17 Intentions of an Effective Teacher

(posted with permission of Don Mesibov, The Institute for Learner Centered Education)

The Foundation
Underlying classroom practices

  1. Safe and nurturing environment – do you create a classroom environment where students feel free to think critically and express their views without fear?
  2. Public speaking – do you structure lessons that require and nurture public speaking, in pairs and small groups as well as in front of the entire class?
  3. Opportunities for success – do you provide every student with frequent opportunities to experience “success”?
  4. Validation of student work and responses – do you let each student know when his or her efforts are praiseworthy?

The Exploratory Phase
The beginning of the lesson or unit

  1. Grab attention – do you begin class in a manner likely to encourage students to look forward to what comes next?
  2. Prepare students to engage – do you create activities that focus student thinking, excite their imaginations, and prepare them to meet and exceed the learning standards.
  3. Assess and access prior knowledge – do you design activities that will help students (and you) to access and assess their prior knowledge, interests, and needs?

The Discovery Phase
The part of the lesson in which students learn and demonstrate they are meeting the learning objectives of the lesson

  1. The learning objectives – do you clearly state the one, two, or three specific things you want your students to learn? Have you cast these specific objectives in terms of what your students will understand, relate to, perform or create? Are the objectives aligned with appropriate learning standards?
  2. Authentic task – do you frame learning tasks that are as authentic as possible and that will allow students to demonstrate their skill with or understanding of the learning objective(s)?
  3. Ownership – do you create learning tasks that enable students to feel pride and assume responsibility for their own learning?
  4. Options – do you offer students optional ways to accomplish the learning task, and therefore reach the learning objectives(s)?
  5. Multiple intelligences – do you offer students frequent opportunities to utilize their stronger intelligences (recognizing that there are going to be times when they will also have to rely on their weaker ones)?
  6. Appropriate resources – do you make sure that the resources necessary to accomplish the assigned student-centered activities are available, or can be made available, to students?
  7. Interventions – do you look for opportunities (teachable moments) to intervene either in response to student questions or in reaction to student work, by “working the room” while students are engaged in an activity?
  8. Cognitively rich questions – do you seize every opportunity: to intervene in student work with questions that require students to think critically; to phrase task questions to require critical thinking; and to require students to create their own cognitively rich questions that create disequilibrium?
  9. Reflection – do you, during a learning experience, create opportunities for students to think about their thinking, to assess their progress and their decisions thus far? Do you, at the end of each day’s lesson, provide students with a brief closure activity that elicits evidence of something students have learned as a result of the lesson?
  10. Assessment measures – do you utilize multiple forms of assessment to judge student performance, including effective use of rubrics? Is instructional improvement the primary reason you assess students? Is teacher observation structured to be the most meaningful form of assessment?

Copyright (c) 2005, Institute for Learner Centered Education.


The Institute of Learner Centered Education website offers a number of valuable resources for the constructivist educator, including definitions, resources for applying standards-based constructivism to lessons, a journal, and an email newsletter that always includes thoughtful information like these 17 Intentions. A nice opportunity for constructivist educators is the Institute’s annual summer conference (July 23 – 27) at Grand Island, New York, within sight of Niagara Falls. This unique conference models constructivist teaching and learning — no talking heads here! Visit The Institute for Learner Centered Education for information.

Web 2.0 – share the adventure with students

Web 2.0 is all the rage. You can tell it’s hot because half the sessions at educational technology conferences have 2.0 in the title. Soon they will be labeled 3.0 to show that they are really, really, really cutting edge.

Web 2.0 is a collective term for the “read/write” web, meaning that people who use the Internet are no longer passive content consumers, but are actively creating material for themselves and others. Grandmas, nuclear physicists, army privates and cab drivers are blogging, podcasting, uploading videos, sharing photos, finding friends, socializing, and much more. For many teachers, these tools offer exciting opportunities for students to express themselves and take command of technology that stretches the mind and reaches outside school walls.

There are obstacles to the use of Web 2.0 tools in schools, such as time, security concerns, lack of vision, and resistance to anything new. Media hype has scared parents and school boards into equating technology with sexual predators. Luckily, there many cutting-edge educators working on these issues and sharing solutions. The bottom line is that these tools are here to stay and are a significant presence in the lives of many students. Ignoring/banning them reinforces student perceptions that school is not relevant to their lives.

That light at the end of the tunnel is Train 2.0.

It’s a daunting task to figure out all the options with Web 2.0 tools and choose the “best” one to introduce to students. But this pain can be turned into a gain – by including students in the adventure.

