Amplifying Minds

Learning and Growing Together

Archive for the category “Teaching”

ISTE 2014

I had to laugh–at the National Technology Leadership Summit in DC this past week, Camilla Gagglio, who is the program chair for ISTE, shared that the window had closed for proposals October 2.  She was sharing on October 3,  and said ISTE had received 2600 proposals.  1400 came in on October 2.

Over half of the proposals were submitted the night they were due.

I was one of those last minute submissions.  So were several people in the room at NTLS. (Don’t worry, I won’t out you!)

We’re all crazy busy, aren’t we?

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When and Where?

Several days ago, I found this (what I’d consider to be fairly old now)  YouTube video called “What Does It Mean To Teach In The 21st Century?” In it, the authors listed the following skills and asked, “Where do we expect them to learn the skills they need to be successful on the Internet?”

The skills were: paraphrasing, attributing, subscribing, editing, tagging, tweeting, linking, experimenting, reflecting, commenting, searching, posting, locating, linking, integrating, networking, bookmarking, mashing, uploading

The list made sense to me.

They further added these as work kids need to be engaged in as part of their learning:

gather and use data, talk about reliable sources, publish and evaluate work, collaborate, store work and reflect on their progress

Yep, again, made sense to me–although I could add a few.

This morning on Twitter while participating in a tweetchat, #rechat, @ehvickery, as a connected teacher getting her kids to be connected learners, listed these as some of her expectations for learners: Curation – Verify/Trust Info – Various Perspectives – Determine Value to Meet Need – Share & Filter

And my first thought, looking at these lists, was the question from that video…where do we expect students to learn these skills?

Emily’s list was very similar to the ones on the video, and ones I value. But I don’t see kids in my school using these skills much in contexts that matter to them…and I think all schools, including mine, should have conversations around where and when these skills should be taught and learned–by both adults and students.

As I look at those lists, I can’t imagine how some teachers can teach those things to kids–they don’t do them themselves online, so how can they teach them? Heck, I’m not even comfortable teaching all of them and I am considered to be a pretty connected educator, tech-savvy and experienced online.

Too often we rely on others to teach these skills–the library teacher, a computer teacher, a technology integrator–and we assume the kids have them.

But, let’s look at them in the context of our educational past, and think about going to workshops I’m sure many of us have attended–‘Writing Across The Curriculum,’ ‘Integrated Units,’ ‘Reading to Learn in Science‘ (or SS), ‘Writing in Math Class,’ etc. We haven’t done a good job of integrating those topics–Math teachers still teach math. English teachers still teach reading and writing.  Our 3 R’s are still, in most places, isolated skills, taught as distinctly separate subjects, despite the habits of mind that go across the disciplines.

And so, how can we expect these skills–“the ones kids will need to be successful on the Internet”–to be integrated into various lessons?  Don’t we need a separate place and time for them to be taught (by a separate person trained to teach all of them), so we can hold kids accountable for using them?

Well, I don’t think so.  Thursday in our 5th grade math class, Betsy (@bagee1) and I had kids share their various ways of solving an elapsed time problem and then we held a discussion about which ones worked, which were efficient, which took more time, which were clearer to understand, etc.

In doing so, weren’t we “determining value to meet needs” and looking at “various perspectives,” as Emily was quoted above? And, weren’t we, when we finished and asked kids to decide which was best for them, asking them to “filter” out the less effective ways?

The point here, is that these skills aren’t necessarily limited to technology or the Internet. They go across disciplines in many ways and are  ones we need in math, or writing, or reading, or science, or….the list could go on and on. But do we? Do we teach them in ways that allow kids to see them across disciplines–or think about and use them in context of the Internet and what they do there?

Do we teach in ways that allow kids to learn about themselves as learners and become better at learning?  Have we become so attuned to teaching our subjects for the test score that we don’t teach learning any more? Isn’t school where kids come to learn?

So should our conversations as teachers, our faculty discussions, be about these trans-discipline skills? Shouldn’t we talk about how we can teach paraphrasing, attributing, subscribing, editing, tagging, tweeting, linking, experimenting, reflecting, commenting, searching, posting, locating, linking, integrating, networking, bookmarking, mashing, uploading not just in the subject they fit most logically and traditionally, or only in the context of the Internet, but across disciplines?  And shouldn’t we be explicit in naming them when we use them in various subjects, especially if our subjects remain silos?

