A few days ago the much expected Lincoln Educational Conferences finally took place. I attended the LEC for the first time last year, 2016, and was thrilled. A completely different approach to education to what I am used to. Being able to interact with the colleagues from Lincoln School and other schools was incredibly exciting and inspiring. Last year turned out to be the trigger for many small changes I began in my classes. Those changes got profounder this year, collaborating with Silvia Tolisano.
This year the slogan the identified the conferences was
DREAM BIGGER, AIM HIGHER
And I believe this spirit of dreaming that nothing is impossible, and aim higher, was really tuned with the spirit of the lectures I attended.
Here goes a brief summary and reflection on the different talks I heard and workshops I participated. This is also a way to organize the information mentally for me.
- The keynote speaker that opened the sessions on Friday 8th was Julie Smith (@juliensmith), an expert in Media Literacy. The talk was just awesome. A presentation based on images and challenges. The challenge to be aware that all the information that comes to us makes it in a certain way for a certain reason, mainly economical. The importance of understanding who produces the news, the ad, the movie, the documentary. Which is the intended public, who will consume this contents, what will we do, what does it achieve.
The most outstanding part I found was that Julie really talked to the teachers of different areas, presenting different strategies to approach this urgent matter with our students, really a survival skill for adults in the 21st century, as the title of the conference points out. The math’s teacher, language, science, social studies, and even health received tips and examples on how to work in this sense. The basic hypothesis being: once a kid produces a fake news, a biased statistics, a photoshoped picture to make you believe, they will NEVER again consume media in the same way as before.
I loved her conference and decided to get a little more into it attending to the session called “Fact or Fiction: how to activate your internal lie detector in classroom”
Julie provided us with many great tools, both to check the veracity of the news or contents on the internet, and others to use with the students to have them creating fake news.
I thought it could be a great idea to apply in my Environment lessons, when we come to talk about biodiversity: have my students create a fake news about the finding of an extinct species (Something like: “Tasmanian wolf seen last weekend”, supported with good research and using all the little tricks, like watermarks.
Two things I could summarize for my time spent listening to Julie Smith: “The best internet filter is located between our ears” and ALWAYS BE SKEPTICAL
2) The second talk I attended was AMPLIFYING STUDENT´s VOICE, by Jennifer Verschoor, teacher at St George´s College and Microsoft Certified Educator.
I knew Jennifer last year at LEC, and loved her style, energy and bunch of tools she loves to share and try with the attendees. This is how Kahoot became part of my lessons since one year already.
This time, the background idea was: how can we give voices to all of our students? This is something that interests me particularly, as a former shy student, feeling that many voices are unheard, and classroom talk is always a play of very few loud instruments, and not a symphony, losing the feeling of depth. She showed how she uses VOIKI to have the students creating and giving voice to avatars (loved it!), Keeprid, a great tool that allows us to download the sound of a YouTube video, having the students listening to the sound and imagining what might be happening, as an excellent visible thinking routine, a nice starter for a unit. Lifeliqe was amazing, a 3 D modelling that students can manipulate on the screen, something that will definitely get my research to see what could be nice for my own classes.
And of course, Skype. Its many applications for the classroom: virutal fieldtrips, skype lessons, mistery skype, guest speakers, and, why not: including students that for some reason (illness) are not in the classroom, etc. I am aware that I didn´t get INTO Skype yet, but this is definitely a challenge for me next year.
I was also very interested in exploring the education.microsoft.com. And finally: Project KAKUMA, such a nice idea. For me, it would be a dream to be able to find a way to collaborate there. Dream, aim higher. I will definitely give it a closer look.
3) Kevin Duncan was in charge for such an important topic as preparing your student´s to have the best presentation ever: Setting up “Big Time” presentations. Kevin is a history teacher and the performances I saw on the stage by his students were phantastic. What caught my attention was the initial quote he showed on a slide: “The price of greatness is responsibility”, Winston Churchill. When you give your students the responsibility, when they REALLY feel responsible for their own learning, they will reach great heights. They will need pressure. It´s not nice, but true. And then, just create opportunities to succeed, so everyone in the end will be further than their own initial expectations.
