Back in the day, before the dawn of the Internet, we looked to our teachers for the answers. We learned via a repeating cycle of lecturing, note-taking, and testing.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
With the Internet, however, everyone has the potential to become a content expert--to access the knowledge that was previously "kept" by our teachers.
With that said, it's time to shift our instructional delivery from "I give, you get" to "I ask, you explore, discover, try, fail, try again, and succeed. Inquiry-Based Learning helps us educators reach learners in the Digital Age.
Next time you feel like telling, try asking instead.
Want to learn more about Inquiry-Based Learning? Start here.
Love baseball? Love math? Looking for an end-of-the-year activity with your students that's fun and educational? I just updated my very popular packaged lesson plan, "Play Ball! Using Baseball to Analyze Statistical Data." It's a happy mix of both educational technology (Flipgrid, Edpuzzle, and Google Apps) and some hands-on creating. Please take a look, share with your colleagues, and let me know how it works for you!
The following is a true story.
As I drove him from school yesterday, my 16 year-old sheepishly announced, "I got a 40% on my test in _______." [Course name deleted to protect the innocent.]
After I corrected my almost-swerve into oncoming traffic, I regained my composure and inquired in a calm voice that masked my inner panic, "How did that happen?"
He responded, "Don't be mad. I got the highest grade in the class!"
I corrected yet another swerve.
He volunteered, "The class average right now is a D."
I gritted my teeth: "There's nothing average about an entire class of students underachieving."
He attempted to assuage me: "Mom, it's okay. No one ever gets an A. Or a B."
I explained, "Maybe it's just me, kiddo, but I don't think that's okay. How is is okay for an entire class of students to be failing? How does the teacher know you're all learning? Because the test would indicate that very few of you can show what you know."
He sighed, "Mom, please don't start with the teacher talk."
So I stopped. And not only because my sons get bored with all my educational reform proselytizing. It's because I think it's totally uncool for me to call out my kids' teachers in front of them. I don't like being all Judge Judy on other educators.
While my son put in his earbuds and tuned me out, I couldn't tune out my brain.
I'm not calling out my son's teacher here; he's not the only one.
I was that teacher. I was renowned for being the toughest grader in the high school English department, and I wore it like a badge of honor. An A was earned in my class--not granted. I believed I was preparing my students for the rigor of college by putting these obstacles in their way.
Doesn't that almost sound like I was setting them up to fail? Wasn't I establishing almost insurmountable odds? How was I doing my job? What were they learning?
We have to meet our learners where they are.
What would happen if a doctor prescribed all of his patients the exact same drug for completely different illnesses? Maybe a minority of the patients will improve--but the majority of them will never, ever recover. Their sickness will continue. And the doctor would be guilty of medical malpractice.
We have to meet our learners where they are. We really have to. And that means making sure we're doing our very, very best to reach the needs of each learner. We can do this when we give daily ungraded formatives (exit tickets in Google Forms, reflections in Flipgrid, or 3-2-1 checks in Edpuzzle). We can do this when we differentiate assignments in Google Classroom based on student needs. We can do this when we offer choice menus. Like good doctors, we should diagnose what each of our patients need--instead of writing them all the same prescription.
Teaching does not equal learning. Let's not be guilty of educational malpractice.
Providing a #TeacherBordered classroom means letting go of controlling the learning. It's difficult, sure, but when we don't allow students opportunities to explore, fall, re-learn, and succeed, then we rob them of the ownership and pride that comes as a result of discovery. Let’s stop feeding information to our students and let’s enjoy them figuring it out for themselves.
I've been using QR codes in the classroom for years. They make learning visible and three-dimensional. More importantly, when used properly, they provide a voice for students--something we really need more of in digital learning.
Did you know that with Flipgrid, you can add QR codes to student videos?
With digital learning (i.e., the 1:1 classroom) becoming more of the norm, teaching in traditional ways should start to fade into the sunset. Individualized learning, differentiation, and self-paced learning gets easier everyday. Follow these outstanding educators to learn how it's done:
My advice: Pick one strategy and get really good at it before tackling another.
I don't have a clue how I acquired this image.
