Dare to Care

construct, create, communicate, collaborate, and think critically

01/Dec/2012
by Denise Krebs
4 Comments

On Learner-Centered Education

CC Image by Kathy Schrock

The state of Iowa has identified Five Characteristics of Effective Instruction. One of them, which I have been paying close attention to lately, is “Student-Centered Classrooms.” From the EducateIowa web page:

Students are directly involved and invested in the discovery of their own knowledge. Through collaboration and cooperation with others, students engage in experiential learning which is authentic, holistic, and challenging. Students are empowered to use prior knowledge to construct new learning and develop meta cognitive processes to reflect on their thinking.

CC Image by Clint Hamada

This is huge. Does Iowa really want us to do this? Do our state-mandated tests even attempt to assess if students have become learners in the true sense of the word? I don’t think so.

Student-centered education is not just another tool in a teacher’s bag of strategies. It’s a seismic shift from teacher-centered classrooms of the past.

In order to have a learner-centered classroom, I have discovered that I must be the chief learner. Until I was, I wasn’t able to attempt to cross the chasm that is between teacher-centered and learner-centered classrooms.

On a somewhat related topic, recently my students’ completed self-evaluations for their mid-terms.  I sent these evaluations home. My #fantasyteaching hope is to someday be able to send home only narrative feedback written by the students (and maybe me), along with NO letter grades. I think that would be worth +25 points!

One of the questions on the self-evaluation was: Are you growing as a learner? Give evidence.

Are these students getting it?

  • Yes, because Mrs. Krebs is teaching me how to be an independent learner.
  • Yes, because I’m a genius.
  • Yes, I’m much more interested in a lot more things like presidents and world affairs, and so forth.
  • I am learning different ways to learn like on a computer and by talking to other people. I’m glad we don’t just learn from a textbook. I am learning to change the world.
  • Yes, because we can learn on our own pace and independently, and I am much more able to understand the stuff we are doing that way.
  • Yes, because I am accomplishing more than I used to be.

Do these students need more time?

  • Yes, I am listening better.
  • Yes, you teach me well. Everything that you teach me, I use in reality.

Even more telling were these answers from this second question: What is learning?

 Getting it?

  • Learning is when we get new ideas every day that you didn’t know before. And you use that knowledge for the world.
  • Learning is when you enjoy your exploring in something you love to do.
  • Learning to me is a beautiful thing where you can explore the world of thinking. Learning is wonderful because, without it, we wouldn’t be smart people.
  • Learning is growing, maturing, and helping us become  individuals. It helps us problem solve in the real world, helps us think better.
  • Learning is being able to obtain knowledge in a way you are comfortable doing, so learning is finding out stuff you want to know.
  • Learning is when you enjoy exploring in something you love to do.

Need more time?

  • You get taught things that you don’t know that you will need to know when you get older and out of school and when you get a job.
  • Learning is what the teacher says and then you will have homework and then you do the homework and then your teacher grades it.
  • Learning is what we need to know in the future and it is what we learn in school.

Those last three answers made me so sad. Those answers are also making me work hard to help these students understand the concept of the learner-centered environment I’m attempting to create for them.

This move toward a “student-centered classroom” is a process.

How are you doing it?

CC Image by Ken Whytock

17/May/2012
by Denise Krebs
9 Comments

Researcher’s Workshop

I have been trying to figure out how to make our daily experience at school more like genius hour. In my science and history classes I have wanted to experiment with “researcher’s workshop.” I want to allow students to choose their topics, based on the essential concepts and skills in the Core, and then let them loose, exploring and researching topics of their choice.

My idea is different than a typical research paper. Students have always had some topic choice when they write a research paper. So, what was different about my new idea?

I asked my students to find a topic ala Carl Rogers, who said:

“I am talking about any learning in which the experience of the learner progresses along this line: ‘No, no, that’s not what I want’; ‘Wait! This is closer to what I am interested in, what I need’; ‘Ah, here it is! Now I’m grasping and comprehending what I need and what I want to know!'”

My request was simple: Don’t start your research until you get to that third point–“Ah, here it is!” Then enjoy asking and answering questions about that topic.

