Posts Tagged ‘school reform’
This piece was actually sparked by an interview of Lady Gaga by Soledad O’ Brien at the Born This Way Emotion Revolution Summit where Gaga stated, “It’s time to stop telling learners what to do and start listening for we can do for them.”
One of those accepted practices, sadly, in most educational settings is that the teacher is the authority to be respected and listened to without question. Listening to students is not a practice that is often taught in teacher education programs.
There is a current movement, in some circles, to promote and honor student voice. But, and this is a huge but, if educators are serious about honoring student voice, they need to first learn how to listen, really listen to their students.
Students who are given a voice in setting goals gain ownership in what they’re learning. Teachers who listen to what students tell them they need to learn gain more than just a better understanding of the children they teach — they gain clarity on their roadmap to better teaching. And when conversations about teaching and learning are allowed to happen, teachers and students develop mutual trust and high expectations. (Want to Improve Teaching? Listen to Students)
Sadly, upon doing a Google search about why’s and how’s on educators listening to students, I found very little on the topic. It really gives the message – reinforces that teachers listening to students is not seen as part of best classroom practices. So my goal of this post is to offer some suggestions on how to listen to learners.
Listening Skills for Educators
- Attend to the speaking learner with an open mind; without any agenda except to just listen.
- Use body language and nonverbal cues that demonstrate a focus on the speaking learner.
- Practice empathy skills with both verbal and nonverbal responses.
- Engage in informal conversations encouraging learners to talk about non-school related topics.
- Summarize what you heard the learner saying.
- Reflect back to the learner what you believe to be the thoughts and feelings behind the stated message.
- Ask open-ended questions if and when you don’t understand what the learner is saying and/or if you need further information.
- Inquire about how learners connect to their learning; about their metacognitive strategies.
Benefits of Listening to Learners
The benefits of encouraging and listening to student voices, and then acting upon what they say include:
- Positive classroom culture which can lead to a positive school culture,
- Improved teaching and learning,
- Better teacher-student relationships,
- Learners see themselves as active partners in their own education; they become more invested in their learning,
- Learners feeling that they are in a safe environment where they are willing and able to express concerns, ask questions, ask for help, take risks.
I compiled all of my blog posts about Maker Education into an ebook that I published via Amazon Kindle. The price is $3.99. It can be accessed at http://www.amazon.com/Educator-as-Maker-ebook/dp/B016Z5NZ6O/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
The pieces include theoretical ideas, informal research-observations, ideas related to the educator as a maker educator, the maker education process, suggestions for implementation, and reflecting on the making process. Graphics and infographics created to support the chapter content are included.
The Table of Contents:
- The Perfect Storm for Maker Education
- Is It Project-Based Learning, Maker Education or Just Projects?
- Maker Education and Experiential Education
- MAKE STEAM: Giving Maker Education Some Context
- The Intersection of Growth Mindsets and Maker Education
- Becoming a Lifelong Maker: Start Young
- Making and Innovation: Balancing Skills-Development, Scaffolding, and Free Play
- Let Children’s Play (with Technology) Be Their Work in Education
- Tinkering and Technological Imagination in Educational Technology
- Educator as a Maker Educator
- Educator as Lead Learner
- Promises to My Learners as a Maker Educator
- The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture for Tinkering and Maker Education
- Maker Education: Inclusive, Engaging, Self-Differentiating
- Team Building Activities That Support Maker Education, STEM, and STEAM
- Stages of Being a Maker Learner
- Making MAKEing More Inclusive
- Example Lesson: Maker Education Meets the Writers’ Workshop
- Reflecting on the Making Process
What does learning look like in school environments? What is wrong with the following pictures?
Mohamed, a self-assured kid with thick-framed glasses and a serious expression, had just started at MacArthur High School a few weeks ago. The Irving, Tex., ninth-grader has a talent for tinkering — he constructs his own radios and once built a Bluetooth speaker as a gift for his friend — and he wanted to show his new teachers what he could do. So on Sunday night, he quickly put together a homemade digital clock (“just something small,” as he casually put it to the Dallas Morning News: a circuit board and power supply connected to a digital display) and proudly offered it to his engineering teacher the next day. “They took me to a room filled with five officers in which they interrogated me and searched through my stuff and took my tablet and my invention,” the teen said. “They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’ I told them no, I was trying to make a clock. “I really don’t think it’s fair because I brought something to school that wasn’t a threat to anyone,” Mohamed said. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I just showed my teachers something, and I end up being arrested later that day.” (‘They thought it was a bomb’: 9th-grader arrested after bringing a home-built clock to school.)
