Sunday, November 6, 2016

Every Day Is Unique

There are so many challenging approaches to consider when we are thinking about education. For student-centered learning approaches the needs to be innovative, creative, critical thinkers, designers, deep learners, reaching  personalized learning, empathy, and many important skills are required. There are many views and experiences that educators, parents, and administrators face reaching these approaches.

How do we facilitate these purposes? How do we get students to experience these purposes?

I am by all means not an expert and my learning continues to be enriched from my students, my colleagues at school at the board, from the community whom I learn with and of course online learning.  Every day is unique for me and my students as we reflect, refocus, rethink, retry and unlearn to relearn.

My years of teaching experiences locally, nationally and internationally have guided me in making connections about the process of risk taking and learning with the students.

Many unpublished posts since September and spending October learning with many educators from the Makers Faire, EdInnovation, Ontario Makers and Mentors Innovation, many questions from participants and daily experiences with my students have energized me to write this post.

Every day is filled with unique challenges and these challenges drive our learning and our students’ learning experiences.

This year is a different experience for me. In previous years I have taught students for two or three consecutive years. Meeting my new experts this year and working together to learn compassion empathy and valuing thinking have been unique daily experiences. Learning is a process and we all know that it is not linear and it loops with many challenges that make us reflective researchers and learners.

I am following an advice from a friend by keeping my posts brief.  I just captured few slides that highlight the beginning of the year from 3 different thinking processes that I shared during EdInnovation Oct 22nd and 23rd.

The year begins by building a culture of reflectors, collaborative communicators, critical thinkers, creative learners whom together identify their intrapersonal character to connect a community of respect for themselves and others through interpersonal values of ideas.

Through many learning experiences which I will share in details from students in later posts, we continue to explore the unlearning for relearning and valuing the how and why of skills . It could be from walking into the classroom to content, concepts of learning as well as critical and creative thinking skills throughout the day. I have learned when reflecting and consolidating with the students to highlight the needs of unlearning to determine what we need to relearn. This lead to focusing on the value and the purpose of the how and why. The Backward Brain Bicycle is the video that the students always refer to when we unpack the unlearning.

This is important because our brains are always set in making judgements based on assumptions and predictions than unpacking the purpose and retrying with the focus on the mindset.  This is the learning through habits by recognising the unlearning.  It is a shift of mindset that requires for students to build new skills, to value and understand the learning process based on their individual needs.

It is a process of ongoing long-term goals of discomfort for learning growth. The students to become more comfortable with risk taking and tensions during learning. Being aware that habits of an unlearning are very important to explore and reflect upon in order to pursue the innovator's growth mindset by celebrating successes from failures. Basically, it is to continuously take the time, to improve through risk taking, reflect and identify  the unlearning, recognise and determine the effort of the unlearning for a growth of learning.

This growth also affects the classroom community culture and opens up students' minds by refocusing, reflecting and identifying their individual growth.  The insecurities and the overwhelming become part of our classroom valuable culture of empathising with each other as we all recognise individual risks. It is a long process to allow this mindset!

A growth mindset is more than just positive conversations; it is identifying the habits and developing a critical mindset of skills to unlearn for deeper learning.  It is giving students the skills to develop their learning. Giving them a voice to unpack their learning and become confident reflectors.

These quotes are so true:

“Teach students how to solve any problem, a general problem-solving approach. And teach them to do it in a community.” "That’s what’s really going to serve them as they go through life." Alan November


All students are capable of thinking and learning. We need to encourage the students to achieve a culture that learning is thinking, valuing others ideas, recognising tensions, risk taking and pausing to reflect and make habits of recognising the unlearning for relearning or learning.  

Have you risked the unlearning with your students? What unlearning have you done as an educator to achieve learning with your students?  Every child is a learner, am I giving them the time to discover and reflect on their learning? Every day is unique, what matters is, how are we recognising the uniqueness of changing our thinking and mindset? How students are recognising their mindsets in learning situations?


Monday, September 5, 2016

Experts At Learning!

