Archive | March, 2012

Final Reflection Post

12 Mar

What attitudes, skills, and concepts have you gained from participating in the course so far?

As we come to a close of Ed Tech Bootcamp, I am a different teacher from where we started nine weeks ago.  I never wanted to learn the technology, use it or listen to people who droned on endlessly over the great things they were doing in the class because of their tech knowledge.  I realized the transformation had taken place right around my work on the Livebinder Project that I prepared for my final project.  The idea to create Livebinder came from one of the people I follow on Twitter who maintain Livebinders for all of her classroom units.  I would look at them (tech forward teachers) with great envy and wonder how and why I did not do to more effectively gather resources and more efficiently communicate with my students.  Instead of wanting to be her, I became the person who created the Unit and I have now shared it a few of my colleagues who have implemented it.   I enjoyed every minute of learning a new application I have never worked with before.  While frustration grew over the learning curve involved, I became obsessed with the improvements that could be made to my Imperialism Unit by using the technology resources included in the project.  While learning Livebinder was new, it was a great feeling to embed a Google Doc Form for evaluation, File Stork/Dropbox for submitting completed work, a wiki class discussion page and embed a You Tube Video in the binder.  Outside of a poorly maintained wiki, I had never even had accounts with these companies who I now use comfortably in my classroom.  It was no longer just using technology.  I truly incorporated it into a full-fledged application of everything I had learned and reflected my desire to learn more.

What have you learned in the course that you will not forget tomorrow?

I learned how to find answers.  We ran into a problem with Group Project 2 when Prezi would not load into Voicethread.  Did we just waste our time on the Prezi that we had become so attached to?  A quick You Tube search and we had a video explaining how to use Screen-o-matic in order to voice over a Prezi.  The time we spent cursing technology and all of the problems with it became productive, solution seeking, forward thinking group collaboration time.  The solution worked and I knew I had learned something.  I learned that I can make contributions to this community of educators.  When we first created our PLN, I was convinced that I would be a blog, twitter voyeur.  I am a watcher, learner and implementer.  I was not the contributor.  By my fourth blog post, I had included in my response the suggestion to use “Stick Pick” to the writer offering critical thinking ideas.  I have no words to explain to you how good it felt that I, in this instance, could not help but share a resource that would clearly meet the needs explained in the blog.  A contributor is what I am most proud of – not only to my colleagues, but to my PLN and, hopefully, to the body of knowledge in this field.  For my dissertation, I am hoping to measure the outcomes of 1:1 initiatives in our district and their impact on high ability learners and creative output.  I am fascinated by the potential of the technology forward classroom.

How will you apply what you have learned to your teaching and future learning?

While I have loved what I have turned in for class, it is what is happening in my classroom that I have done that I most proud of from my Ed Tech experience.  In Women’s Studies, the students’ wiki is much more powerful as they engage in Current Event Discussions through various on-line techniques that I have learned from this class.  Or, am I most proud that the projects that they have completed – Professional Level Presentations of Top Ten Lists of Things we can do to improve Girl Culture have been completed on Web 2.0 applications and submitted through the wiki?  Gone are the days of fumbling around through multiple log-ins.  We now embed the presentation right into our wiki page.  When open, I can click on each link and project the presentations made using, but not limited to,  GoAnimate, Prezi, Voice Thread and Glogster.  In the Critical Thinking Course, weekly written forms have become on-line docs that are submitted and reviewed easily by my co-teaching partner and I.  The application is because I know now that I can learn them and, while I will not everything about each application, I can learn and assist students in learning which application would be the right one to use for the information that they want to convey.

Blog 4: Ten Take Away Tips for Teaching Critical Thinking

8 Mar

  Taken from Ten Takeaway Tips to Increase Critical Thinking

Ten Takeaway Tips for Teaching Critical Thinking

Suggestions from educators at KIPP King Collegiate High School on how to help develop and assess critical thinking skills in your students.

By Mariko Nobori
Suggestions from educators at KIPP King Collegiate High School on how to help develop and assess critical thinking skills in your students.

Ideally, teaching kids how to think critically becomes an integral part of your approach, no matter what subject you teach. But if you’re just getting started, here are some concrete ways you can begin leveraging your students’ critical-thinking skills in the classroom and beyond.

1. Questions, questions, questions.

Questioning is at the heart of critical thinking, so you want to create an environment where intellectual curiosity is fostered and questions are encouraged. For Jared Kushida, who teaches a global politics class called War and Peace at KIPP King Collegiate, “lecturing” means integrating a flow of questions throughout a lesson. “I rarely go on for more than 30 seconds without asking a question, and I rarely stop at that one question,” he explains.

In the beginning stages, you may be doing most of the asking to show your students the types of questions that will lead to higher-level thinking and understanding. You can also use “wrong” answers as opportunities to explore your students’ thinking. Then ask more questions to lead them in a different direction. As students become more comfortable and skilled, their questions will drive the class discussions.

