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Elementary School teachers carved out a special time for independent student inquiry to take place this year in an effort to encourage 'a need-to-know' attitude in their young learners.
Launched in August, Grade 4 and Grade 5 teachers have been giving their students one hour’s freedom to be creative using technology and crafts as part of a new initiative called iTime.
iTime (inquiry time) was introduced by Grade 4 teachers following research they conducted last year as part of their professional development. Commenting on behalf of the teachers, Ms Mindy Slaughter said, “As part of our professional development inquiry we looked into ways we could give students agency over their learning and iTime was one of those ideas.”
iTime emulates a concept started by internet giant, Google, which encourages employees to spend 20 per cent of their working week exploring projects of their own choosing. The idea was promptly adapted by the teachers to suit School life and to meet student goals, resulting in the fresh and inquisitive sessions that currently takes place every Friday afternoon. Mindy continued, “iTime creates a situation where students have a need to know. They are motivated by their own projects so they then want to learn the necessary skills and knowledge it requires to complete these projects.”
Ten months on and the Elementary School teachers report an improvement in attitudes desired in an IB Learner. These are appreciation, cooperation, commitment, creativity and enthusiasm.
In addition, Mindy said, “We also wanted to find ways we could encourage our kids to push through difficult moments and once they’ve learned to do this, they can apply it to their other classes. Through iTime, the children have quickly developed other skills too and so it’s an exercise that’s really great for children across the spectrum.”
For students, iTime is a free pass to use their imagination with the aid of technology. Ten year-old Hedvig Moller from Denmark likes the sessions because she gets to ‘create stuff’ including bunnies on TinkerCAD, simply because they’re cute. Her classmate, Oliver Pollack from the United States of America claimed iTime is “most fun because you get to try out your idea”. The idea he’s currently trying out? “Slime. All the girls are bringing in slime. It’s the next big thing!” he predicts. For nine year-old Hungarian native, Bobo Karolyi, iTime has given him a chance to learn robotics, coding and electronics. But, he revealed, it’s also given him a chance to test himself. He shared, “iTime has taught me a lot about problem solving. There are a lot of times when I get stuck yet I know I can’t ask the teachers for help straight away; I can only do that when I get really stuck. So I needed to learn where to go [in order] to solve the problem I’m having. Sometimes that’s the internet or books or just trying different things out on my own.”
Bobo added that he’s learned to step out of his comfort zone and take new risks as a result of iTime. He explained, “Sometimes I want to stay on the course that I know, but sometimes I want to try new things, which also means I’m more likely to get stuck.”
And so the individual learning journey continues...