Saturday, 23 February 2013

From Scarcity to Abundance: Genius Hour and a Week of Firsts

Photo Credit: Paco CT via Compfight cc 

Overflowing with abundance.  That is what this week has been.  Not just for myself as a chief learner but for my students as well.  Between professional development for myself, a whole lot of firsts in the classroom, to a magical Genius Hour in the classroom; this has been a memorable week. 

This week I was fortunate enough to listen to a Blackboard Collaborate archived session on Literacies of Attention, Crap Detection, Participation and Collaboration facilitated by Howard Rheingold and a live session on The Challenges and Opportunities of Modern Learning facilitated by Will Richardson (author of Why School?).   As well I listened to Chris Lehmann speak at Engaging the Digital Learner Dinner Series put on my school district.   This is all on top of the normal amount of Twitter chatter that I listen to.  That has been an awful lot of information to assimilate and make sense of.  So, this is what I see from where I am. 

In a time where “Google” has become a verb, technology has redefined the role of the teacher.  We have moved beyond the teacher delivering content to facilitating learning.  We have moved from a time of scarcity of knowledge to one of abundance. Will Richardson convincingly argues that in order for schools to survive, they need to change their role.  Teachers are merely guides in the journey of learning a student takes.  We can show them the tools for learning, and, as Howard Rheingold so eloquently states, teach them “crap detection” so that they can evaluate the validity of what they are learning.  Besides the abundance of information, what other challenges do you think schools today face?  How has your teaching changed because of it?
Photo Credit: bernat... via Compfight cc  

Chris Lehmann talked about how traditionally schools were based on three institutions: the factory system, the prison system, and, surprising to me, the church.  Students were taught the same content in the same way as a factory.  They were not allowed to mingle and converse in the hallways and moved from cell to cell (classroom to classroom) like in a prison and they faced forward in rows and listened to an authority figure like in a church.  This made me reflect on how I am learning currently by participating in ETMOOC.  It is nothing like a factory, prison or church.  This is the style of education that future schools will increasingly engage in:  individualized, without walls, and inquiry driven.

Passion based learning seems to me to be the way to truly teach.   This week, during Genius Hour, my students were so engaged and I felt so fulfilled as a teacher.  It was truly magical what was happening in the classroom.  There was a wide variety of talent.  Students were researching, creating animations, knitting, and drawing.  There were discussions and sharing of learning going on and when it was time to clean up, there was a chorus of “awwww… but we just started.”

I remember when I was a child having to memorize facts to regurgitate for a test and then forgetting them.  I was a good student but I was not learning.  Students need to be engaged in meaningful learning and be allowed to formulate their own questions of inquiry.  Will Richardson states that schools need to move from “delivery” to “discovery”.  And Chris Lehmann said, “Do not deliver instruction.  Pizza can be delivered and then you can buy it and sell it.  Kids need to own their learning.”

A week of abundance.  That has been my students’ experiences this week at school.  It has been an exciting week.  The Spirit Team at our school, which most of my class is a part of and which I sponsor, created anti-bullying videos and was invited to Simon Fraser University to participate in a celebration for those standing up against bullying.  Also, our class’ letters to the editor, that where written to raise awareness about rhinos being endangered, were published.  The most exciting thing of all was the first ever Skype call for my class to Cape Town, South Africa to talk to Karen Stadler, the organizer of the Save Our Rhinos movement.  None of these experiences would have been possible if it had not been for my PLN on Twitter.  I learned about the video contest, Save Our Rhinos and Skype Education on Twitter.  So thank you to my PLN and thank you to technology.  May the abundance continue!

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