Category Archives: Learning
The March Issue of THE Journal caught my eye with “Return to Sender” by Dan Gordon.
The article was once again making the case for reinventing our schools and moving from the 3 Rs (readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic) to the 4 Cs of critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration.
I have been working on polishing the materials for our ReThink Trash Project (funded in part by HOTCOG and created in partnership with Kigluait Educational Adventures). The project fits perfectly into how to design effective learning in our schools.
The 4 Cs Students Need
Critical thinking, creativity, and communication are not always going to be linear processes, but this matches with our ReThink Trash project. I think all of those are dependent on collaboration skills.
How ReThink Trash fits this model of thinking.
- Classes meet via video conference to learn about trash and the impact on our environment.
- Each class researches and learns about trash in their school or community. They will define the problem that they would like to work on.
- Each class will implement an actionable service learning project, including a data collection plan to determine their plans effectiveness.
- Each class will create a digital story to tell about how they defined the problem and what they did about it.
- Classes will meet again with other classes via video conference to share what they have learned and plan continued action.
- “Return to Sender” article in THE Journal (free registration required)
- ReThink Trash Project
- Whirlidurb Video Conferencing
- Kigluait Educational Adventures
- Heart of Texas Council of Governments
What is a project or program that you have participated in that fits this type of learning and skill set that our students will need to use when they are members of the work force?
Last week, we hosted several guests in our Whirlidub studios who interacted with our students. Our guests are carefully selected for their content knowledge and then we thoughtfully structure the interactions to take advantage of the synchronous elements of the technology.
The reason that the design of a video conference is so important is that many people, when they are in the teaching or expert role, tend to try to spew out as much information, as quickly as they can.
When this occurs, it is the person spewing information that is doing the most work.
Their brains are busy
- constructing, and
- synthesizing their knowledge.
That is fine, well, and good for them, but does not do much to engage students or challenge them to think critically or listen attentively.
Two strategies that easily engage students are
- opening focusing question
- think-pair-share before response time.
These two strategies help you to evaluate where you learners are and then to activate all brains before selecting the two or three responses to be shared whole group.
Video conferencing can be an effective technology, but you do need to be thoughtful in your delivery and design.
What are some ways that you have found to engage students or participants through distance?
Creativity has become a buzzword in education.
The first time I became aware that lack of creativity could be an issue for education was watching Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk. He made the talk in 2006 and I watched it a couple of years ago.
I was drawn to the talk because I am one of those “creative types”. I am not a messy creative. I am quite organized and love to doodle. I am a graphic note-taker. That is what I call myself now; I used to just be a doodler who was bored in class. I don’t sing or dance or play an instrument. I can’t make cute titles for lesson units or conference presentations, but I can see systems as a whole and can determine inefficiencies and apply new solutions to improve them. I am creative.
A great article to spark your thinking about what creativity is was in Newsweek last July. It is by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman and helps us understand that creativity is not just in the fine arts, but it is the alternating between divergent and convergent thinking. They discuss testing for creativity (more reliable than IQ tests), environments conducive to developing creativity (freedom + rules), and creativity in schools (how they kill it).We have a crisis in creativity is their claim. I claim that we have a crisis in understanding and defining it.
Creativity is not
- coloring inside the lines
- right brained
- developed by passive activities
- finding the one right answer
- cutting on the line
- isolated skills
- the production of something useful and original
- divergent thinking (idea generation)
- convergent thinking (combing all ideas into the best solution)
- researching and evaluating
More Readings on Creativity
- Newsweek Article, Creativity Crisis July 2010
- Fostering Creativity in Education
- Twenty-four Tips for Developing Creativity
Are you a creative type? What do you think of when you hear the word creativity? How can we teach creativity to our students?
Today we had several classes participating in our Turkey Trade programs. The video conference portion focuses on students identifying similarities and differences. My hope is that we can use this face-to-face time to get students using accurate, descriptive language with their peers.
