Show and share interview and introduction – #DoDifferent

How do you like to start a new class or workshop?  Do you enjoy introducing yourself and listening to everyone else as they give who, what, and where details? Does this information stick?

It is important to build relationships while growing into a community of learners.  Can this be done in a better (or different) way than just taking turns talking about ourselves? Can we find a way to connect with learners, connect them to each other, and get to know some of their strengths and questions?

In our (new) TI-Nspire Technology for Advanced Users: Designing for Learning and Inquiry workshop, we wanted to build our learning community by finding common ground, experiences, and interests.  Instead of having each participant introduce themselves to the entire group, we issued the following challenge:

Would you pick a favorite TI-Nspire document that you use with learners?  Would you show and discuss this document with a partner?

As the documents are shared, listen for the description of the lesson and the learning targets and note any opportunity for student investigation and inquiry.

After approximately 20 minutes (10 minutes of show and share per partner), will you introduce your partner to the entire group highlighting 1-2 things learned through the show and share process?

I will admit some of our participants were caught off-guard.  This isn’t the way most workshops start.

From my perspective, it was great. Our eighteen participants each spent ten minutes talking about teaching and learning from a bright spot strength and another ten minutes hearing about their partner’s story of teaching and learning from a favorite lesson.  Each participant was then introduced by his or her partner, and we heard everyone’s name, where and what they teach, and what they find important about teaching with technology.  Participants had the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about teaching and hear what their partner found interesting and important from the conversation.

From a participant’s seat, I had the opportunity to meet and talk one-on-one with someone before the workshop actually started.  I heard and connected to part of one person’s story on more than a surface level.  I shared one aspect of my work.

From an instructor’s point of view, this was great formative assessment.  I could observe who was sharing original work and who was sharing work published by others.  This gave me insight into the previous experiences of individual participants.  By listening to snippets of conversations, I could begin to learn more about individual participant’s style and interests as well as have an inkling of their skill set.

This show-and-share interview-and-introduction process yielded the same information as traditional introductions plus each participant had the opportunity to get to know someone else, describe another’s bright spot, and hear a sample of their story highlighted.

Improving Confidence, Skills, and Implementation

On Monday, July 17, Westminster again hosted 100 math and science teachers teachers for summer institutes to learn to use the TI-Nspire to integrate technology into classroom learning episodes.  This summer, the following sessions were offered:

I facilitated the Getting Started with the TI-Nspire in Algebra.  This session included several teacher-learners who wanted to take Getting Started with the Middle Grades Math (but the course did not make).  I had the opportunity to practice my skills in differentiating to accommodate all sixteen learners.

We started with a quick write using the following prompts: Why are you here, and what do you want to learn?  Overwhelmingly, these sixteen teachers wrote and spoke about relationships and improving their ability to engage their students in the learning process.  “I want to feel more confident about using this technology to teach my students.” They discussed feeling overwhelmed by the technology and implementing lessons with students.

How often do students feel exactly the same way?  Aren’t students looking for a teacher who knows their strengths and struggles?  How often do students feel overwhelmed by the content and implementing new skills and idea?

The curriculum – a binder of materials and activities – had approximately 10 activities per day. So the question…Go deep into some of the lessons or cover all 10 activities each day.  I chose to be selective about the number of activities and spend time asking questions to deepening knowledge, skills, and understanding.

As the teacher, I feel guilty about what I did not cover from the materials.  What if they need something that I did not teach them?

Isn’t this the same decision classroom teachers have to make every year, every week, every day?  Should we cover all of the learning targets or identify what is essential and teach for mastery? Are we seeking to expose our students to many topics, or are we striving to help them learn and retain core material?

The time we have with learners is limited.  We have to make some very important decisions about how to use this time.

Practicing to be a TLC student leads to learning and questions

I am very intrigued by Steve Goldberg’s use of Google Earth for education and empathy.  Yesterday he posted A typical morning at TLC middle school.  For context, here’s what Steve predicts a day might look like at his school, opening in fall of 2013 in North Carolina:

In the spirit of learning by doing, I thought I’d practice being a student at Triangle Learning Community middle school and follow the typical morning plan for the Morning News Discussion…with a Synergy twist. In Synergy, we wanted to work in ripples – local, national, and international. I gave myself the 45 minutes to read and investigate. This 45-minute exercise turned into the entire two hours! It is the most concentrated news reading I have done in a while!

I started with the AJC to read and learn more about Atlanta. The article Three options for the ‘Gulch’ caught my attention. I noticed the “Gulch” just last week. I used Google Earth to see the area. I immediately thought of how to use the map view in 6th grade math when we teach the area and perimeter of “funny shapes.”

I was intrigued by the vocabulary and meaning of “multimodal passenger terminal” because I have just been reading about how car-oriented Atlanta is which can be frustrating for cyclists. The search for multimodal passenger terminal lead me to atlantadowntown.com’s Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal page.  I did not know Atlanta was planning to have a street car.  I also did not know about Bikes and Bites on July 21.  Bikes and Bites is billed as a car free initiative during Downtown Atlanta Restaurant Week where Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) and the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition (ABC) are encouraging diners to ride their bikes to dinner at more than 20 Downtown restaurants.  What positive environmental outcomes are predicted?  Wow!  Bo’s Whatever It Is I Think I See Becomes a PBL to Me! is so true!

I read and researched and connected these ideas for quite a bit of time.  I wanted to “go global” with my news reading too.  I returned to A typical morning at TLC middle school. After watching the video again and reading the linked article about child brides in Niger, I wondered what the headlines were from the paper in Niger.  Did they have a daily paper? I found Le Républicain Niger using Newspaper Map, a new-to-me resource suggested by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. Thankfully, Newspaper Map would translate this newspaper into English (from French) so I could read the headlines.  Talk about a lesson in perspective!  Not one mention of the plight of child brides, the hunger crisis, rapid population growth or infant mortality in the headlines of Le Républicain Niger.

How often do we not see problems in our own community?  How can we find (do we seek) new perspectives to see and observe what is happening in our neighborhoods and larger communities?