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Math Lesson? Empower Learners?

Here is what I started out with:

Topic: Addition & subtraction of fractions, mixed numbers, improper fractions.

You have:

  • 4th & 5th graders
  • A SmartBoard.
  • 40 minutes

You need:

  • reinforcement
  • practice
  • check for understanding
  • engagement

How can I step away from the front of the room and “present” the topic, then explain step by step, then give them a worksheet to see if they can duplicate the “path” that I have shown them?

I want my students to be “empowered learners” as Alan November points out. I don’t want them to be passive recipient of knowledge that I am trying to fill them up with.

Adapted from Alan November (pp.188-193), Curriculum 21 (ASCD, 2010) by Heidi Hayes Jacobs.

I chose five different smartboard notebook files created  by various contributors from the Smart Exchange.

I let the class know that “this lesson” was going to be a little different . They were going to be looking at “lessons” other people had created. They were going to be exploring these lessons and evaluating them as to their effectiveness in regards to their own understanding, ease of use, techniques used, success in helping them learn the concept.

I put students into different groups and asked them to come up separately, as a group, to the SmartBoard to look at one of the notebooks. They were to explore a few slides and narrate their thoughts out loud. They were to explain their steps as they were figuring out what to do. Some of the techniques used in the notebook were more intuitive than others. Some of the slides were a digital version of a paper and pencil method, while others were animated and interactive. What techniques helped their learning style? Which slides were more engaging than others? Was it clear what each slide was expecting the learner to do?

Below are several screenshots of the notebook slides.

Will students know the content (mixed numbers, improper fractions, etc.) better after these 40 minutes? Are they learning to be participants in their own learning? Are they learning about different learning (their own) and teaching styles (tutorial/lesson designers)? Are they hearing explanations from their peers? Are they encouraged to make suggestions to make a lesson better? Are they actively involved? Are they preparing to become their own “tutorial designers” as they are dissecting other examples?

What do you think?

Keep in mind that this was a one time modeling lesson for this group. What would I do different next time? Create an evaluation rubric ahead of time for them? Maybe  even create a Google Form to submit their evaluation directly into a spreadsheet? How can I have their classroom teacher follow up this kind of lesson? How do we embed the new roles to empower learners  suggested by Alan November?

How would you make this a successful lesson to empower learning? Share your ideas how to tweak, expand or change it? What would you come up with? Be creative… Please share!

Learning from a Book

Learning from a book

Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs

You must have noticed that I have been reading and re-reading “Curriculum 21″ by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. I have posted my first impressions and recommendation here and since then have joined and written about the companion Ning to the book here. I created a Flickr Curriculum 21 group to have a hub for images and videos of Curriculum21 teaching and learning examples.

I was inspired by quotes from the book to write the following blog posts Geography is a Separate Subject. Really? and  Isn’t the Answer Anymore, It is the Question!

Curriculum 21 is a book that is just FULL of information, ideas, thoughts, research, recommendations and exactly about the change in education, life, skills, literacies, and global competencies I am contemplating and working for.

Unfortunately, the book is not available as a Kindle Edition, which means, I am relying on sticky notes and highlighters as a way to make the rows and rows of text more appealing to my visual eye as well as a way to find passages and quotes more quickly later on.

Learning from a book

Stickies and Highlights

I am conducting an experiment about my own learning style. How can I read this book and best:

  • filter out the information that I want to keep?
  • make connections to my previous thoughts, ideas and blog posts?
  • remember quotes from different chapters?
  • make the text content more visual for my brain?

I am eager to find out:

  • Will I be able to learn about the content of the book differently/better/easier/?
  • Will I be able to “see” connections that with the text alone I did not?
  • Will the process of looking for and selecting the right image that will represent the quote make me think “deeper” about what the quote us trying to say?
  • Will the sum of the quotes I selected from the book tell a story in itself?

I wonder how my personal experiment will turn out… but in the meantime, please take the time to share:

  • How do you learn best from a book?
  • Highlighting, taking notes, talking/discussing it with someone ?
  • Do my visuals help you visualize what Curriculum21 is about?
  • Do the slides do nothing for you?
  • Do the visuals give you a different point of view, than when you were reading the text alone?
  • Are you interested in reading Curriculum 21 (if you have not done so) because of the visual “Preview”?
  • What opportunities do you give your students to learn from a a book?

Empower Student to Be Lifelong Learners NOT Dependent Learners

Through a  Tweet from @HeidiHayesJacob, I found the Ning of the Curriculum 21 book, I recently recommended.

One video uploaded by Heidi of Alan November, a contributor to the book, immediately caught my eye.

He says:

We have to stop spoon feeding kids curriculum tests and homework. They need to be self directed. They need to be life long learners., which means they need to be empowered to manage more and more and more of their own learning.  [...]

It is not about adding technology… because we add a lot of technology that improves teaching, but it does not improve learning.[...]

The biggest barrier is not technology, the tools or money. The biggest barrier is a culture of the shift of control from the teacher managing learning (creating dependent learners by the way) to a culture of students being inter-dependent while they are globally connected and contributing content, tutorials, to the whole classroom.

From reading the  Curriculum21 book , listening  in on streamed conference presentations to video clips like the one from Alan November below, I am witnessing the shift towards  globally connected students at my school right in front of my eyes. IT IS a shift of culture. IT IS a shift of what a “classroom” means. IT IS about empowering students AND teachers by exposing them to all the possibilities that are within reach through available tools.

I especially am in agreement with Alan about the role tutorials can play. Our Middle School students are continuing to work on on their Math Wiki, which is filled with tutorials, 5th graders are about to create SmartBoard Notebook files for first graders with tutorials and practice lessons about contractions (I + am= I’m/ will +not= won’t, etc). I can’t wait to continue observing the shift taking place in our school as a result of it.


Find more videos like this on Curriculum21

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