Posts Tagged ‘learning’

What does Learning Look like Crazy 8

What does Learning Look like? Post it Crazy 8 thinking routine challenge by Nicki Hambleton

Think of a lesson you have been planning.

You might have spent hours putting together the most engaging lesson for your students: visuals and slides mapped out, handouts printed, you’ve planned fun and varied activities and you have probing questions at the ready.

You have taught this lesson a hundred times so you know the content well. But how will you know if your students have really understood and learnt anything?

What does learning actually look like?

I asked the same question to a group of educators at the Learning 2 conference, Warsaw back in April, where I was running an extended session called Learning and Thinking Out Loud through visual note taking and thinking routines. I used the simple routine Crazy 8, first demonstrated to me by Kelly Grogan and Ed Chang from the Chinese International School, HK at the iPad conference held at UWCSEA.

I explained that they would be drawing 1 idea per post it every 20 seconds (a feat most thought they would be incapable of, but weren’t!). Each idea drawn would represent what learning looks like. To show them what I meant, I drew a quick example:

Portable Network Graphics image-A1CD06C9D1DF-1.png

quick doodle for collaborative learning

At the end of the 3 minutes their ideas looked like this:

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Crazy 8 example doodles.JPG

We shared thoughts and discussed what they had drawn with comments such as:

“Learning can be messy”, “Learning is never ending” and “Learning should be fun”.

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Photo from Learning 2 conference, Warsaw, April 2017

What learning actually looks like and what it should look like can be quite different, but learning out loud, making it more visible and tangible can aid further discussion and understanding of that thought process.

What would you draw for What Learning Looks Like? 

What alternative question might you ask in your classroom for students to draw their responses using the Crazy 8 thinking routine?

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Photo Credit: Alan Vernon. Flickr via Compfight cc

When I was at school, learning was predominantly teacher led and all about listening, reading and writing, with exams at the end of the year. I don’t recall there being any student choice, collaboration or to that extent much fun, but that’s how it was.

In my classroom today, my students share that they are more empowered by autonomy and choice and, wherever it is possible, I try to include them in the planning process. But how do I know that they are learning or indeed, what they are learning?

You may be thinking that learning in Art is quite obvious as it is visual – a drawing, sculpture or painting. But how do I know whether they have truly understood the concept, the skill or technique? How do I know what is going on in their heads?

When learning only goes on only in one’s head we cannot see it, understand it or question it. We cannot track the thought process, probe into their thinking or push ideas in other directions. It is only when we get students to visualise their thinking that we can start to understand their processes, methods and see the way they work.

If you haven’t read the book “Making Thinking Visible” by Ritchhart, Church and Morrison or “Creating Cultures of Thinking” by Ron Ritchhart or devoured the resources on the website Project Zero and the Visible thinking routines, I strongly urge you to do so at you earliest convenience, I promise you will not regret it.

Project Zero began 50 years ago, led by a team of researchers including Howard Gardiner, discussing the cognitive skills needed for arts education and conceptual understanding through the arts.

You can find multiple, easy to use thinking routines through the website and many educators from elementary to high school use these to enhance and visualise thinking in their classrooms.

The best way to start is to choose just one routine and try it in different ways with different concepts and classes.

see-think-wonder

My most favoured routine is SEE THINK WONDER, which I use when introducing a new artist or art form such as installation art, when reflecting or giving feedback and when analysing or discussing artworks. During a discussion, it allows students to think more out loud, hear others ideas and to expand their own thinking. For Middle School art students it opens their minds at the start of a new unit and allows them to ask questions and wonder about the meaning or reason behind the artwork. In short, it gets them thinking more independently.

You can read more about the Making Learning Visible online course on their website and about UWCSEA’s group experience in a previous post of mine.

Recently I stumbled on a new routine, via Simon Brooks’ website called 8 to 1, where students whittle complex concepts into more manageable understandings, essentially by capturing it in 8 words, then 4, 2 and eventually down to one word:

1. If you were to write exactly 8 words that captured the heart of what should be remembered, what would those 8 words be?

2. Now that you have your 8, can you distill them down to 4?

3. And 2?

4. And 1?

5. REFLECT: Share your 8 words, your 2 words and your 1 word.  How did your thinking change?  What did you learn about what’s most important here?

Sharing their thinking seems to be at the heart of the routine and I see this as the most valuable learning experience for them. Brook posts a student example, below, relating to Hamlet’s speech but this routine could easily apply to IB Physics, HS Geography or MS Art.

 

 

How might you try out this routine in your class?

How could this help students to share their learning?

How does learning look different in other curriculum areas?

EMPOWER sketchnote

EMPOWER sketchnote by Nicki Hambleton drawn on iPad using Adobe Draw

Student choice is the heartbeat of ownership and empowerment

so what can we do to ensure this is integral in our students learning? How do you integrate personalised learning into your lessons?

