The way we present ideas influences how they are received…

I was surprised by the number of slides tweeted from a recent literacy conference that lacked a sense of visual literacy. Even the most seasoned presenters sometimes seem unaware of the negative impact their slides have on the delivery of their messages and ideas.

Visual literacy has been described as ‘the ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of (still or moving) images, extending the meaning of literacy, which commonly signifies interpretation of a written or printed text’. (Bristol and Drake 1994). It’s not just about consuming though. This definition is missing the ability to create meaning through visual media too.

It is this literacy that underpins our new Year 5 PYP unit of inquiry in the trans-disciplinary theme How We Express Ourselves. 

Central idea: The way we present ideas influences how they are received.

Learners will explore examples of animation, short film, images and presentations to see what makes the delivery of ideas and messages effective. Through their exploration, they will deepen their understanding of techniques and develop criteria that they can apply to their own use of visual media for presenting ideas and messages.

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‘We are a visually illiterate society. Three R’s are no longer enough. Our world is changing fast—faster than we can keep up with our historical modes of thinking and communicating. Visual literacy—the ability to both read and write visual information; the ability to learn visually; to think and solve problems in the visual domain—will, as the information revolution evolves, become a requirement for success in business and in life’. – Dave Gray, founder of visual thinking company XPLANE.

 

Self challenge: A post a day for a week. #4

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 🙂

School has changed, have expectations?

At an information session for parents, we highlight the ways that school has changed and share a range of examples of learning that is real, relevant, engaging and trans-disciplinary. Learning that matters in the world these children live in, not constrained by subjects, walls or limited imagination.

We explain how the PYP develops our students’ academically, socially and emotionally, focusing on personal values, learner agency and global awareness. The passion and knowledge of the teachers in the room is impressive and the picture that’s painted for the parents is one we imagined would excite and delight them.  But these are still some of the things we hear…

I just want my child to learn the basic skills.

What about rote learning? Knowing the periodic table was valuable for me.

At the end of the day, they need to be able to remember stuff for assessments.

With all this broad emphasis, will they learn about specifics?

What about VCE? Will their grades be good enough?

At the end of the evening, a number of parents do come up to say thank you. We have clearly provoked their thinking, even those who are having trouble reimagining school. One mother, whom I happen to have taught about twenty years ago, says quietly  ‘I know I need to shift my old-fashioned views of school’. Indeed. School looks nothing like it did when I taught her!

A (massive) collaborative curriculum review…

How (and why?!) would we involve over a hundred teachers in a curriculum review? What could we hope to achieve? Wouldn’t it be easier to have a small focus group reviewing our PYP program of inquiry?  How could we make this IB requirement into a meaningful learning exercise? How would we make it a valuable experience for all staff?

According to feedback from staff, we certainly achieved our goals last Monday, despite our reservations…

Inspiration:

Objectives:

  • To gain an overview of the big picture of the whole school Program of Inquiry and see how it works.
  • To interact with different people, across campuses, across disciplines, and engage in educational dialogue.
  • To share observations and questions that might assist in tightening the Program of Inquiry.

Group roles: (A choice of the following)

  • Facilitator – Facilitate the discussion, making sure everyone in the group has a voice.
  • Recorder #1 – Record big ideas and important thinking on your group’s Google doc.
  • Recorder #2 – Record questions and wonderings.
  • Tweeter – Tweet key ideas as the discussion unfolds.
  • Back Channeller – Share and discuss with other groups via the back channel in TodaysMeet
  • Time keeper – Keep an eye on the time to make sure tasks are accomplished.
  • Observer – Observe and record what you notice about the how the group collaborates.
  • Spy – Visit other groups to hear their conversation and get ideas.

Tasks:

  • See Think Wonder – Get a sense of the big picture of the POI.
    • What do you notice?
    • What are your initial thoughts, overall?
    • What are you wondering?
  • Horizontal review – Check the units across one year level (not your own).
    • Will the unit invite student inquiry?
    • Will it be globally significant addressing the commonalities of human experience?
    • Will there be opportunities to develop understanding through multiple perspectives?
    • And several other questions from the IB guide.
  • Vertical review – Check the units from K-6 through one trans-disciplinary theme
    • Are all aspects of the trans-disciplinary themes explored at some point in the programme of inquiry?
    • Will the units in this theme challenge and extend students’ understanding?
    • Is there is a balance of key concepts used throughout this trans-disciplinary theme.
    • And several other questions from the IB guide.
  • Personal reflection – Add your thoughts via the Google survey.
    • Place yourself on a scale of 1-10 to represent your knowledge and understanding of the whole school program of inquiry.
    • Sum up your overall understanding of the POI in one sentence.
    • What does the POI have to do with YOU?
    • What did you notice about yourself as a learner during the session?

