15 October 2014

Inquiry with Evernote vol 3 | Introducing the Inquiry Learning Resources Project

In the summer of 2013, I started using Evernote to collect and curate resources for planning and pursuing inquiry learning, as I blogged in the posts, Inquiry with Evernote vol 1 and Inquiry with Evernote vol 2 . Since then, my collection of notes has expanded. More importantly, the channels from which I collect these images, videos, and articles have become much more diverse and poignant. Most importantly, I am slowly refining my tagging strategies to make the collection more conceptually connected and social and environmental action oriented.

Now, I would like to introduce the Inquiry Learning Resources Project. The effort to build a digital notebook of inquiry provoking notes continues, but I have expanded the project to social media.

Evernote

The project's primary home is the public notebook, Inquiry Learning Resources. Feel free to join, search, and utilize it for your classroom or personal inquiries.

Tumblr

This project was inspired by a desire to organize the fascinating content I discovered on Tumblr. Resources are shared on the Inquiry Learning Resources blog and using the tag #inquirylearning. That blog accepts submissions, so if you're on Tumblr, feel free to contribute.

Twitter

I set up the account @provokinquiry to share resources on Twitter, and also using the #inquirylearning tag. Hopefully it will also be a great way to raise awareness for the project.

Pinterest

The public board Inquiry Learning Resources on Pinterest is also a great place to share. Please ask to join to submit pins.

Facebook

Resources are also shared on an Inquiry Learning Resources Page on Facebook.

The future

My immediate goal is to get in the habit of updating regularly, although completing projects is always a challenge due to the crunch of the school year before January. Hopefully, more inquiry educators will want to collaborate to help expand the project further!

25 September 2014

LX Design

Two intersecting areas of study which have captivated my interest this year, Design Thinking and Project Management, have significant promise as I consider how to apply new principles to planning a year of learning in my Grade 5/6 classroom.

The two disciplines are strongly intertwined and have profound implications when applied to designing learning experiences. This post seeks to define LX Design as an approach to classroom planning and as a framework for ongoing iteration and reflection.



Design Thinking


Completing the Macromedia University Design Thinking MOOC introduced me to the discipline of User Experience Design, or UX Design. When thinking in terms of user experience, a designer considers all human elements and possibilities related to a product or service, not only the material and economic.

For example, when designing a machine to make coffee, one must consider not only the cost and suitability of the materials used, but also the likely moods of users, often early in the morning, while using the coffee machine.

A common theme in Design Thinking is to understand people's emotional, social, psychological, and spiritual needs when designing products, services, and experiences. In the case of education, we design learning experiences, hence the term 'LX Design'.


Meanings of use


Klaus Krippendorff's lecture, The Key Concepts of The Semantic Turn, and in particular his explanations of 'meanings of use', challenged and transformed my thinking about learning. I recreated the graphic below to represent what I consider an essential model for educators. It is the foundation for my approach to LX Design.

17 June 2014

Twitter misadventures and stumbling into connected learning

Twitter

Like most connected educators, my first 'virtual mentors' came via Twitter. While I have had a Twitter account (@BarMill) dating back to 2009, I didn't really make any new connections there. Mostly I followed my friends and a few celebrities. However, I did find time to share some insights from my classroom. Please enjoy these highlights:


It wasn't until I attended an International Baccaularreate Organization Primary Years Program workshop in 2012 and facilitator Craig Eldred introduced me to #PYPchat that I discovered the potential of Twitter for professional networking and relationship building.

Some of my 'Most Valuable Tweachers' are Joy Kirr, Melvina Kurashige, Steve Collis, and Sherri Edwards. They are generous sharers and active connectors and I highly recommend following them!

Although I don't particularly care for Twitter chats (I prefer asynchronous online collaboration and cooperation), understanding how communities organize around hashtags on Twitter and other networks has been very valuable.

Twitter is a gateway network. Once a user begins to discover and navigate the possibilities, they will uncover opportunities for learning around the world, across diverse networks and communities.

I would encourage you to explore my favorite networked learning community, Connected Learning.

Connected Learning

The first MOOC I lurked in was MIT Media Lab Learning Creative Learning in 2013. Through that experience I was introduced to Connected Learning and DML Research Hub. I don't remember exactly how I was introduced to the Making Learning Connected MOOC, but I signed up and jumped in.


The encouragement and enthusiasm of Terry Elliot and Kevin Hodgson are most responsible for hijacking me into the Making Learning Connected MOOC and Connected Learning community. Please read the post, My Connected Learning Credo, for details on how I was absconded into a life of convivial collaboration.

This community and the networks into which it is woven have been inspirational. To me, it's a perfect example of connectivist learning because the community is the mentor and we all participate to increase its wisdom.

It's also never too late to join Making Learning Connected (#clmooc on Twitter), which kicked off* this week!


*World Cup pun absolutely intended.

09 June 2014

Asking for help

I've had bad luck with mentors, at least when I needed them most. In my first two years of teaching in a startup charter school in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles, my teaching mentors quit and left the school. At least I'm pretty sure they didn't leave because of me.

