I’m spending a few days at Online Education Symposium for Independent Schools (OESIS) in Cambridge, MA. I’m presenting on the question of how to best use face to face time in blended classes. It’s a topic that I think gets less attention than it deserves. I won’t be surprised if in a time not so far away, teachers and schools will be asked (by parents, legislatures, society) to justify face to face time. That’s why I think it’s important to start these conversations now.
Here’s the description for the session….
What Do We Do Now That We’re Here? Maximizing Classroom Time in a Blended Learning Class
Meredith Stewart, Teacher and Department Chair, Cary Academy (NC)
Much energy has been focused on how to maximize student learning and engagement in the online component of a blended course. This session will explore the less discussed, but equally important question of how to most effectively use the reduced classroom time in a blended course. We’ll consider how to best use face-to-face time in blended courses to complement online instruction, rather than simply replicating traditional classroom instruction. Led by a teacher with four years of blended classroom experience in an independent school, participants will experience a mini-simulation of classroom activity and then
discuss how such activities can work in tandem with online instruction to enhance student learning
Here’s a link to the video we watched during the presentation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXRZgVm11pA
What value do you see, if any, in face to face classroom interactions?
As part of 8th grade US History, I ask students to set goals for the year. (The goals sheet also turns into a faux certificate for 8th grade Celebration practice at the end of the year.) In the past this lesson has been a little meh. I was happy with the change I made to ask students tie their goals/reflection to our school’s mission statement, but I also wanted a way to introduce the lesson in a way that felt a bit more authentic and related to US History.
After the Teaching with Primary Sources Institute at the Library of Congress this summer I wondered if there was a primary source doc that could be used for a quick intro. I remembered a LifeHacker post that I’d seen describing Ben Franklin’s system for monitoring his habits as outlined in his autobiography. The LoC didn’t have a digital copy of the Autobiograpy, but they were able to point me to one.
I began by giving students a portion of the document. I asked them to make observations, guesses*, and questions about the document. They fairly quickly guessed that the letters at the top of the chert represented days of the week. Students had some interesting ideas about what the document might represent (a chart for showing which days to feed children? a diet? a chart to help alcoholics stay sober?) We also talked about who the author might be and students guessed by the way that the definition of temperance was written that it was probably an old document.
I then projected page 215 of the Autobiography that lists the virtues Franklin was trying to cultivate and asked students to revisit their guesses about what the purpose of the document was based on them. After they’d shared, I projected a page from Franklin’s Autobiography describing his method. We briefly discussed whether students thought this was a useful system and then segued into writing their own goals/reflections.
*The Library of Congress’s materials refer to these as reflections, but I’ve found that this terms doesn’t seem to resonate with students and hypotheses or guesses works better.
A couple days ago Meeno asked a really interesting question on Twitter.
I didn’t have an immediate answer, but after thinking on it some I think the book I need is Tighten Up: Improving Your Habits and Classroom Practice to Create Richer Learning Experiences.
I’d write a book that would be more than how to use technology to be more productive or how to stay organized or how to connect with students or how to plan well-scaffolded lessons or how to develop beneficial habits in one’s personal life. I would write a book that discusses those things with the end of student learning and joy in mind. My hope is that this year will be that book, or at least a first draft of it.
I’m sure I’ve got a lot to learn, but as I enter my 7th year of teaching, I feel like I know much of what I need to do. I just need to tighten up. It’s tempting to imagine that tightening up would look like creating the perfect lesson or project before students arrive, but they are the most important part of lessons and projects. To think that I could craft the perfect year before they walk into the classroom is fanciful, but what I can do is design experiences, choose materials, and ask questions that hopefully create the space for that learning and joy to occur.
Of course, every school year needs a theme song. This one seems to fit…
Today was the final day of the LoC STI. It has been a fantastic week. I’m truly sad to part company with the other participants and facilitators.
