6 key learning spaces – VIDEO

I hope you enjoy this video about the 6 key learning spaces I have detailed in this blog.

This video was made with the target audience of other teachers – as if it was a professional development resource being presented at a staff meeting or PD session.

Please let me know what you think!

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Scratch lesson plan

In my previous post I spoke about the educational platform of Scratch – a basic programming language tool used to teach students to code.

I undertook significant research on this program and how it can be utilised within the classroom.

Here is a short excerpt from my research into the program.

Not only do teachers and researchers who have used Scratch report that students have ‘fun’ whilst using the program they also claim it has significantly enhanced ‘creativity’ and ‘problem solving skills’ within classrooms (Mladenovic, Rosic, & Mladenovic, 2016, p. 2).

Resnick (2012), one of the creators of Scratch, claims that among other things Scratch allows students to experiment with big ideas that may have otherwise been unattainable. He suggests that through Scratch, students are supported to ‘take complex ideas and break them down into simpler parts’ (Resnick, 2012, 13:55). Furthermore they are encouraged to persist and persevere through frustrations and difficulties they may encounter within the process. Most importantly though, the use of Scratch places learning into a meaningful context (Faloon, 2016). Resnick (2012) discusses this in his TED talk in the context of teaching a child about variables. Until this child was able to see how variables worked in the context of the game he had coded, it is unlikely he would have developed such a deep understanding of the concept.

Again, I would highly recommend listening to the TED talk by Mitch Resnick entitled ‘Let’s teach kids to code’.

 

Below you will find a screenshot of the lesson plan I designed using the Scratch tool- for a PDF version please contact me.

The e-space

The e-space presents a unique learning environment that may be new to many teachers. Commonly people think of online learning as static and solitary. However, the introduction of technology, the internet and hand held devices, such as iPads and tablets, into the classroom has opened up new lines of communication and networking opportunities for both teachers and students.

The use of technology in the classroom has opened up teaching and learning opportunities that would ordinarily not be possible. Moreover, it has the potential to enhance those that already exist. Technology promotes collaboration, wether that be collaboration among peers in the group learning space within the classroom or with students from another school in a different country!

Many skeptics will argue that technology isolates students, forcing them to work one-on-one with a device. However, the majority of contemporary research argues that technology actually empowers students to be more creative and to connect more authentically with others as they are able to collaborate on areas that interest them and are able to do so on a global scale.

Creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, digital literacy and global awareness are also essential skills for the 21st century learner that are seamlessly integrated into a program that authentically utilises technology. For example I recently designed a unit of work using the software Scratch, a basic programming language tool designed as an educational platform to teach children how to code.

I would highly recommend listening to the TED talk by Mitch Resnick entitled ‘Let’s teach kids to code’.

Yet, like all learning spaces, challenges do present themselves. For teachers who are unfamiliar or do not feel confident using technology the abundance of resources, applications and uses fro technology within the classroom can be daunting to say the least. As a result, many teachers choose to stay in their comfort zone and completely ignore incorporating technology into their program. I don’t think I need to reiterate why this significantly disadvantages those students who are not educated with technology as a part of their daily lives. Teachers must learn to utilise technology to their advantage.

Students might face accessibility challenges in their use of technology. And I agree that a major downfall of technology is that it can be unpredictable. Having half the laptops in a class set not being able to log on to the network can be painstaking! (If you haven’t already guessed I am speaking from experience here). Yet teachers must be adaptable and flexible in their teaching with technology as in all other areas of teaching and learning within the classroom.

Another challenge faced by both teachers and students may be a lack of available resources. Many contemporary schools now have a 1:1 child to device ratio, however there are some schools who simply do not have these resources available to them. I want to stress that a 1:1 ratio is not a requirement for integrating the e-space into your classroom. As long as students have access to even 1 or 2 devices, shared across the class learning in the e-space is still possible. You as the teacher might just need to develop a crafty timetable of allocated time for device use for each individual student.

References

Murray, O., & Olcese, N. (2011). Teaching and Learning with iPads, ready or not? TechTrends, 55 (6), pp. 42-38.

Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs [MCEETYA]. (2008). Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Melbourne, Victoria: MCEETYA

Mladenovic, M., Rosic, M., & Mladenovic, S. (2016). Comparing elementary students’ programming success based on programming environment. International Journal of Modern Education and Computer Science, 8(8), 1.

Resnick, M. (2012). Let’s teach kids to code. . Retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/mitch_resnick_let_s_teach_kids_to_code

Falloon, G. (2016). An analysis of young students’ thinking when completing basic coding tasks using scratch jnr. on the iPad. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 32(6), 576-593

The Liminal space

Now for many this will be a new concept. My research has led me to believe that the liminal space refers to a subjective space in between the known and the unknown. It encompasses the threshold of crossing over or to go beyond what one already knows into new and possibly daunting space that exists there. This is a non-tangible space and will look different for every person you encounter. Meyer, Land & Baillie (2010) summarised it well when they referred to the liminal space as the ‘suspended state of partial understanding’.

