IDE Corp
Professional Development for Innovative Schools

#LATICInsights: Teach Consensus-Building!

In the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, students have many opportunities to make decisions that affect groups, including when to meet, the roles different group members will take, which solution is best for a problem, how to present the solution, and so forth. It’s a perfect opportunity to teach young people how to build consensus rather than relying on the easier, but more dangerous, majority-rule voting.

The problem with majority-rule voting is best summarized in a quote generally attributed to Ben Franklin, “two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” In classrooms, and society, the losing side is often angry and subsequently focuses time on how to get others to take sides.

The alternative is to work toward consensus and ensuring that all group members can, in the least, “live with” the decision. The ability to reach consensus will help children during their school years and well beyond throughout their lives. You can use a variety of classroom tools to teach consensus. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “Love it, hate it, live with it” – As students make group decisions, rather than voting, they state one by one if they love the decision, hate it, or can live with it. If even one person hates it, the discussion continues to find a decision for which everyone can say they love it or can live with it.
  • DeBono’s PMI (Plus, Minus, Interesting ideas or questions) – As students ponder a decision, they stop and take 3-6 minutes to independently jot down two aspects they like about it, two they don’t like about it, and two questions or ideas related to it. They then discuss their entries for each of the three columns. Often, the final decision lies in the third column.

  • Placemat Activity – Students sit around the “placemat” and enter their decision and supporting ideas in an outer area of the paper. They then discuss and, when they arrive at consensus, they put the decision in the middle of the paper. All students then initial it to confirm that they agree with the decision.

  • De Bono’s Six Hats – This is a great tool for looking a decision from a variety of angles. When a group is stuck, they individually jot down ideas for all six hats.

The time spent helping students learn consensus building will pay off through a more productive classroom climate and have lasting effects for society at large. Change the world!

 

The #LATIC-RTI-UDL Convergence

How do you ensure that all students achieve at the highest level, thus opening myriad doors for their future? Three popular frameworks converge beautifully to provide the “secret sauce.”

IDE Corp.’s Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom (#LATIC) is a framework for designing student-driven classrooms: it puts students in charge of their own learning to produce greater results. The key is to shift paradigms from “teacher as ferry” to “teacher as bridge builder.” (For more, read Students Taking Charge.) At the core are three tenets:

 

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a framework to “maximize student achievement and reduce behavior problems,” targeting struggling students. The key is to shift paradigms from labeling students as unable to reach high levels to providing different instructional interventions to ensure success at high levels. At the core are four essential components:

from the Center on Response to Intervention

The Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom actually focuses on Tier 1 and Tier 2 instruction in the same setting by reducing the amount of whole-class instruction in lieu of providing differentiated learning activities. Students, therefore, begin by working at their cognitive level and learning style. Teachers are constantly gathering formative assessment data to guide student choices and develop learning options. Where a student is struggling significantly (Tier 3), special education teachers can easily provide a student one-on-one instruction in the classroom. All students receive one-on-one instruction naturally in the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom as well. The intent is to teach differently from the start to reduce the need for extensive interventions. While RTI was designed to address issues found in conventional learning environments, it’s important still to recognize the different levels of intervention at work as they emerge in the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom setting.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework “to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.” The key is to provide access for all at the start of the teaching and learning process. A great visual for this is the difference between buildings that were designed for the ambulatory, later retrofitted for access (left building with added ramp), and buildings that were designed with access for all in mind (the Guggenheim Museum on the right with its infamous spiral walkway.) Apply that thinking to instruction and curriculum and you have the concept of UDL!

UDL includes three guidelines:

The Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom framework naturally includes these guidelines. Students are engaged through problem-based learning and by the teacher using structures that create a “felt need” for learning. Teachers design multiple learning activities to represent content at a variety of cognitive levels and through a variety of learning styles. Students set goals and schedule how they will use their time; they have options for how they will demonstrate learning. IDE Corp.’s UDL summary sheet from the IDEportal may help in ensuring a deliberate and purposeful learning environment.