Personalised Learning

Personalised Learning visual note by Nicki Hambleton using Adobe Ideas on iPad

The book has certainly given me much food for thought here relaxing in Italy, sipping rich red Tuscan wine and munching on sweet succulent tomatoes and bruschetta.

What have you read this summer that has changed your thinking?

How can you embody the ideas in Empower to help students own their learning?

What does learning look like in your classroom?

One of my goals for the next academic year is to build students’ skills in self-directedness and, to help this process I have been investigating Hyperdocs as a strategy to guide students through the unit yet allowing them choice and time for personal progression. Hyperdocs are a possible solution to personalised learning using technology to gather multiple resources online.

 

Hyperdocs are and are not

Hyperdocs.co

 

 

Hyperdocs, a transformative, interactive Google Doc replacing the worksheet method of delivering instruction, is the ultimate change agent in the blended learning classroom.

You can read more about Hyperdocs on Cult of Pedagogy or on the main Hyperdocs site. Have you used Hypedocs yet? How has this changed student learning?

I would love to hear about your experiences, challenges and thoughts on personalised learning, empowerment and any other ideas you have for making thinking more visible.

Please share your experiences and ideas in the comments below.

This blog post was a reflection of and in response to the powerful TED talk by Will Richardson “The Surprising Truth about Learning in School”.

 

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“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Dr. Seuss

Learning in the Library of COETAIL a visualnote drawn by Nicki Hambleton on iPad with Adobe Ideas

Learning in the Library of COETAIL a visualnote drawn by Nicki Hambleton on iPad with Adobe Ideas

Let me start at the very beginning…

Back in Course 1, I found the greatest learning was through connecting. (Connect Collaborate Create). Twitter, in particular, gave me an online family to offer support, answer questions and helped me to develop. I have never been so in awe of an online platform to learn from. At times it is overwhelming and there is too much information that I try to take note of. My Evernote is fit to burst, my Instapaper unread and my Flipboard not working, but I try to stay on top of what is important to me.

It was during this time that I asked myself:

“how can I connect students outside of the art classroom?”

During one of the live COETAIL chats, Dane Watts also talked about student connections and it was in Course 1 with the guidance of my mentor Clint, and help from Vivian, Joe and many other COETAILers online, that the seed was sown for what was to be the beginning of the end of COETAIL. It has been incredible to connect with Matt and Anne, both teaching art and members of the COETAIL online cohort like me.

The Beginning of the End? Visual note drawn on ipad using Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton

The Beginning of the End? Visual note drawn on ipad using Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton

As I was preparing for the end of Course 4, my thoughts turned to a bigger concept. I loved the online wikis and websites that I talked about back in Course 4: how art teachers in Asia can connect through the ARARTE ning and IB Visual Art students and teachers can share their work on Mrs Anderson’s wiki.

I marvelled at the way you can be connected with like minded people and share and learn alike on sites like Deviant Art. Much as I love reading others blogs and looking at websites, the real growth comes in the interactions and activity. You learn so much from one another and it was with this thought that the idea evolved.

GOALS

Having posted my plan online, Matt contacted me and asked if I would like to collaborate on Course 5 and also with Anne, both Art teachers in Abu Dhabi and China. Together the 3 of us set out to connect our students to share their art and give and receive feedback online. Matt suggested using Quadblogging, as I explained on an earlier Course 5 post, and I researched its origins and successes.

Photo Credit: SurfGuard via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: SurfGuard via Compfight cc

For me, my goals were clear:

“for students to connect online and to give and share feedback on their artwork”

“to learn about and apply digital citizenship to their daily practice”

but also:

“to see how far the connections would reach and what developed from them”

Here is the original UBD from the end of Course 4 documenting my idea:

INTRODUCTIONS

As the project kicked off, I introduced it to all of my classes, sharing my thoughts and blog with them. They ALL wanted to get involved! The plan was to only use one class, but who was I to say no?! I had to draw the line at Grade 6, despite their enthusiasm for the project, as I knew that would take the most time and energy in educating them about internet safety, careful and respectful commenting and sharing online. I still have plans to start the new academic year blogging with all classes.

I set up the landing page to connect all classes with one another but also for parents and the wider community to see what we were doing. It think it also helped the students and teachers in the other schools to find their way! You can find it at the top of my blog as a separate page called Quadblogging.

The landing page for the class blogs

The landing page for the class blogs

But as the students got more involved it seemed that the goals were changing:

“how could we share our work with a wider audience and develop a student orientated space online?”

TOOLS

I decided to use Blogger as students already have Google accounts and it synced seamlessly with them. Talking them through the process of signing up and commenting was just the start and beyond that students worked on designing the space asking for authorship rights. This was a new risk for me as they inevitably designed, redesigned, changed layout, logo, headers and labels almost daily!

