Service in action: ESRC

Action

Action is the one component of the IB Primary Years Program that is expressly difficult to implement and document. When I started at KIST, there was an opening as the Elementary Student Representative Council facilitator. Although I was reluctant to take on extra roles in my first year at a new school, my background in service learning motivated me to volunteer.

Since then, I have slowly transformed the culture of the ESRC into an authentic service learning experience.

Service design

One of the initial changes was to change members every quarter. This was done in order to provide opportunities for four times as many students per year to participate. I view each quarter as an iteration of the design thinking process, or more specifically, service design.

Service design process

1 Communicate with peers
2 Seek & identify service goal
3 Make action plan
4 Assign duties
5 Implement plan
6 Reflect on outcomes

The process begins by raising questions and surveying the elementary student population about their views on how the school might be improved. ESRC members speak with their own classes, and older representatives visit younger classes. Their suggestions and concerns are discussed in a subsequent meeting to identify a service goal.

In addition to speaking with their classes, each iteration of the ESRC conducts at least one meeting with the Elementary School Principal. The format and purpose of these meetings will continue to evolve, but their efficacy in promoting confidence and sense of purpose is invaluable.

Details of all meeting notes are kept in an Excel workbook with a new sheet added every quarter.

Responsible Communicators

In the article Community Service Ideas for Youth: Why Giving Back Matters by Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD, the focus for elementary students is on learning to be responsible. However, the ESRC at KIST is voluntary and the expectation of responsibility is made clear to prospective members before they join. Our focus is on growing as Communicators.

Members use a private email group to communicate with each other and a public (within the school) group to stay in touch online. I found that the emphasis on communication whether through meetings, speaking to large groups, and creating posters and other visual media, shifts the students’ attention from ‘learning to be responsible’ to needing to be responsible to take and illicit Action.

Our successes have included helping a Grade 2 student to persuade the school administration to install a Friendship Bench and sponsoring a Pink Shirt Day.

Future plans

Perhaps as our routines become established, I would consider developing a portfolio and badging system like the one described in Adam Hill’s post, Action and Service Volunteers.

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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!



And there it is: The power of asking. The power of action. On my class action board, this belong in the category of ‘Conversing’.

However, it got better. They also included a beautiful promotional poster! Well that sealed the deal.


One can only imagine the inspired and authentic collaboration that went into this. It is packed with language, visual arts, and design applications. It is also an ideal artifact of social and emotional learning.

Needless to say, Lucky 5 will perform their single, Bye Bye, at our Year End Show.

Exhibition rubrics & Global Issues Expo

My students become increasingly engrossed in their research and creating for PYP Exhibition. Thus, my role has become almost exclusively facilitator, coach, and documentarian. This is ideal in a project based learning environment.

Rubrics

In the past two weeks, I’ve devoted particular attention to developing the rubrics for the Exhibition. We will be using four rubrics in total: The PYP Exhibition self assessment rubric, pictured below, for the entire project, and separate rubrics for the essay, speech, and arts components.

In the project rubric, the top three elements are assessed in separate rubrics. The scores are converted and added to this one. The bottom five elements are the the essential elements of the IB Primary Years Program. The purpose of the Exhibition is to demonstrate understanding and engagement with these. This rubric serves as a summative assessment of students’ PYP learning.
The qualitative criteria have been revised from my previous rubrics with terminology inspired by the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition. I’ve also included hybrid ‘one point’ elements which I believe will be particularly effective for self assessment. The students will assign themselves point values for some criteria along with their reflections and rationale.
These rubrics have been shared with students throughout the process of creating them and their input has been included. Since they are all in Google Docs, my feedback after they have been completed by each student will be in the form of comments added to their self assessments.

