Tag Archives: pedagogy

4 Ways to Ensure Students Learn While Creating

This post was originally published on Edudemic you can click here to view the original.

When was the last time your students said “Wow, that worksheet changed my life”?  Can you even remember a similar cookie cutter classroom activity or assignment from your days as a student? Yet they were a popular tool because they were structured and efficient in getting the class to a set finish point.

Image

Education, guided by a focus on Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, is moving towards an emphasis on creation and innovation in the classroom. Though technology did not spark this movement, it has fueled the process by providing students with exciting and powerful tools. But is creation synonymous with learning? Can students even create without learning? How can we ensure that what they create has value?

The Exploding Volcano Project

volcano science project

The past archetype for creation in schools is best embodied by the Exploding Volcano Project.  Picture two students standing before the class nervously combining the vinegar, baking soda, and red food coloring that sets the explosion in motion. The class cheers as the small toy figures are consumed by the red wave of destruction.

The real question for teachers the becomes “Did the students presenting, and the other students in class, truly understand the learning objective behind the project?” If they did, then the lesson was a success and that volcano provided a dynamic form of class engagement tied to the learning objective. If they did not, the lesson produced a time consuming distraction that – despite the oohs, aahs and excitement – produced no learning.

4 Strategies To Ensure Students Learn While Creating

Teachers need to help their students move past the flashy excitement of the best creation tools and establish a laser focus on their learning objective. Student work should be an expression of learning not just the mastery of a tool.

1. Start with your specific learning objective.

Define the objective of your lesson clearly and effectively, then communicate it to you class.  Allowing your students to have freedom and choice is much easier when those options revolve around a clear mission.  Framing that mission for your class is where it all begins, and if done incorrectly, where things can come undone.

2.  The idea to be expressed comes before the tool used to express it.

In reality, all products are in essence an essay expressed through a different medium.  Whether you call it a “main idea,”  a “thesis,” or something else, all student projects should begin with one. This is the student’s unique take on demonstrating the class objective, and should guide their research, organization, as well as their choice of tool.

3.  Make asking “How will this show mastery of the learning objective?” your classroom mantra.

Doing this will help students to keep the assignment on task and evaluate the effectiveness of their work and allowing them to reflect on their current knowledge. This constant articulation of the learning objective in their own words develops a crucial metacognitive skill: the ability to evaluate their own progress.

4.  Engage in evaluating the  PROCESS of creation and not just grading the finished product.

Technology creates well-polished products.  At first glance, a well-edited video or a visually pleasing presentation can impress, but upon further evaluation, it may be of little substance.  Creating check-ins and opportunities for peer and teacher review can keep the learning objective in view as well as support the development of skills. Watching a student construct meaning, formulate how to express it to an audience, and THEN create a presentation, offers more opportunity to foster growth than just collecting an assignment ever will.

The following creation example illustrates how one student chose to demonstrate his mastery of the learning objective  “Describe and communicate the ideas and philosophies that arose in response to the industrial revolution.”

While many students chose posters or graphic organizers to explain these concepts, this student, gifted as a musician, chose to write this song.  As you listen, ask yourself if it meets the objective, and if it represents learning.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under #blogging, #edtech, 1:1, edudemic, general education, pedagogy, professional development

Beware Ye Smashing Archetypes…

I have dedicated a fair amount of my life to redefining  the experience in my classroom over the past 3 years.  I still have a lot to do but I am proud of  how far I have come.  I count the following among my successes.

-Students are far more central to class activities than they ever were.  I give them more choices and much more control not only in what we learn but how we will learn it. 

-The products that students submit are widely varied but show a deeper understanding of learning.

-We have deeper more nuanced conversations about our subject matter (history) than we ever have before. Students find messy histories that we need to make sense of, something that did not happen very often before.

-There are different voices being heard in my classes. Students who used to get A’s are contributing great things to class and students who once sat silent find ways to share in ways that weren’t possible before.

All of the above are the results of having tools that help me redefine learning, but redefining learning is not without consequences. If you are to promote the change, you should be aware of some potential consequences.

Image

Some changes can been seen as destructive to the prevailing archetypes of how learning should take place.  Intentionally or not, people can be threatened by, resistant to and dismissive of the changes. If you are closely associated with the change, they will project these feelings on you as well. Unsettling the masses wasn’t on my to do list, but in a sense the people who feel this way aren’t exactly wrong.

