I spent July traveling around South Africa, Swaziland, and Ghana with 11 other volunteer educators as part of EdTech Summit Africa 2016 (@edTechSummitsA). We led 10 summits in 30 days, and the ensuing road-trip was full of memories and experiences I hope to cherish for a while. Besides leading my own 90-minute workshop about using GoogleSites to curate a professional portfolio and gather curricular projects/materials, I assisted in the other volunteers’ workshops covering a variety of topics: Incorporating project based learning, using Multimedia resources, designing games in Scratch, creating inquiry-based lessons, and more.
I witnessed many great moments while observing the other presenters deliver their workshops, including two memorable icebreakers via Thandekile Ngema
(@tandingema) and Claudia Stanfield (@ClaudiaStany) described below:
- Tandi’s workshop about creating remedial lessons for language activities began with participants writing down on a small slip of paper a challenge that they struggle with when trying to meet the needs of their learners. These slips of paper are then rolled into a balloon, the balloon were inflated, and then everyone stood and formed a circle and tossed their balloons at each other for a fun and unexpected activity. When time was up, each participant had someone else’s balloon. The balloons were popped revealing the slip of paper with someone else’s struggle. At that point, participants put aside the slip of paper and had time to explore a variety of literacy apps installed on tablets provided by the Breteau Foundation. After about 20 minutes, each person in the room took a turn reading the challenge on the slip of paper in front of them launching a full discussion about how to solve that challenge (employing strategies newly available to them via the apps they’d just explored). An alternative might have been to immediately begin conversing about the slips of paper after popping the balloons, but Tandi timed it intentionally so teachers had time to explore the apps and consider how they may create remedial lessons with the apps. It was a very photogenic activity!
- Claudia began each of her workshops with two different beach balls. One ball had “serious pedagogical questions” written on each different section in permanent marker to launch discussions amongst participants, and the other ball had short cryptic messages like kids would send in text messages to save time. Claudia tossed one or both balls into the crowd, and when a teacher caught a ball, they had to read aloud whatever was written on the section where their finger was pointing. This elicited equally amount of discussion and laughter.
Besides the workshops above, I’m reposting below two things that caught my eye last week (for my own benefit as well as for any possible readers of this post):
- I was lucky enough to attend two Unprofessional Development workshops earlier this year led by the inimitable Christina Jenkins (@jenksbyjenks) and Emily Pilloton of Project H Design. Christina and Emily gathered and shared a”cookbook” of conversation starters, project ideas, topics to explore, and a slew of amazing icebreaker activities. Here’s a recent tweet @theUnPD shared about their speed-dating activity:
- I saw a timely post on LinkedIn from the super connected, collaborative, generous, brilliant, and ever helpful Shelly Terrell (@ShellTerrell) about back-to-school icebreakers for teachers. Shelly included a link to a post of her own great icebreakers, both analog and digital. Here’s one of the slideshows from the post:
Shelly also links to 16 Websites for Back to School Icebreakers via the American TESOL Institute. Heads up that the site is chock full of additional links to explore for icebreaker activities. A quick glance yielded the following gem from this blog:
During the new teachers’ workshop, one of my colleagues did something that I found really intersting: we drew our hands on a piece of paper and wrote five informations about ourselves inside the drawing. Then, the papers were mixed on the floor, and we had to get a hand that wasn’t ours and find the owner, by asking him about the informations written. It was really dynamic and it doesn’t put the student in the spotlight, which makes them more comfortable to speak.
I’m grateful to have attended today’s Test Kitchen with Emily Pilloton and Christina Jenkins of Project H Design! Emily and Christina have launched (and are still prototyping) a series of Unprofessional Development (@theUnPD) courses, and I was lucky to attend their inaugural New York Campfire back in January.
This Test Kitchen was a differently wonderful experience, and it was awesome to benefit from Emily and Christina’s vast collective experiences of designing and cultivating learning opportunities. The day consisted of a variety of activities including:
- Choosing and applying awesome temporary tattoos from Tattly, then explaining why we made our choices. I chose Now or Never for a bunch of reasons.
