The relevance of messing around

My school has a process each year called the PGP (Professional Growth Plan) where teachers work in groups or individually to inquire into something they want to learn that will help student learning. This year for my PGP I have chosen to investigate and create ways to help integrate computational thinking into math lessons, and possibly other subject areas. This is with the hope of engaging students in a multidisciplinary experience that will also help lead to collaboration skills. I have to think about and improve at designing tech-rich lessons. I have been using the SAMR model to help me plan some of these lessons from substituting a numbers spreadsheet for a table when measuring the mass of objects, to coding Spheros to help learn about drawing and measuring angles. So far I have had some success and am continuing to search and think of creative ways to incorporate tech-rich lessons into different strands of mathematics.

One aspect of this week’s resources that made me think was the article by Cofino about Transforming learning in my classroom and how I connect tech-rich lessons to student’s daily lives so that they can see the relevance in what they are doing and also think about how they can use their knowledge and skills to take action. In a recent Drone Rescue mission I made to help students learn about coordinate geometry I introduced the lesson by showing the students an article about a drone being used by a lifeguard, as this unit connects to science, during the reflection stage we had a conversation about how scientists could use this knowledge, how farmers could use it, and this created some neat ideas for further learning. Sometimes we get so caught up in teaching the tech and the knowledge that we forget about bringing it back to the real-world applications and escaping the bubble of the classroom to think about why and how the skills we are learning could be important in everyday life.

Living with New Media raised some questions for me, and how students mess around with tech in class. Play is such an important part of learning and we need to honor students and their need to play with things. How much time do you give your students to just play around with the tech (or any hands-on learning) before you start teaching it?  How much time can we afford to just mess around, and how much learning takes place during this phase?  I think it is a valuable part of learning as though the messing around stage the students will discover new ways to use an application/device and find ways short cuts to complete different tasks. Recently I started uses Epic Books in the classroom, it is a great way to curate book collections about a genre or topic and share them with your students to aid in research or just the joy of reading.  Of course, when any 10 years old develop an online profile there is going to be the avatar creation and messing around. At first I use to fight this, tell them to do it on their own time, but lately, I have begun seeing the value in it.  Through playing around with their avatar allows students to create an emotional investment and connection to the program, they familiarize themselves with the ins and outs of the application and feel some ownership over their learning.

Thinking ahead I want to focus on these two ideas for planning tech-rich lessons; how I give time to mess around with the tools when introducing them, and also to make time for discussions and reflections about how the skills, concepts, and technology they are using connect to the world around them.  Any feedback on the attached lessons would be appreciated.


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3 Responses to The relevance of messing around

  1. Flynn, I loved what you said about play. Our school just completely redeveloped our ES playground, and now when our students are dropped off in the morning, they literally get out of their parents’ cars and head straight onto the playground. In the words of our Director “kids should be playing before they start learning everyday”. We cannot underestimate the importance and need for play, at any age.

    The point you made about playing with tech is an important one. One grade 3 teacher I worked with at our last school would give her students this time. They were a one to one ipad program in the ES. If she found or heard of a new app that might be beneficial, she would give the students 15 minutes to learn everything they could about it, share with each other and her. This was a quick and efficient way to determine whether it would be useful for the students moving forward. You also asked about how much learning takes place during this time. I believe that lots of learning takes place; they have to learn the app, teach each other, and her, and debate as to whether or not it is useful and why, and a host of other skills. So in a sense, it is structured play, as long as you keep an eye on your time limit. I think these types of activities, whether tech related or not, are fantastic.

  2. Hey Flynn, like Ryan, I really liked how you mentioned the importance of “messing around’ or playing with tech in our classrooms. At Learning2 last year some presenter mentioned the idea of not stealing the inquiry and giving students time to inquiry with a new app before walking through some kind of “how-to” session. I tried this recently when introducing iMovie to 5W. I just listed 5 things on the board that I wanted students to be able to achieve with iMovie (importing, transitions, voice overs, etc) and gave them 10 minutes to see if they could investigate how to do it. Once the 10 minutes were up I just paired the students so they could teach each other to fill any gaps in knowledge. It was much more interactive and hopefully led to better learning than just having me stand at the front of the room and just walk through the steps necessary to learn those skills.

    Let’s try this when we get those Micro:bits!

  3. Boramy Sun says:

    Hi Flynn,

    Just like you, Cofino’s idea of relevancy really spoke to me. I really liked how you brought your drone rescue mission lesson back to the real world in really easy ways. I agree, sometimes I find myself getting caught up in the tech, showing all of the steps or features and forgetting to bringing it back to real world applications. You’ve definitely inspired me to push students further by just asking how this could be helpful outside of the classroom.

    I struggle with the same questions about play and how much time we can afford to have it. It helps that we have a small class set and many times the teacher allows free play during down time or free choice. Although, when working with the really little kids, we’ve really shied away from calling it “play” because we don’t want the students to confuse ipads as toys so we call this time exploration time. We try to have students remember that the ipad is a learning tool, just like how pencils are a writing tool. I know exactly what you mean about the time spent on avatars… when I first introduce anything with avatars, I always give them about 5-10 minutes just so they can create one. As an adult, I love creating avatars so I have a hard time faulting them on that. Once they get that out of the way, they’re more inclined to focus on the actual app itself.

    One thing I do with my students is reward them with iPad time when they complete something early. I use this time to highlight a few apps that they can use to explore and mess around with. I know it’s not truly free but it’s a way to ensure that they do have time to explore the app before we get into it for academic reasons. One of the things they love doing is showing the class how to do something. So instead of me teaching a lesson, I ask if someone has figured out how to do ____________. That also gives them ownership and an investment similar to the avatar affect.

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