Incorporating all three frameworks into the classroom creates a powerful and effective learning environment. Try it! Change the world!

Technology Mindset Shift: From Means to End

If you’ve read my book, It’s Not What You Teach But How, you’ll know I promote focusing on the ends over the means of standards. It’s easy to focus on the means, or the effort, without focusing on the end, or the results. Let’s not make this mistake with educational technology.

My systems analyst days

People in the business world use technology to accomplish their goals. Few, if any, tout how many computers they have; rather, they use them seamlessly and purposefully toward a greater goal. In 1981, I made a side-trip from teaching to work as a systems analyst. Day one I was handed my terminal (precursor to today’s Chromebook; a gateway to a bigger computer.) I don’t think any of us bragged over our 1:1 environment; we didn’t focus on it at all. Instead, we focused on the software we were designing with it; the interoffice communication it allowed, and analyzing data.

Yet in the educational world, we tend to lead with “we’re 1:1,”  “we’re BYOD,” “we’re a GAFE district,” “we have a Mac graphic design lab,” and so forth. In reality, all of this means little unless you’re using it to develop students who can think at high levels, communicate well, collaborate, problem solve, and exhibit the skills and attitudes needed for their future. Don’t get me wrong, schools should have a lot of technology available for students and educators — a lot! The possibilities for the advancement of achievement are unparalleled. Just don’t stop at the inventory.

The greatest gift given to me by my stint in the design and coding world was that I returned to teaching with a mindset of ends-based computing: what are we doing with it? Over the years, I’ve categorized computer use in a variety of ways, including my Tech Hierarchy and Ten Characteristics of a ‘NetCentric Society. One, the Categories of Tech Infusion, offers seven ways in which students interact with computer technology in the learning process. (Note: this is not about the creation and design process; that’s another topic!) Let’s look at these categories through the lens of results.

As schools work to build skills in executive function, the information management aspect of technology can be extremely powerful. Teach students naming conventions for files so they can easily find them later, how to manage their documents, how to bookmark web pages, how to use an online calendar, and more. … What? You struggle with these skills too? See how important they are?

If you want students to master the ELA skills of the standards, they need to be immersed in an environment of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. A silent blog (students all discuss an issue at the same time, online, in silence) allows everyone to engage in the conversation (as opposed to just those whose hands are up.) Students need to read and respond to others: it’s real time, it’s engaging, it builds communication skills, and it gets them ready for Twitter chats! 😉

Sometimes, two heads are better than one, but only when they truly collaborate rather than trying to convince one another to switch sides. Collaboration skills are complex but so worthy of being taught. Cloud-based Apps that allow students and teachers to offers suggestions and comments, and to co-create, build a “felt need” for collaborative skills. With technology, students can not only collaborate with students in the classroom, but with those in other classrooms, schools, cities, countries, solar systems. . . (Ok, maybe not solar systems … yet!)

There are many experiences that are not available to students in schools, such as traveling in space or to the bottom of the ocean, engaging in a revolution, managing a city, building an amusement park, blood typing on a crime scene, and more. But these are all available through simulations. Simulations are powerful for building understanding of content, cause-and-effect relationships, and unintended consequences. I’m thinking many of us should use auto simulators before heading out on the road!

Students spend a lot of time thinking about what they want to wear, what backpack they want to carry, what language they want to use, and more. Why? Because they are appealing to an audience: in these cases, an audience of their peers. Nothing says “pay attention to detail” better than an audience. When students produce for an audience beyond the teacher, they tend to focus more on the quality of their work; and, they experience the power of one’s voice being heard. There are many websites where students can publish their writing and ideas anonymously (anonymity is a must!)

