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Tag: inquiry

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?

11

Get over it! It's already 2012

How long do we have to be in the 21st century to say we are 21st century teachers? 

Everything has changed because of the Internet. Schools are going wireless, using interactive whiteboards, flipping the classroom, putting in 1:1 solutions — some are even BYOD (Bringing Your Own Device). I see exciting technology yet rarely see innovative teaching and learning. I don’t mean to be harsh here, but  I read Med Karbach’s What Does It Take to be a 21st Century Teacher? and thought I need to write something. It’s all about a culture shift. It’s not just the technology. It’s a mindset.

There are lots of great teachers that don’t use technology. They motivate their students. Students are engaged and love being in their class. Karbach included this image:

To Be

This image says it all to me. It is all about each learner and their own learning potential. Do we tap into it? Teachers mostly teach the way they have been taught. To move to a more collaborative learning environment involves all stakeholders. One teacher in a school can move desks around, have students create learning plans, but this is a whole culture shift that needs to happen.

I am invited to facilitate change at schools all over. Observing teachers, I notice a desperation. They tell me that they want to make a difference; they want to use the technology; but…

Here’s the buts:

  • I have to cover the curriculum.
  • There is such a diverse group in my class.
  • It is so much work to design projects for all my students.
  • Group work is a pain to set up and assess how each student is learning.
  • I’m told to differentiate all my lessons which now takes even longer.
  • My class size was increased by 10 more children.
  • I am so tired each night grading papers, there’s no time left for me.
  • I am spending more time creating video lectures to flip everything.
  • paperwork, paperwork, paperwork.
  • The parents are so demanding that I have to put up homework every night.

 

Do any of these concerns sound like you and your situation?

 

I have an idea. Let’s flip learning. Your students have been 21st century learners most of their lives. They know how to use all of the technology. If they don’t, they figure it out. Why not make them more responsible for their learning? What if…

  • your students create the videos about the content to flip the classroom. Check out Mathtrain.tv where Eric Marcos realized that students learn best from other students.
  • involve your students in lesson design. Be partners in unpacking the standards and designing activities. Children today are very resilient and smart if we give them the chance. Check out this post from Kathleen McClaskey and myself on Personal Learner Profiles and the Common Core.
  • See Think WonderAsk your students to brainstorm and prioritize questions about the topic. This post on Making Just One Change where I interviewed Sara Armstrong helped me understand the importance of inquiry.  Michael Wesch encourages his university students to wonder. Dave Truss shared the opening of their new school The Inquiry Hub where students “learn without boundaries.”
  • Imagine your students building lessons with you as partners in learning.

 

Maybe it’s a matter of letting go and trusting that your students can learn — want to learn. I have a difficult time sitting in a lecture hall myself. When I go to a conference and listen to a great lecture, I learn. But I learn more when I am more involved in the learning process. Sharing. Curating. Discussing. Even arguing a point.

So maybe we need to rethink what a 21st century teacher is. It’s a culture shift. Maybe that teacher is a…
  • partner in learning with their students.
  • facilitator who guides the learning process.
  • an advocate for each learner who has strengths and weaknesses, passions, interests, and aspirations to be whatever they can be.
  • person who realizes they can never know everything so learns to unlearn and learn again.

 

How about some innovative strategies for professional development? Like having students teach teachers how to use the technology. Maybe include students in professional development so you hear their point of view. If this is a culture shift, can one teacher do this alone? I still believe it takes a village idea. We need to involve all stakeholders including the parents. But if you want to make a difference now.. start involving your students — one lesson at a time. Let’s see what happens and share back. Let me know.

7

UDL Guides Personalizing Learning to Meet the Common Core

by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is used to design curriculum, lessons and instruction based on the diversity of the learners in their classroom. The three principles of UDL are:

  • multiple means of representation
  • multiple means of expression and action
  • multiple means of engagement

 

When a teacher understands his/her learners through the UDL lens, he/she creates a flexible learning environment and provides opportunities for learner voice and choice. When lessons are designed using the UDL model, the lesson includes goals, methods, materials, tools, and assessments to reach and support the maximum amount of learners in the classroom.

