Tag Archives: collaborative learning

Include, Inquire, Inspire

Include, Inquire, Inspire.

The Learning 2 Europe conference hashtag and catchphrase have been running through my mind since it finished two days ago.  The conference may have ended, but the ideas generated and connections made will hopefully last beyond the 3 day event.

A Chance to Play with AppleClips:

I had very high hopes for this year’s conference at ASW in Poland after an unforgettably high energy L2 conference last year in Milan.  Last year’s learning curve was steep—I was not yet in my current role as Ed Tech Coach, and so much of what I learned and took in was brand new (to me).  I attended a wide range of sessions, joined every social opportunity and networked like crazy.  I was in awe of people’s experiences, connections and skills.

This year, as part of my Personal Learning Plan to challenge myself, and to support my final project inquiry into e-portfolios,  I volunteered to lead a teacher workshop on Seesaw.

The conference started with a great session on ePortfolios and documenting learning by Kimberly House.  Now, I have been living and breathing e-portfolios this last year and a half and what was brand new and inspiring last year, was more like review and affirmation this year. It was great to be in the session with my colleagues from the High School and the benefits of the opportunity to hear their perspectives and to develop shared language and understandings cannot be understated.

Image Source: AboutAlbertEinstein.com, flickr

Learning 2 has the fabulous tradition of hosting its ‘extended session leaders’ on the stage over the 3 days to deliver a series of Ted-style key note talks. A-mazing.  One talk was given by a High School student, Nico who explained delved into Einstein’s quote on why ‘imagination is more important than knowledge.’  Josefino Rivera, who specialises in training students to deliver Ted Style talks, insisted we teachers must ‘walk the walk’ we expect of our students. John Mikton convinced me of my moral responsibility to model responsible device use in front of my students and children.

Another great aspect of the Learning 2 conference is the cohorts.  I joined a technology leader cohort (there were 3!) to find like-minded people to learn with and from.  This year, L2 challenged us to come up with cohort hashtags and memes.  At our first session, we discussed the sometimes random and confusing nature of our job titles and tasks.  This resulted in our never-ending ticker tape response to #WhatIDoAllDay, encapsulated in film, and 360 degree camera:

#WhatIDoAllDay #Learning2, Image Credit, Mark Shillitoe

My extended sessions (‘Change Makers’ with Sonya terBord and  Hosting a Ted Ex Club/Event with Josefino Rivera) were thought provoking and informative, although perhaps not as hands on as my sessions last year (physically re-arranging a classroom and learning to program a variety of robots are hard to beat in terms of immediate, hands-on learning.) I don’t think I walked away with as many new tools or skills or ‘I’m gonna do this Monday” kind of thing as I did last year.  Although I do plan on using this animation lesson using TED ed: lessons worth sharing one of these Mondays (I host a Digital Design After School club on Monday.)

Another fabulous aspect of L2 are the unconferences—random meetings of like minds interested in discussing what is immediately relevant and of interest. My first unconference I joined the Maker Space in the library and ‘hacked’ my conference badge by figuring out how to complete a circuit in order to light up an LED. The next day I discussed the addictiveness of the new Serial produced podcast series, ‘S town’  (I half wrote this post and half listened to the podcast on my journey home) and compared and contrasted our respective school’s tech integration model with someone sitting next to me on the couch. Fabulous.

I think ultimately my biggest learning was leading my own workshop on Seesaw. Public speaking/presenting is the single most dreadful experience in my #firstworldproblem kind of existence. I’m terrified of it-but this terror was what made me skip lunch, lose sleep and work extra hard to make sure I knew my s—.  My session had a great turnout and people had great questions and I actually knew the answer to most of them.  Many were self-proclaimed ‘converts’ after my session.  My Seesaw ambassadorship and Coetail forced me out of my comfort zone and insisted that I give back and share.

