One thing that I have come to value and understand at a deeper level because of [the IThink] practicum, is collaboration. There have been times when we had to work on our own and most of us realized as the months unfolded that silos are pretty useless. Our thinking is better when the experiences, deep thinking and reflections are shared. —Heidi Siwak, Ontario Educator
I dislike these roles. They act to separate, isolate, and compartmentalize us. And everyone acts as if this is the way it should be.
I want us to have a different experience. I want us to feel the rush of each other’s insights and the weight of our collective thinking as we work together to first learn and then reflect on our newly acquired perspectives.
Imagine the possibilities!
As I create/construct/write this post, I am conscious that I do so in the present tense even though the semester and our time together is drawing to a close. I don’t want this reflection to be an end though. I want it to be a beginning…a beginning for all of us to consider what collaboration means and what we need to do differently the next time we are in a learning environment (which for some of us may be all the time and everywhere) to move towards working together to do the learning that we could not possibly do alone.
This semester I created opportunities for collaboration by:
organizing seating in groups
encouraging you to share your thinking with each other
building in a peer review component for all writing/creating
using the question formulation technique to help us generate relevant and meaningful questions
having teachers model what small group discussion and collaboration can look like
blending our learning especially in Google Docs, but also with Mindomo
encouraging self-direction and reflection
building in metacognition
And yet, my voice dominated the space.
I don’t want to learn alone. I want to learn with you because your ideas, your questions, your challenges, your a-ha moments will not be the same as mine, and they will teach me.
Take a moment to reflect with me. What else do we need to do or to know that will move us along the collaboration continuum? What other types of support or strategies might you need to build your collaboration skills?
What does it mean to be “learning ready”? And why has this notion captured my imagination completely. I have decided to curate other’s thinking that in some way connects with what I am understanding to mean “Learning Ready.”
My thinking started here…
The Fisch-Richardson conversation via The Fischbowl: What options exist for our young people today beyond high school? What is the conversation that we should be having with our teens about their lives? How has the story of high school, college/university, job changed? In 2013, Karl Fisch thinks about how he can best support his kids (and his students) in thinking about their futures. Will Richardson joins the conversation with this comment that ends with the phrase “learning ready”.
Even if you’re not self-employed, your boss is you. You manage your career, your day, your responses. You manage how you sell your services and your education and the way you talk to yourself.
Odds are, you’re doing it poorly.
If you had a manager that talked to you the way you talked to you, you’d quit. If you had a boss that wasted as much of your time as you do, they’d fire her. If an organization developed its employees as poorly as you are developing yourself, it would soon go under.
I’m amazed at how often people choose to fail when they go out on their own or when they end up in one of those rare jobs that encourages one to set an agenda and manage themselves. Faced with the freedom to excel, they falter and hesitate and stall and ultimately punt.
We are surprised when someone self-directed arrives on the scene. Someone who figures out a way to work from home and then turns that into a two-year journey, laptop in hand, as they explore the world while doing their job. We are shocked that someone uses evenings and weekends to get a second education or start a useful new side business. And we’re envious when we encounter someone who has managed to bootstrap themselves into happiness, as if that’s rare or even uncalled for.
There are few good books on being a good manager. Fewer still on managing yourself. It’s hard to think of a more essential thing to learn.
From David Prices’ post via MindShift March 23, 2015
This post moves towards a more concrete definition, or at least part of a definition, of what learning ready is. It provides a checklist of six “Do its”-motivators for learning socially-that schools need to integrate into their learning environments:
Do it yourself
Do it now
Do it with friends
Do it for fun
Do unto others
Do it for the world to see
Yet schools who have opened their learning environments and integrated [the six learning] motivations into their learning programs are not only enhancing engagement–they are preparing their students for the adaptive, entrepreneurial future that awaits them. In short, they have realized that the best way to prepare young people for the world beyond school is to immerse them in the world beyond school, as often as possible. (my emphasis)
The idea that classroom learning needs to be authentic and relevant to students, that it needs to connect to their out of school lives, that it needs to be meaningful is a nice thought. The trouble with this thinking is that many students don’t get it, want it, understand it. What happens outside of school stays outside of school, and that includes everything from personal devices to passions. We need to figure out how to blur the lines.
Some of my classes are engaged in blogging this semester and although we are slow out of the gates, I have high hopes for our progress.
I am taking a page from David Theriault who introduced me to the Re: Framed Blogging Project, where students design blogs around their personal interests and once a week post a blog entry that re:frames some aspect of their school learning.
So in one course where we think a lot about ethics, values, dilemmas and worldviews, a student who has created a blog around her love of music might re:frame a post around the idea of bands selling their music to corporations to be used for advertising purposes, which gives her the opportunity to think about the paradigm of short-term vs long-term through a personally relevant lens.
In another class, we have been exploring Joseph Campbell’s hero journey monomyth and Carl Jung’s archetypal theory. Students might choose to re:frame a post around this content. Some students just competed at the Regional First Robotics Competition, and I bet that the journey from building the robot to being awarded the top seeded rookie team took the team through many of the classic stages of the hero’s journey.
