Surviving & Thriving – Day One of the Learning Institute at the American School

The end of day 1 of the Learning Institute at the American School of London is drawing to a close. It’s been a great day, if not a bit overwhelming. By the way, they have graciously lent me a MacBook on which to update this blog, so if there are bizarre typos, please realize that I’m using a European Keyboard with British spelling activated. I’m also not over my jet-lag, so please be kind.

Today, we really got to know our new instructor Leah Treesh, a teacher at an International School in Germany and educational consultant for technology. If you have the chance, be sure to check out her website, there’s lots of cool resources and ideas for educators and administrators (I know that I will be culling it when I return home).

Here's a screen shot of one of our mind-maps

Today, we were familiarized a bit more with some of the tools that we will be using. I’m falling in love with the program Mind Meister, that you can use for collaborative outlining. We used it to brainstorm our own thoughts, conceptions, and ideas and it really helped to foster discussion.

I think I’m going to use this for some collaborative, discussion work with my students – especially at the beginning of the year when they are still nervous about participating in the classroom.

We also were introduced to the SAMR model of technology adoption in the classroom – Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redemption. It focuses on the life-cycle of technology in education:

  • At first it is used as a direct substitution for an existing material with no functional change (e.g. typewriters in lieu of hand-written essays)
  • Augmentation is when the tool substitutes for another material/practice and there is minor functional improvement (such as the word processor, which adds on spell-check and a thesaurus).
  • Next is modification, which then permits the technology employed to significantly redesign a task (think of paper replacing slate, which allowed for more permanent creations).
  • Last is Redefinition, which occurs when technology creates its own tasks and achievements that were previously inconceivable or impossible (code writing, video editing, etc).

We then got to play with some cool tools and software on our own and as a group. It was great to collaborate with my overseas colleagues about their achievements and pitfalls, successes and failures, and share ideas and conceptions. We are even blogging as a group: Surviving & Thriving Teachers (where there will be far better ideas resources than what I can share here).

We were given a great list of amazing resources that have been, at the very least fun, and I’m looking forward to incorporating! Cool Tools (thanks Leah for sharing).
I’m excited about what else we’ll be covering and being able to collaborate with my colleagues about trouble-shooting current speed bumps at my own school for their implementation.

8 thoughts on “Surviving & Thriving – Day One of the Learning Institute at the American School

  1. Jim Wheeler

    Brainstorming I get, Jennifer. Much of the rest of your post here is arcane patter to me. One of the prime criticisms I have for the education profession is that it is pedantic. I hope that by the end of your sabbatical you can enlighten us in layman’s language about the value of your experience.


    1. Jennifer Lockett Post author

      Hello Jim! Can you be a little more specific here with what you are looking for? I’ll admit that the jet lag is getting to my thinking process. Largely, the focus is on using new tools in your pedagogical philosophy and focus. At least in the high s hook arena, the overwhelming majority of teaching (I would say 90%+), is done in a lecture format (the proven least effective and least enjoyed method of instruction). Largely, these tools facilitate and foster greater creativity, further collaboration, a broader, less insular perspective, more hands-on practice, and greater student interest.
      What is if in pedagogy that you would like to see? I agree that methods, especially in the higher grade, is stagnant and can suffer from incredible lack of innovation and creativity. I have an earlier post, I cannot locate it on the iPad, that highlights the fact that in spite of the fact that the world has drastically changed in terms of knowledge, understanding, tools, etc, we still teach using the same methodology we did 3,000 years ago – and it’s as unpopular then as it is today. It’s about a 5 minute YouTube video.
      The big focus in our section is how to implement these new tools in meaningful and effective ways, without just making it a substitution. Have you taken a look at some of the tools on the document at the end? Go play around with a few of those if you have time and let me know your thoughts.

      1. Jim Wheeler

        Looking back on my own education it seems to me that most of my formal learning came simply from reading. Lectures were secondary to reading, somewhat useful but probably rendered less so by taking notes. I remember that some instructors would provide material in lectures that was not in the reading material, but that was rare. If I had it all to do over (horrible thought!) I think I would forego most notes and just try to jot down the most central ideas. In other words, notes were more of a distraction than a help.

