Sunday, December 8, 2013

Techmas Challenge

A group of friends are taking place in the 12 Days of Techmas Challenge.  What a great way to share some educational tools and incorporate professional learning.

Day One - Create a Wordle of your favorite holiday song.  I created my Wordle of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" by Frank Sinatra.

Several friends chose to use "Wordle-like" resources instead.  Some I know, but others were new.
WordSalad app
Word it Out

How can you incorporate this into your class?  How can you challenge students to share their favorite song, poem, speech?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Building a Culture of Questioning

How can we encourage students to think more deeply? What's the first step beyond wait time to get everyone in the classroom beyond simple responses? If you are looking for ideas and a quick was to start, this post offers simple, easy to implement ideas:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pondering the Why and the How of Digital Culture

Sometimes I get things stuck in my head that I can't get out. In my quiet moments, those thoughts
bounce around and often it's a big idea I just can't get my head wrapped around. In this case, it's a why and a how of shifting to a digital culture. The world around us has moved. Most of us will admit we've at least moved a little. Some people are proud that they haven't moved at all.

I read this article today and started thinking what if...what if we could eliminate barriers? What if we could prove the benefits of shifting to digital to be so compelling that it moved our organizations to action? What if we created a culture where risk taking is rewarded and we worked in cross-functional, collaborative teams? The benefits would move us light years forward in our mission to prepare our students for future challenges. Once I satisfied the why, I began to ponder the how, and that's where my mind is stuck. It starts with an idea. It starts with one brave leader who is willing to step out.

  • How do we create safe spaces where it is OK to fail?
  • How do we validate the new without abandoning the old?
  • How do we measure and monitor success and build on it?
I'd love to hear everyone's thought and ideas. It starts with one.

Monday, September 23, 2013

When Great Minds Collaborate

Sitting down to design a Professional Learning workshop, Jean and Kristy collaboratively brainstormed a list of desired outcomes, things we felt teachers NEEDed.  Practices and skills teachers could walk away knowing how to implement,  having internalized these strategies so they could do any of the following for their students: 
  • Provide meaningful feedback that addresses student-set individualized goals
  •  Create authentic, real-world and purposeful learning opportunities
  •  Help facilitate students’ self-motivation, self-direction, and self evaluation
  •  Create an environment that encourages student wonder, student curiosity, and nurtures creativity
When teachers intentionally implement all of these core practices, student motivation, engagement and metacognitive learning increases. Visible learning and visible teaching:  provide students with limited instructions, stand back as students work with peers, provide each other feedback, suggestions, interpretations, mistakes, learning, and guidance. Peers must rely on trusting one another when it comes time to “test it out”. Exhilaration is high, trying something difficult, something never attempted before is very emotional, especially when you feel successes! 

John Hattie calls this the “…essence of good teaching. The learning intentions are very clear. The success criteria is absolutely obvious. The amount of peer work is dramatic.” This exhilaration at succeeding is what makes children want to do it again. This is what motivates children to stretch themselves, try something new, work with peers, trust and test out their theories. This is what makes students push themselves, far beyond what they are capable of doing. Listen as John Hattie describes this essence of effective teaching:

begin on minute 11:00 -

Monday, September 9, 2013

Designing Learning

What impacts learning? Most learners need sustained engagement to thoroughly understand something new. This can be in the form of failure, making learning visible, making mistakes, multiple attempts and learning from those mistakes. Learning can be in the form of practice, repeated opportunities to apply new knowledge and skills, usually accompanied by encouragement and support by those with wisdom or experience. I am a huge proponent of teaching students to set learning goals, both big picture goals and short-term learner-specific goals. How do teachers juggle all this? How do teachers design learning that meets differentiated needs of diverse learners?

If learners need varying amounts of practice in order to sustain engagement, build time into lesson plans when designing learning goals, unit goals and coaching students to set individual, short-term goals. Grant Wiggins calls this "white space" and suggests teachers plan time weekly for this white space. White space gives learners intentionally scheduled and "needed" opportunities to learn important and relevant information, to wonder and explore, to discover, to practice, to reteach, to fail and try again, and to clarify misconceptions. Any piece of technology that will allow students to interact with, view and read resources online in real-time provides the access to the learner. Integrating tools that require students to react, reflect, summarize learning, share sources, communicate with peers and allows for both teacher and peer feedback will deepen the learning. This is where asynchronous and synchronous discussion tools are helpful, such as VoiceThread, Google Drive, Wikis and Blogs.

