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Tag: critical thinking skills

1

Reflecting on Reflection

Reflection is a powerful tool. Today I woke up and wondered why I haven’t written a post in so long. I paused, thought about it, and realized my life has been spinning the last two months. Usually the words just come to me, but these past months have me working every minute. I am a co-founder of Personalize Learning, LLC with Kathleen McClaskey. We are being written into many Race to the Top applications around the country. My eCoach has been approached to support different groups Communities of Practice, so that is growing at the same time. It’s very exciting, but I need to write about ideas that may not be about the work I do. I love to write. These ideas come to me, and I need to put them down. Even if I am working 20 hours a day, I need to stop, pause, and reflect.

So reflecting on reflection came to me. Actually reflecting means capturing the moment when it happens.  Today is the day for me to capture the moment.  First a quote:

Reflection is what allows us to learn from our experiences: it is an
assessment of where we have been and where we want to go next.
~ Kenneth Wolf

For the last two months, Kathleen and I have been writing every day supporting different RTT-D applications. The last week, we have been bombarded with calls from districts and consortiums of districts wanting our support. We are getting requests from schools and organizations from other countries. Today I need to stop and breathe and reflect. I use Gibb’s Model of Reflection:

Gibbs Model of Reflection

What happened?

Kathleen and I developed a model for personalizing learning over a four year period that meets the requirements of the Race to the Top application. We defined the differences between personalization vs differentiation vs individualization and ended up having Porvir in Brazil create an infographic in Portuguese around our chart that we translated in English. We were hired by Grant Wood AEA in Iowa to talk to their superintendents and now are doing a webinar overview, offering an eCourse and webinar series, and setting up a Community of Practice across the state. That was just the beginning. We are getting requests from all around the country and Mumbai, Singapore, and more.

What am a I thinking and feeling?

I am excited about the interest we are getting. Now about my feelings. I haven’t had time to reflect on everything that is happening so fast. This is good. Pausing. Reflecting. I think I got too excited about the interest and stopped thinking about me and what I love to do — write. This also made me think about kids today and all that is on their plates in school — especially middle and high school kids running from class to class in schools with crazy bell schedules. I need time to reflect. I don’t know how kids do it — starting and stopping thinking– thinking in one subject and then jumping into another subject.

Personalizing learning means creating time to reflect, pause, and have flexible schedules that allow for risk-taking and reflection. There is no time for risk-taking or reflection when you are preparing for a test or writing an application.

What’s good and bad about the experience?

Good

Kathleen and I are revisiting and refining our model and process. It is getting better every day. I am excited about what we are coming up with and know there is still lots more to do. Every school, district, teacher, and learner is unique — there is no cookie-cutter answer to meet the needs of everyone involved.

Bad

My feelings are that I’m overwhelmed. Guess that’s the way kids feel daily. I get it. That’s why we are doing what we are doing. School does this same thing to kids that is happening to me right now. Overwhelmed. No time to think about thinking. I say that reflection is very important and needs to be part of every day. Pause. Think. Reflect. Write.

What sense can I make of the situation?

Kathleen and I complement each other. We both bring a lot to the table. I live in California where the education bubble burst some time ago. Professional development budgets crumbled and professional developers fight over the same dollar. I thought this was happening everywhere in the US. Kathleen, who lives in New Hampshire, opened my eyes to what is happening in New Hampshire: competency-based learning in all the high schools and 1:1 iPad schools in the Northeast. We interviewed leaders and transformational teachers and found CESA #1 in Southeastern Wisconsin where Jim Rickabaugh shared how there is co-teaching, learning plans, and learning changing. British Columbia is transforming learning across the province where Dave Truss shared about the Inquiry Hub. So much is happening in other places around the world. Why couldn’t it happen here in my backyard?

It can. It is but in pockets, but not the way I was hoping. Some large corporations are coming in and spouting that they can personalize learning by adapting the curriculum and blending learning with learning labs and algorithms. They can “Personalize” the learning for students. Sorry — but personalizing learning means starting with the learner — changing teacher and learner roles. That’s why we made our chart and had to do what we are doing. We see the importance of knowing how learners learn best using Universal Design for Learning principles which then changes teaching and learning. Motivation — Engagement — Voice. That’s what works. Technology can support this but not be the only thing that personalizes learning.  Whew!!  Pause. Reflect.

