International Media Conclave 2021

We at School of Journalism and Mass Communication in JECRC University are all set to host our first International Media Conclave ‘Manthan’ from September 15 to September 17.
The Conclave will have three dozen speakers from over half a dozen countries. It will have six sessions, six keynote addresses and an inaugural address.

For registration and e-Certificate, Register to below link
https://forms.gle/xXJFXzFp2uifcyHv6

Joining link
JU International Media Conclave Day 2Time: Sep 16, 2021  3PM India
Join Zoom Meetinghttps://zoom.us/j/98619567328?pwd=SFQ2RVlmdEVLdUV2aUNodGhKMWROdz09

Start up India – Prarambh

Startup India was launched on 16th January 2016 by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India as a clarion call to the innovators, entrepreneurs, and thinkers of the nation to lead from front in driving India’s sustainable economic growth and create large scale employment opportunities. Startup India laid the foundation for building a self-reliant India and harness the potential of a nation bestowed with the largest youth population in the world. Five years since the launch of the initiative, India is witnessing a golden chapter in the history of Indian entrepreneurship, with it being counted amongst the largest startup ecosystems in the world with over 50 unicorns and more than 49,000 recognized startups from various States and Union Territories.

To celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship and India’s formidable position in global startup ecosystem, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India organised Prarambh – Startup India International Summit on 15th and 16th January 2021. The first day of Prarambh was dedicated to Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (‘BIMSTEC’) and saw participation of leadership from all BIMSTEC member states and host of plenary discussions engaging renowned startup ecosystem stakeholders from BIMSTEC member states. The second day of Prarambh was special and historic for Indian startup community. It brought together the champions of Indians startup ecosystems on one platform engaging in range of discussions for role of ecosystem for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat.

Some of the key highlights of Prarambh are as under:

  • Over 1.2 lakh registrations from over 56 countries across 24 targeted and focused sessions.
  • The Hon’ble Prime Minister addressed the Grand Plenary of Prarambh and unveiled Startup India Seed Fund Scheme, Startup India: The Way Ahead, Evolution of Indian Startup Ecosystem and Startup Champions program on Doordarshan.
  • Closed-door roundtables with active participation of 150+ renowned domestic and global private equity and venture capital firms from various time zones for mobilizing capital for Indian startups. The roundtables were chaired by the Hon’ble Finance Minister and Hon’ble Minister of Commerce and Industry.
  • Participation from States and UTs showcasing their success stories to the world.
  • Over 1100 startups from India and other BIMSTEC member states exhibited their products and services at virtual booths across 25 pavilions which witnessed footfall of over 12,000 visitors as part of the virtual startup showcase.

Training and Internship

Training and Internships are the most important thing one should take before applying for a job. Internships are the stepping stones to a good carrier and a better future. Taking training before a job helps in self confidence to work in a different environment. Internships are the most important thing for a person because you get to learn a lot about different skills like cooperation skills, management skills, communication skills and teamwork.

Internships and trainings are important to know the real you, it helps people the know their own self and taking an internship before going for a job makes you clear about how to work in a workplace?, how to respond to people?, and finishing the given work within the allotted time. Internships and trainings are indeed an important thing which helps people to lean more about the work. Taking an internship will also help one to believe in one self. It makes you work more efficiently without any hindrances. Taking an internship will help to be placed in good reputed organization. It makes people work more easily because when one is well trained he/she may excell in the world the do. To prove this there is a phrase called Practice makes a man perfect”. So Internships and trainings are the most important thing.

Important Steps in Writing Research Paper

Writing a research paper is the most essential part of our research process. research publication will explain to the world about our research work, our contributions, and impact of the work. It also helps other researchers to understand the benefits and research gaps from the research area. In this article, we are going to find out the 8 important steps in writing a research paper.“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”
1. Title
Selecting a perfect title to our work is the first important step which also defines what our paper is all about. The title should be more informative and included all our major keywords in it.
2. Abstract
Statistics say, more than 90% of researchers read the abstract next to the title. It is a very important step defines writing a research paper. abstract is a summary of our research work it usually was written 100-150 words, this should be very crisp and clear about the research, what the whole paper is going to talk about.
3. Introduction
The introduction sets the first stage of our analysis and also predicts the tone and direction of our research paper. It helps readers to understand the paper even they don’t have any prior domain knowledge.
4. Methodology
The methodology describes our research paper’s goals and the procedures that what we carried out in the research work. a proper research methodology helps journal reviewer and readers to understand the entire concept of our research.
5. Conclusion
The fifth most important step to writing a research paper is the conclusion. it is a final summary of the results that we managed to achieve through our research. this also should explain why and how we arrived to this particular conclusion.
6. Review of Related Studies
Review of Related Studies places our research to define existing data and information about the previous research papers. It is very important to clearly explain our existing research experiment carried out in the same area that we used as a reference or base.
7. Recommendations
In the recommendation, carefully explain what needs to be done next and enumerate the possible steps that are needed to be taken. a proper recommendation will help readers and other researchers to carry out their own research.
8. Bibliography
The last and eighth important step in writing a research paper is a bibliography. In this, we have to list the source materials we used or consulted in making our research paper.
Whenever you start to write a new research paper make sure these 8 important steps in order to help the readers to be more comfortable and easy understanding.

1st Rank Cannot Claim Right to Post, Appointment of 2nd Ranker by State

It is most heartening to note that the Uttarakhand High Court has just recently on June 23, 2020 in a latest, landmark and extremely laudable judgment titled Professor GS Tomar Vs State of Uttarakhand and others in Writ Petition (S/B) No. 423 of 2019 most remarkably and most rightly held that while the holder of first rank in a selection process cannot claim the right to be appointed, the appointment of the second-ranker is arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. The Chief Justice-led Bench held that the failure of the respondent-state authorities to intimate the petitioner that he had stood first in the merit-list of selected candidates, pursuant to the selection process undertaken in terms of the advertisement issued in March 2015 and in offering appointment to the second candidate in the merit list is ex-facie arbitrary and illegal. Very rightly so!

                                                  To start with, this latest, landmark and extremely laudable judgment authored by Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan for himself and Justice Ramesh Chandra Khulbe sets the ball rolling by first and foremost pointing in para 1 that, “The jurisdiction of this Court has been invoked by the petitioner herein seeking a writ of mandamus directing respondent no. 1 – Additional Chief Secretary, Technical Education, Government of Uttarakhand to issue an order appointing the petitioner as the Director of the Govind Ballabh Pant Institute of Engineering and Technology, Pauri Garhwal (for short the “GBPIET”) since he had secured the highest marks based on the recruitment process that was completed by the Government of Uttarakhand; in the alternative, for a writ of mandamus directing the State Government to conduct interviews for the recruitment process initiated earlier, for which screening of applications had been completed and the selection process is underway, within a specified time frame under the supervision of the Court; for a writ of mandamus directing the State Government to initiate appropriate inquiry and consequent disciplinary proceedings against errant officials/individuals, who were responsible for having denied the petitioner his rightful due of being appointed as the Director way-back in the year 2016, and yet again in the year 2019, under the supervision of this Court; and for a writ of certiorari to quash the government decision to invite more applications for the post of Director, Pauri Engineering College as the same is patently in violation of the law.”  

                                              While dwelling on the facts of the case, it is then stated in para 2 that, “Facts to the limited extent necessary, are that an advertisement was issued in March, 2015, inviting applications from eligible candidates for appointment to the post of the regular Director of the GBPIET, Pauri Garhwal. The petitioner and others submitted their applications pursuant thereto. The petitioner had also applied for the post of Director, Tehri Hydro Development Corporation Institute and was selected and appointed to the said post in February 2016. The tenure of Office of the Director, THDC Institute was also for a period of three years. On conclusion of the selection process, for appointment to the post of Director, GBPIET, Professor SP Pandey was appointed as its Director for a period of three years from August, 2016 till August, 2019.”

                                                  Truth be told, it is then brought out in para 3 that, “In his affidavit dated 04.09.2019, filed in support of this Writ Petition, the petitioner alleges that, though he stood first in the merit list of candidates selected for the post of Director, GBPIET, he was neither intimated of his result nor was he offered appointment to the post of Director, GBPIET and, instead, Professor S.P. Pandey who stood second in the merit list, was appointed as its Director in August, 2016.”

                                              While continuing in the same vein, it is then stated in para 4 that, “To continue the narration further, even before completion of his three year tenure as Director, GBPIET, Professor SP Pandey resigned from the said office and left on 03.02.2018. The second respondent-Institute was then placed under the control of an In-charge Director and a fresh advertisement was issued (hereinafter referred as the ‘second advertisement’) on 02.06.2018 inviting applications afresh for the post of Director, GBPIET. The petitioner again applied and participated in the selection process held in terms of the second advertisement. While 80 marks were allotted for several other criteria, 20 marks were allotted for interview. The petitioner was awarded more than 64 marks from out of 80, and the next most meritorious candidate, i.e. Prof RB Patel, was awarded only 31.42 marks.”

                                          To be sure, it is then pointed out in para 5 that, “Mr Abhijay Negi, learned counsel for the petitioner, would contend that, if interviews had been held and the petitioner had been awarded zero marks out of 20, and Prof RB Patel had been awarded 20 marks out of 20, even then it is the petitioner who would have stood first in merit, and ought to have been appointed as the Director, GBPIET. The fact, however, remains that the selection process, pursuant to the second advertisement dated 02.06.2018, was discontinued, and a third advertisement was issued on 23.01.2019.”

                                                As it turned out, after hearing both the parties, the Bench most importantly then minced no words in para 14 to clearly convey that, “Failure of the respondents to intimate the petitioner that he stood first in the merit-list of selected candidates, pursuant to the selection process undertaken in terms of the advertisement issued in March, 2015, and in offering appointment to the second candidate in the merit list, is ex-facie arbitrary and illegal. The respondents’ contention that the petitioner had already been appointed as the Director of the THDC Institute (another State Government Institution) by then, did not absolve them of their obligation to inform the petitioner that he was entitled to be appointed as the Director, GBPIET for the choice, whether to continue as the Director, THDC Institute or to join the office of Director, GBPIET, was for the petitioner to make, and not for the respondents to impose. If the petitioner had been intimated of his selection, it was then open to him to exercise his option to either resign as the Director, THDC Institute and join the office of Director, GBPIET, or to continue as the Director of the THDC Institute. By their failure to so intimate the petitioner, the respondents have acted in violation of Article 14, as the petitioner has been arbitrarily and illegally deprived of his right to be appointed as the Director, GBPIET though he stood first in the order of merit.”   

                                        Needless to say, the Bench then also makes it clear in para 20 that, “It is true that no candidate, by mere selection, has a legal right to be appointed. In terms of Article 16 of the Constitution of India, he has only a right to be considered for selection and appointment. (Pitta Naveen Kumar and Ors. v. Raja Narasaiah Zangiti and Ors. (2006) 10 SCC 261). Ordinarily, notification of posts is merely an invitation to the qualified candidates to apply for recruitment and, on their selection, they do not acquire any right to the post. Unless the relevant recruitment rules so provide, the State is under no legal duty to fill up all or any of the vacancies. Notification of vacancies for appointment, and a candidate being found fit for selection, does not mean that the successful candidate can claim to be appointed as of right. (Laxmibai Kshetriya v. Chand Behari Kapoor and Ors. (1998) 7 SCC 469; Shankarsan Dash (1991) 3 SCC 47; State of Bihar and Ors. v. Md. Kalimuddin and Ors. (1996) 2 SCC 7; Mahadev Appa Rao (2010) 7 SCC 678; and Punjab State Electricity Board and Ors. v. Malkiat Singh (2005) 9 SCC 22). By his mere selection, the candidate acquires no indefeasible right for appointment even against existing vacancies. (All India SC & ST Employees’ Association and Anr. v. A. Arthur Jeen and Ors. (2001) 2 SCR 1183; Aryavrat Gramin Bank v. Vijay Shankar Shukla (2007) 12 SCC 413; State of Rajasthan and Ors. v. Jagdish Chopra (2007) 8 SCC 161; State of M.P. and Ors. v. Sanjay Kumar Pathak and Ors. (2008) 1 SCC 456 and Asha Kaul (Mrs.) and Anr. v. State of Jammu and Kashmir and Ors. (1993) 2 SCC 573).”     

                                               To put things in perspective, it is then made absolutely clear in para 22 that, “Ordinarily a Superior Court, in the exercise of its powers of judicial review, would not interfere with the decision of the employer in making appointment, unless its action or inaction is found to be so arbitrary as to offend Article 14 of the Constitution of India. (Aryavrat Gramin Bank v. Vijay Shankar Shukla (2007) 12 SCC 413). While a candidate, who finds a place in the select list, may have no vested right to be appointed to any post, in the absence of any specific rules entitling him thereto, he may still be aggrieved by his non-appointment if the authority concerned acts arbitrarily or in a mala fide manner (UT of Chandigarh v. Dilbagh Singh AIR 1993 SC 16 and Mahadev Appa Rao (2010) 7 SCC 678).”

                                             To sum up, this well balanced, well reasoned and well analyzed judgment leaves no room for doubt that while 1st rank cannot claim right to post, appointment of 2nd ranker by State also illegal, arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution! All courts must follow this! There can be no denying or disputing it!

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,

s/o Col BPS Sirohi,

A 82, Defence Enclave,

Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,

Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.

MP HC Impose Planting Of Saplings As A Bail Condition

In an interesting, refreshing and fresh development, the Madhya Pradesh High Court Bench at Gwalior in a notable judgment titled Tilakraj Rajoriya Vs State of M.P. in M.Cr.C. No. 11643/2020 that was delivered on June 24, 2020 has in its recent order while granting bail to a person accused of assaulting a minor girl with intent to outrage her modesty has directed him to plant saplings along with tree guard, as one of the conditions for bail. The accused had been booked under Sections 354 of the IPC and 7/8 of POSCO Act. The court allowed his bail application in view of the Covid-19 situation, on his furnishing a personal bond of Rs 50,000/- in addition to the condition to plant saplings.   

                                   To start with, this latest, landmark and extremely laudable judgment authored by Justice Anand Pathak of Gwalior Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court sets the ball rolling after noting that the matter is heard through video conferencing that, “The applicant has filed this second bail application u/S. 439 Cr.P.C for grant of bail. Applicant has been arrested on 22.01.2020 by Police Station Dehat, District Ashoknagar in connection with Crime No. 27/2020 registered for offence under Sections 354 of IPC and 7/8 of POSCO Act. His earlier bail application was dismissed as withdrawn vide order dated 12.02.2020 passed in MCRC.No.6214/2020.”

                                           To put things in perspective, it is then brought out that, “It is the submission of learned counsel for the applicant that false case has been registered against him and he is suffering confinement since 22.01.2020 whereas charge-sheet has already been filed. Now, applicant learnt the lesson hard way and would not commit the same nature of offence in future and would not involve in any criminal activity and become a better citizen. He undertakes to cooperate in trial and would not be a source of embarrassment or harassment to her and her family in any manner and would not move in the vicinity of prosecutrix. Applicant who is young/middle aged/able bodied responsible citizen undertakes to become corona warrior for social cause looking to the Covid-19 Pandemic situation. He further undertakes to perform community service and serve the national cause by making contribution in PM Care Fund and install Arogya Setu App. On these grounds, prayer for bail has been made.”

                                          As anticipated, the counsel for the State opposed the prayer and prayed for dismissal of bail application as pointed out also in this judgment. After hearing the learned counsel for the parties at length through video conferencing and considering the arguments advanced by them, it is then pointed out that, “Considering the facts of the case in detail, however, considering the fact that in view of Covid-19 pandemic, without commenting on the merits of the case, it is hereby directed that the applicant shall be released on bail on his furnishing personal bond of Rs. 50,000/- (Rupees Fifty Thousand only) with one solvent surety of the like amount to the satisfaction of trial Court and that he will have to install Arogya Setu App, if not already installed. He will not move in the vicinity of prosecutrix and would not extend any threat, intimidation or allurement to the victim or her family. He will not involve in any criminal activity otherwise benefit of this bail application shall be immediately withdrawn.”

                                        As it turned out, it is then envisaged that, “In view of COVID-19 pandemic, the jail authorities are directed that before releasing the applicant, his preliminary Corona Virus test shall be conducted and if he is found negative, then the concerned local administration shall make necessary arrangements for sending the applicant to his house, and if he is found positive then the applicant shall be immediately sent to concerned hospital for his treatment as per medical norms. If the applicant is fit for release and if he is in a position to make his personal arrangements, then he shall be released only after taking due travel permission from local administration. After release, the applicant is further directed to strictly follow all the instructions which may be issued by the Central Govt./State Govt. or Local Administration for combating the Covid-19. If it is found that the applicant has violated any of the instructions (whether general or specific) issued by the Central Govt./State Govt. or Local Administration, then this order shall automatically lose its effect, and the Local Administration/Police Authorities shall immediately take him in custody and would send him to the same jail from where he was released.”    

                                           Be it noted, it is then laid down explicitly and elegantly that, “This order will remain operative subject to compliance of the following conditions by the applicant:-

1.  The applicant will comply with all the terms and conditions of the bond executed by him;

2.  The applicant will cooperate in the investigation/trial, as the case may be;

3.  The applicant will not indulge himself in extending inducement, threat or promise to any person acquainted with the facts of the case so as to dissuade him/her from disclosing such facts to the Court or to the Police Officer, as the case may be;

4.  The applicant shall not commit an offence similar to the offence of which he is accused;

5.  The applicant will not seek unnecessary adjournments during the trial; and

6.  The applicant will not leave India without previous permission of the trial Court/Investigating Officer, as the case may be.

7.  The applicant will inform the SHO of concerned police station about his residential address in the said area and it would be the duty of the Public Prosecutor to send E-copy of this order to SHO of concerned police station for information.

8.  Applicant shall deposit Rs. 2500/- within a month in PM CARES Fund having Account Number : 2121PM20202, IFSC Code: SBIN0000691, SWIFT Code : SBININBB104, Name of Bank & Branch : State Bank of India, New Delhi Main Branch from the date of release of applicant.  

9.  The applicant through his counsel undertakes that applicant shall register himself with the District Magistrate concerned [Ashoknagar] as “Covid-19 Warriors” by entering his name in a Register named as COVID-19 WARRIOR REGISTER to be maintained in the o/o the concerned DM who in turn shall assign work to applicant of Covid-19 disaster management at the discretion of District Magistrate, by taking all prescribed precautions. The nature, quantum and duration of the work assigned is left to the wisdom of District Magistrate, concerned. This Court expects that the applicant shall rise to the occasion to serve the society in this time of crises to discharge his fundamental duty of rendering national service when called upon to do so, as per Article 51-A(d) of the Constitution.

10.                   As per the undertaking given by learned counsel on behalf of the applicant, it is hereby directed that appellant shall plant 1 sapling (either fruit bearing trees or Neem and Peepal) alongwith tree guards or has to make arrangement for fencing for protection of the trees because it is the duty of the appellant not only to plant the saplings but also to nurture them. He shall plant saplings/trees preferably of 6-8 ft., so that they would grow into full fledged trees at an early time. For ensuring the compliance, he shall have to submit all the photographs of plantation of trees/saplings before the concerned trial Court alongwith a report within 30 days from the date of release of the applicant. The report shall be submitted by the appellant before the trial Court concerned on 1st of every month.”

                                     Importantly, it is then directed by the Court that, “It is the duty of the trial Court to monitor the progress of the trees because human existence is at stake because of the environmental degradation and Court cannot put a blind fold over any casualness shown by the appellant regarding progress of the trees and the compliance made by the appellant by placing a short report before this Court every quarterly (every three months), which shall be placed under the caption “Direction” before this Court. Any default shall disentitle the appellant from benefit of bail.”

                                            More importantly, it is then further directed that, “The appellant is directed to plant these saplings/trees at the place of his choice, if he intends to protect the trees on his own cost by providing tree guards or fencing, for which appellant shall have to bear necessary expenses for plantation of the trees and their measures for safeguard.”

                                 Most importantly, it is then also made clear that, “This direction is made by this Court as a test case to address the Anatomy of Violence and Evil by process of Creation and a step towards Alignment with Nature. The natural instinct of compassion, service, love and mercy needs to be rekindled for human existence as they are innately engrained attributes of human existence. It is not the question of Plantation of a Tree but the Germination of a Thought.”

                                        Furthermore, it is then held that, “The District Magistrate concerned is directed to intimate this Court in case condition No. 9 is not complied with and on receipt of any such intimation, Registry is directed to list the matter before appropriate bench as PUD.”

                                  Finally, it is then held that, “E-copy of this order be sent to the trial Court concerned for compliance, if possible, for the office of this Court. Certified copy/e-copy as per rules/directions.”

                                               In conclusion, it may well be said that the exemplary condition imposed for bail of planting saplings along with tree guard is quite laudable and must be applauded in no uncertain terms. Just recently, we also saw the Orissa High Court imposing similar condition of planting hundred saplings as a condition of bail. This itself proves that it is a good, bold and innovative way of imposing conditions for bail by which our environment also will gain immeasurably! No denying it!      

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,

s/o Col BPS Sirohi,

A 82, Defence Enclave,

Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,

Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.

EDUCATION: NOT A MEANS TO AN END

by: Abhishikta Sengupta

In the words of the pioneering cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” The distorted notion of education existing simply as a means to meet each succeeding requirement for the attainment of an ultimate goal, for instance a grade or an occupation, is one that needs to be dispelled. This motivation by way of external regulation cripples any scope for the development of indispensable practical tools, such as that of decision making and critical reasoning.

We have largely been conditioned to associate a certain rigid form of education as a recipe for success, which goes on to perpetuate damaging beliefs, such as the culture of rote learning. It is imperative to recognise that such philosophies were formulated during a time when the world had not evolved sufficiently to value unique abilities and require differential skill sets to be present amongst its students, and thus its working age population, in order to reach its full potential. The stimulus that evoked the conditioned response of failing to challenge the ideologies presented to us is no longer a factor, thus provoking the necessity of shattering them and developing meaningful passions of our own, rather than those that were conventionally acceptable.

There exists no distinction between a human student and an artificial intelligence system if the prevailing educational structure seeks only to feed and program its learners with incomplete, censored and even irrelevant information or data that is mandated by age-old tradition, and requires them to absorb it and then consequently act on it. Rather, it should be aiming at cultivating personal and genuine interests and individually suited approaches as opposed to encouraging only standardly “rewarding” or résumé building activities.

It is of vital importance to ensure a comprehensive overview of subjects such as history and politics so as to prevent the formulation of baseless and ignorant stances as a result of exposure to a biased or one-dimensional outlook. This in turn inspires the emergence of well-informed opinions, values and morals in students that define their future actions. This along with effective teaching of fundamentals, open-ended questioning, idea exploration, allowing of diverse perspectives and opportunities for creative expression and practical experience makes for the creation of emotionally intelligent, innovative and competent students with superior logical and analytical skills, adept at displaying empathy and tact as well as approaching and assessing a situation in a multitude of ways, and discovering constructive solutions for the same.

An education system that focuses on teaching its students what to think in a bid to produce compliant and deferential citizens sacrifices on the potential of originality, diversity and natural instinct. The career landscape has reached a juncture wherein the customarily acceptable professions are no longer the only ones considered worthwhile, and it is crucial that students are made aware of that, so as to ensure that they work to hone, develop and enhance their other skills. There is no greater tragedy than indoctrinating students into a system that it hardwired to fit them into boxes by teaching all of them to think just the same.

MBA (Master of Business Administration) – Gateway to Top Jobs

MBA (Master of Business Administration) is a master degree programmer in business administration.

Before jumping to the conclusion that a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) is the right path for you, stop and ask yourself why. The hunky-dory vision of life after MBA may not be so easy after all. Not every management graduate receives a cushy job and dream salary package. You must have your goals in place to be able to establish a solid and successful career after an MBA.

The usual reasons for doing an MBA these days:

It earns you more money

It gives you a promotion in your job

It helps you quit a job that sucks

Why pursue an MBA

To launch a progressive career

To make a shift in career, if you already are an experienced professional

To nurture an innovative outlook

To network with the best in the market

To add a brand value to yourself

To enhance personal growth

To start a business/ start-up/ turn entrepreneur

To move to another location

Scope of an MBA amongst Current Market Trends

Pursuing an MBA will give you skills that you may use to solve day-to-day business and management problems. MBA courses are more relevant today than ever before because thought leaders are needed to exploit the rapid growth in the Indian economy.

Unique Knowledge

Cut-throat competition is a reality. It is not uncommon for senior employees who have experience but lack an up-to-date skill set to lose out to younger colleagues who have pursued an MBA.

Specialization

There is an increased specialization of careers in the service sector. This has led to emergence of specialized subjects in which you can pursue an MBA. Through subjects such as finance or marketing, you will not only learn the basics of business, but also be able to create a niche for yourself. You can look for the availability of a course of your liking in the best B-schools of India online or through appearing for their entrance exams, if any.

Better pay and Scope for Promotions

Pursuing a course such as a 2 year or1 year full time may change the direction of your career. It is an added academic achievement, which may increase the likelihood of getting a raise and promotion. It may also open up opportunities for jobs that you were not eligible for before because of its orientation towards leadership and team-building.

Entrepreneurship Skills

Startup India and other initiatives have made the Indian economy conducive to the establishment and growth of businesses.

The curriculum of a one year MBA or any other MBA courses in India will train you to differentiate between a good and bad strategy business strategy. You will learn how to give your business a global outreach, how to adopt techniques to attract external funding, and how to hire the best minds in the job market.

Having an MBA on your CV may translate into job security because you will still be able to find a job even if your business does not perform favorably.

India as an Emerging Economy

Emerging economies are proving to be fertile ground for MBA graduates, because it is easier to navigate unstructured markets with a structured mind. Companies are constantly looking to expand in such economies, and they need professionals trained in business and management to give direction to their growth.

The increase in domestic and foreign demand coupled with expansion in finance, real estate and investments are expected to cause a surge in India’s growth story, and an MBA degree is best designed to take advantage of it.

 MBA is a biggest opportunity for future security ,an mba aspirant can do anything in industrial sector .mba is one the most big job oriented professional programme and one which has been sought by the students .after completing this degree you may become the manager or can start their own business.

