May 23rd, 2013 by Kirsten
This week I stumbled upon Inspired Learning site, which states as its goal: Together Alberta Educators innovate, create and explore ways of learning collaboratively while sharing transparently what works. My understanding is that this has grown out of the work AISI (Alberta Initiative for School Improvement) was doing, and I think perhaps it was initially intended for AISI teachers, however, when I look at the member list I see that clearly not everyone is even a teacher in Alberta.
They have a variety of things going on, including
- Discussion Threads called Forums
- Twitter chats every other Wednesday 7pm MST using #inspiredlrn @inspiredlrn (there is a collective twitter list as well)
- Blackboard Events (May 16 is Digital Portfolios: For Primary and Beyond! 5pm) I believe you can register here)
- A newbie challenge to help people new to connected learning, and introduce people to the website
- Featured resources
- Much much more, your really do need to just go and see
You do need to request permission to join, but it was painless, and worth the effort.
I thought I would try starting a discussion around the notions of Entrepreneurial Spirit embedded in the Alberta Learning Framework for Student Learning called Teaching and Learning for Entrepreneurial Spirit (You may have to register to be able to access this, I’m not quite sure…)
Here is my Introduction:
The Framework for 21st Century Learning states as its goal: Creating Engaged Thinkers, Ethical Citizens with an Entrepreneurial Spirit.
But what does it mean to teach and learn to develop Entrepreneurial Spirit with young people?
What will it look like at the different levels?
What strategies can we use?
What are the challenges and opportunities present in this goal?
Join this discussion group to explore your questions, share strategies and experiences, and so much more.
Within hours there were responses!
Laurel shared that at Alberta Distance Learning they have created an iPad App to help students develop an Entrepreneurial Spirit. She shared these links to find out more:
Mobile game gives teens education in business (CBC article)
What an interesting and intriguing idea! I wonder if there is anyone out there who has used this program who would share their experiences?
Janne’s response was so great I am just going to copy and paste it:
Yong Zhao (World Class Learners) says “Entrepreneurship is fundamentally about the desire to solve problems creatively.” He believes that foundation of entrepreneurship–creativity, curiosity, imagination, risk-taking and collaboration is innately human, ‘in our bones’. He goes on to explain that potential for entrepreneurial spirit can be either enhanced or suppressed by our experiences. So the challenge for us as teachers, then, is to design learning experiences for our students that support them in bringing their creativity, curiosity, imagination, risk-taking and collaborative skills to bear to a variety of interesting and open learning projects and activities. I think that calls forth the need for us to think very differently about teaching and learning…not only in terms of the nature of the learning opportunities we design for students and how we might assess them, but also the learning environments that we find ourselves co-habiting together and how they impact, hopefully support, development of those characteristics.
But I’m wondering what others think. Would you agree with Zhao’s definition of entrepreneurship? Is this a definition that we are looking to apply in our context? Do you see those attributes he mentioned (creativity, curiosity, imagination, risk-taking and collaboration) as foundational to supporting development of an ‘entrepreneurial spirit’?
Finally, Anne’s response addressed an important concern for me, which is the notion of entrepreneurship in education as being only preparation for the business world, when she responded:
There are two meanings to the phrase entrepreneurial learning; on the one hand taking proactive charge of your own learning and on the other, preparation for the business world as your own boss. There is of course an overlap in the middle but often people lean more to the one or the other.
She shared this video of John Seely Brown’s Keynote address at DML2012 called “The Global One-Room Schoolhouse: Entrepreneurial Learner”. It is worth a careful watch as I think there are many important ideas for us to unpack here.
Wow! All this to think about from one short little posting! I am excited to have joined this community, and to have access to such great ideas. Connected learning at it’s best.
Why don’t you take a minute to join this community, and even start your own discussion?
The Campus Calgary/Open minds program offers teachers and students to spend a week immersed at various sites throughout the City of Calgary as part of a year-long inquiry. I have had the privilege to going to Glenbow Museum School, Nature School, City Hall School and this year I piloted a program at Reader Rock Garden. This mind map is for my application for the Cross Conservation School.
Create your own mind maps at MindMeister
As you can see, it is closely tied with the grade 4 Religion, Social Studies, Science, and Language Arts curriculums. As this is just a meant as a starting off point there are obviously opportunities for much more investigation. Where would you go with this in your own classes?
I’d love feedback!
A few of my students have already begun selling their products for Entrepreneurial Adventure, and will be finishing up in the following weeks. I created my first Google Form for the self-reflection and thought I would share it here, but am having difficulty embedding it. Suggestions? I will be using the results from their reflections in the poster I make for the Entrepreneurial Adventure Showcase in May.
