Posts Tagged ‘quadblogging’

“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.
Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 15.57.25              Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 15.57.42                            Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 15.57.01

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?

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 20.26.02

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

 

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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?

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

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

Kicking off Course 5 in the Classroom

Photo Credit: dview.us via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: dview.us via Compfight cc

It is with trepidation and anticipation that I begin the final phase of my COETAIL journey. In my previous post, Classroom in the Cloud, I said that I know this is not the end, just the beginning, and as I start introducing my students to the concept of connecting globally it feels like a new start and the beginning of something great.

Middle Schoolers cannot hold their feelings, they don’t mince their words and they show in their faces exactly when they are excited or upset. As I explained about my own COETAIL journey and shared with them my wish for them to have the same level of connectedness, to learn from others usually out of their reach and at the same time have fun, their faces reflected my own positive thoughts (thank goodness!). You never know whether what we plan is right or even interesting to our students, even if we think, as experienced educators, that we know what is best for them. They were genuinely excited to meet other MS art students and share learning with them.

All under one roof

The concept began to take root at the end of Course 4 where Matt McGrady and Anne Dirilgen, both Art teachers too, were thinking through their ideas for their final project. As we had connected long before COETAIL we wanted to build on this connection of like-minds and share that with our students. My initial idea, and still a huge part in my plan, is to develop a digital classroom that connects Middle School students in the ways that older students can interact: sharing videos or stories, commenting on photographs, chatting in a group or starting a discussion in a forum for example. Finding a format or platform is not so easy, especially for younger students. Edmodo exists and Nings are a possibility but I want the students to own it, design it, develop it and build and grow within it.

Previously many of my Middle Schoolers have had blogs which I connected to each other through my initial art blog (thisisallaboutart). It started out as a way for me to get to know them better as a person and to encourage interaction, positive sharing, pride and feedback. But teaching over 250 students every week made this very difficult to manage. Google Reader, at the time, made it slightly more palpable by allowing groups to be added to my blog and tracking when an individual posts. What a shame Google Reader ceased to be as I haven’t found a similar widget or tool to embed the collections in the same easy go-to fashion. Sadly, since starting COETAIL my time has meant my first blog has been on pause, whilst I developed my own voice here on Thinking Tradigitally. Perhaps the students will allow me a little space on their pages?

Quadblogging

Following initial contact on Twitter and the decision that we should continue to work together, Matt suggested Quadblogging, developed by David Mitchell, Deputy Headteacher of Heathfield Primary School in Bolton, UK. Since its inception in 2011, over 500,000 students from 50 countries worldwide have taken part, connecting their classrooms. Connecting students outside of their usual domain is the underlying takeaway of this phenomena and when Mitchell asked on Twitter, “A blog without an audience is like…..” the responses came back such as:

“A library without books, a car without an engine and Beyonce without a ring!”

I asked a similar question to my classes, “Why do we share online” and their responses were equally heartfelt:

“When you are proud of your work, you want to share it”

“To share your story and to create memories”

“To receive feedback, to be noticed”

“You want to know what people think, what you are doing right or need to change to make it even better”

You can find out more about Quadblogging on the Edutopia post, from September 2012 or more about David Mitchell on his website Ask Sir.

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Some Grade 7s and 8s have Instagram and share their photography through this method, trying for the most amount of “likes” and it is this that, to a 13 year old narcissistic girl, signifies their success or popularity. But do participants really add value to Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest? Comments range from “great shot” to “Love it” often with many emojis. So do they grow as a photographer, artist, writer or as a person as a result? What is its purpose?

I teach feedback to my students through the Visible Thinking routines with the favourite one being I see, I think, I wonder, as Silvia Tolisano eloquently describes on her post, Reflecting in the Learning process. With this framework peer and group feedback models useful yet positive commenting to take the artist forward and it is through this that my students are gaining insight into how to grow.

Hanging out

screenshot mid-hangout with Anne and Matt

screenshot mid-hangout with Anne and Matt

As part of the plan, Matt, Anne and I met online the other weekend to talk through the process, our aims, challenges and to discuss the timeframe. Matt set up the chat and we proceeded to try to record the hangout (just in case anyone was in the vaguest bit interested in the process and to laugh at us floundering with the new technology!). Google Hangouts on air will be our next learning curve when we should have our initial reflection on the first few weeks recorded.