. . . and in 2013, Kiera Wilmot, a Black, Female student, was arrested for her science experiment:
16-year-old Kiera Wilmot became curious after a friend told her about a reaction that would happen if she mixed hydrochloric acid and aluminum. In a small water bottle, she mixed toilet bowl cleaner with aluminum foil–a bang, a blown bottle top, and a small puff of smoke came out of the reaction. Hundreds of videos of similar experiments appear on YouTube. Shortly after the incident, the school’s assistant principal questioned Wilmot’s science teacher who said he didn’t know anything about the experiment. Then the assistant principal called the police. Despite her intellectual thirst for scientific knowledge, Kiera didn’t receive a pat on the back for her curiosity nor did she receive a warning not to try this again on the school campus unless under the supervision of her science teacher. No people were physically harmed and no property was damaged during the incident. But Kiera was expelled from Bartow High School and slapped with two felony charges – possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device. (Kiera Wilmot, 16, Arrested at School after Failed Science Experiment)
. . . and Paris Gray, a Black, model student, was about to graduate:
Paris Gray, upstanding vice president of her about-to-graduate high-school class in Jonesboro, Georgia, when administrators figured out what her yearbook quote meant. It read: When the going gets tough, just remember to Barium, Carbon, Potassium, Thorium, Astatine, Arsenic, Sulfur, Uranium, Phosphorus translated to when the going gets tough, just remember to [Ba][C][K] [Th][At] [As][S] [U][P]. “Basically, it was me just saying start all over again,” she said. Administrators barred Gray from participating in a senior walk on Friday, Willis reported. She was also supposed to speak at the upcoming graduation ceremony, but Gray said an assistant principal told her that was off. “It just completely destroyed me,” Gray said, “and my mom’s been telling me don’t let it ruin my happiness, but it’s, like, really taking a big toll.” (The Chemistry Joke That Got a Student Suspended)
. . . and although less dramatic, harmful, and painful, there was this from the brilliant Jack Andraka, when at 15 he discovered a test for pancreatic cancer:
And, so, I’m really fascinated by carbon nanotubes. I was reading this really interesting paper in biology class, and all of the sudden, we were learning about these new things called antibodies. So then I though, in my biology class, I was just sitting there behind my desk looking at this little paper, I thought, “What if I put this antibody in a network of carbon nanotubes?” just wildly, on a whim. And then it hit me. Amazing. I was very very happy. My biology teacher wasn’t as happy when she found me reading a paper instead of writing an essay on biology class. (Detecting Pancreatic Cancer… at 15)
I have said and will continue to say that the biggest ethical travesty of our times is “teaching” the spirit and passion out of a learner.
So what is making? I’ve proposed that the heart of making is creating new and unique things. I also realize that in order for this type of making to occur, there needs to be some scaffolding so that maker learners can develop a foundation of knowledge and skills. The end result, though should be maker learners creating new things by and for themselves. The ideas in this post have been sparked by the SAMR model. I see a similar pattern or progression with maker education:
- Copy – make something almost exactly as someone else has done.
In this age of information abundance, there really is an unlimited number of DIY resources, tutorials, Youtube videos, online instructors and instructions on making all kind of things. These resources provide a good beginning for acquiring some solid foundational skills and knowledge for learning how a make something one has never made before.
- Advance – gain more advance knowledge and skills by doing similar projects
During this stage, the maker learner, who desires to learn more about a given skill, project, or product, gains more advanced skills and knowledge by exploring additional and more advanced resources and by using these resources to create more advanced makes.
- Embellish – add something that has been done; add a little of one’s self to it.
When embellishing, maker learners extend their copied projects to include their own ideas. They tailor the copied projects to include their own ideas or embellishments. Example embellishments can be found with 3D printing, Makey-Makey, and littleBits adaptations.
- Modify – take what others have done and modify or morph it into something new.
When modifying, maker learners take something that has been created before and tweak it to make something new. An example is the cardboard challenge where kids who were inspired by Caine’s Arcade build their own cardboard creations.
- Create – make or create some new, unique, different than what has been created before
When creating, maker learners create some unique or new. A simple example is when kids (and adults) take apart toys and use those parts to create new kinds of toys. A more complex example was the first folks who created prosthetic arms for 3-D printers.
Getting to Create stage will not occur for everyone but the Create doesn’t have to be that unique or earth shattering. It just means making something – anything more different or unique than what has been made before. I do believe, though, that maker learners need to get beyond the Copy and Advance stages to add something of themselves to their makes. I believe this is what true making is all about.
When asked what my first language is, I often answer, “visual.” I think in images, prefer to be taught through images, and like to express what I know through images. I find it disconcerting that as learners progress to the higher grades, there is less use of images and visuals to teach concepts.
The power of the use of vision for learning is emphasized by developmental molecular biologist, John Medina, where in his publication, Brain Rules, he states:
Vision Trumps All Other Senses
We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%. Professionals everywhere need to know about the incredible inefficiency of text-based information and the incredible effects of images (http://www.brainrules.net/vision).
Created by students for teachers, the following video shows students frustrated with the lack of visual learning in the classroom:
This post is a call to action to increase visual-based learning in the classroom through:
- Using visuals, images, video, and other visual media to teach and demonstrate concepts.
- Using and teaching learners how to make concept maps.
- Using and teaching learners how to do sketchnotes.