Use formative assessments to drive what happens during white space. Teachers create the unit goals, the big picture for learning. Allow students to create their own learning goals based on what they deem important, areas where improvement is needed, or areas of interest. Great lesson designers identify and communicate priorities so time is not wasted teaching content and skills in isolation. Often skills are strengthened when students are given opportunities to apply what they know to new situations, new learning. Digital portfolios -- no matter the tool used to create them (websites, blogs, wikis) -- used as a storing-house for an individual student's learning supports student reflection, collaboration, and can be used as a forum for evaluation and feedback from teachers and from peers.

Utilizing white space time to differentiate learning so that students can accomplish goals they have set for themselves helps ensure sustained engagement. Visible learning, goal setting, using formative assessments to drive instructional practices, identifying priorities and communicating long-range goals will impact metacognition and learning!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Are You Celebrating STEMtember?

Are you looking for ways to integrate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in an engaging way with real world applications?  Check out the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge.

To support the kickoff of the challenge, Siemens is offering a variety of webinars, lessons, virtual field trips, and weekly giveaways!  There are many examples of how to implement Project Based Learning through collaboration within the Discovery Education STEM Network.

Register now for the Challenge and the Virtual Events!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Are We There Yet?

Are we there yet?  We have all either heard or uttered those words on a vacation at some point.  With summer vacation ending, my thoughts wander to all those wonderful destinations that I travelled to over the years.  

My greatest journey has been my education.  But, with education, I don’t think we are ever “there.”  Education is about the journey.  It is about trying out new lessons, and sometimes watching them fail.  It is from the failures that I have learned the most.  Teaching is about analyzing our best lessons, improving them, and making them more engaging.  When I get to a point in my teaching that I feel I am almost “there,” that is when I most long for a change.  If I become stagnant in what I teach, I feel that my students will become stagnant in what they learn.  

As you begin the new school year, think about where you are.  If you think you are there, maybe you need to change your lens and widen your view.  Expand your professional learning community.  Look to others that are doing things differently.  Take a chance on a new way of teaching.  Let your students see you struggle, fail, and get back up again.  Our students need to see that failure is not an end point, it is a new beginning.  Learning is about getting up and trying again.  

Good luck in the new year -- and find a way to change your lens!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Branding Your School

We often think of marketing and advertisements when referring to branding. But when it comes to visible learning in education, branding has the potential to build relationships and support learning.

I was inspired to write this after reading Tony Sinanis' blog. Tony (@Cantiague_Lead) is the principal of Cantiague Elementary in NY. As a school leader with an iPad in tow, Tony stepped away from his office to capture the daily learning opportunities taking place all over his school. He uses Twitter to publicly post, hence communicating with parents, the community and branding student learning and teacher involvement in a positive spotlight. Tony used Storify to pull the school Tweets together, wrapping them into one neat package that is easily accessible and readable by all interested parties. Take a look at Cantiague's Week in Tweets (June 7). The Tweets speak for themselves.

Communicating school happenings is one way to create an open-door policy that invites the public in, without diminishing security. This kind of branding sends the message, I am proud to show others what is happening in my classroom and in my school! My students are important, they are challenged, and they are working hard every day. Celebrating is an important part of learning. This is a great elementary example of how branding your school's image will help build relationships between school, home and community as well as support learning on many levels. I truly believe replicating this model at the secondary level will have the same positive effects! Educational leaders: step away from your office, grab a mobile device and begin branding the countless wonderful learning activities, taking place right now in your school.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Public school libraries: moving past the traditional

I just read a great article from Education Week: Keeping Public School Libraries Relevant, by Matthew Lynch. It puts the vision of what a school library should be into perspective. Moving beyond a place where the focus was on books and other traditional sources of information to a digital environment that compliments the traditional

 We are so proud of our WCPSS school library media coordinators who are embracing the change. They are creating a climate of innovation. While they still provide the traditional resources, they are also providing onsite and remotely accessed digital resources. These resources extend the libraries of our youth (this coming from a 50-something person) to ones that support the digital age and the integration of technology into information literacy.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