As the project developed, I found I was pulling from all four courses of COETAIL and in fact the students were beginning to mirror my own experiences.

Mirror Me image drawn by Nicki Hambleton on iPad with Adobe Ideas

Mirror Me image drawn by Nicki Hambleton on iPad with Adobe Ideas

I always think far too big, but if I was to give the students a valid and authentic experience I couldn’t help but incorporate my learning from the whole of my COETAIL journey.

The 5 rooms in the COETAIL house drawn by Nicki Hambleton on iPad with Adobe Ideas

The 5 rooms in the COETAIL house drawn by Nicki Hambleton on iPad with Adobe Ideas

REACTIONS

All my classes were excited to be involved in the blogging task. I introduced it in class and sent an email explaining the project to all parents.
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It seemed the right time and place to be addressing Digital citizenship yet in a practical way alongside the lesson work. Students too were eager to get started with connecting as Ashari, Khush and Tamzine explain in my video:

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Here is the final video of how the project evolved:

From start to finish I have been both impressed and surprised at the students tireless enthusiasm and constant commitment to pushing the boundaries of online connecting. I love that I too learn from them as they find alternative (and better) ways to connect and collaborate.

HITTING THE TARGET

Photo Credit: wizzer2801 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: wizzer2801 via Compfight cc

From listening to my students and reading their ongoing reflections it seems clear that they have met the goals of connecting and understanding digital citizenship. We have begun to see a glimpse of what might happen as the connections grow and deepen over time too. Even though Grade 6 were not involved at this stage in the blogging project the aims of understanding Copyright stretched to them as they shared photos on a Flickr site and they discussed using music in their Stop Motion animations. It was great to see the learning flowing into other classes as a result.

Zain talks about starting a Flickr site to share their own photos

Zain talks about starting a Flickr site to share their own photos

Making Stop Motion videos and addressing music copyright

Making Stop Motion videos and addressing music copyright

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With youngsters it is crucial to keep revisiting digital mindfulness as they can be lulled into a sense of familiarity the more they connect and communicate. Just the other day I found one of Grade 8 students discussing the reasons why a video should or should not be uploaded due to its unusual style and content: “Might it offend someone in another country?” “Would they understand it” “How personal to a culture is humour?” The video stayed online for little over 4 hours before he decided to take it down and rework some aspects. It is controversial but he wanted to debate the idea too. Is blogging a place for such debate? I believe that it can be if handled appropriately. Often online we are watchful of what we say and debate is rarely seen effectively and openly, so it is important we teach our students how to debate effectively and respectfully.

LEARNING

Did my students learn from the experience? How did my learning change too?

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Students reflected that their learning had and still is changing due not just to the project but as a result of connecting and sharing. They changed their ideas about how they could learn not just what they were learning. They are enjoying the process so much their thoughts are currently looking ahead to how they can incorporate different types of learning about art online and to a wider audience. I have learnt so much with them about how students learn best and how learning changes as they move up the school. I still want to involve my youngest Middle School students, those eager Grade 6s and, as the academic year draws to a close I would like to integrate them into the process somehow: maybe with just one blog and for interested individuals to post, yet all can view and comment?

Next year as our online learning platform takes off with all classes, there will be ample opportunities to work with students online, sharing and commenting and this may help to develop good practice and start to journey towards the ultimate goal of a more connected space for artists.

WHAT WOULD I CHANGE?

Antonio and Eric talking about using  rotating teams to connect for ease and diversity of comments

Antonio and Eric talking about using rotating teams to connect for ease and diversity of comments

Reflecting the voices and opinions of Antonio and Eric, it would have been far better to have focussed on just one class. But how could I have chosen and known just how interested and intriguing the process would have been if I had not allowed all 5 classes access and involvement?

I like the idea of using teams across schools that rotate and change as the weeks evolve. This would allow everyone to receive comments and to grow the connections far better. The original Quadblogging site documents a similar process where the “quads” are changed after each 4 week cycle. With this in mind, I wonder if we can set this up online with the help of art teachers worldwide: a more focused, subject-specific version of David Mitchell’s initiative?

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Anyone interested in starting this in the new year? Please spread the word online and get in contact with me if you are interested in linking your art students to mine. It would help me and my students to start connecting further afield and bridge the gap to the classroom in the cloud.

Whilst asking the students for feedback towards the middle of the process many students suggested ways to connect beyond the blogs including via Skype. This got me thinking that we could use this more in the classroom to talk to and learn from experts. With this in mind I reconnected with a British painter, Niki Hare, via email who my students had sent questions to last year about her process of working and the meaning of her work. They are excited this year to be able to connect with her via Skype this week to ask her advice when creating abstract and emotive paintings. I cannot wait to see how their thinking changes with this connection and how Skype might broaden our learning in the art room.

