Curiosity to Explore

In the midst of nippy wet weather, January ushers in celebratory possibilities.  Renewed energy, new beginnings and perhaps that spark of anticipation leads one to hopefulness and curiosity.  Here are a few ideas to explore (connected to literacies, collaboration and connectedness).  The image below hides interactive layers of communication. (Click to reveal.)

Created using Picmonkey.com and Thinglink.com

I can imagine sharing research, story, and experiences. Perhaps a scavenger hunt to teach a content area. There is no limit to possibilities. How are you engaging in new forms of communication? I would love to hear any of your stories.

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One Word for 2015

bookpages_ed

A new year offers a flurry of activities. Like a book, the pages begin anew ready for anything you place upon it. For those of you who have a New Year’s resolution, plans go into full swing to make it happen. You might broadcast it to your family or quietly commit to take those first steps. Or you may be one of those who throw it all out and consider it just another day. No matter what, the new year does offer an opportunity to reflect and consider a new path.

There has been a movement on Twitter away from full out declarations towards a single word or two (#oneword). A single word to capture the essence for the year; something I think is less daunting than a declared resolution. (I don’t know about you but I’ve broken more resolutions than I can count.) Here are some of the most recent from my PLN: #empower, #intentional, #joy, #appreciate, #less, #change, #facilitate, #focus, #relationship, #trust, #courage, #wonder…   I love all of these. Landing on one has been challenging indeed. In 2012 I used #celebrate (see post). oneword_2015This year I decided on #inspire – to inspire and be inspired. I’m excited about what the pages of 2015 will reveal in ways that one can only imagine. I’m also looking forward to the collaborative conversations (both face-to-face and online), which will no doubt spark those dreams to lift off the pages.  

Come join me in this journey – what is your “one word”?  I’d love to hear from you.

Thinking in Questions – Strategies

questions_globalIf the act of questioning is so important to problem-solving and creativity, how do you teach “how to think in questions”?  We make assumptions that questioning is automatic. Experience tells me that it isn’t. While there are many layers to great questioning, small activities interspersed and integrated into a regular day may provide connections more than a single lesson or unit (just how would one do a unit on questions?).

This activity is partly based on the flashcard and group generation method. questioncards It can be used any time you wish to generate questions from different lenses. For each group, hand out a bunch of flashcards that have a single word on each card (How..Why..What..Who..Where..).  Provide a topic of study (eg. cetaceans in captivity, pipelines, etc.).  Have each group generate questions under each flashcard (these can be scribbled on strip paper or post-it notes). Place the same question terms on classroom walls. Have students collect and collate all of the questions under each term. They can categorize as to ‘fat’ or ‘skinny’ questions and why. Consider gallery walks to generate broader questions. Students can then write a post culminating their thoughts.

Or how about using a technology platform like Google Hangout to connect GHangout_questmarkwith another classroom in a different location and participate in a ‘Mystery Hangout’. To do this, teachers might create a class account in Google. Generally the process is a merge between 20 questions, communication and battleship. The goal is to practice developing great questions to cast a better net of answers. Once questions are generated, the teacher sets up a date/time with another teacher to have the hangout. (Consider time zones if connecting to other provinces or countries.) A question is posed live to the other site.  The response gained offer clues to the answer from the other site. You can certainly tell that pre-practice of questioning is a must before connecting online. Imagine using this process to gain information on geography, history or science. Using Google Hangout can open the door and flatten the classroom walls creating a connected environment.

How do you create opportunities to practice questioning? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Making Visible Connections in Unlikely Places

bench_windwillowThese benches have been popping up all over London this summer. They’re crafted as an open book and painted with scenes from a specific book. This one tells the story of Wind in the Willows and sits just across from (can you guess where?).  The benches were the result of a collaborative brainwave from the National Literacy Trust and Wild in Art group to promote reading. You can actually get a map that you can do a scavenger hunt for all of them – what fun. What got me really thinking was the genius-ness of the idea.  A perfect backdrop for conversation with anyone you meet along the way.

How many times have we been so engrossed in our lives or focused on our smartphones that we miss out on the beauty of the moment or the people crossing our paths? There are many competing forces at play that take time away from those opportunities to interact. Connections happen in the most unlikely of places; an acknowledgement to a fellow runner on the path, a casual chat with a neighbour about their garden, a smile to the harried cashier at the grocery store, a conversation at the farmers market about the variety of new apples popping up on shelves. Each situation offers an environment to interact much like the London book benches.

So here’s a challenge for all of us. How are you finding time to blend the ‘world of busy’ and the ‘world of the here’? How would you create the spaces in your schools, classrooms, workplaces to invite the interaction? Really interested in any ideas.