Ethical and Respectful Minds

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Julie and Vicki’s first global project came about because upon meeting each other for the first time, they soon realized that Julie’s students in Bangladesh and Vicki’s in Georgia were reading the same book: Thomas Friedman’s, The World is Flat. They also realized that this coincidence presented an awesome learning opportunity for their students,  to read and discuss a book about globalization,  with students reading the same book form another part of the world. This experience turned out to be  incredibly valuable for their students, and so they decided to take their project further, expand, guide and share, so that students from all over the world could also benefit from global learning experiences.

Are Julie and Vicki the first educators to break down school walls in this manner? Definitely not. However, what Julie and Vicki did differently than others, was to synthesize the competencies necessary for effective global collaboration. Both in their book and in their projects, they scaffold collaborative learning experiences, by detailing each project element and its purpose, discussing necessary digital citizenship responsibilities and identifying potential obstacles.

Although I’ve implemented a variety of global learning experiences for my students and have certainly seen their value, I never truly considered how they helped develop students’ respectful and ethical minds. In thinking back to these experiences now, I can see how they did. The first global experience we participated in was the Eracism Project, now called Global Youth Debates. In my reflection about the experience I discuss collaborative speaking and listening skills, understanding of other perspectives and cultures, and habits of mind, however I never saw how at the heart of these competencies, especially with respect to global collaboration, is respect for others and ethical understandings.

In addition to this first experience, we participated in another Global Youth Debate debating the use of plastic water bottles, a virtual debate with another NJ middle school (these are my students and I totally miss them!), the Global Read Aloud, and collaboratively reading Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover,  I’ve also created projects which didn’t work out all that well, including The Global Mock Newbery and The Unbounded Book Club.

Just the other day a teacher asked if I had any ideas about a learning experience for her students after they finish reading Flush. I right away though of reaching out to another school to discuss environmental issues, shared my interest through Google+ and Twitter, and found a couple of interested teachers, one which just finished reading the same book. The difficult part however, is always timing. We can connect asynchronously, if time of day doesn’t work out, however there’s often curricular constraints, for example the students at my school just started reading the book while the other school’s students just finished. Yes it’s not always easy, but when it works, global collaboration makes learning real, meaningful and awesome.

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The Future of Education, “Julie Lindsay & Vicki Davis on Flattening Classrooms”. Youtube. July, 16, 2014. Web.

 

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Meta-Decks

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The idea for meta-decks is not wholly my own. The original concept comes from the awesome Alice Yucht, a distinguished teacher-librarian and teacher of teacher-librarians, from New Jersey, who is now enjoying her retirement in Nevada. Alice presented a session entitled Battle Decks, a number of years ago at a New Jersey School Librarian’s conference, suggesting that participants consider using a strategy, similar to ALA’s Annual Battle Decks Event, for assessing student learning. I’ve never used this idea in practice, but was reminded of the strategy during our Digital Media class discussions about the synthesizing mind. I am glad to have the opportunity to “think out” and formalize this strategy here!

Metaphors help our brains make sense of information because they connect new learning with already acquired knowledge. When someone uses metaphors to explain a concept, it helps us better understand the concept, because the metaphor provides an additional path for knowledge creation. By creating metaphors, our students are not only deepening knowledge, but also developing a necessary strategy for sharing knowledge.

In addition, our students need to develop visual literacy skills. Images are a tool for communication, and our students need to develop a discerning disposition about the images they consume and the images they share. Too often, students attach images to products of learning as decoration, rather than as a means for further communicating a desired message. Developing the disposition for choosing images for metaphorical effect, develops our students’ ability to create more meaningful and effective messages.

Using digital tools for this strategy, allows teachers to easily share needed materials and students to easily and effectively collaborate and share their creations with a larger audience.

Please share your thoughts or concerns for using this strategy. if you decide to give Meta-Decks a try, I would love to hear how it works out!

 

 

 

 

More Choice…Less Rules

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Today in school I spoke with a group of sixth graders about creativity in school…and here’s what they said!

Can you share a class or a project, which gives or gave you the chance to be creative?

These students happen to be knee deep into a science project in which they were given free choice in how to present their learning about plate tectonics. All that I spoke with referred to this project; two of the girls were creating an animation in scratch. They also shared a social studies project, when they were asked to research any ancient civilization they wanted and recreate an artifact to represent their chosen civilization. When I asked if they could think of anything else, they all agreed on art class. One student added that they are allowed to be creative in most of their presentations. When I asked her to be more specific, she said with posters and slides.

Do you think that choice inspires you to be creative?