Connected Classrooms? when pigs fly drawn on Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton

Connected Classrooms? when pigs fly drawn on Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton

WHAT NOW?

Right now my students are still in the process of awaiting comments on their second post. This has taken time to await the 4 week turn around and it set me wondering if there was a more natural way for it to progress. Should students work more organically, posting as they wish or would that clog the page and lose the thread and equality? My thoughts slipped back to the idea of the website and how this would give much more autonomy for student choice.

brainstorming ideas for the website

brainstorming ideas for the website

This was where my students thinking really took off. It was only supposed to be a lesson starter, a suggestion of an idea, but they tackled it with gusto. They worked collaboratively and discussed and debated names and designs for the online space as well as offering concepts and suggestions for what they, the participants would want to see included on the space. It helped to show me that if you are thinking for kids, ask the kids! After all it is them who will be using it.

ideas for the nme and concept for a global art classroom

ideas for the nme and concept for a global art classroom

I wish I had incorporated Twitter more into the process with my students. It is difficult as it is to keep up with Twitter but I wondered if I could have created a class hashtag to share and communicate more to a wider audience. I will ask students how this might work but to quote a HS student:

“students don’t use Twitter, we use Facebook”

How can we change this practice, show them the benefit, the swiftness and versatility of Twitter? and what about the under 13’s? How can we offer them a social space that is both easy and safe to use?

Photo Credit: Mike Gabelmann via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Mike Gabelmann via Compfight cc

I wish I had thrown down the gauntlet to my students much earlier in the process, asking them what they need, want or would like in order to connect, learn and collaborate. It is always an eye opener to see and hear their opinions. Often, as teachers, we think we have a good idea of what is needed, but involving the students more in the process changes thinking and helps us step into their shoes a little more easier.

Discussion about Learning

Discussion about Learning

SHARING

Right from the start I have shared my learning on COETAIL with my senior team who have supported my journey. The IT department have been a source of help and advice and particular thanks must go to Andrew, Pete, Noah and Ben. Without them I am sure my questions and deliberations would have gone unanswered and my path would have been less clear. Paul Brogden, Vice Principal Curriculum has been following my progress online and was keen to see how the journey evolved. Perhaps now staff can see the value in connecting our students beyond our classrooms and how imperative it has been in teaching digital safety and responsibility.

Just last Friday the Tech mentors at UWCSEA met for a sharing session and I talked about how powerful an experience this had been and how much learning had taken place.

sharing COETAIL blog

sharing COETAIL blog

I would like to offer a session about connecting, to help more teachers to see the value of social networks both for them and students and how blogging can start this process. I offered this a number of years ago and the Languages department have taken it on board. The problem with our school as it is with many schools is TIME! How do you add to the already bursting curriculum without taking anything away? It has been tough juggling so many variables and ideas through the COETAIL journey but it has been worth it to see the growth in both me and my students. With our online platform Teamie coming onboard with all MS classes in August, this could help us encourage discussion, to connect more and may, in time help pave the way for more online connections.

Teamie - online learning platform

Teamie – online learning platform

As the idea continues to evolve I would like to push my learning so I can help my students find the best route through this jungle of ideas. I talked before with Noah about learning some html and with Peter about HYPE but now I am interested in web design and I have found a free online course through ALISON that might meet that wish. I have already bought my domain name, nickihambleton, hosted through Hover, but I am yet to set it up. Perhaps this will kick start that process.

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For years I have looked from afar at the work of The Harvard team’s Visible Thinking and Project Zero. I have read the book, studied the website and resources online and yearned to visit Harvard or at least take the online course. I missed out on a 3 day course with Ron Ritchhart in Asia this month and so I was excited when Matt shared the new MTV online courses. They contain a new concept – learning in teams. I am in the process of discussing this with my curriculum leader to build a team at UWCSEA to pilot this work and then take it into a PLC. Keep your fingers crossed I can participate so that I can work with not only my school but with other educators on what surely is an invaluable curriculum-wide skill.

GREATEST LEARNING

The greatest learning for me in the whole process was:

that the students can have ownership and change your thinking

that is doesn’t matter that you don’t yet know where this is going or what the outcome may be

Talking to Emily Maclean from Chatsworth International School at a recent TeachMeet, I will try in the future to hand the project over to the students much earlier on for them to devise teams of workers to problem solve. Asking the right questions is a crucial part. It is enlightening to see how Emily can get a class of grade 5 students to devise and share an online course single handedly! She too did not know what the outcome would be or how it might evolve. Taking risks as a teacher? We should do this more often! You can read more about Emily’s work at emilymaclean.com

shared with kind permission from Emily Maclean

shared with kind permission from Emily Maclean

REDEFINITION

Could we have done this without technology? As Nick states, the main benefit of connecting online was the immediacy of receiving feedback and the ease of the connections. It opened his mind to more possibilities and helped to change his thinking. Another student laughed as she explained that we could have sent the artwork by post, waited to receive a letter or some art in return! The project might have taken a year to happen!