I could never let go of the learning bond that the students and I experienced this past year. Now it is time to get excited to dive into another year of learning with a new group of learning partners.

This post was started in July and it has given me the chance to reflect on why students should always be considered as the experts in the classroom. I have just cleared up my camera roll, over 3000 pictures from last year. It is time to build on from last years experiences and connect with new relationships for valuing thinking experiences.  

The classroom and the school are all about the students! We, educators need to always give students the chance to be experts by allowing them to be critical about their learning and consider changes in their community locally and globally. The importance is for students to lead their own critical change and voice their opinions from collecting data, interviewing and letter writing to ministers or voicing their concerns to the school, local and global communities.

As educators we sometimes  focus  on what is to be done, let us focus on what is to be learned. The complexity and the risk taking during the learning process and taking the time to explore. Giving students time for learning how to learn. What is how to learn?

Is to think about:

  • How do students gain self-leadership more than just acquiring knowledge and applying it?
  • How to allow the students to build a character of compassion from and with their classmates and the world around them?
  • How to reflect and accept a partnership of trust from the classroom community in order for the students to flourish with the richness of self-leadership?
  • How valuing learning is possible to apply all skills? Collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity citizenship and character the 6C's from New Pedagogies for Deep Learning.

How did this process evolve last year? It evolved through Integrative Thinking from the Rotman I-Think Initiative. Through the Integrative Thinking process, students had experiences with thinking tools that enriched students leadership of valuing thinking with each other as a community. It has given the students the love and the purpose of why we learn and how we learn. The students became self-directed thinkers and risk takers of cross-disciplinary concepts that are relevant to their daily experiences while valuing all perspectives as a learning community.

The design thinking process is driven by the Integrative Thinking.  The process of ideation and iteration with a purpose of problem-solving to design and include students' original ideas that are unique to them and their community.

The key to any process is reflecting! If the students are not given the time to reflect and be able to think about the how and the why of the thinking  then learning is prescribed.  The students need to lead and modify from the foundation of basic skills to become self-directed learners.
Reflecting on failures, ideating, iteration, sharing, valuing their colleagues thinking and building on each other's learning, determining their learning goals, their learning processes and their products for making.

The students will start with the foundation of building basic skills, what is important is allowing them to become self-directed learners towards coaching and mentoring each other. The skills of being compassionate and empathetic when learning, is based on learning from the present and for the future. It is about thinking independently, responsibly and productively.

As educators, our students lead our learning, they are our experts ! They guide us to our critical thinking practices.

What love for learning and success of skills that are students acquiring?

I am sharing some videos of the students self-lead community initiatives.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Design Thinking A Storyboard Of Explorations!

The innovative process is a storyboard of risk taking through problem solving and collaborative creative tensions of students' thinking. Students explore learning by collaboratively problem solving learning to question, interact, consolidation and communicate leading to an exploration of valuing ideas from classmates. The process of innovation becomes a thinking skills process of wiring creativity and building on previous knowledge leading to create new knowledge of problem solving from technology, coding to rich conversations.  Throughout the year we need to equip students with thinking tools, confidence with risk taking when using programming and reflecting on learning as well as consolidating as a whole class on our learning journeys.

The United Nations Global Goals have been the focus throughout this year. Post on Global Goals The design thinking process is a long process for students based on ideations, iterations, self reflections on skills and consolidations for determining next step. For the Global Goals the students wanted to inform the community by taking their conceptions to business centres. Due to many school events sometimes the journey is held up. The students shared their journey with only the school community.

The slides below show the process from imagining, planning, refining and  reflecting about the thinking and the tools (Hummingbird, Lego Mindstorm, Makey Makey) of designs.

Design thinking is about the students' thinking process from goal settings and reflecting about every step of the process.  Having an audience for sharing is important especially to impact the audience by the design.

The following playlist demonstrates the process of sharing with the audience from the provoking steps to the reflections from the audience.

The full playlist will play through to view individuals; place the cursor on the left of the window for individual teams' videos.

