How much do you praise people? And how do you praise people?

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Open school day in Zürich

Among several useful teaching and learning methods, I discovered during open school day in Zürich, these methods / techniques / tools stand out:
# 1: Children decide themselves how they want to learn
  • I learned that children choose themselves where they want to work on an assignment. For example, a child chooses whether he / she wants to work / learn at a single table or at a 2-person table. During a learning period of about 1.5 hours, I saw more students changing places – shifting between work at a single table and work at a 2-person table.
  • During the math assignment “36 + 28”, I observed that children used methods of their own choice. For example, one student used the method 36 + 30 – 2. Other students used other methods with which they felt more safe.
  • During a reading task, I noticed that children read in books of their own choice. For example, one child read a Lucky Luke book, while another child was reading a Guinness world records book.
  • A parent told me that her children find learning materials / education materials themselves on the Internet. For example, a parent explained that her children found learning materials on YouTube made by people, who live in Australia, and experienced that these learning materials helped them understand a particular topic well.
# 2: Teachers use different methods
  • From one teacher, I learned by observing how she does classroom management that changing between tasks helped children stay motivated. During one learning period, which had a duration of about 1.5 hours, the teacher changed relatively rapidly between work on math, geography as well as reading, speaking, writing, and singing in German and English.
  • Observing how a teacher educates, I learned that mixing up work on various subjects with movement exercises such as walking through the room, stretching and clapping rhythms that the children repeated helped the children to concentrate.
  • I noticed that ringing a bell helped a teacher to create silence and create awareness among students that a new task is coming up.
# 3: Different kinds of learning environment design is tested
  • From one teacher, I spoke with in the morning, I learned that she is – together with students – testing / trying out different kinds of learning environment design. For example, I noticed that there were both single tables, 2-person tables and 4-person tables in the room. Also, there was a free space in the middle of the room for everyone to come together.
  • I learned that room dividers such as book shelves and things attached to and hanging down from the ceiling helped children to concentrate.

# 4: Teachers and students ask questions to and help each other 

  • I learned that questions asked both by teachers and students triggered some highly valuable discussions as well as reflections among everyone. For example, when a teacher asked the question “How is it possible that it can snow in St. Moritz and during the same period of time not snow in Zürich?”, there was significant thinking and discussion activity going on. This and other questions asked by the teacher as well as by students was, to me, a highlight of the learning sessions I participated at during during open school day.  
  • During an individual assignment, I noticed that when there was a problem / challenge / task, which children had difficulty finding a solution to, he or she asked questions to a teacher or to another student. It was wonderful to see how everyone wanted to help each other to learn. 
  • During more learning periods, I noticed that one teacher helped out coaching a couple of children who needed help, while the other teacher was helping other children in the same room. I learned that the coaching done by an assistant teacher helped everyone – including the person wanting coaching, the other children, the lead teacher as well as parents.
# 5: Use of technologies
  • In a highly interesting conversation with a very experienced teacher, the teacher explained she is learning that work using various social media / platforms / artificial intelligence is replacing craftsman work with physical materials such as knitting. For example, drawing tasks using AI tools such as this is more interesting for children, for example because they are given constant feedback from technologies.
  • It surprised me that a relatively large amount of work / learning was done using paper, pencil and physical books – and that relatively little work / learning was done using Internet / tablet / smartphone / laptop and / or other technologies.
  • I saw no children with smartphones / tablets or other mobile, electronic devices.
  • There was no open wlan / wifi available.

# 6: An additional short story

A grandmother, who was at open school day with her grandson, told me a story from when she was young. She explained to me that when she was young, practically all children had lunch with their families at home. Reflecting on that time, she realized that it was possible for example because families had home based businesses such as farms and/or because grandparents cooked lunch for the grandchildren.

How can we create better learning environments?

Book: Lernumgebungen. Erziehungswissenschaftliche Perspektiven auf Schulgebäude und Klassenzimmer. Edited by Ulrike Stadler-Altmann.
Additional research added / included in this blog posting.

What are examples of advice for architects / designers of better learning environments?

