Tag Archives: conversation

Videos + rich class discussion = Vialogues


A retweet by Jenny Luca informed me of Vialogues

Vialogues supports meaningful discussions around video. Video can be a powerful instrument with which to engage an audience. However, while videos are essential to the equation, the conversations surrounding these videos are what characterize a vialogue. Vialogues gives you the opportunity to participate in a focused environment that allows you to absorb the content of a video while commenting on it.

The heart of Vialogues is embedded into its name; a vialogue is a video plus a dialogue.

This is a neat way to use videos for class discussion online. Currently I’m involved in the rich sharing of writing in Year 9 blogs. Videos can be fantastic for sparking discussion. The advantages of online discussion directly under the video include participation for every student and an overview of the whole conversation. I hope to be able to use this or other Vialogues with the Year 9 students soon.

I had trouble embedding the Vialogue on my Macbook Pro using Chrome. It may just be an issue on my machine and if anyone can help me embed successfully I’d really appreciate it.

Click the ‘explore’ button to browse people’s Vialogues – so many ideas here to use or modify. I’m interested to hear if you’ve used Vialogues in your classes and how successful they were.


Writing for an authentic audience, being real. Thanks Isobelle Carmody.

Nick and I are very excited about the way our Year 9 blogs are developing. But before I go any further – Isobelle Carmody has visited us in a guest post!! Isobelle has been very gracious and has taken the time to write down her thoughts for our boys. I would like to share her entire post with you:

I was never much for diaries, and then I read the Diary of Anne Frank, and it was so vivid and real and it felt so true, that I have on and off again over the years, tried to write diaries. I was never very good at them, perhaps because I was the only audience and it seemed to me that I poured the best of myself, the truest words I could write, into my books. You might smirk at this, given I am captive in the fantasy genre corral (save when I can jump the fence and go for a midnight roam in the other paddocks or even out into the wild, where there are no rules or fences). But I don’t see the best fantasy as escapism. I see it as an attempt mostly to try to look at human existence from the outside. To get outside of ourselves, because reality always feels like I am too close to the mirror to see properly. You know when someone shows you something and they hold it too close?  For me right from the age of 14 when I first started to write, I was striving to get some distance, some breathing and thinking space, and fantasy and science fiction allowed this. For me it is a very philosophical genre – it allows me to grapple with the great questions of human existence. Why am I here?  What is the nature of existence?  Am I (are we) FOR anything? Why are humans capable of such wonderful and dreadful extremes of behavior? etc
When Ms Sheko asked if I would like to post on your site, I came to visit to see how I would fit in there. I was immediately taken by the techno-beetle, and then that lovely quote from Thomas Mann had me hooked. It was also timely because having resisted blogging as I resist all new things that force me to pay attention to the world and hence to neglect the worlds I am building in my imagination, I was asked by the State Library blog for a month Inside a Dog. I was intrigued and agreed before I could stop myself. So, ten days and five posts in, I am really fascinated and interested in the process, because it seems to me like a diary and yet it does have an audience and feeling that, it causes me to treat the material I want to talk about differently. Unlike books, it does exactly what Mr Fairlie talks about in your site – it allows me to try out ideas on paper (well, cyberpaper) for an audience that may or may not read me, but they might, and so I have to take their presence seriously. It allows me to find out what I think about things- that in fact is what I think all writing should be about. Writers figuring out the world for themselves.So, good luck to all of you and take full advantage of this site. It really does help you to think better.

Oh, and if any of you would like to visit me, either send me a friend request on Facebook or better still, come visit me this month on Inside the Dog– it is a lot less unsavoury than it sounds. Here is the link to the latest blog and you can read down and back from there. There are lots of other fabulous blogs too, and you gcan get to all of them.http://www.insideadog.com.au/blog/short-story-pt-1

best wishes

Isobelle Carmody

I particularly love this section of Isobelle’s post

I am really fascinated and interested in the process, because it seems to me like a diary and yet it does have an audience and feeling that, it causes me to treat the material I want to talk about differently. Unlike books, it does exactly what Mr Fairlie talks about in your site – it allows me to try out ideas on paper (well, cyberpaper) for an audience that may or may not read me, but they might, and so I have to take their presence seriously.

