DigiLit Sunday Balance

Balancing Goals and Needs
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The sun rises, sometimes behind the fog and clouds, but it is always there, shining for us.

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We rise, and focus on this day’s agenda. Our agenda, our focus for each day is but one part of our bigger dreams and goals. Each day is a journey whose purpose reflects personal and career goals, with specific individual and work goals.

The path of these goals that we envision is often not linear, not smooth; our needs for living, safety, loving, belonging, and community intersect with the needs, and the goals, of others. This is our human journey.

We have learned to cooperate, collaborate, and compromise so we grow as communities in respect and acceptance of our differences, in order to help all of us move forward in our pursuit of happiness, that dream that always shines for us, that hope that keeps us going despite roadblocks, missteps, and obstacles.

Balance comes from our respect for the rights and needs of others, as well as standing firm in our own needs and rights. I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s wise words in the Lincoln-Douglas debates:

I believe each person is naturally entitled to do as he pleases so far as it in no wise interferes with any other man’s rights.  ~ Abraham Lincoln

So for balance, we enjoy and learn from our journey, including learning from and accepting others. We meet our own needs, and connect with others in meeting theirs. There are twists and turns, missteps, and respites. But we take the time and action to join in our journeys as time moves us forward, as the sun, hidden or brightly shining, keeps us focused on goals that change and move with our journey’s reflections and insights.

In our personal lives, we daily are interrupted with life’s challenges, which affect our goals and needs. So when one opportunity closes, we turn to find another. The opportunity could be a job, a grant, a friend, but life situations could change– a job closing or elimination, a grant unfilled, a perspective changed, our health changed, a death. Because, as John Lennon, reminded us:

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

But the important thing is the full verse:

Before you cross the street take my hand.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

John Lennon: Beautiful Boy

It is our connections, our communion of fellowship with each other, that keeps us balanced and able to continue, and help others continue, in the journey.

In the classroom, that means we teach the whole child: interests, passions, needs. We take time to express and understand and care to each other’s ideas and feelings, because we are connected, we are a community of learners. Our conversations and connections help us deal with life’s challenges and ideas so we can decide how to move forward.

Without that balance of working together, we become inert in our ventures or ideologues of rigidness, unable to see the beauty of our human uniquenesses and unable to connect with our fellow travelers in our human journey. As Marie Curie said:

You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.

Marie Curie

Goals, yes; yet with those goals, our needs draw us together as a community so each of our journeys can succeed. In the journey of life as we follow our dreams and goals, take each other by the hand, share and connect, and help each other. That is balance.

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Part of DigiLit Sunday

Margaret Gibson

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.

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.

Agency #immooc #DigiLitSunday

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I find it interesting that innovation in IMMOOC includes so many ideas that engage student voice – adding students to professional development, surveying them for their interests, encouraging genius projects. After all, the students are our focus, our province.

Yet education has been sabotaged by agendas, schedules, curriculum, evaluation, mandates. And data: tons of data from standardized tests, state-mandated tests, Title tests, diagnostic tests.

And someone gathers all that data and says to teachers, “Look what your students need. Teach them this. And this. And this.Then we’ll take more tests to see if they know it.”

Now, it’s one thing for a teacher to observe a struggling student and to ask, “I wonder if…” or “It seems the struggle is…” referring to the moment at hand, which is at the zone of proximal development when students are ready, challenged, yet able to and receptive to learning something that helps them succeed at their task.

It’s quite another thing to give a test on many skills, determine what that test at that moment discerns as a student need, and then begin a plan to teach those skills out of context of a task the student has chosen to accomplish. The student’s knowledge of the need is missing — the student’s will and confidence to succeed is missing.

So. Now the need becomes the innovation – to relate to the student on his or her terms in his or her context. And we’re back to the teacher observing students, gathering their ideas and focus, and guiding them in many areas [communication, debate, research, reading, writing, content areas, collaboration, peer feedback, tools, strategies, etc.] according to the needs of each as they lead their own learning.

We’ve rediscovered the goal of education: student agency. And student agency begins with relationships, teachers with students and students with students. And it includes the whole child, the bundle of emotions and perceptions that walk through our doors. Student agency begins with a learning community driven by learners, not a tangle of data captured at another time. Learner agency starts in the now.