The MBA degree was initiated in the late 19th century in the USA. The MBA degree has been started to produce the sound management professional equip with the basic and advanced knowledge to stand the business administration.

Today, the world is growing in the fields of marketing, industrialization, financing and education. The MBA programme has specially been designed for the candidates who are executing the administration of the industries or related field.

Courses :-  For the admission in an MBA programme, many institutions require the GMAT 2020 (Graduate Management Admission Test) score.

But, entrance test is not required for the admission to the distance learning or Online.

In india (ignou : Indira Gandhi national open university provides mba course)

But in delhi university you need to crack the the cat exam after that you will get the admission in delhi university.

Many colleges and Universities are offering MBA programme as full-time and part-time or through online or distance learning education.

An exe-MBA (Executive Management of Business Administration) is also popular now. The working professional who wishes to get the higher degree according to his job profile can do the EMBA as part-time or online medium. In India, the accreditation body for MBA or related programme is AICTE (All India Council of Technical Education). There are different accreditation bodies in different countries.

The student can choose the core courses according to the interest. The top core subjects of an MBA degree are as the following:

  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Operation
  • International Business
  • Banking
  • Information Technology (IT)
  • Human Resources (HR)
  • Accounting
  • Oil & Gas
  • Total Quality Management (TQM)
  • Retail
  • Supply Chain
  • Event
  • Tourism & hotels

The students choose the mba specialization fields according to their interest. Whether you have done graduation in engineeringartsscience or humanities, you are free to choose the MBA programme in any specialization, what you wish to.

Once you have done your MBA degree, you can go for the doctoral degree programme (PhD), offers by the various institutions in India and Abroad.

Admissions:

There are many universities which provides mba in india or foreign

The best part of the programme that the graduate in any discipline can get the admission in MBA programme.

The top colleges or universities in India, offering MBA programme are as following:

  • IGNOU
  • Symbiosis International University
  • Institute of Management & Technology
  • Sikkim Manipal University
  • Maharishi Dayanand university
  • ICFAI University
  • Amity University
  • Lovely Professional University
  • Bharati Vidyapeeth University
  • Indian Institute of Finance

Jobs profiles of mba holder

 An MBA professional always plays a vital role in his/her company and this is why, he used to keep in touch with the board of directors.

No need to specify the companies who recruit the MBA professionals. The all sectors including government and public have various industries, companies, institutions or related organizations, come in the job prospective fields for an MBA professional.

  • Brand Manager
  • Account Manager
  • International Business Manager
  • Marketing Executive
  • Business Technical Consultant
  • Business Development Executive
  • Marketing Manager
  • Management Consultant

These are some profiles of a mba holder who can be engaged in this work after completing his post-graduation in mba

Salary

“Handsome salary packages are offered to MBA qualified candidates”.

Management sector is one of the highest paying sector. The salary is no issue for the right candidates who have a good leadership, decision making skill, enthusiasm and good academic background.

The initial package in India is around Rs. 2 to 3 lakh per annum but the maximum is unlimited. Also the increment in this sector is quiet good and depending on your capability, you can reach up to six figure income in quick span of time.

  • Enrollment : if you completed your graduation from any fields you can prepare now for entrances for ex: CAT Entrance Exam ,XAT Entrance Exam,GMAT Entrance Exam,CMAT Entrance Exam,MAT Entrance Exam

After clearing this exam you can enrol your interest in your dream universities.

Strictest Punishment For Mob Lynching Needed Now Most

 It has to be said right at the outset that mob lynching cannot be justified on any pretext and under any circumstances come what may! There has to be zero tolerance for it but right now we see that the perpetrators of the crime are either escaping with just no punishment or are being punished on a very lenient basis thus making a complete mockery of our country on the world stage! It merits no reiteration that this must be set right now.

                                         What message are we sending to the world if we don’t ensure that mob lynchers are promptly punished with most appropriately death penalty or at the least with life imprisonment for at least 25 years in jail without any parole or remission of any kind whatsoever? How can mob lynching be justified by anyone under any circumstances? Are we living in Talibani India? Certainly not!

                                             Every year we get to hear many incidents of mob lynching but when do we hear that mob lynchers have been mob hanged or mob jailed for life! Centre must now wake up and act on this immediately. I rate mob lynching no less than terrorism rather even worse than terrorism because without being trained ever by the intelligence agency or army of any foreign country such brutal crimes are committed most heinously!

                                               There is no reason that why it must not be crushed with an iron hand and those involved in it be made to pay for it by paying fine of many lakhs and also death penalty or life term! We all know how even a police officer Mohammad Ayyub Pandit was not spared in Kashmir and his body was broken after mob beat him badly, broke all his bones and set him ablaze! Same is the case in many other similar cases! We saw how brutally Tabrez Ansari was mob lynched in June yet the Jharkhand police has sought to charge the 11 men with culpable homicide that does not amount to murder! Should all those involved in such heinous acts not be hanged promptly? Yet we see that not even murder charges are slapped against such mob lynchers!  

                                         Needless to say, we all know fully well that even Supreme Court in Tehseen S Poonawalla Vs Union of India & Ors in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 754 of 2016 delivered on July 17, 2018 has most unequivocally directed the Centre and States to take preventive, punitive and remedial measures to stop lynching incidents in the future and issued detailed guidelines pertaining to the same. The Apex Court Bench has minced just no words to hold unequivocally that the State has to act positively and responsibly to safeguard and secure the constitutional promises to its citizens. Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the right to life and personal liberty to all the citizens of our nation and no mob can be allowed under any circumstances to hold it to ransom!

                                        Having said this, it must now be brought out here that the Apex Court then issued some guidelines to be followed. Those guidelines are as follows: –

A.                Preventive Measures

(i)   The State Governments shall designate a senior police officer, not below the rank of Superintendent of Police, as Nodal Officer in each district. Such Nodal Officer shall be assisted by one of the DSP rank officers in the district for taking measure to prevent incidents of mob violence and lynching. They shall constitute a special task force so as to procure intelligence reports about the people who are likely to commit such crimes or who are involved in spreading hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news.  

(ii) The State Governments shall forthwith identify Districts, Sub-Divisions and/or Villages where instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the recent past, say, in the last five years. The process of identification should be done within a period of three weeks from the date of this judgment, as such time period is sufficient to get the task done in today’s fast world of data collection.

(iii) The Secretary, Home Department of the concerned States shall issue directives/advisories to the Nodal Officers of the concerned districts for ensuring that the Officer In-charge of the Police Stations of the identified areas are extra cautious if any instance of mob violence within their jurisdiction comes to their notice.

(iv) The Nodal Officer, so designated, shall hold regular meetings (at least once a month) with the local intelligence units in the district along with all Station House Officers of the district so as to identify the existence of the tendencies of vigilantism, mob violence or lynching in the district and take steps to prohibit instances of dissemination of offensive material through different social media platforms or any other means for inciting such tendencies. The Nodal Officer shall also make efforts to eradicate hostile environment against any community or caste which is targeted in such incidents.

(v) The Director General of Police/the Secretary, Home Department of the concerned States shall take regular review meetings (at least once a quarter) with all the Nodal Officers and State Police Intelligence heads. The Nodal Officers shall bring to the notice of the DGP any inter-district co-ordination issues for devising a strategy to tackle lynching and mob violence related issues at the State level.

(vi) It shall be the duty of every police officer to cause a mob to disperse, by exercising his power under Section 129 of CrPC, which , in his opinion, has a tendency to cause violence or wreak the havoc of lynching in the disguise of vigilantism or otherwise.

(vii) The Home Department of the Government of India must take initiative and work in coordination with  the State Governments for sensitising the law enforcement agencies and by involving all the stakeholders to identify the measures for prevention of mob violence and lynching against any caste or community and to implement the constitutional goal of social justice and the Rule of Law.

(viii) The Director General of Police shall issue a circular to the Superintendents of Police with regard to police patrolling in the sensitive areas keeping in view the incidents of the past and the intelligence obtained by the office of the Director-General. It singularly means that there should be seriousness in patrolling so that the anti-social elements involved in such crimes are discouraged and remain within the boundaries of law thus fearing to even think of taking the law into their own hands.

(ix) The Central and the State Governments should broadcast on radio and television and other media platforms including the official websites of the Home Department and Police of the States that lynching and mob violence of any kind shall invite serious consequence under the law.

(x) It shall be the duty of the Central Government as well as the State Governments to take steps to curb and stop dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages, videos and other material on various social media platforms which have a tendency to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind.

(xi) The police shall cause to register FIR under Section 153A of IPC and/or other relevant provisions of law against persons who disseminate irresponsible and explosive messages and videos having content which is likely to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind.

(xii) The Central Government shall also issue appropriate directions/advisories to the State Governments which would reflect the gravity and seriousness of the situation and the measures to be taken.

B.            Remedial measures

(i) Despite the preventive measures taken by the State Police, it comes to the notice of the local police that an incident of lynching or mob violence has taken place, the jurisdictional police station shall immediately cause to lodge an FIR, without any undue delay, under the relevant provisions of IPC and/or other provisions of law.

(ii) It shall be the duty of the Station House Officer, in whose police station such FIR is registered, to forthwith intimate the Nodal Officer in the district who shall, in turn, ensure that there is no further harassment of the family members of the victim(s).

(iii) Investigation in such offences shall be personally monitored by the Nodal Officer who shall be duty bound to ensure that the investigation is carried out effectively and the charge-sheet in such cases is filed within the statutory period from the date of registration of the FIR or arrest of the accused, as the case may be.

(iv) The State Governments shall prepare a lynching/mob violence victim compensation scheme in the light of the provisions of Section 357A of CrPC within one month from the date of this judgment. In the said scheme for computation of compensation, the State Governments shall give due regard to the nature of bodily injury, psychological injury and loss of earnings including loss of opportunities of employment and education and expenses incurred on account of legal and medical expenses. The said compensation scheme must also have a provision for interim relief to be paid to the victim(s) or to the next of kin of the deceased within a period of thirty days of the incident of mob violence/lynching.

(v) The cases of lynching and mob violence shall be specifically tried by designated court/Fast Track Courts earmarked for that purpose in each district. Such courts shall hold trial of the case on a day to day basis. The trial shall preferably be concluded within six months from the date of taking cognizance. We may hasten to add that this direction shall apply to even pending cases. The District Judge shall assign those cases as far as possible to one jurisdictional court so as to ensure expeditious disposal thereof. It shall be the duty of the State Governments and the Nodal Officers, in particular, to see that the prosecuting agency strictly carries out its role in appropriate furtherance of the trial.

(vi) To set a stern example in cases of mob violence and lynching, upon conviction of the accused person(s), the trial court must ordinarily award maximum sentence as provided for various offences under the provisions of the IPC.

(vii) The courts trying the cases of mob violence and lynching may, on an application by a witness or by the public prosecutor in relation to such witness or on its own motion, take such measures, as it deems fit, for protection and for concealing the identity and address of the witness.

(viii) The victim(s) or the next kin of the deceased in cases of mob violence and lynching shall be given timely notice of any court proceedings and he/she shall be entitled to be heard at the trial in respect of applications such as bail, discharge, release and parole filed by the accused persons. They shall also have the right to file written submissions on conviction, acquittal or sentencing.

(ix) The victim(s) or the next of kin of the deceased in cases of mob violence and lynching shall receive free legal aid if he or she so chooses and engage any advocate of his/her choice from amongst those enrolled in the legal aid panel under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.  

C.                   Punitive measures

(i) Wherever it is found that a police officer or an officer of the district administration has failed to comply with the aforesaid directions in order to prevent and/or investigate and/or facilitate expeditious trial of any crime of mob violence and lynching, the same shall be considered as an act of deliberate negligence and/or misconduct for which appropriate action must be taken against him/her and not limited to departmental action under the service rules. The departmental action shall be taken to its logical conclusion preferably within six months by the authority of the first instance.

(ii)  In terms of the ruling of this Court in Arumugam Servai v. State of Tamil Nadu (2011) 6 SCC 405, the States are directed to take disciplinary action against the concerned officials if it is found that (i) such official(s) did not prevent the incident, despite having prior knowledge of it, or (ii) where the incident has already occurred, such official(s) did not promptly apprehend and institute criminal proceedings against the culprits.

                        Simply put, the Bench directed that, “Apart from the directions we have given hereinbefore and what we have expressed, we think it appropriate to recommend to the legislature, that is, the Parliament, to create  a separate offence for lynching and provide adequate punishment for the same. We have said so as a special law in this field would instill a sense of fear amongst the people who involve themselves in such kinds of activities.” Now it is up to Parliament to act and make lynching a separate offence as soon as possible as the Apex Court has directed.

                                Needless to say, it was made amply clear by the Bench that the measures that are directed to be taken have to be carried out within four weeks by the Central and the State Governments. The Bench also made it clear that, “Reports of compliance be filed within the said period before the Registry of this Court. We may emphatically note that it is axiomatic that it is the duty of the State to ensure that the machinery of law and order functions efficiently and effectively in maintaining peace so as to preserve our quintessentially secular ethos and pluralistic social fabric in a democratic set-up governed by rule of law. In times of chaos and anarchy, the State has to act positively and responsibly to safeguard and secure the constitutional promises to its citizens. The horrendous acts of mobocracy cannot be permitted to inundate the law of the land. Earnest action and concrete steps have to be taken to protect the citizens from the recurrent pattern of violence which cannot be allowed to become “the new normal”. The State cannot turn a deaf ear to the growing rumblings of its People, since its concern, to quote Woodrow Wilson, “must ring with the voices of the people.” The exigencies of the situation require us to sound a clarion call for earnest action to strengthen our inclusive and all-embracing social order which would in turn, reaffirm the constitutional faith. We expect nothing more and nothing less.”

                                             It has been more than a year and two months that the top court had urged the Parliament in this extremely landmark and laudable judgment to enact a separate law to punish offenders participating in lynching of persons yet no action taken till now! India has faced major international embarrassment because of this and will continue to face so thus giving a bad name to our nation if such incidents are not controlled on a war footing immediately! It brooks no more delay now! Centre must abide entirely by what the Apex Court has held so categorically, clearly and convincingly! Let’s hope so!

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,

s/o Col BPS Sirohi,

A 82, Defence Enclave,

Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,

Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh. 

A mis niños y niñas especiales: To my special students

This is a love letter to you, my special, smart, and beautiful students. You have touched my heart so deeply and profoundly that words cannot adequately convey how much you mean to me. I write this note, so you know the hopes and dreams I have for you.

You come to a school that is known as a Title 1 school meaning that a lot of students at our school come from economically disadvantaged families. You may not know this as the teachers and staff at our school demand that you receive educational resources and a quality education; the same kind of education that students receive at schools in the wealthier parts of our school district. My hope for you is that you always realize that true wealth is not measured by how much money one has but in how much one stays open to learning and gives of oneself to make the world a better place.

You come to a school that, before the state stopped rating schools, had C and D ratings (due to standardized test scores). You did not know that because when you or anyone else walks into our school, you are greeted with smiles and kindness. The walls throughout the school walls are filled with the wonderful academic work from our K-6 students.

During our gifted classes, as you know, respect for each other takes precedence over everything else. You are different ages, different genders, and different ethnicities. Conflicts happen as they do in life. You handled them with great sophistication, never calling one another names, talking about how the conflict made you feel, and discussing actions to avoid similar conflicts in the future. My hope is that you take this respect and ability to discuss your thoughts and feelings in other parts of your life now and in the future.

We live in a state that is 55% Hispanic and a school that is 85% Hispanic. Your Mexican customs and culture are so very beautiful. It has been a privilege to learn about the Mexican food, music, dance, art, and holidays. I hope you will always be proud of your culture and will freely share it with others who are unfamiliar with it. I owe you an apology in that I didn’t use curriculum materials and resources that featured the Mexican culture. You should have learned more about Mexican writers, artists, scientists, mathematicians, culinary artists, and athletes. I am making a commitment to use such materials during our next school year. To the few of you who are moving onto middle school and won’t be in my gifted classes any longer, I am deeply sorry. I can only wish that your future teachers will use and create such materials. My hope for all of you is that you will educate your children, relatives, friends, and others about your beautiful Mexican culture.

You come from a state that is 55% Hispanic and a school that is 85% Hispanic. Your background and culture are accepted here in New Mexico. You may not be accepted if you end up going to school or living in a state without a majority of a Hispanic population. I’ve had students in the past who told me stories of being shocked when living in another state where there were prejudicial acts against them such as being followed throughout a store; just because of the color of their skin. I hope, as MLK stated, that you will live in a world that you will not be judged by the color of your skin, but by the content of your character. My hope for you, in any case, is that you have developed the resilience that comes with loving and being proud of who you are regardless of what others may think. Black and Brown lives really do matter.

You come from families with parents who do not have college degrees. My hope for you is that, if you choose to, you will go to college. In my discussions with your parents, that is their hope for you, too. Even though you haven’t had some of the same advantages as wealthier students, you are smart enough, creative enough, and motivated enough to be successful in any college you choose; that you can keep up and even surpass other students at that college.

I write this note to you in times of unrest in the United States due to the murders of Black men and women by the police. I write this note in hopes that you will become an adult who works for justice for all. I know this is a lot of pressure, but my hope and faith come from knowing you will be our future leaders.

I leave you with this Mexican Dichos (Proverb):

You can’t succeed if you don’t try.

Eduindex News

Eduindex News is a next-generation global news publishing company that helps scholars get the free access to educational contents and news at one place. Our digital products, services, and engineering are built on years of innovation, with a world-renowned management philosophy, a strong culture of invention and risk-taking, and a relentless focus on customer relationships. 

EDUindex News is a division subsidiary company of Edupedia Publications Pvt Ltd created with a vision to provide educational contents & educational news at one place. With our brands like IJREduPubPen2Print and Eduindex, we are serving the humanity and helping scholars around the world. 

Joining the Eduindex News team give you an opportunity to work on different fields of content writing, editorial works, digital marketing, publishing, audio visual communication and public relation building aspects of the media publication work.

Emotional Check-Ins in a Teaching Webinar

I always start my classes with some form of emotional check-in regardless of age or grade level. I do so in my college classes as well as in my elementary gifted classes. I think this is even more imperative given the stress students are experiencing due to COVID19. The 10 to 15 minutes it takes is so worth the class time.

Some of the benefits of emotional check-ins discussed in the Edutopia article, A Simple but Powerful Class Opening Activity, include:

Students know that every voice matters: The emotional check-in gets every student’s voice into the room at the start of each class. Although students can always say “pass” instead of sharing, each student has the opportunity to be heard every class session. The check-in is also a great opportunity to practice active listening, turn-taking, and following group norms.

Students develop awareness of others’ emotions—and how to respond to them: When students share their emotions during the check-in, they give their classmates a snapshot of their emotional state. And if I hear a student say that “I didn’t sleep much last night” or “I feel like I can’t focus today,” I can adjust my interactions with that person accordingly.

The check-ins also acknowledge that how students are feeling is important to the educator, that they matter as human beings who have feelings and emotions.

One of my college classes moved from face-to-face to Zoom this semester. What follows are some of the check-in activities I have done with them.

Using a Feeling Chart

Students use a feeling chart to describe how they are feeling. A side benefit of using feeling charts is that they help students increase their feelings vocabulary.

Source: Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry

Share a Rose; Share a Thorn

Each student shares a Rose, something good or positive, from the day or week; and a Thorn, something not-so-good or positive, from the day or week.

Four Types of Care

Students, during the check-in, take turns using the four types of self care graphic to describe strategies they are doing or would like to do to be physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually healthy.

5 Step Check-In Process

The teacher leads students through the 5 step check-in process described in Emotional Check-ins: Why You Need Them:

  1. Tune into your body.
  2. Take a deep breath.
  3. Ask the question. Use the simple question, “How am I feeling?” Make it even more specific by tacking on the phrase “right now” or “in this moment.” 
  4. Use descriptive words to capture how you feel. 
  5. Brainstorm what might be contributing to those emotions.

Then each student is given an opportunity to share what came up for them during the exercise.

Pear Deck

Pear Decks are very similar to a PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation. But instead of simply static, informational slides, you get to create Interactive Slides that let every student respond to your questions or prompts. Once PearDeck is activated, through the Google Slides add-on, students are given a code to access the Pear Deck. There they interact with each slide through typing, drawing, and using a draggable icon depending how the teacher set up the slide. What follows is the Pear Deck I used for a check-in at the start of one of my classes.



Create an Image Based Timeline of Feelings

Students create a timeline of images that represent: how you felt last week; how you feel today; how you want to feel this coming week; and finally, what strategies you can use to get to how you want to feel this coming week. Students then share their images via their webinar cameras and discuss their meaning with the rest of the class. What follows are (1) the prompt for this activity, and (2) sample student pictures:

Gif Image

Using Giphy students do a search for different feelings and emotions they are currently experiencing, and then select one or more Gifs that represent those feelings. They then take turns to do a screenshare of their selected Giphy and explain why they selected it.

Padlet Check-In

Padlet is an application to create an online bulletin board that you can use to display information for any topic. You can add images, links, videos, text, and drawings. Below is a Padlet I created for an emotional check-in.

Mentimeter

Menitmeter allows teachers to engage and interact with students in real-time. It is a polling tool wherein teachers can set the questions and your students can give their input using a mobile phone or any other device connected to the Internet. Their input is displayed on a slide in a selected format: Word Cloud, Speech Bubbles, One-By-One, and Flowchart. In the case of check-ins, it can be used to have students put in responses to a question related to how they feeling at the start of class and their responses then are shown to the class via a slide. The example below shows a slide with a Word Cloud of emotional check-in responses.

Flipgrid

Flipgrid is a website that allows teachers to create “grids” to facilitate video discussions. Each grid is like a message board where teachers can pose questions, called “topics,” and their students can post video responses. For an emotional check-in, students record a short video about how they are feeling.

Civic Engagement for Young People During Social Distancing

Many of us feel a bit helpless to help others out during these coronavirus social distancing and isolation times. This also true for kids and young people. There are actions they can take as part of their home schooling. They can participate in civic engagement and activism activities.

Civic engagement is defined as “working to make a difference in the civic life of one’s community and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference (https://youth.gov/youth-topics/civic-engagement-and-volunteering).”

Quite frequently, not only do state standards permit teachers and schools to support student activism, but they encourage student activism as a means by which to develop civic understanding. Although standards vary from state to state, many of them are modeled on the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards (NCSS, 2013), which specifically endorses student activism:  “Civics is not limited to the study of politics and society; it also encompasses participation in classrooms and schools, neighborhoods, groups, and organizations . . . In civics, students learn to contribute appropriately to public processes and discussions of real issues. Their contributions to public discussions may take many forms, ranging from personal testimony to abstract arguments. They will also learn civic practices such as voting, volunteering, jury service, and joining with others to improve society. Civics enables students not only to study how others participate, but also to practice participating and taking informed action themselves” (https://kappanonline.org/student-activism-civics-school-response-singer/).

Civic engagement and activism in normal times has benefits, but in these times of coronavirus and social distancing-isolation, the benefits are amplified as such engagement can move young people from feelings of helplessness to feelings of empowerment.

Even in social isolation, there are actions young people and kids can do. The following activity guide can provide ideas and give some structure to civics activity engagement.

The following PDF has links with more information about how to do that challenge:

Increasing Student Participation During Zoom Synchronous Teaching Meetings

Due to Coronavirus, many schools are moving online, and teaching through Zoom meetings. If it is only being used to present content to students, then why not just record videos and have students watch them on their own? The value of Zoom meetings is that the educator can create synchronous interactive conversations and activities. My goal is to have all my students actively engaged throughout the meeting. Below are some the activities I have used during my. teacher education Zoom meetings although they can be adapted for any age group and age level (3rd grade and up), and in training professionals. Along with the tools that come with Zoom, I also use online web tools and applications to increase interactivity and engagement. All tools I describe below are free and work on any device, any browser.

Whole Group Discussions

Whole group discussions should be just that – discussions. I believe that the teacher can use this forum for short lectures but, again, they should be short as the power of synchronous Zoom meetings is that it permits interactivity and active learning. Questions about class content can be posed with student responses elicited through verbal responses and/or through the Zoom group chat.

A favorite whole group activity I do is to have a group video viewing party. For this activity, I begin with a short overview of the video and a question of what they should look for during the video. Student responses are put in the chat during and/or after the video.

Whole group activities and discussions can also be used for Breakout Groups follow-up to share what they discussed and did. In this case, I inform the Breakout Groups to decide on a spokesperson or two to report to the whole group.

Breakout Groups

One of the best tools in Zoom is the ability to put students into smaller, self-contained breakout groups. Some ways to use the Breakout Rooms include:

  • To discuss a prompt or questions provided by the teacher or another student.
  • To do online research about a given topic.
  • To discuss a real life scenario or case study. This can be done in a jigsaw strategy whereby different groups are given different case studies. When they are brought back into the whole group, each Breakout Group shares their thoughts and conclusions.
  • To create projects using some of the web tools such as Google Slides, webbing tools, or comics that I discuss later. Time is then given to each group to share what they produced with the rest of the class in a whole group setting.

Quizzes

My students of all ages, kids and adults, absolutely love the competitive, real time quizzes – Kahoot and Quizziz. Both of these online tools – applications have huge archives of teacher created quizzes. They also let teachers create their own and remix the quizzes other teachers have created.

Kahoot

Kahoot! is a game-based learning platform, used as educational technology in schools and other educational institutions. Its learning games, “Kahoots”, are multiple-choice quizzes that allow user responses.

Mentioned Kahoot and any student who has played it just lights up. I like using it at the beginning of a session prime students about what they will be exploring during the session or in the middle to re-energize them.

Quizziz

Quizziz offers self-paced quizzes to students. During my Zoom sessions, I do live Quizziz quizzes where the students answer quiz questions on their own yet compete with one another. It is similar to Kahoot but Kahoot is teacher directed, it displays the questions and answers on the teacher’s device; whereas Quizizz is student directed, it displays all the information on the student’s device.

Polling

Polling web tools can get real time information about students’ opinions, thoughts, and ideas which can be shared with them immediately.

Google Form

Google Forms can be used for student surveys and polling. More information about how to do this can be found at How to Make a Survey With Google Docs Forms. What I really love about using Google Forms for surveys and polls is that immediate feedback can be presented to the students through the response tab.

