Posts tagged Matt
Deeper Learning Is...
That’s the prompt we were asked to think about during day one of the 2018 Deeper Learning Conference.  We were expecting to learn about Project Based Learning and High Tech High when we signed up for this conference.  We were caught off guard by the tone of the day. High Tech High played second fiddle to a much bigger idea, Deeper Learning.

The day started with 1200 educators in the High Tech High forum, with a salsa band playing energetic Latin-influenced grooves.  When they started to cover “Descpacito” and educators cut loose and started dancing, Jamie asked “is this Woodstock for teachers?”.  There was definitely an energy and buzz right from the beginning of the day.

So what is Deeper Learning?

Deeper Learning is...modelling the growth we want to see in our students.  Carlos R. Moreno, in his Keynote, stated that “Vulnerability is a part of good pedagogy”.  If we believe in teaching students the soft skills that they need to be successful in life, we have to model our own risk taking and willingness to be open and honest.  “We, as educators, need to be brave enough to share our own stories.”

Deeper Learning is…teaching our students to be competent.  There is a model to Deeper Learning and at its core lies six competencies.  65% of the jobs that today’s students will have haven’t been invented yet.  Armed with these competencies, students will be better equipped to work and learn in the world that is changing exponentially.

Deeper Learning is…a path to equity. Lindsay Hill said in her keynote that the system of school has been created using historical structures, put in place throughout our history to keep certain groups oppressed.” “We need to think about critical consciousness, racial equity, gender equity, classism, we need to talk about all of the ‘isms’ in our systems if we are TRULY about deeper learning.” The more we can talk about our biases, the more we can be the educators our young people need and deserve.

Deeper Learning is...trying something new, taking faith that the outcome may be unclear, but that growth and deeper learning as educators is guaranteed.  Michelle Clark, Co-Director of the Share Your Learning Campaign encouraged everyone to push out beyond their comfort zone.  As educators we were encouraged to leave our comfort zone, and to try something new.

Democratic Education

Deeper Learning students agency over their own education.  As Michelle said in her introduction, “We don’t give students voice, they already have one.  We just decentralize our leadership roles so that they can try them on to see the leaders they will become.  Many educators are attending this conference because they want to make school different. Gia Truong spoke about equity and how we can help our students feel like they belong.  If we can agree that we don’t like the story of school, perhaps it is time to change the storyteller.  Giving students more voice in their education is one way to do this.

Deeper Learning is...Beautiful work. Ron Berger, of Austin’s Butterfly fame, talked about the power of beautiful work: work that is not necessarily visually beautiful, but work that is made of actions in service of, actions of passion, actions of equity, of social justice.  Social Justice is needs to be at the core of the curriculum.

Deeper Learning is...evolving.  We are floored by how full our brains feel.  Both of us are looking forward to learning more tomorrow and refining our own personal definition of what Deeper Learning is.
Questions for High Tech High
Over the past year, many Halton teachers have been given the opportunity to watch the documentary Most Likely to Succeed.  Some of us watched it at evening screenings at various schools. Some schools screened the film during their Professional Development days.  Others have been given the opportunity to watch the film on their own.

If you haven’t seen it yet, Most Likely to Succeed follows a group of Grade Nine students as they attend their first year school at High Tech High, a school that focuses on Project Based Learning in San Diego.

The Staircase to Nowhere Project

If you teach in the Halton District School Board, you can find instructions on how to watch the full documentary here.  If you don’t work for our board, there are ways to screen a copy in your school or board.  It’s worth it!

We have lots of questions about how High Tech High delivers its curriculum.  We are fortunate to be attend the Deeper Learning Conference at the school next week and hope to get our questions answered.  If you have seen the documentary and have some questions that you’d like answered, please feel free to add them to this document.

We look forward to getting some answers!
Happy Shiftiversary!
It’s hard to believe that one year ago today we formally launched The Shift.  It feels like an amazing coincidence that this blog surpassed 20,000 views today too!

We’ve learned a lot over the past twelve months by talking to other educators, reading lots, visiting other teachers classrooms and generally taking risks and being open to failure.

