Posted in Classroom Examples

Another Year and The Unlearning Continues

Image result for unlearn

We are now a month into school and I am feeling like I need to write.  It has been a busy three months since I last posted. Two months of summer and a month of start up.  This summer I took a stab at trying to be an entrepreneur. I offered an online course to teachers who were interested in learning to unlearn.  We had a very small cohort, but overall I think it went well. I really enjoyed working with the teachers and I really hope they got something out of it.  I hope to continue with these courses – there will be a few tweaks to this summer’s course but I am hoping to relaunch later in the fall. Stay tuned if you are interested.  

Now that we are back at school we are full on into a passion project based classroom.  I am currently teaching grade 11 Intro to Anthro, Psych and Soc, grade 12 Human Growth and Development and grade 12 World Issues.  We spent the first two – three weeks learning about the course material, getting ourselves organized with all the tools / housekeeping items we will need (twitter, research skills, google classroom, excursion forms etc) and we listened to guests talk about their passions, about different not for profit organizations and about what it means to be a social entrepreneur.   Now the students are in the process of creating their passion projects for the semester, it is chaos and I love it.  

Throughout every semester I keep a running document of things to change for the next year.  Before this years start up I went back to those documents, looked at what went well last year and what needed to change and made some tweaks to this years structure.  After teaching the dual credit course I realized that having specific days for specific tasks brought back some of the structure into the classroom that I seemed to be missing.  Therefore this year this is what our day to day looks like.

Mondays – Get Organized

  • Twitter Time – prompt to help them stay on top of tweeting
  • Fill out weekly planners
  • Create a weekly update via a vlog, blog or podcast
  • Class announcements and sharing

Tuesdays – Content Day 

  • These days are reserved for lessons and guest related to the curriculum
  • Research Days – work on research for their issue that relates to the curriculum
  • Tweet about what you learned

Wednesdays – Community Outreach

  • Twitter Time – prompt to help them stay on top of tweeting
  • For my grade 11s we are working with a group of students in the General Learning Program who are going to visit us every other Wednesday for the semester.
  • For my grade 12s students can go out into the community and do a placement that is related to our course.
  • Grade 12s class podcast – run by students.

Thursdays & Fridays – Passion Project Days

  • Twitter Time – prompt to help them stay on top of tweeting
  • These two days are to be scheduled by the students.  Many of them are out working in the community, having meetings and phone calls.

Since I have about 95% of the same students in my grade 12 classes that I had last year, it has been an adjustment for them.  They were used to a little more freedom, but are learning to follow the day to day. My grade 11s don’t know any different and seem to have settled just fine into it.  Overall I am super excited for the semester – there are some really cool projects that the students are working on already. Follow us @MrsRChambers and  #jmsshpa11 & #jmsshpa12 if you want to see what they are all up to.

Thanks for unlearning with us 🙂

Rebecca

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Posted in Why Unlearn?

Disruption is necessary, who’s with me?

The lake and the mountains have become my landscape, my real world. (2)

The Breakfast Club

In my last post Dreams do come true if you persevere, my vision of an experiential passion based classroom have come true  I gave an overview of the two credit course that I am facilitating called The Experiential Passion Based Study of Child Development and Gerontology.  This course is a mish mash of bits and pieces that I have taken from the Independent Project, Iowa Big, Don Wettricks Innovation and Open source learning class and Blue Sky school.  If you want the day by day on what happens, check out the last post.

Everyday I am so thankful that I get to work with these students.  Each and everyone of them has their own unique story and it is amazing to watch them all shine in and outside of the classroom.  Since we are a two credit course we spend a lot of time together. We do a lot of reflecting, discussing, podcasting and supporting of each others passion projects.

The other day we were having one of our informal discussions and one of the students said, “I really feel like this class is like The Breakfast Club, we all come from different groups and backgrounds but we are getting to know each other and we are talking to people that we probably would never have talked to if it wasn’t for this class”.  He had no idea how much of a compliment that was to me, I had goosebumps.

Disruption is necessary

However, on the daily I hear about the rumours and discussions that go on behind closed doors about me and what is happening in my classroom. My normal is not everyone’s normal – I get that. I understand that what I am doing challenges people’s identities as educators. I know that I am relentless in getting my way and that I am a disruptor to “how we do things here”. I understand that change takes time, but here’s the thing – we don’t have time.

According to an article from Global News, “While Canada’s economy is on track to add 2.4 million jobs over the next four years, virtually all of them will require a different set of skills than young people are currently learning. According to the study, a growing demand for “human skills” will be more crucial across job sectors. In particular, critical thinking, coordination, social perceptiveness, active listening and complex problem solving — described in the report as “human skills” — were identified as being key characteristics Canadians should develop to prepare for changes to the workforce.”

Unfortunately many educators still believe that rote learning, direct instruction and testing are what is needed to prepare students for the future.  The more I research about the future of work, it is evident that simply put, they are wrong.

A recently published article How to make high schools better for students outlines research conducted by Jahl Mehta (associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education) and Sarah Fine (High Tech High Graduate School of Education).

“Our research in 30 public high schools across the country found that great high schools share something essential in common: They cultivate mastery, creativity and identity. In other words, students in these schools are given regular opportunities to develop significant knowledge and skills, to use their knowledge to produce something original, and to connect their learning to who they are and who they seek to become. The presence of these qualities produces deep engagement — the thing that educators so often struggle to foster.”

Unfortunately, these qualities are fairly rare in American high schools today.” (this would go for Canadian schools too, in my opinion) In most of the schools we observed — even those with reputations for being innovative — students saw little purpose or meaning in what they were doing. Some were defiant; others made sophisticated attempts to “play the game of school.” Very few, however, described their schools as places where they could thrive. National studies confirm that the bulk of high school students are bored at school daily.”

The Call to Courage – Brene Brown Netflix Special Brené Brown

Sometimes I give too much time to the naysayers, according to Brené Brown it is only human to want to be liked.  However, after watching Brown’s Netflix special called the Call to Courage I am going to try and focus on and surround myself with positive people.  I am going to live by the three things she learned from doing her TED Talk on Vulnerability.  NOTE If you have not seen this yet, it is a MUST!!  Thank you Logan for suggesting I watch it!!

I vow to live by the following and never feel shame because I do:

  1. I am going to live in the arena, I’m going to be brave with my life, I’m going to show up and I am going to take chances.  I am going to fall, fail and know heartbreak.
  2. I am going to be vulnerable, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.
  3. And finally to the critics, if you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion because you are being brave, I’m not interested in or open to your feedback about my work.

It is time for all educators to be brave, vulnerable and courageous for the future of our students and society in general.  Who is with me?

I can promise you this from my journey, it is messy, it is chaotic and it is scary.  But on the flip side I get to hang out with The Breakfast Club and it is so worth it. 

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Thanks for unlearning with us.
Cheers, R 🙂

 

 

Works Cited
Mehta, Jahl, and Sarah Fine. “How to Make High Schools Better for Students.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 26 Apr. 2019, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-mehta-fine-education-high-school-excellence-20190426-story.html.
Vomiero, Jessica. “Half of Canadian Jobs Will Be Impacted by Automation in next 10 Years.” Global News, 26 Mar. 2018, globalnews.ca/news/4105713/automation-workforce-canada-human/.

 

 

Posted in Classroom Examples, Why Unlearn?

How do you assess authentic learning?

authetic assessment

Picture from https://abdao.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/traditional-vs-authentic-assessment/

While I don’t think that we really can or should formally assess authentic learning, we still work in a system that requires it.  So here is what I am doing until things change….

The third week of summer is here and I have had some time to unwind and I am starting to relax and reflect on the last school year.  As crazy as this may sound I have already started to think about how we will do things next year. I am a huge advocate of authentic learning and have been trying to spread these ideas via this blog, on Twitter and by talking to anyone who is interested in listening to me!!  I am super excited about the connections that I have made this summer for next school year with Woodroffe HS GLP classes, VIVA Barrhaven Retirement home, Ontario Early Years, CHEO and Barrhaven Kids Spreading Kindness. As mentioned in many other posts, I want to provide my students the opportunity to figure out what they are passionate about, to learn how to learn (on their own), to become more digitally literate, to become creators rather than consumers, to become more globally aware and connected, to be entrepreneurial minded, to focus on the process rather than the final product and to build resilience by learning that failure is good and essential to everything we do in life.  A month or so ago my students were interviewed by CBC.  In the article they were able to share their thoughts about our classroom, it was super exciting.  Since then, I have been fortunate to connect with educators who are interested in finding out what we are doing.  I am SO happy to share it with them, everyone listens intently and has lots of questions but the most consistent question that I get is how do you assess your students?  
So, how do you assess authentic learning?

