Technology as Accelerator #immooc

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I love the buzz in the classroom when student are engaged to create something to share their learning; perhaps an Animoto video with captions, a comic strip, or Google Slides. When students get stuck, they call out, “Does anyone know….” and the expert in that medium jumps up to help. They become experts because they played with it; they used it and tried different aspects of it – fonts, inserts, color, picture cropping, etc. Sometimes the request by their peer is something new, and they figure out how together, and share it with others when needed.

Or sometimes, partners will share their idea for explaining their content on a Google Slide, and their partner suggests, “That’s too much content for a slide; how about an infographic? Do you see your lists; they are in categories – that’s your info. What image would explain this list…” — they discuss about the content and how to present it.

When we teach something, be it technology or content, we learn it better ourselves.  Whether we are teachers or students, teaching to others deepens our own understanding. How do we break down the silos of classrooms and build up the communities of practice? Perhaps teachers could “learn twice.”

How can teachers “learn twice?”  

One way is to share one’s learning with others. Take time in staff meetings to share a strategy — what it is and why you chose it. Better yet, keep a blog and reflect on your classroom strategies, share it with your peers, tweet it out. Get feedback, and keep learning. By writing a reflection, chances are you’ll fine-tune the ideas for the next time while providing something that someone else may need to know. Think of when you learned from someone else — imagine that someone else had blogged about it; their voice would have been heard by not just you, but by many. Every one has a story from which others can learn. Want help? Just ask.

Our desire as educators [administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals] to become “distinguished” will be enhanced by  “learning twice.”  By reflecting and sharing, we further our own understandings. George Couros, in the Innovators Mindset, reminds us of this importance of reflective sharing to an audience:

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Why blog?

It lets us experiment with technology and learn its benefits.It gives us a place to record our work, able to review when needed, and write another post about the next page in the journey as more understanding is achieved. It deepens our thinking as we consider the “other” audience beyond our building colleagues.

In addition, it puts us in the shoes of a learner once more. And that is key to improving and innovating in schools. Every thing we do is to improve the learning of students, yet if we continue with what is comfortable and traditional, we neglect the needed opportunities for the future of our students created by the technology students have in their pockets.

Focusing on the learner, not just the learning, shifts the focus to a larger moral imperative to embrace the opportunities to educate and empower the students in our schools and classrooms in powerful ways.

George Couros, Innovator’s Mindset LOC 1926

How do we build on what we do in powerful ways?

Building on what is already done in the classroom, teachers can harness the power within our pockets and with the tools in the classroom for more powerful learning.  Educators today must learn the tools that provide students with unlimited possibilities and opportunities for deeper learning. Blog to learn technology, and blog to reflect on the ways that technology empowers the learners in your care.

Learners are the driver; technology is the accelerator.

George Couros, Innovator’s Mindset LOC 1926

How does technology accelerate learning for the teacher?

If teachers blog their reflections and the classroom learning, teachers “learn twice.” If they begin blogging, they become users of technology, adding in, and hopefully creating pictures, infographics, videos, and hyperlinks, just as their students are. Here, technology accelerates the relevance of teachers to their students as they understand the communicative, creative, and reflective nature of a connected world.

Why learn technology?

Students today enjoy the instant connectedness of online communication, yet they often are not well versed in more sophisticated possibilities nor the importance of their digital footprint. Teachers implementing technology can guide students in these possibilities and with continuous conversation in digital citizenship. Students aren’t enamored with simply using technology, they want to create with technology. So, more importantly, teachers implementing technology can better the learning experience, which is the best and most innovative reason for learning technology.

Building complex learning experiences, where students are routinely thinking at high levels, interacting with their peers, and receiving careful guidance and support from their teachers is what grounds authentic engagement.

LaForgia, Jamie. DEMYSTIFYING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT, Discovery Education

However, we don’t want just engagement — keeping kids on task, we want deep learning.

Digital learning tools like Kahoot! and Socrative engage students because they’re fun and interactive. However, it’s clear, that these practices do not encourage the deep teaching and learning we want to see in classrooms. It’s our responsibility to help teachers move beyond superficial engagement and support them in creating cognitively engaging environments for all students.

LaForgia, Jamie. DEMYSTIFYING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT, Discovery Education

Technology empowers learners to clarify their own understanding, to develop their ideas through conversation with others, and to act on their ideas through their choices in who and what to share. Innovating — changing to make something better — with technology focuses on learning targets, provides a vehicle for practicing real world processes and creating real solutions for all students, and it offers a continuous feedback loop for formative assessment.

How could technology accelerate learning for students?

Take Student Talk as an example. A big push in many classrooms today is to move from lecture and teacher talk to more engagement and student talk. If the teacher is talking, the students are passive. If the students are talking, they connect with the learning. In fact, student talk is a powerful formative assessment.

Why is Student Talk important?

…skillful teachers make use of dialogic exchanges with students to both monitor understanding and initiate instructional moves to engage students in deeper explorations of content. P 51

Ford-Connors, Robertson, and Paratore | Classroom Talk as (In)Formative AssessmentVoices from the Middle, Volume 23 Number 3, March 2016

Educational research has shown over and over how important social interaction is to learning.

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Student talk is learning, and it provides the best vehicle for assessing student understanding of what is taught and providing interventions for misinformation or needed skills.

