Start with the child…

Start with the child, not the curriculum. Schooling is currently organised the wrong way around. The curriculum becomes the structure for the learning and is delivered via a timetable. Yet we know that every child is different so there cannot be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to schooling. Learning and teaching should be designed around each child’s learning strengths and needs. In this way, the curriculum is the reference point, not the blueprint. 

~Greg Whitby

On the first day back after the summer break, we introduce our 2017 focus to our team of educators:

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Check in: Choose a word that describes one of your strengths and then one you would like to work towards.

Sharing the justification for our choices serves both as an ice breaker in the cross campus, multi-year level groups, and as a provocation to think about and value the diversity amongst us.

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A provocation: Watch till 2:38 and create a title that sums up the essence.

The video provokes a range of responses and lively conversation ensues. To what extent are we guilty?

Pre-thinking: Create an image that represents your first thoughts about the notion of starting with the child.

There are rich conversations about the possible connotations of the phrase and an exchange of ideas about what it might mean to us.

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An appreciative inquiry…

Discover: What are we already doing?

It’s important to acknowledge the many ways in which we already start with the child.  This activity creates a space for cross pollinating ideas and sharing practice.

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Dream: What are the possibilities for taking it further? 

Teachers are encouraged to imagine. What if…? How might we..? Could we…? How would we…?

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  • How do we ensure we cater for diverse needs and interests?
  • How might we rid ourself of the idea of a controlled classroom?
  • Imagine if we didn’t have grades and reports.
  • What if we could get rid of Naplan?
  • What if we had one free choice unit of inquiry every year?
  • What if the children wrote the curriculum?
  • What if we didn’t have timetables?
  • How might we increase opportunities for cross age learning?
  • How might we build a culture where all children value each other?
  • How can we ensure social and emotional wellbeing of every child?
  • What if there were no bells interfering with learning?
  • How might we help every child to believe in himself?

Design: What will you do?

We ask teachers to record something they will start working on right away.

What will you do? Try out? Think about? Explore? Change? How will you ensure that you start with the child?

A (technology) vision for inspiring learning…

Technology can inspire and enhance learning through innovation, collaboration & creativity.

This is the tech vision statement for VIS in Laos, where I had the pleasure of working with a lovely group of educators for several days last week. It is also the central idea for their inquiry into the use of technology for innovation in learning.

Our provocations included, among other things:

  • an exploration of the difference between enhancing and inspiring, which stimulated interesting conversation, not just about technology (which isn’t really the point) but about learning.
  • looking at examples of collaboration and creativity to inspire possibilities.
  • investigation of the 2016 ISTE standards for students.
  • creating stop motion clips to encapsulate the big ideas within the standards.
  • consideration of how the characteristics of the innovator’s mindset might influence teachers’ approach to technology integration.
  • individual and team meetings exchanging ideas and thinking collaboratively.

 

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Their ongoing inquiry involves putting ideas into practice, making connections, experimenting, investigating, exploring further… bringing the vision to life.

Graham was inspired to start a blog. His first post challenges us to consider whether the PYP exhibition is actually an expedition. Year 6s in Australia have already been inspired to pursue the question. Some of them might like to connect with Graham’s students in Laos…

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Linda sent out a tweet asking for photos of learning spaces around the world to help her Preps gather data for their inquiry into learning environments and received, among other global contributions, images of the early years learning spaces at my school.

Olwen’s class created stop motion animations of their own migrations and put out a request for people to share their migration stories via these google slides. My school community will be invited to add theirs – would anyone in my network network like to contribute?

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Some of the take-aways:

  • It’s not about the technology, it’s ALWAYS about the learning.
  • The tools have to work for us, we don’t work for them.
  • Try one new thing.. but not just for the sake of it.
  • Know your purpose!
  • Extend the learning into the wider world.
  • You don’t have to know everything. Let the learners take the lead.
  • Collaboration and creativity don’t depend on technology…
  • but technology can take them to another level.
  • Innovation is a mindset 🙂

I already love the flow on from connecting with these teachers and the way their tech vision statement is embodied in our ongoing collaboration.

 

Alignment of practice with beliefs…

A river needs banks to flow. Think of Learning Principles as providing the banks, within which professional prerogative, academic freedom, and teacher creativity can flow.’ Jay McTighe.

It was at a session with McTighe that I was first introduced to the idea of learning principles, an articulated set of shared beliefs about learning, that underpin decisions and practice within a school.

At the time I wondered if we needed such principles. As a PYP school, we already had a framework and a common language. Our school already had a vision and a mission statement. But it turned out to be a vital process with a powerful impact on teaching and learning.  Over time we’ve explored what each principle looks like in practice and we constantly examine the alignment of beliefs with practice. We came to realise that these principles applied just as much to teachers’ learning as to students’. These days we use the learning principles as a springboard for our growth reviews, a non judgemental, coaching based opportunity for teachers to work with a partner from the Teaching and Learning team on developing their practice in line with chosen goals based on our learning principles.

I recently spent an afternoon with a committed and enthusiastic group of teachers at Preshil Primary School working on the first stage of developing their learning principles.

Considering conditions for powerful learning.  Participants shared examples of deep and powerful learning they had experienced or observed with their students and then considered the defining characteristics of such learning. What are the conditions for powerful learning?

