“You can’t separate intellect and feelings in the work of the mind. They’re both there all the time. Real learning—attentive real learning, deep learning—is playful and frustrating and joyful and discouraging and exciting and sociable and private all at the same time, which is what makes it great.” ~ Eleanor Duckworth
Know when to memorize. Know when to mesmerize!
If we want students to learn deeply and efficiently we need to understand the role emotions play in different types of learning. We could spend much time discussing what it means to learn. In fact, Seymour Sarason has a whole book called “And What Do You Mean by Learning?”
Without getting into it too deeply, we could probably agree that we want students to acquire some knowledge, skills and attitudes. So how should kids ‘get that knowledge’? A constructivist approach would suggest that kids need to assimilate information into existing schema or indeed construct new schema to accommodate new information and ideas. Lev Vygotsky might add that this happens best in a social setting.
Should Students Memorize Content?
Other approaches would involve getting students to memorize content or procedural knowledge. While I believe there are times when this is quite appropriate, rote memorization continues to be an overused strategy that is often implemented without a deep understanding of its nuances. It becomes “memorization of decontextualized facts” rather than “active construction of new schema.”
These days, there is a very vocal anti-memorization movement! We hear about collaboration, project-based learning, student agency, constructionism, and passion. All of which I support. I’ve been a fan of passion-based learning since I started teaching in 1970. Somehow it just seemed a matter of ethics and the culture of the day. Kids should love learning and love school. It was after all, the “love, peace and happiness” era.
Passion Constitutes More than Engagement
Passion-based learning has gained more ground recently. Why? Apart from the anti-memorization sentiments, the main rationale seems to be focused on engagement and motivation. Students are more likely to learn if they are captivated, motivated and engaged with the curriculum or projects in hand. We could unpack types and levels of engagement, but I’m sure we’d all agree on this: if the child is deeply engaged in a task there is greater likelihood that she will attend to it better and build requisite understandings and new schema that serve to increase the base of content and process knowledge desired.
But passion isn’t just about the motivational aspect. It’s deeper than engagement.
There are cognitive processes in the brain that are “turned on” by emotion – be that passion, anger, anxiety or other emotions.
Emotions Impact Cognition
Here’s a sampling of thoughts from some great voices:
Eleanor Duckworth suggests that “…you can’t separate intellect and feelings in the work of the mind. They’re both there all the time. Real learning—attentive real learning, deep learning—is playful and frustrating and joyful and discouraging and exciting and sociable and private all at the same time, which is what makes it great” (in Teaching by Heart: The Foxfire Interviews, Sara Day Hatton, 2005, p. 21).
Paulo Freire, the great Brazilian educator, often suggested that we must teach with both our hearts and our minds, while Lev Vygotsky recognized the limitations of trying to explain ‘superior thinking processes’ without addressing the effects of emotion.
Nellie J. Zambrana-Ortiz in Pedagogy in (E)Motion suggests that “emotions color our ideas, move the reason, and stretch cognition.” She says, “Emotions are related to body as well as mind. There is no cognition without emotions, or emotions outside the limits of a cognitive experience, and progressive explanations of human learning and development must take into consideration the fusion of both.”
It’s real now that “science” says so
Why is it not a widely accepted fact that emotions impact cognition and why is it not central to our educational systems? My guess is that all the psychologists, philosophers and educators who have spoken about the centrality of emotions in learning haven’t been considered ‘real scientists’ by our western societies. We tend to like ‘hard’ science.
Well, now we are getting some ‘hard science’ as a result of breakthroughs in neuroscience research.
Antonio Damasio, a great neuroscientist, has researched this phenomenon extensively in recent years and has discovered that emotions are absolutely necessary in the decision-making process. He describes them as the “engine of the limbic system” – our “emotional brain.”
Priscilla Vail in her article “The Role of Emotions in Learning,” says ‘Emotion is an on/off switch for learning…the emotional brain, the limbic system, has the power to open or close access to learning, memory, and the ability to make connections.’
When students are passionately engaged in their learning – when they are mesmerized by their learning environment or activities – there are myriad responses in their brains making connections and building schema that simply would not occur without that passion or emotion.
Much of what we ask kids to “memorize” has little emotional charge to it. Emotions can significantly alter the creation and recall of memories. People are better at remembering information that is emotionally charged – rather than information that is neutral or flat.
So when you are designing learning environments, remember that mesmerization trumps memorization!
