Month: October 2017

#IMMOOC: Prototyping the Classroom to Reflect Values and Guiding Principles of our IB Culture

#IMMOOC: Prototyping the Classroom to Reflect Values and Guiding Principles of our IB Culture

 

Our attitudes steer our decisions and build momentum in everything we do. A space is at its most sublime when it reinforces and encourages desired values. The first step in designing a space to support particular attitudes is to define those attitudes. – From the book, Make Space, by d.School

I have come to realize that our learning space is more like a living breathing organism, which changes and evolves. It’s always going to be a prototype of the changing learning needs of students. In one of our last IMMOOC ,Kayla Delzer, a flexible seating expert, discusses the importance of cultivating “workspaces” that provide students with opportunities to learn best.  Anyone who has worked with me knows that my classroom setup changes at least ten times a year. However, instead of shifting a table or bookcase, I decided to take all of the classroom furniture out of the rooms and start all over to get a fresh start and churn up different energy in the learning space.  I’ve been looking at the student data that I have gotten from surveys and student sketches of their design ideas, as well as reflections on our timetable to get an idea of their interests and feelings towards different grouping strategies. I understand that the data that I get from those surveys and diagrams are just a snapshot because the learning environment will shift as our culture of learning shifts.

So then I’ve decided to think about how I could use our classroom as a provocation and context of our current Sharing the Planet unit. I’ve been working on “natural vs man-made” and wondering how I can elevate their love of nature and our environment. In one classroom, I took as much of the plastic and industrial looking furniture and replaced it with wooden furniture that we use for outdoor seating in our corridors.  However, I left one of our classroom spaces with all the normal school furniture in it. I wanted to see how the students responded to the change of environment.

This is our first prototype, but it has been fun to see how the students behave and respond to the changes, even if they cannot articulate it. I have to say that is incredibly hard to take the “man-made” out of our learning environment and so this idea will have to continue to grow and be refined. But when I think back to the original quote from the book Make Space, I want the next prototype to really support the value and love of our environment–what makes our Blue Planet worth appreciating and how can we still be “human”, with our deep desire towards progress and yet honor the other conscious living organisms and their plight to survive? In our IB programmes, we have a strong emphasis on how humans must negotiate our roles and responsibilities in sharing finite resources with other living things.

The aim of all IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world. -From, What is an IB Education

I wonder how I might continue to create this awareness in our students and how I can use our classroom environment as the context to develop this appreciation. Although this is the first prototype, taking cues from the flexible seating playbook is helpful, but trying to bring nature back into the classroom is not an easy task, yet this challenge is a fun one. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I am keenly open to it, as collaboration really helps to make an idea stronger. So I welcome your comments below.

#IMMOOC: My Students’ Strengths, Time for a Mid-Week Check-in

#IMMOOC: My Students’ Strengths, Time for a Mid-Week Check-in

It’s only Wednesday, and the week has been full of highs and lows. And the funny thing is that it’s not with the students, it’s within me. I have just come off an incredibly proud moment for the students in which they built a city which was incredibly creative and collaborative. They did such an awesome job and I really regretted that I hadn’t gotten started on it sooner to do another iteration through the design cycle so we could really do more research and prototyping because the learning had been so rich and they were so highly focused. It seemed obvious to me how important it is to create a “mini-makerspace” (their words) in our classroom which we are in the process of setting up. So, although, the unit is finished and onto the next one, I can only hope will be as meaningful and perhaps more powerful as this one.   

“Unfortunately, we dangle students interests in front of them like a carrot. We say, ‘You can only do what you love when you finish what you hate.’ ” -George Curous, Innovator’s Mindset-

During this Week 5 of our Innovator’s Mindset MOOC, George Curous has asked, Do I know and build upon the strengths of who I serve? He shares that the research suggests that ‘people who do have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day, are six times as like to be engaged in” in their work and “three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general”. Now, seriously, who doesn’t want that? It got me thinking, how well do I know what the students’ individual strengths are, beyond running records, spelling tests and JAM (Junior Assessment of Mathematics)? Do I really have enough insight into their perception of themselves to know what they think are their strengths so I can build upon it? And what about their “weaknesses”–how do they view those: through a fixed or a growth mindset? And am I framing those in such a way that they can recognize how temporary those can be when we commit to improvement? Do they love the challenge of learning or do they see these things are necessary because they are on the schedule? It’s the idea of passion vs. participation that Curous talks about that I am most keen to tease out of my students. As I move into the 2nd half of my week, I am setting the intention to dig a little deeper into what the students’ strengths are.

