Category Archives: Teaching, Learning, and Assessments

Inquiry-Based Learning…not just a buzzword

Inquiry learning may have become somewhat of a an educational buzzword. However, I am here to tell you that the student learning benefits from this type of learning is real. Back in the fall, I had the opportunity to give a professional development workshop in my school district about Genius Hour (perhaps another buzzword, but a method of inquiry-based learning if you haven’t heard of it). Having experimented with successful implementation the previous school year, I have thought about this quite a bit. In fact, I have became so interested that I developed a graduate course on inquiry-based learning through Seattle Pacific University.

You can also watch my EdSurge Ignite Talk outlining my work with inquiry-based learning in my classroom here:

The following is a list of what I’ve learned about implementing inquiry-based learning in a middle school classroom, which can be adapted to any grade level.

1. Let your students pick!

Interest-driven and student-directed goes hand-in-hand with inquiry-based learning. When you’re asking students to deep dive into a topic, it only makes sense that they care about it. True interest can only be guaranteed if they’ve chosen the topic. That’s not to say there should be parameters. In my first round of inquiry-based learning, I asked students to investiagte a topic they didn’t feel they learned enough about in their social studies class. In our second round, they were asked to solve a problem in their local community. While broad, these umbrella topics allowed me to provide students with focus questions to drive their work.

2. Be flexible.

If one student is researching renewable energy legislation and another is trying to recreate a turn of the century washing machine, processes, deadlines and grading practices might need to flex to accommodate their work. If students see only one path to an A, they will be less apt to take a risk.

3. Failure is to be expected. Prepare your students for this and don’t allow it to hurt their grade.

Contacting a U.S. Representative may not happen for your students. The underwater submarine model they are building may not work. They need to know that this is okay and that the trial and error process is valuable. The confines of earning an A often limit our students. This is where we should start to revaluate how we set up projects.

4. Allow technology to support, but not dominate student learning.

If a students wants to film a commercial and you don’t have the slightest idea how to do this, that’s okay. Your students (depending on their age) have the prowess to figure this out too. It is okay to say, “Create a plan for how you’d like to do this and I’ll be here to support you.” What sounds like an edeavor far larger than you have time for might be as simple as a student recording on their phone and turning to a peer for help in learning a simple mobile editing tool. You never know until you open up this door. You might find you learn a lot yourself!

5. Praise students for their tenacity; this type of learning is not easy.

It is true. Learning in this way has many similarities to how adults work in the real world: creating a plan, learning along the way, utilizing experts around you, being flexible, etc. This may be the first time a student hasn’t been told, “This is how you earn an A” and for some this will be extremely frustrating.

6. THIS IS NOT A FREE FOR ALL

You still need assignments, check-ins, deadlines, and lessons. While most of what I wrote above may sound like you will send your little chickens loose on the farm to scrounge for feed, this isn’t true. Modeling how to do online research, tools for project management, check-in deadlines and support meetings with you, as well as project proposals are all necessary and important to student success. This type of learning is ripe for direct instruction lessons and teacher modeling on all types of topics.

Contact me if you have questions or are interested in brainstorming together!

 

Developing Human Capacity in Teacher Leaders

My question this week was about how we can develop human capacity in teachers to become technology leaders? How do we get them to step up and share what they know and teach others?

Selfishly, I took this tack at it because it gives me an opportunity to share a project I’ve been working on for the last couple of years, the Future Ready Teacher Cohort. Two years ago our district still had no mobile devices available for students and our technology PD consisted of random, district wide classes on a variety of topics. Neither the access or the training was really changing anything significantly, even with three Instructional Technology TOSAs thrown into the mix. So I did some research.

First, we had heard over and over again over the course of the first few months in our position that there was never enough time to figure out how to take what you learned in a training and really implement it in class before other demands and priorities got in the way. We also heard that they didn’t see the relevance for themselves in what they were learning. Upon more conversation it came down to an issue of confidence. Because they didn’t feel confident in being able to use the tools they couldn’t really see how it fit into their instruction. They needed ongoing support. It wasn’t enough for us to just say “call us if you need us” after a training. We needed to check back.