This year has been a year of training and learning with the students. I will continue to embrace the creative, critical thinking and collaborative design process the following academic year. I will apply what I have learned and I look forward to new learning with the new group of students.

For educators it is important to embrace the learning with our students accepting successes, failures, uncertainties and the perseverance of the innovative learning process. The classroom community is our blueprint for our professional learning as we reflect from our students and our larger community from the school, the board  and of course the global online educators.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

What Really Matters!

The power of learning is connecting students to the real world and making every day learning realistic through problem solving.  The students need to become analytical and connect cross- disciplinary thinking to the real world based on political events, news makers to the arts and technology innovations. The key to the success is for the students to be initiated in discussions that would require gathering information, analyzing, interpreting and exploring possibilities.                             

In order for students to enrich their experiences about The Grade 6 Social Studies on Heritage and Identity, they collected data to assess contributions made by various groups to Canadian communities. The students applied the model of The Ladder of Inference ( I-Think Rotman School) for the mental process to collect data about Canadian identity, inclusiveness and multiculturalism. The data we collected were from three different sources, the retirement home open ended interviews with the residents, the CBC report about the Raptors and students own open ended interviews from their own community.

The students examined the data based on experiences and observations in the world around us. It was a very huge data especially from the retirement home. In teams students selected and interpreted based on their experiences and understanding. The interpretations lead to conclusions that became our bases for our understanding of inclusiveness and Canadian identity.

The following presentation has students’ samples from the visit to the retirement home and their interpretations from the collected data.

To continue with our understanding on multiculturalism I shared with the students  the CBC Report about the Raptors and multiculturalism.  The students collected the data from the video and interpreted it.

The students continued exploring with multiculturalism and inclusiveness by interviewing their parents, neighbours and people from their community. The following slides include examples based on the question:  Has Canada attained its goal of inclusiveness?  

The students' discussions were rich from historical facts to the present about inclusiveness that provoked many inquiries about the aboriginal treatment to the refugees and racism in today's society.

The students searched the The Canadian Encyclopedia  and inquired about the history and the presence of many cultures, the reasons for their arrival to Canada and their integration in our today’s society.

In order for the students to gather all the thinking for better understanding of many elements in the Canadian identity, we then focused on the causes and effects. From gathering so much data and inquiries about the past and the present and making their thinking more explicit and giving the opportunity for teams to share their thinking as they have explored many complex issues on inclusiveness, identity and multiculturalism. The students (in teams) shared their understanding about Canadian identity by developing a causal model ( I-Think Rotman School).

The students explored my maps to house their inquiry and thinking process on diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism. I will only share an example of the map. The students screencastified the causal models explaining their thinking. Please scroll through the layers of the maps to view the ladder of inference including the Causal Model and the videos. A screencastify of a student explaining the causal model 1  Screencastify of the causal model #2

There is so much to share and I need to improve on blogging often instead of sharing the full process with just the one post.

Through the Integrative Thinking the students have experienced effective collaboration to learn to leverage each other’s ideas by being deep flexible thinkers and problem solvers. This process from data collection to gathering thinking of causes and effects has given the students tools to challenge their thinking and deepen their learning. The complexity has become explicit based on their interpretation and allowing opportunities to expand their learning.

As educators we have to always think, how are we equipping our students to become effective collaborators with strategies to think and problem solve?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Students Crafting Their Learning

I finally found the time to reflect about the excitement and learning with the students on MinecraftEdu. The Ottawa Catholic School Board Learning Technology is piloting few licences of MinecraftEdu for next year and thanks for giving me the chance to to be part of the pilot project and it has been a learning journey with the students. Thanks to Learning Technology technician Matthew Murphy for his guidance with the set up.

In the past the students applied Minecraft to Social Studies on a classroom Minecraft account that I have purchased. They built a museum of  aboriginal peoples' adaptations to the environment.

It  has been a learning process that the students have embraced from the Integrative Thinking model to the Designing Thinking process for the mission to Mars.

