1) OBSERVE – “What pleasant surprises did I discover this week?”
This week I was pleasantly surprise by how much of an impact making something can have on a child. I’ve been blessed to see it thousands of times in my educational career, but to see it on such vivid display with some of the #mvlittles was just an all around heart warming experience. The Young 5s came to Studio(i) to construct the birdhouses that they drew plans for the previous week. Their excitement and pride were on full display. I even heard from two parents that the experience was all their youngsters wanted to talk about at home.
Who could blame them! Right there, before their own eyes, they witnessed their idea become a reality. And I hope it was an experience that they’ll continue to remember, and continuously demand from from their teachers, as they grow.
Additionally, it was my first time working for an extended time with members of the Preschool team. I love how comfortable they were in an unfamiliar space, working with semi-familiar tools, to make something they themselves had never made before, and all the while having their students around them as they all went through the experience for the first time – together. They never did the work for the students, and always asked questions to guide students – not instruct. They were simply fearless about learning alongside their own students, and of being seen as someone who “didn’t have the right answer” instead of being the authority expert in the room. They were truly in their element in a maker-centered classroom. It makes me wonder how I can take advantage of their teaching/coaching style and learning philosophies to nurture the same methodologies in other MVPS teachers.
2) REFLECT – “What lessons did my work teach me that I could build upon next week?”
I never expected that drawing two triangles would have taken 45 minutes.
As part of the second grade cornhole builds for the MVPS PE department, we needed to cut the leg stands so that they could fold back underneath the board for storage, and back out when they needed an incline to play upon. To help do this, the students would lay out cut lines using a carpenter’s square:
- Measure down 1 3/4″, draw a horizontal line.
- Where the line meets the side of the board, draw a 45° line to the end of the board.
- Repeat for the other end of the line on the opposite side of the board. Voila! Triangle!
Three lines and then we are cutting and drilling. No problem.
Actually… big problem.
I falsely assumed that this process would be easy for them. I expected the fraction to be the toughest part for these second graders. So I marked the right spot on each of the squares for them in an effort to eliminate a source of error. But it was the tool and the groups that turned out to be the downfall.
The square was not as intuitive a tool as I’d expected it to be. I should have demo’d it better for them, and had a student come up and demonstrate how to use it so I could get a sense of where problems would occur. I should also be more selective about how much of a particular construction step, in builds such as these, that I to completely turn over to them versus giving them a taste of as part of scaffolding skills for the future. If we had to do it over again, I probably would have found an opportunity to use the squares earlier in the process so they could be more successful on this step.
3) FOCUS – “Are my short-term efforts and my long-term goals still aligned?”
This week, I think so. I’ve continued to still storytell in the channels I have – Twitter and the MVPS News. Repairs are still continuing on my website. The only one I am not taking advantage of is the MVIFI.org site for portfolio posting. Typically, I post to both my site and MVIFI’s at the same time. It is not a simple copy and paste because of some of the shortcodes I use, but it isn’t starting from scratch either. The most time consuming part is the captioning and organizing of files in Adobe’s Lightroom. Captions were also a huge source of frustration because they kept getting deleted anytime I updated my portfolio, which lead to a lot of troubleshooting around image metadata to help with the crossposting. My theory is that my old theme was at the root of all evil, and not any of the plugins that I’ve installed. Once I have my site back up and the portfolios restored, I’ll return to crossposting.
This may prove to be the wrong decision later on as a sudden increase in workload happens, but I want to recreate with existing (but missing) work to help figure out how the new theme system operated. It’s like a MakerEd take apart, but since I already know how it is supposed to look, putting it together will help me understand the changes that the new theme has in place as I tinker with the controls.
4) BE PRODUCTIVE – “What could I have spent more or less time doing?”
At this stage of the year, I need to stop worrying about the next set of tool/equipment purchases that need to be ordered to “finish” outfitting Studio(i). There a a lot of things that are still missing because of all the ordering issues that took place during the initial purchasing process. And somethings I picked out incorrectly, like the Black+Decker drills I selected for students to use. (I ordered based on weight and not functionality. They are light enough for the kids to hold properly, but difficult for them to operate because they don’t have a built-in brake or slow starting when you just pull the trigger. I’ve got my eye on some new drills though…)
With the year coming to a close, the ordering can be done as soon as the students are dismissed for the summer. There is no advantage to getting them now.