We both are looking forward to more time in this role.  We like to think big and we aren’t done dreaming yet.
Reimagining the Final 30%
Jamie Reimagines Exams

A few years ago I got frustrated with traditional exams.  They were not exciting.  They were not a celebration of student learning.  It wasn’t a showcase of a semester of hard work.  It was a stressful slugfest for our students to regurgitate a semester's worth of learning in an arbitrarily short amount of time.  I realized I didn’t like my traditional exam because it was filled with questions, curriculum and content that I thought was the most important.  In a classroom where student voice is valued, I didn’t think this was an appropriate send off to my students.  I wanted to know what they found to be the most important components of my course.  I wanted to know what they learned, without having to force them down one defined path.

So I mixed it up.  Last year I gave my Advanced Functions students a choice.  They could complete a traditional final exam or they could complete a more open ended exam.  I called it the “Modern Exam”.

I allowed my students to change their minds up to the moment the exam was put in front of them.  I spent lots of time leading up to the final exam coaching each student about the choice they wanted to make.  I provided lots of review, study tips and time to prepare.  In the end, about a third of my class chose to attempt the Modern Exam.  This year, I’m providing this choice again and seeing about 50% of my students choose to try the more open ended exam.

The results don’t disappoint me either.

Matt Reimagines Final Performance Tasks

In our Art classes, we were also growing tired of our final performance task in grade 9 art.  The results of project that we had designed and used the last few years ticked all the boxes, it was safe, and well, a little formulaic.  It didn’t provide room for students to flex their creative muscle and lean on their strengths as creators.  So as part of a final 30% pilot, we redesigned the final performance task.  We called the project “Not-A-Box”, a reference to the imaginative children’s book by Antoinette Portis.  Our aim was to provide some structure and boundaries at the beginning of the project, by requiring students to choose two aspects of our learning from the art course.  The other requirement was that the students were provided with a cardboard box.  They had to re-imagine the box into an art piece and they had to use the entire box to do so.   The results were creative, and incredibly widely varied.  It was great to see students pulling this project in different directions.  There was healthy creative friction for some as they worked through what direction they wanted to take their work.  This is the first iteration of this project, so we will tweak and improve the project for the upcoming semester.

Both of us liked how the “Modern Exam” and “Not-a-Box” allowed students to access their own strengths.  Students had to be pretty self-reflective and look back on their own experiences in our courses.  In both our math and art courses we need to get better at supporting students as they explore their own choices in how they show us what they know.  We like that we are moving away from a teacher-student model to a model that more reflects mentorship.

If you had the ability, what would you change about your Final 30% Tasks?
What Does Success Look Like?
Matt and I are fast approaching our one year anniversary in this role.  When we started, last February, with the roughest of plans.  We were going to demonstrate how the Halton District School Board is building a shared culture of Innovation.  How we did that was left, for the most part, up to us.  No pressure.

We both really wanted to create our own Podcast, but some advice from Phil Davison and Cindy Cosentino led us to believe that it might be better to start with a Blog first.  So we dove in, blogging and then eventually launching our “Case For Innovation…” video series, followed by a few Calls to Action.  We’ve Shifted at The Barn, we’ve presented at conferences both inside and outside Halton, we’ve been vulnerable and silly.  In short, we’ve tried our best to put our own individual learning on display.

Matt and I have a lot of fun in this role.  We have a very fluid “to-do” list that gets pretty fuzzy around the edges.  With lots of balls in the air it’s sometimes tough to judge if we are making progress.  Most days we spend our afternoons together talking about what to post next, or perhaps we plan an upcoming visit to a classroom.  We worry about how to create more secondary conversations, both on and off the blog.

Matt turned to me the other day and asked, “If we keep doing this, what does success look like in three years?”

To say I was shook up would be an understatement, because I don’t know what our success might look like.  Many subscribers to our blog and lots of views on our videos would be nice, but that in an of itself doesn’t make us successful.  

We’ve learned that Innovation is a process that leads to improvements to a product, process or understanding.  

Given that definition of Innovation and that you are here reading this blog because (hopefully) you want to improve something in your practice, I’m curious what success might look like to you?  If you follow along with us for the next little while, what would your success criteria be?  How would you know if you shifted your practice?

