The video I chose to share this week is not a new video to me and it's probably not new to you either. It is Rita Pierson's Ted Talk entitled "Every Kid Needs A Champion" and in my opinion it delves into one of the most important and moving conversations about education that a teacher can have. Throughout this course I have really been contemplating the new role of a teacher. If I am not the master of knowledge what role do I play in the classroom? Cheerleader is quite not enough, coach sounds a little too sporty for me, and then it hit me! I need to be their champion. The person who believes that they can do anything they set their mind to and who will create the platform they need in order to be successful themselves.
During this course and this year I have been forced to take risks and relinquish more control to my students. To be honest, this is stressful for me. I worry that if I relinquish too much to my students that they wont have enough support and that I will let them down in some way. But every time I have taken a risk or given the kiddos a new responsibility they have more than raised to the occasion. I work with mostly Hispanic students who are living in what is considered to be "extreme poverty" and they don't feel like they are capable of much or that much is expected of them. When I show my colleagues the different projects my students have created this year I often get, "your students did that??" I get to smile and say, "yes they did."
But more importantly than showing my colleagues, friends, or parents of my students what they can do, I have shown them what they can do. Many times this year my students have seemed genuinely shocked by the quality of what they have created. To be able to show them that they are no less capable than any other students around the world has been the greatest lesson and gift that this course has given me. In Pierson's speech she tells the audience about a chant that she had her students say each day, and I am proud to say that all the students at my school say a variation of this chant together every morning before school. It says everything I want my students to believe about themselves.
I am somebody.
I was somebody when I came,
And I'll be a better somebody when I leave.
I am intelligent, and I am strong,
And I deserve the education I get here at Markham.
Watching the Obeng video and thinking about transliteracy this week actually reminded me of the importance of not entirely replacing everything in the classroom with technology. My project was going to have students use only websites to conduct their research, but after thinking about students exercising multiple forms of literacy I decided to align the project with a story from their anthology, provide books from the library, and bring realia into the classroom to supplement their learning experience. I think that with the push towards technology that education is currently (and rightly) experiencing, it is important to remember the value in providing students with different types of materials to learn from.
I also had a great realization about my research project this week through talking with a friend of mine who is also a teacher. I asked her to help me think of the assumptions I was making in creating my project, as it is hard to think about your own assumptions. She pointed out that I was assuming that students would be willing and eager to look in multiple places for information, and that they might just click on one link, and probably the the first link they see. I realized she was right so I decided to add a perusing time to my project. Students will need to look at each of the information sources and review them before they are told what information they should be trying to find. I believe that at least knowing what each website, or other source of information contains will make them more likely to use more than one source of information, and therefore make a meaningful decision.
I think that transliteracy is an important skill that students today have had to master to a much further extent than other generations given the multitude of "literacies" they need to master. It is important for teachers to remember that students are not moving from one literacy to another, but rather adding a new way of receiving and interpreting information which enables them to create a well-rounded understanding of the material they are expected to learn.
As I have been beginning to figure out exactly what my end product is going to look like, and how I am going to get there, I realize I keep frantically returning to this idea of balance. I don't want to set my students free upon the internet without any real researching skills, but I don't want to overly limit their options so that they feel disconnected from their end products. The instructional product I have created gives students opportunities to make authentic decisions within some confines designed to focus their work. These confines act as a support system, or training wheels for the students.
Each day students will be presented with a goal, or assignment, related to a research topic and will be presented with a variety of sources in which they can find the information they need to reach their goal. A variety of digital and non-digital, literary and non-literary resources should be provided each day. This will ensure that students are self-directing, becoming active participants in their own learning experience, but are still slightly confined by the materials that the teacher has provided. These confines can and should be loosened as students gain confidence and experience in decision making and as they get older.
It is important to remember that any confines placed on students’ decision making, (i.e. their end product, resources they may use, time they may spend working on the assignment) should be designed specifically with the purpose of supporting the student through the decision making process. Students may struggle with time management or understanding expectations of their end products, so ample amounts of successful examples should be shown. Teachers should be cognitive, however, that examples are confines to student decision making.
What is most important to remember when designing lessons implementing decision making is that there is a fine balance between giving students enough freedom to make authentic decisions and enough support to ensure that they are able to be successful, and a meaningful learning experience can be found in that balance.
From the first article we read in this class I was excited. I was excited because I had chosen the topic of engagement for my research and what I learned in the first term was that engagement was a very complex and broad topic that I was only beginning to understand. Learning about instructional design has provided a new way for me to think about engagement and my students. Instead of students, I now have users, people who need to choose to engage with my product, the lesson. This is engagement at its core. My students need to choose to learn and they need to choose to learn from me, so I need to sell the learning experience to them. This was my first epiphany this term, but it was immediately followed by an unsettling thought.
I am a person who hates to be told that I have to do something. My immediate response is, “No.” And we know that adult consumers are often in a position where they can choose to buy your product, or they can buy another one. My students do not have nearly as many options. They are legally mandated to go to school and they have no selection in terms of the teacher they have or the standards that they are required to learn. I understand why this turns some of them off from the learning process; but just as these things are out of the control of my students, they are out of my control as well. The options my students have are more on the level of effort and focus. It’s much like the leading a horse to water metaphor, they have to show up, but they don’t have to learn.
As my research is considering the impact of student choice on student engagement I am left to figure out how much choice to give my students, in what way I want to provide that choice, and how to make the choices they do have meaningful. This is made even more difficult by the limited choices that I, and every other teacher have. I cannot choose what standards to teach, what curriculum to use, or at what times I teach each subject. How can I, with my limited freedom, create meaningful opportunities for my students to make choices? Kids can smell BS and they don’t appreciate the “you can do this worksheet or that worksheet,” version of student choice.
