Reflection and the Student Centered Classroom

» 27 April 2014 » In Presentations, Reflection, Students, Teachers » 2 Comments

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This week I head to Grand Prairie TX to work with teachers and students at Adams Middle School. We’ll be demonstrating high value learning strategies that foster rigorous thinking, student engagement, and deeper student reflection on themselves as learners.

The key to fostering reflection is scaffolding more choices for students to make about key elements of the lesson. Providing options gives students more to think about. Divergent student products gives students a chance to explain and defend their thinking. Student can then compare outcomes with their peers, assess successes (and failures) and design improvements. See my post The Reflective Student: A Taxonomy of Reflection

Students can be given "appropriate" choices to make about:

  • Content - what knowledge and skills will be studied?
  • Process - what materials, procedures, etc will be used?
  • Product - what will students produce to demonstrate their learning?
  • Evaluation - how will the learning be assessed?

We have a variety of activities planned for the week including workshop sessions focussed on how to foster students engagement when using learning strategies for defining, summarizing and comparing. For example, when we ask students to summarize we should giving them the opportunity to use their higher order thinking skills to analyze the patterns, evaluate what's most significant to them and craft a unique summary. 

While summarizing has been shown to be one of the most effective strategies for building content knowledge, that gain only applies when students are allowed to make their own judgements about what’s important and frame their summaries for an audience. When we ask them to "learn" the teacher's summary - they are reduced to memorizing "another fact."

Our training sessions will be followed by classroom walkthroughs - PD works best when you can make the connection to the classroom. I’ll also have the opportunity to work with some groups of students on the Marshmallow Challenge to demonstrate these approaches. 

Student centered Look-fors

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How to Teach Structured Academic Controversy

» 26 June 2013 » In History / DBQ's, How To, Literacy, Reflection, Strategies, Students » No Comments

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Deliberating in a Democracy in the Americas (DDA), a valuable online resource for teachers interested in helping their students develop skills in discussing controversial topics. The DDA site has all the material teachers will need to support discussion in 15 interesting deliberation questions. It uses the Structured Academic Controversy (SAC) model to provide structure and focus to classroom discussions. Not all issues can be easily distilled to pro / con positions. SAC provides students with a framework for addressing complex issues in a productive manner that builds skills in reading, analyzing, listening, and discussion. And it’s ideal for supporting Common Core close reading skills.

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David Foster Wallace on Water and the Value of Education

» 16 May 2013 » In Commentary, Reflection » 1 Comment

This is water

Sadly, the world lost David Foster Wallace, in 2008. Fortunately, his writings live on. Recently his thoughtful 2005 Kenyon College commencement address was given new life in “This is Water” a video by The Glossary.

Wallace concludes: It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over. This is water.

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Podcast: Reflections on Teaching Strategies That Work

» 11 December 2012 » In Commentary, Ed Tech, Reflection, Teachers » No Comments

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I had a great time recording a podcast with Mark Hofer and David Carpenter for their series Ed Tech Co-Op.

Mark led off by asking me to reflect back on my some of the driving themes in my career. I confessed that as a novice teacher, I mimicked my experience as a high school student and taught primarily via lecture mixed with an occasional “guess what the teacher is thinking” whole-group discussion.

But I recalled an “aha” moment after repeated visits to the art class in the classroom next door. I realized that if the art teacher taught art, the way I taught history, his students would be sitting there watching him paint.

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How to Motivate Student Writers

» 16 August 2012 » In Ed Tech, How To, Literacy, Projects, Publishing, Reflection, Strategies, Students » 2 Comments

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A step-by-step guide to student writing that demonstrates the power of student choice, authentic audience and self-reflection. Sixth graders are motivated by writing “Traveling Through the Human Body with ABCs” for a third grade audience. The project demonstrates how to help students master content and develop project management and teamwork skills. The power of publishing enables students to think like writers, to apply their learning strategies and to organize and express their learning. It exemplifies the best of the information revolution – students as creators of content rather than as passive audience.

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14 Provocative Questions for the Faculty

» 25 July 2012 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Reflection, Teachers » 3 Comments

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It’s back to school time. Get ready for that opening day faculty meeting where you sit and listen, while wishing you could be getting some actual work done in your classroom. Here’s few disruptive questions you could pose to subvert the status quo in your school. Let’s begin with who’s learning, who’s not, and what are we doing about it?

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13 Subversive Questions for the Classroom

» 23 July 2012 » In Commentary, Reflection, Teachers » 16 Comments

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As a teacher you get to reinvent yourselves every year, but if you want to change schools everything is conspiring against you. Here’s some reflective questions that will help you subvert the status quo in your classroom. Let’s begin with, If a question has a correct answer, is it worth asking?

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WebEx and LearningCatalytics Create a Virtual Keynote

» 18 July 2012 » In Events, PD, Presentations, Reflection » No Comments

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I recently was asked to keynote at the MicroSociety annual conference in Philadelphia. While my schedule prevented me from appearing in person, I thought it was a great opportunity to see if I could scale my small group webinar model into a conference keynote.

I used WebEx as my platform and attendees brought their own web-enabled devices to access to respond to my questions and prompts via LearningCatalytics.

Here’s how it went.

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Flipped My Keynote

» 16 July 2012 » In Ed Tech, Events, How To, PD, Reflection, Strategies, Teachers » 2 Comments

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Keynoters typically show up, explain their model, answer questions, etc. If all goes well, folks leave with an understanding of the ideas you pitched to them. Transfer of content is easy in the digital age, it’s processing the learning that’s the challenge. So I elected to flip my keynote. Why not use one of the strategies I recommend to teachers?

Here’s how I used my two hours – not to present, but to put them through a variety of experiences to provoke their reflections. (With more on how to flip your class.)

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Reflections on Working with iBook Author

» 27 June 2012 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Publishing, Reflection » 18 Comments

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At the core of the creative process is the willingness to step back, reflect on what you’ve accomplished, ask how it’s going and then get back to working on it some more. So after a few weeks of using iBooks Author (IBA), I thought it was time to practice what I preach. I’ll use this post to explore my initial reaction to working with IBA framed with by thoughts on the reflective process. As I took a closer look at IBA, I realized that while it presented some interesting opportunities, IBA had some notable shortcomings. On the plus side, it’s very easy to create an engaging mix of text, images, recordings, and videos. Perfect for my first IBA project – a document-based history iBook.

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