In the end, my own personal success criteria is a moving target and I’m ok with that.  I want to Make School Different and in three years time I’ll be happy if I can look back and see that change.  I’d also be alright with us making a podcast or two.
Ignite the Spark
Last year, Halton was able to send 25 teachers to the 2017 OAME Conference.  There was lots of good learning and discussions during the three day conference.  What many realized was that there wasn’t much of a secondary conversation after the conference.  People were inspired, but what was lacking was a way to share that inspiration with other teachers in the board.

Enter Janet Juby and Laura Gatey, who were inspired enough to propose a Halton Mini-Conference in order to promote sharing.  Part of this mini-conference was a series of Ignite talks.  If you aren’t familiar with the concept, participants get 20 slides that auto advance after 15 seconds, giving you five minutes to speak about one topic.

Constructing an Ignite talk is a challenge, as you are forced to be very purposeful with what you decide to share.  I spent my five minutes speaking about Risk Taking and why I think encouraging our students to be risk takers is so important.

I was much more inspired by the other nine Ignite speakers.  I was left with a list of things I want to learn more about.

Tammy Knetchel validated my feelings about Interleaving and Spiralling.  She made me wonder what Interleaving might look like in other subject areas.

Erin Kinsella spoke about the need for Wellness in our classrooms.  The more I explore the ideas of Wellness, the more I see it is linked closely to Community Building.

Stephanie Briggs shared a story about her teaching philosophy and her desire to convince others that thinking is always greater than memorizing.

Lindsay Kueh nailed a talk about coding in math classrooms.  She made me want to diver back into coding and find ways to incorporate it into my classrooms.

Sheri Hill asked us why we are so excited about Fridays and asked how we can use play to engage our classrooms.

Todd Malarczuk encouraged us to jump on and off the various educational bandwagons at will.  Find the things that work for you, leave the other things behind and grow your own personal pedagogy.

Virginia Houston told the group about having students build their own Escape Room and show off their own learning by creating something.

Aaron Neal speaking for Michael Szarka, who was absent due to illness, stepped in and improvised a talk from Michael’s slides.  He did a great job convincing us that it’s ok to ask What If?

Matt Coleman joined the math world for a day and talked how we can gain longer periods of time with our students by Hacking the School Day.

What I really loved about the Ignite talks was how everyone focussed on personal inspiration, the teacher’s journey, their philosophy, their “why”, and not necessarily a strategy.   Passion was on display all day long!
Finishing Projects
There is something satisfying about seeing a project come to its conclusion.  I think it’s safe to say that the longer the project takes to complete, the more people involved, and the larger the scope, the more satisfying the conclusion.

I’ve been sitting on the outer reaches of a large project for the past six months, watching my friends Matt Coleman, Jordie Burton and Toge Heersink put crazy amounts of work into the En Masse Collaborative Mural Project.  My involvement started and ended at carrying pieces of the mural between classrooms.  Hindsight being what it is, I wish Jordie explained what the “canvas” was made of, because it felt like granite!

There were many people who were much more involved with me.  Three teacher advisors, 66 students, 3 outside artists, school admin, HDSB facilities staff, City of Burlington employees, City Councillors, the Mayor.  To hear the students involved with the project talk about their mural, it was easy to see what a labour of love the entire process was.

The Mural, installed, finally!

Today was the formal dedication ceremony for the Mural.  Several people spoke, but no one impressed me more than the final speaker, Abbey Kunzli, a student at our school.  She spoke about, of all things, community building!   She spoke about how she feels most at home with her soccer team, when they are sitting around after a game sharing orange slices that one of the parents have provided.  She talked about how that act of sharing makes her feel like her team is a community.  She then compared that community to her school community, and how participating in projects like the En Masse Mural make her feel like a part of a larger community.  Is it any surprise that Abbey’s contribution to the project was to paint one of the orange slices that border the mural?
Abbey, posing with her orange slice

We’ve been focused on intentionally building community in our schools this semester.  Having a safe and inclusive classroom where all students feel supported is one of the ingredients needs to foster innovation.  It’s amazing how far building a positive community can get you, both inside and outside of the classroom.  Community building is how you convince 100 teachers to help carry pieces of a mural through the school and across the street to be installed.  It’s how we empower our students so that they will feel confident enough to talk to strangers about what piece of a mural they’ve worked on.  If I can steal a line from Jordie, community building is how we go from “cement and new build homes” to a place where students can produce and run an entire dedication ceremony.

