I am never one to sit still too long. It seems that to keep myself energized and engaged as a learner/leader, I need to shake things up and look for new opportunities and challenges. That being said, I have changed roles this year from that of being a regional edtech coach in our District of 10,000 teachers to one of being an instructional coach for new teachers. I know it will challenge me to continue my own learning and give me the opportunity to contribute to shifting the culture of learning and teaching in our Board.
In applying for the position, I had to reflect on a quote that speaks to my beliefs about teaching and learning, explain why I chose this quote and how it is reflected in my current practice. In my effort to start “learning out loud” more often I thought I would share my thoughts here and see what comes about.
“Strong teachers don’t teach content; Google has content. Strong teaching connects learning in ways that inspire kids to learn more and strive for greatness.” Eric Jensen in Education Week Teacher
In this progressive age of “21st Century Education”, I find myself deeply reflecting on the the future of schooling, the nature of leadership and the evolving culture of learning in our current education system. All are evolving, but at a pace that does not necessarily reflect the pace of societal change. We seem trapped in a tunnel and the fear of not knowing what is in the light at the end of that tunnel deters the transformation of a system and stunts the growth of the learners within it. This quote reinforces my core belief that regardless of the paradigm of education or the current pedagogical emphasis, the learning experience is brought to life by teachers. Teachers nurture the inspirational environments that open the doors and let the learner loose to explore and experience their own ascent to greatness.
Classroom leadership is not about finding the single best way to do things; leadership demands having a vision as to how enable all learners to maximize their unique potential and find their opportunity to lead. An effective leader must be a true learner her/himself that engages in the process of growth to facilitate and support the growth of those they influence. Breaking down the notion that the only leaders in education are those that sit highest in the hierarchy of the system is critical to the successful transformation of the paradigm of education. As teachers and lead learners, we must develop and explore and engage in effective pedagogies to collaborate, communicate, create and curate the ideas, experiences and insights of all our leaders past, present and future. Strong teachers lead this evolutionary change to build a system that can support an undefined future that is demanding a redefined paradigm.
Learning is innate. Unaware of constructed boundaries, children don’t know where to stop and what they are not capable of. They will learn anywhere and everywhere. They can learn amazing things anywhere, anytime and from anyone. How do we build a learning environment that allows students to learn what, when and how they want to? How do we also ensure that their developmental needs are supported and relevant, contextual intellectual stimulation are reflected. Learning is an experiential process that is individualized and must respect and reflect the learner. Learning and creativity should not be a threatening experience. It should not be a competitive journey in which the individual is discouraged from trying for fear of being wrong. The fundamental goal of education must be to teach learners how to learn. It is so much more than just the regurgitation of the information that is deemed relevant and important. We must teach students to connect the dots, not just collect the dots, so they can succeed and adapt to changing needs in a dynamic and demanding world.
How, when, where and who we learn from is beginning a metamorphosis. The needs, scope and scale of the so called “21st Century Classroom” must evolve to reflect a new global reality that is challenging to define due to the rapid pace of its own evolution. Information communication technologies are redefining the learning experience connecting everything to everyone, everywhere. Everyone has become the teacher of everyone else and the role of the “traditional” teacher has been redefined. To ignore the collaborative potential of the collective marginalizes the goals of education and the development of true life-long learners.
Strong teachers that collaboratively engage in and model the learning process are the keys to unlocking the greatness in kids. Strong teachers recognize that learning reaches far beyond the curriculum, recognize the unique context and experience of each child and cultivate a sense of wonder in students that is fuelled by their own passion. Strong teachers are not defined by the tools they use but instead by the relationships they build, the imaginations they ignite and community they bring together.
Jim Jamieson, OCT
Great Teachers Focus on Connections & Relationships – Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo – Education Week Teacher
This week’s question is:
Based on your research and what you’ve seen and experienced in the classroom, what are the five best practices teachers can do to help their students become better learners?
Though the question asks for five best practices, I’ve also given readers the option to share just one or two suggestions.
In addition to publishing three posts responding to the question, you can listen to a nine-minute BAM! Radio podcast where I interview two educators, Diana Laufenberg and Jeff Charbonneau, whose written responses appeared in Part One.
In addition to contributions by Diana and Jeff in Part One, Ted Appel and special guest John Hattie shared their thoughts.
Today, Eric Jensen, Jason Flom, and PJ Caposey respond to the question.
Response From Eric Jensen
Eric Jensen is the author several books, including Turnaround Tools for the Teenage Brain: Helping Underperforming Students Become Lifelong Learners (Jossey-Bass) and Engaging Students With Poverty In Mind: Practical Strategies For Raising Achievement (ASCD):
Boosting Student Learning
© Eric Jensen 2013
Three core attitudes are necessary. First, build the hope in their lives and teach the skills of optimism. Hope can come from many sources. They include having a teacher who is an advocate for their success not an adversary. Ask for their dreams and support them. “I love that you want to be a sports trainer. Let’s make a plan so you’ll know what to do next each year.”
