Category Archives: Learning

Different perspectives and a little humor

Comparing viewpoints is so interesting, especially when you are trying to teach. Also humor in the classroom helps learning and I love when I get the opportunities to combine the two. This comment from Michael on one of his posts made me remember a previous post from Will. We have an interesting comparison here. Will is charged and excited about making Google Maps. He begins talking about google map directions and tells us to check out step 19. (which by the way appears to be step 15 now). Will says this is “too funny.”

Along comes Michael a bit later. Michael is a student in Blogical Minds. He’s creative, imaginative and like Will he loves Google Maps too. Now in his comment on his blog Michael listed all 38 steps of his Google directions. He wanted to make his point where someone would really understand his concern. Michael pointed with great alarm to step 22 on his list. He said, “Look at the swim across part. When people rush they make mistakes. If an ultra gullible person reads that he will do it.”

The comment Michael was making to a couple of his teachers about Google Maps is going to give me some wonderful teachable moments. Plus I can share Will’s post with them and they can compare perspectives. Anyway the aspect that Will loved about Google mapping was alarming to Michael. Different perspectives, hmmmmm. Let’s talk about that. What do we need to clarify? How should teachers approach this? Let’s talk about literal interpretations versus figurative. Let’s talk about humor and different understandings. If people interpret language literally and do not understand multiple meanings are they likely to miss the humor in some writing? Then we could toss this out for discussion. Do we really need all 38 steps to understand his concern? The teachable moments are right there and ripe for the taking. I love that about blogs. You get so many teachable moments and they are so much fun.

As a teacher I am going to get a lot of mileage out of these blog postings. What’s so neat about these moments is that through blogging we get to share. And humor is a great way to start off the day!

You’ve come a long way baby!

The bouncing baby bloggers entered the blogosphere with this delightful announcement this past February. To say that have come a long way is an understatement. Remember all you seasoned edubloggers out there, as Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach said in reply to comments on the announcement “it takes a whole blogosphere to raise a digital child.” Sheryl is their instructor for their class. Here’s the course wiki. So if you haven’t commented to any of them consider doing just that before they close the class in May. Give them the benefit of your experiences and wish them well. I’d like to whet your appetite for some of their interesting thoughts on their learning. Of course you’ll need to travel to their blogs to read some of the conclusions – a great way to spend a few minutes of your day! Enjoy!

Chris of c.michaels says Own It!

All semester our professors have been continuously talking about the idea of ownership and how students need to own their learning in order for them to better understand the material. My first impression of this idea, was that is completely ridiculous. It simply didn’t make any sense. As I heard more and more though, it made more sense and it seemed like it might actually be effective in the classroom. Now after being in the classroom for a few months and looking specifically for examples, I’ve seen it and that it does indeed work.

Kimberly of EDUC 330 (incorrectly 🙂 ) labeled herself as Computer Unable in a beginning post had this to say in Learning through practice.

Working in pairs on Monday the class split up to complete a public service announcement about forest fires by using video clips, audio clips, and photos. The iMovie program proved to be simple to use with the guide, and we cut, edited, added transitions, and completed a video in one class period. I was amazed at how simple it was to create the video. I would definitely consider using this technology in an elementary classroom.

Rachel of EDUC 330 proclaims “I Have Seen the Light!!!”

Praise the Lord – I understand! To be completely honest, all throughout my learning of how to incorporate technology into the everyday classroom, I’ve had doubts. I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the concept of fluidly using technology in elementary lessons without it being a huge distraction (or in my case, complication). Yes, I heard mentors talk about blogging, wikis, projects, etc. but growing up without technology in the classroom and not seeing it used, it was a stretch of the imagination for me.

Priyanka of Teachers’ Words of Wisdom expresses horror and follows up with good counter points on What, No Recess?!?!

