I quite enjoyed the first day of training for the Intel Thinking With Technology course today. A small group of ten educators who are being trained to take this course back to their sites made for an engaging time as we whipped through the first two modules, led by our expert Senior Trainer Steve Nicholson. I plan to reflect in more detail as the next four days unfold but I just wanted to document this realisation before it fades.
We had time this afternoon to start using the planning template the program offers for designing a unit of work. It has a number of similarities to the Understanding by Design influenced unit planner my schools currently uses, so it was very user friendly to work with. Steve had time set aside for us to work on designing of a unit of work for future use in our classrooms, and with the gift of time, I looked at the school's Inquiry Scope & Sequence to determine which of the inquiry units that my colleagues needed planned before the year's end. I started on the last one currently titled "Does Music Make The World Go Round?" , cutting and pasting SACSA outcomes into the template before I had a major attack of the doubts and emailed my colleagues at school (Kim, my tandem teaching partner and Maria, our next door co-planning buddy) for counsel in where I should start, especially as our next actual unit of inquiry centres on Health outcomes in the dreaded "growth and development" area. Kim answered during her lunch break, correctly calling me out for being cowardly and avoiding this unit and so in the afternoon when we had some more time, I started again.
So, as I pored through the outcomes and SACSA examples to get my head around what the unit should be about, I realised that this was not how I plan for learning in the classroom any more. I needed my colleagues' input, the conversation that hones in on the essential understandings, and the shared understanding of where we want the students to go during an inquiry unit. We do all of this together in our co-planning time, in the evenings on the wiki chatroom and through email exchange. Occasionally, we break the planning up into segments for individuals to work on alone but these are always pieces to the bigger puzzle.
It's been called the deprivatisation of practice where teachers open up the closed door to their classrooms and create better learning through conversation and planning. But it is truly how I work best now. It is how this whole online networking thing works best - learning from each other and creating better learning experiences for our students.
We can't do it alone.
Graham you have hit a chord with me again. Until last week I was team teaching a group of year 7/8 pupils. By this I mean two of us share 60 children. We do all our planning and discussion together. Although we have two classroom spaces we are one class. We have our desks beside each other in one room. Every time we sit down we have a conversation about learning. Planning has to be collaborative.
I’ve had a change of job this week and I’m missing the collaboration already.
Funny you should blog about this Graham – just had a similar conversation with my wife at the dinner table. I reckon it’s time we had a much closer look at structuring learning teams of (for example) 3 x teachers who work together with 90 students as a learning community over a 2 / 3 year cycle. The students have not one teacher for the year, but 3 x teachers for a longer period, collaboratively planning and sharing the load. Single classroom teaching is a bit like being a single parent – bloody hard yak. Yet 2 x parents sharing the role is no doubt is better than 1. (Please note readers that I am aware that there are many exceptional single parents doing a mighty job – to whom have my total admiration). A bit of creative and innovative thinking and leadership is all that is needed. It can’t be that hard can it? (Footnote – say G’day to Steve from me Graham, Cheer, Paul)