I started looking at professional development models and ways for teachers to self evaluate their own learning and came across the Future Ready Schools website. At the time, there was a link to a MOOC about Future Ready Schools that my colleagues and I took. We were able to take a look at some examples from other schools and do some reading and research on issues around technology and professional development that began to change our thinking.

http://futureready.org/

What we developed from that was an opportunity to create teacher leaders with the capacity to teach others. We offered a cart of mobile devices as an incentive and in turn we asked the teachers for 2 full days in the summer and 6 three hour evening meetings over the course of 7 months. Each meeting had a combination of skill instruction, a new tool or website to try out, pedagogical instruction around SAMR, blended learning, etc., and collaborative work time. Our goal was to transform learning relationships in our school district. We asked the teachers to do IGNITE (20 slides and 5 minutes to tell your story) sessions at the end of the year to reflect on their learning. It was amazing to see how much they had grown over the course of a year. They were confident with trying things out and many were already offering training of their own in their buildings.

We have just completed our 2nd year which was equally promising and are getting applications ready for the upcoming school year. Some members of our first year group are going to be teaching the 2nd year group this next year so I can focus on the new group. This new group is not going to be made up of our technology pioneers however. We are now reaching the late adopter group.

I’m interested to see how I will need to shift the instruction for this group in order to get them to the same level of confidence as the first year group. I was taking a look at an interesting article by Laurie Blondy (2007) that was analyzing, and in come cases refuting, Malcolm Knowles’ Adult Learning Theory. The basics of adult learning theory are these five principles:

  1. Adult learners are self directed.
  2. Adults bring experience with them to the learning environment.
  3. Adults are ready to learn to perform their role in society.
  4. Adults are problem oriented, and they seek immediate application of their new knowledge.
  5. Adults are motivated to learn by internal factors.

After years of working with adults I’ve questioned some of those principals and Blondy’s article brings up many of the same issues I have.

  1. Not all adult learners are self directed. Some are there because they have to, because they are complying with something or need to earn clock hours and, as adults, this learning time is competing with family, work and personal time and is only one of many irons teachers have in the fire. Although they don’t want to be lectured to, they also aren’t necessarily ready to create their own course of study and set their own goals. There has to be a balance between some skill based training that is offered based on their needs and some choice in where they take those skills from there. Blondy suggests that online facilitators “must encourage learners to be as self-directed as possible, allowing them to be creative with assignments and projects, encouraging their input and suggestions, while remaining available for consultation to provide guidance when needed.”
  2. Adults do bring experiences to the learning environment and that can be a huge asset if you can find ways to connect their learning to their background knowledge and they can be invaluable resources to each other. And, they can also bring a certain fixed mindset to their learning that can be hard to overcome.
  3. Adults do know their role and are generally ready to learn if you can keep it relevant to them. This is a great reason to make sure, as an instructor, that I give them time to clarify why they are there and what they are hoping to get out of the learning experience. That being said, it’s easy not to put the “hard stuff” on your list of personal learning goals. I think it has to be a balance of professional competencies that we expect teachers to know, because they need to use certain tools and teach certain standards to their students, and choices to pursue certain tools or skills in more depth. It’s the folks who reach a certain mastery that we can count on to begin teaching what they know to others.
  4. Adults are problem oriented and seek immediate application but aren’t always able to analyze what the problem is very clearly. Learning and implementing a keyboarding software with 3rd graders without addressing good writing instruction is not going to make their SBA test scores any higher. We have to be able to help them sift down to the area the students are struggling with and address the wider instructional needs which technology may or may not be able to help address.
  5. So far, my cohort members have been motivated mostly by internal interest in learning what’s best for their students, a cart of mobile devices to use in their classroom, and free dinner, but I’ve already gotten feedback that they would also like to get paid for their time. There is a certain amount of “have to attend” that is tied to training but not everyone is in it for the professional development.

The trick for me is to keep it practical, relevant, mix it up so their are some choices and to give them lots of time to talk to their peers and collaborate together. We’ll see where it takes us next year.

Resources

Blondy, L. C. (2007). Evaluation and Application of Andragogical Assumptions to the Adult Online Learning Environment. Journal of interactive Online Learning, 6(2), 116-130. Retrieved May 29, 2017, from http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/issues/pdf/6.2.3.pdf

Tracey, R. (2011, August 26). Adult learning shminciples. Retrieved May 30, 2017, from https://ryan2point0.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/adult-learning-shminciples/

 

Responsible Use Policies

My original question was “How do we raise awareness in teachers about their roles and responsibilities regarding legal and ethical behavior?”  I still think it’s important but I’m not finding any good resources regarding teaching teachers about digital citizenship as professionals, it’s pretty much all about how to teach their students.

