Saturday, May 26, 2007

Galleries of Thought

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I'm not happy with this post; very rough rambling thoughts. I once had a professor who said: "You don't know what you think until you write it down." When I started writing this I had no idea I was going to end up where I did ... and it doesn't really end. It just sort of stops. I decided to capture these thoughts and maybe work on them some more over the next little while. Bear with me. ;-)


I took a trip down the rabbit hole that started with Sheryl's post about the upcoming Time 4 Online conference in New Zealand. (An interesting title in light of Dean's recent post.) The conference is all free, all online and open to anyone who wants to participate. Sheryl's giving a keynote presentation and so is Derek Wenmoth. (So soon on the heels of the Webheads In Action Online Convergence there's lots of good stuff to listen to.)

As I stumbled along I found this video from the The Guardian newspaper website in the UK. They did a Weekend: Web 2.0 Special back at the beginning of November (lots to read and listen to). In the video they interview the people who created wikipedia, craigslist, bebo, flickr, del.icio.us, netvibes and more. They asked them: "What is web 2.0?" and followed up with what they thought web 3.0 might be.

Their answer?

(This is the way I paraphrase it.) Web 3.0 will eliminate the browser. The internet will permeate our daily lives through something like our cell phones but it will be much more powerful. The iPhone may be a faint glimmer of such a device. I think it will be smaller, easier to use and wireless access will be ubiquitous, fast and cheap (free?).

Lots of excellent educational content is being shared on the net. We have online courses for high schools (password and username: demo) and universities as well as high quality student generated content that will continue to be of value to students in the future.

Once access is cheap, fast and ubiquitous and students have access to all this content at their fingertips we will have to change the way we teach. Teachers will no longer be able to resist changing their pedagogy. There will be no more validity(?) to statements like: "What I've always done works fine. My students are learning from me. Why should I change?"

As I try to weave the use of web 2.0 tools into my teaching one of the questions I ask myself is "What can I do now that I could not do before?" But you know, we don't really need these new tools to improve our teaching. We need to ask different questions. Not "What is 6 times 4?" but "How many ways can you multiply two numbers to get 24?" Not "Are there seasons on Mars?" but "What season is it right now on Mars? Is there any time of the year you could comfortably wear a t-shirt and shorts on Mars?" Not "List the parts of a cell." but "Design your own version of a cell that efficiently takes in food and excretes waste? Include a diagram of all the parts and describe how they work together."

My children and nieces are coming home with homework questions like the first of each pair above. I ask them questions like the second in each pair. I think of Blooms Taxonomy and try to ask questions from the top of the pyramid. With the suite of new tools online this same avenue of thought leads to new ways for students to deeply and meaningfully show their mastery of material they have learned in class. Those that haven't mastered the material the first time around often do when they have to create content that educates.

Simply reframing the questions we ask can lead to powerful learning experiences. When we get kids to create artifacts that educate they end up working through every level of thought in Bloom's Taxonomy. What teacher doesn't want their students to do that?

In the classroom students erase their mistakes. They cover their work when I pass by to check in with them, embarrassed to reveal possible errors or afraid I'll uncover their lack of understanding. When kids publish their work online everyone (teachers, peers, parents, others) can peek in at a gallery of their thoughts. Learn from both the mistakes and the exemplary work others.

More and more I find the value of using blogs, wikis, podcasts and the full suite of other tools my students use rests in making their thinking transparent to me and each other. In the galleries of their thoughts we discover what they really know and the specific nature of their misunderstandings. I learn what about my teaching has added to their confusion and what metaphors provided fertile ground for their developing understanding. Wading through the galleries of their thought I become a better teacher and they become better learners.

I've never articulated it quite like this before but this notion of creating galleries of thought rings true for me. As teachers everywhere continue to explore the new pedagogies emerging in the use of new tools to publish student work online we are all creating galleries of our students thinking. We browse through these galleries, sometimes quickly, sometimes lingering over an elegant solution or a brilliant mistake, and doors open to conversations that would otherwise never take place.

Every teacher has asked questions of their classes, trying to get them to share their thinking only to be met by a wall of silence. Sometimes it's the same few students who answer every question. Contrast that with them all publishing their work online, wandering through each others thinking, asking questions of and getting answers from each other, engaging in discussions where every voice is equal and every voice is heard.

In the past I've used two guiding principles for orchestrating my students learning ecologies:

(1) What can I do now that I couldn't do before?
(2) Watch it. Do it. Teach it.

And now ...

(3) How can I get them to make their thinking transparent?

I've got to do some more thinking about this ...

10 comments:

Mr. H said...
28/5/07 08:11  

I think the point I appreciate most in your post is

Every teacher has asked questions of their classes, trying to get them to share their thinking only to be met by a wall of silence. Sometimes it's the same few students who answer every question. Contrast that with them all publishing their work online, wandering through each others thinking, asking questions of and getting answers from each other, engaging in discussions where every voice is equal and every voice is heard.


