Friday, December 16, 2016

Speaking with Confidence

Take a moment to think about something you are exceptionally confident in your ability to do. Odds are you have practiced this time and time again.  Odds are, with your experience, you have successfully completed this task or performed this skill a number of times already.

Whether you're an athlete in competition, a doctor in surgery, or an attorney delivering the closing argument, your confidence improves with practice and experience.

The very same is true of speaking.  And so this week I combined a hands-on classroom activity with a techtool website called Let'sRecap.

My classroom activity had my students up and out of their seats, excitedly wandering the classroom while engaging with their classmates.  The timing could not have been better.  Winter Break is just around the corner and students are as giddy as a toddler on Christmas Eve.

Ultimately, if the lesson went perfectly, it was my goal that students would not only understand new concepts, they would also be able to explain these new concepts using academic language.  And this is where comes in.

With, I created a reflection assignment for my students that video-recorded their verbal responses.  I chose to limit their responses to only 15 seconds, which forced students to be concise in their response and created less grading burden on me as their teacher.

I believe it's important that education and athletics be dynamic.  Certainly content/ skill knowledge is important.  But perhaps more important are the abilities to read and comprehend, write with proper sentence structure, and speak using proper grammar, tonal fluctuations and eye contact.

LetsRecap allowed my students to practice speaking in their own chosen low-stress environment; and I found students did well to take advantage of this.  Most notably was one student who recorded himself dressed in a Tigger costume and sunglasses!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Relating HBO's Westworld to the Classroom

It's amazing to me, these self-learning computers.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) isn't just something we've enjoyed on HBO's Westworld, but it's beginning to make its way into many aspects of our lives.

I found a fascinating quick-read online about AI, and about how it relates to education and learning in general.  Machines are learning on their own.  They take the information available to them, and use it to make themselves smarter.  But as the article states, not all learning is done this way.
We are stuck with centuries old methodologies, where schools and teachers act like the gateway to knowledge, but at a time when students can access all they want by simply asking Alexa. Finland understood this change and decided to get rid of the passive learning education and lecture format. Instead students are working in groups on topics of their choice, practicing problem solving. Teachers guide students as they are learning on their own.
And so this week I took aim at evolving as a teacher, bringing this new methodology to my classroom.  The technologies I used to facilitate this move (Google ClassroomEdPuzzle, and Verso) help to increase student collaboration, engagement, accountability and critical thinking, all essential qualities in society's strongest leaders.

Not everything went exactly as planned, but overall, the lesson was a success.  As this was the first time my students used a couple of the Apps (and my first time as well), there were the normal hiccups.  Some students were unable to login and spoke up, at which point we navigated through the glitch together.  Others chose to use bumps in the road as an excuse to stare into the abyss of their empty monitor until I made my way around and urged them forward.

Using Verso, I had students summarize their opinion from their Google doc and anonymously post for the class to see.  This helped guarantee student engagement.  On the fly, I grouped students into two groups, those who agreed with the prompt and those who disagreed, and I asked them to write a contradicting comment to a post of a classmate who shared the same opinion.  (It was my hope that this would help increase critical thinking.)  Finally, given the content the students created and posted in Verso, I initiated a classroom discussion/ debate; again, a fun and outstanding source of critical thinking.

In the future, I think the biggest adjustment I would make is that of having more questions prepared for the class to respond to, both in small groups and as a whole, after they have posted individually to Verso.  I anticipated that the Google doc and questions/ prompts contained within would be sufficient to drive class discussion throughout the period, but it was not.  Looking back, the online interaction at Verso did not spawn a group/ whole-class discussion.  (Perhaps the students were tired of the prompt?)  I expect that having more questions would help launch the online discussion into the classroom.

Clearly, students could have engaged in a read/ recite lesson and successfully (debatable) come away having learned the content.  But we know that we learn best when we deeply engage with the process; and we know that in society today, just knowing isn't enough.

It's what we do with the content once we know it that matters most.
In Westworld, how will the robots behave once they have consciousness?