Second, start building mindset for success. Teach students that when things aren’t working to change your effort, strategy or attitude. These are more important than just so-called “talent.” Affirm what you want most. Say, “I love how you cnaged strategies and ended up with reaching your goal.” Or, you might say, “Your positive attitude carried you through. It’s one of your best qualities; keep using it!”
Finally, build the attitude of personal responsibility. If something’s not working, don’t point fingers, change it. If you made a mistake, say so and fix it. If you hurt someone’s feelings, apologize and move on. If you were late, don’t make excuses. Apologize and ask for how you can make up lost time.
Another core practice is to build their cognitive capacity. Most teachers notice HOW their kids are doing. So, they tell them what to do, based on their apparent “capacity.” But the best teachers are building capacity all the time. The biggest areas for leverage and getting quick academic results are in these five areas: working memory, study skills, self-regulation, auditory processing and analysis. Each of these are teachable. Many teachers assume that kids either have these or they don’t. That’s false; these are built consistently in the classrooms of high-performing classrooms. Few kids are taught basic study skills and these give kids a huge leg up on school success. Make a plan and start small. Keep adding cognitive skills over time and never, ever quit.
Third, foster grit and perseverance. Teach them what “grit” is and point it out in class when it’s used. Long-term effort is worth a lot! In the classroom, point out each time a student pushed through obstacles and worked extra hard to complete a task. “I love how you stuck with that until you completed it. Now that’s the grit I was talking about. That, my friend, will take you far in life!”
Build social skills. Teach kids basic “meet and greet” strategies as well as how to put yourself in another’s shoes. Teach basic politeness and teach kids behaviors that adults expect of them. Great social skills will go a long way in this world. These can be build in as short as ten seconds. Every single time you have social encounters, throw in the behaviors you want. “Before you head back to your seat, thank your partner.”
Finally, connect the learning to their lives. Strong teachers don’t teach content; Google has content. Strong teaching connects learning in ways that inspire kids to learn more and strive for greatness. For example, while kids are studying, learning or answering questions, “I love that contribution! That’s what will help you understand this better and help you reach your goal. Keep it up!”
Response From Jason Flom
Jason Flom is the Learning and Communications director at Cornerstone Learning Community in Tallahassee, FL. He is an ASCD Emerging Leader, class of 2010, and the founding editor of Ecology of Education, a multi-author blog exploring issues and ideas in education. He is also a BAM Commentator. Give him a follow on Twitter at @JasonFlom:
1. Employ Metacognition
Copious research studies demonstrate time and again that helping students to understand themselves as learners increases motivation and achievement. Two resources to get you started:
- Teaching Metacognition presentation slides by Marsha C. Lovett of the Carnegie Mellon Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence
- Learner Sketch Tool by Q.E.D. Foundation provides students a look at themselves as learners while also providing them practical strategies for leveraging their strengths. (Bonus: teachers can see their entire class’s learning sketch!)
2. Instill a Growth Mindset
When students understand the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset they are able to better understand that they can grow as learners. This empowerment can help encourage them to take additional risks. The work by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck really fleshes this concept out.
3. Design for Authentic Engagement
Model-Eliciting Activities or MEAs provide a context for students to explore a data set or challenge with the goal of helping them develop the strategies / skills within the process of the problem.
You can learn more about MEAs at Pedagogy in Action’s Examples page for helping students “invent and test models” for solving problems. And at Purdue’s School of Engineering’s “Small Group Mathematical Problem Solving” page.
4. Provide Relevant Content
Novelty is the catalyst for growth. But lasting learning necessitates the learner connect with the novel content. A middle school or high school student hardly connects with Christopher Columbus and his sailing of the ocean blue in 1492. However, put the student adaptation of Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States” in their hands and you’ll find them storming out of the classroom saying things like, “Columbus was a jerk.” Or, my favorite, “Wow. What a pig.”
When students emotionally connect to the content they are more likely to think and talk about it (read as, “analyze and process it”) long after they have left your classroom walls.
5. Leverage Student Voice
Students who find their voice is valued and empowered are more likely to take risks and exercise that voice. Doing so requires educators find connection points for students to authentically express themselves within activities.
One such example combining science and hip-hop is Science Genius, a pilot program that employs music as a catalyst and vehicle for connecting learners with scientific content. The design is fairly simple. As part of demonstrating their understanding and competency, students explain scientific concepts by writing and dropping rhymes over beats. See the winning example from this year’s competition here.
Response From PJ Caposey
PJ Caposey is Assistant Superintendent/High School Principal for Meridian CUSD 223 in Illinois. PJ has won many awards, become a sought after speaker on many topics, and has written two books in the past two years, including Teach Smart: 11 Learner-Centered Strategies That Ensure Student Success (which focuses on the instructional strategies he discusses in his response):
Communicate For Your Audience: The difference in communicating for your audience and communicating to your audience may seem slight, but it is what separates good teachers from great teachers. Great teachers work to reach their students, not simply convey the appropriate information in an understandable manner.