I shifted my focus toward developing Responsible Use Policies because I believe the process of developing a more positive, forward thinking policy will help us change the conversation about digital citizenship and legal and ethical behavior among teachers as well as students. It’s not going to be enough to just tell people what to do. We have to model ongoing conversations about digital citizenship and create cultures in our schools that are supportive enough that we can call each other on inappropriate digital behavior without it feeling like we are accusing or policing.

Our schools have to be learning environments where we can make and fix mistakes in a safe place and there will be a lot of learning that will need to happen. It’s not just our students generation that sees the content they find online as free and reusable. Teachers often use content without attribution, I’ve done it myself. The trick, i think, will be finding a balance and making it easier for teachers to access resources when they have questions about privacy policies on websites, fair use and copyright, and have had the chance to wrestle with and talk to their peers about ethical digital issues.   

House Bill 6273, which was recently signed into law in Washington State, requires a broad group of stakeholders (teachérs, administrators, parents, and community members) to meet regularly to review digital citizenship policies. Considering how quickly technology changes, it will make our policy more responsive. I’ve heard that WASDA is working on a template for Responsible Use Policies for districts. We should be able to use that but if it isn’t ready we will be able to use the work that Northshore School District has done to develop theirs. The ultimate goal is to shift the focus away from what we don’t want staff and students to do with technology to what we do want them to do with it. It will shift the conversation away from punishment to educating people, which is ultimately our goal. Eventually, I’d like to figure out how to translate these documents into kid friendly language (AUPs​ ​in​ ​kid​ ​Friendly​ ​Language​ ​​http://bostonpublicschools.org/Page/1468  ) as well so that teachers can use them with their younger students to teach them about their digital rights and responsibilities.

Resources

AUPs in kid Friendly Language http://bostonpublicschools.org/Page/1468

Student Centered Acceptable Use Policy https://tech.ed.gov/stories/student-centered-acceptable-use-policy/

House Bill 6273 http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2015-16/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Passed%20Legislature/6273-S.PL.pdf

 

Developing Tech Fluency for Teachers

My focus is on ISTE 3a: Demonstrate fluency in technology systems and transfer of current knowledge to new technologies and situations. Our teachers have been often stymied in developing true fluency in their tech skills because we’ve used a very traditional model of professional development where we’ve introduced a new tool, given them a couple of hours of ‘sit and get’ training and then sent them off on their own to figure it out. We know that training like that doesn’t work, except for the small majority of pioneer adopters who are self motivated to figure it out. We also often offer these trainings out of context with the curriculum they need to teach which causes even good PD to lack immediate relevance to their classrooms.

The new ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) legislation is offers a slightly new definition for Professional Development that may help districts shift their thinking around how we provide PD for staff and allow them to focus on helping teachers develop the fluency they need to truly support student’s work with technology as well as increasing their own willingness to adapt to the challenges that technology brings. Some of the main shifts are a move toward Professional Development that are personalized and evidence based learning for teachers. They also define PD as being “sustained (not stand-alone, 1-day or short term workshops), intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven and classroom focused.”

These changes have caused me to take a closer look at our own PD thinking, especially around technology. One of the ways we can begin to personalize and provide evidence based training is to use the idea of microcredentialing for teachers. Once we define professional competencies for teachers, based on what students need to be able to know and be able to do, we can develop a variety of PD options that will allow teachers to make choices about the what they focus on, how they go about learning or showing evidence of their learning.

We recently chose a platform called Kyte Learning to help us with this goal. Kyte is a professional learning system that has skill and pedagogically based training available for many of the most widely used software for education (Google, Office365, LMS systems, Formative Assessment tools, and more). Each module is crafted using videos for learning that are no longer than 3 minutes long. They are in well organized sequences that allow teachers to choose the pieces they need to learn. They are not tied to having to complete sections that are not relevant to their learning. Each course has a section on basic how tos and then move on to uses in the classroom for the tool. We will be able to create our own modules as well and may consider having different levels of mastery for modules (beginner, intermediate and advanced). Each module has an assessment with it but we’ll also be able to require evidence (screen shots, documents, links, etc.) so that teachers have options when giving us evidence. They have the option of skipping to the assessment or evidence submission directly so that teachers who come with the skills can earn the badges without sitting through the whole module. A mastery module, for example, would require student evidence and some reflection of how they used it with students in their classroom.