There are many studies that describe the ‘bystander’ effect and the ‘good Samaritan’ effect. This research basically suggests that when you are in a crowd, there is a ‘diffusion of responsibility’. There is a well-documented ‘lack of individual responsibility’. It seems that you don’t take action for a variety of reasons. People expect someone else to step up and take action. They may be hesitant to interfere or be bossy and so not take control. People might not want to get involved and so are happy to dissolve into the crowd whereas, if that person was on their own, s/he might step-up because there is a need for someone to do so!
So how does this ‘bystander effect’ relate to students working in teams in a classroom?
As I said in a previous post, Gavriel Salomon suggests that teams do not always function well. Perhaps when you think of kids collaborating on a project, you might see all the kids in any one group negotiating every decision and producing one artifact together. This is often a challenge as you well know. There are many teamwork issues that arise. Gavriel Salomon speaks of the ‘free-rider’ or ‘loafer’ effect where a team member leaves it to others to complete the task. Consider the ‘sucker effect’ whereby a more active member of the team is taken for a free ride by other members. Or think about ‘status sensitivity’ where high-ability or very active members take charge and rule the roost in spite of the others. Others have talked about ‘ganging up on the task’ whereby all team members just divide up the task to get it done as quickly as possible! These are all very common.
What do you do?
So, I am wondering how you design your classrooms, and more specifically, your team-based projects to accommodate these phenomena.
How do you support and encourage individual agency?
What tips and techniques do you have to help others to deal with this ‘loafer effect’?
What might you do at the ‘classroom culture’ level to address this?
Do you teach kids about the impact of crowds on individual behaviour?
The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association has produced this excellent document A Vision for Learning and Teaching in a Digital Age. It is a call to the government of Ontario and to the Ontario Ministry of Education to take a strong leadership position to move the province forward in integrating the technological, and more importantly, the learning and teaching skills necessary for success in this era.
I don’t plan to editorialize here. (Imagine that!) Rather, I want to provide you with just a taste of the opening pages of the vision.
“This paper, authored by trustees and educators across the spectrum of Ontario’s public school boards, seeks to align and consolidate current dialogue to support the Ministry of Education in building a progressive and sustainable provincial vision for learning and teaching in a digital age.”
- Requires a purposeful cultural shift in our education system that focuses on engaging and inspiring our students, that fosters creative and innovative minds and embraces the enabling role of technology in expanding how, when and where learning takes place.
- Is founded on the principles of equity of access and equity of opportunity
- Acknowledges that schools are more than a collection of buildings – they represent a system of learning and a culture where learning and teaching reciprocally drive the use of technology
- Seeks to lay the foundations for creativity and innovation and, through student learning and engagement, shape the future
- Recognizes that we exist in an international environment requiring a global set of competencies and responsible, ethical social practices
- Is centred within a provincial curriculum that reflects these values, aspirations and practices.
Our Vision Rests On the Pillars of:
- Authentic Student Engagement
- Inspiring and Inspired Teachers
- Skills for a Digital Age
- Responsible Digital Citizenship
ITS FOUNDATION IS EQUITY.
Comments from some reviewers:
“A Vision for Learning and Teaching in a Digital Age is a well-considered approach to how and why our education system should embrace technological innovation as an important part of educational strategy for the province of Ontario.”
Martyn Beckett, Council of Directors of Education
“This Vision speaks to me about where we need to go, with student learning and engagement at the forefront, as it should be.”
Brenda Sherry, Technology Coach, Upper Grand District School Board
“An impressive initiative that promotes the value of co-construction of knowledge – kids taking charge of their own learning.”
Peter Skillen, Manager, Professional Learning, YMCA of Greater Toronto
“A Vision that values equity of access, inquiry-based learning, teachers and students as co-learners – an impressive synthesis.”
Royan Lee, Grade 7 teacher, York Region District School Board
The focus on the teacher as a constant learner is one of the best ways to foster the love of learning in our students.”
Jamie Reaburn Weir, Secondary Teacher (English), Waterloo Region District School Board
”“Technology plays a huge role in our day-to-day lives in the 21st century, and it also needs to have an increased role in the classroom. The use of interactive tools allows students to learn at their own pace, enhances their experience and promotes deeper engagement.”
Hirad Zafari, President, Ontario Student Trustees’ Association
TED Talks When is the last time you did absolutely nothing for 10 whole minutes? Not texting, talking or even thinking?
