Tag Archives: learning

Action FROM Learning

It is not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely.   Leo T. Buscaglia

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Action FROM learning is something a learner chooses to do because of what they are learning or have learned. This type of action is a spark ignited by passion. Action FROM learning ranges from smaller scale actions taken by a learner such as changing something they personally do to make the world better (e.g. turning the tap off when brushing teeth) to larger scale action that involves others and requires a plan to follow through (e.g. organizing a clothing drive for a homeless shelter). Action FROM learning happens because something the learner was exposed to triggered them to take the “what” of their learning beyond the 4 walls of the classroom and out into the wider world. The learning brought the learner to the realization that they have a responsibility and that they can DO something about it.

Action FROM learning needs to be modelled, encouraged and fostered within a school community. Learners need to understand intrinsically that action is a process and that when they engage in a cycle of action, not only are they doing something to make a difference for others, they are also creating an opportunity for personal growth and reflection. This process can be simple as a realization and making a simple lifestyle change, or it can be complex and involve many steps.  Each time a learner chooses, acts and reflects, he/she deepens his/her understanding of themselves and their connection to others. When a learner completely follows through with an action thought or idea, whether it’s as simple as holding the door open for someone or as complex as organizing a large scale fund raiser, their action helps them to  become a better person by helping others or the world. Ultimately they help themselves as their own outlook on the world changes or shifts as they create impact around them.

For the last 10 years I have had the privilege of mentoring young learners through the action cycle. I don’t see myself as a teacher of action, but as a mentor. I am there to help big and small dreams become reality by supporting students as they seek to change the world and create impact. Kids are big dreamers and when they are moved to take action, especially larger scale action, they are as Craig Keilberger calls them, “shameless idealists”. Sadly, reality has the power to crush even the biggest idealists.  As an action mentor, I support the idealists in also being realists so that they don’t give up on their action dream, because there is no greater reward than seeing the action process through with the knowledge that change was instigated either near or far.

Critical to action FROM learning is that it connect to an ISSUE. Taking meaningful action is not about an event, which is a common pitfall to look out for when mentoring students through the action process. So many kids come to me saying, “I want to have a bake sale” or “I want to sell bracelets.” My questions back to them are always “What issue is it that you care about/are passionate about? WHY do you want to do this?/Why is this important to you?” Those 2 questions have resulted in major shifts in the culture of action in the two schools where I’ve taken on the action mentor charge. Students no longer come to me with an “action event”. Instead, they come with a cause or issue and the action is born out of their passion for that issue. Most frequently, the issue connects to an issue they’ve explored in class or to something they’ve talked about at home, or even something they saw in the newspaper/news/on-line. Once the issue is clearly defined, then we explore the “doability” factor: “Is this action possible/doable? What is our goal? How can we make it happen? What might get in our way? What do we need? What is our timeline? How much support will we need from others? How much education/awareness raising needs to be done to gain the support of our peers’, teachers and/or parents? Are we willing to change our plan if we need to to ensure this action happens?” A nice byproduct about supporting and mentoring action in this way, is that students always raise awareness first because they naturally want to educate others about what they care about. For larger scale action, awareness within the bigger community is paramount to the overall success of the action.

When I mentor students through an action plan, we work under the following guidelines:

Central/Big Idea: Understanding issues that affect us, our community and our world can help us to take meaningful action to make a difference.

Lines of Inquiry:

  • Issues affecting us, our community and our world
  • Working together to make a difference
  • Planning for, implementing and reflecting on action/service

Guiding Questions:

CHOOSE: What (issue) will we take action for? (local or global?)

ACT: How will we achieve our action goal? What steps will we take?

REFLECT: How successfully did we achieve our action goal?

These guidelines help us to share a collective focus and ensure that the action our students follow through with has a clear and meaningful purpose and that it is highly effective. Successful action leads to more action – it becomes a part of the values of the school community and it is celebrated and honoured as an important part of the learning process.

Stay tuned for the next post: an exploration of “Action FOR Learning”

3…2…1…Action!

