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6
Jul

It’s NOT about the Tools? Really?

It is very much about the tools:

and their impact—both intended and unintended.

Once again, as a result of the ISTE conference, the issue represented by statements such as, “It’s not about the tools, it’s about the pedagogy” has come to the fore. (See Stop It Already by @dougpete and Not Everyone is You by @gcouros.)

I have spoken about this before in “It’s Not About the Tool”—A Naïve Myth.” In that post I share some thoughts related to computers as cognitive partners, ‘effects of’ vs ‘effects with,’ drip effects of technology, blue dye plus water or blue water and other McLuhanist-type thoughts.

As I mentioned there, I understand the intent of these kinds of statements. I believe they arise from the focusing on the skills required to use the tool rather than on the learning at hand. So, yes, that would be an issue. I totally understand that problem. That’s why, in 2002, I presented a session at a CUE conference titled Mindstrokes—Not Keystrokes.

However, it is very much about the tools.

As described in that post, tools shape behaviours. Tools shape cognition. Tools shape societal structures in both intended, and unintended, ways.

caveman-159359_640Let’s face it, eras of humankind have historically been defined by tool creation and use (the Three Age System)! We have the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age. Then came the Industrial Age, and, now, the Digital Era. In fairness, these descriptors vary regionally and are constantly under revision as many cultures use reference to other types of technologies.

So to simplistically say that it isn’t about the tools, is in my opinion, digital age doodoo.

“If the role of the computer is so slight that the rest can be kept constant, it will also be too slight for much to come of it.”

Seymour Papert in Computer Criticism vs. Technocentric Thinking, 1987

17
Jun

Teaching is a ‘Way of Being’ — Part 3

Implications for Professional Learning

So what might be the implications for professional learning? There are four points that stand out for me.

1. Learning Stance

A major difference between Cynthia and Margot (hypothetical teachers referred to in my first blog of these series) is their learning stance. Margot is a progressive problem solver – a seeker of new learning, a questioner. We need to always encourage and cultivate these attitudes and behaviours.

2. Both Pedagogy & Practice

All professional learning opportunities should deeply embed both learning theory and practical applications. Providing techniques and recipes devoid of context – or with a cursory overview of pedagogy is ill-advised. We need to focus on pedagogy and develop deep understandings and beliefs in our teachers. The exemplars and strategies should illustrate and demonstrate excellent practice and should be the basis for teachers to generate their own strategies.

3. Differentiation

Both of these models really focus on individual growth. So, as with our students, we must differentiate! This can be a challenge if we are offering ‘sit‘n’git’ or ‘drive-by’ workshops.

And, who decides how to differentiate? Who decides what professional learning that I, at this particular time, for this particular purpose, should get? Likely me. So learner agency and metacognitive skills are important.

4. Both Collaborative and Individual Opportunities

I have been an enthusiast of substantive collaboration for many years – so it is with that caveat that I say the following. Provide both individual and collaborative professional learning opportunities. Don’t negate the individual in reaction to the collaboration as holy grail phenomenon we are currently experiencing.

David Thornburg, in his book, From the Campfire to the Holodeck, suggests that ‘learning institutions should offer a balance of Campfire spaces (home of the lecture), Watering Holes (home to conversations among peers), Caves (places for quiet reflection), and Life (places where students can apply what they’ve learned).’

There are many excellent initiatives and I will briefly introduce two Canadian examples: Teacher Learning & Leadership Program (TLLP) and Minds On Media (MoM).

Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP)

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TLLP is an annual project-based professional learning opportunity for experienced Ontario classroom teachers.

“The three goals of the program are to create and support opportunities for teacher professional learning, foster teacher leadership and facilitate the sharing of exemplary practices with others for the broader benefit of Ontario’s students.”

In a nutshell, teachers receive funding to pursue an action research style project in an area that is meaningful to them. All participants in the program are provided with professional learning sessions that will help them develop the skills necessary to manage their project and effectively share their learning with colleagues. They go through the year-long process out loud in that they share their process, learning, results, and promising practices with fellow TLLP educators and others (intra/inter-board and provincially) via conferences and through the online platforms provided.