When I was twenty, I became a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation — it is a practice I love – but have not maintained over the years. It used to be seen, in our western society, as pretty flaky – but now that it is being embraced by our western neuroscientists, it might gain some traction. It is time.
See on www.ted.com
We want to thank, and to celebrate, the facilitators at Educational Computing Organization of Ontario’s Minds On Media event held on Wednesday, October 24th.
This year we had a full house of 120 participants and 9 centres! It was a hive of activity and the energy was phenomenal.
We heard many wonderful comments throughout the day, but one we overheard was a teacher saying to her colleague, “I have learned more in the last three hours than I’ve learned in years!”
Another teacher was seen to be leaving the event after an hour, laptop in hand, and we were discouraged! But, she said to us, “Wow! I’ve learned so much I am going to find a quiet spot to put it into practice. I’ll be back!” And she did return – hungry for more!
What is Minds On Media?
Minds On Media (MOM) is a model of professional learning that respects the learner’s ‘desire to know’. Teachers come to learn and we respect their choices in how they wish to do that. We want them to take a ‘minds on’ approach.
Our Core Beliefs
We believe that:
- the locus of control for learning should be in the hands of the learner
- the facilitator must be aware of, and respond to, the learner’s desires, needs and expertise
- the learner should leave empowered to learn further – beyond the MOM event
- there are always experts among us
Facilitators at MOM sessions look forward to, not only teaching but, learning with others. They respect the knowledge and expertise that each person brings to the table.
2012 Facilitators and Their Resources
- Using iPad for Knowledge Construction in the Learner-Centered Classroom – Tanya Morton, @tanyamorton & Natasha Skerritt, @NSkerritt
- Thinking, Learning, Creating – Melinda Kolk, Owner, Tech4Learning: @melindak
- Making Thinking Transparent and Collaborative with VoiceThread – Royan Lee , Teacher, York Region Board of Education: @royanlee
- Using Audio in the K-12 Classroom – Zoe Branigan-Pipe, Teacher of Gifted Grade Seven Class, HWDSB; @zbpipe
- Social Networking with Edmodo – Peter McAsh, Teacher, St. Marys DCVI: @pmcash
- You’re Never Too Young To Learn: Using Technology To Document Student Achievement In The K-3 Classroom – Aviva Dunsiger, Grade 6 Teacher (Have Taught K-2 For 11 Years Previously), Hamilton-Wentworth DSB: @avivaloca
- The Idea Hive Classroom Community: Students Sharing, Creating and Learning Together in Online Spaces – Heather Durnin, Gr. 8 teacher, Avon Maitland D.S.B @hdurnin
- Connecting and Collaborating with Social Media – Kim Gill, Sp.Ed. Teacher, WRDSB: @Gill_Ville
- Discover how to Create an Inclusive Classroom by Infusing Powerful Equity Messages Throughout your Day – Susan Watt, Technology Support Teacher, Waterloo Region DSB: @susan_watt & Trish Morgan, Gr. 5 Teacher, Waterloo Region DSB: @tmorgan1234 Here is the link to our site, with all of the activities, links and resources used in this session >>> Creating an Inclusive Learning Space
Pedagogistas are there to ensure that we don’t get lost in the mechanics of the tools – but rather remind and support us to think deeply about the role of technology in learning and teaching.
- Jaclyn Calder, ICT Consultant, Simcoe County District School Board: @jaccalder
- Doug Peterson, Educator, @dougpete
Below is a letter from Giovanna Mingarelli, the Chair of the Canadian Global Dignity Day committee!
I am SOOOO excited.
It’s my great pleasure to share with you our successful results for Global Dignity Day Canada 2012 moving into our national activities tomorrow.
After much anticipation, we’ve far surpassed our goals for this year with now over 53 schools registered and close to 9,000 students participating in the day from Nunavut all the way to British Columbia. What’s more, tomorrow we join 350,000 students in over 50 countries to celebrate human dignity and to empower all those around us to live with mutual respect, tolerance and kindness.
Tomorrow we will be hosting a national videoconference event on Parliament Hill linking over 1,200 students from across the country to share in the day’s celebrations.
