New Pillars

May I make a book recommendation? My favorite edu-read of the past year is The New Pillars of Modern Teaching by Gayle Allen, and this book has truly changed the way I think about teaching and learning.

In the book, Dr. Allen shares the reasons why educators must shift from the old pillars (instruction, curriculum, assessment) to the new pillars of design, curation, and feedback. The three primary chapters share how we transition from the old to the new pillar, give an example of that pillar in the "real world," provide what it looks like for students and what it looks like for educators. The book is tiny (44 pages!) but packs such a powerful punch that I keep it with me at all times and constantly refer to it. My colleagues and I embed the new pillars in almost every professional learning session we provide, and we even created sessions on each of the three individual pillars!

#booksnap from the Introduction
At first glance, the book does not look like a technology book, but oh yes, it's all about WHY we must embrace technology for our teaching and learning. The book is all about empowering learners, whether you're a student or teacher, and it helps us understand the impact of living in a time of information abundance. (This idea supports a favorite quote from Alice Keeler, "Teach like Google and YouTube exist!") Teachers no longer need to be "the funnel and the filter" of the learning, but Dr. Allen says the change doesn't diminish teachers' roles, it enhances it! In each of the chapters, she reminds educators that we must experience this type of learning ourselves (with the technology) if we are to help our students own their own learning. The book includes tech tool recommendations, but of course, it's not all about the technology.

The other thing I love about the book is that I get the feeling that Dr. Allen truly understands educators' lives: our time constraints, our school/district mandates, and trying to keep up with it all. She knows we're trying to move mountains, so the book is filled with reminders such as, "It's not important which technology we choose--just that it helps us achieve our goals." And "the key is to start small..." She provides choices, helps us understand our preferences, and presents compelling reasons for us to transition to the new pillars. And by the way, chapter 5 is Iteration and Failing Fast to Learn, so she includes ideas related to #growthmindset, too! "The key is to get past perfection paralysis."

Commercial: by the way, my colleagues and I are hosting our second free, online book study over The New Pillars, and you're welcome to join us on this journey! Beginning October 17, 2017, we'll explore one chapter per week, and share ideas with a podcast, learning tasks, and Twitter discussions.

Second commercial: Dr. Allen's podcast, Curious Minds, is one of my favorites. Her interviews are outstanding, and her depth of knowledge and questions to the authors are so interesting that I want to read every one of the featured books! She is also extremely active on Twitter and shares fascinating posts, research, and ideas.

Have I piqued your interest? Have you already read The New Pillars of Modern Teaching? Do you have another book that has completely transformed your ideas about teaching and learning in the digital age?

Making Thinking and Learning Visible (Digital Version!)

I'm still exploring thinking routines, documenting learning, and doing all with a technology twist, so I thought I would focus on a few closure activities. I wanted to work on these ending routines because
  1. I always needed an extra push for a solid closure in my own classroom, and
  2. I am encountering the same problem in my professional learning sessions.  :(
Whether teaching students or adults, I often feel like I'm rushed at the end of a class, and I know the students (adults) are ready to I often drop the closing activity (or rush through it with little time for processing.) I think a final summary, reflection, or share out is extremely important, so I hope by creating some of these electronic versions of the thinking routines, I won't have an excuse to skip the finale!

Headline Routine

I tried this thinking routine in a recent session, and I had participants collaborate to create a headline for the day's experience. The description from Project Zero states, "If you were to write a headline for this topic or issue right now that captured the most important aspect that should be remembered, what would that headline be?"

I added a tech twist by asking the participants to use the ClassTools Breaking News Generator to quickly post their headline, and because of time (arrghh!) we didn't quite finish, but I got a few responses via Twitter.
Here's another quick headline example, and I just right-clicked to save the image. By the way, the ClassTools site has a lot of quick, easy resources, such as random name generators, "fake-book," and graphic organizers, and you do not need a login or account.

An easier way to collect a headline would be with a Google Form. Use data validation to limit the number of characters in the response.

Other options to collect headlines and share with technology could be with open-ended questions on Mentimeter or Today's Meet. (Both have a limit of 140 characters so it could be a version of "Tweet it to me.")

In Making Thinking Visible, the authors point out the importance of being careful about not simply coming up with a catchy phrase or slogan for the Headline routine, and that's where the time factor is important. Students must have enough time to summarize the core points of the day's learning. The technology should not get in the way of the thinking!! But I like the ClassTools option because there is a little extra space for explaining the "words behind the headlines." (pg. 115)

Compass Points

One other routine I often use is a Compass Closing. I think the questions are great reflection questions, but by the end of the day, I'm usually happy if I can get 1 response for each prompt.

Ideas for a technology twist:

  • If you want students to have personal, individual responses, a Google Doc or Form allows you to collect all of the responses, although the benefit of a Google Form is that all responses are on one spreadsheet.
  • I keep finding great uses for the Padlet shelf option, and this thinking routine is another perfect fit. If you want the students to see other responses, which is often very beneficial, posting and allowing comments on Padlet might be the way to go.
With the technology twist, everyone participates, and even the quietest student has a voice! In addition, I now have another formative assessment and can make instructional decisions based on students' responses.

I finally invested in Making Thinking Visible (Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, Karin Morrison) and I cannot wait to really dig into the research and routines. The mission of the book, "not only learning to think but thinking to learn," is exactly what's on my mind lately, and I also love how the authors really debrief and troubleshoot the core of these routines.

Any other favorite thinking routines? Do you think the technology helps or hinders the process?