In fact, it is the assessment that accompanies instruction that offers the most trustworthy information about what students know and can do; and within the instructional cycle of teaching and learning that structures the school day, talk creates the currency through which knowledge is exchanged. P 56

Through dynamic and interactive teacher-student talk, routine exchanges become a valuable source of information to strengthen learning and form the heart of the teaching and learning cycle. P 56

Ford-Connors, Robertson, and Paratore | Classroom Talk as (In)Formative AssessmentVoices from the Middle, Volume 23 Number 3, March 2016

So, yes, students could work in groups and talk about the issue and then share out in class for a class discussion. They could take notes on paper and share those under the document camera. Teachers then note and provide feedback on student responses during the discussion.

By using anecdotal records to monitor students’ oral and written interactions with content, Ms. Jenner can readily see who needs additional support and what concepts or ideas require further exploration. P 55

The knowledge gained through students’ participation in dialogic exchanges with their teachers provides a view of students’ evolving understandings and acquisition of content, which, in turn, influences teachers’ instructional decisions and next steps. Assessment becomes “in-formative” when the teacher turns the observations and insights gathered during these interactions into more focused teaching actions and responses that address students’ immediate learning needs. P 56

Ford-Connors, Robertson, and Paratore | Classroom Talk as (In)Formative AssessmentVoices from the Middle, Volume 23 Number 3, March 2016

However, how many students in that situation are always engaged? And to be truly effective, keeping the conversation flowing without teachers taking anecdotal notes during the discussion is important for deeper learning.

Is there a way to gather information on student understandings, confusions, academic vocabulary, and misinformation in a way that includes more students in the conversation for a more thorough assessment of strengths and needs during “student talk?”

How does technology accelerate Student Talk?

This is where technology becomes the accelerator; it augments the standard conversation and paper/pencil responses, often redefining the learning in ways that could not occur without technology. [See SAMR model within pedagogy for more information on augmentation and redefinition].

At the core of daily teaching is the ability to check for understanding in such a way that teachers learn how to help students. Fostering oral language and using questioning techniques aid this kind of informed check-in (Fisher & Frey, 2007).

The evidence on using student talk as a mechanism for learning is compelling; in classrooms with higher rates and levels of student talk, more students excel academically (Stichter, Stormont, & Lewis, 2009).

Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey. Feed Up, Back, Forward, ASCD November 2009 | Volume 67 | Number 3 Multiple Measures Pages 20-25

By using technology that allows all students to participate and discuss based on their ideas, all students grow and learn, and teachers have a digital record to review for next steps after already offering feedback during the writing and participatory conversations.

Through careful responses, they [teachers] provide additional information and/or feedback about students’ ideas and performance that can strengthen students’ understanding of content and further their knowledge of learning strategies within the context of the learning event. The assessment that occurs in these dialogic exchanges becomes formative because “the evidence is actually used to adapt the teaching work to meet the learning needs” Page 52

Ford-Connors, Robertson, and Paratore | Classroom Talk as (In)Formative AssessmentVoices from the Middle, Volume 23 Number 3, March 2016

To augment student talk, use technology to engage all students to empower them to better use academic vocabulary and consider and analyze concepts for deeper learning. In fact, through the use of technology to gather “student talk” from all students, students practice the best strategy for learning and remembering: retrieval.

Better than re-reading or note-taking, retrieval provides the connections needed by the brain to deepen memory and understanding. Retrieval means to pull out of memory what is known and what was studied, and reprocess it in one’s own words.

By engaging every student in retrieval practice, every student reaps its benefits for long-term learning

Pooja K. Agarwal, Ph.D. Henry L. Roediger, III, Ph.D. Mark A. McDaniel, Ph.D. Kathleen B. McDermott, Ph.D. (2013) How to Use Retrieval Practice to Improve Learning. Washington University in St. Louis

As students explain themselves on a focused question or statement, all students write from what they know, pulling in their background knowledge and adapting that to what they have learned in the lesson, reading, video, image, etc. When discussing with peers, they consider additional information and solidify the connections to build better knowledge.

By engaging in retrieval practice, students are able to evaluate what they know and what they don’t know, and then make better study decisions. Improved metacognition also benefits teachers: by seeing what students know and don’t know, teachers can adjust lesson plans to ensure that all students are on the same page.

Pooja K. Agarwal, Ph.D. Henry L. Roediger, III, Ph.D. Mark A. McDaniel, Ph.D. Kathleen B. McDermott, Ph.D. (2013) How to Use Retrieval Practice to Improve Learning. Washington University in St. Louis

Throughout this process using technology to engage more students, the teacher walks around and participates in discussions and thinking. With the information projected on a screen and in a laptop/tablet in her hands, the teacher is always aware of group work and thinking, and is more able to understand the thinking of most students. Pause a group or class as needed to answer questions most students have. With Google Classroom, students can easily share the link to their document or resource with the teacher who can share on screen. Debrief with the whole class by asking students to share what they are doing and thinking as far as the process and the content. Debriefing and clarifying with feedback is key to adapting and scaffolding the ideas so all student have the background knowledge and confidence to participate more fully.

An important component of metacognition is feedback, or providing students information about whether they got something correct or incorrect. Without feedback, students won’t know how they performed. Thus, feedback should always be provided to students after retrieval practice.

