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Archive for the ‘Teaching Strategies’ Category

Using the skills we teach – Mapping my mind.

21st Century Skills are an important new focus in education.  On July 16th I blogged about the role of the teacher in 21st Century Learning, but what are these “necessary skills” the 21st Century Teacher should be focusing on to teach the 21st Century Learner?

As I so often do, I turned to Google, and was amazed by what I found…There is no one, commonly accepted set of these.  There seem to be an infinite number of ways to group, label, and organize these same skills.  I found pages about skills in education, skills needed by today’s workforce, and even how to pages for software.  In my search to figure out the way that made the most sense to me I ran across a page appropriately labelled What are 21st Century Skills?

This page is published by a group called The Assessment and Teaching of 21st-Century Skills.  This group was created for a research project to proposes ways of assessing 21st-century skills and encourages teaching and adopting those skills in the classroom.  Not only was this categorization listing 21st Century skills in an education, but to me the categories made more sense than any other I found.

They break 21st Century Skills into four categories: ways of working, tools for working, ways of thinking, and skills for living in the world.  I see these as distinctly different categories, but yet all encompassing in a much more meaningful way than a simple listing of the numerous skills.

As I recently completed a technological enhanced unit plan for my graduate school course, I was challenged to address how this unit addresses 21st Century skills and represent this in a visual way.  Using bubbl.us I created this mind map showing the four categories I found and how this unit addresses them.


I attempted to embed it, but as I’ve said, I’m still learning these skills and it wouldn’t work, 😦 so I included the image above.  Click on the image to see, and be able to zoom, the map of my mind – at least as it relates to this topic. 🙂

I guess in this effort, I have challenged myself to use news ways of working, with new tools for working and a different way for thinking.  Utilizing the skills I am hoping to teach my students is a way to show we are always learning.  Lets hope I can continue to always use the skills I teach.


TED talks! No, not the movie about the talking bear…

When I first heard about TED talks, all I could think of was the ads for the movie about the talking teddy bear.  Although I never even saw the movie, this is the only image I can conjure…


So if it is not this talking teddy bear, what the heck is a TED talk?  TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and it started as a conference to get professionals in these areas together.  TED talks are a way to share what happens at TED conferences with the world under the phrase “ideas worth spreading”.

I had watched TED talks before, but didn’t even realize that is what they were (see July 16th post with Chris Lehmann video about education being broken).  Realizing to greatness of TED talks I explored and watched two more.  I found them both inspiring and thought provoking, but most interestingly possibly conflicting.

I am a math nerd.  I know, I accept that is not a typical response to math, but I actually like it, and given the choice I’d love to teach math all day!  So, I was drawn to a TED talk by Dan Meyer titled Math Needs a Makeover.

He made some fantastic points about how we teach math, and how the system we currently use doesn’t apply to life.  I immediately thought of this cartoon:

cantelopes If what they are learning isn’t relevant to their lives, student interest and motivation plummet, and our students grow to hate math.    Dan tells us to take the conditions out of what we give the students, and make the problems as short as possible.  At first this sounded crazy to me, but then I had an ah-ha moment.  When you do this, then you can teach with a conversation and not a lecture.  You won’t GIVE your students information, but rather LEAD them to discover it themselves.

I am new at this teaching thing, but one of the best learning experiences for me so far occurred when I was learning from Michele Bowman as a student teacher in her 5th grade AAP class.  She is gifted in inquisitive teaching, and I worked hard to learn from her guidance. I found when I used questions I could teach the class so much more than I ever would have prepared in a pre-packaged lecture.  They learned the essential knowledge plus more and I didn’t have to TELL it to them!  There was NO lecture, but just discussion.

This talk connected with me, opened my eyes and inspired me, so I went back for more.

Still following the math idea, I found a talk by Salman Khan titled Let’s Use Video to Reinvent Education.  I knew the Khan academy originated as an online site with videos that helped math instruction, so I was interested in what he had to say.

He spoke with great passion and showed marvelous results.  In many ways I heard from him what all the supporters of flipped classroom state about getting more class time to work with the students and not giving a generic lecture.  The great way this system of video instruction allows differentiation for the students to be able to pace the lecture themselves.

