Looking deeper…finding perspectives

As part of my job, I get to work with middle school aged students.  I love the perspective they can bring to me…but sometimes I need to pull that out of them.

This is a strategy that I’ve picked up from others and adapted and changed as I’ve used it with my students.  I also transfer a bit of Mathematics understanding as we use the quadrant system of I, II, III, IV (see quadrant explanation for more details about the “math” behind this strategy).  I use this strategy to view images in an analytical way.

PROCEDURE:

We are going to view an image…to help us tune-into the novel we will be studying.

Let’s use the quadrant technique to help us view critically.  Let’s number off to assign each person a specific quadrant (I, II, III, IV).

You can jot notes down or mentally file your ideas.

As an individual:

What do you see (first impressions)?

Can you look deeper (specific quadrant)?

How do the quadrants connect?

What do you think is happening outside the frame?

Have you considered all five senses (of the people/animals in the image…if no people/animals, image you are in the picture) ?

In small groups of at least four:

Now form complete “quadrant” groups (each group must have at least one member from I, II, III, and IV).

Discuss your thoughts to the last three questions (connections, outside frame, senses).

Depending on where you want to go “next”:

You might have a whole class discussion.

You might have an individual learning experience that uses the discussion as a prompt.

You may…it depends on your context and what you want to do with the perspectives that were gained because of the viewing experience.

LET US TRY (readers of this blog)!!!

First we need to assign quadrant groups.  I will use your birth-month.  If you were born in:

January-March: Quadrant I

April-June: Quadrant II

July-September: Quadrant III

October-December: Quadrant IV

After viewing the image and going through the guiding questions for individuals (listed above), post your thoughts in the comments below.  Specifically, post your thoughts to the last three questions (connections, outside the frame, senses).

Here is an image…

This image came from here.

What strategies do you use to help find perspective?

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First round of Formal Goals

I am proud to be a life long learner.  I have learned in formal and informal ways– by participating in workshops or graduate courses and through interacting with people on twitter, wordpress, or other Web 2.o tools or through conversations around the copy machine.

Through my informal learning and experiences as an educator, I’ve decided it is time to do some more formal, well-structured, learning again.

I have been accepted into an Educational Administration Masters of Science program at Emporia State University.  Upon matriculation into Educational Administration program at Emporia State University, I was required to state some goals that I would like to accomplish as an Administrator.  In an exercise in transparency, I am posting those goals here.

I would love feedback from previous and current administrators (what is reasonable, how might I accomplish my goals, what are some pitfalls to be aware of?).  I would also love feedback from teachers, students, and families (what am I missing? what is more important?).  If you read this, and I am now your Leader/Administrator, give me a reality check…how am I doing?

Statement of Goals (things to accomplish as Educational Leader/Administrator)

September 2011

∙ establish and maintain a safe teaching and learning environment, both physically and emotionally.

∙ establish and extend effective channels of communication for parents/families to communicate with building leadership and teaching staff (and vice-versa).

∙ listen to all stakeholders before making big decisions; remain open-minded as long as possible (reserve judgment), then act quickly; finally, transparently explain final decisions to all stakeholders (related to goal above). Quote: “Be quick—but don’t hurry.” John Wooden

∙ model empathetic leadership; think…what would it feel like to be the other person/people in this situation?…what are the possible responses to this conversation because of those feelings?…how can I frame my bottom line so it can be heard?…is this the right time to address my bottom line?

∙ when making big decisions, always keep student well-being and learning as the number one priority.

Are these reasonable?  What am I missing?  What are strategies that work for you if your goals are similar to mine?  Thank you for reading.

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Tools are Tools…it is the way they are used that has postive or negative effects…

How can the use of instructional videos (whether through “Flip” classrooms or Khan Academy or…) be a tool that has a positive effect on learning?  How can I use them as an educator?

Flip SchoolsKhan AcademyOne-to-One Laptop Programs

These are a few of the “buzz” issues/strategies that seem to be surrounding education today.  As I continue to think about all the options out there for teaching and learning,  I’m reminded of the common notion that a tool is a toolit depends on how it is used if it has a positive or negative effect.  So, how can I use them…?  How do you use instructional videos to enhance learning?

There has been some “email, twitter, blog chatter” about the Khan Academy recently.

If you are interested in finding out more…here are some related links.

