Honoring the Diverse Ways Students Learn and Develop

H1: Honoring student diversity and development. Honoring student diversity and development means respecting that students are at different stages in the learning process and need varying levels of support in order to develop and be successful. During my internship, two instructional strategies I incorporated to honor the diverse ways in which students develop were scaffolding and constructivist learning activities. For example, while teaching Othello to sophomores, I and another student teacher taught students how to analyze a soliloquy and write a rhetorical analysis. Only two students had written rhetorical analyses before, so we started from the beginning. We dusted off our understanding of the persuasive appeals in order to evaluate their effectiveness within each soliloquy. In order to scaffold this writing assessment, we designed questions to guide student thinking, as well as an essay outline, so students could practice writing according to the essay structure that would be expected of them for their final writing assessment.

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As a class, we annotated a soliloquy for the appeals and then drafted the outline of an argument together. As their second writing assessment, students were given a new soliloquy, and asked to annotate and construct their rhetorical analysis with a partner. Finally, after two scaffolded, constructivist practice attempts, students were responsible for annotating a third soliloquy on their own and then writing a complete rhetorical analysis essay. For this third attempt, students were given the outline graphic organizer, just as they used in their previous two practice rhetorical analyses. An emphasis on constructivist, cooperative learning is founded on the philosophy that learning in isolation limits understanding, but working with a partner or group allows student the opportunity to navigate different social dynamics, while constructing new knowledge by learning from one another. According to John Dewey, while the school is “primarily a social institution,” a concentrated form of community life, constructivist ideology centers on unity and cooperative learning while still maintaining an emphasis on individual accountability (Dewey, 1897, p.2). With each scaffolded, practice attempt, students became more responsible and accountable for the process of annotating and writing their rhetorical analyses, until they were held completely responsible for completing the writing assessment on their own. When asked, majority of students felt this process prepared them for success—the result of effective scaffolding and collaboration. Moving forward, I will continue to use scaffolding and collaborative learning strategies, as well as seek additional and varied ways in order to support the unique and diverse ways in which students learn and develop.

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Wordle–how to create a “word cloud”

I recently saw a “word cloud” poster on the wall of a classroom. I asked the teacher I was observing about the poster and she said she had made it using Wordle. With Wordle, you can create an image, made of words, where certain words are more prominent than others. You can also choose different fonts, colors, and layouts to further customize your image.

As a pre-service high school English teacher, I LOVE words, and Wordle is a great learning tool because with it, I can so easily create a visual representation of the connections made between concepts and ideas and details and words. Wordle could also be used as a creative and collaborative visual element of a lesson—students could add words and thoughts during the course of a discussion—a dynamic and organic reflection of the day’s learning.

Wordle is super easy to use. I went to http://www.wordle.net and selected “Create your own” on the Home page. I inserted the text from this description to create a word cloud of my Learning Tool Exploration. After pushing “Go,” I edited the font and layout of my word cloud and this is what I created:

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It is important to note that before using Wordle, you may need to download or update Java before you are able to begin making your word cloud. Also, the site suggests using the web browsers Firefox or Safari.

The Architectural Structure of Schools

Chapter 8 and 9 from the text this week lend insight into the organizational design and architectural structure of schools. According to the text, most schools operate and are coordinated by “lightweight”, individualized, although predictably interdependent teams such as the subject heads within the variety of courses in an average high school (p. 207). However, for true architectural innovation to take place, traditional boundaries must be reassessed, by reordering who does what and how they go about it (p. 208).

Architectural innovations may include “imagining new roles for computers” or “combining the study of history and literature into a single course in which each discipline is used to examine the other” (p. 208). This type of interdisciplinary study, which emphasize the continual building of a common knowledge base and the intentional and cyclical revisiting of information is something I am particularly interested in—embracing this approach to learning could really enhance the encoding of information as well as future recall according to John Medina (2008), the author of Brain Rules.

