The Power of Introverts

Susan Cain just wrote a book called “Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.” I thought I’d share this article and video where she discusses education, group work, collaboration and how society may be losing out by promoting a culture of what she calls the “New Groupthink”. It has started me thinking about what the implications are for how we integrate technology into our classrooms…

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Course 1 Final Project

Internal Assessment season is almost over for another year. Now I can turn my attention to some unfinished business.

My course 1 final project is an economics lesson on scarcity. I have added some ways technology can be integrated into the lesson to help students make more sense and meaning and to help with transfer of knowledge.

Background and process:

I like to start out this lesson by giving out some sweet rice cakes at the start of class. I will then put up two pictures on the digital projector: one of arid land and one of people queuing to buy something. I will then ask students to think about where these pictures are taken. Students are usually surprised that the first picture is Australia and the second is Thailand.

I then ask students what is the connection between the rice cakes, the Australian picture of arid land and the Thailand picture of people lining up. What are people queuing to buy? (answer: rice)

Students will report on the causes and effects of Australia’s rice shortage and why that is also affecting a big rice producer like Thailand.

Students will then identify another commodity on the world market and trace the effects of a shortage or surplus on a world map.

Diagrams will be created throughout different segments of the lesson(s) and shared/discussed online using Google docs and wikis.

Getting It Wrong from the Beginning

I enjoyed the readings and videos this week. Dan Meyer says a student can pass a unit without knowing any physics but just by knowing how to decode the text book. I suppose you could look at the upside. They didn’t learn any real physics but did learn the skill of how to decode a text book. In economics we call that a distortion of the market or in this case a distortion of the learning. The incentive put in place leads to a different outcome than intended. It reminded me of a book I read a couple of years back called “Getting it wrong from the beginning” 

The Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) described in the Horizon Report looks like an interesting concept but it sounds a lot like putting a new name on “Differentiated Learning”. What I see the difference being is that the student is empowered more in the creation of their own learning plan for a PLE. This learning avenue is now available to the students because of new technology innovation. It’s up to the educators now, to start to develop and implement PLEs.

Some interesting global collaborative sites I found and which I could use in my units would be sites like My Economic Story where people share their stories about how changes in the economy are affecting their lives. Putting a human face on these economic factors really helps students to understand and relate to the economic concepts they are learning. Patchworknation  is another great site for understanding the characteristics of various communities throughout a country. These communities are given names depending on their economic or social characteristics like: Boom towns, Emptying Nests, Tractor Country, Immigration Nation and many other telling names.  Another site is PBS news hour extra which has a section called “Student Voices” that allows students from around the world to share their stories on important events happening in their countries. As more initiatives increase opportunities for more global collaborations between students/teachers, learning can be made more relevant and the pursuit of knowledge is going to be that more fun and exciting!

Shaping the Classroom for Tech

Since we started using laptops in my school along with the addition of a digital projector in my classroom the teaching and learning has became much more rich. It’s been a process though. Shaping Tech for the Classroom touches on some of my experiences from first dabbling and then doing things in old then new ways and finally doing new things in new ways. Training and finding the time is always an issue but I wouldn’t say I was ever “afraid to experiment” with new technology although letting students have the space to work effectively and not feel like you have to be in total control of what they are doing on their laptops is always a bit of a struggle for me. One of the things I don’t think the article mentions and that I have found important from my own experience, is the physical environment, and how small changes can make a dramatic impact when technology is implemented in the classroom. When we went with bigger desks this year it really allowed me to use all the resources I like using in teaching economics. Having students being able to have their laptop, textbooks, and mini whiteboards all easily accessible really improved our ability to quickly transition between activities and back again. I can quickly check student retention with the mini whiteboards and move on to another activity on the laptops with the textbook easily available for a quick resource check. To get teachers to buy in and get them using the technology you really have to provide them with not the just the tools, training and support to take risks but the physical environment to use them effectively. Something as simple as desks can have a significant impact on the overall effectiveness of technology integration.

I enjoyed the video on “when I become a teacher” but I really don’t see many of those teachers in the international setting (well maybe the occasional quiet one trying to become an administrator). On a similar theme check out Mr. Gump’s comment as he compares teachers to a box of…

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If you want to see more from this group check out the 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Educators.

Instigator or Catalyst ? (Part I)

21st century teacher freedom fighter or 18th century teacher terrorist? Do you have a label in your organization? I sometimes get called an “instigator”. If you are going to label me I prefer the term “catalyst” :-). Communication can sometimes get shut down. People have something to say but they are afraid to say it. If I sense that is the case I might “initiate” more discussion even though I might not have the positional clout or for that matter the knowledge myself. I do this with the hope of giving an opening to a more knowledgeable colleague who is waiting for the opportunity to articulate a great point . Challenge, question and move things forward is a sound strategy in my opinion.

Sometimes or maybe often when I am reading something I will start to relate it to other things in my life or broaden the context. As I read through “A Learning Theory for the Digital Age” I couldn’t help but think of my own organization. “The health of the learning ecology of the organization depends on effective nurturing of information flow”. I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Both within the classroom and outside how can we keep this “pipe” flowing with information? Yes the pipe is more important than the content. I am trying to build that pipe in my classroom with the new learning tools available so my students can get that content when they are ready and at time and place that is convenient to them. I also use these tools as I communicate with teachers and administration at my school.

Since I cannot “experience everything…I store my knowledge in my friends” Through the use of these new communication technologies we are in fact more than ever experiencing an amazing opportunity to “collect knowledge through collecting people”. I do notice the ways I am doing this now and I can only envision expanding on these ways as I become more knowledgeable in the future. Finding the time of course is going to be an issue but as the article mentions, mastering new skills like learning to quickly access what is needed should also help with this challenge. And no I haven’t mastered this yet!