Global Issues Expo

Our school’s International Children’s Day celebration occurred in the third week of our project. On this day, each classroom creates a unique environment and visitors from our local community are invited to play games and participate in fun learning challenges.
I thought it would be an ideal opportunity for my students to focus on their global issues for Exhibition by creating a Global Issues Expo.
In fact, our expo looked like a typical PYP Exhibition. However, I want the students to have maximum agency in how they present their Exhibition, not necessarily as a collection of display boards about global issues. So our Global Issues Expo worked out perfectly.
Students created displays that were arrayed around the classroom. Each display included a survey question which could be answered by placing a sticker.
This Animal Abuse display asked if guests would prefer to purchase a pet at a store or adopt from a shelter.

This Mental Illness display asked the poignant question, ‘Do you know any person who has a mental illness?’ We were impressed by respondents’ honesty! About 40% answered ‘yes’.
This event has led to increased energy around the students’ global issues and started authentic research in the form of surveys. I have been encouraging them to create google forms to continue their surveys online, but haven’t yet seen a completed one.

Ongoing reflection

We have also been recording reflection interviews. I knew it would be an effective formative assessment technique, but I had no idea it would be such a powerful way to help guide the students’ projects without intruding on their processes. It only takes a few minutes for each student to record their interview and then they can be instantly sorted into playlists.

Uncertain future

At this point in the process, we have formally explored each element. The students have submitted their first drafts of essays and speeches and we have conferenced about them. Some have begun art projects. We have created global issues displays, conducted surveys, and conducted interviews about possible local community action.
Now that the stage is set, it’s time for the students to truly take control.

Elements of the PYP Exhibition

This week, my class of fifth and sixth graders began the culmination of their IB Primary Years journey, the Exhibition. A self-directed and collaborative project, it is my favorite part of the year and a deeply enjoyable challenge to facilitate.

Before setting out, I organized a meeting with all Exhibition stakeholders including students, parents, teachers, and administrators. We discussed everyone’s ideas, questions, and concerns in order to draft our Essential Agreements.


Components


The Exhibition Guidelines provide clear expectations, which I have synthesized for the students to provide support for their projects. One helpful practice I have chosen is to clarify five required components of the project. Specifically, every student must choose a global issue, deliver a persuasive speech, write an expository essay, create a work of art, and engage in community action. Among our first activities was introducing the organizer below.

In this way, each student has a clear map of expectations, yet is empowered to pursue their project along their own path.

Documentation


The Exhibition as an assessment should provide each student with maximum flexibility to demonstrate their understandings. To this end, I have set up a simple wiki for each student within our class wiki to use to document and self assess their learning according to the elements of the PYP (skills, attitudes, concepts, knowledge, action).

Each student has a shared Evernote notebook which functions as a portfolio. Throughout the year, we gather photos, audio reflections, links to blog posts, scanned work, etc. During Exhibition, I am particularly active trying to catch them in the act of deep learning. These artifacts will be extremely useful for them as they curate their documentation wikis.

After the Exhibition concludes, students will self assess their documented learning on rubrics aligned to the elements of the PYP. Here is a link to a rubric from last year which is the model for this year’s rubrics.

Reflection


Students have been publishing their weekly learning journals on their blogs all year. During Exhibition, they are also expected to publish weekly posts reflecting on the progress of their exhibition inquiries and creations.

To scaffold these reflections, we conduct weekly interviews which are uploaded to YouTube. The students are encouraged to include them in their reflections, but it is not required. I have some preplanned questions and we also plan questions together at the beginning of the week. Knowing the questions in advance helps us to have a similar perspective on our activities and helps them to speak and reflect more fluently.


Early starters


I am very happy with the progress thus far. Empowering students to determine their own processes has yielded some interesting immediate results.

One student was inspired to create visual art by filling balloons with paint and air, taping them to paper, and then exploding them with darts.

The inquiry has also included researching the effects of music on brain development. After a brief coaching conversation, we agreed that the importance of Arts Education would be an ideal global issue around which her Exhibition can grow.


Another student began with a global issue: Animal Rights. She already has an excellent community action planned to volunteer at a local animal shelter.