The TLLP model develops ‘Margots’ by supporting teachers in generating and researching problems at the edge of their expertise – at the cusp of their competence.

The project overview, project archives, support materials, research results and stories, and videos can be found on the TLLP website.

Although TLLP is only open to Ontario teachers, it is a well-documented model that invites replication in other jurisdictions.

Minds On Media

 File 6180

Minds On Media (MoM) is a model of professional learning that also respects the learner’s desire to knowBrenda Sherry and I developed this model based on theories of expertise and knowledge-building blended with anappreciative inquiry and evocative coaching mindset.

It has been implemented mainly in professional learning related to constructionist approaches to information technology use in classrooms.

Imagine a room full of educators who are experts in information and communications technologies (ICT) and learning theory. Each of these facilitators manages a centre on a particular topic – one that is pedagogy focused. They spend some time before the event thinking about practical ways to support self-directed learners at a hands-on session.  As mentioned earlier, differentiated learning is equally important for adults as for our students. This requires the creation of a wide variety of materials, strategies and access points and so, facilitators create a wiki replete with tutorials and classroom exemplars.  This is useful for the Minds On Media day but also serves the teachers well when they return to their schools.

Teachers come to a conference to learn and we respect their choices in how they wish to do that. We want them to take a minds on approach. They choose what to learn based on their own needs, learning styles, interests, levels of expertise and are able to move freely throughout the day from centre to centre if, and when, it suits them.

They might be absolute beginners or comfortable with technology. They choose their entry point. Teachers build their own plan for the day or may seek guidance from one of our facilitators or pedagogistas. Pedagogistas also serve to keep the thinking and learning at a higher level—to keep tying the skill learning to the pedagogy and to help bridge to classroom practice.

The facilitators at the centres have the skills to support all learning styles with awesome classroom projects as exemplars! (Click on one of the Events in the sidebar on the site to get a flavour of a MoM event.)

What are 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

Note: MoM is not a commercial program at all. We simply developed it in response to how we believe people learn and our experiences with most professional learning models didn’t match up. It is our intention to more fully document the process so that it can be easily replicated. In the meantime, feel free to contact us if you’d like to run such an event.

A Shout Out to Powerful Learning Practice

I would like to give a big shout out to Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall of the Powerful Learning Practice (PLP). They both had a significant influence on our thinking in the area of evocative coaching and appreciative inquiry. PLP is an excellent professional learning experience based in these principles.

So…

So this is one of the challenges of professional learning activities. Do they develop expert teachers or skilled nonexperts?

TLLP and MoM are working hard to develop expert teachers rather than experienced nonexperts by supporting and empowering them to take charge of their own learning.  There is a genuine effort to help teachers to learn significant educational theory and practice that is relevant to each person. Both programs are grounded in knowledge-building theory and are using appreciative inquiry and evocative coaching methodologies to build capacity.

What professional learning programs are you seeing that help teachers to develop a way of being rather than merely transferring a set of skills that doesn’t really develop expertise?

Related Reading

Teaching is a ‘Way of Being’ – Part 1
Developing Expert Teachers vs. Experienced Nonexperts 

Teaching is a ‘Way of Being’ – Part 2
So How Do We Develop Expert Teachers?


This blog post was first published as part of CEA’s focus on the state of Teacher PD in Canada, which is also connected to Education Canada Magazine’s Teachers as Learners theme issue and The Facts on Education fact sheet, What is Effective Teacher Professional Development? 

17
Jun

Teaching is a ‘Way of Being’ — Part 2

So How Do We Develop Expert Teachers?

The distinction between expert teachers and experienced nonexperts as described in Teaching is a ‘Way of Being’ – Part 1 forces us to think differently about our PD models.

So what has changed for me? At the same time as I was thinking deeply about expertise, I learned about these three models: Stages of Change, Appreciative Inquiry and Evocative Coaching. This confluence has given me a fresh perspective for approaching professional learning with the goal of nurturing expert teachers.