One of my main conference take-aways, however was actually not from any of the sessions/unconferences/workshops or speeches, but simply the connections made (and hopefully maintained and kept…) Madeline Brookes’ #BaconNumber talk alludes to the power of connections.

There is so much value that comes from the opportunity, time and space to connect with colleagues from around the around the world (and from my own school!) The power of meeting your teaching idols is great, but one can’t beat those conversations with emotional impact on the path to ‘finding your tribe.’

Finding your tribe: It’s not about who jumps highest… Image Credit: tpsdave, Pixabay, CCO public domain,

“Just” Playing?


“They’re
just playing,” is a sentence I hear again and again.  I’ve uttered it myself, despite my own beliefs in its importance.

MindShift’s The Power of Play in Learning,  an article where everything is quotable and tweetable, describes play this way:

“Play is about exploring the possible. In times of rapid change, exploring the possible becomes an essential skill…To be comfortable with uncertainty, one must remain fluid, receptive and creative — in a word: playful.”

Aran Levasseur

Play and games help us prepare for the unexpected. Photo: Pixabay, no attribution required.

I have written much about my school’s approach and philosophy with regards to how young children best learn: through play.

Children in Early Years (3 years old) through Kindergarten (5 years old) and even into first grade are provided with ample opportunity for free play, both inside and outside in well thought out, rich and inviting environments.  (The following images were taken from the EY rooms in my school.  All credits, Holly Fraser)

Materials are selected based not only on their aesthetic appeal, but also their flexibility or open-endedness.  What possibilities do they present?  Teachers refrain from direct instruction/direction as much as possible and instead present “learning proposals,” or open invitations to investigate, explore, and play.

Levasseur says in his article,

One doesn’t read “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” to develop strategy before playing the game. One starts by playing. This is true for all video games. You start by exploring the world with curiosity and begin to develop a hypothesis of what you’re supposed to do. Through trial, error, pattern recognition, logic and chance you continually reformulate your trajectory.

Just like this view of learning to play video games, children at my school and in my class are encouraged to construct their own meaning, in groups or individually, and their working theories are honoured, questioned and documented.

Levasseur continues:

“This model of learning is not only effective for video games but for all digital tools, and I would argue that play — especially in the digital sense — is emerging as a pedagogical keystone for education in the 21st century.”

Students need ample time to play with new technology.  Photo credit: Holly Fraser

I know myself, with any new tool, app, robot, device, etc.that I’m shown/hear about I immediately want/need to go and play with it.  Just like the young children we work with, we need ample time and freedom to explore and play around with a new ‘material’ before we are expected to produce “results” or come to any new conclusions.  

We also need to ensure our students feel welcome and comfortable in their play environment in order to learn optimally. In Play is Hard Work, by Bud Hunt, play is described as finding freedom in the face of constraint.” Students don’t tend to learn in any environment where they feel uncomfortable, unsafe or or unwelcome.  I’ve had similar thoughts myself as a Specialist teacher going into classrooms–some where I am expected and welcome, others were I feel like an afterthought, ignored or met with resistance.  In which rooms do I feel free to try new things, be creative and take risks?  (All necessary for learning.)

Hunt cautions that play isn’t always “fun,” however…. “I think you can play with really serious ideas and concepts.”


I’ve often divided the kinds of play I see in my own classroom from previous years into several categories:  

“Flitting butterfly” playing: aimless, jumping from thing to thing, not settling or focusing on anything, moving on once something is deemed too challenging…(although this “flitting” about is often required before finding something to settle on.)

“Role play/Imaginative” play: (relationship building, problem solving, story telling, negotiating)

Role Play/Small World Imaginative Play. Photo Credit: Holly Fraser

“Object” play (manipulating, creating, building, trouble shooting)

Object Play: Blocks. Photo credit: Holly Fraser

“Physical” play  (gross motor skills; risk taking; balance; endurance)  

Physical Play: Boy enjoying nature. Photo credit: Pixabay, no attribution required

All but the first kind of play (which some kids can unfortunately get stuck on) can and should eventually lead to a deep play, a higher quality of play where they enter into the “zone” or “flow.” This kind of play really does become serious and absorbing-and challenging –but not too challenging–and where real learning takes place.

