Spreading the News!

http://www.grassrootsy.com/2010/05/06/spreading-the-word-through-facebook-twitter/

One of the things that I have always been frustrated with is my inability to express the passion I have for innovation in education.  I can remember the first time my eyes were opened to new educational ideas while taking my Master’s Degree and taking a course by Alex Couros.  I felt way beyond my comfort level but knew that I was getting into something that was very exciting and would benefit my staff and our students greatly.

When I first started my coursework for my Master’s Degree, I knew it would be hard and would take a lot of work, but I also thought it was going to be a bit dry.  Boy, was I wrong!  I was not prepared for my degree experience to totally change my outlook on education and what should be happening in classrooms.

At that time, I was so excited about the new things I was learning and decided to come back to my staff with my passionate message, only to have it fall flat and after our first staff meeting, I thought they would have thrown tomatoes at me if they had any.

One of our teachers though was immediately interested and agreed to help me, by working together on a class blog. letting her grade 5 students write about things they were interested in and giving them a broader audience for their writing.

Starting with one teacher sparked interest with other teachers and since that first staff meeting 8 years ago our school has made much progress in what I consider to be innovative teaching ideas and stretching to meet the needs of our students by being innovative with our classrooms design and instruction.

Yesterday I was out of the school at a meeting and had left a learning activity for my grade 6 students.  We have just started The Global Read Aloud this week and are reading the book, “The Wild Robot.”  I had left them an activity where they were discussing their ideas about robots-what they already knew, researching some ideas and adding to their knowledge.  All the while they were recording their thinking using Padlet.  Using Padlet allowed them see what the other students were thinking and I could also see their responses while I was at my meeting, which was an added bonus.

Now I could have easily had them working by themselves researching and recording their answers in their notebooks, but the richness of being a part of a collaborative think tank was a benefit to my students.

To get back to my original problem, which was how do I help others feel the passions I have and how do I continue to work towards innovative teaching and learning for all students?  Part of what I have seen through the continued growth in our school since the “tomato throwing” incident and our very first blog has been amazing.

I guess I have already answered my own question; keep pushing, encouraging, learning, talking, praising, reflecting and spreading the word.

Progress may seem slow but perhaps it is not as slow as I think.

Hmmm!  I am off to an administrators meeting today and I am in charge of welcoming and running the agenda.  Seems like the perfect opportunity to spread the word!

My Son, The Learner

http://familyonbikes.org/blog/2011/07/why-do-some-people-live-their-dreams-and-others-dont/
http://familyonbikes.org/blog/2011/07/why-do-some-people-live-their-dreams-and-others-dont/

Late last night as I was watching TV my son appeared from outside.  When I questioned him as to where he had been, he replied, “I was building stuff.”  He then proceeded to show me an elaborate potato gun he had constructed and explain to me how it would work.  He also made sure I knew that he did the best with the materials he could find in our shed. (Not his ideal materials apparently)  The potato gun was something that he had seen at a conservation camp he had attended recently sponsored by the Estevan Wildlife Association.

Many times I have been amazed at the learning attitude that my son Nate has.  He sees himself capable of many things.  He can picture how something will go together, how he can make things, even how he can mix chemicals to create elaborate fireworks displays for friends and family. (I know, I know… who lets their 15-year-old do that?)  If he does not know how to do something, he will “Google it” or “You Tube it” to clarify. He never sees limits in what he can learn and accomplish when he is busy with his passions.  He will construct, test, and reconstruct, test over and over again to create the exact chemical reaction he is seeking in a firework.

I am amazed by him.

The flip side of this story though, is that my son has struggled in school since he started kindergarten.  He had trouble learning his letters, then he did not learn to read until after most of his classmates were well on their way.  He still struggles to find the motivation to memorize things and apply them in the school setting. He hates chemistry, not because he does not understand chemicals and their reactions, but  because he is put off by the need to memorize the periodic table and the lack of hands on learning experiences.  He is struggling to complete his high school in a setting that does not allow for much flexibility or creativity.

I do not worry about Nate’s success in life, but I do worry about his success in the school setting.

Last night I was watching a video of Tony Wagner speaking on “Play, Passion, Purpose” thinking about my son and other students surviving their education.  Dr. Wagner speaks of the antiquated education system and gives many examples and reasons why we need to change our teaching and learning.  He talks about allowing students to play, to explore their passions and to find purpose for their learning.

At times, change in our educational system seems so slow it is hard to recognize.  I realize I need to be part of that change.  Meeting the needs of today’s learner is something I am very passionate about and spend quite a bit of time learning and collaborating with others about.  Last year I had the opportunity to go back into the classroom after spending 5 years as a Learning Support Teacher and school administrator.  It was such a learning experience for me to be “walking my talk” with my staff.  One of the things I tried with my grade 6 and 8 students was Genius Hour.  It was fun to allow time for students to pursue passions and work together to learn new things and it was such an excellent way to get to know them.  When I reflect back on this experience there were many positives, some negatives and, of course, many things I would change.

http://secondstreet.edublogs.org/2014/02/25/presenting-genius-hour/
http://secondstreet.edublogs.org/2014/02/25/presenting-genius-hour/

This summer I read the book “Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom” by A.J. Juliani and have been participating in a book chat on Friday mornings #2k14reads. We will be meeting for two more weeks, so please join us.   I plan to do Genius Hour with my students again this year, using some ideas from the book and things that were shared by the many wise teachers in the book chat.  One of the things I realized last year was that I did not front load my students enough about what passions really are.  Students are not used to having free time to pursue the types of learning they do outside of the school day.  They need to see themselves as learners and realize that learning does not have to be teacher driven.

I hope that I can encourage others to work toward project based learning, driven by students.  We need our young people to have the intrinsic motivation to learn from mistakes, such as the learning I see in my son when he is chasing his passions.