05 April 2016

Impact on learning: Language and engagement

One admirable feature of professional development at KIST is the annual Impact on Learning study. Teachers design a data driven experiment based on a pedagogical approach or strategy and then analyze the data to reflect on the efficacy of that aspect of their teaching.

To start, I formulated a question and answer dialogue:

On which group of students do I want to have the greatest impact?

All of them. Inclusive practices and thoughtfully designed learning experiences which emphasize student choice and voice should provide opportunities for all students to excel.

Which group of students are most difficult to reach with inclusive practices and learning experiences that emphasize student choice and voice?

Students who are reluctant to share their ideas in class or participate actively in learning engagements are the most difficult to reach. 

Why don't those students participate?

The reasons they don't participate are as diverse as the people themselves. However, if they don't participate now, they likely didn't before either. If not, then their opportunities for practice have been limited, possibly severely.

Often, students (and people in general) with little experience speaking in a group feel shamed by their lack of fluency. Lack of confidence leads them to withdraw more, causing them to practice even less.

I have been tempted in the past to 'call out' reluctant students, but Alfie Kohn's article, 'Your Hand’s Not Raised? Too Bad: I’m Calling on You Anyway, provides needed perspective into this issue. When done improperly or insensitively, calling on these students might do more harm than good.

Being fairly introverted myself, I sympathize with many people's preference to remain in the shadows of a crowd, but nine year old introverts, preferences aside, need to practice public speaking in a safe environment.
Articles like Chapter 1. Why Talk Is Important in Classrooms from Content-Area Conversations by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey and Carol Rothenberg, and Talking to Learn by Elizabeth City reinforce the position that Listening and Speaking form the foundation of Reading and Writing.

What I needed was a strategy to encourage the students to grow as courageous Communicators by sharing their ideas with the whole class.

15 March 2016

'Level up' transdisciplinary skills

In the IB Primary years program, 'Transdisciplinary skills' play a critical role in planning, teaching, and assessing student learning. However, they are not often explicitly taught and when they are, it is usually in an isolated manner. For example, one might teach a mini lesson about 'gather data' as part of a unit of inquiry.

To reinforce the transdisciplinary nature of the skills and provide more opportunities for students to reflect and discuss them together, I designed a slightly gamified system.

Each skill is posted on the wall with an eight by one square grid underneath.

07 March 2016

'I forgot my pencil.'

A child in my class forgot their pencil. I was informed of this only because of the nature of the solution to the problem: Fashion a makeshift fountain pen out of a disposable chopstick, tissue paper, and marker ink.


A written math assessment was perfectly legibly completed with this implement.

I'm sure many teachers would have simply demanded that it be cleaned up and provide the child with a pencil. It's clearly a giant mess hanging from a wobbly precipice and not a remarkably responsible way to accept one's mistake.

However, my respect for creativity, ingenuity, and other Maker values endowed me with the patience to request clean up after the quiz was finished. I think that the leeway the student was allowed not only helped them to feel empowered, but also encouraged voluntary cooperation with more orthodox classroom procedures.

01 March 2016

International artifacts

In anticipation of World Cultures Day at KIST, Grade 4 students were assigned the task of selecting a cultural artifact in their home, taking a photo with it, and completing a short reflection about its significance.


Many chose items from their home countries, although a few shared souvenirs from places they had visited.

We displayed their photos and reflections with a flag from the artifact's country of origin in the corridor to highlight the international character of our school.

18 February 2016

Teaching with Moodle MOOC

After an aborted attempt in September, I recently completed the Teaching with Moodle MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), also known as Learn Moodle MOOC.

Since Moodle is the learning management system employed at KIST, the course was directly applicable to my work. I also made the effort of inviting colleagues to join in hopes of recruiting a cohort that might be able to learn together. Two people joined an we enjoyed sharing our learning and insights into how the course content could be directly applied in our own contexts.

Naturally, the course itself was delivered via Moodle, and they even have a handy mobile app. It provides a well designed examplar with high quality demonstration videos and useful links everywhere.

The content itself was the Moodle training I never received. Organized logically from general to specific, yet also conceptually from delivery to interaction, it is an ideal way to become familiar and proficient with Moodle.

I would recommend the Teaching with Moodle MOOC to anyone curious about the platform, and particularly to my colleagues who would discover rich possibilities for connected learning in their classes.

02 February 2016

Student survey analysis

At KIST, we conduct an annual student survey to assess classroom climate. Students complete the survey electronically and anonymously by evaluating statements about me and the class as 'usually', 'sometimes', or 'no'. The resulting data is later shared with teachers. It's an informative method of receiving feedback which can be used to refine approaches teaching.

Positives

Overall, my survey results were very positive. To statements which I would consider critical, like 'My teacher cares about me.' and 'My teacher shows respect to all students.'

   
One question which I find very useful for evaluating my differentiation strategies is 'I am able to do the work given to me.'

