Tag Archives: creative thinking

To Teach is to Learn

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I am at an interesting point in my career….

I love what I do… but I want to do more! I feel like  have a lot to offer other teachers and sometimes my brain feels like it is going to explode with all the ideas that I have that I want to try. I have been so lucky with the experiences and opportunities that I have had in my school. I guess I am one of those keen beans who gets asked to participate in lots of different things. This has then led to the development of my own ideas, new approaches to the classroom and changes in my teaching values.

Last week I was inspired by two things. These things have made me further think about what I am going to do in the future.

ONE

I have often wondered why I thrive off being given new challenges. Many mornings I walk past my Deputy Principals office and she stops me… “Jess….. I have this idea…….”. For the past 8 years I have been at Mosman High School, I have accomplished a lot of things and am always busy.

It began with a literacy project, then the completion of my NSWIT accreditation and involvement in an Element 5 professional development project for this, then I did my Masters of Cross Disciplinary Art and Design for 3 years, had a studio residency and an art exhibition, have been involved with different technology roll outs, gone to and presented at MANY conferences, worked towards and received the Ministers Quality Teaching Award, done my maintenance of accreditation, have been teaching Year 12 HSC Visual Arts, done HSC marking, have been teaching the GATS class and have gotten engaged and married.

This is just a brief summary of my accomplishments – but I won’t bore you with more!

After watching this TED talk by Kelly McGonigal, I realised that I have embraced the stress around me – and I LOVE it! It opens my mind and it inspires me to do new and better things.

TWO

In a staff meeting last week, two colleagues presented on their learning at the GATE Conference. At first I was frustrated and annoyed… and then I was sort of happy.

Why?

Well, they were focussing on differentiation and some strategies they had heard about at the conference. Then one teacher was saying how she had learnt about ideas that focussed on a student- centered classroom. And that she was slowly trying to change her approach to how she teaches, getting students to ask the questions instead of her. This annoyed me at first, because I have been saying this for at least 2-3 years when I present to staff!!!! But then I was happy, because FINALLY, maybe, a shift was happening! The teacher commented that it takes 2 years for reflecting and change to happen…. and she claimed she was only at the beginning of her journey!

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*sigh*

Thinking about these things made me think of this graph:

A graph of Everett Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle model

A graph of Everett Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle model

I wonder where to from here?

Change is slow, despite the forces that push for it to happen. And it is frustrating for me, out here, by myself, seeing how this change can be good. (I am not really by myself – there are many people like me, and I am not discounting the role they play in my life – this is just a figure of speech!)

I believe that as I teach, I learn. I am inspired to try new things and this has led to some exciting lessons in my classroom.

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I like to take risks and challenge my students think creatively and problem solve. I have embraced technology and the potentials that this offers. Now I want to see a shift into more blended learning with cross KLA projects and collaboration across schools and across the world. I have researched differentiation, Project Based Learning, collaboration, Games Based Learning, gifted and talented strategies, an array of assessment strategies and creative thinking.

So, for the future, I see myself as a leader who wants to make change happen. But this is not as easy as it may seem. What type of leader should I be?? Where can I be most effective? Would I miss the classroom? Would I miss my school? Does the role that I think I want even exist? Would I be a good leader??? These are crashing through my brain right now. I think I can only do so much within my classroom context and see potential for more.

I think I am lucky to have a great PLN around me and great friends to keep me stimulated… but I will still keep looking for an answer to my conundrum…

To teach is to learn. 


It is all about the Label

label

 

SOLO

PBL

GBL

OMG

YOLO

DEAR

TEE

PEEL

FML

KWL

PIP

BOW

Yes…. That is  A LOT of acronyms!

Amongst these acronyms are some popular slang terms, some short hand terms used for HSC projects… and labels for different teaching pedagogies or strategies that are ‘trending’ at the moment.

I say ‘trending’, because there seems to be an increase in teachers using some or all of these strategies, just because they are the most talked about thing at the moment. While I think that it is great that teachers explore different ways to engage their students: Is using a concept once because you heard about how someone else used it, really make you an expert? And how do you measure success if you only dip your toe in it?

I am not saying that I am not a culprit of this.

I  have researched and read about many different pedagogies but I am not claiming to be experienced in any or all of them. When I think about my teaching over the last few years, and my conversations with my peers on Twitter, I think that I have taken elements of the things that I like from many different sources, and applied them to my own context.

Over the holidays, I was privileged to be a part of the Project Learning Swap Meet organised by Bianca and Lee Hewes and Peter Mahoney. Let me tell you… the passion that exudes from these people and the amount of excitement that was generated during the school holidays and on a Saturday, was incredible!