#edmodocon Tagboard

What a fantastic day of learning. Edmodocon, an online streamed conference, ran for 11 hours today and I participated in as much as I could. If you are interested in learning about collaboration, digital citizenship, blended learning environments or how to use an online environment like Edmodo, visit next week and look for the archived sessions. Every presenter shared a wealth of resources and practical ideas for implementation. Drop by and take a look...and check out the tagboard.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Bigger Picture

I spent much of my time as a classroom teacher, encouraging my students to 'see the big picture' when reading literature, magazines, news articles, digital information, and investigating and researching information. My greatest thrill was the feeling of achievement when my students became passionate about their learning, the young man who found NASA's satellite images and used them to determine the level of deforestation in South America rain forests over a span of time, another who compared the nuclear damage caused during the Chernoble meltdown to the bombs Americans dropped on Japan during World War II, the girls who learned that in more than a few countries, girls their same age are sometimes sold into prostitution by blood relatives.

When I learned the man who started the online shopping company, Amazon, purchased the Washington Post, I was forced to pause. How often does capitalism cross paths with the people we trust to report the news, the facts, the unbiased truths. Robert Frost's poems influenced me to take paths through life that are less popular, make my own path in life. I feel it is important to do the same when consuming information. After all, news is one person's interpretation, a single perspective. Like my students, I need to take many sources into account and analyze the big picture before reaching conclusions.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Is there Joy in your classroom?

I recently had the privilege of meeting Dean Shareski at the Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute.  Our closing presentation was "The Loss of Joy."  Hearing the presentation and then watching the TedX video made me think about when I was in school.  In fourth grade, Mrs. Rath made us sing every day.  This is where I learned some of the classics: "This Land is Your Land," "You're a Grand Old Flag," "My Country Tis of Thee."  These songs are part of my childhood and I taught them to my children.  Do students sing today, other than in music class?  Do they truly enjoy learning?  What are we as educators doing to instill that love in our students?

At the end, Dean shared five guidelines that would make this world a better place.  I want to keep these as my focus for the upcoming school year.

1.  Be mindful
2.  Create something
3.  Show gratitude
4.  Turn pseudo learning into real learning
5.   Be silly and laugh every day

How will you do this?  I will start with thanking Mrs. Rath, for my love of learning and my love of teaching.  I will also thank Dean Shareski for helping me find Joy!

The Current State of Education in NC

I was reading the N&O blog titled "The Opinion Shop," where North Carolina educators from around the state wrote letters to the editor, voicing frustrations around lawmakers' decisions to change teacher funding. Everyone whose letter was published clearly articulated his or her arguments. I was especially touched by the last one on the page, written by Greg Nance, a WCPSS educator.

Mr. Nance provided thoughtful support for the big picture from a budgetary perspective, while providing insight into how the changes will effect individual teachers and thus students. I would like to see office holders, whose jobs are voted in, spend some time walking in the shoes of their constituents. Crunching numbers has very different meaning when lives are directly and indirectly correlated to decisions made detached of human consideration.
Bias, Gene. comp008.jpg.Pics4Learning. 31 Jul 2013 <>
My son graduated college in December, 2012. This past weekend he moved from Texas to North Carolina so that he could save money, continue to plan his future (graduate school or Officer Candidate School) as an Aerospace Engineer. He worked as a substitute teacher and tutor in the College Station Independent School District, mostly tutoring high school mathematics students. In his short stint in education, he made a difference in the lives of many. Some of his "students" took the time to express their gratitude to the school's administration. My son has experienced many things from the educator's perspective, but one thing is evident: teaching is much more than a career. Teaching is a commitment, an art form; teaching demands educators know their content, understand pedagogy, build relationships, integrate technology, design and differentiate learning and continually assess student progress/growth in order to flexibly modify their plans.

Experiencing life as an educator would demand much more than spending time, walking in the shoes of one.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Connecting in Kindergarten

I recently read a passionate blog post by kindergarten teacher, Matt B Gomez, about connecting to students and not teaching in a one size fits all way. He uses a lot of technology integrated in authentic ways in his classroom and he reflects on his practice by sharing about his experiences on his blog and on twitter. If you teach lower grades and want to expand your professional learning network, or just want to snag some great creative ideas, check out one of his latest posts about ways to integrate technology on day one:
On Twitter, you can follow Matt @mattBgomez and check out #kinderchat  to connect to even more friends and ideas.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Are You A Happy Person?

