Category Archives: Collaboration

Young Students Making Meaning with Makey Makeys

Young students Making Meaning using Makey Makeys

Playing the “playdough piano”    

Good speakers are key for using makey makeys in a loud class!

Rocking out to Billie Jean:  Getting the beat just right is highly entertaining and motivating.

Students figure out how things work by playing with them & developing theories.    

“It doesn’t work…”

 “Because we don’t have the bracelet!” (the ‘grounding’ wire)

Students jump on an aluminum foil ‘Dance Floor’ and Makey Makey to play Super Mario Bros and build perseverance and confidence.

“I did it without falling!”

Students then play with their older buddies and learn more about electricity and conductivity: by holding the alligator clips, we are conductive and can become the piano, too!

A HUMAN PIANO?!

Exploring and learning about electricity, energy, sound, conductivity and circuits is fun with Makey Makeys! Learning from older buddies is helpful and motivating, and older buddies have the opportunity to explain their thinking.  Both groups are co-constructing their understanding.

Developing an understanding about how things work and how energy travels is accessible for ALL ages. They may not understand exactly how electricity works…but then again, do you?
 
 
 
 

 

My 3 year old twins exploring, testing theories and making sounds
 
 
Does a pencil work as well as my finger?
 
 
Let’s try it out and see.

Tuned In, but Tapped Out

Definitely having trouble with this last post.  Not because I haven’t been reflecting and giving a ton of thought, time and electronic back and forth with my Course 2 Final Project Collaborators…but because of it.  I’m all tapped out.

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Tapped out. Image from Pixabay (Attribution Free)

This course I have not spent as much time keeping up with the weekly readings and ensuring I make lots of comments on fellow Coetailers blogs as I promised I would (Networking is High Maintenance, and you get out what you put in…So, I am going to  step up my game in the karmic commenting department myself.” ).  One of the main reasons for this lack of commenting is simply because all the collaborating that I also promised I would do is so time consuming!

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First unsuccessful attempt

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Second attempt (mixed results…)

There's a bite!

There’s a bite!

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Collaboration? Helping a colleague on another campus and learning something in the process? Check!

 

Some attempts this year at collaboration have panned out well: fellow Coetailers are highly motivated to collaborate as part of this final project, but they also accept and embrace the collaborative mindset.  (I notice my fellow collaborator Amber Dryer already uses Skype in her classroom as a tool to connect to and learn from the outside world. Both Amber and another collaborator, Linda Grunwald regularly tweet about current events coming out of their classrooms.) Coming up with a truly successful collaborative project, where all parties see the true purpose, are equal contributors, and feel the collaboration “supports and complements” what is happening in each classroom, is more challenging.  

 

Amber has involved her tech coach, Andrew Chiu in our process, who kindly offered to set up our shared blog, Little Idea Swap.  Lengthy email discussions about purpose and logistics of students groupings began in earnest.  Andrew, keen to involve others, invited more schools to our idea swap.  

 

So far, the idea swap has consisted of Amber’s and my students making brief video introductions and sharing what we like to play at recess.  When I shared Amber’s anecdote that children in Hong Kong play on the rooftops (due to limited space in the city for playgrounds), my 4 & 5 year old students couldn’t move past the (to them) dangerousness of this situation.  See their funny video response here.

"Playing on the roof is dangerous, you know." -Gabi, 4 years old

“Playing on the roof is dangerous, you know.”
-Gabi, 4 years old (Attribution free) Image from Pixabay

As our project is in its infancy and we have yet to hear from some of the schools, it is difficult to judge its success or effectiveness. I myself am a bit hesitant at so many schools being involved, and even keeping track of the two that we will ultimately communicate with can be daunting…especially when I want to ensure it is much of a relevant learning opportunity for them as it has been for me!

 

Certain things that one takes for granted when working with older students, one has to stop, consider and do a lot front loading with younger ones.  Telling my students we have friends in China really means nothing to them–hanging a map and putting pins where our collaborators live (de)evolves into a huge side tangent inquiry into where we all live/are from (because of course each of my 7 students come from somewhere different, and they haven’t seen where they come from in relation to each other represented on a map before.)  