Time, time and time. Kevin emphasized on this: time is necessary. I see that our students don´t have the time to learn how to prepare a presentation. The focus is on the contents, but not on setting up a good presentation, or on the orality. Some teachers focus on this, some don´t. Peer feedback during oral presentations is something very positive: it engages the friends of the speaker in collaboration for improvement, they learn, everyone profits. It is important to point out what Kevin said: peer feedback does not influence the grading, which is a decision of the teacher. In this way, you can have honest feedbacks, they wouldn´t be afraid to mark also the points that need improvement.
I took a rubric home, very helpful! As a guide to where to focus when I prepare students for an oral presentation, focusing on practice (mini-speeches with peers), on speech techniques, variety of sources, including a personal anecdote (not necessarily your own anecdote), leaving something to think (so what?)
NEXT YEAR: In some group of Health and Adolescence, prepare students that will hold a speech about certain disease (each student chooses which would be the one that interests him/her more is), possible a disease associated to social aspects or cognitive disorders, depending on the group´s interest, with integral analysis. Choose the best talks, prepare the winners to hold the conferences for the other groups and invited teachers, setting up a “stage”, documenting so they can analyze what was good, what could be better. You will hopefully see my blogpost about this process next year.
4) Documenting for Learning, by Silvia Tolisano. Although I have known Silvia for a time now, it is always great to attend her sessions. She is so passionate. It is still difficult for me to find the difference between documenting OF, FOR and AS learning.
Documenting of learning is easy to understand, it is a snapshot. It is not easy to do, because you have to find EVIDENCE of learning, and for me the most important evidence happens in the brain, and you cannot document that easily unless you are a Neurologist taking brain scans during learning. This is my first thought. It is so easy to fall into the obvious: taking pictures of people working on netbooks, looking at a screen or playing a quiz. It does not necessarily means they are learning. This would be the first challenge.
Documenting for learning is perhaps what I am doing mostly on this blog, interpretation of what happened during learning, reflecting, metacognition.
Documenting as learning…. mhm…. making the learning visible. Some tools I learned with Silvia this year might be useful for this, in my case the sketchnoting. Thinking on how to put my thoughts in a visual manner together, taking the time to read them again, assign colours, is a kind of documentation that allows me to learn while I am on the process. It is very close to the previous point.
One great thing we used during this talk was the Goose Chase tool, a very nice scavenger hunt I intended to use in the next weeks to cover the sexuality unit in an interesting and inquiring way, using gamification aspects to motivate the students. It was great to be a Goose Chase participant, because it allowed us to find out which were the limitations. I will have to rethink the design of my Goose Chase.
We also used Flipboard a lot, as Goose Chase has a limited time for videos, connecting it with Flipboard is a good way to document reflections or collaborations in an easy and funny way. I am still fighting with the idea of Flipboard. I used it, not with the students. We were talking with some colleagues that we have to be careful, it could be a platform for bullying? I don´t think it could happen very easily, but you have to know the kids you´re working with. The other limit is that we still don´t have students bringing their own devices, so nobody could have the app downloaded anywhere to use it. I can´t imagine 20 students recording themselves in a classroom, it would be a mess. How do we make them engage with such an activity at home? Many question I will be able to answer once I tried. I believe it is worth it.
5) Toolbox for Teachers, by Tim Chaney and Alvaro Penna. I have to be honest, by reading the overview of the talk, I expected the solutions to all my problems. It was not the case, but I have to admit that the activity was very thoughtfully setup. I want to highlight two great things I learned:
- a) How to easily setup a differentiated activity. In this case the speakers asked us to auto-assign us a skill level regarding technology (self-assessment), choosing an animal from different levels. Then, we had to send it per G-form. The G-form had a limit of possible animals per group (e.g.: 10 tigers, 10 owls, etc).. Once this capacity is reached, you had to choose a different animal (three possibilities per level, three tech–literacy levels). Then, we had to join in groups, all tigers together, all owls together, etc. And we had to open a Google Doc with hyperlinks that lead us to the tech-challenges, depending on our skill level. This is such a great way to organize a differentiated activity in a classroom! Because 1) It´s fun and 2) you have the students self-assessing them and accepting the challenges they consider. There is a lot of room to discuss then! Perhaps having a feedback on how they felt with the challenges? If they over or underestimated their skills level?