I like using Google Forms to check in with students and to inquire about what topics they would like to discuss.

Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere is a live student-response tool that offers whole-class participation and assessment through teacher-designed surveys, polls, and discussion boards. Tutorial guides can be found at https://www.polleverywhere.com/guides and video tutorials at https://www.polleverywhere.com/videos.

An example I did recently was polling the student teachers with who I work about special education services at their respective schools (see screenshots below).

Web Tools

There are lots of free, relatively easy-to-use web tools that students can use in Breakout Groups to create products about a class topic. The benefits of doing so include:

  • Students get to be creative during the synchronous meeting.
  • Creating products with visual elements helps deepen the learning.
  • Students have fun during the synchronous meeting.
  • Community is built as students work together on such tasks.

Before I give them their task and send them into their Breakout Groups, I give a screen share tutorial on how to use the tool. There are also lots of online video tutorials that can be shared with students.

As mentioned above, the smaller Breakout Groups share what they did with the whole group. To insure that the others pay attention, I ask them to share in the chat the favorite thing or what they learned from the smaller group presentations.

Shared Google Slides and Docs

Having students help create a shared Google slide show is one of my favorite activities. Individual or small groups are asked to take a slide of a shared Google Slide presentation to report on a given topic. I give some broad guidelines including finding and adding both content and images. The following video explains this process.

Below is an example that focuses on classroom management. In Breakout Groups, they were give a topic. Breakout groups 1 and 2 were given the topic. , groups 3 and 4 Classroom Environment, and 5 and 6 Instructional Strategies. They were given several online articles as references and also encouraged to use their own experiences.

Padlet – A Collaborative Sticky Note Board

Padlet is a website and app that allows kids to curate information onto virtual bulletin boards using a simple drag-and-drop system. Students, alone or in groups, can start with a template or a blank page and add videos, text, links, documents, images — basically anything — to the wall and organize it, like a page full of Post-it notes (https://www.commonsense.org/education/website/padlet).

I typically use Padlet as a whole group activity. What I like about it is that the students can easily see the responses, images, links that their classmates have posted.

For example, I love starting my first Zoom meeting with the Padlet: Time to Take a Selfie Icebreaker developed by Catlin Tucker. Below is one I did with a group of teachers with whom I worked.

Made with Padlet

I have also created and used Padlets for partner interviews, where they posted the results of their partner interviews, SEL strategies, technology in the classroom, classroom management, and collaborating with the community.

Collaborative Webbing – Mind Mapping

“A mind map is a diagram for representing tasks, words, concepts, or items linked to and arranged around a central concept or subject using a non-linear graphical layout that allows the user to build an intuitive framework around a central concept (https://www.mindmapping.com/mind-map.php).

I like to use Coggle in Zoom Breakout Groups. Coggle is an online tool for creating and sharing mind maps and flow charts. It works online in your browser. It is easy to use and permits real time collaborative.

To collaborate, one of the group members starts a Coggle and then invites others by clicking on the + sign in the upper right hand corner and sends email invites.

Below is an example the student teachers did in a breakout about SEL strategies for the classroom.

Comic Creator

Students can be asked to create a comic strip in their Breakout Groups to depict a given topic. My favorite is comic creator is Storyboard That but it has a bit of a learning curve for those who are less technology savvy. Although Make Belief Comix lacks some of the tools and options that Storyboard That has, it is much easier for students to use, so I have moved to using Make Belief Comix in my Zoom meetings. For more technology savvy groups, though, I recommend Storyboard That.

Once back in the whole group. students do a screen share of their product and explain it’s content to the rest of the group. For example, a here is a comic about differentiating instruction using Storyboard That.

As mentioned earlier, Breakout Groups then do a show and tell of their mind maps, comics. The following video shows how to do a screen share. The teacher needs to make sure they have “All Participants” enabled under the sharing settings.

My Educational Learning Plan for the Coronavirus-Induced Hiatus

I, like many of you, have gone into a somewhat involuntary social distancing and isolation (mostly) due to my school and health club closures and recommendation to stay away from crowds. It’s just my cats and I (gives new meaning to home alone). Having a plan to engage my mind and body is of utmost importance. I am sharing my plan of activities, which are almost all free, as it may give other educators some ideas. If you have additional ideas, please share them in the comments.

Working Remotely with My Gifted Elementary Students

I work with gifted students one day a week. Our state and thus my district made an extremely quick decision to close the schools – heard last Thursday night and was told to send home with students Chromebooks along with lessons on Friday, a half day. Obviously most of the teachers didn’t have time to develop lesson plans and learning activities. I met with my learners quickly on Friday, as so much was going on, and asked them to check in with a shared Google doc and our Google Classroom. What follows are the general tasks they are being asked to do during our regularly scheduled gifted day.

  • Writing Children’s Book Narrative – Prior to the school closing, my learners spent quite a bit of time learning how to write a children’s book using a Dr. Seuss type of writing style (yes, I know he is controversial but I like his writing style). The goal is to have them write their stories, illustrate them with cut out shapes made with a Cricut or a laser cutter, and then create Makey Makey Talking Books out of them. They just reached the point of writing their own narratives when the school closed. I asked each of them to share their stories with me via a Google doc. They were instructed to add to their stories during our hiatus, that I would provide feedback and suggestions directly on their shared Google docs. Then when we return, we can jump into creating the illustrations.
  • Newsela – For those who don’t know, Newsela is best-in-class library of high-interest, cross-curricular current news and nonfiction texts.. They have offered all teachers access to Newsela ELA, Newsela Social Studies, Newsela Science and the SEL Collection for FREE for the rest of the school year. At home, my learners are being asked to do the same thing they do in class – pick an article of personal interest, read it, and take the quiz where they need to get at least 3 out of 4 correct. If they don’t, they need to choose another article to read and follow the same procedure.
  • Prodigy Math Game – For those who don’t know, Prodigy is no-cost math game where kids can earn prizes, go on quests and play with friends — all while learning math. With Prodigy math homework is disguised as a video-game. My learners love it. I typically don’t give them class time to play it as I prefer hands-on, learner-to-learner interactive math activities. Since they will be at home, I asked them to play it for an hour during our typical gifted days to keep up with and improve their math skills.
  • Code.org – My 4th graders have working through the Code.org Course F . They were asked to continue working on this through our hiatus while my 5th and 6th graders were asked to join and work on the Code.org CS in Algebra.
  • Maker Camphttps://makercamp.com/project-paths/ and the Maker Stations Home Pack (see download below) : Since we do a lot of making in my gifted classes, I am requesting that my learners pick a project or two to try at home. It has been posted as an assignment via Google Classroom and they have been asked to post pictures of it. I will later (at school or at home depending how long the school closing lasts) ask them to blog about their processes.

Here is their schedule that I posted in Google Classroom for them.

The online applications – Newsela, Prodigy, and Code.org – have teacher dashboards so I can track progress and give them feedback. For their writing, I can give feedback directly on their Google docs, and for their maker projects, they are to post pictures to Google classroom.


Professional Development – Virtual Style

I plan on doing some PD in my pajamas – in other words, virtual style.

Attending Some Virtual Conferences

  • 2020 Share My Lesson Virtual Conference – is a free virtual conference from March 24-26, with over over 30 webinars focusing on instructional strategies across the curriculum, social-emotional learning, activism, STEM, and trauma-informed practices. This is a fantastic conference. I attend every year. The sessions and presenters from professional organizations are top notch!
  • CUE Spring Conference – Computer-Using Educators (CUE) is a California-based non-profit that offers a premiere educational technology conference each spring. This year, because of coronavirus, they are going virtual offering sessions from March 19 through April 5. There is a $75 fee for the virtual conference.

Taking Some Online Classes

  • The Power of Mathematics Visualization – There is a nominal fee for this course but it looks good and might help me develop some interesting strategies for teaching mathematics to my gifted students.
  • Code Academy Pro – They are offering Pro free to students and teachers. It’ll give me an opportunity to learn some advanced code.

Doing Some Maker Projects

Because I use lots of maker education projects in my gifted education classes and our school has a new STEAM lab, this forced hiatus is giving me the opportunity to try out some new projects including:


My Physical Health

I work out in group fitness classes several days a week. It verges on addiction. When I don’t get to do so, I get stressed out. Plus, it provides me with needed social interactions. So when my health club decided to limit their services, I became distraught. Luckily, though, I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, so I plan to go on lots of hikes and am fixing up my bicycle to ride – hoping that the weather permits it. I am going to do online fitness classes. Oh, and, of course, cleaning my house from top to bottom will add an other fitness element. I absolutely know my physical workouts and health will positively affect my mental health.

Stay healthy, happy, and wise!

Sometimes Kids Just Need to Play During School

Teachers get so much pressure to meet standards and prepare students for state mandated tests, that I believe they forget their students are just kids. Because of this pressure, too many teacher education and professional development strategies stress the concept of time on task. For example, see Identifying (and Engaging Students in), Time-on-Task Activities, Increasing Time on Task, and Time on Task. This has some importance in teaching and learning but it shouldn’t always be the professed key to good instruction. This leaves little time for play. Play is important for students of all ages and grades.

This week I was reminded of the importance of playing and having fun; and that play and fun are determined by the kids, themselves. I planned a math lesson based on visual patterning, The concluding activity was for them to make a Fractal Tetrahedron, a marshmallow-toothpick tower. I had planned to have them work on it during a series of math classes, but they asked to stay through lunch and recess to work on it.

I started working with this group of gifted middle school students in January. I always have a goal of engaging learners as I believe it is the foundation of all good learning. I have had difficulty engaging them even with the use of Breakout EDU escape boxes, art activities, and games. Some engaged. Some did not. This marshmallow-toothpick activity brought a new energy into this group. All of them participated. They worked together. They laughed. They excitedly kept building and building. They added pieces to it that weren’t part of the plan. They played and had fun. A new group and classroom dynamic emerged which I believe was due with just letting them play with this project.

I discussed the beauty of spontaneous play (lots of play is spontaneous) in An Education Filled with Wonder:

One day I was substituting for a 2nd grade class.  It had begun to snow as we arrived to school that morning.  By mid-morning, a few inches covered the ground.  It was time for recess but, as expected, a voice came over the intercom to state that recess would be inside within each teacher’s classroom.  I heard the kids moan as they came to school dressed for snow with boots and winter jackets.  I threw caution into the wind.  I asked the kids to bundle up so we could go outside.  The kids became . . . well, kids.  They ran through the fresh snow in the huge back-of-the-school play area with no other students out there. They examined the footprints they created in the snow.  When one found something of interest, they called the others over to see.  They caught snow flakes with their tongues and made snow angles.  There were no conflicts nor arguing as was common to this group of kids.  They just ran, played, and laughed together as a unified group reminding me of a flock of geese.  I watched them with a tear in my eye, one that reflected the beauty I was witnessing. 

I wonder (even though I intuitively know the answer) whether learners in their adulthoods will better remember the types of activities I described above or their very structured time-on-task classroom activities.

The Harvard Graduate School of Education discussed the importance of play in Playing to Learn: How a pedagogy of play can enliven the classroom, for students of all ages:

Play and school can seem diametrically opposed. School is structured, often focused on order; play, by definition, is not.

But within this paradox of play and school, educators can find meaningful learning opportunities, advancing students’ academic skills as well as the social skills that will allow them to thrive in adulthood and enjoy their childhood now, according to researchers from Project Zero (PZ), a research center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

“Play is a strategy for learning at any age,” says Project Zero’s researcher Mara Krechevsky. While older students and their teachers might have more curricular demands than younger students, playful learning still has an important role to play — it might just look different.

There is a universality to play: children are often more relaxed and engaged during play, and it’s enjoyable — all aspects that facilitate learning.

I think most educators innately know about the importance of play but according to many of them, they don’t have the time during the school day to permit kids to play outside of recess . . . but I ask, “What are the costs of not permitting them to play?”

Universal Skills for Learners: Increasing School Relevancy

Kids are learning – but for way too many it occurs outside of the school environment rather than during school. Given today’s technologies, it makes sense and is exciting that learning occurs after schools hours, but for exciting, engaging, and profound learning not to occur during school hours is, simply put, a travesty.

I contend that school, especially in the latter part of the 20th century, had a high degree of irrelevancy but in today’s highly connected world, it is absurd, verging, in my perspective, as unethical practices. We are asking today’s students to spend so much of their school lives doing tasks that are unconnected to the the skills that need now and in their future lives.

. . . and the kids agree as studies have indicated.

Gallup has conducted more than 5 million surveys with students in grades five through 12 over the past several years. These students have come from every state and from a range of rural, suburban and urban school settings. Almost half of students who responded to the survey are engaged with school (47%), with approximately one-fourth “not engaged” (29%) and the remainder “actively disengaged” (24%). A closer look at the data by grade level reveals a disturbing trend. Engagement is strong at the end of elementary school, with nearly three-quarters of fifth-graders (74%) reporting high levels of engagement. But similar surveys have shown a gradual and steady decline in engagement from fifth grade through about 10th grade, with approximately half of students in middle school reporting high levels of engagement and about one-third of high school students reporting the same (School Engagement Is More Than Just Talk).

Just 54 percent of middle schoolers and 46 percent of high schoolers think their studies are relevant, according to new data from the nonprofit YouthTruth. Relevance was rated lowest on the survey of various measures of student engagement: if students take pride in their work, if they enjoy going to school, if their schoolwork is relevant, if they try to do their best, and if their teachers’ expectations help them with that goal (Only Half of Students Think What They’re Learning in School Is Relevant to the Real World, Survey Says).

Over five years ago, I wrote a post entitled Universal Skills All Learners Should Know How to Do in order to discuss those skills I believe are important for learners during this era. For this post, I revisited it. I revised it to now include financial literacy and civics.

  • How to be a self-directed learner – finding and using resources (both face-to-face and online) to learn and improve personal interests
  • How to do effective online searches
  • How to develop one’s own Personal Learning Network (PLN)
  • How to post on social media while managing one’s digital footprint
  • How to evaluate websites and online tools for credibility
  • How to orally communicate with others both face-to-face and online (e.g., Facetime, Skype, Google Handouts)
  • How to write effectively
  • How to ask questions
  • How to effectively ask for what one wants or needs
  • How to set and achieve goals
  • How to work collaboratively with others
  • How to manage one’s own time
  • How to be healthy – physically and emotionally
  • How to care for others
  • How to Enjoy and Engage in the Arts
  • How to identify and solve problems
  • How to make sound financial decisions
  • How to understand and engage in civics
  • How to take professional looking photos; make professional looking videos
  • How to learn and use emerging technologies
  • How to make and invent stuff
  • How to code

I think most administrators and educators (and learners) would agree with the importance of most of the skills on this list to assist learners to be successful now and in their futures. Sadly, though, too few of these skills are directly and intentionally taught to learners: writing, speaking, and for more progressive schools, engaging in the arts and the computer science related skills. Is the current school system model really the best we can do?

The Benefits of the Copy Stage of Making

In Learning in the Making: How to Plan, Execute, and Assess Powerful Makerspace Lessons, I propose a model for the stages of making.

I believe that the heart of making is creating new and unique things. I also realize that in order for this type of making to occur, there needs to be some scaffolding so that maker learners can develop a foundation of knowledge and skills. This post focuses on the Copy Stage of this model.

  • Copy – make something almost exactly as someone else has done.

In this age of information abundance, there really is an unlimited number of DIY resources, tutorials, Youtube videos, online instructors and instructions on making all kind of things. These resources provide a good beginning for acquiring some solid foundational skills and knowledge for learning how a make something one has never made before.

For a recent classroom activity, I wanted students to learn about and use Adafruit’s Circuit Playground. Some students made a Circuit Playground Dreidel (they learned about dreidels from an Orthodox Jewish student who was in my class and they loved it!) using the directions found at https://learn.adafruit.com/CPX-Mystery-Dreidel, and others made the Circuit Playground Scratch game with the directions found at https://learn.adafruit.com/adabot-operation-game/overview. I provided them with these directions and the expectation that the learners follow them pretty much on their own with me acting as an explainer and coach when they ran into difficulties. Here is a video of my learners enjoying their newly made dreidels.

The benefits of beginning maker activities with the Copy Stage includes:

  • Basic Skill Development and Acquisition
  • Foundational Skills for More Advanced and Creative Projects
  • Following Step-By-Step Directions
  • Positive Problem-Solving When Obstacles Occur
  • Asking for Help From Peers
  • A Sense of Accomplishment About Finishing a Project
  • Enjoying the Use of Finished Products They Made

There has been a fair amount of criticism leveraged against “paint-by-numbers” types of STEM and maker kits. This criticism revolves around the stifling of the creativity of learners. I contend that learners need foundational skills so that they can be freed up to be creative. Think about learning how to cook or play an instrument. The basic and foundational skills need to be there in order for the makers to go in directions that are new and creative for them. For example, I spent several decades as a ceramic artist, making wheel thrown and altered pottery. I needed to know how to throw a decent bowl before I could go in that direction (and yes, my pottery in this image began as wheel thrown cylinders).

Going On A STEM-Maker Journey WITH My Students

Last semester, I worked with a few high school students to create a project for the New Mexico Governor’s STEM Challenge. Being a learner-centric, process-oriented educator (hence, the name of my blog – User Generated Education), I embraced the following practices during this project.

  • Learners selected and developed their problem statement and guiding question.
  • Learners naturally tapped into one another’s strengths, managing their strengths without any intervention from me. Some were good at problem conception, others at envisioning solutions, others at research, and still others at creating the graphics.
  • My role was that of resource provider and feedback provider. I shared and explained the challenge requirements, reviewed the qualities of valid websites, gave feedback on their research and written work, and provided them with materials and tools such as Arduinos.
  • Community resources were used reinforcing that communities contain experts – that teachers don’t have to be experts at everything. We visited the local makerspace so the learners could learn and use their 3d printers and laser cutter.
  • Given the nature of this project-based, problem-based format, grading was based strictly on class participation using the criteria of, “Worked on the project during class time.”

Although, I often approach my classroom instruction using the practices as specified above, this one took me even farther from a place of knowing. They selected CO2 emissions and a chemistry-based solution of which I knew very little, so I was not a content expert. We learned about this together. I had a little experience with Arduinos but not lots so I was not a technology expert. We learned a lot more about how these worked together. We went on this journey together and I loved being a co-learner with my students.

Here is a highlight video of their project:

Much to my chagrin, they did not win an award (19 awards were given to the 43 entries). Their rewards, though, cannot be overstated:

  1. They learned some concrete and practical skills from going to the local makerspace, and getting instruction on their 3D printers and laser cutter. They also helped them work out some difficulties they had troubleshooting problems with the Arduino part of the project.
  2. They experienced the rewards and frustrations of working on a months long project including persistence, having a growth mindset, dealing with failure, and following through with a project through its completion.
  3. One of the students has pretty much checked out of school. She was mostly fully engaged throughout the duration of this project.

Even though their excitement about attending and presenting their project was obvious during the hour long ride home as they spent that time brainstorming ideas for projects for next year’s Governor’s STEM Challenge.

2020: A Clear Vision for Our Learners

20/20 vision is a term for visual acuity in which the numerator refers to distance and the denominator refers to size. Visual acuity (VA) commonly refers to the clarity of vision. Vision is all about clarity. 20/20 vision is perfect, high-definition clarity. The question is: How clear is your vision? Specifically, how clear is your vision [for your learners’] futures? (How to Have 20/20 Vision in 2020)

The year 2020 can act as metaphor for us, as educators, to have an overreaching vision for what we do. I really love the idea of approaching 2020 with a clear, well-articulated vision of our learners’ futures.

Grant Wiggins in Why Do You Teach had this to say about the importance of educators developing their vision-mission statements.

I am interested in [teachers being able to answer]:  Having taught, what should they have learned? What do you aim to accomplish as a teacher? What is your goal for the year, for all the years? What kind of a difference in their thinking and acting are you committed to?

Many teachers do not have good answers; most have no such personal Mission Statement; most have not even written a long-term syllabus in which they lay out the key goals for learners (and parents) and how those goals will best be achieved. But then – I say this with no malice –  you really have no goals. You are just marching through content and activities, hoping some of it will stick or somehow cause some learning.

 If you have no long-term accomplishments that you work daily to cause – regardless of or even in spite of the BS you encounter – then you are acting unprofessionally. What a professional educator does, in my view, is to stay utterly focused on a few long-term learning-related goals, no matter what happens in the way of administrative mandates, snow days, early dismissals for sports, or fire drills.

I have a vision – mission statement that I developed years ago but still holds true today:

To help learners developing the knowledge, skills, and passion to be self-directed, lifelong learners.

From my vision-mission statement I developed some guiding principles.

My vision-mission was not just a mental exercise I completed. It, along with my guiding principles, was developed to inform everything I do in my classrooms. I frequently revisit them as a form of self-assessment. Which principles are currently guiding my instructional strategies? Which ones are not being integrated into my classroom activities? What changes do I need to make to do so?

Here are some resources for developing your own vision-mission statement:

My 2019 Highlights

The post describes my 2019 Highlights. I did this for four main reasons:

  1. We, especially as teachers, should spend more time reflecting on what we are doing well – our accomplishments. Often, we don’t get the recognition we deserve. Too often educators feel too timid or undeserving to publicly acknowledge their accomplishments believing that others will perceive them as braggarts. (Self-disclosure: I actually spend way too much time being critical of myself so this is actually really healthy for me to do.)
  2. I believe and include in the bio I share for conference presentations and PD consults that one of the major responsibilities of the modern day educator is to share resources, learning activities, thoughts, and insights with other educators. I do so through this blog and my Twitter account.
  3. I have a “nice box” which, for me, is actually a basket. It is where I put cards and gifts I have received from my students over the years. I tell my pre-service teachers to start one so that when they are feeling ineffective, challenged, or disillusioned, they can go to it for a boost. This post will act as a type of “nice box.”
  4. Finally, I am a strong proponent of being a reflective practitioner. For more about this, see Stephen Brookfield’s book, Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. Blogging, such as this post, is part of my reflective practice.

Here is my list.

I had a book on maker education published by ASCD.

I really love the maker movement. I have always had my students make things. As such, I was often seen as an outlier by the other teachers and principals at my schools. Now that it has become more mainstream, there is a much greater acceptance by my colleagues (and it helps that I now have an amazing and supportive principal). Words cannot describe how exciting I find this movement and hope it stands the test of time in our schools.

Writing this book took about two years but it fits with my mission of sharing resources, learning activities, and ideas with other educators. Given the amount of work it took, I am proud of this accomplishment. The description of the book is:

Transferring this innovative, collaborative, and creative mindset to the classroom is the goal of maker education. A makerspace isn’t about the latest tools and equipment. Rather, it’s about the learning experiences and opportunities provided to students. Maker education spaces can be as large as a school workshop with high-tech tools (e.g., 3D printers and laser cutters) or as small and low-tech as the corner of a classroom with bins of craft supplies. Ultimately, it’s about the mindset—not the “stuff.”

In Learning in the Making, Jackie Gerstein helps you plan, execute, facilitate, and reflect on maker experiences so both you and your students understand how the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of maker education transfer to real-world settings. She also shows how to seamlessly integrate these activities into your curriculum with intention and a clearly defined purpose (http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/119025.aspx).


I keynoted and presented a workshop at Edutech Asia in Singapore.

Sketchnote Made During My Keynote

I did a keynote in front of 1000+ people. Due to this anticipated audience size, I was worried about it for months. Because I focus on active participation, I asked them to make a one page book and then answer some reflection questions. It didn’t go over as well as I would have liked (yes, being self-critical) but I did something I feared. I also (re)learned I am a facilitator of experiences rather than a public speaker.

Slides from my keynote:



The final day I did a full day workshop. I was excited about having teachers and other professionals from Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, India, Malaysia, and New Zealand attend. This was way more successful – the participants being very engaged and excited. Here are the slides:




I did some very cool activities with my gifted students.

I love designing and implementing cross-curricular project-based learning with my gifted students, grades 3rd through 6th. Below are blog post links to some of my favorites from the 2018-19 school year.

Social Entrepreneurship

This is one of my favorites . . . ever. I am now in the process of doing it for a 3rd time with a current group of students. For more about this project, visit https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2018/05/13/elementary-social-entrepreneurship-a-perfect-steam-lesson/. Here is a video of a few of my students delivering raised monies to a local charity.

Design a Shoe

https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2018/05/13/elementary-social-entrepreneurship-a-perfect-steam-lesson/

Game Jam: Designing a Video Game

https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2019/05/24/game-jam-creating-a-video-game/

I passed my ISTE Certification

ISTE Certification is a competency-based, vendor-neutral teacher certification based on the ISTE Standards for Educators. It recognizes educators who use edtech for learning in meaningful and transformative ways (https://www.iste.org/learn/iste-certification)

Doing the portfolio for the ISTE certification was a bear of a task. I worked on it for weeks for several hours a day during this past summer. I did enjoy the process of aggregating and discussing some of the edtech projects I have done.

My List of Best Education Videos – 2019

Here is my annual list of best education videos.

Youth Voice

As you’ll notice the first several are youth voices.

“The power of youth is the common wealth of the entire world… No segment in society can match the power, idealism, enthusiasm and courage of young people.” Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate


Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg chastised world leaders Monday, Sep. 23, for failing younger generations by not taking sufficient steps to stop climate change. “You have stolen my childhood and my dreams with your empty words,” Thunberg said at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York. “You’re failing us, but young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you,” she added.



“Change will happen when we put the flourishing neighbor above our own hero status. Even though we don’t always get to be the hero, we always have the chance to be a world changer. “How should we respond to the current wave of activism? Megan calls us to treat this political moment as a time for both celebration and self-examination. See how she recommends we share power and resources and prioritize others above ourselves.



Jahkini Bisselink is the Dutch Youth Ambassador of the United Nations representing all young people in The Netherlands. Jakhini is auspiciously bridging the gap between young people and politics, fighting to let their voices be heard in national and international decision-making.



Education Thought Leaders

“Are we helping children find solutions to their own challenges? This will become their strengths.” Leading thinker, best selling author and friend of Big Change, Simon Sinek shares his thoughts on the future of education – the change that’s needed and the change that is possible.



