Saturday, January 29, 2011

10 Thoughts After EduCon Day 1

I've had an interesting week and, of course, a lot of interesting conversation today at Educon. My usual practice is to try to mull it all over and write a coherent piece on the blog, but for the sake of getting it done, I've decided to mix it up. I'm just throwing out the first 10 complete (random) thoughts that make their way onto the page. Publish post. And worry about fleshing it all out at a later date...

1. I need to blog more. I am doing good work and learning a lot. The missing piece is that I do not reflect and share enough. Actually, I reflect almost constantly in my head or in my daily conversations with Silvia. It's the sharing piece that is missing, as well as pushing myself to organize the ideas and communicate them to others who may not have the same background knowledge. I get in my own way with my expectations for each blog post. Sometimes less is more.

2. I am glad I brought the big heavy boots (thanks, Marjie) and not glad I brought the big heavy SLR camera. I should have stuck with just using my iphone as a camera. As much as I love photography, I love traveling light even more.

3. Talking is an important part of my learning. My 6 year-old son frequently interrupts others, saying, "I NEED to talk." One of the hardest things for him in school is how much he is not allowed to talk. Once, when having yet another discussion with him about school behavior, he looked down sadly and said, "I just want to be able to talk."
I have to admit that I can relate to this. I think I am a good listener, too, and I don't need to talk all the time, nor do I think I talk too much (most of the time). However, I LOVE the Educon model of a conversation. Participating is an important part of my learning. If I'm not included in the conversation, like with a traditional presentation, I usually turn to tweeting to get my talking fix. But I prefer actively engaging with the ideas as opposed to just listening and taking notes.

4. If I feel this way, others must feel this way, too. I think one of the biggest things I've taken away from the Educon and Edubloggercon model is that professional development has to change. Just like classroom teaching has to change. I think maybe as teachers and presenters we get overly bogged down in how much there is to say. We just want to make sure not to miss an important point or resource. However, actions speak louder than words, and I think I speak for a lot of teachers when I say that teachers are tired of the hypocrisy of a presenter talking at teachers telling them not to teach by talking at students. PD must become more active and engaging.
A lot of teachers complain of feeling overwhelmed after professional development, where so much is introduced at once by a well-meaning presenter. I think that a common response to this feeling is to totally shut down. Less is more!

5. I really liked the lunchtime "Encienda EduCon" where people delivered a 5 minute talk using 20 slides that automatically advanced. I think this would be an excellent model for site-based professional development. I would love to hear from every teacher at my school this way. I think it would have far-reaching implications.

---It is already day 2 now, and I didn't get past #5. But it's time to pay attention again... so much to learn. I'm going to stop here and publish. Sorry if my title was a bit misleading...

6. 7. 8. 9. 10. I guess less is more!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sharing Our Learning

Image credit: Silvia Tolisano New Roles for developing empowered learners

Adapted from Alan November (pp.188-193), Curriculum 21 (ASCD, 2010) by Heidi Hayes Jacobs.

At our school, we frequently reference Alan November's "Roles for Empowered Learners." Silvia's recent blog post on Langwitches Blog, "What do you have to lose?" speaks of the importance of educators sharing their work. In it, she references this quote, from Ewan McIntosh: "Sharing, and sharing online specifically, is not in addition to the work of being an educator. It is the work."

We know that students thrive on meaningful work and an authentic audience. We also know that when students reflect on their work, teach others, and use language to describe their process, learning is deepened and reinforced. Does it not stand to reason that students, as well as their teachers, have a strong impetus to share their learning, and to share their learning online specifically,where they have the potential for a wide audience, interaction and feedback?

One of our 2nd grade classes did just that with their blog post, Trading Card Experts. After creating several trading cards, each one the extension of a reading assignment, the students felt that they had developed sufficient expertise to become tutorial designers.

A classroom blog provides an easy forum for students to reflect and share in this way. The process of collaborative writing is extremely rich with opportunities for developing students' skills in both reading and writing. When students are sharing what THEY know, interest is high. Students, proud of their accomplishments, know that this is important writing. They want to get it right.

The wordpress blog provides authentic reinforcement of the writing process.
After starting a new post, we clicked "save draft." When we next worked on that post, we chose "edit post." As students read their writing aloud, they began to understand the importance of hearing how the writing sounds. The revision process came to life as respectful suggestions were made, discussed, and decided upon by group agreement or popular vote. Finally, students gathered together at the SMARTboard, to click "publish."

Learning is sharing and sharing is most definitely learning. No longer do the four walls of a classroom define the learning environment, and no longer do the students work for the "audience of one." Students are engaged in meaningful learning when they share their work publicly as participants in a global community of learners. No longer is the writing process a series of posters on the wall or words repeated by a teacher. No longer does "publish" mean copying over your work in your nicest handwriting using magic marker. Using the classroom blog for reflection and sharing represents one example of the kind of upgrade recommended by Heidi Hayes Jacobs in Curriculum 21.

Here is the original, collaboratively-written post "Trading Card Experts." Since we are in the beginning stages of blogging in the classroom, our 2nd grade blog is not yet open for public commenting. However, the students would very much appreciate any feedback you would like to share with them.

Trading Card Experts

We have made three trading cards in the computer lab. The first one we did was about ourselves. The second one was about what we thought was the strongest element or thing in the world. We read a story called "The Strongest One," and that is how we got the idea to make that trading card. The third trading card we created was about a rescue dog. In our reading book we read a story about rescue dogs.

Now we are experts because we know how to make trading cards very well. It was fun making trading cards. You should make a trading card, too.

How-to Make a Trading Card

Step 1- Go to BigHugeLabs. Scroll down and choose "trading card." (Or you can click on the picture below. We made it a link.)

Step 2- Use a picture that you have saved on your computer. We save ours to the desktop so that we can easily find it. Next click on "choose file" to find your picture and upload it.

Step 3- Click on one of the three choices for where the picture goes "top left, bottom right or center." Then pick your background color.

Step 4- Choose a title for your card. For example, on a trading card about the strongest element, the title might be "Hail." The sub-title would be "The Strongest One." Another example from one of our trading cards is title: "Rescue Dogs" and sub-title: "German Shepherds."

For the description, we wrote adjectives that described our topic, and we also wrote one or two sentences. We pre-wrote our thoughts in our journals before we went to the computer lab.

Step 5-

We did not choose any icons, but you could if you want. Next, press create and you will see your trading card.

Step 6- Then look at your card, and make sure it looks the way you like. Read it over to make sure you don't have any mistakes. If you need to change something, click "edit" to go back. If it is the way you want it to be, click "save" and if you want to print it, click "print."

We hope you have fun making your trading cards. We hope our directions help you. Thank you for reading our blog post. Please leave a comment if you have any questions for us or to tell us about your trading cards.
- by Miss Stein's 2nd graders.