Posted by David R. Wetzel, Ph.D.
What is the Digital Footprint in Your Classroom?
In contrast to the technology teachers use in a classroom for their professional use, what is the technology (or digital) footprint of your students?
Why the concern? Technology tools, both on- and offline, abound today in schools. When these tools are effectively integrated in science and math curricula, your classroom will transform your classroom into a learning community.
So what is your students’ technology footprint?
Building a Learning Community
Through optimizing the power of digital footprint in your classroom, students transform from passive to active learners. When incorporating technology within core curriculum, you leverage students’ prior knowledge and experiences (PKE) with content.
By leveraging students’ PKE with technological tools, they are able to build learning communities within and outside the classroom. These communities are known as personal learning networks.
Regardless of term used, when describing this technology, group work has moved into the 21st century.
Digital Foot Print Strategies by Grade Level
The following are examples of how digital tools support student learning:
Elementary – students work collaboratively and share their work or projects with others in and outside their classroom.
Examples include: Skype sessions, blogs, wikis, creating podcasts, digital storytelling, content specific interactive games and programs, VoiceThread, and presentations with Glogster.
Middle School – students work collaboratively and share data with others in or outside their classroom. Includes data and information collected during science and math investigative activities.
Examples include using tools such as Skype, online surveys and polls, Twitter, blogs, wikis, podcasts, presentations using Google Docs and Glogster, digital storytelling, content specific interactive games and programs, VoiceThread, Screencasts, WallWisher, Wolfram Alpha, and web-based learning centers.
High School – students work collaboratively and share data with others in or outside their classroom. Includes data and information collected during science and math investigative activities. Along with Middle School examples, a classroom’s digital footprint needs to include using technology tools for:
- reading content-related blogs to learn what scientists and mathematicians are thinking and doing.
- creating content-related student blogs focused on solving real-time issues and problems.
- creating podcasts for lower grade students designed as “How to’s.” This strategy helps high school students validate solve problems or investigative techniques.
- participating in online discussions and forums, such as Skype, focused on content-related issues. For example global warming, historic issues, data analysis, math challenges, literature, and finding answers for content-related problems.
- using social networks, such as Twitter and VoiceThread, for creating personal learning networks or learning communities. Examples include seeking advice and answers from content experts, reflecting on their learning experiences, and establishing their own digital footprint.
Tools Within a Digital Toolbox
Examples of digital tools may include and are certainly not limited to computers, iPod Touches, iPads, cell phones, online data bases, interactive offline software, productivity software (word processing, spreadsheets and presentation tools) blogs, podcasts, interactive websites, and many other Web 2.0 tools.
Additional benefits for students when optimizing the use of digital media tools, include:
- improving reading and writing skills.
- supporting differentiated learning.
- learning how to build a positive digital footprint of their own. This is an important attribute, because students in general do not understand the ramifications of some material they post on social media.
- working with peers to make connections within and among content concepts.
- building their confidence for learning.
- learning actively as opposed to passive learning.
- being more involved in research projects which stimulate critical thinking skills
- creating a personal learning network.
So if you are considering creating or expanding your classroom’s digital foot print — the time to take action is at hand!
Posted by David R. Wetzel, Ph.D.
Hands-On Learning Using Math and Science
Your students’ future and education needs are not like yours and mine. For the most part, we are a product of an education system heavily influenced by the industrial age – lectures and rote memorization. This style of teaching was primarily designed to produce factory and skilled trade workers.
Due to the dynamics of today’s world economy, most students no longer have the same types of jobs waiting for them when they graduate. Their future is in the service, health, and technology career fields. However, there is still a demand for skilled trade workers (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010).
A Need for a Shift in Teaching Strategies
Today’s education system is still following the demands of the industrial age. So how does this clash with students’ needs for the future?
When students are forced to sit in straight rows and listen to the industrial revolution style of teaching — lectures and rote memorization of facts — countless become bored underachievers! Primarily because education system is out of step with the information age.
Unfortunately, many students view math and science as the two hardest subjects to master. Why? Because there is way too much emphasis on lectures and memorization. This contributes to their boredom in school and does motivate them to learn.
So what must be done to stimulate their curiosity and engagement in a manner that makes them to want to learn math and science?
Tips for Increasing Student Engagement
Motivating underachieving students requires moving away from demonstration, telling, showing, and rote recall. Today’s math and science students need hands-on, minds-on experiences to stimulate and challenge them to think. The following are example strategies.
Technology Tools – must have specific learning objectives, along with real-world applications. Students use technology tools every day, so why not use their prior knowledge and experiences with these tools to challenge them to learn concepts.
Online Interactive Math or Science Programs – must address specific learning concepts. Not just means of keeping students occupied or as a reward for good behavior.
Problem Solving - solving real world problems frequently motivate underachieving students. Why? Because they are allowed to think out of the box to solve problems. Also, this strategy takes advantage of challenging higher-order thinking skills. This strategy works well for all students, not just underachievers. In addition, many students do not understand how to solve problems. These students must be taught how to solve problems.
Concepts – help students understand the critical features of a concept. This includes requiring students to develop examples and non-examples of a concept, assessing their true level of understanding. Also, require them to provide examples of a concept linked to one or more other concepts.
Lessons – must include opportunities for students to shift to a new, although still related to lesson objective, activity every 15 to 20 minutes. Examples include giving students opportunities to analyze, use or demonstrate what they learned, and show how to or explain what would happen if… This paradigm moves beyond completing worksheets (which in my experience, students view as busy work).
