Friday, March 16, 2018

Unlocking Students' Superpowers

What stories are being told? Whose voices are being included?
Being an educator in the classroom is the most fulfilling experience as you succeed and fail with your community of learners and together you unlearn and relearn for growth. How does learning takes place and becomes so eventful, from block times to individual learning styles and many emotional peaks from students? The classroom is the living lab that co-exists by decentralizing the learning and building a community of learning and leaders.  I have been blessed and continue to work in schools with very supportive leaders to experiment with my learning.

Learning is about sparking creativity through communication and collaboration. Building a culture of thinking by allowing students take the responsibility for their learning process. Students can unlock their superpowers when they are given the chance to experience them.

These are important reflections that as educators we need to be sharing:
  • How am I giving opportunities for my students to communicate and to learn from each other?
  • How am I creating opportunities for students to collaborate and take ownership of their process?
  • How am I leveraging digital for thinking?
  • How am I allowing students to build their confidence for risk-taking, failing and reflecting?
  • What opportunities am I giving to students to create knowledge together?
  • How are students reflecting and dealing with the discomfort of their social-emotional learning?
  • How are students building the trust to be community members?
I am going to keep this blog post short as I am behind in telling the stories of learning from the students. My stories are always based on students evidence. I am going to present two stories one from Geography and One from French on Sustainable Development Global Goals.

Why not unpack the curriculum?

The Grade 7 students took the leadership and ownership of unpacking the curriculum and creating criteria of the process.

Can students co-construct criteria independently?

The students teamed up to plan how to explore the physical pattern of a changing world by focusing on the Canadian physical regions.

Why not design compasses using Micro:bit?

Please click on the link to watch the video The students applied the math and geography by programming a compass for an amazing race of team members across Canada.

How can students connect causes and factors of Canadian physical regions?

Through the causal model, students applied their thinking and developed their competencies by finding causes and factors of natural events and human activities that apply on the physical regions. They also analyzed challenges and opportunities presented by the physical regions.

Can students reflect on Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking while thinking the causal model?

Can students research and develop perspectives on natural resources?

The grade 7 students analyzed aspects of extractions/harvesting of natural resources in different regions in the world and assessed ways of persevering these resources.

Can students analyze and interpret data of natural resources between Canada and the world?

Can students learn from experts online?

The Geography Grade 7 students spoke with Doctor Rich Petrone Professor of Geography & Environments Management at Waterloo University, online. Students also had a webinar with Dr. Jennifer McKellar from Partners In Research Video recording.

Sustainable Global Goals 

Can students choose and unpack the causes and complexity of each of the Sustainable Global Goals?

Can students interpret and analyze data about the Sustainable Global Goals?

How do students consult with experts on world equity problems?

A hangout with Dr. Annemieke Farenhorst about First Nations Quality of Water Video Link. In addition, they spoke with Sarah Begum, explorer and journalist with Royal Geographical, investigating the impacts of oil exploitation and deforestation on Huaorani tribe land in the Amazone Rainforest.

Meeting with Midia Hassan a biochemist and a Chemical Engineer who makes change locally and globally through many innovation hubs. Midia is also a recipient of the Queens Young Leaders award for 2018.

Can students reflect throughout the process?

Some Reflections just specific to the causal model

 Can students unpack the 6c's while explicitly unpacking their thinking?

There are many layers throughout the process from analyzing reading, researching skills, consolidations and co-constructing criteria by students as needed.

The Flow Theory is when students are engaged in meaningful tasks, take ownership, make choices and build positive relationships. The learning goals are clear; the learning is attainable and achievable by students focusing on their thinking, connecting learning and mastering their skills. The Students scaffold their own learning taking leadership by pausing and reflecting, searching and critically solving and connecting their experiences and new experiences. The students are completely taken by their concentration and focus.  This is the focus in the classroom when students are engaged, being agents and owning their process of learning.

