Empowered Learners

 

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 Some rights reserved by Ken Whytock

Our school has adopted the ISTE standards for teachers and students. I talked to a colleague yesterday about the idea of empowered learner.  We’ve focused on this from a digital literacy point of view, and as a teacher, I try to focus on this in my class as well.

As DLCs, we’ve tried to change how our PD works. We wanted the choice to come from teachers rather than from administration.  We believe that everyone basically knows what they are good at, and should have some understanding of where to go.  A member of our team has created a list of basic competencies we expect all teachers to have.  It is up to them to go through the list and see if they know or don’t know what is needed (if they don’t know we have videos provided through Lynda to help them, or we are around to help people to address specific needs.

Not all teachers like this model, we are preparing something for the people who are beyond the core competencies and have already received their google, apple teacher or whatever. We are planning on doing a blogging group. We are focused on this as an empowered learning opportunity, we are co-learning, we all lead, we all follow, we all learn together. I’m really looking forward to this aspect for my own personal learning.

Finally (for now I guess) in the classroom my students are being constantly encouraged to take control of their own learning.  Today we did a simcity 2000 activity. I wanted to focus on two things. My explicit lesson was how do we build a city, my implicit lesson was how do we problem solve.  Students didn’t read how to play and were very bothered, they got frustrated, couldn’t build power plants and had a hard time working on any thing, their cities never were constructed.  I called them to the learning area and we discussed some of the problems we faced.  So then I asked, “So, what did you do to solve these problems?”.  They all asked me to solve their problems for them.  We brought up again what it meant to be a learner, and how we learn best.  Even using the internet for a game they couldn’t think of using it to solve their problems.  I explained to them how I worked through the same problems on my own.  It took some time, but so much of learning does.  In the end, my students have a better understanding of how to start solving problems, and next time our cities will hopefully be much more interesting.

By embracing the empowered learning standard we’ve had some great opportunities to authentically learn, and work with our students and colleagues.

Getting into habits

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 Some rights reserved by -Curly-

Coming off of PD last weekend, it was put on by our school, and honestly probably the best our school has put on. The main take away for me is that we always need to be practicing to get better for our kids.

But, I guess, practice can get boring. I’ve been doing iTime for a year or so now, before when I was a classroom teacher I did it every week. For me, I guess it’s more routine than practice now, so I don’t really see teaching life without it.  I was talking to a colleague about iTime being a good practice session for the Exhibition.  Students have a chance to practice being independent, setting their own assessment criteria, guiding their own learning, and following a passion. However my colleague was worried about time, more specifically how long and boring the “practice time” could be.

It’s great to see different perspectives, we had a good conversation and I think we both learned a lot. The plus side for me is that with that conversation and the PD, over half my grade six team is now keen to do iTime.

 

Designing cities

 

We’ve been working on what makes a city and how do people and nature impact a city’s design.

All of my students created some sort of presentation, because it was open to what they could use I got a lot of different types of submissions.  One of my students had the rubric embedded into his project so he could show exactly how he was addressing each aspect. One used Explain Everything to create a more interactive presentation, and Milind used a slide show based approach to illustrate his creation.

My learning from this is that I feel like I got better quality presentations because I didn’t tell them what to use, by giving them freedom I learned a lot more about my students’ preferred styles.

More than that the presentations were different which made it more exciting for me to see every presentation.  Which made me more engaged with their learning and more excited to provide multiple forms of feedback.

 

Writing outside

 

One of the exciting initiatives this year at school is the expectation to go outside everyday. We’ve been working together to think about what kinds of things we can do that doesn’t involve a whole lot of planning for teachers who aren’t comfortable to start getting outside.

My contribution was writing.  One of the things we can do anywhere is write, and so I’ve created a quick video about my students writing outside.  As you can see, some write along, some in groups, it’s just a way to get outside and start developing a sense of place (even if it’s not intentional).

What’s your watch?

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 Some rights reserved by Will Lion

After about two years, I’m finally a part of a blog sharing program (hooray right?).  Anyway, we can select from a number of different prompts and then we respond to how it’s going.  I chose What is your watch #teachermyth because I think like a lot of us, we have things that don’t work, but we keep around just in case they start to work at some point. The purpose of objects can change, and that can also change our workflow, so, I guess we all need to look a little closer into what’s actually being used effectively in our and our students’ learning.

For me, and I’m not sure how to say this as a digital literacy coach, I’m not sure blogging for students is hitting the same purpose as it was.  When it was new and exciting, lots of my classes had exchanges with different schools from all over. Now it seems more like just a reflection exercise. Blogging isn’t just boring (for students anyway) anymore, I think we have lost the point of transformative learning. On the SAMR model, it might just be augmentation, I guess the point of this is that we really have to get to what is it’s current purpose.

I also wonder about most technology being a watch. Are we still using it to redefine and transform education or are we looking for easy substitutes or to fill in time or to make our lives easier?

Regardless I guess, I was excited by the chance to reflect on what I’m doing in class. I think this article made me think of how and what I teach a little differently.

 

Implicit vs. Explicit teaching

 

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At the Apple Store last week

 

Often I think about what I am implicitly teaching my students. I wonder if I’m acting appropriately in front of them, if I am speaking about all people mindfully, if I’m always showing respect to the environment around me.  I believe that implicit actions outweigh the benefits of explicit teaching.

Last week I went to see Craig Smith speak about creative music making. I went because I was interested in making music, I learned a lot more about teaching than I thought I would have before setting out that night. While he did talk about skoog, music making, coding and giving everyone a choice I learned more about how to be honest in a class.

I’ve worked with a lot of learning support teachers, and many more regular classroom teachers.  Part of my thesis was on how people act based on their values (often they don’t seem to be aligned in the classroom or regarding curriculum).  I felt like I could tell a lot about what Craig believed just by how he interacted with his audience.

From all the presentations I’ve been too, I never had the sense that the person presenting actually respected and valued everyone, but Craig was different.  In all his mannerisms, his speaking and how he handled everything he just showed a ton of respect.  I came to learn about music making, but left thinking about so much more.

So, thanks Craig.

Flexible Seating so far.

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As a classroom, our idea of flexible seating is evolving.  The students are still (so it seems) a little bit unused to the idea of agency and are still waiting for teachers to control how things move.

So, we’ve suggest a couple of things, and our classroom has switched the tables around three or four times, but I’m hoping that they soon start taking ownership of why and how the tables move.