Stages of Change

Change is a process – not an event. We’ve certainly heard that before. But, so often we wish for people to make significant changes in their practice – in their way of being – after relatively few interventions. Prochaska and DiClemente’s Stages of Change model would suggest it can take a while. This change model is a multi-disciplinary approach that describes the five stages (pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance) involved in making a significant change in behaviour, and the specific interventions or supports needed at each stage. Although this model was designed for the addictions world, it also provides a guide for being in tune with teachers at whichever stage they may be in the change cycle.

File 6146This model uses an appreciative inquiry and evocative coaching approach, which respects and honours the individual.

When you look into the model you will notice the kind of language and interactions used to scaffold change at various stages.

Here is an abbreviated overview of the Stages of Change model.

Appreciative Inquiry & Evocative Coaching

With an understanding of the Stages of Change model, we could benefit greatly from adopting an appreciative inquiry and evocative coaching stance to work with individuals at their particular place in the change cycle. These are strength-based approaches that capitalize on the individual’s unique talents, skills and desires. Brenda Sherry has been learning and applying the skills of appreciative leadership in her role as vice-principal in Upper Grand District School Board.

The principles of evocative coaching include:

  • Giving teachers our full, undivided attention
  • Accepting and meeting teachers where they are
  • Asking and trusting teachers to take charge of their own learning and growth
  • Harnessing the strengths that teachers have
  • Inviting teachers to discover possibilities and finding answers for themselves
  • Supporting teachers in brainstorming and trying new ways of doing things
  • Maintaining and upbeat, energetic, and positive attitude at all times
  • Enabling teachers to build supportive teams
  • Inspiring and challenging teachers to go beyond what they would do alone
  • Assisting teachers to draw up blueprints for professional learning

Many strategies for working with teachers – based on these principles – are articulated in Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time by Bob & Megan Tschannen-Moran and in other literature.

These are challenging models to implement – to assimilate into our way of being. I have found that they require not just skill with the techniques; but, in fact, may necessitate a change in fundamental beliefs about human nature and learning.

In Teaching is a ‘Way of Being’ – Part 3, two examples of replicable professional learning models will be shared: the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program and Minds On Media.


This blog post was first published as part of CEA’s focus on the state of Teacher PD in Canada, which is also connected to Education Canada Magazine’s Teachers as Learners theme issue and The Facts on Education fact sheet, What is Effective Teacher Professional Development? 

17
Jun

Teaching is a ‘Way of Being’ — Part 1

Developing Expert Teachers vs. Experienced Nonexperts

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Excellent teaching requires that teachers possess a particular way of being—not merely own a repertoire of recipes and protocols like the three-part lesson or inquiry lesson plans!

Now, be gentle with me!

I don’t dismiss the efficacy of the three-part lesson or inquiry lessons. These are absolutely excellent methodologies. It is often the case, however, that the theory is lost as we look to quickly take the implementable essence and apply it to our classroom practice. These techniques, I believe, should be either the outcome, or vehicle towards development, of deep pedagogical knowledge – of a way of being.

Teachers who are well-versed in educational theory and in the classroom application of these philosophical stances are able to see the curriculum as a landscape they can traverse and discover with their students in an exploratory – perhaps non-linear – fashion. If the teachers have the pedagogical prowess and superb knowledge of the curriculum, then they will be vigilant and opportunistic. They will seize upon the opportunities to weave curricular intent and outcomes into moments of student passion and interest.

On the other hand, teachers who have learned techniques without developing the requisite theoretical perspective may flounder whenever new situations arise. They are not able to generalize from one situation to the other. We see this inability to transfer in students all the time.

Teachers comfortable in this way of being possess expertise.

Expert Teachers versus Experienced Nonexperts

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What is teaching expertise? Let’s examine that by comparing expert teachers with experienced non-experts! Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scardamalia, in Surpassing Ourselves: An Inquiry Into the Nature and Implications of Expertise, explain the difference. This brief description may not do the concept justice, but here goes.