Learners 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 process helps the learner create their personal learning profile that is understood by both teacher and learner.

Personalize Learning to Meet the Common Core

The importance of this strategy is that both the teacher and the learner understand who the learner is and how they learn best. The learner and the teacher uses the UDL lens to personalize learning. So what does that look like? Here are two eighth grade students and their Personal Learner Profiles.

Susan

    • is an avid reader, likes to write descriptively, and enjoys drawing.
    • is anxious when she speaks in front of others.
    • forgets the sequence, moral and message of the story.
    • wants to ask questions but is uncomfortable voicing her concerns.
    • works better individually or in a small group.

 

Justin

    • reads and writes at a third grade level.
    • requires projects to be broken down into smaller segments.
    • has a difficult time organizing and little ability to interpret concepts.
    • needs to know purpose behind reading assignments.
    • loves to draw and is interested in multimedia.

 

For US History, eighth graders study the Civil War.  There is so much information on the Civil War. The teacher and learners  needed to choose one essential or anchor standard. In this case, they determined that the main issue learners had problems with was analyzing text and making connections to a concept.

Essential or Anchor Standard

> Key Ideas and Details (Informational Text)

RI.8.3. Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).

After determining the essential standard, the teacher and learners identified supporting standards for the history topic: Civil War. The power of using historical information such as primary and secondary sources is that learners can use visual information in multiple forms to understand the concept. They also were going to choose one subtopic to do a short project.

Supporting Standards

> Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (Integration of History)

RH.6-8.7. Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts

> Comprehension and Collaboration (Speaking and Listening)

SL.8.1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

> Research to Build and Present Knowledge (Writing)

W.8.7. Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.

> Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas (Speaking and Listening)

SL.8.5. Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.

 

After the teacher and learners chose the standards, they brainstormed questions about the Civil War. They worked in pairs to prioritize questions until they chose one essential question.

 

Essential Question

What are the causes of the Civil War?

Learners then paired with another learner to come up with supporting questions. The pairs prioritize those questions until they came up with one question that they will research and answer for their project.

Supporting Questions:
  • Why did southern states secede from the union?
  • What events or publications sparked the start of the Civil War?
  • Was slavery the main issue for the war’s beginning?
  • What other factors contributed to the civil war beginning?
  • If slavery began in 1619, why did it take 200 years for it to become an issue?
  • Why did the South believe that they needed to continue slavery?

 

The learning strategies Susan and Justin used were based on their learner profiles to help them meet the Common Core and demonstrate what they know and understand. Because Susan and Justin understand how they learn best through their UDL lens, they were able to make choices for themselves. Those choices included how they access information, how they are engaged with the information, and how they like to express what they know.

Learning Strategies and Common Core Standards

To personalize a unit of study like the Civil War, it is more than just memorizing battles, events, people, places, and times. The essential and supporting questions push the investigation of history further. This project encourages diverse learners to own and direct their own learning about the Civil War. Susan and Justin have diverse learning challenges, yet both of them have a passion for drawing. Because they were able to choose how they respond to the question, they were more motivated to design a title graphic and a Prezi presentation that utilized their creative talents. They were responsible for  their learning by choosing the question, the direction of their presentation, and which one of them did each of the tasks to complete their project.

Universal Design for Learning is the guide for schools for personalizing learning to meet the Common Core State Standards.

8

Active Learning using the Socratic Method

Eric Mazur, a Harvard University professor, says learning interests him far more than teaching, and he encourages a shift from “teaching” to “helping students learn.” The trend toward “active learning” may overthrow the style of teaching that has ruled universities for 600 years. [Harvard Magazine "Twilight of the Lecture" May-June 2012]

