This year, he walked us through the Academy's accomplishments of past school years and identified the achievements of the recently concluded academic year. A necessary exercise to frame the next step of the journey. Setting directions. A time for reflection. A Janus moment.
Of the many things that struck me from his presentation, it was his use of two symbols unique to the Academy namely, the mobious strip and the Griffin, our school mascot. Finally. We have a metaphor for which to use and anchor upon our goals and our dreams. For when we grope in the dark or doubt ourselves in moments when mistakes and failures come our way, we only have to remember that learning is a continuous journey and that the Griffin's courage, intelligence and strength can see us through.
In the afternoon, we had our first Academic session. Our Dean of Faculty assigned a design challenge activity that required us to create a moving robotic face out of popsicle sticks, folders, papers, masking tape, glue and other art materials we can get our hands on in nearby cubby holes and neighboring offices. This was a collaborative work of five to six people in a group. Our group had the slight advantage because we had the Design/Art Teacher in our midst. Lucky.
The long and short of it, we had fun working together and insights from the activity were aplenty! Indeed, there are many ways to approach a task and to solve problems creatively.
What I like to focus on for this blog post is the aspect of collaborative learning and teaching that can be drawn upon from the Robotic Faces activity. It had been easy for us teachers to work together, to go along with the process as planned, to listen, to give way, to respect and to watch how things would proceed organically. I think this dynamic is already in place among the faculty of the Academy. Yay! Kudos to the school leadership team!
But, children and young people may have a more challenging experience working in groups. A certain level of maturity is required to work well with different people. Then again, collaborative learning leads to that exactly - an opportunity to grow in mind and in heart as each member of the group take on roles, work with others to achieve a goal, to meet an objective or to complete a task. Communication skills are vital. A project is the object of collaboration.
To structure a collaborative learning activity, here are some recommendations.
Set roles before or after presenting a task, a problem or a project. Roles can be: facilitator, scribe, reporter, gopher, time-keeper, devil's advocate, cheer leader, researcher, and analyst. These roles may change depending on the collaborative task or project. Identifying each role and the contribution he or she can bring to the table help facilitate the process of competing the project.
Think-Pair-Share is a strategy for collaborative learning. Students think through on their own the task or the project assigned to them. Working individually in gathering data to solve a problem or initially identifying steps to complete the project. A student finds a partner or work with one as assigned by the teacher. They share their data, findings, discuss the better course of action, plan and then solve the problem or perform the task.
Another strategy is the Jigsaw Puzzle. More cooperative learning in approach, but can be adapted into a collaborative learning experience, the Jigsaw Puzzle is aimed at allowing students to work on tasks and projects from their context and cultural backgrounds. These students are then grouped together to share and partake in a discussion of their output and how it fits in a bigger piece. The literary circles is one example of a Jigsaw Puzzle, I think. More about it in a future post.
The Fish Bowl technique can be used as well but for a specific task like discussions on topics of ethical and moral issues. A group inside the fishbowl discuss the topics. A group outside of it records the discussion and take notes of the dynamics in the smaller group. It can be a pre-writing activity that allow students to think in a group. Both groups, the one in the fishbowl and the one outside of it will benefit from the discussion. This technique can be a research strategy as well. Good to use in gathering of data, documentation, valuation and evaluation of information generated in the discussion groups.
Like all teaching strategies, I think the success lies in the teacher's creativity and competence when he or she plans and implements them in the classroom. But of course, the better teacher would know specific strategies to use based on students goals and needs.
Here are websites and links to explore on collaborative teaching and learning.
Collaborative learning - https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli80085.pdf
Jigsaw Puzzle - https://www.jigsaw.org/
Fish Bowl Techniques- https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/teaching-strategies/fishbowl
That's it for today. Until the next entry in The Lighthouse Diary of Zarah G, your friendly teacher librarian and reading companion!