It’s been a month since I have posted something new. Know that I have been working away…but I have had plenty of shade tree time, too. It has been a busy but fulfilling winter in Germany.
In the past ten years, I’ve endured my share of light-starved, snowy Februaries. In both Boston and Frankfurt, winter days can feel as if we’re all just sitting inside of some enormous, frozen broom closet waiting for somebody to turn on the lights. A colleague of mine talks about the “ping pong ball sky,” as if we’re all just sitting inside of a ball trying to look out. It’s an apt image.
I fill these grey-white times by learning to do something creative. When I lived in Boston I took all kinds of continuing ed classes: boxing, rock-climbing, acting, singing, writing. This winter, my ambitions are much smaller, but I’ve been experimenting with sketchnoting. My wife bought me two books for Christmas, and we’ve both been practicing in the evenings while vegging out in front of Netflix. At this year’s ELMLE conference in Warsaw, I put my nascent skills to use.
I am not good at this by any means, but my teaching always improves when I embrace the rich learning that comes from doing something at which I truly suck. I am surprised by how much I enjoy taking notes in this format. I listen much more attentively, and the big ideas from each session become stickier. Not every session lent itself to this format, but here are my notes from the conference with a breakdown of the key points from relevant sessions:
My apologies to the presenters. None of you really look like any of my sketches…just chalk up your Quasimodolike effigies to my not-so-budding artistic skills.
BIG TAKE-AWAY: “Every student should be a leader every day.”
Erahm is a filmmaker, actor and activist who is committed to developing young leaders. He simplified the idea of leadership to one acronym: AIC.
To be a leader an individual has to:
- be AWARE
- take INITIATIVE
- and have the COURAGE necessary to take action
Part of Erahm’s work is helping schools set up a student leadership team who identifies problems in a school’s culture and then creates covert, creative actions to address these issues. For instance, they might troll social media and inundate any bullying with positive comments, or if someone is isolated, they might engineer “chance encounters” at key points of the day to include that person.
by Holly Uber
BIG TAKE-AWAY: “Kids who understand code are at the highest level of literacy in the 21st century.” – Mario Armstrong
Holly Uber worked as a technology integrator at the International School of Stavanger (Norway) and shared the curriculum she helped developed for an introduction to coding. They approached coding through the lens of literacy and integrated it into several different subjects over the series of a few days. Her curriculum sequence and links are here: LINK TO THE SLIDES
BIG TAKE-AWAY: Self reflection on our own motivation can increase our empathy toward all types of learners. (My translation: we techies can learn patience AND GOOD TEACHING PRACTICE from any teacher, regardless of his or her attitude toward technology.)
Dr. Renee Hobbs is a Professor of Communication Studies at the Harrington School of Communication and Media at the University of Rhode Island and is a founder of Media Education Lab. Her talk aimed to help us consider our own attitudes toward technology. You can take this Myers-Briggslike self-quiz to see your own attitudes. She also helped launch (on February 24, 2015) an interesting online platform for exploring and curating propaganda: Mind Over Media.
by Patty Deo and Liz Swanson
BIG TAKE-AWAY: Learning Outcomes can and should start and end each class. Students should know the objective of the day and writing it in an “I can…” statement leads teachers to more student-friendly language.
Self-professed Super Nerds (regarding assessment criteria…cannot comment on other areas) Patricia (Patty) Deo and Elizabeth (Liz) Swanson of the International School of Duesseldorf led this session that outlined how their use of assessment criteria has developed over the past years in the middle school science classes they teach. Their slideshow is extensive and worth a look, but I will highlight a few examples that have really stayed with me:
The Google Doc format they use (above) sets up the students, at any level, for success in the reflection. The learning outcome is clear, four slightly different versions of the assessment criteria allow students to differentiate their level of success, and then the columns leave space for the student to provide evidence.
A few colleagues and I have been reading and discussing “The Power of Feedback,” the most comprehensive analysis of research on feedback that I can find, and the methods developed by Pattie and Liz are well-supported by current research. This system gives every student ample opportunity to actively engage in the feedback/assessment process and to not simply see it as something that is done to them by an external force (the teacher). When students make this shift and become more participatory in assessment, all research suggests that feedback becomes more effective.
In the future I plan to write more blog posts about current research on feedback. For now, I wanted to simply share an example of the kind of learning that I have found by trying something I am not very good at. I hope you found something useful. At the very least, I have been able to archive and share some of the learning I took away from this year’s ELMLE. Next year is in Barcelona; I hope to see you there.