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Archive for January 2012

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The Artist within Builds the New GroupThink

GroupThinkCollaboration is in, but it may not be conducive to creativity according to this opinion piece on the New York Times. The author, Susan Cain, states that solitude produces innovation and brainstorming sessions are the worst possible ways to stimulate creativity.

The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” wrote the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”

The reason why this author states that brainstorming fials is that people in groups tend to sit back and let others do the work; they instinctively mimic others’ opinions and lose sight of their own; and, often succumb to peer pressure.

Then the author talks about electronic brainstorming and communication. Marcel Proust called reading a “miracle of communication in the midst of solitude,” and that’s what the Internet is, too. It’s a place where we can be alone together — and this is precisely what gives it power.

So the new GroupThink takes individual artists and thinkers to share what they know and are learning. This is a good point but I believe that being in a room collaborating on an idea is not all bad.

You need a good facilitator for group work be it with teachers or learners. I also see how easy it is to turn a point with electronic brainstorming. There are individuals who alone can be very loud on the Internet. Cain ends her article with "Our offices should encourage casual, cafe-style interactions, but allow people to disappear into personalized, private spaces when they want to be alone. Our schools should teach children to work with others, but also to work on their own for sustained periods of time."

Cain's opinion made me think about personalized learning and why the world is moving to individuals on the other side of laptops and mobile devices are making a difference in how we learn now. Some of the loudest individuals on the Internet sit in their living rooms or at Starbucks all by themselves tweeting, blogging, curating, and doing so-called collaborating online. It's whoever has the loudest voice, the most Twitter followers, the most hits on a post that makes a difference now.

I see that each person can be an artist, inventor, and "out of box" thinker if they are given opportunities to work alone, brainstorm with others, and connect with the world online. Personalized learning is all about the learner -- starting with the learner -- and designing an environment that is conducive to them becoming the artist, the inventor, the writer, or whatever they are so they blossom and grow into who they are supposed to be.


Image by Andy Rementer from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/opinion/sunday/the-rise-of-the-new-groupthink.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2
26

Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization (Chart)

This chart is cross-posted on our new site at Personalize Learning. Please use that site for all information on personalized learning. After writing the post "Personalization is NOT Differentiating Instruction," I received some very interesting feedback and more hits than any other of my posts. I think I hit a nerve. :o So Kathleen McClaskey and I did some research on what personalization is and the differences between differentiation and individualization. We found very little information on the differences. And what we did find, we disagreed with many of the points. That lead us to create this chart:
Personalized Learning Chart version 3
Download the chart here: http://eepurl.com/fLJZM
Creative Commons License Personalized Learning Chart by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. .
0

UDL and Personalized Learning

Thought Leaders about Personalized Learning Interview #1
Kathleen McClaskey

Universal Design in Learning (UDL) is about providing instruction and the appropriate tools to all learners so they are successful in meeting their learning goals. Personalized learning is all about the learner and starts with the learner. There seems to be some confusion about what UDL is from the perspective of personalized learning.

I am very lucky to have met Kathleen McClaskey who adopted UDL principles in her professional development programs. She envisions using the UDL principles to help learners understand how they learn and how to personalize their learning. We have been doing research together on personalized learning, and I realized how much I don't know about UDL. Kathleen has opened my eyes to Universal Design for Learning so it just seemed obvious to me to interview Kathleen as the first Thought Leader in this series.

Q1.What is UDL?

UDL is a curriculum model that provides a framework for teaching and learning. The design of the curriculum includes the three UDL principles: multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression and multiple means of engagement.

Q2.What isn't UDL? What are the misperceptions?

UDL is often misperceived as a curriculum model for special education students only. UDL is more about designing curriculum and lessons so that the maximum of students will learn and understand. First and foremost, it is intended to support the diversity of learners in the classroom, often with the use of a variety of technologies.

Q3. What are the UDL principles?

The three principles of Universal Design for Learning are
• Multiple Means of Representation
• Multiple Means of Action and Expression
• Multiple Means of Engagement

To learn more about these three principles, the UDL Guidelines and the tools that can support these principles, go to The National Center for Universal Design for Learning (www.udlcenter.org/).

Q4. How can a teacher apply UDL principles in the classroom and for all learners?

