Tag: student agency

#IMMOOC Wondering about “Shock vs. Awe”

#IMMOOC Wondering about “Shock vs. Awe”

In our last planning retreat, we spent a lot of time discussing provocations so that students would develop a genuine appreciation and care for the blessed planet we live on instead of retreating indoors to their “screens” and engaging in a “virtual reality” that our digital lives seem to provide.  We pondered what was more important–to begin our Sharing the Planet unit enveloped in “shock” or in “awe” of different environments found on Earth. For example, do we show them all the ways in which human progress is devastating our ecosystems, destroying animal habitats and polluting our drinking water supplies-the shock? Or do we go out into nature, listen to birds and find “the cheap showiness of nature” that surrounds us every day?  Of course, it is debatable if just taking kids into nature will cultivate “awe”; is it a natural instinct or are this attitudes of wonderment and pleasant surprise something that we learn socially and is imbued by our cultures?  (Perhaps right now, you might be deliberating this idea as well. I know this idea will be a subtext in our reflections of this unit.)

Recently, in our Innovator’s Mindset’s Flipgrid, Becky McDowell related her experience with creating a culture of problem finders and problem solvers. A little light bulb went off in my head and made me consider this unit whose central idea is:

Our actions can make a difference to the environment we share.

Thinking about what Becky said, I felt it was important to evaluate whether or not students actually saw the problems with our actions and choices as humans. Through our pre-assessment and initial tuning in provocations, it became clear that students had a lot of “book knowledge” of the relationships that animals and plants have in the environment, but made little to no connection to how we contribute to the pollution that spoils life on earth. They literally did NOT see it. You can’t imagine the pangs in our chests when the students were indifferent. If they cannot FIND the problem, they cannot SOLVE the problem. This has become so problematic and disheartening, to say the least.

I always say that “if I do all the work, I do all the learning”. This is actually a reminder for me to stay aware that I need to make sure I don’t steal the children’s learning just by telling them information or how to do something. But there is something about the word “teacher” that implies a transfer of knowledge and skill, and the lack of student action has really made me question the very foundation of my “best practice”–how am I missing the mark with this unit,  a unit that seems more and more critical for our future generation to understand and act upon if there is to be any quality of life on our planet? We have applied every principle of SUCCESs to create “stickiness” of our central idea and yet, as we go into our final week, I keep wondering what we could have done differently.  We’ve done a wonderful job, I feel, of finding a balance between “shock” and “awe” in our unit, but the fruits of our effort have yet to be revealed. The jury is still out on this case.

As we go into the final week of our unit, I look forward to seeing how this unit might still come together. Children are always full of surprises, so I can’t do anything beyond anticipate that they will make connections, even if those connections might be different than I expected. I hope that, although I have been going through a bit of “shock” when it comes to their conceptual understandings, perhaps this unit will reveal the “awe” in how their thinking has changed and been developed.

 

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.

 

2 Questions Worth Asking To Determine Your Professional Fantasy?

2 Questions Worth Asking To Determine Your Professional Fantasy?

Have you ever been asked by an administrator a question like Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Well, a close colleague and school leader posed a different flavor of the question to me: What is your professional fantasy? I was absolutely startled by the question and fumbled through my answer, mostly because of the word fantasy- something that is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as:

a pleasant situation that you enjoy thinking about but is unlikely to happen.

So now that I have had a few days to really process this question, and it got me really thinking 2 things:

  1. What ridiculous thing would I like to do in education?
  2. And does it have to be “unlikely to happen”?

 

Before I go into a state of mind wandering,  let me provide the current context of most educational systems around the world:

In the past, we heard about the “digital divide” between those who had access to technology and those who didn’t. We are now seeing a new divide emerge–a Creative Chasm between those who actively create…Our current model of schooling amplifies this Creative Chasm. From the bell schedule to the grading system to the lesson planning and pedagogy, our students inhabit factory-style schools. Phrases like  “content delivery” and “delivering a lesson” treat education as a commodity to be collected and then used in the future. This model might have worked in developing compliant factory workers. So here are now, well into the twenty-first century. The factories are gone … Yet, this industrial model remains.

Excerpt taken from LAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student by A.J. Juliani and John Spencer

So how do I, as an educator who has been raised and trained in a factory-model system of education lead students into the future whose workplace values has shifted? This is highly personal–will I cling to the past or participate in the future? Well, this is where my fantasy begins, as  I cannot stand by and stagnate in my practice and continue to leave technology to the “kids”.

To answer my first question (What ridiculous thing would I like to do in education?), I’d like to be involved in a revolution in education–in which paradigms are shattered and we rip into the sacred cows of education. What sacred cows do I speak of? Mainly, that, as an educator, I am the knower of all things and I hoard that knowledge wisely and dispense it in time through a scope and sequence or a curriculum map.

Some of you might have gasped aloud–if that responsibility of our profession was downsized or completely eliminated, then what? Well, don’t be silly. The universe abhors a vacuum, something innovative and necessary would undoubtedly emerge to replace it. I daresay it already is. Read The Future of Professions  or gain insight through this video:

 

In my former career as a scientific researcher, I used to experiment on animals. I have sometimes joked that my students are like my “lab rats” with whom I manipulate and observe the results of my prodding (aka, “the black box of best practices”). But now I have come to see them, not as “animals” that I “experiment” with, but as fellow researchers. They are right along siding me, poking at reality and questioning its very nature. That’s the paradigm I wish to infuse in our educational systems: Students are Teachers; students can recognize what is worth knowing and develop effective ways in which these ideas can be transferred and shared.

I  understand that many of our students grow up immersed in a consumer culture and then attend schools where they consume rather than create knowledge. In my professional fantasy, I enlist an army of educators who plot and scheme an offensive to drive out students’ resignation and apathy towards their learning. Instead, these students join us and become generals themselves, crippling this very infrastructure of this archaic industrial age model.

Truthfully I believe that this revolution is presently underway and this army is already amassing with innovative and passionate educators. Educators like you.  And so I have to wonder if this is really a fantasy at all? Maybe through this blog and other ways and means, I can connect and engage with fellow concerned and diligent educators who do not wish to stand by and allow the old to become new again; but instead will we engage and empower our students, who may very well rewrite our job descriptions and redesign the frameworks and goals of our institutions.

Say you will join me!

 

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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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