They all agreed…yes. However, they were definitely more definitive when considering their current science project. Some said that their parents needed to help with their social studies projects and so they weren’t as creative.

Do you think that being creative helps you learn?

They all agreed…yes, with respect to their science projects especially. Some weren’t sure, with regards to other projects they had mentioned.

Do you think that technology helps you be more creative?

They all agreed…. yes, “because you can make videos, posters and games”

Do you like using technology for learning?

Most students said yes, but a couple said that they like hands on projects better.

What would you do to make learning a better experience?

We would have more choice and less rules!

Getting Educated Out of Creativity

According to Ted.com, as of today, Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”,  has been viewed 37,293,940 times. Sir Ken’s impeccable delivery, combining personal narrative, humor and spirit, is captivating; ultimately however, it’s the urgency of the message, that brings you back.

At a Tedx Youth event in 2010, Priya Ganesan, speaking eloquently, honestly and with conviction, shared a similar message. (I originally shared her talk a few months after it occurred, in a post on this blog, and with students, asking for their thoughts.) Although Priya’s reach is minuscule in comparison to Sir Ken’s, her message is as genuine and her call for change similarly rings clear.

Creativity is not adding a pretty background to a Power Point slide. Ken Robinson defines creativity as “the process of having original ideas that have value.” Howard Gardner, emphasizes Robinson’s value specification, by formulating that a “product is creative if and only if it changes the way others in the relevant field think and act”, (p. xiv). Dictionary.com defines creativity as, “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination. No matter how one defines the term, creativity incorporates:  problem solving, divergent thinking, exploration and innovation. Creatives are ultra sensitive to situations; when finding something nonsensical, they ask, “Why?”,  investigate and then ask, “What if?”.  Creatives create change.

Our traditional model for schooling was founded in Industrial Age needs and values: rule and direction following, structured constructs and group norms. Although societal needs and values have dramatically changed, the long established structure of “doing school” has remained.

Yes, testing and teaching for testing impedes creativity, because finding the one right answer does not involve creative thought. However, I think there are other, maybe even greater paradigm shifts which need to occur in order to truly support students creativity and innovation. First, schools need to allow students greater control of their own learning. In most cases, states, districts, administrators and teachers decide what students will learn, how they will learn and what they will do to prove that they learned what they needed to learn. There needs to be a greater emphasis placed on guiding students through various processes for learning, no matter what it is they want to learn. Second, the act of normative grading impedes creativity because, meeting grade requirements stifles students’ desire to think on their own. In addition, creative thought is fostered by intrinsic motivation, (think Genius Hour) and grades are an extrinsic motivators. Third, we need to allow students to “fail forward” and give them the opportunity to keep trying until they figure it out.  Fourth, as Ken Robinson professes, “Our task is to educate the whole being.” Literally, our students have five senses, two hands and two legs; the more we allow students movement, and hands on learning, the better. Less literally, we need to consider fostering other, less academic, experiential learning experiences, for example:: life skills, survival skills, gardening, mechanics, drama,dance, knitting or even meditation.

Technology fosters creativity, because it gives students a means and the incentive for creative thought. For example, students may create a solution, (or prototype for a solution), for a found problem, by using design software and a 3D printer;  they may create local solutions to global problems, through their collaborations with students in another part of the world;  or they may create a video game that teaches younger students a particular concept or understanding or an app to meet an empathized need.

However, if learning experiences include overly restrictive requirements, or lack choice, meaning and purpose, no matter the technology, the opportunity for creative thought will be lost.

 

Gardner, H. (2008) 5 Minds for the future. Boston: Harvard Business Press.

Exhibiting Synthesis Through the Inquiry Process

PRESENTATION LINK With the exorbitant and continually multiplying amount of even credible information available at our fingertips, synthesizing that information into effective and purposeful formulations, has become a near impossible feat. Appropriately, our society holds synthesizers, those people who can make sense of the vasts amounts of information available, to draw formidable conclusions, with the […]

Design Thinking Board

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I’m a huge advocate for all kinds of Inquiry based learning in schools, and I’m especially interested in the potential for Design Thinking to move Inquiry further….to Innovation. I find the empathy piece of Design Thinking to be extremely important and often overlooked in more traditional engineering type processes. This Educlipper Board includes resources to assist and encourage using Design Thinking in education.

Take a Shelfie!

Hi all! I played with Pixlr last night to take my own Shelfie. Now that I feel more confident using this awesome free Photoshop like tool, I would love to have students create their own shelfies, thereby considering their past reading, sharing books they liked for others to consider and learning to use a Photoshop type application! […]