This is the beauty of these tools. Students each have a voice and participate with each other. They enjoy the ability to type in comments, give suggestions and use the tools that they are so familiar with. If more of us wove these tools into our pedagogy we would have greater success with our students. It is a way they WANT to learn.

sophie said...
28/5/07 08:42  

We all need to hear more of this....Teachers will no longer be able to resist changing their pedagogy. There will be no more validity(?) to statements like: "What I've always done works fine. My students are learning from me. Why should I change?"
We've seen what happens to our students and to their learning when we change and now we can't go back! It is incredible what they are capable of doing when we give them the tools and allow them to create.

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach said...
28/5/07 10:32  

On thing Darren failed to mention is that he is a featured interview in part 3 of my keynote at the NZ Time4Online. This conference is another inspired offshoot of our K12Online06 and includes quite a bit of content from K12Online for NZ educators to access.

The forum is really picking up as well. Please join us.

Dean Shareski said...
28/5/07 11:05  

I would add to your piece about reframing and take it one step further.

What we also need to be doing is reframing questions in ways that connect better with students. Instead of "How many ways can you multiply two numbers to get 24?", what about personalizing it to their life and experience. So that numbers, concepts or ideas connect at a personal level. Not always possible but again, with our connectivity, more possible than ever. The link between personal connection and learning is so great, we can't ignore it and must find ways to weave important skills into relevant learning experiences. Web 2.0 or 3.0 can/will enable this.

Well said on your part. Stop blaming yourself for rambling...all good stuff.

Darren said...
28/5/07 14:54  

Chris & Sophie: Like Chris, I think students enjoy learning this way ... when they apply themselves to it. But I'm also thinking about those students who don't. The ones who sit in class, or in groups, watch through glazed eyes what's going on around them without ever really trying to learn.

Just today a colleague from across the hall shared with me how some of her students are trying to figure out a way to take a math class next year where they won't have to blog ... anything to avoid blogging. I contrast that with what my students are writing in the reflections at the end of their Developing Expert Voices projects where many of them say they have learned more than they thought they were able. Many say they were unable to do the material when it was covered in class but after doing their projects they have mastered it.

There's a tension here I need to explore further.

Sheryl: Thanks for the opportunity to be part of your brilliant keynote. I was really quite taken away with the depth and breadth of ideas and issues you covered.

Dean: Thanks for the encouragement. I wasn't going to publish this as it's a little more rough than what I usually write. Maybe this signals a change in the way I blog ... something I'm still mulling over.

Lani said...
28/5/07 17:07  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lani said...
28/5/07 17:09  

Hi Darren,

Two concepts in your post truly resonate with me. The importance of thoughts and conversations, and the reframing of questions for learning— It seems to me that the phrase you’ve coined, “Galleries of Thought”, promotes a perspective that truly speaks to what we should be doing in schools today. The use of such an articulate phrase would convey without doubt the importance we place on our students’ thoughts. Too much we hear student work, student achievement, test scores in American public education when we’d be doing our students a far greater service by helping them publish their thoughts and holding those conversations, reframed as you suggest by questions requiring evaluation, analysis and creativity. When your share your guiding principles for orchestrating learning, it pushes me to wonder if all of us might look to Blooms to reframe those questions we ask of ourselves as we choreograph learning experiences for our students? How might those kinds of questions push our thoughts and then those of our students? Thank you for sharing “Galleries of Thought” and the powerful pedagogy accompanying it.

Best,
Lani

Apologies for deleting the previous comment; I'd made a sizable error.

Matthew Lundquist said...
6/6/07 01:23  

I think it's so important that you remind those of us who care and think about learning of the importance of doing and creating (and not just observing). I've been working for several years on helping teachers create collaborative environments and, in particular, making use of theatrical improv as a tool for bring learning to life. I'd love it if you'd check out my blog and let me know what you think (as someone who's technologically well in advance of me). www.unscriptedlearning.blogspot.com

Carolyn Foote said...
13/6/07 07:07  

I had saved this post for later reading and am glad that I did.

I also like the idea of the "galleries of thought" and how blogging can help make someone's thinking more transparent, and give students a place to find and connect the ideas of their peers.

I think that there is some significant learning that happens when we "wander".

K. E. said...
23/6/07 11:44  

You say it very eloquently. For us, at the moment, this site is online, opening dialogue among staff members, students, administration and parents. It is teacher-created: we have tried to show the process of student thinking in the art room. I've taken the liberty of including you in our conversation.

Learning about learning ...

While walking ...
Best viewed "full screen." (Click on bottom right corner of any video when playing.)

With pictures ...
Best viewed "full screen." (Click on bottom right corner of any image when playing.)

Curating discoveries ...


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