Toby Chrome Extension claims to be better that bookmarks, and IT IS! It is a super easy tool for teachers and learners to use to save and share Web pages.
With Toby, you simply drag a tab over to add it to a collection. And just one more click turns the collection into a Webpage. Check out my collection for the Top 10 Chrome Extensions.
“You can rewire your brain.” Every time I hear that, it just gets all over me. My brain does not have any wires in it, so how could it be wired again, right?
Recently, I read a post by Dr. Hilary Stokes, that made it make sense. No, my brain doesn’t have real, hard wires, but it is made of networks that are like those light sets I wrestle with every December.
It works like this: When I think of something, I make a set of lights come on. “The more I think, feel and act the same way, the faster the lights turn on and the brighter they glow.”
So, our brains really can be rewired. It’s called “neuroplasticity.” The difference in our brains and my Christmas tree is that each neuron (think light) can connect to tens of thousands of other neurons. Our brains are constantly forming new connections as we think and feel and act.
We used to think that either a person was a good learner, or he wasn’t. What we know now, because of brain research and technology, is that as our brains change, we can become better learners. Our students can learn to learn. Just like we can practice playing the piano to become better, our students can also practice learning to become better learners. There are strategies that our students can practice to make those Christmas lights come on more quickly and shine brighter.
Brain research is new and we are still learning about those strategies that help us become better learners, but Ulrich Boser has identified three strategies that we can put to work in our classrooms today.
Set Clear Goals
Research shows that people with clear goals learn better with those with no goals, or with vague goals. See how other teachers are helping students set and reach goals.
Think about Thinking
Meta-cognition is a real thing and it is good for more than helping our students pass a test. Thinking about thinking actually does that rewiring thing.
Reflect on Learning
Reflecting on the learning is moving away from the learning, letting our brains chill, and the bringing our minds back to what we learned.
I know; these are not new. As educators, we’ve known that these are good practices, but now, we know that they actually rewire our own brains.
And, isn’t that what teaching is all about?
Though teachers are working harder than ever,
and we have more standards and testing than ever, and our curriculum is more aligned than ever,
what we’re doing isn’t working.
It’s working for some of our kids; it’s probably working for your kids if you are reading a blog about education. But, it isn’t working for ALL of our kids.
It’s not just my opinion; over 21 studies show virtually the same thing.
- Less than half of our students feel positively about their college and career readiness. YouthTruth Student Survey 2015
- Just under half of our kiddos report feeling engaged in school, and a fifth are actively disengaged. Gallup Student Poll 2016
- Student engagement drops yearly from 5th grade to 11th grade, only rising slightly when seniors see the light at the end of the tunnel. Gallup Student Poll 2015
So, what can we do for the kids not represented by the blue bars, for the ones who aren’t engaged?
That’s why we innovate!
Mistakes are not really something I have embraced. In first grade, Mrs. Arnold told me that she was going to take my eraser away from me if I didn’t quit using it so much.
For most of my time in the classroom, I did my best to keep my students from making mistakes. I thought it was my job to prevent kiddos from messing up. Maybe that was a mistake. . .
As I’ve grown as a teacher, I’ve grown into the idea that it really is good to let learners fail, to have them do the hard work, to allow them to learn from the struggle. Though I grew up with a fixed mindset, I’ve been working to have more of a growth mindset.
But Jo Boaler (@joboaler) moved me a little further this week in #IMMOOC Season 3, Episode 1. She explained that mistakes cause our brains to spark and grow. Really!?! That was a big shock. How can that be? Well, I’ll spare you the science, but it has something to do with firing synapses. Read more here.
So, instead of creating learning experiences where kiddos don’t have to make mistakes, we should be designing learning experiences that encourage mistakes.
I get it; that means more project and problem-based learning, more inquiry, more real-world problem solving. But, does it mean no more “gradual release;” no more “I do, we do, you do”?
What do you think?
Scrapbooking . . . I just never really go into it. Well, I do have books of scrapbook paper in my closet and an empty scrapbook. I wanted to be a scrapbooker, but it was just too much. It took way too much time. I just couldn’t take time to get the supplies out and get it out.
In my last post, New and Improved, I reflected on how we know something is really innovative. I said that we have to have a body of evidence to support that something is better. The evidence can’t be a once at the end of the year state test. That doesn’t tell us enough.
Johnna Weller (@johnnaweller) of Discovery Education says we should look at evidence like we look at a scrapbook of our kids’ lives. We don’t want just one glossy 8×10 school picture. That doesn’t tell the whole story. It tells part of the story, but not enough. It’s better than nothing, but if that one picture is all we have, it is unfortunate. To really see how our kiddos have grown, we want to see pictures from the first day of school, pictures from sporting events, pictures for birthdays .
But, again, paper scrapbooking has always been too much trouble for me. I would much rather go digital, put all the pics in an online album or make a movie. My favorite movies, though are the ones my kids made themselves, the collages they post to Instagram. Those tell me even more than what I made. Those give me the best picture of how they have grown.
So, how do I know that something is new and better, that something is good for my learners? What if I asked them? What if the learners kept their own “scrapbook” of their growth? What if they were the innovators who determine if something is new and improved?
New and Improved! Really?
I wonder whether the “improved” Zest soap from this 1961 commercial is actually a new and improved product or if it is just new packaging, or a new spin on an existing product to reach a new audience. Is it actually new and improved?
In The Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros defines innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better. (Is that the same as new and improved?)
We’re doing lots of NEW things, trying new pedagogies, using new tools. YAY, that’s the first step in being innovative.
But that’s only the first half of innovation. The second part, the most important part ,is:
Does it REALLY work?
NOT “new and improved Zest” work,
NOT 100% on the state test work
but does it REALLY work?
Is this right for kids?
Katie Martin challenged me this week in her post, How do you know if it’s not just new, but better?
How do I KNOW? Well, I can see that it is better. I think it is better. Maybe it is better. But, how do I KNOW? Hmmm . . .
Well, I have to have evidence. In school, I learned that there is direct and indirect evidence. On the true crime podcast I listen to, they talk about corroborated evidence, or evidence that is supported by other evidence. I love the definition brought up by a Google search: “the available BODY of facts.”
To know that something is new and improved, new and better, innovative, we need evidence, corroborated evidence, a body of evidence.
To be honest, I don’t really like the word “innovation.” It’s a noun, a label. After something is invented or created or built, someone announces, “THAT is an innovation.”
People are always asking what it is, “how should we define innovation?”
Well, maybe we shouldn’t.
Maybe instead of trying to define innovation, we should just innovate. Take action. Go for it. Take a leap. Make things better. Do something!
I just read a great post by Kelli McCoy about her journey from technology integration to teaching like a PIRATE. She is taking action, going for it, trying new strategies to make things better for her kids.
That’s what it means to innovate: it’s a verb.