Pooja K. Agarwal, Ph.D. Henry L. Roediger, III, Ph.D. Mark A. McDaniel, Ph.D. Kathleen B. McDermott, Ph.D. (2013) How to Use Retrieval Practice to Improve Learning. Washington University in St. Louis

Because all students are adding ideas, receiving feedback, and clarifying their understanding, students are motivated and engaged as active participants in the topic under consideration, thinking and choosing of their learning, listening to others in the class conversation so they may extend their own ideas. In class conversations, students choose their part to discuss and clarify. Students are empowered, not just compliant.

The compliant, dutiful learner is easy to manage, does what’s expected, and participates when there’s little risk of being wrong.

Engaged learners often pursue their own train of thought about the topic under study, regardless of the task at hand.

If we want to grow capacity in our students; unearth student talents, dreams, and aspirations; and instill perseverance through a focus on doing hard work, learning from mistakes, and revising one’s work, we need to design classroom practices around securing real engagement.

Jackson, Robyn, and Allison Zmuda. “Four (Secret) Keys to Student Engagement.” Educational Leadership 72.1 (2014): 18-24.

To augment and redefine student talk, teachers implement technology that:

  • Follows research on pedagogy and learning
  • Focuses on learning targets
  • Provides a vehicle for all students to participate
    • Engaged in process and content
    • Empowered with own contributions
      • Shares concepts
      • Acknowledges new information
      • Revises own ideas with peer and teacher contributions
  • Enforces opportunities for retrieval through writing and talking
  • Offers feedback
    • for process and content done well
    • and to guide with correct processing and content information

What technology could accelerate Student Talk?

Here are five scenarios using Google Apps for Education with this process of independent, partner/team/group, and whole class debriefing.

1 Assessing Background Knowledge / Building Vocabulary

Provide a focus statement on the topic in an announcement in Google Classroom to be responded in comments by each student. A focus statement is one that presents a situation on the topic being studied and which is open-ended for discussion [Example: “Thousands of Native American children were taken from their families and sent to boarding schools to ‘Learn the ways of the white man.’ Today, Native Americans live in two worlds, the world of their tribe and the world of mainstream America.” ] After responding individually, students then partner up and together respond to the individual ideas in more comments that may:

  • Ask questions,
  • Ask for elaboration, etc.
  • Bring up vocabulary
  • Present basic knowledge of content

Students think about the topic and discuss what is known to build a framework for background knowledge and vocabulary.  As a final activity to move forward, share out in another announcement/question, a shared spreadsheet or document with “anyone can edit” [Wonder and Vocabulary or document] for students to wonder their questions and suggest vocabulary. After discussion, share as view only as a resource and further discussion as a class and begin reading resources for the project. Or more vocabulary can be added by students during readings, if the document remains shared to edit.

Remember, do not make a copy for all students, just share the one document. Use “revision history” if needed if work is deleted by mistake. This takes practice, but is easily mastered; students find this easier than adults.

2 During Reading / Developing Understanding and Vocabulary

Based on the previous activity, or starting from a reading section based on a focus statement, provide a forum for students to share their own ideas from the reading using a Student Discussion Focus “anyone can edit” spreadsheet or document. Provide the link through Google classroom or teacher slides/website.

Directions for Spreadsheet Version:

First students add their name in a row in column A, then write their own “most important idea” in column B. Next they write what surprised them from the reading in column C.

Partners or teams can now form to read all the information by their peers in the first section, recording their names a cell in a row of column D of the template. They discuss what was important and surprising, and then write any further questions they asked about the topic and what they answered in column E.

Next, each partner/team writes in column F their own focus statements based on the ideas they discussed and wrote about in the previous column.

Students now duplicate the “Duplicate This Sheet 1.” They rename the sheet with their name. Then they copy at least four of the focus statements other teams have suggested. Students then choose whether they agree/disagree with the statements and explain why.

The teacher can then make a copy of the template spreadsheet and link to the original work of the first day set to “view only.” Then share that fresh document with students for the next reading with “anyone can edit.”Students start the day in teams, discussing their ideas each team member rationalized in the original sheet through each one’s personalized sheet. If needed, reopen it for students to revise. [You could make a copy to save to compare; that would be easier than going through revision history for all student responses]. Then they repeat the process from the day before with today’s reading.

If kept open, at any time students can add vocabulary words on the vocabulary section: the word, why it’s important.  At any time and for any word, students can add a sentence that the word would be used as an explanation of the topic.  A column also provides a space for the word’s use in other situations.

3 Gathering Questions / Search Terms

Through Google Classroom or a link on a website or class slides viewable by students, share the link to a “Share Out” spreadsheet  shared as “anyone with the link can edit” with these directions [in green on worksheet]. The purpose of this discussion is to discover evidence already known that interests individuals and teams to finalize their own questions and possible search terms for their own research.

Choose your row. Answer the questions in each column:
1. What idea from your peers [or the reading, video, etc.] was most important to you and why?
2. What surprised you?
3. What questions would you ask to clarify the focus statement?

Next, ask students to choose the questions that most interest them as they work with a partner or trios. Ask them to copy/paste them into a cell in the blue column. [debrief]

Ask students to sign up for teams and and then choose their team’s questions by copying them into the yellow columns. [debrief]

Ask partners/teams to consider in the pink column what “key search words” would best help them find answers to their questions. [debrief] Provide feedback and details on how to search if students don’t have that skill yet.

