Byron's Babbles

“Sticky” Learning

Screen Shot 2020-08-26 at 11.35.50 AMI made the comment last week that relevance makes the learning “sticky.” This really caught on and caused quite a bit of discussion. As an old Agriculture Science teacher I have preached about using relevant and real-world contexts for facilitating learning for years. In fact, I even wrote a book about it: The Hand In The Back of  The Room: Connecting School Work To Real Life. This book is all about how we (four agriculture science teachers at one school) went about teaching science in the relevant context of agriculture. The great part of the story is the statistically significant impact leading learning in a relevant context had on student learning. In other words, there was proof that relevance makes learning “sticky.”

41mQxC0XQNL._SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_ML2_In the book I state, “It has always been my belief that there are three worlds that a student exists and learns in; school world, real world, and virtual world. While these three worlds can be drawn as three separate circles, I believe that for true learning to take place we must, as educators, help connect the circles for them. This means finding a way to facilitate learning in a way in which the student uses real world contexts where the student plays an active role” (location 320 on Kindle). Right now, during the Global Pandemic (we are in day 165) we have some real opportunities to make use of these world colliding. I wrote about this yesterday in When Worlds Collide. I also argued in the book that, “…facilitating learning in a relevant context enables the work to be student centered and for there to be a connection made between the student’s real world and school world for learning” (location 331 on Kindle). This connection is what makes the learning so “sticky.”

“We have to make sure that all our students have access to these kinds of challenging and hands-on activities. Although much of the focus has been on the new technology that is fueling the maker movement, even more important are the values, dispositions and skills that it fosters, such as creativity, imagination, problem-solving, perseverance, self-efficacy, teamwork and “hard fun.” ~ Secretary of Education, John King Jr.

I proposed at time of writing the book and would still advance six ideas for improving learning (Ernest, 2016):

  1. Knowing what the end product needs to be before practicing the parts
  2. Study content and apply it to authentic real world predictable and unpredictable problems/issues
  3. Applied learning opportunities must be afforded to the students
  4. Students must participate in active exploration of real world problems
  5. There must be opportunities for students to make adult connections
  6. We must make schoolwork more like real work and real life.

If we intentionally use the six ideas, we will make the learning be what former Secretary of Education, John King Jr. called “hard fun.” The nature of using relevant contexts makes the learning more rigorous. I love the term “hard fun” over rigor. If our students are learning to adapt what they have learned by addressing real world situations they will be more motivated and the learning will stick with them.

The bottom line is that education can be inspiring for our students. I believe agriculture education has an important place in creating a real world context for our students to learn in. I also believe that there are many ways for cross-curricular collaboration to be done in all subjects. At the very least, we have an obligation to our students to find ways to give our students hands-on, real life lessons that answer the questions of the hand in the back of the room and make the learning sticky for our students.

 

More Smithsonian Exploration

As a former Smithsonian Teacher Ambassador, I am very excited to be partnering with the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) to provide a webinar in our series of Noble Education Initiative opportunities for learning. Back in April we partnered with the Smithsonian Learning Lab and had two fantastic webinars and were able to provide outstanding resources to educators. I blogged about these webinars in Bringing The Smithsonian To You. Since then, we have continued to be asked for more from the Smithsonian Institution.

Tomorrow, May 20th, we will do just that with More Smithsonian Exploration: A Journey To The Smithsonian Science Education Center. We want educators and caregivers to join us to learn to use the resources that provide tremendous opportunities to learn with their students. The SSEC offers curriculum and digital resources that support educators and caregivers in providing authentic STEM experiences. EVERYONE is welcome and can still register here: https://m.signupgenius.com/#!/showSignUp/60b0b44a5a92ca7fe3-more.

I am really proud of this partnership to bring make this free webinar possible because of the aim of the SSEC to transform and improve the learning of science for K-12 students. Click here to view the SSEC fact sheet to learn how the world’s largest museum, education and research complex is bringing an interdisciplinary approach to education using science, history, art, and culture.