Taking Action: The Challenge of the Central Idea in the Primary Years Program (PYP)

Taking Action: The Challenge of the Central Idea in the Primary Years Program (PYP)

The Sharing the Planet theme is usually one of the most difficult to teach because the topics are so heavy and there’s quite a lot of knowledge base that needs to be developed as we inquire into the rights and responsibilities in the struggle to share finite resources with other people and living things. Think of all the science concepts, vocabulary, and skills that need to get unpacked during our inquiry. In this next unit, whose central idea is: Our actions can make a difference to the environment we share, one of the key assessment pieces will be student action. This is definitely a unit in which students must take what they know and run with it. And, I must find the ways and means to make even the smallest contribution incredibly meaningful and encourage student agency. So there are 3 main challenges, as I see it, that I must overcome as I embark upon this unit. 

#1: Assessing Student Action

You cannot recognize that action has taken place unless you document it in some way. I am coming up with a pre and post assessment that captures 10 key behaviors that are the basis of student action, incorporating the different aspects of “action” that are found in this image.

actionposter (1)
Image from https://pypatspicewood.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/promoting-and-celebrating-student-action/

 

This list of behaviors represents my “first thinking” when it comes to possible expected behaviors that might emerge as a result of their learning. If you had other ideas or suggestions, I am keen to hear them–Please comment below!

#2: Personal and Authentic Inquiry

Of course, as in every inquiry, I have to balance what we have designed as “learning outcomes” with what the students want to learn about and the ways in which they want to express their learning. What I Want Them to Learn vs. What They Want to Learn always shows up in every unit. Since I do a lot of team teaching, I feel a bit compelled to stay on track with the structure of our timetable instead of allowing students the opportunity to go deeper into what they care about. I rarely stray for the weekly planner. We have a block of “personal inquiry” time but that often gets minimalized as we use it to catch up on classroom work. As I think about this upcoming unit, I want to work on honoring this personal inquiry time more and structuring our timetable to ensure that students can explore and experiment with the ideas that are meaningful to them. I am curious about how they might schedule their learning just as I had done with my daughter in my post Homework vs. Deep Work.  I believe that when we honor students and permit them the time to make their own discoveries, the learning gained is magnified. I am going to really challenge myself and our team to add more student voice and choice into our structuring our day.

 

 

#3: True Learning=A Change (in all of US)

I have often complained about how units like this often create a temporary shift in our behaviors but then we forget and revert to the “status quo”. How can we cultivate sustainable habits and make a lasting change? This is something that I really want to explore during this unit.

There’s this great quote from Stephen Convey based on Zen wisdom:

“to learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know.”

Sometimes, because I am a teacher, there is an understanding and expectation that I really “know” what I am teaching. When I reflect on my personal action, am I really modeling how my actions can make a difference to the environment we share. What have I done for the planet lately, you know what I mean? During this unit, I plan to be side by side with my students and finding ways that I can make a bigger dent and a lighter footprint on our planet. I’ve already lined up some learning materials that may challenge my thinking about living things. For example, I want to challenge my thinking and am beginning to read, The Hidden Life of Trees   and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I trying to think about how I might challenge my lifestyle of convenience and comfort by making different choices like a meatless Monday or turning on the air conditioner less. Or how about getting off my screen more and sitting outside in nature?  As my students compile their lists of actions and survey what they can do to make a difference, I will need to evaluate myself right along with them. This is what makes being an IB educator so special because I learn right along with my students, as my understanding and appreciation of the content are deepened throughout the unit. Perhaps my own personal exploration and modeling will help create everlasting change and cultivate student action.

 

What do you think? How might students shift into higher gears of action and be the change we hope to see in our future world?  What strategies and ideas have worked well for you?

