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Tag: thinking

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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?

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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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Creative Thinkering

In this article in Psychology Today by Michael Michalko on Creative Thinkering, he explains why experts miss opportunities to be creative. Experts tend to specialize and miss the bigger picture.

The paradox is that people who know more, see less; and the people who know less, see more. Phillip Reiss invented a machine that could transmit music in 1861. He was dissuaded from converting it into a telephone because every communications expert in Europe convinced him that there was no market for a telephone as the telegraph was good enough.

When you review the history of inventions, most inventions might have started out as mistakes. Penicillin was invented from a mold that was not supposed to happen. This made me think about education for the last 100 years or so. The industrial model was designed to train people to do specific tasks to meet specific goals. They followed orders. They didn’t question authority. There was no opportunities to allow creativity or inquiry. The teacher did the thinking for the students. The textbooks did the thinking for the teacher. The teacher was the expert. This is mostly what teachers know and were taught.

Sorry, but this model is not working any more. Where are the factory jobs for the students who graduate from the factory schools? Everything is changing. Management is changing. Technology is changing how information and expertise is delivered and shared. Student-centered means that the teacher is allowing student choice in different situations about different topics. Most children can figure out how to use an iPad, tablet, laptop or smartphone. They grew up digital. They are learning to be curators of their own learning. This Ted.com video from 2007 shows kids teaching other kids without any guidance.

Michalko wrote in his article that if you already consider yourself an expert, you might stop imagining a possibility.

If we experience any strain in imagining a possibility, we quickly conclude it’s impossible. This principle also helps explain why evolutionary change often goes unnoticed by the expert. The greater the commitment of the expert to their established view, the more difficult it is for the expert to do anything more than to continue repeating their established view. It also explains the phenomenon of a beginner who comes up with the breakthrough insight or idea that was overlooked by the experts who worked on the same problem for years.

I see every child as gifted and unique. We need to stop asking how smart are you and consider what Garner wrote, “How are you smart?” Personalize learning so the learner discovers concepts and ideas and more. Why think the teacher needs to be the expert or that each child can only learn from one expert or one textbook. It’s time to rethink what learning, thinking and creativity is and how important it is to let go as a teacher. This will make the teacher’s role more exciting. Just imagine the joy, engagement, and excitement in the learning environment. I like the idea of tinkering, playing with ideas, being creative, and taking risks.

What about you?

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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.