A future learning space

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SO… I seem to be overwhelmed with ideas and choices at the moment with my next assignment. I need to choose one of the nine Teachers Without Borders initiatives. I need to choose two learning spaces that the initiative can work within.

However…

I was first drawn to girls’ education but now feel I want to create spaces for all children.

I was drawn to Nauru as it is on our doorstep but after some information shared by a fellow student (our wonderful eCoP working together) I feel they are quite well-equipped and now I am looking further afield.

I am drawn to young children, the early years of school.

I am drawn to thinking of creative spaces as I love all things involved with the arts.

I am still drawn to the liminal space but I can see all the learning spaces being relevant in this situation and need to choose, or work within my limitations, to get this assessment done in an achievable manner.

I am drawn to technology which is a huge mind shift for me as I am the least technological person I know (my children will back up that statement 100%!!)

I am drawn to simple ideas of collecting and donating arts materials to send to children in a refugee camp.

I am trying to draw on ideas of how to make this work when I am a casual teacher, not attached to one school in particular.

SO… I seem to need  to stop ‘drawing’ and start ‘doing’.

What would be in your bag?

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-4-57-45-pmI asked my children this question after dinner this week…

“What would you pack in your bag if you had to quickly leave everything behind and flee from your home?”

11 year old son answered…”clothes, food, iPad, books, laptop, something to remember like a trophy.”

15 year old daughter answered…”clothes, food, photos from home, phone, iPad, charger, leather jacket.”

We then looked at this link to the International Rescue Committee’s “What’s in my bag?” It gave my children and I a powerful understanding and emotional reaction to what it would be like to have to flee your home and then be labelled a refugee. It made them realise that they focused on quite material things. Were they really important? What else should they have considered? Would we all be together as we fled? Should we have packed more?

My son was particularly surprised at the hair care and skin items that Iqbal, 17, from Kunduz, Afghanistan chose to take. And then we read his story…

“I want my skin to be white and hair to be spiked — I don’t want them to know I’m a refugee. I think that someone will spot me and call the police because I’m illegal.”

As I continue to research about the worldwide refugee crisis, there are many stories that break my heart but they have also allowed for enlightening conversations with my children, giving us all a greater awareness of what is happening.

It is also encouraging us to talk about what we can do. As a family we are now trying to learn, share and inspire to make a difference.

Getting back to nature

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I have been interested in discovering schools that take ‘outdoor education’ to the next level. 21st Century Learning advocates that we need to allow children time outdoors, not just to ‘get dirty’ but also to educate them on the world beyond the classroom. And with Web 2.0 technology we can go anywhere in the world and be ‘outside’ our classroom. We can ‘visit’ and connect with other spaces that are not within four walls.

Here in Melbourne we have Fitzroy Community School and Candlebark.

And today I came across Forest School, north of Auckland, NZ.

I thought this quote from Head Teacher, Tennille Murdoch, was quite apt…

“How can we expect the future generations to save the environment if they haven’t first learned to love it?”

Murdoch goes on to say…

“Everything is tailored to the individual child – if they need to spend half the day up a tree, then that’s okay. Once they’ve satisfied that urge, they will move onto the next thing they want to learn.”

The school is based on the model of Scandinavian Forest Schools, which began in the late 1950s.

Maud Hyde, pedagogue at Stockholmsgave Centrum describes what happens when 3 year olds start at a forest preschool…

“They come in pink dresses but a month later, they have worms in their pockets.”

I thought their Operation Spring Chicken was very innovative.

In Australia, I’m certain there would be a lot of planning meetings involved in getting that to be considered part of the curriculum!

But I am encouraged to think of possibilities to move beyond the classroom.

Catalysts of change and hope

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“…the notion that the label ‘refugee’ shouldn’t limit what we aim for. It may not always be possible, and at times our plans may be interrupted due to the harsh realities of life in Za’atari.  But, by creating educational connections to their passions, interests, hopes, and dreams before becoming a refugee, I feel we help children to become invested in their future.” Kayri Shanahan, The Learning Space, EDFD459, 2016.

My new assignment for the unit I am studying has me connecting with Teachers Without Borders. This organisation does amazing work throughout the world, educating children in areas that are far from their homelands, sometimes under conditions that are less than satisfactory and often without many of the resources that we can access in our classrooms.

The above quote, from a fellow student and mentor in my unit, resonated with me as I believe it is important for these children to not purely be known as refugees but as students and future leaders. It is imperative that we connect with them, to let their voices be heard, for their stories to be shared and for them to be given as much opportunity as possible to pursue their passions.

While reading about the nine initiaves that Teachers Without Borders work within, I am realising that we can make a difference to these children. We can engage and interact with them through technology and we can give them hope that people do care and are eager to be involved in their learning.

They are children who are eager to LEARN SHARE and INSPIRE.

Can I hear an “a ha”?