Students can:

  • Research solutions and present options with pros and cons
  • Test hardware – even young students can scrounge up old microphones, tape recorders and cables and test them
  • Try out applications and report on results
  • Maintain lists of add-ons, plug-ins and new options for old tools
  • Debate how these tools can be used within the boundaries of school or district policy and technology use plans
  • Figure out how to use available technology in new ways

For example…

Instead of demonizing and banning cell phones, why not use them to record interviews, or use the cameras to document science projects or field trips? Let students help figure out the nuts and bolts. How do you transfer the files? Where? Do you need a Flickr account? Is that blocked? What other options are there? Have you heard about Gcast?

Want to make audio tours of your school in different languages? Can visitors listen to them while they walk around? Should you put them on loaner ipods? Too expensive? Can you rig up an old tape recorder or portable CD player? Can  you find some? Do they work? What audio software do you need? Does it cost money or can you find a free version? Do the school’s computers meet the system requirements? Do you have microphones that work? Where can you upload the files? Hey, why don’t we make a 3D virtual tour too!

Why is this important?

Authentic problems inspire creative thinking and empower students to exceed expectations and think outside the box. These are true 21st century skills.

  • Figuring out how to use these tools has no right or wrong answer–just like real life.
  • The best solution today won’t be the best tomorrow. By opening this problem up to students, you will get better tools and more up-to-date solutions than if you stick with the same tools year after year.
  • Your students will be more forgiving of the inevitable technical glitches if they understand the tradeoffs that were made in choosing the tools.
  • Your students will be able to share their new understanding of educational uses of Web 2.0 tools with their peers (and maybe even other teachers)
  • In choosing and setting up these tools, you and your students will have to wrestle with the real issues of security, privacy, and policy. Instead of resenting and ignoring rules handed down from on high, students can see the basis for these rules. They may be a lot more restrictive than you expect, or they may decide to protest and lobby for change in district policies they don’t agree with. Since you are on their team, you can direct their energies in positive ways. Either way, by giving agency to the students, you are encouraging them to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own actions.
  • Who has time for all this (besides students)?

Besides, why should you have all the fun!? Share your Learning Adventure 2.0 with your students and you will all benefit from the experience.

Sylvia 2.0

Finding your ed tech sherpa

How do educators find out about new tools and technology, understand the educational implications, learn how others use them, weed out the many options, and (whew!) use them with students?

We recommend finding educational technology sherpas who will assist you as you make your own ascent up the mountain of technology integration. You still have to make the climb yourself, but like a climber at the base of Mt. Everest, a sherpa at your side gives you the benefit of experience, expertise and collective wisdom.

Once you have a blog reader (see this post on how to get started), subscribe to a few blogs and simply start reading. Pick a few, like 3-5; you don’t need a cast of thousands. Spend a week or two reading, and see who you like, who resonates with you, who lights your fire and makes you want more. You will find that some overlap and cover similar subjects from a slightly different point of view. You will find links to other people and ideas. You will find people walking the talk in real schools around the world. You will find answers, questions, and new virtual friends who care deeply about changing education for the better.

It’s a risk-free relationship. If it’s not your cup of tea, just unsubscribe — no sneaking out of a workshop with eyes boring into the back of your head.

Most likely you will find that you are not alone, but on a path with many others just like you. It’s a comforting feeling.

Here’s a short list of ed tech sherpas to get you started:

This list could be much longer, but part of the fun is finding your own sherpas. Enjoy the journey!

Sylvia

MEC – Phoenix, Arizona

Hello everyone!

I’m sitting in the student union at Arizona State University, using the free wireless to check my mail and post this. The annual Microcomputers in Education Conference (MEC) is Arizona’s state educational technology conference held on the ASU campus. It’s 90 degrees outside, but the technology in here is even hotter! Sessions on podcasting, GIS, blogging across the curriculum and Web 2.0 are packed. In fact, there are quite a few conversations here speculating about what 3.0 will bring.

Generation YES was well-represented here. Yesterday we did a session on technology literacy, this morning was a great session done by the students of Paradise Valley HS about their GenYES program, and this afternoon I’ll be doing a session on free and inexpensive software and websites that encourage student-centered technology – focusing on podcasting, blogging, open source options, and Web 2.0 tools. This session I’ll be ably assisted by two students from North Ranch Elementary school, also from Paradise Valley Unified School District.

The connection is a little too slow to post my handouts or slides yet, but I’ll upload those soon.