There are significant benefits for purposefully placing students into this space to learn. For many students, challenging situations inspire perseverance and enhance learning as students are driven to discover new and exciting things. For others who may not be as confident to delve into the unknown, learning within the liminal space links back to the personal learning space and provides an excellent platform for personal reflection and evaluation.

I am drawn here to share with you the term ‘productive struggle’. A term coined by Jo Boaler in her book What’s Math Got to Do with It? How Teachers and Parents Can Transform Mathematics Learning and Inspire Success.

Boaler suggested that deep and meaningful learning can arise when we provide out students with the opportunity to get the wrong answer! If students are required to retrace their steps and figure out how they will do things differently next time they are engaging in self evaluation and reflection and are beginning to understand that it is okay to be wrong!! Can I stress that again! We should be teaching our students that it is okay to be wrong, in fact wrong answers provide us with an invaluable platform to learn from our mistakes. Furthermore, Boaler also discovered that when students make mistakes in mathematics their brain actually ‘grows, synapses fire, and connections are made’, yet when they participate in rote work where they get the answer correct 100% of the time there is no brain growth (Boaler, 2014).

There are numerous challenges within this learning space for both teachers and students.

For students, crossing between the known and the unknown can be scary but unfortunately it is teachers who are far more resistant to delve into the unknown than their students – I believe this has something to do with the fear that seems to develop with age of being wrong or making mistakes. We as teachers MUST ensure that we uphold our pledge to be life long learners, regardless of wether this means facing a few hiccups along the way.

For students it can be challenging to acknowledge that this space is a space of growth and learning. It is not something to be ashamed of, rather it is something to be revealed and celebrated as a progression of the learning occurring.

References

Meyer, J., Land, R. & Baillie, C. (Eds.). (2010). Threshold Concepts and Transformational Learning. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

Boaler, J. (2015). What’s Math Got to Do with It? How Teachers and Parents Can Transform Mathematics Learning and Inspire Success. New York, NY: Peguin Putnam Inc.

Boaler, J. (2014). The Mathematics of Hope: Moving from Performance to Learning in Mathematics Classrooms. Retrieved from Youcubed at: https://bhi61nm2cr3mkdgk1dtaov18-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/The-Mathematics-of-Hope-5.pdf

Distinction between cooperative and collaborative learning

I found this image created by Clare (2015) particularly interesting – Thank you Sargent (2017) for the link to this image!

While Clare (2015) claims that the ‘purpose of both approaches is the same’, to facilitate meaningful peer interaction, thereby enhancing learning, deciding which approach to use for a a specific task can be challenging.

Cooperative learning is a purposeful instructional strategy whereas collaborative learning may be something that naturally occurs in many classrooms. Cooperative learning has been found to be very successful, however it is highly important to note that it is teacher facilitated an initiated. Furthermore, an area I found of particular note was that Clare (2015) determined that cooperative learning is a ‘team approach’ where all members are expected to contribute and fulfil their individual roles.

Collaborative learning however, is defined more by a group of students coming together on a shared interest or passion. Therefore, while students will no doubt learn extensively from each other there are no defined roles or need to contribute equally.

The table I featured in my previous post about the group learning space was highly influenced by this diagram.

References

Clare, J. (2015). The difference in cooperative learning and collaborative learning. Retrieved from: http://www.teacherswithapps.com/the-differences-in-cooperative-learning-collaborative-learning/

Sargent, V. (2017). Is there a distinction??? [Online post]. Retrieved from: https://leo.acu.edu.au/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=541638 (note access to this page requires a valid log in)

The Group Learning Space

I would like to preface this space by alerting you to a few definitions as found in the table below. While the terms cooperative and collaborative are not always easily distinguishable there are some key differences to note. Simberg (2017) describes the distinction as ‘active’ versus ‘inactive’ participants. That being that it is possible for a member to be inactive but still be cooperating. Yet when members are engaging in collaborative learning each member is an ‘active’ participant.

Transforming a space to be conducive to group learning was discussed previously, yet what are the benefits for both teachers and students in learning in this way?

Teachers are able to differentiate learning based upon individual students needs, preferences and interests and facilitate like-minded students to work together. This allows teachers to provide their students with more directed and meaningful guidance as they are only receiving information that is relevant to them.

For students the benefits are manyfold. The group learning space allows students to collaborate and learn from each other, sharing their own knowledge, and seeking the knowledge of others. This gives every student the opportunity to be both the student and the teacher. Strategies such as the ‘Peer-Assisted Learning’ strategy (which can be found in more detail here mirror this sentiment.

Maria Montessori believed that allowing students to interact in this way established a caring community of active learners, building independence and confidence among all individuals who belong to it. Students are suddenly not solely reliant on their teacher and are instead given opportunities to lead their own learning based on what interests them.

I found this video of a Montessori teacher speaking about the benefits of group learning in a mixed age group very interesting. Although in a traditional mainstream setting we teach children of similar ages I believe what she is saying is easily transferred to the group learning environment where the more capable and confident students are able to guide and assist those who are still progressing.

