Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Disrupting Practise and Moving Forward - collaboration wins

A personal goal this year has been to challenge myself to change the way I teach from a 'chalk and talk' scenario to a more student centered, collaborative approach. If I want to develop the well debated 21st Century skills in the students I work with then I need to give them the opportunity to do so. I am trying to move towards a more project based approach. I'm also trying to offer opportunities for differentiation. Today I started to see the epic wins in the students I have the pleasure of sharing a classroom with. We are working on Claymations. Interestingly, we haven't even touched the clay as yet...we've been building the story and script with a lot of attention to detail. Interestingly, the students were the most engaged I've seen them and boy am I proud of them.

What is different? 

Firstly, the students are building their scripts collaboratively using Google docs. We noticed that students were not discussing things as much when we taught them how to use Google docs. 
By suggesting the students take on different roles within their groups, the magic started to appear. 
The 'script writers' are calling across the table to the 'researchers' to try and find some more detail on the main pollutants in Antarctica as they needed to move onto writing the next scene. The 'Props' coordinator had a table being drawn up further down the Google doc as they discussed the various pieces of equipment they needed. The 'director' was checking the story board that everything was being included and ensuring the detail was added to the script. I move from group to group listening to their discussion - not saying anything, just listening. I'm there if they need to ask. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. When I recognise a stalemate, I offer an alternative. The group takes off again and I move to the next group. Ownership of the task is theirs. 

 A squeal of delight from the back corner of the room - "Mrs W is writing on our script!" I had requested access to each groups' Google doc so I could give them feedback. Their class teacher was doing the same thing. The kids loved that they could see we were interested in what they were doing. They loved that they could fix areas that needed attention as they went. They thought it was cool - so did I! 

Giggling. Learning should be fun. I investigate the giggling. A student from one of the groups was away from school today. Actually, she was collaborating on the script using Google doc with her group from home! She was excited to be learning and working through choice. I asked her group to write and say hello from me. I smiled. Time is up - the kids don't want to stop. I don't want to stop but recess beckons. 

But wait, there is more. Differentiation is so important. How can we ensure that kids have an opportunity to expand their learning - I opened up the opportunity to build a collaborative website on resources to do with Claymation and video editing. Is it compulsory? No. Is it part of their mark? No. Is it engaging? Considering the more able students have already added resources to it in their own time and that the students who struggled with adding the resource have emailed me the links they have found because 'they really want to contribute to the site', I would say a big Yes. The added benefit is that all students have access to this new resource site which benefits all students regardless of ability. 

Is collaboration, differentiation and integrating technology hard? 
No, not really, with the right tools and being willing to step off the stage, it can be really rewarding and enriching for everyone involved. 

It made my day.