Building an understanding of concepts and skills requires grappling: struggling and wrestling with content. Teachers’ wonderful explanations just don’t do it. If you’re going to learn to swim, you have to get in the water! Provide students with ample time to explore content, solutions, and ideas. I recently saw a fifth grade teacher trigger students’ awareness by asking how the students’ plants (science experiment) were going to survive over winter break without anyone to water them. I asked a student if he ever heard of the term aqua globe? He immediately looked it up on computer and was excited to find the term, which led him to read more about the concept. He returned from lunch with a plastic soda bottle, armed with the grit to make one himself. He watched YouTube videos; he thought through different ideas, researching more and more. He presented his teacher and classmates with his idea for feedback. This powerful learning experience was made possible by the availability of technology to explore concepts and skills.

Gaining popularity are 3-D Virtual Environments, which are related to simulations. The two differences are that they are three-dimensional, in that you feel like you are actually in the environment, walking around, driving, etc.; and that you often interact with other live human beings as opposed to just a computer. There are virtual environments that are just simulations with better graphics; but there are also those through which you engage with others who are online at the same time as avatars, for maximum engagement! It’s not mainstream in schools yet, but just wait!

I hope these categories will help you to think through the opportunities you offer students to build higher levels of content understanding and application. You can access a blank grid for brainstorming on the IDEportal — our online instructional resource for student-driven learning.

If you’re headed to FETC 2017 in Orlando, find us at booth 2440. If you’re headed to Techspo 2017 in Atlantic City, find us at booth 104. For a look at our presentations at both, visit the news section of our website.

IDE Corp. to Present at Future of Education Technology Conference in Orlando, FL

IDE Corp. is pleased to announce that it has been selected for two presentations with Pasco County Schools at the 37th Annual Future of Education Technology Conference. FETC, which is described as “the largest, national, independent education technology conference, annually attracts thousands of education and technology leaders from around the world” will be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL from January 24th to 27th, 2017. Please visit us and send your colleagues to see us in booth 2440!

1) Dr. Nancy Sulla is presenting with Vanessa Hilton, Assistant Superintendent of Student Achievement, Pasco County Schools in session W081: Using Systems Theory to Accelerate Your Technology Initiative on Thursday, January 26, from 2:00 – 4:30 at the Hyatt Regency in Bayhill 29.

2) Tanya Bosco is presenting with Pasco County Schools’ Sanders Memorial STEAM Magnet Elementary School Principal Jason Petry and Assistant Principal Kelly Edwards in session PS155: Designing a Learner-Active STEAM Magnet Elementary School: Stories from the Change Process on Thursday, January 26, from 2:30 – 3:30 in booth #2500 in the Convention Center.

3) And, see Sanders’ Memorial STEAM Magnet Elementary School Third Grade Teachers Tanya Kindberg and Megan Bender present from the teacher perspective of teaching in a STEAM-LATIC school in Session PS032: Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classrooms: Recipe for Success on Thursday, January 26 from 2:30 – 3:30 in booth #965 in the Convention Center.

Founded by Dr. Nancy Sulla, IDE Corp. offers a comprehensive instructional model that is the synthesis of the best research available on student achievement. IDE consultants work with school districts around the country to help them shift paradigms and design new approaches to instruction.  IDE Corp. has been providing instructional and organizational consulting to schools since 1987.

Hour of Code for Raising Student Achievement

As a former computer programmer, who believes that programmers run the world, I have a particular fondness for the first full week in December, known as “Hour of Code.” Coding deserves a lot more respect than it gets for raising overall student achievement.

Coding is the art and science of giving commands to a computer to make something happen. For students, it often focuses on moving characters or objects around a screen to accomplish some task, or giving commands to a robotic device to have it carry out specific tasks, such as picking up an object or moving. The Hour of Code site has many coding activities in which students (and you) can engage.

You can think of Hour of Code as an introduction to the field of computer science. However, the academic skills students will build during that hour are powerful. First, they will be exercising many executive function skills. The highlighted skills below are just some that stand out; you could actually highlight almost every executive function skill as being addressed through coding. As you plan or use existing coding activities, map them to executive function skills to see how you robust your coding activities really are.

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Coding also building reasoning skills, which are essential to student achievement. Here are just three types of reasoning supported by coding:

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For a more comprehensive list of types of reasoning skills, visit the changing minds website.

