What good questions did you ask today?

“What good questions did you ask today?” A typical question asked of school students each day is “What did you learn today?” Students answer to this question changes as they move from Kindergarten to Year 12. As most parents know the answer tends to become “nothing”.

Students become less interested in just knowing stuff and sharing their content knowledge with their parents as they become older. As they become older they disassociate “knowing stuff” with learning, they become more interested in being able to apply their knowledge ie is they become more interested in doing.  We are moving from content based learning to helping students to be better able to effectively use that information. Being able to remember or recall information is the bottom rung of Bloom’s taxonomy. Whereas; synthesis and creating is at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy. It is important to move students to the upper end of Bloom’s taxonomy, to help them learn those higher order thinking skills. To become more creative learn, to be able ask questions and know how to seek answers to those questions. This lead to far deeper knowledge and understanding: and consequently engagement in learning. Encouraging questions and assisting developing skills to seek answers to those questions increases student engagement in learning.

Developing a core of curiosity and question leads to our future innovators and entrepreneurs: those people who create the jobs of the future in our community. What can we do to nurture curiosity, question, discovery and exploration? Maybe a good place to start is by asking “What good questions did you ask today?”

What is a good question? If you can type the question into a search engine such as Google and the answer pops up then we could have asked a better question? A good question can be one that makes you think, challenges beliefs, makes you look at the familiar in a different way. A good question can lead to other questions, it can direct your learning, increase your engagement in a topic and arouse curiosity.

Asking good questions also an important skill everyone involved in education: teachers and education. It is particularly important skill for school leaders. School leaders need to question educational current practice, both within and outside the school, they need to question all aspects of school life and culture – to ensure that the students within their school are receiving the best possible education. These questions and answers are important because they directly impact on the education of our students.

Possibly the most important question to ask and answer for any change is the “why” question. When leading change it is always important to start with the heart.  

 So what good questions did you ask today

IPad project at WCS

It is not about the technology. It is about how the learning technology readily allows and the avenues technology opens up for students to demonstrate their learning. iPads readily allow all our learners to create, collaborate and communicate. Last year Woodenbong Central School purchased and trialled a class set of over 20 iPads with our primary students. The project is co-ordinated and lead by our Kindergarten teacher.

In 2011 Kindergarten students used iPads to augment their Accelerated Literacy lessons. They used iPad apps to make movies and ebooks: allowing students to collaboratively design and produce work and have themselves heard or seen in the finished product. Videos, photos and voiceovers have provided the students with greater ownership and sense of pride in their projects than any other throughout the year.

The iPad project has also provided students with an opportunity to demonstrate and describe their learning, as the embedded videos in a previous post.

This technology has also assisted the students to become independent learners and problems solvers. As the teachers says:

It was rare for anyone iPad lesson to happen in the Kindergarten class with only me being the teacher. Through investigating and exploring the students learnt a lot about the apps and were able to show me new things. The most impressive part of the program for me has been watching and listening to the discussions from young minds as they work together to solve problems. To many people they are simply playing but as we listen to their language it is clear that they are learning new skills from every activity.

In 2012 Woodenbong Central School will continue with the iPad trial. One area we will explore is music and the possibility of developing a GarageBand Band.

This project has also highlighted the role of social media in 21st Century learning. Educational blogs and being able to put questions on Twitter have readily resolved issues as they arose. Personal Learning Networks on social media are an important asset for teaching today.

It is not about the technology it is about good pedagogy. iPads are engaging but without an educational purpose and being seen as value to the students they would readily lose their novelty value.

What should a principal ask at the beginning of the school year?

As we return from our summer holidays to begin the new school years, teachers might ask a crucial question: “What is the learning journey I want to take my students on this year?”

To answer this question they will:

  • identify the big learning goals and outcomes
  • identify milestones
  • find out where their students are currently at as learners
  • determine how they will move each student from where they currently are to where they need to be.

Principals should ask themselves a similar questions. I will concentrate on one namely: “What learning journey do I want to take the teachers at our school on this year?”. (Why focus on this question? – Teachers have a big effect on their students’ learning (Hattie). )

To answer this question each principal will need to:

  • identify the big learning goals and outcomes
  • identify milestones
  • find out where their teachers are currently at

It could be argued that the most important work of a school principal is to create learning opportunities that allow each teacher to develop the skills, knowledge and understanding that will enable each of them to become the teacher they need to be to meet the learning needs of each student in their class/classes.

What is the learning journey your school will be on this year?