Thursday, 3 September 2015

Bubbles as Authentic Learning

Bubbles as authentic learning!

In the Foundation Years Learning Community, interests spark interests.  Very rarely do I or my colleagues introduce a new concept.  I guess you could argue we introduced bubbles.  We do have equipment in the class.  Lego, blocks, pens, paper.  But the students lead the learning.  From the moment they come into class in the morning until when they leave, they are playing, involved in learning.  I can’t remember when I last heard the words “I am bored”.

I remember it was a rainy day.  There was so much energy inside that I decided we needed to move outside or we might burst.  What better to do than blow bubbles.  And it literally exploded with excited students amazed at the bubbles.  That is when the magic started.  Students played with passion.  One found that he could  separate a bubble in his hands and then put it back together.  We don’t often write altogether but today we did.  Everyone engaged.  Writing shared with Pre-school on Friday.  Meaningful in context.  Purposeful. 

The next day someone else wanted to play with bubbles.  She brings inside in a container of mixture and others join her.  Blows bubbles into cups and then bubbles on bubbles and bubbles on blocks.  “When you put soapy bubbles in there the bubbles will stick”.

I asked myself “how could I extend this play?”   The next time she asked,  we found a recipe together.  Printed it out.  Read it.  Grabbed the ingredients.  Made the new mix.  Waited.

The following afternoon, the bubble mix was requested.  I set it up outside.  I noticed all manner of things being trialled as bubble blowers.  A fish slice, a cookie cutter.  Then  train tracks joined together to make a square.  Round bubbles from a square?  Others tried this.  Perseverance was required.  A square became a diamond.  Discussions about sides, angles and shapes.  

Another afternoon, I wanted to try out two sticks with wool in between.  So I had a play.  It didn’t work. I gave up. To my surprise two students kept persevering until they made it work.   

A student found a bubble illusionist on utube.  Huge bubbles made from giant hoops.  As I thought how could I make this happen, a student yelled “we could use a hoop”.  And they were off.  Grabbed the hula hoop and went outside.  The hoop wouldn’t fit in the bubble mix container.   No problems they tipped the mixture on the outside table and tried to make a bubble.  There is nothing like the first time you are successful with a new idea.  Such joy, such excitement.  The students had a lovely half and hour taking turns getting inside bubbles.  “I wonder what it would be like living in a bubble?”

A couple of days later, outside,  before school, some Yr 6 and 7 students came and played with bubbles.  Fascinating to watch how they learnt from the younger students, so naturally.  Authentic.  “Can we come back and play during morning tea?” they yelled over later in the morning.

Links to authentic learning?

Ako - “Describes a teaching and learning relationship where the educator is also learning from the student in a two-way process.”  It is also about students perspectives being sought and listened to.  It includes the teachers ability to engage and motivate students.

Te Whariki Learning outcomes: knowledge, skills, and attitudes
Children develop:
  • the ability to make decisions, choose their own materials, and set their own problems;
  • the knowledge that trying things out, exploration, and curiosity are important and valued ways of learning.

The New Zealand Curriculum says “Students learn best when they feel accepted, when they enjoy positive relationships with their fellow students and teachers, and when they are able to be active, visible members of the learning community.”

Peter Wagners discusses in Play, passion, purpose,  how it is not what you know but what you can do with what you know that matters.  Intrinsic learning is demonstrated through play to passion to purpose.  He suggests finding time to pursue passions.  Give time for experimentation.  As developing passion, changes into a deeper sense of purpose.  This purpose could lead to innovations which will save our planet, our culture, ourselves.  

Modelling innovation as teachers, give students permission to be critical, creative thinkers, creators of knowledge.  Students are given agency.   They lead the learning.  It is not managed, it is not planned for, instead play becomes a journey of learning walked together.  Flow of learning is encouraged over days, weeks, and terms.

Learning stories, or narrative assessment, captures these learning events.
Whanau (parents/family) can read, reply, learn from these snapshots of time.   Learning stories give rich data that supports teachers to reflect on students learning. Teachers link the narratives to curriculum documents.  They enable students to reflect on the learning they have made.

Authentic learning has heart.  Play provides a rich environment where students can learn the skills needed for their future.  

For more information on Learning through play ask to join the learning through play facebook group

Tara O’Neill 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Authenticity through Playful Purpose

Yesterday myself and a friend & colleague called AC introduced magnetism as part of our Invisible World inquiry. We initially thought about teaching how to make electro-magentic nails. While we both really liked this idea, it became apparent to both of us that the obvious question that could be rightfully asked by our learners was, "ok... so what?..."

If we were going to establish learner engagement throughout both the active learning tasks and written exercises it had to have a clear value to our learners. The task had to become authentic.

 What does this mean? #edchatnz  recently discussed this very topic. Many of us edchatters agreed that when referring to learning authenticity means that the learning is seen by the learner as of real value. So I assumed the learning would be clearly valuable for the learner by either or all of the following;

  • chosen career path, 
  • personal interests 
  • cultural identity
  • community. 

Initially I couldn't think about how to make this context authentic for our learners. Then we decided to set authenticity through creating the purpose ourselves. We decided to set the purpose for learning about magnetism towards designing magnetically powered drag racing cars.

I wasn't sure if this purpose was going to result in the authenticity we required. The aim of this workshop was for learners to practice using observations and researched information to direct their investigations. The lesson plan was a mix of collaborative exploration (or play), note taking, researching terms and hypothesis development. Both AC and I realised this was a complex plan that required our learners to transition through several different tasks. The value of learner engagement towards behaviour management was going to be tested today.

What we found was a high level of participation in all stages of our lesson. The learning was explorative and intentional, it was fun and perhaps most importantly it was purposeful. In my opinion authenticity is essential. Students shouldn't need to ask why? What I learned through this lesson was how authenticity can be established through something as simple as purposeful play.

Morgan Ngata