How can you engage your students and be sure they are learning the conceptual foundations of a lecture course? In From Questions to Concepts, Eric Mazur introduces Peer Instruction and Just-in-Time teaching — two innovative techniques for lectures that use in-class discussion and immediate feedback to improve student learning. Using these techniques in his innovative undergraduate physics course, Mazur demonstrates how lectures and active learning can be successfully combined. This video is also available as part of another DVD, Interactive Teaching, which contains advice on using peer instruction and just-in-time teaching to promote better learning. For more videos on teaching, visit http://bokcenter.harvard.edu

After seven years of teaching Physics, Mazur realized his students could answer the questions on the test but didn’t grasp the concepts. After administering a test on force, a warning flag went up when one student raised her hand and asked, “How should I answer these questions—according to what you taught me, or how I usually think about these things?” After some soul searching about his teaching techniques, he realized “The students did well on textbook-style problems,” he explains. “They had a bag of tricks, formulas to apply. But that was solving problems by rote. They floundered on the simple word problems, which demanded a real understanding of the concepts behind the formulas.”

He decided to turn everything around and ask his students to discuss the consept with each other. The first time he tried this, it was utter chaos — but it worked. This innovative style of learning grew into “peer instruction” or “interactive learning,” a pedagogical method that has spread far beyond physics and taken root on campuses nationally

Interactive pedagogy, for example, turns passive, note-taking students into active, de facto teachers who explain their ideas to each other and contend for their points of view. (“The person who learns the most in any classroom,” Mazur declares, “is the teacher.”) Active learners take new information and apply it, rather than merely taking note of it. Firsthand use of new material develops personal ownership.

These techniques use the strengths of the Socratic Method that law schools in the US have been using for decades. In law school students read the material before class and in class they discuss with each other the analysis. The whole purpose was to (1) teach you how to think and (2) prepare you for a lifetime of self-learning.

Mazur uses interactive clickers to get instant feedback of understanding. This strategy of active learning can be applied to any grade or age level. Flip the classroom with the concept not just the lecture, then ask each learner to think about it and then discuss it with another learner.

8

Kevin McLaughlin shares PJs: Personal Journeys


  “It’s never been a better time to be a teacher/learner.”

Kevin McLaughlin is an ICT Coordinator / Primary Teacher at Old Mill Primary School, Broughton Astley, Leics, UK who transformed his classroom to a personalized learning environment.  He is a Google Certified Teacher, an Apple Distinguished Educator, and Google Apps Certified Trainer. His students create PJs or what he calls their Personal Journeys. Kathleen McClaskey and I had to interview Kevin so he can share with our readers the why and how he changed his teaching and how his students learn now.

 

“My name is Kevin McLaughlin and I am a teacher. I also use technology, a lot, although it isn’t always about the technology. I am passionate in my role as an educator, and I use my website to offer advice to others as well as detail my use of a wide variety of teaching and learning approaches.”

Why personalize learning?
If you are going to consider personalised learning as an approach in your classroom then you should first understand that every learner is unique. Learners may appear to be similar and at times we can teach learners in the same fashion but to use this whole class approach for every lesson you teach then you run the risk of leaving learners behind. Learning requires more than a teaching plan that focuses on teaching. As educators we need to focus on the learning that is going to occur and the learning that is to come. We can do this by using a personalised learning approach.

What is your vision of personalizing learning?
I have envisaged personalised learning in my classroom as one that involves every learner in the development of their learning journey, that includes their own learning themes as well as those that the curriculum requires of them and allows them the opportunity to explore this learning in any way they see fit to achieve it.

Describe the first steps that you took to create a personalized learning environment in your classroom?
I began developing my approach when I realised that the three step teaching approach – introduction, main activity and plenary was hindering many of the learners in my class. Those that understood the learning focus would grow bored very quickly waiting for the opportunity to show off their learning. Those that required additional teaching had to sit through introductions and main activity demonstrations before getting the opportunity to be guided in their learning. A personalized approach gave me the time to focus on the needs of every learner from the onset.

How did you decide on the new design of your classroom?  
I came up with the design after trial and error. I knew the traditional classroom layout would deter a personalized learning approach so it had to be changed. This requires a good understanding of your learners, how they interact with each other and the development of trust and respect from the start of the academic year as a personalized learning approach will be daunting for any teacher at first. You need to be prepared to allow the learners to move around, to interact with their peers, to sit anywhere with anyone, to use the floor space as well as a table and not to use groupings of any sort unless there is a specific reason for it.

The room is now our Learning Zone and there are no pre-seating arrangements. My class are free to move around, sit with whomever they wish at any time and, if they so wish, pop outdoors for some fresh air and a quick ‘chill out’ session if needed. The Learning Zone is divided into 5 areas:

  1. Discussion and Thinking Zone – Learners can drop in whenever they wish to talk about their learning, find solutions, help each other and just to think and chill out. It’s also still the area where my class gathers for a whole group focus or an additional Creation/Show Off zone.
  2. Discovery Zone – There are 2 of these although one is missed off the top of the image. These contain laptops, pc’s and other technology that the learners can use to guide them on their learning, discover answers, investigate and solve problems, collaborate on projects and create presentations.
  3. Show Off Zone – This is where the learners focus on discoveries they have made and demonstrate their understanding through writing, presentation, art work, display whatever medium they wish to present their work.
  4. Repeat Level – This has evolved from my use of Gamification of learning and an approach that my class enjoy. Whenever any learner requires help, advice, explanations and is ‘stuck’ this is the area they come to repeat the learning so they can move to the next level.
  5. Creation Zone – Creating content for use in their learning, creating presentations to demonstrate learning, blogging, refining, editing. It happens here and it’s usually very busy.

 

Read more about this on my website.

How does it contribute to personalizing learning for your students?
The classroom layout allows my class the freedom to explore their learning in a way that would not be possible if they were grouped by ability and had specified seating arranged for them.  You can watch a video about this here.

 

Do you believe that your classroom model can be scaled?
Any educator would find it very straightforward to arrange their own classroom according to my layout. It’s a simple matter of stepping back as the teacher at the front and giving your class over to learning.

How does your school determine how students learn best?
I am quite fortunate in that my school respect and trust the staff to teach in the way they see best for their class. My headteacher has been very positive in my use of this approach and after 8 weeks has seen the proof through improved results in Maths and English.

How do your students understand how they learn best?
My class and I discussed this approach on the first day back in January. We talked about when they considered the best ways to learn, how they liked to move around to discuss learning with others in the class, how when they were at home they could take a break when they needed one, how they could sit on the floor as well as at their desk. I valued their responses to help develop our classroom layout and the personalized learning approach that they would use.

What types of technologies are you and your students using to support their learning?
In my class the learners have access to desktop computers, laptops, 5 iPad devices and the school PC suite whenever it has open spaces. My class can use these technologies in their learning when they know it will be an effective tool for their learning. This approach to choosing the right tool for the job is an essential skill that takes time to instill. This is a recent example of a PJ, a Personal Journey that every learner in my class receives at the start of each week.

The Numeracy and Literacy targets include those required by the school curriculum but the rest is created by the learner and what they deem important to their own learning. Personalising the curriculum for every child in my class has been an inspiring journey for me. I have watched in awe at children working their way through their learning, solving problems in pairs, discussing and thinking, coming up with solutions, offering suggestions and advice to their peers. It has confirmed my belief that if we give learners opportunities to follow a personalised approach they will fly. After the very first week of using PJ’s in my class I found the following outcomes.

  • Every child preferred this approach to their learning
  • Every child was on task every day without having to be told
  • Every learner made progress in Numeracy and achieved at least two targets that I had set them
  • Every learner achieved at least 1 of their own targets
  • Every learner told me they were looking forward to the next week of learning in their Personalised Journeys

 

What have you learned and what changes have you made from your initial steps?
I quickly learned that using a personalised learning approach meant standing back more as a teacher and giving the learners more opportunities to develop their learning. I found that I had to stop myself from merely giving the process at the start to provoking a question that would inspire the learners to discover solutions for themselves. My planning had to adapt very quickly and I found a daily planner created by Doug Belshaw to be the catalyst for the development of our ‘Personal Journey’ that every child is now using weekly for their learning experiences. The ‘PJ’ has changed from its initial conception after discussions with the learners about what worked and what could be left out. We have now agreed on a format that every learner is happy with.

