Citable: Super Simple Online Research Tool

Citable is a Chrome Extension that can be used in research to collect and tag notes and quotes.

Add the Citable app to Chrome. The, when you find a quote or note you like, highlight it and click the Citable icon. You’ll choose or create a topic name, give your quote a tag or add a note,. Citable will save your note or quote in a Google Spreadsheet that can then be sorted, etc.

Screencastify Chrome Extension

Screencastify is my #1 favorite Chrome Extension for teachers and students. It has multiple uses for teachers and students, not the least of which is cloning the teacher. Do you have instructions or lessons that you find yourself repeating more than 3 times a day? If so, try recording it!

Use Screencastify for:
Mini-lessons: Your students can rewatch if they get stuck, catch up when they are absent, and much more.
Directions or explanations: Think stations or beginning of class procedures.
Student feedbackPull up a student product and speak your feedback.)
Student language or fluency practice
Student peer teaching or projects

Check out Kathy Schrock’s Screencasting Guide for more ideas!

Check out my collection of the Top 10 Chrome Extensions.

Learning to Learn: Rewiring My Brain?

“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?

Tangled Christmas lights

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?

Why Innovation? #IMMOOC

Day 2 - Boring

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
    student engagement by grade level

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 Good?? – #IMMOOC

eraser for webMistakes 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?