Try some of this year’s Hour of Code activities and think through how each one builds executive function and reasoning skills, both key to increasing student achievement. Then consider building coding opportunities into your classroom or course throughout the year. Promote coding; change the world!

Learner-Active, Technology-Infused School Named 2016 National Blue Ribbon Winner

IDE Corp. is very pleased to announce that a long-time valued client, Icahn Charter School 4 in the Bronx, NY, has been named one of ten NYC schools selected as 2016 National Blue Ribbon Winners.  The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes “outstanding public and non-public schools” and “celebrates some of the most skilled and effective educators in the country”.

 

Icahn Charter School 4 has been named an “Exemplary High Performing School” which the Department of Education’s Blue Ribbon program website describes as “schools that have their state’s highest high school graduation rates and the highest achieving students (the top 15%) in English and mathematics, measured by state assessments”.

Learn more about the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom.

Founded by Dr. Nancy Sulla, IDE Corp. offers a comprehensive instructional model that is the synthesis of the best research available on student achievement. IDE consultants work with school districts around the country to help them shift paradigms and design new approaches to instruction.  IDE Corp. has been providing instructional and organizational consulting to schools since 1987.

#LATICinsights: Learning to Learn

You’re reading a book about gardening so you can plant a vegetable garden. How do you glean the information you need from the text and learn what you need to learn? You might:

  • Use text features as cues
  • Scan the text for the information you need
  • Underline words and phrases
  • Make connections to past experiences or other learning
  • Organize the information, perhaps into items to purchase, actions that happen first, etc.

These are cognitive strategies that you might take for granted: they’re the keys to learning. Students who possess these strategies will learn more quickly and easily.

The Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom is a complex, student-driven learning environment with many components, including (read from the bottom up):

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Often, students are all engaged in different learning activities or applying learning to solve problems. Given you’re not teaching the entire class the same skill at the same time, as it’s rare that all students need or are ready for the same skill at the same time, how do you ensure that each of your students is positioned to learn?

Cognitive strategies are an important part of learning; these are the strategies upon which students will draw repeatedly across the day. As with many of the structures in the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, students need both opportunities to learn and a structure to monitor that learning.

To allow students to self-assess and monitor their own learning of cognitive strategies, create an age-appropriate cognitive strategies chart with the strategies that will be most beneficial to your students. You can find a template on the IDEportal (use page 2.)

 

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To teach cognitive strategies, first use a Benchmark Lesson to introduce the idea of cognitive strategies. You might use a metaphor such as relating cognitive strategies to tools, which are used to build larger structures.  Then use How-To sheets or screencasts to provide direct instruction in their use. Hold a Small-Group, Mini-Lesson for those who need more specific instruction from you.

Reference cognitive strategies in other learning activities, reminding students to use specific strategies and asking students to reflect on the strategies they used. Students who can explain a cognitive strategy and how to use it can become Peer Experts and help others.

It is important to deliberately teach students the cognitive strategies they need to learn. The more they know how to learn, the more they will learn. Go change the world!

 

 

 

Rethinking Success: Engagement, Empowerment, & Efficacy

Like it or not, to most schools, achievement means strong performance on state tests. Some claim to value life preparation and social/emotional growth over test scores, but that never plays well in the annual newspaper articles. What if you could have it all? What if you could rethink success and have happy, healthy, excited students from all walks of life, with strong test scores?

I love to build sand castles, particularly with young children; and I usually start with a large hole in the middle that hits the water (easier to retrieve wet sand.) I begin by sharing a vision and a dream of a sand castle; then I share the news that if we dig dequoteep enough, we will hit water. The dream of hitting water from the sand on the shore is usually all it takes to engage my building partner. As the hole grows, there are skills to retrieving the wet sand and building up the walls. I coach in those skills and share my belief in my building partner’s ability to carry them out (empowerment). Finally, the walls are in place and we begin the work of carving with shells (my dad always told me you carve away everything that doesn’t look like a castle.) Soon, the castle begins to emerge. Now, my building partner spreads wings, creates, and shines with self-belief (efficacy) and the castle grows more and more awesome until there is no more sunlight to guide us.