“Experts, we propose, tackle problems that increase their expertise, whereas nonexperts tend to tackle problems for which they do not have to extend themselves.” (p.78)

They describe two hypothetical teachers, Cynthia and Margot, who have been teaching for the same length of time. Both have become adept at checking off the list of problems and challenges that any new teacher would face in managing a classroom. Any administrator could look into their classrooms and see relatively peaceful, pleasantly busy kids.

Both teachers – very skillful at what they are trying to do – appear to be experts. However, there are underlying differences. As Cynthia learns to eliminate problems from her list, she checks them off and moves down the list with the goal of eliminating all of the problems. Margot, on the other hand, upon eliminating a problem, adds another new one to the top. These problems at the top are ones she could not have thought of at the beginning of her career. ‘They have to do with distinctions she was not then aware of, such as the distinction between children’s telling what they know and explaining what they know.’ Margot engages in ‘reinvestment and progressive problem solving.’

Cynthia’s goal was to free her mind of dealing with problems through skilled, well-learned routines. Margot’s goal was to use her now available mental resources to ‘reinvest in the advancement of her teaching, in the pursuit of new goals or of goals she did not previously have the resources to pursue.’

Reinvestment and progressive problem solving are the heart of the process of expertise.

We need to develop expert teachers – not train them in being skilled nonexperts. We don’t do that by ignoring the big picture…the history…the philosophical stances.

How do we do that? In Teaching is a ‘Way of Being’ – Part 2, I will share three models that have recently impacted my work with both students and teachers: Stages of Change, Appreciative Inquiry, and Evocative Coaching.


This blog post was first published as part of CEA’s focus on the state of Teacher PD in Canada, which is also connected to Education Canada Magazine’s Teachers as Learners theme issue and The Facts on Education fact sheet, What is Effective Teacher Professional Development? 

15
Apr

Tools for Reflective Thinking: Children, Computers and Metacognition

Just a quick little share from the past! Here is the abstract for a session at this conference in 1987.

We are still speaking of similar things…





22
Jan

Knowledge Building: What is it Really?

Isn’t it really just learning by another name?

CC BY Mark Brennan (Flickr) NC SA

We hear a lot about knowledge building in education circles these days!

What is it anyway? Why don’t we just call it learning? Where did this term knowledge building come from?

When I first started speaking of knowledge building (KB), people looked at me as if I had two heads! People thought the term to be officious and puffed-up. But, now—now it’s ever-so-cool. Everyone is using it—but, perhaps without any deep understanding of its roots, its meaning—beyond that of learning. In fairness, this is actually a fairly common phenomenon as new concepts and words come into our everyday lexicon. It is known as lexical or semantic drift. Meanings change from the original intent.

So it is with knowledge building.

The purpose of this article is to briefly familiarize readers with the origins and intended meaning. Links to other sites and articles will help to broaden and deepen your understanding of the complexity of knowledge building, of creating knowledge building communities and of KB technological environments. It certainly won’t all be explained here! ;-)

Learning vs Knowledge Building

This graphic (courtesy of IKIT) delineates the conceptual differences between learning and knowledge building.

What does a Knowledge Building classroom look like?

A Little History

The origins of knowledge building in education arise out of the work of Marlene Scardamalia and Carl Bereiter at OISE/UT. Their work in knowledge transforming and intentional learning—as it relates to the development of expertise—has been the foundation of their coining the term knowledge building. This work goes back to the mid 1970s and their development of CSILE—Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environments in the mid 80s.

People often equate knowledge building theory with that of constructivist learning, but Scardamalia and Bereiter make these distinctions:

Intentionality. Most of learning is unconscious, and a constructivist view of learning does not alter this fact. However, people engaged in Knowledge Building know they are doing it and advances are purposeful.

Community & knowledge. Learning is a personal matter, but Knowledge Building is done for the benefit of the community.

In other words, students engaged in knowledge building are intentional about their learning—they treat knowledge as an entity that is discussable. It is something about which they reflect and build upon. Also, students can be said not just to be in charge of their own learning, but also have responsibility for the learning of the group.
History of Knowledge Building

1977-1983: Knowledge-Telling versus Knowledge-Transforming

As described in detail in A Brief History of Knowledge Building (pdf), between 1977-1983 the research focus was on examining the differences between knowledge-telling and knowledge-transforming. So when you are using wikis with students for collaboration and knowledge-building, ask yourself, “When students post information on their various wiki pages, are they simply telling knowledge or are they transforming that knowledge by thinking about it, questioning it, reworking it, combining it with other pieces of information to make new understandings and revelations?”

