Monday, 8 June 2015

Connecting with experts

One of the challenges of having students pursuing individual passions is the teachers having the subject knowledge to design and facilitate learning around all of these different interests. Now that we are well into our 14 week Term at AoN, we have students exploring a whole range of interests.
  • Coding to create an educational game
  • Website design
  • Writing poetry
  • Teaching children to write
  • Sports: softball, rugby and gymnastics
  • Fashion Design 
  • Mechanics
  • Space
  • Cooking
  • Animals
  • The Arts: painting, music, dance
  • Gardening
  • Building
Between the three of us we have rather varied interests ... playing the ukulele, science, reading, sports, cooking, photography ... but we are certainly not experts in many of the areas our students have identified as being passionate about. Whilst this could be perceived as a barrier, it's a big wide world out there and there are many educators (some undiscovered even to themselves) lurking behind every corner! These have been disguised in the form of ... mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, colleagues, friends, various members of the community and many, many more!

Over the last few weeks our students have been connecting with lots of experts, locally and globally. What has amazed us is the willingness of people to help our students and to share their knowledge and expertise! This has absolutely blown us away! At the very start of AoN we asked a range of experts to come in to help spark an interest. We had scientists, coders, cooks and many more. As soon as we got in touch with experts they were so willing to move things around in their own schedule to come and work alongside our students. 

Students are well into their projects and are now contacting experts themselves via e-mail and phone. By it's very nature this has provided many learning opportunities ...
First impressions are important and when this isn't face to face, how you construct an email will impact on first impressions. We tried to help students think about telling their expert a little bit about AoN and who they were. We encouraged them to be specific with what they hoped to achieve from the e-mail i.e. I have some questions I would like to ask you, or we would like to visit the store and meet with you if possible.

Not only has contacting experts being a learning task in itself but the information and advice provided by our experts and in some cases practical hands on activities, has really helped students to move forward with their projects.  One group of students identified computer coding as a passion. Having tinkered with coding, I was excited by the context this creates for students to problem solve, experiment and create. I had been trying to develop my own skills in this area, exploring and Tynker and scratch; however we (the coding group) got to a point where we really needed an expert to help take us to the next level. Students emailed The Mindlab in Petone who responded with some really useful advice and they set about to organise a trip there. Malcolm from The Mindlab prompted our students to call him so he could discuss 1:1 their thinking behind the games/apps they wanted to design.  All of the students were very excited by the phone call; they had their chance to share their thinking, ask questions, feel validated, and with next steps suggested by Malcolm they were away again.

This is just one example of how members of our community have used their expertise to help students at AoN to learn and over the last few weeks there have been many many others. 

It is exciting to see people so willing to offer their expertise. It is exciting to think that our students aren't restricted by the passions, interests and knowledge of the teachers in the room. The people and places they can contact and reach out to are far more wide reaching! It is also exciting to see that many students of AoN (and teachers within our cluster) are being called upon by fellow students as experts themselves. Encouraging students to widen the scope of where they can go to in order to learn and who can help them to learn has made for some exciting interactions. It poses the question why would we limit our students to one 'teacher' when there are many, many more in the wings willing to share and collaborate? 

1 comment:

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