What is it…
Here is a link to the web-portal for Khan Academy:

http://www.khanacademy.org/#browse

Who is behind it…
Here is a link to a Ted Talk from the creator/organizer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gM95HHI4gLk
Does it promote learning…
Here is a link to a person that is a critic of the Khan Academy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVtCO84MDj8

Again, I wonder…How can the use of instructional videos (whether through “Flip” courses or Khan Academy or…) be a tool that has a positive effect on learning?  How can I use them as an educator? What are you doing?

I would love to hear your ideas in the comments below or contact me via twitter: danmagie

 

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Dignity

In the past, I have read some of Daniel Goleman’s books and they always resonated with me, but I’m not sure I actually changed much as a teacher and colleague as a result .  This year, one of my professional and personal goals  is to learn more about Social Emotional Learning in order to make positive changes to the way I interact with students and colleagues.

I’ve started my learning journey this year by  focusing on the word “dignity”.  When thinking about how I communicate with students and colleagues, I really like the second definition from dictionary.com for dignity: nobility or elevation of character; worthiness.  That sounds like something an educator should be doing for others, as well as for themselves.

As expected, I haven’t been completely successful, early in the year, when I was getting tired towards the end of the day, I used public discipline instead of private reminders.  I quickly realized what I had done, and found ways to rebuild the relationship over the next couple of class periods with the student.  After the class when I was thinking about what had happened, I remembered a cliché from teachers’ college: “praise in public and discipline in private”.  If I keep this in mind, it will help me maintain my dignity as well as that of my students.

That will help me when I’m speaking with others, but how about when I’m listening?

Recently, a member of my On-line Professional Learning Community has turned me on to the blog titled: Leadership Freak.  In one of his recent postings, Dan Rockwell talks about listening.  I’m thinking about what he has to say and I’ll be trying some of his ideas over the next couple weeks.   I’ll keep your posted…

In closing, I’ll leave you with a quote.

“Dignity does not consist of possessing honours, but in deserving them.”  ~Aristotle

What helps you retain dignity for yourself and others?  I’d love to hear.

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Welcome Back!!!

“Quitting leads to much less happiness in life than perseverance and hope.” ~Salva Dut

What a great summer–time to enjoy family and friends and think about “Big Ideas” related to my profession as an educator.  Down-time from the day-to-day job is something I cherish and it always helps me come back to a new academic year with fresh ideas and a way forward.

Then, the realities of the profession come into play with various things that can be obstacles to my brainstormed plans from the summer.  Plans are made for changing…but when things get tough…it seems it is sometimes easier to just “give up”.  This is a feeling that I must honor, but then move past.  How?

Over the summer I began reading a new novel that will be part of the G7 curriculum this year: A Long Walk To Water by Linda Sue Park.  I read it leisurely, taking no notes, but thinking about how I would use it with students and other teachers (we are creating an interdisciplinary unit with Language A English, Humanities, and Science around concepts related to refugees and water).   I didn’t finish the book this summer…

Towards the end of my second work-day, I decided to sit down and read the rest of the novel.  Thank goodness I had saved it…the ending note directed to “young people” from Salva Dut helped bring perspective back to my thoughts.  I realized that if I want my students to develop these attributes, then I must be modeling them myself.  I would like to end my first posting of this academic year with an excerpt from his note.

“To young people, I would like to say: Stay calm when things are hard or not going right with you.  You will get through it when you persevere instead of quitting.  Quitting leads to much less happiness in life than perseverance and hope.”
Salva Dut

Rochester, New York

2010

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Time for reflection…I’ll be back in August

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” –Oliver Wendall Holmes

As I come to the end of my 14th year as an educator, it is time for me to reflect on what I believe in…

I want to close my first “series” of educational blog postings with a Meta-Reflection.  I have discovered what I believe through experience in the classroom and through formal life long learning.  A primary source of what I have posted below is:

Bransford, John. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington,  D.C.: National Academy, 2000. Print.

People learn when:

  • They see purpose and relevancy to their own life or others’,

  • They receive specific feedback in a timely manner,

  • They are actively involved,

  • They have a chance to fail and try again, and

  • They have a chance to think about what they are doing (meta-cognition).

Effective teachers have the ability to:

  • Assess, activate, and use prior knowledge,

  • Involve student actively in authentic ways,

  • Use guided discussions and formative feedback to motivate learners,

  • Use models and big ideas to help learners organize knowledge (i.e. conceptual teaching and learning),

  • Promote transfer with activities and assessments that focus on meta-cognition.

