Changing Landscapes: Teachers As Knowmads Part 1

Knowmad

 “Rider” photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Over spring break I happened to come across a Tweet on my Twitter stream about an interesting book to check out (Knowmad Society). Little did I know that I wouldn’t be able to put this book down until I had finished it. Some of the ideas proposed in the book have profound implications on societal and educational systems. One of the most interesting concepts of the book was that of a Knowmad.

Knowmads: 

1. Are not restricted to a specific age.

2. Build their personal knowledge through explicit information gathering and tacit experiences, and leverage their personal knowledge to produce new ideas.

3. Are able to contextually apply their ideas and expertise in various social and organizational configurations.

4. Are highly motivated to collaborate, and are natural networks, navigating new organizations, cultures and societies.

5. Purposively use new technologies to help them solve problems and transcend geographical limitations.

6. Are open to sharing what they know, and invite and support open access to information, knowledge and expertise from others.

7. Can unlearn as quickly as they learn, adopting new ideas and practices as necessary.

8. Thrive in non-hierarchical networks and organizations.

9. Develop habits of mind and practice to learn continuously.

10. Are not afraid of failure.

Page  24 of Knowmad Society

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Australia, Adelaide; Light on the waters photo credit: kool_skatkat via photopin cc

As I thought more and more about the concept of what a Knowmad is, I began to think about how vital it is for educators to embrace the notion of being a Knowmad. We are entering job hunting season across Canada and the U.S. There are new teachers graduating from Ed faculties and experienced teachers simply looking to make a change all on the job search. It’s a stressful time for those looking for employment in such a tight market where nothing is guaranteed.

Many of the points in the definition of a Knowmad remind me of my Twitter PLN and the fantastic educators I have connected with. We work together, share ideas and are always willing to help  each other regardless of location. The relationships and interactions afforded by our online and offline networks allow us gain new knowledge and to apply it in our classrooms the very next day. We are always learning and trying new things out. Having a supportive network has allowed me to gain the courage to try things and to not fear failure.

I am still pondering the idea of teachers as Knowmads and many of thoughts shared in Knowmad Society.  Once I have pondered some more I will write-up another blog post.

What do you think of the idea of teachers as Knowmads?

Interesting Articles to Read:

“What I am Afraid of” by Ben Grey http://bengrey.com/blog/2013/03/what-im-afraid-of/

“Stop Following Your Passions.. the Celebration of Work” by Dean Shareski

http://ideasandthoughts.org/2012/08/22/stop-following-your-passions-the-celebration-of-work/

“Don’t let your change agents become free agents” by Natalie Foley http://smartblogs.com/leadership/2013/03/29/dont-let-your-change-agents-become-free-agents/

“How managers can keep their top talet.” by Maynard Webb https://smartblogs.com/leadership/2013/02/27/how-managers-can-keep-their-top-talent/

“How to innovate like a Jedi knight” by Diego Rodriguez  http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130328222915-5935179-how-to-innovate-like-a-jedi-knight

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What’s My Number? Mystery Number Call Math Warm Up

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  Emptied photo credit: Darwin Bell via photopin cc

Last week I happened to come across a Tweet in my Twitter feed that talked about ‘Mystery Number Calls’.  Having done a number of Mystery Skype calls with my students my curiosity was piqued and I began to follow the conversation thread. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was just like a mystery Skype but the classes would be guessing each others numbers. I opened a sign-up document from a Tweet and promptly forgot about it until the next day when one of my students said “Mystery number call? Cool! When are we going to try it??!”  A few others heard the comment and my class all got excited at the prospect of a new Skype game. That sealed the deal I just had to see if we could try this out!

I tapped into my PLN and @tegesdal agreed to do a mystery number call with us! We decided our classes each would pick 3 numbers between 0 – 99 and take turns asking questions to guess each number one at a time. I am very lucky to have a great coworker (@jennmarieco) who is always willing to try things out with me and agreed to have her third grade class join us in new our math game. After we explained the premise of the game and chose our numbers we eagerly awaited the start of our mystery number call. We had 2 students who were in front of the camera while the rest of the students listened and suggested what questions to ask. Oh what fun it was!

Some great things that I saw happen during the call:

– Having done a number of Mystery Skype calls this year our students all knew the expectations and exactly how to behave. Life is good when things work smoothly!

– Hearing the other classes questions helped our students become more strategic in what questions they asked.                                                                                      Is it even or odd? Is there a 9 in the tens place? Is it a multiple of 5? So many great ways to narrow down what the number is!

– It forces students to draw on their wide mathematical knowledge.