Having an audience, even a potential one, apart from the teacher and outside the classroom, sets the boys in a completely different space. I know that because I’ve been writing blogs for a few years, and although I’m never sure who will read my writing, I have a sense that somebody out there might, and so I write for that somebody. That’s entirely different to writing a prescribed piece of writing you know your teacher will read – not for pleasure, but in order to give a mark.

Amazingly, Nick has already seen evidence of this awareness in our boys within a very short time –

They are all really experimenting with voices. I love the difference in voice between the first and subsequent posts. They very often go over the top, and mimic what they think is an adult voice. This is so much better than what they usually produce, which is the voice they think is the ‘right’ one (bland and devoid of personality).

I’m overwhelmed by what is happening in these blog spaces within such a short time. The boys have demonstrated some excellent philosophical thinking. In the second task they have reflected on what constitutes learning, whether this happens in or out of school and about their ideal learning context. They have been reading each others’ posts and have started to have meaningful discussions. This is a far cry from the banal commenting which is often associated with teenage social media environments. This is high quality writing, reflection, evaluation and interaction.

Most of all, the boys are feeling their way into their blog spaces. They are starting to feel comfortable in their blogs and are finding their authentic voices. As Nick has observed, the quality of their writing has increased noticeably. Some are using images to complement their writing. It hasn’t taken long at all.

Who says deep learning isn’t possible within social media?

Take a look at the boys’ blogs, their online conversations. Please come in here and leave a comment.

Project reflection confirms the value of social learning

Recently, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been involved in a global project with two overseas schools (Finland and USA) within Flickr. Gradually my evaluation of each week’s outcomes have been written and cross-posted on this blog.

Today I completed my reflection on and evaluation of weeks 6 – 8 which you can read on the project’s blog. Re-reading the students’ contributions,  the value of social learning has been reconfirmed. If I had the chance to do it again, I wouldn’t hesitate.

I thought I’d cross-post Week 8, so here it is.

Week 8 – What does learning mean to you?

Take a photo that somehow represents learning to you.

Write about what learning means to you, where and how you learn best, school learning and outside school learning, your feelings about learning.

To some, learning was best represented by a simple pencilcase.

Photo by ryanrau

while others saw learning in relationships outside of school.

Photo by andresg201.usa

Many students’ reflective and evaluative skills were impressive. My guess is that the personal topics enabled the best kind of analysis because students were able to choose an aspect of their lives which was meaningful.

This is my father and my nephew. Isn’t he amazing! I think so. They are both learning so much. My nephew, about everything around him and how to interact and my father, about being a grandfather and everything that means. I really love that this shows how we never really stop learning and that there is always something new to experience.

I tend to learn more from project-based and hands-on learning as well as auditory learning. Though, I am good at standard school learning. I love learning new things and exploring topics. As long as it is something I like. Math, unfortunately, is not my forte. Reading and writing is more up my alley. But overall, I hope I continue to learn for the rest of my life. 🙂

We may not often ask our students to reflect on what learning means to them, or how they learn best, but the project’s responses made me realise how valuable this kind survey would be.

Many posts were endearing for their honesty indicating that students felt safe within the global cohort. This is testament to the respect and encouragement students consistently showed each other. It’s so important to recognise this when so many educators are afraid of trying out online, collaborative projects, fearing they might ellicit bad behaviour from students.

Photo by JamesMau

This surrounding basically describes the environment in which i like to learn in. One which is quiet, peaceful and relaxing. It’s hard for me to learn in a noisy and loud environment because there are too many voices going through my head, which then doesn’t allow me to lock in and concentrate.