Learning about maps...Pixabay (Attribution) Free Library

Learning about maps…Pixabay (Attribution) Free Library

This of course gets into a discussion about the symbolic representation of land, space and distance on the map in the first place.  As adults we are used to this abstract representation of political boundaries, but to a 4 year old it really doesn’t do justice to just how far away our buddies in China actually are, or what a miracle it is in the first place that we are communicating with them so easily.  

 

Other attempts at collaboration with colleagues from my school (different campus) have not fared so well.  The few posts on our Collaborative Padlet that children from our other campus posted didn’t happen until I physically went there (on a job shadowing morning with our current tech coach) and worked directly with the children…Disheartening, but I have recently had interest from another teacher in China (see tweet above) who will join us, and we will begin our “Look Closer” photography collaboration next week.  

 

This kindness from strangers reminded me of the many words of advice I received from Learning2 Colleagues for my role next year:

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Thanks Learning2 community!

These challenges don’t dissuade me at all, but make me realise that ensuring a global/local collaboration is meaningful and purposeful (in the way we intend) for everyone is no easy feat. So far my students and I have learned tons–just not (yet) what I had assumed we would.  But, I have been looking at “failure” in a new way…as an opportunity to find growth…to identify ways to see failure as a learning opportunity…and to create and tell myself new stories about my own learning.  

Here is the final project for Course 2:

Small Pieces Loosely Connected

At the start of this school year, The Syrian refugee crisis in Europe was reaching its pinnacle in terms of media attention and pleas for support.  A parent was involved with “Backpacks for Syria” (similar ideas, with different names have spread all over Canada and the US) and wanted us to ask the children to bring in backpacks/items to donate to refugee children.  Rather than simply write a note to parents with this request, I knew it would be much more powerful when the requests were coming from students’ mouths themselves:

Screen shot from bunkr Slideshow I made to encourage students to donate items to backpacks for Syria

Screen shot from bunkr slideshow I made to encourage students to donate items for Syria

  After a successful haul as a result of our plea, I’ll be honest and say the day to day demands of the classroom, (not to mention Coetail obligations!)  pushed charitable thoughts from my head. Recently, while attending the Learning2 conference in Milan, the idea of students “making a difference” was re-ignited by Warren Apel’s keynote:

 

 

Warren’s talk and subsequent blog post ( Keep it Real: Authentic student publishing can raise money to change the world)  describe the idea much more eloquently than I will here, but I will summarise: It is about moving from the traditional bake sale method of raising money for a cause to harnessing  the power of student’s creativity by publishing and selling their work to an authentic audience.

“Teachers know that students do their best work when they have a real audience. That’s why we have them blog.

“But what if we could publish and sell student work, generate income, and use that money to help people? What if we could use the same real platforms that professionals use to publish and sell their own works?” -Warren asks us to consider a new model:

By publishing and selling student work through a variety of online companies, (Amazon, Google Play, Etsy) students create for a real purpose and audience, and possibly, they can more effectively raise money, and with organisations like Kiva: Loans That Change Lives, they can choose to send their money directly to those in need, and to projects that directly support curriculum, or school initiatives, like environmentalism.

“Instead of collecting dust, we could be collecting momentum.”

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Warren suggests that rather than allow children’s art projects to gather dust in an attic, their enthusiasm and creativity gains momentum, in that they see true purpose and value in their work and contributions. Nothing is more powerful than that.

 

 

Second Attempt at creately.com Venn Diagram.

Second Attempt at creately.com Venn Diagram.  Oddly, the folks at learning2 and Coetail think alike…

 

I will focus on the overlapping word, Empower, highlighted in this week’s TedX video resource: “Extracurricular Empowerment” about student empowerment through extra curricular (i.e., self directed) learning projects, like the lead story about a high schooler’s critical, funny and engaging blog about her school’s lunch program.  Her blog ultimately garnered enough attention (some good, some bad…although as the saying goes, “any press is good press”) to force the school to make real changes and improvements to the food.  How empowering for her and ultimately beneficial for those students!  

