Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Surfing the Wave

I wrote the following for an online PD class I am taking. The prompt was "unintentional learning." I thought it might be worth sharing here.

I am in a constant process of learning and changing. Most of my learning can be attributed to my online personal learning network. As I learn something new I bring it back to the classroom to my students. Many times this results in me having to tell them something that contradicts something I told them a week ago.

I feel that I am modeling for them the important processes I go through as a learner, and I believe that is more important than doing things a certain way. I remind students and myself that "learning is messy." I even hung a "Learning is Messy" sign on the wall, right across from my desk. When things sometimes start to feel out of control, it helps to remind myself that learning is not always neat, orderly and quiet.

As I find value in new processes, such as blogging, I feel compelled to share these with my students. I am sharing things almost as quickly as I am learning them myself. Activities like blogging are not fixed. There is hardly a right or wrong answer and it is difficult to anticipate students' needs, interests or possible problems that may arise.

I've come up with the analogy of surfing to describe some of my work with students this year. This is where I came up with the surfing analogy. I began a class blog with my 4th graders this year as part of a global blog pals communication project that was started by Kim Cofino, a teacher at the International School of Bangkok, Thailand. So many different things happened once we started blogging. There were times when the fourth graders would leave the lab after an active session of blogging activity and me running like crazy around the room, and as soon as they were gone I would sit down at my computer to try to learn more so that I could continue to help them do what they wanted to do.

It was exciting and motivating, but at times it felt out of control. I realized that student-directed learning can feel out of control, much like surfing. Sometimes you have the wave and you're up on top. Other times the wave is going too fast and you're just hoping to make it without crashing. And sometimes, you go down, under the water, and have to swim to the surface to catch your breath and start again. But you always go again, because it's exciting and worthwhile.

Image credit: Michael Dawes flickr photostream


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Andrea!

You've splashed up a good metaphor for keeping your head above water in learning and avoiding wipe-out. I identify with all that you refer to here. It's a good metaphor.

Sometimes, though, it's fun to do some underwater exploration when the occasion arises - a bit of scuba diving - and just let the rest wash over.

Catchya later
from Middle-earth

Marie Rush said...

I enjoyed the ride--and continue to be in the changing waters. Thank you for your insight! I'd love your thoughts here, especially since you are local!