Tag: #immooc

Reflect and the “How” will Come

Reflect and the “How” will Come

It’s the final stretch of our Innovator’s Mindset MOOC (#IMMOOC) and I thought about how much of these ideas I have put into personal practice. George Couros reminds us that ” without reflection time and having the opportunity to connect your own ideas and personal learning, it is harder to go deep into the ideas or retain and share them.”

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“I reflect, therefore I learn”.  George Couros, The Innovator’s Mindset

 

I’ve been trying to implement D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Reflect), with some days better than others, so it’s a practice that will require practicing. I’ve decided to use my Way of Life App to make me more conscientious by tracking this habit. But outside of formally tracking it, it has begun an inner mantra within me when it comes to my classroom: Next steps……

If we only teach students the curriculum, we have failed them. #InnovatorsMindset

As I read that passage, it got lodged in my mind and made me wonder how I could move out of my comfort zone–not just for the sake of doing so, but because it was important for my students. My students are my WHY, even if I have a limited compacity of figuring out how to empower them. And in the case of the Early Years, it’s very easy to discredit little children because they are small, egocentric, with limited skills and life experience. But they are voracious learners who genuinely enjoy challenges in the quest to be “big”. Shouldn’t I capitalize on that?  I wanted them to experience the feeling of engaging and impacting others through sharing. As soon as I made that intention, the HOW organically began to emerge.


It is commonplace in a Primary Years Programme (PYP)  IB school that classroom teachers hold an end of unit activity with parents in order to showcase the learning and create connections with our families. However, it is not a mandate at our school, because some units lend themselves nicely to sharing while others do not.  In my own classroom, I always find some way for parents to come and engage, but not always as an end of the unit celebration. Yet, I rarely invite other classrooms into my classroom. When I taught upper grades, sharing the learning was more easily done because students do more projects. But when you teach younger kids, these events are more teacher contrived and directed. I wondered if I could actually do this with 4-5-year-olds–could these students actually lead others in presenting their learning?  I know the answer to this question is YES, even if I didn’t know the HOW to empower them.

During this unit, one of our key concepts was Reflection, so I often would do a powerpoint of pictures of the ways we’ve been learning about our central idea, which in this case was: We appreciate the patterns in the natural world and the ones that we create. (It was under the How We Express Ourselves Transdisciplinary Theme). These provide “check points” in their understanding, and allows me to see their reactions and engage them in a discussion. During our final reflection (last week), it occurred to me that this was a unit that naturally lent itself to an end of a unit parent presentation. However, I wanted to try an end of the unit presentation that involved a larger community and invited classrooms as well. I felt in this way, my students could start seeing themselves as leaders in learning, even if they are “little kids”.  I knew they needed to have the experience of leading others, and I believed that it was possible for them to do so.

People never learn anything by being told; they have to find out for themselves.

-Paulo Coelho-

So, I had to get this out of my brain and into their hands. During morning meetings, I asked the students, and they all agreed–let’s invite our friends from other classrooms. Game on! So we listed all the different ways we learned using a modified version of this Visible Thinking Routine. In these discussions, they generated the ways they “liked learning about patterns” and then I guided them in the sorting process into subject areas, which we have been referring to perspectives (another one of the Key Concepts during this unit). This was the Connection part of the routine. (I didn’t draw lines, I circled them in different colors and then reorganized them based upon these perspectives). Then from these groupings, students voted on what they liked best in that category and why they liked it–the Elaboration part. This took a couple of meetings before we determined the “winners” in these categories. Once we had streamlined the activities, I offered some ways that we might share these activities with them and they had to give me agree/disagree with thumbs up/thumbs down, which then became the activities for our end of the unit presentation.  Some students added their thoughts as well, which made us choose to use boxes for organizing the activities. This was the final “guide” that was created for the event and was given to parents and other teachers:

 

guide
If I had more time, I would have made this more student-friendly with pictures and less text.