What else could I have done?

Take time off every day and pause. I need to stop and reflect every day somehow. When I write, it seems to put everything in perspective for me. I still write my column for CUE, but this site is for me to share my thoughts and findings. I will never go months again without writing something even if it is another reflection about my reflections.

If it arose again, what would I do?

Write on the calendar in big letters: Pause. Reflect today. 

It is important to capture and treasure every moment. This is my learning environment that is personal to me. I forgot that every day I am learning something new. How cool is that?

5

Blended Learning for Each Learner

Blended learning refers to any time a student learns, at least in part, at a brick-and-mortar facility and through online delivery with student control over time, place, path, or pace. [source: infographic] This sounds like personalizing learning to me. Yet, something’s happening how schools are using the blended learning approach.

Blended Learning

Blended learning environments are growing especially in the charter school movement. According to Michael Horn and Heather Staker on Innosight:

Online learning is sweeping across America. In the year 2000, roughly 45,000 K–12 students took an online course. In 2009, more than 3 million K–12 students did. What was originally a distance- learning phenomenon no longer is. Most of the growth is occurring in blended-learning environments, in which students learn online in an adult-supervised environment at least part of the time. As this happens, online learning has the potential to transform America’s education system by serving as the backbone of a system that offers more personalized learning approaches for all students.

They continue with a concern about the numbers of students who will have access to o online learning opportunities. There is a limit, however, to the number of students in America who have the ability to be home-schooled or attend a full-time virtual school. The same analysis that shows that 50 percent of all high school courses will be delivered online by 2019 reveals that home schooling and full-time virtual schooling will not substitute for mainstream schooling, as their rapid growth flattens out at around 10 percent of the K–12 schooling population.

There is a limit, however, to the number of students in America who have the ability to be home-schooled or attend a full-time virtual school. The same analysis that shows that 50 percent of all high school courses will be delivered online by 2019 reveals that home schooling and full-time virtual schooling will not substitute for mainstream schooling, as their rapid growth flattens out at around 10 percent of the K–12 schooling population.

Blended learning means something different to different groups depending on the ages of students, access to resources, teacher support and training, integrating digital literacy, assessment strategies, and amount of collaborative planning time.

Allison Littlejohn, director of the Caledonian Academy, Glasgow Caledonian University wrote 20 Tips and Resources for using Technology in Higher Education where she shared about blended learning:

Blended learning should transform learning, not just replicate teaching: Companies want graduates who can source, filter and use existing knowledge to create new knowledge, and the university is key to equipping students with these skills. Yet we seldom see technology  tools being used in radically new ways in Higher Ed. They are usually used to replicate lectures – think of websites or podcasts – rather than enabling students to learn in new ways.

Littlejohn makes a point that the relationship between blended learning and digital literacy is important, yet often overlooked. There are few well-defined ideas on how learners make connections across distributed networks and how they chart their learning pathways.Most of the blended learning models that I’m finding in my research so far talk about learning pathways and students’ personalizing their learning, but, in most of the models, the schools “personalize” students’ learning and adapt their students’ learning paths based on test scores and the level they reach on some online activities. Teachers may differentiate activities that they post on their website or “flip the classroom.” I like the idea of flipping the classroom so the real work in the classroom is meaningful and relevant. However, these activities are so much work for teachers. Teachers are working after-school taking up much of their own time to develop materials, lesson plans, and websites. Teachers spend time compiling data to determine how to teach to the different groups of students in their classroom. They assume that if they differentiate instruction, then each student in their classroom will understand the content.
Teachers should not be the hardest working people in the classroom.
When you look at the blended learning model for Higher Ed [Blended Learning Toolkit], teaching is teacher-directed either on-site and online and self-directed. With the availability of iTunes University, Open Education Resources [How to create your own textbook] and digital textbooks or Flexbooks [CK12/flexbooks], teachers from K-20 are picking and choosing resources to customize instruction. In all these cases, are we as teachers understanding how our students learn best? Are we taking into account each learner is not only different but they may learn in a different way? That’s a lot to think about.