In closing, I would like to end with a quote from James Levin:

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection.  From the quiet reflection will come, even more effective action.”

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Why do we teach?

I have an old, photo-copied, hand-out from a workshop that I went to about 11 years ago.  Before everything was digital.  I have always had it in my ‘work space’ since I got it.  The workshop still sticks with me today, it was about conflict resolution.  We watched “The Rainbow Wars” (for a synopsis of the 20 minute movie, click here), read the short reading I’m posting below, and then brainstormed what educators can do to help teach conflict resolution strategies.

I don’t know the source of this writing, all I know is Tim Veal was one of the workshop facilitators.  I have typed it exactly as it looks on the paper I have in my workspace.  After you read it, let me know what you think about: Why do we teach?  Or anything else that the reading prompts in you.  I’d love to hear back.

     AS A TEACHER, I HAVE TAUGHT A THIEF, A SCHIZOPHRENIC, AN EVANGELIST, AND A MURDER.  THE THIEF WAS A TALL BOY WHO HID IN THE SHADOWS AND WHOM THE OTHER CHILDREN AVOIDED.  THE SCHIZOPHRENIC RARELY SPOKE BUT GAZED AT ME WITH TINY EYES FILLED WITH TERROR.  THE EVANGELIST WAS CLASS PRESIDENT AND THE MOST POPULAR BOY IN SCHOOL.  THE MURDERER SAT AND STARED OUT THE WINDOWS.  OCCASIONALLY LETTING OUT A SHRIEK THAT WOULD SHIVER THE CLASS.  THE THIEF STANDS LOOKING THOROUGH THE BARS OF HIS PRISON CELL.

     IN THE STATE MENTAL HOSPITAL, THE SCHIZOPHRENIC IS RESTRAINED FROM BEATING HIS HEAD ON THE FLOOR.  THE EVANGELIST SLEEPS IN THE CHURCH YARD, VICTIM OF A DISEASE CONTACTED DURING HIS MISSIONARY WORK.  THE POLICE NO LONGER SEARCH FOR THE MURDERER SINCE HE WAS, HIMSELF, KILLED IN A BALLROOM BRAWL.  AND ALL OF THEM SAT IN MY CLASSROOM AND LISTED AS I TAUGHT ENGLISH.

     I MUST HAVE A TREMENDOUS HELP TO THEM.  AFTER ALL, I DID TEACH THEM  THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A NOUN AND A VERB AND HOW TO DIAGRAM A SENTENCE.

Again, I have proofread this, and this is exactly the same as the original in my office.

Why do we teach?

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The use of models to help me learn

In one of my first postings, I wrote about things teachers MUST do to promote conceptual transfer (a.k.a. learning :-)).  One of the items I suggested was using models when teaching and learning.

Since I teach in an IB World School, I have been introduced to the IB Learner Profile.  Which, I believe, is a model for learning.

The IB Learner Profile includes 10 learner characteristics or attributes.  The 10 IB Learner Profile attributes are said (by the International Baccalaureate Organization), to be the IB Mission Statement “translated into a set of learning outcomes for the 21st century”.

I strive to provide opportunities for my students to develop the understanding and awareness of the power of the IB Learner Profile.  I also strive to use it in my own life…

Recently I have been fortunate enough to work on a project with some extremely passionate and knowledgeable educators from all around the globe.  We have meet face-to-face a couple of times over the past six months, and in between time we have been communicating and collaborating via an online learning platform.  Here is a bit of my reflection derived from that work.

What I learned today/What I’m continuing to learn:

When I back-away from my first, initial, prior thought…it allows me to see things from various perspectives.  This, in turn, helps me make more informed judgements; and even if I return to my original idea, that idea is now all the more valid.

This is what I think, in one illustration at least, being an open-minded, reflective, inquiring, thinking person has helped me to actualize.  When I combine this approach with other characteristics of the learner profile, I become an effective contributor to “the cause”.  And to take it one step further, the real power has been working with others that have the same model to strive for!!!

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.  Regardless if you knew the 10 terms (listed below) as IB Learner Profile attributes or not, how has striving to “be” one/some/all of those characteristics benefited your learning; your life?  Please post a comment or let me know on twitter: danmagie.

