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.

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