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…


Preschool Bans Superhero Play

Really?  That was my first reaction when I read the title of the email blast I received from Exchange Everyday, a community that promotes the exchange of ideas among leaders in early childhood education.   The notice sent by an unnamed preschool to their parents stated that overactive imaginations are causing injuries and the school doesn’t  “promote hurting one another.”  Admirable but, again, REALLY?   Is that the best they can do to avoid injuries?   In the notice sent to the parents, the school makes some valid points. Besides not allowing students to hurt each other, the school suggests monitoring the media the child watches and eman-of-steel-pretendncouraging creative thinking and imaginative play.  Great ideas!  It is a bit disappointing that the powers-that-be at the preschool can’t use their imaginations to come up with different ways to avoid injuries at their preschool than to ban the good guys!  I was even more flabbergasted when I scrolled through the slideshow after the article that shows even more outlandish bans  by schools.

By the way… lets call the Grammar Police …their notice needs some proofreading!

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.

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…

We hold these truths to be self-evident…

declaration of independenceAs frightening it is for me to think about it…I think I’m becoming a history geek. Well, maybe “geek” is too strong. But, after student teaching in a 6th grade Social Studies class I am hooked. So, naturally my favorite blog was by Glenn Wiebe called History Tech.

Glenn is a history teacher turned technology geek and curriculum specialist. He has a lot of great ideas for using all types of technology to teach History. One of my favorite blogs he wrote was about making a Facebook page on Abraham Lincoln. I LOVED this idea. Any historical figure could be studied this way. Glenn teaches how to create the dummy Facebook page and gives ideas how to use the page. The link to this post is below.

This got me thinking. In Facebook you can create events and invite people to them. This feature could be used for studying significant events in history as well. By having the students respond and post to these pages, it can become a flipped classroom (my second favorite blog). Pictures (primary sources), videos, and linked pages can be shared with the students.

Another of my favorite posts by Glenn is using primary sources in the classroom. I’ve also posted that link below. What is particularly cool is that he has posted a Primary Sources page with a ton of links to primary source websites. My Mentor Teacher, Nicole, used primary sources so I naturally fell into that same practice when doing my takeover weeks. Primary sources were a great way for the students to critically think about what they were seeing instead of seeing it through someone else’s eyes. I’ve included that link below too.

Glenn is also really interested in video games and has a link to a whole presentation on how to integrate video games into teaching. I need to think about this more because I’m not totally sold here. Glenn has a list of games and how they relate to Bloom’s Taxonomy. While I get this part, I’m not sold on how it relates to “content knowledge.”

While the History Tech is primarily History focused, I think it would be interesting and fun to try to apply some of these ideas to other subject areas.

I mentioned my second favorite blogs were by the Flipped Learning Network. I explored here because I wanted to learn more about flipped classrooms. Again, I return to my Mentor Teacher, Nicole. The last few days of my time in her classroom, she was trying out the flipped classroom concept. She gave the students reading assignments and questions to answer at home to introduce some topics around the Civil War. This was my first exposure to anything like a flipped classroom. I want to read more of the blogs to get a good understanding of how this works, especially since I will have a flipped classroom assignment in ED554. I’ll admit; however, I am not looking forward to videotaping myself. After all, the camera adds 10 pounds!

Stay tuned…