I've decided to make an effort this year to emulate my friend Diana Maliszewski and begin to make a more concerted effort to blog about collective learning practices on a weekly basis.
Roe and Smith (2012) address my thinking exactly: "... schools should find ways to integrate literacy with STEM instruction. Integration can also go much deeper, incorporating problem solving, vocabulary building, writing and speaking through STEM activities."
While my focus in learning tends to put the literacy before the science ... the basic principle remains the same. STEM, STEAM and literacy should not be separate entities. Rather they should weave seamlessly together to maximize learning potential.
This week, we began the Forest of Reading program with our learners. This program is intended to introduce students to books written by Canadian authors. Students are encouraged to read five books out of a category and vote on their favourite.
I have begun developing a website titled "The Forest of Making" to share with the teachers at my school to help link making and literacy and what it could mean for the learning of our students. I am fortunate that many in my school also share this vision.
This week, one of the books we read was "Even SuperHeroes Have Bad Days". I particularly liked the theme the book sends about self regulation and mindfulness when things don't go our way.
While there were many different approaches we could take to communicate our thinking about regulation, I was most excited about how we could use the micro:bit to create a Magic Eight ball of sorts.
How might students create a device that would give them options how to regulate their days in a way that was personally meaningful to them? My colleague Meaghan Hopkins and her grade three students decided to try and find out.
What I noticed:
I noticed that students were engaged in the entire process. I noticed that some needed some coaching, but all could do it. I noticed that some students picked up the concepts quite easily and were able to act as leaders for others. I noticed that students could verbalize their thinking, but did not necessarily understand the computations behind what they were coding.
I noticed that I did not delve deep enough when asking the students to reflect on their process (mind you, I saw their completed project 5 minutes before the bell). I just asked them how did they feel about their learning? What I could have asked instead is plentiful : how did you choose your strategies? What did you find difficult? What worked well, what didn't? What would do next time? How does your cube represent mindfulness for you? Who might you share this with? How might it help someone else? Would you suggest this for another student to make? What advice would you give to students who might want to make the same thing?
What I wonder:
I wonder if students chose strategies that were personally meaningful to them? Or did they just choose them randomly?
Would the engagement be the same if we tried another activity with the micro:bit or would this be a one hit wonder?
I wonder how we could apply this to math - could they create a rock, paper, scissors game? Could they teach other students? How would they communicate learning in a different context?
I wonder who they would share their learning with, if they could choose?
I wonder how they would rate this learning.
Janet Hale, co-author of the upcoming book A Guide to Documenting Learning saw our video and gave me some feedback on reflective questions we could use to drive learning forward. Questions I have directly incorporated into this blog post :). Additionally she suggested that students should also share their cubes with a variety of learners of different ages to get feedback.
Where we are going next:
Ironically enough, right after I received Janet's feedback, another grade three teacher approached me about the learning being done in Meghan's class and wanted to do try it in hers. I immediately suggested that Meaghan's students share their cubes with her class.
Think about it - what if Meaghan's students shared their learning and then gave tips to help new learners? What if they rated their tips in order of importance?
How can others give feedback on the cubes Meaghan's class has made? How might we document this feedback? Two stars and a wish?
I wonder how might this experience might impact the new cubes being made? I wonder how Meaghan's students might reflect on their thinking and/or modify their cubes?
I can't help but be a little excited about how we can use this experience to continue to drive learning forward.