Let’s Not Microteach

I had a little epiphany while playing with my son, WG. We were engaged in a boisterous game of basketball on a mini-hoop in the middle of our home. It was great. Running around, keeping score, yelling NBA Jam phrases (RAZZLE DAZZLE!), dribbling around the house. Good times. The he comes up showing me a controlled crossover. Not a left to right dribble, a crossover. He was also trying to mimic my movements.

Why was he learning this stuff now? Seriously. I had tried to coach him on some stuff before but the attention span was very limited. He does like basketball and we’ve been to gyms a bunch of times. He’s practiced and got better, but this was different. Here we were playing “basketball” and he was showing me all kinds of skill development, not to mention numeracy skills.

It’s because when kids are having fun with the game or subject, they’ll learn all sorts of stuff from another engaged mentor.

I think that’s what most of us want. We don’t want or need to learn a subject or skill all up front. We want to learn the basics, then play, enjoy, and learn. Having an engaged mentor (or community) will help provide modelling.

I feel we often get caught up in microteaching and overcoaching. We try to make kids fit into the box right away. You can’t just have fun playing basketball! You have to learn to do it “properly”.

This story repeated itself days later when I took WG to the driving range for the first time ever. I told him about a few basic things about a golf swing and safety reminders, but I would let him hit the balls and have fun. WG was hacking away, missed a bunch of times, and had some small successes.Occasionally he would watch intently at what I was doing across from him. I gave him a few reminders about how to hold the club and how to swing, but I kept my interference to a minimum. I just kept doing my hits and having fun with him.  In the end he ended up making some very solid connections.

In short, people learn when they’re engaged and mentored. Not when they’re info-dumped and left hanging.

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The Visibility of Learning

The ETMOOC orientation was really cool. Not because there was some grand proposition or revolutionary breakthrough. It was cool because it was honest and spontaneous. A bunch of people who signed up because of some mix of curiosity and interest in edtech. Most seemed to be MOOC first timers (myself included) and jumped into Blackboard Collaborate, writing all over Alec Couros’ slides.

At some point, two questions were proposed during the session. The first was, “how are you making your learning visible?”  And the second was, “how are you contributing to the learning of others?” I had to think long and hard on this. It may seem like an easy question, but it’s actually pretty loaded. Hence this post is a week after the orientation session. I hope it makes sense!

Making learning visible is sharing. Not just sharing what you learned, but how you learned it, what barriers you encountered, and the successes you had. Learning is a process, and when you can share your learning process with others, it in turn might help them with their learning processes. We stand on the shoulders of giants. We can get to new heights because someone had done legwork previous to us. But how do I make my learning visible? Twitter, Instagram, blogging, and good ol’ fashioned conversation.

I firmly believe I am contributing to the learning of others. I don’t just mean my students either. I think that I help inspire other teachers to some degree. I want to do this because I’m inspired by others. When there’s a teacher at my school who’s doing something interesting, I’ll pick their brain and ask questions about it. In turn, when I come across something that I think they’ll like and use, I’ll share it with them. The great thing is that they’re much more receptive of my input because I’ve initiated the relationship of sharing by asking for their input first. Sometimes teachers feel like their teaching style/method/integrity is being attacked when someone makes a recommendation or suggestion to them. And sometimes we’re too eager to tell someone how we think we can help them. To combat this, ask about them and their teaching first! Take that pressure off. Show them that you’re a learner and want help. I guarantee in the future they’ll be more receptive towards your input.

I’ll close this post with two final thoughts. First, I believe learning is infectious. It must come by as an intrinsically motivated thing causing others to want to learn as well. So make your learning visible! Show yourself as a learner, and not always a teacher. Foster a culture and relationship of learning, not telling, because individually we don’t have all the answers. Secondly, making learning visible is about forging relationships. When we have a relationship then we must communicate. When there’s a relationship there’s a sort of tangible two-way communication line via text, speech, or video/audio. If this is done in a PLN, your audience, and influence, might reach more than you know and forge new relationships. When these communications are made visible, the more people are able to jump in and learn with you.

PS  I’m very interested in trying a Google+ hangout. Never done one before, so if you’re interested comment, tweet, or email me. Hopefully we can learn something from each other.

Beginning Project-based Learning in the Classroom

What I Learned: PBL is about student choice, not the teacher’s.

I can hear it already: *lonely clap* “Yeah, that’s the point man!”

Now for me to elaborate on this groundbreaking material.

First off, I’ve done considerable “planning” for this unit. As in: I’ve invested much time into the thought and production of ideas and questions, gathered resources, researched methods, searched for ICT and online tools, written a lot of notes, then reflected, deleted and edited those notes, and repeated this whole process multiple times. In the end (or rather beginning) it lead me to create a handful of questions and a project idea. Yeah, lots of time, not much tangible planning. That’s it.

In our Social Studies class the goal is to make a book on Blurb.com about Ancient Greece and Rome.

I’m already excited and I think the kids are excited as well… well as excited as kids can be for school. The day went well and I feel like I learned more about PBL in one day than I did with all the planning I did previously. But I would not have learned that much from this one day unless I had done all that planning and research.

When I started today’s class I was at the front doing my regular thing. Trying to “present” and “tell” the information about what we’re doing and what the goal was. I looked around and saw all the yawns, bored faces, and other indicators of students who were not into it.  I had a mini-epiphany, “This doesn’t look or sound like PBL”. I gave my head a shake and thought, “What am I doing? This is the same old me talking.” The voice inside my head rebuked me, “Yeah… student voice, student centered, you’re the guide.”

I quickly sought to rectify my mistake.  I just started asking students how we might be able to accomplish this goal of making a book. How do we get to our desired result? How could we incorporate ICT and social media into the learning experience? How should we structure the groups/teams? How do we incorporate both Greece and Rome into the process? What do you students need from me to get going?  This is just a loose paraphrasing. I didn’t ask all these questions overtly, rather, I structured and prompted in a way that they came to an understanding of their own. This went much better than me just directing what to do.

I got to give the kids credit here too. They haven’t done this before. Yet, they were firing off ideas, criticisms, counterpoints, and telling me what they needed for next steps. It was only a start, but it got my blood flowing knowing that “yes, WE can do this.”

So yeah, going back to what I learned.

1. Overplan, then go with the flow.  2.Questions are much better than directions.