As I endeavour to broaden the vocabulary of my students, I intend to make applying a definition to a random image a regular feature of this blog. What word would you use to describe this image?
Yesterday, for Grosse Pointe's district-wide staff development day, I was asked to present sessions on "Student Response Systems."
Often, teachers fall into two camps about cellphones. "Why do they need to use their phone?" This perspective is demonstrated by the image to the right, where the teacher takes all phones away from students every day. Life is too short for me to rant about that.
The more enthusiastic teachers frequently talk about using technology to energize and engage students. The utility of this approach, in my view, is limited. Novelty wears off, or we'd still be showing filmstrips. Does the tool have a strong pedagogical foundation?
First among many uses of cellphones in the classroom is about feedback. Students and teachers alike can receive immediate and individualized feedback about their performance, their ideas and their contributions. The technology allows more students to "talk" at once and allows them to get responses from more "people" at a time. They can become more engaged with each other and with the instructional content. That's the type of engagement I'm interested in.
Enough soapbox for today. Here's a quick rundown of what we covered in the session.
GoSoapBox leads the field
My go-to tool in this area is quickly becoming GoSoapBox. Simply, it works. When you click buttons, they respond immediately and consistently. This might seem like an obvious feature, but having used many web-based tools, unfortunately it's not. There are quizzes to provide formative assessment feedback to both students and teachers, polls to generate class discussion, and two types of discussion forums to summarize learning. It's free (for up to 30 simultaneous users) and easy to use. Some competitors have fewer features, which may seem a better entry point for novice teachers. However, GoSoapBox's clean interface makes this an ideal do-it-all resource.
Socrative not very Socratic
Despite calling itself Socrative, this tool seems to be better deployed for quizzes, whether summative or formative. Actual Socratic questioning would be easier to facilitate with GoSoapBox's discussion or social Q&A features. I've used Socrative with students on practice quizzes. Giving them immediate, personalized feedback is valuable and Socrative does a nice job here. The tool does offer a little more live, dynamic interactivity than I've deployed so far. I'm told that the Space Race feature is appealing to students. The can compete in teams to complete the questions quickly. Socrative's interface is gray and static, but they are beta testing Socrative 2.0, which will be more colorful and elegant in design.
Infuse learning a distant third
Maybe I'm doing it wrong. I know teachers who praise InfuseLearning as the leader of pack. It does have some important features that the competition lacks, such as:
Is it more important to teach skills or content? Similarly, is it the details or big picture we need to focus on? Before I continue, check out the video below.
Did you focus on just the "trick"? Were you able to step back and see the big picture? Or, were the background changes actually irrelevant details and you focused entirely on the cards? Sure, this is contrived, but nevertheless illustrative.
Too often, teachers are expected to "cover" a set of details and we end up missing what's really important. Whether the card was the three of hearts or the queen of spades is not significant. Solving the problem of "how they did it" is the real challenge. Take, for example, a recent problem-based learning activity in my son Ethan's fourth grade class with Mrs. Howey.
You can read Ethan and his partner's summary of the project here. Students practiced math skills, writing in a voice, problem solving, communication and project management. Did you notice the "technology"? It was sprinkled in there, as a sauce to add depth of flavor, but never sustaining ingredient by itself.
Oh, and there was passion? Did I mention passion? What else could a parent ask for from a rock star teacher's lesson.
What is the content? Certainly mass and volume are important terms to know, but in this project students demonstrate that understanding, and much, much more. The kids will probably say they "learned about Pringles." We know it's not really about that.
This post is part of the Teacher Leadership Challenge, sponsored by Michigan Teacher of the Year Gary Abud. This week, he asks, "How important is the teaching of content knowledge compared to teaching thinking skills?"
Today's post is by guest blogger Ella, my seven-year-old daughter. Her teacher is having a student blog daily about class events. Ella's is the inaugural post. Here's her unedited work.
My name is Ella. I am a 2nd grader at Tromby Elementary School. In school I like to read and I like to write. Yesterday, all the kids in my class, noticed that all our butterflies emerged from their chrysallis. The butterflies did not move much at first. Their wings were still wet. They fluttered to the floor. By the end of the day they were flying around their cage.
This morning they were very active. During bell time some kids were watching them. Josie accidentally let once escape. She cried because she was sorry. The butterfly flew up to the ceiling and around the room. I heard about it when I came back from taking the lunch buckets.The butterfly landed on the windowsill and Ms. O'Meara got a butterfly net, and stood on a chair, then jumped on the windowsill to catch the butterfly. The kids were running around the room cheering. Ms. O'Meara caught the butterfly and put her back in the cage.
After that we shared our science homework. Seely brought in squirrel bones. She got them from a dead squirrel in her neighbors yard.The bones had fur on it and when you looked at them you could see where the joints would be and how they would connect with other bones. We put them in our class mini museum with Isaiah's dead leaf bug and John's cicada molt that's on a leaf and a split open chestnut. It's cool. We had an awesome morning!
This post is part of the Teacher Leadership Challenge, sponsored by Michigan Teacher of the Year Gary Abud. This week, he asks, "What are the features of assessment that make it a valuable practice?"
