Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Joy of a Humble Book





My class have many, many favourite books that we love to share. From big books to picture books, non-fiction or topic books, books on CD, sing-a-long books, short story books, poetry books or novels, it is always something that my classes have long looked forward to...sharing a delightful, delicious book and devouring its rich language together!

Over the years, I have enjoyed reading some individual stand-alone novels that have been loved by all. I have never been tempted to repeat a class novel twice - only because that particular class seem to form a place in my memory which is attached to that particular book. I have read many Joy Cowley novels such as 'The Wild West Gang' (we read that series) and 'The Pirate's Mixed Up Voyage' by Margaret Mahy. I spent a whole year reading a Year 8 class 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe' series by C.S. Lewis and another year reading the Harry Potter novels to a Year 6 class (we never quite finished past the 3rd one!)

But last year, my class kind of got caught up in the fantastic series of books by Cressida Cowell, all about a wonderfully 'normal' Viking boy who defies all of the odds by becoming the most unusual hero that ever was! My class last year became totally enthralled by every word on every page and hung to the very syllable of each word as I read aloud to them. We even did a film/book comparison between the first book of 'How To Train Your Dragon' and they did character studies and blogged madly about the books.

So this year, for the first time ever, I did the unthinkable...I repeated the series of books. But this time, my class have been a group of children who really struggle to concentrate, yet they have sat, wriggling giggling, as I shared the stories all over again. My class have just thought that this was the most wonderful thing - our day is not complete without the story continuing. We have just had the final, 9th book delivered to us and we are endeavouring to finish it before the year ends!

I cannot rave enough about the power of a silly story, a funny story, a powerful or spooky story, a thriller, a mystery or romance...the power of a story can never be underestimated.

Do YOUR class have any faves? Are there any books that you just read every year because of how much children love them?

QR codes for Christmas


Have you thought about some different to use QR codes with your class for Christmas activities?
Here are a few ideas to get you started!

1. QR Santa hunt - get a child to hide a picture of Santa somewhere in the classroom and then give clues and hints through QR codes.

2. Who is Santa? Create a short description of Santa and embed it as a QR code, then print it to attach to a drawing/picture of Santa by the student.

3. Maths QR - leave a series of maths problems to do with Christmas (money is a great one to use, e.g. how many chocolate Santas can we buy for a dollar if one costs 20c? the solution leads them to the next clue.)

4. Acrostic poems - write an acrostic poem and embed it as a QR code. Publish on the class blog or wiki.

5. Book review - ask the children to sell a favourite Christmas story to someone else - create a code out of it and get them to read each others' ones to find which they would like to read!

Ask your class for ideas...my class decided that doing a character assassination for Santa would be a great idea...they also want to create QR codes that link to their favourite Christmas websites and our class Christmas wiki!

Get creating, and don't forget to leave a comment of any ideas that YOU have!

Check out our class Christmas wiki too!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Postcards


Today we received postcards from China. They were from one of our students who is currently there visiting a sick relative and will be away until next year now. She has sent us lots of e-mails and we have even managed several Skype sessions including a video tour of the apartment where they are staying and the view from there. The class were spell-bound, and the lovely part was that many of my Chinese students became extremely animated about what they saw.

The postcards were a fantastic look at the life around our other classmate. There was talking and talking and talking about them! The children took turns sharing their postcard and talking about the pictures on them, developing ideas about the similarities and differences of life there and here. One of my quite quiet boys decided to become extremely chatty and was keen to share his knowledge of the Great Wall, regaling us with incredible facts and information. He answered questions about Tiennman Square, surprising many of us with how many places he has travelled to and learnt about. The class are now calling him their 'go to' person for facts on China!

As a personal challenge, the class decided to research the place in their postcard. They sought information and other images, producing some interesting facts and presenting them in a method of their choice. They have used what they have found out to form a part of their postcard back to our student in China. They also wrote questions to her about her school-life there and her life in comparison to New Zealand. It has certainly made the children happy to be at school in NZ as several other students recounted how much homework they had in China, how many hours they spent in school every day and how many textbooks they studied from.

Our next steps are to use the inquiry model to form questions about school in China and then to look at the best way to locate answers. I am working hard to embed into my students the knowledge of how vital HUMAN resources are when it comes to sourcing information. The fact that our personal experiences, such as those of my own students who have studied and lived in China, surpass the internet and even books when it comes to knowledge at times.