Often, this type of change requires a fundamentally different architecture than the one currently in existence. Lightweight teams cannot succeed in these situations because there are too many vested interests and often tasks and teams must be redesigned—this is where “heavyweight teams” model a new type of innovation (p. 209). Heavyweight teams are established outside the existing school and can take on different forms such as chartered schools (p.209). As examples of sustaining innovation, chartered schools are able to provide school models that fit students’ circumstances (p. 209). Another example of a “heavy weight” team in education is project-based learning, however, the chapter concludes that implementing computers can transcend the varying and slow-changing architectural structures of school systems and provide more student-centric learning experiences.

Upon completion of this reflection, I have also completed my experience using the Kindle eReader. This week, while trying to complete my reading, I spent a lot of time on a dock at the lake. After having visions of my laptop falling through the cracks and to the sandy bottom, I asked to borrow my boyfriend’s Kindle. I was able to sign in to my account and read my already purchased text from his much smaller and lighter device, without worrying about getting my laptop wet or losing my many saved documents. This was undoubtedly one of the best and most convenient aspects of using the Kindle eReader. It was amazing to be able to access my text without having the original device on which the App was downloaded. While I still prefer to hold a paperback book in my hands, I appreciated the convenience and accessibility of the eReader.

References:

Christensen, C., Johnson, C.W., & Horn, M.B. (2011). Disrupting class: how disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns (kindle). McGraw-Hill.

Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

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are you For or Against technology in the classroom?

When it comes to the rapid development and expenses of educational technology, it is important to consider both the arguments for and against the use of technology in the classroom. A person who can indisputably argue for or against technology in the classroom is not considering the far-reaching and even unknowable implications on learning, students, and society.

Below, I share an article written by James Rosenberg, the founder and president of AdoptAClassroom.org. In the article, he discusses how technology has transformed modern society including the classroom. He then provides arguments for and against technology in the classroom addressing many concerns that I also have such as that the learning of valuable life lessons, morals, and basic socialization may suffer as a result of heavy reliance on technology. However, although this is a concern, I also believe that the role of the teacher is to prepare and equip students for the future, and technology is clearly only going to grow in influence as the years progress. Check out this article and let me know your thoughts.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-rosenberg/technology-in-the-classro_2_b_2018558.html

Early Interactions that Shape Success

The reading for this week discusses how the first 36 months of a child’s life has the potential to determine his or her intellectual capacity and future success as a student (Christensen, 2011, p.149). If this is the case, as research confirms, interventions and reforms even at the kindergarten or elementary level may be too late. However, the way in which parents speak to their children has been found to have a very significant affect on cognitive achievement, especially in the first year of a child’s life—even before there is evidence that a child can understand or respond to what the parent is saying (p.149).

The conversations and words that matter most, talk about “’what ifs,’ ‘do you remember,’ ‘shouldn’t you,’ ‘wouldn’t it be better if,’ and so on”—it is deliberate, uncompromised, personal adult conversation” called ‘language dancing’ which “has been shown to cultivate curiosity in children” (pg.150-151). This type of conversation invites an infant or child to observe, question, and think deeply about the world around them. Parents who are uneducated or uninformed and do not engage their children in this face to face adult talk, seriously disadvantage their children who will struggle in school and likely continue to fall further and further behind.

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Christensen suggests that the best way to attack the root of what could be a multigenerational cycle of poverty and poor education is to teach children how to be parents before they become parents (pg. 153, 155). It seems like such a simple and fundamental solution, but may have the greatest impact by teaching children how to shape the early interactions they will have with their children in order to help them develop cognitively and succeed in school.

This understanding also informs how and what I will teach my students so as to intervene and alter the futures of the their children and the many generations to follow. Also, while it will certainly be my job to do all that I can to meet the needs of every student, accepting that this is an uphill battle with roots tying back to the early development of each student, may help prevent some of the frustration, exhaustion and burn-out for teachers who continually pour their hearts into students but may feel the challenges are insurmountable.