Aren’t those the conversations we should be having as we think about when and where these “skills we need to be successful on the Internet” should be taught? Shouldn’t we be talking about how to get out of our silo-ed classrooms, and how to use and recognize and talk about skills and habits of mind across disciplines? Shouldn’t we be teaching compliance less and thinking more? Shouldn’t we do less teaching kids how to play school and please the teacher and give them more opportunities to learn like real learners learn?

After all, we can’t teach what we don’t think about and we can’t collaboratively think about what we don’t talk about. So when and where do those conversations occur?

Minecraft? or Crafting Minds?

Several days ago, I found this (what I’d consider to be fairly old now)  YouTube video called “What Does It Mean To Teach In The 21st Century?”  While I plan to critique part of it in this blog, I like some parts of it and plan to use it with our teachers on Monday’s workday to spark conversation. Take 9 minutes to watch it, or this blog post won’t make as much sense as I intend, I don’t think.

First, let me say that my definition of engagement is based on Phil Schlechty’s work and that of our adaptations through our learning walks.  Our administrators, as they do learning walks in our classrooms, look for what we’ve defined (with John Antonetti) as the 8 engaging qualities.  These include:

personal response

clear and modeled expectations

emotional/intellectual safety

learning with others

sense of audience

choice

novelty and variety

authenticity

These are derived from Schlechty’s work by John Antonetti, who has worked extensively with our district in the past. So, as we design classroom work, or look at what we’re doing, we look for those qualities.

And, as a mathematical thinker, as a logical person, as someone who appreciates comparing and contrasting, I generally like dichotomies–but pairing entertainment and engagement doesn’t work in this video.

I don’t know about you, but the work I do–as an adult–is pretty enjoyable to me if it encompasses those traits. And, so I have to disagree with some of the dichotomies set up in that video.

First, entertainment is passive and engagement is active. What?  Some of the things I do for entertainment include reading, solving a puzzle, playing a game, playing jeopardy, hanging out with my grandkids (and that is NOT passive, believe me!), camping, storytelling and I’ve spent years waterskiing! I don’t think it’s an either/or situation.

Secondly, entertainment is enjoyment and engagement is learning???? When I’m learning I’m not entertained, and I can’t enjoy learning?  That’s simply crazy!

And look at the other dichotomies set up–

entertainment=short lived, engagement =long term

entertainment=not relevant, engagement =meaningful, applicable

entertainment=allowing escape from reality, engagement =solving problems

entertainment=using creativity of others, engagement =using your own creativity, fun, exciting

Again, it’s not an either/or situation in any of those cases in my mind…

But let’s look at some of the movements abroad in schools today…Minecraft for education, the maker movement, coding of all kinds, problem/project/passion-based learning, connected educators and kids, flipped classrooms, etc., etc., etc. Are those things either entertainment or engagement?  Doesn’t engagement entertain us? And doesn’t entertainment engage us?

And what does that have to do with Minecraft? Is school all about entertainment and engagement?  Do our kids have to be entertained to be engaged?  Do they have to always be engaged? And why am I concerned so much with these two words?

Well, my room is where kids come to play Minecraft. My room is where they explain it to one another , set up mods, visit each others’ worlds, and can chase and kill zombies (or be killed by them.)  They tell me they’re building and making, and honestly, I don’t know if they’re just feeding me a line of bull. So I wonder about their engagement. I wonder about their learning, and I wonder about their time.  I wonder about their interactions with others (both online and off) and I wonder about wasted opportunities to do other stuff.

So I think about engagement and entertainment and wonder if Minecraft is really worth my kids’ time. They used to interact with one another face to face, playing strategy games. They used to cooperatively build structures and towns and communities with our digital fabrication tools.  They used to be into exploring our 3-D printer. And, I know they’re doing all of those skills (sort of) when they get into Minecraft.  But is it what they should be spending their time doing in school while they are face to face?

It’s an “and,” not an “or”–but kids have to find the balance for themselves. The “and” begs for balance–I play a handheld Othello game each morning…and play Qwirkle with my friends in the evening.  Those entertain me–as does the soap opera I have watched since I was in middle school.  But those things are important to my refreshing who I am–they engage me, in various ways, but they also invigorate me, as they allow me to reflect, rejuvenate myself and energize myself through down time. Finding the balance for myself between the down time I need and the time I use for growing and learning is MY choice–it’s MY decision to spend time online interacting with new acquaintances and friends (some of whom have become real f2f friends) or with my nearby friends that I live around every day.

So how do we, as teachers, help our students find their personal balance?  How do we encourage them to explore online avenues of growth, but also realize the importance of face to face interactions?  How do we allow them to make their own choices, and not judge them as they make different choices from what we might make?  This is their youth–and while it is different from ours, the values I value are still the values I can teach–and I believe, values that matter.  While technology enhances and enables our students of today to learn in ways I never imagined as a youth, the choices I make as a teacher need to enhance and enable them to make good decisions as they become adults–because they are MY future as well.  We need to help students, as always, learn balance between being responsible and having fun; we need to help them learn from life experiences while demonstrating good sense; and we, as teachers need to help themselves craft their minds.  We need to make sure, as they use the technologies available to them, that they are not simply using games like Minecraft and other online diversions to avoid growing and learning, but instead learning through them and with them and finding the balance they need to become the best they can be.

Imaginary Numbers?

Okay, a second time I’m doing 2 posts in one day–but really, it won’t happen often!

Those of you who are mathematicians will know what I am referring to with that title–those of you who aren’t may not.
The bottom line is that my kids can’t wait for math tomorrow because they are going to learn about them. We are working on their sense of number, and I happen to believe that the more kids have the big picture, the more they are able to manipulate things within subsets of that big picture. Today’s agenda include talking about real and imaginary numbers–but we didn’t get to it.

I wish I’d had a video of the kids face as I finished one sentence (about consecutive numbers, which is what we had been working on) and then said, “Well, we’ll have to do real and imaginary numbers tomorrow, cause it’s past time–you guys have to go.” They were so disappointed we didn’t get to talk about imaginary numbers. I can’t imagine THAT! (as a kid, I mean…)

So what do you know about imaginary numbers?  Any good resources out there for a bunch of fifth grade geeks? If we don’t get to it tomorrow, I’d like to have some resources they could pore over at home. Thanks!

 

 

 

“What They Imagine They Do”

I was talking with a friend recently–two different friends actually–who each said something that struck me. Over coffee, @chadsansing was talking about a school he had visited where he had some conversation with the teachers about the specifics of how they were teaching in their classrooms. In describing that conversation and his observations, he said, “What they imagine they do is…..”

Then, @beckyfisher73 told me about a blog post she had read recently by a teacher who was being introspective about her own behavior. As Becky described it, the teacher had always considered herself to be a good teacher and had always had the best intentions in working with her kids. Then she became pregnant and delivered a child with special needs. Now everything she does in her classroom is seen through a different lens. She is very deliberate in her decisions about kids, thinking of the differences between them and how every decision she makes about kid placement, furniture placement, set up of a learning activity, materials she uses, etc. impacts how a child can complete (or not) a task.  Because she is living with a very different kind of child, she is living a very different kind of reflective teaching now.

I wonder how close the reality of our classrooms is to “what we imagine we do.” That’s one of the things I am trying to explore in this blog by sharing the learning activities and situations I set up for my students. In describing them, I see and understand nuances I might have subconsciously seen, but not consciously noted. As I explain my own thinking, I grow in my understanding of myself, and why I do what I do. As I reflect on the class, I learn new things about my students and not only how they behave, but how they think, what they like and don’t like, and how much I have to learn about them. I understand how short the school day is to help the kids become more.

More thought-filled…

More thoughtful…

More questioning…

More loving…

More loved…

More seeking…

More wondering…

More sharing…

More reflective…

More relaxed…

More collaborative…

More introspective…

More critical and yet, more accepting…

More creative…

More appreciative…

More considerate…

More helpful…

More wonderful than they already are.

I don’t want to “imagine” I do things that help kids grow towards those things.  I want to support learners of all kinds–adults or kids– to be more, and to be more myself.  So question me, push me, criticize me, challenge me, feel free to share with me as I journey on this blog wherever it will take me.

Thank you for visiting and reading and thinking with me.

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