Tag Archives: creativity

It is all about the Label

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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!!!

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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.


Connectedness

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connect |kəˈnekt| verb [ with obj. ] bring together 
or into contact so that a real or notional link is established

I like to be connected.

I confess that I am a social network addict and love to share aspects of my everyday life. My partner has rolled his eyes at me plenty of times, and asked if just this once, our meal could remain private. HAHA! (Sometimes I appease him, but I really do enjoy taking pics of my food – sorry!)

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It is increasingly easier to share your everyday comings and goings with the virtual world and it is rare to feel alone. Using Instagram, I feel a sense of community with many like minded people, also sharing photos of their daily lives. Twitter is where I share my teaching ideas and Facebook is a more personal space for me and my close friends.

In my own little world, I have noticed how this sense of connectedness makes me so happy. And how it has helped me to become a better teacher and a better friend. I have my own little ‘communities’ or ‘networks’ that provide me with constant laughs, challenges and ideas.

Besides my partner (who is amazing), my colleagues and my uni friends, there are 2 groups of people that I talk to everyday… and without those conversations, I think I would feel stifled.

CONNECTION #1

The Work Ladies

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Jude, Lorna and I at Lorna’s Wedding in Wales, July 2012.

After training on Mondays and Wednesdays, we have breakfast together. This gives us the chance to debrief and gather our thoughts. As friends and work colleagues, we can talk about anything: from assessment tasks to weekend adventures. Having such a great support network at school is seriously undervalued. I know not all teachers are lucky enough to have friends in their workplace, but I can tell you, without these ladies – some days at school would be more difficult.

CONNECTION #2

The Edmodo Ladies

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Me, Bianca and Monique

We met in the most random way. While we had already been connected on Twitter, we had never met in real life. Until Edmodo brought us together. All three of us were selected to present at EdmodoCon 2011 – an online Virtual Conference. In preparation for the conference, we thought it would be a good idea to meet up and discuss what we were going to present. The random thing was, we all lived a suburb away from eachother and were able to meet. (Edmodo had no idea about this – they just thought we were all from somewhere in Australia!!!!) This random meeting developed into great professional relationships… and awesome friendships. I think the highlight of this connection has been the EPIC group SMS that we have been sharing over the last month or so. These ladies are great to bounce teaching ideas off, have a laugh and reflect upon our day in the classroom.

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So….

With all these connections in my everyday world, I started to think about how important it was to replicate this dynamic into my classroom.

It is written clear as day in the Quality Teaching Framework document:

 ELEMENT

What does it look like in classrooms?

What does it look like in assessment tasks?

Connectedness

Lesson activities rely on the application of school knowledge in real-life contexts or problems, and provide opportunities for students to share their work with audiences beyond the classroom and school. Tasks apply school knowledge in real-life contexts or problems, and provide opportunities for students to share their work with audiences beyond the classroom and school.

While a traditional classroom exists in the one space… in-between the four walls that are prescribed to us by a school

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In the amazing 21st Century classroom, there are no boundaries as it can exist in an online space

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Modelling the way I connect using Social Networks, I have tried to develop this sense of collaboration in my classroom. Building up the students understanding of how to communicate and share with their peers as a community.

But I wanted to take this a step further. 

This year I was allocated 3 Year 8 classes.

*sigh*

I thought I was going to go mad if I taught the same thing three times in a week. I had to change the programme, not too much, but just enough, so that while it was more exciting for me, it would still cover the outcomes that the other teachers were covering.

I reflected upon the way I connected… and how it had opened up my eyes and has helped me everyday to understand my teaching practice more. Why not bring this into the classroom???

I reached out to my Professional Learning Network and asked if any teachers here or overseas would want to connect with my Year 8 classes who were studying the topic of ‘The Suburbs’.

Bingo! There was a teacher from Alabama who said yes… and from there my idea developed. Inspired by the blog/photography project 52 Suburbs, I wanted the students to not only look at their suburbs and their small worlds, but compare this to other students experiences.

What am I going to teach then?