Higher Order Thinking (HOT) – requires the use of higher-order thinking questions. Open-ended questions to stimulate discussion. Do not use “yes or no answer” questions. Effective use of wait time “I” and “II.” Do not use questions which contain the answer. Example higher-order thinking questions, include:
- What might happen if ____?
- Can you summarize ____?
- What evidence supports ____?
- How is this similar or different to ____?
- How might you organize ____ into categories?
- What other ways can you show or illustrate ____?
Instead of showing your students the formula in geometry for determining the volume of an object, labeling variables, and how to solve the equation. Followed by endless drill and practice. Give them concrete and tangible objects to explore, touch, and measure. This leads to higher levels of thinking as they analyze and apply the concept of volume. After providing them with a variety of objects (regular and irregular shapes), ask them how they will determine the volume of these objects. Example higher-level questions include:
- Which object has the greatest volume?
- How do you know this true?
- How many ways are there to determine the volume of an object?
- How could you visually represent your solution? (looking for a graph, table, equation, pictures, etc.)
Instead of showing, demonstrating, or watching a video of a discrepant event. Allow students to participant through hands-on discrepant event investigations. For example: Air Pressure Materials – One Set for Each Group: one aluminum pan pie (non-smooth bottom), water, one 16oz clear glass, one candle (about 3 inches tall), and matches.
- Students attach the candle to the center, bottom of the pie pan.
- Now they pour water into the pie pan, about three quarters of an inch deep.
- Students light the candle.
- Now they place glass over the candle and observe what happens.
- Allow students to repeat as necessary.
After they have observed and recorded their observations, ask them higher-level science questions, for example:
- Why is ____ happening?
- What do you think is causing ____?
- You seem to be assuming that ____?
- What conclusions may be draw from ____?
- How is ____ different (like) ____?
Motivating underachieving students to learn math and science can be difficult or even challenging on occasions. With these teaching strategies students will no longer be bored by traditional lessons. They will find that math and science are not that difficult, because they are allowed to participate, think outside the box, and make connections.
Now it is your turn, do you have any additions to these strategies?
Occupations with the Largest Job Growth, Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 08, 2010.
HOT Skills Question Templates, Russellville Science Department Professional Learning Community
Posted by David R. Wetzel, Ph.D.
Encouraging students to use critical thinking is more than an extension activity in science and math lessons, it is the basis of true learning.
Teaching students how to think critically helps them move beyond basic comprehension and rote memorization. They shift to a new level of increased awareness when calculating, analyzing, problem solving, and evaluating.
Another way to view the power of critical thinking – as students learn how to apply and use higher order thinking skills, they learn how to question the accuracy of their solutions and findings.
Students wonder why they got the results they did and not another outcome. This in turn leads to internalization of concepts, along with all important point of making connections with related concepts.
Teaching Critical Thinking
Some students have the natural ability to ask higher cognitive questions. Specifically when evaluating experimental findings in science or solving math problems. However, many students do not have this innate skill and need to learn how to ask higher order questions.
An important point for encouraging students to use critical thinking is by modeling these skills for your students. Students will inherently follow their teacher’s lead; this is why it is important to practice what we preach.
The following are examples of questions to ask your students to encourage them to think critically (Richard Paul).
- What additional information do you need to solve the problem?
- How does the data relate to your findings?
- How does the evidence support your conclusions?
- What would you need to do to determine if the solution is true?
- How can you compare this with other problems?
- Are their alternative solutions to the problem? If so, what are they?
- What else may be true if this is correct?
- What effect would _______ have?
- What do you mean by that statement?
- How could you ask that question differently?
- What did you learn from solving this problem?
- Is this the most important question to ask when solving the problem?
- What questions need to be answered before answering this question?
These questions all have one purpose – keeping the train on the track by guiding students through the critical thinking process. When you ask these and similar questions, you are encouraging your students to move from passive to active learning.
Avoiding Questions Easily Answered on the Internet
Questions and problems easily answered through a quick query on the internet are not an effective strategy for teaching critical thinking. Students need questions which require them to create a product to show what they learned. The following examples are referred to “Google-Proofing” in some circles.
- Construct a data table and graph to display a comparison of cost of three competing cell phone companies.
- Design an investigation to determine the best materials for building a hurricane proof house.
- Compare the organs in the human body with other mammals.
- Create a board game based on geometric shapes.
- Redesign an existing product to reduce its carbon footprint.
The goal is to help students learn how to develop higher level questions and make connections when solving math problems or analyzing experimental data.
Quality Thinking In order to support quality critical thinking, the frequency of questions is not as important as the quality of questions. Also, increasing wait-time between teacher-student-teacher is important to success with teaching quality thinking. According to Kathleen Cotton, the following are factors to consider when asking students questions.
- The average level of questions asked by teachers are 60 percent lower cognitive, 20 percent procedural, and 20 percent higher cognitive.
- Increasing the frequency of higher cognitive questions to the 50 percent level produces superior gains in middle and high school student achievement.
- Asking higher cognitive questions does not reduce student achievement on lower cognitive questions.
- With predominate use of lower cognitive questions; students tend toward lower achievement.
The use of higher cognitive questions tends to elicit longer student answers in complete sentences, quality inference and conjecture by students, and the forming of higher level questions. This in turn results in increased student use of critical thinking and classroom participation. There is never a wrong time to begin encouraging your students to use critical thinking skills, so why not start today.
Cotton, Kathleen, Classroom Questioning, North West Regional Educational Laboratory.
Paul, Richard, Critical Thinking: How to Prepare Students for a Rapidly Changing World, Foundation for Critical Thinking.
The Best Resources in Teaching & Learning Critical Thinking in the Classroom