Sharing Stories

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Talking to a colleague today about how to start the beginning of the year.  We’re thinking about the importance of sharing.

Working in grade six the kids are making a transition into high school. The students are a little nervous and want to know a little more about what’s coming. I’d like to be more honest and open with them about some of the transitions I’ve made, and what problems I’ve encountered and how I dealt with it, but I think more importantly I have to listen and actually acknowledge their fears and concerns.

By promoting the idea that it’s okay to feel certain things, and believe certain things I hope the students are better able to cope with emotional changes.


The importance of rest and reflection


I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the importance of resting for reflection (maybe because the holidays are coming up?). Also a couple of weeks ago when we did our presentation, one of the teachers talked about the importance of giving students time (for learning on their own, but now I’m also thinking for reflection).

I know personally that for me holidays need to be restful. I need to take time and sit on the couch so I can think and reflect about what’s been happening and how to improve. I need the time to actually create headspace and wonder about how to improve.  This can’t be something I do in school, or something forced, it needs to be time intensive.

I guess for me, I’ve been wondering if I know this to be true to me, and I suspect it to be true of most people, then when do our students get this.  When do they have a chance to authentically reflect (not just reflect for me, or for learning, or for something else). My new year’s goal is to make sure they have some time to think.

Learning groups


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At school we’ve been talking about the importance of creating our own learning experiences.  We’ve been wondering about how we can make ourselves better as professionals and some of us have put together a learning group.

I ask my students this pretty frequently, “Can learning ever happen in isolation?”. Is there anything we can learn that doesn’t build on anything. Can we come up with ideas on our own?

I think most quality learning experiences happen when people are having fun in groups. We learn more when we’re happy, we learn more when we can bounce our ideas off other people and correct our thinking in real time.

Our learning group is going to be focused on the individual. What do people want to get better at, how will they show that knowledge, how do we get to the next steps together.  I’m looking forward to this journey.

Is independence killing community?

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I led a PD yesterday on inquiry. When I’m working with a new group of people I usually start off by asking, do you know who this man is?


Usually the answer is no.  They figure he has something to do with track.  The answer is Glen Mills, Usain Bolt’s coach.  I start off this way because I want people to see you don’t have to be the best to teach the best. You have to be a good coach, you have to teach well, you have to want the best for someone else.

I ended off this particular PD with the idea “Do you want to be the best teacher or do you want to have the best learners?”

With teachers promoting themselves or their style (myself included) I wonder how that effects students? Like how does my being a Google Certified Educator benefit my students (other than having some useful skills, does that actual designation mean anything)? How does me collecting badges help my students? When I focus on myself, how does that effect the community?

If we believe that knowing is situationally constructed and socially constructed where is there value outside of a community?

I fully understand that people join these communities (Google Certified Educator, etc.) For reasons that might be different, they may want to join a passionate community to push the boundaries of what we can do. I’m just not convinced everyone joins for communal reasons.

When I relate this to my environmental thinking, it seems like very often we are selfish (surprise right) and that leads to environmental instability and change. Because we take what we want without thinking too much about how that effects the larger community (human or otherwise).

This week has been just focused on these thoughts. What do I implicitly and explicitly teach about independence and community and how can I focus on making my learners more community oriented. I think I’d rather work with someone for them to be the best rather than being the best myself.

What is making?

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Talking to people like @rangerridely  and @deir75 from the previous post (and over the years) we’ve wondered a lot about what making actually is, and how do we use these ideas in class.

As a digital literacy coach I’ve thought a lot about the idea of creation (and of course you need content to create) but the whole idea where students choose what they make.  Recently, especially during some of our more science based units, it seems like some teachers thing their students have to make something with “maker space parts”.  I’ve been trying to work this out for myself, but I think making something, regardless of the unit could be making anything.

A couple of years ago (or it seems like that anyway) I went to a workshop put on by The Nerdy Teacher. It was really interesting as he was an English teacher using the maker space idea.  He came from a place where he didn’t want twenty odd dioramas showing the same scene from a book. So he opened it up, and got submissions from street lamps to  boats.  He didn’t assess the product (or at least that’s what I remember him saying) he assessed the thinking behind the product and what that thing was important.

So I’ve been wondering if we take that point of view, how can we apply this to our new energy unit.  Do students really need to make something out of “maker space bits”? Could we make an art project about what we think this new energy world might look like? Could we make a movie about the perils of using non-renewable resources? Could we turn vegan and make ourselves new?

Any other ideas?

Creating as learning

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of personalised learning and how to set it up so different people learn differently.  If we can encourage curiosity and provide engaging contexts we can have students pursuing their own goals.

Our next unit is about how our changing understanding of energy effects living things.  I think this a pretty great unit for students to start exploring their own interests. We are asking them (for at least three times every week) to work on a problem they see connected to our central idea.  At first we had some issues if we needed to provide different problems for students to explore, however, after some talking to colleagues we agreed that we would let students pick their own problems.

We used forms to ask students what they thought a problem might be, we lumped the big ideas surrounding each problem together and a teacher will take a group with related problems together.  Students can decide to work in either groups or on their own to pursue this idea.

It starts on Monday, really looking forward to it.  Any ideas for things they might be able to create?





Tracking Learning


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This kind of comes from the last post about personalising learning. Some of the teachers and I have been using google forms for tracking student learning (specifically related to outcomes or standards), tracking anecdotal notes between classes, or just taking notes or images about how students are learning so we can adapt and work with them as best as possible.

The next step (for me I think anyway) is how can we put this in the hands of the learner.  How can we set goals with the students so they can track their learning and see their growth.  If we can make that growth visible and something to work towards, can we also start linking in other things?

I think I’m going to start with forms, have students set up a goal and then they can track it on something like Marzano’s four point rubric.original-858397-3

If they can use this to track their learning over time, they can look at specific learning goals and see how they’ve progressed and changed.

Any other thoughts?