Sunday, April 13, 2014

Exploration, Inquisitiveness, and Creativity: Where Have They Gone?

I have an almost 2 year old. It's been a hard winter. We're finally getting to the point where we can go outside. The grass is turning green, finally. Enter exploration and inquisitiveness.

He's into everything. Rocks. Potting soil. The hose. Sticks. Dirt. Mud. Sand. Leaves. And on and on. A typical 2 year old playing outside after being cooped up all winter.

I snagged this picture of him as he is pointing the hose directly toward his face. For those of  you wondering if what you think happened actually happened, the answer is no. It wasn't hooked up to the spigot.

As this is happening, I had the inclination to step back and wonder about my students. I fear that some of them have lost the intuition to explore the world around them. After spring break, I had my students show, in any way they wanted, what they learned over break. You would have thought it was the toughest assignment they had ever been given. There were literally no strings attached. No required amount. No specific way they had to show me (like you must write 3 paragraphs). Completely up to them. There were some students who just wanted to write "nothing." I had to beg and plead them to really think about something they learned. It could have been as simple as you finally learned how to put toothpaste on your toothbrush without spilling it, or you learned how to put on your underwear without falling over. It didn't matter. It could have been something like how you finally learned that your little sister doesn't like cheetos. I could have been that you finally figured out how to get past that level you were stuck on in a video game. When I say it didn't matter, it truly didn't matter.

Why was it so hard for them to come up with something? Why did they not see the world around them as a learning opportunity? Why don't they see the world around them as something that can teach them something? Why? Did they lose the ability that 2 year olds have to explore? Was it something that I did this year that made them not want to learn "outside" the walls of the school? Was it the teachers they had before now? Is school the only place they can learn? ....

Then, I started thinking about creativity. I recently started a poetry unit that centers on the use of figurative language. I use a packet to record their thoughts and "data" that they collect about different poems to find examples. Yes, I said I use a packet. Shoot me now, packet haters. I also use poetry books that I bring in. I use web sources. (Although, not that much because I don't have 1:1.) I use poems from their textbooks. Anyway, a couple students said they had done something similar the year before. I then decided that it would I would let those select students do something that they could create on their own to show their learning.

Great idea, I thought. They could use the internet/apps/whatever and do whatever they wanted as long as they could "prove" they were learning the same things as the other students. What more could students want?

Apparently, it didn't suit their desires. But I don't think it was their desires, it was their lack of being creative skills. They didn't want to because they didn't know how to start. They had their canvas and their paint and brushes ( I let them use their phones for research) but they had no vision. No plan. No inkling to what they wanted to do. The worst part was that they looked like a puppy dog who didn't know his way back home.

Where have all the creative juices gone? Did I give them too much freedom? Has there never been a teacher ever do that before to them?

I think students see learning differently from inside a school and outside a school. I think they see learning outside of school as life. Not necessarily learning. I think they believe that they can only learn something inside a school. Maybe they don't see learning outside of school as learning. It's just what they do.

I heard  say that you should keep a journal every day. And in said journal, you shouldn't write down what you did. What you should write down and keep is what you learned. Pretty good advice. Focus on learning.

Now, how am I going to get those students focused on learning instead of not wanting to do anything? Hopefully, I'll let you know.
Have a great week.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tech: Symbaloo, Tagboard, Tackk

Some techie things I've seen lately that I'd like to share.

1. Symbaloo

It's been around awhile, but I didn't really see the need to do use it. Not until I made a webmix did I realize the potential of it. I just saw it as a catch-all for my most used sites/bookmarks. I think when I started seeing it as a tool for projects and my classroom did it make more sense to me. I think it would be so easy to create a webmix for specific classes, projects, strategies, etc.

Here's some good ideas -

2. Tagboard



Tagboard is a catch-all for hashtags used across different social media. In a nutshell, if pulls (aggregates) the same hashtags from twitter, instagram, vine, facebook, google+ into one site.

I tried to do a quick run-through over spring break to track what some of my students were learning outside the school walls. I had a couple of takers. If they tag on non-public social media (a lot of my students have private instagrams, it doesn't show up. That's a downside to me, but I get it)

Here's a tagboard I did for spring break #dcmsspringbreak -

I found it useful for catching up with twitter chats like #tlap -

How about the #finalfour

I think it could be used for quick responses in class, sharing links with others in a class, collaborating together, as a backchannel, lots of things.

3. Tackk

Intro video -

Tackk is a very simple quick and easy website builder. I think it's more like a one time awesome blog post. It's kind of like a digital storyteller. It's a way to get information shared in a very nicely done way. It looks very professional.

One of the cool things about it is that you don't need an account to use it. A lot of students don't like signing up for a lot of things. Another good login amazingness is that you can use your google log-in. All of my students have google education google logins. So there is no need to not be able to sign in.

In classroom use, I see this being used as a way to showcase a project, give an assignment out, do an assignment, send out a newsletter, etc. There are a lot of things you can do. I like the idea of using them as student portfolios. (something I'd like to do next year)

You can also hashtag it (no tagboard doesn't aggregate tackk yet, shucks) but you could search for a common hashtag, say like your classroom hashtag) making it easy to turn in an assignment.

How do you use Symbaloo, Tagboard, and Tackk? How could they be used?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sharing Loved Lives, Together

Tonight, my wife and I went out to eat. While we were there, there was a family of ten at the table next to us where the youngest in the party was turning 18. I'd say that the age ranges were from 18 to the 80s. Probably 3-4 generations. They were so upbeat the entire time. Not like annoying and loud, but more of a loud love type of buzz/hum. At one point they broke out into a song. I was never turned off by the loudness. What I did see, was a love of a family that was truly sharing life together. I enjoyed watching them interact. There were pictures being taken, presents, balloons, and cards exchanged, and lots of hugs. 

Our waiter, who was also the large group's waiter, was one of the best waiters I've ever had. He was very courteous, prompt, made us feel welcome, and did everything with a smile on his face. He even put our left over food in to-go boxes, brought us a bag, gave us to-go cups, and gave us some extra cheese to go home with us. He did a great job of serving us. Not serving us as in his waitering job. Serving us as in putting our needs, and probably wants, ahead of his to make our experience great. 

Through both of these interactions, I left the restaurant with a smile on my face. These two interactions chose to think of others first, to live life together, and to be positive while doing it. It was refreshing to be refreshed, even if those giving the refreshing had no idea they were passing on the positive energy. 

Serving others not only puts a smile on others' faces, but also raises the servee's energy as well. 

Share love. Live life together. Choose to be a positive influence on others. You never know the impact you might have.