Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Figuring out the Puzzle

World Spins Madly On

Image: "World Spins Madly On", by emma.c @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/7262596@N08/2207748365

I've watched in awe as the work of Lucy's students has crossed my path online - the book in a day project where Year 9 students wrote collaboratively using google docs around themes drawn from the novel, "Animal Farm" was just amazing. And I'm really excited to hear more about her next project, collaboratively planned by teachers from around the world using the power of the network.

Through following Lucy's project I came across Tanuj's, a student of Lucy's, blog and have since become a regular reader - his insight into the work his teachers are doing and the observations he makes about the potential and benefits of PBL are refreshing - especially since they're from the horse's mouth so to speak.

In part, this is a shout out to both Lucy and Tanuj - thank you for sharing your experiences and helping to inspire others to stay the course when comes to pushing the boundaries of our education systems.

For some teachers the idea of PBL has sat in the "too hard" basket for a very long time, and it's something I'll admit I've struggled with many times in the past - especially in the Drama classroom (which in my opinion lends itself naturally to this style). I've tried many different projects and had mixed results.

As the cyberdrama project wraps up with students completing their formal assessments this week I feel like I've put some of the bits of the puzzle together this time.

Yesterday I collected the journals tracking my students' experiences and pulled apart their own cyberdramas (I'll talk more about why I didn't do these as eportfolios another night). I was gobsmacked when I saw them. In past drama journaling has inspired a lacklustre response from students, sort of done at the last minute, barely meeting standards. This time...the majority of the class obviously loved this activity:

There are PAGES of detailed reflections, hundreds of pictures tracing their journey through this project, incredible examples of how visually and textually these students think (feathers, glitter, jigsaw puzzles, card, colour) It's going to take me weeks to do their efforts justice, and honestly I'm loving the thought of getting lost in these, I keep picking them up and just flicking through them, they're a drama teacher's dream come true. More than that what teacher doesn't want their students to say things like:

"I think this term has been an amazing one. I have actually learnt so much and I feel as if we've all grown through producing these cyberdrama's."

The key phrase in there that makes me even prouder than I already was - "we've all grown". This project has meant more to them than class work or assessment, I couldn't ask for more.

When showing the principal the work produced by the class last week she asked what I thought had allowed them to fly so high. Honestly, I think I gave them room and I trusted them - they were ready and the "norm" would have held them back. And the success of doing so has my heart and mind bubbling with new ideas and plans for the future. Dean asked in a comment whether I'd go back to "traditional" instruction after this - my answer in short...no way, how could I?

It's with a heavy heart that I await to hear my timetable for next year, I highly doubt I'll be working with this group for drama next year. I just hope their new teacher is ready for them...


Lucy said...

Thanks so much for following what we are doing with our classes. I am really committed to engaging students in our care and I have seen these projects work - and it is so rewarding! It would not be possible though without the support of our wider network of educators.

It sounds as though you are providing some great learning experiences too - it will be wonderful to see what you discover as you continue to read the journals!

This year, more than ever, I am actually worried about my timetable too, I really want to be given the opportunity to work with this particular group of students again.

Nic Mobbs said...

Thanks, Lucy. It's hard to let this years groups go - partly because I honestly don't think they're going to get the challenges and the learning experiences they've come to expect and I wonder sometimes if I'm doing them a disservice in that way.

Lucy said...

It's not a disservice Nic - you will have had an impact on their lives that they will never forget and you have the opportunity to keep passing on the joy of learning to fresh new faces!