Our goal is to offer our PD in three ways: 1) in person training (group or individually), 2) Kyte Video Training, 3) Direct submission of evidence. This will allow teachers to personalize their path, show mastery in the competencies, offer choice and at the same time give the district a way to help hold staff accountable to using the skill. The fluency will be built by regularly encouraging teachers to increase their level of credentials each year and purposefully labeling transfer skills and where they can be applied. It will take a while to develop and add our own content but it’s a step in the right direction.

Resources:

Definition of Professional Development. (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2017, from https://learningforward.org/who-we-are/professional-learning-definition

Pierce, D. (2016, May 24). ESSA Redefines Professional Development for Teachers. Are You Ready for This Shift? Retrieved May 02, 2017, from http://www.schoolimprovement.com/essa-professional-development-for-teachers/

[contact-form]

Visual Literacy: Analyzing Infographics with Students

In my last post, I wrote about the use of infographics in the classroom. Their creation can be a powerful exercise in both visual literacy and graphic design. A far cry from the poster projects of my youth, infographics call on students to synthesize information and think thematically. Just because you present students with a great online infographic creation tool (Piktochart, Visme, etc.) doesn’t mean they are ready to create one. Many students are not even familiar with the term infographic (informative graphic). I start any lesson on the topic by asking students to analyze the work of others. This extra step yields far better results in students’ final work.

Questions to Ask Students

  • How do you read this image? From left to right?

  • How does the organization of information/text structure help an author and a reader establish important themes?

  • What do you see first? Why?

  • What stands out to you at second glance? Why?

  • Where does your eye travel?

  • What relationship is shown in this infographic? How do you know? What choices did the designer make to ensure this was clear, even from afar? How does this help you to read this information?

  • How is color used? What is bright and what is dull in color? Why do you think the creator chose to do this?

Students are amazed to realize that these design decisions are not haphazard, but purposefully considered by the author. 

"Bringing the Farm to School: Growing Healthy Children & Communities" by USDA is licensed under CC by 2.0.

“Bringing the Farm to School: Growing Healthy Children & Communities” by USDA is licensed under CC by 2.0.

For example, consider the infographic above. A quick “read” yields some clear key aspects of this infographic’s design. Thematic imagery is used to convey the larger message (farm-to table practices are present in some U.S. schools). Even a cursory glance suggests that numbers and statistics are a focus. Color and font size also draw attention to these statistics. This infographic is designed to highlight the successes of current farm-to-table eating in schools, rather than challenges. One may even notice that the sizes of the grocery bags decrease to coincide with the percentages represented on them. While this is far from a complex infographic, it is successful in presenting synthesized information about the topic. It is  also clear that graphic design elements are purposeful and on-message. You may think these simple elements are innately obvious, but it is useful to model your thinking and work with students to unpack these design choices as they relate to theme and message. Finally, I encourage teachers to survey students for topics of interest before choosing an infographic to study together. This will create further engagement and interest with students.

Using Infographics in the Classroom

Click to view slideshow.

Infographics

In my own classroom, the use of infographics has been a valuable tool to teach not only visual literacy, but graphic design. Our society is a visual one and students need to be prepared to not only interpret the meaning of visuals presented to them but to present their own visual stories back to others. Many already do this in some capacity on sites like Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat. Of course, creating an infographic does go beyond taking a selfie, requiring students to think very critically. Above are some infographics of mine that I’ve shared with students.

What is an infographic?

I tell my students that infographics (informative graphics) are a way to convey information to an audience in a simple, engaging way. I tell them that it is a way of storytelling. I tell them that it counters the notion, often seen in writing, that longer is better. I tell them that synthesis is truly the challenge here. The key to a successful infographic is a finished product that looks deceptively simple.

How do you use them in your teaching?

Each time I’ve presented this idea, I’ve been surprised by how many student haven’t heard the term infographic. They are, however, familiar with similar images in nonfiction books from their childhood. Students are often surprised by how much they can “read” from a visual image, as well as how quickly they can identify the  relationships present, such as in flowcharts and cycles, etc. I often begin by showing students some examples and asking them to identify key elements. This is an important first step to pave the way for students to create their own. Infographics can be used as a creative alternative to a typical project or even writing assignment. Students can share them in a printed form or with each other online. In the examples below, my students use infographics to share elements of symbolism from novels they had recently read.

Click to view slideshow.