Nick explaining how we could not have done this without technology

Nick explaining how we could not have done this without technology

So what does redefinition look like?

Back in Course 4 I drew a seed germinating growing to a plant to represent the process of SAMR, but looking back it should be seen as a circular design much like my application video to Apple Alumni earlier this year:

As students reach redefinition it allows thinking to restart and evolve again. Following the introduction of the blogs, commenting online and forming connections has become second nature, a natural progression to gathering feedback in class and from their peers. So what next, to redefine redefinition?

Reflecting on the process made me question what difference I made to my students’ learning, but also how it redefined learning in the context of the SAMR model. Nick Coulter (TPACK and SAMR) recently shared this infographic by Jackie Gerstein:

SAMR as a framework for Education 3.0

SAMR as a framework for Education 3.0

Looking at the lower area of the graphic, my students redefined their learning about art, by connecting online and began to develop a PLN as a result. They are sharing their knowledge and ideas online and learning from others they have connected with in return. Grade 7 are uploading their demonstrations to their blogs as I speak, in order to share their skills with others and are hoping to see some in return so they too can extend their learning. They range from Photoshop tutorials to how to draw and eye, pulling together their own learning from class and their personal interests outside of school.

Grade 7 uploaded demonstration videos on Google Drive

Grade 7 uploaded demonstration videos on Google Drive

It is exciting to see how much the original idea is growing and how the students are helping to reshape it. We are still a distance from what I envisioned with the connected classroom but we are working our way towards it. With one lesson a week of art, I am not rushing it. Good things take time to develop and this is just the beginning.

WHAT NEXT?

Back in February, Edutopia article by Elizabeth Bostwick, talked about student voice and it was here that I realised the true future of helping my art students to find theirs in a predominantly visual context. She talks about growth mindset through community building and collaboration and about giving opportunities for our students to open up, to connect and communicate in other ways than speaking out in class allowing greater opportunity for the introverts to find their voice.

“the greatest voice in the classroom is the student’s” 

Elizabeth Bostwick (Empowering student voice through classroom culture, February 2015)

Also on Edutopia another article, “Help Students use social media to empower, not just to connect” resonated with me:

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Even though this article is over 4 years old, the sentiment still rings true. We should be helping our students to use social media not just to connect with one another but to empower them to take an active role, to participate, and to add value. Andrew Marcinek talks about student’s criteria for a PLN and to become an active member for the hashtag or group they follow.

In time I hope to work out how to get the collaborative online platform for connecting Middle School art students up and running. I am testing the water and the technical aspect of the Drawing board/Artery/The Blank Canvas/ Global Palette (or whatever it will be called) in the final weeks of term and reaching out to Twitter in the hope there are some equally keen art teachers out there ready to step in and join me. Once I have some interest the next thing will be voting on a name!

As always, watch this space………….

COETAIL: The swiss army knife of learning drawn on iPad with Adobe ideas by Nicki Hambleton

COETAIL: The swiss army knife of learning drawn on iPad with Adobe ideas by Nicki Hambleton

“never stop learning because life never stops teaching”

by Robert Tew on livelifehappy.com

 

Personalised Learning a visual note drawn by Nicki Hambleton on Adobe Ideas for iPad

Personalised Learning a visual note drawn by Nicki Hambleton on Adobe Ideas for iPad

Whatever we do, whatever we teach, whatever wondrous new fandangled gadget or app appears on the market, whoever we teach and whenever we are teaching them, learning should be at the heart of it.

It may sound crass or even naive, but often in this brave new world this fundamental aspect is forgotten or at least pushed further and further backwards. Literacy hour, genius hour, standards and benchmarks, aims and objectives, collaborative work, group work, authentic use of technology and many more bombard our daily practice and jostle for space in the short amount of time we have with our students.

In Middle School Art, students have but a mere 75 minutes to learn and grow as a artist over the year, and with Sports Days, visiting speakers, training days and public holidays sometimes this can be whittled down to just 30 lessons. This equates to around 37.5 hours, just over a day and a half. What can you teach a 12 year old for a year if you only had a day and half? If assemblies run over or it is the start or end of a term some of this time would be reduced even more.

So, how do we prioritise what we want our students to learn?

From the mouths of babes

UWCSEA Dover

UWCSEA Dover

IB PYP philosophy promotes purposeful inquiry as the leading vehicle for learning and through this it is clear that students are the key, the centre of learning and that they need and want ownership of their education. They may not have the skills nor the knowledge, yet they know what they want and need and, with guidance, can and should help to shape the lessons. It may again be naive of me to think that children can plan your curriculum but we spend so much time as adults forgetting what it is like to be a child and what it means to learn as a child. They want to know why they need to learn this concept or that information or skill, and what use it is in today’s changing society. We cannot neglect that the world is a very different place to that which we grew up and learned in: we must think in the shoes of our students more often and ask them their opinions and ideas. So, even though I do not teach PYP, I honour the philosophy and turn the discussions over to them. I ask my students what they want to learn and what they think they need to learn to be a better artist, thinker, problem solver, collaborator, team player, independent learner and what the use of learning art is.