They were then given three hours to research their self-generated essential questions. Not three hours to write a research paper. Three hours to immerse themselves in the learning that they assured me they really wanted and needed to know. I had to keep reminding them to not start their final project yet. “Just learn now. Become an expert.” “You may change your mind later.” “The game you are planning may take an unexpected turn during your research phase.”

I was really pleased with the level of engagement. They watched History Channel DVDs, Learning 360 clips, and an occasional YouTube video, taking notes. They moved from website to website, noting the URLs of their sources. They read children and adult nonfiction. They noted the conflicting information between sources they were reading and viewing. And perhaps the best part? As they learned something amazing, they spontaneously told someone sitting near them. (Or the most enthusiastic told the whole class!)

As I watched them work, I realized most people aren’t often given time (or for adults, take time) to do research just because they are passionate about the topic. Oh, to be sure, we all do research. When we or a loved one have a stake in the learning. When knowing it will get us what we want. For instance, years ago, prior to a job interview, I looked at the web site of the school. It seemed to me, they were overly-interested in reciprocal teaching. It was new to me, so I read everything I could about it before the interview. I just knew it would come up, and it did. I do research sometimes to help myself or another person, but less often for the pure joy of learning.  What I wanted for my students was joyful learning.

I told them the project at the end was less important than the research itself. I wanted them to have time to learn what they wanted to on a topic of interest. However, I did want them to use what they learned to be productive and creative (genius attributes), so there was a product due too. Some of the project ideas I floated:

  • a web site or wiki
  • a Fakebook page
  • a narrative or documentary movie
  • a poetry collection
  • a photographic essay
  • a Twitter account of a personality tweeting
  • an illustrated children’s book
  • other

One group made a slavery simulation that we participated in around the neighborhood.

As we finished this two-week unit and the presentations began, there was quite a variety. We had an iMovie with music created on Garage Band and a web page. We had a simulation activity, a board game, and a Fakebook page, which really showed her learning. There were two paper posters and one of my favorites, an animap of Sherman’s March to the Sea. In addition, there were several Google Presentations. For the most part, students were creative. I’m sorry to say, though, given the excellent experience with the research, I was a bit disappointed in the quality of some of the products.  Some were exceptional, but many were mediocre. (Maybe part of that is the fact that school is out for summer in three days!)

The exciting part for me, though, is that I can honestly say during the research time, 100% of the students were engaged for the majority of the time.

In addition to the Social Studies standards we were working on, there were many English Language Arts Common Core Standards introduced or practiced:

  • RI.8.1. Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • RI.8.2. Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • RI.8.8. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced.
  • RI.8.9. Analyze a case in which two or more texts provide conflicting information on the same topic and identify where the texts disagree on matters of fact or interpretation.
  • W.8.6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas efficiently as well as to interact and collaborate with others.
  • W.8.7. Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
  • W.8.8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
  • W.8.9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
      • Apply grade 8 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g., “Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced”).

11/May/2012
by Denise Krebs
6 Comments

A Need for Researcher’s Workshop

Come with me to genius hour last week. Here is the scenario I came upon.

Two students and two computers – one working on an iMovie, one looking up information. On the iMovie, they were adding slides that asked interesting questions about Camaros. When I arrived, the question on the iMovie screen was: What is the Camaro’s body made of?

On the other computer, the “researcher” had typed in this question in a Google search: “What are car bodies made of?” He clicked on the first link and got to this site:

He began reading/summarizing aloud, “Car bodies ‘…are made out of sheet metal (steel)…’ Yep, they are made out of steel.” The iMovie guy began typing.

Hmmm…I saw many things wrong here, and I couldn’t stay quiet very long. When I saw that he didn’t even finish reading the first paragraph, I stepped in. “What else are they made of, according to this source?” I asked, pointing to the screen.

Based on that first paragraph, car bodies could be made of steel, aluminum, a variety of mixtures of those, carbon-fiber, or fiber glass.

I also pointed out the difference in the two questions on the two computers. One asked about Camaros and the other about cars in general. Do you know the answer to your question yet?