How do you make an infographic and not just a poster?

  • Get out of the habit of “go find and stick up” (Images are not stickers to place without thorough consideration.)

  • Viewer should be able to understand relationships at first glance (cross language barriers perhaps)

  • Overall imagery should be thematic or symbolic

  • Not just be content, but an analysis of this information

  • Does your infographic…tell a story? persuade? present an argument?

  • Consider the overall text structure (compare & contrast, sequence, cause & effect, etc.)

 

What tools do you use to create infographic?

screen-shot-2017-04-26-at-10-23-53-am

There are many, many online tools available that can make this process easy and fun for students. Some examples are shown above. Please note that some of these tools have both free and paid versions with varying customization options. Be warned that “go find and stick up” is tempting with these tools. Additionally, by no means is a fancy tool necessary to create such a visual image. A simple tool like Google Slides, Powerpoint or even pen and paper can work just as well!

Infographics as Visual Literacy

IMG_0937

Well, it has been 349 days since my last blog post! Where have I been you ask? Great question. My last post found me completing my graduate degree in Digital Education Leadership at Seattle Pacific University while closing out yet another school year as a middle school language arts teacher. I was also nine months pregnant and counting, awaiting the arrival of my son. Amazingly, I made it to just four days before the end of the school year before Parker was born. That day, June 10th, happened to also be the same day as my graduation from Seattle Pacific. My esteemed program director, along with my devoted cohort, threw me my very own make-up graduation a few months later. Who says you can’t do it all?

424f205d-33f2-4bcd-a7d0-08a563cf6591

During this hiatus spent caring for my son, I have been fortunate enough to explore some great opportunities that I am eager to share about on my blog. I’d like to start back in August, when I lead three training sessions in various passion areas of mine (student blogging, infographics and genius hour) for teachers in my school district. Today, I’ll focus on infographics.

Infographics

In my own classroom, the use of infographics has been a valuable tool to teach not only visual literacy, but graphic design. Our society is a visual one and students need to be prepared to not only interpret the meaning of visuals presented to them but to present their own visual stories back to others. Many already do this in some capacity on sites like Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat. Of course, creating an infographic does go beyond taking a selfie, requiring students to think critically.

What is an infographic?

I tell my students that infographics are a way to convey information to an audience in a simple, engaging way. I tell them that it is a way of storytelling. I tell them that it counters the notion, often seen in writing, that longer is better. I tell them that synthesis is truly the challenge with visuals and that the key to an infographic is to end with a deceptively simple looking finished product.

How do you use them in your teaching?

Most students a haven’t heard the term infographic. They are, however, familiar with similar images in nonfiction books from their childhood. Students are often surprised by how much they can “read” from a visual image, as well as how quickly they can identify the relationships present, such as in flowcharts and cycles, etc. I often begin by showing students some examples and asking them to identify key elements. This is an important first step to pave the way for students to create their own.

Breaking down an infographic with students…

  • How do you read this image? From left to right?
  • How does the organization of information/text structure help an author and a reader establish important themes?
  • What do you see first? Why?
  • What stands out to you at second glance? Why?
  • Where does your eye travel?
  • What relationship is shown in this infographic? How do you know? What choices did the designer make to ensure this was clear, even from afar? How does this help you to read this information?
  • How is color used? What is bright and what is dull in color? Why do you think the creator chose to do this?

Students are amazed to realize that these decisions are not haphazard, but purposefully and thoughtfully designed by the author.

"Bringing the Farm to School: Growing Healthy Children & Communities" by USDA is licensed under CC by 2.0.

“Bringing the Farm to School: Growing Healthy Children & Communities” by USDA is licensed under CC by 2.0.

For example, consider the infographic above. A quick “read” yields some clear key points of infographic creation. Thematic imagery is used to convey the larger message (farm-to table practices are present in some U.S. schools). At first glance, it is clear that numbers and statistics are a big focus. Color and font size draw attention to these statistics. It quickly becomes clear that this infographic is designed to highlight the successes of current farm-to-table eating in schools, rather than challenges. Upon more detailed inspection, one may notice that the sizes of the grocery bags decrease to coincide with the percentages represented on them. While this is far from a complex infographic, it is successful in presenting synthesized information about the topic. It is  also clear that graphic design elements are purposeful and on message. I encourage teachers to survey students for a topic of interest before choosing an infographic to study as a class. This will only create further engagement and interest with students.

