October 17, 2016

The Feedback Continuum

SatNav = Satellite Navigation = Feedback for building confidence: timely, detailed, provides immediate, step-by-step information on your progress.

Mapping Reading = Feedback for learning: helps you find your way by providing feedback to you only when you absolutely need it; helps you grow as an independent learner.

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-5-57-31-am

via The Learning Spy (David Didau)

BUT, if you DO NOT do the work, then there is no opportunity for this continuum to kick in or for it to be effective.

First rule: Come to class every day.

Second rule: Do all the work.

Leave your comment below. You can cross-post your comment to your own blog if you’d like.

Consider your tracking sheet, your notebook, your progress report comments, and the goals you set for yourself posted on your blog, and leave a comment below that discusses the value (or not) of feedback from the teacher. What happens to this continuum when students don’t do the work?

June 7, 2015

I don’t want to learn alone…

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

silos

Christopher Short via Compfight

I am your teacher. You are my students.

Ugh.

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!

Oh the places we will go

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
  • bringing outside voices in like Mr. Chris Baird
  • doing the work with you like the poetry anthology and the re-framed blog
  • providing many exemplars of learning
  • holding a class read aloud of a common text
  • conferencing with you
  • 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?

Collaboration Continuum

 

May 3, 2015

“Learning Ready” Defined.

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”.

Will Richardson1/7/13, 4:57 AM

You’ve got six years…I have less than three. And I’ve been having almost the exact same thoughts and questions running through my brain as well. The stats on the kids in our districts are very similar; the vast majority go to college right after graduation. The idea that there would be any other path for kids who have the grades to go to college is unheard of. (Tess is still getting grief about not taking the PSATs as a sophomore this year.) But my kids have known for a long time that they will have options, even though they may not be as “clear” as college. And I don’t mean vocational paths (though those are fine, too.) I mean different paths to professional success and accreditation.

But here’s the thing: are our schools preparing kids to forge their own path? To be “entrepreneurial learners” as John Seely Brown calls them, kids who are “Constantly looking around them, all the time, for new ways and new resources to learn new things”? Because if college is only one path, the other ones are forged by self-direction, organization, wonder, creation, sharing, inquiry…all those things that you and I need in order to be successful learners in our lives. Kids who don’t go to college to get a degree need to be able to design their own learning since they won’t get a course list and syllabus handed to them. They need to have skills and literacies that will allow them to learn what they need to learn, create art (as Seth Godin says) with that learning, share that learning, and “earn their influence” (as Stephen Downes says). We teaching them how to do that?

So, there’s always been that “third path” somewhere between getting a job and going to college, but now, I think it’s going to start to scale in some interesting ways. That’s why I really don’t care if my kids are “college ready” when they leave high school as long as they are “learning ready,” able to put together their own path to success.

Replies

  • To answer your question, no. At least not my school and most of the schools I’ve been to or heard of. On the other hand, I don’t really know how to do that myself, or how to help 14-18 year olds (at my school, anyway) get interested and engaged in that pursuit. So I certainly don’t pretend to have the “answers.”

    And I agree about being “learning ready,” I’m just not sure how to get from here to there.


From Seth Godin’s Blog of December 2010

The world’s worst boss

That would be you.

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:

  1. Do it yourself
  2. Do it now
  3. Do it with friends
  4. Do it for fun
  5. Do unto others
  6. 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)

March 29, 2015

Blurring the lines: Modelling the Re:framed Blog

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?

  • messy
  • grey
  • non-linear
  • not the same for everyone
  • slippery
  • confusing
  • risky
  • challenging
  • tingling…goose bumpy

What do I need to know? To do?

  • ask questions
  • think critically
  • collaborate
  • engage my imagination
  • consider the long view
  • get involved
  • connect
  • make time for learning
  • reflect
  • 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.

learning plan

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.

Are you?

 

February 9, 2015

Grade 9 Learning Looks Like This!

First semester is beginning to fade, but I hope that the learning that this year’s grade 9s did is permanent. We had a terrific semester with the Global Read Aloud (especially in Goodreads and Tackk Board), Skyping with our new friends at Oakland Language Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina, reflecting on ourselves as learners with Jac Calder’s class at Midland Secondary School  in Midland, Ontario, and beginning the work on an interdisciplinary wiki textbook called Global Perspectives: A Collaborative Textbook for Teens by Teens . We also shot a lipdup/music video based on issues around dignity and tolerance featuring the Madden Brother’s song “We are done.”

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!

Stay tuned for our video release!

Have a terrific 2nd semester everyone!

 

September 21, 2014

This is me in grade 9 baby! This is me in grade 9!

 journal coverOne 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 not what 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:

1st week.

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!

*Quotations: 

Change

“There is nothing permanent except change.”   [Heraclitus]

February 15, 2014

Learning to be learners.

We have spent two weeks exploring what researchers have discovered about the brain and about what Prof. Carol Dweck has theorized about how we can grow our intelligence and realize our potential. And although every one of us can agree to growth mindset statements like “You can always substantially change how intelligent you are”,  I wonder if we can walk that talk.  I mean, to substantially change how intelligent I am, I have to do something, right?

And Professor Dweck makes it crystal clear that the thing I have to do is work hard and face setbacks head on.

Translation: Work hard means practicing and practicing means doing the work in class and independently; i.e. homework.

Translation: Facing setbacks means understanding that not getting it right away, revising, and redoing are all part of overcoming obstacles in our learning.

In the Mindset Survey we did in class, we all agreed that ” The harder you work at something, the better you will be at it.”

Let’s right now recognize that learning is hard. Maybe learning to learn is even harder. We need to do this together, because together we are better.

Here are some ways we might be able to support each other:

  1. Be leaners. Go ahead and help out the person beside you. And go ahead and accept help when it comes your way.
  2. Be a homework buddy.
  3. Use email to ask questions.
  4. Comment on each other’s blogs–often.
  5. Bring our passions into the classroom.

Now it’s your turn. In the space below, add your responses, ideas, questions, suggestions:

How do we learn to be learners?

 

January 8, 2014

Effort Matters.

Homework?

Why bother?

Being productive in class?

It’s not going to change anything.

And yet we know that growth and learning require effort.

Right?

To learn to skate, pass a puck, or hit the net took time and effort. You weren’t born knowing how to do these things.

To learn to hunt, fire a gun accurately, or track a deer took time and effort. You weren’t born knowing how to do these things.

To learn to dance, make regalia, or sing took time and effort. You weren’t born knowing how to do these things.

To learn to use Facebook, download music, and play video games took time and effort. You weren’t born knowing how to do these things.

To learn to read complex texts, make meaningful notes, and express your thinking through writing takes time and effort. You weren’t born knowing how to do these things.

Work on your growth mindset and you will be able to do anything you want to do. It’s all possible.