 

We had 2 group sessions: the first was with parents and 1st graders and the second one was with the 3-4-year-old class and KG class. The groups saw a very brief powerpoint about the overview of the unit of inquiry. Then my students grabbed 2 visitors (ex: a parent and a buddy) and showed them one of the activities listed. I didn’t demand that they do rotations, nor did I give them time limits as our visitors explored the different activities with them. I really wanted to keep this event open-ended so that I could observe and consider how my class was interacting and engaging with others. For example, were they genuinely sharing their learning or were they just doing the activities with these adults and peers shadowing them?–In other words, how active or passive were they in their presentations?

Here are some photos of the event.

Obviously, this is version 1.0 of creating a student-led end of unit presentation but overall it was very successful. Although I set up the activities, they choose them and my EY4s led the visitors around without prompting. I was actually quite proud of their level of independence, especially since I did not prepare them for their roles with any instructions. So I was surprised that most of the visitors got to explore a multitude of activities and could accurately rate their favorite on our graph–I really thought that my students would just stick to their favorite of favorites and not move them along into the other activities.  The visitors seemed genuinely interested in the activities and my kiddos felt a sense of pride in their selections. On our graph, the “art prints” were the least favorite activity and when I asked them why they thought it was rated so low, they all agreed it was because it was “too messy”.  This really made me chuckle out loud, as well as ponder how much aversion there is to “messy” play. Something I am going to think about more deeply as we entered into our next unit.

I don’t think that this event would have been as successful if I hadn’t spent the time reflecting on my students’ learning, thinking of their “next steps” and giving them the opportunity to develop the mindset of being leaders in their learning. I wonder what impact this will have on my students, as well as the classes who were invited. However, I think small steps, made often enough can make a big impact in the learning within a classroom. I wonder what will be the overall result of this event–will my students began to see themselves differently? Has this helped them to demonstrate another level of maturity as they develop agency in their learning? As I pose these questions, I will observe and continue to reflect on the impact student-led events like this have on my learners.

 

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So What? Now What?

So What? Now What?

I’ve been engaged in the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC lately (#IMMOOC) and the topic came up: engagement vs. empowerment.  George Couros asks a compelling question: If you had to choose between compliant, engaged, or empowered, which word would you want to define your students?

If engagement is the ceiling–the highest bar–we may be missing the point. Think about it: Would you rather hear about changing the world, or do you want the opportunity to do so?

As someone who teaches at an IB school, I know it is our ultimate goal to get students to move beyond the content and into action.  As a PYP coordinator, it is largely my role to ensure that we have horizontal and vertical alignment of curriculum that is significant, relevant, engaging and challenging to ensure that the IB’s mission is being pursued. (below is a snippet of the IB’s Mission statement)

….develop the individual talents of young people and teach them to relate the experience of the classroom to the realities of the world outside. Beyond intellectual rigour and high academic standards, strong emphasis is placed on the ideals of international understanding and responsible citizenship, to the end that IB students may become critical and compassionate thinkers, lifelong learners and informed participants in local and world affairs, conscious of the shared humanity that binds all people together while respecting the variety of cultures and attitudes that makes for the richness of life.

I think we’ve done a terrific job at cultivating a school Programme Of Inquiry that is really engaging but I wonder if it really empowers students. For example, as I walk onto the playground, I see plastic water bottles left carelessly from recess or lunch break. I think about how in every Sharing the Planet unit, students are reminded that we are stewards of the Earth. We’ve collected trash and measured it, made art with it, wrote about it, had assemblies and school announcements to raise awareness about it and YET, I see students walk by these water bottles and not pick them up to put them into the recycling bin. All those great units with all the fantastic projects that go along with it!–and I say to them: SO WHAT???! If students don’t feel compelled to change, then somehow we have failed to really educate them.

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Those ideas of George Couros really burn in my mind: If engagement is the ceiling–the highest bar–we may be missing the point. Yep, clearly, we have evidence of that here because we must be missing the point if, after all that great learning, kids still leave rubbish and neglect to pick it up in our own schoolyard.

So NOW what?