But it's powerful, isn't it? It's reminiscent of Bloom's Taxonomy--but unlike Bloom's--this visual allows us to focus on learning from a student perspective as opposed to focusing on instruction from a teacher's perspective.
And what also astounds me is how clearly this image delineates how traditional forms of instruction don't do a whole lot in terms of being effective for our students. I wonder, are they even effective for us any longer?
In any case, John Hattie's research on feedback is more convincing than anything I could write here. But if you're looking to up your feedback game, I fully recommend you start here.
What are your thoughts on this graphic?
I've had this post in my head for weeks and couldn't find the time to write it, so I took advantage of my commute and made my first vlog post. (Don't judge my camera angle and amateur-ish recording--it's a total FAIL and I'm proud of it!)
Anyhow, one of my personal goals this year is to learn more about gamification and how we can start implementing it into our curriculum. Here are some baby step ideas to get started in your own classroom:
I'd love to hear how you're leveling up--feel free to leave comments and ideas below. Learning can be all fun and games!
If a picture's worth a thousand words, then take a look at this:
It's a side-by-side comparison of two activities, but I'm not going to share with you yet which activities. The image is from a study conducted by an MIT professor in which students were equipped with wristbands that measured skin conductance as an index of the “arousal associated with emotion, cognition and attention.” The students wore the wristband for one week. These are images of "highly-spiked" activities, or activities that stimulated strong physiological enthusiasm from one student:
The obvious conclusions we can draw from these images aren't too much of a stretch: the more intellectually stimulating the task, the more the brain is engaged, right? So, studying, homework, and testing all create tangible spikes.
Okay, ready for the big reveal?
Yep...sitting in a classroom is about as intellectually stimulating as snoozing. Digging deeper, we can reasonably assume that this particular classroom activity is most likely lecture-based.
Did you know that since the establishment of the university system in 1050, class-long lecturing has been the predominant method of instructional delivery? Let that settle in for a moment: we've talked at students for almost 1,000 years. Despite recent studies that confirm fifteen minutes is about the maximum amount of time students can focus on lecture material, we're still encouraging students to passively accept our content knowledge. Or, to quote my math coach buddy Mike Lipnos, "We have no idea how much we take from children when we give them our thinking."
What Can Be Done?
Fortunately, this is an easy fix, and I'm certainly not endorsing a complete ban on direct instruction; sometimes it's necessary. However, it's not our only option. Vicki Halsey, author of the book Brilliance by Design, suggests a six-step ENGAGE model for instructional delivery, and you can read more about that in more detail here. Distinguished teacher Angela Watson provides eight quick-start ideas we can immediately implement to get our kiddos actively talking more, such as:
In other words, keep it brief, keep it active, and keep it about the students.
What strategies do you use to cut down on the amount of time you lecture?
When Dr. Ruben Puentadura devised the SAMR model as a pathway for teachers to integrate technology into instruction, he justified its existence in the following way: “I see students taking charge of their own education. Those are classrooms where the students say…’I can see a better way of doing that!’ There is a certain excitement [and] a certain ownership of learning.” In other words, he envisioned a world (and classrooms) where the teachers and the technology would work together to create student-centric environments.
I appreciate the simplicity and step-by-step approach of the SAMR model. More importantly, I appreciate the #awesomesauce potential it promises. Truly defining 1:1 in the classroom comes down to this:
These are the goals not only of the SAMR model, but of the redefinition of learning. Today’s classrooms should be teacher-bordered and not teacher-focused. Our learning environments should encourage students to individually find a better way to think, to solve, to learn, and to re-learn.
The 1:1 classroom offers that potential, for sure. But in my travels, I all too frequently see many districts or buildings or classrooms not quite hitting the mark. (I’m not getting all Judge Judy here, I promise!) I think that we all too often get stuck at the substitution level of the SAMR model when it comes to 1:1.
And then we get comfortable staying there.
And the next thing you know, we’re wearing sweats, we’ve abandoned makeup, the hair’s up in a messy ponytail, and we’re hanging out the couch, with pizza and Netflix now a substitute for our date night. In other words, we’ve stopped making an effort.
image courtesy of The Odyssey Online
We weren’t meant to get stuck. A digital worksheet is still just a worksheet, after all.