Universal design for learning is often used around curriculum, lesson design and instruction where teachers look who the learners are in their classroom and then decide how to design the lesson considering the three principles of UDL: multiple means of representation multiple means of expression and multiple means of engagement. When lessons are designed using the UDL model, the lesson includes goals, methods, materials and tools to reach and support the maximum amount of learners in the classroom.

So what if we took this model and we looked at each student through the UDL lens, we could help them personalize their own learning experience? Students can use this model to help them understand how they learn best and what learning path they can take to become an independent expert learner, leveraging their natural abilities in the process. This would create a personal learning profile that is understood by both teacher and student.

Q5. Can you give an example on how a teacher can personalize learning using the principles of UDL?

With the understanding how his or her students learn, a teacher can then intentionally select instructional strategies and materials that will not engage the maximum number of students in the class, but provide access to the curriculum to all students. By understanding each student’s strengths, weaknesses and aptitudes/talents, teachers can design lessons that are engaging to more learners but also understand the options that can extend students expressing their understanding of any content or topic.

Q6. How can a student understand how they learn best using these principles?

Let’s look at the three UDL principles and how students can use these principles for them to understand how they learn.

The first UDL principle is multiple means of representation. A student can ask himself/herself, “How do I like to access information including books, handouts” and “What can help me understand information that the teacher is introducing?” This self-assessment can help students examine their strengths and weaknesses in learning and understanding.

The second UDL principle is multiple means of expression and action. A student can ask himself/herself, “What ways could I let my teachers know what I understand?” This self-assessment can help students look closely on ways they can best express themselves.

The third UDL principle is multiple means of engagement. A student can ask himself/herself, “What am I good at?”, “What do I love to do?”, and “What interests me the most? This self-assessment can help students better understand their aptitudes, interests and overall talents.

Q7. Why is UDL necessary for all learners?

When any student understands how they learn, they are empowered to take ownership of their learning. This opens doors in having tools and resources that can help them become independent learners and motivated in learning, in and out of school. It also opens up windows of opportunities for learners to appreciate their aptitudes, talents and gifts and for teachers to guide and nurture them in the learning activities and projects.

UDL Principles

Kathleen and I were interviewed January 18, 2012 for Virtual Staff Room by Chris Betcher. Check out Episode 46 "This is Personal"

Kathleen McClaskeyKathleen H. McClaskey, President of Ed Tech Associates, is a recognized UDL and Digital Learning Consultant with 28 years experience in using technology in the classroom. Kathleen is a frequent international, national and regional workshop presenter on topics that include Universal Design for Learning, Technology for Diverse Learners, Math and Technology: Bringing Research to Practice and Built in Moodle. In 2007, she was awarded a three-year NH Math and Science Partnership grant for the “Science4All” project, applying UDL principles in the science classroom. In 2009, Kathleen designed and directed the Tools for Learning Math Intervention Project where tools were applied to UDL researched-based instruction in math. In late 2009, she became the professional development director of three ARRA technology funded projects in NH to create 21st Century Classrooms. In all of these projects, Kathleen developed a UDL lesson design structure for project teachers to support the learning of all students.
27

Personalized Learning is NOT Differentiating Instruction

The term "Personalized Learning" is a buzz word educators use to be an alternative to "one size fits all" teaching. Unfortunately, the message is confusing. Ed.gov's archive as part of the National Technology Plan lays out the definition of Individualized, Personalized, and Differentiated Instruction:

Individualization refers to instruction that is paced to the learning needs of different learners. Learning goals are the same for all students, but students can progress through the material at different speeds according to their learning needs. For example, students might take longer to progress through a given topic, skip topics that cover information they already know, or repeat topics they need more help on.

Differentiation refers to instruction that is tailored to the learning preferences of different learners. Learning goals are the same for all students, but the method or approach of instruction varies according to the preferences of each student or what research has found works best for students like them.

Personalization refers to instruction that is paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and tailored to the specific interests of different learners. In an environment that is fully personalized, the learning objectives and content as well as the method and pace may all vary (so personalization encompasses differentiation and individualization).

__________________

Personalized learning is NOT "Personalized Instruction."

Personalizing learning means...
  • students know how they learn so they are prepared for today and their future as global citizens.
  • students are co-learners and co-designers of the curriculum and the learning environment.
  • students own and drive their learning.


