School Name: James Kennedy Elementary School
School District: SD#35 Langley
Inquiry Team Members:Ann Pimentel: firstname.lastname@example.org, Michele Gore: email@example.com, Jake Main: firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOII (focus on core competencies, OECD learning principles, etc.)
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Language Arts – Reading, Matahematics / Numeracy, Science
Focus Addressed: Community-based learning, Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Inquiry-based learning, Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning, STEM / STEAM, Universal design for learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? To use robotics and other inclusive technologies to facilitate a richer inclusion for all children.
Scanning: During the scanning process it was important to have a deep conversation with the selected students on the process of this journey. We wanted to allow an open conversation about using ‘critical thinking and problem solving’ tools to provide opportunities for inclusion. The two students that were a part of the journey had many interesting opinions about the experience. Here are some quotes that I pulled from our interview with them. During my interviews, asking the four key questions to the two selected children, it was fascinating to hear their thoughts about delving into inclusion and innovation. The first question they answered, they both named teachers that promote innovation and creativity in their classrooms. We found it amazing how teachers that are open to innovation have a kind of ‘magnetic glow’ for children. Both of the children were fascinated with learning more about drones and exploring their complexities. The children reflected that there was a deep joy in learning about robots and that it was ‘fun’. They wanted to learn more about drones in the future. What I found interesting was that whenever a child explores with their own curiosities they bring up the word ‘fun’. Yes, as educators we have to place a to provide framework and tools, yet when a child explores out of their own curiosities … the ‘joyful’ sky is the limit!
Focus: We want to allow our community to think ‘outside’ the educational box of learning. A team of us looked at being able to reach our larger school community so we invented ‘Books and Bots’. This program allows for students to be able to take robots, paired with a book, home for their families to enjoy the wonders of coding, innovation and problem solving. This made everybody a ‘learner’ which made this experience not just about kids and educators, but also about the families of our community getting involved and learning. As the famous saying states, ‘You’re never too old to learn.’
We also realized that our learners became more flexible and able to take risks. That these children were growing in their critical thinking. This was amazing to be a part of throughout the year. The students grew in their independence, wanting to explore this and that. It was amazing to watch these children change within the year and be confident innovators.
Hunch: We really tried to facilitated a growth mind set throughout this process. There were some members of our community that would say that they are not ‘techie’, but I realized that the language they were speaking was creating obstacles for innovating and exploring. We tried to provide opportunities through a “Coding and Innovation Club” and “Inspire Showcases”, where we invited the Langley community to come and see, as well as play with our robots. It’s allowing those who feel that they are ‘not techie’ to see that it’s about having a growth mindset and a willingness to try and explore. Another hunch, we had was that it would be the children that would bring the conversations to the adults. This was true, children were the main ‘passionate’ instruments in bringing innovation into the classrooms and their homes. We realized our roles changed from being facilitators to being cheerleaders, which was so important. Creating an encouraging environment was vital for our project to grow and strengthen.
New Professional Learning: The new areas of learning were providing the opportunities and making it a part of our culture. When we were able to build these tools into our culture than it was just ‘normal’ to have robots in the classroom. It was a familiar tool where teachers, children and families members all had a similar language. This year, I designed an ‘easy’ sign out for the robots and the tools. In previous years, I had had a written booklet which caused some confusion but now staff are able to sign out the resources on-line which is easier and a better mode of communication. It was important to focus on learning that is motivated by and connected to opening up new experiences for learners and educators. This focus allowed us to explore other aspects of the spiral-like scanning, which contributed to a richer conversation. We wanted to see that the understanding was deeply rooted in facilitating inclusion. If these opportunities provided conversations and opportunities for students to be included then we believe that new professional learning had a occurred. We believe this year that this conversation has become rooted in our James Kennedy culture which was been beneficial for all in promoting Universal Design for Learning principles.
Taking Action: The strategies that our team pursued were to ‘tread lightly’ and to ‘speak with heart’. If we worked from those two platforms then we felt that in our conversations with kids and educators that the learning was more deeply rooted in exploring new ways because we were journeying together and there was a genuine willingness. I see it, like us opening our hands to our community. Showing our willingness to take their hand in this journey of using ADST and other technologies to provide a richer conversation about inclusion for all students. We acknowledge that it is difficult to step into new ideas and that as a team we were early ‘adopters’ and that everyone is on their own journey. There were many times were there were opportunities for feedback and conversations which I believe enriched this process even further. To have open hands and these conversations promoted a richer source of community to James Kennedy school where I believe there was a foundation of “vulnerability and building conditions of trust”. We are so grateful for this NOII experience and the opportunity for reflection.
Checking: There is so much more to do, yet we have come so far. The NOII grants for the last 3 years have built a foundation and richer opportunities for furthering our journey through this conversation. We believe that this conversation will continue, as a beautiful oak gets stronger and stronger over the years … our journey continues. The differences we made were significant and children had more opportunities to be included. There were two students with Special Needs that were in Mr. Main’s classroom who were reclusive and reluctant to converse with others. We took a risk, and purchased some Bloxels coding kits. These kids were in heaven! The conversations we were having with them was beyond what we had ever had with them before. It was so encouraging. This is just one example of these robots and tech being a ‘middle-man’ for conversation and community.
Our baseline at the beginning of this year was to see if more educators and students could open themselves up to conversations and opportunities of robots in their classroom. There has been more classes this year that have opened their doors to these inclusive tools.
Our learners have delved deeper into inquiry and innovation which is evident through their thoughtfulness in answering the questions.
Reflections/Advice: We learned that just allowing open hands to other educators and children regarding inclusive tools is a conversation starter. It seems that years ago, it was a pushing and pulling, but that is exhausting. Truly it is about open hands and saying, “I’d love to have a conversation about how robots can bring more inclusion into your world.” I plan to open my arms wider. To enrich our school culture will a safe environment to explore and innovate. I would like to be able to see our Science room filled with robots and that just like the microscope it becomes a natural part of our learning. I would like to provide more opportunities for our students with Special Needs to be leaders in the school to showcase their talents (that may not be otherwise seen) through robots and other inclusive tools.
My advice is open your hands. Just like when you are in a forest and your have bird seed. When you put your hands out … the birds will come. You just need to be peaceful and still … being frantic will not draw others. It’s about creating a beautiful culture with others who will journey with you. Find your village and others will join … I promise you.