 What I have gained from all of this is that the best way to drive change is not to become the evangelical techie who condemns the  practices of other teachers, but to respect the effective teaching they have done and show them where technology can add to what they already do so well.  Accept that the transformation technology creates in the classroom is not imposed, but is rather a process that a teacher undergoes once they understand what is now possible. That is where the actual growth and the real change happens.

If you present technology as the end of what we know and love, it is natural to resent it. Beware condemning their past practice. It is a common  mistake.  However, if we present technology as a tool that will help teachers to more effectively accomplish the goals that they have dedicated their lives to, we have to hope they will embrace it. One thing that I am proud of is that regardless of personality, every person I work with on a given day cares deeply about helping our students.  They won’t hesitate to employ tools that make that possible.

6 Comments

Filed under #edtech, 1:1, general education, pedagogy, professional development

From Smoke Signals to Tweets: How The Evolution Of Communication Is Changing Your Classroom

This post was a collaboration with EdTechTeacher’s Beth Holland as a post for Edudemic. See the original posting here. 

From quill and ink, to slate and chalk, to pencil and paper, to typewriter, to computer, to iPad…. each evolution of technology has allowed students to make their thinking visual, articulate their ideas, demonstrate their understanding of concepts and skills, collaborate with their peers, and communicate in complex and modern ways.

Each advance has made it possible for those who master them to go a little further and to communicate a little more effectively. Historically, people who have taken the time to learn these technologies, or develop new ones, have reaped great rewards.

Andrew Carnegie was “discovered” because of his ability to use the telegraph – the peak of communication at the time – to unravel a rail snarl that paralyzed his company.

Thomas Edison created a way for people to record themselves, and others, and share these messages widely.

Bill Gates invented a way for people to visually interact with data on their computers.

Tim Berners Lee (not Al Gore) designed the Internet so that computers, and their subsequent users, could connect, communicate, and collaborate. With all of these individuals, each one mastered a newer form of complex communication and then became innovators in how they used it.

The technology of today simply takes this connection, communication, and collaboration to a new level and is tied to a process that began, perhaps, with the first use of smoke signals. In fact, the writing of this article would not have been as efficient without these new technologies.

  • The conversation started on Twitter as direct messages.
  • Brief planning period via email ensued.
  • Creation and shift to Google Doc where writing, commenting, and instant messaging proceeded.
  • Final sharing back on Twitter.

Classroom Applications

Note that neither a phone, nor a face-to-face meeting, occurred. In fact, we have only met in person on one occasion, and yet we can seamlessly collaborate. So how does this apply to the classroom? Why is it essential when we are using devices with students that we go beyond simply giving students a tool and expect them to create course-specific content with it?

Because unlike with previous technologies, the teaching of associated social skills seems to have been ignored. We can all remember our parents teaching us to politely answer a phone and write a letter. These norms transferred easily to the realm of e-mail, but how about a 140 character Tweet or a short text? How do we, as educators, help our students to develop skills to use the device as a tool of creation and the social skills to use it without negative consequence?

This actually raises another question, WHY has the modeling of communication, collaboration, and social skills not accompanied these new advances? Educators, parents, and adults have experienced turmoil and discomfort because there have been few rules to go along with these latest technologies and platforms; because, frankly, they have been created and instigated by our students. The telegraph, telephone, computer, and even the Internet were invented by established adults. Facebook, one of the more disruptive technologies, took off because of a college-aged kid! Teens started texting long before their parents.

The Anomie Problem

Since we, as adults, did not model appropriate usage for our children and students, they don’t know how to react to these new communication styles, struggling to determine when they should use them and when they should not. This state of “anomie” or normlessness can be frustrating at the very least. This was true with the invention of cars, phones, walkmen, ipods and is no less true for devices in the classroom. Just think, about how hard theaters have worked to educate people about cell phone use during movies and plays. Consider the efforts currently being made to prevent texting and driving. Society is working hard to create norms in light of the rapid evolution of new technologies.

As teachers, we will need to focus on helping students to learn the norms that relate to having devices in class as well as the appropriate context in which to use – or not use – them. We will need to help the students master the social implications of using these tools appropriately in order to make sure that they add to, rather than distract from, their learning.

How It Looks In The Classroom

Given the challenges of piloting programs, integrating technology, and addressing 21st Century Skills, how do we also teach these complex communication strategies? What does this look like in the classroom?

