Teaching as Learning

I joke with my kids (honestly) about not knowing everything. but sometimes I think they believe I really do.  They see me as smart, and they like learning with me. I am a human being to them because I frequently say. “I don’t know, figure it out.” or “I don’t know, let’s see if we can find out.”

I believe kids want to relate to their teachers as a human being–there’s certainly enough research out there to show that the relationships between teachers and students are key to successful learning. There are so darn many ways we distance ourselves from that, though, as we work in the classroom. First, when we say to a child, who may have been misbehaving, “And what is Ms White’s rule about that?” (when it’s Ms. White doing the talking), how corny is that?  WHO in real life refers to themselves in the third person?

Then there’s the “I like” people.  “I like how Johnny is showing me he’s ready.”  “I like it when Susie raises her hand.”  I like it when. . . blah, blah, blah. . . What do kids learn from those types of “reinforcing statements”?  That school is all about what the teacher likes and if you don’t do it, you’ll get in trouble.  Best to play along and do what Teacher likes.  (If you don’t believe that kind of thinking is pervasive, please go read ONE Junie B Jones book. Her teacher’s name is “Mrs.”) If I could outlaw ONE practice in school, it would be that one–because that simple statement makes it ALL about the teacher, and does NOTHING to help the child understand why the BEHAVIORS matter.  (And I believe half the time they really don’t.)

Suppose, instead of “I like,” the teacher said, “Johnny is showing he’s ready by having his book out and waiting quietly.”  or “Susie’s hand up shows me she has something to say.” or “Wow, when you all sit quietly, it’s so easy to hear the speaker .” or “When you sit quietly and listen when someone is speaking, your behavior shows you are a kind person ”  (or courteous, or care about what they have to say…) Suppose the feedback had everything to do with the kid and ALSO everything to do with how the behavior impacts the rest of the group, constantly reinforcing that one does NOT go to school by him/herself, that we are part of a group and that we need to co-exist in that group to be successful in school. Because, I also believe that no child (initially) comes to school, saying “Today I want to be unsuccessful here.” Part of our job is to ensure success–after mistakes, maybe, because they are part of the learning cycle, but we need to ensure success MORE than failure.

Teaching IS learning–about ourselves, about our students, and yes, about our content as it changes and grows through the diligent work of geographers, and mathematicians, and scientists, and educators, and everyone else all over the world.  And learning IS a hub. . of feelings, thoughts, ideas, caring, sharing, growing, thinking, reflecting, mistaking, trying again, designing, talking, working together, redesigning, hypothesizing, working alone, generalizing, creating, etc., etc., etc.

When a child brings a test to me and I glance over it to make sure they didn’t skip any questions, and I see that they worked a problem correctly in the work space, but circled the wrong answer on the multiple choice part, I am REMISS if I don’t ask them to recheck their answers. The test is not about me playing “GOTCHA” but instead helping them to develop habits that will reduce those kinds of careless mistakes. The test is a place for them to show what they know–and if it is standards -based, it’s not about playing around in the grade fog of catching them in mis-marking something they clearly showed they know.

When Pam Moran, my Superintendent, asked,  “How do we use tech to shift from district hierarchies to leadership nodes and hubs connecting people in the learning web?” I paid no attention to the “how do we use tech to” piece–I read and began to think about the “shift from” part.

When I read @dennisar asking, “How do I co-create with my students?
” and answer his own question by saying, “I ask them to create personal meaning from class activities by using their own choice of digital tools for learning logs.” and saw Melissa Techman’s response:

@mtechman love your question re co-creating – I’m going to start with posting goal or topic and then stepping off-stage to join them in exploring/making/presenting

I realized I often do that with my kids–I often pose a problem that I KNOW is rich–but that I may not know the answer to initially.  What I do know is that I can figure it out, I can (probably) beat them timewise doing it, and I will both hear and figure out some great questions along the way as we struggle together with a challenge I have set forth. So I shift from, as Pam says, a hierarchy of me posing the problem to a learning hub where other leadership hubs emerge as people begin to work together to figure out the problem.