The SSEC is also providing tremendous resources and support to teachers who work with newcomers from all over the globe and English Language Learners (ELLs). Our webinar will be engaging and inquiry-based to model the strategies that are effective for effective learning with our ELL students. We will also get a first hand experience with the SSEC’s real world and relevant featured curriculum dealing with COVID-19: COVID-19! How Can I Protect Myself and Others.

Join us tomorrow and see how the Smithsonian Science Education Center is transforming science education.

Life Is A School As Well

img_8394Today, during our “best of week” of educator professional development, I repeated my webinar, “Angry Teacher 1: What Can We Learn from Angry Birds About Engaging Students?” During the webinar a teacher made the comment in one of the discussions that “Life Is A School As Well.” This comment really struck me as we were discussing student engagement and making sure we were teaching students to adapt and use concepts to solve real world challenges and issues. We really have this opportunity right now because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. We have a socio-scientific classroom at our fingertips right now that can be easily accessed virtually with our students. Our students are living this right along with us. Therefore we must consider the intersection of our students real life and education. Right now the lines are pretty blurred.

Living through this time has taught us the that “life is a school” and that “school is no longer a place.” We need to make sure and honor living as part of the educational process. Henry Adams taught us this when he said, “Your life’s journey is your education.” I blogged about this in Your Life’s Journey is Your Education. We need to remember we are preparing citizens. Part of the answer for improving education is improving the sense of calling and commitment of students to take ownership of their learning and development. Burdens can many times create blessings and we need to keep in mind that our students have lives outside of the traditional education “walls” that we see the kids. We are learning to deal with this now more than ever. We cannot take this learning lightly and must use what we have learned to guide our path forward while we are on this path with no footprints.

If we really use “life” as part of education then we need to begin to reverse engineer how we educate using fulfilled adult lives and careers in the here and now to help inform the education content and process. We are not really doing this if we are honest. Most curricula are not designed by people who have experienced world-wide success in the areas being taught. This is why I am such a believer in the need of involving business/industry as partners in education. We must break through the barriers of:

  • Teaching to deliver on, rather than change, expectations.
  • Teaching to redeploy old ideas rather than originate and ideate new ones.
  • Teaching about the dangers of originality.

These are the reasons why we get compliance instead of student engagement. Much of our education system teaches kids to be very good at being outwardly and entirely obedient. We need to provide an education where school work looks like real work and we have more than just very narrow parochial outcomes in mind. We need to be guiding students toward their largest, best, life-long interests; not just the narrow obstacle course we control. Life truly is a school as well.

Bringing The Smithsonian to You!

During the COVID-19 Pandemic and the many webinars we have been doing to support teachers as they facilitate learning virtually, I keep commenting that the Smithsonian Institution is a tremendous resource. Or, should I say, plethoras of resources and services. Then I got to thinking that if I was going to keep saying that educators needed to check out the Smithsonian, we needed to do a little “show and experience” for them. As a former Smithsonian Teacher Ambassador, I really value all the resources available for educators. So, I decided to reach out to Ashley Naranjo, Manager of Educator Engagement at the Smithsonian Learning Lab, and ask if she would be interested in doing a webinar together. She was quick and enthusiastic to respond in the affirmative. Needless to say, I was excited.

Ashley and I had a great planning session where she had great ideas for engaging webinar participants in actually navigating and using resources. In fact, she and I will be modeling an activity at the beginning – I can’t wait! As I mentioned earlier in the post, I was a Smithsonian Teacher Ambassador back in 2010 and 2011. During that ambassadorship I was talking to groups of educators and organizations about the over 1,600 Smithsonian resources available. I told Ashley this asked how many there were now; she laughed and said, “Over 5,000,000.” Boy did I feel outdated.

Bottom-line: educators won’t want to miss this free webinar. This interactive and engaging webinar will include an overview of the Smithsonian Learning Lab and how teachers can curate their own digital collections of resources across subject areas and grade levels. The great part is that educators will learn, by doing, how to use Smithsonian Education museum resources in their own teaching and learning contexts. Please join us for this journey of bringing the Smithsonian to you!

