Monthly Archives: November 2012

Mindshift

I found this website the other day called Mindshift that talks about the latest trends in education and how we learn….and I thought the word was fitting to describe my own experiences at the moment as well as my observations about the world around me.

Photo by Elizabeth Albert/flickr

Education seems to be changing drastically…I look back on my state of mind just a few years ago and realize that I have gone through a mindshift of my own, particularly this year.  I used to be great at finding good lesson plans, ideas and resources.  I came up with ideas that I loved and we did fun activities…and the students learned things.  I haven’t done a complete turn-around, but there has definitely been a shift….I find myself looking more and more at the reasons behind things and thinking theory and big ideas more than fun activities.  I haven’t thought about theory for years…it was one of those things you talked about in grad school but then somehow left behind when you actually started the teaching.  You left that for the administration and you just did the curriculum and content you were told in as fun a way as you could.  Now I end up talking theory all of the time and I haven’t been on my favourite lesson plan sites for ages.  I come up with some ideas, but I’m not always sure where they are going to go when they start.  My students still learn things.  But they have to be able to talk about what they learned, reflect on how they learned it and make their thinking more visible…an answer is not enough anymore.

The other day I tweeted a few links about Innovation Day (something I am looking forward to trying out at some point) and I got a few new people following me who were businessmen.  At first I couldn’t figure out why in the world they would want to follow a primary school teacher until I remembered about my earlier tweet and saw that they were passionate about innovation.  At first I thought, “They are business people who have nothing to do education, so I doubt they have anything interesting to follow.”  But I thought I would double check in case I was wrong and I clicked on a link from one of their tweets.  After all, Genius Hour (which I love so much and have previously posted on) stemmed from Daniel Pink’s thoughts about business and we see similar concepts in Google’s 20% and the like…you never know.  For the next hour I got sucked into a bunch of articles about business that were actually fascinating.  The reason?  They were all about the shift in thinking and working…how the information and technology age has changed the way we work in the world, how collaboration and innovation are becoming so important because we no longer are told what to do and do the same job for 30 years.  All of these ideas connected with the same ideas and concepts we are discovering and applying in the classroom.  One of my colleagues was presenting a PD yesterday and pulled out a business magazine where she found a graph about what top businessmen value the most in employees…the top of the list?  Collaboration.  Also high up…innovative.  Sound familiar?    All of a sudden I began to realize that it’s not just an education thing…the world has gone through a mindshift.  The reason?  Technology and the information age has changed the way we live, learn and work and this is most likely not just a ‘trend’ that will swing back to another more traditional side in a few years, but a different way of doing life.

I began to realise the value in connecting not only with other teachers in the education world, but also expanding my connections and collaboration to learn and share with those in other fields as we go through similar mindshifts.

Categories: Education, Thinking | 3 Comments

Thoughts on Taking Action…

Do you ever have those days when you have an idea that you want to try that you’re not too sure about but you decide to go for it anyways and then it works out brilliantly?  Last week I did not have one of those days.  I meant well.  I’ve been thinking about how to teach my class about taking action – what it means, what it can look like, why people do it, etc.  I didn’t want to just tell them what actions they should take and not have their thinking/feelings behind it. That’s not authentic action.  I wanted them to be able to recognize things that they feel passionate about and the potential actions that they could take…to open up the possibilities.  And really, I wanted them to begin to change the world.

First mistake?  Expecting deep thinking to happen on a Monday afternoon.  Timing is everything…when I saw the restlessness abounding everywhere I should have taken a rain check, but I decided to plow ahead.

Second mistake?  I tried to combine two big ideas instead of just one.  I should have focused on either what action is and how it can look different or what motivates people to take action…not both.

After talking about what ways action might be like an iceberg (a few interesting ideas thrown out) I decided to get them straight into doing something as the restlessness grew by exploring websites that showed kids taking action and asking them to think about what they were doing, why they thought they took the action and how.  Too many things.  My tired restless nine year olds managed to misunderstand what the action was that different people were taking (they thought a group was collecting mobile phones to give to the poor because they didn’t have one, not to recycle and keep out of landfills) and weren’t that into it.

Perhaps a third mistake was trying to start with the big idea and then come back to them in their lives, rather than starting with them to begin with.  I don’t know.

But it did make me think about this idea of taking action and how hard it is to really get through what taking action is, why it is important and to inspire people to do it.  Even with adults.  I thought about how we want our students to feel this great motivation to change the world.  Yes, children can change the world….but should we expect them to?  (are we expecting more from them than from ourselves?)

And it made me wonder, why do some people see a problem and feel inspired to do something about it while others see that same problem and ignore it?  Why do some 12 year old children save all of their money and get people to donate to create a well in Africa, why do some 9 year old children take a stand against bullying and so on?  What makes people take action?  I hunted around a bit to see what other people thought – I agreed with many of their thoughts that a lot of it has to do with whether you feel like you CAN make a difference or not.  Whether you see your contribution as meaningful.  I didn’t start taking any actions and get involved in social justice until I realized that I could actually make a difference and that it was a valuable one…even if only to one person.  And I thought…I can work with that.  We can look at how little things in our world make a difference…the things we are already doing.  And so our class has started a discussion and board about what we are doing.  They were a bit more inspired about that…and we have all sorts of little actions up (I’ll add a pic later on).  Our board either needs to get bigger or we need to build more layers.  It has helped me to see what they think action is and they have managed stretched my own understanding of action a bit with their thoughts.  And we will continue to look around us for actions people in our own little world are taking – their home learning assignment?  To ask someone about a time they have taken action (however small or big) – what did they do and why?  I hope as we continue to recognize their current actions and the ones of those closest to them, that they begin to build that feeling that they CAN make a difference if they choose to.

