May 28, 2019
This was an experience that I’ll never forget. It made my educator heart smile, and it wasn’t about me at all. Connecting like this can be a game changer.
Recently, I presented #Hashtag180 to my district’s Elementary Science Specialist Professional Learning Team (PLT). There were so many things I loved about this experience. Here are my top three:
Our district elementary science department‘s senior administrator and coordinating teacher do a lot to serve 114 schools (as of 2018-2019). For this particular meeting, they invited two teachers and a digital learning coordinator to present their passions and ideas for enhancing science instruction. One of those teachers was me, and I was truly grateful, considering it an honor to have this opportunity.
While the professional learning puzzle can take on several different sizes, shapes, formats, and functions, teachers learning from each other is a crucial piece. I enjoyed learning from a science teacher in a similar role, for example, because she shared ideas she’s implementing right now that I’ve never known or tried. That’s valuable.
I always feel a certain camaraderie or loyalty, perhaps, when I’m learning from someone who’s currently doing what I’m doing. Your professional, relational capacity may be deeper or different just for sharing similar paths. The armor comes off when fear of risk-taking and asking potentially unintelligent questions in front of your peers is on a level playing field.
Presenting empowers teachers to hone their craft. It’s not just about knowing your content really well. It’s even more about communicating and delivering your message in a way that’s effective and engaging for the audience. It’s about creating the environment, means, and infrastructure to experience meaningful learning.
Learning By Reflecting on Active Experiences
While it’s apparent to “allow” kids to do more than sit in desks and rows and memorize information to properly regurgitate on a test later, it sometimes feels like an after-thought: “Oh yeah, maybe adults need to have meaningful learning experiences, too?”
Doing teaching well is hard work. Doing presenting well is hard work. And if you truly want your students–or your audience–to feel your message or embrace the learning, your time together has to mean something. Three days, four months, and five years from now, will they know, care, or be able to recall your time together?
One of the biggest challenges in education today is creating or facilitating learning experiences that are meaningful, memorable, relevant, and fun–while still learning the standards in the curriculum.
The reason why learning by doing, or really, learning by reflecing on our own active experiences is so powerful is because when learners do something or create something, they actively live the experience. Their brains archive the message, recall key words and ideas, and light up when learning new content. They construct a unique memory that they’ll forever associate with the (potentially-uninviting) content. More importantly, they’ll be able to distinctly remember, apply, and transfer their memories to new learning opportunities in the future as a result of personalized ownership. That’s valuable.
It’s great when educators share ideas. After all, the quality of our students’ learning is at stake. But what if we moved beyond the well-intended, hallway conversations? What if we could be more specific and intentional in communicating learning expectations and outcomes?
Here, the actual “lesson” went well. Many oxbow lakes formed and the learners were able to communicate the why behind the fourth grade North Carolina Science Essential Standard 4.E.2.3, how fast and slow processes change earth’s surfaces.
But that’s not really what this was all about.
What I really liked were the informal conversations of teachers sharing the many different ways they teach and learn the exact, same standard. You can hear some of these face-to-face conversations in the tweeted videos below. Together, they compared and contrasted independent variables, such as: the number of cups of water to add, how steep or gradual to make the slope, what kind of sand to use, how many meanders to carve, and how to use colorful sand to better highlight erosion. The collective heard the individual’s insight and perspective. That’s valuable.
They also compared and shared management strategies, such as: how to transition this lesson between classes, how to best-use campus spaces, how to modify challenges, how to schedule and integrate with other classes and concepts, and how to use and reuse consumable resources.
But there’s a heart-breaking, super-sad reality, here. While I respect educators and I value their opinions and professional judgment, I’ll never get to visit all 114 elementary science classrooms in my district.
How, then, can we possibly share lesson ideas without leaving our own campus?
What I really loved was how these educator also took images and videos of their learning experiences and tweeted them with #sci4E23 (many also tagged #hashtag180–the name for the process of tweeting one standards-based resource every day of the school year). By doing this, they:
- Create and contribute to an archive, specified by standard.
- Can twitter-search: “@yourhandle #sciencestandard” to find a tweet to use as an artifact for previewing or reviewing a lesson, or even to reference while lesson planning in PLT meetings.
- Can see how other teachers in the archive are teaching and learning the exact, same standard.
- Visibly share and celebrate their learning with their community–and beyond.
Intentional sharing like this matters because it can directly enhance student learning. How can we make these kinds of connections more frequently in education today?
I'm reflecting on my #Hashtag180 presentation to my district's Elem Science Specialist Team. Can't wait to meander thru the details. Blog forthcoming. TY for this opportunity! When we intentionally share ideas like this, we leverage efficiency to make learning experiences better. pic.twitter.com/jqV0rjCVIr
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) May 19, 2019
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) May 8, 2019
— WCPSS Elem Science (@WCPSSElemScie) May 8, 2019
— WCPSS Elem Science (@WCPSSElemScie) May 8, 2019
— Emily Hardee (@NCSTEMgirl) May 8, 2019
— Amanda Lockhart (@Mrs_Lockhart1) May 8, 2019
— JTOLO (@JTOLO4) May 8, 2019
— Krista Brinchek (@Brinchekscience) May 8, 2019
— MaryLu (@MLRing100) May 8, 2019
— Jill McGowan (@JMcGowanSci) May 8, 2019
I would like to personally thank each of you! @Brinchekscience @KyleHamstra @twhanley You are so knowledgable, dynamic, & out of this world! 🌎 Thank you for your time, talent, & willingness to share with us today! YOU made it a great day of learning for us all! #TeachersTeaching https://t.co/HR3p4AHtoB
— Jennifer Fine (@JenniferFine5) May 8, 2019
Do you #hashtagwithpurpose? After twitter-searching "@kylehamstra #sci4E23 oxbow," I was able to use this tweet from two years ago to preview our #ddestem #oxbowlakechallenge today. #Hashtag180 #SwimFwd #nced #ArchiveShareTell https://t.co/OciewF7h0h
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) May 25, 2018
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) September 13, 2017
1-Teachers Demonstrate Leadership, 2-Teachers Establish a Respectful Environment for a Diverse Population of Students, 3-Teachers Know the Content They Teach, 4-Teachers Facilitate Learning for Their Students, 5-Teachers Reflect on Their Practice, 6-Teachers Contribute to the Academic Success of Students