Students are now ready to begin research on the part of the topic of interest to them.  Revise the questions/purpose according to your needs.

4 Right Question Institute: QFT

Digging deeper, the Question Formulation Technique is a process created by the Right Question Institute. Students respond to a focus statement to ask their own questions and begin their own research.  Here’s a modification from my class: QRT Focus; it can be used prior to reading, after reading, or after the teacher’s initial reading aloud of an article for background knowledge. It can be used for the student’s own team or individual focus statement for continued research.

5 On the Spot Share Out

At any time during a lesson, when the teacher wants to gather input from students to see what is understood so far and to discuss responses to clarify, use the Share Out template [spreadsheet or document] Students choose a spot, type their name, and type their response. The documents can be easily cleared for the next class and revision history will bring back the version for each class if needed.

Note: Primary students in Google documents can use “voice-typing” to input their text. Just go to Tools–> Voice-typing.

How do these “learn twice” and empower students?

Every time students are composing from their own ideas based on their conversations and lessons/readings/viewings, they are using their own words to reprocess the information and make connections. As they share with others, they teach them; as they listen to others, they add and change their own ideas again. As students form their own focus statements and questions to learn a part that interests them which they will share again with peers and hopefully publish for others in the world, they become engaged in the learning and empowered to discover their own understanding; they begin to own their learning with the agency to succeed.

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Using technology to better the learning strategy and pedagogy drives me to continuously learn more engaging and empowering tools. I must be relevant to my students to guide them into their future.

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By reflecting here, I learn twice: why do I do what I do in my classroom with these tools? I’ve clarified for myself here, and shared it with others who can build upon it. It’s up to all of us to learn from these opportunities through technologies and to share the what and how so all teachers can be dynamic, distinguished, relevant educators for our students.

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This means we must all be learners, engaging with information, communicating our understanding, collaborating with others, discovering our passions, and creating solutions to better the world.

I leave you with this moral imperative and the words of George Couros in Innovator’s Mindset, Chapter 9 for #immooc, and I hope you blog your strategies and  your templates and suggestions for enhancing student talk with technology to empower learners to build understanding and empower teachers to guide that understanding.

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Images created in Notegraphy by Sheri Edwards based on research notes

Resources:

George Couros. The Innovator’s Mindset. Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. Dave Burgess Consulting 2015 Kindle Edition.

Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey. Feed Up, Back, Forward, ASCD November 2009 | Volume 67 | Number 3 Multiple Measures Pages 20-25

Ford-Connors, Robertson, and Paratore | Classroom Talk as (In)Formative AssessmentVoices from the Middle, Volume 23 Number 3, March 2016

Jackson, Robyn, and Allison Zmuda. “Four (Secret) Keys to Student Engagement.” Educational Leadership 72.1 (2014): 18-24.

LaForgia, Jamie. DEMYSTIFYING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT, Discovery Education

Pooja K. Agarwal, Ph.D. Henry L. Roediger, III, Ph.D. Mark A. McDaniel, Ph.D. Kathleen B. McDermott, Ph.D. (2013) How to Use Retrieval Practice to Improve Learning. Washington University in St. Louis

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Leading with Strengths #immooc

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How do you find the balance between “mentoring” and “micro-managing”

to ensure people feel supported and comfortable taking risks?

[Question, Chapter 8, Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros]

Leaders empower their organization’s members; they do not dictate to or manage them. How do leaders empower their people? With a shared vision, a leader finds within each member a strength which promotes that vision. A leader lets the person know, and encourages that person in that area, building on that talent. That first step to knowing one’s team members is the first step towards building the trust that allows each member to speak up, knowing their leader supports their work.

Teachers will grow professionally when their administrators take a personal interest in their careers. When teachers feel cared for, just like students, it goes a long way toward creating a great school culture. 

Carolyn Jensen, principal for Parkland School Division

Chapter 8, Innovator’s Mindset LOC 1846 if 3535

In many schools both students and teachers find themselves in a data swamp where the focus on remediation, interventions, and weaknesses under the guise of “school improvement” mean only negative conversations, expectations, and program implementations to improve text scores. Any recognition of what teachers have done well is undermined by mandates and requirements and meetings that tear at their professionalism. And leaders find themselves stuck in the muck of those mandates and struggle to clear the path for a focus on students as whole persons, not failures.

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People who do have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general.” Tim Rath

Clearly we need to make sure our educators and students have ample opportunity to explore and practice in areas which they thrive. George Couros

Chapter 8, Innovator’s Mindset LOC 1714 of 3535.

So, What about mentoring members for improvement?  Think about this from Tom Rath and George Couros:

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If we want our team members to be actively engaged rather than disengaged and compliant, we, as peers, and leaders must focus on strengths.  But how does that help us lead to mentoring?

Great leaders practice balancing trust and autonomy while providing strong mentorship…pushing others’ thinking and abilities by asking questions and challenging perceptions without micro-managing.

George Couros,Chapter 8, Innovator’s Mindset LOC 1740 of 3535

Chapter eight provided a great example of how to push thinking. Mandates are often categories of requirements, so why not form teams around those requirements — let members choose according to their interests. Remind them of their strengths, and give each team autonomy as they apply each one’s strengths to work together from their professional knowledge to innovate the solutions that would best fit the students’ strengths as well.  What would happen?

