Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How do you get your students to work harder than you do?

Hi Friends,

How do you get your students to work harder than you do?  This question, posted on #sunchat by @starsackstein, gave rise to a lot of thinking...  Do my students work harder than I do?  What have I done to help get students do the heavy thinking? After some thought, three things popped into my head that I have learned over the years: don't give out the answers (even when you know them), ask more questions, and provide some time for students to correct their own work.

1. Don't give out the answers...

Leading a science workshop for teachers I learned the power and result of not answering questions and not explaining things.  Thinking!  In the workshop, the participants had to complete a seemingly impossible experiment.  The participants just wanted to know the answers, when I absolutely refused to tell them how to it would work or if their ideas were on the right track or not.  To my surprise, this only motivated them even more.  

2. Ask even more questions... 

Try this strategy that Dylan Wiliam's discusses in the video above, entitled pose-pause-pounce-bounce. Ask a question, wait, pounce on a students question and bounce it to another student. Do this and your students will be doing more of the talking and more of the thinking than you are!  The result for me has been that I know more about what my students are thinking so that I'm better able to plan, in the moment, to meet their needs.

Another way to do this is to answer a question (or a statement) with a question.  Are you sure?  Tell me more?  Why can't it be?  How could it be?

#3 Provide some time for students to correct their own work...

Today in classrooms, many activities are hands-on, but when they aren't - who corrects the work?  Does student work sit in a pile on your desk making you feel guilty?  Does it go home with you in your bag each night?  Giving students the opportunity to see and realize their own mistakes makes their learning deeper, it is a more immediate way to give feedback, and allows teachers more time for other things that always need doing like planning! 

How do you get your students to work harder than you do?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Are you a connected learner?

Hi Friends,
Are you a connected learner?  If you are reading this, you probably are and are already aware of the benefits. 
As a part of my Flat Connections Global Educator Course, I have been tasked with inquiring into why an educator should become a connected learner and how does connecting with the world change teaching and learning?

Innovation in Education:  Connected Learning

Connected learning affords teachers the opportunity to see, hear, and learn about a myriad of educational experiences that can be replicated, tweaked, played with, and amplified. When a teacher has a question today, numerous answers are just a tweet away. 
When I started teaching in 1996, I was the only Grade 1 teacher in a very rural school, with very few teachers and hardly anyone to collaborate with.  My classroom was lodged behind the cafeteria in an old, forgotten and outdated wing in the 'old' part of the building, nestled between two special needs classrooms.  No one ventured down this hall, unless it was necessary. Eating in the teacher's lounge was the only time of day when I would see other teachers.  As a curious new teacher, between bites of my packed lunch, I would strike up conversations about how the other more experience teachers might approach a behavior problem or how they might help a struggling reader. I was just out of college and by the looks and comments I got, most of my more senior colleagues felt I must have been "given" the answers there, so why in the world would I be asking?  This sparked the maternal drive to take me under their wing and give me the answer from their 40+ years of teaching, as I must not know anything. To my big surprise, dismay would follow if I had not implemented their advice exactly. I walked away after two years feeling that if I was curious about how things were done in the classroom, it was best to keep it to myself.  
With weekly educational Twitter Chats covering topics like "Bring your own device questions" and teacher blogs that usually end with a question like, "How do you manage your literacy block?"... the connected teachers and learners of today will never need to experience the aforementioned type of seclusion and isolation. And that is a great thing.  
Connected educators share not only their questions, they exchange ideas, resources, visuals, lesson plans, frustrations, joys, and the lessons they have learned along the way.  And we are all better teachers as a result. That's my opinion. Could it really be possible to spend time your very little free time tweeting, blogging, commenting and thinking about education while reflecting on your practice and not improve your the learning and teaching in your own classroom?  

Create:  Create your own PLN

One question that remains, is the question Tom Whitby asked in his article The Connected Conundrum - How do we connect the non-connected educators?  Things like Connected Educator Month are designed to do just that, but the educators that participate are usually the ones who are already connected. 
To illustrate this point, last year, I lead a workshop entitled, Developing Your Own PLN. I was surprised to find out that many teachers at the conference had yet to be exposed to this term, so didn't sign up to attend. The few who did take part were the already connected learners and tech leaders of schools. It was a great audience, with a lot to share, but I wasn't reaching the non-connected. 
So, should this reach any of you just starting out on your connected learning journey... here are some resources to get you started:  




Can you relate to teaching in isolation? What's your opinion-should teachers be connected?  Does it change teaching and learning?  I'd love to hear your story...

Monday, March 2, 2015

Breaking Down the Walls

Hi Friends,

Receiving a Grant, joining the Flat Class Global Educator Course (FCGE), and reading so many incredibly helpful blogs has invigorated my desire to blog and share what is going on in my classroom. I hope it may be useful!

Innovate -

This year, along with a small team and virtual friend that I have never met, I put forward a grant for the 2014 LRNG Educator Innovator Grant. While we were not one of the LRNG Grant recipients who received full funding, we were happily awarded a with small inquiry grant to break down the walls of our classroom, transcending time and space, to create connected learning spaces for our young learners. A large part of the grant was a vision that isn't possible with the small stipend, so in our search for other ways to break down the walls of our classroom, we look at connected learning projects that we could join. The first one that we, Dianne Shapp, (the teacher who I have only met through online collaboration projects) and I, have taken on is to sign up for the Globally Collaborative projects - Walking The World and the K-2 Building Bridges Flat Class Project.  Add to that the Flat Connections Global Educator Course and you have a winning combination for 'flattening' our classrooms. I hope to bring you along with me on this journey!

Create - 

Here's my create tip for this post:  Use Thinglink to create resource for your classroom.
Thanks to two colleagues and my FCGE class, I have been introduced to Thinglink.  After hearing about it for the third time in a week, I finally had the opportunity to spend some time figuring out this easy to use tool. Which, like as many of you must do, consists of watch Youtube Tutorials on how to navigate the app. Here's one of the ones I watched.
Here is the product of my learning. While playing around I created a resource for a lesson tomorrow: Tiger Thinglink.  We are studying endangered animals, and I have used the Tiger as a case study, since we have Tiger Kingdom right around the corner from our school and we live in an area where tigers very recently roamed freely.  I only created a few little dots (tags) on the Tiger and hope to co-create more with my class tomorrow as a way of showing how we might create a digital resource to inform and share with others as a way of taking action.

Relate - 

Whether its time spent of breaking down the walls of the classroom, preparing to connect learners, learning new technologies, or just having time to plan for my class, or provide feedback on assignments; I never seem to have the time for it all.  Can you relate?
When do you find time to blog?  Do you often blog in your head, only to find that those thought never reaches the page, let alone the screens of others?
It's an important question, it is part of the IB PYP Learner Profile that I teach - Balance.  How do you find balance?  Balance between work and play?  Work and family?

I'd love to hear your comments.