It's no small feat for me when as the mother of a one year old, I get the opportunity to go to a slow flow yoga/mediation class. So, I take advantage of the few moments to myself. In this class, the amazing instructor would teach a short series of moves, then she would say, "Now see what you can do. Be in this space and work on the moves that you need to work on. Let's freestyle." We did this several times, to go and do what you needed to do. Some in the class repeated the same pattern taught by the instructor, some slowed down and really focused on one or two moves, and some took it further and pushed their limits.
It got me thinking, it's this what we want out of student choice?
I often times feel like in education, we say we offer students choice, but it's option A or option B. And I chose both of those options ahead of time for my students. Is this really student choice? Why are we afraid of really letting students make choices and decisions? I found in my own practice that I would struggle with these same issues. And at times when I did open the door of choice for the first time, my students (middle schoolers) were flabbergasted when I gave them this opportunity. They were kind of weirded out. Is this a trap?
As educators, we teach so much more than content, like problem solving and decision making. It's all part of it and depending on your students and the relationship that you create with them. That relationship and your actions will tell them whether or not you are okay with them making their own decisions and choices. Those are big steps towards releasing control to your students. Relationships are hard and it can take awhile to build that kind of trust. But, at the same time, the longer we take, the less opportunities we able to offer our students in the long, yet very short run that we get with them. We only get to spend 9 months of their lives with them, no wonder we feel the urge to rush all the time! It's important to try new things and allow them to be a part of that process. Learning & teaching it's a never ending cycle for everyone in the classroom.
But, man when you release control... Freestyle time is magic. I honestly think that when learners get that opportunity to just go and explore and choose for themselves what they need for their learning, that is when magic happens. That is when the training wheels are off, questions occur, and new paths are generated right before our eyes. For me, that is the super exciting time, to see that ownership of learning and confidence grow. You see failure. You see success. All at the same time. But as the educator, part of the magic is that the students decided that themselves, we allowed them to imagine, play and grow with that knowledge. Some will practice to get the hang of it, some will slow it down to better understand it, and some will go to places you will could have never predicted.
As it is the last day of school for so many it's important to take time with our families and renew our souls (try a yoga class - it always does a world of good for me) to get ready to get back to our students. But, do take a little time to think about where you want to be as an educator and how you are going to get there.
I just stumbled across this video, that is going to give me a lot of food for thought over my break, enjoy.
I've been thinking a lot about STEM programs lately. It is a very common word/language that is bubbling up in schools. And I feel like a lot of companies are putting the label of STEM on things that don't quite deserve it. There is a lot of activity out there that is being called STEM that I'm honestly not quite sure lives up to the amazing possibilities of its name.
So, I guess that has been leading me down a path of trying to sort out what STEM means, how could it be defined. As a former science teacher, I get the S in STEM and now as an edtech consultant, I understand the T, and as a maker and science teacher with the NextGen standards, I've been learning more about the E and how that can frame the process. For me the M is everywhere, but not truly fleshed out (for me at least). What I guess I'm saying is that I feel pretty comfortable with most of those letters :) - but I think that a lot of teachers turn away from STEM because one of those letters scares them.
I think it's also important to think about some of the trends that are going on right now past STEM, there are many people talking about design thinking, and more people exploring the maker movement. I feel like some are even using the words interchangeably. But, I personally don't feel like they are the same. I feel like engineers are driven by questions, looking at systems and structures and questioning their integrity and could it be better, striving for a constant loop of improvement. I feel like designers are driven by people and developing that ultimate connection through empathy. I feel like makers are simply driven by curiosity of possibilities of what if? But there is a TON of overlap and commonalities of these types and honestly a Venn Diagram fails to provide enough room to allow me to pursue this train of thought.
But I'm super curious, what do you think? What commonalities do you see between makers, designers, and engineers? Do you even see them as linked or separated? I'd love to talk through this more, so leave me a comment and let me know what you think.
I created this slide on July 28, 2015 as part of a greater presentation about makerspaces to teachers and administrators who are considering putting a makerspace in their school.
It's been over 2 years now, and I've been wondering what I've learned after sharing with teachers, administrators, and even students about makerspaces.
Ideally, makerspaces are meant to live on the left. An open space where individuals young and old can come in and explore, create, and learn. You can learn together or alone. But, you are learning through creating a tangible product. Something that you are interested in making. When I first created this slide, I felt like the left may be a stretch for some educators to accept, which is why I attempted to to think about learning and the process as a whole.