        With so much material apparently available in professional media I am thinking you may see your primary role as a discussion leader and test-giver, yes?

      2. Jennifer Lockett Post author

        No, not really. I don’t adhere to one pedagogical theory. Sometimes I lecture, sometimes we do group reading, sometimes we discuss, sometimes I facilitate while they work on projects, sometimes I guide individual learning, etc. It’s really less single focused. One of the reasons that I’m here is to learn more pedagogical techniques, ideas, and examples that I can take home and explore (one today is digital story-telling, that I have never done). While I do test them and give them papers as well, I don’t consider that the core of learning.

      3. Jennifer Lockett Post author

        Jim! I hope you got a chance to read my latest post. I’d love to hear what you think about digital story-telling? I tried to outline my intents for how to use it in a lesson plan. It won’t be in lieu of traditional assignments – reading, writing, analysis, etc, just an additional one.

    2. Jennifer Lockett Post author

      Okay, I have showered and eaten some sugar, so I’ve got a couple of extra neurons firing. The workshop that I’m in is cross-divisional and curricular, so it’s not an instructional workshop in the sense that we are developing lesson plans and specific strategies. Largely, it’s about focusing on these new tools, getting more familiar with them in a “safer” environment, and developing some thoughts and ideas about how to implement them in our own environments, implementation can be varied based on access to resources, school philosophy, Internet use policies, culture of the learning environment, topics taught, age of students, and comfort of the teacher. It also helps us to network with colleagues with similar interests, tackling the same issue, overcoming road-blocks, etc.
      To give you an example, I would love to get my students both macro and micro-blogging. I have ideas of establishing a class blog that is open, give the students weekly topical assignments (e.g. Addressing certain questions/issues on the topic that we are covering), having them read and comment on one another’s materially, and co-commenting with other students in another region of the country/world. I would like to do this rather than the standard “answer this question on the Augustan Principate for homework, I’ll grade, and then we’ll discuss.” generally, when students experience a global audience in a substantive way, they gain a broader understanding of perspectives, the blogging and comments helps to build writing, comprehension, and analytical skills. Also, we find that (especially in larger, co-Ed classrooms), students can have more meaningful exchanges in a written, “turn based” form, quieter students rare more likely to participate (and it’s easier as a tea here to monitor participation), and the work is inherently catalogue able. Additionally, the blog format allows other classes, parents, administrators, and colleagues to see what is going on in our classroom. This can all be done in the same amount of time and more effectively (students have greater comprehension and retention via “doing”) than a standard lecture, note-taking, adding assignment, question answer method.
      In spite of my desire to do this, i have certain pitfalls, such as:
      Lack of access to classroom sets of computers on a regular basis
      Limited resources in terms of online access (band-width)
      My school has a closed Internet policy (such tools are permitted solely in a “closed” environment – no public blogs)
      Parental concerns about “stranger danger”
      Internet/computer access in the home

      So, this is one example of a pedagogical idea, the reasoning behind it, the benefits, and the hurdles. I’ve been talking about it with my colleagues today and seen how they have implemented similar ideas, the pitfalls they experienced, etc.

      I’ve also been learning about new tools and we’ve been “playing” with them together. I’d never heard of mind-meister before and have immediately Allen in love with it. I’m already thinking of ways that I can use it in the classroom.

      Is this a little bit more of what you are looking for, or did you want more of the analysis and success or implementation?

      Also, I wish that you had a message featured available on your blog! I have additional info and more specifics that would not be conducive to a public blog! You dont have to post your email, just a button that says “contact the author”. I have so many people that are more comfortable commenting in private rather than public. I’m trying to encourage them to do so publicly. Baby steps.

  2. Michael Hulshof-Schmidt

    I’m so glad you arrived safe and sound. What an unexpected delight to see that you will be able to continue the blog while at the conference. I will be curious to find out if during the conference you all discuss how to make technology more accessible to students in under funded schools.

    Be well and get some rest.

    1. Jennifer Lockett Post author

      Sadly no. The nature of this cohort of the conference is on using the tools, not acquiring them.


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