I cannot remember another time in my adult life when I've learnt as much and as fast as I have in the last little while.My learning might not have been miraculous or world changing for other people, but it has been for me.
1. I learnt to read a map.
One of our TKAS colleagues has been travelling around Europe for the last few months and it's been really interesting hearing him reflect on the places he's gone, the things he has learnt, and how he thinks he will apply that back at school in the classroom.
After he spent the day at the Louvre a few weeks ago, Jono had an inspiration about a web of inquiry.
Read about it here: The Web Of Inquiry
Experiment, Engage, Explore, Explain
I've been teaching using an inquiry philosophy and a lot of different processes for many years now but was immediately struck by the simplicity of this web. And we quickly agreed we would base our learning programmes in our middle years learning community at TKAS around this web in 2014.
Over the last fortnight I met up with Jono and we have done some travelling together. I don't read maps well and he knew that. In fact I read them really badly. I was quite happy to rely on him to do all the map reading. But as we started walking around a strange city I started getting the questions: "Do you know where we are now? Work out where in the map we are?"
Now to be honest I didn't really want to know. I didn't really see much purpose to learning my way around a city I would be in for six days. And I know I can't read maps! I've got through nearly 50 years without it, why start now?
So I made a half hearted attempt to answer and was quite happy really to just follow his directions. But over the next couple of days every couple of corners he continued experimenting with the same questions, talking about landmarks, planning where to go next and slowly and irresistibly I was drawn in. I was actually engaged. I actually sincerely started wanting to know how to do this and believing in myself that I could. The encouragement from someone else and the belief that I could actually learn this helped. From there came true exploration. I was willing to ask questions and truly learn, and I enjoyed it and I got satisfaction from it. I was learning for myself, not to please someone else.
I'm still not great. And when left to myself I did get lost, but that's because I managed to get myself completely off the map. But by then I had learnt enough skills and pointers to gradually get myself back on the map.And later I could look at the map and explain where I went wrong, a positive step in not making the same error next time.
2. I also learnt to set up and administer an online forum.
Jono talked to me at length about the possibilities and advantages of using an online forum more than 6 months ago and I didn't really see the advantage over what we were currently using.
But as we started planning for the next year ahead- both for our classes, and for school wide events and information, Jono kept exposing the possibilities of a forum.
So about 6weeks ago we started experimenting with setting one up. Over the next few weeks I experimented every now and then, trying out different things. Gradually I became more and more interested in what they could do, and how powerful they could be. I was engaged. From there exploration happened quite naturally. Looking up how to do something, asking Jono to show me some things and linking back to experimenting at times.
Two very different learning experiences with a common thread that has actually changed significantly the way I am going to approach inquiry in the classroom.
I always thought engagement had to come first, but how much engagement do we get that is true engagement as opposed to learning something to please someone else?
I had to experiment before I could get true authentic engagement. And I would suggest adding expose in there as well. Sometimes experiment might be difficult but we can expose our learners to the possibilities in something in order to engage them.
The fact is I've had these two powerful learning experiences and we haven't actually been talking about Jonos web of inquiry at all, it just occurred naturally. But when we were chatting about the highlights of the last couple of weeks before I left yesterday, and I started thinking about why this learning had been powerful we both realised how closely it aligned to his web of inquiry.
I was already fully committed to using it as the base of our teaching this year. Now I am truly excited by the possibilities.