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.
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Maker Club year 1

One year ago, I started a Maker Club at my school as part of our after school program. While maker spaces for older learners generally focus on robotics and digital creation, I believe that an elementary maker experience should start from concrete, physical creation. Most of our materials were donated by families, but we also frequently raid the school art supplies.

Based on my participation in the Learning Creative Learning MOOC in 2013, the initial guiding principles for our Maker Club were Independence and Social Creativity.

Independence

It’s critical that Maker Club have no assignments. The only requirement is to always be ‘making’. Imagining, researching, designing, sharing, and reflecting are all parts of the making process.

Maker Faire often includes digital production, as well as arts and crafts, engineering and construction, cooking, scientific experiments and demonstrations, and the visual and performing arts. There are no artificial limits.

For the first few meetings, there was a refrain of ‘What should I make?’, ‘What do you want to make?’. This dialog is indicative of empowerment. As young makers realize that they are in control of their learning in their maker space, their creativity is ignited.

In a sense, this is what makes a maker space. Of course, maker tools and materials are important, but most important is fostering an environment in which everyone feels safe to experiment and create.

Every maker must be encouraged to try anything, and indeed, ‘makes’ that fail are not failures at all. Failures are courageous learning experiences and opportunities to safely practice a growth mindset.

Social Creativity

Social Creativity is the notion that creativity is a social activity. Innovation by adapting existing ideas, sharing, cooperating, and collaborating respects the idea that creation is an act of communication.

Every week, we update a Maker Club Projects spreadsheet that both serves to document our activities and as an archive to inspire innovation and collaboration.

The framework for assessment in our Maker Club is from The Tinkering Studio’s Design, Make, Play and consists of the the criteria of Engagement, Intentionality, Innovation, and Solidarity. This rubric emphasizes process over product and social interaction over individual achievement. These principles guide me in my role as facilitator in coaching young makers.


Play, passion, projects, peers

The most recent iteration of the Learning Creative Learning MOOC introduced the ‘4 Ps’ of play, passion, projects, and peers. Mitchell Resnick also introduced the Creative Learning Spiral, which became the inquiry model for our Maker Club.


This model is exceptionally effect for maintaining makers’ momentum.


Gallery

Please enjoy these photos of various works in progress. All photos by Bart Miller (CC BY 4.0).

One ambitious maker, inspired by a Maker Faire video, attempted to convert her bicycle into a cupcake. The project proved to be too complex for the scope of our once per week club, but she did manage to complete a ‘cherry on top’ helmet.


A pair of makers surprised me with an impromptu hand puppet show!


One of my favorite makes was this mixed media artwork. I noticed a maker with a large piece of cardboard and a pile of assorted materials.

I asked, ‘What are you making here?’
She replied, ‘I don’t know, I’m just making it.’

That’s precisely the spirit I love to see in a maker space, and is a glowing example of creative learning in action.


A student asked, ‘Is it ok if I practice piano during Maker Club?’

Yes, it is very ok to make music in Maker Club.


Often, younger makers start with a familiar project, like making a greeting card. The exciting thing is the freedom with which they innovate and iterate. Arts and crafts lessons tend to be more structured, which is of course very effective for developing a particular skill. In Maker Club, we emphasize creativity over specific skill development.


One of the older makers inspired some first graders to decorate plastic bottle caps. Learning from each other and innovating each others’ ideas is an element of social creativity that comes alive in a maker space.


The classroom computers have quick links to various digital maker sites such as Scratch, DIY, and The Hour of Code


Yet another exciting development is makers using our club time to create for projects in their ‘regular’ class. Blurring the boundaries between learning in different settings is one of my driving goals as an educator. In the photo above, a maker begins work on a robot ticket booth for a classroom carnival.

If they start building cardboard ‘robots’, it’s not a huge leap to consider adding mechanical joints, gears, or motors!


Our Maker Club achieved a new level of complexity when a new member resolved to build a guitar. I was hoping that they would inquire into how to make it playable, but they were satisfied with it as is.


Making is messy. That’s part of what makes it fun and what makes the learning that happens in a maker space so authentic and deep. I’ve learned the hard way how important it is to have rather strict clean up procedures.


One rather reluctant maker jumped at the chance to dissect a donated broken DVD player. I suggested to use our camera to take ‘macro’ photos of the innards, and the result was an interesting blend of art and technology.

Starting Year 2

Happily, by adhering to the principles of independence and social creativity, a tremendous amount of positive momentum has accumulated.

Some makers have come and gone, choosing other options for their after school program.

But some have caught maker fever. They need Maker Club.

To express the feeling of this new year of Maker Club, please enjoy this poem:

Maker Fever

Fidget through meetings
sneak to prepare materials
anxious to maximize time.

Don’t ask to ‘use this’ or ‘make that’.
Don’t need permission
in our maker space.

Make things at school,
share them at home.

Make things at home,
share them at school.

Make anywhere;
share everywhere.

Quality increases.

Confidence
Time management
Social interactions
Friendship

Constructed understanding reflected in classwork.

Attention to details
Planning
Resilience
Mindset

We are makers.

We can make anything.

All we need is space, time, and stuff.
(stuff is optional)

We are makers.




Elementary Digital Music

For the past few weeks, I have enjoyed looking forward to my ‘Music with Computers’ after-school class on Wednesdays, for 2nd through 6th grade students.
It’s a ten week course. During the first five weeks, I introduced various creation tools. The second half is for exploration, experimentation, composition, and creation.
The availability of intuitive, expressive, professional, free sound creation tools is exploding. I’ve enjoyed exploring to find a few of the best to share with students, as well as a few teachers who happened to be in the media center on Wednesday afternoon, and I would like to share them with you!