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The reason why I mention this when talking about LABELLING the teaching that we do, is that I believe to be able to take that label on board, you have to have been taken over by that pedagogy, believe in it so much that you are living it and breathing it. Then, that label becomes yours. I have learnt so much from Bianca and her mind and the way she has used Project Based Learning in the classroom. ALL of her topics and syllabus outcomes are taught this way. From Year 7 – 12. All the assessments that her kids produce are real products. Not some made up classroom thing. She always seeks a real audience and real experts to guide her students learning. Bianca is not following a trend, she has created this trend! And because I talk to Bianca about her ideas all the time, I have become inspired by her teaching process and applied some of these ideas to my classroom.

But because I use them, should I label myself as a PBL teacher??

At the beginning of the Year, there was a lot of talk on Twitter about the SOLO taxonomy. I read these tweets, then looked through my research from last year. I was already doing it then…. Thank you to Pam Hook for your excellent info about using this to promote higher order thinking. Stemmed from this I used Tait Cole’s Punk Learning Hexagonal Think Link tool… which also led me to the Triptico App. These tools have been great in my classroom, and I will continue to use them…

But because I use them, should I label myself as a user of SOLO??

Over the last few years I have designed a few games as units of work to engage and inspire my students. I developed websites that allow the students to work from level to level to achieve different learning outcomes. As the level gets higher, so too does the expectations of the student. One was for my Gifted and Talented class, a topic about Conflict, where the students journeyed through Conflictus. The other, a Visual Design unit of work about concept art and game design, where students journey through an Unchartered Land.

But because I use them, should I label myself as a GBL teacher??

Let’s just think about these labels before we put our names to them…. If you want to take that label, be true to it. Otherwise, be like me, use what works for you… apply it to your context.

Don’t follow a trend for the sake of it….! Just love your teaching for what it is…. and keep up with your 21st Century Learners!!!


Hot Potato Hot Potato

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Q: Why do potatoes make good detectives?

A: Because they keep their eyes peeled. 

But what does a Potato have to do with Creative thinking?

We need to first understand what creative thinking is….

Thinking creatively is a state of mind that enables you to approach tasks, problems, and situations with openness to alternatives. REFERENCE 

In Year 7, we have a streamed class for our Gifted and Talented students (GATS). This class have sat the selective schools test and are seen as ‘bright students’. They have one less Maths, English and Science lesson and have 3 periods a week with me, where I don’t have a syllabus that I have to follow! It is a dream!

To introduce the course to them, I explain that I will not be giving them marks at all, but will be teaching them to love learning. Here is a letter that I wrote to them to explain this….

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Once they can see my vision, I pull out the potatoes.

I read about this once when researching creative thinking tasks, and have done it as my first lesson with the GATS class for the last 3 years. It never bores me… and I love seeing the look of confusion on these kids when I hand them each a potato.

All I tell them is:

Invent something with the potato.

They look at each other, down at the potato, then back at me.

Then collectively their hands all shoot up in the air.

No, I say, I am not answering any questions. No, I am not giving you any boundaries.

Just PLAY!

Oh, and they do! It never ceases to amaze me where they take this. Some literally use the potato for what it is. Some just use it as a material. Some break all the rules.

Here are some examples from the Year 7’s this year.

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Potato Porcupine

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Potato Rose

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Potato Battery

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Potato Plane

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Potato Boat

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Potato Necklace

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Potato House

As you can see… they are all varied and all take a different approach to the task. (Surprisingly, this year I had 3 potato batteries and 2 potato necklaces!)

The next part of the task is designed to get students to stretch their imagination even further.

After each student spoke about their design and the class wrote a PMI (Plus/Minus/Interesting) analysis for each, I handed them someone else’s potato to RE-INVENT!

I explain that it is 50 years later and technology has changed. You must develop this design considering there may be a change in materials or need over this period of time. Jaws drop and they look at me as if their ideas couldn’t get any better…..

This year I also found a great resource about innovation to inspire them and help them understand how to push beyond what is possible…

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I love to watch as their brains tick over new ideas. It was interesting to see how each student then approached the problem. I didn’t scaffold HOW I wanted them to do this, and they all worked in their own way. I do this on purpose so that they don’t fall into a conformed way to think. It requires them to draw their own conclusions. It also means there is not RIGHT way to do it. And really, I can’t know what the outcome is going to look like.

When I walk around the room, I was blown away by the different approaches to innovation.

