Sunday, August 17, 2014

Reflections on AB2 Museum Day project

It has been two months since our Museum Day; this was our day to showcase our learning, with physical models we had built, along with incorporated QR Code guided tours. Tonight I look back and reflect on how this project changed my teaching.

I was excited to give others students the opportunity to take a mentoring role. Andrew's (Mr. Bieronski) Grade Ten students became mentors to my Grade Four students in the planning and execution of each phase of our 6 week project.  I was impressed by their meticulous planning processes, and considerable thought given to each stage of the project, from design to build.  Upon meeting these young adults in person, I realized just how much more they got from this than just offering a set of printed, guided instructions. In our whole group discussion, one student shared how great she felt after having helped someone else. As a teacher, knowing that I helped someone realize the sheer joy and power of doing good is highest degree of success.

Life is not about getting good grades, landing the cushy job, and making scores of cash. The true joy in life lies in intrinsic rewards. If I can allow 16 year old kids to realize the power of philanthropy (whether guided by school or not), I have touched on a powerful nerve. If they can use a simple tech tool to touch base with their 9 year old partners, offering encouragement and constructive criticism that result firstly in a positive step forward, and secondly in the deeply satisfying feeling of having done good, I have done what I set out to do.

Museum Day proved to be the highlight of our year. Even though my students worked for 6 weeks on the constructing, designing, and preparing for their exhibit, they showed no exhaustion or indifference to The Big Day. Without the use of iPads, the internet, or Google tools, this project would have undoubtedly taken twice as long, with far more frustration, both from students and teacher.

I am grateful that I could use Google Hangouts to confer with Mr. Bieronski, and his students immediately, and frequently to make sure we were all on the right track. I am also grateful to Ian Tao, who introduced me to his app Sesame Snap, that allowed the students to collect their own assessment data in a personal digital portfolio, that I could also share and use in my evaluations.

This project introduced me to several new ideas and people who propelled my learning along the way. I explored new Google tools like Hangouts, Drive, and Google Apps for Education to keep myself on the forefront of assessment and feedback, without needing to work harder. Ian Tao's Sesame and Sesame Snap allowed my students and me to immediately collect, reflect upon, and evaluate our data as we built the project.

Watching kids bustle through the door twenty minutes before the bell in order to get a head start on building for the day told me that I had something special going on in my room.  Engaged in their task, my students forgot that they were still learning and growing. Education needs to be more of this, and less of monotonous, irrelevant tasks that do not relate to their lives. As a teacher, one may need to throw out last year's plans and jump off the cliff into something new, exciting, and motivating. You may fail; you may be gloriously successful. The point is, you tried to stay relevant and inspiring.

I feel like I made a major step forward in my teaching. I undertook the planning and new learning that was required to facilitate the Museum Project for my students. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it lit the fire of motivation in me; motivation to be better, to stay current, and to inspire children to love their learning. I will take those tenets with me as I strive to grow and stay relevant to newer generations of kids as they cross my threshold on their journey through education.  This project has given me an inspirational, rewarding start on this trip.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Reflections from Week 2

This week our museum project has made great gains. We managed to resurrect the Roman Coliseum, investigate the Great Pyramids, and reconstruct a Mosque. Students have been resourceful and cooperative when it comes to sharing their materials. I was very pleased to see students share hot glue sticks, paint, nails, and even Play-Doh to help eachother progress with their respective exhibits.

On the technology front, we learned how to add photos and video directly into our Google Drives on the iPads. We struggled at first trying to execute moves we can do on desktop computers, and found that we had to become more creative with our creations on the iPad version.

We made folders that we shared, and dropped our photos and videos into these folders. Thanks to a quick conversation on Twitter with Mr. Bieronski, we were able to share with as many of our coaches as the program would allow. (We're still working out obstacles with differences between the desktop and mobile versions.

I can tell we're on the right track, because when I explain what our class is doing to other teachers, or even non-educators, the reaction is usually one of surprise and riveted curiosity.  So far no one has expressed doubt or scepticism with our plan.

I hope that next week the students will have a chance to "meet" with their coaches on line to share their progress. We also need to start writing and recording the interactive portion of our exhibit. If we keep going on the same trajectory, I feel we'll be in a good place very soon.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Harnessing the Power of Collaboration (AB Squared, part 1)

This past week began the meticulous, definite planning of a cross-divisional project. My partner in collaboration, Mr. Andrew Bieronski and I have laid the foundational stones for a physical, virtual, digital playground. He and I coincidentally engaged in a lunchtime conversation during the RCAC Conference in London, ON. this past December.

I wanted to create another great digital project; the last one, Canada Connection, was a tremendous success. Five different classrooms and grades combined the study of Canada into a bi-monthly online meeting, where we shared our learning about a region of Canada, focussing on the curriculum expectations of our respective grades. The result was several interactive presentations, dances, stop-motion films, slideshows, Prezis, all rooted in our discovery and learning about Canada's history, geography, and culture.

 This one is different. Grade Ten students will mentor Grade Four, as they endeavour to create museum exhibits, related to the study of Ancient Times. The idea simmered, bubbled, and became convincingly possible during that fateful lunch hour discussion; thanks goes to David Dowhaniuk, who pushed and provoked with thoughtful questions.

 So, after much discussion, theorizing, fantasizing, and planning, the project is a go. I often see the finished product in my head; students proudly standing beside their exhibits, engaged in discussions about how it all came about, and how these civilizations impacted our modern world. Much must be accomplished before that vision becomes a reality.

I must trust our plan, my vision, and my belief that this is the right group of students to undertake this task. I promised myself that I would blog about the process as a model, because the students will be required to blog about their experience as well. I am eager, excited, and confident that this will be a learning experience that is rich and lasting. I hope this to be "the one they remember", (for all the right reasons). Let us hope that my instinct is right.