Getting into the zen like zone of deep learning. Photo, Pixabay, no attribution required.

Nathan Maton’s article,  How Games can Influence Learning describes how “the best games challenge the player at exactly the right level and in the right way to keep the player playing….A well-designed game offers an intricate balance of challenges and rewards that continually pushes players to, and then beyond, the limits of their knowledge and skill.”

New York Times Magazine: Taking Play Seriously looks at play from a scientific point of view, from its evolutionary roots and to the discovery of its role in brain growth and development.

It was fascinating looking at how most mammals engage in play–despite risks (animals–and people– risk injury and even death, the need for play is so strong.)

Research shows play is essential for brain development and growth. Photo Credit: Pixabay, no attribution required

The very extensive research suggests that, “that play contributes to the growth of more supple, more flexible brains.”

‘‘I think of play as training for the unexpected…Behavioural flexibility and variability is adaptive… it’s really important to be able to change your behaviour in a changing environment.’’

-Marc Bekoff, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Colorado

This constant reiteration of play as training our brains to prepare for the unexpected in an ever changing world makes we wonder why it isn’t given more value, more time, more importance in school and at home–in all our lives.  The time to do so is now.

PBL and how things have(n’t) changed

“The first thing you have to do is to give up the idea of curriculum.”  Dr. Seymour Papert

My heart did a little flip when I read this statement in Seymor Papert’s Project Based Learning, an article 15 years old and yet many of the ideas are still so true and relevant, and sadly have largely yet to come to fruition.

Papert clarifies the above statement by wanting to do away with students learning a particular thing on a particular date, often for no particular reason.  Instead he insists learning should happen in context, with real problems and with immediate application.

Over the years my students of all ages have always done some sort of environmental unit or focus on a problem: litter; energy consumption; e-waste. These “problem topics” naturally lead to students wanting to find a solution, or to find out more about the problem.

Last year my Early Years students (4 & 5 year olds)  looked closely at how our devices and electrical items are built by taking them apart. They noticed all the waste and electrical pieces that came with a broken item.  

Now these children couldn’t solve this problem–but we upcycled by making all sorts of structures and robots out of the pieces and later visited a local recycling centre.  We learned more about what materials can be recycled, and we were happy to note batteries could be recycled.

We also learned more about the metals and minerals in our cell phones with the help of our 5th grade buddies who were studying similar problems for their Exhibition Project.  We worked together as a class learning about these problems, articulating them in different ways and documenting our learning together with the App, Adobe Spark.  

PBL in Early Years: Look Closer… at our Devices

I think about how our cross grade learning supports Paperts bold suggestion of doing away with grade/age segregation altogether:

“We’ve given up the age segregation which is just as, I think, wrong and harmful as any other kind of segregation….Kids working in communities of common interest on rich projects that will connect with powerful ideas.

Great minds working together.

Great minds of all ages working together. Photo courtesy of UnSplash.  No Attribution needed. 

The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) Introduction to PBL “defines standards-focused PBL as a systematic teaching method that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks… students are pulled through the curriculum by a Driving Question or authentic problem that creates a need to know the material. “

My school’s PYP curriculum with its Central Ideas and Lines of Inquiry can potentially complement this definition, but at times I have struggled with feeling like I have successfully implemented PBL in my classroom.  It’s the assessment piece and still having to report on a set of Learner Outcomes that I feel can hinder teachers from feeling free (enough) to explore PBL. Papert goes on to discuss portfolios as an improved form of assessment:

“ So, as I see it, the trend towards portfolio-based, so-called authentic assessment is very good, but it’s very limited unless it goes with throwing out the content of what we’re testing.”

