Brilliant and simple way to document class observations via @DearMsHashim. #ETSA16 #edchat

As part of EdTechSummit Africa 2016, I traveled around South Africa, Swaziland, and Ghana helping run 10 summits in 30 days for hundreds of teachers. My particular 90-minute workshop was on using Google Sites to build a professional portfolio. There were 11 other volunteer educators on the tour, and I had a chance to attend their classes, assist as needed, and learn from each of them. I particularly enjoyed observing participants respond to Anusheh Hashim‘s session, Brains, Bridges and Blunders: A Hands-on Workshop Connecting STEM and Inquiry (description pasted below):

While working with hands and materials in efforts to solve a problem or respond to a challenge, questions arise as a child’s curiosity beckons. As a desire to discover transforms into a need to understand, the teacher – a guide rather than a lecturer – helps children access resources to channel their wonder. Mistakes are made and persistence is developed. The class is immersed in an authentic learning experience and an academic culture in which learning is truly student driven. Participants in the workshop will spend time engineering an open-ended project with a group using few materials and receiving limited instruction. Afterwards, we will debrief and discuss how students’ work towards a goal drives their learning, how this work can connect to specific learning standards and applications of technology, and how working with a group benefits students’ social development.

So many of the teachers in Anusheh’s workshop were initially shocked and confused at her short directions to build a bridge with straws, paper clips, and three partners. They expected a long list of instructions which she simply didn’t provide. Traditionally, we are trained to follow recipes, and, without detailed steps, there is a chance we can do something wrong. I loved watching teachers learn to let go, create, prototype, and embrace the inquiry-based approach Anusheh introduced. Further, teachers later talked about how they could integrate inquiry into their own classrooms and lessons.

Anusheh opened my eyes to a deceptively simple classroom observation/documentation strategy. As groups began to engage in their activity to “build a bridge” with no other guiding principles, she’d walk amongst the tables, pausing to answer questions and amplify great ideas. She’d also make significant trips to the front of the room where she had two columns ready: I see and I hear. How easy and sensible! By transcribing key words and notable phrases at the front, Anusheh simultaneously demonstrated she was attuned to their work and aware of their progress without directly guiding them. I was telling a former colleague, Mary Jo Allegra (@sunporchstudio), about Anusheh’s I see/I hear technique, and Mary Jo was immediately inspired to do something similar and daily in her own art classroom this year. It occurred to me that Mary Jo could also assign a different student to be in charge of I see/I hear for each class. I think kids would love to have the opportunity to record I see/I hear statements as a rotating class “duty”…

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