The graphic above was created by @sylviaduckworth in response to a blog post by @gcouros about the differences between a traditional school setting, and comparing it to what we know best about how people learn. It makes me think of the TED Talk by Ken Robinson on Changing Education Paradigms (check out this version).
Couros looks at the differences from the graphic above in his post School vs. Learning where he looks at the traditional school model compared to the way that research shows that people and students learn. Think about the ways you learn best. Do the descriptions on the left or right of the graphic above fit with your experiences of learning? The next question – what do the classrooms that you are in most look more like?
Engagement is great, but engagement alone is not learning. My kids can be engaged with YouTube for hours if I let them. Does this mean they’re learning? If we want learning to happen for our students, we need ask “what can I do less of?”
Reflect on what school looks like for you. If what you reflect on makes you uncomfortable or gives you pause, think about where you can implement change to make learning new and better for your students.
If you are on Twitter and follow any of the same people that I do, you have probably noticed people posting pictures of text, sometimes with highlighting, adding emojis, bitmojis, or text, and then posting it on Twitter with their own comments. Normally if you look at the comments, you will see the hashtag #BookSnaps linked to it. Even if you aren’t on Twitter, you can see what people are posting by clicking this link: Twitter #BookSnaps
If you go to Twitter and check this out, you will probably notice that most of the posts here are educators who are sharing their personalized professional reading with their Twitter followers. If you look closely though, some of what you will find is teachers sharing BookSnaps that students created in their classroom. It got me started thinking about how some of you might be able to use them in your classroom. Check out this student created BookSnap that the teacher then added some additional comments to:
Most of the ones that you see are using SnapChat in order to create and share. For those of you that know what technology your students are using, SnapChat is a pretty popular app. But here’s the thing, there are ways that BookSnaps could be created using other apps that don’t involve the social network aspect of SnapChat. Any app that allows you to pull in your own pictures and add text, drawings, and emojis could be used in the same way. The student created example to the left was created using SeeSaw. Some other examples that come to mind are Skitch, Google Drawings, various PDF annotating apps, and even Instagram.
Think of the potential engagement for your students if you asked them to create their own BookSnaps. Could you imagine what they would say if you told them to open SnapChat or Instagram in class? In ELA classes, you could have students create a BookSnap when they run into a Notice and Note signpost. You could have them create one to identify the climax in the book they’re reading, or create one based on their own writing, identifying specific plot points.
And don’t say “I’m not an ELA teacher, this doesn’t apply.” I could see real potential for BookSnaps in nonfiction reading as well – identifying the main idea in a science article. Sharing things that surprised them as they are reading about some historical figure. Responding to the 3 Big Questions from Reading Nonfiction by Beers and Probst.
I could even see integration into math class – MathSnaps could be a thing (acutally I just checked, and it is a real thing on Twitter)! You could have a kid snap a picture of the answer to a problem and then add text describing how they came to that answer. Or there could be ArtSnaps, MusicSnaps, or GymSnaps. The limitations are only bound by the creativity of how to integrate this technology.
As for how to share, again, the options are probably endless. If you’re already using SeeSaw, that’s an easy option. Other ideas I’ve seen include Google Slide Decks, a class shared PowerPoint (these options allow everyone can see what BookSnaps other kids have created based on the same reading assignment), or even something as basic as emailing it to you (although a way to share with classmates would make the audience so much more authentic and meaningful). Once kids have shared them with you, find a way to share beyond the walls of your classroom. If you’re on Twitter, tweet it out with the #BookSnaps hashtag – others will see it. You could also put it out on Instagram or Facebook – both have people actively using this hashtag. If you don’t have social media, you could have students print them out and put on their locker, or create a BookSnaps bulletin board.
If you are still at a loss for how you even create a BookSnap, there are some great resources from Tara Martin. You can find her on Twitter at @TaraMartinEDU or @BookSnapsREAL.
