Thought-Full Classrooms: creating opportunities for thinking, presented by Dr. Bern Nicholls

GoodChildhood 2013_027In this workshop, Dr. Bern Nicholls PhD gives advice for educators on how to build a classroom environment that values thinking.

Classrooms need to be ‘thought-full’ in two ways: respectful of ideas and others, and by facilitating thinking.

Over the conference, presenters have talked a lot about culture and about the stories that come through our experiences and shape us as people. When communicating with young people in a classroom, we need to think about how their personal stories might shape how they think. We need to think about thinking.

Learning is a direct outcome of thinking, but sometimes we forget about the thinking part and only focus on the teaching.

Thinking isn’t communicated, it’s invisible! When you can’t read how a student is thinking, you’re making assumptions and that’s dangerous, so why not try to make that thinking visible and easier to comprehend?

You can try to make your students’ thinking visible by turning this thinking into a wider understanding. This might take some experimentation and trying different exercises, but always remember to dig deeper. Asking students questions like ‘what makes you say that?’ peels back the layers of their learning and helps you understand how they connect their personal story to the course content.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs an educator, you can think ‘what sort of thinking do I want my students to take with them for the rest of their lives?’ Making thinking visible is about engaging your students, challenging them to think in different ways and reminding them that thinking is always valued in the classroom space.

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

UN Youth Rep for Australia: Dan Ryan

Dan Ryan

Young people should be at the forefront of change.

This was the sentiment of the 2012 United Nations Youth Representative for Australia, Dan Ryan, in his keynote address Architecting new expectations for youth.

There didn’t seem to be a more appropriate person to speak at the Berry Street Childhood Institutes’s Good Childhood Conference, and Dan provided the floor with an invaluable, youth perspective during the day’s events.

The key issues Dan addressed explored the fundamental question of the conference: what does a sustainable, good childhood look like?

Dan spoke about what fantastic influences he had growing up, being raised and home-schooled through natural learning. No limitations or restrictions were placed on himself or his siblings – what subjects they learnt, what time they woke up, whether their homework got assessed or not, the jobs they could pursue, and so on.

Dan Ryan and his siblings
Dan Ryan speaking about his childhood and siblings.

Dan believes that this freedom allowed him and his siblings to make mistakes, learn from them, and develop and grow as people.

Because of natural learning and the influence of making his own decision, Dan believes he has been inspired to live a fulfilled life. He spoke a bit about how failure is a tool for reflection, that it shouldn’t be stigmatised and shamed, but welcomed as a learning curve for young people.

Speaking about his website, Dan outlined the abilities of young people to develop solutions and create change around Australia. On his website, youth can participate by:

  • Entering a solution they have seen working in their local area;
  • Browsing, discussing, rating and sharing solutions; and
  • Following in Dan’s journey as Youth Rep. with stories, surveys, photos and videos exploring issues related to youth.

Dan Ryan

Dan also touched on the conference’s contentious issue of social media, and claimed that while social media could be an invaluable, innovative tool for youth to learn about and create change, real change comes from people and communities. So long as there is a real community behind a movement, change can be achieved.

Dan’s keynote address concluded that the most important thing is including youth in the decisions that organisations make.

It’s important that we look for those moments, … look for opportunities to include youth in choices so that we can have societal change.

Post written by youth blogger from SYN Media.

Foster change by building hope

Maddie Witter“You can fail, and need to fail, in order to be a hopeful person.”

Maddie Witter gave an inspiring and motivating workshop today on building hope amongst youth in order to foster change.

The tools bestowed amongst the crowd were suitable for any person looking to increase their own hopefulness and success, but Maddie kept it aimed at young, disadvantaged and marginalised youth.

Maddie believes that in order for youth to be successful, they must achieve hope, persistence, and self-efficacy. If you can teach you these skills they can take these attributes and apply them to the rest of their lives.

“Self-efficacy is the ability to create a goal and then measure the progress of meeting that goal through reflection,” says Maddie.

Foster change by building hope

She then goes on to explain that persistence can be achieved through building stamina. This can be done through such strategies as:

  • Developing a list of things to do (not too long),
  • Predict how efficient you will be in completing a task, then measure it,
  • Control and cultivate choice in the curriculum without giving too many options,
  • Take 10 minutes twice a month to go through a calendar and see what you have achieved and still have to organise.

Maddie believes that anybody is capable of tremendous academic potential, and has experienced and developed firsthand the tools required to build hope among youth in order to foster change.

Reading Without LimitsFor more information on Maddie and her work, see her the website for her book http://reading-without-limits.com/, or follow her on Twitter @Maddie_Witter.

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

What’s a Dog Got To Do with Education? Presented by Bern Nicholls, PhD.

Dr Bern NichollsIn meditation you focus on your breathing to anchor yourself, [the students] focussed on Gus [the dog] to anchor themselves, to be calm in the classroom.

Many of the keynote speakers spoke about the benefits of forging strong relationships for children but there are other relationships that can enrich a child’s environment and childhood – like the one you have with your pets!

Bern Nicholls, PhD, presented her Masters research findings on the effect of Gus the dog’s presence in the secondary school classroom environment. As a high school teacher for many years, Bern took her Masters research as an opportunity to introduce Gus to her class and to study how Gus affected the classroom environment.

In the classroom, Gus would sit under tables, put his head on students’ shoes, sit next to particular students and, for the most part of the day, sleep. His presence was definitely felt, with students reporting that they felt:

  • More relaxed,
  • More trusting of the classroom environment,
  • A stronger connection to the class and other students,
  • More understanding and empathetic of other students,
  • It was easier to concentrate in class, and
  • Safer in the classroom.

Most noticeably, Gus gave students more confidence to speak up in class. Many students who were often shy or afraid would speak more freely if Gus was sitting at their feet.