How do you make an infographic and not just a poster?

  • Try to get out of the habit of “go find and stick up” (In other words, your images are not stickers.)
  • The viewer should be able to understand relationships presented at first glance. Similarly, the larger message should be able to cross language barriers.
  • Your overall imagery should be thematic or symbolic.
  • The information you present should not just be content, but it should be an analysis or synthesis of this information.
  • Does your infographic…tell a story? persuade? present an argument?
  • You should consider the overall text structure (compare and contrast, sequence, cause and effect, etc.)

What tools do you use to create infographic?

screen-shot-2017-04-26-at-10-23-53-amThere are many, many online tools available that can make this process easy and fun for students. Some examples are listed below. Please note that some of these tools have both free and paid versions with varying customization options. Be warned that “go find and stick up” is tempting with these tools. Additionally, by no means is a fancy tool necessary to create such a visual image. A simple tool like Google Slides, Powerpoint or even a pen and paper can work just as well!

 

Students Examples from Literary Projects

file_002-4

file_000-6

file_005-2

file_005-3

Technology Can Make Learning Personal


As I was trying to develop a question about ISTE Teacher Standard 2 I read it over a number of times. At one point it dawned on me that the standard was really about making learning personal for students. There is a lot of confusion out there about what that means. The terms differentiated, individualized and personalized learning are tossed around interchangeably but do they really mean the same thing? What are the differences between the terms and what does that mean in terms of choosing the right tool to help teachers make learning personal for their students?

I found a great article helpfully called Personalized vs. differentiated vs. individualized learning (Basye 2016) that was originally posted through ISTE. The author defines each area and I was intrigued to see that each of the standards in ISTE Teacher Standard 2 seem to be related. Perhaps purposefully, since the author also recently coauthored a book with Peggy Grant  called Personalized Learning: A Guide for Engaging Students with Technology.

The author defines Differentiated Learning as “a type of learning where instruction is tailored to meet the learning needs, preferences, and goals of individual students.” The overall goals for students in the classroom are the same but how a teacher adapts lessons or projects to help a student reach that goal is flexible. This seems to most closely related to Standard 2a: “Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity.”  Digital tools make it easier for teachers to adapt due dates, rubrics, directions, and resources to respond to unique student needs without materially changing the overall project or outcomes for the whole class.

Individualized learning, on the other hand, is related to pacing. The goals for all students are the same but students have the ability to move through the learning at their own pace. This can be valuable to students on the ends of the learning spectrum who either work quickly and need enrichment or acceleration or for those who need to work more slowly through a task and need the ability to go back to structures like video or written instructions to revisit the learning as needed. Standard 2b: “Develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress” seems to fit most closely with Individualized learning. Gamification and the plethora of online, adaptive curriculum available to teach students skills at their own pace show that this a area of huge growth in the education market right now. It’s hard to keep up with what’s new and dig down to find what really works.

Finally, the author makes the case that Personalized learning is really a combination of both. He defines it as “learning that is tailored to the preferences and interests of various learners, as well as instruction that is paced to a student’s unique needs.” Personalized learning also involves the student as an active participant in creating their learning. It brings together the best of what motivates and excites students with the teacher helping them learn how to get there. Standard 2c: “Customize and personalize learning activities to address students’ diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources” most closely speaks to personalized learning. This is a harder area to find pre-packaged technology for and relies more heavily on teacher created material.

There are a lot of possible tools, and more being added each day to personalize learning. They seem to come in categories:

Teacher Constructed through Learning Management Systems (Canvas, Schoology, Haiku, D2L, Google Classroom, 3D GameLab, etc.) that allow teachers to customize assignments, assign different due dates, allow for choice, host individual paths (modules), and offer opportunities for badging and game based elements. These tools allow for the most flexibility for a teacher that knows their students well enough to customize based on ability, interest and needs but they are the most time consuming for the teacher. They are not terribly student based unless a teacher builds in the flexibility for a student to make choices about learning paths or content. It’s not impossible to build in, just a lot of work. They do all allow for assessment to be built in that will give students either immediate feedback or robust feedback from peers or teachers.

Teacher Constructed through other digital  tools (Actively Learn, EdPuzzle, OwlEyes, Nearpod, NextLesson, SMART Lab, Kahoot, Desmos, etc.) There are far too many tools in this category to name here. These tools are kind of a hybrid. The structure is there but the content is created, or edited, by the teacher. It allow teachers to create content students can move through at their own pace but also to collect data about student’s knowledge. Teachers can customize with their own questions, insert supporting materials into reading passages or video or engage students in various tasks.These are still very teacher directed tools but could be used to support self paced learning and.