#IMMOOC Growth Mindset vs. Innovator’s Mindset: 3 Ways to Amplify Your Professional Development

#IMMOOC Growth Mindset vs. Innovator’s Mindset: 3 Ways to Amplify Your Professional Development

During week 3 of the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC (#IMMOOC), Tara Martin shared her ideas about challenging ourselves professionally. It’s not enough to have a growth mindset because it’s still a passive form of professional growth. When you have a growth mindset, although you know you can learn and change, you’re still just a “consumer of learning” and not adding something to the landscape of education until you become a “contributor of learning”, which, in Tara’s definition, is what is the key distinguishing factor of an “innovator’s mindset”.  When I heard her say that, it really resonated with me and made me think about how educators can make the shift from a growth mindset to an innovator’s mindset.

These are 3 ways that you can start making the transition from learning to becoming an innovator in education.

Develop Competance: Take your professional development seriously: 

Stop waiting for your administrators to send you to a workshop or sign you up for a course. If you’re going to be a leader of learning, then you have to set professional goals for yourself and develop your own “course” of learning. I created a whole podcast around developing a personalized professional learning plan and wrote an ebook around it because I know how impactful it can be to take charge of your professional development.  Challenge yourself to cancel your Netflix subscription or cable service for 1 month and just take that “down time” to create personal learning time. You’ll be amazed what can happen in your classroom when you go from “mindless” activities to “mindfull” activities when you begin to dedicate yourself to lifelong learning. Then take those learnings and put them into practice in the classroom.

Develop Confidence: Start a blog/vlog/podcast:

Recently our PYP coordinator shared The Profile of a Modern Teacher which encapsulates so much of what we talk about during our Innovator’s Mindset MOOC, in which it’s not about our use of technology but it’s our “habits of the mind” that determines the impact we make in our classroom. And the 1st Habit of the Mind that a Modern Teacher has is to choose to be vulnerable. I found that interesting and poignant of the state of where we are in education. As educators, we need to expose our thinking and practices so that we can be a contributing “digital citizen” and help our students appreciate and navigate their roles in the digital landscape that they will be a part of (if they are not already). I’ve written about this before: if you’re not struggling and embarrassed, then you’re not teaching digital natives.   At the bare minimum, you have to experiment with one if not all of these forms of media. But more importantly, you need to start taking your role as a digital citizen seriously and find a way to contribute to the larger discussion about education. I know you have wonderful and compelling ideas–start sharing them!! A blog is probably the easiest and requires the least amount of tech saavy to start but videos are also amazingly easy to do too with all the software we have out there. And, yes, your first attempts are going to be lame–that’s just a part of the process. And it doesn’t even have to be about education–maybe your passion is golf or making homemade peanut butter–do that then. But do something. You will never get better if you don’t get started. If you aren’t exploring one of these platforms, today is the day! (No pressure….. but pressure!!)

 

Dialogue Digitally: Share and connect with others:

If I’m being honest (and vulnerable), this is something that I am working on developing.  I’m a person who likes to connect with people face to face and find it awkward with sending a message or reaching out to someone digitally to discuss an idea or ask a question if I haven’t met them in “real” life. I’m really good at looking at the Twitter feeds or joining Facebook groups to get some inspiration, but I rarely share my “learning moments” in the classroom or add to the discussion. If you met me in person, I have a strong voice (a little on the loud side) and I am a bit self-conscious about it. So, in my digital social life, I am rather quiet. Are you like that too?

I know being a “connected educator” is hugely important. Again, because we have to embrace and practice the skills of a digital citizen; however, there’s an incredible amount of power in connecting with educators or thought leaders outside your 4 walls. And when I read in the Innovator’s Mindset that quote about the difference between a “school teacher” vs. a “classroom teacher”, it got me thinking about how I might impact students outside of my grade level. As I think about the power of collaboration, my silence is not adding value to my practice nor to the landscape of education. I really should be reaching out to other educators, not only because it is helpful for MY students but ALL the students at our school, as well as the ideas I share or the conversations I have that can impact students at OTHER schools. The ripple effect is possible with social media, isn’t it?

So, I am making a commitment to make baby steps towards developing myself as a “school teacher” as well as participating in larger conversations through online chats. At our school, we have started displaying Tweet Beams using our hashtag #ourvis. Besides trying to stay active in this wonderful IMMOOC community, I also want to contribute to my school’s digital identity by trying to make tweets about what we are up to in our grade 1 classroom. I’m also trying to make a point to make comment on the blogs that I read so that I can engage in a discussion with people whose ideas I find challenging or interesting. I may have a small number of ways that I am connecting and developing my professional learning network (PLN), but it’s something that I am creating an intention around for my professional growth. Maybe you might feel compelled to do the same.

