Agency and Ownership

Last week I attended uLearn15, an epic conference in Auckland with 1700 teachers and 250 sponsors and exhibitors. On the first day I ran a Breakout session called Agency and Ownership: Why the How? Initially planned as a smallish interactive workshop, it proved very popular as people chose their sessions so it grew into a large presentation to around 250 people with a lot more of me talking from the front.

Core Education filmed this presentation and streamed it live from their conference website. You can watch it here (jump to 11.50 where it actually starts):

Or, if you don’t have an hour and a half spare, this post will cover the highlights.

We have all heard the terms Learner Agency and Student Ownership of Learning. We all have the same vague understandings of what these are about. This presentation was focused on working out they actually look like in the classroom. What the practices are that we as teachers can implement to enable and empower students to truly own their learning.

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Deeper Learning

This week’s provocation at Hobsonville Point Secondary School was Grant Lichtman’s Deeper Learning Cheat Sheet. To follow up on this our Learning Design Kitchen Table (20 minute staff ‘meeting’) was an activity based upon that reading.

We started off by looking again at the tips that Grant has disseminated for increasing student engagement, curiosity and student centred practice.

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Many of these strategies are commonplace and found every day throughout our school. But we recognise that we can always improve our practice. So, we focused on how we can scale up or amplify our practice on these. Continue reading

What if Moonshot Thinking became common for our students?

This video is made by Google and is being used for one of the questions in the application for Google Teachers Academy Sydney. I love the message that this video brings of aiming for the tenfold improvements.

By aiming for such massive improvements, you have to start again and completely rethink how it could happen. It takes away the ability to just tinker around the edges as this will only bring minor improvements.

Imagine if this was a regular mode of thinking for our students. It tends to come natural to kids – how often do we dismiss their ideas as nonsensical, impossible to pull off?

What If Qs from Room 13 at Willow Park School

What If Qs from Room 13 at Willow Park School

What if we actually encouraged this type of thinking? I have written before about developing students natural curiosity. If this was nurtured, what could they achieve? If this ability actually grew throughout school, what impact could they eventually have on society? What if all that curiosity, creativity, innovation, moonshot thinking was unleashed on the issues facing the world today?

Perhaps those impossible, wicked problems would not be so wicked after all.

 

This post is Day 28 of My Questioning Quest.

What If your latest off the wall idea actually succeeded?

So often when we have a light bulb moment / hare brained idea / I wonder if that could work type thought we immediately start thinking of the reasons why it won’t work. Next time you have one of these innovative ideas/thoughts why don’t you try thinking – What if this works?

If it comes off as you think it could, what would be the benefits? The outcomes? The changes it would cause?

If these outcomes/benefits/changes are positive then you can start thinking “How might we make this really happen then?”

By starting with the positives it opens up the possibilities, then by moving into the 2nd How Might We stage it reframes this possible into an actuality and it is just a case of getting the right people working on it to make it happen.

Wouldn’t it be great if instead of focusing on risks and barriers all the time we actually focused on the possibilities and started having more of these innovative ideas take off!

This post is Day 15 of my Questioning Quest.

Why do kids lose interest in Science?

This post is 100% prompted by the awesome time my family had this morning with Nano Girl. Last week she put out the call for kids to do science experiments with so my partner and I took our 4 1/2 year old daughter along today (who was extremely excited to get to meet a “real scientist” as she kept saying at home).

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Starting off with a small group of 6 it quickly ballooned into a large group of excited budding scientists.

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From fun, easy experiments with ingredients you have in your cupboard at home such as baking soda, vinegar and detergent through to liquid nitrogen and hydrophobic polymers, the kids were having a ball!

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Most of the kids there were 10 or under and they found it all amazing. As we left a few older kids were arriving so impressions may change but I noticed that the younger kids were all vocally involved but as the ages went up there were a few very vocal boys whilst the girls got quieter. That all said, it was an amazing morning where Nano Girl definitely inspired curiosity and perhaps some passionate future scientists.

