Becoming a Master Learner

Image by Pixabay from pexels.com

This week, we read about emerging theories of learning and new pedagogy.  I’m not gonna lie, I had a really hard time getting through the reading this week. For some reason or another, I just couldn’t get through it and I was having such a hard time with the concepts and ideas because it all sounded so vague for me. I was finally able to focus and figure out a way to get through the reading without falling asleep and then there was a huge Ah HAH moment.  

So what is the new pedagogy? 

The new pedagogy emphasizes teachers activating student learning through multiple means.  One of those means is the learning relationships between teachers and students. Teachers are asked to move past the facilitator role and become partners and activators because “through such partnering, teachers not only become learners themselves but also begin to see learning through the eyes of their students.” (A Rich Seam)  Students are seeking ownership of their work and these new learning partnerships allow for that (The New Pedagogy).  In addition to these learning partnerships, there is an emphasis on student aspirations. Teachers are no longer just teaching what needs to be taught but are mentors to students to help them find new experiences that suit them (A Rich Seam).  Another means for activation is giving student feedback. Feedback is important in creating a strong relationship and foundation between students and teachers for their partnering relationship. The last area is helping the student become aware of their own learning and the learning process.  Students must be able to critically think about their goals and the tools they need to achieve those goals. 

 Looking at these and the frameworks from week 1, we can see they help support the frameworks.  Looking at the Goal-Directed Learning in the Technology Integration Matrix, this is supported by student awareness of the process of learning or learning to learn.  They are using technology to set a goal and monitor where they are in reaching those goals.  Another example is Collaborative Learning in the matrix where students are collaborating with each other.  This is a great source of feedback from other students. In any case, once a student has experienced deeper learning, it will be easier for the teacher and student to use technology in a way that is more authentic and not merely a substitution. 

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

After reviewing these new theories and reflecting on my current school, I think we’re in a pretty good place in regards to the adoption of the new pedagogy.  The PYP model already has certain elements embedded within the program that follows along with the new pedagogy. When planning out units, teachers create the central idea but the direction or learning environment that arises from within the units is based on student interest.  Since PYP is inquiry-based, it gives teachers and students more opportunities to create learning partnerships. Teachers are not considered the bearers of knowledge but the facilitators of inquiry. We help spark inquiry in our students and follow their lead the way into the units.  Grade 5 students put on an exhibition for the PYP. They choose a topic that is of interest to them and then gets partnered with a mentor teacher. These projects give students ownership and even though they have meetings with mentor teachers every week, they are expected to work on it independently.  I worked with two groups last year as their mentor teacher but I felt that I was also learning as we went along because the topics were not something I was completely familiar with. We brainstormed together and I was able to give them some ideas on where they could possibly find information regarding their topic.  In Emerging Theories, different theories addressed learning partnerships and the integral role that technology plays in helping students learn and share their learning.  This was very true during Exhibition. Students conducted most of their research online and then they were able to create games and presentations to help showcase their learning to their school community.  They created online surveys and I helped them facilitate the surveys among the adults at the school. In many ways, I was a partner in their learning because I was also learning as I went along but in the end, the students were the ones making the final decisions.  iTime is another great example of the new pedagogy at work. During iTime, students are allowed to work on personal interest projects. Many times, teachers are also learning about these topics along with the students. Students are taught to conduct research on a personal interest project. Needless to say, this is a great way to give them agency. Teachers have offered up areas of expertise if there are students who are particularly interested in a certain field. This allows students and teachers to create a learning partnership based on personal interest.  As we know, when we inquire into something that we’re genuinely interested in, we learn a lot more. The entire school has iTime at the same time so that students can meet specialists if they are looking for something specific from those teachers as well. I think having this kind of open schedule really helps foster a culture where these bonds are encouraged.  I think something that would beneficial to teachers and students would be a physical list or an online list where teachers can write down (and not just offer it amongst teams or verbally) of what their interests are or what areas they’re willing to help students research.

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

After rereading my blog post from Course 1, Week 5; I feel like my theoretical knowledge has deepened greatly.  In that blog post, I discussed constructivist and connectivism theories. I realized from that week’s reading that there is so much information out there in the world and it’s part of our job as a teacher to figure out what is worth teaching these days in regards for the student to explore and inquire as well as what information needs to be told.  After this week’s reading, I think I can shift that a bit and find what students aspire to know and use that as a launching platform in what to teach students. Instead of me deciding what information should be passed along, students can take ownership and think about their learning and help guide the conversation about what they want to learn about.  I focused a lot on my relationship with teachers and it paid off because I am able to help teachers start a project and they’re able to finish the project at a different time and without me. Many of their projects are more than just taking a photo and doing a voice recording (although for some things, that’s all you really need). Now I would like to focus on creating a learning partnership with my students and not just the teachers. 

After reading Chapters 1 & 2 of Rich Seam, I might shift my practice to include more relationships, student aspirations, and feedback.  When I first started doing tech. Integration, I would give my students tasks that would allow them exploration. I would start a lesson by asking them to teach me all the different things that the apps would do.  I have veered away from those early lessons because so many of my students are returning but I forget that it’s still a great way to start something new. I think when I ask students to explore and teach me something they’ve learned, it helps to the learning partnership that I’ve read s much about this week.  I would like to get back to that. I think because I have a very limited time with them, I teach in steps but this gives students the fear that they’ll do the wrong thing if they don’t do it exactly the same way. It doesn’t allow them ownership and the ability to critically think and problem solve when something goes awry.  Another area is that I think I will start asking students what apps they want to use and help them figure out some tech aspirations. Students this young might not realize that they can make a stop motion or a digital art piece etc. There are always apps that they want to use and they ask me all the time but usually, we’re doing very specific tasks that do not require those apps.  But now that students have better grasps on the apps and how to use them, they’ve been finishing their projects with time to spare. I think this would be a great time for them to do something that they’re interested in. I could ask them which apps they’d like to explore and give them options that include apps that they’re interested in and apps or give time to highlight an app that they might not understand right away but would enjoy exploring.  I tended to stay away from these apps as students in Kindergarten and Grade 1 were allowed to use iPads or Computers doing choice time. This was the time that students usually “played” these apps. However, with the introduction of digital portfolios, teachers have really moved away from that and since I have curated the apps on the iPads, I can trust that every app they use are educational. Something that I really want to start doing is giving students feedback.  I always give instant feedback as they’re doing their work but I would like to give feedback in a way that would also be beneficial to the other students as well as teach them how to give feedback. One way that I thought I could do this was to showcase a student’s work and have students give “a compliment, a question, or a critique.” I think that I need to emphasize having the students reflect on their learning as part of the feedback and then giving them the time to refine their work based on the feedback.  Unless they have the time to put the feedback into practice, they will forget the feedback they were given. I think that if I’m able to focus on some of these changes, I can help activate student learning and not just facilitate their learning. Since I am changing positions next year and will not be pushing into classrooms anymore, I think the one goal I have this year to deepen learning relationships in my classroom is to work on my ability to be a master learner. I want to get better at provoking inquiry and giving my students and myself the time and space to learn together.  

One thought on “Becoming a Master Learner

  1. Hi Boramy,
    I really like how you’ve connected the PYP with the reading for this week. I agree that the Exhibition links well with the idea of teachers as partners and activators. I’ve always been curious if we’ve prepared our student well enough for the self-guided inquiry of exhibition – have our students been scaffolded in teachers as partners and activators? Maybe this is where iTime (or other personal inquiry initiatives) comes in… me have many similar initiatives here at YIS and I like the connection to this new pedagogy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *