7 Concepts to Sparkle Student Creativity and Learning

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“You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself.” Galileo

Two days filled with creativity have pushed me out the comfort zone and they have made me re-evaluate my tools and strategy when approaching the learning process. Within a group filled with passion and enthusiasm for this awesome profession we have influenced each other and came up with ideas, skills, and ways that shaped into awesome products through creativity driven processes.

Anne-Marie Evans is responsible for putting up this great concept of a workshop that pulls the best out of you. Thanks for the inspiration, Anne-Marie!

Some interesting concepts were completely new for me and they are getting a well deserved attention in my planning and day to day activity. The students response was nothing but enthusiastic when I started to apply some of the ideas taken from this workshop.

Tinkering. “Tinkering is fooling around with phenomena, tools and materials. It is thinking you’re your hands and learning Tinkering 2through doing. It’s slowing down and getting curious about the
mechanics and mysteries of the everyday stuff around you.”
Interested already? Read more about it here:  http://tinkering.exploratorium.edu/. Tinkering typically blends the high and low tech tools of science along with a strong aesthetic dimension that supports children’s and adults self expression.

Convergent Thinking. It Is the process of finding a single best solution to a problem that you are trying to solve. It is about judging options and making decisions. A convergent thinker is logical, objective, intellectual, realistic, planned, structured, and quantitative.

Divergent Thinking. It is the process of generating many unique solutions in order to solve a problem. The divergent thinker is intuitive, subjective, emotional, imaginative, impulsive, holistic, free-wheeling, and qualitative.

Design Cycle. The design cycle is fluid, the process is the destination.  There are four major components in the design cycle:photo

  • You come with ideas for the project and how you can put the project together.
  • Implement the project.
  • Develop prototype, test it, refine it, and hone it.
  • You reflect on what you have done.

Constructivism. It is described by Piaget as being the process whereby students constructed their own unique systems of knowing. The teacher should focus on this individual process of internal construction rather than standing at the front and spouting their own models. The learner is and information constructor. The information is linked to the prior knowledge, thus mental representations are subjective. The learner brings past experiences and cultural factors to a situation.

Constructionism. It is seen as a social process whereby constructs emerge from ongoing conversations and interactions.

Zone of Proximal Development. It is the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do ZPD 2with help. It is important how we can assist best that child in mastering more advanced skills and concepts.

I went back to my students and we have experienced various form of tinkering when inquiring into basic movement skills during the Individual Pursuits stand-alone unit. The outcomes quickly amazed me with an increased potential of creativity shown by our students.

How is your classroom creative? That was the starting point of this workshop and this is one of the questions that keep me excited about the ways learning shapes into unexpected student explorations of what we don’t have the courage to explore sometimes. I am totally motivated to keep finding the perfect answer to this question in the upcoming units of inquiry. The good thing about it is that I know it will take a while and it will keep me for sure out of my comfort zone. The zone where my students own their learning and they are connected.

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Engaging Students’ Conceptual Mind

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“If we can’t articulate it, how can we teach for understanding? By teaching activities?!?” – Lynn Erickson

How do we write teacher guiding questions? What do thinking classrooms looking like? What is the difference between an activity, and a performance  of deep understanding? These are some of Lynn’s most powerful questions we should ask ourselves.

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Good educators have always been concerned with what goes in a student’s mind. These educators are dynamic, forward thinkers, thoughtful, persistent and leadership orientated. They promote leadership by building capacities in others with the mindset of continuous student improvement. In the present days they spend more time with the kids than most other adult.

Spending two days in Lynn’s Erickson workshop it was a true inspiration at it happened in the beginning of the year when planning activity is high. I have spent the weeks after the workshop reading her book “Concept-Based Curriculum” and applying new ideas in my units or during the lessons. It is a continuous challenging activity that encourages higher levels of thinking and stimulates creativity.

Here is a short summary of what I consider is essential for me to improve on and put into action:

  • As knowledge continues to expand exponentially we must focus on the shifting to a higher level of concepts. The goal is to focus and process the information so it can be thoughtfully and efficiently accessed and utilized by our students.
  • We should teach for conceptual understanding and we should no longer assume that students are building on it. Our students must connect the conceptual understanding to supporting content.
  • The conceptual mind creates connection to prior experience and finds relevance. It works synergistically with the factual level of knowledge, and the strategy/skill level of process to develop the intellect. The conceptual mind sees patterns across examples which reveals deeper, transferable understandings. Through conceptual lenses we engage the conceptual mind.
  • Synergistic thinking requires the interaction of factual knowledge and concepts. Requires a deeper level of mental processing and leads to increased understanding of facts related to concepts, supports personal meaning making, and increases motivation for learning. It is motivating to use our minds well! Synergistic thinking stimulates higher-order thinking and leads to deeper understanding of facts, skills and concepts.
  • To develop the intellect and increase motivation for learning, curriculum and instruction must create a “synergy” between the lower (factual) and higher (conceptual) levels of thinking.

In a concept-based curriculum that is relevant and applicable to the world beyond the school our students exercise critical thinking.

  • When assessments are informative students build on strength, weaknesses, set goals and become owners of learning.
  • When social and emotional connections are made students develop divergent thinking, expressing thus authentically.
  • When they have 24 hours access to tools and resources, they express and communicate their learning.
  • Where there is a culture of creativity and innovation, the students own the learning and they create solutions.