I know I’ve got some creative people in my audience. If you have an idea for how BookSnaps could be used in the classroom, please share in the comments below. My ideas above are simply ones that have come to me in the past couple of days. You might have something that I haven’t thought of – or possibly never would. Let us know!
If you begin using BookSnaps in the classroom, please share them! Use the #RSIHawks or #RSIReads hashtag in your post!
How many of you like to play games? Maybe you like board games or card games that you can play with your family and friends. Maybe you like to play video games on the PlayStation or Xbox. Or maybe you are more into games that you can play on your iPad or phone. One thing that has become a trend in a lot of the digital games is the idea of earning badges to symbolize advancement in the game. People love to compete for those badges. Some teachers have even integrated this gamification into the learning process. Today I want to share with you something that Apple has developed that can allow all of us as educators to collect our own badges, and maybe learn some new things in the process.
A couple of days ago I saw a post on Twitter from an educator that I follow saying that he had just earned a new badge in the Apple Teacher Program. I didn’t know much about the program, but a quick Google search took me to Apple’s site with more information about the program (click here if you want to check out the site!).
Reading over the short pieces of information on that site, I learned that through this program you could learn how to use built-in apps to “enhance creativity and productivity” in the classroom. As you complete lessons, you can take a quiz, and if you pass the quiz you earn a badge.
I decided to sign up so that I could learn more about the program. Once I was signed up (almost instantaneous – you sign up with your Apple ID, and then you receive an email with the link to sign in to the Apple Teacher Learning Center), I was able to find links to learning resources for teachers, inspiration for new things to try out, and links to earn badges that are based on the iPad or the Mac. Since we are 1:1 with the iPad, that is where I went first, and without having to participate in any lessons I was able to pass quizzes to earn a couple of the badges.
There are options to earn general badges for the iPad, to learn about productivity, and to learn ways to integrate creativity with the iPad. There are also badges for specific apps like Pages, Keynote, Numbers, iMovie, and GarageBand. When you select a badge you want to earn, you have the option to go to a Starter Guide with tons of information about apps – I just skimmed through looking for things that were new to me. What I also found interesting about the started guide is that it instructed you on how to play with the app in order to learn to use it better. We all know that we learn better by doing! In addition to the starter guide, there are links to online help for the app, or even options to sign up for a live workshop at the Apple Store. Once you feel like you understand the app, you can take a quiz and earn a badge.
In addition to the original options for badges, once you complete all the badges you earn an official Apple Teacher logo, as well as access to additional learning resources and badges. I wanted to share this with you because I found it interesting.
Have any of you ventured into the Apple Teacher Program in the past? There seem to be tons of great (and free) resources that could be used in the classroom. Share with us if you decide to sign up, and then let us know as you add badges to your collection!
I’m not sure how many of you listen to podcasts, but for me, it’s almost all that I listen to – in the car, on a run, working on the yard – if my earbuds are in, I’m probably listening to a podcast. I used to love to listen to talk radio, but the commercials drove me crazy, not to mention that I had to put up with topics that didn’t interest me to get to the interesting stuff. One of the great things about podcasts – you only have to download the ones you find interesting. If you don’t like a topic, don’t download it. There are a couple of podcasts that I listen to no matter what the topic is. The other day I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible. It’s a show all about design, but looks at it from all kinds of perspectives – sometimes architecture and infrastructure, sometimes history, sometimes visuals, even a series on vexillology, which is the study of flags (I know, I’m a geek!).
One of the most recent episodes was titled “On Average.” Much of this episode is based on the work of Todd Rose, author of The End of Average. One of the things that I found most interesting was that Rose, who is a professor at Harvard, is also a high school dropout. His research on the science of individuality is based on his learning that nobody truly fits the average – more on that later.
So where does the idea of average come from? While there are some mathematical references that go back to ancient history, the first scientific documentation of the idea of averages comes from astronomers in the 16th century. In tracking the orbits of planets, astronomers would scratch the lens of a telescope in 2 spots and keep track of the amount of time it took the planet to move. Astronomers realized that individual measurements could be highly inaccurate based on who was taking them, and other factors. However, by taking many measurements and finding the average, the data seemed more accurate among multiple astronomers.
