Whose Choice is it Anyway?

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Photo by Letizia Bordoni on Unsplash

I had a moment today. It was kind of big.

I like giving my students feedback forms. I use them a lot! I use them in the beginning of the year, after big projects, check-in times, and at the end of the year.  I like the feedback and the information that these check-ins provide. One of the questions I asked my students at the beginning of this year was, “What is one thing Mrs. Finger can do to improve your experience in this class?” Kids responded with several, “Nothing, Mrs. Finger is great!”, (which is lovely. I could stop looking at the others and rest on my laurels)- “More coding,” “Learn more tools,” and “More freedom.” There were other similar responses, all of which I have tried to incorporate into class so that my students would feel more engaged and empowered. Thankfully, no one said, “she can leave us alone to do as we will.”

The end of the year we do a big project that basically lasts from April until the end of May and in the past, this has been a coding project. I love to teach the kids coding and this end-of-year project has been a highlight (for me).

The children have learned about several ancient civilizations and using Tynker, they share their learning about three of the five civilizations. This year I have decided to make a change: I decided I would let them choose which digital storytelling tool they would like to use share their learning. They will all have the same initial content from which to work: the GRAPES of the civilizations (Geography, Religion, Achievements, Politics, Economy, Social Structures) as that is the lens through which they studied, and from there they can choose their storytelling tool and go. This year they have used Google Slides, Animoto, Tynker, and MySimpleShow. Since Adobe Spark just became available as an edu tool, I won’t have time to introduce it for this year but will definitely add it next school year.

The introductory class went off without a hitch. Kids were excited about the project and eager to get started drafting their outline. They loved the idea of having a choice to use one of the tools they used this year. I figured with choice, they would choose something they felt comfortable and skilled using and therefore would be more engaged in the project (this is not to say that the previous years’ students using Tynker as their sole option were not engaged- they definitely loved the project, but it was easier for some than others).

So today I had the first group of students ready to get started and I was excited to  hear their choices.

Until I started to hear their choices.

Until many of them said they wanted to use Google Slides.

Not that there is anything wrong with Slides. There is not!

I guess I was just expecting them to go another route. Animoto or My Simple Show. Or Tynker since I know a lot of the students like to code.

And so I asked them why they were making the choice they were. I figured it best to hear their reasoning.

  • No text limits (like in Animoto and My Simple Show)
  • Freedom to be creative with text boxes, shapes, arrows
  • Easy to manipulate
  • Limitless images and creativity

OK. I took some deep breaths. I reminded them that they should choose something that will highlight their creativity and skills and not choose the easy way out. Perhaps I was trying to sway them into making a different selection.

That is where the big moment came for me.

I gave them a CHOICE. They made it. I have to live with it.

I suppose one cannot give a choice unless one is ready to hear the answer.

And, one cannot give a choice hoping to hear an answer.

I still have two more classes to introduce this project and I have two more classes to get myself ready to hear their choices.

I can do this.

 

 

 

In the Know

34604271491_919b678a1c_nLast week during the IMMOOC live session, one of the things discussed was how to keep track of everything that is out there and the pressure some feel to be in the know and keep up. A few quoteables that I tweeted from the conversation are below:

It’s not about adding on and doing more; it is about what we want our kids to learn and how we are going to get there- what conditions we need to set. Season 4, Episode 3 with  via

‘I might not be able to keep up with what’s new, but I will try to keep up with what’s best for Ss’

“We need to support & praise everyone where they are at”

“We need to be innovating out of a desire to find what’s best, not just what is new”

With so much out there, it can be tough to keep up with it all. That is why I tell teachers to find what works for you and these students right now, and go from there. There are many different versions of the same thing that one need not use all of them; choose the one that you and your students like. Now of course, what works this year with this group might not work for next year’s students so we have to keep in mind the needs of the group we have at the moment.

Part of why I like to share the way I do is to help my teaching colleagues who might not have time to sift through all that is out there. I love to find articles, videos, research, tips, and tools. I then read, watch, try, and think about what might be helpful, useful, interesting, and thought-provoking. The rest is what comes next- the weekly, or every-other-weekly share. So without further ado, this week’s share.

This first share is from Matt Miller and it is all about taking annotating to a whole new level. I love the idea of taking articles or pdfs and formatting them within a table so that students can annotate alongside it. The comment option in Google Docs is another way to do this. Check out the highlighting and sticky note add-on options in the post.

Speaking of annotating, Richard Byrne is always sharing great tools and tips and this week is no different. In his Practical Edtech Tip of the Week he shares Tools for annotating videos and images. If you are a teacher who uses videos for teaching, introducing these tools to your students or using them yourself will definitely enhance your teaching and their learning. And, if you are someone who uses Edpuzzle, you are used to adding questions, text, and other information to spots along your video timeline, so using one of these should feel natural.

Next up is a podcast from Modern Learners wherein Dr. David Gleason and Will Richardson discuss The Costs of High Expectations. Adolescence is starting earlier and going later. People have social/academic expectations of the kids who may develop earlier because they look older than they are, but don’t have the mental capacity to meet these expectations yet.  This is just a taste of what was discussed:

Is it our fear of losing our reputation for getting kids into competitive schools what holds us back from doing what we know to be right for kids as far as over-scheduling putting undue stress on them? “Who wants to come to a vanilla school?”

For additional reading on expectations, executive functioning, and the mismatch between developmental readiness and expectations, you can take a look at this linked-in  article, “All Aspects of Students’ Development Varies, Including Executive Functioning Skills”.

Student voice, choice, and empowerment are themes in this round of the Innovator’s Mindset Massive Open Online Course. These interactive learning menus from Shake-Up Learning offer your students (and colleagues if you use these during PD sessions) the opportunity to choose their learning path from various choices on the learning menu choice board. These boards also allow you to differentiate by offering options that speak to different strengths and ways students like to learn and share their learning.

If you would like to read more about the importance of giving students choice, Alfie Kohn’s article, “Choices for Children: Why and How to Let Students Decide” is on point.

Lastly, I have mentioned Pooja Agarwal and retrieval practice as a learning tool a lot recently. That is because of all the science and evidence behind the practice of retrieving that Agarwal shares on her site. This week she shared a quick, no-quiz retrieval strategy called Two Things and it is a fast and easy way to have your students think about what they are learning.

photo credit: wuestenigel What’s new? via photopin (license)