She rushed to complete the poster. Her work led to a frank discussion about aesthetics and time management and she decided to start over, taking more time to create a more visually appealing product.


Call to action


In the first week of Exhibition, we also viewed PYP Exhibition: A Rite of Passage, an inspirational and motivational video I made last year. In most cases, the Exhibition is a student’s first opportunity for 100% self directed learning. Provided a minimum of guidance, I enjoy watching how each learner rises to the challenge.

Twitter: Promoters, connectors, and why I unfollowed you

I have something to confess: I finally did it: Something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, but haven’t mustered the courage until now:

I committed twittercide.



I was following over 900 people on Twitter. ‘How?’ you ask. I wasn’t really following anyone except the rare few whose tweets appeared on my feed in the odd moments I checked.

The more significant question is ‘why?’.

As described in my post Twitter misadventures and stumbling into connected learning, I started tweeting from the classroom in 2009. But it wasn’t until participating in the Learning Creative Learning and Making Learning Connected MOOCs in 2013 that my network and understanding empowered true connected learning.

Connectors

Twitter is alive with Connectors. They utilize the platform for collaborative sensemaking. They begin conversations in tweets that extend to other platforms, media, and into the physical world. They share resources and blog posts liberally and constantly invite others into their learning experiences. 

It’s true that Twitter is a convenient and simple platform for connecting with other teachers. Indeed, I consider many of my connections there as friends and anticipate someday meeting face to face.

However, when I was following over 900 people, I had no idea who most of them were. No doubt they are passionate connected educators like me, but how would I ever know if it was only by chance that I was able to read their posts or follow their links? Why was I following them, anyway?!?


And the simple answer is that I followed them because they followed me. I craved ‘followers’ and feared that they would unfollow me if I didn’t follow back.


The situation became worse when quasi celebrities and marketers began following me. How exciting it was to be ‘followed’ by someone with hundreds of thousands of ‘followers’!


Their tweets clogged my stream until it was obviously impossible to follow them at all. Every trip through the Twitterverse became cacophony. Unmanageable chaos reigned as motivational speakers mingled with online marketing ‘gurus’.

My family, friends, colleagues, and mentors were lost in the fray.


At the same time, I was reminded of the work of Adam Grant by the post and podcast, Adam Grant on Givers, Takers, Matchers and Fakers. Was I giving anything by following so many people on Twitter? I certainly wasn’t giving attention. By all accounts I was a matcher but that’s not want I want to be.


I didn’t want to unfollow ‘the fray’ for fear of losing followers. I was thinking computationally. I was thinking like a promoter.

Promoters

Promotors use social media to promote brands, products, and themselves. Everyone on Twitter is a promoter to some degree, but the more analysis I did, the more I recognized the patterns and strategies that are pure promotion.

The most glaring example of promotion on Twitter is done through hashtags. A Twitter user who always includes in their posts a hashtag related to a particular brand or product is a promoter.


Promoters study and strategize to mask their intent, for example by automating direct messages to new followers or retweeting, although I have observed that they almost always retweet from other promoters.


In years of Twittering, I have observed that all users can be located on a continuum with Connectors on one side and Promoters on the other. To explore this concept, I created the Twitter: Connectors v Promoters document embedded below to compare.

As a collaborative sensemaking activity, I invite you to add items based on your own experiences on Twitter.


All twitter users are at times more or less ‘connectors’ and ‘promoters’, and I don’t mean to imply judgment, rather analysis and reflection.


What Connectors consistently show, and Promoters desperately fake, is authenticity.

Authenticity

My situation demanded an authenticity check. My loved ones, collaborators, and mentors deserve my attention. I was surprised and bolstered in my mission by a tweet and post by William Chamberlain during my deliberations.

To foster community on social networks, I must participate as a community member. The graphic below from The six types of Twitter conversations by Pew Research Center provided models which helped me to understand the nature of my connections.


