The power of the HOW in learning & other stuff

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I spent the day in the company of a fantastic group of educators who are committed to developing teaching and learning through the Personal Learning Thinking Skills. There were many memorable conversations at all stages of the day, even over lunch. With one department, one conversation led us to the conclusion that teachers needed to have the time to reflect on their own personal learning and thinking skills before they could really start to develop them with students. I’m hoping that’s what we’ll be able to work on over the next few months. I can see real potential in producing a ‘Teacher PLTS Project’. 

In another department, we had a discussion which led us working on a “HOW” strategy. THe aim of this is to tweak learning outcomes/ objectives so as to increase the level of thinking required by students.

Where the original learning outcome/ objective might state:

“Explain the factors that caused x to impact on y”

One simple ‘HOW’ tweak and it becomes a much more challenging thinking task:

“Explain how the factors caused x to impact on y”

In the original version the level of thinking is predominantly concerned with sorting knowledge and then applying that information to demonstrate understanding. In the tweaked version, the thinking required is concerned with analysis in order to articulate a rationale and in doing so, demonstrate in-depth understanding. This also gives the assessment of the task far more clarity as you know as a teacher or a peer assessor, exactly what needs to be explained, not simply described.

These are just two tiny glimpses of a fabulous day from start to finish. A great start to the new year. Thank you to everybody I met today…you know who you are 😉

Curiosity as a route to intellectual risk-taking

I have had the most amazing week of learning. It began on the South Coast (see previous post), working with a group of teachers who are bravely searching for ways in which they can give permission to their students to take intellectual risks, and, more importantly, encouraging their students to accept this offer. Without doubt, one of the hardest tasks for us all. They are well on the way to develop ways that explicitly foster the characteristics of independent learning and that generate a love for learning in and of itself.

The following day, I was on the train, travelling to Nottingham ready to meet with some inspirational educators generously sharing their approaches that offer opportunities to ‘learn-things’ differently. This was an absolute treat. I was introduced to a diverse range of ways to encourage deep thinking, learning design that offers creative immersion and common-sense, insightful ways to foster positive attitudes towards learning.

Whenever I have the opportunity just to sit and listen to what others are doing to drive learning forward, my brain goes into overdrive. New connections are inevitably formed in my brain and any existing connections and ideas are consolidated. In the frenetic world in which we all work it shames me that I do not manage to do more listening and less doing, as I know this would most certainly make my ‘doing’ far richer. After all, I spend a whole heap of time banging on about this as one of the fundamental characteristics of an ‘expert pedagogue’: the need to be a professional reflective practitioner [Note to self: must try harder].

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of meeting an Agent Of Wonder. Really. That’s his job title. I think that he must be the only “Agent of Wonder” in the UK Education system, if not the world. Dr Matthew McFall is an extraordinary man. He is leading an amazing project in a school that aims explicitly to foster curiosity across the whole school community. He has created a ‘Wonder Room’ which is packed full of interesting, unusual, out-of-time, out-of-context, thought-provoking objects (see photos). All members of the school community are encouraged to come into the room and simply explore, think and marvel at the objects on display. There are puzzles of all descriptions, abstract photographs, petrified animals, a typewriter, illustrated books, keys upon keys upon keys…

He held up a woolly mammoth bone. He explained that he had carried the bone around the school, inviting students to suggest what it might be. He invited them to look closely, to hold it, feel it and to sense it properly. Once they had decided that it was a bone, he asked them to look even closer, pointing out two distinct bulges; “What do you think happened here?”… “This mammoth must have had a tough life, don’t you think? A couple of serious blows that resulted in breaking his/her rib in two places…I wonder what sort of character the mammoth needed to be?” And then he went on his way, leaving students to imagine and to wonder.

When we were there, Dr Magic (for he also does magic tricks…well why wouldn’t he?), had just been into a Year 7 English lesson to work alongside the teacher and the group on developing their curiosity using appropriate objects from the wonder room to enhance their imagination and creative writing. Delightful.