I decided that I wanted my students to study the artists we would normally study, but instead of writing about them, they could make little videos that we could share with the class overseas. This will be particularly interesting, because the two key Practitioners are Reg Mombassa and Lin Onus. Mombassa is an Artist who uses many Australian icons in a humorous way. Onus uses his art to reflect upon his identity as an Anglo Saxon and Aboriginal living in a white community.

I also wanted them to make art to share with this new audience. While they are sharing images of their different communities using Edmodo, I thought about how cool it would be to be PenPals with these overseas students. Going back to old school letter writing to compare their lives on the other side of the globe. So, the students are going to design their own postcards and send them to this new connection overseas.

Exciting times ahead!!!

Check out the outline for the unit of work. I have used Bianca‘s PBL model to nut out the ideas that the students are going to explore.

How do you get your students to connect in the classroom?


Jumpstart!

As the Year draws to a close, it is hard to find motivation. Everything is winding down as the school year ends.

I believe that I am a dedicated teacher who is creative and passionate…. but I am feeling stifled at the moment! Perhaps I am on the verge of being bored even! (But the kids stop that from happening… ) This is not to say that I am not putting in as much effort to deliver exciting and engaging lessons, I just feel that I can do it really easily.

I have noticed that I am not one to be bored…. and always line myself up with a challenge to keep myself entertained. Usually this has been related to work:

  • Completing my Masters
  • Having my first Exhibition
  • Presenting at Conferences

But of late, I have been focusing on me. 

WARNING: Before you read on!! This is not a blog post about Exercise – bear with me!

At the beginning of the Year I started regular training sessions with the Master Trainer – Josh. I also decided to try and eat better by ordering Lite’n’Easy for my school meals. The thing was, I started to noticed some results! I started to lost weight and was quite excited.

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So, I increased the amount of training sessions that I was doing and even did some of my own… Motivated by some great Fitness Apps.

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The thing about group fitness training, was that we were also having a lot of fun and becoming really good friend….

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Stretching after training can often lead to fits of giggles!

This was all well and good… I was happy! But I needed to set myself a goal – my friends wedding in Wales. I want to drop a dress size and treat myself to a new dress for the occasion. To do this, I started to do one-on-one Personal Training sessions along with Kate. These were more high intensity and Josh worked us hard – knowing that we both had goals we wanted to achieve!

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I was so excited and loved that I could buy a size 12 dress!

Achievement unlocked!
Jude and I in Wales!

Jude and I in Wales!

Training continued, as it had been…. and I felt great. Then Josh told us about this great new eating program/lifestyle food plan/diet called Metabolic Jumpstart. 

The thing with me is, I don’t just half do things…. From the beginning of the year I had committed myself to changing my lifestyle. I wasn’t going to let myself down.

To date, I have lost 7cm from my waist and am now a size 10.

Achievement unlocked!

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By now, if you are still reading, you are probably wondering what this has to do with my teaching.

Well, for one, it has kept my motivated and has probably been the most exciting thing happening at the moment! (Perhaps sad, but true) I don’t want to think that I am someone who obsesses about weight or food, but it has certainly transformed my life.

I have therefore been deconstructing what it is about this years achievement that has kept me motivated? What is the key ingredient that is missing from my teaching practice? Is there something from this experience that I can take away and apply to a new context…???

(And yes, I have an over-active mind too!)

I thought about Jane McGonigal’s. I thought about her analysis that Reality is Broken and her definition of the four traits of a Game… and why these games make people happy….

  1. The GOAL is the specific outcome the players work to achieve
  2. The RULES place limitations on how players can achieve this goal
  3. The FEEDBACK system tells the player how close they are to achieving the goal
  4. VOLUNTARY PARTICIPATION requires that people playing the game know the goals, rules and accept the feedback
Now for the A-HA moment…

My training and weight loss journey has had these traits!!!! That is why I have had success!

And this is where my reality is broken, because the thing that I love the most – Teaching- is lacking in these things at the moment.

I am trying to set my own GOALS to unlock new achievements… but I feel like I have already done this. I have tried to share in my achievements with the people around me, but they are not all VOLUNTARY PARTICIPANTS.

It is hard to be goal orientated person with no goal…. I want more…. I am seeking it… but don’t know where to find it.

Teaching for me, needs a jumpstart!

If you have any ideas where I can find it… Please help: Apply within!

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