Thursday, February 28, 2013

Critical Thinking

One of the four C's is Critical Thinking, and the key question is how do we set up lessons and classroom environments where students become proficient in critical thought?

Here are 10 unique strategies for nurturing critical thinking skills in students, courtesy of Mariko Nobori from Edutopia. ”

Ten Takeaway Tips for Teaching Critical Thinking

From: The Committed Sardine Blog, 21st Century Fluency Project,

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Coalinga Schools Visit

I had the distinct pleasure and opportunity to visit classrooms in the Coalinga Huron Unified School District on Wednesday February 27 along with close to other 30 other school leaders from various parts of the Valley, (part of the Central Valley Rural Network).

I became both inspired and much more learned in what a moral imperative and an instructional focus can do to elevate student engagement and learning.  Teachers engaged students with direct instruction including think-pair-share with consistent accountability and encouragement for students to use complete sentences using academic language!

The District embarked on a focus on English Learners and English Learner instruction that is embedded from kindergarten through 12th grade.  It was impressive to see teachers who did a great deal of preparation in posting word walls, sentence frames and other visible resources for students to refer to and use in enhancing their oral and written language communication.  The ELD instructional initiative combines excellent first teaching along with ELD strategies.  In my experience, these have many times been taught and viewed separately and distinct from each other.  Everyone who visited classrooms came away with similar descriptive acclaims of students speaking in full sentences using academic language while teachers showed a genuine automatic practice of using effective strategies with purpose.

I was able to glean how some of the practices in our District can be more effective, and I came away with two words:  coherence and fidelity.  We need to keep building on a coherent practice K-12 on checking for understanding with effective feedback and with a fidelity to direct instruction and good first teaching.  This includes our focus on building those communication skills of speaking academic language to be proficient writers.

Many thanks and compliments to Superintendent Roger Campbell for being an inspirational leader, and to the foresight of the Coalinga administrative staff.  Special appreciation and thanks go to the many talented and hard working teachers!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

My Notes from a Presentation by Dr. Alan November

Alan November 
Monterey, CA 2/22/2013

Two main areas need for student proficiency:
  • Information
  • Global communication
We need to shift the conversation off technology to what is flowing through technology. 

It is more about critical thinking in using the Internet and relationships.

Technology is only digital plumbing – let’s not talk about plumbing.

There need to be district academic goals tied to a one to one program.

Schools and districts should not buy one piece of equipment until every department has goals tied to the use of the equipment.

The role of the leader with whatever innovation is to be clear on why you're doing it.

Unfortunately technology is often seen as a solution in search of a problem.

The one to one term should be changed from “one to one” to “one to the world.” 

The two most motivating environments for kids are Facebook and video games.

Every educator needs to read CIPA (Children's Internet Protection Act) – only five paragraphs long and is way over estimated.

There are plenty of protections for kids on the Internet and our filters need to come down.

The research is clear  that  we cannot have technology make a difference without process change.

You know you are making a difference in using technology in schools when the boundaries of learning expand time and space or else you are wasting money.

The real work in creating augmented change in classrooms is in redesigning assignments not teaching apps.

Suggest to read the book Age of the Smart Machine

We know students and teachers are impacted if:
1.    They have access to information they never had before 
2.    People are working together 

Dr. Mazur brings out the difference between automating (using the iPad or laptop as a $1000 pencil) or “informating” when students are processing information and acquiring information in new ways and their learning is mainly self-directed.

Example;  Kindergarten teacher Tweets to parents of EL students a picture with a question in English
1.    Each parent has a cell phone and the Tweet automatically is sent to the parent, the student translates the Tweet and the parent understands the assignment and the learning
2.    The teacher tweets questions and photos of assignments.  This becomes a support for parents to support children when they come home 
3.    Parents feel like they are there every day; this is new information parents never had before
4.    Empowerment - can they do something with the information 

Most schools have this blocked! 

How do we learn - every teacher should have capacity of global communication.

Leaders need to be have teacher to have own staff development. 

Classroom added value - where is unique added value? 

Principals and school leader job is to make Heroes out of teachers - hero makers.  The principal of this school began tweeting and advertising the work of this teacher and the rest of the staff began doing the same thing to help students and parents.  He began scaling up on twitter what teachers are doing.

Leaders have to be role models and embedding the use of this type of technology in their own body  of work. 

Suggested technology:  Look up ClassDojo (behavior of students monitored and evaluated).

Another example:
Teacher at Rangers Game sent a photograph of the infield to students over twitter - What is the perfect bunt? 

Phone came alive with calls and twitters from kids with explanations and answers.  Next day in class alive with a buzz about the problem. 

