It's been 6 months on the swim team and my 5th grade daughter's crawl stroke is looking great. She's come a long way in half a year. She started in lane 1, where the beginners, well...begin. She struggled at the beginning, but after spending three days a week in the pool, practicing, practicing, practicing, she's starting to pass other kids in that lane. The coach is asking her to move to lane 2. She does not want to go.
I remember the same thing happening with both sons when they participated in Tae Kwon Do. They started a the back of the dojo, behind all the other more advanced students.
They worked really hard for years and eventually made their way to the front. And man, was it great up there. Being the stars of the class, being recognized as exemplary students who could be trusted with extra responsibilities. Why on earth would they want to move up to the next class and start all over again....at the back?
We were fine just cruising along, doing what we do best, feeling good about our wins...
This is especially poignant for our students in class. What incentive is there for letting go of the realms in which they truly excel, in favor of going outside of their comfortable boxes? When we talk about students being afraid to take risks, to take on challenges, to attack a problem and try to solve it, this fear of lane 2 is exactly what we are encountering. And this is not just true for our students, this is especially true for teachers, who are being asked to jump into new teaching models, try new tactics, change curriculum, teach to new standards. We were fine just cruising along, doing what we do best, feeling good about our wins, and reaching for the things that show our strengths.
So, what is our obsessions with boxes? Why do we talk so much about getting outside of them?
Right now, in this point in time, there has never been more out-of-the-box thinking coming to our world. The internet and technology are the catalyst for that situation. Boundaries are being pushed EVERYWHERE. All of a sudden, we find ourselves in Lane 5. And some of use are saying, "Yeah! I love a good challenge. Let's go. I'll get to the other side of the pool by any means possible. Let me see what tools will help me get there!" And others are saying, "Ack. I'm drowning. I'm so far out of my depth that I don't know how I can possibly get to the other side." And still others (especially in politics) are saying, "It's your fault I'm in the deep end. There's no way any of us are going to make it until we get rid of X, Y and Z."
Regardless of how we personally are reacting to being thrown into the deep end, regardless of how well we can swim, we need to understand that the choice of how we react is at the crux of learning. Knowing how your students react to switching lanes can help any teacher understand if it's OK to let them continue to swim in Lane 1 until they are ready, or push them to go to the next lane over. Every student is different. Some students need to be thrown into lane 5 and told to figure it out. Some need to move in small increments. Some need a benevolent dictator who says "Now, you will move a lane over, whether you think you are ready or not. It will be OK."
The choice of how we react is at the crux of learning.
Innovative Learning Capstone
As I move forward with my capstone project for my Master's degree, I will be investigating how students can effectively contribute to a learning community using blogging. Just rolling this new form of blog/portfolio out to my school last year showed the many different reactions to suddenly asking the school to move over to lane 2. My challenge in leading the charge for blogging is going to be how to recognize and address that fear of the new, of going outside the box, in a way that works for out entire staff and student body. I'm excited to apply all that I have learned in my program to address this question.
Note to Self: I am a Lane 5 Swimmer
It's important to recognize that I am one of those students who needs to be thrown into lane 5 and figure it out as I go. But many of my students and staff are like my daughter and would be totally intimidated by that approach. Whatever I develop as supports for the program, I need to keep that in mind moving forward. It would do every teacher good to understand their own levels of comfort in learning, where the edges of their proverbial box lay, and do their best to understand the same for their students
I only go to conferences maybe once or twice a year, so how can I make that magic happen throughout the year?.....Social Media. Twitter and Facebook, are for me, a chance to dip into the gigantic ocean of people and experience out there and find those topics and personalities that attract me. And if I do the same, post what is happening in my professional life, I automatically attract those people who have my same interests or areas of expertise.
And the great thing is, I don't have to fly hundreds or thousands of miles to get there. It's all doable, from the comfort of my computer, at any and all hours of the day.