We’ll be joined by our national role models who include: Founder of TakingITGlobal, Jennifer Corriero, NDP MP Niki Ashton, Liberal MP Justin Trudeau, Jeffrey Copenace from the Assembly of First Nations, traditional Inuit researcher, Curtis Konek, Ryan Hreljac, the Founder of Ryan’s Well and our event’s keynote speaker, Wesley Prankard, the Founder of Northernstarfish. While she’ll be in South Korea for the event, a great thanks goes out to Senator Yonah Martin and her office for all of their efforts in supporting tomorrow’s activities. You can tuned in to the video conference from 11:00 – 1:00 p.m. here: http://www.livestream.com/globalencounters.
Our role model videos, now live HERE, will also be aired in classrooms across the country as inspirational messages to teachers and students. Be sure to also check out our new Heroes Trailer, reflecting one of the main themes this year. You can also read more about us in this week’s Hill Times, our Global Dignity article in the Toronto Star as well as my most recent blog post for the World Economic Forum.
I encourage you to tune in tomorrow and to celebrate Global Dignity Day by sharing all of this with friends, family and colleagues in support of this special day. Finally, if you tweet, please support us by Tweeting it to #gdignity.
Thank you for all of your support in recent months – very much looking forward to this!!
Celebrating Global Dignity Day in Canada
October 17, 2012
Dear Teacher, School Leader, Youth Worker!
This is an awesome opportunity to help you teach your students about human rights and dignity.
“The mission of Global Dignity is to implement the universal right of every human being to lead a dignified life. We all have the ability to increase the dignity of others and thus we increase our own dignity. The more dignity we have, the brighter our world will be.”
Global Dignity Day was established in 2005, by HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Operation HOPE Founder, Chairman and CEO John Hope Bryant and Professor Pekka Himanen.
“The Fifth Annual Global Dignity Day is scheduled for Wednesday, October 17th, 2012, and will be celebrated in over 50 countries around the world. This year we build upon the great success of last year’s event during which tens of thousands of youth participated across 25 countries.”
For complete information please visit the Canadian Global Dignity Day site.
Host Your Own Dignity Day Session
You can host your own Dignity Day session at your school. Have a facilitator come in and speak to your students about dignity. Facilitators can be plumbers, health workers, bankers… in short, anyone that want to see young people become their best self can be a role model.
“A typical Dignity Day session lasts about two hours. The facilitator usually starts by telling his or her own story about dignity. Then, the children are asked to define dignity in their own words. After discussing the Dignity Principles, the children tell their own stories in front of the class. Finally, they typically write a letter to themselves stating what they want to achieve for themselves and others through dignity. A year later, these letters are sent back to the students.”
Download These Guides
Please download the complete Facilitator’s Guide for more details on hosting your own Dignity Day event.
Short on Time? Try this Express Guide!
To hold a quick dignity day session, consult the 2012 Global Dignity Day Canada Express Guide(each session within takes less than 30 minutes with very little prep time).
GDD Supports Ontario’s Education Initiatives
It is clear that children and youth everywhere face an opportunity gap. However, the fact that the gap is man-made means that we have control over its size. Educating our students about dignity and empathy will help narrow this gap by fostering school learning environments that are respectful of diversity, and that are caring and collaborative. Global Dignity Day therefore supports Ontario initiatives and documents, such as Growing Success and Finding Common Ground: Character Development in Ontario Schools, by promoting inclusion, safe schools and anti-bullying.
Your support of Global Dignity Day will help us to involve as many students and schools as possible. We hope that you will accept our invitation and join as a participating school of Global Dignity Day 2012!
Please feel free to share this information FAR and WIDE – to your local colleagues and those at a distance. We are a small world now.
For complete information please visit the Canadian Global Dignity Day site.
Follow @GlobalDignity Use the hashtag
Skype in the Classroom! Sweet!
Back in the Day
It was difficult to connect kids electronically when I first started back in 1983. We didn’t have a graphical user interface (GUI)! And the modems! Oh my goodness. Information traveling at the speed of snails! Things got a little easier when old friends, Al Rogers & Yvonne Andres, created FrEdMail.
Three early and successful online learning projects were NewsDay, Tele-Field Trips, and GeoGame. In 1993, FrEdMail became, and still is, Global SchoolNet Foundation (GSN). In 1996, GSN launched CyberFair, GSN’s premier collaborative project. In this collaborative project, students researched their local communities in various categories and published their findings to the Web. This was well before the Read/Write web (Web 2.0) we know today!