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Over the last eight weeks I have certainly tried to “Keep Calm” although I  felt a few ‘flat line’ moments along the way! But over the course of these weeks of study, there have also been some great “a ha” moments.

They included…

  • recognising myself as a learner who understands how I self-direct, and self-reflect but needing to change my thinking of having a weak sense to a stronger sense of self-efficacy.
  • discovering Twitter as an educational tool and finding that #edchat opened up a whole new world of connecting with interesting people doing amazing things all over the world.
  • delving more deeply into group, collaborative and cooperative learning and being able to see that each had strengths and challenges and that it was not always about “doing” something together but about “learning” something together. (Slavin, Robert E. (2010),“Co-operative learning: what makes group-work work?”, in Hanna Dumont, David Istance and Francisco Benavides (eds.), The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice, OECD Publishing.)
  • understanding how important it is to give a voice to students when designing classrooms and learning spaces. They have great insight into what they like, what they don’t like and why. When speaking to my 11year old son about what he’d like in an ideal classroom he said, “a space where you can move around where it fits you best”.
  • challenging myself to think of “Beyond the Classroom” to not just mean an excursion or two with students but trying to think of meaningful ways we can connect with the outside world, anywhere in the world, to enhance our daily classroom activities.
  • explaining what I understood a ‘Liminal Space’ to be to others then helped me gain a clearer understanding of it myself. I can now use the terminology with students and have ideas of visual cues to help them make sense of this space when they are in it themselves.

I think those “a ha” light bulbs have been well and truly lit up!

Are you comfortable in your Liminal Space?

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Student responses, gathered through a combination of qualitative interviews and questionnaires revealed states of ‘having no knowledge’, ‘little knowledge’ or ‘guessing’.

Meyer, J., Land, R., & Baillie, C. (2010). Threshold concepts and transformational learning. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

In my experience with teaching young students, I often find it helpful to give them a visual cue to help with their thinking.

It helps them with the “I don’t know”, with the “what do I do?”, with the “can I guess?”.

Learning in the ‘Liminal Space’ made me think of explaining to them about stepping stones.

Being in the ‘Liminal Space’ when learning is to be unsure. It is to be uncomfortable because you are unsure. It is being confident of taking a risk to find out how you can be sure. And it is being comfortable in knowing you gave it a go.

I thought of stepping stones because you can take little steps to make your way across. You might fall off  but you can get back up and try again. You can go back to where you started, regroup and have another go. You can also reach out to others to ask them to help you step across or you can hold out your hand and help others to step across.

Some liken it to walking across a bridge…you know what is on one side but you are unsure of what will be on the other side. Be adventurous and find out!

I think it is important that teachers and students use the correct vocabulary to explain how they feel when they are learning. The ‘Liminal Space’, although a challenging space to be in, also allows for wonderful “a ha” moments when success has been achieved in any form, big or small.

I’ve often been in a ‘Liminal Space’ throughout my new online study and have certainly fallen off those stepping stones. But I’ve also found my way across with the help of others and by taking a risk myself.

It’s actually a kind of comfortable space.

Beyond four walls

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Nothing excites students more than hearing they are going on an excursion or that they are having an in-school special activity/visitor.

Nothing stresses teachers more than knowing they have to organise the excursion or incursion.

Not because teachers don’t enjoy being out of the classroom but the amount of planning and permission required is often daunting, time consuming and can carry an element of risk when taking students outside of the school environment.

When having an outside activity come into the school, it also requires the same amount of planning but with a little less risk.

Here is some information that you may find useful when planning, including checklists.

https://owfc.com.au/Childcare.asp?_=Excursion%20Risk%20Assessment

http://www.acecqa.gov.au/sample-forms-and-templates-now-available

Click to access Incursionpolicy.pdf

 

Learning Spaces

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at2original

I have just completed a major assignment for the first unit of study I have done in a VERY long time.

COURAGE was needed to move through the overwhelming sense of FAILURE I was feeling at times, that I wouldn’t be able to complete it with any measure of SUCCESS.

But I did it!

What started as a very daunting activity certainly had great ‘a ha’ moments along the way.

I felt a wonderful sense of achievement when it was completed and I appreciated that the learning curves were immense.

Now for the next one…

Thank you to the www

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As I spend the first week of school holidays putting my first assignment together after a VERY long absence from studying, I found this picture to be a true reflection of how I’m feeling!

Whilst being amazed at the wealth of knowledge I can access and the ease with which it is available, it is also daunting and overwhelming in its volume.

What I have found though is a sense of community, of generous contributors who give their work, images, thoughts and resources so freely for others to learn, share and inspire.

Thank you to all who are “helping” me in my studies.

What I know…..so far!

organisation-quoteI am finding this week that I am reflecting on my own learning.

My aha moments have been…

realising that I do know more than I think & that I can be vulnerable and ask for help when I am in need.

My challenges have been...

finding time to stay connected to my studies & sifting through the endless sources of information that are available.