Are You A Modern Teacher?

Thanks to Twitter (#pypchat) and my COETAIL course (#coetail) I came across this graphic from fellow Coetailer, Reid Wilson.

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I love it. I think it embodies everything I believe in when it comes to 21st learning. A quick look through Reid’s classroom blog (he teaches fourth grade at my old school, NIST, in Bangkok) shows that he is an avid user of technology in an integrated way to add value to his students’ learning.

Read this list.

Slowly.

Let in sink in and ask yourself if you are nodding along.  Or are you realizing that there are things on this list that you could embed in your own professional goals in the year to come? How could your mindset impact that you teach?

Grant Wiggins asked himself what it was like to be a student and this stunning, must-read description of ‘a day in the life’ and the changes he, a veteran teacher, would immediately make to his teaching, is a must-read for every teacher. If someone like Grant Wiggins (half of the Understanding by Design guys) is able to make thoughtful reflections on and modifications to his teaching practice, isn’t there room for all of us to make a change?

Your Rubric Is A Hot Mess

Confession: I stole the title of this post from this post here by the same name written by Jennifer Gonzales.  It caught my eye (yes, I judged a book by it’s cover) but then lived up the promise of the title by offering some awesome advice.  You could do yourself a favor and quit reading right now and head over to read her post.  Seriously.

Still here? OK, here is the basic premise of the post:

1. Teachers love rubrics.

2. Teachers love filling rubrics with loads of writing.

3. Students are unpredictable and don’t like to fit inside tiny (rubric) boxes.

4. Teachers spend the majority of their rubric writing, writing things they don’t really want to see.

I found myself nodding along with everything in this post. I do like rubrics but I feel like it is a lot of semantics and wordsmithing of what essentially amounts to “good”, “better”, “best”.

Solution: The One Point Rubric.  Take a look at this:

Three columns, one point for each criteria.  Instead of writing four (or five) columns, write one column based on the expectations/curriculum standards which would represent achievement at a mastery level. From here, when grading students’ work, decide if they met, exceeded, or did not yet meet the required standard.

I really like this idea. As Jennifer points out, if you are including the students in on the creation of the rubric, it becomes an easier task as they only need come up with what mastery of the task looks like rather than three or four other descriptors of different levels of achievement.

What do you think?

Have you used this approach before?  I am currently working with grade level teams at my school in my role of curriculum coordinator, to plan and reflect on the teaching of writing. One of the things the teams do when/after we meet and agree on the areas of focus from our scope and sequence, is to create rubrics.  I would like to share this with them and see if any of them would be willing to try the one point rubric.  Stay tuned…

Questioning for A Growth Mindset

I have posted numerous times about the importance of a growth mindset. Today I came across a great infographic that can be shared with students in order to help them take responsibility for their learning and to encourage them to develop their self-questioning skills in order to reflect on who they are as learners.

The author of this infographic is Jackie Gerstein and she developed this checklist in order to help students enhance their mindset through personal accountability. She blogs at UserGeneratedEducation and has loads of great ideas that she graciously shares.

Digging a little deeper, I found a similar checklist for teachers to use to reflect on their own practice and how they are embedding opportunities for a growth mindset to flourish in their classes:

I have a lot of open real estate on my classroom walls.  I would like to engage my kids in helping me design something to help us all remember the goal of a growth mindset in all that we do.

I am also going to go back and take a closer look at Piktochart – because who doesn’t like information to look beautiful?

3 Questions That Need Answering

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These three questions are from the latest Kid President video.  His video is a call to action, specifically for support of #socktober, but also just a general call for people everywhere to ask themselves:

1. What am I not ok with? 

2. What do I have? 

3. What can I do about it? 

With action being such an important part of the PYP, I couldn’t help but think how useful these questions are to help kids focus their thinking and ideas in order to take action.

Need an example?  Take the dolphins.

1. I am not ok with the slaughter of dolphins or the trapping and raising of dolphins and marine animals in captivity for the purpose of human entertainment.

2. What do I have?  Well, if I were Michael Beerens I would say that I have artistic talent and the ability and passion to create videos of my art. If I were Mirim Seo I would say that I also have the ability to tell a story through my art. Both artists also have the incredible power of the internet, a global platform from which to share their work.

3. What can I do about it?  I can make a video.  I can illustrate a book to get my point across.  And then I can share my work online:

TILIKUM from MICHAEL BEERENS on Vimeo.

Click here for her full story.

How could you use these questions to help your students in their quest to take action?

For additional resources on inspiring action in your students, check out Inspire My Kids – one of my favorite places on the web with inspirational stories about kids taking action. It has a wealth of resources and is the site you need to check out if you want to feel inspired by the young people of our planet.