Fast forward to the 1800s, and a Belgian mathematician named Adolphe Quételet. He decided to take a tool primarily used by astronomers and apply it to people. He started with a data set of thousands of Scottish soldiers, and found that the average chest size of the soldiers was 39 and three-quarters inches. He considered this to be the “true” size of a soldier. Quételet extrapolated this data to say that if all lived in optimal conditions, they would be average. Over time Quételet’s ideas expanded to find the normal rates based on all kinds of data sets – marriages, murders, suicides, etc. Quételet went so far as to say that the individual person was synonymous with error, while the average person represented the true human being.
One of Quételet’s fans was none other than Abraham Lincoln. During the Civil War, Lincoln had the army take data on soldiers to assess them both physically and mentally. The data sets were then used to decide on appropriate food rations, design of weapons, even the size of uniforms. Prior to the Civil War, every soldier received a uniform that was custom made. With the number of uniforms necessary, this was no longer feasible, so the soldiers were broken into average sizes (small, medium, and large) so that uniforms could be mass produced. Today we buy clothes based on sizes that relate back to these measurements from the armed forces.
Average based design became the way for the military, and from the time of the Civil War until World War II, everything built for the military was designed based on the average size of the soldiers. Whether we’re talking about uniforms, bedding, food rations, weapons, vehicles, and as they came into use, airplanes, all were built to specifications that matched the average size data.
During World War II, the Air Force noticed a huge decline in the performance of pilots. As the first air based war, this was a problem. Initially blame was placed on the pilots, then on the trainers. In time, the Air Force realized the issue was the size of the cockpit. The cockpit didn’t fit the pilots. As a fighter pilot, when split second decisions can make a difference between survival, the Air Force saw that they needed to find a new average.
Researchers at Wright Air Force base in Ohio were tasked with finding new averages. Members of the team traveled from base to base taking measurements of pilots on 140 dimensions (some were the obvious – height and weight – while others were much more unique – length of the thumb or the distance from a pilot’s eye to his ear). One of the members of the team was Gilbert Daniels, a recent graduate from Harvard in the field of anthropology. As he was taking the measurements, Daniels started to wonder how many of the pilots truly were average.
Daniels took the data from a set of just over 4,000 pilots. He found averages on the 10 measurements that would be considered the most important in terms of the design of an airplane cockpit and set up norms based on a 30 percent range (the average height in the study was 5-9, so the range was 5-7 to 5-11). He then he went back to the individual data. The assumption going in was that most pilots would fit the definition of the average pilot. When he compared the individual measurements of all the pilots in the data set, he was stunned to find that not one of the pilots fell within the average range on all 10 dimensions. When they narrowed the study to only 3 dimensions, less than 4% of the pilots met all 3.
The research showed that there was no such thing as the average pilot. Instead the data looked a little like this:
In response, the Air Force made significant changes to their design process. No longer would they buy airplanes that had cockpits that were designed to the average. The Air Force banned the average for design of airplanes! Instead they needed planes to be designed to the edges. Prior to World War II, the pedals, seats, helmets, controls, and anything else in a plane was static, it could not be adjusted. Following the results of this study, the Air Force demanded adjustable seats, foot pedals, helmet straps, and more.
When the change was made, guess what happened? Pilots got better! No longer did they have to adapt to the size of the plane. Now all planes can be adapted to the size of the pilot. Think about it, how many of you would purchase a car that did not have adjustable seats, mirrors, or steering wheel? These adjustable features came about thanks to the Air Force’s research on averages.
I know that this post hasn’t gotten into the education implications yet – I promise that’s where I’m going next week. To help next week’s post make more sense, we needed some background information about averages. Next week we’ll get into how the research on the science of the individual translates into the classroom, and what we can do to design education to the edges, not just to the average.