- b) The use of Chrome extensions. I have to admit I never used a Chrome extension. I am not sure if the three we used in this session will be changing my life or not. I will try them, I found them nice. And I found out that there are so many extensions out there that can be explored! And that alleviates a little more your routine on the screen! Thanks for opening this new aspects to me!
6) Advanced sketchnoting. Again, Silvia Tolisano, I think I wanted to spend some more time with her during her short visit, you always learn something. And even if I attended only half of this session, it was a nice moment. Silent, in the library, thoughtful. And many ideas for serious implementations with the students next year. I think sketchnoting is such a wonderful tool, that every learner would profit so much. Some hints to train students. Again: time, time and time. I have to think about dedicating some time to get them familiar and comfortable with sketchnoting. The proposal of Silvia on practicing sketching of objects, then adjectives and then concepts is a great way to warm up the students.
I will also visit more frequently the inspirational communities: #doodleaday, #homeschooldoodle, Paper53, Pinterest, etc. The best part: to have the time to sketch an idea I have since a long time: Little Things that make me Happy…to be completed
Next year: introduce systematically sketchnoting in the classroom, dedicating at least one class to train.
History of medicine: sketching the storytelling!
7) Digital Breakout EDU, by Phil Giansante. I wanted to attend this session because I knew Breakout EDU in February playing with the Cohort Goethe and it was SO MUCH FUN! I have to admit that I didn´t use the physical box yet, but I promise that I will use it by the end of the year. Anyway, I wanted to learn how to make a digital version of the game. The starter was the playing of a mathematical breakout EDU and it was so fun to try to find out the answers. It is very easy, using a google form designed to accept only certain responses, with some minor tricks of settings on the formularies. By the end of the session we were challenged to think about a digital breakout for our own classes.
I thought about making a digital breakout EDU about Sexually Transmitted Diseases. It is so difficult to think clever clues!!! I still didn´t finish, but I will use it, certainly. It´s so fun for the student´s and perhaps I can adapt it to the box we have at the school, which I think is more fun as they have to move around and open the locks with several combinations.
8) Learn Like a Pirate! Thank you, Christine Hodges (@Christineah88), for your passionate and nice session. The idea of this talk relies on a book published in 2015, Learn Like a Pirate, by Paul Solarz. The spine of this idea is having students leading their own class, their own learning. PIRATE is an acronym that stands for : Peer collaboration, Improvement focused vs grade focused, Responsibility, Active learning, Twenty first century learning and Empowerment. A Student-led classroom engages students, makes them reflect and collaborate, give feedback to each other, make decisions with responsibility, everything in a SAFE ENVIRONMENT. The challenges are many, you have to take risks. You have to accept some failures. What happens if one student takes the leadership? How do we manage such situations, how do we get students involved in self-regulation. Which is the role of the teacher? What about focusing on the 21st Century Skills instead of grades? I definitely will buy this book to download on my Kindle. The talk was very inspiring, well organized, beautifully sketchnoted and the work Christine does with her 3rd-graders is very motivating.
9) THE ENDING: Lynn Kachmarik, I loved you! The closing session was in charge of this pure-energy-distilling coach, with her sports-coach style I love and admire on so many sports teachers and coaches. At the ending of two days, on a Saturday afternoon, I just didn´t want to leave the auditorium of the Lincoln College. I was tired, my brain full of stuff after two intense days. And we played, and laughed and just got into the atmosphere of Why we teach, why we coach, why we lead. It was not only the final injection of passion and love for our jobs, it was also a great pool of ideas to apply as icebreakers, having fun after a stressy instance like examinations, get people connected again, looking in each other´s eyes. A great orality activity of having an expert talking about his expertise (she did so well talking about tango!).
We are planning a self-esteem activity with 8th year prepared by our voluntary students ” Protagonistas del cambio” for prevention of addictions. I will definitely try this game of experts, it is such a great activity to do with students, to get them in a role, convincing, standing up there on the stage, gaining self-confidence, improvising, adapting to the conversation and standing for your thoughts.
After this infinite blogpost, I just have to say that the organization was great, the T-shirt, the food and snacks, the schedule organization, so professional and specially, so kind. Everyone at Lincoln is always so nice, it makes it evident that they are enjoying this event, collaborating with so many different teachers of different schools. The best example of SHARING AND COLLABORATING. THANKS