Learning to “leave” the classroom : Differentiating School Programming

I was challenged to select and share a “tool” for assisting with differentiation within a classroom. I planned on writing about an Aurasma technology app I’ve used successfully in the past and then I thought about writing about collaboration as a resource. However, more and more the concept of “what is the purpose of school?” and the concept of the  traditional “classroom” taught by a “teacher” have been pulling at my thoughts. I believe the physical concept of “school” as a place in which learning occurs should be a significant tool for differentiation that must be examined, questioned and challenged, if as Educators, we are to foster creativity in our students and hope to meet the diverse range of needs for all our students. My “tool” is providing a multitude of alternative pathways and experiences for learning beyond the classroom. Thus, differentiating our programming and how students can choose to learn within the framework of “school”.

I have taught Art and Humanities in a windowless classroom for the past six years. My students and I try to spice it up by painting the walls and cupboards. I’ve added a couch, stools and a fuzzy carpet to provide alternate spaces for focus and collaboration. Students take ownership by choosing the layout of the tables and decorating the room with their visible learning. We have had flexible seating arrangements that shift based on the challenge at hand and we move and filter into the school spaces such as hallways or the forum. However, what what I am realizing more each day, is that I can make a room as physically flexible as possible and provide a multitude of tools and accessibility to technology as possible…but it is not enough. What I believe truly needs to change is how our schools provide pathways to learning for our students. What I mean by pathways is options for students to decide how they learn best. No longer must school be a building where students must drive or walk to in order to “receive” their learning from a “teacher”. Instead, students can meet at a community hall, online, a library, a farmer’s field or perhaps an Art gallery and not just for field trips. Why not take a Fine Arts stream, if learning through the Arts is how he or she learns best? To differentiate better, we must look at our school design and differentiate beyond classroom instruction. Continue reading

Learning about #Makerfaireyyc

During this past summer, while stealing moments of solitude when my little boys were napping, I read “The Maker Movement Manifesto: Rules for Innovation in the New World of Crafters, Hackers and Tinkerers” by Mark Hatch, CEO of TechShop. I was intrigued reading about the examples of successful entrepreneurs and “average joe” makers who now are able to access expensive tools or use simply have access to space to make ideas real. Reading about the maker movement is one thing…but also experiencing the maker movement is another…(I highly recommend both).

Rushing to the Telus Spark Science Centre for my Saturday volunteer shift as a “Maker Care Helper”, I arrived to a big crowd of people exiting the entrance. I quickly saw the fire alarm lights informing people to evacuate. My first thought was, “ahh man, I can’t go in and see what all this hype of the “Maker Movement” is really all about. (I will also admit this was quickly followed by “Well, at least I have an excuse for being late…”). A calm and assertive speaker voice blared “Methane Gas has been detected in the building…” and then instructed people to get away from the building. I smiled to myself and thought…couldn’t be a true Maker Faire without a little pushing of the oxygen content boundaries, could it?

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