To Inspire and To Plan
As we begin a new quarter in EDTC6103, we are starting to look at the teacher standards for ISTE. Standard #1 for teachers deals with facilitating and inspiring student leaning and creativity. This, in and of itself, is not really remarkable, but the scope and the methodology presented by ISTE presents some interesting challenges to the conventional classroom setting. I was particularly struck by indicator c where it calls for the use of reflection and collaborative tools to “reveal and clarify students’ conceptual understanding and thinking, planning and creative processes” (ISTE). I had always understood reflection as a means to process “conceptual understanding” and I also could easily understand how it would apply to “creative processes,” but when it came to helping students “think” and “plan” I was at a bit of a loss. My question for this standard then, revolved around how technology and reflection could be used to help students plan and think about their learning.
Helen Crompton’s piece on ISTE teacher standard 1 provides some indicator of how student reflection can be utilized to help plan a lesson. In her explanation of an activity that fully meets the criteria she writes, “The teacher in Activity 3 asks the students to work collaboratively in teams so they can have conversations about the data and make group decisions about how to represent it. The teacher has provided the context of healthy living, but the students collect their own meaningful data from their grade level” (Crompton). The key, as it relates to my question, is in how the teacher provides the context, but the students are the ones who collect, apply, and interpret the data. This certainly has aspects of planning, but I wanted more of an explanation on the degree to which these fourth graders are determining their collective educational fate. This is a positive first step in understanding how students can use reflection in planning, but I was hoping for more.
Overview of the reading for Module 1:
In my own search for information on how teachers can inspire and facilitate the use of collaborative tools and reflection to help students think about and plan their education, I came across a number of sites that provided links to various collaborative tools to facilitate collaboration. The main problem I had with many of these sites is that they generally failed to go into any detail about HOW to implement these tools – especially at it relates to planning. These sites were often simply lists of various collaborative tools for students in the classroom, which is fine if that’s all you’re looking for, but I wanted a more philosophical approach.
Eventually I came across Marita Diffenbaugh’s piece on Edsurge called, “Tips and Tools for Involving Students in Lesson Planning and Content Delivery.” In it, Diffenbaugh clearly outlines her approach to the role of teachers and students in education. “What if teachers and students could discover academic goals in the same way that one would plan for a travel adventure–together?” This solidly addresses my question regarding teachers inspiring and facilitating planning and thinking on the part of the students. Not merely a list of websites for students to work together, Diffenbaugh explains how those tools could be used. The post is organized around a 5-step process to help students plan a lesson (collaborate and reflect to plan – as per the indicator). The post goes further and in each section it includes links to different tools to help facilitate that particular step of the process. This is generally the opposite approach taken by many sites which will simply list various tools and then say how each can be used. In some ways, that approach seems backwards. I believe Diffenbaugh gets it right by starting with the goal and then identifying possible tools to help achieve it.
I’ll briefly list and explain the five steps recommended by Diffenbaugh:
Step A: Knowing the Learning Objective – Every lesson must (should) have one and this is where we start. The goal here is to help “Teachers activate students’ sense of wonder by matching student questions with the required content.”
Step B: Researching and Planning – This is the one perhaps most relevant to my question. Here the teacher points the students towards achieving the objectives established in step A. Diffenbaugh even recommends a totally usable website for matching lessons with Common Core standards!
Step C: Implementation – Here is where the learning comes alive and students research, create, and generally learn.
Step D: Sharing and Publishing – This step is echoed in many of the readings assigned for the week, like the Apple essay on Challenge Based Learning, which advocates for students sharing “their challenges, solutions, and reflections with a local and global audience” (Apple).
Step E: Reflection and Assessment – A typical run-through of what was learned, what went well, what could be improved, etc. with the addition of collaborative digital aspects.
In the end, Marita Diffenbaugh’s article was just what I was looking for with regard to my question regarding inspiriting students to use reflection and collaborative tools to plan and think about their learning. Perhaps I have always thought of reflection too narrowly. Yes, reflection at the end of a lesson can be beneficial, but perhaps it is the initial reflection upon what is to be learned and how it is to be learned that I need to focus on. Diffenbaugh’s essay does a lot to convey the importance of that, and the digital tools she suggests to help students in this endeavor remind us all that the journey we are taking is, in fact, a collaborative one. The more aware we are of this fact as teachers and students, and the better the tools use in our journey, the more successful we will all be in arriving at our destination.
Within my own school setting, I have seen various teachers use their “knowledge of subject matter, teaching and learning, and technology to facilitate experiences that advance student learning, creativity, and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments.” We have one teacher who has experimented with “flipping the classroom” and allowed the in-class time to be used to pursue individual projects. Even in my own classroom I have tried to advance student learning through my expertise and technology. One example that comes to mind is a project on the process by which a bill becomes a law. Students are encouraged to use a variety of media to present their project. Some students utilized YouTube, some used Prezi, others Powerpoint, and still others used “old school” technologies like poster board or bound books.
Giving students choices in how they learn as well as informing them of the myriad of options at their disposal is not only empowering for students, but also nurtures their love for learning. It starts with us as teachers. We can always to better, but we have to keep trying.
Apple. (2010) “Challenge Based Learning: A Classroom Guide.” Retrieved from https://ssl.apple.com/education/docs/CBL_Classroom_Guide_Jan_2011.pdf
Crompton, H. (2014, May 1). “ISTE standards for teachers 1: facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity.” Learning & Leading Through Technology – May 2014. Retrieved from http://www.learningandleading-digital.com/learning_leading/may_2014#pg46
Diffenbaugh, Marita (2014, November 16). “Tips and Tools for Involving Students in Lesson Planning and Content Delivery.” Edsurge.com. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2014-11-16-tips-and-tools-for-involving-students-in-lesson-planning-and-content-delivery
ISTE (2008). “ISTE Standards for Teachers.” International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-teachers