Category Archives: knowledge building

Respecting Teachers’ Professionalism in Reading Instruction

booksIncreasing the reading ability of young people is a major focus of critics of schooling, and prescribed remedies constantly rain down upon us. It is refreshing, then, to re-visit Richard Allington’s What Really Matters for Struggling Readers (2006, 2nd edn.), as I (Clive) have recently done.

According to Allington, the remedies mandated at a system level typically have two flaws: (1) prescribing a single method for all students, and (2) not placing enough emphasis on the amount students read (including re-reading the same favorite works). With respect to the first, he says:

“Expecting any single method, material, or program to work equally well with every kid in every classroom is nonsensical. And yet we see increasing pressure for a standardization of reading curriculum and lessons…. The substantial research evidence that such plans have not produced the desired effects is routinely ignored in the latest quest for a cheap, quick fix.” (p. 34)

Regarding the second flaw in system mandates, Allington says:

“If I were required to select a single aspect of the instructional environment to change, my first choice would be creating a schedule that supported dramatically increased quantities of reading during the school day” (p. 35)

Unfortunately, federally funded Title I remedial reading and special education programs (in the US) have not increased the amount of reading children do. According to one study:

“[C]hildren who received reading instructional support from either program often had the volume of reading reduced rather than expanded as remedial and resource room lessons focused on other activities” (p. 43)

These “other activities” – such as extra phonics teaching, correcting pronunciation, asking comprehension questions – mean that children are interrupted in their reading. Apart from reducing reading time, this means children become used to being interrupted and read in a slow, hesitant manner, with half a mind on when the next interruption will come.

While attempting to support teachers in their reading instruction, then, it is essential to respect their professionalism so they are free to adapt to what works for individual students and give students abundant opportunities to read in peace.

 

How can we make professional development more useful?

I (Clare) was recently doing a Meet and Greet for our newly admitted student teachers to Image_PDcartoonour Master of Arts in Child Study teacher education program. I talked about how teaching is a journey and that you never stop learning. From our longitudinal study of teachers we know that teachers learn a great deal from each other and from reflecting on their teaching. I believe there is a place for formal professional development; however, many teachers (myself included) have found formal PD to be of little use. It is often so removed from daily practice, tends to be top-down, and is a one-off. Teachers need time and place for conversations about their teaching. There is a place for formal structured PD but the way it is so often delivered it is not effective. In previous blogs I have written about my teacher-researcher group which has been a very powerful form of PD because all of the teachers are working on a topic/question that is important to them. One of the students in my grad course sent me this cartoon about PD. Although I chuckled when I read it, I feel that is sums up the sentiments of many.

Using VR to Embed Indigenous Perspectives into Curriculum

virtual-reality-cree-syllabics
Source: http://www.cbc.ca

I (Pooja) wanted to share a new gaming technology used in classrooms that authentically highlights, honours and engages students in Indigenous world views. It is no surprise that Western world views and Indigenous world views do not always align (see link below); however, it is our moral imperative to educate ourselves and our students on different ways of knowing and understanding. This can be a tricky task if you are not familiar with perspectives outside of your own. How can we as educators authentically understand Indigenous world views so we can help our students develop this awareness as well? That is why I was excited to learn about a new gaming technology which Cree children in three James Bay communities are using to learn their ancestors language entitled Cree Syllabics Virtual Reality project. The 3D gaming technology immerses user in a virtual camp setting. CBC authors Wapachee and Little (2016) further explains:

Students put on headsets to enter a virtual camp setting where they meet a little girl named Niipiish and her dog Achimush. Using hand movements and buttons to move around within the camp, they go on a journey to prepare for Niipiish’s little brother’s walking-out ceremony, all the while identifying Cree words that describe the seasons, the environment and Cree traditions.

This immersive experience allows students to authentically engage with perspectives which they may or may not have grown up with. This is a powerful tool because students are able to arrive at new understandings through first-hand experiences. I hope to see this type of technology shared in classes everywhere soon!

Eight differences between Indigenous and western worldviews:

http://www.ictinc.ca/blog/indigenous-peoples-worldviews-vs-western-worldviews

Link to CBC article:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/james-bay-students-learn-cree-in-virtual-reality-1.3835500

Teachers are thanking Melania Trump

I (Clare) saw this fascinating video on BBC regarding plagiarism – Donald Trump’s wife using Michelle Obama’s words. Here is the link to the video: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-36836599

Teachers and academics in the UK and the US have taken to Twitter to thank Donald Trump’s wife for providing the perfect material to teach their students what plagiarism is and why it is wrong.

Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention has notable similarities with a speech given by current first lady Michelle Obama in 2008.

Can you really tell when kids are lying? And why to celebrate when kids lie!

Kang1My (Clare) friend and colleague Kang Lee did a Ted Talk about children and lying. It is

incredible interesting and based on 20 years of research. As teachers and parents we will need to know about his research – the results are surprising. Here is the link to the Ted Talk: https://www.ted.comtalkskang_lee_can_you_really_tell_if_a_kid_is_lying?utm_source=tedcomshare&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tedspread

Are children poor liars? Do you think you can easily detect their lies? Developmental researcher Kang Lee studies what happens physiologically to children when they lie. They do it a lot, starting as young as two years old, and they’re actually really good at it. Lee explains why we should celebrate when kids start to lie and presents new lie-detection technology that could someday reveal our hidden emotions.

