Every Educator Has a Story . . . Just Tell It.

This is one of my favorite cartoons ever.

The “punch” line is that every person on the planet has a story to tell.  I also know that every teacher has a story to tell.

Educators are doing amazing things with their learners in spite (i.e., to show spite toward) of the standards-based and accountability-driven movements. I’ve learned about so many exciting learning activities from educators who are publicizing their great projects via Twitter, Facebook, and Blogs.  I’ve read about global collaborations, interesting ways technology is being integrated into the classroom, kids making a difference in their communities, and great project-based learning.

This is my own call to action for educators to tell their stories of those rich and amazing things they are doing in their classrooms.

  • Write a blog.
  • Tweet about it.
  • Make photo essays and upload to a photo sharing site like Flickr.
  • Take some video footage and share it on YouTube, TeacherTube, or Vimeo.
  • Ask learner to blog about it.
  • Share on Facebook.
  • Give virtual presentations at conferences such as Global Education and K12 Online.
  • Ask local reporters to come to your classroom
  • Others? (Please add to list.)

For example, I am incorporating students’ mobile devices into an undergraduate course on Interpersonal Relationships.  I take photos during each class and that day write a blog entry about mobile learning.  These entries take about an hour.

I now have a record/reflection about the class.  I get to share it with others via Facebook and Twitter.

If all educators publicized the accomplishments they had in their classrooms using technology, hands-on activities, global collaborations, project-based learning; then an informal qualitative research project would result.  When educators are asked to provide evidence of efficacy to administrators, parents, other educators, funding sources, they could share these success stories.  This aggregate would become the collective narrative – story of education of our times in the beginnings of the 21st century.


Flipped Classroom Full Picture: An Example Lesson

The flipped classroom, as it is currently being described and publicized, is simply recording the didactic content information via videos, having students view these as homework, and then using class time to further discuss these ideas.

Harvard Professor Chris Dede stated in his Global Education 2011 keynote in response to a question directed about the flipped classroom . . .

I think that the flipped classroom is an interesting idea if you want to do learning that is largely based on presentation. You use presentation outside of the classroom. Then you do your understanding of the presentation and further steps from the presentation inside the classroom. I think it is a step forward. It is still, in my mind, the old person.  It’s still starting with presentational learning and then trying to sprinkle some learning-by-doing on top of it.  I am interested more in moving beyond the flipped classroom to learning by doing at the center than a kind of the intermediate step that still centers on largely on tacit assimilation.

As I describe in The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture, I believe, as Chris Dede does, that the problem with the flipped classroom is that the major focus is on the didactic presentation of information, that it is still at the center of the learning experience.  The flipped classroom, given that is currently getting so much press, provides an opportunity to change the paradigm of learning, whereby learning–by-doing, the experiences along with the understanding and application of those experiences become core to the learning process.

The following lesson describes a type of flipped classroom.  This lesson did not center around the content media, in this case the Slideshare, but on the students’ personal experiences, interactions with other students, and acquisition of tangible life skills.

Interpersonal Communications: Listening Skills

Experiential Engagement: The Activity

The cycle often begins with an experiential exercise.  This is an authentic, often hands-on learning activity that fully engages the student.   It is a concrete experience that calls for attention by most, if not all, the senses.   They become hooked through personal connection to the experience and desire to create meaning for and about that experience (ala constructivist learning).

For this lesson, the learners started off with the Lighthouse activity, where in partner teams, the sited person led his or her blindfolded partner through a series of obstacles.  The goal of this part of the lesson was to provide an experience that overtly demonstrated the importance of listening – especially when the sense of sight is taken away.


Conceptual Connections: The What

Learners are exposed to and learn concepts touched upon during Experiential Engagement.  They explore what the experts have to say about the topic.  Information is presented via video lecture, content-rich websites and simulations like PHET and/or online text/readings.  In the case of the flipped classroom as it is being currently discussed, this is the time in the learning cycle when the learners view content-rich videos.  The videos support the experiential learning rather than being at the center of the learning experience.