What would you change in the future?
At the moment I am happy with how the use of the PJ is going. Our PJ’s are on paper as we have found this is the best media for quickly changing plans on the go. I recently came across your chart on ‘Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization’ and it has sharpened my thinking and I will no doubt refer to it during the next few weeks to develop my approach further.

Read more here.

Readers can contact Kevin using any of the following:

kevindmclaughlin@gmail.com
http://ictsteps.com
@kvnmcl

8

Dave Truss on the Inquiry Hub (Thought Leader Interview)

Dave Truss

Dave Truss is an educator (Vice Principal) with the Learning Innovations Network, Coquitlam Open Learning (COL), School District #43 in BC, Canada. Dave shared his thoughts and writes about Inquiry in a way that makes it easy to understand. Kathleen McClaskey and I asked Dave some questions about the Inquiry Hub and personalized learning. He shares how his school will fit well with the BCedplan and the future of education in their Province. It fits well with Coquitlam’s School District’s collaborative work on “Learning Without Boundaries”.

 

Q. What is The Inquiry Hub? Can you tell us how and why it was developed?

The Inquiry Hub was inspired by conversations around our district vision of “Learning Without Boundaries”.  Coquitlam District Principal Stephen Whiffin envisioned the Inquiry Hub as a natural extension of our program. Stephen is Principal, and I am Vice Principal, of Coquitlam Open Learning, which offers online and blended courses for high school students, as well as to adults looking to graduate or upgrade courses. As part of the student population of Coquitlam Open Learning, Stephen noticed that we were getting more and more school-aged students that were moving away from their day schools and choosing to take full online course loads. However, this wasn’t necessarily an ideal situation, but rather a choice not to attend a local high school.. The Inquiry Hub was born out of the idea that there are students who don’t necessarily ‘fit’ in a traditional high school, but would benefit from having a school to go to daily, rather than just choosing to take courses online.

The Inquiry Hub will offer Grade 8-12 students whom chose to come to this school:

  • Instruction which blends classroom and online experiences in a hybrid model
  • A student-driven inquiry approach to learning
  • Significant reduction of formally structured class time and emphasis on a learning commons where students do daily group project work and individual, computer-based learning
  • Class environments which group students around interests and project focus rather than grade levels
  • Extensive use of peer mentorship in cross-grade project work
  • Core, inquiry-based program offerings which are extended through the extensive list of COL online courses

 

Q. Can you explain the student-driven inquiry approach to learning?

We are working on the simple premise that if we help students develop meaningful and engaging questions around their own interests, passions and ideas that matter to them, then the learning will be rich and meaningful to our entire learning community. By helping students connect, create and learn together, we will encourage them to look outside of their box and seek a world of potential.

 

“The power of an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning is its potential to increase intellectual engagement and foster deep understanding through the development of a hands-on, minds-on and ‘research-based disposition’ towards teaching and learning. Inquiry honours the complex, interconnected nature of knowledge construction, striving to provide opportunities for both teachers and students to collaboratively build, test and reflect on their learning.” Neil Stephenson http://teachinquiry.com/
 Q. How do you help students understand how they learn best?
Thinking about thinking (metacognition) will be something all students explore at the Inquiry Hub. We are currently developing two ‘requisite’ courses that we’ll have every student take when they join us, regardless of the grade they come to us. One of these courses will be “Principles of Inquiry” which will look at domains of inquiry, question development and research design. The other course will be “Applications of Digital Learning” which will explore social networking (and creating a positive digital footprint), learning management systems, search & research, and principles of digital presentation. We will be working with expert educators in these fields to develop these courses over the coming months.
Also, we won’t be having traditional styled classes but instead we will have workshops on specific topics and a significant part of the day that will be designed by students in collaboration with teachers and other students. We will have two larger learning commons areas and also smaller conference rooms that groups of students can work in. Students are empowered to work with other students, meet with their teachers or use their time working independently. We will work with students to figure out a balance of freedom in their schedule with effective use of time, with more freedom provided for students that are self-directed and more guidance for students that work best with that kind of support.
Q. How do you design learning paths for each student? How do students pursue their own interests and have a voice in the direction of their learning?
At the Inquiry Hub we will encourage students to explore their own questions from key themes:
  • Community and global issues
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Media Art, design and technology

