SOL17 DoodleaDay 14 Inspire Word Art

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Inspire

Involvement

Necessary;

Sprout

Partial

Ideas–

Render

Excellence

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Classrooms of inspiration live by student involvement, sprouting partial ideas, and working together to render excellence for projects that help make the world better — or maybe just make the classroom better.

That climate is rendered by a teacher willing to give students agency — the belief in student abilities to work out their own solutions. It’s a climate filled with creation rather than compliance.

Project-based, inquiry learning allows students to take control of the curriculum in ways that the standards and targets are met in different ways by different students, depending on how the students choose their path to solutions.  Good sources for project-based learning are found at the Buck Institute for Education [BIE]. For projects based on immigration: see here.

Another way to think about classroom curriculum is to create the environment for students to experience the learning targets and discuss their learning in a constructivist way. Seymour Papert explains this here. A simple way to say this is:

“The good way to learn is to use it now.” Seymour Papert

A basic example in the language arts class can occur for teaching simile. Read this book to students of any age: Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Woods. After enjoying the book, reread the text and discuss how the author uses word choice to create meaning. And discuss the format of the sentences using that word choice to create meaning. Students soon can write their own, explaining their comparison, meaning, word choice, and grammar [like/as] to create their vivid descriptions. Students use the book to use their own language to learn by doing, and then learn the name for this figurative language: simile.

Another way to inspire classroom climate and learning is to use music. I just discovered this from Amy Cody Clancy today which provides suggested music for different content and context: Songs To Use For History / Literature.

Another way to include music is to find music related to students’ lives. My teaching career lived in a Native American community, and we were lucky enough to have our own celebrity, the late Jim Boyd, Colville Tribal Chairman and role model for our students. He is so missed for his leadership, his community actions, and his music.

Here is one of my favorite songs [I think I have all of his music] — which can inspire many discussions and help build relationships.

My Heart Drops, But I’m Proud by the late Jim Boyd, Colville Tribal Chairman and musician

 

What inspires your life and work?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part of Slice of Life 2017 by The Two Writing Teachers

Part of DoodleaDay by Royan Lee— today – Word Art

Doodling Song: My Heart Drops, But I’m Proud by the late Jim Boyd

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.

Reflection #immooc #digilitsunday

 

changeisanopportunityimm

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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Hesitant Writers

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Did you read the post today on The Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project blog, Teacher to Teacher: Helping Students Write? It’s a great read with questions and suggestions to help writers who cry, “I don’t have anything to write about.”

I also read Karon LaBonte’s post “Composing vs “Digital Writing,” which explained her personal process of and struggles in writing with all the digital and analog possibilities. I commented on her personal process and we both agreed that it’s the “personal” part of writing that engages students, yet our classrooms may be so focused on the requirements of nonfiction writing and essays that we neglect this most important aspect.

Which is why I enjoyed the “Helping Students Write” post. Lynne Dorfman suggested questions and getting to know the student:

…what the student likes to read, who his favorite authors are, what he watches on television. I ask him about his interests and hobbies. I want to know who is important in his life. Sometimes, I will try to find out if he has written a story, poem, description, etc., that he felt really good about and would like to tell me about that piece.

I love how Lynne invites the writer to think about writing through questions that show how personal writing is– that it starts with what the writer knows, his or her interests and passions.

Especially important for hesitant writers (and those who do not regularly write at all) are the questions about writing outside of school, and the questions about their interests. I try to listen to these students in conversation with others to discover in their chatter the story of the shot s/he made at recess, or the planned trip to a basketball tournament, or the dog who chased away the cougar, or the new video game played. Anything that will allow me to ask a question so the student tells the story, which then can be written.

Once they are written, the feedback on what was written well is key to encouraging students to continue. The action, the strong verb, the precise noun, the dialogue. After a few successes, sharing with peers to offer the positive feedback to each other begins the journey of thinking like writers.

Once students begin identifying the good writing, the teacher starts suggesting using that good skill in more areas, or suggests a skill another writer has shared. After a few sessions of the “compliment sandwich” [compliment, suggestion, compliment], students can begin compliment sandwiches with each other. They become a community of writers.

Still, there are students whose only writing may be the texts in their chats. It’s true that I’ve found students with piles of composition notebooks filled with poetry, but who don’t write at school until that talent is tapped. But many times, I’ve students who just have never written as a choice.

Key to engaging those students is the process of writing about what they know. The relationship between teacher and student is key — the discovering of their interests is key. Listening to their stories from your discovered questions asked from learning about them is so important. Guiding them to write by jumping into their action with an event or dialogue also helps them start the writing. A person can have a story, have told a story, but starting the story can hold them back.

I ask them to freeze a portion of their story — take a snapshot. Whatever action is there becomes the focus — frozen, we begin describing the moment, get it down as if it is just happening using action verbs, second by second. Soon the moment is alive and the student has a first action memoir.

It is those few first stories, that show how writers write about what they know, that begin the development of confidence so that students can find their own story and voice in the days to come, and begin their journey as writer.

And I love when those at first hesitant writers become the models for others.

How do you engage the hesitant writers?

 

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#DigiLitSunday #Blogamonth 9/11

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So many tragedies and controversies occur and then opinions are blasted in small blurbs in tweets, on Facebook, and supposed news bites. How do we help the children cope with the incidents and resulting burst of opinions?

Kevin Hodgson suggests this in his post “#DigiLitSunday: Filters, Floodgates, and Us“:

“The best we can do with our children and our students is try to be one of the trusted adults they can talk to, and ask questions of, and to be the ones whom they can turn to when the world turns upside down on them — in small ways and in larger ways.” ~Kevin Hodgson

We can listen and ask about their feelings. We can share our own. We must emphasize that the world goes on, and we strive to make the world better.

Sometimes our own words need support. Here are some resources for 9/11:

The Fred Rogers Company, Mr. Rogers: Tragic Events

Common Sense Media book suggestions

Common Sense Media books suggestions for teaching empathy

Commons Sense Media “Explaining News to Kids” This post talks about what Kevin suggests, that we filter the news as much as possible for the youngest children.

Teachers First: Age-rated and reviewed resources for teaching 9/11

Center for Civic Education: 9/11 Lessons

Scholastic Lessons

PBS Parents: Talking With Kids About News

“Learn how to calm kids’ fears, stimulate their minds, and encourage them to think about their place in today’s world.” ~PBS Parents

American School Counselor Association: Helping Kids During Crisis:

• Try and keep routines as normal as possible. Kids gain security from the predictability of routine, including attending school.
• Limit exposure to television and the news.
• Be honest with kids and share with them as much information as they are developmentally able to handle.
• Listen to kids’ fears and concerns.
• Reassure kids that the world is a good place to be, but that there are people who do bad things.
• Parents and adults need to first deal with and assess their own responses to crisis and stress.
• Rebuild and reaffirm attachments and relationships.

~American School Counselor Association

As teachers, parents, loved ones, we help our children “look for the helpers.”


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A response to Digital Writing

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Digital Writing

My friend Kevin Hodgson [@dogtrax] considers the definition of digital writing on his blog, Kevin’s Meandering Mind. He thoughtfully considers “writing,” “composing,” and “digital writing.” I agree with all his assertions, except one.

I consider blogging to be digital writing. The blog post could be the central focus of a presentation, linking to images, resources, and videos that extend and enhance the author’s message. It requires much more thought and creation than simply writing an essay; the images and links chosen must be thoughtfully considered as part of the design to explain, argue, and present ideas. And as Kevin’s post does, it asks readers to interact with those thoughts by adding their own considerations. The record is displayed in post and comment, available always for further analysis. A blog also shows our thinking — and how our ideas change as we consider the ideas presented by the information we gather in our quest for understanding the world’s ideas.

I’ve been thinking, too, about “What is digital writing?” I’m still deciding, but a few thoughts I shared with Kevin [I added a little here] so far are:

  • When I record assignment directions, I have often stopped myself when the directions are to “write” when I really mean “type” or better yet “compose.” Even here, instead of “write,” in this bullet, I chose “record.” Because the digital assignment directions are recorded in a document for reference. I think of digital writing as something that is both composed and curated or recorded.
  • I’ve also used the word “compose” with students. Looking at the dictionary definitions of compose and write, a crossover exists in their use, but compose includes the words create, invent, produce, orchestrate. I find that more inclusive to my definition of digital writing. I want my students not to regurgitate information, but to produce artifacts that explain or argue their analysis of their learning, using words, images, videos, surveys, interactive media, etc.
  • Margaret Simon [@MargaretGSimon ]mentioned “audience” in her comment on Kevin’s blog. She said, “I must be aware of audience in the digital world. Perhaps it’s that immediate audience that makes it digital.”  The focus on the audience is critical. The writing will be shared for an audience one has considered carefully so that the writing clearly promotes the message; digital writing provides authenticity and meaning to topic, audience, and purpose, the meaning behind the writing.
  • Design is a word I use most often with my students: I want students to consider the reader, the information, the student’s purpose and message, and the presentation — how will they best explain and argue their ideas using text, image, video, interactive media, etc.? It is the digital that allows all of us to design the presentation of our discoveries so others understand how we make sense of the world of information around us, and how we invite others into our journey of understanding.

Digital writing allows students — all of us — the opportunity to present our understanding of the world. Writing is all about clarifying our thoughts, making the learning visible. Digital writing includes tools to make this easier: immediate definitions and searches, curation of resources, surveys to gather information, documents on which we can collaborate with others, grammar corrections, hyperlinks to our resources, sharing options [slides, blogs, videos, annotations], communication with experts through texts and webcams, archiving all our digital gathering of resources.

So, considering those tools as part of our quest for knowledge, is digital writing then a system, a  process, and a product available in many personalized forms as needed by and designed by the author?

The focus for my Language Arts classes are these 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 ?

It is the availability of digital tools that allow us to consider our ever-growing understanding of these questions.

Digital writing is a personal, systematic organization of tools and strategies that allow for an enhanced  and enriched process of study, curation,  and analysis, often in collaboration with others, to design a multi-faceted publication of the author’s ( or authors’) ideas for a chosen topic and audience, be that audience oneself, a group, or the public.

I’m still thinking about this… and thank you, Kevin,  for always presenting the questions that focus and clarify our work as learners.