  • Pages 13, 29 and 123: It is important that architects work on discovering needs users have and involve users in creating / designing learning landscapes that meet the needs of users. To involve users, workshops and various social media platforms can be used.
  • Page 17: Use relevant designs and colors, so students will love their learning environments / school buildings. Create / develop school building façades in ways that make them become interaction partners for people.
  • Page 24: Create green areas, cafes, babbling brooks, theatre rooms, libraries and versatile rooms that are comfortable for people to work / learn in.
  • Page 26: Natural wood usually appears warmer than glass and steel. In addition, the wall colors red and or yellow appear warm, blue and white or gray rather cold. Plants, curtains, carpets and furniture also help create a warm environment.
  • Page 64: Encourage people to use their own electronic devices and decide where they want to learn. That creates ownership which is important.
  • Page 76: Place a “wonder tree” in a central location at the school / university. Invite all students and teachers to “hang up” questions and answers to questions in the tree.
  • Page 103-104: Learning strategies and teaching methods suggest the need for a new form of learning environment characterized by both individual and small-group activities in different physical locations using different media.
  • Page 105: Ideas by students and teachers from a school design challenge included a more colorful environment, extensive use of the outdoors and garden areas, space for tutors and an environment that was open and inviting.
  • Page 106: An “L” shaped room provide flexibility for teachers in managing space and setting up learning centers. It is also useful for allowing a variety of teaching methods – including team teaching and encouraging small groups to work independently. An “L” shaped room also encourages increased teacher movement resulting in more teacher- student contact, more positive student attitude and enhanced learning.
  • Page 116: Flexibility is increasingly important. Use, for example, furniture that can easily be moved around and combined in new ways. Also use mobile walls / whiteboards.
  • Page 129-131 Think of the school as a small city and the city as a big school. Open up the school to the community. Invite people across communities to learn with students and teachers.
  • Page 148: Reduce noise in rooms, for example by placing noise reduction panels on walls and ceilings.

Additional research about learning environments.

Does it pay off to invest in the development of learning spaces?

  • Page 27: Coloring, lighting, air quality, sound quality, furniture and food supply significantly impact moods, well-being and learning performance of people.
  • Pages 28 and 123: Studies show that school environments, which have been positively experienced by students – including architecture, coloring, schoolyard design, decorations etc. – are associated with less school-vandalistic activities.
  • Page 28: Classrooms with windows and “warm” lighting lower the rate of illness of learners.
  • Page 33: Variety, flexibility and open learning spaces are assumed to afford individualized or student-centered practice.
  • Page 43: Teachers view spacious rooms, digital projectors and flexibility as important to improve teaching.
  • Page 55: Beautifully designed rooms have positive effects on attention and the feeling of group affiliation, thus facilitating participation.
  • Page 56: When a teacher plans and arranges the design of tables and chairs prior to a learning event, he / she can facilitate individual work and / or work in groups – thereby increasing learning efficiency.
  • Page 117: A building, which is not rectangular, does not cost more than a rectangular building. The important question is how creatively search for new solutions.

Human rights

Via this tweet by António Guterres, I learned that today is Human rights day. The United Nations launched a great innovation to help anyone add her or his  voice to #standup4humanrights. By going to this page, you can read one of the 30 articles of the universal declaration of human rights in any language and share your video.

Here is a well done illustrated version of the universal declaration of human rights. This is article # 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Thank you United Nations for involving everyone in our world in this innovative way.

 

#eduhubdays18

The topic of #eduhubdays18 is collaboratively shaping the future of education. Thinking about the power of social media and other digital platform for enabling dialogues, learning from each other and building communities, a thought that naturally came to me was facilitating a session related to the use of one or more  technologies that have a positive impact on how we work and learn with each other.

Reflecting on what topic to facilitate a session about, I realize that between November 23rd, when I signed up to participate at the event, and today, my thoughts have moved a little away from technology. Why? I think that partly, the reason is that – in contrast to many other events that I participated at in other communities – I experienced that relatively few people, who participated at eduhub days I participated at in the past, use Twitter to share knowledge / ideas with each other before, during, and/or after the event.

So what I have in mind for an  #eduhubdays18 session is one that focuses less on technology and more on human values. During this session, I would like to help participants discover values they have. To do that, I plan to suggest to participants to use the questions below. More concretely, I will invite participants to 1) get together in groups of two people, 2) ask each other some or all of the questions, and 3) help each other extract the most important values of each person which result from the dialogues.

The reason why I publish this posting well in advance of  #eduhubdays18 is that I would like to give you the opportunity to reflect on the topic and, if you are interested, communicate with others about values. In flipping this session, I also welcome you to reach out with any ideas you may have that can improve the session.

Greetings to you all,

Frank