Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Don't just own your learning, write your own story!

Reflections are often one of those words that are touted around as a good thing for students and teachers to do. But why? Although I am sure that there are likely many great psychological, scientific and other reasons, my own experience has led me to believe that without deep critical reflection, one keeps making the same mistakes. Without deep reflection, we can not hope to challenge our assumptions, perspectives and hidden commitments. Without reflection, we can not take ownership of our lives and its direction.

The reality however, despite my love of reflections, student (and sometimes teacher) reflections are often shallow, and as a result, have little benefit. So when does reflecting have the greatest value? At what point does it actually become worth the investment in both effort and time?

With the above in mind, I have been doing some reading about adult cognitive development (the things one has time for over the holidays...). Using the ideas from experts such as Robert Kegan and Marcia Baxter Macgolda, I then set about developing some sort of a guide that might help me to generate deeper, more purposeful reflections - and hopefully my students too! The idea is to move through increased levels of complexity towards greater ownership of my experiences, perspectives, assumptions, commitments, relationships etc. in order to make better decisions around the course of action I will take in being the author of my life story. So basically, I'm hoping to take the "learner agency" buzzword to the next level - don't just own your learning, write your own story!

Click here to download

I have been grappling with how to scaffold students towards more depth in their thinking for some time. Below is a resource I produced last year. Students were asked to draw two cards from the pile. They would have to address the question in their reflection. I have also used these cards in discussions to generate more depth. During the discussion, you have to 'play' your card by asking the question at a relevant moment. This is great for a staff discussion to move beyond the day to day! I've also made two levels of cards to provide reflectees (see what I did there?) a choice as to their level of challenge.

Level 1 questions: Click here to download
Level 2 questions: Click here to download

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Digital Citizenship for Adults

There are lots of things out there for kids right now regarding digital citizenship. But I bet sometimes your colleagues' digital etiquette leaves much to be desired too. I've put together a very basic guide with a hint of humour. Feel free to share this office etiquette guide with your colleagues - or print a copy for the office wall

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How do you know if you are a fruit loop or a lone nut?

Fruit loop: "A mad or a crazy person"Lone nut: "The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire. The 2nd follower is a turning point: it's proof the first has done well. Now it's not a lone nut, and it's not two nuts. Three is a crowd and a crowd is news." 
There are many great TED talks, but the Derek Sivers: How to start a movement talk remains one of my favourites. It speaks to my inner aspirational innovator, leader and dreamer. And as I have come to learn over the past four years on Twitter, I am not alone. Across the country, and across the world, there are many teachers testing and trying new things in their practice to better meet the needs of their learners. Yet, these same teachers, despite their passionate investment in their learners, are often left feeling isolated, rebellious or disillusioned. They remain lone nuts in their contexts.

Yet, in the online Twitter world many of us have found our tribe.
"Connecting with people who share our same passions and commitment helps in developing our Element. This is our tribe. “Often we need other people to help us recognise our real talents. Often we can help other people to discover theirs.” - Ken Robinson source
It is in the online world of Twitter chats and Google+ communities that many of us have found validation for our ideas, transforming us from lone nuts in our contexts, to be part of a movement, a community. And what a phenomenal feeling this can be! It speaks to our ancient human need for connection. I know that moving from a lone nut interested in and experimenting with project based learning to being part of #PBLchat was a huge turning point in my career, as was finding and leading #edchatNZ.

However lately I have been wondering... How do I know that I am a lone nut, an innovator, a leader, rather than a fruit loop? The internet in its epic democratic nature allows equal air time to the lone nuts and the fruit loops, I am equally likely to find a tribe of nuts or loops. On the internet, the Pope, Kim Kardashian, Obama and David Attenborough all have a voice, and democracy determines the reach. And on top of this, there is the fact that we become socialised into the groups we are part of, thinking, without realising, that they way we act, and the things we think, are the norm.

As I experiment alongside educators across the globe in our classrooms with design thinking, modern learning practice, maker education, robotics, coding, 3D printing, project based learning, literacy and numeracy interventions, STEM, STEAM, collaboration, bring your own technology, Google Apps for Education and Office 365, and whatever else you can think of, I am left wondering, how do I judge the merit of my ideas? I no longer subscribe to standard measures of success, they are too often Eurocentric, anti-feminist, outdated, disillusioned, depersonalised, etc. As a result, I need to find validation and measures of success for my ideas and my questions in new ways, because I do not think exams results alone are a measure of success.

So, if I can't count on my internet tribe, despite the genuine appreciation I have for their unrelenting support, and I can't count on exams, how do I know that I am not a fruit loop?