And I think that is pretty rad.
Summer Sign Off
Well Shifters, it has been a great semester!  Since starting this blog in February of this year, we have had so much fun learning about what teachers are doing in their classes and talking about what they hope to do next. We hope that we did a little to inspire you to think differently about what you teach and how you teach and that you got excited to take some risks.   

Working on this project forced us to learn a lot, and most of that learning was driven through trial and error.  Jamie used a Mac for the first time.  Matt built several rigs to help us with our sound recording.  We learned how to blog, edit video, talk on camera and listen to ideas.  We made lots of mistakes that hopefully nobody noticed.  Although, to quote Marisa Cavataio when we visited her Productions Class at Nelson High School, “The most important thing you will do in this class is make mistakes”.  

Our mistakes bore fruit!  We just recently passed 10,000 views on this blog, which blew away our expectations.  We’ve gained 110 followers too, so thank you for making that possible!  If you haven’t signed up for updates yet, consider adding yourself to the Shift List!

Our videos have been viewed more than 1000 times.  We made our Case For videos with no real idea if anyone would be interested in watching.  Hopefully if you’ve watched we’ve made you think about how you are Innovating.  We certainly learned a lot about how to create environments that demand students to be innovative.

We owe a lot of thanks to the team at School Programs.  Many of the IPL’s helped us get The Shift launched, or joined us to do some thinking and planning.  As well, we had some great mentors in Chris Duncan, Kevin Raposo and Sommer Sweetman who were super generous with their time and assistance.

We had so much fun connecting with Shifters in person at the Shift Conference at the Barn.  It set in our brains the improv ideas of “yes, and” and “feel more comfortable feeling uncomfortable” as a mindset to start innovating in our buildings.  

Looking back on the last 4 months, we decided to each pick our favourite post on the Shift Blog.  Matt really enjoyed speaking to Michael Primerano about going gradeless.  Every since that visit, there has been an ongoing conversation among shifters and in workrooms about how we can hack assessment to make class more about iterative learning and risk taking, and less about the mark.  

Jamie really enjoyed participating in the Innovator’s Mindset Massively Open Online Course (#IMMOOC).  The weekly video chats/conferences were great to listen to, but often it was the backchannel conversations that drove a lot of deeper thinking.  One conversation in particular gave rise to what we dubbed “The Three (Silent) P’s of Innovation”.  For anyone thinking about leading innovation in their buildings next year?  Make sure your teachers know that they have the permission to try something new, your protection when things start to go sideways, and your assistance to help navigate the policies that can slam the brakes on innovation.

If you are thinking about how to lead innovation in your buildings next year?  If so, have you signed up for the Shift Your Blank Summer Symposium yet?  It will be a good opportunity to connect with Shifters, set some goals and work on some ideas to improve practice.

Jamie and Matt, signing off for now. Have a great summer, Shifters!
April PD with Visual Art
During the April subject-specific PD Day , the Arts teachers had the opportunity to watch “Most Likely To Succeed”, which I previously wrote about here.  This documentary film really resonates with Arts teachers, as it aligns with ideals of project based learning so prevalent in Arts courses.  Next up, a video presentation and discussion on equity in the Halton Board, as well as a presentation and discussion on bolstering the numbers of students taking Arts courses in Halton.

So after absorbing a lot of information over the course of the day, the last session, the visual art teachers tried a different method of processing and discussing the topics of the day by doing what they do best: drawing!  The question posed was “what are the ideal outcomes of art education”?  Some of the answers were resilience, collaboration skills, grit, student driven learning, and confident students.  Really, that list of outcomes are desired in any class. However, the art class is particularly well suited to build those soft skills in students. Art Teachers are faced with two pronged questions: how can we advocate to students and parents, to share how we are building those soft skills in our classes. As well, how can we make sure we are achieving those ideal outcomes in our classes? Big questions for a Friday afternoon!