"Get out of their way and let them be amazing." From Extracurricular Empowerment: Scott McLeod at TEDxDesMoines

“Get out of their way and let them be amazing.” From Extracurricular Empowerment: Scott McLeod at TEDxDesMoines

 Engagement, Empowerment and Evolution through Collaboration:

Tom Whitby says in his article, The Connected Educator begins with Collaboration:  “The idea of collaboration requires a mindset of believing there is room to learn and grow. It is also a belief that we are smarter collectively than individually.”

I would argue these same qualities that make an educator connected and relevant, are the same qualities that empower both the teacher and his/her students.  

He  and Steven Anderson wrote the book, The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning, and list several qualities of the  Connected Educator.  The 3 that stick out for me:

  • Is a relevant educator, willing to explore, question, elaborate, and advance ideas through connections with other educators.

    The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

So far my email dialogue with fellow Coetailer Amber Dryer and her Tech Coach Andrew Chiu about  course 2’s final project  (A collaborative blog/space to start a discussion about environmentalism where we live) has been about just that: exploring, questioning and advancing ideas.  So far the connections my students have made beyond our classroom have been very empowering for my students.  What we ultimately come up with together, will be greater than what any of us could have come up with alone.

 

  • Views failure as part of the process of learning  

8489654285I love A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s  (FAiL: First attempt in Learning”), and “NO” “Next Opportunity.” Despite feeling frustrated at the lack of enthusiasm over my proposed Photography Collaboration with colleagues from my other campus, I am trying hard not to see it as failure, or their lack of response as a “no,” just that I need to re-examine my approach, and to keep looking for that meaningful “Next Opportunity” to connect and collaborate.  

  • May put creation over content, and relevance over doctrine.

Our Early Years programme, (I have to say nicely complements my general philosophy and approach to teaching) has 4 loose, year long inquiry units and a play based/student interest driven approach.  It really allows much more emphasis and value on the process of (relevant and timely) learning, creating and formative assessment, rather than on product, prescribed content/curriculum and summative assessment.

Small Pieces Loosely Connected

Small Pieces Loosely Connected

And finally, there were so many great descriptions about the web as a collaborative and empowering place from the lovely little gem of a website, Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A unified theory of the web by David Weinberger.  (The website actually serves to advertise the book by the same title, and is itself is a bit outdated, but the ideas presented are so, so relevant.)

“The Web gets its value not from the smoothness of its overall operation but from its abundance of small nuggets that point to more small nuggets.And, most important, the Web is binding not just pages but us human beings in new ways. We are the true “small pieces” of the Web, and we are loosely joining ourselves in ways that we’re still inventing.”

The kids version of Small Pieces is great, too, and summarises the kind of web we all should aspire to be a part of: 

“So, here we have two worlds. In the real world, people are kept apart by distance. Because of the

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The Web helps us to become better people, according to Small Pieces Loosely Joined

vastness of the earth, different cultures have developed. People live in separate countries, divided by boundaries and sometimes by walls with soldiers and guns. On the Web, people come together – they connect – because they care about the same things.

 

The real world is about distances keeping people apart. The Web is about shared interests bringing people together.

Now, if connecting and caring are what make us into human people, then the Web – built out of hyperlinks and energized by people’s interests and passions – is a place where we can be better at being people.

And that is what the Web is for.”

Empowering?  I think so.  Now, off to sell Art and save the world, one small piece at a time. 

Photography Collaboration: From Deciding to Acting, Course 1 Final Project

Last week I was busy thinking about, deciding on and planning a meaningful collaborative project with my young Early Years students and another class at my school.  Now, my “school” is actually 3 separate campuses somewhat spread about in Central Switzerland: 1 small Elementary School in canton Luzern (mine) a larger Elementary/Middle School and a High School, both in canton Zug.

As I mentioned last week, our small campus is closing at the end of this year, due to declining enrolment, and most of students will next year attend our much larger campus in Zug.  We have been encouraged to begin the process of a meaningful transition for our students, which include in person/on site meet ups–a recent field trip went really well– but I am hoping to continue these “meet-ups” online through a joint photography project.