IB Learners strive to be:

  • inquirers
  • knowledgeable
  • thinkers
  • communicators
  • principled
  • open-minded
  • caring
  • risk-takers
  • balanced
  • reflective.

Below is a video from the IB illustrating the IB Learner Profile.

http://blip.tv/play/gusrgqi0FAI

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Things I’m continuing to learn…just TODAY!

1. Plans always are plans, not reflections.

2. Even when you’ve checked your resources before an event, it doesn’t mean the resources will be there at event time.

3. When emotions are not in harmony, it is difficult to focus on details.

4. Collaboration is powerful.

5. It is important to build an environment of dialogue.

Not a bad day of learning, if I do say so myself. How, you might ask, did I learn all this…through the beautiful profession of Education.

Today, some MYP Language A English students were presenting their informative and persuasive speeches intended to prompt action to help diffuse discrimination in our world today (2011). I was responsible for judging them against specific criteria. As this is a difficult thing for me to do in real-time, I have learned to record presentations on some sort of video device; to then re-watch with the power of the pause and reverse buttons, in order to determine final achievement levels for students (context to help me to continue to learn about #1; however, if things would have went as planned, I wouldn’t have had this learning experience today :-)).

This morning, before home-room, I went to pick up the camera and ensure I knew how to operate it. I asked a few questions, shot a short video, found out how to view the video I just took, turned the camera off, and powered it back up again–ready to shoot a new video. All good. (context for #2 above).

Speech #1: half way through the speech…”error file” message. I quickly panic (#3 above), but regain my wits, tap record, and all is fine. I think to myself, during the speech, no big deal, two files for one speech…short gap, maybe 3 seconds…good thing I have a video, because I don’t know what this student has been saying.

Speech #2: two seconds into the speech and the video screen freezes with funky-colored-horizontal lines running through it.  No button works…force power-down.  Won’t restart.  I stare at the student intently–I problem solve in my head, but hear little of the speech.  I think to myself, we must continue giving speeches today or we might not have class time to get them in…students are prepared to give the today…not fair to them to postpone because of technical glitches outside their control…I’m not alone here. (#4 above).

Fortunately, I currently have a student observer (teacher in training) in that class .  She was practicing judging students with specific criteria and was taking notes in real-time during the speeches.  I quickly asked her to go make extra copies of the criteria sheets for me to make judgements in real-time as well.  She was back with the copies before speech #3 had ended.  I’m glad I was very familiar with the criteria, and I was fairly confident in the accuracy of my judgements.  But since I didn’t have the video to confirm my real-time judgements, I was re-taught the power of collaboration (#4) and the power of open dialogue (#5).

I was already thinking about other parts of the day, upon the end of class time.  The student observer questioned me about the class as it ended and we were headed for lunch.  At first I couldn’t focus because of various emotions stirred from the class.  I then was able to refocus and we compared notes regarding the speeches.  We discussed high, medium, and low achievement levels and  supported our judgements with evidence.  We discussed surprises from students.  We standardized the assessment, in real-time, immediately after the event, and I’m even more confident in the accuracy because of that conversation (#4 and #5).

As a result of “all of this”, I plan to learn more about social-emotional learning in order to become a better teacher next academic year.  But I also know “plans always are plans, not reflections” (#1).  Stay tuned.

What have you been learning today?  I’d love to hear from you.

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Learning with PYP Teachers Assistants

Over the past few months, I have been engaged with the Primary Years Programme (PYP) TAs from my school in a learning journey.  I have led a couple workshops on “Supporting Student Inquiry”.  It has been so rewarding for me to learn more about different styles of inquiry (model at bottom of post: free, structured, guided, and open/exploratory), while also learning more about the PYP model of inquiry (see KIS TAs list below).

I’d like to share some of their learning.

Things KIS TAs think they can do to support student inquiry:

*Be an “audience” member for a performance or product and provide formative feedback.
*Observe students, then question.
*Observe students, then provide statements of instruction.
*Resource Management: prepare materials, act as facilitators/time keepers, etc.
*Become more and more aware, and use, the PYP Inquiry Cycle terminology: Tuning-in, Finding-out, Sorting-out, Going Further, Drawing Conclusions, Taking Action!

Here are a couple more resources on types of inquiry.

Exploring the meaning of practicing classrrom inquiry…

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