Question For Kids: Asking questions is something every teacher does. Asking questions that make kids think, causes true conversation, and may lead in a variety of directions is something that is far less common in classrooms. A good tip for teachers is to script questions based on Bloom’s Taxonomy – and make sure to ask questions that cause kids to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information every single day. And yes – this is possible at every grade level.
Give the Work Back: The most successful teachers don’t ‘teach’ much in the traditional sense. When you think stand and deliver – I think average educator. When you think of a teacher that engages students so that they are active creating and solving their own problems – I think great educator. Simply put, most teachers ‘work’ too much in the classroom while great teachers find ways to give work back to the students.
Connection, Not Compliance: Great teachers focus not on compliance, but on connections and relationships. Focusing on connections and relationships is not mutually exclusive from a teacher running a tight ship, but great teachers have the goal of serving and connecting with students first – not creating a compliant culture. In fact, great teachers often use instances of misbehavior as a way to strengthen and further relationships whereas average teachers use their instances to refer students to administration. Classrooms that are defined by compliance are generally not fun places to be – and can actually be stressful and stressful environments generally produce low levels of learning.
Seek Feedback: Great teachers always want to improve. One of the best ways to improve is to continually seek feedback. The best teachers do this in three ways. First, be informed by the information provided to you in the day-to-day work of a classroom. Assessment must be continuous and ongoing – and for assessment to be meaningful – it must change teacher behavior. Second, welcome feedback. Invite colleagues and administration into your classroom. Reflection is powerful, but everyone has blind spots and a new set of eyes always helps. Lastly – ask for feedback directly through student and parent surveys.
Thanks to Eric, Jason and PJ for their contributions!
Please feel free to leave a comment your reactions to the topic or directly to anything that has been said in this post. I’ll be publishing comments from readers in a few days.
Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind. You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.
Anyone whose question is selected for weekly column can choose one free book from a number of education publishers. I’ll be highlighting one particular publisher every two months, and it’sRoutledge’s turn now.
Just a reminder — you can subscribe to blog for free via RSS Reader or email…. And,if you missed any of the highlights from the first two years of blog, you can see a categorized list of them here. You won’t see posts from school year in those compilations, but you can review those new ones by clicking in the monthly archives link on blog’s sidebar.
You can also see annual lists of my most popular posts.
Education Week has published a collection of posts from blog — along with new material — in an ebook form. It’s titled Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching.
Last, but not least, I’ve recently begun recording a weekly eight-minute BAM! Radio podcast with educators who provide guest responses to questions. You can listen and/or download them here.
I’ll be posting Part Three in a couple of days….
Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase III: Experts or Amateurs? Gauging Young Canadians’ Digital Literacy Skills | MediaSmarts
Executive Summary (PDF)
Full Report (PDF)
Experts or Amateurs? Gauging Young Canadians’ Digital Literacy Skills Infographic
Experts or Amateurs? Gauging Young Canadians’ Digital Literacy Skills slideshow
About Young Canadians in a Wired World
Katrina Schwartz | February 4, 2013
Educator Jaime McGrath and designer Drew Davies explain how to create a “classroom of imagination” by turning lessons into design problems and giving students space to be creative in this Tedx video. In a New York Times op-ed The MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Competition’s co-director Cathy Davidson said she thinks it’s possible that 65 percent of students today will end up doing jobs that haven’t been created yet.
McGrath and Davies argue that school needs to keep up with the times by promoting creativity, entrepreneurship, design thinking and hands on skills. McGrath’s experience teaching design problems has convinced him that the approach includes all learning styles, brings the best of project-based learning, encourages cooperation and integrates subject matter horizontally. But mostly, McGrath and Davies are impressed at the cool stuff kids design.
By A J Juliani
Each month I add a new resource to the Innovative Teaching Toolbox. Here is a simple framework for innovation in the classroom that came out of the research, interviews, and countless conversations I had with teachers and educational leaders during the book writing process.
Feel free to share, download, and modify! When you sign up for the Innovative Teaching Toolbox below I’ll send you:
The picture file of this infographic
My ebook Teach Above the Test
A digital subscription to our magazine “The Best and Next in Education”
Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest PowerPoint Templates
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A Wonderful Visual on How to Use SAMR Model On Different Classroom Tasks ~ Educational Technology and Mobile Learning
February 16, 2014
Hi everybody, I hope you are having a great weekend and happy belated Valentine. It’s been a hectic week for me, busy reading a couple of books and preparing for a workshop on digital writing for graduate students in my university here in Halifax Canada.
In this quick post I want to share with you this beautiful interactive image on the SAMR model. I learned about this resource from a tweet shared by our colleague David Fife. As you can see from the image below, iPadders provided examples of how to use each classroom task according to the different SAMR categories. And in each category, a set of apps and tools are provided to help you carry out the task under study. I invite you to have a look and share with your colleagues. Enjoy
Hover your mouse over the graphic to access its hyperlinked resources.