Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Let's talk with each other

"To be a recipient of a communication is to have an enlarged and changed experience. One shares in what another has thought and felt and in so far, meagerly or amply, has his own attitude modified. Nor is the one who communicates left unaffected." --John Dewey

There’s lots of goodness in the "Talk TO me" post at Autodizactic.

These pieces really resonate with me:


I’m a teacher.

Please talk to me and not about me.

I understand we’ve been talking about each other for a while, and I’d like to work on ending this game of phone tag

…I wanted to thank you, though, for drawing attention to the importance of teacher quality. I’ve been working on mine since I entered the classroom in 2003.

From in-services at the end of school days to sometimes weeks-long trainings in the summer to attending professional conferences, I’ve really attempted to learn as much as possible.

That’s just the formal stuff. Since right around the time it launched, I’ve been connecting with teachers across the world through twitter and other social media tools to help me workshop ideas for helping my kids learn. Are you on twitter? If you are, follow me.

Plus, I’ve been using my blog as a space to play with ideas before implementing them in the classroom as well as a place to share the things that work so others can take them an build off of them.

Oh, also, I’ve connected with a couple of non-profit groups nationally and internationally that work to help teachers be better, well, teachers.

…You might be surprised to hear about it, but quite a few teachers are doing some great things in their classrooms. If you’ve got a feed reader, go ahead and subscribe. I’ll be writing about more teachers soon.

In fact, I know at least one teacher in every state personally. You should too; they’re doing some amazing work.

… I know the government has allocated quite a bit of money to helping schools and districts improve teaching and learning.

I was just wondering why nobody checked in with me or my colleagues about how we could use that money to shape lives and help our kids

… I don’t want my kids thinking I’m teaching them stuff so I can get more money. I’ve got this thing going where I help them come up with questions about their lives and their worlds and then help them to work to find answers to those questions.

I worry that, if they found out about merit pay, they’d start to wonder if I was just teaching them stuff so I could get paid more rather than because I wanted them to be thoughtful and caring citizens.

Changing mindsets The "Talk TO Me" post is a call in that direction.

We need dialog

We need conversations

And more than “talk TO me’

I’d far rather see

Let’s talk

Let’s listen


We need to engage in difficult conversations together. We need to delve deeply into convoluted waters with courage and tenacity. We need to emerge on the other side willing and ready to suggest new initiatives that may also involve messy yet compelling dialogue.

We need to talk with each other.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23964209@N00/758284368

Monday, October 04, 2010

Visible Thinking-- the potential

Visible Thinking

This tab has been open in my browser for likely a couple of weeks now—

At this point I can’t thank whomever point me to this resource--

So sorry, for it’s full of goodness--

It called to me daily, reminding me of Darren Kuropatwa’s “Expert Voices” projects that he often described as making thinking visible—

Powerful concepts on these pages, ones that, were I currently in a classroom, I’d use or modify with a goal of bringing to the surface for all learners, me included, our thinking – to analyze, to reflect, to clarify and to dig deeper.

Just some snippets describing Visible Thinking, a Harvard Graduate School of Education project—

"Is thinking visible here? Are students explaining things to one another? Are students offering creative ideas? Are they, and I as their teacher, using the language of thinking? Is there a brainstorm about alternative interpretations on the wall? Are students debating a plan?"

When the answers to questions like these are consistently yes, students are more likely to show interest and commitment as learning unfolds in the classroom. They find more meaning in the subject matters and more meaningful connections between school and everyday life. They begin to display the sorts of attitudes toward thinking and learning we would most like to see in young learners -- not closed-minded but open-minded, not bored but curious, neither gullible nor sweepingly negative but appropriately skeptical, not satisfied with "just the facts" but wanting to understand.

We talk the need for relevance and connections, is this one avenue that leads in that direction? The attitudes, dispositions, they describe above really resonate with me.

The project details thinking routines, ideals, and suggestions that are easily incorporated into any curriculum for any age band.

About thinking routines---

Thinking routines are simple structures, for example a set of questions or a short sequence of steps, that can be used across various grade levels and content. What makes them routines, versus merely strategies, is that they get used over and over again in the classroom so that they become part of the fabric of classroom' culture. The routines become the ways in which students go about the process of learning.

Here are links to two examples of thinking routines--

About thinking ideals---

Thinking ideals are areas of thinking like understanding, truth, creativity, fairness, and more. They are important kinds of thinking that we cherish and strive to cultivate. Although there are certainly other thinking ideals besides these four, right now Visible Thinking includes specific guidelines on how to foster the development of these specific ideals.

What does it mean to get started with Visible Thinking by focusing on an ideal? You focus on that ideal, foreground thinking routines that emphasize the ideal, and draw out students' ideas and reflections about that ideal, to foster their conceptual development.

Personally and professionally thinking ideals of understanding, truth, creativity, and fairness have great appeal, particularly when I see them aligning with learning in a digital age.

Just imagine, youngsters deep into inquiry based learning around questions of social justice, around a globalized digital society-- having thinking routines, thinking ideals as part of their learning toolbox. Imagine making their thinking visible--

What learning might transpire-- What a future we might have before us--

Photo Credit