Four Keys to Teaching Students How to Analyze

This week I’m presenting at the national AMLE conference (middle level education) in Portland Ore. Quite nice since I live here!

My session
Thursday Nov 8 at 8AM
#1111 – Teaching Students to Analyze? Motivate with Skills, Choice and Reflection.
Here’s a preview

True analysis is messy work, but that’s where the learning takes place.

My talk has two themes – first, it’s a reflection on how analysis is taught in the classroom. Too often teachers give students a Venn Diagram and ask them to compare. What looks like analysis on the surface is often no more than re-filling information from the source material into the Venn. Graphic organizer are great to help students understand a variety of analytic models, but they often constrain students into someone else’s analytic framework. 

Summarizing and comparisons are powerful ways to build content knowledge and critical thinking. But if students are going to master CCSS skills they need to design the model, find a way to express it to others, and have the opportunity self reflect on their product and feedback from peers. Get them started with graphic organizers, then show some courage and be less helpful. True analysis is messy work, but that’s where the learning takes place.

My session will utilize audience responders to first evaluate sample lessons in summarizing and comparing, then collectively develop critical benchmarks. Teachers will next be given frameworks for designing lessons which enable students to think like designers, to apply their learning strategies, share their conclusions and set the stage for self-reflection.

FlipNLearn: a foldable that students design, print and share.

Next, I will demonstrate how to meet these four keys to teaching analysis with FlipNLearn, a foldable that students design, print and share. It’s an innovative learning tool that students design on a computer, then print on special pre-formatted paper. The result – a clever foldable that flips through four faces of student selected text and images. FlipNLearn is a great way to give students a manageable design challenge that promotes teamwork, self-assessment and reflection. In 30 minutes, or less, they can produce tangible product that blends the best of PBL and CCSS skills in communication. If you can’t make my session, look for me at the IMCOM vendor booth #819 for free tips on Portland’s best pubs and grub.

Students Create Augmented Reality History Tour

This guest post is written by Greg Wimmer, Central York (PA) High School. I met Greg at TechitU and was impressed by the projects skillful integration of technology and community involvement into the hIstory classroom. Greg’s guest post follows:

As the Advanced Placement exam season draws to an end in early May, I am always left with a month to explore the intricacies of US History with my students. I usually throw a big project at them to occupy their time and push their thinking in ways that I could not have done during the course. This past spring, however, my ideas were lacking and I was fishing for ideas from other faculty members. After speaking with one of our tech assistants, who is also a board member for the York County Heritage Trust, I reached out to Dan Roe, the educational director for the Trust. My goal was to hopefully devise a project we could complete in May. Through our meeting, I learned that the Trust had desired to push their walking tours in to the 21st Century. We explored several options, but decided that the students could write and produce movies for the Trust’s historic walking tours that could be accessed via – Aurasma – a location-based, augmented-reality smartphone app (or a device provided by the Trust). What happened to Aurasma?

The students were well aware of the project before May, but we unfortunately had no time before then to begin writing the script. In mid-May 2012, Mr. Roe joined my students for two days of collaborative writing. Their scripts focused on two major aspects of York(town) history: 1. York was the political center of the colonies during part of the American Revolution. 2. The Articles of Confederation were completed and signed in York, making it the nation’s first capital. Two groups (of approximately 6 students each) wrote competing scripts for both of the movies. Mr. Roe read the scripts for historical and contextual accuracy and made notes where appropriate. After rewrites were completed, they spent several days writing shot lists and preparing equipment for the shoot. With the exception of a “student on loan” from the TV production class, none of the students had prior experience with equipment or acting.

Students can do amazing things! It’s not until your own students complete a colossal project, that you truly begin to appreciate their capabilities. ~ Greg Wimmer

The first day of shooting took place at the Gates House and Golden Plough Tavern, both built in the mid-Eighteenth Century. Lighting and acting jitters proved to be the biggest hurdles, but we amazingly made it through all of the scenes in about 3 hours. While on set, the students were shocked with amount of detail involved with shooting such a short film. Their respect for film and movie-making increased dramatical over the course of the afternoon.

Filming for day 2 required the students to prep and shoot on the spot with random merchants in Central Market York. Two groups fanned out, asked for participation, and held up cue cards during filming. We also had location shoots scheduled for that afternoon, requiring students to set up and tear down several times. By the end of day 2, the students were exhausted and ready to get back to school.

