“Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.” By John Locke

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I am forever reading, sometimes I rather be reading on a Friday night then going out with friends. Okay truth be told a lot of the times because by Friday I am dead tired from the week. But in all honesty, I love books and I am always reading at least two, a fun personal read and an education book. I often get asked what are some of my favorite books in education are when talking with educators so I decided todays post would be a dedication to my favorite education books I LOVE right now.

1. Leverage Leadership: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo

2. Soup: A Recipe to Nourish Your Team and Culture by Jon Gordan

3. Sparking Student Creativity: Practical Ways to Promote Innovative Thinking and Problem Solving by Patti Drapeau

4. Never Underestimate Your Teachers: Instructional Leadership for Excellence in Every Classroom by Robyn Jackson

5. The Third Teacher by OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, Bruce Mau Design, OWP/P Architects

I would love to know your favorite education books as I am always looking to add to my list. Please leave your favorites in the comment section.

“The intention of the learning environment is to give children exposure to a range of materials, resources and experiences that give them practice in skill refinement, in language development, in creativity, and in play.” By Kathy Walker

Almost two years ago, I blogged about “The 21st Century Classroom Environment” and I still believe in everything I wrote and think it is still relevant but I also have learned a lot more about creating learning spaces, brain based research and learning within the last few years as well. Below I have compiled some tips and tricks based on what I have learned about creating learning spaces.

Tips and Tricks for Hacking Learning Spaces:

1. Student Designed: Let student design the learning space as this allows students ownership.

2. Make it flexible: Design the learning space to support quick transitions among different type of learning such as group work, partners and/or individual. I was in a classroom recently where the teacher called out ‘learning mode one’ and the students all turned their desks from partner pairing to small groups. This obviously took practice and procedures but only a few weeks into the school year and the students did it seamlessly.

3. Learning spaces should be comfortable: Students are in school for many hours, they should be comfortable when they are learning. Let them choose where they want to sit and learn. I am writing my blog from my couch with my feet up on my coffee table because it is comfortable for me; another blogger might like to stand as they write, we need to provide multiple learning areas so it is comfortable for the student.

4. Keep items at students eye level: I never thought about this before but when I took a webinar that @erinklein hosted on Learning Spaces, it made perfect sense. Now when I go into  schools and classrooms I notice how all the work that is supposed to help students is at adult hight. For example recently when at a school they had a “Read” Box but the books where not at the students level to be able to read what the other students wrote on why they should ‘read’ the book. If this was at students eye level, the students would be able to read the other students reviews.

 5. Technology: Technology needs to be accessible for students like dictionaries and encyclopedias were in classrooms. It should be fluid and not seen as a separate thing.

6. Declutter the Space: According to the latest brain research, having a room full of things such as posters and anchor charts over stimulates the students. As teachers we need to deduce what is learning information and what is decoration. With Pinterest so popular, it makes it easier for teachers to think cutesy equals learning. For example, a word wall is important for students learning. A word wall that is on chevron print is over stimulating for the students and is really just there for decoration.

7. Gender Neutral: Classroom colors should be warm and calming; not over stimulating and distracting.

8. Active Spaces: Classrooms should have active areas where students can be kinetic learners such as a Makerspace.

 Pictures of different learning spaces I have come across in schools:

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Other Resources for Designing Learning Spaces:

The Third Teacher

Classroom Cribs

Designing Spaces for Effective Learning A guide to 21st century learning space design

Design of the Learning Space: Learning and Design Principles

Classroom of the Future Wiki

I would love to hear  or see pictures of how you have changed your learning space, please share in the comment section.

“Developing a desire to learn is the kindling of point of all classroom achievement.” By Robert John Meehan

There is a lot of research by educators such as Robert J. Marzano, Connie M. Moss, Susan M. Brookhart and Robert Defour that learning targets enhances student learning and achievement. Learning targets are short-term goals. They help students understand what is expected of them in a lesson, which in turn makes learning feel obtainable.  To create learning targets teachers must have clear focus on the skill and provide a measurable student friendly statement that will drive instruction. Using this best practice as background, I thought about what would it look like in a student-centered classroom?  I knew that:

1. The students would need to know what their learning goals were based on their data to make learning targets based on them.

2. The students would have to be taught and scaffold into knowing what successful learning targets are, what actions they should take to obtain the learning target.

3. The students would consistently have to self-evaluate, self-regulate, and self-motivate.

With this information, I was able to create a learning target student action plan template. The student would design their action plan based on their assessment data. (See previous blog post on how I use student data to drive their learning) Through student led conferencing, the teacher would be able to scaffold and monitor the action steps. The teacher would be able to use the Performance of Understanding (POU) as a way to hold students acceptable and show evidence of mastery learning. Students reflecting helps them self-evaluate what they have learned,  self-regulate what their next learning target should be to meet their overall goal, and also self-motivate through seeing progress from the learning targets.

Here is an example of a Learning Target Action Plan. Click on the below image to make bigger to see an example.

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I would love to know your feedback, please share in the comments section.

