Social Media for Praxis

I’ve accompanied this post with an image of Paulo Freire because he was one of the first theorists that really rocked my boat in university. To this day, I find myself thinking of his ideas every day in the classroom, as well as in my reflections at home. One concept of his that meanders in my head at all times is praxis. There are so many different definitions and explanations for it, but I always look at it like this:

Powerful pedagogy comes from constantly intertwining theory with practice.

If life were a science-fiction movie, and I could have a coffee with Freire, I would love to talk to him about the possibilities of social media marrying praxis in schools.

Thanks …

… to everyone who checks this blog out for amusement, insight, or information. I’m very grateful that people are interested in what I may have to say about schools and learning. I want to extend a special shout-out to a former student of mine, Christopher, who mysteriously seems to be interested in what his boring old teacher has to say.

An Idea for Phys-Ed

I love phys-ed.

I love the enthusiasm (most) children exhibit in finally having the shackles of desks, chairs, pencils, and paper abandoned for movement and sweating. I revel in the way the gym makes you feel comfortable to shout to the high heavens and escape the silence we too often demand in our classrooms. Most of all, I admire the way we accept very progressive ideas about assessment, evaluation, and achievement; no other subject has been doing observational assessment and instant feedback as a rule rather than a novelty.

I hate phys-ed. class.

I hate the seemingly immovable paradigm of ‘gym’ class. I crouch over when I think about the subtle ways we marginalize physical education in the big picture. I dislike the omnipresent gender issues that creep up when boys play with girls. Finally, I dislike the way ‘sports’ in gym class alienates many kids and causes them to literally and figuratively drop-out of gym.

As a (small ‘g’) gym teacher, I always try my best to make our physical education program as active, relevant, engaging, and equitable as possible. I’m really the furthest thing you can get to an impassioned expert in this area (and most days I would be embarrassed about the mistakes I make as a teacher in that gym), but I try my best. Here’s an idea I came up with that has been a rousing success.

We call it The Obstacle Course. In partners, students design a course that is:

  • fun
  • tests a variety of fine and gross motor movement skills
  • includes everyone
  • has everyone moving at all times

It has been so wonderful to see everyone step up and take leadership in my classes. No stickers or raffle tickets needed. These kids are trying their best to make a course that impresses the most important evaluators: their peers. In terms of assessment and feedback, it has been phenomenal. Think about it:

  1. I design a game
  2. I talk to all of you about it
  3. You tell me how I think it could be improved
  4. We play the game
  5. As we play, I notice things that work, and things that should be changed
  6. We make changes as we play
  7. You learn from my game and make yours better

The play and outright exercise has been fantastic, but it has been perhaps more special to see the collaboration and constant feedback in the gym.

If you’re stuck for an idea, try this one out. Here is the organizer I gave kids in the planning stages. Let me know how it goes.

The Simple Power of Photos and Video

Remember analogue photos and video? Taking care not to waste film, no one leaving comments on your photo of the day, inflicting pain on friends and family with living room slideshows instead of tormenting the world with them on Youtube?

I’m still amazed by this digital imaging thing. I can’t believe the ease with which we capture moments in our life. I love the fact that ‘photographer’ is now a relatively subjective title, and that ‘movie making’ can be done on a handheld device (not to mention what it means to be a news reporter). People talk about learning styles and multiple intelligences, but I don’t think it takes much rigour to come to the conclusion that virtually all of the kids walking through the halls of our schools can be called visual learners.

A digital camera is not only one of the most underrated #edtech tools around, but is also a perfect illustration of where we want all educational technology to be: normalized, mundane, at our fingertips.

I try and leverage this in the classroom at all times. I have witnessed the power of digital photos and video for reflection and metacognition in learning. Here’s an example of a simple activity I do regularly with my class:

  1. Take photos and video during a unit of learning.
  2. Do a quick edit of the clips and view them together.
  3. While viewing, record a voiceover of discussion reflecting on the learning. What went as planned? What surprised us? What should we do differently next time? What was your favourite part?

Some of the benefits for learning are as follows:

  • It legitimizes the learning and conversations that occur inside the classroom.
  • It reminds students of the importance of collaborative learning, knowledge building, and timely feedback.
  • It values oral language.
  • It lauds the learning process as much as its product.
  • It motivates and engages students to ‘perform’ their learning.
  • It is a great assessment archive.
  • It makes students accountable for class talk and conduct towards one another.
  • It makes the students the stars of the show. Not the teacher.

This process is something I learned while witnessing my own children’s fascination with our family’s iMovie and iPhoto library. Below is a short clip of my son Jackson’s first time riding a two-wheeler. As many parents know, teaching a young child to ride a bike can beĀ laboriousĀ and demanding. Depending on the child, keeping their self-efficacy up is perhaps the most important part of the process. We were amazed to see Jack’s fascination with seeing his success. The effect it had on his intrinsic motivation was palpable. If you were to come over to my house tomorrow, you would like see a little boy run up to you and say, “Would you like to see my biking movie?”

Bruce Lee

I’m fascinated by martial arts. I love the lessons on discipline, practice, and perseverance. I dig the concept of belt attainment, not as a carrot, but as a marker of development. I adore how you can only become exceptional if you have an awesome team to practice and bond with, and then how you hold your opponent to the highest esteem. I see how the assessment relationship of mentor and student involves constant conversational feedback of progress. I am impressed by the concept of learning to battle but never really fighting. I’ve never broken a piece of wood with my mean chop, but, in many ways, I like to approach my vocation of teaching and learning like Bruce Lee.

And now, for your enjoyment, my favourite fight scene of all time: Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris from Return/Way of the Dragon.