My school’s portfolios are a move in the right direction.  First of all, we have portfolios as a form of assessment (in addition to traditional report cards, and formal and standardised tests, etc.) with basic agreements about what goes in them to maintain some consistency.  We are currently in the process of moving away from paper based portfolios to digital portfolios.  Teachers are spread out on the continuum of acceptance & readiness, oddly enough, it is our Early Childhood Educators leading the way.  

On the path to success.  Photo courtesy of Picography, by Dave Meier. http://picography.co/

On the path to success. Photo courtesy of Picography, by Dave Meier. http://picography.co/

This is perhaps not so odd, when one considers we had been looking for a platform that would support our focus on Documentation of Learning that was individualised, & often child directed, and with a focus on concepts and skills over specific “Learner Outcomes.” The assessments are on-going, formative and include elements of a project based or problem solving approach. Early Years teachers quickly embraced the platform Seesaw, which allowed them to document all of the above.

Many teachers in the primary school, whose teaching may be described as more traditional (all students working on same task) are working out how to best use the platform.  Many are taking photographs of pencil and paper assessments and uploading them to our digital portfolio system where there are right/wrong answers.  Some are beginning to show pictures of kids actually doing, solving, creating, inventing, making meaning, etc. But many are reluctant to get too creative with posts as they want to know the portfolio system inside and out before introducing elements to the the kids.  They are not (yet) open to the idea that they could be learning right alongside the kids and figuring it out as they go.

Which brings me to Papert’s idea of the importance of teachers learning alongside the students:

“What we need is kinds of activity in the classroom where the teacher is learning at the same time as the kids and with the kids. Unless you do that, you’ll never get out of the bind of what the teachers can do is limited by what they were taught to do when they went to school…. We don’t allow the kids to have the experience of learning with the teacher because that’s incompatible with the concept of the curriculum where what is being taught is what’s already known.”

We must be open to new ways of teaching and learning.  Photo courtesy of Picography, by Tasja. http://picography.co/

We must be open to new ways of teaching and learning. Photo courtesy of Picography, by Tasja. http://picography.co/

How true the above statement is: How often have I avoided introducing a topic or tool to students when I wasn’t fully comfortable with it yet myself.  This is only natural, but with the pace at which things change and technology develops, this practice and mindset needs to shift.  Teachers need to be seen as co-learners and co-constructors of knowledge, not simply bearers, because we can’t possibly know it all, and the curriculum can’t possibly keep pace with today’s changing world and reflect the interests and abilities of its students.

I can only hope that 15 years from now someone will read this post, find it true and relevant, and note how much things have changed.

Digital Stories Revisited

In 7 essential skills that aren’t taught in school, there is an Andy Warholesque 15 minutes of fame kind of quote:

“Your goal is not immortality,

but a momentary piercing

of the ever-shifting zeitgeist.”

I would argue that one of these of these essential skills is being able to tell a story and spread your message not only digitally, but in a way as to engage and influence people.  

Pixabay attribution free image +google drawings

Pixabay attribution free image +google drawings

Last year, I began to explore this idea with my small group of Early Years students with a vengeance.

With only 7 children, and a relatively open curriculum, I had the luxury of working individually with each of them (or in small groups) on different digital storytelling projects throughout the year.  Using Book Creator, we began by creating class ebooks based on books read in class.

*Note: I am a huge Book Creator fan.  I have been introducing it to all the first grade students (and their teachers) this past week using this short presentation. Feel free to make a copy/download.

One of these ebooks was our own version of Todd Parr’s, “It’s Okay to be Different.”  Students thought long and hard about what made them different from other students in the class.  One said, “It’s okay to speak Spanish.” Another declared, “It’s okay to call your dad  Mausi.”

IT”S OKAY TO BE DIFFERENT:

Once downloaded as an epub to our ibooks library, and shared to our class blog, the students could view the digital book at any time, just as they might a real book.  They could then view and revisit the ebooks they had created on the ipads, on the desktop and projected onto the wall.

