Happy New Year…

Well, we are back.

Today we started off with the usual ‘how was your break’ discussions and then moved to recapping what we had done so far.

In looking back through my previous posts, I seem to have missed mentioning an important assignment that I had given the participants. Assignment #6 is a feedback questionnaire; I graded them, so it is only fair if they grade me and the program. I asked the students to respond to six questions openly and honestly that focused on what they like, dislike, suggest for improvement to the program as well as how they can learn better.

This assignment provided a lot of insight into how the participants are doing, not always in their actual responses, but in how they answered and they effort they put in. I found much of the feedback useful; I need to be more overt in my directions and add more visuals to support them.

In reflection, we spent way too much time on the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Some of the class was not putting in enough effort and it dragged on; I need to keep moving forward more steadily.

Today we moved on to finding and comparing different lists of criteria for Wonders of the World. The focus needed to be on big ideas and themes that we could use to make our own list of criteria for the Seven Wonders of Prince George. This is our next big step.

Public Library Field Trip

My Christmas gift to the group was a field trip to the Prince George Public Library. Being the week before Christmas, the Library was short staffed and the Librarian that was to show us around ended up being sick. As a result, I just let the students explore the Library on their own.

Each student found corners that enticed them with books, movies, games, and views. The fish were a big hit as well.

The trip also provided an opportunity to see Prince George from a different vantage, giving a different perspective that what they usually see.

It was not the official tour we were looking forward to, but it was successful in exposing them to Library space and hopefully encouraged them to use it more.


LIbraries, Prezis and Reports…

Today, Mrs. Doucet (Librarian) gave us a tour of the Duchess Park Library. This was good for the participants as it gives them an advantage when they do the Gr 8 Library scavenger hunts… A few also were able to check out a book that they could not get out of their own school’s library.

We also watched a presentation by Ms. McDonald (Tech Teacher/Librarian) on Prezi. We jumped in on this because it is a cool, web-based presentation program that I have not had the chance to show yet.

I had the students mix up groups today to discuss and compare what they know about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, with a focus on the building materials and construction. This was not successful and I am noticing some of the students are checking out. The research is dragging on and the cool facts are not hooking them or filling them with wonder. I have not done enough to excite them about the Wonders. I ended up doing some teacher modelling and tried to share some of my interest in the Wonders with them. It seemed to work a bit and generated some conversation in half the groups.

We finished up today with a serious talk on how things are going and my hopes and expectations for the program. I tried to refocus them on the project we are working towards, The Seven Wonders of Prince George. This brought out some home town negativity, but a few students turned this around with positive comments. I also informed them that I have been in contact with CBC Daybreak reporters and TourismPG about their project. This sparked a bit of interest that I hope will fan the flames.

I told them how I assessed them on the report cards that are going home very soon. I stressed the point that I am looking for proof of their learning and thinking, not facts about the Wonders. Questioning and using the right sources for information were the key outcomes for this term. I also pointed out what I was looking for in work habits.

I told them that because this is an enrichment program and they were selected for it, they all have the capacity to do this kind of learning. I am also grading them on this standard. ‘A’s’ will be harder to get than what they are generally used to in their home classes. I told them about my own experiences in school; I was much like them. I finished my work quickly, got great grades and was a distraction to the rest of the class. I was not challenged, Inquiry and Project Based Learning where I had some control and choice was something I needed as a kid. I hope that putting a personal spin on this expectations talk has an impact on their focus and commitment to their learning and the program.

All in all, I feel that today was a bit of a breakthrough; mostly in my own mind, but hopefully with the moral of the class as well. I don’t want to hear the ‘B’ word. Usually this is a word I attribute to the lazy, unimaginative mind, but here it would be because of me.

Visit from the Man.

Today we were lucky to have the new District liaison for Project Based Learning join us. Mr. Chase is a teacher in the Northern Learning Centre at Kelly Road Secondary School. He has a wealth of PBL knowledge and experience; he was excited to see our program and to meet the participants.

We continued our research into what makes the Wonders wonderful and at Mr. Chase’s suggestion, each group shared what they had found so far with the rest of class. A few trends and patterns were noticed in all of the research; everyone reported massive size, interesting building materials, and they were all destroyed (except for the Great Pyramids).

For me, this was a great opportunity to collaborate with a colleague and gain an outside perspective of how things are progressing down our Pathway. Mr. Chase gave me some ideas to try, especially in the assessment of our learning. I also had the chance to visit Kelly Road Secondary in the afternoon and check out some of what they are doing with PBL and Inquiry learning there. It was inspiring and motivating.

Thanks Mr. Chase!

Questions, Questions…

This week, we got down the hard task of asking questions. The participants got into groups of two or three to research what makes the ancient wonders wonderful. They will have the next couple of classes to do this research.

Each group brainstormed some questions that would help guide their research into what made the wonders wonderful. From there they split up the questions and used the internet and Quote Notes sheets to try to find information to answer the questions. Ideally, these answers will lead them to more questions. If they don’t, they did not ask the right questions.

