Thursday, December 31, 2015

From Why to What If

About a month ago I asked why ( in regards to an interaction I had with my son Skyler.  I ended the post with this question:

Why do my son's most meaningful learning experiences occur outside of school?

I have been thinking about this for a number of reasons and I would like to shift my question from Why to What if?  

What if our interaction was the jumping point for his learning?
What if he entered his classroom after our car ride and informed his teacher that he would be researching and learning about fog in class today?
What if his teacher embraced his declaration of his learning path for the day or days or week and said "Go to it Skyler!"

With that in mind, here is my vision for my school district and my path as the Coordinator of Curriculum and Instructional Technology:

My vision is to create a 3 - 5 year plan of changing pedagogy by backward planning from the conversation Skyler and I had in the car in November of 2015.  

You are welcome to share insights, resources and information!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Is It a Chain?

Today (12/04/2015), during Chelsea's STEAM time, our maker activity/challenge was for the students to make the longest "chain" using one piece of printer paper (8.5 x 11 inches).  The students were in groups of three and immediately went to work to create the longest paper chain.

Now, I am thinking that you have a mental picture of what you think a chain looks like as do I.  As Chelsea and I walked around watching the students make their chains I came upon a chain that did not fit MY definition or picture or understanding.  I asked the groups making this chain if what they were making was a chain or a strip.  They replied emphatically - it's a chain and I thought to myself that these students did not know what a chain is.  My pre-conceived notion of a chain had temporarily blocked my acceptance of what others might think a chain is.  Luckily, instead of dismissing their understanding or idea of a chain, I decided to throw the question out to the class once the challenge was completed.

When time was up, the students laid out the chains next to each other.  We started off the discussion by asking what is a chain.  Here is a picture of the chains the students created:

As the students grappled with what constitutes a chain, We (Chelsea and I) decided to Google the definition and this is what we found:

  1. 1.
    a connected flexible series of metal links used for fastening or securing objects and pulling or supporting loads.
  2. 2.
    a sequence of items of the same type forming a line.
    "he kept the chain of buckets supplied with water"
    "a chain of events"
  1. 1.
    fasten or secure with a chain.
    "she chained her bicycle to the railing"

We did not share these definitions until we allowed the students to ponder the question did you make a chain?  Interestingly, all of the groups believed that what they created was a chain.  

When this activity started I believed that only the groups that had followed the first definition had created chains.  Fortunately I was able to let go of what I thought was RIGHT and chose to model seeking UNDERSTANDING.  

I projected the definitions for all to see and let the students take in the definitions.  These are 2nd and 3rd grade students so I asked for a volunteer to read the definitions out loud and then let the room think and ponder.  after a couple of minutes of letting the students discuss amongst themselves, we asked for a thumbs up if the students thought that all of the creations were chains.  All students put their thumbs up.  Then we asked put your thumbs up if your understanding of what a chain is has broadened.  All students put their thumbs up.

The final part of our discussion was the celebration of others teaching us to have an open mind.  Each group did not consider the others chain as a possibility.  We all acknowledged that we need each others perspectives to create and innovate.

The discussion included many other rich topics like the group who made the very small chains but had a pile of stripes of paper left over when time was called.  The students wondered if that group had had more time, would their chain have ended up longer than all the rest?  

As educators we have to let go of what we think is right and let our students discover as we support and provide resources.  And ultimately we need to let the students decide if something is a chain or not.