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I’ll Have a Big Hack with Cheese, Please

L2-world-logos-7xThe theme of this year’s Learning 2.0 conference in Manila, Philippines was “Disrupt – Rethink – Change.” There were many workshops and extended sessions that directly pertained to the processes of disrupting, rethinking, and changing. The organizers even tried something different this year by having a “Disrupt Strand” where people worked in teams to create a disruption project they could take back to implement (hopefully) at their school. I attended a couple of extended sessions that were directly about disruption. The first was called “Create a Personalized Disruption Plan” and the second was called “Hack Your School.”

Of the two extended sessions that I attended, the one that gave the most viable process was the “Hack Your School” session with John Burns. Along with giving participants time to think about hacks they could do at their schools and how they could pitch the Hackathon idea to admin, he shared the Hackathon process that he facilitated at Shekou International School in Shenzhen, China. He has delineated the process they did from start to finish on this post.

Some key takeaways and essential details from the session were:

  • All members of the community need to be engaged in the process.
  • A design framework must be used to guide the process (Agile or the Waterfall model are recommended)
  • Core hacks should be identified before a hackathon event. You can see the hacks they did at SIS here.
  • Don’t provide judgment during the process as that may slow down an idea or approach.
  • Have resources the community can access during the process. Here are the resources provided for the SIS hack.

disruptstrand1Disruption, rethinking, and changing are definitely not an easy process at any school. There are often long standing institutional processes, community expectations, other priorities or initiatives, external examination programs, and established school cultural norms that create thick barriers to disruption and change. Coupled with the transient nature of international school communities, we start to understand why disruption, and change hard, like pushing a boulder up a hill. This “Hack Your School” process, however, is one that can definitely get the disruption and change ball rolling, as it is a fair and transparent way to build community around change. Furthermore, it creates vertical and horizontal collaboration and gives greater voice to those who might not be heard otherwise. If we want to make our schools more relevant for the needs of our 21st century learner, it’s time to hack.

This posts is cross-posted here.

The Importance of Reflection

During a summative assessment in traditional education, a student will usually do a test, write an essay, do an oral presentation, or complete an individual or group project to demonstrate their knowledge of the content delivered in the previous unit. The teacher then grades the assessment (with varying levels of feedback, depending on the teacher) and returns the assessment. The student looks at their achievement level (grade, percentage) and will maybe read through feedback given. The student or teacher then files the assessment, and the class continues on to the next unit at the end of which the process will repeat. Questions arise from this process:

  • Did the students really learn from any mistakes or problems encountered?
  • Can they identify what led them to those unsuccessful moments?
  • Are the students aware of what habits and frames of mind they used to be successful?
  • Can the students articulate and project into the future how they will use and apply the content and skills learned?

More often than not in traditional education, the answer to these questions would be “No.” In order to turn the answer to these questions to “Yes” a distinct and required reflection process needs to be put in place. Reflection is the process of thinking critically about one’s learning experience (both content and skills) and the thought processes used within the learning experience (metacognition).

Image Licensed from Shutterstock

Image Licensed from Shutterstock

Most students won’t reflect on their own. Reflection is a skill, so it’s something that needs to be taught and given time for in class. Many teachers are weary of giving time for reflection because it will take time away from covering more content; others just don’t see the value in it. There is incredible value in reflection, however, especially if one of our goals as educators is to develop life-long learners. Even if that means reducing the amount of content being covered, giving students time to reflect will benefit them more in the long-term.

The Atlantic recently published an article where an empirical research study about the importance of reflection was presented. The study found that participants who were given time to reflect scored 23 percent better on the end of training assessment than those who were not given time to reflect. If the process of reflection will improve a summative result by this much, it seems like a no-brainer to include reflection in the learning process.

Ideally, reflective processes would be done throughout an entire learning process and would be shaped by the mode of thinking taking place at the time. Reflection would go hand-in-hand with formative feedback the teacher is giving during the learning journey. Reflection could be both written or oral. It could be done in the moment alongside the teacher and/or it can be done in isolation where a student can sit and study her experience and thought processes more intimately, presenting her reflection through whatever medium is suited to the context.

Here are some reflection questions put together by the 21st Century Learning Academy and made available by Edutopia that can help both students and teachers frame a successful reflection process.

Reflection shouldn’t be a burden for the learner or the teacher. It should be a natural part of the learning process and students should understand its benefits. When built into the fabric of the learning experience, students will benefit from the process and put them on the road to being life-long learners.

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