2. Start with a prompt and help them unpack it.

Pose a provocative question to build an argument around and help your students break it down. Identify any ambiguous or subjective terms and have students clarify and define them. For example, Katie Kirkpatrick, who teaches ninth-grade Speech & Composition at KIPP King Collegiate, poses this question in the first unit of her class: “Is a life in poverty the responsibility of the individual or a result of outside factors?” She guides her class to identify “responsibility of the individual” and “result of outside factors” as what she calls “shady terms” that need definition. Once the terms are clearly defined, students are better able to seek and find evidence that is relevant to their argument.

3. Provide tools for entering the conversation.

At the beginning of the year, Kirkpatrick gives her students a list of sentence starters and connectors such as “I agree/disagree because,” “I can connect to your statement because,” and “Can you clarify what you mean by.” Providing them with these words gives them ways to enter the conversation and will guide their thought process in analyzing the argument.

4. Model your expectations.

“It all comes back to modeling,” says Kellan McNulty, who teaches AP world history and AP U.S. history at KIPP King Collegiate. “If you have a behavioral expectation, the best way to teach that is to model.” In fact, he learned how to facilitate effective Socratic discussions by observing his colleague. Similarly, he demonstrates for his students ways to enter a conversation, the difference between an analytical point and a summary, and appropriate ways to disagree with one another. Kirkpatrick uses examples, both good and bad, of people presenting arguments and having Socratic discussions from sites such as YouTube. Some sample links include:

5. Encourage constructive controversy.

Lively discussions usually involve some degree of differing perspectives. McNulty even uses a “devil’s advocate” card that he secretly gives to a student before each discussion, charging him or her with the role of bringing up opposing views. You can give students controversial topics and let them hash it out, but make sure to first demonstrate for them respectful ways of disagreeing and establish clear rules for voicing different perspectives. These rules include the language to use when disagreeing and that the disagreement must be objective, such as finding a flaw in the evidence or the reasoning, not a subjective disagreement based on personal opinions.

6. Choose content students will invest in.

It’s important to choose topics that are relevant and significant to students to get them talking and engaged. Kirkpatrick wanted social justice to be the overarching theme for her class. The topic struck a chord with the students and motivated them to build the communication skills they needed to effectively voice their views. Kushida spends much of his prep time finding rich sources (including texts, photos, art, even a single word) about pressing, relevant content to help fuel the discussions. He follows up with a deep arsenal of questions that range from factual to analytical to connective to philosophical.

7. Set up Socratic discussions.

Socratic discussion is the method of inquiry in which participants ask one another questions that test logic with the goal of gaining greater understanding or clarity. At King, teachers regularly set up formal Socratic discussions to give students the opportunity to challenge one another intellectually. The teachers serve primarily as observers, offering prompts only when there is a lull in the conversation, but otherwise leaving it to the students to keep the discussion moving. They strive to engage students in Socratic dialogue informally as well. Kushida explains that he works Socratic questioning in every single day by “never being satisfied with a student answer that does not result in another question and always pushing and counterquestioning and teaching them to do the same.”

8. Assess their reasoning through different methods.

To know whether your students are learning to think critically, you need a window into their thought processes. So challenge them to communicate back to you. Essays, Socratic discussions, and speeches give students the chance to demonstrate their skill and allow you to evaluate their reasoning in a variety of situations. Even written tests can foster critical thinking if they require the student to provide counterarguments to a series of statements using details and evidence from the unit of study. You can also assign your students topics to research and then let them lead the classroom discussion. Doing so will help you assess their understanding of the material and their skill at communicating it.

9. Let students evaluate each other.

It can be difficult to assess students while simultaneously facilitating a Socratic discussion. But one way teachers at King give some of the responsibility to the students is by setting up the room in a “fishbowl” configuration, with an inner circle and an outer circle. Students in the inner circle are the active participants while those in the outer are their peer evaluators. Kirkpatrick, McNulty, and others at King use a Socratic seminar rubric that clearly lays out the components of analytical thinking so the students know exactly what to look for. And by evaluating their peers with the same rubric the teacher uses, students gain a better understanding of the criteria for strong critical thinking and discussion.

10. Step back.

It can be hard for a teacher to let go of the reins and let the students do the teaching. “But when you remove yourself from the equation,” McNulty explains, “that really forces the kids to step up.” And when you give students the responsibility to be the thinkers in the class and drive the content, they may take it in unexpected directions that are more relevant to them and are thus more likely to stick.

This article originally published on 7/11/2011

Comments (5)

Posted on 3/8/2012 8:30am

Technology & Critical Thinking

What a great post!  You really hit on some key steps to developing critical thinking skills.  What is always is difficult is determining the level of understanding and how far your students are on scaffolded skills.  Technology provides us with numerous new ways to measure that growth.  One area that may help is “stick pick” –  which allows for individual tracking of student growth and methods for measuring their ability to critically think.  I am impressed by how students can have a more valid connection at a deeper level with content by compelling them to respond through a tech application.  Any tips to increase critical thinking benefits our students.  Thanks!