We were actually initially inspired to look into photography a little more deeply by a fellow Coetailer’s (and ISZL’s own amazing High School English teacher, Tricia Friedman) invitation to collaborate:

https://www.coetail.com/triciafriedman/2016/02/28/lets-give-them-something-to-blog-about/

Screen shot from Tricia’s Padlet

So far this year my young students have taken hundreds of not so great, slightly out of focus, thumbs in the way of pictures of the floor using the ipad.   I am hoping through this project our understanding of what makes a picture good, interesting and meaningful will improve, but also that contributing to this “movement” is a great way to improve the feeling of community and connection across our campuses, which otherwise share little more than a name, despite its promise:

3 Campuses, 1 International Experience

The more I have thought about the nature of my planned collaborations across campuses, I realise they are really 2 separate learning collaborations…the first one being a response to a specific blog prompt set by Tricia on her Blog Prompt Padlet.  I had to choose a prompt appropriate for 4 & 5 year olds, (not so easy), so a prompt involving the obviously highly visual medium of photography jumped out at me.

World Photography Organisation,

World Photography Organisation, Shortlist contender

Now, this World Photography Organisation contest may well be over by the time we actually get around to making our choices, but it is of little matter.  The website itself is sweeping and the amount of different categories is a bit overwhelming, and I knew clicking around and waiting for web pages to load while my wriggly 4 year olds squirmed was not going to cut it, so I chose some relevant photo categories (Nature and Wildlife, Panorama, Smile and People) and pre-selected a few photos in each category that I thought would particularly resonate with the kids (photos of children, animals and landscapes similar to those of our own beautifully situated campus).

While choosing a favourite to win the contest and defending their choices using some newly learned insights into photography and story telling is part of the goal of this project, it is really only the jumping off point.  I am actually interested in how members of the High School English class (and anyone else who responds to the blogging prompts) respond to our posts about photography. And more so, I would like this exploration to inspire my students to become better picture takers and therefore better story tellers, using the medium of photography.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

This brings me to the second part of my collaborative project.  Our beloved campus closing, while a sad event, is also an opportunity to make sure our story is told, and our small voices heard.   Part 2 of my planned collaborative Photography Exploration will be to challenge my students (and EY at Zug campus) to capture the essence of our campuses–taking pictures of favourite locations, moments, people and friends (similar categories to those I chose from the wpo) and to share them with one another. Here at Luzern, we are blessed to be located right on lake, surrounded by mountains, fields fountains, and forest. Our building’s name is Villa Kämerstein, the Early Years building is in a quaint Swiss chalet.  There has got to be some photographic gems in there somewhere.

taking pics

Yep…this is typical EY, upside down and finger prints on the lens

The idea to involve the Zug campus actually stemmed from an earlier email conversation between myself and one of the EY teachers there, we were studying different constructions, in particular bridges, and she had the idea of somehow creating a project to “bridge” our two campuses; sharing the story of our two campuses to help with the transition our students will make next year.  I loved the idea, but at the time was unsure to how to proceed.

Now that I feel more confident in how this could play out, (sharing the picture or “story of our 2 campuses” on a Collaborative Photography Padlet) I am left waiting for a response from the other campus.  Despite a well thought out email to 6 teachers & 4 assistants, only one has expressed interest in joining the project.  Our Tech Coach warned me I might face reluctance…not necessarily due to lack of interest…but a lack of time, understanding, etc. Some told me they hadn’t even read the mail.  Deep sigh.  My biggest challenge will not be improving the photographic or reflection skills of my students, as evidenced by some results from our second day of picture taking;

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Our tree lined driveway, cropped and filter added by Emiliana, 4.

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View of the lake and mountains, photo untouched by Johnathan, 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It will be ensuring the collaboration aspect of my Collaborative Picture Taking Project actually takes place.

 

Collaboration? Too Busy Deciding…

The real question, then, is, “how much time are you spending deciding what to spend time on?”

To quote seth's blog link on another fellow coetailer Tricia Friedman's blog… inviting others to collaborate via student blog prompts….yikes, the META here is killing me!

Gave me something to think about… https://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2016/02/worth-thinking-about.html

(To quote  seth’s blog link on another fellow coetailer Tricia Friedman’s blog,  inviting others to collaborate via student blog prompts….yikes, the META here is killing me!)

The above quote seemed rather appropriate as I reflect on the amount of time I have spent thinking about this week’s post on global collaborations.  I am feeling a bit stuck, and a bit in awe, thinking about some of the example collaborative projects.