Catlin Tucker’s keynote at Fall CUE 2019. Grade better, make your life less stressful and be more effective. 



In her SXSW EDU keynote, Jennifer Gonzalez explores the Aerodynamics of Exceptional Schools. In any school, just as in air travel, different forces impact our progress: some of these forces push us forward and lift us up, while others pull us back and drag us down. The success of our schools depends largely on how well we manage these forces. By applying wisdom from change management theory, instructional coaching, the tech industry, and even the fitness world, we can learn how to fight weight and drag, increase lift and thrust, and make our schools truly exceptional.



Pedro Noguera shares his insights on educational equity, Project Based Learning, and more at PBL World 2019. Pedro Noguera is a Distinguished Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. His research focuses on the ways in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions, as well as by demographic trends in local, regional and global contexts.



Here’s an overview of the benefits of PBL. To read more, check out: http://www.spencerauthor.com/10-things-happen-students-engage-project-based-learning/



The Future of Social Media?

Social media has become our new home. Can we build it better? Taking design cues from urban planners and social scientists, technologist Eli Pariser shows how the problems we’re encountering on digital platforms aren’t all that new — and shares how, by following the model of thriving towns and cities, we can create trustworthy online communities.



Feel Good Videos



Released at the end of 2018 and received a 2019 Oscar nomination for best animated short. Luna is a vibrant young Chinese American girl who dreams of becoming an astronaut. From the day she witnesses a rocket launching into space on TV, Luna is driven to reach for the stars. In the big city, Luna lives with her loving father Chu, who supports her with a humble shoe repair business he runs out of his garage. As Luna grows up, she enters college, facing adversity of all kinds in pursuit of her dreams.



Anna Hopson, 5, was born with a rare neurodegenerative disorder. But that hasn’t dampened her spirit. As Steve Hartman explains, her good mood has even rubbed off on her school bus driver.



First Lady Michelle Obama brings gifts and surprises to Randle Highlands Elementary School in Washington, D.C. (Videos like this make me cry – not so much due to the students’ and teachers’ joy, although that does touch my heart, but because they are so happy about receiving resources that all schools should have – an up-to-date computer lab and a basketball court.)



. . . and because this feels so good. Michael Clark Jr. had crowd of supporters at his adoption hearing this week, which included his kindergarten classmates from Wealthy Elementary in East Grand Rapids.

A STE(A)M Professional Development Course

I had the privilege of teaching a STE(A)M graduate course for Antioch University [New England]. I thought other teachers might benefit from access to a few of my project assignments and resources as well as example projects that teachers in the course produced.

Course Description

What does it mean to teach and engage our students in our modern world? How might we use principles of STE(A)M to engage all students? How can we design and implement STEM education and design thinking strategies building on our professional priorities (ie., the Critical Skills Classroom, nature based education, arts integration, etc) as well as developmentally appropriate pedagogy? How cam we use technology to support student learning? What’s the difference between STEM, STEAM, and STREAM? These questions will be explored in this online course designed to deepen understanding and inspire teachers to a new level of practice. Students will work both on their own and collaboratively to explore learn about these various topics for practical classroom implementation. Focus will also be given to modern tools to support STE(A)M and learning both face-to-face and virtual environments. Participants will design powerful learning experiences for these classrooms as well as formative and summative assessments. Online course.




STE(A)M Elevator Pitch

Using the resources https://www.pearltrees.com/jackiegerstein/stem-steam-stream-resources/id25727284 as reference, post an “elevator pitch” recording that defines these concepts on Flipgrid – https://flipgrid.com/5ab9c3cb

https://flipgrid.com/5ab9c3cb?embed=true




Collaboratively Curated Resources

Assignment Description

For the first part of this assignment. individually you are going to do a search for STEM/STEAM related resources from social media such as Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram using hashtags (#STEM, #MakerEd, #STEAM, #edtech) to help identify them.

As a group, using a collaborative curation tool and collaborative process, create a curated list of resources that you discovered in the first part of this assignment and may prove useful to the beginning practitioner. Here is a resource to learn more about content curation: http://www.spencerauthor.com/content-curation/.

Here is a list of tools that can be used to collaborative curate your group’s resources. Your group will decide which one to use:

Student Examples




STE(A)M Lesson Plan

Assignment Description

Design a Lesson Plan or Unit that incorporates elements of STEAM. Review the following resources:

Make sure to include the following elements plus any others you would like to include:

  • Topic
  • Vision for the Lesson
  • Essential Questions 
  • Cross Curricular Standards Addressed
  • Prerequisite Knowledge and Skills
  • Vocabulary
  • Needed Materials
  • Instructional Activities
  • Any resources used. 

Student Examples







STE(A)M Assessment

Assignment Description

Create a list possible strategies to assess students STEM/STEAM projects. It should be tailored to the (expected) age level of your learners, the focus of your learning activities (STEM, STEAM, or STREAM). Discuss several forms of formative and summative assessments that you can draw upon when you teach STEAM-based lessons.

Review the following:

In developing your strategies and ideas include at least one strategy from each of the following:

  • Documenting Learning Strategies (formative)
  • Reflecting on Learning (formative)
  • Strategies that Leverage Technology, e.g., blogs, podcasts, videos, online tools (formative and summative) 
  • Assessing the Cross-Curricular Standards and Goals Associated with STEAM Education (formative and summative)
  • Going Beyond the Rubric (formative and summative)

You can share it in written form or create your version of assessment ideas using one of the following EdTech tools (they have free versions):

Student Examples




Assessing STREAM

Final Course Reflection

Description

The goal of this reflective piece is the documentation of your understanding of the standards for this course, based in both your learning in class and in your experiences.  The format of this piece is up to you but it must demonstrate that you understand the following:

  • How do you define STE(A)M education within your context? (Please include specific examples of experiential learning: project, problem, place, and design challenge learning and any other relevant methodologies.)
  • What are the key ideas that should guide you in making good choices about the selection, acquisition, organization, evaluation, and reconsideration of resources and activities related to STE(A)M?
  • What are your next steps to support yourself and others in implementation of STE(A)M curriculum?
  • What skills and knowledge do you need to further develop in order to develop your expertise in STE(A)M instruction?

Student Example

Assessing STE(A)M Learning

In Learning in the Making, I discuss assessment as follows:

Educators should be clear about how and why they include assessment in their instruction. They need to be strategic and intentional in its use. Assessment should be about informing learners about their performance so increased learning and future improvements can result. “Assessment is the process of gathering and discussing information from multiple and diverse sources in order to develop a deep understanding of what students know, understand, and can do with their knowledge as a result of their educational experiences; the process culminates when assessment results are used to improve subsequent learning” (Huba & Freed, 2000, p. 8). 

During Fall, 2019, I taught a graduate level STE(A)M [Science, Technology, Engineering, (Arts), Math] course for Antioch University. Their last major assignment was to create methods for assessing STE(AM) learning. My goal was for the students, who are classroom teachers, to develop assessment strategies based on above. The description of the assignment follows:

Create a list possible strategies to assess students STEM/STEAM projects. It should be tailored to the (expected) age level of your learners, the focus of your learning activities (STEM, STEAM, or STREAM). Discuss several forms of formative and summative assessments that you can draw upon when you teach STEAM-based lessons. Review the following:

In developing your strategies and ideas include at least one strategy from each of the following:

  • Documenting Learning Strategies (formative)
  • Reflecting on Learning (formative)
  • Strategies that Leverage Technology, e.g., blogs, podcasts, videos, online tools (formative and summative) 
  • Assessing the Cross-Curricular Standards and Goals Associated with STEAM Education (formative and summative)
  • Going Beyond the Rubric (formative and summative)

You can share it in written form or create your version of assessment ideas using one of the following EdTech tools (they have free versions):

Student Examples

Two example student projects follow. One chose to use Book Creator while the other selected Piktochart. What was impressive to me was the professionalism of their work – both in their content and presentation, and that they created work that has the potential to be beneficial and useful for a wide audience of educators.

STE(A)M Assessments via Book Creator

Assessing STREAM

STE(A)M Assessments via Piktochart

micro:bits for good

At the beginning of November, 2019, I had the opportunity to travel to Singapore to attend and present at Edutech Asia 2019. During that time, I had the opportunity to hear about their initiative to use micro:bits to help students learn technology in authentic ways. An article from 2017, Micro:bit launch: What you need to know about the coding gadget Singapore plans to introduce, explained it as:

School-going children in Singapore will soon be using a pocket-sized, codeable computer, called the micro:bit, to pick up coding skills. The move is aimed at instilling passion for technology among young Singaporeans. The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) will work with the Ministry of Education (MOE) to roll out micro:bit as part of its new Digital Maker Programme over the next two years.

In the exhibit hall at the conference, IMDA showcased the micro:bit-for-good projects that groups of Singapore students created. The following video provides a sampling of students explaining their projects.

micro:bit Global Challenge

The Micro:bit Education is sponsoring a challenge to use micro:bits to address two of the UN’s Global Goals: Life Below Water and Life on Land. They provide lots of resources on their website:

Previous micro:bit Global Challenge

In 2015, world leaders came together to decide on a series of “global goals” to build a better world. We challenged students aged 8-12 across the globe to consider how these goals could change the lives of themselves and others, and to design solutions to these goals using the micro:bit (https://microbit.org/global-challenge/)

Although this contest/initiative has officially ended, it could still be used by groups of students as a reference to create micro:bit-for-good projects. Some resources from this challenge follow:

The following is a guide developed by Canada Learn Code to help students prototype their micro:bit global challenge idea.

A Maker Education PD Workshop

I had the privilege of presenting a day long maker education workshop at Edutech Asia on November 7, 2019. I was excited about having teachers and other professionals from Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, India, Malaysia, and New Zealand attend. What follows are some details and highlights.

As they arrived in the morning, I asked them to access the workshop slides and create a name card lit up with an LED.

They then used these name cards to introduce themselves.

Next, they were provided with copper tape, coin batteries, LEDs, and Chibitronics’ circuit stickers along with instructions about how to make series and parallel circuits; and asked to create pictures from their circuits. Here is a video of some of the participants sharing their processes:

Then, they were asked to further reflect on their learning by playing my Maker Reflection Game.

They were then introduced to their next making segment in which they could pick to do one or more of the following projects:

  • Bristlebots
  • Gami-bots
  • More advanced paper circuits
  • micro:bit books
  • Makey-Makey Characters

I repeatedly encouraged them to take pictures throughout their making processes in order to document their learning.

To reflect on this making segment, they were introduced to several types of online educational technology creation tools to use for their reflective piece. I believe that reflection and assessment should be as fun, exciting, valuable, and informative as the making process itself. Here are some examples from the workshop:



Finally, they were instructed to create a poster using visuals and LEDs in their small groups about their day and how they can apply their learnings when they return to their work environments.

. . . and here are the slides provided to the participants:

Language Arts Lesson Using a micro:book

In Learning in the Making I discuss the importance of and strategies for integrating technology into the curriculum.

Maker education needs to be intentional. It follows, then, that if we want to bring maker education into more formal and traditional classrooms—as well as more informal environments such as afterschool and community programs—it needs to be integrated into the curriculum using lesson plans. This chapter begins with a discussion of the characteristics of an effective maker education curriculum and then suggests a lesson plan framework for maker education– enhanced lesson plans.  A powerful maker education curriculum includes the following elements: 

  • Instructional challenges are hands-on, experiential, and naturally engaging for learners. 
  • Learning tasks are authentic and relevant, and they promote life skills outside of the formal classroom. 
  • Challenges are designed to be novel and create excitement and joy for learners. 
  • Learner choice and voice are valued. 
  • Lessons address cross-curricular standards and are interdisciplinary (like life).
  • Learning activities get learners interested in and excited about a broad array of topics, especially in the areas of science, engineering, math, language arts, and fine arts. 
  • Communication, collaboration, and problem solving are built into the learning process. 
  • Reading and writing are integrated into learning activities in the form of fun, interesting books and stories and through writing original stories, narratives, and journalistic reports. 
  • Educational technology is incorporated in authentic ways; the emphasis is not to learn technology just for the sake of learning it. 

Educators need to approach their curriculum and lessons with a maker mindset. With this mindset, they can figure out creative ways to integrate maker activities into existing lessons and instructional activities. Educators in these situations start with the standards and objectives of their lessons, as they typically do with “regular” lessons, and then design or identify maker activities that meet the standards and the lesson. It simply becomes a matter of “How can I add a making element to my lessons to reinforce concepts being learned?” 

The micro:book Lesson

After showing the micro:book activity (see https://make.techwillsaveus.com/microbit/activities/animated-microbook) to a bi-lingual co-teacher, Natalia, she took off with it to develop a lesson to teach her Spanish-speaking students types of sentences. See the video below for her explanation of this lesson and a student example.

A Brain Science Hyperdoc Activity

Judy Willis, a neuroscientist turned teacher, in How to Teach Students About the Brain writes:

If we want to empower students, we must show them how they can control their own cognitive and emotional health and their own learning. Teaching students how the brain operates is a huge step. Teaching students the mechanism behind how the brain operates and teaching them approaches they can use to work that mechanism more effectively helps students believe they can create a more intelligent, creative, and powerful brain. It also shows them that striving for emotional awareness and physical health is part of keeping an optimally functioning brain. Thus, instruction in brain function will lead to healthier learners as well as wiser ones.

I teach a unit on the brain each year. This year I am teaching a 9th grade freshman seminar and decided to do a brain science unit with them. For this unit , I created a brain science hyperdoc for them. A hyperdoc is:

A HyperDoc is a digital document—such as a Google Doc—where all components of a learning cycle have been pulled together into one central hub. Within a single document, students are provided with hyperlinks to all of the resources they need to complete that learning cycle (https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/hyperdocs/).

The Brain Science Hyperdoc

Here is a completed brain science hyperdoc so you can see what was required and how one student completed it.

Making Models of the Brain

One of the hands-on activities was to work in a small group to create a model of the brain lobes + cerebellum out of playdoh, and then add post-it note “flags” for each part that indicates its name, function, and how to promote its health.

Creating Neuron Models

As a treat and to reinforce the parts of the neuron, students used candy to make a neuron, label its parts on a paper below, and then show as a group how one neuron would communicate with the next neuron and then to the next and so on.

Creative Writing Activity

One of the final projects of their brain science activities was to pick two activities from the list of creative writing activities about the brain found at https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/writing.html. One of my students went all out to create a newspaper called The Brainiac News which follows. Using her own initiative, she started a Google Site to post a series of tongue-in-cheek stories. So impressive!

Creating a New Makerspace at Our School

I am beyond elated – our PreK-6 elementary school received monies, through our district’s Computer Science Resolution 2025, to create a STEAM (science, technology, arts, math) makerspace. I never thought our Title 1 school would get the opportunity to create such a space. I never thought I would get the opportunity to help create a fully equipped makerspace. A few of use spent the past few weeks rearranging our library so that one side contains our books and the other our STEAM materials.

We received the following items. Some were put out in the STEAM makerspace and some items the teachers will check out for use in their classrooms:

  • Dremel Laser Cutter (in makerspace)
  • Makedo Kits (in makerspace)
  • Strawbees (in makerspace)
  • Dash and Dot (in makerspace and can be checked out)
  • OSMO Coding (in makerspace)
  • Makerspace Kit (in makerspace)
  • BeeBot Robots (in makerspace)
  • Squishy Circuits (in makerspace)
  • Makey-Makeys (can be checked out)
  • littleBits Base Invent Kit (in makerspace)
  • micro:bits (3rd-6th grade teachers received their own sets)
  • Circuit Playground (can be checked out)
  • SAM Lab (can be checked out)
  • Green Screen (in makerspace)

Integrating Maker Education Activities Into the Curriculum

As we (the steering committee) envisioned adding a STEAM – Makerspace at our school, we realized that its success will be dependent on the teachers integrating these activities into their curriculum rather than an extra “recreational” activity.

Maker education needs to be intentional. It follows, then, for maker education to be brought into more formal and traditional classrooms as well as more informal ones such as with afterschool and community programs, it needs to be integrated into the curriculum using lesson plans to assist with this integration (Learning in the Making).


To assist our teachers with integrating maker education activities into the curriculum, I created the following Pearltrees aggregate of possible classroom lessons and activities for each of the materials – products we purchased for our school:

https://www.pearltrees.com/jackiegerstein/curriculum-integration/id27094864

In this post, I am also including the following lesson plan template from my book, Learning in the Making that can help with integrating maker education activities into the curriculum :

Cross-Curricular Lesson: Communicating with Parents

As someone who has been in teacher education for several decades, I often think about – teach about how to make curriculum engaging, fun, effective, authentic, and relevant for learners. I believe interdisciplinary or cross-curricular lessons have the potential to do so. I also add, when I am working with pre- and inservice teachers, that there is not enough time in a day to teach-learn everything that is desirable. Cross-curricular activities can help “create” more time as several content area standards can be addressed in one lesson.

Multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary learning is a “whole” or “comprehensive” method that covers an idea, topic, or text by integrating multiple knowledge domains. It is a very powerful method of teaching that crosses the boundaries of a discipline or curriculum in order to enhance the scope and depth of learning. Each discipline sheds light on the topic like the facets of a gem.

I created the following graphic to show the benefits of interdisciplinary standards.

An Example: Communicating with Parents

This past week I asked my freshman seminar class to do a few activities related to communicating with their parents. The goal of this lesson was, obviously, to have to students develop some more effective communication strategies.

Social Emotional Learning and 21st Century Standards

This lesson, at its core, falls into the areas socio-emotional learning and 21st Century Competencies. Ohio established their own set of K-12 Social and Emotional Learning Standards and the following are related to the goals of this lesson.

  • Actively engage in positive interactions to make connections with peers, adults and community to support and achieve common goals,
  • Establish and actively participate in a healthy network of personal, school and community relationships.

The Framework for 21st Century also identified communication as an important skill with the following standards.

  • Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts,
  • Listen effectively to decipher meaning, including knowledge, values, attitudes and intentions.

English Language Arts Standards

Because the learners were asked to do research and write a letter to their parents, English Language Arts standards were also addressed:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.7
Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.2
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

Communicating with Parents Poster

Learners were asked to review some online articles about communicating with parents and then make a poster that reflected strategies they believe to be important.

Letter to My Parents

Next, the learners were asked to write a letter to their parents that discussed:

  1. What types of communications are going well,
  2. What types of communications are not going well,
  3. Suggested goals for improving communications.

They were told they were not required to share the letter with their parents. Some examples follow:



My List of Top Ten Videos of 2018

I think we are living in amazing times whereby we can access and view high quality videos for free! I have selected some of my favorites from 2018. My criteria for their selection are that they made me laugh, cry, cheer, and/or made me feel inspired and hopeful. There are very few mentions of traditional schooling and education; yet, they all have connections to what school and education should aspire to be.



Educator and author Luis Perez gives a powerful TED Talk about how his experience with visual impairment forced him to live between and betwixt worlds. This inspiring talk covers his journey with disability, the importance of access and the role of technology for all learners.



11-year-old speaks out, at the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, for all the African-American girls who have been left out of the gun violence discussion. Wadler led a walkout at her elementary school to bring attention to the gun violence in schools across the country.



Michelle King discussed her current conundrums: How might we create empathetic institutions that remind us of our humanity?  How might we re-design for equity and social justice in and out of school learning? How might we design learning institutions to build connections? How might we allow those connections help us re-see the worlds we inhabit?  How might we embrace silence in our lives?



SOAR is an award-winning 3D animated movie about a young girl who must help a tiny boy pilot fly home before it’s too late. (Not from 2018, but that’s when I first viewed it, and it has such great connections to maker education.)



Adam Savage gives his annual “Sunday sermon” at the 2018 Bay Area Maker Faire. Adam talks about an essential aspect of making and maker culture: generosity and sharing. With examples from his own experiences and the world at large, Adam explains why the more we share, the more we have.



Emily Pilloton shares stories of community-focused creative projects and provide strategies and mindsets to bring purposeful making into any classroom. Furthermore, by connecting creativity to our communities, bringing real projects to life in the real world, students become young leaders with the soft and hard skills that will prepare them for the future. This talk shows an initiative that uses the power of creativity, design, and hands-on building to amplify the raw brilliance of youth, transform communities, and improve K-12 public education from within.



Watch Michelle Obama and Tracee Ellis Ross in conversation at the 2018 United State of Women Summit on May 5, 2018 Los Angeles. (I cannot overstate how much admiration I have for this woman.)



Maria Town’s keynote at the Maker of Nation’s conference where she talks about the rights of persons with disabilities especially from a maker’s perspective.



In this joyful, heartfelt talk featuring demos of her wonderfully wacky creations, Simone Giertz shares her craft: making useless robots. Her inventions — designed to chop vegetables, cut hair, apply lipstick and more — rarely (if ever) succeed, and that’s the point. “The true beauty of making useless things [is] this acknowledgment that you don’t always know what the best answer is,” Giertz says. “It turns off that voice in your head that tells you that you know exactly how the world works. Maybe a toothbrush helmet isn’t the answer, but at least you’re asking the question.”



. . . and my parting shot speaks for itself:

Gingerbread House Making: A Fun and Engaging Cross-Curricular Lesson

I believe that educators can be intentional in setting up environments where learners’ propensity to create flourishes. Some elements that can assist with this kind of unbridled making and creating include:

  • Open ended projects that promote self-directed differentiation and personalization.
  • Choice of projects, methods, materials.
  • Some structure but lots of room for a personal touch; lots of room for creativity.
  • Educators letting go of expectations what the final project should look like.
  • Focus on the processes of learning.
  • Focus on the social emotional aspects of learning – collaboration, persistence, acceptance of failure.
  • Acceptance of a learner’s projects based on their own criteria of excellence rather than of the educator’s.
  • Reflection is built into the process so learners can revisit their projects with a critical eye.

conditions-for-creating1 (1)

This past week I did a gingerbread house making activity (described below) that included math and language arts connections with my two groups of gifted 3rd through 6th graders. It met all of these criteria and resulted in 100% engagement – lots of fun for the students.

When I talk about making in the classroom with teachers, I often say it takes a lot of preparation time but then the students end up working harder than the teacher during class time – which I believe should always be the case. This activity took quite a bit of preparation plus I ended up spending about $50 out-of-pocket money for the supplies. For me, though, it was worth it as I got to see my students experience such joy and excitement creating their gingerbread houses along with joy in doing the math and language arts activities I built into the lesson.

The Gingerbread House Lesson

List of Activities

As a cross-curricular unit, this lesson addressed standards in language arts, math, science and the arts. The general lesson list of activities included:

  1. Showing students the story of The Gingerbread Man.
  2. Asking students to write a story that features a gingerbread house.
  3. Showing students a video about how to make a simple gingerbread house with graham crackers.
  4. Asking students to create a blueprint of their gingerbread house including estimates of their perimeters and area. This necessitated me reviewing how to calculate these.
  5. Having students create their own royal icing from powdered sugar and meringue power – doubling the recipe to include more math calculations.
  6. Giving students lots of time to make their gingerbread houses.

Standards Addressed

Language Arts Standards

  • Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
  • Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, description, and pacing, to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.

Math Standard

  • Apply the area and perimeter formulas for rectangles in real world and mathematical problems.

Next Generation Science Standard

Art Standards

  • Anchor Standard #1. Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
  • Anchor Standard #2. Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
  • Anchor Standard #3. Refine and complete artistic work.

Social Emotional Learning Standards

  • Student demonstrates ability to manage emotions constructively. “I can appropriately handle my feelings.”
  • Student demonstrates ability to set and achieve goals. “I can set and achieve goals that will make me more successful.”

Materials

  • computers access (to write their stories)
  • graph paper
  • tape measures
  • markers or colored pencils of different colors
  • graham crackers ( a lot – I ran short)
  • royal icing: confectionary sugar and meringue (see recipe at http://www.inkatrinaskitchen.com/small-batch-royal-icing/)
  • electric hand mixer
  • gum drops
  • pretzels
  • candy canes
  • skittles or m&m’s
  • mini-marshmallows

Activity Details

Write a Story About a Gingerbread House

This part of the lesson was introduced to students by showing them the story of The Gingerbread House to show them what was possible for a creative story.

They then wrote a story about a gingerbread house. I have an Orthodox Jew in one of my classes so I kept it general rather than emphasizing a Christmas theme. Here is an example story:


Creating Blueprints of the Gingerbread Houses with the Perimeter and Area

Students were shown the following video to help them learn techniques for building their gingerbread houses and to get inspired for the type of gingerbread houses they wanted to make.

We then reviewed the formulas for estimating perimeter and area. As part of their blueprints, they included these estimates using one color marker for the perimeter and one for the area. They were given the option to use the squares on the graph paper or to use the tape measures to figure out their perimeter and area.

IMG_2988IMG_2990

Making Their Gingerbread Houses

Then came the gingerbread house making time. Students were split into groups of three and provided with the recipe for royal icing which they had to double (more math!) to have enough for the three of them. Also on their respective tables were food items for their gingerbread houses: graham crackers, gum drops, candy canes, skittles, pretzels, mini-marshmallows.

As I mentioned above, there was 100% of engagement by the students as evidenced in these photos.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The only change to this lesson that I would implement when I do it again (and I am definitely doing it again), would be more graham crackers and more time to make them.

The Importance of Civics Education (Updated)

Truth be told, I always disliked history and government classes as a Kindergarten through undergraduate student. I found it dry, boring, irrelevant, and unimportant. I believe this was due to it all being about memorization . . . memorizing events and dates in history; memorizing the branches of government; memorizing states and their capitols. This type of learning reflects only remembering, the lowest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Now that I am a teacher of gifted education, I believe it is important for my students, for all students to participate in civics education. There is a problem with knowledge of civics by today’s children and youth (adults, too). The Center on American Progress stated in The State of Civics Education:

Civic knowledge and public engagement is at an all-time low. A 2016 survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that only 26 percent of Americans can name all three branches of government, which was a significant decline from previous years. Not surprisingly, public trust in government is at only 18 percent and voter participation has reached its lowest point since 1996. Without an understanding of the structure of government; rights and responsibilities; and methods of public engagement, civic literacy and voter apathy will continue to plague American democracy. Educators and schools have a unique opportunity and responsibility to ensure that young people become engaged and knowledgeable citizens.