I stayed with them awhile, not wanting to stifle their enthusiasm, but I also wanted to see how they chose their sources, and which ones they liked. The way they were searching by question reminded me of the olden days when we used the then cutting-edge “Ask Jeeves” search engine. We would type in a question, and a nice butler would magically send you to the answer. (Now it’s at Ask.com)

Search engines and Q & A sites have continually developed over the past decade. The “answers” they give, as well as the pool of contributors doing the answering, have grown exponentially in that time. Maybe, I thought, I need to teach students a different way of searching than I used in the 90s.

When the Camaro boys typed the question in a Google search, they were given many answers to choose from — with a great range in the quality of the answers. You can see them here: wiki.answers.com, answers.Yahoo.com, and the Q&A Community of Ask.com, and eHow.com

Although it didn’t come up in a search for this question, another site they said they like to use is Answers.com. (Tell me, do people still think Wikipedia is an unreliable source?)

As I finished up with these boys, I was struck with some things I have not been paying enough attention to. I need to directly teach more about researching, especially online. In addition, I took away some more advice to self:

  1. Teach critical reading. It’s more important now than ever.
  2. Figure out how I decide if a site is reliable. And how do I teach that to seventh graders?
  3. Encourage the good questioning that was going on, but help students learn to be unsatisfied with shallow answers plucked out of their reading.

This happened a week ago Wednesday. The same evening I participated in #geniushour chat, where I heard about something new: researcher’s workshop. I didn’t get the details, but I imagined that it was a cross between genius hour and an assigned research paper.

After seeing the Camaro research, and other similar researching events during genius hour and my science and history classes, I need to do more research and find out more about research workshop.

This week, we just finished an experimental version of the researcher’s workshop in history. (I’ll write about my attempt this week in a later post, but before they started I gave them the advice in the picture below.)

How do you teach researching?
Do you have any suggestions for what should be in a researcher’s workshop?

 Edited image by mrsdkrebs; original CC image by @sandymillin and #eltpics.

25/Apr/2012
by Denise Krebs
3 Comments

Agents of Change vs. Status Quo

Here’s my report back after a few days of history class where students OWNED this standard:

Understand the role of individuals and groups within a society as promoters of change or the status quo.

  • Understand that specific individuals and the values those individuals held had an impact on history.
  • Understand significant events and people, including women and minorities, in the major eras of history.

They came up with presentations, movies, and blog posts to show how they understood this Iowa Core standard. You can find links to their projects here.

However, when I read this quote from Becca’s blog post, it made me realize this unit was a success:

When we had to present, I saw all the other topics and I saw how hard the people [in history] tried to change the status quo. It makes me want to change things that are important. When you look at how hard they tried to make a change in history, and they didn’t do it just for them–it was for other people who wanted what they wanted.

Related posts:

First Post SBAR and Making the Perfect Cremé Brulee

Second Post Day 2 – Promoters of Change or the Status Quo

18/Apr/2012
by Denise Krebs
2 Comments

Day 2 – Promoters of Change or the Status Quo

Yesterday we started a history unit where I “put the standard out there for the kids to OWN,” as Michelle commented on yesterday’s blog post. Here is the standard:

Understand the role of individuals and groups within a society as promoters of change or the status quo.

  • Understand that specific individuals and the values those individuals held had an impact on history.
  • Understand significant events and people, including women and minorities, in the major eras of history.

I was impressed with the work the students have done since yesterday. Some of the students are doing more predictable subjects in history–those who have promoted change and those who have promoted the status quo:

  1. Rosa Parks
  2. Ku Klux Klan
  3. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  4. The North and South in the Civil War

Some students have found lesser-known people in history who have done great things:

  1. Augusta M. Hunt – Relative of Helen Hunt who was a leader in women’s rights in early 20th century Maine
  2. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. – 1932 West Point grad and Tuskegee Airman
  3. Lucy Terry Prince – Former slave, amateur lawyer and poet
  4. Kenneth James Weishuhn – a 14-year-old aggressively bullied to death by promoters of the status quo
  5. Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie – three black circus workers who were lynched in the northern city of Duluth, Minnesota
  6. Pearl Harbor and the United States’ neutrality in early WW II. They are asking an interesting question. Is there really such a thing as neutrality or was the U.S. promoting the status quo by trying to stay out of the war?

The last two days we have had rigorous and relevant historical conversations.

Update – Here’s my report after we finished.

Subscription image from iClipart for schools

 

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