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These Honeycomb Kids Are Honeycomb Big

What's a Honeycomb kid? It's more than just this...

Today, some of my students from last school year took the reigns and presented at the Institute for Personalized Learning's National Convening. The focus of this presentation was sharing the elements of the honeycomb that benefitted their learning the most. In addition, they explained what these elements looked in practice. A year ago, I never imagined that a group of my former students would be presenting.  So how did we get here? Well we ...

The first step in this process was realizing how strong my students were in reflecting on their learning in our classroom.  Reading their end of unit reflections made me realize that the learners were thinking deeply about what was helping them learn, not helping them learn, and ideas they proposed for the next unit. I then decided to introduce them to the Teaching & Learning elements from the honeycomb and rate how instruction in our course met those elements. They rated my practice on each element as a strength or something I needed to address more deeply.

Near the end of the 2015-16 school year, there was an open call for presentations from the Institute. I polled my students to see if any would be willing to share the elements that helped them learn best at the convening. Once I had a healthy number of students who were interested, I wrote up the proposal. The last day of the school year, I had those willing to present simply state what strategies helped them learn best in out classroom.

At the start of this year, I took each of the student preferences and matched it up with an element of the honeycomb.  It was nice to see how easily the students' most valued elements of our learning environment matched up with one or more elements from the honeycomb model.

Students then choose which elements they wanted to share their experiences on.  Google Apps for Education made this collaboration process a breeze.  Students signed up via a Google Doc.  Then, I pushed out a copy of a simple Google Slide template for each team to build on.  It's structure was

  1. Introduction to self via personal learning preferences
  2. Honeycomb element and application
  3. What they application looked like in the classroom
  4. How it differed from practices in other classrooms
  5. How this practice benefitted their learning

 It was tough giving up control of the content of the presentation, but I knew it was in competent hands.  The week of the presentation was exam week, so students were extremely pressed for time.  They really stepped up, though.  Their insights into practices and how they affect learning continues to amaze me.  

I then organized all of these elements into a larger presentation. With the time crunch on everyone during exam week, the group never had a chance to meet as a whole until the day of the presentation at the location today. The ability to meet with individual groups kept us on track.  Also the collaborative nature of Google Slides. To be honest, I was expecting them to be good, but they were fantastic.  They were engaging with their presentation of themselves and the specific elements they were covering. It was amazing to see how well the students knew themselves as learners.  

The ultimate goals of the presentation were to

  • Show what elements of personalized learning can look like in practice
  • Show that personalizing learning doesn't have to be overwhelming
  • Allow students to communicate elements of the PL model that resonate the most with their learning 

It was my hope that the practices presented by my students were not viewed as overwhelming but manageable and part of a progression. The more elements that are incorporated, the more we can push the balance of ownership from teachers to students.

While I did set up the goals for the presentation, students were able to choose which elements they addressed.  From there, it was their voice that filled the content of the presentation. I am so proud of these former students who volunteered for this challenge.  They had a unique opportunity to have their voice heard beyond they walls of our classroom. To see that they learned more than just Physics in my classroom was powerful to see.  They learned about themselves.  Today, they showed they were experts. They blew they audience away.  The rest of the day the positive feedback on their performance was great to hear. It always seems like my best days as an educator are when I take a risk and put my students in a place where they can take a risk and share themselves with an audience. It pushes me to want to do more of this type of work with my students. 

The reflection students are capable of is amazing, we just need to allow them the space and time to do so. And once we do, we need to listen to their voices to drive our own practices.

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