Connections I have made
I find it very useful, when reviewing models of learning to think about the kinds of questions that the model generates. It helps me to take an abstract concept and bring it down to a practical level. Which is why I found it helpful to see the questions in an article about the SITE model, a learner-centered way to thinking that can help with curriculum design.
The Sociocultural Sub-context
The Technical Sub-context
The Informational Sub-context
How will users access know-how and data that might help them to use the technical system to achieve their goals or those of the community?
What are the general education and literacy levels of our prospective learners or users?
What is the user's ability to work with: books and manuals, performance support systems, coaches and supervisors, tutorials and instruction?
What are the attitudes of users toward the informational sub-context?
Do they see the informational sub-context as supportive?
Do they see the informational sub-context as a set of obstacles?
In education or any endeavor, it boils down to whether you can ask the right questions to get the job done, the issue addressed, or the problem solved and these questions are a great jumping off place. In term of applying this to increased engagement for Silent Sustained Reading using technology, the key questions I would pull, from each of the three subsets are:
Let's talk a bit about Flipboard and other personal magazines like News on the iPhone and iPad. They rock. You can set up your own personally curated digital magazine that includes the latest and greatest articles about the topics in which you are most interested, for free. Why have to cull through the thousands and thousands of online articles to find the things that you most want to read when you can set up a way to see only topics you want to see? I read my Flipboard almost every day for various reasons:
I get to read what I want to read
I want to share the latest and greatest with my students on the topics I teach
I don't have to search for topics online and get distracted by other information
I don't have to subscribe to RSS feeds or email newsletters
I can read my magazine whenever I am ready to
I can share articles I like directly to social media and email
I get help to curate information to share on social media and therefore attract others with similar interests
How I use Flipboard in the classroom
In my Video Storytelling class I had my students create their own personal flipboards by either downloading the app for their smart devices, or creating an account on their laptops. Each student was then asked to choose a few general topics that they were interested in. I also asked students to choose several topics around filmmaking news, videography and camera equipment. Once a week, at the beginning of class two-three students were expected to present a 1-minute summary about an article that answers these three questions:
In this way, each presenter got to teach some new information to the class and we all got to learn something new about the video industry. Presenters were chosen randomly each class period, which meant that every student had to have read an article and be ready to present each week. This kept students reading on a weekly basis and getting used to connecting with current events. I told them that I would not be working my way down the list of students systematically and that some students would present more than once before we got to all students. I put their names on cards and randomized the pick of the names. My goal was to have every student present at least twice in the year, but they would never know when.
When I showed one student how to curate articles that included his interests in addition to the articles about film making, he picked topics that included sports, particularly around football. Every class period thereafter, I had to ask him to put away his reading in order to get his work done in class, a wonderful problem to have, especially when reading was just not his "thing." He told me it was my fault that he was now addicted to Flipboard and that he couldn't stop reading. He eventually branched out to other topic such as the news, politics and cars.
"He told me it was my fault that he was now addicted to Flipboard and that he couldn't stop reading."
If you have an iphone or ipad, there is another app built right into the device called "News" that comes installed for you. All you have to do is tell it what topics you want to read about. There is an algorithm that notices which articles you open and tried to give similar articles. Personally, that kind of creeps me out, so I stick with Flipboard, that does not follow my every click, but instead allows me to opt in to things I want to read. But every once in a while I'll open up News and see what there is to read. It's good to get a larger perspective on the world through different news sources.
An excerpt from my Action Research Paper: What are the effects of Digital Tools (Nearpod) on reading comprehension and engagement?
"According to a study about curriculum-based technology integration, (2009) effective teaching requires knowledge of both the activity structures/types that are appropriate for teaching specific content and the manners in which particular technologies can be utilized as part of the lesson, project, or design. In this vein, it is suggested that the use of an interactive digital response system can and should be used to facilitate book discussion sessions, but may not be appropriate or effective for administering traditional comprehension questions. When students were provided a list of comprehension questions before reading, they were more comfortable answering the questions as they went along through the chapter in the traditional approach. Some of the open-ended answers from students indicated that the wait-time in between reading and getting to the questions on the digital tool was a source of frustration. Having said this, questions used in the interactive digital response system should concentrate on bigger picture questions that include plot, character development and deeper thinking questions.