Being 1:1 isn’t just about the technology--because the technology isn’t going to magically make students empowered and engaged. Just because every kid has a device doesn’t mean that kid is using the technology to his or her advantage. We need to keep this top-of-mind when we introduce technology into our classrooms, schools, districts: “A one to one classroom occurs at the intersection of content, pedagogy, and technology.”
When I assist teacher teams with integrating technology into their classrooms, I lay out for them the things that need to really change--and that’s first and foremost the pedagogy. We can’t continue teaching to 21st century kids as if they’re 20th century ones. With that said, when teachers and administrators ask me how they can get started going 1:1, I always ask the following questions:
Are You Willing to Change the Design of Your Classroom?
A 1:1 classroom requires flexibility for both individual and collaborative work. Are you willing to ditch the desks? Are you accepting of the idea of a space that is stripped down, inviting, and designed for collaboration? Are you willing to give up your teacher desk (or as I call it, “Fort Desk”) in favor of a have-laptop-will-travel mentality to work with students? Are you ready to make your future-ready classroom brain-friendly? Simply put, does your classroom look like your local Starbucks or the Google offices? (Okay, okay...you probably can’t make it look exactly like the Googleplex, but consider the open spaces, collaborative idea sharing areas, and inviting atmosphere.)
Are You Willing to Give Up Control--and to Be Okay with Occasional Chaos?
Are you okay with not feeding students content via lecture notes, graphic organizers, and prepackaged worksheets from Teachers Pay Teachers? Are you okay with asking them questions and then letting them explore like free-range chickens? Are you okay with not having an airtight, rigid lesson plan? Are you okay with abandoning a lesson when an opportunity for exploration presents itself? Are you okay with letting students get it wrong occasionally--make mistakes, fail, and self-correct? Are you okay with not stepping in and taking over--being the guide and not the facilitator? Are you okay with students being out of their seats? Are you okay with non-silent, working students?
Are You Willing to Let Students Create?
Are you familiar with the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy--where creation is now the highest level of learning? Are you happy to let students show what they know instead of having them take and end-of-unit summative? Are you ready to let your students be content creators instead of content consumers? Knowing that whoever is doing the talking is doing the learning, would you be willing to let students teach something to increase their retention of material? Would you even be willing to let them write a textbook or create learning materials for their peers instead of simply recalling? Would you consider allowing students to publish to a global audience via YouTube, blogging, or the creation of a website?
Are You Willing to Give Up the One-Size-Fits All Mentality?
Can you create an assignment or activity that accommodates different types of learners? Will your learners have choice and voice in how they present their learning? (As Chris Lehmann points out, “If you assign a project and get back 30 of the exact same thing, that’s not a project. That’s a recipe.”) Would you consider different instructional delivery methods that might be self-paced? (Think HyperDocs or gamification here.)
And the biggie...
Are You Willing to Become a Flipper?
Can you get comfortable with the idea of assigning homework for classwork and classwork for homework? Can you give up lecturing and instead devise active learning experiences, problem-based learning, or peer instruction? Can you challenge yourself to deliver content outside of class that is engaging? Are you willing to let students use their mobile devices in the classroom to learn and create?
If the answer to the majority of the questions is yes, then we are good to go, to explore, to learn, to transform, If the answer is no, well, that’s neither bad or good--it’s just the way it is and some guided hand-holding and confidence-boosting needs to occur.
These are all uncomfortable questions, and it’s sometimes uncomfortable for me to ask them--and for educators to even consider them. But change doesn’t happen in our comfort zones.
Speaking of getting uncomfortable, let’s revisit that date night analogy again: Remember when things were new? You know, when we actually put forth some effort? When we shaved our legs, applied the eye shadow, curled the hair, and donned the heels? (Guys, not sure what your equivalent of date-night effort is. Don't throw shade at me.) Let's get back to putting forth the effort. It makes everyone happy.
We have to encourage ourselves and our colleagues to make the effort again, too. To not get comfortable. To ask of our current pedagogical practices, What can I do to keep this fresh?
We need to keep making the effort and we can’t stay comfortable.
Because our 21st-century students, after all, deserve our effort.
image courtesy of Pixabay
Educational consultant + #pedtech coach in Cleveland, Ohio sharing innovative technology ideas for educators.