I remember Al coming to my school in Toronto in 1995 just as we were having our CyberFair culminating activity. It was so exciting as we connected our students with students in Australia – via CUSeeMe!
Primitive – but awesome nevertheless! And it was deep and meaningful.
Al had just read my publication ThinkingLand–Helping Students Construct Knowledge with Multimedia and we agreed that as these new technologies become popular that there is a danger that they will be used in trivial ways. ‘Connecting for the sake of connecting’ for example – because it’s cool to do so.
Our students deserve more than the cool factor. We want kids to have rich collaborations – to think deeply and to think critically.
“Critical Thinking” has many definitions – depending on the lens with which you see the world!
(I must admit, I am not one that easily holds to the packaging of these kinds of constructs*. However, I find the definitions useful to think more significantly about the notions. Guess I’m being a ‘critical thinker’! ;-) )
Nevertheless, I have spent most of my career focussed on helping kids become better thinkers – both individually and collectively. There are many posts in this blog about all of that!
Having said all that, Skype has a new program available to schools and students. It is called Skype in the Classroom.
Skype in the Classroom
Skype in the Classroom is free and its easy. You can connect with other classrooms with ease. You can join existing projects. You can have ‘experts’ come to visit your classroom. Check it out!
Having an ‘expert’ visit? Here is a link to a PDF based on a ‘critical thinking’ model provided by TC2 – The Critical Thinking Consortium. It will guide you and your students in creating criteria for developing powerful questions to ask a guest whom you might have into your classroom via Skype (or any other way for that matter)!
If you are engaging in student collaboration, then kick it up a notch from ‘social’ conversation to substantive, cognitive collaboration. I have given some thoughts on how to do that in Scaffolding for Deep Understanding.
So, get connected! But do it with a critical eye!
* I often wonder, “Is that construct that we are describing a reality, or are we just making categories because we have language to do so”? Read: James Gleick’s Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood for more about that perspective!
…in collaboration with Brenda Sherry
This post was first published in Voices from the Learning Revolution of the Powerful Learning Practice. It was also published on Mind/Shift as What’s the Best Way to Practice Project Based Learning?
Do you want to engage your students in Project Based Learning (PBL)? Maybe you are asking yourself what is PBL really? Am I doing it right?
Well, first of all, the most important thing to understand is that PBL is a construct made up by human beings and so there are lots of variations! And you are entitled to construct your own version, too, within some parameters.
My suggestion is to study many of the great resources that are available to you and then create your own working definition and effective PBL practice. (I’ve included some of my favourite resources below.)
Some Parameters to Consider
I have created this diagram, enhanced by the critical eye of Brenda Sherry, which may be useful as you consider what is important to you and to your students.
We like to think with the frame of continua rather than dichotomies simply because things are rarely on or off, black or white, ones or zeroes! Flipping from one end to the other may not be the best solution for you! You may choose to slide more in one direction as suits your experience, the student’s experience, the purpose, type of project, and so on.
You could likely add other dimensions to consider as you build your own understandings and beliefs!
Who is in control? Who is initiating the project? Whose passion is being honoured with the project? Who is setting the goals, timelines, and motivation? Are you scaffolding the students’ success through templates, calendars, checklists, rubrics or are you unwittingly stealing their locus of control and micromanaging them. Been there. Done that! Thought I was helping them by giving them lots of assistance!
Who is asking the question to be investigated in the project? The student or the teacher? Is the question a ‘deep, driving question’? Is it a ‘fat’ question or a ‘skinny’ one?
If the projects are collaborative in nature, you may wish to consider the amount of interdependence that students have with one another. Are they merely gluing their parts together to make a whole or do their conversations and co-creations lead to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts?
Is the content a rich, deep problem space or is it a more narrowly focused content area? Are there natural links to other domains that provide a context or is the content deconstructed to remove seemingly distracting and disparate information?
Are the students involved in constructing new meanings and understandings or are they simply retelling in their own words information they have found during their research? Have you built in mechanisms (blogs, wiki, vokis, public journal writing, etc.) so that student thinking is made visible, transparent and discussable or is most student process hidden and unavailable to others?
How authentic is the problem under investigation? Are students ‘being’ scientists, historians or geographers and so on, or are they ‘studying’ science, history and geography? How much is the project based in the real world of the student? Is it purposeful for them?
Great Resources for Project Based Learning
Chart: Effective PBL Continua by Peter Skillen & Brenda Sherry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.