Sunday, October 17, 2010

Improving Education

Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) organized a mass posting on education reform. He setup a Wallwisher and asked people to publish a blog post about reform on Sunday October, 17th. In my grad studies, I have taken several courses on educational reform. I don't have enough time to crystallize my thoughts, but I will contribute thoughts I collected from others. If you want to contribute, here is the Google Docs (link)

    • when students raise their hands, teach them to be patient and not beg to have their question answered (@johnfaig)
    • teach students to take ownership for checking their own work and not rely 100% on the teacher (@johnfaig)
    • Listen to the children, they know what works and what doesn't. (@andyhampton)
    • Connect and network online for lifelong learning (@michelledodd)
    • Improving my teaching through reflective practice improves the education of my students. (@Sarahhanawald)
    • get teachers excited about the possibilities that exist with real lesson planning. give them the time & freedom to play around with it. (@samjshah)
    • I have ideas -- give me the planning time and technological resources to make those ideas real in my classroom. Make school about learning. (@welikesnow)
    • Way more subgroups where students work on way more projects (@onealchris)
    • Finance educators to help prepare students for a world that exists. (@teachntweet)
    • Engage students, foster knowledge construction, promote self-efficacy and get rid of grades. (@swils00)
    • Give novice teachers as much support as we give them responsiblity! (@AppreciationNation)
    • Inspiring teachers to inspire children needs time and talk (@icklekid)
    • (@ewellburn)
    • above link is Judy Willis article w 10 ideas (@ewellburn)
    • Flex schedule and groupings so students who want to learn can be more intensive (@gtsstl)
    • Roll out major initiatives to a subset of faculty, develop PD materials and let majority of teachers learn from early adopters (@johnfaig)
    • implement theme-based and project-based curriculum (@johnfaig)
    • offer benchmarks at the beginning of each unit to identify students who already know the material - they can work on a project instead of being bored (@johnfaig)
    • provide faculty examples of great technology integration ideas or work with faculty to develop their own ideas (@johnfaig)
    • longer periods (@johnfaig)
    • Enable students to explore their curiosities and interests with supportive learning environment. (@kaferico)
    • process and product are of equal importance (@jeffmason)
    • throw away textbooks - they teach students to focus on units and chapters with no responsibility for the material in the future (@johnfaig)
    • create a Sims-like teaching "game" for new teachers to better understand pedagogy and individual learning styles (@johnfaig)
    • Find most economical, efficient way to teach and make it standard while being open to textbooks (@Jwrussell)
    • Implement an online gradebook to improve communication and eliminate the crush of writing interim reports (@johnfaig)
    • Classes should be thematic with at least one "Big Idea" and related skills to be learned (@johnfaig)
    • hands-on, minds-on learning (@drwetzel)
    • get rid of worksheets, kids refer to them as busy work (@drwetzel)
    • problem-based teaching and learning (@drwetzel)
    • challenge students to think and apply what they have learned (@drwetzel)
    • get rid of rote memorization of facts and teach for understanding (@drwetzel)
    • make sp.ed certification something you do AFTER you have taught gen ed 5 yrs (@ssocha)
    • Teachers - strive to design learning experiences that provoke student reflection (@edteck)
    • All decisions should be based on what is best for students. (@dianadell)
    • Do away with the current power structures in schools. Too many try to please the higher-ups rather than doing what they know is best. (@dianadell)
    • Foster student engagement in the learning process. (@dianadell)
    • Implement multi-age, continuous progress, non-graded classrooms and schools in K-12 education. Eliminate departments while we're at it. (@mjmontagne)
    • pose authentic problem-solving scenarios. Encourage, encourage, encourage. (@bhallowes)
    • invest in providing special education, our children are being left behind (@nemitzc)
    • Take turns with students in offering artifacts: you offer one definition, help them make and share one; you offer a theorem, help them build a conjecture, etc. (@MariaDroujkova)
    • Care about the whole student and create constant feedback loop to help them grow. (@midquel)
    • More time outside! (@suevanhattum)
    • cook together, plant gardens together, sing, dance, climb trees (@suevanhattum)
    • kids decide what they'll study, kids learn how to work our their conflicts, kids are in charge (@suevanhattum)
    • it probably needs a new name, 'school' has too much baggage ('teacher' too). maybe children's center, and mentors? (@suevanhattum)
    • teachers have more time to learn new things, they do lesson study (like in Japan) (@suevanhattum)
    • Problem-based learning (@emiller)
    • Parents/Community/Culture valuing education and teaching children to do everything in excellence (@emiller)
    • Focus on the learning. (@caryharrod)
    • Encourage and demand teachers learn, grow and explore on a regular, systemic basis. (@sguditus)
    • Time needed for all! (@sguditus)
    • Get rid of 'social promotion' - keep students in the same class for more than a year if they need it, but give them lots of extra support (@ProfBravus)
    • Re-professionalise the profession: put a lot less energy into 'accountability' and making teachers prove to others what they're doing, so that energy can go into the teaching (@ProfBravus)
    • Assume good intentions of teachers, students and parents, even in the face of uncertainty (@pepepacha)
    • nutritious food and plenty of recess time (@pepepacha)
    • Provide ongoing mentoring for teachers who are early in their careers. (@klbz)
    • Convince teachers that sharing isn't just for kindergarten students - it's a good thing for grownups too (@Chantellabella)
    • If we want our students to be life long learners, We must be life long learners (@debot)
    • use a UbD-like course design and focus on "big ideas" first to design curriculum around (@johnfaig)
    • Strive to make yourself useless. (@paulbogush)
    • Ongoing collaborative and reflective Professional Development; stop one shot and done "programs". (@mackrellr)
    • Use the power of social media to encourage exploratory dialog. (@davideisert)
    • give each student a laptop or netbook (@doug_holton)
    • when planning constantly ask yourself "Why do my students need to know this? How will this help them understand their world?" (UBD once again!) (@hcarver)
    • Ask self, "why are we doing this, and is this the best way?" (@bluka)
    • Let teacher leaders make decisions, not policy makers or polititions. Esp. true regards to assessment. (@hrmason)
    • Treat teachers as professionals, not task doers. Teachers act as professionals no task doers. (@hrmason)
    • If you can't do the job better with technology then don't use technology. Although I'm a tech fanatic, I still believe tech isn't always the answer. (@nparson)
    • education should be more about exploration than book learning (@vishalsodani)
    • focus more on engaging, open-ended questions than quick-fix answers (@nehrmann (HS math))
    • do not choose boring (students AND teachers) and refuse to let the joy be sucked out of the classroom. (@dlaufenberg)
    • encourage the risk taking teachers who are willing to pour their lives into their work (@montgorp)
    • Use whatever tools available to involve the community - school, local, global... (@Tonitones)
    • Allow teachers to get a special ed degree only after they have taught five years in the classroom (@scsocha)
    • Most teachers can spot good teaching. Have schools take responsibility for the teachers they hire. (@johnfaig)
    • Critical Thinking, collaboration, and conversation are the three most important things a teacher can teach. (@fisher1000)
    • Collaboration and Conversation are the two most important things teachers can engage in with each other. (@fisher1000)
    • Keep the teaching and learning, it is what's in between that needs scrapping. (@Deangroom)
    • Create a teaching index where participation and collaboration impacts pay (admin and teachers) (@Deangroom)
    • Fund home school and go to school on the same basis. (@Deangroom)
    • Behind standardized tests, technology, data, questions, and ideas there is a child who wants to learn and be nurtured. (@TeachTechie)
    • Insist on professional autonomy and then insist that students take responsibility for (and understand) their own learning style. (@LisaRead)
    • Change schools into community learning centers open 24/7 where learners of all ages take responsibility for what and how they learn to meet their learning goals. (@bbray)
    • Students design individual learning plans and post evidence on their ePortfolio demonstrating mastery of skills or acquiring knowledge with the support of their advisor or eCoach. (@bbray)
    • Create a professional development lab where teachers work in small, cross-age, cross-curriculum groups and map the curriculum to design thematic project-based learning activities. (@bbray)
    • Provide enough time for ongoing sustainable professional development that includes individualized coaching. (@bbray)
    • pay teachers more money. (@hotei)
    • train teachers for at least 3 years & be substantially more selective about who gets into education programs. (@hotei)
    • empower professional learning communities to implement & experiment following authentic, sober analysis of data. (@hotei)
    • Trust your students. (@stevekatz)
    • give students more responsibility - not less (especially with technology) (@johnfaig)
    • challenge students - attention starts with meaningful and deep tasks (@johnfaig)
image from (link)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Concept Map Project

