“Learning in the Open”

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The Importance of Student Blogs

It has been more than a decade since I first taught a group of students.

Some things tire with age, teaching not being one of them.  Yes, I’ve taught in a wide variety of places, China, Thailand, Morocco, Ukraine, Indonesia, and now Switzerland.  What truly defines the culture of the classroom has little to do with local cuisine, and much more to do with the allotment of time to student voice.

This week, I launched a Genius Hour with my grade 9 English class.  Essentially, students were directed to find some source of inspiration from our school library.  The Google Slides I used for this lesson are available here.

You’ll notice that many of those slides have been influenced by the genius that is Austin Kleon. 

From there, students took roughly 20 minutes to complete a few visual note taking routines to help them formulate a guiding question to use for their blog post.  In pairs, one student dictated the notes they took during Genius Hour to a buddy.  It was the buddy’s job to visually illustrate what they were hearing.  In combination with a See, Think, Wonder activity, the student bloggers were then well on their way to asking a good question.

What were some of the questions asked?

Students wanted to look at everything from the role social media will play in the future to the reasons people change to the way we can better equip ourselves to cope with failure.

All good questions, right?

So much is talked about in regards to inquiry based learning. 

How well developed is our conversation in regards to allowing students the time and space to openly pursue lines of personal inquiry?  If we truly believe that curiosity, wonder, and awe-seeking experiences can drive and motivate students, shouldn’t we do more to make room for it to organically take place?

Student blogging is a great garden to tend to when it comes to inquiry-enabling.  Thanks to my PLN, I’ve been privy to an ongoing discussion that educator Jabiz Raisdana continues to put out there (here?).  Check out the fantastic things he has to say about student blogging available here.

A few years back I was fortunate to work with Sonya ter Borg.  Her free eBook ‘Imagine A School’ is so frequently on my back burner.  It is an amazing book, one that I think should be discussed wherever learning is taking place.

As we continue to re-imagine our schools, I hope we make a point to ‘learn in the open,’ with our students.  If we aren’t getting out of their way, and allowing our students to practice constructing and generating their own paths of inquiry, the trail ahead will not be full of the trail blazers we so dearly need.

Trailblazers needed.

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