Margaret Simon writes a story of Eve, of understanding the child within to guide the child in the choice of curriculum that will give her voice, though that choice and voice may change as the child’s focus within changes. Learning isn’t linear, nor stable; it is recursive and fluid. And like Eve, it’s flow in context may change, but it’s stream will still show the teacher the student’s needs. The learning is in doing real things within the student’s context and relevance; the lessons are from the needs to succeed with quality in the doing. Teachers observe the need and create the lessons just in time, just in need.

The planners of schools created a system for teachers to teach curriculum in a time where information was managed; today students have become the managers on their own, finding on the internet the how of what each wants to know and learn, and creating their own “howtos” and “here’s what I thinks.” Our set of curricular goals and expectations of and by teachers do not match those student needs or wants. So, we innovate. We innovate because the students live in their world and their future — not the vision currently in place in most schools.

We innovate back to listening to students, guiding their journey, and celebrating success as students learn and develop the talents and skills that match their interests, passions, strengths, and needs today in ways that build their repertoire of strengths, strategies, and tools for their world and the one in which they will live as adults. They are doing real work to better the world; they want to do work that betters the world.

How do I know? Walk in any classroom where students have choice and a voice in their learning. There you find smiles and joy, study and sharing in many different ways on many important issues. Walk in any classroom in rows and independent work and you see boredom, dissension, and faces of no purpose. It’s a stark difference.

Yesterday my own “Eve” gathered her “two favorite teachers” into a Facebook group and shared a student video, not her own, which voiced censorship and negativity. Through our conversation, her frustration was finally voiced: “I can’t change the world.” And so we discussed her influence already with her kindness with others, one person at a time. It’s our ripple intersecting with others that carries the energy of change. It was a great conversation initiated outside of school by a student frustrated without having her voice  heard in school.

Our students are begging to be heard, to choose their learning paths, and to change our negative world into one that is more positive and fair for all.

And, our teachers are begging to be heard, to choose their learning and teaching paths, and to change their world into one that is more positive and fair to all.

I would say there have been pockets of innovators for years, teachers whose own voice created spaces for their students’ voices. Search Twitter for #engchat #edchat #edtechchat #etmooc #clmooc #mschat and many more. Years of sharing are recorded there. Begin following those hashtags. Ask a question on an idea you have — a question that asks, Looking for…

An example is this student-initiated Flat Classroom  Eracism project by Julie Lindsay, Vicki Davis, Bernajean Porter, and Peggy Sheehy, the first ever asynchronous international debate on VoiceThread — in 2009!

Even before such technology was available, teachers innovated in NASA programs like Live from the Hubble— 1996!

Julie Lindsay moved on to form her own Flat connections, and most of us know Vicki Davis still innovates and and shares from her classroom and through her blog, newsletters, and podcasts: Cool Cat Teacher.

There are more: Paula Neidlinger moved her school to student radio broadcasting and Kevin Hodgson writes about the collaborative literacy / science projects and more at Middle Web. Or how about Joy Kirr‘s journey into GeniusHour and “no grades,” [she now calls Genius Hour [see the book], Independent Inquiry ]. And more: Jackie Gerstein [design thinking], Lucy Gray [Global Connections], of course, Tom Whitby [his blog] and Steve Hargadon [the free Learning Revolution ning, which houses all his education projects]. What about Derek Wenmoth and learner agency?

Search the Twitter feed chats. Find participant blogs; learn their stories; and most important: connect and share.

Our teachers have been begging to be heard just like their students, in pockets of innovation, some supported by peers and administration, but many are not. Innovators live and teach around the world, with no one place or one voice to carry the movement from the ship called status quo and the wild west of the Internet to a global voice to implement change.

We need a global voice that is heard and listened to.

Tom Whitby and Steve Hargadon have been vocal about strategies for change. In Tom’s recent post, Innovation in Education is Overrated, he laments on the lack of administrator supported professional development and building conversations that would bring about innovation in schools.  The pockets of innovation have not moved forward because that support is not available: not the conversations and inquiry into innovative strategies and not the professional development. He says:

Unless our leaders themselves become more innovative and active about innovative Professional Development, the change we all want to herald in will be long in coming. Innovative new ideas in education are not enough by themselves. We need innovative strategies to implement those new ideas.  Tom Whitby

So, I hear the innovative ideas in the #immooc– to understand the real world, connect with others, and personalize education to develop student agency.  I hear the cries by students to be heard. And I also have been in and seen the struggle over many years to bring change through innovation by individual teachers and know their cry to be heard. Without support from districts and buildings, teacher agency will not grow, teacher change will not happen, and the status quo continues, as it has over many years.