It has got me thinking: all these student “actions” were probably teacher generated and not student ideas. If an idea belongs to you, then there is an incentive to develop it and sustain it.  I think that is true even for children. They haven’t bought into the concept that our human action matters and they are ones who can make the difference; the idea of responsible citizenship.

I know I’m not the only educator who suffers from this disconnect at their school. In our next staff meeting, I’m bringing this topic so we can inquire into how we can move kids into action, that comes from THEM and not US.  I wonder if others had this problem and what they did to overcome it. How did they move from engaged to empowered? If you have a success story, please share it with me–I’m all ears!

 

Online Fire Drill and Lockdown Procedures

Online Fire Drill and Lockdown Procedures

 

The more I embrace 21st-century skills as a learner, the more I recognize how much I inadvertently underserve my digital natives. And that became plain to me in the latest YouTube Live Chat with Jennifer Casa-Todd during the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC (#IMMOOC). These educators discuss how students need mentoring in their online life just as much as in their physical life. Some of their conversations included:

  • The impact of teaching students how to create a positive online digital image.
  • Fire drills and lockdowns–can we do that online?

As I listened to Jennifer Casa-Todd, it really got my head reeling a bit, thinking about how one’s digital footprint matters as much to what we do in our real life. As soon as they spoke about it, it seemed intuitive and easy to take for granted, but I know how much our digital and physical worlds can collide 1m234cand affect the learning in a classroom.

And although platforms like Google Classroom, Edmodo and SeeSaw offer wonderful “training wheel” experiences, it pales in comparison with the interactions that one may encounter on YouTube, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, WeChat and other sites in which comments are made and ideas are shared.  So what happens when something goes wrong online?

Jennifer reminded us that schools often prepare students for emergencies with having fire and lockdown drills, and she suggests that we also practice that in the online environment as well. Having an action plan for when someone comes in hijacks your post with smutty language or disparaging remarks can be really helpful and it is a benchmark skill for our digital natives because at some point in their lives, someone is going to say something hurtful or they themselves might behave badly on social media. In the digital world, those sorts of things can be tracked down, and they need to consider the repercussions of those interactions.

In the event of spam or a nasty or negative comment, how one responds can either determine whether things go out of control or gets “locked down”.  One thing that is important to remember that your site or your post is technically your responsibility to manage. So here are just some ideas that I’ve curated from other sources like this one that others can use to moderate their posts:

  1. Delete or hide the post if it’s spammy. Leaving it there delegitimizes the value of your content.
  2. Have members of your online community respond to the negative comment.
  3. Respond to the commenter in a private message, preferably in a compassionate tone that is equal to the respect that you wish to have online.
  4. Ignore it but keep posting other great ideas.
  5. Address it, but with lightness, humility and/or humor. Intend to diffuse the situation.
  6. If it really spirals out of control, and you have the opportunity to delete the post, then do so.
  7. If other attempts to make peace with the hater fails, you can block or ban the person from commenting.

Hopefully, these give some good food for thought as to how to approach online interactions. However, one thing that they didn’t discuss in the session, but I think it’s worth noting here, is also preparing students if they post something that is ignored. Yes, in these learner management systems like Edmodo and SeeSaw, we have parents and other community members coming on and giving it a “like” or a positive remark, but more often than not, when you create content, it might rarely be viewed, let alone commented on or shared. Take, for example, a YouTube video that a student creates–EVERYONE wants their stuff to go viral, right? But what if it doesn’t-what if only your mom and dad and your best friend watch it? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen kids disappointed that their content was ignored or under appreciated by an audience. And I totally get the feeling of that because I blog. If no one reads or comments on a post, I wonder if my ideas are of value and worth sharing. Because of the high level of exposure that goes with digital media, this vulnerability can create self-doubt and anxiety, lowering one’s self-esteem. Since our children do not have the maturity and resilience that us adults have to not take this personal, we also have to develop their mindset when it comes to this factor as well, recognizing that the WHO consuming it isn’t as important as the WHY we create online.

