We just finished a districtwide Pro-D, where for the first time we squeezed 2000 people into one building. So parking was quite hairy and the deluge of rain didn’t help matters. Once inside, the atmosphere was positively electrifying (thanks to the facilitators and participants). Our opening started with North’s own marching Viking band, keynote Abe Fernández (Director of Collective Impact, the Children’s Aid Society and Co-director of South Bronx Rising Together) and then hundreds of workshops and ‘edcamp-ish’ conversations to choose. My team of three led four sessions – a crazy rewarding day of connected energy.
Here are some things I learned:
- Building community and togetherness is everything even though the only building that can handle the numbers is a very old one! Crossed our fingers as fuses blew…
- New experiences have to be connected to what you understand and then move from there
- Individuals make personal conscious decisions to learn new things. What is ultimately worth learning is usually difficult and messy. It takes courage to make the leap.
- Sometimes people will try something only because they know you will support them
- When you see something with a new lens, you can never go back
Pro-D, while meant as a learning experience, is really an event. How will you carry these sparks and these challenges to thinking into your classrooms or offices? That’s where the magic happens.
As a professional, reflection takes up a large part of our lives. Active choices stem from reflective moments steering our professional learning. Ultimately that learning reflects back into our classrooms with students.
We were privileged to spend Friday with a group of K-12 teachers and student teachers at Burnaby Central. Titled “Blogathon“, it provided an opportunity to experience the social media world with our blogs. Goals of the participants ranged from a basic understanding of how to communicate using social media, how it could be used to have students dialogue with each other (increasing literacy skills), how it flattens the classroom by inviting experts and other schools (critical thinking), how to share information with parents and community (green friendly world), how to use blogs as a vehicle for formative assessment, how to integrate various web tools as teaching/learning workflow, how digital citizenship plays a key role today.
Beyond the basics, we looked at images and resizing (even the new copyright changes), using widgets to extend information [News Announcement, T-Countdown, Google Language Translator, MailPoet (as subscription), Gravity Forms (surveys)…]
*Written instructions can be found under LEARNING HUB > BLOGS > HOW TO.
Throughout the day, participants explored, created, extended comfort levels as well as shared their experiences and challenged personal thinking. What vividly stood out was the collaborative nature of learning; fully hands-on, dynamic, open, questioning and connecting. Comfort was felt in jumping over and helping others – result was empowerment of others as well as a spark that the ‘helper’ knew more than they thought. And yes, there were frustrating moments when the technology didn’t work. The experience served to provide other avenues of learning. Patience was a virtue and we had lots of chances to practice that.
Some snippets of overheard conversations:
- This is amazing… I can see how this would work in my language arts program
- You can’t be serious – I can use the ipads with the students to go directly to the blog. This is live ideas gathering if we use Padlet on the blog.
- (eyes sparkled) I’ve been waiting for this for a long time; Gravity Forms will ‘change my life’ (in how I can assess)
- I can’t wait to teach this to my class…it’s more than I hoped for. I can use the math lesson, capture it, put it on the blog and have students discuss it on the blog.
- You mean I can actually send my news to parents automatically! What will you think of next?
- I love the web tools – picmonkey, edu.symbaloo, padlet, pixabay… They’re going to love learning these.
- There’s so much – this is so much fun. I want more.
The success of any Pro-D happens at the intersection between the relationships, environment and the desire to seek out and grow. These are growth mindset opportunities to be in an ‘ideas incubator’ to construct new knowledge, deconstruct obstacles and be re-energized on the journey.
What was your PSA day like? I would love to hear.
If 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. 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 with 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.
Have you ever looked at a dandelion? I mean really looked at it from all facets? OK so you have to crouch down, let your imagination flow, and ignore the stares that will obviously come. In a little while, you’ll get a stream of questions from a group peering over you, “What are ya lookin’ at? Did you lose something? What’s going on?” This is what happens when you wander the playground during recess or lunch at a school. Sooner or later you’ll get a crowd and then the questions start slowly at first, then a cavalcade erupts as curiosity builds. Admittedly some questions are quite impossible to answer in this lifetime.
I started this partly as an experiment, partly as a idea to find and explain the meaning of beauty and partly to get some fresh air. In all ‘worlds-logical’ a dandelion is a weed and one that takes genius power to eradicate. Yet here it is growing in spite of the odds, in-between the cracks, almost daring you to stop in your tracks. Sometimes I wonder if some of our students are like this, growing in spite of the odds against them. Or perhaps existing until someone takes notice and allow their genius or spark to flourish. I wonder what would happen if we connected to that little spark – would the outcome change? I wonder what would happen if we took the questions so authentically offered and placed them inside our school walls, allowing them to fill the rafters. Then cradle them gently and give them voice and choice to find their own answers. Then what would happen… I’m feeling that a “learning walk” might be in order.
What do you think will happen?