I didn’t want to continue my inauthentic participation in my ‘community’, but I also didn’t want to lose the connections I had made over the years. The solution was lists. I conducted a complete audit of my entire network and sorted everyone according to a system of lists that seems to work.


My lists

My first and smallest Twitter list is my PLCommunity. Members of this list are people with whom I regularly interact, who share stimulating and high quality content, and whom I trust to participate as community members when called to action. I follow all of them in my main feed and assume a level of responsibility for accepting their invitations and following up on their posts.

[2015.03.23 I decided to delete the PLCommunity list and simply consider the members of my PLNetwork whom I follow and with whom I regularly interact as my Personal/Professional Learning Community.]

Next is my PLNetwork. These are mostly educators around the world who share stimulating content and demonstrate commitment to connected learning, but whom I wouldn’t consider part of my community.

Finally, I sort all of my connected learning network into individuals and organizations by geography and created an Extended Global Network which contains almost everyone I have ever interacted with on Twitter.

Catalysts

My goal on Twitter is to be among those whom Harold Jarche would describe as Innovation Catalysts.

In my post, Don’t be a node. Be a nexus., I encourage myself and others to be active, independent, and dynamic in their online networks. For me, this starts from unfollowing hundreds of people so that I can give attention to my community.

To quote Sherry Turkle from The Flight From Conversation, ‘look up, look at one another, and let’s start the conversation.’

CISC 2015 – the most inspiring symposium I didn’t attend

(This post contains embedded ‘tweets’ that may not render properly depending upon your device and browser.)

It all started, as so many connected learning experiences do, with a tweet.


If Kristen Swanson #couldntbemoreexcited about #EdcampPalooza, then lurking on the #CISC2015 hashtag on Twitter with @Haydeewan seemed like an inviting activity. 


Probably irrationally, I was inspired to virtually attend the symposium by following its stream, collecting tweets, and then organizing them into this reflective blog post. By reordering the tweets, I think it’s interesting how common themes run across different sessions and activities.

If you were at the symposium, I hope you enjoy my curation and interpretation. If you were not, I’m sure will enjoy attending virtually with me!


Edcamp

The CISC Leadership Symposium included the largest Edcamp ever!

Kristen shared the Edcamp CISC Session Schedule which, in true unconference fashion, represents the authentic interests of the participants. They included the divergent and ambitious inquiries that characterize self determined learning.


At Edcamp Tokyo, we asked participants to share their session notes so that everything would be published via our Edcamp Tokyo Collabornization document, a practice I would like to have seen adopted for this most epic of Edcamps.



I believe that Edcamps and other ‘unconferences’ and the authentic and engaging conversations that they kindle and sustain are a model for the future of professional development.

Cognitosphere

Education visionary Grant Lichtman introduced the concept of the cognitosphere, a model which provocatively represents the ubiquitous and highly dynamic nature of learning.

‘The cognitosphere includes both the body of knowledge as it exists and evolves, and the process of creating, teaching, transferring, managing, and learning that knowledge.  Knowledge is based on the human experience and therefore includes both content and skills. It represents the total of all the answers to all the questions that have been asked in the past, as well as the process of asking questions that will create new knowledge in the future.’


//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsI think a model based on the ‘4 Cs of the Cognitosphere’ could have serious traction. I see a strong connection to the 21st Century Fluencies of the Global Digital Citizen Foundation, a core resource in my approaches to teaching and learning.


One word

Mr Lichtman also took the opportunity to pose his #OnewordK12 question, ‘What one word describes your vision of the highest goals of learning? What do you hope to exude as an educator? Of what do you want your school to “reek”?’

As the audience responses poured out from Twitter, I recognized this as an exercise in Collaborative Sensemaking and tasked myself with tabulating and organizing the results. This was a truly tedious task which I wouldn’t repeat under the same circumstances, but due to an unwavering combination of curiosity and stubborness, I completed the list below which includes the results, organized by number of entries, alphabetized, with a link to every ‘one word’ tweet at the symposium.