So, what’s the explanation?

Koda Kayaking
One of the instructors in our Gippsland Wilderness Program is studying Animal Assisted Therapy, you can see his dog Koda loves the kayaking!

There’s a connection to the evolutionary history of people and dogs: they evolved with us, became our protectors and then a part of our families. Gus became this sort of canary in the classroom, wherein he had a calming effect on all the kids, and with a calmer mind, there’s more room for learning.

Bern’s research can be used to think about how teachers work with and form relationships with their students.

Bern highlighted three areas in her research where teachers could change their practice to form stronger relationships and improve their students’ learning environment:

Trust and care: acknowledging the courage it takes to teach and then acknowledging that students want teachers to care about them to build relationships with them, just as Gus did,

Relationships: understanding that children want meaningful and respectful teaching and, in turn, working to build this relationship, and

Educating with the brain in mind: remembering that stressed brains don’t learn and trying to create a relaxed environment in the classroom.

Whats a dog got to do with education

For more information on Bern’s work, see her company Learning Labyrinth.

Post by bloggers from SYN Media.

A Vision for Young Australians in the 21st Century

Jan Owen AM

 

Courage.
Imagination.
Will.
3.1 million young Australians have this.

“it is indisputable that we’re living in a world that’s changing”

 

 

CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), Jan Owens AM explains how young Australians today have much of the attitude, beliefs and tools required to thrive and excel in life and work.

However, they still require strong support from key organisations and their communities.

Drawing from her theory of the Where’s Wally Effect (or, as some media put it, the ‘mental health epidemic’) Jan raised the question of whether due to the changing world we’re losing who we are, who we’re identifying as and where we fit in society.

Imagine a world where everyone’s ‘Wally’; we’re all the same, we all blend in and we’ve lost our unique point of difference.

However, though the 21st century may be creating a more “blended in” society, studies have shown that in fact, young people now more than ever connect to their families, stay at home longer, have a closer circle of friends and live both local and global lives simultaneously.

It’s also shown that young people now have the attitude to adapt well to changing environments and that adults are projecting their own inabilities onto them.

FYA works with hundreds of thousands of children all around the world. In a movement to “create a world class outward-looking education system, one that connects young people to the real world”, Jan presented the idea to “future-proof our young people”.

Hoping to generate job creators not job seekers within our youth, Jan brought to the table the fact that young people will have 15-20 jobs in their lifetime, with 10 of the top jobs available to them today having not existed in 2004.

But it’s not only jobs that Jan wants to help encourage throughout the 21st century youth. There is also the movement to encourage the “reimagining of what volunteering looks like” among young people and organisations.

One such organisation is Young People Without Borders, a program that enables young people to volunteer just one day at a time. The motivation for this? That “over time we will see tens of thousands of young people volunteering who wouldn’t have”.

Jan Owen is “optimistic about the youth” and believes “they have the skills and attitudes to shape the places they live in and the drive to make change”.

If there is one piece of advice she’s willing to spread, it’s that she “encourages you to be optimistic too”.

You can follow Jan on twitter at @JanOwenAM or @FYA_org_au

“There is a new generation of young people in this country…young people that are leading movements for change”

By: SYN Media blogger

Introducing Maddie Witter, Speaker at The Good Childhood Conference on Foster change, building hope

Reading without limits
Reading without limits by Maddie Witter

These four strategies are:

1. Fostering hope in each young person by teaching students to build actionable pathways.
2. Developing stamina so students can persist through difficult tasks for long periods of time.
3. Determining where each student lies on their own individual developmental continuum and crafting lessons that allow all students to learn and continue on their continuum.
4. Giving students feedback daily and building in opportunities for young people to self-assess throughout a lesson.

Imagine a classroom where all students are engaged in highly rigorous and fun learning every single day. That classroom can be yours starting tomorrow.

You don’t have to be a reading specialist to pick up Maddie’s book, Reading Without Limits.

Anyone who wants to dramatically improve reading achievement will find helpful suggestions.

You might be a teacher whose students have mastered decoding, and you are ready to build their comprehension. You might be a high school science teacher whose students aren’t yet reading on level with deep critical thinking. Or you might be a parent or counselor who wants to hook an adolescent into the joy of reading.

This book is for you.

Along with hundreds of ready-to-use teaching strategies, Reading Without Limits comes with a supplemental website where teachers can download even more resources for free.

Reading Without Limits is the first book offered in the KIPP Educator Series. KIPP, or the Knowledge is Power Program, began in 1994 in the United States.

Currently, there are 125 KIPP schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia serving nearly 40,000 students climbing the mountain to and through college.

Youth participation doesn’t come with instructions

Youth participation needs to be creative, flexible & responsive.
Youth participation needs to be creative, flexible & responsive.

Let’s be honest.

In the youth sector, the education sector and the welfare sector, we are often immersed in adult conversation. Even when we consult, hold focus groups and work alongside young people, the majority of the time we are adults talking to other adults.

At Berry Street, like other organisations across the country, we are committed to raising the bar in youth participation. We believe that young people have a key role in improving the lives of Australian children in the 21st Century.

But how do we support young people to take on this role?

And how can we ensure that young people are getting their fair say about what sustains a good childhood?

In the lead up to The Good Childhood Conference, the staff at the Berry Street Childhood Institute have been working to ensure that young people get their say.

We know that we don’t have all the answers.

We know that holding a national conference that brings adults and young people together will provide many lessons in youth participation. And we know we won’t stop there.

We have been buoyed by the interest of other organisations, and the overwhelming support from individuals (young and old) wanting the opportunity to come together.

Like the many organisations that we have taken inspiration from, we look forward to sharing our experiences with you.

From the youth engagement desk,
Katrina Stone