January 3

Read Aloud Already!

Returning to a subject I touched on in this post. I love books.I love reading. I read to my own children, a lot! I realize not everyone loves reading (sad face). Nonetheless, as a parent and/or teacher, it is highly important to read to children.

Reach Out & Read reports that reading aloud “[b]uilds motivation, curiosity and memory,” larger vocabularies (correlated to later academic success), and “[h]elps children cope during times of stress or anxiety.” In spite of these and a number of other benefits, only half of parents read to their children daily, and only ten percent read to their children from infancy.

Not surprisingly, children in poverty are read to less often than children not living in poverty. Regardless of the socio-economic environments our students come from, we need to read aloud to our students. As Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook (one of my favorite resources) says, “[r]eading to children costs nothing! No matter how poor the community, it costs nothing for a teacher to read to a class. They take their library card, borrow a book, and then read to the class. Money has nothing to do with it.”

My last conscious memory of being read aloud to was in fourth grade. After lunch and recess. It was hands-down the best part of my school day. I delight in paying it forward.

January 1

Gists

There was a lot of chatter going on in my Twitter feed this morning, beginning with my friend Terry’s post “Let the Adjacency Begin: MYOB, Brightsiders!” Terry helpfully details his process for creating his short video. Sarah jumped into the conversation with her own “MYOB,” complete with details of her process. On the surface, one could declare that the two processes were different. However, in effect the processes are quite similar, it is just that the tools used were different. Kevin (as he is wont to do), decided to out-clever everyone and remixed Terry’s work with some additions.

In the meantime, in an adjacent conversation, Terry and I discussed real-life situations related to his post about this article, which describes some ways in which education and relevant learning are currently poles apart. After some yakking back and forth, and intertwined contributions from Ron and Sheri, Terry posted a #smallpoem about “précis” and “gist.”

I haven’t done much in the mix/remix arena for awhile, so decided to make my own creation, using pieces of Terry’s poem. My process:

  1. Upload an image to Canva.
  2. Add some text to the image.
  3. Download the result.
  4. Remove the text from the image and add some other, placing them in a different location.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 a few times.
  6. Import the similar-yet-different-images into Movie Maker.
  7. Add some animations.
  8. Find free music to add.
  9. Publish.
  10. Upload to YouTube.
  11. Embed in this post.

 

January 1

Goodreads Finisher!

Phew, I did it. Finished my 100th book of 2018 just a few minutes ago. Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives, by Tim Harford, was a wonderful selection to end with. It was both different and broader in its scope than I expected.

I anticipated an analysis of messiness in the creative process, and how it leads to richer results. Harford does delve into that topic, and also explores a host of others. For example, how the German general Erwin (aka The Desert Fox) Rommel’s willingness to make “messy” tactical moves brought success. And how Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos’ willingness to “messily” sell what he didn’t have, and to buy toy merchandise at retail price from Toys R Us and Target to meet customer expectations, brought long-term success.

I felt particularly vindicated in the chapter that declares messy desks are actually more functional and efficient than tidy ones. Harford also substantiated my approach to finding emails, stating that “clicking through a[n email] folder tree took almost a minute, while simply searching took just 17 seconds.” [p. 240]

The final chapter of the book discusses a topic I’ve brooded about some. Entitled “Life,” it explores (among other things) the idea that “tidy” playgrounds are actually more dangerous, and far less effective at building positive human traits, than “messy” playgrounds which include things like fires, hand saws, and tons of rubbish.

A recommended read!

P.S. Online dating is a sham.

December 30

Books, Reading, and Nostalgia

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am sprinting to finish my 100-book Goodreads challenge for 2018. Last night, I was perusing my home’s bookshelves looking for a particular book (which I still haven’t located). In the process, my eyes swept over the shelves that contain remnants of the scads of books I read to/with my children when they were young.

Which brought on a bout of nostalgia. I read to my children practically from birth, and am always aghast when I encounter new parents who proclaim they will start reading to their child when s/he starts talking. I’m never quite sure what the right reaction is. I don’t want to “lecture” people and get their backs up, and at the same time my heart cries for those babies who are missing out. As a May 2017 Psychology Today article reports, “[r]eading to babies as young as six months of age leads to stronger vocabularies and better early literacy skills four years later…” In my mind, six months of age is still a late start!

[r]eading to babies as young as six months of age leads to stronger vocabularies and better early literacy skills four years later

My older son was a book lover from an early age. As I scanned our bookshelves, memories flooded back of sitting snuggled together reading book after book, him totally wrapt, begging for more. Shortly after revisiting this time in my life, I read Anna’s post on the Meditative Pace of ReadingHer musings relate to adult reading, particularly longform fiction. Knowing she has a newborn at home, I invite her to also start considering all those delightful stories she can share with her child!

Some that were favorites in my house:

Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson
Everything Dr Seuss
Everything Eric Carle
The Giving Tree (and his poetry books!), by Shel Silverstein
Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown
Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion
Mr Gumpy’s Outing, by John Burningham
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
The Water Hole, by Graeme Base
Where the Wild Things Are (and many others!), by Maurice Sendak
White Rabbit’s Colors, by Alan Baker

December 30

Mentorship and #PBL

I am madly reading (reading madly?) in order to achieve my 2018 100-book goal that I set on Goodreads. I was in a 10-book deficit position a few days ago, and am pleased to report I have only four left. I must acknowledge I have made a couple of recent visits to the library looking for “skinny” books to make the task seem more realistic.

In the process, I also worked through a few books that have been on my “I need to read this” list for a while. One of them is Teach to Work, by Patty Alper. An accomplished businesswoman, Alper is also a board member of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, which promotes focused, project-based mentorship as a way to engage students and prepare them for real-world endeavors.

As I note in my Goodreads review, I rated this as a 3.5 because Alper devotes a fair portion of the book to anecdotal storytelling of student successes. The stories are admirable and encouraging, but offer the reader no specific guidance in achieving the same outcomes.

Fortunately, Alper redeems herself with an appendix at the end of the book, which is a “Mentor’s Resource Guide” of organizations that participate in student mentoring programs.

This book also served as validation that project-based teaching and learning, when focused on #realworld projects, is a magnificent way to engage students, and to help prepare them for adult life.

December 28

Rebooting a Consistent Writing Habit

I’m so pleased my #CLMOOC colleague Anna started a conversation about a 150-words-a-day writing challenge. I oftentimes imagine my CLMOOC colleagues to be “perfect,” consistently engaged in connected learning practices, including writing/blogging. In a sense, Anna’s admission of her “failure” was an invitation to (re-)develop the habit of writing consistently. 150 words a day seems achievable.

I find many excuses for my inconsistency. I’m too busy designing and finding resources for my next #PBL (project-based learning) class. As part of that effort, I investigate and learn to use relevant, #realworld technology tools so that I can incorporate them into the projects my Meliora teens develop.

Pondering Thinking Idea by chamaldo shared under a CC0 Creative Commons license.

Simultaneously, in the back of my mind I am often contemplating the possibilities of offering effective PBL courses in an online environment. When these musings come to the foreground, I wander down many rabbit holes pursuing ideas.

I’ve dabbled in becoming familiar with Appreciative Inquiry, and pondered ways it could be applied in education.

I’ve also been steadily working on completing some micro-credentials, including Google Certified Educator Level II. Preparing for the exam requires time and focus.

Then there is the large unfinished work of writing “something,” (it started as a blog post and has morphed into a much larger entity) to demystify the many variations on project-based learning methodologies.

At the end of the day, these are all excuses. One of my objectives as an educator is to reflect on my practice. And, in all honesty, reflexive writings are an effective tool to help clarify and find answers to my various contemplations.

Person Writing on Notebook by Tookapic shared under a CC0 Creative Commons license.

So, I’m in! Now I need to go discover what the dots are all about in #MoDigiWri.

August 31

Unintended Consequences

As I stood among the swirling mob, one of the sixth graders approached me. “Where do I go to get my stuff?” In the crowded entryway, there were several tables, with ranges of letters clearly marked, “A-F,” “G-L,” etc. This student explained his last name started with “N,” and he didn’t know which table was his. As I directed him to the appropriate table, a second student tapped me on the arm. “Where do I go…?”

It came as a shock that these eleven-year-old children didn’t understand alphabetization. I imagined that many (all?) of these students have never used a print dictionary. When they need to know how to spell a word, or to understand its meaning, they sometimes enter a proximal representation into a search engine, and up pops the answer. Or, they right-click on the word within a word processing app, and voilà, the correct spelling and/or definition appear like magic. They often have the additional cue of a red underline appearing each time they misspell a word, so there’s no apparent advantage to actually knowing how to spell. Or the sequence of letters and how they are placed in a dictionary.

Recycle Word Dictionary by PDPics shared under a CC0 Creative Commons license.

This disconcerting realization caused me to consider the ramifications of a generation(s) of students who haven’t learned and practiced alphabetization skills. The literature is rife with studies where memory system capacities, especially working memory, are measured and analyzed using span tasks which appraise the subjects’ ability to recall and sequence information. One such task is alphabetization, in which the subject is given an auditory series of letters and asked to rearrange them into alphabetical order and articulate the reorganized series.

The overwhelming conclusion of these studies is that subjects who are able to manipulate longer sequences have better fluid intelligence, and are more capable in many cognitive domains, including problem-solving, reading comprehension, and ability to confidently navigate complex social situations. Because our brains are “plastic” (neuroplasticity), sequencing abilities improve with practice. In past generations, this practice came regularly, while using dictionaries, memorizing information, mentally calculating sums… With the ubiquitous use of technology tools for these tasks, we no longer practice. I wonder what the fallout is?

Atlas, auto map, folded by Pixabay shared under a CC-BY-SA license.