Through Integrative Thinking, the students are immersed in conditions that allow the 6c's - collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity, character, and citizenship - to be explored and immersed throughout the process. When students are thinking through the causal model, Pro Pro model or the ladder of inferences, all competencies are enabled. No skills are separated when the students are collaborating, they are communicating and critically analyzing each others thinking, valuing ideas, connecting them and creating knowledge as a team. They are persevering to problem solve and are in the state of the Flow. They are very focused to connect thinking, values, benefits, and interpreting data. It is the equity of learning where all voices are accountable and all perspectives are valued. The students are agents of their own learning with perspectives shared and leveraged with the whole team and equitably achieved.

The students enable their own conversations and scaffold their own inquiries when it is needed to research and persevere to apply their thinking through the models. All voices are heard, all perspectives are accountable it becomes a collective responsibility. Learning is very dynamic and their thinking becomes very explicit and builds their confidence. The students ignite their own fire and develop a culture of learning. Where discomforted learning becomes enjoyable learning, the students are in the state of hyperfocus connecting their thinking and willing to critically think, collaborate and communicate to persevere in making thinking explicit.

As William Butler Yeats is quoted as saying, Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

Learning experiences happen when students are immersed in tackling problems relevant to their real-life experiences. Building relationships while managing social-emotional learning creates a sense of belonging to the community of learning. The students feel they are important to the space of learning. They are compassionate, making differences to their own experiences and knowing that learning is reachable within themselves as experts and with an online community of experts.

How are we impacting and empowering students in deep learning?
  • Who is setting the goals for learning?
  • How is learning equitable?
  • How are students taking full ownership and responsibility to keep interested in owning their learning?
  • How to grow in experiences of valuing and trusting their learning?
  • How are they developing self-trust in thinking and risk-taking?
  • How are they building compassion to their learning?
  • How are they reflecting on their learning?
  • How are they aware of competencies and being enabled during the process of learning?
  • How are students feeling accepted and their ideas are validated?
  • How does their perspective matter and is understood by others? 
Looking forward to telling more stories about Grade 7 sustainable actions in their community and how their learning will make a difference and contribute to change. 

The Theory of flow from the master himself, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi A short video on Flow  Another short video on Flow by John Spencer Video

Thursday, January 4, 2018

#Oneword Action!

My gratitude to VoicEd and Julie Balen for bringing this challenge on. Thanks to Sarah Lalonde for the graphic.

As I look forward to growing with my learners, who enrich my experiences on the how and the why of the learning process.

Every day, I look forward to engaging with my learners and taking actions in applying meaningful learning situations that make an impact on their thinking and lifetime skills by connecting compassion, empathy and valuing each other, also reaching to a local and a global audience for feedback.

By investing time to learn with the learners, is to take action to care, share and take risks.  Actions that the learners and I will continue to explore and learn from:
  • investing time to reflect on the learning process.
  • giving feedback and getting feedback
  • supporting risk-taking to experience the culture of emotional learning together
  • taking action to learn over time and develop the thinking together
  • being mindful of everything around them
  • changing and impacting someone in their daily lives
  • exploring the discomfort of learning
  • being grateful and positive for attending school every day
  • being fearless with discomfort 
  • choosing to matter
  • learning not to fit in
  • allowing tensions in determining next steps
  • more of goal getting than just goal setting
I will continue to take action to reflect on how to be adoptable and adaptable with my learners for learning together? 

Friday, December 29, 2017

What Happens When Students Are Designers?

The year always begins with a focus on our classroom community. Trust and value within the community are important to encourage risk-taking and allow students to be engaged in the process of reiteration as Mentioned in my previous post. I try and lead a classroom without compliance where the students take a lead in their learning experiences.

I have been privileged to belong to the Digital Promise Learning Studio (DPLS) community. DPLS provided me with a 3D printer, HP notebooks, and an HP Sprout. Learning studios are equipped with powerful tools and technologies, where students use the techniques of an artist to acquire meaningful knowledge and skills that will serve them and their communities throughout their lives. It is a collaboration between Digital Promise Global, HP, and Microsoft, to reinvent the classroom as a space for learners to design, create, and invent.

The students with the Learning Studios collaborate and engage in activities and projects designed to expose them and enhance their competency in areas including:

  • Empathy and Design Thinking
  • Visual Communication and Design
  • Three Dimensional Design and Modeling
  • Digital Storytelling and Production
  • Social Entrepreneurship

The projects were designed by the students to make a difference in our community. Some students solved problems with the Humane Society and a veterinarian clinic, while others focused on autism. Most of the projects are still in the process of prototypes, using feedback from the users for improvements. The Innovation club of Grade 7 and 8 students teamed up with our retirement home community to design tools to help them with their daily needs.

For all of the projects, students collected data by interviewing both Stephanie Youngdale the Humane Society Coordinator and Dr. Ellis for the IV tool for animals and also by observing the autistic students at the school. Both groups had clients to provide feedback. The Innovation Club regularly visited the retirement home and shared many games that were designed/coded using Scratch and Micro:bit. They built a relationship to observe and design utensils for easy grip.

Please review the projects on this link. To view students' reflections and documentation, please click on the images. The designing process will continue and I will be updating the links on the blog.

The learners have reflected and documented their progress throughout the process. The design learning process focused on conversations through problem-solving. This process allowed learners to value emotions, opinions, perspectives, ideas and authentic self-learning and self-driven thinking. This learning was acquired by giving students the opportunities to empathize with a community for a community.

The learners regularly reflected on their competencies of collaboration, character, and creativity. Creating solutions for problems provided learners with the opportunities to take action of their learning by living the process of design thinking/makers thinking. While designing, learners are creating solutions and making a difference, learners:
  • continue to wonder
  • question to take risks and problem solve 
  •  invent, reinvent and learn together
  •  fail many times to learn
  • are creators of learning 
  • deal with social-emotional impacts on their learning
  • build friendship relationship, independence, social consciousness, compassion, imagination, originality, enthusiasm, passion, sincerity, trustworthiness, generosity and sincereness
How do you get every student involved in thinking and learning?

The students become involved when they embrace the system of innovation and become self-driven and self-creative. Have students create; to adjust their learning and feel the impulse of embracing innovation and creativity. As educators, we should never close our classroom doors on creative opportunities. We become a project facilitator, a collaborator and a co-creator when students are embracing full ownership of the design process. We should reflect on:

  • how are we creating opportunities for ownership of risk-taking for learning?  
  • how are we allowing students to negotiate and socially network their thinking? 
  • how are we allowing emotional problem-solving?
I will share some students' reflections as a conclusion:

"While we created our conception we were very enthusiastic about being able to help out animals with our own ideas, we encountered problems, but we persevered and finished our conception. Our hard work paid off and I am proud of what we made together. I am glad that we have these opportunities to work together and be part of a community."

"To create our ideas, my group and I created our own ideas and took one factor to build onto the other ideas. We were very creative and it showed when we interacted our conception to improve it. We iterated our project four times and every time we fixed more problems we encountered. Our experience will help us improve our critical thinking and collaboration, While also being able to improve our interpersonal work because of what others have taught me. "

"In my group, we had a lot of open-ended conversations. We discussed all the ideas we had, the pros, the cons, who will do what, who knows how to use Tinkercad, ect. In the end Austin did Tinkercad, but he didn’t know Tinkercad like other people in our group did. That’s just one example of learning how to use tools we didn’t know how to use very well. To find the final model we went through about 4-5 different ideas, each person added to one of those ideas, but they still weren't the best idea we could come up with. I heard “What if I might” or “What if we did this..” a lot. Finding the solution to all the problems took up a lot of time. Then when Stephanie came, she told us more information on what we’re doing and what she’s looking for. "

"During our working process, we worked as a group. We worked as a group while we worked documenting our process. I think my group developed good, thought out ideas because we all know each other well and know that the other people won't judge our ideas. "

"We collaborated efficiently and constantly to create a solution that will help animals. Our solution is a 3D printed model that follow the criteria while enabling us to add our own creative ideas. Our conception has evolved into more advanced designs. We began with a ring with hooks to attach onto the bars, the lip of the bowl would be held up by the ring. My group and I thought of some possible problems though, one of the problems were the size of the bowl, some of them would be too small and would be able for the ring to hold it up and others may be too big and wouldn’t fit. After considerations we decided on making a bowl with hooks instead, then there wouldn’t be a problem with the size of the bowl. "

"I think I’m in accelerating because my group and I were extremely determined to finish the task. We all gave feedback to each other's ideas we had, for example: My first idea to print two connectors, they would snap together. One wound be on the inside and the other on the outside. The bowl would rest in an outline of a circle which is also connected to one of the pieces that snap together, then, you just snap it together and it stays in place. When I presented my idea to the group, I got feedback, good and bad. I got one saying that it would work, I got another saying that it wouldn’t fit because we don’t know the measurements of the bar. My team preserved well because like I said, we gave back feedback and we discussed the pros and cons. "

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Are We Enabling Students to be Explorers of Deep Learning?