Check it out!

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To apply this technique to a real life problem, I found a great challenge that I have shown the class and asked them to compete in. It is called the:

Design For Change Challenge

While we only have a week to complete the FOOD WASTE CHALLENGE, they were very keen to give it a go.

How do you develop your students creative thinking skills?

And if you don’t, here is something to think about…

In the Australian Curriculum, students develop capability in critical and creative thinking as they learn to generate and evaluate knowledge, clarify concepts and ideas, seek possibilities, consider alternatives and solve problems. Critical and creative thinking are integral to activities that require students to think broadly and deeply using skills, behaviours and dispositions such as reason, logic, resourcefulness, imagination and innovation in all learning areas at school and in their lives beyond school.


The Wild Survival Kit

As part of a transition unit at school, we developed a cross-curricula Project Based Learning (PBL) unit of work with a driving question:

What kind of wild thing are you?

I have written about the art focus in an earlier post here, but to reiterate, it was great to have all the faculties work together for a common assessment goal. The great thing was that we also worked with the local primary school to embed language that was consistent with Stage 3 into Stage 4. So the students had to create 3 products and/or performances to demonstrate to a panel their understanding of the question. So, while they were working on this group goal, each class they went to for at least the first 4 weeks of term taught within their faculties an understanding of the WILD THINGin that subject. For examples, Maths was: Is your wild thing a thing of the past? Where the students used History and Mathematics to analyse different number systems. Geography used field work at the Zoo to analyse data about the environment around them. Technology produced animal ipod cases, footprint stamps and morphed digital animal beings.

I went and watched some of the presentations and it was really interesting to see how the students had synthesised these concepts and worked in groups to produce great examples of their Wild Self. It would be even better next year to have some Team Teaching going on to illustrate the links between subject areas more consistently.

I have the Gifted and Talented (GATS) class in Year 7 which we call the Academic Extension class. They have 3 periods in the class and it is not based upon a set syllabus. The curriculum is open to extend their learning and develop their creative thinking and problem solving skills.

So, I got to think of an exciting way to explore the concept of the WILD THINGS with this group and I developed the task:

Design a Survival Kit to aid you in the wild.

There were three parts:

A representation of the wild thing inside of you.We all have wild emotions and the desire to fit in. When Max runs away and ends up in the land of the Wild Things, he encounters lots of new friends but has very different relationships with each of them. Discover what makes you who special. 

A study of the wild. Max travels to a land very different from the one he knows. It is full of new creatures, new abilities, new friends, and it is a place where Max rules as king. Use your imagination to create a world where you would like to live.

“Let the wild rumpus start.” In Where The Wild Things Are, Max experiences many different emotions, from trying to figure out how he fits in with his family to trying to figure out how he fits in with the Wild Things. In addition, the Wild Things manifest many emotions as they struggle with some issues that Max faces and some of their own. Start a wild rumpus of your own.

As academic students who are selected via the selective schools exam, I wanted to use the text as a metaphor for fitting in and discovering your self. But I also wanted them to understand that it is not always easy and that they are special students who are different from others.

The students were definitely challenged. I didn’t really know what I wanted the outcome to look like and I certainly didn’t want to define the parameters. But I also didn’t just want a boring essay submission that was not creative and didn’t think outside of the box. I got the students to look at different learning styles and how there were many ways to present information based upon these. Things like videos, board games, a timeline, a play, a poem or a song could all illustrate your ideas.

I also banned large pieces of cardboard with collage and glitter!

I ended up having to explain myself quite a few times and did some really fun brainstorming sessions to develop their ideas:

The REAL wild and the METAPHORICAL wild

Then the ideas really started to flow….

Here are some student work samples that I have curated into one document:

We ended the Term with their Wild Place… and while technically the unit is over, I still want them to Let the Wild Rumpus Start.

So, this is what I have developed for that…

wildrumpus <——– click to open document

How I envisaged this was that a WILD RUMPUS was something in the community that the students had a part in. So I found real situations that could translate to classroom activities and goals for the students to achieve in groups. Inspired by @biancahewes I wanted a real audience and real project that the students could link to their world and their understanding of the Wild Thing inside them. I wanted a spark to ignite about the way they can become involved in their community and that they can have an impact.

I am going to use Edmodo in small groups, Class Dojo and Goalbook to facilitate their learning. Constant peer evaluation and the creation of a time management plan to make this all possible. I am going to break down the walls of the classroom and allow them to respond to this challenge however they feel fit.

I hope they get something out of this. I will keep you posted on what their outcomes are.