Student Driven

As an educator one characteristic that I want to instill in students is the ability to problem solve and fail forward as they connect with the world. So often we find ourselves giving students answers, or if we don’t give them the answers, we lead them right there because we have a correct answer in mind. So what are some ways we can break this cycle? How can teach to get our students to be the thinkers and the ones who problem solve?

Here are a few ideas and tools:

Use the Question Formulation Technique. This allows students to work in groups and create and answer their own questions throughout a project. It’s powerful! I have them do it in a Google Doc or Microsoft Word (with sharing on) so that they can collaborate together as each group creates questions. This way groups can see one another’s thinking.

TES Teach Blendspace is a playlist that is easily created because it connects to your computer, YouTube, Google Drive, or the web. You can easily drag and drop resources into it. By strategically placing some assessments for students to determine what they do and don’t know, learning can be put into their hands to decide which assignments to do. You put a variety of choices for learning so that if they prefer learning through watching videos, those are there; if they prefer learning through games, they have that option. If they prefer reading articles, you’ve pulled those in too! A great way to personalized learning and allow student-driven learning.

Blogging! Whether it’s WordPress, Weebly, Blogger, or Kidblog, giving our students a voice to share their learning, connect in an authentic way with the world, and learn digital citizenship in context is important.

If you’re looking for something a little different and new, take a look at Adobe Spark. You have three options: create a web page, a video, or a social media post. In Adobe Spark are sharing options which allow students to go public.

Just a few ways to begin to go beyond the classroom and have students consider the world as they consider what they want to learn and how they create to make it happen.

 

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School Versus Learning #IMMOOC Why is there a Difference

As I continue along on this journey of learning, this journey of reading The Innovator’s Mindset with oh, 2,000 of my closest friends, there are a few points that are sticking with me today. Sometime George puts the words into my brain so much better than I can say them.

  1. School teaches compliance. Learning is about challenging perceived norms. (102)

To me this is a solid reason school might need to be tweaked. If school doesn’t equal learning at every level, well….are we doing it as well as we can be? AND are we doing it for the students of today? Better yet, how can we make these one and the same? How can we stop making school be about teaching compliance and get students able to challenge the status quo? Are we ready for that?

I certainly don’t have all the answers but today I watched a science teacher begin her lesson with students determining the questions. She presented an opportunity and they posed the questions they needed answered in order to learn what had happened in that situation.

2.  School is about giving you information. Learning is about making your own connections. (102)

Even in the framework of a curriculum, we have leeway; students can build on their connection to information.

I am watching books come alive for our middle school students as they make choices in what they read for maybe the first time as part of their learning. They are excited about it and engaged in books.

When teachers are gifted at helping students uncover knowledge rather than being wrapped up in covering material, it all comes alive for them.

Student Ownership. For Real.

Student ownership. I’ve watched my student tech team develop into this amazing group over the past year. Last year, I had a vision that I wanted to come to fruition; but even with that I couldn’t have imagined what it would become, what we would become in one short year.

Let’s go back to the beginning. I put out applications for students who were interested. I work in a middle schools, so there are sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. I simply wanted students who had some interest in technology, being a team, advocating for their school, and promoting through social media. Students joined for one or all of these reasons.

Soon after joining last year, ten of my eighth graders joined four other middle schools to be inspired by iSchool Initiative and create a three-year plan for our school. They set their sights high. They came together as a team and became leaders. Some of the initiatives they wanted our team to do included the following:

  1.  teach teachers and students more about technology; we are a 1:1 iPad school and they felt this was a need
  2. open media center in the mornings for students

Empowerment has become our middle name. Maybe our first. Students led app speed dating where they taught apps to teachers. Our student “my iPad has an issue” Google doc went to their iPads, so that they could be first on the scene before it went to our local IT. They did team building through activities like building virtual computers. Currently a few of them are trying to get a budget to build the computer for real!

The project that has generated the most excitement is their modern-day technology lab created in a room from a broken down computer lab. They created the floor plan. They  worked with me to determine what we needed to purchase for it. As a result, they own this lab.

These are middle schoolers who feel pride in what they do every day. They have a purpose in coming to school and are quick to tell me what they need and advocate for it.

Now that is real life. That is what school should be.

 

Failing with Pride

As I watched a middle school drama class last week, I am again reminded how much we as adults can learn from our students. The teacher was telling her students that they needed to fail with pride and as they did, the class was to applaud each time for both the error and learning from that error. What would happen if each and every one of us taught our students this message? What would happen if each and every one of us lived this lesson in our own professional and personal lives?

I watched these sixth graders, in their first week of middle school, many nervous inside, happily failing with pride. And I watched their teachers model this for them.

What an amazing start to middle school. What I hope is that creating this amazing culture of risk-takers in our students is the beginning of something incredible.

Creating a Positive Culture for Innovation

For many of us the year either has started or is about to start. Those first few weeks are the most important in establishing positive culture in our classrooms. In my school we’re moving to 1:1 iPads, so creating a risk-taking culture where students know the boundaries but aren’t afraid to make mistakes is so important.

#satchatoc had a meaningful discussion about establishing a culture of innovation in schools. Building this culture of innovation and creativity is essential to bring schools and students into the present and get them ready to lead in the future.

This idea of creating a culture where students and educators alike utilize technology to problem-solve and create a better world is an ongoing theme in education.

How do we encourage creativity and innovation in the classroom? Creation tools like iMovie, Educreation, Explain Everything, Thinglink, blogging, and Book Creator can help.

So, how do we get people to this place of innovation?

As educators we are always working to better ourselves, trying to learn so that we can share our ideas with our students. By being connected, we open a whole world (literally) of information and people to learn from. This chat is a perfect example as it is called #satchatoc; is based in Oceania yet draws an international crowd.

Modeling multiple solutions to questions as well as big ideas is huge! If we as the model in schools can get this and show our students that often problems do not have just one answer, it makes it okay for them to take risks, grow, and seek multiple answers to questions.

Moral of the story: what we do week one with our teachers and our students to create a positive culture where taking risks becomes the norm will determine how our year goes.

How are you starting your year?

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Catina: teaching, learning, leading, creating

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