 

In the spring we will be working with teachers to examine the key learning outcomes in the BC curriculum and determine which ones can be incorporated into student driven inquiry and which ones we will support through workshops and online resources. Our goal is to maximize how much of the required curriculum can be covered and uncovered through student inquiry. As students develop and answer their own inquiry questions, teachers will consult and advise students as to how they can incorporate curricular outcomes into their projects.
We also want to provide students with a voice that extends beyond the school, and we are looking for creative ways to involve parent and community groups/members in extending inquiry questions beyond the scope of the school. We hope to foster relationships such that the Hub is just a launch pad for projects that involve doing things in the community that matter and make a difference.

 

Q. What technology will students access and use to demonstrate evidence of learning?

Every student will be expected to bring their own laptop, (which we can supply if there are financial issues), and students are also welcome to bring any other devices they wish to use to connect and network as well as share what they are doing online.  We are currently looking at different kinds of digital portfolios and learning management systems that would best work within our school district and also serve as an online learning hub for all of our students and staff.

 Here’s a presentation about The Inquiry Hub’s website:

Introducing the Inquiry Hub

View more PowerPoint from David Truss
We are going to follow up with Dave with a podcast asking him about  Truly Questioning Everything. Thanks Dave for sharing your thoughts and helping us define why we need to question everything.
Contact information for Dave:
0

Making Thinking Visible

How can classrooms become places of intellectual stimulation where learning is viewed not as test scores but in the development of individuals who can think, plan, create, question, and engage independently as learners?

Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners offers educators research-based solutions for creating just such cultures of thinking. This innovative book unravels the mysteries of thinking and its connection to understanding and engagement. It then takes readers inside diverse learning environments to show how thinking can be made visible at any grade level and across all subject areas through the use of effective questioning, listening, documentation, and facilitative structures called thinking routines. These routines, designed by researchers at Project Zero at Harvard, scaffold and support one’s thinking. By applying these processes, thinking becomes visible as learners’ ideas are expressed, discussed, and reflected upon.



The authors, Ron Ritchard, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison, ask “As we shared our research and classroom tested ideas about how to make thinking visible, be it in a classroom or with a group of adult learners, people kept asking us where they could read more about them. How could they learn more about how others were using them? How could they ensure that they and their students weren’t just using the thinking routines as activities? To answer those questions we put together this book with help from educators around the world.”

Watch a video from co-author Ron Richard about the Importance of Thinking.

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Inquiry Circles in Action

Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action
by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels

Comprehension and Collaboration is a guide for teachers who want to realize the benefits of well-structured, engaging, cross-curricular projects. Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels lay the foundation for inquiry circles:

  • explain 10 fundamental classroom conditions needed for active, small group learning;
  • profile 19 small-group inquiry circles that bring strategies and principles to life;
  • provide 27 practical lessons in comprehension, collaboration, and inquiry;
  • offer how-to instruction for four types of inquiry circles – mini inquiries, cross curricular inquiries, literature circle inquiries, and open inquiries; and
  • address characteristic management concerns.

 

The authors Harvey and Daniels stress the importance of student collaboration and using inquiry as a vehicle to increase comprehension and deepen understanding.

“Comprehension is about understanding…Reading is about thinking.” (p. 27)

Inquiry is a process of learning that encourages kids to ask questions, to work together to solve problems, to discover knowledge, and to construct their own meaning, with guidance, rather than lectures, from teachers. The inquiry approach has three key strands (p. 56-57):

  1. “framing school study around questions developed and shaped by kids” which means allowing students’ genuine curiosity about curriculum topics to form the center of teaching;
  2. “handing the brainwork of learning back to the kids” meaning that instead of sitting quietly and receiving the information presented by a teacher, students actively work to construct their own learning experiences and take responsibility for the outcomes; and ultimately,
  3. “focusing on the development of kids’ thinking, first, foremost, and always.”

