Essential question: What is brain-based learning and how can it inform problem based learning and differentiation?
According to Jensen (2009), geneticists say that up to 30-50% of behavior in an individual can be explained by genetics. This leaves 50-70% that is explained by environment. Children in poverty are especially susceptible to adverse environmental circumstances. A nice acronym to remember risk factors affecting those children in poverty is EACH:
So how can we help all students?
"Brain-Based Education is the purposeful engagement of strategies that apply to how our brain works in the context of education."-Eric Jensen
Brain-based learning is quite complex. Our brains work in such a fascinating way, and no 2 people will react to the same situation in the same way. So how can teachers use this information in their classroom? Some things we cannot change, but there are things we can do to try to help. Jensen (2009) suggests the following:
This made a lot of sense but my next question became what does this look like in a classroom?
I found a great article titled Energy and Calm: Change It Up and Calm It Down! by Desautels (2016). She explains that our brains are wired to put survival above all, including learning. This makes total sense as you have to be alive to actually learn. She says "research repeatedly shows that quieting our minds ignites our parasympathetic nervous system, reducing heart rate and blood pressure while enhancing our coping strategies to effectively handle the day-to-day challenges that keep coming." So how do we do this? Either through quieting strategies (Controlling breathing, closing our eyes and using other senses to feel an object, visualization, or listening to sound) or brain breaks (these are times where no new learning should take place). Our brains need breaks and this is a key aspect of brain-based learning.
What else can we do in our classrooms?
Teaching social and emotional skills can also be key. According to Weissberg (2016), "social and emotional learning (SEL) provides a foundation for safe and positive learning, and enhances students' ability to succeed in school, careers, and life." Not all students come to school knowing how to interact with others. This means as teachers we need to give them skills so group work and classroom interactions will be positive. This is huge will PBL because the whole idea is that collaboration must take place. If students don't have the skills to collaborate then PBL will not be successful. There are also many other benefits that Weissberg outlines:
So all of this is great but none of it relates to content that needs to be taught. In 4 Ways to Promote Growth Mindset in Project-Based Learning Parsons (2016) discusses how we might change our perceptions as teachers and in turn create an environment where students thrive. There are 2 types of mindsets: fixed mindset and growth mindset. In a fixed mindset students give up easily and don't take on challenges. Growth mindset promotes the opposite. Below is a great image from Parsons article.
So what are the 4 ways to promote growth mindset?
Desautels, L. (2016, February 23). Energy and Calm: Change It Up and Calm It Down! Retrieved March 11, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org
Jensen, Eric. Teaching with Poverty in Mind : What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do About It. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD), 2009. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 8 March 2016.
Jensen, Eric. Teaching with the Brain in Mind (2nd Edition). Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD), 2005. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 8 March 2016.
Parsons, C. M. (2016, March 03). 4 Ways to Promote Growth Mindset in Project-Based Learning. Retrieved March 11, 2016, from http://gettingsmart.com
Weissberg, R. (2016, February 15). Why Social and Emotional Learning Is Essential for Students. Retrieved March 11, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org
This week I found it helpful to watch videos. The reading gave good descriptions but I was still left scratching my head on how I could make PBL work in my classroom. I thought we had a great discussion on Twitter. I am so relieved that Amber reminded me we were hosting. Everyone gave such great ideas but I was still worried that there would not be enough of me to go around. After watching videos and seeing PBL in action I am more confident in trying to incorporate it into my unit.
I also read Kate's blog and I really liked that she talked how "the real world is not a place where all the answers are neat and tidy and all the instructions are included." I think this is a great reminder for me when implementing my PBL unit and reminding students that I don't have all the answers. It is definitely a shift in the way teachers were traditionally taught.
This week really made me realize the environment at our school and how some teachers still have the idea that education should always be neat and tidy. This is not the case. Problems are messy. In this mess students are required to organize this mess and make sense of it. I think I gained a lot of resources that will help me explain to teachers at my school the importance of changing our roles.
Students need to collaborate and I love that Kate mentioned how important collaboration is. She also found a great website with handouts to help students plan projects together. This builds in a scaffold so students know exactly what to do. She also mentioned how important rubrics were in defining what is required of students. I really like the idea of adding a behavior component to the rubric so that students know what effective collaboration looks like. Just because answers are messy doesn't mean students get to be all over the place as well.
