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We attended the United World College South East Asia (UWCSEA) Re-Thinking Learning Conference 2018 on the 25th and 26th May 2018. It was held in the Dover campus and we attended many sessions and would highlight some of these sessions.
Melissa Daniels from High Tech High delivered a keynote on the first conference day. Her session got us to reflect on transformative moments of learning in or out of our personal learning journey. Her explanation on the importance of having a safe learning space, making connections in learning, authentic learning and having a coach or mentor was relatable to us as these have either been in practice or spoken about at Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS). Her point on the importance of having a real audience for students’ learning also gave us ideas on what we could do to incorporate this in our holiday workshops.
One of the obvious differences between High Tech High and the majority of the school systems in Singapore is that in addition to the normal way of assessing students, they also evaluate them through meaningful projects. This gives students opportunities to apply what they’ve learnt in the real world. ‘Beyond the Crossfire’ was a project that involved ninth graders in coming up with a documentary that explored the reduction of gun violence. The takeaway from this made us think about teaching at a more deeper level that would have more impact on significant learning moments for our students at DAS.
To enhance our role as educators, it was a good reminder for us to be more aware and to be more mindful to use elements that contribute to students having more significant learning moments on a daily basis. To place more emphasis on the necessity that involves a sense of purpose and how it would be relatable to our students’ lives, to be resilient in overcoming their challenges that would also have a positive shift in their mindsets, etc. Currently at DAS, we are also taking baby steps in moving away from the traditional image of classrooms by infusing technology into aspects of our lessons.
A session on digital literacy stressed the importance of students’ independence in finding information, distinguishing what is more reliable than the other and be able to apply the right information into the given task. This is especially important for our students of today where the internet is exploding with information and one needs to know how to sieve through it. The tips and strategies shared in this session also made us think if our colleagues at DAS are proficient in search skills as they prepare lesson materials.
To further add to this, one of the ways of promoting more engaging classrooms with the use of technology is to instil a sense of wonder in a topic where both educators and students acquire, analyse and apply.
At DAS, we place importance on how students arrive at the answers. When answers are derived, it can be categorised into:
- “Googleable” (students can independently find the answer),
- “Researchable” (with EdT’s guidance and other relevant sources, students would be able to find the answer with more digging of information) and lastly
- “Wonderable” (where answers are more challenging for the students to find) where applicable. Giving attention to this area would also help in the area of lesson planning considering the profile of students.
Another session was a sharing of ideas amongst school leaders, curriculum coordinators, numeracy, literacy and tech coaches. There were various discussions involving mindfulness, progressive infusion and multilingualism. We were engaged in the mentoring discussion.
Mentoring is essential at DAS where we see the importance of it in contributing to the professional growth of Educational Therapists (EdTs). Exchange of ideas included the idea of Professional Learning Visits (PLV) where teachers learn and feedback is given without being graded. It’s still in the exploratory stage. It was food for thought for us for currently, we adopt a combination of formative and summative assessments at DAS. The advantage of PLV is that the stress component of teachers would be reduced significantly. And PLV has been incorporated into the mentoring at DAS in the area of formative assessments. As to whether PLV should be strictly adopted is something that we could mull over for now.
On the whole, the conference got us to reflect at our own practices and piqued our metacognitive process, inspiring us to think how else we could apply some of these concepts back at DAS.
This article was published in FACETS Vol 3 2018
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