Angry Teachers 2

Today we started the second part to a great professional development webinar that I am calling Angry Teachers. The title of this webinar is “Angry Teachers 2: Interactive Lessons and Engaging Tools.” The through-line of the webinar is the game Angry Birds. At the beginning of the webinar I always say, “Everything you need to know about teaching you can learn from Angry Birds.” In Angry Teachers 2 we pondered the question, “Many people believe that learning should feel like work.” We then discussed the Finnish model of education where learning looks like play.

During the gathering, we actually play the game and we do a “design the solution” activity where the participants actually design a lesson while playing Angry Birds. At completion the groups had to answer the following:

  1. Explain your lesson’s objective(s) and standard(s) covered.
  2. Explain what teaching strategies will be used.
  3. Explain why you chose what you chose.

With over 25 groups in some of these webinars time does not allow for all groups to share out. So, I offered to the groups that if they would send me their designs I would post them in a blog. Since I’m facilitating six sessions of Angry Teachers 2, I will add to this after each session. So keep coming back to check it out for the next week or so. Here is what has been sent in as of 04/28/2020:

Group 7 (04/28/2020

7th Grade Geometry

Essential Question: What is the right angle and trajectory to hit the correct structure(pig)
Standard- MAFS.7.G.2.5- Facts about angles multi step problems…
With this play the students could feel the difference among some angles, acute obtuse, right, straight and their effect on the game and which angle will be most appropriate.

Group 4 (04/23/2020)

  • Small groups based off of levels (scaffolding of groups with high, medium, low in reading and math)
  • Social and Emotional (ok to make mistakes, but we have to learn from them our next chance and how to recover from failure)
  • Rewards chart (every so many levels gained, trip to treasure box on Friday’s)
  • Balance of wanting to play, but must get work done first
  • I Do (model on board, discuss elements), You Do (choose children to go to board and take 1 turn), We Do (small group break up)
  • Respect (each bird is a different shape and size, but have their personal strengths, so they work together as a team for best practice of the task ahead of them)
  • Build on lessons taught (can go back and retry lessons to practice a skill needed in level)
  • Feedback (given as an OREO method (GLOW, GROW, GLOW))
  • Include cross curricular ideas
  • Rigor (levels get harder the further you get, so have to use critical thinking skills)
  • Incorporate the 4 C’s (collaboration with group, critical thinking of what to do next, creativity to beat the level with what birds are given, and communication amongst group members to help those struggling succeed)

Group 5 (04/23/2020)

This group made a great Doodly® of what their lesson would be. Check this out:↓

Doodly® created by Dawn Eibel of Manatee Charter School in Bradenton, FL

Group 11(04/23/2020)

Objectives/Standards:
  • characterization
  • social-emotional: anger/empathy/hidden feelings, etc
  • compare/contrast video game with movie segments
  • mapping/sequencing/ordering (steps to get most boxes, etc)
  • groupings of characters by traits
  • writing a backstory event for a character – a childhood moment, embarrassing situation, etc
  • LOTS of writing: setting, events, characters, develop themes or moral of story
Strategies:
Include groups/partners, sharing out, gallery walks, art representation, comic/storyboard, etc
We chose these objectives and strategies because they
were an EASY, NATURAL fit!  🙂
Group 16 (04/23/2020)

Our objective had to do with a 3rd grade standard of sequencing order of events.  The objective specifically stated that SWBAT provide a sequence of events in order for each level of the Angry Birds game that they have gotten through.

This quickly turned into what we said could eventually be a “strategy guide” of sorts that the students could collaborate on because we don’t do work just for ourselves but we are creating for the world to see and consume.  An extension activity that we thought would be beneficial is if the students could do a STEAM ativity to where, over time, they create a real world Angry Birds level to test out different scientific principles.

On a personal and professional note I have enjoyed your PD’s so much because I’ve been a proponent of looking at different mediums to promote  and incorporate into education.  I actually started a You Tube Channel for parents that covers different pop culture references and relates it back to education.  If you have any amount of time please check it out.  www.youtube.com/c/jeremywhiteeducation (It’s called LIFT Tutoring)

I hope your blog post for this specific idea of incorporating Angry Birds into the classroom is beneficial to a lot of educators as we continue to rethink what education is, especially during this time of remote learning.