I was horrified to read that 40 percent of American schools have or would be eliminating recess! I couldn’t believe it! In Changing The Recess Paradigm?, it talks about how quite a few schools want to cut down on recess in order to increase more academic instruction.

Megan of Megan McInnes on her post Observing Technology in the Classroom shares some real benefits in technology as a tool for learning.

What was the neatest thing for me to see was there was a student in the class that had a few disabilities. I thought it was so neat how well his project was done. Using this technology of making a video really seemed to suit his learning style and the limitations he had. Now I can see how important technology can be for students like him, he could present what he learned in a technological fashion allowing him to learn and do the same projects as his classmates.

Andrew of Learning Enhanced Technology shares a new tool, WOT, that sounds quite interesting.

WOT is a social networking device designed to enhance internet safety and reliability. I downloaded Wot yesterday as a browser extension for Firefox and am intrigued. WOT allows you to check the reliability of a website based on user feedback, so that when you go to a website the WOT icon shows whether or not other users view the website as safe and reliable based on a general trustworthiness meter, reliability as a business partner, as a keeper of personal information, and as a safe destination for children.

Sarah of Sarah’s Technology Enhanced Learning posted about students’ reactions to technology in “Teaching about Plane Shapes” .

I can’t put into words how shocked I was by the student’s reaction to the laptop, it was the equivalent of buying a new driver a brand new car when they get their license. They were absolutely thrilled and their excitement for technology really made me think about how much I take computers and my laptop for granted. It also made me think about how little the students must be using the computers in their school if it seems so novel to them when I presented them with a computer. I also found it unique how I was able to take a technology free lesson and turn it into a technology friendly lesson. I know that it strengthened this lesson.

Sharlene of If you give a girl technology shares a post entitled “Education In a Non-Traditional Classroom Setting” about an after school program that she finds promising.

Going above and beyond the required basics of model after-school programs, this program provides economically disadvantaged students opportunities that may not have been readily available to them prior to this experience.

Monica of Me & Technology has a profound post that will touch your heart. The title of the post is The Missing Piece Meets the Big O.. by Shel Silverstein.

Wednesday evening, a 20 year old sat in the children’s books’ section and read this short simple story, but found a strong and courageous message

Angel of Ariana’s mom posts thoughtfully about Protecting Our Students!

The tragedy at Virginia Tech has really caused me to think of my life, my future career and my family and put everything into perspective. The story of the Professor who was a Holocaust survivor and risked his life and died trying to save his students touched me deeply. It caused me to reevaluate what my role as a teacher will be.

Jennifer of techlife is feeling Technologically Torn.

Technology has its pros and cons and there are definitely situations when it is difficult to determine which side outweighs the other.

Lizzie of The new and improved technological Lizzie shares her continuing journey to use technology in the classroom with this post, So I used Technology…a little bit.

I had this wonderful lesson plan all ready and created to use to integrate technology within my classroom, but as soon as I had it done my class was done learning about that subject. So I switched really quickly into integrated technology into the science circus that I taught with Angel.

Katie of Designs for Tech gives a thorough Lesson Plan Critique.

Even though the lesson was quite stressful, it was 100% worth the stress and effort. The students begged for math to continue when I told them the lesson was done and I am scheduled to go back in a week to allow the students more time to play math games during their “Friday fun.”

Lydia of Technology Enhanced Learning has many good reflections on her blog. Her closing statement on High Stakes resonates with me.

Hopefully soon, our nation will return to valuing more than test scores.

Amy of EDUC 330 is seeing the value of having her materials on a wiki in Wikis and Webquests.

I always wondered why W&M was pushing for us to create an online portfolio. It is so inconvenient to make and it’s almost like learning another language. However, today it hit me when i was talking to my CT. I was planning the math lesson for next week and she asked me if she could look at my lesson plan to review it and make sure it fit into her curriculum. I told her that the lesson plan is saved on my computer and that I didn’t have access to it now. I was in the process of making another appointment with her when it hit me that I had uploaded it onto my wiki. I pulled up the wiki and my lesson was there! We were able to look at it right then and there. It felt really cool to have my stuff on the web and I didn’t even have to e-mail it to myself or print it out. Now I understand a little better how an online portfolio could come in great handy!

