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Tag: reflection

2

Reflections on Change and Learning

I find myself in an interesting time in my life. I could retire but I don't want to. This is an exciting time where all the efforts I've taken for years to change education are starting to come together. I can taste it, smell it, and feel it. I'm working with schools around the world and the issue seems to be the same. There are a few pockets of excellence but we tend to still be embedded and entangled in a system of traditional education. The questions I get from teachers all over the world have the same tone:
  • how do I give students voice and choice when I am accountable for their learning?
  • how do I become a co-designer with students who don't want to be at school?
  • what if I transform a lesson and it fails?
  I can go on but the issue seems to be about trust.
  • Does the administration trust that the teacher will meet all the required curriculum?
  • Does the teacher trust that their students will do the work?
  • Do the students trust the teacher to teach them what they need to know?
  I have been thinking about this for a long time. Kathleen McClaskey and I as co-founders of Personalize Learning, LLC were brought together because we needed to be. Both of us were going in similar directions fighting this issue alone. Our mutual friend, Julie Duffield, brought us together several years ago. We created a chart defining what Personalized Learning is and is not in January 2012 and then from all the feedback, we updated the PDI Chart this March 2013. It has changed our lives. After we created a process with the Stages, we started getting interest from schools, districts, regions, states, and companies. We opened a pandora box. We created an eCourse about the What, Who, Where, Why, and Wow of Personalized Learning and are on our sixth session since February. It is more than exciting. Yesterday was our first session with 34 educators from around the world most from Australia. We are doing several sessions simultaneously. One with Kettle Moraine School District in Wisconsin. The questions and conversations are the same but they are getting deeper and more reflective. So that's why I thought it was time for me to reflect on everything that has happened the last 2 years. All I can say to teachers who venture down this road to turn the learning over to the learner so they own it, thank you! I am in awe at all you are doing. I am amazed when a school system says it's time to rethink learning and change how we teach and learn. I want to thank Kathleen for sticking with me through this. We are fighting an uphill battle against structures and entities that have been entrenched in a system that is over 150 years old. We wrote a post Learners NOT Students and the response was overwhelming -- most good but a few educators got upset. What we and others are saying shakes up the system. It needs shaking up. My granddaughter is starting kindergarten this year and all I can think is Oh My -- she's so creative and the school will take that away from her. We have to give the learning back to our kids. They need to own it -- drive it. I cannot stop now. We cannot stop now. This is the time for a revolution like Sir Ken Robinson said in the latest Ted Talks Education along with Rita Pierson and others who talk about passion, interests, human interaction. Watch this and then we'll get this revolution going and finally do it right for our kids.

Watch TED Talks Education on PBS. See more from TED Talks Education.

1

Mindset for the New Year

I have a growth mindset-- anyway, that's what I thought. I believe that anyone can grow and change. I learned that the brain is plastic -- they call it neuroplasticity. That means you can change your brain. In reading, Carol Dweck's book "Mindset" people have either a growth or a fixed mindset. Dweck states that everyone is born with a growth mindset and potential to do whatever they want to do. Fixed mindsets happen from experiences and relationships that keep them from believing in themselves. They might give up easily because, for some reason, they don't think they can do it. In an interview on Education World, Dweck discusses mastery-oriented qualities.
"There is no relation between students' abilities or intelligence and the development of mastery-oriented qualities. Some of the very brightest students avoid challenges, dislike effort, and wilt in the face of difficulty. And some of the less bright students are real go-getters, thriving on challenge, persisting intensely when things get difficult, and accomplishing more than you expected.   This is something that really intrigued me from the beginning. It shows that being mastery-oriented is about having the right mind-set. It is not about how smart you are. However, having the mastery-oriented mind-set will help students become more able over time."
I just read George Couros' great posts More Mindset than Skill Set and More about Mindset and Learning where he shares stories about an 82 year old woman who wanted to learn how to play the cello so she took lessons. It didn't matter that she was 82. She knew she could learn something she always wanted to do. He shared about his father who had a limited formal education, but was willing to learn new things. George showed his father using an iPad to communicate with his grandchildren. If you want to do something and you have a growth mindset, you can do it. It really is not about talent. All of us have some talents, but if we don't believe we can do something or don't believe in ourselves, we might not take the risks to change. So why did I ask about having both mindsets? I am usually very optimistic with a glass more than half full. Sometimes the glass is running over. I read Public Agenda file: a Mission of the Heart: What Does it Take to Transform a School? that talked about "transformers" and "copers."  This is about leaders either being one or the other. Transformers have an explicit vision of what their school might be like and bring a "can do" attitude to their job. Copers are typically struggling to avoid being overwhelmed. They don't have the time or freedom, or for some perhaps, the inclination to do more than try to manage their situation. Growth mindset = transformer. Or does it? What if you have a "can do" attitude and believe that anything can be done, but feel overwhelmed with your situation. The situation may make you question if you can "do" something especially during a stressful time.  I know administrators that are very optimistic with most activities, but have trouble coping with or managing specific situations. I believe I have a growth mindset and so do so many teachers I work with. However, some may have trouble coping in specific situations. Teachers have so much on their plates. Some days, they are overwhelmed, because there is just not enough time in the day to do everything. That's how I feel some days. It doesn't mean that I have a fixed mindset, but I may have a situational "mindset." I want to do something about this. I like that I am optimistic. I always believed I had a growth mindset, but wasn't sure what it was called before. I want to be able to handle most situations and continue to be optimistic. So instead of resolutions for the New Year, I'm looking at setting my mindset to a growth mindset. If I get overwhelmed with any situation, I'm going to pause and reflect on how I feel. I just have to focus and believe in myself. What about you? What is your mindset? Why not make 2013 the year that you can do anything you put your mind to do?
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?

