Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Is your default the way you learn OR the way your learners learn?

Today we joined up with other Manaiakalani teachers for our Digital Immersion session.  The focus for this term is all about visible learning and its benefits for our students. Learners in our communities come to school below the expected standard for New Zealand students.  In order to get our learners up to standard by year 8, they need to make a 1.5 year accelerated shift. Visible learning enables such an accelerated shift.  

Each learner is different

We started the day with the question: how do your learners learn?  We chose three students and wrote down the ways in which they preferred to learn.  The answers were then collated and turned into a word cloud.  The results were interesting:

As you can see from the Tagul, there is a wide range of learning preferences.  Our learners learn differently.  This is important to remember when creating learning experiences. As teachers we need to make sure we are considering the learning preferences of all our learners, not just one in particular.   Following this, we watched a thought provoking clip of Chrissie Butler discussing UDL - Universal Design for Learning. Two key ideas resonated with me:

  • What engages one learners doesn't necessarily engage another learner
  • Is your default the way you learn or the way your learners learn?
So how can we ensure our students learning preferences are catered to in our lessons? Can we cater to  20+ students learning needs in one lesson? 

...Enter multi-modal learning!

Multi-modal learning is an approach which uses a range of modes to develop students understanding of a topic or an idea.  It is related to Gardener's theory of 'Multiple Intelligences'. The site uses a range of audio, visual and textual (paragraphs, bullet points and sentences) resources.  Students can synthesise their learning across multiple types of media to gain a better understanding.

As the MDTA already learnt about this earlier in the year (here and here), we were set with the challenge of extending our learners further.  We were set the task of encouraging our learners to select their own texts to help make sense of what they are learning.  

As my classroom has already had experience with using a range of multi-modal sites, I decided to challenge my students with a trickier topic and include self-selected texts.  Our inquiry topic for the term is weather, so I created my site to help my students learn about lightning and thunder.  I chose a range of texts (paragraphs, bullet points and sentences), videos and images (including GIFS).  As the science behind lightning is quite tricky, the texts range in reading difficulty.   I want my learners to engage with more challenging texts, so it is my hope that they will first use whichever mode they prefer to learn in, and then use the more challenging texts to deepen their understanding.

Click on the image to have a look at the site that I have created using HTML.  We have begun using this site today and will continue to use it throughout the week.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Learning to Code

Today we had a chance to learn how to code using code.org's Hour of Code lessons.  In these lessons you learn 'computer science' by understanding how to code to create games.  You can learn more about code.org and their aspirations here.

In Hour of Code, you can choose from a range of lessons based on popular games or movies (such as Flappy Bird, Starwars, MineCraft and Frozen).  This is great for learners as they can choose a game or movie that they are interested in.  There are two options for the lessons, blockly (for beginners) and Javascript (for advanced coders).  I chose MineCraft which uses blockly for my first attempt at Hour of Code. 

The lesson

Once you have choose your lesson and type of code, you watch a short YouTube clip that explains the coding suite and its functions.  You work through ten tasks before creating your own code.

My code

My verdict

I enjoyed completing the tasks and creating my own code.  The instructional videos helped make sense of coding.  I enjoyed the aspects of problem solving and trial and error which arose when trying to complete the tasks.  To start with I run my code after one or two blocks, however as I improved I began to create more code before checking to see if it worked.  This made me think carefully about what I was asking the game to do.

One thing that bothered me is that you always have to run your code from the start.  This gets a little frustrating when you have a lengthy code and only want to check the last few blocks. 

Aside from that, I think students would benefit from learning how to code. At this point I am not sure when/how I would fit coding into my timetable.  I may start this as an early finishers task or allocate 30 minutes of inquiry time to coding.