Building Communication and Trust Towards a Powerful School Culture

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Under the 4 Generations 4 Education generous agenda of events I have presented a workshop that focused on communication and trust as successful elements to construct a powerful school culture.

Hosted by the the Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai, this event was an excellent opportunity to identify, explore and broaden the perspective over the settings we are activating as educators and to share strategies that give results.

We have inquired over various concepts such as constructionism, trustworthiness, listening, Activity Theory, assessment, Zone of Proximal Development and scaffolding, school culture, vision and mission, learning environments and most of all we had fun in a group of dedicated educators.

We examined the characteristics of elevated communication and we have identified challenges of how communication is shaping relationships. Investigating conceptual understandings for constructing a positive learning environment and reviewing the purposes of assessment were areas that often positioned us out of our comfort zone.

The time will prove the success of this event, as when returning inspired to our schools we will empower students and colleagues towards continuing this learning adventure that started on the 28th and 29th of October.

As educators, I believe  we are seeking more for learning in adventure  than adventure in learning! This workshop has been an adventure where learning happened at a high level and I’ve felt inspired by the professionals I worked with!  Thank you!

When looking for valuable opportunitie to develop professionally, 4 Generations 4 Education takes this mission beyond expectations and sets a high standard in international educational services.

 

Leadership Understanding in Grade 3

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We were impressed about the homework that connected with Alex’s unit of inquiry in grade 3. The central idea is: “Leadership can be exhibited in different settings and scopes”.

Through the key concepts of form, perspective and responsibility, students inquire about the characteristics of leaders, circumstances that shape them, and various opportunities for leadership that they can explore in the community.

Using his thinking skills, researching and communication, Alex shortlisted his grand mother, Khaled Abdul Malak, his mother, Sue, a Stamford educator, and he decided to illustrate  Marcus Smith and his leadership skills in the homework. Marcus is the founder of InnerFight, and he is a highly qualified performance coach and an international athlete. Although they have met only a few times in Marcus’ Dubai based gym (once at 5.00 am), Alex is definitely inspired and has a strong understanding of the powerful messages sent through living this lifestyle. His perspective on leadership is exemplified in the homework.

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Thanks to Mandala Barab, Alex’s class teacher  and the group of educators collaborating on the unit’s strategies, grade 3 students are starting the year equiped with meaningful experiences that empower them to make connections and transfer them into real life.

 

Games Are Serious Fun! What About Gamification?

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In gamification elements of computer gaming are applied to non-game context with the purpose to increase motivation and engagement of students. “Gamification tends to take the use of game outside of a defined space and apply the concepts to items like walking up steps, tracking the number of miles run, or making a sales call” (Kapp, 2012).

From Kapp’s point of view, gamification is not the same as games. We tend to associate it with badges and leaderboards, but it should be more about fun and play into the experiences we create. Zombies, Run for example is a game that motivates runners to train harder and do more miles. Experienced educators introduce games and play into their strategies, and digital gamification is an extension of this practice.

Gamification provides a context where students can apply their knowledge and skills which focus on a learning objective. In this context, games should have a clear goal for the players, as well as a learning outcome.

On the other hand, as an educator, you really have to take time and plan the lessons introducing gamification very throughly, because you don’t want your students to take it as an invitation to play video games, but to understand that they need to withdraw strategies from them and apply them in real life, trying to free themselves from conventional ideas and find that special feeling that any idea can be possible with the right twist. As an educator, you always have to have in mind both sides of a story and take in consideration also those who see the downside of a subject, like Selwyn (2014). Selwyn has a more critical view over gamification, mentioning that there is a risk of promoting short-term engagement in tasks, with an increased risk of longer-term disengagement.

With this in mind, this year I have built a website for my grade 5 students that was intended to maximize their physical activity throughout the two sessions a week we spent together. As an element that motivated their actions I have included Sworkit, a fitness app that influenced their behaviour in an active way. They encouraged each other based on their results, they built on the skills they were practicing during the unit and they acquired knowledge. All these outcomes were highlighted in the Slack chat they performed, showcasing the drive of innovation they have faced. These outcomes were closely linked to the central idea of the unit: “We can develop and maintain physical fitness by applying basic training principles”.

After this experience, I am thinking that we can use various insights and creative ideas to design our own, interactive learning experiences. Games and gamification are everywhere nowdays, and games are created much easier than before. Google Glasses or Nike+ are products that became common, therefore the need to build on adding gamification to our learning environments.
Looking back, children were learning through simple play, whereas, with the present mobile technology, they have the world at their fingertips.