Friday, November 25, 2011

To Love the ICT Suite...or Not


Here is the dilemma...has the humble ICT suite become obselete, worked itself out of a job and become 'yesterday's' learning, or does it still hold a place in our hearts?

I have been considering both sides of this debate carefully. On one hand, we have the die-hards, who killed themselves 10+ years ago to GET an ICT suite. It was in a time when having one desktop in the classroom was considered to be amazing. Many school leaders are still sure that there is a need for a school to have a place designated for ICT teaching and learning, with a projector and a way to teach the whole class at one time, the same skills, using the same website/tools, completing the same activity and ticking the box.

Now don't get me wrong - in many, many schools the humble ICT suite has been fought for long and hard. It has a place there because there is no chance (at this present time) that there will be 5-10 devices per classroom (or group of classes) for integrating eLearning seamlessly into the daily classroom programme. Those schools and teachers are fortunate to have access to tools and devices at all and moving forward is tortoise-paced rather than hare.

If I could, then, work on an 'ideal', then THAT would decide - for me - once and for all, what the ICT suite's future should be.

MY ideal is this: 8-10 fully functional devices (iPods/iPads/laptops/desktops) per class (optimum of course), eLearning skills as the focus, integrated into the classroom programme seamlessly. Nice ideal, I know. It is a ratio of 1:3 devices per child.

The problems are NOT simple with this ideal - 1. money, 2. money and 3. money. (Oh ok, you could probably add the fact that people need to be trained and have attended PD so that they are on board fully with the paradigm shift that they need to work in this type of environment.) But the reality, the cold hard facts, are that there is a LOT of money needed to fund this.

So on the other side of this argument, we have the humble ICT suite. It is there, sitting daily, available for use and conveniently timetabled in for us. It is a place that the class look forward to going to and it is a part of the weekly teaching time. On the downside, it means that some teachers use it for word-processing only or for games and simple activities that have little value in terms of eLearning.

What is the answer then? I believe that this can only be decided by each school on an individual basis. What I think will differ from what others think, even within my own school. We have access to devices at our school which enables a 1:3 ratio for MOST classes (on a shared basis though), so many teachers still believe that the ICT suite is the perfect place for them to work, once a week to teach ICT skills. For me, I have an eLearning class, so I have my own class set of devices and we only use the ICT suite because we are timetabled in to use it. But we use it to have 1:1 with devices (we take all the others from our classroom there!) and this enables everyone to blog or access Edmodo at the same time, or to all learn one new skill at the same time. It is usually a continuation of something that we are already doing or something completely new that everyone can try and then transfer.

But for me, next year, I will be surrendering my time slot in the ICT suite. As a teacher, I have moved past the humble suite as a need within my programme. I no longer wish for my class to see ICT/eLearning as a separate entity, I actually need for them to understand that it is woven into the very fabric of our classroom and NOT a 'stand-alone', so we will be using, thinking, creating and learning WITH (and without!) devices, not BECAUSE of a room with computers.

Right or wrong, that is where I am at with the ICT suite. I would really value the thoughts and musings of others around this idea - how do you use it in your school? What would your IDEAL be with eLearning?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

IPads


Have had a really productive and inspiring week with iPads. We made the decision as a school to have them set up with 3 accounts for the 3 levels in our school so that we could differentiate apps and activities. We gave the responsibility to everyone when it comes to sourcing new great apps as well as finding great ways to utilise the learning through this device.

Over the past week, we have therefore gone through the apps we already have, checked their uses and purposes, decided if that fits with how we are teaching and what we are using them to learn, and then downloaded more apps while culling those that were outside of our requirements.

Fortunately for our school, we have great support from consultants such as Jacqui Sharp, who have been able to keep us informed and up to date with changes, as well as providing us with sound advice on how to use the iPads effectively.

Today we spent time working alongside Jacqui, and it was awesome to see so many teachers excited by the prospect of using the iPads in their classes. We talked through organising the pages on the iPads so that the students have what they need easily. We looked at the practicalities of how to use them during writing specifically but then went on to looking at which apps can be used for draft writing, publishing and brainstorming.

