Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cover the Material - or Teach Students to Think


The Feb 2008 issue of Educational Leadership features an article titled "Cover the Material - Or Teach Students to Think?," written by Marion Brady.  The author questions the logic of adding "rigor" and high standards to the curriculum at the expense of teaching students to think.  The author believes that old answers rarely fit in eras of rapid social change, and that adaptation to changing realities require higher-order thinking skills.  Textbooks do not help develop higher-order thinking skills, because they represent the final conclusions of other people's thoughts and processes. 
Traditional instruction is more concerned with the study of opinions about the real world than with the study of the real world itself.  Internalizing others' views required just one thinking skill--recall.  Trying to make sense of one's own day-to-day experience requires the use of every known thinking skill.

Education leaders can take a crucial step toward getting students to use higher-order thinking skills by drawing a sharp line between firsthand and secondhand knowledge.  The best way to do this is to focus attention directly on some part of the real world. 

Our students need to have opportunities to make their own inferences,  hypotheses, generalizations, and value judgements.  Gobal collaborative projects such as the Roadkill 2008 Project (sounds gross, but you need to look into it... I heard about it on EdTechTalk this week), projects such as Cheryl Lykowski's Global Explorers project, and Technospud Projects would fit the bill. 

A few classrooms in Walled Lake are participating in The Oakland Schools Land Use Project, where students come up with a development idea that would improve their community.  They collaborate with local experts who push them to think about concepts such as the impact on the environment and the people, and local zoning ordinances.  The students survey their community to determine the need, calculate costs, and identify benefits and challenges.   They present their idea to the county experts by videoconference.  The project has meaning to the students and they are learning to think!

I agree with the author, who believes that a focus on real-world issues can alter the entire culture of a school or a school system.  It is relevant.  It shows respect for the students.  Tim Tyson, former principal at Mabry Middle School (Georgia) gets it.  His students all participate in a film festival where they create videos based on a current events issue.  Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see some examples.  Principal Tyson delivered the closing keynote address at last year's NECC Conference; it has been 8 months and it is still fresh in my mind.  He brought students with him who talked about their experiences doing their research, creating their video, and their feelings about making the world a better place.  It was highly motivating to them.  There is no doubt in my mind that the skills developed as a result of that project are the kinds of skills that are needed in today's working world. 

What can we do (and what needs to be done) to give more emphasis toward teaching students to think in a time when our country is so focused on standards and testing?  I am doing what I can in my school district in Walled Lake, but I know that there is so much more to do.  One of the things I'm excited about is an 8th grade social studies project that I'm developing right now.  It will be one that ALL 8th graders (about 1,200) will complete, and it involves students collaborating to create projects that requires them to think!   They will participate using Moodle, an on-line course management system.  Pulling this off requires lots of time, teacher staff development, tech troubleshooting, and advanced planning.  Hopefully the teachers will soon agree that time spent on a project like this is worth the time away from "covering the material."  Only time will tell.

Monday, February 18, 2008

MACUL Conference Session


This is a cross-post from the MACUL blog and the MI DEN blog.

I've been off this week for mid-winter break, and have spent lots of time preparing for my MACUL presentation. I have a few book studies that I facilitate, focusing on Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works. During my session, I'll be sharing how I structure and facilitate my book studies, along with all the materials I use.

Most everyone probably knows about Marzano's nine instructional strategies that improve student achievement, according to thousands of research studies (Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement). This new book shows how technology can support the nine strategies. I thought about writing a similar book about a year ago... wish I had acted quicker, as the authors beat me to it!

My session will be on Thursday, March 6, from 2:30-3:30pm. I'll be sharing some on-line and printable resources that participants can use for their own book studies. K-12 teachers may learn about some ready-to-use tips and strategies that can make a positive difference for student learning. Hope to see you there!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Meme: Passion Quilt

Pam’s goal for All Students

Derrall Garrison tagged me on a new meme, called "Passion Quilt" that originated from Miguel Guhlin.

Miguel wants to create an edublogger passion quilt, with lots of contributors; one image per person.  The image should be one that captures what we most passionately want children to learn in school...from our particular perspective.  I created my own simple drawing in PowerPoint and saved it as an image.   

Here are the 3 rules for this meme:

  • Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about...and give your picture a short title.

  • Title your blog post "Meme: Passion Quilt" and link back to this blog entry.

  • Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.

The five people I am tagging from my Twitter network are:

  1. Langwitches

  2. Opening Minds

  3. Stirring Up the Dust

  4. Pam 2.0 

  5. Bett's Places

If you are too busy, or don't care for these kinds of things, it's OK to not keep it going.  :-)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Did it... bought a Mac

I decided that I needed to be more well-rounded with all ed tech tools and apps. I've done a lot of research and learned that the new Apple computers can run Windows and Mac operating systems at the same time. I purchased a program called Fusion that allows an immediate switch of operating systems. Before I even install Fusion, I want to spend time using the Mac programs. I'm feeling a bit illiterate, not knowing how to do the basics. For example, I keep trying to right-click, and I still haven't figured out how to resize a window to the size I want it.

The school district I work for is strictly a PC district. Therefore, my new computer will most likely stay home for my own personal work and fun. I want to use it for webcasting and for the development of some on-line classes I am working on now for the One to One Institute. I look forward to comparing iMovie to MovieMaker.

Thanks, Julie and Derrall, for helping to get me going and for being there for all my dumb questions!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

MIchigan DEN Virtual Conference

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="432" height="250" wmode="transparent" /]This is a cross post with the Michigan Discovery Educator Network blog.   

What an awesome day!  I just returned home after attending the conference at Doherty Elementary School in West Bloomfield.  The day was a blend of virtual and face-to-face professional development sessions.  Kudos to Cindy Carson, who hosted the event at her school, and facilitated the day, making sure the presenters had what they needed, the food was ordered and delivered on time, door prizes were available to attendees, and other "behind-the-scenes" duties. 

Thanks to MI Leadership Council members Eric Strommer (Flint Schools), Cheryl Lykowski (Bedford Schools), and Pam Shoemaker (Walled Lake Schools) for facilitating breakout sessions.  The opportunity for attendees to ask questions and work with each other was a bonus to attending the conference in person. 

The virtual keynotes and breakout sessions will soon be posted to the Discovery session archive page.  I plan to watch the sessions I did not attend, as I heard they were great! Web 2.0 tools that I plan to also check out sometime soon are posted on Alan Levine's 50 Ways Wiki.