I describe here a situation where true collaboration occurred between two students (visible to all students) in which the questioning by one student (Heather) led the other (Larissa) to rethink and to rework her driving question for her project on potato production in Prince Edward Island. She needed to do more than knowledge telling. She was required to build new schema by a deeper transformation of the information at hand.

1983-1989: Intentional Learning

Between 1983-1989 the research focus switched to intentional learning and cognition. “Intentional cognition is something more than ‘self-regulated learning’, more like the active pursuit of a mental life.” Intentional learning had several characteristics which pointed towards knowledge building. These included:

  1. Higher levels of agency. Students take responsibility not only for meeting learning objectives set by the teacher but for managing the long term acquisition of knowledge and competencies.
  1. Existing classroom communication patterns and practices as obstacles to intentional cognition. Even though teachers may try to encourage inquiry and independent learning and thinking, common characteristics of the classroom environment militate against it and instead increase dependence on the teacher (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1996).


It was during this time that CSILE was developed. Originally, it was a text-based system and I, personally, was challenged by a text only environment—as I was a recent HyperCard enthusiast and enjoyed, and saw cognitive benefits for, graphical interfaces and hypermedia. As part of the CSILE team, I made a case for multiple representations of knowledge—beyond text only.

This was a time rich in studying expertise, the differences between expert and novice behaviour and, indeed, how one encourages and supports the development of expert learners—both face to face and in online spaces. Protocols and procedural facilitations were developed to scaffold the execution of higher level strategies by students.

It was recognized, as we hear so much now, that teachers may indeed be a bottleneck in the advancement of knowledge creation by students. However, it’s not merely about student agency—that is necessary, but not sufficient. Students must learn the skills, develop the attitudes and build/participate in the community.

1988-present: Knowledge Building

As the research into intentional learning developed, the researchers noticed something else happening in the CSILE classrooms that involved all the students. They noticed that the kids became really involved in contributing to the knowledge problems that arose. In fact, to be part of the classroom community, you really needed to contribute. So it seemed that a great motivator and sustainer of intentional learning behaviour was ‘the simple and virtually universal desire to belong’.

“This conceptual step yielded a definite separation between intentional learning and Knowledge Building. Intentional learning is the deliberate enhancement of skills and mental content. Knowledge Building is the creation and improvement of knowledge of value to one’s community. You can have intentional learning without Knowledge Building and, in principle at least, Knowledge Building without intentional learning; but the two together make a powerful combination.”

Twelve knowledge building principles have been articulated. I will mention them here, but I suggest you read the complete descriptions or watch these videos because the headings won’t tell you too much! I include them in this graphic to illustrate the depth and complexity of the term knowledge building.

12 Knowledge Building Principles

Knowledge Forum

Knowledge Forum evolved out of CSILE and is available to support you in developing knowledge building classrooms.

Here is a brief video from a classroom using Knowledge Forum. (Note: This is fairly old—the technologies have improved! But, great overview!)

So in summary…

One cannot equate learning with knowledge building.

The terms are not interchangeable and I believe we need to be careful when we appropriate language and use it casually. I have the same concern with other current, common constructs such as inquiry, collaboration, and project-based learning.

I am absolutely certain that I do the same thing with many expressions and terms where that domain is not my area of expertise!

Please be patient with me when I do so, but please also gently point me to resources that will deepen my understandings.

Call to Action

Given the topic of this post, I will now ask you to do a little reflection on the ideas presented here, on your previous and current thoughts about learning versus knowledge building, on your own practice, and on the dominant classroom and school culture in relation to these ideas.

  • What have you learned?
  • What might change for your practice?
  • What steps might you take to move forward?
  • What confusions/questions do you have?