The teacher then sent a picture of a cup at the game and asked what is  the problem (common core – create problem) - kids did more complicated work as a result.

We should devise a test for students to use and judge resources. 

What is strategy  the strategy students should use to sort out competing versions of the same event? 

Students need to have the skill of:
1.  Being precise - 
2.  Finding Primary source; teach children to get to primary source 
3.  Intentional reading

Go to website: November Learning and click on "Resources"

Friday, February 22, 2013

My Notes from a Presentation by Dr. Eric Mazur

D. Eric Mazur
Monterey, CA February 21, 2013

Lectures focus on transformation of information.

If that is all learning is about, we can place contents online.
What is missing?  Interaction 
But most presentations have little interaction.

When you materials online, students can:
1.    Stop and think
2.    Go back and repeat the video or re-read the information

Students need three things in powerful learning:
·           Reflection
·           Motivation
·           Synthesis

The learner needs to do something with the information. 

Education is what is left after all that is learned is forgotten   Skinner 

Context is forgotten with just recall.

‘College is a place where a professor’s lecture notes go straight to the students’ lecture notes, without passing through the brains of either.’
Mark Twain

Dr. Mazur’s students were successful in rote testing, but had a very difficult time with what he thought was a simple assessment called the Forced concept Inventory.  The assessment was word based, and students had to define simple concepts such as “force.”

Students asked the professor the question, “How shall I answer questions.  As you taught me or as I usually think about these things?”

Now has students explain the problems and answers with other students because:
1.    Students more likely to convince other students because they just got it, and
2.    The teacher did not see this but years ago; called the curse of knowledge.  The student who got the answer correct just “got it” and have the empathy and experience of knowing what it was like prior to “getting it” 

Students spend time assimilating information and then getting those “aha” moments which take place when we are practicing mostly outside the classroom.

Question  - how do we facilitate learning in classroom in flipped classrooms

Focus on questioning after watching lecture at home.

Students can provide questions along with main teacher question, then students:
1.    Asked to think alone and come up with answer (don’t share or speak aloud yet) but respond on clicker or device
2.    Then they are to find a neighbor with a different answer and convince their neighbor why and then discuss again
3.    The teacher then polls the students again and then have students repeat the process

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Notes from a Presentation by Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink on Motivation
February 20, 2013
Fresno, CA.

See Youtube video to get an idea of some of his thoughts:

RSA Animate - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

Preschool Children
One group of kids did a task and they were expecting a reward.
Second group of kids did a task and received an unexpected reward.
Third group of kids did a task and did not receive a reward.

A few weeks later the students were asked to do a similar task.  Results?  All students grew in their proficiency and effort except which group?

The first group went backwards!!

The conclusion:  The reward is not causing problem but it is the expectation.

The “if-then” scenario is a form of control.
Humans have two responses - comply or defy.

Performance Pay for Teachers?
Studies show no difference between teachers rewarded for higher test scores as compared to those who were not.

There was some growth for teachers who were given a front of the year bonus, but were asked to return the money if student test scores were not met.

Study: artists asked to create paintings based on a commission and a comparison group were asked to create paintings with no commission.

1.    The technical quality for both groups were the same
2.      However, the non- commissioned group was more creative

Why?  This was due to the fact the commissioned work had more constraints.  The artists had to comply with the customer demands.

Point made: Schools have few opportunities for non-commissioned work.

Fact: money is a motivator.

Suggest to:
1.    Raise base pay for teachers, but
2.    Make it easier to remove underperforming teachers 

3 key motivators for people: 
·           Autonomy
·           Mastery 
·           Purpose

Management is a technology to get people to be compliant found in 50's.

Human beings engage by self-direction over tasks people team etc.

The best school principals have high standards and provide teacher autonomy. 

Human beings like to get better at doing "stuff." 

Study: how do people describe the days that are most meaningful in their work:  the days they make progress.

But, people need feedback and many of our school and teacher feedback mechanisms for students are sluggish.

Suggest for teachers do own their own performance reviews - do this with peers monthly?  Teaching is one of the few professions where there is little timely and adequate feedback.

Most successful people in their fields:
Are high performers who set their own goals and compile their own feedback.  They are great at monitoring their own performance.

What about kids?  What if they were involved in doing their own report cards? 

Understanding purpose is a huge motivator:
The sign in the hospital that created the most change was the one that stated, “Washing your hands saves patients!” 

This is in contrast to other signs with no effect such as, “Please wash your hands to avoid spreading germs.”

This sign worked because it appealed to purpose. 

We get too caught up in how versus why.

3 key ingredients in effective presentations:
1.  Brevity
2.  Levity
3. Repetition  - is an effective form of emphasis