Each learner is unique and learns in different ways. Differentiating instruction means that the teacher adapts the existing curriculum to meet the different needs of each student in their classroom. The teacher becomes the hardest working person in the classroom. Individualizing means that the teacher and textbook companies create multiple levels of curriculum to meet the different needs of all students. This means that you pay more to textbook companies to prepare the curriculum or you find multiple ways to teach a content area that meets the varied learning styles and reading levels in their classroom.

Differentiating and individualizing instruction is teacher-centric, grade-level, and standards-based. Teachers can use these techniques to present content. However, he student needs to be the hardest working people in the classroom. Teachers need to teach their students how to fish and not fish for them. In a personalized learning environment, the teacher doesn't have to be the only expert. The advantage of technology is that students can use the content and be the experts with their teacher. They can become experts on specific content areas, technology, and even create content.

Check out Mathtrain.tv where Eric Marcos realized that students learn best from other students." target="_blank">

Schools are using Khan Academy to personalize learning. Students are finding the resources and sharing them with each other. Students are flipping the classroom with their teachers. You can take university classes from MIT Open Courseware and Stanford is offering 15 free online courses.

Personalizing learning starts with the learner. It is not personalized instruction. The teacher, the school, and textbook companies can individualize instruction for the different types of learners. Personalized learning means the students drive their learning and the teacher IS the guide on the side, the co-designer of their learning, and more of a facilitator to make sure the students are meeting their learning goals.
0

Curiosity and Learning from Finnish Education

Every child is born curious. You may remember the saying "the world is your oyster." A child takes that oyster and tries to figure out how to open it. As soon as we can ask questions, we do. We ask why this and why that. The questions are more important than the answers.

The Future Belongs to the Curious from Skillshare on Vimeo.



How do we bring curiosity back to schools?

For so long schools have killed creativity and squashed curiosity. Students are fed information and then tested on it and then labeled from the test results. The system isn't working and needs to change now.

Finland realized this in the 1980s. They were testing and teaching to prescribed standards by grade level. They realized their system was mediocre and were creating a population of people who did not know how to think on their own. So they changed everything. They threw out the tests and changed teaching so it became the most valued profession. Teachers compete to get into the teaching masters two year program. If they are accepted to become a teacher in Finland, they attend for free -- and they work very hard. They then intern in a teaching hospital where they are given a mentor and students as part of a lab. The teacher matters. Students matter and learning is different. Learning is personalized.

From this article from the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal: Finland has taken to better serve all students and educators, including:

  • Improving teacher recruitment and training at colleges of education.
  • Offering a high-quality curriculum with pathways to high-quality vocational training at younger grades.
  • Emphasizing play and the arts in education.




How does Finland bring back curiosity and creativity to learning?

They encourage questions. The teacher allows students to drive their learning. In doing this, the teacher's role changes. Can this happen in the US? I am seeing pockets of change with charter schools and a teacher here and there. However, we are still working within a system of prescribed curriculum, teaching to the test, and standards at each grade level. It's amazing that Finland did start over, and it worked, but Finland is as large as the state of Texas. They are a diverse nation with multiple cultures but not like the US. Each state in our nation is different. Each state has their own standards even though most adopted the Common Core Standards.

Changing teaching and learning in the US is going to take lots of time because everyone involved has their own preconceived ideas of what teaching and learning should look like. I am going to keep doing research on how to personalize learning, what personalized learning is, and find models and examples to share with you. I welcome any comments, research, or links to help me on my quest.
0

10 Tips for Active Listening

"Listening is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well." - John Marshall


Dog headphones"What, Huh? What did you say?" "Are you really listening?"

The problem with "kind of" listening is that it can lead to mistakes, misunderstandings, the wrong goals, wasting time and lack of teamwork. As a coach, I learned the importance of careful and thoughtful listening. Yet, I still have to remind myself about active listening. Some people think they are listening but to build relationships that work, they need to listen well. They may be listening just enough to jump in to say what they want to say. Some have trouble concentrating on what the other person is saying so they zone out or daydream while the person is talking. There are others who think they are listening but actually are thinking of all the things they need to do that day. Yet, listening is less important than how you listen. By listening in a way that demonstrates understanding and respect, you build a true foundation for a good relationship no matter if it is between coach and coachee, teacher and students, friends, mother and child, spouses, or team members.