The word happiness holds a variety of meanings to individual people. How often are such terms over-used or worse, incorrectly used to describe a brief thrill or temporary state of excitement. Where does real happiness come from? For most educators, true glee comes when other educators display excitement as they explore lesson planning options. The realization they will impact student learning is exhilarating! They feel joy when they run into former students, years later and recall fun memories shared by both teacher and student. They knew the kids so well, they recall unique characteristics that made them smile years before. This week, I have experienced several discussions where educators describe the great importance for building relationships with students. This all sounds spot-on to me. 

So what do happy people never do? I think I found the answer to that question while reading blogs on LinkedIn. Perhaps you will agree:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

An Exercise in Creative Thinking

Thank you to Melissa Edwards (@mwedwards) for tweeting Elad Segev's You Tube video. What kind of responses do our questions encourage? 
Could we ask better questions? 

I'm inspired to aim higher.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Rich Professional Learning

Yesterday, I had the privilege of working with a fantastic group of teachers as they began their journey along a new style of Professional Development called Teacher Leader Corp. TLC is a district initiative whereby principals each chose four teachers, who are currently NOT already in a leadership role, to experience five fully-integrated hands-on days (per year) of learner centered and rigorous instruction as a regional subset of the larger Professional Learning Network. The four teachers collaborate with other like-minded teachers face-to-face and online. They learn together and make plans for how they will teach the staff when back at school. Think of it like a giant jig-saw approach to PD. 

Not only are the TLC teachers building capacity in colleagues, they are honing their own teaching and leadership skills. The clear focus here is on making learning visible, rich, and engaging for students. Providing the teachers with professional learning that puts them in the student seat, re-engages them to feel empathy for students as they design organic and fluid lessons. 

It is very clear to me that the group of teachers chosen to participate in the TLC are a perfect fit for being the leaders in their schools to support and promote the pedagogical shifts that will take place! 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Growing as Learners

As I have been reading recently-published literature about education and learning, I have been specifically searching for practices that will help me create guidelines for educators to facilitate students building digital portfolios. But where do I start? How do I show others the value in visible learning? Everything I read keeps pointing back to reflection. Teachers need to reflect on their practices as much as students on their learning; teachers need to know their impact, how making teaching visible to the student is just as important as when students make their learning visible to the teacher. Reflection is an opportunity to enhance our character, acknowledge and work through human weaknesses and accept critical evaluation in order to grow as a human and a learner.

Learning is the transparent goal in education. Stakeholders need learning goals that are appropriately challenging, attainable, and deliberate. Goal-setting must be explicitly taught. Teachers should work with students to set their goals, gradually scaffolding independent goal-setting practices. Goals should be short-term, reachable within a class period or a few days. Teachers need to see learning through the eyes of their students; they should provide timely and meaningful feedback specific to the individual and his or her goals.

Feedback should come from multiple sources. Evidence shows teacher feedback is valuable, but in some cases peer feedback can be more motivating for learners.  Students need to see themselves as evaluators, self-monitoring, self-evaluating, self-assessing and self-teaching, but this doesn’t “just happen” without mindful and visible teachers who practice evaluating their own effect on student learning. When teachers see learning NOT happening, they intervene in calculated and meaningful ways. They are visible and intentional, building students’ conceptual understanding for evaluation of goals. When teachers model self-assessment and self-evaluation, they make students feel safe to take risks, make mistakes and learn by fixing their mistakes. Error is welcomed in this learning environment!

The teacher already loves the content; the teacher already has in-depth knowledge about the content. When helping students create and set goals, the teacher is mindful that the greater the challenge, the greater the need for constructive and meaningful feedback. As the student takes on the traditional role of the teacher, becoming knowledgeable about the content and teaching other learners, the teacher’s role transforms to that of the learner, seeking understanding about how the individual student learns, helping him choose from a repertoire of learning practices and tools that work for the individual.

The point I am trying to make here is that teachers can be extremely knowledgeable and versed about the content they teach; they are the expert in the classroom. So the most important role the teacher takes on becomes the role of learner, the learner of meaningful pedagogy, the learner of her students’ learning, the learner of how to explicitly teach and coach visible learning, beginning with her own goal-setting but extending to coaching students to make their learning visible, self-evaluate, reflect and grow.