It is an eye opener. It develops new thinking and shapes the curriculum.

Adding Value

When I worked in the UK, a judgement of a child’s success was based on “value added”. What did students come into the school with (or at what level) and what did they leave with (and at what level) compared to the expectation? For those too young to have heard this phrase in education, here is a simple diagram to explain this concept:

Value Added - a simple diagram by Nicki Hambleton

Value Added – a simple diagram by Nicki Hambleton

What might surprise you is that this assessment is centred around the teacher not the child, rather the child as a result of the teaching. Not something that ever sat well with me or, for that matter, many teachers. How can we measure learning? Is it possible solely by testing?

Last year, in Florida,

the teachers’ suit challenged the state’s 2011 Student Success Act that requires school districts to evaluate teachers based in part on “student learning growth” — defined by increases in standardised test scores. Florida is one of several states that have passed “value added” teacher evaluation laws linking teacher merit pay and retention to students’ standardised test performances. (Law Professors, May 2014)

The judge found Florida’s teacher evaluation unfair, but legal. How else can we assess learning and student growth in a less numerical or judgmental fashion?

What value have I added to my students this year? What new learning has happened through Quadblogging?

Words don’t come easy

Photo Credit: dslrpena via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: dslrpena via Compfight cc

For most, blogging at the Dover Campus is a new thing. A handful of students had a blog in Primary school or with their Spanish teacher, but on the whole, connecting and posting online was a new experience and one that needed nurturing. It astounded me that, in their social media-centric lives, they were unaware of what makes a valuable contribution to commenting, so it was here that I started to teach them real value in their words. We have worked all year on purposeful feedback with peer groups verbally at several stages in their work using various models such as “I see I think I wonder”, “invisible artist” and even “poo sandwich”, a phrase coined by one of my Science colleagues (don’t ask!). Armed with the skills and strategies to comment intelligently and meaningfully, we tested the waters commenting locally before embarking on public sites, trialling post it comments at the High School Art Exhibition, sending emails to the artists and practicing in a Picasa web album of their own class’s photography. They began to see the real power of their words, discussing starting sentences and suggested etiquette to keep themselves both on track as well as respectful.

The biggest learning so far was that of questioning. During the blogging process they figured out that when they asked the artist a question or reached out in their own post inviting critique or connections, they added value to their own thinking but also that of the receiver. It helped them to connect and began to form a conversation: a 2 way conversation. This in itself was powerful learning and prepared them well for the blogging ahead.

Freedom to choose

Photo Credit: pennuja via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: pennuja via Compfight cc

Reflecting on my own learning over the past year I can see so much growth in the manner I present my findings, in the depth of my posts and the actions I have taken back in the classroom. I have documented this through writings and drawings but the real results are less easy to measure or see as they are deep within the curriculum development, the forward planning and the nuances of my lessons. If you were to ask my students how the lessons have changed, I am not sure that they will have noticed drastic changes, more gradual drip feeding or subtle additions, as I am loath to add a new app or concept just for the sake of it, especially with time being so precious. I believe in authentic use of technology that doesn’t dominate the learning, it enhances or transforms it and this takes time to develop and authenticate. I yearn for the day when my students pick up an iPad or use an app or software of their own choosing as just another tool in their kit to learn with. I feel we are fast approaching this and we have to race to keep up with the plethora of new ideas firing at us and to filter the most effective ones to teach our students that would benefit their learning. What does this swiss army knife of new skills look like? Teachers should pool the ideas they offer students so other curriculum areas know what students can pick and choose from. What does your bag of tricks look like?

Modelling lifelong learning

Picking from my own COETAIL bag of tricks I found so many aspects I wanted to focus on when developing my Course 5 project. For me, at the heart of COETAIL, and its ultimate success and longevity, is connecting and sharing. My wish was for my own students to develop their own online communities in a similar manner so that they too could grow and learn. But now I look back and think, is this me, as an adult, thinking I know what is best for them to learn better? What if I thought more in the shoes of a 12 year old, as a child, learning art surrounded by all the influences and distractions a child in today’s world has? What would I want to learn and how?

Holistic education is at the centre of UWCSEA and our mission states:

The UWC movement makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. The UWCSEA goal is to educate individuals to embrace challenge and take responsibility for shaping a better world.

Kurt Hahn’s philosophy is at the heart of how students learn.

He championed the importance of developing the whole person, and based his thinking on the ideals of a holistic, experiential, values-based education.

“I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion.” Kurt Hahn

The world is a very different place since Hahn founded the UWC movement 50 years ago. But his educational philosophy, with a focus on academic achievement, leadership, experiential learning and service to others has remained, and will continue to provide our students with a unique learning experience for many more years to come. (From UWCSEA website)

Experiential learning should be at the heart of our lessons and Ed Batista sets this out in his article on How to get Unstuck back in April 2010. Referencing Jessica Hagy and Andrea Corny’s models I believe the simplest is the most effective: What? So What? Now What? and Do it! hits the mark.

Self directed Learning – at the heart of Course 5

Photo Credit: clappstar via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: clappstar via Compfight cc

It has been both exhilarating as it has been daunting working through Course 5. Self motivation is at the heart of self-directed learning and time seems to run away from one, especially in a busy place like a school. But we are adults and at the end of a course that has taught us well, modelling research and structure enough so that we cannot possibly flounder at the last hurdle. How can we learn from this experience and help our students to be more self directed, motivated, organised and committed right up until the final flag?

Perhaps planning the year around this model would work, beginning with teacher-led instruction and demonstrations, modelling good working practice. Then, as the year unfolds, the next unit has some aspects of self-directed learning with guidance and a little hand-holding leading up to the final term. Lisa Nalbone neatly demonstrates the process of self-directed learning in her diagram below. Starting with a question changed how I looked at learning in my classroom as well as within COETAIL and asking students to ask more questions to direct learning is a powerful way to start in any subject area of the curriculum.

Self-directed learning model by Lisa Nalbone

Self-directed learning model by Lisa Nalbone

How do I make learning more engaging?

Looking back at COETAIL, the aspect that influenced, inspired me and changed my thinking the most was Course 4. It lit a fire. I would like to try to integrate gamification, or at the least some aspect of motivational learning into the framework next year to urge and push students in their pursuit of growth.

As I am currently at the stage of reflection on the course and in the final term of the academic year, I figured that it would be good to test the waters and ask the students: what they wanted to learn, how they learn best, what helped them to learn and grow this year and how they might demonstrate this learning? A large proportion of my students say they learn best by “trial and error”, their words not mine. Many said they learn best by seeing and doing, experimenting and trying out and this has been at the heart of this Connected Classrooms project. I said at the start I did not know where it was going to go, and I still don’t. I am letting the students lead the way, make the choices of how to alter the course and to find new ways to do what they used to do. It takes me back to the beginning of my course and the visual:

Mark Prensky's "Shaping Tech in the classroom" visual note by Nicki HAmbleton

Mark Prensky’s “Shaping Tech in the classroom” visual note by Nicki Hambleton

But it also draws me closer the the fundamentals of SAMR and redefining learning. With the learning firmly in the hands of my students I am excited for what happens during the final weeks of the course yet even more for what happens after. I am pushing the learning right up to the last minute of COETAIL, desperate for it not to end and to squeeze as much out of it as I can. I am a long way from personalised learning but I am heading in the right direction, slowly. The next posts will track the choices they make, the collaborations they plan, the gamification of the learning and finally the results of their work.

Watch this space….

 “Education is not the filling of a pail, it is the lighting of a fire” W.B.Keats

What fires have you lit today?

Connectedness

Connectedness visual note by Nicki Hambleton

As the evening of Valentine’s Day was drawing to a close, I stumbled on an article from Mashable that had been shared on Facebook and the title caught my eye:

Instagram Strangers Help Man Plan the Perfect Proposal

The story goes like this: Guy wants to propose, decides on Portland, contacts stranger through Instagram for help, guy proposes, girl accepts. Of course the article tells it much more beautifully than that and with an accompanying digital story. But what fascinated me was this connection and trust in complete strangers on what was probably the most important day of his life. I use Instagram purely as a photography sharing place, more often than not with food shots or stimuli for just great composition or ideas. Strangers follow me, I follow strangers. It is a strange concept to me but it works. However I would never have thought of connecting with others like @iamcartermoore.  When I first joined Instagram I was not sure of what was expected, the etiquette or even the point. This felt a bit similar to the “lurking” stages of the early relationship I had with Twitter. I watched, took note, occasionally posted. Carter found kindred spirit and connection with Branden Harvey, a fellow photographer and film maker  and through this random link they became life long friends.

Getting in touch with my Connectedness

According to George Siemans, “connectivism starts with the individual” and that the  “learner remains current in their field through the connections they have formed”. (A Learning Theory for the Digital Age 2004)

My relationship with Twitter follows not such dramatic or love struck storyline as Carter Moore’s but with a similar sentiment. From taking that first step of observing and reaching out, to connecting and interacting with others and developing friendships that the true power of the internet is clear. By making these connections so we grow, our reach is further and interactions stronger.