It turns out that the educators at CISC this year describe their vision as, most wish to exude, and most want their schools to reek of ‘passion‘!

passion 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17

excitement 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
innovation 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
joy 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12

creativity 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11


engagement 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9; inspiration 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9

curiosity 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8


enthusiasm 1,2,3,4,5,6


collaboration 1,2,3,4,5; success 1,2,3,4,5


fun 1,2,3,4; wonder 1,2,3,4

agency 1,2,3; commitment 1,2,3; community 1,2,3; confidence 1,2,3; empowerment 1,2,3; energy 1,2,3; excellence 1,2,3; hope 1,2,3; imagination 1,2,3; love 1,2,3; perseverance 1,2,3; possibility 1,2,3,4; transformative 1,2,3

acceptance 1,2; amazing 1,2; authentic 1,2; connection 1,2; courageous 1,2; dynamic 1,2; exuberance 1,2; leadership 1,2; learning(culture) 1,2; meaningful 1,2; mindfulness 1,2; ownership 1,2; positive 1,2; relevance 1,2; risk 1,2; understanding 1,2

achievement 1; active 1; affirmation 1; believe 1; big 1; brave 1; buy in 1; challenging 1; compassionate 1; competence 1; delight 1; democracy 1; determined 1; different 1; discovery 1; discussion 1; empathy 1; equity 1; everyone 1; exhilarated 1; expectation 1; exploration 1; fearless 1; flow 1; focus 1; gamification 1; give 1; google 1; growing 1; happy 1; honesty 1; imperative 1; inquiry 1; inquisitiveness 1; intriguing 1; inviting 1; kindness 1; motivating 1; opportunities 1; optimism 1; options 1; oral discourse 1; preparation 1; progress 1; purposeful 1; relationships 1; rigor 1; sky 1; sparkle 1; spirit 1; stickwithitness 1; systemic 1; team 1; urgency 1; value 1; voice 1


I’m sure it would amuse Mr Lichtman that the word ‘grit’ appears exactly zero times.

Maker Education

Perhaps the most exciting event at the symposium for me was Dale Dougherty’s Maker Movement workshop.


Reading these educator leaders find excitement in the Maker Movement gives me tremendous hope and encouragement for the future of formal learning. In my blog post, Maker Club year 1, I reflected on my experiences with the young makers in my school and I am thrilled to see growing awareness and enthusiasm for making.


Improvisation

I have always found value in improvisation, particularly due to being a jazz musician, as an abstract conversation and exploration of shared models, ideas, and feelings.

Unfortunately, my experiences in formal education, other than my New School years, have emphasized predictability and repetition over spontaneity and iteration.


Truthfully, I was shocked to see educator leaders waxing on improvisation, valuing creativity and divergent connections.


What if the professors in my teacher preparation program thought similarly?…

Change

Chip Heath’s observation is one of my favorite tweets from the symposium. I have often experienced the conundrum of being encouraged to innovate and redefine how learning occurs in my classroom, only to be asked later for traditional reports aligned to standards with quantitative summative assessment data.

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The symposium’s conciousness of change seemed to center around decomplication. In fact, the metaphor of farming, often regarded as a ‘simple’ way of life, was used to change perspective on the act of teaching. Farming is complex, but farmers tend not to be complicated. I find this analogy to be very comforting somehow.


The word ‘cultivate’ has probably appeared in every one of my classroom blog posts in various contexts, although this is my first time thinking of education in terms of farming. It aligns perfectly with my ideas of LX Design and metateaching and I appreciate the organic and visceral imagery.


Considering plants and animals, why not address the elephant in the room?


While there are undeniably elephants being ignored at any educational conference, this elephant is another metaphor which seeks to provide a model for change.

I appreciate that only emotion can move the elephant, and I believe that that emotion comes from, and should come from, the children.


When we focus on the children and their stories, the elephant is unstoppable.

If listening to children is ‘innovative’, then we have a lot of catching up to do.

