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Posts Tagged ‘teacher

It is the end of Teacher Appreciation Week in the US of A. Here is HuffPo’s puff piece on it.

We are more, um, economical here in Singapore and mark the occasion for a day in September.

Here is an idea on how we might celebrate the next Teachers’ Day.


Video source

Regardless of country, all teachers should be able to vent what they really feel on that day and suffer no repercussions.

Wishful thinking? Perhaps. About as wishful as us being collectively able to fully show our appreciation for the really caring teachers and impactful educators in our lives.

This is the sixth part of my week-long focused reflection on flipping.

Yesterday I explained that having students create or co-create content is a critical dimension in flipping because this is an active process of learning.  

Another active learning process is teaching and I include it as my third dimension of flipping. 

Why is it important for students to teach one another?

Teachers know how difficult it is to teach. Let us consider a basic example: One person trying to explain a concept to another person.

Using Bloom’s framework as a reference point, the person trying to explain a concept must be able to recall and comprehend that concept first. That person must combine that understanding with a degree of application to explain it to someone else. The explainer has to juggle these while getting visual, auditory, tactile, or other feedback from the listener. Processing this feedback will require analysis as well as an evaluation of noise vs signal. After deciding what is important to say and show, the explainer will need to synthesize something that makes sense to the listener.

In short, anyone who has to explain a concept to someone else has to constantly recall, process, and reprocess.

Teachers become content experts not primarily because they read up on that content or complete worksheets. They teach that content over and over again and get better at it. They develop deep knowledge of that content and some even fall in love with it, all because they teach it.

If you want students to understand something better, then get them to teach it.
 

Monarch School Mobile Stories by MACSD, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  MACSD 

 
Learning is messier than teaching. Some teachers forget that structured teaching does not always lead to learning. Formulaic teaching by a teacher can sometimes take out the discovery, joy, and necessary struggle of learning because the teacher over-simplifies and does the thinking for his/her students.

Leveraging on messiness of learning means applying Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance. In a nutshell, cognitive dissonance is mental unease or discomfort due to new information. For example, if you strongly believe that only teachers can be trusted to create content and teach it, what I am proposing about flipping will cause some cognitive dissonance.

When applied to flipping, using cognitive dissonance means strategically allowing learners to struggle with what they think they already know (or do not know) and letting them teach each other what they could know or should know.

For example, a group of learners might wrongly assume that all Muslims are terrorists. A teacher could tell them otherwise, but this is no guarantee that the learners will believe the teacher.

Instead, a teacher could get the learners to analyze and share with one another their findings from various sources of information, e.g., books, articles, interviews, videos, websites. While this does not guarantee a change in mindset, the students learn to think by thinking.

Didactic delivery is faster, but that does not mean that it is effective. If you want students to appreciate something better, get them to teach it.
 

DSC_0030 by Holtsman, on Flickr
Creative Commons  Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Holtsman 

 
I wager that many teachers have experienced this scenario. They try explaining something ten times to Student A and s/he does not get it every time. Student B comes along and explains the same concept once and Student A has a eureka moment.

Students develop a language and understanding of their own that teachers sometimes cannot or do not tap into. As I summarized earlier, learners:

  • can find ways to make the content more relevant and exciting
  • are more creative with relating concepts or ideas
  • are closer to the “a-ha” moments and reach their peers in a more visceral way

If you want students to learn, get them to teach it.

 

 
Getting students to learn by teaching is not a new discovery. Dale first theorized something like this in 1949 and revised it in 1969. He posited that it was more effective to learn by doing concretely than by any other method.

A side note: Dale’s cone was more about the effectiveness of different media forms and experiences. Others after him repurposed it and added numbers to the levels to indicate effectiveness for learning. These numbers have little or no research merit.

If you are still not convinced about the effectiveness of learning-by-teaching, read my quick review of two studies that showed how students who expected to teach or had to teach performed better than those who did not.

There are other reasons why teachers should encourage their students to teach content, e.g., the audience effect (Google it or read my summary near the end of this reflection).

I have described four reasons for flipping who teaches: When students teach content, they have to learn it more deeply, they learn to think more critically, they teach in ways we cannot, and research says they learn better. If these are not good enough reasons to flip learning, I do not know what is.

When I facilitate workshops for teachers, I focus on large ideas that create dissonance. Minutiae are best left for conversations with individuals, teacher reflections, or purposeful accidents.

I find that break times and post-workshop chats are best for having deeper or more focused conversations. These allow me to address very specific needs or concerns that others are not interested in.

Time for reflections during or near the end of a workshop encourage teachers to think of actionable takeaways. Rather than leave this to chance, I use one-minute papers or exit tickets.

Purposeful accidents might happen if teachers are curious or observant enough. I typically model the use of multiple technology-mediated strategies. They range from simple timers to manage group work to creating my own wireless hotspot to using almost the entire suite of Google Edu Apps.

Until they ask, I do not tell teachers how I set Google timers, tether or use a mifi device, or embed Google Docs, Slides, Forms, and Spreadsheets (and other tools) into Google Site pages. Doing this helps me model how:

  1. pedagogies or strategies come first
  2. transparent technology needs to be
  3. to provide just-in-time information to learners

Without realizing it, my workshop participants learn not because I have taught them. They learn because they have caught behaviours and value systems I model.

I followed @sjunkins when the graphics embedded in his tweets caught my eye.

This was a recent one that educators should process critically.

Someone else on Twitter called it an infographic. It is not.

Does it have information? Yes. Does it have graphic elements that illustrate the information beyond text form, more richly, or intuitively? No. Far too many people perpetuate the wrong idea of an infographic.

The list includes some things a 21st century teacher should do. I appreciate that this is a challenge to teachers to see how connected, relevant, or current they are. But many of the items are technical skills.

These lead a teacher who might be interested in doing these things to wonder HOW to do these things. I think that it is more important to first know WHY.

I have noticed some leaders in education saying that the time is past asking why technology important. It is more important to know how. This might be true in contexts where asking why is a delay tactic among the stubborn or the undecided.

But not revisiting or emphasizing why is a mistake. I do not mean just reiterating that times have changed or that we must prepare our children for their future instead of our past.

These are all good reasons, but there should be specific reasons for wanting teachers to tweet, Instagram, lip dub, ad nauseum.

So I present an alternative list of 21 things educators might do and I suggest a reason for each.

  1. Don’t just use ICT, integrate it. If the ICT is not integrated, it is dispensible. If it is not needed, why incorporate it?
  2. Crowdsource an idea or co-author a collaboratively created lesson resource. Many hands make light work and you stand to gain ideas you would never have generated alone.
  3. Don’t just talk learner-centred, walk learner-centred. Do not tell me; show me what you can do.
  4. Make real and lasting online connections with other educators. They are your broader support system, your cheering team, and your sounding boards.
  5. Follow someone new or different on a PLN like Twitter. Get new perspectives, grow your network, help yourself by helping others.
  6. Provide a meaningful community service. Apply what you do in the real world instead of the contrived one that is often the classroom.
  7. Get inspired, be inspiring: Lead a PLN discussion, share at an unconference. One of the best ways to learn is to get out of your comfort zone. If you care, you must share.
  8. Model critical and creative thinking. More things are caught than they are taught.
  9. Overcome divides. Stop making excuses; start creating opportunities. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
  10. Talk less, facilitate more. Talking and teaching does not guarantee listening and learning. Get learners involved and become the meddler in the middle.
  11. Challenge your teaching philosophy. Question your assumptions. Focus on the learner and learning, not just on the teacher and teaching. It is your core and it becomes obvious to those around you.
  12. Update your e-portfolio. Focus on the processes behind the products. Curate and create as a model of a lifelong, lifewide learner.
  13. Critically reflect on your own practice. Stepping outside yourself might be the single most important attribute of an educator.
  14. Unlearn a bad habit or a bias. Deconstruct your behaviour or belief system and see what lies in the middle or at the foundation. Question if that is what you want to drive you or what you want to build on.
  15. Relearn a lost value. Reconstruct an ideal you had when you first started teaching. It can help you make that quantum leap you are looking for.
  16. Experiment with the science and hone your art of pedagogy. Think different, do different, and know why. You will not know until you try.
  17. Fail forward. FAIL = First Attempt In Learning. Do not let your first step be your last. Keep moving forward.
  18. Lead change. Do not expect someone else to show you the way. Find your own path and others may follow.
  19. Learn. Learn. Learn. An educator should be a learner first. It is the best way to understand what other learners struggle with.
  20. Play. Leverage on instinctive ways we learn. That way the learning and teaching are natural extensions of what we do.
  21. Strive to be an educator of people, not a teacher of content. If you forget WHO you are trying to change and WHY, there is no point telling them WHAT or HOW.
Day 60 - Fear by juanpg, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  juanpg 

 
Yesterday I reflected on why Twitter was an ideal component of an educator’s PLN. Today I ponder on why some teachers do not want or even like Twitter.

There are several reasons why teachers stay away from Twitter and lose out on valuable unPD as a result. I focus on three.

One, there is a shallow but twisted learning curve. Twitter is not difficult because it is based on texting. However, like learning how to operate a CB radio, there are procedures and standards of practice that only emerge from tweeting.

If newbies do not learn how to select a frequency (use a Twitter hashtag like #edsg), then they might find themselves shouting into the great big ether. Newbies must quickly learn how to follow and create a following or they will be talking to themselves. They need to learn what a retweet, favourite, and @ are. Heck, it can be difficult to understand the difference between replying to @someone and .@someone.

Two, if a newbie overcomes the initial tweeting learning curve, s/he will need to learn how to follow hashtagged conversations. A new user might not know that Twitter’s default web interface and mobile app are not good for such conversations.

Once they learn to use a proper tool like TweetDeck, they might find popular and synchronous chats scrolling by faster than they can read, much less respond to.

Three, a few persistent folks push through the barriers and these tend to be the ones that are already driven to learn and change. These intrepid folks tend to form a peripheral and possibly vocal group. And as long as they are part of the minority, the majority are likely to view them with suspicion.

The first two barriers are technical and relatively easy to overcome, say, by attending a workshop conducted by more experienced peers. Some handholding during and after the workshop also works wonders.

The third barrier is social. This might result in teachers being lurkers in Twitter conversations. While lurking for a while is advisable (to learn if the conversations suit them), quite a few never find their voice. I have followers who have zero tweets but follow several or many people. These teachers consume and do not give back.

Why do some folks choose to lurk even after an extended period of time?

They might be intimidated by the conversations or think they have nothing to offer. They might only want to monitor conversations. They might be asked or told to monitor conversations.

There is hope for teachers who are initially afraid or prefer to listen. Once they summon up the courage to participate, they are likely to find out how fun and motivating it is to be part of local or global conversations about topics they care deeply about.

I cannot say anything positive about the spying group. In some contexts, they patrol just in case they need to police. They create fear. They add to the perception that social media in education is a dark place and not to be trusted. They add to an exaggerated problem instead of being part of the solution. The solution is to be open and social and to break the cycle of fear.

That there is a plethora of educational hashtagged chats on Twitter is evidence that openness and trust beget more openness and trust. These chats are a joy to observe and an even greater joy to be part of. Why don’t teachers use Twitter and jump right in?


Video source

Here is even more teacher appreciation and from a BuzzFeed video of all places.

At the end of the video you learn what the retail giant, Target, is planning on doing to help teachers help others.

If you are a mollycoddled teacher in Singapore, you might wonder why a corporate entity needs to help. That might give you an appreciation for the system that you are in.

You might also wonder why our local “be thankful to your teacher” videos might come across as flat or humourless compared to efforts like BuzzFeed’s. If you do, you might begin to appreciate the things that other systems encourage that ours does not.

If not for RSS and Twitter, I would not have realized this was Teacher Appreciation Week in the USA. Here in Singapore, we discount the week to a day and celebrate it in September.

So I tweeted this yesterday to share the news and the hashtag #TeachingIs:

Real teaching is mostly a thankless task done by educators who do not expect thanks. These educators tend to have two important attributes.

I think that the second most important trait to have as an educator is the ability to think like a learner. It is only when you understand what and why they do not understand that can you accompany them on the journey to bridge that gap.

The most important trait is being reflective. If you are reflective, you will constantly analyze yourself and seek improvement. If you realize that you do not connect with learners, you will find ways to do so.

So I share a YouTube video I found a while ago.


Video source

It helps to remember what it was like to be a beginning teacher. That is probably when a teacher learns the most because s/he is most like a student and more ready to reflect.


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