Reflection

We Are Lifelong Learners

 

On January 24th, 2018, we held our 1st Maker Summit. The purpose of the event was to immerse our teachers in Maker-Centered-Learning experiences, which required them to manipulate technologies, tools, and even methodologies, such as Virtual Reality apps and glasses, Osmo kits, Stop Motion and Green Screening video tools, as well as Design Thinking.

Here are some of the things we hoped to achieve with these immersion experiences. We wanted our fellow teachers:

  • to have the student experience by diving in the challenges right from the start. We wanted to give them space to tinker, to play with the tools being used in each experience;
  • to reflect on the hands-on, immersive experience and the difficulties, challenges, successes, and insecurities that surfaced. We wanted them to connect to those feelings that arose while they engaged in each of the experiences together with their peers;
  • to identify possible opportunities for the use of those technologies, tools and methodologies in our language classroom, in the different courses and levels we teach.

Our Reflections on Your Feedback A week after the Summit, the team of facilitators, made up of teachers, innovation mentors, course coordinators, and members of the Makerspace staff, sat together to look into and discuss the feedback provided by you, Summit participants. We would like to share two valuable findings that came from our reflection and discussion of the feedback you gave us about your experiences throughout the Summit.

FINDING #01: On RESILIENCE

We facilitators understood – from both our own impressions and your feedback – the critical importance of being prepared and able to deal with technical issues that hindered the original plan for some of the experiences. We need to plan for the shortcomings, and we need to know what to do, how to adapt the activity we had in mind in case a technical issue occurs. In a few words, we always need a plan B. But most importantly, in our view, we need to learn to ask for help, and NOT to be put down by these difficulties to simply decide that we will never try doing that again ever. Instead, we need to build and model the resilience that we desire our students to develop in the face of adversity and failure. It is our belief that our students greatly benefit from observing how we teachers, grown-up professionals, handle difficulty and failure, and we need to show them that we can be resourceful and that it is OK to fail, as long as you learn from it and grow as a result of the experience.

FINDING #02: On AUTONOMY

Some teachers left comments saying they missed more detailed, step-by-step type of instructions for engaging in the experiences. In fact, there were some complaints about “lack of instructions.” Knowing that we facilitators had deliberately planned to keep step-by-step instructions to a minimum, hoping to enable teachers to have a taste of discovery-driven learning, these comments and complaints got us thinking about how we are all accustomed to learning environments where the teacher is the source of all knowledge and the one responsible for leading the learning, for scaffolding it via step-by-step instructions to be followed by the students. The experimentation and tinkering dispositions, which are dispositions that lie on the core of the Maker mindset, seem to make us teachers a bit nervous and insecure, and understandably so. We teachers have been taught that we need to be in control of everything that is happening in our classrooms at all times. A noisy classroom is commonly considered a messy classroom, making the teacher vulnerable to all kinds of judgement of his/her “classroom management skills.” In other words, we need to come to terms with the fact that learner autonomy may look and sound messy in the classroom at times, and we need to develop new skills to harness this creative energy for learning.

A Few Other Findings

We facilitators also gained the following insights thanks to our collective reflection and discussion about your feedback and our own feelings regarding our experiences putting together and facilitating the experiences:

  • We need more preparation time together before the event takes place;
  • We want to make the pedagogical gains leveraged by the use of the technologies and tools clearer to teachers;
  • We want to keep on building on our strengths and learning from our failures, without being paralyzed by them.

#Vision2020

We consider the Thomas Maker Summit the inauguration of Vision 2020. In many ways, this event embodied the core values of the program:

 

Claim your own growth

Photo: Grow by David Joyce on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I learn a lot in conversation with others. I learn so much blogging. There are some insightful people who take their time to read me and respond to what I say. This post was initiated in one such exchange with my friend Scott Johnson. Reminiscing on my learning a few months ago when attending the Edtech Team Brazil GAFE Summit, I poured out what resonated with me regarding the use of portfolios and how they fascinate me. Scott chimed in with the following words:

Clarissa, I’m interested in the portfolio idea as a form of claiming our efforts as authentically won plus as a tool of being a conscious learner. Sometimes we need to remind others that we are serious about our growth.

There’s so much packed in those two sentences.

Life is not easy, and professional development is most definitely an effortful endeavor. It requires commitment, a vision, and a purpose. We learn so much on the way but so many of us end up not keeping track of our development by engaging in some kind of self-reflection. To me that’s the true purpose of a portfolio. It’s a way to track your progress, to take stock of what you’ve learned. But it is only when we engage in reflection, when we actually examine the curves and the paths we chose to take along the way that we are able to attain a more concrete sense of achievement, of development. It is your reflecting on your own development that makes you aware of your own learning. And I guess that openly engaging in that reflection and declaring yourself to the world impacts your self-image and your self-worth more deeply than we might perceive if we go about our lives in auto pilot, just reacting to whatever experiences happen to us along the way. Being aware of your own achievements makes you care about achieving anything to begin with.

