Celebrate Learning

I don’t think we treat learning as the wonder it is enough. More often than not, in my experience, the “end” of the learning process of a specific topic or unit is marked with a test. I think this is tradition, how learning and school have been traditionally approached, but I don’t think it should be so. Learning should be celebrated, ideas should be shared, discussions should be had and we should remember that learning is a lifelong process. We can consistently improve our knowledge and skills, so to mark an end seems ridiculous to me. As if to say you’ve learned all there is to learn about this or at least all you need to know to be successful. Where is the wonder? Where is the celebration of the fantastic beauty of learning?

Ben Johnson wrote in his article, A Celebration of Learning, the realization he had about the way he taught and how he decided that rather than focusing on students mistakes and what they had yet to learn he would celebrate what they had already learned. He talks about bringing the celebration of learning into the classroom even in seemingly small ways: exit tickets, student work posted on the walls, and having students share with their peers next to them.

If you haven’t watched Rita Pierson’s TEDtalks video yet, I suggest you do. It’s only seven minutes and it will get you in a wonderful mind frame for teaching in a way that celebrates your students’ learning. One of the most powerful examples she gives is the way she marks assignments. On a test out of twenty a student answered two questions correct and eighteen incorrect. Rather than putting a -18 on that students paper, she wrote a +2 and a smiley face 🙂 She says that a -18 will suck everything out of that student, but a +2 will remind them that they didn’t get everything wrong and they’re “not all bad”. What students have learned is therefore celebrated and they can build up from their. It’s a better place to build from.

Additionally, in Leigh Weaver’s article: Learning Celebrations: Everyone benefits when students share their work with guests, Leigh gives the example of hosting open houses to give students the opportunity to celebrate and share what they’ve been learning. I like this example as well as the advice she gives to make sure the students are benefiting from the celebration. Something that encouraged my own love of learning was being able to go home and share everything I learned with  my parents. I think having class parties like this is a step in the right direction for celebrating learning.

I also think learning can be celebrated more continuously throughout the process and in many different ways with the added benefit of current technology. Students can be encouraged to blog updates about their learning, have discussions about the things they’re learning, and share things they’re proud of. Students can tweet things they’ve learned and get in touch with people who can expand their learning further. Students can use presentation tools, like Prezi,  to share and celebrate their learning with their peers (and everyone on the internet if they choose). Youtube and other video sharing platforms can be used to share a video blog or performance of what a student has learned. Students can also use technology to seek out experts in the area of study they’re learning about using many platforms including, skype and google hangouts.

The celebration of learning should be incorporated into the classroom in big and small ways, in the day to day and in larger events (such as the open house). I believe that learning can be connected to student passions and that students should be able to share what they’ve learned in their own ways. I also believe that allowing students to represent their understanding and their knowledge is more beneficial than only taking tests. Sharing student learning in these ways goes along with celebrating learning, which is something I think we should strive for. Learning is too exciting to be turned into a punishment and not to be celebrated. Technology can help students see the connections of their learning to the real world, expand their understanding, and encourage enthusiasm.

What do you think of this approach to teaching? Would you use technology to allow students to celebrate their learning? What ways could these ideas be improved?


2 thoughts on “Celebrate Learning

  1. I really enjoy this video, Paige. I watched it a few months ago and it made me so excited! Like you, I totally agree that learning can be so much fun and encouraging. Yes, it may take a little more work on the part of the teachers, but it’s far better to learn in a supportive and enjoyable environment than in one where the students dread coming to school for fear of always having to take tests. I think that too many teachers get hung up on the overwhelmingness of the curriculum load and forget that their number one job is to teach humans, not just to teach lessons. If we can look at teaching as a way to make relationships (like Ms Pierson suggested) then I think we will always be better off. There are so many ways that technology can be a part of this process too! I think that Class Dojo is a way to celebrate successes and using tools like Tellegami or Animoto or Bitstrips or iMovie or Haiku Deck give kids fun ways to express their learning. I also like sites like Padlet to post ideas and thoughts, or Popplet to work collaboratively on brainstorming new ideas. The other thing I think that teachers have to consider is how they are going to assess student learning, and if you’re going to make your learning experiences fun and engaging, then assessment tools need to be more than just a stressful test for students. I found a great blog post the other day about embedded assessment and I think it could work really well in a classroom like you are suggesting! http://www.edutopia.org/blog/classroom-game-becomes-embedded-assessment-ross-flatt
    I think that if we can stick together as educators who want to celebrate and enjoy learning that we can make it possible. I might not work every day, and there will be days that will be hard, but with a great network of fellow teachers who love learning I think that we can go far.

    • Awesome! I think you’re absolutely right, having a support network of educators will be so helpful. Thank you for your additions to the many tech tools students and we can use to express learning in more engaging and exciting ways. The embedded assessment blog post seems like a great resource for implementing the kind of learning I’ve expressed, so thanks for that too!

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