Learning is a pretty big thing to me because it helps me get through each day and builds me up for what I want to do later in life. I can’t say that I like school but I’m there to learn and its part of my life.

Photo by timbau

This photo is of the book shelf we have in our study. Learning for me can sometimes be really fun or sometimes it can be horrible, depending of the subject. I like English, Maths, Psychology and Sports Science.

(comment) I feel like that too, it mostly depends on how I feel that morning. If I’m super tired and just want to go to sleep, I wont be in the mood to learn anything. But if I woke up good, I don’t feel tired and I’m not complaining, I want to learn. 🙂

Why don’t we realise the value of social learning and take learning out of the classroom, out of the hands of the teacher as ‘sage on the stage’ and into peer learning?

Flattening the world with Flickr in the classroom

Photo courtesy of matthewpAU on Flickr

In his book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman says that there are certain ‘flatteners’ that promote and allow for connection, collaboration and creation via distance.  He was referring to technological applications which shrink geographical barriers and make global connections possible. This is my aim for a special project at my own school – a project which would enhance teaching and learning through ‘connection, collaboration and creation’, taking the students out of the classroom and into the world.

In 2009 I decided to take up a Flickr challenge to upload a photo every day for a year and post it to appropriate flickr groups. As a result I connected with others through interest and dialogue, and three of us –  Marie Coleman, Sinikka Laakio-Whybrow and I –  agreed that a similar project  would be an enriching experience for students. I was lucky to find a teacher who was interested in the project and who has supported it wholeheartedly.

Sinikka reflected:

‘I would really like to challenge my students to bring out their real personalities in the foreign language. I have learned over the years that Finns especially seem to suffer greatly from a sort of ‘personality reduction syndrome’ when using a foreign language. I blame our text books and language classes for this, since students hardly ever get the chance to express THEMSELVES in the target language, but are always asked to talk about external topics, or role play. Their use of the language is also far too fact-based – emotions and feelings are hardly ever touched upon’.

I think Sinikka hit the nail on the head by underlining the importance of students expressing themselves, instead of practising their writing skills using isolated topics and writing mainly for the teacher.

The learning is happening for us as teachers too. In the planning stages, we collaborated in a Google document, using Google spreadsheets and slideshow (thanks Marie!) to brainstorm and formulate our project. The geographical time differences weren’t a problem at all, and occasionally Sinikka would catch me in Google chat before going to bed if I was online early enough in the morning.

The final product is an 8 week project with a weekly assignment based on a photo and written description following a theme. The first assignment is to take a photo which ‘is not you, but represents you as a person’ – so, an introduction to initiate the sharing of personal information and interests. Although almost every student included sport and music in their introduction, there were diverse details which created interest in the group. The cultural differences were obvious conversation starters, and the similarities brought the students together through shared interests. I know that our boys, being in a single sex school, were interested in the opportunity to connect with the girls!

Photo courtesy of MorganT7.USA on Flickr

The project is quite  simple but with very rich results. The weekly themes set  diverse tasks. Some themes ask for the sharing of personal, cultural or geographic information, some encourage photographic creativity (‘Take a photo: of something you go past every day and take it from an interesting new perspective”), while others require deeper thinking and creative solutions (‘Take a photo that goes with the title or lyrics of a song’ or ‘Take a photo that somehow represents learning to you’).

We have used Flickr as a platform for this project. Flickr provides an easy way to upload photos, an automatic photostream for each student, and a profile for identification. Our group, Through global lenses, is a one-stop shop for the whole operation. It holds all the members from the three schools, allows for instructions and program, as well as storing all essential information such as netiquette, creative commons, commenting guidelines, etc. It even has email.


Following  a weekly theme and guiding questions, students’ task is twofold. Firstly, to take their own photo – this requires thinking and reflection, creativity, individuality, and it is hoped that, as students become accustomed to the challenge, they will become more creative and try different things. Secondly, to write something which responds to the theme, answers prompt questions, and informs and entices readers.