One of my favorite quotes:

build a shipIf you want an increase in test scores, don’t drum up teachers and coaches to gather up resources and teach to the test. Instead, teach them to long for a day when their students are self-confident, responsible, and excited about learning. Your strong test scores will emerge. Make these your goals:
EEE

Engage students with authentic, open-ended, problems to tackle related to the content to get them in “flow“: get them grappling! Instead of focusing on the skill; focus on where they will use that skill and start there (flip the triangle!)

Empower students by giving them increasing responsibility for their own learning. Let them decide which activities to pursue and when in order to learn the skills they need to accomplish the task that has engaged them.

Build their efficacy through leveling up activities that continue to offer them success, building a belief in their ability to achieve a goal. Let them self-assess, set goals, and accomplish their goals. Essentially, facilitate their learning.

If you aim for engagement, empowerment, and efficacy, your students will be proud, happy, and loving learning; and your test scores will rise! Perhaps success for our students is, in fact, engagement, empowerment, and efficacy.

South Orangetown, NY Students Go Back to School and to the LATI Classroom

SOCSD_RocklandTimesArticle8-18-2016In its August 18th, 2016 edition, the Rockland County Times states that the “South Orangetown School Administration has been working this summer on a valuable series of initiatives to enhance student achievement for the 2016-2017 academic year.” The newspaper quotes Dr. Robert Pritchard, Superintendent of the South Orangetown Central School District as saying, “We want students to exercise the part of their brains that allow them to solve problems that have yet to be solved. Integrating the arts, sciences and humanities fosters creativity and innovation for young learners.”

Dr. Pritchard goes on to describe the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom as a place where “students are ‘empowered’ to take responsibility for setting goals, scheduling time, using resources and making decisions. They are more focused and get involved with problem-solving on open-ended situations by working independently or with their classmates.”

Learn more about the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom.

Founded by Dr. Nancy Sulla, IDE Corp. offers a comprehensive instructional model that is the synthesis of the best research available on student achievement. IDE consultants work with school districts around the country to help them shift paradigms and design new approaches to instruction.  IDE Corp. has been providing instructional and organizational consulting to schools since 1987.

“If, Then” Plans: Building Executive Function

One of the most important characteristics for success is the ability to delay gratification: to persist in a task or goal in spite of tempting distractions. How do we build this valuable executive function skill in our students? For starters, here is an “If, Then” planning sheet to use with students; but read on . . .

 

In the 1960s, Stanford University professor Walter Mischel devised the marshmallow test in which he gave preschoolers a choice: eat this one marshmallow now or wait fifteen minutes and you’ll get two. It is interesting to watch videos of the test, with some children simply eating the marshmallow and others doing everything possible to delay gratification marshmallow testin order to get the better prize! Ultimately, as researchers followed the children through school and life, those who were able to delay gratification ended up with better outcomes and accomplishments in later years.

 

In his book, The Marshmallow Test, Mischel shares the story of this test along with brain
physiology that can help you better understand your students. For example, the limbic system (primitive brain structures) handle basic drives and emotions; Mischel calls it the “hot system,” where decisions to act are made quickly without regard for long-term consequences. The pre-frontal cortex, home of executive function, is then the “cool system” that includes complex, reflective decision-making. Obviously, the more you can build this “cool system” (aka executive function) in students, the better. And the
more “cool” you are, the better you fare in life.

 

The planning sheet above addresses just one approach to activating your cooling system presented by Mischel. Students of all ages can use it. Just have them consider a short-term goal they are trying to achieve in which they could be derailed by distractions. Have them anticipate those distractions and consider how they would thwart them. This could be a phrase they would say to themselves or an action they would take. Later, they can reflect (another executive function skill) on how well they did in staying on track.

 

For more on executive function: