Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Adventure learning - 1st attempt

This term I introduced my class to Adventure Learning. Our school was going to have our senior show and I knew my students would need a project to keep them on task while they were being pulled this way and that for their many commitments.

I had several great people to discuss my plans with, including both in-school support and some Tweeps (thanks especially to @simone015). But there were still mistakes to be made, lessons to learn and reflections to be had.

Last week our school presented the show and this week several students have presented their topics to the class. I'm certainly not going to have a 100% completion rate, I didn't expect to however I would have liked to see more projects being finished and shared with the class. Part of this bound to be my input, some kids deserved more scaffolding with self directed learning. They would have been better working in small groups with some hand-holding from their teacher, I was confident that they would get there but its been difficult trying to balance a severely constrained timetable, letting them explore their passion and trying not to take over (especially with some projects which were uber-cool!). 

  • Next time: a mix of individual, pair & group projects is required to balance interests & learning needs.
Expectations of quality are difficult to moderate. I've been pleased with what I have seen but thought I might have my socks blown off, this hasn't happened. However, the class is on their 1st attempt at such a project and I haven't modelled an Adventure Learning project to them. Success is hard to measure when you have no experience with this type of project.

  • Next time: I'm doing an Adventure Learning project too, maybe I'll even include some students with higher learning needs.

A handful of kids have moved swiftly to beginning another Adventure Learning project. Clearly they have become motivated learners, or at least found a suitable outlet for their motivations. The computer time before school has been graduated from games and blogging, to blogging and adventure learning. These two developments are both positive but I now need to integrate this energy across our timetable.

  • Next term: I need to provide opportunities for children to pursue learning in their own interests in more curriculum areas (I guess I'm looking at personalising learning more successfully).
It has been a positive move for classroom management too, it hardly takes a rocket scientist to understand that pursuing your own interests increases engagement and motivation. Some of my more difficult students have been more productive this term.

  • Next term: Can I continue this in other areas of curriculum?

I've loved the questioning, discussion and engagement that Adventure Learning has introduced to my classroom. I won't give it an A+ on its first attempt but do believe that it has demonstrated enough positives to warrant another attempt next term.

Now I just have to work out what my project will be for next term...

Monday, 9 September 2013

Engaging in PD, making it count.

Last Thursday I attended a course on Blended Learning provided by TTS. I'd headed down hoping to learn more about planning and designing better integration of my BYOD devices, desktops and the school iPads. But I also got some first hand experience with the Socrative tool, I'd heard a lot about this but just never translated this into classroom use.

My problem with using Socrative before Thursday was I thought it was reasonably similar to using Google Forms, which I do use. Further, I couldn't imagine that I would be able to use Socrative effectively when I don't teach in a 1:1 classroom.

The facilitator demonstrated Socrative throughout the morning (albeit in a 1:1environment), so problem 1 was solved. Socrative can be used with far less set up, it took me 2-3 minutes today to train up my 2 of my BYOD students to help as class experts and with a very quick introduction we had the class all using this today.

However, immediately prior to this class is lunchtime. I was chatting with our DP and we were discussing meetings for the week, including a planning and curriculum mapping meeting. I suggested Socrative, gave him a quick run down (based on my limited knowledge) as the bell rang and headed back to class.

My plan for my afternoon lesson involved using a Thinglink image of the Painted Apple Moth to discuss a variety of issues that surrounded this pest and how it was eradicated. Using Socrative this became much more effective and the students loved the more interactive element.

I can't create a 1:1 environment, we have 3 desktops, 2 BYOD devices today plus my phone to use with 25 students in class today. Nothing like jumping in the deep end! With some creative questioning, smart use of peer/share activities and rotation of students using the desktops we made good use of Socrative on our 1st attempt. The class told me that they enjoyed its use in the class and it added a different element of voice even if one response was a tad over the top:

 T: How do you think they eradicated the Painted Apple Moth?
 S: They could shoot it with a Tomohawk Cruise Missile.

I recognise that some days I'll have several more BYOD devices in the room, boosted by school iPads and during ICT week every child would have a laptop. All of these circumstances make including Socrative even more favourable. The instant feedback was fantastic but it also gave me another management tool, data to base decisions on rather than just feel and allowed everyone a voice.

After school, I visited the DP, here he is setting up a quiz to use at our staff meeting on Wednesday. So we quickly trialled his quiz.

Engaging in PD isn't about just attending, instead taking valuable advice or resources and putting this into action is the important element of PD in any profession. Sharing your new knowledge with others in your organisation is also a vital component of PD and with any luck you'll watch as your peers act on your enthusiasm and new found knowledge.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Reflections for the week

I got back to class after assembly today absolutely exhausted, I've hardly done any classroom teaching this week and it had me feeling a little flat. Personally, I needed some fun and my kids had been in the hall for most of the week rehearsing their show. We had lots to reflect on.

The plan was to do reflections of our week so as a class we put this together, I've done the editing & sharing at home as we reached the end of the day. Class Blog reflections

To create this we've used ToonCamera for the photography NZ$2.59. This is a tasty little app that is easy to share with many of your favourite options, it doesn't share direct to Blogger or Wordpress but with options for Flickr, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter & Facebook it is easy to move an image straight there. There are many different grains/styles you can use for the images and you can switch between photo/video effortlessly.

I imported the images straight up to Strip Design and once there have added stickers and text bubbles. I've then saved the images back into the photo library and uploaded them straight away using the Blogger app.
All in all, this was a fun way to get the kids to share their thoughts on the week.

I hope this gives you some ideas on how you can AppSmash or layer your work using different Apps to create your reflections for the week. Or you could just have every student write them down...

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

21st century motivation, praise & room 1

I'm a learner, a thinker and I have a can do attitude. I teach because I like the idea of facilitating others to find their passion for learning, either in a specific subject area or generally.  The concept that I wasn't doing the right thing by my year 5 & 6 students in terms of praise/motivation in the 21st century has given me much to think about recently. Fortunately, my PLN have come to the party by tweeting or emailing links for professional reading.

Among the readings have been these gems:

Presence, Not Praise: How To Cultivate a Healthy Relationship with Achievement

Debunking the genius myth

How not to talk to your kids

Thinking About Classroom Dojo – Why Not Just Tase Your Kids Instead?

They have certainly given me food for thought and have enabled me to evaluate what I'm doing in my classroom, why I'm doing it and whether it is working for my students.

This debate is typically about motivation, are kids doing tasks because they are intrinsically motivated and believe there is value in the process and outcome of the task. Or do they do complete them because someone is going to reward them with something (extrinsic motivation). Praise is also an intriguing topic that is worthy of further study (another time, another place!). NB: I haven't studied these areas and I'm not entering into academic debate with you.

What do I do?
I confess I do use Class Dojo. My class told me at the end of term 1 that they wanted hard work to be recognised individually, we negotiated a reward of 15 minutes of free time for the winner of each fortnight. I don't use negative points, its not the correct forum for discipline. I've also introduced categories for the NZC Key Competencies and PB4L, this works well in my classroom and the students typically don't cash in their 15 minutes. We're in our second term of using Class Dojo and the kids are recommending others get points, particularly for my favourite category "Thinking & Learning".

I'm not into bribing my students to get things done, I'll offer them the odd choice, e.g. "this afternoon we can either do Art or Language, it really depends on how much you get completed, the quality of the completed work and your behaviour while doing it. Your choice".

I love giving students a high five or pat on the back. Such gestures typically aren't accompanied with an explanation as they're spur of the moment when the student does something that deserves it.

As a class we talk about our choices and future, I hope for good things for all of my students and dare them to be brilliant. We love Kid President and I'm forever challenging these kids to follow their dreams.

My students demonstrate a mixture of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Some will engage with every task and illustrate a high degree of intrinsic motivation, however, others are clearly in a 'whats in it for me' mindset. I've been working hard all year to evaluate what works for each member of my class, some I still haven't figure out and continue to confound me. For others, I find that what worked yesterday doesn't work tomorrow so I'm just trying to get the combination right!

Where to next:
Reflecting on these thoughts has been enlightening for me. But I'm pragmatic and passionate about my teaching, so if you want to provoke/further my thinking feel free to drop me an email/tweet/comment. I'm a BT and happy to learn.