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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!

Blog 3: Discovering How to Learn Smarter

23 Feb

Taken from:

February 2, 2012 | 1:00 PM | By

Discovering How to Learn Smarter

FILED UNDER: Research, Brainology, learning styles, Neuroscience


By Annie Murphy Paul

It’s not often that a story about the brain warms the heart. But that’s exactly what happened to me when I read an article last month in the Washington Post. It’s about how teachers in many schools in the D.C. area are foregoing empty praise of the “Good job!” variety, in favor of giving students solid information that will do them some real good. That information concerns how their brains work and how their intelligence and skills develop, and it’s knowledge that should be made available to every child in the country.

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck conducted the groundbreaking research showing that praise intended to raise young people’s self-esteem can seriously backfire. When we tell children, “You’re so smart,” we communicate the message that they’d better not take risks or make mistakes, lest they reveal that they’re not so smart after all. Dweck calls this cautious attitude the “fixed mindset,” and she’s found that it’s associated with greater anxiety and reduced achievement. Students with a “growth mindset,” on the other hand, believe that intelligence can be expanded with hard work and persistence, and they view challenges as invigorating and even fun. They’re more resilient in the face of setbacks, and they do better academically.

Now Dweck has designed a program, called Brainology, which aims to help students develop a growth mindset. Its website explains: “Brainology makes this happen by teaching students how the brain functions, learns, and remembers, and how it changes in a physical way when we exercise it. Brainology shows students that they are in control of their brain and its development.” That’s a crucial message to pass on to children, and it’s not just empty words of encouragement—it’s supported by cutting-edge research on neuroplasticity, which shows that the brain changes and grows when we learn new things. You, and your child, can learn to be smarter.

That, in fact, is something like the credo of this column, which will be appearing every week on MindShift. Each week, I’ll share the latest findings from neuroscience, cognitive science and psychology—discoveries that help us understand how we learn and how we can do it better. I hope you’ll join me here, and share what you read with others. We’ll be doing out part to spread a growth mindset, one click at a time.

Annie Murphy Paul, the author of Origins, is at work on a book about the science of learning.


  • Great post and thanks for redirecting us to her new site!   Not only can we change our mindset, but we can be half growth and half fixed and it depends on the task at hand.  Understanding motivation and task avoidance are critical to educators. The communication of critical feedback pushes development.  Constructive feedback fuels growth.  Assigned grades feed the fixed mindset.  In what ways can technology assist teachers in providing quality, constructive feedback to their students?   Many tech platforms and applications allow teachers to facilitate that communication more efficiently and effectively than ever before. Making those changes and incorporating quality feedback seems less of a punishment when it can happen quickly in a tech savvy environment.  High school students need to view growth areas, not as weaknesses, but the ones with the most potential.



First Reflection on C&I579

16 Feb

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

This class has given me a sense of constant discomfort followed by incredible moments of accomplishment.  It is never easy to move from your comfort zone and sense of security and accept that there is so much to learn.  On a daily basis I teach the same thing that I have for the past fourteen years.  I employ different teaching strategies, focus on better developing certain skills and, with time, have a more complete sense of analysis.  Each year I have tried to become better in content area and to push myself to learn new strategies from those who are good at teaching things.  I avoided, mocked, rolled my eyes at the “techies.”  In my goal to become the best I could in the classroom, my intellectual ego allowed me to denigrate the use of technological applications in the classroom.  It may have looked better, slicker and more modern in content, but I was doing the “real” teaching.  To truly learn, you have to be moved out your comfort zone.  It has to be hard work.  When those feelings emerge, I know that I am being stretched, challenged and accepting risk.  I can see and accept where I have room to grow.

With that said, it has been exciting so far because we have had the freedom and flexibility and the gift of time to “figure it out.”  At times I have had to give myself a pep talk that I want to learn a new application, it has encouraged and stretched me in ways that have fostered a growth mindset in regard to technology.  I am fortunate to be teaching a class where I could naturally begin implementing.  I have found that the tools I have been introduced to can improve instruction and student growth.  I know that I want to learn more and that I am capable of learning the quirks of each application.  I have turned each one of my assignments from class into an easy application in my classroom and I have found that many things I used to complain about have simple technology fixes.

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

I will not forget that it can be frustrating to learn and that there is always a possibility that a newer version, more dynamic application will be available as soon as my lesson is complete.  However, the frustration becomes a launching point for me to become an assistant to my students in the classroom rather than the sage from the front of the room.  I know now that, while my students may understand how to connect through Facebook, they are not very well connected through educational resources.  I have created relationships and resources that exceed the boundaries of this course that continue to facilitate and encourage my growth in this area.

Twitter is a rich, connected resource of which I have learned to become a discriminating user.  Trying to follow everyone is not an efficient use of my time.  I need to create my Professional Learning Network that reflects my true interests in education and curriculum.  I am trying to determine what my contribution is to this on-line community and also having to realize that I need to just start sharing and an unnatural act will become much more natural.  I have also learned that many resources are needed in order to be able to decide which applications are best for the desired outcomes for the work that I assign.  Wikispaces plays a prominent role in my classroom, but the organization of the class/team discussions will be a model that I continue to employ and expand upon to best suit my high school class.  Google Docs has been a great collaboration tool and I am seeing its value among my peers and I look forward to creating assignments that force my students to utilize technology to facilitate academic discussions.

The opening of my mind and the familiarity with Web 2.0 applications for the classroom is where I am at in developing my EdTech mind.  I can never return to where I was before.

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

Prior to the course, I believed technology isolated us from one another, made us socially awkward and impeded rich, meaningful relationships critical to human development.  I now realize that, while that is certainly a possible outcome, it is not the only one.  I have the power to teach the limitless potential of the Internet in a way that will benefit my students and provide alternatives to social networking for social, possibly inappropriate uses, to a professional, educational powerhouse, rich with resources and connections that can be truly beneficial to a community of learners.  I have also connected to my colleagues whose technology discussions I purposely avoided and I have found that, when connected, collaboration can truly create more meaningful resources.  The two graphics included in this answer give an idea of where I am in my mind.  Revising old ideas like Bloom’s Taxonomy to reflect 21st Century Skills and Applications merge my two worlds together and, as I move forward, can never teach again with antiquated methods for teaching innovative curriculum.

Shrock, Kathy S. (2012, February 12). Retrieved from

Blog Post 2

14 Feb



Taken from:


Initiate Better Online Learning Ambiance for the Learners


Submitted by Robert Williams – A Educational Content Writer From The United States


The dominance of Internet technology and advancement of technology in the present age has welcomed a paradigm shift in several aspects of life and education too was no different. The introduction of distance learning in the educational sphere has  allowed students to reach beyond the conventional classroom setting in pursuit of knowledge. Furthermore, the natural extension of the learning via distance concept that took shape in the form of online learning has taken education a step ahead. Today, learners can have access to knowledge more flexibly and easily without the hassle of regular attendance and strict classroom sessions.


Distance learning paves a platform that allows better connectivity among students and teachers with their learning sessions independent of space, distance, and time at their own comfort and convenience. Since, online learning is all about technological support, it is essential for both the teacher and student to develop a better understanding of the tools used in the process of knowledge sharing. A mutual understanding is required to develop learning that is both efficient and effective.


Since, the learner is new in this mode of learning, the onus of making him or her feel comfortable in the virtual world depends on the instructor. The instructor must take the onus of making things easier, especially the handling of technological tools easier for the students. To achieve the purpose, following some online teaching ideas might help the instructor developing a better learning experience –


  • Relation between Student and Teacher

Online instructors should always maintain a good and healthy relation with students that reach beyond being excessive strict and disciplined. From answering the queries of the students to responding their needs, an online teacher should always be available for his or her students. Each student in the distance learning approach should have a direct access with the online instructors and be able to communicate with the instructor freely without any restrictions.


  • Understanding between a Student and Teacher

Developing an understanding between a student and teacher is considered, as one of the preferred online teaching ideas. You must develop a good bond with your student, understand his or her problem area or subjects of interest, and take steps accordingly to instill in him the sense of encouragement. Integrating the ambience of a physical classroom in the virtual sphere of education stands important in such learning pursuits. Do not allow your students to take online course lightly.


  • Communication between a Student and Teacher

Since, learning in the distance mode of education is dependent mostly on communication, it is essential that the teacher and student communicate well. Your student is balancing between studies and work; therefore, you need to focus on encouraging him or her for attending the online class sessions. You should always be available for your student and focus on communicating with him or her, as and when required.


  • Advice between a Student and Teacher

Offering positive feedback and advice to students is also sought important, as this comes across as one of the effective online teaching ideas. Do not allow negativity in the online classroom ambience and focus on instilling a positive approach in the learning mode. Try initiating a sense of self-confidence in the learners and let him or her know about the improvement areas that might help grasp the subject better.


Applying these strategies or online teaching ideas help in better learning and allows you to excel, as a better instructor in online education sector.

Written by Robert Williams Tuesday, 31 January 2012 08:46


#LoriAnne2012-02-14 16:44

On-line learning communities are gaining ground among educators because it provides a rich area of development for 21st Century Skills that will better prepare our students for the professions they will inherit. Many businesses today have done away with daily, face to face contact and it is possible that many of students will never have to operate in a workplace setting. It is very possible, however, and most likely that they need to understand the rules, relationship and professionalism needed in an on-line community. When you commented that the onus is on the teacher to make the student comfortable in the technology, highlights the hurdles many educators encounter. Until it is required and expected of them, we will not take on that responsibility. It is still viewed as optional to use technology rather than essential. Focusing on the skills they will need means losing those that hinder their development.

Blog Response 1

1 Feb

Taken from:

Flipped Classrooms and Social Studies

January 30, 2012 by glennw

Parker Palmer of Courage to Teach fame once said that

good teaching cannot be reduced to one technique . . .

I like that.

We’re all different and connect with our kids and content in different ways. But I would add to Parker’s comment and suggest that

good teaching is always more than one technique.

and its corollary;

bad teaching is always the same technique.

We shouldn’t be happy with what’s worked in the past, with what we’ve always done. We need to constantly be looking for ways to improve what we do. New research, new ideas, and new strategies can help us do our jobs better.

Which brings me to the idea of the flipped classroom.

The basic idea of a flipped classroom is that a teacher uses technology to provide student access to foundational knowledge outside of class. This allows more time for inquiry, discussion, debate, collaboration, problem-solving, product development, or guided practice during class time. So rather than kids listening to you during class and doing work outside of class, you “flip” that idea – time outside of class is spent on gathering foundational knowledge and time in class is spent working with that content.

I think good teachers have been doing this sort of thing, well . . . forever. The difference now is that there are more tools that make the idea easier to implement. One recent idea is to provide online or mobile videos of lectures or content delivery that students view on a schedule that best suits.

It’s an interesting concept that has been creating a lot of buzz in the math and science areas but which has been slow to develop in the humanities such as history and social studies.

As you begin rolling the idea around in your head, check out the infographic below as well as a few online resources. Then ask yourself:

What would this look like in my class? What piece of this can I break off and try?

I would be curious to hear from those of you finding success with a social studies flipped classroom. What’s working? What should we be aware of?


The Flipped Class is Here to Stay
Three or four reasons the idea has legs

15 Schools Using the Flipped Classrooms
Some good examples

Flipping a History Classroom
Video clip, discussion and comments

Flipping the US History Class
A MSU discussion board on the topic

A new infographic from Knewton. Be sure to check out the research at the bottom.

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    What a clear explanation and inspiration for the Flipped Classroom. I have seen this term used, but I have failed to pursue it enough to find out what it actually meant. Delivering the necessary content efficiently to get to idea generation and using class time for discussion, interpretation and analysis has always been an interest of mine. Teaching discussion based classes (i.e. Women’s Studies) forces me to balance in-class reading time and lecture with synthesis and analysis of ideas. Using my wiki allows for students to be responsible for posting current event articles that helps give high school students more real world examples for class discussion. Preparing their answers and connecting to classroom reading allows every student to formulate an idea before class. Podcasts of lectures or pre-reading discussions become the homework and discussion becomes the focus of every day without sacrificing knowledge.