  • Angela Cunningham (@kyteacher) had her students Tweet the history of the United States as a review activity for their AP exam. However, she first had to teach them to Tweet. With slips of paper, they planned hashtags for major events and handles for significant historical figures. On other occasions, students organized reviews by Tweeting summaries of entire chapters of their book, and then, as a group, evaluated their effectiveness. In each case, students needed to evaluate information, identify the essential importance, and relate that significance to their classmates. Each Twitter activity created a lasting record of the process that reached an audience beyond the classroom.
  • Suzy Brooks (@SimplySuzy) not only models digital citizenship and successful blogging strategies for her third-grade students, but also encourages them to blog. Throughout the year, they discuss the concept of being public, and published, as well as the ensuing social responsibility. Since she moderates all student posts and comments before they become public, Suzy creates a non-threatening learning environment where she has the chance to discuss digital citizenship and effective online communication without concerns about a negative impact.
  • Tony Perez (@TonyPerez) presents FaceBook to his students at the Atlanta Girls School in the larger context of “finding our voice using Social Media.” The ultimate goal is for the students to understand that, to an increasing degree, they are who the Internet says they are. Given an understanding of that concept, students learn to take an active role in the presentation of their own self and ask if they are painting an authentic picture. All of this is presented under the context that everything we post, re-post, Tweet, Like or otherwise engage in on the web and in social media, along with our surfing habits, purchases, and email, contributes to the long-tail which follows us across the web and through the years. It is this body of information about us that creates the larger, universal “my profile” – or, in other words, our digital brand.

Modern Challenges

Today, we are faced with the challenge of helping to define for our students what is appropriate and effective for these new devices – iPad, Chrome Book, laptop, smart phone, etc. As we think about how we can effectively leverage them to transform our curriculum and empower our students as creators, we also need to think about how we are developing our students as citizens and future leaders in the digital world. Just as long ago elders shared the best use of the smoke signal with their children as well as its drawbacks (Smoke signals give you an advantage over your enemies, but also tell them exactly where you are). Or, perhaps more realistically, we have been tasked to guide our students to create appropriate and effective norms of their own.

The next challenge, and maybe the next step in the successful integration of new technology will be to examine our own behavior in how we choose to use, leverage, and model usage of these new tools to not only reflect our own values but also shape those of our students.

1 Comment

Filed under #edtech, edudemic

Why? An Analogy for Tech in Education

It would be an understatement to say that I have been obsessing about technology lately.  While that has been true in general for the last few years, it has been more so since I left #edcampss.

My friend and PLN collaborator Greg Kulowiec  ( http://www.kulowiectech.blogspot.com/ ) posed the question “Why are we trying to go 1:1 in the classroom?” We discussed it and the moment passed but I kept coming back to the question.  Now it has been about 3 weeks and I have spent most of my in between moments refining my answer to this question.  Ironically, earlier this week I was asked to talk to the school board about exactly this issue. (I know, right?!) The twitterverse and leading educational scholars have many opinions. Here is what I have arrived at in the form of analogy.

Education in the past: We the teachers hand the students the apple of knowledge.  They consume it.

Education in the future: We the teachers turn the students loose in the orchard and say fill up your bushel basket with the best apples. Then we let them use those apples to make something unique.

The devices that we choose will be the portal through which our students will access the info that they must be able to evaluate, synthesize, refute and organize.  They must leave school prepared to make meaning from a sea of facts. Using these devices in the classroom is the portal through which they will access the the raw material that they will process.

But why should we issue each student a device? Why not just have these devices available during the school day? For me this answer is simple.  Not every child has the same access or experience with technology. Some of our students go home to a world with out technology.  This creates a learning gap.  Just providing devices at school prevents some students from using these skills in daily life and expanding upon them.  It also limits learning to the school building.  Any goods teacher wants learning to happen outside of the classroom and wants students to build upon what has been learned. They can’t do this in the future without the proper tools.

I am not ignorant of the related problems a 1:1 model brings with it.  I understand that there are cost concerns yet, I feel strongly that this model of learning is a better reflection of how our students will learn in the future.

It is frustrating to live in a world that is changing so fast. Both as a father and a teacher I am worried about whether I am supplying the necessary skills to survive in a future that Is hard to define. At the same time it is exciting to be part of defining what the true value of this devices can be.  I am hopeful that some of the issues that have bothered me for 18 years as a teacher might be addressed through technology. I hold no hope however that  an I-pad is a panacea.  I have grown weary of those who aren’t aware of their rose colored glasses when they talk about technology.

I will end this with a short video about the future of learning that has been around for a while.  I stumbled upon it again recently while I was reading yet another teachers explanation of why we should embrace a 1:1 model.  I gets me thinking.

I welcome your thoughts, opinions and comments as they have been so helpful in forming my opinions thus far.

1 Comment

Filed under #edtech, general education