Cast Away

I feel that some of my students struggle to break out of the shallow waters of learning, out into the deep! They might be afraid of feeling ashamed if they can’t complete a task, fear of being judged for example, and therefore stay in the safe waters, where they can still touch the ground with their feet, without putting their heads below the water. However, it is up to us to create a safe learning environment, where our students are not afraid to explore the uncharted ocean of deep learning. It is up to us to teach our kids to get back up again after failure, and keep trying until they succeed!

I akin this process to the movie Cast Away, when Tom Hank’s character fails over and over again to build a raft robust enough to make it past the breaking waves on the island on which he finds himself marooned. However, in the end, he succeeds, because he never gives up! And we will never give up on our students.

Harness the Educational Power of Technology

One of the most common ways to not harness both technology and powerful teaching strategies is in the area of collaboration. In these examples, it is common to see students excel at linking up the content and the technology, but they don’t make the all too important connection beyond it i.e. into deeper learning or how to link it pedagogically (TPACK). However, we can indeed harness the power of technology, as a servant, to accelerate learning through collaboration and knowledge creation.


Pug photo by yang miao on Unsplash
Robot photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

An example of how I used technology to enhance collaboration and knowledge creation, happened but three days ago. I was teaching a media lesson and we had to introduce over 15 cinematic techniques. We needed to do this in order to prepare our students with a working knowledge of key terms that they could use, both theoretically and practically, throughout the unit. The end goal is for our students to create a learning resource for a Grade 8 class,  who will be studying something similar. We wanted to give our students the autonomy (from A Rich Seam) to choose what this resource, movie, would look like. Here is a breakdown of the task (linked to Paulo Freire’s Five Ideas for Dialogical Learning and 6 Powerful Strategies For Deeper Learning In Your Classroom):

  1. We front-loaded the terms, with the help of some visual aids.
  2. We then gave the students the task to create a 2-minute educational video. We told them that the target audience would be Grade 8 students, and how this might affect the movie they were making; encourage critical thinking.
  3. We let the students choose which groups they would be in, to encourage working outside of the classroom; having hope and faith in them to work together. I believe that this demonstrates humility as we, the teachers, are putting ourselves out there by trusting our students to lead their own learning.
  4. They then went out to shoot examples of different techniques, using smartphones and gimbals. They had the freedom to move around the school and take the shots and/or continue working over the weekend.
  5. After they have collected all of the photo and video material, they will move onto the post-production phase and start editing their movies.
  6. Once complete, they will upload the movies to FlipGrid at which point they will get feedback from their peers, Grade 9s, and Grade 8 students. *I will extend an invitation to the other schools we are working to encourage a global collaboration, and reach beyond our walls.
  7. They will use this feedback to further enhance (critical thinking) their movies to ensure that they have adequately covered each of the cinematic techniques
  8. Once the final product is made, each group will upload to MS Stream and this will be used as a teaching resource when the time comes. Moreover, this acts to empower our students to not just become a community of learners but also a community of teachers.

Classroom Courage

The materials regarding courage remind me of a scene from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, when Gandalf and the gang are getting chased down by a Balrog, and Gandalf, fearing that they will not escape this beast, turns to face it and say “You shall not pass”. He slams down his staff on the bridge, which breaks with the Balrog in it, sending it to the abyss. Unfortunately, for Gandalf, the Balrog’s fiery whip catches him and drags him along for the ride. I love this scene as it demonstrates courage. Now I don’t have any magical items or mythical beasts in my teaching toolkit, but I do encourage my students to take risks.

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

At this minute this is in the form of flipped learning, using… Flipgrid; I don’t think a post will go by without me mentioning this app. Students videoing themselves in this learning environment really does take them out of their comfort zones, and I acknowledge it regularly with them. And, as mentioned in an earlier post, my co-teaching partner and I have also uploaded videos of ourselves carrying out similar learning tasks to show our own vulnerability. 

In her video on daring classrooms, Brene Brown uses the analogy of vulnerability and turtles without shells. I love this analogy, as it really helps to visualize what our learners are going through on a daily basis. I have seen shame prop up from time to time, in the form of peer judging, for example, finding amusement in someone else’s work or performance –  this could very easily be traumatic for a student and could push them back from taking risks. Regardless of academic ability or social acceptance, it is up to teachers to model risk-taking and to empower our students to truly believe in themselves.

Content Creators

I think that the current topic of creating a media resource for the community ideally serves the interests of my students. All of my students have their own favourite YouTubers, and they consume content on a daily basis, from a multitude of topics. So the pedagogical question is “Why be a content consumer when you can become a content creator?”

I think by allowing our students to create their own content, albeit for education purpose, will enable them to see how deliberate the process must be. It will highlight the need to work collaboratively and interdependently in order to be efficient in what you do. It will encourage communication skills, through the resolution of disputes and on how to move forward – together.  In fact, the reason why I created my YouTube channel, podcast, and website was to light the way for my students.

Having said the above, I would like to provide the critical thinking aspects by more scaffolding on when a student is giving feedback to the creator. Questions they could ask might be “what is the purpose of the video” or “can you name 3 examples of cinematic techniques”. I would also like to do more collaborative learning structures on how best to use the feedback in order to improve the product.