PBL is a great addition to education. I can't wait to start planning my unit!
Essential question: What practical structures could we use to implement PBL (problem-based learning) in our classrooms?
This week on my Twitter feed 3 articles popped up about PBL. I figure this must be a sign that it is time to give it a test run. I have been interested in it but a little scared to try it. I am worried that there will not be enough of me to go around.
There are many definitions of PBL but I like this one the best: "PBL means learning through experiences" (Solomon, 2003). So my initial thought is what kind of experience do I want to give my students? The world is changing and so are the standards required of students and teachers. Markham (2013) states that "everyday there is less standardization of information, making it nearly impossible to decide what a tenth-grader should know," Our curriculums do fit with the outside world and this is why we need something like PBL.
What is so special about PBL? Simons (2006) says students must work through a problem before they learn all of the content. In doing this students are forced to find information out for themselves and they are required to figure out what they need to learning. This is a big change in education. Traditionally teachers have held the knowledge and they present it to students. Then students must learn this knowledge from the teacher.
A couple of the posts I found on Twitter led me to Edutopia. One article by Weyers (2016) talked about design thinking. I love this concept especially in a science classroom because it a process that I teach in class. Below is a graphic of the process. Students are first give an problem and then they create solutions using the process shown in the graphic. I really like this structure an think it would be very helpful for my students. My main concern is that we would struggle with prototypes due a difficulty in the ease of getting materials to a small village.
This video was really helpful to me because I was able to see what design thinking would look like in action. It was also great to hear students opinions on the work that they were doing. Due to both student and teacher optimism I really want to try to incorporate this into my final project.
The second post I read on Edutopia by Wolpert-Gawron (2015) was very cool considering out topic last week of including games in the classroom. This article talked about how to gamify a PBL unit. This requires a lot of planning. A teacher plans many tasks and then students work their way through them. A key aspect is that there is lots of student choice. Once one task is complete a new task opens up and students are rewarded for the content and skills they learn along the way. A site this teacher used is Rezzly for content delivery in the form of a game and Popplet to show students how they would progress through the lesson. I have never used either of these but am intrigued by both and wonder if I might be able to test either one in my final project?
So why do PBL? According to Jones (2006) some of the advantages of PBL include:
Ertmer, P. A., & Simons, K. D. (2006). Jumping the PBL implementation hurdle: Supporting the efforts of K–12 teachers. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 1(1), 5. Retrieved from: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu
Jones, R. W. (2006). Problem-based learning: description, advantages, disadvantages, scenarios and facilitation. Anaesthesia and intensive care,34(4), 485. Retrieved from: http://www.biomedsearch.com
Markham, T. (2013, May 20). Inquiry Learning Vs. Standardized Content: Can They Coexist? Retrieved March 04, 2016, from http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift
Solomon, G. (2003). Project-based learning: A primer. TECHNOLOGY AND LEARNING-DAYTON-, 23(6), 20-20. Retrieved from: http://pennstate.swsd.wikispaces.net
Weyers, M. (2016, February 18). Tools for Differentiating Instruction in PBL. Retrieved March 04, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org
Wolpert-Gawron, H. (2015, September 29). Project-Based Learning and Gamification: Two Great Tastes That Go Great Together. Retrieved March 04, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org
There is just so much to take in when looking at ways to include games in the classroom.
Genevieve talked about how all games are different. I didn’t specifically post about this but found it to be a key concept. With these differences my take away is that differentiation is inherent in game play. You can easily change rules or design to fit many different scenarios. For example, battleship is a popular game and to make it educational I found someone who had made a periodic table battleship game. This was easy to create but made the learning focused to a topic in my class.
I loved Amy’s video for this week. It was great to hear from kids what they like about Minecraft. This made me realize that I really need to try it out and figure out where it might fit in. Even then as an educator it is important to not overdo things and to be ready to change things as need be. I have heard from students on occasion that teachers are ruining online things. This made me realize that I need to be careful as to how I incorporate things and that more choice and freedom is necessary. I also realized that a huge benefit of games is communication. So the game may not really be the main goal but instead to get students talking. Amber's post also made me think of this when she was showing how student's build in minecraft and then explain their reasoning. It made me want to try it out for myself. If I want to try it I'm sure most of my students would be excited to try it too.