Let’s Talk Student Engagement: Part 1

IMG_8490This morning I started a new iteration in supporting teachers and administrators during this time of remote learning due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. We are now doing 30 minute small group supports. I made two different types of support and one of them is called, “Let’s Talk Student Engagement.” The idea is to have groups of five teachers working together, coming up with solutions to increase student engagement and share expertise. I have to say I really enjoyed my first session. We had a great discussion around how to do better at engaging students.

One teacher stated that she has done away with worksheets and switched totally to projects. She is giving the students three to four choices of what project he/she wants to do. I am a huge proponent of student choice and agency when it comes to education. We also discussed the value in staying a little more general or broader in topic. In other words, don’t get to specific. Also, chunking content into smaller pieces is a best practice. Learning online can be physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing. Use of long reading passages or big projects is not advisable, unless chunked very intentionally. I philosophically believe in the Self-Determination Theory,  which holds that we are most deeply engaged, and that we do our most creative work, when we feel that we are acting according to our own will on behalf of goals we find meaningful.

From a pedagogical standpoint it is very import to remember it is very important to allow for:

  • in-depth discussions
  • group work/projects
  • both watching and creating video/audio clips
  • hands-on projects
  • individual time to work

“In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” ~ Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” We should not forget to look at the opportunity in front of us. One of the great advantages right now, teaching virtually, is the ability to individualize and personalize like never before. There must still be the opportunity for students to have peer/group interactions and very clear expectations.  We must enable our students to work autonomously, but yet develop and enjoy learning relationships with others, and feel they are competent to achieve their own objectives.

Gaps In Our Consistency

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 11.44.58 AMAt one of our most recent gatherings of 3D Leadership, a topic came up that the participants were calling “gaps in our consistency.” When I asked about these gaps they said they were the things that really kept them from being great teachers and the schools which they taught from being as great as they could be. One of the most important tools in effective schools is consistency. Research and practice have proved that school leaders and teachers must be consistent every day in carrying out their duties if they want to improve student performance and conduct. Here is what the teacher leaders said the gaps were:

 

  • Being Reactionary
  • Everything done short term/constant change
  • Lack of training to make sure initiatives/processes could be implemented
  • Relationships must be in place for there to be the trust for everything to be going well
  • Besides the why, there needs to be the what and the how
  • Teachers need to teach and not be auditors

Really, what any teacher wants is to be able to get to work and feel like what he/she is doing are the right things to be doing. What teachers don’t need are things constantly changing or different expectations or directions. These result in confusion. It is really about being on the same page and staying on the same page. Consistency really can be the protagonist or the villain of great accomplishment. There is a difference between being agile and continually changing focus, priorities, and behavior patterns.

One of the biggest problems that inconsistency brings on an organizational and personal level is a loss of trust. Judgement becomes not trusted, follow through on initiatives is not trusted, and trust that what is being implemented today will even be important as soon as tomorrow. The administration and staff must operate like a single coherent unit. If we are able to build this consistency in any organization we can build what researchers have called a “culture of consistency.” We need to recognize our gaps in consistency; delivering consistently can have a profound impact on our effectiveness.

❤️ Kids Having Ownership!

IMG_7814This past week I had the honor of doing a day long professional development for teachers from all schools corporations in Elkhart County, Indiana. I am representing Noble Education Initiative carrying out this customized professional development. This was part of an ongoing Project Based Learning partnership created by Horizon Education Alliance to bring business/industry and education together to best educate students. I love doing professional development workshops, particularly when they are on topics that I am passionate about. Project Based Learning (PBL) is one of those topics. It is also energizing to be with a group of educators who are very engaged. Groups like this always remind me and validate what Gallup® finds teachers value in question 12 of the Gallup Q12 Index©: “In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?” These teachers have been given this opportunity and very much value the opportunity, and are taking advantage of the opportunity to learn and grow.

The group last week was both passionate and engaged. We started the day with what I called “Level Setting.” I had them work in pairs to talk about their PBL experience now that we were half way through the school year. I wanted them to talk about what they had learned, “wow” moments, what they still had questions about, and what they still needed help with. They were to represent this on a tear sheet and put it up on the wall. Here are a few of the tear sheets that were put up:

Did you see the comment “❤️Kids Having Ownership”? That’s what this is all about. The next few paragraphs will dig into that a little deeper.

IMG_7813

Aubri Mosness with her students

We then had everyone individually do a gallery walk and pick one thing that stood out to them. This was an awesome discussion when the group came back together. There were questions like, “who wrote… I would like to know more,” or “I had that same experience because…,” or “I am so glad you wrote that because that same thing happened to us, and we are still trying to figure out…” You get the idea. One comment really stood out to me during this discussion; It was by Goshen High School Teacher, Aubri Mosness. She said, “I have felt the transition from me doing most of the work to the students doing most of the work. At first I was a little uncomfortable because I felt like I was doing much, but then I realized how much the students were getting out of it.” I was so excited by this. This is such a revelation in teaching. Great teaching should have the students doing most of the work. She was truly facilitating with a student managed classroom and the students have student agency and choice.

Then, at lunch Ms. Mosness’ students presented to the whole group and business/industry representatives that had joined us, on their project and I led a little Q&A. The students were incredible. During the presentation Ms. Mosness commented, “When I give my students too much, too much information, too much guidance, I am taking away opportunities for learning.” This was a drop the mic opportunity as far as I was concerned. The students all concurred. I then asked the students to give a thumbs up or thumbs down on the following question: “School work should look more like real work?” All six students gave me a thumbs up. Our students deserve to learn in an environment that is facilitated in a real world and relevant context.

61NlMeJ8eMLThese students were giving first hand testimony affirming the research I did for my book, The Hand In The Back Of The Room: Connecting School Work To Real Life.” In the book I talk about that the hand in the back of the room was mine, and probably yours too, that was raised wanting to know why I needed to learn what I was being taught. In other words school work must be connected to real life. This is why PBL is so great. Using PBL teaching principles will make school work look and feel like real work. In other words, the question from “the hand in the back of the room is answered as to why she needs to learn what she is being taught. When teachers are allowed to make student learning the ultimate test of facilitation of learning, then instruction improves to produce better learning. The results of my research showed improved achievement/performance in science when students are taught in a relevant context. For me that context was agriculture, but there many other real world contexts to be used. This is why the partnerships with business/industry is so important for our students. The challenge to all of us in education is to find ways to make learning visible by connecting school work and real life for the students we serve.

Teacher Leader Shape-Shifter

This morning I did a session for our Teacher Academy where I had the teachers pick a toy from a bag of lots of different cool toys. I gave them two minutes to play with the toy and then they had to report out how the toy related to their classroom, serving students, and them personally. This is a great reflective activity that really makes participants think. Then, of course, these reflections really get me thinking and I end up writing blog posts like this one.

One of the teachers chose a Slinky® and while reporting out she described herself as a shape-shifter. She stated that she needed to adjust and adapt according to student needs. This was genius. I have always tried to inspire team members to be continually comfortable shape-shifters. I am such a big fan of fluid change; whether that is organizationally, personally, or in the classroom. We need to be comfortable with the one thing that is constant – change.

Here’s the deal: as leaders, teacher leaders, and organizations, we must be comfortable with an ever-changing skin; no matter what we call it. Whether we call it change, changeover, conversion, metamorphosis, mutation, shift, transfiguration, transformation, translation, transmutation, transubstantiation we must have the resilience that shape-shifting brings to be successful. I would suggest that leaders and teachers must become adept at negotiating multiple, sometimes divergent, identities. We must be adaptive because everything we do during the day as teachers is situational – it shifts from context to context.