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen." - Ernest Hemingway

Here are ten tips to listening well:

  1. Decide you want to Listen: Remember the old adage about having two ears and one mouth. Maybe we're supposed to listen twice as much as we speak. Whatever, it starts with the decision to listen.
  2. Come with an Open Mind: It is very easy to come to a conversation with a preconceived idea about the other person and what they are going to say. Give them a chance to surprise you and you surprise them with an open mind and listening well.
  3. Hear What They Say: Make sure you can really hear the other person. It is surprising how often people do not realize that they cannot even hear other people. Make that you can really hear them first for effective listening. Let them know if you cannot hear what they are saying.
  4. Give 100%: Show you care about the other person or persons by giving 100% of your attention to them and suspending all other activities. If you multitask while listening, you are not listening.
  5. Listen 75%, Speak 25% of the Time: This is a powerful tip unless you are giving a speech. Try to allow the other person to speak more than you and listen to them.
  6. Respond with Interest: While you are listening, you can give both verbal and nonverbal responses such as nodding, smiling, and comment to the other person(s). You can demonstrate you received the message and how it had an impact on you. When you respond, speak at the same energy level as the other person. This will help the person who is speaking that they really got through to you and will not have to repeat what they said.
  7. Show Interest: While the other person is speaking, lean forward and maintain eye contact. Be sensitive to their cultural background while listening. Some cultures find smiling offensive. Some people talk with their hands. When you are listening, use similar cultural gestures and actions.
  8. Let the Speaker Finish the Point they Were Making: Our brains speed along four times faster than when we speak. Try not to finish their sentences or interrupt. Wait for Pauses. When the speaker pauses, you might be able to jump in and ask a clarifying question. If there are not good long pauses, then wait until the speaker has completed speaking their idea.
  9. Show understanding: Just saying "I understand" is not enough. People need some sort of evidence of understanding. You can demonstrate that you understand by occasionally restating the idea they were sharing or ask them a question that probes deeper into the main idea. Try not to repeat what they said just to prove you were listening. Active listening means you can show you understand what the other person is saying.
  10. Be Respectful: Let them know you take their views and ideas seriously. Be willing to communicate with others at their level of understanding and attitude by adjusting your tone of voice, rate of speech and choice of words to show that you are empathetic and trying to imagine being where they are at the moment.

"I think one lesson I have learned is that there is no substitute for paying attention." - Diane Sawyer
Resources:
How to improve your listening skills
Listening Secrets
Listening First Aid
The Art of Effective Listening
Talking is Sharing, but Listening is Caring
Listening is crucial in a Multicultural Workplace Training in the Art of Listening
2

Baby Boomers Retiring: Opportunities for Teaching Jobs

Something is happening now. Teachers that are baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1954) are going to be retiring. That means that teaching jobs are going to be available. Lots of teaching jobs will start opening up all over the country and world. Kansas is putting together a plan to prepare for all the teacher retirements and shortages. According to the Kansas City Star, "Administrators were concerned five years ago that there wouldn’t be enough teachers once older teachers started retiring. Then the economy tanked and many veteran teachers decided to keep working for a few more years."

What is interesting is that teaching is now a second or third career for even retirees according to this article in the NY Times. Walt Patterson who is 65 who had been a local school board member, heard about an opening at the nearby West High School to teach science, and decided to build on his science and math background to become a teacher.
Teacher Coming back to teach after retirement
“My wife told me she wasn’t going to keep working while I went out every day to play golf,” Mr. Patteson said. After 10 years in the Navy, where he was a pilot, he returned home to help run his family’s farm in Tracy, Calif. But two decades later, in 1999, when the farm was sold, he was only 53 and he wanted to do something community minded.

All over the Internet there is talk about baby boomers leaving in droves and leaving a teacher shortage. This means there could be an expanding economy. If teachers retire, they leave with a pension and have time to enjoy themselves and spend some of their money on themselves. Money that goes back into the economy.

Michigan is probably one of the hardest hit states because of the collapse of the auto industry. Rick Heglund writes in his article 'There's hope for unemployed workers: Baby boomers will retire': "Michigan's unemployment rate stands at 14.1 percent as 684,000 people say they can't find work."

The Orlando Sentinel article "Teaching: A Hot Career as Boomers Retire" starts off with how many teaching jobs have been lost and why would anyone want to be a teacher. "within the next decade as waves of aging baby boomers retire, leaving districts with lots of openings to fill."

