What Can I do?

How will I implement this reformation into my classroom?
(Context: Year 5/6 Students, Otara, Manukau, Aotearoa New Zealand)'''

Let's begin with some inspiration from JFK ...
Man [sic] will be what he was born to be, free and independent..."(John Fitzgerald Kennedy, New York City, April 27, 1961)

When embarking on a big change, (I wont be so presumptuous to call it a paradigm shift just yet) it is important that we tread carefully and not stomp.
My students (and their families) believe in the 19th century model. They walk in everyday and ask me (the alleged expert): ''what are we doing today?''

As the beginning of the school year approaches I wonder what ''will'' this look like in my classroom?

Beginning of the year stuff in my classroom has traditionally been a time for focusing on routines - does MIE have a routine? Is there a place for routine in exploration? Without a good routine, can you explore?
How can we out-doctrinate the deeply entrenched academic and economic ethos? How can we get away from the sausage factory mentality when our government requires standardised sausages? What if some of my sausages come out the wrong shape? What if some of my sausages have no meat in them? What if my sausages question authority and think?

I'll be using this space to report on glimpses of MIE and then use these reflections to maximise MIE opportunities.

Where possible, students will be learning in self-organising groups in the hope that they will discover (or possibly confirm) their passions (or what Sir Ken Robinson would call their 'element').
Therefore, rather than being the powerful figurehead I will attempt more of a mentoring role, A '''recogniser''', an '''encourager''', a '''facilitator''', and a '''stretcher''' of authentic passion. (Robinson and Aronica 2009, Chapter 8)

The students need to be with me on this journey of change - rather than just doing it to them. They (as the ones being educated within this system) are likely to hold more insights than I could ever imagine.

STEP 1 - Questioning the Adult as the Expert
''An attempt to stop the assumption that adults are the only experts''<br />
'''Kids Teach Kids'''
This draws on the glimpse of MIE from 2009 where my class successfully taught another how to blog by explanation through video.
A kids-teaching-kids blog has been established where students in my class will pose and answer questions (initially in collaboration with a school in Geelong, Ausralia). No 'expert' adults will be allowed to answer the questions unless they are specifically asked to impart their knowledge by a child. Questions could be as simple as data gathering (e.g. how many families in your school recycle?) or questions could be more complex (e.g. how does the brain work?). Questions could also be skills based (How do you use gimp? How did you learn the 6 X tables?). The answers can be delivered by video, written answers, video conferencing or instant messaging. The rationale behind this is that it enables:
  • Students to identify their learning needs
  • Students use explanation to solidify their skills and knowledge
  • Students have an authentic purpose and audience
  • Students become increasingly aware that working collaboratively is productive
  • Students to identify that they can be experts

STEP 2 - Developing Critical Thinking - Questioning the Truth

  • Use classic stories and encourage questioning of the 'facts' of the narrative. Who's point of view holds the 'truth'?
  • Use mass media and internet articles and encourage questioning of the 'facts' of the article - Who's point of view holds the 'truth'?
  • Use philosophy for children (P4C) What is the 'truth'?

STEP 3 - Element Time

I'm still chewing over this, but setting time aside for element exploration. This needs to be different from 'golden time' or 'free time' because the children tend to gravitate toward online flash computer games when they are offered that. It must be a matter of providing other intriguing options.

One of the teachers in my syndicate has come up with a good idea where his children are given time to explore 'something new' he is giving them options such as knitting. I am thinking that this could also be a pathway to a child finding their element.

Can we incorporate Mitra's ideas into this? Can knitting be self taught, with the right resources, in the same way as ICTs. How do we know that if something 'new' is not indeed something that we need to do to find our element? There is only one way to find out ...

Term One

The furniture has arrived! Hello non-conventional seating!
The Conference

The Bar

The Cafe

The Kneeler

The "L" Seat

Crazy Chairs

The Tent

Where would you like to learn?

Not that I am one to do corporate endorsements but the guys at Furnware have been super friendly and helpful!

