Courage. Failure. Shame. Vulnerability.
Listening to Brene Brown is always thought-provoking. It reminds me that stripping the classroom to basic human need and interaction is necessary. That teaching some sort of social emotional lessons are vital. In Studio 4, we are grateful to have the first and last period of the day set aside to be with the homeroom teacher. We all know in our hearts that this is the best situation for students. But some schools do not make this a priority when creating timetables. Our school is large, and we are very thankful that this timetabling has been carefully organised for us.
In Studio 4, we call this time "C.A.R. Time." C.A.R. stands for Choose, Act, Reflect - the Action Cycle which is outlined by the IBO in Making the PYP Happen. These times not only allow for meaningful planning and reflection to happen in a timely manner, but also create space for us to connect with our classes. Since Studio 4 have the opportunity to learn from many experts and teachers, these times are precious.
I am now thinking about how I can infuse the words of Brene Brown into these times a little more.
ISHCMC teachers are possibly the most courageous teachers I have ever worked with. They are not afraid to talk about "what if..." or "why" of an activity or a new idea. How can I create this same environment for my students? It makes me wonder if some tasks are still too structured, even if the "how" is open. Does having an end point, or a backwards designed unit even, create too much of a non-risk-taking environment? I have had these thoughts before, which you can read here if you are interested.
I have noticed during my time in Vietnam, that even though my students are at a fairly progressive school, they are afraid to fail. They are afraid to have nothing on their page in a pre-assessment. They are afraid to get an answer wrong. They are afraid to show their work, and most times will only show me their final answer/product. I am not positive about where this comes from, but a lot of them do go to after school learning centers with very different pedagogies than ISHCMC. How can we work even harder to break these barriers? We definitely try. Could using design thinking help us with this? Applying cyclical understanding to multiple subjects, including ones that are a little more cut and dry, like math? Do "final" post assessments hinder this cyclical process? hmmm....
In C.A.R. Time, choice words is something that often comes up. Choice words is one of our pillars from Cultures of Achievement that we use school-wide. It is important that students understand that this really also applies to self-talk. The words you choose to say and think about yourself affect who you are as a person, and how you behave with others. Even though this comes up a lot, and the students know what to say as "the right answer" when we are talking about this... how deep is this understanding? Are they actually putting this into action or are they just talking about it?
One quote this reminds me of is "no secret teacher business" from the origins of Studio 5. It may not link 100% but it definitely makes me think about it. Being vulnerable and open with students is important. It is their learning - can we model vulnerability by showing them that sometimes we are unsure? That sometimes we don't agree with the things we need to do, but we need to do them anyways? That sometimes we are taking risks, and if we need to pivot, we will? My hope is that by speaking these thought processes out loud with students, we are modeling vulnerability. We don't always have the answers. We don't always know where things will lead. We might fail.
My hope is that C.A.R. Time is a time for deep reflection - both about students' learning and social-emotional needs. My hope is that by learning about these concepts, they will become better humans moving forward into the future. More confident. More courageous. More vulnerable. Failing more. And learning to grow from all of these experiences.
In Studio 4, we often try to think of the structures of learning in different ways. One way that we "fit" curricular content in more challenging and engaging ways is through workshops and inquiry groups.
Math Lens - Workshops and Independence
Math content is probably one of the easiest ways to show an example. Many units unfold in different ways, but agency and goal setting is always at the heart, and having digital tools support this is invaluable. I will use our current measurement unit as an example. This is only the way I ran it with my students in my homeroom class. My colleagues used the same resources and ran a very similar structure that worked for them. I know they did not all run it exactly the way I did, because their students (and themselves as a teacher) are different and have different needs.
Basically, at the beginning of the unit we will of course pre-assess prior knowledge and understanding. What math concepts can they do, and where are their areas for growth?
Then I took a week and a half and taught all 8 standards back to back. Very fast paced, and I explained my why to the students. We only did the teaching/acquisition of knowledge portion, and a few shared examples. No independent work was required, however, the students did have access to slides with independent work on them if they wanted to/had the time. After each "knowledge" lesson, students self-assessed whether they felt red, yellow, or green about the standard. Green meaning they already knew it all and could already teach a lesson on it. Probably needless to say, the majority were in yellow for every standard. During these lessons we also completed at least one shared example together on an A3 measurement placemat I made, so they had some notes and examples available to them.
