Reflection #immooc #digilitsunday

 

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Today’s DigiLitSunday topic is reflection. That’s an amazing word. I see my reflection in the mirror. I see my work reflects my efforts. I see my mistakes reflect I tried. I see my successes reflect I learned well from others. I see my students’ [staff or kids] failures reflect my chance to find another way. I see my students’ [staff or kids] successes reflect my adaption that supported their needs.

I have successes and failures. I feel I did not do enough for my staff; I never gave up on my students. But always, I strove to understand and meet the needs of those under my care, to allow each the opportunity to find their path to success and understanding. It’s not easy to teach open, in ways that allow all learners to meet their goals, but it’s a choice that had to be made. I had to change to do something amazing, even when the amazing didn’t always happen.

Reflection had to happen before I even started a lesson or professional development session. I had to know who I was teaching and what was needed — by each participant. I had to know the vision I had, and know that that vision may change according to what we eventually did together.

If we were learning imagery, the vision was a piece of work that exemplified a sensory description. And once we, my students and I, started on that journey, an audience or audiences were chosen and students chose the way to share: an Animoto, slides, document, comic. And what was shared? a poem , story, a song, an annotation. And in each, imagery.

And although imagery was the target, the learning was so much more, depending on the personalized needs of each student and the content, context, and product they chose, sometimes in collaboration with others, and always with feedback from myself and their peers.

Reflection occurred during — this is what I’m trying to do.  Even I would sometimes start a lesson with that. Feedback acknowledged the parts done well and suggestions for ways to improve. We grew together, one student helping another.

Reflection occurred after — this is what I learned. And the learning was more than imagery: it was collaboration, critique, helpful feedback, a tool, a way to create, etc.

That was the plan, and for some it worked well. Others needed models, and their peers helped. Time prevented some from final reflections in writing, but we found time to talk.

We couldn’t follow the process every time, and I do believe we need to slow down, and spend more time in the process on bigger projects where students design an organized project, in whatever grouping they choose [individual, team, partner].

For the past two years, I’ve focused on essential questions and a few larger projects:

  • 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 ?

Each year, I provided a better focus on those questions in our work. If I were teaching this year, I would start each week with a conversation based on what each student was doing. I’d slow down the process just enough for this reflection, building on what we learned each week to develop our authorship, and providing voice to the developing authors and publishers and researchers as they acknowledged their new skills, tools, and processes. I love how Esther Wojcicki shapes her journalism classes, giving power and agency to her students. This was my goal, and it was growing towards it.

For my staff, I had not the opportunities to create such a learning environment, although I tried to model it in the format of the sessions, with choices rather than mandates. For some, that provided the autonomy to thrive, for others it brought uncertainty. Change is not everyone’s strength.

And although I tried share-out documents in sessions, and over the years taught blogging, modeled Twitter’s PLN building, encouraged collaboration in Google Apps, and suggested small ways to share out the classroom stories, I found a small group with whom to share and collaborate, encouraging their access and inclusion of collaborative tools. However, I alone could not move all staff forward.

I think now, though, I have an idea that may help.  More on that later.

In the introduction of the Innovator’s Mindset book by George Couros, I enjoyed and agreed with so many ideas, such as building on the strengths of our students and staff, and encouraging curiosity, rather than extinguishing it with traditional worksheet / workbook / online skill learning. George reminds us of our responsibility, “spark a curiosity that empowers students to learn on their own.” I think this is the key responsibility as teachers and learners, and is why I chose those Essential Questions for my Language Arts classroom: it created an authentic focus with real-content context and projects for students to be authors and publishers, designing with their content and analysis publications for their audiences.

With the focus more on feedback than on grades and specific skills, it allowed students agency and voice to be authors. It was a choice, a change in small ways with the help of Google Apps for Education and other tools that allowed for ease in our communication, research, feedback, revision, and publication. We weren’t perfect or prolific, but the students became owners — and evaluators — of their own work. And our student-led conferences engaged families in their learning, excited that their students were learning skills they wanted to learn, or that they themselves were using in their work and education.

George Couros says:

change

And a small step by each of us begins that journey to amazing.

That’s the idea: I think now, though, I have an idea that may help engage staff members, especially for you who are in the Innovator’s Mindset Mooc, course in Innovation by George Couros [#IMMOOC].

So I would share the Change poster, and ask of my staff, “Are your students learning on their own? engaged in each of our classrooms?” and “What will I — and you — and we– change to do something amazing, to empower student engagement and learning on their own?”

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What are examples of small changes?

 

One simple counselor strategy by Susan Spellman Conn:

Or a teacher who uses SnapChat for Book Chats with her PLC Book Studies — Tara Martin:

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And, join the #immooc:

Sign up for the Innovators Mindset — the IMMOOC here.