 

“The Gradual Release of Responsibility” has different stages (p.112):

  • Teacher Modeling: Teacher explains and models a new strategy, thinking aloud in order to demonstrate their thought-process behind the strategy use.
  • Guided Practice: Teacher and students practice the strategy together in shared contexts, constructing meaning through interchange; students gradually take more responsibility for task engagement and completion.
  • Collaborative Practice: Students share thinking process with one another or work in small groups and pairs and reason through text together; the teacher moves between groups, checking in on how things are going.
  • Independent Practice: Students practice using the strategy independently of teacher and other students; students receive regular feedback on their progress.
  • Application of Strategy: Students use the strategy in authentic situations, across a variety of settings, contexts, and disciplines.

“Kids’ questions really matter.” (p. 228)

I recommend this book as prompts for discussions about bringing inquiry-based learning into your classroom and as part of your professional learning communities.

The authors also created DVDs that support their work:

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Reboot to Encourage Wonder

“Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.” Charles Kettering

 

Professor Michael Wesch reboots after hearing advice that his teaching isn’t working. This article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed speaks to me and not only for higher ed.

Michael Wesch teaching students

How many of us reboot what we are doing when we realize we are going down the wrong road? We are all guilty of continuing down the same road because it is easier than changing. Educators in all grades have worked for years developing lessons that we believe teach the concepts they want their students to learn. If one lesson didn’t work, then another did. It takes a lot of work to start over — reboot.

Caution for the futureWhat that means for many teachers is to change the way they teach. This means letting go and using technology. Both of these concepts are scary for many teachers. Some are almost ready for retirement and just don’t want to reboot now. Some are resistant because they don’t want to believe that what they are teaching isn’t working. Let’s rethink why we went into the teaching profession. It’s really not about us. It’s all about the learners. If we continue to teach like we did years ago, we not only leave many of our learners behind, we do them a disservice. They won’t be prepared for their future.

In the article, Professor Wesch realizes that students can use technology to search for wonder.

“At its best, Mr. Wesch believes that interactive technology—and other methods to create more active experiences in the classroom—can be used to forge that kind of relationship between teachers and students where professors nurture rather than talk down to students.

In one of his courses, he teamed up with students to produce an ethnography of YouTube users. The project helped the students feel more like collaborators because the technology allowed them to immediately publish their work online.”

 What does that mean? Talk down to students? I don’t think teachers think they are talking down to students if they are lecturing, giving feedback or grading papers. When you teach something you love, you think that your enthusiasm will be enough to excite your students. Times are different. You’ve heard “times are a changing.” Well, the future is here now.  If you give control to your students to drive their learning, that doesn’t mean you are not teaching effectively. Lectures and direct instruction is one way to present information, but are you losing your students?

Lecture and chalkboard

I remember sitting for hours and hours staring at my teachers’ backs. I zoned out. I doodled. I knew there had to be a better way for students like me. I learn best by doing. Now more students are like me and have gone way beyond me. They are tweeting, texting, and googling while in class. Mr. Wesch writes about using these tools to engage students.

What if you set up a backchannel chat or Twitter group to give you instant feedback? Ask a student to help you do this? If you ask students to blog, don’t correct their spelling. This is a great space to journal and publish their thoughts. You can learn from their posts. This is still scary for some teachers. Are these teachers resistant or just obstinate? What if they really believe what they are doing is making a difference?

See Think WonderAsk your students! Give them a survey or ask for feedback on how you teach and how they learn. It’s not just about you or the content anymore. It’s about learners being prepared for a career, the type of job that they love or pays them enough so they can live comfortably, or gives them the opportunity to be an entrepreneur. There are some learners who just want to learn because they are excited about something — passionate and interested to learn. They may want to take amazing photographs or understand astronomy because they always wanted to know about the stars.