I think approaching these aspects are critical to our digital natives and I’m grateful that I was able to reflect on how I might make a positive impact on teaching and learning that is relevant and meaningful.

 

 Attention Deficient

 Attention Deficient

It’s no secret. I have an earnest desire to see my students become happy and capable people who make a difference in this world, so I feel it is my duty to find their “Awesome” and cultivate it. In Week 4 of our Innovator’s Mindset MOOC  (#IMMOOC), George Couros encourages us to stop operating on a “deficit model that focuses on a learner’s weaknesses and start operating on a strengths-based model that build on the learning’s strengths.” Amen to that, but how exactly can you do that? hmm…

The other day my daughter invited me into her “world” in Minecraft. Let me tell you, I did NOT want to play Minecraft with her. Really, I didn’t. As a busy adult, I have plenty of stuff to do. But she was really proud of what she created and she wanted me to see it virtually. So I downloaded the app on my iPhone, created a character and added her as a friend. Suddenly I was in her “Love World”. She had made me my own house and she taught me how to fly, tame a horse, feed the pigs and drink invisibility potion. It was a strange sort of tender moment between us. Learner-Centred

But this was a lesson for me, and  I thought about my students–what are they trying to show me that is important to them?  What are they eager to talk about with me? What is it that I am too busy doing as an adult and teacher to notice about my students? I know we make a big deal about students having attention deficient disorders, but I think that could also be true about us teachers. Are we really focused on the learner?

I know that if I pay more attention to my students’ tangents I can probably locate some treasure in there if I just go digging around. Most of the time, it’s probably right there in front of me, in broad daylight. If students are interested in something, there’s a strong possibility that there is a strength waiting to be unearthed and shared with our learning community. And I think finding the time to show students that their ideas matter and are valued will probably be the best time spent this year anyhow.

 

Critical Consumption

Critical Consumption

I remember gazing through the pages of tabloid magazines while waiting in the check-out aisle like the National Enquirer or (my favorite) World Weekly News. I knew that these glossy zines were not exactly reputable sources of information and were likened to frivolous amusement. Nowadays it seems to be more confusing deciphering what is fact or fiction;  in the age of the internet, it is easy to write and publish with little recourse, avoiding libel and at minimum cost (as opposed to the cost of hard copy publications). And, as such, the value of information is diminishing, as people lack faith that the people who write these stories have little interest in the truth, but instead in their profits.  How do you know what is the truth today? Do you believe these headlines:

  • “Smelling Farts May Prevent Cancer”.
  • “Yoko Ono Had an Affair with Hilary Clinton in the ’70s”
  • “Tupac is Alive”
  • “Trump Offering Free 1-way Tickets To Africa and Mexico for Those Who Want to Leave America”.

Can you guess which one of these headlines actually came from a legitimate journalistic source? (I’ll tell you at later in this blog post.) News has become entertainment instead of actually adding value to the understanding of what is going on in the world. Perhaps what has emerged lately in America is a fear that the media are creating a diversion while some more dubious things are underway in the new government. Consider this:

The results of a BuzzFeed News analysis found that in the three months before the (American) election the top performing fake news stories generated more engagement than top stories from major news outlets.

The 20 top performing fake news stories generated 8,711,0000 shares reactions and comments. The top 20 genuine news stories generated 7,367,000. –The Sun

So, with all of this in mind, how do we sift through the news and detect what is bonafide information let alone teach students to become discerning when they are doing research or engaged in social media? As educators and adults, we must master the skills of evaluation and be able to scrutinize our sources.  But even when we find information from a credible source, the online world is driven to write headlines that create click bait vs.reporting legitimate information. Remember those headlines above. Well, the one that came from a real publication, Time Magazine, was”Smelling Farts May Prevent Cancer”.  You can learn more about what the scientific study actually showed by watching this Jon Oliver segment below, but spoiler alert, bottling up the gas from our arse is NOT aromatherapy for cancer patients. Suffice to say, a credible source like Time Magazine is not always a guarantee that the information is true.