So far, we have grouped our apps according to these ideas. The next steps for us, are to get the iPads into our classes in real and tangible ways before the end of the year, and create opportunities for the children to try the different ideas and experiment with choices. We also need to look at how we can use 5 iPads effectively as PART of the programme rather than BEING the programme. There is definitely a good understanding within our staff of how the iPads are a tool NOT a programme.

It is exciting to have the opportunity for professional develoment as well as the actual devices to utilise this amazing resource! The children enjoy learning through a variety of tools and this is no exception! What is most important though, is the fact that our staff are also getting on board and getting educated too so that they can support the new learning and new skills for their students.

Watch this space!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Stanleys Arrive Home!





Yay! The Stanleys came back to us today! They have been travelling far afield in Pennsylvania, USA and have finally returned to us in Room 14.
We have now prepared our cards and a few gifts for our ePals to be returned to them next week.
We love going global!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

10 things I have learned this year #9


Number 9 - I am most effective when I am learning too

This year has been all about personal learning for me. Every day, I have set myself the challenge that I want to be able to say, "I have learnt something new!" at least once a day. It has come in so many forms that it seems crazy to admit that I have learnt more than one new thing, every day, without exception!

Twitter was a salvation for me - so many amazing educators to follow, to question, to seek answers from. A PLN was a foreign idea to me last year and I thought people on twitter were...well...TWITS. But now! Revelation! I know better than that! The twits on twitter are MY tweeps and I love my PLN to bits!

Blogging has been a wonderful way to reflect but also a great way to seek ideas - reading OTHER blogs through googlereader has essentially formed the basis for my professional reading! As for developing my own blog, both personal and class, as a form of ePortfolio, well, that has been the most invaluable tool indeed.

In my classroom, we have developed the use of learning spaces and this has essentially meant that the room became ours and not just mine. We have moved around, got new furniture, utilised the online spaces and become a truly global classroom as we developed our online relationships with other learners around the world. The Flat Stanley Project brought a new set of friends into our classroom, Skype delivered one of our students (who has moved to China) back into our room, Edmodo has enabled us to communicate and ask questions of our ePals, the Quadblog taught us how to respond to others online, neti-quette and much, much, more.

The laptops and iPads, as well as other devices, became so neatly embedded into the framework of our learning that the children simply utilise them well at all times with very little time taken for me to monitor their use. They form a part of the choices that the students make throughout the day with their learning, and eLearning has finally had its 'E' turned into 'ME'-learning.

I have stopped counting how many A-HA! moments I experience or observe. I only know that I am most effective as I continue to grow, change and develop as a learner first, and a teacher after that.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

10 things I have learned this year


As I start to reflect in a much deeper way about the personal learning journey that I have had this year, I have decided to write a top 10 of what I have learnt so far, and then also my top ten highlights.

In terms of learning and experiences, they go a bit like this:

Number 10
Teaching and learning are one and the same
'I cannot teach effectively if I do not learn, and if I am learning, then there is always something of value to share.'

The students have become empowered in my class this year as learners and teachers. A huge change has been the way the learning and teaching have melded themselves seamlessly - my students have shared, collaborated, debated, discussed, reviewed, reflected, assessed, evaluated, self-managed, coached and much, much more because they had opportunities to do so.

As a teacher, I have become a 'creator of opportunities' for my students, a maker of chance! And they have embraced these moments and run with them, however they felt they wanted to. The learning and teaching process has become so interwoven that they are now much more capable when it comes to deciding on what their next learning steps need to be and how they can achieve them. 'Pass it on...' became our class mantra last year and it has continued on into this year - if I taught a new skill to one, then it was their responsibility to pass that new knowledge on to someone else. This created a wonderful class culture of sharing and shared teaching, meaning that the children quickly realised that they, too, are teachers and have the responsibility to teach others what they know.

I have discovered that the challenge for me is this: I must ensure that there is a true balance of teaching and learning in my classroom, opportunities must be presented at all junctions so that children buy into the learning process and genuinely own the learning.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Citizen Journalism

Twitterati...have you heard of them?

The famous on twitter? Those who follow lots of others and are well known?

Well, the future of much of journalism seems to be in the hands of these peeps (or should I say 'tweeps'!)

If you watch this clip, you will come to see that actually, the everyday blogger/tweeter/facebook-er are able to impact on how something is reported and WHAT is being reported - especially if there is reason to question the truth to the story.

