As I’ve mentioned before, this school year has been my favourite of my career. In many ways, I have felt fulfilled in terms of my pedagogical beliefs, but I have also had the opportunity to collaborate with some outstanding educators across Ontario.
At the #BIT14 conference this past November, I happened to sit beside Colin Jagoe during Ron Canuel’s keynote. Ron talked about the importance of taking risks and trying new and innovative approaches to learning and Colin and I decided we needed to somehow work together.
Fast forward to March and we decided that the collaboration would be to put our classes together (his grade 11 astronomy and one of my grade 10 academic) and ask them to create a project. His students were in charge of making the science work and mine were supposed to approach it from a media perspective. We co-designed a task where his students designed ultimate sports that could take place in space and my students were the “marketing” team.
Some reflections and next steps:
1. We asked the students to work together by putting them in groups without any knowledge of the people they were working with and that was interesting. My students discovered that it’s hard to work with someone when you don’t know anything about him or her. In the future, I think it’s important to have some kind of introduction – whether it’s a video or image, it’s obviously important to learn about and make some kind of connection with your group members. (In all honesty, we likely would have done this but we unsure of how much time we might have due to the on-going labour unrest in our profession at the moment.)
2. Students think they are being clear and concise, but it’s not always the case. I think next time it would be good for us as the teachers to model this even more. Colin and I had a Google Doc planning page, but I would have showed them what we were thinking and how we were using it to collaborate. We did our brainstorming on the main page and had an ongoing conversation in the comments. I think it would have been beneficial for students to have seen that aspect of collaboration.
3. We need to teach collaboration skills.
4. Students need to be pushed when it comes to sharing their ideas. My students were hesitant about jumping in and sharing their ideas and in many cases wanted the other class to tell them what to do. It was interesting to me though because my students had really great ideas but were worried they would upset the plan the other students had for how the project was “supposed” to be. I had a number of conversations with students about the of sharing thinking and pushing back on ideas, but all the while being tactful. In the end, I think many of my students realized that they did in fact have great ideas and regretted that they didn’t share their thinking sooner.
5. Reflection is key! My students spent a lot of time thinking about how the project went and didn’t even ask for grades! To me, that is a HUGE win! They reflected and thought about how it could have been better and celebrated what they thought well. It was AWESOME!
6. Working with Colin is amazing! One the characteristics of Colin that I admire the most, is that he is one of the most contemplative and reflective educators in Ontario. We had so many awesome Google Hangouts where we planned, but more importantly, reflected. We talked about our classrooms and how it went and what we considered successes and what we would do next time. It must have been serendipity that brought us together that day at #BIT14. I am already looking forward to a future collaboration next year!