About Thinks

Sometimes good thinks happen and sometimes bad thinks happen. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between the two.

Some thinks need immediate action and some thinks may remain as thinks forever. Thinks can be angry and heated. Thinks can be joyful. Thinks should never be cold.

These thinks are linked to many other wonderful thinks and I like to attribute these.

These thinks do not necessary reflect those thinks of my employer.

Think long, think on.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I bet you your gingerbread house resembles mine...

Neela's Gingerbread House 12-05-2009-4

If you are reading this you are probably aware that I am kicking around the idea of Minimally Invasive Education (MIE).

It is amazing how as time goes by I am learning everyday how complex the notion of MIE is. When I first started looking into I assumed it was much like older 'child centred' philosophies. I could imagine the more experienced educators around the place saying things like,
"Oh, so that's what you are calling it these days. We did that in the 1980s except then we called it ..."
And that may still be the case. However it does not stop me from being insanely fascinated by the concept of MIE.

What I have discovered is that the more I attempt to 'do' MIE the more I understand it, which is weird because that is what MIE is all about.

I have had many insights and revelations and I would like to share my most recent one.

Initially through the research of Dr Sugata Mitra, I went in thinking that MIE was about 'letting the kids go' and to a certain extent it is. But what I discovered today, is that it is not limited to being minimally invasive about the kids, it can extend well beyond that.

My kids have been working on sharing a tale from their culture. To cut a long story short they were outlining their culture to some kids in Australia and mentioned an old story that their Grandparents had passed down. When a couple of kids asked a question about the story, my kids first instinct was to find a link to the story on the Internet that they could forward to them. It then became apparent that their story was not represented on the Internet so they set out to do their own version of it.

This has taken about three weeks. We have had many other curriculum demands going on, so we have been squeezing this special learning in when we can and the kids have been contributing to their shared google doc at home.

I have been very hands off, providing only the digital equipment and having a few philosophical conversations with them about dominant cultures and whether or not it was 'okay' for them to be the first 'publishers' of their culture's legends.

Anyway, they finished and shared a pretty raw version of their story today. There is a mix of webcam, paint, sound recording and an old photo of one of their grandparents. The reason for the mix of digital media was not done on purpose but because that was what was available to them on various days.

There are themes of violence and cannibalism in this story. It's quite gory but I don't think that it is gratuitous. It's kids telling a scarey story. It's kids being kids.

This makes me realise how truly magnificent it is that our children are in a position where they can share their own stories with other kids around the globe without an adult being overly involved. Consider the dumbed-down and 'disneyfied' versions of the stories from my culture (Hansel and Gretal, Snow White and Jack and the Beanstalk). We were 'done to' with those versions, we were distracted by magical gingerbread houses while a witch was popped into an oven in the background. Even our imaginations where invaded with our childhood stories. Publishers made the decisions as to what that gingerbread house looked like. We will never be able to dream up our own versions.

This is where the deeper lever of 'minimally invasive' comes in. It's not just about minimal intervention into the way kids learn, but also minimal intervention into the content. As you can tell their story is in no way 'censored' but because they do not need to go through publishers (and that they have more options than just print) their authentic child perception of the tale is able to come through. I don't know if it's just me, but I think that is pretty exciting!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The 3 Cs, Collaboration, Culture and Critical Analysis

Last year my class experienced a taste of online collaboration with children from Geelong, Australia.

Immediately, I noticed that my children were extremely motivated by being able to see what children similar in age were capable of. Whenever they watched one of their news shows the children would use what they saw and replicate it in their own news shows. They no longer cared for, sought, or needed my opinion. They took the digital cameras outside of the classroom, they took control. Things seemed to get very serious. Suddenly our news presenters were thinking about their angles, their language, and their presentation skills. The camera people were thinking about what was in their backgrounds. I didn’t teach them this - they acquired it from observing the Geelong children.

This year their teacher Rick Kayler-Thompson and myself have continued to share the news shows and the quality of my children's oral communication continues to lift.

In addition to this, we are playing around with some written collaborative learning using shared Google Docs and WallWisher. The children in Geelong are learning about culture. My class has an extremely rich cultural mix (NZ Maori, Cook Island Maori, Tongan, Samoan, and Nuiean). We have been fairly 'hands off' and have let the children go off in a variety of directions in the shared google doc. The usual themes have emerged (food, religion, clothes, jewellery etc).

One of my students very briefly referred to a Cook Island legend. The children from Geelong asked a couple of questions about it. This, of course, made the other children in my class more interested too. The student couldn't remember all of the story, but other children from the Cook Islands could remember parts of it. They looked for it on the Internet but found nothing (with the exception of a performed dance of the legend at a polyfest festival).

This brings up an interesting point that Puti Gardiner makes (she uses TeReo Maori as an example). Is digital technology culturally neutral?

For example when her children googled Maori Technology the hits they received were of traditional fishing tools, waka, weaving, etc and there was very little information on Maori and the use of contemporary technology. After discussing this with her kids they decided to start making digital stories, films, blogging and wikiing, therefore contributing their culture and stories to the digital world. It seems that in this digital age, it is essential that a digital footprint is created so that language, stories, and culture can be sustained.

Scary questions swim around in my head. Why is it not so easy to find my student's stories on the web, when finding versions of stories such as Little Red Riding Hood is so easy? Who is responsible for rectifying this? Can I give my student's the skills so that they are able to contribute their stories and narratives while maintaining their integrity? Is this okay?

My kids talked about how their stories are shared orally to them. This is often through their Grandparents and that is how stories are passed on throughout their culture. There are, of course, variations to each story depending on whose Grandparents version we listen to. The story that was referred to, for example, had many variations within my classroom where debates raged about whether or not the main character wore the skin of a goat and so forth.

I think that the use of a shared google doc is brilliant for this phenomenon. The flexibility and collaborative nature of it allows multiple perspectives to come through. When my children come back to school with the varied versions of the same story from their Grandmas, we will be able to see these differing points of view and piece together common themes.

The children will be able to record and share their versions of the story with their Australian friends who will be able to draw their own conclusions (given that they will have observed the drafting and sharing process).

When they are eventually presented with a 'polished final draft' they will also have an awareness of what might have been 'left out'. I cant think of a better way to introduce our young children to the complex concept of dominant discourse analysis.