I have some answers, but this is still very much trial and error in our classroom.  Assessing authentic learning is tricky because in the “Real World” or every day life assessment looks very different than in school.  It is super hard to mirror real life assessment when you have to come up with a grade. I believe that our current way of assessing is very outdated, but unfortunately it is still a part of our reality.  So until things change, below are some examples of what I have been trying out in my classes.

Informal, one on one discussions

Throughout the semester I am constantly having discussions with students about what they are working on.  We discuss successes, failures and I am able to support them one on one which is awesome. However, sometimes there is not enough of me to go around.  I am working on getting volunteers / mentors into the classroom to help me with this. By doing this I keep a running tally in my head of where students are at and how they are doing.  There is no formal assessment here, but rather feedback – this is in my opinion more reflective of the real world. I have been fortunate over the past couple of years to have peer teachers in my class (grade 11 & 12 students who have been through my classes already).  They have been super helpful!!

Formal / Informal assessment Twitter Feedback

On a weekly / biweekly basis students receive feedback on their Twitter feed based on the checklist below.  Twitter is where they share all of their learning. I give them feedback to make sure that they are staying on top of things.  This gives me the opportunity to get to everyone when I haven’t been able to have a one on one discussion with everyone.

Twitter Checklist

  • Follow organizations that relate to the course material.  Build your network.
  • Retweet / Quote articles from these organizations – what are your thoughts on it?  What do you think people should know about this article / Video / picture etc.
  • Follow Twitter Accounts of things that you are interested in outside in your real life.
  • Tweet about things that are happening in your life inside and outside of our class.
  • Tweet about things happening in class.
  • Organically interact with your classmates. Comment on things that you think are interesting, ask questions, chat appropriately back and forth.
  • Tweet about what you are working on.
  • Ask questions to professionals to help with research.
  • Connect with people who care about your issue by tweeting at them.
  • Make people aware of the issue that you are looking at.
  • Use Hashtags to connect with others who care about the issue that you are looking at.
  • Get noticed and attempt to make a difference.

Informal / Formal Assessment – Reflection

Throughout anything that we work on the students are informally reflecting on what they have been doing via Twitter.  Each day students are given questions that they have to answer and share with the class. These are not assessed. However, at the end of everything that we do the students are asked to reflect on the process on whatever has just been completed.  It could be an awareness campaign, Genius Hour or their Social Science Fair. I have been working on a rubric that assesses their ability to really be honest and reflect on what they did and didn’t do well and what their next steps are. This is where the majority of their marks come from.  I wouldn’t say this has been perfected but I am going to continue with this next year.

While I think the above is working pretty good, there is always room for improvement. Below is where I hope to take the focus of assessment in our classroom.
Next Steps….

DItSM PyramidPicture courtesy of Nate Green

I have been SO fortunate to have connected with Nate Green who is a technology integration and information specialist at Flint Hill School in Oakton Virginia.  I first heard Nate on Don Wettrick’s StartedUp Podcast and immediately contacted him.  Nate teaches a course called “Passion Based Learning Through Social Media” and when I heard him talk about it on the podcast I knew I needed to talk to him.  I have jumped right into changing the way we do things in our classroom but have struggled with the whole assessment piece. Nate was kind enough to share how he was doing things.  He really focuses on moving students from passive learners to creators and curators and eventually leaders. I plan to use his pyramid seen below to help guide students through the course and for assessment.  I am thinking that the pyramid will coincide with our 4 Levels. I do however, believe that the pyramid / assessment piece will look different for the different grades. I am still mulling this over. I am open to suggestions if anyone has any!!

Thanks for unlearning with us 🙂

Cheers,

R