Friday, 13 December 2013

My own developmental learning today

For those that know me, or talked to me for any length of time know that I am pro inquiry and pro contextual learning.  I can get very researchy (yes I did just use that word) but in essence it is because I know that it helps and improves a wide range of students.  It gives as many students as possible the ability to learn at their pace, no matter what that pace is, while still teaching a whole class.  Well today I experienced that learning for myself.

Today, we completed our first E-book using book creator (@bookcreatorapp).  This lesson was one of the most rewarding experiences ever, if you ever get a chance try doing a book like this.  Anyways, back to my learning, it all started with me trying to share this wonderful book with my parents.  The app allows you to put it in ibook, or PDF.  It is quite simple, all you do is push a button, but for some reason it was not working.  Well I ended up tweeting it out and @bookcreator sent me a tweet back with a how to tutorial, which help immensely.  It was like that perfect question, at the perfect time that created this "aha" moment for myself.  Before this I was in a state of disequilibrium, where I was getting frustrated but yet still trying things.  I was asking questions, going back to my own prior knowledge, however, I still needed one critical piece of information to move forward. 

Has this ever happened to you?  How about when you are teaching?  I know that when I am teaching through inquiry, I try to plan these critical questions and think ahead for potential problems.  I let my students be in that state of disequilibrium because it is an important state to be in.  Without it I would not have been able to retain the information given.  If I was given the tutorial ahead of time I would have just followed it and then done the work; however, if I had to teach it or do it again I wouldn't know what to do.  Now that I have struggled through it and was given help at floundering stations I was able to retain the information.  In addition, it also shows that learning happens best in a community.  Learning is not in isolation and is created in a variety of ways.  Students learn as a community too.  We work through problems, help each other out and the learning grows from problem to problem.  At the beginning students may not know as much but by the end they are all pretty close in their understanding. 

As I look back at my experience today it just shows you that their is a lot that needs to happen for real learning to happen. Community, context, critically placed questions, a state of disequilibrium and help a long the way all contribute to this learning. Would love to hear how you create all of these things in your classroom? 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

My first attempt at a provocations

So I have been reading about provocations a lot from Kristi Bishop, a Vice Principal in the Hamilton Board (@kkeerybi) and from Aviva Dunsinger a teacher in Kristi's school.  In fact it was Aviva who passed Kristi's blog on to me.  At first I was kind of like what is that word "provocations"  I mean I have heard of provoking but to be honest never provocations.  Now I will also admit that language and me do not get along.  It is one of my weakest areas but one that I am constantly working towards getting better.  So it is not surprising that the word was not familiar to me. So like any life long learner I googled the word.  It means testing to elicit a particular response or reflex. I am starting to understand.

Well now that I knew the word I was able to go back and read how Kristi was promoting its use in the classroom.  The more I read the more I wanted to see it in action.  I looked to kindergarten and another amazing educator Laurel Fynes @kynderynes has an amazing post:

Well this got me thinking about a simple provocation of my own.  Today I put up three words on the board (other words where from previous white board use):

I then put out three bins of 3 dimensional solids and had the kids name the solids.  It was truely amazing to see all of the kids working at this task.  You can read all about the lesson on my storify:  I know that those three words don't mean much but they were enough to get the students thinking and moving towards understanding 3D figures.  In fact shortly after this we had a talk about the properties of 3Dfigures. Here is what they came up with:

I then had the students take the IPads and use educreations to talk about the shape name they chose and why.  Tomorrow we are going to have a congress about them and debate the names.  ,y hope is that they will have a better understanding then if I told them.

Now you may ask me how is this different then any other lesson.  Well for me not much, except my provocation became my context. Normally, I would have a minds-on activity and then set a context for the learning.  Today the provocation became the reason my kids wanted to learn.  

However, from a traditional text book a lot has changed.  Think back to how you learned geometry. If you were like me it was the teacher pulling out shapes and 3D figures (even though I was told shapes) and then proceeding to tell me their properties.  We then opened the textbook and practised.  Now you reflect, which method will help kids understand, one I which they developed understanding and then consolidated it by having peers validate their findings or one where the teacher did the learning and the students absorbed the learning? 

What provocations allow a teacher to do, is set-up a context for learning.  It hooks a student into the problem and makes them want to explore further.  I am still new at this and I no means an expert, would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.  Any provocations of your own to share? How would you use it I the classroom?