Sarah posted something interesting about boys reading at higher levels when playing games. This was do to the choice they had of what they were reading. For me this really makes me think about how I can make reading something students would choose to do. How can I make it more interesting?
For the assignment I think I will work with my physical science class. They are my highest ability class and also are my most diverse group of students. They will provide me with the best work, and are the most likely to actually complete the work. I'm guessing at that point we will be studying either thermal energy or waves. I'm not sure yet. We have spring break the week after next so I will look at my planning more then. I will also be gone for a week after spring break, and will know more once I make my sub plans. My assessment will most likely be a project and I might include the reflection with it. Other than that I am not sure what I will do.
Essential question: How are games providing new opportunities for differentiation in the classroom?
This week I was introduced to Minecraft. I have heard of it, but have never really delved into the possibilities it can offer, especially in education. According to Ossola (2015) "History teachers make Minecraft dioramas, English teachers have kids act out Shakespeare plays in a model of the Globe Theater, and art teachers let students recreate famous works of art in the game." Now this really started to sound interesting. The major downfall is that Minecraft is not free. I also learned MinecraftEdu does not work on ipads. This is a major downfall as I only really have ipads in my classroom. I also did not realize the amount students could learn just by playing a game like Minecraft. According to Granata (n.d.), Minecraft can teacher "students to type by allowing them to communicate with each other in the game and showing them how to do online research by trawling the vast Minecraft forums for specific information." This intrigued me even more because my students struggle a lot with research. I think a main problem with the population of my students is that they are ELL students with very low reading levels. When they see lots of words, they just give up. This could change if they really wanted to do something, so game like Minecraft could prove to be invaluable when trying to teach my students about research. This could also be true for coding, which was mentioned in one of our assigned articles. To learn things students must experiment and if they can't figure it out they must research to learn how. In both Minecraft and coding students learn digital citizenship. According to Stiff (2015), this can be teaching student about how to be smart and responsible on the internet and to not give out personal information. Students are so trusting that this can be a huge concept to help them stay safe as they explore thing online.
One gaming site I came across this semester is Zondle. It is not a whole world you create, like Minecraft, but it is very useful in helping to engage students in the task at hand. Just last week I had a student who had already played the games and taken the quiz. I assigned new work and he refused to do it but would play the Zondle games. He liked it that much. This is more than I usually get from this particular student. Usually he tries to watch anime instead, but this time he was willing to do something related to class. I was impressed at how much a simple game engaged him. Ms. Cuje gives a great description of Zondle on her blog, Tech Tools Buffet. I have not played with Zondle a lot but she talks about how you can send different content to different students. Even if you didn't do that there are 49 games to choose from and students work at their own pace so differentiation is built into it. Regardless, I have found it to be great for review! I have even had students request it after only using it once in the classroom.
There are just so many options in the classroom. What options you have depend on the resources you have available. The biggest issues with games according to Dutton (n.d.) are a lack of funding and lack of teacher knowledge on how best to use the electronic resources they have available. When thinking about electronics teachers are often concerned about how to monitor students. If you add the element of differentiation this can make one's head spin, if not thought out carefully. According to Guyne (2007), "School districts encourage differentiation of instructions, but teachers are concerned about behavior-management and control issues."
If a teacher's concern is on management, then what are some tools that could be used to help with management.This idea combined with our discussion on Twitter this week brought me to Classcraft. This was not something I had thought fit here, but after more research realize it could be an integral part of differentiation. I recently was introduced to Classcraft, and just started it about 2 weeks ago. It is basically an upgraded version of ClassDojo. It works great for older students, specifically I am using it with my high schoolers. Students must be grouped and I can change the grouping whenever I see it necessary. Students in each group have different roles and the students work together as a team to help each other. It is hard to understand all of the nuances of the game at first, but as you move along you realize how each part is connected. The goal is to get to level 18. If a student reaches that level they win. I have not decided what they will win so that is a mystery for now. Reward are built in as powers. The game comes with presets but you can change these as you need. Students also get points to upgrade their characters. Some students really get into it and others don't really care. So far Classcraft has been very positive in my classroom. We are still learning how it works but it has been very effective for improving behavior in some students. I had one student practically jump out of his chair today so he could clean up the room to earn some extra points.
Here is a 5 minute video explaining Classcraft and what I have learned about it so far. Sorry but I could not get it to be 2-3 minutes. I tried my best but didn't know what to cut out as it all seemed important.
Cuje, S. (2015, April 21). I am in Love with Zondle! Retrieved February 26, 2016, from http://techtoolsbuffet.weebly.com/newly-discovered/category/differentiation
Dutton, L. (n.d.). Differentiate Learning and Electronic Games. Retrieved February 26, 2016, from http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Differentiated_learning_and_electronic_games
Guyne, R. H. (2007, November 1). The Educational Benefits of Video Games. Retrieved February 26, 2016, from http://www.techlearning.com/news/0002/the-educational-benefits-of-video-games/64111
Granata, K. (n.d.). Teachers Take Advantage of Minecraft in the Classroom. Retrieved February 26, 2016, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_news/teachers-take-advantage-minecraft-classroom-60294258
Ossola, A. (2015, February 6). Teaching in the Age of Minecraft. Retrieved February 26, 2016, from http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/02/teaching-in-the-age-of-minecraft/385231/
Stiff, H. (2015, February 6). Monforton Teacher Instructs Coding to Kids. Retrieved February 26, 2016, from http://www.belgrade-news.com/news/article_6716d926-ae2a-11e4-959b-13ebce844c1c.html
Here is the link to our wiki. It is the same link as last week because our group decided to build off of our last wiki. Last week we broke up our project into different types of learners. For this week we decided to pick our 2 assistive technologies for the type of learner we had previously picked. I had cognitive and chose to do talking calculators and graphic organizers. We decided to each do a simpler technology and one that was a little more complex.
We each chose our own 2 technologies and posted them to the main page of our wiki discussion. This way we could not duplicate any technology. We arrived at this decision through google hangouts in the chat. We all met up and decided we each needed more time to come up with 2 technologies. There were just so many to choose from. I continued my learning on all of these devices. Some of them are easy and are things that I use in class on occasion, like graphic organizers. This week I really learned what is assistive technology and I found different apps that I could use in my classroom. Ideament is a graphic organizer app that would be great for review. I also read about text to speech apps and many are free. I think this would help some of my struggling readers.
Click here for our group's wiki on assistive technology. We met this past Wednesday before class started for about 40 minutes. We met on the chat part of google hangouts and discussed how we thought we could break it up. I came up with the idea of breaking the wiki up into different types of learners: cognitive, hearing, visual, communication, and mobility. Kate came up with the idea of each talking about a different grade level. We discussed both ideas and then settle on dividing it up into the different types of learners. Jeff picked mobility, Amber took visual, Kate signed up for hearing, I took cognitive, and we assigned Cherie communication (she was sick and signed up late but we got her email just as we were assigning roles).
This week I learned a lot about how much assistive technology is really out there. I knew there was a lot but there was even more than I expected. There are also some very complicated names for such simple things. For example, freeform database software is really just digital sticky notes. Our group had a discussion on whether AT is just for students with disabilities. We did not come across a clear cut answer. Amber found some great resources that helped us decide that AT can be used in many different scenarios. It seems like AT was designed for those with disabilities but could be used for anyone.
I read Cherie’s blog this week and could really relate to having the same students making it easier to connect with parents. I also really liked that she talked about project choice. This is something that I do once a semester, but would love to figure out how to add it more and in different ways.
I also read Genevieve’s blog and really related to the part about inviting parents in. I want parents to come in, but as the students get older, and content gets harder, parents feel less comfortable taking part in their child’s education. For me, as a teacher, this is where I can really help parents. I know the parents in my community want to help, but I don’t think they know what to do. Genevieve talked about a newsletter or email and I keep reading this. It must be a sign that I need to do something. I have thought about it for a while but done nothing. Maybe now is the time. I could try adding a section to my website or sending home a newsletter with some advice would help connect some parents, even if they don’t physically step foot in my classroom.
Anastasia also talked about a letter or email to parents. I think after reading all of these blogs I really need to try it this year at least once. I also noticed that she found the same article from reading rockets that I found. It did such a nice job of summarizing differentiation for parents and students.
Essential question: How do we prepare parents for differentiation in the classroom?
