After an aborted attempt in September, I recently completed the Teaching with Moodle MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), also known as Learn Moodle MOOC.
Overall, my survey results were very positive. To statements which I would consider critical, like ‘My teacher cares about me.’ and ‘My teacher shows respect to all students.’
An 81% ‘usually’ and 0% ‘no’ outcome shows that my ongoing formative assessment cycle assures that every student is both challenged and capable of success.
One surprise was an unexpectedly positive response to ‘My teacher allows me to demonstrate my understanding in various ways.’
Through the first half of the school year, providing multiple pathways to understanding and accepting diverse assessment artifacts have been areas I feel I have neglected. However, my students seem to think otherwise, so perhaps what I have been doing has been satisfying for them.
The first disturbing result in the student survey was to the statement ‘Students are respectful to each other in my class.’
The majority of students responded ‘sometimes’, indicating that I could be doing more to foster respect in my class. Fortunately, they don’t seem to think that I lack respect.
My biggest disappointment is the only 62% ‘usually’ response for ‘My teacher teaches about and demonstrates the Learner Profile attributes.’
Planning and executing IB Primary Years Program units of inquiry has been my greatest frustration this year as I adapt to a new teaching environment. In the past, I have been very careful to explicitly teach the elements of the PYP embedded within units of inquiry. Thus far in this school year, such careful planning and execution simply hasn’t happened.
Fortunately, my class is in the formative stages of a new unit so it’s a perfect time to bring IB Learner Profile attributes back to the front. To get started, I’ll access another data source, our Learner Profile reflections, by looking at the analytics.
This data visualization reveals that at this time, according to their self assessments, Caring is my students’ least developed Learner Profile attribute. This evidence also supports their feeling that they are not respectful to each other in class.
By making Caring a focal point in our next unit of inquiry, these issues may be addressed.
The statement ‘I feel free to ask and answer questions.’ is the most perplexing to me.
Contrasting that with a more favorable response to ‘My teacher gives me help when I need it.’ suggest some confusion.
In general, school has traditionally been a place where teachers have answers to students’ questions. While that is a culture that I reject, it doesn’t mean my students have not grow up with that mindset.
As in Ted Meyer’s TED talk, Math class needs a makeover, I aim to promote ingenuity and inquiry by being ‘less helpful’. Students constantly ask me questions that could researched in a book, on the Internet, or by asking their peers. For example, I almost never answer spelling questions for students.
I also avoid the traditional hand raising routine that most classrooms follow, preferring to call for responses randomly or in an open forum setting.
So it’s little surprise that many only ‘sometimes’ feel free to ask questions since they are likely still processing the cognitive dissonance of a new culture of ‘less helpful’ classroom participation.
This is an interesting exercise, although doing it any more than once per year would be too much. I can also see how it might be difficult to compare results year to year, as the perspectives of different classes can vary so widely.
I am happy to take away some actionable data and look forward to seeing what results it might lead to.
Since the beginning of the school year at KIST, I have used OneNote Class Notebook, an ‘add-in’ for MS Office, to document and organize evidence of learning in the classroom.
The experience started with creating the layout of the shared and student sections. Having never used the tool before, I did my best to predict what design would serve our needs.
Months later, in reflection, I can see that my choices were acceptable but nowhere near ideal. Anyone else planning to use Class Notebook should be advised to consider the sections they will use carefully, especially according to class routines and assessment practices.
Although I was dismayed to receive an error message initially, the class creation tool worked perfectly and it is easy to add new students later. It creates a class notebook which includes a ‘Content library’, which the teacher can edit and students can view, ‘Collaboration space’, which everyone can edit, and individual sections for each students. All of the sections have customizable features, so a thoughtful and well designed structure goes a long way toward capability and usability.
Have smartphone, will document
A smart device is essential to making best use of OneNote. Being able to shoot photographs of students and their work directly into their notebooks is an invaluable time saver. On the SAMR scale, I would rank it a strong ‘A’ for augmentation.
However, if every student had a smart device, if only for the purpose of maintaining a digital portfolio, OneNote would enable significant modification of the processes of documentation and student ownership of learning. Taken further, the empowerment of having equitable access to teacher and student created learning materials could be truly transformational.
As we use it now, I am able to upload in real time via my smartphone and students access their notebooks in PC Lab or when possible in class.
I am very excited to take the lessons I’ve learned in the past months to design a rich digital learning environment next year using OneNote Class Notebook.
When I noticed the Grade Five team at KIST next door preparing centers including light bulbs, various balls, balloons, thermometers, and more, and during my preparation period, I couldn’t miss the chance to observe and document.
There was also an ingenious application of the impossible dominoes phenomenon. The thought occurred to me, however, that this demonstration is worthy of investing in a purpose built set of progressively larger dominoes.
Two more centers are not pictured in this post. One involved comparing how different balls bounce, and how they bounce differently when released on top of each other. This would have been a fantastic exploration to allow students to carry out, but would need to be outside due to the risk of errant balls. The final center was the classic balloon/straw jet on a string.
What appealed the most about this experience to me was it’s cohesion. The graphic organizer provided served to connect the various engagements through a cognitive framework. It was an ideal design that I look forward to adapting to future units of inquiry in my class.
In lieu of a faculty meeting today, my Principal has blessed us with a learning opportunity to read and reflect on The Arts Make A Difference by Nick Rabkin and Robin Redmond.