Imagine laying witness first-hand to a death on board a plane or on the street and reading a completely inaccurate account the following day in the newspaper? That type of distortion of the truth often occurs, perhaps not necessarily in something as extreme as a death or murder, but inaccurate in its report none-the-less. This clip shows how the twitterati are able to influence those reports and actually change the course of justice. What a great concept that social networking can genuinely work for good - to find witnesses, to locate actual footage of an event and more.



Sunday, November 13, 2011

Changing Attitudes


I have a dilemma. Many of the parents of this generation of learners STILL fear the eLearning classroom as a less-than-hallowed place of learning for their children. Some parents, administrators AND teachers still think it is all about playing, games, devices and no literacy or numeracy teaching. Well, you know, not REAL teaching.

I have a few ideas about how to change this perception. My thoughts are just rambling and rattling around my head at the moment, but there are some things that need to be said and done to change those perceptions.

Idea #1 = stage an "eLearning Caravan" or showcase of some kind early on in the year. In other words, get the kids to sell the concept of their own learning to their parents. Include things such as cyber-safety, wikis and blogs but also focus on what self-management looks like, inquiry processes, authentic learning contexts, ePortfolios, key competencies and how we work on those specifically. It would be using graphic organisers and how to brainstorm as well as using post-ITs, paper planners and so on. The 'big idea' would be to remove the 'e' from the eLearning so that parents realise that their children can learn concepts and skills THROUGH digital tools, but REGARDLESS of whether they have digital tools or not.

Idea #2 = develop a more structured ePortfolio system early on in the year and utilise this to communicate the learning - especially in the sense that the students lead the learning AND the reflections online. That way, their parents are able to see the transparency to their learning, goals and personal challenges.

Idea #3 = use the 'meet the teacher' evening to really inform the parents about how our classroom operates. Get the students to be a part of this, to talk about their learning and the expectations around self-management, collaboration, inquiry and thinking skills in our classroom and school.

My challenge is to keep things simple enough to have 'parent speak' going successfully, to ensure that parents gain a real, deeper understanding of eLearning and our classroom, to answer their concerns and questions in a simple yet informative way. I guess the really big question that they have is whether their children will (a) be taught the basics as they see them, and (b) be disadvantaged (!) by being in an eLearning class.

As long as the parents can understand how their child's learning is supported and challenged, then I am figuring their will be little or no complaints! This year, I have made a huge effort to keep things transparent so that the parents are always able to ask anything, come and visit, view their children's work online and through many different means, as well as ensuring that they are constantly informed of their progress.

Hmmm, anyone sense that it sounds just like any classroom? Yup. Take that 'e' out of the eLearning and I think we have just changed how things look and sound when we present them. It's all learning.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Less Work?


It's like a new Tui beer ad...just waiting to come to a billboard near YOU! All of my teaching colleagues are talking about how revolutionary it must be to teach in an eLearning classroom, filled in every nook and cranny with the latest and greatest gizmos and gadgets...they keep telling me how EASY it is, how CRUISY my job must be, how LITTLE prep I need to do and how LIGHT the workload is. Well, peeps, let me say it like a Tui beer ad would say it...YEAH RIGHT.

I read more than I ever have. I connect in ways that I didn't know were possible 5 years ago. My PLN has become more regular and reliable than my PMT. Frankly, I spend so much time planning and reflecting, blogging and creating, reviewing and reposting, renewing and revising, that some days my head spins from the sheer volume of activity that is going on!

My classroom has changed. My pedagogy has changed. My students have changed their approach to thinking and learning, responsibility for their own learning, and much, much more. The language of learning has changed, the mode for delivering learning has changed. The methods for teaching has changed. All in all, there is not a day or even an hour that passes anymore at school where lightbulbs aren't visibly appearing above the heads of teachers and pupils alike.

Do I use less paper? Why yes I do. Do the students record less in their books and more online or on the computer? Indeed that is true. Do we learn less, plan less, assess less and prepare yes? Definitely not! There has never been such a time where I put this amount of time and energy into virtual places and ideas rather than concrete production of paper and ink. I have never been so well prepared and busy yet left so much to the students. That seems like a contradiction of terms but in reality, I have never shared the learning process in quite this way before either, so that the classroom has become one big collaborative space.

eLearning...less work?
YEAH RIGHT.