Have a look at what the secondary visual art teachers were playing with:

Road Trips - Rethinking Furniture, Going Gradeless, & Community
A requirement about being part of The Shift  is that we travel to other schools around the board.  We do this so that we can get perspectives on the innovative things that are happening in all schools.  We also want to help people share their thinking.  The profession of teaching can’t grow if everyone always works in a bubble.  A few weeks ago we had a flurry of travel and unfortunately haven’t been able to write about our experiences until now.  So...where did we go and what did we see?

Rethinking Furniture
We had the opportunity to visit Lester B Pearson High School to get a first hand viewing of some classroom furniture that rethinks the instructional flow of a classroom.  We tried rocking chairs and stools (Matt always calls dibs on the rocker) that encourage movement as a tool to help keep students focused. We saw a variety of smart, well thought out tables as well,
The discussion with classroom teachers was honest, exploratory and excited.  The talk centred around the most important point: does the furniture work to better support teaching and learning of students?  There was talk of layout, and how it can be moved around the room in different configurations to work in different learning situations.  The tables had two wheels that enabled easy moving around the room by lifting one end of the table and pushing it like a rolling suitcase, which was neat.  Other tables were height adjustable, which would allow teachers to set bar height seating if desired.  One aspect that would have been really cool to see in that scenario would have been hydraulic height adjustment (like an office chair), so that the height could be easily adjusted in the moment.  Hey we can dream, can’t we?  In a couple of weeks, we look forward to visiting Milton District H.S., which is a pilot location for a full classroom of this new furniture.  We will be sharing our further impressions on how that  pilot is going.  Dibs on the rocker!

Going Gradeless
One fascinating trip we recently went on was up to McKenzie-Smith Bennett Public School in Acton, upon the invitation of Kim Phillips, Principal of the school.  She wanted us to meet Michael Primerano, an intermediate teacher who is doing some truly innovative work around going gradeless in his class.  We are very conscious of not overusing the word “innovative” in this role, but in this case, it is truly merited.

The new “thing” is seeking a way to better motivate and engage students in the classroom by eliminating grades from the learning experience.   Michael was in tune to the fact that students in his ACCESS class were not motivated by grades and noticed that grades were more often  a deterrent to learning because they were a source of stress and heartache.  As such, he chose to eliminate quantitative means of assessment  altogether, favouring qualitative observations as evidence for learning and to  use while determining grades for his students’ report cards.  
Yes, as teachers in the province, we are required to put a grade on the report card, though the tools used by the teacher to inform that decision are left to the professional discretion of the teacher.  Michael has been using a triangulated method of assessment that combines observations, student conferences, and co-constructed success criteria, with a focus on using descriptive feedback to help students benchmark their progress rather than grades. Thus far this year it has been working rather well.

The student and parent feedback to this shift has been encouraging, too! S

Students are saying:
“I don’t miss getting Cs.” -BM
“It’s more work in the end, but the product is always better.” - GD
“I know that you want to help me because you never judge me.” - WT

And parents are saying:
“My son doesn’t hate going to school now - he gets up and goes in the morning without me having to bug him.” - CL
“I don’t ask my daughter how she’s doing in school anymore, I ask her what she’s doing instead.” - JB

That feedback is a clear indication that Michael is truly onto something. As teachers, Jamie and I have had frequent chats about how going gradeless would benefit our students.  This topic is top of mind and this won’t be the last you hear from us on this subject!"

If you want a deeper dive into Michael's thinking, you can check out his presentation here.

Engaged Community
Finally, we took a trip to Craig Kielburger Secondary School to gather some footage for the next video in our Case For series.  Suzy Koh was nice enough to welcome us into her classroom, which was a Grade 9 Applied Math class.  This class was a continuation of the Unlimited Potential program from Semester 1.  We were lucky enough to witness a classroom where all students were engaged, willing to talk to each other, work with each other and most importantly not rely on their teacher for too much guidance.  Students were working on problem sets with each other, asking their peers for feedback and help BEFORE switching gears and looking to the teacher for solutions.  Everyone was smiling.  The classroom was comfortable and it was obvious Suzy had done work establishing a positive classroom environment first, before diving into curriculum.

Jamie was able to sneak away for a bit to reconnect with an old friend who also works at Craig Kielburger and is working with a team that delivers a combined Drama and Comm Tech course.  The purpose of the course is to have students gain a better understanding of the entire production process, from both the technical and artistic sides. They're currently working on their biggest project to date, creating, acting in, filming and then finally producing a sitcom.  Kyle Hume and his colleague Anna Burnett are the teachers working on this project, but really he and his colleagues have found a great way to involve all players in the creation process.  When I arrived to class another teacher was at the front of the room, organizing her students, handing out roles and jobs.  It was only when I sat down with Kyle to talk about this Sitcom package that I found out the teacher leading the  students was actually a student in the course.  The feeling of empowerment among his students was palpable and I left Kielburger feeling inspired by the possibilities of different ways to engage students.

What do you think?  How important is the community you build in the classroom?  Have you experimented with going gradeless? Or thought about doing so? Have you been experimenting with alternatives to the typical class furniture layout and structure?  What about alternative ways to deliver curriculum while engaging students? How has it shifted what you do?
Initial observations after Observe'em day
It’s 12:25.  Jamie is ten minutes into Grade 10 Boys Phys Ed.  He is dripping with sweat and all he is doing is goofing around with a basketball.  He’s wondering, just how did I end up in this situation?  What he doesn’t know is that in twenty minutes he’ll be suited up in road hockey gear playing goal for twenty moderately aggressive students who want to take a shot on net.  How did he get here?

Matt Coleman, Andreea Stoica, Jamie Mitchell, Bryn Dewar, Ashley Stephenson
and Sahar Monzavi on the steps at the beginning of the school day
Flash back 4 hours to when six teachers agreed to become students for the day.  We gathered on the steps before the bell at the start of the day, waiting with the other students, grabbed a quick photo to mark our day, and after Oh Canada, off we went to our various classes.  Our lead guidance counsellor, Tracey Forde, helped craft our timetables, as guidance counsellors so expertly do, so between the 6 of us, we had a variety of classes across all grades, from math, accounting, tech, art, and fitness.  Our Principal was great in offering up some supply teachers to cover our classes, provided by our schools SIPSA funding (that’s School Improvement Plan for Student Achievement for the uninitiated).  More feedback will follow soon, as we get the chance to sit down with all participants to break down our day.  In the meantime, here are some initial thoughts on the day, while the memories are fresh:

  • Hurry and Sit.  As teachers, being on our feet all day long, we tend to forget that our students do the exact opposite.  Students really do need to hurry to class (big schools, coupled with short transit times between classes makes for a HUSTLE between classes), and chart their route if they hope to make it from point A to point B in time.  And then….they sit, and sit, and sit.  Great discussion, interesting interviews, helpful peer to peer learning, all while sitting.  We weren’t used to that.  In fact, we found it exhausting for all the wrong reasons.
  • Peers Helping Peers.  We were struck by how resourceful and helpful students were, not only to us, but to each other.  I think that at the front of the room, I sometimes miss the quiet discussions happening at the other end of the room.  “Can you help me with this?”  “What does this mean” “how did you answer this” “here, let me show you…” were common refrains in the class.  Students were genuine, helpful and engaged in helping their peers. It was heartening and encouraging to see this collegiality going on in the back of the classrooms.
  • Teacher Student Collegiality.  It is approaching midterm, and it was evident that students and teachers were really in a groove together.  Classes flowed, jokes and ribbing were traded back and forth, it was clear that all involved were comfortable with the dynamic.  In each class, the temperature was different, set, it seemed by both the teacher and students in the room.  Some classes were energetic and quick, and others were more mellow and focused.  All classes felt in their own groove.  It was heartening to witness the level of comfort that comes from teachers knowing students and students knowing teachers.
  • Final 30% Stress. It was evident how the stress of the final 30% loomed, even if it isn’t yet midterm.  So much of the learning in the course needs to be tied to that final 30%; how the test was graded; how to best answer questions, that there seemed to be many moments where students asked questions about content related to this final 30%.  “Is this going to be on the final?” “How would this question be asked on the exam?” “How do we answer this question for the most marks?”  The stress of the test was palpable in students.  It seemed strange to us that the final could be weighing so heavily on the minds of students, and that it seemed to draw them out of the learning moment, not seeking understanding for comprehension sake, rather than as a means to answer a question on a test.  
  • Feeling Lost.  One thing I gained from the day is greater empathy for students who feel lost with the content of the class.  What a daunting task it can be to try to get a handle on the content when you are feeling out of your depth.  Thankfully, teachers were very patient and helpful, fellow students were enormously helpful and patient (see Peers helping Peers, above), and we  had the confidence to stick our head out a few times and ask a bunch of questions to get a handle on things, which helped...a bit, but still.  That feeling of scrambling to just get a general idea of what the heck was happening was stressful!
  • Students can Multi-task!  All six of us ate lunch in the cafeteria and had a mini debrief about the morning.  There were many common themes, everyone felt engaged, everyone learned something.  It was pointed out that one class watched a short video about the waste our society creates.  During the video, it was noticed that one student was totally immersed in the game he was playing on his computer.  This started to bother the “student for a day” teacher who was sitting beside him.  However, she rode out the game playing until the end of the video.  Then she was shocked when that very game playing student put up his hand and made some amazing observations that drove the rest of the class discussion!  
mitchell goalie flames.jpg
Jamie was on FIRE that day!
Flash forward to 1:30PM.  Jamie has hung up his goalie gear and he is trying to change pace mentally for his next class, World Issues.  He is finding it very uncomfortable to be sitting down to listen after the physical activity he just experienced.  Maybe it’s because he’s an adult man, staring 40 in the eyes, who isn’t quite used to so much running.  Maybe it’s the fact that he’s red faced and hot.  Something just doesn’t feel right.  After being active, he’d like to keep being active.  But he can’t, because he’s about to listen to two presentations on the Syrian Civil War.  Now don’t get us wrong, Jamie was floored by the quality of presentation and discussion he experienced in his World Issues course.  He understands that the research shows that students learn better after physical activity, but right now it is taking him awhile to settle into listening mode.