A good assessment is a learning experience. Simply, there is seldom a time when all the teacher needs are answers, without pausing for student reflection or giving them a plan of action. Take this professor, for example. He's giving an assessment and giving feedback, but what learning is occurring?
Facilitate effective assessment and feedback with technology
On Mondays, my students of Advanced Placement European History have a quiz on their textbook reading. These assessments are each worth a meager 1% of their grade. While offering a token of "accountability," the real purpose is to provide students with immediate feedback about their understanding. Here are the steps:
Of course, simple multiple-choice and short answer questions, even well-designed ones, have limited utility. A more powerful technique is Socratic questioning paired with a constructivist, experiential component. That's a post for another day. For now, take a look at the teacher below. He is novice at the approach, but at least he's trying new learning strategies.
This post is part of the Teacher Leadership Challenge, sponsored by Michigan Teacher of the Year Gary Abud. This week, he asks, "Who is 'the learner' and who is 'the teacher?"
You hop up on the table and wait. Well, maybe you don't hop much nowadays, but the nurse told you to wait for the doctor, so you sit. When she enters, who is the "learner" and who is the "teacher"? Naturally we expect to teach the doctor about our condition while she learns. Then we expect the doctor to teach us. While the doctor holds the status, the degree, and hopefully wisdom, ultimately she is powerless without our participation and application of her remedies.
This time-honored profession is undergoing systemic change with the proliferation of online resources. In 2011, 75% of doctors owned at least one Apple product. According to "How Apple Accidentally Revolutionized Health Care," Yale University provides medical students iPads and has eliminated paper materials in their physician training programs. The bastion of the old guard has opened the gates to change.
Physicians use the free Medscape app to check drug interactions and look up procedure information. It's the most popular of Apple's more than 14,000 health-related applications. Today's doctors are armed with ready access to information. They are ready to teach. But so are their patients; armed and ready.
The same information revolution is at the gates of education, and it is not the enemy. Yet, classroom practice is even more fortified against change. So, what is the role of the "teacher" in this new paradigm? It's about ducks.
You'll notice that some of the learners can complete the task quickly and independently. The majority, however, are left behind. Maybe they do not believe themselves capable. Maybe they are not developmentally ready for the task. Maybe they are just not trying hard enough.
Their traditional mothering teacher decides to wait. It's not until the human offers the appropriate support for the ducklings that they are able to succeed. Notice he doesn't "teach" them in the traditional sense. Rather:
This is the role of a "teacher" in this age when we are all continual "learners." Just like I want my doctor to pull out an iPad and learn/teach with it, I want my children's teachers to continually learn new skills and tactics to foster healthy students. Their role is not to tell the ducklings how to do the task, but is instead to learn what the student needs, to provide support, and then quietly get out of the way.
But you forgot about ...
No, I didn't fail to realize that some of the ducklings had already completed this Red Curb Challenge, and they certainly should not be held back to wait for the class. No one wants to be the guy who calls out a mother for her poor skills, even if we are talking about a duck. Unfortunately, she's a creature of instinct and hers is to wait for those left behind, rather than be proactive. Once she completes her 7 Habits training, the metaphor will be complete. It's an untapped market.
As I continue to polish my opening act for the launch of school in about 30 hours, I thought I'd bring in a lesson from an iconic 80's teacher, played by Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I'm sure every educator working today, especially those of us teaching social studies, fails to see any resemblance to ourselves. Would our students agree?
Sadly, in too many classrooms, a theoretical knowledge from the textbook is the dominant focus, in preparation for the high-stakes exams. Is this teacher's philosophy really that far off?
A teacher named Joanna Hayes would disagree with the narrow agenda being pushed in many of our schools. She made this video to orient her students to the purpose of studying history.
Here, Dr. Chris Evans, who teaches at the University of Glamorgan, argues the case for studying history in college.
Finally, noted historian David McCullough offers five lessons every high school student should learn. "First, don't memorize dates and don't memorize quotations. You can look them up. What matters is what happens and why."
So, when your students ask this week, "why study history?" what will you tell them?
The 2013 Galileo Learning Summit at Fraser High School saw 450 educators exploring how technology can support learning. I co-presented a session with Michigan Teacher of the Year Gary Abud. Our principal asked us to repeat the session for the Grosse Pointe North High School faculty this week.
Our purpose was to distill Marzano’s nine essential instructional strategies, infuse them with free apps and technological tools, and then deploy them newly-refashioned into existing lessons. Educators were asked to explore possibilities for integrating research-based practices with technology innovation in our active learning session.
It’s not about the technology, it’s about the instruction.
Tools we showcased
Identifying similarities & differences
While this blog is slowly rolling out, the resource library is well stocked. Here are some items you can use to pique your students towards skipping Iron Man and rather checking out Gatsby this weekend. If nothing else, Daisy's Lullaby is a worthwhile five-minute diversion to end your classes with this week.
Video SparkNotes: Gatsby's Life Story
Video SparkNotes: F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby
I've opened a new section of the resource library: the toolbox. The top drawer includes some easy-to-use creativity tools you can implement with student projects right away. The next drawer contains some simple presentation tools I use in classroom and conference presentations.
Let me know if you'd like to know more about anything you see. What do you use that should be added to the collections?