3…2…1…Action! (And this is not a movie set!) A major component of learning is ACTION. In the PYP, we talk about global action and making a difference in the world for others. But an equally if not more  important aspect of action is the daily action that learners take as they construct meaning. Action happens EVERY DAY, whether we see it or not. Our brains are always active, so the learning never stops, not even when we are sleeping. Action is a personal passion of mine, so for the next few posts I will share action as I have come to understand it through my work as an action mentor and champion over the last 10 years.

Action comes in many forms. PYP teachers will be quite familiar with the Action Cycle, which consists of three equally important parts:

Choose – deciding what to do or what to take action for

Act – Deciding on the course of action and implementing it to follow through

Reflect – thinking about the effectiveness of the action (s) throughout the action implementation process and after the action is complete

To me, the action cycle is the most simplified and straight forward inquiry cycle I know. It is best practice pedagogy in a neat little package. Action can be both intrinsic and extrinsic. Both forms come from within the learner, but the are motivated by different factors and they look different when they manifest. Both, come from what Cathy Short calls “tension” in learning. “Tension” in this context is a good thing – it is when the learner gets to a place where he/she must move or shift in thinking because they’ve constructed new understandings and created meaning.

What makes for EFFECTIVE Action?

  • modeled by the adults in the school  – based on the needs of the school community and the local community
  • voluntary and involve students in exercising their own initiatives
  •  best grounded in the students’ concrete experiences
  • most beneficial to the students when they are able to witness the outcomes
  • usually begins in a small way and arises from genuine concern and commitment
  • should include anticipation of consequences, and accepting of responsibility
  • may require appropriate adult support in order to facilitate students’ efforts and to provide them with alternatives and choices
  • leads to meaningful reflection on the process and what was learned
Action needs to be part of the taught/written curriculum, both  in formal and informal ways (e.g. planned engagements, teachable/spontaneous moments). Learners need to understand the difference between action FOR Learning and action FROM learning – both are very connected, but are also distinct; BOTH engage them in different aspects of the action cycle. Ultimately, the ACTION CYCLE is a model for GROWTH!

“It is only as we develop that we permanently succeed.” Harvey Samuel Firestone

Stay tuned for the next few upcoming posts: Action FOR Learning, Action FROM Learning, and Mentoring Meaningful Action School Wide

Chaos in the world brings uneasiness, but it also allows the opportunity for creativity and growth.” Tom Barrett

Our Grade 5s are currently inquiring into the concept of sound and its environmental and technological applications. As a part of their inquiry they’ve visited some concert halls to explore how sound is used in a carefully designed space for a specific purpose. As we collaborated in the creation of this new unit in our program we wondered how much the students would really understand beyond the traditional sound basics. Exploring the applications of sound opened the possibilities up quite wide and with 10 and 11 year old learners, we wanted them not only to understand the science of sound – those aspects of sound that don’t change, but also come to appreciate that sound can be harnessed and the harnessing of sound pushes people to new limits, boundaries and change. The summative assessment involves the students planning, designing, constructing and presenting some sort of concert/presentation space. This afternoon I strolled into Grade 5 and landed in the most beautiful form of learning chaos – students spread out across the room surrounded by plans and construction materials. The chatter in the room was buoyant as they created their own masterpieces and inspired each other with their creativity and knowledge. Words like “acoustic baffling” and “resonance” were common place as they truly had become one with their task. Every material chosen had a specific purpose connecting back to enhancing the sound they hoped their space would create. Ideas ranged from traditional to downright innovative. My favorite was a dual purpose flip stage – on one side the stage was padded so that gymnasts and acrobats could perform daring feats to music; on the other side the stage floor was wood and Neil Diamond (a girl after my own heart) was perched in the center ready to belt out “Sweet Caroline.” Inquiry is a beautiful thing – and sometimes, beautiful things require chaos before they emerge.  Learning should get messy, and as educators, we need to make sure that we provide a classroom community where that happens on a regular basis. When we step back and provide a learning environment that invites problem solving, innovation, and creativity learning becomes vibrant in ways we never dreamed!

