On the Border of Chaos & Order: Project Based Learning in Kindergarten

 

“The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one’s self. Adults work to finish a task, but the child works in order to grow, and is working to create the adult, the person that is to be. Such experience is not just play… it is work he must do in order to grow up.

 – Maria Montessori 


The article Perfecting with Practice: Project Based Teaching by Suzie Boss, lays a wonderful foundation for those educators looking to make the leap into Project Based Learning. As a Kindergarten teacher, this framework coupled with PYP curriculum and a strong emphasis on play-based learning is the perfect recipe for authentic learning engagements in my classroom.

Suzie Boss writes, that “Inquiry is at the heart of project learning.” As much as I  agree with her on that, I’d take one step further with the anatomy analogy and say if that inquiry is the heart than play is the backbone.  As an Early Years of working at conceptually based schools, I believe it’s the concoction of inquiry,  play, and experimentation that really helps foster critical thinking skills and promote big ideas.

Each day my Kinder students become more and more accustomed to inquiry and big ideas and solving authentic problems.  At first, the thought of relinquishing control and transferring more ownership over to the students felt a bit daunting.  However, I quickly realized once I got out of the way, that’s when the magic happened.  I had embraced the power of letting go and started looking at the learning through the macro lens.  By embracing project-based learning as my foundation I helped keep my students tethered to learning but unbounded by their own desires and creativity. 

Suzie’s Boss’ article Perfecting with Practice also reminded me of  Mitchel Resnick’s TED Talk Kindergarten for our Whole Lives.  Throughout his TED Talk, which I’ve also included below,  he dives into what he calls the four P’s of Practice. Those are as followed.

Projects
Passions
Play  & Peers



Starting with Passions

It’s been said if you want to get to know someone spends an hour playing with them.  You’ll learn more from that one hour than days of conversations.  In the Early Years, where students wear their hearts on their sleeves, a few play sessions combined some astute observations and notetaking and you will allow you begin to tap into the interests of an early years learner.  Take iTime, for example, ( also known to other educators as Genius Hour) undoubtedly our most popular time throughout the week. My Kindergarten students consistently look forward to iTime because they know that that time is personal to them.  It’s a dedicated time and space for creative thinking. 

iTime activates my student’s natural desire to learn and empowers them to embrace their imagination and design thinking skills.  Our classroom Makerspace is an organic entity that has taken on a life of its own and treasured by my students. Each week they take part in iTime where in addition to them learning about the creative process, they are constantly exploring, experimenting and tinkering.  In a sense, iTime is grassroots,  student-driven,  Project Based Learning. Fueled by their individual wonder and passions, my students take iTime very seriously. Here’s a great article that speaks to more of benefits of personalized learning  or “iTime”

Also, have a look at some of the focus and levels of engagement from my students below.

 

 

 


Make it Relevant to Make it Work

Although iTime is one way to tap into my student’s passions and make it work on a personalized level.  I began to reflect on my Kindergarten class as a whole and wondered which learning engagements fit best with their needs, Project Based Learning or Challenge-Based Learning?

After reading Kim Cofino’s blog post “ 3 steps to transforming your classroom,” I realized is that Understanding by Design or Project-Based Learning would work really well with my 5 & 6-year-old students. Understanding by Design allows me to revise lesson plans to keep them aligned with the learning goals thus acknowledging the ebb & flow of Kindergarten.

Other learning frameworks although, great, do not necessarily fit as well as my Project Based Learning.  For example, Problem-Based Learning & Challenge Based Learning isn’t exactly relevant or age appropriate for my students. Don’t get me wrong, delve into Problem-Based Learning from time to time, but that is mostly when we are attempting to solve or focus on classroom or individual conflicts.

By keeping my focus on the Project-based learning model,  I help my students become prosumers as they generate a cycle of creation, reflection, & refinement.  It will also change the way they perceive the world. In my class, there is no problem too big to attempt to solve. Providing children with Time, space, resources and an authentic audience equips them for the real world. 

Learning to collaborate on large-scale problems and give and receive feedback throughout the process is one key to success, both in the classroom and in life. 


Overcoming Obstacles  

Project Based learning helps the students learn how to think big and come up with big goals and ideas.  Of course, like any type of teaching, this takes scaffolding, patience, and practice.  One obstacle, although not terribly big one is the fact that things in Kindergarten don’t always move in a linear direction. Some of the learning will probably be circular but I suppose the nice part about Project-based learning is the freedom and flexibility that comes with having an overarching goal/set of learning outcomes. UBD units, for example, allow me to revise lesson plans to keep them aligned with the learning goals.

I find that when they have an authentic audience to provide them with the feedback they are much more responsive. This sometimes can become challenging, especially if we have already exercised the options of our Grade 2 reading buddies, the admin team, or our parent community.  One thing that I would like to do more to help circumvent this obstacle is to seek out more global connections. Perhaps through my PLN on Twitter along with #KchatAP & #Kinderchat groups.  It’s important that my students continue to present their learning to an authentic audience, one that expands beyond the grounds of our school.

I’m a firm believer that Kindergarten students are more than capable of handling big ideas and understanding/handing real-life authentic problems so I’d never completely discount something and underestimate the ability of my students. 

Mitchel Resnick’s book, Lifelong Kindergartener, has been on my radar for a long time and as a Kindergarten teacher, I wholeheartedly agree with his views regarding teaching and learning through his philosophy and the four P’s. 

Although it often requires the right delivery, time, space, a bit of essence and a lot of repetition, my Kindergarten students and I are able to make learning look like an organic roman candle of student interest, engagement, and enjoyment; unbridled and glorious.


Final Wonderings?

What does learning look like in your classroom?

How do you harness and promote creativity with your students?

How do you embrace the four Ps (Projects, Passions, Play,  & Peers) in your teaching?

 

“Learn to teach like Chuck Berry plays guitar.”

The title of this post was quoted by Sonny Magana during his Youtube video explaining the T3 Framework. It stuck with me and instantly made me a fan of Magana’s 3 T’s, Translational, Transformation, and Transcendent. It’s an excellent concept and his framework makes up a great hierarchy which showcases how we can use technology to enhance student learning.  In the past, I’ve only ever used The SAMR Model but, after spending some time looking at both the TPACK and T3 Framework I became enticed and a bit overwhelmed, wondering if one had any specific advantages over the other.  Often in education, one can get easily acronym’ed to death.

So the question now becomes, what do you with all the tools to use to evaluate using technology (which is also a tool), to enhance student learning?

Let’s have a quick look at each one of our top three tech integration models and try to decide.

Here’s Ruben Puentedura, creator of SAMR

Now’s here’s TPACK explained in 2 minutes.

Finally, here’s a video of The T3 Framework for Innovation in Education explained in 5 minutes.

Notice anything?  All three evaluation tools use the sum of their parts to take learner deeper, moving students from consumers to prosumers and from passive participators to creators and disruptive innovators.  All three of these tools represent the same paradigm shift. Take your pick but understand that it’s the mindset that really matters.


Whats in a name?

So, thinking about the overarching idea we want to achieve when using technology in the classroom, I couldn’t help but get hung up on how many different ways we attempt to communicate the same thing. That thought brought me back to my school’s latest technology committee meeting where our focus mainly centered on us currently searching for the right name to coin our iPad program.  Our philosophy is sound as is our purpose and procedures. We believe in SAMR, embrace the ISTE standards, and have aligned our curriculum with Common Sense Media, we just don’t have that one name to sum it all up nicely.  As we all went back to the drawing board after our latest unsuccessful attempt,  I couldn’t help but zoom out and think, “What’s in a name?” Now I didn’t exactly have Shakespear on the mind when reflecting on this, but instead, the abundance of acronyms already floating around in education today.

Upon further reflection, I couldn’t help but notice how many of the tech integration tools have a massive commonality. SAMR & TPACK and even T3, provide teachers with ways enhance learning in with technology. Although they’re different models, they all provide a roadmap for innovation and highlight the same big ideas,

promote student agency,

foster creativity and collaboration

and transform student learning.

Keeping learning at the forefront of the conversation allows us to view technology as a skill much like  Jeff Utech mentions in his blog post.

” If we view technology as a skill, then we can look at the skill students are learning through the use of technology.

Using the three higher order thinking skills, of Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy,  create, evaluate, & analyze, below are some of the things I like to encourage my students to do when using technology:

  • Create connections locally & globally to collaborate & give and receive feedback
  • To become prosumers
  • Produce content for an authentic audience
  • Be media and digitally literate by critically navigating and interacting in the digital realm.
  • Embody the ISTE Standards for Students

Edutopia does a wonderful job summing this up in this video.