For civics education to be effective, though, it needs to be engaging, exciting, authentic, and relevant for learners. Here are two civics education practices that can be implemented within the classroom” 

Schools should provide direct instruction in government, history, economics, law, and democracy in ways that provoke analysis and critical thinking skills. These subjects are vital to laying the foundation for civic learning and may also contribute to young people’s tendency to engage in civic and political activities over the long term. However, schools should avoid teaching only rote facts about dry procedures, which is unlikely to benefit students and may actually alienate them from politics.

Schools should incorporate discussion of current local, national, and international issues and events into the classroom, particularly those that young people view as important to their lives. Engaging students in civil dialogue about controversial issues provides opportunities to foster character and civic virtue–important civic dispositions that are the habits of the heart and mind conducive to the healthy functioning of the democratic system. Examples include civility, open-mindedness, compromise, and toleration of diversity, all of which are prerequisites of a civic life in which the American people can work out the meanings of their democratic principles and values (Revitalizing Civic Learning in Our Schools).

As discussed in the NEA article Forgotten Purpose: Civics Education in Public Schools , the value of civics education goes far beyond politics:

civics

Now I am including civics education as part of my gifted education instruction for my 2nd through 6th grade students. There are two reasons I am doing so:

  1. The political climate, not just in the United States, but worldwide has become contentious and toxic. I believe that this is due, in part, to a lack of education in civics.
  2. There are online tools like Brainpop, Newsela, and iCivics that make civics education more interesting and engaging.

Update

This is an update of the original post in which I discussed the midterm elections – see below. I have a group of 5th and 6th grade gifted students who selected the global citizenship class I offer one day a week for 1.5 hours per meeting time. This means that they are interested in this topic. They have been working on their presidential candidacy speeches as if they were going to run for being the president of the United Speech. Today, April 11, 2019, we watched some Brainpop videos

2019-04-12_0649

I stopped them at several points to ask questions, “Who is the vice president of the United States?” Them, “I don’t know.” “How many terms – how long can someone be president of the United States?” Their response, “I don’t know.” How many branches of the US government are there?” Their response, “I don’t know.” Yikes – more evidence that civics education is needed in our schools. 

I teach at two Title 1 schools with a predominately Hispanic student body. An article from the NEA had this to say about civics education in lower income schools: 

Only 25 percent of U.S. students reach the “proficient” standard on the NAEP Civics Assessment.  White, wealthy students are four to six times as likely as Black and Hispanic students from low-income households to exceed that level. Here’s why: Students in wealthier public school districts are far more likely to receive high-quality civics education than students in low-income and majority-minority schools (Forgotten Purpose: Civics Education in Public Schools ).

Midterm Elections

The midterm elections provided a great teachable moment for my students to get some civics education. We began with a KWHLAQ Chart developed by (what do I Know, what do I Want to know, How will I find out, what have I Learned, what Action will I take, and what further Questions do I have) developed by Silvia Tolisano. We then watched some Brainpop videos on voting using the follow-up review quizzes. Students were then asked to choose an article from the Newsela Civics category to read, and play iCivics games. Here are the slides of activities I shared with students in our Google Classroom so students could have access and work through the Newsela and iCivics activities at their own pace, making choices of news articles and games based on their own interests.

<

Because of student choice and the interactive nature of Newsela and iCivics (I can’t overstate how much all of my students love iCivics), students found the activities engaging. These activities also tapped into higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. This is a start. I plan on integrating civics lessons throughout the school year. 

There are no so many fun and interactive ways to teach civics as well as suggestions and tips for best practices such as  the ones recommended by The National Center for Learning and Civc Engagement in a guidebook entitled Six Proven Practices for Effective Civic Learning.

The necessary elements of effective civic education include classroom instruction in civics & government, history, economics, law and geography; service learning linked to classroom learning; experiential learning; learning through participation in models and simulations of democratic processes; guided classroom discussion of current issues and events, and meaningful participation in school governance.

Access to this document can be found below; and the NEA has a list of civics education resources found at http://www.nea.org/civicseducation.

Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) Displays: A Maker Education Project

IMG_2626

I have lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico for a few decades. One of my favorite things about living here is that my town celebrates and embraces Hispanic and Mexican cultural traditions. I have the privilege of working with gifted kids at two elementary schools with over 80% Hispanic students. For the past two years, I did Halloween Wars – based off of the Food Channel show. See Halloween Wars: An Interdisciplinary Lesson with a STEM, STEAM, Maker Education Focus for more about this. Because of the cultural heritage of my students and because I find the Day of the Dead holiday so intriguing and beautiful (the movie, Coco, helped bring its beauty to the masses), I decided to focus on having the students create Dia de los Muertos displays this year.

Standards Addressed

21st Century Skills

  • Using 21st century skills to understand and address global issues
  • Learning from and working collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, religions and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect and open dialogue in personal, work and community contexts
  • Understanding  other nations and cultures, including the use of non-English languages
  • Create new and worthwhile ideas (both incremental and radical concepts)
  • Elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate their own ideas in order to improve and maximize creative efforts
  • Create new and worthwhile ideas (both incremental and radical concepts)
  • Elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate their own ideas in order to improve and maximize creative efforts

Next Generation Science Standards

  • Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.

Common Core State Standards – ELA

  • Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

Getting Started – Gaining Attention

To introduce and show students the traditions related to Day of the Dead, they are shown the following videos:

. . . as well as given time to explore the Smithsonian Latino Center’s Theater of the Dead – http://latino.si.edu/dayofthedead/ which includes an interactive element to build their own alter or Ofrenda.

Writing a Story About Day of the Dead

Students write a story with a Day of the Dead theme. They are given the option to write it alone or with a partner. Here is an example from one of my 6th grade students:

Artifacts for the Day of the Dead Displays

Students make the following artifacts and then, in small groups of three students, decide if and how they want to use them in their Day of the Dead displays to reflect the stories they wrote.

Decorated Skulls with Paper Circuits for Eyes

Materials: skull outline and parallel circuit outline (one for each student), 5MM LED lights, copper tape, coin batteries, transparent tape, markers.

Students decorate their paper skulls and then make parallel paper circuits to light up the eyes of these skulls. I found a template of a skeleton skull online. I printed these out – one for each student. I then made an outline of a parallel circuit so that when connected and joined with the top part, the LEDs would show up as pupils of the decorated skull – see below.

IMG_2412.jpgIMG_2416

Students first cut out and decorate their skulls with markers. Images of decorated Day of the Dead skulls can be projected via a whiteboard so students can see examples. They then trace their cut out skulls onto the paper circuits template and cut that out. The bottom piece, containing the parallel circuit design, is then wired with the copper tape. The shorter copper tape is taped down from the battery placeholder to the end of its outline, so that the coin battery can be placed on top of that. For the longer piece of copper tape, about 1.5 inches is left at the end near the battery. This extra is folded onto itself so that after the battery is in place, this part of the copper tape can be taped on top of the battery. Having a folded over end piece makes it more manageable. Students should be reminded how to find the polarities of both the LEDs (the longer leg is positive) and the coin battery (it has a + on the top – that side with a little bit larger diameter). Students then tape their batteries and LEDs in place insuring that the positive legs of the LED lead to positive side of the battery and visa-versa. For more about paper circuits, see https://www.makerspaces.com/paper-circuits/. The LEDs are then poked through the eyes of the decorated skull. The top and bottom pieces are then stapled together.

Sugar Skulls

Materials: sugar, meringue powder, sugar skull molds

Sugar skull molds can be purchased from https://www.mexicansugarskull.com/sugar_skulls/sugar-skull-molds.html. Sugar skulls are incredibly easy to make – just combining the dry ingredients of sugar and meringue power and adding a little water so it becomes the consistency of dampened beach sand. More directions along with amounts can be found at https://www.mexicansugarskull.com/sugar_skulls/instructions.html. After waiting at least 24 hours for the skulls to harden, students can then decorate them using edible markers or royal icing.

IMG_2585.jpgIMG_2545.jpg

Skulls from Modeling Chocolate

Materials: white chocolate morsels, corn syrup.

This is another easy recipe to make (see http://artisancakecompany.com/recipe/how-to-make-perfect-modeling-chocolate/ for specific directions) although it is a bit tricky to get the modeling chocolate to the right consistency. Once the modeling chocolate is made, students sculpt it into 3D skulls.

IMG_2558.jpgIMG_2561.jpg

micro:bit Lit Skull

Materials: micro:bit (one for each team), heavy stock cardboard, (servos with jumper wires and alligator clips if movement is designed)

A micro:bit is mini-computer, half the size of a credit card equipped with 25 red LED lights that can flash messages. The micro:bit features an embedded compass, accelerometer, mobile, and web-based programming capabilities. It is compatible with a number of online code editors across a number of different languages (https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/getting-started-with-the-microbit). For this activity, students cut out a skull with a window in the middle for the micro:bit (see below). They then use https://makecode.microbit.org/ to (1) create a message on the LEDs about Day of the Dead, and (2) code the servo to rotate the skull in a small arc from side to side (see https://sites.google.com/view/microbitofthings/7-motor-control/11-servo-control?authuser=0 for how to do this).

IMG_2532IMG_2629

Tissue Paper Marigolds

IMG_2566IMG_2404

Materials: yellow tissue paper, pipe cleaners.

The directions for how to make these can be found at https://tinkerlab.com/simple-paper-marigolds-dia-de-los-muertos/,

Edible Slime

Materials: sugar free Jello, starch

This is an easy recipe with the slime made by combining sugar free Jello, food starch, and water. Colors are determined by the flavor of the Jello – I like using lime for green slime and strawberry for red slime. For more information, visit https://thesoccermomblog.com/edible-silly-putty/

Miscellaneous Materials

Students are provided with core board and also given candy bones, candy gravestones, and chocolate animal crackers (to be crushed into dirt) so that these items along with the projects described above can be used for their displays, again reminding students that the displays should directly reflect their stories about Dead of the Day – Dia de los Muertos.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Student Reflection

Students were asked to randomly choose five cards from the deck of my Maker Reflection Cards to reflect on their experiences with this project. They were told that they could discard two of them but would need to answer three of them via a blog post, and I was totally elated when one asked if he could answer more – seven of them! Here are screenshots of his and another student’s reflections.

2018-11-07_17582018-11-07_1759

2018-11-07_1800

Choice + Imagination = Fantastic Results

Destination Imagination (DI) has been recommended by my supervisor for use with gifted students. I teach gifted students at two Title 1 elementary schools.

DI MISSION

To engage participants in project-based challenges that are designed to build confidence and develop extraordinary creativity, critical thinking, communication, and teamwork skills

DI PRINCIPLES

  • Fun learning: Explore STEM/STEAM concepts in a hands-on environment
  • Creative problem solving: Learn how to think, not what to think
  • Kid powered; team driven: Energize students to own all decisions, creations, and results
  • Friendly competition: Motivate teams to reach for the stars, while also rooting for each other
  • Global diversity: Encourage and celebrate differences in each other, and differences in ideas.

(https://www.destinationimagination.org/vision-mission/)

Destination Imagination has developed Instant Challenges to help spark student creativity. Recently, I had one class of gifted 6th graders do the Fortune Teller Instant Challenge. See below.

2018-10-28_0933

Here is a PDF that leads to the several versions of the Destination Imagination Fortune Teller:  Destination_Imagination_IC_Makers PDF

I only have four students in this particular class and interestingly, each selected a different project:

  1. Tell a Story About Being Very, Very Hungry at a Concert
  2. Make a Cartoon About Getting a New Pet in a Fishbowl
  3. Create a Song About Trying to Fly at an Amusement Park
  4. Create a Commercial About Trying to Fly at an Amusement Park

They (except for the cartoon) recorded their projects in front a green screen and then added background images using iMovie. Here are their finished creations:

They had 100% engagement throughout the project. This is significant as two of the girls sometimes have a difficult time getting and staying focused on their projects during class. I believe this occurred because they were given a choice and they had to use their imaginations.

Choice

I have blogged about giving student voice and choice in the past.

Education works when people have opportunities to find and develop unaccessed or unknown voices and skills. Audre Lorde poignantly describes this “transformation of silence into language and action [as] an act of self-revelation.” Opportunities for flexibility and choice assist learners in finding passion, voice, and revelation through their work. (http://www.edutopia.org/blog/student-choice-leads-to-voice-joshua-block)

Internet accessibility, technologies that permit the user-generated media, and social media allow for unlimited potential for learner choice and voice.

Learner Choice can be facilitated through:

Imagination

I believe that most of student learning should contain some form of them using their imaginations. Sadly, though as Sir Ken Robinson noted over ten years ago, “schools are killing creativity.”

According to research conducted by Kyung Hee Kim, Professor of Education at the College of William and Mary, all aspects of student creativity at the K-12 level have been in significant decline for the last few decades. Based on scores from the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, her study reveals “that children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle” (How America’s Education Model Kills Creativity and Entrepreneurship).

From my blog post, Intentional Creativity:

Embedding creativity into the curriculum can and should be a strong component of content area teaching and learning. In other words, educators don’t need to plan to teach creativity as another part of curriculum.  Creativity is often an integral part of the practices of professionals including scientists, mathematicians, business people, artists, writers, and is an important part of their content area expertise. It follow, then, that learners should be taught in ways that help them think like a scientist . . . like an artist . . .  like a writer . . .  like a business person.

BreakoutEDU: A Professional Development Workshop

I recently got the opportunity to offer a professional development workshop for educators of gifted students at the 2018 14th Annual Fall Gifted Education Institute. The description for my workshop was as follows:

BreakoutEDU presents puzzles for students to decipher, each clue leading to another which in turn opens locks attached to a strongbox. BreakoutEdu activities address the unique talents and needs of gifted students in that they require critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, and communication. During this session, directly experience two BreakoutEdu activities: (1) Eggbert, the Slightly Cracked Egg, with a social emotional theme of the benefits of being different, and (2) World of Geometry; and learn about the Breakout Edu resources available to teachers.

Here are the slides from my presentation:

Eggbert: The Slightly Cracked Egg

As an experiential educator, I believe that most learning experiences are best begun with an experiential learning activity (for more about this, see David Kolb’s working on the Experiential Learning Cycle). So I immediately had the workshop participants jump in to do a physical BreakoutEDU game, Eggbert, the Slightly Cracked Egg (see https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/eggbert-the-slightly-cracked-egg-a-breakout-edu-game/ for a description, set up description, and support materials). I specifically developed this activity for use with gifted students as sometimes they themselves as slightly cracked although I think this book-activity has value for all students – all ages. Here are some photos of the teachers engaged in this activity:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Reflection

We don’t learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience. John Dewey

I then introduced the importance of reflecting on experience (also part of Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory), and asked the participants to reflect on their Eggbert Breakout Edu by using the BreakoutEdu reflection cards.

2018-10-20_1555

IMG_2496IMG_2499

Digital BreakoutEDU

After sharing resources offered through Breakoutedu.com (see slide deck about) and for our final activity, I asked them to complete a digital BreakoutEDU activity, Escape from the Dungeon. My purpose for introducing this activity was twofold: (1) to show the teachers that BreakoutEDU games can introduce and reinforce some fairly advanced content concepts – this one has students use  geometry concepts and formulas; and (2) to show teachers the use of digital Breakout Edu games where the use of kits aren’t required.

IMG_2507IMG_2505

Why do we group students by manufacture date?

Presentation1.jpg

Ken Robinson once famously said, “Students are educated in batches, according to age, as if the most important thing they have in common is their date of manufacture.” (Ken Robinson, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything).

I have the privilege of working with 2nd through 6th graders in my gifted education classes and Kindergarten through 6th grade in my summer STEM and robotics camps. With my summer camps, they get to choose their camp by interest not age. In my gifted program, they select from a menu of content areas so it is also interest- rather than age-driven. I wouldn’t have it any way.

The Problem with Grouping Learners by Age

Grouping students by age or manufacture date is a contrived sorting mechanism. It assumes that same age kids are alike in their intellectual, physical, emotional, and social development; that they have commonalities in addition to their age. Academic standards used by almost all schools are based on the false and incorrect belief of the average student. Todd Rose quoting Mike Miller’s research on brains found that “not a single one was even remotely close to the average. The average represented nobody,” and he added, “Average is widely misleading. In education, there is no such thing as an average student. Our educational system is built on the assumption that there is an average student.”

This critique of age-grading was written in 1912 by Frederick Burk:

It is constructed upon the assumption that a group of minds can be marshaled and controlled in growth in exactly the same manner that a military officer marshals and directs the bodily movements of a company of soldiers. In solid, unbreakable phalanx the class is supposed to move through all the grades, keeping in locked step. This locked step is set by the ‘average’ pupil–an algebraic myth born of inanimate figures and an addled pedagogy. The class system does injury to the rapid and quick-thinking pupils, because these must shackle their stride to keep pace with the mythical average. But the class system does a greater injury to the large number who make slower progress than the rate of the mythical average pupil . . . They are foredoomed to failure before they begin.

In his article, The Science of the Individual (why average doesn’t make sense in school, A.J. Juliani quoted Rose:

This is not a new debate. In fact, this century-old clash of foundational assumptions might be regarded as the cardinal battle for the soul of modern education. On the side of education for individuality, we find some of the most admired and progressive names in American education, including John Dewey, Charles Eliot, and Benjamin Bloom. These “Individualists” were animated by their defining assumption that every student is different and that education should be designed to accommodate those differences.

Grouping by Interests Rather Than Age

I do understand that mixed age groups will have developmental differences but in my programs, they are grouped by interests rather than by age. I find this to be more natural and mimics real world learning as individuals often seek out others in their out-of-school lives who have similar interests. Interest-driven learning is much more motivating and engaging. Community develops naturally due to shared interests. With groups of same aged peers, there may be no connections other than age.

I find the advantages of multiage groups to be:

  • Increased sense of community as learners bond through discussing and participating in interest-driven activities.
  • Increased socialization skills as the kids learn to navigate the learning tasks in their multiage groups.
  • More variety and perspectives. At times, even the youngest kids offer unique ideas of which the older kids hadn’t thought.
  • Older kids helping the younger kids which leads to feelings of importance and responsibility.
  • Decreased behavior problems as the kids become engaged in learning activities they would choose to do outside of school.

In addition, the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) lists the following benefits of multiage classrooms:

  • Children are viewed as unique individuals. The teacher focuses on teaching each child according to his or her own strengths, unlike in same-grade classrooms that often expect all children to be at the same place at the same time with regard to ability.
  • Children are not labeled according to their ability, and children learn at their own rate.
  • Children develop a sense of family with their classmates. They become a “family of learners” who support and care for each other.
  • Older children have the opportunity to serve as mentors and to take leadership roles.
  • Children are more likely to cooperate than compete. The spirit of cooperation and caring makes it possible for children to help each other as individuals, not see each other as competitors.
  • Older children model more sophisticated approaches to problem solving, and younger children are able to accomplish tasks they could not do without the assistance of older children. This dynamic increases the older child’s level of independence and competence.
  • Children are invited to take charge of their learning, by making choices at centers and with project work. This sense of “ownership” and self-direction is the foundation for lifelong learning.
  • Children are exposed to positive models for behavior and social skills. (http://www.uwyo.edu/ecec/_files/documents/multi-age-benefits.pdf)

Beginning the School Year With Connections: 2018

I have written before about the beginning of the school year, Beginning the School Year: It’s About Connections Not Content.

I begin all classes focusing on having the students make connections between each other and with me.  I want students to learn about one another in a personal way. I want to learn about my students so my instructional strategies can be more personalized and tailored to their needs and interests.

As we begin this new school year, I want to share my own ideas for what I believe represent best practices for doing so. I have the following goals for beginning the school year:

  • To have the learners get to know one another and if they do know one another, to deepen that understanding.
  • To have the learners get to know me as an educator.
  • To set the climate that the classroom will experiential, engaging, fun, and student-centric.
  • To begin the process of having learners learn to solve problems as a group and work cooperatively with one another.
  • To begin creating a supportive climate – where learners support one another and I support their learning efforts.
  • To give the message that social-emotional learning is important.
  • To give the message that we will use our bodies, art, team building, problem solving, and interactions with classmates in the classroom.
  • To have the learners take ownership of their classroom.

What should also be obvious from this list is what is not on it – namely a focus on content-driven instruction during the first days of school.

These are the activities I used on the first day of school with my 2018 gifted classes of 2nd to 6th grade students (some similar to past beginning of the year activities and some new ones):

Thumball Ice Breaker

Learners arere asked to form a circle to participate in a Thumball Ice Breaker.

1004_top

A learner tosses it to another learner. The catcher then responds to the prompt closest to her or his left them. After doing so, the learner throws it to another learner. I typically do two to three rounds where each learner gets the ball during a round. Example prompts include:

  • Three Wishes
  • Happiest Memory
  • Three Yummy Foods
  • Three Gross Foods
  • Favorite TV Show or Movie
  • Best Book or Author
  • Great Vacation Place
  • Funniest Cartoon

Warp Speed

As a former adventure educator, I have a fondness for team building and group problem solving activities, and regularly incorporate them into my classroom. A good list of these types of activities can be found on Teampedia.

Toss the ball around the circle until everyone has caught it once and it is returned to the leader. For Warp Speed, you need to establish a pattern of tossing one object around the group. Once the pattern has been established, ask the group to see how quickly they can move the object through the pattern with each person touching it in the order that has been established. Time this, and give the group several opportunities to improve their time (http://www.lifeway.com/studentministry/2014/07/07/game-warp-speed/).

IMG_4901

As each effort is timed with the 3 second penalties per drop, I have them practice mental math. I show them their times as recorded via my iPhone, ask them to multiple the number of drops times 3 and then add this total to their time. On subsequent efforts, I ask them to subtract the difference. Later they compare their improvements.

Time to Take a Selfie Icebreaker

I found this activity via Caitlin Tucker’s post Padlet: Time to Take a Selfie Icebreaker https://catlintucker.com/2018/07/selfie-icebreaker/

First, teachers create a Padlet wall, title it “Time to Take a Selfie,” and provide a prompt with questions for students to answer. Below is a list of questions I have used to encourage students to share something about themselves.:

  • Where is your happy place?
  • What is the most adventurous thing you have ever done?
  • What is the furthest place you have traveled?
  • What is something you like about yourself?
  • What is your favorite story (book or movie)?
  • Do you consider yourself an introvert, an extrovert, or a mix? Explain.
  • What is one thing you wish you had more time for in your life?
  • What do you do to relax?
  • When you are not at school, what do you spend most of your time doing?
  • What is your most prized possession? Where did it come from and why do you love it?
  • If you could only listen to one genre/type of music for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  • Think about the best class you’ve ever had. What made that class so special?

2018-08-12_1139

(from my student teachers)

Jenga Ice Breaker

This is the Jenga game with the addition of icebreaker questions. It’s very simple to make. I used the Giant Tumbling Timbers for increased suspense but a smaller, generic Jenga game can be used. I found and typed up some icebreaker questions (examples can be found at https://funattic.com/76-fun-icebreaker-questions.htm), and taped them to the game pieces. It’s played like regular Jenga, but you have to answer the question on whatever piece you pull.

IMG_1311.jpgIMG_1308.jpg

LED Enhanced All About Me Posters

IMG_4906IMG_4899

I like using the All About Me posters at the beginning of the school year as it lets me know a lot about the learners in a very short time. I also use them to decorate my classroom walls. Since I have been involved in maker education, I show the kids how to use LED lights creating circuits with copper tape. They use these materials to create LED enhanced All About me Posters.

Eggbert the Slightly Cracked Egg: A Breakout Game

Story: Uses the children’s story, Eggbert: The Slightly Cracked Egg. Cast out of the refrigerator because of a small crack, Eggbert sets out into the world, using his talent for painting to try to blend in. Eventually he realizes that cracks are everywhere and reminds us all that our flaws are perfectly natural.

Topic Theme: This cross-curricular BreakoutEDU activities incorporates English, Math, and Social Studies standards as well as skills such as problem-solving and team building. I use this in the beginning of the year with my gifted students to reinforce that being different has its advantages.

Here are the specific details how to set-up and facilitate this Breakout Edu game: https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/eggbert-the-slightly-cracked-egg-a-breakout-edu-game/

img_49572016-08-31_1726.png

DIY Operation Cooperation Classroom Quilt

This kit can be purchased from Oriental Trading Post – http://www.orientaltrading.com/diy-operation-cooperation-classroom-quilt-a2-57_9111.fltr Students get their own individual squares and are asked to decorate their individual pieces with symbols of their personal strengths. The class then figures out how to combine all of the pieces to form a class quilt.

2018-08-12_12132018-08-12_1211

A STEM Camp for Young Learners

I just finished a week long – half day STEM camp for learners, ages 7 through 12, half girls and half boys. The energy in the room throughout the week was pretty incredible. There was close to 100% engagement the entire time which is always my goal in teaching. I love turning kids onto STEM, and there is evidence that exposure at a younger age increases the chances of later interest.

Some Evidence of the Importance of STEM in the Early Years

Research tells us that children’s early experience builds brain architecture and lays the foundation for one’s lifelong thinking skills and approach to learning, both critical roots of STEM success. After all, the STEM disciplines require not only content knowledge but also robust thinking dispositions—such as curiosity and inquiry, questioning and skepticism, assessment and analysis—as well as a strong learning mindset and confidence when encountering new information or challenges. These need to be developed in a child’s early education, beginning in infancy and continuing through third grade to lay the roots for STEM success. (McClure et al., 2017) (The Roots of STEM Success: Changing Early Learning Experiences to Build Lifelong Thinking Skills)

According to a new research project, children who engage in scientific activities at an early age (between birth and age 8) develop positive attitudes toward science, build up their STEM “vocabularies” and do better at problem solving, meeting challenges and acquiring new skills. “STEM starts early: Grounding science, technology, engineering and math education in early childhood,” published by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and New America and supported by a National Science Foundation grant, has asserted that “the seeds of STEM must be planted early,” right alongside the “seeds of literacy.” Together, the report said, “these mutually enhancing, interwoven strands of learning will grow well informed, critical citizens prepared for a digital tomorrow.”  (Research: Let’s Move STEM Learning Earlier)

The Camp

Due to the experiential nature of most of my instruction, I use an experiential cycle of learning:

CycleofLearning2.jpg

What follows is how I applied it during the STEM camp.