I encourage you to do this publicly—here or in another online space where we might further our collective understandings.


Resources for Follow-Up

A Brief History of Knowledge Building: A Brief History of Knowledge Building is a great place to start reading about knowledge building.

Knowledge Building: Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2003). Knowledge Building. In Encyclopedia of Education. (2nd ed., pp. 1370-1373). New York: Macmillan Reference, USA.

Professional Development: Knowledge Building: The Professional Development: Knowledge Building site is a superb site developed by the OISE originators. Find out what a knowledge building classroom looks like, how to get started, assessment strategies, etc.

IKIT (Institute for Knowledge Innovation and Technology): “The Institute for Knowledge Innovation and Technology conducts research, develops technology and helps build communities aimed at advancing beyond “best practice” in education, knowledge work, and knowledge creation.”

Knowledge Forum: Knowledge Forum is available for purchase and implementation in your school or classroom.

Natural Curiosity: Natural Curiosity is a resource that has been developed for teachers. There are wonderful classroom videos online describing ideas about developing a knowledge building culture and knowledge building discourse among students. You can also download a Natural Curiosity handbook.

Learn Teach Lead: LearnTeachLead, of the Ontario Ministry’s Student Achievement Division, has produced and posted some excellent videos including interviews with Marlene Scardamalia.

Visible Thinking: I would also recommend the book, Visible Thinking, by Harvard’s Project Zero group. The Visible Thinking website also has some worthwhile resources.

ThinkingLand: In the mid 80s, as a graduate student in the CSILE group, I developed a networked version of HyperCard called ThinkingLand. It was based on the metaphor of a journal and so could be considered as an online, collaborative, and scaffolded journal writing environment. It was implemented in a sixth grade classroom for research purposes.

Journal Zone: In 2000, LCSI (of Logo fame!) contracted me to lead the design of Journal Zone—which was based on ThinkingLand. It was an awesome online environment, but was not commercially successfully as it launched just at the same time as blogging arrived on the scene. People went blogging—without all the scaffolding and procedural facilitations we had built into Journal Zone. (It is no longer available.) See Using Visible Thinking Strategies to Develop Expert Learners for a description of the practical elements of Journal Zone which you can build into your classroom practice.

Journal Zone

First posted at Big Ideas in Education and at Inquire Within

4
Dec

Graphic Organizers, Outliners and Transferable Thinking

Teaching for Durable Mental Models

Many years ago, I devised ways to have my students make their thinking explicit for all to see and to discuss! One technique I created was Watch Me Think! We dreamed up as many ways as we could to make this possible.

We tried public journal writing and collaborative idea mapping (as we called it then). I have written much about the former, and wish to address the latter here.

Idea mapping, in my view, comes in two varieties:

  • traditional outliners that are hierarchical & linear in nature (as you would find in any wordprocessor like MS Word or Pages—but not Google), and
  • graphic organizers which may be used hierarchically or in a web-based manner and are graphical in nature. Many graphic organizers also allow for the creation of mind-maps and concept-maps (which can show a relationship among the nodes of of the map).
    • In fact, may of these graphic organizers will also export to an outliner—often a handy feature!

Both categories of these tools are extremely useful—perhaps in different ways. Many excellent resources are available to support you in using them with your students.

Effects With versus Effects Of

However, I wish for deeper and more transferable understandings that students can learn when they are creating mind-maps, concept-maps or outlines. I want both effects with and effects of. It is wonderful that graphic organizers and outliners can improve the quality of students’ work as they use these tools (effects with), but it is as important for these tools to have a more robust impact on student thinking. If students develop mental models as a result of having used graphic organizers or outliners, they are able to apply these in other situations (effects of)—even when computers are not on hand. The model resides in the head.

…place thinking at the centre of the educational enterprise…

Placing thinking at the centre of the educational enterprise in classrooms is very much at the heart of the knowledge-building and visible thinking movement, and so, it makes a lot of sense to make these graphic organizers and outlines as visible as possible within your classroom. Sometimes this might be in your physical space. Other times, they may be, in fact, collaborative documents that are shared and discussable online.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 1.05.20 PM

The outliner allows students to capture main and supporting ideas at the same time.