“Roll Over Beethoven”

It was way back in September, during course one,  when I was first introduced to Mark Pernsky’s article,  Shaping Tech for the Classroom.  I wrote about what he calls, “enlightened trial and error”, “dabbling”, & “doing old things in new ways.” You can go back and have a look at that post here.

Press Start : Digital Citizenship in Kindergarten

In Pernsky’s article, he lays the groundwork for his views of technology in the classroom in his four-step process

  • Dabbling.
  • Doing old things in old ways.
  • Doing old things in new ways.
  • Doing new things in new ways.

Although I wasn’t around to witness it, this process seems to mirror exactly what Chuck Berry did with his guitar when he turned the music industry upside in the 1950’s. Much of what he did is nicely summarized in this article “What Chuck Berry Can Teach Us about Innovation”  by Jim McCarthy. I think it’s safe to say that Chuck Berry was a disruptive innovator. 

Just to be sure, let’s also cross-check them with those skills/ real life applications I listed above.

  • Seek connections locally, and globally to collaborate, give and receive feedback

 Chuck learned from and borrowed from others, such as T-Bone Walker. He sought out other successful people in his industry for help and advice, specifically Muddy Waters and Leonard Chess of Chess Records. 

  • To become prosumers

He created a hybrid from various influences, mixing blues and country music with an uptempo electrifying guitar sound that couldn’t describe.  He experimented with different products and pivoted into new markets – think of it as modern day “app-smashing.” 

  • To have an authentic audience

He knew his audience — recognizing trends and reflecting the spirit of his times

  • Be media and digitally literate

He creatively used new technology, the electric guitar.  See below.

Sadly, Chuck Berry died a year ago today, on March 18, 2017, but his spirit lives on inside every disruptive innovator.  So when I think about what I want my students to achieve when using technology in the classroom, yeah I think of all the acronyms, but mostly I think about redefinition, transformation, creativity and Chuck Berry.

Perhaps we should all learn to teach like Chuck Berry plays guitar.

 


Final Wonderings?

How do you promote disruptive innovation in your classroom?

What are the challenges raised by teaching using SAMR , TPACK, or T3 as a tool for integrating technology?

What does technology integration look like in your classroom?

 

 

 

Course 3 Final Project: My CV Visualized

I created a Google Site to house my newly created infographic resume. You can access the site here.  Below is the infographic I created using Vennagage, a website that offers free and paid infographic templates.  Wanting to try something different besides Canva and Piktochart, I gave Vennagage chance. After looking through the different templates I decided to make mine from scratch. It was a bit of a learning curve but after some trial and error, I came away with a hyperlinked, interactive, “About Me infographic CV” that I’m quite pleased with. Have a look below!

 

Cools & Warms of Venngage

Here is a site that makes the comparison between Venngage and Canva.  It shows that Canva is cheaper at 12 dollars compared Venngage 49.  In addition, Venngage is rated higher with a score of  8.9 to Canva’s 9.4.  The cost was a certainly a cool for me. In order to download my CV as a PDF or JPG, I must pay a minimum of 19 dollars for the first month.  I thought about this for awhile but at the moment I’ve just decided to have it embedded on to my Google Site.

I also found that Vennagage was limited in the number of text styles, and images.  The number of templates was not as large as Canva but there were some really interesting ones which looked different and more appealing. It was the CV and infographic templates that originally drew me into using their site.  The only warms were also the slim features in their free plan and I’ve included them below.

Free plan

  • 5 infographics
  • Venngage branding
  • Share publicly

I’m happy I tried something different but overall I think that Canva or Piktochart are much better websites for designs and infographics.


Google Sites = “An About Me Ecosystem”

By using Google Sites, I’m able to provide and house so much depth showcasing my professional career. The ability to embed various docs and slides and make my “About Me” more responsive and interactive is why I believe Google Sites is a perfect platform for job seekers. The G-Suite offers a Learning Center that teaches you how to create a Google Site from scratch.  Check it out if you’re new to Google Sites and thinking about trying it out.  My next step with this site is to create a page specifically for my upload my Youtube Channel.  Stay Tuned!

Although I’m certainly not looking for work now, I’ll continue to maintain and improve my “About Me Ecosystem” for next time I enter the recruting season.

@NicholasKGarvin