What do you wonder about?

Just imagine a day in your class that you encouraged wonder! Take 20% of your time to let go and reboot your teaching so students wonder about something they are passionate about. Encourage students to use technology and teach you. I wonder what will happen to your students. Let me know.

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10 Steps to Encourage Student Voice and Choice

To transform a classroom to a personalized learning environment is challenging. First, you need to know what personalized learning means. Last night I was fortunate to be part of a panel on personalized learning for the Future of Education hosted by Steve Hargadon with Kathleen McClaskey, Lisa Nielsen, and Shannon Miller. All of us are in agreement that it is all about the learner and that student voice and choice is necessary to personalize learning. Personalized learning is all about the learner, starts with the learner, and means the student drives their learning.

What does Student Voice and Choice mean?

Student voice is difficult to hear in a traditional classroom where the teacher provides direct instruction and curriculum that is either provided for the teacher, adapted by the teacher, or designed by the teacher. Student choice means students choose how they learn something and, possibly, what they learn. This chart (Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization) shows how personalized learning is different than differentiated and individualized instruction. In the latter two approaches, the teacher adapts or customizes the instruction to meet the needs of either a group of students (differentiation) or for an individual student (individualization).

In these situations, there is little or no student voice. These are mostly teacher-directed. Students may participate in projects and take responsibility for specific roles within a project, but, in most cases, the teacher determines the topics, roles, and responsibilities. Project-based learning (PBL) has students collaborate and produce an end product together. However, to personalize PBL, the student has a voice in the design of the project and possibly, the process.

Student Voice and Choice
What if you take one topic that you love to teach but you just cannot get your students motivated to learn about it? What if they just don’t seem to understand the topic no matter how many times you’ve taught it? Some get it. Some don’t. So what can you do to motivate students so they are engaged in learning and want to explore the topic?

The answer: Student Voice and Choice

Ten Steps to Encourage Student Voice and Choice

  1. Introduce the topic and share the standards that are normally met with typical instruction.
  2. Determine prior knowledge by using a poll, then having students share what they know in small groups, and then sharing out to the whole group one thing they learned about the topic they didn’t know before.
  3. Show a video or other type of media presentation about the topic. If you know a personal story that might hook your students, share it.
  4. Share how you normally taught that topic and invite them to help you redesign how you teach the topic. Tell them you want them to have a say in redesigning how they learn, what the classroom will look like, and your role as a teacher. Let them know that for this topic, your going to need their help in coming up with the questions, that they will be able have a place in the class and online to ask questions, ask for help, give feedback, and maybe help others in the classroom.
  5. Brainstorm questions about the topic with the whole group. You can project your computer and use programs like Google Docs or a mindmapping tool like Inspiration or Mindmeister. The more questions, the better. Encourage students to use “how” and “why” questions. If they come up with one big question like “why is there war?”, ask them to be more specific and come up with 2 to 5 more questions that take that big question deeper. Be sure to tell them that there are no stupid questions.
  6. Ask students to work in pairs or small groups to select a big question about the topic they want to explore. Students can choose a group based on the question they want to investigate.
  7. Ask groups to design how they want to answer the question(s) and demonstrate understanding of the topic and question they chose. Have them choose up to five supporting questions that they will also explore to learn more about their topic.
  8. Invite each group to write a proposal on how they plan to demonstrate understanding, what resources they will use, how they will present what they learned, and how they will measure if they are successful. Each group can design a rubric to assess teamwork, research, presentation, and other criteria they determine necessary for success.
  9. Ask groups to share their proposals with another group who can give them feedback. Then ask another group for feedback and approval. Your job is as guide and facilitator.
  10. Give them enough time and resources to do the work they need to do. Watch the excitement of students immersed in the topic.

Watching students take responsibility by giving them their own voice so they are able to choose how they learn can be scary for teachers. But if you take a chance and try it, you will be amazed what happens. Just be open to some things not working the way you think they will work. You are giving up some control and letting students have more responsibility for their learning. Just watch and enjoy!

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