Reflecting on Weekly Class Twitter Session and WordPress Blogging

Reflection for Week 11

Aleta May

Differentiating Instruction through Technology EDET

Instructor: Dr. Lee Graham

Reflecting on Weekly Class Twitter Session and WordPress Blogging

During the Twitter Session this Week :

By learning to use TweetDeck for weekly Twitter sessions, I was able to schedule with two colleagues, Amber Novak (from another state location) and Jeff Clay, to host the last week of class. I feel empowered now to communicate with teachers “the modern way.”

One very important point was made: I wanted to figure out how to find time to reflect on student learning throughout the unit. What came to my mind was to use some class time to model writing a reflection on my teaching, while asking students to write a reflection on their learning. Dr. Graham wrote that this is an idea that she has applied and that she learned it from Nancy Atwell. As I think back to my Reading Specialist training, I remember watching DVDs of Donald Graves. He taught that the best way to teach writing is to model writing as an adult; such as using a mini-lesson think-aloud approach. He also spoke about just writing in class while students write. So if I want to teach students to reflect on their learning, I need to model this for them.

We also discussed the value of teaching deeper, rather than wide/broad. We tend to feel the push as teachers to cover the curriculum. It is important to touch on as much of that curriculum that is tied to the standards as is possible, but it is not possible to try to make kids learn faster than they are ready to learn. We can engage, motivate, redesign instruction, and review—all with a forward momentum. But particularly in subject areas, such as the fractions unit my students are learning, it does no good to move on if they do not have the foundations down yet! I commented that we need persistence without frustrating our students.

Week 11 Blog Reflection:

As I read through the blogs of other students in my class, I learned about many different ways that teachers use the UbD planning method to bring out student-centered learning approaches. A common theme through the posts that I noticed was how students overall are still not accustomed to taking charge of their own learning. Sometimes I believe I am behind on this, but what I notice is that we are all in the same boat. As teachers, we may be at different points of facilitating, rather than using authoritarian approaches to teaching and learning. I think we work within a system that is experiencing change, yet at the same time budget cuts and higher expectations. It may seem easier to teach in a way that makes students more responsible, but the time involved is as intensive, if not more so, than teaching and expecting students to learn and apply with little support. As a facilitator of learning, we now focus our energies on using a variety of tools and platforms to reach students who come from a very wide range of backgrounds; ethnically, monetarily, ability and life experiences that allow them to visualize what they are learning to add to old schema.

Here are the responses I made to blog posts this week:

Jeff,

First, the structure of your paper makes me think about how to write my final reflection!

Challenges

Making connections from math work in direct instruction, technology and project work may seem unclear to students if they have not previously received such awesome instruction as what you are providing to them.

Maybe a block schedule would work better. I realize you do not have control over this, but many times it seems that a 50 minute class timeframe forces teachers into either/or situations; i.e., either we will go over the work to make it more clear, or get into the projects; and getting into projects means being interrupted to go to the next class when students are just getting into the project.

They are learning very valuable skills by inserting equations and tables into Microsoft Word documents; function tables and graphs. I’ve not heard of the Snipping Tool before! The technology skills are real world skills. I wonder if a small business owner or a manager in charge of creating charts for end of year tax reports for their business could come in and talk about how they make proposals communicating this way.

Successes

When giving direct instruction, what a great way to monitor and adjust! Once students stopped focusing on the instruction, this seems like the perfect time to have students pause to work together in groups to apply previous (or current) learning. I think when students feel successful at teaching others, they want to get up and go to other groups to share their understanding. Although it is important to redirect students to stick with their groups (sometimes because of the number of students in class), it looks like a good sign that students felt good about what they understood and wanted to help others.

I appreciate your sharing how some students kept that rubric right next to them as a guideline.

Evidence of Scaffolding

I know I like examples as an adult student! I’m sure your students appreciated the example. Over time, they can branch off and create their own examples. I’m thinking of the online mind mapping tools out there. Maybe they could use MindNode to explain the steps they used as a group to create their charts or solve problems.

Evidence of Planning

I think the letting go as a dispenser of knowledge is what students initially fear—just like us, they are so used to the traditional forms of instruction, that they likely react in ways that seem like they are confused, frustrated, or lost. Now that they’ve experienced this style of learning, going back to traditional methods will likely not satisfy them anymore.

Evidence of Using Data from Observations and/or Surveys

The posters will provide all the evidence of their engagement and application of learning.

Larissa,

I notice this in my own teaching as well—when I don’t let students in on what my goals or objectives are for them, they question me more as to why we are doing this. This is a legitimate question on their part. This used to be relegated to “teachers only.” Students were not supposed to question why they are learning this or that, they were just supposed to do it. I think we are still recovering from being taught this way and it impacts our practice today.

Catherine,

I think they call this interactive notebooks—as they place their work in it becomes a reference notebook for review and a tool to share with others. It is also so impressive that some students took off on the project on their own, leaving you time to help other students who were still unclear about the concept individually.

So cool—a theorem tattoo! This got their attention—and got them right back into noticing the need to use a ruler and grid paper to redesign a tattoo picture to scale. Yay, you got to keep your computers—no AMP. I looked up Mangahigh. This site looks fun! Thank you for sharing.

https://www.mangahigh.com/en-us/

Good idea having students use a Prezi site to learn from. I wonder if they could create a better Prezi for teaching other students out there what they learned in a much more inviting step-by-step student friendly mode of learning.

The exit tick with four quick questions sounds like a perfect way to check their understanding, and to reinforce to them what they now understand.

Kate,

What a great opportunity for the kindergarten student to learn from the 3rd grade student; differentiation right off!

The way you had them using their tablets and your camera to take pictures at the beach for observation, data collection is such a meaningful way for students to learn. The kindergarten student using the text app to record his observations sound like a perfect way for him to go back later and review what he saw in real time.

Incorporating children’s literature to teach science is so important. The way you used “What’s in the Tide Pool” to compare and contrast tide pools in the book to tide pools in Sitka is exactly how thematic approaches to learning take place! Science, non-fiction literature, recording/writing to compare and contrast, and incorporating technology tools to document research are learning that makes sense! It is holistic and meaningful. Thank you for sharing.

Amy,

It is interesting that many of your students, and even more so with three of your students, could communicate through drawing what they understood about fractions, but did not know how to explain in writing or orally about their learning. But this is why we are being taught to have students engage more with each other as we facilitate learning. What you are doing with them by having them talk about and write out what they know or need to know is so valuable. I know with our English Language Learners (ELLs), we use a lot of sentence frames to get them started. I think students who are not ELLs benefit from this strategy as well.

We have noticed in our school that students had not learned to help each other or to work independently; so this became a major district wide plan for improving instruction. Our dual language program reflects this by pairing students into bi-lingual pairs.

Folding shapes seems to be a perfect way to get kids to work together, help each other and talk about what they are doing. I believe your persistence will pay off. In fact, they are showing this in their reflective journals after only a couple of days. I use prompts and scribing to help kids see that writing is often just putting down in words what you explain verbally to the teacher and ultimately to each other.

Our ELLs struggle with the vocabulary piece as well. Where we live means that we may need to use different items than what is normally shown in a textbook or online lesson to communicate dividing a whole into fractional parts. The hands on activities sound so inviting.

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