Making Of Video

They spent the next week tying the project together. Two groups edited the videos separately, one group worked with Aurasma, and the other group prepped for the “making of” video. The groups that edited were shocked with the painstaking process of parcelling the movie together. They ran in to one or two continuity issues while piecing together scenes, requiring creative editing on their part. The two girls who worked on Aurasma ironed out the dilemma of image-based vs. location-based markers. They also took the liberty of creating a YouTube channel for the Heritage Trust as well as other accounts necessary to manage the videos and augmented reality program. The final group helped to create the raw footage for the “making of” video. They devised questions, created a set, and interviewed each of the students in class. They also interviewed Mr. Roe and myself for the video. They spent their final class presenting all of their videos, accounts, and reflections to Mr. Roe. He was thoroughly impressed with their final product and invited future classes to create more content for the Trust.

Lessons Learned:

Jump In – While I am very comfortable with iMovie, I knew little about the movie-making process required to complete “professional” videos. The Trust project gave me the opportunity to learn with the students and collectively tap our creativity. Two years ago, my AP students completed an archaeological dig at an early Nineteenth Century home behind our high school. I worked closely with someone from the Anthropology Department of a local university to organize the event. Going in to the project, I had zero knowledge on the processes involved in such a project. But that’s the point. Showing students that you can (gently) throw caution in to the wind and work together to create something unique and original.

Don’t trust technology and expecting the unexpected – When we returned to the high school at the end of the first day, we needed to download our video from the camera card to make room on the disk for day 2. Much to our surprise, NONE of the video files were there. After much jiggling and encouragement (and 45 minutes later), the computer read the files. I have honestly never watched a file transfer so closely in my life. In that situation, I would not have known how to tell students that their hard work was for nothing. Thankfully, things worked out!

Students can do amazing things! – Like many teachers, I spend a good deal of time looking at blog posts and twitter links to projects created by other classes. It is not until your own students complete a colossal project, that you truly begin to understand the their capabilities. At the same time, the students were giddy about their final product and recognized that teamwork in an academic setting makes for positive results.

Greg Wimmer is the Social Studies Department Chair at Central York High School. He’s in his 10th year of teaching – AP US History and Honors Global Studies. He describes himself as “a husband, father, teacher, and collaborator, I commit myself personally and professional to producing creative avenues for growth. Over the past 9 years, I have searched for new ways to build student understanding through collaboration and ingenuity.” Greg can be reached via Twitter@gregwim

Photo credits: Greg Wimmer

Flipped My Keynote is a premier educational technology conference (and Penn State grad course) designed to inspire and generate practical classroom ideas that “will help you teach with power and focus to impact students’ futures.”

“Thank you for making us think. You taught by example.”

I was asked to give the closing keynote on my Taxonomy of Reflection at this year’s, week-long conferenceKeynoters typically show up, explain their model, answer questions, etc. If all goes well, folks leave with an understanding of the ideas you pitched to them.

Transfer of content is easy in the digital age, it’s processing the learning that’s the challenge. So I elected to flip my keynote. Why not use one of the strategies I recommend to teachers? (My slide deck on flipping your class)

To flip my keynote, I gave participants some advance reading about my taxonomy. Then I used my two hours – not to present, but to put them through a variety of experiences to provoke their reflections. For example, we studied a mid-19th century primitive painting to see how students “feel” when they are asked to construct meaning when they lack background knowledge. LearningCatalytics, a BYOD-based response system, made it possible to harness the power of peer instruction and compare our reflections. 

So how did “flipping” my keynote go? I asked participants to reflect on the experience. Here’s a few of their responses:

  • What a great end to the week. You had me engaged throughout the presentation. The hands on activities with partners, the discussions or arguments with peers, and the videos were perfect. Each of these items had me analyzing, applying, understanding, and evaluating information.
  • Wow! I loved how interactive this keynote was. My brain is on overdrive trying to think of all the amazing things I want to try first. You bring a plethora of fresh ideas and thoughts.
  • I truly appreciate that throughout your presentation you modeled the kind of instruction you proposed we use with our students. That is my favorite way to learn!
  • Very inspiring presentation. Great thoughts on ways to flip the instructional model. … My head is spinning with ways to implement some of these strategies.
  • What an engaging presentation! Learning catalytics is wonderful! I had so many “aha!” moments and it triggered many engaging lesson ideas.
  • I wish more people would champion the idea that students should be responsible for their learning and that teachers should be the facilitators of or catalysts for this to happen.
  • Wow, what a great thought provoking presentation. I love the idea of turning the responsibility of learning over to the students. I am going away with multiple ideas on how I can recreate myself as an educator for my students.
  • Thank you for making us think. … You taught by example.