While we supported and learned from one another, we also pushed each other to be better. The teachers and staff started to see each other as experts and valued their contribution and expertise.

Each individual is recognized for his or her own unique qualities and how those strengths support the overall vision of learning for our school

George Couros,Chapter 8, Innovator’s Mindset LOC 1870 of 3535 

Grow the solutions locally. Build that community of professionals. Within that community, members see each other’s strengths, and merge their unique ideas into a focused solution based on that school’s students’ needs. Only then, when all members feel supported, does trust and collaboration move the organization forward. Without the input from professionals themselves, the culture is built only on compliance, not engagement, not empowerment, and teachers do not see or feel their value. With professionals who believe in themselves, are supported for their strengths, and participate with those strengths towards the school vision, then a culture of learning forms, and teachers and students begin to ask, “What else could I do to support our vision?” And that’s where teachers begin to mentor each other.

Learning is messy, and we have to be comfortable with risk, failure, growth, and revision.

George Couros,Chapter 8, Innovator’s Mindset LOC 1796 of 3535 

What is the balance? Find and trust in the strengths of the people in your organization; bring the ideas from those strengths into the process of deciding solutions to issues. Model risk-taking with one’s own strengths and begin the journey of trust-building so that the members begin to question how to improve themselves.

Key to this issue of strengths-based leadership is taking the time to talk with your people, to never stop encouraging, recognizing, and supporting their leadership to make the school great for students. It’s specific, it’s modeling the expectation of celebration, it’s providing that celebration individually and for teams. It’s not a reward or announcement: it’s recognition and letting them know the value of their work to the school. The emphasis is on the doing and succeeding in small steps, and that their work and ideas make it happen and let it continue. It’s an ongoing conversation of the collaboration and commitment that teachers accept to get our job done.

Two questions suggested for this journey:

  1. Describe your dream position next year, what would it be? George Couros
  2. Where do you see your career in the next three to five years? Carolyn Jensen

Now, how do the answers help build the organization by letting the members shine through those answers?

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The Innovator’s Mindset . Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. Dave Burgess Consulting 2015.

Tom Rath, Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow (New York: Gallup Press, 2008).

As a final note: Take this to the student level. Read Debbie Donsky’s The Truth of Who We Are — Let’s change the focus to strengths and talents and passions rather then remediation of weaknesses.

Perhaps I is an acceptable way to WE #immooc

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Have you ever received pushback when sharing, “I did…”  It’s common. Eyes rolling. Arms folding. It’s a problem.

In conversation about this with others, it was easy to accept the ideas they suggested to not use the word “I.” Those sharing the solution used the word “I.” They used the word “I” because it’s their way to solve the problem of pushback and that’s how the issue needed to be framed and could be framed in our trusted conversations. They found a problem, and they solved it, and they shared it, using “I.”

To dig into this idea further, perhaps in some schools, the trust among teachers is too low and the willingness to share to further improve student learning is also not developed.

Teachers are professionals, yet coaches and others continuously, not purposefully, intrude on that professionalism.

The sad thing is, that we want people to share, so to not be able to use the word “I” to put oneself out there, take a risk, and share “your” classroom strategies, without “eye-rolling” and pushback. — that is a problem.

So, yes, a strategy suggested is to use the word “we,” as in the above paragraph.. Asking inviting questions [ “Has anyone tried…”], another suggestion, also works.

Still, people need to feel safe to share; teachers need to share their ideas and experiences so the school knows, teams know, and peers know the ins and outs of what instruction and learning is occurring.

So, what else could be done so everyone is actively listening and willing to share?

How can this negative mindset be flipped for active, interested engagement by all staff?

This is a problem for many innovative leaders.

One strategy making the rounds again is establishing “norms” of behavior everyone will agree to, such as:

  • Honest and forthcoming with communication
  • Speak up and ask clarifying questions.
  • Respect others’ ideas positively; listen and engage respectfully.
  • Be interested
  • Be professional, on time, prepared.

However norms like this can also receive pushback since norms– well, don’t they seem obvious?

Perhaps a reminder of the school mission and purpose statement at the beginning of the sharing meeting would be helpful. Again, this keeps the vision on “ours” and “we” in mind: our goals are the same; we can learn together.

Perhaps the sharing could be framed as a possibility with the listeners sharing afterwards what could work in their classrooms, so that everyone is using the “I” word.

Perhaps sharing the Two Rules of Improv used in Pixar as explained by Randy Nelson for Edutopia would help develop a more accepting mindset (video at end of post).

The two rules are:

1. Accept all offers
2. Make your partner look good.

How could “the offer,” the sharing, be more acceptable?

Share reflectively. Reflection includes what one would do next time to improve. As Randy Nelson says, it’s “error recovery, not failure avoidance.” Frame the sharing as a problem solved. People share “I tried this…, and next time I would…” which shows a willingness to recover, improve, and master.

How does the listener make their partner, the sharer, look good?