I hope these ideas have planted a seed in how you can go from being a “consumer” to being a “contributor” in our educational landscape. I’m deeply curious what other suggestions you might have about ways in which we can challenge ourselves into becoming more innovative. Please comment below.

#IMMOOC: I Used to Think, but Now I Think…Shifts in My Teaching Practice

#IMMOOC: I Used to Think, but Now I Think…Shifts in My Teaching Practice

In one of my first professional development sessions, I  remember we had to read and reflect on the book Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life  by Spencer Johnson. At the time, American schools were embarking on a major shift in their methods of teaching by using cooperative groups instead of desks lined up in rows. I was chatting with an Australian colleague about it, sharing a laugh about how “innovative” cooperative learning groups were early in our careers– it’s hard to imagine that there was a time that putting desks together to form a group was once an edgy idea in education. Desks seem like an ancient artifact of our former educational paradigm. My how far we have come in such a short period of time.

During this week of the IMMOOC, we are exploring our beliefs about learning, taking a stroll down memory lane and considering the question:

What is one thing that you used to do in education that you no longer do or believe in? Why the change?

That question is actually quite provocative because I’ve changed so much as an educator, and I would say that being an IB educator continues to transform my thinking, as we are on a mission to develop student agency so they can co-create a world that works for everyone.

1

So as I put students front and center of their learning, who I was as an educator has radically changed from when I first began teaching and it continues to be in flux.

As I review the major shifts in my mindset, I thought I would use this Visible Thinking Routine , that encourages reflection. Just like cooperative learning, I remember this whole idea of wanting the students to share their ideas openly as quite a fresh approach to teaching and learning not all that long ago. It’s rather funny how much has changed in a remarkably small expanse of time in education, huh?!

But anyhow, I digress:

Here are 10 beliefs that have been changed over the years of being a teacher

I used to think that….

  1. it was the students’ job to get along with me and my rules, but now I know, there are no rules, just expectations of decency which are reciprocal and I must respect students in order for them to respect me.
  2. tests and quizzes were true and accurate measures of a child’s capabilities, but now I think, those are “snapshots” of their learning journeys and rarely define the true depth of their understanding and knowledge.
  3. I was the only expert in the room but now I know that there is more intelligence and talent in the room than mine alone.
  4. “good students” were obedient ones, but now I know that all students are “good” and have unique ways of showing it.
  5. my voice was the most important one to listen to, but now I know, that it’s the student’s voice.
  6. I was the teacher, but now I know, I am the learner as well.
  7. “special needs” were only for students who had “learning disabilities” but now I know, everyone has special needs because we are all unique learners; this is just good teaching practice to recognize and adjust the learning to accommodate our learning styles.
  8. labeling a child defined who they would become, but now I know, these labels are temporary and mostly unhelpful in cultivating their confidence as learners. Those labels are to help me more than them in identifying their needs as a learner.
  9. kids couldn’t be “trusted” to be in charge of their learning, but now I know, we are born deeply curious and students remain that way if we permit this curiosity to flourish in our classroom culture. We should trust their instinct for learning.
  10. ideas in education are stagnant and fixed, but now I know, with the research coming out on our brains, the best of teaching and learning is yet to come–and I hope to be a part of that shift.

Here is one belief that I think will always be unrevised in education: Teachers who spend time building relationships with their students will always stand out as exceptional in a child’s life and push students beyond their boundaries.

 

What do you think? What is something that you used to think, but now you know it to be different?–and what idea do you think is timeless and will always be preserved in the teaching profession? Share in the comments below.

 

Student Voice: Taking Interest so We Can Facilitate Action

Student Voice: Taking Interest so We Can Facilitate Action

As we begin to reflect on community spaces,  we did a deep dive into our community space of our classroom. In one of my previous posts, A Journey Into Design Thinking To Tackle Classroom Challenges, I confessed that I needed to go back to the “drawing board” and collect more ideas from the students so I can transform the challenge of”managing them” and more on empowering them with our learning environment. This is definitely a shift from my former thinking as a classroom teacher as I work on developing my student-centered learning environment and an “innovator’s mindset”.