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Comments from some of the participants:

  • There is always more to learn and collaboration is crucial.
  • I was able to gain more of an understanding through the discussion and asking challenging questions helped us dig deeper into the POI.
  • I was part of a temporary community of learners and we went on a journey together.
  • I felt supported and it felt good that my ideas were included although I know very little about PYP.
  • I noticed that I’m still a learner – I was able to expand my thinking and to look at the POI from a learner’s point of view and not just from my subject area.
  • It helped me feel part of a bigger thing and that I’m not alone in my line of thoughts.
  • I feel more confident to express my views and listen to others in an open-minded manner.
  • It was great to realise how my learning continues to grow and I could make a contribution even though my area of teaching isn’t mainstream.
  • I can ask too many questions and I love critically analysing things but it can be irritating for others.
  • I was able to discuss and share concerns with my colleagues and discovered that colleagues had similar concerns.
  • Having a clear role to play supported my active participation.
  • I noticed how valuable it is to work collaboratively with people across different teaching areas. The different perspectives were really fascinating.
  • As a facilitator I noticed myself being a much better listener. I asked questions to keep the the conversation flowing and invited everyone to share their thinking.

Observations:

  • Great to see the entire teaching community actively engaged in educational dialogue.
  • Everyone has something to contribute. Fresh perspectives can be valuable.
  • Teachers appreciate protected time for collaborative discussion, exchange of learning and airing concerns.

Conclusion:

It’s valuable to see everything as an opportunity for learning!

Students as innovators…

Guest post by Claire, one of our Grade 5 teachers, discovering the power of letting go. The headings are my commentary…

Opportunities for creativity and innovation…

Over the last week, my team of Year 5 teachers, together with Edna, have been planning a unit of inquiry into energy. We had already established the rubric for conceptual understandings that was to guide our inquiry but were looking for ways to allow for more creativity.

Provocation to encourage thinking and action…

The opportunity arose in my class when, after an initial provocation and some personal research into energy, a student declared that he would like to create something electronic. This caused a flurry of excitement as other students started contributing their ideas about things that they would like to create.

Student generated thinking and inquiry…

They realised that in order to make their inventions they would have to research the scientific principles behind them. They wondered whether their inventions would be helpful or harmful to the environment.

Connections with prior learning…

In order to find the required information, the children felt that the internet was the obvious first source. As we had recently inquired into digital citizenship, it was heartening when a student reminded us that we would have to check for authenticity.

Student ownership and decision-making…

Some students felt that we still needed people to help clarify information and assist us in the process of creation. After brainstorming a variety of people ranging from parents and grandparents to scientific experts, I smiled internally when I saw that my name was not on the list. Was it because they thought that I was hopeless at science or has owning their own iPads enabled them to take more control over their own learning, increasingly leaving me in the role of facilitator?

Attitudes required for innovation…

Not all students were so excited about this idea and felt that it was ‘hard’ to create something and they were afraid of failing. After much discussion they decided that they would have to be risk-takers and show commitment if they were to embark on this process.

Letting go…

I am now ready to introduce the central idea, ‘Humans use their understanding of scientific principles to create a more sustainable world’ and I’m really look forward to seeing what will evolve.

Me too. ~ Ed 

What do parents think of student centred learning?

Educators at my school have worked hard during the past few years at deepening our understanding of inquiry learning, developing learner-centred practices, encouraging our learners to take ownership of their learning and building communities of learners which include the teachers as much as students.

But what do the parents think?

While most of our parents are overwhelmingly positive, at least one parent (so far) thinks this it’s a terrible idea…

“The concept of a ‘community of learners’ is terrific in theory, but in practice it:
1) creates a blurred line between those who are supposed to be in positions of authority (teachers, parents etc..) and those who are not (students); and has taught my children to have a voice without teaching them that it is not always appropriate to have a voice and that sometimes their views are not being sought.
2) results in the breakdown of classroom structure, with children treating teachers as they would peers and failing to show an understanding of, or respect for, the status and authority of the teacher.”

So now I am wondering…

  • Why would this parent send their children to a PYP school?
  • What do the children say at home to give parents this impression?
  • Have we failed to help some of our parents understand our beliefs about learning?
  • How do we educate parents whose vision of learning is based on when they went to school themselves?

A whole school collaborative reflection…

Conversation…

Clusters of teachers are scattered in different areas of the school talking about learning… It’s a student free day and we’re discussing the IB standards, reflecting in groups on our practice and recording evidence as part of our self-study process. 

Relaxation…

We start the day with a brief mindfulness exercise followed by a meditation  session, led by Fiona, our Head of Learning Resources. She’s modelling a focus on wellbeing and encouraging teachers to use these approaches with their students.

Inspiration…

We view the first few minutes of the Apple recruitment video, mentally replacing Apple with Our School’s Name. The messages include –

Main ideas

Collaboration…

We’re a three campus school and our teachers rarely have a chance for inter-campus interactions, so this a great opportunity to establish connections and collaborate with different people.

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Integration…

There are printouts on the tables of each of the four curriculum standards (Collaborative Planning, Written Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, Assessment) as well as our school’s Learning Principles. The task is to make connections between all the above.

Investigation…

Making connections in this way encourages teachers to carefully read and consider the various practices, analyse and discuss them. Experienced practitioners work with some who are brand new to the PYP, drawing on examples and deepening understanding collaboratively.

