Collaborating, Communicating, Connecting – The 21st Century Teacher

Attention in education today is all about the 21st century learner.  But who is thinking about the 21st century teacher?  Shelley Wright is in her blog post The Nuts & Bolts of 21st Century Teaching.  Ms.Wright came up with a creative way to teach a difficult subject, the Holocaust.  Instead of traditional teaching, she “flipped” the process and had the students discover the learning necessary to design and create their own Holocaust museum.  Albeit a difficult and challenging process, her 10th graders tackled the job with enthusiasm.  Then they hit the proverbial bump in the road.  And she waited. And waited. And waited.  For us as teachers, that is one of the most difficult things to do.  When we see our students struggling, we want to jump in and “save” them. But are we really doing what is best for them at that point? Doing things for the students when they struggle robs them of the ability to discover their own brilliance and creativity.

3d-thinking-mind-mapThe creative process Ms. Wright’s class undertook reminded me of my 6th grade student teaching experience when the students created mind maps in Social Studies.  The students separated into three main topic areas and were given large pieces of butcher paper to design their individual mind map.  They researched their topic and collaborated on how their part would look and then it occurred to members of one group….how are the  pieces going to fit together?  One member of  that group went to each of the other groups, communicated their ideas, and collaborated on how they were going to connect the pieces of the mind map together.   This occurred in my first week in 6th grade and it was such a rush to see the kids reach this epiphany all on their own.  It was a beautiful thing!

Having the students take ownership of their education is a cornerstone of 21st century learners. Collaboration is a cornerstone of the 21st century teacher.  Whether modeling and facilitating collaboration among our students or collaborating with our peers, it is essential to developing critical thinking skills being stressed by educators today.  Innovation – another new buzz word – is required of students and teachers.  Gone are the days of worksheets and rote learning.  Technology, creativity, experimentation, hands-on…this is 21st century learning.  This is 21st century teaching.  I’m on board, are you?

Stay tuned…

All the little birdies on Jaybird Street…

… love to hear the robin go tweet tweet tweet …

Yes, it is true – I now have a Twitter account and haven’t got a clue what to do with it. I’ve witnessed the under-25 crowd in my house tweeting, re-tweeting, #hashtageverything and I just don’t get the allure of it all.

I recently read some tips by Mike Reading about using Twitter in education, which gave me a simple list of need to knows. Kelly Walsh goes even further and provides links to resources which present over 100 ways to teach with Twitter! As I went through some of them I was surprised at how amazingly UNCOMPLICATED they were. Tweeting a recommended book for your class, asking for SMARTboard lessons, recognizing important days in history, tweeting with a pen pal, and collaborative writing….simple yet fun and interesting.

Now, if I can just get past the intimidation factor of figuring out how all it works….guess I will seek out the experts…. “Children, Mom needs you!” #ainttooproudtobeg

twitter2 @MissCory123

And now. a blast from the past for your listening pleasure.

Stay tuned…

Targeted Learning Standards

I have chosen Grade 1 math as my focus for the semester.  I am going to teach summer school and I will have one kindergartner and three first graders.  I don’t know much about my students yet; however I do know the focus of the summer session will be math and reading.  I am hoping to create something that I can put into practice with my summer school students.

Computation and Estimation

Focus: Whole Number Operations

1.4   The student, given a familiar problem situation involving magnitude, will

a)   select a reasonable order of magnitude from three given quantities: a one-digit numeral, a two-digit numeral, and a three-digit numeral (e.g., 5, 50, 500); and

b)   explain the reasonableness of the choice.

1.5          The student will recall basic addition facts with sums to 18 or less and the corresponding subtraction facts.

1.6          The student will create and solve one-step story and picture problems using basic addition facts with sums to 18 or less and the corresponding subtraction facts.

Giving Reluctant Students a Voice

The article by Reynold Redekopp and Elizabeth Bourbonniere discusses the use of blogs and discussion boards as tools for students to contribute to classroom discussions.  According to the authors, the tools primarily help those students who seldom or never participate in class discussions.  The reasons for not participating isn’t really defined in the article and doesn’t seem particularly important.  When given a forum that is safe, non-threatening, and perceived as equal, those reluctant participants not only participate but have insightful and thought-provoking comments.

