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.
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?
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.
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:
“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.
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.
How often, do we as educators, not see the obvious because our beliefs are so strongly interfering with reality?
Global Dignity Day Canada - A Call for Participation !
On Wednesday, October 15th, 2014, schools and organizations from around the world will once again celebrate Global (GD).
I am a teacher and I am privileged to be on the Canadian organizing committee once again!
There are wonderful resources and Facilitator Guides on the Canadian Global Dignity site to help you with activities for your classroom or school!
“…every human being has the universal right to lead a dignified life.”
What is Global Dignity?
Global Dignity (GD) (www.globaldignity.org) is an independent, international, non-political and non-partisan organization focused on empowering individuals with the concept that every human being has the universal right to lead a dignified life. Established in 2005, by HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Operation HOPE Founder, Chairman and CEO John Hope Bryant and Professor Pekka Himanen, GD is linked to the 2020 process of the World Economic Forum, in which leaders from politics, business, academia, and civil society join efforts to improve the state of the world.
2013 Success Story!
Last October, close to 15,000 students in 65 schools from Nunavut to British Columbia, alongside 365,000 students from around the world organized to celebrate human dignity and to empower all those around us to live with mutual respect, tolerance and kindness. What’s more, for the first time we reached over 290,000 people around the world on Twitter alone! Culminating with a national videoconference on Parliament Hill, which linked 1,200 students from coast-to-coast, we were thrilled with the enthusiasm and support that GD received from all walks of life.
“15,000 students in Canada from Nunavut to British Columbia.”
We were also honoured with the support of politicians of all stripes, including: Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. John Baird; Health Minister, the Hon. Rona Ambrose; Liberal Party of Canada Leader Justin Trudeau; Deputy Leader of the New Democratic Party, Megan Leslie; Senator Yonah Martin, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate; Halifax MP Scott Brison; Deputy Chief of Staff to the Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Jeffrey Copenace and Inuit film maker Innosar Issakiark, to name a few.
In addition to our Canadian organizational partners – including TakingITGlobal, Right To Play, The World Economic Forum’s Canadian Global Shapers, YMCA Canada, The Canadian Commission to UNESCO and Adobe Youth Voices, amongst several others – we also received significant news coverage from CBC North, George Strombolopoulous, GlobalTV, CTV Barrie, The Ottawa Citizen (in their front page Throne speech article), the Huffington Post, the Montreal Global Shapers and the international Chinese television station NDTV.
GD Canada’s 2014 “Many Faces of Dignity” campaign celebrates the varied and diverse interpretations of human dignity and how these forces play out in our lives, like youth empowerment, anti-bullying, cultural diversity and beyond.
What is Required?
There is no cost to take part in GD and events have been designed to range anywhere from 15 minutes, to two hours, or even a full day. What’s more, GD celebrations are flexible and easy to integrate into any classroom setting. This year’s “Many Faces of Dignity” campaign celebrates the varied and diverse interpretations of human dignity and how these forces play out in our lives. By extension, this provides students with the opportunity to explore issues like youth empowerment, anti-bullying, cultural diversity and beyond.
“GD celebrations are flexible and easy to integrate into any classroom setting.”
In the attached agenda, you will find an overview of GD, complete with learning objectives. Throughout the GD process, students will learn about the importance of dignity in their own lives and the lives of others. From there, they will learn how to express what dignity means for them and they will learn how their own dignity is mutually dependent on the dignity of others.
Students Can Make a Difference!
Overall, it is our hope that by acknowledging existing inequalities, students will see that they have the ability to impact and enrich the lives of others through their own actions and choices, thereby promoting awareness and a social consciousness during a key time in their development.
“…promote awareness and a social consciousness…”
I encourage you to consider championing this global movement and help us to transform young lives, revitalize communities in Canada’s North, and mobilize young people from around the world to act for global change.
Register Your School
Visit www.globaldignity.ca and register your school / organization! Share this invitation with any individuals, groups and organizations who may be interested in supporting, volunteering or encouraging more people to participate in this important movement.
Get the PLAYMC2 App
Get the PLAYMC2 app and join the Less. More. campaign! Students will love posting their dignity microactions!!
- Students will learn about the importance of dignity in their own lives and the lives of others.
- Students will learn to express in their own words what dignity means for them and their lives.
- Students will learn about how their own dignity is mutually dependent on the dignity of others.
- Students will name something they are for and what they want to do during the course of the next year to strengthen the dignity of others.
Connections to Education:
- Character development must be a whole school effort.
- Character development supports student achievement because it: develops the whole student as an individual (as an engaged learner and as a citizen); contributes to respectful, safe, caring and inclusive school environments that are prerequisites for learning; creates learning environments that are positive and collaborative so that teachers spend less time disciplining and more time doing what they do best – namely, teaching.
- The increasing diversity of Canada’s population creates an opportunity for us to determine the beliefs and principles we hold in common. When school boards engage a wide cross-section of their communities in building consensus on character attributes, they are, in essence, engaged in a process of finding common ground.
- The principles and attributes of character development are universal, based in equity and transcend differences as well as other demographic factors. Empathy for others and respect for the dignity of all persons are essential characteristics of an inclusive society.
Connections to 21st Century Skills:
- Learning from individuals representing diverse cultures, religions and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect
Communication and Collaboration
- Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts
- Listen effectively to decipher meaning, including knowledge, values, attitudes and intentions
- Use communication for a range of purposes (e.g. to inform, instruct, motivate and persuade)
Global Dignity Principles:
- Every human being has a right to a dignified life;
- A dignified life means the opportunity to fulfill your potential. This means having a humane level of healthcare, education;
- Dignity means having the freedom to make decisions about your life and to be treated with respect with regard to this right;
- Dignity should be the basic guiding principle behind all actions;
- Ultimately, our dignity depends upon the dignity of others.
Global Dignity Day Overview (approx. 2 hours total):
- Global Dignity Leaders Announce Global Dignity Day for October 16, 2013 (johnhopebryant.com)
- Dignity and Self-Worth Quote of the Day (johnhopebryant.com)
- News Regarding His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon of Norway. (VIDEOS) (royalcorrespondent.com)
I had lunch yesterday with a former student of mine. It was my first year teaching. I was 21. She was 10. It was the early seventies. It was some forty years ago.
She proceeded to tell me how I changed her life through an art lesson on perspective and, specifically, on ‘how to see’ and to draw a tree. Her description was detailed and formidable. The actions I suggested and the emotions created in her changed the way she has looked at things since.
This former charge of mine then continued with countless other intricate stories of her learning and my teaching. I listened in amazement—and, admittedly, with much pleasure.
One of the things she said she loved most was that I was present. I listened and genuinely seemed to care.
I was flattered at having such a profound impact on this person.
Not All Good
But, I know, it wasn’t like that for all students in my classes throughout the years. I am sure not all had the benefit of my good side. What about those times when my weaknesses were in play?
My skilful switchblade of sarcasm.
My impatience and dreadful dismissiveness.
What about those times?
What impact did that have on some children?
Hey teacher. Choose your impact.