Application…

Time for creativity. Teachers work in small groups, sharing photos of great learning from their classes, finding suitable illustrations of the various practices analysed and discussed in the previous session. Peer support and encouragement are at hand for those still mastering the tools on recently acquired ipads.

Presentation…

Here’s an example, connecting practices across the four standards, including living evidence!

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Clusters of teachers are scattered in different areas of the school talking about learning… For the final session, the teachers break into their assigned teams (in which they have been working since last year) to reflect collaboratively on the standards and practices and record evidence from across the school.

Celebration…

It’s exciting –

  • to see the high level of engagement and participation.
  • to notice teachers (some of whom haven’t before) taking the lead and driving important conversations.
  • to observe new members of staff making valuable contributions.
  • to listen to over a hundred voices engaged in educational dialogue.
  • to hear teachers say they will apply some of the strategies modelled today in their classrooms.
  • to receive so many ‘thank you’s for organising this day of learning.
  • to realise how far we have come in the past few years…

10 tips for creating a class agreement…

Do a quick google image search for ‘classroom rules’ and ‘classroom agreements’ (or ‘essential agreements’ as they’re called in the PYP) and see if anything surprises you…

What I noticed is that, despite the heading, many classroom agreements are still lists of rules.

Do teachers value compliance above learning?

These are amongst the most common elements I found, none of which seem to relate to learning...

  • Work quietly.
  • Raise your hand to speak.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Follow instructions.
  • Do your best work.
  • Don’t speak until called on.
  • Be punctual.

Have our students’ training and experience set them up to believe that these are are the appropriate expectations for a learning environment?

Some are even more extreme and less related to learning…

  • Sit correctly on chairs. (big kids?)
  • We sit still on the carpet. (little kids)
  • Keep your hands to yourself.
  • Don’t throw things.
  • Talk to your classmates only when the activity requires you to.
  • Stay in your seat unless you have permission to leave.

Does this set the tone for engaging learning?

Here are some of the more appealing inclusions I found, which are more likely to support an environment conducive to learning… and isn’t that the purpose of school?

  • Be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them.
  • Try new things even if they scare us.
  • Think before you act.
  • Respect yourself and others.
  • Make wise choices to support your learning.
  • Include people if they look excluded.
  • Be open-minded – Listen to, consider and value other perspectives.
  • Take ownership of our learning.
  • Dream big.

I really like this one!

10 ways to create a meaningful class agreement…

  1. Don’t start till you’ve spent some time establishing your own beliefs about learning.
  2. Have the kids consider what helps them learn and what hinders their learning. (Details here)
  3. Begin with what the learners value or the school values. (Example here)
  4. Have kids unpack your school’s learning principles as a starting point. (I haven’t tried that yet, but here are ours.)
  5. Base it on a common set of qualities, such as the IB Learner Profile. (Staff example here)
  6. Use a ‘place mat’ activity so students have time to think individually, before seeking consensus. (Details here)
  7. Have kids think about what learning ‘looks like‘, sounds like‘ and ‘feels like’.
  8. Take your time. Build the agreement gradually, to ensure understanding and ownership.
  9. Include photos and descriptions for younger learners, to elaborate on the words.
  10. Live it, don’t laminate it. Revisit the agreement often and adjust as required.

What’s in your class agreement?

Concept driven inquiry learning…

There’s a buzz in the room as 11 year olds sit in groups around large sheets of butcher paper, talking animatedly. I like visiting this classroom, seeing how the two teachers collaborate and the children engage in their learning.

Today they are brainstorming the ‘big ideas’ in ‘Sharing the Planet’, one of the trans disciplinary themes in the PYP curriculum framework.

In the build-up to this, students have watched David Attenborough’s Wonderful World and made connections with the trans disciplinary theme –

‘Inquiry into rights and responsibilities in the struggle to share finite resources with other people and other living things; communities and the relationship within and between them; access to equal opportunities; peace and conflict resolution.’ (IB Primary Years Program)

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Their ideas include concepts such as environment, sustainability, pollution, responsibility, nature, society, economics, lifestyle, consequences… I’m impressed by the depth of their thinking, their ability to extract the conceptual ideas and the way they make connections with prior learning.

The teachers introduce the idea of biodiversity, a concept to which they haven’t been exposed before, without explaining it or doing any ‘teaching’. The students get the iPads and do their own exploration, in any way they like. They are encouraged to read, look at images, watch videos – the choice is theirs.

Later in the day I go back to ask how the learning unfolded…

At the moment people are only thinking about what they should do, but not doing it. As this generation, it is our responsibility to take care of the planet for further generations. (Michelle)

I would like to inquire into all living beings’ rights.I want to know why different people/animals are treated differently and what the consequences are. (Zara)

I want to know how the loss of animals and plants affects the world and our life because if I don’t know what difference it makes, I won’t know how to change my habits. (Noa)

I should be aware that a little mistake can make a big difference. I would like to inquire into how we can make the world equal and fair so everyone has a home/habitat. (Zoe)

I want to know what will happen to the animals if we keep polluting the earth and taking the land because if there are no animals it will affect human life. (Stella)

And this one…

If we don’t share the planet and make a difference, there won’t be a future for us to live in… (Josh)