Amaya of Amaya’s Edutastic Blog has a really intriguing post on Teaching is Candy…No…Cookies…and I’m A Cookie Monster!

I challenge all three of the people who read this blog to pose a simple question to someone today, and see if you can’t change their life for the better. Maybe you’ll get a “fine” or maybe a “well, thank you, how are you?” But, you could get a “well, I have this problem with my mother, well, not really with my mother, but, wait, sit down and I’ll tell you… I think I want to be an elementary school teacher, but I’m not sure and I really need to talk to someone about it, but my mom lost her cell phone.” Don’t you wish you’d listened before?

The dilemmas we face

I have had Clarence Fisher’s post on Censorship, Audience, and International Collaboration on my mind ever since he posted it last Thursday. He had some tough decisions to make in his classroom. The dilemma was about a video his kids had created that Clarence said was “Powerful, overtly critical, and possibly in poor taste.” You need to read his post to get the full story and see the video but  Clarence had to make a decision that he still questions as to whether he  did the correct thing in requiring them to make changes……
He phrased it that he “pulled rank on them and told them that they had to edit the piece with the picture out.” He explained that it was being too critical and possibly insensitive or inflammatory towards their audience. In the end, the students decided to edit the video and revise it in ways they felt were more effective.

I think Clarence made the right call. I do know I would have made the same call. But I don’t view Clarence as pulling rank in this situation. I see it as a responsible call made by a caring and responsible teacher. In his post this sentence grabbed my attention:

“The kids producing the piece were never sure, leaning one way and then the other, they could not decide what to do.”

This shows the power of classroom discourse. It is clear that there was much classroom discussion and I have found time and again that this is what blogging and these type of local and global collaborations foster. This is where we have opportunities  to get kids engaged in critical thinking and participating in difficult discussions that really make them think because they are front and center in the involvement. This really wasn’t pulling rank because these kids had ownership of the dilemma. The teacher is the one to make the final call on such dilemmas but I am sure the kids understood his call. Plus the fact that he blogged about it and they can read his thoughts there shows the transparency of the learning with students and teacher. That’s powerful stuff. Just think about what he is teaching and modeling. Yes indeed, powerful stuff.
I find myself facing dilemmas constantly at the elementary level. There is much to think about and consider. I also find that the classroom discourses are of paramount importance. Blogging and videos afford us the opportunity to teach responsible public writing and media production. Students and teachers can have meaningful and powerful discussions and learnings about the power of the published word and the responsibilities involved with its public nature. That I would submit is good teaching and transforming teaching and learning, all of which Clarence exemplifies so very well.

Tell the stories

If you haven’t seen this post, There’s something happening here!, by Lani of Possibilities Abound you need to. It tells a story, a story of learning that is so compelling that I wish classrooms around the world would take a look at and indeed see the possibilities. Darren Kuropatawa of A Difference is an amazing teacher. This is just one example of the many things he is doing.

He has his students reflect on their learning prior to unit testing. Lani explains it so well in her post and points to posts that capture the student voices.. Darren calls it Blogging on Blogging and his students shortened it to Bob. Now the students are taking over and telling the story. You can feel the electricity in the air that is alive with students postings, their feelings, and learning on their blogs. They are not only learning math but their writing on their blogs pulls you right into the classroom with them. It is the kind of writing/blogging that hooks me immediately! I love stories like these.

Then Lani shares another story about Eddie, a fifth grader here in Georgia. He discovered Darren’s blog, then the students’ blog and an incredible communication has evolved. They all are learning from each other. I was fortunate to be in the classroom and see Eddie’s face as he listened to the podcast where he was the topic of their conversation in class. Here is the excerpt of the part about Eddie (AboutEddie.mp3) but I would encourage you to listen to the whole podcast . Being able to enter a class of learning like Darren’s is made possible by all these incredible web tools that Darren so effectively weaves into his classroom learning environment.