More rewarding and exciting?
FOR SURE!!!


Friday, November 11, 2011

10 things you should know about...

...creating learning spaces!

1. Spaces are just that - a space. They can be turned into whatever you want them to be!

2. Spaces are fun in the classroom when everyone has an input into their design. My classes of the past have always been involved in decisions about where we have things and how we organise space.

3. Sometimes the smallest spaces have the biggest impact! Years ago I had a big class of children in the tiniest of classrooms. Boy, were we creative about how we used the (lack of) space in that room! We had tiered seating even so that they could all be a part of our presenting area (where they showed plays/dramas and rehearsed their poems or speeches). You just have to be very adaptable!

4. If you have too much space, it can end up being wasted! I have also had big classrooms where we had 'dead' areas of the room that were just a hive of inactivity. It is not ideal to 'fill' every space but to create many different areas for the class.

5. Work backwards - decide what spaces you couldn't live without (shared space, secret space etc.) and go from there. My class this year love their secret spaces best of all and so I have tried to build in many of these but also allow for them to find their own secret spaces and be ok with that.

6. Be in control of the 'online shared spaces' - but always allow the children to feel trusted AND secure when they are using them. Being intentional about teaching net-iquette and blogging techniques is essential to these spaces being safe and effective.

7. Get creative and LET GO. My class always love it when I give them a publishing space on the classroom wall and allow them to plan it and collaborate around how it will look and what they are wanting to create. The older the children are, the better this works as you can actually totally yield those spaces to them and allow the class the freedom to 'own' their 4 walls. This is why kids love the internet - the blogs and wikis can LOOK the way they want them to and they can create a space that is all about their own choices and taste.

8. Always seek new ways to create spaces - we didn't have a class garden or even an area for it and I just got a large planter made for us and we have had a class garden ever since. Children LOVE to tend to plants and learn about growing things, it is part of their makeup to want to 'make' something from scratch. The garden allows them to experiment with looking after a living thing independently.

9. Let them utilise spaces the way they want to. Sometimes we look at an area of a learning centre or a group space and decide how WE want it to look or how WE want to use it and the class have a very different idea around it. Children feed back to this without ever saying a word - they simply never go there or use it. Let the class be a part of the choices and they will be a part of using the space.

10. Have fun! Try to create some different spaces that you have never had before. Use online spaces in new ways and explore different areas and layouts for your room. Change things around and work together to do that. Buy in from children comes when they are the investor not just the consumer.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My How Time Does Fly!


We had a great class trip today to the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT). The focus was transport from the past to the present, especially for us to consider the transport of the future. It certainly held my class spell-bound!

The funniest part was the fact that my girls were 'bored' by the time we had been roving the museum for an hour and the boys were absolutely impossible to distract! The boys were charging around the museum, propelling me from one aircraft to another, bombarding me with questions and wonderings, solving their own questions by finding the answers and then rushing off to look at the next plane! They were utterly miserable when we had to leave and the majority of the girls were happy to board the bus again! I wished that the boys had been able to spend the whole day at the 2nd part of the museum (which housed the war planes and the old planes) and the girls had gotten a lot longer at the first part of the museum (the historical houses, telecommunications and Kiwiana sections).

Had to laugh though at MANY different parts of the telecommunications section...most of the children didn't recognise the original decadic phones which ran through the exchange via a series of clicks. They held them upsidedown and I was giggling to myself when we took turns phoning each other on them. One of my boys looked all around when his phone rang, picked it up and said, "Hello?" to which I replied, "Hi Terry!" He then leaned around the corner to me on my phone and whispered, "Someone just called me and they know my name!" I replied (into the phone piece), "Yes Terry, it's Mrs R!" and his face was priceless! Obviously this 'old' technology had him quite baffled!

The learning was amazing all day - so many times the parent helpers commented on how much they were learning too!

New Furniture




We have our new furniture in the classroom now, it has officially been 2 weeks now. The children have adjusted brilliantly - that mean seem strange, considering it's table instead of desks and that may not seem like much of a change. But it has been a HUGE change. To move from having all of your books and belongings in one desk, one place that belongs to you, is a rather enormous difference compared to having tables where things are changeable, movable, unfixed, fluid.