Group learning, specifically collaborative learning, has also been found to emphasise thinking skills and increase higher ordered thinking as students are presented with the need to solve problems for themselves and interact and work with a variety of different people.

However, as with all learning spaces there are challenges. As well as the noise factor that was raised in the previous learning space some students prefer to work independently. By not providing opportunities for students to do this we are not meeting their individual needs. Therefore it is essential that the group learning environment also accommodates students who, at times, may wish to work independently. Cooperative learning may also be more suitable for these students as they are able to take on more of an observer role.

For teachers, developing groups the work efficiently together can be challenging. When learning in this way, where the teacher may spend time talking to a small group, we need to feel confident that the remainder of the students are keeping on task and working well together. While it might be nice to clone yourself and have one of you working with each group at any given time, the reality is that effective groups and ground rules for working in this way need to be established from the beginning to ensure that meaningful learning can take place. And, as I’m sure you are all aware, this is not as easy as simply putting like abilities in groups. It is important to mix not only ability but work ethic too.

Therefore, it is essential that pedagogy focuses on building the individual confidence and strength of every learner so that their role within the group in clearly understood.

References

Slavin, R. (2010). Co-operative learning: what makes group-work work? (pp. 161 – 178). The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice, OECD Publishing.

Sargent, V. (2017). Is there a distinction??? [LEO post]. Retrieved from: https://leo.acu.edu.au/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=541638

Clare, J. (2015). The difference in cooperative learning & collaborative learning in teacherswithapps [Blog post]. Retrieved from: http://www.teacherswithapps.com/the-differences-in-cooperative-learning-collaborative-learning/

Bunny, S., Patadis, D. Raine, E., Sargent, V. & Stretton, A. (2017). Is there a distinction??? [LEO post]. Retrieved from: https://leo.acu.edu.au/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=541638

Simberg, M. (2017). Cooperation vs Collaboration in MontessoriSeeds. [Blog post]. Retrieved from: http://montessoriseeds.blogspot.com.au/2017/04/cooperation-vs-collaboration.html

Where does learning occur for you?

After being sick for a number of weeks and having no luck in getting healthy again I decided to take myself and my dog on a mini mid-week getaway. Waking up to see the sunrise each morning, literally talking to no one but the dog if I didn’t want to, and truly just relaxing was exactly what the doctor ordered! I have come back this week feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Below is a picture that demonstrates that learning truly does occur everywhere! You will find just a few of my many wondering over the weekend annotated on this stunning picture I took of the sunrise at Aireys Inlet.

Beyond the classroom

While we as teachers can ensure that our everyday learning environment is set up to meet the individual needs of each of our students, learning that occurs beyond the classroom can also be invaluable.

Learning experiences that ‘bring the outside world in’ offer unique opportunities for students to understand the bigger picture and the world they live in.

Incursions and excursions are common ways to facilitate beyond the classroom learning. For students, incursions and excursions offer information that is ‘contextually relevant’ (Lorenza, 2009) – which is not always possible within the classroom.

To exemplify this, just imagine your class is undertaking a unit on sustainability and global warming. Now imagine complementing and extending the learning occurring within this unit with a visit to the Gould League in Victoria where students can participate in a session tailored to suit the topics they are learning about, can be led by a trained educator who is an expert in their field, and can see real-life examples of what they have been studying within the classroom.

The concepts they have researched in the classroom are now being contextually presented, providing a platform for enhanced and enriched learning. Furthermore, we are encourage students to understand that valuable learning experiences take place in the real world and are certainly not limited only to the classroom.

A resource I used in researching this excursion was a website called ‘Cursions’. On this website you are able to select the subject, year level and distance from your school. The website then compiles a list of possible incursion.

Social and emotional learning is also highly likely to occur within these settings as students are encouraged to cooperate with their peers, interact in unknown environments, problem solve and engaging in effective decision making.

However, many teachers experience challenges in incorporating excursions and incursions into their program. Common challenges include finding suitable and appropriate incursions and excursions, transport and budget issue and finding accompanying adults. Teachers can also commonly fall into the trap of treating excursions and incursions as ‘time off’. When in fact valuable learning opportunities are missed and students are likely to be disengaged with what is being presented to them when it is not authentically incorporated into the program. Teachers must also follow up with rich and meaningful reflective tasks (Lorenza, 2009).

For students, leaving the safe confines of the school grounds can be a challenging and daunting experience. For those who suffer from anxiety issues, leaving school to attend an excursion may seem like an impossible task. Further, when teachers fail to embed incursions and/or excursions into their program they may find a severe level of disengagement from their students as they struggle to comprehend the relevance of information being presented to them.

References

Lorenza, L. (2009). Beyond four walls: why go beyond the bounds of school? [online]. Teacher. (198), 22-25.

Johnson, J. (2009). Beyond four walls: experiential and situated learning. Teacher. (198), 18-20.