Children explaining how they interpret the Cyclone Yasi Event

4 February News

The furniture is creating a whole new set of learning which has taken the focus of the first weeks of school. At the same time I am trying to install more 'free' learning habbits. Do all the children have to do the same 'subject' at the same time? I am experimenting with multi-tasking without an arbitrary task board. It is hoped that we can then move into more freedom as the year goes by. I gave my iPhone to a year 6 girl to gain insight into what the new environment looks like through her eyes. I, and the children, will watch and reflect upon this together. How do we like it? What can we change?

5 minutes in Room 12 Term 1 week 2

I have organised my class programme so that the children have the opportunity to film a 'news report' in small groups. They leave the classroon and script, present and film independently. It is interesting to see the influence that the media reports surrounding the Christchurch Earthquake has had on them. Here is an example of how television media is 'teaching' our children empathy.

MInimally invasive google docs


This year Rick Kayler-Thompson and myself have continued to share the news shows and the quality of my children's oral communication continues to lift.

In addition to this, we are playing around with some written collaborative learning using shared Google Docs and WallWisher. The children in Geelong are learning about culture. My class has an extremely rich cultural mix (NZ Maori, Cook Island Maori, Tongan, Samoan, and Nuiean). We have been fairly 'hands off' and have let the children go off in a variety of directions in the shared google doc. The usual themes have emerged (food, religion, clothes, jewellery etc).

One of my students very briefly referred to a Cook Island legend. The children from Geelong asked a couple of questions about it. This, of course, made the other children in my class more interested too. The student couldn't remember all of the story, but other children from the Cook Islands could remember parts of it. They looked for it on the Internet but found nothing (with the exception of a performed dance of the legend at a polyfest festival).

This brings up an interesting point that Puti Gardiner makes (she uses TeReo Maori as an example). Is digital technology culturally neutral?

For example when her children googled Maori Technology the hits they received were of traditional fishing tools, waka, weaving, etc and there was very little information on Maori and the use of contemporary technology. After discussing this with her kids they decided to start making digital stories, films, blogging and wikiing, therefore contributing their culture and stories to the digital world. It seems that in this digital age, it is essential that a digital footprint is created so that language, stories, and culture can be sustained.

Scary questions swim around in my head. Why is it not so easy to find my student's stories on the web, when finding versions of stories such as Little Red Riding Hood is so easy? Who is responsible for rectifying this? Can I give my student's the skills so that they are able to contribute their stories and narratives while maintaining their integrity? Is this okay?

My kids talked about how their stories are shared orally to them. This is often through their Grandparents and that is how stories are passed on throughout their culture. There are, of course, variations to each story depending on whose Grandparents version we listen to. The story that was referred to, for example, had many variations within my classroom where debates raged about whether or not the main character wore the skin of a goat and so forth.

I think that the use of a shared google doc is brilliant for this phenomenon. The flexibility and collaborative nature of it allows multiple perspectives to come through. When my children come back to school with the varied versions of the same story from their Grandmas, we will be able to see these differing points of view and piece together common themes.

The children will be able to record and share their versions of the story with their Australian friends who will be able to draw their own conclusions (given that they will have observed the drafting and sharing process).

When they are eventually presented with a 'polished final draft' they will also have an awareness of what might have been 'left out'. I cant think of a better way to introduce our young children to the complex concept of dominant discourse analysis.

Week 7

Week 7 felt like the longest week ever! Maybe it was because I had a busy weekend, or maybe it was the 7 week blues. Many of the teachers identified that week 7 normally has the feeling of the 'down hill slide' but that is not the case this term (Its an 11 weeker!).

I have found the same with the kids and have noticed a downfall to this Minimally Invasive Approach. MY KIDS DON'T SEEM TO WANT TO FINISH ANYTHING! They start their ideas with great enthusiasm and gusto, but finishing is a different story. Is it time to invade?

Well, no! Apparently it is not! I was concerned that one of my groups was loosing enthusiam for their retelling of traditional stories from their cuture. After looking at their Google Doc, it turns out that they have been working on it over the weekend.

