Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Visibility and Purpose of Learning in my Classroom

This week I started at The Mind Lab at Unitec to begin a Postgrad Diploma in Digital and Collaborative Learning.  Talk about off to a flying start!!

We talk about the power of social media and it's so true - I made two new connections via a colleague on Twitter who told me that two of her connections were there.  After many 'signs' and coincidences I found that one of her connections was in fact sitting right next to me!!  Small world.  The other one arrived drenched to the skin and was easy to spot given his own description of himself!  That's another story.  That's what I love about the power of our learning community - the ongoing connections that challenge my own learning.

One of our first tasks was to create, as a group, what we believed to be the meaning or description of knowledge.  So what exactly IS knowledge?  We had a fantastic discussion and the power of that discussion was in the differing points of view.  It's incredibly important to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking and to not put up barriers with your own preconceptions.  I had my own thinking challenged and I LOVE that!  Isn't that why we teach?  I expect my students to challenge and question my thinking and ideas every day, just as I question theirs.  (Leads to some interesting debates and that's a blog post for another time!!)

So what IS knowledge?  Below is our brainstorm and our symbolism for what we think it is...

We were also asked to think about and discuss how we made learning visible and purposeful in our classrooms.  This is something that underpins everything I do and has done so since I began training to be a teacher in 1996.  When I had my first class in 1999, a class of Year 3s, we planned together and always discussed the learning purpose and how that learning connected to the world outside the classroom door.  This was in the days before we regularly blogged but we were a semi-digital class in that our learning was supported by appropriate tech in as many relevant ways as possible.

Our learning was displayed everywhere. Learning Intentions, Success Criteria, examples of learning in progress, Wonder Walls, completed learning and learning in progress was always on display and shared with our parents and community through classroom visits, workshops and displays, and always through the newsletter.

So, what has changed since then?  Our learning is still prominently displayed but we have the added benefit of being a 1:1 classroom now.  While we still share in the ways above, our class now has 
  • their own class blog and individual blogs which I've been putting to good use since 2009.  This helps to engage our community and share our learning locally and globally,
  • we engage in Twitter discussions each week through Kidsedchatnz
  • we've been involved in Quadblogging Aotearoa
  • we share stories with others through Storybird
  • communicate through the ePals Global Learning Community
  • share information on the school Facebook page
  • participate in the NZReadloud3 project, 
  • and use a huge range of tools in our learning.  In fact, we've just created our own crowdsourced presentation with information from the students in my current class, to share tips and tricks and clear instructions on how to use a range of tools.  This is only the start of this document as it will continue to grow throughout the year and give the students a real and relevant purpose for writing instructions.

The students and I plan our learning together through the use of Google Docs and Google Slides which enables everyone to be very clear about the purpose of the learning and where the learning is headed.  We always have a purpose for learning and are clear about it.  The students are expected to question this when it is not or when I haven't made it clear, or they themselves aren't able to clearly articulate our shared learning plans and goals that we've created together.

Michael Absolum's book - Clarity in the Classroom is still one of the most important books I've ever read.  I regularly refer back to it and we are exploring it in our weekly staff professional learning sessions currently.  I also share what I am learning with the students whether it's in person or on here,
or through discussions at school.  

Everyone needs to be clear about the purpose - the 'WHY' of what we're learning and that purpose needs to be visible to all.  (John Hattie's 'Visible Learning' is next on my reading list!)

Simon Sinek is another inspiration for me - both as a leader and also as a teacher.  I first watched his talk on starting with WHY back in 2010 with a Principal who was an inspiration and taught me a great deal about being purposeful.  This sums it up for us and our students as learners.