As I looked at the twitpoll for this week’s edchat,  I realized that, for me, # 1 and 3 were closed questions–a yes or no or simple list, unless we get to the HOW.  In #1, WHAT we teach is dictated. . . can we talk HOW we would emphasize what should be emphasized instead?  I want to figure out the HOW of school reform. . .

  1. With an overloaded curriculum, what should be emphasized and what should be eliminated?
  2. What are the advantages and drawbacks to single gender classrooms?
  3. Should the current system of grading be outlawed an replaced with something more “21st Century?”
  4. How do schools and districts help retain quality educators?
  5. How do educators deal with the question of “Friending” students on social media sites and applications?

And I realized, I want to learn the HOW from other people.  I want to struggle with others to verbalize how schools should change to meet the changing needs of the world and our students.

And then I read  this post by @JerriDKrusse and this ending:

To summarize, I think the reason so many reform efforts have had problems is because they do not address the fundamental issues at hand in education. Most importantly is the role of and decisions made by the teacher. Instead of giving teachers shiny new stuff (whether that be superficial strategies, or technology), we must address teachers’ fundamental views on learning and how to build student knowledge so that it is deep and transferable. (something that can be done with or without the use of modern electronic technologies).  Until we try to modify fundamental teacher beliefs about teaching & learning, our reform efforts will be wasted.

And I realized he has it–a fundamental point–until we begin talking basic VALUES of teaching and learning with one another and get down to the nitty gritty of  why we speak to kids in the third person or say “I like” or “don’t smile til Christmas” or any of those other things we do that negate setting up a true learning hub or web, schools won’t change.  We need to discuss what IS a learning hub–do all teachers WANT them in their classrooms, what are the teaching and learning behaviors we value and where DOES grade fog play in all of it?  How do we assess our students for real learning, and where REALLY are the opportunities for students to engage in critical thinking, interdisciplinary thought and transfer of knowledge? When do students engage and how can we leverage those instances and those behaviors for more sustainable learning?

Shifting Frustrations

WOW!  I had a busy week last week attending two conferences (VASCD and VSTE) and working with a student who presented at a UVA mini-summit on children’s engineering. Learned lots, have a ton to think about, but wanted to share my story about my substitute in the context of trying to teach differently and help my students learn differently.

So I left my gifted students lesson plans on their wiki. I often do this in class and so they are used to it, and very self-directed with it.  I left sub plans that said each day they would have the same routine–two kids go get 4 laptops for 12 kids, they split into groups of three and work through the math tutorials on the designated pages listed here:  Crozet 5th Math 0910.

I had also carefully designed a growing dependence on doing it online, that you can see in the plans. I felt pretty good about leaving my kids doing this–they were studying content they needed some review on, but could also handle independently in groups.  I had set up the routine so they were doing activities familiar to them, and the sub had little to do. In fact I said in my plans, “You will simply have to monitor that they stay on task.” I left her NO teaching, NO homework, NO grading, just behavior monitoring of  HIGHLY motivated, well-behaved kids.

The sub experience was a disaster.  In trying to be helpful and do school as she knows it, she changed  my lesson plans substantially to the point my kids began wiki-mailing me the second day from their iPods, complaining. They were not allowed to work collaboratively, the online activities were changed to worksheets, and they had no time to do the higher level thinking pieces I had left in my plans–so they spent three days doing worksheets on skills where they needed only some review.

My principal and I have had conversations about whether to get a sub when I need to be out, knowing that subs cannot run my classroom as I do. However, I also realize that as a resource teacher when my kids are unexpectedly back in the classroom, it does cause some issues for the classroom teacher, so we have hesitantly decided to get me a sub.

I am going in Monday asking for NOT getting me a sub.  My kids would have been better off in their own classrooms, using the classroom computers to follow the directions on the wiki quietly in the back or corner of the room. They would have been self-directed, gotten the work done, thought about the skills at a high level in evaluating themselves and their own learning, and been monitored by teachers who KNOW them!