September ends with so much learning and discoveries. As we build our community focusing on trust, valuing voices, perspectives, compassion and ownership of learning.  The students are overcoming the emotion of judgments and gaining the emotion that their opinions matter and there is no right or wrong.  The focus has been in believing in each other and connecting together by trusting each other's learning.

In this post, I am reflecting on: How have we been shaping up the learning? How are students owning the process?  How are students focusing on a purpose for their learning? I will also be sharing a glimpse of some of the tasks that we have and continue to explore.

The video of the babies provoked compassion and collaboration discussions. The students developed the collaboration criteria and determined the importance of intrapersonal, interpersonal skills, attitudes, listening, communicating and valuing others' thinking.

The Grade 7 learners also began the creative design thinking process through different tasks. Some worked on designing a toy for children in refugee camps. The teams who are working on science began exploring the design thinking process by looking at an injured bird with a missing a leg.

After creating their own individual designs, the learners shared them. Each colleague then had to value a team member's design to come up with one inclusive team design based on all values. Throughout the process, students paused and reflected on their collaborative and communication skills. I am so proud of how they have progressed by taking risks and accepting the ideations and the iterations of their designs through collaboration, respect and team compassion. 

From designing to building knowledge and valuing everyone's thinking. The Gr 7 learners unpacked French writing skills as they co-constructed texts and analyzed the grammar. They collectively ideated the text, improved the grammar by taking risks and learning together. The learning was then consolidated with the whole class. 

A video sample from a team about their toy. The students are sharing the videos of their designs with elementary students for feedback about their toys. 

In science the students continue to explore the process of valuing thinking, sharing, knowledge building, risk-taking and the importance of ideation and iteration.

Students are agents of their learning when they take full ownership of the process and collaboratively explore and construct knowledge together. They question and connect to all background knowledge which lead to  acquiring skills such as; researching to confirm, the ability to analyze, synthesize and explain in order to collectively decide on their learning. 

On our walk to Beaver Pond, the students explored and assessed 3 ecosystems. They learned about the interdependence of the systems, both positive and negative human impacts. They tested the water, learned the history of imported plant species and the geography of the systems. They collaboratively documented about their trip and are still interpreting the data by using the Ladder of Inference (Rotman IThink). This week the learners will unpack their research through the Causal Model (Rotman IThink) of the living and non-living elements for a healthy ecosystem. 

Below is a copy of a student's documentation and consolidation with the team about what he has learned and confirmed. The richness is in the communication and thinking skills that the students explored during the collaboration of the documentation. I made a copy of the slides, unfortunately the feedback comments do not show. 

Documentation and analyzation were used to interpret the collected data that took many forms. Some on papers, some on whiteboards and some were able to communicate and type directly online.

The essence of the ownership of learning is reflecting. The students reflected about the process of collaboration and communication during learning tasks. They reflected about their actions on learning while determining anti-goals or unlearning in order to make room for more learning.  Students had very powerful reflections about the fear of communicating and collaborating.  The students need to believe in their voice, and have confidence in experiencing learning and owning it. They are learning that mistakes are important and not failure rather it is learning through risk taking. During collaboration and communication skills, it is important for the students to connect intrapersonal ( background knowledge) and interpersonal learning with others.

During Science discussions the students talk about the rewilding of the ecosystems in order to re-establish life back. I think the same needs to be introduced in the classroom, is to re-establish students ownership and love for learning.

  • Re-charging for learning and risk taking
  • Re-releasing students for thinking and confidence
  • Re-owning the process
  • Re-exploring by creating their learning than consuming
  • Re-connecting their background knowledge
  • Re-creating trust to innovate and learn through failure/mistakes

The students need to feel comfortable making mistakes together and rebuilding by collaborating and communicating with their peers without any fear and embarrassment.