Turning game based into knowledge is challenging, but not impossible. Gamification brings the consequences of not reaching the next level and puts the learners into an emotional state where they have to take action, to reach a certain number of points or a different level, and this drives in them a behavioural change. When thinking about the most effective learning moment in our lives we remember the frustration and hardness of the tasks and then the “Aha!” moment. In these cases, over time, gamification reinforces learning and changes behaviours.

Kapp (2012) evidences three core elements of gamification:
First, a visual notification of the progress is visible, and learners like to see progress. Students interact with each other, asking about a tough question or a task. There is an excitement of knowing something from the whole topic, and this is the second element. Third, students are learning at their own pace, so a personalisation of learning is allowed and amplified by the feedback that keeps motivation at high levels.

Before we develop gamification to better foster learning, I believe that is important to ask ourselves these questions:
What are the three reasons driving this game or gamification?
Is the emphasis placed too much on fun aspects of the game and not enough on the learning?
Does the game play include an opportunity for reflection of the learning?
Having these aspects in mind may enhance the quality of the learning experiences we create.

How do you enhance your students’ learning through gamification? Many of us are already integrating it in the experiences we design, but do we always keep the educational purpose beyond the positive effects that gamification offers?

I enjoyed watching this two videos that highlight Kapp’s vision over gamification:

References:
Kapp, K. M. (2012) The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Case-Based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education.
Selwyn, N. (2014) Chapter 5 of Distrusting educational technology : critical questions for changing times.

Let the P.E. continue…

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The modern Olympic Games are showcasing the best athletes from all over the world, every four years.

The new academic year has just started and we will continue to engage, empower and experience for another year, nurturing future new stars in Physical Education.

We’ll take each day and make the best out of it; come and be part of our team! Let the PE continue…

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Digital Technology Tools and Strategies

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Our presentation at the Teaching and Learning Forum wasn’t a sold out event – scheduled at the end of the day, right after lunch – but it gathered a few enthusiastic and curios educators who joined us into fun. I say fun because we laughed a lot, we shared ideas and we even flipped between being a presenter and an attendee. By the end of the sessions we have inquired about:

  • How to use Tagxedo to make word clouds in real time. Carmen uses this tool during inquiry time. I personally use WordFoto
  • How we have used QR codes, Vocaroo, Picosong, and physical movement to enhance Spanish language acquirement through phonetics with Pre 5 students, in this movie. This was a collaborative assessment that we did together.
  • Creating individual and group reports of your end of the unit reflections with Socrative. Carmen is an expert with this tool. I tried it first with my grade 3 students at the end of the Movement Composition Unit and I exported students’ reports straight to their online portfolios.
  • How to use a classroom response system with Kahoot. This tool creates an engaging learning environment, through a game-based digital pedagogy. This was one of the favorite tools by the ones attending.
  • How to record a formative assessment in real time without the need for student devices by using Plickers. The presentation’s feedback was collected with a set of questions and the use of Plickers as you can see below.

Thanks, Carmen! It was fun to put all of this together. Thanks to everyone attending, you’ve made this session so enjoyable! Any negative feedback in the reports below comes most probably from my Mom, who attended but she was still figuring out how to use the cards in the correct position. Or maybe not!

Digital Technology Tools

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Recently I have been presenting with my colleague Carmen Fernandez at the Qatar Academy during a joint PD session. We have shared some of the strategies and tools that we are using in our lesson when integrating technology.

I have talked about QR codes, video analysis assessments in the early ages and how to record, report and share evidence of IMG_0094these assessments with students, parents, and teachers.

Carmen presented tools that can boost the summative and formative assessment or her Spanish lesson: Kahoot, Tagxedo, Vocaroo, and Socrative.

The highlight of the presentation was our collaboration during an integration unit about ocean animals with pre 5 students. Carmen recorded the students pronouncing various names of ocean animals in Spanish. With these files she created QR codes. I posted the QR codes in the gym and the students had to scan them with the iPads, listen to the recordings, and then imitate the moves IMG_0087of those animals for a number of times. Having a great mix of students for all around the world, this formative assessment turned into a peer assessment and a great way to differentiate. Students with good Spanish phonetics skills helped their partners to identify the animals and facilitated learning.

Acquiring  Spanish or any other language through movement is possible with the help of technology like the one I have described. Students are engaged in the learning process, teachers are learning, and the efficiency of the lesson is increased.

Share your ideas if you have other relevant learning experiences!