Examining learning theories.  They examined a range of learning theories and placed themselves on a continuum for each. To what extent does each of the theories align with what you believe about learning?

Writing belief statements about learning. Individuals wrote their own belief statements then shared, refined and prioritised them in groups. What do you believe about how children learn best?

Evaluating belief statements. The whole group examined, sorted and evaluated the statements. Which beliefs align most closely with yours? Which would you like to see included in your school’s learning principles?

Next steps…

  • Refining and finalising the learning principles.
  • Unpacking what they might look like in practice.
  • Examining alignment of beliefs with practice.

I look forward to hearing how things unfold!

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Self challenge: A post a day for a week. #3

Encouraging creative instincts…

What is creativity?

Can anyone be creative?

What are the conditions for creativity?

Can creativity be taught?

Can/should creativity be assessed?

How might we encourage children’s (and teachers’) creative instincts?

How do we create opportunities for creativity in our classrooms?

Is teaching creatively the same as teaching creativity?

Is creativity an attitude, a skill, a conceptual lens or is it action? (PYP connection)

What is the relationship between inquiry learning and creativity?

How might global collaborations  enhance creativity?

These are some of the big questions with which participants grappled in a PYP workshop on encouraging creativity, last week at Victorious Kidss Educares, an international school in Pune.

It was the first time I had led this workshop and I wanted to ensure that the teachers’ own creativity was awakened and that the workshop would provide opportunities for creative thinking and creative expression.

In addition to exploring the issues above, among other things, teachers designed creativity maps..

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recorded their thinking on wall mounted ‘bubble catchers‘…

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engaged in a newspaper bridge building challenge…

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audited their units for opportunities for creativity…
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Skyped with teachers in Melbourne about creativity in the early years, in writing and in maths…

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planned and created animations...

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Hope they had as much fun as I did 🙂

A different workshop…

These are a few of the delightful children with whom I regularly interact via Skype from Kamala Nimbkar Balbhavan, an unusually egalitarian school in Phaltan, Maharashtra in India…

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It’s my first time visiting KNB and I’m excited to meet ‘my kids’ in person, but before the school year starts, the teachers gather for some of their own learning. I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead a workshop here and share learning with this dedicated group. It will be an introduction to the ideas of Ron Ritchhart and Visible Thinking, something completely new for them.

I head into the session far more nervously than usual, uncertain what to expect in terms of their level of English and their openness to different ways of thinking… but mostly concerned that, without being able to understand their conversations,  I might not get a sense of what connections to help them make, how to shift thinking forward or what to reinforce.

My fears turn out to be unfounded. There is enough English in the room for mutual understanding, be it via valiant attempts at self expression, translation by those who do speak English or facial expressions and body language.

There are so many things that make this a unique and special experience for me…

I love the way most of those speaking in Marathi still make eye contact with me (not the person translating), and I can sense the passion as they talk about their school, even if I don’t understand the words.

I like the fact that a small sprinkling of English words in the midst of the Marathi, along with intonation and facial expression, are often enough for me to get the gist of what they are saying.

I’m delighted by the fact that when I am talking, even though I know they are concentrating hard to understand me, I can see the light dancing in their eyes, because they are excited by the ideas I am sharing.

I love the warmth with which they welcome me, their obvious desire to learn, as well as their pride in their school and everything it stands for.

I’m humbled by the opportunity to share learning in a context so different from the well resourced schools at which I usually work and to observe first hand that the most important resources are not ones that money can buy.

I note with interest that in this outwardly simple seeming, rural school, powerful beliefs, not just about learning but about humanity underpin every single thoughtful thing that happens. (Read more about it here)

I remind myself again that, even at my age, after so many years of experience, there is always so much to learn…

Tomorrow I meet ‘my kids’!

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My first experience of a thinking routine in Marathi!

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Can you teach digital citizenship, if you are not an active digital citizen yourself?

It seems that a number of participants in my Digital Citizenship workshop imagined they’d be learning about cyber safety for three days! Is that what comes to mind for some people when they hear the term digital citizenship?

Instead, we explored what it means to BE a digital citizen and, by the end of the workshop, every one of them had become an active contributor online, developing confidence to participate as thoughtful, active citizens themselves.

Can you teach digital citizenship, if you are not an active digital citizen yourself?

During the workshop, participants reflected on the ways they engage online and categorised their online activities under the headings of CONSUME, CREATE or INTERACT.

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Participants also…

  • Googled themselves and considered the impact of having a positive digital identity, a negative one… or none at all.
  • Considered and prioritised the key competencies for our students (or anyone) to learn in order to participate in society today (online society too).
  • Connected with educators around the globe, via Skype and Twitter as well as face to face.
  • Explored our rights and responsibilities as digital citizens.
  • Debated the risks vs rewards of online participation for ourselves and our students.
  • Heard the perspectives of some enthusiastic and articulate Grade 4 and 5 students.
  • Inquired into digital citizenship through the lenses of the essential elements of the PYP – knowledge, concepts, attitudes, skills… but mainly ACTION.

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Some of the action…

Take a look at the brand new professional blogs by Tania, Joel and Leona and follow up on the action via Twitter…

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It’s exciting to see empowered digital citizens thinking about how to foster active digital citizenship in their students, instead of focusing only on the’ don’ts’ and the ‘dangers’.

I’m thinking about all the authentic learning about to happen in a real context…