Join the #immooc Google Plus Community by Kevin Hodgson @dogtrax  for posts and conversation. Read his recent reflection and learn his “change” with feedback and modeling revision [great video there].

Follow the Twitter hashtag #immooc

Join the Voxer group by Emily Clare  — how to here.

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I have more to change and more to learn.

What will you change?

 


Margaret Simon hosts

#DigiLitSunday

This week’s post topic: reflection

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Still thinking: Response on Digital Writing

Thanks, Kevin for the quote tweet and comment here as we continue the conversation on “What is digital writing?” It’s a start.

I’m considering your words in your comment in this post.

My own grapple keeps me wondering and thinking and trying to fall into the trap of getting too comfortable.

It’s true that those of us who write digitally find the tools ubiquitous; we are comfortable with the process and tools and must remember those who are just learning, especially adults. Our students seem to see, observe, choose, and do from our assignments and modeling. They often suggest tools for us, and we guide them in more demanding and intellectual use of them. We are comfortable in these shoes, and continue our forward walk. It is Kevin’s thoughtful questioning that leads reflection so that others may begin the journey. At least, that is my goal, to nudge the novices into the adventure students already explore.

For example, now you have me reconsidering my words about a blog post. You may be right. Your insight to not just bring design into the equation, but to make it a central idea, seems right, to me, too. But if we are not the designer, if we use a template made by others and just add words into the template, does design matter?

This is a great question — templates. I’m reminded of years ago when our school subscribed to a website platform for schools. It included pages for  teachers to communicate to families in a newsletter/blog format, places for lesson plans [and diligent monitoring by administration], and much more. It was designed so teachers could just add text and perhaps a photo. In order for it to work for me, I had to search for html coding because the ‘template’ was so rigid (and boring). I wanted to share and show what we were doing in class in images, video, and text way back then. That’s a template without flexibility, and dictated to me; not my digital writing. Fortunately, we dropped that expensive cost and became a Google Apps for Education school.

Yes, I can choose a blog — and I can choose the design that fits my purpose for my audience. I can tweak the colors and display, choose the content of the widgets, and determine the content of my posts. So I’m thinking that this allows the author the design choices of a digital writer.  I’m not sure about other LMS [Learning Management Systems] because we don’t use them, except for Google Classroom, which is the classroom; the parent and community information are posted in blogs and websites. Are LMS rigid in teacher design of his/her classroom website or blog, and thus limit the design choices of the authors? Does design matter? I think so.

What about blog design when it comes to an RSS reader, which strips all design from the source in order to stream the words and image only?

I’m thinking this is the researchers choice — to gather information, which is part of the design and digital writing process. It’s part of the system the author chooses for connections and research. It serves its purpose for those gathering information, inspiration, and collaboration.

Certainly, Margaret’s point about expanded audience plays a role … yet, I can create a piece of digital writing (say, a poem with hyperlinks and embedded audio and video) and share it with no one, and so, it is digital writing with no audience.

Because digital writing is at first personal, until work requirements and academic protocol causes our revision to those mandates, that makes no audience but oneself as important as any audience. Writing helps us grow our ideas, values, and beliefs. I once participated in a group with Ben Wilkoff and others calling ourselves “Open Spokes.” We wrote personal statements as videologues which we shared with each other to build on the ideas. So the audience at first was ourselves and then shared for our fellowship. Writers keep their ideas for fuel when needed. Today’s non-audience may be tomorrow’s team audience.

Like Kevin, Margaret, and Karen LaBonté, I continue my digital writing and its many nodes.

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#140WC 2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 410 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Thank you to all the bloggers and tweeters who share ideas that inspire me to consider and to reflect. I appreciate the openness of the education world — those who teach others in their classrooms, online, and through their sharing of tweets, blogs, videos, etc. Learning is sharing, and teaching is sharing. We as humans learn together to make progress. And what without each other, we wander without purpose.  So thank you all, for adding purpose and possibilities into my life, my learning, and my teaching.

Thank you! May 2015 be just as inspirational!

WC: 144

See sidebar to join the #140WC Challenge

I took the week off for the holidays.

140 Words Challenge #140WC

#140WC

“Ideas are the cheapest part of the writing. They are free. The hard part is what you do with ideas you’ve gathered.”

by Jane Yolen, author of Owl Moon and Sleeping Ugly and more

Do you gather ideas throughout the day?

Do you have ideas that meander through your mind?

Do you want to blog more but your topic hides?

Do you ever think, “I wish I’d written that down….?”

Then this challenge is for you!

Write 140 words each day! [or a little more or less — a thought each day!]