A quick note about my KindleReader experience this week: I am definitely more comfortable and familiar with this learning tool now that our text is coming to an end. I still think the highlighting feature could be improved to be more organized—perhaps by chapter—for those who are avid highlighters! In hopes of making a few sections stand out more amidst the many highlights, I bookmarked a few pages, which helped me to quickly identify those more significant passages.

Prezi–a more creative and visually appealing presentation platform

Module 7: Learning Exploration Tool—Prezi

This week, I spent some time exploring and creating a small Prezi presentation. Since I already had a resume made, I used the “Resume” template and explored, learning some basics about how to create a Prezi. I had not used any other format for presentations besides a Powerpoint slide show until today but I love the more visual and connections based concept behind this learning tool. I only scratched the surface in regard to the creative possibilities available when creating a Prezi, but it was a lot of fun. The quick shifting from graphics and brackets of text made me a little dizzy at first, but it was immediately apparent to me that this is a tool I need to become more familiar with and incorporate into my future lessons.

Before beginning to make my own little Prezi, I watched a short informational video on the website which I felt fell short of teaching me many of the basics. So, I did a bit more research before deciding to dive on in, experiment and explore. Once the Prezi format is chosen, I practiced zooming in and zooming out of different sections of the presentation, adding and editing text as I went. This type of presentation is fluid and visually appealing, unlike more linear and restrictive presentations made with Powerpoint.

I did feel restricted occasionally, unsure how to move from one section of text to another and how to zoom out to see the rest of the presentation after I had zoomed in on a particular word or phrase. Instead of trying to navigate the presentation with my mouse like continually wanted to do, I found that using the navigation arrows on my keyboard was the best way to move from section to section.

I know it may not look like much, but here is the link to my first attempt at making a Prezi: Meg’s Prezi

Forces Against Disruption

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In this week’s reading of Christensen (2011), discusses some of the forces that limit the disruptive products that could transform our current, monolithic K-12 system. The production and distribution of textbooks and instructional materials limits student-centric disruptions because a text is usually written by a few experts and caters to a “’dominant intelligence’ for the type of brain whose wiring is most consistent with the methods used to solve problems in the field” (pg. 128-129). Additionally, smaller production companies who may want to produce texts and materials that appeal to different types of learners are unable to do so because it is currently too expensive; Bigger companies can spread cost out by volume and eventually small companies are folded into the big companies that are focused on producing top-selling, fixed and static textbooks (pg. 129-130). Another prevailing force against a major disruption is the current system for the sale and distribution of teaching materials, cementing “the system in monolithic, large-scale products” (p. 130). A few curriculum experts at the district and state level make textbook adoption decisions and “once a few large boards have made an ‘adoption decision,’ many other states and school districts tend to follow their lead rather than go through their own evaluation processes” (p.130).

Furthermore, a school’s reputation and funding hinges upon students’ ability on standardized and high-stakes tests and if a text does not explicitly prepare students for these tests, they can not be adopted (p.131). Although administrators do understand that one textbook will not meet the varying needs and learning styles of different students, but student-centric products are unsustainable and will not be adopted within the current mainstream school system because they do “not fit the criterion of addressing the dominant intelligence in the field, as well as the economic and test-score appeal of one-size-fits-as-many-as-possible” (131).

While this is our current climate, data analysis suggests that despite these opposing forces and even without “explicit administrative decisions ever having been made, student-centric learning will have become mainstream” around 2014 when 25% of high school classes will be offered online (p.143). We as teachers need to be looking for innovative ways to incorporate available technology. Additionally, while our current system is on the verge of a major shift, we need to be flexible, willing to adapt, and creatively supplement our “one-size-fits-most” textbooks and curriculums with interactive, collaborative and student-centric activities and materials whenever possible.

Christensen, C., Johnson, C.W., & Horn, M.B. (2011). Disrupting class: how disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns (kindle). McGraw-Hill.