On top of that, I'm not very good at asking for help. Being introverted and stubborn, I tend to want to do things in my own way and bulldoze my way through challenges.

Luckily, I shared a lunch period with Karen Kazanci, an outgoing teacher of similar age and a bit more classroom experience, who was generous to share ideas, provide feedback, and offer reassurance. She is now the proprietor of Leaping Lotus Yoga, which provides yoga classes designed for young children.

She taught me that the most important act of mentoring is listening. When I struggled, she listened to my lamenting patiently and always responded with positivity. When I celebrated, she celebrated with me. When she offered advice, it was usually to capitalize on what she saw as my strengths.

She also seemed to know exactly when not to talk about the classroom and work.

The two of us were the only founding teachers to stay as long as we did in what was at times a challenging and intense environment. We contributed to what would become a healthy and supportive learning community in spite of significant obstacles. I suspect that our chats over lunch had a lot to do with it.

03 June 2014

Service learning in elementary school

The New York Times Magazine cover story, Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?, explores the work of Adam Grant, whose 'studies have been highlighted in bestselling books such as Quiet by Susan Cain, Drive and To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink, Thrive by Arianna Huffington, and David and Goliath by Gladwell'.

In that article, the case is convincingly made that altruism is not only beneficial to the beneficiary, but also to the benefactor.



A little kindness goes a long way by Ed Yourdon CC BY NC SA 

This apparent contradiction is supported by research findings not only in neuroscience, as in the article, Altruism, egoism: Brain exercises cognitive analysis, but also by commonly accepted wisdom contained in the world's ancient and respected religious and spiritual disciplines as explored in Carolyn Gregoire's post, What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About Compassion.


Mindfulness and empathy help to make connections in the brain which manifest as action.


Caring for others makes us smarter.

So why isn't service learning an essential characteristic of every school? Why isn't it designed into the curriculum and culture of schools?

30 May 2014

Inquiry or research?


In the past several years, I have adopted an inquiry based approach to teaching. In connecting and conversing with colleagues, I have observed that there is as much disagreement about what inquiry based learning and teaching is as there are approaches to inquiry itself.

From my perspective, there is one driving question that can summarize inquiry based education as a whole:

How can we all become better inquirers?

If this is the basis for discourse and conversation, then the possibilities for learning are endless.

The tweet below sparked my interest to inquire into the difference between inquiry and research:


Technology to redefine learning

There are two possible units of inquiry that I will be leading in the Autumn of 2014 as potential candidates for redefinition through technology:

Rights & Responsibilities - inquiry into how human rights are granted, viewed, and protected

What's your story? - inquiry into personal histories and the role of primary sources in historical understanding

In any case, my goal is to embed technology to maximize student agency. There are also Web 2.0 tools that need to be introduced and practiced throughout the school year so that students will be prepared to use them for their end of year Exhibition. Which one of these units is most suitable to be redesigned around a Web 2.0 tool in a way that redefines the learning of the unit?

One way to address this question, or determine if it is even a good question, is to consider tasks. In order to assess whether students have mastered using a new tool, they must be able to use it to complete a task.

23 May 2014

Exhibition: PBL To The Max!

Exhibition

This year, my sixth grade class prepared and presented our school's first Exhibition. As an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program candidate school, it was an opportunity for me to research project-based learning, put into practice the guidelines established by the IB, and for our students to experience a culminating project to conclude their elementary school lives.


DLMOOC

The timing of the Deeper Learning MOOC, a massive open online course dedicated in large part to Project Based Learning, could not have been better. A host of organizations were introduced and resources shared and discussed, as well as models and frameworks that I could use to inform and enrich my role as a facilitator and coach.

During the Week 9 Participants Panel, moderator Rob Riordan remarked to me, 'If you want to get engaged in deeper learning, a good way to start is to schedule an exhibition.'


His words reminded me of a quote by the prolific composer Duke Ellington: 'I don't need time. What I need is a deadline.'


22 May 2014

The future of learning

This week, I am excited to continue my connected learning inquiry as a participant in a new course, Teacher Practice in a Connected World, taught by Meenoo Rami, author of Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching.

I feel very grateful to be enrolled in the course on a scholarship from The Rendell Center for Citizenship and Civics.

Ooooh?

Our first task is to write a statement of goals. It's a perfect opportunity to reflect on my connected learning and teaching journey which began about one year ago and summarize my hopes and goals for the future.

16 May 2014

SAMR v Smart-Board

In October, the dry-erase whiteboard in my classroom was replaced with a Promethean ActivBoard. The children at school aptly described it as a 'giant iPad' as they explored the functions of dragging and dropping with their fingers and writing with the provided styluses.

It was a much anticipated change, and now that I've had opportunities to integrate it into my approaches to teaching, this is an ideal opportunity to assess how I've utilized it according to the SAMR model of technology integration.


