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.
Ok Jonathan So - I'm finally writing this post. Thank you for the push.
First of all, I'd just like to address that I am a terrible blogger. Something really needs to resonate with me to write an actual blog post that goes beyond my typical 140 characteristic tweet. And yes, today is that day. There are so many thoughts swirling in my head right now - I can only hope that I can succinctly and coherently address them.
Making as I like to define it, is based on Papert’s theory of constructionism. Making can build knowledge when project our own understandings through the active and physical creation of personally meaningful artifacts.
One must carefully consider the two pillars of constructionism -- making and sharing -- and how they relate to assessing learning and teaching practices in the makerspace. The richness of making lies in the ability of all learners to share their thinking processes in the attempt to make sense, re-assess, evaluate and confirm the world around them. We all (teachers included) must make the time to share and reflect on learning in order to assess current levels of knowledge in order to facilitate future instruction. How and when are we providing time for sharing and reflection not only between students but amongst staff? How are we moving forward as a community of learners?
A next step, then, is to develop maker experiences that:
So...we're making things in our makerspaces. And that's great ...but now what? How does or how can the act of making support our students in their learning journeys?
On his site "The Constuction Zone", Peter Skillen 's states that in a makerspace "it is not merely the act of constructing that is essential. Powerful things happen when that act of constructing mediates deep conversation with others."
It is in the process we go through as makers and the thoughts and conversations that emerge from this process where the rich learning lies: What is working? Why does it work? What is frustrating? What discoveries did you make? What aha moment did you have that led you to future learning?
As educators then, we must ask ourselves:
“How do we document learning to capitalize on the the richness of the making experience? How can we ensure that the process of making is shared, communicated and articulated in such a way that meaningful dialogue and conversation about learning transpires? How can we emphasize the process of making so meaningful assessment for and as learning can occur?
The Ontario Ministry's monograph on Pedagogical Documentation identifies how exactly educators can help facilitate this process.
I've been trying to document learning during our making activities over the last month or so.
I am getting very good at observing....but observing and remembering to document can be two different things! Or remembering where you put your iPad!
And there are so many things to document, not only photos, but remembering what is going on in the photos and the conversations and thoughts the students are having during the process. How can I capture snippets of conversation and remember them? I am hopeless when it comes to writing notes down on paper because I lose them.
I think what I may have to do is purchase an iPod that I can exclusively use for documentation in the makerspace. I think using images and recording snippets of conversation might work best. An iPod is small, it can fit in my pocket so I can easily access it when I need to. Certainly, this must become a habit, but I find now - even when I'm not taking photos I'm still "actively listening" and watching what the students are doing and saying. I'm always pondering now what their actions tell me about our future teaching and learning practices.
Another thing that might work is a daily reflection log - where I can just jot down my notes. I wonder how I can make this work on Google Docs. Or use a voice recording app....yes that might work even better.
This is going to have an impact on my teaching and learning practices. Documentation is going to be my new stance in learning : moving from a culture of teaching to a culture of learning.
It's not going to be easy....but I think it will be extremely worthwhile.
Next step: interpreting the documentation.
As I delve deeper into understanding the impact of pedagogical documentation on the collective learning of the students and teachers at our school, I wonder at how I've gotten it wrong for such a long time.
To truly make learning visible so that we can actively reflect on our strengths and next steps as learners, we need to be focusing on the process of learning , rather than the product.
One method of documentation I regularly use is my twitter feed.
Today I asked myself an essential question:
How many of my tweets focus on what we are PRODUCING in the makerspace rather than HOW we produce it?
Showing WHAT we produce is rather flat documentation - or the tip of the iceberg. Showcasing HOW it was created or produced, it the real gem as it uncovers thinking processes behind the creation.
What am I going to learn more from? What are our students going to benefit more from?
While documenting some learning today I asked one group "How does it work?"