It makes me wonder whether or not schools are great places to learn. I know that I get most of my 'work' done in the comfort of my own home, when everyone is settled down into bed. I LOVE working between 8pm - 12pm. Judging by the edit history, my kids have similar habbits. They will put in a couple of hours between 8-10pm quite regularly. I must ask them more about this...


First MIE digital story :)

Click here

A new MIE enthusiast

Today I received an email from a teacher who is also keen to explore MIE. It is always exciting to get new perspectives and people on board. He put me onto this ted talk which I smiled, laughed and nodded the whole way through. I have posted it here for you to do the same

A little lesson on audience, collaboration and honest feedback

A couple of weeks ago I had a very interesting discussion (via skype chat) with Rick KT about whether or not my kid's Katikatia story was suitable for his children. I was rather taken by his honest feedback. It would have been easier for him to avoid the issue but he chose not to. As I drove home from work I started to think about what he was saying. His kids are a year or two younger than mine. They come from a completely different background and he was concerned for their emotional safety as well as any adverse reaction he may have got from the community. The next day I spoke to my kids about it. They were rather proud of themselves for producing something so controversial. My little stars grew very mature about the situation and set to work to 'solve' the problem.

Our resident digital artist quickly whipped up new illustrations where she replaced the blood for tears (red for blue). I talked breifly to my kids about using metaphors so they decided on replacing:
Eating her husband ..... to eating nits
The boiling pot .... became a cage
Cannibalism ...... bullying
Getting burnt alive ..... getting locked in a cage

What an awesome way to teach metaphor. Beats the pants off the usual examples such as "She has a heart of a lion"

We then looked through Hansel and Gretal once more. On most pages they were asking each other,
"Do you think that might be a metaphor?"

Katikatia for kids

Term 2: The cloud continues to motivate!

Well term two has reared its head. It's a frustrating term filled with assessments and the like. I am very lucky to have a student on the journey with me this term and it is great to have someone to co-teach with, reflect with, and bounce ideas off.

Argument writing is the arbitrary genre that has popped up on the long term plan. I was going about it the 'normal' way and was feeling a little deflated by it all. I thought that if I read, Firstly, Secondly and Thirdly one more time I may be forced to slash my wrists.

Then from out of nowhere, Rick KT just happened to post a similar sentiment while at the same time reminiscing on one of his finer teaching moments - The Bellaire Times

My student and I took a look at their wiki and decided to give it a go.
Oh how perfect this has been so far. The kids were interested! Thanks to tools such as Edmodo and Blogger a real relationship has been formed between these kids. It was also helpful that they could read examples written by the Bellaire children. The data gathering methods (ipods, mics etc) were particularly appealing as well as the authentic publishing to a wiki. Again the kids were learning from kids!

Within the first two days of the new regime, my students were literally falling over each other to get to their writing books so that they could write their research questions. Very interesting (well from a 10 year old point of view) questions have emerged and both myself and the kids look forward to 'writing time' everyday. Children are taking their writing home, interviewing their families and generally having a great time with this authentic task.

There are many great anecdotes thus far, but here are my favourites

Miss K - an alleged reluctant writer is canvassing school opinion as to whether or not children can start riding their bikes to school. She is developing arguments for this notion in relation to Health of Children, Conserving Petrol and Avoiding Lateness. She intends to interview the principal, the caretaker (parking considerations) and a selection of children about this very pressing issue.

Miss Z - is conducting research on the consequences of children fighting at school. I'm a little worried about this one. She intends to interview the Principal and DP and ask them what kind of action they take on fighting. She will then interview children who she knows have been caught fighting to see if the purported action took place. Far out, we've got a live wire there!

Again what Mitra refers to as the 'granny cloud' is an incredible motivator. We really do need to come up with a name for our adaptation of the 'granny cloud' The 'kiddy cloud' sounds wrong. Any suggestions are welcome :)


Please join me and share your sparkling stories

Tara Taylor-Jorgensen
Twitter @taratj


Inspirations from:
Rick Kayler-Thomson
Candice Wilson
Stuart Reddrop
Joel Dodd
Puti Gardiner
Margaret May