  • Share your ideas.
  • Share a link.
  • Share your lesson.
  • Share your reflection.
  • Share your questions.
  • Share your answers.
  • Share a tweet with your input
  • Share a blog with your insights
  • Share to carry on the conversation….

Why?

In a 140 words each day, your journey is formed, your ideas saved, your reflection framed.

In 140 words each day, your writing flows and grows more clearly.

In 140 words in day, your past and path is forged forward.

Challenge:

Will you join?


Link to #140WC Badge

Learning Styles Don’t Exist; Options Do #openspokes

rhizomatic_learning_sreJeremy Inscho‬ in our Open Spokes Fellowship introduced us to Daniel Willingham‘s research that refutes the learning styles theories to which many of us may subscribe.

Dr. Willingham states “Students differ in their abilities, interests, and background knowledge, but not in their learning styles. Students may have preferences about how to learn, but no evidence suggests that catering to those preferences will lead to better learning. As college educators, we should apply this to the classroom by continuing to present information in the most appropriate manner for our content and for the level of prior knowledge, ability, and interests of that particular set of students.”

I think teachers do present information in the best way for the content to be understood by the learner, not necessarily devising many ways to present the information to “catch” the learners’ styles.

However, in taking into account students’ “abilities, interests, and background knowledge,” we do provide in our lessons, through our understanding of our students, elements which provide background and  engage students.

Then, as students learn the concepts, we may differentiate the process by which students demonstrate their learning.  I wonder if perhaps it is not how we present the learning task, but rather how the learner expresses his or her understanding which requires a path that best resonates with that learner, at that time for that concept. We as teachers allow students to choose the path, rather than dictate one way.

I realize that Dr. Willingham has refuted the evidence for auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning, and all other learning styles. I am, however, drawn to the notion put forth by Dr. Robert Sternberg. He states that ” intelligent behavior arises from a balance between analytical, creative and practical abilities, and that these abilities function collectively to allow individuals to achieve success within particular sociocultural contexts.” He adds “Analytical abilities enable the individual to evaluate, analyze, compare and contrast information. Creative abilities generate invention, discovery, and other creative endeavors. Practical abilities tie everything together by allowing individuals to apply what they have learned in the appropriate setting. To be successful in life the individual must make the best use of his or her analytical, creative and practical strengths, while at the same time compensating for weaknesses in any of these areas.”

In my mind, that means that students use their abilities (how they think – analytical, creative, practical) and interests to be successful in what they do and how they solve problems. These categories help teachers to differentiate so students can demonstrate their learning through their strengths, and perhaps try another strategy to build strengths.

In today’s world of diverse modes of information our technology allows teachers to find the best presentation and resources for student learning, and the opportunity for students to best demonstrate the learning in a way that is best for both the student and the learning.

I have written about differentiation in a previous post and created a menu of possible learning options.

The idea is not to teach to learning styles, but to provide paths of choice for student demonstrations that build on thinking, interest, and engagement possibilities to encourage student success.

Conversations in education also consider “personalized” learning, whereby students have more input in the design and product of their goals. For this, students need to ask the questions that generate goals relevant to what is needed to learn. Again I see the abilities, interests, and background knowledge as factors in personalization. And again I see that students will tend to follow and choose that which they can do — the way they think, their interests, and their abilities. As teachers, we strive to guide students towards stretching their potential and expanding their repertoire of strategies.

Teaching and learning requires teachers to ask good questions, get to know our students, and to help students ask good questions. We guide through questions.

Learning ingredients include questioning, sharing, feedback, creation, and reflection. Teachers and students question. We share resources and trials. We provide feedback to each other. We create demonstrations of learning and solutions to problems. We reflect and revise and question again. We, teachers and learners.

I think I do agree with Dr. Willingham that learning styles don’t exist. But I do think we create and demonstrate learning in ways that fit how we think about our learning and in ways that demonstrate the learning from our interests and talents. Those ways will be different for different learners. If we are learning argument, some students will focus on the written text, some will include images and text bullets, some will prefer to speak, and still others will create a video with text, speech, and images. In accepting these, we now have different versions for feedback and analysis, to which students can see the effect of each and grow in that learning.

Abilities
Interests
Background Knowledge
Habits of Mind
Content
Process
Communication

As educators, we hope to promote a development of each of these for our students. Our lessons incorporate strategies, processes, and opportunities for students to do so. We may not cater to “learning styles,” but we certainly offer options based on what we know about our students.

 

What is your thinking on this idea of learning styles, abilities, interests, options?

More info:

Dr. Daniel Willingham

Gardner and Sternberg: Differentiation

Personalization: Choose a goal; Receive guidance and feedback.

Coalition of Essential Schools