19 January 2016

OneNote Class Notebook

Since the beginning of the school year at KIST, I have used OneNote Class Notebook, an 'add-in' for MS Office, to document and organize evidence of learning in the classroom.

The experience started with creating the layout of the shared and student sections. Having never used the tool before, I did my best to predict what design would serve our needs.

Months later, in reflection, I can see that my choices were acceptable but nowhere near ideal. Anyone else planning to use Class Notebook should be advised to consider the sections they will use carefully, especially according to class routines and assessment practices.

Although I was dismayed to receive an error message initially, the class creation tool worked perfectly and it is easy to add new students later. It creates a class notebook which includes a 'Content library', which the teacher can edit and students can view, 'Collaboration space', which everyone can edit, and individual sections for each students. All of the sections have customizable features, so a thoughtful and well designed structure goes a long way toward capability and usability.

Have smartphone, will document

A smart device is essential to making best use of OneNote. Being able to shoot photographs of students and their work directly into their notebooks is an invaluable time saver. On the SAMR scale, I would rank it a strong 'A' for augmentation.



However, if every student had a smart device, if only for the purpose of maintaining a digital portfolio, OneNote would enable significant modification of the processes of documentation and student ownership of learning. Taken further, the empowerment of having equitable access to teacher and student created learning materials could be truly transformational.

As we use it now, I am able to upload in real time via my smartphone and students access their notebooks in PC Lab or when possible in class.

I am very excited to take the lessons I've learned in the past months to design a rich digital learning environment next year using OneNote Class Notebook.

16 December 2015

Reflection on practice: Provoking inquiry into energy

One of my greatest frustrations as an inquiry teacher is the lack of opportunities to observe other inquiry teachers. The incredible amount of preparation results in having a limited amount of free time.

When I noticed the Grade Five team at KIST next door preparing centers including light bulbs, various balls, balloons, thermometers, and more, and during my preparation period, I couldn't miss the chance to observe and document.

14 December 2015

Integrating public speaking, peer assessment, and data handling

As a formative assessment task within a unit focused on advertising, my class recently completed a learning engagement which integrated persuasive writing, public speaking, peer assessment, and data gathering, organization, and analysis.

Public speaking

The first step was for students to apply what they had learned around the central idea, 'People create and manipulate messages to target and persuade specific audiences.', by presenting their own persuasive speeches.

One of the most powerful tools we explored were TED talks about children.

We followed a typical writing process which featured prominently rehearsal and peer feedback.

Peer assessment

By emphasizing peer evaluation, there were many opportunities for me to model sensitive and effective critique as well as coach individual students and groups to develop as assessors.

When the day of the presentations drew near, students contributed their ideas about features of a persuasive speech which I synthesized into our Persuasive speech peer assessment rubric



Every student in the class used the rubric to evaluate every other student's speech.

Data handling

This provided an authentic data handling exercise as students used a Persuasive speech peer assessment data organizer to gain deeper insights into their peer feedback.


I believe that the authenticity and social elements designed into the activity led to every student being extremely motivated to learn the concept and application of average.

Reflection

A further step that I considered including but decided against would be to teach the students how to use Excel or other spreadsheet software to organize and analyze their data. However, it didn't seem appropriate at the time and I would prefer that the students experience this process in the old fashioned analog manner before introducing digital tools. 

19 October 2015

Making the arts make a difference

In lieu of a faculty meeting today, my Principal has blessed us with a learning opportunity to read and reflect on The Arts Make A Difference by Nick Rabkin and Robin Redmond.

Being significantly behind on my professional blogging, this is also an ideal opportunity to reestablish that invaluable habit.

One observation that I have made about my students is that, like the students in Nick Jaffe's music engineering classes, '“They have a shocking ability to work effectively and listen well amid the cacophony in this open room,”'. Perhaps one consideration we should have is that deep learning is messy and noisy. If we insist on neat, orderly, quiet classrooms, we will have neat, orderly, quiet learning.

I want learning to be loud.

24 September 2015

Negotiating rubrics

In our first unit of the school year in Grade 4B at KIST, the Summative Assessment Task was to prepare a proposal for an exploratory expedition.

One of my favorite informal formative assessments is to empower students to collaborate to create the success criteria for each of the rubric categories. I simply distribute blank rubrics and provide time for them to discuss and fill in the charts to continue a practice that I introduced in the post Student-created rubrics and have found to be effective in many ways.


As they deliberate, I circulate throughout the room listening for opportunities to clarify or guide discussions to higher orders of thinking. By nature, this activity practices Evaluation, but students' discussions do not always reach that goal without help.

By engaging with the language of the unit, especially the Key Concepts, the students complete a formative self assessment of their understanding, even if they are not fully aware of what they are doing.

Finally, on a version projected at the front of the room, we negotiate and build the final draft using the work students have already completed in their groups.

An added bonus is that my evaluations according to the rubric are, and more importantly are perceived to be exceptionally fair. Because they are intimately familiar with the language in the rubric, my feedback is understandable and meaningful.