As Lani says, “There’s something happening here. Are we listening?”

Tell the story to those around you. Tell your own stories. How could anyone not be amazed by stories like this?

“Does it make sense?”

One of the intriguing pulls for me for attending this conference was the fact that Ellin Oliver Keene was giving the keynote. I have her book, Mosaic of Thought: Teaching Comprehension in a Reader’s Workshop, which she co-authored with Susan Zimmermann. I have had that book for quite some time and it is one of my favorites. It’s the kind of book that you pick up and ponder the contents. It makes you think. Each time I page back through it I come away with more understandings and learning and yes more questions. I knew it would be a treat to hear her speak and I would learn more about comprehension and how we understand. The title of the keynote was “To Understand.”

She opened the keynote with a story about one of the students she was working with whose name was Jamika. She told a story of a young girl who apparently erupted in class after being asked one too many times, “Did that story you just read make sense?” Jamica probably rolled her eyes and said that teachers, her parents and everyone else kept asking her this question time after time. Jamica’s hurled back a question of her own. Apparently Jamika was quite exasperated with adult after adult asking this same question and she had had enough. I can just hear her in my head as she exclaimed, “All of you keep asking this question but none of you say “what does sense mean Why don’t you tell me what “make sense” means?” I could get quite a good picture in my head of the encounter. You know kids always come up with the best questions and send us on a quest like none others. So Ellin began a journey to figure out “what does Jamika understand?’ She looked through the teacher’s guide and discovered that a total of 69 questions were asked when the teacher follows the guide. Basically the student answers questions and retells the story. The process was one of answering questions and retelling the story. Ellin Keene stated that we could just look at the pictures. Answering questions, retelling and learning new vocabulary are the main components. Then Ellin Keene posed this question for the audience:

“Do students need comprehension strategy instruction if all they’re expected to do is retell and answer questions?” Ellin Keene questions if this definition is worthy of our student’s intellectual capacity?

How would you answer that question? We all need to give that question much thought. Ellin Keene went on to point out that the first three points assess comprehension. They do not teach comprehension strategies. She said, “We are not teaching them to improve thought processes.” Ellin Keene began to focus on the classroom practice. She wanted to observe students in the act of comprehension and give language to the process. Take moments of understanding and hone in on what the kid was doing at that moment. If we can define and describe we can learn more. Here are some nuggets that Ellin tossed out to the audience.

  • When you are deeply engaged the world around you disappears.
  • We dwell in ideas. We need time to be silent, to listen to our own thinking to reflect purposefully on an idea.
  • How much time do we give students? We have to give them time.
  • Understanding does not happen unless we give them time to think deeply. We have to give them time.
  • Students need a way to hold on to their thinking.
  • We understand when we struggle because we so want to know.
  • Talk is hugely important to the learning process.
  • To understand is to remember because it is important for us to remember – need those emotional connections.
  • Rigorous discourse with others.
  • We are renaissance learners – we allow ourselves to meander through a wide range of topics and understand texts and generalize.
  • We work to understand how ideas are related.

Her handout gave examples for making the dimensions of understanding come alive. Her first bullet under
When we understand:

  • We concentrate intensively – we are fervent, we lose ourselves in the experience of thought, we work intensively, the world disappears and we work hard to learn more, we choose to challenge ourselves.

She went on in the handout to give examples for making the dimensions of understanding come alive. Here’s one for the above bullet :

“We concentrate intensively, we are ferment-

  • Model — This translates into you sharing with your students about times you were intensely involved with learning and what triggered you to push those understandings further. Share the details. Did you happen to be studying something at the time that was an area in which you were passionately interested? What made you want to dig deeper? Did it lead you to more understandings?
  • Talk about how to develop areas of passionate interest. Such passions don’t come automatically to all kids. Talk to your kids in individual and group meetings to help kids find areas that most interest them. Talk with them about how to pursue topics of passionate interest. How do you do it in your own life- how might they do it?