By the time the presentations start, Jamie is more focused.  He’s glad he stuck it out, because the overall quality and depth of answers in the presentations is really impressive.  It was interesting to hear student perspective on grown up problems today.  We can’t help but wonder what school and classes might look like if students were allowed more input into how, where and when they learn.  If anything, that’s a common theme we’ve been noticing.  Students want to have the ability to provide input on decision that impact them.  They want that opportunity in a genuine way and they are quick to figure out when adults seek their input without really listening to them.

If our goal is to create innovative spaces where students and teachers are challenged, we have to bring all voices to the table and listen to them equally.  We observed a lot of things that worked really well in our day as a student.  We also experienced some things first hand that don’t work so well, long periods of sitting and trying to focus for 75 minutes four times a day to name a few.  We are willing to bet that our students have solutions, if we could choose to ask them.

We are looking forward to talking with the other four teachers who participated in this challenge at our school and hearing what they thought about the day.  You can expect to hear more from us then.  In the meantime, have you ever spent a day in a student's shoes?  What were your big take aways?
Learning Curves and Recording Update
Every time I learn something new, whether it is something related to teaching, or how to fix the drain of a washing machine, I reconnect and empathize all over again with how our students feel about learning and what they go through on a daily basis.  It’s often a slower process than you think it will be.  It can be frustrating when things don’t go as planned and satisfying when you are successful at a new task.  We have spent the week fumbling our way through more learning on computers, learning software, video editing and audio editing.  It is a steep learning curve on Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro; which are what we are using to edit our first “Case For...” video.  We are making our way through it and we have had a fun, challenging day, each and every day. So while we had hoped to have published our first video, “The Case for Innovation” a while ago now, we realize this process is like a  like a home renovation, it always takes longer than you expect.

Already looking ahead we have also had Nicole Jarvis, Instructional Program Lead for Mathematics, into the newly christened “Dreamatorium Studios” to record audio for our second video, to be called “The Case for Community Building”.  Nicole shared with us some great insight into how building a community in your classroom, and in the school as a whole, is a key component to paving the way for a class that breeds innovative problem solvers.  

As part of the recording process, I started to DIY build a new and improved microphone box 2.0, moving up from old tee shirts, cardboard and duct tape to egg crate foam and a hacked bucket.  The difference in audio quality is striking! ;)

A little DIY build with repurposed bucket
Jamie is reacting to how sweet his voice now sounds

Next week, we look forward to a little rest and recharge during March Break, and then back to the studio to finish our first two videos!