The Flipped Classroom: Getting Started

I recently gave a webinar on getting started with the flipped classroom. Lots of good questions – seems like many teachers see the value in using “flipping” to redefine their classrooms. They recognize that the traditional classroom was filled with a lot of lower-order, information transmission that can be off loaded to “homework” via content-rich websites and videos. That frees up more classroom time as a center for student interaction, production and reflection.

While some may think flipping is all about watching videos, it’s really about creating more time for in-class student collaboration, inquiry, and interaction. It’s also is a powerful catalyst for transforming the teacher from content transmitter to instructional designer and changing students from passive consumers of information into active learners taking a more collaborative and self-directed role in their learning.

In this webinar I address the opportunities and challenges, introduce some fundamentals and offer suggestions for getting started in a feasible way. I suspect that before long, flipping will no longer be as a fad, but simply another way point in the transition to learning environments that blend the best of face-to-face and online learning. Here’s some more of my posts tagged flipped classroom.

Download my slide deck for strategies, resources, lessons and links and more.

The Flipped Classroom: Getting Started

View more on Slideshare from Peter Pappas
Image credit flickr/pobre

How to Motivate Students: Researched-Based Strategies

The student feels in control by seeing a direct link between his or her actions and an outcome and retains autonomy by having some choice about whether or how to undertake the task.

A new Center on Education Policy report, Student Motivation—An Overlooked Piece of School Reform, pulls together findings about student motivation from decades of major research conducted by scholars, organizations, and practitioners. The six accompanying background papers examine a range of themes and approaches, from the motivational power of video games and social media to the promise and pitfalls of paying students for good grades.

Researchers generally agree on four major dimensions that contribute to student motivation (below). At least one of these dimensions must be satisfied for a student to be motivated. The more dimensions that are met, and the more strongly they are met, the greater the motivation will be.

Four Dimensions of Motivation

  1. Competence — The student believes he or she has the ability to complete the task.
  2. Control / Autonomy — The student feels in control by seeing a direct link between his or her actions and an outcome and retains autonomy by having some choice about whether or how to undertake the task.
  3. Interest / Value — The student has some interest in the task or sees the value of completing 
  4. Relatedness — Completing the task brings the student social rewards, such as a sense of belonging to a classroom or other desired social group or approval from a person of social importance to the student.

As the report authors note: The interplay of these dimensions—along with other dynamics such as school climate and home environment—is quite complex and varies not only among different students but also within the same student in different situations. Still, this basic framework can be helpful in designing or analyzing the impact of various strategies to increase students’ motivation.

The report singles out a number of approaches that can motivate unenthusiastic students including inquiry-based learning, service learning, extracurricular programs (like chess leagues) and creative use of technology.

I think increase motivations begins with giving students more responsibility for critical decisions about what and how they learn. I detailed these in my post The Four Negotiables of Student Centered Learning and they are summarized in this table. Teachers need to consider the extent to which they are asking students to manage the four central elements of any lesson – content, process, product and assessment. Any or all can be decided by the teacher, by the students, or some of both. All will assist in building Common Core skills in deeper thinking and analysis.

Students also need guided practice in reflection. Reflection can be a challenging endeavor. It’s not something that’s fostered in school – typically someone else tells you how you’re doing! At best, students can narrate what they did, but have trouble thinking abstractly about their learning – patterns, connections and progress. One place to start is with the reflective prompts I developed in my Taxonomy of Reflection.

The CEP’s summary report and accompanying papers highlight actions that teachers, school leaders, parents, and communities can take to foster student motivation. The following are just a few of the many ideas included in the report:

  1. Programs that reward academic accomplishments are most effective when they reward students for mastering certain skills or increasing their understanding rather than rewarding them for reaching a performance target or outperforming others.
  2. Tests are more motivating when students have an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge through low-stakes tests, performance tasks, or frequent assessments that gradually increase in difficulty before they take a high-stakes test.
  3. Professional development can help teachers encourage student motivation by sharing ideas for increasing student autonomy, emphasizing mastery over performance, and creating classroom environments where students can take risks without fear of failure
  4. Parents can foster their children’s motivation by emphasizing effort over ability and praising children when they’ve mastered new skills or knowledge instead of praising their innate intelligence.

Many aspects of motivation are not fully understood, the report and background papers caution, and most programs or studies that have shown some positive results have been small or geographically concentrated. “Because much about motivation is not known, this series of papers should be viewed as a springboard for discussion by policymakers, educators, and parents rather than a conclusive research review,” said Nancy Kober, CEP consultant and co­author of the summary report. “This series can also give an important context to media stories about student achievement, school improvement, or other key education reform issues.”