I’m going to try this out in my classroom. Why don’t you? Come back and comment and let’s share the learning!

What a day!

The night is late but I wanted to make a quick post. Today has been fantastic. This is one of the best conferences I have attended! I got in David Warlick’s session and Julie Coiro’s session. Both were excellent presentations and my head is spinning with so many ideas. I’ll post about both later but here’s an excerpt from Davie’s sessions that will whet your appetite.

I’ll post an excerpt from Julie’s session as soon as I can edit it. Then Ellin Keene’s keynote “To Understand” was outstanding also. There’s much to share from her session. Unfortunately my Edirol was zonked after running for 6 hours!

Then the day ended up with a comment from Ewan telling me that his mom Chris was going to be in San Franciso tomorrow so it looks like we are going to get to meet! How cool is that! This is going to be a conference to remember!

I can barely hold my eyes open so I’m off to get some rest so I will be ready for tomorrow…..a day of learning and then connecting and meeting face-to-face with one of my favorite bloggers from Scotland. Awesome! A special thanks to Ewan for making it happen!

Donald Murray will be missed

I was sad to hear that Donald Murray, writer and educator died at age 82, apparently of heart failure. This article from the Boston Globe quotes from his column “Now and Then”: 

“Each time I sit down to write I don’t know if I can do it,” he wrote. “The flow of writing is always a surprise and a challenge. Click the computer on and I am 17 again, wanting to write and not knowing if I can.”

Here are some recent “Now and Then” columns. Globe readers are posting their memories here.

Leonard Witt of PJNet Today tells how Donald Murray changed his life. Be sure to read his wonderful tribute to Murray that ends with this quote:

His students are everywhere and they worship the him, as well they should, because he was a great man who helped others find their way.

I know there are many of us who have learned so much from Donald Murray. His books are our guiding lights as we strive to teach writing as process not product. He shares the process behind his column for The Boston Globe here.

He said:

After I write a draft, I read it, hearing what I have said so I can dance to the music of the draft.

 Let’s all strive to teach our students to dance to the music of the draft. Donald Murray will be missed.

Darren is truly making “A Difference”

Recently I presented a workshop session on blogging at the GaETC conference. I had a Skype call with Darren Kuropatwa. I wanted him to share the positive aspects of blogging that he had experienced with his class. Some amazing things came out of that call. First, Darren shared how his students summarize what they are learning through the scribe posts on the class blog. He explains it so well on the podcast. He uses a paradigm he borrowed from med school – watch it, do it, teach it. His students are writng the textbook for the class. The examples he shared were fantastic. He shared how he uses the chat box so his students have homework help 24-7. The students use delicious to create a resource file to help each class member. Then the wiki solutions manual is the space where students solve, annotate, and correct each others’ work. Listen to the podcast to get his explanations. What is so impressive to me is that Darren has truly put this in the hands of his students. They have ownership of their learning. They work as a team. It is the best use of blogging that I’ve seen in a classroom.