This means that if you are interested in being a teacher, this is the time to jump in. Especially if you have a math or science background, you will be in demand in a few years. Take some classes. Learn about how technology will play a big part in a classroom and online environment. Things are changing. Jobs are coming. And if you're retiring and want to work, look at teaching and sharing your vast knowledge you have attained.
10

18 Predictions for Educational Trends in 2012

Something is happening in education. Do you see it? Education is changing. Textbook companies realized they have to change. Everything is going digital. Many online courses are now open and free. Educating children is different than it was a few years ago. But what does that mean for schools and teaching? Learners are different. Learners are demanding to learn when they want to learn wherever they are and in anyway that works for them. They use new tools that are not allowed in most classrooms. They do it anyway. They are dropping out of school or taking classes online. Parents are looking for alternatives. Learning matters!

Maybe you noticed that students are taking responsibility for learning how to do this or that on their own...that is, mostly outside of school. They need to know something so they google it or ask others. The teacher is no longer the only expert in the class. Teachers have less professional development or access to resources so they are trying to figure things out and still teach to the test. That part has to change. Teachers may not want to change because they only know what they were taught -- to be the expert in the class. They are being evaluated by test scores so the pressure is on them. But, even with that, teachers are asking other teachers for help in the next classroom, going online or figuring out things on their own. Some teachers are realizing that their students have the expertise they need especially when it comes to technology. As a coach working with teachers I realized that I had to see how and why everything was changing. I cannot assume that professional development, curriculum design, and instruction will be the same so I had to rethink my coaching and how I support teachers and schools.

2012 Predictions

In doing this, I thought I'd make several predictions on what education could look like and what I'd like to see in 2012:

  1. Teachers understand how each student learns. They use different methods of assessing how each student learns best and along with each learner keep track of their learning.
  2. Assessment is ongoing since learning is not a constant. Learners are collecting evidence of their learning and reflecting on their learning.
  3. Teachers collaborate with teachers that teach the same subject or grade to design or adapt instruction that is individualized. This means instruction is paced to the learning needs of their students so students can pace through the content at different levels based on their learning needs.
  4. Teachers share content and lessons online and realize that it's not that important to reinvent the wheel or keep content to themselves anymore.
  5. Teachers are no longer the hardest working people in the classroom. They are appreciated as a facilitator or "guide on the side" instead of the only content expert. Teachers are more like a coach encouraging students to find their strengths and go with them.
  6. Learners determine their strengths and weaknesses and share their expertise with other students and teachers.
  7. More instruction is flipped where teachers and/or students find or create and upload lessons as videos or on websites to the Internet so learners learn the content out of school and then do the real work in the classroom.
  8. The classroom can be anywhere at anytime. Learning can happen anywhere. Everyone is a learner and a teacher. More learning is mobile and on mobile devices.
  9. Students have access to what they need when they need it. If a school or district does not have the resources, the learner brings their own device to school. The school represents the real-world and all devices are allowed. Everyone is responsible and trusted.
  10. Homework is different. Learners watch videos and lessons, learn about content, and learn from each other out of school. They take more control of their learning. No more busywork.
  11. Forward thinking IT departments allow YouTube Education, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media so students can use real-world tools in school.
  12. Schools and universities accept prior knowledge, realize that experience matters and students are open to challenge a course or test.
  13. Assessment is not just about test scores. Learners collect and reflect on evidence of learning. Assessment is ongoing and everyone is part of a feedback loop and supporting each other.
  14. Teachers are not evaluated by test scores. They have a coach or mentor and are part of a team that supports each other. Teachers collect evidence of learning in their classroom as an ePortfolio.
  15. Students lead parent conferences with their teachers. They own how they are learning and ask for feedback and help in monitoring their progress.
  16. Teachers, parents, and other learners are part of each learner's learning team.
  17. Professional development involves more collaboration and support for teachers based on their own needs. Coaching teachers and students involves designing assessment strategies, facilitating collaborative planning sessions and redesigning learning environments, guiding student experts who flip the classroom and create websites for the classroom, and helping behind the scenes with ePortfolio design.
  18. Learning is personalized. Creativity and curiosity is back in the classroom. Learning is passion-driven and joy matters. Learners drive and own their learning.

    These predictions may seem like dreams to you, but I really believe they can happen. It is all about our children -- right? We need to teach less so everyone can learn more.