Framing the Activities

The STEM activities were introduced through (1) the use of Brainpop videos and their accompanying quizzes, and (2) tutorial videos and/or webpages with directions. Brainpop videos, due to their animation and humor, have a high interest value for kids, and their follow-up quizzes help to create more active learning. After the Brainpop video introduction, the campers were given an overview of the specific activities through the tutorials. I then would show them the tutorial step-by-step. For some campers, seeing the tutorial in its entirety was enough for them to do the project. Others needed me to go over the project step-by-step using the tutorials as guides. I prefer using online tutorials rather than doing them myself as demonstrations because the tutorials can be projected for a larger image and better viewing by all of the learners.

These specific resources can be found in the slide deck below:

The Doing

The camp consisted mostly of campers DOING the STEM activities. See below for a photographic journey of their engagement in the activities.

Reflection

Activity reflections occurred after the completion of the day’s activities using science journals:

hh258

https://www.lakeshorelearning.com/products/el/s/HH258

Journals such as these not only benefit the learners but the educator, too. They provide such good activity evaluation information. For example, the last day of camp, students selected two photos from the week from all of the week’s photos that represented their favorite activities. These were printed for them and they then glued the images into their journals and wrote about them. They then did a verbal check-in to tell the rest of us which ones they selected and why.

IMG_0967.jpgIMG_0972.jpg

When they were sharing these with the rest of the group, one of the girls mentioned that the DIY crystals was her favorite. I was totally surprised. I thought this activity was a dude as the kids didn’t seem that excited about them. I was thinking about dropping it as a STEM activity in the future but now I will, due to her comment, consider using it again.

Our Week in Images

Chemistry – Elephant Toothpaste

IMG_0651IMG_0668

Chemistry – Slime

IMG_0685IMG_0679

Chemistry – Orbeez Stress Balls

IMG_0718IMG_0719.jpg

Solar – Solar Cars

IMG_0736IMG_0768

Solar – Solar Ovens

IMG_0705.jpgIMG_0715

Art and Science – Geometric Structures

IMG_0797IMG_0815.jpg

Art and Science – DIY Crystals

IMG_0830IMG_0832.jpg

Kinetic Projects – Cranky Contraptions

IMG_0852.jpgIMG_0859.jpg

Kinetic Projects – Helium Balloon Blimp

IMG_0924IMG_0928.jpg

Kinetic Projects – Motor Boats

IMG_0954.jpgIMG_0962.jpg

Integrating Maker Education into the Curriculum

Rather than the maker experiences being an after school program, an add on activity, or an activity that is implemented when students have done their regular lessons work, it should be part of the regular, day-to-day curriculum. As noted in USC Rossier Online, “In order for your school and students to be fully invested in maker education, it has to be integrated into your curriculum, not squeezed in” (https://rossieronline.usc.edu/maker-education/sync-with-curriculum/).  Ayah Bdeir, who invented and runs littleBits, had this to say about integrating maker education into the curriculum:

It’s time for maker ed to move into the mainstream. Making should not be relegated to the times spent outside of class, e.g. lunch or after school. Nor should it only flourish in private schools, which don’t have to teach to standards. We need to work to show how making is a rigorous process that leads to valuable new technologies, products and experiences. Specifically, we need to tie maker projects to standards-based curriculum and show clearly the kinds of knowledge, skills and practices students learn as part of making (https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-09-24-building-connections-between-maker-ed-and-standards)

Albemarle County Public School District is very intentional in their implementation of maker projects:

Maker projects can be created to support just about any subject area, from science to history to language arts. Maker education can be a tool for teaching the curriculum that you already have, At a glance, maker projects may appear disconnected from the curriculum. What may look like an arts and crafts activity, or just a bunch of kids playing with Legos, is actually a way to teach about ancient Rome or how to write a persuasive essay. (https://www.edutopia.org/practice/maker-education-reaching-all-learners)

To do this, though, the educator needs to approach his or her curriculum and lessons with a maker mindset. With this mindset, he or she figures out creative ways to integrate maker activities into existing lessons and instructional activities. The educator in these situations starts with the standards and objectives of their lessons, as they typically do with their regular lessons, and then designs and/or locates maker activities that fit the lesson. It simply becomes, “How can I add a making element to my lessons to reinforce concepts being learned?”

For subjects like science, this is a little easier as the labs that often accompany science lessons often have a hint of STEM or maker education. With a little tweaking, these labs can become more of a maker education type of activity. For example, if students are learning about circuits, they could wire cardboard model houses with lights and fans.  

For subjects like language arts, this integration is a little more challenging but with a little creativity, it is possible and exciting. An example is Tufts University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach’s program, Novel Engineering:

Novel Engineering is an innovative approach to integrate engineering and literacy in elementary and middle school. Students use existing classroom literature – stories, novels, and expository texts – as the basis for engineering design challenges that help them identify problems, design realistic solutions, and engage in the Engineering Design Process while reinforcing their literacy skills.

Example books that offer engineering or maker education challenges include:

The benefits of this type of curriculum integration include all those benefits described for maker education, in general, but also include:

  • Increased learner interest in and engagement with content rich lesson activities.
  • Lesson activities may become a gateway to content areas for learners who may not have been interested in that content area in the past. For example, making in language arts may spark a STEM interest for students who have previously only been interested in language arts; spark the interest of STEM-oriented students in language arts.

To help integrate maker education into the curriculum, I developed the following lesson plan template to assist teachers with this process.

Maker Lesson Plan

Example Maker Education Lesson Plan

Vision for this Lesson and for Student Learning (What is the overarching purpose of this lesson? How does making  enhance the lesson? Consider relevancy, authenticity, transfer to other life situations):

Student Voice  (What are the interests and needs of the students? How is their voice incorporated into the development of this lesson?):

Standards Addressed (Think cross-curriculum and 21st century skills; think process as well as content learnings):

  • ISTE Standards for Students (for detailed descriptions and sub-standards, see https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students):
    • Empowered Learner: Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.
    • Digital Citizen: Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.
    • Knowledge Constructor: Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.
    • Innovative Designer: Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.
    • Computational Thinker: Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.
    • Creative Communicator: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.
    • Global Collaborator: Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.
  • 21st Century Skills (see for detailed descriptions at http://www.p21.org/our-work/p21-framework to add specifics):
    • Global Awareness: _________________________________________________
    • Financial, Economic: _______________________________________________
    • Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy: _________________________________
    • Civic Literacy: _____________________________________________________
    • Health Literacy: ___________________________________________________
    • Environmental Literacy: _____________________________________________
    • Creativity and Innovation: ___________________________________________
    • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: _________________________________
    • Communication: ___________________________________________________
    • Collaboration: _____________________________________________________
    • Information Literacy: _______________________________________________
    • Media Literacy: ____________________________________________________  
    • ICT Literacy: ______________________________________________________
    • Flexibility and Adaptability: ___________________________________________
    • Initiative and Self-Direction: __________________________________________
    • Social and Cross-Cultural Skills: ______________________________________
    • Productivity and Accountability: _______________________________________
    • Leadership and Responsibility: _______________________________________

Lesson Challenge Statement – Framing the Experience: (How will the maker lesson be framed or frontloaded?  – What is the big challenge for this activity? What essential questions do you want learners to explore? What overarching concepts do you want learners to investigate? Is the challenge open and ill-defined so there are multiple opportunities for student interpretation, innovation, and creativity?) The maker lesson can be framed or frontloaded through:

  • Introducing Essential Questions
  • The Use of Scenarios
  • Specifying the Standards
  • Asking Questions Related To Personal Skills
  • Asking Questions to Help with Scaffolding and Sequencing the Activities
  • Asking Questions Related To Using Peer Support-Working Collaboratively

(More information about frontloading the maker experience can be found at https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2016/03/16/framing-and-frontloading-maker-activities/)

Required Prerequisite Knowledge and Skills:

Vocabulary: (What vocabulary do you want learners to learn and use?)

Getting Started: (What high impact activity will you do to get learners excited about or hooked into the upcoming lesson?)

  • Video: _________________________________________________________________
  • Hands-On Demonstration: _________________________________________________
  • AR/VR Simulation: _______________________________________________________
  • Online Virtual Simulation: _________________________________________________
  • Live Guest Speaker (in person or via Skype/Google Hangout): ____________________
  • Game (analog or digital): __________________________________________________
  • Group Discussion About the Learning Challenge

Tinkering and Exploration: (Will the learners benefit with some free-play tinkering with and exploring the materials?)

Skills and Knowledge Direct Instruction: (What, if any, knowledge and skills do you need to teach directly prior to the maker activity?)

Learner Planning Time: Time for learners to research and plan what they will do for the maker challenge.

Learner Creation Time: Time for the learners to create, to try out several iterations of their ideas, if needed.

Learner Sharing and Feedback Time: Time for learners to share what they are making with their peers; whose role then is to give feedback.

Documenting Learning and Reflection: How will learners document and reflect on their learning? Possible reflection questions include:

  • What new skills have you learned because of the maker experience?
  • What are the most important learning moments you take with you from this maker experience?
  • Would you do this or a similar maker project again? Why or why not?
  • Has this maker experience changed you? If yes, how?
  • Describe what you have learned about yourself as a result of your maker experience.
  • What would you like to change about your maker experience?
  • What were the benefits from you participating in this making activity?
  • What surprised you the most during your maker experience?
  • What did you do that seemed to be effective?
  • What did you do that seemed to be ineffective?
  • What were the most difficult parts of the maker experience? Why?
  • What were the most satisfying parts of the maker experience? Why?
  • What personal characteristics made this maker experience successful for you?
  • Describe an awareness about a personal characteristic that has been enhanced by your maker experience.
  • How does the maker experience relate to your long-term goals?
  • How have you been challenged during the maker experience?
  • How do you feel about what you made? What parts of it do you particularly like? Dislike?
  • What lessons can you learn from the maker experience?
  • What positives can you take away from the maker experience?
  • How can you apply what you learned from maker experience in your life?
  • What advice would you give to someone else working on the maker activities?
  • What did you learn through this experience and how can you use it in the future?
  • Looking back on the maker experience, what two things stand out to you the most and why?

(For more on reflecting on the maker experience, see https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2018/03/10/reflecting-on-maker-experiences-with-reflection-cards/.) 

Assessment: How will learners be assessed? (This is especially important in a school setting where grades and accountability are expected.)

  • Rubric – Based on Standards and Objectives
    • Teacher Generated
    • Student Generated
  • Portfolio Artifact
    • Submitted to a Blog
    • Submitted to a web platform like Seesaw
  • Peer Assessments

Sharing Out Findings: How will learners share out what they learned with a larger maker education community? Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame stated: Sharing is s a vital aspect of maker culture that is intrinsic to the underlying ethos of what it means to be a maker and by extension, in my opinion, a human being (https://boingboing.net/2018/05/23/adam-savage-at-maker-faire-th.html).

  • Use of Social Media?
  • Presentations to Local Students and Community Members?
  • News Coverage?
  • Teaching Others?

Focusing on the Process: Letting Go of Product Expectations

I am a process-oriented educator. I focus on how to learn rather than what to learn. I’ve addressed this in Freedom to Learn:

freedom-to-learn

In order to facilitate these desired elements of learning, I believe it is important to focus on the process of learning rather than the products of learning.

When learning is viewed as a product, and the same performance measure applies to all students, learning facilitation can be reduced to cookie-cutter teaching: same pieces of information and instruction are seen sufficient for all students. In a product-centered learning environment emphasis is often in doing activities – worksheets, charts, pre-designed projects – that are either teacher-made or provided by the publisher of the curriculum. The important part of completing these products is getting them right because these products are usually graded! Skilled and obedient students comply with these requests and try hard to get their tasks done right, yet there are many students who just leave them undone.

What about viewing learning as a process? Because students begin their daily/weekly/yearly learning from different levels of knowledge and understanding, they also will end up in different competency levels. And that is okay, honestly. We are not clones. Students shouldn’t be treated like ones. When learning is understood primarily as a process of acquisition and elaboration of information, the natural consequences in the classroom are ongoing differentiation and individualization. Approaching learning as an individual process helps us refocus learning and teaching: the student is in the nexus of her/his own learning, (Is Learning a Product or a Process?)

The following principles from Rogers’ Freedom to Learn are directly addressed when the process of learning becomes the intent of instructional practices:

Much significant learning is acquired through doing. “Placing the student in direct experiential confrontation with practical problems, social problems, ethical and philosophical problems, personal issues, and research problems, is one of the most effective modes of promoting learning” (p. 162).

Learning is facilitated when the student participates responsibly in the learning process. “When he chooses his own directions, helps to discover his own learning resources, formulates his own problems, decides his own course of action, lives with the consequences of these choices, then significant learning is maximized” (p. 162).

The most socially useful learning in the modern world is the learning of the process of learning, a continuing openness to experience and incorporation into oneself of the process of change. If our present culture survives, it will be because we have been able to develop individuals for whom change is the central fact of life and who have been able to live comfortably with this central fact. They will instead have the comfortable expectation that it will be continuously necessary to incorporate new and challenging learnings about ever-changing situations. (pp. 163-164)

Weibell, C. J. (2011). Principles of learning: 7 principles to guide personalized, student-centered learning in the technology-enhanced, blended learning environment. Retrieved from https://principlesoflearning.wordpress.com.

To truly focus on the process rather than products of learning, the educator needs to let go of expectations about the specific products that should be produced by the students. There are expectations regarding some of the processes in which learners should engage (e.g., divergent thinking, questioning, researching, creating, innovating) but the educator lets go of the pictures in her or his mind about what the products should look like.

The benefits for my learners include:

  • They are not limited by my expectations nor the expectations of a lesson or assessment developed by an outside entity (e.g., textbook or testing company).
  • Their engagement, motivation, curiosity, and excitement increase.
  • They learn to tolerate and then embrace ambiguity.
  • Natural differentiation and individualization result.
  • They learn skills such as self-directed learning, taking initiative, locating resources, asking for help that can be transferred to all learning endeavors.
  • It reflects and models how learning occurs outside of school.
  • There is an increased investment and pride in their work.
  • They develop both a sense of confidence and a sense of competence.

The benefits for me, as the educator, include:

  • I work hard to pre-plan process-oriented classroom activities but the learners work harder than me during class time. Students should work harder than the educator during class time.
  • I am continually surprised at and elated about what learners produce. Because of this, I get to learn from them, too. We become a learning community.
  • I get to directly observe how each individual student approaches learning tasks. This furthers my ability to plan learning tasks tailored to the learners’ unique abilities and interests.
  • I get to experience the joy with them as they accomplish a learning task on their own using their own personal abilities, intelligence, learning strategies, and struggles. This joy rarely occurs with standardized curriculum and assessments.

Here are some examples of process-oriented learning activities I have done with my students:

  • Design Thinking Activities for Elementary Students
  • Designing a Video Game
  • Maker Education Activities
  • Halloween Wars

Exploring Wealth Inequities: An Experiential Learning Activity

One of the legacies I want to leave with my students (of all ages) is a desire to engage in global stewardship. For more about this see my post, Empathy and Global Stewardship: The Other 21st Century Skills.

As part of my gifted education classes, I am asking my 5th and 6th graders to choose, explore, research, and report via their own Google Sites on one or two of the 17 Global Goals found at The World’s Largest Lesson. Here is the list of global goals selected by my students:

IMG_2591

To supplement their online work, I am doing a series of experiential activities with them (FYI – this also supports my desire to balance technology and no technology activities, where student need to communicate and collaborate with one another without the use of devices). We began these activities with Exploring Wealth Inequalities, which I explain below.

Goals

  • Explore inequalities of wealth and better understand experiences of economic inequality.
  • To graphically demonstrate the vast differences in wealth between different areas of the world.
  • Generate ideas for action towards economic equality.

The Task

To use the supplies given to your group to create a model city.

Materials

  • Masking Tape – both for creating the boundaries and for building
  • Paper or Plastic Cups
  • Straws
  • Index Cards
  • Candy such as M&Ms, Skittles, Hersey’s Kisses.
  • Paper Bags

The Set-Up

The setting below is set up prior to the learners’ arrival.

setup

Randomly separate learners into three different groups. Bring them to their area one group at a time and explain the task.

The Wealthy Group:

The wealthy group has more area in which to work, more supplies, and bags of candy with much more than enough for each learner. The facilitator explains the task offering lots of help if they ask for it. They can leave the boundaries of their area. If they ask for more supplies or goods, the facilitator will get it for them – taking it from another group if needed. An unspoken, hidden rule is that they can offer and give any of their supplies to the lower income groups.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Middle Income Group:

The middle group has everything in moderation – a moderate amount of area to work in – a moderate amount of supplies to build their city.  They each get a bag of candy with a few pieces of candy per bag. The facilitator explains the task but doesn’t offer support.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Poorest Income Group:

This group is given a taped off area in which there is very little room to move; very limited supplies; and a few pieces of candy to share among the group members. The facilitator briefly and impatiently explains the directions to build a model city with the supplies provided.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Debriefing

Students are shown the following video:

. . . and then discuss the following questions:

  • Were you treated fairly?
  • What aspects of this game represented how the world’s wealth and power are distributed?
  • How did the members of the different groups feel about their situation?
  • After playing this game do you have a better understanding of the situation or attitude of poor people/nations? Of the situation or attitude of wealthy people/nations?
  • Who are the “haves” and the “have nots” in the world today? Who are the “haves” and “have nots” in our country today? In our state or community? Why?
  • Should the “haves” be concerned about the situation of the “have nots?” For what reasons? economic? moral/religious? political? Why might the “haves” give money or resources to the “have nots”? Is this a way to solve the problems of poverty?
  • What might the “have-nots” do to improve their situation? What are some actions that “have-nots” have taken around the globe and at home to address the inequalities of wealth and power?
  • Do you think there should be a redistribution of wealth and power in this country? Why or why not? If yes, how would you propose to accomplish this? What principles would guide your proposals for change?
  • Do you think there should be a redistribution of wealth and power throughout the world? Why or why not? If yes, how would you propose to accomplish this? What principles would guide your proposals for change?

(http://hrlibrary.umn.edu/edumat/hreduseries/tb1b/Section2/activity2.html)

Here are some of the comments from my students during the debrief.

Scaffolding Maker Education Learning Experiences

I often read via social media about the importance of student centered, student-driven instruction. I wholeheartedly agree. My blog post is called User-Generated Education for a reason. I also believe one of the roles of an educator, in the context of maker education, is to scaffold learning experiences so the end result is students becoming self-determined learning.

Thinking about the importance of learner autonomy and independence reminded me of my early career when I did counseling work with at-risk youth in wilderness settings, taking them on 2 to 3 week wilderness trips. We did what was called Huddle-Up Circles. Huddle-ups were called by the instructors and/or the youth participants any time a concern or problem arose. Everyone stopped what they were doing to gather in a circle to discuss the problem and generate solutions. Needless to say, the instructors were the ones who most often called and facilitated the huddle-ups at beginning of our trips.  Our goal, as instructors and counselors, was to have the young people run the huddle-ups themselves. We knew we were successful when we asked to step out of the huddle-ups by the young people because they wanted to run their own huddle-ups. During these times, we would stand outside of the huddle-up circles and silently observe their processes, only stepping in upon their request. The results not only included the development of skills and strategies for their own social-emotional development, but their success with their earned independence boosted their self-esteems.

This is how I approach facilitating maker education activities. Direct instruction is provided through structured and prescribed activities with the goal of learners then being able to eventually go into self-determined directions. There has been some criticism leveraged against out-of-the-box maker education kits, programmable robots, and step-by-step maker activities. My contention is that learners often don’t know what they don’t know; and that giving them the basic skills frees them to then use their creativity and innovation to take these tools into self-determined directions.

In response, I created and proposed Stages of Maker Education:

makeredmodel1

In my robotics and coding classes, I use Ozobot, Spheros, Dash and Dot, microbits, Scratch, to name of few. I use a full spectrum of activities starting with direct instruction associated with the Copying stage, then assisting learners to move through the Advance, Modify, and Embellish stages by providing them with examples and resources, and finally, encouraging them to move into the Create stage. Sometimes I show them examples of possibilities for the Create stage. I show such examples to spark and ignite their creative juices. Because almost all of my learners have not had the freedom to create, these examples help to get them motivated and going. Here some are examples of two ends of the spectrum – Prescribed/Copy and Create – of some of these robotic and coding activities to show how learning basic skills can lead to creative activities:

My ultimate goal is to have students drive their own learning and I want to help them learn skills to be successful in their self-determined learning.

What Learners Want

I teach gifted students, grades 2 through 6, part time at two Title 1 schools. I pull them out of their regular classes for 3 hours of gifted programming each week. Sadly, but predictably, even though they are classified as gifted, they lack some basic skills in language arts and math (ones like basic grammar and math that they should have by this time in their educational timeline). This makes me question lots of things:

  • Is this because of a form of experiences-deficit during their early years? Their parents often lack the funds and time (working several jobs) to take their children to after school classes, visits to local museums and cultural events, and/or go on out-of-city and out-of-state trips.
  • Is it due to a lack of academic rigor and vigor in their classrooms? Schools with a higher number of students living in poverty tend to do more grill and drill in an effort to raise their test scores.  My personal belief is that grill and drill does not translate into academic vigor and rigor.
  • Do the teachers have lower expectations for the students given their backgrounds?
  • Do their parents have different expectations for their children in terms of academic achievement and college attendance?

I witnessed a conversation between my students yesterday that I found surprising and further had me wondering about the questions I posed above. In one of my schools, where I serve a class of 4th though 6th graders, I have three students from one of the 5th grades and another three students from the other 5th grade. One of the 5th grades has a teacher who is friendly with the students and does fun things in class with the students like showing them clips from major sports events. The other 5th grade class has a very strict teacher. She has a strict and rigorous class schedule and demands that the students work hard in her class. Personally, I like him better. He is friendly to me and often checks in with me about how the students are doing. She is not friendly with me, never checks in with me. I assumed that the students would also like him better and rave about him as a teacher. Yesterday, the kids started talking about the two teachers. One of the 6th grade boys, who had the nice guy teacher last year, had this to say, “I had Mr. Nice Guy as a teacher last year. If you want a friend, then Mr. Nice Guy is the best class but if you want a teacher, then Ms. Strict and Rigorous is the best class. I didn’t learn a single thing in my entire 5th grade year with him.” It was a short conversation as I don’t talk about teachers with the students and directed them to their computer assignments.  But it was a huge shock to me. I really expected the kids to rave about Mr. Nice Guy during this conversation.

I shouldn’t be that surprised. Students often know what it is best for them but sometimes have trouble expressing it. This 6th grader (who, by the way, is far from compliant – way too often talking to his male friends about sports during our class activities) is very articulate so he was able to clearly express his needs. What did surprise me, though, is that his need to learn is stronger than his need for fun and relationship with the teacher. So even with what some might classify as having some disadvantages, he still recognizes the importance of learning.

I went to Google to explore the topic of what students want in their classes and from their teachers. Most of the posts and articles were from educators – not from the students, themselves. So even though I think I know what students want, I may not. What I did re-realize, though, is that what I can do as an educator is keep the lines of communication open with my students, continually inviting them to give me feedback about our learning activities, facilitating conversations about what they are actually learning.

Introduction to Design Thinking for Educators Workshop

I had the opportunity to facilitate a workshop on design thinking for educators at the New Mexico Association for the Gifted Fall Institute. Here is a round-up of what we did.

Warm Up: Instant Challenge

Participants were asked to warm-up for the session with a challenge from the Destination Imagination Instant Challenge App.

Instant Challenges are fun, STEAM-based group activities that must be solved within a short period of time. Using your imagination, teamwork and few everyday materials, you and your friends will work together to see just how innovative you can be. With hundreds of potential combinations and ways to solve each Instant Challenge, the creative possibilities are endless! https://www.destinationimagination.org/blog/new-instant-challenge-app/

IMG_2294.jpgIMG_2287.jpg

Introduction to the Squishy Circuits: The Medium for the Design Challenge

I then had the participating educators familiarize themselves with Squishy Circuits to prepare them for the upcoming design challenge and to deepen their engagement with the workshop content.

IMG_2298IMG_2302

An Overview of Design Thinking

The following videos and graphics about design thinking were introduced and discussed with participants.

John Spencer’s Video on the Launch Cycle

Design thinking was introduced to the participating educators through showing them John Spencer‘s video.

The Characteristics of Design Thinking

The following graphic, which I created for this workshop, was discussed.

characteristics of design thinking

Design Thinking Process and UDL Planning Tool for STEM, STEAM, Maker Education

Design Thinking Process and UDL Planning Tool for STEM, STEAM, Maker Education developed by Barbara Bray and me was then introduced to the participants.

2017-10-22_1224

The Design Challenge

The major challenge or task was to create a design using Squishy circuits based on a partner’s specifications. Only the designer could touch the materials not the “client” who verbally described her desired design. To further explain this challenge, I showed a video of my gifted elementary students engaged in the challenge.

. . .  and some photos of the participating educators doing this challenge.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sidenote

One of the partner teams was one of my colleagues, Anna, an amazing art teacher, who was the client paired with a gifted ed teacher, the designer. Anna provided the verbal directions for her partner to make an elephant drinking water. We were reaching the end of the session without its completion. I told them to just let it go – the elephant was complete but the lighting was not. During the time that the workshop participants were walking around looking at one another’s creations, Anna and her partner completed the elephant using the LEDs to light up his eyes. The look of pride and empowerment in both Anna and her partner, who obviously has never completed such a project and was glowing with well-deserved pride, was priceless – touching me quite deeply. The moral of the story for me: Teachers should be provided with PD opportunities to deeply engage in learning to the point where they feel empowered. I believe this will help increase the transfer of learning to their own classrooms as they will want their own learners to feel that same sense of empowerment.