Being significantly behind on my professional blogging, this is also an ideal opportunity to reestablish that invaluable habit.
One observation that I have made about my students is that, like the students in Nick Jaffe’s music engineering classes, ‘“They have a shocking ability to work effectively and listen well amid the cacophony in this open room,”’. Perhaps one consideration we should have is that deep learning is messy and noisy. If we insist on neat, orderly, quiet classrooms, we will have neat, orderly, quiet learning.
The most important theme of this article is that arts integration shouldn’t necessarily mean the integration of Arts content into or connected to Language and Mathematics. They should be equally balanced, with emphasis being placed on the authentic arts processes and products, supported by language and math skills.
What is needed is for teachers to collaborate to understand the ‘parallel processes in an art form or arts-related activity and a more traditionally academic activity’.
In a truly Constructivist environment, the content is created by the learners with the teachers serving as facilitators, organizers, documentarians, and coaches. Learning expressed through art values the learners’ experiences, values, and emotions. But for curriculum to be arts driven, we must find ways to use content and skills instruction to support learning in a coherent manner. This provokes me to revisit my introduction to the IB Primary Years Program and the document, Toward a Coherent Curriculum by James Beane.
The transdisciplinary nature of the PYP and the ‘socially constructed and largely artificial’ boundaries of school are incompatible.
If we instead think of the learner at the center (rather than content), it is intuitive to imagine that each teacher can have a role, based on their expertise, to uniquely support and inform learning.
Coherence will come from those teachers acting as a collaborative team rather than a group of cooperating individuals isolated within their own disciplines. They should understand how each others’ approaches complement each other from the learners’ perspective and how they can improve their coordination through communication.
To quickly begin to address this need in our school, I recommend that each integrated unit of inquiry be planned on one document and that specialist teachers be responsible for ‘leading’ the planning to identify and define the language and mathematics content and skills that would best support the students’ learning processes and products.
Upon arriving for the first day of a new job, I sat by myself, for the first time in my new classroom, Grade 4B, in my new school, K International School Tokyo.
In anticipation of that moment, I applied attention to classroom environment as a crucial element of Learning Experience Design. Several interesting articles have been published recently on this topic, including Classroom design can boost primary pupils’ progress by 16% and The Perfect Classroom, According to Science.
While following CISC 2015 – the most inspiring symposium I didn’t attend, I was inspired by a classroom layout concept shared by Brian Curwick.
It closely resembled my own thinking about the importance of collaborative teams in learning. I augmented this idea with the need for a balance between private, collaborative, and presentation spaces.
Last April, I was pleasantly surprised by this tweet announcing a twitter chat on the topic of environment in empowering pedagogy:
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsThe document shared in the tweet, ‘The Environment’ (Chapter 8 of Empowering Pedagogy For Early Childhood Education), and Making Your Environment ‘The Third Teacher’, another article shared within it, have both been enlightening as during my deliberations.
The graphic below from ‘The Environment’ is an ideal reference in this process.
Also included was a quote which resonated strongly with me:
‘The path of learning and development is more like a butterfly than that of a bullet.’ Jim Greenman
Learning shouldn’t have a trajectory, but rather a heading.
Although these Reggio Emilia inspired resources focus on early childhood learning and I will be teaching Grade 4, I think the concepts and strategies are absolutely applicable, particularly in promoting engagement.
What are the ‘hidden treasures’ for nine year olds? They still literally need things to climb, sand to dig, and water to pour. But they should also play with increasingly sophisticated concepts. And they should do it together, so perhaps many of their treasures are the ideas and feedback from each other, as Constructivist pedagogy suggests.
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsDesigners rethinking schools and classrooms provide inspiration. The DesignShare website contains many interesting illustrations to consider. Of particular interest to me were their pages about the Learning Studio and Home Base and Individual Storage.
Jim Greenman’s publication for Beyond the Journal, Places for Childhood in the 21st Century, inspires an ethical and moral dimension to create learning spaces which ‘encourage competence, provide comfort, and accept individuality.’
– Multiple means of engagement (affective)
– Multiple representations of content (recognition)
– Multiple means of action and expression (strategic)
‘When applying the UDL framework, goals should be decoupled from the means to achieve them so that teachers can effectively plan to provide multiple pathways to success.’
My immediate goal was to design a space with three zones:
Small group collaborative
Whole class presentation/interactive
Our private space is the smallest, consisting of a classroom library under the bright windows and soon, colorful foam mats for floor seating.
The small group spaces are my priority. I arranged individual student desks into groups of four (one group of five) around the perimeter of the learning space, each with its own bookshelf to store resources including encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesaurus, student work in progress trays, and some their other materials.
While promoting cooperation, this arrangement also prevents distraction, as the space between the groups is maximized.
The center of the room contains an open space for whole class interaction. When the desk groups are pushed closer to the walls, there is enough room for the entire class to form a Community Circle with their chairs, or to create a sort of amphitheater environment for viewing presentations and media.
With some easy rearrangement, the open space in the center can become large enough to serve as a work area for larger projects, whole group meeting area, and audience seating for presentations.
I’m quite happy with how the room turned out, although I can see how custom made furniture would make it look stylish. Everyone wants a bit bigger room, but I haven’t felt cramped at any time. Often while pursuing inquiries, students ask to move into the corridor anyway, which makes me consider that perhaps it’s a mistake to think of the classroom walls as boundaries at all!