but feel they only have a small audience. With Twitter, they can share their learning with other classes, globally.
  • To allow students to reflect on a more regular and organic basis, online.
  • It provides a genuine audience for their learning.

They have also enjoyed reading what other classes have been up to and have been excited when others begin to following them. I’d recommend it!

‘In Your Element’ Afternoons.

Throughout the year, the class have been teaching others in a formal and informal manner. They take ‘opt-in’ meetings for students on topics to do with what we are learning at school. They tutor their peers when they need some help. They peer assess. They give each other constructive feedback. Everyone in the class is a teacher and a learner.

This week, we started having meetings for the whole class on more athletics topics. I am about the least sporty person on the planet so we don’t do nearly enough P.E in my class. Three children have taken three different meetings this week on skipping, tai chi and soccer. Each meeting went incredibly well. The ‘teachers’ planned their lessons well and lead effectively. The students enjoyed the lessons and learned a great deal. We reflected on the teacher and the students at the end of each lesson and really unpacked what worked and what didn’t.

I’ve been mulling over how to get children ‘in their element’ more frequently at school ever since reading Sir Ken Robinson’s book on the subject. But it hasn’t been until this week that I’ve come up with an idea (in collaboration with my class) that I think will work and is sustainable. After a bit of discussion, we have decided to have what we have called ‘in your element afternoons.’

This week we have unpacked what being in your element is, which we have defined as where a passion meets a talent. Children have identified themselves as writers, artists and many more. They have recognised talent in themselves and in others, and recognised people have talents that lie both within and beyond the school gates.

Next term, every child will have the opportunity to teach the whole class for at least one half hour slot, on a Friday afternoon. After much discussion it was decided that every child will be expected to attend such lessons so as to gain an understanding and appreciation of others’ talents as well as to learn something new.

The students are excited about developing their leadership skills; sharing their talents and passions; and learning new things. I’m looking forward to learning new things too and to celebrate the individual strengths the class has.

Who controls the learning in Room 3?

Try this activity with a class you know. Ask them all
to point an index finger at the ceiling. Tell them
that you are going to ask them a question, and
when they have come up with their answer to the
question they should then point their finger at the answer.
The question is: “Who is responsible for your learning?”

I read this in an article by Chris Watkins (“Learners in the Driving Seat”) and thought I should give this a go with my class. I just made one slight change and asked, “Who is in control of the learning in Room 3?” The kids pointed to the ceiling then kind of wafted their arms around a bit. They were thinking hard. It’s difficult to point to more than one person at a time!

So they had a bit of a chat and, in the end, 4 children decided that they controlled the learning. 20 decided that everyone (other kids, themselves and me) controlled the learning. Apparently I have relinquished the majority of the control in the classroom. PHEW, I thought!

Most students felt that we had the balance about right, between child and teacher control. But we will have another discussion soon about any changes that could or should be made to tweak the balance.

Questioning

Teachers often talk about the difficulty they have with getting children to ask decent questions. After a session with the community constable today, I wonder if we are attacking the problem in the right way. Students asked great questions! Yes, they were both open and closed questions, but they were real, pertinent, deep and inquiring. So I wonder if children have problems with questioning because they aren’t overly interested in the topic? Or perhaps we put too many rules and restrictions on kids, rather than just letting them formulate real questions about what they are curious about? It’s something I’m pondering…

Are we really educating for the 21st Century?

“In too many cases, we bolt new technologies on top of current learning tools in the standard learning environment, which effectively means we give our kids a thousand-dollar pencil.” – Alan November.

I just went on YouTube and searched 21st Century learning and was not overly surprised with what came up – plenty of examples of digital technologies. Yep, it is undeniable that educators should keep up with changes in technology and utilise these in our classrooms. But if you have iPads, allow students to bring in their smart phones or have a school T.V station are you really doing enough? Is that really what 21st Century education is all about?  I think not and, apparently Alan November thinks so too!
In his book, “Who Owns the Learning?”  November asserts that we can pile new technologies on top of old teaching paradigms and fail to make any significant changes and prepare students successfully for life in the ‘digital age’. We see this constantly and the technology its self, rather than the user, is often blamed. For example, many now see interactive whiteboards as rather passé. I believe this is because far too many teachers (obviously not everyone though!) have not used them as they were intended – as an interactive teaching tool. Instead they have been used to project up everything that a teacher would normally write on the board. I also know of far too many teachers who still use laptops for students to type up stories on. A thousand dollar pencil indeed!

In order to actually improve student outcomes and properly prepare students for life beyond school, I think we need to change our pedagogy as well as integrate technology successfully into the learning in our classes. November argues that technology is required to change the nature of the roles and relationships between educators and students. He gives three first steps to get started:
1. Increase the autonomy of students.
2. Publish student work to a global audience.
3. Create a community of contribution within the classroom.

In other words, not just using cool iPad apps…