Here is the slide deck from my presentation:

Qualities of Effective Educator Professional Development

Most administrators and teachers believe in the importance and value of professional development.  Sadly, though, too many teachers believe that those mandatory, one-size-fits-all professional development sessions offered by their schools are a waste of time and money.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement, “Even high quality professional development must be directly relevant to the needs of teachers and genuinely improve teaching and learning.” Weingarten said. “And low-quality professional development, frankly, feels like detention.” (New Report Reveals That Teacher Professional Development Is Costly And Ineffective)

Teacher professional learning is of increasing interest as a critical way to support the increasingly complex skills students need to learn in order to succeed in the 21st century. Sophisticated forms of teaching are needed to develop student competencies such as deep mastery of challenging content, critical thinking, complex problem solving, effective communication and collaboration, and self-direction. In turn, effective professional development (PD) is needed to help teachers learn and refine the instructional strategies required to teach these skills. However, research has noted that many professional development initiatives appear ineffective in supporting changes in teachers’ practices and student learning.(Effective Teacher Professional Development)

What follows are the general guidelines I use to plan and structure my professional development workshops. Recently, I facilitated two weekends of math instruction for elementary teachers. I use these workshops as a reference in this discussion.

  • Voluntary
  • Models Best Classroom Practices
  • Active and Hands-On
  • Fun and Engaging
  • Engages the Mind, Body, Emotions
  • Time to Tinker and Play
  • Collaboration
  • Ability to Tailor to Own Needs
  • Natural Integration of Technology
  • Reflection Built In

qualities of effective PD

Voluntary

Teacher PD needs to be voluntary.

The fact that adults are voluntary participants in the learning situation has profound implications for how learning occurs. They are generally highly motivated and primed to get the most out of the situation as possible. They will tackle tasks with enthusiasm, provided they are seen as relevant. This means that they are more likely to embrace participatory learning techniques such as discussion, role playing, small group work and the analysis of personal experiences.

The reverse side of voluntary participation by adults is that they can just as easily withdraw. Unlike the disruption that occurs when participation is mandatory, adults are likely to do one of two things. They will either quietly withdraw altogether or, if that is not really an option, they will continue to show up and do what is minimally expected of them, but will essentially become passive participants. (Principles underlying Effective Practices in Adult Education)

My weekend math workshops were offered to elementary teachers in a specific school district as a voluntary opportunity. A grant did provide them with a stipend for attending but as one of the attending teachers noted, “Even with a stipend, I wouldn’t volunteer for a weekend workshop unless I was interested in learning how to be a better teacher of math” (in this case).

Models Best Classroom Practices

First and foremost, teacher PD needs to model best classroom practices. “Curricular models and modeling of instruction provide teachers with a clear vision of what best practices look like” (Effective Teacher Professional Development). If the desire is to have educators create and implement engaging, interactive, and fun learning activities, then PD needs to be a mirror of these practices. I always believed that is is hypocritical to lecture about these best practices. It should be a process of modeling.

In order to model best classroom practices during my math workshops:

  1. I used videos, mostly from The Teaching Channel, to show elementary teachers modeling best practices in math within their own elementary classrooms.
  2. I did math activities with the teacher participants as if they were students in my elementary classroom.

Active and Hands-On

Active learning engages teachers directly in designing and trying out teaching strategies, providing them an opportunity to engage in the same style of learning they are designing for their students. Such PD uses authentic artifacts, interactive activities, and other strategies to provide deeply embedded, highly contextualized professional learning. This approach moves away from traditional learning models and environments that are lecture based and have no direct connection to teachers’ classrooms and students. (Effective Teacher Professional Development)

Other than explaining activities, showing videos and presenting some technology options, all of learning activities during the weekend workshop were hands-on and active.

IMG_1804IMG_1721

Fun and Engaging

Somewhere along the line of professional development, it became a way too serious endeavor. I believe this is a major reason why teachers don’t enjoy their professional development opportunities.

Fun has a positive effect on motivation levels, determining what we learn and how much we retain. If the learning isn’t fun, it won’t be effective. That’s not just a sneaking suspicion – it’s cold, hard, scientific fact.

  • study in the journal, College Teaching, found that students could recall a statistics lecture more easily when the lecturer added jokes about relevant topics.
  • In her book, Neurologist, Judy Willis showed how fun experiences increase levels of dopamine, endorphins, and oxygen – all things that promote learning.
  • In a study for the Journal of Vocational Behaviour, Michael Tews found that employees are more likely to try new things if their work environment is fun. (Why Fun in Learning is Important)

Regardless of age, grade, content area, one measure of success I use is the quantity of laughter and squeals of joy. I heard lots of laughter during my workshops.

IMG_1800IMG_1849

Engages the Mind, Body, Emotions

As an experiential educator and regardless of the age level I am teaching, I emphasize multi-sensory, whole person learning.

We learn best when we think, feel and do.  That’s the message of Dr. Adele Diamond, a cognitive developmental neuroscientist who currently teaches at the University of British Columbia in Canada.  We might refer to this as “whole body learning.”  According to Dr. Diamond, the executive function of the brain — the prefrontal cortex — works best when we go beyond the rational mind by also involving emotions and physical behaviors.  That makes sense since the more we involve other parts of the brain, the more neural connections we make that reinforce learning. (Brain Research: To Improve Learning, Use Whole Body)

My math workshop was not exception as activities that use the body, mind, and emotions were introduced to the participating teachers.

IMG_1980.JPGIMG_1970

Time to Tinker and Play

Teachers and librarians, like their students, need hands-on experience with tools and with playing to learn as that helps them build creative confidence. (Crafting Professional Development for Maker Educators)

Teachers, during PD, should be provided with time, resources, and materials with which to play. It sets the expectation that they will be active agents of their own learning. It gives them the message it is okay to play and experiment with the materials; that tinkering is often needed as a part of learning new skills.

Given that the nature of the workshop was hands-on and active, workshop participants were time to tinker with the resources and materials provided.

 IMG_1819IMG_1701

Ability to Tailor to Own Needs

One of the justified complaints of teachers regarding their schools’ professional development is that it is often of the too generic, one-size-fits all variety. To be effective, professional develop should help teachers address their own classroom needs. Participating teachers were given lots of resources and opportunities to develop math activities specific for their grade level and students.

Integrates Collaboration

High-quality PD creates space for teachers to share ideas and collaborate in their learning, often in job-embedded contexts. By working collaboratively, teachers can create communities that positively change the culture and instruction of their entire grade level, department, school and/or district. (Effective Teacher Professional Development)

At the beginning of the workshop, participants were asked to form groups with same grade level teachers forming what I called mini-PLNs. Part of the workshop time was devoted to teachers developing materials for their own classrooms and students. During the time, the teachers could work with their mini-PLNs. They were also asked to share, throughout the weekend, the activities they discovered and developed. These sharing sessions often led to feedback and ways the activities could be modified for a variety of student populations.

IMG_1833IMG_1874

Naturally Integrates Technology

Technology use within all learning and teaching environments including professional development should be ubiquitous; it’s use should be determine by its potential to enhance and increase learning.

During my math workshop, participants used technology to:

  • Access the workshop slides.
  • Explore learning activities for the manipulatives I provided: dice, pool noodles, Legos. playing cards, beach balls.
  • Try out online math games: ABCya, Toy Theater Math, Prodigy, and Code.org.
  • Take photos of math examples in school building.

IMG_1246IMG_1667

Builds in Reflection

High-quality professional learning frequently provides built-in time for teachers to intentionally think about, receive input on, and make changes to their practice by facilitating reflection and soliciting feedback. Feedback and reflection both help teachers to thoughtfully move toward the expert visions of practice. (Effective Teacher Professional Development)

As a final reflection for the weekend, I asked participating teachers to use the following prompt to create a mini-poster of their learning. It also modeled how to use such a reflection process with their students.

. . . and here is a video recording of one of the participating teacher’s reflections:

As a parting shot, here are the slides I used during the workshop:

Specific Ideas for Intentional Creativity

Recently I wrote a blog post about Intentional Creativity. Here is the graphic created for that post. Below the graphic are specific ideas I am using with my gifted elementary students this school year.

intentional-cre_23934707_d014e7d3da113c7fcd2ff7cec1fa3adc034ba9a2

What follows are the activities I am using this school year to be intentional with sparking creativity in my gifted education classrooms. The titles are links for these activities.

Destination Imagination Instant Challenges

392x696bb

Goal: To spark creative divergent thinking for STEM, STEAM, and science based learning.

Description: Instant Challenges are fun, STEAM-based group activities that must be solved within a short period of time. Using your imagination, teamwork and few everyday materials, you and your friends will work together to see just how innovative you can be. With hundreds of potential combinations and ways to solve each Instant Challenge, the creative possibilities are endless!

IMG_1127IMG_1129

Write About

Goal: To get learners’ primed to do some creative writing.

Description: Don’t look at Write About as another thing to add. It’s a platform for writing and a community for publishing writing…regardless of the genre, purpose, length or audience. We believe a balance between digital and physical is a healthy thing, and support your pencil/paper writer’s notebooks whole heartedly! But when you want students to transition their writing skills into a digital space…when you want to empower them with choice and visual inspiration for creative sparks…when you want them to have an authentic audience for their writing…when you want them to leverage multi modal tools like audio and images…that’s where we come in!

Minute Mysteries

Goal: To help learners to think outside of the box; to develop alternative perspectives of perceived reality.

Description:  Minute mysteries are riddles where students ask yes or no questions to try and solve the riddle. They are called minute mysteries because they are usually a bit more complex than your average riddle.

Rebus Puzzles

Goal: To help learners playful interact with the symbolic nature of language.

Description: Rebus Puzzles are essentially little pictures or riddles, often made with letters and words, which cryptically represent a word, phrase, or saying.

Classroom Icebreakers

Goal: To build community; help create a classroom climate with a sense of fun and whimsy.

Description: Useful for the beginning of a class period or toward the beginning of a semester when students don’t know each other well, Introduction and Breaking-the-Ice games can dramatically transform the dynamics of your classroom. More ideas can be found at: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/classroom-icebreakers/

Intentional Creativity

Torrence, whose focus was on creativity, developed the Torrence Incubation Model of Creative Thinking (TIM) model.

[embedded content]

As emphasized in this video, embedding creativity into the curriculum can and should be a strong component of content area teaching and learning. In other words, educators don’t need to plan to teach creativity as another part of curriculum.  Creativity is often an integral part of the practices of professionals including scientists, mathematicians, business people, artists, writers, and is an important part of their content area expertise. It follow, then, that learners should be taught in ways that help them think like a scientist . . . like an artist . . .  like a writer . . .  like a business person.

E. Paul Torrance, perhaps one of the most prominent scholars of creativity, conducted a variety of studies exploring the teaching and learning of creativity. His studies identified specific skills associated with creativity, and demonstrated success in the teaching of creativity through the Torrance Incubation Model of Creative Teaching and Learning. The Torrance Incubation Model of Creative Teaching and Learning can be applied to a lesson, unit or project. The application of TIM and the identification of a specific creativity skill is an effective way to teach creativity, without impacting the teaching of core objectives or curriculum content. TIM, has three stages: Stage One, Heighten Anticipation, is designed to adequately and mentally prepare the student (or students) for the project ahead. Torrance describes this as a ʻWarming Up Periodʼ with the following six functions, (1) Create the Desire to Know, (2) Heighten Anticipation and Expectation, (3) Get Attention, (4) Arouse Curiosity, (5) Tickle the Imagination, and (6) Give Purpose and Motivation. (Torrance Incubation Model of Creative Teaching and Learning (TIM))

Specific active methods for heightening anticipation include:

The benefits of educators being intentional with heightening anticipation include:

  • Increased engagement in and motivation for the learning activities.
  • Increased interest in content area learning; possibly stimulating new learner passions.
  • Deeper learning.
  • More generalizable skills related to creativity.

So just with a little planning, the educator can set up conditions that can significantly motivate learners and create an energized learning environment climate.

intentional-cre_23934707_d014e7d3da113c7fcd2ff7cec1fa3adc034ba9a2

Freedom to Learn

I was painfully bored during my K-12 education. I looked forward to college anticipating that it would be different – more engaging, more interesting, more innovative. I was wrong. My undergraduate education, except for a few bright spots, was just an extension of my K-12 education including more grill and drill with sages on the stages (literally since I went to such a large university); taking notes and taking lots of multiple choice tests. During my freshman year, I thought that if I had one wish, it would be to change the educational system (which has stayed with me ever since). One of those bright spots was being asked to read Carl Rogers, Freedom to Learn, which was published 1969 in an upper level Educational Psychology course. The big aha for me was that school systems should be focused on helping learners develop the skills for how to learn not what to learn, one that was sorely lacking in most of my K-graduate-level education and a concept and goal that as an educator I’ve held onto ever since.

So now when I read about new “pedagogies” and instructional strategies based on self-directed learning, learning how to learn, self-determined learning, I kind of laugh to myself. Solid, valid, and student-focused pedagogy has been proposed ever since the beginnings of institutionalized education – think John Dewey, Maria Montessori, Kurt Hahn, and in this case, Carl Rogers.

The following text provides a summary of Rogers’ major themes  about learning and education from Freedom to Learn and comes from Weibell, C. J. (2011). Principles of learning: 7 principles to guide personalized, student-centered learning in the technology-enhanced, blended learning environment. Retrieved from https://principlesoflearning.wordpress.com.

freedom to learn

Rogers (1969) listed five defining elements of significant or experiential learning:

  1. It has a quality of personal involvement – Significant learning has a quality of personal involvement in which “the whole person in both his feeling and cognitive aspects [is] in the learning event” (p. 5).
  2. It is self-initiated – “Even when the impetus or stimulus comes from the outside, the sense of discovery, of reaching out, of grasping and comprehending, comes from within” (p. 5).
  3. It is pervasive – Significant learning “makes a difference in the behavior, the attitudes, perhaps even the personality of the learner” (p. 5).
  4. It is evaluated by the learner – The learner knows “whether it is meeting his need, whether it leads toward what he wants to know, whether it illuminates the dark area of ignorance he is experiencing” (p. 5).
  5. Its essence is meaning – “When such learning takes place, the element of meaning to the learner is built into the whole experience” (p. 5).

As an example of significant learning—the kind that illustrates his theory of freedom to learn—Rogers cited the informal notes kept by Barbara J. Shiel, a teacher, who out of despair and frustration decided to try a drastic experiment in promoting experiential learning in her sixth grade class. In the experiment Mrs. Shiel introduced the concept of work contracts. These were ditto sheets that contained a list of all of the subjects the class was to study, along with a list of suggestions for study under each, and a space for students to write their plans in each area.

“Because I was not free to discard the state-devised curriculum time schedule, I explained the weekly time-subject blocks to the children—this was to be a consideration in their planning. We also discussed sequential learning, especially in math, mastering a skill before proceeding to the next level of learning. They discovered the text provided an introduction to a skill, demonstrated the skill, and provided exercises to master it and tests to check achievement. When they felt they were ready to go on, they were free to do so. They set their own pace, began at their own level, and went as far as they were able or self-motivated to go.” (Rogers, 1969, pp. 17-18)

Since evaluation was self-initiated and respected by the teacher, there was no need for cheating to achieve success. “We discovered that “failure” is only a word, that there is a difference between “failure” and making a mistake, and that mistakes are a part of the learning process.” (Rogers, 1969, p. 18)

One cannot measure the difference in attitude, the increased interest, the growing pride in self-improvement, but one is aware that they exist. (Rogers, 1969, p. 19)

The experience of Mrs. Shiel’s experiment is illustrative of the principles of learning that Rogers (1969, pp. 157-164) abstracted from his own experience:

Human beings have a natural potentiality for learning. “They are curious about their world, until and unless this curiosity is blunted by their experience in our educational system” (p. 157).

Significant learning takes place when the subject matter is perceived by the student as having relevance for his or her own purposes. “A somewhat more formal way of stating this is that a person learns significantly only those things which he perceives as being involved in the maintenance of or the enhancement of his own self” (p. 158).

When threat to the self is low, experience can be perceived in differentiated fashion and learning can proceed. When [the learner] is in an environment in which he is assured of personal security and when he becomes convinced that there is no threat to his ego, he is once more free to…move forward in the process of learning. (p. 161)

Much significant learning is acquired through doing. “Placing the student in direct experiential confrontation with practical problems, social problems, ethical and philosophical problems, personal issues, and research problems, is one of the most effective modes of promoting learning” (p. 162).

Learning is facilitated when the student participates responsibly in the learning process. “When he chooses his own directions, helps to discover his own learning resources, formulates his own problems, decides his own course of action, lives with the consequences of these choices, then significant learning is maximized” (p. 162).

Self-initiated learning which involves the whole person of the learner—feelings as wells as intellect—is the most lasting and pervasive. This is not the learning which takes place “only from the neck up.” It is a “gut level” type of learning which is profound and pervasive. It can also occur in the tentative discovery of a new self-generated idea or in the learning of a difficult skill, or in the act of artistic creation—a painting, a poem, a sculpture. It is the whole person who “let’s himself go” in these creative learnings. An important element in these situations is that the learner knows it is his own learning and thus can hold to it or relinquish it in the face of a more profound learning without having to turn to some authority for corroboration of his judgment. (pp. 162-163)

Independence, creativity, and self-reliance are all facilitated when self-criticism and self-evaluation are basic and evaluation by others is of secondary importance. If a child is to grow up to be independent and self reliant he must be given opportunities at an early age not only to make his own judgments and his own mistakes but to evaluate the consequences of these judgments and choices. (p. 163).

The most socially useful learning in the modern world is the learning of the process of learning, a continuing openness to experience and incorporation into oneself of the process of change. If our present culture survives, it will be because we have been able to develop individuals for whom change is the central fact of life and who have been able to live comfortably with this central fact. They will instead have the comfortable expectation that it will be continuously necessary to incorporate new and challenging learnings about ever-changing situations. (pp. 163-164)

Rogers’ theory of learning also included principles that define the role of the teacher as a facilitator of learning. Rogers (1983) summarized this role by stating that “the primary task of the teacher is to permit the student to learn, to feed his or her own curiosity” (p. 18). Rogers’ principles of facilitation are complementary to his ten principles of learning. Together they form a human learning theory that emphasizes learner agency, growth, and affect. These ten principles are as follows (summarized from Rogers, 1969, pp. 164-166)):

  1. The educator has much to do with setting the initial mood or climate of the class experience. “If his own basic philosophy is one of trust in the group and in the individuals who compose the group, then this point of view will be communicated in many subtle ways” (p. 164).
  2. The educator helps to elicit and clarify the purposes of the individuals in the class.
  3. The educator relies upon the desire of each student to implement those purposes which have meaning for him or her, as the motivational force behind significant learning.
  4. The educator endeavors to organize and make easily available the widest possible range of resources for learning.
  5. The educator regards him/herself as a flexible resource to be utilized by the group.
  6. In responding to expressions in the classroom group, the educator accepts both the intellectual content and the emotionalized attitudes, endeavoring to give each aspect the approximate degree of emphasis which it has for the individual or group.
  7. As the acceptant classroom climate becomes established, the educator is able increasingly to become a participant learner, a member of the group, expressing his views as those of one individual only.
  8. The educator takes the initiative in sharing him/herself with the group—his/her feelings as well as thoughts—in ways which do not demand nor impose but represent simply a personal sharing which students may take or leave.
  9. As a facilitator of learning, the educator endeavors to recognize and accept his/her own limitations. “S/he realizes that s/he can only grant freedom to his/her students to the extent that s/he is comfortable in giving such freedom” (p. 166).

(For this final section, I took the liberty to change “facilitator” to “educator.”)

The following graphic developed by the Freedom to Learn Project, is based on Rogers’ ideas and exemplifies their manifesto.

2017-08-12_0958

http://www.freedomtolearnproject.com/new/manifesto/

So the push towards self-directed learning – helping learners develop skills for directing their own learning really isn’t new BUT the Internet, social media, and open-source content just make it easier for the educator actually implement these practices especially when working with groups of students.

Online learning opportunities, pedagogical shifts and easy accessibility of Internet through multiple devices offer attractive opportunities for learners to assume greater responsibility and initiative in their own learning. In fact, it may not be hyperbole to state that self-directed learning is now a mandatory skill rather than optional in order to impart both work readiness and the development of global citizenry (diversified, culturally sensitive and fully contributing social citizens) among the growing generation of digital [savvy learners]. (Is Learning Increasingly Self-Directed in the Digital Era?)

Beginning the School Year: It’s About the Learners Not the Content

Too many classes, all grade levels, begin the school year with getting down to academic business – starting to cover content, discussing expectations regarding academic requirements, giving tests, and other academic information provided by the teacher to the students in a mostly one-way communication.  The human or social element is often disregarded.

I believe that all classes should begin with focusing on having the students make connections between themselves and the educator; and between one another.  I want students to learn about one another in a personal way.  I want to learn about my students so my instructional strategies can be more personalized and tailored to their needs and interests.  Beginning class with a focus on connections rather than content gives learners the following messages:

  • You are the focus of the class not me.
  • You are important as a learner in this class.
  • You will be expected to engage in the learning activities during class time.  You will be an active learner.
  • You will be expected to do collaborative learning during the class time.
  • I, as the class facilitator, will be just that – a facilitator.  I will introduce the learning activities, but you will be responsible for the actual learning.
  • I will get to know you as a learner and try to help you find learning activities that are of interest to you. (From my post: Beginning the School Year: It’s About Connections Not Content)

Two things that I believe needs to occur at the beginning of the schools year:

  1. Get to know the learners – as individuals with unique backgrounds, interests, strengths, weaknesses.
  2. Establish a learning community where all learners are seen as having value in our classroom

Getting to Know Learners

One of our primary goals at the beginning of the school year is to get to know our students. This is important for several reasons. First, the better we know our students, and the more they know we know them, the more invested they become in school. Also, a dynamic and vigorous learning environment is built on relationships. When we create strong connections with our students, we create a learning environment where risk-taking and collaborative learning can take place. Finally, the better we know our students, the better we can help craft learning experiences that match who they are. Knowing our students is fundamental to real differentiation. (6 Strategies For Getting To Know Your Students)

This coming school year I am working with gifted elementary students. To support those messages I discussed above, I am going to have them do the following Hyperdoc starting with our first meeting together.

Using a Hyperdoc such as this has the additional benefits:

  • It leverages the use of technology which consistently is of high interest, high engagement for my learners.
  • It is a Choice Board.  Choice Boards:
  • It supports several of the new ISTE NETS for Students:
    • Empowered Learner: Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.
    • Digital Citizen: Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.
    • Knowledge Constructor: Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.
    • Creative Communicator: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals. (https://www.iste.org/standards/standards/for-students)

Building a Learning Community

Community building activities are important in my classroom. It begins the first week of school and continues throughout the entire school year.

The intentional building and supporting of friendships is a cornerstone of a caring school community. Providing frequent opportunities for students to be in close proximity to others is not always enough to enable them to build a net­work of friends and feel connected to the classroom and the wider school com­munity. Careful classroom management and planning of student-student and student-teacher interactions, together with appropriate instructional strategies, can have a positive impact on social relationships and lead to the development of a support system that will enhance students’ learning in all curriculum areas. (Why create positive classroom communities?)

A growing body of research confirms the benefits of building a sense of community in school. Students in schools with a strong sense of community are more likely to be academically motivated (Solomon, Battistich, Watson, Schaps, & Lewis, 2000); to act ethically and altruistically (Schaps, Battistich, & Solomon, 1997); to develop social and emotional competencies (Solomon et al., 2000); and to avoid a number of problem behaviors, including drug use and violence (Resnick et al., 1997). (Creating a School Community)

I’ve written several blog posts about team building activities I’ve used with my elementary students and will use again with them as (1) they really like the activities, and (2) there is almost always more to learn even in repeat activities.

STEM Activities That Support

Since my gifted classes have a strong focus on STEM, STEAM, and Maker Education, my learners will be asked to do several of the following team building activities:

Team Building Activities That Support Maker Education, STEM, and STEAM 

teambuilding

Team Building Activities

Other team building activities can be found within the following resources:

As a parting shot, I’d like to mention that some teachers believe they do not have the time to do activities such as these. To that, I counter with several arguments for their use:

  • Getting to know the students and building a community often act as a form of prevention for behavioral management problems. When learners have trust in their teacher, their peers, and the environment, they become more engaged and less likely to “act up.” This form of prevention actually saves time in that the educator doesn’t have to deal with misbehavior.
  • School should be lots more than just the transmittance of content. It should include social emotional life skills that will assist learners in navigating in their worlds outside of school now and in their futures.

The Imperative of Experiential and Hands-On Learning

For the past several decades, I have had my feet in both elementary education and teacher training and development. Regardless of age, grade level, and setting, I include hands-on and experiential learning as a integral part of my instruction. It is learning by doing with a reflective element which, in turn, creates conditions for deeply engaged learning.

Experiential education is a philosophy in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and develop people’s capacity to contribute to their communities. Throughout the experiential learning process, the learner is actively engaged in posing questions, investigating, experimenting, being curious, solving problems, assuming responsibility, being creative, and constructing meaning. (What is EE)

One of my favorite expressions is “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  There’s lots of lip service about closing the achievement gap, serving marginalized populations, helping students gain 21st century skills, and preparing students for STEM-related careers. The problem is that the school systems working toward these changes are using a factory model of education prevalent in the 19th and 20th centuries to do so. The changes that are being sought are not coming into fruition as different outcomes are expected out of doing more of the same thing. This is why I titled this post, The Imperative of Experiential and Hands On Learning. I believe that current instructional strategies need to be turned on their heads to achieve desired results and outcomes. Hands-on and experiential learning is used in some elementary schools but this diminishes as students get older. In too many high schools and colleges, instruction seems to occur through engaging the ears and sometimes the eyes (through visuals such as with slide presentations). Interestingly, though, a Study Finds 52% of U.S. Adults Say No. 1 Way to Learn is Through Active Participation, Followed by Visual Demonstration.

Some benefits of experiential and hands-on learning include:

  • Increases motivation and engagement.
  • Engages most of the senses.
  • Builds social emotional skills.
  • More likely to engage emotions.
  • Lots of brain activation.
  • Increases retention of learning.
  • Making mistakes becomes a natural part of the learning process.
  • Expands critical thinking skills.
  • Preparation for real life.

imperativeofhandson

Increases motivation and engagement.

Hands-on learning is often lots of fun; and having fun increases engagement and motivation.

