Conversation with Gardner

Reading this interview/conversation between Marge Scherer and Howard Gardner helped me solidify my belief that constructivism is a great way to prepare today’s students.  If you throw in Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory (MI) you may have the perfect recipe.  I place a lot of emphasis on meta-cognition in my own learning and I found the insightful responses from Gardner to be supportive of teacher and student meta-cognition.

My favorite word in this discussion was GRAPPLE.  I love to watch my students grapple, which I believe is a cross between struggle and grasp.  The trick is to know when students have reached their grappling limit:  frustration may not be a good thing.  Constructivism is not letting the students teach themselves, but guiding without “giving away” the desired outcome(s).  Incorporating MI into this equation seems almost too obvious – give choice, allow students to show their strengths, but also provide a non-threatening environment to explore and improve all MI areas.

I also liked the comparison between a constructivist and behaviorist classroom.  I realize that I still hold on to some behaviorist practices, but believe that I definitely fall on the constructivist side of the mountain.   For me, understanding is far more important than reciting facts (that is over-simplifying but demonstrates my point).  Sometimes in a behaviorist classroom students never make the jump to connect the dots.  I feel like in a constructivist classroom the dots are initially connected and then the students de-construct for meaning.  I guess I am grappling right  now. 🙂


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Adopt & Adapt

The article, “Adopt and Adapt,” by Marc Prensky wrote about the path to “Edutopia.”  Edutopia is a dream-like perfect world for 21st century schools.  Prensky recounts how schools tend to use technology and then challenges us to make a different choice, a choice that will put our schools (and our future) closer to Edutopia.

He states that most schools adopt technology by proceeding through four basic steps:

  1. dabbling => sampling technology, trying many but not perfecting any :/
  2. old things => old ways, stay the same 😦
  3. old things => new ways, same ideas but integrating technology to complete 🙂
  4. new things => new ways, inventive & innovative activities developed parallel to technology integration, 🙂 !!!!! :0

Many obstacles are described:  non-access for teachers/students for MANY applications, lack of one-to-one technology devices, change resistance, out-dated school design (physical and time), and time-intensive to initially set up technology based activities.

I have experienced all of these obstacles at one time or another; in fact, I still experience these obstacles.  On the other  hand I have also witnessed and experienced some successes with each of these obstacles.  Access is a constant battle, but it is getting better (for me and my students).  I still cannot access youtube at school, but my students can email a file to themselves from school!  All students do not have devices for personal/educational use; however, I do have nine computers in my classroom (rotation works pretty well) and I do have access to a computer lab (when it is available) with 36 computers.  I have already signed up for second semester!   I probably used to be the person who did not want to change – now that I  have started my conversion I really notice the others who do not want or try to change (integrate technology).  Five years ago I transferred from an older, low-tech school to a new, high-tech school.  Externally, the physical lay-out was very similar, but internally, the new school was WIRED for technology.  It is difficult when the infrastructure o f an older building limits the technology use.  Currently, I am in the process of increasing my repertoire of technology-integrated lessons/activities and it is more time-consuming, but worth it.

I guess the moral or the lesson here is “new, new, new!”  We must be inventive, innovative, and tech-savvy to prepare today’s students for the 21st century world.  Do not settle for adopting technology; the goal should be to adapt to using technology.

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Brain Science and Education

Kobayashi, Noboru. (2004).  Brain Science and Education.  News from the       Neurosciences, New Horizons for Learning.  Retrieved November 7, 2010 from        McDaniel College Blackboard CUR 505 embedded link.

First of all, Dr. Noboru’s credentials are amazing and his life’s work is to improve the lives of children by uniting science and education.  He is my new hero!  Coming from a biology undergraduate major, I can identify with the importance of linking these two fields.  As the brain matures it develops pathways from “programs,” which Noboru believes are innate. As the operation of these programs increases the pathways in the brain, the mind and body create “ikiru chikara,” or “the ability to grow and adapt.”  This is one of the many definitions of learning.

Historically, brains were examined after death and in patients with obvious deficiencies; procedures were invasive to say the least.  It was not until the late 20th century that techniques were developed and perfected to allow study of the “normal” brain.  And now in the early 21st century increased medical technology has paved the way for even more detailed analysis of brain activity, even in living patients, and it’s non-invasive!  These new techniques allow more detail of brain activity than ever before. 

The field of educational psychology is expanding exponentially.  Norboru believes that the 21st century will be “the century of the brain.”  The advances in brain science and technology will not only help those with brain disorders but should also improve the understanding of how humans learn.  The 21st century is truly an exciting time to be an educator!

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Tomlinson Article

“Mapping a Route Toward Differentiated Instruction,” an article by Carol Ann Tomlinson, begins with some tough questions for educators.  She asks if we can really expect students in the same grade to learn the same information at the same pace and utilizing the same methods.  Did you see that repeated word, SAME?  It’s kind of the opposite of DIFFERENT.  If we (educators) want different outcomes, we need to use different and varying methods!  It’s as simple as that.

Tomlinson describes three classrooms, each with a varying degree of differentiation going on.  Likely, all educators will be able to place themselves somewhere in respect to these three educators.  One = all defined content, no differentiation; Two = undefined content, much differentiation; and Three – defined and connected content, planned differentiation with culminating connections.  Tomlinson’s obvious point is well-taken:  differentiation needs to be part of the plan from the beginning.  I believe that good differentiation is “front-heavy” and “end-light,” meaning there is more work for the teacher in the beginning than in the end of a unit, but well worth it for the understanding and achievement gained by the students. 

As Tomlinson reminds us, “… students can take different roads to the same destination.”

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Heacox Chapters 1-3

Diane Heacox, author of Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom, has a lot of tips and examples to get any educator started down the road of differentiation.  Her approach is straight-forward and an easy read.

In Chapter 1, Heacox refers to the teacher’s role as a facilitator and a collaborator.  Coming from a science background that incorporates constructivism in the classroom I found many parallels.  Constructivism and differentiation use much of the same methodology and terminology, such as facilitator, multiple grouping methods, discovery, pre-assessment, tiered assignments, student choice to name a few.  I also agree that many teachers are currently employing many differentiation techniques, but using this education method consistently and systematically is the key.

Chapter 2 deals with “knowing your students.”  I had my students complete “multiple intelligence” checklist the first week of school so they (and I) could see their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning styles.  We refer back to the pre-assessment outcome often when choosing a project method.  At first I let the students choose the project method that was their strength, but now we are moving to the weaker areas for practice and improvement.  The students now realize the importance of knowing their strength, but also the importance of improving on their weaknesses.  Their final project will have to incorporate multiple “multiple intelligences.”  I also pre-assess before each unit so that I can better plan for instruction.  I usually use CPS response pads so that I can analyze the data quickly.  I also play games with the students during the first week to get to know the students and to review classroom procedures.  It really works and saves time down the road.

Chapter 3 was about “what” is taught.  Although I understand all of the material presented, I felt at a disadvantage when creating my curriculum map because I am teaching a “new to  me” class this year that has just had a curriculum overhaul.  There are standards in place with some guidance and sample activities, BUT there is no curriculum map already created, no scope & sequence already created, and no pre or post assessments.  Bad = I have to develop many activities and make sure they are aligned, Good = I am very good at knowing this curriculum now and am sure that the activities I am using are directly linked to the standards.

Much of the information offered by Heacox is not new; however, the approach is refreshing and I seem more ready to purposefully incorporate these strategies into my classroom.  More to come …

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My life as an educator . . .

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I decided to become an educator. This is a journey that will never end.

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Hello world!

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

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