This article reminded me of the PBS program, Digital Media*New Learners of the 21st century and the segment on the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  Douglas Herman, a history teacher, discusses the use of chat rooms in his classroom.  He states that the students that have the least level of participation in an open discussion in the classroom become “rock stars” at posting to the forums – constantly posting their ideas and responding to others.  The instant gratification of putting an opinion out there as well as the immediate feedback and ability to respond, work for these reluctant participants. In the video the students were using these chatrooms while in class, which is counter intuitive to me.  I was thinking homework – but they were using it for classwork.  Instead of a single conversation happening, they could have 32 conversations going on simultaneously, leading to a much richer discussion.

According to the participation levels defined in the article, I would be a level 1.   I know that I talk a lot in class but I do try to formulate my comments so they are productive and helpful. Sometimes I may fall woefully short but at least I try!  I have noticed that others don’t talk.  This article made me reflect as to why.  Do I dominate the conversation so much that its like Janice was saying…”by the time I figure out how I want to [comment], the discussion is over or has moved on…”?  Sometimes I know I speak up to jump start a discussion because no one is talking and we’re supposed to be having a dialogue.  Sometimes I speak up to support a colleague who is presenting.  And, sometimes I just have an opinion to share.  Regardless, before I jump right in the next time I think I will count to 10 and give someone else a chance!  Will I be able to do it?

Stay tuned…

Digital Media* New Learners of the 21st Century

ImageTruer words were never spoken.This insightful quote was made by John Dewey at age 85…8 years before his death in 1952.  Not only that, in 1915 Dewey was calling conventional public schools to task accusing them of structuring the system “to make things easy for the teacher who wishes quick and tangible results.” (John Dewey, Schools of Tomorrow, New York:  Dutton, 1915, p. 18)  Nearly 100 years ago, Dewey recognized the need for schools to prepare students for the future and to emphasize freedom and individuality.

PBS’ presentation of Digital Media*New Learners of the 21st Century examines five programs across the United States that have embraced technology, integrating it and sometimes replacing traditional curriculum with it in schools. I was particularly interested in New York’s Quest to Learn elementary school.  In this segment, John Seely Brown says that the 21st century and maybe even in the 20th century has overlooked the power and importance of play in learning.  This concept resonated with me from my preschool teaching days.  Our  philosophy at VBCC was that children learn through play…compromising, negotiating, critical thinking, problem solving etc.  Mr. Brown extends this concept to the students of today.  He states that the most important thing is for children to have curiosity and a questioning spirit. With this, students can take an idea and “play” with it, tinker with it, make the idea personal and relevant, and ultimately own it. Then, the student will indwell in the idea and the idea in the student. Long lasting learning takes place here that can be applied to future situations.

I loved the way the students in the program talked about the way they learn at Quest to Learn school. Their interest and enthusiasm are evident and contagious.  I had to keep pausing the video because my mind would start wandering to ways I could implement technology tools into my teaching.

All the segments in the PBS broadcast were interesting to me and I highly recommend you set aside 52 minutes to watch the program. Some of the quotable quotes I captured follow.

 “Assessments and testing drives current school systems.  We are not going to change the paradigm of schooling and get deeper learning and learning for problem solving and innovation unless we change the test and change the assessment.” James Gee, Professor, Arizona State University

“Why do we assume that kids’ socializing and play is not a site of learning?” Mimi Ito, cultural anthropologist , University of California, Irvine

“Is someone literate if they cannot critique media, take media in, if they’re only taking in traditional text – so if a 6th grader today, by the time they graduate from college is not fluent if you will, in some of these other forms of media, I would venture to say that they won’t necessarily be considered as being literate. Nichole Pinkard, Founder, Digital Youth Network

“If we know that learning outside of school matters a great deal to kids’ ability to learn well in school, we have to pay attention to that. Katie Salen, Founder, Institute of Play

Addendum: My favorite resources from the Digital Media page are:

Howard Rheingold – packed website and blogs but especially like the virtual classroom

Edutopia – cool website and blogs on tons of topics

Stay tuned…