In other words we all need to use our portfolio of attributes, skills, and experiences to arrange, re-arrange, and adapt to meet the needs of our current situation. The concept of shape-shifting implies a sense of individuality and free agency in making choices, removed from constraints. By creating her own meanings for curriculum and leading of learning, the teacher who inspired this post, will be able to apply it within the context she is teaching. We then need to be able to demonstrate the resourcefulness and ability to change as contexts change.

Shape-shifters can be seen as innovators, rebels, or even a compromiser, but I see this as an important adaptive leadership trait. I do believe that shape-shifting also allows us to push away from the status-quo way of doing things and adapt to changing needs.

Experiencing, Not Attending For Learning

As I travel home this evening from what was an incredible journey to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, I am reflecting on all that my family and I saw and experienced, all that I learned at the 2019 International Research Conference, and can’t help but reflect on yesterday’s 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. A week ago yesterday we began this excursion and a week ago today attended the Calgary Stampede. What we found is that one does not attend the Stampede, one experiences the Stampede. Through this experience I learned about invented traditions. These Invented traditions are activities that are actually recent but are accepted by the public as having a particularly long and resonant history and as representing something essential about a nation’s character, values, and identity–arose from a widespread effort to justify the nation state, royal dynasties, and national boundaries by linking them, often tenuously and sometimes even falsely, with the past. These invented traditions spring from the need to reconcile constant change in the modern world with the desire for stability and traditional understandings about society.

We found that the Calgary Stampede has evolved over the decades in response to economic and political dynamics and the perceived need to maintain a vibrant balance between nostalgia for the past and celebration of the economic and ideological promise of the future. Successful cities have managed to brand themselves through identification with their annual festivals. We found that the brand lived up to the hype. One of the things I learned from experiencing and studying the Calgary Stampede is Americans cherish individualism and individuality above community. Canadians have exactly the reverse set of political priorities. This is not to say one is right and one is wrong; it is just to say that I learned some cultural differences along the way. We made some great friends while at the Stampede.

I can’t help but also reflect on all the great scenery, nature, and natural beauty we had the opportunity to see and experience as well. The Canadian Rockies are awesome, and we had the opportunity to experience them from as far south as Waterton Lakes National Park and as far north as Lake Louise in Banff National Park. This all reminded us, as a family, of how important sustainable development is to making sure future generations will be able to enjoy and learn from these natural beauties like we did. We must work hard to meet the needs of our present generation without compromising future generations ability to meet their own needs.

This was also discussed during the 2019 International Research Conference. Dr. Gerald Farthing, Former Deputy Minister Of Education Manitoba Department Of Education reminded us to act locally, while knowing what’s going on globally. I was honored to speak at the conference on discovering, developing, and distributing great leadership. It was awesome to visit from individuals from around the world to discuss current education issues and the innovative solutions to opportunities. We must find ways to end our preoccupation with the industrial and factory models of just “doing school”. The gap between what we call education in schools and learning that happens from being a part of society is widening. We must redesign our learning environments if we want to engage our students in the learning process. Learning needs to be 24/7, and not confined to a physical space we call school.

Yesterday, as I reflected throughout the day on the 50th Anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon, and those first steps, I was struck by all the ways we could relive the history. For example, Neil Armstrong’s Spacesuit was at the Smithsonian Castle yesterday and I was in Canada, but I took an in-depth 3D tour of the suit using Smithsonian’s new 3D Digitization site for doing interactive tours. You can also take an up close and in-depth 3D look at the 1903 Wright Flyer. It is such a great thing that the Smithsonian is doing. Every person can learn from and take part in Smithsonian exhibits without physically being on site. Think of the possibilities of this. I can remember saying, “Wow, everyone should experience the great learning that goes on at the Smithsonian’s many museums.” They can! Opportunities like this begin to take away the effects of zip code or socioeconomic status. Every child really can experience the Smithsonian. By leveraging the technology the Smithsonian is able to let their researchers tell their stories to the world and allow students to take a quest of discovery.

For me, I am going home with a renewed commitment that we must quit just having students attend and “doing school”. We must enable them to experience learning and go on a quest of discovery.