We are individual drops in an ocean of sameness. We need a current of innovation that flows through as a powerful force to pull us forward, better, together, and with the side-channels of local change.

I am thankful that the #immooc includes so many administrators and instructional technologists. I am hopeful to gather and share strategies to engage more whole buildings and their administrators. I am hopeful for ways to support the voices of all the innovators – our new cadre here and those who have blazed a trail already. We need strategies to create the zone of proximal development for teachers and administrators so they too have the confidence to extend the vision of education, to step from what we have now to one of multiple possibilities, depending on the needs of the community of students and teachers and their voices.

Innovator Voice.

Share out, create a small, local community,  join together in one larger community. Gather all the voices, especially those administrators who have experience and models, and provide support from that pool of resource people in the form of blogs, podcasts, videos, examples, models– people and strategies gathered as models that will be recognized so each innovator has a voice of agency beside them that speaks over the status quo in their schools to accept change for the better for students, so innovation is expected and becomes the new norm.

Where is our Department of Innovation? Our Office of Learner Agency? Where is our community to enable a mandate to innovate?

Where is our larger voice and community so we all have agency?

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Part of:

DigiLit Sunday

Margaret G Simon

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Purpose of Education #immooc

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I’ve really been thinking about this. Our school systems in the United States formed with local boards of education so that the community’s education goals direct what happens in their school. Of course, the State Departments of Education mandate curriculum and their goals, and the US Department of Education and its purse strings mandate their own policies. With the State and Federal mandates determining funding, our schools focus on those goals and mandates, which in this time period include standardized testing, teacher evaluations, and various curricular requirements. This tangle of mandates strangle any true purpose of education, which must focus on the students, and I’m not sure the local community has much say, since the school board of directors usually focuses on improving those test scores as well.

What are the tests testing? Do we need tests to discern whether or not a student can read, do math, or communicate clearly? Do we really need tests to see where students are in the development of their thinking processes — to tell fact from fiction, and to synthesize ideas in discussion and debate with others to reach a set of understandings?

I don’t think so; I think teachers could observe, assess, guide, and scaffold learners to move successfully from where they are to where they could be successful as critical and creative learners on their own.

Because what is the purpose of education? Our public education system accepts all students, and our purpose must be to guide them to discover who they are, to know what their strengths are and could be, and to enrich their world with choices in possibilities through authentic group and personal goals. This is a process of living and working together to discover the understandings of how the world works by doing the work.

The purpose of education is to support and enrich the learners so they can learn on their own, no matter what the situation. As Seymour Papert says, “The good way to learn is to use it now.” Education must be doing what is needed by students as they choose and work through an authentic, relevant, and beneficent interest or inquiry.

In the doing, we learn. We learn more than the objective specific to the curriculum; we learn to investigate, share, discuss, debate, share, design, provide feedback, organize, determine relevance, create and remix, present, etc. Not everyone is learning the same things, because individuals or teams are focused on what each needs to reach their purpose.

Innovation breaks through patterns of routine and encourages attainment of essential goals through better strategies, processes, and tools that engage learners as active advocates and architects of their goals, learning, and life plans, working with peers to make the world better.

Innovation isn’t a big thing, although it could be. Innovation can simply be choices in what and how to study. The choices are the innovation.  Innovation can be stepping back and thinking, “Does every one have to take a test to show what they know?” — and providing or asking students what that would look like. Innovation can be simply just that: making decisions with students.

It can be strategies: how to turn uncivil arguments into civil and respectful debates.

It can be tools: social bookmarking, YouTube Live debates

It can be processes and protocols developed together with participants.

Innovation takes the usual or mundane, reinvigorates the purpose, and creates better engagement to meet that purpose.

Big or small, innovation moves people and education forward for the better, as each student moves forward knowing his/her strengths and goals while building the knowledge and skills to meet their goals.

What has been one of your best “innovations”that have broken through the usual to better focus the team’s goals?

seymourpapert

 

 

 

#DigiLitSunday First Days Part 1

 

Transitions

Moment Between Worlds

Beginnings, Part 1

Teachers and students are in a moment now between worlds, between the summer of exploration on our own and autumn of investigation in school. And I am in the moment between active and retired. Yet, I still ponder how I would [and did] start the year.

Those first days set the tone and community for the rest of the year. I want students to know we’ll be serious thinkers in dialogue with one another to tease out our understandings. I want them to know we’re in this learning journey together, and we need to set goals and provide feedback to each other, supporting or letting go when needed in a learning community that extends beyond the classroom.

Building the learning community is of utmost importance — building my credibility and accepting the students as credible learners!  To accomplish this, the first few days need to:

  • Determine and practice expectations of a learning community
  • Discuss and learn protocols for entering, leaving, independent work, group work, discussions, turning in work, computer use, agreements, disagreements
  • Accomplish and celebrate learning / work together

What do we do the first day?

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Here’s an outline. Notice the flow of activity from individual to group to class. Notice students are doing the work, and teacher is supporting, scaffolding as needed. Each activity should be quick to capture the ideas and prevent dead time; more ideas can be added over the next few days as we continue the collaborative seating activity and a reading/writing activity. I don’t worry about accomplishing all of this in one day, but we don’t dwell either; that’s part of the teacher’s management and understanding the pulse of student interest.  We will continue to refer to the charts on Works / Or not and Student / Teacher actions this first day and the first few days so we see that all of us are participating together to grow in our learning.

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  • Invitational greeting at the door from teacher
  • Setting the first goal: a collaborative activity on screen [idea from Joy Kirr and Sandy Merz]
  • Students collaborate on seating from the directions
    • I observe, waiting until absolutely necessary to intervene
    • I may ask a question about the prompt to a student
    • I may encourage a student to speak up, or others to listen
  • Celebrate in class discussion
    • Refer to the goal: form groups
    • Acknowledge  and accept the events of participation – confusion, perseverance, and success
      • Note: We discuss who was a leader that day in helping to organize, who asked questions to clarify, who helped, who added an idea, etc. Each succeeding day students will improve in their openness and appropriate requests and conversations. Each day another student will take the lead, each day they will learn better ways to interact with and involve their peers, and each day they will learn positive ways to encourage each other. Most importantly, the students are collaborating not just with their usual friends, but with whomever is in their group that day. If students can speak up, lead, discuss with each of their classmates, including those they may not have chosen, then we are well on our way to becoming connected learners with peers around the world.
  • Give students a scrap of paper —
    • ask each to think of one event that started the success or ended a confusion
    • Ask them to write what worked and what didn’t
  • Ask them to share in their groups and to create lists on poster paper of What Worked to Succeed and What Did Not Work
  • Pull the class together and ask for a few quick responses from each list, without repeating
  • Listen for the key point and ask a clarifying question each time, to get at a specific example from their perspective; it’s my chance to be truly interested in their ideas
  • Ask students to go back and revise their lists to be more specific
  • Hang up the posters and give students dots to place by the most important “What Worked” strategies

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    Paper Version Learning Community

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    Paper Version

    Ask students to get or go to a computer to the class home page to link to a document “Learning Community Guidelines” with a table for “Our Guidelines”  Ask students to add things that we all should do based on the posters and experience to be successful at projects [students choose a row to add as many guidelines as they can]

If using paper, students each write their own but by discussing in groups to create their paper versions in their own notebook.

 

 

 

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  • If guidelines are on the computer, randomly pick one group to edit to take out the duplicates; If guidelines are on paper, ask one student to type up each group’s list, editing for duplicates. The rest move on to the next task. For this task, choose a fast typer 🙂
  • Ask each student to make two lists of what we’ve done in the classroom so far:
    • A list of what the students did
    • A list of what the teacher did
  • Ask student groups to share make a list on poster paper of what we’ve done so far in the classroom
    • A list of what students did
    • A list of what teacher did
  • Put the edited learning community guidelines up and ask students if they are complete [teacher may add too]
  • Are they agreeable? Ask the students to type their name below the guidelines
  • Hang up  the  “What We Did” posters
  • Review the Community Guidelines with students but in the context of expectations for classroom protocol, which may include [we’ll review this over the week, so it doesn’t need to take long this day]:
    • Enter the room [tomorrow students will have their own copy of the Guidelines and a notebook to store in the room — which they need daily as part of entry]
      • Student
        • Be prepared — pens, pencils, papers, class notebooks, library books, all ready to go
        • Look for and complete entry task
        • If no entry task, read or write [on projects]
      • Teacher
        • Entry task ready
        • Reading  / Writing ready
        • Greets students / reviews work
    • Individual Work [student and teacher]
      • Quiet
      • On own
      • In own area
      • Distraction free
      • Teacher conferences
    • Group Work
      • Student
        • All participate
        • Listen
        • Discuss
        • Positive voices
        • Agree to disagree
        • Support with evidence
        • Invite all to participate
        • Roles [to be expanded on later [leader, timekeeper, statistician, recorder, morale officer]
      • Teacher
        • Monitors groups
        • Confers with groups
        • Feedback
    • Closing
      • Ask students what we will probably need to do to close our class:
        • Exit Thoughts
        • Clean areas
        • Computer protocol
        • Turn in
        • Class work away in own area
        • My rule: Stand by desks for dismissal
        • Last class: Stacks chairs and stands by desk
  • Exit Thoughts: What confuses you? What’s the most important thing you learned about being successful in this class? This can be on paper or in a Share Out document.  Students practice closing protocol.

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Over the next few days, we review the protocols, guidelines, and interactions, adding or revising as needed while still doing our work, debriefing before, during, and after to celebrate what we did well according to our living guidelines. Our work includes activities that will be similar to those we will do all year. We’ll do more seating collaboration and reading and discussing Tween Tribune articles with partners [ Activity here ], which includes individual and partner work. I can discover what interests they have, listen to them reading, and encourage the types of collaborative behavior we continuously discuss as part of our Learning Community guidelines. Some will read the articles individually and some together. The students can also listen [highlight option esc on a Mac] to the story together. I’ve not had a problem with kids listening together on the computer. This activity brings in student choice in how to fulfill expectations in reading and writing by organizing this partner work.

None of these activities require students to login; we’ll introduce logging in and computer expectations and guidelines as we work through the week and use computers. Our netiquette guidelines are reviewed continuously and extend online and offline.

Other activities are added as time allows, such as slowly introducing Power Writing, which gives me a sense of their writing, is engaging to the students, and develops writing fluency.

We will begin our course Essential Questions:

  • How do researchers investigate successfully?
  • What strategies and processes do collaborators need for success?
  • How do readers and writers determine and develop relevant, accurate, and complete topics?
  • How do publishers design and organize content for their audience and purpose?
  • Why and how do editors and speakers use and edit with the rules for standard English grammar and language ?

I introduce them to quick assessments in a Google Doc or a Google Spreadsheet.

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How did we do?

  • Determine and practice expectations of a learning community — individual, group, class, and even different tasks completed with positive actions
  • Discuss and learn protocols for entering, leaving, independent work, group work, discussions, turning in work, computer use, agreements, disagreements
  • Accomplish and celebrate learning / work together — charts and documents, shared documents, a living Learning Community Guidelines

And:

Common Core State Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.1 Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text
  • SL.1.b – Comprehension and Collaboration: Follow rules for collegial discussions, track progress toward specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.
  • SL.1.c – Comprehension and Collaboration: Pose questions that elicit elaboration and respond to others’ questions and comments with relevant observations and ideas that bring the discussion back on topic as needed.
  • SL.1.d – Comprehension and Collaboration: Acknowledge new information expressed by others and, when warranted, modify their own views.
  • SL.4 – Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

When we begin the reading / writing activities:

  • W 9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. [Includes RI 1, 2]
  • W 7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions for further research and investigation.
  • RI.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone. [ See also Language 5]
  • RI.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author distinguishes his or her position from that of others.
  • Read [Investigate, Content]
  • RI 2 – Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.
  1. 1 – Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • Write [Content}
  • 6-8.WHST.8 – Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
  • 6-8.WHST.2.b – Text Types and Purposes: Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
  • 6-8.WHST.2.d – Text Types and Purposes: Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
  • W.6  Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and link to and cite sources as well as to interact and collaborate with others, including linking to and citing sources.

Every moment is filled with purpose towards our relationship and our focus; a teacher makes instant decisions on the fly based on student input, confusion, prior knowledge, attitude, skills, interactions. It’s a delicate dance moving forward, checking the beat of the moment with the steps towards the future.

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What will your first dance look like?

Part 2

A cross-post here.

This post is part of Margaret Simon’s blogging challenge.

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#140WC Kid EdCamp Thinking