11 April 2014

Hanami 2014

Viewing the plum, almond, and cherry blossoms in Japan is a social, aesthetic, artistic, and philosophical activity. Hanami (花見) means 'flower viewing', and is a highly anticipated and enjoyed activity here.

Photographing the blossoms is a very serene way to enjoy the warming weather.

31 March 2014

Transgender Day of Visibility

March 31st is International Transgender Day of Visibility, and it's a perfect opportunity for everyone, particularly teachers, to learn about the impressive progress being made toward gender equity and equality, and individual empowerment.

Visibility is the most important step toward acceptance and empathy, so I encourage you to visit the Trans Student Equality Resources site (transstudent.org) and explore their outstanding resources, particularly the engaging infographics.

http://www.transstudent.org/2014

For more of my own reflection and classroom practices, please read my post, Empathy & Acceptance: Toward a gender-neutral classroom.

25 March 2014

Reflecting on Edcamp Tokyo

Beginning with an errant tweet and concluding with an impressive Demo Slam, helping to organize and then participating in Japan's first Edcamp, Edcamp Tokyo, was a truly remarkable experience.

http://instagram.com/p/litk67jSgu/


Incredible Team

Special appreciation belongs to Kim Cofino, Clint Hamada, and Yokohama International School for hosting us so well. Their attention to detail and world class facilities left nothing to be desired. The fluency of collaboration demonstrated by the entire organization team including Greg Feezell, Glenda Baker, Sarah Sutter, and Rab Paterson was simply astounding.

The result was an organization and planning process that was as enjoyable as it was effective.

Making Connections

The strongest connection I made at Edcamp was in the sharing of ideas between diverse learning communities. It was the first time I gained a sense for the approaches to learning and teaching being practiced at other schools and in a variety age ranges and developmental stages.

Discussing the Maker Movement with secondary educators was a revelation for me, as I gained insight into how my efforts at the elementary level can build the fundamental scientific, mathematical, collaborative, and innovative thinking skills that learners will expand and develop in the future.

Making Thinking Visible, a relatively new line of inquiry for me, turned out to be an in-depth discussion of the conceptual connections between learning in various disciplines and how explicitly taught and practiced 'thinking routines' can provide continuity between skills, topics, and ideas.

I was happy to share my experiences developing the Independent Inquiry project with a group of educators in the 20% Time in Education session. I hope that they will find the resources shared to be useful as they cultivate self-directed, interest-driven learning.

In the Creativity, Design, and Innovation session, there was a palpable desire for change. We all shared a passion for learning and hope for the future that was an inspirational way to end the day.

The notes from the sessions are all linked to the Collaborative Organization Document (aka the schedule), a resource which I hope can help to maintain the connections we have made.

Building Community

How Edcamp Tokyo helped to build a community of learners in Tokyo and across Japan remains to be seen. There haven't been any tweets using the #EdcampTokyo or #Edcamp東京 hashtags on Twitter for awhile, nor is there much activity on the Edcamp Tokyo Google+ Community.

In all likelihood, participants returned to their busy lives and classrooms with new perspectives and tools, but not necessarily time to reflect and share publicly. Given the intensity of engagement throughout the day, I'm confident that we are all applying our new understandings in creative and meaningful ways.

Personally, I feel that what we did was ultimately in the service of learning. Every idea shared was a generous gift and I'm happy to express sincere gratitude to all of the participants in Japan's first Edcamp.

12 March 2014

Visual Literacy Achievements Unlocked!

My final projects for the Visual Literacy COETAIL course are a slide presentation to inform my school community about our first PYP Exhibition and a video to inspire my Grade 6 students as they prepare their Exhibition, a self-directed and collaborative research and service action project.

Inform

As detailed in the post, Exhibition pre-Zen-tation, I struggled to transform my text-heavy, visually dry slides into a more engaging and thought provoking accompaniment to my speech.

The process was mostly subtractive. I deleted nearly all of the text and replaced it with carefully selected Creative Commons licensed images.

One of my most important lessons from this course has been the importance of audience. With that in mind, I shared the second draft of my slides and received very insightful comments, which led to the final version.

Introduction to the Exhibition



04 March 2014

Infographics in the classroom

Who doesn't love a good infographic?

I get my fix from Daily Infographic, but a quick Google search uncovers many more sources.

I'm often surprised how the layout, color palette, and design of a document draw me into a topic. To capitalize on this phenomenon in the classroom, I started building an infographics section on the wall.


The concept is so simple and fun. Just print infographics, laminate them, and affix them to the wall with magnetic tape. Students are welcome to browse during independent reading and inquiry periods. Having them mounted magnetically means they are portable. Occasionally, they become very excited about a particular graphic and share with each other.

Although it has been somewhat labor intensive to build a collection, the result is an engaging range that my sixth grade students find very inviting. Changing the selection always results in some kind of excitement, and learning with them builds visual media fluency and provokes inquiries in a novel way.

With such an emphasis on digital technology, it's important to remember that people learn in many different ways. Providing a variety of approaches to learning is always the best application of educational technology.

Why not start your own infographics wall?