I love this idea of re:framing the content because it will help all of us break down the barriers of what we think learning is, of what the value is of any particular content, and of what our connection to the process is.
BUT first, as with all assignments in my classes, I need to do the work too, so here is my first re:framed post.
I thought about re:framing Since You’ve Been Gone, the most recent YA novel I’ve read. There is much to consider about the way Morgan Matson portrays Emily’s family and the ever present conversation about balancing the needs of the individual and those of the family (community).
Or the list! Matson uses the device of a list to hook us into the story. Don’t we love lists–making them, reading them, tracking our lives with them.
But since this blog centres around learning and the learning process, I will re:frame Campbell’s heroic journey as a way to consider the learning process.
Heroes. They take on danger. Stand-up to bullies. Protect us. Inspire us. They make a difference in the world. Some of us probably aspire to being heroes. Some of us just can’t help ourselves.
My husband is a hero. He has saved the day for many people. Not with the Harry Stamper kind of heroism, but with the kind that ensures that a car load of city-bound kids get to have their day of fun by rescuing their vehicle from a malfunctioning alternator. Or the kind that pulls cars out of ditches (mostly me, but others too), or that stands up for disenfranchised youth against the outcry of white privilege. It’s subtle, but he, too, doesn’t know how to fail.
Those heroic attributes-bravery, risk-taking, confidence, perseverance, self-sacrifice, determination, responsibility, personal ethics-they are also the attributes of the learner. Learners must be engaged in the process of acquiring knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will allow us to live the life we want. Joseph Campbell encourages us to find and follow our bliss:
“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
The call to adventure.
Ok. So we need skills and knowledge (reading, writing, math, science etc.), and the courage to take on the adventure that is our lives. It’s what we want to do when we grow-up. It’s how we want to live our lives. It’s about how to be ‘learning ready’ when we leave high school.
Refusal of the call.
We think of learning as something that is done to us. We think of learning as showing up. We think of learning as being caught up. We think of learning as a straight line between point A and point Z. We think of learning as a series of marks or grades.
And yet something just doesn’t feel right, does it? There’s little connection between the disparate parts of my day. I don’t feel like engaging in the work. I’m not excited by anything I’m supposed to be learning. I’m tired. I’m bored. I have no passion. Is this it?
The call to adventure repeated.
What is learning then? What does it look like? Feel like?
not the same for everyone
What do I need to know? To do?
engage my imagination
consider the long view
make time for learning
know thyself as a learner
what’s the plan
Leaving the traditional factory-based model of learning behind (the ‘sit and get’ learning, worksheets, chapter end questions, whole class novels, etc.) is not for the feint of heart. What if I haven’t blogged before? Or I hate writing, period? Or I’ve never completed independent work? What if I am a slow reader? Or so shy that I can’t speak up in a group discussion? What if I have not thought critically about a text? Or participated in an inquiry?
Will I accept the challenge that learning presents for me?
The Meeting of the Mentor
It is the teacher who helps us to face the unknown learning tasks. She teaches us skills and knowledge, and gives us feedback, advice, or guidance. However, the teacher can only go so far with us. Eventually, we must work independently to demonstrate what we know, what we have learned, and what we have yet to learn.
(Sometimes the teacher is required to give us a push to get the learning started.)
Crossing the Threshold
We have to be committed to our learning goals because they will get us to where we need to go…they will help us follow our bliss. It’s hard work, but we must agree to face the consequences of the challenges put before us — increased confidence and motivation as we produce work and receive feedback; confusion and an erosion of motivation when we don’t. This is really the moment when the learning takes off!
Assignments, Portfolios, Tests, and the Processes Involved in Learning
There is always method to the madness that presents itself to us. We might not always be able to discern it, but there is a plan at work.
At some point, we need to shed the doubt and just go for it: trust the process, the guidance of the teacher, and the overall plan.
And a big thank you goes out to Ms. Black, who not only taught grade 9 English for the first time ever, but who did so with the kind of passion and energy that makes English come alive for students. Ms. Black and her students were great collaborators on many of these projects, and I look forward to our future adventures in learning!
Famous people work hard and fail over and over just the like the rest of us. Have a listen to Will Smith share his thinking on greatness and making your life count.
Throughout history there have been those who have succeeded because they failed.
from http://www.cmoe.com/blog/famous-failures.htm uncited
In the arts….
One big idea that weaves its way through all of my teaching (and my learning) is the idea that we can learn anything. We need to work at it though. We need to extend effort. We need to be persistent. We need be prepared to take risks. We need to be ready to fail and fail and fail. We need a plan to get back up and try again. We need to surround ourselves with the people who will support us in our learning. But we must always remember that we need to do the work.
In the above video, Ed Sheeran shows us what growth mindset in action looks like. Not only does he take on something that he has never done and never gives up, even when he really wants to, he also makes his learning visible. You might think that that is no big deal because he is Ed Sheeran. But I don’t think that’s true. Remember that this is a guy who has gone from busking to selling out arenas around the world because he believed in himself and he worked hard at it. He says in the video “9 Days and Nights of Ed Sheeran” that “if you can’t sing or play guitar, I couldn’t either. It is possible. You don’t have to be born with a special magic gift or anything, you just practice.”
