Tuesday, 17 July 2012

That's a Wrap: #30DayChallenge and Year End Post

Wow, where did that 30 days go?

I feel this is going to be a fairly lame post. I have nothing except excuses for the my lack of posts for in my first 30 Day Challenge.

At the end of May, when a couple of colleagues (and fellow PLN members - who were half way through their own 30 day challenge) encouraged me to get going on my own 30 day adventure, I decided to take the plunge and challenge myself.

What an awesome concept! 30 solid days of reflection and delving into my own practice (and in my case, the practice of colleagues) to find things I liked, didn't like, things I did well and things I could improve on.

I decided to focus on engagement through inquiry which has been my personal professional focus for more than half of the school year. The inquiry portion of my focus came from working with other Learning Leaders from Area III and also with The Galileo Network and Amy Park (@amydawnpark). From day one I was so inspired by this new understanding of what inquiry based learning actually is. Rather than just big projects and always having a big umbrella question to explore, inquiry as I know it now, is a dynamic and engaging way of teaching and learning. It's an intentionally planned learning process by looking through different lenses/disciplines such as the following:
  • Authenticity
  • Academic Rigor
  • Connecting with Expertise
  • Appropriate use of Technology
  • Active Exploration
  • Elaborated Communication
  • Beyond the Classroom
  • and Assessment
As a staff, and through out PD with Galileo, we have learned to assess our IBL projects through the Galileo designed Discipline Based Inquiry Rubric.

Over the course of my 30 Day Challenge, I tried to look into the projects I was involved in and find elements and disciplines of inquiry. While it was hard on some days to find my way into classrooms and actually be a part of the learning,  I did see that the people in our building are now trying to incorporate some of these disciplines into their teaching. As we have found out, we're not going to get this over night. It's going to be a long process to change our way of thinking from the teacher always being the holder of knowledge and transforming it so that our students become the experts. They become scientist, authors, mathematicians and historians and in turn become totally engaged in their learning.

For a while now my strengths have been in the use of technology in the classroom. My passion is finding new ways of presenting and expressing an understanding of concepts. What I have really learned by thinking about my practice, is that I need to ensure that the technology we use in the classroom matches or compliments the concept, or idea that students are inquiring into. I have begun to think entirely differently when it comes to the use of technology in the classroom. I now think about what I want the students to know or understand and then think about how technology will help them throughout the learning process. Sometimes, it might be to help understand how a concept works, or how to express an understanding of that concept at the end of a project. Sometimes it might be to communicate with others, in the their own classroom, or from outside the school and on the other side of the world. Teachers might also use technology (and this is my new personal favourite) to give students critical feedback. My enthusiasm for technology as a learning tool is stronger than ever!

This past couple of months we have been exploring iPads as a learning tool. These powerful little devices have really blown me away. They really enable teachers and students to do everything I mentioned in the above paragraph. The other cool thing about iPads are that they are so new in education that we are learning more and more about them as a learning tool everyday. Through an exploration program facilitated by our [CBE] Innovative Learning Commons (#cbeilc ~ twitter conversation), we were asked to share projects, student work, examples of Apps and anything else we could that may help others understand the value of the iPad in the classroom. 

We decided very early on that we would steer away from drill and practice style Apps. I realized that the iPad has way more potential than game based applications and that the students plays and then forget about. We focused on Apps that used the camera and audio capabilities. Most of the Apps we liked and have explored thus far use one or both of these iPad features. The Apps we have enjoyed using so far as follows:
  • ShowMe
  • Stop Motion Studio HD
  • Comic Life
  • Skitch
  • Voice Recorder for iPad
For more information on our exploration with iPads please visit the website I made to showcase our learning ~ http://projects.cbe.ab.ca/marlborough/mobile/Exploration/Home.html. We have got more plans to develop this site next year. I will more than likely change domains due to the discontinuing of iWeb. I will post any changes to the domain as they happen. 

This year has been an amazing one for me. I have never finished the year off so excited to come back in September. Don't get me wrong, I am loving my summer and spending time with my wife and kids. However, I look forward to the challenges ahead.

My next post will be about my wishes and aspirations for the 2012-2013 school year!