There have been problems. I would be less than truthful if I said that wasn't the case. We had to solve where we were storing their books (tote trays and plastic crates), where their pencil cases would go (too big for their tote tray), who would sit where (anywhere!) when they could choose who to sit with and with to sit and so on. My autistic student has struggled - he is most comfortable when he has a fixed place, so we have had to fix one seat as his to keep him feeling happy and safe. The rest of the class have quickly adjusted to being hobos - they are flitting around easily and are much more comfortable with moving around depending on their needs, tasks and so on.

The big 'moon' tables have been a hit. During writing, we curve them into an S shape and use them for our conferencing table. During reading and maths we use them as two C shaped moons and have the teacher group there. Their shape really invites collaboration and the shared space.

The other tables, when split, provide many paired spaces and individual spaces. The children have quickly adjusted to when to work with others, when to be working alone and when to choose a different place to work.

It will be great to see how the spaces develop and how the problems get ironed out. For now, we are just enjoying experimenting with the new furniture!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What my kids think of me


It was my birthday last week, and several of my pupils from last year popped up to bring me cards and various dodgy-looking cupcakes lovingly made by them. Among my goodies, a little book was hiding, made with care and time by three of my pupils from last year. One of the girls gave me a medal that she had made for me, insisting that I wore it all day.
It read: WORLD'S BEST TEACHER.

The little book read:
Once, there were 3 best friends: Grace (very smart), Jessica (very cheeky) and Catherine...well, let's just say that she is very girly!
They had this great teacher named Mrs R. When their year ended, they were VERY sad. But we all know that she is a very good teacher and is very cool too. Here are 10 reasons why:
  1. She read us great stories
  2. She read us great stories with great voices!
  3. She is very kind and cool
  4. She teaches people great things while they are still having fun!
  5. She can even make the boringest things seem fun
  6. She is great at organising things
  7. She has a great sense of humour
  8. We did really cool things in her class
  9. She believes we are unique
  10. She is FANTASTIC!
This list could go on and on. Let's just say, these 3 girls were very lucky to be in her class.

Now honestly, apart from having the most enormous lump in my throat as I read that, I have got to confess to feeling really lucky to have had those lovely ladies in my class. Maybe they have shown me that at times, I manage to get a few things right! It was certainly great to read such nice comments...makes it even more worthwhile when you know you are really impacting on how some children learn!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Making A Difference

We have been thinking about our end of the year celebrations as our Year 6 children get set to graduate from Primary School and move into the next phase of their school journey. This song was part of the documentary on 20/20 last night and it resounded with me - 'I want to do something that matters, do something better, set the world on its ear, leave nothing less than something that says "I was here". '

Imagine if we could instill in our children in our schools a deep sense of social justice and a core believe in their very soul that they could make a difference? But more than that, not just COULD make a difference, but WILL make a difference.

It should stir our souls as teachers to believe that every day, in some small way, we too make a difference. We are spending our days creating an imprint that says in many, many lives "I was here"...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Flat Stanley returns...


We may come from New Zealand but it would appear the 'boomerang effect' actually works down here as well as in Australia!

Several weeks ago, we made and posted Flat Stanleys to our ePals in America. They went with our stories on the back of them, our questions hanging on their very arms. Our curiosity was piqued...what was it like to live and go to school half of the world away from us? What did they sound like, look like? What were their homes like, their schools like? Would they eat the same things as us? Would they know about our country? These were all of the questions that my class brainstormed - the big question was: 'What is it like to be a student in a school somewhere else in the world?'

For us, we already have students from other countries - Korea, China, Japan, India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Australia, England - New Zealand is a diversely multi-cultural country. Many of the children in the school may LOOK like they are from another country, yet their speech, accent and life is very much of a second or third generation New Zealander. Their identities are multi-layered, they have many of the traditions of their parents and their origins, as well as being - well - Kiwi kids! My 'wonderings' were based around this then - how multicultural was the school we were contacting? Is their state like our country - a cross section of the globe already on our doorstep?

My class have messaged through Edmodo.com, written blogposts, written stories and drawn pictures, made cards and investigated madly. They want to find answers for themselves. They want to be informed. They desire a deeper understanding of our global village - not just the one that we have to travel overseas for, but the one that we have on our doorsteps and in our own classrooms. The biggest gain for us as a class (apart from the global connections) has been the realisation that they all have a piece of the wider world in them - they have become curious about each other.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Process vs. Product


We have had a lot of questions over the past few years about digital classrooms and eLearning. Many suggest that we simply take the 'e' out of it so that it's just 'learning' but I think we have be clear that this is definitely a different style of teaching and learning, therefore, it really needs its own identity. As for the 'digital' side of things, well, I think there has been a complete shift in our perception of all of that digital stuff too!