This week I felt like a lot of stuff related back to my week #1 infographic. It is really about painting a clear picture of what a differentiated classroom will look like, so students and parents feel comfortable with the idea. Based on this I created a game to really help others grasp what differentiated instruction is and is not. Foucault (2008) says "differentiated instruction helps teachers avoid student anxiety and boredom that can be evident in one-size-fits-all curriculum." She then goes on to list qualities of what differentiation is and is not. These are what I used for my game.
The hardest part for where I teach is communicating with parents about the work their kids are doing. I'm not sure many parents would understand what I am teaching so it is that much harder to explain my goals to them. Tomlinson (2001) mentions two other key factors that I am sure apply to the community I teach in. I know the parents of my students stay away because their treatment at school may have not been the best, and/or they don't speak english very well, so it is hard to communicate. She does mention sending home bulletins or newsletters and I wonder if this would be effective for the community I live in.
The other two assigned readings A Parent's Guide to 21st Century Learning and Wonderful Wednesdays, by Caltha Crowe, I did not really connect with. In A Parent's Guide to 21st Century Learning there are many good ideas but most are not practical for where I teach. I definitely agree that students need the 4 C's: collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking. I just think it will look a lot different than the ways mentioned in the article. I think a lot of these skills would need to imbed the Yup'ik culture to be successful. Currently I am involved a program called PREPARES educators and I believe it will be a bridge in helping students to learn science while also allowing them to contemplate how this knowledge will help them give back to their community. In bush Alaska we just don't have the same resources as those connected by roads.
In Wonderful Wednesdays I really wasn't sure how I could include anything similar in my classroom. Crowe provided a great example for elementary, when a teacher has the same students most of the day and can have parents in at various times. In a high school classroom, where classes are only 55 minutes, it would be very hard to incorporate parent volunteers. For one, I just don't see parents coming in. I think reaching out to parents through a website, video, newsletter or something of a similar nature would be far more effective in connecting high school parents to the classroom. Many parents just would not feel comfortable with the higher content. They might stop in for a minute but they would be very leery about being an active part of our classroom.
After reading the required text I decided to see if I could find suggestions on how to start the process. The IRIS Center (2010) provided the following list of things teachers should be sure to explain:
Low Prep Differentiation:
High Prep Differentiation:
Now the focus is on what do I want to try next. Differentiation is exciting but it also makes my head spin a little. It forces me to be creative, which I love, but my mind just spins with ideas. So much to try and not enough hours in the day to make it all happen.
Brooks, D. (2010). Partners In Learning. Retrieved February 05, 2016, from http://performancepyramid.miamioh.edu/node/503
Crowe, C. (2004). Wonderful Wednesdays - Responsive Classroom. Retrieved February 05, 2016, from https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/wonderful-wednesdays/
Foucault, A. (2008). Differentiation Tips for Parents. Retrieved from the St. Michael–Albertville Schools, Minnesota website http://www.readingrockets.org/article/differentiation-tips-parents
A Parent's Guide to 21st Century Learning. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/pdfs/guides/edutopia-parents-guide-21st-century-learning.pdf
Tomlinson, Carol Ann. How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD), 2001. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 1 February 2016.
The IRIS Center. (2010). Differentiated Instruction: Maximizing the Learning of All Students Retrieved from http://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/module/di/cresource/q3/p09/
This week Jeff found a very similar article to mine that talked about students resubmitting work. This is such an easy strategies, and once I read the benefits, I feel like I should promote it more in my classroom. This would really encourage students to do things right rather than just rushing through.
I also read and responded to Natalie’s blog. She is giving her students so much freedom and her lesson sounds great. I just wonder how that would work in my classroom. I think it would be great to post a bunch of resources for students to view and to then ask them to create something with the information. It would be like what we are required to do in this class. Read and then create. It really makes me think and process what I am learning so I am sure many of my students would feel the same. I just worry that I would really need to build my students up first. I also wonder how much time I would need to give them. For me creating takes so long and I feel some of my students would need more time than I can give them.
As always I really enjoy Twitter. It is so great to hear how things work in other classrooms and to get new ideas. I really love how Cherie uses screencastomatic to make homework help videos. I wonder if I could do something similar but instead make them summary videos to tell what we learned either that day or maybe even for the week (time always seems to be an issue). Another thought would be to assign students this task during the semester.