 

fake news.png

So, as we educate our digital natives, we too must learn and practice discernment. I think in this digital age, it is imperative to impart the skills of critical analysis of the information that they consume so we set up students to be engaged and thoughtful citizens in our nations.  I think one of the most important aspects is outright teaching them how to locate false information. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg as we consider how important it is to not only spot false information parading as fact but also an action piece, in which, as digital citizens, we require higher standards from our news agencies and journalists. If demand follows supply, then there needs to be a shift towards what is important vs. what is popular–insisting that content makes us think critically. To me, teaching this is just as vital as being able to sift through the content that we are being bombarded with.

As I continue through the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC (#IMMOOC), this week we are discussing the idea of trust in relationships. George Couros enters into Chapter 4 with this quote, which I find connects to the idea  I share today:

We need to build more organizations that priortize the care of human beings. As leaders it is our sole repsonbility to protect our people and, in turn, our people will protect each other and advance the organization together. As employees or members of the group, we need the courage to take care of each other when our leaders don’t. And in doing so, we become the leaders we wish we had. -Simon Sinek-

In education, there is a deep need to empower our students with, not only the knowledge, but the skills to analyze our current issues and the motivation to transform their futures. I think about this quote and ponder the notion of courage, as we shift from the status quo in our classrooms, and integrate these sorts of digital literacies into our program. I wonder how can I, as an educational leader, alter our curriculum so that it encompasses these aspects of digital citizenship so that teachers feel like they have permission to explore these new territories? In my opinion, I feel like we owe it to our future generations to cultivate mindful and engaged consumers through the appropriate and intelligent teaching of these skills. Moreover, it is my duty to draw attention to this topic and establish the environment in which taking these risks in our classrooms are celebrated.

At the end of the day, it is our individual efforts that drive the change that we wish to see in the world. And I wish to see more critical consumption. Do I hear an Amen?

(Come join the conversation at #IMMOOC. You can contact me @judyimamudeen on Twitter)

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D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Reflect)

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Reflect)

Have you ever read the book, Tools of the Titans by Tim Ferris?  In the foreword, Arnold Schwarzenegger reminds us that  “The worst thing you can ever do is think that you know enough. Never stop learning. Ever.” And I think that this idea is the basis of so much of the book that I am currently reading now: Innovator’s Mindset by George Curous.

Drop Everything and Read (DEAR), a concept that encourages students to read and consume information. But few schools focus on encouraging students or educators to “Drop Everything and Reflect. How might we all be impacted if we took time out of each day to think about what we have learned and how it impacts our next steps?

George Curous, Innovator’s Mindset

I’m in the midst of Week 2 of #IMMOOC (Innovator’s Mindset MOOC) and when I read that idea, I took pause. I teachcharacteristics-im and lead an IB program in which reflection is a concept and skill that is developed in our curriculum. But when I read that sentence, I wondered, how often am I REALLY getting the kids to reflect on a daily basis? And, furthermore, how often am I really taking stock of the learning? I think I may take this for granted and I want to assess how and in what ways is reflection happening at our school.

I totally agree with George Curous: “As leaders, we cannot tell others they should be innovative while we continue to do the same thing. The characteristics we look for in our teachers and our students-empathizing, problem finding and solving, risk-taking, networking, observing, creating bouncing back and reflecting-should be embodied in our work as well.”  One has to walk the talk to talk the walk. So I’ll focus on being more observant and reflective, which I know will lead me to problem-finding/problem-solving, another key characteristic of the innovator’s mindset.

In particular, this week I am seriously looking at how frequently we reflect on learning and the quality of that reflection. Things that I am going to be reviewing this week include:

  1. The language I use–my teacher talk. What types of questions and responses am I giving students? How are they responding to me?
  2. The dialogue between students. What types of conversations are they having? Do they talk about their learning outside of the classroom?
  3. The discussions amongst teachers? What do those conversations reveal?

