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…

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…