3 became 4

Matt introduced us briefly through email to Alissa at The American School of Dubai and we are hoping that she and her colleague will join in the collaborating to spread the connections further afield. I am sure that there are other Art teachers with similar classes of youngsters that would love to take part in a programme like this. If you know of anyone, please connect them to me via Twitter: @itsallaboutart

The Class blog

This week, Matt’s classes will prepare their first blog page and introduce themselves to us. We wait in anticipation to see the first insights into life in Abu Dhabi, a country not many of us have had the pleasure to visit.

UWCSEA Dover High School Art Exhibition 2015

UWCSEA Dover High School Art Exhibition 2015

In the run up to the first week of commenting, my students took time out from the classroom to walk around our current High School Show to view and were amazed by the variety and quality of work on show. I asked them to chose just one student whose work had affected them and to write on a post it, these 2 things:

screenshot from my Active Inspire lesson for Grade 6

screenshot from my Active Inspire lesson for Grade 6

 

At the end of the week, I am compiling the multitude of post its (I currently teach 176 Middle School students in one week) to display as a “virtual blog post” alongside print outs of the artists’ work. In this way the students (and the artists) will get to grips with posting publically and how their comments can be viewed by many.

In addition, students are researching the look, feel and content of blogs on a theme of their choice to compare the writing style, design and layout and use of images for homework this week. This in turn, I hope, will inspire their class blog design to be both functional and attractive to draw viewers in and help them to want to return.

Under the same umbrella

Photo Credit: anettehustad via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: anettehustad via Compfight cc

I still hold on to the dream of the connected classroom in the cloud: a one-stop, all under one roof place for art students to interact. A place to connect artists, a little like the NING art teachers in Asia have with ARARTE, created by Kendra Farrell; not dissimilar to Michelle Anderson‘s IB Visual Art site, and not forgetting the wonderful GCSE and A Level Art site created by Amira Gale Student Art Guide. I also recall a site The Incredible @rt Department which has been going since 1994, originating as an Elementary Schools site, now serving not only the US but with some International Schools participating too. Deviant Art, started in 2000, is a wonderful community of artists too, but often open to comments and sharers that would leave my impressionable youngsters, and their parents, covering their eyes and leaving their hearts wounded.

Through this project I want to teach them the basics of digital citizenship, how to be safe and protected online. They need to learn about using their images properly, about licensing and sharing respectfully, about tagging and labelling. But I want them more than anything to forge friendships; to learn and grow without walls, to share and teach others about what it is to be a pre-teen, about culture and art. Not every 11 year old will be as keen to be involved and I get that. Just today I saw the face of a Grade 6 bubbly, impetuous boy, open as a book, clearly thinking more of the football pitch or what he was about to have for lunch than the prospect of blogging his latest masterpiece online! You cannot win them all, but it will be my pleasure and challenge to engage them all, in some way, in the wonderful world of global connections.

Where next?

Photo Credit: aturkus via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: aturkus via Compfight cc

The plan for the next few weeks is to test drive quadblogging and get the students up and running their class blog site, sharing content and connecting and commenting with the other schools. I would like to allow the students to be moderators and authors on a rotation basis to help them to organise and play with the system new to them yet also to work together to create a living, breathing space that reflects who they are, not that of the teacher. This is a crucial aspect of my plan.

The following weeks, not only will they be curating content but I would like to involve them in the design and structure of the major plan – the connected classroom in the cloud.
Through discussions with Peter Li, one of the Digital Coaches at UWCSEA, we looked at Edmodo, Pathfinder and Google sites as gatekeepers, settling on the possibility of creating a “landing page” that the blogs and other features could link from. What I am investigating over the coming weeks is HYPE, I will have some fun in the coming weeks learning keyframe animation and HTML5, but Peter will be there to help along the way. Students will design the base image and the buttons and icons that will take them forward to the blogs or galleries and we will discuss what makes an aesthetic yet functional initial webpage (see Course 3 Visual Literacy: Design Matters).

The image I currently see is of a palette of many colours linking to the blogs, videos, artworks and forums; or of a classroom with different doors to take them to various sections of the site. But who knows what the students will design and whether this idea really is akin to “pigs flying”.

I know this process will take me beyond May 2015, but this is not a short term idea. I intend this to be  something that will evolve and transform as classes move up the school and beyond my four walls.

But however it ends up looking, ownership is everything.