Conditions for Innovation

I am currently reading The Innovator’s Mindset, by George Couros, in preparation for an upcoming PTC course.  In the meantime, in case you didn’t hear about it, Team New Zealand won the America’s Cup in sailing this week!  The NZ news website, Stuff, published an interesting article about the conditions that facilitated the innovation needed for the NZ boat to be so competitive.

One university lecturer stated that the shortage of funding produced constraints that could have given TNZ a competitive advantage for innovation, while another attempted to refute his comments citing the poorest countries and their lack of innovation.

Surely there is an optimal level of limitations though, that can be a condition for innovation to flourish.  The critical difference between TNZ’s situation and the world’s poorest countries is education.  Innovation and creativity are based on sound foundational knowledge, together with the freedom to try, fail, iterate.  Some of our students’ best demonstrations of learning come from creation of new ideas based on the newly acquired knowledge, often under constraints.  One such example is our school’s recent IB DP Group 4 project this year, where all students needed to create a product from upcycled, not newly purchased, materials.

What do you think, does a lack of funds help or hinder innovation?

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Righting Reflection Writing

How do we get reflection right?  So that reflection is:

  • not seen as a chore
  • meaningful
  • celebratory, when appropriate
  • energizing for those reflecting
  • shared appropriately in the community.

We talked about blogs and reflection a lot at #beyondblogging this year up at #yis, and the big takeaway for me was actually a short comment made by a participant during one of the discussions: the class itself is most often that “authentic audience” we need for blogging.

So, in order for a reflective session to be successful, students need:

  • choice – what to reflect on, and how to share that reflection
  • an authentic audience, which is their peers, mostly.

A colleague and I used this presentation to help elicit student reflections.

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 17.21.08Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 17.19.31

 

In my view, there were two key elements that facilitated this session’s success:

  • the verbal discussion with a partner, before each student documented their reflection, giving students the chance to clarify and prioritize their thoughts
  • the element of choice in how they reflected, although all reflections ended up on their blogs – a testament to the versatility of the blog as a medium.

 

 

Here are some of the results of student reflections that day.  This post is probably the highlight.  Interestingly linked in her blog, but not embedded.  Mental note for to do list.

What are some of your key ways to ensure reflection is meaningful, enjoyable and shared?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

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Appreciation & Giving Thanks

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CA Projects developed at Beyond Laptops

Blogging at CA as part of a vibrant learning community:


Tapping into the expertise of our vibrant learning community:

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CA Blogging: Alive and Kicking

I really feel like I have been able to consolidate my thoughts around blogging over the course of the last day or two at Beyond Laptops at Yokohama International School.  I would like to shout out to those who I have sat with and collaborated with, but also the great workshop leaders from YIS.

My initial thoughts centered around the concern that student blogs don’t have an authentic audience, blogs can feel like an online worksheet and feel like “work” rather than “learning” for students.

So how do we:

  • help kids see the value of blogging;
  • find that authentic audience for students;
  • make sure that the blog is not just an online worksheet?

Probably my strongest current mantra around learning and student tasks is “give students choice”.  This could be in terms of the platform (are blogs the only way?) but can definitely be in terms of prompt. Can students choose their unit reflection prompt from a menu, such as:

  • In what ways was this unit like Star Wars?
  • What I really liked about this unit was …
  • This unit really bugged me because …
  • I was most surprised by …
  • I realised there is a strong connection between …
  • Choose a colour, symbol and an image that represents this unit…
  • Other visible thinking routines

Students in the class can then read a random selection of other students’ blogs, and can be taught how to comment.  The desired outcome would be that the readers would gain something different from the blog writer’s insights.  A key component of blogging is to build up the community, and the sense of students sharing their thinking.

My conclusion is that blogging is definitely worthwhile.  We are giving students exposure to a platform that they may or may not use in the future, but they have it in their tool belt.  Blog writing is a genre, and as language teachers we all have the responsibility to teach a range of writing genres.

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Making sure that CA Inspires

Today was Saturday.  Yet, today was one of the best days ever at school for me.  Yes, it was the weekend.

The school was abuzz with a range of activities,  One was an end of year softball tournament for middle school girls.  Great weather, lots of fun, a wonderful outdoor community event.   #community #WJAA

What struck me most though, was the source of two other events that took place today.  Both of these were original, filling a need that no other event does, and were being held for the first time.

IMG_2287We hosted Creative Connections for the first time.  This event was proposed by one of the school’s visual art teachers together with one of the design teachers.  This professional development experience included a visit to #Kyotographie, variIMG_2228ous design challenges and sharing of ideas in art and design. #design #CreativeConnections

 

 

IMG_2260The other major event was student generated. Through an open-ended design course, one grade 10 girl has been exploring issues facing children of multicultural backgrounds in Japan.  Today’s event brought in various members of our community, students, and others from beyond the community, such as Mixed Roots Japan, and involved a    discussion about growing up in Japan, musical entertainment, and a shoIMG_2279wing of the movie Hafu.  I was really excited by the relevance of this event, the energy it created, and the autonomy it provided to the student involved.  She also was able to bring in other students who collaborated with her and supported her.  It became a unifying event. #mixedrootsjapan #hafu

 

My learning from today:

We need to make sure we empower students and teachers to let their ideas flourish, and sometimes we just need to get the heck out of the way.

 

 

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Finding flexibility in our schedule

Whether waiting in lines at Disney, or enjoying travel on the Shinkansen, October break is a great time to catch up on reading all those extra articles saved to Pocket.

Want High Schoolers to Succeed? Stop giving them fifth grade schedules“, on “The Hechinger Report”  really piqued my interest.  The school only has structured lesson times on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the students’ learning is self-directed: they study the subjects they need to work on the most, on a drop-in basis.

I can see something like this working well at my current school where we need to find time for students to have alternative learning experiences, such as PBL, internships and mentorships; we also want to allow for differentiation: students spending time on disciplines where they need to improve most.  Surely such a strategy would also significantly help to develop every student’s self-management skills.

In practical terms, we currently have a 10-day schedule, where each Friday either has periods 1-4 or periods 5-8.  So each period would lose one hour per fortnight if we kept Fridays unscheduled.  Our school a small, but very active student population, and many students are frequently absent on Fridays due to extra curricular events.  If we changed Fridays to be a non-scheduled day, the often high rate of absentees would not impact lessons as it does now.

Obviously students would need to be held accountable for how they spend that one day per week.  Actually, this provides another opportunity within our school.  We are looking for ways to make the homeroom teacher’s relationship and interactions with students more meaningful, and using the week’s homeroom sessions to plan and document with students how they use their Friday would be an ideal vehicle.   I am sure we could arrange for one of our school’s coding gurus to create an app that students used to enter their schedule and goals for the day, that then could be relayed to teachers so they know which students to expect at what time.  Some kind of reflection, celebrating the day’s achievements regarding goals set, and outlining next steps, would also be included in the structure.

What do you think?  Is a move such as this too risky, or is it a much-needed respite from our timetabled education system?

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