5) HAVE COURAGE – “How did fear and uncertainty affect what I did and didn’t do?”
I can’t think of anything that I hesitated before doing because of some fear I had about doing something wrong. I delayed doing some work because I wanted to confer with a teammate, but I don’t think this is what is being asked in this question. Or maybe it is…
6) CLEANSE – “What mental clutter can I clear?”
Like last week, my answer to this question doesn’t necessarily align with the questioner’s original intent. My response isn’t a mistake I made that I need to let go of, but it is an issue that I should hold off on pursuing until post planning and pre-planning. It deals with the use of technology by my students… or more precisely, the lack of use of technology by my students.
At my last school… a terrible way to start voicing a concern :-)
….students that came through my technology lab new how to navigate our school’s file system by the middle of second grade. They could save files, find files, open files, create folders, move files… the whole bit. They didn’t always do it right, but they were getting laps in by then. Adn these laps came in a computer lab setting that student’s visited 30 minutes a week to do activities that didn’t always use a computer. By the time fourth grade came around, kids had these digital literacies down pat and were utilizing them outside of the lab setting – in their homerooms and even at home showing their parents how to do it on their home PCs. Kids were accessing and creating programs and presentations and documents and all kinds of digital artifacts.
I would expect that at a 1:1 school, these sorts of skills are baked in already to the experiences that take place in homerooms. So when they come to the studio, we’d be able to take advantage of this existing knowledge and skill set. Their technical literacy from working in the homerooms would let us do better things in the studio, which is the opposite of how it was at my last school where technical literacy work in the lab let them do better things in the homerooms. This week showed me that this in not exactly the case.
Both grade 3 and 4 are using Google Slides to make various artifacts – designing LED badges for the laser cutter in third, and Ignite Session are being created by fourth. I was surprised to find out that neither group of students had created a slideshow as part of their course work over the year. I also was surprised that neither group had needed to create a folder or move things into a shared folder. Granted, some knew how to do this, but these were the kids that were “tech savvy”. I asked them if they had been shown how to do this in class, and they all told me “No. I just figured it out on my own.” Which is great!! This is authentic student-driven learning based upon their own curiosities, passions and experiences at its best!
But somethings shouldn’t be left to chance. There are certain core learning experiences that a student should have based upon the culture of their school. Digital literacy is arguable one that every student in every school should have.
Letting go of this until the summer should be easy, but there are a few questions that I would like to capture to help frame these future conversations around:
- Are classroom choices to use technology, or not use technology, based on teaching priorities, or learning priorities?
- HMW increase the opportunities for students to create things with technology? Further, HMW expose them to a greater variety of things that can be created with technology – beyond just documents – so they can reason with and justify their choice as part of their learning?
- HMW move the responsibility of creating digital organization schemes to the students?
- HMW build teacher comfort with technology, so much so that they become comfortable with letting students struggle with technology? Embolden teachers with a capacity for technological pedagogy that creates student agency and autonomy, if you will.
That’s the short list :-)
7) BEGIN ANEW – “What is the first logical step for next week?”
This next week needs to begin with an operational website. Repairing jamestiffinjr.com has taken up far more time than I had originally intended it to. Having it up and running should go a long way toward freeing up space – both time-wise and mental-wise for me. Then I should be able to return to my habit forming around storytelling that is so important this year.
The genesis of this reflective post comes from an experiment that Bo Adams invited a group of MVPS leaders to be a part of. His hypothesis in the experiment revolves around the idea that the process of regular reflection by learners, student or faculty, can produce remarkable positive learning results. That, in and of itself, is not a new belief.
— James Tiffin Jr. (@JimTiffinJr) August 4, 2015
Where the twist comes in is making it a regular occurrence, as opposed to just after a major event – or in a student’s case, when a project, test or unit of study is completed.
Essentially, what if regular reflection was an “assignment”, or some other form of home learning? How might this practice of reflection become habitual and motivated by intrinsic value? By doing this as lead learners, what empathetic insights might we gain to better enable us ask others to take on this practice? Or might we discover that we shouldn’t ask them?
To guide our reflections, Bo shared with us these seven questions shown to the right.
They are based on a post written by Mark Chernoff on their site Hack Life. I highly recommend reading the post to help unpack the thoughts and motivations behind these seven questions.
Well, consider this post my way of getting my homework done so I can participate in the class discussions to follow. :-)
Images in this post, but not shown in the Image Credits section, are my own.