Listeners are interested when they know there’s a dilemma, and so accept the offer. And listeners must not judge or make suggestions for the sharer; instead they accept the share as a starting point and build or adapt a possible version for their own work. According to Randy Nelson, this is collaboration: amplification of ideas. “Possible” means they don’t have to actually do it, but they are interested and have given the person sharing an acknowledgement. This is where technology helps; perhaps open a Padlet for sharing these possible amplifications. Again, this is a mindset shift: be interested in what others have to offer, not just share what is interesting, and collaborate: each listener accepts an offer of ideas and amplifies a small idea which opens up possibilities for everyone.

And sharing of something actually done shows a “proof of a portfolio, rather than the promise of a resume,” as Randy Nelson says. These conversations framed as collaborative amplification to build ideas for everyone could build trust, gather ideas for everyone to improve, gather input for portfolios, and perhaps become an entry point for blogging to share further. The word “I” shows risk, reflection, problem-solving, and trust, whether as original sharer or as amplifier.

Somehow, sharing with an “I” needs to be acceptable. Reviewing vision statements, using “we,” asking “I wonder if..” or other questions, establishing norms, and framing conversations as collaborative amplification could help develop trust and focus. Still, sharing needs to be acceptable.

What other ways could the mindset of “I” to build “we” be developed into acceptability?

How about amplifying the idea with yours in this Padlet or in the comments below?

Agency #immooc

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What is best for the learner?

Whether student or teacher, what is best for each as learner is that which builds the capacity to learn and invent on their own with the freedom to act to forge their futures and make the world better because of it. We need to build the capacity of knowledge to empower learners with the confidence that they can invent their world.

To be truly empowered, people need both ownership and autonomy.

George Couros, Innovator’s Mindset

How do we frame our work together as educators and with students, all learners, so that we own what we do, with autonomy in our journeys? How do we grow agency in our teachers and students?

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Build Trust and Relationships

First step: slide into the path of our students or another teacher to understand each other, to know where we’re from. Build time to listen. Listen. Trust in their choices. Creating an environment of trust warms the willingness to engage; it empowers people with their own agency to make a difference. It’s ripples radiate throughout the community: trust is the sunshine that warms the soul. It builds confidence to risk, to know failure will not be met in a negative way, but as a process to learn, and so builds resilience.

As leaders in education, our job is not to control those whom we serve but to unleash their talent.

George Couros, Innovator’s Mindset

Teachers are prepared with professional knowledge; trust them to do so.

Students are prepared with curiosity; trust them to use it.

Disrupt the Routine

Next step: Disrupt the usual. Share leadership: gather solutions and insights from staff, or as teachers, from students. Expect discord in the dialogue:

Innovation often comes from conflict and disagreement, not in an adversarial way but in a way that promotes divergent thinking…to actually create a better idea– perhaps one that merges multiple, shared ideas.

George Couros, Innovator’s Mindset

Step Out of The Way

Third step: Once the idea that voices are not only heard, but also become a contribution to solutions, then the willingness to participate actively increases. Whether in improving school programs as teachers or developing pathways to learning projects as students, once the doing has been their choice with their voice, the foundation of agency grows.

Teachers own and offer their ideas, collaborating with others to improve student learning. Students own their learning, thinking as authors, mathematicians, historians, scientists, musicians, artists, engineers, leaders, etc. Yes, both teachers and students become leaders: organizers, designers, collaborators, being flexible and team players. They see themselves as creators rather than consumers, contributors rather than recipients.

Celebrate the Culture

Fourth Step: Reflect on the growth. Review for improvement. Once the community of learners, educators and students, moves towards the mindset that each is a vital participant, leading or following as needed, then step back and reflect on what worked and why. Share successes. Soon what didn’t work will come forward. Design next steps from both. And begin the transparency of reflective processes to continue the development of a culture of learning and a culture of innovation. That might look like blogs or portfolios, but sharing is key to continued reflective practice.

Share Innovation

Finally, identify how the journey has created new and better solutions and processes for the school or classroom. Celebrate the innovative ideas, successful or needing revision: each risk comes from the willingness of everyone to build a better community within the school and without. Celebrate and share in social media so others can learn, the community is informed, and progress is curated. The feedback locally and globally will add ideas and further innovation.

Continue the Journey

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George Couros suggests  the above five steps to continue the foundation for an innovative culture.  What would that look like?
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An innovative culture builds agency, whereby its participants feel trusted, are confident to voice ideas, co-create solutions, own the process, and act in collaboration with other participants to make the community better. Educators and students alike learn and grow w together in such a culture.


As we discussed progress in developing the foundation for innovation in our Voxer group, a Google Slices for crowdsourcing suggestions and experiences for  innovative professional development or meetings awaits your participation so we all can share in an open way to bring an innovative culture to our own situations with the input of all participants.  Please enjoy, use, and add your own:

Grade. Assess. Feedback

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Ross Cooper asks a great question: Should the 4Cs be graded?

Should communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity be graded?

Remember that assessment is for learning, feedback for improvement, but grading is an evaluation of the moment.

Read Ross’s post and think about his ideas.

Rubrics can be created for anything, but are best created together with students, with a focus on what is proficient, rather than filling in the whole rubric with qualifiers. Just know what is proficient, to strive for, to exceed. Those criteria will change over the year as students’ starting points change and they nudge forward in their expertise.

What do students think critical thinking is?  or creativity?  Is there a common language from which learners can have a conversation?

For all the 4cs,  that’s the big question: is there a common language understood about the expectations? After having that conversation, students can identify where they use the skills, and how well they apply them. The criteria to me would be a living document, and may, if learning is truly the goal, be personalized for each student along a continuum. And the progress made certainly would indicate to the student his success and next goals.

But what about the more visible communication and collaboration skills?

Should we grade communication and collaboration? I think both should begin with a conversation and development of expectations with students. They should observe and assess where they are, and then choose improvement goals.

Communication and collaboration are part of the Common Core State Standards so learning targets of proficiency could develop from those.

However, in my real world of students, I’m thinking about success, and that means that the proficiency goals for students would be personalized. Some of my students are stretching towards college level goals, and some are still putting words together. If I want learning, then proficiency is a continuum, setting new goals together to reach the next level based on feedback on what was done well and where improvement is needed. Feedback from students themselves, peers, and the teacher. Feedback as conversation, whether in conversation face-to-face or in conversation on a collaborative document. But feedback is the key to learning.

Any “grade” must be fairly decided by criteria and conversation of achievement of that criteria. It must be a fair representation of the student’s progress, and that representation will change over time.

Ross shared a great truth by Rick Wormeli:

“Students can learn without grades, but they can’t learn without timely, descriptive, feedback.”  ~ Rick Wormeli

Because I think the learning will come from the doing, and the reflection on what helped and what didn’t will better guide next steps than a grade would, I would have that feedback conversation with kids during their projects and together decide what and if to grade – for all the 4cs– what and if to grade as a conversation.

 

Connected Educator Month #ce16 #immooc

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It’s Connected Educator Month!

How will you connect with others outside of your school to empower yourself and share with others?

I’m connecting in the University of Michigan’s Virtual Digital Writing Conference every Sunday. So many exciting and interactive sessions, including keynotes and conversations with Dr. Troy Hicks @hickstro This event is also a National Writing Project program.  Watch as many or as few as you want each Sunday in October. Free, but registration is required.  Here are the sessions I participated in on Sunday, Oct 2. Follow on Twitter at #4TDW

I’m also taking part in Innovator’s Mindset Mooc by George Couros, author, principal, a book study with 2000 participants, including whole school districts. Katie Martin also facilitates. We participate in many ways– as many or as few as you wish: webinars / podcastsVoxer group, Google Plus Community, Facebook Group, Twitter hashtag #immooc, and blogs.

With the ideas we share, we become better. For instance, after reading others’ blogs and tweets, and participating in the webinar I wrote this post. Musings on Innovation. The last graphic in the post is a list of questions I would use with students based on the 8 characteristics of an innovator. So my friend Kevin Hodgson [who is the closing keynote for the VT conference] created a comic about the post’s ideas for innovating school design, which will add context to our thinking. Kevin and I are moderators for the IMMOOC Google Community. The great thing about a MOOC is that you can lurk or join in at any time. Learning is forever in many forms.

I’m also reviewing Mark Barnes‘s Hack Learning series book, Hacking Engagement by James Sturtevant. Empowering students through active engagement of value is key to my teaching. How do I connect with Mark? We’ve been following each other on Twitter for years, and his work inspires my teaching. Check out his book, Role Reversal

Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom at ASCD.

Another possible event is Teachers First OK2Ask webinar on 10/4 at 4 PM Pacfic — Chrome Extensions. See this and upcoming events — register here.
Or view the CE calendar here for more choices for connecting.

Maybe you’ll just start your Twitter account and follow the above hashtags — just looking at the tweets and starting to follow teachers in your grade or subject. That would be an awesome way to start. Or choose a chat related to your interest. [See Edudemic’s Guide to Twitter or this Live Binder]

Why? Because the world is connected. Your students are connected. Being connected makes you relevant.

The amazing thing about connected educators is this: it doesn’t matter your degree or position, everyone has a voice.

You become online friends with those you constantly interact with to better your teaching to better the instruction that betters student learning.

You get to know and ask questions of Troy, Mark, George, Kevin, Lucy Gray, Shelly Terrell, Alec Couros, Matt Miller, etc.

You may even collaborate and co-create instructional material for others. Look at my friends Gallit and Denise, who now have published a book on Genius Hour. Denise and I finally met after years of blogging and tweeting together to better our teaching of writing — and we even [without meeting face to face, just tweeting and Google Slides] presented for Connected Educator 2012 —  she made a trip to meet up. It was awesome.

And your teaching strategies will grow. Why? Because connectedness flattens the world: we all have the opportunity and the voice to share good ideas for learners.

And guess what? Even if I were still teaching, I’d be doing those three things and more: #4TDW, #IMMOOC, book review. Because they help me teach in the way students today want to learn, and I refuse to be irrelevant. I will come away every day with a better idea to impact learning, to empower students in their learning tomorrow.

Everyone starts somewhere. Just start.  

Maybe you just want to know HOW to be a connected educator. How about reading and following the suggestions in the book The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning by Tom Whitby and Steven W. Anderson [who started #edchat ]. There may even be spaces left for the Teachers First bookclub. Or we could form our own bookclub for the book in Google Plus or Twitter, just to support each other. Just comment below.

Here’s what two educational leaders say from the website about the book and connected learners:

“It is incumbent upon all educators to connect with other educators who can reignite their passion for teaching. The authors generously share their wisdom for those who want to accelerate the development of a personal learning network. “ 
Angela Maiers, Founder and President
Choose2Matter, Inc. and Maiers Education Services, Inc.

“Learn how and why educators must connect in order to truly be at the top of their game. This book gives practical advice on how to connect, engage, and grow as a learner.”
Adam Bellow, Corwin Author Untangling the Web

Lots of ideas and examples here and in the stream when you join Twitter. Be a connected educator, a connected learner.

Just start!

Where will you start, or what will you do if you already are, a connected educator?
theworldisconnected
Sheri Edwards
Connected Innovator

Reflect curiosity and wonder…
Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness…

More Information about Connected Learning

21st Century for Families #immooc

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Teachers: Always Learning– Communicate to Families

As I strive to become a better teacher, coach, and learner, I search for resources that help me grow, offering ideas that I can adapt to my situation. In changing my teaching to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s worlds, I need to share with and bring parents and families into the journey. After all, they were taught the old, factory model way; it’s all they know. Teachers today take the best of yesterday and move it forward.

One of the resources I review is the P21: Partnership for 21st Century Learning.

I discovered there two important resources for families, so they can understand why schools are moving to more collaborative and connected lessons and projects:

Education for a Changing World: What is 21st Century Learning and Citizenship?

Family 21 Century Citizenship Tips 

I found these blog posts:

Blog Post with parent resources: What is 21st Century Learning all about?

Blog Post on Thinking Classrooms and Student Self-Assessment: How to Build An Empowering Classroom Culture

What about the basics?

What about the 3Rs?  We still teach the foundation, but in different, more personalized ways with the help of technology, and include the 4C’s –the 4Cs — critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.

Learning today, fully sixteen years into the 21st Century, includes the three ‘Rs’ of reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic, but also focuses on skills now essential to a connected world, essential for the adult world of our students: the 4Cs — critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. Here’s how we’re moving forward:

Instead of standardized, sequential lessons completed by oneself, students learn by doing, by asking questions and working together to solve problems and present their learning in ways “above and beyond” the paper and pencil strategies of last century.

Of course, that means 21st Century Learning is as much process as it is static information and final product; it’s more than anything “google-able”: it’s a whole lot of risk-taking, questioning, struggle, and feedback from teachers and peers to guide the process so students achieve success.

Feedback rather then grades?

Feedback is not a grade, it’s a guide. Feedback is a guide much better than a grade because the feedback shows what is done well, and what steps would lead to improvement and success. It truly is no child left behind, and without the need for tests.

But if there are no tests or grades, how do we show our students are learning?

The Journal: Panel: Ditch Grades Now: Focus on Student Learning shares the work of Mark Barnes:

Instead of grading students on their work, Barnes had “a conversation” with them. He used an online gradebook, but instead of applying grades or points or percentages, he recorded feedback and discussions with students. Instead of judging his students’ abilities at an arbitrary point in time by assigning a score, he guided them through a checklist that was designed to help them progress to where they needed to be. [emphasis added]    ~Mark Barnes

With a checklist and a conversation, students can self-assess their work, discuss with peers and teacher how to improve, and therefore, build their success. In the same article, an explanation:

“We have something far better than scores when report card time rolls around,” he explained. “We have artifacts and feedback that provide a clear picture of learning. When a teacher reviews the body of work from a student and asks, ‘Where does this fit on a traditional grade scale?’ the student understands and provides accurate responses in almost every instance — at least as accurate as a traditional grade can provide.”  ~Mark Barnes

Many schools still give grades, but it’s not an average, or filled with zeros for unfinished work, it’s based on high expectations personalized to students in conversation with students and teachers. It’s rather like your supervisor or team member at work explaining what is needed, checking that your work fits, and offering suggestions when needed — so that the product is as expected and needed with quality. That’s much better and more realistic than a one-time test or assignment; it honors the goal and the student; it is good teaching.

For an example of how that works in the classroom see “Idea for Rubrics.

And think about it, how do we really learn? We talk to others and share after we try. We keep trying until we get it. The research supports this, especially with feedback. To know what to expect, here’s an article on how to give feedback by John Hattie, the author of Visible Learning, where Tony Buzan’s work is also included:

eminent psychologist Tony Buzan points out, practice only helps people to repeat what they are doing. If what they are doing is incorrect, people internalise the wrong thing. Feedback lets students know how they are doing while there is still time to adjust and perfect their efforts.[emphasis added]

The great part of this is student understanding of the process, the content, and the purpose. So when grade time arrives, students can share their work, explain what they did well, how they revised, and what could still be done to improve. As your child explains this, listen. You will hear knowledge and skills, content, confidence, humility, pride, and a command of their own learning.

So, to our families, we invite you into our classrooms to see:

  • projects and work wrapped in foundational skills in process and basics with authentic  purposes and audiences
  • the four Cs: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity
  • checklists and steps to guide success, personalized for students
  • ongoing feedback from peers and teachers [and families] to guide success
  • mutual grading from student and teacher founded in expectations learned and developed with feedback
  • an open door for families to visit and volunteer, offering their own feedback

I think, if families think back to those school days remembered most, it will be the times where people worked together, a project, a collaboration. That’s the goal everyday: to have authentic learning with deeper learning.

I hope this clarifies the transformation of classrooms for families.

If you have comments, questions, or any other resources, please share below.