Thankfully, there is much talk of change in education at the moment. Sir Ken Robinson’s provocation – nearly 10 years ago – has been simmering away and, in the last few years, genuine ideas have started to emerge. Sir Ken told us why education needs to change, but not how. Well. the how is happening…
But, a word of caution. When we are in the business of breaking moulds… we often create new moulds. When we are finding a new way of doing something, we may substitute it for something that is not that much better.
We need to use the SAMR model as a way of considering all of our pedagogy, all of our ideas and all of the systems in school. We need to make sure we’re not just substituting… and that we are aiming for a redefinition of the school experience. Anything less, really, and we’re not creating real change. Anything less than redefinition and we are just trying to improve things, to augment.
In the current climate of change, why should we aim any lower than redefinition?
Our Grade 2 students are currently learning about emotions and emotional intelligence. They went on a field trip to the cinema to see Inside Out and the movie has inspired some very interesting thinking.
Cathy, one of the G2 teachers, gave her students a blank piece of A3 paper and asked them to draw what’s inside their heads. She got back a combination of ideas from the movie and original ideas developed by the students. This kind of open task brings out creative ideas, misconceptions, interesting language and unique interpretations that can drive inquiry in ways that teachers would not be able to predict. All too often, teachers provide their students with closed tasks designed to elicit predetermined responses that the teacher determines to be right or wrong, good or bad. When they design ways that create space in the learning for the students’ genuine responses, things are very different!
When I saw the drawings, I immediately wondered what it would be like to photograph them, put them in one of our green screen studios and film the students inside their own heads taking us on a trip around what’s inside their heads! This extended the task into new territory as the students stretched their ability to explain their thinking and to coordinate both sides of their brain as they watched themselves live on the monitor!
So, next time you’re trying to think of a way to find out your students’ ideas, thoughts or feelings, don’t design a closed set of questions to which you can anticipate the answers. Instead, design something open that creates space for them to release information that you couldn’t predict – it’ll be much more interesting.
I recorded this bit of audio to try and remember my thoughts as I reflected on watching my kids play this weekend. I did start typing it up, but the more I listened to the recording, the more I realized it would just be better to upload it to Soundcloud and share it that way!!!
How do you create space for, and in, the learning?
A couple of years ago, I made a posting and video about the power of setting up classrooms to suit the nature of the learning going on at the time. The context, at that time, was visual art and each student was involved in their own visual art project. They were artists. Turning the classrooms into art studios was a natural step towards making them really feel like artists.
You can do this for any context.
In this clip, the Grade 5 classrooms at my school are becoming art studios and the students are creating their own workspaces and innovation boards. One student said “its organized… but its organized in our own way”.
These two are designing and building race tracks for model cars, like Hot Wheels. They feel there are not enough “non-sport” options for the kids in the school and that many of them will love racing cars on their tracks. They have been amazingly engaged by their project as they’ve been working on design and construction all year as part of their Passion Project.
I’m going to attempt use this blog to document all my planning, both before and as everything happens, as I work with my Year 6 students through the PYP exhibition process. I’m going to call this “Blanning”… because “Blagging” is just too honest!
Tomorrow, I’m going to use the Nature lens of the Compass. Through the Nature lens, students are asked to consider the implications of their issues from the natural perspective. So, for example, making links between local beggars and deforestion and loss of homes in Myanmar and Cambodia.
I was thinking of having quite an open-ended day, with students making choices of a number of ways to consider the links between issues and nature. But then I thought it might be good to have a series of finite activities that need to be done within a specific timeframe and then shared and reflected on before moving on to something very different. Perhaps:
- Students could use expressive materials like pastels and charcoal to create an impulsive abstract piece of artwork based on their thoughts about their issues in the green context. I will limit them to using only shades of green and one other significant colour. I got the idea from a session my Dad did for the teachers at the Green School Bali: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=199675&id=114095042424&ref=mf
- Creating quotes, locating quotes, sharing quotes: This would be the search for existing and student-created quotes that illustrate connections between their issue and nature. They will have a set amount of time to find and develop their quotes, and then the same amount of time again to think about how they will share it.
- Green Data: Up-to-date facts and figures that will back up student ideas, arguments and conclusions. Again, they will have a set amount of time to find and collate their data, and then the same amount of time again to think about how they will share it. Emphasis will be placed on producing infographics here, probably leaning heavily on using the SmartArt features of Microsoft Word, or paint.net for the more technologically advanced.
- I’d like to end the day with a lot of talking, walking and looking at what the kids have produced. I’ll try to provoke conversations and play devil’s advocate a bit. Then, I’ll get them to identify the “Key Connections” between their issue and the Nature lens of the Compass. They may blog those by comments on a posting. They may display them visually in the room, they may do both… we’ll see what happens tomorrow!
So, during all of this – hopefully – the Compass Guides will be dropping in whenever they have 5 or 10 minutes to spare and taking a look at what the kids are thinking, what directions they’re moving in and what ideas they have for them.
I've shamelessley created another wordle for this posting by copying pasting the words in the posting into wordle and hitting "randomize" several times. So simple, so good to look at. But... they can't be used all the time.
For a number of years I have been getting more and more concerned by the terrible quality of students’ presented work. Many times I have walked past posters created bystudents in Grade 8, 9 or 10 and seen products that look exactly like they do in Grade 2 and 3. Big bits of paper with pictures or text that have been printed out, cut out badly and then stuck on badly. Headings that have run out of space and had the last letter squeezed in at the end or even underneath! White-out. Spelling errors. Pixelated images. Text that has been copied and pasted. Irrelevant text. Horrible, nauseating colour schemes.
The same goes for Powerpoints. So many of them are poorly created. The images are selected without thought for visual communication. There is always way too much writing. Horrible clip-art is strewn about them like a plague. The students bore everyone stupid by reading every word. The colours ae a psychedelic nightmare of blends from red to fluoro-green!
Does any of this ring a bell, a loud and piercing bell?
The time has come to stop the rot. Who is with me?
One person is Will Kirkwood, IT teacher here at NIST. He’s running a series of lessons that he is calling his “Presentation Roadshow” in which he is opening our students’ eyes to presentation issues such as layout, colour choice, image selection, reducing text to a minimum and so on… He is also exposing them to new presentation tools and strategies like Prezi and In Plain English videos.
I’ve also been doing a lot of work with the students on poster design and the students have created some outstanding posters that really reflect that main points I hoped to get across. This website was an invaluable tool in the process. Getting students to think about themselves “as designers” has been really empowering and effective.