Video Based Learning (Lynda, Kyte, AdobeTV, Atomic Learning, YouTube, Learning.com, etc) These tools are generally skill based, online, video based tutorials. You can chose as much or as little as you need to learn, can test out and show mastery, provides choice and ability to customize. For purely individualized learning they are invaluable. Most of us already use YouTube to teach us many things but the rest of  these tools are curated, organized and updated regularly and can be used for students, and teachers, who are ready to learn on their own based on their own passions or interests.

Adaptive Content Based Learning (Dreambox, TenMarks, RazKids, Khan Academy, iReady, etc.) provide responsive, need based content, pretests, provide tutorials and hints, are algorithmic based and differentiated, provide data tracking, and adjusts to the learner or can be assigned by teacher. It seems to be the fastest growing market in education. The data can be invaluable to a classroom teacher but we can’t rely on these programs to do all the teaching. It should be used to support, individualize and help fill in gaps but not all students will learn well this way and teachers need to continually monitor the student’s growth and be responsive when students are struggling. This kind of learning also needs to be liberally mixed with real, collaborative, hands on projects that allow students to develop deeper learning and transfer their skills. Mixed with reflection and goal setting and regular problem based application they can be useful tools.

The final part of the ISTE Standard 2 “Provide students with multiple and varied formative and summative assessments aligned with content and technology standards, and use resulting data to inform learning and teaching” need to be woven through any kind of learning, differentiated, individualized or personalized. Without data, neither students nor teachers have a way of measuring success or determining growth. It’s vital that ongoing assessment be a part of any learning.

This may have clarified some of the differences between differentiated, individualized and personalized  for me but it may be harder to explain to teachers. Many use tools with students without any real purpose. I’ve seen students on multiplication practice websites long after they’ve mastered the skills either because the teacher doesn’t have a clear idea of the student’s capabilities, because they don’t know what should be next for the student or they haven’t really thought about the purpose of the tool and where it’s appropriateness lies in their instruction. I put together this infographic as a way to start the conversations about the differences but defining the purpose of the tools may be a more challenging conversation.

 

Resources:

Basye, D. (2016, October 23). Personalized vs. differentiated vs. indivdualized learning. Retrieved April 23, 2017, from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=124

[contact-form]

Better Metacognition Through Reflection

As teachers we use every tool in our toolbox to facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity (ISTE Teacher Standard 1) . We often model innovative thinking for our students, we strive to foster creativity by giving students choices and encouraging them to follow their passions and we create real world opportunities for them to collaborate and problems solve with others.

The one area of the standard that I think is often neglected is 1c: Promote student reflection using collaborative tools to reveal and clarify students’ conceptual understanding and thinking, planning and creative process. Reflection is an easy thing to run out of time for. It’s usually something that we plan for at the end of the lesson in the form of an exit ticket or a quick quiz or short essay question. Most of the time it’s used as formative assessment to see whether the students understood what we thought we taught them. It can help guide our lesson planning for the next day, which is valuable, but I would argue that those types of activities are not true reflection.

Reflection is a metacognitive process. In an article called Defining Reflection: Another Look at John Dewey and Reflective Thinking  the author (Rogers 2002) distilled it down to four important criteria:

  1. Reflection is a meaning-making process that moves a learner from one experience into the next with deeper understanding of its relationships with and connections to other experiences and ideas. It is the thread that makes continuity of learning possible, and ensures the progress of the individual and, ultimately, society. It is a means to essentially moral ends.
  2. Reflection is a systematic, rigorous, disciplined way of thinking, with it’s roots in scientific inquiry.
  3. Reflection needs to happen in community, in interaction with others.
  4. Reflection requires attitudes that value the personal and intellectual growth of oneself and others.

To me it’s not just about what you learned but how you learned it, what strategies you learned to do that thinking, what you learned about how you learn as a student, and thinking ahead to where you might use that type of thinking in other contexts.  Formative assessment is essential but often only touches on surface learning. Metacognition (thinking about your thinking) can be a useful tool for developing in students the ability to think deeply, develop and apply strategies to their learning, and encourage the transfer of learning skills and content to other disciplines as well as. There is too much information for anyone to know so it’s important we teach our students the metacognitive strategies that will allow them to learn in any situation, and become more independent, self directed learners.