*I am currently reading the following books about education:

Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning by John Hattie

Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church and Karin Morrison

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

The Skillful Teacher: Building Your Teaching Skills by Jon Sapphier, Mary Ann Haley-Speca and Robert Gower

Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer Vacation

It is that time of year ... where most people head out for their summer vacation.  As a child, we always took a two week excursion that would rival Chevy Chase's journey in National Lampoon's Vacation.

When I became an educator, summer was a time of renewal.  While I might be ready for some time off, I am always searching for new and exciting strategies for the next school year.  I am constantly searching for that new tool, strategy, or learning experience that will engage all my students.

One of my go-to sites is  Edutopia is a product of The George Lucas Educational Foundation.  It includes articles that encompass every aspect of education.  While perusing the site, I was able to find information on technology integration, student engagement, trends in education, and game-based learning.  This site allows me to stay up-to-date as an educator.

While you are gearing up for the new school year, whether it begins on July 8th or August 25th, check out

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Year-end? or the beginning...

I'm taking a break from going over the state mandated year-end reports for 169 schools. It's going to be a short break, we're headed for the 11th hour and there are still many to go through.

Last year at this time, I was so stressed over these reports (among other things), that I got Shingles. Not a fun thing. This year, it's not so bad. Don't get me wrong, I'm still stressed, but I find myself looking beyond the idea of "year-end". Just next week, the 1st of July, is the beginning of a whole new school year. With year-round schools, it never ends, there is the always the opportunity to make a difference for learners, young and not so young.

As everyone is wrapping up one year, it's time to look at what we did. What we did well. What we didn't do so well. What we wish we had done. What we wish we hadn't done. It's time to take all of it, the good along with the not so good, and make this new year so much better than the last.

Is there a new technology tool that you want to become more proficient at so that you can make learning more challenging and enjoyable for other learners and yourself? NOW is the time to learn how to use it!

Is there a book that you've wanted to read to help you become a better learning facilitator? READ it!

Is there someone that you've wanted to connect with, collaborate with, to make your part in education more effective? Find them, talk WITH them!

This isn't the end of the year, it's the beginning of a new one. Please share your experiences with us so that we can all become better at what we do. Be part of the common thread.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Whole Class Research at Aversboro

I have had the good fortune this week of being in some amazing schools where teachers, technology contacts, and media specialists have shared student accomplishments from this year. At Aversboro Elementary, second grade students started research projects by asking lots of questions about specific animals. The students used books and online reliable sources to find answers to their questions and then completed animal websites to culminate and publish their research. Weebly is a great tool to use for creating a quick and easy website so that the focus of learning remains on the content of the research, not on the tool used to create the website. Thank you to Jennifer Lynch and 2nd grade teachers & students at Aversboro for sharing their whole class research projects:

Wondering about Creativity

The ITLMS team's theme seems to be WONDER these days. In that vein, I've been wondering about how we nurture creativity in our classrooms. Do we have supportive environments where risk is the norm and mistakes are considered essential to learning? Do we provide opportunities for our students to develop their divergent thinking skills? Do we allow our students to wonder?

Recently I was waiting for an appointment in a doctor's office, flipped through a recent copy of Time and came across an article about creativity. I was reminded of Sir Ken Robinson's TED Talk on how schools kill creativity and the famous RSA Animation of another of his talks, Changing Education Paradigms.

Sir Ken Robinson says, "Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value." He goes on to say that divergent thinking is essential for creativity. He shares a longitudinal study in which they tested the divergent thinking of kindergarten aged children. They continued to test the same children every 5 years. The results of the study determined that divergent thinking declined as the students went through formal education.  

Hmm, I wonder what that should be telling us.

A Newsweek article, The Creativity Crisis, explores a decline in creativity in the United States, beginning in 1990. 

Hmm, I wonder why.

The current Time Magazine article that I read, Assessing the Creative Spark, states,
Creativity is a renewable resource, one that's universally, if not evenly, distributed.  We don't decide how much we get, but it's up to each of us - and the nation as a whole  - to tap what's there. 

Hmm,  I wonder if we know how to tap into our students' creativity. 

Time also conducted a Creativity Poll. The infographic below provides some of the results of this poll.

Hmm, I wonder what these responses tell us? 

I wonder....
  • how we harness and nurture the creativity in ALL of our students at ALL ages?
  • how we promote creativity in our classrooms?
  • how we can convince teachers to examine their teaching practices, looking for evidence of opportunities for creativity?
  • what constraints keep our teachers from embracing creativity in the classroom? 
  • if technology is a tool that promotes creativity? 

I think I'm going to read Nurturing Creativity in the Classroom by Ronald A. Beghetto and James C Kaufman to see if there might be some answers to my wondering questions. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What is Padagogy?

As schools attempt to keep up with technology innovation, the iPad has become one way schools are spending their technology dollars.  I have worked with teachers to incorporate the iPads in special needs classrooms utilizing applications that enhance accessibility.  But how can the iPad be used in all classrooms?  With so many apps, I find that I am searching endlessly for apps that meet higher level thinking skills.  

I recently came across a blog post that highlighted "The Padagogy Wheel V3.0" developed by Allan Carrington.  This wheel contains the levels of Bloom's Taxonomy along with the action verbs for each level.  Carrington also includes activities for each level, as well as iPad Apps that could be utilized.  While this in no way is an inclusive list, it does give teachers a starting point.

Instructional Technology needs to focus on the instruction first and foremost.  Many of the action verbs can be pulled directly from the curriculum, the standard course of study, the essential standards, or the common core.  When looking at these verbs, it is helpful to see the activities that might correlate and the apps that could be used to create a final project.  

The Padagogy Wheel was very helpful for me as I look for more engaging ways to use an iPad in classrooms.  I hope you will find it helpful also.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Food for thought from Margaret Thatcher


Watch your thoughts for they become words.
Watch your words for they become actions.
Watch your actions for they become habits.
Watch your habits for they become your character.
And watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
What we think, we become.
My father always said that… and I think I am fine. 
Margaret Thatcher

from Vicki Davis' blog

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Learning Content Vocabulary

When I first used the online tool, Quizlet, I was impressed for a couple reasons. I loved that I could upload my own words and definitions. More significantly I loved adding images to flash cards. This is a great study tool for word associations and creating an image in my mind as I study a language that is new to me. But the thing that most impressed me about Quizlet was the way others openly shared their cards with anyone who wanted to use them or make a copy of them and then modify to meet their needs. This wasn't just a passing fancy by one or two people using the online flash card tool, thousands of word lists can be found from AP Government, Biology, Psychology to Amendments to the Constitution. Being able to download someone else's cards is such a time saver. Even better is when the teacher creates the Quizlet cards for the class.

That was before Common Core. That was before differentiation, rigor and text complexity. Unknown words represented verbally, visually and with multimedia provide richer connections than using just a single medium. We learn more deeply when we can paraphrase learning to others, make connections to other things we know, and interact with text in some way. 

Let's give students the opportunity prior to tackling rigorous text, to preview and explore the text, identifying words they don't know or words they wonder about. Give students time to define, explain, and share learning with one another. A great tool for documenting learning while sharing it with peers and oneself (for review later) is Twitter. Students could Tweet their findings, all using a common #hashtag. Students can read and reply to one another, adding and tagging images (digital representations/visuals), connections, reactions, and clarifications. Using Twitter is a great way to continue learning, on the bus, at home, in front of the TV. When it is time to review, search by hashtags, search favorites, read your retweets. What a fantastic, real time way to use social media as a learning and collaboration tool in and outside of school.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Conceptual Framework for Student Self-Evaluation

According to Piaget, learning occurs when the brain is challenged in some way. Educators want students to be aware of this process, grow from it, and essentially control it for themselves.  In other words, we expect students to become metacognitive of their learning. I used to hear colleagues preaching to students for them to "own your behavior; own your learning" as if stating the expectation would enable students to make it so. I was delighted when I opened my Kindle app this morning on my iPad to discover Chapter 6, Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. Author John Hattie agrees with both Piaget and the idea that students should be metacognitive. However, Hattie quickly adds that student metacognition is a "growing ability" and that teachers must encourage students by playing a direct role, by encouraging, modeling and explicitly teaching students how to engage with one another and with themselves. Teachers need to provide multiple opportunities where students are discovering, asking questions, collaborating with peers, and testing theories, but the essential role for the teacher is to intervene, to moderate, to be aware of what students are processing and at what levels.