Then another story developed as we were skyping. I commented on the first time that I had seen Darren’s blog and how it blew me away. I am not and have never been a good math student but as I was reading his blog I got so excited because it made me feel that I could still learn these math concepts that had alluded me in the past. See my post here: A Math Weblog to Note. I can still remember that day and how I explored his blog in depth. It was exciting. Now the neat thing here is I heard the other side of that story, as did my workshop participants. Darren recalled how how intense the feeling was for him hearing how someone a half a continent away had been impacted by the work he was doing. Now here’s the best part of the story. Darren said his first reaction was “My students need to feel this.” His first thoughts were how to give that to his students. A true teacher! Now that’s a feeling that many of us have had and have seen firsthand when students blog. I’ve had many moments to share with students when they were just blown away that someone thought something they wrote was good or someone added to the conversation about something they were blogging about in class. Darren said in the skype call that this was what blogging is all about, that motivation from an authentic audience. I thought it would be good to share this piece because it could be used to share with administrators and others to get an idea of what blogging can be all about. Teachers need to set the stage and guide it. No one does that better than Darren.
I’ve thought about it a lot since the workshop and I’ve also thought about how Darren has captured the essence of blogging and then gone that extra step to share it all with others. Then each year he has built on the pedagogy and shaped and reshaped his learning and teaching. Darren is not just a math teacher. He is an incredible writing teacher as well. He knows how to use writing, blogging, and the Internet to learn. He guides his class and steps aside to let them own it. Just check out Living in Whoville and you’ll see. It gives me chills.This digital story is a class project. You can see links to some of the other projects that tell the story of what his kids have accomplished. It is awesome.
Now listen to the podcast, DarrenAnne.mp3, and listen to the two sides of the story. Just think what could lie ahead for our students! It is inspiring. He is really empowering the student in a way that totally focuses on the pedagogy – no small task. Plus the work is in the hands of the students. They own it! It is a model to follow. I can’t wait to cast my vote this year in the EduBlog Awards 2006.

Podcasts, proofing and kids!

I just finished the first round with students where I used podcasts to help them proofread their writing on their blogs. I wanted to share the process.

The students wrote stories about photographs from Scotland. These photographs were the ones that Chris so kindly let me use. They were transferred from her Flickr pictures to a wiki. The students wrote their first draft and inserted the pictures. Their drafts needed lots of work. I mean lots of work. Once I get over my initial dismay at their lack of writing skills (which I am firmly convinced would be oh so much better if we gave them time to write – another story for another day), I just roll up my sleeves and decide the best place to start.

Teaching students proofreading is hard work or I guess I should say getting students to apply that learning is hard work. Elementary students like to zip through tasks and their idea of proofing is a quick glance. Many times though they just run out of time. The instructions were to have two windows open. They opened the podcast of their story on the class blog. They used their individual blogs to follow along. The first attempt had them here, there and everywhere. Some were mesmerized by the screen designs appearing on their podcast. Some did not even have their story up on the screen and some were off commenting. It’s hard to wait to answer those good comments. OK, time to regroup. I got everybody zeroed in on the task again. I suggested that they follow along with their finger lightly on the screen as they were listening. That helped. This time they got it but it requires really paying attention. This is a skill they have to practice. We suggested they listen again. They were willing. Then I worked one on one with a few and had them read it. Still, just like we do, they would read it as they had it in their mind, not on the blog. We persevered with this training. They were surprised at the errors.I can’t say they were wild about it at the time but they were fascinated with the podcasts and when I closed with letting the students each give “proofreading pointers” on the audio recorder they were tuned in. Here’s a sample. JhonnyProofreadingPointer.mp3 This was fun! Then they thought about it this week and some even brought in papers so they could edit their original papers. They were much better! In our discussion in class about the process I felt that they were beginning to get an understanding of how helpful this was.

I’ve never felt too successful at getting kids to proofread but this time I saw some lights going on. (Now if those lights will just stay lit for them to do that process by themselves 🙂 One thing that was apparent was that they were quite proud of their revisions. This is not something I would do with every piece but I think from time to time it will be a good tool to use. I plan to let them record for each other. It will be interesting to see how they do and how they like that. When they were doing their editing they used ideas and suggestions from people who had commented and given them pointers. I’m also finding it very interesting observing how they respond to the pointers. I also observed in class today many of them silently reading their revisions when they had completed it. Hooray! Then they began to blog some thank-you’s to their commenters. Our time ran out so that will be the first order of business next week.

I really love blogging with kids. They are my best teachers!