What happens during school that stops kids being so excited about Science (and in particular girls)?

This post is day 13 of my Question Quest.

What if we rewarded questions instead of answers?

While I have been interested in developing curiosity and creativity for a while, I have been very influenced lately by A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger.

One of the things I have been pondering lately is that if the ability to question is an important skill for students to develop, how do we recognise those students leading the way? Schools regularly reward students who can provide great answers, how could we reward those who provide great questions?

Could this be how we unlock and develop the creativity and innovation in students? Provide something to strive towards.

I’m imagining school prizegivings where alongside the top sports people and top subject prize winners there are awards for the students who asked such amazing questions that it unlocked a whole new area of inquiry for them or fellow students.

School honour boards replaced (or to give people something to hold onto, perhaps alongside) by Question hall of fames. In fact these don’t have to be school-wide, you could implement this in your class straight away. It’s something I’m planning to do next term!

Or, go along the path that Meghan Cureton from Mount Vernon Presbyterian School in Atlanta has and create an honours programme for those questioners and innovators. Their Innovation Diploma is an incredibly inspiring programme that I am already bugging our Principal to consider how we could adapt this for our school (and we don’t even have final year students for 3 1/2 years yet!).

How else could we reward questions and questioners in our schools?

This post is Day 5 of my Questioning Quest.

I Wonder What Happens If…?

Day 3 of my Questioning Quest belongs to a question from 2 of my Robotics students this afternoon.

They had been developing their code, testing the robot and making adjustments to improve its performance. Next thing I see their Tank Robot from Mind Kits no longer has its tracks on it as they did their next round of testing.

Distracted from helping another group I walked over asking what was going on. Their reply stopped me in my tracks:

We were just wondering what would happen if we took off the tracks

I laughed and told them what a perfect reply it was, threw them a few more questions: What happened? Why do you think that happened? etc and then left them to their ponderings.

I have written before about valuing and developing curiosity (prompted by this awesome book by Tom Barrett) and it was awesome to see it truly occurring in action this afternoon.

It did make me think though, when was the last time I wondered out loud in front of students to model my curiosity?

When was the last time you wondered with/in front of students?

Excited Puppy

Source unknown

Original Source unknown

Over recent times I have gained the nickname “Excited Puppy” at work and even been given the picture above by a workmate to represent me. This is because I seem to be amped all the time about the awesome stuff happening at Hobsonville Point Secondary School or whatever the latest book/article/blog I read has taught me.

A week ago I wrote Warm and Demanding about how we were working through some challenges at school. That post cleared my mind again and helped me to see that we are going to figure out solutions and reiterate processes based on our vision. Since then I have been in a strong “excited puppy” phase again as I have been able to focus on all the great things occurring.
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Catalysts for Curiosity and Creativity

This post is based on an Ignite talk I gave at the Learning at Schools Unconference at Sky City at the end of January.

Titled Catalysts for Curiosity and Creativity, in 5 minutes I briefly covered some suggestions for how teachers can enable students to unleash their creativity. Many of the ideas stem from 2 amazing books I read over summer: Can Computers Keep Secrets by Tom Barrett (from NoTosh) and Creative Confidence by Tom & David Kelley (of IDEO fame). I highly recommend reading both of these books!

When someone mentions curiosity to me, I think of:

  • a sense of childlike wonder
  • eyes wide open
  • looking for new ideas to identify and explore

For me, I link this very closely with creativity. Yet so many people (like they do with Maths) say “I’m not creative.” Continue reading

Curiosity and Inspiration

Last night I bought, downloaded and read Can Computers Keep Secrets? How a Six-Year-Old’s Curiosity Could Change the World by Tom Barrett. Stemmed by all the questions his 6 year old son asks, Tom then delves into how we could maintain this natural curiosity that is with all youngsters but seems to disappear as we grow up.

I have long wondered at which point do we stop questioning the world like a 6 year old? When do we start to have more anxiety than curiosity?

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These questions struck me as both an educator and a parent. Continue reading