I am working on my masters thesis at Teachers College and chose to understand concept mapping more through research and actual classroom usage. The research will trace the history of concept mapping and how it can be used to support active learning or what Jonassen calls a Mindtool (link). I am convinced of the promise and there is considerable research that discusses the benefits - particularly for visualization and association by the brain. At the same time, there has been little written on practical experiences in the classroom.

Concept Map vs Note-taking
The promise of concept maps is that they are better than traditional note-taking. Concept map creation is non-linear and more malleable than text outlines. Students building concept maps in conjunction with a lesson are actively digesting the information and making sense of it in their own way. Contrast this with a class of students all creating essentially the same outline of information. There is little cognitive discourse as the notes are created. This means that students preparing for an assessment must heavily review them. Concept mapping creates more active learning during in the class, while standard notes require more processing after the class. A new generation of concept mapping tools is becoming available that support simultaneous use by different users. These collaborative concept maps hold even more promise.

Study Design
I am going to model concept map building for an 8th grade U.S. History class. The primary teacher will conduct his class normally and I will be building and reconfiguring the map in conjunction with what I see and hear. After a few days, I will ask for a few volunteers to try the concept mapping. I will create a backchannel (e.g., Edmodo, Etherpad, Google Docs, etc) for students to discuss design and content questions, as well as, ask me questions. At the end of a unit, I will review the different concept maps and ask the students about their experiences. I am interested in how the maps compare with one another. I am also interested in how the maps change from class to class.

Design Questions
I have many questions about the actual study that need to be addressed prior to the study:
  • what is an appropriate level of scaffolding to provide? is a sandbox of terms enough?
  • should images and relevant weblinks be provided or should students obtain them?
  • do different level students create different sophistication levels of concept maps?
Future Research
The research will likely be the first of many research projects. In the future, I would like to investigate individual vs collaborative maps and if they are suitable for assessments.

Concept courtesy of Cmap (link)