 

There are organizations like Rocketship Education that are using adaptive courseware for students to increase their achievement in specific content areas like math and reading. These tend to be in lab situations monitored by a para-professional or teacher. The concern I have for this model is that student learning pathways are based on algorythms calculated from the answers students choose. The student has not designed their learning path or determined how they learn best using the different games or online activities. Student test scores do go up, but are students learning critical thinking skills? Some students don’t learn well this way — some do well for a time and then plateau. In this case, the software doesn’t take in account how the learner learns best. They may move to a different level or receive intervention strategies to understand the content, but do they really “get” it? How can a computer understand how each learner learns best?
How about changing the word “Student” to “Learner?” Student implies that they can only learn from a teacher. Learner implies a different role for teacher and learner. The learning starts with the learner. The learner drives and owns their learning. How about re-evaluating how the learner learns and using that information to design their personal learning path or personal journey?

 

Maybe what we call blended is more than on-site and online. It means knowing how the learner learns best and then blending the following to help them reach their fullest potential:
  • on-site
  • online
  • interactive games
  • small groups
  • one-on-one
  • appropriate resources
  • technology
  • observations
  • collaboration
  • personal journeys
  • flipping the classroom
  • inquiry and critical thinking
  • project-based
  • problem-based
  • design-based
  • challenge-based
  • studio-based
  • and so much more…
What if…
  • learners are able to determine how they learn best?
  • teachers are co-designers of blended learning environments with learners?
  • learners have a voice and choice in the way they learn?
  • there are a variety of opportunities of blended learning approaches to choose from?

 

We will see and research more models and examples of personalizing learning. Just think we are in the middle of discovering and transforming learning.  We will have to figure out how to personalize learning for all learners of all ages. The time is now. This is very exciting to be part of this type of transformation of learning. There will be lots of tugging and pulling and pushing to get it the right way. But I don’t think there will be one right way. I’m thinking each learner’s learning path will be their way.
1

The Information Diet

All of us have used the term “Information Overload”, but is it really that? This book, The Information Diet by Clay Johnson, has a different take on how we use information.

The Information Diet

The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption

The author shares that humans spend upwards of 11 hours out of every 24 hours in a state of constant consumption. Not eating, but gorging on information ceaselessly spewed from the screens and speakers we hold dear. Just as we have grown morbidly obese on sugar, fat, and flour—so, too, have we become gluttons for texts, instant messages, emails, RSS feeds, downloads, videos, status updates, and tweets. As part of the technological revolution, many of us are addicted. We wake up and have to check our social media to see who did what when and comment on this here and there.

We’re all battling a storm of distractions, hit with notifications and tempted by tasty tidbits of information. This is just like  too much junk food can lead to obesity, too much junk information can lead to cluelessness according to the author. We are taking multitasking to extreme limits. So here is a book that opened my eyes. The Information Diet shows you how to thrive in this information glut—what to look for, what to avoid, and how to be selective. In the process, author Clay Johnson explains the role information has played throughout history, and why following his prescribed diet is essential for everyone who strives to be smart, productive, and sane.

In The Information Diet, you will:

  • Discover why eminent scholars are worried about our state of attention and general intelligence
  • Examine how today’s media—Big Info—give us exactly what we want: content that confirms our beliefs
  • Learn to take steps to develop data literacy, attention fitness, and a healthy sense of humor
  • Become engaged in the economics of information by learning how to reward good information providers
  • Just like a normal, healthy food diet, The Information Diet is not about consuming less—it’s about finding a healthy balance that works for you

2

Occupy Learning

OccupyA learner is going to find a way to learn what they need to know no matter how much they are tested, scolded, and herded from grade to grade, teacher to teacher. The world is changing. People are changing. I am seeing how more and more learners are finding their own way — to figure out who they are. Some are working through the system to get a degree and maybe find a job that may last a few years. They may retire with a pension, but, in more cases, they will move from job to job and not know if they will ever be able to retire. Many cannot find a job in their field. The system is broken and there’s a whole generation of workers discouraged and wondering why they spent their hard earned money on a degree that doesn’t get them a job or work that is something they are passionate about. A few start their own businesses but being an entrepreneur is something they were not prepared for in school.

Schools were designed around the factory model which has been in place for over 100 years. After years of teaching the same thing to all children — the “one size fits all” model, learners are demanding that their education meets their needs. Each person is unique and different and they are reaching out to get what they need wherever they can find it. Even the theorist John Dewey wrote in 1897:

John Dewey
“The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these influences.

