18 December 2013

PYP Exhibition Theme Synthesis

In the New Year, my sixth grade class will undertake our school's inaugural PYP Exhibition. Here's the description of the event from the International Baccalaureate Organization website:

"Students who are in their final year of the programme are expected to carry out an extended, collaborative inquiry project, known as the exhibition, under the guidance of their teachers.
The exhibition represents a significant event in the life of both the school and student, synthesizing the essential elements of the programme and sharing them with the whole school community. It is an opportunity for students to exhibit the attributes of the Learner profile that have been developing throughout their engagement with the programme. It is a culminating experience marking the transition from PYP to further steps in education.
Schools are given considerable flexibility in their choice of real-life issues or problems to be explored or investigated in the exhibition."
In the past years, I have visited several Exhibitions in Tokyo and explored the online presentations of dozens more. There are as many unique approaches as there are people participating! Designing an environment in which the exhibitioners will thrive is a grand and fascinating challenge and an ideal example of metateaching.

One aspect all examples I have viewed share in common is that they fall under one of the IB PYP Transdisciplinary Themes. However, in the Exhibition Guidelines, it states that one of the essential features should be to "synthesize aspects of all six transdisciplinary themes".

"synthesize aspects of all six transdisciplinary themes"

I thought of one way to attempt this by way of inspiration from refrigerator poetry magnets. I simply printed the key terms from the six transdisciplinary themes, laminated and cut them out, attached magnets and arrayed them on a corner of our whiteboard. My class and I had a brief discussion of the themes and the goal to draw items from them of interest to us and rearrange them to create our own theme description. From that, we can create a title for our theme which can serve as a title for our Exhibition.

They began by playing, which is exactly what I had hoped for. The point is to play with the words to begin to explore our ideas. As our ideas become more organized, so should the words. I am extremely excited to begin our Exhibition inquiries, and have been planning activities all year as practice and preparation. I view it as an archetypal Independent Inquiry, and the first formal test of many of the principles of inquiry we have been exploring.

15 December 2013

Mapping My Internet

When George Siemens asks, "How do you manage your information?", and Jeff Delp is writing about being "All-In" With Evernote, it's clear that data management is an issue that every digital resident must address to transition from being a passive consumer to an active participant on the Internet.

Their use of graphics reminded me of the Laziness Map flowchart I made for the Making Learning Connected MOOC and shared in the post, Is laziness good for learning?. While that project was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, noticing that I've felt digitally overwhelmed lately led me to create this map of how I generally discover, sort, share, and publish on the web.

created by Bart Miller
(click the image to open the document and follow the hyperlinks)

05 December 2013

Independent Inquiry: Origami

A group of students in my class is exploring the Origami Club website to learn to fold new and more complex creations. The site includes hundreds, if not thousands of designs with blueprint and animated instructions.

Connected Learning like this is very inspiring. They are utilizing the Internet to pursue their inquiry, using mathematical vocabulary in authentic contexts, cooperating by taking turns choosing which design to follow, helping each other, and enjoying themselves.

I'm interested to see if any of them take the inquiry further, perhaps by earning a DIY Papercrafter Patch or participating in an online community like The Origami Forum. As their teacher, it's important to make sure that they have access to those opportunities, so I added links to the Independent Inquiry page on our class wiki.

04 December 2013

The 800-pound bully

Elephants are not particularly known for bullying. We humans, unfortunately, are. Bullying among adults is the elephant in the room during any discussion about bullying among children, online or offline.

Take for example, Lisa Nielson's article, Addressing the #bullying problem starts with adults, in which she details a case of bullying that originates from what is supposed to be a friendly volleyball 'game' and includes most of the hallmarks of schoolyard bullying: admonishment, destructive criticism, over-competitiveness, exclusion, and isolation.

To draw a distinction between this and bullying among children would be pointless. They are the same.

02 December 2013

The Evolution of Independent Inquiry

When I introduced Independent Inquiry in my Grade 4 class during the last school year, it was out of a desire to reinvent homework as a more relevant activity connecting learning at school with learning at home. The primary inspiration was the MIT Media Lab Learning Creative Learning course, and in particular, being introduced to Connected Learning.

Interest-driven learning comes as naturally to us human beings as breathing and scratching ourselves. The brain is made for it. We naturally seek creative solutions to problems and desire to learn what is useful and/or fun. I also became fascinated with the Maker Education Initiative and the implications of purposeful play for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education.

Why does school try to make learning so hard?

We began using a Google Form to reflect on our inquiries and holding weekly meetings to discuss the independent projects we were doing at home. Some highlighted projects can be found by searching the independent inquiry label here on Symphony of Ideas.

Soon after, I discovered Genius Hour. There were thousands of teachers around the world providing class time for students to pursue their passions and interests! Teaching at an inquiry school, I always provide time for independent research and autonomous learning opportunities, however, only along the lines of inquiry specified in our units.

The time had come to blow it wide open. I started a wiki to clarify purpose for myself and share with other educators, collect relevant resources and supporting articles, and publish my students' reflections.