We don’t have to be famous to have a growth mindset though. We do need to think about our beliefs and goals and the work that we need to be doing to realize our best self. Consider each of the following questions. Take time throughout your learning process to check in with yourself. How are you doing?
Global collaboration is necessary to show students that they are part of something bigger than them. That the world needs to be protected and that we need to care for all people. You can show them pictures of kids in other countries but why not have them speak to each other? Then the caring can begin. –from GlobalReadAloud.com
One of the truly awesome things about keeping a journal or daybook is having the opportunity to look back at ourselves. We think we remember who we were in grade 9, say, but our memories are not always terribly accurate. Our writing captures our voice in the moment, and when we re-read that text years later, the freshness, energy, and passion flies across time and we remember.
You have been asked to maintain a daybook this year. Daybooks have many roles. They can house everything that happens in class. They provide a space for reflective thinking. They are a place for us to store our writing on the way to creating a final product. Daybooks can have all manner of writing: lists, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, multiple sentences. They can be messy and help push us past a sense of perfectionism that we have to find true learning.
My writing over the years has been mostly reflective; a long personal narrative that really only exists in paragraph form. This is notwhat you are being asked to do, but it is what I was asked to do and it is what I can share with you.
Here are my words from the week of September 8, 1976….word for word:
Today is the 1st day I’m writing for Mr. R again, for the year. I hope we, Mr. R and I, get along better than we did today, in the future. I mean after today I can wait to go back to school, or English anyways.
Besides English, my other classes went really well. (even French) I’m really looking forward to History, Geography and Science this year. The courses sound really interesting. French will be french, what can one say? The books for Lit sound really interesting also, and I really like the Prose and Poetry books. Comp started off on the wrong foot, but it always takes me awhile to adapt to changes* and get settled, so I’ll probably enjoy the course. Last but not least Math! All I can say is that it’ll probably be hard but somehow with Dr. J, we always have fun!
The weather was ROTTEN! today! Rainy, cold, and windy, even snow is better than that, eh? Anyways this weather is giving me pains, the flu, actually. I’m practically living on aspirins and vitamin C’s.
Talking about “pains” I think I’ll have to put up with Eileen all weekend, out of town that is! We, “the Balens”, are going to the cottage this coming weekend and Eileen is coming. Really, it should be a riot!!
Well so much for my problems today! Like my mom says I should get a boyfriend, so I could worry about him and not the little petty things! ‘night!
“There is nothing permanent except change.” [Heraclitus]
I am terrifically excited to be teaching and learning with and from you! I do not mean this lightly. Learning, at its best, is a collaborative activity–that’s right! When we learn together, we will always learn more. At first, this learning together business is tough to figure out. What does it mean? What does it look like? Sound like? How is learning together different than me teaching and you learning?
Here is a list for our consideration. Learning together is….
sharing our expertise
listening closely to each other
having our voice heard
communicating with each other beyond “class time”
providing feedback to each other on the work that we are creating
moving past the idea that the teacher ‘knows all’
If we can focus on learning, truly learning by taking risks, thinking big, putting forward effort, and never giving up, together, we will be ready for whatever the future holds for us. We will be “learning ready”.
Much of what we do in English class is about process: reading deeply and creating analytic notes, planning, organizing, drafting, editing, and publishing writing, viewing various texts and thinking through the stories they are telling. Before, during, and after the processes, we support our learning with feedback strategies. We develop success criteria, conference together, talk to one another, share our work, and provide written comments. We don’t often fail outright.
But last week, you wrote a test.
It wasn’t a test of memorization, of regurgitating names and dates. Rather, it was a test of skills and problem solving. Show how well you can read and annotate a text. Show how you support your thinking with evidence. Show how you apply MLA rules. Show how you can apply the rules of grammar in editing. And because you could use any resource in the room to help you (other than a person…no phone a friend in this test, although that is a great strategy) –your binder, your hanging folder, the literacy tool kit, dictionaries, and Chromebooks — this test was also about demonstrating how you are able to solve challenges and overcome obstacles in your learning.
Tests can be failed.
What does that test result tell you about your learning? What feedback is it providing to you?
More than anything else this semester, we are learning to be learners. We have been learning about and practicing growth mindset all semester. We have set long-term goals and created a plan to help us reach those goals.
When you get your test back, take some time to think about what the feedback is. Remember that feedback is not about praise or blame, approval or disapproval. Feedback is neutral. It describes what you did and did not do (Wiggins). Then post your thoughts to your blog about that feedback.
Unbeknownst to you, National Poetry Month started April 1st! Our remixing of poetry today was right on schedule. And what fun we are having creating ‘new’ poems from existing poetry and then extending the meaning of the poems through illustrations, fonts, spacing, and paper and colour choices.
We are not done with making poetry…not yet.
In the meantime, you might want to check out some pretty cool poetry sites. First up is actually a how-to on formatting your poetry in your blog. I love these pointers.