Empowering Student Voice with Tech Support

Course 4; Week 4

Empowering Student voice with tech Support

This week’s resources and blog had a lot of directions in which to look. Actually, I realized that my last week’s blog post was not really related to the information shared on the COETAIL blog. When I had opened the course blog, I read the post about the Course Three final projects then had dived right into the week three linked resources. It wasn’t until this week, that I realized that I had missed the actual week 3 post. Based on the reading, I had taken my reflection post in a very different direction. I hope that is okay because I am about to do it again.

Geralt, Pixabay.com

This week’s COETAIL blog post spoke about the difficult task of teaching love in schools, and while I agree that this is a deeply important and underrated consideration in today’s schools and classrooms. Once I had read chapter 4 of “A Rich Seam; How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning”, by Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy. I felt more drawn to those ideas and how I might use what I read to help me develop my unit plan for the course project.

In particular; it was just at the end of the chapter when I read about the “My Aspirations Action Plan” (MAAP) developed by the Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations when I realized that I wanted to take my unit in a very different direction than what I had been working on. I was very interested in the idea of “this tool that provides an online platform for students to define their own learning goals in relation to their aspirations, and track their own progress”.

But I want to take a little detour for a second from that and share more information about the Qualia Institute.

Dr Quaglia and the Quaglia Institute

After I completed the reading, I decided to search for more information about the MAAP online platform. When I found the Quaglia Institute website and was looking at the photo of Dr. Russ Quaglia, I realized that I had met and worked with him before. It was so crazy, I had suddenly uncovered an old memory from my first year working at Universal American School in Dubai, back in the 2017-2018 school year.

My school had invited Dr. Qualiga to come work with teachers to support our desire to implement more student voice in our pedagogies. Unfortunately for me, most of his training sessions were given to the high school teachers, and I, as an elementary teacher, only met with him once. In our session, Dr. Quaglia was meeting with teachers in small groups to help us feel like our voices were important as well. We spoke about our concerns for how the school was run and brainstormed about changes we wanted to see.

From the Quaglia Institute website.

Having spent some time now, reading through his resources on empowering student voice, I am sad that I was not able to have more training with him in this area. However, I highly encourage everyone who is interested in improving their pedagogical practice with student voice to check out his website. His institute is not for profit and provides many free resources, such as the “Elementary Student Voice Skills” and “Pathways to Strengthen Voice”. These links are specifically for elementary but there are similar resources for middle school and high school.

This Week’s Reading and My New Unit Plan

This week’s reading has given me a lot of food for thought on how I might include more student agency and voice in my unit plan for course five.

For the course five unit plan, I am designing a six-week unit of inquiry to meet the fourth-grade science standards for energy. In our school, we are trying to introduce more science from the NGSS standards, so this will be a new unit for the fourth grade this year.

The science standards for energy are interesting. They seem to branch off in two directions. The majority of them focus on kinetic versus potential energy, and things like energy transfers and transformations. A fun way to investigate these standards is through Rube Goldberg Machines. On other hand, we also have standards for sources of energy; renewable and non-renewable. These standards are a good way to get the students thinking about their impact on the environment.

Some of the great energy lessons from Mystery Science.

I was thinking that I would make a traditional plan to teach the unit through a series of inquires, and then ask students to demonstrate their learning by designing their own Rube Goldberg machine. My school has access to the wonderful lessons from Mystery Science. I have used some of them in the past and the students always really enjoy them. I like how each lesson starts with a question, like “Will a mountain last forever?” or “Can a volcano pop up in your backyard?” It really helps to get the kids interested and provides that inquiry approach that is so important in a PYP classroom.

Now, I think I would like to design a deeper learning task, and ask the students to help our school community a bit. Instead of telling the students what their end-of-unit task will be, i.e. the Rube Goldberg Machine, I will ask them to share their learning in a way of their choice. Also, since we have these two strands of energy we are learning about, I will ask the students to choose which concept or topic from our learning they want to focus on. In this way, they will have more agency in how they share their learning and can focus on what truly interests them.

In this area, technology is very key to helping students pursue their interests, no longer are they constrained by which books are available in the library or what information I have to share with them. Their access to online resources will allow them to drive their learning in the direction that they are most inspired to follow.

Finally, to take their learning deeper, I think we can ask them to help contribute to the school community by teaching some of what they learned to younger students. For example, kindergarten has a few NGSS standards related to pushes and pulls that are the foundation for our standards on energy transfers. I want to challenge my students to relate their learning to standards for younger grades and then become teachers for their younger school-mates.

I will need to meet with my principal and make sure that she is happy with these ideas, but we do plenty of work with peer feedback, mentoring, and buddy-reading programs, so I think she will like the ideas.

Then I will be diving into my unit planner! I really enjoy planning a new unit, so many ideas, so little time!

To my fellow, COETAILers I hope everyone’s term has been going well. Nearly winter break now!