Friday 4ALL: 19th Century Methods, 21st Century Learners

It seems education and schooling are at a crossroads. There is still a prevalence of 19th century teaching methods used in a vain attempt to reach children of the 21st century. Videos like the one below demonstrate this point well. (There are many more just like it all over YouTube.) Why do we insist on maintaining the status quo with outdated methodology?

Well, there are some reasons for our hesitancy to adopt new strategies and technologies. For one, this is how we learned and it worked fine for us as well as previous generations. However, we lived in a time that while incredibly different from our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, was probably more like theirs than the world today’s students occupy. The advancement in technologies over the last two decades alone necessitates a new approach to schooling, not to mention the global society in which those technologies have made possible.

Traditional forms of instruction also provide a sense of control that more progressive methods don’t always offer. This is true in a lot of ways, but we have to ask ourselves what our purpose as educators actually is. Our purpose is to insure that our students are learning and not simply to control their behavior for six hours a day. Besides, that sense of control is not limited to traditional classrooms. Classrooms using cooperative learning and project-based lessons can offer as much if not more structure as the traditional classroom. Still, a certain amount of control needs to be given up by the teacher so that students are free to explore, be actively engaged, and not simply taught.

It’s easy to see how different the world is in which our students exist compared to the world in which teacher-directed, content-centered methods were developed. So, why do we so often defer to those methods?

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for direct-instruction or other traditional approaches. We just have to recognize that the students we teach today are not from the same time period as the traditional methods by which they are being taught. It’s time to make that shift to new pedagogy and methodology (if you haven’t done so already).

How are you addressing the needs of a 21st century learner? What 19th century methods could you alter to make more effective with today’s students?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Thursday’s Tip: A Little Guidance Goes a Long Way

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One of the most difficult aspects of teaching is finding ways to insure that all students are successful, not just those who are the most gifted. In our current system of “one-size-fits-all” curriculum, it is hard to figure out ways to help our struggling learners or those with learning disabilities to meet the same expectations as “regular education” students. There are expectations for all students to meet, but some aren’t as well-equipped as others to be successful.

One way to insure your neediest students get the support they require is to provide scaffolding to organize their learning. Many regular education students can also benefit from scaffolding, but they can also often be successful without these tools or can simply create their own scaffolding. Scaffolding could take the form of a graphic organizer or an outline. Sometimes, scaffolding can just be a strategy we give a student to help them with some difficult content.

A teacher with which I work shared a strategy he used in his current events class. Every day, students are required to bring in a summary of a news story to share with the class. One student in the class struggles to keep up with his peers. So, the teacher breaks down what should be included in his news summary. The student is asked to simply provide the who, what, when, why, and where (or the “Five W’s”) of every news story he chooses to share. The student has been successful with this task, something that was not expected. This allows the student to be successful and meet the same expectations as his classmates despite some learning deficiencies.

Scaffolding allows us to guide our students to success, particularly those who don’t have the same abilities as their peers. Using scaffolding strategies can help students reach their full learning capacities by helping them get past any deficits. Guide your students to success by providing them the scaffolding to learn and you may find that they can go further than you or they ever hoped.

What are some ways you use scaffolding to guide your students to greater heights? How has scaffolding helped your special education students succeed? What are some effective scaffolding strategies you have found in your teaching?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

HD_Links: Collaboration with Wikis

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When building a classroom community and investing time in cooperative learning, it is sometimes difficult to also incorporate technology. Even when we do find ways to use technology, it’s often difficult to know the most effective strategies without some trial and error, which can be rather time-consuming.

Well, this week’s set of links provide insight in how you can best use wikis as an online collaborative tools with your students. Wikis are the originators of the collaborative online documents and are still vital to the world of Web 2.0. However, it isn’t always clear how they can best be used in a classroom.

What are some ways you have used wikis with your students? What are some best practices to keep in mind when using wikis? How has a wiki enhanced the learning in your classroom?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Tuesday’s Tool: Seeing Math Interactive Tools

Secondary math teachers often struggle to find ways to make tools in their classrooms such as interactive white boards (IWB’s) useful. This equipment with accompanying software just doesn’t always meet their needs for higher level math. Seeing Math has a solution…well, several solutions, actually.

Seeing Math‘s secondary division provides several cool downloads of applications which can help higher levels of math come alive on your IWB. All of the tools are free and are copyrighted under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL), which means they are available for public use. The tools offered are as follows:

  • Qualitative Grapher – “Highlight the meaning of a function, and see how it can be seen as something changing over time, with this tool that links a motion model to a graph.”
  • Piecewise Linear Grapher – “Highlight the language of domain and range, and the ideas of continuity and discontinuity, with this tool that links symbolic and graphic representations of each interval of a piecewise linear function.
  • Linear Transformer – “Highlight the meaning of each component of a linear function’s symbolic expression with this tool that links symbolic and graphic representations of translating (dragging) a line vertically or horizontally, rotating it around a fixed point, or reflecting it around the x- or y-axis.”
  • Function Analyzer – “Highlight the rationale behind symbolic operations used to solve a linear equation with this tool that displays changes in the graphic and area models of functions as you change the value of each symbolic element.”
  • Quadratic Transformer – “Highlight the meaning of each component of a quadratic function’s symbolic expression with this tool that links symbolic and graphic representations of translating (dragging) a parabola vertically or horizontally, dilating it, or reflecting it around the x- or y-axis.”
  • System Solver – “Highlight how symbolic operations on a system of linear equations do (or do not) change the graphic or tabular representations of the system.”
  • Plop It – “Highlight how changing a data set affects the mean, median, and mode with this tool (created by The Shodor Education Foundation and modified by The Concord Consortium) that allows you to add and delete data graphically.”
  • Proportioner – “Highlight proportion and scale with this tool that allows you to compare image dimensions by using one image to “paint” another.

Seeing Math also includes online versions of these tools as well as sample lessons. For more information on Seeing Math, check out their website.

Have you ever used the interactive tools from Seeing Math? What uses could you see for such tools? How would one use these tools in a constructivist manner?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center and honestly forgets most of what he learned in his high school math courses.

Monday Message: September 26, 2011

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Happy Monday! I just had to post the above comic when it crossed my Google Reader this morning. It brings the Shel Silverstein into a modern context.

Keep in mind that Networked Teaching and Learning comes at you five times a week. We also have a page on Facebook you should like as well as the eMINTS National Center group you should join. You can also follow me on Twitter for another way to stay in touch with eMINTS.

If you would like to contribute to our blog, click on the the link under “Contribute” to the right. It will take you to a form where you can submit resources, ideas, or even an entire blog post. In the meantime, feel free to participate here on the blog by leaving comments.

Have a fantastic week!

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

4ALL: The Respect Issue

BMS classrooms
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eLearning online course designer Candy Lindsey shared this article from Educational Leadership and had this to say:

All teachers as some point in time feel that respect is an issue in their classroom.  An article in Education Leadership shares stories about when disrespect turned into respect.

The stories shared in the article are encouraging anecdotes of educators turning the tables on disrespectful behavior. Suggestions given include keeping one’s cool, focusing on kindness, and never giving up. Each anecdote is short but powerful in demonstrating just how teachers can take back some power in those situations where parents and/or students feel it’s okay to show disrespect.

An example of the kinds of stories is below:

Show How Respect Looks

During my last year working in an elementary school, I worked with a 6th grade teacher to address her students’ blatant disrespect. We began by focusing on body language. We practiced “poses” and discussed what each one conveyed. I would ask for a specific attitude, such as “bored,” and the class would show it by how they sat or slouched in their seats. We agreed that slumped stature and rolling eyes were not ways to show respect. We then discussed word choice and tone. Combining their knowledge of body language, tone, and word choice, the students worked in groups to produce two skits for different scenarios. One skit showed how it looks when a person does not show respect; the second demonstrated how different the situation can be if a person does show respect. The students enjoyed the experience, and expressions of disrespect decreased in the classroom.

—Liz Shockey, literacy specialist, Smekens Education Solutions, Warren, Indiana

Although the seasons have changed, it is not too late to foster an environment of respect in your classroom. Read the stories in this article and search for ideas that will work in your classroom. There is so much good information straight from educators that it’s hard to imagine there’s not something in there that can help any teacher struggling with a disrespect issue.

What are practices you employ to institute respect among your students? What part does classroom community play in improving respect? Which anecdote is most helpful to you?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center and he can always count on Candy for some good teaching resources.

Thursday’s Tip: Another Way to Teach Colonial America

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As we all know, America was once the new frontier, a land marked for colonization by our European ancestors. Like any real estate or development venture, it has to be sold to potential investors or customers. Of course, in those days, this may have been a flier posted in a public square or an entrepreneur selling his ideas to the King.

What would happen if we had to sell the idea of building settlements and harvesting a new continent’s resources with today’s marketing tools? How could we convince people to pack up their belongings and move across the ocean to begin a new life? This is the angle I would take in teaching colonial America.

Advertising, marketing, and public relations firms would be chomping at the bit to sell a clean slate North America to colonial-era Europe. Advertising would focus on the many attributes the “New World” had to offer. A marketing team might consider strategies for different audiences. They would prepare presentations for kings that played on their desire to expand their global reach while selling a chance at riches for entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, PR firms would be concerned with ways in which to spin mysterious natives, harsh treks across the sea, and the constant threat of illness.

Creating marketing and advertising strategies would encourage students to learn more about colonial America than typically possible by simply reading a text book. They would have to fully explore Europeans’ motivations for colonizing the Americas as well as the many obstacles they encountered.

Through these roles, students could create some pretty creative products to demonstrate what they learn. Such a project provides opportunities to create advertisements in various forms, including but certainly not limited to fliers, TV and radio ads, promotions, celebrity endorsements, or all the the tactics modern advertisers use to sell products and services. This is where a suspension of reality must happen so that students can create freely.

Some resources that might make this unit doable:

Other topics that might fit this model:

  • Promote the Freedom Riders
  • Advertise the settings and events in novels
  • Create ad campaigns promoting creation and evolutionary theories
  • Market an investment strategy

What some other topics that you could have your students advertise? How would you structure such a lesson idea? What’s another idea you have for teaching students about Colonial America?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. Be on the lookout for future “Another Way to Teach…” features.

HD_Links: Roundup

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As with the list of online tools for Tuesday, today’s links are a roundup of some of the best articles on the internet that you should be reading…

EdGalaxy is offering to buy your teacher resources and lesson plans. That’s right. You can actually profit off of the hard work you put into teaching your students…I mean, other than your actual salary. To submit a resource or lesson plan, go here to EG’s submission form.

We’ve provided resources for creating infographics before, but Wild Apricot my have just created the mother of all how-to-make-infographics blog posts. In the post, blogger Rebecca Leaman points readers to some good resources for creating infographics as well as some useful tools.

Although several years old, this piece on standards-based grading just appeared in my Delicious feed. Author Patricia L. Scriffiny presents seven reasons to make the switch to standards-based grading that no educator can argue. Along with her reasoning, Scriffiny provides some concrete examples sure to convince any skeptics of this new direction in grading.

Larry Ferlzzo is a regular contributor at Education Week. He invited some contributors to take on the issue of perceived disrespect directed at teachers these days. Some of the insights are rather thought-provoking and invite more contributions to the discussion.

Dan Meyer of dy/dan points us in the direction of this really interesting piece on relating math to the real world. Shot down are our typical answers to the question “When are we going to have to know this?” Samuel Otten breaks down each type of real-world example we typically give students and provides an idea for changing the way we teach math in order to make it more real world for our students.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Tuesday’s Tool: Online Tool Roundup

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This busy week has caused me to fall behind with the posts. So, for the online tool feature, I will give you five six for the price of one. Enjoy…

Students have a difficult time putting into context statistics involving large numbers of people. The BBC now offers How Many Really?, an online tool that allows one to put historical and current statistics in a context students can better understand. There are options for using Facebook or Twitter lists for comparisons, but one can also enter their own number of people (maybe a classroom’s worth) in order to see how these statistics would play out in a smaller, more manageable context. One could visualize how many of their Facebook friends would have died at Gettysburg or how many would be homeowners.  via Larry Ferlazzo,  via Infosthetics)

SafeShare is the tool for which schools weary of questionable YouTube content have been searching. With SafeShare, teachers can enter a YouTube URL and the tool will filter out ads, related videos, and comments. This makes YouTube a much safer resource for the classroom.

WikiHow has always been a fantastic resource for the how-to’s for almost anything. WH’s list of commonly misused words is just one example of how this site can be used as a help tool for your students. The list links to easy-to-understand anecdotes and definitions that explain when and where a word is best used. Now, there’s a simple way to explain the difference between “affect” and “effect.” (via EdGalaxy)

Chrome Experiments brings us the Web GL Globe, a tool that allows us to visualize world data in a prety slick, 3-D image of the earth. There are a few globes already submitted on the site, but it is easy to grab the Java Script and insert your own data sets.

Moritz Stefaner has created a fantastic real-time visualization tool of Twitter content. Simply enter any topic and the tool demonstrates what’s being said on Twitter in a constantly-updated timeline. It’s easy to keep up with nearly any trending topic with this tool.

Over the last few days, new tool to help with classroom management has been floating around the eMINTS discussion list. Class Dojo is an online tool that allows teachers to keep track of both positive and negative behaviors during class. Students might be rewarded for participation or helping others. Conversely, a teacher can track negative behaviors such as disruptions or missing homework. Data is collected in nice inforgraphics for the entire class as well as individual students. This data can then be easily shared with stakeholders for each student. One can even remotely record data with a smart phone, although no app seems to be available at the moment.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.