Friday, November 25, 2016

Learning as a Story - A Google Drawings template for digital posters

When it comes to learning, we focus too much on the end product in school.

Instead, think of the whole process from initial curiosity to the struggles along the way and the final insights the learner gains. Could we start to see it as an interesting (maybe even exciting) story?

That's the basis for this digital poster activity I created as a Google Drawings template.

When it comes to telling a great story, I always start with Donald Miller's concise framework. He uses it as the basis of his Storyline book and conferences. There he says a story is...

  • A character
  • Who wants something
  • And overcomes conflict to get it

Whether it's your favorite movie,  that last page-turner you couldn't put down or how your grandma tells of winning your grandpa's affections, I bet the story fits that model.

What would happen if we helped students to see learning as a story within this framework?

To accomplish that, I made a list of questions and a template in Google Drawings for a Learning Story Poster that students could complete after a learning experience. These resources require them to consider four questions based on those parts of a story:
  • A character (or characters) - Who are they?
  • Who wants something - What do they wonder about?
  • And overcomes conflict - What challenges did they face?
  • To get it - What did they finally learn in the end?
Click here to open a copy of the question sheet. It has a link to the Google Drawing template, which you can also find at the link below.

Click here to open a copy of the template in your own Google Drive. Students will easily complete their poster by...
  • Adding or changing the text prompts as necessary
  • Deleting the shapes and inserting their own pictures in those places
  • Cropping the pictures into interesting shapes to make it visually appealing
  • Changing the background colors and elements as they like
  • Including images of any products they create, including physical charts or graphs
  • Adding a table to the Google Drawing if data needs to be included
  • Downloading the final product as a PNG or JPEG image

Here's a sample one I made using some pictures I had from our video announcement team. (Click here to see a larger version that you can zoom in on.)

A complete learning story poster like this requires students to consider a few things right from the start of the project. They will need to:
  • Make note of what they wonder or are curious about
  • Develop or be aware of the team identity (if working in groups) - Don't underestimate the importance of the "character" part. A team name and picture that represents the group personality can foster strong social connections that benefit for learning.
  • Get photos throughout the process - If they forget, some quick posed shots make an acceptable substitute.

Other Possibilities

If you don't want to use Google Drawings for this, you can still using the questions and have them present it in these ways:

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Problem Solving or Problem Finding?

A big part of "teaching like an artist" is being aware of our part in the environment we are making in our school. We do not create it alone, that's for sure, but we help shape it.

So sometimes my posts here turn into questions that I think could be useful for conversations between administrators or staff meetings. In this one I'll consider how we talk about problems in our schools.

If I could generalize to make a point, I see two distinct groups among the teachers I work with. Both can seem a little obsessed with problems, possibly to the point of being negative.

If you heard either group talking in the teachers lounge, you might not notice much difference. Their motivation is very different, though, and so is the end of their discussions.

One group wants to solve the problems. The other is happy to find the problem, as long as it has nothing to do with them.

No one wants to admit they're in the second group, but I think my co-workers would agree with me when I say I fall squarely in the first group. I want to identify the problem, get my brain around it and see what I can do to solve it. I'm sure I get caught up in "venting" or complaining sometimes, but my final goal is always to identify steps that will move us in the right direction.

So I talk about the problem...a lot. But what I started to notice recently is some people are content to stop the conversation before I am. It's as if they are convinced they found the real problem and (lucky for them) it was beyond their control. They aren't responsible and they can only do so much, right?

So of course we'll always have problems as we work in a setting involving so many people. We need to face the problems, identify them and discuss them. Sometimes we even need to vent our feelings about them.

But in all such conversations, we have to keep this question in mind:

Am I dwelling on this problem so I can find a way to make a positive difference? 

If not, what difference am I making?