Another example is our dependence on GPS systems to navigate our world.The conclusions from research done to-date are dismal, such as “using a GPS excessively might lead to atrophy in the hippocampus as a person ages, and this could put them at higher risk for cognitive diseases later in life.” Alzheimer’s, anyone? Researchers have also found that subjects who use spatial navigation (in other words, not GPS) have a greater quantity of grey matter, and score higher on cognition tests.

These are but two examples of how technology innovations have changed how we interact with the world. I don’t want to sound alarmist, because I am very fond of the ways technology has made my life easier, such as finding information for this article! But, I do think there are unintended consequences we haven’t considered. Especially ones that haven’t yet had time to manifest themselves.

July 2

#PBL as Professional Development (Part 6 of 6)

Previous posts in this series: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5.

Evaluation

Once teams are satisfied their solutions are complete, they present them to a public audience. This audience should include all stakeholders: students, administrators, teachers, staff members, parents, other family members, community members, local business leaders, and elected officials such as school board members, city councilors, and state representatives. Experts the teams consulted with should also be included.

During project evaluation, a minimum of these HQPBL principles are being practiced: intellectual challenge and accomplishment; authenticity; public product; and reflection.

The audience participates in assessing the solutions and provides formal feedback to the teams. As such, this step serves as the summative assessment. How well do the project solutions respond to the driving question? How well do they fit within the identified constraints, such as cost and time?

As a final step, the professional development participants reflect on the project successes; individually, within their team, and as a whole group. A preferred way to conduct group reflection is with a structured protocol. This ensures the reflection is purposeful and productive.

All participants also reflect on ways the project design could be improved. This continuous improvement approach results in ever-better quality professional development.

And there we have it. Our professional development participants have completed a full life cycle of project-based learning. Since they have applied the process to meaningful work, and have reflected on their work along the way, their understanding of the concepts, purpose, and steps of the process has increased. When they then use the PBL process in their classrooms, they will feel more confident and capable. Something we all desire in our professional lives.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this process, how you think you could use it in your organization’s professional development, and of course, any suggestions for improvement!

 

April 27

#PBL as Professional Development (Part 5 of 6)

Previous posts in this series: Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4.

Testing

The testing step is where the rubber meets the road! Each team presents their proposed solution to a large public audience, which may include outside experts, administrative decision makers (who may have already participated in the process), and other community members. The audience participates in assessing the solution, providing formal feedback to the team. This feedback serves as further formative assessment.

กลุ่ม ทีมงาน ข้อเสนอแนะ ยืนยัน sprechblasen เมฆ by Pixabay shared under a CC0 1.0 license.

Based on feedback, the team may need to return to the implementation step to further revise their solution. Testing is therefore another iterative step and time must be allocated for at least one revision cycle.

During project testing, a minimum of these HQPBL principles are being practiced: intellectual challenge and accomplishment; authenticity; public product; and collaboration.

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April 19

#PBL as Professional Development (Part 4 of 6)

Previous posts in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Implementation

The Implementation phase is the lengthiest portion of any project, where much of the action takes place. Our #PBL professional development is no exception.

During project implementation, all of the HQPBL principles are being practiced: intellectual challenge and accomplishment; authenticity; public product; collaboration; project management; reflection.

To manage the project development, each team develops a project plan, identifying roles, responsibilities, tasks, constraints and project timeline.

Plan” by Alpha Stock Images shared under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Once this infrastructure is determined, the teams develop solution(s) to their driving question. Required tasks typically include research, consultation with subject-matter experts, prototyping, and collaboration with others, sometimes outside of the team and/or outside of the school.

In order to monitor the robustness of solution development, peer reviews are scheduled on a periodic basis. Critical Friends protocols, such as The Charette provide a structured environment for others to offer constructive feedback to the team. These reviews serve as formative assessments and often lead to modifications to the solution development.

Board Font Problem” by Pixabay shared under a CC0 1.0 license.

Reflection is another essential component of implementation that is conducted on a regular basis. Reflection can be done as frequently as daily, and at a minimum formal reflection should be done at each project milestone. Team members reflect on the project progress, their contributions, and the contributions of the other team members. The reflection process is also useful for the team to examine how well their solution is responding to the driving question. If needed, the team corrects their course.

Reflection Sunset Mirror” by Pixabay shared under a CC0 1.0 license.

Once a (draft) solution is completed, the project team presents it to the whole professional development group for critical review. Ideally, outside experts are also included in the review. The process is the same or similar as in prior peer reviews, a structured session where the audience provides formal feedback to the team.

Based on the audience feedback, each team revises their solution(s). In some cases, this requires a return to the design step, an alteration to the design. An example of this would be where a solution requires different resources than originally identified. The team would need to return to the design and modify accordingly.

As we can see, revision is a frequent and ongoing characteristic of the implementation phase. Implementation is highly iterative, and time must be built into the project schedule to allow for multiple revisions.

Next, we discuss testing our solutions!