Then I had another ah-ha moment that unfortunately brought me more confusion than clarity.  The videos allow students to play and repeat at their own pace, but it is still a LECTURE.  It is still sage-on-the-stage instruction where the person who created the video is GIVING the information to the viewer.  This caused me to think more critically.  If I tell the students the info in a video, then I loose the ability to lead them to develop their own knowledge.  I take away that ability to question their thoughts and let them figure out the concept themselves.  Does this “new” system using videos lead to the same pitfalls that include lack of relevance and motivation as the broken system we are using now?

I believe there must be a way to fuse the two systems together, but I am going to have to take some time to work out how.  Maybe I need to listen to my teddy bear some more…


Teacher or Educational Guide? A look at the role of the 21st Century Teacher.

So the new buzz phrase is the 21st Century Learner.  Everyone is talking about the skills needed by the 21st century learners.  Well, if there is this need for 21st century learners, how do we become 21st century teachers?

I recently read Shelly Wright’s blog post The Nuts and Bolts of 21st Century Teaching.  In her blog Shelly talks about a recent experience she had with project based learning (PBL) as her class was studying the Holocaust.  In this project the class was to create their own Holocaust museum.  The class outlined three areas of study, researched them and began to come up with ideas, but then they got stuck.

When students are stuck is the hardest for teachers.  I also find it the hardest as a parent.  How exactly do you help kids figure something out on their own? If you tell them or do it for them, you rob them of figuring it out and learning it themselves.  If you don’t, then you worry about frustration, shutdown, not caring, self-esteem.  I agree with Shelly when she said, “Its difficult to know how much to let them flail.”

Then she, as a 21st century teacher, did what I (a semester ago) would have never thought of – she turned to her blog!?!?  She shared her struggles and received a post that helped her.  This is something I think many “20th century teachers” would never think to do, but wow was it helpful!  The video that was sent to her in a comment I found inspirational and eye opening.  Chris Lehmann spoke about the changes in education for both learners and teachers.  He opened with “high school stinks”.  A bold statement that he followed with why it stinks and what we as educators can do about it.

At first I wasn’t sure how applicable the video would be to me.  It was focused on high school and I’m an elementary teacher.  Sure I thought it was eye opening and inspiring, but I was sure it wouldn’t make a difference in my classroom.  Then I heard “School was built on a model of information scarcity, and now we are in a world of information overload. …  Now our job is to make sure kids can make sense of the world.”  This flipped around the entire idea of teaching in my mind.  Teachers are no longer the ones to impart knowledge (teach) but will become more facilitators of knowledge.  Sure there will be things we teach, but the students may be as much of a “teacher” as we are… So what will the role of teachers become?  I think we will become less about the person teaching the information or imparting our wisdom and more about an educational guide to help our students figure it out.

For the 21st century learner will we still be teachers or will we become educational guides?   I think I want to be an educational guide…. Now, I’m off to see if I can figure out how to do that.  I’m taking the first step.  I have turned to my blog 😉

Raise Your Voice

Ask anyone that knows me – I am a loud mouth.  I talk, a lot.  I talk to think, I talk to share, I talk to communicate, and I always talk in class (both when I should and when I shouldn’t).  I love class discussions and am always a frequent contributor.  Often I know I can dominate conversation and I frequently have to tell myself to shut up and listen.

As this is so engrained in my nature, I have struggled with ways to reach students that aren’t so ready to participate.  In my recent student teaching experience I ran a Socratic seminar on the Road Less Taken by Robert Frost.  There were a few students that participate very little or not at all.  Following the seminar I spoke with them in a small group and found they had very insightful comments.  I found myself racking my brain to find a way to help these students find a way to share their thoughts.

Solution found!  After reading the article Giving Reluctant Students a Voice I have discovered this adventure into blogging might not just be for me, but for my students too!  It is like a light bulb went off.  I am such a supporter of varying instructional techniques to reach the different kind of learners, why can’t I vary the techniques those learners use to contribute?  For students that are more reluctant for whatever reason to participate in an oral class discussion, a blog is a wonderful alternative.  Although I don’t support the removal of discussion, I do feel that varying response styles to include blogging can help every student find their voice.

Find their voice.  Yes.  I only hope I can help all my students do just that.

Say it, blog it, or sing it…Raise your voice!!


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