Classroom Connections

Over the past 18 months I have been lucky enough to build a wonderful personal learning network, mostly through Twitter and blogging.  I couldn’t begin to list the ways it has helped me to further my learning and my teaching.

This year, participating in the PLP Connect U project, I have continued to build a connected network of wonderful educators who inspire me to learn more, teach better and share often. These connections allow me to bring experiences into the classroom I know would not have been possible before, such as the learning we did yesterday.

Our inquiry unit for this term is, ‘How do we design and create furniture for a particular purpose?’ After spending the last few weeks learning about the design and features of different chairs we are now delving into the design process of making our own model chairs.  It soon became evident we needed some skills in woodworking from someone with a greater knowledge than mine.

With perfect timing I happened upon the blog, which the PLP Connect U – Animals and Habitats team were using to share their experience of Project Based Learning. They had made possum boxes at one of their schools and it was obvious they needed some woodworking skills to produce this.  It was time to do some investigating.

After an email to Ben Gallagher, he was able to suggest a student who had worked on the boxes and was happy to do an Elluminate session with us.

So yesterday the kids all crowded around the Interactive Whiteboard to hear Harris’ presentation.  It was amazing! Harris worked through the slide show he had prepared, sharing with us tips for using a hammer, a drill and saws as well as how to choose the correct wood.  He spoke with such confidence and the students were mesmerised by his expertise.  He then answered our questions without hesitation. We did have a few technical hitches where our class didn’t have a microphone but it certainly didn’t matter, especially as we now have the recording.

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As a teacher it was such a powerful experience to watch our expert share his knowledge with the class.  And he wasn’t an expert in the traditional sense but someone who was confident in his knowledge and willing to share it. The students in the class listened attentively and took on board all of his advice. Can teaching and learning be any more authentic?

How have you connected with an expert, classroom or teacher?

Do you have a similar classroom experience to share?

Me as a learner

I have been participating in the PLPConnectU project and I am having a fabulous time learning!

The project is based around building a network to bring about new learning specifically based around passion based, 21st Century learning.  Our project began when we met face to face in March and since then we have developed a group of teachers working as a network to converse around a specific question (What is creativity?)

"Creative Hands" - Mindy

We are currently about half way through the project and already my ideas and beliefs have taken a huge turn.  I guess one of my highlights of the project so far is how powerful a network is for forcing you to question what you believe in and more importantly why you believe in it.  Just as I begin to be clear in my thoughts about what creativity is someone throws in a new question which takes me back to the drawing board.

I have also enjoyed the chance to sit in the shoes of my students.  For each step of this project I have compared myself and my learning to that in my classroom, from how I chose the group I worked in to how I reflect on my learning.

I didn’t actually choose my group based on a passion of mine but the people I would be working with.   I have seen the students in my class choose their teams based on similar reasoning.  In fact we discussed this in my class recently with students choosing their groups based on their friends, groups most likely to succeed and based on what there passions are.  All valid reasons in specific situations.

The topic choice was pretty much irrelevant in my decision to join this group which may be the reason I was completely on a different path to others in the group.  With cretaivity given to the group as a beginning topic my mind first went to art and being artistic.  But the power of the network soon changed my thinking to creativity as something I should be adding to all aspects of my classroom.

Many readings and discussion later I now have these questions I am reflecting on;

How do I encourage creativity in my classroom?

Do students feel creativively nurtured and supported in my classroom?

Does my teaching give opportunities for students to take their own initiative?

How can I be more creative in how I teach?

Are you teaching for the 22nd Century?

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to meet up with some amazing educators to kick off our PLP ConnectU project.  This is a project funded by DEECD (Dept of Education in Victoria) is an opportunity for teachers to challenge the traditional view of teaching and learning.  Sheryl Nussbaum–Beach and Will Richardson, two educators who I highly respect and admire, kicked off the project yesterday.  We had many wonderful discussions about education and what we believe it should look like in the 21st century.

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In one discussion we were asked to answer the following questions

What about the world and society has changed since you went to school?

What about students has changed since you went to school?

What about schools has changed since you went to school?

What should school 2.0 look like to accommodate learners of the 21st century.

These questions were actually questions I had asked myself in the last couple of weeks as I was reading ‘The New Rules of Engagement – A guide to understanding and connecting with generation Y,’ by Michael McQueen. If you get a chance this is a great book and as it is not too long so it makes for a great weekend read.

The book begins by looking at the different types of generations and the worldly events, which have moulded each generation and concludes with strategies for educators and parents to engage different generations.

It addresses the fact that one generation can never be better than another, but each generation reflects the world of its time and is a production of the generations before it.

One thing that amazes me is that teaching has had limited change, where as learning has changed considerably.  Why, when we are teaching a generation of the ‘How and Why’, do we we continue to teach them the ‘When and Where?’   We are teaching a generation of children who have the content at their fingertips, understand the notion of lifelong learning, anytime, anywhere.

I was told last week that children who have a birth date post 2010 have a a fair chance of making the 22nd century.  To me this is a very powerful as I am not now just teaching for the 21st century but the 22nd century as well!

How will you teach students in the 21st century so they are still learning in the 22nd century?

How do you think the world, students and school have changed since you were a child?

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