In this lesson, the learners were asked to view and review the following slideshare via their own computer terminals.

For this lesson, the learners made a personal connection with the content as they were asked to identify the 10 listening skills they believed they needed to further develop.  This also became a technology-enhanced lesson. Learners made a mind map of their identified 10 skills that included: (1) the skill, (2) normal and current behaviors associated with the skill, and (3) goals and steps for improvement.


Demonstration and Application: The Now What

During this phase, learners get to demonstrate what they learned and apply the material in a way that makes sense to them. This goes beyond reflection and personal understanding in that learners have to create something that is individualized and extends beyond the lesson with applicability to the learners’ everyday lives.  This is in line with the highest level of learning within Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy of Learning – Creating – whereby the learner creates a new product or point of view. In essence, they become the storytellers of their learning (See Narratives in the 21st Century: Narratives in Search of Contexts).  A list of technology-enhanced ideas/options for the celebration of learning can be found at: https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2010/09/09/a-technology-enhanced-celebration-of-learning/

Part One

The learners practiced their active listening skills during class time.  Feedback was provided to the listener via their mobile devices using Celly.  See the full description at Students’ Own Mobile Devices and Celly Provide Peer Feedback.



Part Two

The learners located a professional in their area of study to interview.  Their interview questions focused on the communication skills expected of those in that profession.  Their homework was driven by real-life experiences going out to speak with a professional in their communities.  The professional was asked to complete an evaluation of the student’s performance during the interview. Homework was designed to further promote the applicability, transferability, and relevancy of this lesson.

Students’ Own Mobile Devices and Celly Provide Peer Feedback

This is part of my continuing series of blogs where I am reporting how I am integrating students’ own mobile devices into the classroom activities.

Using Celly

Celly was used for the learning activity that is described later in this blog.

Celly creates mini social networks called cells that connect you with people and topics. A cell can contain anybody with a cellphone. We let you define filters based on hashtags, location, time, and user identity. Celly lets you instantly group people and topics into cells.  Cells function as chatrooms where people communicate instantly via text-based messaging. Cells can also include messages from the web or other social networks to capture your interests.

Learn It in 5 provides the following tutorial about how to set up and use Celly.

Ways to use Celly at school can be found here.

Peer Feedback in an Interview Activity

Students in my undergraduate course on Interpersonal Relationships were asked to practice their active listening skills.  They conducted interviews with each pair of interviewers-interviewees being observed by their classmates.  Feedback to the interviewer was provided via Celly.

First they were provided with the following information to join the class cell.

The format for texting in their feedback was @interpersonal (cell) “The Feedback” #(person’s first name).

During the interviews, students texted their observations of the interviewer behaviors to Celly.


After each interview, the feedback was projected on the whiteboard.  This way students could view personal feedback, get ideas of appropriate interview behaviors, and analyze the quality of effective feedback.


A Texting Communications Exercise

This is part of a continued series of blogs in which I reporting about and describing how I am adapting more tradition team building, communications, and problem-solving to include learners’ own mobile devices.

Part 1

This activity is an adaptation of the Back-to-Back Communications Exercise.  Students found a partner.  One volunteered to give the directions, the other to be the drawer.  They exchanged phone numbers and the drawers went to another room.  The direction givers were provided with the following drawing and told to text in words (one student asked if he could send a picture) the description of the drawing.  The goal was for the drawer to reproduce the drawing to scale.

Part 2

Students then met face-to-face to complete the exercise again using a second picture.


After the two exercises, a discussion was facilitated that centered around two questions:

  1. Which of the two exercises produced the best results – where the original and reproduced images best replicated each other?
  2. Which of the two exercises did you prefer?

For the first question, the results were split with about half saying the texting produced the best results and the other half stating it was the face-to-face directions.  Those who selected texting described the ability to read through the directions several times to insure correctness.  Those who believed face-to-face produced better results described the use of body gestures to assist with the results.

For the second question, all but one student preferred the face-to-face . . . and all but one student is of the texting generation (18-20 years old).