As every other discipline the Physical Education has a conceptual structure. Most concept based of all my students are the pre schoolers. They are always excited about working with important ideas. I draw the inquiry from their understandings with the aim of developing a concept based thinking student. The main goal is to get them to transfer the concepts we use. I used to teach activities and I did mistakes as we all probably do but now I am becoming more aware of the fact that we need a higher level of pedagogy learning and “Concept-Based Curriculum” book is a great point to start.

Physical Education concepts to work with: movement, agility, behavior, weight transfer, autonomy, character, initiative, perseverance, resilience, self-regulation, trust, aesthetics, bio mechanics, body control, body form, challenge, competition, energy, flexibility, flow, growth, goal setting, improvement, leisure, mastery, overload, physiology, power, rest, spatial awareness, strength, stress, control, fair play, safety, team work, angle, space, action, reaction, endurance, speed, patterns, cooperation, motion, force, power, development.

Web Unit Planner completed with my colleagues during the workshop:

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Mobile Technology In Physical Education

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It all started three years ago when I joined a “PE Geek Workshop”, done by Jarrod Robinson, an enthusiastic educator and true innovator in the PE community. At that time I bought an iPad right before the workshop and I was definitely the dumbest in the room, being exposed to technology in PE and in the same time learning how to use this device. Fast forward to the present: I am doing a presentation about the use of mobile technology in education. Thanks, Jarrod! You can read more about his brilliant work at http://thepegeek.com/ and make sure you don’t miss his webinars or workshops.

Recently, the Supreme Education Council from Qatar offered to our school the opportunity to have some of us present different topics that can impact learning. After an initial application process, the presentations were accepted and we were very excited to face the challenge.

This three days event gathered educators from international and public schools, and it took place at Qatar National Convention Center. The set up was excellent with everything ready in hand.

The title of my presentation was “Mobile Technology In Physical Education”. I have been using iPads and iPhones in my lessons for more than three years now and it feels extraordinary when I see the outcomes of using these tools. With practice it turned quickly into a passion, so I feel comfortable when talking about it.

For almost an hour or so, I have shared with other physical educators the good examples of practice and the challenges I’ve been facing in planning, facilitating or assessing the learning. During the presentation we have inquired into how:

  • The power of Twitter is connecting enthusiastic educators from all over the world. I am happy to be inspired by them and to be part of a very strong and growing community. I used an example of how just simply tweeting a topic or addressing a question it will connect you to others’ perspectives.
  • Attendance, assessment and behavior can be monitored while students, parents and teachers are involved. The Class Dojo app that I am using is a great tool that can award and record real-time feedback.
  • Assessment has never been so exciting for students, educators and parents. Using apps such as Coach’s Eye empowered us with a video recording and analysis tool that we never dreamed of having it 10 – 15 years ago.
  • QR codes can be used in a variety of ways with students of any age. I showed the example of a summative assessment done with my Kindergarten students in their stand-alone Adventure Challenge unit.  By the end of the unit (8 weeks) they were able to use the iPads and scan QR codes, play and watch a content prepared for them, and also perform the exercise shown in the video.

With everyone present in the room we then scanned QR codes and went through the process of planning an activity and how to use them.

  • How to use other apps such as: Coach Note, Stretch It, Spin It, Easy Portfolio, iMuscle, Video Tagger, etc.

It was great to meet with new educators, share the good practice and brainstorm about the ways we can better facilitate learning. I learned about the challenges they are facing – not having enough iPads, Wi-Fi connection or even permission to use photos or videos) and we also inquired about how these challenges offer us the opportunities to experience failure, tension or success, and how they finally lead to a potential growth as professionals.

Our students, the so called “digital natives”, prefer receiving information quickly and from multiple sources. They prefer pictures, sounds and videos before text and they love to interact in “real time”. They also enjoy learning that is instant, relevant and fun and I am very excited when they find meaning in what I have planned for them. It is time consuming preparing a unit and sometimes it takes forever to have a lesson prepared the way I think it will impact my purpose. There is tension when I apply something new with them, but in almost all situations I am blown away about how quickly they can shape ideas, using their imagination and creativity. It is the moment when I feel I am only moderating and I become a learner too! What can be better than this?

 

 

 

5 Things I Took Away From Andy’s Workshop

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Recently I attended a PYP workshop about inquiry and assessment in PE, led by Andy Vasily. It was a positive experience and I decided to start my blog with the things that inspired me the most:

  • CONNECTING with other PE teachers is an essential step to be inspired by a continuously growing and interactive community. Use platforms such as Twitter to share loads of ideas and resources with teachers from all over the world.
  • TECHNOLOGY in PE is becoming more and more an integrated part of our activity, at every level. The use of iPhones, iPads or any other mobile devices in planning, assessment or coaching is becoming an every-day reality. Since our students are “digital natives”, they will engage better into the tasks you’re preparing for them. Challenging for some of us, but so rewarding at the end of the road!
  • PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT is one of the most important aspects in our activity as educators. Whenever I have the chance to interact with a workshop leader and other professionals, I take the opportunity right away. Engage in workshops, seminars, online PD or free online courses to stay connected and updated, never limit yourself to what your school offers you!
  • TAKE ACTION of what you’re learning.  When I learn something new, my view about the world changes. As this new view influences my actions, then this new view becomes part of my actions. When returning to your school from a workshop, apply one new thing at a time to experience success.
  • GOOD TEACHING is L.I.F.E.! And no one could have said it better than Andy and the amazing educators who reflected on it. You can read about it here: http://www.pyppewithandy.com/good-teaching-is-life.html

Read more about Andy Vasily here: http://www.pyppewithandy.com/

Thanks to Osama and the Greenfield Community School from Dubai for organizing this event. You’ve provided a great environment for learning!