PLUS, if they are allowed to work like this in their own classrooms, perhaps I can, as David Truss suggests in his post, Shifting Education,  “Nurture your colleagues like you nurture your students in your class.” I can nurture through examples–because I KNOW the teachers will look at the wiki.  I KNOW they will monitor what the kids are doing and perhaps get some ideas for their own classrooms! And, I also know they will see their kids being more self-directed than they see in their classrooms, because they are not allowed to direct their own learning there.

For an example of how I am trying to help students better understand learning processes, see an independent study group’s work for this week at The Four Question Strategy wiki.

Perhaps, if I set kids up in their classrooms to do “real” work, as described by Chris Lehmann in his recent post, “Shifting Ground” teachers will have new pictures painted for them of the possibilities in school.  Perhaps teachers will begin to understand that “It is time to stop thinking of school as preparation for real life and instead show students that the time they spend in school can be a vital and enriching part of their very real and very important lives.” (Chris in Shifting Ground).

Perhaps, then, my style of teaching and honoring kids’ desires to direct their own learning will spread beyond my classroom and teachers will shift to “take advantage of tools to help them and their students find their way.” ( a slight rewording from David Truss)

Meeting People, Sharing Stories

Okay, so this afternoon I have been working to figure out what I have to say and after about three hours, I think this blog may turn into two or three like several others have.  It’s not that I deliberately wait until I have several to write, but that in thinking about writing one, I find I have several blogs to write.

Chad Ratliff (@chadratliff) has had an immense impact on my thinking, and he doesn’t even realize it, I don’t think.  I began following him on Twitter sometime this year, and started following some of his tweeple as well from tracing back his conversations. He is an entrepreneur, an educator, a thinker and a friend, not necessarily in that order. ( I suspect all of those take back seat to his roles of  Dad and Husband MUCH of the time!) Anyway, Chad and I started talking on Twitter, he began following folks from Albemarle Schools and to make a long story short, he attended a conference with us (where I had the honor  and pleasure of introducing him around) and he wound up working in our school system. (I’m not taking any credit for that–he is an amazing person we were lucky to have join us!)

Before that, he was taking classes, running a business (or maybe 2 or 3 of them), keeping his hand in education and tweeting to people in all of those endeavors. How we connected I don’t remember, but what I do know is that I started following some business people from all over, which I never would have said I would do. Through Chad, I found some educators in Iowa (like @RussGoerend, whom I have an ongoing competition with about whether VA or Iowa has more notable tweeters) and from Russ I got to some other amazing thinkers, and it goes on and on. . .

But, really, what this blog post is about is the importance of social networking: We participate and connect with people who think like we do. We interact, and sometimes argue with or question people who think differently.  We sometimes watch and “lurk” on conversations others  have, watching the stories unfold in front of us.   We come back to our online connections, to the people we have met and come to know online because of the power of stories–the connections we make through sharing with each other the thoughts, questions, strengths and weaknesses we have–and sharing the struggles and the solutions we find.

See I Finally Get It–Why Social Networking Is So Important for another insight into social networking as story.

So, back to why I started by writing about Chad:

I haven’t seen him since he joined us.  I’ve tweeted very little since then, as a matter of fact, because it’s been the beginning of school and I’ve just been darn busy. When I have been on Twitter, I’ve been furiously reading, trying to catch some of the nuggets my PLN shares. Chad’s tweeted me a few links and DM’d to make sure I was okay, but mostly since he got here, I haven’t been in contact much.

That doesn’t matter.

I follow his conversations still and have followed some amazing thinkers because of him–and I constantly learn through their tweets as well. Twitter–and the connections people make on it– continues to amaze me.  I am learning from so many people all over the world because thoughtful practitioners are willing to share and give so much.

I am so appreciative of all the people who share with me online–I thank you all for sharing the stories in your life.

And, thanks, Chad, for helping me follow some people who have certainly stretched my thinking through the stories of their lives.

How the Visual Blooms fits with Professional Practice and the Blooms Rubrics

Before you read this, perhaps you’d like to explore the Visual Blooms wiki, the Blooms Rubrics wiki (looking at Rubric # 6 which is the only one we’ve worked on so far), and the Professional Practice wiki (which describes teacher levels of technology use and levels of expertise.)