This video was shared in a comment by Emily Roth on one of my posts:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bemDf6wuHJ0[/youtube]

The video shows a collaborative project involving seniors learning about the internet, facebook, youtube, etc. from some very helpful teenagers, and I was almost moved to tears. This particular project is perhaps not the ideal project for 4 year old expats living in Switzerland to take on, but inspiring nonetheless.

Finding that ideal collaborative project has been an-ongoing goal: I completely agree that (global) collaboration is a key component to 21C Learning, and have made it a personal/professional mission this year to simply begin by collaborating more often and with more teachers and classes at my own small school.  So far I have made the initial contact with several different classes, but I am hoping all collaborations will continue to develop, evolve and expand.  

connections

Connections and Collaborations are key elements of 21C Teaching and Learning

My Early Years students and I have collaborated with grade 1 on a variety of small projects using the iPads (Collaborative/Christmas Memories using Puppet Pals, Story telling with My Story.)  A really proud moment was watching a 4 year old showing the 6 year olds how to make a stop motion movie, to be used in their upcoming school play.

We’ve worked with grade 5 throughout the year, reading, baking, building, along with a few joint ipad app explorations.   We have a joint “Buddy” blog, but with so many other pressures, including our own class blogs, this venture has been a challenging one to maintain. 

Most recently, we have highlighted our class blog at assemblies and have invited comments from the audience.  I quickly typed comments from most of the students (we are a small school) on the spot.  I think all were happy to have contributed something, it wasn’t simply those who were presenting and showcasing.  This realisation also helped me to understand more fully the power of blogging and creating a shared (learning) experience.

Our newest collaboration is teaming up with grade 3 as “blogging buddies” who are learning about digital citizenship.  We are learning to make comments on one another’s blogs…something that isn’t without its challenges. My Early Years students don’t read or write yet, don’t have their own google accounts, need help scribing, etc. Currently we are meeting face to face, which perhaps defeats the purpose of an online collaboration, but we are learning that good citizenship skills are also good digital citizenship skills: we make appropriate, specific and positive comments and we are learning to ask questions, all of which help to get a possible conversation going… Thank you Jocelyn Sutherland for pointing me to this post: digital citizenship starts with face to face citizenship by Andrew White.

Screen shot of my Twitter Plead

Screen shot of my Twitter Plead

I am looking to expand on my students’ local, face to face collaborations, with more global connections, but am unsure of next steps and really do want to make it meaningful.  I have posted in Twitter using the hashtag #comments4kids, but simply finding an appropriate blog for my students to comment on first (as suggested on the comments4kids blog itself—-give and you will receive) is challenging–most I’ve looked at are text heavy and completely inappropriate content wise for my mostly EAL 4 year olds.  

CALCULUS-olga, olga shulman lednichenko, lednichenko, lednichenko-olga, olgalednichenko, lednichenko-olya, olya lednichenko, IMGAES AND PHOTOS OLGA LEDNICHENKO

What I ‘m seeing…
flickr photo shared by lednichenkoolga under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

What I'm thinking

What I’m thinking..(the kind of thing we do!)

 

I have received some nice feedback–(thanks online 6 cohort colleague, Linda Grunwald!) but have yet to find any real bites.  I suppose other educators like me, need a real purpose for the collaboration. People don’t necessarily want to collaborate simply for the sake of collaborating…just as we don’t always want/need to use technology for the sake of using technology….its use must be purposeful and integral to the collaboration.  

Which brings me to another, perhaps most promising and purposeful collaboration at our school’s nearby campus in Zug, Switzerland. Our small Lucerne campus is unfortunately closing at the end of this academic year and our students and many of our teachers will make the transition to our larger campus at some distance away. We have organised upcoming field trips to visit our new campus and make new friends, but I keep thinking another way to ease this transition is to begin a digital connection.   What that could look like, I am still trying to hammer out.  The next challenge will be to present the idea to my new colleagues on the other campus in such a way they can’t refuse.  I worry at resistance, as these are the same colleagues I will be coaching next year,  but I am hopeful…that this is exactly what we will “decide to spend time on.”