While using the Kindle App to complete my reading this week, I highlighted many passages. Perhaps I over highlight, but upon completing the reading, I wanted to peruse through the chapter 5 highlights before writing my reflection, so I selected the “Notes & Marks” button. While I appreciate the highlighting option, I had to scroll through a long list of highlights from previous chapters before finding the highlights for chapter 5. While it wasn’t extremely time consuming, viewing options could be improved for this feature to provide more organized and efficient access to the passages. The page number is provided at the bottom of each highlight listed, which really isn’t particularly helpful considering you don’t know what chapter it’s from—so maybe that simple addition, next to the page number would be helpful!

Flashcard Machine–a student-centric learning tool

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This week for our technology tool exploration, I discovered and investigated Flashcard Machine, an application that allows you to quickly create your own flashcards on your iphone or ipad, customize study sessions based on performance by separating flashcards into “correct,” “wrong,” and “flagged” piles, and tag flashcards to allow for easy and organized sharing. The iTunes App Store provides a very detailed description of the product and features, which I found helpful and informative before deciding to download the application.

The application is very user friendly and directed me through a “deck” of flashcards while explaining the various features and options available. I found the “Progress” feature particularly helpful for studying because you can filter the flashcards to allow for repeat study of categories such as flashcards you got “wrong.” This ensures that study sessions are student-centric, customized to ensure that concepts and terms are mastered according to the learner’s needs and pace. Additionally you can enhance your “study session” by deciding whether you want the term or definition to be displayed first, you can change the flashcard font, size and color as well as shuffle cards by shaking your phone or selecting the “shuffle” option.

With this application, study materials are always at your fingertips and are accessible without an internet connection making studying on-the-go quick and easy. When downloading the application, I received 100 flashcards for free, but must pay if I decide I need more flashcards. While it does cost $4.99 for “unlimited flips,” this may be five dollars well-spent for accessible, customized learning experiences.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/flashcard-machine/id368469794?mt=8

Disruption Markets and Computer-Based Learning

Chapter 4 of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the World discusses the disruptions that are currently taking place within schools. The first stage in the transition from “teacher-delivered” to “software-delivered” instruction is computer-based learning which is “methodically gaining ground as students, educators, and families find it to be better than the alternative-having nothing at all” (pg.90-91).

Disruption markets are developing in many significant areas of education: Advanced Placement classes because “there is an inadequate demand and resources to hire more AP teachers,” smaller schools who may otherwise have to cut classes because they may not be able to hire “highly qualified” teachers for every subject, urban secondary schools, especially in low-income areas because they may “struggle to find highly qualified teacher who are committed to working in such a challenging environments,” and homebound or home-schooled students may also be a great market for computer-based learning to increase depth of learning and subject range, as well as provide alternatives for students who need to make up credits (pg. 92-94). The modularity and flexibility of computer-based learning would allow students to experience a customized educational experience where they do not have to waste time on concepts they have already learned.

This chapter was particularly relevant for me as pre-service high school English teacher because according to the data projections, “by 2019, about 50 percent of high school courses will be delivered online” (p. 99). I understand that online courses provide convenience, accessibility, greater flexibility as well as an economic advantage, but I can’t help feeling that this “advancement” is not wholly a positive one. Sure, I want there to remain a demand for teachers, because that means employment, but there is a human quality about learning from and beside others that will be lost to the ease and access of computer-based learning. While access to information may increase, so will isolation. And there is something to be said about mentorship as a part of teaching that I feel will be lost with such a technology-based approach to instruction. Speaking as one who has taken many online and mixed-online courses, I feel less engaged and a bit disconnected from the material when I am not interacting with the Professor or my peers. I wonder about the effect this instructional transition will have on the social and communication skills as well as the personal and moral development of our students.

I completed my reading for this week while on a red-eye flight to Michigan for a dear friend’s wedding. I had not previously explored the different viewing options available as part of the KindleReader, but did mid-flight. While reading in the middle of the night, I definitely preferred the color mode, black! The white background was harsh on my tired eyes whereas the black was not as bright or disruptive for the sleepy travelers beside me. From now on, I think I will read from either the black or the sepia mode because those modes do not seem to bother my eyes as quickly—I tend to get headaches from reading from a screen for too long.

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