I used to think that I needed to get my students to care and take action.  

Now I’m beginning to think that perhaps I just need to get them to realize and think about what actions they are already taking and the value and difference that they are already making.

Good Reading:

Children Taking Action in Global Inquiries by Kathy Short

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Passion = Creativity, Confidence and Enthusiasm in Learning

So we experimented with Genius Hour over these last few weeks…my question being, “If given the choice of learning about anything, would the students have a valuable learning experience?  Would it be worthwhile?”

My thoughts – I usually dread student presentations…I know I probably shouldn’t say that as a teacher, but after 15 students go up and read something in a monotone voice with no eye contact, I’m often bored and so is the class.  I didn’t have to worry about managing a classroom of bored children during our Genius Hour presentations this time.  The difference?  The students weren’t reading, they were just talking to us…with eye contact…in a clear voice…they were confident and passionate.  Well, almost all of them.  And they presented creatively.  One girl handed out scarves and taught us a singing warm-up and then a song, another boy did a quiz, another showed a video interview, another demonstrated a hair style and yet another had us laughing about one of his favourite authors.  My summary:  They were excited and motivated.  They learned and loved learning.  They were confident, enthusiastic and creative.

Their thoughts 

I’m getting better at not just answering all of my own questions because I’m discovering that it’s not as beneficial to just have one perspective.  So I asked for feedback.  My students have come to know this word well over the last few weeks as I have a few experiments running and they know it’s part of their job…that it makes a difference in what we do in the future.  They kept talking about what they would do for the next Genius Hour and I kept having to remind them that they had to give me feedback before we decided if it was something valuable to keep around.  Before I asked for feedback, I was chatting with one of our PYP coordinators about it and she suggested bringing in the learner profile, attitudes and possible even the TD themes into the feedback/thinking.  Being new to the PYP, I often forget to incorporate these things in (it isn’t totally natural yet…) and I thought this was a great idea.  In the end I would definitely like to do that more often because I saw that when they had to apply the LP, attitudes and TD themes there were some misunderstandings and opportunities for them to think about and understand these core things in more depth.

Our Feedback Questions (I’ll upload the nice sheet later)

Was this a good learning experience for you?  What did you learn that you think will stick with you?

Did you learn anything from anyone else (through their presentation or while working) that will stick with you?

What learner profile traits did you need during this Genius Hour?  How and in what way?

What attitudes did you show during this Genius Hour?  How and in what way?

Out of all of the TD themes (I listed them), which one do you think your Genius Hour fits best into?  Why?

A Few Glimpses into the Student Responses…

I REALLY liked Genius Hour.  I obviously learned about bugs because that is what I did it on. I also learned other peoples facts, like I never knew that coffee came from a kind of berry (I think that fact will stick with me).  I think I was open-minded because I was going to do a Powerpoint but then I had the idea to write a poem about it as well.  I think I showed curiosity during Genius Hour because no matter how much information I got I wanted more!  Tess

I learned how to do animation on a slideshow and what asteroids and comets are.  I had to think about which resources to use.  I used creativity in presenting because I had to decide what to do.  My Genius Hour fits in How the World Works because the world connects with the solar system.   Phoenix

I learned all of the basic AFL history from just two websites.  Now I want to improve on learning information from more resources.  I learned a lot about the coffee cycle from Jesse.  I thought Jake’s presentation was amazing because it captured everyone’s attention.  Matt

I learned that your body can only digest a little at a time.  I learned from Romy that you can wake up your voice by singing high or low.  I think I was a communicator because when people asked me a question I had to try to answer it.    Ruby

I have learned breathing exercises and how to look after my voice.  I learned to be more confident when speaking and singing in front of an audience.  I was a thinker because I was always thinking how I should present my Genius Hour.  I was being independent because I was working on my own.  This fits in How We Express Ourselves because when I sing I sing what I am feeling or just the way I sing is expressing myself.  Romy

I learned how the coffee cycle goes and how to roast coffee from a cherry.  I learned that you can present in a creative way.  I was a communicator when I interviewed my dad and showed creativity with my coffee bean border around my poster.   Jesse

I was a thinker because I thought about how I would set out my presentation.  I communicated well to the class.  I was knowledgeable when I listened to what other people said during their presentations.  I had confidence because I believed I could do it!

Would they want to do it again?  100% said yes.

Pretty good thoughts coming from a group of 9 year olds….I am looking forward to what they will come up with next.  One of my team teachers and I are discussing how we can tweak it to teach certain skills (such as collaboration, etc) and different ways of sharing the learning (perhaps through our blog/in smaller groups/etc)…lots of possibilities!

Categories: Thinking | 2 Comments

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