Parents Weekend Brain Blitz

I have been pleasantly surprised and pleased with all of the neurobiology related pieces that have hit my radar screen of late. The research, much of which has existed for quite some time now, is finally making it into the mainstream discussions about teaching and learning. My hope is that people will not only read the articles and ponder their implications; but more importantly, they will actively think about how they can change or modify what they are actually doing in the classroom in order to incorporate some of the things we now know about how students learn.

I certainly have changed quite a few things in my own classroom as a result of all that I have learned about how students learn from the current and not so current research. Change is uncomfortable, but if we are to best serve our students, we have to willing to question and rethink everything we do as new information and research becomes available.

So, here are just a few of the brain-related items that I came across this week. I encourage you to read them and then engage in a discussion about one or more of the pieces with a colleague or two.

Enjoy!

Settling in to the fall

 The beginning of the fall term is by far the best part of the school year as far as I am concerned. The school year is still fresh and full of optimistic anticipation of transformative learning and “AHA!” moments. The students are not too tired yet, they come to class with their homework completed and they are eager to engage in the lesson for the day. I love September!

I did not post a Friday 4 last week as I was rolling out an ambitious Professional Learning Plan with the faculty at The Loomis Chaffee School and got busy with that. If you are interested in the plan, you can see the document here. I would love to hear any feedback you might have on the plan or suggestions for additional items that could be added that you do at your school.

This week’s interesting finds:

Enjoy and have a wonderful end to your September!

Planning for Summer PD – the FREE way.

4fingersMay is a time when most educators are focusing on the final push in the current school year, trying desperately to get through the last pieces of the curriculum or just trying to keep the students focused and on task as the warm weather outside calls siren-like with the sounds of spring. Early spring is also the time to begin planning for your own summer professional development (PD). Learning and growing does not stop at graduation for our students nor should it for us. Personal and professional growth and learning does not take the summer off. With this thought in mind, I offer up the following items this week to get your summer PD juices flowing.

  • Anybody who has been a regular reader of the Friday 4 knows that I am a big fan of Edcamps and the unconference model of professional development. I recently attended the EdCamp Hartford on April 26 and have already registered to attend the Edcamp CT that will be happening on August 15 at the Ethel Walker School. If you are going to be around CT in mid August, I strongly encourage  you to register for the event and join a passionate group of fellow educators who are looking to share and learn from one another. One of the best parts about Edcamps is that they are FREE.
  • There was a recent post on the edSurge website titled How Teachers Are Learning: Professional Development Remix that explores the current landscape in PD and includes several strategies and links to helpful tools for teachers looking to take charge of their own PD.
  • If you are looking for a way to get some summer PD while sitting at the pool or the beach, consider downloading and listening to one of the many podcasts from the edreach network. “EdReach provides a platform for passionate, outspoken innovators- aiming to strengthen their voices by highlighting innovation in the field of education, through reporting critical educational news, providing commentary, and offering criticism of the educational issues of the day.” There are a bunch of different edreach channels from the Flipped Learning Network to the Reading Room to the Google Educast. You can listen to single episodes or subscribe to individual channels…all for FREE.
  • The ASCD has a growing archive of FREE webinars that you can access from some of the familiar names in education like Judy Willis, Rob Marzano and Grant Wiggins. Topics include: The Essential Neuroscience of Learning, How to Support Struggling Students and Creating Authentic Assessments.

So, how are you going to continue your growth as an educator this summer? Take charge!

Sharing…the way it ought to be.

ShareThe power of the PLN – Sharing Resources

One of the best features of a vibrant PLN is the wealth of resources that its members can provide when you least expect it. I am fortunate to have a great bunch of colleagues at Loomis Chaffee who frequently pass along interesting articles and videos that they come across that they think I might be interested in. In my role at the school, I feel obligated to “share the wealth” and pass along the items that come my way to others who might also find them interesting or intriguing. So, this week’s Friday 4 is actually a few of the resources that recently came my way from my LC PLN. I hope you find one or more of the items as interesting as I did. Thanks PLN!

  •  The first piece is an article that appeared in The Atlantic magazine titled The Confidence Gap. The piece explores the evidence that “shows that women are less self-assured than men—and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence.”  The article has important implications for teachers of young men and women and will make you rethink how we can best serve all of our students. Thanks to Al Freihofer and Monica Kirschman (@monkirsch) for passing this one along.
  • If you are interested in exploring the use of the “flipped classroom” model, “Inside Higher Ed has published a free compilation of articles — in print-on-demand format — about efforts to reshape the use of classroom time that can be found here. Thanks to Sheila Culbert (@SCulbertLC) for this resource.
  • The following TED talk Christopher Emdin: Teach teachers how to create magic is a short but inspiring talk that is well worth 6:45 minutes of your time. The comments on the video are also thought provoking…not everybody is in agreement to be certain. Thanks to Julie Hinchman for sharing this video.
  • The final piece (and associated website) come thanks to Rachel Allen. Educational Psychology: 20 Things Educators Need To Know About How Students Learn

Thanks again to those who passed along these resources. Keep them coming!