I wish I could have reversed my week. If only I could have shared this very deliberate ‘curious-learning’ methodology with the group of teachers I met on Monday. I am sure that they would have loved it just as much as I did! What a great way to encourage learners to take those intellectual risks..to imagine…to question, to speculate and to take those much needed but very risky intellectual leaps of faith into the world of ‘there are no stupid questions; so have a go and enjoy seeing what happens.’ Now there’s a route to full on learning.

 

Creating ‘liquid networks and nurturing ‘slow hunches’

I cannot believe that it is already the third week of term. I haven’t written a post for all of that time, apart from transporting a couple of posts here from a sister site. Despite all good intentions, my regime of all-things-writing has also gone by the wayside. Note to self: ‘MUST do better.” And this blog isn’t going to shed too much light on my full head of thoughts right now, either. Instead, I though I would share this TED talk that I’ve just been watching (notebook in hand, for this is how I recommend watching all TED talks).

This talk is a fascinating journey through the history of ideas by Steven Johnson. For me, always the learning geek, I translate all that is presented into questions around school and learning. So when he makes observations about the ‘Architecture of Spaces’, for me, it raises the question of how we might consider working with our existing (and new) learning spaces; nothing new there, granted. But the heart of this talk is to observe the way in which humans are a social species where we spark off each other in order to innovate. How, then, do we organise learning, not just the physical aspects of it, to ensure that they encourage opportunities for the establishment of networks and the collision of ideas and nurturing as ‘slow hunches’. I have a few ideas about this, but in the meantime, make a cuppa and put your feet up for 20 minutes and enjoy learning from another great talk. I would embed it here but posterous appears not to be co-operating with me, so here’s the link instead.

Let me know what you think.

 

PLTS resources created through fabulous collaboration

(Taken from an original post on a PLTS Action Research Blog)

These resources are under development with the PLTS team at the moment….it goes something like this…

(1) Have an idea

(2) Ask, “I wonder if…?” within earshot of team members

(3) Prototype gets developed

(4) Prototype is tested and refined both in terms of its design and its application to task

(5) Prototype becomes a real resource

We are a great team!

The resources are designed to stimulate QUALITY LEARNING CONVERSATIONS, using the language and concepts of the PLTS. We’ll let you know how are ‘field trials’ go.

The dice are designed as one per PLTS, in two versions, one set is to be used reflectively with the prompt of ‘Have you…’ and the other set is to set PLTS targets ‘Try to…’. They are made out of wood and are, in themselves, things of beauty! The swatch cards are for teachers to refer to when they are observing learning, to support the integration of PLTS language and the cards are for learners to use to reflect and develop the PLTS as a shared language for learning. We’ll be road-testing them all with our project teams of Confident Communicators on Thursday, when we’re holding the Presentation Day for the project. The day is being run alongside an LA AfL teacher conference, and the teachers will attend some of the presentations as a CPD workshop to have a go at observing the PLTS in action using ‘Observing Learning’ techniques we’re developing.

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Creative Behaviours


The time when I am able to work from home is precious. It gives me the opportunity to immerse myself in readings, resources and videos that push my thinking forward. It also allows me the time to develop my creative behaviours. I’ve just started ploughing my way through an overly-long reference list I have compiled over the past two months from my Personal Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter and I’m now exhausted in the best possible way! There’s some amazingly inspirational thinking around and all of it is only a click away, especially now I have my PLN up and growing.

I’ve just watched Gregg Fraley @greggfraley speaking at TEDx hosted by NASA and whilst I listened, I doodled…only to find that one of his key recommendations was to purchase and use a notebook. How good did THAT make me feel?!

Watch and enjoy…my sketches are below (ordinarily, I wouldn’t have included them, but on removing the “YARDSTICK OF COMPARISON”, I found that they are perfectly valid forms of my self expression – thanks, Gregg!).

The wonders of Prezi.com

I’m at the explore & play stage with Prezi (www.prezi.com) at the moment as I keep getting intimidated by some outstanding work in the ‘showcase’ section. Sometimes inspiration has the opposite effect, don’t you think? Anyway, not one to give up too easily (well, not at all, if the truth be told and this is a place of truth, after all) I shall keep going and learning. In the meantime, you may see a few more of Prezi examples cropping up on this blog. I love this one – all about metaphor…enjoy!