This morning as I ate my morning cereal and read the Globe and Mail I found this essay by a first year teacher In Alberta. I read it, and then posted it on my Facebook page and fired off this tweet:
first-year teacher. tgam.ca/DoaG.Achiev. meritocracy works unless uteach”lower-end” *gasp*kids who struggle to learn.
— Kirsten Tschofen (@KirstenTP) March 23, 2013
In response, my very good friend wrote on my Facebook thread:
I agree with you that performance of students should not be the measure. But frankly I have personally observed a lot of mediocre or bad teachers who go unchecked. My sister and mom have told me countless stories too. And I’ve seen it as a public servant. I believe that seniority should not take precedence over merit. And mediocre employees should be either disciplined (if they ate willfully being sub par) or given training if they have the willingness and capability to learn. We’re teaching the next generation (and in my work, running the country), not making widgets.
I have a great deal of respect for the thoughtfulness my friend shows in regard to public education. I also know that my friend and her son have had to suffer through many less-than-ideal teachers in his short life. I know she respects and supports teachers, and understands the hard work teachers put in in order to be good. Her comment is not meant as simple teacher-bashing, and I don’t take it that way.
And, in many ways I share her frustration. What concerns me though, is how often this discourse about “weeding out bad workers” takes place in the context of teachers. It seems to me that I am far less likely to hear complaints of this sort in Medicine or Law or other professions – where systems of tenure, pay your dues etc…, are also firmly entrenched. What discussions I do hear generally come from within these professions, for example, instances of hospitals trying to re-organize the workload of interns, rather than externally imposed evaluation systems to determine merit. I can’t help but wonder why this is?
Here is my Facebook response to my friend:
Of course there are mediocre teachers out there, although, what constitutes mediocre is a surprisingly subjective term. However, I wonder, what section of the workforce has managed to weed out poor performers entirely. Education is not an exception, it follows the same pattern as every where else. It’s just our work is highly visible and subject to public scrutiny in a way many other jobs are not.
Although I am obviously not defending poor teaching, I resent the notion that I (as a presumably good teacher) should be subjected to more scrutiny and need to prove my merit just because there is a minority of bad teachers. Who do we think is going to work harder in that environment? Are we imagining the “lazy teachers” will suddenly jump up and start producing, while the hard working teachers rest on their laurels? Not so, the lazy will stay lazy, while the hard workers will have yet ANOTHER thing piled on them.
At any rate, what I really take exception to in her article is her resentment of the “lower-end classes” with kids who actually need help learning. If those classes are difficult and unpleasant to teach it is inappropriate to blame the children in them for the grouping. The fault is ENTIRELY the education systems for creating ghettoes of unwanted, uncooperative, unpleasant, unmotivated children and then expecting that they will in any way act otherwise. Really good teachers – the meritorious ones – know this.
I really, really want to know, what on earth are we doing offering courses no one wants to teach. Do we expect the children are thrilled to be taking these classes? Is this really the best we have to offer our most vulnerable and disenfranchised children -those who are disengaged from their learning, who need support with their behaviour, who need a teacher to help them learn. Courses no one wants to teach, taught by people who resent the children in them, that get shuffled from teacher to teacher as a matter of scheduling and preference and reward for long-service. What kind of learning do we imagine is taking place in these classes?
I do not blame the author for her take on the kids, or the classes. She is clearly being enculturated into a particular school environment.
I blame our educational system.
How is it that our solution to students who need more seems to be so often to offer them less?
A few weeks ago our school received a cart of 30 Chromebooks. I was keen to get started, even though I have never used Google Drive, and very few Web 2.0 tools. I new we would be getting an inservice eventually, but I thought I’d bring a few into my class and see what happened. Over the last weeks I have shown different groups how to do different things, and then allowed them to share with the rest of the class.
And, I can say that we have mastered a number of skills, starting with the most basic, which is to logon. Which, quite frankly is more complicated that one would expect. While everyone can get on eventually, I do still have a few kids who have a great deal of difficulty typing in their email without making a mistake, and then many get bamboozled by the need to identify the right network (which requires a different username and password!). We also now now how to use the Chromebooks for updating our blogs, and many children have figured out how to do things like change their Themes, Titles, and fonts. A few have added a Clustr map to their blogs as well. And today, after visiting our partner class’ site for the Blogging Challenge, many children wanted to learn how to do a Voki.
I have never made a Voki before, and my initial reaction was to tell the kids that I would look at it this weekend, and we would make one together on Monday. But they had the Chromebooks in their hands, and many were keen to get started right away. So I let them. I started doing the Sign Up on my laptop, which was connected to the Smartboard, so the kids who wanted to watch followed along. A few gathered around my laptop, and the rest huddled in groups of 2 and 3 around their own Chromebooks and worked their way through it.