“Unconference” kicks off 2014

thumbs-upLoomis Chaffee tries a new model for PD

We took a risk today and tried a new model for professional development with our faculty, namely, the “unconference” model. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of an unconference, you can read an earlier post I wrote here in anticipation of the day.

As I introduced the event to our faculty, I took a quick poll of the audience to gauge their previous experiences with PD outside of our traditional faculty days. Not surprisingly, most had attended a professional conference of one kind or another recently. When I asked how many had ever attended an Edcamp event or any other unconference-like event, nobody raised their hand. I was hoping that at least a few had some experience with unconferences so I was a little surprised but remained optimistic that we could pull it off. I briefly explained the concept and charged the faculty with taking control of their own PD for the rest of the morning.

Fortunately, we had a few session leaders lined up ahead of time so that we were not starting with an entirely blank schedule. With only two time slots available for the event, I was hopeful that we would be able to fill the schedule and provide a wide enough range of sessions for people to attend. I was excited when I saw the final lineup of sessions and was optimistic that the morning would go well. Below is a list of the sessions that our faculty led.

  • Inciting class participation by design: Using homework?
  • Using hands-on learning projects in class.
  • More than just a letter: Evaluation of and feedback on student work
  • Open Discussion on dealing with race and other tough topics in the classroom.
  • The heart of the matter: Best practices in advising.
  • A model for assessing class participation and providing feedback to students.
  • “Shaping the class” An insider’s view from the Admissions Office.
  • Best practices for preparing and executing a well organized lesson plan for linear learners.
  • Voice Thread – a tool for asynchronous discussions in the classroom.
  • A Call to Action: Loomis Chaffee Earth Day brainstorm session. All School action oriented activities for April 22nd in the spirit of our school theme Climate Change & Water.
  • The College Selection Process – an open discussion.
  • iPads in the Classroom.
  • Grademark and turnitin.com. Online grading, editing, and rubrics.
  • Athletic recruiting and practice planning.

During the morning, I wandered in and out of all of the sessions and witnessed some of the most engaging and interactive professional development going on. Not surprisingly, the faculty were eager to share and learn from one another in this format and took to it like a fish to water. In each session, somebody took notes to a shared document that swelled to 11 pages by the end of the morning, a nice archive of the discussions that occurred.

While I heard a number of positive comments from faculty during the morning about the format, I wanted to survey them and get some more formal feedback so I created a quick survey that I mailed out later in the day. While I have not heard from everybody just yet (~25%), the initial feedback has been quite positive. On a scale of 1-5, when asked how the day compared to previous PD programs, 77% rated the day a 4 or 5. When asked how interested they would be to have future faculty days use the unconference format, 87% rated it a 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-5. 78% of the respondents said that they would be interested in leading sessions if we used the format again. I asked people to share their major takeaways from the experience and heard the following:

  • “It’s a time when colleagues can chat and get together. We may not schedule enough time into our calendars to do this.”
  • “Terrific exchange of ideas – in both sessions I experienced today. I was impressed with the fact that EVERYONE participated, and that ideas were thought provoking – in regular faculty mtng, so many people remain silent.”
  • “Good to sit with colleagues that I do not often get to sit with and discuss the topics that affect us all.”
  • “I did take away that our faculty is creative, energetic and collaborative when given the opportunity.”
  • “empower people and you get results.”
  • “My major takeaway was that the unconference format stimulates conversation and discussion far more effectively than traditional PD sessions.”
  • “Other teachers are awesome! Groupthink is the way to go.”
  • “We (the LC Faculty) are an extraordinary resource….and sharing among ourselves allows us to get into the weeds of the pragmatic, useful, relevant, and actionable in a way that employing an “outside expert” for a day often precludes.
    This process also acts as glue for us all…great for morale and institutional confidence!”
  • “Sharing ideas with colleagues is fun!”

There were others, but I think you get the idea. All in all, I was pleased with how the day went and am even more convinced that this model for professional development is definitely worth the time and energy. As always, I appreciate any comments or feedback.

 

First Friday 4 for 2014

4fingersA quick set of interesting finds from the past week to get you through the first weekend of 2014.