What thoughts do you have? Do you already see a connection between this backstory and your students today? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
The HSE21 Best Practice Model is such a great tool because it reminds us of the fundamental classroom conditions that will help our students be ready for their future. I was recently reading the book Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz and he spent a lot of time talking about active learning. In active learning, we see differentiation, authenticity, relevancy, choice, and collaboration – all important pieces of the best practice model. Think back to your favorite moments when you were in school. What stands out? It’s probably an example of active learning.
When I was in elementary school, both of the 6th grade classes in our building collaborated to write, produce, and perform a musical. I vividly remember working with classmates to write the script, to advertise the show, and to plan the costumes and props for the show. The skills and strategies that I developed in activities like this were ones that I believe helped set me up for success in middle school, high school, and beyond. While I remember moments of passive learning when I was in sixth grade (one of my teachers was the queen of having us copy notes from her beloved transparencies), I can’t recall any details that I may have learned in that format of lesson.
So, how can we integrate more active learning into our classrooms? Here are just a few ideas based on Learn Like a Pirate book:
Simulations – What’s a better way to learn about the Boston Tea Party? Read about it, or take your classroom back to 1773 and have your students simulate the circumstances that led the Sons of Liberty to throw cases of tea into the Boston Harbor? Or you could integrate some science into your social studies by having your students set up a colony in outer space. They can experience creating a government for their colony while also learning about the needs for their planet.
Debates – The collaboration that goes with a debate can be amazing. If you pick a topic that would have more than 2 sides, you can break your class up into several different groups with different topics, keeping the groups small enough that all play a role, while also large enough that you can put mixed ability students together. Solarz does alternative energy debates with his students. He plays the role of President, while his students are the advisors trying to convince him that their energy plan is the best. While this topic may not resonate with you or your curriculum, there are many other debatable topics that could tie to your standards.
Science Fair – This is something that has gone out of style, but why? In a time where we are shifting to STEM classes, and at a period in time when so many of our kids don’t do hands on science projects like previous generations, this seems like a no brainer. The issue I had with the science fair’s old style was that it was typically done as homework. The last time I had my students do a science fair, we did everything at school. Students were asked to bring in poster boards, but I tried to provide most of the other resources they needed (sometimes we had to get creative). Kids assisted one another on their projects, and were truly excited to share their findings at the end. I was able to provide feedback, help with data collection, and teach mini-lessons as necessary. The best part – I knew it was all done by the student on a relevant topic of their own choosing. A variation on this could be an invention fair, or a coding fair, or anything else you might imagine that lets students be actively involved in inquiry.
Project-Based Learning – A trend in education, and one that I was guilty of when I was still in my classroom, is that we teach a unit, and then at the end of the unit students complete a project to show their learning. What PBL asks is that we teach through the project. Once you have your basic idea planned, students choose their more specific project and dig in. Throughout the unit, mini-lessons can be taught on content, procedures, or skills that students need to go further in the process. As a teacher, you are continuously checking in with students, seeing where they are and where they are going next, providing feedback, and deciding if there are topics that you need to build a mini-lesson around. While we’re giving students choice and freedom, you are allowed to set some parameters up front. PBL doesn’t mean setting the students free to do whatever they want, there have to be some class norms and expectations in place first. Think of these expectations as the guardrails to keep your students in the right lane, and heading in the correct direction! If you’re looking for good PBL resources, the Buck Institute for Education (bie.org) is a great resource!
Technology – Sometimes integrating some tech into a passive lesson is just what it takes to up the level into an active learning opportunity. Don’t just use technology for the sake of saying that you’re using technology. Use technology when it is the best tool for the job. Remember, HSE21 is not, and has never been, about technology, the iPad, OneDrive, or any of the many apps that are used around school. However, when we find technology that truly improves or transforms what we’ve been doing, don’t hesitate to add it to your lessons.