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” by Albert Einstein

Guest Blog Post by: Dylan Schreiner 

Whether people like to admit it or not, entrepreneurship involves everyone. Even professionals not commonly thought of as being business related. For example, an artist is still an entrepreneur due to the fact that he or she needs to sell their art or put on a show at a venue. No matter where you look, entrepreneurship can relate. Such is why, I believe teachers should focus on implementing entrepreneurial activities into their subjects. Involvement with entrepreneurship teaches people firsthand life skills applicable to whatever field they choose. Specifically, having entrepreneurial activities and projects allow incredible learning that translates to real world experience. 

A project might involve raising funds or awareness for charity. For example, after learning about the risks of smoking in “Life Management” class, the students could attempt to spread awareness through email marketing.  They could use graphic design in “art class,”  marketing fundamentals learned in “economics class” and analytics learned in “math class.”  This is just one example that illustrates the point.

The following are some benefits of such a system:

1. Teaches how to better work in groups

All too often in group projects, one person carries the group by doing a majority of the work. Instead, by having projects where students can choose their roles and what they’re passionate about, they become more invested. Also, even if one role gets filled, a person gets to learn how to do something new and thereby increase their skill set.

2. Give students marketable skills and experience

One huge limiting factor for students just entering the workforce, whether for a summer job/internship or a full time job, relates to experience. It’s almost as if a cycle exists by which lack of experience inhibits getting a job, but then students are stuck with no experience because they can’t get a job. Therefore, by creating projects with market potential and real world experience, graduates truly enter the job market ahead of the pack.

For example, if students were able to develop a product and were able to bring it to market, the experience gained through that entire process would make them more sought out by employers. . If that product were, let’s say a mobile phone application, the students involved in coding the application would also be sought after by potential employers. This idea even works for the arts. What English department or publishing company wouldn’t want a student with experience in marketing something? After all, sometimes the hardest part is selling your art.

3. Provides a well-rounded education

Think about it. How often do students in one college or area of study interact with those in another? Often, in college, all of the business majors group together and all of the engineers do the same. Even in high school, the AP and IB students are in a group of their own. Wouldn’t it be great if these students learned how to collaborate and gained a better understanding for the passions of one another? Doing so creates a society of well-rounded people adaptive to their environments.For example, working on projects that rely on creativity, adaptability and surviving change really sets someone up with the skills needed to be successful almost anywhere.

Overall, I hope to have interested you enough to think about including entrepreneurial activities in your school or classroom. Though, the article only includes some of the many benefits and reasons behind such an idea. Look out for continuation on this discussion in the future!

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” By Anthony Robbins

The last 100 years in the workforce we needed farmers and factory workers. It was okay for classrooms to have a teacher at the front of the room, who was the only knowledge resource besides books, as the internet did not exist. Desks could be in rows because it replicated the workforce.

But times have changed; we must prepare today’s students for a different workforce. We know today’s students will have to create their jobs, not look for jobs. They will compete with others around the globe. They will have jobs replaced by outsourcing and technology if their skills are easily replicated or duplicated.  To succeed, students will need creativity, communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and entrepreneurship. They will need to be able to adapt to change, be resilient and able to work effectively in a variety of environments.

How do we do this? We need to empower students to take ownership of their learning but we also need teachers to not be the sage on the stage but the guide on the side. I know what you are thinking, ‘but how to do we shift the role of the teacher as change is hard’ and you are right. But just because something is hard doesn’t mean that it can’t happen.

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Teachers, instructional coaches and administration need to self-evaluate where they are on the teacher continuum and be purposeful in making small scaffolded changes. Hard work does happen over night, as educators will need time and so will students. To be purposeful, we need to look at the instructional approaches to create personal learning opportunities for students.  

A few ways to make the shift up the ladder on the continuum: 

From Lecturer to Instructor: Start by creating mini-lesson for your students that are no longer than 10-15 minutes verse teaching your whole instructional block. Implement a workshop model such as balanced literacy, daily 5 or math workshop that have students complete work both guided with others and individually.

From Instructor to Facilitator: Start by incorporating a rotation model; if you have a few devices or are a BYOT school try a blended learning model such as rotation station. A rotation model allows you as a teacher to teach mini-lessons to small groups verse whole class. The students should be grouped based on learning needs according to your data and each mini-lesson should address those needs.  The data can be informal such as an exit ticket or formal such as a pre-assessment. You can also use the rotation model to do student/teacher conferences as well. If you were doing 20 min. rotations, the other 10 minutes you can conference with a few students each day after the mini-lesson. I used to make a schedule so that each week I would meet with the students at least once. (See Week Learning Guide Example and Week Learning Guide Template) Examples of the other rotations can be students are practicing the skills with manipulatives/games with partners at another station they can do independent work such as a playlist, contract or choice board. (*Note rotation station model is different than stations! Stations is where each student rotates through and are learning and practicing the same skills. Rotation station is when the students are going to the same places ‘station’ but are doing work on the skills they need.)

From Facilitator to Coach: This is the hardest shift and takes a lot of management. In this approach students get what they need, when they need it, not at a set pace. A teacher/coach works on the skills the individual student needs. Students and teachers together make action plans based on the students needs according to a pre-assessment. When a student finishes a unit they can move on to the next unit. There is no mini-lessons but small teaching moments during conferencing and facilitation. Students use playlists and each other to master the skills.