- Doing a quick exercise of “Before I leave the classroom, I want to ________” inspired by Candy Chang’s “Before I die” project from 2011.
- Diving right into an ocean of possible projects, conversation starters, and thought-provoking activity prompts offered by Emily and Christina – all listed in the printed “cookbook” provided to participants and can be thought of as ingredients for a deep and/or dynamic learning experience. They ran the gamut and included things like: Powerpoint karaoke, the Fun Theory, Curious Terrain cards, Mythbusters, TD4Ed, live cams of animals as classroom background music, Buck Institute resources, Public Lab balloon and kite mapping, and a Wikipedia edit-a-thon among so many other ideas. Then each of us also shared an artifact that we hoped would inspire the group. I talked about edcamp and the power of this wonderful for teachers-by teachers grassroots professional development movement!
- Creating paper architecture inspired by Richard Serra’s action verbs. We were given the prompt “to hinge” for our green square of paper, “to gather” for our red square, and “to represent our temporary tattoo” for our orange square of paper.
- Reading and discussing Chapter 5: What’s Worth Knowing? of Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity which inspired us to form and craft and rework our own questions that in turn guided the rest of the afternoon’s tasks. My question was: What is needed to survive?
- Going on a mini-field trip outside and drawing inspiration from our surroundings to help further evolve our question. Then drawing an image to represent our question.
- Thinking of a class activity or project that embodies the learning from this question. I considered that what each of us deems necessary for survival is completely subjective, and that maybe the pursuit of happiness (rather than just sheer survival) is a #firstworldproblem. Also, I often think about the folks locked up in Plato’s cave who believe that the shadows cast on the wall are real. (The venerable Frank Morretti loved comparing Plato’s Cave with The Matrix…) The people in the cave and the people in The Matrix were surviving, but they were also imprisoned physically and mentally even though they didn’t necessarily know it. Anyway, as per the intent of the exercise, I formed more and more questions which would ultimately guide a course of study if I were so inclined…
If you get a chance to attend an Unprofessional Development course led by Emily or Christina, I recommend you jump on it. Also, your school can opt to host Project H Design for amazing, thought-provoking, interesting, creative, and inspiring workshops. Thank you to the United Nations International School (UNIS) for hosting today’s event!
Emily Pilloton and Christina Jenkins of Project H Design have cooked up a new way to re-energize the creative forces of educators with their Unprofessional Development courses. I was lucky to attend their inaugural New York Campfire, and it was amazing to learn from/with Emily and Christina. Their goal is to get teachers to be comfortable getting uncomfortable in order to bring re-energized, freshly tapped creativity back to their craft and the classroom.
The Campfire (which will possibly be renamed a Creative Camp as they are still prototyping…) included three activities which I particularly enjoyed, and the context for each was just mindblowingly awesome. Emily and Christina each know a lot (quantitatively and qualitatively), and it was great to hear how they couched each activity in interesting and cerebral ways.
- Get to know each other via speed dating using questions taken from and adapted from a New York Times article which was passed around my social media streams not too long ago, The 36 Questions That Lead to Love. For each question, locate a new partner in the group. Questions included: What are you really good at? What are you inspired by? What are you afraid of? What are you proud of? Who are you afraid of?
- Embark on a design challenge with your partner to craft a garment for a post-apocalyptic society using IKEA bags, yarn, tape, scissors, and an assigned “obstruction” in 35 minutes. Possible examples of obstructions included: You may not talk aloud with your partner, You may not use scissors, You must use all parts of the bag, You must use triangular shapes…
- Learn how to tie knots using any means possible (locate a mentor, watch a YouTube video, read a book…)
Each participant in the group left with a hand-screened poster with @TheUnPD‘s motto and a bound copy of a wonderfully curated reader full of awesome, though-provoking, and meaningful texts.
Check out the @TheUnPD’s site for upcoming workshops or contact Emily and Christina to host one at your school! More info here: http://www.unprofessionaldevelopment.org/courses/#collab