When students view each other’s contributions, this sparks curiosity, natural questioning, and ensuing dialogue. It also brings out  a desire to do as well or to do something different. Students are not writing for the teacher, but for a peer audience, sharing generational views and tastes, and learning about cultural differences.

It really is one big conversation, with everyone getting a go, and nobody feeling they can’t get a word in. Several people can engage in dialogue under the same photo. Conversation arises from shared interests and curiosity about cultural differences. Students encourage each other and develop trust and respect for each other. The result is writing from desire instead of duty.

Differences in language are often the subject of conversation. Students ask and explain linguistic and semantic differences, for example, the first week’s photo has resulted in a discussion of the differences between American and Australian football.

Challenges for us include encouraging students to move away from ‘chat language’ and to write correctly and fluently. Despite our instructions, I’ve noticed in the early stages students reverting to their preferred chat in the comments.


It’s easy to keep up with who is commenting on your photo, or further conversation in photos you’ve commented on, when you visit the homepage for the group. Another useful feature is the availability of editing comments or writing. Teachers can ask students to improve or correct their writing at any time.

Reading through comments in the early stages, I can already see the conversations developing as more people enter the conversation, as questions are answered and elaborated on, and the desire to develop the dialogue becomes self motivating. This is very different to writing for your teacher which is a static exercise. Here the writing is interactive and can continue at any time.

I’ve noticed that our boys seem different in their writing and comments to the way they present themselves at school. In the comments they seem unafraid to say that something is beautiful, comment on cute dogs, and be generally more open. I guess that’s what comes with writing to a peer audience. That and writing to connect with kids like them from distant places. For these reasons I’m excited about this project which, even in its initial stages, has sparked authentic and engaged conversation, and which will no doubt develop for each student  his/her voice through images and words.

Photo courtesy of BasseFI‘s photostream on Flickr

How do we learn from people? Do we trust people? What do people know?

Photo courtesy of Okinawa Soba on Flickr

If I’m going to convince others about the whole point of Web 2.0 technologies, not just teach them how to use the technologies (what for? being the pivotal question), then I’m going to have to sort through for myself what it means to learn from and with other people (as opposed to the traditional learning from books, teachers).

Here’s an example. I’ve been reading the photo blogs which are part of a 2010 flickr challenge. Many of the blogs I follow are written by those living in the northern hemisphere. It’s interesting observing opposite weather patterns, for example, of those celebrating Christmas and the new year in snowy winter while I’m experiencing sweltering heat with temperatures in the high 30s in Melbourne today. Not only is the blog reading informative but the conversation is satisfying, and underpins the joy of learning from people who are real, who have a sense of humour and can answer your questions.

I’ve been enjoying sinikka’s blog. Sinikka writes from Finland so, for example, I learned about Finnish Christmas and post-Christmas customs. Not only that, but I could tell her about our Russian customs. Again, learning through conversation. Not static, dynamic learning.

Some blogs are very specialised. The library history buff blog is very impressive in its range and detail of information about the history of American libraries. You’d be surprised how esoteric some blogs are.

Photo from Library History Buff Blog.

Recently I’ve been mesmorised by the Flickr photostream of priest Maxim Massalitin who shares photos and information about Russian Orthodox churches. He’s from Kiev, and currently lives in France. He seems to have done his research about the churches and monasteries he photographs. In this way, writing blogs and posting photos on Flickr becomes a learning experience for the author too; information is retrieved and provided at point of need. It’s a great way to learn for me, like virtual travel. This photostream contains beautiful iconography, and I love the Byzantine tradition. It’s interesting to see so many different churches and monasteries and to read about their history.

Photo courtesy of H.Maxim on Flickr

I think it’s good to think about what learning means. Does it only happen at school? Obviously not. But we may not realise how much of it happens outside of traditional environments. Think back to when you finished school or university – did you think the main part of your learning had been completed? Well, sure you didn’t. But did you realise that you’d barely begun?