10 September 2015

Designing a new classroom

Upon arriving for the first day of a new job, I sat by myself, for the first time in my new classroom, Grade 4B, in my new school, K International School Tokyo.

In anticipation of that moment, I applied attention to classroom environment as a crucial element of Learning Experience Design. Several interesting articles have been published recently on this topic, including Classroom design can boost primary pupils' progress by 16% and The Perfect Classroom, According to Science.

While following CISC 2015 - the most inspiring symposium I didn't attend, I was inspired by a classroom layout concept shared by Brian Curwick.

It closely resembled my own thinking about the importance of collaborative teams in learning. I augmented this idea with the need for a balance between private, collaborative, and presentation spaces.


Empowering pedagogy


Last April, I was pleasantly surprised by this tweet announcing a twitter chat on the topic of environment in empowering pedagogy:
The document shared in the tweet, 'The Environment' (Chapter 8 of Empowering Pedagogy For Early Childhood Education), and Making Your Environment 'The Third Teacher', another article shared within it, have both been enlightening as during my deliberations.

The graphic below from 'The Environment' is an ideal reference in this process.




Also included was a quote which resonated strongly with me:

'The path of learning and development is more like a butterfly than that of a bullet.' Jim Greenman

Learning shouldn't have a trajectory, but rather a heading.



15 July 2015

CLMOOC Unmake: Unintroducing inquiry learning


I'm delighted to see educators around the world embracing the term 'inquiry'. The word itself is so nebulous that it defies definition. One could assume it means simply 'asking a question', but it also means 'collecting and organizing information'. Broadened further in my preferred nomenclature, 'inquiry learning' perplexes even further.

Are we learning through inquiry? Are we learning about inquiry? Are we inquiring into learning? Is it just a typo?

It's an ideal topic for Making Learning Connected. As Michael Weller writes in his post, CLMOOC 2015: Make An Inquiry, Make Cycle 1 for the Make an Inquiry strand this summer, ''I think that inquiry, like the term research, can be intimidating – but I don’t think it needs to be!'.

As connected educators take to the information superhighway to explore and interpret the meaning of 'inquiry learning', our evaluations and reflections belie insecurity.

If a term exists that can be known, then we should be able to know it.

After all, we are educated.

Right?

There must be an answer to the question: What is inquiry learning?

22 June 2015

Wonderful example of action: Band promotion

Returning from a staff meeting which included discussion of our upcoming Year End Show, I found this charming handmade envelope on my desk.


Who is 'lucky 5'? My first guess was that it was a group of second graders who had invited me to listen to their band in the Performing Arts studio. I enjoyed their music and suggested that they might perform a number on stage at the show. As the school's Performing Arts Coordinator and producer of shows, it would be easy for me to find a place for them in the program. All they needed was a name...


I'm looking!

Introducing myself | CLMOOC 2015 Summer Unschool

Having stowed away on the first Making Learning Connected voyage in 2013 but remaining ashore last summer, I'm excited to set sail again this year onto the open seas of connected maker learning.

This year, CLMOOC will be a part of a personal/professional project: Summer school for my three year old son! In her post, Learning to learn., my wife recently reflected on our decision to keep him home from school in the next school year due to an array of extenuating circumstances.


A photo posted by Bart Miller (@botofotos) on


I think my son will learn more by continuing to explore his curiosities and helping to take care of his new baby brother. July is going to be a research project for me to document his formal learning along this wandering informal path. He is already well versed in playing and being generally silly.


A photo posted by Bart Miller (@botofotos) on


He has loved to draw since he could hold an extra thick crayon and now fills notepads of recycled paper at a staggering rate.


A photo posted by Bart Miller (@botofotos) on

Luckily, pads of paper are cheap.

Last, but the opposite of least, he is a maker. He loves to mess around with legos, blocks, cardboard, tape, household objects, and anything else that he can pretend is something else. In a word, everything.

Here is one of his 'makes' from this past Father's Day:


A photo posted by Bart Miller (@botofotos) on

Sometimes, he invites collaboration:




My challenge is to channel some of his fun, creative energy toward various 'formal' learning activities. My method is to:

1 Authentically channel his informal learning toward formal content.

2 Document the formal learning in his informal learning adventures.


In many cases, this is already happening naturally.

Since I will be on vacation throughout July, I intend to schedule a number of field expeditions. I also intend to not schedule some, and simply let his inspiration spill out onto the street and see where the current carries us.

If you've learned with me in CLMOOC or read my blog before, you know that I love Google forms for documentation. I'm currently designing a form to use this summer. I expect that it will have traditional categories, perhaps Language, Mathematics, STE(A)M, Physical, and Social Emotional. These could be coupled to reflections based on Connected Learning principles or the Learning Dimensions in the chart below from Tinkering Is Serious Play by Bronwyn Bevan, Mike Petrich, and Karen Wilkinson.



My summer vacation will not begin until the middle of next week, so I have a bit more time to plan and prepare before our CLMOOC 2015 Summer Unschool begins. Suggestions are certainly welcome!