Shifting from DIY to DIT in my room

This was a half written post that has been sitting on my dashboard for a few months now.  Today I was looking through the Education Council’s RTC self assessment tool when I came across this question : What does effective learning look like in your classroom?

I’d like to think that words like messy, complex and collaborative would begin to describe how this looks visually to a fly on the wall in the room.  Below was the post that had been left as a sign post of a few months ago and a train of thought that has continued (and will continue) to marinate.

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One of the things I have been contemplating over the past few weeks is how the mechanics of chaos theory (in relation to self-organisation) plays out in the classroom, or more to the point, how it can be used to fostered student-led learning by increasing agency.

Last night through a discussion around student agency and how this plays out in my classroom I felt some connection to research I conducted as part of an exploration into urban planning and the movements of people through a constructed space – which at the time I was using within a fine arts context – I started thinking about how it applies in a maker space.

This year I made the decision to go full force into Maker-centric practice (posts about this here and here) to foster experimentation, creativity and innovation.  A major part of this approach is facilitating student-led projects, and while this is nothing new and plenty of teachers are successfully integrating this approach with the use of 20% time/genius hour/adventure learning, my key focus has been on ensuring the projects are both hands on AND heads on.  I’m facilitating this across 80 students simultaneously while they’re on rotation through my classroom, a different class each day of the week for 8 weeks, as part of Year 8 Technology.

One of the things that has happened is a visible shift from a do-it-yourself to a do-it-together mood in the classroom.  Each student is undertaking a completely different self selected project and utilising the design process to create an individual  solution. While students are focused on their own creation the effect, because no one is sure how to make their ‘thing’, means that there isn’t one right answer in the room or person to emulate and therefore students begin to openly discuss their fails/frustrations/next steps creating some amazing learning conversations and students asking each other for constant feedback.

So now I am at the end of the Year 8 cycles and already half way through my Year 7 programs.  On reflection this type of self directed maker approach was ambitious, I don’t have the luxury of weeks to get to know my learners before embarking on this type of adventure with them, I’m learning about them and with them through the journey.  It’s not smooth – for them or for me! and I’m flying by the seat of my pants constantly.  But thats what makes is an epic experience and also what I think effective learning for all looks like.

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