Reader’s Theater – This is such a great way to work on oral reading fluency. Students get to practice their part several times with their group. During that time they can practice pronouncing difficult words, learn to project their voice, add inflection, and enunciate. Depending on your goals, it could be a single day activity, although students don’t have as many opportunities to practice and they may not be able to create props to go with their performance. On the other hand, you could do a multi-day activity where students are put into groups and roles one day, have time for rehearsals and planning for the performance (props, costumes, etc.) on a second day, dress rehearsals where you can give feedback on props and costumes that aren’t appropriate or necessary on a third day, and then performance day on the last day. If you’re really brave, you could record the performances to put on a YouTube page so that parents can see what their kids are up to at school.
This is not intended to be an all-inclusive list of active learning activities, but is meant to give you some ideas of how to create more active learning opportunities for your students. What am I missing? Are there active learning examples that you use that I didn’t mention? Have you tried (or are you thinking about trying) any of the ideas above? Tell us about your experiences, your thoughts, or your plans in the comments below!
Summertime is one of my favorite times of the year. I’m able to spend more time with my family, play with my kids more, and have the freedom to do some of the things that there just isn’t time for during the school year. With all of that fun, I also make it a point to spend some time learning too. During the school year I don’t always have the time to read the books that have been piling up on my desk, or delve deeply into new ideas and ways of thinking. Luckily, the summertime allows just that.
This summer, in addition to the learning that I did on my own, I was able to participate in a couple of different conferences, and the learning opportunities that were provided to me there continued to reaffirm that we are on the right path. Throughout the posts that I have made to this blog in the past year, I have constantly referenced the Best Practice Model. When we look at the HSE21 homepage, we see the following statement to describe learning in HSE:
We must ensure that our students develop a strong academic edge through experiences with rigorous academic content and effective information, communication, and technology skills. Our students’ future education and career choices require critical thinking, creative problem solving, and the ability to work together with others to successfully compete in today’s world. In HSE classrooms, students think deeply and critically about content knowledge and complex issues. Students regularly collaborate and actively investigate real-world problems. Hamilton Southeastern Schools is dedicated to implementing curriculum and learning opportunities that build the skills and abilities necessary for our connected society. When students graduate from HSE Schools, they will be ready for their future and equipped for excellence. (from http://www.hse.k12.in.us/ADM/academics/hse21/)
So… What does that mean for our classrooms? Here are some things that I think we all should expect to see in a classroom:
Voice – In the summer before my senior year at IU, I took a class, and the mantra of my professor was “Learning is social!” This is just as true today as it ever was. Our students need the time to co-construct their knowledge. They need time to share their learning, and to learn from one another. Empower your students to speak up in your classroom so that they are able to use their voice when they move beyond the classroom.
Choice – Students need as much choice as possible. Allow your students times to choose what they learn, how they learn, what they produce as a result of their learning, etc. How many of you struggled early in your undergrad years, only to do much better as you moved along in college? Why does this happen to so many? It’s because as a freshman or sophomore in college, so many of your courses are prerequisite, not something you chose, rather something you are required to take. What happened as you got into classes that were more directly related to your degree? If you’re anything like me, you did much better. These are the things you were interested in and the learning was more relevant for you. The choices we give students helps make their learning more relevant!
Time for Reflection – John Dewey is quoted as having said “We do not learn from experience; we learn from reflecting on experience.” That time for reflection is so important! We need to be intentional in building that time in for students, and we also need to build it into our own practice! I know classrooms are busy places, and we are busy people, but a few minutes of reflection allows us to really think about and understand what we have learned.
Opportunities for Innovation – When our students are passionate about something, the learning never stops. If our students are playing a video game and get stuck, they aren’t going to give up – they’ll find a way to beat it (maybe a YouTube video, help from a friend, a cheat code, etc.). How can we create that attitude for learning? Help students to find the curiosities in your subject matter, or give the students the time to explore their curiosity, and then let them innovate in that space!
