Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Designing our learning space...together

At the start of the year we consciously setup the bare minimum for our learning common - how could we possibly setup a learning space when we don't know all our learners? Before the term started, we set up a few smaller spaces - a gaming room with various board games stuck to the wall, cards on tables, etc to help students build relationships. Apart from that, our space looked rather...bare.

Fast forward to today and we have the beginnings of a beautiful mess.  So how did we go about guiding our learners through this process? To open their eyes to possibilities? To ensure our learners take ownership of their space?  Where to start?

We began the day by getting our learners to think about how they like to learn. What are the things that make learning easy or more enjoyable for them? Working in a team vs. working alone, having music, having a clear plan, etc. We used some of the ideas from the Diversity Game - if you haven't used these before, it is a great resource. The purpose of the game is to examine how we think differently - how diverse we are as humans using a range of statements e.g. CO OPERATIVE: I like to work together with other people to achieve something; MUSICAL: I like music; TECHNICAL: I like to know how machines and gadgets work.  Selecting a small range of these cards as prompts for those who needed it, our learners wrote their preferences for learning  on post it notes (1 per post it) and stuck them on the window.  
How do I like to learn?
Next our learners were given the task of grouping these ideas together. We gave no other instructions and stood back to see how our learners would deal with a task like this. Some lead, some were happy being lead, some choose to sit on the periphery and read a book.  Interesting for us (teachers) to see this unfold and not get involved!  Our learners managed to work together to group the ideas into categories. Once this had been done, we had a great discussion around why we have done this and why it was important to know what each other need in our space.

What is possible?
Now we had somewhere to work from. How would we honour the needs our learners had identified in our learning space? Our learners then chose an area of passion and began to brainstorm possible areas/ rooms/ resources that could be used within the common to cater for these needs.  After writing down initial ideas, we read others and gave thoughtful, helpful and specific feedback enabling groups to decide on their top ideas to implement. 

The rest of the day was working towards creating these areas. So what has evolved...

Those who liked to create are developing an animation studio complete with blacked out windows, lights, props, etc; an art area where learners can go and create with a range of mediums which are visible, a quiet writing room where our learners can create using the written word.

Those who liked to help people are designing a directory of what our learners strengths are with the idea if you are stuck you can easily find the best-fit person to help.

Those who love reading have taken the library space and further resourced it with more books and are busy designing a comfy reading space.

Those who have a passion for technology are organising our devices in a "user-friendly" way along with posters to help students with their learning. 

Tomorrow we continue to develop these spaces - it's great to see our learning common come alive knowing it has been such a collective effort!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Building Foundations for Success

It is the start of a new year, new team and new students, so where to start? As many teachers have their long term plans firmly in place, we (HPPS team) have been busy building relationships and gathering a shared understanding around some of the key ideas behind what and why we do what we do.

The build-up to today (day 1 term 1), was one that was loosely organised. Having new students and a new teaching side-kick, Reid Walker, it was important to put relationship building at the forefront of our first couple of weeks.

So with no sign of a holiday recount (see Lisa Squires post) our day was filled with a mix of causal and some semi-structured activities where we both took the lead and stood back. Our focus is on our school dispositions - building foundations by which we can have those "warm yet demanding" (see Daniel Birch's post re this) conversations needed to get the most out of our learners.

Reid and I had planned Monday and Tuesday, already we have completely changed tomorrow after knowing our learners for just one day - interesting as I know 70% of the learners already (from last year), but it was clear we needed to be responsive to our learners and their needs. What does tomorrow bring? Starting to unpack what learning could look like, in our space, with our learners. Reid and I are but one small piece in LC4 puzzle. Input from our learners is crucial to the success of our space and I look forward to seeing the seeds we sow in the coming weeks begin to flourish in the coming months.

Insights from today:
- ditch the word 'plan' and replace with 'possibilities', especially during these first couple of weeks,
- don't rush, tomorrow is another day,
- have those conversations that are needed...tomorrow's conversation may be harder if left,
- jandals are the best form of footwear in 30 degree heat @geomouldey 
- everyone needs a fabulous side-kick!