For me, the realisation dawned about a year ago that I was getting myself tangled up in the PRODUCT. Everything I did in the ICT suite or with the laptops seemed to be immersed in the 'final product' - how it looked, what the kids had made or completed. I seemed somewhat distracted by the 'what' instead of the 'how'.

For someone who has certainly done enough Inquiry Learning to know the difference, I seemed to still be bound up in this whole 'product' issue. One day at a school assembly however, after watching all of the beautifully presented Inquiry Learning Keynote presentations, listened to the Wordles, seen the iPods used to present their 'products' and so on...well, I just had the big lightbulb moment.

What were we doing? What was I doing?

I felt like screaming that we were getting it wrong - couldn't they all see it? We were setting our goal as a final production! All that we 'taught' was ICT and digital goodies packaged up to look fantastic! It's no wonder the parents quivered nervously when told their children were in the 'digital' class, wasn't that the class that sat on laptops all day producing fun stuff?

Oh now don't get me wrong, the fun stuff is part of the bigger picture, but somehow we were forgetting that learning is a journey and NOT a destination, so eLearning is a process and NOT a product. This was what we needed to come back to, and come back we have. We now look at the skills to be taught and developed first, then the 'how to' and the 'what if', and the product is a side effect if even that. My class have a wiki as a learning space but it will never be 'complete' or perfect, it is a work in progress. The blog is their reflective space and that too will never be finished - we don't even care how it looks! It's about the PROCESS of reflection and development of our learning journey NOT about how people feel when they read it! Oh, we love to have responses and comments but that is PART of the process, not the whole process and certainly NOT the product of our reflections.

We have many, many devices, apps and websites that we use but they are just the tools, the methods for delivery. May I never get distracted by the hearts and flowers of the product ever again!

However, if I really wanted to measure whether my class actually 'get' the process vs. product, then it was seen in their reflections of this year of learning. Not ONE child commented about the wiki, blog, apps, iPods, iPads, laptops, digital cameras, websites. Not ONE. They ALL talked about and reflected on the bigger picture - their experiences as learners, topics, Inquiry Learning, trips that we did, cooking in the classroom, student teachers, swimming, athletics days and so on. When I asked the class why they hadn't mentioned anything about being in an eLearning class and what we had done that was different to some of the other classes, the response was breath-taking -'because that's HOW we learn, not WHAT we learn.'

Process vs. product, from the mouths of babes.

Teachers?


My class had the fantastic challenge of becoming the 'teacher' today. We are lucky enough to have 2 buddy classes this year - one group of year 6 children who play teacher to us, and one group of New Entrant children, whom we play teacher to!

So, the 5 year olds have only used KidPix this past term and apart from using the ActivBoard, they have no actual digital or eLearning skills on board so far. We did a class brainstorm to decide what skills would be (a) easy to teach, and (b) easy to complete in an afternoon, as well as (c) really fun! There were some great ideas, so we ordered them from most popular and then voted on our top 3. The class think nothing of making these decisions - it's such a 'normal' process for them to make the decisions on learning now that this was just easy for them.

So, having decided that the most important skills to be taught were how to create an avatar and use that to introduce themselves as well as teaching their buddies how to upload and download photos, we had a wee problem. My class LOVE this most of all - problem creating. This is what they thrive on! The problem was that they had nowhere to put the work that they did together.

Five of my boys grabbed laptops and within 2 minutes had apportioned tasks to one another to create a wiki for them and their buddies. About 5 minutes after that, we were up and going. They are SO fast at creating now!

The buddies came this afternoon and there was collaboration, self-management, thinking, questioning, problem-creating, problem-solving, using language symbols and text and much, much, more! Teaching and learning at its finest. Children as learners teaching children as learners. An authentic context and authentic learning!

The vokis are great, the photos are loaded and have comments recorded. But it was more than that. It's not about the pretty images or the avatars. Its about letting the learners lead the learning AND the teaching.

And that's EXACTLY what happened!