Critical Thinkers – One of the hallmarks of the educations system has been the idea of compliance – this came about as part of the factory model of education. This factory model and expectation of compliance does not allow our students to be critical thinkers. Our students need to be taught how to respectfully ask questions and challenge ideas of others for the sake of helping us all move forward. Hemingway once said that “Every man should have a built in automatic crap detector operating inside him.” Our students need this skill in these days of social media and internet hoaxes.
Problem Solvers/Finders – While at a Pure Genius workshop this summer I heard a story of a high school student who saw that families who were part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) who were often unable to use their benefits to purchase healthy food for their family. The student began working with the Noblesville Farmers Market to find a way to allow families to use their SNAP benefits at the farmers market. As part of her project, the student created wooden coins that she designed and printed using technology available to her at Noblesville High School. Now families can take their SNAP card to the farmers market, swipe the card for the amount of benefits that they wish to use, and receive market currency in that amount to be spent on items at the farmers market. One thing I know about most kids – they recognize things that they feel are not just. Allow them to identify those problems, and create learning opportunities in the classroom that allow students to find solutions to the problems they see in our world! Then, help them take that learning outside of the classroom.
Self-Assessment – Earlier I talked about the importance of reflection – on the day to day level, that reflection allows us to better understand new information, but on a long term level, that reflection allows us to see our own growth. A portfolio is just one way that students can look back and see their own growth. Students can see where they were and how far they have come. It is a valuable skill for all of us to be able to identify our own strengths and weaknesses. We need to provide students with opportunities to assess themselves. What might a digital learning portfolio look like for your class? If you’re struggling to visualize it, let me know and we can try to come up with a plan that would work for your classroom!
Connected Learning – When we encourage students to be problem finders, we might run into some issues. What if the problem that students want to solve is something you know nothing about? You might feel there is no way you can guide them to a solution. That may be true, but in today’s connected world we can use technology to connect to experts who are able to support your student’s learning. Though Twitter, Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and others, our students can create connections that allow them to learn. Imagine if your students were connected with students at other levels with more background knowledge, or maybe even with people who have gone much further. Who would you rather learn about space from? A teacher or an astronaut? With social media like Twitter, that astronaut is only 140 characters away! With technology we can teach students how to facilitate their own learning.
In addition to all these factors, there is at least one other factor to success for our students in the future. Our students need to be good people. I don’t care how smart you may be, if you are unkind and disrespectful you will never find the same level of success. In most schools we talk to students about their actions as a choice. Remind them that it is always important to choose kind (if you follow me on Twitter, you will see the hashtag #choosekind a lot this year!).
What have I missed? What can you expand upon? Keep the discussion going in the comments below! Enjoy your remaining weeks of summer, and be thinking about what you can do to make your classroom the best environment possible for your students!
Earlier this summer I finished reading the book The Innovators Mindset by George Couros (@gcouros). One of the things that I loved about the book was his use of his website and blog as a way of linking to important information that tied to the chapter you had just completed. On his website you find a page dedicated to each chapter of the book. It has a brief overview as well as links to additional reading (typically blog posts or new articles), as well as video resources. One of the links led me to the video below titled “An Open Letter to Educators.” Take a moment to watch the video:
A few thoughts after watching:
If a strong education is the key to success, what does that education look like in this day and age?
Does the current institution of education get our students prepared for a successful future?
How has “free” information changed your life? How might it continue to change the lives of your students?
If, as Dan Brown says “education isn’t about teaching facts, it’s about stoking creativity and new ideas” and one of your primary goals should be to “empower students to change the world for the better” then I wonder what our classrooms need to look like? What are we getting right? What aren’t we getting quite right yet?
For me, I see collaboration, student choice and student voice, authentic and meaningful learning, inquiry based activities, and opportunities for our students to apply their learning beyond the classroom as keys to help meet these needs for our students.
What do you see as the keys to success for your students? How is your classroom currently meeting the needs of your students? In what ways is your classroom still falling short on meeting those needs of your students? Share your thoughts in the comments below! If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration, I highly recommend The Innovators Mindset as a way to help you find opportunities for innovation!
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. ~John F. Kennedy
If I were to ask you to write a mission statement as a teacher, what would you write? If it could only be one sentence, what are the things that would be most important for you to share in your beliefs about our students? For most of us, I think somewhere in there we’d say something about preparing our students for the future. That means we have to think about what the future may hold. I know I’ve shared the quote below, but remember what Thomas Friedman says about today’s workers:
While we may not know exactly what the future may hold, we know that there are some things that our students probably will not be doing much of in the future. Stop and think for a minute – when was the last time you wrote a five paragraph essay? ELA teacher please don’t hate me for saying this, but really, when was the last time you needed that skill? I say all of this knowing thatwhen I last taught ELA, we always had at least one research paper that was submitted in the five paragraph format. Now, I agree that there are aspects of a five paragraph essay that are essential – being concise in our argument, having a clear structure for our writing, etc., but are there other formats of writing that could allow us to teach these same skills and at the same time be innovative?
What about another one of those writing activities that appears in many classrooms (including mine in the past) – the newspaper article. Now, I will say that I have a subscription to the Indy Star, and while I can’t say that I ever read it cover to cover, and that there are some days that I don’t get to it at all, I do love having the option to sit down and read the paper. However, the statistics on print media are noticeable. I did a quick google search and found the charts below. There’s less money coming into print media in the form of ad revenue, and the number of workers employed in newspaper publishing has been in pretty steady decline.
Now, I may be ruffling a few feathers here – and by no means am I saying that I think our students should never write a five paragraph essay or a newspaper article, but given the probable lack of a need for those skills in their future, what might be more valuable ways for our students to spend their time? Two things that come to mind – blog posts and copy writing.
More and more, newspapers are trying to reach readers in formats other than print media. I see IndyStar writers pop up in my Twitter feed sharing copy trying to get people to click the links and go the their site. I see news articles online that are formatted more like a blog than a newspaper. Two ways to help our students be able to reach the greater world would involve writing blog posts (like what you’re looking at right now), and learning a little about copywriting (the art and science of writing words used on web pages, ads, promotional materials, etc., that sells your product of service and convinces prospective customers to take action). Now, I know that our students aren’t trying to sell things, but the skills of writing good copy will help our students be better overall writers.
Throughout the year you have heard us talk about the HSE21 best practice model. You’ve also seen examples of the “Less of this, more of this” charts. Again, I’m not saying we should throw out the five-paragraph essay or the newspaper article. But we also need to think with an eye towards the future. What types of writing will be the most valuable for our students when they leave school and move on to a career?
Think about it, a student in your class could write a blog post on something they have been learning about. Other students (or teachers, parents, family members, or maybe even experts in a given field of study) would be able to read and respond in the comments to their thinking. Students would be able to share their blog site with their friends and family members. Parents wouldn’t have to ask the dreaded “What did you do at school today?” because they could have looked at the most recent blog post and say “I saw in the most recent post to the blog that you are learning about …, tell me more about that.”
It’s also been proven through study after study that ELA scores are impacted most by reading and writing across the curriculum (teaching reading and writing skills should not only be the job of the ELA teacher). What a valuable expression of learning it would be for our students to write a blog post about their experiences in math, art, science, or gym (or any other subject!!!). And another great thing about blog posts – they don’t have to be just words. WordPress (and most other blog sites out there) will allow pictures, video, and audio, and if I really wanted to, I could create an entire post from my WordPress app on my cell phone or my iPad.
What are your thoughts on student created blogs? Can you see a way that you could enrich the learning of the students in your class through writing about it? What about copywriting? Curious how it could fit into the writing activities you are already doing? Wanna talk more about this? Share your thought below. We can find a structure to make it work in your classroom!
