“Canada is a country whose main exports are hockey players and cold fronts”. – Pierre Trudeau
Clearly, Mr. Trudeau has never spent a day of PD with Darren Kuropatwa.
Darren’s theme for our PD today was centered around a very powerful quote from Mary Catherine Bateson, “the human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.” To illustrate this point, Darren (a math teacher by trait) told a story about Pythagoras to show how you can get a kid’s attention to make them want to learn about math. The fact he threw in some bathroom humor in the story had me hooked immediately (shocking, I know).
Darren stressed that “if we can attach ideas to a powerful narrative, we can find ways to make content more ‘sticky’”. This teaching model would be the catalyst for the rest of our PD for the day. Darren really focused on having teachers think about how to teach their curriculum by telling stories and using metaphors. As a warmup activity, Darren taught a little photo lesson before turning us loose to take our own photos. He focused on the 5 rules of taking good pictures; Rule of 3rds, Fill the Frame, Framing, Lines, & Forced Perspective. Our assignment was to take a picture of geometrical shapes in the world around us (using great photo techniques).
These are two photos that I took. The first picture is an example of using Fill The Frame and Rule of 3rds to take a picture of some spheres I found in the bottom of the urinal at TMC. The second picture is an example of using Framing to take a picture of rectangles that were part of the skylight at TMC. As someone who does not have a “math brain” this kind of activity would have made math much more relative to my world. I struggled in math because I never saw the real world value. This example really brought it home for someone like me…and I imagine it would for most of our students.
As someone who is becoming a building leader for the first time, Darren’s next activity was a huge ah ha moment for me. He talked about having people express their ideas in a mix of images and words, rather than just text. He gave everyone in the room the starting prompt of “Learning is…” We each were challenged to create a single Keynote slide that finished that sentence. On our Keynote slide, we had to find an image using pretty common photo-sharing websites such as Compfight. We also had to put a small amount of text that finished that sentence. Darren stressed the importance of the picture on the slide being a metaphor for the text we chose. We then submitted our slides to Darren using DropItToMe. Darren compiled the slides into a larger Keynote that we shared with the class. When our slide popped up on the screen, we had exactly 20 seconds (Darren timed the slides) to “own it”; meaning we needed to explain aloud why we chose that picture, that metaphor, and why we believed that statement. Talk about a powerful presentation! (which you can see by clicking on the link below) I’ve already thought about how I can transform this type of activity for the teachers in my building this year during our JEPD time.
After lunch, Darren focused on ways to get students to share their work. Wikis, blogs, etc take kids work and put it out for all to see. You may be asking, why is it important for students’ work to be shared for everyone to see? Darren’s answer was one of the best I’ve ever heard. He said, simply, “when kids do work for a teacher is has to be good enough. When they do work for the world to see, it has to be good.” Let that quote marinate around in your brain if you begin to think about how using technology doesn’t enhance student achievement.
Darren shared some great examples from his own students’ work in his classes to give everyone in the room a glimpse into some possibilities into how powerful this type of learning can be. We looked at 4 lenses of how we teach : Learner-Centered, Knowledge-Centered, Assessment-Centered, Community-Centered. Each of these four lenses can be great vehicles for learning on their own, but they become even more powerful when we blend them together in our classrooms to make student learning amplify (to steal a term from Sylvia’s session).
At the end of the day, Darren gave everyone time to actually jump in and start a project they’ve been dreaming of doing. Since I’m no longer a classroom teacher, I spent my time working with other teachers in the room to help them develop their ideas. I was able to see so many amazing projects that our SJSD teachers were working on. The conversations about teaching, learning, and technology made me proud of my colleagues and almost made me wish I could go back to school and be a student in those classes. Well, if it wasn’t for the acne, puberty, and living with my parents again.