If we really want our students to 'own their learning' and be motivated and self-directed learners, we need to be mindful to design instruction using a proven process while continually thinking from the perspective of the learner.  Wiggins and McTighe's backward design process helps teachers frame learning in such a way where beginning with the end in mind is second nature. Teachers decide learning outcomes and then work backwards, creating rubrics for measuring acceptable evidence of student learning. Clearly communicating expectations to students, helps learners create and set goals for their own learning. Students must be explicitly taught to set goals and to self-regulate as they work to meet their goals. They must be given opportunities to choose strategies that work best in specific situations and use strategies to monitor goals they've set for themselves. Most of all, students need practice, practice, practice in a safe environment.

Since I started reading Hattie's book, I have been applying my learning to professional learning opportunities I am designing for district educators. Combined with the strategies I am developing from being a part of the Effective Teacher Framework learning community, I use social networks to share my learning. This is a wonderful way to reflect while collecting feedback from others in the profession. When I tweeted my connections to Chapter 6, a peer from Texas shared her PLN's book study Pinterest board with me! Please take a look or yourself; see how elementary students are mindmapping their learning, setting goals, and documenting their progress toward meeting those goals: Glitzy In 1st Grade.

Since learning is a continual process, self-evaluation needs to take place frequently. Teachers should help students develop learning strategies and also realize when a particular strategy is not meeting their needs or goals. Often a student will see that his learning requires more effort and practice to meet his goals. Learning should be rigorus and challenging with multiple opportunities to practice, engage, debate, and synthesize learning, forcing knowledge to deepen, all while encouraging students that they 'can' learn and that you will not give up on them. Using appropriate feedback is a sure way to develop mindsets in students where growth, success and learning are synonymous.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

North Carolina Children's Book Award Winners!

Back in February I posted about the North Carolina Children's Book Award, encouraging one and all to explore the nominees. Did you have a favorite?

The votes from schools and public libraries around the state have been tallied and with 98,087 total votes for the picture book category, here are the results:

Pete the cat: I love my white shoes - 29,598

experiments that failed - 14,207
The princess and the pig - 11,876
Blackout - 8,697
Won Ton - 7,207
Otto, the book bear - 6,421
Why do I have to make my bed? - 6,196
The cow loves cookies - 4,116
LMNO Peas - 3,911
Perfect square - 3,627
Ellen's broom - 2,053
UnBEElievables - 1,278

With a total of  9,651 votes in the junior book category, the results are:

The Candy makers - 1,496

Belly up - 1,481
The roar - 1,415
Out of my mind - 1,130
Pie - 977
One dog and his boy - 747
Balloons over Broadway - 587
A long walk to water - 540
One crazy summer - 489
Younge Fredle - 332
The fingertips of Duncan Dorfman - 173
Peaceful pieces - 145
The absolute value of Mike - 139

Now that your interest in the award has been whetted, the nominees for the 2014 NCCBA can be found at Go forth and read; to yourself, your students, your kids, your pets, whoever!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Where's the Teacher?

We are often asked what a 21st Century Classroom looks like.

Here's my vision.....
Imagine walking in a classroom, and really having to search for the teacher. Students are talking with each other, some sitting on the floor, others gathered around a device of some kind, one group working together on the interactive whiteboard. You look around and you still cannot find the teacher.

As you walk through the classroom, you hear the students sharing ideas with each other, discussing content, asking each other questions. – a vision of student engagement. You ask the students what they are learning and their responses are enthusiastic, with students talking over one another in excitement.

Eventually you locate the teacher working with a small group in the corner of the room. The teacher then finds his way over to other groups of students to ask guiding questions about their learning.

As this class period ends the students talk about how they will continue working with each other outside of class time via Edmodo, Twitter, PBWorks, etc.  

Where is the teacher? Everywhere! The teacher is there when the planning for the learning takes place.  The teacher is there as the students work in groups to meet the demands of the rubric they created. The teacher is there to provide a safe environment for the students to make mistakes. The teacher is there as a facilitator as the students own their learning.

That’s where the teacher is!

Kids Speak Out on Student Engagement