As a culminating activity, we presented the primary sources activity plan that we had created in a sort of speed learning format. It was incredible to hear just a few of the activities that participants had developed. One of my biggest takeaways was the importance of creating time and space for wonder and questioning. Hopefully that shows up in the lesson plan I created for discussing what coming to the colonies represented for slaves and indentured servants. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m looking forward to teaching it in the fall.
Arianna, while presenting her activity, said that she was going to ask students, “What do you notice in the document that you can’t explain?” I thought this was a fantastic question that would push students into deeper inquiry.
I got several emails today about the first days of school. Hard to believe that teachers head back to school in a little over a week. It’s been a great summer and LoC STI was a huge part of that. The picture below I think illustrates the joy of discovery and learning that the week represented for me.
A quick post composed mostly of pictures tonight because I still need to write up my activity plan to share at our gallery walk tomorrow.
We spent some time writing as a way to demonstrate the knowledge we’d gained from the NYC draft riot primary sources we’d analyzed in the Thinking Like a Historian exercises. I chose to present my writing as a series of tweets from a reporter.
In the afternoon, I visited the African American Civil War museum. It was a very small museum and not a lot of new information to me, but it was interesting to look at photos of southern legislatures during Reconstruction.
Had dinner at Busboys & Poets with a former colleague and got a chance to browse the bookstore. What an awesome selection! I was bummed that the screening of the Emmett Till documentary that I had a ticket for was overbooked and I didn’t get a seat :(
It was a beautiful night, so we walked down to Dupont and made a stop at Krispy Kreme. Sadly none for me, since flour makes my stomach hurt, but it was fun to watch Tim to decide what flavors to get.
Two highlights of LoC STI today- The first was getting to visit the Geography and Maps Reading Room at the LoC. Mike, one of the room’s librarians, had pulled several really interesting maps for us to look at. I was excited to get to see an original print of the map of US at the time of the 1860 election that I’ve used in class. We also got to see a map annotated by Meriweather Lewis and one drawn by George Washington. The maps room holds over 5.5 million maps!
In the afternoon, we broke into small groups to practice facilitating discussion of primary sources. While it can feel a little awkward to “practice” in front of other teachers, it was an incredibly useful experience. Most of us were facilitating discussion of sources with which we were not familiar, so it pushed us to avoid playing the role of expert and wonder along with our “students.”
After the STI was over for the day, I walked over to the Rayburn Office building to meet with a Senior Legislative Assistant to my US Representative David Price. I enjoyed meeting Kate and talking about teacher professional development and federal education issues generally. I also took the opportunity to sing the praise of the LoC and the National Writing Project.
I wrapped up the night with some ginger tea and coconut rice pudding at Teaism, one of my favorite spots in DC.
Got off at Union Station on the way back and walked home past the Capitol and Supreme Court building.
I think the cover they’ve got up while they’re doing work on the Supreme Court building makes it look like a movie set
One of the afternoon sessions at the LoC STI today focused on the question focused on how to chose which primary sources you use in a lesson. This led to some interesting conversations about considerations related to required background knowledge for interpretation, reading levels, and the desired role of the primary source in the lesson. (Hopefully the handout that we received including a list of questions to consider when selecting a primary source for use in a classroom will be posted online soon.)
Earlier in the day, we participated in a map activity to put into practice some of the strategies described in an article we read on helping students make their thinking visible. We were asked to make hypothesis based on small sections of a map we were given and then revise our hypothesis once we had seen other sections of the map.
I’ve started working on the activity I want to develop for teaching about indentured servant-hood and slavery in the colonies. I also want to work to develop language to help the colonies unit feel a bit more cohesive, so students don’t get the sense that today is “slave day” and feel it is disconnected from the rest of the content. I’m thinking about having the sort of framing questions be- What did coming to the colonies represent for different groups of people? What motivated their travel or what motivated others to bring them by force?
After the building had closed to the public, we got to visit the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress and the Card Catalog. Yes, Virginia, there is a nerd heaven.
Important advice from the card catalog