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
1

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.
0

What's your Normal?

I shared a poster this morning on Facebook about being normal.

Some questions arose:

Normal
  • what does normal mean to different people?
  • If everyone were the same, would they have the same normal?
  • How do you teach people who have different normals?


Think about your normal, how you were raised, and what seems just "normal" to you. Your normal may be to be quiet, be safe and secure, not take any chances, and enjoy each day. You may like to "smell the roses" and meditate. You're just happy to wake up each day.

Another person's normal may be to get up early and take on the world. Their mantra is "to make a difference" every day. To challenge everything and take risks. They rarely take time to sit. Every minute needs to be scheduled.

Is one of these normals you? Is one wrong and the other just perfect?

To personalize learning for each student, we not only need to understand their learning style but their normal. The one thing that is difficult to not do is judge someone's normal.

  • Can we teach that?
  • Can we teach how to accept people as they are?
  • Can we teach how to be tolerant of people's differences?


A great addition to our curriculum would be to teach empathy and compassion. Figure out your normal and understand other people's normal. Put yourself in someone else's shoes.
0

Reflections on Webinar on Joy in Learning

On Saturday, October 30th, I presented a webinar for Classroom 2.0 on Joy in Learning. It was an honor to have three amazing moderators  Peggy George, Kim Caise, and Lorna Costatini and use Elluminate for my presentation. I learned alot. I do know that what you see on your screen as moderator may not be the same as the audience. I cached all the websites so they would load easily. However, the Classroom 2.0 server and G.Lam server was slow so some of my screens never showed up. What was great is that I worked with Peggy several days before setting up all the links using a Google planning doc. Putting on a webinar is not just uploading your slides and presenting. It takes time to set up each slide, someone to upload all the links, one or more moderators who are watching and fielding questions from the chat, and a moderator to contact you if something isn't working. I was so impressed with how effective Peggy, Lorna, and Kim were. Great job! Go here to see the full recording from Elluminate: https://sas.elluminate.com/site/external/jwsdetect/playback.jnlp?psid=2010-10-30.0931.M.ACE02B5F35AA7E7975F015AAC6F794.vcr&sid=2008350 Tiny URL for recording: http://tinyurl.com/cr20live-BarbaraBray Recording (chat): http://wiki.classroom20.com/CR20LIVE+OCT302010 Recording (audio):  http://www.humyo.com/FQxmsff/CLASSROOM%202.0%20LIVE%20joyinlearning.32K.mp3?a=08nXJgdOgPo Classroom 2.0 LIVE - Joy in Learning from Kim Caise on Vimeo. Recording (video):  http://vimeo.com/16377462 Topic: Joy in Learning
Recording (full): https://sas.elluminate.com/site/external/jwsdetect

Gl.am Links for 10/30/2010: http://gl.am/De2Kp
Problem with the gl.am links - screen capture didn't load but the links work.  As of today I see pictures of walnuts for most of my links.
Now that I watch the video after the presentation in Vimeo, I realize that to really see how the webinar worked you need to watch the archived recording in full. The moderators gave me a walk-through all of the tools in Elluminate.
So what I learned is that talking about Joy is fun. I ran out of time and tried to keep track of the action in the chat. What a great group who joined my webinar.
So anyone presenting a webinar needs at least one moderator, needs to practice, and then make sure your session is archived and watch and listen to yourself. This is how you learn and reflect what worked and what you would do different next time.  I tend to ramble when I'm excited. Need someone to poke me to get back on track. It's like you need a coach when you present.
I plan to do this webinar again somewhere because I learned so much and love talking about joy in learning.
13