Maybe we don’t think that way but kids sure do – at least younger teens. If you don’t give them a written assignment to complete and hand in for correction, they don’t consider themselves working. Spend the lesson having a discussion which peels away at layers of understanding, and you’ll still be the only one considering this work. The kids won’t think they’ve learned much unless it’s on paper and with a percentage or grade.

My elder son has recently discovered a passion for photography. Now that he’s on University holidays, he has been able to spend a lot of time taking photos, learning how to play around with them, and reading books and manuals about photography. He has spent many, many hours of his time voluntarily researching and learning. And he is loving it.  The best example of out-of-school learning. I note that it takes time, and unlimited, but focused learning can be very, very productive. He also commits to daily posts in a blog celebrating his final year as a teenager. Self-initiated and passion-based learning.

Photo courtesy of phillipsandwich on flickr

Every day I learn so much that is interesting from people online – people who share their expertise and special interests, and who are willing to communicate with others. So much more engaging than learning facts from a static page. We can learn a lot from each other.

Don’t bag technology – ask what it means first

I’ve been feeling discouraged lately in my conversations with people about education. Maybe I’ve been talking to a small sample of people, but I’m feeling really peeved at the moment (and it may be because of lack of sleep).

I’m not sure if the endless circular conversation – between those who see the value of technology in education and those who dont’ – is even worth the effort. Yes, I’m not in a very positive frame of mind currently. I don’t find I have the energy or patience to continue, but I still want to reflect on what the problem is.

It’s not a problem that centres on technology at all. It’s a problem that centres around the very human aspect of dialogue. Dialogue which depends on two (or more) people listening to each other and making a real effort to understand what the other person is saying.

I’m sick and tired of entering into a conversation where I’m asked to justify my belief that technology is an important aspect of transformed learning, learning that has to change with the times in order to prepare us all for the way the world works and the way it will work in our students’ future. Most of the time I find that I’m cornered into petty justification because the other person is coming from a personal conviction and will, at all costs, aim to knock me off my beliefs to prove an ultimately negative point. This is not a dialogue. Cornering someone so that they desperately try to stick up for their beliefs while ignoring the larger argument is not dialogue. It radically narrows the scope of information which would otherwise offer a larger, more informative picture.

An example:

Me: I believe that technology offers new possibilities in learning (*very aware that this is a broad and ambiguous statement which needs comprehensive explanation*)

Other: What’s all the hype about technology? Does it really teach ‘them’ anything? Or is it a just a gadget, the latest fad?

Me: Technology offers possibilities for creating and connecting with others.

Other: I know all about that. It’s been proven that kids no longer have personal skills because they are using technology too much.

Me: They are learning the skills of online interaction

Other: I read/saw on TV how dangerous online involvement is, and how it isolates kids, how it takes them into dangerous zones which their parents don’t know about, how bad it is.

Me: You have to look at the real evidence. The media is often one-sided and sensationalises a small part of the picture

Other: But I heard an interview about it and these people are reliable; this information is authoritative.

Me: There are many wonderful connections kids can make to the real world and real people outside the classroom to make learning relevant

Other: (confused look) What are they learning by talking to each other? Is there any academic value?

And then the conversation reverts back to All Things Negative in terms of Any Kind of Change with regard to What Is Considered Sacred about Education, and it’s Sacred because That’s The Way It Was, and That’s The Way It’s Always Been, so all of this new stuff is Bad. We should probably go back to Grammar and stay safe teaching Facts. Numbers, Dates. Like my own education where I studied the Victorian Year Book and copied out fascinating information about how much rainfall and wheat we had in Victoria in  a certain year (the one that had passed). Fascinating facts about sheep and sewerage, I’ll never forget that (except for the facts themselves).

Ok, so now you’ve fully realised how down I am about this argument. I just have to point out that the worst thing about that kind of ‘discussion’ is that you never end up saying what you want to say, but you end up sounding like a crazed evangelist, ready to die for your cause – and I hate that. I’m not a crazed evangelist, I have much more to say and show you if only you would listen. The problem is about listening and wanting to hear, not about technology itself. It’s an age-old problem of failure to listen.