How come Dewey knew this that long ago and the teacher still is the expert and the hardest working person in the classroom? Why is it taking so long to change?

There are a lot of factors in place that are impacting how schools are run. US schools are focused on teaching to the test and raising test scores. Textbook companies design curriculum and most teachers teach from the prescriptive script. That’s how they were taught and, basically, it is easier since the tests come from the same sources as the textbooks. Teachers are not supposed to be creative and innovative or take risks with the curriculum. It’s been tested, tried and true according the adoption process. But is it working?

Most textbooks are broken down into separate objectives that work if you are a high-achieving linguistic learner from New York or Texas. Everything is teacher-directed with examples and tips. However, each child is different in each classroom. Each teacher is different also. They may even have a mind of their own, background experiences that they can bring to the topic.

Personalizing learning will help your students do more than increase their scores because they will own their learning and use higher-order thinking skills that they will need to be global citizens and marketable. The world is different and more and more of our children are falling behind. We cannot teach out-dated strategies that will not prepare them for their future. The learner needs guidance to break out of the dependent role and drive their own learning. Students are leaving traditional school environments for online courses, home schools, and/or dropping out. Schools are closing. Teachers are being laid off. Communities are suffering. Change will happen if learners have anything to say about it.

So I say: Occupy Learning!!
Find a way to learn what you want when you want it. I use social media and curation tools to find resources around topics. I ask and search through my PLN (Personal Learning Network) for new ideas. We’re all learners together. You can find free online courses and webinars and even find a coach to guide you along your learning path. Learn who you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Find your passion and go for it. Use whatever works for you. Don’t let anyone stop you from realizing your hopes and dreams.

Hopes and Dreams

2

Why Content Matters: Defining Personalization

Curating content makes sense of all the content that others are creating. According to Joe Pulizzi’s article “Forget Content Curation, Focus on Original Content in 2012” there is no curation without original content.

Curation is helping me find resources and learn new ideas from people I never knew. Like so many others, I am getting caught up in curation. I go to my Scoopit daily to find new resources from reputable sources that I am following. I never would have found the article from Joe Pulizzi unless I checked my dashboard.

But I agree about the main concept of his post. “There is no curation without original content.” His website is about content marketing and shares a graph about brand awareness that is pretty cool.

Content Marketing

If you want to brand yourself or a concept, you need to write about it. My focus is on personalizing learning and articles and resources that appear on that topic are all over the place. I am following content curators and finding original content creators on personalized learning. I need to find good content creators that have original ideas, research, and resources to help my research.

  1. Some companies are using the term “personalized learning” when actually they are designing courses or platforms where the teacher can control who accesses particular content or quizzes based on their answers. To me that’s customized and still teacher-directed. There is a difference between personalization and differentiation. One is learner-centered; the other is teacher-centered.

  2. Teachers are confused about the term “personalized learning” because they only know how to teach they way they were taught. So when I come in and talk about student-centered learning and starting with the learner, it just doesn’t happen right away. There are teachers that are posting lessons using the term “personalized learning” but have all control. I say “maybe this is the first step” to moving to student-centered learning, but it is not there yet.
  3. If you are curating content about personalizing learning, don’t just rescoop it without commenting on it. Curation needs your take on the article especially if the direction is different than yours. Explain why.

Creating content is important. The Internet is full of biased information and, in some cases, wrong information. We need your content and we need you to curate by adding your own comments and opinions. Be aware of buzz words and anyone using terms just to get work.

Check out my 11 Tips to Personalize Learning. It starts with the learner and determining how they learn best. They own and drive their learning. Much of the content I am finding still has the teacher working harder than their students. We need to start with each learner and have them figure out how they learn best. They are all unique just like their fingerprints.

Fingerprints

0

Curated Ecosystem of Live DJs

Seth Godin latest article, entitled “the trap of social media noise“, touches on one of the hot issues about the Internet. I curated this article from Seth which was reviewed eloquently from Robin Good who asked:

Are we creating and leveraging these tools to regurgitate and spit out more noise, or are we working to build tools and to help others understand the value of distilling and making sense of the information wave surrounding us?

Curation can also be an easy way to repost someone else’s information without doing much work yourself. You can share to multiple social networks and RSS feeds. This creates even more noise and confusion. Who was the original author and what is the intention of the curator?

Seth writes that “…either be better at pump and dump than anyone else, get your numbers into the millions, outmass those that choose to use mass and always dance at the edge of spam (in which the number of those you offend or turn off forever keep increasing)… or Relentlessly focus.

Prune your message and your list and build a reputation that’s worth owning and an audience that cares. Only one of these strategies builds an asset of value.”

Howard Reingold interviewed Robin Good about Curation in the video below. I have been following Robin on Scoopit and am learning how to be a curator from him. People can be gateways to the information we need instead of relying on digital robots using algorhythms that produce millions of resources in a search — millions that are not relevant.

I am enjoying building my Scoopits and gathering resources that will help me write and learn. But I do have some concerns similar to what Seth was writing about and Robin was talking about. Just getting your numbers up with followers, hits, comments, and others rescooping your scoops isn’t enough. The Internet is like drinking from a firehose. We need humans to filter now — not just put up lists to links and more links. Building a curated ecosystem means that each curator is customizing the flow of information for their audience. I am learning as I go. I’m following people with similar interests and finding and collecting sources that I would have missed in a basic search.

I am just dipping my toes in this new world and anxious to see where it ends up. Robin mentioned one thing that stuck out to me: “Are you a Mixed Tape or a Live DJ?” A live DJ finds information and distributes it the way his/her audience would enjoy it. A live DJ will talk about the music and personalize it. That’s what a curator can do with the resources they find.

6

Being in the Flow

When I think about engaging students, I think about Flow. Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.

In 1997, Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi published this graph that depicts the relationship between the challenges of a task and skills. Flow only occurs when the activity is a higher-than-average challenge and requires above-average skills.

Flow -- Engaging Students

Graph of Flow from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_%28psychology%29

The center of this graph (where the sectors meet) represents one’s average levels of challenge and skill. The further from the center an experience is, the greater the intensity of that state of being (whether it is flow or anxiety or boredom or relaxation). Flow only occurs when the activity is a higher-than-average challenge and requires above-average skills.

Kindergarteners spend more time learning how to take a test than learning how to socialize. Watch children play and challenge themselves. You can see how they are engaged. Play and learning needs to go hand-in-hand. If play is purposeful and challenges the learner, any learner of any age will want to learn.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” — George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

Conditions of FLOW

Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi identified ten factors one may experience with FLOW:

    • Clear goals and expectations

    • Deep concentration
    • A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness
    • Distorted sense of time
    • Direct and immediate feedback
    • Balance between ability level and challenge
    • A sense of personal control over the situation or activity
    • Intrinsically rewarding activity
    • A lack of awareness of bodily needs
    • Absorbed and focused only on activity

How are you experiencing FLOW?

Think about an activity that gets you excited and are passionate about. If you love mountain biking, you probably cannot wait for that time to jump on your bike and take off. If you are working on a project that you are really interested in, you might work right through your lunch and not even know it. If you are part of a team and are valued, it makes you feel important. If the project you are working on is something you want to do or want to learn, then you spend even more time on it than you would in a traditional classroom setting.

How are your students experiencing FLOW in the classroom? Are they? If so, when?

I am a coach. I work with teachers to facilitate moving teaching and learning to student-centered classrooms. This isn’t easy for teachers especially with everything else on their plates. When teachers develop an activity that is student-centered and their students drive and own their learning, the environment changes. The noise level in the classroom gets louder. For some teachers this is bothersome, but that’s just because they are not used to it.

I call it controlled chaos and purposeful play. There’s a buzz going on in the room. When students are working in groups and fully engaged, they enjoy working as a team. Especially if each member of that team has a role and is valued in that role. I’ve seen middle school classrooms change from a group of at-risk students who are not interested in anything to learners who are excited about learning. I’ve seen them stay during lunch or after school to continue to work on projects. Now that’s FLOW!

You can see FLOW happen when students are working in groups or doing individual work. FLOW is personal. Learning needs to be personal. It really is all about the learner.

8

Creativity, Failure and Learning

Science 21st Century Skills

21st Century Skills include three areas of creativity:

  • Think creatively.
  • Work creatively with others.
  • Implement innovations.

The elements for these skills include:

View failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and innovation is a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes.

Traditional school doesn’t allow for people to take risks and fail. Glenn Wiebe wrote in Are You an Under-taker or a Risk-Taker?

“One of the reasons that we as teachers don’t take risks is our fear of failure. We’re afraid that our state tests scores won’t be good enough or that we’ll look silly in front of kids or that the technology won’t work or that we’ll get calls from parents or…

But we also know that failure is often a prerequisite to success. Teachers take risks because they understand that screwing up is not necessarily a bad thing. Risk-taking involves possible failure. If it didn’t, it would be called Sure Thing-taking.”

Standardized TestNothing in life is a sure thing-taking. That is except the answers on a standardized test. Life is not a standardized test or we would have everything labelled A, B, C, or D. Today is so different than yesterday. Look at the economy. Who knows what’s going to happen with the stockmarket? Look at jobs and unemployment. What type of jobs will be available for us in the future? Many jobs we used to offer are no longer an option. Because of that higher ed is changing or needs to change. So why am I talking about failure?

For hundreds of years, people were preparing for factory jobs. That’s why schools were set up in that model. They needed to know how to follow orders and not question. Failure was NOT an option. Candidates for most jobs now need critical thinking skills and to stand out of the crowd. They need to be remarkable. The only way you can be different is to take risks, fail, and come up with new ideas. You also need to build up a network of people you can ask because the world is changing so fast. You won’t find the answer in a book. You may not even find the answer online. You will need to know how to collaborate and work together as a team. Each of the team members will bounce ideas off of the other members of the team; some ideas work, some don’t. You learn from things that don’t work.

Thomas Edison with Light Bulb

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
― Thomas A. Edison

We want our kids to be inventors, thinkers, team players, and innovators. The only way to do that is to create a learning environment that encourages failure or new ways that won’t work. I believe the secret to success is failure. We need to create an environment that challenges students so they struggle with unfamiliar or difficult information. Why make it easy for someone to learn? Why is it that teachers are working harder now than ever? The students need to be the hardest working people in the room and challenged so they are excited about the topic.

When you look at children playing a game that challenges them in a good way, they are motivated. They don’t win right away. They get feedback right away. What is the fun in winning right away or all the time. The fun is in challenging themselves beyond what they know. I know myself and how I am writing and taking risks to write down new thoughts. I learn from you. I learn from others. I don’t have to have the right answers all the time. That’s what learning is all about. Challenging yourself to change; trying new things and failing and trying again.

National STEM ChallengeHere’s a new challenge: The 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge that opened today is a multi-year competition whose goal is to motivate interest in STEM learning among America’s youth by tapping into students’ natural passion for playing and making video games. Go ahead and show your students this challenge. It is open to multiple ages. They have until March 2012. Have them experiment, fail, and come up with something amazing. They will learn so much.

15

11 Tips to Personalize Learning

1. Find out how each student learns best.

Each student is unique. Find out each students best learning styles using multiple assessments. Have students create a personal learner profile that identifies how they best learn, their strengths, and their weaknesses.

2. Allow students to choose their topic.

Give students a chance to make decisions about how they learn best. Have students pursue their own interests and something they are passionate about. Make sure they address their strengths and their learning styles. Don’t expect everyone to respond in the same way.

3. Encourage teachers and students to co-design the curriculum.

Review the standards with the students so they understand what they need to know and do. Ask students to brainstorm ideas and topics around the standards and examples of projects, problems, and challenges.

4. Ask lots of questions.

Take one topic and brainstorm open-ended questions that have no one right answer but multiple answers and more questions. Provide a framework for students to engage with new learning by making connections, thinking critically and exploring possibilities. Have them brainstorm questions and then prioritize the questions.

5. Teach less, learn more.

Review the lesson so you are not lecturing or the main expert of the content. Make it so everyone in the class is an expert on something or a great researcher so they can find the information they need. Change the seating arrangements so students are in groups or encourage students to redesign the learning environment. Have students find their strengths and be available to help others. When someone has a question about something, have them ask 3 people that have identified they know the topic before you. Integrate the appropriate technology that encourages publishing, creating, and collaborating with other students.

6. Share how you learn.

Talk about your own learning. You are creating a learning community where you are modeling collaboration, curiosity, and reflection. Be an active participant in the learning community. Opening up about you and what you know about a specific topic encourages discourse among your students.

