Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Indications That You Are Moving in the Right Direction

This from teacher I worked with a few weeks ago on establishing a wiki for her AP US History Class:

did you see the first completed review page on my wiki--pretty awesome. some of the links are careless and even useless, but I've noticed so far with the new page that they're linking in more useful resources. i am very pleased with the content and organization. thanks!
And then this from her students:
it makes it easier to communicate with ALL of your classmates, not just the ones you normally talk to outside of school.. also, its awesome because its a group project that everyone can collaborate on but we don't all have to be together to work on it

But also the project has opened up valid discussion about the merits of using such technology in schools:

I hate the AP review project. It is a superfluous use of technology that only leads to frustration. More time is spent organizing the page and competing with overachievers for things to do then actually learning anything about history. Scrap it please before it evolves into a worse monster that no one can manage.

On Thursday and Friday of this week, I worked with two groups of teachers on the merits of feedback as a means of self-assessment for teachers. While the workshop wasn't packed to the gills, the teachers I worked with began to see why I survey them every time they leave my classes.

As people in the art and science of education, we have to be able to get constructive feedback from our stakeholders in addition to the few observations that are done by our administration. Two or three snapshots are not enough to transform our teaching in a meaningful way. Our most important stakeholders, our students, need to be voiced in the process of their own education. Imagine using the survey results as a basis for class discussion where the points made by the students are validated and discussed, or using the results as a basis for planning a new lesson and informing the students that this lesson was driven by their comments on the last unit, or last lesson.


Since hearing Alan November speak, I am intrigued by the idea of ownership of learning and the roles of teachers and students in a classroom. I have spent the last year talking about authentic learning, tools, technology, and pedagogy in the 21st Century and how different it should be, but what does that look like? My wife asked me a question last night: how do I engage my 4th graders in their own learning? I had no direct answer. It took a few minutes of really thinking and brainstorming to find out where she needed to go (I also asked the Twitter network) I realized that it takes a lot more than just knowing that there needs to be a change, and that there will be a change in our classrooms, than actually affecting that change.

Surveying the students and finding out what works for them in your lessons and units begins to take them towards ownership of the learning because they begin to see their role in their own learning. "Hey, I can drive this process!" It takes a teacher willing to listen and act on those suggestions heard.

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Carolyn Foote said...


Speaking of ownership--last week, during our professional development workshop, we set up panels of students to speak to our staff about how they learn best, what motivates them, and other aspects of our campus.

I've been reading the notes this weekend in order to summarize them, and hearing the student perspective is fascinating.

One teacher asked how to get students to be more empowered--front the students' standpoint, interactivity seemed to be the key to that. They also said that it was really hard for them to let down a teacher they respected, so having a relationship with their teacher was very motivating.

Another comment they had was that having "whole class challenges" was a good way to pull the whole group along--because students would help their peers succeed in order to win the challenge.

I'll be posting more about the student panels next week, but thought you might be interested in hearing their point of view on this!

Patrick Higgins said...


I saw that on twitter last week, and I remember thinking that I wish I could be a fly on the wall in that room. Looking forward to your posts about it.

We tried to institute the "whole-class" challenge with the AP US History Review wiki, and all indications are that it is engaging. However, the feedback is telling us that we haven't found that perfect pitch yet. That's fine, and that is why feedback is the big piece with all of this. Asking the primary stakeholders what they need cannot be left out of any planning we do.

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