Ever since then, I have ran 3 workshops per week, and the students need to attend at least one. They also need to complete all Google Slides activities for at least one standard in the week, based on their self-assessment of their understanding (more about these slides later). As they feel more confident they can more their names on the large self-assessment wall for each standard. Throughout the week the students are also expected to work through the opposite side of the math place mat, proving to me that they can solve questions for each standard. As they complete a column, I will mark it for them. If they cannot prove it, they need to work on that standard.
When this unit ends we will do a post-assessment, which is still in the works. As we are trying to infuse more fun into our lives at the moment, it is an integrated project type assessment about planning a trip. Hopefully this will be a little more real-world and enjoyable than sitting down and writing a test!
Shout out to my Studio 4 team for all working on the above slides together, from a template from slidesgo.com
Without technology, I do not think much of this would be possible. Or... at least... it would take a lot more work, and waste a lot more paper. Students continually have access to math slides for each standard that have knowledge, shared examples we already have done, and independent work set at "one chili, two chili, and three chili" levels (shout out to Justin Ouellette for putting these together). They also include a reflection slide which they post to Seesaw. They have access to websites like Brainpop, Khan Academy, and Freckle to help them review concepts and give additional examples of work. All of this plus the regular teacher-led workshops, both for acquisition of knowledge as well as consolidation.
UOI Lens - Inquiry Groups
In our units of inquiry, we create inquiry groups. I believe I have explained these before, but basically inquiry groups give space for students to explore their own interests within the unit. Because we have around 100 students and 5-6 teachers, we are capable of doing this. We offer 5 or 6 different inquiry group strands/courses/related concepts students can choose from to narrow down the unit of inquiry a little bit for them. Often we will actually offer more than we will offer, and then run the top 5 or 6... or even sometimes two groups of the same concept, based on student interest. Hopefully, this makes for more meaningful learning for the students and also hopefully creates an environment where all students are able to learn more productively because they are learning things they chose, based on their interests. However, I think we could still do a better job at involving them in the design process of the unit and reaching beyond our school walls to enrich (deepen?) the learning.
Questions I have/Things I am thinking about...
- How can we, as a Studio, raise the bar to ensure these tasks are deep learning tasks?
- Would those "deep learning tasks" happen throughout the whole unit, or just at the beginning and/or end, to show student progress and understanding?
- How can the PYP Document "Personal Inquiries in the PYP" support these theories of deep learning? Can our units of inquiry reflect these more authentically?
- How can we stretch beyond our classroom? ISTE's "Global Citizen" strand for students is definitely one that I have been thinking more and more about lately.
As stated in my last post, I am very much on the pedagogy (and technology) side of the TPACK diagram. Because of this, the article we began to read this week (A Rich Seam by Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy) really resonated with me.
I feel fortunate to currently work at a school that has a history of being open-minded. Anyone following ISHCMC's journey will know about our trials and iterations of the Studio model in grade 5 and followed by 4. If you don't, feel free to catch up on this website from a few years ago (it has not been kept up to date, as many educators have moved to different schools or grade levels).
The team I am currently working with in Studio 4 are some of the most collaborative partnerships I have ever been in. Everyone is willing to take a risk, try something new, FAIL, and move forward. We adjust based on what we feel the learners in front of us need at the time. This could be very different to what last year's learners needed... or even the same learners a week ago. If you want to know more about Studio 4 (structured a lot differently to Studio 5, you can read my personal blog and follow my current and previous colleagues on Twitter (Paul Cheevers, Justin Ouellette, Corie Olson, Danielle Looney, Johnathan Phillips).
Our partnerships (between teachers and students) are strong. Our spaces play a roll in this. We have moving walls (large sliding glass doors that double as whiteboard space), open areas, a "town hall" we sometimes have called a "literacy studio" based on student needs at the time, and resources out and available for student use, as needed. Student goals are visible online and offline so anyone (teacher or student) can see what someone is working on and seek or offer assistance. All teachers are available to all students, and we grow these partnerships by mixing students and rooms as much as we can (varied with each unit and time of year). Goals and evidence of learning are also shared with parents weekly. This strengthens the partnership at home by giving transparency and a "window into the classroom."
Because of these meaningful partnerships, we are discovering and mastering content collaboratively with the students, just as the authors describe in A Rich Seam. The quote "We are at the early stages of disruptive innovations, which represent a new period of development, trial, error and further development" from this text describes my time in the studio well. We are constantly making iterations of what we do and what we create in order to suit our students better.
