During a recent cross-curricular planning meeting discussing an upcoming unit on the impact of technology on our lives, we began to discuss the concept of censorship with regards to access to information. We questioned our school's policy on internet controls and the filters in place to keep our students "safe". In order to push the depth of our students' thinking we came up with a provocatively debatable question.
Should access to information be controlled?
As Banned Books Week comes to a close, I thought this was quite a powerful and pertinent question; books, once considered one of the highest forms of technology, continue to be censored and banned. But, why?
During our school's past two Teacher Talks, where teachers present workshops on areas of interest, our Deputy Head of School and Junior School Teacher Librarian both alluded to the concept of censorship. Our teacher-librarian shared the amazing wealth of information, access to books and technology, and how easily accessible they all are just from the JS Library Blog.
This past Thursday, our Deputy Head of School spoke about the Self-system Theory, which emphasizes how motivation for students relies on three basic psychological needs—competence, autonomy, and relatedness.
Sitting in the library listening to the teacher talk and looking around the library, I saw how well our library fosters student autonomy. When you walk in, you always see such wonderful displays of books. Recently, I walked in and saw this unassuming collection of books. Within this collection of books, one has been on the American Library Association Top 10 Most Challenged Books across the United States since its publication in 2005. Can you guess which one?
Yup, it’s And, Tango Makes Three. This adorable true story of two male penguins at the Bronx Zoo who father a baby penguin named Tango has been banned not only in countless schools and counties, but in other countries, as well.
But, at Munich International School, And, Tango Makes Three sits front and center asking students to check it out.
Censorship of books is not new and won’t stop in the foreseeable future, but to what degree do we unknowingly ban books for our students? When we’re in the library with our students, do we subconsciously or consciously ban books our students want to read because the books are too hard or too easy or they’ve read those books before or they’re only reading fiction books?
I hope not at all. Libraries should be sanctuaries of freedom, openness, expression, and comfort. If you walk a little further into our library, you’ll see The Rights of the Reader Poster by Daniel Pennac on which he states that every reader has certain inalienable rights.
I’ve been wondering, how do we support these rights? What do these look like in the Junior School? How do we provide choice? How do we foster student autonomy? How often do we allow students to stop reading books? How do we foster a love of reading?
These questions are supremely important because as Daniel Pennac writes, “What we need to understand is that books weren’t written so that young people could write essays [or answer comprehension questions] about them, but so that they could read them if they really wanted to.”
Let’s make sure we’re helping them really want to read.
And, on a lighter note, if you question the technological impact of books, watch an oldie but a goodie:
Since the beginning of school, I have been a part of many discussions across grade levels about the value and purpose of homework. Using our homework policy as a guide, teams have developed homework that helps consolidate learning, is rooted in inquiry, allows for a degree of choice, and integrates IT in transforming how homework is communicated and completed.
At the end of last school year, I posted about Dan Meyer’s work on how to engage students in inquiry-based mathematics through open-ended problem solving. This past week, the Grade 2 team put this into practice while inquiring into how they can organise numbers by using a big bag of Gummi Bears packets. Following this lesson, they created a video of the lesson and posted it on their blogs to support parents in understanding what is going on in the classroom; allow students to articulate their learning; and create engaging ways to extend learning beyond the classroom.
This led one student bringing in several boxes of Hubba Bubba for the class to explore just as they had with Gummi Bears. Below shows the progression of the lesson they developed using Dan Meyer’s Three Acts of a Mathematical Story:
Act 1: Engage All and Lower Barriers to Entry
They presented the students with a visual that pushed students to question, wonder, and had very few words. It was something that connected to the students and would engage them in mathematical thinking that they might not have thought of before.
Students in Grade 2 were asked to pose questions about this box of Hubba Bubba. Rather than just posing the question yourself, students are able to formulate their own thinking, which also greatly increases engagement.
The teachers then asked students to share their questions and then focused on the question that will help support the standards they are focusing on as a class. “Great. Love these questions. I hope we get to all of them. Here’s one I’ll need your help with first: How many pieces are in the box? Now estimate and give an answer that is too low and an answer that is too high." This allows all students to focus on developing their estimation skills and gives access to all students.
ACT 2: Determine and Overcome Obstacles
Students began to figure out what they need to know and solve the problem. “What information would be useful to know here?" After students have listed all the information they need in order to solve the problem, they document their exploration to answer them.
"How big is a piece of gum?"
"How many pieces are in a pack?"
"How many packs are in the box?"
"How can we easily organize these to count?"
"How else can we group these?"
Students then took time to organise their mathematical thinking on paper.
ACT 3: Resolve Conflict and Extend
The students then were shown the original box, again and discussed and reflected on how they solved the problem. Whose estimates were the closest? How did they figure out their estimation? How did students solve the problem? Are there any other questions that weren't answered?
"Yes, you can each have a pack of gum." :-)
Creativity Takes Time brings to life the impact time has on one’s creativity. It posits creativity is the result of freedom, playfulness, and fun. This video although only two minutes long implores us to find ways to increase the amount of time students are engaged in creative activities. This allows allows students to explore what Sir Ken Robinson defines as the essence of creativity, “The process of having original ideas that have value.” However, in many schools, time constraints and pressure are constantly put onto student activities. In study upon study, increasing time pressure greatly inhibits the ability students have to be creative and only allows for a narrow range of output often resulting in children producing the same work.
The video brings up some important questions about the learning activities we create for our students.