Two weekends ago, I attended #beyondblogging with a group of teachers from CA. The great thing about this group of CA teachers and staff, is that I don’t always collaborate with them regularly on instructional technology and it was great to chat with them about what’s going on at our school seen through different perspectives.
Jabiz and Rebekah were confident leaders, guiding us through activities and discussions for which they did not have the answers, but allowed us to make our own conclusions and actions for our own next steps. I feel that that is something very important as a teacher to remember. I felt more of a learner because I felt like my thoughts not only contributed to other “students” but to everyone in the room. These leads me to the first of my two big take-aways…
1. The Leaders. The Presentation. The Workshop.
I feel like I am a good teacher… to middle school students. Where I know I can improve on, is my presentations and sharing with adults. It’s a much harder gig to stand in front of the faculty or adults you’ve never met than standing in front of my middle school Design Teachers. I think that being a good presenter to adults, especially teachers, is a really important skill to hone. Jabiz and Rebekah did this very well. They were down to earth, well-read, experienced and confident. They prepared a great two days of learning and collaborating. I find it a fine balance of keeping the workshops active: talking, sharing and thinking but not forcing adults to do kind-of ridiculous hands-on jigsaw activities that waste a lot of paper, that I really wouldn’t use in my whole class anyways. I also feel that the workshop was differentiated for beginning bloggers to those of us that have been doing it for years for ourselves and our students. It’s hard to differentiate a workshop or just plan it so everyone can get a lot out of it when you don’t know your participants because they are teachers coming from all over Asia for a weekend workshop.
2. Students Sharing in their Own Way… Even Unedited (gasp!)
Throughout the workshop, we were asked to share our thinking. With the exception of a few times, we could share how we wanted to. I shared my learning through a Vine, Instagram photos, blogging, Tweeting, and sketching on chart paper. Other teachers shared in different ways, but we all contributed in our own way and showed our learning. In my MYP Design classes, students can turn in products using a variety of media, because that is the nature of the course. However, I don’t differentiate the reflection piece (design folder) too much. There are some parts that don’t really lend themselves to other formats – like their sketches, but I could encourage them to post however they want, as long as they meet the criteria and I can find their work fairly easily. I could also encourage students to use the social media they use regularly to share their learning and passions.
So, I jumped right into it. The Monday after the workshop was the second week of my MYP Food Design 9 course, and it was the perfect time to present how I want students to share their “learning journey with food” throughout the course of the semester. I want students to share what they have created in and out of class and any other food products that inspire them to create. I offered some suggestions to the class. As I’m typing this, I’m thinking I should have had more of a discussion with the students as to what they want to use… (maybe we can talk next week, it’s still early in the semester to change).
But, already, I’ve gotten some great results.
I have students sharing photos on Instagram.
They’ve created Picasa albums.
They’ve created new categories on their blogs.
Now, the organization for me to find them all is not the best workflow in the world – it’s a Google Doc with the link to where they are posting work. For some kids they are just hashtagging their Instagram pictures with #cadesign9. This makes it a bit more than a one-click solution. BUT, it’s easy for them, and I think I’d rather it be easy on them than on me. Also some of their pictures have been retweeted and shared, which is great. I want them proud of their work. I don’t want them creating for me, for a grade. I want to see what they are passionate about. I want to see what they want to create and that they are thinking about food.
Now, this is much easier with my ninth graders, because they all have iPhones and are of the age where they can open up social media accounts. I need to figure out how to bring this down to my sixth grade. I can easily have them record their reflections with Photobooth and post their work. But is there more? What else can I do?
I also want to use specific language in my class for “un-edited work” and “finished, polish work”. A finished video takes a lot of time and can sometimes distract from the purpose of the task, but I think video is a great tool for documenting a variety of work and reflections. Video, with both the audio and visual piece can really show who the student is at that snapshot in their life, better than a bunch of text on a screen can.
So, I’ve gone off on a tangent a bit here, but as you can see, I’ve taken a lot away from the #beyondblogging workshop. I still need to think about our school blogs and their purpose and what students may be using in 5, 10, 15 years to share their growth, learning, service and passions. As always, I have 99 more ideas running through my head and got a few other great take-aways from the weekend, but I’ll save them for another day.