In John Hattie’s (2009) Visible Learning he developed a list of teaching and learning strategies that he listed by effect size. If you look at even the top 20 on his list you’ll see at least 6 that I believe are related in some way to the reflective process of thinking.  

Cognitive task analysis, conceptual change programs, and concept mapping are all tools that help students visualize their learning and think more deeply about how they learn. Self-reporting grades allows students to measure themselves against criteria and expectations and analyze their own effort and understanding in the learning process. Gathering feedback from peers and teachers and asking their own questions can help them celebrate their successes and also learn to set goals for themselves to make improvements. All of these create a sense of agency for students. They have ownership and buy in to the learning process because they are they know and can articulate the effort and strategies they put into learning.

As a classroom teacher I used a number of different paper and pencil processes to help students track their own data, set goals and to give feedback. Most were unwieldy, were prone to being “lost” and were a paper management nightmare. I wish I had found a product like SowntoGrow earlier.  I heard about https://www.sowntogrow.com/ at a recent EdSurge event in Issaquah. I liked it and had shared it with the teachers I work with. One teacher took me up on it and took a look. She loves it and has been using it with her students.

The tool allows a teacher to create activities and assign them to students. You can set success criteria based  on completion or set mastery levels and you can set “learning cycles”, which is basically the time frame of the activity. What I like is the student view. Students first rate how they are feeling about the activity with various sad, neutral and smiley faces. This will make it accessible for even younger users. They get feedback with some quotes to help encourage them. Then they set goals based on the score they want to achieve. The teacher would need to do some pre teaching to help students learn to set goals. When the activity is completed the student can go back in and add their score and again rate how they are feeling and then there is space to reflect on what they learned and what they might do differently next time if they want to improve. The teacher then gets a dashboard where they can see all the students reflections and give them feedback.

What I’ve seen happen with tools like discussions in Canvas is that even quieter students will be willing to reflect, sometimes in some very profound ways, even if they won’t raise a hand or speak up in class. Online is a safe place for some kids and they know only the teacher will see their thinking. This tool also supports the growth mindset we want to reinforce with our students. They get to celebrate and get feedback on their goals and they have a place to refer back to in order to see their progress over time.

It feels like a tool that, in many ways addresses all four of the criteria for what defines reflection. It allows a student to set, measure and track goals and gives them a journal-like space to think and write about what they did well, what they could do to improve and what their they learned. Teachers could provide prompts at first to encourage students to think deeply about their learning process. There is a certain amount of structure to the Sown to Grow reflection process that can help students think about the stages of their learning and to see growth and change happen over time. The community piece currently only happens with feedback from teachers but additional tools like online discussions could be woven into parts of the reflective process to develop the larger community piece. Finally, the process of reflection that also supports growth mindset thinking will help foster a sense of “I haven’t learned it..yet” in students that, along with the other pieces of this tool like pre and post data tracking and self reporting of attitudes towards learning, will support a positive attitude toward learning as a process, not an endpoint.

Reflection needs to be a part of a teacher’s process as well. Last year I built reflection into the final session of the class I teach. Each participant presents an IGNITE session to the class as their final reflection the year. An IGNITE is presentation of 5 minutes using only 20 slides to tell your story. It’s a chance to think about how their thinking has changed over the course of the year as part of our cohort of learners. Last year’s presentations were amazing and very thoughtful. I’m looking forward to hearing this year’s final projects next week.

Resources

Waack, S. (2014, March). Hattie effect size list – 195 Influences Related To Achievement . Retrieved April 11, 2017, from https://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/

Rogers, C. (2002). Defining Reflection: Another Look at John Dewey and Reflective Thinking. Teachers College Record, 104(4), 842-866. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from http://www.bsp.msu.edu/uploads/files/Reading_Resources/Defining_Reflection.pdf

[contact-form]

Collapse Project: Integrating Jared Diamond’s Five Point Framework AND Technology Into the Classroom

Jared Diamond’s treatise on environmental damage and societal collapse is a landmark work on societal issues facing the world today. As such, it makes a fantastic teaching tool for my 12th grade current world problems class, and I’ve been using the book as a text for several years now.  For my digital education leadership class, … Continue reading "Collapse Project: Integrating Jared Diamond’s Five Point Framework AND Technology Into the Classroom"