“Split personality” photos on the iPad

At the moment my class is exploring how humans use clothing to express their ideas and beliefs.

To tune into the unit we had a ‘free choice’ fashion day where the children could choose their own outfit to express their personalities.

I did an initial fashion shoot with the children where I encouraged them to pose in a way that showed off an aspect of their personality. I was sure to keep the children on the lefthand side of the photo.


The next day, we repeated the process on the right hand side of the frame. This time, the children looked at their initial photo and tried to think of a contrasting pose in their school uniform.


The children then inserted the two images into keynote on the iPad. Cropping one of the images and using the instant Alpha tool tool to remove any changes in lighting. They then did a quick screenshot of

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They then did a quick screenshot of the end results.


Which show some interesting contrasts between the two sides of the children’s personality.


Some things to be mindful of to create a clean finish

  • A clean background – we used our school’s film studio but a green/blue screen on clean wall will work just as well
  • Contrasting colours – between the subject and the background
  • Keep your camera in the same place through using a tripod
  • Get the tallest kid in your class to be the person to frame the shots
  • Keep the lighting consistent to avoid unnecessary shadows
  • Small brush strokes on instant alpha work best

It’s amazing how a change in clothes really can bring out a big difference in kids’ personalities.


Does summative assessment drive Units of Inquiry?

During a planning meeting for every Unit of Inquiry,  there’s a question that’s always pops up

“What are we going to do for the summative task?”

The minute this question is asked, I often find my mind thinking more about what the kids are going to do to ‘show what they know’ then the how they are going to develop their understanding.

It’s like the summative assessment task is the monster that ate inquiry.


It can be easy to blame this state of affairs on the nature of summative assessment. It’s a final, set in stone, and we’ve got to have one because it’s in there in the PYP planner.

Yet summative assessment has purpose:

  • To show growth during the unit for teachers, children and parents
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of the teaching in the unit
  • To communicate reliably a child’s level of understanding of a concept

Which leads me to wonder – what actions am I taking (or not taking) as a teacher that feeds the summative assessment monster?

Planning the task too soon – If we’re serious about inquiry, then we need to spend time gauging the children’s own understanding and their interests before thinking about how the children will demonstrate a growth in their understanding.

Not using formative data- Often summative tasks are drawn up without any reference by children and teachers to the learning and checks for understanding that are regularly happening in classrooms.

Trying to assess too much – in planning to assess all five elements of the PYP in one task, there’s a tendency to plan more elaborate tasks that end up not assessing much at all.

A focus on doing – ‘Finishing the poster/presentation/writing/movie’ becomes the destination of the unit, rather than a tool for measuring growth of understanding during the unit.

One size fits all task– Often summative tasks ends up with everyone ‘doing’ the same thing. I’ll never forget taking a quick glance at a child’s poster and thinking he had a limited understanding.  As I listened to his Doodlecast, he showed so much more.

Assessing the wrong thing – a presentation is going to demonstrate a child’s ability to present not their understanding of push and pull factors of migration.  A written task, shows off their writing capability not their understanding of how energy is transformed and transferred.

Some things I need to mindful of

Document, document, document – if children and teachers are looking for shifts in understanding, then there should be a comparison from the beginning to the end.

Use the documentation – The different between a check for understanding and activity comes down to how the data is used. The difference between a pretty wall display and a performance of understanding comes down to how the data is used. 

Understanding might be shown in different ways – the kid playing with the science equipment might actually be showing off an understanding of scientific process – meanwhile the poster might be showing off procedural writing.

Simplify the task  in the current unit of inquiry into how humans use fashion to express their beliefs – it was easy to dream up a task where kids made elaborate wearable art and have a fashion show.  Yet the better task would be for the children to contrast their decision making of their ‘free choice’ fashion day at the start of the task with their decision making at their mufti day at the end of the unit.

Change the task to fit the learning, not the learning to fit the task – the task at the end of the unit might look very different from the one you had in mind at the beginning.


Links to be reading

Links that caught me on eye on the interweb this week.

Why Understanding These Four Types of Mistakes Can Help Us Learn

Does Design Thinking Work For Students?

Why I Am Not a Maker

Automation Is Eating Jobs, But These Skills Will Always Be Valued In the Workplace

Here’s What Thanksgiving Dinner Would Look Like If Plated by Picasso, Pollock, and Other Famous Artists

Some Vitamin D for The Future of Education

Making space for innovation…

Teaching kids about democracy

My ballot paper for the New Zealand flag referendum came through this week.

Choosing a national flag isn’t something I feel particularly passionate about.

Teaching kids how to exercise democratic rights?

That’s something I feel very passionate about.


So I bought in my ballot for my class to look at and to help me decide how to vote.

The kids watched a few news items about the referendum, looked at the current New Zealand flag, the alternatives and then voted using the same system of voting that will govern the referendum back in New Zealand.


A couple of takeaways:

The kids have very definite preferences and although none are from New Zealand (and only one or two have visited) the made strong connections to black and white being colours that represented New Zealand.

Seeing countries make decisions is something important for kids in the international context who are removed from decision making process by both distance and age.

How might local  education systems encourage children to have more of a say in decision making? The select committee process and local government  are always crying out for public input. Instead of the good old ‘write a letter to the Prime Minster’ teachers should be on the look out to link agencies who want to consult with the community with the children in their classroom. Rich learning is possible on both sides over a longer timeframe.


The power of visualising writing

Draftback is a highly useful chrome extension.

Writing is a secret process. The audience can’t see how a writer writes, they just see finished product.

Draftback turns all the edits of a google doc into a movie. Turning the video on led to interesting discoveries about the writing process.

Lots of edits, deletions are planning. However the kids can ‘see’ the point where a writer goes from planing to drafting as the inputs move from staccato inputs to more flowing verse.

A number of my writers are still ‘stop and start’ writers.  They immediately saw the power of getting ideas out rather than trying to get everything right first time.

The service also useful to look at who is actually going back and editing their writing as again you can ‘see’ a child editing as they come to the end of their writing.

It will be interesting to see how the children respond to this new piece of data.