Based on triangulated data collection, the researcher would recommend using Nearpod in the classroom to help with reading comprehension, focus and engagement at the high school level. The tool provides visual images to help engage multiple senses, provides a way for students to think about their own individual responses prior to discussing in a group, and provides a way of engaging with the material that echoes students’ digitally connected lives outside of the classroom. It is important to note that engagement levels were higher than those in the traditional method, but that further adjustments to when and where the tool is used could cause an even greater increase in engagement."
In that vein, next year, I will be introducing the same classroom book to a new group of Game Design students and will be using Nearpod to deepen the classroom discussions of each chapter as we read. I would like to refine how I measure engagement with the material so that it better reflects engagement with the reading, regardless of whether the plot has flattened out a bit or not. I believe that concentrating more on discussion questions, instead of comprehension questions could help continue the study while eliminating the reticence on the part of the students to have to pay attention to "irrelevant facts and information" and allow us to think about the bigger picture of plot, character development, as well as ethical, social, and moral issues.
I would also like to introduce a classroom book to my 3D printing/digital storytelling class and am reviewing books this summer. I believe that the make-up of the 3D printing class may vary a bit from the Game Design class and may include more students who are at the Below Basic, or Basic levels of reading, but will have to wait until I can see who is in that class. I am curious as to how Nearpod can help make reading more engaging to those students for whom reading may not be their favorite activity.
I do not think my driving question will change, but I would like to go deeper with question and spend more time collecting data. I still have to figure out a way to measure engagement that provided useful and accurate data. I'm looking forward to exploring further.
In a paper entitled "Qualitative Research in Information Management" Jack Glazier and Ronald Powell take a look at how humans process and use information and define the methodology, theory and body of findings as Sense-Making. In chapter six of their paper, they look at the Sense-Making Qualitative and Quantitative Methodology from the Mind's Eye of the User. They make the assumption that because humans are involved, there is a discontinuity in perception based on different conditions of the human depending on the time and space in which an event occurs. These differences come down to so many factors, cultural, physiological, almost any situational conditions.
They describe a common problem with the way we have collected data in the past on how humans use information, in that the questions we ask come from a system standpoint, where the interviewee is asked questions that assume that they will bend to the will of the system, rather than the system changing to meet the needs of the interviewee. In 6 step, they outline how one can change this approach to be more user centered by focusing on the Situation/Gap/Help model.
The study of information-needs places an emphasis on these 6 questions:
1) How does the individual see themselves as stopped?
2) What questions or confusions have been defined?
3) What strategies does the individual prefer for arriving at answers?
4) What success has this person had in arriving at answers?
5) How was he/she helped by answers or how did he/she put the answers to use?
6) What barriers did the individual see standing in the way to arrive at the answers?
This could be a really powerful tool for my students when they are confronted with a gap in knowledge. For those students who get "stuck" or don't "get it" in class, it would be worth stepping back and doing a micro-moment timeline interview. The form that is in the paper could become a wonderful tool for students to think through how they bridge their own gaps and how I, as their teacher could help them when they feel stuck.
Below is a great example of how the interview is conducted. I could imagine having students work in pairs to think through their knowledge gaps. This would also be a great tool for reflection at the mid-point or end-point of a project. Either way, I plan un using this as a great way to help students think through how they can improve and how I can improve the teaching/learning process. At the very least, the 6 questions posed above would make for substantive reflection or journal questions at the end of a project. I'm very excited to try them next year in class!
Lisa Gottfried is a CTE teacher with 20 years experience as CEO of her own Video and Motion Graphics Production house. She currently teaches Intro to Digital Media, Video Production and Game/3D Design. She loves her job and her students!