It has been a busy week with food for thought. During the COETAIL live cast on Tuesday, listening to the conversations flow, it was a statement by Dana Watts that stood out. ” We learn most by collaborating together with others”.  It got me thinking:

How do the youth of today connect and grow as learners? In what ways is this different to how we learnt as teenagers and how we now connect to grow and develop as adults?

We have always been connected it’s just our reach goes out further these days with the Internet.

Last week’s post took me back to “7 degrees of connectedness” by Rodd Lucier and that how to be truly connected we must work at how we connect and what we actively do as part of these connections. It was by initially “messing around” with Twitter and stumbling on blogs that I grew as an educator and learner – it was the most effective PD I had ever had and one that I was controlling. By scrolling through my feed often an article or link would grab my attention and take me forward. So is this the way my students learn?

It is like those happy accidents when mixing paint or doodling with an idea, or playing with the ingredients of a cake or casserole that new directions are born.
It is when we are looking for something else that we usually find something that becomes the hinge pin, the starter, the turning point. It’s like playing in the sandpit as a kid. No rules, just fun.

Messing Around in the sandpit

Whilst reading “Messing About” (Living with New Media) I wonder how youngsters increase their own learning when challenged by something that they are passionate about.

learning from youtube Minecraft screenshot

learning from youtube Minecraft screenshot

I watch my son Luca, transfixed and thoroughly engrossed in his latest new kingdom on Minecraft. He is in control of his learning, growing exponentially and to think that it all started with a brick, a little piece of lego that evolved into what is arguably one of the most successful games with youngsters. The power of Minecraft- teaching kids to dabble, tinker and mess around, find their way, share and play.

The opportunities for using and developing your creativity by dabbling and playing with ideas is not a new one. As a teenager myself, I messed with ideas and sketches, devoured books and magazines to feed my creativity and spark new direction.  Luca shows me how he is building a pirate ship on Minecraft, following a Youtube video. He is ten and he is not alone. This is the world they have grown up in. Youtube is the biggest and most extensive instructions manual on anything you could ever want.

Hamish app development screenshot

Hamish app development screenshot

In school, Hamish in Grade 7 shows me an app he is building to help support and raise awareness of our Global Concern group, PAW (Promoting Animal Welfare). In order to do this he has had to learn how to code, dabbling with the software and through trial and error discovering what it can do. He says he frequently finds information through Youtube tutorials. My eldest son Piers is passionate about model trains and shares this through his Youtube channel, connecting with strangers to share his passion. Olivia studying iGCSE Visual Art in Grade 9 uses Tumblr as her go-to site. Here she discovers a plethora of visual inspiration and artists all over the world to share and connect with. Nanako, also a Grade 9 Art student, tells me how she first “messed around” with Photoshop and a tablet to create her own art. She backs up MacArthur’s claim that it is only through interest-driven subjects that students will actively pursue and maintain this stage of learning and again her preferred method is to try things out, tinker with the software and, if need be, use Youtube tutorials to steer her in the right direction. Nanako is one of our Apple Orchard students and to whom connections across our region are hugely beneficial as an artist. She adds that this stage of learning only works if the area is self chosen and  one that she is passionate about; teens simply would not have this same level of drive in a subject or topic they are not interested in.

But it is still on Facebook that students work and collaborate together, using FB groups to ask and answer questions about schoolwork. These closed but valuable communities support their learning and give them much needed support through the social media they interact with the most. It is still the most used platform for the youth of today.

Andrew Marcinek says in his blog post, “Students get it. They understand how easy it is to connect with one another, but don’t fully realize the greater potential.” (“Help Students Use Social Media to Empower, Not Just Connect” Edutopia 2010). I still wonder why Twitter is so underused as a portal for posing questions from the youth and as their learning zone. I can see the benefit of its use in class but I am halted by the over 13 restrictions with my Middle-schoolers.

I would love to pilot Google + communities with a class or group and see how they could use it to connect and interact. But our school has not switched Google+ on for students yet, so I wonder if anyone has any other suggestions for helping young students to connect? I have ideas to connect students on Skype with an artist in London we are studying as part of an Expressive Painting unit and to link my GC PAW participants with fellow activists and animal lovers worldwide to collaborate to raise awareness.
Is FB the most popular outlet because of its “socialness”, its distractibility; “I can just look at this for a moment so I don’t have to do my science homework”. We have all done that/do this: I’ll just look at that interesting article on Colossal or take that “What city am I?” quiz instead of writing reports… or just read another COETAILer post!

So what is more important – spending time connecting with others to build your PLN and learn from them or to spend that time surfing, discovering and stumbling on something that could be the start of a new direction for you. Clearly both are valuable and we cannot progress without the opportunities for either to occur.

So where do we find the time to dabble and play in the jam-packed 24 hours we have each day?

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Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc

Title quote adapted from “I didn’t get where I am today” from The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin. Book and TV series by David Nobbs.
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