I have a little notebook that I keep to write down planning ideas and I will use this notebook to make these observations. In particular, I’ve set a timer on my phone for my DEAR time, in which I will Drop Everything and Reflect in this notebook regarding the learning for the day. Although I do find myself to be a reflective person, I do not have a daily habit like this so I’m curious to how this might change my practice. As I look over at my notebook now, I’m thinking that I might need a new one after this week–not a lot of pages left. lol

Perhaps you might want to explore this idea as well. What if you had a set time in which you reflected? What impact do you think this might make for your teaching, let alone your life?

 

 

 

Making a Base Camp near the Summit

Making a Base Camp near the Summit

Lately, I’ve engaged in Innovator’s Mindset MOOC (#IMMOOC) with George Curous and a variety of leading edge educators. As an aspect of this MOOC, we have opportunities to blog about different topics and this week the question has been raised:  What do you see as the purpose of education?  Why might innovation be crucial in education?

There was an American NFL football coach whose philosophy about winning was that you need to make “a basecamp near the summit”, meaning that having a culture of high performance and personal character is paramount to success. As PYP coordinator, I feel strongly that the International Baccalaureate framework does this. I think as teachers, we strive to do this daily, in every moment of our day. But this notion, engaging our students in their idea of “besbill-walsht selves” in how I would define the purpose of education. I think it’s not enough to “know stuff” but also to “do stuff”. And when I say “do stuff”, I mean to cultivate classrooms and schools in which students are empowered to take action and initiatives in areas of high interest and impact. Ultimately we can no longer produce students who show indifference but are passionate and involved in life. When students are inspired and eager, it’s amazing what they can do. In the words of Bill Walsh, “the score takes care of itself”.

George Curous also makes a strong case that it’s not enough for educators to “know stuff” either, but they need to be fully engaged as well. As educators, we cannot be waiting for our schools or districts to drop innovation into our laps–we must roll up our own sleeves with the resources we have and engage in the emerging curriculum of the 21st century so that we can refine and evolve our practices. For example, if we want kids to blog–we need to blog. How can we seriously teach what we do not know?

At the end of the day, this is my litmus test—are we walking the talk of the innovation? Have we really “drank the kool-aide” or are we just trying to fit our old paradigms about education into the “new” framework? The future of our students has yet to even been created. When we consider the amount of change that has taken place in just the last 10 years, it seems obvious that we are being beckoned to become more pliable and creative in our approaches to teaching and learning. We can no longer sit in our comfort zone, passing out worksheets, expecting students to be attentive yet passive in their learning. As I see it, kids are more curious than ever because of how connected we are with technology–we need to tap into this energy and interest. And this is exactly why I feel so earnestly that we need to “make a base camp near the summit”–developing classrooms that look towards the future, not repeat what was of yesterday. In this way,  we can empower and ignite the next generation of students by evaluating if our classrooms and schools against this benchmark, so that they can go further, faster, in ethical and practical ways.

Here is what I see as critical areas that can drive innovation in our schools:

  • Classroom cultures in which expectations are high and opportunities to create are often.
  • Having well-planned projects and activities that move their thinking into divergent paths.
  • We as educators reflect, redo or remix our teaching ideas, and be willing to adapt to suit the students’ needs, not ours.
  • Let the students voice in and provide them with choices.
  • Process over product is valued, in which design thinking is the norm.
  • Be willing to experiment and discuss openly mistakes and how we can learn from them.
  • We as educators engage in the technology that our students would be expected to use now and in the future–and I’m not talking about a powerpoint–anything from Minecraft to Twitter to using Evernote.
  • Also, give them a break from routine. All work and no play really do make one dull. Research shows that mind wandering creates diffused states of thinking, in which different parts of the brain start talking to each other and connect ideas.

I feel heartened by the fact that there is a serious movement abrew here, in which educators like the ones engaged in this MOOC, aren’t waiting for policy makers to create classrooms of the future. But we are driving the change that we wish to see in our schools, and hopefully, it will ultimately be the students who take an active interest. If we, as educators can get the students to do that, well then, I think the summit is within reach indeed.

 

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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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