Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Make meaning before making media!

The expression above has become my mantra this year after taking online courses with Bernajean Porter and especially after doing the face to face practicum while she was at ASB in September.  This week I've been thinking about this along with the inquiry cycle and Kathy Short's claim that some kind of presentation is essential to the process of learning and doing inquiry because that is where students figure out what they know and don't know.

The important thing about presentations, is that students must think about what they want to communicate - what it is that is so important for everyone to know - before they think about how they want to present it (they have to think about the meaning first and then the media second).  As Bernajean mentioned many times - agency is important.  After deciding what they want to communicate, students need to have a whole list of different ways that they might be able to present this information to different audiences, and then they need to find the best match between the information and the presentation mode for communicating their ideas.  Within each mode (for example video, slideshow, podcast etc) there will still be a choice of which tool will be the best one to use.

Agency - choice - is important.  Kathy Short writes: "if [students] are let out of the process, then teachers are always in a position of having to motivate them, because what they are doing doesn't pull from their own internal motivation."  Employers frequently bemoan the lack of creativity in school leavers, which is not surprising if at school students are always told the type of communication, the mode of communication and the tool that they should use.  Gary Stager also comments on this in Invent to Learn:  "Students learn creativity by being creative.  They can develop self-esteem by engaging in satisfying work ... Students learn perseverance by working on projects that make them want to stick with them .... Study skills are best gained within a context of meaningful inquiry."

After the presentation, it's time to reflect - this is an essential part of inquiry as students need to think about what they have learned about the content/meaning and what they have learned about the process/making media.  Finally students need to reflect on how this new knowledge and understanding is going to be used - which is the action part of the PYP.  Once again I come back to a quote from Invent to Learn:
Most often kids will exceed our expectations, especially if exceeding our expectations is our expectation.
Photo Credit: ToniVC via Compfight cc

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