– Being asked about their number forced our students to think critically about the characteristics of our chosen numbers. It also forced them to keep track of what questions we asked and what the others class’s number could be.

– It takes team work to narrow down the number.

– Everyone was successful and we were able to guess all the numbers in the game!

– The game only took 20 mins and is a great warm up for a math class!

Some changes for next time: 

– I would have students pick numbers between 0 and 10 000. (fits with the grade 4 curriculum)

– I would play the ‘low tech’ version of guess my number a few more times to practice our question asking strategies.

– I would give each student either a number line or a number chart of sorts.

– I would do small groups or pair rotations to allow everyone to get more involved.

Our experience with the mystery number call was very positive and I can’t wait to try it agin! If you are interested in connecting with us just let me know!

To learn together do we have to sit together?

Earlier this week I read a blog post by Aviva Dunsiger entitled: “Why I have such strong reaction to rows”.  As is usually the case with my PLN when something is on my mind someone else is thinking about the same thing and writing about it. Some people say they don’t like students sitting in groups because it causes increased noise levels and behaviour problems. Although this is true in some instances. Should learning really be quiet and reserved all the time? Although I am not the biggest fan of row seating I don’t think it is that bad but rather keeping your seating plan static for long stretches of time is.

Over the course of the year I have tinkered with our seating plan. We tend to change seating arrangements once every 4 – 6 weeks to keep things fresh. Sometimes I have the students vote on seating options and at other times I just pick an option. We have sat in pairs, in groups of 3, 4 and  5 and in rows.  The same goes for choosing where students sit. Sometimes I pick, sometimes they pick. Variety is the spice of our seating arrangement in grade 4. And yes, by request from the students we have sat in rows for a bit this year. They loved it for a bit but then as usual got bored and asked to change the arrangement again.

Students will occasionally request that they sit alone and I let them do so with the understanding that next time they will need to sit in a group with their peers. They happily agree and we find a spot that is just right for them to sit.

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For the most part in our grade 4 classroom we sit in groups and I prefer it.

Some of the reasons I like having my students sit in groups are:

Sitting in groups makes group work easier. No need to move desks when students need a space to work because there area already spaces ready for them to work in.IMG_0034

Learning is very social in elementary school. Young students love learning together!

Sitting in groups teaches them self-control. When great friends sit together they chat. It’s natural. Seating them in a group forces them to learn that there are times  when it is okay to be talking and sharing with each other and others when you need to be listening.

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Peers model appropriate behaviour. Sometimes all students need is to see their desk mate pulling out their work to do the same. No need for a teacher prompt.

For whatever reason when students sit in rows I feel like I need to lecture more. I don’t like lecturing to my grade 4’s  for long periods of time as I find they tune out and get bored.

Sitting in groups also allows students who may otherwise not interact with each other to see each other in a new light and learn to work with new people.

I also tend to be flexible with where students work once they are given an assignment. We are lucky enough to have a large table at the back of our room that can seat 6 people. Students will often move there when they are given work and collaborate together on projects. At times I sit there so I can help students who need extra help. Other students prefer to do their work on the floor using clipboards which is also okay with me as long as the work gets done. Others simply stay at their desks.

What are your thoughts on seating in elementary classroom?

The Art of Beautiful Storytelling: Storybird

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 Another Summer Day photo credit: @ifatma. via photopin cc

Since January Storybird’s have been all the rage in my classroom. I had not planned it to become an ongoing project in my classroom but once word got out about the beautiful Storybird graphics it has snowballed into a phenomenon in my classroom. I have also introduced it with two students in grade 6 that I tutor and they are also hooked! (You know you’re onto something good when students go home and write on their weekends!)

If you are not familiar with Storybird it’s a website where you can use beautiful artwork to create stories.

Reasons I love it:

– It’s easy to use. Kids just play around with it and get it!

– The artwork is amazing and provides endless writing inspiration.

– It’s a sneaky way to draw in my reluctant writers. They have all given it a try!

– The ease of use and beautiful final product ensures a feeling of success right from the start.

– I can create classes and monitor my students work.

– It’s easy to share and access.

– The stories remain private unless you choose to make them public.

It’s free!

The reasons they love it:

– The artwork provides writing inspiration so it doesn’t feel forced.

– It’s easy to use. They don’t have to be very tech savvy to use it.

– They get their own account. (Always a big deal in grade 4!)

– The artwork is already done so for my students who don’t feel confident in their drawing abilities feel instant success.

– It’s done on the computer – instant motivator.

Student Examples:

Friends By Reann Grade 4 Student

Family By Julia Grade 4 Student

The Little Ghost in the House Together By Arianna Grade 6 Student