It would help as well as be familiar with the edorigami wiki and Andrew Churches’ paper on the Digital Taxonomy.

This is addressed to a group of folks who have been thinking with me on these issues, some of whom are meeting tonight in Texas to discuss it face to face.  🙂

Paul, Michael, Scott, Mike G., Mike F, Cris, Eduguy101, Becky, Glen, Barbara, et.al.,

(@paulrwood, @mwacker, @woscholar, @MikeGras, @fisher1000, @cristama, @eduguy101, @BeckyFisher73, @gardenglen, @porchdragon, @barbaram)
I like the Church article, because it attempts to tie digital tools to each Bloom’s level, which is what Mike Fisher’s Visual Bloom’s wiki does as well (the triangle at the visual blooms wiki.)  However, Michael W. is right. . . we need to go beyond that paper.  Scott asked me what a rubric for “Create” would look like—he didn’t ask for a rubric for a tool, which is what Andrew Church did in his paper and on the edorigami wiki.

I don’t want to judge my kids on how they use an IWB—whether they can control it or not,  and how they interact with it (which are the areas of the IWB rubric.)  I want to know how their understanding of the world changes because of the content with which they have engaged ON that tool.

If you look, though, at the fourth navigation section on the wiki , edorigami at the link called “Pedagogic Skills, IWB’s and Technology “ that addresses more what I’m thinking, in some ways.  The researchers were looking at what kids and teachers did with the tools and seeing the impact on education.
As Michael suggested, though, they didn’t go far enough, in my opinion.

Their stages:
1.  Supported Didactic
Essentially normal teaching practice using the IWB – I would liken it to “learning about the technology”. Little student interaction but some use of commercial products like presentation tools, spreadsheets.

1. Interactive
Lessons start to include different stimuli or learning styles – visual, auditory etc. IWB is a part of the classroom rather than a novelty, Teacher is confident in basic usage. The teacher is developing advancing technical skills – “Learning with Technology”

1. Enhanced interactive
The technology is an integral part of the lesson. Teachers vary use and approaches to using technology. The IWB provides opportunities to challenge students and “enhance active learning” “Learning through technology”. By this stage, students are familiar with almost all the functions of a interactive whiteboard and can take appropriate care of it without any guidance. They are allowed to use the IWB for writing, drawing, illustration, problem solving etc. At this stage a teacher uses all possible whiteboard applications from floating toolbars, infinite cloner to smart recorder. He also becomes proficient with whiteboard accessories like visualizers, interactive panels, student response systems etc.

ARE VERY AKIN to the ACOT stages of technology use I describe at the Professional Practice wiki.  It is all about the teacher’s technology USE and how that affects learning, very similar to David Berliner’s Teacher Expertise descriptions, also described on that wiki.  It is NOT about the learner and what they are learning, or what they are doing differently to IMPROVE or change learning. Those stages and the accompanying suggestions for support came right out of Teaching With Technology: Creating Student-Centered Classrooms by Judith Haymore Sandholtz, Cathy Ringstaff, and David C. Dwyer.

The create rubric on the other hand attempts to describe a creator, a person who is operating at various competency levels of creating. The tools are superfluous, as tools can be used in different ways and at different levels, depending on HOW one is using them.  The examples shown center on what the students are doing in the process of creation, not what they are using to create. It’s about how they are applying Blooms’ levels, and how they are remixing and changing the information they are using to create something new and unique (or not so new and unique.)

Does that make sense?

So, for me, it’s not about which tools as much as it is about how the learner uses the tools and the outcome in the areas of learning, understanding, and assimilation of that knowledge into their repertoire, so that they can use it to go deeper in the next conversation/activity/experience.

I ask Paul and the dinner friends to toss this into your Texas conversation, and those of you who aren’t in Texas tonight, join our wikis to talk with us!

Visual Blooms

Blooms Rubrics

Professional Practice

Until next time,