Professional Discourse with Not-So Strangers

Computer-globe
Computer-globe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve spent the last several days sick in bed with the flu. For those of us high strung type A educator types, being away from school for too long is always a challenge. I miss the frenetic pace of the day and that feeling of constantly being here, there and everywhere all at once. It got to the point where I was actually ahead of my digital workload (gasp – this never happens, usually I’m swimming in it!). So, what else is a gal who is ahead of her digital workload to do when relegated to bed with the flu for 4 days straight? Well, I finally fully launched this blog, opened a twitter account and made a PiEd PYPer Facebook page. I’m feeling pretty tech savvy with myself right now (picture my peacock feathers standing tall) even though I must admit, I’m not yet fully comprehending twitter at the moment. (Tips and tricks gratefully accepted, please!) That being said, I finally had the time to explore a ning for IB PYP educators called “PYP Threads” that I joined a little while ago but hadn’t yet had the chance to really dive in and explore. As I toured around the site, I felt the call to begin to engage. Having the opportunity to take part in some very deep professional discourse with colleagues whom I’ve never met face to face was utterly stimulating! I happened upon a post about central ideas and whether or not PYP teachers should post them on the wall during a unit of inquiry. I decided to put my two cents worth of comments in, and the next thing I knew I was engaged in a very deep and pedagogical conversation with a fellow PYP Co-ordinator currently in Japan. How cool is that? I even noticed that the recent conversation thread had made it onto the ning’s twitter feed which brought some others into the dialogue too. One of the best things about being a part of the International Baccalaureate community is just that – that you can have deep and meaningful professional discourse with someone from ANY IB school in the world, and because we all speak “PYP” we can engage deeply and stimulate each other’s thinking and reasoning. We can share perspectives, ideas and practice, and the most beautiful thing of all is that we can remain open-minded and live out that last bit of the IB mission statement, that says… “These programmes encourage students [educators] across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.

How do you engage in professional discourse? Leave a comment!

You Have To Start Somewhere…

So I’ve decided to start a blog, again. I kept a blog once before, when I was teaching a class of Grade 2 boys. (http://dynamitelearning.blogspot.ca/) It was a professional goal for me that year to communicate via a blog with the parents of the students in my class and as a reflective tool for me to document what was going in my classroom. The boys in my class that year loved going home and looking at the new blog entries with their parents whenever I made a post. It made them feel special and it helped them to have meaningful conversations with their parents about their learning. What was even more fun for them was watching the map that tracked where blog visitors came from. By the end of the school year, we had visitors from other places that we weren’t connected personally to, and that fascinated them. The fact that other people, who they did not know from other parts of the world could look in on us and learn from our learning was a huge point of wonder.

While I no longer have a class of my own, I view the teachers that I support through curriculum coordination and administration as my class – each colleague requires differentiation just as the learners in my classroom did. Each colleague brings something unique to my day, whether it is a challenge, a problem to solve, a project to work on together, documenting curriculum, realizing school based initiatives, an A-ha! moment, etc. Even though I am surrounded by a team of amazingly talented and inspiring colleagues in a fantastic school, I have a need to process my own learning beyond the walls of my school, so I’ve decided to blog once again. It’s time to chronicle my own reflections, learning, new understandings, wonderings, and challenges. Maybe, just maybe, along the way, others may join me again, whether they are close to home, or across the world.

In order to prepare myself for this blog, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring other blogs related to education and more. I’ve been so inspired by the reading I’ve done, and I am now hooked on several blogs, which I will be sure to share here, too! I love learning from other people’s perspectives. I am a constructivist at heart – I like to build my own understanding FROM something. When I first thought of starting up a blog again, I had a lot of doubts. Could I do this again? What exactly was I going to write about? Will anyone care? In preparing myself to do this I’ve gone through my own inquiry cycle. I started by PREPARING – thinking about my purpose and intent. Then I began to EXPLORE by looking at what else is out there in the edublogoshphere. Next, I started to PROCESS by brainstorming ideas around possible blog entries that I might write about. Thank goodness for the notes app on my iphone because I’ve learned you never know when or where an idea might strike! And now I am at the TRANSFER phase – I am ready to take action with my learning by actually committing to writing a blog. Through my inquiry process, I realized that YES, I can do this again (I do love to write after all), and that YES I do have things to write about and that NO, while it doesn’t really matter if anyone else reads this, that YES I do hope that there are others out there who will either identify with me, share with me, or want to challenge my perspective, helping me to grow. That’s what I call a win-win! So…you have to start somewhere and this is it for me…one post down…the PiEd PYPer plays a tune!