At times in the learning process, we need step-by-step instructions to help us understand how something works. I relate it to when I'm trying to learn something by watching a YouTube video. Certain videos you think are going to be good, you watch them, they skip a step and I end up frustrated, which usually leaves me determined to find another video that will tell me the missing information. This is a natural occurrence and almost like a path of fact-checking my sources. Okay, so this video told me this, can I find another video that will tell me the same thing? Parts of learning is guided and that time is super important because it helps us to build up our prior knowledge.
The middle of the pack is what I determined was super important to help with administrator buy-in. "What you're going to allow your students to do what?" But I can relate it back to my curriculum! But, as I've thought about this more, sometimes it is important to give students a direction. Not every student is comfortable with free making. Giving them a purpose can help them build up their creative confidence in themselves. But even more, I think that it can help push your creativity by giving it constraints. Allowing yourself to rethink materials, give something a new purpose and really push into your imagination.
I've been wondering more and more about ways to redesign this slide. Maybe recreate it in a new way to reflect and include more of what I have learned from working with schools on makerspaces, I believe that there is more to come....
So, I post to Instagram what I'm doing....
I immediately get a response.... in another language
Uh, oh. I have no idea what language this is!
Did I do something wrong?
But then, I remember I have a tool that can help me figure this out - Google Translate!
Phew! And I got a compliment -Sweet!
Just a quick reminder of how AMAZING technology is! I could never have imagined when I was 10 that I would be getting feedback from someone in another language and that I would be able to figure it out without knowing the language.
Do you ever read something and get it stuck in your head?
I read this great blog post from Andrew Kauffman, called Ideas Floating Around, you should read it. He has this line in there that I just couldn't get out of my head. "As dark as our world is at times, I know there are ideas floating around in the minds of our students, just waiting to see the sunshine."
Amazing right? I had to create this sketchnote to interpret that for my brain.
I am a strong believer that everyone in the classroom is both a learner and a teacher, if you chose to listen. Have you listened to your students today? What kinds of things have you created in your classroom to create a culture of shared ideas?
What student ideas are you going to shine a light on today?
It's hard to believe that I had a baby almost 9 months ago, and after nine months, my husband gave me the gracious gift of being able to go to a yoga class. I used to go to yoga often, but hadn't been in over a year, so I was a bit nervous. But, I kept telling myself in my brain something that my instructor told me, "You'll never regret going to a yoga class." So, I went and I'm so glad that I did. It was worth it. Since it seemed all new to me again, I was reminded of a lot of things that I had forgotten about.
It made me wish that I would see some of these lesson from a yoga class in more schools...
This blog post solidified for me, when I saw that the ISTE promotions for their new teacher standards are actually based on yoga practice! Click here to get this free poster that they created to help you Stretch Your Edtech Practice.
I recently had the opportunity to facilitate and debrief a Breakout EDU game with a teachers. This is the 2nd time that I had been able to work with this group. Now, usually I feel like one experience with Breakout EDU should launch a group of teachers into the realm to take it on for themselves. However, during our second debrief session, I realized that the conversations being had were so much richer the second time than the first time. Ideas of failure came up for the first time in their conversation. Ideas of connection and engagement came up for the first time.
90% of the group had been through the experience the first time, but there were a few with scheduling conflicts. It was SUPER interesting to see the looks on their faces, when I started the timer and the majority of the group starts lifting things up, getting down on their hands and knees to look under chairs and tables. They didn't know that they had permission to dive in.
This really struck me. I feel like Breakout EDU really shines a light on the type of learner you are because you are approached with unconnected threads and need to sew them together. You are genuinely reacting to the situation you are placed in. You are genuinely learning with a group. Your learner side, shines through the chaos.
I feel like it all comes back to the idea of permission. Do we give our students permission to be themselves? They spend so many hours of the day in a classroom, where they may or may not be allowed to be themselves. Do we give students permission to connect threads of knowledge together? Or do we ask them to wait til we tell them how to connect the dots?
I'm curious, how do you give your students permission in your classroom?
I recently had the amazing opportunity to attend SXSWedu and ever since then, I've had this question rolling around in my head...
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this on!
I was checking out this TedxMidwest about Makerspaces from Jeff Sturges. I'd encourage you to watch the whole thing because it shines a spotlight on his multi-age makerspace based in a church in Detroit. It's great to see how this makerspace has become a central component of the community. A place for people of all ages to come together and learn.
At the 12 minute mark in this video, he starts talking about makerspaces in schools. It echoes everything that I've known to be true about education. When you allow students to be hands-on, when you combine subjects, when you allow student choice, when you allow authentic problem solving, when you listen to what it is that your students are interested in, school starts to become alive. Teachers who have had an "alive" classroom know this.