Meaningful Professional Development

On Friday October 8th, I was lucky to be invited to help facilitate professional development for Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Over 120 PK-12 teachers worked side-by-side in mixed grade-level groups to experience project-based learning (PBL). This approach requires 21st-century skills: collaboration, creativity, innovation, team work, and critical thinking. 15 Teams  of 8-10 teachers each created public-service announcements (PSA) to raise awareness about Mid-Pacific Institute. Teachers put themselves in the role of learners with a facilitator guiding the process in each team. So how did they do? Read more what Elementary School Principal Edna Hussey wrote about the process. The team I worked with consisted of MPI's director of education technology Mark Hines, associate education technology director Bob McIntosh, the three principals, and middle school tech coordinator Brian Grantham where we collaborated several weeks prior to last Friday to  plan the project experience. A meaningful day is effective if everything is planned well. I was so impressed with how the team worked tirelessly to pull everything together. The PSA concept was developed as a project that could be completed by day's end and which would entail the use of technology already available to the faculty. Check out the details and completed PSAs at http://mpi-psas.my-ecoach.com. Teachers completed reflections as exit tickets at the end of the day.

"I hope that this process will help me consider some of the challenges and rewards that come with building a project so that when I design this sort of thing for my students, I will understand what it's like to be them."

"I hope to get a better sense of how students think about 'open-ended' projects. If I enter with a student's mindset of being 'spoon-fed' what's required of me, what will work to engage me in this project. Often students feel lost when they get to make too many decisions. I hope to get ideas/techniques for helping students to get engaged."

There were 15 teams who focused on a theme and developed a driving question and supporting questions about that theme to develop the storyboard and script for the 60-90 second PSA.

"Everyone feels comfortable to share ideas and is respectful and listens to the ideas of others. We have been able to discuss differing ideas and come to consensus. Everyone is open to hearing everyone's ideas and do what needs to be done to bring the project together. Everyone also seems to understand the importance of the process, not just completing the product."

"The group is communicating very well. I'm proud that people are constructing their ideas based on the communication of a positively critical idea, from a teachers perspective, and for the teachers as an audience, keeping the assignment in mind. When there was a difference in opinion, they chose to go with the more persuasive/engaging idea that invites the audience to think. It is going well because we are focusing on the process, even though the worries of getting the PSA done came up, we acknowledged how this might be a crossroads for students, and how should we proceed."

We asked teams to pair with another team at the end of the day to share their PSA and reflect on the process. A spokesperson was chosen from each group to share with the whole staff. Everything was so positive. What an amazing group of teachers! Thank you Mid-Pac for including me in a very exciting professional development opportunity!
1

Creating Showcase ePortfolios

I believe that each learner is unique. If you look at a classroom with everyone the same age, the children are diverse. They may speak different languages, learn at different levels, and be almost one year different in age. Schools group them by grade level and test them thinking that each student has the same understanding of the concepts. Not so! I'm into individualizing learning and assessment. One way to do that is ePortfolios supported with individual learning plans. We are not going to stop testing even if it drives you crazy. It's just the way it is. There are several types of ePortfolios: assessment, showcase, and resume. I don't recommend replacing testing with ePortfolios. That's one way to kill the excitement about them. Using an ePortfolio for assessment and/or evaluation can impact how the learner presents it. There is no risk-taking, creativity or innovation. Everything follows the rules similar to testing. Okay - so use the tests to determine if students are learning at grade level. Personally I don't believe students have to learn at a specific grade level. That's following the industrial model that's been dead for years. We are in a very weird place - a transition to a new type of learning environment. We are stuck in the same old traditional school model: teachers in front the room as the all-knowing expert, schools open 9 months from 9-3 for 5 days a week, and with students grouped by age. I had lunch with Helen Barrett at ISTE 2010 where we talked about ePortfolios. Helen knows everything about ePortfolios (www.electronicportfolios.org) and she and I agree about keeping ePortfolios as a separate entity from assessment and evaluation. Before you start your ePortfolio, determine your purpose, goal, and audience. If you decide you want to create an assessment ePortfolio, then design it for your target audience. Is it to meet graduation requirements? If so, start collecting evidence of learning right from the beginning of your freshman year. To do that, then create a separate digital file cabinet for collecting that evidence. Collect whatever you think might demonstrate understanding. Then select the most effective artifacts for your ePortfolio. Okay - back to the showcase ePortfolio. You can create either a personal or professional showcase ePortfolio that provides a forum for reflective writing where learners respond to key questions like:
  • What? What have you done well?
  • So what? What difficulties did you have?
  • Now what? What can you do next time to improve?
Reflection encourages learners to think critically about their own thinking. This process allows learners to take responsibility for learning how to think not what to think.