Our inquiry began with the Integrative Thinking process from I-Think Rotman School of the opposing models of colonizing or not colonizing Mars and Venus. This year the students embraced the Integrative Thinking process, the causal model and the Prop Pro models that enabled them to dive into complex issues and tensions that enriched and embraced the students learning skills. Through the Integrative Thinking process, the students interact to become creators of their own thoughts by collectively building ways of understanding.

The students were provoked with so many current events about space from NASA daily news, SpaceX achievements to Ted Talks about colonizing planets, Learning from Chris Hadfield videos and of course the ISS missions.

Throughout the process the students unpacked self lead inquiries about the planets and space as well as looking at multiple stakeholders for colonizing from citizens, scientists and governments.

The students began by defining the compositions of the planet through the Pro Pro Model of colonizing or not colonizing Mars and Venus:

The students continued to persevere, problem solve and build knowledge by creating new ideas and articulating the models by focusing on the perspectives of citizens scientists and governments. Many students continued during recess by further thinking and problem solving their inquiries. 

This video is from a Periscope live broadcasting

The Students reflected on the models by thinking about the benefits that are connected to colonizing and not colonizing the planets and described those connections. 

The students came to the understanding that economic growth and natural resources are always key for decision making in  colonising both worlds. Beginning a new world on the planets, where all countries agreed on the growth and development with no historical confrontations. The students proceeded by designing and imagining what the colonies would resemble on Venus and Mars.


During the process the students continued reflecting on the competencies and certain dimensions.



Critical Thinking

From the Integrative Thinking we moved on to the Design Thinking process on MinecraftEdu  imagining and creating the structures of Mars by keeping in mind the conditions on the planet.

Again throughout the designing, creating  and planning process of Minecraft the students reflected on the skills that were being applied and acquired during the process.

We used free trial of Camtasia for students to capture their learning to explain how and the choice of blocks that they have used. This is an English version of a house structure on Mars.

Learning is not about teaching, it is about acquiring skills while students are experiencing and constructing their process of building knowledge, problem solving, creating and iterating ideas to design models in which they take full ownership of thinking and creating.

When students are crafting their learning it is not the learning of facts it is training each other to think through tensions of cognitive complexity.

Some questions to reflect on when students are crafting their learning:

How, as an educator am I giving them the chance to interact and develop skills and become the expertize of their own learning?

We are still looking for a professional feedback about our structures. I am hoping to contact CSA for feedback or if you know of anyone please let us know.

We found an astronomer through Virtual Research On Call to meet with students on-line and give feedback about the structures on Mars. Thanks to Ms. Pauline Barmby for taking the time and meeting with most of the groups. Each group was able to share, explain and take advice regarding the structures for colonisations in relation to Mars conditions.

A student's reflection about the feedback of the structure on Mars. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Designing With An Impact!

This blog focuses on promoting students voices and actions not only in the classroom as well as in their community.  Patricia Fiorino and I have a 3D printer through Teacher Learning and Leadership Program. The Grade 6 and the kindergarten students  have worked on projects together,  The 3D printing experience has been extended for Grade 6 students by applying their problem solving, collaboration  and creativity skills to passion projects.

To encourage the students' interactions through the school community, early in the year I approached our school resource teacher if the students could design and 3D print  objects that could be useful for the school's special needs students. The problems were presented to the Grade 6 students to design and use the 3D printer for passion projects not only for solving problems, also for serving the community.

The following videos represent the process from iteration of prototyping to the end users.

            The passion project for sequencing blocks.

