Hack Your Classroom - Week Two: Getting to know your learners...hacker style


With all this talk about having growth mindset about change and hacking the classroom and curriculum it is important that we are actually 'hacking with purpose'. We need to ensure that we are innovating to improve the learning experience and not simply innovating for innovation sake. In order to do know we are doing that,  there is something we do very well - know thy learner! And I mean really KNOW THEM. Sit back right now and consider a class you teach. Reel through your class list. Do you know their PAT/AsTTle levels (irregardless if you teach them English and/or Math), their ancestry, their culture, their interests, their pass times, their learning style, favourite book, musician, 1D member? If not, why not? Can we truly personalise learning without truly knowing the learner?


So what should we know about each and every learner? Well here are few suggestions to get you started:

What do we know about each student's:

  • prior learning
  • ethnicity/culture (Ko wai? No hea? - Who are you? Where are you from? eg. hapu/iwi/country of origin)?
  • linguistic background/languages spoken?
  • interests/hobbies/community involvement?
  • aspirations/goals (both student and whanau/community)?
  • skills, knowledge (including prior cultural knowledge) and understandings?
  • expected levels of progress in your learning area

Why are these questions important?
Our two national curriculum documents The NZ Curriculum (NZC) and Te Marautanga Aotearoa place the learner at the centre of teaching and learning. In order to effectively "attend to the cultural and linguistic diversity of all students" (NZC p34), teachers need to develop a rich knowledge and understanding of who their students are, what they bring with them, and their learning strengths and needs.

Source: http://englishonline.tki.org.nz/English-Online/Student-needs/Planning-for-learning/Planning-using-inquiry/Focusing-inquiry

Now there are many dry ways we can get to know these facts. Yes some of this information will be on a SMS somewhere...but fishing through that doesn't really build a relationship does it? How else can we do it? How can we move beyond the questionnaire or letter to the teacher??

I love these #hackyrclass friendly suggestions from 21st Century Icebreakers: 10 Ways To Get To Know Your Students with Technology

  1. Have students create a Pinterest board with 10 pins that summarizes them.
  2. Ask students to create a 30 second podcast that introduces themselves. Then allow students to present them or play them on separate devices as an audio gallery.
  3. Create a classroom blog and ask each student to write a blog post introducing themselves to the rest of the classroom.
  4. Have students create a quick comic strip to describe themselves or to recreate a recent funny moment in their lives.
  5. Use PollEverywhere to ask students interesting questions and get to know them as a class, like their favorite subjects, bands or TV shows.
  6. Use GoogleForms or SurveyMonkey to survey students about their interests, academic inclinations, and background info – a 21st century alternative to the “Getting to Know You” info sheet!
  7. Have students create word clouds to describe themselves and share with the rest of the class.
  8. Have students go on a QR code scavenger hunt in teams to get to know each other and learn about your classroom rules in a fun, engaging way.
  9. Ask students to create their own Voki avatars that introduce themselves to the class. Encourage them to be creative with the backgrounds, characters and details of the avatar to reflect their own personalities and preferences.
  10. Have students create graffiti online that speaks to their interests and personalities and share with the class.

What are your ideas for getting to know your learners...hack style! Share your tweets with the hashtags #hackyrclass #knowyrlearner

Also remember to share your blog posts both on Twitter and on the Hack Your Class Google + Community as well!

If you fancy some more serious reading on this topic, I heartily recommend this piece of #hackyrclass reading extension: ASCD - Know our students as learners 

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