- Allowing and encouraging learners to show what they know through visual imagery.
- Teaching visual literacy.
Use Visuals, Images, Data Visualizations, Infographics and Videos to Teach Concepts
Our brains are wired to rapidly make sense of and remember visual input. Visualizations in the form of diagrams, charts, drawings, pictures, and a variety of other ways can help students understand complex information. A well-designed visual image can yield a much more powerful and memorable learning experience than a mere verbal or textual description (http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/visual-thinking/).
Because of all of the multimedia available to teachers, there has been an increased use of visual presentation of content in the classroom. Educators, though, should assess their visual impact. Youtube videos of talking heads or PowerPoint presentations that are text based just reinforce instructional systems too heavily dependent on the verbal and written word.
The use of slide presentations by educators help to provide visual stimulus for their learners. They tend, though, to be way too text based as satirized in Life After Death by PowerPoint by Don McMillan . Truthfully, I am a strong proponent of using PowerPoints for teaching given that they are image rich and text limited. Garr Reynolds or Presentation Zen provides tips for preparing presentations that honor the use of visuals in Top Ten Slide Tips.
Concepts can also be demonstrated through data visualizations and infographics.
Visual analytics play off the idea that the brain is more attracted to and able to process dynamic images than long lists of numbers. But the goal of information visualization is not simply to represent millions of bits of data as illustrations. It is to prompt visceral comprehension, moments of insight that make viewers want to learn more (http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/08/data-visualized-more-on-teaching-with-infographics/)
Strategies for using data visualizations and inforgraphics in the class can be found at Data Visualized: More on Teaching With Infographics.
Use and Teach Learners How to Make Concept Maps and Graphic Organizers
Research tells us that the majority of students in a regular classroom need to see information in order to learn it. Some common visual learning strategies include creating graphic organizers, diagramming, mind mapping, outlining and more. These strategies help students or all ages better manage learning objectives and achieve academic success. As students are required to evaluate and interpret information from a variety of sources, incorporate new knowledge with what they already have learned, and improve writing skills and think critically, visual learning tools help students meet those demands. Paired with the brain’s capacity for images, visual learning strategies help students better understand and retain information (http://www.inspiration.com/visual-learning).
For more ideas for using mind maps in the classroom, see 10 Mind Mapping Strategies For Teachers.
Use and Teach Learners How to Do Sketchnotes
Sketchnotes are rich visual notes created from a mix of handwriting, drawings, hand-drawn typography, shapes, and visual elements like arrows, boxes, and lines (definition from Mike Rohde, The Sketchnote Handbook). Although sketchnoting was born out of the need to take better notes at conferences and in meetings, I believe the process of making sketchnotes may have tremendous educational value for students and professionals. This is especially true for students who struggle taking traditional notes or need a fresh approach to learning. Please keep in mind that this is about ideas, not art (The Sketchnote Handbook) (http://campus.murraystate.edu/faculty/jcox/sketch.html).
I discuss Sketnoting in more detail in my post – Visual Note-Taking.
Allow and Encourage Learners to Show What They Know Through Visual Imagery
Allowing learners to show what they know through visuals supports Universal Design for Learning second principle, Provide Multiple Means of Expression:
It is important to provide alternative modalities for expression, both to the level the playing field among learners and to allow the learner to appropriately (or easily) express knowledge, ideas and concepts in the learning environment. These include:
- Compose in multiple media such as text, speech, drawing, illustration, design, film, music, dance/movement, visual art, sculpture or video
- Use social media and interactive web tools (e.g., discussion forums, chats, web design, annotation tools, storyboards, comic strips, animation presentations)
- Compose in multiple media such as text, speech, drawing, illustration, comics, storyboards, design, film, music, visual art, sculpture, or video
Such alternatives reduce media-specific barriers to expression among learners with a variety of special needs, but also increases the opportunities for all learners to develop a wider range of expression in a media-rich world (http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines/principle2).
Teach Visual Literacy
If we think of literacy as reading and writing words, visual literacy can be described as the ability to both interpret and create visuals. With the constant, overwhelming flow of information and communication today, both parts of this modern literacy equation are non-negotiable (http://gettingsmart.com/2015/07/the-new-literacy-equation-visual-literacy-is-non-negotiable/).
Visual literacy is important in multiple ways:
- Teaching visual literacy helps kids better interpret art and visual media that they come in contact with.
- Visual literacy allows a deeper interaction with texts of all kinds and introduces the process of analytical thinking about representation and meaning.
- There is evidence that, even for older children, examining and understanding how art and text interact may allow readers to “visualize” while they read–a key to proficiency in and enjoyment of reading.
- By teaching “educated perception” of artwork (for instance, how certain techniques elicit specific emotions or effects) you can teach children how to be more skeptical and informed viewers of all visual media, including advertising (http://ccb.lis.illinois.edu/Projects/youth/literacies/visual2.html).
Here is list of visual literacy resources as compiled by Kathy Schrock: