This entry was originally posted at @wholeboxndice’s blog
Yesterday marked the most successful teaching episode in my teaching career. What made it even more amazing was that I didn’t really teach during this lesson. Not by conventional definitions anyway. That utopian goal of being able to be nothing more than a facilitator really was actualised, and as a result, despite being among the smallest contributor to the lesson, I had never felt more connected to the process of learning.
Perhaps it was the perfect storm, but here is the synopsis nevertheless.
Our Year 5 class, operating in a relatively recent PYP Authorised school, is currently working on a Unit of Inquiry (UOI) in the ‘How we organise ourselves’ transdisciplinary theme. Without going into central idea and lines of inquiry specifics, essentially, we are looking at early colonial Australia, specifically social structures and interactions of groups within society. We are connecting this to the present by taking advantage of social media tools to relate interactions between these groups. This comfortably ties into our Pastoral focus this term of Connectedness.
It all started with a simple question written on the board – ‘What is connectedness?’ In unpacking our connectedness unit and discussing the nature of connections, the boys connected with our UOI themselves when one asked… “But wouldn’t the sort of connections we use and make now be really different from the people we are looking at in early colonial times?” I was suitably impressed with the framing of this inquiry prompt by the student.
At this point I stepped back and let the discussions flow. The natural use of key concepts, the language of IB just spilled from them in a ‘light bulb’ sort of awakening for them all. The level of dialogue was high, the natural posing of questions and even the organic leadership of some students to guide the discussion was so amazing. The depth of discussion was immense, the connections that students were making to the themes we had discussed were authentic, it was totally unexpected, and totally raw.
Progressing from what is connectedness? to who do we connect with? why do we connect? how do we connect? all rolled on and the comparisons between the nature of our connections in modern times to the past were made and debated.
Such a rich dialogue and now a heightened understanding and engagement with where the unit is and where it might go was achieved. Afterwards, the boys were asked to pose a question that was prompted from the discussion that could help to drive our UOI path ahead.The group constructed question – “What would colonial interactions have been like if they had access to our ways of connecting?’ “Imagine if the early settlers had email or facebook” offered one student.
Fast forward one day >>
So today we went beyond imagining. We did it. We created mock facebook pages for different fictional members of colonial life.
‘Officer Henson’ was lamenting on ‘Governor Smith’s’ page wall the growing unrest between the local indigenous population and landholders. The blacksmith was offering 20% discounts to loyal customers on the wall. A convict was relating his easter experiences as reaffirming his faith and reflecting the power of the church in early settlement. This was history coming alive.
These students are too young for facebook. Their parents and older siblings their only exposure to the social media, yet it appeared in their field knowledge and allowed them to take interest and ownership.
What started with connectedness, lead to connections made with the connections, which ultimately allowed them to connect.
Now that is inquiry.