7. Connect, extend, challenge.

Ask your students to write down and reflect on what they learned, if there was a particular learning experience they enjoyed, what helped and hindered their learning, and what might they do different next time. This can be in the form of a blog or personal online journal.

8. Re-evaluate assessment.

Instead of focusing on standardized tests only to measure progress, create meaningful assessment tasks that allow transfer of learning to other contexts. Have students publish evidence of their learning on the internet for an authentic audience such as a blog or ePortfolio. Place as much value on process and progress as on the final product.

9. Define goals and encourage reflection.

Each student can define their learning goals and develop their personal learning plan. They can refer to their progress towards their goals with ongoing self-evaluation and reflection. Provide opportunities for constructive, specific feedback from you, the student, their peers, and their parents. Student blogs are great tools for reflecting on learning and responding to their peers.

10. Focus on learning, not work.

Make sure you and your students know the reason for every learning experience. Avoid giving worksheets and busy work. Start with the Why they are learning something. Ask questions. Encourage questions. Develop with your students learning experiences that support personalized learning and collaborative group activities.

11. Coordinate student led conferences.

Invite students to lead the conference about them sharing their strengths and weaknesses with their teacher and parents. They also share how learning has progressed, areas for improvement, and the process and product of learning. Evidence of learning and the process can be published to an ePortfolio, a VoiceThread, Glogster, or blog.

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Making Change with Good Questions

Make Just One ChangeToday I’m talking to Sara Armstrong about Good Questions. Before I attended Sara’s session at the Fall CUE conference on Good Questions Good Searching, I thought I was asking good questions. Now I know I wasn’t going deep enough. Sara shared a book, Make Just One Change, that opened her eyes to a new path that is straightforward to help us ask good questions. So I decided to ask Sara about the book, the process, and why it is important to use this process in teaching and learning. Info about the book with discount code if you want to purchase it is at the end of this post.

Q.Why are good questions important?
A. Good questions really help us think deeply about a topic. When we develop a project for PBL, good questions drive the process that kids go through to understand the topic. This processes laid out in Make Just One Change provide specific ways for teachers and kids to think more broadly than in the past — techniques that can be applied in all areas of the curriculum.

Q. Can good questions help students be more responsible for their own learning?
A. By empowering students to get to good questions, we can help them make better choices for good research, they can organize their work, and they will begin to think more critically. Actually students can use this process to determine the path or topic they are pursuing in any curriculum area. And the role of the teacher is vital. The authors, Rothstein and Santana, specify a process to help teachers refine the topic so it is not too broad or too narrow. Teachers, too, get better at their role of posing the main theme for kids to spark their brainstorming aspect to getting to the good questions.

Q. Can teachers use this process with existing curriculum?
A. Yes. Any curriculum. Any time. As we’re trying to instill more responsibility for students, the classroom changes to include more student voice and choice about anything they are learning. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking math concepts, cyberbullying or any topic, students can learn from their peers when they ask each other good questions about the topic. I had trouble with learning geometry and wishes she had had the ability to ask good questions with her peers. When a teacher allows discussions about the topic and asks “how are we going to do it?” students own their learning and are more engaged in the process.

Q. What is the questioning process?
A. The process involves meta-cognitive, divergent, and convergent thinking. Here’s a condense version:

  1. The teacher defines a topic.

  2. Students discuss the rules for brainstorming.
  3. Students brainstorm questions about the topic.
  4. Students prioritize the questions.
  5. Students analyze questions as open or closed and then prioritize those.
  6. Students use the questions to help research, complete their project, and learn the material.
  7. Students and the teacher reflect on the process, what they learned, and what they would do differently next time.

Sara ArmstrongSara highly recommends this book and is designing how to use good questions for good searching and good research. That will definitely be another post. Thank you Sara!

Interested in this book, go to http://www.hepg.org/hep/book/144 and mention sales code MJAP11 for a 20% discount. If you have any questions, you can leave comments here are contact Sara directly at saarmst@telis.org or go to her website (www.sgaconsulting.org)

The authors of Make Just One Change, Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana of the Right Question Institute, shared a new podcast from Harvard Education Press. Harvard EdCast: Make Just One Change.

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