When revisiting their digital stories, I noticed that different digital viewing formats offered different possibilities and extensions of the learning experience. 

Projecting an ebook onto the wall initiated a re-arrangement of chairs for ideal viewing (theatre style.) This sudden re-arrangement of the room provided a provocation for different feelings and connections. The children suddenly felt the seating reflected a train journey, leading to a mini inquiry into riding trains.

img_1128

The viewing experience of projecting eBooks onto the wall prompted a completely new inquiry: riding trains!

img_1787

Students became focussed on creating their own tickets–those with little interest in print now had an authentic reason to practice their SBB’s. (Swiss Rail System.)

We projected clips of moving trains onto the wall and the children rehearsed packing bags , catching trains, and punching tickets…eventually making their own tickets, using the local Swiss SBB logo as our guide.

Of course this spin off was unrelated to our ebook…but the process of revisiting our work and the way in which we viewed the book prompted an entirely new and unexpected learning inquiry.

We also re-visited our Books as epubs in the iBooks library. (Books created on different iPads were eventually Airdropped onto all other iPads so the students could access all books on any iPad, acting as a traveling library.) The portability of the iPads allowed us to bring them to our Buddy classes.  We shared the stories with a wide range of ages—all of them impressed by our school’s littlest learners.  It also prompted discussion: “Wow, how did you do that?” and provided an opportunity for the students to develop their oral skills.  Other class teachers—viewing over the students’ shoulders, learned something, too and were motivated to create their own ebooks.

We also uploaded all creations to our class blog so they could be shared at home with family members, or at school assemblies.  All comments made by others were revisited in class, helping to build the confidence and perseverance to make more ebooks.

Finally, viewing the ebooks on the desktop helped build other skills—the understanding that different devices provide different views of the same thing, but perhaps more importantly– the patience and fine motor skills required for small hands to maneuver and click with an aging mouse!

With each new ebook we tried to blend a different app or or learn a new process.  

With our next ebook, we focussed on another element of our “All about me Unit”–our favourite things. The children explored the instant alpha tool in a separate photo editing app, Juxtaposer.  We developed our fine motor skills and attention to detail further as students carefully traced around a photo of their bodies to erase the background, before adding it to their favourite page in the book about favourite things. 

ALL ABOUT ME:

Next, we blended video, pictures and sound and tried out the (then new) comic book feature in Book Creator when we made a Quiet and Loud book.  The students needed to think of two juxtaposing ideas for the book–(doors are quiet, but slamming doors are loud…very challenging for 4 year olds–they needed help with this. )  Now familiar with the book making process, the students slowly began taking more ownership of the design elements of making a book—selecting the colours of their page, their font and basic layout:

QUIET AND LOUD:

It was around Thanksgiving when my fabulous Ed Tech Coach, Jocelyn Sutherland brought us an iPad stand.  We immediately jumped into playing around with Stop Motion.  She initially tried a simple claymation technique using playdough…

…which we eventually modified to create the word ‘Happy’ as the “intro” to our class Thanksgiving ebook.  The students developed many literacy and digital skills while making the “title page” alone–

  • letter recognition/formation–we created the letters we used to make the stop motion video in Letter School and learned to take a screen shot
  • importing screen shots into Pic Collage for easy printing
  • more letter formation using playdough
  • intro to spelling–that the letters that make up Thanksgiving must go in certain order
Early Years students learning Stop Motion movie making techniques from 5th Grade Buddies. Photo, my own

Early Years students learning Stop Motion movie making techniques from 5th Grade Buddies. Photo, my own

Interested students learned the process of making stop motion videos using Stop Motion Studio App with the help of our fifth grade buddies.  I documented the entire process in our class blog here.

This began our lengthy exploration into stop motion as a digital story telling tool and prompted the evolution of moving from ebooks to pure movie making magic.  I plan to continue to document and reflect on the learning process in future posts.

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.”