I’m an eternal optimist. Was I born this way? I don’t know… all I know is that I’ve always viewed the cup as half-full and have an easy time finding silver linings somehow. This must be what draws me to the Appreciative Inquiry approach that I began to learn about in my time as a Community Leader with Powerful Learning Practice. And I do mean ‘began to learn’ because I feel like I need a lot of years to develop skill in this area.
Imagine my delight to have attended my first Family of Schools meeting at my Board this fall and to be presented with an article to read about all different kinds of leaders. As I often do, I flipped directly to the back of the article to check out the resources, and found a recommended resource called Appreciative Leadership by Appreciative Inquiry gurus Diana Whitney, Amanda Trosten-Bloom and Kae Rader! I promptly bought the book and began to read about their definition of AL:
Appreciative Leadership is the relational capacity to mobilize creative potential and turn it into positive power — to set in motion positive ripples of confidence, energy, enthusiasm, and performance — to make a positive difference in the world (P. 3)
I love this positive worldview and the focus on what IS needed, what IS possible and what CAN be done. Super stuff for an optimist like me!
In devouring the first part of the book, the authors outline the 5 core strategies of AL and I find that they resonate with me. In fact, these are exactly the things upon which I am focusing as a school administrator:
- Inquiry – Ask powerful questions
- Illumination – Bring out the best of people and situations
- Inclusions – Engage with people to coauthor the future
- Inspiration – Awaken the creative spirit
- Integrity – Make choices for the good of the whole
I want to get better at asking those powerful questions and as a beginning the authors suggest observing yourself to determine your ask-to-tell ratio. They recommend that we ask questions about 3 times more than we tell information. I have no clue what my ratio is, but I’m going to spend a week or two watching that more closely.
Do you know your ask-to-tell ratio?
I always find it exciting when I come across someone who is willing to take a chance and try something new they don’t know much about. Jen Apgar (@jenapgar) and I did some working together last year when her class was getting ready for Digifest 2011. We got chatting about some new things we were hearing about – and QR codes kind of came up.
Did we know much about them? Nope.
Did we know much about how they worked? Nope.
Did we have some ideas about how we might use them with kids? Yep.
After a bit of chatting we decided that since we were both the kind of teachers who liked to struggle and learn along with the kids we’d jump in with both feet on a project for this year.
And so began the diigo-ing of links and resources, collecting what we could find, photographing QR codes wherever we could find them, and reading up on what my network was sharing on twitter and on blogs. I began to collect the resources here on Tech2Learn if you’d like to check it out.
Jen teaches a congregated gifted class of Grade 4’s who recently made a transition to a new school. New students transition into this program every year, and this involves a school visit and info day during their Grade 3 year. Jen’s class this year has decided to make some documentaries about what it was like to transition to the gifted program and to a new school and then to lead the visiting students through a QR scavenger hunt in May.
The kids are asking this question, “What will kids who are coming in new to the program, want to know? How can we get them excited about coming to their new school?”
They’ll be learning lots about documentary film making and the art of creating media to convey a message to a particular audience. Then they’ll plan a scavenger hunt about the most important elements of school life. Lots of critical thinking in decision-making about what stays in and what gets cut out. Lots of teamwork in pre-production planning, production and post-production. Lots of hard work planning clues and uploading clips, audio, images to the web to be linked as QR codes. Lastly, they’ll create the QR codes and post them around the school. They’ll test it out and get things ready for the younger students. A complex project for an authentic audience!
I can’t wait…this is going to be fun!
It’s hard to build community in an online network. When people gather from around the world to share, collaborate and co-create, there needs to be an element of fun, trust and getting to know one another. In our Canada & New England PLP Network, we’ve been spending the first little while having conversations around our beliefs and experiences in education, but also doing some fun stuff!
I’m excited about this new tool I’ve learned about called Fotobabble. We are playing a little game where folks choose something that is a passion – something that others might not know about them. They upload a picture and then create three clues about that passion, hobby or interest. We embed these in a discussion and have a go at guessing! It’s good fun and really easy to do!
We’ll try it tonight in my AQ Course IICTI – Part 1 because I think this has good potential as a tool in the classroom. Many of the teachers in the class are looking for ways to provide alternate ways for students to demonstrate their thinking. Imagine quickly snapping a picture of art, a science experiment, or a math solution, and then having students create a fotobabble!
Check it out below…and then perhaps share an idea with us…how could you use this in your classroom?
What is your passion?
It’s been a great journey with the PLP ConnectU group from Australia so far. We are developing a unit in order to explore “What is Creativity” with students. Kynan Robinson, who has been studying creativity for some time now, shared some readings with us recently and I’ve finally had a chance to do some reading and thinking.
Some of the things that have jumped out at me from the readings he shared are:
To foster creativity, children should possess a specialised knowledge of the relevant area, think divergently as well as convergently, have the capacity to analyse and synthesise the problem, and be able to enact self-planning and evaluation strategies (Cropley & Urban 2000).
The following was from a study around problem-solving with technology construction:
It is important that students have sufficient background in the topic and also in the methods of construction. Preliminary classes that deal with an investigation of the topic and allow students to use a variety of construction techniques are crucial for full development of the task. Specific teaching may be required. After the introduction to the task, the students need an incubation period so that their ideas can be fully developed. (ALISTAIR WEBSTER ET AL., 2006)
Useful tips for teachers: (from John Munro)
- Teachers can use tasks and challenges that can be processed in multiple ways and that are open-ended, that foster a questioning attitude, that stimulate broad and open perceptions. Conditions that foster a high level of autonomy, self initiative, spontaneity and experimentation during learning and that reduce the pressure for formal achievement are useful.
- Students need to be encouraged to think about the topic in more divergent oriented ways. Subject area knowledge needs to be taught in ways that allow more open-ended thinking. The teaching can include use questioning to explore topics and problem solving.
- Creative thinking is much more likely when there is the opportunity for aspects of self directed and managed learning.
- Encouraging an attitude towards learning to modify one’s thinking during learning and learning how to use the errors made during learning
- Valuing intuitive, ‘non conformist’ and original interpretations of ideas is useful. Students need to see that their original ideas are accepted and valued, even if they assist only in leading to other ideas.
I think our group is on the right track in that we’ve discussed trying to include higher level thinking skills such as analysis and synthesis. I’m wondering how can we provide the incubation time necessary and also ensure that students have good deal of background knowledge about the topic? I can see how Kynan and Kristen will be doing that with their gaming unit, but I’m wondering how we’ll do that we our very broad question, “What is creativity?” How can our learning activities focus on gathering some of that background knowledge? What background knowledge is necessary to have?
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Many educators in Ontario have had the wonderful opportunity for professional learning with Sheryl Nussbaum- Beach and Will Richardson in their PLP Network and I’m fortunate to be helping as a connected coach in one of their projects with Australian … Continue reading