Here is a link to his blog: http://kangleelab.com/AboutLee.html

A Constructivist Approach Requires Being Courageous

When we hear the term “courage” we often think of someone dashing into a burning building to save a child or an unarmed individual wrestling to the ground someone with a gun. Yes these are courageous acts but I (Clare) want to talk about an unsung group who I feel have the fortitude and tenacity to be courageous.

In our study of literacy teacher educators which we have written about on this blog we Image Courageous LTEshared some of our findings showing many examples of truly exemplary teaching. We are currently working on a paper about 6 literacy teacher educators who use a constructivist approach to their literacy courses. In this era where education is highly politicized with mandated national curriculum and oversight by external bodies it takes “guts” to adopt an approach that includes: knowledge is constructed by learners; knowledge is experience based; learning is social; all aspects of a person are connected; and learning communities should be inclusive and equitable.

Ahsan and Smith (2016) who advocate a social constructivist approach have identified practices that support learning based on the social constructivist theory

  • Social interaction and dialogue
  • Environment deeply rooted in culture
  • More Knowledgeable Others (MKOs) helping students
  • Scaffolding
  • Progressing through the zone of proximal development (ZPD)
  • Constructive and timely feedback
  • Collaboration among students (p. 134)

Constructivism does not mean that you discard traditional forms of teaching (lectures, assignments, and readings) but it requires the teacher educator to have an inquiry-orientation; not just model good teaching but unpack it with their student teachers often revealing their own vulnerabilities; willingly to admit that they learn from their student teachers; have courses that are organic because they respond to student teachers’ needs; and build a social and intellectual community — often blurring the traditional lines between professor and student teacher. Yes their courses can be somewhat messy because they create space for discussion which often veers off from the plan but they are addressing student teachers’ needs.

To teach in this way takes courage because they are teaching in a way that they most likely did not experience as a student. A constructivist framework which is both a philosophy and a pedagogy may be a more useful approach to reform than the endless lists of expectations. These literacy teacher educators trusted themselves and their student teachers. The next step is for governments to trust teacher educators. And we need to applaud their courage to think outside the box and truly focus on their student teachers.

Making Group Work More Personal and Inclusive

I (Clive) have posted before about the importance – in educational settings – of giving all Shawn Bullockmembers of a group a chance to speak. It now seems that similar observations are being made outside the educational realm. In Sunday’s New York Times Magazine (Feb 28, 2016), findings along these lines were noted in two studies from the world of work.

In a 2008-2010 Carnegie Mellon/M.I.T. study, a team of psychologists headed by Anita Wooley found that work teams with “pretty average members” were unusually effective when inclusive “group norms” were established. Wooley reported: “As long as everyone got a chance to talk, the team did well. But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined” (p. 24).

oopIn a later Google study called Project Aristotle, begun in 2012, researchers built on the Carnegie Mellon/M.I.T. study. They linked “conversational turn-taking” to a sense of “psychological safety” within a group. They found that work teams were more effective when there was a social emphasis and everyone had a chance to contribute. They reject a sharp personal/work dichotomy, stating that “no one wants to put on a ‘work face’ when they get to the office” (p. 72).

It seems hard to explain why group effectiveness and social inclusion would be connected Teachers working togetherin this way. More theory is needed in the area. But meanwhile I think we should consider these findings as we attempt to enhance our group discussion practices.

 

 

ClassDojo

ClassDojo (the animated classroom management tool) has partnered with Stanford University’s Project for Education Research That Scales (PERTS) to help educators weave a growth mindset into their courses. Growth mindset has become a buzz term recently and refers to our ability to understand that our knowledge and ability is not static; rather, our “brains are malleable and their abilities can be developed” (Schwartz, 2016). Research shows that once we understand our brain’s ability to develop, we approach learning as a challenge we can face.

ClassDojo has created a series of five free videos for educators to use. Each video is 2-3 minutes in length and builds upon one another in a sequence. The videos are titled:

Video 1: A secret about the brain
Video 2: The magic of mistakes
Video 3: The power of “yet”
Video 4: The mysterious world of neurons
Video 5: Little by little

 

Read more here: http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2016/01/19/what-classdojo-monsters-can-teach-kids-about-growth-mindset/

 

A Book Printing Machine at Toronto Library!

books.jpeg

The CBC reported that this past weekend the Toronto Reference Library unveiled book printing machine which allows individuals to walk away with store-quality books. As of now, authors can print 10 copies of  their books (150 pgs) for $145. A bit pricey in my opinion, but definitely unique with a lot of great potential for students, writers, educators, etc. CBC reports that “What’s new is the ability to self-publish books – whether your own piece of literature, a cook book, dissertation or whatever you choose for a relatively.” The Toronto Reference Library will soon be offering courses on how to best format books for professional looking books.

Read CBC article here:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-library-offers-store-quality-book-printing-to-customers-1.2670661