Monday, February 16, 2015

Kindies, Social Media & Social Faux-Pas

I notice that I've been writing a lot about my school's kindergarten classes lately. In January, I documented our exploration of 3D printing, and in December, I described how my kindergarten lesson bombed spectacularly and what I learned from it. Fantastic things are happening in other classrooms at my school, but because I do not have any collaborative partner time in my schedule this year, I only get to learn about these wonderful learning experiences second-hand as I steal a few minutes to chat with my colleagues. Our kindergarten ECEs are required to accompany the students to their "specialist classes" (music, computers, library, dance, drama, and media) and because of their presence (and their phenomenal skills as educators), we've done such incredible things and grown so much. I wanted to reflect on two such examples from last week.

1) Social Media

Flabbergasted and speechless. That's what I was after the amazing ideas by the young students of K2 and the seamless connections Jennifer Balido-Cadavez made to integrate lessons from the home class into the specialist class. This class has an extra adult, who is taking courses and has her practicum time with the group. The wonderful thing is that the extra adult is Kitty, the leader of our former Early Years Learning Centre site and a lovely person in her own right. Mrs. Cadavez had the students tell me about the engaging heart-related lesson Kitty had organized and especially about the student-initiated request for us to Tweet the photos Mrs. Cadavez had taken! I threw out the original ICT lesson I had planned for that day and Mrs. Cadavez and I co-ran a short mini-lesson that was chock-full of great learning!
  • Math = we discussed how many characters we were allowed to type in a Tweet and calculated how much space our original message might take (including spaces and punctuation)!
  • Language (Writing) = we talked about "editing" our Tweets to make sure that it wasn't too long and that people understood what we were saying.
  • Language (Media) = we considered how our audience becomes bigger when we use social media because posting a photo in the school means our students see it (~300 people) but posting it on Twitter means all the followers of our Twitter account (and those of the people who retweet) will see it (~1000 people).
  • ICT (Digital Citizenship) = when a student asked why they couldn't have their own Twitter accounts so they could retweet, we had a chance to explain age limits and how we respect our students' privacy by avoiding photos that show our full faces.
Mrs. Cadavez sat down with the student volunteer to craft the tweet and their insights were incredible. This was the tweet.

The student ensured they wrote "toy needles" so that readers wouldn't get the wrong impression. How incredible is that? 4 followers favorited it and 3 retweeted it, spreading the good news.

2) Social Faux-Pas

Okay, maybe social faux-pas isn't quite the right word. However, I know that there was some social awkwardness as Frances Traikos, the Early Childhood Educator (LTO) in K1 was pushed to the edge of her comfort zone during our media lesson last week.  John Watson, owner of Tap Labs, a fantastic MakerSpace in Ajax, gave our kindergartens an incredible challenge. Design a monster or alien. Everyone will sketch their ideas; we scan and send them to John, who will upload the images to the Tap Labs Facebook page and the picture with the most likes on Facebook will have the monster recreated in 3D and given to the artist! We are super-excited about this challenge, even though it's not easy.

After my lesson introducing this idea bombed with the third kindergarten class - I realized that I didn't model enough, tried to cram too many ideas into one class, and was terribly distracted by the delivery of school council sponsored candygrams that period - I was determined not to repeat my mistakes. I asked Mrs. Traikos if she would be willing to show the students how to plan and draw the front, back, and side view of their imaginary monster. I believe she felt uncomfortable but she was the perfect person to demonstrate. Her think alouds mirrored the student experience so well: "Wow, this is harder than I thought!" As she wrestled with how to put her ideas to paper, she provided strategies for the students: using your own body as a template, to consider how things would look, and talking it through. She also demonstrated a shift from a fixed mentality to a growth mentality: "I'm not a good drawer" / "Hey, this is looking pretty good! All I need to do is ..." Mrs. Traikos showed the students how to handle a challenging task with perseverance, despite the level of difficulty. I think sometimes we model a task to the class that we don't find hard, and when we do that, the students don't get a sense of how to handle adversity.

The results of Mrs. Traikos' example? So many MORE students grasped the idea of the 3 pictures being of the same creature but from different viewpoints. I dragged one child to the office to show off her work because it was so creative and demonstrated she understood the concept so well. If I remember, I'll scan it and share here.

Our third kindergarten class does not have an ECE, due to the size, but thankfully the classroom teacher is interested in supporting her students' learning wherever they are. She and I talked about what I failed to do in the lesson and she offered to reteach the concept to her students, incorporating it into her math unit on 3D solids. Thank you to ALL our FDK educators, for making learning at my school so current, relevant, and fun.

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