Sylvia

Back from CUE

The California Computer Using Educators (CUE) conference was this past weekend. There were over 3,000 educators there enjoying a little bit of sun in Palm Springs and a whole lot of technology. There were many, many podcast sessions, and the Google Education Tools seemed to be a big attraction for many teachers.

It was great to meet many of you California GenYES and TechYES teachers at the conference. The Generation TECH students from Borrego Springs High School were featured in the Student Showcase, showing how they help their district by doing tech support in their school. And a big special thank you to Krista Purdom from Woodland, CA, who helped out in our booth. Krista is a double-threat, she has taught TechYES and GenYES, so when teachers stopped by the booth to ask how students can help teach tech literacy, or how students can help teachers use technology in the classroom, she had all the answers!

Krista became a big fan of Hall Davidson of Discovery Learning while at CUE, and found his sessions about Google maps, multimedia, video, and mashups informative and inspiring. Hall’s session handouts and slides are posted online are really great tools!

Next year at CUE, it would be great to have more California Generation YES teachers submitting sessions about what’s happening at your school. I’ll send out reminders in a couple of months by email about how to submit a session for CUE. It’s easy, really!

Sylvia

Games and learning

Lots has been written lately about video and computer games and learning. It’s obvious that these games engage many students in a way that school doesn’t, so naturally people wonder if the two could be combined in some way. Some teachers actually use games in their classrooms. The question is, do games actually teach, and what do they teach?

I think the best thing games teach is problem-solving strategies. In a project-based classroom, games can be a great vehicle to help students “puzzle” out strategies that they can use in many subject areas. Let’s look at an example.

PLANned is a casual game that is completely web-based. It starts out simple and gets harder quickly. It takes planning and strategy to win each stage. As you play, you will soon figure out that there is a strategy to winning.

By introducing this game to students, and asking them to deconstruct the rules and winning strategies, you have a quick classroom activity that will challenge them to reflect on their own thinking and problem-solving skills. If you make this a group activity, it becomes even more powerful, requiring them to collaborate and articulate their thoughts.

This is a cross-curricular activity requiring mathematical skills (pattern recognition, planning, and analysis) and language arts skills (written and verbal).

Part 1: Rules

Show the students the game and allow them to play individually or in groups. Ask the groups to play the game, and then agree on the rules of the game. The entire class can then compare each group’s rules and see if they are all the same. (The rules can be seen on the splash screen of the game, but ask the students not to just copy them. Most students won’t read them anyway!)

Asking students to deconstruct the rules makes them think about their own actions. Putting these thoughts into words is a more difficult task than it seems. By comparing the group results, students can see how the same simple tasks can be described in a number of different ways. This activity should also result in a good discussion of using precise language, written communication styles, and the skill of technical writing.

Part 2: Problem-solving strategies

After students have discussed the rules, return to the groups and ask them to write down how these puzzles can be solved. You may want to have a discussion of the difference between strategies and rules. This is not as obvious as it seems! The nice thing about this game is it provides immediate feedback on whether your strategy is working or not. Groups can then come together and discuss their strategies as a class.

A final note – like many real-world problems, there is no “right answer” to these questions. Students may even decide that the rules that appear on the initial splash screen are not complete or exact enough. That’s fine. Let them write new ones. The goal is for the students to learn how their own thought process works, and be able to put that into words.

For older students, you may want to point out that pattern recognition is a field of math and computer science that is still developing. The human brain can recognize some patterns much faster than a computer can! You may have some students who want to program a game like this themselves. More on that in a future blog…

Sylvia

Including Students in Your Technology Plan

Does your district or site technology plan contain a vision statement like:

Our goal is to include all stakeholders in technology planning and implementation including administrators, faculty, staff, parents, business leaders, and community members.

Notice anything missing? The one stakeholder group that is not only the largest in size, but the one that is most affected by these decisions?

Students.

They are just too easy to leave out. It takes time and energy to engage them and include them. But ignoring your largest stakeholder group undermines all other efforts to gain consensus and build a collaborative community that can focus on shared goals and work to make your vision a reality.

School shouldn’t be something we “do” to students, it should be an exercise in community, citizenship, and practical action to achieve a shared vision.

How does this happen? Where do you start? How do you convince others to add their voices to yours? We have a new resource to help.

From Vision to Action: Adding Student Leadership to Your Technology Plan is an 8 page document that can help a district technology or site planning committee add students to the process. It offers research, models of student involvement, planning worksheets, and practical suggestions to get started. Download this PDF for free, share it, and let us know how you use it!

Sylvia