As I continue this journey with my Grade 7 learners within the 50 minute blocks, I am learning the path by reflecting and learning from them. As I refocus by re-establishing thinking skills, ownership of learning, creativity, citizenship and character for learning. My ultimate purpose is to constantly change with my learners' needs. Focusing more on problem solving and interdisciplinary creativity.

How can we make the curriculum flexible? How can we make the learning from the curriculum deeper? How are students being creators and innovators than imitators? How are students learning by collaborating, communicating and creating? What learning tasks and opportunities am I creating for student to feel safe at making mistakes for learning?

How will students become agents of their own learning? Unpack the fixed mindset to start rebuilding and developing their confidence of risk-taking that their thinking matters and there is no judgment! Celebrating mistakes, allowing retakes and reflecting as the students and I believe that vulnerability is encouragement to be a class of risk takers.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Job Fueled By Passion!

It is rare when you have a job in your life that you really love based on the daily unique human connections which make you reflect and learn. In an environment where you continue to grow your learning while facing unpredictable obstacles, growing through discomfort and taking risks, It is not considered just a job!

The most rewarding part about being an educator is going through the challenges and the obstacles of caring expectations and compassions. That means creating new perspectives, acquiring new skills and pushing boundaries. Yes, and sometimes empathy putting ourselves in the students' positions.

As educators, we shouldn't always be in our comfort zone. At times, we should challenge our thinking skills, be open and continue to learn new experiences. These discomfort experiences will guide us to continue to learn and progress. Our personal growth will depend on the challenges and the activities that we will encounter throughout the year. We need to give ourselves the time and act beyond the usual. The great part is knowing that you are not alone in this rewarding and at times exhausting journey! You have a community of supportive experienced colleagues around you and online to reach for feedback.

As we shift our mindset, we also shift and grow with our learners' mindset. We focus on the causes and effects of learning and how the learning process is chaotic.

It is important to accept the chaos as learning! The discomfort is also the unlearning for students to make room for learning. We need to listen to what the learners are saying. Think of ourselves in their shoes and make changes based on conversations through feedback or better of, feedforward as we determine next steps with our learning.

It is a job in a learning environment where we can observe, engage and be motivated to learn with the students. These are opportunities for us to converse and learn more about their thinking. Sometimes listening carefully for empathizing and figuring our students' emotions and obstacles for learning.

We often make assumptions based on our observations while conversations with the learners based on observation data, guide us on how the learners need to move forward. We learn most when our assumptions are challenged. We need to assess the effectiveness of the learner's learning and reasons for difficulties and successes.

The mastery of learning with the learners is not just about achievement or grades it is about developing mental, social and emotional skills. We also need to practice what we would like our students to achieve.  We need to create self-learning environments through leading by example. We need to embrace the challenges and we should take the challenges as learning steps with a positive attitude rather than negative uncertainties. Valuing our own journey and creating positive interactions with our learners is more than a job, it is a journey fueled by the passion for learning!

As I begin reflecting on my new year, with changes from 2 groups of Grade 6s to 4 groups of Grade 7 students, I am reflecting on:

  • How will I take the time to personally learn about every student's aspiration, interest, background, and particular learning needs?
  • Finding ways to motivate students to see the value of themselves when learning and impacts of their imagination and creativity to the learning process.
  • Providing a safe place for inquiries, explorations of thoughts, building a community and wonderings about local, national and global changes.
  • Giving opportunities for students to be courageous, accept failure, document their personal journey, reflect on their compassions and how they are making a difference in their lives and in others.
  • How will I be creating meaningful and purposeful learning opportunities for the learners to be empowered and be in control of their process?
  • How will the learning environment support collaborative, communication of thinking skills and flexibility for critical thinking, creativity, and integration of interdisciplinary for making and designing through many tools?  

It is not easy to change mindsets!  As educators how will we model compassion, take time with learners to build a safe motivating and innovating culture for all while honoring reality? Will we take the time to get advice from our learners before we give them advice?

A video to reflect on: What if We Didn't Have Teachers? By Trevor Muir

Monday, August 7, 2017

Divergent Interactions!