Hands-on activities encourage a lifelong love of learning and motivate students to explore and discover new things (Bass, et al.).(Case for Hands-On Learning)

Learning by doing allows students to become personally invested in their own learning process. Becoming actively engaged in their education builds confidence, as the lessons require students to rely on their own abilities to obtain knowledge. That confidence and self-reliance inspires students to embrace the learning process and enthusiastically seek out additional knowledge.   (Importance of a Hands-On Experience in the Elementary Classroom)

Engages the senses.

Hands-on and experiential learning often is multi-sensory learning often engaging sight, hearing, tactile kinesthetic senses as learners participate in the educational activities.

By definition, hands-on learning requires students to engage in the education process using multiple senses, including sight, hearing and touch. Known as multisensory learning, the hands-on teaching strategy engages the senses in a way that promotes learning comprehension on multiple levels.  (Importance of a Hands-On Experience in the Elementary Classroom)

More likely to engage emotions.

The personal nature of experiential learning engages the students’ emotions as well as enhancing their knowledge and skills. When students see the concrete fruits of their labor, they experience greater gratification and pride, thus enhancing their enthusiasm for continued learning.  (The Benefits of Experiential Learning)

Lots of brain activation.

When you combine activities that require movement, talking, and listening, it activates multiple areas of the brain. “The more parts of your brain you use, the more likely you are to retain information,” says Judy Dodge, author of 25 Quick Formative Assessments for a Differentiated Classroom (Scholastic, 2009). “If you’re only listening, you’re only activating one part of the brain,” she says, “but if you’re drawing and explaining to a peer, then you’re making connections in the brain.”(Hands-On is Minds-On)

Builds social-emotional skills.

Lots of social-emotional skills are addressed with hands-on, experiential learning.  Some of the specific skills that hands-on learning address are:

  • Goal-setting
  • Tolerance for frustration
  • Persistence
  • Asking for help
  • Working with others

Increases retention of learning.

When it comes to what learning methods work best, everyone is different, but the survey clearly demonstrates that hands-on training is favored by most Americans. Students who practice what they’re learning in a hands-on environment can often retain much more information when compared with sitting passively in a lecture room, so it’s not a surprise that hands-on training is the overwhelming favorite. (Majority of Americans Prefer Hands-On Training in Educational Settings, Survey Finds)

There is a huge increase in the amount of information that is retained by students who are given the opportunity to practice what they are learning in the form of hands-on training. When students sit and listen passively in a lecture-style environment, they retain 20 percent of the information. When they are given the chance to practice what they have just learned, that percentage increases to 75 percent. (What Are the Benefits of Hands-on Training?)

Making mistakes becomes a natural part of the learning process.

Experiential learning involves trial by error. As students engage in hands-on tasks, they find that some approaches work better than others. They discard the methods that don’t work, but the act of trying something and then abandoning it – ordinarily considered a “mistake” – actually becomes a valuable part of the learning process. Thus, students learn not to fear mistakes, but to value them. (The Benefits of Experiential Learning)

Expands critical thinking skills.

The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines critical thinking as the “process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication.”  Hands-on learning allows students to experience a problem or task and make adjustments to improve outcomes. This “trial and error” exploration develops critical thinking and improves an understanding of abstract concepts that can be applied to real-life experience. (Improve Learning with Hands-on Activities)

Preparation for real life.

Experiential learning takes data and concepts and makes them “real” by applying them to hands-on tasks, with real results. As the student interacts with the information, it becomes real to them.

Many experiential learning projects are career-oriented, because they are, by nature, grounded in “real-world” activities. Through these activities, students start to discover and develop their own skills, aptitudes and passions. This discovery in turn sets them on a more defined path to college and careers. (The Benefits of Experiential Learning)

Games or Worksheets: Is there really a question about the choice?

I work part time with gifted elementary students at two Title 1 schools where most of the students qualify for free or reduced lunches; and where they and/or their parents are learning English as a second language. What I quickly discovered about my students was that many were lacking in foundational skills in ELA and in math. Sadly, the instructional method used by way too many schools, especially those considered low performing like mine, is to give students lots of worksheets to teach such skills. I don’t like worksheets. I didn’t like them when I was an elementary student and don’t know too many elementary students who say, “I love doing worksheets.”

I have been using games in my classrooms (elementary and higher education) for decades. My use of games has included board games, team building and cooperative games, and more recently, video games. In order to help my gifted students learn some of the foundational skills, I integrate a variety of these games. This post is split into two parts:

  • Personal Observations About the Use of Games for Learning
  • Example Games Used to Teach and Reinforce

Personal Observations About the Use of Games for Learning

There has been a lot written about using games for learning. Research generally supports their use for learning:

Across 57 studies that compared teaching with a game to using other instructional tools, incorporating a game was more effective (SD .33). Using a game improved cognitive learning outcomes along with intrapersonal and interpersonal outcomes. Researchers looking at other collections of studies have found that games help students retain what they’ve learned.

I have written about the teacher as an ethnographer and the teacher as a reflective practitioner. In line with these beliefs, I have made my own personal observations about using games with gifted elementary students at low performing schools.

The Desire to Win is a Motivator

One of the biggest draw in the use of games is that students want to build their skills in order to win the game. Most, if not all, of my students embrace and engage in competitive games with the goal of winning. The need to win is a strong motivator; and to win they need to develop those skills. Even in group team building and cooperative learning, learning basic skills in order to be successful is a great motivator for learning basic skills. The same can’t be said of worksheets. The major reward for completing a worksheet is a grade from the teacher. For many students, this type of reward is not all that motivating.

A Sense of Fun and Play

When games are used for learning, excitement and joy become part of the learning process. My learners’ excitement is seen with their squeals of joy, big smiles on their faces, and jumping out of their seats when they succeed in the games.  Doing worksheets is not fun and they do not elicit playful responses. They is limited joy in learning through worksheets.

Learning Doesn’t Feel Contrived, Pushed, nor Painful

Most children play games and many adults do so, too. Games seem to be part of human existence.  Thus, when games are introduced into the learning environment, they feel natural to the learners. On the other hand, worksheets are not part of learners’ lives outside of the classroom. This translates into worksheets feeling contrived and pushed. Doing worksheets is often painful for the learners.

Noise is Expected

Games often include vocal elements. Learner voices and noise are expected and accepted when games are played. The opposite is true for doing worksheets. The expectation is that there is silence in the classroom while students work through their worksheets.

Increased and Engaging Repetition of Concepts

In general, repetition is needed to gain and remember basic skills. Usually this occurs through memorizing and repeating core skills. Games often offer the repetition of basic skills in a fun way as learners work towards completing the game challenges. Doing multiple worksheets can provide the repetition but not the engagement.

Learners Spontaneously Help One Another

Even in games that ask learners compete (see the second part of this post for examples), they often help one another out when one of their peers get stuck. This type of peer assistance is not promoted, may even be seen as cheating when students are completing worksheets.

Natural, Immediate, and Continual Formative Assessment

Most games offer continual feedback on learners’ performances. Games provide immediate feedback about the degree of success with a challenge as this function is built into the game mechanics. The same is not true for worksheets. The teacher is the one who often reviews and grades the worksheet. Feedback does not tend to be immediate nor continual with the use of worksheets.

Increased Engagement

The above characteristics equal increased engagement, and increased engagement often means increased learning. I have to wonder if one of the reasons my learners didn’t develop foundational skills is that they weren’t engaged in their learning processes; that they just went through the motions of doing the worksheets.

gamesvworksheets.jpg

Examples Games Used to Teach and Reinforce Basic Skills

Word Fluency

Scrabble Relay

In this game, students were separated into two groups. A pile of several sets of Alphabet bean bags were placed about 25 yards from the starting line. In a relay type game, group members ran one a time to pick up and bring back to the starting line one bean bag at a time. The relay continued until all of the bean bags were picked up.

img_7015img_7017

The groups were then asked to create as many words as they could using the letters they collected. Letters could be reused after a word was created. Point values were: one point for words of 2 to 4 letters; two points for words with 5 to 9 letters; and 3 points for words with 10 letters or more.

img_2218img_2229

Words with Friends

I created a class account with Words with Friends EDU:

[embedded content]

The success of this game was better than I expected. The learners had never heard of nor played Scrabble so I was excited to see their level of engagement. They loved challenging one another; learning how the point values worked; and exploring the power words and their definitions.

Basic Number Sense

Similar to the word fluency games, I have been using a variety of both analog and digital games to increase my learners’ knowledge and skill with basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and divisions.

Some of the analog math games I’ve used include”

Some of the digital games I’ve used include:


Parting Shot: One of my gifted students yelled out this week during class (I meet with one group for a half a day and the other for a full day): I love coming to my gifted class. It is so much more fun than learning. On one hand, I was happy to hear how much he enjoys the class. On the other hand, I was saddened that: (1) he didn’t see our fun activities as learning, and (2) his regular classroom lacked such fun.

Simple and Rube Goldberg Machines: A Maker Education, STEAM Lesson

Recently I facilitated a simple-machines-leading-into-Rube-Goldberg-machines lesson with my gifted elementary students.

As I’ve discussed in past blog posts, I use several criteria to guide my lesson design:

  • Instructional challenges are hands-on and naturally engaging for learners.
  • There is a game-like atmosphere. There are elements of play, leveling up, and a sense of mastery or achievement during the instructional activities.
  • The challenges are designed to be novel and create excitement and joy for learners.
  • There is a healthy competition where the kids have to compete against one another.
  • Learners don’t need to be graded about their performances as built-in consequences are natural.
  • There is a natural building of social emotional skills – tolerance for frustration, expression of needs, working as a team.
  • Lessons are interdisciplinary (like life) where multiple, cross-curricular content areas are integrated into the instructional activities.
  • Lessons are designed to get learners interested in and excited about a broad  array of topics especially in the areas of science, engineering, math, language arts, and the arts.

The lesson activities and sequence went as follows . . .

Simple Machines

  • As a group, learners watched the following video and reviewed the following webpage on the Smartboard:
  • Via their own Chromebooks, they played the following online game: http://www.msichicago.org/play/simplemachines/
  • They used their Chromebooks to go on a scavenger hunt both inside and outside of the school to take photos of example simple machines.

img_6587img_6584

  • To conclude the simple machines component, learners were taught about Haikus and asked to write Haikus about simple machines to be posted on their Kidblogs.

2016-11-28_19262016-11-28_1928

Rube Goldberg Machines

  • Learners were shown several Rube Goldberg machines posted on Youtube.

img_6600img_6575

  • Learners were given a worksheet that contained several examples of Rube Goldberg Machines and asked to sketch their own cartoon versions.

  • Finally, they were given the task to create their own Rube Goldberg machines:
    • For inspiration, they were shown the following web resources –
    • They were split into teams and given lots of materials (dominoes, hot wheels, hot wheel tracks, playing cards, assorted cardboard pieces. balls, tape).
    • They were told that they needed to have their creations end with doing a simple task as is characteristic of Rube Goldberg machines.
    • Finally, they were told that their creations would go into a display in the school’s center hall.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What are the characteristics of high performing schools?

I am in the unique position of having several types of education jobs. I teach online graduate courses in educational technology to in-service teachers. I am a cohort facilitator for student teachers; and I am a part-time gifted teacher of elementary students at two different elementary schools that serve Kindergarten through 6th grade students. Out of the 16 elementary schools in my town, these two schools have some of the lowest end-of-year standardized test scores in the entire district; are composed of 85% to 90% Hispanic students; have a high percentage of English Language Learners; and all students on free or reduced lunch. These statistics present a dire picture, don’t they?

I tell my student teachers that when they enter new schools for possible employment, they should be able to see and feel the culture of the school almost immediately upon entering the front doors. Because of this belief, I decided to do a photo essay of the artifacts found on the hallway walls at the schools where I teach:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Because of the variety of my jobs as well as being an active reader and contributor to social media, I do a lot of thinking and reading about the qualities of high performing schools. Again, the data shows that I work at very low performing schools, but how are intangibles measured? How are the following characteristics, which I see, hear, and feel at both of my schools, measured and quantified?

  • A positive school climate
  • A safe school climate
  • Dedicated teachers who love teaching and their students
  • Creative teachers
  • Students enjoyment of being at school and in learning
  • Student creativity and imagination
  • Lots of laughing and smiling students
  • The arts naturally integrated into content area learning
  • School walls filled with beautiful student artifacts

I wholeheartedly believe I am teaching in high performing schools.

Halloween Wars: An Interdisciplinary Lesson with a STEM, STEAM, Maker Education Focus

For Halloween 2016 and 2017, I did a version of Halloween Wars (a Food Network show) with my two classes of gifted elementary learners. I am sharing this lesson through my blog post as it reinforces how I approach lesson planning and teaching.

Background Information

Principles that drive my instructional approach. regardless of theme, include:

  • Instructional challenges are hands-on and naturally engaging for learners.
  • There is a game-like atmosphere. There are elements of play, leveling up, and a sense of mastery or achievement during the instructional activities.
  • The challenges are designed to be novel and create excitement and joy for learners.
  • There is a healthy competition where the kids have to compete against one another.
  • Learners don’t need to be graded about their performances as built-in consequences are natural.
  • There is a natural building of social emotional skills – tolerance for frustration, expression of needs, working as a team.
  • Lessons are interdisciplinary (like life) where multiple, cross-curricular content areas are integrated into the instructional activities.

These have been further discussed in A Model of Good Teaching?

goodteaching

Halloween Wars Lesson

For this Halloween Wars lesson, the goals included the following:

  • To work in a small group to create a Halloween scene using food items, cooked goods, LED lights, and miscellaneous materials.
  • To work as a small group to craft a story about their scene.
  • To introduce and reinforce ideas, concepts, and skills associated with maker education, STEM, and STEM.

Standards addressed during this lesson included:

  • Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work. (National Core Arts Standards)
  • Exercise flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal; and assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and value the individual contributions made by each team member. (21st Century Skills)
  • Solve problems involving measurement and conversion of measurements. (CCSS.Math)
  • Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.3)
  • Publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences. (ISTE NETS for Students)

Time Frame: 3 to 4 hours

IMG_2412

Procedures:

  • Learners were introduced to the lesson through the following presentation –
  • Learners were split into groups of 3 or 4 members. In their small groups, they worked together on a shared Google doc to compose their story. The story was displayed on the Smartboard and read aloud. One member made editing changes to grammar and spelling based on suggestions by their classmates. (This strategy is further discussed in Teaching Grammar in Context.)   Here is one student group’s example:
  • They were then shown their materials and asked to sketch their designs.

img_6414img_6473

  • In their small groups, learners needed to work together cooperatively to make their display scenes using the materials provided.

img_6485img_6483

  • Learners made sugar cookies using a recipe projected on the Smartboard. They were asked to cut the recipe in half reinforcing math skills.

img_6437img_6443

  • LED lights, which learners connected to coin batteries, were placed in decorated ping-pong balls and their carved pumpkin.

img_6453img_6501

  • Microbits were programming to add a title to their scenes.

imagesIMG_2483

. . . and some final displays:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Their final task for Halloween Wars was to write a blog post on their Kidblogs that reflect on their processes. I worked with individual students to help them edit their work.

2017-10-31_1403

A Fuller Framework for Making in Maker Education

Background Information

I recently learned, for the first time, about Aristotle’s belief that there were three basic activities of humans: theoria (thinking), poiesis (making), and praxis (doing). Corresponding to these activities were three types of knowledge: theoretical, the end goal being truth; poietical, the end goal being production; and practical, the end goal being action (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Praxis_(process)).

The Greek theoria, from which the English word “theory” is derived, meant “contemplation, speculation, a looking at, things looked at”.  The word theoria is derived from a verb meaning to look, or to see: for the Greeks, knowing was a kind of seeing, a sort of intellectual seeing (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theoria).

Poïesis is etymologically derived from the ancient Greek term ποιέω, which means “to make” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poiesis).

Praxis (From ancient Greek: πρᾶξις) is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realized (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Praxis_(process)). “Praxis” may also refer to the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practicing ideas. Praxis may be described as a form of critical thinking and comprises the combination of reflection and action. Paulo Freire defines praxis “reflection and action directed at the structures to be transformed.”(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Praxis_(process))

Implementing a Broader Framework of Making in Maker Education

All of this led me to think about how this would translate into a full spectrum of making in the context of maker educator. Having such a framework would help insure that learning from the making experience is more robust, not left up to chance. I believe a fuller spectrum or framework would including the following elements:

  • Play, Tinkering, Experimentation – This is uncensored, boundaryless, whimsical making. It can be considered free play.  This, in my mind, is the first part of of Poïesis which translated from Greek “to make”.  How this translates into practice is by providing learners with lots of making materials; and telling them to just dive in and play hard with those materials.
  • Framing or Frontloading the Making Experience – This is the introducing the making experience for more mindful and intentional making. It helps both the educators and learners to set purpose and intention for the making activity prior to actually doing it. This is discussed in Framing and Frontloading Maker Activities where I go in more detail how to frontload or frame the maker activities:
    • Using and Reviewing Essential Questions
    • Using Scenarios
    • Specifying Standards
    • Asking Questions Related To Personal Skills
    • Asking Questions to Help with Scaffolding and Sequencing the Activities
    • Asking Questions Related To Using Peer Support-Working Collaboratively
  • Mindful and Intentional Making – Once there is a familiarity with the making materials and processes,  making can become more mindful and intentional.This is the second part of poisis or the making process. Making becomes more goal-oriented, focused, and more results or product oriented (although process is still important).
  • Observing and Reflecting Upon Results – This is the theoria or thinking part of the process. After making, it is when makers step back away from their making to observe and reflect on their processes and results.”Being able to reflect is a skill to be learned, a habit to develop. Reflection requires metacognition (thinking about your thinking), articulation of that thinking and the ability to make connections (past, present, future, outliers, relevant information, etc.)” (Amplifying Reflection).
  • Critical Awareness and Analysis –  This is the praxis, the critical thinking component that combines reflection and action. It takes reflection to a deeper level by dissecting the making process to analyze what worked and didn’t work which, in turn, will inform future makes. This critical analysis should directly and strongly influence future making experiences – the action part.
  • Sharing to Elicit Broader Connections and Change – Given today’s ease of sharing via the Internet and social media, the action part of praxis has been expanded, in this framework, to include sharing out one’s makes, observations, reflections, and critical analyses to a broader audience. This can occur by writing about the making process, and/or by doing a photo essay, video, podcast to share via social media. By doing so, others can benefit from one’s make.

a-framework-for_17172814_ad53e9ef20a574d3e44d93f984241673d1c3da24

Teaching Elementary-Level Learners About the Brain

Judy Willis in How to Teach Students About the Brain writes:

If we want to empower students, we must show them how they can control their own cognitive and emotional health and their own learning. Teaching students how the brain operates is a huge step. Even young students can learn strategies for priming their brains to learn more efficiently.

Teaching students the mechanism behind how the brain operates and teaching them approaches they can use to work that mechanism more effectively helps students believe they can create a more intelligent, creative, and powerful brain. It also shows them that striving for emotional awareness and physical health is part of keeping an optimally functioning brain. Thus, instruction in brain function will lead to healthier learners as well as wiser ones.

Here is a run down of the learning activities I did with my gifted elementary students to teach them about their brains:

Introduction to the Brain

  • Learners played a concentration brain game I created. Cards were created that had parts of the brain images on one of the paired cards and the definitions on the other. Games cards included: cerebral cortex, frontal cortex, parietal lobe, temporal lobe, occipital lobe, cerebellum, limbic system, hypothalamus, amygdala, neuron, axon, dendrite, neurotransmitters, synapse. Students were asked to read aloud the definitions when they match a pair. An alternative is to play Neuro-Jeopardy found at http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/jeopardy.html.

img_6319img_6323

Learning about the Brain Lobes

  • Learners completed a jigsaw puzzle I created about the brain lobes and their functions.

img_6303img_6309

  • Using the Smartboard, the interactive website, https://www.koshland-science-museum.org/explore-the-science/interactives/brain-anatomy, about the brain lobes was shown to the learners.
  • Using this website and brain anatomy posters on the wall as references, learners, in small groups, created their own model brains using dough (that they made themselves) for the lobes and sticky notes/toothpicks to label the lobes and their functions.

img_6341IMG_6353.jpg

img_6351img_6348

Brain Operation Game

  • I adapted the directions for their brain operation game from https://iamclaudius.com/makey-makey-operation-game/. I gave them an outline of the brain with lobes outlined for them to color and rubber cement onto a pizza box (see video below). For their brain parts, I gave them air drying clay. They were asked to create parts that represent the functions of the individual lobes, e.g., eye for occipital lobe, mouth for temporal lobe, a ball for the cerebellum, etc.
  • They were then asked to code their games using Scratch. Here is the example I used to get them started: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/283935140/editor/. I instructed them to include, for each lobe, its name and some kind of pun about its function.
  • Finally, they hooked up the Makey Makey using the directions found at https://iamclaudius.com/makey-makey-operation-game/.

Learning About Neurons

  • Neurons were introduced to the learners through this Neuroscience for Kids webpage – https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/synapse.html
  • Learners made their own neurons out of licorice, fruit roll ups, and min-Reese’s cups on top of wax paper and labeled the parts of the neuron on their wax paper. This was inspired by the Neuroscience for Kids webpage – http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/chmodel.html.  Learners were then asked to show how their neurons would correctly connect to one another as they would be in the brain.

img_6361img_6377

stagimg_6397

Finishing Up with a Creative Writing Activity About the Brain

2016-10-21_1931

2016-10-21_1933

2016-10-21_1925

Teaching Grammar-In-Context

Archaic Ways of Teaching Grammar

We construct grammatically correct sentences or correct our mistakes by intuitively applying the rules that govern English syntax. If, instead, we had to apply those rules consciously, they would only get in our way, making it impossible for us to speak or write at all. To construct a simple two-word sentence, such as “He dreams,” requires the application of at least seven grammar rules. Imagine trying to apply them consciously following the rules of English grammar.

Over the years, the teaching of grammar has continued to be prominent in English and foreign language instruction, leaving less class time or student energy for students to speak, read, or write in those languages.  As early as 1906, studies were undertaken that attempted to show the relationship between knowledge of school-taught grammar and language skills. Since then, hundreds of such studies have produced some clear and unequivocal conclusions: The teaching of formal grammar does not help a student’s ability to speak, to write, to think, or to learn languages.

It is important for educators to know that, among recent research studies, not one justifies teaching grammar to help students write better.  Although we accept the fact that social, economic, and political forces influence education in many areas, we ought not to allow such forces to outweigh knowledge and reason in determining the school curriculum. (Is Teaching Grammar Necessary?)

A recent – November, 2017 – research article entitled, Experimental trials and ‘what works?’ in education: The case of grammar for writing, concluded:

With regard to our substantive case of grammar, the current evidence from randomised controlled trials does not support the widespread use of grammar teaching for improving writing among native English-speaking children. Based on the experimental trial and meta-analysis evidence about writing teaching more generally, our hypotheses are that supporting primary/elementary pupils’ grammar is most likely to require teachers intervening during the writing process, and interacting to discuss the use of grammar in relation to the overall purpose of the writing task and the purpose of the writing. Small-group and whole-class teaching that includes a focus on the actual use of grammar in real examples of writing (including professionally produced pieces, realistic examples produced by teachers including ‘think aloud’ live drafting of text and drafts of pupils’ writing) may be more effective.

Learning Needs a Context

I often discuss and blog about teaching content within a context, that learning needs a context. . .

How often have students been asked to memorize mass amounts of facts – historical dates, vocabulary words, science facts; get tested on them, just to forget almost all those memorized facts a week or two later? Given that is this learning experience is more common than not, why do educators insist on continuing this archaic and ineffective instructional practice?

The visual image I use to describe this is that there are all of these unconnected facts floating around in the learner’s brain. Since they have nothing to connect to, they end up flying away. This is especially true for abstract concepts including memorizing grammar rules.

floating facts

The key to increased understanding is providing a context for the facts and the rules. The context becomes the glue to increase the stickiness, the longevity of long term memory of those facts and rules. This is especially true for abstract concepts such as grammar rules. These concepts need something concrete with which to attach.context

Providing a Context for Grammar Instruction

I teach gifted elementary level classes with a good portion of the students being English Language Learners. This translates into ELA grammar making even less sense for them than for English only learners. I do a lot of maker education, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), and STEAM (adding arts to it) activities with them, and ask them to document their learning through taking photos and blogging about those activities using their Chromebooks. Because of the article about grammar and talking with the school’s literacy coach, I decided to bring grammar-in-context into my classrooms. How I’ve done this is through projecting individual blog posts onto the Smartboard. The writer of the blog opens his or her blog post in an editing mode. Another learner reads the blog post out loud. The rest of the learners make suggestions for improvement as it is read out loud. I help guide them asking questions like:

  • Does that sound right?
  • Is that the correct verb for that noun?
  • What tense should that verb be?
  • What type of punctuation in the different pauses?
  • Is that spelling correct?
  • Is that possessive? If so, what is the punctuation?

. . . and again, these questions and the suggested edits are done in the context of the individual learners’ blog posts that have already been composed.

Here is an example of one such blog prior to editing:

Some of my observations from this process that I noted includes:

  • Learners eagerly volunteer to have their blog posts reviewed. First, they really enjoy having their posts read out loud. Second, I believe this is also due to the focus being on improving their means to communicate better not for a grade.
  • The learners know that their blogs are viewed by their own classmates and their sister school (I teach gifted education at two schools and have opened my Kidblog to both schools to view one another’s posts). They have authentic audiences and what to present their best selves.
  • As it becomes a group exercise, the other class members seem to enjoy the challenge and become engaged in offering corrections and improvements.
  • To keep up the motivation and make it manageable, I only do 2 or 3 during any giving sitting.

An Engagement Story

Update: This is the second year that I am continuing this practice with my gifted elementary learners. I have a student who dislikes the hands-on activities I do in my class. Since I do so many of them, I often struggle to find ways to engage him. One of his strengths is writing and grammar. I’ve made him the “official” grammar coach helping the other learners edit their blog posts. When he is doing so, he definitely finds his stride; a purpose in my class.

IMG_2613IMG_2623

He work with an English language learner to help her edit her blog post. Both learners were highly engaged in this process,

Here is the before:

2017-11-16_1722.png. .  and here is the after:

2017-11-16_1732.png

Not perfect, but better, and I believe they both learned from the process.