30 January 2014

Teacher as Learning Documentarian

Looking at student work

'Looking at student work', the focus in the Deeper Learning MOOC this week, has me reminded of a project I have been working on this school year.

I teach in an inquiry learning elementary school  (PYP), an environment which facilitates and empowers deeper learning very effectively. As I have explored inquiry in the classroom, I have noticed that I do far less teaching and far more documentation.

Students engaged in authentic learning shouldn't be bothered by standards or specific learning outcomes, yet they constantly accomplish them. As a teacher, I see myself more as a learning documentarian seeking out evidence of their learning as they inquire into their interests and curiosities.

Google Doc experiment

In order to document learning according to an established continuum, I devised a shared google document which allows teachers to document learning individually for each student and can be used by any stake holder to review like a portfolio. It's still experimental, but I can already see how it is helping to maintain a balance between student-driven learning and traditional learning outcomes or standards.

How it works

Our learning continua are organized by phases, so I color coded each. When a student demonstrates a particular learning outcome, I indicate the date and hyperlink it to a digital version of the artifact. Examples so far have included scanned writing assessments, photographs, Evernote entries, videos, and blog posts. When an artifact is recorded, the shade of the box for that learning outcome is made lighter. A white box indicates a mastered learning outcome.

The example I provided in this post is for a sixth grader, so I took it for granted that the first three phases were mastered. Please have a look at phases four and five and follow the links to get a sense of how this type of document can work. If it were used from a young age and accompanied the student through elementary school, it would serve as an authentic representation of their learning.

This is still an experiment, and your comments and suggestions are highly welcomed. I would certainly appreciate collaborators on this project to develop an efficient system to document deeper learning!

23 January 2014

Blackout Poem - go for kill

Thought I'd have a go at a 'blackout poem'.

go for kill
repel a din
as other ants believe in ion ears

A poke or tack
in that terror wound we treat old

now have assailants
say anything

rat alert
violence in ash

21 January 2014

My Greatest Weakness

Anticipation for the Visual Literacy Course in the COETAIL program has been both eager and anxious for me. Visual literacy, graphic design, and the language and tools that they use are arguably my weakest skills.

To date, I've done literally nothing to spruce up the appearance of Dal Segno al Coda. My own blog of teaching and learning, Symphony of Ideas, is not a terrible eyesore only due to the generosity, patience, and talent of my wife, Yuka. Thank goodness Tumblr has decent default designs! Finally, I have procrastinated purchasing my own domain and establishing a landing site for myself for a myriad of reasons which are really probably just excuses because, after all, I think I'm just afraid to design it.

Time to face the music

Fact is, I need to grow. I'm a composer, or as Aaron Copland would say, an 'inventor of music'. Need counterpoint for a bebop melody? I'm on it. Want to reharmonize that pop song? No problem! Horn backgrounds for a power ballad? I'll rock it. String Quartet? Working on it. I'm comfortable creating with sounds.

I am illiterate

Unfortunately, according to one of my heroes, George Lucas, in an interview with James Daly for Edutopia, Life on the Screen: Visual Literacy in Education, I am illiterate! This is a multimedia era, but I am a monomedia creator.

In this course on Visual Literacy, I'll be bumbling along an unfamiliar road. Coincidentally, an early topic in the Deeper Learning MOOC is academic mindsets, and one mindset in particular is staring me in the face, daring me to act.

My first official published photo (2013)

07 January 2014

Empathy & Acceptance: Toward a gender-neutral classroom

Through Her Eyes Film

The debates within and surrounding LGBTQ communities about gender identity and sexual orientation, and how individuals (and groups) express themselves, are reaching a sort of critical mass. Educators would be remiss to ignore it. Nobody explains the situation more fluently than Peter DeWitt, author of Dignity for All: Safeguarding LGBT Students.

In the classroom, the first step can only be to tear down obvious and ubiquitous bias. As Dawn Casey-Rowe documents in the article, Does Gender Bias Affect The Way You Teach?, the negative effects of bias persist even when it arises from positive intentions. Pernille Ripp addresses the issue from a different perspective by asking, Are the Boys Welcome in Your Room?. I would argue that even the notion that boys and girls have stereotypical preferences should be categorically rejected in the classroom. Societies do not need any help promoting traditional gender roles. In fact, I believe that the messages from media and commercial ventures about gender and sexuality should be subdued, filtered, and contextualized in order to empower every individual to thrive.

As an elementary educator, I feel the responsibility to promote a culture of Empathy and Acceptance. I am also in an ideal position to do so.