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