While listening to children in education may be historically new, it is gratefully older than history in terms of relationships and mentoring. It was great to see the Educator Leaders at the symposium focusing on positive developments.


Bright spots

Fortunately, incredible learning is happening all around us, all the time.

What if Trust and Transparency can empower ‘bright spots’ everywhere?

What if…?



My ‘What if…?’s

What if we took Grant Lichtman’s suggestions literally?

What if we discard ‘anchors and silos’ by closing county and district offices of education, convert them to community centers, and move all educators into school sites?

What if educators observed a five year moratorium on conferences? Instead, apply 100% of our energy, resources, attention, and passion to finding and cultivating the bright spots within our own learning communities. Then we get back together to share.

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What if educational leadership was a true inverted pyramid with students at the top, determining and directing  the learning, and teachers and administration below, facilitating and supporting?


//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsWhat if ‘the day when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk to blossom’ is today?

The CISC 2015 Leadership Symposium was a test. A test of authenticity and courage.

Courage

Without courage, nothing else worth doing is possible. So much of what I gleaned from the tweets from CISC 2015 is that educator leaders are trying to muster their courage to reform education, how we learn, into a totally new model.

Looking for ‘bright spots’, adopting a design mentality, motivating the elephant, etc, it’s all meaningless if it doesn’t lead to action.



With so many outstanding, inspiring, and impassioned ideas in such a short time, I hope this post has helped to synthesize some of them and provide opportunities to reflect and act.

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Inquiry math: Estimation

One of my challenges as an IB PYP teacher is how to design authentic opportunities for inquiry using mathematics. I think it’s due partly to the fact that the outcomes tend to be predetermined but also because upper elementary mathematical skills aren’t often prominent in the students’ own inquiries.


My solution has generally been to provide an inquiry provocation to introduce a concept with related skills to be practiced in subsequent lessons.

Estimation

Recently, we completed a unit on estimation. The initial challenge was simply to estimate the number of various objects in various containers.

Invitation

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsAfter my students discussed different strategies and submitted their estimates, we engaged the school community by setting up the jars and forms in the corridor and inviting other classes to join in.



The added social element was invaluable. The observations my students made about the strategies employed by the younger students had particularly strong metacognitive value, as they stimulated us to reflect more deeply on our own approaches.

In reflection, this activity might have been better provoked by a question like ‘How do people estimate?’, providing students with more flexibility to inquire in different ways into the mathematical thinking of themselves and others.

Challenge

Finally, to bring the inquiry to our target of using very large numbers, I challenged my students to formulate an estimation question that would result in a very large number. I’ll share two of the standout projects:

How many ants weigh the same as a ten year old girl?


The student who created this poster struggled mightily with her inquiry. I appreciated her creativity in first making a moving seesaw, especially because it was likely inspired by her participation in our school’s Maker Club. Considering her first guess of 100 ants being equal in weight to a child, it took a significant cognitive effort, a fair amount of peer support, and some careful teacher coaching to arrive at a more realistic estimate.

How much more ingredients would you need to make a classroom sized cupcake?



The giant cupcake was beautifully presented, but illustrates the importance of action in inquiry. This student’s work was hypothetically interesting, yet I don’t believe that any of the questions or ideas were actually pursued. When the idea was introduced, I was hoping that an abnormally large cupcake would appear in the classroom one day!

Practice

After creating posters to share their estimation inquiry processes, students embarked on a traditional unit of estimation practice and application in different situations. Their learning was certainly enhanced after completing their individual projects, and resulted in a clear connection between the academic and practical aspects of mathematics.

Reflection

This was an interesting mini unit that resulted in meaningful learning, but I would like to explore ways to tie it to a greater and more general theme.

It also raises a question for me about the role of purposeful practice in inquiry learning. After all, learning outcomes are, by definition, predetermined. Is it enough to view them with suspicion when designing learning experiences, or should I actively try to eliminate them from my planning?