Thursday, November 14, 2013

Creating Teachable Moments

In a recent Google Hangout with Grant Wiggins, one of our teachers asked about the role of character education in public schools.  Wiggins shared his perspective, but he really made me think when he explained his view that we really learn character education by being put in situations that test our character.  We don't learn about perseverance through lectures, but rather by enduring situations in real life and then reflecting on those moments.  As our students learn to navigate the digital world, this 1:1 environment is putting these students in daily situations that test their ability to focus, manage time, be responsible, etc.  While it can feel incredibly painful to watch the blunders of mismanagement of the digital world, I do believe that our students will learn these skills and be more prepared for their future. I had the great privilege to attend #edcampKC this past weekend, and I learned of several great tools that might be great conversation starters regarding digital citizenship, time management, focus, etc.  Here are a few tools and ideas to consider using with your students:

1.  Who doesn't love Kid President?  The first 1:40 of this clip is a great conversation starter about how we use the Internet.  Thanks to Jake Boswell for sharing this video with me!

2. Check out this video on The Science of Procrastination...another great conversation starter.  It really makes you think about why we multi-task and the effects it may be having on our productivity.  The video also provides a great synopsis of how to use the Pomodoro technique as a time management tool.

3.  Check out the Chrome Extension Strict Workflow.  This extension plays off the idea of the Pomodoro technique.  For every 25 minutes that you have focused work, you get a 5 minute break. By using this extension, if you find yourself multitasking and hopping to another site that might interrupt your workflow, you will receive this message:

Customize the list of sites that are blocked during your 25 minutes of workflow.  CAUTION:  In reality, you or your students can just hop into another browser and access the sites, but the extension might provide that needed moment of reflection about our multitasking habits. 

4. If you want to try the concept of the Pomodoro technique, the Tomatoist Chrome app or the Tomatoist site offer a simple timer that gives you 25 minutes of work flow and then a 5 minute break timer.  Many teachers use timers to keep the pace of class moving; let's teach students to use timers for themselves!

5. The StayFocusd Chrome Extension allows you to limit the amount of time you spend each day on time-suckage websites.  Once your allotted time for the day expires, the site is blocked for the remainder of the day.  This could be a great time-management tool. 

6.  Lastly, check out the Progress Bar Timer.  Create progress bars that track time, dates, and more. 

Please share what tools, videos, or strategies work for you or your students.   

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Just a Casual Chat with Grant Wiggins

Last week I was truly reminded of the power of technology to enhance our learning and connect us with the world.  For the last several weeks I've been leading a book study of Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe with our new teachers . This book is truly one of my favorites for its focus on timeless pedagogy.  I've read the book at least 10 times, but I always take away something new and am reminded of ways to fine-tune my practices, whether it be working with staff or students.

Truly a highlight of the entire study was having the opportunity to Q and A with author Grant Wiggins. I rolled the dice and contacted him through Twitter to see if he might be willing to Skype or Google Hangout with our crew.  Wiggins immediately messaged me back and sent me his personal email.  Not only is the man insanely brilliant, but he's incredibly personable and lovely.

This past week, Wiggins did a Google Hangout on Air with our new teachers and allowed us to fire questions at him.  What an experience.  If you'd like to check it out, click Play!

Here are just a few of my take-aways from the conversation:

  • One of our first-year teachers asked for his best advice for those new to the profession. You'll have to tune in to hear the t-shirt worthy response, but it reminded me of staying on the positive side of education.  Wiggins bluntly told us to not fall prey to the the toxicity and cynicism that can be ever-so-present in education. 
  • Teaching through authentic problems that require transfer of understanding is the single best way to make learning stick!  
  • The value of collaborative conversations regarding evidence of mastery is vital.  It's not as essential that we always assess mastery in the exact same way, but that we have a common understanding of what mastery looks like.  I love this as a means of thinking about avenues to differentiation!
  • We teach character by putting students in situations that test their character, and then making it a point to reflect on those situations.  Lecturing about perseverance or responsibility probably isn't that valuable. 

So who might you want to connect with for your own staff or your students?  Twitter offers amazing networking possibilities.  Roll the dice and see what happens!