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.

10 comments

  1. Wow .. such a rich and deeply thoughtful analysis, Sheri. I need to bookmark and come back when I have more time to dive into all of the elements here. You start with the “Does anyone know….” — a call and response that works magic in the classroom. When our students are comfortable enough to ask, and comfortable enough to respond to the call for help, the entire dynamic of a classroom can suddenly change. Social dynamics often get shifted. The student-as-center takes hold.
    I’ll be back to read deeper … (this one might need a little Hypothesis Annotation in the Margins)
    Kevin

    • Thanks Kevin. Of course, it’s a small part of the story, but that is important: I struggle understanding how schools maintain the status quo and closed doors, adding technology without understanding the possibilities and not choosing to learn and implement tools that allow learning for today’s world and our students’ futures. Tech isn’t a magic bullet, but it is an accelerator that promotes and propels learning for more students. Every class is different, but each teacher can create the culture and the opportunities that better correspond to real world learning and expectations.

    • Yup Terry. Thanks. There is a lot there, but it’s still just a drop in the river. What flows with it is just as important, but I wrote it so hopefully some teachers will build their boat and find the current that best fits their situation and implement their own engagement strategies to share with others.

  2. Just picking this up now Sheri as part of the 30 Days of Blogging Challenge, awesomely/deep/complex post here.
    I am fixated on this thought: “Our desire as educators [administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals] to become “distinguished” will be enhanced by “learning twice.” ” And how to introduce/activate that again in some administrators with which I interact. I am struggling with how to attractively model it, but so as to get them to be more vulnerable and be a more public learner themselves.

    I focus on technology, but learning about technology is just a small microcosm of learning – I continue to wonder how can I influence those “above” me?

    • “How can I influence those ‘above’ me?”

      Hi Penny, that is a question I often ask myself.

      In my case, the answer came when the new principal accepted the expertise of teachers and listened to and conversed with them.

      I think that is key: to model the ideas and to reach out to those above us for those small conversations that build connections to the work of teachers for students and those whose task it is to make certain all are doing their best for students. Conversations– building relationships — is key in today’s world for more than just education reform.

      Please stop by again when you have found your answer!

      Sheri

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