The side benefit of this first big mini-project is they will learn who they can work with, who is a hard worked, who is reliable and such. There is much of the year left with lots of more group work opportunities; I hope that the participants learn that working with their friends is not always the best choice.

To Google or not to Google, that is the question…

This week was the start of creating critical thinkers… I introduced the reality that Google is a for profit company that is trying to sell advertisement. We had a productive conversation that has changed how the participants view Google. To help reestablish faith in the internet, I introduced them to a number of different types of search engines that are geared towards student research. Two in particular, InstaGrok and OOlone, are great because they are great for visual learners. InstaGrok even helps to focus research by creating a concept map and offering sub-topic suggestions.

After this, I introduced the project concept that we will be doing this year. Through an inquiry into Wonders, we will create a criteria list for the Seven Wonders of Prince George.

We then had small group discussions on a BIg Idea question that could guide our Inquiries about the Ancient Wonders. One group came up with a question that will be the driving force behind our entire project: What makes a Wonder wonderful?

This question will be the focusing idea for the rest of what we do this year.

The Grand Tour

This week, the group’s dream came true. They got an indepth tour of Duchess Park Secondary School. This tour was given by the school Principal, Mr. McCrae. We were very lucky to have such great tour guide. He showed us every nook and cranny of the school. The ¬†Pathway students were enthrawled.

The highlights of the tour were the drama room, music room and the shop wing. They cannot wait to choose their electives. Perhaps the most informative part was the Gr 12 english class we visited where they were given lots of advise about going to highschool. The most heart felt was as grade 8’s, don’t stand in huge knots in the middle of the hall blocking traffic.

After the tour we got down to more wonderful research. In pairs, the participants looked for lists of Wonders of the World. They then made groups of 4 where they shared what they learned. We made the realization that there is not one list. Of the 7 Wonders of the World, but many. Even lists with the same name are often different. One list that stood out was the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World. This list is the same no matter where they found it.

This discovery is sending us down a path of investigation about the Ancient Wonders of the World. We will use this topic to learn and hone some researching skill over the next few sessions.

Wonderful Wonder

This week we further delved into the world of wonder. The group worked on a googling wonderful things and made up lists of things that Google says are wonderful. From there they needed to share a few wonders that they had about those wonderful things.

Being that this was Halloween, the day was packed full of distractions on the other side of the fishbowl glass. It was great for the Condors to see that you can still have dress-up fun in highschool.

In the second half of the session we took a look at Learning Styles. We had a discussion about the different ways in which people can learn and how everyone is different. We talked about the benefits of understanding how we learn best ourselves and how we can benefit from working with others that learn in other ways. After that we all did a Learning Styles Survey and shared our results. The students then looked for and did a different Survey to compare different styles of tests and different interpretations.

One thing I addressed this week is how many of the students are not completing the small homework assignments that I have been giving. These are very simple assignments that are designed to encourage them to check their ePals accounts.

My reflections and realizations this week are two fold: First, I need to be more deliberate and detailed in my instructions. Second, I need to be more strict right now and scaffold my release of control in a more gradual way.

Deconstruction Time

This post is a little late, but late is better than never.

Last Thursday was a good session. We are getting used to the space and each other more and more every day. I do think that a room might better serve the learning that we are going to try to do. The loft, or “fishbowl” is a very distracting place for the group to work in. If we get into a good discussion, we get a little loud for those down below in the library. Every time a block ends, we have to wait for 10 minutes while students change classes all around us, waving, pointing and occasionally banging as they go by.

That said, we got some good work done. We did one of my favourite things; we deconstructed words. I love to take a hard look at words and pull them apart, trying to figure out where it might come from and what it originally was meant to mean. It took us a bit to get some great words that are interesting to break apart. In small groups, I had them list adjectives to describe something in a positive way. All of the groups ended up picking a food; I had hoped they would pick a landmark of some kind. Halfway through the group work I steered them towards using opinion adjectives instead of descriptions only; this helped bring us to the word ‘wonderful.’¬†‘Wonderful’ is the launching pad for our big project for the year.

‘Wonderful’ broken down is ‘full of wonder.’ That is what I hope to create in our class; learners full of wonder.

Learning the Ropes…

Today we jumped into our ePals accounts. These are the communication system we will be using to work with each other. EPals is a great resource because it is a fully contained and manageable system; it is also web-based, enabling our students to access it from anywhere, including a table or smartphone.

We spent the majority of the morning learning the basics of ePals. But we did start with a discussion about the YouTube clip that was assigned for homework. This was an easy assignment for the group to do, but most did not do it so we had to waste some time rewatching the clip…

Our discussion was fruitful though, if you have never watched An Open Letter to Educators by Dan Brown, it is a worthwhile rant to soak in. The take away from his rant is that society has outgrown classic education, we need to focus on learning processes not learning facts. This is a good lead into the Condors’ Pathway to Learning focus for the year, Project and Inquiry Based Learning.

We were a bit more focused this week and were able to ignore the fishbowl effect to some extent. We did spend more time on the email system then I had hoped but I think we will be the better for it from here on out.

Next week we will be getting a tour of Duchess Park from the Principal, Mr. MacRae and will then begin to delve into our topic for the year: Wonder.