I owe this blog post to my Grade 6 learners, after going through their electronic folders of evidence, reflecting and capturing the learning. As They are owners of all of their creations I wanted to save evidence of learning for future references.

Throughout the year, all learning is focused on how the learners develop their thinking of the learning process. As educators, we are focused on shifting our learning with our “students” learning. It is about meeting our learners where they are, believing in them as they believe in themselves for the potential of achieving.

As educators, we get attached to control and it becomes hard to accept letting go of students' ownership and responsibilities. It is finding ways to have our learners take full ownership, reflect and capture their process of learning. I find that when teachers feel they lose control they become more controlling. I always hear that “students” do not have enough experience to develop empathy. How do students grapple with issues and getting students to create while others are in mind?

The Grade 6 learners explored water as a local, national and global focus during Water Week February 17th. We focused on interdisciplinary learning and problem solving throughout the year about UN Sustainable Global Goals and Canada's interactions with the goals.

The Grade 6 learners were provoked through online discussions: Dr. Fox about Environmental Threat to Canadian Waterways, CBC documentary on FNMI communities and water pollution, read texts about Muskrat falls (Les Chutes de Muskrat), Is Water  Safe To Drink In Canada? (Est-ce que l'eau est potable au Canada?) La crise de l'eau, UN articles about water pollution at FNMI communities and Danielle Taillon an engineer from the University of Ottawa who shared her experiences with FNMI youth and provoking students with Engineering Discussions on a sustainable solution for water from Water Wind Design. Through their curiosities, some learners found the corruption over the history of unsustainable infrastructure of water plants.

All learners documented their research on water and the process of designing the water filters. It goes beyond the creation of the water filters. It is about the collaboration, critical thinking, developing character, citizenship and communicating the process of being innovators and creators.

The learners always take notes and document their own learning. When listening to English Hangouts with experts they type in French their new learning.  It is amazing how they take full accountability and responsibility at developing their thinking when listening to experts. Below is a sample of students documentation of her learning.

A Padlet of curation about the water crisis in Canada and the government's' investments over the years

Made with Padlet

Two samples of their researching in teams on FlipGrid, They all had a chance to respond and learn from each other I closed the others due to privacy

Please view the slides of Grade 6 Learners designs, documentations, feedbacks from experts engineers. Iterations, prototyping, testing, and reflections focusing on the competencies throughout the process.

Experiential learning of collaborative innovation has been the foundation throughout the year for the learners by interacting with several problem-solving projects during the year.

The learners persevered with their own challenges and inquiries to seek solutions. They have proven the mindsets to take risks, to be innovative by reflecting on the collaborative ideas and valuing each other's thinking during the process. They combined their thoughts and added values to each other's discoveries and learning.

The major inspiration is about the social and emotional development of skills, accepting feedback, determining next steps and understanding the ‘how’ of learning. The Grade 6 learners developed a sense of meaning and a purpose to persevere. It is about the equity in thinking and how they collaborated, encouraged each other, challenged the assumptions, encouraged ideas generations and group discussions. Learning is about the human divergent interactions and the emotional level to inspire momentum and qualities of building the confidence to problem solve as students invest in the process of learning. They built the trust and commitment to innovation, creativity, critical thinking and communication.

The learners grew empathetic as they became explorers & innovators by creating and always ready to take creative risks. They became divergent thinkers, respecting each other's thinking by embracing challenges and accepting failures. It is letting the students bring their ideas to life based on real applications, real feelings and building a culture to understand and experience others' feeling. It is abandoning their ego (Post on the Unlearning), having genuine concerns and the sense for building to nurture and help by being proactive and reactive.

Everything that we do in the classroom or learning environment has an impact on students' life not only in the classroom, also to their future. It is not only a shift of mindset of the students, also a shift of mindset for us as educators to take risks and accept failure as part of the process. (Blog Post on End of Year reflections)

What could we do to facilitate the human aspect to learning? Is to give every learner a voice, a choice, respect to them and to each other, valuing all contributions for a communal process of learning.

Are we allowing learners to question things why they as they are? How are we impacting learners’/students' learning journey and how are we impacted by them?