Wonderful Wondering

WonderingAre you wondering enough?

It’s widely regarded that we all start out as wonderers, asking endless questions as soon as we have the words to do so. As we get older, and more concerned with appearing all-knowing, wondering winds down.

That’s a loss for us all. The world is made a better place thanks to wondering. The global challenges we face need exponentially more wondering, not less.

That’s why I’m so excited about how our grade 6 students are practicing their wondering skills. Their teachers have led them in creating ‘I Wonder Wikis’. The students will add to them throughout the year, documenting what they wonder about, and including the multimedia fruits of their efforts to pursue this question of interest. The wikis will be shared with their classmates and all will have the opportunity to comment and contribute (such is the wonder of wikis). Wondering turns into learning about an unlimited array of topics.

What do they wonder about? Here’s a sample of what they’ve started with:

  • How was bubble gum invented?
  • How do you help stray dogs?
  • What are the origins of Halloween?
  • How do robots work?
  • How does a computer work?
  • How was the baseball formed?
  • How does a stereo read a CD?
  • What would happen if I swam to the bottom of the ocean?
  • Why are pitbulls discriminated against in Canada?
  • How do birds fly?
  • How do clouds float?
  • Why is a cloud white?
  • What is the atmosphere in Mercury like?
  • Why do you need to cook raw meat?
  • How does wireless work?

Have no fear. Most of their day is still spent learning within the regular curriculum. However, question and be curious is a habit we’re working to establish at KCS. It’s a habit that leads to lifelong learning. And it’s a habit that may lead to questions that will transform the world for the better.

Wonderful.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.

Studying Isn’t What It Used to Be

StudyingTechnology, like all things in life, has sides that are both yin and yang. Studying for exams with my son in grade 8, I’m loving the yang side of it.

We counsel our students to study for two subjects a night over the three weeks before exams. The other night, my son chose to focus on history and math. For history, he announced with uncommon enthusiasm that he was going to use the Study Wiki that he and his classmates made. A wiki is a collaboratively-built online reference site, the most well-known of which is Wikipedia. KCS teachers are embracing the making and use of wikis as a meaningful tool for students to take notes and communicate learning. The fact that these notes are shared online raises the whole exercise of note-taking to a real-world relevance that it never had before and, with that, the quality of what they produce goes up. I, and many other parents, are familiar with student “notes” that are sparsely or imperfectly done, and of little support when studying. Studying with the wiki, my son worked with thorough definitions and concept maps, and played knowledge games that cover most of the content he needs to remember. This wiki is available 24/7, thus having the added benefit of not needing to be “brought home” and “returned to school”, demands that often sabotage many a well-meaning student.

Then we moved on to math. This year KCS introduced a new online math resource that offers many benefits. For the purpose of studying, the students were sent a collection of review questions. Each question page had a link to the online video and practice questions that the student could go back to if they needed a reminder of how to approach the problem. When my son didn’t understand a question, it was no longer my responsibility to figure it out and teach him what to do – I simply reminded him to go back to the video for guidance. When my son was done, he received instant feedback on which questions he answered correctly, and which were incorrect. Seeing the ones that were incorrect, we went back to the videos to find out where he took a wrong turn.

Studying well requires many things to fall in line:

  • having what you need, when you need it;
  • having quality notes that are easy to read and use, even enticing to use;
  • getting frequent feedback on how you are doing; and
  • having material available in multiple formats.

These are but a few details that make a significant difference. Any tool that makes more of these fall in line is a tool that is most welcome.

Studying at KCS truly isn’t what it used to be. While the ancient Asian concept of yin and yang has these two as complementary and balanced, studying with technology is firmly on the yang side of this balanced equation. And thank goodness. Exams, and the challenge in facing them, otherwise haven’t changed at all.

Good luck to all in grades 6 to 8, and happy (as-can-be) studying!

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.