Right away we had an opportunity to discuss Digital Citizenship, as the sign-up requires names, email addresses, and a birthday. To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for this, but the kids monitored themselves and decided only first names, they used their school gmail account. A few did try to use their own birthdays, but discovered that they are too young. I gave them my birthday instead. Soon many of them were signed up, and playing with the Voki. Two or three of them had the time to create a short Voki and embed it into their own blogs before we had to leave for lunch.
I was proud of the collaboration, problem solving, and enthusiasm the kids showed this morning. And making a Voki was cool. But, I do still feel like I am about to jump off a very, very big ski jump:
This is all going very fast, and I am unsure, both about the what kind of learning has been happening in my classroom, and about the possible repercussions of introducing my students to so much technology.
This week’s focus on Digital Citizenship with #ETMOOC as very much focussed on the benefits of using technology in the classroom and has downplayed the risks many see as to a large extent fear mongering. And, I agree. But I am still afraid.
I have this crazy inner dialogue going on. It goes something like this:
Have I opened a Pandora’s box now that the kids know how to use their district gmail account as an actual email account, rather than just a username to log on to the Chromebooks.
As though they didn’t realize it was an email? Here is my opportunity to discuss Digital Citizenship with it. They are kind kids in class. Do I really imagine they are suddenly going to turn into horrible bullies if they figure out how to email each other? What would make me think that they would suddenly change who they are in an online environment?
And what if they all go home and make Vokis? What if the Vokis are all silly and don’t demonstrate their deeper learning of content?
Oh no! They will have made silly Vokis, and had some fun. They can make Vokis that demonstrate deep understanding of content and blooms taxonomy later. Or not. Maybe Voki isn’t the best tool for demonstrating deeper learning of content. They did learn how to problem solve and work together, and they were utterly engaged the entire time. That counts for something.
We have spent a lot of time writing blog posts, and reading and commenting on others over the last month. But if I look at what they are doing on their individual blogs it is still pretty superficial work. Many seem to have forgotten how to use a capital I. There are spelling mistakes. There is a lot of talk about pets and sports. Not so much about all the amazing things we have been learning in class, or reflecting on their learning, or engaging with other learners to flatten our classroom walls. Am I spending my time wisely? How do I balance between using blogs as a place for children to write about things they are interested in (their pets and sports), and using them as a place to demonstrate and reflect on their learning.
Yes. Finding a balance it hard. Lately the balance has been towards giving them freedom as they learn how to use the tool rather than learning through the tool. That will change. It takes time.
The parents have been mostly silent about the work we are doing on our class and individual blogs. What does this mean? How do the parents of the kids who have been keen to work at home feel about this? Maybe they prefer to limit screen time. Am I undermining their decisions? Is it a burden? Do they feel the class blog gives them a sense of what we are doing? Do they even check the class blog? Should I be doing more to get them engaged? What could I do?
All of the feedback I’ve had has in fact been positive. They are an articulate and involved group of parents, and I think I have good relationships with them. They would probably let me know if they had any serious concerns. No news is good news!
And so the inner conversation goes on, and on, and on. But, I think I just need to stay the course. The exhilaration I will feel as we move from learning about the technology tools, to learning with them is real and is a worthy goal. The possibilities this offers my students in their learning is a worthy goal. Fear is just fear. I often say that I never want to let the testing culture hold me back from doing what I know to be good teaching and learning. I also need to make sure I don’t let fear of the uncontrolled in technology hold me back from what I know to be good teaching.
His interview on Q is some comfort, but real-life would have been so much better!
Creativity is a popular buzz word in educational discourse these days, and in the past I have stayed away from these kinds of ideas, as I have found many of them to be shallow and meaningless.
But the notion of creativity is one that speaks to me on a personal level.
I like how notions of creativity, passion, and engagement are all intertwined. I wonder about the relationship between creativity and risk taking. I resist pressure (from literal readings of program of studies, from the culture of testing, from parents) to teach as though content = curriculum, as though only the measurable is valuable, and in a way that ultimately obliterates any hope of creativity, originality, and boundary pushing. I strive to find my own creative ways to learn, to share, to build upon and push my own thinking, and that of the people – young and old – with whom I share my days. I admire the creativity many of my children show everyday, and am frequently stunned at how wondrously talented they are. I dream of a day when they each find those talents and embrace them. I believe creativity is not only part of the arts, but maths, science, politics and relationship building as well. I want creativity to be valued in schools not only because it is seen as something children will need in the workforce, but because it will make the world, and their lives, better. I struggle with how to do any of this.
And that is all.