Student Driven

As an educator one characteristic that I want to instill in students is the ability to problem solve and fail forward as they connect with the world. So often we find ourselves giving students answers, or if we don’t give them the answers, we lead them right there because we have a correct answer in mind. So what are some ways we can break this cycle? How can teach to get our students to be the thinkers and the ones who problem solve?

Here are a few ideas and tools:

Use the Question Formulation Technique. This allows students to work in groups and create and answer their own questions throughout a project. It’s powerful! I have them do it in a Google Doc or Microsoft Word (with sharing on) so that they can collaborate together as each group creates questions. This way groups can see one another’s thinking.

TES Teach Blendspace is a playlist that is easily created because it connects to your computer, YouTube, Google Drive, or the web. You can easily drag and drop resources into it. By strategically placing some assessments for students to determine what they do and don’t know, learning can be put into their hands to decide which assignments to do. You put a variety of choices for learning so that if they prefer learning through watching videos, those are there; if they prefer learning through games, they have that option. If they prefer reading articles, you’ve pulled those in too! A great way to personalized learning and allow student-driven learning.

Blogging! Whether it’s WordPress, Weebly, Blogger, or Kidblog, giving our students a voice to share their learning, connect in an authentic way with the world, and learn digital citizenship in context is important.

If you’re looking for something a little different and new, take a look at Adobe Spark. You have three options: create a web page, a video, or a social media post. In Adobe Spark are sharing options which allow students to go public.

Just a few ways to begin to go beyond the classroom and have students consider the world as they consider what they want to learn and how they create to make it happen.

 

Breaking Out #IMMOOC

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Today I spent time doing breakouts with sixth grade classes. For those who aren’t familiar, think breakout rooms but on a smaller scale.

Students work in small groups with clues tied to given content. In today’s breakout, the content was tied to Gary Paulsen novels and adventures. Once the groups solved the clues, they could attempt at the locks which are either directional, numerical, or word.

Students must use clues, collaboration, problem solving, and content knowledge to solve the clues that will unlock the box.

This is an exciting and new way for students to learn and demonstrate learning. It is the 4Cs (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity) pulled into content in different ways.

I was taken aback when one student asked for the point of as we were debriefing after the break out. So I threw it back at the class; I took a deep breath, wondering if anyone had gotten it. I knew we hadn’t wasted our time. I had watched them work together; have great discourse; use their brains in new ways. BUT had they?

Deep breath. One student responded: we have to collaborate.

Ahhhh. Yes.

Another: we have to work together.

Yes, you do.

We have to look up information on our iPads. Figure it out.

That is true.

They had gotten it. Learning. Wrapped up in a new package.

They got it!

Purpose of School #IMMOOC

The purpose of education is simple and complex. It is simple because we must prepare our students for the world they will graduate into. This is complex because this world is ever-changing. It isn’t the factory line driven world of the 1900’s that our Prussian-style education system is still preparing our students for.

Because of this, we must make some drastic changes to our classrooms and schools to meet our students where they are and prepare them for the unknowns that the world brings.

We know that many careers that our students will choose post-graduation have not even been thought of yet. The best thing that we can do for them is to make students good at learning; good at thinking; good at problem solving; and most of all, good at relating to others. These are the skills that are important in this century.

In this century we can Google any fact or any calculation faster than we can retrieve it from our head. With critical thinking skills students can figure out how to access information and the accuracy of the information that they’re accessing.

The innovation that we most need is open-mindedness to imagine the unimaginable. To recreate schools and get away from low-level trivial knowledge into deeper levels of thinking.

To embrace this change, I try to model it. As an instructional coach, I meet people at their level of comfort and show them how a tool or strategy can enhance learning in their classroom. It is my responsibility to take them from where they are to a place they might not realize even exists: slowly and within their comfort zone.

 

Coach!

As educational leaders we often talk about taking risks; this week I took one. Our school needed a coach for the tennis team, so I thought, Why not? I coach. I play tennis. Just never both together.

This week I did both together. Most likely with some students who may or may not play better than I do. But could I teach them something? Coach them?

So we got started, and headed to the courts, a bit of self-doubt in my head but never outwardly. I mean, technology coach by day, teacher by day, but was I a tennis coach by night?

Can we wear different roles? Can we be agile and seen differently with different expertise by the same people. Risk taking?

I tell teachers this all the time. Take a risk. Try something new.

Sometimes we have to be pushed out of the bird’s nest. So here I go. Nobody laughed at me.

I will model what I tell my teachers and my students. Risk taking. Trying something new, something that makes me a little uncomfortable.

When do we grow? Just outside of that zone of comfort. And so I will grow in this experience.

I will grow as an educator.

I will grow as a tennis player.

I will definitely grow as a human being.

 

 

Innovation #IMMOOC

For many we know that change can be difficult. People get comfortable, cozy and “it works.” Sometimes, though what we deem as working is more existing. Sure, compliant students leave the K-12 system reading, writing, doing basic math, knowing some level of facts in their other classes, but is this really all we want from our students?

Our schools need to take a hard, deep look at themselves. Reform is one thing. Transformation is something entirely different. For our schools to truly meet the needs of the world that our students are graduating into, we need adults who are ready to innovate in every sense of the word. We all know that schools are one of the only industries that look and function much like they did 100 and 200 years ago; neither the business world nor the medical profession does –can you imagine? Yet we continue to tweak here and tweak there. Trade a white board for a chalk board. Trade a tablet for paper. Without changing the functionality of these, it’s just not enough. We need true innovators to wipe the slate clean and dream up a system that will work in 2016 to prepare our students for their present and future.

The impact will be students who are ready for the world.

Students who can think.

Students who are not compliant but are creators and innovators themselves.

Our world cannot wait. We must innovate.

 

 

Getting to this Point…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going through the National Board process early on in my career certainly helped shape me as an educator. Additionally it had provided me with opportunities I would not have otherwise have: I have spoken with district and state superintendents, local politicians, and one of the highlights was speaking before members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

But our career is not made up of highlights but of day-to-days…..how we impact students, educators, and the field overall: that is what will make a career.

For me going through the process solidified my reflective nature. I have renewed also and that process gave me the opportunity to reflect on the professional learning I had gone through and how that learning actually impacted my practice. I took months to reflect on the training that I had completed and determine how worthwhile they were; what impact they actually had. As a result, I am particular about how I spend my time. Particular about the professional learning I take part in. Particular about the degree programs I choose.

I am currently the Innovation & Technology Coach at a middle school. I oversee the professional learning at the school as well as coach teachers as we move our school to one that is project-based learning and 1:1 iPads.

I work hard to use that same high standard to create personalized professional learning for my teachers and staff that I want for myself. I am reflective after each PL session that I plan and ask for feedback to better it for the future.

The National Board process is one that allows us time for reflection. Reflection to become better teacher. Reflection to become better coaches. Reflection to become better educators.

Education Articles 01/04/2014

This reminds me of a paper I wrote about the difference between praise and encouragement many years ago while an undergrad; it seems that encouraging our children still wins for so many reasons.

          tags: education teachers

Interesting research about the early years of a teacher’s career.

[Read more…]

Education Articles 01/02/2014


Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sfjalar/2949654021/

“In 1988, there were about 65,000 first-year teachers; by 2008, this number had grown to over 200,000 In 1988, the most common teacher was a veteran with 15 years of teaching experience. By 2008, the most common teacher was not a gray-haired veteran; he or she was a beginner in the first year of teaching. By that year, a quarter of the teaching force had five years or less of experience.” Data shows that between 40-50 percent of teachers leave within the first five years of their careers. This article goes into details.

One author’s thoughts about why teachers quit and why they stay.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

To Homework or Not to Homework?

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As I began my elementary teaching career, I was unsure about how I felt about assigning homework…. but in the interest of upholding school policies, I gave it four days a week to my itty bitty second graders –and I held them accountable if they didn’t complete it. I began to believe that homework was an important part of every child’s education. I gave it four days a week as a second, fourth, and fifth grade teacher; by the time I started teaching eight grade, I had changed my tune, though. Now based on my experiences and all the research that I have read, I have completely altered my thoughts on homework –especially in the elementary years. Now don’t get me wrong; when I taught little ones, I didn’t give much homework. They read, did some math practice, or spelling work depending on the night. It was all in the name of responsibility I told myself. By the time I taught older students, middle school, I wanted the projects to be completed in school for many reasons: 1) I wanted to assess what my students knew rather than than what their parents knew, and the best way was for projects and writing to be done in school; 2) middle school students have very busy lives between sports and other extra-curricular activities; I needed to plan around their other seven classes so that they didn’t have a ridiculous amount to do on a given night.

I don’t have children of my own but sometimes watch the evening routines of my friends and laugh (or cry) to myself. I see how exhausted children are by the time they get around to completing work; and how frustrating it is for parents; I begin to understand why they give in so often to hinting at answers or even going so far as to do homework with their children –gasp! What is the purpose of homework? As elementary educators, this is something that we have to carefully scrutinize. Responsibility? Practice? Higher-level thinking? To prepare for the next day’s assignment? Family projects? Could we give our students time during the evening to read with their families?

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