Monthly Archive: November 2019

Illustrations of deep learning at YIS

For this week’s post, instead of skimming over numerous topics, I’ve decided to dive deep into two examples of what deep learning looks like at YIS. Hopefully by sharing these examples it will spark some inspiration and dialogue about deep learning and how we can share the successes of these two projects to better enhance learning that is happening in other areas of our school. 

Student-led inquiry in kindergarten

Little FUGU – 河豚 by jim in Flickr

Every time I stop in one of our kindergarten classrooms I’m inspired. I’m inspired because our kindergarten teachers are incredibly passionate and innovative. I’m also inspired because the live the  IB PYP with some of the youngest members of our school community. Most recently I had the chance to support what action looks like in a kindergarten classroom. 

At the end of last year the kindergarten teachers supported a month of student-led inquiry. The students were given Independence to choose a topic of Interest and inquire about it. The students develop their own timetables, they reached out to experts (often relying on the skills and knowledge of others in our school community) and shared their understandings. 

I was given the opportunity during the unit to co-learn with some of the students on topics I knew about or was passionate about. One opportunity was to work with a couple of students on game creation (we used Scratch Jr) while another student wanted my help learning about fugu (Japanese for a poisonous pufferfish often served raw in Japan). While I know quite a bit about kindergarten-level game creation, I had a great opportunity to co-learn with the student who was inquiring into fugu. I supported and activated his inquiry, but I wasn’t an expert – we learned together. 

An example of a student-created schedule for this inquiry

How is this deep learning?

  • The teachers helped students discover and sort out the inquiries that best suit them
  • The students developed relationships with mentors and experts to support their inquiries
  • The teachers took on a role as activators and co-learners

The role of technology in these student-led inquiries

Students document and reflect on their Learning Journal (Seesaw)
  1. Tool to document and reflect. The students used their Learning Journals (Seesaw) to  document and reflect on their learning through the inquiry process.
  2. 1-to-1 iPads. We have a 1-to-1 iPad program in kindergarten which helps support inquires like this. It isn’t so that students are always on a device, but instead so that they can have access to a device when they need it to support their inquiry. Our kindergarten students research with PebbleGo and use their iPads often for documentation and reflection. 

Global Citizen Diploma

Copyright Global Citizen Diploma

The Global Citizen Diploma (GCD) provides a framework for students to actively take small steps leading to a better future. Through intentional reflection, students develop a deeper understanding of who they are and what they value by capturing their individual stories and celebrating their growth. By identifying their passions, each student who earns the GCD becomes more inclined to act in an ethical and responsible way as a global citizen.”

Global Citizen Diploma

Reading that paragraph is powerful, but reading the stories and hearing about who are students really are is even more powerful. The GCD program allows students to develop a common understanding within the GCD framework, but then gives them the flexibility to share reflections that tell their story. As teachers our role is to listen and guide – we read and provide feedback on their learning and share their successes. The GCD is for our high school students, but we have elementary school teachers who have volunteers to develop relationships with these students and listen to their stories. It’s amazing to sit down with a range of teachers and administrators in our school and hear them talk about the amazing stories they learning through the GCD program. 

How is this deep learning?

  • Teachers provide highly effective feedback in the learning process.
  • Students develop relationships with their audience – not just teachers, but parents and peers too. 

The role of technology in the GCD

  1.  Tool for reflection. Each student in grades 9-12 has a Google Site that they use to document their reflections. It’s a public site where they can reach an authentic audience (which currently is our school community – their parents, teachers and peers). 
  2. So much more. It’s hard to summarize this as the students have a wide variety of stories that they share. Some of these stories have in-depth links to technology that are transforming the way they develop as young adults. 
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Evaluating my support of technology integration

This week we took a look at a few different frameworks that help us evaluate technology integration and support teachers to better understand how technology can enhance learning. As a technology learning coach, this is my passion and something that I’m constantly thinking, rethinking and reflecting on. I want to take this blog post to reflect on how I’m approaching an upcoming technology-rich unit with our grade 2 students. 

I’ve decided not to focus on developing the lesson plan, but instead think about an inquiry and how that aligns to The Technology Integration Matrix

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Grade 2 – Weather

Last year I spent quite some time working with our elementary teachers on computational thinking.

Computational thinking is “a way of solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior that draws on concepts fundamental to computer science… a fundamental skill for everyone, not just computer scientists.”

Wing, J. M. (2006). Computational thinking. Communications of the ACM, 49(3), 33-35.
Copyright Harvard University

It was a slow start, but our main objective was to help teachers understand why we should encourage computational thinking and what that might look like in the elementary classroom. Teachers were asked to experiment with computational thinking themselves – we started them off with the phone book challenge “Finding Mike Smith” that we borrowed from Harvard’s CS50 (if you are unfamiliar with this course, check it out. You can enroll for free on edX). Stumbling through the phone book challenge helped them understand the computational thinking problem solving process and helped the teachers draw connections to what they are already teaching. 

After numerous conversations on what computational thinking might look like in our classrooms, I walked away with some great places to start. One of those was our grade 2 How the World Works unit of inquiry. Their central idea is relationships between air, water, heat and land influence weather. 

The tech inquiry

How can working with temperature and pressure in a micro:bit help us understand weather? 

Our students aren’t new to block-based programming, but don’t have much experience with the micro:bit controller. I’m after a way in which the micro:bit controller enhance their inquiry and help to develop a better understanding of what influences weather. All while making it accessible to a grade 2 learner. 

We have a class set of micro:bit and I’ve added in a few SparkFun gator:bits and SparkFun gator:environment accessory board. This accessory board will allow students to inquiry into atmospheric pressure as well as temperature. 

Looking through the lens of The Technology Integration Matrix

I’m very specific in using the term inquiry. I don’t plan to run a step-by-step lesson to show students how to find and display temperature or pressure. I don’t want to steal their inquiry. However, the students are new to micro:bits, so there will need to be some facilitation and support. My vision is to work with small groups and directly support connecting to the device, but then allowing some time for investigation with this guiding questions:

  • What can a micro:bit tell us about the air around us?
  • How can we share the information the micro:bit computes?
  • What can we use this data (information) for?

Looking at The Technology Integration Matrix, I see a lot of adaptation in this inquiry. There is still a lot of support and facilitation, but married with independent inquiry. While the micro:bit is the same, the way they can use the technology is varied based on the student’s individual investigation. 

I’m excited to see what this inquiry looks like to a grade 2 student and what perspectives they will bring. I’m also encouraged by the connections they will be able to draw from what the micro:bit can help us find out and what their other inquiries into weather have taught them. 

I’m also excited to see how the students can construct learning from the use of this technology. Can they connect atmospheric pressure to what the weather looks like? Can they code the micro:bit to tell us if the pressure is H or L without confusing numbers? How can the micro:bit support computational thinking and not just be a replacement for a traditional thermometer?  

I’m meeting with our grade 2 team next week and look forward to sharing my ideas with them and sharing the inquiry on this blog. Stay tuned 🙂

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