I think an area we could grow in is collaborating with specialists and other age groups. Time is a main enemy here. Not only time to meet with the teachers and figure it out, but also timetables of the structured "school" we are all used to. It is limiting.
What if those structures were taken away? What could specialists look like if they didn't have a timetable? Would we be benefiting students by letting them explore these subject areas as needed, or would we be hindering them by taking away opportunities to experience new things? In elementary/primary school I feel like the balance of this is hard. A phrase that we often say is "they don't know what they don't know" ... but we also want them to follow a passion once they do know it.
Technology integration is one of my passions in teaching. I used to be a stand alone ICT teacher for 3-7 year olds on old PC computers (probably older than the students that were using them). It was my second year teaching, and I was just starting my IBPYP journey. I was super curious about the curriculum and I loved how different subjects mixed into meaningful units (and still love this). Because of this interest of mine, I tried to make sure most units were as integrated as possible. Right from the start I was seeing first hand how technology enhances curriculum and how integration helped my learners with their other subject areas. And this technology was just a once a week time in a completely different room.
As I moved on to a variety of different classroom roles, I made sure to take this passion with me. Whether I had one iPad to share with everyone, 1:1, or 2:1 with a couple of iMacs, I kept technology integration in my thoughts when planning. I value technology the most when it is authentically available for student use. Of course this means that 1:1 is my preference in the classroom so that when inspiration or need hits, a student can immediately have access to follow through. Read more about my journey below!
I have been at schools that use the SAMR model and some that reference the TPACK model. for simplicity, I do like the SAMR model. However, I feel like a lot of people look at this model as a ladder they need to climb, and once they "hit" redefinition they need to stay there. I believe that if technology is truly leveraging the curriculum, you will be on all rungs of the ladder (or depths of the sea, as my favourite SAMR image depicts below). In this illustration you can imagine the swimmer playing around in the different levels, swimming back and forth.
As for TPACK, I like this model because it shows that it is not all about THE technology. Pedagogy and curriculum are both important as well. I also think that this model can be fluid. I feel like depending on the school you are at, the middle of the model may or may not be the actual perfect place. I probably sit in the Technology/Pedagogy overlap. This isn't because I do not know my curriculum well, but curriculum changes and sometimes the value of curriculum standards also changes. My personal values lie more in the pedagogy of how to help students through content than the actual standards of the curriculum itself. This is probably why I feel that I sit where I do.
Over time, my teaching with technology has changed.
Those first few years, while I was trying to integrate the curriculum the best I could, I was still a stand alone subject teacher and access was not on an as-needed basis. Most lessons were related the the unit but not necessarily integrated. The times I tried harder to really integrate (write a story in class, create creatures so we could film a story in ICT) it was often hard to have all teachers on board and prepared for the ICT portion of the learning engagement.
When I had one iPad to share with my class, not a lot changed. One student could do some research (if the wifi was okay that day), or one person could use an app to help visualize a concept in a new way. We weren't using it much for creation because of the limitations of only one person being able to do this at a time, and my knowledge of the iPad was still growing.
When I moved to a 1:1 environment next, I learned very fast. I remember my first NearPod lesson with my Year 1 students and I was blown away at how fantastic it was. Immediately I started thinking of different ways my 5 year olds could be using this technology. Looking back, it was still probably fairly in the "enhancement" range of SAMR. When I moved to a Year 5 class in the same school (so still 1:1) I really started exploring a lot more creation apps with my students. They started making books, movies, presentations, recordings, etc. to show their learning. They also started posting to Seesaw and authentically sharing their creations in that way. (Hooray, in the "transformation" end of the ocean!!)
When I moved to a 2:1 environment, I had to get creative. I had been spoiled with this 1:1 environment and didn't quite know how to adapt yet. Luckily, my class was small and the grade 2 class we were sharing iPads with was quite large. The teacher was not comfortable using them as often as we were (sad for them, but good for us). Within this year, my pedagogy changed a lot. I was watching Studio 5 at ISHCMC and the Enhanced PYP Documents were coming out. We started playing around with using the devices for goal setting, evidence, and planning our day, on top of the usual creating and expressions of new understandings.
I am now back in a 1:1 environment, and my students have continued much of the same things my students in a 2:1 environment did, but with more ease of access. We also use it a lot more for collaboration within the studio. With almost 100 students and 6 teachers including EAL, the iPads are an important piece of communication, collaboration, and creation. I am appreciative of access to these tools and opportunities our students have.
Watch this space for what comes next in my technology integration journey!
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