We Need a (Pumpkin) Hero!

Just before Halloween, I presented my students with our first Destination Imagination instant challenge of the year:

Challenge:    Carve a pumpkin and use it as a character in a performance.

Scenario: Your team will come up with a pumpkin design that represents a new super hero—a hero that helps people in our school community with a pressing issue.

During a DI challenge we use and develop the following core skills:

   Critical Thinking
  • Identify and clarify problems.
  • Ask questions.
  • Plan and manage time and responsibilities.
  • Explore a variety of solutions.
  • Analyze, synthesize, interpret, and evaluate information.
   Communication
  • Use various media and technologies in different ways.
  • Share ideas and information to solve problems.
  • Listen carefully and respectfully to the ideas of others.
  • Follow directions.
  • Encourage others to expand their ideas.
   Creativity
  • Use strategies, such as brainstorming, to generate ideas with the group.
  • Apply prior knowledge to develop new ideas.
  • Experiment with different solutions.
   Collaboration
  • Take an active part in the challenge.
  • Be flexible and willing to compromise.
  • Share responsibility for completing the task.
  • Learn from other group members.

Students attacked the challenge with enthusiasm as you can see in the video below. We laughed a lot during the skits!

Huzzahnians, think back on this challenge and your group’s efforts. Describe the hero you created. Using the language of the four C’s, above, what were your strengths? Use specific examples from the challenge. What is a next step to work on to develop your skills. What suggestions do you have for me as a teacher to help you learn and grow at critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication?

Blog visitors, have you ever done a DI challenge? If so tell us about it. If not, what ways do you use creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication in your life and learning?

I look forward to hearing from you!

On the Dalai Lama, Shane Koyczan, and Back Channels

The Dalai Lama waved at us!

The Dalai Lama, sitting with his interpreter.

The Dalai Lama, sitting with his interpreter.

And then he bowed to welcome us!

The Dalai Lama acknowledging the participants.

The Dalai Lama acknowledging the participants.

Well, you may have figured out that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was not in our classroom–though somehow his gentle smile and warm laugh made him feel very near. He was in Vancouver to meet with students and educators at the Youth Heart-Mind Summit. The theme was Be the Village. Through the wonders of technology, we joined classes from many locations to watch and listen to a conversation he had with high school students. The topic was about cultivating kindness, empathy, and compassion in all people.  I have to say, I was very impressed with the poise of the grade 12 MCs and panelists. How very thrilling that day must have been. 

Can you imagine being on that stage?

As well, Shane Koyczan, a fabulous spoken word artist (I think “poet” works for me) performed. More about that in another post.  And more about Heart-Mind learning later.

Back Channel

Using Netbooks and Backchannel Chat during the presentation

Using Netbooks and Backchannel Chat during the presentation

We tried something new while watching. We had our first Backchannel Chat, an online private virtual conversation room which each student accessed via our Netbook laptops. The chat gave us an opportunity to discuss our thoughts, observations, and questions among ourselves. I purchased a year-long access to the features of Backchannel Chat for about $16.00 to give me access to all the features of the program. 

I learned a lot from this experience. So did the students, as you’ll see. Not everything was positive, but it was not a complete failure either. If other teachers have tried or are considering using a back channel, I’d appreciate your feedback.

Here are a few screenshots of the archived chat (click thumbnails to enlarge). I sprayed out the names as I promised the students this analysis was not about embarrassing anyone, it was about finding solutions.

We broke into groups of four and wrote Plus – Minus – Solutions posters. Students talked about and recorded their thoughts, then shared with classmates.

Plus-Minus-Solutions

Plus-Minus-Solutions

I’ve summarized their feedback:

Pluses:

  • It’s a great way to show what you’re thinking and see what others are thinking.
  • You can see what others think of your ideas–they can respond to you.
  • You can respond to the entire class more easily.
  • It stays quiet while a presentation is on.
  • Someone is able to moderate the chat.
  • As the chat went on, people were more serious and on topic.
  • We become more tech savvy.