Here are some of the observations that I heard today.
- The feathers are the same.
- The eyes are black.
- The face is similar.
- They are both turkeys.
- The waddle is different.
- The feet don’t look the same.
- The feathers are bigger.
What strategies can we add to challenge the students to use more descriptive, thoughtful language? This is a great program and is replicated in many ways, but it is not reaching its full potential for learning.
Anyone have suggestions for prompts?
Last spring, I tried out Audible.com and got an audio version of Nurture Shock by Po Bronson andAshley Merryman.
The central premise of this book by Bronson and Merryman, a Washington Post journalist, is that many of modern society’s most popular strategies for raising children are in fact backfiring because key points in the science of child development and behavior have been overlooked.
Here is a summary of the book.
Praise of children is a fascinating concept to me. I see children in schools praised for sloppy work, poor effort, and as peer pressure to get other children to conform. “Thank you, Alyssa, for sitting so quiet and still while we wait for the rest of the class.” We tell children they are wonderful, fantastic, smart, brilliant, and other over-the-top adjectives, but how does all of that lavish praise work with motivation?
The work of Dr. Carol Dweck is referenced in Chapter 1. Here is a summary of the study referenced. This was given to 400 5th graders. I found it thought-provoking and enjoy the author’s description of his attempt to change how he praised his own children.
||Smart Praise||Effort Praise|
|Students were given an easy puzzle to complete.||Praise: “You are so smart at this!”||Praise: “You worked really hard at this!”|
|Students given a choice:
a harder puzzle that they will learn a lot from trying or another easy puzzle like the first one.
|Majority selected the easier puzzle.||90% selected the harder puzzle.|
|Students given no choice.
Had to take a difficult test that
|Sweated and looked miserable.||Involved with trying. Assumed they would be capable. “This was my favorite test/puzzle so far!”|
|Students were given a puzzle
as easy as the first one.
|Successful completion decreased 20%||Successful completion increased 30%.|
Some interesting comments about this research.
- Emphasis of effort gives students a variable they can control.
- Emphasis of innate intelligence takes the control away from the student and there is no good way to explain failure. (If I am smart and I fail or do poorly, then I must not be smart. If I worked hard and failed, then I can look at how I worked.)
- Emphasis of innate intelligence can convey the idea that if you are smart, you don’t have to work hard. (Think: Gifted underachievers)
- The findings were demonstrated through all socioeconomic groups.
- The subgroup whose achieve collapsed the greatest was the brightest female students.
Interesting read. Listen to you as you praise your own children or students. Are you fostering higher achievement or creating the foundations for learned helplessness?
Here at Whirlidurb, we have finished our first three weeks of video conferencing programs. The schedule was designed so that we could deliver a variety of programs and also have enough time to get the technical issues smoothed out.
As I design programs, I have a few non-negotiables.
- Start with what the students will be learning/doing and the curriculum.
- Describe the program in a succinct manner (2-3 minute videos on the website)
- Develop a teacher packet that will provide teachers with the tools they need to focus on student learning.
- Design for interactions between learners and leaders.
- Provide a feedback mechanism so that teachers may share their points of view.
This process has been validated by teacher comments in our evaluations. Here are some snippets.
- The review quiz at the end really helps sum up what they have learned. My teachers commented that the connection was VERY educational. They also have just finished a section on recycling in social studies so it really tied in nicely.
- As I walked my kids out to their cars, several of them told me that they were going to put their seat belts on. This made them more aware of seat belt safety.
- They were actively engaged, having fun and learning all at the same time. I applaud you for this program – Traveling Through Texas. We can’t wait to participate in another program.
- This program increased my students knowledge of several Social Studies objectives which we were working on.
- My student were allowed to see the relevancy of using the problem solving strategies learned in class.
- The activities gave me an idea for hands on lessons. I believe it is always profitable to practice following clues and generating answers.
Singing With Shane (PreK and K)
- They enjoyed communicating with another school via “television”. They were amazed that the “television” was talking to them.