You’re Not The Only Teacher In The Room

The theory of connectivism is a learning theory for the digital age that:

  • believes that knowledge can reside in non-human artifacts.
  • thrives in an environment that values diversity, autonomy, and freedom.
  • suggests that learning occurs when ideas are connected.

Is this an accurate description of our current education system? Are we more concerned about collecting ideas than connecting them? Does the role of “the teacher” as we know it, need to change?  I wish I had all the answers!

I am fearful that education won’t change until the teachers in the room realize that they are not the only teachers in the room. We have all heard of the adage “Sage on the stage, guide on the side” and most teachers would gravely nod and agree, but is this the reality for students once behind classroom doors?

The field of education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. -George Siemens

I was surprised (and yet not) to see that this article was written ten years ago. It seems like the ideas around the need for change in education have been shared but in many cases, have fallen on deaf ears.  It is almost impossible to read any kind of educational literature that doesn’t highlight the increasingly digital and connected nature of ‘school’ and yet we still seem to resist the change that is upon us.

The digital world lowers barriers to learning, provides opportunities for peer teaching, allows students the chance to make their own choices, learn at their own pace, delve deeper into topics that ignite their passions and connect to others in ways that were previously impossible. Living and Learning With New Media showcases many of the ways in which youth interact digitally and the impact this has on the way they learn and the way they differentiate between ‘life’ and ‘learning’ (it’s one and the same).

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Einstein figured out that providing the right conditions for students is the best way to promote, encourage, and support learning. This math teacher came to the same conclusion once he gave up his teacher-centred ways and focused more on a student-centred approach to teaching. He shares that the “integration of technology into every subject and at all grade levels allows unprecedented levels and types of exciting collaboration and learner to learner connectivity.”

One of my favorite authors on the subject of technology and 21st Century education is Marc Prensky.  In this ASCD article, Marc talks about kids ‘powering down’ when they come to school – and not just their devices.  He talks of students in the past as ‘coming into the light’ when they went to school – enlightened by the knowledge that was imparted upon them.  Today he describes students as being ‘born into the light’ -surrounded by and connected to knowledge from birth.

I found the readings this week to be encouraging and inspiring at yet at the same time, I found myself increasingly bogged down by what our education system isn’t. The problems, the faults, the gaping holes that need filling.  Then I read some more of Presnky’s work in which he reminds us of what an exciting time it is to be alive and offers the following advice to teachers:

Today’s kids are fledglings on the ledge of a new, and towering future and our job is help them leave the aerie in a way that allows them to soar.The most important thing any teacher can say to any kid in our new context is “Surprise me!”

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You Already Have Permission

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The more reading I have been doing about technology integration and information literacy, the more I am realizing that we need to start redefining what we mean by “teaching”.  That sounds simple and obvious, but hopefully, it also sound necessary.

Most of us have an idea in our heads about what it means when someone says to us “I am a teacher”. We instantly picture (more than likely) our own teachers from years ago.  But is that the teacher of today?

What if someone said to you, “I like to go mountain biking”.  What comes to mind.  Take a look at this amazing video and see if that is what you pictured:

Danny MacAskill is redefining mountain biking.  Of course there are elements of what most of us know about mountain biking but he certainly challenges the perception of what can and can not be done on a bicycle (and I love the way he deals with fences in his way too!).

How can we be more like Danny as teachers?  How can we challenge the boundaries of teaching?  How can we find new ways to approach (and conquer) the ‘fences’ in our jobs?

I would hazard to guess that we can do much the same as Danny more than likely did:

1. Set audacious goals for ourselves.

2. Enlist the support of those who believe in our ideas.

3. Try, Try, Try.

Danny didn’t wait for some politician, board member, motivational speaker, or author to redefine the possibilities of mountain biking.  He just used his gut instincts, his passion, determination, and drive to elevate the thing he cares deeply about.

Will you do the same? You already have permission. 

Postscript:  While writing this, I couldn’t help but think of one of my mentors, Will Northrop of What-if-Concepts.  Will does amazing work with empowering people who inspire by connecting remarkable ideas.  His blog is a great source of daily encouragement, motivation, and thought-provoking ideas. Check it out! 

Technology is a Tool

I really like Smore – a website for designing beautiful flyers. Tonight I doubled the number of Smore Flyers that I have made in my life to make a grand total of 2 flyers.  The first one has been viewed over 6000 times.  We’ll see if this one is as popular!

I was thinking about both the COETAIL course I am currently working on and the unit of inquiry I am integrating on with the fourth grade team at my school.  I had a lot of links to videos that I was adding to an email but these get lost easily.  Instead of a few emails with a bunch of links, I have embedded videos into a Smore Flyer for the teachers to share with their classes.

Their unit falls under the theme How We Organize Ourselves.  The central idea: Technology is a tool that impacts our lives.

If you have any ideas (this is a new unit this year) or have links I could add to my flyer, please let me know!

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Click on image to go to full Smore page.