It is all about reminding yourself and the world that you are serious about your own growth. That you care. And that you purposefully work for it.

This blog is my portfolio. Here I have shared so many reflections on what has happened to me along my way of professional and in so many levels my personal development. This is my way of claiming my little bit of space in the world. As my friend Scott put it:

Clarissa, in art class we did portfolios to demonstrate that we had some claim to a place in the world. Not just dreamy and lost in ourselves but tangible actors with presence. This was very hard for some I think they had never been asked for THEIR thoughts and as students we were used to only being asked for what others thought.

Tangible actors with presence. Engaging in self-reflection and declaring our learning and our worth to the world is powerful. Forming our own opinions about ourselves is powerful. Asking ourselves the questions that enable us to dig deeper and find our hidden talents, our voices.

How do we come to feel worthy to put ourselves out there? To show what we can do? Some are confident and just blast ahead but that leaves a lot of students behind. And even confident people can hesitate when they feel less than competent. How to remove the barrier of not being “good-enough-yet” might be possible with a portfolio where a student can see their path and understand it as growth from effort?

I believe that we come to feel worthy to put ourselves out there by leaning on people who care, who believe that we all have something unique to contribute to the world. I believe that we all need to go through the “not-good-enough-yet” feeling and conquer it – not be paralyzed by it. Going through that process is an important part of your growth. We need a support system, a group of people who are willing to start the reflection process. We need other people to read us and talk to us about our reflections. That’s how we grow.

How can we start a culture of self-reflection on one’s own professional development? I guess we need to value our own answers to questions like What have you achieved so far? What are your goals? What is your vision? If we want to create a portfolio culture among our students, we first need to inspire and support teachers along the way. We need to create a sandbox for teachers to feel as learners and engage in building their own portfolios. Teachers need to experience first-hand the empowerment that comes from claiming their own growth.

Thank you, @scottx5 , for taking the time to talk to me here.

Looking forward to hearing from you, and from whoever feels they have something to say on all this! That’s how we grow.

Little did I know

I named this post after my blog on purpose. I’d like to do a little retrospective of 2014, the year I began this blog. It will also be a year to remember for many, many other reasons, some of which I’m hoping to share with you on this post. So, here we go.

Little did I know that I would come to find blogging as an inspiring means of expression. I began blogging in January 2014, something which I had been meaning to do for quite a while, but which had always felt like it was not meant for me. What ever would I have to say that other people would even be interested in reading? So it turns out that, hey, some people do. And that’s great. So many inspiring conversations have taken place in this little domain of my own, my digital home.

Little did I know that I would have grown a professional (and personal!) learning network on Twitter. Even though I had joined Twitter in 2009, it was only in 2014 that something clicked and it just felt like the right time to dive in the Twitterverse. And boy am I glad I did. Twitter has enabled me to connect to so many bright, interesting people from all around the globe. I have learned so much from these connections, each of them a whole universe of learning just waiting to happen.

Little did I know that I would find my tribe online. And so I did when I joined Dave Cormier’s Rhizomatic Learning – a.k.a. #rhizo14 – midway. I was the crazy Brazilian who seemed to crash some cool folks’ party, but ended up being an exotic addition to the community/curriculum. It was in #rhizo14 that I made my first Egyptian friend, who would later invite me to join her and other fellow educators to be a part of EdContexts, another cool community of scholars looking to voice Educators from the global south. Also in #rhizo14, I made an Anglo-French friend, a poet, a fellow EFL teacher as myself, who invited me to join the #Clavier Community. Seedlings that are still shooting forth, full of promise and possibility.

Little did I know that I would find so much inspiration in Connected Courses. I would dive in every now and then, and I would always resurface with something new. I learned about Edupunk, for one. I listened to some very bright minds talk about the future of Education. I spent weeks on end reflecting about my why. That was about the time when the seeds of all my messy learning began yielding fruit in my f2f life. A couple of new ideas to foster some sense of community among teachers and among my own group of admins.

My 2014 best books: Drive by Daniel H. Pink and Now You See It by Cathy N. Davidson

My 2014 most inspirirational blog posts: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression by Maha Bali and The Art of Slowing Down Learning by Tania Sheko

My 2014 must-watch videos: the Edupunk Battle Royale (all five parts) by Educoz with Jim Groom and Gardner Campbell and Why we need a “Why”? by Mike Wesch in Connected Courses

My 2014 must-watch TED talks: The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and #OurVoice by George Couros

My 2014 women that rock (bright & beautiful!): Bonnie Stewart, Carla Arena, Maha Bali and Tanya Lau

My 2014 men that rock: Simon Ensor, Keith Hamon, Shyam Sharma and Terry Elliot

 To all the people who made this year memorable, thank you.

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