Many of you may know that one of my personal passions is cooking. I learned to cook basic things when I was in elementary school. When I was in 4-H I had multiple county fair champions, and sent a few things to the State Fair. In our house now I do most of the cooking because it’s something I enjoy doing. Over the years I have developed my “favorite” meals that I have found out there and adjusted to suit my tastes, or the tastes of my family. Last fall however, I noticed that I had a series of 10-12 things that we were just cycling through. It was hard to choose anything to cook because I was getting bored with the options I had. I needed something new. Then, I happened to be listening to an interview of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, the author of The Food Lab, and I knew I had to get his cookbook. The guy was a self-described science nerd who became a chef and uses the scientific method to perfect his recipes – sign me up!
The book is almost 1000 pages, includes awesome step by step pictures and instructions for hundreds of recipes, along with scientific descriptions of what happens during the cooking process, explanations of experiments to find the best option in preparing certain dishes, and suggestions for home cooks to be able to carry out techniques that normally are reserved for professional kitchens. In the several months that I have had the book, we have upgraded our meals in the Behrman household. The only complaint? I think I need to run a few extra miles every week with the food we’ve been eating (it’s been hard not to have a second serving with most of these meals!).
Now, some of you may be wondering what this has with a PLN, but I promise, I’m going to try to make it connect. When you think about what you need to grow as an educator, what comes to mind? Jot down the top 3 things that you think of. Really… Take a moment to jot down those top 3. This post will still be here when you get it done.
Now, if I were to poll you, there would be a massive variety of choices that would make it impossible for any administrator to come up with a school PD plan that would meet the needs of all of you. Instead, here’s what I suggest– think about your passions, your areas of continued growth, and get learning! You could talk to your colleagues about things you’re interested in. There are tons of experts within your building and throughout your district. If you’re looking for someone to help you in a specific area, ask around. Maybe your administrator can point you in the right direction. By sharing our knowledge and sharing our curiosities, we can become an environment that encourages lifelong learning.
You know when you find something exciting! You know when you have an idea that you just have to try out! Just like I became excited about new cooking with The Food Lab cookbook, you can find your own ways to grow as an educator, and hopefully the rest of this post will help with that!
A couple weeks ago I shared links to some education hashtags for Twitter (click here to go back to that post). See if there are any that tie to your 3 things you jotted down earlier – want to learn more about standards based learning? #SblChat might be perfect for you! Interested in educational technology? Check out #edtech! For things specific to your grade level, you might want to check out #5thchat (5th grade chat) or #6thchat (6th grade chat). If Twitter isn’t your thing, you might try a search on Pinterest (yes, even I have an account!). You can also search Facebook, and often you can find great videos on YouTube that may help you learn.
If you aren’t quite sure what you want to learn about, then you might have to take some other steps to find a path – you could ask your students what you should learn next. Find out what interests them, what learning methods work for them, or what they’d be excited to do. You could also check the blogosphere. You’ve heard me reference blogs in the past – blogs like Edutopia, A.J. Juliani, Cult of Pedagogy, and The Cornerstone for Teachers are a few that I like. Most of the blogs I have found have been through links from blogs I already followed. If you find a blog you like, subscribe, or use Feedly as a single place to keep track of them all!
I know that some of you may be thinking that it’s the end of the year and you don’t want to mix anything up. Think about it though – wouldn’t it be better to try something totally new with a group of students you already know, as opposed to trying it with a new group of students you don’t know yet? Isn’t it easier to make adjustments to your teaching when one of the variables – students – is a known quantity? Don’t put the pressure of learning something new on your future self! There is no better time to try something new than right now!
Finally, one suggestion that might make some of us a little uncomfortable – seek out people with beliefs that might be different than you. Being brave enough to learn from those who challenge you can be one key to your continued growth. Find someone who challenges you and talk with them with the purpose of understanding their thinking, not getting it to line up with yours – you might learn from them, and they might learn from you.
What things have you learned through your professional learning network? Share with us in the comments below! We’d love to hear about it!