Minuses:

  • Because the sound quality of the webcast was poor and because we are not used to the Dalai Lama’s accent, we couldn’t hear very well and comment meaningfully.
  • Some people didn’t know what they could write about.
  • Some students got off topic fast and began talking about battery life, naming favourite actors, injecting hashtags, and making other random, pointless comments.
  • A conversation about the Dalai Lama’s nationality, appearance, and ethnicity lead to misunderstanding and maybe some hurt feelings. (We processed this after the fact.)
  • Some students used texting language.
  • Too many one word comments reduced the usefulness of the chat and made information flow too quickly.
  • Some students logged in and out to change their name and their avatar, wasting time.

Solutions:

  • Create criteria for comments that everyone follows.  (Yes, that came from the students!)
  • Think before you type!
  • Run two different chats so people can read and respond to the comments. This would slow the chat down.
  • We need to work on writing complete, thoughtful, on-topic sentences.
  • Have more than one person monitoring the chat.
  • People who are disrespectful or off topic would be warned and then would be kicked out of the chat.

Final Thoughts
I learned so much from the experience of this back channel about my student’s strengths and needs. I had no illusions that it would be a flawless event, but I sense that taking a risk with this technology will be rewarding for us.

The next time we use Backchannel Chat as a learning tool, we will share our results here.

Do you have suggestions? Are there other tools that can help encourage dialogue about big ideas? Does communicating in virtual space improve or inhibit dialogue when we are  face to face? Please share your thoughts in a comment.

 

 

A Little Outdoor Art

Take a fence, take some wool, add some creativity and you get… well, a woven fence.

Hands at work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Symmetrical weaving.

Symmetrical weaving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a look at Huzzahnians at work:

It was a bit challenging at first to figure out how to work with the wire of the fence. I find it fascinating that students arrived at such different techniques in their weaving. Some incorporated natural elements, too.

Have you ever done any weaving? Would you try a project like this? Thank you for commenting!

Playing with Glocal

We had a bit of artistic play time this week, with some creative results. We used photo manipulation software that we were given many years ago by an organization called Arts Umbrella as part of the Glocal Project. Using the built-in webcam on our Netbooks, we captured images, layered and manipulated them and–Voila! What do you think? What do you notice about these images? Please check out the student blogs for other examples of Huzzahnian creativity.

Evan

King and Ace by Evan

 

Seeing Red by Ethan

Seeing Red by Ethan

Many-Me  by Tengis

Many-Me by Tengis

Hearts by Mia

Heart of Hearts by Mia

Blogging friends, have you ever used photo manipulation software or apps before? Do you like photography? Perhaps you have some tips for us. We look forward to reading your comments.

 

Take Our Open-Blog Quiz!

Just how good are you at reading a blog? Take our OBQ!

Try this quiz: follow the links to a Huzzahnian blog, read, and leave a comment there with the answer to the clue or question presented below. When you comment leave an OBQ for your own blog–let’s find out if our Huzzahnians are as clever as you!

*Hint: answers could be in a post or on a page….

  • Something in the music room is Brayden’s favourite. What is it?
  • Darian is looking for a catch phrase. Can you help him?
  • Faith describes a FrankenPencil. It met an awful fate. What happened?
  • Why does Ethan like the colour blue?
  • What three bike sports does Evan L. take part in?
  • Which instrument does Maggie play?
  • Tiana is a terrific soccer player. How many knee-and-foot ball juggles has she done in a row?
  • Aliyah‘s dad was one of, well, a large number of kids. How many?
  • What does Rachel sell at craft fairs?
  • What are the names of Anthony’s pets?
  • Why does Kheton like the gym so much?
  • Carlos has hedgehogs. What are their names?
  • What does Kaiah like to do when he’s bored?
  • Anthony explains the ring of death. What is it?
  • Which baseball team is Ryan’s favourite?
  • Hunter likes his locker. Why?
  • Heather hopes to go to the Olympics in a sport. What is it?
  • Which stuffed animal smiles at Gillian?
  • What does Kaiya like to do on the weekend?
  • Tengis tells you about small flying things–what can they do?
  • Quinn went to Florida. Which tourist attraction did he visit?
  • What does Shayne dream of being when she grows up?
  • What is Logan‘s favourite thing to do?
  • Which position does Avery play in hockey?
  • Does it take a genius to ride the swings? What does Brett think?
  • Which types of monsters do you find on Mia’s blog?
  • Why does Evan like dodge ball?

Good luck on the OBQ. Remember to answer on the student blogs. If you write an open-blog quiz of your own, please comment and send us the link!

Photo Credit: Rusty Clark via Compfight cc