Thursday, February 28, 2013

Our Wonderful Port Townsend Marine Science Center

Check out this post from the PTMSC!  Inspiring and may entice you out on a cold, wet, night beach walk....
 The Tides of February

Feb 28 Thursday - Roger Schank on Cognitive Science and Saving Schools on Classroom 2.0

Join Classroom 2.0 tonight Thursday February 28 for a discussion with Roger Shank, author of 
Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science Can Change Our Schools--

"From grade school to graduate school, from the poorest public institutions to the most affluent private ones, our educational system is failing students. In his provocative new book, cognitive scientist and bestselling author Roger Schank argues that class size, lack of parental involvement, and other commonly-cited factors have nothing to do with why students are not learning. The culprit is a system of subject-based instruction and the solution is cognitive-based learning. This groundbreaking book defines what it would mean to teach thinking. The time is now for schools to start teaching minds!" (Publisher's description.)

While I don't agree that our schools are all failing, today's webinar title caught my eye - I have yet to check out Roger and his book, but I know first hand the amazing progress students make when the instructional focus is on building underlying cognitive skills necessary for learning.  Student's intelligence can be developed. Students can learn just about  ANYTHING and EVERYTHING with passion and creativity.  And, btw, as a by-product of developing intelligence, they can master standardized tests.

Must be a good morning - along with the email notice of the Classroom 2.0 webinar this morning, Diane Ravitch takes a stand in the Washington Post on the Common Core Standards- (rotten to the core?--everyone eating the same apple? an apple a day keeps the learning away????) Actually, very eye-opening information about the origin of the current learning standards model - the Common Core. Whatever you think about Common Core Standards, Diane has some relevant points and interesting information on how we ended up with them.

The old adage in education--if they don't get it, repeat it louder, slower, and longer! --seems to still be at work in our thinking or our lack of thinking in how to reach all of our students.  With a focus on learning and cognition, creativity and passion, we can nourish student's ability to learn. 

Now, this sounds like a nice statement - but wait---I KNOW THIS!  Working as an Educational Therapist for over 15 years, I have had the privilege of working closely with many students in a one-on-one environment, where assessment includes ongoing observations of student's performance, and direct, individualized instruction incorporates multi-sensory activities.  With as few as 10 hours of assessment and 10 hours of directed, atypical, one-on-one instruction, the MAJORITY of struggling learners can jump several grade levels in their performance.  If we are serious about student achievement, then I know we have time for 20 hours of individualized work with every student who needs it! Schools have students 180 days a year, at least 6 hours a day for twelve or more years.  Instead of heaping on more and more classes and repeating material from year to year, we can address learning directly through cognitive science strategies, preparing the students for intellectual growth, and mastery of skills.

At the same time the we organize our resources to provide individual, direct instruction to our struggling learners, we can integrate many learning strategies and accommodations to support LEARNING in the classroom so that more students are successful without special intervention. Students can personalize their own box of learning tools, and decide which tool to use for which task.  Technology--- BYOD environments, a plethora of apps,  provide multiple multi-sensory routes for students to read, research, write, and coalesce learning.  See Ira Socal's ToolKit Theory posts.

Practicing and mastering skills then becomes a series of successes, students become "motivated" ---(the only motivator is success) and they quickly become engaged in taking on new challenges, not afraid to make mistakes as part of their learning process. We are wired to learn - when will we trust this? Classrooms - both teachers and students - desperately need FUN for SUCCESSFUL LEARNING.  Check out Larry Ferlazzo's links on developing a positive emotional climate for learning!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Use Imagination for Learning!

Check out this engaging article which highlights the importance of imagination as a learning tool!
Just what the Common Core Standards need!

Boy Playing Superhero

Friday, February 8, 2013

Training the Educators


I am passionate about learning!  Why? I know learning happens!  I witness so many individuals incredible perseverance living with all sorts of learning challenges, such as dyslexia, ADHD, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, NLD,....I am lucky to be a part of overcoming their learning challenges.    First, assessment is critical in understanding and demystifying learning difficulties. Students are working and trying, many times harder than their more successful peers and they need to know why!  Second, appropriate instruction facilitates learning and the processes we need for efficient and effective learning.

Conversely, I know when learning isn't happening, or happening with undue strain and stress, that I need to take a look "underneath" the tasks at hand to figure out the underlying cognitive pieces that need building and supporting.  So, many times---usually much more quickly than anyone expects---by providing direct instruction in the cognitive processes needed to do certain tasks, say, read or write, as part of reading or writing instruction, I can facilitate leaps in student learning.  And, this, if you haven't experienced it, is REALLY FUN! If my students don't exceed expected growth in a year, I know I am not doing my job.

Like Sal Khan said in his presentation in Seattle at Town Hall this week, when we don't teach to mastery, we set up students to fail.  He used a building analogy.  We start with a foundation that is, say, only 80% up to code.  It passes. Then, we go ahead and build the first floor, hoping that the bad corner won't affect the structural integrity of the building.   Oh, well, the first floor is 74% up to code, so let's go for the second floor....and so on.  At some point, the structure will crumble. We build failure into our system, when we can build success. 

On the other hand, if we address underlying processing difficulties, including sensory integration, fine and gross motor development, automatic visual - auditory processing, direct instruction in language, along with strategic study strategies as we are learning reading, writing, and mathematics, we can teach to mastery and students can build a solid foundation for creatively pursuing their goals and interests.  While our focus on standardized tests needs rethinking, we can help students succeed  and pass standardized tests.


Again, I was lucky to teach some in-service classes for the North Olympic Peninsula AmeriCorps volunteers, all of whom work with students in schools and for various before and after school programs,. Very impressive group of dedicated,  service-oriented young adults, who accept the challenge of believing success is a possibility for their students. Yet, even with 100% willingness to try, in order to integrate new strategies takes practice and on-going reinforcement.  The first shifts in thinking are as simple and as profound as examining learning as opposed to finishing a worksheet.

So, my goal in offering training classes is to facilitate a collaborate learning community that supports and trains  tutors,  teachers, and parents so that students experience success.  Ideally, we start with in-service trainings for several weeks, and then, continue to meet with tutors and teachers every  few weeks for on-going training and consultation. We take time for closer examination of their hardest to reach students.  What is working? What is not working? How do we provide effective instruction for this student? for this group of students? etc.  Through a year-long, on-going training, consultation, and facilitation, we can together dramatically impact student achievement.  Mostly, every child deserves the right of enjoying school and of surpassing their highest expectations.  And, as the AmeriCorps volunteers know, we all have to have more FUN getting there!