If I had a chance to talk to the ‘other person’ without being pushed into a corner, I would question their negative association with the word ‘technology’. I think this is a wide-reaching association. Technology = computers, dangerous  online involvement, unhealthy focus on what is not real, and therefore what takes you away from real, people-to-people contact.

But technology is also TV. Do you watch TV? Does it stop you from going out of the house? (If so, then it’s your personal problem) Or does it offer a window into the world?

Do you use a telephone? Does it stop you from seeing your friends and family in person? Or does it offer you an opportunity to chat more often in between visits?

All technology!

Yes, it changes the way we live. Some of us held off getting a mobile phone in the early days (we didn’t need it? we’d lived without it), but now we can’t imagine going out without it? Good or bad? It’s something worth investigating more deeply. But it’s here to stay, and it’s technological capacities are growing fast. Change is difficult; some of us jump on the bandwagon and others yell insults at the bandwagon from afar. What we need to remember is that, like it or not, the way we function in the world is changing, and we would be wise to jump on so that we know what we’re dealing with. So that we know what kind of support and education we need to give our kids. So that they’re ready for their world. Are we thinking about this? Are we looking forward or backward?

This morning I followed a link posted by @scmorgan on Twitter which led me to an article on the Edutopia website:

Kids create and critique on social networks.

The first couple of paragraphs grabbed my attention.

In the common conception, kids plus social networking equals an online popularity contest conducted in grammar-free instant-messaging lingo — not exactly an educator’s dream world. But the Chicago-based Digital Youth Network, a digital-literacy program funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, has tapped into the networking phenomenon to encourage creativity and learning.

The Digital Youth Network runs a private Web site called Remix World, which is modeled on popular online social networks such as Facebook and MySpace.

This ning works like Facebook where students can create a space (their page) which is their own style, and where they can post their work and receive feedback from their peers, take part in discussion, and give and receive constructive criticism. Sharing with the class (or other classes) is more engaging because they care more about what their peers have to say than what their teacher has to say, and they want to show what they can do. They develop confidence in themselves when they realise they can help out or contribute to a discussion. It’s all there for the class to see; their contribution amongst everyone else’s. They don’t remain invisible or unheard. They have a place, a voice, a unique style.

When students are motivated to create work that they share online, it ignites an independent learning cycle driven by their ideas and energized by responses from peers.

That’s the theory, but let’s hear it from the kids

Twelve-year-old Jalen (also the subject of an Edutopia video profile) is among those who’ve taken their work to a larger audience on YouTube and elsewhere. “I post online because I don’t want it to just be on my computer, where nobody can see it,” Jalen says of his work, which includes graphic art, videos (both remixed mash-ups and some using original footage), and computer games. “I get positive and negative feedback, but it helps me get better and better,” he says.

“One guy on YouTube told me it was a good video, but the timing was off,” he remembers of one project that got mixed feedback. “So I went back and edited it.”

The article also talks about another student who created his own social network. He didn’t follow a prescriptive set of teacher-created instructions.

“I didn’t learn from anywhere particularly,” Mosea says about creating his network. “I just experimented.”

Experts say that, even more than the digital world in general, collaborative Web 2.0 tools in particular can motivate self-directed learning.

Students creating and publishing online within their own community is the first step to compelling learning, but the deepest learning takes place in the commenting and conversation which follows:

“While the ability to publish and to share is powerful in and of itself, most of the learning occurs in the connections and conversation that occur after we publish,” argues education blogger Will Richardson

Of couse, this kind of learning is not automatic or without its problems. But this is where the teaching part of it comes in. Teacher support is more important than ever for these new experiences to be successful. It’s not a matter of handing over to technology, stepping back and expecting self-directed learning to naturally take place. Nothing could be further from the truth, as teachers who have worked with online networks have discovered.