The passion project for Math skills:

Video 1

Video 2

This link is A screencastify of Joshua explaining the changes on the numbers

Through this process of designing the students learned:
  • To value each others ideas 
  • To rely on each other to problem solve
  • To initiate and take matter themselves by coaching each other
  • To iterate many prototypes through feedback of end user
  • To take control in their own hands
  • To 3D design by monitoring area, ratio, volume, dimensions, coordinates on the plane and determining their next steps
  • To find solutions for the school community (more projects still to be completed)
  • To impact others in their community through a process of solving complex problems and that designing is full of iteration
  • To impact others by their innovations
  • To use the instruments of ideas and technology for a passion
  • To commit to a process of creating and orchestrating solutions in a large group task
  • To get feedback and insight from the users on next steps
  • To initiate innovation of intimacy of consuming time with users and unpacking what works and doesn't work
  • To engineer and think together as a process of research that is lead by them, a shift that is usually lead by adults
  • To accept diversity of thinking and abilities for designing 
  • To bring skills together from technology to multidisciplinary by building tensions of thinking 
  • To experience a process with many intensities for sharing ideas and challenges by getting great insights and solutions in a controlled chaos!

The students always empower me with their creativity,  perseverance and their drive to innovation.  Their drive and diverse thinking brought skills together from collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication with energy and motivation to create. The main concept that the students acquired through this ownership of designing process, is that designing is the iteration from technology to multidisciplinary thinking tensions that creates great insights for creative solutions.

The students independently became equipped with a way of problem solving and continuous exploration with the passion of iteration for success. They mapped their own challenges!
As educators how are we giving students experiences to connect and understand how to use their talent in serving their community?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

My students inspire me!

It has been a while since I have shared my learning experiences, The students inspire me and I owe them to share the process of  integrative thinking. I was just reading their reflections about the competencies which motivated me to pursue sharing our experiences.

As an educator the drive and the motivation for learning is developing on a daily basis through reflections and next steps. If the classroom learning is based on thinking and complex curiosities for creative purposes then I have to embrace the unexpected. It is not an organization of activities rather a transformation of values when learning through conversations, knowledge building, analyzing, reflecting and sharing. Reflection is the most important cause for the success, it is not an event! It takes place while observing students during the tasks, conversing with them and continuing to give students autonomy by questioning.

The  learning with me and the students unfolds together in an extraordinary situation through mistakes that are overcome by learning and growth. It is an experience of the unknown you just have to persist and follow through as it is student lead. Being wrong is a useful skill when trying, persisting than just failing. The learning for me is from the enthusiasm and engagement of the students. We travel together through the unexpected zones of the process. As educators  we should not be afraid of the unlearning, it is a trust of discoveries of  problem solving, valuing the learning through compassionate conversations that lead to more inquiries,

Thinking is not an organisation of activities. It is a process that is driven by the students' complex curiosities of problem solving. It is definitely messy and non linear learning.

Through Integrative thinking the competencies are unpacked and woven through, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, character and citizenship. As an educator I need to guide the students evidence of the 6 C's during the process by scaffolding reflections and bringing awareness of these competencies.

Here is an example of the 6c's from a team that collaborated, communicated and  focused on the critical thinking for knowledge building.

The student reflection focused on why they are accelerating in the progression of the dimension of Critical thinking and knowledge building. How during the Prop Pro model (Rotman I-Think) not only they were problem solving, analyzing and researching to confirm and learn new facts. They also pursued by adding a causal model to further the thinking of colonizing Venus and Mars.

A short video capturing the process

 A video of  conversations demonstrates the 6c's during team collaboration

Pictures about the integrative process and students' collaboration during team work after reflecting and persevering to develop their thinking.  the 1st picture indicates the initial research and the second picture further analysis. Pro Pro model (Rotman I-Think) of why colonize Venus and Mars or why not colonize Venus and Mars?

The initial integrative model followed by further analysis.


This reflection also refers by using the Pro Pro integrative thinking that the team collaborated with. The team was able to also analyze all facts, give examples and compare the reasons. This reflection shows how the team was leveraging technology through reliable sources.

The students deserve the right of growth. As educators we need to embrace learning as a life of a project.  There is no size in learning, there is lots of growth by enriching a process of competencies and thinking skills that is also self-directed learning.

Here are questions to make us think of learning and growing:
  • What situations am I creating for students not to learn individually?
  • How are students collaborating and orchestrating their learning?
  • How are students valuing and trusting all ideas? 
  • How am I integrating competencies during the learning process?