  • The Neuroscience Of Learning: 41 Terms Every Teacher Should Know is a piece from my friend Dr. Judy Willis (@judywillis) that appeared on the teachthought.com website and recently appeared in my twitter stream.

  • Taylor Mali (@TaylorMali) visited us a few years ago and ever since then, I love it when a link to one of his videos hits my radar screen. I never pass up the opportunity to watch him perform one of his pieces on teaching. As I was flipping back and forth between writing this post and my twitter feed, the video “Miracle Workers” was mentioned by somebody I follow. Enjoy!

  • I usually find Grant Wiggins’ (@grantwiggins) blog posts thought provoking and his latest post is no exception. He starts the year off with some practical advice for classroom teachers and takes on the final exam vs project “debate.”
  • I like it when I am reminded about a blog that I have not read in quite some time; it is like discovering it for the first time all over again. Here is one that fell off my radar screen but is now back on it! The Loomis Chaffee International student blog.

Happy New Year!

 

The whirlwind of Connected Educator Month

4fingersA Time to Reflect

As most of you know, October was Connected Educator month (CEM) and was filled with a plethora of opportunities for educators to connect with fellow colleagues and engage in valuable professional development. I did my best to sample a bunch of the CEM activities and found them all to be worthwhile and have added many fellow educators to my PLN. Along the way, I have collected and curated several very good resources and articles that have been good reminders or have pushed me to think about my own practices. Here are a few of the resources that I came across this month; hopefully, you will find at least a few that pique your interest.

 

Enjoy!

A Cornucopia of Interesting Items for Fall

 

4fingersFriday 4: Like the colors of the leaves of fall…random yet interesting.

This month has gotten off to a particularly busy start in my world which prevented me from posting a Friday 4 last week. I was fortunate enough to attend and present at the OESIS (Online Education Symposium for Independent Schools) last week in Boston and then attended the Westminster Teaching Symposium this week so I have been busy trying to take in and learn as much as I can and share what I have learned with my colleagues and my PLN.

There is no theme to this week’s Friday 4 other than here is a bunch of items that I have come across of late that have made it into my Diigo library.

Enjoy!

 

Learning and the Brain Redux

4fingersFriday 4: September 13

For this week’s edition of the Friday 4, I would like to share a few more brain-related links and articles that I have run across in the past week or so. The topics of cognitive science and brain research informed teaching and learning have certainly been hot of late. My Twitter feed has been loaded with links to articles and blog posts about neuroscience since the start of the summer and has not seemed to wane in recent days.

The last piece is not quite a learning and the brain piece directly but does relate to the topics we have been discussing in faculty meetings of late.

If you are at all interested in the neuroscience of learning, this has certainly been a stretch with plenty to add to your reading list! Keep passing along any items you find and enjoy!

 

First Friday Four for 2013-14

 

4fingers

A good place to start

The first day of classes is right around the corner for us here at the Loomis Chaffee School and the excitement, nervousness and optimism surrounding a new school year are palpable. A colleague, Naomi Appel, @njappel and I gave a 90 minute presentation to our faculty the other day on learning and the brain titled: Neuroscience and the Classroom after attending a Learning and the Brain institute this past summer led by Dr. Judy Willis @judywillis. The institute was by far the best one I have attended on the topic and contained a wealth of practical information for any classroom teacher. I would strongly encourage anybody interested in the topic to look into any of the workshops or summer institutes offered through Learning and the Brain.

As a follow up to the presentation, I would like to share four learning and the brain related links/resources in this edition of the Friday 4. For those who are new readers of this blog, every Friday I try and post interesting links or resources that I come across related to teaching and education. I encourage you to share the links with colleagues and send along any interesting ones you come across that you think would work in a future edition of the Friday 4. You can e-mail me at smacclintic@gmail.com or reach me on Twitter at @smacclintic or simply post a response right below. Enjoy!

  • Dr. Judy Willis has a website called RADteach.com that is great place for anybody new to the neurobiology of learning to start his/her journey.
  • The ASCD website has an entire section devoted to brain-based learning that has links to articles, videos, PD courses and much more. Another phenomenal resource for anybody interested in the application of neurobiology to learning and teaching.
  • The Edutopia website also has a section devoted to brain-based learning that is chock full of great info for teachers.
  • If you are looking for somebody to come to your school and do engaging learning and the brain training with students, teachers or parents; a wonderful resource is Andrew Watson. Andrew is a former colleague who has started his own business Translate the Brain that “offers professional development presentations and workshops that explore and explain the practical teaching implications of today’s brain sciences.”