Researcher Christine Greenhow cautions that the virtual world can also present its own barriers to independent learning. “Students can get easily distracted,” she observes. “There are so many nonlearning paths, so we need to help them stay focused.”

And there’s the rub. If those against technology think that kids just jump in and need no supervision, they’re wrong. Wherever kids are and whatever they do, they need supervision and support. As parents, we shouldn’t leave them to their online activities without taking a real interest in what’s going on – and I don’t mean looking over their shoulders with a critical eye. I mean engaging in conversation where we learn what they’re doing, and why they like doing it. Or even trying some of these things out ourselves. As teachers, we shouldn’t leave them with the laptop and Google, and expect them to navigate a positive and successful learning experience.

To finish, I apologize for my rave – I think it’s something I needed to get off my chest to reduce mounting frustration.

Finally, technology is about the people who use it. Let’s demystify it, let’s try to understand it before we judge it, let’s acknowledge that it’s increasingly the way the world functions, and learn how to make the most of it.

Learning is a waste of time?

A day of conversations.

Good to record these and then reflect and analyse.

Firstly, a conversation with a Year 7 student who was ‘unable’ to do any work during English class because his laptop wasn’t working (note: he managed to remain undetected for most of the writing session before we realised, and then his visit to the computer centre was uneventful because he forgot to take the obligatory note, and the second visit left him without a computer until the end of the day). During our conversation, I told him that he should put the session down to valuable life lessons – taking the initiative to solve the problems instead of sitting aimlessly and wasting time, etc. – and he said these lessons were irrelevant because he was going to change schools the following year anyway. (My eyebrows raised involuntarily). He continued: the new school didn’t have a laptop program until the senior  years, and all his problems would be gone. What problems? You know, internet not working, things disappearing. He would get more work done. So, after a respectful pause, I asked him what he thought his future life of work would be like, wouldn’t it include functioning with technology? With all its glitches? And he would have to continue to problem-solve because there would always be problems? Yes, he agreed, but in the meantime he’d get more work done at school without the technology. It would all be in the book; easy to find and keep. (Has he heard of the technicality of losing the book?)


Get more work done…

Funny he should say that. Later in the day we had a meeting of the teachers involved in the Year 8 immersive project (mentioned in previous posts). I was late to the meeting, and I came in at the point where  groups of teachers were doing a post mortem on the project. The group I veered towards was engaged in passionate discourse, expressing negative views. There were too many points to remember them all, but the gist of it was that the big picture week-long, student-driven project didn’t work and was a waste of time. A waste of time because it took time away from the real work that had to be taught.  If it weren’t for the project, they would have ‘got more work done’. Work that was valuable.


I ventured to say (I never learn, do I?) that all the problems and difficulties expressed were part of the teachers’ learning process, and that a collective discussion of these would result in a very different project next time – properly scaffolded, rubric based not on theory but on specific skills and capabilities demonstrated (or not) during the course of the project. The need to provide consistency throughout the different classes, the need to maintain seamless transfer between teachers, to deconstruct the questions at the beginning, to check for understanding, to get feedback from students on each day’s progress, etc. – all these observations I thought were valuable reflections, driving the discussion towards collective analysis and future improvement. But what I viewed as positive, some viewed as evidence that the project was a waste of time. The project took valuable time away from real work.


Not entirely surprising, though. I think you have to expect the initial digging in of heels, the panic and confusion when things are not spelled out, when teachers are just as much learners as the students, when stepping out onto unchartered territory. I can’t say that I”m not uncomfortable in new situations – of course I am. But if at least half of the teachers see the positive elements of the project, the rationale behind passion-based, student-driven, enquiry-based learning, then I hope that the scales will tip in favour of trying this out a second time. View this as a first draft, and collaborate towards an improved second draft.


And please, consider the definition of ‘work’. Think about what it means to ‘get something done’. Or maybe you’d rather refocus on ‘learning process’ and navigate your learning  instead of getting it done.

Any thoughts?