Outliners

Does wordprocessing make students better writers?

Research has indicated that students write better whenever they use word processors. Their work is longer, better revised and edited, and so forth. This would constitute effects with.

But can they subsequently write better after having used word processors?

Can they write better without the use of a word processor?

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 1.05.45 PM

Shaded bullets allow students to understand organization at a glance.

The answer to these questions is likely dependent on both the connections teachers explicitly make in class as well as the types of activities in which students are engaged while using word processors.

For example, if they use an outlining tool within a word processor or presentation software, they would then have a functional mental structure to carry with them to other tasks.

…helps students develop portable mental models they can carry to other tasks…

How does using the outliner tool differ from just using indents and hard returns? The ability to expand and collapse the headings and subheadings provides, in my opinion, a significant mental model—a model that is durable and independent of the computer. It is what Gavriel Salomon would call a residual effect. How might this be implemented in a classroom? Look at two examples here.

Courtesy: Inspiration website

Graphic Organizers

Similarly, graphic organizers may provide students with the capacity to think differently even when they are not using a computer. They may have the capability to see webs of ideas, and relationships among ideas, as a graphical representation in their mind. This is a tool with which to think—an alternate way of representing knowledge that they may not have at their disposal if they hadn’t used graphic organizers.

In fact, if they move their knowledge from a graphic organizer to an outline for a different view and then back again, they will start to develop a schema of how information can be structured. This is a valuable mental model—a wonderful effect of having used the tools.

Caution: Be careful these activities don’t become yet another worksheet! :-)

My own experience shows that if outlining and mapping become routinized—like yet another ‘worksheet’—they become ‘something to get done’ and they, therefore, are not done mindfully or intentionally and the intended benefits are lost. Once again we need to understand that learning is strongly affected by the predominant culture of the classroom. So, be sure to value the efforts through conversation and the public discussions related to the thinking involved.

Thinking needs to be a highly valued activity and that should be explicitly and implicitly understood by all in the classroom. John Seely Brown has eloquently stated that learning is often a product of the ambient culture rather than of explicit teaching.

——————–

NOTE for Ontario Teachers:

OSAPAC has announced the release of a new Mind Mapping tool, called Mindomo. Brenda Sherry gives some of her thoughts in NEW! Mindomo Mind Mapping for Ontario Learners.

 

 

30
Oct

Belief Can Outrank Reality!

Watch on Vimeo for larger image and a greater impact – so to speak! 

“I’m an idiot!”

That was my thought about my crash landing shown in the video clip. I didn’t flare to slow down for the landing. Why not!?

I came to the most fascinating conclusion as I watched this video countless times on a large screen in an attempt to determine where it all went wrong,

My belief outranked reality.

My expectation outweighed all the other information that I was perceiving.

The Story

I was taking paragliding instruction. (Some people think this is why I was an idjit. LOL) I had completed ground school and some canopy handling on the ground. Now it was time for my first training flight.

You get attached to a tow rope connected to a winch placed some hundreds of metres away. This winch has a tension indicator on it so that the tow operator knows how much tension is on the rope. For the first flight, you get towed fairly strongly at first and fly several metres off the ground. At the right moment, the tow operator reduces the tension enough to stop the forward pull but still have the rope advancing ahead of the pilot so it doesn’t get in the way.

In the video, you will see that the take-off went quite well as I, at first, resisted the tension, as I was supposed to, and then took many small steps ‘til take off! Good one Peter! J

A couple of seconds later, the canopy started to turn, so I acted properly and pulled the correct line to straighten it out.

Then, I was expecting to continue my flight. I was moving forward still. I believed I was to continue flying. It was a strong belief. But, alas, it was the wrong belief! The operator had reduced the tension so I could land.

But I didn’t flare. I didn’t pull on the brakes.

My expectation–my belief–was more powerful than the ground approaching quickly!

Information that should have been extremely vivid and impactful eluded me.

The Lesson

How often, do we as educators, not see the obvious because our beliefs are so strongly interfering with reality?

 

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