When 3 teachers get together and start looking at framing and developing a new week long immersive task connected to digital media it's exciting. We throw around ideas, build a concept and essential question and generally leave over- stimulated and with a unit that if it came to fruition would probably be a year long full time endeavour!
So when we started down this track a colleague noted and important step - lets invite the students to join us as planners. So we did. We visited all Year 7 and 8 classes and called for students who were either keen to have a say on what and how we learn in the case of the Year 7's and what they liked and wanted to improve on in the case of the Year 8's. The Year 8's had just completed a task connected to Social Media and the Year 7's were about to start.
Our 4 Years 7's and 5 Year 8's turned up and we were blown away! Their ideas were articulate and sophisticated, they knew what they wanted to know, where they felt they had gaps and wanted to know what was possible from us. To hear a student ask "Can I really make an App, like my own App?" and to watch them get excited when you reply yes is exciting for all of us. To discover their are adults, and girls who are gamers is eye opening for them - and this surprised me too. Questions like "Can we build a real game" and " It would be good if we could talk with real people who work in the field" and statements such as "It would be good to have to share our work with someone who can give us real feedback" and "I want my friends to be able to pick what we make, but still have to get better at something - so they can't pick making a poster! My sister in Grade 4 can code and I want to!" were particularly resonant.
The best part was when they gave us such an important insight into what its like to be a teenager using social media when one student suggested " We don't want to feel bad for using social media, we just want to use it well" And thus our focus question and program outline was born - from the minds of 9, 13 - 14 students!
We took a risk, they tok a risk and we now have an amazing starting point. Stay tuned to see how the unit develops.
I had the idea that I could have a series of communications with the students in their learning space on brown paper, introducing my plants, allowing them to name them and then inviting them to build them a home. So I placed up the first banner and 2 days later I went to check on it.
Winning! We had names. So up went the next poster naming the succulents inviting them to join me the following week to build them a home - the plan being to get onto Pinterest and to find a skill or two to hack and to get started making. In theory it was so simple and I was hoping the unique brown paper conversations would draw some attention. This was the turnout to my first session.
You could call it a fail. It was. But this is not a bad thing. Upon reflection these students have no idea who I am, what I planned to do and even if this is something they would be interested in. I misread my audience and neglected to bring them along through actual interaction, rapport and sharing what is possible. It was too soon to try something as obscure and enigmatic with students who may not be used to taking risks like this, being provoked like this. And I'm glad I got to experience this. Just like when I ask my students, my colleagues to take a risk and try something new it's good to be reminded how it feels when it does not work and to take stock of what needs to change next time - what I need to change next time. Because there will be a next time.