Reading about the SITE model of instructional design lead to another epiphany. It is an epiphany that I am slightly embarrassed, but also excited about. In the sociocultural subcontext section of the article it discusses the fact that a learning experience must match what learners want in order for them to decide to put their time and energy into learning. After I read that I considered that I had asked my students how they felt about school in general during my first round of research. Many of them responded that they only came to school because they had to and that they found our curriculum to be boring. I found this rather discouraging as both of these aspects of learning are out of my control.
My epiphany was that I should brainstorm with my students all of the choices we don’t have. Once we know all of the things we can’t decide, we can sit back and say, “Given that we need to do these things, what do we want? Are there ways that we can connect other areas of interest to 4th grade standards? What do we want the learning environment to be like? How do we want to learn?” It seems somewhat backwards but I think focusing on the decisions we don’t have first will lead us to a deeper, more effective, and hopefully more engaging discussion about the decisions we do have.
The main audience I want to address in my research is my students. Because my research is focused on engagement, my focus is on them and their needs. WIth that being said, engagement is not only a struggle in my classroom, and I would like my research to be useful to other teachers who have similar struggles.
The biggest problem I have thought about thus far in creating a product that emphasizes student choice is that, thus far in my research this is a very broad idea. The decisions that students get to make need to be authentic, and this often means a simultaneous increase in the workload and relinquishing of control for the teacher. Neither of these are factors that many teachers will be overly enthused about, and I worry that many teachers will like the idea, but will not truly implement in their classroom. I have even struggled to continue providing students with student choice with testing coming up and feeling like there aren’t many authentic choices that even I can make. So I guess my aha from these past few weeks is I need to think of a simple method of implementing student choice into a daily routine that does not create too much work for the teacher or ignore the realities of time constraints and testing pressure that exist in classrooms all over this country.
This week I really found Stanford's Design Thinking Bootleg to be really interesting an inspiring. I especially found the seven different design mindsets described on the second page to be really insightful in terms of embracing a design mindset in the classroom. The two mindsets that seemed most relevant and impactful to me were the fourth and fifth mindsets, embrace experimentation and be mindful of process.
I know that personally I have had a hard time experimenting in my classroom. My students are generally below grade level and I always feel the time crunch of moving through all of the curriculum by the end of the year. Because of these factors I often get a slightly panicked feeling when I think about experimenting in the classroom. This does not mean that I never try new strategies or tools in the classroom, but it does mean that I try plan them to a T beforehand and dismiss them quickly if they don't work exactly the way I want them to. I want to become more patient in this regard. Intellectually I know that things rarely work perfectly the first time, and that experimentation is a process of trial and error. If I stop using new strategies or tools at the first error, then I am not giving those strategies or techniques the opportunity to be successful.
Be Mindful of Process
This mindset encouraged designers to understand where they are in the design process and to be aware of the best methods to use in that particular stage. This not only applies the design process, but the learning process as well. It is always important for teachers, parents, and students to understand that learning is a process. We are all often stressed when it seems like students "aren't learning," but we need to remember that failure is always part of the learning process. I think if I could create a pictorial which described the learning process in a similar way to the design process, it would help students to understand that struggling is a normal and necessary part of the learning process that will not last forever.
Overall I have really enjoyed thinking about the design process in education and am excited to learn more about it!
When I first sat down to read the Dervin article, I picked it up, read the first two pages, laughed about how the article about sense-making didn’t make any sense, put it down, and walked away. But the next day I remembered a strategy I used in college to finish all of my readings. I majored in political science and history so there was a lot of reading! I have always been an auditory learner and in high school I read Shakespeare out loud to help make sense of it. So I decided to read my college assignments out loud as well. Not only did reading out loud help me to stay focused and awake, but it also helped me to better comprehend what I was reading. So I decided to apply the same method to reading the Dervin article. And again I found that reading it out loud helped me to make sense of the dense, but fascinating writing.
I would like to use my own experience reading this article as an explanation of Dervin’s main points in the article. At the beginning of the article Dervin discusses how people interact with the world in unique ways because every person is unique. This means that data doesn't tell us about humans or what is real to them. So we should focus on how humans interact with the world, and the decisions they make when faced with challenges. Darvin proposes that humans, while unique, benefit from similar strategies when faced with similar problems. She then describes the experience of facing a challenge by explaining that experience in three parts. The first part of the experience is the event which is the situation that presents a challenge. In my circumstance the event was that the article was difficult to read. The next part of the experience is the gap. The gap is the strategy that a person uses to help them overcome the event. Reading the article out loud to myself was my gap. Finally there is the use, which is the reason why a person needed to overcome the event. For me the use was needing to be able to summarize and reflect on the article.
The main takeaway I have from Dervin’s article is that we, as educators need to focus on providing our students with a variety of strategies for them to overcome their challenges. In order to teach this lesson to a group of high schoolers I would first show them different short video clips demonstrating how similar hand gestures have very different meanings in different cultures. This would demonstrate how we all perceive information differently and according to our backgrounds. I would then show them an image of a woman next to a wall. The wall has a rope attached to the top of it , and there is an ice cream cone on the other side of the wall. I would explain to the students that this woman loves ice cream. The wall is the event because it is the challenge she faces in order to get what she wants. The rope is the gap because it's the strategy she can use to overcome the event. And finally the ice cream is the use, because it is the reason she wants to get over the wall. And finally I would explain to the students that no matter what background a person came from , they would all use the rope to get over the wall. So we are united when we are placed in similar situations or are facing similar challenges.