There are times when collaboration is natural and times where it is prescribed. During times when it is natural, it often becomes viral and taps into your global PLN. In times when it is prescribed, I think it becomes more localized to your grade level team, division colleagues and school leaders. Course 5 came to me at one of these prescribed times, I let it happen, and I didn’t do anything to change it.
When one is caught in such a situation that one group is telling you to INNOVATE, transform your classroom and you don’t have to all have classrooms that are doing the same activities, and another leadership group is telling you that you must be consistent in delivery and student experiences, and then you have your team wanting/needing/expecting to give the same experiences and opportunities for their students, true transformation is slower to develop.
This is the situation that I was caught in this year. And I didn’t handle it as well as I could have. Partly due to time factors and family needs taking precedent over the job and partly due to aforementioned circumstances being far beyond my control.
Assuming the team leader role was a great challenge to me this year and took time away from my individual planning and team collaboration. Guiding a team of colleagues with less tech abilities and more traditional philosophies and approach to their classrooms toward the holy grail of transformation impacted me, the units, and took a toll on my ability to document and curate the evidence I needed for this project.
It was impossible for me to close my door, focus only on my learners, and transform their learning.
I was less good for a while.
To the project…
A little history to put things in perspective on the revision of our social studies units from literature-based thematic units to student-led inquiry. Four years ago with limited, shared technology, our SS units, Exploration, Migration, and Our Changing World, were all taught from historical perspectives using a literature-based approach in classrooms with +-40 percent EAL students and text levels far above them culminating in a written research project, basically an essay about their chosen historical exploration, migration, or major change to the Earth. In my first year, I simply went with the established units but made modifications by finding as many videos and books on “tape” at my learners levels. We formed interest groups and collaborated on research projects.
The second year, our team changed, so we worked hard to revise the units to be more relevant and move toward student-driven inquiries using more online resources especially audio, video and primary sources for them. We also expanded the formative and summative assessment pieces to be more varied as well as offer student choice of products from picture books, oral presentations, to Powerpoints. A lot of substitution but a step in the right direction considering our tech limitations.
Two years ago we knew iPads were coming and our team changed again. We took a big step toward redefinition by changing the perspective of all the units from a historical perspective, that the majority of students could not relate to at all, to an individual’s perspective while using the historical incidents as exemplars and teaching points. The main revision was a big step toward student-led inquiry. We were not 1:1 at this point in the year, so we relied on our PC Lab and Netbooks for research and publishing during the Migration unit. These assessments were an attempt at digital story telling, and I didn’t even know it yet!
For example, our Migration unit, started with each individual and we created a map connecting all of our migrations to Shenzhen. Learners then wrote interview questions for their parents to find out the details of each migration focusing on the reasons they migrated and the positive and negative impacts. Our EQs, so to speak. They analyzed their findings together and presented in small groups.
This led to an inquiry within our community, “Why have 16 million people migrate to Shekou?” We invited community members in to have their migration stories recorded, so learners could analyze it later. This information was then collaboratively published as iMovies or Glogsters.
This unit improved dramatically this year. Partly due to an earlier rollout of iPads that allowed us to find more learner friendly resources that met their needs. The same launch from self to community was followed only we told them upfront about their final assessment which was to tell another migration story. During this, learners were exposed to the key vocabulary, concepts and processes of human migration. We then asked students to find out about Shenzhen. In teams, they watched news reports and videos to learn the history of our city and the migration stories from ayis to to construction workers to CEOs and finally back to us.
At this point, we shared resources and videos of other historical migrations. Students worked together to find the forces and impacts of these migrations. We also had two skype conversations with a class in India and surveyed our buddies in Brazil. We used our walls to record their thinking and make connections and draw conclusions.
It was now their turn to inquire. The final project/assessment was to simply tell another migration story including the key vocabulary, concepts and processes that we now know about. They could choose another individual or group of individuals to interview, research other historical migrations, research their ancestors’ migration and tell one story, or come up with their own idea. Motivation throughout this unit was high as more relevance was seen as to how this all affects them as individuals.
I have tried to follow a similar revision strategy for all of our units including science and math.
My final project is about another social studies unit and my desire to harness the power of MineCraft and relate it to the real world. As mentioned earlier, documentation isn’t up to my expectations. As well it was the last unit of the year and did not get the attention or time it deserves. Apologies for not fitting the schedule, especially for the lack of global collaboration and giving feedback to the cohort.
So it goes…