Other ways to help teachers make the shift:

  • Innovation and continuous improvement needs to be embedded in a schools/districts DNA.
  • Everyone needs to understand the ‘WHY’ this change needs to happen and be apart of it.
  • Administration needs to have a safe learning environment that looks at failure as a way to learn. They also have to understand that every teacher is different and will be at different places on the continuum.
  • Teachers need to be coached, supported and helped along in the process on making the shift into the different roles.
  • Have teachers visit other teachers.  Seeing it in action helps teachers visualize.

I would love to hear how you as an educator have made the shift in transforming your teaching or how you have coached (as an instructional facilitator or administrator) teachers to make the shift.

“Learning is always rebellion…Every bit of new truth discovered in revolutionary to what was believed before.” Margaret Lee Runbeck

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Last week I discussed picking the right model for your blended learning classroom so it is only natural that I now offer some tips and tricks for running a blended learning classroom. :-)

  • Focus on the lesson or content skill and let the technology be the tool or guide.
  • Start small and in one subject area.
  • Rearrange your classroom so that when you are working with your small group,  the students screens are facing you. (You want to be looking at the back of the students heads) This way you can see if they are on task by looking at their screens.
  • Plan the layout and procedures of your blended learning classroom before you begin.
    • Put students in charge of putting them out and away, letting them take ownership will help them value the use of the devices as well.
    • When the devices are out and you need the student’s attention, say 45 and have the students put their screens to a 45 degree angle like the above picture (not closed so it will have to start over or lose what they have done) or flip it over for devices such as phones.
    • Know what learning management system (ex. Google Classroom, Edmodo etc) and other web tools you plan on using.
  • Be flexible and understand that students might need to be scaffold info this type of environment.

Misconceptions:

  • Blended Learning = 1:1 environment. Not true: a great blended learning model can use only 10-15 computers. (Ex. Station Rotation Model)
  • Blended Learning = No Teacher. Not true: It is critical for a teacher in any learning environment and blended learning allows teachers to have more one on one time with students to help them grow as learners.
  • Blended Learning  = Babysitter. Not True: Students should never be just sitting at a screen but using higher order thinking skills or working with an adaptive learning program like Dreambox or Compass Learning.
  • Blended Learning = Everyday. Not True: You do not need to do blended learning every day, many happen to do it everyday because they like the time it gains them to be with small groups of students focusing on individual needs. I have seen lots of teachers only do a blended approach a few days of the week, while the other days they are doing more Project/Inquiry based learning.

I would love to learn more tips and tricks of a blended learning classroom. Please share in the comment section.

“Learning is more effective when it is active rather than passive process.” Euripides

According to Christensen Institute blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns: (1) at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; (2) at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; (3) and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience. There are four different models: Rotation, Flex, A La Carte and Enrichment Virtual Model. There is a difference between blended learning and technology integration, learn more about that from my previous blog post.

 

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Truly understanding the difference within the blended learning models will help make choosing and implementing blended learning in your classroom easier.

Rotation: Students are rotating through stations with at least one station being online. (Most often used)

Flex: Students main way of learning is online. (taking multiple classes)

A La Carte: Some students (not a whole school) take a class that is entirely online but is done inside the school they attend.

Enriched Virtual Model: Students attend class and then do coursework online, on their own time.

In my experience, most teachers use one of the four sub-models based on the rotation model. Below I define the differences between the sub-models.

  • Station Rotation: (Most used and easiest to manage)
    • Takes place in one classroom
    • Usually three stations: 1. Teacher led 2. Online Instruction/Practice 3. Student collaboration
    • Students rotate on a fixed schedule to the different stations that is managed by the teacher (Ex 15 mins per station, the teacher rings a bell and the students move.)
    • Students rotate through all the stations but do different activities based on level
    • Each station is the same content area (ex. everyone is doing math)
    • Teacher led station can be instructions or conferencing
  •  Lab Rotation:
    • Rotation happens through multiple lab/rooms within the school building
    • Students rotate among lab/rooms
    • Each lab/room is usually a different content area
    • One lab/room is online learning
  •  Individual Rotation:
    • Students rotate on an individual schedule based on their pace and needs.
    • Students don’t have to rotate to all the different stations in the room. They go to stations based on their needs as a learner.
    • Typical stations that are set up are: Online area, small group/direct instruction area, group work area and individual work area.
  •  Flipped Classroom:
    • Online delivery of instruction and content is done through video that the students watch at home. Best practice and research shows videos should be no more than 10 mins.
    • During class students are working on an active learning strategy such as injury or project based learning.
    • Sometimes flipped and another sub-model of rotation is used. (Ex: I used flipped and station rotation)
    • Misconception: Homework practice online is flipped learning. (Ex: students using adaptive learning software such as dreambox or a teacher assigning problems for students to do using a learning management system like Edmodo – These are NOT flipped classrooms)

Now that you understand the differences between the blended learning models, chose the one that best fits your classroom. Next week I will share some tips and tricks of managing a blended learning classroom.

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