Synthesizer

 

http://wonderfl.net/c/9Xx7/fullscreen
SiON SoundObject Quartet

SiON SoundObject Quartet is an awesome Flash-based synthesizer and mini-sequencer and was the first tool I introduced. The controls are very inviting and it provides a thorough sampling of different control interfaces being used on professional audio equipment. I especially like the ‘analog’ vocabulary like VCF (Voltage Controlled Filter) and ADSR (Attack Decay Sustain Release). Please enjoy this informative tutorial video on ADSR:

I was lucky to study electronic music with classic analog synthesizers and can confidently say that SiON SoundObject is the next best thing, and significantly easier to use. Students love creating wild sci-fi sounds with this synthesizer!
I learned on a Doepfer. (Nina Richards CC BY 3.0)

Drum Machine

 

One Motion Drum Machine

Drum Machines have become the backbone of popular music. There are two online drum machines I recommend for elementary students, One Motion Drum Machine and Drumbot. One Motion is very easy to use and has good ‘physical’ controls making it perfect for young learners and beginners. It is, however, part of a suite of applications including very distracting games, so students need frequent reminders to get back on task after their ‘game breaks’, although I have observed that the games are well designed for fine-motor and mouse tracking skills. Although Drumbot is a bit trickier to operate, it is much more flexible and mimics current professional controllers like the Dave Smith Instruments Tempest. Patterns can be saved and looped, reorganized, and special effects added and manipulated in many ways. Finally, it allows users to save their creations, which will become a popular feature among my students as they begin producing more music that they want to share with friends and family.

Virtual Studio

Soundation

Soundation is a virtual studio, sequencer, and social network, all in one. As with MuseScore, users create and share their music in a vibrant collaborative community. It is almost identical to professional digital audio recording software like Pro Tools, although simpler and less powerful. Older students have been highly engaged with it from the beginning, and I can’t wait to hear the music they will make as their skills and visions grow.

Play Anywhere

 

All of the links for these tools are kept on a simple Music with Computers wiki, which was emailed to parents after the first session. Evidently, students are visiting the sites at home because they come to class with new tricks to share and I’ve received emails from parents expressing thanks for collecting fun and engaging resources! I hope you enjoy them as well.

Connectivity

I also created a JIES Music account on SoundCloud, to which I plan to upload recordings in the future. I hope to hear more recordings of students’ music there as education and art become more networked and digitally connected.

Pottery Field Trip

My class had an outstanding field trip today, in connection with our unit of inquiry into the effects of changes in science and technology. We recently completed a modeled inquiry into 3D printing, introduced in the post, Modeling Inquiry. Having delved into the future of manufacturing, a visit to Uzumako Ceramic Art School was ideal to provide perspective by experiencing one of the world’s most ancient crafts, pottery.
Student hands dig into wet, spinning clay

My own visceral reaction to wet clay covering my hands, but more importantly the focus and creative energy emitted by students, was all I needed to know this was a deep and invaluable learning experience.

The two ‘creative’ cups on the left were mine…
The teachers at Uzumako were patient and knowledgeable, and fluent in Japanese and English, so it was truly ideal.
For inquiry, experiencing this ancient technology through our hands illustrated a connection to the past that can’t be explained with words. Perhaps that’s a good definition of Deeper Learning, that it can’t adequately be expressed with language.
Students’ impressive creations!
Seeing students with clay-covered hands, satisfied smiles, and creative sparks in their eyes is enough to make the day of any teacher. If you have a chance, I highly recommend visiting your local pottery and ceramics class!

Mapping My Internet

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

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

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

To summarize, arrayed at the bottom are the social networks I use to find content. Many are just for entertainment and inspiration, but I use a several, particularly twitter and tumblr, to discover and curate. Since most of my browsing is done on my mobile phone and usually on the subway, the first task is simply to identify posts I want to examine more deeply and “favorite” or “like” them. That simply saves them to find easily later. Once a week or so, I check my saved items and decide whether to import them into Evernote using the tagging system I described in Inquiry with Evernote vol 1. Sometimes I share immediately, and occasionally across platforms.

When I discover new blogs I want to follow, I add them to Feedly. Since I started using it after the demise of Google Reader, the number of blogs I follow increased exponentially to about 400 in various categories, but has plateaued lately.

Sorting information in this way helps me to apply it with agility and relevance in the classroom and in publishing on my own blog and my favorite communities. I also use Evernote to document learning in the classroom, so it is rapidly becoming my “home base”.

Creating this graphic helped me to clarify my thinking about the web and how I use it. How do you sort the Internet? Still sending yourself emails with links?… it’s ok, I do that sometimes, too 😉

Independent Inquiry: Origami

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

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

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

Make/Hack/Play Together 2

When Kevin Hodgson shared his song in the post, Making a Song, for the first ‘make’ of the Make/Hack/Play Together MOOC, I was immediately impressed by its mournful mood. I thought it would be appropriate for this week’s ‘digital make’ to hack his song by arranging it for string quartet using MuseScore. Here’s a link to my work-in-progress, Hacking a Song.

I’ve only spent a short time on it, but have found some bits I like and some that probably wouldn’t make the final cut. Arranging is different that writing a song. It’s rather scientific and requires taking into account many variables such as register, the mechanics of the instruments involved, acoustics, etc.

I even started to ‘play’ at the end, but it’s getting late and I can’t tell whether those ideas are worth staying up for…

The trickiest part, however, is capturing the mood. Since the mood of Kevin’s song is what struck me, I tried to interpret that feeling for a different ensemble. It never works to copy it. It’s more like a translation than anything else. The sounds, like words, may have the same meanings, but they don’t say the same things.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading and listening to my little, albeit, incomplete piece.