Innovation starts not by providing answers but by asking questions.

-George Curous- #Innovator’s Mindset

So, I created a provocation with a Google Slide presentation of different interesting classroom spaces that I found from the internet and also included some environments from our own school. Then I asked the students to draw sketches of what they thought our learning space should look like. Yes, there were some students who wanted to put in a nerf gun obstacle course and jumping castle inside our classroom–they are 1st graders with lovely imaginations– but through questioning and dialogue, I was able to determine what elements of the learning space were important to them. I was also able to get some formative assessement of what their understanding of our central idea is, Community spaces provide opportunities to connect, as it related to our community of learning.

It was delightful to discuss with them what they felt we needed for our learning spaces and why they personally needed them. Some of the conversations made me laugh, others surprised me with their insight and awareness, while others made me feel a bit disappointed. Here are some of the ideas that came up during my interviews:

  • Have a space for relaxation so that students should take a rest. (3 votes for hammocks!)
  • Big whiteboards that we (the students) can write on.
  • Have our ‘own space’ and an ‘everyone space’
  • A place for some free choice.
  • We can eat inside the classroom.
  • A space just for computers.
  • A ‘mini’ makerspace.
  • More artwork displayed in our class.
  • Students should teach more.
  • A tent as a meeting area.
  • Pleasant smelling flowers. Plants in the room.

As I reflect on these conversations,  two things stood out to me: firstly, a desire to be trusted and given “space”, and how their ideas closely mirrored the elements of a learning space that are suggested from The Space: A Guide for Educators: spaces for collaboration, creation, showcasing learning, and quiet.

Image from the book: The Space: A Guide for Educators 

So as we move forward on this journey, I really want to facilitate students’ initiative to take ownership of their learning space and cultivate their interest in co-designing it. As I tune into their ideas, I will continue to collect data from them, finding out what’s essential for them to feel comfortable and confident. While this is just a beginning, there is something that is exciting about making changes to our classrooms, especially as I think about the cultural shift that is occurring through this process. I feel hopeful that when our students really feel listened to and their ideas valued, becoming more responsible for the classroom and our learning community is a natural outcome and not something that must be “taught” or “managed”.  I believe that when we, as teachers, show through our actions and words that we trust students, they rise to the challenge and have a desire to be co-designers and collaborators in their own learning.

What experience do you have with this? I’d love to hear your ideas and gain your insights! Please make a comment.

 

#IMMOOC: Finding Opportunites for Innovation

#IMMOOC: Finding Opportunites for Innovation

I was recently reading Dave Burgess’ blog about how change is built and not announced. He used this beautiful analogy of building a snowball that really resonated with me and how I think about innovation:

No matter what your position, you can create change. If you are struggling to do so, maybe you’re trying to pick up all the snow at once. Just grab a handful, pack it tight, and then start pushing. Change is a lot easier when you’re rolling snowballs downhill.

-Dave Burgess-

In this week’s IMMOOC, we are exploring our definitions of innovation and what they can look like in our school’s context. Change is an inherent part of innovation. In the book, Innovator’s Mindset, George Curous shares some of the challenges he faced with defining it as he took on his role as the Divisional Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning. He contemplated Simon Sinek’s ideas on leadership, ruminating on how impactful organizations are when they dig into and articulate a clear “why” behind their existence and then move toward changing the what and designing their system of how to match their cultural values. Cultivating an innovative culture doesn’t require transformation -it requires information on what is ideal for our unique group of learners and school context, refining the current practices and classroom spaces so that it is optimal for learning. “Change for the sake of change” is not the point of innovation. George explains that “Innovation is a way of thinking that creates something new and better“, as we consider what would help spur the intellectual and emotional growth of our learners. When we keep the focus on the kids, innovation happens organically and with purpose.Anytime teachers think differently about.png

As I step into the classroom this week, I have the intention to think differently about our learning community and find the opportunities for innovation. If I think back to Dave’s snowball analogy, I’ll need to keep my awareness on the “small handfuls of snow” that I can pick up and build upon so that I can create some momentum with the innovative ideas that will best serve our students.

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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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