IDE Corp
Professional Development for Innovative Schools

Posts tagged LATI Classroom

#LATICinsights: Inspire Big; Teach Small

Teaching should not be transactional; it should be transformational. The goal of teaching is to ensure that students gain a level of understanding of content that enables them to apply it to new situations, thus transforming them.

Learning comes from making sense and meaning of content (Sousa, 2011) and is enhanced when students have:

  • a felt-need for the content
  • time to explore and grapple with the content
  • direct instruction in skills at the appropriate time in the appropriate modality
  • time to practice skills and content application

The first bullet speaks to a teacher’s ability to inspire students. In the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, that comes from the teacher providing students with an authentic, open-ended, real-world problem to solve, and from whole-group lessons that present concepts that leave students on the edges of their seats. Teachers can inspire through whole-class lessons: inspire big!

The remaining bullets are not accomplished through whole-group instruction, but through small venues: a small-group, mini-lesson offered by the teacher; one-on-one or small-group facilitation by the teacher; independent learning activities; and peer assistance. screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-12-07-33-amThese are critical structures in a Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom as they provide the most meaningful instruction and learning opportunities for students.

When you stand before the entire class, inspire! Trigger students’ awareness of new content they can use.

quotePlan your lesson well; present for no more than 15 minutes; use a combination of voice and visuals. Do not teach skills! Skill development is a verycomplex process, taking place mostly through internal cognitive processing. Can some people listen to a teacher, cognitively process the information, and learn without missing the next sentence? Maybe. Can an entire class? Absolutely not; not even if they are all homogeneously grouped. Inspiration grabs students’ attention, focuses them, and causes them to generate questions they want answered. So you can inspire big! But . . .

Teach small! Provide ample opportunities for students to engage in a variety of learning activities. Offer small-group, mini-lessons on targeted content aimed at varying levels of ability. Rather than a lesson on “perimeter,” offer lessons, such as:

  • What Is Perimeter? (for beginners at the concept)
  • Calculating Perimeter of a Square or Rectangle
  • Calculating Perimeter of Various Polygons
  • Understanding Circumference: The Perimeter of a Circle (advanced mini-lesson that requires passing an entrance quiz to receive a ticket)

Also consider what videos are available or can be recorded to present lessons. Students who need more time to think than the pace of the lesson can stop and rewind.

Following are some classroom snapshots where you can see the “teach small” concept in action:

Inspire big! Teach small! Change the world!


#LATICinsights: Cultivating Rigor

When you first learn to design a Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, you are faced with the paradigm shift of launching each unit of study with an authentic, open-ended, real-world problem to solve. You start by thinking through the problems students could solve at the end of a five-week unit if they learned everything. Designing the problem-based task statement is just the beginning.

Imagine the task as the gift box that excites students to delve into all of the rich and diverse opportunities to learn. Your next step, therefore, is to fill the unit by building a collection of learning opportunities. My latest video discusses this metaphor in more detail.

Learning opportunities include whole-class lessons, small-group lessons, teacher facilitation, and learning activities. Much of the learning in a Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom takes place through learning activities, rather than teacher dissemination of knowledge through lessons. Unlike activities to practice learning, learning activities should be narrowly focused on a skill or concept, include step-by-step direct instruction, and provide the student with some level of feedback. When designing learning activities, consider the following:

  • What is the grade level standard to be met?
    • All students must meet this standard.
  • What prerequisites would be needed?
    • Some students may need help in mastering prerequisites first, but they cannot stop there; they must achieve the grade level standard.
  • What learning activities can you find or design that provide concept exploration or direct instruction in skills, including a variety of learning modalities, related to the standard?
    • Differentiation should include not only cognitive differences, but learning style differences.
  • What supports/scaffolding could you put in place for students, such as partner work, how-to sheet or video, peer expert board, help board, and teacher facilitation?
    • Once involved in an activity, how can you ensure students will meet with success?

Rigor means ensuring that all students are learning at high levels of understanding and application of at least the grade-level standards. With LATIC students taking greater responsibility for their learning, teachers are freed up to engage more powerfully through facilitation toward greater rigor. Make your gift to your students complete with powerful opportunities to learn. Change the world!

From Best Practices to Systems Practices

Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they learn.” This speaks of the shift from teacher as the purveyor of information to that of an architect of a complex environment in which students learn; a shift from “teacher as ferry” to “teacher as bridge builder.” How does one create the conditions under which students learn?

Schools place considerable focus on best practices, which are necessary but not sufficient for creating the conditions under which students learn. Best practices are often approached as individual strategies for supporting student learning. Consider some best practices that would create the conditions under which students learn:

  • Using problem-based learning to launch a unit of study creates a “felt need” for students to learn, thus motivating them to pursue curricular goals.
  • Using an analytic rubric to provide students with clearly articulated expectations offers them a sense of responsibility for self-assessing, setting goals, and pursuing nodesthose goals.
  • Developing a set of rich and diverse opportunities to learn, including multiple pathways to the same objective, based on learning modalities, provides students with the differentiation necessary to ensure that all students learn at high levels.
  • Allowing students to schedule their own time empowers them to make decisions about when and how they will pursue individual learning goals.

These seem like worthy practices; however, the power of these practices lies in their interconnectedness, their interdependence. The key to creating the conditions under which students learn is in creating a systems-based classroom.

Consider the four best practices mentioned above. Teachers can build their ability to employ each of these, and, no doubt, this would enhance the instructional process. However, looking at these practices as independent strategies or structures falls short of creating the conditions under which students learn. What is needed is systems-thinking: how does each component of the classroom affect every other component of the classroom?

Fig Str 2 in progress

To determine the health of a system, you look not at the nodes; you look at the lines. It is in the interdependencies that one creates a strong, effective system for learning.

For illustrative purposes, this diagram presents just four of the structures of the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, designed to put students in charge of their own learning by creating the conditions under which they learn. The actual system includes many more nodes and lines. In order for students to take charge of their own learning, teachers must view the classroom as a self-sustaining, interdependent system.

First, think about the classroom as a system of interdependent components and identify the relationships among the components. You can then start building a system that removes the teacher from the position of “ferry master” and, instead, creates the conditions under which students learn.