I am looking forward to October and November, as we kick-off our novel-based programs.
If you are a video conference coordinator, how are your programs going? What is the level of student engagement? Are they meeting the teachers’ curriculum needs?
As I am working on program documents and teacher materials, I am analyzing all of it through the lens of best practice and research supported strategies. I continue to maintain that the “cool” and “wow” factors only get technologists so far with classroom teachers. When we can support what they are required to teach with a tool or project that will enhance student motivation and learning, then they will listen and join us.
The group at the Institute of Education Sciences that conducted this research contain a variety of professors of psychology, education, neurobiology and behavior. Here is the link to the entire paper.
7 Ways to Organize Instruction and Study to Improve Student Learning
- Space learning over time. Moderate effect.
- Interweave worked example solutions with problem-solving exercises. Moderate effect
- Combine graphics with verbal descriptions. Moderate effect.
- Connect and integrate abstract and concrete representations of concepts. Moderate effect.
- Use quizzing to promote learning. Pre-quizzes=low effect. Quizzes to re-expose material to students=strong effect.
- Help students allocate study time efficiently. Low effect.
- Ask deep explanatory questions. Strong effect.
The last item of this list is the one that caught my eye. I have been working on redeveloping a questioning guide to use in conjunction with our projects.
One of my core beliefs about learning is that we learn by doing. I prefer active video conference sessions where students are interacting with the content or another class and I think this list would be helpful to content providers and teachers to engage the students more.
Remember, all learning structures do not work for every situation, but here is a list to get you thinking.
- Open Discussion: Ask the question and let the discussion take shape naturally.
- Response Cards: Ask students to answer the question by writing on the index card.
- Whip Around: Have the group stand and in a brief statement share a connection or learning.
- Calling on the Next Speaker: After a student shares her opinion have her call on the next person. Good to use when the group is highly engaged with the topic.
- Self-Rating System: Have students rate their knowledge or understanding by using numbers from 1-10.
- Take a Walk: Pose a question to discuss or a concept to review and take a walk with a partner around the building.
- Stand if You’re Like Me: Left-handed, like spiders, eat pizza, wear a watch, like to play soccer.
- 5-3-1 Jot down 5 words that were key in the last lesson. Share with your partners at your table then choose 3 of them. As a group selects the one word that is the key theme or concept from the last lesson.
- Turn to Your Neighbor and …
• Reflect on what I just said
• Repeat the directions I just gave
• Define the following word _____
• Tell them why you agree or disagree with what the character did at the beginning of the last chapter.
- Touch Blue
- Write Your Name in the Air (or your spelling words!)
- Hand Dancing!
- Content Graffiti: Give each group a poster board with a content topic already written on it and a marker for each person in the group. The group reviews content related to this topic and then each person in the group adds their comments and key points to the poster.
- Group Juggling: Using a koosh ball, have the group stand in a circle and toss the ball to each person in the group to establish the pattern. Each person gets the ball one time and the person who begins it is the person who ends it. Repeat again with the same pattern. Repeat again adding additional balls.
- Sentence Completion (Don’t always do this in written form! Sometimes let them journal orally!)
• I used to ________________ but now I _____________________.
Photo credit: Tela Chhe
What are some strategies that you have seen used effectively to shift the energy in a group of learners or to reconnect them with learning? Have you connected with certain content providers that excel at this? What ideas have your teachers used in Read Around the Planet or other collaborations?
I wrote the following in response to a request that I received. Well, I misunderstood what was wanted. The book is about collaborative technologies and creating global citizens. I thought I was supposed to share my journey, but really they wanted a story about students today. I spent a couple of days thinking about this and I actually typed it up, so I thought I would share it here. It is relevant this week as I have supported the 123VC: JAZZ training which exemplifies my teaching and learning philosophy better than anything else I have ever been involved with.
What is the most important educational event you’ve experienced?
I would have to say that the most important educational event I have experienced would be VirtCamp, the first week of my masters program at Pepperdine University in 2000. My professors structured the environment so that each learner could contribute to our final project and document our learning. It was a dramatic shift for me as a learner from the directed instructions that I had been accustomed to. During that week, I learned that it is not the technology that is important, but rather, how you structure lessons and enable learners to guide their learning and how meaning is constructed through social, collaborative interactions.
This week introduced me to the concepts of constructivism/constructionism, Seymour Papert, and other educational thinkers that significantly shaped my educational philosophy. Everything that we learned was modeled for us by our professors. We were expected to be in charge of our learning and to document and share it. What we learned during this week was the foundation for how to effectively collaborate and co-create. That is what is sometimes missing in the explosive pace of “cool tools” in the current state of educational technology. The curriculum and how to collaborate comes first, not some blinky website where you can create an animation in “3 EZ steps”.
What kinds of technology tools were used?
This was before the advent of many of what are known as Web 2.0 technologies. We used AIM for text chat, websites for course requirements and portfolios, TappedIn for synchronous meetings, and newsgroups for discussions. I did not even have a webcam! All of these technologies supported learning quite well. The two tools that I use today that would have been helpful then would be video conferencing and RSS for keeping up with the flow of conversation and content creation.
How did this experience impact you, personally?
This event is significant in my development as a learner, a teacher, and a leader. As a learner, I learned that in order to get the most out of any situation, I must set goals and expectations for myself. I had to become comfortable asking questions, answering challenges, and leading groups. As a teacher, I must continually examine what my students need to learn, how to best model that and structure the learning environment to enable them to meet their goals. As a leader, it is my responsibility to set the ground rules and expectations for collaboration so that distributed teams can achieve goals in a timely manner.
I definitely believe without this week of learning to collaborate and learn with others from across the nation, I would not have developed the larger view of education and perspectives. This week enabled me to see what is possible and not to quietly accept the status quo. We can always to better.
One of my favorite quotes is from Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Collaborative technologies enable small groups of passionate, thoughtful people to achieve amazing results. The principles of collaboration, authentic learning, and active participation are the guiding principles for all of the student projects that I design for our clients at Whirlidurb™. The elements of how to teach effectively are the foundations of our 123VC training (www.123vc.org). It is the hardest training to prepare for and to facilitate, but the teachers who participate in the training continually rate it as one of the best professional development sessions that they have ever attended.
Without my journey beginning in the summer of 2000 at Pepperdine, I don’t think I would have the strong educational foundation to layer technology tools upon.
I recently finished Making Learning Whole by David Perkins. I am going to share my notes about how to apply it to what we are doing in video conferencing. I am looking at this book through the lens of “What can we do to increase the learning and interactions in our video conferencing student projects?’
The structure for the book is an extended game metaphor.
- Play the whole game.
- Make the game worth playing.
- Work on the hard parts.
- Play out of town.
- Uncover the hidden game.
- Learn from the team and from others.
- Learn the game of learning.
Problem-solving vs. Problem-finding
This is the first thing that caught my eye because we hear “Our students need more opportunities to practice problem-solving”. Think about how your students or children behave when the problem is not clearly defined.
- Solving: The art and craft of dealing well with problems that are reasonably clear using explanation, argument, evidence, strategy, skill or craft.
- Finding: First, one must determine what or where the problems are. The problem must be formulated well and will probably need redefining before you can solve it.
Reframing JAZZ Small Group Projects as Whole Games
What if we added these questions to the preparation materials in JAZZ?
- What would this topic be like if learners were trying to get better at DOING something?
- What would they get better at DOING?
- What would the topic be like if it were not just routine, if it required thinking with what you know and pushing it further?
- If there were some problem-finding involved, where would it figure into the project plan?
I think it is important to continue to focus on what students are doing and learning. We can use the video conferencing technology to enhance projects and we need to think about how to do it in a smart and relevant way.